a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

My “play date” with Crystal

I have a friend, Crystal, who is a wonderful photographer — and not just because she takes such marvelous pictures. She’s been helping and encouraging me in my own photographic journey, letting me in on all her tricks and tips and how-to’s, and I appreciate her so much. Yesterday afternoon she texted me to see if I wanted to go with her down to the marina to shoot the boat races. Since Fred was working late (how convenient!) how could I possibly pass this up? We even met for dinner, first, which was a real treat.

Apparently the boat races were cancelled because, when we got down there, outside the one or two usuals out on the water, there were no boats. No boats, no regatta. But, the sky was filling with the most beautiful thunderheads and it was just the perfect backdrop for almost anything we could’ve photographed so we walked around for a couple of hours “just shooting whatever” (which, for me, is mostly weird clouds and boats on the water…I really must branch out some day). We had such a lovely time.

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The easiest Granola Bars you’ll ever make…and they’re tasty, too!

I found this recipe in one of those ‘hand-outs’ that you get from the grocery store. I was getting ready to file it away, with my other (bazillion) “recipes to try,” when a friend and her kids came over to fight the deer for (ie: pick) some apples. I knew, with her busy schedule, she might appreciate this recipe as it was quick, easy, and, supposedly, “very kid-friendly.” I zipped off a copy for her on the printer and didn’t think much about it until she posted, on Facebook, a hearty “thank you!” to me along with other assorted words of praise about the recipe. A I guess a few other people took notice and started asking about it – so I did a quickie post of the recipe. Apparently this was quite the hit. People started popping up stating they had made them and thought they were the “greatest thing since microwave popcorn.” At this point, I had to try them…

5-Ingredient Granola Bars

  • 2 cups quick-cooking Oats*
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/2 up Peanut Butter OR 1 stick butter, softened (peanut butter is the way to go but it’s nice to have an alternative for those with nut allergies).
  • 3/4 cup Whatever** This could be; dried fruit, seeds, nuts, chocolate (or other) chips, small candies (like M&M’s), or even toss in a little flax or bran (and this is a great way to sneak it in, for those of you with a Fred of your own). You could even do a mixture of these, as long as it comes to 3/4 cup total.

Preheat your oven to 350F and spray or butter/grease a 9 x 13″ pan. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl then press into the prepared pan and bake until it’s golden brown (my oven cooks hot and it took about 12 minutes).  Cool for 5 minutes then, while they’re still in the pan, cut into squares. Then, when they’re totally cool, remove them from the pan (there might be some breakage here…you have my permission to eat all the broken ones, right away) and store in an airtight container. The number of servings will depend on how big you cut them.

(*Because I am the queen of “what I have on hand,” I used 5 minute oats the first time I made these. The bars came out much thinner and crispier – and the baking time was only about 8 minutes. I used the 1 minute oats this time and they’re more of a crunchy/chewy texture and took about 4 minutes longer (12 minutes total).

**My 3/4 cup of “whatever” pictured here is a mix of sunflower seeds, blueberry flavored cranberries, and chopped walnuts).

I have to admit, in addition to being very easy, not to mention how well they store for lunches and take-along snacks, these really are the best granola bars I’ve ever eaten. And I like the idea that I can “control” what goes into them (and what doesn’t).


Close-up of a C-17…in flight

I’ve said it before about being “in the right place at the right time” and yesterday was no exception (though I think it helps that I find most everything interesting). Fred and I needed to go to Tacoma for the day and, on our way back, we passed right by McChord AFB where they happen to be practicing “touch & go” maneuvers with the C-17’s (and, as a bit of trivia, this is 1 of only 241 of these made, as of 3/12, with a length of 174 feet and wingspan of 170 feet).  Of course we pulled off to the side of the road and Fred, being the ever-thinking person he is, parked as close as possible to get us lined up with the runway. I hopped (okay, I crawled) onto the flat-bed to get an incredible vantage point for watching them and shooting some really fun photos. It was interesting watching the planes come and go, especially through the camera viewfinder…and a little intimidating when all I could see was the landing gear (without the zoom…). Here’s the Wikipedia link for more information on these (incredibly loud – but exciting!) planes… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_C-17_Globemaster_III



My Psychotic Friends

I know some…okay, maybe a lot…of the reason I’m always pressed for time is because I take on too many new projects. But there are just so many cool things out there to do!

My latest project is using leftover pieces of 2×4’s from the construction of one of our haunted houses (oh, didn’t I mention this? Yes, Fred and I have owned and operated a professional haunted house for the last 4 years…but that’s another blog for another day…). The pieces of wood, numbering around 80, are each about 3-1/2″ square. Fred’s initial thought was to use them as firewood but I rescued them from the burn pile and, with Fred’s help, have been diligently sanding them to a nice, paintable surface.

