Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Paying Attention

I need to remember this about people...you do, too.

Castle Rock Starlighting

    I live just outside a town named for a big stone.

Castle Rock, Colorado -- (6250 ft. altitude) originally a railroad stop that also served emigrants on one of the trails from New Mexico to Denver. It eventually became the county seat for Douglas County. The story I heard: public-minded citizens sneaked over to Franktown in the dead of night, stole the county documents, and had them stashed in Castle Rock before Franktown officials could do anything about it!

A 1910 postcard. The old depot was moved several blocks over, and now serves as the town museum.
(No surprise, obviously, that it's haunted.)

    'The Rock' started its life as 'Poundcake Rock,' named for an expedition, scouted by Kit Carson, who was literally starving. They must have been, to give this craggy butte such a scrumptious name. (Fortunately, the group's hunters managed to shoot an elk soon after they came into the vicinity.)

     Actually, Castle Rock looks much more like the broad prow of an ocean liner, than a castle. But what do I know...

Several other buttes are nearby. This area is famous for its pinkish rhyolite rock: easy to build with, sturdy and inexpensive. (At least until the quarries began to burn out.) The huge two-story fireplace in our 1960s house is faced with slabs of rhyolite.
     In the 1940s, a large star was added to The Rock, along with an American flag. Every year since then, the star is lit just before the Christmas season...then stays on through the Western Stock Show in late January. The actual starlighting is accompanied by crowds, a chili supper at the local fire station, musical groups...and a big whoop-tee-do lighting ceremony that includes fireworks.

The Star has also become a way to comment on what's happening, not only here in Colorado (orange and blue for the Broncos and the Superbowl, for example), but in the world. During the Iranian hostage crisis, the star stayed lit until the hostages came home.

Here's 2015's version of the Starlighting:

I-25 climbs as it heads south out of Denver, then rolls down into Castle Rock. At nighttime, the golden star 'hangs' low, the shadow of the rock 'disappearing'  as you drive toward it. Over the years, it's become a welcoming sight --

                    and a reminder that we're finally home. 

vintage photo from blog.porchlightgroup.com 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday Stuff on the Way to Other Stuff: Patience

     Thanksgiving was fine -- now on to a busy week. The Mama stays through Saturday afternoon, and has lots of plans for filling up a good share of the days. Tuesday, we'll head out to Bailey, to cut Christmas trees. (And hopefully visit the Sasquatch Outpost.)  Tuesday night will be our 'Christmas' with her...so she can see presents opened. Wednesday is sugar cookie-making day; Thursday, my piano students will stay afterward, and help frost them. Friday, we'll go see Daughter #2 and Son #1 in Boulder, then do some shopping at the Friday/Saturday store on the way home. 
     Saturday afternoon, she flies home to Michigan. 
     Somehow, in between all this, I have to fit in two afternoons working at Tuesday Morning; finish up a few reports; write some catalog copy; continue cleaning and tidying up; and somehow keep the Mama happy and satisfied. 
     On the plus side, we'll get a huge batch of cookies that actually look and taste like the ones I grew up with. No matter how I'll try, my baked goods just don't have The Mama's touch. 
     We've had particularly beautiful sunsets all this past week -- perhaps the earth is giving thanks, too? And now Castle Rock has its golden star shining out at night. (See below) That's one of the solid clues that the Christmas season really is begininng. (Here's some background, if you're interested.)

Two of my favorite cousins for cookie decorating and all-around Life: Krindi (middle) and Joanie (far right)
Now on with the show...

See Castle Rock's star at top right? From the town website
Here's what The Rock looks like during the daytime:

Update on the check fiasco -- unfortunately, no update at all. It's now been more than three weeks since I had Priority Choice Marketing's phone call. Do I have to phone and/or write them again?

How to avoid overspending this holiday season.  (From Retire By 40)

See your house in a snowglobeIt's a bit grainy...but fun.

Remember the autistic boy who couldn't say "Gobble, gobble?" I wonder what's happening with this little innocent (ahem) and his even-moreso mom. Both seem to have fallen off the Facebook bench, after 'poor' Caleb was flooded with presents and other goodies last November. (Nope -- found her -- but she seems to be far more circumspect this year.)

