Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dying to Be Photographed

People who've heard some of my talks, especially the Crazy one (!!!), know about the Victorians' penchant for commemorating death. Not only were they big on mourning ribbons, clothing and such, but loved ones' clothing were cut up and included in quilts. Even their hair was carefully clipped, then used to make jewelry. Hair was also used as 'thread' to embroider seams, or woven into lace!

They really got into this sort of thing. 

There's actually more reason for it than you'd think. About 1 in 4 children died before age two...another reason why people had so many kids. Wars and disease outbreaks decimated more, adults and children alike. It was considered respectful to stay in mourning for up to three years. Men got a break - they could resume regular dressing after a year. Younger women were allowed to wear gray and lavender, at least, after the same period. For the rest of us, it was unrelieved black -- unless you wanted people to think you were a slut, or even worse, an actress.
     Bear in mind: this was a time when black generally wasn't colorfast, either. (It still isn't, as New Yorkers can attest.) Wearing black meant that your skin and underclothing were liberally stained with the leaching dye, and you would be re-dyeing your clothing regularly. It also meant exposing yourself to dangerous toxins; all sorts of chemicals, including arsenic, were used to set dye back in those days. Some experts believe that Civil War widows died much younger than they should have, thanks to clothing that slowly poisoned them as they mourned.

Now there's a gallery exhibit that showcases another Victorian penchant: combining the new trend for photography with commemorating their dead. It's called "post mortems;" or, in the words of Daughter #2, 'dead baby photos.'

It wasn't just photographing Civil War dead, though James Brady was well-known for doing that. (He also wasn't beneath lugging bodies from spot to spot, and positioning them for more striking results.) Criminals were photographed in their coffins...but so were everyday people. Sometimes the corpse leaned back in the arms of loving parents, or was positioned in a chair. Eyes were painted on, or eyelids propped open in an effort to appear more natural. Children are in the majority of post mortems, since they died in droves.

Queen Victoria had one entire floor of one of her palaces cordoned off. She spent many hours there, refusing to admit anyone else. After her death, her son, the Prince of Wales, discovered who she'd been keeping company with: literally dozens of photographs of dead people. Victoria had family and friends photographed in their beds and coffins, then arranged them in her rooms. Granted: this was a monarch who stayed in mourning several decades after her husband died -- in fact, she never really stopped wearing it.

Post mortem photos go for big bucks nowadays on Ebay. But they're also a valuable look at love and loss during the Victorian period. Go take a look at the exhibit and story. It's well worth viewing, in spite of the occasional grimace.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Should You Always Believe What You're Told? put this up on their Facebook section:

It's a report on John Gurdon, from his science teacher. Gurdon, at age 15, was last in his science class. Gurdon pretty much gave up on science; it was only through a clerical error that he was allowed to continue studying -- in zoology.

   John Gurdon.
The same John Gurdon who won a Nobel Prize in medicine last year for his amazing work on cloning.
     He still keeps this report framed above his desk at the Gurdon School in Cambridge. (Yes, it's named for him.)

     Obviously, Sir John isn't the first person to be classified as an idiot by his teacher. Albert Einstein's teacher thought little of him, and there are others in the same category. 

What stuns me about this is that some students, when told it, will believe it.

And they give up.

Where would our world be without John Gurdon...or John Lennon, for that matter? What if Albert Einstein stayed a patent clerk for the rest of his life, because he believed what his teacher said?

I am no genius. (In fact, I'm probably closer to idiot status.) But I can still vividly remember a 7th grade math teacher, Miss Russell, who insisted that I take a handwriting course, because my writing was so atrocious.
    Yes, a math teacher. For handwriting.

I was so humiliated that I took the reverse course -- began having so much trouble understanding math that I nearly flunked out of it in succeeding years. I only took the barest minimum needed, and chose lit and other classes at the other end of the spectrum.
    I also kept writing by hand in a way that was fastest and most effective for me: a mix of printing and cursive. 
    So what do I do today? Write, of course. A lot. Mostly computer work, but I continue to do some hand-lettering. (One employer insisted that I be the one to hand-letter her party invitations, "because your writing is so distinctive.")
    And design quilt patterns -- quilt patterns that need math to figure them out.

 It was a good lesson, learned early on: it's not always that bad to be different.

Take that, Miss Russell.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"When you have problems like an experiment doesn't work, which often happens, it's nice to remind yourself that perhaps after all you are not so good at this job and the schoolmaster may have been right." -- Sir John Gurdon

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Just Flew In From Chicago...

...and boy, are my arms tired.

Daughter #2 and I repeated the November trip to go see the Mama. We took the single daily Spirit flight from Denver to Chicago; other than crabby attendants and a full plane, the flight was the same. Reasonably comfortable seats, your basic 2-hour flight...and we saved a BUNCH of money. ($90 roundtrip.)

