Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Final Post of 2008

I can't believe how little I posted in December. It was a whirlwind of activity and preparations for Christmas. I got so sick of the phrase "before Christmas". It seemed like it was part of everything I did, as in, "I've got to get these cards out before Christmas," "I need to remember to drop off my car payment before Christmas," and "I hope I don't have a nervous breakdown before Christmas."

Everything worked out... the house looked beautiful, the silver sparkled, the food was sumptuous, the children were happy, and I survived. Were there any problems? You betcha. The @#*! air mattresses wouldn't stay inflated fully. On one, I didn't have the cap threaded properly, so that was easily remedied. The other one, I was using a makeshift cap (an artist's gum eraser jammed in the hole) because someone threw out the cap thinking it was a soda bottle cap. I'm also thinking I won't make lamb shanks again. The flavor of lamb chops is better, and you don't have this huge chunk of meat on the bone sitting on your plate reminding you of something King Henry VII might have eaten.

Usually, I feel sad when Christmas is over, but this year, not so much. I feel relief and peace. Next year, I need to do less or start earlier. I've been enjoying the past week, spending time with Sweetie and Pipsqueak, playing with our new toys, cooking, and sleeping a little later. Maybe the melancholy will set in as I pack away all the decorations.

I'll be back next week/next year with lots more cooking, thrifting, crafting, parenting and Vermont life. For now, Happy New Year to all of you and your families. Thanks for visiting and reading these past few months. I've enjoyed getting to know you through your comments and your blogs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Unusual Chocolate

We received this chocolate as a gift. The first thing I noticed were the warnings to "refrigerate promptly" and "best if consumed within 7 days". Those are unusual warnings for chocolate, but then I realized that this was unusual chocolate.
You read it right! It's chocolate covered bacon, and it's surprisingly good... crispy and a delightful combination of salty and sweet. You can enjoy it, too, by ordering it from Marini's in Santa Cruz, CA.
Thanks, Mike, for the wonderful gift and introducing us to something new.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Weight Loss Plan

So far, I've lost three pounds. You can, too, using my not-so-easy plan.

First, invite more holiday overnight guests to your home than you have beds and work out where everyone will sleep and whether or not you have enough sheets, pillows and towels. Invite them to stay multiple nights. Once that is worked out, start thinking about what you will feed them. (We'll have eight guests.)

Offer to wrap all Christmas gifts for another family. Choose one that really needs it so you can at least feel a bit of pride about your "charitable work". (I offered this to my sister-in-law who just had her third round of chemo.)

Set an unrealistic, lofty goal of having a the best Christmas EVER, and don't eliminate any part of the holiday preparations just because you don't think you have time. (This is where I failed. If I hadn't eliminated constructing a gingerbread house, I probably would have been down five pounds by now.)

If you have children, volunteer your time to help at all holiday events.

If you follow these simple rules, you will have little time for eating and will have so much calorie-burning nervous energy that having a rum, brandy and whisky laced eggnog before bed every night won't matter in the least.

(I will not lose the joy!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

New England Ice Storm

I'm back after 36+ hours of no power after the New England ice storm. (Oh, sweet internet, how I have missed you.) I see the news made Yahoo! News "Most Popular" section, so many of you may have heard of our plight. Frankly, we had it made compared to those who are dependant on power for heat as the temperatures dipped into the single digits last night.

For those of you that have experienced a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood) an ice storm is unlike those for a couple of reasons: it is insidious as it can sneak up on you while you're sleeping and you have no idea anything is wrong until you wake up in the morning, and when you do wake up and look outside, you can't help but think how beautiful it looks with everything looking crystalline as it's covered in ice.
We could couldn't shower or flush (electric water pumps), but we had our pond to get buckets of water for manual flushing and heated water from our ten gallon stores for sponge baths. Our furnace didn't work, but we have two wood stoves and a parlor stove to keep us warm. We could cook on our gas cook top after lighting it with match, and candles provided our light. When the refrigerator/freezer started to feel not so cold, mother nature provide food storage on the deck. We might have felt the the Ingalls family in "Little House in the Big Wood", but we had only hours to endure what they coped with for a lifetime.
Yes, it put a temporary cramp in my holiday preparations, but it was fun last night as we sat around the parlor stove, roasting marshmallows, reading, knitting and talking. Pipsqueak fell asleep by the fire, and I carried her to bed. I'm glad the power is back on, but living the "simple" life for a day and a half wasn't so bad either. I did not lose the joy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a restroom, not a phone booth.

I have been so freak-out busy that I haven't had time to read blogs let alone write them, and I had such hopes of sharing a daily dose of Christmas joy each and every day with you. Since that plan is already shot to h***, I thought that I instead I would share a dose of rudeness in the extreme...

We were on our way home from a weekend in Boston (more on that soon) and made a stop at Burlington Mall. When travelling anywhere with a six year old, every stop becomes an attempt to pee. Otherwise, you'll be back on the road, and fifteen minutes later the urge to pee will hit which will require a pull-off the highway and the possibility of less than sanitary surroundings. So Pipsqueak and I found a restroom at the mall and walked in to find a line of four women and two working stalls. The third has an "out of order" sign on it. We waited and waited, and nothing seemed to be happening. I asked Pipsqueak, "Do you really think you can go?" I was hoping to abandon the line that didn't move, but she assured me that there would be results, so we continued to queue.

Finally, a stall dweller departed, but the #2 stall dweller (no pun intended) had yet to make an appearance. The women in front of me started grumbling and comparing how long they've been standing there. Suddenly there was a voice from within #2, "Hi, it's me. I'm sorry to bother you, but I just really miss you so much." We queuers looked at each other in disbelief; she was talking on her cell phone. At this point, a women left stall #1 and said, "Is she talking on her cell phone?" Unable to speak from the shock, we all nodded our heads. #1 banged on the door of #2 stall and said, "Excuse me; there are people waiting out here." The response was a non-concerned, "okay." She continued to talk for a minute of two while the grumbling in the line escalated. I was waiting for some sort of uprising or coup. Finally, she came out with her pants undone and the phone up to her ear. She talked for another couple of minutes by the door before hanging up and leaving the restroom (without washing her hands, I must add).

I've seen some major cell phone rudeness, but that one takes the cake.

I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Making My List and Checking It Twice

Usually my Christmas shopping is done by now, but it isn't. I could blame it on various viruses, the economy, or our busy schedule, but the fact of the matter is I just haven't been motivated. A page turn of the calendar has amazing motivational capability.

