Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Bonnie Project

Recently, my Aunt Bonnie came up from Alabama for a visit. It was such a delight to get to see her, especially since it doesn't happen very often. The last time she was here was during a horrible family tragedy. My Grandfather has passed away, and the morning of his funeral service, my Uncle Bob, Bonnie's husband, had a heart attack and died also. Needless to say, this visit was much more pleasant.
Aunt Bonnie likes to makes card, and due to some debilitating health issues, has very little extra money and has a difficult time getting out of the house. She also loves cats. I mean really loves cats. She is particularly fond of the B. Kliban Qats. But due to the restrictions on fun money, can't justify purchasing the stamps for her cards. who do I know that could fix that problem? Oh, wait. It's Me! And so begins the Aunt Bonnie/B. Kliban project.
I have a confession to make. The first Kliban book that arrived from the library was the one about not eating anything bigger than your head (or something like that) and I could not get it out of the house fast enough. Thankfully, my FiL returned it before either of the girls ever saw it. Not a good first impression. Fortunately the next book to arrive was Cat Dreams, which was much better. It was such fun to watch Bonnie page through the book as I made mental notes on with pictures she liked best for future reference. We scanned half the book into the computer and started carving yesterday.
Just for the record, I debated for a long time about the Angel Qat. One reason being that I have never actually met a cat that was angelic. Even my little sweetheart has a naughty streak six miles wide, as the window sills and door frames in our house will testify. The other reason is that I have serious issues with how our culture portrays angels (just ask my Sunday School class). In scripture they are the warriors and messangers of a Holy God, which is a far cry from what you see at Hallmark. In the end, I decided to carve the stamp because this project is more about love for my Aunt than it is about doctrinal accuracy.

We have a number of other images to do, but they are fun and carve up pretty quickly. I'll post the pictures once they are all done.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Brown Sugar

The saying "With great freedom comes great responsibility" probably originated from the observation that with great freedom, people tend to be idiots. With the new found freedom of the ACL brace, I spent entirely too much time on my feet yesterday and paid for it last night. Looking on the bright side though, I was able to finish my latest embroidery project while packed in ice.

"Brown Sugar" is 5 inches in diameter and is stitched with the Caron Watercolor variegated fiber called "Avalon" (not that that helps anyone) on a 28 count linen fabric called "Hazelnut". The brown has just a suggestion of pink in it, making it appear both soft and old. I can just picture it on a dresser among antique perfume bottles and pearls.
Linen fabric has the unique property of being made of strands that are uneven in thickness, making counted stitch work ridiculously challenging. This is only my second time working on linen and it went much smoother than the first time.
Unless I decide that I can't part with it, this doily will be listed in my Etsy shop later today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

For a Friend

A couple of days ago, I got a request from a friend to carve a Fantasy sports logo/sig stamp. Below is the result. His initials are BAT. The stamp is just under 1 1/2 inches and was a bit of a challenge~not so much in the carving department, but in creating the image. I have decided that I love the Chiller font, as it would hide mistakes very well.
On the ACL front, I got my "exoskeleton" today and am enjoying the freedom of being able to gently bend my knee when I'm sitting. Now I'm not just limited to places where I can sit with my leg sticking out in front. You've gotta love options.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Graven on His Hands

*Until I figure out how to embed music in a post, you're going to have to click here to listen to the song that fits perfectly and inspired the stamp.
Here is the shortest summary of The Bible that you are ever going to get: The Old Testament details Israel's failure to keep The Law, and the New Testament tells how God ensured the fulfillment of that Law through His Son.
In one way, the Law was given, not to impart righteousness, but to make clear that righteousness is impossible apart from God. Christ's sinless life and substitutionary death on the cross make it possible for a Holy God to look at us and see his fulfillment of the Law instead of our sin.
(A person could spend decades in study and not plumb the depths of this truth~but not because I'm that deep. This is, however, a blog post about a stamp and not a seminary course.)

