Cardboard Boxes into Halloween Costumes

Firetruck/Fireman Costume
I was looking thru an October magazine with two photos showing Halloween costumes made from cardboard boxes.  These included the standard robot and a cut-out for knight armor.  They just did the plain inside of boxes with no color.  I would suggest spray painting the knights armor black, white, or covering it with foil to look like metal.  I would also color or cover the robot body and not just draw on some knobs and write “robot” on it.  Anyway, it got me wondering if there were some videos that could provide more ideas using boxes.  Below are links to three videos with several good ideas.  Also, the photo in this post should inspire some ideas for making auto costumes out of boxes by adding a hat or sunglasses as part of the costume.

Old-time American Desserts - Pineapple Cake Recipes

My oldest brother loves pineapple.  For his birthday every year when we were growing up, he always asked for a pineapple cake instead of the usual frosting and candles.  Mom would either make a Pineapple Upside Down Sheet Cake with pineapple rings and cheery halves from scratch or the Pineapple Pound Cake recipe from below for his special day.  If this is too much cake, there are recipes for Easy Upside Down Cake using a yellow cake mix or smaller Traditional Upside Down Cakes made in skillets or 9” pans in either square or round shapes.   Or check out video for making Mini Upside Down Cakes in muffin tins.  Need a low sugar version? Check out Splenda's Pineapple Upside-Down or Rose Bakes Pineapple Lush Cake.

Pineapple Pound Cake Recipe
3 sticks of margarine, softened
3 cups sugar
1 cup sweet milk (FYI this is old term for regular whole drinking milk*)
3 ½ cups flour
6 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup crushed pineapple
3 teaspoons pineapple extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1.       Cream together the first 3 ingredients.  Add in eggs one at a time.
2.       Sift in dry ingredients – alternating with adding milk, pineapple, and flavorings.
3.       Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
4.       Top with pineapple glaze while cake is still warm.

Pineapple Glaze Recipe
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pineapple extract
½ cup water
Bring all ingredients to a boil to dissolve.  Pour glaze over cake while it is still warm.

(NOTE: Buttermilk was referred to as sour milk in many older recipes)

We the People See, Poem from Voters to Politicians and Bureaucrats

This is not a political blog.  It does contain patriotic thoughts including freedom of speech (including peaceful protest).  With so many secret meetings by local governments deciding how to spend tax dollars without a residential vote or town meeting type discussions in the last two months, the below reminder poem seems appropriate.

Same goes for state and national representatives stalling on promises to constituents. When a higher office candidate wins the majority vote, common sense would be that most Americans  must want those key issues resolved and political promises fulfilled.

Every elected official should put this poem in his/her office and read it everyday.

We the People See
by Shirley Fine Lee, copyright © 9/20/2017

We the people have our rights
Both federal and state
We the citizens pay our taxes
Both national and local
We the voters must have our say
In how our funds are spent
And that our valuable rights,
We refuse to alter or relent.
We the people pave the way
For all that happens in our nation
And we expect valid explanations.

You, the elected politician
Must represent we,
Who at the polls vote the election.
We see all you do in public
And behind closed doors.
We can find out the bills, laws, and regulations
You endorse which was not our true choice.
We take note of how you spend our funds
And when you purposely avoid our voice.
You, the politician
Can be voted out, just as you are in.
Uphold your office with integrity;

Treat we with respect and honesty.
Pay attention to voting citizens
As in the end with majority vote we will win.
Remember we do see and hear you
And we take note next we vote.

You, the appointed bureaucrat
Must keep in mind the people whose taxes you spend
Or whose rights and laws you are to protect.
Do not believe you are more important than we.
We have the power to elect those
Who can and will cut your budgets,
Reduce your power, or delete your programs.
Do not think you know more than or speak for we!
You, in the bureaucracy,
Pay attention to the tax payer
Because we see and also fund your salary.

Home Office and Kitchen: Quick Organization Tips

Good Housekeeping
Sept.2017 Cover
In browsing at the September issue of Good Housekeeping, I found several good pictorial articles for getting organized to share.  For home office organization, there was a “spot the difference” in two modern desk area looks starting on pages 50-52.  The not so obvious “High or Low” difference was about $4,000 in cost.  If your home office is in a shared room (kitchen, family room, or bedroom), I suggest the use of a large rug as a mock room divider to keep the office in its designated space.  It is ok to spread out beyond the space for a big project as long as you re-confine the office work to the rugged-in area each day. I also like the revitalization of the idea of “Color Block Cubbies” on page 47, whether it is for work, play, various sports activities or by family member.

If you have a spouse or roommate who cannot properly “Load the Dishwasher” (pg. 94) or “Do Reorganize  the Fridge” (pg. 104) the way you like, you may want to leave the magazine lying around in a common area and have it open to the appropriate short article.  I can recommend their tips, since I am already obsessive about organization of these two kitchen appliances in the same ways.  You may also want to check out GH’s 3 chef knifes test or this kitchen knife chart.

