Friday, June 29, 2012

New Giveaway: Kids Quilt Together

by Kathy Emmel (C&T Publishing)

Kathy's book is one of the very best for helping kids make group quilts, starting design to final stitch. Step-by-step photos help you follow the process, and three simple quilt designs are included.
    This book is terrific not only for beginning quilters, but also homeschoolers, 4H, Girl Scouts and, of course, teachers!
    And it may be yours, if you're our random winner. All you have to do is leave a comment below. If you're 'following' this blog, or subscribing by e-mail, leave a second comment -- it's good for 3 entries!  Contest closes Sunday, July 8 at midnight MST. Have at it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Colorado Wildfires Update

It rained -- softly, but steady -- for about an hour this afternoon. That's the first rain I believe we've had since the hailstorm two-plus weeks ago.  

Hopefully it helped with the fires. (Update: Apparently it is, according to this report -- at least in northern Colorado. Evacuations continue -- or are at least threatened -- in the Colorado Springs area and further north, up into Monument.)

They're still going -- they even show up by satellite now. But hopefully the rain gave the firefighters a bit more foothold.

Keep praying.

Little Decisions That Make A Big Difference: Part I

The heat has brought out the 'skeeters at our place. Used to be that we could enjoy a leisurely supper out on the patio at night. Now, once dusk sets in, so do the divebombers.
     I'm looking forward to trying out this homemade mosquito repellant. It might work for you, too!

I have been thinking about choices lately -- not just emotional ones, but physical and financial, that literally changed my life (and that of the Brick's) over the past 50-plus years. Perhaps our decisions mirror yours; perhaps they're different. But they've put us where we are -- and made us who we are. Thankfully, God's grace has been evident all along the way. 

This will be a four- or five-part series. 
Today's shot: STARTING OUT

     I grew up in a little farm town north of Grand Rapids, MI. It was small and rural enough that a bale of hay and a watering trough were kept at City Hall, just in case someone decided to ride their horse to town, rather than take the car.
    My ancestors helped found the area in the 1840s, and my parents lived on one of the family farms. In fact, the Mama was born on the front porch of our house. The farm wasn't one of Michigan's 'centennial' farms -- it had gone out of the family for some years. The folks bought it, 37 acres, for the 'astronomical' price of $10,000. ((They'd saved for the down payment by living with my grandma after their marriage and pinching every penny -- we didn't even have a tv until I was in fourth grade.)
    Dad worked at my uncle's farm equipment dealer, as a mechanic. His standard uniform was navy blue work shirt and pants, complemented by heavy 'clodhopper' work shoes. (In fact, he rarely wore anything else until the cancer set in, some forty-five or so years later.) He drove the company pickup to and from work.
     He made $100 a week.
     In his leisure time (!!!), he ran the farm, growing corn, wheat, alfalfa. We always had at least one pig or steer for the family meat, and often raised more to sell. The farming occasionally made a good income in bumper crop years -- but more often broke even, or barely a little more.
     Mom took care of my little brother and me, grew a huge vegetable garden, recycled hand-me-downs from our cousins, and sewed not only for us, but other people. She also did other jobs to help out, especially catering. (I remember her taking in ironing for a while, as well.)
    Our farm was (and is) in a big fruit area. When we wanted apples, strawberries or blueberries, we either bought them directly from the farmer -- or took advantage of the 'U-Pick' system. I can remember hot sultry summer mornings, crouched over the rows to get enough berries for jam and strawberry shortcake. (And being yelled at by the Mama: 'quit eating so many, or we'll never get done!') We raised red raspberries, and I could find blackberries out in the woods. (They were smaller, but made the most exquisite jam.)
    Asparagus grew wild in the ditches alongside the road, along with clouds of pink rosebushes. (It wasn't until middle school that I realized asparagus was considered a delicacy -- it was just everyday fare to us. Same for steaks and real maple syrup -- my grandparents had even run a 'sugar bush' for a while.)
    Dad's paycheck was carefully parcelled out. The folks believed strongly in tithing, so 10% first went to the church and contributions. For the rest, the first week (plus some extra) covered the mortgage; the second, utilities and gas. What was left over paid for food, doctor's visits, school expenses, vacations, presents, and the rest of everyday living expenses. There were no sick days for Dad, as I remember, and only a week for vacation -- the rest of the time, 6 days a week, he went to work.
    Saturdays were our 'celebration:' in the morning, the Mama took us to town (two miles away) to grocery shop -- and visit the library! I can still remember the awe-inspiring smell of dust and old books that Carnegie library building gave out, and the idea of shelves and shelves of books, just waiting for me. After our armload of books, it was across the street to -- the ice cream parlor! It had more than twenty flavors: could I bear to get another kind, instead of my usual single scoop of bubble gum?
    After chores, it was off to read the latest book, knowing that hamburgers and french fries were coming for supper. Sometimes the Mama sent us down to the corn patch just beforehand, to get sweet corn fresh for the meal. We drank gallons of unsweetened iced tea, and carried a fruit jar full, along with a handful of cookies, out to Dad out on the tractor. Kool-Aid was around too, and occasionally lemonade, but rarely fruit juice -- unless the Mama had canned it, or it was frozen orange juice doled out in a little glass at breakfast.
    We went to the local A&W drive-in once every week or so for a root beer. (We kids got the little courtesy glasses.) If we really splurged, we went to the Swan Inn, with real tablecloths, waitresses and a treasure chest to choose a prize from!
    Other than get-togethers with our large family (more on that in a bit), that was the extent of our entertainment. We did not go to movies, ball games or such, and only saw television at Grandma's or cousins' houses. (This didn't seem like deprivation -- it was just the way it was.)
     I did not realize back then that sweet corn and fat tomatoes fresh from the patch would be a luxury today. Nor did I think about nearly all of my clothes being either home-sewn or hand-me-downs. I did learn some lessons, though:
    Working -- and supporting yourself -- keeps your pride strong. We didn't have much after the bills were paid. But we also didn't owe anyone, except for the farm. Going in debt was foolish and to be avoided, unless absolutely necessary. If you couldn't pay cash for it, you couldn't afford it. I learned this lesson very, very well from my parents. So did Little Brother.
     If you raise your own food, you know exactly what's in it. We were gardening organically before I even knew that word -- Dad would till in cow manure, and we hand-weeded and picked off the tomato worms. The pigs and cattle ate the weeds we threw in, and spoiled fruit or vegetables, and produced the manure that fed the garden. A very handy system. And we still have lots of options today in this area.
     Need something? Grow it, make it or finagle it yourself. Or go without. Dad could fix anything, with bits of scrap iron and a shot of fuel oil. (Cow manure, grease, sweat and a side whiff of Old Spice -- that was how he smelled. Still makes me nostalgic for him.) The outfits the Mama sewed made me the envy of my classmates. She could whip up a Barbie birthday cake or potroast, and there was no better treat coming home from school than her bread, hot from the oven, spread with butter and strawberry jam. (Unless it was her chocolate chip cookies.)
     Mom and Dad loved each other, and they loved us. It was a happy, peaceful life. The fact that we didn't have a lot really didn't seem to matter that much.  Were we poor? Compared to some of our cousins -- not to mention the la-dee-dah people I read about in books -- yes. But not to others.

