Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way To Other Stuff

It's a beautiful, crisp day...and my plants are still alive! Not only that -- the peach seedlings actually have 6 or so leetle tiny peaches showing. Guess Spring is asserting herself, after all. I'd better get out there and plant something -- fast -- before she changes her mind. Again.

Congratulations, Sharon of Dancing thru Threads -- the random number generator picked your entry to win the Women of Influence book giveaway! Please e-mail me promptly, so we can ship it out. Our next giveaway will be up shortly -- be sure to stop back soon and check for it.

Meanwhile, here's another crop of Stuff noticed growing around the Internet:

An intriguing 360-degree look at things, courtesy of photographer Randy Scott Slavin. One photo's below from the 'Alternate Perspectives' exhibit, but you really need to watch the entire slide show -- click here.

Practical options for health insurance -- if you have your own business, or need other options. (Let's face it -- it's getting tough out there. We pay through the nose via the Brick's employment with the local school system -- and we still have a $5000 deductible. Per person. Even with insurance, we still ended up paying nearly $15,000 for the Brick's week-long hospital stay a few years ago. Still paying on it, in fact.)

An  hands-on investigation on kids cheating.  (Parents, this is a tad unnerving to watch.)

Some really charming (and easy) grain sack pillows, courtesy of My Desert Cottage. Ironic I'd bring this up, considering the next item is...

Does there come a point when you've fiddled around long enough, redecorating? Yes, according to the Nester...and a bunch of commenters agree with her. Sometimes you don't have time and energy for home dec, anyways.

Eight-part series on getting rid of debt, step by step. Practical, thoughtful advice that can be implemented slowly. (Thanks, Life As Mom.)

And for you literary types, twenty different craft projects that use paper book pages. (The Nester was decorating for a party honoring her sister, who had just published her first book.) These are too clever, though some are a bit off the wall. (Decorating the table with book pages looks a lot like just eating on newspapers, trailer-style.) But some ideas are downright cute -- the folded-leaf wreaths, especially -- and they make good use of books you were going to donate. (P.S. They'd make good birthday and Christmas presents, too.)

Teacher abuse. Did you hear about this? Autistic son doesn't want to go to school anymore, but cannot express why. (He's incapable of speech, so far.) The teachers say he's disruptive in class. The father puts a secret recorder on him -- and it turns out, both the teacher and aide are not only ridiculing him (and the others), but are having interesting discussions on how drunk they got the night before, etc., etc. Hmmm.
    The kicker -- after this tape went public, the aide got fired. The teacher only got transferred. Yep, she's still in action. Wonder how she's treating her new class?  (Check out the full story by clicking on the title above.)

And from the "Only In America (oops, Great Britain)" Department: Badgers won't keep their paws out of British cemetaries. They keep digging underneath coffins, and bringing up Things. (Ew)

And the Chicken Chronicles are beginning!  Eight Black Australorp chicks will be ready to pick up on Saturday. See them here, courtesy of Chickens for Backyards:

 Excellent egg layers, good for meat -- developed in Australia, and, I'm told, one of the friendliest, smartest breeds. The guy who sold me the coop said, "They just like people." His favorite hen enjoyed hanging out in his lap. I'm not too sure about that around here -- Charley the dog thinks he holds that position. (Only he's too big, the lug.)
    I never knew this -- but there are chicken cams on the 'Net that let you see what's going on 24/7. This one, from Flying Skunk Farm, actually lets you feed the chickens. I've gotten an inordinate amount of fun, just watching them peck around, and imagining the future.

Have a great week -- talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Willing To Wait

I've discovered something interesting about Amazon products -- they're not always the same price!

Ok. You may be smarter than me, and figured this out already. But if Amazon has an ample stock of something, and it's not moving, they lower the price, from 80 cents to a dollar a day, until it's gone.

Case in point: The 'Old Nuremberg Chest' Lebkuchen package from Schmidt.

(You can see more photos here on the Schmidt website.)

If you've never had it, Lebkuchen ("layb-koo-ken") is a German/Austrian crunchy-out, soft-inside ginger cookie that has tiny bits of fruit, nuts, or orange peel here and there. It's often baked on a thin layer ('gebacken') foundation, or coated with sugar frosting. And if it's coated with dark chocolate, is one of the best cookies in the world. It's also remarkably long-lasting -- if the package isn't opened, it can easily last for months. (An important factor -- you'll see why in a minute.)
     Lebkuchen was originally made by monks who mixed honey with flour and spices. (Old honey is said to be the best.) They would store it for months to let it age -- in fact some recipes say to mix the dough and store it for six months...then bake the cookies, frost them and store for another six months before they're ready to eat.
     Yow! Can you see Twinkies lasting this long?

Schmidt is a prominent German company -- they make other baked products, like stollen, almond stars, etc. Every year, they come up with a new series of tins with designs that reflect their heritage. These tins are beautifully graphic, and have a pretty use holding craft supplies and such. (My biggest one holds a selection of small prizes for my piano students -- 5 times practiced equals a prize.)

These usually come out in the fall, in time for Christmas. And boy, are they expensive -- this is one of the smaller chests, and it retails for a little over $95.00, including shipping.
     But remember what I said about the cookies going for long periods? (In fact, the old recipes insist on it.) These cookies are only getting better with time!
     I first stumbled across the tin a few weeks ago, when it was more than $45. I thought that price was a good buy, but had something else to do, and set it aside in my order cart.
    Two days later, it was $2 less!
    Since then, I've watched it go down, dollar by dollar, day by day. As of tonight, it's:

Only 8 boxes are left. The price will only go down a buck or so more before they sell out completely. I ordered one for the Mama's Mother's Day present, but will wait it out a day before ordering more. Sure, it's just a buck's savings -- but I've gotten caught up in the game. The Brick said, "You're really enjoying saving on this, aren't you..."

I am! 
    Even better, it's taught me a valuable lesson -- that being patient (and vigilant) can save a bunch of money. 

