Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Had A Cow for Christmas!

Brother and wife donated in our name to Heifer International this year...a wonderful program that gives animals and poultry to families in Third World countries to help increase both their food intake, and their income.

This seems waayy better than the latest book or scarf.

You can too, by going to:


Holiday Thoughts...

Waiting, while Dad is in for his weekly radiation 'drip'....thinking.

He sleeps most of the time now. Either the cancer is moving, affecting his hearing -- or he has an ear infection. (My mom's not sure.) Either way, he can barely hear what we say to him, even when he has his hearing aids in. So he sits in his chair, activity buzzing around him (or not), and reads. Or watches tv. Or mostly -- sleeps. (Plus a long afternoon nap in his bed, as well.)

Then he goes to bed around 7:30 or 8, and sleeps more.

It's good for my family to see him now. I'm glad they came. But I am also very, very glad I spent time with Dad back in the fall, when he was more aware of what was going on. Even now, it's ok just to sit quietly in the room -- maybe watch a little tv myself, maybe not -- and just be with him.

Can't do anything to please Mom right now. If I do it -- it's wrong and I'm a bad daughter. If it's the opposite, I'm still a bad daughter. Frustrating. At least she has someone she can blow off steam on. I know she is emotionally worn-out. I can't make her let me help her.

It will be ok in the long run. It will. But for now, this family get-together is anything but nicey.

Here's another person who found that the "It's A Wonderful Life" approach may differ in the long run --


A few things are standing out, though. My daughters' wonderful willingness to wash dishes, move things or just hang out while Grandpa is snoozing. My husband's amazing patience with the whole situation. He stays relatively serene through the loudest yelling. What a wonderful guy.

Hope your holiday season is much more restful than mine. But even now, I've had extra time to take some naps and do reading. (Though the reading has to be for the California Gold book!) This will end soon -- then back to 'normal,' which will be a rest in itself.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Hope your holiday was a restful one this year...

Ours was -- sort of. Singing in two Christmas Eve services and a 7-fish-dish dinner soon afterwards was fun, but not exactly calm. Husband and I gave up and went to bed soon after -- we didn't fill stockings and finish wrapping presents until mid-Christmas morning. Fortunately, the girlies, as well as Angel's boyfriend Keith, were ok with that. I'm not sure I could have stayed upright otherwise.

A couple of naps during the day helped, too.

I'll be a little quiet for the next week...but around now and then.

Did you hear about this Christmas miracle? A Canadian woman found ALIVE after four days lost in the snow? Just amazing...


And take care of yourselves, friends. Give yourself some time to REST. It will come in handy later on.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recipe Heaven - for Christmas Breakfast!

I have zippo time for fancy stuff this Christmas season. That's why this page caught my attention --

34 different breakfast casserole recipes! They look delicious...and more importantly, fast AND easily done with everyday ingredients.


I think my family is going to enjoy one of the crockpot casseroles for Christmas morning, along with the Brick standard -- a nice juicy slab of pan-fried ham. Maybe a little red eye gravy for Husband, whose North Carolina blood still runs thick this time of year. (Stir a little coffee into the pan juices and thicken -- that's it!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finances, Shinances...

And on a better note...or at least something that doesn't leave a bad taste in my mouth --

A phone interview with Suze Orman and some of the Internet's top financial bloggers. Her answers to their questions are honest and realistic. Take a look:


It's still icy here...but the sun is shining, and any flakes we see are sparse. We watched the Arizona/New England football game this afternoon...it was snowing so heavily there you could hardly see the players. Every touchdown was greeted by a chorus of snowballs by the fans -- thrown straight up, celebration-style. (The East Coast equivalent of the West Coast shooting-guns-in-the-air-at New-Year's, I guess.) One player made a touchdown, landed in the snow...and promptly made a snow angel!

More 'Great' Financial News

From the "Nausea-Inducing" Department:

An Associated Press survey of 116 banks that have accepted financial bailouts so far (to the tune of $188 billion dollars) shows that their officers received nearly 1.6 BILLION DOLLARS in salary and other perks in 2007 -- the year that they were busy making 'brilliant' decisions to lead their companies to the current financial crisis. The survey used information provided to the SEC from the annual reports of the banks in question.

According to AP, executives received an average of $2.6 million in "salary, bonuses and benefits." Each.

The total amount of extras given to the nearly 600 executives would have been more than enough to bail out 53 of the 116 banks, without having to ask the government for help.

The article goes on to mention that some companies are freezing cash and stock bonuses for their chief executives. John Thain, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, for example, earned only a measley $57,000 and change in 2008. (Plus an insignificant $15 million signing bonus and $68 million in stock options.)

Goldman Sachs paid an average of $233,000 PER EXECUTIVE for leased cars and drivers. (Per year, remember.) The company 'reassured' its stockholders that was perfectly valid -- financial counsel and chauffers gave their executives "more time to focus on their jobs."

If you can keep your dinner from making a return visit, read the full article here:


And I was just planning how we can cut expenses 20 hours worth of pay next month!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Night Goggles Giveaway -- Quick! Ends Tonight!

Frugal Upstate has a seriously cool giveaway -- but it ends at 10 p.m. tonight! Quick, run, don't walk to her website:


Who knows -- your significant other (or you) may enjoy some night vision forays! Husband would love these for hunting...

The Sole Story on George Bush's "Shoe Assault"

Here's the news report (and video):


From "This Is True" December report:

EDITORIAL COMMENTS: On a secret pre-Christmas farewell trip, President George W. Bush went to Baghdad to meet officials -- and hold a press conference. During the president's comments, an Iraqi reporter interrupted, shouting in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" and hurled his shoe at the president's head. Bush ducked, so the man threw his other shoe, which also missed. Other reporters wrestled the man to the ground before Secret Service guards could even react. The president was unfazed, joking "All I can report is that it's a size 10." (AP) ...The worst part: "Made in Iran" on the label.

I get a big kick out of this zany, often irreverent report. Sign up for your own (free) copy at:


Photoing Around the World

A glorious sunlit (slightly chilly) day here -- I feel a little guilty enjoying the sunshine when so many are enduring blizzards. We normally get it, too -- but the really bad storms skipped our area right now. The folks called from Michigan -- they're snowed in and planning on staying put for a while.

Photos, especially of other places, not only are restful, but inspiring. Take a look at the best of 2008, according to Pixcetera:


Friday, December 19, 2008

Weather or Not You Need It...

Husband came home last night, feeling discouraged -- his office was just told their hours were being cut to 35 a week. That means we will go without 20 hours of salary a month that he's getting now.

Not fun. But we've lived on less than that -- we can do it. At least he isn't being laid off. Douglas County's school district has already announced a bunch of people are losing their jobs, come the new year.

Husband said, "I think I need to look for a new job." Fine by me!

Have you ever wondered what it looks like where I live? This cam is only a mile or so from my house...

This one's just down the road. (We can see I-25 from our dining room window. Not right next door -- down the hill a good ways.) Notice Castle Rock in the distance?


And this one is more out on the plains. We live in a very strange area, geographically speaking. Hilly bluffs and mountains, as well as buttes, are everywhere -- but so are wide-open spaces that seem to stretch forever.


http://www.wunderground.com/ is a great place to find a local weather cam in your neck of the woods.

The sun is shining, a (cold) wind is roaring past the house...and we don't have a flake of snow coming down. Weird. But nice, I guess.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Stuff, Etc.

Yes, I am still on deadline. These quilts grow like Topsy -- I finish one patch, then immediately find two more spots nearby that need work. But they're slowly getting finished.

Somehow yesterday I got poked...or bumped...or something. This morning, I have a red-streaked eye worthy of a Bleeker Street bum. Makes me look like I'm searching for the next shot of rotgut. It will be lovely to show off at music practice tonight for Christmas Eve services.

And the fastest response to my cravings yet -- Husband brought home a present from one of the bus drivers he trains for the school district. A huge batch of fudge with nuts!! mmmmmmmm

More posts you should check out:

Like Merchant Ships needs to get presents for 100 people...and her budget is $1 each. (Don't miss the comments -- they're equally helpful.)


A new blog I'd never seen before. She loves Christmas -- you will, too!


And the worst news, especially for Michiganders. Both Ford and Chrysler have decided to idle their plants for at least a month. Generally the plants shut down for the holidays -- but this year, they won't reopen until toward the end of January. Things aren't that great in Detroit, anyways. Now those employees will have to live with less pay.

Here's that article:

Husband takes a forced two-week vacation every year around Christmastime. Everyone does who works for the school district. The teachers get paid for this time off, but regular employees do not, except for holidays. (It's worse in summer -- at least two forced weeks off, no holiday pay, plus half-time -- or less -- hours until August.)

It sounds wonderful -- time off to spend with your family -- but that December paycheck is a lean one. This year, we'll spend the time off in Michigan with the folks, my brother and his family.