Then we stayed overnight in a hotel and caught a 7:30 a.m. Megabus out of Chicago. In spite of rain (that eventually turned to snow), we did just fine, and got into Grand Rapids around noon. (Daughter did complain that the WiFi connection kept fading in and out. Other than that, everything went as before. Including the price: $8.50 roundtrip for both of us.) Foggy and rainy for the rest of the time -- it's supposed to turn to ice and cold the next few days.

We're here for a week, and the Mama has big plans for us, including a stop in Frankenmuth, Michigan's Christmas capital. (They have good chicken dinners, too.)

I'll be in touch.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Off to Michigan

 Packing for a quick trip to Michigan to check on The Mama. Daughter #2 is going along for the ride; we'll get some work done (including buying more handkerchiefs for the Hanky Panky kits), go out to eat, and do the tourist bit, as well. Meanwhile:

Five ways to spend less and reduce clutter, courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

A faux shell chandelier...made out of wax paper! (Beautiful, Decorating Diva's Diary.)

Decorating with pallets... like this interesting windowed table. Take a look further in the post, and there's a link to a pallet shelf. I'm even thinking this would make a great coldframe! Thanks, Marty's Musings.

Don't quit your job to follow advice, until you're sure that advice is worth following. Financial Samurai's got an excellent argument here.

Thirteen freebies to take advantage of. (Thanks for mentioning them, Jeff Yeager and AARP.) 

A tab belt...made of soda tabs! This crocheted beauty is easier to do than it looks; Steampunk fans, take note.  (Whoa, this is cool, Gingerly Made.)

An Oakland, CA art museum gets hit twice -- can you help find the burglars?

Remember the discovered-in-Goodwill painting I told you about? It went for $11,205.00. Plus shipping. 

I wish life (and work) would go a bit more smoothly. At least it's getting done, albeit longer than I'd planned. (Notice the posting time on this? In case you're wondering, it's nearly 2:30 a.m.) But it's getting done -- and I'll be soon on the way to Chicago.

Have a great week. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Now, THAT'S Unusual Fabric!

Spoonflower Fabrics has regular design contests...and if you haven't visited them, you should. Now that retail fabric prices have gone up, Spoonflower's prices for one-of-a-kind fabrics are almost reasonable. (And terrific during a sale!)
    I love their stuff for adding zip to scrap and memory quilts. (And they cut beautifully for small details and accents.) Along comes the latest contest:


That's right -- every one of the top ten prints has a secret within the fabric design. Here's the winner, "Who Poisoned the Roses?" by chicca_besso. (Order some here.)

Plus oddball stuff like  "Killed: Two Birds With One Stone." (I'll let you look up that one.)

Go here to see the entries -- very, very cool.

 Your bee neighbor probably won't have these in her next quilt!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Think About This

 Charlie Reese just retired from the Orlando Sentinel. This was his final column.

545 vs. 300,000,000 People
-By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The President does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits. The President can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes. Who is the speaker of the House?John Boehner. He is the leader of the majority party. He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want. If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to. [The House has passes a budget but the Senate has not approved a budget in over three years. The President's proposed budgets have gotten almost unanimous rejections in the Senate in that time. ]

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility. I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people. When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan it's because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible. They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses. Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees... We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Aid for Monty Python...and Free Pizza!

Poor old John Cleese has money troubles.

He divorced Wife #3 some years ago, and married Wife #4 last year. Now he's having trouble coming up with the bucks for Wife #3's settlement. (Yet another powerful argument for sticking with Spouse #1, and working the problems out, if you can. Or at least Spouse #2.) 

He had to sell his favorite car. Now the helmet he wore in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well as a number of photos, are up for grabs.
    You can buy the helmet for a cool 999 pounds. (Isn't that about $3000 American?)

The photos are more reasonably priced, and include stills from the Ministry of Silly Walks. Still one of my favorites, though the lumberjack sketch is also a honey.

Hey, we all have copious amounts of cash to spend on stuff like this. Help the poor guy'll find the full report here.   
    (I love the man's work -- but really, he should know better.)

****** From the Grab This Now! Department: Papa John's is giving away a free 1-item pizza, if you can guess whether the Superbowl coin toss is heads -- or tails!
      Go here to register. If you're right, you get an e-mail coupons after Feb. 4. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Happy MLK Day!

The Brick has the day off, thanks to honoring a great man. Martin Luther King wasn't perfect -- but his words changed our world. Thank God he was here. 
     While we're celebrating, see what you think about these samplings from the Internet:

Grains -- do you eat them, or don't you? If you've heard the words 'gluten-free' more than once lately, you should probably read this post. And not for the reasons you may think I'm using. (Hint: the word "moderation." I've already stated what I think about this sort of thing.) 

A sad - but cautionary - story: what to do when your partner leaves -- and takes all the cash with him/her. Spedie, a Len Penzo reader, tells what she did in this situation.