Isaiah 49 is part of God's promise to Israel that He will not nor could not abandon them, no matter how bleak the circumstances might look. In verse 16 He tells them, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands". Graven. We're familiar with that word. Carved. Gouged, Cut. Permanently.
In the New Testament, God's promise to one nation becomes a promise to all nations and the promise of salvation is extended to the Gentiles. To you. To me.
We can't obtain it for ourselves (that's the lesson learned from the OT). It's a gift. Although, I confess that I will never understand why God would choose to love me, I have no doubt that He does. The proof is right there "graven on the palms of His hands".
Here are some resources for more on this topic:
Hebrews 9, 10
The Book of Romans
The Goldsworthy Trilogy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Show and Tell

**This post is for the scientists (Hi, Adam and Jessica!) and the curious. It is Not for the squeamish. If you have a weak stomach, come back tomorrow.

I had a little bit of time to myself this morning since the girls spent the night at Grandma Carol's, Chad had already left for work and my Mom had not arrived yet. I managed to eat breakfast, dress, make my bed and take care of the pets without any assistance and was therefore beaming when Mom arrived. "Look, Mommy! I did it all by myself!" Since I feel like a dependent child at the moment, I thought we'd have Show and Tell time. These are the arthroscopic photos from my surgery. There were many more, but I thought I'd spare you.
This is part of the cartilage, before repair. It is supposed to be smooth and shiny. The tool is just a probe.
The cartilage after getting cleaned up a bit. I was told that the tool they use looks like a mini cheese grater. Lovely.

This is where the ACL is supposed to be. As you can see, it's not there. After multiple tears, it never healed back in place. Which would explain all of the instability I felt when walking, etc.

My shiny, new ligament. Ain't it a beauty?

The stitches came out today, but I can't get the brace until Friday, which is very sad. I miss Jeans, sitting "Indian style", and shaving (who knew I'd ever be saying that?), not to mention that I have a serious case of TB (Tired Butt), but all in all, everything is going well.
I have a new stamp that I hope to have finished by tomorrow!

Monday, August 24, 2009


I know that I promised to return Saturday and torment you all, but truthfully, I was hard pressed to find something with which to properly torture you. So I spent the weekend in deep thought and have come up with a plan that is sure to inflict pain on many and may even cause me to lose a few readers. What is my horrible plan, you ask? Hold your breath, 'cuz here is comes. Every so often, I might talk about something...religious.
NO, say it isn't so!
Is that even possible?
I mean, doesn't it break some cosmic law?

Once the ground stops shaking under your feet, let me take a quick minute to explain and calm your fears.

On the LB message boards, we are very careful to leave all of our political and spiritual beliefs at the door so as not to provoke, offend, irritate, or other wise step on anyone's toes. And rightfully so. However, as a whole person, much of my life revolves around the faith that I have outside of the craft cabinet or the backpack. Because of that, avoiding anything that touches on "belief" has begun to feel like a lie. I am not a schizophrenic, although having an alternate identity in the form of a trailname often makes me feel like it. I cannot compartmentalize my Christianity. So, I'm going to stop trying.
Some of you may know that I have a second blog, called Path of Grace, which is the place where I share most of my homeschool, parenting and spiritually related thoughts. I intend to keep that as it is.
However, you can also expect an occasional post here that touches on my belief in a Sovereign Creator and my relationship with Him through the redemptive work of His Son.
While I am always open to private discussions about these things, I do not intend to turn this blog into a forum for doctrinal debate. The primary purpose remains the same: have some fun and avoid the laundry while doing it. In truth, most of these posts will probably still relate to stamps in some way. All such posts will be labeled "Faith".
I did feel like I should give you fair warning, however. Wouldn't it be fantastic if this came as no surprise to you at all?

