Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Most Funnest Holiday!

OK - we took a trip to Target and now we're all ready for Halloween:

Soon the kids will be here and I hope I bought enough candy for all the little ones and middle sized ones, and if I run out before the big ones get here, oh well!

Here's one of the middle-sized ones from last year:

I like my neighborhood. It's not fancy. It's an old development that hasn't changed much since it was built in the 1950's. The streets are narrow; few of them have sidewalks; a couple of years ago we finally got streetlights. The houses are small and most are overfilled with sizable extended families. On Halloween, dozens of kids fill the streets and descend upon each house in groups. Every year two or three babies participate, carried or pushed in strollers by their parents or older siblings. And I turn into a little kid and have the time of my life giving out candy by the handful.

It's a tradition that hasn't changed at all in some parts of the country, and I happen to be lucky enough to be living in one of those parts.

Sometimes I imagine what I would do if I suddenly came into a lot of money. Would I move to a fancier neighborhood? Probably not.

I'll let you in on a little secret: Publisher's Clearing House has my name! There, it's out, and I feel so much better for having made my confession. And I challenge you to do the same. Did you secretly sign up for Publisher's Clearing House? Tell me the truth - does PCH have your name?

While I'm keeping an eye out for PCH, my current aspirations are more modest. For instance, I like to sell plastic stuff. I want to point out that the bowl in the picture above is a Tupperware Thatsa Bowl. The name makes me smile and wonder. Like, when the Tupperware people met to discuss new items, I think someone must have said, "Now that's a bowl!" Anyway, I'm showing it here with a ten pound bag of flour in it. This bowl is really big! Thatsa bowls come in a set of  four, in graduated sizes. You can check on this and a lot of other great stuff if you click the link at the top of this page.

OK. Commercial over. Thanks for listening.

Tune in tomorrow for more. Will it be art, sewing, recipes, commentary? I'll never tell.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Below are 3 paintings I created several years ago. They were not done with an audience in mind but were an expression of strong emotions particular to that time in my life. I've only shown them to a few people and without exception they have been shocked by the complete paintings. Therefore, I am including only chosen details of the first two.

This is a detail from "Triumph":

Two portraits from a painting about child abuse:

I believe abortion is a private decision which should not be taken lightly:

No jokes today. Hug the ones you love.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Mother-in-Law's Beef Stroganoff

Well, she's not my Mother-in-Law now, but I still serve the dish. The recipe outlasted the marriage, so to speak. OK, here it is, simple and delicious:


1 - 1 ½ lb of round steak, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 can consume soup (not broth)
1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
8 oz sour cream
1 package noodles or 1 cup rice

Place meat in a pan and pour the consume over it. Cover and cook on very low heat for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the liquid is absorbed. Check it now and then and make sure the meat doesn’t dry out or burn. Add a little water if necessary so it’ll cook at least 2 hours.

Once the meat is cooked the final steps take only about 10 minutes, so start cooking your noodles or rice at the appropriate time. Noodles cook in 10 minutes, for instance; whole grain rice takes 45.

Open the can of mushroom soup and stir it into the meat. Keep the heat low and cook until the mixture starts to bubble. Don’t over stir or the meat will get stringy.

Now add the sour cream, stir gently until heated through, and serve immediately over the rice or noodles.

One more instruction: Don’t let your diners know how easy this recipe is. Dispose of the soup cans and sour cream container before anyone comes into the kitchen!

Add a salad or steamed vegetable such as broccoli and you have a complete and delicious supper!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So Now You Know

OK. Two people (out of the three or four who might be reading this - sigh) have noticed a spelling error in my blog title. Talk about embarrassment! Why, there might eventually be millions of people out there who will see my monumental mistake! This is worse than a third grade spelling bee. And I remember those well; I would just about pee my pants whenever the teacher kicked me off the stage. The shame of it!

So, underwear issues aside, what do I do now?

My computer savvy friends probably have some idea of how complicated (or not) this thing might be. I really don't, but I suspect that because I've typed the offending word in about a dozen places on it might not be wise, or easy, to change it. So for now I thank you, Jude and K.B. and I will go on, typo and all.

