Saturday, April 30, 2011

White and White -- But It's Not Always What You Think

Donna Freedman's been on the air a year a now in her blog Surviving and Thriving -- and she's got a bunch of prizes she's giving away to celebrate. This one's worth entering! (And you'll enjoy Donna's future posts, too.) Go here -- sign up and you get a second entry.

Snow again last night -- but it melts off fast when it's competing with plum blossoms. Sunny now, but we're supposed to get more snow tonight. I've grown indifferent to it as "snow," and just think of it as "moisture" -- which we need!
    Have a great weekend.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Congratulations, William and Kate!

I couldn't help myself.

Yes, I watched coverage of Prince William's wedding. (Ok, it got fast-forwarded several times during boring parts...and strange flag-related costumes, painted faces and hats. Not to mention all the odd chapeaus that got worn into Westminster Abbey. What kind of thing do Brits have for strange hats!?!) 

Sure, the cameras focused on Elton John. But did you realize that Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) and Guy Ritchie (Madonna's ex-husband) were also on the guest list? I'll bet Madonna regrets divorcing Guy quiiite so soon now...

Kate's dress was lovely. The way they leaned toward each other and spoke privately -- lovely. The traditional vows, same as Husband's and mine back in 1981 -- lovely. And the final carriage ride...not to mention the shy smooching on the balcony. Just lovely.

May they live long...and reign well when the time comes.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home Proud in a Smaller Space

A 90 square feet? Yes, and with style. (One tip: her bed is up above, done as a loft.)

Fair Companies has many more ideas for using your living space more responsibly, including more small-space houses.

What Can You Do?

The Art of Non-Conformity told a sobering tale today: the story of Paul, an artist who has the talent to succeed...but not the discipline or determination.
    Ouch. I know this story all too well. You can have all the ideas in the world...but until you SIT DOWN AND WRITE, they don't get published! (I used to belong to a local writers group, but soon realized that the most vocal members weren't publishing. You can either talk about writing -- or you write. It's tough, if not impossible, to do both.)
     That quilt will be the best...but if you don't stitch, forget it! Sometimes you see the same idea in someone else's work, years down the road, and kick yourself for not developing it first. The best creations take time, care, and often a few stumbles along the road.
    I really want to conquer this tendency to whine or procrastinate, rather than take action. Hopefully you do, too.

* * * * * * * * * *
A beautiful, warm day with plenty of breezes -- perfect drying weather. The clotheslines are jammed; thanks to putzing around with Pepper, and other stuff, the dirty clothes bin was full. It's empty now, with just a few shirts left to iron. I'd love to start planting things again -- BUT it snowed twice yesterday, and the forecast for this weekend is back to 40-degree highs...tops.

    I'd almost finished hanging out clothes when Charley trotted up, a coil of rope held loosely in his mouth. Oop, wait a minute -- that rope was moving. I yelled, Charley dropped it, and the snake just lay there. (Charley was smacking his lips: "Gee, Mom, that tasted kind of strange!") I tried to shovel it up, and the snake whooshed off into the woodpile. Thankfully, it was just a garter. They're great for keeping bugs and mice out of the garden -- but then again, I'd be happy if I never saw this one again. (At least I didn't sit on it!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doings in Denver!

...and for those of you who aren't headed to Paducah, there's always the Mancuso Brothers' Denver Quilt Festival. Classes, exhibits, lots of vendors -- relaxing!

Here are some of last year's quilts...

Doings at Paducah

Part of me wishes I was at the American Quilter's Society annual show in Paducah, KY this week -- and part of me does not. Flooding's been so extensive that the show exhibits, classes and vendors were forced to move elsewhere. They're still holding the festival, but it's going to be crowded.

Just FYI -- walk-in appraisals won't be offered by PAAQT/AQS-certified appraisers, after all. Just not enough room, and little way to protect the quilts. However, contact your local appraisers -- they'd be happy to help out, instead.