Instant or delayed gratification - which one is best? Money Beagle tussles with the subject.

Ten 'shocking' money facts from AARP. (Well, they're interesting -- but hardly enough to make you fall off your seat.)

Ten financial surprises One Frugal Girl got about how a baby changed her life. Just in the first year. (One wonders what's coming in the future!)

DIY Fornasetti plates. (And boy, these are easy.) Thanks, Cuckoo 4 Design!

 A surprise proposal at an Orlando Magic game. See if you don't get a few tears in your eyes from this one!

A zero clutter plan that just might work! (Take a look, thanks to Zen Habits.)

A heart transplant recipient holds her old heart in her hands. 

Have a great week.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Opportunities

   Got an e-mail yesterday. I've been writing regularly for the frugal site Penny Thots, but now I'll be writing twice as many posts.

   Got another e-mail, as well. Another client wants a whole series of short articles, on various subjects. 

Whoo hoo!

   I've been a writer, practically since I could crawl. This is a wonderful opportunity to keep doing 'PF' (personal finance) articles, as well as continue writing the quilting and craft articles and books that have been my bread and butter.  Meanwhile, like Donna Freedman, this site will continue to be my "playground for words." I want to keep telling you about new and unusual things I come across, as well as share quilting and craft history and developments.

It's a wonderful world out there, and I'm looking forward to exploring it more -- with you. Thanks for coming along on the ride.

Make Your Own Teapot Lamp

An absolutely brilliant teapot/cup/plate lamp, thanks to Vintage Revivals!

She copied an Anthropologie lamp (see below)...but honestly, I thnk hers is cuter.

Go here for the full tutorial. Yes, you could make one, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Trying to Lose Weight. Again.

It's not fun, lugging this bulky body around. And to make things worse, there are still leftover chocolates and cookies hanging around from Christmas. (It helps that they're getting a bit stale -- not as tempting that way.)
    If Financial Samurai is right, trying to lose weight won't matter -- because I'm genetically predisposed to this body shape. (I do have the plumpness shared by my mom, and her mom before her.) On the other hand, though, there are plenty of thin relatives hanging on the family tree. Why couldn't I take their cue, instead?

So here I go, with a practical course of action:

I won't make a New Year's resolution about this. Like everyone else on the planet. It doesn't help -- and I break it posthaste. I don't want to do it anymore.

I will do more walking, digging, and lifting. The doctor said to include 20 min. of "something that makes you sweat" 2-5 times a week. I'm trying to do that. (Putting away stuff downstairs is helping. So is cleaning out the chickens' coop.) 

I will do more basic exercising. Touching toes, leg lifts, stuff like that. A few minutes a day, at least.

I will eat more greens and fruit. Especially apples - a large bowl of them is on the coffee table right now, gleaming away. (They look lovely in the firelight.)

I will eat soup -- lots of it. Seems to fill you up faster than any other food.  (You'll find some great versions over at the Holiday Goodies blog, by the way.)

I will not buy Tostitos' 'Touch of Lime' chips. Can't keep my hands off 'em. (Sigh.)

If you've got some ideas on this subject, share 'em. Let's get through this together.

Ate a green pepper was delicious

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Books, Books, Books

 Books.      Our house has a ton of them, arranged on the shelves two thicknesses deep. More books are piled on top of the cases, and each bathroom has its own pile for convenient reading. (Hey, you need to do something in there while you're waiting...)
    Not only do these come in handy for research and writing, they've been a source of pleasure and comfort for years. Stuck in the house, because of sickness or weather? You can go anywhere, from Hawaii to Timbuktu, just with the turn of a page. (And yes, there is a Timbuktu -- one of my old college buddies did some flying in that area.) Tired or worried about something? Someone else has struggled with it, too -- all you need do is find the right book.
    I've got far too many of the right books. They're cramping our style, and clogging up our life. The only problem: which ones should go?
    Others are having the same struggle. Their suggestions have helped, plus this Get Rid-Of List:

*Have you never read this book, in the years you've owned it?
*Was the book recommended, but you've still never read it?
*Is the book's premise (or solution) not that accurate?
*Is the book's theme or premise out of date?
*Did you never want to read it again?
*Did you want to smack someone with it, rather than read it again?

If your answer to any of these questions is 'yes,' that book should be thrown in the donation pile -- pronto. Take it to your library or thrift shop, and get the tax deduction.
    What if you loved the book, but don't have the space? Give it to someone you care about, especially if it may be helpful. I have a huge rack of frugal living books; some of those (in good condition) are gift-giving possibilities for graduates and young marrieds.

There's also a theory that posits whenever you bring one book into your house, another one should go out. (Home dec items and clothes fall into the same category.) It sort of works, unless you luck into a stack of priceless goodies at a bargain price.

I don't think I will ever get a Kindle -- I love the smell, touch and feel of books, especially old ones, too much.