Yesterday, I got organized with what I have purchased, ordered a few things online that I knew I couldn't get around here, and did a little wrapping. Today, I've been making a list for tomorrow... the Final Assault.

Our shopping metropolis is about a half hour away, and has grown beyond the capacity of the roads, intersections and traffic signals. It's bad enough going there on a weekday in the middle of the day. A weekend during holiday season requires medication before and a stiff drink after. I won't do it! Tomorrow, I'm going in with a battle plan including stores and what will be purchased there. The plan will not require crossing traffic at any time. I will travel up one side of the miasma and down the other, after which I will exit, hopefully never to return during 2008. (I'm probably not going to be able to fulfill that hope since I'll need something... batteries, medicine, light bulbs... something innocuous.)

Tomorrow night, I hope to be crossing "shopping" off the task list and breathing a sigh of relief. In the meantime, I will keep chanting my mantra for the month, " I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy. I will not lose the joy." Thanks for that, Sandy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tree Cutting Tradition

Each year, almost before Thanksgiving dinner has fully digested, we swing into Christmas gear with the annual Christmas tree cutting and picnic. Some formally local friends now living in Connecticut join us.

We convene at Christmas Trees of Vermont, a farm in Springfield, Vermont, where we get to choose from over 40,000 frasier firs, each one full and shaped to perfection. They also have pre-cut trees, wreaths, visits with Santa Claus, and free hot chocolate.

Before going out on the hunt, we sustain ourselves with a sumptuous picnic, complete with freshly polished silver, lace tablecloth and real china and glassware. We start with Old-Fashioneds served in stirrup cups (cider for the Pipsqueak). Then it's on to turkey sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper and tied with string, Cape Cod potato chips and freshly baked Toll House cookies. Pipsqueak carried hers in the family heirloom provisions kit which her grandmother carried on fox hunts. You can see it attached to her belt. The leather case has a silver sandwich box and a glass and silver flask.
It was a beautiful day (not too cold, not too windy) so we dawdled over our picnic and tree choice, just enjoying the outdoors and taking a walk. We're not always that lucky; there have been bitterly cold days and once when it was so windy, we had to hold things down on the table.
Pipsqueak helped with the sawing, the tractors pick up our tree so we don't have to carry it the half mile back to the car, and then they bail it up nice and tidy, which makes it easy to load and unload from the top of the car and get in the house.

In case your wondering how to make our cocktails, here's the recipe...


In a rocks glass, muddle 3 dashes of bitters, 1 t water, and 1 sugar cube, using a muddler or the back of a teaspoon. Add 1 orange slice and 2 maraschino cherries and muddle with other ingredients. Almost fill glass with ice cubes and add 3 oz. bourbon (we use Wild Turkey).


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving... Plans, Recipes and a Memory

We're getting ready for our trip to western Massachusetts to share Thanksgiving with 25 friends and family members. It should be a wild time. Our hosts are taking care of the turkey, stuffing and gravy, and everyone else is bringing something. We are bringing our two specialties: Garlicky Cranberry Chutney and Green Beans with Roasted Onions. I'll share them with you. I wish I could have photographed them, but onions won't be beaned until the day and the flash made the chutney look like red jello.

Garlicky Cranberry Chutney

This recipe was featured on Vermont Public Radio several years ago. It is zippy and fantastic on turkey sandwiches. Can be made a few days ahead.

1 inch cube fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
4 T sugar
1/8 t cayenne pepper (start with half this amount and gradually add to taste; we only use about half but we have very potent spices)
1 pound can jellied cranberry sauce
1/2 t salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cut ginger into paper thin slices, stack slices together and cut into very thin slivers. Combine ginger slivers, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cayenne in a small pot. Bring to simmer. Simmer on low to med flame about 15 minutes or until 4 T of liquid remains, excluding solids. Add cranberry sauce, salt and pepper. Mix and bring to simmer, simmer 10 minutes (will be lumpy). Cool. Put in jar and refrigerate overnight, at least. Lasts several days. Makes two cups.

Green Beans with Roasted Onions

This is elegant, so tasty, and much healthier than grandma's green bean casserole. The green beans are enhanced with buttery, slow-roasted onions that have been stirred into a sweetened vinegar sauce. We make the onions a couple of days ahead and refrigerate until needed.

Nonstick vegetables oil spray
6 medium onions (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, each cut vertically through root end into 12 to 14 wedges
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 pounds slender green beans, ends trimmed

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray 2 heavy large baking sheets with vegetable oil spray. Arrange onions in single layer on prepared sheets.
Dot onions with 4 tablespoons butter, dividing equally. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until onions are dark brown on bottom, about 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil broth in heavy large skillet over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 6 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar and whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to boil.
Add onions to sauce; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat before continuing.)
Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well. Return beans to same pot. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and toss to coat. Mound beans in large shallow bowl. Top with onion mixture and serve.
Serves 12.

I was nearly despondent at the prospect of no turkey leftovers (I usually host Thanksgiving), so Saturday I'm cooking a dinner here for the three of us and my mom. It just won't seem like Thanksgiving if I don't eat leftovers for a minimum of three days and make a soup. Since I've been brining my turkey though, everyone has been going back for seconds on turkey and leftovers have been scarce.

Finally, a Thanksgiving memory...

During my first marriage in the early 90s, I was setting the table for Thanksgiving and dinner was nearly ready. I leaned over the table not realizing I was so close to a lit candle. I noticed I had caught the back of my sweater sleeve on fire. I thought, "If I pat it, it will go out," but what I succeeded in doing was fanning the fire across my back and to the other sleeve. Now, our house was a small log home with an open concept living, dining and kitchen area. I barely had room to drop to say nothing of rolling, but I was calmly working out a strategy. By now, my mother, who was sitting in the living room noticed something amiss and asked nonchalantly, "Are you on fire?" She's a native Vermonter... a true Yankee, and they don't get excited about much, including inflamed kinfolk. I grabbed a blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped it around me, smothering the flames. Surprisingly, the sweater wasn't damaged. It only burned the fuzz and pills off, however, I don't recommend this rather foolhardy approach to pill removal. I also don't recommend lighting your candles until the table is ready.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, everyone! I'll be back starting Monday (unless I get inspired before then) with lots of Christmas preparations, recipes and frugality. Nothing says festive like Christmas in Vermont.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for the little things.

I don't have much time to write, since I've dealing with Pipsqueak's stomach virus since 10 o'clock last night. In this week of being thankful, I thought I would at least mention that today I'm very thankful for my washer and dryer, a good spray carpet cleaner and ginger ale. Sometimes it's the little things that get us through the day.

