Friday, February 28, 2014

Sometimes.....

I'm all for cooking from scratch, eating relatively healthy, and making various foods at home as opposed to buying the same product that is full of ingredients I can't pronounce.

But sometimes.....


it is necessary to my happiness and well-being to call the pizza delivery guy.

Mine was bacon-cheeseburger.  Worth every penny.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Necessity.....

is the mother of invention, so I'm told.

This winter has been a bugger.  About the time I think I will venture out, the temperature drops and the snow falls and the wind blows.  I just don't do cold well at all.  I admit it.  I am wimpy when it comes to frostbite.

This past summer and fall I screwed up - sort of.  I concentrated on canning meat and Farmer's Market produce.  I also spent time building up my stock of dehydrated vegetables.  I'm glad I did, for I have been eating from those stores all winter.  But what I neglected were the foods that I need to purchase.  I thought that I could get those things over the winter.  We had such mild winters the past several years that I foolishly believed this winter would be no different.  Nope.   Didn't happen.

So since I haven't been able to get out and about as I would like to, I decided to get creative.

My dogs love treats.  I am nearly out of them.  I usually buy the little boxes of doggie treats.  I know that they will survive without treats, but the pooches give me so much enjoyment that it seems only fair to give some happiness back to them.  The recipe I have used before when I make treats calls for oatmeal and eggs, both of which I have been out of for a while.  This recipe requires neither.

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
1 Cup Water
3 Cups Flour

Mix all ingredients together to form a dough.
Roll out the dough and cut into long strips, then into the size of treat you want.
Place the treats close to each other on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

I made a batch this morning.  The dogs love them.  And they don't cost as much as the store-bought treats.  Win - win.

I am not a huge breakfast eater, but I do like a little something in the morning with my coffee.  Usually I make a couple of eggs with toast.  Or an occasional cookie or three.  But since I am out of eggs that wasn't going to happen, so I tried this recipe I found on katzcradul's YouTube channel.  She has lots of recipes and gardening and canning videos and common sense preparedness information.  The following is word for word.

SAUSAGE-CHEESE BISCUITS
1 pound bulk pork sausage
2 cups all purpose flour (can use 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white)
5 tablespoons lard (or other solid fat)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese - mild or sharp
1 cup buttermilk (more or less to make a very sticky dough)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook sausage in skillet, breaking apart into little pieces, just until barely done. Drain and discard sausage grease. Chill flour and fat if possible. Stir dry ingredients together. Mix fat into flour until it resembles course cornmeal. Add cheese and sausage to flour. Stir in buttermilk, just until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto lined or greased baking sheet(s). Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until tops are slightly browned. Remove from oven. Place on a rack to cool, and prevent bottoms from getting soft. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container. Leftover biscuits must be refrigerated or frozen. Enjoy!

I made me a batch this morning.  They are to die for.  I used bacon grease that I keep in my fridge and crumbled bulk sausage I had canned this past fall.  I didn't have buttermilk as I keep only powdered milk on hand, so I made some up and used that, and they turned out fine.

Some say when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  I have never been one to follow the crowd, so I make dog treats and sausage cheese biscuits instead.  And I think I remember a recipe from an old cookbook on cooking during wartime, when supplies were rationed, for a cake made without eggs.

I think I'm on a roll!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Goes Around...

My youngest son, the father of my youngest three grandchildren, posted the following on Facebook:  "I've just realized that "Not Me" just moved into our home."

I don't suppose this would be the time to remind him of the fact that at one time or another there were some of the same living in our home.

"Not Me" was a regular guest, and moved in on a permanent basis for a number of years.

"I Don't Know" showed up uninvited and never left.

"It's All Her Fault" was a frequent visitor when "Not Me" refused to take the blame.

"It's Not My Turn" was always there when it was time to wash the supper dishes.

His only saving grace is that when his kids grow up and leave home, the unwanted guests leave at the same time, never to be seen again.

Until his children have children of their own.  That's when he can wait for "Not Me" to show up and drive his children up a wall.  And he can sit back and smile.  And remind them that "Not Me" and company once lived with him and it is now their turn.

heh, heh, heh

A Flaw in My Character

I have several flaws in my character, but lately one of them stands out more than the rest.

I am a dedicated people watcher.  I spend time sitting and waiting at bus stops.  Bus stops are great places to watch people.  But I find myself making judgements about people based on outward appearances.  That is a major flaw in my character.

I see a well dressed woman, cell phone to her ear who is a bit impatient with those around her, and I decide that she is a self-important snobbish sort.  But for all I know, she may be in the middle of dealing with a crisis or has problems that only she knows about, in which case her behavior is understandable.

I see a young father who is telling his four year old son that he had better behave himself or else, and I feel sorry for that sweet, angelic looking boy.  But for all I know, the kid has already dumped his breakfast cereal all over the kitchen floor, pulled the dog's tail and thrown a world class tantrum because Dad wouldn't take him - right now - for a Happy Meal.  Dad probably deserves a medal for not warming the kid's backside then and there.

The flaw in my character is at it's worst when I see a group of girls whose average age is 18.  In the winter, I see them all dressed in designer jeans, little bitty designer jackets that couldn't possibly keep anyone warm but are the first thing in fashion, and designer boots with three-inch heels.  The first thought that comes to mind is that if these girls were lost out in the woods, they wouldn't last over an hour.  Especially if their phones, the ones all of them are constantly checking for calls or messages or using for Facebook posts, didn't work.

Come to think of it, I may be right on target in that case.

Friday, February 21, 2014

When I'm Wrong.....

I own it.  And boy, howdy, was I wrong when I described this storm as a non-event to someone who had left a comment on yesterday's post.

Shortly after writing that comment response, the wind picked up.  The little bare naked tree outside my window bent over and snapped back again and again until I feared it might break.  Visibility was less than a city block, diminished by blowing snow.  I had been listening to the scanner and could tell by the traffic between police and dispatch that we were in trouble.

