Monday, October 31, 2011

Best Memories of Halloween

 Any holiday that involves large quantities of candy, especially chocolate, ranks high on my favorites list. Dressing up in silly or scary costumes only adds to the excitement. Whether you're a child or an adult, this is one fun time of year. When I see the expressions on the faces of little goblins, memories of Halloweens past are vivid in my mind.

Years ago, my best friend Pam and I got out early and covered nearly every house in our neighborhood, an area 5 blocks square. I remember the crunch of leaves as we dashed from house to house. We knew which people gave out the best goodies, so we tried to hit them early. We decorated paper grocery sacks to carry our loot at first, but changed to pillowcases that held more and avoided the loss of precious candy when the bag ripped.

Choosing a costume was so much fun. I remember being a pirate, ballerina, hobo, princess, cowgirl, bunny, 20's flapper, witch, and cheerleader. Sometimes I had a store-bought costume with those awful plastic masks...I wore glasses so the masks never fit right and made my glasses fog up. Other times I helped my mama sew one or we'd piece together something out of her closet. Some years we had to wear coats or rain gear over our costumes, which absolutely ruined the effect.

We'd drive out to my grandparent's after trick or treat so they could see us. She made the most delectable popcorn balls and chocolate fudge candy. Even if we didn't go on Halloween, she made sure we got those yummy, sticky snacks sometime that week. We got huge hauls of candy, and got to eat what we wanted. My mama always filled the candy dish in the living room so not much was left over at our house. My favorite candy? Nearly all of them, but creamy delicious chocolate is the best, hands down.

When I had my own business, we chose a theme and went all out decorating the office. We served treats and our customers stopped by to see our secret costumes. Memorable themes were: western, gypsy, 50's, favorite animal, Gone with the Wind era (Miss Scarlett here), pirates, coven of witches, and pajama party. Favorite candy was fun: our pregnant receptionist was a peanut M&M, I was a Hershey's kiss, the two others were Baby Ruth and licorice.

The best year was Addam's Family—we won the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce prize for best costumes. I was Morticia, the other three were Uncle Fester, Pugsley, and Wednesday. No one was tall enough to be Lurch and we decided that Gomez was out of town. Thing sat on the front desk, and our office was transformed into the creepy Addams Family mansion. We laughed all week and got very little work done that day, but it was great fun!

As you prepare to dole out treats this year, remember your favorite Halloween with a smile, and save a few dozen extra pieces of candy for yourself. 

Trick or treat!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Paying More But Getting Less

I just got home from grocery shopping, one of my least favorite tasks, particularly on a pretty Monday morning. I've been noticing that food packaging seems to be shrinking more and more. Nearly everything I purchased today was smaller than the same product a year ago. However, the cost of food is rising significantly.

A large can of coffee, originally three pounds, is now only two pounds, two and a half ounces. The small package, which used to be a pound, is now only eleven to thirteen ounces, depending on the brand. A pack of bacon isn't a pound anymore, and a half-gallon of ice cream is long gone.

Canned goods, cereal, cookies, cleaning and laundry products...most brands have cut the size of their packages. Unfortunately, their pricing has stayed the same or increased, so the cost per ounce has gone up.

Downsizing may be popular, but I really don't like this trend. Especially when the redesigned packaging boasts “NEW LOOK, SAME GREAT TASTE” or “VALUE SIZE” on the label. They just pretend nothing else has changed and hope shoppers don't notice. But we do notice when we run out of something that used to last all week because there aren't as many servings included.

Even with coupon clipping and shopping sales, many folks on fixed incomes have been feeling the pressure of rising food costs for a while now. Some switch to store brands to save money, but those can be even smaller sizes with fewer servings. To get the most value from their ever-shrinking dollar, people today have to spend more time looking for bargains.  It's a challenge, and sometimes it's fun to score a great discount.  But I'd rather be doing something else!

Useful Notion:  Here are a few ideas to help combat the higher cost of food and household items:
  • Don't buy it if it isn't on sale – it will likely be on sale later
  • Plan your weekly menu around what's on sale this week
  • Clip and use coupons – and don't forget to take them to the store
  • Compare cost per ounce or serving, not just item price
  • Buy extra of sale items when possible – use the freezer or pantry for storage

Inflation is taxation without legislation.  ~Milton Friedman

Monday, October 17, 2011

October Camping

October is a wonderful time of year for camping!    And, evidently a lot of people agree with me.  Over the weekend, Dale Hollow Dam Campground was full of people.  We saw everything from tiny tents to luxury motor homes.  People watching is an interesting, dogs, bikes, elderly couples, bubbas, and fishermen.  

