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Tigress by Ellen Tsagaris
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Ellen Tsagaris' The Bathory Chronicles; Vol. I Defiled is My Name

Ellen Tsagaris' The Bathory Chronicles; Vol. I Defiled is My Name
This is the first of a trilogy retelling the true story of the infamous countess as a youn adult novel. History is not always what it seems.

Wild Horse Runs Free

Wild Horse Runs Free
A Historical Novel by Ellen Tsagaris

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With Love From Tin Lizzie
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First Thanksgiving Dinner
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

John Lennon

Tomorrow is December 1st. RIP John Lennon. I still miss you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I'd Love some Comments!

Good Morning! We've reached over 1000 viewings on this blog. Now, if we could only have some comments! This is our Christmas Wish. I am going to add some images of Christmas, and also recommend two blogs, Lucy's Kitchen Notebook and The Daily Spectre.

Some Christmas Green Tips, culled as a result of visiting craft fairs and public observation in general:

1. If you like wool roving or wool felting, save old wool yarns and sweaters. You won't have to spend tons of money you don't have.

2. Quilling is back; that's wonderful for me. You can cut your own strips for quilling using a paper cutter, or dig out your bargain supplies if did this thirty years ago. I've also seen gorgeous quilled roses out of post-it note paper.

3. Save ribbons, and don't be afraid to use real ribbons, lace, and strips of material cut with pinking shears. Newspaper still makes good wrapping, as does brown paper decorated with holly, evergreens, yarn, string, or silk and dried flowers.

4. Use the dollar stores for craft supplies.

5. Don't throw out those Happy Meal and other fastfood toys. Besides being collectibles, they make great packages toppers and Christmas ornaments. Those of us who like to collect them also appreciate them as stocking stuffers.

6. Charity stores of all types sell gorgeous ornamnents for pennies on the dollar. These are often currently sold at big box stores and cost over $5.00 each.

7. Pot brances of evergreens in large containers with potting soil; buy a live potted tree and plant it later, or buy a live Norfolk pine to keep. I had one for years in school and decorated it for different holidays.

A local greenhouse told me that the potted branches can be planted outside, too, and will take root. They also look great in flower pots that have been emptied for winter.

8. Milkweed pots andother natural materials make great ornaments. You also get to recycle and renew.

9. Buy a good artificial tree, or a vintage tree. No trees will die or be wasted. If you use a cut tree, make sure you know where to recylce it, or, if you live near a ravine or woods, put it back for the birds to live in later in winter.

10. Look around your house, and find collectibles and cherished objects to use as decorations. Get out the older and handmade ornaments, the treasured school projects, mittens, and afghans, and decorate with them.
We use a tacky plush leopard print tree skirt in memory of our kitty who loved to sleep on it, especially when it waqs under our tree. Our tree and the clashing skirt are a tradition now, and done in his memory.

More tips to follow; slow down and enjoy the season. You don't have to be perky to be a good elf.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holidays and Blahs

A happy Thanksgiving to all, though for many, we are probably happy things are not worse. Many interesting documentaries and programs on how fossil fuels develop, on harnessing wind energy, on using water to produce power. Tonight is a great show on King Solomon's Mines. I think those who love antiques are a combination of recylcer and archaeologist. Certainly, those who love these and literatre are also anthropologists. There is an allure to the past,and it is certainly happier for many of us. I pondered today when Christmas and Thanksgiving turned into dates to be endured, and, even avoided, instead of to be anticipated. I know part of the answer is that when we are young, we do not worry about travel issues, and we certainly weren't frisked anywhere! We loved Oakbrook on Black Friday, and we always had money, enough to Christmas Shop and to eat out regularly. I never stressed over parking, and my dad didn't seem to, either. We loved the crowds, and to people watch. We loved meeting other people to talk to, some we knew, some not. My dad had a big conversation with the father of a woman federal judge my first Thanksgiving in law school. They struck up conversation at a mall on Black Friday.