* * * * * * *From the "Sorry About That" department:
  Another rendition of that lovely song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," for the anonymous commenter who found Tommy Emmanuel's rendition as irritating as nails on a chalkboard.
    You'll like this one better, Dear Reader. It's by Israel Kamakawio'ole, a talented Hawaiian singer who, sadly, is no longer with us. (I like his version, too, as well as Tommy's.)
    The scenes are from the movie Finding Forrester. Hum along, if you will.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When A Guitar Solo Is A Thing of Beauty

It's been a long, trudging sort of day. Exhausting, until the Brick pointed out this clip of Tommy Emmanuel, playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow:"

Somehow, I felt better. Hope it encourages you, too.

Monday, January 14, 2013

That Doggone Driving

Really?!?  This dog is driving a Powerwheels car by himself?!?

This New Zealand dog is driving the real thing. (Controls modified. Are they promoting seeing-eye driving dogs now?)

I am not letting Charley or Abby, our Golden Labs, see any of these. Charley already gets into enough trouble with some of his harebrained ideas. This is what would happen, if he could drive:


Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: DIY Home Dec

Coooooolllllddd...the thermometer has barely cracked 20 in the past four days. And that's only when the sun is shining! The chickens hardly seem to notice, though they spend more time in the coop. And Charley has developed a deep and lasting affection for any heat source; he'll position himself just close enough for the warmth to radiate onto his belly. Silly dog. 
     We'll probably have a nice visit by the fire tonight, popcorn and a movie at hand. I originally bought a collection of Jean-Claude Van Damme for the Brick's Valentine's Day; after all, what says romance more than Jean-Claude kicking the snot out of someone? But it's been a rough, cold and trudging-through week for both of us. Time to rest a bit. 
Timecop - one of my favorites. Sudden Death is good, too.

    This week's batch of Stuff features home dec ideas that you can do yourself.

 One of the best encouraging flash mob moments -- at an unemployment office. (Wonderful song, beautifully done -- courtesy of carne cruda.)

Transferring typography to furniture, walls and other large spaces. From Karen at The Graphics Fairy.

A child lost, because her dresser wasn't secured to the wall. Thank you for sharing this heartbreaking store, Love, Light, Laughter and Chocolate. If you look at the dresser...well, I never would have thought this needed stabilizing. Obviously, it did.

Ten old wives' tales about pregnancy, thanks to Stacy Makes Cents.

Nine movie villains who were right all along. 

Top ten craft tutorials for 2012, according to Design Improvised. Check out the crepe paper flowers; these are just lovely.

Why most people fail their New Year's resolutions -- and what to do about it. Money Beagle's got some good practical advice here. (You might find yours truly's post, Resolving Your Future in 2013," on Midlife Finance, helpful too.)

Lessons learned from a grandpa. (Thanks so much for sharing him with us, Daily Money Shot.)

And something learned from my grandma. Well, from her silverware. (This is a post from one of my other website stints, on Penny Thots.)

Oh, the goodies you can get for 50 cents or less at a garage sale. This fond lookback is from (you guessed it) Queen of 50 Cents.

Large-scale tree paintings on your walls: all it takes is time, a good graphic (which you copy!) and painter's tape. And look at the variety in this post...although my favorite is definitely this one

One of the prettiest DIY wood countertops I've seen in a long time. And look at the cost! From Cleverly Inspired, whose projects are eminently doable...and gorgeous.

One of Robert Kiyosaki's businesses went bankrupt. Don't recognize the name? How about Rich Dad, Poor Dad... apparently Kiyosaki's business wasn't paying the royalties it had promised its sponsor. And when pressed for the money, they just filed bankruptcy, instead. Classy.

Brickworks' website troubles are (hopefully) at a standstill. My IT guy put the site on "maintenance mode" for now, until we can switch to a new host. You should get a GOOGLE warning when you try to go there, warning that it's got issues. Don't go there, please ( -- just e-mail me personally instead (, until we can get this worked out.
    And the "we're still here" sale is still going strong. A great time to pick up my books at an excellent price.

Have a good week - stay warm. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Get Down...

Coffey Anderson's in concert...but he doesn't notice at first that he's got a backup dancer.

What a cute boogie!  (Notice the 'binky' still held firmly in the mouth.)

Now that's family participation. Now, if we only knew why there are dancing Fiddle Faddle boxes on stage, too...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Midweek Update...Beasts of the Southern Wild and a book sale!

Now I know why I'm been dealing with this strange malaise for the past week...think I'm coming down with (or out of) the flu! The haze lifted slightly, and I'm back to thinking clearly.
    Sort of.

Thought you'd find these updates interesting. If you're not down with the flu, that is.

The Holiday Goodies blog continues with the soup series: it's beef stew today. (With or without barley - I personally would rather be hung upside-down and pecked at by wild birds, than eat barley. My family likes it, though.)

