Friday, December 24, 2010

O Lutefisk

My mom sent me the lyrics to this old Christmas favorite.
Her comment, above the lyrics were "Enjoy!"
I'm not sure if she was referring to the lyrics or the subject matter...
PS: Be sure to sing it out loud, off key, nearly drunk, and vit yer best Norveegan accent, ja der hey.
Sung to the tune of O Tannunbaum
Lutefisk... 0 Lutefisk... how fragrant your aroma
0 Lutefisk... 0 Lutefisk... You put me, in a coma
You smell so strong... You look like glue
You taste yust like an overshoe
but Lutefisk ... come Saturday
I tink I'll eat you anyway.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... I put you by the doorway
I vanted you to ripen up ... yust like dey do in Norway
A dog came by and sprinkled you ... I hit him vit an army shoe
0 Lutefisk ... now I suppose
I'll eat you as I hold my nose.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... how well I do remember
On Christmas Eve how we'd receive ... our big treat of December
It vasn't turkey or fried ham ... it vasn't even pickled spam
My mudder knew dere vas no risk ...
In serving buttered lutefisk.

Lutefisk ... 0 Lutefisk ... now everyone discovers
Dat Lutefisk and lefse makes-Norweigians better lovers
Now all da vorld can have a ball ... you're better dan dat Yeritol
0 Lutefisk ... vit brennevin
You make me feel like Errol Flynn.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Eating Tips

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-aholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a Buffet Table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before
becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.

Remember this motto to live by:
"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in hand, yelling: "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MOM'S Christmas list

Dear Santa,
I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor and sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.
Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere in the seventh month of my last pregnancy.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music, a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals, and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog.

If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely. It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is calling and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold.

Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always,

P.S. One more can cancel all my requests if you can keep my children young enough to believe in Santa.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A very PC Merry Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck...
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves,"
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.

And labor conditions at the North Pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And Equal Employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.

Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur-trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."
And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose

And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,

Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.

Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.

Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets...they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.

For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football...someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.

Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passay
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.

He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion,

Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone everywhere---even you.
So here is that gift, its price beyond worth...
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Company Christmas Party

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
DATE: December 1
RE: Christmas Party
I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the private function room at the Grill House. There will be a cash bar and plenty of drinks! We'll have small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00pm. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time, However, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets. This gathering is only for employees!
A special announcement will be made by our CEO at that time! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 2
RE: Holiday Party
In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday, which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year.
However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to any other employees who are not Christians or those still celebrating Reconciliation Day. There will be no Christmas tree present. No Christmas carols sung.
We will have other types of music for your enjoyment. Happy now?
Happy Holidays to you and your family.

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 3
RE: Holiday Party
Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name.
I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, "AA Only"; you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this?..... Somebody?
Forget about the gifts exchange, no gifts exchange are allowed since the union members feel that $10.00 is too much money and executives believe $10.00 is a little chintzy. NO GIFTS EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED.

FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
To: All Employees
DATE: December 7
RE: Holiday Party
What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party!
Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps the Grill House can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party -- or else package everything for you to take it home in a little foil doggy baggy. Will that work?
Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Weight Watchers to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms.
Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men, each will have their own table. Yes, there will be flower arrangement for the Gay men's table. To the person asking permission to cross dress, no cross dressing allowed though.
We will have booster seats for short people.
Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet.
We cannot control the salt used in the food we suggest for those people with high blood pressure to taste first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for diabetics, the restaurant cannot supply "No Sugar" desserts.
Sorry! Did I miss anything?!?!?


FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All #%&$ing Employees
DATE: December 10
RE: The #$%*!@% Holiday Party
Vegetarians?!?!?!? I've had it with you people!!!
We're going to keep this party at the Grill House whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your #$%^&*! salad bar, including organic tomatoes. But you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them.
I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right NOW! rotten holiday!
Drive drunk and die, you hear me!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!
The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!!!

FROM: Joan Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: December 14
RE: Patty Lewis and Holiday Party
I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery and management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.
Happy Holidaze!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Carols for the disturbed

1. Schizophrenia --- Do You Hear What I Hear?

2. Multiple Personality Disorder --- We Three Kings Disoriented Are

3. Dementia --- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

4. Narcissistic --- Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me

5. Manic --- Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and.....

6. Paranoid --- Santa Claus is Coming to Town to Get Me

7. Borderline Personality Disorder --- Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

8. Personality Disorder --- You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll Tell You Why

9. Attention Deficit Disorder --- Silent night, Holy oooh look at the Froggy - can I have a chocolate, why is France so far away?

10. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder --- Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle,Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells , Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle
Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, ...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas is tight this year

My dear friends and family,

Somewhat embarrassing to admit, I'm not getting an annual bonus and Christmas is tight this year. I will be making bedroom slippers for you all as gifts. Please let me know your sizes. You'll most likely agree that it's a splendid idea, and should you wish to do the same, I've included the instructions below.