Christmas at Marshall Fields with yule log cake was a tradition. So was my mother's decorations of popcorn strings and paper ornamments I made in school. We also made felt ornamnets and knitted ornaments, ornaments from painted eggs, quilling, clay, and embroidery. We had beautiful ornmanents my Uncle George made from egg cartons, and older one's we collected, or that my grandmother had. There were celluloid fish and glass balls from Greece, and a little cellophane tree that stood in my room for many Christmases. My mother always dressed one or more of my dolls in new outfits. She baked cookies, and baklava, and made oyster dressing. Sometimes, we ate out, but we always had oysters fried or in dressing.

We loved decoratings, and had nativity sets and trees in every room, some by theme. I had bird trees, and angel trees, and teddy trees. I painted ornaments in ceramics class, and did shadowboxes. Even the doll houses were decorated with all kinds of miniature trees, and Plantaganet House, my big red doll house, was strewn with tiny rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and boxes of tiny glass ornaments.

My mother wrapped everything, and we had lots and lots of presents, though many were modest and handmade. Christmas was a time of firsts; my first doll house, my first stereo, wrapped in brown paper with a sign "Do not open until Christmas! Keep Cotton picking hands off!"

The presents spilled onto the dining room ledge, under tables, in stockings,in handmade ornamnents on trees, in surprise balls Miss Ely, my Aunt Connie's principal where she worked, made with crepe paper streamers. We opened presents Christmas Eve, but saved some for Christmas Day and New Years. Some years, we flew to California, and the holiday was full of excitement and adventure, and we spent New Year's Eve on Fisherman's Wharf.

We went to Church, and for many years, sang in the choir on Christmas Day. We gave gifts there, and read the Bible. We did the Nativity play, and saw quaint old fashioned films at the old church about puppets and Santa Claus.

I made Dear Abby's pecan pie and cranberry bread as specialites. We had turkey or duck, and for a while, pheasant and smoked chicken. We had lobster and shrimp with champagne New Year's Eve, and one year, I had a party with all the International Students from school. We had kids from Mexico, Chile, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, Paraguay, and South Africa running around the house that night, and it was wonderful.

One wonderful Christmas, my mother had bought at least twenty antique dolls and doll heads from our beloved friend Violet. She had made many into dolls, and others we were to fix together. The beginning of my antique collection was born. Another Christmas, my Uncle Tom came to visit, and it was like the old days when he worked in Peoria. We went on short trips, and ate out, and shopped every night, savoring the excitement as Christmas approached.

I was busy with Christmas Programs at choir school, church, and school. I used to play the guitar with one little friend of mine; she and I had "gigs" with Panamerican Roundtable and at school. I caroled with the scouts, and we gave to The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots.

My mother is gone now; our holidays are just another trip to the cemetery. I rarely get presents now, and seldom eat out. I work up to the last minute; gone are the after Christmas sales at Macy's and Marshall Fields, and Black Friday is more of a mood these days than a euphoric event. There is no time to decorate as we did, and if we had time, I think I'd be the only one to appreciate it. My family is scattered, and seldom comes together as it did when I was little, and there were more than twelve of us gathered at the festive holiday tables where I used to to centerpieces.

My current family is not about traditions. And now, when I am home for Christmas, it is only in my dreams.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lincoln's Proclamation of Thanksgiving; see Below and Enjoy

Proclamation of Thanksgiving
Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders like this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a prominent magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She wrote, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution." The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise."

According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary that he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Greetings and Happy Pre-Thanksgiving to all who panic. If you need last minute tips, listen to Martha Stewart Radio on Sirus 112. I don't have it this year, but when I did, the tips for brining turkey, side dishes, cooking turkey, and stuffing ideas were fantastic.

It is finally cool and fall-like, and I thought it would snow on Friday. I visited an exhibit at a local museum of Laura Ingalls Wilder memorabilia, including the school writing tablet first drafts on which she wrote By the Shores of Silver Lake. There were Christmas trees inspired by themes of her books, with accompanying posters of the relevant texts. The doll tree was wonderful, with dolls from The Victorian Papers and Frozen Charlotte bonnet doll ornmanets. There was a music tree decorated with fiddles that even had real cases, another tree for nature with plants and flowers from the prairie, a baking tree, etc. I would have liked to see a tree with Mary's beadwork, but maybe next time, or homage to Ma's china shepardess and brown strawberry delaine dress. Still, there was the wedding picture of Ma and Pa Ingalls, and scarves and cards that belonged to Laura.

