Monday, December 27, 2010

Another Christmas Has Come and Gone

And a lovely Christmas it was.

We met at Jill and Joe's house as we have in the past.  This seems to be becoming a tradition and I like it.  The weather co-operated this year and everybody was able to be there.  For me, that is the best part about Christmas......having my entire family with me.

We ate and we talked and we played.

Someone wanted to take pictures of me with my children and grandchildren.  I usually would rather be behind the camera than in front of it, but I do love these pictures.  I wondered, in looking at them later, if my children had gotten taller in the last few years, or if I was shrinking.  Probably the latter.

And this is the reality of trying to take a family picture that includes Jacob!

It was indeed a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010


So.....last week I grabbed my camera to take some pictures.  I love taking pictures.  I love my camera.

I pressed the button that turns the camera on.  Nothing happened.  So I tried again.  And again.  Nothing.

Gotta be the batteries.  I took out the old ones and put in new.  Pressed the button.  Nothing.  This is not good.

Grabbed my jacket and stocking hat and off I go to the local convenience store.  Bought batteries.  Trudged home through the snow.  Put the batteries into the camera.  Pressed that little button again.  Nothing.

Well, I thought, perhaps the batteries from the convenience store aren't any good.  They don't do much of a business.  Maybe the batteries are old and don't work.

So yesterday when I was out and about, I picked up more batteries at the grocery store.  Came home and put the new batteries into the camera.  Pressed the little button.  Nothing.

Now, I am getting worried.  Did I mention that I really love my camera?

Dug around and found the instruction book.  When all else fails, read the instructions.

Before thumbing through the instruction book, I casually looked at the top of my camera.  There is a little dial with all of the settings that I can use with my camera.  The little lever that I move for various functions was sitting between Automatic and the next function.  Flipped the little lever to Automatic.  Pushed the little button that turns the camera on.  Woo Hoo!  My camera works.

I don't expect that I will run out of batteries any time soon.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Do Nothing Day

Today I did absolutely nothing that even resembled work.

I stayed in my jammies.

I played on my computer.

I took a nap.

I read a book.

I played with the dogs.

It was absolutely wonderful.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

One of the things I like to do in the morning is read various blogs that I like to follow.  Some of these have a theme this case, Way Back Wednesday.....where they blog about early memories.  Yesterday, Lane of "That Man Quilts?"  talked about remembering his Grandmother's chicken and dumplings. As sometimes happens, these blog posts send me on my own stroll along memory lane.

My Mom could cook.  Which isn't surprising, because her mother was a fantastic cook.  But when Mom became too crippled with arthritis to work in the kitchen any more, Dad took over the cooking duties.  And he was Mom's equal when it came to putting together a good, tasty meal.  I once asked him where he learned to cook.  He told me that he had been, when he was young, working in a logging camp in northern Minnesota.  He said that he had hurt one of his arms and couldn't do the hard, physical work required when working in the woods, so rather than go home and lose the income that was much needed in his family, he started cooking for the logging crew.  He said that if someone didn't know how to cook, they would learn really fast in that situation.  A gang of hungry loggers is not a pretty sight.

Next to his apple pie, the dish that I loved the most was Dad's chicken and dumplings.  I have been known to show up on Dad's doorstep, chicken in hand, begging him to make chicken and dumplings for me.  Dad didn't make dumplings from scratch.  I tried a couple of times to make dumplings from scratch, but they always turned out hard like white hockey pucks.  Dad used Bisquick to make his dumplings.  They were always light and fluffy and wonderful.  Dad's chicken and dumplings were my all time best comfort food.

So last night, after having chicken and dumplings on my mind all day, I decided to make some.  I didn't have any chicken in my freezer, so I headed to my pantry.  I opened a quart jar of turkey broth and added a pint of canned chicken and a half pint jar of canned celery, along with dried onion and seasonings.  While this heated on the stove, I made the dumpling dough from my homemade biscuit mix that I keep on hand.  It is a good substitute for Bisquick.  This was dropped by spoonfuls into the chicken mixture and cooked until the dumplings were done.  I decided to go whole hog and add a vegetable, so I melted a little butter in a pan, added a bit of brown sugar and a pint of home canned carrots.  A meal fit for a king.