I hope to be back tomorrow with a fantastic Thanksgiving recipe, but I'm feeling slightly queasy myself. I hoping it's psychosomatic due to the power of suggestion and sensory overload.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Of course, I'm weird...

... isn't everyone? I guess we all have our eccentricities, but not everyone embraces them like I do. I've always enjoyed being different (even in high school when it just wasn't cool to be different) and strive to be. Being a little weird gets you noticed, and as long as you're not too weird, it can draw people to you.

And now for a tag: Selena tagged me, and while I usually don't post tags, memes and awards, this one attracted me because it is about being weird. (I don't normally post them, because I fear that it will repel people rather than attract them.)

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself. (C'mon, embrace your weirdness.)
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 weird facts about me that you might not know:

1. I obsessively apply hand lotion, maybe ten or more times a day. Every time my hands get wet, I use lotion.

2. When I left my first husband, I moved out while he was at work and left him a note. It may seem cowardly, but it was what worked for me at the time. I didn't take much, so it wasn't like he came home to an empty house. The knowledge of this fact may keep my current husband on his toes, not that he has anything to worry about.

3. I self-correct my grammar when I speak. I will sometimes say the same thing over the correct way when I make a mistake. I loved grammar in school. I can still remember a little bit about diagramming a sentence. This doesn't mean that I want you to leave me comments pointing out all my grammatical mistakes.

4. I have watched The Young and The Restless since it started in 1973 (I was 8 years old). When I was in school, I only watched during vacations but my mom watched and told me what happened. When I was working, I took my lunch hour during the show and went to my mom's house to watch it.

5. I love to alphabetize things. My CDs and LPs are in alphabetical order by artist, my DVDs by title, even my spices are in alphabetical order. My books used to be, but now I have too many so they're organized by genre and/or author.

6. I hope to observe an autopsy someday. If I was 18 again, I would definitely go into that line of work. I'd never want to be a doctor of live people though. I couldn't stand all the complaining, and I would find all that bedside manner stuff to be tiresome. I also wouldn't have to worry about my patients suing me for malpractice if I did autopsies.

7. I love the smell of cow manure. I don't think it smells bad at all... just sort of fresh and grassy.

I am tagging Kitt, Ellen, Molly, Allison, Laurie, Amy and Becky. If you don't want to do this, you will not receive bad luck, and I will keep reading your blogs and making comments. And if I didn't follow every rule, may the meme gods not strike me down.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Have you always wanted to own your very own firetruck? Perhaps Junior has asked for a firetruck for Christmas? Here's your chance. And it's a ladder truck!! Could come in handy for cleaning those second story windows or getting that pesky cat out of the tree for the umpteenth time. You'd have no trouble getting through rush hour traffic. The handy uses for this purchase are endless. I'll bet you could get a great discount on homeowners' insurance if you owned your own firetruck. I vaguely remember growing up that someone in our neighbor drove a used hearse, but this would have that beat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Long Time, No Thrift?

It's been a long time since I done a thrifting post, but I'm out there regularly looking for good deals.

One day, I came upon lots of craft supplies. Either someone had given up crafting or had died, because there was a lot of stuff. Mostly, I grabbed jewelry making supplies which were a steal at 50 or 75 cents each. I also picked up some colored pipe cleaners, glitter glue and glow-in-the-dark fabric paint.

The same day I found this great fabric. It's really soft, but sturdy. The swirls are silver. I think there are a couple of yards. I was thinking of making a bag or a pillow from it, but there might be enough for both.
I've been looking at glassware a lot on my thrifting expeditions. I'm trying my hand at glass painting. I can't feel too badly about designs that don't come out well when I'm only spend 25 or 50 per glass. (I'll write more on this another time.) But while looking at glass, I found this antique utility pole insulator. I've been wanting one for a long time, but have only found chipped ones or boring clear glass. This one was in mint condition and in a color I adore. It was only $2, which was cheaper than I usually see the damaged ones.

Most of my thrifting time is spent looking at clothes, but my recent results have been spotty. I did find this Barbour wool hat, that looks brand new. It didn't photograph well. The flash made it look shiny, but it was too dark for natural light. It's a beautiful olive green. At $8, it was a little pricey by thrift standards, but when I looked it up on line and found out they retail for about $125, I had no buyer's remorse.

My best find recently didn't come from a thrift store, but from one of those discount surplus or overstock stores. Pipsqueak saw this coat and got all excited about it. It's a Rothschild and 100% wool. The price tag was $32, which I really didn't want to pay. I noticed a small spot on the shoulder, so I thought they might discount it a bit. Then I noticed the signs up in the clothing department. All clothing was 50% off the ticket price. At $16, I tossed it my cart, spot by damned. At the checkout, the clerk and I had the following dialogue:

Clerk: This has a spot.

Me: I know, but it's 50% off, right?

Clerk: Yes, but it has a spot.

At this point, she called the manager over who offered the "damaged" coat at $9. Of course, I said yes. It was hard not to do a happy dance right there in the store. The spot came out with a Tide-to-Go pen, and on-line research revealed that Rothschild coats retail for $125 and up.

Tomorrow, Pipsqueak has a dentist appointment right around the corner from my favorite thrift store. The prospect of a hunt will fill my dreams tonight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


It occurred to me that I had a few things on which to update you. Not that you're sitting there on tenterhooks wondering what's going on with me, but you may say, "Oh yeah, I remember that."

My pickles came out a little on the salty side, but otherwise had good flavor. I would like them more crispy, too, so next year I'll do the ice water soak and cut down on the salt.

My garden was an overall success with few failures. The green peppers and the beets didn't do well. Next year, I need to use more fertilizer. The yellow thing did become a pumpkin, but it was much darker orange than the other pumpkins.

I finished my other sock. They are so comfy and cozy. Now I'm rushing to finish a pair for Sweetie and a pair for Pipsqueak for Christmas. I'm just turning the heel on the first one for Sweetie and closing the toe on the first one for Pipsqueak. The race is on!

I have reduced my use of bags, but I sometimes forget my reusables at home. My plan is to just leave some in the car, but when I use them, I have to remember to put them back in the car again.

I made the Chocolate Tart, which was delicious, but a little runny. I'm sure I can do better if I try it again. Chocolate recipes, especially, need a lot of research to get them just right. Don't you agree?

My sister-in-law is getting her second chemo treatment today. She's having chemo prior to surgery so they can monitor its effect on the the tumor. Great news! With only one treatment, her tumor has already significantly shrunk. She cut her long blond hair in a punk style and dyed it orange. She says she looks like the Heat Miser. I think she looks very hip. Since it's now coming out in clumps, she's going to take it all off soon.