How to make bedroom slippers out of maxi pads:

You need four maxi pads to make a pair.
Two of them get laid out flat, for the foot part.
The other two wrap around the toe area to form the top.
Tape or glue each side of the top pieces to the bottom of the foot part.

Decorate the tops with whatever you desire, silk flowers (this is most aesthetically appealing), etc.

These slippers are:
* Soft and Hygienic
* Non-slip grip strips on the soles
* Built in deodorant feature keeps feet smelling fresh
* No more bending over to mop up spills
* Disposable and biodegradable
* Environmentally safe
* Three convenient sizes: Regular, Light and Get out the Sand Bags.

I've attached a photo of the first pair I made so that you can see the nifty slippers for yourself....

Maxi Pad Slippers

Monday, December 6, 2010

Funky “trash” as wall art

Our dining room has lots of wall space for pictures, but our budget doesn’t have lots of cash for pictures. Do you also have some wall space that’s just crying out for art?

Here’s a conversation-starting idea: made funky wall art with empty wine bottles. They’re basically trash recycling. How’s that for thrifty nesting?

I’m one of those weirdoes who shops based on packaging or scent. In this case, I picked bottles of wine that had the coolest, most fun labels in the store. Chug-chug and it’s done… no, we didn’t chug the wine. It was actually very good and I’d like to buy more of this label. Anyway, I picked some wine labels that appeal to me as little pieces of art. Since my taste in art is a little modern, tongue-in-cheek, and food related, these labels AND bottles were perfect for my décor. Next time you’re in your grocery store or wine shop, take a look at the labels. I bet you’ll find a few that appeal to your taste in art.

By the way, if you’re more interested in a beautiful wine label and don’t want the bottle, has a great tutorial on how to remove wine bottle labels.

Back to this thrifty nesting project:
  • Each bottle of wine was $7. If you have friends who drink wine with cool labels, ask them for their bottles. Heck – visit a restaurant that is proud of their wine list and ask if you can pick through their empty bottles. I am not kidding. It’s trash. Just tell them why you want the bottles.
  • The shelf is a $2 Goodwill find. I gave it two coats of green craft paint and two coats of gloss Mod Podge for some shine.
  • Hang the shelf and arrange your bottles on it. I suggest it would look best with 3 and 5 bottles. No more, no less.
Total project cost, including the wine that we drank with dinner: $30. If you get your bottles for free, then total cost $2.

In this case, I feel that I hung it just a little bit too high on the wall. I need to lower it about 6 inches. The rule of thumb when hanging pictures or art is to place the center of the picture at eye level. Figure out where the nail would go, then lower the nail another 1 to 3 inches. Trust me. Most people hang pictures too high. When you hang it just below eye level, it makes the space and art more intimate and sophisticated. And it gives your art the impression that it cost more than you spent. It’s all psychology, but I urge you to try it and see how lower pictures makes you feel. 

If you try this, please take a picture and share it with me – I’d love to see how it turned out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We have a fifteen year old at home who eventually will move out and set up her own Christmas tree in her own home. My own tree has several ornaments I got on trips or as gifts from dear friends, and they're all part of my own heirloom Christmas tree ornaments. Even the plastic Santa selling ice cream cones that I got on a road trip to Florida is one of my heirlooms, not because of the quality, but because of the memories surrounding it.

When my kiddo was a teeny baby, I knew she would need some of her own ornaments when she set up her very first Christmas tree (she can't have my plastic ice cream selling Santa, it's MINE), and so we started a cherished family tradition that she loves.

Here's a fun Frugal Nesting tip you can use to start a family tradition with any little ones in your family: start a collection of future Christmas or holiday heirlooms for your children to have when they set up their own homes.

On our daughter's first Christmas, she was a 2 month old preemie, only about 4 pounds, and still dwarfed by her preemie jammies. One of this tiny baby's gifts was an ornament that showed a teeny tiny baby teddy bear and the words "Baby's First Christmas."

Every year since, Santa has given her one or more ornaments that represent something significant from that year. By the time she sets up her first Christmas tree in her own place, she'll have a collection of heirloom ornaments to place on the tree. Each one will have a story that she can eventually tell to her kids and grandkids.

Christmas Ornaments 3, originally uploaded by Randy Son Of Robert.

The pictures in this post are borrowed from flickr users, but Rachel's ornaments include:

A pelican - from when her dad lived and worked 90 miles from home (boy did we miss him!) right on the beach at a restaurant called The Pelican Pub. We loved visiting him and climbing the big 300 foot tall sand dune just yards from the pub.

A sewing machine - when she was in third grade, her class sewed aprons as a class project. She was especially proud of hers and I still wear it when making cookies.

A truck - a few summers ago she visited G-ma and G-pa on the farm in Wisconsin. She was only 10 but that summer she learned how to drive the old farm truck. (In the field.) Later, when she returned home, she offered to drive my car for me, since she already knew how to drive. Thank goodness logic prevailed and she understood "no license-no driving."

