Sunday, March 31, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Spinach and Sunshine

     Can it really be spring?
     The ground is warm and ready for spinach seed. (I would have planted it on St. Patrick's Day, like you're supposed to -- but there was a foot of snow on the ground.) The chickies' egg production is picking up...I'm even thinking about hosing off the deck furniture and having supper outside. 
     April Fools' Day is also the birthday of my beloved dad, gone for more than four years now. Mom always put salt in his sugarbowl. He always solemnly measured it out into his coffee -- and drank it without saying a word, just to drive her crazy. 
     What a family tradition...
     Happy Birthday, Pa. See you soon.
     Meawhile, what's blooming on the Internet: 

Quitting your jobs and traveling the it possible? Well, this couple did it, with some planning and $26,000. (A guest post on Making Sense of Cents.)

Six famous treasures that were found with simple metal detectors. 

(I was thinking about this after reading of a New Mexico antiques dealer who swears he hid a chest holding millions... all you have to do is find it. He's even given a poem to help you. (Full story's here.) The only problem: he has a reputation as a joker. People aren't sure if the chest is real or not. Guess you'll have to read his book, The Thrill of the Chase, to find out. (Hmmm...I wonder if he did this to sell books...)

Newspaper on the ceiling? It sure is a creative way to cover up cracks and other cosmetic boo-boos. (From The Space Between.)

A Chinese bowl, purchased for $3 at a garage sale, fetches more than $2 million at auction. Turns out the 5-inch bowl dated from the Northern Song Dynasty, and is thought to be only one of two existing. This one far exceeded its pre-sale estimate, which was stunning enough: $200,000-$300,000.
    Wonder how they confirmed it? (I need to find out.)

Chicken and waffles - a guest post over at Stacy Makes Cents. Budget priced and tasty.

An 88-calorie chocolate chip cookie recipe? Cleverly Inspired comes through...boy, do these look good.

What Mick Jagger thinks about fatherhood. (He's way more frugal than you'd think.)

Suitcases from an insane asylum. Selections from 400 suitcases found when an abandoned building was refurbished -- turned into an exhibit. Heartbreaking, enigmatic and strangely evocative, all at the same time.

Michigan's going to the Final Four?!? We could hardly believe the team we were seeing, beating Florida by 20 POINTS IN A CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?!?
      Wow...Go Blue!

And another stirring performance --

U2 and the Harlem Gospel choir sing "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For:"

Rich and inspiring.
     Have an inspiring week.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter!

Christ is Risen...

He is risen indeed.

Have a restful and relaxing day. Roll a few bunnies (er, eggs) for me!

Easter Weekend

If you follow the King, this is a thoughtful time. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Mukhtar's a bus driver in Copenhagen. It's his birthday...but he figures it's just a normal day.

Until the music starts. Watch what happens.

And see if you can keep from grinning, too!

New Info on the Isabella Gardner Museum Theft...and Another Tragedy

The FBI thinks they know who stole all those paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum decades ago, back in 1990. Two men, dressed as policemen, tied up the security guards and stole millions of dollars of artwork. Details are here.

Chez Tortoni by Manet - one of the paintings. The thieves were quite particular about what they took.

The paintings included one of my favorite Rembrandts -- and the only Rembrandt, so far, at least, to show a boat scene. It's "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee," from the Bible story about Jesus walking on the water. Fourteen people are actually depicted, although there were only Twelve Disciples; it's thought Rembrandt actually painted himself in as a crewman. (The guy in the back, hauling on the sail.)

The museum did a very interesting thing -- it left the empty frames in place on the walls. What a visual way to emphasize their loss.

Now the authorities are saying the crooks belonged to an Eastern crime syndicate -- and they know who they are.

The Concert by Vermeer - another painting stolen

But no arrests...and no announcements of paintings recovered yet. Hmmm....

Full report's here. If you know more, do tell.


We didn't have paintings stolen -- but another tragedy hit tonight.

 Btw, you should know that this week has been extremely busy and a little zany, with all sorts of unexpected twists and delays. Sometimes life is like that, isn't it?

Just before midnight, the Brick came upstairs and started yelling. I'd bought a 25-yard bolt of quilt batting, and instead of taking it downstairs (where we keep Brickworks inventory), I'd just pushed it down. Easier to deal with, and I'd put it away when I went down tomorrow.

He said, "Just because you've been lazy, you now have a bigger mess to clean up."

I went and looked -- an entire Sam's Club-sized bottle of maple syrup (fortunately Aunt Jemima, not the real thing) had fallen down the back stairs. Somewhere halfway down, it burst open, and the stairs were liberally decorated with maple syrup. The bottom step was drenched in it.
      Thank God, when we redid the basement floor after the flooding, we just stuck to concrete -- because there was a small puddle of syrup there, too.

Oh boy. 

Except it wasn't caused by my throwing the batting. The bottle must have fallen off the storage shelf, then down the stairs, while I was cleaning up the laundry room. (I'd heard a thud, but didn't stop to investigate.)

Fortunately, some fabric kept on the stairs soaked up some of the syrup. (It's in the washing machine now, along with the clothes I wore to clean up. Everything was sticky.)I'd been planning on pulling up the nasty carpet on the back stairs anyway -- guess that job has moved to the top of the list.

So if you wonder whether the Bricks are sweet enough -- we are.

Remembered from an old-time Jack Benny radio show -- Titus Moody was talking about his friend, who'd died... "Yep, slipped into a vat of molasses and sweetened himself to death. They've been fighting the ants off his grave ever since."