I haven't had any heel pain in a couple of weeks. I'm still wearing my padding innersoles, but I think my heel has healed.

Consider yourself up-to-date. I'm sure you'll be able to sleep better tonight knowing how all these things turned out. Seriously, thank you all for reading and commenting. I love reading your blogs; you all inspire me. I hope we'll all have long and beautiful blog-lives together.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Just Can't Get No Satisfaction

When I make things, I'm usually never completely satisfied. It sometimes prevents me from finishing things. When I knit, I might make a stitch that looser than the rest or maybe one got twisted. Instead of looking at the whole project, I just look at that stitch that isn't right and it ruins the whole thing for me. When I paint, maybe a color isn't quite the shade I was hoping for or a part of the picture is a little too big or small. It just didn't turn out the way I pictured it in my head. When I bead, maybe a wire twist isn't smooth enough or a loop not tight enough. Even when I cook, I critique myself on taste, texture and presentation. I wish I could step back and say to myself, "Self, you did a really good job," but I can't. Sometimes I feel like I got it right, but it's rare.

I think this is hard wired in the brain and not learned. I see Pipsqueak doing this already... criticizing her artwork. I've been very careful not to voice my dissatisfaction with myself in her presence, I accept compliments of my work graciously, and I've always been complimentary of her work. Like me, she doesn't hate the whole thing, only a part of it. For example, she drew this picture the other day, which I thought was amazing for a 6 year old, and I told her that. She told me she didn't like the flamingo's wing fluffed up the way it is.
Are we different or is everyone like this? What about the masters? Was Beethoven happy with his symphonies? Was Michelangelo satisfied with the Sistine Chapel?

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's official... I am middle aged.

I noticed it starting to happen about three years ago, but I fought it for as long as I could. Today, I picked up my new glasses with variable lenses. Those are hip, modern, no-line bifocals.

Sweetie laughed at my work-around of peering over the tops of my prior glasses while holding the unreadable print so close, my nose practically touched it. I couldn't see to make jewelry, and knitting while watching tv was almost impossible. I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

Presbyopia (Greek word "presbys" (πρέσβυς), meaning "old person") describes the condition where the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age. Geez, did they have to call it THAT! What's next? Hearing aids, a walker, flowered house dresses?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank you, Sir Alexander Fleming.

Who's he?  In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming observed that colonies of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus could be destroyed by the mold Penicillium notatum, proving that there was an antibacterial agent there in principle.  That was the birth of antibiotics.  It would be 20 years before they would be available to the public.  Today, I am very happy that they are.

After suffering with a bad cough for 10 days, I went to the doctor yesterday.  When I say "bad cough", I mean it.  It was the kind of cough that turns you inside out and your not sure if you're going to throw up or give yourself a brain aneurysm.  I am well aware of those super bugs, and I don't want antibiotics if they aren't necessary, but if the doctor told me I had a virus and would have to ride it out, I thought I might slap him.  Luckily, he didn't;  I have bronchitis.

About 10 hours after my first dose, it was like someone flipped a switch... no more rattle in my chest and my cough was milder and less body wracking.  Today, I could actually get off the couch and do something for longer than 10 minutes.  

We are lucky to be living now... a time when there are medical weapons to fight bacteria.  (I hope we'll never live to see a time where those weapons are rendered useless.)  Medical advancements are being made all the time.  I was reminded of this when I was reading "Little House on the Prairie" to Pipsqueak.  The whole Ingalls family was in bed with fever n' ague for days.   They thought they got it from eating watermelon grown in the creek beds.  Really, it was malaria from mosquitoes.  That was a dangerous time to be alive.  I supposed we've got bigger threats now: terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and all that. The life expectancy in the late 1800s was about age 50.  I think I like our odds. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My First Swap

Once I started blogging, I got introduced into the world of swapping. I just listened to the stories for awhile and felt unsure of how it all worked. When one of my blog friends, Apron Thrift Girl, sponsored a swap and it had a aqua and red theme, I knew my lurking days were over and I signed up. Even before I was assigned a partner, I had squirreled away a few items. Once I knew my partner was Megan, I read her entire blog to get an idea of what she's like and her interests. My box of goodies is now wrapped, packed and ready to mail tomorrow (only a day late, but I let her know it's coming).Since she likes to knit, I got her three skeins of red fun fur yarn. There are also aqua metal dot stickers, red taper candles, a Martha Stewart book on Parties and Projects for the Holidays (a thrift shop find), two pairs of handmade earrings (1 aqua, 1 red), three spools of ribbon, some Martha Stewart holiday nut ball mix, a red "green" bag (I love these; they fold up small so you can carry them in your purse until you need one), a strawberry pumice stone, an aqua felt flower frame, an aqua manicure kit and spray bottle, and a homemade aqua belt. I've got to admit to almost reconsidering the belt when I found out how talented she is with sewing (I am pretty mediocre), but the ribbon was so pretty that I decided to give it a go anyway.

I'm already signed up for another swap, the Merry Christmas Children's Book Swap. The deadline is November 14 to sign up, if you want to get in on it. A good source for swaps is Swapdex. An excellent article on swap etiquette can be found here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Have you got it coming to you?

You might. To find out, you should put your name into Missing Money.com. Put in your family members' names. Put in your friends' names.

The states have implemented active outreach programs designed to reunite unclaimed property owners with their lost or forgotten assets. To enhance the states' outreach efforts, MissingMoney.com, a national database, was established in November 1999 and is the only database endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). MissingMoney.com enables owners to perform comprehensive searches for lost assets required by law to be turned over to the states.

Common types of unclaimed property include:
Bank accounts and safe deposit box contents
Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
Uncashed checks and wages
Insurance policies, CD's, trust funds
Utility deposits, escrow accounts

The ways to keep your assets from becoming unclaimed are:
Keep a record of all bank and savings accounts.
Record all stock certificates and be sure to cash all dividends received.
Record all utility deposits, including telephone deposits.
Respond in writing to any requests for confirmation of account balances with banks, stockbrokers and utility companies.
Prepare a check list of all accounts to be notified when you change your address. Share this list with a family member or trusted advisor.
Notify your bank, broker, credit card issuers, employer, 401K administrator, insurance contacts, mortgage lenders, doctors, attorney, accountant, investment accounts, and others of your name changes due to marriage, divorce or other legal action.
Cash all checks promptly upon receipt.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dog Food (A Raw Food Diet)

I never thought I would be one of those people that made food for their pets. I secretly chuckled at a few that I knew did.

