Monday, June 30, 2008

Hotter than...

It is just blazing here. Steaming. Percolating. Drying.'s just darn hot!

And summer has just really begun. Not a good sign.

The Spanish VBS began today, with good will and lots of singing. But boy, it was hard for the team people and volunteers to keep going. This particular brand of hot just seems to drain all of the energy out of you. By the time I got there with lunch, the team was more than ready to move to the next park. A warm chicken chef salad, fresh fruit and lemonade with a shot of Manzana Lift (a Mexican apple-flavored soft drink) seemed to revive them. Hopefully, it will have been better this afternoon.

If your town is hotter than Hell-- Hell, MI, that is -- you can win free coupons for Kentucky Fried Chicken's new hot wings. Every day through July 4, Hell's temp will be posted at 3 p.m. EST (1 p.m. for us MSTers). If you're one of the first 500 to post between 3-6 EST, you're in!

I tried today about 1:45 p.m. and was out of don't wait. Try early.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Indiana Jones...and Knitting?

I just got back tonight from "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull:

Well, it's not the best Indy movie, by far. But it does have some interesting moments, including Professor Jones' reunion with his first (and obviously strongest) love, Marian Ravenwood.

I was intrigued by Karen Allen's performance, and looked her up on Lo and behold, she's a diehard knitter! You'll want to take a look at some of her creations...they're just lovely.

Looks like she has talent in a number of different arenas...

Want to know what I'm thinking right now?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man vs. Bear...Guess Who Won?

Cobbled together from the Station WHEC and UPI sites:

A Colorado bicyclist took a tumble Tuesday after colliding with a black bear.
Tim Egan was training for the upcoming Triple Bypass Bike Race when the bear darted out in front of him on a country road near Boulder. The bear weighed approx. 500 pounds and was six feet tall, KCNC-TV, Denver, reported.
Egan and his nephew estimate they were traveling at about 45 miles per hour on the hill just west of Boulder when the collision occurred.
Neither one could believe what happened.
"I saw a blur and thought to myself, 'Big dog.' Then just as I was hitting it, I saw this gigantic bear head with huge teeth. It was almost like a cartoon when we collided. This bear looked at me with a look of terror on his face and sort of made a noise. I looked at him with a look of terror and we went, 'aaaahhhhh'," Egan said.
Egan and his bike were thrown through the air.
Egan's breath was knocked out and he was afraid he'd broken his back.
He couldn't move for several minutes.
His nephew pulled up on the scene just seconds later and told him the bear was still there.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'I'm alive, but the bear's here. Oh, this is bad,'" Egan said. "I mean, this bear was as high as my waist. He was extremely well-fed and a big guy. And he wasn't happy. He looked at me and he opened his mouth."
Eventually the bear sauntered off into the woods, apparently uninjured.
Egan, though, was bleeding profusely and his bike was bent.
He and his nephew got it straightened out and rode to Boulder Community Hospital. Egan was treated for cracked ribs, cuts and abrasions.
One longtime homeowner on Old Stagecoach Road confirmed there's been a very large bear in the neighborhood over the past few days.
Jerry Dancy also says he's surprised bicyclists aren't killed as they race down the hill.
"We've got bears, we've got lots of deer that dart across the road. It's very dangerous for bicyclists," said Dancy.
While Egan had to go to the hospital, he doesn't think the bear had any problems.
"I don't think I could have hurt him," said Egan. "It was literally like running into a brick wall. I'm glad my nephew was here, or nobody would have believed me. I told him, 'I demand that this story be told at my funeral, because it'll get a laugh out of everyone.'"

Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit!

I love Frugal Upstate's new weekly series: recipes that feature a certain ingredient. This week: Beans. Husband hails originally from North Carolina (pronounced "No-ath Ke-al-ahna"), so this Northern girl quickly learned some Southern dishes, including hopping john, red-eye gravy and grits.
Hoppin John seems to have come from slave era times, and uses blackeyed peas. Frankly, I prefer them to other types of beans -- they have a near-spicy flavor of their own. Combine them with any leftover ham scraps -- or just use the hambone, instead. Eating Hoppin John on New Year's Day is considered good luck!


