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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, January 29, 2010

10 Tips for Picking the Right Retirement Spot

From Yahoo Real Estate there are 10 things to consider when deciding the right place to retire.

1. Cost of Living - One way to stretch your nest egg is to move to a place with lower housing, food, and entertainment costs. You need to estimate how your expenses will change if you move to a new area.

2. Low-tax locales - Seven states don't levy an income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax only dividend and interest income. And five states have no sales tax: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. Also be sure to evaluate property taxes and state & local tax exemptions for seniors.

3. Healthcare facilities - You're bound to need more healthcare as you age so make sure the retirement spot you are looking into has adequate health and eldercare facilities and/or a doctor who can treat any condition you may have.

4. Proximity to family - Being near family sometimes has the added bonus of having support with daily living in addition to becoming more involved in grandchildren's lives.

5. Job opportunities - If you haven't saved enough or your investments have dropped in value you may need to work during the traditional retirement years. Look for a place that has plenty of part-time job opportunities or consulting work in a field that interests you.

6. Recreation and culture - Look for an area that has the type of recreation and culture that interests you. "College towns often fit the bill and host world-class speakers and entertainers, and they often have an affordable cost of living."

7. Public transportation - When it comes to a point when you can no longer drive consider the cost and quality of a town's public transportation system and how to get around without a car.

8. Housing needs - Downsizing goes a long way into stretching you retirement budget and giving you a place with less maintenance while retirement communities and assisted living facilities aim to cater to baby boomers' changing needs and whims.

9. Weather - Think about whether you want distinct four seasons. Warm climates come with higher air-conditioning bills. For some maintaining residences in the north and heading south for the winter provides the best of both worlds.

10. Amenities - Beyond covering the basics don't forget about things like libraries, Internet and cellphone access, shopping, religious institutions, and senior centers. If traveling will be part of you retirement years on a regular basis then you'll need to be near an airport or train station.
Some cities provide a range of services to aid senior citizens.

To see the whole article go to:


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Index of Hodgepodge Listings for 2009

2009 Hodgepodge Index

For other Indexes:
2005 - 1/9/06
2006 - 1/16/07
2007 - 1/18/08
2008 - 1/5/09


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Important Information If You Are On Facebook

If you are on Facebook you need to read this article and check your Settings now.
This article was in The New York Times technology section on January 20, 2010.
Be sure to read the whole article on:
The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now

(Thanks Diane for bringing this to our attention.)


Monday, January 25, 2010

More Recipe Websites

Back on 6/23/08 I posted the website where you can imput ingredients you have on hand and it will give you recipes. Well, here are some more websites that can do the same.

At go to:

At go to:
Be sure to click on "Recipe Search Engine" to see all the catagories. (Gluten-Free included here.)

Another slow cooker pork recipe sent along by Joan who had tried the Alton Brown's recipe, Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops, and said it was excellent.

1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork loin, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion chopped
3/4 c barbecue sauce
1 - 14 1/2 oz. can of chicken broth
1 - 8 oz. can of pineapple chunks in juice, drained
1 green pepper, chopped

Put all ingredients in to the slow cooker.
Cook on low 6-7 hours or 4 hours on high.
Serve over rice.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Haitian Church Steps In During Wait for Aid

In earthquake-stricken Haiti, an Episcopal bishop is providing relief to as many survivors as he can while they wait for the arrival of official aid. Jean Zache Duracin speaks with WSJ's Charles Forelle on how he's trying to help. (1/20/2010)
The Wall Street Journal has put online a short three minute video interview and narrative of how the Diocese of Haiti is responding:

(Thank you Edna A. for passing this on to share.)

Again for donations to Episcopal Relief and Development, go to:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Connecting Threads

A delightful surprise arrived in my mailbox the other day in the form of this quilting catalog.
They carry their own exclusive fabric at $5.96 per yard made from 100% super-combed cotton grown in the USA.
Check them out on the web at:

The quilt on the cover is called "Birdies on a Wire" and can be purchased as a kit.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Free - Paperbacks, Hardcover, Audio Books, Textbooks and More

This website is to help avid readers Swap, Trade & Exchange Books for Free.
You join online and post the books you want to swap with other members. Once you find the book you want, just click the "Order this book" button. The books you receive are free and yours to keep. When another member requests one of your books, you accept the request and pay the postage to mail the book; they return the favor when they mail a book to you. When your book is received you get a credit, which you can then use to order another book.

There is Printable Postage right at the website:
•Exact Postage prints out from your printer
•No waiting in line at the Post Office
•No fussing with postage stamps
•Mail your packages from home
•Get instant credit when you click "book is mailed"!

Check it out at:

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King - Standing Tall

For a poem in honor of Martin Luther King, Standing Tall, and images from the sculpture garden outside the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, go to:


Friday, January 15, 2010

Scene Change - to go with eMo 1/15/2010

To see more of Valerie's work go to:

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Did you know that Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere?

