Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Are you like me, wondering how it got to be New Year's Eve (or NY Day) already?  It wasn't that long ago that writing "2000" as part of the date seemed awkward and now we're into the next decade.

The greeting below is from Jacquie Lawson. If you aren't familiar with her work, I hope you will find it as charming as I do.

Best wishes to everyone, not just for tonight and tomorrow, but always.

Click here for my greeting

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Good old soap and water

Did you hear the report on Good Morning America about the Rise of Superbugs? Click here for the story.

Many of us have been hearing for quite some time that antibacterial hand soaps and cleaning products could be doing us more harm than good. According to the story on GMA, a chemical in many of the antibacterial products has been found to be a factor in some germs growing resistant to the antibiotics that once were successfully used to battle them. Tuberculosis, once thought to be eradicated in the USA, is reappearing. We need our antibiotics to be effective so this warning is one worthy of our attention.

In a nutshell, the story reveals that good old soap and water is best for washing our hands. When in situations where that isn't possible, an alcohol based cleaner like Purell is the best choice. The alcohol evaporates and does not leave a residue on your skin.

I have never been phobic about germs. I hope I don't offend anyone using that phrase but I couldn't think of another way to word it. It seems that most friends and relatives my age feel as I do, but many of our younger siblings and children feel differently.

Less than 100 years ago, it was common for people to bathe once a week. In cold climates during winter months, people would heat water and bathe in tubs in whatever room was the warmest, possibly whatever room held a fireplace or stove. Obviously no one would want to return to that hardship but some now bathe or shower so frequently they are aggravating skin conditions such as eczema.

While everyone enjoys feeling clean, do you think commercials have influenced our society into thinking we need so many household cleaning products, and that our bodies need such frequent bathing and sanitizing?

Having written this, I am off to take a much needed shower and then rid the living room of tinsel and pine needles from the dead Christmas tree. No antibacterial products will be used in my cleaning today, and if any alcohol is used, it won't be the kind found in Purell. I'm thinking a nice glass of wine or a beer at the end of the day will cure whatever might ail me. Photobucket

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Run-Away Cake

I have a confession or two to make. I would rather bake than cook. Ask me to make mashed potatoes for four and I am likely to whimper. Ask me to make 16 cakes, all with different frostings and decorations and I am on it!

My sister-in-law here in Michigan and I have shared holiday hosting for over 30 years. When she is cooking and hosting and I ask what to bring, the answer has always been desserts. It has been my joy to do so. A few times the desserts had been so good and compliments had been so generous, Bill had to grease my ego to get it to fit inside the car for the ride home.

This was not one of those years.

The first failure made me cry before it was even baked. The recipe was chocolate raspberry bars. A crust was baked for a few minutes in a 13 x 9 pan while sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips were melted and blended together on the stove. This was spread over the semi-baked crust, to be followed by dollops of raspberry jam, more of the crust mixture and more chocolate chips.

The crust was baking, the milk and chips had just gone into the pan on the stove when the label on the jar of jam went to neon blinking letters and informed me I had bought STRAWBERRY jam instead of raspberry! Nooooooooo!! I tasted a spoonful of strawberry jam with 2 chocolate chips. Waaahhhhh! Not what I wanted at all!

Normally this would have annoyed me but not reduced me to tears. Unfortunately I had a cold this year and my head felt like this: Bill is one of the sweetest men on earth and offered to go to the store for raspberry jam, but it was almost 4 PM on Christmas Eve. No, I wouldn't do that to him, I'd figure out something. Since only a small amount of jam was called for and it was really for flavor contrast, it wasn't an essential ingredient. I scattered some nuts, then the crumb topping and chips and finished baking. If I were to grade this dessert, it would have gotten a C- Photobucket

To balance the ego that sometimes inflates when a dessert turns out exceptionally well, the good Lord gave me a sense of humor. Thank goodness for that when it came to dessert #2. Do you remember when "Poke Cakes" were the rage? I thought a poke cake would be easy and festive, something the little kids would like.

I made an 8" round layer cake with white batter, and used cherry jello in one layer, lime in the other. Feeling as puny as I did, I never took photos of the cake at home and didn't remember to take my camera to the Christmas dinner either. Long ago when I made this cake, I made it in a 9 x 13 pan because it was easier to cover and tote. Making it in layers was supposed to look like this:
I took the layers out of my refrigerator shortly before we were due to leave for my sister-in-law's house, a mere 15 minutes away. I frosted the cake with white frosting and added red decorator's sugar around the edge of the cake and off we went.