2 cups blackeyed peas
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped ham scraps (or a hambone)
1/2 cup chopped red or green pepper (leave this out if someone in your family has trouble
with gaseous eruptions!)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons garlic
1-2 teaspoon basils
1 beef bouillon cube (optional)
1-2 teaspoons hot sauce

that's it! Mix everything together and add enough water to cover the beans by at least 3". Cook slowly on the stove (approx. 2-3 hours) or in the crockpot (6-9 hours on 'low,' or 3-4 hours on 'high'). Add water as needed if the beans start to get too thick. Serve over rice to 6 contented Southerners.

For more bean recipes, visit Frugal Upstate -- she's great.

Bits and Pieces -- while I finish up elsewhere

*A wonderful new (to me, at least) blogger is worth visiting: . Watch Emily and their family work through remodeling their home...and a bunch of other things. She has had some excellent posts on when frugality is NOT the best option: something I need to hear.

*Boiled eggs and pizza are the breakfast of champions. And lots of hot coffee.

*Now that Dave's out of town on business all this week (a rarity), I am reverting back to my old schedule: stay up until 1 a.m. or so, sleep in until 8. I am just a nightbug -- after all, you can get so much done, and peacefully. No people calling, no kids running around. Much of my writing has been done in the dead of night.
The funny thing is that Dave loves this schedule, too -- but his job demands he be there at 6 a.m.
I wouldn't be surprised if we reverted to it permanently when we 'retire.' Whatever -- and whenever --that is.

*Roses on the bush are especially lovely early in the morning, and during dusk. Somehow the light changes the color around the petals' edges, and makes them glow. I wish I could get this effect in a quilt -- maybe an overlay of a sparkly chiffon around the edge? Or just a slight outline of machine quilting in hologram thread? You wouldn't want to do much...hmmm.

*I found a great way to bargain -- stop doing anything! I practiced it yesterday to buy a hammock stand for $60 off Craigslist, instead of $75. (The seller had bought the stand for $140 a year ago.) Here's what you do:
*Stand there, looking at the item.
*mention any flaws you see, no matter how small.
*look down at your feet...kind of stub your toe in the dirt and push it around.
*say nothing.
Eventually, out of frustration, the seller will often cut some money off their original offer. What they're doing is telling you a closer number to the amount they really will accept. Now YOU counter, with an offer lower than theirs. Eventually you'll both arrive at a figure. And I guarantee, thanks to the Great Delayer, that it will be lower than what you planned to pay.

Dave is a champ at this. We paid approx. $1500 less for our Cherokee than we'd planned, for example. I didn't do as well this time around -- I got impatient and spoke first. But I would have paid at least $5 more for the stand!

*The unexpected is wonderful. 'God things,' we call them. Oldest daughter and I had a rare leisurely lunch in Denver yesterday at a little French restaurant called Le Central. We stepped outside, to see a little card with a red bull's-eye on the sidewalk -- a $50 Target gift card! No one in sight, and the restaurant was deserted. No one to ask.
Daughter has been living on the cusp lately, and $50 to her is like a million bucks right now. Definitely a God thing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


*Why is it that paperwork takes three or four times longer than you figured?

*It's been in the 90s today...and I had to run several errands in Denver as well, which meant being in traffic. Heavy traffic. In the heat. Dave calls this "sitting down and just letting the breath run out of your body!"

*Why does your refrigerator automatically shrink when you have plenty of stuff to put in it? Next week is a Spanish Vacation Bible School for Creekside Bible in Castle Rock...and yours truly is providing snacks, lunches and a few other niceties here and there for the Ravah team that is coming to help us put it on --

One of Ravah's staff, Enrique, was on the Brazil trip...and we became friends. It will be a pleasure to see him again, and meet his family.
And if you're interested in the goings-on of Creekside, head here:

Also, people from the Brazil trip are starting to load their photos! You can see what Brazil...and the Amazon...and the villages...and the people looked like from our point of view at:

Check in later during coming weeks -- there will be more photos appearing. I'm sure of that.

In the meantime, I just peeled 25 pounds of carrots...and have 15 pounds of celery to go.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Paperwork...and a Weedy Garden

Other than the mountains, Colorado is largely what's called 'high desert.' Did you know that? We Flatlanders start with a green spring, but by the time July rolls around, the heat beats down on miles and miles of tan/gold/brown, punctuated here and there by green (irrigated or watered) lawns. Luckily, our evenings cool off enough for good sleeping. (6250 ft elevation will do that for you.) And there are the mountains to escape to.