I would have taken a picture of this lovely plate of comfort food, but it just didn't last long enough.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Yesterday Was Thanksgiving

And I have so much to be thankful for.

First and foremost, I am thankful for grown children who, along with their spouses and significant others, are willing to take the time and trouble to spend this holiday with me.  It was such a nice day.  Good food and good conversation.  Throw into the mix the grandchildren, and they day couldn't have been any better.  These are the same grown children who are always there for me.  Last week I couldn't get to the store and one of them picked up what I needed and delivered it to me.  I needed a ride to David's for Thanksgiving, and immediately there was an answer to my email, telling me that she would pick me up.  Another calls me to tell me about his children's good school report cards and sends me pictures sharing what they have been doing.  Still another shows up every two weeks to take me shopping and hauls heavy bags of groceries up the stairs for me, until his knuckles are dragging on the ground from the weight of them.  And they do things like this for me often.  I wonder if they know how much this means to me, how much this eases my mind and how grateful I am that I have adult children who care enough to be there for me.  Makes my life so much easier and much better than it would be without them.

I am thankful that I am able to live alone in my own home.  I was thinking about my mother and how when she was my age, she had already been living in a nursing home for a number of years due to her health.  Now at my age, there are occasionally times when my body lets me down and doesn't function the way I would like it to.  But this has never been serious enough to even consider other living arrangements.  I can still do what I need to do for myself on a daily basis.  Sometimes it just takes a little longer.  But that is OK.  I am in no big rush.

I am thankful for the little apartment that I call home.  Now some would question being thankful for a tiny apartment in the middle of a city, especially when I have been known to whine about wishing I could live in the country.  But when the truth is known, I am very thankful that I don't need to mow a lawn in the summer or shovel snow in the winter.  I have a landlord who lets me paint the walls any color I want to as opposed to the standard apartment white.  He thinks my dogs are cute.  He fixes things.  Right away.  When I was unemployed for a time, he worked with me on the rent rather than having me put out on the street as many others would have done.  He is a prince among landlords.  My apartment is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  It is home.  I like it.

I am thankful that I still pretty much have my mental capacities intact.  Alzheimer's disease has been known to occur in my family history.  I don't waste time worrying that I will be afflicted with this disease, but it is something to watch for.  My own little gauge of memory loss is passwords.  I have a number of things on my computer that require passwords.  I still remember all of them.  When the time comes when I don't, then I will think about worrying.  But not until then.  Oh, I have the memory loss that is typical of those of my vintage.  I will put something away for safekeeping and then have to hunt for it later.  I make lists of things I need to remember, like what I need to buy at the grocery store.  I write appointments and birthdays on my calendar so I won't forget them.  But I really do remember most things.  At least those things that are best remembered.

There are so many other things that I am thankful for.  I am thankful that my mother taught me to cook and bake bread and sew, for these things give me pleasure.  I am thankful that my dad had the patience to teach me how to fix things and use tools.  This came in handy not too long ago when I tore apart my sewing machine, put it back together, and it worked again.  I am thankful for a loving extended family.  Although we don't get to see one another often, just to know that they are there and that they love me as I do them, is enough.  I wonder if my brother knows how much it means to me when he says, "I love you, Sister."  And I am thankful for the ability, whether learned or inherited, to see the beauty around me even in a city, to be able to enjoy a simple life without the stress and complications that so many live with, and to be in general, a happy and contented person.

For these things, and so much more, I am truly thankful.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Just For Fun

This is Jacob.

Jacob is playing "Restaurant."

This kid can cook my breakfast any old time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Snow of the Season

David called me last week after the snowfall we got on Saturday.  He said that he was watching his kids who were outside making a snowman.  He said that they were really having a good time playing in the snow.

This so reminds me of a happy memory.

