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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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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Nature's Best Photography Awards of 2008

These are photographs from the website Pixcetera. You'll find all sorts of beautiful and breathtaking photos here.

(Thanks Joan for passing this along.)

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top Secret Recipes

You may have seen Todd Wilber on TV shows where he creates kitchen clone recipes of America's favorite Brand-Name foods and some restaurant menu items. On his website he posts a free recipe each week and you can download others for a small charge.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Gluten-Free Desserts and Other Tips

Hodgepodge reader Nancy J. sends along information to a website on gluten-free desserts.

"Gluten-Free Baking Classics" book by Annalise Roberts, (Agate, $17.95) the creator of , a Web site for people on gluten-free diets.

And these tips are shared when having guests that are on a gluten-free diet:

"Start with simple food in its natural state. It's when you get into processed foods that you run into problems. Fish, chicken, meat, vegetables and fruit are all fine, if they aren't processed."

"If you want to do a pasta dish, there are some wonderful gluten-free pastas. It's easiest if you make it for everyone. Tinkyada and Schar are good brands."

"For appetizers, there are delicious rice crackers, and Diamond Brand nut crackers are good. "

"Desserts are pretty easy: chocolate mousse, fruit, crème brülée, many puddings, even flourless chocolate cake can work."

"If you want to create a crust on something, use rice flour, and for thickening or making a roux, get potato starch."

"If you use processed foods, keep the packaging so your guest can take a look at it."

The president of Cincinnati Celiac Support Group, adds these tips for hosting someone with serious celiac disease, who needs to worry about cross-contamination:

"If you take a portion out for the guest, keep it in the kitchen, don't mix it with other food on a buffet."

"Start with all-new ingredients, like butter or mayonnaise."

"Always wash your hands between handling gluten-containing ingredients and gluten-free."

"Don't be offended if your guest brings his or her own food"

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

"Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it's Christmas." - Dale Evans

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time Magazine's Pictures of the Year

Also see Person of the Year 2008, Runners-Up, People Who Mattered, Fond Farewells, and Person of the Year Videos
Go to:,31682,1861543_1861868,00.html

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Project Free TV

Watch TV shows and movies online for free.

Project Free TV doesn't host any content but instead links embed content that was uploaded to popular Online Video hosting sites like / / / Google Video. com. By clicking on any Links to videos while surfing on Project Free TV you watch content hosted on third parties. (All those users signed a contract with the sites when they set up their accounts which forces them not to upload illegal parties. Project Free TV doesn't take the responsibility for any content hosted on other sites.)

(Thanks HMF for alerting us to this site.)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Radio

This is pretty cool website. Just type in any song title or artist and see what happens. Then, following the end of the song, it will keep playing similar songs. You can also "tune-in" to a particular channel by era or genre. It'll remember what you've played and your favorite artists.

Also try clicking on Artists /Channels /Charts /Genres /on the bottom and see what it brings up.

(Hey, thanks Helen for letting us know about this one!)

and HP reader Mary M. sends along another one -

Here's one more my brother sent along called the Playa Cofi Jukebox:
The top 100 songs from the golden years of popular music - plus more of our musical heritage.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Message From Santa

You might have to be patient and keep trying this site but the little ones will sure get a kick out of a personalized video email message from Santa.
Check it out here:

(Thank you to the HP reader, elf Margaret, for alerting us to this.)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Transcending: Words on Women and Strength by Kelly Corrigan

(Thank you HP reader Ann S. for sharing this wonderful YouTube posting you found.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trees from Around the World

1-Before the ball drops in Times Square, the Big Apple turns on its holiday charm with the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

2-Ooh la la Galeries Lafayette! In Paris, even the Christmas trees are chic. With its monumental, baroque dome, plus 10 stories of lights and high fashion, it's no surprise this show-stopping department store draws more visitors than the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

3-The world's largest Christmas tree display rises up the slopes of Monte Ingino outside of Gubbio, in Italy's Umbria region. Composed of about 500 lights connected by 40,000 feet of wire, the 'tree' is a modern marvel for an ancient city.

4-A token of gratitude for Britain's aid during World War II, the Christmas tree in London's Trafalgar Square has been the annual gift of the people of Norway since 1947.

5-'Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree': Even in its humblest attire, aglow beside a tiny chapel in Germany's Karwendel mountains, a Christmas tree is a wondrous sight.

6-The Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., is decorated with 3,000 ornaments that are the handiwork of U.S. schoolchildren. Encircling evergreens in the 'Pathway of Peace' represent the 50 U.S. states.