If you don't get your plants in the ground by the end of June around here, you're generally out of luck -- they'll just pant for some shade, and you have about a 1-in-3 chance they'll survive until the cooler temps of September.

Since the Brick and I were in Brazil through early June, we didn't plant as much as I'd hoped. And when we got back from the Amazon, we enjoyed the dry atmosphere...but our flower gardens were one big mass of weeds and grass.

I've been doing my best to get out there and clean out the interlopers, but time is weaving by -- and I've got another week, tops. And the green beans haven't even been planted yet!

My 'inside garden' is weedy, too -- plenty of paperwork must be done asap for future gigs, and reports need to be submitted for sales tax, tax, sales, etc etc etc. (sigh) I like to do this myself, rather than burden a staffer with it. (double sigh)

Thankfully, friend Constance is coming over tonight for supper -- and weeding. That's the mark of a true heart's friend...they help you do the chores you've been putting off!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Lot of Hanky Panky While The Husband's Away

Dave is working in Pueblo ("peb-low" to the locals) through Thursday -- and will be sharing a hotel room with his buddy Cliff. (Somehow that just sounds weird.)

While he's gone, I plan to eat very strange meals, stay up until all hours of the night...and finish off a lot of Hanky Panky Flourish samples, so they're ready for the Omaha Crazy Quilt Retreat in early July. (See more about that here at : )

And watch LOTS of movies.

Speaking of strange, take a look at this:

If you opt to settle, you can
*get booted by a ram
*kicked by evil yodelers! (By far, my favorite -- be sure to see the reggae version)
*handled by 'man beasts'

Sure, it's weird, but you get a free pack of gum sent at the end!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Valerie Hearder's Quilts Have Been FOUND!!

Valerie Hearder, a Canadian teacher from Nova Scotia who makes lovely, lovely landscape quilts -- not to mention her African series, oh yes, and those graphic primary-shaded geometrics, and --

A week or so ago, Val experienced every quilt teacher's worst nightmare: two suitcases of her quilts were stolen out of her locked car trunk while she was at the Quilt Canada conference in St. John, Newfoundland.

Valerie reported the thefts, publicized them online, and bravely kept on with her life.

Little more than a week later, her quilts have been found!

On Friday, June 20, a 'young man' called the local tv station to say he'd noticed two garbage bags of quilts, abandoned on a local footpath in the town where Valerie had been teaching. The quilts have been recovered. They are apparently all there -- and undamaged.

Read it here for yourselves...

WHEW!!! Hooray, Valerie!!!

And take a minute to visit her website, , and admire those beautiful pieces...

There are still quilts out there that are lost, stolen and misplaced. You can read more about them at the Lost Quilt Come Home page: . One quilt and wearables designer who is still waiting (and hoping) is Meryl Ann Butler, who had a suitcase of 10 incredible pieces, plus hundreds of labeled slides, stolen in 2001:
Photos and sketches on the page show the missing pieces. Take a look; maybe you can be the one who will help Meryl Ann recover her missing treasures.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Total Waste of Time...

...but it's addictive!

Be sure to ask for a fresh sheet before you leave -- you'll see why.

Another Great Source for Deals and Bargains

The sun is shining (not necessarily a good thing), and my poorly-neglected garden is beggin' for a good digging. But I had to mention this first...

I've yammered on about , an excellent place to find coupons, bargains and freebies for everything from laundry detergent to ice cream cones.

Lo and behold, this morning I stumbled onto another winner,!
Take a look at their 'daily deal' here:

They also have categories for freebies, bargains...and even reports on scams. Well worth making a daily pitstop here.

Now I have to go out and dig iris, before the ground forms solid concrete around their roots... we have had some horrendous storms lately, with amazing clouds, high winds (including tornados) -- and sadly, very little rain. Too bad. We need it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tasha Tudor: 1915-2008

One of the century's great illustrators -- and influences -- has died. Tasha Tudo, age 92, died yesterday, June 18, surrounded by her family and friends. You can read more about her life, and enter your own comments in Tasha's Memory Book, at her memorial website:


Tasha Tudor, 92, was born August 28th, 1915, the daughter of inventor-designer W. Starling Burgess and portrait painter Rosamond Tudor. She spent her childhood in Boston and its outlying towns, as well as Redding, Connecticut.

