Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend stuff

I finally got my energy back yesterday, and promptly overdid things, but it felt so good to be tired out from overdoing rather than just from breathing. :o)

We have neighbors with a wonderful tart-green-apple tree in their yard. They let me pick about 30 pounds of apples last week, and yesterday Kieffer and Lil Miss A helped me turn the apples into 15 quarts of apple pie filling. I gave 2 quarts back to the couple who let me have the apples. I'm now in the process of making jelly out of the cores and peels. I added mint from our mint patch to turn it into mint jelly, but it's not very minty. So maybe minty apple jelly is more what it should be called. It's a beautiful rosy pink color and I do not know where that came from. Green apples + green mint = rosy pink jelly? How can this be?

We also saw Britta moved into her on campus apartment for another year. It has two bedrooms, living room, bathroom and teeny little kitchen which I thought was just adorable. She still has to pay for a meal plan, so the baby kitchen will be for making breakfasts and snacks.

I get pretty emotional when she leaves, even though we are pretty much tired of one another after a summer together, and I'm a little melancholy now. She's only half an hour away and she's where she wants to be.

Kieffer drove the Jeep most of the way home. This is a big deal because he's determined to learn to handle a stick shift and the Jeep is a stick. He did really well, and the sweet old Jeep let him get away with a few jerky starts. She's a good ol' girl.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Or you could live here:

That's right. It's a turn-of-the-century brick church building in Waukon. Complete with pipe organ. Only $87,500. Wow.

RMT/CMT testing process to change

See the whole article here:

One part that pleases me is this:
This means that a CQE candidate would sit for a 250-question test whereby they would be tested on RMT content first and if cut scores for level 1 content were met, the candidate would then be put through the CMT content. At the end of a single exam session, the candidate would leave either having failed the RMT portion (at which point the exam will terminate), having qualified at the RMT level, or qualified at the CMT level – removing all guess work for the hesitant candidate and ensuring that all CMT candidates will have made it through level 1 content before moving on to level 2.
This is a very positive step in my opinion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wanna see something crazy?

Can you guess what this is?

How about now?

Whatever it is, it's got pretty blossoms...

If you guessed, "The chicken pen covered with one giant gourd plant," then you are absolutely right.

Anna of Chickens in the Basement sent me a present this spring of 4 different types of gourd seeds from her own gourds. She had marked them all carefully. I started them in peat pots, and after a couple of weeks, figured they were duds and quit watering them - whereupon they promptly sprouted little bitty gourd plants. By that point I had let them get mixed up. I planted several in the yard and gave a few away. Only one of my plants really took off.

And as you can see, take off it did. This thing is a monster. There's a baby apple tree in the first photo, and every day we go out there and hack the gourd off the apple tree where it has grabbed on and started climbing. There are all kinds of hollyhocks in there somewhere but you can't even see them anymore, they are so engulfed. They usually fall over from their own weight, but not this year. The gourd grabbed onto them and is holding them upright.

I don't know which kind of gourd this is but I am going to have a lifetime supply of gourds, the way things are going. This thing is out of control. :) It's sure pretty!

Here's your chance to live in New Albin...

... and I hear the neighbors across the street are awesome!

That's our neighbor J.B.'s place. He's ready to move to an apartment, from what I hear, and has put his house on the market. The shed out back is really cute and just screams to be filled with antiques. The lot is nice and big.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crock pot sloppy joes

Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate is an email list you can join where you get debt free living tips nearly every day. It's free. I don't always find something valuable, but probably 50% of the time, I do.

Friday's included some slow-cooker recipes. I made this one for supper that night, using 1-1/2 pounds of ground venison rather than beef, and it was really good. (We are also out of Worcestershire sauce AND prepared mustard - I really need to go grocery shopping! - so those were  left out.)

Slow-Cooked Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic, fresh or from a jar
2/3 cup ketchup
2 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve on warmed buns with chips and celery sticks with Ranch dressing. Serves: 6.

Still sick

I stayed home today other than going in to pick up our fair entries. I took the chance to do some work on our home library catalog, using's Book Collector software. I had started cataloging our books a couple of years or so ago, never finished, and then the books got all mixed up anyway and we got new ones but didn't keep up with the catalog and gave some away but didn't update the catalog... what a mess. So what I did was begin using the Location field to specify which room or box the books are in. We have several big plastic tubs of books in storage on the back porch and I started going tub by tub, checking to make sure that all the books in each tub were in the catalog (many of them weren't), and adding a location (something clever like "big blue tub #1"). Then I printed out lists of the contents of each tub and taped it to the outside. Now, if all goes well (ha!), we will no longer rummage through the tubs, rather will check the catalog to find a specific book, walk directly to the tub, easily find the book we need, read it, then replace it neatly in the tub where it belongs.

Hey, I can dream.

The shelves will be trickier. I may just put "living room" as the location, or something. Our living room bookshelves are always crammed to bursting, and I need to pare down the books there to just the ones we know we'll want to visit with frequently.

And the success of this venture depends on my finding more time to work on this some more rather than getting bogged down and failing to follow through, like happened last time. At least the parts I have done so far are sort of contained, in the tubs.