After dinner and watching the kids open gifts from us, it was time to bring out the desserts. Uh-oh....what was going on with my cake? The frosting was sliding off the sides!
"Don't worry" said one of my niece's husbands as he spread the frosting back on the side of the cake.
"It will taste just fine!" said one of my nieces.
"Blame it on the humidity" said my sister-in-law, that being our long standing excuse for everything from unruly hair to threatened manslaughter.
My guys never said a word, but Bill and both of the boys looked at me in a way that made me think they may start looking for a room with padded walls for me. I had lost my knack. Big time.

Now I was feeling like poor Lucy:Leave it to a 4 year old to unknowingly save the day. His dad kept repairing the sides of the cake and cut a piece for Josh. Josh looked at the green streaks in the cake and asked if I had put pickles in the cake! His cousin Alexander now wanted Pickle Cake too! Photobucket

The brave souls who ate the cake all declared it was delicious and ate every morsel on their plates as proof. Half of the cake had been served. Five or six adults remained seated at the table talking when George, the frosting repairman, said "uh-oh"...the top layer of the cake was now sliding! Photobucket

By now we were all laughing pretty heartily. It was time to go and I suggested that my sister-in-law dispose of the cake-with-a-mind-of-its-own any way she saw fit.

I called her yesterday to thank her again for the delicious dinner and soon she had me laughing again. She told me that she had moved the cake to her kitchen counter and stopped to bid farewell to whomever was leaving next. By the time she returned to the kitchen, the remaining top layer of cake was on the counter next to the cake plate. My demented "Pickle Cake" had turned into an homage to a cheesy horror mirror classic, The Blob!
My imaginary blue ribbon for good desserts may be tarnished with jello stains now, but the memory of the moving "Pickle Cake" is probably firmly ensconced in family holiday memories already, and as Martha would say, this is a good thing.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Day After!

I shouldn't be so happy the day after a holiday, but I am. It wasn't Christmas that had me down, it was a cold. Today is the first day in the past five that I have felt somewhat normal and that has me rejoicing.

Our Christmas day was wonderful, filled with family and anticipation of next year when a grandchild will have us all viewing Christmas decorations and traditions through new eyes.

While in South Carolina last week, I learned that many southern homes take their trees down on Christmas day or today. In my neighborhood in a southeastern Michigan, most trees come down somewhere between the December 31st and January 7th. Many leave their trees up to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. Our tree will come down in a few days. Today we are enjoying not having a timetable for any activity.
I woke up thinking about New Years eve and day for some reason. We don't have special plans and usually celebrate in a quiet fashion with just a few close friends if not just home alone. At 20-something, I would have thought that sad. Now I find that comfortable and more special than the loud parties and crowds that we once enjoyed.

Do you make resolutions or aim for changes in January even if you don't call them resolutions? I don't make specific ones but getting back to a regular schedule after works of hectic activity is always welcome. Undecorating the house but leaving up some wintery decor (my snowmen collection) often leads to reorganizing the things that will be packed away until next year. Then there is food and many of us resolve to diet or to begin a workout program?

I'm tackling that differently this year. I've already begun working out at a gym. I had pre-paid Weight Watchers through part of December and don't think I'll be returning soon. Their program is a good one and I certainly don't fault the organization or my group leader for my current feelings. I have been counting points or calories off and on for weigh too many years (yes, I meant weigh instead of way Photobucket) and have decided to try something different. I am going to cook whatever I want and eat whatever I want, but try to eat moderately when I know it is high cal and exercise more when I overindulge because of a holiday or special event. I've lost and regained the same pounds many times because I get tired of journaling food and counting points, calories, carbs or whatever a new fad diet may suggest. There are things I seldom cook or bake anymore because I tell myself they aren't good for us. When I do finally make them, I overindulge because it has been too dang long since I've had them.

Everything in life is about finding a balance. I hope to find a balance in the kitchen. I don't want cooking to be the drudge it has been in recent years. It's been a drudge because I haven't been happy (much less excited Photobucket ) about what I've been cooking. Wish me luck and I'll let you know if this works for me of if I need to return to WW after a few months with a new mindset.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

To all my blogging friends, I wish you health, happiness and peace. I look forward to a new year of interesting posts. Some that I read will make me think, some will make me cry, and some will make me laugh out loud. Some of what our ancestors had in backyard over-the-fence neighbors is what we have in each other: a few minutes of connecting with one another.