Encouraged by her mother, her early interest in painting continued to develop. Her first book, Pumpkin Moonshine was published in 1938. That same year she married the late Thomas L. McCready (1907-1966) in Redding, Connecticut.

Tasha Tudor's illustrated Mother's Goose was published in 1944 and the royalties allowed Tasha and Thomas McCready to purchase a large old farm in Webster, NH., where four children, Bethany, Seth, Thomas, and Efner, were raised. Many books were written and/or illustrated from the happenings during her time in this house, such as Linsey Woolsey (1946) and Thistly B (1949).

In 1955, Life magazine reported on the wedding of the McCready family dolls Lieutenant Thaddeus Crane and Melissa Shakespeare which took place at the McCready's farm in New Hampshire. The Dolls were introduced to the public five year earlier in the Dolls’ Christmas (1950).

Tasha Tudor created hundreds of Christmas Cards for the Irene Dash Greeting Card company over a period of many years. These cards are now treasured by collectors.

In 1972 Tasha Tudor fulfilled her dream of living in Vermont and moved to Marlboro, to be near her son Seth Tudor. There she enjoyed her gardens and having family close by, themes that inspired books such as Springs of Joy (1979) and A Time to Keep (1977).

In the early 1990s, in large measure due to the collaborative effort with Richard Brown for The Private World of Tasha Tudor (1992) and the 1996 Spellbound Productions documentary "Take Joy! The Magical World of Tasha Tudor," her 1830's lifestyle of peace and self-sufficiency become loved by millions of people across the United States and abroad. Many have come to embrace her lifestyle from the repeated showings of this program on PBS.

Tasha Tudor was featured in countless newspaper articles and many magazines including Early American Life; Victoria; Horticulture; Better Homes and Gardens; People Places and Plants and many Japanese titles.

Her last book, Corgiville Christmas (2002), brought the number of books written and/or illustrated by Tasha to nearly 100. Additionally, she produced vast quantities of Christmas cards, Advent calendars, art prints, and other works that continue to enchant fans. Her books have been published in Japan, Korea, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden.

Throughout her career, Tasha Tudor traveled across the country appearing at hundreds of book signings and talks. Her work has been shown in many museums, including Conner Prairie, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Colonial Williamsburg (1996), Pierpont Morgan Library, Norman Rockwell Museum (2005), Henry Ford Museum, and extensively in Japan.

Tasha received many honors, though she never kept track of them and it is only through other sources that we know of them. They included the Catholic Library Association’s Regina Medal; Caldecott honors for 1 is One (1956) and Mother Goose(1944); the Walter Cerf Award for Lifetime Achievements in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council (June 18, 2004).

Tasha passed away peacefully in her lovely home in Marlboro, Vermont, surrounded by the people and things she held so dear. She is survived by her children and grandchildren, for whom her presence will be missed. They join with the general public in celebrating her life while gently wiping tears.

Mrs. Tudor frequently thanked her family and friends for helping her live as independently as possible in her old age. We were all blessed by her presence, and the things she has taught us about living a meaningful life.

Due to Mrs. Tudor's wishes, there is no public memorial service planned at this time. In lieu of flowers, please send any donations to the Tasha Tudor Museum to facilitate sharing and preserving all that Tasha has given the world. Please see the website for more information

Swimsuits...and Candiru

Robyn at Lentils and Rice has gotten a new 'modest' swimsuit...