Our local Festival of Trees also had a room dedicated to A Little House Christmas, as well as fantastically decorated cakes and gingerbread houses. One was a miniature adobe doll house of gingerbread that won a prize. The miniatures were not edible, but southwest tiny treasures to enhance the pretzel ladders and cookie levels. The same baker created a tiered cake with mini festival trees, intricately decorated, on three cake levels, with signage, and miniature rooms with tiny people and furniture of frosting and marzipan. There were other cakes and houses, some sculptures, including a cake snowman. There was a tree made of a white female mannikin an acquaintance of mine did. The skirt was a vintage aluminum tree hung with black, silver, and clear ornamnents. She wore a black carnival mask with feathers. She was called "Christmas frozen in time." I think she was my favorite, but I also liked the Raggedy Ann tree, and the fantastic tiered doll house and the retro room, "Grandma's Attic" full of dolls and toys from the fifties through mid sixties.

I made butter pecan cookies, similar to my grandma's, with the recipe from The Net, and red velvet cupcakes, Duncan Hines mix. These are for our charity bake sale tomorrow. We are having an ornament and bake sale, with little over $1.00 except some gift baskets at five dollars, and small, decorated trees for two dollars. We hope to raise money for Toys for Tots and The Sun Valley Indian School in Sun Valley, AZ. My club has been sending boxes to the children there for Christmas.

I will post some photos of cupcakes to give you ideas, and you can google pecan butter cookies or sugar cookies or go to recipes.com in a pinch.

We watched a new documentary of old, color films of WWII never shown before. I could not help but cry, and be grateful in this season of thanksgiving for those who were veterans in that and in other wars. We live in a dangerous world, and there are those who have given up the comforts, conveniences and trivialities of modern life to undergo great privation for the sake of freedom. They have courage and fortitude most lack, and I salute them for it.

Now is the time to write to the service men and women overseas, and to send cards and care packages. Many sites and organizations have lists and addreses. We have done this at school, and I've done it on my own as well.

To those cleaning, follow the tips of Laura I. Wilder herself in Little House in the Ozarks, where she suggests resting or napping 20 minutes everyday, wearing overalls or comfortable house cleaning clothes, and cleaning one corner at a time. We can't do it all, and most of us still have to work, in or out of home. Find a simple way to do things; look up cleaning solutions of on-hand, natural ingredients like vinegar and baking soda, and try to relax. Bring a Mrs. Smith's or Village Inn pie to one or two events, or opt to make the salad or bring the paper cups. Offer someone an evening of coffee and empathetic listening, or help with an errand if you can. Sometimes, running a google search for someone who is not Net savvy is a greater gift than another gadget. Think of a stack of pre-loved books tied with a lovely ribbon or a net flix subscription for those who love these things, or offer to take someone who can't drive Christmas shopping.

Christmas is wonderful, and I believe its spirit is for everyone. Enjoy the rush and the crowds, admire the decorations, but find your own way to honor the holidays. If you make someone happy, you've done it right.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Living Green Tips on The Today Show

Note: The Today Show is featuring tips on how to live green today, November 15th. Go to MSNBC.com and look for The Today Show Link for more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hobbies and Thrift Shop Shopping

Ah, recycle, renew, rebirth. These all go together well. I love thrift shopping for crafts, for supplies, for antiques and dolls and inspiration. I'm not the only one. Also, as life-long learner, I have to say that books on hobbies give me ideas. One should never be bored. There is always something to do. Our local river sanctuaries and parks host workshops to craft ornaments out of natural materials including milk pods and seeds. I am using leaves this year, pressing them and ironing them between wax paper. The holidays should be a time of simplicity and peace, of good food, of sharing,of families. I recommend the following two books for inspiration, and for enjoyment.