7-In addition to the Vatican's heavenly evergreen, St. Peter's Square in Rome hosts a larger-than-life nativity scene in front of the obelisk.

8-A Christmas tree befitting Tokyo's nighttime neon display is projected onto the exterior of the Grand Prince Hotel Akasaka.

9-The Christmas tree that greets revelers at the Puerta del Sol is dressed for a party. Madrid's two-week celebration makes millionaires along with merrymakers. On Dec. 22, a lucky citizen will win El Gordo (the fat one), the world's biggest lottery.

10-Venice 's Murano Island renowned throughout the world for its quality glasswork is home to the tallest glass tree in the world. Sculpted by master glass blower Simone Cenedese, the artistic Christmas tree is a modern reflection of the holiday season.

11-Drink a glass of gluhwein from the holiday market at the Romer Frankfurt's city hall since 1405 and enjoy a taste of Christmas past.

12-The largest Christmas tree in Europe (more than 230 feet tall) can be found in the Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal. Thousands of lights adorn the tree, adding to the special enchantment of the city during the holiday season.

13-Illuminating the Gothic facades of Prague's Old Town Square, and casting its glow over the manger display of the famous Christmas market, is a grand tree cut in the Sumava mountainside the southern Czech Republic.

14-Moscow celebrates Christmas according to the Russian Orthodox calendar on Jan. 7. For weeks beforehand, the city is alive with festivities in anticipation of Father Frost's arrival on his magical troika with the Snow Maiden. He and his helper deliver gifts under the New Year tree, or yolka, which is traditionally a fir.

(Thanks Kendall for passing this along.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys

This is from a article by Tim Moodie which you can read in full here:

1. Slinky - How the Slinky got stuck between a cult and a mid-life crisis.
In 1943, naval engineer Richard James invented the Slinky when a spring fell off of his workbench and began to “walk” across the floor. He figured he could make a toy out of it and his wife Betty agreed, and she came up with the name Slinky. Introduced in 1945, Slinky sales soared.
By 1960, despite his success, Richard James was suffering from a serious mid-life crisis and became involved with a Bolivian religious cult. He gave generously to the religious order, left his wife, six children and the company, to move to Bolivia.
Stuck with the debts left by her husband and a company that desperately needed her leadership, Betty James took over as the head and was responsible for additions to the Slinky line including Slinky Jr., Plastic Slinky, Slinky Dog, Slinky Pets, Crazy Slinky Eyes and Neon Slinky. In 2001, she was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and perhaps even more laudably, her Slinky dog was forever immortalized in Disney’s Toy Story movies.

2. Lincoln Logs - Why Lincoln Logs are the most deceptively named toys in the business
Standing beside his father (Frank Lloyd Wright) and watching the construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, John Lloyd Wright was inspired by the interlocking beams in and thought, “What if children had a toy version of those beams, shaped like notched tree trunks to build little log homes?”
The architect’s son followed through on his inspiration and the John Lloyd Wright Company manufactured and sold Lincoln Logs from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The sets even came with instructions on how to build Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as Abe Lincoln’s log cabin. The Lincoln Log construction and figure sets came in two sizes available for $2 or $3 dollars.
The naming of the toy wasn’t a tribute to Abe Lincoln but rather a homage to the inventor’s father. Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright, but he legally changed his name when his parents split. (Lloyd Jones was his mother’s maiden name and Frank’s name change was to honor her.)

3. Play-Doh - Captain Kangaroo saved Play-Doh
Before Play-Doh was everyone’s favorite squishy clay it was actually a wallpaper cleaner used to clean soot off of walls. Demand for the product evaporated when people switched from using coal burning furnaces to oil fueled ones in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
The sister-in-law of the company’s founder, Kay Zufall suggested using the wallpaper cleaner as a child’s craft item, and McVicker was willing to try anything. He formed a new division, Rainbow Crafts, and began selling the re-branded product as Play-Doh. Sales were okay, but then he came up with a way to sell a whole lot more. He contacted Captain Kangaroo (A.K.A. Bob Keeshan) and offered him 2% of sales if the good Captain would feature Play-Doh on his show. He did. Ding Dong School and Romper Room soon followed suit, hawking the crafty compound to kiddies . While the company has changed hands a few times that’s hardly impeded sales. More than two billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since 1955.