Now my sinuses are hurting so I have moved into the next stage of this sickness (which everybody in the area has, or has just had, or is coming down with, by the way -- nothing serious or exotic, just a summer cold, although every time I say that I think about Stephen King's The Stand -- you know what happened when everybody in that book thought they were just coming down with a summer cold). I think this is a good thing. The end is in sight. Right? Right!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday's Apron: Houston County (MN) Fair Winners

I entered 2 aprons in the Houston County Fair this year. One you have seen before, and one I made specifically for the fair. Here they are:

The purple and green one is a clothespin apron. Both are blue ribbon winners, as you can see, but don't get too excited; for some reason, nobody else put any aprons in the fair this year! So they not only got first place, they also got last.

The family did well this year!

Lil Miss A entered black cherry jam, the first time she has ever made it. Our friends Carol and Fred Reese stopped by on their way back home after a vacation in Glacier National Park and brought us a bunch of black cherries that they had picked at a pick-your-own orchard. Lil Miss A made some of them into jam.

A blue ribbon! And she had PLENTY of competition, unlike her mama. I'm very proud.

Here is the Shelf of Fame for the preserved foods category:

Kieffer (he told me to quit messing around and just use his name, he uses it on the Internet all the time anyway) dried cherry tomatoes as his entry in the Preserved Foods category. He cut them in half, scooped out the guts with a watermelon baller, and then dried them on racks on the back porch for a couple of days. We got this idea from Judy Laquidara's blog. And look at that: Second place! I knew he faced stiff competition, because there was a jar of lovely dried morel mushrooms there when I dropped off his cherry tomatoes.

Good job, son!

I entered my red currant jelly but it didn't win any prizes. I'm not really surprised. My jelly is usually cloudy.

And now (drumroll please) comes BARRY STAHL who entered two categories with his ceramics: A woodfired piece (which won a first prize) and two of his bottles (which won a giant purple ribbon)!

He looked around at the photography, scoffed at the judging, and then wondered where the professional photography exhibits were. There weren't any at all this year. Next year we mean to fix that.

Now a little show of some of the other exhibits that I thought were great:

Floral arrangements
Woven rugs. The tan colored one was made of jute twine.

Vikings Stadium depicted as an afghan.

This awesome handbag embellished with tons of old Bakelite and other early plastic buttons and doojobbers. Want.

We didn't stay very long. I am not feeling very well today (I'm supposed to be driving to the Twin Cities right now for my 30th high school reunion, and I'm staying home feeling sorry for myself instead), so it stopped being fun pretty quickly. We didn't even check out the 4-H sheep and they are normally a must see. Maybe tomorrow afternoon I'll feel better.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Design wall/floor

On the family room floor. Photos taken for blog and also in case a catornado whips through and scrommels up the blocks before I can stitch them together.

UPDATE: The catornado happened.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nerd War

They're both in their places, with bright shining faces...

First day of school, August 19, 2010

Yeah, right.

Anyway, they are off for another year of learning great things.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

A good day for a good read

Of course I have to work today, but if I had my wish, I'd be curled up on the front porch, simultaneously watching the storms and reading Flood  by Stephen Baxter. It's a near-future sci-fi book about the rising, warming oceans, and what would happen if global warming took on a life of its own (which is what some climatologist think would happen) and the seas began rising precipitously, as in, sea level rising 3 cm a day and increasing exponentially from there. Where would we all go? How would the governments of the world ever deal with their hungry populations when everything is shutting down? It's a perfect thing to read as the rain is bucketing down outside and the ground is getting soggier and soggier.

I understand there's a sequel out too, Ark. That will have to go on my list for future reading.

<===== See that linky thing there? See the best price link? I never used to buy used books off Amazon but lately I have been doing so and have been extremely happy with the results. The only bad deal we got, Amazon refunded very quickly (it was a college workbook for Barry - the seller didn't bother to say that it had been mostly filled in, in ink). Good deals to be had.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For Iowans (may work elsewhere): My strategy with paying college bills

  1. Open a College Savings Iowa account, with the beneficiary being the student. 
  2. Make an online payment to the college for tuition or other required student fees using your Discover card. The college probably has someplace on its website where you can do this from home.
  3. Immediately deposit the amount that you just charged from your checking account into the College Savings Iowa account.
  4. When the Discover bill comes (but no sooner than 10 calendar days after the CSI deposit), withdraw the amount from the College Savings Iowa fund and have it put back in your checking account.
  5. When the funds clear (usually about 2 business days), pay the Discover bill.
What this does for you is
  1. Makes the tuition or other required fee amount a deduction on your Iowa state income tax for that calendar year, and
  2. Earns you a bit of Discover Cash Back Bonus money.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Scrappy baby quilt for Kristine and Willie's little one

This is a baby quilt for a little boy who may be born already, I'm not sure exactly when he is or was expected. We know his parents slightly and his grandparents quite a bit better. I made it mostly of scraps of flannels and from recycled men's shirts (all those woven cotton plaids, yum) and backed it with a piece of red flannel print from my stash. I quilted it in my own rather inept fashion with an all-over stipple pattern. It should be cuddly and sturdy.

The backing.

The border, featuring my patented 4-sided (and sometimes 5-sided) triangles.
The pattern was one of those freebies the quilting magazines like to send in the mail to try to convince you to subscribe. In this case, it was Love of Quilting magazine, and the original design came from an antique crib quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. They just called it a "strippy crib quilt." It's kind of busy, but I like it, and I can imagine it getting dragged around the house by a toddler, or used to make a blanket fort, or having Legos scattered all over it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010