When we found our current Corgi, Monty, the breeder recommended making food, talked to us about it a lot, sent us home with plenty of literature on it, and a week supply for our new puppy. At that time, we also had a geriatric Corgi, Kirby, who suffered from shoulder pain which we hoped was arthritis, but it turned out to be bone cancer. She'd already had a bout with cancer three years prior. The breeder thought that Kirby might benefit from the food as well, since she had an arthritic German Shepard that saw some improvement on the food.

It recommended that you switch over a dog to this food without mixing, but there might be some detoxing where the dog has diarrhea and just doesn't look good for a couple of days. Since Kirby was already suffering, I decided to mix it with her hard food. Wouldn't you know, she ate all the homemade food off the dry food and spit the dry food back in the dish. I didn't notice anything off about her as a result, and she always enjoyed eating right up until the end, three months later.

Monty still eats the food, and loves it. He dances around in circles when I'm bringing the bowl over. He's lean and muscular for a Corgi, which is a commonly overweight breed.

Now, here's one of the best things about feeding this food. The dog's poops aren't as smelly and in about two days, they turn white and break up into a powder. I'm told it's because they aren't eating carbohydrates (a filler in most commercial foods) which their digestive systems aren't able to process properly. This may be why many dogs and cats develop diabetes. This food can be fed to cats, also. So, onto the food...

As far as special equipment, you'll need a couple of really big bowls, 20 or so freezer containers and a meat grinder. I have a 575 watt Maverick Meat Grinder which retails for about $100, but you may be able to pick one up on ebay cheaper.

Next you need some meaty chicken bones. You can use chicken wings (expensive), chicken bones from the butcher (cheap but troublesome since you'll have to cut them up to fit in the grinder), or chicken necks. I use the necks; they're only 59 cents a pound and they easily fit in the grinder. I buy 20 or 25 pounds at a time. That makes enough food for our 26 pound Corgi for a month.

You grind those necks up raw, bones and all. You may be thinking, "BONES?! You're not supposed to feed an animal chicken bones!" If they're cooked, you're not, because they splinter. Raw bones are fine. If a fox or coyote kills a chicken, what do you think it's eating? Some call this a raw food diet; others call it BARF (bones and raw food). There's a lot of information on the internet about this, but don't get confused by all the different way of doing this. It's like parenting; there are a lot of different ways to do it and you've got to figure out what works best for you.

Once you're done grinding the meat, you'll need to grind a little bit of vegetable (I'll talk about quantities in a minute): carrots, parsnips, celery, sweet potato, broccoli, squash, ginger, garlic or green beans. Veggies grown above ground are stool softening and below ground are stool hardening, which you may want to consider. They don't need to be beautiful vegetables. I've used overgrown green beans from the garden, limp carrots and trimmings from broccoli stalks. This is clean out the crisper time, but avoid bell peppers and onions which make some dogs ill.

Then you should add kelp granules, alfalfa powder, cod liver oil and vitamin C powder. If you have an ill, ailing, injured, pregnant or nursing dog, there are other herbs you can add. I add Sportszyme (promotes faster healing if he gets injured), and Acidophlus (aids digestion). I get all these at Thomas Veterinary Drugs. I won't bore you with item numbers, but if you want them, just ask.

Finally, add some chicken broth, mix it all up, put it in containers and freeze. If you forget to take some out of the the freezer in time, don't microwave it. You don't want the bones to start to cook. Just put the container in a pot of warm water for about 45 minutes, and you can get enough from the edges for a meal.

How much to feed can be a bit of a trick to start. The rule of thumb is 3-5% of body weight depending on activity level to maintain weight. My 26 pound dog with moderate activity level gets 1 pound per pay, or 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup at night.

If you have a very large dog, or several dogs, you might think this would be too much work. It might be. It takes me about an hour to make a month supply for my dog. I figure my cost is between 30 and 50 cents per day for food. If you don't have freezer space, but have more time, you could make it in smaller batches.

At last, quantities:
4 cups of ground meat and bone
1 cup broth
4 T vegetables
4 t kelp and alfalfa
2 t cod liver oil
1,000 mg vitamin C

I have an Excel spreadsheet with quantities going from 4 cups of meat to 24 cups of meat, which I'll share if you want it.

An excellent book on this subject is Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy Schultze.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Good versus Evil

Fever Boy has beaten a hasty retreat. He was no match for Ibupro-man. Mucus Man and Phlegm Girl are still a problem, but after repeated blasts of my Steam Ray and Saline Gun, their stronghold is weakening. In a short time, Metropo-Betts should again be a place where oxygen moves freely and the Happy Endorphin Fairies will live in peace and tranquility.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Under The Weather?...

What the heck does that mean? Aren't we always under the weather? The only time we can get above the weather is when we fly in a plane.

Anyway, I feel badly that I launched my political tirade and then didn't post yesterday, but I've been suffering with some sort of mutant cold virus. I've had a low fever, headache, cough from a tickle in my throat and fatigue, but no sinus symptoms which is typical of most colds. I could barely get off the couch yesterday; usually colds don't get me down like that. I'm sure it's not the flu; I don't feel THAT bad, and I got a flu shot three weeks ago.

I prefer to take a more holistic approach to cold relief. (Or is homeopathic. I'm not sure since I deny my hippy tendencies rather than embrace them.) This approach is partly necessity and partly desire. The necessity is that many cold relievers (Nyquil, Sudafed and others) give me heart palpitations and a jittery feeling. That's not conducive to a good night's sleep. In a fit of desperation, I will take a Sudafed early in the day, but only after all else fails. The desire part of the equation is that I don't like the idea of a multi-symptom cold medicine when I'm usually only bothered by a symptom or two. It's like using a daisy cutter bomb when a hand grenade would do.

So what is in my little natural medicine bag?

Peppermint tea - this works for stomach upsets, congestion and sore throats
Chicken soup - same help as peppermint tea, but more satisfying
Ginger ale - great on gas and other stomach upsets
Vicks Vaporub - my mom used to rub this on my chest when I had a cold as a kid. I like to just open the jar and breath it in. Now they've added it to tissues... great invention.
Honey and lemon juice - just a spoonful can sooth a cough and scratchy throat
Saline Spray - a non-harmful, non-habit forming sinus spray
Riccola drops - you can pronounce every ingredient in these, since it's all herbs. They really work too.
Ibuprofen - a girl's gotta use a drug or two
Steam - there's nothing like a good steamy shower to ease body aches, decongest a head and loosen up a cough. If I don't have time for a shower, I'll put hot water in a bowl, hang my head over it with a towel covering my head.