When she started playing the cello in orchestra my sister Tina came to the rescue with a cello ornament. G-ma Donna also sent a music stand ornament the same year.

The past few years things have changed a little with Christmas. She approaches me and asks, "Are you giving me another ornament this year?"

I told her, "Yes, of course Santa will give you another one."

She raised one eyebrow. (I wish I could do that!) "Yeah, whatever."

Before she could stick her ipod headphones back into her ears I quickly asked, "Do you want to pick one out or be surprised?"

She smiled. "I want to be surprised. I love the ornaments."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pyramid Pillows Tutorial

Blue Flame Pillow, originally uploaded by passitonplates.

I made a pair of pyramid pillows for Rachel a couple years ago. (This is one of the pair.)
It was so easy to do.

One piece of fabric, twice as long as it is wide
Polyfoam pillow stuffing
Coordinating thread

1. Fold the fabric in half, right sides together , and matching the short ends. (It should look like a square.)
2. Sew along the short ends to make a tube.
3. Sew along one of the other open ends so the square is open on only one of the four sides.
4. Lay out the square with the open side at the top, the folded side on your right, and the side seam on your left.
5. Measure along the raw edge of the open side and mark the center point.
6. Flip the square over and repeat step 5.
7. Pinch one of your marks between the fingers on your right hand, pinch the other mark between the fingers on your left hand, and pull taut. The side seam should now be at the center point on the open end. Pin.
8. Sew along this edge to close, leaving about 6" open.
9. Turn right side out, stuff to desired softness, tuck in the raw edges, and topstitch to close.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer to browse on The Find when I came across this Celebration Platter:

The description from Exposures says, Our Celebration Platter is the perfect gift for any occasion that's cause for celebration. New baby. Graduation. Job promotion. Commemorate the moment with this high-gloss white ceramic platter. It's large enough for all of your friends and loved ones to chime in with a special message. Just sign the plate with pen (one pen included; additional available for quicker signing), and bake in the oven for warm wishes that last a lifetime.

Their platter is on sale today for $46.99 and the pen is $11.99. Exposures charges $6.50 shipping for up to two pens. Yep, both of our plates use the same kind of food safe ceramic paint pen!

If you're like me - too thrifty and crafty to spend that much money on something that you could create yourself, you're probably thinking about how to make your own. And with all due respect to Exposures, our paint pens sell for less.

I sell them occasionally on Etsy for $10 each and shipping is free for up to 6 pens.

Here's how to make your own:

1. Get some of our pens in a couple of different colors. You could buy your own plate or platter at Target or another store for about $15-20. Just make sure it's ceramic or stoneware. Plastic will melt in the oven when you make the paint permanent.

2. Make sure your platter is clean - the paint pen is water based and surface oils on the plate will resist the paint. Make sure all your party guests have clean hands, too, so oily fingerprints don't cause the same problem.

3. Ask everyone at the party to use the pen to write something on the ceramic plate or platter.

4. When everyone has signed the platter, bake it in an oven for 30 minutes to make it permanent. (Instructions are written on the pen.) And it's dishwasher safe after you bake it, although I recommend hand washing all handmade items.

5. You could have everyone sign the platter at the beginning of the party and bake it during the party. If you're sneaky, you could get away with this without the guest of honor knowing what you're up to. The plate will be cooled and completely finished before the party's over and your gift will be the hit of the party and the guest of honor keeps your platter as a memento of the occasion.

This is a very personal, sentimental gift idea. Got a wedding or wedding shower, anniversary, or birthday coming up?

Wow, what a perfect gift!

PS: Pass It On Plates are a little different from the Celebration Platter shown at the top. Pass It On Plates have a tracking number on the back and they're intended to travel from person to person. You can get a pen with yours, if you want, so each person can write something on the plate as it travels - just to add to the fun.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Salem area Photographer needed:

• We are working on a fundraiser and need 8x10 quality pictures taken of food and/or portraits. 

• Number of proofs needed is unknown, but end result is approximately 20 photographs.

• Photos go to the printer in mid-Nov 2010.

If you can help, please comment here. 

If you know of someone who may be able to help, please pass this along. Thanks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thrifty Nesting Index

Every morning my friend M greets me with a sparkle in her eye. "What Frugal Nesting blog post is coming up next? I can't wait!"

Since there are a lot of older posts here that fall into my concept of Frugal Nesting, I'm going to index them here, just to give M and everyone else some ideas to get you started on your own frugal nesting projects at home.