Next installment:  EDUCATION -- AND WORK


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Colorado Wildfires

Whoo boy, it's hot. And smoky.

A hot, dry wind is fanning the flames of our several wildfires here in Colorado. A new problem has developed: not only are the fires still burning in several areas, but authorities keep closing/reopening/closing roads to try and deal with the issue. You may not be able to get home on the same road you took to least not for a while.
    Last night, a huge plume of smoke was evident near Pike's Peak. (Yes, that road is closed.) The smoke has extended all along the horizon (mountains) and reaches north, to the fires up there. Because there are fires in the Estes Park area, as well, the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is also closed.
    We're safe so far -- but a lot of people are not. Read more here.
     And here...

The strangest thing: even if you're not in a burning area, you can still taste the smoke in the back of your throat. And allergies -- does it make them flare up! Weird...

Sooner or later, this will calm down. But we still have a while to go.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

 More heat...and more fires in Colorado, as well. The air has a definite acrid taste in your throat. We're lucky -- many people south, north and west of our area are being evacuated. Denver's all right, as well. But Fort Collins or Colorado Springs -- that may be another story. 
    Temps have broken at least two records, maybe more. And it's another scorcher today.

Beth Blevins, you've won the America's Glorious Quilts giveaway -- congratulations! Please contact us at my personal e-mail, -- we've got a book to send to you. Beth was the very last person to register...which goes to show you that 'better late than never' sometimes wins it!
    Our next giveaway will start tonight or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, stuff found on the Internet:

 What it feels like to be a real princess -- Kate, on a camping trip, tells all.

Not that her life is much different, since husband William is now able to tap his half of the inheritance from his mom. It isn't much -- a buck or two less than $16 million. Happy Birthday, Will, by the way!

Jello Firecrackers -- These jello treats are way easy, but striking!

How revisiting your darkest hour is not a bad idea. Trent of The Simple Dollar calls it "the longest night," but it's the same -- a period when you were truly despairing. 

The next two are for writers...skip if you're not interested.

Writing for publication -- and how the writer feels about the publisher that's 'handling' them.  This girl switched to e-publishing her own stuff...and I can't blame her. I've been lucky to have reasonably good publishers. That means they showed a modicum of interest (which largely disappeared, once the book was done) to absolute indifference. Publicity? Snort -- my books wouldn't be selling unless I put the effort into publicizing them. That's been frustrating.
How some authors are being pushed to write two novels a year -- instead of just one. Doesn't the author have any say in this...or are they just too much of a weenie to push back? On the other hand, 'pushing' a publisher in anything is terrifying: you're scared they'll just rip up the contract and walk away.  

A cache of pirate treasure and other rare coins...bought for less than $1000 from a foreclosed storage locker! (Conservative value: around $500,000.)