Just glorious. And in case you're wondering, the batting's fine.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Secret Confessions

Some bloggers are coming clean about their weird predilictions.

Nicole and Maggie secretly don't like kids (bigger ones, that is), wish their car had power locks, and:  "I waver between feeling arrogant and imcompetent."

Donna Freedman talks to herself (don't we all!), eats out of the pan, and says, "Sometimes I love the whole world. Sometimes the world can kiss my ass. Depends on the day."

Ok, well....hmmm.

I am not much into ass-kissing, but do have some things I'm willing to admit:

*'Heading to the store'  usually means the thrift shop. Unless it's groceries, dog food or shampoo.  I'll hit a craft or fabric store too, occasionally.

*I like crackers more than most people -- the seedier, the better. And other crunchy stuff: potato chips, corn chips, and most of all, Tostitos with Lime. I could eat a whole bag of Tostitos w/Lime at one sitting. For breakfast. Skip the dessert - just give me something crunchy and salty.

*Ever heard of Paladin on "Have Gun Will Travel?" If my heart didn't belong to the Brick, it would probably be Paladin's. Except he's too much of a lady's man for steady girlfriends.
And the show finished in 1963...when I was 5.
And Richard Boone's been dead since 1981, the year we married.  
  Doesn't matter.  I still learn from him.

*I have shelves and shelves of books on frugal living. The Millionaire Next Door. ('He's your buddy,' the Brick would say.) Possum Living and the Tightwad Gazette. Or cooking on a budget -- like the Cookbook for Poor Poets, or Good Cheap Food.  Memoirs of people who've been poor, lived in the slums, moved a lot, or had weird parents, books like Angela's Ashes and the Glass Castle. A goodly number of these focus on the Great Depression. I didn't have bad parents, and we're not starving or on the street. I just like reading about these; it's strangely comforting. (Fun to write about, too.)

 *I'll watch a movie. Any movie. Probably comes from growing up in a very conservative family, who viewed hanging around a theatre as So Wrong It's Not Funny. ("How do people know you're going to watch Disney...or something bad?" I did a lot of sitting on the bleachers, too, when we had dancing in gym class.)  The Brick and yours truly are careful about choices (ok, almost any movie), but just going into the theatre gives me a shiver of anticipation. And if there's popcorn too...

*I do not care for talk radio. Being married to the Brick, who loves it, and close friends with several others who dote on it, is a problem. I try hard to listen -- and keep my mouth shut.

*Even after all these years, I still have a thing for Bigfoot. Or Sausquatch. Or the Skunk Ape - whatever you want to call him. Daughter #2 even gave me a stained glass piece of a woods at twilight, with a large furry figure lurking in the background. It looks insanely cool at night, with a small light illuminating it from behind.
    And I just found out he/she was sighted only about 4 miles from where I grew up, in Michigan. Makes sense; the apples there are juicy and just plain delicious.  (The report's here, if you're curious.)
He's come pretty close to us here in Colorado, too. (I personally think they're some kind of large ape that use the Rockies as some a migration route.)

I'm also a Christian; an independent who's registered as Democrat (and probably votes Republican more than anything else); an outdoors-lover who relishes a trip out to the boonies, especially if there are mine dumps or abandoned buildings to poke around in.

Someone who loves a good cup of tea or coffee in an unusual cup, and a plate of fancy sandwiches...but feels uncomfortable at a froufrou ladies tea.  (Maybe it's the lack of Doritos.)

A collector of mysteries, unusual stuff, strange disappearances, historical oddities and any kind of great, reasonably true story. (And I enjoy passing them on to you in this blog, as well as my books, articles and other writing.)

A mom who passionately loves her daughters (and tries hard not to offer too much advice)

Someone who loves textiles and quilts, especially as they fit into history and culture.

    And if the Brick's not home, I may eat straight out of the pan.

Got anything you want to admit to?

Confession is good for the soul. Or so I hear... 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Historic Bling

The engagement ring Napoleon gave to his Josephine in 1796...well, it just sold at a French auction last week Saturday. Before that, it had remained in Josephine's family -- first given to her daughter, then her grandson, Napoleon III, and so on.
The appraisal 'expert' (snort) valued the pear-shaped diamond/blue sapphire combination (less than a carat each) at $20,000. (They based that on, I'm guessing, the actual stones and the gold setting. Sort of.)
     Guess what it sold for?
     You read that right. Not counting seller's premium and other fees. Which makes the final price about $1.17 million dollars. Bidding started at $50,000.

Read all about it here.
Behold, the value of provenance.

Think About It...

...I am. 
    You should, too, whether you like Stephen Colbert or not. He's got a point.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Easter Parade

One of the Christian's most affirming holidays is just a week away -- Easter. Celebrating this day just reminds me all over again why I believe in God's Son. 
    It also means bunnies, chicks (all symbols of the Resurrection)...and of course, eggs!
Before then, though, I've got paperwork, some appraising, two quilts to bind (for use during taping an episode for QuiltersTV next week - news coming on that), and a dating/restoration class here at the home studio all day Saturday. It's going to be a busy week. 
     Our daffodils are still there, I assume -- not that I can see them at present under the foot-or-so of snow that stopped falling. Soon it will warm up, and this blizzard will only be a wet memory. 

Wonderful soups...from 101 Cookbooks.

