Tuesday, November 27, 2012


(The following occurred right after I posted about taking a blogging break.  I need to post this now, rather than waiting until spring.)


Noodle was a one-of-a-kind cat.  Not in his breed, which was everyday Tabby, but in his personality.  He was lively, mischievous and an all around pain in the whatever.  And I was silly in love with him.

Noodle came to live with my son when he married Staci.  Sort of a package deal.  They also had Charlie the Beagle, who was kenneled during the day while they were at work, because he had a passion for chewing on cupboards.  Noodle spent his days harassing poor Charlie, who couldn't get to Noodle to teach him some manners.  Eventually it was decided that Noodle might be happier living with me.  Charlie would certainly be happier.

I don't know for sure whether a cat has the capacity for revenge, but I would almost swear that Noodle did.  When I wouldn't share a pan of brownies with him, he stomped through the middle of them.

When I banned him from my bedroom because he thought that chewing on my hair was lots of fun, he would sit outside the bedroom door and yowl at the top of his lungs - at 2:30 AM.  When I left the house without his permission, he made sure that he knocked my computer mouse off the desk and onto the floor.  (I finally got a wireless mouse and hid it in the desk drawer when not in use.)  He has been known to knock all sorts of things off onto the floor, but he was particularly fond of my mouse.

My Yorkies loved Noodle.  The cat food dish is kept on top of my chest freezer in my kitchen.  This is to keep the dogs out of the cat food.  But Noodle didn't mind sharing.  He would flip pieces of the dry food out of his bowl and onto the floor.  As long as the dogs were there scarfing up the cat food, he would keep on flipping it to them.

I have a pillow behind me on my computer chair for back support.  On top of that pillow was Noodle's favorite spot to sleep.  But only when I was sitting in the chair.  When I got to the point where I was in danger of sliding off the chair, I would reach behind me and scoot him off the chair and onto the floor.  That didn't bother Noodle in the least.  He just strolled under my chair and hopped back up on the side opposite of where he had been unseated.  Time and time again.  He could have played that game all day.

I am not sure of Noodle's actual age, but he was no longer young.  For that reason I kept an eye on him.  The Sunday evening after Thanksgiving, I noticed that he was acting a bit odd.  He didn't try to jump into my chair, or any of his other sleeping spots, but would lay quietly on the floor next to me.  He yowled once or twice, and I put him on my recliner, his usual nap spot.  The next morning I couldn't find him.  He was usually waiting for me by his food bowl every morning.  I hunted for him and finally found him sleeping behind my TV stand in the living room.  As he was sleeping, I left him alone.  When he came out in the early afternoon, it was obvious he was in distress.  It was then I called David, who came right away and took him to a vet.  There was nothing to be done for him.

Noodle lived with me for at least 8 years.  Maybe longer.  He was like a naughty little boy who, when he does something bad (but never really bad), you have to try really hard not to laugh while scolding him.

I hope that Kitty Heaven has lots of things to knock onto floors and lots of dogs to harass.  And most of all, lots of pillows to snooze on.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time Off

I have decided to take some time off from blogging.  I find that the well is pretty much dry.  I find myself with ideas for posts, write them, and then draw a blank for a week or two.  As I have several projects planned for the cold winter months when I rarely go out, I think I will concentrate on those.  Thank you to all who read and especially to those who comment and let me know that I am not writing just for myself.

See you in the Spring.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Brothers are full of surprises.  At least mine is.

Kelly called me late this afternoon.  Asked how I was doing.  Said it had  been a little while since we talked.  Wanted to know if I was going to be home.  Said he would see me in about 45 minutes!

I always love spending time with my brother, whether it is for a day or two, or whether it is just for a couple of hours, like today.  He had some time before a scheduled meeting and wanted to spend it with me.  

We drank coffee and talked and looked at some old photos and talked and ate spaghetti and talked some more.  I was having so much fun that I didn't even think about taking any pictures.

Now that is the kind of surprise that I really like.  I hope that he will continue to surprise me like that.  

I love you, Brother.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aunt Em and Me

My mother's youngest sister, Emily, spent lots of time with me when I was very young.  She once told me that she thought we were more like sisters than aunt and niece.  I think this was because we were only 10 years apart in age, and because she considered her sister (my mother) to be a second mother to her.

I consider myself very blessed to have had an aunt/sister like her.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homemade Bread

I really love homemade bread.  I don't make it very often in the summertime.  The oven heats up the apartment to nearly unbearable.  But yesterday morning the temperature outside was in the teens, a few snowflakes were blowing past my window and it seemed like a good day for baking.

