Saturday, December 21, 2013

Just like all of us...

Bristol Palin blogs that free speech, and freedom, are sometimes uncomfortable.

She goes on to quote a Time Magazine article who's author's name I missed talking about the political stance one takes when they are offended being to silence their opponent rather than engage in a conversation where both sides may learn something. This is the concluding paragraph she quotes: "G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s."

The past year has seen America ripped apart with polar opposite ideas on race, religion and lifestyle choices -- think Paula Deen, Trayvon Martin, and now Phil Robertson -- with even close friends finding themselves arguing bitterly over who is right.

Or more often, who is wrong.

And yet, I'd guess that, amongst my friends, most believe in God and that the Bible is His recorded word. There we are told one of the greatest of all the commandments is to "love thy neighbor as thyself." I say that loving someone, even unconditionally, doesn't mean you like or approve of everything they do. In that light... I think we'd all do well to stop and consider just what is spewing forth from that hole in our face.

I don't mean only the rabid comments both in support and condemnation for Mr. Robertson though that is what I'm thinking about today. We don't know him. Or at least I don't know him. And one outrageously coarse comment with no context doesn't give me the right to label him as anything.

Who or what he is, is between him and God.

I am among the part of the population who finds the show wildly entertaining and the characters engaging. I know I've seen all of them say stupid things and then turn around and utter the most profound wisdom. They may seem extreme. That's what sells on TV.  But if you look at the overall picture, the Robertsons are pretty normal folk - a mixture of good and bad.

Just like all of us.

There is hate enough to go around in this world...  I'm not sure why we talk about wanting love and acceptance for ourselves and then show our most vile contempt for anyone who makes different choices about their life than we do for ours.  Now and then we hear people say horrific things about women. And I've heard the most outrageously untrue and hateful things about Mormons. And Muslims. And Jews. And Blacks and Hispanics and... Everybody hates somebody! I'm not saying that as justification or to downplay anyone's pain. It's hurtful to be on the receiving end of hate no matter who you are.

But back to Ms. Palin's premise that free speech can be uncomfortable...

Yes, it can.  Free speech is Constitutionally protected in the First Amendment.  Having an opinion is legal.  But this isn't even a free speech issue.  In Mr. Robertson's case, no one has been arrested.  It's an employer telling an employee that their behavior reflected so badly on the company's image that their services are no longer needed.  A&E is well within their rights to make that call.  Mr. Robertson is entitled to his views, even to give them voice.  But that right doesn't protect him from the consequences of choosing to do so.

It's convenient to forget that with choices come consequences.  Consequences that are usually set before the choice is even made.  How often have I been taught that good choices bring happy consequences and bad choices bring unpleasant consequences?

I reap the consequence of each choice I make in a day.  And in any given day some of my choices are good and some are bad.  So do you.

Just like all of us.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Who would you want to talk to?

A few days ago Kelly Gray posted a question on her blog's facebook page, Then I Thought of Home - Kelly Gray, that's given me the opportunity to do some thinking.  She does things like that!  And sometimes I just have to write out my thoughts.  Her question:  "If you could spend time talking with anyone from the Christmas story, anyone other than Jesus because it's a given we would all chose Him, who would you chose? The Brave Mary or protective Joseph, the angels on High, the Inn Keeper, the Wise Men, the shepherds, Gabriel or maybe even find someone who isn't even mentioned in the story. Somebody who was watching from afar... Who would you want to talk to?"

All of the responses I read were from folks who wanted the chance to sit down for some one on one time with Mary.  They wanted to share the experience of motherhood and to know what she knew and how she found the courage to do what she did.  And I admit those are questions I would love to be able to ask her, too.

But if I could only choose one person from the Nativity to have a conversation with...

I'd choose Joseph.

I wrote a little about many of the characters in this post from December 2009.

Then I said about Joseph:  "In Joseph we find an example of a kind and tender man who agreed to raise a child not his own by going forward in marriage to an already pregnant young woman. He faithfully plays a quiet background role. In him, we glimpse into the heart of men who we might call unsung heroes who do their best to live an acceptable life and give meaningful service to those they love but do not seek the notice and praise of the world."

Walking With God by Morgan Weistling

I think we overlook Joseph because there's so very little said about him.  And I kind of think that's the way he'd want it to be even though there is so much to learn from him and the way he chose to conduct himself and his business.  He was engaged to Mary before she conceived Jesus.  He thought he was marrying a virgin bride - that whole virgin thing was a big deal back then.  Not to downplay or poke fun at anyone's modesty or choice of abstinence now... just pointing out that now it's a choice, then it was punishable by death for a woman to be so "unclean."  When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant he would have been perfectly justified under the law and social norms of his day to demand that she be stoned to death at the city gate.  Yet the scriptures tell us that he sought to have her put away quietly.

Imagine Joseph, his heart broken from thinking she'd found another that she loved enough to give herself to despite the arrangement her family had entered into with him, asking to break the engagement quietly and not draw attention to her condition.  When my feelings are hurt how to be kind is not often the first thought that pops in my mind.  To always react with love is a big lesson I can learn from Joseph's example.

And then the Angel came to him... I'd love to know more about that conversation!  What did Joseph learn that convinced him to move forward with the marriage?  And I have all the same questions for him, that so many would like to ask Mary.  What did you know about Him?  How did you find the courage to step-father the very Son of God?  What did you teach Him?  What did He teach you in the quiet moments you shared simply being father and son?

In this song, I love all the layers of meaning that might be found in the line "I was not His father... He was mine!"

Joseph's Song from The Forgotten Carols
written and performed by Michael McLean

Yes, I'd dearly love to meet Joseph and talk with him for hours about Jesus and the greatest truths he'd ever known!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mama's Sewing Box

I guess it's sort of a shared childhood memory among people my age for mom's to have used an old cookie tin to store sewing supplies.  Seems that lots of us remember anticipating a cookie and opening the tin to find needles and thread and such.  This is the top my mom's sewing supply tin... a tradition I've chosen to keep alive.  Around the sides it's got the lines of a poem:

Monday's child is fair of face.
Tuesday's child is full of grace.
Wednesday's child is full of woe.
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving.
Saturday's child works hard for a living.
The child that is born on the Sabbath Day,
Is bonny, blythe, good and gay.

Inside there are the treasures...

Many of the smaller items are inside little tins of their own.  There are old tins that once held tea bags.  Some plastic containers that might have been filled with pins.  Even some tiny pieces of tupperware.  And there are at least a dozen pair of scissors that, guessing from their different sizes and shapes, were manufactured for different purposes.