Even if I miss out, there's always the 6.2 pound Schmidt Festive Chest of Lebkuchen -- nearly twice as much. You guessed it -- that price is starting to go down, dollar by dollar. Hey, I can wait...


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is It Spring? Is It? And A Really Good Chili

...or have I gotten false hopes?

We've had downright hot weather for the past week -- but this Saturday afternoon, the clouds are moving in and the temperature's dropping. My poor tomatoes -- I keep rushing outside at night and covering them up. Our neighbors must think Ma and Pa Kettle's decorating style a bit zany, what with the motley arrangement of sheets, beach towels, etc. So far, though, everything's alive.

Time for a fire tonight, an adventure movie, and maybe a bowl of chili. It's incredibly easy, using the 'dump' method, and can be added or subtracted to as you wish. The secret is*:


1 pound hamburger
1 quart or large can tomatoes
1/2 finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic
1 cube beef bouillon*  (gives a meaty flavor, no matter if you cut the meat in half -or less)
2 cans kidney or pinto beans
1 small can green chilies (optional)

Brown the hamburger -- or just dump it in the crockpot. (Browning gives it a 'beefier' color; cooking it right in the pot lets those good juices go straight in the chili. If you brown, rinse out those juices into the crockpot.) Dump everything else into the crockpot, rinsing out the cans with water (and adding that). Add enough water to make a soupy mix; cook on low for 6-8 hours. (Or simmer in a kettle 2-3 hours on low.)
   Serves 4, with leftovers. Try it topped with shredded cheese, chopped onion...or a hot dog. Tortilla chips or baked corn tortillas are a perfect add-on.

We really need the rain -- and spring's bound to re-emerge soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

So I Can't Go To Paducah -- So What!

Well, it's nice to see y'all visiting! I'm glad there's interest in the latest book giveaway: Women of Influence. This is a great book. Sure, the quilt's beautiful -- but what I really enjoyed was its history. You will, too. Just leave a comment at the original post -- and if you 'follow' this blog or subscribe by e-mail, say something about that, too. (That'll get you three entries, instead of one.) 
   Deadline's Sunday night at midnight, and we'll randomly draw a winner on Monday.

I have been feeling a little sorry for myself this week, since there was no money (thanks to our basement troubles) or time (ditto) to go to the American Quilter's Society conference in Paducah, KY this week. This is one of the 'Holy Grail' conferences, as far as quilting goes. I've taught several years, and gone to a few, just for fun.
    And the PAAQT appraisers' group is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a big splashy open house at the museum this weekend. I'll be hearing about that one, too.
    This year is turning out to be much quieter than my usual -- and much more staying home. But I'm not unhappy about that. Some health problems made life miserable early in the year, and they're only now starting to disappear. (Who knew that a tooth infection would affect the rest of your body, as well!)The basement work, reordering Brickworks inventory, has taken a lot of time -- and needs more. And I've had some nagging writing deadlines I Need To Deal With. (If you're wondering, "Does that mean the Hanky Panky sequel," you're absolutely right! It's soooo close to being finished.)
    So does it make sense that I stay home? Absolutely. Does it mean I miss the excitement, the chance to see what's new, and what people are doing with it? Of course. But there are things that help:

    *Let yourself wander about the quilting sites -- especially AQS. By the end of the week, the winner photos will be up. Take time to study them. Have you heard of this person before? What's prizewinning about their quilt?
    *Keep a quilt book by your chair -- or a quilt-related novel. (I'm especially fond of Sandra Dallas' work, and she has a new one out -- True Sisters. But I run back to a favorite, as well: The Journal of Mattie Spenser.) Take a half-hour or so, even if your schedule is busy, to relax and read.
     *Go to a guild meeting. Or a group. What -- you don't belong to one? Kris Driessen's Quilt is a good place to start. Usually meetings are monthly, and most guilds have a wide variety of teachers (including yours truly) come to visit. Show & Tells are interesting, too. 
    *Start a new piece! Try a new technique, or print off a paper-pieced block you've wanted to stitch. (Here's a good place to start -- I'm partial to this Crazy Twist block, because it uses up so many scraps.)
     *Make it small, so it doesn't take long to finish. Think of it as a 'study piece;' you're experimenting, and that's just fine. (In fact, 'fooling around' is how many new ideas got started -- including Hanky Panky.) This new little quilt will come in handy for birthday and Christmas gift-giving. If you love it, you can always make a bigger one.
   A few hours of sewing makes all the difference in the world. (In fact, I'm going to give myself that luxury after I finish sanding down the basement walls today.) There are other big conferences coming up, including the Mancusos' Denver Quilt Festival. (That one, I may get to!) So, like all things-that-have-to-happen, this is temporary.
    On with life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A New Giveaway: Women of Influence Block-by-Block Quilt

This week's giveaway gives you an interesting mix of history and quilting -- in one book, Women of Influence by Sarah Maxwell and Dolores Smith.

Twelve leaders of the suffrage movement -- one of the big reasons why women vote alongside men these days.

Twelve blocks chosen especially to reflect these women and their special contributions to history, combined in a lovely quilt -- all instructions included.

And it's yours FREE in this week's giveaway!

You know the drill -- leave a comment on this post, and you're automatically entered in the giveaway. 'Follow' this blog, or subscribe by e-mail, and you've got three entries -- all you need to do is mention it in a separate comment! Giveaway ends Sunday night at midnight, and we'll draw a winner randomly on Monday.
     Let's hear from you!

Sanding...and Painting...and Planting

It's nearly you know where your brain is?
Me neither.

Martha Stewart must be having the same problem, if all she can find to be bossy about is dusting. Seriously, lady. Aren't there worse things -- like the economy, for instance -- to dither about?