Her new outfit looks like a long-sleeved culottes set... and I keep thinking, won't she sink with all that fabric clogging up every stroke?
She wants a modest look. I can understand that, having jumped into the Amazon, feeling like half the crew was standing there watching. (They weren't, but such is the feeling when you're one of a bare handful of women on board, accompanied by a whole passel of guys. And it was a one-piece tank suit, in case you're wondering.)
Swimming in the Amazon -- or, in this case, in one of its connected lakes (Region of the Lakes) was an interesting experience. The guys on the boat had many interesting conversations about the "conjadue," actually spelled 'candiru,' a thin Brazilian fish (actually a freshwater catfish) that has an interesting habit of inserting itself inside fish gills when they open them to breathe.
The candiru has also been known to follow a stream of fresh urine, and try to insert itself into human orifices...especially guys:
The obvious response here is 'well, don't pee in the water.' But that seemed irrelevant to the Male Contingent on Board.
This whole situation was not helped by a documentary on parasites that aired on the Discovery Channel, shortly before we left for Brazil. It featured, in excruciating detail, some poor man's encounter with the 'candiru.' The man won in the end, but had to endure the fish being taken out in rotting bits and pieces out of HIS bits and pieces.
Add to this the ever-present knowledge that alligators and caimans enjoyed hanging out in the water (though mostly closer to shore) and piranhas were around. (Though they seemed to cause the most trouble also closer to shore, and closer to dry season -- we were there in the rainy season.)
I kept remembering how often I'd seen the ship's crew in the water, especially when we were hacking our way down the creek. I kept thinking there was no way they would allow us to go swimming, if it was that dangerous. (In fact, we had two swim times!) Granted, Boyd kept one or two crew members on lookout at all times, and they did throw out those silly life-preserver doughnuts -- one per customer.
The first swim time, a few guys went bravely out. (And jumped off the top of the boat, totally nuts...) The second time, all of the teenagers went out, along with yours truly and one of the men. After all that sweating and heat, the water seemed like a lukewarm bathtub. I had a great time, paddling around and watching those silly teenagers grab each other, yell and thrash around. They were making so much delighted racket that I figured any self-respecting alligator would grab them first!
It was delicious, 'immodest' swimsuit and all.
And no candirus, either.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ten Wonderful Things About Brazil

Part of me wishes I was still back on the boat, going down the Amazon, on our recent trip. (Part of me is loving the dryness of Colorado! 'Slimy' is not my favorite feeling.) The Amor Brazil people are now hosting a group from the Louisville area:
And here's the general Amor Brazil website:

Ten things I will not forget about this trip:

1. The Amazon. It's much bigger than I ever thought -- sized more like the Missouri, or even the Mississippi. This is the main way to get around in Amazonia...roads, after Manaus, are dirt or nonexistent. Freighters plied their way up and down the river, hauling everything from cattle to concrete. We also saw ferry boats on occasion, as well as the usual fishing boats in every size and type.

2. The people. Brazilian women are some of the most beautiful in the world, with their long dark hair and eyes, and winsome ways. They are a good deal shorter than Americans -- in general, they seemed to tuck nicely under my chin, so about 4' 10" to 5' 2" or so. The last village, we met one teenager who must have been 6' 3"...but he was the only one to keep pace with our tall Coloradoan guys.
These people were shy, but intelligent. Very clever and amazingly good at making do and improvising. They spoke Portuguese. Period. We learned some Portuguese (wish I knew more), and we had interpreters. But smiling and hand gestures get you a long way. Just don't use the thumb-circle 'okay' sign -- it's 'doing the nasty' for the average Brazilian! (Use a 'thumbs up' sign instead -- also used to respond to "Commo vay," or 'how are you.')

3. The crew. The guys (and the 'laundry lady') were amazing. They went far out of our way to help, but also explain and interpret. We became very fond of some of the interpreters, including Silvio (who leaped out of the boat onto an alligator in the water!), Raymond (who helped ease many dental patients' minds) and Gillson (who explained many traditions, and told us a lot of stories). Gillson (pronounced "jillson") saved me from an innocent-looking bright green snake that fell into the boat from branches one day...his frantic brooming got it out pronto. ('Was that snake poisonous, Gillson?' He looked at me steadily. 'Yes, very.')

4. The strong sense that we were there for a reason. I was in the right place at the right time. It was clear. What was also strong was the sense that many people were praying for us. This really was God's trip, more than it was ours.

5. The ways we were able to help people in the dental clinic. Dave and I worked as dental 'technicians,' cleaning and sterilizing utensils, and holding the flashlight into people's mouths. And the teeth we helped with! These people just do not have access to dentists (or doctors, for that matter). One poor guy, in his thirties, had never been to a dentist. Thirteen of his teeth came out.
But their gratitude when these teeth, these sources of pain and misery were no longer tormenting them, was profound.

6. The ways we were able to help people -- period. Not just dental, but medical care. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, aspirin, antibiotics. Vacation Bible School, with photos of the kids. (Printing them off on the boat, using a portable printer, was a brilliant idea -- and the people loved having their own photos within a few hours of when they were taken!) Songs,, candy, hats and sunglasses. We had so many things donated that we were able to give out. Stores, except in the biggest cities, were pretty much nonexistent. We helped bring them things materially...but for their emotional and spiritual health, too. How often can you do that...