Since we are on the kitchen topics, this issue had more than 10 recipe ideas.  I plan to try 1-Step Basil Pesto to see if it is as good as mine, since it appears much simpler.  I also want to try S’mores Icebox Cake for a future gathering.

American Gemstones: Oregon has Opal, Sunstone, and More

On this blog, birthstones and astrological stones have been featured. I thought it might be interesting to think about birthplace stones of the USA for those who would like jewelry from the state they were born in or currently live in.  I could have started with any of the 50 states, I chose Oregon because a new gemstone was found there in the last year.

OPAL - Most of us think of Australian, Ethiopian, or Mexican when we hear someone say opal because we think or color-play or fire opals.  However, there are common opals (aka potch) found in Peru and the USA.  Recently a new color of common opal was found in Oregon, where other colors exist.  This new peach color was bought by and featured on ShopLC. Below is part 2 of ShopLC approximate 3-4 minutes each 3-video series on peach opal, as it is mostly about the stone.  If desired, you can also watch part 1 about the mining family and part 3 the after-mining processes.  The above mine find also produces a variety of pink opal.  Some Oregon mines produce common blue and blue jelly opals as well.

SUNSTONE - Another gem of Oregon is the feldspar called Sunstone.  This is typically a transparent to translucent stone that ranges from clear to yellow to orange background with goldish glitter inside. Thus the name sunstone because the colors and glow of the sun. Sunstone is sometimes confused with peach moonstone or goldstone.   The easiest way to tell the difference from its sister stone of moonstone is that glitter will be in sunstone whereas moonstone has more of a schiller.  The difference in sunstone and goldstone is the latter is opaque (more of a solid background color but with glitter).  Other Oregon gemstones that range from transparent to translucent include varieties of amethyst and garnet.

MORE - Besides opal, opaque stones also used in jewelry from Oregon include agate, jade, jasper, obsidian, and rhyolite. These are typically set as large cabochons or made into beads. Other collector stones not often used in jewelry include fossilized/petrified wood and geodes referred to as Thunder Eggs or thunderstones.  Find out more about collecting OR stones at Gold Rush Nuggets or go to for some great photos.

If you are a rock hound and interested in finding out about mining your own stones, check out Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.  If you are more into rock collecting than gemstones, check out pictures from the Minerals from OR Museum.  Find more on rock-hounding and the OR state rock (thunderstone) and gemstone (sunstone) on Gator Girl Rocks.

Memories and Recipes: Strawberry Jello Cake Two Ways

The last time I made this cake, it was for a 50th birthday party.  The birthday boy had requested this particular cake for his birthday, so I said “Sure, I will make the sheet cake version.”  I suggested this way as we had several people coming over after a “Surprise!” birthday dinner for him his sister and aunt planned.  Every one of his siblings and their families were going to be at the restaurant and come back to my house afterwards for desert.

To my suggestion, he replied “No, I want the layered version and I want you to put fresh sliced strawberries between each layer.”  Ok, he wanted a blend of my different methods for this cake.  Now I was not sure how I would make the cake stretch.  I made the cake in the morning and refrigerated it.  Then made two small pies of my Quick Key Lime recipe and froze them that same afternoon, knowing they would be well set by the time we finished dinner. 

The extra strawberries between the layers was a big hit! However I had to warn everyone to eat slowly since I had to use lots of toothpicks to keep the layers from slipping apart.  Below is my original Strawberry Jello Cake recipe, as well as the refrigerated sheet cake version.

Strawberry Jello Cake – 3 Layer Recipe
1 package white cake mix
1 small package strawberry jello
4 eggs
¾ cup cooking oil
1 cup well-drained strawberries
1.      Line three 8-inch cake pans with wax paper, greased under wax paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.     Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix thoroughly, beating for 2 minutes.
3.     Pour cake batter equally into the 3 prepared pans.
4.     Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
5.     Allow to cool, and then frost with strawberry cream frosting.

Strawberry Cream Frosting Recipe
½ cup butter
1 box powdered sugar
½ cup drained strawberries
Mix ingredients together until smooth.

Strawberry Jello Cake – Cold Sheet Version
1.     Make cake per directions above, except pour batter into one 9x13 pan without wax paper.  Bake time will change to 30 – 35 minutes since pan is larger to insure center cooks.
2.     Frosting the cake – either use the frosting above OR instead top the cake with a layer of fresh sliced strawberries and then cover the berries with cool whip. 
3.     Refrigerate cake until ready to slice and serve.