Friday, August 21, 2009


"A woman was apprehended late yesterday afternoon after she was caught carving under the influence of narcotics. While the CUI charge poses no physical danger to the public, it's results are, nevertheless, disastrous, and should be treated seriously. A friend of the young lady, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she was very sorry for this crime, but that she 'just couldn't help it'. As this is a first offense, she will be fined and released later today."
On one hand, I have wanted to carve Da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" in some form for a long time. On the other, waiting a week or so wouldn't have been a bad thing. I did clean the image up a bit more this morning, so it looked a tad better, but I still wasn't completely satisfied with it. Norco and straight lines don't play nice together. This is the logo for ATI physical therapy where I am doing my rehab.

The whole "Shebang". Warning: The last photo may be a bit much for some people. Feel free to bail out now. Sorry about the glare. M took the pictures and we forgot to close the blinds and I didn't feel like photoshopping it out (remember, one of the side effects of pain killers is that you just don't care).

This is the "Velcro Octopus", or knee immobilizer. There will be great rejoicing the day I get to get rid of this thing. Right now, I'm not even allowed to put my foot on the floor without it.

My new Best Friend For Life, the Polar Care. It's basically a $200 igloo, but it circulates icy water around my knee and makes me very comfy. The good news is that is has stopped smelling like dead fish.

Lovely, I know. Be thankful that the picture is from yesterday. Today, it is much more colorful and significantly more swollen. Here is your road map, from left to right: There is a 3 inch, diagonal incision from where they harvested the hamstring; then there are two small symmetrial holes, one on each side (or top and bottom from your perspective) just below the patella where they used the arthroscope, and a third hole above on the right (out of the picture) for the guide pin for the graft. Finally, above the knee is my surgeon's initials, because, of course, DD couldn't wait until we had washed the betadine and marker off before she took the pictures.

Oh, and get this: They sent off a piece of my cartiledge to somewhere in Boston, so that if I need it anytime in the next two years, they can grow some for me. Creepy, huh?

That is all for today, but I promise, I will return tomorrow and torment you some more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This & That

I have just a few rather boring updates today. Apparently, I lose my ability to type while under the influence of Norco (really strong vicodine), so I apologize for any oopses (what is the plural of oops?) that I miss.
The surgery went well Monday and everything has gone pretty smoothly since then. The pain is minimal and I am learning how to get around. The cats are intrigued with the crutches and follow me everywhere. I have four new holes in my leg, which looks like a purple tree trunk at the moment. Rehab started yesterday and was nowhere near as scary as I expected it to be. The bad news: no driving for at least six weeks. The good news: with some work, the therapist thought I might be able to do a mile or so on a groomed trail by October. Which means that I will be attending Boxacon, if I can convince DH to drive me.
Not surprisingly, my 7yo has turned into a professional nurse overnight and the only stamp images that I can think of right now are medical logos.
The girls are calling my immobilizer "the Velcro octopus" and according to them, the polar care device (my new best friend) smells like dead fish because that's what Polar bears eat. Maybe I'll let our youngest photographer add pictures later.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sportin' my New Duds!

A couple weeks back when Teresa (Shadohart) was part of the Royal Blog Tour, little 'ole me won some blog candy in one of her drawings. Yippee! Woot! Woot! We got all of the details worked out and what do you think of my new look? I love it! FlowerWind and I had a blast putting the picture together (Thank you, Caper, for sitting still long enough for us to get a photograph of your rear end), and Tee worked her magic. We've decided that someday it would make a great subject for a clue.
Thank you, Tee, for creating something special for me! It's Fantastic!

On a side note, M managed to snap a picture of the pair of Eastern Meadowlarks that live somewhere nearby. It's a little fuzzy, but she doesn't have much of a zoom lens and they were pretty far. Meadowlarks are fairly solitary birds. This is the only time I have ever seen a pair together. We were pretty excited.

See you in a couple days!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Couldn't Resist

With all of SHH's posts about Itty Bitty stamps, I needed to carve a couple of my own. Combine that with the desire to alter my sig to reflect the upcoming reconstruction and what you get is...


