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Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

It was sort of buried a couple of posts ago, and I did send an email to the winner without response as yet, but thought I'd more prominently post it again. says it's Lucky #7! Dcalaneknits, look for an email sent on March 24th (Re: Keep Out) (check spam or junk folkers) with a request for your mailing address, and I'll get a copy of Keep Out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide in the mail to you!

2nd clubhouse and fireworks stand

Thanks everyone, it was a blast to read all those comments and memories about clubhouses and forts.

* * * * *

I'll give it a little time, and possibly a third try, but may end up visiting again!


Ten on Tuesday: Dream BIG!

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Things I'd Do If I Won the Big Powerball Jackpot

1. Assemble my team: lawyer, accountant, cabana boy.

2. Pay off my mortgage and all debt.

3. Pay off my kids' student loans; set up trusts for them.

4. Buy a couple of houses on my street, strip 'em out, and knock 'em down.

5. Quit my job.

6. Buy the hardware store.

7. Buy a lovely penthouse in Chicago or New York or San Francisco. Or all of the above.

8. Buy a place on the west coast... of Scotland.

9. TRAVEL! The Maritimes, Italy, Spain, and Greece come to mind, as do New England, Texas, and Hawaii.

10. Buy a lovely vintage Porsche.

I could go on...

I just read an article, 22 Things Happy People Do Differently, and "Dream Big" was #5 on the list... got that one covered.  ;)


Soup's on!

I've made this a couple of times in recent weeks -- a little different each time, but basically Bella's Carrot, Orange and Fennel Soup from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

2 T. coconut oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped fennel
Sea salt
3 lbs. carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
4 c. organic vegetable broth
4 c. organic chicken broth
1 T. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. maple syrup

Heat the oil in a soup pot, then add the onion, fennel and a bit of salt. Sautee until golden. Stir in carrots, orange zest, spices, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Sautee for a few minutes, stirring until well combined. Add 1/2 cup of broth and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour in the remaining broth, another dash of salt, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Puree with soup until very smooth. I've used both a hand-held blender, blending the soup right in the pot, and in small batches using a traditional blender, and they both worked fine.

Return the soup to the pot over low heat, stirring in the orange and lemon juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Taste and made adjustments as needed.

It's a lovely soup! Next time, I might add coconut milk to make the "creamy" variation.

* * * * * says it's Lucky #7! Dcalaneknits, look for an email with a request for your mailing address, and I'll get a copy of Keep Out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide in the mail to you! Thanks everyone, it was a blast to read all those comments and memories about clubhouses and forts.


Uncle Cliff

1½ years 2
The eldest of my dad's siblings, shown here in his dad's loving embrace, he passed peacefully this afternoon, after a tough battle with Alzheimer's.

1939 drew a valentine for mother
He made himself into an adorable Valentine for his mom. Awww.

Rest in peace, Uncle Cliff.


March Milestones

Can you believe I let the 8th anniversary of quitting smoking sail right by? I think it must be real. I'm a real quitter! According to Quitnet:

You've been Quit 2924 days

$19,006.00 and 14 months, 26 days, 18 hours of your life saved!

I'd never have done it without Ann, Claire, and my sister Karen, and I can't imagine having done it without all the support from blog readers and, especially, from Cara.

That $19,000 that I would have spent on cigarettes over the past 8 years? Yeah. I don't feel guilty one single solitary bit about going on vacation to the U.K. or Brazil, or taking little jaunts to Chicago or the North Shore, or flying to the east coast, west coast, or Rocky Mountains to spend time with knitting peeps (among other things). All of that COMBINED doesn't even come close to $19,000!

I think I've just eliminated any doubt I had about shooting for Holidays in the Highlands (Scotland!) this year.

* * * * *

Today, the First Day of Spring, marks my 9th anniversary of blogging. Holy moly. And, my, how things have changed.

20 March 2004

It's Spring!

'Tis the First Day of Spring! It's sunny and it's warm-ish (in a place where 45 degrees on March 20th really IS warm). It seems like a good day to embark on something new -- my very own, my very first blog (there is a lot to learn and a lot to do...).