I created these characters, called “My Psychotic Friends” (yes, art does imitate life), years ago and have been using and developing them over that time. They’ve shown up mostly in greeting cards but have been known to make an appearance on pottery and in other assorted projects. I thought the wood blocks would be a perfect venue for them.

I only have a couple done and up for sale in my online shop (yes, more of that shameless self-promotion…LBDK.etsy.com, in case you forgot *cough*) but am in the process of doing more. I like the idea of each one having a name and a little blurb to go with it. Like the beginning of some great story…

“Betty knew, once the make-up was on, she was still the Queen…”

“Hilde looked hot as she strut down the beach in her new push-up bandeau…”

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A few good cooking and baking tips

The title of this one, pretty much, says it all. Most of these I’ve tried. The rest I’ve not but they look plausible enough to include until I can give them a whirl, myself. And, if you have any to add, please feel free – tips and hints are always better shared!

“Runza” or “Bierock” – a delicious yeast dough stuffed with hamburger, cabbage, onions, and cheese.

1). Getting yeast doughs to rise in the PacNW is nearly impossible in the cooler weather we typically have. However, I’ve found a solution: While you’re making your recipe, boil a pan of water. Put your dough in a bowl, cover it with a cloth/dish rag and place the dough in the oven along with the pot of water (DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON…yes, I’ve heard of people doing this). The boiling water will warm up the small space just enough to get the dough to rise.

2). Before you start a recipe, get out all your ingredients. This way you will make sure you have everything on hand. As you add them to the recipe, put them away. If you get called away or distracted you’ll always know where you left off.

3). When baking and you need to “cut in” the butter, an easy way is to keep the sticks of butter in the freezer. When needed, use a cheese grater to grate the butter into fine pieces.

4). Use unwaxed Dental Floss to cut a cake that needs extra layers or refrigerator cookie dough rolls.

5). Put onions in the freezer for about 15 minutes before you use them. It’ll reduce the tears when you go to cut/chop them.

6). When you go to roll out cookie dough or pie shells, use a little powdered sugar instead of flour to keep it from sticking (no one likes a mouthful of flour when they take a bite and the cookies come out less ‘tough’). 

Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup

7).  Freeze leftover sauces and broths in ice cube trays. Pop them out, into a freezer bag when frozen, and you’ll always have it handy when you need it.

8). If you microwave a lemon for 15 seconds before you squeeze it, you’ll get up to twice the amount of juice.

9). If you don’t have cooling racks (for baked goods fresh out of the oven), get out the ironing board.

10). To check to see if an egg is still fresh, stick it in a pan of cool, salted water. If if sinks, it’s still good, if it floats, it’s ready for the worm bin.

11). To get the garlic smell off your hands use a stainless steel spoon — rub, vigorously, for 30 seconds or so (I’ve also heard of people who rub their hands on their stainless steel sinks and pots!).

12). If you need to stretch out that last bit of salad dressing, try adding some plain greek yogurt, whisking well to blend it.

13). Your baking recipes will turn out better if you leave your eggs and butter at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.

14). Use a hand-held cheese grater to peel potatoes.

15). Fresh herbs (and asparagus!) keep best at room temperature with their stems in a little bit of water.

Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with sour cream, cream cheese, minced garlic, and shredded cheddar on top.

16). When making mashed potatoes, after you drain the potatoes, return them to the hot pan, cover tightly and let steam for 5 minutes. This allows the potatoes to dry out so they’ll mash to a beautiful texture and soak up the butter and cream more easily (thank you, Wolfgang Puck!).

17). Taste your cooking oil before you use it. If it doesn’t taste okay on its own, you won’t like it in your food.

18). Make sure your cookie dough is thoroughly chilled before going onto the cookie sheets. It’ll keep them from flattening out too much in cooking.

19). Spray your measuring cups with non-stick spray before measuring anything sticky (honey, peanut butter, molasses), everything will come out much easier!

20). Take the time to read the whole recipe before you begin. This may sound silly but I’ve done this — started something, not realizing it needed more time than I thought, to prepare it.


And the winner is…

Although it’s just a local fair I was pretty excited about entering my photos for the first time – and I was proud of myself for “just doing it.”

I want to say the hardest part was choosing, out of thousands, just three photos but, in actuality, it was successfully mounting the photos to the foam core boards. I’m not going to go into the gritty details so I’ll just leave it at; there was a lot of swearing and the dogs spent most of the afternoon running from room to room away from me before figuring out I wasn’t upset with them. I ended up schmegging (yes, that is a ‘scrabble’ word…in my version of the game) three of them, causing me to get a rush printing job, and finishing up about 30 minutes before they were due to be turned in for judging.  But, I made it.