I have no idea why this particular memory stays with me.  I clearly recall a day when we lived in the old house on the Eddy farm.  The weather was fairly warm for winter.  The wind was calm.  It started, early in the morning, to snow.  And it kept on snowing.  Those huge flakes of snow that are so beautiful to watch.  Just floating to the ground.  By early afternoon the yard was covered with lots of snow.  Just right for snowman building.  I couldn't stand it any longer, so I bundled my kids up in warm clothes and outside we went.  We built a huge snowman.  The kids were rolling snowballs and making snow angels in the fresh snow.  Ted the dog was running and jumping and burying his head in the snow.  We had so much fun that day, topped off with hot chocolate when we finally went back indoors.

These days when my memory is sometimes hazy, I love it when I can see a day like that with my children so clearly in my mind.

I Am Back to Being Me

When I checked my email this morning, there was a message from Facebook.  It seems that they have decided that I am, after all, Me!  My account has been reactivated.  I am so relieved.  Now I can stop wondering who that person is who lives in my bathroom mirror every morning.  Or maybe not.  That person still looks more like my grandmother than the thirty year old person I always expect to see.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apparently, I'm Not a Real Person

Everyone has their morning routines.  I make my bed, feed my animals and then sit down at my computer for a while with a cup of coffee.  There are some online comic strips that I read.  I like to start each day with a smile if possible.  Makes for a happy state of mind.  I check a couple of news websites to keep up with what is going on in the world.  I check my email.  Then I look at Facebook to see what my kids and grandkids are doing that day.

When I went to log onto Facebook this morning, a message came up that my account had been disabled.  So, like everybody else who runs into a computer glitch, I tried logging in a couple more times.  You know, the theory that if you repeat an action often enough, eventually it will work!  Nope.  No such luck.

So I clicked on their help button to see why I no longer had an account.  Facebook, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that I am not real.

They say that I must provide my real first name and last name.  Last time I checked, Vicki Matheny Miller was my name.  Has been for 22 years.  The Vicki and Matheny parts have been mine for 64 years.  Nothing wrong there.

Then they say that I am prohibited from impersonating anyone or anything.  I am perfectly happy with who and what I am.  I have no desire to be anyone or anything else.  So that's not a problem.

Facebook then tells me that I am prohibited from having more than one account.  I have only one account.  Now, I do have multiple blogs.  Blogger doesn't seem to mind.  But I can think of no good reason to have more than one Facebook account.  No, that's not the problem.

Then I learn that it is "strictly prohibited" to have a profile representing celebrities, pets, ideas or inanimate objects.  Maybe that's it.  Do you suppose that while I was sleeping, Noodle or Jessie or Lily opened an account in my name?  I mean, Jessie and Lily do like to hang out with me when I am on my computer.  And goodness knows, Noodle can be a bit sneaky at times, and he does like to watch what I do from the back of my computer chair.  But no, I don't think that's it.

Facebook's last reason for getting rid of me concerns spamming and harassing.  I, to the best of my recollection, have never sent spam.  I receive a lot of it.  On any given day offers arrive in my email for all sorts of things that I couldn't possibly live without.  This morning alone, I can get my very own credit cards, learn to be an ultrasound technician, sign up for tanning sessions, charter a boat, and make my skin clear and clean.  I can also meet sexy seniors, cast a personal love spell and check the 68 messages now waiting for me on a singles dating website.  I'm thinking that none of these things are going to happen.  My children and their siblings harass each other on Facebook more than I ever thought about doing.  I really don't think that I have harassed anyone lately, with the possible exception of my mailman who has lately given my mail to other residents of my building.  Perhaps I was a bit premature on that.  After all, Facebook says that I am not me, so how can my mailman know.

So.....if any of you know just who I am, please let me know.  I would be interested to find out.  Because, after all, Facebook says that I do not exist.  And if you see it on Facebook, it must be true.

Vicki Matheny Miller (or whoever)

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Good Idea

It was cold outside.  Snow was falling.  Wind was blowing.  When I walked into my bedroom, I found these two.

Seemed like a good idea.  So I joined them for a couple of hours.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Power of the Internet

For the last couple of days I have been following the drama on my favorite blog, "Chickens in the Road" (see sidebar for link).  This blog is written by a single mom who moved with her three children to a remote farm in the middle of West Virginia.  Her name is Suzanne McMinn.  As you know, many of the recipes I use came from her or contributors to her blog.  But it isn't all about just recipes.  It is about life in rural West Virginia, about her children, about her assorted animals.  I can, here in the city, read about a life I would much prefer.  And because the writer has such a delicious sense of humor, I feel good reading her blog, no matter how depressing my day has been.  She makes me laugh.  Out loud.

