Friday, March 24, 2017

Map Points...And A Great Place To Buy A Vehicle

Do you know where the geographic center of North America is?

In North Dakota!

We zoomed by this dignified obelisk:

Surrounded by scruffy buildings, piles of dirty snow...and close nearby, a Case farm equipment dealer.

My dad always thought that Case tractors were the center of the universe. Guess he was close.

Plus a signpost, so you know where to head next.

I wanted to give a shoutout to the Devils Lake Chrysler Center in Devils Lake, ND.  Not only were they totally honest about our vehicle's condition and package...Jordan actually e-mailed photos to the Brick showing some of the truck's 'dings' and negative aspects!  How many dealers will do that??

Jordan, our salesman, spent a lot of time pointing out features with the Brick, and explaining how they worked. (He did a lot of "what if this happens" problem-solving, too. Impressive.)

They treated us with politeness and included. (Sometimes the woman doesn't get this. Female Gentle Readers out there, you know what I'm talking about, don't you...) We had some trouble getting funds from our bank account wired -- and they were patient throughout.

We also got advice on good hotels (since we had to stay one more night, because of the wire transfer issues) and restaurants -- and they were right, on all counts.

We got a good deal on a great truck. It was nicely prepped, as well.

If you're looking for a quality vehicle at a good price, try them out. (It's even worth driving 30+ hours to get there!)  Ask for Jordan; tell him the Bricks sent you.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Strange Experience in Hoover

     As mentioned yesterday, we made a flying trip to North Dakota in the past few days. Driving, actually, but we 'flew' to get back -- both of us had commitments here, and we knew the weather was iffy.

We head back in mid-afternoon, the Brick driving our new truck and me following in the Outback.

Yep, that's him.

The roads are clear, but freezing rain is threatening. Not good.

After hours of driving, we're both down to half a tank of gas...and in the middle of some seriously beautiful landscape. Deserted, hilly...not even the occasional farm. A few homestead buildings here and there, and some disinterested cattle. No matter -- Charley the dog finds them fascinating.

The miles spool by. Wind's picked up...but you can handle it when you're expecting it. The rain is holding off, sort long as we keep going.

We're out of North Dakota now, into South Dakota, my dad's birth state. Down to an eighth-tank. Still nothing, but a sign promises 'next services: 33 miles.' Should be just in time.

More lovely, wide-reaching landscape. Once you live out here in the West for a while, you appreciate the chance to look 10, 20 or 30 miles in every direction. I get a little claustrophobic now when trees hug the road on both sides. (Makes me feel a bit squashed.)

We drive by a clump of trees, augmented with ranch buildings. A little sign on the road flashes by -- I catch the words 'Hoover fuel and groceries.' Where? I didn't see any kind of store.

More miles gone. My gauge is solidly on EMPTY now. The Brick says he has about 1/8 tank. I am desperately trying not to worry.

I mention the sign. (He saw it briefly, too.) Every few miles brings us to the top of a new set of hills. No lights, no one else is out there...but us. 

Finally, we turn back. Off the road:

And on the edge of the trees:

I wouldn't have known, except for the name and the lit beer sign in the window.

Woodsmoke is in the air -- so are frozen bits of sleet. We're surrounded by a yapping pack of dogs, which immediately catches Charles and Abby's attention. Thank you, God. There are two rusty gas pumps to the side: one for diesel (which the truck needs), one for unleaded (for the Outback).

The Brick, shivering, gets to work.

(Those icicles aren't for decoration, folks.)

I notice this across the gravelly area:

Must be where they live, right? I forgot to ask.

And this:

The bossy head dog, eyes milky with age, allows me to step past and open the tinkling front door.

Leader of the pack -- and guardian of the store

Full tanks of gas -- WHEW.  I realized I had probably been holding my breath at times.

The inside of the building actually looks like a store: shelves with canned goods, a cooler on the other side with beer, a bowl of grapes and some fresh edibles. A scrubbed round wooden table in the center of the room is covered with paperwork. (Working on taxes?) An equally scrubbed counter, holding the cash register... and a near-empty bowl of potato chip crumbs. Free bar snacks with the beer, maybe.

