Thursday, June 27, 2013

On again, off again

He used to bring me chocolates and whisper sweet nothings into my ear. Oh how we would giggle at our private jokes!

That was when we first met, about a year ago.

I relied on him and he let me down. He had been a dirty, dirty boy and I expected him to clean up his act.

It's a different story when he tells it. Says it wasn't his fault. Says I was using him. And neglecting his needs.

We tried to make it work and even brought in an expert (who seemed to take his side). 

Pop-dishwasher-psychology lingo was thrown around: the EPA's waterway cleaning  resulted in the removal of phosphates from detergents; and someone's food filter was filthy.

In retrospect, I wonder if I threw too much at him. Perhaps being responsible for such a large family wasn't his scene.

We patched things up with a couple rounds of a specialty dishwasher cleaner. His trap was scrubbed sparkling clean. He began using eco-friendly detergents.

"I feel brand new," he said to me as the morning sun kissed his start button.

We danced through wildflowers once again and sang the clean dishes song. His smile was as wide as the silverware tray on an industrial model as he strummed his ukelele.

Just when I thought we were reunited forever (or at least the next few years), he flooded my kitchen in an act of vandalism that blindsided me.

Relationships are built on trust. 

I'm not there yet.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is that a royal "we?"

Is that a royal "we?" -- A sassy kid may have snapped this comeback at his mother after she suggested "we" clean the garage or perform some other undesirable chore. 

Also known as a Victorian "we," the royal "we" is sometimes used by high-ranking or majestic folks as they refer to their single selves in plural form.

"We don't care for bubble bath without gold flakes," said the prince. 

Pretty high brow stuff.

I don't worry about my kids mouthing off like that. It's not because they are so well-disciplined. They've just never heard the expression. 

I mourn the death of such sayings and feel that "we" have an obligation to bring them back!

I know what you're thinking...go ahead, say it...

"What? You got a mouse in your pocket?"


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cooking with beagles

Do you see the potatoes on the cutting board? 

Do you see where I need to stand to cut those potatoes?

This is how it is every night. Mr. Cool positions himself to where I need to be. 

Then he becomes a wall.

This guy is no help:

Awww look at his paw tucked under himself all docile. 

Don't be fooled. The Little Weirdo can be on his feet before one potato piece hits the floor.

Cooking with these guys is challenging and kinda dangerous.

Have you ever seen porcupines in a playpen? 

It's like that. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

So inappropriate I don't have a photo

One of my Internet friends said to her followers, "Please bare with me."

I didn't think she wrote *that* kind of blog.

Perhaps I was jumping to conclusions about my wholesome blogging buddy. I looked up the correct usage of "bare."

Sure enough, this moral, upstanding woman was asking us all to get NAKED with her!
Grammar. It's risky. 

And in this case... risqué.

Have a fully-clothed day!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

That night in Sugar Alley

The flour mill in Alton. This is near Sugar Alley.
Please keep Calgary in your hearts as they deal with unprecedented flooding. 

Here is a little something I wrote a while back...about the Great Flood of 1993 in my hometown of Alton, Illinois. 

That Night in Sugar Alley

As residents deal with flooding, the Great Flood of 1993 saturates my brain with painful, yet nostalgic memories of the night downtown Alton flooded.

Growing up in the Alton/Godfrey area, I knew flooding was just one of those inconveniences of living near the river. I remembered the monumental flood of 1973.

Since that was a 100-year flood, I wasn’t old enough to experience another big-deal flood quite yet. However, 1973’s water-level glory was to be outshone.

This is how I remember the night downtown Alton flooded in 1993:

One evening, about 9 p.m., my husband and I were driving on Homer Adams Parkway, a/k/a The Beltline, when we noticed signs at businesses begging for sandbagging volunteers.

“Save Alton.” “Your help is needed like never before.” The appeals were blunt and desperate.

So, we reported downtown.

Running through Sugar Alley was a sandbag wall taller than myself. Of course, I was familiar with the sandbagging activity. It’s just that I’d never been that close to the front line.