7. The villages. Wood shacks, a soccer field (de rigeur in every village), flowers, trees...and the most surprising, a satellite dish here and there behind a house. (They had a few hours of electricity every night, thanks to a generator some villages away. The power was wired in.) Spigots for running water (cold), but no window glass or screening (just shutters). We saw every kind of arrangement possible, some extremely clever. Not much, but what was available was used nicely. The houses (and people) generally very clean, in spite of dirt roads and dust.

8. The trip. To get to the villages (three of them, in the the Region of the Lakes), we had to travel on a much narrower creek. It was the end of the high water season, and our boat, small by American standards, barely got through. By the end, it took crewmen in the water, diving to clear the propeller of vegetation. Out front in 'john boats,' trying to pull the Amor Beatriz forward. On the sides, hacking back branches with machetes. (The branches smashed in anyways, bringing with them ants, greenery and a snake or two.) We eventually made it, but I thought of the African Queen movie more than once.

9. The silly guys who were shipmates. I've known these men, with only a few exceptions, since the girlies were in diapers. And the jokes, bragging and zany stories I heard on this trip! Having 15 men along (as well as us three women, and a family with parents and three teenagers) was an enlightening experience. When things got discouraging, the jokes started. Many times, we faced problems and obstacles. The first response, without exception, was decisive calm. The second was prayer.
The two men I had never met -- well, by trip's end, they had also become friends. I was proud to be with these crazy guys, in spite of their obsession over who had the biggest blow gun== and piranha!

10. The whole experience. The boat. The flowers, animals...the smells of growing things, spices. The people. The food. The time spent working (and joking!) The slow progression down the river, watching herons, counting cattle and talking about our lives. Writing in journals, reading the Word. Praying. Silly moments -- and serious ones.

Fishy Dreams...DIYW Tuna Casserole

Frugal Upstate ( ) is hosting a weekly Frugal food series that seems especially helpful right now. Grocery prices have visibly gone up here in the Denver, CO area...horribly up. Most stuff seems to have had a 20% increase at least, making the stockpiling I've done of things like spaghetti sauce, soup, etc. become doubly valuable.

Oops. I digress. Frugal Upstate's theme this week is tuna, and I thought I'd mention my Do-It-Your-Way Tuna Casserole:


1 can tuna in spring water
1 can soup (mushroom or celery are the traditional favorites)
1 soup can milk
1 pound noodles
1 can (or pkg) peas
some kind of garnish

Cook the noodles; throw the peas in during, say, the last three minutes. Drain all. Drain tuna, then add it to the noodles/peas, along with the soup and milk. Let this mixture heat on the stove top for a few minutes, and serve -- OR top with a garnish, like potato chips, bread crumbs and let bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serves 4 generously -- or up to 6 with side dishes.

Now here's the fun part. This casserole LOVES substitutions! It's also a great way to get rid of bits and pieces, dribs and drabs from previous meals.

The tuna is pretty basic. You can also use a small can of boned chicken; leftover cubed chicken; leftover cubed pork; small cans of seafood, like crab or shrimp. The only meat item I have not translate successfully is beef -- otherwise, the sky's the limit. Or scrap the meat altogether, and add a cup or two of a heftier vegetable, like zucchini or squash, sliced or chopped bite-sized.

The soup can change to any kind of cream-based one you want. Or use that scraping of chicken noodle soup leftover from lunch! A few spoonfuls of clam chowder are great. Cheese soup is wonderful -- or use that leftover cheese or salsa dip!
Or don't use soup at all. Make up a basic white sauce, or substitute sour cream. Salad dressing substitutes well here -- ranch dressing, yum! (Use it instead of milk to thin the soup.)

The milk can change to sour cream. Or cottage cheese. Or water. (The latter isn't my favorite, but it will work.) Dry milk mixed with water works just fine. For a different taste, try salsa or tomato sauce.

The noodles can change to spaghetti, any kind of pasta -- or rice. Just cook them before you mix everything together.