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mr. Pruneholdt to the Rescue

As the clock ticks down toward Monday, the pressure is rising to get done all of the things that I want accomplished before the Surgery. Today the list included cleaning house, getting the girls' hair cut, dropping in on Hubby's 93 year old Grandma, birthday shopping for Hubby and Dad and running a few other errands. Apparently, God's plan for my day included locking my keys in the van and spending the afternoon in leisurely conversation with said Grandmother while we waited for the Cavalry to arrive. And it was wonderful. For all of us (except for maybe the Cavalry).
We did still manage to get the hair cuts (or is that hairs cut?), and the shopping done (will someone please explain to me why the Garden department at Wal-Mart is full of socks and underwear and not a single garden item?). The elaborate dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu turned into English Rabbit, which is a rare treat around here and literally takes 5 minutes to make. And of course, the house will still be here tomorrow.
If you have never read Jan Karon's Jeremy, The Tale of an Honest Bunny, I highly recommend it. It is a wonderful story, and Mr. Pruneholdt's recipe is delicious.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Letterbox Rabbit


346:12:3 55:2:1 185:1:2

140:12:2 32:22:2 152:22:2 75:29:4

46:26:1 47:4:5 309:27:4

140:17:8 140:12:2 441:12:5 361:30:2 116:25:3 37:1:3 37:6:11 38:1:8 38:7:1

38:1:6 220:21:3 46:32:10 47:16:1,2 192:4:7,9 439:21:13 439:30:3

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Silly Letterbox Squirrel

tHe Animal known as the squiRRel IS commonly Found in Parks and yards across The us, asia and euRope. it is A type of rodent that bears a bushy taIL and lives in holes iN trEes. the fox squirrel, eAsteRn and weStern grey squirrel, american red squirrel and tHE dougLas squirrel are a few of ThE betteR known species. The eastern grey squirrel can also be seen in a melanistic variety known as the black squirrel. albino and white squirrels can occasionally be Found In places such as breVard, north carolina, olnEy, iLlinois and dayton, ohio.

squirrEls build nests, called dreys, of leaves and other Forest biTs, high in the tree tops. the nests typicAlly have Two rooms, one of which is used as a nursery. The femAle usually gives birth twice a year.

the squirrel’s multipurpose tail is its most notable FeaTurE. it uses it foR balance, warmth, expreSsion, signaling, a shade uMbrellA, and sometimes even as a saiL or parachute when swimming or Lleaping. they are fun to watch, But can be destRuctIve in flower beDs and GardEns. their abiLity tO overcome forward momeNtum and stop dead in their tracks is amazinG.

the squirreL cOllects food throuGhOut the summer aNd eaRly falls and stores It for the cominG winter. tHey mighT buRy it Or stash it in the hOllow Trunk of a trEe. it is Not uncommon for the squirrel to forget where it burieD something, and theN a nEw tree or plAnt can gRow. once a Squirrel threw a partially eaten oreo cookie and Me And my dog! the squirreL eats many things Like nuTs, fRuit, whEat, acorns and bird’s Eggs, but they are very fond of MUSHROOMs!

*black ink. before removing the stamp from it's hiding place, please take a moment to examine the contents carefully so that you can return them in the same way (with the label visible) when you are finished. please be on the lookout for poison ivy and other less charitable inhabitants of the woods. Feel free to contact me if this box need attention.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bird Feeder Boxes

I made my first planter's pouch this afternoon and I have to say that I'm in love. I used the tutorial by Mstrwndl, who has mad skills at all things letterboxing.
In our search for interesting containers, M and I ran across some thistle seed sacks at the hardware store. They were less than 2 bucks each, so we bought several. Of course, they were white with bright cartoon daisies on them, so they all got a nice coat of my favorite spraypaint. Now I would image that they will disappear nicely amongst the thick branches of an evergreen. While they are not waterproof, the netting should allow any water to drain through rather than puddle. They are quite long, which affords a number of possibilities.

Suet feeders were also cheaper than dirt, so we're going to try a couple of those too. After hanging this one out in the yard, I'm thinking that they are going to get a dose of the Camo Fusion too. The pouches fit nicely into either of these feeders.