The chickies have been in an egg slowdown -- only 5 or so eggs a day. It may be the weather (cold, windy) or what the Brick refers to as a "reset:" they seem to change their usual patterns every third week or so. Or maybe we're going into a molt. Since we don't speak 'chick-ese,' who knows. I'll cut up another pumpkin (their favorite food) for them tonight. Maybe that will put them in the mood.

More of yours truly's posts are out on Penny Thots: one on preventing the sniffles, the other on Grandma's silverware.

Midlife Finance has my latest on resolving your future in 2013.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for Best Picture! And its star got the nod for a Best Actress nomination -- at 9 years old, the youngest to do so. (It was her first movie.) The film's young director -- and this guy's young, too -- got nominated for Best Director, too. What a surprise! This is one unusual flick -- but well worth seeing.

   As usual, there were other surprises -- why Argo was nominated for Best Picture, but its director, Ben Affleck, got zip. (He probably doesn't mind as much, since his picture was recognized.) Several other weird omissions, too. Academy Award surprises and snubs are here. 

Mercury glass update: if you liked the initial look, Interiors by Kenz has a lighter version, more see-through. She uses the same basic technique as the girl I mentioned, but adds vinegar and water. Go here for the full tutorial.

   Kenz also has a very interesting post on making and mounting 'engineer prints' -- those large-scale beauties that you can use for home dec. Like her dog, shown below:

We're still having trouble with someone trying to crash the party at the Brickworks website. They haven't actually hacked the site, my IT guy assures me, but are trying to piggyback onto it. And Google doesn't like it. (Well, we don't, either.) We've cleared things away twice, but they keep coming back. I've decided to move to a different host, anyways -- that may happen sooner than planned.
     At any rate, if you're interested in a copy of my books, HANKY PANKY CRAZY QUILTS or QUILTS OF THE GOLDEN WEST, here's a "We're still here special:"

HANKY PANKY CRAZY QUILTS     $11.95 (including free shipping)

QUILTS OF THE GOLDEN WEST     $17.95 (including free shipping)

Buy them both, and we'll cut the price to $24.95!

 Just e-mail me personally at; we accept money orders, Paypal or Mastercard/Visa.

And thanks for your patience. This is soooo frustrating, but it too will pass. Like the flu.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Three Little Birds

This Bob Marley piece just seemed like a nice way to start (or end) the day.

You will, too. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Restoration, Step by Step

"Restoration:" a big word that means bringing your antiques back to useful life.

Many restorers, myself included, work quietly -- and are thrilled when no one even realizes we've had a hand in replacing that worn patch, or rebinding a tattered edge. That's our job, after all: to present the piece in a way that no one knows we were there.

That's what makes this long, involved post on restoring a David Livingstone artifact so interesting.

Remember Livingstone? He was one of the great African explorers and missionaries. Now the Museum of Scotland has mounted an exhibit of artifacts connected with him: "Doctor Livingstone, I Presume?"

One of the pieces, a net used to catch antelope, had problems.
Big problems.

The cording was torn and disintegrating in many places. No wonder, considering its age and the harsh African environment. 

Tattered cords - what a mess
With care, and the use of Japanese mulberry paper cord, the twists were restored:

Restored. Not perfect -- but what an improvement.
The post shows how the conservators came up with a workable solution; each step is documented in photos. Simple, fairly basic -- and brilliant.

The David Livingstone exhibit runs at the National Museum of Scotland through April 7, 2013.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: The Chicken Report

     It's been a nice break, but now that the new year is well begun, I've got work to do. The Brick finished putting the schrunk (a very large German armoire) in the basement, and three bookcases are up, and holding bins. Time to put away the boxes of fat quarters we've gradually been accumulating, along with the pieces of lace, buttons and other flotsam and jetsam. Quilters love stuff -- and Brickworks is no exception. (Note: we've had some trouble recently with someone trying to hijack the Brickworks website. Although they haven't succeeded, it has made Google label it as an "attack" site. Our Intel guys are on the prowl; if you get this "attack" message, be patient. It should be fixed shortly. Monday morning update: I just looked -- it's still there. Intel guy tells me the problem is fixed, and fresh security 'patches' put on. But it takes Google a while to remove the warning message.)

The Chicken Report:  Our nine black Australorps are the apples of our eye. They're fat, sassy, and their black, iridescent feathers just gleam in the winter sunlight. They've found the house flower bed, which faces south with a brick wall at the back, and enjoy hanging out there, basking in the sun.
     I ran the numbers while updating calendars, and here's what I found:
*We got the chicks May 4.
*First egg was laid Oct. 19 -- but only one egg daily for the first few weeks.
*Five or more eggs didn't start appearing daily until Thanksgiving. 
     Since then, the chickens lay between 7-9 eggs daily, with only a few exceptions. (And those were connected to blizzards, or the Brick working inside the coop.)

