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Hodgepodge from The Geranium Farm

Debbie Sharp Loeb, teacher by training but full-time mom to a disabled son, craftsperson, bead artist, great cook, creative homemaker & terrific spotter of cool new products for everything under the sun, presents Hodgepodge: recipes, household hints, stories about children, friends & relatives, cool stuff, music, & much more.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Mythmatical Battles

Now with school starting it's time to brush up on those multiplication tables. Here's a fun way to do that! Mythmatical Battles is a award winning card game where classic myths from diverse cultures combine with rock solid math to form a fun multiplication dueling card game. It's an innovative game which lets kids drill multiplication while engaging in epic mythological battles. To find out more and to order a set of cards go to:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quaker - Simple Harvest

Here's a new product from Quaker Oats I just came across called Simple Harvest Instant Multigrain Hot Cereal. It's made from whole oats, whole wheat and barley, with real fruit and nuts and comes in 3 flavors.

Maple Brown Sugar with Pecans combines natural ingredients - like crunchy pecans, whole oats, whole wheat, and barley with just the lightly sweet taste of maple brown sugar. (pictured above)

Apples with Cinnamon combines the flavor of baked apples with natural ingredients - like whole oats, whole wheat, and barley with a touch of cinnamon.

Vanilla, Almond and Honey combines natural ingredients - like almonds, whole oats, whole wheat and barley with the great natural flavor of vanilla and honey.

To find out more about the nutritional information go to:

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Drawing Dough

This recipe is a cross between paint and dough that you squeeze out onto thick construction paper or card stock and it creates a puffy, colorful design. As it dries the salt crystallizes and glitters.

You'll need:
2/3 cup each, water, flour, and salt
washable tempera paints
squeeze bottles (which you can get in your local craft or perhaps a dollar store)
thick construction paper or card stock

In a bowl, whisk together the water, flour and salt. It will be bearly pourable. Divide the dough between bowls and stir in a few drops of the washable paint. Pour the dough into squeeze bottles.

From FamilyFun magazine - September 2007

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

FAT Principle

I got this from an email from Costco as an office tip.
When going through your paperwork do the following - either:

File it
Act on it
Toss it

It said that 60% of papers coming into your office can be tossed immediately!

I'd say this would apply to your home mail as well.

Monday, August 27, 2007

An Exchange of Emails Between the Hostas and Kitten by Lynda Helmer

Dear Kitten,

We've headed south to our "winter home" until next Spring when we will return to your owner's lovely garden. We look forward very much to playing with you again! Good job with the hard candy....impressive!
Until our return, here are a few ideas you might want to pass along to your owners that you will find helpful in keeping you in shape for Spring Sparring with us in 08:
1) Have your owners tie a piece of string to a wooden dowl. For some reason, the string comes to life when attached to the wood and needs to be killed.
2) If your owners own a "laser pen", it needs to be attacked as well. The pen itself isn't the problem. But, if your owners press the pen, a red light beam emits from the pen and THAT'S the problem. You will need to chase this light around to catch it but once you do, give it all you've got. Humanity will be forever in your debt.
See you next Spring!
Best Regards,
The Hostas

Dear Hostas,

I wondered where you were.

My owners do go "catfishing," as they call it, with string tied to a bamboo pole. It's fun.

Q says we will play with the laser pointer this winter when we have to stay inside. What is a laser pointer? And what is winter? That's what I want to know.

Your friend,


Dear Kitten,

Hey, thanks for the "hat tip" on what that game is called. We never knew it had a name. We've seen owners of cats play the game outside but never heard them refer to it by name. Come to think of it, we probably didn't hear them because we don't have ears.

Ah, a laser pointer. Scary name for such a little thing. Looks like a pen. You've probably observed your owners sitting at a table moving one of their arms and hands in a rhythmic way holding a narrow object in their hand. THAT'S a pen. A laser pointer looks a lot like that. The difference is, owners can't "write" with it and "writing" is what they are doing in that rhythmic way when they hold a pen. (We think it's probably can't be half as much fun as having your buds tickled by a kitten.....). Anyway, a laser pointer will shine a small red light wherever your owner points it. IT'S THE RED LIGHT YOU HAVE TO ATTACK. What do humans use laser pointers for? We really don't know. All we DO know is that little red light should be treated like a piece of hard candy in a noisy wrapper.