Mushroom Letterbox

We are bored with Lock n Locks. They are just so square. So the 7 yo and I have been on the hunt for interesting containers for letterboxes. Don't worry. I'm not telling what box it's for or where it will be planted. So no spoilers here.

We found a garden mushroom in the seasonal section at Meijers the other day. It was already green, but had a little shine to it, so we dusted the top lightly with Camo Fusion spray paint. Isn't it fun?

The bottom of the first one we found had a piece cracked off, so we got a discount. Which worked out well since that's what I intended to do with it anyway. I used my Dremel to smooth out the edge so no one will get scratched when they reach in for the stamp. We bought more than one and will do the same to all of them. Not telling how many. ;)
If people are careful and replace the stamp and logbook the way they are shown (which I know they won't), the label for the box is visible.
I'm sure Kirbert would give me twenty reasons why I shouldn't plant a box like this. It's not waterproof, etc, etc, etc. And he's probably right. So I hereby promise that I will not gripe and complain when/if the box goes missing. I'm planning to take my little kitchen scraper (the only thing from Pampered Chef that I actually use) and make a depression for the base of the mushroom to fit snuggly into. I'm hoping that the box will be just fun enough that people will have the incentive to replace it carefully. I can dream, can't I?

Just for fun, I'm going to create a poll for people to vote on how long they think this box will last. Voting will end on September 1st.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Owl Birthday

The Owl themed birthday that inspired the stamp in yesteday's carving tutorial has created a good deal of interest. So here are some of the details:

The center pieces were made with pinecones decorated with feathers, felt circle eyes, paper beaks and clay feet. Some of them got to wear party hats made from birthday wrapping paper. They were fun to make and they each ended up with their own unique expression. I still have one sitting on top of my letterboxing cabinet.

My SiL is a whiz at applique and made a special Onesie for my nephew to wear at the party.

She also made a matching Bib to go with the Onesie. Arent' they adorable? Both the nephew and the clothes, of course!

We made owls on top of both cakes using almonds, candy corn, pretzels, MnMs and gum drop leaves. The chocolate cake was the "nighttime" cake, complete with star sprinkles. The white cake was the "daytime" version and had evergreen tree pretzels around the side.

There was also an owl card that was used for Thank You notes. The party was just after Christmas, which explains the hat. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Exacto Tutorial

Communicating How to Carve is a difficult enough task when you are face to face with someone, but trying to do so through digital media brings another set of hurdles with it. It relies far more on your ability to effectively express what it is you want your audience to grasp. How much can you show them without actually showing them? Let's find out.
*You may want to open the Tutorial Diagrams in a separate window.

Steps 1 through 3--Picking, prepping and transferring your image. Sorry, folks. You're on your own here. There are already several really good tutorials for getting the image you want to carve onto your rubber. Come back when you're ready.

A word about the differences between knife and gouge carving might be a nice place to start.
*Gouge tools essentially remove a strip of rubber in a specified shape; usually a "V" or a "U". Look at those two letters. Each one of them has a left and right side. When you are carving with a gouge, you have to think about both of those lines at the same time. One side will be next to the line of the image that you are working on, and the other side will be somewhere in a negative space (you hope). Occasionally it works out that the two sides are both working next to part of your image in unison. But that's another tutorial.
*An Exacto knife does not remove any rubber. Instead, it merely cuts a slit. In order to remove the rubber, you have to reverse the knife and cut in the opposite direction. We'll get to that later. When carving with a knife, there are three main differences that I can think of: you only have to think about one line at a time (sort of), the cutting surface is much greater on an exacto, and you can pivot the blade in an almost unlimited number of directions. You can pivot a gouge, but not to the same degree as a knife.