The one tea tin contains the plastic circles used to make pompoms that are even and perfectly round.  Lot's of them!  More, actually, than it looks like in the picture...

And from way back in the day before plastic eggs were widely available at Easter, there are a couple of metal ones.  One of them is home to an assortment of needle threaders.

I've always thought this was the neatest little measuring tape!  Isn't the detail on the case pretty?

Some of the other containers contain pins and needles.  Some of the needles have eyes that are so small I can't even see them and some are so large you could easily thread rug yarn.  And there are pins so tiny I don't even know what they're for and others that have what looks like a glass bead on the top and still more than are heavy and long to hold fabric on the frames for quilting.

In the years it's been mine, I've added some of my own things to the collection like the little embroidery hoop you can see in a couple of the pictures.  I think it was old when I found it in a thrift store 25 years ago because it's made differently than the wooden hoops of today.  It doesn't have the little screw like piece on the outer ring but utilizes a spring to hold your fabric tight between that and the inner ring.

And I've added my collection of surgical implements.  I'm not even sure exactly what names belong to all of them anymore but have found them handy things to have every now and again.  The hemostats (is that what those scissor-shaped pieces that pinch are?) do a great job pulling a needle through a heavy quilt or doll face when it gets stuck and nearly impossible to handle with just my fingers!  And those long tweezer-like things have been great to pick out tiny stitches on a cross-stitch more than once.  Those 3 pieces came from a suture kit once when I needed to have my hand sewn up after a knife slip in the kitchen.  The one farthest right is a staple remover our vet recently gave me when I thought I'd give it a try to remove the staples from Lightning's leg.  Couldn't get Derek to hold him still for me so I didn't do it, but that was the original plan.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Photo courtesy of Single Dad Laughing's
Facebook post 12/8/13.
When I moved to Georgia one of the very first things Derek did was drag me to the Verizon store to trade in my oh so simple flip phone for a fancy-schmancy 'smart phone.'  And I've hated that phone... It's had some operational issues where it didn't ring with an incoming call and just sent the caller directly to voicemail until they shot me texts askings where the %^&$# I was and why the (&^% I wasn't answering their calls.  And all the functions and apps and alarms and voices and stuff made me feel dumb.  And I felt like a slave with an obligation to see what it was every time the dumb thing said "DROID" in my pocket or purse.

A couple of weeks ago one of the dogs, presumably Gizmo since he has a taste for electronics, found Derek's even smarter smart phone unattended on the table.  He tried to make it his mid-day snack.  Whether he's the one that got it off the table or not, he is the one I found huddled over it on the floor.

And since Derek didn't continue the $6 a month insurance, there's no free replacement...

And since we're broke, buying him another one is out of the question...

And since he needs to carry a phone with him for his work, he's been taking mine.

And you know what?

I'm not even missing the silly thing 95% of the time.  Now and then it would be convenient.  Some may even call it needful since we don't have a landline at home but not being tied to a phone and all the demands it presents has been freeing.  We talked a little about getting me another cheap flip phone and he will use my Android but I'm thinking I might just not get another one at all.

How's that for simplifying life?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Second Look

Another blogger I follow uses "Because old posts like to be loved" as a tag line on days when he re-shares an old blog post.  He's a pro, with a HUGE following, so he actually gets paid to blog.  And sometimes he says something that hits a nerve and a post goes viral and then a year-ish later when the hoopla has all died down and been forgot he re-shares it with that tag line.  Well, I'm not so famous... but I did have cause this morning to sift back through my personal Facebook timeline and found some things I've shared in the past that made me react all over again and so, I decided they deserve a second shot at being seen.  Here's my first installment of Second Look.

Photo from the Facebook page for
The original story from KSL TV in Salt Lake City has dropped off their website now but in mid-May 2013 when it was fresh news I posted...

She must have wanted to quit pretty darned bad!! "Think you've heard of every way possible to quit smoking? Etta Mae Lopez came up with a new one: slap a cop and go to jail, where smoking isn't allowed." At least the officer has a sense of humor about the whole weird situation... his new Irish nickname: Nick O'Derm!

Click to read the entire article from
And filed in the "Ewww... gross!" category was this surprisingly interesting tidbit.  Even to me, it was interesting.  I am plenty smart enough and have the aptitude for it, but I wouldn't ever consider a medical career.  A lot of people assume it's the big traumatic stuff that's so off-putting.  Not to me!  Smooshed up organs, broken bones hanging out, blood and guts everywhere... doesn't phase me in the least.  But ask me to deal with pee, poop and puke and I am offended beyond belief!  I can hardly stand dealing with my own, let alone someone else's.  So, who gets stuck with the job I find disgusting above all things disgusting most of the time... cleaning up puppy  'accidents' in the house?  Yup, me.  And every single time it makes me want to run away from home and never come back!  I am THAT grossed out by it.

(Warning: important message... language gets a bit coarse)

"As long as our culture revolves around us versus them, conspicuous consumption, individual and corporate selfishness, and zero accountability, we will disintegrate as a nation. As long as people blame others for problems instead of being the solution, as long as neighbors remain strangers, and as long as the haves and the have-nots remain distanced, we will continue to decline and divide until someone else comes and takes away what little will be left." -- Justin Larson

The "best one raised eyebrow suspicious look at the computer while I silently sound out something silly" meme I've seen all year.  And we wonder why people say English is among the hardest languages to learn?

And... there you have it.
A few things I thought merited a Second Look.

Friday, November 22, 2013

People of the Georgia Dome

Last night, Derek and I gave his sister, Brittaney, her Christmas present.  Yes, I know it's not even Thanksgiving quite yet but what she wanted more than anything was to go to the Saints vs Falcons game.  And it's pretty much always held in mid-November.  And since the Falcons are having a year that could most kindly be summed up as crappy, tickets this game at The Georgia Dome were affordable.  So... early Christmas for her!

It was my first NFL game.  I had a great time!  The Saints won.  But at least the Falcons showed up for this rivalry game and made it fun to watch.  Final score:  Falcons 13 - Saints 17.

It's important to know that I've married into a family of fanatical Saints fans.  And have found their 'Who Dat!' and 'Geaux!!' terminology pretty amusing.  I wouldn't say it quite that way to them - they see the Saints, and really all things New Orleans, as a pretty big deal.  They all have team jerseys and wear them every game day.  Derek's mom even has a Christmas tree, that stays up all year, decked out in Saints colors and memorabilia.  So while they were there totally for the football, I had almost as much fun people watching some of the crazy fans a crowd like that attracts.  We were only steps from the car when a friendly gentleman asked "How you guys doing?"  Politely, I answered that we were fine and then inquired about him.  He paused and then said with the tiniest of stutters "I'm drunk."  Then he walked on up the sidewalk in the opposite direction from us with no telltale staggering.