Earlier in the day when I wondered why it wasn't snowing yet, I failed to see that there was precipitation in the form of light rain.  Which froze on the roadways.  Which sent vehicles careening into the ditches.  After the rain turned to snow, the wind started to blow.  Drifts began to form.  Soon the emergency vehicles were getting stuck in the drifts.  At one point there was a police car stuck in the snow along with half a dozen other vehicles that couldn't make it up a freeway ramp.  More than once an officer came on the radio to warn of roads that were blocked by snow drifts.  The snow plows were giving it their all, but were having trouble keeping up, and south of my location, they were pulled off the roads because they could no longer see the road.

And then my lights went out.

I have developed a routine when I lose power.  I keep flashlights, candles and matches in every room where I can easily find them.  So I lit a candle and headed toward the rear of my apartment.  I keep four five-gallon, empty buckets handy, and those I filled with water from my bath tub while I still have water pressure, to use for washing, flushing, etc.  Then I grabbed my little battery operated radio and settled down in my recliner to wait.

I was lucky in that I only had to wait about an hour and a half before power was restored.  There have been times when my power has been off for much longer periods of time.

I made a huge mistake in underestimating the power of this storm.  I tend to forget that because I live in town, surrounded by two and three story buildings, that the effects of snow and wind are not always as obvious as they are out in open country.   Or in the residential areas.  This photo was posted on Facebook this morning by my children's aunt, after she had shoveled a path from her house to the street.  She lives a bit closer to the city than I do.



This morning there is still a bit of wind, but much lighter than yesterday, and the sun is shining.  There is a small army of city workers out clearing the sidewalks, and the plow has made one pass down the street in front of my building.  I don't know how much snow we got, but the ledge outside my window, which is about 18 inches wide and runs the width of the building, has about a foot of snow on it.

I long for violets and lilacs.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Family Forecaster

My youngest son works for a landscaping company.  In the winter they plow snow.  Because he is in charge of plowing crews, he gets weather updates on his phone.  Sometimes he will post these updates on Facebook.  Friends and family have become accustomed to these weather related posts.

So when one of his forecasts did not appear right away this morning, his sister posted:  "This is supposed to be the biggest storm of the year. Where is your weather report?"

This is his reply:  "The snow will not start until around 10:00am. Indications of some westward shift. So, increasing snow to 4-8" west metro and 8-12" central and east ending 3am fri. This will also bring stronger wind gusts to 45 tmrw evening into fri."

Which was followed by:  "Weather Update MSP: Snow exploding on radar will start within the next 30-45min. Small change to snow amounts...and not in a good way. Add 2" across the board over the area will mean up to 8" west and 12" in the east.
Woohooo! Take it easy if you're out driving this afternoon."

This forecast is for Minneapolis and the surrounding area.  When a storm is approaching, I usually keep track of it here:    http://radar.weather.gov/

It hasn't yet started snowing here SW of Minneapolis, but looks like my area will get hit momentarily.  But I am stocked up for myself and the critters.  I don't need to go outdoors for anything.  I am pretty much caught up on what I wanted to get done here in my little apartment, so I think the rest of the day will be spent, yarn and crochet hook in hand, or maybe later, a good book.  And watch the world outside become covered in a soft, white blanket of snow.    Again.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Knee Deep in Yarn

So yesterday afternoon my youngest daughter came by and picked me up.  I needed to go to Joann Fabrics.  The store used to be on my bus route, but when they moved to newer and larger store space, I found I couldn't get there from here by my usual mode of transportation.  So Daughter came riding in on her white steed - the one that looks like a silver Chevy - to save the day.

Each of my grandchildren, upon graduating from high school, gets a crocheted afghan.  When I was trying to decide what to get my oldest grandson when he graduated a couple of years ago, this same daughter suggested that the grandkids would like something that their grandmother made special for each of them.  Because I had already made quilts for them a couple of years ago, we decided on afghans.

I ran out of yarn half way through the one I am making for the next kid in line, so I needed to get enough to finish it.  I had started one for myself and ran out of yarn for that one, too.  Guess I need to work on figuring out yardage.  As long as I was buying yarn for those two, I decided to get what I needed for the third grandchild's afghan, even though it will be a while before he graduates.  The way the economy looks, I may not be able to afford yarn in a couple of years!  And I like to have something to work on in the evenings.


This is only about half of it, and I'm thinking that it should keep me busy and out of trouble for quite some time.  Although at this stage of my life, getting into trouble seems like more work than it is worth!  Guess I'll just stick to making stuff for the grandkids.  That makes me happy.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shorts Weather?

It is nearly noon.  The outside temperature sits at 35 degrees.  That is in the plus column.  That is warm for Minnesota in February.  But it is not "summer warm."

A few minutes ago I glanced out my front window.  Saw a guy walking down the street wearing a parka and shorts.

Here in Minnesota I guess we are either hard working, responsible people, or we are bat-crap crazy.  I think I just saw a prime example of the latter.  The only thing missing were the flip-flops.

Like I have said before, it takes very little to amuse me.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Storm of the Century

I wonder if weather forecasters, when they go to weather forecasting school, are required to take a class called Storm of the Century 101.  I think that's where they learn to make each approaching weather system sound like it brings with it the end of the world.

I have decided that my dogs are pretty good weather forecasters.  Before the snow started, they were restless.  They paced.  They went to their beds but sat up in them, alert.  They came to me for attention.  They sat in the middle of the living room floor, facing the windows and watched.  I knew from past experience that they wouldn't settle down until the storm arrived.  And if I went ahead to bed, Lily would take it upon herself to keep me, and the whole building, apprised of the progress of the storm.  With barks.  Lots of them.   So I found an old movie, did some hand sewing on my quilt, and waited with them.

