Saturday, August 31, 2013

Picnic Packs

If you've reading my blog for any length of time, you may recall that I have this weird little obsession with decorative washi tape.

So, when I was getting a few necessities at Wal-mart the other day, and came upon several bins of washi tape rolls at the end of the aisle, I found myself in washi tape hog heaven.  At 97 cents for an 8 yard roll, I just couldn't resist.  I bought 6 rolls in various blue patterns.

There are just so many awesome crafty ideas that work with washi tape.  When I saw this idea for picnic packs on Chelsea's blog the other day, (http://www.makinghomebase.com/washi-tape-utensil-holder/) I knew I'd be putting my newly purchased tapes to good use.

This weekend we'll be having a large gathering of friends and relatives in for a Graduation Celebration Open House, and the theme is blue.  Look how easy and cute these are to make:


washi tape
brown paper lunch bags


Fold up the bottom of the lunch bag on the crease to create the pocket.

Tape across the front edge of the portion you just folded up.  (Don't tape the pocket shut.)

Tape up the two side edges, front and back.  The front and back tapes will stick together good if you extend them out beyond the edge of the bag by about 1/4 inch.  Trim the ends of the tapes neatly with the scissors.

Here you see a pack that is fully taped, and a napkin being folded to fit.  Lay the napkin on top of the pack while folding the bottom and side edges in to be sure it will fit properly in the pocket.

Load your picnic pack with cutlery, and you are done.

After gathering all the finished packs into a basket, I felt sure they will add a little extra pizzazz to the serving table.

This little craft is simple enough that even young children could be helpful and join in the craftiness.  I can foresee using orange and brown tapes for Fall gatherings, and perhaps red, green, and gold tapes at the Christmas holidays.  The possibilities are many.

I may just have to go back to Wal-mart and check those bargain bins again.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Baked Cheese and Broccoli Patties

It's Labor Day Weekend, and I've got a new recipe to share with you.  I made this one last night for the guinnea pigs taste testers in the house, and we decided it's a keeper.

Unfortunately, I cannot give credit where it's due.  I'm pretty sure this is one of the bazillion recipes I've seen shared on Facebook, yet I've tried without success to find its sharer.  At the time I saw it I wrote it down onto a recipe card, and that seems to be the dead end to giving proper credit.  If this is your recipe, please notify me and I will update the post.

It's possible you are having friends or family over at some point during this holiday weekend, and this recipe is a winner.  One good thing about it is that you can mix up all the ingredients and make the patties ahead of time.  All you'd have to do is pop them in the oven right before dining, and you will have an impressive and unexpected dish to share with your guests.

Let's get down to it.  The ingredients are probably mostly already located in your cabinets or frig.  All I had to shop for was one bag of broccoli.


2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 12 ounce bag frozen broccoli florets, defrosted
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup sharp light cheddar cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease it.

Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat.  Add in the garlic and onions.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Saute until onions and garlic are tender.  Set aside to cool a bit.

Put the thawed broccoli in a strainer.  Cover with a towel and press down to remove any excess moisture.

Pour the drained broccoli into a large bowl, add the onions and garlic, and mix gently.

To the same bowl, add the panko crumbs, the cheeses, and the beaten eggs.

Mix together and form into patties.  Place onto baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 15 minutes or until browned and crispy.  This recipe made six large patties.  Roughly two per person is plenty filling.

Once a week I try to have a vegetarian type dinner, mainly for the purpose of eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat.  As this was our night to do so, I served these patties straight up with a side of crock pot apple sauce and some dinner rolls.  You can find the Crock Pot Apple Sauce recipe here.  It was a tasty, satisfying meal.  

We will be spending time with our children and grandchildren this weekend.  Whatever your plans are throughout the weekend, have a healthy, happy time of it!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Practicing Retirement

There is a jar just like this one on my husband's chest of drawers.  I would say it is about 1/5 full.  Perhaps that could buy us 4 tomatoes, or maybe a half dozen rolls of toilet paper.  Either way, it's not getting us rapidly closer to our retirement dreams, but it's the thought of it, right?

Bob just completed forty years of working for the Chef Boyardee Foods industry earlier this month.  He dreams of retiring, every day these days.

He began his career there the summer he graduated from high school and has been there ever since.  Originally he worked on the assembly line, but over the years he learned things and accepted other jobs there having more and more responsibility and oversight.  I am grateful that he has been a hard worker and that he has had a job that has comfortably supported our family of six over all those years.

