Oh, the fun of making pretty things! My friend Theresia, the culinary artist, showed me how to turn fruits and veggies into flowers. If you're having a fancy dinner party... don't start this an hour before the guests arrive. This is an art, a time consuming art. And you need patience, grasshopper. Something I don't have a lot of, so, needless to say, what you see in the picture is mostly Theresia's work. She used carrots, radishes, green onions, and strawberries for her artwork. The less than perfect specimens are mine! If you're looking for a fun afternoon activity to do with your girlfriends this fall, this might be it. Check out the how-to videos on Utube (search by typing in "fruit and vegetable carving") and you'll be in business. All you need are your veggies or fruit, a sharp paring knife, and patience. Did I mention patience?!
Oh, the joys of finding goodies right in your own back yard! Just like our grandmas used to do. For a while there, I think many of us sneered at those simple things Grandma spent so much time on: picking berries, growing veggies, canning - in general putting food up for winter. But now, with many of us facing financial challenges a lot of women are thinking it's not so bad to grow your own organic food, or scrounge something free from that tangle of vines down the street. Which is what I did today. Labor Day weekend - perfect for laboring for free food! Later today we have friends coming out to try their hand at catching some fish in our little lake. (I have a Plan B for dinner - call me a pessimist, but I believe in being prepared.) Anyway, as you can see by the picture, I returned from my berry expedition with a full haul. That will make a couple of pies this winter. Or maybe I'll keep some out and make blackberry cobbler. (Posted on the recipe page.) I already have berries in the freezer (thanks Annette!) to make my blackberry cordial for Christmas presents. (You can find the recipe for this yummy treat in my novel "Small Change".) I've also been harvesting zucchini from my garden, which has given us many a wonderful meal... and has resulted in several loaves of zucchini bread in the freezer (also for winter). So, jam and canned peaches in the pantry, goodies in the freezer - and maybe later we'll round out the food supply with some fish. Also, I'm going to try my hand at making rose hip tea. I'll harvest the rose hips right after the first frost. (If you're wondering what the heck rose hips are, they're those little reddish globes hanging from your rose bush about this time of year - and they contain Vitamin A more Vitamin C than an orange.) So, I'm feeling pretty good. I may not be saving a fortune, but I'm saving something and we're eating well. And I'm enjoying the thrill of the hunt. And that, as the Mastercard people say, is priceless!
Summer is winding down and so are the many adventures of Sheila. One of the most fun adventures this year was Nana Camp, a series of days spent with my granddaughters. (Yes,hard to believe I'm old enough to have granddaughters, isn't it? What can I say, I started young!) They are, of course, adorable. This is not surprising since they are related to my children. Yes, I know those of you with children and grandchildren think they're adorable too, but they're not as adorable as mine. Really. Getting back to Nana Camp though. This is such a fun thing to do with kids and I got the idea from my friend Debbie Macomber. Yes, I'm not too proud to admit that when it comes to doing cool things I have no problem moving right in on my friends' great ideas. Nana camp always involves fun activities, learning and baking or cooking. This year we had style camp where we practiced good posture by walking with books balanced on our heads, made bracelets and decorated Rice Krispy Treat flip flops. We enjoyed a spa day where we gave ourselves egg facials. Even poor Gerhardt had to have one. (This is what happens when you're dumb enough to stick around for Nana Camp.) And we had Germany Day where the girls learned about the German culture and language. And made soft pretzels with Grandpa. (Hmmm. Grandpa is beginning to horn in on Nana Camp. If he crashes the party next year we may have to dress him in a Tutu. Actually, he'd look fabulous. He has great legs.) But now summer is at an end and so is Nana Camp. It all went so fast.. just like the time with my own children. When I was going through the nutty years older women would say things like, "Enjoy these years, dear. They go so fast." And I'd think, "Yeah, right." And now, years later, I think, "You were right." Time with the ones we love is precious. I'm going to value every minute of mine!