4. Etch-a-Sketch - Etch-a-Sketch used to be played like an Atari
The original Etch-A-Sketch, the invention brainchild of Andre Cassagnes, a French electrician, while tinkering in his garage in 1950, made use of a joystick, glass and aluminum powder. First called the Telecran, the toy was renamed L’Ecran Magique, and made its debut at a European Toy Fair in 1959. Fascinated by the invention, American Henry Winzeler, founder and president of the Ohio Art Toy Company, licensed L’Ecran Magique and introduced it to America in 1960.
Amongst Winzeler’s innovations were replacing the joystick with two white knobs in the left and right corners of the screen to make the toy look like the hot new adult toy…television.
As for how the knobs work, the two Etch-A-Sketch handles control a stylus that’s attached to strings. The stylus is designed to move up and down and left and right “etching” an image in the Aluminum powder that clings to the glass with static electricity.

5. Trivial Pursuit - Why Trivial Pursuit almost never happened
In 1979, Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott (along with business partners Ed Werner and John Haney) decided to create a game that combined their love of all things trivia and their basic competitive nature. At the time, $15.00 was the most expensive wholesale price for a board game but to the retailer’s surprise the game was a hit even at the heady price of $30.00 at retail.
Realizing that they lacked the funding to bring the game to its full potential, Horn-Abbott licensed Trivial Pursuit to Canadian game manufacturer Chieftain Products. Chieftain had a major hit in Canada in 1981 and contacted their American partner, Selchow and Righter. Amazingly, Selchow and Righter analyzed the game and found that it was: a) too expensive to manufacture, b) it took over an hour to play, c) the best players had to have impressive knowledge of trivial subjects and d) they assumed adults didn’t play board games. Selchow and Righter passed, but Chieftain was persistent and in 1982 the game was introduced to America at the New York Toy Fair.
Initial sales were worrisome but through a solid PR campaign and great word of mouth, sales skyrocketed. Sales peaked in 1984 at 20,000,000 games in North America alone. Then in 1986, facing huge debt brought on by an abundance of inventory, Selchow and Righter was sold to Coleco. In 1989, Coleco filed for bankruptcy and the rights to Trivial Pursuit were acquired by Parker Brothers. Today the game has been made into over 30 “Editions” is available in 26 countries, been translated into 17 different languages and has sold approximately 100,000,000 copies since its inception. Pretty good for a game that almost wasn’t.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Straight No Chaser

When I was at my friend Helen's on Wednesday for our quilting day she brought up a youtube video of an acapella group she and her husband Rob enjoy. I asked her if she had heard of the unique story of this other group that became famous by posting an old video performance on youtube. I told her not only did they get a deal to do 5CD's but they are also on a limited tour for the holiday season. Last night she calls me up and says, "I could do 20 questions with you but I don't think I have time. Guess where Rob and I are in the pouring rain mind you?" They were in NYC just about to go into to hear the one night only concert of Straight No Chaser. I said, "You guys are crazy." She said, "Well that's the great thing about us both being retired now. We can just pick up and run and do stuff like this. We're also both soaked!" LOL
Update: They both enjoyed the concert!

Straight No Chaser's - 12 Days (of Christmas)

and the story of what became after the youtube posting:
Straight No Chaser Reunited

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Funky Fabric

This is fabric for a future funky quilt. The second, multi-colored small circles, was the first one I picked up and then I added on from there. I got them all at Joann Fabrics store late in the day on Black Friday, the only shopping I would do that day. I added the yellow diagonal stripe and the dark orange with swirl to it yesterday.

An email from a reader:

Dear Debbie,

I loved seeing the wonderfully "funky" fabrics which you have picked for your quilt. Looking at the fabrics, sitting there in carefully folded squares, each piece relating to the next either in color, form, character or just because it brought you a moment of whimsy in its selection, is such a hopeful thing. There are endless possibilities which you might choose to combine these marvelously individual chunks of color and design. Much planning will go into your concept of what that quilt will look like upon completion. Some of the bits will be snipped away, dropped on the floor of your "quilting space". Perhaps they will provide hours of entertainment for your cat or kitten or Grandchildren. Perhaps a creation of delicious serendipity will surprise you as you look down at the Mess you have created as you cut so carefully on the table. It's possible that you may look down and be momentarily transfixed with the perfection of absolute serendipity created by your cat who purrs contentedly snuggled in her concept of perfection, or your Grandchild, smiling and completely immersed in a pattern which is so clear to her as it oozes from her imagination... and your relentless snipping. And so it is. Isn't it fun to think how God put us all together from the bits and pieces of loved ones and related ones clear back to his first creation. To the time when we all were One? Out of the elements from which he choose, bits and pieces, snip, snip,snip beautiful colors, intricate shapes, various gifts, He created. We are all a little big "funky" I would imagine, and we're so individual because there simply are no scraps when He's involved. I see Him now, smiling at what He created, each of us a masterpiece of his creation, each created to reflect His warmth and to use that warmth to share with others. I hope your quilt doesn't live in a Cedar Chest. I hope it slouches itself across a big comfy chair and by its very nature evoke an open invitation for one, anyone, to sit down, gather the well worn and extremely soft heart of itself and wrap it up close and warm to themselves... like a swaddling cloth...and that includes the Cat.