When I carve, I hold my exacto knife almost exactly like I would hold a pencil. If you were to hold a pencil in your fingers and rest the point of the lead on paper, you could then rotate the eraser end in almost any direction without moving the tip of the pencil. You can do the same with a carving knife. In the picture above, the "eraser" end of my knife is tipped slightly forward or toward me, which means that the very tip of the blade is being led by a point higher up the cutting surface. This might seem irrelevant, but when you are carving, you have to keep the cutting surface of the blade that is below the rubber in mind and not just the visible part. A gouge only cuts with the the point that is farthest forward. A carving knife will cut at all points along the blade that come in contact with the rubber.

As you slide your knife along the line you are carving, you always want to keep your blade at an angle (see diagram 1). The rubber that remains should slope away from your line, so that the image has support. If you have two lines that are closer together, you will need to make the angle of your blade steeper so as not to undercut the lines nearby (see diagram 2). When you are finished carving the stamp, if you took a cross section of the rubber, the lines would look like tiny sloping mountains rather than straight cliffs (see diagram 3).

With the technical stuff out of the way, now we can carve. Pick a line and use your exacto to trace along one side of that line. How deep you insert your blade will be determined by how close the surrounding lines are to where you are working. If your hand is steady and the lines of your image are dark enough and you are confident, then you can go ahead and cut along both sides of all of the lines in your image before removing any rubber. If one of the above doesn't apply then work systematically from one section of your stamp to the other, removing the rubber as you go. In the image above, first I cut right next to the line for the owl's beak (with the point of the blade pointing away from the beak), and then I turned the image around and cut a line in the opposite direction (with the point of the blade toward the beak). This creates a "V" shaped strip of rubber that is ready to be removed. In some case the space you are carving may be small enough that you don't need to reverse the blade to create the groove. In those cases, it may be enough to use the tip of your blade to "flick" out the piece of rubber that needs to be removed. I should note that I have two separate exacto knives that I use. One has a very fine, delicate point and I do what I can to protect it. The other is more for "grunt work", like flicking out pieces of rubber.

Now I can just hear the gouge carvers out there saying "That looks like twice as much work as carving my way! A gouge cuts both lines at the same time." And to a certain extent, that is true. I am not trying to elevate one method of carving over another. For me, carving with an exacto provides a greater measure of control. By focusing my concentration on only one line at a time, I can get much greater deal in tight places than I can with a gouge. It's all about the pivot, Baby!

The wide gouges come in handy when removing large sections of dead space.

First you carve the inside of your inside lines. Then you carve the outside of your inside lines. Then you carve the inside of your outside lines. Then you carve the outside of your outside lines. Follow all that? Let me 'splain. Start in the center of your image (in this case the eyes and beak) carving the inside portions first (inside the beak and eyes). Then turn the image around and carve of the other side of lines you just finished (the outside of the eyes and beak). Work you way toward the outside edge of the stamp, first carving one side, then the other of each line. By carving one side of a line, removing the rubber, and then carving the other side of the line, you will be able to see where you might have made a mistake and correct for it. If you carve both sides of all of the lines on an image before removing any rubber (as mentioned above), then you lose your ability to self correct.

Almost done carving the outside of the outside.

After all the inside, outside, upside down carving, you can go around and trim off the excess on the edge of the stamp. Just be sure to leave enough rubber to support delicate areas.

Finish off with some fine tuning by inking, stamping and tweaking the carve until you are satisfied. I'm a stickler on clean images. Some people think the stray lines are cute or give a stamp it's "hand carved" feel. I'd rather make people look twice at an image before they can decide if it's store bought or not.

TA-DA! Isn't he cute? Thanks to my brother for taking the pictures (and photoshopping out the boo-boo on my knuckle) and thanks to my nephew for being cute and having an owl themed 1st birthday party that was the inspiration for the stamp.

I hope this was helpful. If anything is unclear, just holler, and I'll try to fix it.