People were sloshing and scurrying. The National Guard was there. The Red Cross was there. Business owners were pumping water out of basements at record speed.

But, what sticks in my mind just as vividly as that disaster scene, was a reunion of sorts. We ran across classmates with whom we’d lost touch after high school. Glad to see them, but time was of the essence. There was no time to catch up.

Santa Claus was there. Really. You see, a Wood River (Illinois) man and his wife assumed the personas of Mr. and Mrs. Claus year-round. They were up in years and enjoyed bringing joy. At Christmas they would open their home for kids to visit.

Mr. Claus wasn’t wearing his red suit in the heat, of course, but everyone recognized him with his long beard and jovial personality.

Downtown Alton spans a history of generations. In 1858, the Lincoln-Douglas debate was even held in that area.

Here are some of my downtown Alton memories (Stick with me. There will be a point):

Jupiter was a sweet little store on the corner offering mostly clothes, as I recall. My biggest thrill as a kid was the gum machine.

Snyder’s was an old-fashioned department store with an elevator.
Nasally voice—
First floor: women’s wear, accessories, jewelry.”
Second floor: domestics, sewing notions, draperies.”
That kind of store.

At a saloon and restaurant, my best friend and I, as kids, begged to sit at the bar instead of in the family-friendly dining area. We finally were allowed to occupy two barstools and experience saloon life. It wasn’t such a big whoop.

At Goulding’s Jewelry Store, I got my ears pierced when I was 13.

At one downtown tea room, an elderly owner would tirelessly serve her customers. The spot felt like a grandmother’s kitchen, and I always felt guilty for her waiting on us. My grandfather knew this sweet lady from his younger years.

(I’m making a point, promise. Hang in there.)

I remember going to the newspaper office to get my picture taken for winning an award in high school.

Tony’s Restaurant was and still is the destination for going somewhere special. Their pepperloin steak is famous, but I prefer their pepperoni and onion pizza.

Like most other Altonians, I spent much time at Hayner Library and probably took it for granted.

Oh, and the bank. It was the kind with the massive island in the middle with chained-down pens on top. Like where Uncle Billy lost the money in It’s a Wonderful Life.

Downtown has seen its share of restaurants and antique spots come and go. Some might imply ghosts chased away a good share of those businesses. Makes you wonder…

Here’s the point:

That night wasn’t about a river encroaching on some small town. It was about our river attacking our town. Our grandparents’ town. Their grandparents’ town.

I probably wasn’t the only one encountering a deluge of memories while building that sandbag wall. It made us work all the harder.

It must have been about 2 a.m. when we noticed National Guardsmen sporting life vests, an obvious sign of doom. We were exhausted anyway.

So we left.

I’m not sure if we had yet arrived home before the wall gave-way and our downtown became one with the river.

If only we had stayed that night, I’m sure we could have saved it.

Thoughts and prayers go out to Calgary during this extremely difficult time.

This post was shared on:
Found the Marbles

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Top o' the hutch to ya

I see impressive decor vignettes on blogs all the time. 

Here's mine.

My style technique: red things go on top of the hutch.

The tour from left to right:
Peppermint candy tin. 
Wind-up robot I found in a box of my husband's stuff.
Girl doll and boy doll. They are having money issues.
Cookie jar. The family argues whether it's a tomato or apple. I say apple.
Egg beater with a red handle. You can't really see the handle.
Pasta maker.
Junior cookbook.

If you look closely, you'll see that the girl and boy dolls are NOT looking at each other. Like in any relationship, there are ups and downs. They're a couple of good kids. We would all like to see it work out for them.

Things are looking up. They are almost holding hands!


Even if a home isn't magazine quality, isn't it fun to see how neighbors decorate?

Have a lovely day!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cream cheese fruit dip for real life

I made this fruit dip the other day. It was healthier than my normal recipe with all the powdered sugar.

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip for Real Life

8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup honey
2 Tablespoons milk

Mix ingredients well until fluffy.
Serve with chopped fruit.