Bargain Decorating
The Cubes
Foggy Lens
The Red Poppy
My Goodwill Purchases which leads to The Shelves
Cheap Bargain Decorating and here's more about The Red Basket

Crafty Stuff
Bottlecap Magnets
Calorie-free Brownies
Cord Keepers
Cushion Cover Re-cover
Dressing up a pre-wrapped gift box
Spiffied up CD Jewel Case Liners
Stamp Picture Frames - The existing post shows them off. I'll write a tutorial on how to make them.
Tote Bag - I'll make another bag and include a tutorial on how to make one.
Wordle part I and part II (part I is the story and part II is the crafty part)

Handmade Christmas Gifts
Chicken Packages
Xmas BBQ Basket gift

Note: The holiday posts all involve doing traditional holiday activities without spending a buttload of money, but instead using a little imagination and/or craft supplies.  

Kitchen Tips

Note: Organization is important when you have a tight budget. Two huge benefits are you don't buy duplicates of stuff you already have and you save time because you never have to tear the house apart looking for something you think you have. 

Bacon Biscuits
Chai Date Bread
How NOT to make Orange Iced Tea
Meatballs (with variations)
Microwave Peanut Brittle
Mini Meatloaf
Navy Bean Hummus
Pork Shoulder, Ignored
Roasted Chicken Thighs

Roasted Potatoes with Chicken (aka "Blasted" Chicken)
note: Don't let the word "Blasted" scare you. Blasted refers to the cooking method but this chicken is so incredibly good you won't want to cook it any other way. Trust me. 

Taco Joes
The most dangerous cake in the world
Tortellini Ham Salad

Scrabble Time, Literally
Spooning in the Garden
Where old vinyl LPs go when they die

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Time for a change...

Three years ago today I started my first blog.

It was a way to share all the jokes emailed to me without bombarding my friends with zillions of nonsense email. I just put the word out and if they wanted to see that day's joke, they could. I also started to save fun websites that were accessible from my day job du jour in a call center. My co-workers visited my blog to find an interesting site to help pass the time during lag times between calls.

Since then, this simple blog turned into a portfolio of 18. Not all are public - in fact most are not - and I use them as my own sandbox to experiment, learn HTML, park future blog posts, etc. I keep them separate so I can work on the HTML of one while experimenting with some gadget in another. It's been a lot of fun and I have learned tons.

This blog, "The Adventures of Pam & Frank" is an extension of a series of emails I sent out in the late 1990's to keep friends informed on our hilarious adventures as DIY home-fixer-uppers. (They really were hilarious.) "The Adventures" emails later evolved to share funny parenting stories and to let everyone in our lives know what was happening with a job search which started in 2001, eventually landed us out here in Oregon in late 2002.

Since then, "The Adventures" has been an exploration, and often travelogue, of life in Oregon written for the folks back home. There have been posts in here about crafty and business stuff, social experiments (giveaways and blog parties) and lots of food.

But no real focus.

And other than my mom, no regular readers. Which doesn't really bother me, but why am I blogging when I can email her? Maybe on the off chance that my real life friends will read this? Maybe a few of my foodie friends in the call center.

I guess it's time to change the focus of this blog. It's been fun, and I don't want to kill it, but like my most hated cliche "Something for Everyone" my blog was all over the place and lacked focus. (I really do hate that cliche. Nobody has something for everyone. It's impossible.)

With the events of this past summer, I also have been struggling to find something to do. I'm not quitting my day job, but I am looking for something that I really enjoy doing that could lead to a new career. So I started contemplating what I am really good at, what I like doing, and what I have a lot of experience with.

Here's a rough list of random things that I like to do or have a lot of experience with:

Being funny
Write stuff
City driving
Baking cookies and desserts
Folding laundry
Eating ice cream
Living frugally
Marketing (as in business and advertising stuff, not shopping at the grocery store. Although I have a lot of experience with that, too.)
Crafty stuff
Managing curly hair
Watching tv
Salem & Portland

I decided to start with the thing I like the most and the thing I think the most about: Marketing.
Oh wait, I've already got a blog about that.

Next on the list - what do I have the most experience with? I hate to say it, but Living Frugally is at the top of the list. I wish I didn't need to know how to do it, but I do.

(This is the part where the little lightbulb goes off. Can you see the glow?)

I have already decided to change the focus of this blog from random stuff to... something, so why not blog about frugal-ness for a while and see how that works out? If I don't like it, I give myself permission to change once again.

You're already asking, why not blog about food? Eh, I read more about food in blogs than I write about here. If you want to read a food blog, you can start with Frank's blog. It's pretty good.

Oh - last thing. I know this is "The Adventures of Pam & Frank," and it will still be, even though I'm the only one writing the darn thing. As long as we are still alive it will continue to be an adventure.

So onward. From today forward, this will be a blog about Frugal Nesting. (Do you like that? Nesting is a joke on our last name.)  I think Frugal Nesting fits so much better than simply "frugal living." Frugal Living to me makes me think of something like a bowl of plain oatmeal that was bought in the bulk section of the grocery store but Frugal Nesting makes me think of a bowl of oatmeal topped with a little bit of leftover yogurt, some sliced apples from the tree in the back yard, drizzled with honey that you got from a neighbor for watching their cats while they were out of town, and eaten for brunch with the family while playing a game of cards.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our Latest Adventure: 29 days in the hospital

It's been a long time since our last post. Did you think we died?
Not to be dramatic, but one of us came close. 