Let's see...winter. Best way we can describe winter is to suggest you stand next to one of your owners the next time they open the refrigerator in the kitchen. The refrigerator is that big thing that holds some types of food, most of which you will think is tasty. Many cats and kittens like to hang with their owners when they open the refrigerator because some treat might drop on the floor they could enjoy. You may have tried this already. Anyway, stand by them when they open it and NOTICE THE TEMPERATURE. Better yet, if your owners open the freezer, DEFINITELY NOTICE THE TEMPERATURE. THAT'S winter. THAT'S why Q says you'll be staying inside. Trust me, you will want to. From time to time, should you glance out a window, you may see white stuff on the ground. That's snow. Same temperature as your owner's freezer. It's pretty and COLD. However, if you are a hosta, it keeps the roof on our southern home warm and, in turn, it keeps us warm. But, this only works for you if you are a hosta or one of our cousins called a perennial. If you are a kitten, you can only feel as warm in winter as we do by staying inside and playing with a laser pointer.
Hope these explanations help! Feel free to ask anything, anytime. We just relax and hang out down south now so we have LOADS of time on our hands.
Enjoy catfishing! Looks like great fun to us...we really enjoy watching it.

Your friends,
The Hostas

Dear Hostas,

That's what winter is?!?

You've got to be kidding. I'll believe it when I see it.

Your sceptical friend,


Dear Kitten,

We forgot to tell you, winter won't be a huge issue for you, even when you are older. You have a permanent fur coat. You're wearing the summer version of it right now. As the next several months pass, your coat will get thicker. If you were an "outdoor" cat, you'd have a REALLY thick coat. If you are going to remain an "indoor" cat, it won't be as thick, but thick enough to keep you comfortable. Next Spring, you'll begin to shed the heavier coat. Don't worry. It's perfectly normal. You'll just notice your owners running that huge, noisy machine called a "vacuum cleaner" more often. You probably don't like it. It's big and it's noisy and it seems to move fast when they are at the controls. Don't worry about that, either. It never moves without your owners at the control and the only thing it knows how to do is pick up dirt and debris off the carpets in the house. It can't hurt kittens. Doesn't even WANT to. Anyway, one of the reasons we go south is because along with no ears, we don't grow fur coats. You have both. You, my friend, hit the jackpot!

Today we heard from cousins of ours who live about a mile or so from where we reside. They are STILL up north! We couldn't figure out why until we all realized they are much older than we are and can stay north longer. We wish you were nearer to them as we've told them all about you and they would love to play with you. They send their best regards. They'll be joining us in the south shortly. They also told us that today is a lovely day up north. Enjoy it! If it was like that every day of the year, we would stay up north. In a few months, you will see for yourself why we can't. We are really anxious to hear from you once you see what winter is. In a way, we think you'll like it. You'll probably want to train the snowflakes that fall from the sky. (Very tiny, very pretty, weigh absolutely nothing and disappear altogether if it's warm enough. If it's cold enough, they assemble on the ground as if they were holding a convention. They stay as long as it's cold enough. Once it gets too warm, they have to head north. It's just the opposite of what we do).

Winter won't be here for awhile so in the meantime, keep enjoying summer! Wait until you see Fall....the next season on the calendar. It's GORGEOUS. VERY colorful. And, as an extra special treat, the leaves on the trees change from green to various bright colors and eventually fall off the tree so that you can play with them if you like. They come back to the trees, always green, next Spring. Fall can be cooler than summer but not as cold as winter. You'll know Spring is coming back when the snowflake convention is almost over and you begin to see new friends, like us, return north from our winter vacation. (You'll also see your owners in the garden. ALOT).