A couple asked to stand up front while their military son stationed in Afghanistan offers a prayer via video...and what happens.

Want to get ahead? Act like the underdog, whether you are or not. (Financial Samurai's got some interesting ideas here.)

The school bus monitor who was bullied, Oops, the innocent little dears who did it were caught on tape! (They're now being investigated by school authorities. Not because the incident was reported by other students -- but because the tape went viral.) I have a soft spot on in my heart about this -- the Brick drove bus routes for years, and saw some incredible things, including kids who tried to set the back seat on fire. (Almost succeeded, too.) In many cases, the kids tried to argue that they hadn't done anything. Double oops, there's now video equipment on many busses!
      I used to substitute teach, and had many rude students, who saw me as an easy target because I was 'temporary.' Too bad they usually got sent to the office.
     One middle schooler filed a complaint because I refused to say I was pro-abortion. She said I was 'mean' and was forcing the class to listen to propaganda. Never did that -- I just said I was pro-life, and there were more sides to the issue. (And that was it.) I had a long meeting with the principal, who sternly grilled me about my actions. He never once called in the student, or asked her to prove what she accused me of.  (Really. Not making this up, folks.)
    Oh, for parents who might -- just might -- acknowledge that their little darlings may have done or said rude, cruel or destructive things. Parents like that are out there...just in the minority.

Frugal teeth-whitening tips, thanks to Money Saving Mom. (I'm going to try the hydrogen peroxide, will let you know how it works.)

Alec Baldwin drops his pants on national tv. David Letterman follows suit. (Only classy stuff on this blog!)

Twenty-one photos that leave a lump in your throat. Honest.

And just in case you didn't know they even had world championships for this:

Have a good week.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Money Moments, Shopping for Christmas (!!!)...and the Friday Store

We have nine hot chicks at this place..

Shoot, we've got eleven -- Abby the dog and I round out the number. And two hot guys. (The Brick and Charley the dog.) It is just blazing here, with only the hint of a breeze. We hang out by the fan, slug down smoothies, and hope for nightfall and coolness.
   I can't remember it being this warm so early in the season. Denver is set to break a post-100 record set back in 1954. (The Brick just checked, and our thermometer says 100. Bet they did it.)

Ever wonder what other people consider their most awkward moments financially? This survey will tell you. Two of my favorites are in there: being hit up by a panhandler, and being asked to contribute to an office present. Maybe yours are mentioned there, too.

Also, Donna Freedman dares to suggest in her Frugal Cool column -- gasp -- shopping for Christmas in June! Based on some of the comments, you'd think she'd stolen Baby Jesus out of the creche display. (Maybe they're crabby because of the heat.)
    I grinned to myself, because I'd just bought two exquisite little pieces of glass, one for each daughter's Christmas stocking. Less than a buck each. Squeaky dog toys for each pet in ours and the girlies' households. (We're currently up to four, with more coming.) Also a buck each. (They normally retail for around $5 or more.)
    Could I wait until November to start this? Sure...and I'd pay much more for each present. Better to keep an eye out now and grab the bargains. Also, if I catch the flu the same time as the Christmas Spirit, I have items ready, without having to shop. (Learned this the hard way one year. Trudging through the snow with a 102-degree fever is no fun.)
    Keeping a casual eye out for things doesn't hurt you a bit -- and it may save some serious money in the long run.

Speaking of saving money, (and after I'd read this), I have been meaning to mention one of my newest favorite places to shop -- a grocery salvage called the Friday Store. (I knew it first as 'The Friday/Saturday Store' --  it's only open on Fridays and Saturdays.) This place is tucked into a warehouse area in Arvada, one of Denver's suburbs. It doesn't look like much from the outside -- but oh, the wonders within!
     You never know what's specifically available, although there are always general groceries: canned fruits, meats, soups, sauces; bottles of juice and bags of coffee; cookies, breads, candy; fresh and frozen meats, cheese, fish, dairy products. What's so exhilarating is that these are almost always the very high-end brands, with 'organic' prominently featured -- at very low-end prices! I consistently buy brands like Starbucks, Pepperidge Farm and such at literally dimes on the dollar. Cheese: no more than $2 pound. (One two-pound bag of Pepper Jack cheese cubes on the last trip: $1/lb.)
    Their frozen meat/fish prices can vary, but are still terrific -- boneless skinless chicken thighs for .39/lb! (When was the last time you bought boneless chicken for less than 50 cents a pound??) Frozen whole snapper: $2/lb; crab cake mix $2.50/lb. (And it was real crab, too, not the fake stuff.) Steaks, pork chops, even buffalo burgers were easily 1/3 - 1/2 of typical sale prices in grocery stores.
    Some of these packages and cans are a little beat-up. (Many are not.) Some are slightly out of date. (Don't buy it, if it bothers you.) But after nearly a year of shopping there, I have only had one (canned) item not taste quiiite right. And the fresh/frozen stuff was uniformly wonderful. That's a better percentage than my shopping at regular grocery stores!
     I hesitate to mention this, especially if you live in the Denver, CO area. The store's gotten progressively busier every time I stop there. But if you're interested in buying only the best at rock-bottom prices, this is one place to stop. Just be kind to that absentminded girl with the shopping cart full of yogurt.
    And if you haven't tried a grocery salvage place, you should! Grocery Outlet (especially if you live in California) or Save-A-Lot are a good place to start -- some of my friends swear by Aldi's, as well. (We don't have those here -- darn it.) Or do a search for 'grocery salvage' or 'Amish food store,' and they should pop right up in your area. (A good list and starting point are here.) We used to shop regularly at an Amish bulk foods store in Jamesport, MO, when my mother-in-law lived not far from there. These places are often out of the way...but worth the trip.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Interview with Octomom