1. Wilkinson, Lettice. Charity Shopping and the Thrift Lifestyle. NY and London:
Marion Boyars Pub. 2009. This is a fantastic book, reasonable, and beautifully and colorfully illustrated. I wonder that Martha Stewart has not thought of it. The book covers thrift shops, antique stores, charity stores, Salvation Army stores, etc., in the UK, USA, and Australia. I feel a world tour comingon. There are cafes and bookstores, clothing stores, department stores [the literarily famous Oxfam!], haute couture stores, everything. The author is reader friendly and enthusiastic and there is contact information for everything. I bought this and two other books on doll houses and assemblage mixed media art. I was not feeling well, but readng a medical book on my "symptoms" must depressed me further, so I bought this and the other books. I felt better immediately.

2. Schwartz, Alvin. Hobbies. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1972. This one is an oldy but goody. It is easy to read, well-illustrated, and eclectic. The book is divided into sections on crafts, collections, Nature Study and Science/Communications. Each is further divided into types of crafts, types of collections, etc. Ther is a good index, and a lengthy bibliography, to me, the hallmarks of a great book. Try The Bookthing.com or Amazon to find a copy, or Alibris, but it is worth looking for. It is not out of date, and many of the topics are current. There is an excellent chapter on puppets and puppetry that is fascinating and gives history as well as tips on how to make different puppets.

Art teachers and scout leaders would love it.

Hope everyone enjoys the cool, crisp days of November as we have. We have sun and cool weather, my perfect formula. Though the holidays are now a sad time for me, I try to put a spiritual spin on them. I make crafts, and bake from my mother's own recipes, contained in an unwieldy scrapbook, mostly in her handwriting. It is as if she works through me when I use them, and she and my grandmother are still beside me. Giving presents has become more important to me than receiving them, and even more important is keeping in touch through cards, letters,and email. I wish everyone peace and joy, and the chance to find themselves through a love of nature, art and music. I was watching the Create channel on PBS, and the knitting/crochet show emphasized that indulging in these crafts and creating something beautiful empowers one, and gives confidence. I couldn't have said it better myself!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stress Day

The Big story in the news is 1/4 people are stressed out and know it. No kidding. I spend a lot fo time trying to keep myself from screaming incessantly. So, I read, and garden when I can, and walk. I have limited my double shots on ice for the expense, but it is amazing how much money one can spend when trying to save money.

What stresses you out? For me, it's being double and triple-booked, and having to leive accorfding to accomodate other peoples' schedules. I also don't do well with people who are "energy vampires" and also narcissistic energy vampires at that. They love to tell you how in a hurry they are, and could you hurry up when you talk to them because they are SOOO busy. I have words for that, but this is a family blog.

Ah well; we suck it up. I guess since I'm on pet peeves, I'll touch on the harm reality shows have caused us. It is creating a big brother, it's OK to spy on people mentality. We equate clean with empty, and those who have anything are potential "hoarders." We are all about our "stuff," but chastise those who have bills or publically humliate people who are not pencil-thin, rich enough, style savvy enough, good enough singers, you name it. Individuality is bad, and you never know when Big Brother is watching.

Witch informers operated this way in the 17th century. We are a paradox; we stress diversity, but practice and in a passive/agressive way, encourage conformity.

For give me, I'm in a bad, bad mood.

On the plus side, Thanksgiving is two weeks away. I'm going to write poetry and further organize myself, which I do enjoy. I'm going to walk, and wrap Christmas presents, and maybe go out Black Friday just to observe and enjoy. I used to like doing that with my mom. We loved our road trips, and special little presents and surprises that we made. She made the greatest ornaments out of plastic cylindcrial pill bottles and hand-knitted doll purses. Even if we live in memory and dreams, the holidays can be ours, can be peaceful, can be good.

God speed to all veterans and soldiers; remember to fly the flag this Thursday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Too Tired to Think!

It's been a long Monday, but it was gorgeous out. The leaves glow in autum colors, and they seemed burnished by sunlight and cool air and wind. We talked about making turkey cards with thumbprints for the body, and our favorite hand turkeys, traced around a hand and fancied up.