Your friends,
The Hostas

Friday, August 24, 2007

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Want to learn more about Frankenmuth?
Go here:
There's also a nearby outlet mall in Birch Run, MI

Copyright © 2007 Deborah Sharp Loeb

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The World's Largest Christmas Store

Bronner's, the largest Christmas store in the world, is located in Frankenmuth, Michigan. The Bronner's building is 320,000 sq. ft. (approx. 7.35 acres or 5.5 football fields of space) with 96,000 sq. ft. (2.2 acres 1.7 football fields of space) devoted to the salesroom.
To read more trivia about Bronner's go to:
Given the size and scope of everything sold here, I have to admit the signage saying - "It's His Way" made me chuckle. Go to the homepage: and you can see another picture of the store to get and idea of just how huge it is. If you've been trying to find something very specific good chances are you'll find it here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Detroit - Gateway to Freedom

This sculpture by Ed Dwight depicting slaves traveling the Underground Railroad and pointing their way to freedom across the river to Canada is found along the River Walk in Detroit.
A description of their "Gateway to Freedom" is shown above. There is debate about the use of symbols in quilts in the Underground Railway. Here is one such article and there are others on the internet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Detroit Riverfront

The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy opened the Detroit International RiverWalk this summer with beautiful views and great family attractions. The bridge in the top picture is the bridge to Canada. There's a decorative water area where you can wet your feet or the kids can run through. You can have a nice lunch while you take a boat ride on the river. There are several venues for concerts and a flea market in the plaza area the day we were there.
To see more pictures go to:

To learn more about the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy go to:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Just Like Matt Said . . .

. . . I'm working on it. That is I'm working to bring you pictures I took while I was away but there's some problem with the memory on my computer. The program I use to make the collages keeps freezing up. I'm trying to fix it. I've dumped a lot of old stuff, ran a virus scan (which took a long time), and need to remove and save a bunch of pictures to a disk to free up some memory (or add need to add more memory). Anyway, "I'll be back!"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Guatemala, Part I of II

Hey, this is Matt the Web Dude again. You may have read my post about my honeymoon trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand back in December. For our 1 year anniversary this past June, my wife Jenn and I took a 5 day trip to Guatemala followed by a 5 day trip to Belize.

This is Part I of II of our Guatemala experience.

We departed from JFK at 8 a.m. for Guatemala via Miami and landed in Guatemala City on May 30, 2007 at 12:15 p.m.. However, our destination that day was a small town called Jaibalito located on the shore of Lago de Atitlán (Lake Atitlán), a 4 hour bus ride away. So after much confusing communication with the frenzied taxi drivers at the supermarket-looking airport, we finally hopped in a taxi and drove 5 miles to this dirty old bus station in the heart of the city. We were about to attempt to take a "chicken bus", an American Blue Bird school bus, to our destination. By the way, I noticed that on almost every block there is a security guard weilding a shotgun on the sidewalk. I suppose that really is an effective way to deter crime.

Our bus was supposed to leave at 2 p.m. but after 2 hours of waiting we were informed that the police had put a padlock on the bus door because the bus company had not paid their license fee. But at around 3 p.m. they somehow secured another bus for us. The only stipulation was that we had to lie down in the seats for the first 10 minutes so the police didn't see us. Once we got outside the city limits, we were allowed to sit up - and our 4 hour journey from Hell began. I had no idea what I was getting into. For the next 4 hours we made God knows how many stops to pick up anyone who hailed the bus or asked to be dropped off. We were 3 to a seat and some crouched in the aisles. All our stuff was (hopefully) strapped to the roof of the bus. No air conditioning. No bathroom. No bathroom stops. Crazy driver passing cars around blind curves or blind curves ahead - if he didn't make it past the car in front, well, we were 3 vehicles to the road just like we were 3 to a seat. And a lot of times we were on the side of a mountain. Not to mention the questionable safety of the bus itself - apparently when North Americans deem their school buses no longer safe for their children, they’re shipped to Central America. Grrrrrreat. I suppose for all of those reasons our entire trip cost us about $2 each.