The peas can change to any kind of veggie you wish, from carrots to broccoli, spinach to red peppers. Just chop it into bite-sized pieces and add just before the noodles/pasta/rice are done cooking. Or mix in a few tablespoons of that leftover salad. (Yes, green salad! Looks like spinach.) I also like to add a few teaspoons of chopped herbs, like chives, dill, thyme or marjoram.

The garnish can be any leftover dried bread. Or crackers. Or leftover cereal. Or corn chips. Or smashed pretzels. Just make sure it's on the 'salty' side -- not sweet. About 1/4 cup should do it.

See? Whatever you've got -- it will work. And it's fast, too -- your total prep time, including waiting for the noodles/rice/whatever to cook, can be less than 30 min. I keep a few cans of tuna in the pantry, just in case Dave gets a yen for this casserole.

Monday, June 16, 2008

(Not) Keeping Up with Your Parents

BeingFrugal has been doing a series on '(Not) Keeping Up with Your Parents,' arguing that basically this is a myth...or we shouldn't be trying to do this in the first place!

This seems a tad bit amusing to me...what about those of us who didn't have much to keep up with in the first place?

My folks -- and I love 'em -- have been small farmers all their lives. They bought their 37-acre property in 1960 for $10,000. (Which at the time was a small fortune to them -- my dad was horrified when we paid $72,000 for a house in Colorado decades later.)

They scraped and figured and plotted just to keep food on the table (much of which we grew anyways) and clothes on our backs. Any extras, from trombones to football, had to be carefully planned for -- and much of that was paid by my brother's and my afterschool jobs. (He worked at the local tractor repair place, and I was a clerk at the hardware store through high school.) They finally paid the farm off not long before I graduated from high school, in 1976. (Yes, 15-plus years, for a $10,000 debt. Hey, farmers -- especially small-time ones -- make big bucks!)

Yet they've been happy, have helped many people, and today are debt-free and more than taking care of themselves. Even with my dad's cancer, they still insist on doing everything they can on their own.

If I can keep up with that, hey, I'll be a content woman.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Before I head to bed (at 3:20 a.m.), take a look at this Dutch department store's website:

Be patient. Give it a minute to fully load. Then watch the fun begin!

Plugging Away

...why does getting back to 'normal' feel so strange??

The e-mails have been trudged through. I have a few extra things to do about them, some contracts and supply lists to send out -- a few new gigs to arrange.

The website has been updated. We finally figured out the problem with the monthly freebie, and a new crochet pattern is in place. (A darling little ruffled cap)

Orders finished off. (A few to go) Piles are slowly being put away.

And at Casa Brick, clothes are in the wash and meals on the table. Not fancy ones...and thanks to our Brazilian laundry lady (who accidentally included oily rags in several washerloads), most of our Brazil clothes have a few stains here and there. I'll soak them and hope for the best.

I've even put in some perennials, and begun hacking out the weeds. Buck, our oldest dog, loves to dig...and did his part by destroying my largest tomato plant. Which had been flourishing in a planter for all the time we were gone in Brazil. And was just getting ready to flower. I could have cried when I saw the limp remains...

But time and effort go on. Maybe I can find a replacement tomato -- at least I have one plant left. They just don't do very good here, what with our 6250 elevation and cooler nights. It makes for better sleeping...but tomatoes like the heat all the time. I planted tomatoes #1 and #2 in black plastic planters, reasoning that might keep them cozier, and so far, it seems to be working.

Until a crazed Weimaraner gets his paws on them, that is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back from Brazil!

...and boy, am I tired.

More than 700 e-mails were waiting...some phone calls needed to be returned...and I had to hustle to get some things done at the last minute. Putting out fires isn't fun, but it's necessary.

I comforted myself by buying a bunch of potentilla plants from Wallymart -- discounted at $4.50 each, at least in Colorado, and a steal by perennial standards. They'll go in the ground I happily dug around in this evening.

The business is resting some right now -- it always does right around this time of year. Most people aren't thinking much about quilting, knitting or crochet. But give it a month -- they will! There are enough orders to keep a few of us busy, and let other staffers take some time off.

They're probably digging in their gardens, too.

I want to post some on the Brazil Amazon trip, which was amazing: hard, easy, exciting, boring, sweaty, breezy -- practically everything rolled into one. I'm so glad we went.

Until I can, though, you can access what our boat leader, Boyd, thought about us and the trip -- look for references to the 'Colorado group.'