My Mom made the most delicious yeast rolls in the world.  So using her recipe, I stirred up a batch.  I could tell that it had been a while since I kneaded bread.  A hot shower got rid of the aches in my arms and shoulders!

Not content with just rolls, I made another large batch of bread dough.....enough for two loaves and a pan of cinnamon rolls.  If I am going to make a mess, I might as well make it worthwhile.  All of it turned out really good.

I miss having kids around to swipe hot rolls just out of the oven, slathering them with butter.  Or fighting over who gets the heel from a warm loaf of bread.  Eating the heel isn't quite as much fun if you can't beat a sibling to it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Digital Books

I have been having a bit of fun lately, downloading digital books.  I found several websites that have free downloads of books where the copyrights have expired.  They are old books - many from the early 1900's, but they are interesting to me.

I love the old cookbooks.  You need a bit of an imagination to figure out some of the instructions:  "Take a cupful of flour and a spoon of fat..."   "Cook until it resembles cornmeal mush..."   I particularly like this recipe for butterscotch:

Butter Scotch
1/2 Cupful of Molasses
1/2 Cupful of Sugar
1/2 Cupful of Butter
Boil until it strings. Pour into buttered tin and when cold break into pieces. This is very nice when cooled on snow.

I have downloaded novels and biographies and poetry as well as old cookbooks.  I don't have a Kindle as I just can't justify spending that much money, but I did download a free Kindle Reader that works well on my computer.  Some books I have in a text format.  They are all fun to read.  The only drawback is that it is sort of hard to curl up in a comfy chair to read from a computer that is not a laptop!

I also have built up a library of audio books from some of these same websites.  My computer is located next to my kitchen.  I take a speaker, set it on a little table around the corner from my computer, and listen to books being read to me while I work in my kitchen.  Even though these books are old, they are still interesting and I don't have to go out and buy reading material.  Which is a good thing because for me, being without something to read is a disaster.

Here are some of the websites where I found books:


The  free Kindle for PC came from Amazon.com.

As a person who loves a good sale, I can testify that free is even better, especially when it comes to books.  And given the fact that space is very limited in my apartment, this works well for me.

So go.....download a book.....turn off the TV.....and read something.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beauty Contest Winner

When I was a little girl, my Mom entered a photo of me in a kiddie beauty contest.

I won 3rd place.

You are impressed, aren't you!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Unhappy Pooch

Jessie Jane is not happy.

She is learning that just because it is my dinnertime, that doesn't mean that it is her dinnertime.  I do not share.  At least, I do not share spaghetti with my dog.  Not unless I want to spend time in the not too distant future cleaning my rug, as spaghetti doesn't settle well on Jessie's stomach.

I really didn't mind so much the standing and staring at me as I ate.  I didn't even mind the way her little eyes followed every movement of my fork.  I could live with that.

But when she started barking at me to cuss me out for not giving her part of my meal, it was time to draw the line in the sand.

I now eat my dinner in peace.

Jessie now spends my dinnertime in her kennel.

Grumbling.  And pouting.

Oh well!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simple Happiness

One of the advantages of living a simple lifestyle is that it takes very little to make me happy.  My happiness doesn't come from the amount of money I have or the stuff I own.  It comes from the little things.

Like today.  While at the grocery store I checked the price of hamburger.  The kind I usually buy was $2.59 a pound.  I put a 5 lb. package in my cart.  About 20 minutes later I was back at the meat counter looking for something I had forgotten, and found that the hamburger had been reduced to $1.29 a pound.  Today was the "Sell By" date.  So this time I put 30 lbs into my cart.

After I got home, I browned it all and packed part of it into pint jars.  The third canner load is processing as I write.  Will finish canning the rest tomorrow morning.  I should wind up with at least 35 pints of hamburger.  That amounts to close to 70 meals for me, as I can generally get two meals out of one pint jar.

Yep.....it's the little things.

By the way.....if anyone is interested in canning hamburger, I have tried a couple of different methods.  The first hamburger I canned, I browned the meat, packed it into jars, added broth and canned it according to the directions for ground beef.  When I tried a jar of that hamburger, I wasn't at all happy with it.  It turned out with sort of the taste and consistency of dog food.  Which is what I will use that batch for.

Then I read a post by Jackie Clay on the Backwoods Home blog.  She is a canning goddess and many of the methods and recipes I use successfully come from her blog.  (The link is in the sidebar.)  She said that the method she uses for hamburger is the same process I used, except she doesn't add any liquid to the jars.  I tried it and it worked like a charm.  The hamburger turns out just like it was cooked fresh.