It's hard to believe this month is almost gone. It's put a fire in the afterburner -- I simply MUST get the downstairs main area sanded and painted this week, so staffers and  yours truly can put up the shelving and get stuff put away there.
    Also, a dozen or so plants, plus two apple and an apricot seedlings, need to get into the ground before it rains/snows this weekend. (The new love of my life -- CHICKENS!! -- may have to be postponed. More on that in a while.)  The iris are blooming their heads off. Lovely but odd, since as near as I can tell, they're at least 2-3 weeks earlier than their usual time. The tulips aren't even done yet. I can't remember when this happened last. Does this mean we're going to get an early (and hot) summer in Colorado?

    So time to get on the sweatpants and get to work. Hope your day's a productive one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Little Decisions, Huge Consequences

Brazilians are strolling on the beach, watching a pod of dolphins -- who promptly head for shore's edge. After a moment of surprise, people rush in and start pulling the dolphins back toward deeper water -- and safety. See the video here -- it's great.
    Why did the dolphins do it? Some sort of infection? Response to underwater noises...or earthquakes? (There are rumblings in the environmental world that since dolphins and whales have been grounding in record numbers, something odd is going on.)
    One quick decision, one action, almost changed their lives permanently.

Here are six famous people whose quick decisions did just that.

Tom Mix - One of the first Western movie stars -- and a strong influence on the genre. (He and John Wayne apparently disliked each other -- Mix said Wayne was a fake. Wayne said that when he was starting out, Mix had invited him and a fellow group of college football players to Hollywood, for jobs. When they got there, Mix had apparently changed his mind -- the security guard wouldn't let them in. Wikipedia says, though, that Mix did get Wayne a job moving props for the studio.)
    Mix had several marriages. (Also quick decisions, but that's another story.)  In between movies, he starred in a circus, which he eventually bought and gave to his daughter to manage. (It went bankrupt.) He continued to travel and do engagements, though his movie career eventually ground down. On Oct. 14, 1940, he was driving near Florence, AZ, and came on a washed-out bridge. Mix was driving too fast to stop quickly -- and when his car crashed, an aluminum suitcase stashed on the shelf behind him flew forward and smashed into his skull, breaking his neck in the process.
    The great "King of the Cowboys" died almost instantly -- thanks to his suitcase.

William Henry Harrison - Our ninth President of the United States was a little over 68 when he took office in 1841. (The only President older was Ronald Reagan.) Although he served in the military for decades, and was a former governor, he won partly because the other candidates were busy fighting each other -- and could agree on nothing except Harrison was a 'good guy.' Few people really knew what he thought on the issues. (I'm simplifying this some, but we're heading this way ourselves in the political process, sadly.)
    Harrison was tired of his opponents deriding him for being weak. (One of their favorite epithets was "Granny Harrison, the Petticoat General.") He decided to show them by delivering his inaugural speech standing up. For more than two hours. Outside. In the rain.
    President Harrison had never been that healthy, but he persisted -- and three weeks later, his ill health turned into pneumonia and killed him. He'd served only 32 days in office. All, it seems, because of a macho need to present a speech.  

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Considered one of the best guitar players -- ever. (Rolling Stone magazine rated him #7 on their 'Top 100' list.) After years of drugs and drinking, Vaughan was finally starting to get his act together. He'd completed a rehabilitation program, and released a new album "In Step," made with the band Double Trouble. Some of the music during those recording sessions are thought to be among Vaughan's very best.
   In August 1990, Double Trouble opened for Eric Clapton in Wisconsin; the second show featured a jam session between Vaughan and his brother Jimmie, along with Clapton, who introduced them as "the best guitar players in the entire world." The finale was "Sweet Home Chicago:"

                                                       Stevie at his last concert, last song

After the show, drummer Chris Layton began talking to Vaughan backstage:

    " He was looking forward to that ["In Step"] coming out and looking forward to us making another record. He was in great spirits. I mean, we just had two great nights and we talked about all kinds of stuff... Then he got up and said, 'I'm gonna go back down to the dressing room for a minute.' I don't know, maybe five minutes or so later, he came back up and he had his jacket on, he had his bags. He was making this turn, and I said, 'Hey, what are you doin'?' And he said, 'I'm gonna go back to Chicago.' I said 'Well, now?' And he said, 'Yeah, I gotta get back. I want to call Janna,' his girlfriend, in New York. I thought, 'Jeez, you could actually call her anywhere and then call her later,' but he turned around and said, 'Call me when you get back. I love you,' and kinda gave me that wink of the eye he would do. And then he was gone. He just disappeared into the night."

     Four helicopters took off late on that hazy, foggy night. The second one, holding Vaughan and three members of Clapton's entourage, crashed into the side of a ski hill. Authorities took hours to get to the crash site -- everyone was dead. Vaughan wasn't supposed to take that flight. But he did it -- because of a phone call.

Vaughan wasn't the only musical star whose life forever changed because of a flight on a stormy night. The Big Bopper died in the same plane crash that took Buddy Holly's life Feb. 3, 1959, because he had the flu -- and a band member, Waylon Jennings, gave up his seat. (Yes, that Waylon Jennings. Holly said to him, "I hope your old bus freezes up." Jennings said back jokingly, "Well, I hope your plane crashes." It's haunted him ever since.) 
     Ritchie Valens 'won' a coin toss for his seat on the plane. He was 17. One flip of the coin. (He lost -- he wasn't planning to go.)
     (Buddy Holly's distinctive eyeglasses, along with the Big Bopper's watch, weren't found until later, buried in the snow. They spent the next 21 years in the sheriff department's evidence drawer, until they were rediscovered in 1980.)

An even smaller decision can change your life forever -- like Michael Sands, a media consultant who engineered high-power deals for his celebrity clients. What took him down? He tried a meat sample at a deli, and choked to death on it. 

Life is brief. We don't always know that one decision may have huge consequences. But it can -- and does.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

Sun's out. In fact, it's downright hot around here. We spent a good share of yesterday weeding, trimming out dead brush, etc., and the garden looks suitably grateful. Before I head back out there, I need to announce the winner for the Money book giveaway -- congratulations, Heide! Your book will be on its way in tonight's mail run.
    This week's giveaway will be posted tonight or tomorrow -- look for it soon.