The quilts are still beautiful, though, including the winners. Like Pat Holly's Paisley Peacock, shown below, which won Best of Show: beautifully detailed, lovely shaded mix of colors. An amazing piece.

Wednesday Meanderings

...I'm back, from a long day on the road with friend Pepper. We drove up to meet a friend in Denver, then drop Pepper off at her hotel...and halfway there, I suddenly realized she'd left a load of clothes in the dryer! So back we went...and found her two-days-missing cellphone. I would have teased her about her absentminded ways, but I couldn't remember where the sewing machine oil was, so Pepper could lube up the Featherweight she was borrowing to teach class. So goes life...
   Speaking of which, we are now gunning for the Strangest Weather in the World awards. Sun, snow, hail, rain, more sun, repeat -- we have everything hit lately but tornados (those poor people in Arkansas and elsewhere) and hurricanes. What the heck is going on here??
   While I try to figure that out, you can take a look at some helpful things I've found via the Internet:

*How to make a braided rag rug, using scraps and strips. (My grandma used to make these from plastic bread bags. Good for scraping off  your feet. Thanks for your help, Vintage Chica!)

*A surprisingly tasty version of pizza -- done with cauliflower for the crust. (Cutie Booty Cakes' homemade Nutella is yummy, too.)

*An interesting post on quilts to piece during travel. (Photos are helpful here. Thank you, Life Under Quilts!)

*A boatload of interesting graduation gift ideas, thanks to Money Saving Mom.

*Wild honeysuckle throat and cough syrup. (We need something! Flu is really plowing its own road around here, and allergies are kicking up as well, thanks to all the growing things. Messy Thrilling Life made this batch up her own self, and says it helps with the allergies.)

*Customizing your own investing plan. If anything, Get Rich Slowly's post reminds that YOU are the one who makes the choices in budgeting and such -- good or bad. And even a little bit, done patiently for a long time, produces wonders.

*A mix of interesting stuff from the vaults of Frugal Upstate.

And now I'll go uncover (because it's sunshining again) the plants I covered when it was snowing (again). Sigh.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday, Monday

Spent the day with Pepper Cory, sampling some thrift shops and visiting the editors at Quilter's Newsletter. (Some great talk about trends, skills, and a fascinating discussion on ugly fabrics -- take a look at the link!) We got home, exhausted after talking over everything from Etsy to appraising. (Pepper does both.) Somehow the dishes got done, and clothes washed...but boy, am I beat.
   Tomorrow it's a stop at a few places, including the Denver Art Museum. Then Pepper goes on to work at the Mancusos' Denver Quilt Festival. (She may have some class openings -- yes, you can still sign up. If I didn't already have a commitment for that day, I'd be in her 'Eclipses and Meteor Showers' class so fast, it'd make your head swim.)

     And I go back to work on the Hanky Panky sequel.

At least life isn't as zany as for this reporter. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christ is Risen - Christ is Risen, Indeed

...I'm still here, guys. It's just been a little zany, trying to keep up. Both girlies and their boyfriends came for Easter dinner -- plus three more guests at the last minute. But before that, I made a last-minute trip to hear friend Pepper Cory speak at the state guild meeting. Then it was some hours cleaning, and Husband's schlep-the-keyboard-and-microphones trip to one of our local parks... our church had an outdoor service this morning to celebrate Easter. With the temp at 38 DEGREES. Snow on the ground when we woke up, and threatening to repeat that all day.
    Imagine yourself, standing outside trying not to shiver too much, while the Worship Team tries to keep their equipment going. (Husband's fingers kept going numb -- and the keyboard kept trying to reboot.) It was a great service, but at the same time, I was really grateful for the hot breakfast burritos and coffee they were serving. Brrrr.
   Pepper's here now...we'll head to Quilter's Newsletter offices tomorrow, a quickie gig...and maybe the Denver Art Museum. Time to put the leftover ham away, and head for bed.
   Happy Easter to you!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Pleasures of Passover

...and 13 dishes that combine tradition with a few innovative twists. (Like the asparagus/hazelnut dish shown below, courtesy of the L.A. Times.) Go here for the slide show and recipe links.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter Celebration, Here We Come!