Click here for my holiday greeting from Jacquie Lawson.

Wishing you the very best....


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Good friends, good times

It is almost Christmas, y'all.

No, Paula Deen is not writing my blog this morning. I am home from South Carolina but a hint of the south is lingering.

Once upon a time I wouldn't have given a second thought to telling everyone that my family would be out of town for five days. The world has changed just enough that discretion seemed to call for not announcing these plans to the world at large. I still believe that most people are good and we do have wonderful neighbors who watched over our home in our absence, but I decided to wait until our return to talk about South Carolina.

Our friends Sue and Ed have spent more years in SC than in Michigan, but it doesn't feel that way. Do you have friends like that? People that you are so comfortable with, who know you so well that months or even years apart melt away when you're together? Count this as a blessing if you have relationships like this.

In May, my family drove to SC for the wedding of Sue and Ed's daughter Katie to Ryan. In July, they were here en route to the west side of Michigan, and their son Steve announced his engagement to Megan. Their wedding will in July. The happy occasion that prompted this visit to SC was Steve's graduation from Clemson.
I didn't ask permission of anyone to share their photos, so no close ups are included today. I spent a good amount of time finding Steve in this sea of graduates, then losing him when I tried to zoom in on his face with the camera.

The Clemson mascot is a tiger. Mighty. Proud.
After the ceremony Sue and Ed fixed lunch for us, a low country boil. Oh yum! Later we did a tour of the campus, stopping of course by the stadium.
I love that the street in front of the stadium had tiger paw prints!
It is no coincidence that I mentioned Paula Deen at the beginning of today's post. Paula would have been proud of the southern hospitality shown to us Michiganders, and while I don't know whether or not each meal had a stick of butter in it or not, boy did we eat. And eat again. And eat some more. Now that we're home, we aren't eating again until Christmas day.

Our first dinner was at a Japanese restaurant. This chef shows us that it is perfectly okay to play with your food! He made a volcano out of onion rings and let me tell you, the fire on that grill threw some heat!

Our other meals were at restaurants featuring Chinese, Italian, Mexican and fire departments. The fire department wasn't a typical feature, but they do show up if the fire alarm has been tripped! And to think that didn't happen at the Japanese restaurant with the open flame! Photobucket

My husband and son were introduced to Chick-Fil-A on this trip (why aren't they in Michigan?!!!) and our parting lunch was at Cracker Barrel where I happily ate grits. My guys don't see the appeal of grits. Silly men. As much as I love my home, I could easily be a southern belle. Instead I am a Michigander with a belly still full and a happy heart.

I hope y'all are as content and at peace as I am.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where would I be if not in a rush?

'Tis the season for hurrying and scurrying. I have a delusional feeling that I am somewhat on top of things, but only if things go smoothly. Any hiccup in a day's activities could set the dreaded domino effect in motion, but for the moment, things are going well. (I just jinxed myself, didn't I?)

I doubt I will around to blog until sometime next week. I feel a twinge of guilt because reading blogs and writing here does bring me joy, but a little time away isn't a life sentence. Many of you are caught up in frantic activities too and we'll all be able to kick back a bit and enjoy reading and posting more next month.

Before I disappear for a few days, I would like to share my recent jewelry creations. This bracelet is for a very good friend. If I said old friend, I would mean that the friendship is old, not that she and I are aging. Not one bit!
The earrings are for her daughter and daughter-in-law. The snowman pendant on the right is for me. It matches earrings I made last year.
There is a story behind the bracelet. It was sold as a kit at Mary Maxim's, a wonderful craft store in Port Huron, MI. They also have a store in Canada and have thriving catalog and internet sales (Mary Maxim online). I saw the bracelet, liked it, didn't examine it closely, and bought it all the while yakking away to my sister-in-law. When I pulled the kit out a few nights ago to assemble, I thought I had a simple bracelet of beads to strand on wire, a quick project.


See this bead? There are three of them on the bracelet.
That is a pearl with six strands of tiny seed beads wrapped around it east-west, and then a strand a green seed beads circling the pearl north to south. This really isn't hard, but it is time consuming and round seed beads on a round pearl are slippery little suckers!