Here's the real life part:
Apparently, there is something sticky on the table along with a laptop, cooling rack and some drumsticks. Yeah, I live with drummers.

What's that you say? I can't hear you! It's too loud in here!

Have a lovely day!

Shared on these sites:
Mad in Crafts
Flour Me with Love
Pursuit of  a Functional Home
Adventures of a DIY Mom
Growing Home Blog

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paws off the kitty, Kitty Baby

Kitty Baby thinks money equals happiness. 

Step 1: Get 50 bucks in quarters.
Step 2: Stack them up.
Step 3: Take a nap on top of them.
Result: Happiness.

Guess he's right.
Shared on this site:
Snoopy's Dog Blog 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lemon bars--pucker up!

These lemon bars were so easy to make and the ingredients are usually on hand.

Everyone really liked them so I'll serve them again and again!

Lemon Bars


2 sticks of butter, softened
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
6 Tablespoons lemon juice (I used the kind in the big green bottle)

A sprinkling of powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
Mix the ingredients for the crust and press into the pan.
Bake for 15 minutes (it won't look all-the-way done yet).
Allow crust to cool slightly.
Mix the ingredients for the filling and pour on top of the crust.
Bake for 25 minutes. 
Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

Everybody pucker!

This post was shared on:
Growing Home Blog
Handy Man, Crafty Woman
Life with the Crust Cut Off

Monday, June 17, 2013

Taboo repurposed

Years ago, this tool would have been inappropriate to display in mixed company; yet there I was, "winning" it at a white elephant, rob your neighbor gift exchange party.

Do you know what it is? Here is another view:

It's a toilet paper holder! 

As if that isn't enough to make all my dreams come true, this particular version boasts that elegant fishing reel style so popular in home fashion magazines these days.

You might think this is a gag gift but the joke's on them!


I turned it into a unique dispenser for my curling ribbon!! 

It's made for hanging on a wall, obviously, and I considered bolting it somewhere. But I have been enjoying the portability. 

It is like an extra set of hands. No more juggling a spool while wrapping a gift! I wish I had one for every color of ribbon.

Aren't you glad times have changed enough that ribbon dispensers are no longer considered unmentionable in polite conversation?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Make Dad a Toasty Joe

We've grown quite fond of these cute little sandwiches. 

Toasty Joes are a take on traditional Sloppy Joes (or yip-yips as they used to say in the school cafeteria).

Toasty Joes

Brown 1 1/2 pounds of hamburger in a saucepan. Drain fat.

1/4 cup chopped onion or some onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 cup catsup
1/2 cup bbq sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Stir add-ins into the hamburger and cook on medium until heated throughout--about 10 minutes.

Instead of serving on a bun, we like it on toasted "everything" bread. 

Do you have "everything" bread where you live? It's a French bread loaf topped with everything--poppy seeds, garlic, herbs, sesame seeds, and I don't know what all. It's good.

Then add whatever toppings to suit each person. I like shredded cheddar cheese and black olives. You could add sliced onions, green peppers, jalapenos, fries, sour cream. Whatever!

I like that I can crank these out in a hurry for all the hungry loiterers in my kitchen.

Try 'em!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Little Weirdo is happy

I keep up with Mr. Cool and Kitty Baby on this blog all the time.

I figure you must be wondering about the Little Weirdo. You might be thinking he went off to Montana or North Dakota in search of work in the oil industry or perhaps he got accepted on one of those cooking contest shows where they yell at each other for an hour straight.

Nah. He's still here. He's just happy. Very happy.

I'll tell you something. It's almost impossible to get a photo of such a happy guy. The pictures turn out like the one above.

Mr. Cool and Kitty Baby barely move. They would make perfect models for getting their portraits painted. Maybe I should call the college and see if they need any nudes to pose for art class. Mr. Cool and Kitty Baby aren't modest.

Anyway, the Little Weirdo is fine. Just happy.