Tutorial Diagrams

Diagram One
Diagram Two
Diagram Three

Friday, August 7, 2009

Idle Hours

~seriously choking on evil laugh

Fruit of the Womb

Partly because my SiL suggested it (so you can blame her), and partly because I don't have anything better to post today (unless you want more recipes), I'm going to tell you a little story. When I first started doing postal letterboxes, one of the first rings that I organized was "Pranks Parents Play". The premise was that everyone create boxes based on tricks parents play on children (okay, lies they tell, if you insist). I created two boxes, the first of which was Watermelon Seeds. You all know how that particular fib goes: "If you eat a watermelon seed, a watermelon will grow in your belly." The stamp was later planted as a traditional and only recently retired. However, that box is rooted in history of a more personal nature.
Being the evil parents that we are, we took the Prank one step farther. What follows is the story, and what might be perhaps a little too much information for some. Consider yourselves forewarned.

The night before I was scheduled for a Cesarean section with my second child, things got a little goofy around our house. After what went wrong with our first daughter (which you may read about Here), it is only natural that we were a bit nervous and on the punchy side. In an effort at encouragement, the discussion turned to how "The fruit of the womb is His reward", and before you knew it, the giggling started and out came the non-toxic paints.

Since I could only see the top half of my protruding abdomen, hubby gamely played along and matched the bottom half surprisingly well. If you knew him, his dublicity would be even more surprising.
Of course, our then 3 yo couldn't quite wrap her brain around what she was seeing.
The intention was to show up at the hospital the next morning and give my OB a surprise he wouldn't soon forget. But my stretched and sensitive skin started itching and I opted to wash it off. It makes a great scrapbook page though.
The moral of the story? Buy Seedless Watermelons.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heads Up!

The "kittens" and I have been having a number of letterbox related discussions lately and a few changes are in the works. For us, the most important aspects of this hobby are the people, the carving and the hiking. We have spent a good chunk of time on non-traditionals, partly because hiking was nearly impossible and we were bored, and partly in an effort to develop relationships and carving skills. The girls are getting older now, and the surgery should take care of the physical obstacles. Which means:
  • We are going to be working on planting a number of new boxes this fall, starting the moment I get a release to start hiking again.
  • We hope to improve our "clever clue" track record. So far they have been pretty boring. Recovery time is already dedicated to clue writing.
  • We plan to post the clues to this blog first. Readers will have access to the clues before everyone else. Feel free to pass on the location of the clues, but not the solutions or locations of the boxes.
  • Most of the boxes will fall somewhere between traditional and mystery.
  • We hope that all the boxes will be on hikes of one mile or more.
This does not mean that there won't be the occasional trading card made, but they will be few and far between, and most likely, secretive. It also does not mean that we are upset and leaving any site or group. It just means that we are narrowing our focus a bit. That has been our goal from the start.

If you're still reading, then this is for you: I hope to post the first clue before the beginning of next week. It probably won't be a one mile hike, but it is a box dedicated to all of my Avoiding the Laundry readers. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More Soups

By tomorrow I should be able to post something more interesting than soup. But for today, here you go:

Chicken Tortilla Soup~dump style
6 c. cooked chicken (I usually cook and debone a whole chicken, but you could also use boneless, skinless chicken breasts if you prefer)
2 c. chicken broth
2 cans black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 c. salsa
1 4 oz. cans green chilies
16 oz tomato sauce
Tortilla chips
Shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar

Combine all ingredients except chips and cheese in a large pot and simmer 30-45 minutes. Serve with chips and cheese (and sour cream, green onions, etc, if desired). This soup freezes well.

Slacker Notes** When I cook, I almost always double everything in a recipe except for the meat. Yesterday's Dump Soup and this one are good examples. It ramps up the veggie content for a healthier meal, is generally less expensive and you only make the mess once but have plenty to put up in the freezer for later.
Whenever possible, I also substitute ingredients for fresh-from-the-garden versions that I might have on hand. In this case, frozen sweet corn and home canned or fresh tomatoes.