He was far from the only person we encountered who'd over-imbibed during the evening!  See the top of a random stranger's head in the bottom of my picture?  He'd tipped back more than a few of whatever beer comes in blue aluminum bottles and, despite being a Falcons fan, was just incredibly happy to be there.  He hooted and hollered and danced in his seat whenever music played and at last call, tipped the beer concessionaire walking our section more than the bottle itself cost.  (And let me just say $7.50 for a bottle of beer qualifies as kinda sorta outrageous in my view!)

Righting the goal post
photographed by Cristi Ossim
At one point they had to pause the game for about 5 minutes to fix the goal post.  It was doing some drunken weaving itself...

Leaving the game, we were sucked up into a bigger huddle of Saints fans.  A lot of them had whistles and those party favors you blow into and were chanting "Who Dat?  We Dat!" and "Saints are goin' to the Superbowl!" all the way down the exit ramps.  It was fun to be in the middle of such a happy and excited crowd!

And I loved the costumes some people wore!!  Several of the women had these dainty little black lace parasols trimmed out with yellow and black feathers or had used gold glitter to make a fleur de lis on the fabric between each rib.  A few of the younger ladies donned gold sequined hot pants with their jerseys.  And one man, and both of his little boys, had long gold and black capes.

New Orleans seems to be more than a place... it's a whole different culture!  And those folks loudly and proudly carry it with them wherever they go!!

After we were outside and making our way back up to the car, a Falcons fan stepped in front of me.  He was decked out in head to toe red team gear, even with red facepaint.  He was complaining to his less flamboyantly dressed companions "I'm soooooo sick of always getting kicked in the teeth!!  Man... we're NEVER gonna win another game."  Then he went on to complain about the team's coach, who, according to the commentary on that sports talk radio channel Derek listens to, is too conservative with the plays.  (The primary example from last night:  At the end of the game, they were in a 4 and 15 situation.  He choose to try for a field goal that they missed.  Had they made it, they would have still been 2 points shy of winning.  Most fans and analysts think a better choice would have been to try for a TD.)

All in all, it was a GREAT night out!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tater Skins

Not long after Derek and I first got together, he came home with 'snacks' one night that included a couple of boxes of TGI Friday's Potato Skins.  I was flabbergasted!  They're almost $5 a box and you get like 6 or 8 skimpy little pieces with hardly any toppings.

Flabbergasted, I tell you!

And so I set out to remedy his spendthrift ways...  well, that's another post entirely but I did manage to convert him to my home-made Tater Skins.  Which is very cool because he didn't even know you could make them yourself.  So he was very very surprised at just how much better they taste, too!

In case you didn't know how easy this little treat is to make, here's my step-by-step instructions.

First, you need to bake some potatoes and let them cool.  I just wash them, wrap in foil, pierce with a fork and bake at 350F until they feel 'done.'  Then I set them aside until cool.  (In all honesty, you can go ahead and make Tater Skins while they're still hot.  It will work.  But you'll burn your fingers and they tend to fall apart more.)  Next you want to cut them into pieces.

The beginning cuts are just to make wide slices.  These are Idaho Russet #1s.  I guess they're supposed to be what passes as a baker these days.  That's the hazard of growing up in Idaho's Potato Capitol... you know how big spuds can really get and that the puny little things in the grocery store are a far cry from it!  Anyway, I cut these average-ish sized potatoes into fourths crosswise.

Then I cut each piece in half so I got 8 Tater Skins from each potato.  Yes, they are sticky.  And yes, your fingers will be a nasty feeling mess after just a few.

I used a teaspoon from my silverware drawer to hollow out each piece.  Leave about 1/8" of flesh attached to the skin so you get pieces that look something like this.

The flesh you are scooping out of the middle... is great for potato salad, baked potato soup or to chill overnight and cut up a bit more to make hashbrowns for tomorrow morning's breakfast.  Hashbrowns are the destiny of these beauties!

Arrange in a baking dish.  These are going in the freezer for later so I've set them on foil inside a plastic freezer dish to make it easy to lift out later and set on a baking pan.

I sprinkled with a bit of Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning (use your favorite seasoned salt), a little sprinkle of grated cheese, some bacon bits and more cheese.  I'll fold the foil all in on itself, snap the lid on and freeze.  When Derek is ready to cook them for his snack, he'll just need to pull the foil out and open it up on top of a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350F until heated through and the cheese has just barely started to brown.

Here's the haul I made tonight with approximately $5 worth of ingredients... one heck of a lot more than the 6-8 little chunks from the TGI Friday's box!!

There's a pan for us to munch on tonight and 4 snack boxes for later on.

And here's how they look after baking and right before you pop one in your mouth.  (I ran out of bacon bits... so these just have cheese but you get the idea, I'm sure.)

Mmmm... happy mouth!

But While...

20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison,
21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.
23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Genesis 39:20-23 NIV

I've only ever studied from the King James Version of the Bible but I when read another person's comments on this verse from another writing it rung so true.  I had to find them and explore the idea a little more.  The key words are "but while" toward the end of verse 20.

"But while" denotes the passage of some period of time that Joseph was in the prison.  Obviously he was there long enough to come to the warden's attention.  God was working, either on something in Joseph (or in others) that needed refining before he could complete his life's mission or perhaps even that the time just wasn't right yet.  We don't know the mind of God or the many things He is working to bring about beyond our limited mortal vision.  Those are easy words to say, but hard to live.

I can't even begin to imagine what must have been going through Joseph's mind right then.  He'd just done the right thing and fled Potiphar's wife as she tried to seduce him and then she lied and he went to jail for it.  That doesn't sound much like God and you are on the same side...

From that perspective, maybe I can imagine.

For the past couple of years I've felt like I've been wandering in a spiritual desert.  No matter what I try to do right, I don't seem to be finding any favor with God.  I don't see His hand at work and I don't feel His presence or blessings that I so desperately want.  Life is hard in the dark.  Maybe I'm in some kind of metaphorical prison?  Maybe I'm just experiencing one of life's "but while's."  Maybe not feeling God's presence and blessings is coming from my side... my attitude about life's current circumstances.  Maybe I gave up on Him and started to quit believing.

Maybe it's up to me to fix that.