I've been having fun planning for Daughters' (and Daughters' Boyfriends) Easter baskets. (They occasionally read this blog -- BACK OFF, GIRLIES! STOP HERE!) Sure, I could go out and buy a bunch of stuff. But why do that when there are some easy-to-do ideas out there on the Internet?

Like Frugal Upstate's 'Halloween Hand' -- except mine will be 'Easter Bunny paws,' complete with caramel corn and jelly bean 'nails.'

Then, tie-dyed Easter eggs. (Maybe the squares of fabric used will be permanent enough to use elsewhere. I'll heat-set them wet, and hope that does the trick.)  Daughter #2 and her boyfriend tend to have a hippie thing going on, and would appreciate these.

And the 'baskets' to put them in -- only mine will be papier mache bowls that look like this. Saw them in a recent magazine -- can't remember if it was Country Living or Real Simple -- and thought they'd be perfect for Daughter #1 and her boyfriend, who are both writers. (The bowls are made of shredded book pages...words, words, words!) The how-to is here -- leave the outer edges of the bowl raggedy, to simulate the uneven look of grass in a basket.

(Crafting in A Green World, the source for the eggs and basket projects, is full of interesting ideas to make good use of your time and available bits and pieces.)

I'll also pop in a box of mints, a candy bar,  jelly beans and Cadbury eggs, the obligatory chocolate bunny, and some bunny-shaped sugar cookies. And a video, an Easter tradition for the Bricks.

    Working on this is doodly stuff, but it has all the fun of slowly collecting things for the girlies' Christmas stockings. The same feeling I had, pouring 'tea' into tiny metal cups, for my dollies, or carefully rearranging furniture in the dollhouse. Doing something to give pleasure to the ones I love.

Tax Day Freebies

All sorts of freebies are being offered today on Tax Day; you'll find a general list here. (Please note: not all parts of the country get the same freebies -- darn it. Another list is here.)

   In our neck of the woods (Denver, CO suburbs), McDonalds BOGO  is one of the best deals: get a Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or Egg McMuffin free with the purchase of same.

   More overcastness -- really unusual for our neck of the woods. (We have sunny days something like 300 out of the year.) Rain would be so nice -- not only are the dogs wearing coats of dust, but they track it in. The house has a light coating of it, even if you clean daily.  We gave up and filed an extension on the taxes -- but still plan to keep plugging away. God willing, we'll be finished by the end of this week.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taxing Eve

Winds are back. Peas are up.  (The replanted spinach, after Charley's little stunt digging up the older seedlings, is still a no-show.) Sun's warm. I should be digging in the garden, instead of working on these dadblamed taxes. (Or trying to avoid it by cleaning out the refrigerator, scrubbing the floor -- anything that 'justifies' not working on it.) Husband has some kind of stomach flu; I've been flirting with it. Just the thing to put us in the mood.

While I'm finishing up, you can plan some smart ways to use your refund, thanks to Donna Freedman. Or, if you haven't gotten your taxes in yet either, some last-minute tips from Liz Weston and MSN Money. (More articles are at the bottom of the page -- don't miss them.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to work. Before I bite somebody.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Royal Sendoff

Remember the "dancing down the aisle" wedding video on Youtube? (They even have a website.) Well, now there's a "William and Kate" version! (I especially love the 'Queen' boogying down the aisle...well, sort of...and waving as she goes.)

Very best wishes to them...they're going to need it, long after their wedding on April 29.
(Oh, and they're going to have a chocolate cookie cake for the reception. Plus the traditional fruitcake.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Try this Dog Commercial

This dog gets a new perspective...