But Suzanne's blog is more than just a daily diary.  She is an accomplished writer and photographer.  As one who loves taking pictures, I understand how much work goes into getting just one good photo.  Suzanne's photos are phenomenal.  She has much more patience with photography than I do.  She does not sell her work with the exception of producing a yearly calendar, and her photos are used only on her blog.

Enter the bad guy.  His name is Dave Belanger.  He owns Countryside Publications which publishes four magazines geared toward farm life.  It was in the latest edition of one of those magazines that one of Suzanne's photos appeared.  In both printed and online editions.  Without her knowledge.  Without her approval.  Without credit to the photographer.  Without compensation to the photographer.  They stole the photo from her blog.  This is not a mom and pop operation.  Countryside Publications is a 5 million dollar business.  I'm pretty sure that Mr. Belanger understands something about copyrights.  I understand about copyrights, and I am just a retired grandma.

Now enter the followers of the "Chickens in the Road" blog.  We are many.  We were outraged that Mr. Belanger refused to acknowledge wrongdoing, that he not only was rude when Suzanne called him to protest the use of her photo, but had the brass to hang up on her.  When he finally decided to talk with Suzanne, then would have been the time to be a man, step up to the plate, admit he was wrong, apologize, promise never to steal again, and put a check in the mail.  He did not.  He blamed an editor who, he said, got the photo while browsing the internet looking for a cover photo for the magazine.  (Now that is scary.  I wonder how many others have been stolen from by these people.  How many of the photos you all post on Facebook or I post on my blog will wind up being used for purposes other than those for which they were intended.)  Suzanne said that had they requested the use of the photo in question, she would have let them use it - free of charge - with only credit and a link to her blog appearing with the photo.  So we made phone calls to Mr. Belanger's office.  And we sent emails as well, expressing our outrage.  A few calls were made to the Better Business Bureau complaining about the unethical practices of this company.  The story was picked up by other bloggers and appeared on Facebook pages.  There was talk among "Chickens in the Road" followers about putting together a list of the advertisers in Countryside Publications and starting an email campaign to inform these companies about the lack of ethics of said  photo thieves.

This morning we saw the power of the Internet.  Suzanne reported on her blog that Mr. Belanger had called her, apologized and had mailed her a check for the full amount she requested.  It seems that he had read the blog with the many comments that were not favorable to him or to his company, which included the intention of some to cancel subscriptions.  He also saw in one of the posts that Suzanne fully intended to sue him and his company for unauthorized use of her photo.  It wasn't about the money, but about just plain honesty and integrity.  And the fact that it seems to be a common thought that in a David and Goliath situation like this one, the Goliaths of the world seem to think that the Davids don't possess the courage or resources to fight them.  Or they believe that it is OK to steal from a blog.  Or from any resource maintained by the "little guys" of the world.  It isn't.  Stealing is stealing.

I do believe that this time, again, David won the skirmish.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Have Lots of Help

My cats are really helpful.  Don't know what I would do without them.

Fat Cat  Kizzie is a huge help to me.

She helps me clean out dresser drawers.  She is really good at it.  Sometimes after she cleans them out for me, she takes a nap inside the empty drawer.  This time she didn't get the drawer open quite far enough for that, though.  Guess I should be happy that she can reach only the bottom one.

Kiley is really good at holding down my bed so it doesn't float away.  She stays at her post, uncomplaining, day and night.  Must work.  The bed hasn't floated off into space yet.  Good job, Kiley.

And then there is Noodle.  He has taken it upon himself to see to it that I don't drown in the shower.  He does this by perching on the ledge above the bathtub like a vulture.  It is a bit disconcerting, really.  I haven't showered alone for years.  Well, with the exception of the times when he has first gotten himself locked in a closet.  Noodle is sneaky.  Open a closet door, he is there.  I don't always see him before shutting the door.  After being awakened several times about 3 AM to let him out of the closet, I have learned to check on his whereabouts before going to bed.  But as a lifeguard, he is tops.