Leona, an older lady in her late 70s, bustles out to look at the gas pumps, so she can (hand)write the totals. (She doesn't take credit cards. Thankfully, I've remembered to bring along the checkbook.)

I could swear that somehow we've traveled back in time...maybe to 1976 or so, when Leona said they'd bought the ranch.

We thaw out by the woodstove, have a friendly conversation about where we came from, and how long she's been there. Her daughter's family runs the farm now -- but Leona kept the store "and 50 acres." Their area has a Castle Rock too, she said...with another store near it, tucked among the farm buildings. "But now it's closed, and the lady just lives there."

The ice is still threatening -- we have to go. The guard dog allows us out the door, after grateful thanks and a presented check. Then, Doritos in hand, we're on the road. Fifty-five miles later, a small town, Belle Fourche, appears...with food and gas stations.

While gassing up, I said to the Brick, "Did we dream that?" He said, "I'm not quite sure." 

If it hadn't been for Leona and her Hoover store, we would have been walking.

If she and the store were real, that is.   I guess they are.

 (Found an old photograph, too.)

Headed home to our Castle Rock...Colorado.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dead Beat & Plum Tuckered Out...And Other Musings

     We're back.

     The Brick found the perfect truck to pull our new trailer 15+ hours away, at a dealer in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. So what did we do?

Left Sunday around noon. Drove 15+ hours one into Minot (our first hotel) at 2:45 a.m.

Spent that day test-driving the truck and taking it to a local mechanic. Made the deal around 3 p.m. Discovered we couldn't get the truck yet -- because our credit union only wires money in a two-hour period. In the morning. (They conveniently forgot to mention this to the Brick when he e-mailed to warn them about the withdrawal.)

Found another hotel. Crashed. Couldn't sleep -- we were both too fired up. Plus TMC had some weird 'bad guy' movies on, including Psycho, Peeping Tom and Robert Mitchum in this creepy child-snatching movie, Night of the Hunter.
     Gives you a whole new perspective on the hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

(Peeping Tom was weird, too. Yes, stranger than Norman Bates and his zany mom. Watch the whole movie here, if you like.... but with a friend. )

Two nights in a hotel were fun, sort of. Two nights in a hotel with the Brick were definitely better than being by myself. (True to nature, there was very little on tv. With as many cable channels as hotels have, wouldn't you think there'd be more to choose from than old episodes of Supernatural and American Pickers?)

Next morning, trudged over to the dealer. (It's the Chrysler dealer in town -- ask for Jordan, by the way.) Got the truck -- formed a convoy -- and drove the 15+ bleary-eyed hours home.

We pulled into Castle Rock at 3 a.m. this morning. I had a piano lesson to do this afternoon, and wanted to be sure we made it in time. (Ironically, the lesson didn't happen.) Thank God for the chance to sleep in, fresh eggs from the chickens, and canned beef stew over rice. All easy things to do.

It was icy cold in Devils Lake, and windy as all getout. We fought the wind, and had to keep moving to miss the freezing rain that kept creeping in around the edges. We were traveling through incredibly beautiful country in the Dakotas -- but it was also very isolated. (More on this tomorrow.) And we were tired. A big batch of scary fog in Wyoming, plus the highway closed, only a few miles from our house, just topped things off.

We're glad to be home.

The truck is big, rumbling (diesel) and more than capable. The Brick is thrilled -- it really did turn out to be the perfect truck, for what we needed. I just have to get used to climbing up to get in. Not only was the price right, but it has all sorts of additional goodies. Apparently it includes a custom package, including seats that not only heat themselves, but have air conditioning in each seat, as well!
     Front and back.

     I can just hear what my dad, the tough Dutch farmer, would have said about that. After he stopped laughing, that is.

We came home to an armload of daffodils, blooming their heads off. Just in time -- we're due for a snowstorm tomorrow night.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Yes, It's Early

I have deadlines to meet early this week, so sent the weekly post on its way today. Get your coffee cup, sit in the afternoon sun...and enjoy! 