An Irish beach that mysteriously vanished...has reappeared!  (From Irish Central)

Charles Manson died this past week...what became of his 'family?' 
    Was he ever sorry for the atrocities he and his followers committed? Well, let's put it this way -- on the 40th anniversary of the Sharon Tate murders, he broke his silence...to gripe about global warming.

From the Department of 'Now I've Seen Everything:' a sasquatch foot charmEwww.

A gay couple who solved their estate problems -- by having their female friend marry both men, in turn!

Be fierce about following your dreams... you won't regret it. I've experienced this several times. One of my bestselling books (Hanky Panky) was pooh-poohed and ha-haed...but it went into 13 printings. Crazy Quilts' historical conclusions were considered a joke when I first proposed them. It's now considered one of the standard references on that patchwork style.  (From Financial Samurai)

A Christmas Hard Times memory.  (From Harvest Lane Cottage)

Russian teacake...bars?  (From Betty Crocker)

Extreme cooking-from-scratch marathon.  (From Penniless Parenting) Don't miss her recipe for french fried onions.

Ten odd items discovered during an airport luggage search. Including...a dead body? I kept thinking of Monty Python's 'Bring out your dead:'  (Thanks,  Listverse)

The milkmaid and her pail -- a cautionary fable from Budgets Are Sexy.

Stuck in a vehicle during a storm? Thirteen things that can help you survive. (From Living Life in Rural Iowa)

Have a great week. 

See that odd slanted rectangle shape on the horizon? Voila -- Castle Rock, as seen from our chicken coop.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


An Amtrak train zooms through the Rhinecliff, NY station....

    See what happens to the unsuspecting people waiting to board.

Shades of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Long Winter...where the only way to get through snow is to get up a headstart and barrel through it.
     For a while, at least. 

A Good Thing to Remember on a Holiday Weekend

....I think!

Hey Girl...Again

It's been an interesting week.

Nothing's gone exactly how I planned...but that seems to be the norm lately. At least The Mama flew in safely from Michigan; both Daughters and Son #1 showed up; the turkey turned out great (cook it fast at a high temp...and slather with butter); and we had a chance to rest. (The Brick has been crabby-sick with something, and I seem to be teetering on it.) There was some talk for a while of having to show the house the night before Thanksgiving...thank God that got cancelled. 
    Daughter #2, Son #1 and The Mama made some delicious pies, and we all gave thanks. 
    It is so warm here that you'd swear it was spring, except for bare ground and branches. The mountains have fresh snow -- we don't. 
     The Mama wants to make all her holiday goodies. No excuses about working on reports or having to take care of other business -- I must drop everything to find the sugar, get the cinnamon, and drag out the measuring cups right now. At least she's having fun fussing. 

      While she's busy watching Michigan lose to Ohio State (sigh), I have a chance to pass on the latest Hey Girl fest. Many of the ones I noticed  this time around are teacher- or writer-related. You know what a sucker I am for this, anyways.
      Anything to keep from thinking about the Wolverines' sad finish to an otherwise good game. Ryan Gosling, take me away...

We writer/editors take our grammar seriously. 

But our family likes guns...

Friend Chris is especially good at this.

Clever way to promote a yardsale!

Then, of course, there's Benedict:

Radio Times interview, 2012

It's all right, Buddy. Anyone who looks at his wife with that much love in his eyes, has my vote. 

photo from www.popsugar.co.uk 

Handsome fades...'striking' and 'intelligent' are much more interesting!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

To make this turkey pattern, download the templates FREE from Wisconsin Quilting.

    (This version is from Mathew, a staffer for Pat Sloan -- click here for more info.)