Another of those simple things that make me happy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Back From Blogging Break

I have taken a bit of a break from blogging.  This fall I had fruit and produce coming at me from all directions.  It seemed that I no sooner was done with one batch when another would appear.

I canned ten crates of peaches and eight of pears.  There were two batches of tomatoes, 150 lbs in each batch.  Then there was 200 lbs of potatoes and 30 lbs of carrots, not to mention a big box of cranberries and some huge cabbages and a dozen big green peppers.  Oh, and don't forget the apples.....at least 40 lbs of them.  God bless Duane who made a couple of extra trips with the fruit for me and both Duane and Becky for the trips to the Farmer's Market.  And most of all for huffing all of it up the stairs for me.  To say nothing of the cases of canning jars.  I never would have been able to do all of this had they not helped me so much.

I lost track after a while of how many jars of fruit and produce I got out of all of that.  But I made peach and pear sauce and a little peach jam, about a dozen jars of canned cabbage, many quarts of potatoes and carrots combined, and many more jars of cubed potatoes.  There are jars of pasta sauce, pizza sauce and tomatoes with green peppers and onions and more of tomato juice.  And jars of homemade vegetable soup.

I had wanted to try making cranberry juice, so I did that this year and it turned out great.  I think I had over 50 jars of juice.  Before I drank some of it! There was lots of pulp left after making the juice, so I ran that through my food mill and added an equal amount of cooked apples and some sugar to sweeten it a little.  Made really good cranberry applesauce.

I dehydrated about two quarts of chopped cranberries to use in cranberry bread and muffins, and dried more apples.  I also dried some of the cabbage as it works really well in soup.  And dried cranberries and apple peels, ground into a powder, make a good, soothing tea.

I still have lots of tomatoes that have been peeled and diced, in my freezer.  Some of that will be made into chili to can and the rest used for pasta sauce and tomato juice.

So now I just need to concentrate on canning meat.  I have been hearing rumors that prices may go down some, so I hope to get some good sale buys.  I don't cook big meals the way I did when my family was home.  Now that I live alone, I really like being able to open a jar or two and have a good meal.

I realize that some in my family think that I go way overboard on the canning and dehydrating.  But then I watched news stories last week about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and saw the pictures of people standing in line for food and heard the stories of grocery stores either stripped bare or cash registers not working due to the lack of electricity.  And the pictures of people digging in dumpsters looking for food.  Now, here in the upper Midwest we don't get hurricanes.  What we get are straight line wind storms, rain storms with lots of thunder and lightning, tornadoes and blizzards, all of which can knock out electric service.

If a tornado takes the building I live in, then I am out of luck.  But if not, I am ready.  Nobody in my family will have to stand in line and beg for food or go dumpster diving in order to eat.  That is a comfort to me, gives me peace of mind and is well worth all of the work that goes into preparing and canning food.

And then I took a week and pretty much did nothing.  Life is good.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Home Canned Tomatoes

When I told my youngest son that I was going to buy tomatoes to can at the Farmer's Market, he said that his tomato plants were producing more fruit than he knew what to do with, and offered to can some for me.  And because I am not a completely stupid woman, I readily agreed.

Today David showed up at my door with 20 quart jars of canned tomatoes and four quart jars of homemade pasta sauce.  I am impressed.  They really look good.  I couldn't wait to try the pasta sauce, so I had spaghetti for supper.  I called him later and told him that the sauce tasted just like good homemade pasta sauce should taste.  It really was a treat for me.  I would have taken a picture, but the spaghetti just didn't last long enough.  Because the sauce was canned in quart jars, there is enough left for a good kettle of goulash for supper tomorrow night.

And there was a bonus.  It seems that Boston was in the garden picking cherry tomatoes, and sent two ice cream pails full for me.  Thank you, Boston.  I cut most of them in half and filled four dehydrator trays.  The rest, a good-sized bowl full, are all mine, for snacking.  They taste so good.  I sent some quarts of peaches that I had canned a few weeks ago, home with David.  I had promised Boston that I would trade peaches for tomatoes.  I think that I got the better of that trade!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Just a Cat

Some would say that she was just a cat.  And maybe to some, that would be true.  But she was much more to me.

She was the cat who had to be in charge and always, always be first in everything.  First to eat when the food dish was filled each morning.  First to use the clean litter box, whether she really needed to or not.  First to jump up on my bed at night to be petted and have her ears scratched and belly rubbed.