Oh so happy.
Shared on this neighborly site:
Snoopy's Dog Blog

Friday, June 14, 2013

Birthday spice cake

I told you about the birthday party we had last weekend. Remember? The wrapping paper made out of an old helium balloon?

Well, his other gift was this spice cake. It wasn't "the" birthday cake to share. This one was a gift for the birthday boy to take home. It's kind of a tradition.

The recipe is eggless and milkless. I believe it was used often during the depression. It has the density of a fruit cake. 

This cake is heavy, man. Heavy.

When topped with a cream cheese frosting, it is a real treat. 

Happy Birthday Spice Cake


1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons water
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Boil the brown sugar, 1 1/4 cup water, shortening, raisins, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves for three minutes. Allow to cool.

Dissolve the salt and baking soda in the 2 teaspoons of water. Add to the boiled mixture.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the mixture.

Mix the walnuts into the cake batter.

Grease and flour an 8" x 8" x 2" loaf pan and pour batter into the pan.

Bake for 55 minutes. Allow cake to cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting


2 sticks of softened butter
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


Beat the butter and cream cheese together. Add the powdered sugar. Mix. Then add the vanilla. Mix well.

Frost all sides of the cake.

Since we were going out to dinner, I knew the cake would be out of the fridge for a few hours. So, I put it in the freezer for a while. (Dig the corn dogs in the back.)

I figured this would help the cream cheese frosting hang in there during the party. 

I only made one cake this week, so of course I have a craving for it. Guess I'll have to make one for our house, too.

Do you have a tradition of baking something in particular as a gift for someone?

Shared on these sites:
Adventures of a DIY Mom
Growing Home Blog
Handy Man, Crafty Woman

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Birthday wrap. It's elementary.

Went to a birthday party last weekend. This was the gift we took. 

Did you guess the wrapping was a deflated helium balloon?

It's so sad when party decorations lose their passion.

I tried tossing them in the air, but they always drifted down again. 

Fortunately, these balloons got a second chance at life.

Sherlock knew what I had in mind. 

I cut open one side of the balloon. It could be used as a gift bag at this point.

I kept snipping, though, to use it as traditional wrapping paper. I like the way the material gave me a natural angle. I was able to fashion an envelope-look on the back.

Comfy in there, Sherlock?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Helen's got a knife

"Helen! Helen! What do you think you're doing?"

"Is that a butter knife? Oh, you've gone too far this time. 
Think of your family. They need you!"

"No you don't, Helen. 
You do NOT need to scrape the gunk from under the baseboards."

"I know. I know. 
The mop shoves dirty water under there and it accumulates."

"Yes. The butter knife does seem to be working, but this is too much. 
People are more important than gunk, Helen! 
Put the knife down before it's too late!"

I had to perform a rescue just then. Sorry for the interruption.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Real deal zeal

I read homemaking blogs. I read cooking blogs. I read vintage blogs. I read gardening blogs. I read style blogs. I read motherhood blogs.

If there's a blog, I've read it.

Wait. No. That's not true. There's no way I could possibly read all the blogs on the Internet.

Some are about sports.

My own blog doesn't fall into one of the above categories. It is of the neighborly genre.

When you visit me here, I hope you feel as if you are visiting the lady next door--well, if the lady next door likes to bake and loves cats and kids and loud music and doesn't always mow her grass in a timely fashion and is okay with it if you don't mow your grass that much, either.

On this blog, you won't find gourmet recipes, the latest home and fashion fads, parenting tips from leading child psychologists, advice from a master gardener, or how to run a steel mill on a shoestring budget.

But you will find recipes I've tried, my attempts at style, and ideas on mothering and family. We can take a stroll out back to see if anything happens to be growing in the garden. We can play with the dogs and aggravate the cat.

Let's share thoughts about making the world friendlier and not wait until our lives magically turn perfect.

This is a blog about lowering standards!

We are allowed to be neighborly even if our teeth aren't whitened and there is still laundry on the couch from the other day.

You're on your own with that steel mill idea, though.