A beautiful Easter Egg from Frugal Upstate.

It's All Connected ponders how a chicken ended up in her bathtub...and other weighty matters. (I've had weeks like this, particularly lately.)

Hamburger Pie, from Stacy Makes Cents. Easy to do, you can substitute items like crazy -- and it still is delicious. (Although cottage cheese for a topping sounds weirder than it tastes. Think lasagne.)

A woman buys a mansion, planning to turn it into a B&B, and discovers 10 cases of pre-Prohibition whiskey hidden inside the walls. Her caretaker helps her keep the cases dusted...and does some dusting of his own! After he leaves, 4 cases are found empty. The bill? $100,000 appraised value, for 52 emptied bottles. The caretaker denied it, saying the liquid must have just evaporated, but his DNA was found on the mouth of at least three bottles. Moral of the story: your spit will give you away! Full report's here.

An egg-shaped treehouse. This one's really beautiful -- made by a guy who's just a beginning carpenter. (Don't miss the slideshow, either.)

Buyer's remorse -- all sorts of interesting stories. And a big one from Len Penzo, who collected these. (Moral of his story: make sure your house isn't too close to the railroad tracks before you sign the contract.)

And speaking of buyer's remorse: 9 popular collectibles that aren't worth as much as you'd think. Entrants include Beanie Babies, Precious Moments figurines, Hummels and (sorry, friends Roger and Judy) Thomas Kinkade prints. As one evaluator points out,  the only one getting rich off Kinkade items is Kinkade himself.
     Ah well. There's always the decorative value.

Abandoned photography. I was intrigued by a slideshow of abandoned places last week -- some of which came from the Opacity website. Go take a look.

Start planning for your garden - the thrifty way. (Our New Life in the Country can help.)

Sometimes being sneaky is the best way to be frugal. (From Living on the Cheap)
Other sneaky ways to squeeze out the family budget -- including refilling brand name boxes with the generic stuff! (Thanks, Yes I Am Cheap)

Peppermint deodorant...that you make yourself. I've just started reading Thrift Core, this wacky thrift shop/flea market/garage sale site. But along with the great finds, she also includes how-tos now and then. Like the deo (which she swears is the best she's ever found), plus this surprisingly easy way to turn a photograph into a painting.
   Yep, this.. this. (Click on the link above for a full explanation.)

Quilting tattoos. (Need I say more?!?)

Some of the cutest-ever Easter cupcakes from Food Network - a whole slideshow of easy-to-make desserts.
    Parade Magazine has three Easter cupcakes of their own (below) -- how-tos are here.

Have a productive week!

Five 'Practical' Money-Saving Tips...That Aren't

Some things, you just shouldn't try to save money on.

Daily Money Shot has her own list, including 'sell your house when times get tough;' (where will you live then?) 'vampire electricity' and my favorite: 'don't buy daily coffee and/or lunch' ("Give up that morning coffee? Seriously?" she says. "I think the fines on the assault charges will cost more than the coffee...")

No doubt this has more to do both with your personality, as well as what you can finagle, than with real economy. For example, I wouldn't go without my morning coffee, either...but I also haven't paid for Starbucks for months, even my every-friday-at-the-crack-of-dawn meeting with friends. Why bother, when you can exchange an empty bag for a free cup? (One friend works for people who love the stuff...she just collects the bags they throw away.)
      All the same, most Starbucks just tastes burnt or weak. Now that our Panamanian coffee, sadly, is used up, we like Boyers' Rocky Mountain Thunder much better, brewed at home. (I just go to the shop to be with my friends.)

Other food items signal right away when you're skimping. Take chocolate, for example. The cheaper stuff really does yell out its lack of cocoa. Give me Ghirardelli any day, especially when Sam's Club stocks large bags of it for only a little more than the cheap stuff.
     Fresh fruit in season. (Buy extra then, and freeze it - it will taste so much better the rest of the year.)
     Cheap processed meat: hot dogs, bologna and such. I can tell Oscar Mayer from generic a mile away.
Other ways that are just plain foolish? 

*Stealing...then rationalizing that it's ok. After all, no one stopped you.  Secrets of A Stingy Scoundrel, a 'frugal' book that should really be subtitled "How I Get Away with Being Dishonest," is good at this. Condiments at a restaurant? Clear the table, and stuff handfuls in your pockets. Hey, bring a backpack! (I have an uncle who thinks nothing of doing this, rationalizing that after all, he's paying for it by ordering a meal. Sigh.)
    Some of his methods are borderline okay: fill up on samples at Sam's Club in lieu of lunch, or take advantage of discount rates to renew your cable or phone bill. Others are just plain nasty: dig out used cups from fast food places that offer free refills -- then waltz into the restaurant for more whenever you feel like it. I'd also enjoy seeing how his boss responds to SS after watching him lug out a briefcase filled with office supplies. (At least he won't need more pens for a while after he gets fired.)
     This really, really bugs me.

*Reusing things that just shouldn't be used again. Like not flushing. Or using cloth squares, instead of toilet paper. (I still shudder at the thought, though some greenie blogs are all for it.) Use a cloth hankie, people, if you're so interested in saving on paper -- but don't go washing your toilet squares around me!

*'Saving' by paying high prices for organic or specialty/health food store items...yet you don't have enough money for your other bills because of it. Why not bake your own bread, or cook at home, instead of going out to eat? Raise your own garden produce? (Yes, even in an apartment - that's what window gardens and balconies are for, or urban plots.) Why not buy direct from the farmer, at farmer's markets, or purchase organic food in bulk from a wholesaler, like Costco, or a discounter like Sprouts, if you insist that's important? . (By the way, you should be giving something else up -- like an IPhone, or cable -- so you can afford it.)