Close to 1 AM they both went to bed for the night.  I looked out the window.  Snow was falling.  The wind was blowing.  The storm had arrived and all was well in their world.

This morning it is still snowing.  The wind is still blowing, but not as strong as last night.  According to the Doppler Radar website, it looks like the storm will move on in another few hours, followed by sunshine.  The police scanner is fairly quiet.  My kids went to work early to beat the traffic, and reported no problems with the roads.  Oldest son, who lives SW of me, says the roads are bad in his area, but he made it home OK after his night job.  I heard a rumor that temps are supposed to be in the low 40's tomorrow.  I like it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, etc.

Just heard the forecast for our area.  Snow starting this evening and lasting until noon tomorrow.  Talking about anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of the stuff.

They will be playing Bumper Cars out on the freeway again.  The tow truck drivers are doing a happy dance.

Oh, well.  I have the fixins for hot chocolate.  And for a really good pot of soup with cornbread.  And if I turn my recliner just a little bit to the left, I can watch the snow fall outside my window from there.  Works for me.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Demolition Derby

So I'm sitting here this evening, doing a bit of hand sewing on a quilt, and listening to "Broadcastify" for my county police and fire squads.  We had a few inches of snow here today and it must have stuck to the roadways.  There have been reports of crashes on the highways...one right after another.  I think if you wanted to drive into a ditch tonight, you had best call ahead and make a reservation.  Sounds like the ditches are pretty well filled already.

And then just a little while ago there is a report of a 4-car pile up.  By the time the officers get to the scene, a few more cars have joined in the fender bender.  One of the officers, observing the scene from an overpass said, "Geez!  Looks like a demolition derby down there."

I think I'm really glad to be home where it is dry and warm and there is no ice.  Except in my freezer.

Square Riggers and Schooners

I read a news report this week about the possibility of Lake Superior coming close to freezing completely over.  I understand from the article that this hasn't happened in 35 years.  This reminded me of something I read that was written by my grandfather's brother.  About 1935 he wrote a history about my mother's family.  In it he tells about that family moving from New York State to Duluth, Minnesota in 1893.  Here is the excerpt I was thinking about.

"The big boats moving up or down the bay were an endless source of wonder to us children, so were also the little puffing self-important tugs that seemed to be always busy bustling here and there about other ships business, towing booms of logs into position for the saw-mills, or helping the larger vessels into and out of their berths. Schooners were often seen and once at least we saw a square rigger come around the point. When the bay froze over it made a wonderful skating rink which was taken advantage of by most of the older children in town as well as many of the grown ups."

My grandfather would have been 10 years old that winter.  I could only think how wonderful it must have been for him to witness those sailing ships, in and out of the harbor.  In another piece written by my grandfather, that I can't lay my hands on at the moment, he tells about the bay at Duluth freezing and about how much fun it was to ice skate around the big ships that were frozen into the ice in the harbor.

I don't know as I would like to go back to live at that time, but seeing the sailing ships and the pleasure of ice skating in the harbor appeals to me.  Life was so much more simple then.  That appeals to me the most.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pollyanna or Debbie Downer

Some people are Pollyanna types.  They skip through life, smiles on their faces, seeing nothing but good wherever they look.  Others are in the Debbie Downer category.  Everything is bad and we are all doomed.  I think I fit somewhere between the two.  I have lived long enough and am not naive enough to believe that life is all magic fairy dust and unicorns.  But I do know that there are still good people out there, doing the best that they can with what they have to work with.

I also don't take everything I read about at face value.  I know that some conspiracy theories are just that - theories.  If I read an article on Drudge that would have many heading for the hills, I check out the sources.  I find out if it is true or just another rumor.  If I read a rant and it is believable, I check that out as well before forming my own opinion.  And if the source of that article or rant is a politician, I am especially diligent in finding the truth, for the politicians are few and far between who have the good of the people at heart.  I find that most have their own agenda which includes, above all else, winning the next election and holding onto power.

That being said, I find that since the first of this year, I have had a strong feeling that things are a bit off-kilter.

Merriam‑Webster Dictionary
\off -╦łkil-ter\. : not perfectly balanced or even. : different from the ordinary, usual, or expected.

It has nothing to do with politics.  I mean, the Democrats are blaming the Republicans for our troubles, and the Republicans are in turn, blaming the Democrats.  Business as usual in Washington.  I have gotten so I pay very little attention, for when all the posturing and bluster is over, nothing really changes.  Hasn't for years, except possibly they are more obnoxious.  That, and the fact that the word "truth" is pretty much foreign to them.  No, it's not that.

The pundants, experts and talk radio hosts are full of dire predictions.  I have been leery of predictions since my old computer rolled over from 1999 to 2000 without a hiccup.  Those folks are expressing opinions, and if they have facts to back them up, I need to see those facts before I believe.  So, no.  It's not that.

I think it is the little things.  Like the box of bacon ends and pieces I buy to can.  Was the same price for a long time and a month ago the price went up $1 a box.  Much of what I buy has drastically gone up in price lately.

I think it has to do with seeing people at the grocery store buying staples in quantity the way I do.  There are still those who fill carts with chips and soda, but I see more with carts full of sale items.

I think it is hearing people I know talk about their grown children moving back home because they just can't afford to live any other way.

I think it is others I know of who have reputations of being people who are not afraid of hard work, but yet can't find a decent job.

But most of all, it is that little nagging voice that tells me if I don't get off my duff and get done what I need to do, I will soon be in a world of hurt.  I have gotten lazy.  I have used the excuse of a hard winter.  I have used the excuse of arthritic joints to keep me inside doing the things I find pleasant and fun, and ignoring the tasks that aren't so much fun and that need doing but I keep putting off.