I, on the other hand, am retired.  For many years I was the homemaker, the household manager and engineer.  The chef, the laundress, the cleaning service, the professional shopper, the seamstress, the hairdresser, the homework supervisor, the coordinator, the chauffeur.  Above all else, the mom.

Then, after returning to the working world and teaching mathematics at a local college for nine years, I stopped.  There were family issues that needed tending to once again.  There were immediate family members dealing with cancer, surgery, and other trials.  I wanted to be there to help and love them through them.  The husband and I agreed that's where I should be.  So again, I left the working world, and when asked, I tell folks I think I'm retired.

Essentially I've been treading the waters and trying this business of "being retired."  It has been 2 1/2 years now, and I've got to say I like it pretty well so far.

How does a couple like us know when they are financially set ENOUGH to make that decision to retire?  It is all about finances and being responsible, the way I see it.  We're not retired, and so when an investment strategist asks us how much money we need to be retired, how do we really know?

I've watched many retired folks over the years, and there are some that show me a retired way of life I definitely do not want.  For example, the thought of waiting out my remaining days lounging at home and watching television until I die is a horrid scenario to me.

On the other hand, traveling the world over may not be feasible either, depending on available health and finances.  I must say, though, that my dreams do seem to point more in that direction.

I read many blogs these days of people that have become full time RV travelers.  People that have been living that lifestyle for years.  How did they know when they were financially secure enough to give up their careers and make that lifestyle change?  Many of them did not even wait until the traditional retirement age - that age when Social Security payments start coming.  Instead they started "living their dreams" way before that age.

I think it's quite telling that I have not heard or read one single comment from any of them indicating that they had regretted their decision.

So, we are saving.

We are dreaming, and we are planning.

We are simplifying in small ways.

We are making efforts to eat healthier diets and considering how to incorporate more exercise into our lifestyles.

We are making longterm major repairs to our homestead, so that those issues won't be as much of a concern should we be traveling and far from home.

And finally, on occasion, we are pretending - practicing retirement.  Our occasional vacation weeks are times when we let our retirement dreams truly flourish.

We are getting close, and ohhh, how sweet it is.

"Lord, help us to be wise and responsible, and know when it's the right time.

In the meantime, please help us to be patient."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pseudo Camping

Do you see what I see back there?

That's our beloved new camper.  New as of last Fall, that is.

Now.  Ask me where we've camped this year so far.

Ok, I'll tell you.


Absolutely nowhere, and that's because my heel surgery back in June has made it so I have been unable to navigate getting up the steps and in and out of the camper.

So we are stalled in our camper adventures lately.

Until now.

The husband/lover/camping companion has told me he has a plan for us, though.

He says, "Why don't we 'camp' out there this weekend when our house is full of company." (There's a big graduation party happening here at party central, to honor son-in-law Lance's recent graduation.  The house will be full of overnight guests throughout this holiday weekend.)

"Not a bad idea," I say.

He says, "You know we have a tv and a dvd player out there.  We could even watch a movie. "

I say, "Yes, and there's a fireplace, too.  We could turn down the air conditioning real low and light the fire, and you know..."

He says, "Uh huh.  Sounds good."

I say, "Yup, real good."

So yes, we're going "camping" this weekend.

Just don't expect any post cards, folks.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Obvious Decision

I've found myself stressing lately (not really - just thinking) about whether to keep my fake acrylic nails or sacrifice them for the larger good.  Obviously I've had time on my hands lately to obsess over silliness like this.

For the last 10 years or so, ever since I started my teaching job at the local college and even since I retired, I've kept my bi-weekly manicures going.  Usually I get the standard French manicure on acrylic nails.  Once in a while, around a holiday, I might get wild and crazy and have red nails or something equally outlandish, but usually I stay more traditional and sedate.  Being in front of a class of overly observant and critical college students made me want to take care to look good and feel good about myself.  It's all about confidence in that arena.

 And, because my nails grow ultra fast, it was necessary to return to my nail guy John basically every two weeks, or two and a half if I was stretching it.  At today's rates of roughly $25-35, along with a fee for an occasional repair or lost nail, and adding on an appropriate gratuity, that works out to about $65 each month just for nails.

I've been doing the math of this little routine for the last ten years, and debating the expense all throughout those ten years.

It has finally come down to a decision, folks.