So we arrived in the main town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan at about 7:15 p.m. - just in time to catch the very last "La Lancha" or water taxi for the night to take us several miles along the lake to our hotel, La Casa Del Mundo, in El Jaibalito, perched on a cliff and only accessible by foot or by water. We were stunned by how nice the place looked
as we pulled up to their dock, even at night. After climbing the 100 stairs to get to the reception area, we literally dropped our bags and had a nice meal before heading to bed. I slept like a dog on horse tranquilizers.
The next day we woke up bright and early and climbed the stairs down to the dining area for some huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos with great Guatemalan cafe con leche. Then we decided to take a little hike to the next town over called Santa Cruz. To do this we had to first climb all of Casa Del Mundo's stairs up to the very top. From there we carefully navigated a rough, narrow, staggered dirt trail along the mountainside. We had heard that in several places in Guatemala there have been attacks on trails such as these, but that this particular trail had been safe for several years. So I think it took about an hour to reach Santa Cruz - it was a nice little scenic walk - just too bad the weather was so overcast. On a clear day you can actually see the 3 volcanoes that dominate the landscape across the lake. Unfortunately we were there during the rainy season and never saw them due to so much fog. However, I did find a web page made by some people that did a similar hike on a clear day right here. When we arrived at Santa Cruz, we stopped for a beer and hung out for about an hour, then watched some local boys fishing and swimming on the dock while waiting for the Lancha to take us back to the hotel. That night we had a great meal at the same table with all the other guests staying at the hotel and got to meet some very interesting people. Many of them were doctors who were there to treat and educate the locals. One of these doctors in particular, Dave, was a 27 year old who just finished his residency practicing Internal Medicine from Washington. It took a while for me to notice that he had a problem with his left hand and when he got up to go to the bathroom it became obvious that he had some form of cerebral palsy. And surprisingly when we announced that we had decided to go on a long hike the next day, and asked if anyone wanted to come with us, he was the only taker. I was skeptical but impressed with his resolve, despite his disability. We said goodnight and headed off to bed.
In the morning, Dave was already having breakfast in the dining room when we arrived. After eating we caught a Lancha across the lake to a town called San Pedro. Here we met up with our guide and started walking. Our destination was the a mountain called Cerro Cristalino of which the peak is known as Nariz del Indio (Indian Nose) because it looks like the profile of an Indian with the peak as the nose. We were told that the entire hike would take 4-5 hours. After 15 minutes we entered the town of San Juan, which had a very quiet, local, indigenous feel and our
guide confirmed that tourists do not stay there so much as walk through it as we were. But just as it was everywhere, everyone was very friendly, and saying "Hola" was always warmly reciprocated. Just outside San Juan we started to ascend the base of the mountain and quickly came across a statue of the Virgin Mary standing next to a large white cross which eerily had a large black raven perched on it. As we continued upward and onward we continued to get a better and better view of San Juan, San Pedro and most of the western half of the lake. And then the trail started to get more and more difficult: rocky, steep, sometimes very narrow, sometimes with large step-ups, wet rocks and mud and occasionally hugging the side of a cliff. Jenn and I found it to be challenging and quite a workout.
At this point Dave was struggling a bit so our guide fashioned a walking stick out of a live tree limb for him. I made a point to stay behind him just in case he slipped and fell, which he did, at least twice. Once I was able to grab him before he fell but another time he fell pretty hard but got up and kept moving. When he walked, his left foot touched down on the toes and his right leg quickly jumped ahead. He stepped up with his right leg then pulled his left leg up to meet the right one. The right side of his body clearly dominated his movements - and it was obvious when you compared the size of the calf muscle in his right leg versus the left. I asked him about it and he said it had something to do with a blood vessel blockage in his right brain during fetal development which caused hemiparesis in the left side of his body. He explained that it's always been that way, and it always will, but it won't get worse, and it is what it is, and he's never known anything different. And I thought to myself, here's this young doctor, with cerebral palsy, who's travelling alone in Guatemala and hiking up the side of a mountain on a trail that I find to be difficult. It was a realization that filled me with respect and admiration for Dave. It was inspiring to say the least.
After about 4 hours or maybe even more, we started to level out and I thought we had reached the top (at this point it was so hard to tell because there was so much fog there was no longer a view of anything at all). But then our guide, as he pointed up, said, "Okay, it's this way - just 15 minutes more to the nose." We looked at each other and collectively decided that we'd rather start heading back down because of how long it took us to get up there - to get to the nose and back would be another 30 minutes at least - maybe 45 at our pace. But we were also concerned about going back down the way we came since it was pretty treacherous - going down would be twice as difficult especially for Dave. So our guide said there was a much easier way - flatter and broader trail. So that's what we went with. He guided us through some maize fields and eventually through a village and out onto a windy, paved road that switched back and forth down the side of the mountain. After about a mile of this I finally asked our guide how much further it was to San Pedro and he said, "Oh it's probably about 15 kilometers." Say what? Our collective jaws dropped. That's over 9 miles! There was no way that was going to happen at this point. So we sat down on the side of the road and waited for a ride (you can pretty much catch a ride from anyone willing to pick you up and it's
common practice to pay a few dollars for your transportation). We got dropped off in San Juan and hoofed it back to San Pedro as it started to pour, heavily. It rained so hard that literally the street leading out of San Pedro to the lake was a 1-foot deep raging river. We had to find an ATM so we could pay our guide, so we ended up having to walk upstream in the street 4-5 blocks looking for one. That was fun. Really. All in all a very memorable day.
That night we had another great meal with everyone together at La Casa Del Mundo, shared some local rum, and went to bed. The next day we were leaving to go to Flores, Guatemala to see the ancient ruins of Tikal. More on that in Part II - stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I'm Back!