I have a deep, dark secret to confess. 

I am curious about Octomom.

Nadya Suleman is the mother of 14 kids -- the last 8, all at once. She's pretty, in a big-eyed, big-chested sort of way. She looks reasonably intelligent.
      So why did she have all those kids?

Her reason: she was 'self-medicating with babies.'

According to her, she hates all this media attention. And she saved for years to be able to afford in-vitro fertilization. (Oops, that's not exactly true -- she eventually admitted to borrowing to get that money.)

Maybe you saw her 'intervention' last year on the Oprah show, with Suze Orman in tow. Suze said up-front that she didn't quiiite trust Nadya (too many lies, said too glibly), but both Suze and Oprah thought the kids should get a break.
     It's a long, involved report -- but Suze's advice holds true for all of us.

Can't pay your bills? Then hold off on the luxuries -- cable, workouts, trainers, nails done, fancy stuff. Quit buying so many presents at Christmas. (Nadya admitted she spent EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS on toys for the kids one year. She also said meekly that if she'd realized she would be this broke -- she only had $300 in hand at the time of the interview -- she would have saved "every dollar.")

Suze also recommended getting an agent, and finding ways for more income -- particularly selling all those toys cluttering up the landscape.

The in-depth interview is here.

A sound bite is here:

So...has Octomom heeded Suze's advice, less than a year later?
Well, sort of.

She certainly has more side options for income, including topless bartending and stripping, a porn movie, photo shoots, per-minute-paid calls...and a sleazy loan commercial. This is the same woman who said she wanted to be valued for her mind, not her body.

Her house has been sold at auction back to the bank. (She stopped making payments long ago, and her landlord lost the house.) She and the kids will have to move somewhere else soon.

She filed for bankruptcy, claiming she was more than a million in debt. (Oops, her case was thrown out because she didn't file the proper paperwork.) Oops, one of the outstanding bills is DirectTV.

She's now on welfare and collecting food stamps -- something she said she would never do. But she's also still able to afford more than $500 on hair treatments.

What is this woman thinking??

Maybe that's the point -- she isn't.

She also said she'd never do a reality show. I'm guessing that's next.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home Again...And Matt

Back nestled at the computer after a long day teaching at the Piecing Partners Quilt Guild -- I had so much fun, hope you did too! Your enthusiasm for fabrics and ideas just had me reaching and stretching all day. Thank you for sharing yourselves with this tired quilt teacher.

If you haven't heard about 'Where the Hell is Matt,' this gawky kid enthusiastically dancing his way through countries and cultures, you've got a treat in store: he just posted his 2012 video.

Stop in at Youtube, and you can see previous years' worth of videos. Yes, this guy has been dancing his way around the world for YEARS! I especially love the outtakes:

and his 2008 video. Oh, the number of people willing to get goofy for pure joy's sake....

They're a new breath of fresh air and encouragement...enjoy.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Five Silly Things That Make My Heart Twitter

A new quilt idea out of left field. (Ok, this isn't that silly!)
      Like using your leftover blocks to reupholster furniture:
(see for it)

Or this gem, from -- cool use of a curved patch unit, mixed with scraps! Wow...

(These are both from my Pinterest boards.)

Caramel corn. Whoo boy -- crunchy, salty and sweet -- all at the same time. And not really that high in calories...especially when you can make it yourself.

Remington Steele. Mysteries. Elegance.Pretty faces. (Steele's included.) Lippy comments, and that little 'itch' of romance. What more could you ask for?

Frugal cookbooks. Best thing in the world when you feel like you don't have two nickels to rub together. That new meal helps stretch your single nickel further, too.  (A pretty good list of cookbooks is here.)

 The E*Trade baby commercials...what can I say.
Got any silliness you're willing to admit to?