From now on, it's gonna be au naturel for me.  The fake nails are off, my own nails are growing, and the nail beds are slowly getting thicker and healthier.

The damaged part is almost grown out.
No more trips to see John.

No more $35 a visit.

No more appointments to keep.

No more worrying about schmucking up tacky nails with my car keys on the way out of the shop.

No more.  Nada.

Now, if I can just put that amount of money aside and actually watch it add up.

Like I said, I've been doing some calculations.

At roughly $65 each month, that's $780 in one year.

And furthermore, $780 is roughly equivalent to six or seven nights in a hotel, or approximately 26 camping nights, based on state and federal campground fees.

I think for the good of mankind (you know, that kind man that lives with me), we should use these savings for another vacation.  Don't you think?  There are just so many places around the world that are calling out to me.

Now for the next big decision - the toes.....

Monday, August 26, 2013

National Dog Day

As today, August 26, 2013, is National Dog Day, I thought I'd celebrate by amusing myself with a photo recollection of our puppy's first two years with us.  Sheila, our happy weimaraner, turned two just last month.

If you are a lover of dogs then perhaps you, too, will enjoy this photo journal of the various facets of Sheila's personality.

If I had to describe our puppy in three words, I'd probably list these three:


(and not always in that order).

If you are at all familiar with this breed of dog, then you probably know that weimaraners are extremely intelligent, very family oriented (they won't stay in another room away from you), highly energetic and needing lots of exercise, and sometimes stubborn.

Take a look, and enjoy.

Sheila, the lovable puppy:

Sheila, the beauty queen:

Sheila, the ice princess:

Sheila, the naughty puppy:

Sheila, the outdoor gal:

Sheila, the doggie diva:

Sheila, the lap dog:

Sheila, the welcoming committee:

Sheila, the engineer of land mines:

Sheila, the occasional slut dog:

Sheila, readying for a night out on the town:

Sheila, ghost dog:

Sheila, the peeping tom:

Sheila, lover of small children:

I could go on and on, but I'll stop here.  I'm sure Sheila will give us just as many interesting photos again in the next two years.

Hopefully, if you have a puppy, yours gives you as much enjoyment as ours has given us.


Happy National Dog Day, anyway.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

85th Party on the Patio

Dick, 85 years young
Tomorrow will be my father-in-law's 85th birthday, so we wanted to have an event to honor him and spend some special time with him.  We decided to have the family over for a very traditional summer picnic, and do all the expected picnic-y things and eat all the traditional picnic-y foods.

As usual, Dick, the birthday boy, was busy reminiscing about things that had happened in his younger days.  He enjoys telling his stories to anyone who will listen.  When we asked him what he would do with his next 30 years, he paused, chuckled, and went on to the next story.

There were thirteen relatives attending his picnic party, spanning four generations.

The weather was perfect, with temperatures in the most comfortable range for an outdoor gathering like this one.  Amazingly, the bugs stayed away today.  And, there was absolutely no threat of wind or rain.

It was just perfect.

We had yard games going.  There was Corn Hole, or beanbag toss, as I prefer to call it.   Several of us also played our new Ladder Ball game.

There was even a bit of grocery shopping.  This little guy was "buying" all the beanbags from the beanbag game.

Liam is taking care business.
Now let's get down to the food.  I wanted to offer all the goodies you'd expect at a true picnic, so I started with eight pounds of bar-b-q spareribs.  Then I made a five pound batch of potato and egg salad, and another side salad mixture of cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes and olives in a zesty sauce. 

 There were dinner rolls that I pared with some homemade Texas Longhorn-type cinnamon butter, and watermelon slices.  Plenty of soda and two types of punch were on the beverage table.

Then, for dessert we had a choice between caramel apple bars and chocolate cake with cherries, ice cream and whipped cream.  Let's be honest, we all ate both.  

We darn nearly starved.

Happy Birthday Dick.  We hope you enjoyed your 85th birthday and have many pleasant days and years ahead.  We love you.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Peach Crisp on the Patio

Last night the husband/lover/best friend and I had a lovely, quiet, peaceful evening spent relaxing out back on the patio.  We could hear the soothing sounds of our small waterfalls, the chirping of the crickets, the buzzing of some cicadas, and I think I may have even heard the croak of a frog.  Nobody was out nearby mowing their lawns or weed-wacking their gardens.  It was just perfect.

And, to make it even better, there was freshly baked peach crisp served with some french vanilla ice cream.  Warm, gooey, and delicious.