So with that in mind, I am taking the weekend off to get busy.  I have a closet that is full to overflowing with stuff.  I don't need all that stuff, so out it goes...some to the trash and some to Goodwill (I am never, ever going to fit into those slacks I have been hanging onto, and where on earth did that sparkly jacket come from.  It is so not me.)  I have a list of the groceries I need to fill the shelves in my closet pantry.  The bus doesn't run on weekends, so Monday morning I need to begin ferrying food from the store shelves to my pantry.  I am getting low on some home canned food, like hamburger, chili and soups.  I have a stack of canning jars that is taller than I am, waiting to be filled.  Time to just do it.

Sometimes I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I know I can't change anything that may happen.  I am convinced that all the petitions, emails and phone calls to congressmen have little if any effect.  So the other shoe will drop, no matter what.  What I can do is be ready for it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cutting Hair

I was reading some of my favorite blogs the other day, when I noticed Rob of Rob in His Bunker had written about home haircuts.  I was reminded of the one and only time I gave my boys haircuts.  At the time we lived about 20 miles from the closest town.  When you are pinching pennies, you don't drive a 40 mile round trip just for a haircut.  And in the winter, it was a toss up as to whether the road past our house would be drifted in or not.  So home haircuts seemed like a good idea.

My mother cut my hair the whole time I was growing up.  She cut my sister's hair.  She cut my aunt's hair.  She cut the neighbor's hair.  She didn't have a clipper.  She used a scissors.  How hard can it be, I thought.

So I set my boys on chairs out in the yard.  Tied those big white flour sack dishtowels around their necks to keep hair clippings from falling down inside their shirts.  And I proceeded to cut.

Well, that didn't look quite right, so I cut some more.

That side was just a tiny bit longer than the other side, so I cut some more.

Maybe if I take a little more off the back it will be OK.

When I finally admitted defeat, both boys looked like a weed whacker had been at their heads.

I loaded them into the car, drove the 40 mile round trip and got them professional haircuts.

It was worth every penny.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is it With Dogs?

Sometimes I think I have my two ankle biters figured out, and then I realize that I am clueless.

When the temperatures drop, they get up in the morning long enough to pester me for a treat and then head for their beds to snooze away most of the day. Today the outside temps are well above zero.  Not only are they doing an unusual amount of begging, they are cruising the apartment, hauling toys around, sniffing at the cat litter box ("Stop that, Jessie Jane.  Those aren't treats in there and besides, I just cleaned it last night!") and literally dogging my footsteps.

It isn't that they need to go outside.  I litter box trained them because of the difficulty I have with stairs sometimes.  In warm weather,  Jessie Jane and I go for walks.  Lilly and I go for a carry.  She refuses to walk on a leash, no matter what I do.  Stubborn Yorkies!  But they don't go outdoors in winter.

Keeping in mind that the heating system in my building is working again and it stays an even 70 degrees inside, how do they know?  This has been a pattern with them - sleep when it is icy cold outside and energize when it warms up some.

I suspect that they are probably smarter than I am.  In sub-zero weather, they hibernate.  In sub-zero weather, I leave a warm bed and it is business as usual.


Maybe I need to start thinking more like my dogs!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Happened?

Most of the time I like to have something to listen to while going about the daily household chores.  If I am moving about between rooms, indoors and out, my choice is music.  But if I am working on something that requires me to be fairly stationary,  I like a good story for company.  I have downloaded dozens of audio comedy and mystery books and a whole passel of old time radio shows.  But I wanted something a bit different.  I came across a YouTube channel where the author had uploaded an audio version of the Little House on the Prairie books.  I had bought this series for my children when they were young, and I think I enjoyed reading them as much as the kids did.  So far I have listened to three of them, and am starting on the fourth.

While listening to these stories written by the woman who lived them as a child, I am struck by the huge differences in the way people lived, then and now.

Those people grew their own vegetables.  If they didn't, it would be a very long, cold winter without food.  Even those who lived in towns planted vegetable gardens.  The last time I rode the bus before the snow fell, I looked into all of the back yards I passed during that one hour ride, and I saw not even one garden spot.  My son is probably the only one in his neighborhood who raises vegetables.  In other cities, town councils punish those who have gardens in their yards instead of grass.  What happened?

Those people abhorred the notion of being beholden to anyone.  If they didn't have the cash, they didn't buy, but made do with what they had.  Or they were more apt to trade work for the desired item.  You went to help your neighbor roof his barn, and he came and helped you dig your well.  It all worked out and nobody owed anybody anything.  Today, we whip out the plastic and buy what we want - not just what we need.  We wind up owing tens of thousands of dollars.  And it doesn't seem to phase us one bit, because we keep on doing it.  What happened?

Those people took care of their own.  When someone came around with evil intent, if the family dog didn't chase him off, the homesteader did, usually with buckshot.  I just read about a man who caught someone in his home, trying to steal his possessions.  The homeowner pulled a gun and chased the burglar off.  The police arrested the homeowner for having a gun.  The burglar then sued the homeowner.  What happened?

Those people had well mannered, well behaved children, for the most part.  Children were taught to respect their elders.  They were given chores to do and were expected to do them without complaint.  If they disobeyed their parents, the quickly learned that actions have consequences.  Children didn't need to be entertained.  They made their own fun.  The dipped their toes in the creek and hunted for minnows.  They fished from the banks of the river.  They went sliding down hills in wintertime, or skating across the surface of the frozen lake.  They built forts in the woods or just layed on their backs in the grass and watched the clouds float by.  They had all of nature for their playground.  Today, kids aren't happy unless they are plugged into something, be it computer games or music or anything that requires a remote.  And parents are quick to supply these diversions, for they act as babysitters.  Or if a child is active, they are quickly medicated.  What happened?

I think I know what happened, but some days I just find it too sad to even think about and other days I become angry thinking about what we have lost.  I realize that the times I am talking about were well over 100 years ago.  And I know that there are still good people out there with those same old-fashioned values.  I just wish that there were more of us who cared about those values.  I think then, our modern world would be a much nicer place to live.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Glimmer of Hope

About the time I am beginning to believe that there is no hope for a good future, something happens to make the light at the end of the tunnel a bit brighter.