Also spotted, while wandering around the Internet:

What's the best car for teens? The conclusions here, including insurance, mileage, durability, etc. could help you pick out your next vehicle, as well.

A photographer poses his grandma as a  93-year-old superhero. This fascinating lady is also a quilter, no doubt. (And I love her little dog.)

Older ladies aren't what they used to be. (Well, based on my own festy, chicken-keeping, rug-hooking, traveling grandma, they never were what they were supposed to be.) Take Mathilda, for instance. (She's 94.)

Some of the greatest trash talk in the history of war. Some surprising incidents here.

And speaking of surprise: a white killer whale has been spotted off Kamchatka, Russia.The first-ever albino adult orca that's been documented. "Kewl," as Daughters would say.

A man shoots his girlfriend --thinks she's a wild boar. (Not 'bore,' pig...) I'd think this was totally made up, but one of my cousins shot another during hunting season one year -- because she mistook her for a deer. Fortunately, it was just a leg 'flesh wound.' (Thank you, Monty Python.(

Spoonflower's latest contest-winners: sewing-themed fabrics. Spoonflower is a print-on-demand company for fabric; you can design your own, and get any number of custom prints. Beautiful stuff -- and at $18 a yard, the price is getting more competitive with standard fabrics.

I've wanted one of those antique card catalogs; all those fussy little drawers would be perfect for the buttons, beads and charms we stock for Brickworks. Unfortunately, half the civilized world would also love to get their hands on one. Enter this makeover: an  old-timey-look 'card catalog' made from IKEA drawers. Wow!

Being able to pay for something is NOT the same thing as being able to afford it. Excellent point, Frugal Babe

And in keeping with the grand tradition:

Have a great week -- talk to you soon.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Dozen Frugal Cookbooks You've Never Heard Of (And Two You Have)

I've been having a great time rummaging through my recipe box, cookbooks and frugal living books to come up with a week's worth of Flat-Broke Foods for the Holiday Goodies blog. Although we're not as tight financially this month as in the past, it's been a good reminder of how well you really can eat on little cash.

The garden is starting to show possibilities -- the peas are about 2" high, and the greens are beginning to tuft a little. I've got big plans for putting in some bushes and filling the planters, as well. (Stupid, stupid -- we're bound to get at least one more snowstorm and/or freeze before mid-May!) Can't help it -- the sun feels so good right now.
   Charley and Abby have 5 large holes dug...who knows, maybe they're trying to communicate with the dogs from China. I've heard that putting dog poop in each hole, then refilling it, will keep them from re-digging. It's worth a try.

Don't forget about the Money book giveaway this week. This practical book is good for page-through by you...but even better passed on as a birthday or graduation gift. One comment gives you an entry for the giveaway; mentioning that you 'follow' or are subscribed to e-mail for this blog will get you three entries. Contest ends Sunday at midnight, and entries are pretty low right now -- you've got an excellent chance of winning!

Now on to the meat of this post -- a dozen cookbooks, in no particular order, that have provided excellent -- and frugal -- meals over the years. (Well, 15, if you count the series mentioned.) Some are billed as frugal, some not. I've not heard these mentioned very often, but they're essential to my kitchen shelf. Double-starred items are the best of the batch.

**A Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others by Ann Rogers. Hands-down one of the very best save-a-buck cookbooks I've ever read...and still use, decades after stumbling onto it in a library paperback rack. Ann is very good at bringing out the full flavor of meats and vegetables, even in small amounts. Her salads are especially inventive. This one's hard to find, but worth it.

**Family Circle All-Time Baking Favorites. I have never had a recipe fail in this wide-ranging look at All Things Baked. (In fact, my favorite banana bread recipe comes from here.) You name it -- everything from lemon meringue pie to cookies to cake can be found on its stained and floury pages.

*Stories And Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's, Vol. I-IV by Rita Van Amber and Janet Van Amber Paske. Recipes compiled from a wide range of people who lived through the Great Depression, along with their experiences. I don't always make some of these dishes (potatoes and bread figure heavily in them, and we're careful with these right now), but I recognize many of them from my childhood via the Mama, who was a kid during the Depression. So far, everything I've tried has been delicious, and the stories are memorable.

**Good Cheap Food by Miriam Ungerer.  There's some unusual stuff in here -- like a recipe for goatmeat. The dishes, though, have an interesting range of flavors and techniques, often with an international touch. One chapter on "scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel" foods (including a variation on Chowder de Pisces) is worth the book, all by itself.

*Hard Times Cookbook For the 70's by Sheri Lynn Smith. Like Poor Poets, a sleeper that surprised and ultimately delighted me. Sheri Smith cooked for a school, using a miniscule budget, then went on to cater for weddings and other large celebrations. Along the way, she learned to improvise with unusual foods, including a whole chapter on 'mock' dishes. An amazing cookbook that really does march to its own drummer -- because with little money, it had to.

*The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker. Laura and her Ma had little to work with most of the time -- which makes this cookbook a treasure of hard-to-find basics like making cheese. If you're interested in 'old-time' foods, like switchel (a gingery beverage for hot weather), this is a perfect stop. (Reread the Little House series, too, while you're at it.)

*Dining During the Depression by the editors of Reminisce Books. The recipes in this Depression cookbook are more detailed than the Van Amber books mentioned above -- but they've got the same wonderful stories and inventive ideas.

*The Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook by Jane Watson Hopping. Jane's written a whole series of Pioneer Lady books that are excellent; this one is a favorite. Hearty foods, excellent desserts, and recipes ranging from Christmas to spring are here.

**Father Orsini's Italian Kitchen by Father Joseph Orsini. Orsini grew up poor on the East coast. Like his Italian parents, he was teste dure (a hard-headed individual from Calabria, Italy). A stint at a Little Rock, AR seminary cut him off from his beloved childhood foods -- so he learned to cook them. Fortunately, he passed those recipes on to us. Many are meat-lovers' dreams...even those with just a dab of protein. I haven't read Orsini's other book, Papa Bear's Favorite Italian Dishes, but am betting that it also will change your preconceptions on the cooking skills of Catholic priests. (Maybe it's in the genes -- see the monastery cookbook below.)