I've been quiet about what's going on here until things settled down, but now I'm able to talk about it. Here's our latest adventure in a nutshell. In April Frank was diagnosed with cancer in his large intestine. (Colon cancer is not just in the butt but can also be in the gut.) He finished his radiation and chemo this summer and did very well. He still has all his hair, which is nice, because I think he looks silly without a moustache. 

Yes, if chemo makes your hair fall out, ALL of your hair falls out. Frank was lucky.

He had the tumor removed in August and that's when the adventure took a rocky turn and turned our lives upside down. He developed a nasty infection, got terribly sick, had an ambulance ride to the hospital, 3 more surgeries, kidney failure, antibiotics, etc etc... It was touch and go and for the first two weeks his doctors wouldn't say if he would make it or not. They would just say, "Well, he's very sick. We have to wait and see."

Very scary. I cried a lot and spent a week by his side in the hospital. Poor Rachel was stressed out and worried about her dad while trying to get ready to start high school. She just had to wait her turn for my attention. 

When it was all done, we counted up how many days Frank was hospitalized: 29.

At this point he he healing very well. Due to the 3 surgeries to clean up the infection, he was left with a large open wound. At the beginning it was 6" long (his belly button is gone forever) and 3" wide and about 2 1/2" deep. Something this large can only heal from the inside out, and so he has been wearing a wound vac since he was finally discharged from the hospital a few weeks ago. Yesterday when his nurses changed the dressing they told him it has healed to the point where he may only need to wear the wound vac for maybe one more week. Yay! Wearing it means he has a tube from his abdomen to the vacuum unit and cannister that he has to wear like a fanny pack or purse. It's a hassle and he hates it. I don't blame him.

Now that he's healing, the other side effect of his illness is starting to kick in: the financial side. We've got health insurance but with the deductibles (his own insurance ended during this ordeal and so I switched him over to mine, which means we have to meet two deductibles this year) the medical bills we're responsible for are whopping big. On top of that, he hasn't been working, of course, but I've been taking time off work to take care of him, so our income is ... wait. What income? 

Meanwhile, we have set up a page on Facebook for Frank called Support Team Brown. Yes, you are correct. It is a poo joke. Please visit Support Team Brown - And please Like the page to spread the word about Salem Oregon's very own Deaf Chef and help him as he recovers from cancer.

Our goal is to have 10,000 likes by the end of October. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Salad Rolls

One of our favorite restaurants serves Vietnamese salad rolls. Have you ever had one before? They are light and delicious, and fun to make.


Your local grocery may or may not have all the ingredients available. We had to go to a specialty Asian market to get the wrappers. If you have one in your town, this would be a good excuse to venture inside. The staff in all of our local Asian markets are very friendly and helpful, so don’t be shy about asking for what you need.

Here are the ingredients:

Spring roll wrappers (also called Rice wrappers) – read below about soaking them and make sure you get a size small enough for your largest shallow bowl.
Rice stick noodles (there are many varieties; you need the one that is cooked by soaking in hot water. When cooked, they are milky white.)

You will also need:
Cooked shrimp – size about 40-60 and peeled, deveined, tail removed
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mint leaves
Salad lettuce
, chopped (use a soft variety such as leaf or spring greens)

To cook the noodles, boil water in a teakettle. DSCN8313Place one bundle of rice noodles in a large bowl. When the water boils, pour enough over the noodles to cover. Let the noodles soak for 2-3 minutes. We’d recommend letting them sit in the water until you’re ready to use them or they will stick together in an un-useable blob.

While you wait for the water to boil, get the wrappers ready. In the package, the wrappers are brittle and thin, and you’ll need to soak them so they’re soft. To soak them, set out a shallow dish of lukewarm water. You will need to be able to completely submerge one wrapper in the water. We bought the smaller wrappers and soaked them in a large skillet.

When the noodles are soaked and you have the water ready for your wrappers, set up an assembly line of the rest of your ingredients. We placed all of our ingredients around a plastic cutting board.

Start by soaking your wrappers, one at a time. Here is one wrapper straight from the package.


After soaking it in the lukewarm water for about 60 seconds, it became soft and ready for the next step. Yes, it will be like a wet clingy piece of saran wrap.  DSCN8316

DSCN8324Spread the soaked wrapper on your cutting board and lay a little bundle (about a small handful) of noodles on the bottom 1/3. Arrange a little of the salad, basil, mint, and shrimp on the noodles. This sounds silly, but you’ll want to make it look nice because the wrapper is translucent.


When everything is arranged on the wrapper, start rolling it up from the bottom. Roll it as tightly as you can. Flip it over and fold the sides in. Finish rolling it up.

 DSCN8328   DSCN8331

Your first few might look a little messy, but keep at it. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that as soon as you take a softened wrapper out of the water you can slide another hard wrapper into the soaking water. It’ll be ready when you are.