Have a restful day

November 1930 Life Magazine cover - seen on Pinterest

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Thanksgiving and Poldark

     We just finished watching Poldark, Season 3. 
A lot of my friends love the Outlander series, in film and book. I tried both -- a little too farfetched for my taste. Poldark still has my vote for costuming, dramatic action and genuine heartbreak. Cornwall's beautiful, too.
     It's not a perfect series. Now and then, I want to smack both Ross Poldark and his wife Demelza for taking each other too much for granted. They also will believe practically anyone's secondhand reports, rather than ASKING each other for the truth. 
      Not that I would ever do this to the Brick....

The Mama is arriving early this week, to spend some time -- and Thanksgiving -- with us. The turkey's slowly thawing -- potatoes, mushrooms and other goodies are in hand (and bought on sale). We'll start making pies after she gets here.

     Update on the check fiasco:  It's been two weeks, and Priority Choice Marketing's check still hasn't arrived. Nor have I heard a thing from any police department...promises, promises.

Finalists from the "It's Amazing Out There" photo contest, sponsored by the Weather Channel.

Christmas plans.  (From Frugal in Lincolnshire)

Living in a tent, car and then a sailboat!  (From Budgets Are Sexy)

Ten creatures eaten alive.  The more baby mice people eat, the happier I'll be.  (From Listverse)

Head over to 'Frugal Mom in Boise's' Facebook page, for 50 different thumbprint cookie recipes. Just in time for the holidays... I just have to make these raspberry almond thumbprintscourtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction.

Ten ways to add to your life -- when you don't have a penny to spare.  (Thanks, Prudent Homemaker)

"Pretend you can do it."  Then you can!   (From Money Beagle)

What if you were wrong back then...and what have you learned from it, now you're older? Words of wisdom from J.D. Roth's Foldedspace.

When the computer's recording -- but you don't know it. A very funny 'geezers' video from years ago, out of yours truly's archives.

Feeding A Family of Five for Under $100 a Month.  Really!  (From the Fundamental Home)

A look back at the (wonderful) applique heritage of Elly SienkiewiczOur grasp on Baltimore Album history is forever indebted to her. (From Material Culture -- Elly's last name, btw, is pronounced "sink-ev-vich." Or close to that.)

Ten real-life tales of castaways.  Including the woman from Island of the Blue Dolphins.  (Thanks, Listverse)

Cats loving up and protecting 'their' babies.  An amazing video compilation.

How to make the most of your Thanksgiving turkey.  (From Hundred Dollars A Month)

Living in El Valle, Panama, on less than $1300 a month. The Brick and I stayed here during our Panama trip, and liked it very much.

An EIGHT BILLION DOLLAR jury verdict? Yow. This one's a little complicated...

A 10-year bet comes to fruition: hedge funds versus a basic index fund. Guess who made more profit? (I'll give you a hint: Warren Buffett was right.)

Sasquatch on Lake Superior: a documentary heavy on creepy music, but some interesting accounts. (One of my old college friends lives in the U.P., and says that they periodically hear screaming in the woods, late at night in the summer. According to her, the neighbors say it's Sasquatch. I said, "Record it, next time it wakes you up!"

A guy sends breakup messages in random texts to strangers...and gets some interesting responses! (Don't miss the one from 'Mittens.')

If you enjoy learning more about photos -- and famous photographers -- don't miss out on Attila Volgyi's blog. It's in English, translated from his other blog. (And, he says, more posts are in progress.) This Hungarian photojournalist has a keen eye for detail; I particularly enjoyed his series of posts on Robert Capa, the award-winning photographer who survived WWII, including landing on Omaha Beach -- but was killed by stepping on a landmine during the Vietnam conflict.

Enjoy your week...Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Snow...I Guess

    Last night, for the first time in weeks, it started raining.

    Then sleeting.

    Then snowing.


When we woke up this morning, 3" or so wet sloppy snow covered the ground. Which made Charley the dog very happy. (He enjoys crouching down in it, King of the Hill-style. All that heavy fur must make for a hot belly.)

Tonight, in spite of the cold, the white's largely melted down. 

Welcome back to fall, bare branches, general dreariness -- and Colorado. 

No big deal-- more snow's coming. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Presents...For Much Less

    Unless you're a bazillionaire (or spend like one), it's easy to look at the list of people you want to buy gifts for...
     and feel a little frightened.