And how many of the rest of you didn't even notice???

At least a first blog isn't like a first child. When I was a young mother I learned that hospitals do not allow returns, so we were stuck with our own little screamer. Having happily raised 3 by now (kids, that is, not blogs), I've developed a lot of patience and persistence. And by the way, kids, you turned out Super OK!

Besides which: The only way to avoid mistakes is to not do anything.

So, I greatly appreciate the encouragement that's coming from one corner in particular, but I would love to hear from anyone else who's reading. I'm easy to mold: If you tell me what you like best, you'll get more of it.

Tomorrow is set - a favorite recipe - so come back and see me, OK?

Don't Be Chicken!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On Bein' Yourself an' All That!

How about this guy. Does he know he's walking in the rain - in a dress? Is he insane? Well --- I did take this picture in Key West, OK. And I guess that explains it, right? This guy is walking in the rain in a dress (and running shoes - how sensible) in Key West, a place which is known for its "characters." So it's OK. Either he lives there or he's on vacation, and everyone knows that on vacation we let our hair down, so to speak, and do what we feel like doing.

Why is that? I mean, why do we have to wait until we're on vacation to be ourselves and enjoy life? Imagine being true to yourself every day rather than just a few weeks out of each year.

Easy for me to say. I'm retired. I don't have to conform to a work environment. I don't have to follow rules and "fit in" just to keep a job so I can pay the bills. I remember those expectations at work, many of which had nothing to do with productivity!

Think of the pressures we put on ourselves, trying to be what others say we should be, trying to behave in certain ways, dress like everyone else and so on. Who made those rules anyway? And what was the purpose? Shouldn't we try instead to value the differences between us and appreciate our eccentricities?

And don't get me started on people who judge others by their appearance. For instance, this is a guy in a dress in the rain, and that's all we know about him. Making any other assumption is ignorant at best and could be very harmful. As the saying goes, can't we all just get along? Put more eloquently:

"The remarkable thing is that we really do love our neighbor as ourselves.... We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves." (Eric Hoffer, writer and philosopher)

What do you think?

Stop the Supermarket Merry-Go-Round!

OK - so I had to go to the grocery store today. Can I tell you how much I hate shopping for groceries? Can I tell you how much time I spend shopping for groceries? Counting making my list, clipping coupons, driving to and walking around a huge store, I estimate that every grocery shopping trip I make takes at least 4 hours of my time.

Now, if I do that every week, we're talking about 16 hours a month - two whole working days!

I'm thinking that I'd like to cut that time at least in half.

And the money I spend? People who study these things say that the merchandizers have us as soon as we walk in the door, with their "product placement" and "impulse" items. I'm just as helpless as the next person when faced with all the stuff they've convinced me that I "need" so, clearly, the less time I actually spend in grocery stores, the less unnecessary stuff I'll buy.

There was a time in my life when I lived in another country, a country less affluent than the United States, where buying food meant getting staples and in-season produce in the only food store in town, and then stopping at the butcher shop on the way home to choose meat from a very limited selection. My husband and I had good jobs there, being school teachers, but we weren't highly paid. However, we felt like we were very well off because it was so easy to live within our means. We simply weren't faced with the huge variety of consumer goods and heavy advertising aimed at convincing us that we must have stuff!

The whole process of "grocery shopping" was simple, stress free, inexpensive and quick. And I'm determined to return to that state. I've decided to:
  1. Make as few trips to the store as possible;
  2. Eliminate waste/spoilage as much as possible;
  3. Eliminate unnecessary packaging as much as possible;
  4. Improve my cooking skills and prepare more foods "from scratch" and
  5. As a result of the above steps, cut the cost of our household food by 20%
Wow! I feel like I just came up with the "Five Steps to Shopping Sobriety." Yeah, I know, I'm not the first to discuss these ideas, but maybe I can be the one who will fill in the details which will lead to a more practical way of living.