Our restaurant serves their salad rolls with peanut sauce that is so delicious that we ask for extra sauce to go with the rest of our meal. You can make this at the beginning of your salad roll project, while you wait for the noodle water to boil.

Peanut Sauce
1/4 c peanut butter
1 Tbs fish sauce (you can substitute soy sauce)
1 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp sugar
crushed peanuts, optional

Blend together all ingredients, adjusting the fish/soy sauce and lime juice to taste. Serve with crushed peanuts on top. Use as a dip for your salad rolls.

DSCN8311 DSCN8317

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just one tomato plant... planted last year

Forget Best Boy or Early Girl or any heirloom tomato. I have named this variety of cherry tomatoes Rasputins.

The owner of our house planted this tomato last year and we just didn't have time or energy to put in any plants this spring. Tonight I decided to spend some me time outside and wanted to clean up the jumble of weeds between the patio and back porch.

Lo and behold, there was a flash of orange and I spied this cluster of beautiful tomatoes in the jumble of weeds.

This is too good to ignore and the poor tomatoes won't be happy laying on the ground. I poked around in the carriage house and found a small section of left over iron fence that goes around the back yard. A little green ribbon, some bird feeder hooks over the pergola, a little vine coaxing, and voila! My Rasputins have a mock espalier.

Would you believe this mess is just one plant?

Mmmm, next year I'll get serious about gardening and make some time to put in more plants.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Monty Python goes to school

Yesterday was Rachel's first day of school (FDOS). She's starting high school (Do I feel old? Yes.) at a new school and does not know a single person in her class. Yes, she was nervous, but I reassured her that many of the other 500+ freshmen in her school feel the same way.

On the eve of the FDOS, our dear friend Marcy gave Rachel some excellent advice: Quote Monty Python movies.

If Rachel declares "Your mother was a hamster..." and another kid chimes in with "And your father smelt of elderberries!" then she knows she has found a kindred soul to hang out with.

You can give this wise advice to your kid as well. Of course, if your kid is not a fan of Monty Python, they probably won't be able to correctly answer to "What is your favorite color?"

"Blue. No! Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!"

Your kid will have to fill in the blank with their own personal weirdness.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kitchen Tip: buttering a baking sheet

Do you like buttering baking sheets and cake pans? I hate it. I hate getting gunk under my (fairly short) fingernails, and I always have to stop what I’m doing so I can wash my hands. It’s a pain in the butt. DSCN8354
Maybe I’m just a clean freak, but if you feel the same way, I have an easy tip to share. Put your hand in a plastic baggie before you touch the butter. Swipe your bagged hand through the butter dish, then rub it on your baking sheet. When you’re done, turn the baggie inside out as you take it off and throw it away.
Ta dah! No more greasy hands or yuck under your fingernails.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kitchen Tip: organize your baking supplies

I love to bake. Since moving into our current house, I’ve been thrilled to have just a little more space to work (we actually have countertops now) and so I’ve been going crazy baking this and that. A couple weekends a month I get all domestic and engage in “Kitchen Therapy,” turning out cakes, cookies, casseroles, crock pot successes (and disasters), and bread.
There are some ingredients and tools used more for baking than any other type of recipe. Over the past few months I have figured out that if I can keep the storage and access to these items handy, I can cut my prep and clean up times in half. It’s so simple, you could put this together in 10 minutes.
DSCN8352Place the following types of ingredients in a cake pan (like in the picture):
Baking soda
Baking powder
Corn starch
Cocoa powder
Powdered buttermilk
Yeast packets
Powdered egg whites
If you don’t have something on the list, you don’t have to go out and buy it, just gather together the ingredients you pretty much only use for baking.
Now grab your measuring spoons and add them to the cake pan as well. Oh – don’t have an extra cake pan? You can buy one for about $2 or $3. For the time you’ll save when baking, it’s worth it.
Do you have a couple of favorite recipes that you make all the time? If you use a recipe each time, write it out on a recipe card and stick that in the cake pan, too. Mine are to the right of the baking soda and cocoa.
Next time you bake, take out your cake pan and you have everything you’ll need in one place. No more hunting through the cupboards for the little boxes and cans. I don’t bother to wash the measuring spoons after each recipe if I’m only using them for baking powder/soda/salt. I just toss them back in the cake pan for the next time. There’s no cross contamination to worry about. Actually, I don’t use measuring spoons for cocoa or vanilla; I just eyeball those amounts, since those ingredients don’t affect the chemistry of baked goods like soda/powder do. Those do need to be measured for best results.
Clean up is simple. Just put the cake pan away. I keep mine in the cupboard under my stovetop.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tortellini Ham Salad



I love pasta salads. Give me a bowl of tuna pea pasta and I’m a happy camper.