My brother and I got back yesterday morning after getting up a little after 4am to get a 7am flight. (Thanks Dawn for the ride to the airport.) I took a very long nap for a good part of the day. The little hedgehog is from the world's largest Christmas store, but more about that later. I need some time to organize pictures and I'll post soon. Debbie

Monday, August 13, 2007

Okay I'm working on it.

I didn't realize Debbie had advertised the possibility of a post from me so I apologize if you've been waiting with grueling anticipation of another fabulous post from me ;-)

Anyway, hold your horses and I'll write my post about my 1 year anniversary trip to Guatemala and Belize shortly.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Watch for the HP Guest Writer!

I'm going to be away for a few days on vacation and stepping in will be Matt our web dude. He and Jenn have been traveling again and have some wonderful photos and adventures to share with you. So stayed tuned and see what all he has to share.
See ya!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

Yesterday was my dad's 92nd birthday. We took him out to lunch at a restaurant with an ocean view. I'd like to add that my dad never complains. He's just happy and greatful for any little thing you do for him. It's something I always try to keep in mind.

Monday, August 06, 2007

$1.50 Off Coupon for Dawn Direct Foam

I had reported earlier on Hodgepodge that I liked this product and now they have a coupon for $1.50 off. In addition to the requested coupon, you'll receive a booklet by mail with tips for easy living and over $30 in savings on great home care products like - Swifter, Mr. Clean, Iams, Febreze, Dawn, and Cascade. If you'd like to get a monthly email newsletter called "Home Made Simple" you can check off a box for that too.
Just go to:

Friday, August 03, 2007

Need a Haagen-Daaz Fix?

In Barbara's August 1, 2007 eMo - "Let the Bunnies Bury Their Dead" she mentioned that Blue Bunny was her favorite ice cream. Well, my new favorite is Haagen-Daaz's Caramel Cone, which they also make in a light version. I happened to go on their website and found that if you're having trouble finding your favorite flavor they have a "Flavor Finder" that will not only tell you whatever mile radius you plug in, carries it, but goes a step further. If you put in your email address they will notify you when it's been delivered to the store! Lest you think I'm joking, go to:

Now there's a company that helps to serve their customer's addiction! : )

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup blueberries (or other berries of choice)

Mix all ingredients together stirring in the berries last. Pour into greased muffin pan. Bake: 350' for 20-25 minutes. Makes 1 dozen.
Freeze berries up in 1 cup increments and with your little mix already made up you can quickly make muffins anytime!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Free Patterns

What craft do you like to do?
At you can find patterns for 2,451 FREE and easy to download popular patterns for Crochet, Cross-Stitch, Knitting, Quilting, Sewing, Plastic Canvas, and Paper Crafts.

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