Back to work. Maybe I should cultivate a hacking cough to go with the bleary eye.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In Praise of Tiny Kitchens

It's amazing how much you can do in a few square feet!


Our first kitchen was a five-foot-long strip along one wall: small refrigerator, stove (with miniscule oven) and a few cupboards for dishes and pots & pans.

It didn't matter. I cooked everything from ramen noodles (which we ate - a lot) to multi-course Chinese meals there. And was very happy.

Less equals more, sometimes? You bet!

Now back to work...



I've got a big one -- two quilts to finish restoring and ship before Christmas. They're nearly done, but I have to spend a few days concentrating on them. Wrists are aching, head is a but fuzzy...but hanging in there. Only a few more days, then freedom beckons!

In the meantime, some interesting posts came down the pike:

The earth has another tear in the magnetic field surrounding it -- this one's bigger than ever. The tear was only temporary. What does it mean?


And a very apt discussion about not Keeping Up with the Joneses:


And a very odd recipe for fudge from Frugal Upstate's comments: the commenter swears it's terrific.

* 3/4 lb Velveeta cheese, cut up
* 1 cup butter* 6 baker's unsweetened chocolate squares
* 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
* 2 (16 ounce) packages powdered sugar
* 1 1/2 cups nuts, chopped
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: 1. Put Velveeta, butter, unsweetened baking chocolate and corn syrup in a large microwavable bowl.
2. Microwave on high for 2 minutes; stir. Microwave an additional minute; stir until well blended.
3. Add chocolate mixture in batches to sugar, beating with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended after each addition.
4. Stir in nuts and vanilla.
5. Spread into a greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan. Smooth top.
6. Cover and refrigerate several hours until firm.

Go here for Frugal's original post, including a more 'normal' recipe that uses marshmallow fluff. (I've got one for you tomorrow that looks good -- fudge sounds wonderful right now.)


Plus an amazing truffle recipe -- 3 ingredients. Oreo cookies, cream cheese, melted chocolate for dipping. That's it!


And in the words of the immortal Ah-nold, "I'll be baaack."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lands End $100 Gift Cards to Five Lucky Moms!

Go this site and fill out the survey...it took me about 3 minutes, tops.


Then you're automatically entered! Deadline is midnight, Friday, Dec. 19.

A Great E-Book on Saving Money - Free!

Live to Budget, bless his heart, got together with nine other bloggers to write Spend Less Than You Earn. It's a tidy compendium of ideas to save money and reduce your spending -- some of which might come in handy this holiday season.

And best of all, it's free! Just download the e-book from Live to Budget's blog:


It is cold here. As in dive-back-under-the-blankets-invite-the-dog COLD. (Or, as Husband says, a stay in and hold your baby sort of day. Too bad we both had to work.)

We spent yesterday afternoon snoozing, watching the Broncos lose (again), fireplace and space heater going, the dogs snuggled down under our feet...and I still was a bit chilly. It's supposed to be this way all week.

Daughter #1 taught snowboarding in this iciness to a group of Detroit kids. She said it was all she could do not to say to them, "Ok, practice this -- I'll be watching you from inside." They complained a lot, too. Thankfully, no one wanted to stay out extra long.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A New Shipwreck Found in the Great Lakes

My Michigan-born blood still responds to the murmured sounds and memories of the Great Lakes. Summer days were sometimes spent building impossible sand castles on a Grand Haven beach, which Lake Michigan promptly demolished. (It didn't matter by then, as we'd moved on to pop and foot-long hot dogs.)

Even better, some of our vacations were spent on the shores of Lake Superior. The water was strangely cold, even on a sweltering July day, and we were warned to be careful -- the lake shelved off fast and "no one had ever found the bottom." Indian petroglyphs could be found on the rocks, and we picked up nicely polished agates and petoskey stones. If we were lucky, we'd even stop at Fort Mackinac (pronounced "Mackinaw" for you non-Michiganders) and grab some fudge and smoked fish for the ride home.

It's little surprise, then, that I learned to love stories of shipwrecks and hidden treasure of the Great Lakes. And the newest one: an early 1800s "dagger-board" schooner has been found upright in 500-plus feet of water, still cruising Lake Ontario:


Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, who also found the HMS Ontario, a British warship lost in 1780 (and found in May 2008), discovered the mystery schooner while doing underwater surveys of Lake Ontario. Its name and date of sinking are unknown -- because anything of value seems to have been stripped from the ship, Kennard and Scoville are speculating that it was being converted for other use when it sank.

Dagger board ships have a long plank extending out past the keel. The ship was more seaworthy and could be maneuvered in shallow waters other boats would have difficulty with. However, the design was rare, and few of these vessels have been found.

Click on the video at the bottom of the post, and you'll see a stem-to-stern view of the mystery vessel. Cool...

Read a more detailed report here:


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Big chinook winds today -- lots of blowing and fussing, but surprisingly warm. They're dying down now, and huge billowy storm clouds fill the horizon above the mountains. Some of the furthest mountains back already wear a curtain of snow. Not surprising, considering we had a spectacular red-and-yellow sunrise this morning, topped off by a huge white full moon. (The last time the moon was this close to the earth, it was 1993.)

Red sky in morning, sailors take warning...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quality Magazines - Cheap Prices!

Magazine subscriptions -- for $5 a year?!?

I didn't believe this until I checked out Coupon Craving's link for myself -- and ended up ordering gift subscriptions for half my family, from Country Living to Popular Mechanics. O, Oprah's magazine, is on the list, as well as Good Housekeeping, Verendah, Smartmoney and several others. Take a look -- this probably won't last long!


A Christmas Card for You!

From all of us at the Brickworks offices, to you...

Merry Christmas!

http://www.rightathome.com/holiday08/penguins.aspx?cnt=1003The folks at Brickworks&sid=Email&cid=2008HCSTF

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Food For A Buck A Day?

Terri Leonard and her boyfriend Christopher, both of them Social Justice teachers, began a long experiment to eat on $1 a day.

No matter what.

They did it -- and you can read their adventures here:


(Needless to say, this means no meat.)

They relied heavily on potato/rice/bean burritos, oatmeal, homemade bread with peanut butter, polenta and some strange 'meat' cutlets made out of wheat flour. Oh yes, Tang and peanut butter cookies, too. At least in their soup choices, they had more variety...but I honestly think they could have been quite a bit more creative in their food choices.

In University of Michigan college days, I went through several periods of living on a buck a day, give or take 25 cents. I made it because I had a good friend who ate meals at a commune nearby...and invited me to go, too. Otherwise, I ate a lot of saltine crackers and canned spaghetti. One memorable week, I pretty much lived on canned green beans.

Terri and Christopher are getting lots of press now about their experiment -- but the deeper meanings are what count here. After all, much of the world lives on less than a dollar a day for their food.

Remember the country-wide experiments to live on $3 a day -- or food stamp limits -- that happened last year? This couple did it for a week:


Needless to say, their menus sound more appetizing. The recipes here are good, too.

I only have one question. What the heck is a Social Justice Teacher?

Quilting Your DNA

I'm not making this up. Beverly St. Clair has come up with a pattern that can cleverly incorporate anyone's DNA sequence. Her "human red core pigment sequence" was featured on the cover of the Dec. 2008 issue of Nature Genetics. See it on Beverly's site at:


Yes -- you can do it, too! Beverly's system is here:


The finished piece looks a lot like a 'Birds in the Air' run amuck. The seemingly random mix of triangles almost form patterned blocks, then visually break and re-form other units. Stare at it long enough, and more patterns emerge.

Anyone with an engineering or scientific mind would kill to get a quilt like this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Save Money on Eating Out with Your Kids

Want to know where to find kids eating specials in your area?

It's easy -- go to http://www.kidsmealdeals.com and put in your zip code.

Fast and efficient. And saves you money, to boot.

Too bad my little darlings are 20 and 22.

Christmas Greens

Finally, FINALLY the autumn-themed plaque went off the front door, and I started getting out Christmas boxes.


A wreath's on the front door, with another on the front yard trellis. Holly is woven through the garden arch in the front yard. Now, to cut branches from the junipers bordering one edge of our yard, then fill the front planter. Add some balls, a ribbon or two, and the front yard's done.

Like Merchant Ships is a big fan of greens:


And so is Monica of The Homespun Heart:


Take a look at Monica's blog, http://www.thehomespunheart.blogspot.com . It really is quite encouraging, and has some nice craft ideas.

On to the annual debate: What to do about the Christmas tree.