I have been so inspired by the blogs of knitters around the world, and have learned so much from them. I can't even begin to imagine that my individual contribution would serve as inspiration, but I do hope that it will help to enhance the whole.

Posted by Vicki at 09:28:57 AM

It's not warm on this First Day of Spring! I did hear birds singing again this morning, after silence for weeks, so that's something.

As I begin my 10th year of blogging, I continue to be inspired by the blogs of knitters around the world. I am grateful to think of so many of them as friends, even. I believe I have "inspired" a few people with my knitting... a few epic projects have fallen from my needles... but I'd never have dreamed 9 years ago that there would be so much more.

Thank you!

* * * * *

Oh, is it ever fun to read your clubhouse memories!! In case you've missed it, to celebrate the publication of my husband's how-to manual, Keep Out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide, I am giving away a signed copy. All you need to do is share a clubhouse memory (or just a shout-out) on yesterday's post and I'll draw a name at random on Sunday.



There are home movies of my siblings and I, along with some of the neighbor kids, from the summer that I was 11 when we built a "fort" along the fence on the other side of the wooded ravine behind our house. It was a pretty deep & steep ravine, too, so I don't know what we were thinking... probably not thinking at all!

There's a funny scene where it looks like a big sheet of plywood is walking (with help from Karen, though you can see only her hands and feet!). Michael and his friends were scraped up mightily after deciding to "ride" a piece of plywood down to the bottom of the ravine as if it were a sled... and it didn't quite work that way!

Our dad took the movies and let us raid the garage for lumber and tools*, but mainly he hid behind the Super-8 movie camera and left us to our own devices... and that was pretty great!

The mean old next-door neighbors complained about our fort and so it was rather short-lived.


Did you have a clubhouse as a kid? A playhouse? A fort? Everyone's built a fort, haven't they? With boxes, blankets, sheets, and the couch cushions! Right?

My husband built his first clubhouse when he was about 11!

1st clubhouse jun 27 1959Rusty's 1st Clubhouse - June 1959 - Sunset Beach, CA

And his second a few years later.

2nd clubhouse and fireworks standRusty's 2nd Clubhouse... and Fireworks Stand!

2nd clubhouse hanging out 2
2nd clubhouse hanging out 2Rusty's 2nd Clubhouse - Hanging Out.

2nd clubhouse insideRusty's 2nd Clubhouse - Inside, with Chris.

And, as a kid, finally a third. It seems he's always building something... or planning to build something... a clubhouse, a house, models, remodeling, etc.

3rd clubhouse Mar 1963 - Copy
3rd clubhouse Mar 1963 - CopyRusty's 3rd Clubhouse - 1963 (and that's Rusty in the photos!)

3rd clubhouse 1994
3rd clubhouse 1994Rusty's 3rd Clubhouse - 1994 (he's in the window) & 1995 (with the girls).

Clubhouse 20112011.

The first summer/autumn after we moved into our current house, Rusty rebuilt a huge stone retaining wall that accidentally fell over and down the hill when he jiggled it.

The second summer was earmarked for building a clubhouse for the girls!

11-10 Mothes
11-10 MothesA Playhouse for Our Girls! (1989)

Eventually, we wanted to build a garage and, with basically only one place it could go on our property, that little house was in the way. By then, our girls were older and not really using the playhouse anymore, so I thought we'd just tear it down and call it a happy memory... but, well, NO! That was not going to happen! Rusty insisted that the playhouse be moved... no small task... and we hired a sign company and their truck-mounted crane to lift it and lower it to its new location.

Um, yeah.

ModelModel Clubhouse, 2013.

So, about 20 years ago Rusty had an idea to write a book about clubhouses. He collected a lot of information from a lot of sources... and filed it away. It was a very busy time in our lives! Always percolating, a different spin on that book bubbled to the top a couple of years ago. He wrote a proposal and sent it off to some publishers and there was interest!

Published by Storey Publishing, it's a real book!! I snapped a quick pic when the advance copy arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. A great fit in Storey's catalog, the official release date isn't for a few days yet, but Keep Out!: Build Your Own Backyard Clubhouse: A Step-by-Step Guide can be pre-ordered on Amazon (also for Kindle)!

2013-03-03_1362321020Salt shaker for scale. Also furnishings! And secret escape hatch.