I intend to start by always having my cloth shopping bags in my car, so I will no longer be putting plastic bags into land fills. And I challenge you to do the same, OK?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today I'm a Bag Lady - Part 2

First of all, Odie is in hiding (see his picture on yesterday's post). You see, his other Momma was having a ferocious battle with a monster in the living room and hall, so Odie tucked his tail and scooted into the office, where he is currently hiding under a desk. Brave Momma. Bad bad Monster!

Now, to Part 2 of the bag making from yesterday. First, a correction. Ever the careful reader, Jude noticed I said wrong sides together when I meant right sides together. It's a general rule that we put right sides together when we sew. So go by the picture, not my instructions.

Now that I've said that, I'm going to tell you just the opposite in a few minutes, because the bag is going to be made with FRENCH seams.

First, however, hem both 18" ends of the large piece of material. Do this by turning under about 1/4" and sewing straight across.

Now, fold the piece in half with WRONG sides together. This is where the French Seam part comes in. See below:

Stitch up both sides about 1/4" from the edge.

Starting to look like a bag, isn't it? Now, turn your bag so that you have RIGHT sides together, and stich both sides again - a little bit more than 1/4" in.

OK, now for the fun part, and the trick that will make your bag better than ordinary. Keeping the bag wrong side out, put your hand in one corner and spread it until you have a triangle shape that looks like the picture below. Make sure the seam is in the middle of the triangle. Draw a line across the bottom of the triangle about an inch and a half from the corner. Try to make it even, but don't worry about perfection (which is much overrated). Now pin it so it doesn't move, and stitch straight across the line.

Do the same on the other corner of your bag, making it the same size, of course.

Turn the bag so that the RIGHT side is on the OUTSIDE and your nice neat french seams and beautiful triangle corners are on the inside. Now you're ready to hem the top and attach the handles.

Turn under the top about an inch and pin it in a few places. Place the handles where you want them (I like 2 or 3 inches from each side) and pin them on.

Stitch around the top of your bag 2 times, and stitch the handles as you go around, like this:

And that's it! Your bag is done! Does it look something like this?

Once you've made one of these bags, you know what they say. Well, I hope you know, 'cause I'm trying to remember. I guess, "It's like riding a bicycle; you never forget."

Of course, in my case, I never learned how to ride a bicycle in the first place. Guess I'll talk about that another day....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Today I'm the Bag Lady

If life is a drag and you haven't done anything new lately, maybe you can try this. All you need is a piece of material, a sewing machine and thread. Actually, the sewing machine is optional if you don't mind hand sewing - it'll just take longer, that's all.

This is simple sewing, on a simple sewing machine. Quick, and uncomplicated:

Start with a half yard of poly-cotton material. That's the stuff that's usually about 44" wide, is machine washable and permanent press, and feels like a dress shirt or blouse. Do not buy anything heavy, textured or stretchy. And get an all over print, not a border print or "picture."

So, you have a piece of fabric that is about 44" by 18"

On the short side, measure and cut off 2 strips, each 3" by 18"

Now you have 3 pieces of fabric - one about 38" by 18" and two that are 3" by 18"

Time to sew:

The two 18" pieces are for the handles, so you do the following for each one:

Fold lengthwise, with wrong sides together, and sew across one end and down the open side.

By the way, the white strip next to the pencil is the selvage (border) I cut from my piece of material. I don't need it showing on my finished product. Do the same with yours if needed.

Now, turn your handle right side out. With a nod of thanks to my sister Suzie, here's how to do this:

Push in the end you just stitched, using first your fingers and then an unsharpened pencil. Keep pushing the pencil through and pulling/sliding the fabric down the outside. When you get the whole strip right side out, just shake out the pencil and your bag handle is "turned."

Finally, turn under the unstitched end, and sew around all edges (both sides and both ends). Now you have a nice finished handle for your bag. Do the same for the second handle.

Making the handles is the hardest part of this, so we're more than half done. Now for the tease: Instructions for completing the bag will be on this site tomorrow.