We've always had a fresh one, even if it meant cutting a Charlie Brown version in lean times. (Can you believe companies are actually selling a 'pathetic tree' like this? Sears' version is down to ten bucks, if you really want it... http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_07196996000P?vName=For%20the%20Home&cName=ChristmasTrees&Decorations&sName=Indoor%20Decorations%20&%20Animated%20Figures&psid=FROOGLE01&sid=IDx20070921x00003a )

I don't know about you, but in our current neck of the woods, Christmas trees are EXPENSIVE. The very cheapest one I can find is $20 -- and that's for a two-foot baby that ranks way up on the pathetic list. We like a 6-7 footer, and the very cheapest are $50-65. Way too much, considering much of our extra income has been funding plane tickets to Michigan.

What with Dad's illness, the folks finally caved and got a prelighted artificial tree. I don't blame them one bit. The artificial trees around here are marked down to tempting prices. They don't shed. The lights are on already. They look terrific.

Frugal Dad went to artificial this year:


So should we? Without exception, our friends all have artificial trees. I am such a sucker, though, for that crisp, fresh air smell that fills the upstairs. And if we wait another week, odds are good that Lowe's will mark their fresh trees down 50%. They did it last year.

I think we'll wait -- but this may be the last year. I'll be looking for bargains in January.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Freebie Worth Requesting! And More

Eight-plus inches of snow do not a school cancellation make. Darn it.

Here's a GREAT freebie -- a DVD of Amazing Grace. This movie's a keeper. It details the years-long struggle of Wilberforce to free slaves in Great Britain decades before it occurred to us here in the U.S. (Ok, my Brit friends, this is indeed one area we goofed up in.) John Newton, a former slaver himself, and composer of the hymn Amazing Grace, also makes an appearance.

It's an outstanding movie -- and now you can get it free just by registering at Walden Media. (A calendar comes along with the mix too, if you like.) But I'm guessing that supplies are limited -- check it out now:


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Some great gift ideas, thanks to Being Frugal and Cash Money Life:



Husband and I went out in the snowstorm last night for a high school concert (my voice student girlie -- who did a wonderful job). I got him to make a quickie stop to Big Lots, for a last-minute pickup of stocking stuffers. He rarely goes there, and was shocked at the high quality items going for much less...Walker brand shortbread, York peppermint patties, imported olives, and so on.

You may find nothing -- but it's been a rare event when I haven't found an excellent product at Big Lots at a giveaway price. You just have to be discriminating.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sleepy Musings

It's snowing like crazy here.

I cleaned up one more shingle pile, did a bunch of wash...and watched the gray clouds roll in. By 3 p.m., it was snowing hard -- by 5 p.m., the snow was blowing around, as well.

It'll be a miracle if there's school tomorrow. When our girlies were little, they used to watch the news with bated breath early in the morning, hoping... they blamed our lack of snow days on the superintendant-- "He's from Alaska, Mom -- he wouldn't know a blizzard if it bit him! And he's meeaaannn...."

That man is gone, and another in his place...but in spite of some humdinger storms, we haven't had a snow day in at least three years. Maybe tomorrow will change the pattern.

and now, from the "Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff" Department:

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Reindeer 'Jewels?'

An Illinois zoo is selling a new kind of ornament this year, featuring hardened and painted nuggets of reindeer poop dangling in the center of a star. They're calling them "jewels," and according to zoo officials, sales are brisk. Well, there's no shortage of the featured item!

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Dogs Have A Sense of Fairness...Well Sort of:


A recent University of Florida study paired up dogs for a "tricks" experiment. (Well, except for one border collie that insisted on trying to herd the other dogs up first!) Two dogs were positioned next to each other, with treat bowls in plain view. If one dog learned the "paw" trick (similar to "shake") and was rewarded, his companion expected the same. If Dog #2 did the trick and wasn't rewarded, he would stop responding -- even going to the extent of turning his/her back.

The researchers were surprised that the dogs didn't care what treat they got -- either sausage or bread, it didn't matter to them. (Monkeys, on the other hand, when given a 'lesser' treat -- and a better one in full view -- would band together and go on strike, refusing to do the trick until they got the more desirable item.)

I'm not shocked at the doggie response at all. Our two Weimaraners will eat anything, especially if they consider it people food. They wouldn't care if an elephant was served up, as long as they could gobble it up. (Preferably first, before the other one!)

On the other hand, if I give a treat to Buck, Goonie (Gunther) will automatically expect one, too. The only exception is if they've been a bad dog and are being punished. (For chasing the cat, stealing a ham off the counter -- Buck did this once -- chewing on things like wooden shoes and underwear, breaking a window because they were afraid of thunder, etc.)

So fairness, yes...in self-absorbed terms of making sure they get something. But I couldn't see a dog turning up its nose at an offered treat, just because his buddy wasn't getting anything. Goonie would just try to steal it from Buck, instead!

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Now, from a much more important subject:

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum has received the 2008 "Best of Golden" award!

Here's the press release:

Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum has been selected for the 2008 Best of Golden Award in the Non-Profit Organizations category by the U.S. Local Business Association (USLBA).
The USLBA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USLBA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2008 USLBA Award Program focused on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USLBA and data provided by third parties.

I love this museum, and it's nice to see it getting some positive press! Visit them at

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Fill 'Er Up: If you're thinking of signing up for my classes at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival early next year, do it right away! I checked today, and all three are almost full. I'd love to have you join me in class -- either Crazy Quilting; Hanky Panky I & II (this covers the basic method, plus the upcoming sequel); and "Pioneers East, Pioneers West." Find out more at:


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And finally...
Almost Frugal is worried (but dealing with it):


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Midnight...time for a long winter's nap. (And three quilts on the bed.)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stocking Stuffers

This subject has been dear to the hearts of bloggers lately, including one of my favorites, One Frugal Girl:


(She has a cool post on buying gifts for her little niece and nephew, too:)


And take note of this blogger's opinion on the subject:


What's in the Brick family's stockings this year?

Well, I can't tell you everything -- at least Daughter #1 reads this blog now and then.
But in the past --

chocolate bars (only the best kinds, including Toblerone or Lindt)
tangerines and bananas (the traditional fruit)
that person's favorite foods, in jars/bottles/cans
a can of tuna (for Daughter #1, who dotes on it)
can of black olives (a requirement -- to be worn on all ten fingers, and munched gradually away while reading the Christmas book)
a bracelet or necklace or earrings (usually garage sale-picked)
Maglites (Husband's favorite, hands-down)
a paperback or magazine
cans of nuts
fancy pens and markers
refrigerator magnets (preferably something weird)
free samples of various goodies --
make a note to yourself. Next year, start requesting them -- you'll be amazed at how quickly they add up. This includes shampoos, perfumes, cookies, granola bars, specialty drinks...

And on top -- a chocolate foil-wrapped Santa.

The key is the person whose stocking you're filling. Pay attention to what they really like -- buy a little bit here and there -- and that stocking will be full in no time flat.

"Living Like It's 1929"

This fascinating post on throwing a party for "only" $30 a head!

It's got some great ideas...just disregard the occasionally patronizing attitude.


The Weekend

I've been spending some time cleaning up the last two piles of "roof-tus" (roof detritus). The dumpster was picked up weeks ago, so we fill garbage cans and stack them against the wall. Then we drag them out, a few at a time, every week for the garbage truck.

Our neighbors, no doubt, are blessing the slow transformation of our pigpen property.

Four cans got filled Saturday -- with, I'm guessing, 3 or 4 to go. The nicest part of all this: we've got at least a cord of burnable lumber. Our fireplace will benefit this winter from all the rotten spots we had to fix on the roofs!

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Dad Update: Not looking good. He is spending more and more time sleeping. This is partly due to his recent radiation...but I'm not naive. It's another sign that his body is slowly shutting down. In a way, the sleep is a blessing, though -- it keeps the pain at bay.

I'm hoping he can hang in there until we can get there.

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Like IMAX movies? Get a free popcorn:


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I've just started reading a great source for my new book on California Gold:

A Mine of Her Own: Women Prospectors in the American West by Sally Zanjani

More than a dozen-plus women are covered, from Marie Pantalon, who planted grapes to hide the gold on her claim, to Ellen Nay, a feisty little thing who found her own boulder chockfull of gold. (The corresponding claims were filed in hers, her brother's, sister's and father's names -- but not her husband!)

I've only heard of one or two of these ladies -- but I'm grateful to find out about them now.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finding Bargains

I've been surprised.

If you're got the money to spend (make sure you do), Ebay's prices seem to be dropping some!

Pioneer and mining-themed photos are a must right now, for use in my upcoming books. (Old quilt photos come in handy anytime.) If they're old photo postcards, they have to be at least pre-1925, to handle the copyright issue. (Generally speaking, anything 75 years and older, illustration-wise, is generally usable...the main exception being Mickey Mouse right now. There are exceptions, and it's wise to check, but you are generally ok doing it. Don't just take my word here -- I'm no Great Expert, law-wise. But I have generally found it to be true. Home-taken photos, on the other hand, are usable. Period.)