We even turned on our romantic fire thingie when it started to get dark.

Right now peaches are in season here in our corner of the world and I'd like to share with you a simple recipe for using them.  I would feel too guilty but not really keeping all of this decadence to myself.



2 pounds peaches (about 8 medium)
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of salt
1/4 cup butter


Wash and peel the peaches.  Halve, pit and slice them into a greased 10 x 6 x 2 inch baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add in the butter and mix with a fork until mixture becomes large, course crumbs.

Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the peaches.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until fruit tests done with a fork.  You will see those yummy juices bubbling up the sides, too.

Of course, you would be cheating yourself if you didn't have some vanilla ice cream on hand to serve with this dessert.  We had French Vanilla, and it added just the right element to call this dish truly heavenly.

Watching this beautiful scenery right in our own back yard, it was no time before I looked into my bowl and realized my peach crisp had gone missing.

We have a unique system of communication that we have previously worked out with our friendly neighbors.  If we have food, dessert, snacks or beverages, and we want company for sharing them, we put out our welcome flag.  They know if they see the flag, they should come back into our yard and patio and join us.

Unfortunately, last night the flag was out and there was nobody around.

Oh well, that's all the more peach crisp left for us.

No problem.  We'll deal with it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Watermelon, the Food of Angels

I'm still kicking myself for paying the price I did yesterday, for this one slice of watermelon.  I stood there at the watermelon display, debating with myself.  Pay the $2.12 for a slice, or pay $4.00 for a whole melon?

The last time I purchased a whole melon, we only ate about half of it, and the rest spoiled and got thrown away.

Not to mention, son Caleb, who usually eats everything in sight in typically massive quantities, does not like any type of melon fruit.

I suppose that's why I irrationally made the decision to pay this small fortune for the slice.

Although I cannot explain his weird aversion to any of the melon fruits, I, personally, love watermelon.  Of all the melon fruits available, it is probably my favorite.

I suspect my fondness for watermelon is not only due to its luscious sweet flavor, but also to the memories it evokes of past family picnics and fun times.

Practically every time I'm eating a slice of watermelon, though, I find myself wondering about the seeds.  Is it OK to swallow watermelon seeds?  I remember my father telling me as a small child that if I ate one, a watermelon would grow in my belly.  Ever after that I fastidiously dug and excavated out every single seed before popping a bite into my mouth.

Even though I know better now, the habit remains.

Rachel Vreemen, M.D., coauthor of Don't Swallow Your Gum!  Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health, claims that the seeds can upset your stomach if you eat handfuls at a time, but in small amounts, both the white and black varieties are harmless.

That's good to know, because the average watermelon contains 200 to 800 seeds. So, you've probably ingested a few throughout your life and been just fine.

I came across a little quiz about watermelons on the website Yumsugar and thought I'd see how much I really know about this fruit.  Each question is either true or false.  Test yourself and keep score - answers will follow.


1.  Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.

2.  Watermelons are related to cucumbers.

3.  Watermelon is thought to have originated in the Caribbean.

4.  The word "watermelon" first appeared in the English dictionary in 1737.

5.  Every part of the watermelon is edible.

6.  Robert Louis Stevenson famously said, "When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat."

7.  America is the top watermelon producer in the world.

8.  More watermelon is consumed in the United States than in any other country in the world.

9.  A large yellow spot is typical and welcome on the exterior of a watermelon.

10. Watermelon is prized for its oil in India.

I am embarrassed and almost ashamed to admit that I only scored 5/10 correct, or 50%.  However, I am at least above average, as the average score of the on-line quiz takers was merely 3.5 or 35%.


1.  True

2.  True

3.  False.  It is thought to have originated in Africa, in the Kalahari Desert.

4.  False.  It appeared in the English dictionary in 1615.

5.  True.

6.  False.  It was Mark Twain.

7.  False.  China produces the  most.

8.  False.  Again, China consumes the most.

9.  True.

10. True.

How did you do?

How do you know when a watermelon is sweetest for slicing?  If you have an iPhone, the Harvest iPhone app ($1.99) eliminates the produce guessing game with expert tips for choosing summer fruits and veggies.  It also highlights healthiest harvests by season and region.  Find it at harvest-app.com.

Now back to my original debate:  to buy a slice, or the whole melon?

Next time I'm going for the whole.  Perhaps the neighbors are hungry.