It's a great book, if I may say so. I'm so proud of my husband! Written for kids, 11 and up, it's 224 illustrated pages (most of the tech illustrations were also done by Rusty), meant to enable anyone to build their own outdoor shelter. It's as inspiring for grownups who haven't tried building before as it is for kids, and terrific for parents and kids to use on a joint project they can build together.

If you're interested in purchasing a signed copy, just let me know -- I think I can hook you up! The price is $18.95 (WI residents add 5% sales tax), plus $3.99 for shipping.

* * * * *

Naturally, I snagged one for a blog give-away!! How could I not??

Do you have a clubhouse memory?

Share it! (Or just say "Hey.")

I'll draw a name at random on Sunday, March 24th, at 6:00 pm CST, from all comments on this post to receive a signed copy of KEEP OUT!!

-- this contest is closed --

* * * * *

*Back when I thought every garage had a ready supply of lumber and tools!

In the interest of full disclosure, I participate in the Amazon Associates program and will receive a small percentage if you click through an Amazon link and make a purchase. (Thank you!)

Readers... and thoughts so far

One thing I like about Bloglovin' is the "Your daily feed from Bloglovin'" email highlighting the latest posts from my subscriptions. It includes the headline, a few lines of text, and a photo. One thing I don't like is that there's no Android or Kindle app -- not that I read much on those devices, but I guess I don't like being left out! While it looks as though signing in or going through Facebook is the only option, there is actually an option to use an email address... if that's holding anyone back from trying it out.

Meanwhile, Feedly! Wow, that WAS easy! Plus, Internet Explorer was wonking out on my home computer so I went back to Chrome (which had previously had issues but now seems fine) and used the Chrome extension and talk about simple! My Google Reader feeds were imported in a blink, and with all of my "categories" intact -- which was not the case with Bloglovin' (alphabetical order... which I didn't really mind... right now). The layout is a little different from what I'm used to, but I really don't have a problem with that if I can easily find what I'm looking for and have some control myself.

I'd started looking into The Old Reader (TOR) a couple of days ago. I got as far as downloading my zipped Google "Takeout" folder with the OPML file necessary to import my feeds to TOR. I have just this second uploaded that file and... there are 41,345 users ahead of me in the import queue... so that might take a while and I'll have to get back to you on that!

Netvibes? Maybe. I've signed up for that one, too, and have imported my feeds. For some reason, this was the most difficult one for me to get started. There's even a blog post about migrating from Google Reader to Netvibes... it just wasn't intuitive to me, but that doesn't mean I won't like it.

There's a great article on Lifehacker with even a few more options, if you're interested. I might be. We'll see... how much time do I really need to spend on this??

The jury's still out on all of it. I think it's interesting to compare and, obviously, a reader that I like may not be a good fit for you... or perhaps you don't even use a reader! That's all fine, and everything's good.  As always and however you land here, thank you for stopping by, reading, and letting me know what you think!

Also, Happy St. Paddy's Day!! And Happy Birthday to my wonderful and only brother, Michael!! I have my first-ever corned beef cooking on the stove. I sometimes love it and sometimes hate it, so we'll just have to see how this one turns out. I'll be roasting some cabbage to go with it, but foregoing the potatoes... except maybe making some sweet. Would that go?


Obrigada, Brasil!

My flight didn't leave until 8 p.m., so I still had an open morning on my last day in Brazil! Another place on my short list was Parque Lage, so that's where we went.

Have I mentioned graffiti? It is EVERYWHERE!!

The mansion now houses an art school and there's a little cafe; beautiful views from everywhere, and there are a lot of trails and paths, little bridges and stairways, and cave-like areas (with aquariums & fish!).

Still in awe of nature and the things that grow "wild."

So lovely.

Also one of the locations featured in Snoop Dogg's video, "Beautiful." This might possibly be the first Snoop song I've listened to in its entirety, and it was mostly for the pictures. Haha. There are some other familiar sites, as well!

Oh, I do hope I can go back someday.

It was Friday and it's Rio, so one wants to leave plenty of time for traffic tangles on the way to the airport, plus it was an international flight and I didn't speak much of the language, so a friend of Ann's & Brian's came to pick me up at 1:00!