 Working on taxes makes me wonder if this is happening to all of us, collectively speaking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Easter Basket Fillers...from the Experts!

Forty-nine (and counting) different ideas for additions to Easter Baskets.

    I hadn't planned on doing much this year -- Daughters are, after all, in their mid-twenties! But Daughter #1's boyfriend hasn't had much experience in this department...and I can't resist. Bunny-shaped sugar cookies will be part of the offerings.
    Chocolate bunnies, too...for a while, Daughter #1 had this thing about chocolate bunnies (Santas, as well). She liked to have them in her basket or stocking, but refused to eat them. And Hollander that I am, I couldn't throw them away. So I stashed them...and brought them out next year! Daughter's had more fun teasing about the droopy-eyed bunny she (finally) noticed that season. This year, though, she'll get a fresh one. (Now to see if she'll actually eat it...)

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells...

Yes, the Weather Powers That Be have decreed that we should totally ignore the calendar. It has nothing to do with the real world...which is snowing!
   Ah well. My plants hopefully will just take a snooze under the white. The ground's still warm underneath. And they've been sooo thirsty lately. Any moisture, liquid, solid or otherwise, is welcome.

From the "I Can't Believe This, But I'm Thinking About It" Department: Allow a company to paint their ads on your house...and get your mortgage paid every month the ad's up there!

And for you serious types,  JD's (of Get Rich Slowly) methods for making money -- a little here, a little there, it adds up. I believe strongly in his "multiple streams of income" notion; I do it myself. (In fact, am headed to Boulder tomorrow to see both girlies...and use my Michigan accent to read instructions for a company that's testing GPS systems in cars! One hour's work: $50.) It never seems like a lot, but even the smaller 'streams' -- piano lessons, surveys, the occasional catering job -- pay many a grocery bill.

And a very funny story of a basset hound who suddenly transforms.
     Charley and Jack are tearing around outside, chewing at each others' ears. So now I have dust (still on their coats from yesterday) AND mud. I am ignoring it. It does not exist.

Back to work on the taxes...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action...Lights!

A photographer took a time lapse photo set of his flight from U.S. to Paris, and caught the Northern Lights enroute. 

Very cool.

Wednesday Grrr

I. want. to. spit.

No moisture in ages. (Although we're supposed to get rain -- and snow -- today and tomorrow, thank God.) The dogs exhale big plumes of dust when petted. All over a freshly cleaned house, of course.

And the house is clean because I've been trying to avoid working on taxes. And business paperwork. Pumping out sewers would seem preferable, at this point.

Papers everywhere. A few need-to-get-finished-NOW projects in the spots the papers haven't drifted into. So what does my secret heart want to do? Tidy up in the bedroom closet. Clean out the refrigerator. Put out lavender sachets here and there. Prance around in the garden. Anything but taxes and business paperwork.


Ever have one of those days?

* * * * * *
If you haven't been watching Undercover Boss, you should -- this tv show is refreshing. A CEO goes anonymous for a week during his/her business locations, just to see what happens. The results are enlightening. The boss finds out how hard people work -- and generally better than the boss!
     I was especially impressed by David Kim, the head of Baja Fresh. (They have GREAT tacos, by the way.) True to form, he wasn't nearly as quick or effective as his employees. What he did have, though, was high standards, an attention to detail, and a willingness to consider new ideas.
     Kim is obviously a practicing Christian. (A "muscular" one, as Eric Liddell would say.) His faith was never forced. He prayed as naturally on camera as he scrubbed the floors or took an order. A Korean immigrant himself, he gave a franchise to one of his managers -- a Mexican immigrant who had worked his way up. (The guy said, after wiping away tears, "I won't let you down." And I'd bet he won't. See the video on the link for his initial reaction.)
    Putting your faith into action? Actually doing what you should, and doing it well?
    Wow.   Yay God.