How many eggs did we get in 2012? Eighteen dozen...with one egg left over!
    Not bad, considering that it is winter. At $3 a dozen, that's $54 the chickens have contributed to their cost. (Their feed is running between $12-15 monthly, but there's also the expense of the coops, lights, waterers and such.) And we've had our fill of fresh, free-range eggs.
    Not bad at all. 
Now on to the rest of life, via the Internet:

 Enjoy year-end predictions?  Financial Samurai was right on the money for 2012, nearly every time. From Obama being reelected to the unemployment rate (he said under 8%), he was very accurate. Can he do it again? Stay tuned.

Weird things confiscated by TSA in 2012. Including a... rocket launcher?!?

Five studies that weren't as 'scientific' as they claimed. Moral of the story: make sure you actually did the work at the hospitals you claimed. Or those are real peer reviews...not names with e-mail addresses leading directly to you. (How stupid do these scientists think the world is? Wait...don't answer that.) 

Helpful goal-tracking forms for your new year, thanks to Crazy Aunt Purl. I love this knitter's blog; maybe it's her, maybe it's her cats. She hasn't been posting a lot lately, but seems to be committed to doing more.

A slideshow of brilliant criminal masterminds...including a guy who masqueraded as a huge piece of camouflage (and got caught when the police dog nipped a 'patch of grass'), a man who tried to go down the chimney during a burglary, and got stuck, plus my favorite, the genius who videotaped his own confession on a stolen camcorder "cause the cops won't figure it out." Uh-huh. 

Water dowsing...another post from yours truly at Penny Thots.

A scorned lover sells her boyfriend's secret fishing spots...for big bucks. Be careful who you treat badly!

A really useful cubby organizer, from Chalkboard Blue. Step by step instructions on this link.
 Don't miss out on the Holiday Goodies' soup series -- the latest was Vichyssoise, as of today (Monday), but Chicken Noodle has made an appearance, and others are coming. After that, we'll do muffins, dumplings and other earthy delights. Yum.

And a sad one -- the heir to a $300 million estate is found. His body was under a Union Pacific overpass in Wyoming.   Dead of hypothermia. He'd been homeless for years.

Goes to show you that what counts is not always money. Have a good week.

Mercury Glass - Faux Beautiful

A lazy Sunday -- I just got back from church, and delivering eggs. (The chickies now have two regular customers.) Daughter #1 is spending the weekend with us, which is lovely. She's already bustled around, loaded and unloaded my dishwasher, and cleaned the refrigerator out. (She's quitting smoking -- I'm so proud of her for doing that! -- and says keeping her hands busy helps. Hey, I'm just glad to have a cleaner kitchen out of it.)

Just saw a simple-but-effective way to copy mercury glass, that silvery stuff you see in antiques. Pricey antiques. (A nice visual guide is here.)

This version can make modern plastic and glass look surprisingly like the real stuff! Jill from Create.Craft.Love came up with it, using Krylon's Looking Glass Paint. She transformed a polar bear kid's toy into a beautiful glass Christmas ornament:

Take a look here for the full process. Can't you see using this technique to transform vases, jars and decorative pieces?

English mercury glass, from Wikipedia -- the antique stuff.Wonderful, when you can afford it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Only in Colorado...

Wynkoop Brewing Company has just announced its newest product:

Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout.

Know what Rocky Mountain oysters are? Well, let's put it this way -- if you have the balls to drink this, you should know what it is. (Actually, they taste pretty good deep-fried. But used to brew beer? Ew.)

And the beer's going to be sold in pairs. 'Cause that's how they come naturally.

more here, if your gag reflex isn't fully activated yet.

A Little Humor Goes A Long Way

    Like most people, my life is not inherently fascinating to others. I'm no Jane Goodall. Working with chimpanzees, interesting. Picking up dry cleaning, not that interesting. Neither is refinancing your home, colonoscopies, or a new diet. But these things can be sources of humor...
     ...One, it helps me put my life into perspective. And two, I don't drag other people down with me...
    I think of my father, a master at this technique, signing mortgage papers on a house several years ago. The house was in Florida (cause that's the law) and the signing day was Halloween. Many workplaces encourage employees to dress in costume. This is a business practice I don't understand. Unless your workplace is Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, please come to the office in your regular clothes. Anyway, my father is at this bank, signing the papers for a hefty mortgage, and the loan officer is dressed as Raggedy Ann. Red wig, white face, big black shoes. You can imagine the scene. Mr. Dolan, please sign here to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I, Raggedy Ann, will witness your signature....
   About once a week, I smile when I think of my father doing business with Raggedy Ann. Postpartum depression, dead gerbils, home mortgages -- it's all what you make of it. And I think people have the obligation to make the best of it...
   It sounds so obvious to say that a sense of humor is important. Sentiments like that are the stuff of bumper stickers and inspirational stories in Reader's Digest. "Have a sense of humor about life!" Thanks, that's a big help. Will do. But it's one of those cliches that's true. Using your sense of humor as a guide makes life more of everything -- enjoyable, uplifting, and most of all, tolerable.