Keep up the good work, guys.  You make my life interesting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Typical Week

I received a phone call from one of my kids the other day.  When I asked what he had been doing, he replied that he had gone to work, come home, slept, gone to work.........  I replied that his life was just as exciting as mine.  I hadn't done much either.

And then this morning I started thinking about my week.  It was typical of most of my weeks.  It wasn't Woo Hoo exciting.  That's OK with me.  Let others live with Woo Hoo exciting.  That usually includes drama and stress, both of which I am quite happy to live without.  But to say that I hadn't done much was not exactly true.

I go for walks.  Every day unless the weather is really ugly.  Jessie usually goes with me.  We walk in my neighborhood.  We walk in the park.  We walk down along the river.  We see all sorts of interesting things and people.  Jessie likes the people.  She thinks each one should pay attention to her.  Sometimes they do and sometimes not.  But when they do, we have interesting conversations, like the one with the guy we met in the park who has a beautiful white Great Dane.  The Great Dane is totally deaf.  It was amazing to watch how she kept an eye on her owner who has taught her hand signals, and how she responds to those signals like most dogs respond to voice commands.  Even with her disability, she is one really happy dog.

I did a couple of loads of laundry.  For most people, doing laundry involves throwing clothes into their washer and then into their dryer.  For me, it means hauling clothes down the stairs from the second floor down to the first floor, outside around the building, and down the stairs to the basement.  Then back up the basement stairs, outside to the door to the apartments, and up the stairs to the second floor.  Then I do that a couple more times.  For fourteen years I have been trying to get my landlord to put in an elevator.  He just laughs at me.  I don't know why.  So when I can't put off doing laundry any longer, I do the stair thing, grumbling under my breath the whole time.  But in reality, I know that this is good exercise for me.  Chances are really good that climbing the stairs won't kill me off.  I am still in relatively decent shape for the shape I'm in.  And when I see some of the older folks riding their scooters around town, I consider myself pretty lucky to be able to climb stairs at all.  But I still grumble.

I had a day of baking.  I had made up a batch of brownie mix and wanted to test it to see if it was worth making more later.  It is worth it.  They turned out really well, so I won't be buying any more brownie mixes at the store.  I can make my own.  I also tried a new recipe for oatmeal cookies.  After a taste to make sure they were good, they went into the freezer.  Then it was on to the bread.  I can't remember the last time I bought bread at the store.  I have a recipe for "Grandmother Bread" that is really good.  It is a recipe that doesn't need milk or eggs, and I can make it even if I am out of those ingredients.  So two loaves of white bread went into the freezer.  I also tried a recipe for wheat bread with herbs.  That is a basic wheat bread and I added some Italian herbs to it.  It is to die for.  I kept out part of a loaf for my supper, and into the freezer the rest went.  So did two pans of cinnamon rolls.  I package each individual roll in a baggie, so I can have a cinnamon roll for breakfast any time I want.  Heaven.

The last time I went grocery shopping, I bought a big bag of onions.  So one day this past week I dug out my dehydrator and dried a load of onions.  It is easy to do.  I just peel and slice the onions about a quarter of an inch thick and fill the dehydrator trays, plug the dehydrator in and forget about it until the onions are crispy.  I used the dried onions to make a batch of dry onion soup mix.  I have a small beef roast in the freezer, and tomorrow I will put it in the crock pot, topped with the homemade onion soup mix.  I just love testing these homemade alternatives to store bought.  I haven't been disappointed in the results as yet.

I started another blog this past week.  This one is for the Matheny-Olmstead side of my family.  It is listed in the side bar.  I had a request for photos and information recently, and thought this was the best solution, rather than emailing.  I made the mistake of complaining to David when he called me a couple of days ago, that blogging took so much time.  He wanted to know what I was complaining about.....I have all the time in the world.  He is right.  I do.  And I like it.