How are you going to stretch your budget to cover everybody? 

Sometimes -- you shouldn't. Not every friend expects a lavish present. In fact, most would be happy you didn't -- because they can reciprocate in the same way.

Waltzing onstage: a batch of present ideas priced at $5 -- or less.

Handmade can be best. Many people have neither the time nor talent to stitch a small purse, or embroider something. If you can, and do it well -- do it.

'New' is relative. A basket purchased at Wal-Mart looks no different than one from the thrift shop. Also, look for items there still in the box. (I've found many, with the price tags still on.)

If it's vintage or antique -- highlight that. (Vintage, by the way, is 25 years or more. Appraisers and historians argue about the 'antique' label: some say 50 years or more, others, 100 years.)

Do 'gift basket' groupings. Multiple items look even more impressive, particularly when surrounded with tissue and arranged in a small basket or box. After all:

It's all in the presentation. Plastic giftwrap, ribbon and specialty tags don't cost much -- and make modest presents look like a million bucks.

Note: I'll be mentioning Tuesday Morning a lot -- I just started working there as a seasonal temp, and have noticed a number of interesting items. (Thereafter listed as TM.) But you can find many of these at your local stores. Don't forget thrift shops, dollar stores and the antique mall -- they often have unique items that can't be found in the plastic tzochke bins at other places.

                     FOR LESS THAN $5 (or even just a buck)

*A nice brandy snifter or crystal wineglass -- accompanied by a sampler bottle of wine, bourbon or brandy. (The bottles are running a buck each at our local Bubbles liquor store -- I'd get the glasses at the thrift shop or antique mall, but you can find them for $2.99 or less at TM.)

*Make your own moonshine. Last year's batch worked out to roughly $1.50 a pint.

*Christmas wreath or swag. Wire forms are cheap -- or make your own with a wire clotheshanger. Use trimmings from your backyard, including firs and evergreens.

 Keep it plain, or add a string of LED tiny lights and a bright red bow.

*Vintage handkerchiefs. (Add a copy of my Hanky Panky method, if they're quilters! Or add a comment with your contact info, and I'll send you a basic handout.)

*A sampler of items. For the scrapbooker: trims, scissors, specialty paper or stickers. For the stitcher: embroidery floss, thread, buttons, fabric squares. For the jewelry-lover: charms, beads, pliers and decorative wire. For the biker (motorcycles, I mean -- but it would work for mountain bikers, too): bandanna, wax or polish, reflective light, sleeve/pants guards. For the pet-lover: treats, a new feeding dish, chew rope or collar. The list can be endless, once you visit the clearance section, discount stores, etc. (Think 'small amounts:' a fat quarter at the fabric store, versus a yard or two, for example.)

*Snowmen pops: frost a package of Oreo cookies and dot on faces with frosting, chips or candies -- stick them on popsicle sticks, then tie with ribbon. Done!

*Giant gingerbread man or lady -- these are also good, made with my grandma's secret sugar cookie recipe Add a bowtie of decorative ribbon, then wrap in plastic.

*For kids: The promise of a trip to the dollar store -- and a fast food snack afterwards. Limit purchases to one item of their choice -- or one for every one of their family members. My piano students love this annual 'Christmas present shopping' trip.

*A portable game... plus an offer to play it with them. Add a small pack of nuts and a scorepad.

*Specialty pen with notepad  (TM has small bejeweled pads for $1.99 each)

*A pack of holiday napkins, with a bottle of barbecue or other specialty sauce -- and a recipe.

*Cup and saucer, in their favorite pattern or design.  (Add a teabag and sugar-dipped decorative spoon -- or substitute a small packet of coffee with a chocolate-dipped spoon. Hot chocolate works, too.)

*Package of teabags with a small bag of cookies. Add a paperback or video, for extra oomph. Or:

*Include a package of microwave popcorn with the paperback or video. Or Caramel Corn -- see below.

*Decorative mug -- with a copy of the Cup Cookies recipe below
   (Bonus: Mix the ingredients in a plastic bag. Tie with ribbon and include.)