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff

It's been a quiet week in Castle Rock, my home town -- if you don't count the smoke, that is. The forest fires north are still not under control: more than 43,000 acres now, larger than Boulder and Fort Collins put together. The taste of ash is in the air, even two hours south, where we live. We finally got some rain two days ago, but temps have been in the 90s, and the wind is hot and dry. Not much inspiration to get anything done.
     The Brick is headed to Pueblo, two hours further south, for a week of training and Bus Driving Shenanigans. (They have a big rodeo for transportation people around the state.) Unfortunately, this also means that he'll be out in the heat, judging how well school bus drivers make their turns and maneuver down the alleys. Temps are supposed to be in the high 90s all week. (Poor guy.)
     I have a gig Wednesday for the Piecing Partners Quilt Guild in Colorado Springs -- come on over to hear more about patriotic quilts and fabrics over the past centuries! In the afternoon, I'll be teaching how to date and restore quilts. There's still space left in the class -- we'd love to have you attend. 
     Other than that, it's live and let live. (Oh, and try to breathe, too.) Stuff I ran across this past week:

The importance of a emergency/natural disaster fund --  during times you'd never guess you need it. (Don't we know it, thanks to our recent hailstorm.) Thanks, Simple Island Living. I don't know whether to hate or love this blog -- she makes a lot of decisions I wouldn't, and then again she does exactly what I would! Regardless, this blog is a fascinating read.

Sea Serpents, kid-style. Thanks to Full Bellies, Happy Kids. Incredibly cute, even though it's basically just a tuna sandwich. 

The irresponsibility of borrowing you can borrow more money. Sounds convoluted -- but honest, it makes sense, thanks to the Financial Samurai.

Judgey McJudgeypants. A quick look at People Living Comfortably Who Gripe. (Actually, it's also more about how they deal with their expenses, including this Toronto Life article, "Almost Rich" --and its look at five families' finances. (Thanks, Single Mom Rich Mom.)

Rodney King is dead. That name doesn't strike much recognition to my girlies, but I remember the riots his arrest (and beating) spawned in L.A. and elsewhere all too well. King received $3.8 million in a lawsuit settlement -- and blew most of it on a hip-hip record label. But he had enough left to be drinking and smoking weed most of the day before he died. (How he died -- other than being found in a swimming pool -- is still under question.) He was 47.

The power of a stealth stockup, thanks to Donna Freedman. One of my very favorite frugalistas explains how a few bucks a week can beef up your pantry and supply closet. (And she's right!)

What the Library of Congress thinks about orphan works -- and protecting them. These, by the way, are images that authorship cannot be found for -- then, once the image is used, the original author turns up and demands payment, etc. The speaker estimates that 80% of the photos used on the Internet are orphan works. (Could well be -- they're rife on Pinterest, which makes it a scary place to post sometimes.) This is full of legalese, but important, nonetheless.

A simple, basic way to cut a boy's hair. This tutorial is very helpful, step by step. I used to cut the girlies' bangs regularly, but was a little scared to tussle with the rest of their haircut. This makes it look easier. (While you're at it read Kimberly's -- Raising Olives -- 'not me' post, about cutting hair and (ahem) bare facts!

How to clip a chicken's wings to keep it from flying out of the pen. I wonder why I need to know this right now?!? (Fine. So most of you reading don't. Be that way.)

And to keep you in the mood...

Don't forget -- you can still enter to win your own copy of one of the nicest quilt books ever -- America's Glorious Quilts. Find out more here.

Have a good week -- talk to you again soon.

Father's Day

I couldn't sleep.

Thus this post, written at 4 in the morning. A lot of things that need to be done, some worries about family, and Father's Day have been on my mind.

This is the third Father's Day I've celebrated without my dad, Pete DeVries. A big Dutch farmer, he never had much to say -- except to me, my brother, and The Mama. But his life spoke volumes.

I miss him so much. 

Thought of him last week, when we used the roll of hardware cloth he'd given us years ago to rig up a chicken run. Thought of him again, when I looked at the Brick's clever design. (Dad would have been so proud -- Dave used an old library table, wrapped it with close-knit wire, then 'married' the whole thing to the chicken coop. Not an extra cent spent -- and the chickies love their new space.)

Dad grew up in rural South Dakota, where you had to work like this -- there were no part stores or Wal-Mart to run to, in Corsica. Then it became a skill; at our niece's wedding, the preacher mentioned being on a church youth bus trip to New Mexico, where the bus broke down. According to him, Dad repaired the bus with little more than gum and a rubber band, so they could get it moving again.

I wouldn't put it past him, at all.

Even when he had access to parts and such, he still took great pleasure in 'being a Hollander' and figuring out it out himself. (He could even listen to a motor on the phone, then diagnose it, including parts needed.) When he died, he was working on a perpetual energy motor -- knowing my dad, he would eventually have figured it out!

I am lucky to have married a man that, whether or not I realized it back then, was a lot like my dad: quiet, resourceful, deep convictions. I am lucky he not only loved and cared for me, but our girlies, as well.

Even though he is temporarily gone -- I will see him again -- I am lucky to have had my dad in my life for as long as I -- we -- did.

Happy Father's Day David -- and Pa. I love you both.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Have Your Cake -- And Wear It, Too

Did you ever have a Barbie cake for your birthday?

(I know guys read this blog...maybe they had G.I. Joes.)