Ten strange discoveries archeologists can't explain. Yet, at least.  (From Listverse)

A guy walking barefoot across America is hit by a car, 100 days into his trip. Weirdly, Mark Baumer's last post showed his toes next to a yellow-lettered word: 'KILLED.'  (From Men's Journal)

Twenty liars who kept lying. And got away with it...for a while, at least.  (From Cracked)

Fifty years of "Alice's Restaurant" -- and how Arlo Guthrie feels about it. (From Rolling Stone magazine) If you've never heard this very funny, thought-provoking song, click below. Settle in first -- it takes almost 20 minutes.

Ten strange (and wonderful) discoveries that have updated archeology -- big-time.  (From Listverse)

More dog shaming.  Yes, these are silly, including:

"Saving history by stealing it." Or in artistic terms, copying it. I'm still not sure what to think about this angle...

A Wisconsin farmer dies, along with 16 of his a freak methane poisoning accident. This one is really strange.

One of the best modern tap dance scenes out there -- "No Dames" from Hail Caesar!  Channing Tatum definitely got some of his chops from Gene Kelly on this one.

Too bad the rest of the movie was mostly stupid.

 I kept thinking of a similar theme in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' Follow the Fleet:

A tiny house, custom-built in Alaska.

Irish treacle tart.  A holiday offering from yours truly. (This tasted quite different from what I thought it would...maybe it's the lemon juice, combined with the sweet flavor. Not sure.)

What's today's cooks can learn from yesterday's tenement cooks.  Some real-life examples here. (Thanks, Kris Driessen, for forwarding this on from the New York Post.)

Have a great week. Stay sane.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dogs Spring for Spring

Our daffodils finally bloomed! Grass is starting to poke up through the (dead) grass, and Charley is all aquiver, looking for mice and snakes to chase.'s not the end of the March yet, and it's supposed to go out like a lion. (It certainly came in like a lamb around here.) At least one storm -- maybe more.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

St. Patrick's Breastplate: A Celebration of His Special Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The good saint of Ireland left several writings for us know the depth of his faith in God, including his Confession...

and his Breastplate, a lorica, or hymn, also known as The Deer's Cry.'

(As the story goes, Patrick and his fellow monks were being hunted -- but God intervened, and made them appear to be a herd of deer, along with a fawn. The bad guys kept going, and missed them altogether.)

Several versions of the Breastplate are out there; it's even been turned into a Victorian era hymn. This one has been translated from the Gaelic:

Lislaughtin Abbey, from Morguefile

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.
I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.
I bind to myself today
God's Power to guide me,
God's Might to uphold me,
God's Wisdom to teach me,
God's Eye to watch over me,
God's Ear to hear me,
God's Word to give me speech,
God's Hand to guide me,
God's Way to lie before me,
God's Shield to shelter me,
God's Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.
I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths, and druids,
Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot seat,
Christ in the poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

Wise words to learn, from a fifth century Saint. 

      Happy St. Patrick's Day!

     "My name is Patrick...I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many."
                 The beginning words of Patrick's Confession

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Want to commemorate the death of Ireland's 5th century patron saint? 

Because that's what St. Patrick's Day does, in spite of the customs we hear more about -- beer and the wearin' o' the green.

an old postcard - Wikipedia

Patrick wasn't even Irish -- his family was Romano-Brit. (Yes, Roman - living in Great Britain.) But he was captured by Irish pirates, taken back to Ireland and kept as a slave for years: six+ long years, acting as a shepherd.
      Eventually he escaped and made his way home...but had a vision that he was supposed to return to Ireland, this time as a missionary.
      Which he did.

Patrick was never canonized. (I'm still wondering where the 'Saint' part kicked in.) But he devoted his life to living with the Irish, and converting them to Christianity. In later years, he served as a bishop. By the 7th century, he was already being venerated by his adopted country.