*Earbuds, in a bright color -- with a CD of Christmas music. (You'll find both of these at the dollar store, for less than you think.)

*Cellphone accessories or tools. A small pack of these is surprisingly affordable -- try TM or other discount stores. The Brick enjoys tinkering with his cellphone, eyeglasses and other items that demand tiny repair tools.

*A $5 giftcard, wrapped in a handkerchief, or a small case you've stitched (or glued) from scrap paper or fabric.

If your time is limited (and for many of us, that's the case), then look for food gifts that can be made quickly, with minimum fuss. One of my old 'keeping food on a budget' posts has some excellent recipes, including Caramel Corn, Cup Cookies (see above), the best brownies ever, and...

these Peanut Butter cookies -- delicious, and no gluten. I made a batch in literally five minutes -- they'll be munched up faster than that.

1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix together and form into balls (squash with a fork for the traditional look) -- bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 min., until lightly brown. Makes about a dozen. (Yes, this recipe can be doubled and tripled.)

Brandy, over at Prudent Homemaker, has rustic-looking Christmas stockings she sewed from...painters dropcloth! These would make an interesting case for your holiday gift -- and something your recipient could use next season, as well.

If you have a lot of recipients to cover, one of Meredith's classic posts on Like Merchant Ships has a remarkable list of ideas for presents at a DOLLAR -- or less. (And they're good ones. I have plans for Paula Deen's House Blend mix myself. See the link.)

Another post of Meredith's gives more  'shoestring' present ideas, as does Charity Grace's thrifty little Christmas.  Moneysaving Mom has 'tons' of unique and frugal gift ideas...some good ones, but more than $5, generally.

I keep a few generic presents handy year-round for birthdays, as well as Christmas. Thinking ahead keeps your budget lean and active...without the frantic need to rush out at the last minute to Get Something. And that gives you more time for enjoying other parts of the holiday.

Be sure to add a note to the giftee, telling them why they are special to you. They'll like that as much -- or more -- than the present itself.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Paint Your Own Watercolor Portraits

I was intrigued by this idea from Elise at the blog Grow Creative:

Anyone can paint watercolor portraits, using the light and dark shadowing of anyone's face.

Not being an art major, I was a little skeptical. But the step-by-step tutorial proves she's right! All you need is a digital photo printout (faces plus partial bodies seem to work best); plain paper; a pencil; your computer ..and of course, a set of watercolors. You could do it with a 99-cent kids set, or a professional watercolor palette: good results, either way.

Go here for full details. Why not do a portrait (or two) for a Christmas present?
    (Elise does custom work, too.)

These Won't Do It...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tumbling Blocks - Made Easier

This allover pattern (known as Baby Blocks and Tumbling Blocks, among other names) has been a favorite of quilters for centuries -- even the early Colonial period.

     Before that, geometric designs like it were often featured in tile and parquet floors, particularly in Dutch Master paintings.  Take this checkerboard example:

Nicolaes Maes  The Idle Servant   (National Gallery collection, UK -- courtesy of Wikipedia)

You can even make your own 'tile' (actually painted) Tumbling Blocks floor, thanks to Make It Lovely. Go here for directions.

If you were stitching this pattern in cloth, it demanded painstaking piecing, usually by hand. It was difficult to get the diamond seams accurate, and points smooth.

Until now. 

Try this modern variation from Teresa Down Underbased on a technique developed by Marci Baker. Click on the link -- or take a look at the photos below. (Think 'rows,' instead of 'blocks.')

These videos are helpful, too:

This is Marci's video on the technique:

I've strip-pieced this pattern in Amish-inspired solids, like this 1930s version:

But it's equally beautiful in a scrappy mix of fabrics.

Rainbows or pastels, anyone? 

And not just cottons, either -- many 19th century Baby Block quilts were pieced in silks. Sometimes those areas were accented with Crazy-patched sections, as well. However, this 18th century version is straight cottons:

Shared by cathquilts.blogspot.com...all photos are via Pinterest