As a kid, the Mama took one of my favorite Barbies and gave her an elaborate hoop skirt made out of cake, with frosting 'ruffles.' She also did it for our girlies, who were thrilled. I thought more about that, when I saw this post from Frugal Upstate, one of my favorite bloggers:

Making a Barbie cake without a special mold.

Ok, this one's from Jen at Frugal Upstate...
   and the photo below is what got me to thinking about Barbie cakes again!

This one's a 'wedding dress' cake, via Pinterest, from (Here's the full link, so you can take a better look at it.) More effort, obviously (including an extra small cake for the 'train'). But if you used one of those decorative miniature dress forms...and some frosting decorating tips...and some practice...
    I think you could do it.
Can't you see this as a Victorian-style cake, for a friend who loves old things? Or a special dessert for a fancy tea?
    It's one of the loveliest -- and most innovative -- cakes I've seen in a long time. Gives me ideas...that may be bad, or it may be wonderful!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Texans Are Coming! (Again. I Wish.)

Okay, Dear Readers, part two of What I Did During My Summer Last Week.

Picture this:
The basement is nearly done. New windows, wall, mostly scrubbed down and painted. (Ceiling paint dripping in my hair, while listening to the Smothers Brothers album -- a memory I will forever keep from this period.)

The garden looks glorious. Roses are blooming their heads off, hibiscus and pinks looking perky on the deck. Lawn's freshly cut, and the dog holes filled in. (No thanks to you, Charley & Abby.)

Friend Jo is over, helping. Her car is out front.

And the hail begins. 

Two hours later, much of it groping around in the dark downstairs (we lost power), the garden's trashed. We've spent a bunch of time mopping and moving things. The lecture I'd planned to give outside in the sunshine, with the quilts pinned to the clothesline -- well, I could still do it, provided the Texans wouldn't mind sitting in ankle-deep slush.
    Jo's car is a mass of dents. (Ours gets its share, too.) Our roof isn't doing so good, and the skylight is leaking. (Turns out it's smashed.) This was the worst hail we've ever seen in nearly 30 years of living in Colorado.
    The Brick and I head down to the church to get folding chairs....but we get stuck at the bottom of the street, where the hail is now knee-deep in the culvert. The Cherokee, which normally goes through anything, stops like it's been lassoed.
    Our neighbor's there, too. Within sight of her own driveway.
   Finally, another truck comes by and pulls us both out. (Another vivid thing to remember: guys in shorts and sandals shoveling away hail!) We get the chairs, straggle back, fall into bed.

Next morning, bright and early, come 41 members on the Common Threads quilt tour -- Texans (and a few Oklahoma girls) on the move. They've been sponsored by the Common Threads quilt shop in Waxahachie, TX. (See the shop here -- it's a beauty.) A huge bus pulls up by the house (our neighbors gaping behind their curtains), and ladies come pouring out. They wander around the backyard, looking at the hail. (And the chickens, who are just as curious about them.) They're remarkably tactful about the piles of shredded greenery that decorate everything.
    Down they go, to the basement, where we keep Brickworks' offices and (now) teaching area. It's been crammed to the gills with folding chairs -- and because the morning's chilly, we've lit a small fire in the fireplace. (Polite coughs from some of the audience -- I should have thought to open the dampers upstairs, as well as down. Sigh.)
     Racks full of quilts, feedsacks and tops are waiting for them -- and a lecture on Quilts of the Golden West. I tell them all about how the pioneers used quilt patterns (like the Wagon Wheel) and special fabrics (like California Gold) to remember their long trek west. Money played a huge role, too, including the fight between the gold and silver standards. (You can learn more about this, as well, if you take a look at my book. See sample pages here. )

   Much looking at quilts ensues, including this 1834 Medallion top, signed and dated by Eliza A. Norris. She never finished it, poor girl...I wonder why?

Deep discussion, photos...the Texans have a number of interesting things to say. (I've never known one that didn't.) They especially have an opinion about one of the girls on the Golden West quilt, the Yellow Rose of Texas! We talk about others on the quilt, including Molly Brown, Belle Starr (who took her gold), and my own favorite -- Baby Doe Tabor.
     The rest of the morning is spent having a snack, strolling the backyard, and trying out one of my favorite how-to methods: painting lace -- colorfast and washable. (You can learn the method in my Hanky Panky sequel, Hanky Panky with a Flourish. It will be out soon.) We have a great time, talking and looking at the quilts. One lady says suddenly, "You're barefoot!" (I'd kicked off my sandals absentmindedly while padding around -- didn't want to step on anything critical and get mud on it.)
    All too soon, the ladies are back on the bus and it rumbles out of the neighborhood, on its way to the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden. A few discarded paper napkins, a grape or two and three tired people are left in their wake. (Not to mention the garbage cans of wet things.) I keep the memory of a roomful of people -- bright eyes, thoughtful comments, kindness and warmth that would melt the hail off anyone's backyard.

    They, like pretty much every Texan I've met, leave a hole when they're gone. Come on back anytime, ladies! You can even say "bless your li'l heart" to this bemused Coloradoan. Hope you had a wonderful trip.