*Waiting until the last minute to pay -- or not paying bills at all. Yes, SS is all for this one too, particularly for friends and family who have loaned him money. He's really hoping that they forget all about it. (I'm betting they don't. They just think he's a cheap jerk, instead.)
     Or hold off on paying until the very last minute: then if your automatic bill-paying program is slow that month, you'll get to pay all sorts of fun penalties. (The Brick and I differ on this. He waits...I'd rather pay a few days ahead, just in case. Have we paid some late fees? Yup.)

*Being all high-and-mighty and righteous about it. Can you learn a great deal from posts at Money-Saving Mom and "Four Moms Look At...", as well as other frugal-family-living sites? Absolutely. Can you also get very tired of people who are flogging their own ideological horse in the process? I hear far more about home schooling, stay-at-home moms, large families (as in really large - 6, 7, 8, 12 or more) and gluten-free diets than I've ever needed to know. "God-fearing" suggestions take a close second -- items that are far more a wish to go back to the Good Ole Days (were they really that good??), than they are following the Bible's precepts. (This is coming from someone who was largely a stay-at-home mom, debated whether to home-school -- we didn't, though good friends did -- and is a Christian, by God's grace. Just thought I'd mention that.) money? You bet. Do it in ways that are healthier for you, and your environment? I'm all for it. But let's be practical, too.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How Would Jeff Gordon Do In This Snow?

He does ok (and freaks out the car salesman) on this test drive...

We've got more than a foot of snow -- and more's coming down.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

There's A Snowstorm Coming!

    We're in line for the next big one. The chickens are starting to lay more, thanks to the warm weather and increased daylight -- they'll just hunker down inside the coop and wait it out. Poor them...and the daffodils, whose leaves are just starting to pop out.
     The chickens have been such a big success that I ordered 10 more Black Austrolorp chicks yesterday. That will only bring the flock up to 19, assuming all the chicks live. Not that much more work, and we've got plenty of would-be customers for eggs. However, the chickies will no longer range all over the yard; we've gotten tired of the chicken poop 'surprises' here and there. The Brick is in the process of figuring out fence posts. When he's done, we'll go ahead and enclose the chickenyard. It will still be roomy - and I plan to put in plenty of greens for them to munch on.

...Just happened on this video:

Children playing guitar. (They're kindergartners, by the way, from Chongjin City, North Korea.)

I don't know whether to be amazed or horrified...or both.

If you've had experience with kids at all, you know that children this age generally have a very short attention span. I currently have a piano/voice student, age 6. She's a great kiddo, and very smart, but I have to really work to get - and keep - her attention. Silly songs help, like "Mary Had A Little Lamb" or "My Pants Fell Down on Main Street." (All played on the black keys.)

So what kind of training let kids this young be this accomplished? Did it involve repetition, to the exclusion of everything else? (Or the Korean version of "My Pants Fell Down?") Punishment? Did they have a life, outside kindergarten and playing guitar?

That's the horrifying part.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Abandoned Places

They can have a strange beauty, all the same. 

Like an abandoned subway station in New York City. (It's below the current lines.)

Or a Brazilian research yacht, still visible where it sank in Arctic waters.

Take a look at six more abandoned places, including a deserted church and falling-down schoolhouse, from, by clicking on this link. 

This slide show, of decaying palaces and mansions, is equally haunting. (Also from Don't these places have people who care about them?!?

 P.S. While you're there, take look at the world's most terrifying bridges. Wouldn't a ride on those get your blood pumping!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Dare I Dig?

The first day of spring was officially Sunday -- but I wondered. We've had far too many sunny days followed by blizzards lately. Could I really trust this warmth, and urge to dig in the dirt? 
     Should have known -- by sundown, storm clouds were moving in, and the temperature dropping. Maybe tomorrow; the spinach still needs to get planted. Meanwhile, a trayful of 'heirloom' tomatoes is happily growing in the laundry room's sunny spot. And:

S'mores on a stick...easy to make. Wouldn't these look great in an Easter basket? How-tos, thanks to Cleverly Inspired.

'Spring Break and My Misspent Youth.' So says Monster Piggy Bank. I never got to do this -- no money, for one thing, and I worked all day, every day but Thursday and Sunday, at the local hardware store during Spring Break. Based on MPB's sad tale, I didn't miss much.
    What did you do during your Spring Breaks -- play or work?

Places to hide things in your house...including a very cool lettuce 'safe!'  Thanks, Apartment Therapy.

A do-it-yourself overhead projector...from a cardboard box?? Yes, thanks to Cleverly Inspired. This is so easy that I wonder why anyone would buy one. Seriously.

Everybody has a lonely experience. The Pennington Point's 'difficult weekend' just points up the need for friendliness and a welcoming attitude. If we all took this! 

Donna Freedman's in love...and sharing chores. This contented post is written in the warm, open style I enjoy so much of Donna's work. You will, too. (Her 10 Financial Lessons from the Iditarod is also a winner.)

Myths about St. Patrick's Day. Did you know, for example, that the 'Irish' saint (a Scot by birth) is actually associated with blue, much more than green? A post by yours truly over at Penny Thots.  Take a look at the author's page, while you're there, for more of my work. (There's lots of it this month.)