My newest cold relieving find is a Neti Pot. This could be why this cold feels so strange, without any sinus involvement. I've also found my sense of smell to be much sharper since I started using it. Last year, I developed a sinus infection a couple of weeks before Christmas. I was trying to prepare for seven house guests, and I had to lay down and rest every fifteen minutes or so because of headaches, sinus pressure and fatigue. I vowed it would never happen again, hence the Neti Pot purchase. The jury still out on whether it really works yet or not, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

If you have any cold relieving tricks, I'd love to hear about them. I especially love the ones that have been passed down through generations. Those are probably the ones that really work, too, since there was no Nyquil back then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'm surprised you're reading; the title alone should be enough to make you run screaming from blog-land. I think we've all had enough. I wasn't intending to write about politics at all, because I don't want to offend those that don't agree with me, but this will be a non-partisan post, I promise.

Some of us will be unhappy with the outcome tonight, but we still have to realize how lucky we are. We get to make a difference; we have a choice. There are couples living under the same roof that don't agree, but they each get to have their say and be counted.

A few weeks ago, the pending election became a regular dinner table conversation. Pipsqueak started asking questions, and immediately jumped on our candidate's bandwagon. We didn't want her to follow us blindly, so we discussed certain issues, ie. war, taxes, global warming, gay rights, health care (we skipped pro-life/pro-choice… too much frightening for a 6 year old mind). We explained both sides and asked her to choose. It turned out she was with us anyway, and now she proudly wears a button of her candidate on her jacket. (A few days later, she came to me slightly distressed, "Mom, you didn't tell me I couldn't vote!" We neglected to mention that she had to be 18 years old.)

We didn't want our daughter to make a choice because it was the popular one in our household, but I fear that's done all over the country with registered voters. How many people really take the time to find out what the candidate believes in and where they stand on the issues? This can't be done by watching political ads on television, where quotes are taken out of context, and twisted and stretched like play-dough until they become something that the other candidate can use as a weapon. You can get more reliable candidate information than that by watching Saturday Night Live, and that isn't saying much. You have to watch the debates, go to the candidates' websites and do some real research.

I believe that choices are sometimes made too lightly. You shouldn't vote for someone because they are a woman, black or white, young or old. That isn't enough. You shouldn't vote for someone because you think that's who is going to win anyway. You shouldn't even vote along party lines; there are liberal conservatives and conservative liberals. Take time to think about what is important to you in this country and what you would like to see happen, then find the candidate that you think will do that for you. That is what elected officials are supposed to do... represent us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Moroccan Chicken Stew

I loved this dish, but the rest of the family... not so much. They were not big fans of the sweet potato and parsnips. At least I got all the leftovers to myself. I love Moroccan food and African food in general. We used to have a fantastic African restaurant in our area, but it went out of business. If anyone knows of any good African recipe books, please let me know.

1 T olive oil
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cinnamon stick
7 cups of root vegetables, cut into 1/2" pieces (such a potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, parsnips or carrots, in any combination using as few or as many varieties as you like)
2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. dried currants or raisins
1 c. drained, canned diced tomatoes
chopped cilantro

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pot and sauté until light golden but not cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer chicken to bowl.
Add onion to pot and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Add curry powder, cumin and cinnamon stick and stir 30 seconds. Add root vegetables. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and chicken with any accumulated juices to pot. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and flavors blend, about 5 minutes longer. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Serves 6.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

I spent most of yesterday getting ready for today. It starts with the harvest party at Pipsqueak's school. They will be making applesauce, carving pumpkins and doing a craft with pressed leaves. They will also have some tasty treats provided by parents. I made a Spiced Pumpkin Bread from epicurious.com and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds courtesy of Kitt's delicious recipe.
At the end of the celebration, I'll be reading Too Many Pumpkins.

It's a great story and fun to read. It's about a woman that hates pumpkins. One lands in her yard when it falls off a truck and starts growing the next spring. Despite her neglect she grows a truck load of pumpkins, so she makes all sort of pumpkin dishes for the neighbors to get rid of them. It turns out she enjoys it so much, she saves a handful of seeds to plant the next spring. After I finish the story, I have a package of pumpkin seeds to give to each child with planting instructions.
Later, we'll do a bit of local trick or treating, and then go downtown for the Pumpkins in the Park event. There will be a pumpkin carving contest. I carved mine today: bats,
a spider, a Pipsqueak-alike, and a witch. I think I'll enter the witch in the contest. There is also a haunted walk, costume parade, games and a scavenger hunt.
Add into this an eye exam for me and after-school chorus practice for Pipsqueak and the day sounds frightening in a non-Halloween way. After the goblin has gone to bed, I think I'll need some BOO-ze. (Sorry; I couldn't help myself.) I'm tired just thinking about it, but I've planned not to have plans this weekend. I'm going to relax and putter around the house. I'm looking forward to that extra hour we'll get from setting the clocks back on Saturday night.

Handmade Costumes... Maybe Not So Thrifty

Growing up, I always had store bought costumes. Back then, they were in boxes with a cellophane window in the top, so you could see them all folded up with the plastic mask staring up at you. I remember some of them: Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty (that one had blond flocking on the mask for the hair), a witch and a bride. I don't remember asking to be anything except for the bride, so I don't know if I decided what I wanted to be or if my mom did. My mom was a beautiful seamstress, so I don't know why she didn't make my costumes. I've never asked her. I do remember the price tag on a box being something like 99 cents.

When I got older (maybe high school), I started putting pieces together to make costumes: an old lady, a hobo and a clown. Once I was out of school, I started getting crafty. One year I made crayon costumes for me and all the other tellers at the bank where I worked. I've also made a Raggedy Ann, a bumble bee, a skunk and pleather chaps for a cowboy costume. I'm not a great seamstress, but I can follow a pattern and make things that aren't too complicated. There's a lot of room for punting with a costume.
When my daughter was born, I appreciated simplicity (and I don't mean the line of patterns). I spent so much time nursing her and carrying her that I barely had time for personal grooming. Pulling out the sewing machine was not high on my list of moment-to-myself-things-to-do. For her first three Halloweens, she had purchased costumes: a ladybug, a cow and a frog.
As we were gearing up for her fourth Halloween, she told me she wanted to be Bat Girl. This was probably influenced by her father's hilarious imitation of Michael Keaton playing Batman which nearly had me driving the car off the road the first time he did it. She was in pre-school, and I had scads of time (yeah, right), so I decided to not only make it, but design it myself. Numerous hours and $40 at the fabric store later, it was done.
The next year she wanted to be a mermaid, but Ariel was not what she had in mind. Oh no. She wanted to be a purple mermaid. Although my designing skills, however limited, didn't fail me the prior year, I decided this project merited a pattern which I loosely followed. At least two full weekends and (gulp) $50 at the fabric store, and we had a beautifully sparkly, purple mermaid costume, and a personally designed headpiece which sort of made her look like a mermaid about to see Janis Joplin live at Woodstock. I can't believe this is the best photo we have of all my hard work. (She is posing with her grandmother.)
Last year, we spent Halloween in Florida, but I was not about to deny Pipsqueak the Halloween experience of costumed trick or treating. She said she wanted to be a witch. "Goody," I thought, "That's easy-peasy." We picked out some great fabric and I got the idea to trim it in black marabou. It was a screaming deal (compared to previous years) at $30, but do you have any idea how long it takes to hand-sew 3 yards of marabou trim? I think it was just over an hour per yard.