As far as hot pasta dishes go, one of my favorites is tortellini. There’s something very satisfying about those little round packages of parmesan. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods. Luckily, my favorite grocery store offers dried tortellini in their bulk section, so I pick up a pound to have on hand for when the mood hits. 

It hit this afternoon and I decided to try a cold tortellini pasta salad. Not bad. Here’s the recipe I made up:

Heat a large pot of salted water. When it starts to boil, add a pound of dried tortellini. Cook until the tortellini floats, about 8-10 minutes. Drain. DSCN8357  (I use a perforated pasta insert to keep the tortellini from breaking up as it drains.)

While the pasta cooks, dice about a pound of ham. Add the ham to the drained pasta along with about 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese. If you like your food spicy, add dried chili flakes to taste.

Add equal amounts of mayo and sour cream until the salad has the creaminess level you like. I used about 1/4 cup of each because pasta salads always taste better the next day, and the moisture from the dressing absorbs into the pasta. I discovered that if I initially make it a little too creamy, then it’s perfect on the second day.

One note – this was my first time using canned ham. Blech. Too salty and too similar to Spam. Not that Spam is bad (I admit it, I’ll eat the stuff) but this salad would be much better with natural ham.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

List: Music Discovery Websites

I'm kind of a weirdo.

One of my happiest moments is when I'm driving down the road, either an unfamiliar highway or one packed with traffic zooming along just above the posted speed limit.

Blasting from the radio (or the 14-year-old's iPod) is a collection of really great music that I have never heard before. No matter what my mood before, this always makes me happy.

Lately I have been streaming music from various websites and blasting music into my kitchen while I cook or bake. Our current kitchen has a swinging door that I can close to confine most of the sound to that part of the house.

Sometimes it's hard finding new music, but over time I have collected a nice list of websites that help introduce new stuff, indie bands, unheard-of labels, and emerging artists hoping to make it big. No matter what genre you like, you'll probably find some great new stuff here, too. All legal, of course.

Here's my list: - my current favorite. Type in a song or artist you like and get a radio station with a playlist based on that artist or song. You can also "scrobble" which means will look at what you have stored in your computer and make a playlist based on what you already have. Lately I've been playing "Groove Armada radio," "Bela Fleck and the Flecktones radio" and sometimes I'll crank up the bass and listen to "the Gorillaz radio." (I need bigger woofers, though.)

pandora - same concept as but I just prefer the radio station that creates better.

ilike - listen to 30 second samples of stuff and get free downloads of stuff you've probably never heard of (because they're new emerging artists). Shows you what's popular on their site or you can explore based on what you like.

emusic - monthly subscription for bargain downloads. We discovered a lot of good stuff here, including Pam getting hooked on Of Montreal.

Amazon - Start by looking up an artist or album you love. Then scroll down to see other music purchased by customers who bought your favorite album... browse from there. This is where I nearly wet my pants upon the discovery of Mrs. Miller, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Jonathan and Darlene Edwards.
Holy crap.
(I think this subject is a blog post all by itself.)

iTunes - I'm sure you've heard of iTunes. Honestly, this is probably the last place I go for music.

MySpace - I'm personally not a fan of MS, but this is where Rachel discovered so much fantastic music like Hot Hot Heat, The Fratellis, Hard Fi, Say Hi To Your Mom, Does It Offend You Yeah?, and a buttload of other fantastic artists. We have discovered many more artists here than at Facebook. - You're going to hate me for this, but I love this site.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

stopmotioness uncut & remasterd

Yesterday Rachel performed in an orchestra concert at her (old) middle school. It was excellent; probably the best one I've been to yet.

After the concert, one of the kids ran through the hall yelling, "It's on YouTube!" During the concert, the guy next to me on the top bleacher had a tripod set up and he filmed the entire concert, so I wasn't surprised it was posted.

Today while searching for the performance (I couldn't find it!?) I stumbled across this vid that some of her classmates made. The school offers a film class and Rachel thinks they made it for class. Pretty neat.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mother Nature reads my blog

Three days ago, in a previous blog post, I complained about the cold weather.
I guess Mother Nature reads this blog and decided to show me who's boss:

It's ok. I love the heat.
You Oregonians might not appreciate my next comment, but I have to say it:
It's a dry heat...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pass It On Plates has a new website!

If you are looking for our plate diaries at, don't worry if you don't find them. Your plate diaries still exist and everything written in them is still there.

You can now find your plate diaries at our new website address:

For more details on this change, please check out our Pass It On Plates blog post about the upgrade.
(If you want your plate to have the new website address written on the back, there is information about that as well in our Pass It On Plates blog.)

Thank you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Rant

It is July and I am cold.

Actually, I am freezing my butt off. Oh yes I'm here in Oregon, not Antarctica, where it should at least be 80 degrees by now. The windows are open and the thermostat in my house reads 64.

I reluctantly shut off the furnace for the season a couple weeks ago. If I had firewood, I'd build a fire in the fireplace because I'm so dang cold. My nose is icy and my nostrils feel frosted when I inhale. Doesn't that just sound wrong to want to build a fire or turn on the heat in July? I'm just tired of being so cold all the time.