Yesterday afternoon I was snoozing in my recliner.  I do that now and then.  It is warm.  It is comfy.  The cat is happy because she gets a bit of attention when she joins me.  Anyway, my snooze was interrupted when my phone rang.  It was a good interruption.

My 11 year old granddaughter called.  She wanted me to guess what she was doing.  Turns out she was eating a fresh-from-the-oven bun that her Dad had made.  While Mom and the girls were off at a show for the girls' dance team, my son tried my recipe for homemade buns.  Boston said they were "sooooo good!"  She handed the phone to her sister.  Maddie was all excited that they could have homemade buns whenever they wanted to.


First attempt at making buns.

A couple of hours later the girls called me again.  Now they were eating a slice of warm bread from the loaf they just made.  Both told me that they were going to take their lunches to school the next day and they were all excited about sandwiches made using the homemade bread.

I know that I have been on a homemade bread kick here lately.  But it is more than just the bread.  It is the fact that the kids get excited about something other than cell phone apps and video games.  They are enjoying learning something new.  They get pleasure from eating something they made with their own two hands.  And that gives me a glimmer of hope.

While talking to Maddie, I told her that my recipe for buns could be used to make cinnamon rolls, too.  She said, "Really, Grandma?  Wow!  I'm gonna go tell Dad........."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Learn Everything

I have been reading for some time that schools are backing away from teaching cursive writing.  I happen to think that is a mistake.

I am interested in genealogy.  I spend quite a bit of my time searching through census records for clues to my ancestors.  I can access records online from 1850 to 1940.  Once in a while I will find a census that is filled out using hand printed letters.  But nearly all were hand written - in cursive - by the census taker, who went door to door to gather the information.  The census tells me where my ancestors were living in a given year, how many of the children were living at home, which ones had married and started families of their own.  Many of the pages tell me if my ancestors owned their land, the state or country where they were born as well as their parent's origins, and what they were doing to make a living.  I would be totally wasting my time if I couldn't read the census pages.

Another source of information for me are old letters that my parents saved over the years.  I found this postcard in my Grandmother's Bible.



My father had sent it to her when he and his brother arrived in Helena, Montana - traveling from Minnesota - to look for work during the Depression.  He reports that both had found jobs picking potatoes, and that she shouldn't write to them because he didn't know how long they would be there.  If I couldn't read cursive, it would be gibberish to me and I wouldn't know what my father and his brother had done to earn money for the family.

I found this letter among my Dad's things.  It was written to him by his mother, who was visiting her oldest daughter and her family.  This is the first page of a three-page letter.


If I couldn't read cursive, I wouldn't know that Grandma had a sense of humor.  I was only 9 years old when she died, and I don't remember her humor.  She says that everybody there has colds except herself and Lois (her daughter).  She goes on to say that maybe they are too ornery to take on a cold or too slow to catch one.  Then she tells about seeing a bear come out of the woods at the edge of the yard and she speculates that had Lois' husband or son been there, they would have shot it.

So much of the material that I transcribe to enter in my genealogy program is hand written in cursive.  I don't transcribe all of the letters or stories that I have found, but place them into binders.  I have no idea if any of my grandkids will develop an interest in family history.  But if they do, are they going to be able to read about their ancestors if the material hasn't been entered in a computer?

Personally, I believe it is important to know who those people were who came before.  We are the sum of all of them, and if the grandkids don't learn the basics, how on earth are they going to know who or where they came from.  I hope they learn Everything that they can.  It would be a terrible shame if they were dumbed down so much that they have no clue about those who contributed to who they are now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Common Sense

My To Do list is long today, so in lieu of a real post, I give you the following.  I don't know where it originated.  If it is yours, let me know and I will give credit where credit is due.  It pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject of Common Sense, and the lack thereof.

"An Obituary Printed In The London Times.....!

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
-Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone."

I don't suppose there is any way to resurrect Common Sense from the dead.  We surely could use him now.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Overheard on the Bus

Riding a bus is sometimes boring, except for the fact that most of the drivers come equipped with a good sense of humor.  So some days we trade jokes or laugh at the silliness around us.  Other days it is fun to just sit back and listen to the conversations around me.

The other day, one conversation sort of peaked my interest.  Mostly because of the fact that, as you all know, I am deeply into preparing for any future problems.  There were two 30-something women sitting right behind me, talking, but not trying to keep from being overheard.  Yes, I eavesdropped.  So sue me.

One of the women was talking about her sister.  She said she was getting worried about her.  She said that she had gone to her sister's house.  Apparently her sister has a basement full of shelves.  The shelves are full of canned goods and toilet paper and buckets of sugar and flour and oatmeal and all sorts of stuff.  She just couldn't understand what was wrong with her sister that would make her stockpile all that stuff.  She thought sister had become a hoarder.

Her friend thought that maybe the sister just thought that the grocery prices would go up because of the drought in the western states and she was buying up stuff before that happened.

And the first woman said.......




are you ready?.........




wait for it.........




"Oh, that won't ever happen here.  Nothing will change.  That's just crazy."

I am so proud of myself.  I resisted the urge to turn around and slap some sense into that woman.  But I really, really wanted to.

I'd be willing to bet that when things get bad, she will be knocking on her sister's door, begging for something to eat.  God help those people who refuse to believe that things can change, sometimes overnight.  I'm pretty sure that the people of London didn't think anything would change just before the German Luftwaffe started dropping bombs on them during WWII.  And neither did the residents of San Francisco minutes before the earthquake of 1906 turned most of that city into burning rubble.  Same goes for the people of Japan on March 11, 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami caused thousands of deaths and the resulting meltdowns at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, the effects of which are still ongoing.