Lovingly in his Service,
Judy St. John

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Man Decorates Basement with $10 Worth of Sharpie

"When Charlie Kratzer started on the basement art project in his south Lexington home, he was surrounded by walls painted a classic cream. Ten dollars of Magic Marker and Sharpie later, the place was black and cream and drawn all over."

Check it out at the link provided. It will give you a panaramic view of the whole basement. Pretty Cool!

(Thanks Joan for sending this along.)

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Holiday Windows

On HGTV this Sunday at 8 PM with additional air dates:

Holiday Windows 2008 Episode HWIN6-S08
Go behind-the-scenes in some of the most popular department stores in North America to witness the creation of their fabulous holiday window displays, and meet the talented designers who spend all year bringing these elaborate fantasies to life.

• December 14, 2008 8:00 PM ET/PT
• December 15, 2008 12:00 AM ET/PT
• December 21, 2008 5:00 PM ET/PT
• December 24, 2008 4:00 PM ET/PT
• December 25, 2008 11:00 AM ET/PT
• December 25, 2008 10:00 PM ET/PT
• December 26, 2008 2:00 AM ET/PT

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Unique Christmas Card

Here's something fun for the kids. A unique Christmas card where you click on one of the lighted items and it jumps into another wonderful scene - it goes from page to page and each has a different poem and music. Don't forget to put your sound on.

(Thanks Joan for sending it along.)


Friday, December 05, 2008

ERD Update

Today's posting is to alert you to the addition of a President Rob Radtke's blog to the Episcopal Relief and Development website.
I've pulled out just a few talking points from his postings that I'd like to highlight. You can go to: and click on President's Blog to read more.

* "I think that faith-based initiatives get discounted or overlooked. Why is this? Perhaps it is because faith-based initiatives are often very heavily volunteer driven and thus seen as non-professional. Partially it may be because they are not spending huge amounts of money blowing their own horns and in many instances are trying not to leave foot prints. Faith-based initiatives and organizations are often uncomfortable proclaiming their servant hood. That’s a good thing, but it does often mean that faith-based initiatives are not always at the table when discussing how we are going to Make Poverty History.
President Bush, to his credit, understood the importance of engaging the faith community in the battle against poverty—both in the U.S. and abroad. I expect that President-elect Obama, with his background in community organizing and ties to the faith community, also understands this."
* "So, while I’m pleased with the good ratings from Charity Navigator and, what I’m really proud of is the fact that we can document the impact of our programs for those we seek to serve. We’ll be announcing the monitoring and evaluation results for NetsforLife® in December as we celebrate what we’ve accomplished and proclaim where we’d like to go in the next phase of this important program—so stay tuned!"

*"At Episcopal Relief & Development we are often asked how we are different from the many other worthy agencies fighting poverty around the world."
"Most importantly, we are faith-based."
"But faith is not the full answer."
"All of our programs are also guided by an important underlying philosophy of empowerment and servant-hood. We try to leave no foot prints."
"Finally, we come with a ready-made and trusted distribution network in our Church partners around the world."

I'd also invite you to check out the page on the Bishop's Blend for gift giving at:

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

All My Faves

Here's a cool website to find things on the web that my brother got from a friend.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Recycling by Re-purposing

We got apples the other day at Costco in this pretty sturdy plastic container. I thought it might be a good way to pack away some Christmas ornaments after the holidays to protect them from breakage. A good way to recycle by re-purposing!


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Over-the-door Pocket Organizer

I got this 22 pocket organizer for the back of my sewing room door today. I just started filling it. I was getting tired of trying to find where I had put this or that. I also like the idea of having everything where I can see it, be able to get to it easily, and is actually hidden when the door is open.
It is made by Mainstays, measures 23"w x 62.5"L and sells for under $8. I may rehang it with those 3-M Command hooks that stick-up and are removable without doing any damage.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Pictures from St. James the American Church - Florence, Italy

You can read about the Peter and the Wolf production in the eMo:

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