It's just not right.

Our weather here in Oregon is usually so wonderful that I keep some weather widgets on my computer wallpaper just so I can be accurate when bragging about our weather. Hmph. It's depressing to realize that compared to Salem, Oregon: it's a little warmer on the coast, toasty warm in my Wisconsin hometown, and delightfully HOT in Rancho Mirage, CA (near Palm Springs.)
Gee, I'd like to be there right now...

Yesterday Rachel asked if we could go up the mountain to our favorite bend in the river at North Fork.

"Uh, that's a mountain stream fed by snow melt. I'm gonna have to say no."

"But mommmmmm..."

"How many days have we had over 80 degrees this year?"

"Ummm, 2? Maybe 3?"

Yah, No. Maybe by the end of August it will have warmed up enough.

Is it warm where you are? Has June delivered its June-like weather to you and your garden? Does July look like it's going to be everything you hoped it would be - as far as weather goes?

Comment here with your weather bragging and gloating. At least I can warm myself up by imagining your weather!

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Welcome Home!"

Phở = Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
aka my family's favorite comfort food.

No, we're not Vietnamese, or even Asian for that matter, but we certainly know a good thing when we see it. Or in this case, when we smell and taste it.

We're regulars at a local Salem Phở restaurant, where we basically fill up on soup and salad. Frank orders Phở (the soup), which always comes with bean sprouts, sliced limes, sliced jalapenos, and lots of fresh basil on the side.Rachel and I usually order Bún. Bún is a salad - with noodles under the lettuce. Sometimes the lettuce is blended with chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, or mint. The Bún is usually topped with grilled meat, egg rolls, pickled carrot/daikon radish, bean sprouts, and served with Nước mắm (a sweet fish sauce, used as salad dressing) on the side.

Yesterday we had an appointment up in Portland, and afterwards we zig-zagged across downtown looking for a place to have lunch. We argued over burgers, Greek gyros, Indian food, shopping mall food courts and Voodoo Doughnuts, then backtracked to our starting point to eat at a place called "Toast and Phở."

Weird name, but it turns out Phở is a traditional Vietnamese breakfast (can you imagine a big steaming bowl of beef soup for breakfast every morning? I love it, but no. I couldn't do that for breakfast.) In the mornings they serve traditional American breakfast, Bún and some rice dishes for lunch, and Phở all day long.

We walk in and inhale. Smells like Phở: rich beef broth, star anise, basil, grilled meat... Yum.

The lady (one of the owners?) walks up to us and asks, "Family of three?"
"Welcome home! Right this way..."

Welcome home? I've never heard of that greeting at a restaurant before.
Welcome home.

A departing customer smiled at us and chuckled. He must have been surprised when he was welcomed home, too.

Welcome home. It stuck in my mind.
We looked at the menu out of habit, but were ready to order before we even parked the car.
"One Phở and two Bún please. Also two salad rolls and a pot of green tea please."

(Don't even get me started with the salad rolls. I don't have enough time to tell you how much we love them. Especially from Toast and Pho - where they lace the rolls with fresh basil AND fresh mint leaves. Holy moley. I will tell you about these amazing things another time - for now I'll just say that they're addicting. Rachel and I dream about them at night.)

She was absolutely right. As we dug into our favorite comfort foods, we were at home... in this new restaurant.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I can haz bubbl?

Adventures of Pam & Frank

Ollie was doing some bird watching from inside our back porch. It was so gorgeous outside I wanted to go out on the deck and take advantage of the sun. 

Of course, this scares away the birds - their feeders are really close to the house - so I grabbed some bubbles and entertained Ollie while I worked on my burn.
(I don't tan; I pink!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Back Porch

Adventures of Pam & Frank

In the afternoon, the sun peeks around the side of the house and lights up the back yard and back porch.

We hung bird feeders outside the back porch windows to entertain the cats. They're both indoor cats, but Violet loves to talk to the birds when they get close to the windows. Ollie stays quiet, but is totally enchanted.

Here is Ollie, watching one of the birds take flight from the bird feeder.
Do you see the bird?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I wondered why my plant was flat...

Then I discovered Ollie on top of the plant.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Testing my webcam

I’ve got a webcam on my computer that I haven’t really used… because I’m a little scared to. And like many gals, I’m pretty critical of how I look so I don’t like to see pictures of myself let alone share them with other people.
Today the little voice in my head yelled “Get over it!”
So I got over it. This is me.
Now I have a question to ask you… How does the color look? I’m not sure if my camera is off or if my computer’s color settings are all wonky. This picture looks very lavender to me. I’m wearing a chartreuse t-shirt and my walls are frappuccino beige.
I’d appreciate any comments on the color… and any kind words about my picture.

PS: I fiddled with it and came up with this version. It's a little better... What do you think?