The dogs were getting low on food, so another day I made dog food.  I usually use hamburger, but didn't want to take a bus ride to the store just for meat, so I opened a couple of jars of home canned chicken, added a jar of carrots from the pantry, some frozen, cooked green beans and some rice cooked in home canned chicken broth.  Stirred it all up, bagged in zip bags and froze it.  It really worked slick to have the meat, broth and carrots all canned so I didn't have to spend the better part of the day cooking.  I just found a blog with a video on canning hamburger, and I may do that next week.  I really liked being able to grab jars from my pantry.  Makes the job so much easier.

Which left plenty of time for this.

These little hexagon flowers are addicting.  I now have enough of the colored flowers for a quilt top and am putting the light colored borders around each of them.  Today I will raid my fabric stash for green fabric to use to connect each of the flowers.  This quilt top is going together much faster than I thought it would.  I listen to audio books while I sew.  I found a website where I can download audio books, and although they are not the latest novels to come out, and they are old enough to be in the public domain, they are still fun to listen to.  This week I have heard a couple of Sherlock Holmes books, one that was a comedy and another mystery set in the 1920's.

So I guess that to say that I hadn't done much this past week wasn't entirely accurate.  My life may not be as exciting as the lives of those who are busy with their jobs, busy with outside activities, involved in stress and drama, but it isn't just vegging in front of a TV, either.  In fact, it is just the way I had hoped for many years that it would be.  And I like it this way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Turkey and More Turkey

On Friday of the past week, Duane came to town and took me to do some grocery shopping.  He is a glutton for punishment, because he always hauls the groceries upstairs for me.  I wasn't too rough on him this time, though.  I think the heaviest things were the two turkeys I got on sale.  Couldn't pass them up.  This is why.

Yep.  That's how I spent my weekend.  Canned turkey, turkey broth to use in soups over the winter, and half a dozen jars of homemade turkey gravy.

Now if I can just find a place to store it all..........

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stuffing in a Bag

Lately I have gotten into making my own convenience foods at home.  This is partly due to the price of the store bought foods and partly due to the fact that I like the idea of knowing what I am eating.  I usually have the ingredients on hand, so there is no extra bus trip to the store.  The added bonus is that these convenience foods taste better than packaged.

The one I like most is "Stuffing in a Bag."  I found it on the "Chickens In The Road" blog, which is one of my favorite places to find recipes.  I tried a couple other recipes for this Stove Top Stuffing-like mix.  Some of the other recipes called for mixing vast amounts of dry bread crumbs with the seasonings, storing it all in a large air-tight container, and then dipping out the correct amount for each serving.  I found that the seasonings tend to be unevenly distributed with that method.  But this recipe calls for making the recipe in individual servings which allows for the right amount of seasonings in each bag.  And it is really good.  Jeri stopped by the other evening while I was eating supper, which included this stuffing, and when she tasted it, she said that she thought it tasted better than the store bought stuffing.

Here is the recipe:

Stuffing in a Bag

3 cups bread cubes (I make my own with homemade bread, but you can use purchased bread cubes.)
1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. dried onion or 1 Tbsp. powdered onion (I like the dried onion best)
2 Tbsp. dried celery or 1 Tbsp. celery salt  (Cub has dried celery, cheap.)
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. sage or poultry seasoning
1-1/2 tsp. powdered bouillon (I have used chicken or beef bouillon with equally good results.)

Combine everything in a zip lock bag.  Seal and store in a cool place.

Directions for cooking:
Bring 1-1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup butter to boil in a saucepan. Stir in contents of bag; cover. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 min. Fluff with fork.
Or you can place the contents of the bag in a microwave-safe bowl, Add the water and stir, and then cut the butter over the top and microwave for 7 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.

I like this stuffing baked over skinless, boneless chicken breast or tenders.  Just bake the chicken, and cover with the cooked stuffing for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Add a veggie or salad, and it makes a quick, delicious meal.

I have collected a number of these do-it-yourself mix recipes, and am having fun trying them out.  I like the idea of spending mere pennies for something that tastes better than the equivalent in stores.  Appeals to my simple lifestyle and my sense of cheap!  I think I will try my recipe for Onion Soup Mix next.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Afternoon at the Apple Orchard

Last Sunday felt more like a summer day than a fall one.  Not your typical Minnesota fall day, but a good day for a trip to the apple orchard.