Patrick's sign was actually a cross - the cross pattee (seen on his robe below) was most associated with him. It was common custom to wear a cross made of paper or ribbon to honor Patrick on his commemorative day. According to Wikipedia:

"Thomas Dinely, an English traveller in Ireland in 1681, remarked that 'the Irish of all stations and condicons [conditions] were [wore] crosses in their hatts, some of pins, some of green ribbon'... In the 1740s, the badges pinned were multicoloured interlaced fabric. In the 1820s, they were only worn by children, with simple multicoloured daisy patterns. In the 1890s, they were almost extinct, and a simple Greek cross inscribed in a circle...' The Irish Times in 1935 reported they were still sold in poorer parts of Dublin, but fewer than those of previous years 'some in velvet or embroidered silk or poplin, with the gold paper cross entwined with shamrocks and ribbons.'"

Some typical St. Patrick's Day badges from the early 20th century  (Wikipedia)

The shamrock came about as a sermon illustration for the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit). Eventually the plant came to represent Ireland, as well.

Sure, you can wear green...but as the Brick loves to point out, that's what Irish Catholics do. (And we're not. Catholic, that is.) But would I prefer to wear "Prottie" orange, instead?

Better to remember a humble man of great strength who loved to serve God -- and loved his people.

So put on a green sweater tomorrow. Patrick wouldn't have minded, I'm certain of that. Add a cross to your costume, though, and he'd be extra happy.  Cook some Irish dishes, while you're at it.

     Eire go Brach... 

     Ireland Forever.

St. Pat hisself, with cross pattee and four-leaf clover in hand
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Life Goes On...And Some Goodies You'll Want to Try

     The Brick had to drive schoolbus early these past few days. The hard part: we are not early morning people. Monday, he let me sleep in -- the sweetheart. Tuesday and today, I dragged myself out of bed to be the Dutiful Wife. I fixed a hot breakfast, packed his lunch, tried hard to stay awake after he'd left. Finally, I gave up and went back into bed, Charley snuggling against my leg. 'I'll do some reading here,' I thought...and promptly fell asleep.
      I woke up to the front door opening, and someone crawling in beside me. (No, it wasn't the guy from Honey.) After I got up again, and felt my way all over creation, I realized the Brick, now peacefully snoring away...

Was laying on my glasses. 

Thankfully, his pair sort of works. For now, anyways. And whatever damage is done, is done. I'll wait until he wakes up, poor guy. 

Those of you who are also blind as a bat -- will understand.

* * * * * * * *

Walmart has a new grocery delivery plan. What I like about it: you can still choose the brands you prefer -- at the price you normally pay. They're even willing to let you try it, for $10 off. Delivery charges are reasonable, too. Sometimes delivery is even free -- a double bonus!
     I use this on occasion -- and get exactly what I want, delivered when I want it. Most of the time, I can fit in a trip to the grocery store. But being able to choose delivery -- especially when someone's sick, your kids are in sports at night, or your schedule gets busy -- or you can't find your glasses -- this is really worth it.
     Click here to get that $10 discount and try it for yourself.

* * * * * * * *

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day:
     Find My Past, an ancestry research company, will let you look up your Irish ancestors for FREE through March 17. (Actually, the free offer includes your non-Irish family, too.) Find My Past has connections to Social Security records (a tad unnerving to see my dead father's number out there, for all to see); census results, as far back as the 19th century; church parish wedding and baptism listings into the early 1800s; and more. Not only are they listed -- you can actually see (and download) copies of the original records.
     This is a great chance to do some digging into your family tree, at no cost. But only through March 17.
     Click here to go to Find My Past. They have an interesting free online webinar on Thursday morning, 'Secrets to Successful Irish Family Research,' that should be helpful, too. (Sign up for that class here.)

* * * * * * * * *  *

One final gem:  a cute (and quick) video on how to make edible jelly cups! 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wake up the Brick, and rescue my glasses. Hopefully they're still in one piece.

(Update: Turns out they were on the Brick's bedside table -- but I couldn't see them there. Figures.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Perfect Men Everywhere: Take Note!

I love my darling Brick...but this ad for the Honey app made me laugh out loud!

    By the way, this program IS great -- the Brick's been using it for some time, but I just joined. 
                             Click here to find out more.

(My Brick would be the guy at the bottom of the stairs.)

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: Spring?