No, I'm not talking about cheating on your spouse or cheating on a test. I'm talking about fudging. Fudging numbers. Fudging numbers when asked about your weight. Some of us (me) hate having to fess up what we weigh so we just sort of fudge the numbers. This is a dumb thing to do when ordering your first ever pair of Spanx. And it has sad, sad consequences. I hadn't intended to fudge the numbers when I called to place my phone order with the nice Nordstrom's rep. But heck, she sounded young, hot and blonde and I couldn't bring myself to tell her my real tub-o-pudge weight (she wouldn't understand), so I gave her a number that I figured was somewhere in the Spanx ballpark. There. What's a few pounds anyway? Those things are made to have some give. And wow, was I going to look sleek and fab for my writer's conference! Happily, my new suck-it-in sleek maker arrived the day before I was due to leave. Well, let's try it on and see how I look, I thought. And that was when I realized that cheating doesn't pay. I couldn't get the thing up past my thighs. Sigh. Oh, well. Sleek is overrated. But not diets. Guess who's on one right now. And no, I'm not telling you how much I weigh. Anyway, as you can see, I can't be trusted!
You've probably heard the saying, "Eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves." Well, the same might be applied to Internet eavesdroppers who go poking around to see what people are saying about their book. Yes, I'll confess, I've been poking. And that's what prompted this blog. First of all, thanks to all of you out there in blogger land who get what I was trying to accomplish with my latest novel "Small Change". I wanted a fun read that would encourage women to think about their lifestyles, where they're spending their money, and then make improvements one small change at a time. I understand that a girl can't please everyone. But to doubt my financial wisdom. Aw, that hurts. Okay, I'll admit that simply planting rhubarb in our flowerbeds won't save us if our economy is sliding south. That alone won't keep the wolf from the door. But it won't hurt, either. I'm convinced that incorporating edibles into your landscaping is a financially wise thing to do. So is having a small veggie garden in the back yard. I mean, why not? If you have a house with a patch of land, why not make that land work for you? You're going to be watering something. Make it something edible. And why not find bargains at garage sales, clip coupons, and cut back on your spending? It does all add up. Really. I know this from personal experience. Over the years we have driven used cars no teenager would take as a gift, we've passed on expensive dinners out and found creative, inexpensive ways to have fun with friends. We've scrimped and saved on everyday expenses, pinching our pennies into submission. And the money we saved kept us out of debt and helped us build for a financially secure future. I even sold treasures on eBay to help put our son through college. Yes, I am growing rhubarb and am proud of it. I also have a couple of fruit trees, a veggie garden, blueberry bushes, and strawberry plants, which make great ground cover. Oh, and I'm growing raspberries, too. (No, I don't have a huge chunk of land, but what I have I'm using to the max.) I have also just scrounged a new "back-up" espresso maker for when my current one goes belly up so that I can continue to make my own lattes when the girls come over for coffee. So go ahead, you doubters. Think I'm crazy. But I'm still gonna grow my rhubarb, find treasure at garage sales, and generally save money. And if you're in the neighborhood I'll feed you rhubarb muffins and give you chocolate mint tea made with my own mint. And maybe, if you see the light, I'll even give you a rhubarb start.
I admit it. I'm not a nature girl. When my husband drags me off hiking our conversation goes something like this.
Me: Are we there yet?
Gerhardt: Ten more minutes.
Me: Are we there yet?
Gerhardt: Ten more minutes.
Yes, I am a whiner. But I can have fun in the woods when we're with friends and we're looking for goodies. Which is just what we did last time we were out. My friend Rick is an herbalist and he introduced me to all kinds of cool secrets of the woods. Like plantain. (Something I always considered no more than a big, leafy weed.) Well, guess what. If you make a salve out of it, it's good for all kinds of skin problems, like eczema and age spots.