                    -- Lian Dolan, from Satellite Sisters' UnCommon Senses

(Go here for more.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Patti Page (1927-2013)

If you don't recognize this 50s singer's name, you'll recognize her lovely voice in a wide variety of hits, including "Tennessee Waltz" and "Doggie in the Window," "Mockin' Bird Hill," "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and this one:

but my favorite has always been

We'll miss this honey-voiced singer. She was 85, and only five weeks away from a Lifetime Achievement award at the Grammys. She said she never kept track for sure, but was told that she'd recorded more than 1,000 songs.

    All of them lovely.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Why Women Shouldn't Take Men Shopping -- the Straight Scoop

I'm not sure who came up with this little gem; it's been making its way through e-mail land as an anonymous piece. The Brick forwarded it -- he HATES shopping, unless it's hunting and fishing gear. 

Maybe you feel the same way!


After I retired, my wife insisted that I accompany her on her trips to Target.  Unfortunately, like most men, I found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out. Equally unfortunate, my wife is like most women – she loves to browse. Yesterday my dear wife received the following letter from the local Target.

Dear Mrs. Samuel,

Over the past six months, your husband has caused quite a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and have been forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against your husband, Mr. Samuel, are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras.

1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in other people's carts when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: He made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, 'Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away'. This caused the employee to leave her assigned station and receive a reprimand from her Supervisor that in turn resulted with a union grievance, causing management to lose time and costing the company money.

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&Ms on layaway.

6. August 14: Moved a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.

7. August 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told the children shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department to which twenty children obliged.

8. August 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?' EMTs were called.

9 September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.  

10. September 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.

11. October 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the 'Mission Impossible' theme.

12. October 6: In the auto department, he practiced his 'Madonna look' by using different sizes of funnels.

13. October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled 'PICK ME! PICK ME!'

14. October 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed 'OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!'

And last, but not least:

15. October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, 'Hey! There's no toilet paper in here.' One of the clerks passed out...

Top Ten, Most Popular...And All That

One of the nicest things about the beginning of the new year are 'Top Ten' lists. Many sites will tell you what's interested their readers most over 2012. If I don't have time to read the blog, post after post, it's a great way to skim the cream off the top. Including:

Roadkill Rescue's top ten makeovers of dumpster and roadside finds.

2012's most popular posts on making money. Grand A Month has some interesting, though occasionally wacky ideas -- but they make you think. That's worth reading this blog regularly.

Knock Off Decor's top ten projects copy items from upscale places like Pottery a whole lot less than retail.

Keeper of the Home's top ten cover everything from making your own sunscreen to 31 different uses for a mason jar.

Infarrantly Creative's top ten home dec and crafts projects . The crutches lamp is the quirkiest, but you'll get the most out of rolled ribbon flowers and 'how to paint stripes on curtains' how-tos.

Penny Thots put its most popular posts for 2012 in one accessible spot, too. (If you're curious, you can find all of yours truly's posts via this link, as well.)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of this blog's most popular stops in 2012, including
    * The brouhaha about a designer who decided to force an author to give her royalties for using her fabric (still a sore spot for me and many other authors)
    * Karen Combs' stolen quilts, back in March. Would this never happened. They still haven't been recovered, by the way, though the perpetrators may have been arrested. They're just not confessing to stealing the quilts. (Sally Schneider's stolen quilt is also still missing, though Allison Aller's Crazy was found.)
   *Appraising -- hands-on advice from an appraiser
   *The Stolen Valor issue (Having had several relatives, including the Brick, who served in the military, I take this very seriously)

   *Looking for money in all the right places
   *All the fuss about Chick-Fil-A's chairman's comments

and my own favorites,
   *Haunted Hotels
   *George Washington -- and politics -- in cloth
   *Some ranting about 'organic' food

...and a little ditty about six-hundred-year-old underwear

The 'Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff' editions have also been surprisingly popular...wherein I jam in the odd, intriguing and helpful things and discoveries I've found on the Internet. These come out on Mondays (go figure), except when things jam up at the Brick House, and they appear on Sunday or Thursday, instead. Not often, but it's happened before.

You might enjoy the 'Flat-Broke Food' and '7 Fish Dishes' series on my food blogs, Holiday Goodies and Christmas Goodies, as well. (Holiday Goodies is starting a whole series on soup that may come in handy, these cold days.) Become a follower of any of my blogs -- or sign up to receive posts via e-mail -- and you won't miss a thing, including our frequent giveaways!

Thank you for sharing my world over these past 12 months. I'm so glad you did. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ten Things I Learned (Or Was Reminded of Again) in 2012

Nothing big...but these discoveries all made a difference last year.