A mudroom bench from an old discarded dresser?? Yep, thanks to The Weekend Country Girl's picture-by-picture instructions. This was easier than it looks. (How-tos are here.)

Homegrown spinach - from the freezer, courtesy of Our Life in the Country.

Using your rock collection to advantage in your garden. Both Daughter #2 and I love rocks, and have been picking them up for years, to the accompanying moans of the Brick. (He particularly hates when one of us yells, "Quick, stop the car -- I just saw a great rock on the side of the road!")

Dealing with the 'God will never give you more than you can handle' phraseAlthough I'm not sure I agree with the writer that this is a lie, I do believe that hard times literally drive us to God -- because there is nowhere else we can go for help and comfort.
    This has been a rough few weeks: good friends lost a 3-year-old granddaughter, Carlie, to sickness, and we lost a cousin to cancer. Jeannette was only 61, and one of the kindest, most gracious people I knew. Why did these happen? Only God knows. Does He care about us, even now? I'm sure of it. Can we trust Him? Sometimes He is the only one we can...

Have a good week.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Looking for some Irish-themed dishes to make? You'll find a good selection at our sister blog, Holiday Goodies, including Irish stew, apple cake, colcannon and brack. (Really. Go see.)

We'll be going the corned-beef-and-cabbage route at Chez Brick, cooked for hours in the slow cooker until it's nice and tender. The Brick will probably wash it down with a good porter, but I'll stick to Irish Breakfast tea, dreaming of our coming trip.

Erin Go Bragh! Hooray for Ireland! 

Eggs, Eggs and More Eggs

Having chickens has a real bonus --
   You're no longer out of eggs. 

What - the carton's empty? Wait a few hours. Trot down to the coop, and lift up Mrs. Broody. (One of our chickies is currently trying to hatch something - anything.) Invariably, there's a fresh, warm egg -- or two or three -- underneath, just waiting for use.

An extra bonus: If you don't wash them, fresh-laid eggs have a natural coating that keeps them good, even if they sit on the counter for days. In fact, some people advocate never putting them in the frig in the first place! Brits apparently do not refrigerate their eggs. The American Egg Board, on the other hand, disagrees with this stance, saying you shouldn't keep them out longer than a few hours. (Tell that to Mrs. Broody, who would cheerfully sit on them all day, if we'd let her.)

We sell enough eggs for the chickies to pay for their own keep. Other than that, a bowlful of hen fruit are around for experimenting. One good dish was this morning's breakfast:


(*the family name for quesadillas)

You'll need 1/4 - 1/2 pound of bacon, an egg or two plus three corn tortillas for each person, and a handful of cubed cheese.
    Start the bacon frying in a skillet up-top, and turn the oven on to 450 degrees. Once the bacon is browned, push it to the outer edges of the skillet, and carefully crack the eggs into the middle. Salt and pepper, then add a few tablespoons of water and cover.
     By this time, the oven should be heating nicely. Sprinkle a few cubes of cheese on each tortilla, then slide the cookie sheet into the oven.
     Make the coffee and set table. By the time you're done (7-10 min.), the eggs should be firm and set, and the cheese guys bubbling. To eat: put a scoop of egg and bacon on the tortilla, shovel on some salsa, and fold in half. Let the blend of hot and cool make your mouth a very happy place.

    Variations: Add leftover chopped sausage or chicken to the tortillas, and a few tablespoons of chopped onion and/or mushrooms to the skillet. Chopped vegetables saute well in this mixture, too.

Add a little Commander Cody for a peaceful Saturday morning. 

Another favorite:
     DEVILED (Stuffed) EGGS

2 eggs per person
mayonnaise (or substitute ranch dressing), mustard, horseradish
salt, pepper...and a little basil or marjoram

Boil your eggs, peel and split lengthwise. Mash the yolks, adding about 1/4 cup mayo or dressing for every 6 eggs. Mix in a spoonful of mustard, and about 1/2 spoonful of horseradish, plus spices to taste. Fill each of the egg whites. Serve cold on a platter accompanied by other veggies...or a pile of crisp cole slaw. Goes well with hot dogs, cold cuts and crusty rolls.

There's kedgeree (flaked fish and rice, combined with chopped egg) -- a recipe for this British dish is coming up in Holiday Goodies shortly. Grandma Cumings would bake sliced boiled eggs in cream sauce for a Depression Era treat; I prefer ours poached in tomato sauce or salsa as Huevos Rancheros. (Serve a side of Cheese Guys for perfect munching.)

Or make a naked egg!
The Science of Cooking has all sorts of egg-related goodies, including letting them marinate in vinegar. (The vinegar dissolves the shell, giving the outer surface a translucent look, then 'cooks' the egg inside.)

The bonus to all this: eggs are all protein and budget-priced. They got a bad name from scientific studies in the past, for increasing cholesterol -- those same studies have now concluded that eggs are not so bad, after all. Score one for my practical farmer ancestors, who would have laughed themselves silly. Why would anyone not want to take advantage of this nutritious, frugal food?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Erin Go Bragh...Oh My!

It's hard to believe...
    but we're headed to Ireland in late August for a few weeks. We'll stay a few days with our cousins, who have been missionaries in Galway for years. (They're getting ready to retire at year's end and come back to the States, and we really wanted to spend some time with them before they left.)