Seed beads are tiny which means the beading needle has a very small eye. Threading the needle can be the worst part of the project. This shows you how small the beads are, and the needle I find easiest to use. The eye is very long, the needle flexes to open, and it saves me a lot of grief.
It starts with 4 gold seed beads, one red, and 4 more gold on beading thread wrapping around the pearl. The spring-like device is holding the loose end of the thread.
One wrap made, another loaded on the needle.
The red and green beads are larger than the gold. It is partly a design function, and partly to make it easier to pass the needle through again when adding the green beads.
Six wraps made, now to wrap around the middle of the pearl.
The beading thread went back down through 4 of the gold and one red bead, then through a green one. The path through the remaining red beads alternated direction (up and down) and when finished, the thread worked back through 4 gold seed beads to meet the thread's other tail at one end.
Ready to knot. A tiny drop of glue or Fray Check seals the knot. After it is dry, the tails ends are cut. They should be cut carefully. Don't go through the thread actually holding the beads together as I did. For three beads, I strung these things four times.
I finished one bead at night. Tiredness was a factor in calling it quits after just one bead. The other two were completed much more quickly the next morning, even with clipping the wrong thread and rebeading one all over again.

I enjoy making these, but only when I am in the mood to do so. If I had to make them, it would make me twitchy.

As we close in on the last 10 days before Christmas, I hope none of you are getting twitchy. I hope your plans go smoothly and we all have wonderful holiday memories in the making. We may have to blog about them after the fact, but we'll have them nonetheless.

Peace to all...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Lamb Sweater

It is Friday and I can say Ta-dah!

I finished this sweater, called a Little Lamb sweater because of the lamb ears on the hood.
This was a kit sold at the yarn shop where I go for knitting sessions. The yarn is an off white/beige cotton. The buttons and painted white, gray and tan in a plaid design.

Now that this is done, I will go back to working on the baby blanket, possibly a christening blanket. I will be flying to SC next week and have decided not to take it with me. Since the TSA leak, I am concerned that security will be heightened and they may revert to not allowing knitting needles on the plane. I'm not taking a chance packing it either. I've never lost anything while flying, but if I did, it probably wouldn't be my Reeboks that need replacing anyway, it would be something I've been working on for months.

Please visit Lit and Laundry and Get R Done Friday by clicking on their logos and see who else has finished something this week that they'd like to share.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blogger problems?

Is anyone else experiencing minor problems with Blogger? In the past I've read comments where some have had issues that I have not, and now I guess it is my turn.

My blog list, seen here, is set to show the title of the most recent entry under each blog name along with how many hours, days, or weeks ago it was made.

For months, the last blog in my list (Whatever Strikes Mrs. Kwitty's Fancy) never updated. I deleted and re-entered it thinking the glitch might unglitch (how's that for a technical term?) but that didn't work. Oh well. I just checked the blog daily and went about my day.

Then Smiling Sally's blog didn't update on my list. If you follow her, you know that it is a rare day that she doesn't post. Hmmmmm, what is going on?

Sally's is back to normal along with Mrs Kwitty's, but now Countin' My Blessings and Standing at the Kitchen Door aren't updating in my list. There may be others in my list this morning that aren't up to date, but these are the ones that I am aware of that are having recurrent problems.

While I try to figure out how to word this question (sounds like Jeopardy instructions, doesn't it?) for the Blogger support panel, is anyone else experiencing this problem? If you have any of the blogs I've mentioned in your blog list, have you had trouble with the same blogs? I'm trying to guess if it is random, if it has something to do with my end of things or the problem unknowingly begins with the other blogs.

Really what I am trying to do is avoid Christmas shopping and scrubbing the bathtub, but I seriously would like to know what is going on here.

I can hear you and it isn't funny, so stop humming the Twilight Zone music!
zone Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shower invitations

Not sure how it got to be Monday morning so quickly. Someone must have stolen part of my weekend! Alert the police! Many of them wear blue uniforms so they could be photographed for another Blue Monday entry!

I showed these sample invitations to Kim and she picked the one on the right with the hang tag. I hope I can still get the "it's a boy!" paper if I don't have enough. The baby bottle was cut with a die from Sizzix.

Inside information still needs to be finalized and printed. I will check with the post office this week to make sure that the bow won't necessitate hand canceling which would up the postage considerably. This wouldn't be bad for a few invitations, but it looks like I need to make fifty of them.

Hopefully I will get the basic cards cut this week. I don't want the invitations to be lost in holiday mail, so my goal is to have them go out the first week of January, requesting RSVPs by the end of the month for a February 7th shower.