Our first daffodils are up, and struggling to bloom. I don't blame them, poor things. First, it's warm -- then it's not. Other than a bare sprinkling of raindrops yesterday, we haven't had any moisture for weeks. The clothes from today's washing are almost ready to put on the line. Maybe that will encourage it to rain. 

Cataloguing a winter snow and ice storm.  Actually, several.  (From Funky Junk Interiors)

This cat LOVES having his (18th floor) windows cleaned!

(Here's a longer look, if you enjoyed that.)

How to make an impact at your next job interview.

"How we styled our house (inside) to sell."   Warning: This takes a while to load, but it's worth it. (From Emily Henderson-- who does this for a living)

A DIY magnetic spice rack.  I might need to do this in our trailer.  (From Cultivating Your Nest)

Homemade peach cobbler -- from yours truly's other blog, Holiday Goodies. The recipe works for other kinds of fruit, too.

Nine ways to use a really narrow room. Or hallway. Or nook.  (From Apartment Therapy)

Seventeen ways to use those glowing glass 'gems.'  (From HomeTalk)

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship -- and some REALLY high waves.

Ten amazing recordings. Including a talk by Florence Nightingale, and the first recorded message on a phonograph.  (From Listverse) Also from them:

Do portals really exist into other times and dimensions?  They're trying to connect it to UFOs. I prefer time travel...

Make your own French onion soup mix.   (From One Hundred Dollars A Month)

The woman who saved hers and her husband's lives by cutting off a cop -- and mouthing the words "Help me."

More on President Trump's wiretapping allegations.  And it isn't pretty.

Manatees play under a clear-bottomed kayak in Florida.

I'm intrigued by these see-through canoes (or kayaks) -- but they aren't cheap.

An elderly man is heartbroken when he gets a nasty note about Christmas decorations still up. So his neighbors decide to do something about it...

A hundred ways to save on electricity.

Dump-and-go dinners...the cheese ravioli one is especially good.  (Thanks again, Betty Crocker)

Martha Ballard's diary. This colonial-era midwife kept a diary of her activities for nearly three decades. Excerpts have been published, and a video documentary based on her life. These are nice, of course. You can read the full diary yourself, though -- it's online and free.

Have a great week.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017


In 1845, two ships, the H.M.S. Erebus and the H.M.S. Terror, carrying nearly 250 men and commanded by Sir John Franklin, set out to find the Northwest Passage. 

Three years later, they were still missing. 

Rear Admiral John Franklin -- leader of the pack.  For a while, anyways.
(Engraving from Wikipedia)

Little was known of the Franklin Expediton's fate, in spite of men and ships sent out to look for them. One single piece of paper, found in a cairn, told of the ships being caught in ice, Franklin's and other men's deaths, and the expedition's plan to head for the Back Fish River 'the next morning.' Inuit ("Esquimaux") hunters told searchers they'd come across white people camping, hunting...and dying. Inuit scavenged wood, iron and various artifacts from the boats and tents. They found plenty of skeletons alongside -- some with cut marks, evidently prepared for the pot. One family found pieces of boiled meat stored in high leather boots. The flesh was human. 

So what happened?

No one knows for certain.

To this day, explorers are still finding bits and pieces of the Franklin expedition -- the men disappeared in such a remote Arctic area that few, including the Inuit, visited much. Some artifacts have been found; much of what's left is in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.

Two of the best books on the subject: Finding Franklin by Russell Potter, who gathers bits and pieces from all sorts of Franklin researchers. The most illuminating, though, has been Unravelling the Franklin Mystery by David Woodman. This book focuses primarily on the oral Inuit testimony gathered about the expedition. It has some startling suggestions, too:  one of the expedition's commanding officers, Francis Crozier, may have actually lived (and traveled), along with a fellow crewman, for years after the others were bones under the snow. Crozier had learned to use Inuit methods, and according to some accounts, lived with them for some time. (He was known to the Inuit from some of his previous years' dealing with them in the Arctic.)
       If the testimony is right, he almost made it out to civilization.

Crozier -- how close did he get to getting out?
(Photo from Wikipedia)

Inuit narratives were dismissed for decades. After all, they were uneducated savages...right? Their conversations were interesting, but couldn't be trusted.