I snapped one more shot of my favorite view -- misty and smudgy, for some reason, but my eyes were welling up a bit so it's perfect.

And one last hug with my boys.

Traffic. It was still "summer vacation" when I was there, so they tell me that traffic wasn't as heavy or congested as usual, but it was pretty crazy! Crazy like there's the constant "beep beep" of motorcycles, alerting drivers to the fact that they're there... between lanes, riding the lines, basically, and it's OK! There's a lot of jostling and wiggling and weaving -- cars, motorcycles, trucks, busses, they all do it! If that's not crazy enough, as we neared the airport and traffic was heavy and a bit more stop-and-go, kids from the favelas would walk the lines between lanes and sell snacks and water and whatnot.

You'd think there'd be hot tempers and lots of fender benders, but there's not. No one raises their voice in Brasil unless it's in song or at a soccer game! Surprised that my brother-in-law still had side mirrors on his car, I really only saw a few cars with scrapes or little dents. There's just a weird etiquette and flow to it all; everyone knows what they're in for and it's just the way it is.

So not like big-city American traffic! Those motorcyclists are some kind of something, though; serious daredevils.

I arrived in DC for re-entry to the U.S. and the climate change was immediately evident in my hair... it was dry and full of static and pulled back into a ponytail before I even made it through Customs! That tropical air really was wonderful for my skin and hair, even with only a week!

There's No Place Like Home! Hm.  ;)

And that, my friends, is it!


Cook In Rio!

On Thursday morning, I watched the boys while Ann & Brian went to renew some government paperwork stuff -- which they weren't actually able to do because "the computers were down" and so, you know, as people do in Brazil, it was on to Plan B! (In this case, Annie went back to work and Brian tried for the umpteenth time to get their international banking figured out.) (FYI: It didn't get figured out until I'd already been home for days!)

Addison had some fun with my camera phone.

Self-portrait: Addison

Later that day, Annie and I got to do the thing that we'd been trying to do ever since I arrived: COOK IN RIO! Originally planned for Friday, my first full day in Rio, it didn't happen. We rescheduled for another day but were late (as is often the case in Rio), so it didn't happen then, either. After many phone calls, several missed connections and problems with email, and changes of venue, some people were doubting that it would ever even happen.

But it did and, WOW! So worth it! The venue was amazing, though if you go there's a good chance it will be elsewhere, as our instructor, Chef Simone, was planning to open her own nearby restaurant within weeks (which means it should be open now)!

We all had little tasks to do. Annie made caipirinha, I sliced and cooked peppers for moqueca. We made fried cheese sticks (Brazilians love cheese, but it is a little different there) and farofa, too. Talking with my hands, I also flung the farofa off the stove but, luckily, much of it landed on the table rather than the floor and could be salvaged. I didn't care for farofa the first time I had it, but by this time I rather did... and this time it was made with onions and bananas, which sounds VERY weird, but was so good!



We learned so much about the history and culture of Brazil from Chef Simone, and all of the influences on Brazilian cuisine. It was simply fantastic and so worth our never giving up!

* * * * *

A word about food; here and there.

I wasn't terribly concerned about food while I was in Brazil because, hey, I was in Brazil! I didn't throw the book out the window, but I never said "No" to anything before me because of "diet." While I've started on this path to improve my health, I have no medical issues preventing me from eating anything I'd like.

That said, my feet, ankles, and legs did swell up quite a bit, but I can't say that it was all (or even mostly) due to diet -- travel does that to me, the weather was VASTLY different, I over-did it in the sun, etc., etc., etc.

Given my pattern over the last several weeks, I was reminded that I am definitely an emotional eater and stress plays a big part. There were a few days when I just wanted to crawl inside a bag of potato chips and forget the world for a while... but I didn't. I had a few indulgences, but even my indulgences are ridiculously controlled or just healthier than I'd have had before. It helps when there aren't bags of cookies or chips in the cupboard!

And, as of yesterday, I hit a new low in the weight department, registering 42+ pounds less on the scale than this time last year. It feels so great!

* * * * *

That's not all!