Memories and Parties: Cream Cheese Mints and Sweetheart Punch

Wedding Cake and Couple Photo
Cutting the Wedding Cake
I got married before the trend of destination weddings.  This was back when having people celebrate the union was more important than expecting parents to spend a lot of money on venues (near home or out-of-town) and big meals to feed every guest.  Not to mention expecting the guests to buy both wedding gifts and pay for travel/lodging – thus limiting who can afford to attend.  (Rant over now…)

My wedding was held in the hometown church where my husband and I met.  My reception was held in my parents’ home.  I bought my own dress and borrowed my aunt’s veil and my cousin’s wedding garter plus I wore a necklace mom had given me years before (something borrowed, new, old, and blue).  My future spouse rented his tux.  Mom and I went to florist and bakery.  However, as a couple we paid for all the flowers at the ceremony.  My parents purchased the cake from a local bakery and prepared most of the other items for the reception, including coffee and the punch listed below.  For the punch, we purchased triple ingredients to make three ice rings the day before so we could keep filling the punch bowl as necessary.  I remember my mom was later arriving to pre-wedding stuff at church than she wanted because she had to wait for cake delivery.  The cake was not exactly what we ordered because baker had a family emergency the day before and so threw together something that afternoon.  Oh well…  sad but no reason to go ”Bridezilla.”

I had these delicious mints at my bridal shower and loved them.  My wedding colors were pale blue fabrics with pink roses and white daisies as the flowers.  So the friend at my church who made the mints volunteered to make two batches of the recipe below in green leaves and pink roses for my wedding reception.  The mints were in white trays on each side of the table holding the wedding cake and we also had the traditional pastel Jordan Almonds in crystal bowls.

Cream Cheese Mint Candies Recipe
Depending on mold size makes less than 3 dozen candies
1 (8 Oz) cream cheese
½ teaspoon mint flavoring
6 ¾ cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
Food coloring to get desired color
Mix ingredients thoroughly and from into shapes using candy molds.

NOTE:  Method for  Cream Cheese Mints that makes 30 by rolling balls instead of using molds.   You can roll the mints in granulated sugar (recipe says powdered) if you want them to have a glittery look.

Sweetheart Punch with Strawberry Ring
Serves 20-25 people
Ring Ingredients:
2 (6-ounce) cans frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 (6-ounce) cans frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 (16 oz) package frozen sliced strawberries
Ring Directions:
1. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan, boiling until sugar is dissolved for about 5 minutes to make syrup. Let cool.
2. Mix the syrup with the orange juices and lemonades.
4. Place the strawberries into a ring mold. Pour in juice mixture to fill the mold above fruit. Freeze to make ice ring. If any juice mixture left, refrigerate it to add to punch with soda.
Punch Add-Ins:
1 (2-liter) bottle lemon-lime soda
1 (48-ounce) can pineapple juice
Punch Directions:
1. Refrigerate the pineapple juice in advance.
2. When ready to serve, pour half the cold pineapple juice and half of the soda into a punch bowl. Float the ice ring in the punch. When liquid portion gets low, add in remaining juice and soda.

Proud Texan, United American

I was proud to see so many Texas residents helping out their neighbors during Hurricane Harvey floods.  When asked why they did it, many said “It was the way I was raised” or “We help each other out around here when we see a need.”  I was raised that helping out one’s neighbor was just the “southern” way.  I am proud to also say this is the American way.

How do I know all Americans want to help their neighbors and will unite when faced with natural or terrorist plights?  I saw what “northerners” and other did during 9/11.  The devastation was different, the loss of innocent life greater, yes.  Yet – we united, we cried, we helped, we rebuilt.  We will do it again.

In every bad situation, our first responders, our everyday heroes, and our citizens do not give excuses “It’s the government’s job, so we should stay out of the way.” Or “Let the Bible-thumpers do the helping out because that is what God told them to do.”  Instead everyone pitches in where they can. Real Americans give physical help, donate supplies, provide food, offer shelter, and give money when and where we can.  North, south, east, west, democrat, or republican – stand united as Americans.  Natural or others enemies without or within can only defeat when we are divided by civil unrest.

So how can you help now? If you are physically willing, find a local volunteer group or church sending people to help in the crisis and offer you strength and skills.  If you can provide supplies, again find a local organization, who is providing a gathering and distribution service, and ask to be a volunteer or to be a mini-collection point for bringing in supplies to donation stations.  If you can’t do that, then donate a few of the needed supplies via one of the collection points.  If these ideas are not you, then money is always needed to provide the above plus food and shelter, give to a verified purpose-driven charity or through a local church designating funds, supplies, or volunteer labor for aid.

P.S.  Shame on those who posted fake stories and photos to exploit political agenda, anti-Christian rhetoric, or poking fun at bad situations - just for more hits or views!  Shame on those of us who did not read or look closely for the truth before passing these on via social media.  Shame on those who will further exploit these poor victims via looting, gas hording, fake work orders, and fund stealing scams. 