I just don't understand the apathy.  Minutes later, these same women were talking about some TV show they had watched.  They spoke of the characters in the show like they were neighbors and friends.  Sorta creeped me out.

I have pretty much given up trying to get people I know to understand the importance of preparing.  So many watched that National Geographic series, "Doomsday Preppers," and think that anyone who stores food and supplies is a nut job who has an underground bunker and runs around shooting up the woods on weekends.  Or, like that woman on the bus, thinks that anyone with preps is a hoarder.  So I will just continue to do what I feel I should do to make sure my family is taken care of should a crisis situation arise.....and keep praying that it doesn't happen.  Sometimes, that's all we can do.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mix It Up

So this morning I'm sitting at my kitchen table, cup of steaming coffee within reach, writing yet another list.  This time it is for groceries.  And this time I hope I remember to stick the list in my pocket as opposed to leaving it in the middle of my kitchen table like I usually do.

I probably make my grocery list a bit differently than many of you do.  I make a list of things that I know will fit into my handy-dandy-little-old-lady shopping cart.  I no longer own a car.  I have a driver's license and I know how to drive.  I just don't want the debt of a car loan or the expense of insurance, upkeep and fuel.  So my little cart and I take the bus.

I am getting low on things like brown sugar and powdered sugar.  Bags of those sugars take up cart space.  They also take up shelf space in a very small apartment.  My son brings me a 25 lb. bag of sugar now and then, which I store in buckets.  A jar of molasses takes up less space than does a bag of brown sugar.  So if I want brown sugar, I simply mix a scant tablespoon of molasses into a cup of granulated sugar.  Presto!  Brown sugar.  I usually make enough to fill the canister I keep it in.  When that runs low, I just make more.  If I want powdered sugar, I dump granulated sugar into my blender and let it go until I have powdered sugar.  Easy, peasy.

I am slowly learning to make my own convenience type foods from the basic supplies I keep on hand.  For example, I like to have Bisquick on hand.  Boxes of Bisquick take up space in my cart.  I usually have the ingredients on hand, and the ingredients can be used for many more things besides Bisquick, so they are worth the cart space.  I use this recipe:

Utah Ready-Quick Mix

9 cups flour
1/2 cup baking powder
4 tsp. salt
1-3/4 cups shortening
1-3/4 cups non-fat dry milk

Mix the dry ingredients well.  Cut in the shortening until it resembles cornmeal.  I use a hand mixer for this.  Store in a freezer bag or air-tight container.  Works in any recipe calling for Bisquick.  It is way cheaper to make than to buy and works just as well as the premade.

By making my own mixes, I can cart the basic groceries home and branch out from there.  And it is kind of fun to see what I can make rather than buy.

But then, it takes very little to keep me amused!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Grandma's Buns

Quite some time ago I made the mistake of posting pictures of the results of a marathon bread baking session.  Youngest son thought the bread, buns and cinnamon rolls looked so good, that he has asked me to make buns for family gatherings ever since.  I don't mind at all.  I'm glad my family enjoys what I make for them.

If you have read any of my posts lately, you know that my grandkids made their first loaf of homemade bread last week.  This evening my son called.  He said that the kids ate up that loaf, right down to the last crumb.  And then they decided, as long as they love the buns I bring for holidays, they wanted to learn how to make them, too.  So I made Son a deal.  I would post the recipe and instructions for Grandma's Buns if he would send me pictures.  He agreed.  I didn't tell him that I would post it anyway.  I just wanted to remind him to take pictures!

This recipe is the one Mother used when I was growing up.  I think she probably got it from her mother.  It is just a basic recipe, but it holds memories for me of coming home from school, walking in the door and smelling the beautiful smell of these buns, fresh from the oven.  Of course you have to eat at least one right away.  With enough butter so it drips a little bit down your chin.  It's the law.  At least in my family.

This recipe came to me as just a list of ingredients.  Mother assumed that because she taught me to bake, that I would know how to put it all together.  I have added instructions for the grandkids, so they can learn as I did.

Grandma's Buns
(Recipe can be cut in half, or make as is and freeze some.)

2 packages dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
(Note:  one package of yeast equals 2-1/4 teaspoons of bulk yeast)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lard (can use shortening)
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
2 well beaten eggs
7-8 cups flour

Instructions:
Sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and stir slightly with a fork.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Pour the milk into a sauce pan.  Heat it over medium heat until tiny bubbles start to form around the edge - do not boil.  Remove from the heat and add the lard (or shortening), salt and sugar.  Stir just enough to dissolve the sugar and salt - let stand until lukewarm.  The heat of the milk will melt the lard.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and milk mixture.  Beat in about three cups of flour.

Using a fork, beat the eggs in a small bowl and stir them into the flour mixture.  Continue adding flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition, until a soft dough forms.  Turn out on a floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny.  Let rise in a greased bowl until double in volume.

Punch the dough down.  Shape into balls the size of a large egg. (If you want hamburger buns, make them a little bigger.)  Place on a greased cookie sheet, leaving some space in between, and let rise.  Note:  My sheet pans are about 13" x 16".  I usually put four buns across and 6 down, making 24 buns per pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until a deep golden brown on top.  Brush tops with butter while still hot.  Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack and cover with a towel to let cool.  This keeps them from drying out.

Mom taught me that the secret to making buns is to use enough flour so the dough isn't sticky, but not so much that it becomes a stiff dough.  It needs to remain a fairly soft dough.

So there you go.  Have a good time baking.  This recipe makes world class cinnamon buns as well.  Maybe another day you can give that a try!

Love, Grandma

Coupons and Gardens

I have to admit that I am not big on coupons.  I am not one of those people who can fill a grocery cart to overflowing, whip out a wallet full of coupons and wind up paying $1.98 for the whole cart full.  I'm just not that organized.  Never have been.  Never will be.