I generally plan to spend at least $6-8 for each of these, with the really good ones going for as much as $20-25. The quilt photos will go as high as $250-288. (ouch)

So how much have I been paying for these in the past month? Four dollars. Six dollars. I just grabbed two Really Good ones for $3.99 total -- and a nice quilt photo for $5!

Is it that that collectors who normally pay Big Bucks are holding off? I'm guessing that's the case...

* * * * * * * * *
From the Christmas List department: Is your family scattered around the country? Need an easier way to let them know what you'd really like for Christmas? Here's what works for the Bricks: keep a wish list on your Amazon account. That way, Daughters, and especially Husband, know exactly what books, movies and other goodies I've been wishing for -- and I don't get weird stuff like chicken carvers and humidifiers. (Husband is a HUGE fan of gadgets and figures I should be, too.)

It works.
* * * * ** * * * * *
At least gas prices are going down -- around here in the Denver, CO area, I just saw a sign for $1.49 a gallon. Can you believe it!!! Our pockets will benefit greatly during the 18 hour-plus drive to Michigan in a few weeks.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I was scrubbing the bathroom today, when the Little Farm Girl inside began poking around...


Shut up -- I've still got the floor to mop.

Who cares...and why are you so messy, anyways? What about that blog entry yesterday -- who gave you permission to be Queen of the World?


Dissing on your brother and folks like that. Shame...they love you, and you make them sound like hicks from Yahootie, for God's sake. They could have been ax murderers -- instead, they just fuss now and then about bearnaise sauce. Stuff like that.


Not only that -- anyone from Michigan is going to think you've labeled them all insensitive, uneducated clods. (I start to protest) I know, I know -- you don't think that. You don't even think that about your own family. But they might think you do.


The LFG is right. I'm lucky to have siblings and parents that didn't try to hurt me, and were often encouraging. (Well, maybe not when Bro practiced his wrestling holds on me!) My folks paid for college -- I worked, too, but they paid, as well. They've been very supportive over the decades.

And here I am, griping because they didn't want to go to a lecture on Alaskan customs.

Ok. Take me -- and the previous post -- with a grain of salt.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It's snowing here -- cold cold cold. I've been collecting for the California Gold book, including research on women connected with gold, silver and copper mining. I still need a few 'characters' for the book -- any suggestions? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Feeling 'Different' -- But It's Okay

Simple Dollar, one of the best frugal blogs out there, has an interesting post, based on his recent Thanksgiving visit to family:


Here's his reasoning --
He realized that his family's interests and hobbies could be quite different from those of his hometown family and friends. He also realized that he could be heavily influenced in his own purchases by the interests and hobbies of those he loved -- whether or not he personally found those purchases absorbing in the long run. (A brother's love of hunting is mentioned; SD enjoys listening to Brother's stories and looking at his trophies. But SD's own hunting experiences were less than stellar.)

Simple Dollar calls his own interests/hobbies "internal signals," and those of the people he cares about "external signals." He says,

"Once I realized the distinct difference between external signals and internal signals when it came to my spending dollar, it became much easier to make good choices with my money. Purchases that were heavily reliant on external signals included gadgets, automobiles, golf equipment (I like to golf, but I don’t need the latest driver), and most of my collections. Once I realized that I was mostly buying these because others liked them (and all I was really getting was a bit of camaraderie from the purchase), it became much easier to simply say no to such purchases.

This not only frees up money for saving and planning ahead, but it also leaves more money for the things that actually do fulfill me."

Wow! Simple, elemental. Profound.

Our family -- all four of us -- is headed to Michigan the day after Christmas, to spend the New Years week with Mom and Dad, as well as Little Brother, Sister and whatever cousins, uncles and aunts wander by.

I love these people dearly. I also have come to realize, over the years, that we don't always share the same interests. Take travel, for example. Dave and I enjoy trying out different countries' foods, languages, places. Bro and Sister like the visiting part, but wouldn't think of staying more than a week or so, and aren't that big on unusual foods or trying to speak in the native tongue. (We often mangle it, but we still try...)

Dave and I love to travel -- but as cheaply as possible. We drive the back roads, take the local transportation. We winkle out the cheapest plane ticket, take the train...wait until we stumble on the best bargain.

Bro and Sister, on the other hand, go in style. They travel when they feel like it, to where they feel like going. (The Hollander blood does kick at to some degree. They do get the best price they can for the date they want -- but they wouldn't think of holding off until the right bargain appears.) Bro and Sister's favorite way is cruising...including every day trip possible.

I have to vent here. Skip down to the next bold line, if you prefer.

While we've enjoyed the (2) cruises we've been on, it was clear we were only getting a brief, sanitized taste of each country -- or island -- or city. One day can't get you too far off the beaten path. The second cruise, we paid Bro and Sister's price -- at least 1/3 to 1/2 more than we normally would have spent.

We didn't have much of a choice. Mom's great desire was to have her kids and their families go to Alaska together. We did it, but it was anything but 'togetherness.' The grandchildren went in different directions. We stuck with Mom and Dad much of the time -- but they had trouble walking. Bro and Sister went off on a ton of day trips we couldn't afford, or had little to do with the real world we were visiting. (Helicopter tours to glaciers??) They thought going to talks about history or customs were silly. They went to bed early -- we went out and walked the 'circuit' in the cool night air, listened to concerts, or spent hours at the big windows, looking for breaching whales.

During the entire cruise, we got to listen to general flak about the food (too 'weird' -- it was gourmet), places (too 'buggy' or 'dirty' or 'strange'), stops (general assumptions about the area/city/state based on quickie one-day experiences) and Stuff in General. (I didn't even want to know).

Sadly, with every comment, I kept thinking, 'Is it that Dave and I have traveled more? (Both of us not only have traveled throughout the States, Mexico, Canada and South America, but lived and/or traveled in Europe, as well. We both speak some French, Spanish, German...and a few words of Portuguese!)

Have we experienced more? Eaten more? Spoken more, or been friends more with people who weren't from white-collar, white-people Michigan?' Is the difference part of our having lived in the West for more than two decades now? I don't think of us as the L-word...but our brand of conservative is WAY different than that of our Michigan relatives.

Back to the travel issue --

Dad thinks we're all nuts. Why go anywhere when you've got a snug chair in a living room, and three squares a day...all delivered in English? (This, from a guy whose grandparents on both sides only spoke a little English, if at all!)

There's a compromise possible here. Dad hates traveling out of the U.S. -- but he enjoys travelogues and programs about other countries. We take a different tack than Bro and Sister in our travel decision -- but we all enjoy talking about various countries, what to see, and ways to get there.

Sure, we'll have to listen to some Pronouncements...but we're big people. We can handle it.

If I can keep my big mouth shut, that is.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Beebe Moss: Remembering

I knew her better as 'Mom,' a name she didn't mind my using. She wasn't technically mine -- she was Ami's.

Ami Simms, someone I've been proud to call a friend, lost her mother, Beebe Moss, last Saturday, November 29. But it was actually the end to Beebe's 7-year struggle with Alzheimer's. Beebe remained herself to the end... but in most ways, she had already quietly shut the door on her world some time ago.

Beebe shared her life with many people. She was peppery, vibrant and full of comments on everything imaginable. I spent an afternoon or two painting with her, talking about animals and quilts and techniques. Her cards and paintings were folk art swirled in bright colors, full of African and other influences.

She didn't mind popping off with whatever was on her mind -- right now. The effect was astonishing at times -- refreshing at others. She generously shared herself with family and friends. Whatever else she was -- she was herself.

I will miss her.

Share your thoughts with Ami through her blog:


Beebe Moss of Flint, Michigan, age 85, died on Saturday, November 29, 2008, at Genesys Hospice Care Center after a 7-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. The family has requested memorial contributions to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (www.AlzQuilts.org) in lieu of flowers: 1200 Creekwood Trail / Burton, MI 48509.

Beebe was born May 18, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of William and Jennie (Medvedov) Gottesman. She and Dr. Leonard W. Moss (deceased) were married in 1945.

Beebe leaves daughter Ami and husband Steve Simms; granddaughter Jennie Simms; brother Bud and wife Elaine Gottesman; nieces Simm Gottesman-Tessler and husband Doug; Kim and husband Ted Noble; Niki Gottesman; Mindy Reed; cousins Blanche Borenstein, RubyJean and Richard Gould, Sandy and Rodney Landsman; and friends Eva Boros, Joyce Christensen, and Joanne Malcolm to cherish her memory.

Friends may share with the family online at www.amisimms.wordpress.com/

Movies, Movies, Movies

TCM (Turner Movie Classics) has been running some of the great classics these past few days, including a spate of Buster Keaton slapstick pieces. (Boy, can you tell where the Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy got some of their inspiration...) Perfect for the overdue ironing I've been putting off. I saw Joan Crawford as a Depression-era clerk who stays virtuous while watching her girlfriends put their trust in slimy (rich) dudes in Our Blushing Brides. (Joan is incredible. And guess who wins in the end? Yup, it wasn't her friends...) Tonight was Citizen Kane. Intriguing -- but sad.