David, Staci and the kids came by my place.  The kids always like to see my resident furballs, so after some serious doggie and kitty petting, we headed out to the orchard to pick apples.

According to Boston, Maddie and Jacob, it is against the law to pick apples before having pony rides, so that was first on the agenda.

Then we got on the wagon pulled by a tractor, much to Jacob's delight, and headed out to the orchard.

I was so busy picking apples with Boston and Maddie helping me fill two big bags, that I forgot to take pictures.  But I did get this one of the girls enjoying the fruits of their labor.

We weren't very far away from the main buildings at the orchard, so we just took a leisurely walk back, where we found that trail through the woods that I showed you in the last post.

After stopping for a late lunch, we headed back home.  It had been a truly wonderful day.  I always so enjoy spending time with my kids and grandkids, and there was the added bonus of apples.  Fresh off the tree.  Doesn't get much better than this.

So now it was time to do something with all of those apples.  I have recently gotten back to canning much of my own food, as I did years ago.  So that is what I did with most of the apples.  There is apple pie filling, applesauce and apple jam.  I'm thinking that they will taste really good over the winter.

I still have these left over...

so today I am making apple muffins, a couple of loaves of apple bread and whatever other recipes I can find to use them up.

I would show you the apple crisp I made, but it didn't last long enough to photograph.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Fall is my favorite time of year.  The hot, humid days of summer are behind us and snow of winter hasn't blown in as yet.  And there is the added bonus of the glorious color of the leaves.

Sunday, while on an outing with David and Staci's family, we were walking down a road when we happened upon this little trail through the woods.  It was just so pretty with all of the yellow and gold leaves, that we had to stop and take a few pictures. 

After exploring a little further, we found this log.  Just right for taking a family picture.

On our way out, through more beautiful trees, I remarked that I would almost sell my soul to live in the country again.  David answered that he thought I probably would sell my soul to not only live in the country, but to live out in the middle of the woods.

My son knows me well. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010


He would have been 99 years old today.

Dad and his brother Bruce, about 1916 at the family farm near Blackduck.

Dad and his mother in June of 1946.

Dad with Libby in Willmar, 1952.

Dad with his sister, Clarice.

Dad with Zach at his apartment in Blackduck.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Church Supper Dog Food

I have already owned up to spoiling my dogs.  But sometimes a pet has earned the right to be a wee bit spoiled.  Both of mine spent the first seven years of their lives living in kennels with wire mesh runs, and having litters of puppies.  So if I spoil them, it is OK.  They earned it.  The spoiling includes making homemade dog food for them.

Now, there is a method to my madness.  When I first got Jessie, she wouldn't eat anything that I gave her.  I tried several brands of dry dog food.  She wouldn't touch any of it.  Then came the various and assorted brands of canned food.  When I finally found one that she would reluctantly eat, it made her sick.  That nasty stuff is tough to clean out of carpeting.

So finally in desperation, I called her previous owner and asked what she fed her dogs.  I mean, Jessie is just little and it doesn't take long for a little dog to lose weight and become dehydrated.  It wasn't looking good.  Turns out they were raised on homemade dog food, which consists mostly of chicken breast, vegetables and rice.  So I adapted her recipe to use less expensive meat, which lately has been hamburger that has been on sale.  Worked like a charm.  Now she is getting just a little bit tubby, so I have to cut back some.  Lily dives right in and loves it, too.  Problem solved.

When I make this concoction, I make a whole pot load at once, package it into sandwich bags and freeze it.  I can do two or three months worth this way.  Turns out, it is a whole lot cheaper than processed dog food and, according to my vet, is better for them.  The last time I was in the middle of mixing this stuff up, consisting of browned hamburger, rice, green beans and sliced carrots, my landlord stopped by to fix  a faucet that was leaking.  He stood in the kitchen talking with me for a time, and then finally asked me what I was making.  He said that it smelled pretty good.  When I told him that it was dog food, he just laughed.  He said that he thought I was mixing up a huge hot dish for a church supper.