My next post will wrap up this ridiculously long travelogue. (Thank you for indulging me, it's been kind of fun to draw out and re-live my week-long tropical vacation over the past month and a half.) And, believe it or not, KNITTING is set to return! There is an FO on the blocking board, as we speak... an actual SWEATER.. for me, even! It's ne of the 8 +/- sweaters-for-me-in-progress that I have had aging around here (and one or two of them for about as many years).

Care to take a guess as to which one? In alphabetical order, is it:

  • Cromarty
  • Going To The UK
  • Habu For Me
  • Hand-to-Hand Aran
  • Highland Tempest
  • Low Tide
  • Oblique
  • Wisconsin Tunic


On Wednesday: Here comes the sun!

Perfect morning to head to the beach!

This time, São Conrado. I don't think I'd ever been to the beach so early in the morning.

There were quite a few hang gliders jumping off that mountain and, eventually, sometimes landing on the beach. Lots of joggers on the beach, too.


I think that's Dois Irmãos at just about dead-center, above; the gorgeous mountain that serves as a backdrop for all the pool photos taken at Annie's house (the photo at the top of this post). Let's say that this view is from the west, whereas the view from home is more from the north.

After lunch, we hit the road again.

Can't express the love I have for this "junk" sculpture!

Of course. You can see Cristo Redentor from just about anywhere in Rio and he, of course, sees it all, but one must actually go up Corcovado! Amazing: the bus ride up there, tip-toeing around all the people lying on the ground to take pictures, watching out for arms flung wide "Cristo-style"!

The view from here:


Wednesday was also Annie's birthday!! We had a lovely dinner at Porcao, a sort of churrascaria.

This amazing plate was from my trip through the "salad bar." It was all so good! Each person at the table had a little paper disk that read "YES PLEASE" on one side and, of course, "NO THANKS" on the other. When we were ready, we flipped over to YES and servers came around table-side with skewers of meat -- chicken hearts, pork sausages, many cuts of beef -- and sliced or served a portion directly onto our plates. It was basically an all-you-can-eat buffet, but with service, linens and nice tablesettings, a beautiful view...

...and of a quality that I've never experienced here. There are a few Brazililan steakhouse/churrascaria in Chicago and I'd love to check one out sometime now that I know what to expect.

The original vacation plan was to fly out on Wednesday/arriving Rio on Thursday, with departure the following Wednesday/arriving home on Thursday... and back to work on Monday. (Next time? Longer than one week.) Because of the decidedly unfabulous start to my trip, spending my first night in Houston rather than a plane and delaying arrival by 24 hours, I took a cue from some younger but obviously more savvy fellow travelers to see if I could extend my trip. I explained what happened and they were fairly quick in granting a 24-hour extension... but I lobbied for an extra day, besides, now that arrival back home would be on the weekend and I didn't have to be at work until Monday. That would give me an extra day both in Rio and at home. Happily, that request was granted, as well!

Even though I now had extra time in Rio, by Wednesday we were still feeling "the end" looming. On Tuesday we might have been quite satisfied with a day that included the beach, Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer, and an amazing dinner; on Wednesday we weren't.

A place that had been on my Do Not Miss List ever since Annie shared pictures of their first visit was Escadaria Selarón.

It was a bittersweet visit, having read about the death of artist Jorge Selarón less than a week before I left for Brazil. The boys had met him on their earlier visit, and there was a great photo of Brian and Jorge sitting on the stairs and talking -- I'd just devoted a whole page in their 2013 family photo calendar to that visit. It was heartbreaking.

Suicide? Homicide? It might never be known for sure. Not exactly the best neighborhood, there was police presence... though there is constant police presence in a lot of places in Rio.

By the time we arrived, it was already getting dark. We almost didn't make it at all -- it was on the long journey between Porcao and Selaron that Annie, frustrated by map reading and our inability to read street signs 'til we were on top of them, said, "I give up!" And the boys chimed, "No! You can't give up." Addison adding, "You can never give up on your birthday!"

So we didn't.

From top to bottom, and even ON top, simply amazing. A person could spend days there. I know there's at least one Wisconsin tile, because Selarón himself had shown it to the boys, but they didn't remember and I didn't find it. I did find a few other fun tiles, though.

Those look like knitters to me. What do you think?

Overall, it was a spectacular day!!