Garden in a Pot Soup
2 quarts tomatoes
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T dry basil
2 T olive oil
4 carrots
2 onions
3 stalks celery
1 turnip
3 small zucchini
3 small summer squash
19 oz can cannellini beans, undrained
salt to taste
5 oz. spaghetti

Chop all vegetables. Combine all but noodles in a large pot with enough water to make "soupy". Cook until tender. Add spaghetti and cook until pasta is done. Serve with fresh Parmesan and Pita chips if desired. This soup freezes well, but you knew that, didn't you?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dump Soup

For the next couple of days, you're just going to have to be satisfied with recipes. In preparation for the knee surgery, I have been cleaning and cooking like a madwoman. I'll carve again in a few days.

One of our all time favorite recipes is Dump Soup. Now, on the recipe card it says Indian Summer Soup, but we call it Dump Soup because that is how you make it. Even my picky eater loves this soup, and there is no "mommy guilt" because it is also healthy and nutritious.

Indian Summer Soup, aka Dump Soup

1 # lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans corn
1 can each black, pinto, red, and kidney beans, undrained
2 cans diced tomatoes
garlic to taste
1-2 T. taco seasoning
1 carrot, shredded

Brown meat and onion in a large pot. Dump in rest of ingredients, and simmer 45 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese, if desired. This soup freezes well.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

An Allegory

Cottrina and the Sandbox

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Cottrina who lived with her Mommy and Daddy and seven brothers and sisters. One day at school a friend told Cottrina about a gigantic sandbox in a nearby park. It sounded so amazing that she just had to see it for herself.

When she arrived at the sandbox, she could hardly believe her eyes. It was much bigger than she had imagined. There were seashells and shiny pebbles and even a few gemstones scattered throughout the piles of sand. There were also buckets, shovels, sieves and other toys that could be used to play with the sand. And there were children everywhere, laughing and building and playing in the sandbox.

Cautiously, Cottrina took her shoes off and stepped into the sandbox. The sand was warm and felt wonderful between her toes. The grains glinted in the sunlight as she let them run through her fingers. Cottrina slowly wandered through the clusters of children in the sandbox, carefully watching them. Some of them were building fantastic castles with the sand. Others were using pails to collect the seashells or pebbles. Still others sat in isolated pockets with their backs turned so that she couldn’t quite see what they were doing, which made her even more curious.

Eventually, Cottrina found a spot and settled down to play. Every day that she could, she returned to the sandbox. The sand fascinated her. If she looked at it quickly, it didn’t look very interesting. But when she started examining the individual grains closely, she could see the facets and colors that flashed from inside. They were tiny though, and her thick, clumsy fingers had trouble holding them. She tried to build a castle like the magnificent ones that she could see some of the other children working on, but it seemed that just when she would get started her Mother would call her home. With so many brothers and sisters at home, her Mother needed lots of help.

Some days it seemed easier to just content herself to play with the pebbles and shells. Many of them were just as beautiful as the sand. It was easier to put them down and run home when she was called though. If she had worked all morning on building a tower for her castle, she had a much harder time doing what her Mommy asked with a sweet spirit when she was interrupted. She couldn’t help looking at the castles with longing though.

Cottrina noticed that the children who played with the sand talked very quietly. They taught her to do the same so that her breath did not disturb the delicate sand. The children playing with the pebbles and seashells could talk more boisterously because the pebbles and shells were sturdier than the sand. The children who played with the shells and pebbles were just as much fun as the children who played with the sand. Some of them even played with both. Some of them thought the pebbles belonged on the rock pile and seashells belonged in the ocean. Cottrina had been to the rock pile once, but the children there were not nearly as nice as the children who played in the sandbox

Cottrina kept coming to the sandbox as often as she could. After a while, she was able to build a few small sandcastles. She also collected a pail of seashells and shiny pebbles. The sand was her favorite though. She knew that if she was patient, she would get better at building castles someday. She knew that she would grow up and her fingers would become long and slender. She knew that her siblings would also grow up and they would be able to help with the chores at home too. In the meantime, she dreamed of sandcastles and practiced with pebbles. As long as she could continue playing in the sandbox, she was satisfied.