A New Giveaway: America's Glorious Quilts

Hey, it's been a while, thanks to hail, Texans and other interesting events...

So why not reopen the book giveaway with a splash!

   by Doris Duke Dennis & Harding

This enormous encyclopedia of quilting includes thoughtful, well-researched articles on various styles. (The one on Crazy quilts is especially good.) The best part, though, are large, vivid color photos you can really study for details and technique. From the outside, it looks like a coffee table book -- but it really is a self-education course in quilting and quilt history. A wonderful book.

    And now it's FREE to someone who enters the giveaway! 
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Perhaps...
     How do you continue to quilt when it's hot?
     What's your favorite quilt show or conference to go to?

Or anything you like.
 Leave a comment -- and you're automatically entered in the giveaway! (Be sure to use your name, and include a way for us to contact you.)

That's not all. Sign up to get blogposts by e-mail...or 'follow' it, mention it in a separate post below, and you've got 3 extra entries in the giveaway!

Giveaway ends next Sunday, June 24, at midnight MST, and the lucky winner will be randomly chosen on Monday. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stolen Valor Update on Timothy Poe

Remember my mention of Timothy Poe, the America's Got Talent contestant, who used a fake military photo?  (Actually, the photo was real -- it just wasn't HIS photo.) He also blamed a grenade incident as the reason why he stuttered...

Well, he did serve briefly in Afghanistan -- but seems to have made his heroic story up. (Too bad - he reduced the audience to tears with it.)

Update's here, thanks to the Minnesota National Guard -- and it's not pretty.

Scooter Goes Viral

Friend Ami Simms' dog Scooter is on the Huffington Post! And it's not for his energetic manner, either....

I don't get it. One click of the refrigerator, and our Charley practically throws his back out, leaping up. Go figure..

You can meet Scooter and read more about him on Ami's website

Wednesday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff...Hail, No!

 It's nice to finally be catching up on things. The chickies have a new run attached to their coop...a bunch of things have been Taken Care Of...and I cleaned the freezer out. (What -- you don't dread defrosting the freezer?? Jimmy Hoffa could have been stashed in there, for all we knew.)

Colorado is on fire again. West of Fort Collins, the High Park fire is up to 20,000 acres -- and growing. One person has died, so far, and of course, a bunch of houses burned. It's so dry here. We dread summertime for the chance that a careless blaze will really torch the entire area. To make things even more interesting, both the New Mexico fires and the High Park fire have been contributing to smoky skies and air here. Makes it harder to breathe. 
     A few brave leaves are beginning to pop up from the garden, and the plants on the deck. Last week, our neck of the woods endured at least 6 inches of hail in nearly 2 hours of steady hail/rain. The Brick thinks we got closer to 9 inches. The windows were getting pounded so hard, I thought they would break. Thankfully, the dogs were inside, and the chickies well protected outside.
     All I know is that roofs and vehicles up and down our street are in the process of being evaluated, and roof contractors are showing up on my doorstep for "free consultations." (Ironically, Castle Rock, less than two miles from us, was only hit on the northern side -- the rest of the town hardly got any rain, let alone hail.)
     The garden had been beautiful -- the peas were knee-high and getting ready to bloom. The plants on the deck were in full roar, and our climbing rose plants were full of red and yellow petals. 
     Now a stray petal pokes up here and there, and the ground feels crunchy from dried greenery. The peach trees, which had more than a dozen fruits, now have two -- period. The three other fruit trees, planted only a few weeks ago, have one leaf. Period. Between them.
     I am really hoping that they come back. 

It could have been worse. Others around us had extensive flooding. (We just had a little.) Our neighbors had a ceiling cave in their family room, and were forced to throw out their basement carpet. Other friends had a baseball-sized chunk of hail smash their windshield -- at 65 mph on the highway. (Thankfully, they were ok.) 
    So we wait for the claims adjuster. (Of course, we had just changed our insurance company less than a week before this blessed event!) And I've cleaned up the wet things. I plant more beans -- and hope. 
    Meanwhile, here are some things I've bumbled across in the course of this week:
Martha Stewart's recipe for Dill Pickle Chips -- crisp and refreshing.

April Dykman, on what 'toxic friends' can do to you, emotionally and financially. (Family, too. Don't miss the comments -- they're even better than the post. Thanks, Get Rich Slowly.)

The transit of Venus across the sun -- it happened on the 6th. And we won't see it again...

Timothy Poe, America's Got Talent tryout -- submitted a photo of himself as a soldier in Afghanistan. wasn't him! Shades of Stolen Valor...

Speaking of huge cojones, the Salem, OR woman who claimed $3 million income via Turbo Tax...and got a $2 million-plus refund out of it. She managed to spend more than $150,000 before the IRS put two and two together, and arrested her for fraud. (Hmmm. Don't they DOUBLE-CHECK these things??) Her booking photo suggests she wasn't spending it on clothes...

I'll Have Another, the gutsy horse who won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, has been pulled from the third race, due to tendonitis. It's not sure whether he'll ever run again.  (He's officially listed as retired.)