That brings me to this year. In September, we were shopping in TJ Maxx when Pipsqueak saw a beautiful Queen dress. Of course, she wanted it, and the bargaining and begging ensued. I looked at the price tag of $25. Then I looked closely at the dress, which consisted of 6 different fabrics and 4 different trims. To make something similar, it would cost well over $40 and 10-12 hours of sewing. I relented, but I didn't make it easy. Since no one local saw her witch costume from last year, I told her I would buy the queen dress one size larger and she could have it for next year if she wore the witch costume this year. The ultimate negotiator (she may make a good attorney one day), she said she would if I would get her a witch's broom this year. Done deal!

So if any of you are feeling guilty for buying Halloween costumes, DON'T! You'll have more money in your pocket and more time to spare.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Snow

This was the scene outside when I got up this morning.  My grandfather used to say that in Vermont, we get 9 months of winter and 3 months of hard sledding.  With snow falling in October, he could be spot on this year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Par Jamais

I was at a loss about what to post today, but then something happened. We were just finished with dinner and Pipsqueak was thinking about her dessert choice. She announced that she wanted Par Jamais. Sweetie and I looked at each other with intrigue and amazement. Where had she come up with this?

She doesn't speak French other than a few words often used on trips to Canada, e.g. bon jour, bon soir, merci, au revoir. We asked what this Par Jamais might consist of. "I'll show you," she announced proudly. She brought the following ingredients to the table: ice cream (she informed us that flavor didn't matter, however, our in stock flavor was chocolate chip cookie dough), snack-pack chocolate pudding and Hershey's chocolate syrup. For the sake of cleanliness, I offered to construct said Par Jamais under her tutelage. I was instructed to place two small scoops of ice cream in a dish and place chocolate pudding between the scoops, finally topping everything with swirls of chocolate sauce.
While Pipsqueak and Sweetie devoured her creation, I hit the French/English dictionary. "Par" mean through or by way of. "Jamais" means never. From my four years of French in high school, I remember that modifiers sometimes follow what they modify, so I'll give this a loose translation of "never through" which I think is a great name for a dessert.

Monday, October 27, 2008


If you're like me, you are in a constant state of cleaning out. I figure that stuff is coming in the door all the time, stuff has got to keep going out or eventually we'll be buried in stuff. Then there's the fact that kids outgrow and outsmart stuff (clothes, toys, games, books) and our tastes change. What we thought a few years ago was so hot, is now so not. Then there are gifts that we will never use and things we bought that just sit there.

So what to do with all the stuff? The easiest thing is to take it to goodwill or a thrift store, but that seems so.... well.... unthrifty. Selling stuff on ebay can be profitable, but you do have to pay to list items even if they don't sell and it can be time consuming. There's also Craigslist and yard sales. Are you thinking, "There's got to be an easier way!" There is.

There are lots of internet swap groups out there, but I'll tell you about the one I use. It's Swapcycle. There are currently 72 member all of the country. No money is exchanged on this group. Instead, each member gets "credit" for the items they post and they can then spend that "credit" on items others post. For example, Mary has a Gamecube game that her son no longer uses, she lists it on the group for $15. Jane grabs the game and uses $15 of her credits to "pay" for the game. Mary now has $15 to use on the group. Shipping costs are to be built into the dollar amount posted. For example, if the Gamecube Game is valued at $10 and it's going to cost $5 to mail, than it would be listed for $15. Essentially, you're only out-of-pocket expense is the postage to mail the items that are grabbed from you. New and used items are welcome, as well as direct sales consultants. There are consultants in the group for Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Creative Memories, and Stampin' Up, just to name a few.

Posting items is simple. Just take photos and post them in album you create in the photo database. Then fill out a simple chart for each item with the date, your name, total value and description.

I've been a part of the group for almost a year and have gotten lots of great stuff: DVDs, books, jewelry, kitchenware and more. There aren't many rules: don't grab if you don't have credit, you must list at least one item per calendar month, and you must ship within two weeks. If you're interested in joining, click on the link above and follow the directions. I recommend signing up for the daily digest of emails, otherwise, your inbox will get inundated.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Best Birthday Gift

A couple of months ago, I gave Sweetie some plans I'd found for building a barred owl box and told him that was what I wanted for Christmas. (I'm nothing if not practical.) Much to my surprise, he made one for my birthday.
He added the natural stick perch today and mounted it to a maple tree about 20 feet up where we can see it from the house, but far enough away that the inhabitants won't feel intruded upon. I've read that they should be up in September when owls are looking to nest, but I'm hoping for an owl that may be disenchanted with its original choice of home and is looking for a last minute upgrade. Perhaps I should place an ad: One bedroom nesting box in great location, newly built, clean, close to excellent hunting grounds, southern exposure.

Call me crazy, but now I'm going to ask for a bat house for Christmas.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Growing Older

A couple of weeks ago, I heard about a man that was found behind a Burger King, somewhere in the US, badly beaten without any ID. He was taken to a hospital where he recovered. He did need some surgery prior to regaining his vision, but it's several months later and he has no memory of his past or identity.

He said that it was a couple of weeks before he saw himself in a mirror due to the eye surgery, and he was surprised that he appeared to be in his 50s. He said he felt and thought he was in his 20s. That really has stuck in my mind, and I keep rolling it around. Imagine that for a minute... you don't have your vision and you have no idea how old you are. How old do you feel? Your eyes could not see the the fine lines, the gray hairs, the age spots and the things that aren't so perky anymore.

I've often said that I still feel 18, but as I turn 44 today, I think I should up that to 25. I know much more about life now than I did then, but if I had no memory of prior experiences, would I have the additional common sense that I've gained over the years? I expect that I would realize that my sleep habits had changed since I was young; I can't stay up until midnight partying and sleep until noon anymore. But if I couldn't remember that I did that, would I realize that was a sign of middle age?