Photo from The Art Needlepoint Co.
I've always had a notion that I have some unique purpose here on earth.  Something big, perhaps even notable, to accomplish during my life.  Whether that idea is rooted in truth or my own blind sense of self-importance is yet to be seen because as much as I've felt that way, I've never been been able to figure out what purpose my existence serves.  Maybe God is wanting to refine something in me.  Maybe whoevers' life I need to impact isn't ready for it yet. Or maybe it's just not time for my part in God's plan to be played out.

Once in awhile, I get a fleeting glimpse that somehow seems like it's tied to my purpose.  Coincidental to this scripture about Joseph, I saw (and felt that connecting glimpse with it) this needlepoint.  I thought it was very interesting that the colors of his coat are depicted as people.  Maybe it's the people he influenced in his life or who influenced him?  We often think about the people around us as adding color, depth, or excitement to our lives.  Others have even described life as a tapestry where you can't see the light and bright colors without the dark to define them.

So...  "but while" I feel so much like I'm hidden from God's view maybe now is a time when I need to refocus on the people around me and, metaphorically speaking, spend some time sewing on my own neglected "coat of many colors."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gooey Cake

I love chocolate!

Really I do.  Except for those times that come up now and then when the mere thought of chocolate makes me want to gag.  That was tonight.  So for dessert I made a Gooey Cake.

Gooey Cake is also known as Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake (surprising since in her heyday she was the queen of butter and this recipe calls for only a modest single cube) and Chess Squares (no clue where that name comes from) and Texas Gold (maybe because most recipes start with a yellow cake mix?) and maybe a few dozen other things.  My point is that there are already dozens of posts on blogs and cooking websites about making this cake and so I'm not going to do step by step instructions.

Just show you a couple of pictures.  After all, I do want you to be tempted...  And I'm going to tell you that it is delicious!  And very gooey.

Perfect for a cold autumn evening!

And I'll give you the very very simple recipe.

Before we get started, you can choose any flavor of cake mix you want to use.  Yellow seems to be pretty traditional, but white works.  So does vanilla, lemon, strawberry, orange or even chocolate.  I used a white cake mix this time.

So... here we go.  Let's make some cake!

Gooey Cake

1 Cake mix
1 cube of melted butter (not margarine)
1 egg

Mix together to form a soft dough and press into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 baking pan.  Fingers work great to press it into place.

Beat together until well blended:
8 oz cream cheese, softened and broken into small pieces
2 eggs
4 cups of powdered sugar
(add up to 2Tbl of cocoa powder if you are making a chocolate cake)

Pour over the top of the cake mix dough and bake at 300F for 45-50 minutes or until just set in the middle.  I tend to over bake... and it's still tastey, just not so gooey.  Let cool before cutting.  Enjoy!

Like I said, I used a white cake mix.  And while it is yummy all on its own, it would be even better with some sweetened sliced strawberries over the top or even drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Two Peas in a Pod

Lightning and Jack have become like peas in a pod... they act so similar to each other, play the same way, use the same vocalizations and will seek each other out for companionship.  The past few days I've been able to sneak up and snap a quick photo of them napping together and laying on the floor in the same positions just inside my living room.  This is their favorite hangout spot while I'm working in the kitchen or piddling around on the internet here at the table.

I love that even their paws are in the same position!

 These are the 2 that will click their teeth together at each other in the middle of a wrestling match.  Thunder and Gizmo take that as an aggressive act, but these two act like it's funny and do it toward each other all the time.  And their wrestling matches can stretch for hours with one on top and then the other as they roll and jump and twist and dive bomb each other.

Dos Amigos...

They are also the 2 who are most likely to lay their heads up over my legs to snuggle and nap for hours on either the couch or bed.  The other boys like attention until they are ready to sleep and then it's pretty much hands off.  But Lightning and Jacky... they like the physical contact with their human, me.

Lightning has been especially good at looking out for Jack since he was neutered on Tuesday.   They kept the play a little more gentle and let it escalate into their usual antics at Jack's pace.  It didn't take long.  He came home thirsty and very hungry but after getting his tummy full and a little more reassurance that we all still love him, he jumped right in!

He'll get his chance to console big brother soon enough.  Lightning is scheduled for a little snip snip of his own on Wednesday of this coming week.

Back to back this time, but still remarkably similar.

See that ring toy in the background?  Lightning finally learned to play tug with me using it.  He's the only one, so far, that will pick it up and pull against me when I hold the other end.  And then shake it mightily... sometimes so mightily that I think it's going to rip my arms out.  Yesterday and today, he's been teaching Jack to tug with him.

It's so fun to watch them together!

I love my boys!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remember the Bees

As often happens, something unusual catches my eye on Pinterest.  And then I start making associations to it from my life.  And then I end up here to tell you about it.  Well... grab your favorite beverage and settle in, my friend.

Photo from:
I remember visiting my dad's oldest sister, Wilma (named after their father, Wilford) in Afton, WY as a child.  Where and how she lived was so very different than where and how we lived and there were so many fascinating things to explore!  Until it finally rotted out and fell down, there was a big old barn where her milk cow lived.  I think once it probably held many other animals, but in my memory I only ever see the one cow.  She had at some point stored some household items from when Grandpa either sold the ranch, or maybe after he passed away, in the hay loft.  One of my cousins rescued a shoe box of his letters and pictures that no one else seemed to want for me.  I have it still and it is a treasure!

There was a little stream to one side of the house where, sadly, she'd lost a child to drowning.  I can't even imagine how hard it was to stay there and see it every single day.  With my childish oblivion to her pain its cold, clear, quick flowing water fascinated me and I spent many hours gazing into it hoping to see a fish or a crawdad or a frog.  I don't remember that ever happening, but I was sure that if I watched long enough I would see one.  And I recall that having me out there by the creek gave my mom loads of stress...

I remember Aunt Wilma's African Violets.  She had pink ones, and purple ones and white ones and if they grow in any other shades she probably had those, too.  I think their pots covered every table, counter top and window sill of her house!  And she had a pair of birds in her bedroom.  Some part of me wants to say they were Love Birds, but in all honesty I don't know.

Lately I've been thinking about her and trying to remember more.  I see a little bit of her in me... physically I'm reminded of it when I see the topmost knuckle of my 'bird' fingers starting to turn in like hers when age, hard work and arthritis had worked their gnarling torture.  I hope I can go forward with the same uncomplaining grace she had.