Guess this means I have to go back to working on those stupid taxes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photos with Bite

Take a look at the selections from the Stanley Burns photo archive, pictured here in slideshow form. Burns was an opthalmologist  who collected unusual photos -- many of them documenting important events (like the presentation of the Emancipation Proclamation) or unusual people. (Or, even more importantly, miscarriages of justice.)
    Dr. Burns recognized, back in the 1970s, that few people were collecting photos of the different cultural groups in the U.S., as well as "dark" images about jails, medical conditions, lynchings, and so on. He decided to do something about it, eventually amassing more than 70,000 images. (More about Dr. Burns and his collection here.)
    Take a moment to page through some of the photos in the archive -- good, memorable stuff here. (Beware: some of these photos are creepy and unsettling -- and some show nudes. Stay away from the medical photos, if these are issues for you.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

20 Ways to Save

I haven't stopped thinking about my earlier resolve...and what to do about it. In the meantime, I came across Frugal Upstate's list of 25 ways she saves money. And I started thinking about my own list:

*I buy my high-end clothing at the thrift store. (most recent purchase: Nike tennis shoes, perfect shape, $3!)
* I repair our clothing -- especially our socks. An hour with needle and thread, and you've got more outfits to wear -- fast.
*I water our milk down. Whole milk, at least around here, is the same price -- or cheaper -- than skim. Dilute it 30/70 with water, and you've got a much healthier drink with less fat.
*I buy cheese in big chunks -- and freeze it. You have some crumble factor, but the price per pound is much better when you buy 5 pounds versus one.
*Fruit and veggies, whenever possible, come from the farmer. It isn't just the farmer's market -- though that's nice. Trips back to Michigan invariably end with a bag of apples or peaches lugged back. Our suitcases back from Panama included ten pounds of coffee, direct from Finca La Milagrosa.
*Meat ditto. We have friends who own an insurance company -- this year, as in one year past, I'll be covering the office for them for a week or so. In return, we get one of their pigs in the fall, nicely processed in white packages and ready for cooking.
*If we can't get it from the farmer, we grow our own...
*buy it on sale, or from the clearance area. On Wednesdays, our local Sprouts not only honors the current week's sale prices on stuff -- but the previous week's sales, as well! And I always hit the clearance aisle. You never know what you'll find.
*I turn the thermostat down. Way down. As in 62-64 degrees. (Ironically, our plants seem to thrive on this.)
*We scavenge the wood for the fireplace. (One of our neighbors just cut down a dead tree...I need to get over there!)
*We swap dogsitting with neighbors, and a friend. We watch theirs...or reciprocate with gifts of home baking, fruit from Michigan (see above) and other goodies.
*Husband fixes our broken appliances. The man's a genius. (Yes, I'm a lucky woman!)
*We buy furnishings off Craigslist. Our classic leather chair and ottoman was less than $300 this way. Now I'm on the lookout for an Oriental rug for the dining room.
*We buy other stuff there, too. Or from penny advertising circulars. Our popup camper and Ford truck came that way -- at a steal. 
*We use the expertise of friends. Tommy, who's run a concrete firm for decades, poured our driveway, plus our deck. Yes, we paid him the going rate...with the confidence that if something was wrong, he'd fix it. (I'm planning the long-overdue quilt he wants me to make!)
*We almost always buy used, and...
*We offer less than the price stated. Yes, we haggle. We bargain. My leather chair and ottoman would have cost at least $65 more. Husband saved us more than a thousand dollars this way on our Jeep Cherokee.
*We'll get plane tickets wherever we can get them cheapest. Kayak is the best, though Priceline and Cheaptickets do well for us, too.
*We'll buy travel packages -- but only when they save more than booking separately. The Panama trip was a drive/hotel package -- and worked out to roughly $45 a day. Not bad, for hotel rates that were double and triple that price. Plus, we got a car and unlimited mileage, in the bargain.
*We buy our souvenirs at the grocery store. Snacks and quickie meals come from there, too.
*Other souvenirs come from the roadside stand...or weekend market. We rarely buy anything from an official 'store,' unless it's groceries or food souvenirs.