Turns out they could. 

Hunters insisted that they had seen and visited both the Erebus and Terror -- before, during and after the ships were trapped in ice, then sank. The 'experts' placed those shipwrecks in one area -- the Inuit said no, they'd been sailed down the coast, and sank in shallow water. No way, the experts insisted.

The experts were wrong.

Back in 2014, the Erebus was found, sitting upright on the ocean floor, in nearly 37 feet of water. The cold seawater preserved it nicely.  (By the way, the shipwreck was almost exactly where Inuit testimony had placed it.)

Last September, The Terror was also found! This one was located a little further out: in about 79 feet of water, on nearly the searchers' last day. And yes, it too was located 80 miles north of the Erebus -- again, very close to where Inuit testimony placed it. An Inuit hunter who lived on King William Island -- where the Franklin Expedition members largely ended up -- remembered a large wooden timber sticking up through the ice years back. He even took a photo hugging the strange piece of wood, which was lost. His account was also disregarded -- until he joined the search expedition, and helped locate the Terror, right where its mast had poked through the ice all those years ago. Go figure.

The Terror is in even better condition than its sister ship. (It sank first, and faster.) Divers are exploring both wrecks, when the Arctic weather -- and ice -- allow. What they're discovering are adding a whole new set of clues to the Franklin Expedition's story. 

One of the biggest lessons in all this comes through clearly: Don't easily dismiss the words and experiences of people living there. Not only do they know what they're doing -- they've proved it, by living and thriving in a cold, often inhospitable climate. If Sir John and his men had paid closer attention, at least some of them might have survived. I have a personal interest in this: Son #1 is part Inuit -- and one of the smartest guys I know.

Why is this centuries-old mystery so important?

Because it may be the key to who gets to claim the Northwest Passage.

If the Northwest Passage can be navigated, it connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans via the Arctic Ocean. That saves ships a lot of time and effort moving around the globe. Cargo ships would no longer have to move through (and pay for) the Panama Canal. Cruise ships could circumnavigate without having to deal with storm-plagued areas, like around the Horn, Africa's furthest tip.

 Now, thanks to lessening ice conditions, the Northwest Passage is achievable.  The journey that was so difficult in the past is easier to accomplish. It wasn't done until Roald Amundsen powered his ship through in 1903-1906. Today it still isn't easy -- but it is easier.

But who will own it? And could ostensibly charge for the privilege of using it?

Ah, there's the rub.

Although it's not quite as open about its motives for finding the Franklin ships, Canada is staking its claim. Millions of dollars and a number of years have been sunk into the search, and Canada has a quiet agreement with the United Kingdom, the original sponsor, that the shipwrecks will be its property.

If the Erebus and Terror were discovered in convenient locations (which they were), it could be argued that the Franklin Expedition actually achieved their goal. We own the ships, Canada says, and they discovered the Northwest Passage. Therefore the Passage is part of Canada's Internal Water system. (The U.S. and other countries disagree, by the way, arguing that it's really international transit waters.)

Here's the full documentary, Arctic Ghost Ship -- all about the Franklin Expedition, as well as the search expedition, mostly on the Erebus, but some about the Terror, too. It will explain this in much more detail. Well worth watching.

Bigfoot Terrariums

I don't know about you, Gentle Readers. 

I write about saving money, shipwrecks (a new one's coming shortly), politics, food, quilts and oddball mysteries...

I figured you'd want more of that. So what are requests coming in for?

How to make Bigfoot terrariums. 


This beauty on Etsy got my attention. What a striking piece.

Then the miniature version caught my eye.
 There are a surprising number of BF terrariums out there -- even kits.

Why not make one (or two) Bigfoot terrariums, for the girlies?

So I did.

Or terrarium...

Here's what I used:

*A large wide-mouth glass jar or decanter
      I used a pedestal jar shaped like a brandy snifter, and a covered  jar--
                 both for a buck or two each from the local thrift shop.

*Planting soil  
      One bag will be more than enough. I was feeling frugal, so went out and dug some well-fertilized dirt from the chickenyard.