Yesterday I remembered that she kept a bee hive near where you would park just outside the fence around her yard. It seems like it might have started out as a wild hive but she provided them with boxes and good habitat (she kept a yard full of flowers and alfalfa fields surrounded her house) so they stayed.  I know she harvested the honey and used it in her baking.  It was that wonderful clover honey you get from those high mountain deserts out West.  If you've ever tasted it you know that it's different... And if that's what you grew up with, there is no other honey in the world that tastes quite as good!  That was where I learned not be afraid of the bees.  She said the bees could sense your fear and that's when they'd sting you.  In my mind, I can clearly see her standing, completely at peace and almost zen-like, in front of the hive with a cloud of bees buzzing around her.  I guess you could say, like the man described in that clipping, Aunt Wilma 'had a way with them.'

And so to her memory I dedicate the telling of this poem today.

Telling the Bees
by John Greenleaf Whittier

Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.

There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.

There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.

A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.

There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.

I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.

Since we parted, a month had passed, --
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.

I can see it all now, -- the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown's blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.

Just the same as a month before, --
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door, --
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.

Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.

Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!

Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away."

But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.

And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on: --
"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"

Sunday, November 3, 2013

There's An App For That

Do you forage for food?

I'd never exactly put that word to it until recently, but I do.  I always have.  I grew up with parents who were foragers.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are fruit picking trips cleverly disguised as weekend family camping trips.  Not far outside of Shelley, ID (my... how far I've wandered!) you can, or at least you could 30-40 years ago, drive up into the mountains through Wolverine Canyon.  We did that a lot when I was kid because, looking at it with today's insight, it was both nearby and filled with resources.

I remember 'harvesting' these things in Wolverine Canyon:

  • Chokecherries
  • Elderberries
  • Currants (Yellow, Red and Black ones)
  • Oregon Grapes
  • Crawfish
  • Trout
  • Deer
  • Sage Hen
  • All kinds of fallen trees for firewood
  • Watercress

We'd bring one or more of these things home on any given trip.  The next day or two would be devoted to preserving (except the crawfish and watercress which were always used fresh) the bounty for later use.  Chokecherries, Elderberries, Currants and the Grapes were quickly turned into jams and jellies.  The trout was filleted and sage hens cut up and either frozen or canned.  Deer was usually processed at a local butcher who would do game meat.  And wood was chopped down into smaller pieces to burn as supplemental heat all winter.

A few times my dad cut Chokecherry branches that had naturally formed into a good shape for a cane or walking stick and then peeled back the bark, shaved them smooth with his pocket knife and, when they were well dried, oiled them so they are a luscious natural wood finish.   Later they were cut to height as he sold or gifted them away.  I still have the one he made especially for my mom and if I shrink the way she did in her later years one day it will be the right height for me, too.

It was just a normal part of how we lived.

Just like picking asparagus growing along the roadsides in the spring...  Or picking the extra apples, with permission of course, from a neighbor's tree for juice, jelly, apple sauce, pie filling and dehydrated apple chips.

Some day make your own apple chips!  Try dipping the apple slices in cinnamon and sugar before drying.  Or... my favorite:  strawberry banana jello powder.

Everywhere I've been after that it's a normal thing to mentally tally the resources around me.  Now there's an app that will track a lot of that for me.  I signed up on Neighborhood Fruit and took a look around this morning.  It seems like a pretty new thing that doesn't have a lot of information entered in for many locales yet.  But it's an interesting idea.  One I really like and will continue to check back periodically.

On Neighborhood Fruit, you can both enter information about fruit you have available to others who will come glean it and search for those opportunities for yourself.  Some estimates say that as much as 80% of the fruit growing in backyards around the country is not used while the fruit we do eat is grown in water-intensive orchards far from our homes.  That just doesn't make sense to me.  It's not sustainable or responsible.

In the spring, I have every intention of adding fruit trees to my yard.  And I know they'll produce more than I could ever hope to use myself.  I will be entering them on Neighborhood Fruit.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Is Halloween?

Last night was the annual celebration of Halloween for those who participate.  Not everyone does.  And I'm not saying there's anything wrong about that choice.  We do Halloween at my house and are already starting to put together ideas for next year's decorations.  After it came up in conversation a couple of times today, I decided maybe I needed to know a little more about what Halloween is.

There's a lot of disagreement about where the holiday itself originated, but the word Halloween is a contraction of the Scottish  phrase All Hallows' Eve.  The origin is Christian and it means 'hallowed evening' or 'holy evening.'  In Scots, eve, meaning evening, is often contracted to e'en or een.  Over time (All) Hallow(s') E(v)en evolved into Halloween.  All Hallows' Eve (also called Hallowmas) was a mass day for all saints and recently departed souls who had yet to reach heaven (still in purgatory) in the primitive Church.  Originally celebrated in May, the date was changed to October 31 at the behest of Pope Gregory IV in 835.

So the day, and the word, have been around for a long time.

On route home after a night's drinking, Jack encounters
the Devil who tricks him into climbing a tree. A quick-thinking
Jack etches the sign of the cross into the bark, thus trapping
the Devil. Jack strikes a bargain that Satan can never claim his
soul. After a life of sin, drink, and mendacity, Jack is refused entry
to heaven when he dies. Keeping his promise, the Devil refuses
to let Jack into hell and throws a live coal straight from the fires of
hell at him. It was a cold night, so Jack places the coal in a hollowed
out turnip to stop it from going out, since which time Jack and his
lantern have been roaming looking for a place to rest.
An Irish Christian folk tale
The way it's celebrated in America today is a little more complicated.  Like many of our modern holiday traditions there is a mashup of Christian, Pre-Christian and Pagan ideas and celebratory activities from all over the world combined together and commercialized by clever marketing people.

For example, All Hallow's Eve honored dead loved ones and saints.  It was (maybe still is in some places?) a formal Church service that includes services and prayers dedicated to these people.  You can also find this same idea of a day set aside to honor passed on loved ones in the Latin world's La Dia de Los Muertos where families spend the night feasting and remembering their dead at gravesite.  You also see echos of this theme in the Pagan festivals, which mark the passing of the harvest season into the dark days of winter, of Samhain (Celtic) and Calan Gaeaf (Gaelic - specifically, Welsh).  Samhain/Calan Gaeaf were historically seen as a liminal time, when spirits or faeries could more easily come into our world and were particularly active.  It was (perhaps is?) also seen as a time when the dead revisited their homes and places were set at the table, or by the fire, to welcome them.  Sometimes candles burned in every room to help guide them home.

Household festivities included rituals and games intended to divine one's future, especially regarding death and marriage. Nuts and apples were often used in these divination rituals. Special bonfires were lit and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers, and were also used for divination. Some suggest that the fires were a kind of imitative or sympathetic magic – they mimicked the Sun, helping the "powers of growth" and holding back the decay and darkness of winter.