I came up with a good chop marinade tonight; soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lime juice, Herbs de Provence, fresh cilantro, rosemary. I added a little water, too. You need about 1/4 c of each liquid, and you add chopped onions and some cut fresh tomato, and just let it simmer with whatever you are cooking, chops, chicken, fish. It was really good, and a very picky little boy had seconds! Here is a sample of nutcrackers and holiday dolls from German on display from our Museum at a local cultural center. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Rube Goldberg Moments

I suppose it happens to us all. Today I woke to a cold, clear morning, a blessed hour ahead becuase of day light savings time. The first thing I discovered was my lovely kitty had taken revenge on my rug, my off white rug, not a good idea in wall-to-wall carpeting with cats and kids. I headed out with the Oxy Clean, which does well, and tripped a couple times. He was angry because I didn't get up to feed him at 3 am and 4 am, his normal snack times. I had to clean it up, and find snacks, all before I made coffee. I got to the pot to make the coffee, and dumped the coffee into the water compartment, not the basket. I tried to empty it, and the Mr. Coffee fell apart. I tried to fix it, and dropped part of it on the floor, flipping the kitty bowl with leftover shepards pie. [He didn't like it]. I did a lot of bend and stretch to fix things. Finally, I got breakfast going and did some clean-up, and the cat then tried to steal a piece of bacon out of my plate. Not bad for a 22 year old + cat. He is now snoozed out, having to what he wanted, including a fitting punishment for me.

I hope to finish my leaf ornaments today, and to continue baking. I got started yesterday; it helps to have a second fridge, as I do. I can hide the goodies till later from my 12 year old, who finds all things and who lusts after cookie dough, raw! I also began to sort and to hide Xmas presents. One has to do what one has to do.

Organization is key to happiness; I used to be much neater, but I'm still organized. A few tips here and there; lay out clothes for everyone the night before school or work. I try to do it for two or three days, complete with jewelry. I put my glasses and hair bands and barrettes where I can find them, too.

Get books and materials together the night before. I have some piece of mind knowing I can get out and run if I have to, with what I need. I hate forgetting things, and I keep all flash drives, disks, post-its, pens and pencisl in a little blue pouch one of my bosses gave me for Christmas several years ago. One of the best presents I ever got re work!

I keep a separate computer file for each class I teach, and a disk or drive or each set of writings or book. I use accordion files for research materials, and though I have thousands of books everywhere, I have certain book cases and work areas where I keep reference books, and books for projects I'm rsearching. I also keep a file box with bills that need to be paid. I not the date on the bills for due date, and also the date I paid them. I include catalog orders and cards there. I keep my credit cards and IDs in the same places, and do checks to make sure all is in order.

I also review my bank accounts every couple of days to make sure all is well.

I used to be able to organize my cleaning routine, living room every week, rest of the house alternate every other week. That is harder to do, but I keep up on dishes and vacume a couple of times a week. I keep new purchases in bags for a week or two in one place, but then go through them, sort, and put away what I need to.

Not everyone I know or live with is as organized, and this is a terrible challenge. I am making baby steps with my little boy; he will pick things up when asked,now, and does apologize about forgetting or making messes.

Using calendars and appointment books helps, and I keep little notebooks and post it notes. Schedules are good, too.

Have a meaningful Veterans Day; think of all those who have died for our freedom, and who are defending it now. Turn the clocks back, and have a good week!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Easy Orzo Casserole

This is both easy and hearty. You need one can Rotel dicd tomatoes with chile and lime, about 1 c. Orzo, or even small elbo maccaroni, rotini, etc., about 2/3c each mexican blend shredded cheese and shredded parmesan, any brands, about 1/8 c shelled pisachios or pinones, pine nuts, about 1/2c to3/4 c boiling water, about 1 TBSP olive oil. Let water boil, and add orzo. I did not salt this water. Add orzo, and can of rotel. Boil until pasta is done. Add olive oil. Let the water cook down, when it is like at think soup, stir it, and add the pistachios. I put all in a large corelle, bowl. Stir in shredded mexican cheese. Top with parmesan. Serve hot. This is very good, with just a little bite. It's a great alternative to chile.

Enjoy!