Are you in suspense? Are you at least a teensy bit curious about the exciting conclusion?

Life is stranger than fiction, they say, so tune in tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a picture, because Odie demanded equal time when he heard Faith was here the other day:

....showing his best side.

Friday, October 22, 2010

While the Soup Simmers and the Bread Bakes

I hear the weather's getting cool up north. Vegetable soup and fresh baked bread make the best Saturday night supper, and if you don't have a recipe of your own, please go ahead and try mine:



2/3 cup sliced carrots
½ cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups diced green cabbage
½ cup green beans
½ cup diced zucchini
3 cups broth (any kind)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon basil
¼ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon salt


Bring broth to a boil, add all ingredients except cabbage and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add cabbage and cook while you chop the zucchini. Add the zucchini last because it cooks fast. If you don’t like this mix of vegetables, make your own mix. Green peppers are good; so is celery; also potatoes. Sometimes I add ½ cup of rice. If you don’t have tomato paste or broth, use V8 juice or tomato juice as a base. This is very filling, yummy, and low calorie.

Gather friends and family, cosey up to the fireplace, TV and each other and remember: Life's too short to waste on the negatives. Now's the time to "live like you're dying," as the song goes.

And Saying What You Mean

Ask a man, “Did you pay the water bill?” and you get, “Yes,” “No,” “I don’t remember” or “Harrumph!”

Ask a woman and you get a long-winded discussion about “my money” “your money” “I do all the work around here” “You’re bossing me around” “You think I’m made of money” and so on. Such a discussion can go on all day, or for a whole weekend.

Hell, I just wanted to know If we’re going to have water next week. And, can I help with that - if help is needed?

Why can’t a woman be more like a man? If you're into old movies, you may remember the song by that name in "My Fair Lady."

Anyway, it's not really a man/woman thing. But it is a relationship thing. And sometimes I just prefer to hang out with my cat.

Meet Faith.

I've been told she's a "Russian Blue."

Like all cats, she doesn't care what you call her, as long as it's not late for dinner!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't Let It Get You Down!

So, here's my theory on housework: Don't do it! I mean, don't do it unless it's worth doing. Don't clean ANYTHING unless the cleaning will be noticed. Let the place be a little bit grimy, because when you do finally clean you'll be rewarded. You (and "they") will know you did something worthwhile and you may even hear something like, "Honey, the kitchen floor is SO BEAUTIFUL AND SHINY!" We call this "positive reinforcement," which is a tactic used by psychologists, teachers and animal trainers the world over to control (people, children, dogs, etc.). Don't get hooked on the praise or you'll find yourself scrubbing and cleaning way too much! And then the praise will go away because they don't notice anymore and they start thinking the house is cleaning itself!

At that point you - poor soul - are ADDICTED to housework! I can think of a lot of more fun things to be hooked on than scrubbing my toilet, can't you?

So just get it done and get it over with, as in mopping the refridgerator - really! When you mop the kitchen floor, mop the fridge too, and the walls. Well, why not? Why waste a bucket of water just doing the floor?

I've learned a few things down the years, about how to keep a household. And I would love to hear your ideas too, because I think that ever since the first cave person shoveled out a cave there's been this depressing thing called housekeeping, and IT CAN REALLY GET YOU DOWN, if you let it!

Now, here's my first attempt at beautifying my new blog with a picture. Is it working? Can you see it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

OK - Here we go!!!

I've been talking about doing a blog for years. Today I finally get to it and, really, I feel like the last person in the world to do this, like the last "blog virgin" in the universe! Some day I'll think back and report what my "first time" was like: Did I like it? Was I scared? Did you respect me in the morning?

Yes to the first two and, hopefully, yes to the last.

I'll be including "Words of Wisdom (heh)," "Recipes," "Rants," "Ideas," "History," and a ton of other stuff that's been jammed up in my brain way too long. Hopefully, it'll be entertaining and - possibly - even informative.

Tomorrow I'll discuss "Mopping the Refridgerator." In the meantime, I would love to hear from all of you (is anybody out there???).