Souling was a Christian practice carried out in many
English towns on Halloween and Christmas.  It refers
to the practice of children begging for spiced fruit
cakes door to door singing this song (1891 version).

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.
Many of the festivals included 'guising' (at least since the 16th century) or 'souling' traveling house to house in costume and reciting verses or singing in exchange for food.  The costume is thought to be a disguise from the mischievous faeries who might wish you some harm.  There are many variations on this theme depending on the specific locale.

The modern images of Halloween draw from these traditions as well as works of Gothic and horror literature (Frankenstein, Dracula or The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for example) and horror films (one would be the classic The Mummy).  Images like the skull, a reference to Golgotha in the Christian tradition, serve as a reminder of death and the transitory quality of human life.  Likewise the back walls of many Churches and Cathedrals is decorated with a mural of 'The Last Judgement' complete with graves opening and souls rising to make their way to either heaven (filled with angels) or hell (filled with devils).

In short, there is no single answer to whether Halloween is good or bad.  To see the good or bad is an individual choice.  You can choose the see evil or find meaning in the religious symbology.  You can pick and choose what parts you want to observe, too.  Like most things in life, Halloween is customizable to your specific tastes and wants.  It is just what you make it.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Noodle... Chicken Noodle... Chicken Noodle Soup

Now sing it like this...

I've been craving Chicken Noodle Soup for months.  Even through the hot part of summer I wanted some.  But I just couldn't bring myself to pop open a can of Campbells...  I don't know why I put off making soup.  For some silly reason, I kept telling myself homemade soup was too much work.  But really it's pretty easy and fast to put together and doesn't require a whole lot of ingredients.   Yesterday, I finally gave in to the crave and made a big pot of soup.

And it is divine!!

One of the chief foods of the Gods I tell you!

And this is how I make my super simple Chicken Noodle Soup...

Start by dicing up your vegetables in same-sized pieces for even cooking.  You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you have and like - I had (and like to use) onion, celery and carrots.  I used a whole large onion, 4 ribs of celery and 3 carrots.

Then, because carrots are the hardest and therefore need the most cooking time of all my vegetables, I started to saute them in a couple of Tablespoons of butter.  When they were pretty well heated through, I added the celery, stirred it up and let that cook for about 5 minutes and then added the onion.  Stirring occasionally, I let that cook until the onions started to soften.

Next add water.  I'm gonna guess at around 8 cups to start.  And then I add one of my favorite kitchen staples:  Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base.  You can find it in most grocery stores, and directly from the manufacturer.  Just add it by generous teaspoonsful until the beginnings of the soup tastes good.  Soup will get saltier if you have leftovers in the fridge overnight, so show a little restraint and don't overdo it.  (If you do get carried away, you can add more water to bring that balance back.)

Bring the vegetable and broth mixture to a low boil, add 1 can of chicken (or about 2 cups shredded breast and/or thigh meat) and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add 3-4 cups water and about 1 pound of egg noodles.  You can use the dry pasta that's widely available or a freshly made, refrigerated or frozen egg noodle of your choice.  If you live in a market where it's available Grandma's Egg Noodles is an awesome choice!

Cook until pasta is tender.  And the soup's all done and ready to eat.

So... dip yourself up a bowl and enjoy!

Leftovers, first cooled to room temperature, can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  It can also be frozen for later use.

See?  Not hard or really time consuming at all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First Halloween

Halloween is our last 'first holiday together.'

One year ago exactly on Halloween morning I hopped a plane in Salt Lake City and ended up late that night in Atlanta.  So our anniversary celebration was to sit down together, mostly, and carve jack-o-lanterns this afternoon.

Here's the two pumpkins we picked out at the Pumpkin Patch at Due West United Methodist Church on Monday all perched on the table and ready to have us start cutting away.  First we cut out the top so that it will lift up for a candle to go inside.

And then we tackled the guts!  Pumpkin guts, oh my...

Derek used the little plastic paddle scraper from the carving kit and I just dug in with my bare hands and got messed up with pumpkin guts clear to my elbows.  I'm a messy messy girl...  well that, and I wanted to save the seeds to roast for a tasty snack.

Here they are, all washed clean and spread out to dry on some paper towels.

A couple of them had already sprouted.  I was thinking about saving a few to plant in the yard next spring.  We might have ended up with some sort of weird 'franken-fruit' if I'd remembered to put a handful aside when I was going all crazy dressing them with oil and spices and then setting in the oven to toast a bit.

Currently one of the dogs' favorite things is pumpkin puree.  And since the flesh on these was so thick there were several good sized pieces from where we cut our designs so I gathered them up in a baking dish and will let them cook low and slow until soft.  Once it all cools down, we'll see how the boys like fresh pumpkin.

And here's how the jack-o-lanterns turned out.

Derek used one of the templates in the carving kit to make this cool bat design.  When I can get candles or a glow stick or something inside to light it, I'll have to take a photo in the dark, too.

On mine, the flesh was so thick - thicker than the carving tools in some spots - that I decided I wouldn't be able to get the little pieces from any of the templates out of the pumpkin so I went with a traditional jack-o-lantern that I could cut in relative safety with a kitchen knife.  Safety is relative with me... I did end up with a tiny cut on my one finger.  But for me that's not too bad of a record!

Have a spooktacular Halloween everyone!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


When I was a baby, not even big enough to remember her ever working on it, my Grandma Clarke made me a true patchwork quilt.  Still buried in one of the dozen boxes to be unpacked when I finally get my 'woman cave,' it's made of randomly shaped and sized pieces of silky fabric that came mostly from her dresses or the scraps of material left when she made a new one.  I can sort of remember her in a couple of the dresses and there are old black and white photos where you can match the fabric pattern up for a few more, but most of them totally escape my memory.

I was thinking about that quilt the other day and how the random acts of a life can be a lot like one of those 'crazy patch' quilts.

And that's what today is about...

Random things.

Not so much that they're too insignificant to be the topic of an entire blog post, or even Facebook update, just that the post never came together and materialized in a form I wanted to share.  Mostly it's little things...  Things like how luck works.

It's no secret that we are pretty desperately poor and really scraping to make bills each month.  That's part of what irritated me, though I kept silent about it, when Derek bought the occasional lottery ticket.  Except... last night he got a winning ticket!  One worth more than the $5 he put into it.  A LOT more!!

That's right!  $500, baby!!!

That makes the mortgage for November a whole lot easier!

And I put up the fridge magnets (FINALLY!) that I kept during last year's move.  My friend's son's pictures have been in these magnetic frames for... well, I don't really remember when I put them in the frames but it's been a long time.  Those little boys have long been grown men by now.