But we'll also rent a car and visit some places I've always wanted to see --

The Aran Islands

St. Clare's Island (where Grace O'Malley, the Pirate Queen, held forth)

the Cliffs of Moher

A castle...or two...or three.

One of the Roman ruins -- I've been curious about their presence in Britain for ages. 

Galway & Dublin...including (hopefully) a PUB! (Never been to one. Always wondered.)

    Definitely some time in Scotland, too. There's some Scotch blood in both our veins (Cumings & Campbell). Maybe a stop in Wales, too. (Some Welsh blood joins the rest...yep, I'm just a mutt, genealogically speaking.)

    The plane tickets are purchased. The rest of the trip details still need to be worked out -- won't that be fun! Oh, the possibilities...

Our Irish eyes are smiling. 

Where would you go, if you were us? Suggestions are welcome! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Five Reasons Why You Should Consider Chickens

We've had a small flock of chickens for nearly a year now...enough time for them to whip us and the dogs into shape. We've learned a lot, mostly by reading other blogs and sites on the Internet, and by sheer bumbling.

My sole Chicken Time, other than our current situation, was a few years in middle school with a flock of White Leghorns The Mama and Pa raised. We collected eggs (I remember being pecked regularly, doing it), and eventually we butchered and processed them all in one day. (Ever see multiple bodies-with-no-heads running around? Now there's a sight that would fit in on The Walking Dead.) The Mama hated it. My dad, who grew up on a farm with a large chicken yard, was indifferent.
    My grandma raised chickens and eggs commercially for many years; she had her own stand and regular customers in the Grand Rapids, MI area. Unfortunately, she died when I was in high school, long before the Brick...or children...or chickens...were on my horizon. I regret this many times -- she could have answered so many questions. Lesson hopefully learned, for those of you who still have your grandparents: talk to them now, while you still can!

Would we get chickens again? In fact, we're planning on ordering 9 or 10 more chicks this spring, to expand the flock. Here are five good reasons (and warnings):

*The best, of course, is EGGS. Fresh, warm and often with a few feathery bits stuck on. These are the meatiest eggs I've ever eaten. (A friend said, "I get full even when I eat just one!") They stay firm, whether fried or poached. (Most eggs don't.) The yolks have a rich color, and the taste is very good. Having extra eggs we can use, whenever we want, has been a real plus. There really is a difference between these and store-bought eggs.

*If you sell some of those wonderful eggs, the chickens pay for themselves. Even through the eggless months (and winter can be tough), we've still had enough to sell up to 3 dozen eggs a week. Three dollars a dozen for fresh, free-range eggs is a bargain around here; we have two regular customers, 2-3 more who would love to be regulars, and a whole passel of others who'd be interested in a dozen now and then. The problem has been the cold, lack of light and molting season -- each affects the chickies' ability to lay. Nonetheless, they were still putting out 4-7 eggs a day from Thanksgiving on. Now it's mid-March, their egg production is picking up. Which means even more customers.
     Do the math. A bag of feed costs approx. $16 -- and the chickies go through about a bag a month. Selling 3 dozen eggs a week = $9/weekly. It's enough to pay for their feed and make inroads on the initial costs for chicks, feeders, coop and fencing. Plus our own eggs.

*Less and more waste! Less, in that you don't throw out wizened veggies, funky meat, stale bread or mushy fruit anymore -- it goes straight into the voracious beaks, instead. I cannot express how virtuous this makes you feel. 
    The flip side is that you also get manure -- a lot more. (And get to scrape out the coop every month. Ok, that's not so nice.) Free-range chickens are big poopers...great when it comes to gardens, not so good for keeping sidewalks clean. (We plan to finish up a large pen this spring, which will give them plenty of room to run and peck, without 'surprises' on our shoes.)
Chickens will range all over, if you let them.
*Fewer bugs, mice and other ILBs.* These scrape-and-peck machines are amazing on bugs, moths and flies. Our flower and garden beds have had fewer pests than ever before, thanks to them. (Now if we could only teach them to keep pooping in the flowers - and stay away from the deck!)
     The surprise, honestly, has been in the lack of mice. Usually we have a family or two who try to winter over -- but other than a fat rat in the fall (found him floating in the hot tub - yuck), we've seen none. I'd read somewhere that chickens will chase after mice and literally tear them apart -- haven't seen it, but those mice have to be going somewhere.
     When it comes to meat, these hens are fearless. They even had the cojones to chase Charley the dog down while he had a meaty bone. Sir Charles finally outran them, but it was close, for a while.

*irritating little buggers

*They're good company. If you're careful to get only hens, chickens make surprisingly little fuss. They do like to 'announce' when they've laid an egg; we also get a big kick out of the 'guard chicken,' who patrols the yard last thing and pushes any protesting latecomers into the coop. Other than that, we rarely hear them -- only a soft 'buck buck' when they're looking for food, or a chirruping. (Purring, almost.)
    They're also surprisingly funny. Our hens' reactions to the first snow was fascinating. And when a pan of food's out, they'll grab...and chase each other...and grab again. Let's put it this way -- it's every chicken for itself. No sharing and sacrificing here.
     While I'm outside weeding, digging or hanging up clothes, they'll hang out, looking for a stray worm, or snapping up extra green. (That's the main issue, letting them free-range -- they'll eat anything. Including your garden. They don't care.) Another hen wanders by, and the group joins her. Or they sit, snuggled in under the trees on our hill, looking out over the hillside. What are they thinking about, while they snooze?
     At night, in the coop, they gather in a little circle. (Poker...or a book discussion?) I'll double-check the nests and toss down Mrs. Broody. (We've still got one chicken who is determined to hatch something.) Listening to them talk to each other, and knowing there will be more warm brown eggs in the morning, is a real pleasure.