Now on to the last few flannel shirts -- and The Magnificent Ambersons.

At least the ironing's getting done. Take a look at TCM -- they seem to be digging out some great choices for December.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Barbara Walters interview

I may get stoned for this --

but I just don't care for Oprah that much.

She's an intelligent woman, but lets her personal opinion get in the way. Her show's been on, with a wide range of subjects and VIPs -- her magazine (with the great O as a cover every single time) is really quite interesting. Really. The success of much of this is due in great part to Oprah's skill as a clever overseer and marketer.

There -- that's my major problem. The marketing. Oprah's charities highlight -- the charities? The cause? Naahhh...they emphasize OPRAH. I would be much more impressed if she actually donated more than a few percent of her income -- how about 10%, Oprah? Lots of people do that with a lot less!

She doesn't ask the hard questions of her interview subjects, unless she can soften the blow by 'excusing' that bad behavior. Case in point: today's interview with Barbara Walters, and the mutual admission that both Barbara and Oprah had affairs with married men. This was excused by 'explaining' that neither man spent any time at home (except holidays, accd. to both B. & O.), and neither of the two couldn't be 'mistresses' because they were never 'kept women' financially.

Give me a break. I would have loved to have heard how both wives of those men described those affairs.

Having said that...

I was fascinated by today's interview! Oprah may have been trying to give Barbara an 'out' for some of the mistakes the latter made...but Barbara wasn't always accepting it. She personally brought up the fact that her paramour, a Senator, was not reelected (because of repercussions from their affair, she believed). She blamed herself for believing that she had ruined the career of a man she characterized as a brilliant public servant.


Barbara said she'd refused to acknowledge that her father committed suicide. She admitted it on Oprah, saying that she'd tried to hide it -- and some people who were watching the show would be surprised. (Mary Hemingway had the same struggle when she insisted for years that husband Ernest was just 'cleaning his gun.')

She talked about feeling 'different' (and not in a good way) because she had a mentally retarded sister. (And having to leave to do a speech, just before her sister died unexpectedly -- and the guilt she carried about that.)

She talked about her marriages, saying she just wasn't good at it. (She didn't blame the men -- something she could have done easily. And, I believe, Oprah would have encouraged.)

She talked about her struggles with this and that, and basically maintaining that for most of her life, she felt she was 'auditioning.' She didn't feel accepted. She didn't feel that she fit in...not even when she began to accomplish things.

That's the name of her book: AUDITION: A MEMOIR . See it here at:


If Walters is as straightforward in her book as she was on this show...well, this is a different person than Barbara Walters the interviewer. I stopped watching her in action because, like Oprah, I felt she excused her subjects' actions, rather than stick to the journalistic approach -- tell everything, and let the audience decide for themselves.

Is it that she's harder on herself than she is on everyone else? (She said she no longer interviewed people because she'd gotten "too soft.")

I've got to read this book.

For more on Walters (and her revelations):

http://www.oprah.com/dated/oprahshow/oprahshow_20080506 (the interview)

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20197345,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines (about the affair with Senator Edward Brooke)

Food - ANYTHING but Turkey!

It's almost gone.

The 20 lb.-plus turkey I cooked Thursday morning is a memory...except for a handful of dark meat meant for Dave's lunchtime sandwich.

I thought, when Chicks #1 and #2 flipped the nest, that my food would stretch further. Ha. When the kiddos left for home Thanksgiving evening, they took substantial doggy bags with them. What was left made two meals of turkey & gravy for us, plus some goodies for the dogs.

I'm not griping. Really. Few things are more disgusting than a 5-day-old pile of turkey with an off-taste. It's just... just... where did it all go?!?

If you're shuffling through your refrigerator as well, and wondering what happened, take a minute to visit Clara, a 91-year-old grandma and fine cook. Her YouTube posts on Depression era cooking are gems. Try this one, the Poorman's meal:


Watching Clara cook is like being with my grandma while she made Christmas sugar cookies (and fussed -- a prime Cumings trait). Grandma died when I was in high school; I miss her.

Off to watch Ratatouille...and dream of pork chops a la francais.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Picture This...

It's been a strange weekend.

We got some work done (I qualify that, because it wasn't nearly everything I'd hoped to do), but spent more time sleeping and Picking Up Stuff than anything else. (We also went to Java Guru, a local coffeehouse, and listened to a bud, Sal Mancini, play guitar onstage.) After that, Dave finished up music duties and I did some computer work. Worked on Christmas cards. Did some package wrapping. Wandered around, in general. Didn't get to bed until 3:30 a.m.

Got up a little after 7 a.m. for Worship Team practice, with the outside all white -- snowing like crazy. It snowed all through church, both services. It was still snowing when I collapsed into bed for a 3-hour nap...

Everything is icy, slippery and downright wintry outside.

Do you enjoy urban legends, or wonder if the latest e-mail about whatever the heck Obama or Bush said...or this or that virus is really prevalent...or whether (the newest thing) certain businesses are really closing. Here's the place to go:


If you need a visual pick-me-up, check out Snopes' "fauxtography" section on natural phenomena. Most are hokey -- though striking -- but some are quite real:


This is the best one, an incredible shot of deer fleeing fire in the back country:


Now I'm off to bed...talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The first Pilgrims weren't a part of my family history...but close. A Cumings descendant, Isaac Cumings, came on the good ship Sally Ann not many more years later, and settled in New England. Family history holds that our ancestors include bondservants -- people who exchanged passage to the New Land for years of their effort, plus a little money and a suit of clothes.

Husband's family, black-haired Vikings all, emigrated from Denmark on the Petterson side. The Bricks, on the other hand, were some of the first visitors to the Colonies -- two brothers founded Bricktown, New Jersey, early on.

Our families have been here a long time. They bled and died in the American Revolution; struggled to survive in the wilderness, first in New York and then in Michigan. they moved west, to Oregon, California and Colorado. (The latter -- that's us!)

They didn't always have easy lives. But they persevered.

I am grateful for them...for their pigheaded stubbornness. Their insistence that people have to work for a living -- that respect and a name well-respected were worth far more than big bucks and a crooked heart. They insisted on patriotism, faith in their church (but far more in God), faith in the family.

As Husband is fond of saying to his daughters, we come from Good Stock. I'm grateful for that...and him. (Love you, Dave!) Our healthy, clever daughters. A warm home (with a good roof!). Our bills paid. A profession I enjoy. A faith in Gold that keeps us going, through the good and the hard times.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Less Clutter...More Content

I spent much of today carrying Stuff, with Daughter #1's help. Umpteen boxes of samples, kits, embellishments, fat quarters and assorted flotsam and jetsam were lugged downstairs to put back into inventory. I have lots of excuses why so much accumulated up in the living space -- you try doing multiple back-to-back gigs, I've had to deal with family issues, etc. -- but the truth is I'd become A Big Slob. (I didn't insist that the staffers bring Stuff back downstairs as consistently as I should have, either...big mistake. It adds up.)

This needs a bit of explanation. Brickworks, my company, sells books; kits; every kind of embellishment, from lace to trim to ribbon roses to brass charms...even matching Tibetan silver hand charms, holding hearts that say "Love" and "You!"
All these items, which are often made with a batch of other items, add up to a Lot of Stuff. Shelves and shelves of it. Add my teaching samples; paper patterns, postcards and other ephemera; other quilts and textiles in the Brickworks collection --


So far, my office, plus the company's inventory has filled the bottom half of our house -- some 2500 feet. (Just the downstairs, that is.) This generally works because the downstairs has a separate entrance. We can spread things out, and work with minimum hassle. The main area has a cutting table, shelves that hold bolts of fabric and trims, stacks of kits, etc. All around the edge of the main area are shelves that hold all sorts of kits; jars of buttons, silk embroidery floss and other goodies; and misc. books, stacks of fat quarters and so on.

A huge schrunk (German armoire) fills one wall -- three large opening doors, and shelves and hanging racks behind for everything from a 1790s baby quilt, to the Depression repro wallhanging my mom finished last year. Nearby sets of drawers hold orphan blocks, vintage fabrics and samples for classes.

That's not all of the Brickworks business, though. One room upstairs holds shipping materials, tape, etc. When Stuff is left upstairs, that means our already-decreasing living space fills up with stacked boxes and bins.

Now that those boxes and bins have been lugged downstairs, the dining room suddenly seems spacious. Lighter. Easier to move without bumping into things. Wow. What will it be like when I get everything vacuumed and dusted for tomorrow? Gracious living, here we come!