I didn’t win “Best in Class” or “People’s Choice” but I did get blue ribbons on all three of them. I’m pretty happy about that. And, now that I have a better idea of what to do, I’ll be back next year…

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Yard Art

I’m kind of a sucker for “yard art.” Not that I’d have all of it in my own yard but I do have fun looking at what other people do. Sometimes it’s colorful and beautiful…aaaand, sometimes, it’s an absolute train wreck (you know you should look away but you just can’t…). But, I do appreciate the effort and understand that they probably wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t see something “artistic” in it…somewhere.

Here’s a fun little project I saw a while back using those old glass dishes and vases you find at the back of your cabinets, or at yard & tag sales, or even after your last potluck (tip; this is a great way to get rid of unwanted dishes. When your friend calls to ask if you’re the one who left the dish last night just say “no” and quickly direct her attention to someone else “it was Melissa’s, wasn’t it?”).

“Glass mushrooms.”  I’m hoping to get a few more of these done and put them around in my favorite shade garden.

Between what I had (I know that bowl was yours, Pam…) and what I bought at a tag sale, I spent less than $1, including the glue, to make these two (one of the bowls had a small crack in it — this is so much better than throwing it away!). I think they’d look cute in “color,” as well. Either by coloring them with glass paint (painting them on the inside to protect them from the weather) or using colored bowls & vases.  All I did was super glue the bowls, upside down, on the vases and let them dry. I think it’s a cute, quick project and a great way to reuse those old dishes!

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Photo fun in the…fog.

Even though it’s sunny now, this morning started out very drizzly and gray (which is fine by me – I like it). So, I took the opportunity to go shoot some photos. I could’ve included them, here, in their “natural state” but I thought it might be fun to do something ‘different’ and play with my photo program “PhotoScape” (it’s free download, by the way, and I think it does a pretty good job).  And I love the look of the vintage sepia tones.

Of course, I headed down to the water. This is, after all, one of my most favorite places and I try to visit it as often as I can. There were a few people out on the water, mostly those from the summer sailing program learning to maneuver different sized boats and canoes. They looked like they were having a great time (not that I can imagine anyone not having fun on the water), stopping just a minute or two to take a peek at the ferry as it was coming and going.

We see quite a few “bait balls” here (small fish that swim in a tight little ball or sphere to try to avoid predators…though it doesn’t seem to do much but attract them…) and can always find them, right away, by watching the seagulls. Some day I hope to be looking right at one when an Orca decides to go for a snack.

I poked around the marina for a minute or twelve, as well. I never get tired of looking at boats. I don’t know if it’s because I can imagine myself sailing around on every single one of them (there are some beauties out there) or, maybe, it’s that they all have such different shapes and colors. There’s just something about them that I love.

On the way home I took a quick detour up to the bluffs. There’s a great view of the inlet and a few pretty flowers, too. Not a bad way to start the day, at all.

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Don’t buy it! I can make it cheaper!

I heard this, a lot, growing up. My mother has always been quite frugal and I’m glad she’s passed some of her thinking on to me. I can guarantee it’s saved me a lot over the years, especially in the kitchen. Not only in terms of making it for less but also in trips to the grocery store if I’ve run out of something I need in between shopping days.

(In no particular order…)

Brown Sugar

  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Molasses

Combine these in a bowl and stir until it’s smooth (it will be a bit sticky). This makes 1 cup of brown sugar. To double the recipe use 2 cups of white sugar and 1/4 cup of molasses.

Baking Powder

  • 2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar
  • 2 tablespoons organic Cornstarch

Mix the ingredients together in a clean, dry jar that has a well-fitting lid – glass works well for this. Keep in a dry dark place. Always shake well before using to help keep the ingredients blend correctly. It will keep up to a month.

Peanut Butter
  • 2 cups Dry Roasted Peanuts
  • 1-1/2 tsp Oil (peanut, olive, or veggie oil – optional)
  • Salt to taste (also optional)
Pour peanuts into your food processor or blender.  Chop continuously for 2-3 minutes.  If you like your peanut butter really smooth, add a little oil to the mix to get it to the desired consistency.  Add salt to taste.  Store in the refrigerator.