*The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes & Reveries by David Ansel. A good soup is hard to find, but easy to make once you know how to go about it. Ansel made his living for years by delivering large pots of soup via his bicycle. Excellent recipes -- he wanders a bit getting there, but you get to know his California world of oddballs and enthusiasts along the way.

**More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. Another favorite, with recipes collected from Mennonite missionaries around the world. (Doris herself was a missionary to Vietnam for years.) One of the easiest ways to introduce international dishes to your repertoire. This covers a lot of ground in just a hundred or so pages.

*Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. Originally purchased for a friend's birthday -- but I couldn't bear to give it up. The soup combinations can be unusual, but they're easy to duplicate, and the taste is incredible.

And the two frugal cookbooks you already know? Joy of Cooking, by far the most detailed and widest-ranging of the general cookbooks, as well as the one my grandmother and mom learned to cook by: Betty Crocker. (Betty's cookies are second to none.) The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook was next for Grandma and The Mama -- but I always ran back to Joy of Cooking or Betty, instead.

     Whichever cookbook on this list you choose, you'll find something delicious inside. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Videos - Learn and Grin

Before I start in, have you visited the Money book giveaway? A quick comment may earn this book for you -- FREE. It's full of practical tips on budgeting, ways to cut your spending without too much grief, and more. Earn three more comments by 'following' this blog, and signing up for e-mail updates. (Be sure to mention that in a separate comment.) Go here to find out more.

The snow's melted now (we had 8+ inches) and we're back officially to Spring. Both the iris and  tulips are beginning to bloom -- and together, something I can't remember seeing before around here. Usually the iris come later. Does this mean I dare to plant some of the warmer-weather crops, like beans, now? (I'm not stupid enough to try and put in tomatoes yet.) Dare I try?

Pottery Barn has a very interesting video out on quilt history:

Hand quilters will find one of those 'quilting sessions' amusing -- while she's stitching, the top is bouncing around like it's on a waterbed. Look at those designs, folks -- what you're seeing are the Seventies revisited.
This one's from Pottery Barn, too...

And I laughed myself silly at this 'sexy' video:

Are you supposed to be laughing...not sure! (The French-speaking kitten that mews 'oui' is an extra funny touch. She should have said "le mew," like the little darling in Pepe LePew!)
     Makes the Old Spice guy look like a wimp...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A New Giveaway -- Your Money: The Missing Manual

Here's the newest book giveaway -- just in time for Tax Day!

J.D. Roth, guru of the ever-interesting PF blog, Get Rich Slowly, wrote a book on his financial strategies. It's got some interesting tips, and practical ideas. (See more pages here.)

Now you can win your own copy! Just enter with a comment -- what's your best tax tip? --  at the end of this post. And as always, if you're 'following' or subscribing via e-mail to this blog, that counts for 3 extra entries. (Be sure to mention it in a separate comment.)

Time to enter ends Sunday at midnight, and we'll pick a winner randomly on Monday.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tax Day Deals!

...and no, we're not done yet. After midnight, the Brick and I finally threw in the towel and filed for an extension. But we'll keep on working on it until taxes are done.

There are a huge batch of specials out there for eating out on Tax Day -- including (I'm told) free curly fries from Arby's (you have to 'like' them on Facebook for that one) and McDonald's BOGO for two sandwiches! Go to Money Saving Mom to find out more.

At least we get something out of this irritating, crabby experience.

Textiles & Politics: September in Washington, D.C.

If you're interested in the comings and goings of textile history, you'll find the 13th biennial symposium of the Textile Society of America fascinating. It features a wide range of subjects and seminars, including many on cultures around the world. (I couldn't keep my eyes off a lecture on political handkerchiefs, and another on the significance of the dragon motif in Far East textiles!)

It's Sept. 19-22 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C.; go here for the full listing of speakers/programs, the overall conference, or visit the Society's website here.

Monday Stuff on the Way To Other Stuff - If We Survive, That Is

 Congratulations, Yvonne -- you won the Stars All Around giveaway!  You have until Saturday to let us know your address. Thanks to all who've been entering -- there's more to come.
    Look for the next giveaway to post tonight or tomorrow, depending on how far we get on the taxes. Life at the Bricks gets very crabby this time of year; the Brick loathes, hates and despises doing the taxes, and I'm right behind him. Not to mention how complicated owning a business makes things. Every year, I think about letting an accountant wrestle with this; every year (at least so far), we've done it ourselves. The Brick's engineering nature gives him a very strong eye for detail, which helps immensely.
   The trick is getting it done without snarling at each other.

While we're tussling with the Tax Monster, you might find these posts interesting:

Good, clear instructions for building a cold frame. We got 6-8" of snow over the weekend, but it's quickly melting. Hopefully my peas and greens survived. (They usually love this extra moisture.)

What should I do next, asks Debt Princess.  Finish my teaching degree, quit and get a job, or ?? Here's your chance to be bossy and dispense advice.

An easy lightbox for photography, thanks to A Cowboy's Wife.

Len Penzo crabs about taxes. This guy can be a tad simplistic, but lots of fun. Don't miss another of his posts, either, on 19 things the millionaire next door won't tell you.

Feed your family for 50 cents a person. Several ideas, more links. This is courtesy of Raising Olives; she clothes her family cheaply, too. Comes right into play with my series on 'Flat-Broke Food' on the Holiday Goodies blog.

Using vending machine snacks in your cooking. Just read it, ok?

Using cash as an investment strategy. (This comes via Penny Thots, one of the sites I write for.) An interesting way to look at it -- deliberately collecting cash as part of your investments.

Rick Santorum dropped out of the Republican presidential race. (Too bad. I really liked this guy. Didn't think he could win -- but I liked him.)