I can't let this Stuffing Up happen anymore. It's too easy to limp along and just add to it over the weeks. I MUST put things away right away from now on.

That's my Thanksgiving commitment. The Simple Dollar has their own take on this subject: they argue that Stuff doing nothing is Stuff that could be sold, or cleared away to make the space start working for itself. Earning its keep...


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hand-Done for the Holidays

One of my favorite blogging buddies, Almost Frugal, has a mini-encyclopedia of handcrafts. Not only are they do-able for practically anybody, but they'll make wonderful gifts and decorations this season!

This one, for a 'ragamuffin' garland that uses up leftover strips and scraps. (I see it curved into wreath form, too.)


And I like this ribbon wreath:


The version in the post has a Halloween twist to it, but I'm seeing it in plaid form for Christmas. Guess what project I think I'll be doing this weekend?

Check out more of Long Thread's posts, too...she doesn't always give instructions, but the pictures are often enough for you to figure them out.

Be sure to check out the other projects in Almost Frugal's section; they're lovely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Saving $$ for Thanksgiving

The Internet's full of great food and entertainment ideas for Thanksgiving.

Try this one. (Tip Hero is brand new to me, but has terrific ideas for a wide range of subjects.)


My all-time favorite site, MoneySavingMom, has a huge list of recipes and food ideas:

http://www.moneysavingmom.com/money_saving_mom/2008/11/thanksgiving-on-a-budget-share-your-ideas.html (And I could never ever drop the stuffing, as some readers suggest -- I loooove stuffing. I'd drop potatoes and gravy, but then the rest of the family would protest!)

Frugal Upstate has a very long list of recipes, separated by category similar to MSM:


If your time's limited, try Frugal first...MSM has a LOT of postings.

CheapHealthyGood has consistently good ideas, though you often have to wade through a mass to get what you want. For what it's worth, here goes:


* * * * * * * * * * * *
and now my own tips...

Buy your family's must-have foods when they're on sale -- not at full price. I stock up on things like black olives and cheesecake all year round.

Take your primary menu items from the sale flyer. If ham's on sale, that's what we have, sliced and fried, for Thanksgiving breakfast. If it's pork chops or bacon, they get substituted, instead.

Home-grown...yours, or just in the area? Use it! Old-timers took great pride in featuring their own harvest on the Thanksgiving menu. (It's cheaper and fresher, too...)

Buy napkins, tablecloths, candles on sale AFTER Thanksgiving -- for next Thanksgiving! (Or use fall-themed items leftover this year from the Halloween clearance aisle.)

Share the meal with friends. You make some dishes -- they make some. You get a variety of food. And overall, you save on the grand total.

Only make what your family REALLY likes. Skip any 'traditional' foods that you've included, just because you had them on the table as a child.

Bake a pie (or two) -- but freeze half after the meal's over. Don't waste a scrap of anything! Put any food you can't use in the next few days away in the freezer -- or give to someone -- before it goes stale. (I don't personally care for turkey's taste if it's just bunged in the freezer -- but I do like turkey chunks frozen in gravy.)

Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. I'd never done this before -- but the sale turkey I bought late last week just wouldn't fit in the freezer, even for a few days. The meat dept. guy said to turn up the fridge temp slightly, and put the turkey in a pan on the bottom shelf. He said it would be ready for roasting, come Thanksgiving morning. Lo and behold, based on what I'm seeing...he's right!

Bake your own bread for stuffing. I used to buy a loaf or two of the cheapest bread -- but one year had a loaf of my own going stale. Epiphany: the stuffing made from this tasted amazing! You don't have to do much...and no fancy bread. (Plain white, wheat or a mix works best.) But it makes all the difference.

THE BEST STUFFING (heavy on the veggies!)

1 loaf bread
1 bunch celery, including green leaves, chopped
1-2 onions, chopped
1/4-1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
Any other vegetables your family likes -- carrots, peppers and so on
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage (from my herb garden -- substitute 3 tablespoons powdered)
2 tablespoons marjoram
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
7-10 grinds black pepper (or one teaspoon)
1 cube butter (don't substitute for this, anymore than the bread)
2 cups chicken broth

Melt the butter in a kettle or deep frying pan, dump in herbs and chopped veggies and saute. While this is going on, break up the bread with your hands. Add to the kettle, then gradually add broth until the mixture is moist. (You may or may not need all of the broth -- and yes, I use bouillon cubes, as well as homemade broth.)

For oyster stuffing, add 1 small can or 1 jar oysters, including juice, at the chicken broth stage. (You'll need 1 cup less broth.) A handful of chopped ham or bacon doesn't hurt.

Stuff your turkey -- or bake stuffing in a greased pan for 25-30 min. @ 350 degrees. Serves 4-6...with leftovers for a greedy writer/quilter later that night.

Update on Michigan...and Dad

Last week (and a bit of the week before), I spent with the folks, who live on a farm outside Sparta, a small town north of Grand Rapids. Daughter #1 came along for the ride, too.

The folks are doing surprisingly well, considering they were going to radiation every day, and chemo twice a week.

I saw Dad's brain scans. Not good. The bone is pretty much gone over his left eye, letting the tissue bulge out and push on his optical nerve. It's the cause of his seeing double...and why he couldn't get his left eye open. Radiation is helping, in that the eyelid (sort of) works now. But he's still seeing double.

The bone over the right eye has large chunks missing. The rest of his skull bone is still there, but considerably thinned.

Obviously, there is no way to replace this bone.

I'm grateful, nonetheless, that the cancer is not actually IN his brain -- just consuming the bone outside it. Dad's mind remains sharp.

He can walk some, with a cane -- but pride gets in his way. He refuses to use a walker or wheelchair. (Says his arms and legs just don't feel that strong.)

He said, just before we left, "You could stay here for a month -- then go home for a week -- then stay for another month." Husband would hate this...he'd be out of underwear, living on soup and frozen pizza and lonely... but my dad asks for so little. We live several states away. How can I take care of biz, be with Dave -- and still help my dad?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Starlighting, and a 'Peaceful' Weekend


Slept in Saturday morning -- but that was about it for a serene, peaceful break. The house is full of piles...I dealt with a few of them, then went off for chili to the firehouse with friend Constance --

and the Starlighting. Castle Rock's namesake perches on top of a huge butte, and for decades has featured a large wire star on top. Every year, the star is lit on the last weekend in November, just before Thanksgiving. People in town wander around, admiring kids and dogs....high school and elementary groups perform...horse & carriage rides...and chili and nachos are available at the local firehouse. We all sit around and visit, have a slice of homemade pie to top things off, then count down.

One quick moment -- and the star shines out. Then we enjoy a batch of fireworks, and fight our way home through the traffic.

Our town is known for this. People taking the main north-south highway through Colorado (I-25) are surprised to see this huge star seemingly hanging in the darkness. Sometimes it's lit on other occasions -- when the Broncos make the Superbowl, for example. (Not this year!) When the hostages were being held overseas during Jimmy Carter's waning presidential days, the star shone, to encourage people to remember.

We love this star.

I went home, baked and prepped, then...

Sunday --
7:30 a.m. Worship Team practice
two services -- two sets of music to learn

12:00 p.m. Church is over -- set up for a recital!
12:30 p.m. Recital -- my piano students did a great job, though they were scared to death. Lunch afterward. Plus cleanup.
2:15 p.m. Get home. Collapse. Take an hour nap.
4:35 p.m. Church is having our annual Thanksgiving supper. Head for kitchen, tie an apron on. Pick up dishes. Wash more dishes. Keep it up until the crowd thins, and you can (finally) eat supper.
8:00 p.m. Get home. Collapse again, Daughter #1 in tow. (She's here through Thanksgiving -- lucky us!) Watch various silly programs on tv. Think about going to bed. (Body has no idea what time it is again.)

So that was my wonderful day. Thankfully, the week is coming -- I can do biz stuff, and maybe get some REST!

* * * * * * * *
From the "I'm Not Sure I Wanted to Know This" Department: some of the strangest diseases and allergies you've ever winced to see. Hmmm...


And I'm going to bed, to dream about turkeys dancing to a piano version of 'Beauty and the Beast.'

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

Ever wondered what Copernicus' face REALLY (or probably really) looked like?


Basically, they compared hairs found in a book known to have been in Copernicus' library with a skull found in a cathedral in Poland. (A strong tradition holds that C. was buried in this particular church -- and a smashed skeleton was found under some floor tiles. Weird.)

I think I'd better go clean out my library books -- fast!

And this is one of the loveliest home dec projects, considering the cost and effort:


Maybe this is the time to paint on that motto on the dining room's north wall...

I collapsed into bed Wednesday night...and quite frankly, the 'ol bod still has no idea what time it is. I get tired at very strange times, and wide awake at others. Thursday was at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, checking up on my California Gold exhibit. Find out more here:


The gallery's warm yellow light really made the golden prints glow in these 1880s scrap and applique quilts. I was VERY pleased. (And yes, photos will be posted, as soon as the museum sends me their batch.)