She was the one cat, out of my three, who claimed my lap if I sat in my recliner.  She was the one who would nudge the others out of the way because, after all, it was her right as top cat to have my undivided attention.  And if she didn't get it, I got a head bump to remind me of my duties to her.

She had a need to help me, whether I needed her help or not.  If I cleaned out a cupboard, she was there to inspect it to make sure it was done right.  She spent countless hours laying on top of the chest freezer in my kitchen, supervising whatever I was doing.  She was the only one who didn't run and hide when the vacuum cleaner came out.  She was fearless.

So when she became so ill that there was no hope for her, a decision had to be made.  I didn't want to make that decision, but neither could I stand having her suffer.  When she could no longer eat and showed no interest in what was going on around her, it was time.

Kiley was a good old cat.  She was my buddy.  While she lived with me, she was a happy, contented cat, in all her queenly glory.  She was affectionate and she made me laugh...out loud.  I will miss her.

Farming Genes

I wonder if farming genes are passed from one generation to the next.  My children come from farming ancestors on both sides of their family, and it seems that my grandchildren are really enjoying the process of planting a garden, taking care of it over the summer and most recently, harvesting all sorts of good things to eat.

Their Dad says that his little garden is a long way from the kind of farming that his father and grandfather did, but I think that it doesn't matter if the land is measured in acres or square feet.  The love of working the soil and watching plants grow and the satisfaction of a good harvest is the same.

And it does this old heart good to see these values and traditions being passed on to yet another generation.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Phone Call

Got another one of those phone calls I love so much.  Boston called me a little before supper time to tell me to check my email.  They had sent me another picture!

Boston said that she had been in the garden picking vegetables.  They have tomatoes growing along a little fenced in area that is a run for Charlie the Beagle, and she said that she had to go to the other side of the fence to get some of the tomatoes.  It seems that the vines had grown through the fence.  Boston said that she and her Dad were going to can some pickles this evening.  I'm not sure what they are going to do with all those beautiful tomatoes.  She said there are lots and lots more waiting to turn red.

Boston also told me that there were some more cherry tomatoes with my name on them.  I asked her if she would like to make a trade.  Duane had brought me ten cases of peaches and I spent today and will spend the next couple of days canning them.  Am thinking about some peach jam and peach butter as well.  I have been canning in half pint jars for Duane, as he likes that size to take to work.  And pint size jars of peaches make a couple of meals for me.  So I told Boston that if I could have some more cherry tomatoes, I would can up some peaches in quart jars so there would be enough for her family, and I would trade the peaches for the tomatoes.  She thought that sounded like a pretty good trade.  It is, too.  The peaches are delicious!

Boston said that her Dad thought it might be good for her to spend a day with me and learn to can things like peaches or jam.  I thought that was a pretty good idea .  My mother taught me.....her mother taught her.  I like the idea of passing along those skills to another generation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Morning Surprise

Monday mornings aren't known for good surprises.  I remember when I was still in the job market, Monday mornings weren't my favorite part of the week.  It was hard to get back into the swing of things after a couple of days off.  It seemed as though if anything bad was going to happen, it would be on a Monday morning.

However, this morning I had a good surprise.  My phone rang and my youngest son asked if I was busy and was I going to be home.  I told him I would check my calendar.

That's a joke.  These days my calendar is whatever I want it to be.  I love retirement.

He said that he would be in my neighborhood within the hour and would stop by.  That's the first part of my good Monday morning surprise.  Any time I see one of my kids it is a good day.

The second part was when he unloaded from a cooler a dozen canning jars.  They had been full when he got them and I was really glad to see the empties.  Canning jars are like gold to me.  The Farmer's Markets in my area are gearing up with all sorts of home grown produce and I hope to fill lots of those jars before the snow flies.

The third part was when he handed me a container of home grown cherry tomatoes!  Fresh off the vine.  And super delicious.  I snacked on them through the morning, had a few with my lunch and more with supper.  By the time I thought about taking a picture, there weren't enough left to photograph.  Since David started growing tomatoes, and especially since he shares them with me, I have a hard time eating tomatoes from the grocery store.  The difference in taste is incredible.

And then there was a bonus.  David's garden includes cucumbers and he had made dill pickles.  And I got a jar of them!  I haven't opened the jar yet, but if they taste anything like the ones he made last year, I have a treat waiting for me.  Last years pickles tasted like the ones Aunt Em used to make.  And that is pretty high praise, considering that as a kid I begged her for her dill pickles whenever I went to her house for a meal.