I have more to say, on saving for the holidays...but I've yammered on long enough for now.

Take a look at the 25 things Frugal Upstate says she wouldn't save on!

A Literary Big Find

A Nuremberg Chronicles (published 1491) shows up at a little museum in Sandy,!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giving Up a Little-- to Get Something More

When Husband and I bought this house a decade ago, we'd already looked at approx. 80 houses over a six-month period. It was in a quiet neighborhood, up on one of the highest hills -- you can actually see our house from I-25, and there's a view on three sides of Pike's Peak, Castle Rock, Mount Evans and the Front Range...and even Long's Peak, if the skies are clear. (A large wooded bluff is at our back on the fourth side.) We put the profits from another house into the sale, along with whatever we could scrape up.
    Then, when Husband's mom suddenly died some years later, we decided to take some of the inheritance and pay off the house completely. This was in the early 2000s, when everyone and their brother was making a killing in the stock market -- and everything we read said we were being doofuses. After all, we were paying less than 5% interest on the house mortgage. Take the inheritance, the experts said, and invest it in the stock market! Make big bucks!

    If we had done that, we would have lost a good-sized chunk in the downturn. When Husband took a different (and lower-paying) job in the local school district, we would have had the pressure of that monthly payment, as well. (Not to mention the taxes, which are considerable.)
   We could have purchased a much more expensive house; according to the lenders, we were qualified for at least $100,000 more in payments. Our house was older. It needed repairs and a number of improvements. (Still does, on some!) It didn't have the fancy bathrooms and details some of our friends paid for.

   Now those friends are struggling, trying to keep up with their payments.
   It's times like these that I am so grateful we took the 'Hollander' route. We didn't take on more debt than we absolutely needed to. We didn't purchase new furniture, or vacations we couldn't save for and pay up-front.
   All the same, we're looking at medical payments that need to be kept up. There have been expenses for the girls. And, of course, there's always the possibility of going back to Panama -- this time for at least a month.(And hopefully language school.)
   Where is the money going to come from? We're running a pretty tight ship, as it is.

   My Frugal Miser advocates going without small things that add up -- frugal sacrifices. For him, it's not using his dryer, or no garbage pickup, things like that. But as he points out, those monthly pennies, dimes and dollars really add up over the course of a year.
   I've been thinking more about this. Couldn't we combine forces with the neighbors for garbage pickup? Daughters are both paying some for their cellphones, which helps our family plan. We kept the house temperature all winter in the 62-64 degree range. (You may think that's chilly, but space heaters and the fireplace took the chill off nicely. I get sleepy now in more heated rooms. Like church..) I still hit the clearance and marked-down sections pretty hard, and buy nearly all our clothes at the local thrift shop. (Living in a high-income area means high-end labels and fabrics donated. My thrift shop clothing is actually more expensive-looking than the items purchased new!)
    Maybe it's time to give up cable....but that means no tv reception at all. (The mountains block it nicely.) Could we get by on Netflix, or just Hulu?
    I do have some flats of seedlings, and plans for a larger garden this summer. Which will help with food costs.
    What else?? What can I do?
We may go back to just one car. (Husband's been driving Daughter #1's car to work, while it's been stored here.) Or a scooter. Or just bikes. I definitely think I could do with fewer trips to town -- especially now gas is so expensive. Maybe limit trips to ship orders to a few times a week, rather than nearly every day?
  (Or maybe I should just let Ami Simms dye my underpants! The silly girl...)