I guess he wasn't that far off the mark.  Throw in a couple of cans of cream of mushroom soup, a few handfuls of french fried onions on top, and I could probably get away with it.  I'm guessing that I won't be asked to bring a hot dish to any of our family get-togethers any time soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Homemade Doggie Treats

I will be the first to admit that I spoil my dogs.  Can't help it.  I am just wired that way.

We have fallen into a routine, the dogs and me.  First thing in the morning, they are given a treat.  This is to keep them out from under my feet while I fill their food bowls.  Then, about 7:00 or 7:30 in the evening, they seek me out for some serious play time on the floor.  Ears are scratched and bellies are rubbed.  Theirs.....not mine.  They chase the toys I toss for them and run around in circles and have a good old time.  When all of us have had enough playing, they get another doggie treat, and then they pretty much settle down for the night.

So last evening when I was getting their biscuit treat for them, I read the ingredients in the stuff I was feeding them.  Scared me half to death.  There were 41 ingredients listed on the back of the package.  I recognized only a half a dozen of them, and the rest I had no clue what they were, and could pronounce only about half of those.  Now, I understand that a dog will eat week old road kill if given the opportunity.  Or just about any other rotten thing that they can find. But road kill can't possibly be as bad for them as what is in those biscuits.

So I went through my recipes, and sure enough, I found one for doggie biscuits.  Five ingredients.  Had them all in my cupboard.  So I stirred up a batch.  Cut them out with a little bone-shaped cookie cutter.  Baked them in the oven.  Didn't take much time at all.  Aren't they cute?

Jessie and Lily love them.  And I can pronounce the name of every ingredient.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere...

Jessie and I went for a walk this morning.  Checked out the Minnesota River, which is a little over a block from my apartment.  Yep.  It's over the bank alright.

This is the bandstand in the park along the river.  Last spring when the river overflowed it's banks, the water didn't reach the back side of it.

This is a walking path that winds through the park.  Now it is part of the river.

In the distance is the main bridge over the river.  The river normally can't be seen from this vantage point.  The walking path under the bridge is completely under water.  The trees to the right are along the bank.  The bridge is closed because the water is over the road a little further down.

This view is downriver from the bridge.  The tree line marks the river bank, and the river normally is several feet below the other side of the trees.

The flooding is inconvenient for lots of folks.  Many who work on the other side of the river have to drive a long distance to another river crossing bridge that is open.  But I can't complain.  Although I live close to the river, the town of Shakopee was built on high ground and has never flooded, as far as I know.  Which is more than I can say for further upriver, where entire towns have been underwater this week.  I am high and dry.  And I am counting that among my blessings.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New Family History Blog

A couple of days ago, out of the blue, I received an email from the daughter of one of my cousins.  Her grandmother was my mother's sister, Dorothy Paul Swedberg.  She wanted to know if I had an email address for another cousin, and in the course of emailing back and forth, I found that both of us have an interest in our family history.  She sent me some photos that I hadn't seen before, and it was fun for me to see them.

This morning I tried to email her some pictures of her grandmother and her family, but had problems with her email not accepting mine, and my email was bounced.

Not being a person who gives up easily, I thought about possible solutions for a while, and then decided to start another blog.  I had no desire to fight with emails and decided that this would be a good way to share old family photos and stories.

So I spent the better part of the day setting up "Second Cup of Coffee."  The name is due to the fact that so many names I tried were already in use, and the fact that I can rarely navigate until I have at least two cups of coffee.  Also, I like to read some blogs in the mornings with my second cup of coffee, so it seemed appropriate.

Anyway, if you are at all interested in learning about our family history, the URL is posted in my list to the right of this page.  I am having fun with this and hope that others will enjoy it as well.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homemade Jam and Jelly

It is all David's fault.  He emailed me photos of the salsa and tomatoes that he canned at home.  Got me thinking about all the canning I had done when I was still a kid living at home and later when my children were young.  The memories of how good all of those home canned fruits and vegetables, pickles, relishes, jams and jellies tasted got me fired up to try home canning again.

So yesterday I spent the afternoon making this.

The clear jelly is grape, made from bottled juice, and on the left is strawberry jam, made from fresh strawberries.

And it tastes just as good as I remember.