I hope everyone is having a glorious Blue Monday. Check in at Smiling Sally's blog to join in. I will be out most of the morning, so it may take me a while to get around to visiting all the participants, but I will get there. I enjoy seeing what everyone finds to share.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Saving money on Penney's online orders

In today's earlier entry about new bedding, I commented on prices varying between print catalogs and what you find online. I thought I would clarify in case this helps someone save a few dollars along the way.

A print catalog is where I found the toile quilt and accessories. The quilt and pillow shams were the same price whether you searched for them online or used the catalog order number. The curtains, however, were $15 cheaper per pair using he catalog number and the valances were $8 less expensive. I decided not to use them so they aren't photographed, but I had purchased 3 with the intention of cutting one in half and using 1.5 width per window.

Using the catalog numbers saved me $54 over the online price.

Free shipping was available on my order and that info was displayed online. Had it not, I would have checked Retail Me Not to see what discounts are available at Penney's. When more than one discount is available, it is worth your time to check the straight discount against free shipping to see which is the better offer.

Happy Shopping!

Friday's bedroom finery

Ahh, Friday... a day that I used to look forward to beginning on Monday morning. Right now Friday just means the end of another week and I wonder how far off schedule I am and if I will ever get everything done before the holidays!

Please check in at Lit and Laundry and Expressly Corgi to see what others have accomplished this week. Both logos are clickable links.

Last weekend I showed Bill a quilt and curtains in a Penney's sale catalog, unsure whether he would like them or not. He did and I ordered them on Monday. One thing that bugs me about Penney's (and presumably other stores) is that you have to check prices from ALL of their sale catalogs and online shops. The items I ordered were all clearance sales, but the quilt and shams were significantly cheaper using the catalog number. The drapes were less expensive using the online info.

The order came Wednesday morning, less than 48 hours after ordering. I couldn't wait to put the new stuff out so I spent the afternoon cleaning the bedroom and swapping out bed linens. A simple tailored black bedskirt and black tablecloth came from Bed, Bath & Beyond to finish my decor. I bought valances but they were way too long to suit me. They will be returned today and new rods with rings and clips will be bought and installed after the holidays.
The black and white toile quilt and shams reverse to stripes.
While I didn't buget time for this project this particular busy week, I am so glad it is done. My room looks fresh and welcoming to me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Do you pay to sweat?

I don't like to perspire. I don't like to sweat. I don't like to glow or any of those other cutesy terms either. I have things to do. Important things! And many of them require me to sit. Who said eating? Come here so I can slap you!
Because I am such a good friend, I couldn't say no to my pal Theresa when she called a few weeks ago and said we should join a gym. Sure, Theresa. I've been saying that for years. Is our lunch date tomorrow or next week? What? You mean we should join now? By Friday so that we can enroll for $5? I couldn't turn down the chance to save money.
We joined Planet Fitness. We both want to lose weight and be more fit. Praying about it hasn't been the answer. Apparently God expects us to DO something about it. Like move. And sweat. And pay for it.
What is it about so many of us that we don't do things on our own like diet and work out? We know what we should be doing but it takes paying someone to weigh us (Weight Watchers) or joining a gym to walk on a treadmill before we get serious. If it is free (done strictly on our own) we don't tend to stick to it.

Having a buddy helps too. I won't keep her waiting on the days she picks me up and I can't roll over for another 30 minutes of sleep when it is my turn to drive.
In my next life, I want to have a metabolism that burns up ooey gooey sweet things first and turns them into nicely defined muscles, glorious hair, fabulous nails and dazzling teeth. Paula Deen could be my personal chef and nothing would stick to my hips despite her love of butter.

Until that happens, I will be spending this life at the gym a few days per week. If you see me there, feel free to wave hello. I might not return the wave until the underarm dingle-dangle disappears but I'll give you a nod. I might even say hello if I'm not too out of breath.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rabbit! Rabbit!

Is anyone else familiar with the superstition of saying Rabbit! Rabbit! on the first day of the month?
Wikipedia explains the superstition and its variations. I don't say Rabbit! Rabbit! because I seriously think it will bring me good luck. I do it for fun. Former neighbors of my sister-in-law introduced us to this idea.

With all that needs to be accomplished this month, a little extra luck would surely be appreciated so maybe I am just a wee bit superstitious and hopeful. Photobucket

One thing for certain, if I was a snowperson and saw a rabbit with a hair dryer (or would that be a hare dryer?), I would be polite and gracious. I value my flakes. Photobucket