*At least three or four small plants
       I used a jade plant, ivy and two others. Look for smaller-sized plants with colored details or interesting leaf shapes. Get a specimen that has more than one plant in it -- then make more than one terrarium.

*Assorted rocks and gravel -- preferably decorative, but use what you've got.

*A Bigfoot figurine. I used the two Sasquatch from this set. (Anybody need a giant Kraken, coelacanth or jackalope for their aquarium or terrarium? A friend fell in love with the fur-bearing trout, so that's gone. I'm keeping Nessie.)

Now comes the fun part.

Step One:  Clean and wipe dry your glass. (Yes, you can spend big bucks on a fancy terrarium -- but large jars, fishbowls and other decorative pieces are just fine, provided they have wide mouths. You'll see why soon.)

Step Two:  Start with a thin layer of stones, decorative pebbles or gravel.

Step Three:  Add planting soil --  at least a few inches thick. (I think mine was 3" in the glass jar, and 2" in the snifter.)

Step Four:  Separate your plants into seedlings. Arrange them around the inside of your glass, gently pushing the roots down into the dirt. I covered three sides, but kept the fourth side unplanted. Aren't you glad now that you gave yourself room to move these around inside the glass, thanks to the large mouth?

Step Five:  Add your Bigfoot. Put it on the fourth side, inside, of the glass, so it's peeking out.

Step Six:  Add something else to give your large buddy perspective. Decorative rocks? (That's what I used in the glass jar above.) Perhaps some artificial trees? (That's what the large Etsy bowl used.) A decorative piece of wood, a chunk of amethyst, whatever -- but it should be something that gives your terrarium a more realistic look and adds visual interest.

This one used a large piece of white quartz, to balance out the effect of the white BF.
(The jar is actually sitting on top of its own lid, by the way.)

That's it. Water lightly, and your Bigfoot terrarium is ready to amaze.

Keep it healthy by watering once a week, when the soil looks dry, and misting occasionally.

These both took me about a half-hour to construct -- but I was busy fooling around with plant combinations and rock arrangements. Yours could be done in just a few minutes.

I was surprised and pleased that the girlies liked them so much.

For more help, go here... or here. 

Have fun.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Free National Park Passes -- Or Incredibly Cheap

Here's your chance to visit any Canadian national parks you want this year...for free. 

The   Canada National Parks pass for 2017 is absolutely free -- IF you order it online. Postage is also free, even for us 'southern' North Americans!

Go to the link above, and order -- quick.

* * * * * * * * *

And if you'd like a free (or inexpensive) pass to U.S. national parks, instead?

Annual passes are free to current U.S. military members and their dependents. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Reserve and National Guard members qualify.
     Show your Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173) at a Federal recreation site to get one.


If your child is currently in fourth grade, admission is also free. Thank the Every Kid in A Park program for this one.  Go here for more info. You can apply online; there are other options, too. The pass gets everybody in the family in during the school year. (Yes, this applies to homeschoolers, as well.)

Also, if you're a senior (62 or over) and contemplating getting a lifetime pass -- 
     They're currently available -- for $10.  ($20, if you do it online, instead of going to a site or office.)


The National Parks Service has announced that price is going up to $80 by the end of 2017.
     I'm guessing they won't announce when the fee skyrockets, either. But it could be soon.

Don't take that chance -- go get it now.

The Brick finally turned 62 a few weeks ago. Guess who's headed to a National Parks office tomorrow to grab our lifetime pass?  (Golden Eagle passports are no longer accepted, by the way.)

To learn more about American national park passes, that link's here -- just click.

National parks are wonderful places to camp in, relax in -- and learn from any time of the year. Don't miss them.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Brick Laughed At This One

See what you think.

And I laughed at this one...but you need to see the original John Wick to understand.
       (It's actually a promo for John Wick 2)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Monday Stuff On the Way to Other Stuff: "Are You Moving Yet?"


Are you trying to get rid of me?