I'd say it was a pretty good Monday morning.  Thank you, David!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fruits of Their Labor

Yesterday I got another of those phone calls I love so much.

"Grandma, we emailed you a picture!"

Boston told me all about picking fresh vegetables from their garden and that her Dad was making stir-fry with them for supper.  She told me how well the garden was doing and about how the tomato plants had fruit on them and how the kids had been helping Dad in the garden.  I am amazed that with the heat wave we have going on here, the plants haven't just burned up.  They must be doing something right.

I am so glad that my grandkids are learning that vegetables are grown in the ground and don't just appear on store shelves in cans or wrapped in plastic.  I am reminded of a story told by a member of a home canning email group I belong to.  This fellow raises a big garden every year and sells at a Farmer's Market in his area.  He said that a woman was looking at the potatoes he had dug the night before, which had a little dirt left on them.  She complained about the dirt and when her small daughter asked why the potatoes were dirty, the mother told her that they shouldn't be, because everybody knows that potatoes grow on trees.

After talking to Boston, Jacob took the phone.  He told me all about the bunny that was trying to eat their green pepper plants, but he chased the bunny away and he didn't know where the bunny went, but he chased it away from the peppers and it ran away so it won't eat any more peppers!

They promised to save a few cherry tomatoes for me.  I'm gonna hold them to that promise!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Old Folks Dictionary

I think someone should publish an old folks dictionary.  Fill it with terms that have meaning to nearly everyone over the age of fifty.  It would be a big help to grandchildren who have never heard of the terms and would make it easier for them to understand us.  For instance.....

Sunday Afternoon Ride:  When Dad would pile us kids in the car and we would just take off for parts unknown, usually within a ten mile radius of home.  We would look at the crops or the beautiful fall leaves or maybe wind up at the river, looking for huge clam shells.  If we were really good, there might be a stop for ice cream.

Going Visiting:  Sometimes a Sunday afternoon ride would end up at a friend or relatives house, where we would play with the kids and the grown-ups would visit.  There was usually lemonade and cake involved.

Sunday Company:  That's when somebody else's Sunday afternoon ride wound up at our house.

Visiting:  That's when friends or relatives sat on the front porch of a summer afternoon, and talked.  Not on cell phones.  No texting.  Nothing remotely computer related.  They talked.  As in have a conversation.  Which seems to be a dying art.

Play Outside:  That's what we did, as kids, from morning to night.  Without parents hovering over us.  Without helmets and a ton of other gear to protect us.  We played ball or hide and seek or any number of outdoor games.  Nothing was pre-planned.  We didn't make play dates.  We just played, which is what kids are supposed to do.

School Picnic:  That's when the entire neighborhood would gather at the two-room country school I attended.  Each family brought something good to eat for a potluck picnic.  The Dads would usually get up a softball game and the Moms would catch up on the neighborhood gossip.  And the kids ran around and played, which is what kids are supposed to do.

Potluck:  Everybody brings a dish to share.  Usually a casserole or salad of some kind.  And a pie or cake or cookies.  Nobody worried about the number of calories or fat grams, or whether there was a balance of "healthy" food.  We just ate and enjoyed.

Christmas Pageant:  That's when the school kids would put on a program  for the parents.  It wasn't a "Holiday Pageant."  It was a Christmas Pageant, with usually a combination of Santa Claus, Angels and the Baby Jesus.  Nobody thought about it being politically incorrect.  Of course, at that time, Christmas was still Christmas.

OK.  So when I write my Old Folks Dictionary, I suppose I had better change the title to Grumpy Old Folks Dictionary.  I tend to get a little grumpy when I see so many of the simple pleasures in life go by the wayside in favor of technology.  I am not such a Luddite that I can't see the distinct advantages to todays technology.  After all, this blog is written and published using a computer.  But I sometimes think that technology is taking over our lives.  Some of us go through withdrawl if we can't send or receive a text every few minutes.  Others can't live without their laptop.  We rarely have verbal, face to face conversations any more.  It is sort of sad, really.

I will get off my soapbox now.

And go for a walk:  That's when a person leaves the house, goes somewhere that doesn't require transportation, and enjoys seeing the green grass and trees, the flowers, the eagles that soar over the river, and breathes in fresh air.  And leaves the phone at home.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Good Kitty Drugs

My cat, Kizzie, has been really needy lately.  She either parks herself wherever I happen to be, or she meows at me whenever I walk by where she is laying.  She clearly needed a diversion.....something to do besides focusing on me.