My local big box grocery sends out weekly sale sheets along with a coupon booklet a couple of times each month.  A year ago or less, I could find good deals on staples - flour, sugar, baking supplies, meat, vegetables, etc.  That's when I used coupons, even if it irritated me that the store set limits on the number of items a person could buy.  If I am stocking up, I want to buy 50 lbs. of hamburger or 30 pounds of carrots at a time - not two puny packages of meat or 3 lbs. of carrots.

Anyway, I am finding now that most of the store coupons are for things like frozen pizza rolls, soda and  chips.  It is a rare day when I can find the basics on sale.  I thought it was just my paranoia kicking in, or that my tin foil hat was on crooked, but then I read this article.

Guess I'm not alone at thinking that we are having processed and sugary foods pushed at us.  I feel for those who rely on store coupons to stretch the grocery budget.  They are getting crap for their trouble.

I am not rabid about non-organic food.  I would prefer to eat organically grown produce and meat, but I am also sensible enough to know that in this world, that just is not possible.  For one thing, I can't afford to spend double and triple the price to buy all organic.  And for another, I have no place to grow my own.  So my best bet is to deal with the Farmer's Market vendors that I have dealt with in the past, and know from experience that they sell a quality product at a reasonable price.

I would urge those folks who have the space, to grow whatever you can.  My son plants corn and tomatoes along side his house, rather than growing flowers in that space.  He has set up a small raised-bed garden in his back yard.  Not only does he raise vegetables for his family to eat fresh, but there is enough of a crop so he cans salsa and tomatoes and pickles.  From what he says, he may increase the garden space and is talking about buying a pressure canner.  Not only does he raise good food for his family, but the kids are learning about gardening.  And they help with the canning.

These pictures are from last summer.

Jacob and Maddie picked a wagon load of tomatoes.

Boston and Maddie picked the last of the green beans.

And they bring me pickles and cherry tomatoes, which I love.  They garden and I get to enjoy a taste of what they grow.  And the kids have learned another self-sustaining skill.  Everybody wins!

Monday, February 3, 2014

New High School Principal

I ran across the following article written by Dennis Prager.  I know very little about the man.  I have seen a couple of YouTube videos of his speeches and have read a couple of his other articles.  Here is what Wikipedia has to say about him:

"Dennis Prager (born August 2, 1948) is an American nationally syndicated radio talk show host, syndicated columnist, author, and public speaker. He is noted for his conservative political and social views grounded in "Judeo-Christian" values. He holds that there is an "American Trinity" of essential principles, which he lists as E Pluribus Unum, In God We Trust, and Liberty."

At a time when political correctness in our schools seems to be overtaking learning, I found this article, published several years ago, to be interesting.

"A Speech Every American High School Principal Should Give.

By Dennis Prager.

To the students and faculty of our high school:

I am your new principal, and honored to be so. There is no greater calling than to teach young people. I would like to apprise you of some important changes coming to our school. I am making these changes because I am convinced that most of the ideas that have dominated public education in America have worked against you, against your teachers and against our country.

First, this school will no longer honor race or ethnicity. I could not care less if your racial makeup is black, brown, red, yellow or white. I could not care less if your origins are African, Latin American, Asian or European, or if your ancestors arrived here on the Mayflower or on slave ships. The only identity I care about, the only one this school will recognize, is your individual identity — your character, your scholarship, your humanity. And the only national identity this school will care about is American.

— This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans. If you wish to affirm an ethnic, racial or religious identity through school, you will have to go elsewhere. We will end all ethnicity, race and non-American nationality-based celebrations. They undermine the motto of America, one of its three central values — e pluribus Unum, “from many, one.” And this school will be guided by America’s values. This includes all after-school clubs. I will not authorize clubs that divide students based on any identities. This includes race, language, religion, sexual orientation or whatever else may become in vogue in a society divided by political correctness.

— Your clubs will be based on interests and passions, not blood, ethnic, racial or other physically defined ties. Those clubs just cultivate narcissism — an unhealthy preoccupation with the self — while the purpose of education is to get you to think beyond yourself. So we will have clubs that transport you to the wonders and glories of art, music, astronomy, languages you do not already speak, carpentry and more. If the only extracurricular activities you can imagine being interested in are those based on ethnic, racial or sexual identity, that means that little outside of yourself really interests you.

Second, I am uninterested in whether English is your native language. My only interest in terms of language is that you leave this school speaking and writing English as fluently as possible. The English language has united America’s citizens for over 200 years, and it will unite us at this school. It is one of the indispensable reasons this country of immigrants has always come to be one country. And if you leave this school without excellent English language skills, I would be remiss in my duty to ensure that you will be prepared to successfully compete in the American job market. We will learn other languages here — it is deplorable that most Americans only speak English –but if you want classes taught in your native language rather than in English, this is not your school.

Third, because I regard learning as a sacred endeavor, everything in this school will reflect learning’s elevated status. This means, among other things, that you and your teachers will dress accordingly. Many people in our society dress more formally for Hollywood events than for church or school. These people have their priorities backward. Therefore, there will be a formal dress code at this school.

Fourth, no obscene language will be tolerated anywhere on this school’s property — whether in class, in the hallways or at athletic events. If you can’t speak without using the f-word, you can’t speak. By obscene language I mean the words banned by the Federal Communications Commission, plus epithets such as “Nigger,” even when used by one black student to address another black, or “bitch,” even when addressed by a girl to a girlfriend. It is my intent that by the time you leave this school, you will be among the few your age to instinctively distinguish between the elevated and the degraded, the holy and the obscene.

Fifth, we will end all self-esteem programs. In this school, self-esteem will be attained in only one way — the way people attained it until decided otherwise a generation ago — by earning it. One immediate consequence is that there will be one valedictorian, not eight.