What if you lost it all? Thanks to Bernie Madoff, a number of people did. How they coped -- my latest post on Penny Thots.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to calculating and scribbling. Maybe I'll even bite someone!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Meanderings - Flat-Broke and Pressured

It may be April to you, but we're waiting for the snowstorm that's supposed to pounce this weekend. Why, oh why does the weather do this in Colorado? The sun warms the ground, things pop out. Then when you're thoroughly snookered -- BAM. Lights out.
    I mean that literally. We've had some interesting thunderstorms (and loss of power) to go along with the sunshine. Add to that a horrendous ear infection all week -- and every time the storm starts building, I get an increasing amount of pressure. So either this weather is going to even out, or my head's going to explode. Maybe both.

In the meantime, you might enjoy a new week's worth of recipes at the Holiday Goodies blog, in honor of our Great Volunteer Tax Contribution. (Volunteer, my foot. Ask Wesley Snipes about that.) Flat-Broke Food will offer some of the best cheap (and delicious) foods I can find. Today's offering is a classic: Macaroni & Cheese.

The Stars All Around book giveaway is winding down, too...only a few days left to enter. You get one vote for commenting, and three if you 'follow' or subscribe via e-mail to this blog. Go take a look at the original post.   

For those of you on the road, a very interesting analysis of current airport security by a former head of TSA. In short, he's advocating letting us carry on jack knives, scissors, rotary cutters (hooray!) and even *gasp* liquids. What a radical. (We still have to take our shoes off, though. Plus more:)

Have a good, hopefully tax-free weekend. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Intriguing Patriotic Feedsack

...and a very, very rare one. In all the years I've been teaching and writing about textiles, I can only remember seeing this WWII feedsack once for sure -- in Nancy Kirk's collection. (Seems like I saw it in a photo, as well.) Well, now the photo is a definite -- 

You can see it via its original Ebay listing, as well.

"Material seems very crisp and unlaundered," says the seller. "The printed label information along one edge is Kent's - Cloth of the United Nations - 233. The dimensions are 36-12"w x 43" L. Full of many different wartime scenes and symbols such as: Pearl Harbor, Red Cross, The Russian Bear at Stalingrad, Flying Tigers of China, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Bad Eggs Keep 'Em Frying (showing Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo in frying pan), etc."

Heavy cotton, heavy-woven. (Had to be, to keep the flour, etc. intact.) An absolute steal at $27 and change.

The "bad eggs" mention has stuck with me for all these years.  Strange, that I just did the other Egg post, and now eggs show up again...

Speaking of steals, don't forget -- the Stars All Around book giveaway is still going strong. You've only got until Sunday at midnight; take a minute to leave a comment at the original post. (If you're subscribed to this blog via e-mail, or 'following' it, let us know that, too -- that's 3 extra entries.) Good luck!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

An Ode To Egg

Google is offering a '$25-for-$60' coupon for -- a nice buy, if you enjoy artwork. (Google's special is good for 6 days -- you don't have to use the coupon until July, though. Go here for specifics.)
I was musing on getting 'Companions' by Augustus Egg:

Recognize it? Egg was a Victorian era painter, and one of Charles Dickens' traveling buddies. But more than that, he was a keen observer of humans -- how they looked, how one small gesture (like the girl's glance out the window) defined a personality.
    In grad school at Ann Arbor, I lived and worked in a house of one of the professors. Cleaning their house and taking care of their young daughter got me a room in the attic, plus breakfast. (Lunch too, if I came home and walked the dog.) They had two paintings by Egg on the dining room wall: one showing 'past travel' (rowdies and drunks in a coach) and one showing 'present travel' (well-bred men and women daintily seated on clean benches). I had never lived with paintings before, and used to study Egg's work up close, admiring his use of paint dots and blobs to accomplish what he needed. Take a look, for example, at the girls' silk dresses. Wow, what a use of light!
    Egg was popular in his time -- 19th century England -- but not very well known today. A shame, because his work was astonishing. (See more here.) His most recognizable work is probably an 1858 triptych called Past and Present, now hanging in Tate Britain in London. The paintings were accompanied by this fictional diary note:

August the 4th - Have just heard that B— has been dead more than a fortnight, so his poor children have now lost both parents.
I hear she was seen on Friday last near the Strand, evidently without a place to lay her head. What a fall hers has been!

Painting 1 -- Misfortune (Husband finds a lover's note to his wife; she begs for forgiveness)
Painting 2 -- Prayer (Orphaned daughters praying for their mother -- note the moon, because it also appears in...)

  Painting 3 -- Despair (The woman, now scorned and abandoned, finds shelter --note the little baby toes peeking out of her shawl.)
(paintings courtesy of Wikipedia and

See what I mean? Subtle...but what power.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Hooray -- Allison Aller's Crazy quilt's been found!

It was lost after it was shown in C&T's booth during a trade show in recent months-- lost permanently, I'd feared. It was one of the foundation pieces in her new book, Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting. (Look inside the book here. Great stuff.)

Guess not! Read all about it here

Now, if Karen Combs' stolen quilts would only turn up, as well...

Repurposing Gone Good

   Now that spring definitely seems to be here, I find myself in a tidying-up phase. All the broken and dented items are on their way to the trash can, along with papers and assorted dog hair. (We've got TONS of dog hair. Anyone need some?)
    But I'm not throwing everything out. Some of these items are perfect for making into Something Else:

Drop cloths into curtains. Linen-y homespun, luxurious curtains.

Feedsacks and burlap sacks into window shades. A bit rougher-looking, for perfect for country interiors.  (Funky Junk Interiors, the author of this idea, also does amazing things with wood pallets, including an extended desk I still am lusting after. She also made a large bulletin board out of  metal bed springs. Cute on her wall -- but ours is rusty, and just plain trashy.)

Mason jars into decorative pieces, storage containers, etc. including a very spiffy way to extend the life of your salad greens.

Boards, garden trellis pieces and plastic scraps into creating a vertical garden, thanks to Home Depot. (Amazing results. The key seems to be that you put in all sorts of supports, and grow it horizontally for three weeks before hanging on a wall.)