So should you consider chickens? If you've got a good enclosed yard and the city laws are amenable, and you're willing to combine patience with a little work, the answer is an unequivocal YES.

Get chickens? Of course!

Product Review: The Glade Expressions Line

Just a few words about Glade's new Expressions line. 

Every now and then, I get a chance to be a 'BzzzAgent,' which means I get a free sample of new lines and products, and a chance to test them out. This time through, I got products from Glade, a brand whose spray products I use regularly, anyways. Glade's fragrances vary all over, from heavy fruity/flowery scents, to clean, crisp basic ones. I'm a huge fan of the basics, which made me especially curious about this new scent --

Cotton & Italian Mandarin. 
    I confess -- I wasn't too sure about mixing citrus with fresh linen. And there's definitely more 'citrus' than there is 'linen.' But this fragrance has a fresh smell, without being overpowering. I liked it! (Find out more about this fragrance here.)

     Glade's expressions line comes in two types: a spray refill enclosed by a holder (at right, above), and a diffuser (at left, above - the leaf-cut tan holder). I tried Cotton & Italian Mandarin in spray form. The idea is good: a spray can that doesn't look like one. (You get a printed plastic sleeve on the starter kit -- but it easily peels off, giving you a basic clean-looking holder. Nice.) The one drawback: you have to exert more pressure to get the can to spray. For anyone with grip/pressure problems or arthritis, that could develop into an issue. Generally, it's fine.

I also tried, in diffuser form:

Pineapple & Mangosteen.

Another confession upfront --  I am not a fruity person. (Well, in other ways, maybe...) The diffuser was easy to put together, and looks rather decorative. But it also works a little too well. Our smaller bathroom is literally filled with fragrance, and it's seeping out into the hallway. (It will go on like this for up to 30 days, according to Glade.) The smell is not a true fruity scent, more like a fruit-flavored chapstick. Hmmm.    (Find out more about this fragrance here.)

Starlit Evening. 
I like a clean, basic scent in my spray mists. In fact, if Glade had a straight lavender scent (no vanilla or other foufy stuff), I would have zipped over to it, like a bee to honey. But they didn't -- and I wanted to try another version beside the Cotton & Italian Mandarin in spray form.
    Enter Starlit Evening -- and what a surprise! Soft, fragrant, but not overpowering. Effective in clearing away excess odors, too. I really liked this one.  (Find out more about this fragrance here.)

So there you go. The diffuser is much more penetrating than just the spray mist -- and if you like the scent, it will be an effective way of keeping that area smelling fresh. The spray versions are much better for occasional touchups. As are many others in the Glade line. It's a good company with a long reputation for quality.

Please note: I didn't get paid for this review - but I did get some coupons for free and discounted products. The Bzzz agent program is good for that! If you're interested, take a look here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What Can You Do with Duct Tape?

Plenty, it turns out.

Duck Brand Duct Tape is once again sponsoring its "Stuck at Prom" contest. First prize: a $5000 scholarship!

Last year's winners, Lara & Cole, are here:

Oh my. 

I really like Michelle & Adam's entry, too...
The full gallery is here.

Duck Tape also sponsored a contest on Project Runway. Those gowns are here.

Pass the word -- can you see all the embellishment and design opportunities?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Shoveling Out. Again.

Gee, does it never end?!? Another 1 1/2 feet of snow came down Saturday. The chickens were surprised at the drift that  hemmed up their coop -- for that matter, so were we. But Colorado's warm sun is already making headway. The driveway and sidewalks are already clear.
     Actually, it felt good to stay home and watch a movie or two. I still am not completely over this flu...and the Brick started into it. Sigh. 
     While we snuffle and shovel, here are some goodies from the Internet:

A chance look at the Smithsonian Magazine's ads produced a link to John Helmer, a haberdasher who offers basics for properly brought-up British a wide range of hats of all types and makes. I had a lot of fun gawking at the hats on their 'special occasion' page, which includes not only the hats below, but everything from taxi-driver and military caps, a pith helmet, and even a fez! (P.S. Oversized French floppy berets for $14-18, too.)
    Where else can you find such an unusual mix of hats...and if you're desperate for a Depression Era milkman's cap, now you know where to go. 

Civil War reenactor's leather 'kepi' - they have suede, too. $45
Sherlock Holmes' deerstalker - $125
French Foreign Legion - $185
'Coonskin' cap- real fur - well, rabbit skin - and a steal at $65!
Taking winter by storm, other words, how to  stock up, in case bad weather hits. (Or zombies, as the case may be.) Sure, it may seem to be almost spring -- but in the past three weeks, we've been hit by as many storms. And two of the three dumped more than a foot of the white stuff. I just happened to stop by King Soopers just before storm #3, and the store shelves were nearly empty of eggs and milk. Either people were stocking up, or the trucks weren't getting through. (Shades of the Really Bad Winter we had some 5 years ago, with storm after storm. It only took three days for nearly all of the cold stuff to disappear off the shelves. Seriously.)
    Anyways, thanks for the mention, Frugal by Choice.

Bouncing back from failure. Good, stiff advice from Trent at the Simple Dollar.  We all have it happen at least once in our he points out, it's not just how it happens -- it's how you deal with it.

