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.