So we picked some and came home and made some salve. And if you want to try and make this special salve, here's how I made mine. Fill a medium sized colander with the plantain. (Yes, I know, I should have measured more accurately, but what can I say? The main idea is to stuff your pot full of the herb, so I stuffed) Rinse it well then dry thoroughly. Melt a container of Vaseline in a pot on your stove top. (Don't get the heat too high and don't leave the stove - you don't want to burn your house down.) After the Vaseline melts add the plantain. It will foam up. Continue cooking until the plant is done foaming. Rick told me it would do this for about twenty minutes. My batch was still foaming after half an hour (I don't think I dried it thoroughly enough). When it's done foaming, remove the plant and let your salve in the pot cool until it's lukewarm and you can put your finger in it without burning it. Then pour it back into the Vaseline jar and let it set. And there you have it, Dr. Sheila's Herbal Skin Care Salve. Rick said it may take several months to work, so I'm giving it a try on my poor, sun damaged skin. We shall see!
Like most Americans, we had a great time celebrating the Fourth of July. Check out my fun centerpiece made from garage sale finds I've collected over the years. The dessert was an easy one I found on the Taste of Home website (top ten patriotic desserts) - easy to make with whipped cream, flavorings and cream cheese whipped together and then layered with fruit. Delicious, quick, and easy - which gives the hostess freedom to enjoy her guests!
Our friends the Hales, who own Hales Ales in Seattle, are opening a new restaurant in our neck of the woods. So there has been much cause for celebration. We were on hand last night for a party celebrating their success. The restaurant looks great and the food is wonderful and reasonably priced. The location's not too bad either, right in the Kitsap Mall. Go Mike and Kathleen. We wish you all the best!
I am not sure I'm cut out to be a Las Vegas girl. I'm too cheap to gamble and too big of a blabbermouth to let what happens in Vegas stay in Vegas. Which, of course, is why I'm blogging about my recent first-ever trip there. We went with friends who used to live in Vegas so we got to see more than the strip (which, I have concluded is Disneyland for grown-ups who want to be naughty). We checked out Red Rock, poked around various neighborhoods and even drooled our way through some gorgeous high rise condos. And we saw David Copperfield, which was one of the highlights of the trip. Great fun. I tracked down an audience volunteer after the show in the hopes that I could worm the secret of one of his great illusions out of her but he had cast a spell over the girl and her lips were sealed. No amount of bribery would work. So I had to find some other way to spend my money. This was not hard once I discovered Vegas pawn shops. Let me tell you, forget wandering around the Bellagio or Mandalay Bay. Get to the good stuff and hit the pawn shops. Instead of losing money you'll be finding bargains! I upgraded my diamond for a song. Now, if I could just upgrade the aging hand it's sitting on. Next vacation.
Oh, the bargains to be had these days! And not just in the department stores (although those are full of bargains, too). I was on the hunt yesterday for some clothes to wear for an upcoming trip to Las Vegas. I didn't want to spend a lot of money because I am hoping not to say the size I am for long. So why invest a lot of moolah in clothes that soon (hopefully) won't fit? Since I didn't want to spend a lot I decided to thrift my way to a vacation wardrobe. Off I went with my friend Kimberly and we prowled our local Goodwill. And I struck gold there, let me tell you. I found a hot pink Tadashi blouse. If I'd been at Saks I would have paid a couple hundred dollars for it. At Goodwill I paid ten. Woohoo! Yes, it's not this year's model, but it is gorgeous and when I tried it on I felt like a million bucks. Looked like it too. Little Sheila was hot! Well, from the front anyway. Losing few pounds will eliminate those little bulges in the back. I may even wear it before I lose weight and just make sure no one sees me from the back. (Hmm. Is that possible?) For sure I'll use it for an author photo. So if you ever see a picture of me on the back of a book looking oh, so hot in hot pink. Well, you'll know the secret behind the glam shot. It's garage season now, ladies. Who knows what fabulous stuff you might find. Happy hunting!