This was one of the roughest exhibits ever, as far as setup. It was supposed to go up the Sunday before we left for New Hampshire. (Got a last-minute phone call that the gallery wasn't ready.) Instead, it couldn't happen until Wednesday -- but I left Tuesday! So Karen Roxburgh and two volunteers put up the quilts, plus signage. I hoped for the best.

Fortunately, it was. Karen is a champ. She made a few changes from what our floorplan...but they were great. If you live in Colorado, "California Gold" will be up at the museum through January 2009. Take a look; I think you'd enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Home. Again.

Home. Just beat. What can I say...at least all the flights worked out just fine.

Found a stuffed tiger in Michigan that's perfect for one of my piano students...dragged it home on the plane...comments trailing behind. ("Aren't all animals supposed to go in a carrier?" "Will it bite me?" and one person who got huffy that I'd brought two carryons PLUS something else.)

I'll be back in volume tomorrow...in the meantime, take a look at this development Google's been working on for some time:


Google will be online publishing copyrighted books that are out of print, and paying a fee to the authors/artists. I 'guess' this is a good thing -- after all, it means more access to out-of-print works (which are notoriously hard to find). But HOW MUCH of a fee?

And as an author, I get very suspicious about this sort of thing...

A few years ago, as Daughter #2 was looking at schools, we stayed at a B&B near the University of Michigan.

Who was clearing away the out-of-print books on its library shelves, and having them all digitized, instead. The problem with this is first, what happens if the digitized version disappears? And secondly, did they get permission from the authors? (nope) And thirdly, I LIKE the smell and feel of an old book...and the U of M stacks were full of 'em. I loved going up there late at night and snuggling into a back area carrel, with a pile of delicious old books to pet and admire. Love in the Libray, complete with smarmy music and lots of panting.

I am not sure how I feel about this 'wonderful' new development.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A new discovery of a Celtic coin hoard found overseas... in a cornfield near Maastricht, Holland.



Don't miss the slide show with the article -- it includes some incredible archeological discoveries, including the drainage tunnel thought to be the escape route for Jews fleeing Titus when he sacked Jerusalem. Also, a beautiful -- and ancient -- white stone earring found under a parking lot. (Wish I had a pair.)

Someday I'll bumble onto something wonderful like this.

Or see Bigfoot, peering over our fence. (Not as wacky as you would think -- he's been spotted within ten miles, near Sedalia: http://www.bfro.net/GDB/show_county_reports.asp?state=co&county=Douglas .)

Or a flying saucer, wobbling to say 'hi' at midnight.

Or discover Jimmy Hoffa's personal cement pylon. (Some people think he was hidden somewhere in Giants Stadium: http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2003/11/08/is-jimmy-hoffa-buried-in-giants-stadium.htm )

Or figure out what the heck cats are really thinking when they're staring at you. (Jack, Daughter's dog, does it, too -- weird.)

Who knows!

It's Snowing

...or it was. About six inches, with the wind blowing it in swoops and swirls. The dogs, especially Jack (Daughter #1's), had a great time prancing around, and came in with their noses smeared white.

What a pleasure and comfort to watch it -- and know you're in a snug, roofed house!

Last night's lecture went great -- more than 180 people were there, learning about Crazies -- and giggling. (Guess I told some funny stories.) We had a great time, looking at pieces and talking about possibilities.

Driving home, milkshake in hand, I relaxed -- it was the last gig of the year.
I wish I could say that now the teaching is over for 2008, I'll sleep in, make cookies and practice Gracious Living.


It just means I'll spend time cleaning up some big piles, catching up on ironing, working on the downstairs inventory (which also features some big piles), and starting on the California Gold book manuscript.

But first --

I leave tomorrow for Michigan, and a visit with the folks. Dad continues to get worse. The CAT scan is showing he has no bone in the front area of his forehead...and the rest of his skull has thinned. The radiation sessions every day are helping some; he can open his left eye slightly. But he still sees double. He spends a lot of time in bed. And he can barely walk from the house past the barn. Things seem increasingly clear; he is dying, slowly and surely.

I've said goodbye; I've told this wonderful man who has been my dad for nearly 50 years how I feel about him. But while he is still here, I want to spend as much time as possible with him. We're planning on going to Michigan for the holidays, but I am not sure he'll be around by then.

This has been a test. I say I believe in God; I say I trust Him. Do I, really? Can I believe that God knows this situation, that He loves us and is still caring for us through all this? Intellectually I can do it -- emotionally, I can...but only minute by minute, a day at a time.

It's hard. Those of you who have gone through this -- you understand.

I'll be back on Wednesday, with hopefully a chance to check in a few times. Sometimes I can use Little Brother's computer, sometimes not. (The folks' e-mail isn't currently working.)

I'll be around.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home...and the phone's still working!

I'm finally back, after the Quilter's Gathering; a day in the White Mountains, where I used to work; and a few days with Husband's brother Jim and wife Marsha in Newport, RI. Four states in less than two weeks -- amazing! It takes 7 hours to go the width of the state...and we went from Conway, NH to Newport in 3 1/2 hours.

More about that coming --

I did a stupid thing and left my cellphone in the Boston rental car. (sigh) That meant the toll-free number -- and my cellphone -- had to be disabled temporarily. (The staffers at home couldn't access either number either. If they did, my cellphone would be usable by any yahoo who wanted to phone Timbuktu.) So no phone. And anyone who called it would be told the number was "disconnected."

Double sigh.

The toll-free number's back in use again -- you can reach the Brickworks offices 1-888-48-BRICK. (If the Denver area is local for you, try 303-519-8781, instead.) Hopefully, my personal phone will be back in business shortly.

In the meantime, take a look at this blog. If you're making do on a limited income...and you want to do it beautifully...you'll enjoy her take on things:


She's got a long and detailed how-to report on tiling laminate kitchen counters. Hmmm. We need to replace our counters badly...and I LOVE this look. Hmmm.

And I am very happy to report --

Both roofs are DONE!! They're fully shingled -- and beautiful.

A pile of shingles and splintered woodplanks awaits for tidying. In the meantime, there's stuff to put away, plus a gig tonight at the Arapahoe Quilt Guild in Denver...

Talk to you soon.

Twinkle, Twinkle...

A strange swirl of Northern-Lights-style aurora is hanging out at the top of Saturn right now...


For more unusual space photos, take a look at this batch:



Friday, November 7, 2008

In Defense of Sarah Palin

I admire the heck out of this woman.

She's already accomplished a great deal in her life -- and done it while raising a family. She tells it straight -- no ruffles, no fooling around. She is straightforward, and unafraid to advocate issues (pro-life, for example) that she might be criticized for.

Her critics have been shrill, cruel and picky, picky, picky. I have rarely seen the level of criticism Palin has been forced to endure, everything from daring to bear a child who is mentally retarded (why didn't she abort the kid? How could she be so stupid/unfeeling, etc.), working while having a family (nasty shots on this), enjoying the outdoors, having a husband who's a dog musher (some of the environmental organizations hopped onto this bandwagon), etc. etc.

I am amazed that national women's groups would be leading this charge. Here is a woman who has a national leadership position -- and was chosen for the possibility of even more. But by committing the crime of being a Conservative -- and, horror or horrors, a Christian!! -- she is Not Worthy.

Shame on them.

Shame on them for equating a Liberal stance with the feminine view. And accusing Palin of not being loyal to her sex, as a result.

Could you have taken the rudeness and snide remarks as graciously as she has? Could you have appeared on national television shows, knowing that you'd be picked at and made fun of...and STILL take it graciously? Head for home, with your former boss's lackeys taking potshots at you and accusing you of losing the election for him?

And STILL hang in there...

I think a future in the public glare is not over for Sarah Palin. Thank God. We need her.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dad started radiation today, instead of yesterday, as planned...came through it ok. No real change, of course -- too soon. His last protein count was a little better. Platelets production way down.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rained/fogged all day here...

but it was warm inside, and the Quilts of the Pioneers students were having a GREAT time, chatting and whipping fabric around! (I swear...I think we have the messiest classroom ever. And the threads on my black jeans are multiplying by the hour.)

Tomorrow: Discussing what makes up the American style. Then night class: How to Date (and an extremely quick look at repair methods) Old Quilts. (The other teachers have done a night class. Now it's my turn.)

I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


It rained here in New Hampshire...but honestly, I didn't notice. I was too busy teaching. Twenty-five people in your class means that you are constantly hustling around, checking and trying to help whenever you can.

I give out a lot of freebies during class, as well. It's an easy way to get the students to relax...while I'm checking on their work!

That's done. Went well. On to "Quilts of the Pioneers" tomorrow.