So proud of Americans, then this sad unpatriotic thing happened less than a month later, fortunately most US citizens were not going to let it go on. 

Choker Necklaces are Back in Style

Layered Choker Necklaces
Choker necklaces are back in style! They were big in the 1940's, 1970's, and again in the 1990's.  Some were bold looks with leather and metal; others were more romantic with lace and flowers. (History of Choker with Recent Celebrity Photos ) Now the choker necklaces are back in fashion for the 21st century fashionista.

When this was in fashion during my youth, those of us who were crafty often made our own chokers.  We made chokers similar to the ones in the video links below.  However, we made the lace ones by adding 1/2 inch to each end and folding over those ends to sew on the snap rather than glue it on. We did the same thing with embroidered wide ribbons we turned into choker.   Sewing the edges reinforced the ends and the choker lasted a lot longer, even past the trend.  If you do not want to sew, then use extra glue, clear nail polish, or Fray Check to keep the choker from unraveling at end if you do not do the sewing.  Another way we made closures was to sew ribbon onto the ends of the hemmed edges of the lace and then tie a bow in back to make it as tight as we wanted.  We also bought lace with large holes in the center that we could thread thin ribbon through for a dressier look.  We bought ribbon was about 8 inches longer than the lace piece so we could have the extra a back to tie in on.   Another romantic look we did was hot-gluing a silk flower (instead of some the items shown in videos) in the middle of wide thick ribbon as a spring/summer style.

If you make your own jewelry, you probably know you can buy leather or suede cord to make a choker at most craft stores.  You may be able to get ready-made 14” or 16” leather cords or silk cords in a variety of colors too.  So you can do all the work in the part two of video below or buy one of these, add your pendant/charm and you are all ready to go!

For lots more ideas on creating different chokers, visit Cut Out and Keep website.  Please note, they just show photos, they do not give how to project instructions. 

Grandma Parrish’s Pickle Recipes: Dill or Bread & Butter Versions

Homemade Pickles Packed Various Ways
In the back of the children’s book Mr. Pickle Goes to Pickle Island, I note learning activities that parents may want to do with their children after reading the book together.  One such activity is to make pickles from fresh cucumbers themselves.  I am creating this post to provide two of my grandmother’s pickle recipes so the pickle lovers out there can re-create these delectable food items during the summer produce season.  These recipes appeared in the 1979 edition of “A Book of Favorite Recipes” by ladies of Coppell First Assembly of God Church.

Fresh Pack Dill Pickles Recipe
7 quarts whole cucumbers, 3-5 inches long (approximately 17-18 pounds)
2 gallons of 5% Brine (see recipe below)
6 cups vinegar
¼ cup sugar
9 cups water
2 Tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice, tied into small cheesecloth bag.
Add-ins Per Jar:
Mustard seed
1.    Wash cucumbers thoroughly.  Cover with 5% Brine and let stand overnight in ice box (aka refrigerator).
2.    Next day, drain cucumbers. 
3.    Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, water, and pickling spice bag in pot.  Heat to boiling and let stand while packing cucumbers into quart jars.
4.    After packing in cucumbers, add 2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 glove garlic, and 3 heads dill to each jar
5.    Cover with boiling spice liquid to about ¼ inch of top of jar.
6.    Wipe tops and seal jars.
7.    Process in boiling water 20 minutes.

View Canning Homemade No Fail Dill Pickles video on packing and boiling jars, which starts at step 3 above.  This video contains another grandmother’s recipe, so you can use the above or use that one. You can tell by the look of the cucumbers he already did the overnight soak and drain in steps 1-2.

Five Percent Brine Recipe
2 gallons of water
1 ½ cups pickling salt
1.    Heat water to boil.  Dissolve salt in water. 
2.    Cool brine mixture to room temperature before using.

Some pickle recipes call for vinegar instead, check Vinegar-Brine Pickling Method if you have a recipe that calls for that.

Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe
25-30 medium cucumbers, sliced thin  
     (NOTE:  Grandma said zucchini squash may be used instead of cucumbers if you like.)
8 large onions
2 large bell peppers
½ cup pickling salt (for soaking in water)
5 cups cider vinegar
5 cups sugar (approximately 2 ½ pounds)
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cloves
1.    Wash cucumbers and slice thin.
2.    Chop all remaining vegetables into cucumbers and add salt with enough cold water to cover.
3.    Let stand for 3 hours and then drain well.
4.    Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in large kettle (aka pot). 
5.    Bring to a boil, then add the drained vegetables and heat thoroughly.  Do not boil again.
6.    Pack into hot sterilized jars.
7.    Seal and place in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
8.    Remove jars and cool.

View Depression Style Bread and Butter Pickles video on slicing and prepping the pickles a little differently from above recipe.  This video uses hot peppers and garlic to make them spicier but it does not include measurements, however it is very entertaining