I think that our bodies, the vessels that hold our mind, spirit and personality, betray us by prematurely aging. We feel young, but we don't look young anymore, and we can't do what we did when we were young. I think that if we didn't give a number to our ages... if we didn't celebrate our birthdays, we'd all live longer. Maybe we'd feel younger if we didn't do the math, and didn't look in mirrors.

I see that Pipsqueak put 15 candles on my cake. If I was blind AND deaf, I wouldn't believe I was THAT young.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lowest Prices of the Season

That tag line doesn't mean much. The prices are the lowest until... well... next week. As the season passes and merchandise languishes on the shelves and racks, prices drop. It doesn't matter what season it is; it's the way retail works. When the season is over, anything remaining goes on clearance racks.

You've got to hunt for these racks sometimes. Stores would rather have you buy the things that just showed up in the store with higher prices, so they'll tuck their clearance racks in a little corner in the back. It's for the same reason that milk is at the back of the grocery store; the retailers are hoping you'll be lured by something else on the way there. I say, put the blinders on and run.

I see all the major department stores (JC Penney, Kohl's, Macy's, K-mart) rolling out their print and television ads promising the lowest prices of the season, and they probably are this week. If you don't really need something now, wait. You'll see the same ad next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, ad nauseum.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Never Enough

Thanks to blogging, there are days that I feel lazy and unproductive. It's not because my butt is making a dent in the couch all day while I type, point and click. (I have cut back... really, I have.) It's just that I read about everything everybody else has been doing and I feel like a slacker. Maybe it's because I'm reading the collective goings-on of about eight people and somehow I feel like I should have done all that, too. Oh, someone is knitting a scarf; I should have knit today. She made bread; I love making bread. There are women out there walking their dogs, cleaning their furnace, planning luncheons for all their neighbors, trying new recipes and more. It's all very humbling. So, what did I do today?
  • made breakfast, which included fresh squeezed orange juice
  • took a call from Pipsqueak's teacher re: next Friday's harvest party
  • folded two baskets of laundry
  • washed two loads of laundry and hung it out to dry even though it was cold
  • put half of the window screens away
  • put butcher's wax on the mahogany dining table
  • polished the silver candle holders and put in fresh candles
  • talked to my sister in law about her cancer treatment
  • talked with another parent to plan next the school's harvest party
  • made lunch
  • went to the salon for Sydney's and my hair cuts
  • cleaned up half the vegetable garden
  • visited my mother
  • made supper (a new recipe) and cleaned up after supper

It may look like a lot, but since there is more that I should have done and wanted to do, somehow it doesn't seem like enough. It'll never be enough.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


It was snowing here this morning... not accumulating... just floating around in the sky like we were in a giant snow globe. Pipsqueak was wild with excitement which included breaking into song... a made-up-on-the-fly song called (you guessed it), "Snow!"

It wasn't snowing down in the village which is about 500 feet lower in altitude than we are. (We're at about 1100 feet above sea level.) I heard on local weather that some towns north of here are getting accumulating snow. The weatherman brought a snowball into the station. Jay Peak is reporting 2 inches.

It's hard to get a photograph of falling snow, but if you look at Pipsqueak's pants or the dark pines in the background, you can see it a bit. Does she look cold? It was 34 degrees this morning, but we're tough Vermonters; we don't need no stinkin' jackets. (Well, not for a two minute photo shoot.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

4th Annual Hornets' Nest Harvest

Since Pipsqueak was two years old, we've hunted down abandoned hornets' nests after the first hard frost and the bare trees reveal them. We keep our eyes open in the summer, too, but they are hard to spot in the leaves. The particular football shaped ones we look for are from white-face or bald-face hornets. They aren't really hornets at all, but are from the yellow jacket family. I'll call them hornets for simplicity. The nests often hang from tree branches over the road, because those little buggers like to buzz up the roads just like we do.

Pipsqueak spotted this one on Saturday, about two miles from our house. She loves collecting them because they're very popular show-and-tell items.

We got on the tractor and chugged down the road. Pipsqueak operated the tractor controls to raise Sweetie in the air in the bucket until he could reach the nest and cut it down. (I was unofficial documentarian.)

We'll keep it in the shed for while to make sure it's completely abandoned. A couple of lazy hornets emerged after we got it home. There could be eggs inside the nest that will hatch into larvae, but without adults to feed them they will die. We don't feel guilty about this because the nest is abandoned in the fall anyway, and a new one is built in the spring. Any unhatched offspring would die anyway at this point. This nest is about one foot tall. That's a lot of hornet spit.

This link gives information on safely harvesting your own hornets' nest.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Individual Apple Crisp (the last? apple gasp)

I love desserts made in ramekins. A few years ago, I started making apple crisp in them. It looks so much prettier than a blob on a plate and it assures a fair amount of crispiness in every mouthful. I almost out of apples, so this might be it for this year's apple recipes. Here it is:

one small baking apple per ramekin
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
3 T butter, softened
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg

Peel, core and thinly slice an apple for each of four ramekins. Mix remaining ingredients into a lumpy crumb using a fork to break up the butter. Sprinkle a generous amount over each apple filled ramekin. Bake in a 375 oven for about 25 mins until topping is golden and apples are tender.

The topping can be refrigerated for a couple of days if you want to make extra for another day or make it ahead. Leftover apple crisps can be reheated in the oven.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bat in My "Belfry"

There's rarely a dull moment here in "Wild Kingdom." I was taking screens out of windows and putting down storms yesterday morning. Before I take each screen out, I have close look for hornets because often the little buggers get in there, and I don't want to get stung. In one of the guest bedroom windows, I was startled when I saw a little ball of fur in the space between the window and the screen. A closer inspection led to me to identify it as a Little Brown Bat. He was about 2 inches tall. He'd gotten in through a tiny crack where the screen was not set into the frame properly. We were so lucky to have a literal window into his world where we got to inspect and observe him so closely.
Later in the day, he moved to the upper part of the window. I stealthily removed the screen then so he could get out easier.
At dusk, Pipsqueak reported that he seemed to be shaking, and soon after that he was moving. He spent a long time grooming and fluffing his fur and stretching his wings. Then he used his clawed feet and the claws in the middle joint of his wings to deftly shimmy down the muntin between the window panes. He went straight to where the crack was that he entered through, and off he flew.
We checked this morning, but he had not come back. Either he has hibernated or found a better crack to sleep in.

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