It's supposed to rain all day again...but I won't see it until night-time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Hampshire

(pronounced "New Hamp-sha," or so I'm hearing)

We flew into Boston last night -- got here about 10:30 p.m.

Trudged through the airport. (Motto: "You're in Boston - welcome. Now get the heck outa heah.") Twenty-eight miles out of Boston, rental car starts going "putt -- putt -- puuutttttt." The failing engine let us get off just in time to coast into a gas station. The Alamo people said it would take 1 1/2 - 2 hours to get a new car to us. (Thank you, Lynnette, for trying to do something for us, even if you couldn't much...)

By the time we limped back to Boston...got another car...and drove to Nashua...well, we couldn't find the Radisson. A Mobil station in town said there was no conference center in Nashua -- shoot, there wasn't a Radisson, either. Go to Merrimack, instead.

So we did. No Radisson here. The one hotel with a conference center was obviously not in business. A hotelkeeper finally told us to go back to Nashua -- there was a Radisson there, after all.

Found it, and checked in. At 3:00 in the morning.

Slept in -- did some work this afternoon -- a lecture on politics -- and quilts -- tonight. It went well...but boy, I am zonked.

At least the fall colors are still pretty here! Crazy quilting all day tomorrow...stuff everywhere, and boy will it be fun.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A strange waiting silence all day yesterday while we were flying here. People not sure whether to talk about it -- or not. Almost a palpable relief when Obama's victory was quick. (I'm not so sure about decisive -- the USA Today map made it clear that McCain took an awful lot of states -- but Obama took the big cities.)

The one opinion we heard expressed was the Jamaican bus driver, jumping up and down and yelling "Obama prez, Obama prez" into his cellphone, a huge grin on his face.

Congratulations, President Obama. Now let's see what you can do!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jest Dancin'

Matt Harding has a new "Where's Matt?" video...

or maybe it's just new to me.

But here he is -- I can use some cheerfulness. Hope you can, too.



...mostly on my dad.

He starts radiation Thursday -- 13 sessions of it. Hopefully this will slow the cancer down some, though I am not very hopeful. The latest tests show the bone in the front of his head (the area behind the eyebrows) is all but gone.... eaten away. The rest of the bone in his skull is considerably thinned.

How in the world can you live with no bone in the front of your head?

The tissue is pressing on the optic nerve, no doubt causing the double vision, headaches and other struggles he's been having lately.

I really appreciate your prayers for him. It is really difficult to trust that God knows and is control of this situation. I know intellectually that He is...but my heart still cries out:

Help, Lord...he's my dad, and I love him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Nine more bundles of shingles...some work on the flashing around the chimney...and the roof is done.

Now, back to packing.

Road Trip!

Ballot gets turned in this afternoon...

Carlos will finish up the roof tomorrow morning (Great Relief! Excitement! Joy!)...

Packing finishes up tonight...

And tomorrow Husband and I head for Nashua, New Hampshire, and the Quilter's Gathering conference!


I've still got a few openings in classes, if you're in the neighborhood...would love to meet you.

Then we'll take a few days off -- spend a little time in the White Mountains (where I taught backpacking and rockclimbing for a few summers). We'll also go see Dave's brother and wife in Rhode Island.

Home for a few days...another gig, this time for the Columbine Quilt Guild in Denver...

Then to Michigan to see the folks. I got the phone call I'd been dreading last Friday -- my dad, who's been experiencing double vision and headaches for the past few weeks, woke up and couldn't open his left eyelid. A CAT scan confirmed the worst:

the bone cancer has spread to his brain.

Not long now. I am hoping very, very much he can hang in there until I can get to Michigan. A number of my classes and lectures have sold out in New Hampshire...I've got to go there first, and do my job.

I'll check in now and then, and let you know how we're doing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You Say Potay-ta, I Say Po-tata

This blogger says McCain is doomed, because nobody from the current-party-in-power wins when there's also a recession going on...or so she quotes.


"Here is the list from previous years: Hayes (1876), Cleveland (1884), McKinley (1896), Harding (1920), Roosevelt (1932), Kennedy (1960), and Reagan (1980). If history is any predictor McCain may very well be doomed."

Right. Uh-huh. Apparently we haven't had any other recessions (or the old-fashioned term, 'panics') any of the other election years? Well, oops... because we have. I also find it interesting that the list stops at 1876, leaving out a century of election years...and financial panics.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

And this blogger is equally convinced that Obama is unrealistic, unprepared and overoptimistic:


This lady can be nasty and pompous in equal doses, assumes that her word is all-knowing, and she is well-aware of everything nationally. (The sad truth -- she's an East Coast snob who doesn't seem to have a clue of anything further west than the New York state line.)

* * * * * * * * ** * * *

I could say who I am voting for. I could try to persuade you to vote the same way with all sorts of insults and demeaning statements. (After all, isn't that how political commercials seem to think we operate?) The thing is -- my chosen candidate is not perfect. He has made statements I don't always agree with...and I am not sure he honestly will go through with all of the promises he's made.

On the other hand, I've admired some statements he's made, especially the ones that are not popular. I've admired his courage and willingness to take an individual stand.

There. Can you tell? Of course not. Both Obama and McCain have done this.

The thing is: at least in my home state (Colorado), many, many people have already voted! Absentee ballots and early voting made it easy. Which makes the advertising (and rudeness) we have to endure through Nov. 3 both irritating and unnecessary.

The other is: you need to vote, based on your convictions. But the most important thing is:

You need to vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Very Strange Blog


I've bumbled across one of the weirder blogs out there -- Robert Frank's "Wealth Report," a regular look at the wealthy and their favorite things. (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.)

Here's my favorite: a very expensive watch that does not tell time. (It shows you whether it's day or night, instead. No, I am not making this up.) Supposedly the watch contains metal from the Titanic, as well as other interesting materials.
Oh, and it's already sold out. At $300,000 a pop.


Whew! I can offer a new watch made of old bits and pieces from quilts -- do you think that would sell?

Take a look at other goodies in the blog...including frequent posts that rich people are not unaffected by this current economic downturn. On the contrary...


Have a good weekend...talk to you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pigs...and More Pigs

Hmmm...Exxon just shattered its quarterly profit record, with its two biggest quarters ever -- in spite of the recent drop in crude oil prices:


I seem to remember warnings of how gas prices were going to shoot up again after the hurricanes of 2008 destroyed all the oil-drilling platforms. And the war in Iraq just shot everything to hell. And --- (insert your own dire prediction here).

Oops, the Exxon executives seem to be saying. Guess those didn't happen, after all.

Are we supposed to believe that the recent drop in gas prices are just their way of being more generous...sharing the wealth, so to speak...instead of a response to the supply and demand issue? (People not buying as much gas because they're not traveling as much.)

I do believe in free enterprise, but this seems a little greedier and grabbier than usual. Take a look at other companies' profit margins and reports for this quarter -- if they're posting a profit at all, it's lower than they predicted.

How many freebies are the gas companies getting from the U.S. government (and us) in the form of tax breaks, etc.? Maybe it's time for some of those to go away.

* * * * * * * * * *

Thinking about that (and the tussle to put in that last stubborn plant) got me to thinking about pigs...in blankets. Aunt Max ran the school cafeteria, and in return for lunch, Little Brother and I were student employees. I ran the cash register; I think he washed dishes. (Try doing that, and kids' habits of mixing all the leftovers together in one disgusting mess -- Barnyard Casserole, we called it -- doesn't seem so funny.)
Auntie must have thought we were malnourished, because she really slapped the food on our trays. Potatoes and hamburg gravy, gray-tinged green beans, weird mystery cutlets...none of that wussy green salad or dainty stuff. Just rib-sticking, gets-you-through-afternoon-band-practice food.
My favorite was her Pigs in Blankets. I still use her recipe -- and the huge canisters of baking powder she scooped from now hold my flour and sugar. Pigs are cheap, filling and perfect for a blustery fall day.


1 package (8-10) hot dogs
1/4 cup (one half-stick) margarine or butter
1 cup water & 1/2 cup milk (or 1 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup dry milk powder)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
3-4 cups flour

Nuke the margarine, water/milk for approx. 45 seconds, or until the butter is softened and melting into the water. (Check - water should be warm, but not hot.) Add salt, sugar and yeast, then gradually mix flour in until you have a soft dough. Knead for about 3 min., until the dough is solid and slightly 'boingy.'

Let rise, depending on your hungry family, for 10 min...or up to 10 hours. (Longer makes a better dough, but I've also made the dough and used it in five minutes, with good results.)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Squeeze off a glob of dough and wrap it around a hot dog, leaving the ends exposed; place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat until all the dogs are covered. Bake until light brown, approx. 15-20 min. Serve with barbecue sauce or lots of catsup. Serves 4 adults, with leftovers for breakfast.