And that beat-up trash can? It can become a composter:

Got any clever ideas you've had for your own leftover stuff? Do share!!

P.S. You might enjoy yours truly's next in the series, "Investing On A Shoestring:" the current installment is on paper ephemera. (Older posts include maps, books and silver.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stars All Around Giveaway!

Yep, it's time for the next giveaway -- another star quilt book!

The cover quilt on Cherie's book is a stunner, and worth the price alone. But there are 13 more projects to try: 7 quilts, plus book covers, punchneedle rugs and more. Patterns are full-sized, and easy to use.
(Find out more about the book here, courtesy of publisher Kansas City STar.)

You can win a free copy of Cherie Ralston's  Stars All Around Us by leaving a comment at the end of this post. 'Follow' this blog, or subscribe to get posts by e-mail, and you've got 3 entries! (Be sure to leave us a note in the comments about it.) Don't forget -- we'll need your name, at the very least, plus e-mail (which you can hide, of course), so we can ship your book!

Deadline for entering is Sunday, April 15 at midnight MST. (Think of it as a present for trudging through your taxes.) Thanks for visiting here at Brickworks, and we hope to hear from you!

Monday - No, Tuesday- Stuff on the Way To Other Stuff

Congratulations, Deb at Mountain Musings -- you just won yourself a Stars quilt book! E-mail us at Brickworks (or send your snail mail address to me at  and we'll get it shipped out. Another giveaway will start up shortly --

 Monday just got away from me. I had an appraisal to do, Daughter #1 to drop off, and Daughter #2 to pick up downtown in Denver. Everyone and their brother were wandering around aimlessly, waiting for the Rockies baseball opener -- after the fence incident, I had a horrible fear of winding up with someone in a Rockies purple/gray jersey plastered to the car grill. (They weren't paying that much attention to where they were going. Dingbats.) 
    In case you're wondering, the Rocks lost 7-0 to the Giants. I don't want to talk about it.

So here we go, from the wonders of the Internet:

The Alzheimer's Challenge has just gotten its 10,000 quilt donation! After the death of her mom from Alzheimer's, Ami Simms has poured her heart and energy into this very worthy cause. It's worth supporting -- yes, I've given. You should, too.

The motorcycle group who lines the road with an honor escort at military funerals -- so those creepy protestors can't be seen or heard. Good for them. 

How to save money on fast food -- courtesy of yours truly, and Tight Fisted Miser. (You might also enjoy my post on eating for $10 a week. Yes, it can be done.)

Carnivals are always fun, especially blog-related ones. You'll enjoy the Totally Money Carnival, courtesy of Millionaire Teacher -- but plan to take some time reading. A number of good links here, especially Add Vodka's ridiculous things she does to save money. (Don't miss the comments.)

A very illuminating discussion on why the National Women's History Museum hasn't gotten its act together, in spite of years to do it --plus a director who's been paid $165,000-plus yearly for quite some time. For a museum that doesn't exist yet.  (And is double-dipping by hiring her own direct mail firm to send out all the aid appeals. Hmmm.)

Make some Paska to celebrate the Easter season. I've been enjoying collecting Easter recipes for the Holiday Goodies blog, but never heard of this sweet Mennonite bread. Looks good, Funky Junk Interiors!

A whole slideshow of creepy Easter bunnies. (Including one with fangs. That'll give the kids nightmares.) And this slightly unnerving one:

We have snow, all right: a whole parade of snowy white and pink blooms, thanks to the crabapple and plum trees. Plants are actually growing -- now if I can keep them alive until the night frosts end...

Yep, looks a lot like this...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Happy Easter!

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. 
     You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 
                                         C.S. Lewis, in  Mere Christianity

STARS giveaway is almost up!

It closes tomorrow (Easter Sunday) at midnight MST.

Take a minute, leave a comment at the original post -- and you've automatically entered.

Become a 'follower' or subscribe via e-mail, mention it in a comment -- and you've got 3 entries!

Happy Easter!

Almost Easter. The dogs are snoring on the floor, comatose from Saturday morning pancakes. Daughter #1 is coming for supper tonight and dinner tomorrow -- I've got a lot to do before then. No coloring eggs this year, but I will try to get the dough for the hot cross buns rising this afternoon.

   If your schedule is tight, too, consider whipping up some Easter Bunnies--made from a tube of cinnamon rolls! Look here for more...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Slick Chick Cupcakes

Some of the cutest Easter cupcakes ever...and they're incredibly easy to make, thanks to donut holes and candy corn! Go to my Holiday Goodies blog for specifics --

Colorado Wildfires: So Now We Know

As if we were too stupid to figure this out.

From today's Huffington Post headline:

Colorado Wildfire: Controlled Burn Crews Did Not Check Weather Forecasts Which Would Have Predicted High Winds

From the article:

"The Colorado State Forest Service conducted a 50-acre prescribed burn on March 22... It wasn't far from site of the monstrous Hayman Fire 10 years ago, and this burn was a precaution.
Once the fire was out, crews patrolled the perimeter daily to make sure it stayed that way...the hot afternoon of Monday, March 26, that they spotted an ember blown across the perimeter and lighting grass. What they hadn't done in all their methodical planning was ask for real-time weather forecasts that would have predicted vicious, swirling winds. 

          [And they were bad -- up to 40-50 mph. Totally normal for us this time of year.]

     From there, a deadly cascade of missteps combined with the vagaries of wind and fire to produce another tragedy in the Rocky Mountains...The 6-square-mile blaze killed three people, destroyed dozens of homes near the small town of Conifer and raised questions about what could have been done to contain the human and material losses..."

"'This is heartbreaking, and we are sorry,' deputy state forester Joe Duda said."

Thanks, Colorado State Forest Service (and Joe).  I feel much better now.

Read the full report here. Grrr.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On...

That's been this week's theme: Get Your Work Done, and worry about the other stuff later.

I've failed miserably. 

Sure, I've kept up with the everyday stuff -- and the house doesn't even look too bad.