Nathan, the older one, used to call me whenever he could sneak it past mom's watchful eye.  It was a long distance call - they lived in Wyoming then and I still lived in Idaho.  He was polite and thoughtful, almost like an old-time suitor.  He never failed to inquire about my mom's health, the weather, work, our small black poodle...  For a little man, Nathan sure could carry on the grown up conversation!  And it just tickled me pink and gave me quite the thrill that out of all the people in the world, he'd choose to call me.

I wonder if he remembers?

For about an hour this afternoon we all made a dog pile on the bed and watched football.  I think it was the Florida/Maryland game... but I'm not enough of a fan to really follow super close so I could be wrong.  For me watching a sports event is more of a social thing than actually being a fan of the team or sport.  I understand what's happening enough to enjoy the game, but not enough to seek it out on my own.

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with anything...

Pardon the puppy porn...
In the dog pile, Gizmo kept turning over and skooching around to find the most comfortable spot.  He ended up stretched along my side on his back with my arms around his butt.  (Insert bad joke about him being such a little cuddle butt.)  What I was noticing, though, is the skin of his tummy region where it's less covered by fur.  It's both dark brown and pale pink in blotches much like the Indian Paint Ponies made famous in B-grade western movies.  And so so soft and warm!

And, she says with an evil grin, ticklish!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mama's Boy

Jack is a mama's boy!

Actually, they all are... But it's my littlest one (for a few more months anyway) that makes it most clear, with all his 40 pounds, that he is mine.  Or I am his.  We are ours?  Well, something like that.

He has such tender little feelings.  All it takes for him to be convinced he's done something earth-shatteringly bad is to speak to him with a tone of impatience in your voice.  And to be 'bad' is like the end of life as we now know it!  Jack is surely my sensitive boy.

Sleepy sleepy Jack!
Last night was one of those nights when it was needful for me to have a break away from the boys so, after work, Derek took them downstairs to hang out and watch a football game he'd saved on the DVR while I holed up in the bedroom and watched a chick flick by myself.  It was a wonderful break!

About an hour in, there was a soft knock on the door.  It was Derek asking if I knew where the dogs were.  Smiling, I guessed they were sleeping in the hall.  And that's exactly where they were!  He laughed and said they'd been running down and nose bonking him and then disappearing back upstairs but he hadn't seen one for awhile and come looking because they'd got awfully quiet.  That usually means they've found something they shouldn't be doing to occupy themselves...  I laughed and told him he could let them in and all 4 climbed up on the bed and napped the rest of the way through the movie until Derek came back upstairs and asked if they needed to go potty.

All but Jack jumped right up to go.  When he sleeps he's out cold and it takes a bit of coaxing to get him up and moving again.  Derek got a little impatient and spoke with just a wee bit of harshness in his voice and that was enough to turn Jack into a cowering pile of puppy mush...  And when he finally got outside he didn't want to come back in past Derek and when they got past that hurdle he had another panic attack when he realized he'd be kind of cornered in the hall when Derek got there to open the bedroom door.  Needless to say, my poor baby was shaking and his face was creased with worry by the time he got back to me and crawled up in my arms.  He looked like he was carrying all the burdens of the world until I got him scooped up.  Then he was his normal happy wiggling self again!  He even gave Derek a slurpy wet puppy kiss.

It's a powerful feeling to be the mommy that can make everything right with your baby's world!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oh Martha...

Martha, Martha, Martha...

(I bet in your mind you said that like the old Brady Bunch lament of Marsha, Marsha, Marsha... I know I did!)

Thanks to for the image/
screenshot of Martha Stewart's interview segment.
You can listen to it here, if you'd like.
Dear Martha,

I'm a blogger.  Of sorts.  Not a very famous one, but I do write and share blog posts all the same.  And you're right...  I'm not a trained editor.  I'm just an average person trying to make my way in the world as best I can.  I claim no special expertise in anything but being me.

I don't have the privilege of hiring expert decorators when I furnish my home.  I pick out the furniture and paint and accessories myself because they are things I like.  Usually a room comes together in layers over a long period of time not in a matter of days like a professional would do it.  And mostly I think I do a pretty decent job.  My colors match, or anyway coordinate, pretty good.  The furniture is comfortable and usually the decorations come with interesting stories.  It's enough that my family and friends and I are happy to be in the room.  And for me that's the point of having it - sharing it with other people who are just as real and average as me.  None of us care, truthfully, that the decor will never be featured in Better Homes & Gardens or on an HGTV segment.

And I don't have formal training as a chef from some hoity toity culinary institute.  While I sort of covet those amazing knife skills I'd gain with that kind of training, I wouldn't trade the lessons in running a kitchen I received from my mom to get them.  And I've never poisoned anyone with what I've fed them!  In fact, I get a lot of compliments on my cooking.  Lots of my average people family and friends seem to think I cook quite well.  And on those occasions when I don't?  Well, they have no problems telling me that either.  You see, the test kitchen that's meaningful to me is my own family dinner table.

And you know what?  The last art class I took was [a deep departure from my Business major] Fashion Illustration in college probably a good 20 years ago.  So I guess it's safe to say I have no real expertise with arts and crafts either.  But mind blowingly... I do them!  And quite often successfully enough that I want to share a picture, sans any training in photography, as sort of a brag about it with my friends.

I also did not attend Divinity School, so I can't claim any special religious expertise beyond daily communion with my Father in Heaven and time spent in the scriptures.  I have no degree in Psychology so advice and commentary on the human condition fall outside my realm of expertise, too.

And to go even further, I have no special training in writing.  Sure, I got good grades in my public school English classes (composition and grammar and sentence structure were part of basic English back in the day) but that's pretty much where it ended.  I just happen to like words.  I like how they feel rolling off my tongue, or I guess fingertips since I'm sitting here typing this out.

I guess this leaves me pretty unqualified to write a blog where such topics are discussed!  But I do it anyway.

And I'm not going to stop.

Doing and writing and sharing about my life make me happy.  It keeps me sane.  Or maybe I should say, it keeps me less insane.  Blogging is my therapy; my release from everything that would become a demon to torment my nights.  And if that's not ok with you Martha, I can live with it.

There was a time when I looked at you as a role model; someone to emulate and study because of your own uncommon rise to success.  You were a fashion model and then a stock broker by trade, correct?  Ironic how that worked out...  I don't seem to remember reading where you found the expertise to start your catering business or to build it into the empire that is Martha Stewart Living.  Where did you get to be an expert about decorating or cooking or crafting or how to compose an enticing photo?  When did you get the training to be an editor or social media guru?  I'm wondering if perhaps you're no expert either?