    We're still actively packing and getting rid of stuff. Got one offer, plus a counteroffer, on the house -- but they were too low. We're going to let Son #1 go ahead and start renovating the bathrooms, while we decide how to proceed next. Maybe we'll get a realtor involved now -- maybe not. The house still needs a lot of work.
     I think I'll plant spinach, chard and turnip greens -- just in case we're here longer than a month or so. At any rate, we'll be around locally off and on: I have three gigs in Denver and Boulder in June.

We'll still be Coloradoans. My cellphone and e-mail will still work, and the Brickworks website will be back up shortly. (Had some trouble with Russians trying to hack it, and my IT guy took it down to work on it.) 

Life may not be uncomplicated right now...but it goes on.

Female bazillionaires.  (From Trend-Chaser)

The Obama administration NEVER spied on or wiretapped Donald Trump's cellphone and doings...nor did it do that to Trump's office or staffers. And the FBI certainly had nothing to do with it, either. Even though it may have happened during an election year, that was pure coincidence. Sure. Uh-huh.  Mark Levin gives a laundry list of instances that are public knowledge. Now what? 

"Cindy is not like other scammers."  This does not apply to me!  (From Surviving and Thriving) At least I can make:

Yummy scones. Perfect for your next coffee break, afternoon tea or St. Patrick's celebration.
                                      (From Holiday Goodies, yours truly's food blog)

Quilts hidden -- and jayhawked -- during the Civil War.  (From Material Culture)

Buzludzha Monument -- a very strange place in Varna, Bulgaria.  I heard about this when my travel bud at A Life by Design climbed up to see it. Then last night, while watching Mechanic: Resurrection, lo and behold, it reappears!  (One of the bad guys supposedly lives in it. Right.) Thanks, Bohemian Blog, for the memory jog.

Lessons learned from Grandma.  A (hopefully) classic, from yours truly.

Picado De Rabano -- radish salad from Guatemala.  (Thanks, Penniless Parenting)

Now that's a lot of ice! A cameraman records the slow building along a lakeside.

Do millenials spend less and postpone more, now that they're starting to face the reality of student loans?
     Maybe, maybe not.

Sarah ban Breathnach's blog.  The bestselling writer of Simple Abundance used to write a blog online...then for years, she disappeared. She's back, as of last September, and writing regularly. (In fact, I just spent an hour or so reading, when I should have been doing my own work. Bad girl.)

Heroic dogs of war -- and rescue.  (From Listverse)

Best dog-shaming moments...a hundred of them. Like this one:

An interesting way to piece the classic Card Trick block.  Think strips and squares. (From Quilts by Jen)

Is it a modern imported quilt... or the real thing? Some clues on how to separate Chinese-made stuff from true antiques or vintage pieces.   (From Vintage Blessings via Ebay. I've purchased before from this seller -- and they really know their stuff.)

Another post on the same subject -- from Tim Latimer via his blog, Timquilts. (Thanks, Sandra Starley, for recommending these.)

An interview with the man who came up with 9/11.  (From Marc Thiessen)
    "We will win because Americans don't realize...we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting."
                            --Khalid Sheick Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11

Speaking of:
One of the best ways to deal with a bully that I have ever heard of.  (From Quora)

Five practical ways to survive a money emergency.  (From Len Penzo)

Five foods that help with stomach problems -- and a flatter stomach. (Could have used this info this past week, thanks to food poisoning and flu issues.)

Eight Murphy beds to make -- save space and still sleep well.  (From Knock Off Decor)

A foldable craft table you can make -- that fits in the smallest spaces.  (From Remodelholic)

The 'wedding girls:' postwar English brides who still managed to make a splash with homemade gowns and borrowed suits. Some good reminders for us today here, as well...since I seem to be involved with wedding plans!

Meatball subs -- including easy shortcuts for meatballs, sauce and rolls.  (From Cheap Easy Good)

Ten shortcut suppers.  (Yep, they're from Betty Crocker)

A 355-square-foot apartment that actually looks comfy?  Love the bed nook... (From Apartment Therapy)

Twelve items that help you prepare for an elderly guest -- or live-in.  (From Living Life in Rural Iowa)

Have a good week. Plant some greens!