An easy citrus vinegar cleaner, from Smockity Frocks. (The cuties are almost gone...time to make some of this.)

Warren Buffett's tax rate, via Five Cent Nickel. He talks a good story...but he's still paying less, admittedly, than everyone in his office.

Got one of those large spools that you'll occasionally find by the roadside? Turn it into a combination stool and bookshelf, thanks to Diary of A Crafty Lady. Whoa, the things people come up with nowadays...

An interesting (and reasonably-priced) greenhouse -- dug into a hole! This makes more sense than you would think -- take a look. (A how-to guide for a 'Walipini' is here. Now, where can I get my hands on a rammed earth form?)

Also, 3 more greenhouse ideas that don't demand a lot of money. Plus a geodesic dome greenhouse in Colorado, only about 1,000 feet higher than we live. (6250 ft altitude)

A guy who's getting $60,000 for a 'rock' he found on the beach. (Turns out it's ambergris. Yep, "whale upchuck," as the site so elegantly puts it.)

An incredible number of freezer cooking tips, including ways to minimize waste and cook ahead. (Thanks, Our New Life in the Country.) 

Glissade chocolate mousse -- easy to make and absolutely incredible in taste. The only issues: you must make it at least some hours ahead of time (or the day before) in order to allow it to set. Oh, and it uses raw eggs. (I'm thinking you can minimize some of this by adding the yolks before she specifies.) Take a look...thanks, 101 Cookbooks.

 And a heads--up for what's coming on Sunday...God bless Ireland! Have a good week. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blowin', Snowin'...Biscuits and Gravy

The Brick came home last night, sick as a pup. Looks like he has the same flu I've been struggling with for the past few weeks. This morning, the snow started -- and now, at midnight, we've got at least a foot, maybe two of snow. The chickies spent most of the day snug in their coop. Charley the dog enjoys jamming his face in the snow and taking big gulps...what a silly dog.

While the snow poured and swirled, we rested and watched movies, mostly beefy action types. (Jean-Claude and Clint played a big part.) Fortunately, the power's stayed on, and house is warm.

Biscuits and Gravy was an easy thing to make for breakfast, and just hit the spot. I 've been using the baking powder biscuit recipe ever since I memorized it in high school home economics class -- it's a perfect foil for plenty of creamy, meaty gravy poured over. You might like it, too.


1 pound ground sausage meat
dash of dried onion (or onion salt)
1 cup milk

5 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Start the sausage meat frying while you set the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix dried items together, then cut in butter. Squish it all between your hands, mixing together -- or use a fork. Pour in the milk, then mix quickly. (It should form a loose ball.) Add more flour if need be -- sprinkle flour on an area for kneading, as well. Lightly fold dough in half -- repeat 5 times. (Pushing hard toughens up the biscuits - do it as lightly as you can.)
     Spread the dough out, about 1" thick. Cut 8-10 biscuits, using a cutter or the edge of a glass -- put on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 7-10 min., until tops are brown.

Meanwhile, you should have stopped to turn the sausage meat, breaking it up as you go. Sprinkle in the onion -- and once the biscuits are in the oven, scrape up the leftover flour from the kneading area and drop it in your frying pan with the meat. Turn until it's thoroughly mixed in, then pour in milk. Turn heat down to medium and stir occasionally, until gravy is thickened and bubbling.

By now, your biscuits should be done. Split one or two in half, then top with gravy -- grind fresh pepper over top and serve! Makes 2-4 servings, with leftover biscuits for butter and jam.

Good for a snowy, back-to-winter morning, served with plenty of hot coffee or tea.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Looking Elsewhere...and Frozen Dead Guy Days

I get around.

Not saying that to emphasize my wilder tendencies (ahem), but I do write for other blogs. Right now, you can find a LOT of posts both at the Midlife Finance and Penny Thots websites. 

Midlife Finance has a lot of my finance-based posts, from buying the right house to  getting the best car insurance at the best price, and ten ways to get cash - fast. Penny Thots, on the other hand, ranges all over the place, from talking about the price of honesty (it should be price-less!) to musing on the delights of staying up late. Other stuff is in there too, from pennypinching on home dec to not wasting a crumb of bread.

Go take a look for yourself --

Midlife Finance is here.

Penny Thots is here.
    And if you're curious especially about me, yours truly's author pages are here. A number of great people write for this site, including Edward Antrobus and Mary Cunningham. 

Another snowstorm is moving in on the horizon. The Brick just checked in -- do we need milk or movies? (Hey, the staff of life around here, if you add pizza.) I was supposed to help out at a seniors luncheon for church, but it's already been cancelled. The flu I've been struggling with is still hanging on. It will be nice to stay close to home this weekend. 

But -- if you're going to be out and about, don't miss that wacky Colorado festival:

Frozen Dead Guy Days! 

That paragon of strange-but-fun events is this weekend, snow or not. It's got the usual mix of
    *Coffin Races
    *Frozen t-shirt contests
    *Ice Turkey Bowling
    *Polar Plunge

and all sorts of other oddities, including the frozen salmon toss. (Which Daughter #2's boyfriend won last year! Hey, he's a muscular Eskimo sort-- what can I say.)
     Strange costumes and much can also go visit Grandpa in the Tuff Shed. (Go to the link for a video on that one.) Let's put it this way -- you won't find events like this anywhere else in the country on this weekend.
     It's a LOT of fun. 


Have a fun weekend, yourself.