Sixth, and last, I am reorienting the school toward academics and away from politics and propaganda. No more time will be devoted to scaring you about smoking and caffeine, or terrifying you about sexual harassment or global warming. No more semesters will be devoted to condom wearing and teaching you to regard sexual relations as only or primarily a health issue… There will be no more attempts to convince you that you are a victim because you are not white, or not male, or not heterosexual or not Christian. We will have failed if any one of you graduates this school and does not consider him or herself inordinately fortunate — to be alive and to be an American.

Now, please stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country. As many of you do not know the words, your teachers will hand them out to you."

I know that I no longer have children in our school systems.  But I do have grandchildren in public schools, and I fear for what they are being taught.  Seems to me that our schools could greatly benefit from principals and teachers who were free to teach in the manner described in Dennis Prager's speech, rather than having to abide by the rules set down by government.

And I think that the Pledge of Allegiance is a good place to start.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Dad's Apple Pie (for Stephen)

I have often said that my Dad's apple pie was the best I have ever had.  Now, part of my love for that pie could be because it was my Dad who made it.  But for the most part, it is seriously good pie.  Stephen from "Standing Outside Looking In" left a request in the comment sections of one of my posts.  He said he would like the recipe for Dad's apple pie.  So here it is.

This is the pie crust recipe that my family has used for well over 60 years.  Maybe longer.  It is the one I used when Mom first taught me how to make a pie and it is the one I still use.

Crust:

3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup lard
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 Tbsp. vinegar
3 Tbsp. water

Stir the salt into the flour.  Cut in the lard until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.  Combine the egg, vinegar and water and stir into the flour mixture.  Makes enough for 2 two-crust pies.

Dad's Apple Pie:

6-7 tart apples (Dad just kept peeling and slicing apples until he had enough to fill a pie pan to nearly overflowing.  Don't skimp on the apples.)

3/4 - 1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash salt

Stir the above ingredients to combine.  Pour over apples and stir just to coat them.  Fill a pie pan that holds the bottom crust.
Dot the apples with about 2 Tbsp. butter and add the top crust, cut vents and sprinkle with a little sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 50 - 60 minutes.

It took me a while to find the recipe.  It was in my parent's old recipe box, and you don't just find a recipe quickly in there.  You have to wade through handwritten recipe cards and typewritten recipe cards.  Recipes were jotted down on the backs of envelopes, on pieces of folded notebook paper or just on scraps of whatever paper was handy at the time.  There are pieces of plastic cut from coconut or chocolate chip bags, and one from a Butterball Turkey bag.  Then there are the newspaper clippings.  Lots of those.  It is a time capsule of sorts.  One of the envelopes was dated 1973 and another sometime in the 1960's.

It is sort of like looking at old photos of family and friends.  There is a recipe for something called a Campari Sandwich that I remember a neighbor girl making for a 4-H demonstration.  There is one for Christmas date cookies written by my Aunt Etta who departed this earth years ago.  There are several recipes from my Aunt Em, Mom's sister.  Everything she made was oh, so good.

There is one recipe that Dad would never show me.  He said I could have it after he died, because he had given his word that he wouldn't share it with anyone.  That was a donut recipe using a donut maker.  Dad was a grain sampler, which means that he spent his days climbing into boxcars at the railroad yard and taking samples of wheat, oats and barley to be tested.  He would go for coffee with the other fellows on his crew to the local donut shop, where he pestered the owner for her recipe - for years.  She finally gave it to him the day she closed up shop and retired.

One day when I am feeling ambitious, I need to type up all the recipes so I can find the one I need without going on a treasure hunt.  But I intend to leave the recipe box just as it is.  It just wouldn't be right if it was all neat and tidy.  The jumble is half the fun.

Breakfast of Champions

Chocolate chip cookies are good for breakfast, right?  I mean, they contain eggs and grain, just like pancakes.  And I dunked them in a glass of milk, so there was dairy involved.  And I washed them down with a cup of coffee, just like any other breakfast.  So it should be OK to have three chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, right?

I thought so.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Confession

I have a confession to make.  My name is Vicki and I am a list maker.  I hang my head in shame.

OK.  Ignore the hanging head part.  I have always been prone to making lists, but in my defense, it has been because I have never had a really good, razor sharp memory.  Which has probably kept me from being a world class liar.  I would have too hard a time remembering which lie I told to which person.  The truth, now that I can remember.

But I digress.  I started thinking about list making this morning as I was busy writing yet another list.  Some of the bloggers I read have been talking about perusing seed catalogs and making their seed order lists.  I can't do that.  I used to, when I lived further north and had a huge garden every year.  Love those seed catalogs.  But now I live surrounded by concrete and asphalt.  Tomatoes and potatoes and carrots just don't grow well here in my parking lot.  So I look to the Farmer's Markets.

A couple of weeks ago I took stock of my shelves of home canned goodies.  Made a list (yeah, I know) of what was left and what I would need to replace.  Did the same with my shelf full of dehydrated foods.  Using those lists as a guide, I figured out what I would need to buy at the Market this year.  Number One Son does Farmer's Market runs for me.  I'm kind of scared to show him my list for this year.  It is sort of lengthy.  Which translates into heavy boxes and bags of stuff that will need to be hauled up the stairs to my apartment.  So do I show him my list now so he has time to work out and build up his muscles for all of that heavy lifting, or do I wait until it is too late for him to back out.

I think there is something in the air.  And not a good something.  I am not the only one who is ramping up the preps.  I see it on the blogs I read.  I see it in the comments to those blogs.  I read the alternative news sources and even once in a while on main stream news, where this uneasy feeling is being spoken of more often.  It isn't panic.  It is more like folks are feeling that whatever they need to do to take care of themselves, they had better not put it off any longer.

So I make my lists.  And each time I can check something off those lists as done, it makes my future look a bit better.  Maybe being a confessed list maker isn't such a terrible thing after all.