Dinner fare has been delicious.  Saturday night we dined on charcoal and mesquite grilled lemon pepper steak, peaches and cream corn on the cob, and baked steak fries.  Sunday night was a mixed green chef's salad: ham, cheese, pecans, and avocado with homemade honey mustard dressing.  We toasted marshmallows over the fire for dessert. 

What a beautiful place on the Obey River.  A few leaves have fallen, but some still haven't turned.  The temperatures are perfect, the sun is shining for now. We're going outside to play!

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. -- Norman Maclean

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick and Easy Fall Sewing Ideas

Our Tennessee autumn weather has been way too pretty lately to stay indoors. Except for a couple of cool mornings, it's been beautiful and I've been outside as much as possible. Camping and yard work at home have occupied most of my time. 

Although I haven't been in the sewing room, project ideas and color combinations pop up all around me. I've been making notes and sketching design ideas. Until I get back to my stitching, here are a few simple ideas from my collection. These won't take long and will brighten up your home during your fall, Halloween, and Thanksgiving celebrations.

Boo! To You Pumpkin Wall Art: Find a fun embroidery design like this cute pumpkin and put it on a light or medium colored background fabric. Add a back lining and loops, then finish the edges. I used a small stick as a hanger. If you don't have an embroidery machine, try applique or fabric painting a Halloween design.

Autumn Glory Reversible Table Runner: Choose a fall print fabric that coordinates with your dining room or kitchen, and a neutral solid like muslin, osnaburg or linen for the reverse side. Apply interfacing to the solid, then embroider or applique a fall design on each end. Bind them together with a two-inch border of the print material.  The small fruit design is repeated in the cornucopia embroidery and is perfect for the kitchen.

Napkins Aplenty: Hem 16 or 18-inch squares of the extra fabric from your table runner project. For solid colors, add a decorative or zig-zag stitch to add interest. You don't even have to sew if you don't want to for this one. Look at discount stores for colorful cloth napkins to match or contrast.

Rich Autumn Pillow Covers: Sewing simple pillow covers is fast and easy. You can change them quickly to bring beautiful fall colors indoors. Try dark red, ripe persimmon, warm brown or deep gold textured fabrics to create a warm, inviting living space.

Useful Remnant: Cloth napkins add a nice touch to your table and help the environment. Either catch them on sale or make your own. Buy some new dish cloths that match your kitchen and designate them as napkins for daily use. 

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." ~ Elizabeth Lawrence


Monday, October 3, 2011

Backcountry Camping and Wild Critters

We've been camping at Land Between the Lakes, at a boat ramp camping spot on Kentucky Lake. No electricity or water, just a picnic table, a fire ring and an awesome view of the lake. Of course we have the generator to charge our batteries and watch TV at night.

The weather has been nearly perfect. The leaves are beginning to turn. Only the wind and a dip in overnight temperatures made us search for warmer clothing. Most of the time we've been out exploring, cutting firewood, or sitting outside in the sunshine. I read a couple of books and we had a nice visit from a friend who lives nearby.

One benefit of being in the woods is seeing and hearing wild critters. Some closer than you would like, others that you'd like to stay around for a while. The first one we encountered was a skunk. Evidently a family of them live under a tree by the shoreline. They aren't particularly afraid of people, this one just sauntered by as we were sitting by the fire. They came by every night, looking for food scraps, and one night they got into a tent camper's trash.

The next day I was picking my way through the rip-rap toward the shore, looked up and saw a big bald eagle. He was only 20 yards away, perched on a rock in the water, watching for fish. I signaled Jerold to bring the binoculars, and we watched him for a few minutes before he flew off. That made my day!

On Friday, as we drove around a curve on a back road, we saw something crossing the road. We eased to a stop, and it turned to look at us. It was a beautiful tan bobcat, with black and white tufted ears. She hesitated a moment, then padded off into the woods. I didn't have time to get my camera and I wish she had posed for a little longer.

I love camping and having our own vacation home on wheels to take us out to the woods, the beach or the mountains. It's nice to have my own warm soft bed instead of a lumpy sleeping bag on the ground. I'm spoiled, I admit it. But I'm still a country girl who doesn't mind getting dirty, cutting wood, or being outdoors. Nature gives me peace, happiness, and keeps me grounded.

Colorful sunsets, the soft hooting of an owl, waves lapping the shore, a cool breeze off the lake, hot chocolate, twinkling stars and a smoky, crackling campfire...almost perfect. Just have to keep an eye out for those skunks. Stay tuned, we have more adventures planned.

Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.  ~John Muir

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.  ~Eleonora Duse


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