Protecting what you do actually pay for is also part of the show -- like the merits of politely asking for a discount for poor service or product. If we do keep the cable, I have every intention of calling Comcast and asking for some credits -- we've lost our service, or had it stall, several times in the past month.
Any suggestions you might have in this department are greatly welcome. In the meantime, it's nearly 1:00 a.m....and the new week has started. Time for bed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Secrets of Billionaires Who Live WAY Below Their Means

This post gives you a closer look at guys like Warren Buffett, Rick Warren and Carlos Helu...and how they don't spend money.
      You'll want to read the post in full (Thanks, Go Frugal Blog!), but here are a few of their often-practiced notions:

*They don't eat all the time at expensive restaurants. In fact, they eat at home a lot. (Helu spends every Monday supper with his children and grandchildren.) Buffett is a notoriously picky eater, often preferring french fries and burgers to anything fancier. Simpler foods = simpler choices = less overall expense. And that adds up.

*They live in the same modest house purchased decades ago -- at a much more modest price. Sure, the houses are palatial...but five or six bedrooms provide plenty of space for these millionaires.

*They drive used, well-maintained (because they're old!) vehicles. And they drive them themselves. 

*Money is not the most important thing in their lives. In fact, Rick Warren actually paid back the comfortable salary he earned as a senior pastor, some twenty-five years worth!

*They find value from the use of their time and accomplishments...not just their financial status. (Though they're careful about that, too.)

Can we lesser-spenders take advantage of some of these 'secrets?' You bet!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gauguin Attack

From the "Weird Stuff Happens" department: a woman starts pounding her fists on a Paul Gauguin painting at the National Gallery. She also tries to rip the painting off the wall. All because she hates homosexuals -- ironic, since Gauguin was a pretty straight guy, if you know what I mean. (According to the criminal complaint, she said, " I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned ... I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.")

     No damage, apparently, because of a clear plastic cover. (Museum authorities have removed it, so they can check it over more carefully.)
    Does this mean we soon won't have the pleasure of getting close to any paintings in a public museum? Sigh...

Father Tim...and Cinnamon Rolls

In spite of myself, I've been drawn into Jan Karon's Mitford: a small town that holds Percy's Grill, the museum...and Father Tim, a chubby Episcopalian priest who wife Cynthia is a children's book author. (Their adopted son Dooley is a pistol who loves KitKats, the word "ain't," and Barnabas, the only dog in the universe who behaves when quoted Scripture.)
    Karon's Mitford novels are as comfy as sliding on your worn slippers and relaxing in front of the fire. There's more to it, though, a depth that looks at grief...loneliness...loss...discouragement. And a strong acknowledgment that the God who brings good things into our lives also also allows bad ones, because they strengthen us, and lead us to maturity.
    An interview with Karon is here. She made her name in advertising, but gave it up to move back to North Carolina and write a novel.   She had no assurance that she was doing the right thing, or that her book would publish -- but she was, and it did.
     To this day, Karon's books have never been in the New York Times Book Review, or given a lot of press (ok, maybe Publisher's Weekly)...yet they've sold more than 20 million copies.
     If you've ever read any of Miss Read's 'cozies,' and loved them, you'll enjoy these books, too. Or maybe you just need a peaceful vacation away from it all. Start with At Home In Mitford, so you can meet Father Tim at the beginning, and get to know his friends and family gradually.

* * * * * * *
    I stumbled onto an easy way to make your cinnamon rolls more tender and flaky. It's not the dough -- it's the filling! Before you spread the cinnamon/sugar/nuts/whatever onto the dough, butter the dough...then 'butter' it a second time, with cream cheese spread. (My sister-in-law puts this in the dough, and I've heard of it used as frosting...but never this way.) Go ahead, dump on the dry ingredients, roll, slice and bake.
      Philly's new Cooking Creme is perfect for this. (Husband, whose passion for cinnamon rolls is surmounted only by chocolate chip cookies and brownies, noticed the difference right away.) Please note -- I did get a coupon for a free package. But I bought more...and quite honestly, I'd say the same thing, even if I hadn't. This is good stuff.
     If you don't have a good cinnamon roll recipe, try this one -- but add a few teaspoons of cinnamon directly to the dough, and don't forget to spread cream cheese at the same time you put on the butter. I'm a big fan of nuts, too. Yum.