Thank you notes are invaluable. I knew they were good to do before -- and most of the time, you don't hear anything later on. But after taking the time to write a batch of notes to people who helped me do a Seniors Luncheon in December...well, the comments back reminded me they really were appreciated.
    I'm going to try to write at least one thank-you note a month, to people who've I've admired over the years. They may not know now how I feel about them...but they will soon.

If your feet are warm, the rest of you can stay relatively cold. And space heaters (or a nice electric fireplace like the one below) can make all the difference between chilliness and comfort, for a frugal price. (Some good sales here, if you're interested.) Last night, my nose was FREEZING, but the rest of me: very comfortable.

I love Jarvis Jones. Well...I like him a whole lot. (Something about all that prime defensive work just thrills my soul.) A friend who has season tickets to Georgia college football got me hooked on the Bulldogs -- goooo Bulldogs! (wuff wuff wuff wuff wuff) We're going to see more of this guy's amazing work in pro football -- I hope Denver picks him up. Meanwhile, I'll just have to make do with the Capital One Bowl (Georgia vs. Nebraska) on New Year's Day. Update: They won -- 45-31 over Nebraska! But Michigan lost the Outback Bowl to South Carolina literally in the final minute of the game. Sigh...Go Blue.

There really is a difference between fresh and storebought eggs. The fresh ones are firmer, and the egg yolks are brighter. A richer flavor, too. I pooh-poohed this before we got chickens...but it's true.

Fill your cup before you drink. The Brick started scalding our cups and mugs with hot water, and keeping them full until time to pour coffee. It's made an amazing difference in how long the drinks stay hot.

The hardware store is your friend, if you're into Steampunk. I still enjoy poking around in fabric and craft shops, but am paying more attention to the little things in life...screws, rings, little gadgets. They make fantastic embellishments.

Triple-check the small print. I learned this the hard way, after I redeemed a batch of 1992 savings bonds we'd had for two decades. They were earning about 5% -- not much, but way better than nearly all CDs or bonds in 2012. I thought I read that they stopped earning interest after twenty years. Wrong -- it's thirty years. We could have had ten more years of don't-think-about-it interest, if I hadn't been so darned efficient. (Goal: make up that lost interest on the cashed-in amount. Every single year.)

You never know what you'll find at a thrift shop. This year's haul included several books I sold for a good profit on Amazon; some very delicate (and expensive) cups; and Le Crueset vintage orange pans. (Those appeared just last week -- $8, but a 50% discount at the thrift shop made them two dollars each. Take a look here for typical pricing on this classic heavy iron enamel cookware.)

Some of the best quilts are all about details. Like Sherry Reynolds' incredible America, Let It Shine, which won Best of Show at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year. Take a look at Dutchbaby's post on the quilt, including the many photos -- you'll see what I mean. This piece is a mathematical wonder.

Small things DO count. A small quilt is appreciated, if you don't have time to stitch a large one. Even a short note has meaning. Or a brief phone call. Or a quick compliment to a stranger. Thirty minutes of housecleaning does make progress.

I'm looking forward to learning more this new year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Another Great One Is Gone: Joyce Gross

One of the blockbuster historians and mover/shakers in quiltdom died on Christmas Eve.

photo by Vicki Chase, from TQHF website

Joyce Gross was 88. Here's what one of her colleagues said:

The world of quilt history has lost one of its most influential
figures—Joyce Gross. Joyce died on Christmas Eve, very peacefully, after
a day of seeing family, friends, and even her beloved dog. There will be
a memorial service for her on January 17 at Point Bonita, California,
where she ran seminars for many years. Joyce’s lifelong dedication to a
painstaking, labor-intensive quilt research project resulted in rooms
full of boxes of her notes, all cross-indexed, along with the original
printed documentation: more than 1000 quilt books, vast assortments of
periodicals ranging back to the early 20th century, ephemera of all
kinds, including rare fabric samples. She had a library of original
documents that would be almost impossible to assemble today. Luckily the
Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas was able
to acquire this incredible body of historical reference materials, along
with an important part of her quilt collection which included examples
by such important quiltmakers as Bertha Stenge, Pine Eisfeller, Florence
Peto, and Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton. She was a major force in early
quilt research and documentation.
Karey Bresenhan
Director Emeritus, International Quilt Festival—Houston, Cincinnati,
Long Beach, Chicago
Co-founder, Texas Quilt Museum

Joyce was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 1996. This link will take you to TQHF's blog, and their comments on Joyce's passing, along with a tribute from her friend, Cuesta Benberry, another Great One who is now gone. (Cuesta died back in 2007.)

Our world is better for her having been in it. Thank you, Joyce.

Hooray - it's 2013!

This year may be just the fresh start you've been needing.
Use it wisely -- you never know how many you have left!

Happy New Year!