Microwave “Ricotta Cheese” (makes about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/4 tsp. Table Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. Distilled White Vinegar OR Lemon Juice

Line a colander (or strainer) with 4 layers of cheesecloth OR 2 layers of food-safe paper towels (I’ve used coffee filters – they work fine) and set over a large bowl. Combine the milk, salt, and vinegar or lemon juice in a microwave-safe glass 1 quart (or larger) bowl. Microwave on “high” heat until lightly bubbling around the edges (about 2-4 minutes or until the milk registers about 165F on a food thermometer). Remove from the microwave and stir gently for 5 seconds. The milk should separate in solids (white curds) and translucent liquid (whey). If not, microwave for 30 seconds longer, repeating until it all separates.

Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the curds to the colander. Cover with plastic wrap and let it drain until the desired texture is reached. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Taco Seasoning (for 1 lb. ground burger/turkey/meat substitute)

  • 2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1 tsp. Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. Cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container if not using right away.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 1 cup Instant Dry Milk
  • 1/3 cup hot Water
  • 2/3 cup Granulated White Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. melted Butter
In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.  Use this in any recipe that calls for 1 can of store-bought sweetened condensed milk. 
 Croutons (a very good use for stale bread!)
  • 3 slices Bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as Thyme, Rosemary or Oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl and then spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake, tossing every few minutes, until golden brown and crisp (about 10 to 15 minutes). Let cool and store in an airtight container (if they get a little soft, you can always “re-bake” them for a few minutes to crisp them up again). I’ve also tossed these with popcorn seasonings, like parmesan or cheddar cheese, depending on what type of soup or salad I’m serving them in.

Simple Ketchup (Catsup)

  • 1 cup Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Vinegar

In a small bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well.  Keep refrigerated.

Tortilla  Chips

  • Corn and/or Flour Tortillas
  • Oil Spray
  • Seasoning (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Lay the tortillas out in a single layer and spray with oil on both sides. (I use a non-stick Olive Oil nut any spray oil can be used). If you use a seasoning, sprinkle it, lightly, on both sides now.

Cut the tortillas into quarters (if using large flour tortillas, you can cut them into strips). You can use a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or scissors.

Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for approximately 6 to 7 minutes until the edges start to curl and turn lightly brown. Check the chips after 5 minutes — they can burn easily and oven temperatures vary.

Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool.  They’ll crisp up more as they cool.

*For Pita Chips, use Pita bread, separating the top & bottom after cutting then follow the same instructions as above.


I could’ve just cut and paste this recipe from Allrecipes.com but the pictures are wonderful — here’s the link for it.


Pesto Sauce (makes about 1 cup)

  • 4 cups fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup Pine Nuts (or Walnuts)
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Salt
 In a food processor or blender, blend the first 4 ingredients until it forms a paste. Then add in the Parmesan and salt and blend until smooth. You can make this a day ahead by topping it with a thin layer of olive oil (to preserve the color/flavor) and keep refrigerated.

Beverage Mixes (this is a repost from Hillbilly Housewife – wonderful website!)

Instant Cafe Au Lait Cafe Latte Mix
English Breakfast Tea Cafè Vienna Coffee Mi
Creamy Rich Hot Chocolate Mix Mocha Espresso Coffee Mix
Spiced Tea Mix Swiss Mocha Coffee Mix
Hot Cocoa Mix Ginger Tea Mix
French Vanilla Coffee Mix Bavarian Mint Coffee Mix
Toffee Coffee Mix Orange Nutmeg Coffee Mix

Sailing over the bounding main…

The weather was perfect — the sun was out, there was just a bit of wind, and a friend of ours invited Fred and I to go sailing with him. It’s been far too long since I’ve been out on a boat and I’m so glad everything lined up, just right, for this to happen.

Once we left the port it was as if the whole bay was ours — with the exception of the “pirates” that passed our bow. They must’ve known we were big and mean and would put up a fight if they tried to steal our treasure…or, maybe, they were just regular boaters, like us, flying a pirate flag and had no idea we were even there (the first way is much more exciting, don’t you think?).

We were out about 2 hours – though it didn’t seem like that long (I guess it’s true that time really does fly when you’re having fun). Two glorious hours of  the smell of the ocean, the spray on my face, riding the waves with the wind in my hair. Pure joy, I tell you.

Oh, did I mention the motor stopped working as we were leaving the marina? Just a minor thing that could be fixed…of course, not while we were in the middle of the water. So, when we were done with our sail, we had to go back into port under wind power. If you’ve every sailed, you’ll understand how challenging this can be, especially in a full marina. I knew Fred had sailing experience from years past but never realized just how good he was. With him as the captain, the three of us got it back in the slip with no mishaps – it was almost like we meant to do this on purpose (with a reiteration on the “almost”). I’ve always been impressed with Fred but, I can honestly say, he got extra brownie points for this one…

We had a great time and I can hardly wait to go again.

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