Whatever you can afford to give can help:
Sometimes when we are generous in small, barely detectable ways it can change someone else's life forever. - Margaret Cho

Episcopal Relief and Development is providing support in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Visit the website to donate and learn more:

If we have the opportunity to be generous with our hearts, ourselves, we have no idea of the depth and breadth of love's reach.
- Margaret Cho


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops - Good Eats!

Awhile back I had seen this recipe on Alton Brown's - Good Eats show on the Food Network. I sent it out to my email list as it sounded like a good one. Well, I got a call from my friend Joan she had tried it and said it was great! (For people in my area she said she found the dried apples at Battleview Orchards, not in the local supermarkets.)

Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 8 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 6 hr 20 min Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings

2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 pound ice
4 (1 to 1 1/2-inch thick) bone-in pork chops
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 ounces dried apple slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, julienned
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine the vegetable broth, 1/2 cup kosher salt, brown sugar and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook just until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from the heat and add the ice. Place the pork chops into a 2-gallon zip-top bag along with the mixture and seal. Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry. Season on both sides with the kosher salt and set aside

Place the apples in the slow cooker.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch stainless steel saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the pork chops on both sides until golden brown, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Once browned, place the pork chops into the slow cooker atop the apples.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan followed by the onions and saute until they begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Add the black pepper and thyme and stir to combine. Transfer this to the slow cooker, set to high, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for another 4 hours and 30 minutes or until the pork is tender and falling away from the bone.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stretching Your S.S. Benefits

This article was on Yahoo today.
* 5 Tips for Stretching Your Social Security Benefits

Also at this link were links to 3 other articles:

* 10 Retirement-Wrecking Moves
* Ten Common Questions About Social Security
* 7 Ways to Position Yourself for Recovery


Friday, January 08, 2010

Starfall - Free Phonics Reading Program

This is one, of I'm sure there are many, free phonics programs on the Web.
" opened in September of 2002 as a free public service to motivate children to read with phonics. Our systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children."

"In May of 2009, we released our Starfall Kindergarten Reading and Language Arts Curriculum. The lesson plans motivate kindergarten children by creating an atmosphere of fun and enthusiasm, providing opportunities for child-directed instruction, and facilitating the needs of English language learners and struggling readers learning alongside their peers."

Note: As a teacher certified in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Teacher of Reading I strongly believe that children need a foundation in phonics.
My special needs son was taught to read with a program that was heavy in both phonics and mnemonic devices. He learned to read early and decode words well.
(Because of his seizures and the medications over the years he has lost some of these abilities.) My other son was taught with an "integrated language program", which they would not admit was basically whole language, and was taught little if any phonics. I knew from the beginning this was going to be a problem and with all my knowledge I wasn't able to remedy the situation. As I predicted he "hit the wall" at third grade. (and this was even with him going out of the classroom for Basic Skills instruction.) Because he wasn't taught decoding skills, phonics, he had trouble reading and thus lost comprehension. Believe me I did try to work with him at home.
It's a long story and now many years ago, but a bunch of us parents did try to bring it to the attention of the Board of Education. Nothing was done until a new Superintendent took over. I sent him a new letter plus all my previous letters with articles on how children being taught with Whole Language were having problems. Within days I had a meeting with him and the head of the curriculum. I was able to counterpoint everything she said about their program.* In time the program was finally changed with new materials being ordered.
Of course by then it was too late for my son. We ended up having him go to a Huntington Learning center and he tested well below his grade level in reading, which I already knew. After a few months he was brought above grade level.
The school system ended up having so many kids in Basic Skills that were having trouble reading they had to hire extra teachers and aides to go into the first grade classrooms.

*[Oh, and at that meeting I said how my son with special needs was taught reading with a program that was heavy with phonics and mnemonics and had learned to read earlier and better than his brother. She said "Yes, we find that does work well with our special needs students." In my head I'm thinking "Well,DUH" but to her I said, "Well, gee then don't you think it would be great for the regular students?" She couldn't say anything.]

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Famous TV Character Pairings Game

This was the game I made up for this year's New Year's Day get together. You drew a slip of paper with the name of a TV character. (No putting it back for a second draw if you didn't know it but you could trade with someone else.) On the poster board in the first column you wrote in that name, next who they were paired with (including last name), their relationship to one another, then the show they were from. In the last column you wrote your name. Some names were drawn for small prizes for those who correctly answered. This was done simply by removing the last column from the poster and cutting the names into strips.

You can print out the worksheet and just cut off the names in the first column and cut them apart to hand out. The rest of the sheet gives you the answers.

TV Game Worksheet


Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year's Day at Barbara & Q's

After Barbara & Q being away in Italy last year,
it was nice to have the New Year's Day get together again.


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