* * * * * * *

I don't think of writing as a spiritual discipline, though I am writing about things of the spirit. I work in a disciplined way because that's the way I was trained to write. While I found advertising to be somewhat brutal and unfeeling, all things considered, it has taught me many wise and useful ways to work. The take-out of this is that God never wastes anything. Nothing. The years I spent pouring my heart into work that would be thrown away, recycled, or ignored were years He was teaching me how to put my shoulder to the wheel and get the job done, no matter what.
                                                                         --Jan Karon

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A New Quilt Every Month!

...thanks to the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, NE. Sign up for their monthly calendar, and you'll see a beautiful quilt, up-close and personal, plus detailed info about its makers, age and origins.

April's selection is a modern era Crazy (1980s), seen below. The selections range from modern to antique, artsy to traditional. It's a nice way to get to know these quilts...and an excellent forum for learning more about quilts. (Their museum and changing exhibits are terrific, too.)

Randoms Here and There

...gray skies. (Rain, not snow.) 
Daughter #1 went home late yesterday afternoon, after trips to the doctor, the eye clinic (she needed new contacts)...and of course, the obligatory stop at Walmart for fresh spinach and shampoo. She's now sporting a large and bulky brace on one leg, plus crutches.
    The house is slowly getting back to what passes as normal around here. In the meantime, I found good stuff on the internet:

*Standing out in the crowd. (Or more specifically, in a crowded room.)

*Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins. (Make these, and  you'll stand out even more! I just found Kirbie's Cravings, and she's my kind of cook -- quick, easy and delicious. Her Brazilian Cheese Puffs are looming on the radar, too.)

*Stocking up on Breakfast Burritos - in the freezer. A number of friends do this every month. Our church is even having a burrito-making session the day before Easter, so we can serve them for brunch before the service. (Guess who volunteered to peel, cook and chunk 25 pounds of potatoes?)

*Just one late payment can really affect your credit score. Even if it's a high one.

*Travelzoo's Top 20 list. Every week, this popular site for travel bargains serves up the 20 best bargains they've seen. Subscribe (it's free), and they'll e-mail them to you before they post them on the website. (I shouldn't really be tell you this -- because we've snagged some great stuff this way, and you'll be competition. But you won't regret subscribing.)

And finally, the top ten states for fraud. (Oh goody, Colorado has the highest incidents per capita.)

Work, and a piano student, call. Dogs Jack and Charley are chewing on each other out in the backyard. Maybe I'll make some of those cheese puffs for supper...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Weird Weekend

Ever heard of the "best-laid plans of mice and men...?"
    I was all set to finish up restoring a quilt, get some paperwork done and polish off all my errands... when Daughter #1 called: she'd dislocated her knee, doing the twist at a rockabilly concert in Boulder. (Hey, if you're going to get hurt, do it up right!) She felt terrible, and wanted to know if we could watch Jack the dog.
   To make a long story short, Daughter ended up here for the weekend. (Charley was thrilled that Jack came along -- we are now into Chapter #37 of the "I'm a bigger, badder, more important dog than you" tournament, and both dogs have been having a wonderful time chewing on each other.) And, wouldn't you know it, we also had to fill in for Saturday night's worship team, as well as do our usual stint on Sunday morning. Three batches of music.
    Then a committee meeting and lunch afterwards on Sunday. Sigh.
   Other than a few precious hours with Daughter, munching pizza or drinking tea, we haven't had a weekend. The house looks like a bomb went off in it, including a decorative motif of dirty dogprints. (It snowed most of Sunday. My poor plants, newly planted in a flush of optimism, in our 70s temps? Everybody but the tomatoes and a few of the basil looks like they'll make it, thanks to the greenhouse, and coverings.) I hope to get the dishwasher loaded before I take Daughter to the doctor this afternoon.

    The quilt's done, right? And the paperwork? Surely you jest.