Small miracles that happen every day, courtesy of Poor to Rich A Day At a Time
I'm a huge believer in these -- the Oriental rug from your friend's garage sale that just 'happens' be exactly the right size, color and design you needed. The high-end dress found at the thrift shop, just before a big party. (And it fits you like a glove.) I'm so grateful for these small, meaningful reminders that the Creator cares about us. Even when He doesn't have to.
There are moments like this, too -- small decisions that affect us for the rest of our lives. Ami Simms points this out clearly. (Well said, friend!)

Part Two on what's been happening around here tomorrow...and the next book giveaway. It's good to be back.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I'm Still Here...

just exhausted.

The Texans are on their way home...but not before they spent the morning here.

Oh, but that was before the 6-9 inches of hail (not to mention driving rain and flooding) we got the night before.

And we had company afterwards for a few nights.

Plus work.

And I'm beat.

Sorry for the silence...I'll be back in touch shortly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I stumbled into bed about 3 a.m., and woke at 7 this morning, just sure it was 9 -- and I needed to get up.
    Thankfully, it wasn't.
It is hard to believe, but work on the basement is actually progressing! We won't have everything done by tomorrow, but we'll have enough that I won't be too embarrassed.

    Why tomorrow? Because a busload of enthusiastic Texas quilters are headed to Brickworks in the morning, for a lecture on "Quilts of the Golden West." (Plus a demo, and a few goodies they don't know about yet.) Tonight, we'll set up the 45+ chairs out on the lawn. I'm going to pin the quilts on the clothesline, and take them down for my assistants to show around, bit by bit, as I talk. Have never done it this way -- but there's always a first.  
     I once even did a lecture by flashlight -- the power went out at the library, just when I'd started. And that included showing the quilts! The people there said it felt very pioneer-y.
     The chickies will be interested bystanders. (The dogs get to spend the morning in the bedroom -- poor things.) There's a ton of things to do yet, but I'll be back...and post the next book giveaway. Talk to you soon.

P.S. For ideas on saving on graduation and wedding presents, take a look at my latest post on the Penny Thots PF site...

Umm, Charley, I heard Mom's having all these Crazy Texans over...let's show 'em a good time!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm back -- And A Winner!

The wedding was fun...but it's nice to be home. We're having winds that threaten to blow everyone and their brother back to Michigan -- the dogs brace themselves when they step outside, but the chickies could care less. (Maybe because they're protected by the coop?)

Just when you think you've seen everything weird in the universe, comes along this:

A Dutch artist makes his dead cat Orville into a helicopter. 
    No, I am not making this up. I wish I were.

Funny, I just can't see our beloved dogs Buck and Goonie roaring overhead...and feel at peace with the thought. But it's just fine with Bart Jansen, who says now his pet got his 'wings.' (Can't help but think his cat would have been terribly embarrassed.)

Hmmm. Back to painting the basement. But before I go --

Pat, you're the winner of the Super Simple Strips book giveaway! I couldn't e-mail you directly, since your blogger status was protected. Please contact me at with your snail mail address, and we'll get your book on its way.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Keeping Cool...Even When You're Not

One of Money Saving Mom's readers wrote in, asking how to keep her children (who slept on the second floor) cool during blistering-hot nights. Made me think of Michigan summers, where nights were sometimes an exercise in how to keep breathing through the sweat. For some odd reason, the hornets who lived outside kept sneaking in, and hiding in our (apparently) nice cool bedclothes. I got stung more than once, just by going to bed. (Guess they didn't want to share.)
    Colorado can be just as hot -- but rarely as humid, which makes it slightly more bearable. Here are things we do that definitely help:

*Keep the curtains drawn
*Keep the windows closed, first thing in the morning. The Brick started doing this. I pooh-poohed it at first, but you can really tell the difference about 11 a.m.
*Open the windows in late afternoon or early evening, when cooler breezes start gathering. 
*Doing a wash? Let some of the clothes dry inside the house -- especially towels. Hang your clothes up on hangers, then let them drip-dry. In Colorado's dry air, this can make a real difference.
*Drape a wet towel over your fan....or hang it in front it. (Careful not to shock yourself...) Or put a pan of water in front of the fan. A side bonus of the pan-of-water theory: it attracts and traps any fruit flies you might have hanging around the house.

     Little bottles of spray water, periodically misted into the air or on yourself, help, too. Both our girls were born in August; I would have been a lot more miserable without my handy spray bottle. It's extra refreshing with a bit of lavender oil or lemon peel included. (Some people add cucumber slices or mint, as well.)
    Ironically, I will often read about blizzards, Christmas tales, and winter-related stories during hot weather. Feels cooler, somehow.  Ice Road Truckers airs in this season, too (in fact, their first episode is tomorrow, June 3!) -- lots of fun to watch them careening down the hills, muttering about whether their brakes will hold on all that snow! 
    The other thing to remember: this too will pass. All too soon, we'll be back to frost and chilly weather. Enjoy the warmth while you can...