 Appraisals are caught up; even did one late last night for a client and her husband on the way to Idaho. (They got stuck in New Mexico because of the snow, and didn't manage to get here until late.)

(Speaking of snow -- we got it, too. But the 3+ inches melted fast. Only a few traces left.)

Got the crown finished up. (This silly tooth is now up to about $2400, thanks to the crown and a root canal before it. Not to mention putting up with jokes from the family about royalty, 'Your Highness,' and so on. They think they're being terribly funny. Sigh.)

Bills are paid. I don't know how, but we had a surplus this month. (Whew)

Orders are up to date. Business work generally ok (other than taxes). This is remarkable in itself, since my staffers have been off for the past few weeks, and it's just been yours truly.

Piano and voice students have been accommodated. Made it to all the practices, too.

Sent a check to the man whose fence I creamed. (He kindly only charged materials & labor-- $150 - what a relief.)

Haven't gotten sick...but not sleeping well, either. Neither is the Brick. (Is it the time change??)

Kept up with posting here -- and elsewhere. (Started writing for a new blog: Penny Thots. Go take a look!) Didn't realize how difficult this would be, to keep things going, day after day, week after week. So many blogs start hearty, then fade into the sunset. Like this one, which began with a tale of job loss, and ended up just blurring out... (Too bad, I was just getting interested.)

Taxes are looming  -- and a ton of restoration work has to be finished up.
The basement still has to be painted, and things put away. (We'll start on that Sunday...)

 And this week has four different services the Brick and I have singing/playing responsibilities for. (Including a funeral for our friend Esther.) Easter week is difficult for Christians, because it reminds so strongly of Christ's sacrifice -- and what that really entailed. It's tougher when you have to keep your voice steady.

Maybe I'm doing better than I thought. I did not realize how many balls I kept up in the air these past few weeks...until I started writing it down. Yes, a few balls slipped -- but most are still up and spinning around.

Easter dinner won't be too fancy, except for ham and hot cross buns -- but it will be good. (A bottle of wine always helps; so does peanut butter fudge ice cream.) The other things will get done, somehow. I just need to hang in there...

Book Review And Giveaway: STARS!

Stars! A Study of 19th Century Star Quilts By the American Quilt Study Group
   (Kansas City Star, 2011)

This 'quilt history' book is not what it seems. Not only do you study the 39 quilts shown, but you get to see 39 inspiration quilts based on the originals.  And when you're suitably intrigued, move on to the pattern section -- 10 patterns for the inspiration quilts are included. (Take a closer look at the book here, along with sample pages.)
    The American Quilt Study Group is an association of textile-lovers who are interested in learning more about the historical and cultural aspects of quilting. If you enjoy history too, this group will appeal to you! (If you're wondering, yes, I'm a member.)

Yes, you can win a free copy of Stars! Leave a comment, and you're automatically entered in the giveaway. Subscribe via e-mail, or 'follow' the blog, and get three more entries. (Be sure to leave a comment to let us know.) Giveaway ends Easter Sunday at midnight -- we'll pick a winner randomly.

Every week will bring a new book giveaway -- be sure to stop in and see what's on the list!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Fun (And Thoughtful) Video

In honor of Abby (who's sleeping on my foot while I'm typing this)...
    and our brave military. May you all be welcomed home soon!

Monday Stuff on the Way To Other Stuff

 Gaye Ingram, you're the winner of the Victory Quilts Book -- congratulations! I'll be putting up the next giveaway tonight or tomorrow morning -- stop by to see what's up.

The fires are still not out. They are 70% contained -- but nearly 200 homes remain evacuated. (And firefighters found another body -- a woman in her early 50s who had been missing. That makes 3 people dead.) Good things and bad are happening today -- for the good, it's starting to rain, something we've not seen for weeks - maybe a month. Supposed to turn into snow tonight. After we've had temps in the 80s all weekend. Welcome to Colorado.
    And the bad? The wind has picked up -- big-time.

The peach trees I'd planted last year surprised us by flowering. I've got them covered up, as well as a big flat of plants from Home Depot. (The tomatoes are looking confused. Me too, buddies.) But this nasty, spitty weather is a nice reason to stay in and work on quilts.

Things I noticed wandering around the Internet:

 From the "do you really want to know this?" department:  How Osama bin Laden spent his time on the run. 

An interesting 'fair use exercise,' offered as a response to the Kate Spain/Emily Cielo situation. (Yup, the same 'designer fabric tote bags' question we've been discussing for the past few weeks.)

A soldier and his dog are reunited. (Got a big lump in my throat on this one.)

Debt Princess considers herself a loser -- in good ways and bad.

'Boiled Bunnies' are the kickoff on my 'Holiday Goodies' site. We'll be running Easter-related recipes every day all this week, so visit often!  (And if you're thinking about Basic Instinct right now, it's not my fault...)

A huge figure in the music world died last week -- Earl Scruggs. This man, with his partner Lester Flatt, literally changed bluegrass and country. One of his best-known songs:

(This version includes Steve Martin. He has his own bluegrass band now.)

 Mitt Romney falls for an April Fool's joke. 

A 1-year-old a washing machine. (I wish I could say that was an April Fool's joke, too.)

Be sure to stop by and visit DeSmet, SD, the home of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society. The site includes photos of Laura's homes, as well as answers to a long list of questions people ask about this famous author. I visited once, on the way to my dad's hometown of Corsica. (A little Dutch town, full of charm, way out on the prairie.) We weren't able to get into Pa and Ma's house (it was under restoration), but the Surveyors' House was so small, we felt like our heads were bumping on the ceiling. (My dad, at 6'3", had to stoop over. These people were small.)

And if you're curious, my posts on housing stocks for Investorz Bloginvesting on a shoestring - books (same site), and flying Spirit Airlines, for My Retirement Blog. (We're planning to use Spirit when heading to our niece's wedding in early June. Tickets are $228, versus everyone else's $300 or more.)

This is an important week for Christians, and gives us much to think about.

Have a good week yerself.