And that's an oddly comforting thought.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blackjack, Second of His Name

Realizing that I've mentioned it but never actually properly introduced the newest member of our family...  how about we fix that?  Meet Blackjack!

Jack for short.

Jack and a few toys (in varying stages of being shredded).

Or sometimes Jacky.  Or Jackjack.  And he's Jack-a-Lacka-Wing-Wong (in a goofy sort of sing-song voice) when I'm being silly...

He's a black and tan Doberman Pinscher who was being sold at bargain basement clearance price on eBay.  The breeder was ready to breed another of their dogs and needed the pen where this little guy was living.   He was the last puppy left from a previous litter and he had to go.  So they cut his price in half and put his picture on eBay where Derek found it and as they say, the rest is history.

Our little Jack is a name-sake for the dog Derek's family had when he was a child, another large black and tan Doberman.  And though his sister says we 'have to' get his ears done to keep the name, I think it's stuck on him by now.  With the floppy ears she says he looks like a hound... and she sings Elvis to him:  "You ain't nuttin' but a hound dawg!"

Jack is a good-natured little guy who loves to cuddle and kiss.  Kisses can be a dangerous proposition, though.  He still isn't convinced that teeth are not a part of kissing.

We feel pretty lucky to have him since he's such a perfect fit personality-wise with our other boys.  He jumps in and plays along with them, and fights his way to the front of the treats line, like he doesn't realize he's only about 1/3 their size yet.  Just give him a few months and he'll catch up.

And just like the others, he will eat anything I give him!  ANYTHING!!  Bananas, peanut butter and pumpkin puree are the currently favored treats. Somehow to me that stuff doesn't sound very dog-like but the drool streaming out their mouths would convince you they find it to be pretty darned tasty bites.

He sounds like a mooing cow when he moans in his sleep!  He's outgrown it now, but Lightning did that as a baby and I L.O.V.E.D. it so much!  So that Jack does it, too... well, it just melts my heart.

Today, Jack discovered that he fits into places the bigger dogs don't anymore.  He crawled under the futon downstairs and started nipping at feet as Thunder and Lightning and Gizmo would dart up to play with him.  One time he caught Thunder's back foot and so he stepped up onto the futon and then Jack nipped his opposite front foot and he put it up on the ottoman... with the next nip, Thunder shot straight up in the air and straddled the space in between the futon and ottoman.  It was so funny!!

We met Jack's parents when we picked him up and estimate he's going to be another huge dog based on their sizes.  And researching some other stuff Derek uncovered an interesting factoid about these very large Dobermans that neither of us knew before.  When a male's weight exceeds 100 pounds, he's referred to as a Warlock.  These Warlocks came into being in the 1970's in Europe when Dobermans' were just coming into fashion as guard dogs and there wasn't enough breeding stock to meet the demand for puppies.  Some were bred with Great Danes... and today's big boys are a throwback to those Dobie/Dane bloodlines.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like... Halloween!

Several years ago I had a wild hair and decided I needed some Halloween decorations.  That's kind of a funny thing since, to me, it's not all that big of a deal for a holiday... and it's not something my family ever made into a major celebratory event.

Yeah, I went trick-or-treating as a kid.  Usually as a ghost.  But hey... it was Idaho and often there was a foot of snow on the ground for Halloween and a sheet is something that fit pretty easily over a heavy coat and a few layers of pants!

Otherwise the clearest memory of Halloween I have is from about 5 years ago when I answered the door expecting to see some little kids out for an evening of candy collecting and found a taller-than-me grim reaper announcing "I'm here for your soul!"  I have to admit that was not the greeting I was expecting and it kind of made me pause for a moment or two...

So I don't know why I decided to get decorations.  Maybe the leftovers after the holiday were especially cute that year?  Anyway, I have a few things.  And low and behold, the plastic storage tub where they get stored made it onto the moving truck with the Christmas decorations when I moved.  And that turned out to be a fortuitous thing since Halloween is one of Derek's favorites.  He likes the spooky fantasy motif and it's one of the few holidays that Americans do actually decorate for as part of the celebrations.  He's been out of town the past few days and as a surprise I started hauling stuff out and even crafting a couple of new items so there'll be something cheery to greet him when he gets home tomorrow evening.

Here's a little peek!

 I have these on the front porch for now.  Even if the ghosts, which will light up with a little battery power, stay in place I think we'll replace the bucket with a real jack-o-lantern.  Then I can take it inside to hold candy...

 The jack-o-lanterns also light up.  The big one in the center plugs in so the kitchen table where I've got it setup now is probably not the best place for it.  The outlet is right over the dog dishes (they are infamous little chewers who gnaw on anything they can get into their mouths!) and it doesn't work.  We haven't figured out why yet.

 I put a couple of little towels on the oven door to brighten things up in the kitchen.
This is 33 cents worth of paper plates cut up and strung together with some yarn...  I think I'll find a black marker to redo his eyes and give him a gaping mouth and get a little tape to hold his arms and legs in a more interesting shape.  He's silly, but cute!

There is a template you can print and use to cut the plates here or do like me and just free cut them by looking at the picture.

I bought a pack of 45 plates for $1.  They are the cheap, flimsy, little plates that you really don't want to eat from but they work perfectly for these kinds of kid-friendly craft projects.  This nearly adult-sized skeleton takes 15 plates.  And yes, if you are making a lot of them you can buy a bigger quantity and they are even cheaper -- I saw 100 plates for $2 at Dollar General.

I also like that the cost makes him expendable.  I don't need to worry about protecting him from the weather and trying to save him for another year.  If he gets trashed it's no big deal!

This is my other big project...

I put little pictures in each of the 9 panes of the carport door.  I had thought about using markers to 'paint' something on clear contact paper but ultimately decided I was too lazy to do all that.  What I used is little treat bags that are about the size that would hold a smallish popcorn ball.  I just cut them apart (as you can see below) and used the picture on the front for this and kept the clear purple backs for another project that hasn't quite all come together yet.

This would also be a cute idea to display kids' artwork.

All I did was cut clear contact paper to fit the panes, center my 'art' on it and press onto the glass.  The easiest way I found to center the pictures was to only partially peel the contact paper back, lay the picture on the backing and then carefully lay the clear part back over it.  Mine are mylar and the static between them and the contact paper and backing was insane!  I solved that by using a sponge to moisten the back of the picture a bit.  That killed the static and made it cling in place while I pulled the contact paper back up.

Cutting the bags apart.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!  It's a fun and cheery greeting to arrive home to!!

Can hardly wait to see what Derek adds to our decorations over the next few days!