I remembered a small jar of dried catnip that I had on a shelf.  So I took an old sock, tied a knot in the toe end of it, filled the heel with catnip and tied another knot above the catnip.  Kizzie wasn't too hard to find.  She was laying on the kitchen floor next to the chair I was sitting in while making her new toy.

When I tossed the toy on the floor for her, she went nuts.  She loved it.  I took some pictures because it was so funny to watch her playing with that silly catnip toy.

Noodle tried to get in on the act, but Kizzie just wasn't into sharing.

After Kizzie had played with the toy for most of the morning, the other two took a turn.  That one silly catnip sock toy has kept all three cats busy and amused and out of my hair all day.

There is some catnip that grows wild along a fence in my neighborhood.  I guess I will have to go pick some and dry it and make a couple more toys.  Who knew that such a simple thing as a catnip-filled sock would keep three felines so busy.  I wonder if they need to go to Kitty Detox?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Chris Graduates

I guess what they say is true.  The older you get, the faster time passes by.  It seems like it wasn't all that long ago that I received a phone call telling me of the birth of my first grandson.  And just a couple of weeks ago, that same grandson graduated from High School.

This past Saturday afternoon friends and family gathered to celebrate Chris' accomplishments.  His Mom planned the party and it was a huge success.  Relatives from both sides of his family were in attendance and there was enough food to feed a small army.  I think everyone there enjoyed themselves.  I know that I did.

Congratulations, Chris.  I am so very proud of you, as I am sure are the rest of your grandparents and your parents.  It just doesn't seem possible to me that you are now old enough to go to college this coming fall.  It is that time flying by thing again, and I have to accept it, especially now that you are so tall that you tower over me!  I wish you all the best while you continue your education.  I know that you will do well in whatever you decide to do.

Love, Grandma

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Real Life

While cleaning out some files on my computer, I ran across the following.  I wish I could remember where I found it so I could give credit, but alas, I can not.  I am going to post it anyway and if anyone claims it, I will be happy to credit them.

Bill Gates gave a speech a while ago at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.  He talked about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.  Love him or hate him, he hit the nail on the head.

Rule 1:  Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2:  The world won't care about your self-esteem.  The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3:  You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school.  You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4:  If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5:  Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping;  they called it opportunity.

Rule 6:  If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7:  Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now.  They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were.  So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8:  Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not.  In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9:  Life is not divided into semesters.  You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.  Do that on your own time.

Rule 10:  Television is not real life.  In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:  Be nice to nerds.  Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Dad

My Dad wasn't big in stature.  He claimed to be 5' 5" tall.  We all doubted it.  But even though his stature was on the small side, he was big in so many other ways.

When I was growing up, Dad often worked two and sometimes three jobs in order to take care of his family.  His main job was as a grain sampler for the State of Minnesota.  This job involved climbing into boxcars and taking samples of the grain in them, to be tested.  It was a hot, dirty job in the heat of the summer and a cold dirty job in the middle of winter.  I never once heard him complain.  He often took side jobs to make ends meet.  He fed and watered turkeys at a nearby turkey farm and cleaned our church and other buildings around town in the evenings.  He had a work ethic second to none.

When my mother needed special care due to arthritis, he took care of her and took over the household chores that she could no longer do.  As anyone who has ever taken care of someone who is chronically ill knows, this isn't always a pleasant task.  But he did it, every day, without a whimper or complaint.  I once asked him how he could do this, day after day.  His reply was, "I love your mother."  That was all the reason he needed.

Dad's life was not an easy one, even from the beginning.  He and his family lived on a farm in northern Minnesota.  He told of plowing fields behind a team of horses, of loading hay onto a hay wagon by pitchfork and of milking cows by hand.  He told these stories of his youth, not so anyone would feel sorry for him, but because he felt we would be interested in what life was like on a farm before tractors, combines and hay balers.  He talked of ice skating on the frozen lake near his family home, and of how one windy winter day, he held out his arms like wings and let the wind carry him to the other side of the lake.  Then he said he wished he had thought about how he was going to get back, against the strong wind, but that the struggle to skate back was worth the ride.

He told of using saws to cut huge blocks of ice from the lake in the winter and packing them in straw in the root cellar, for use in their ice box during the summer.  He told of hopping a freight train with some of his brothers to ride out to the Dakotas to work on grain thrashing crews in order to make a little money to help the family.  He told of going to Montana with his brother, Kenneth, to pick potatoes for the same reason.  Dad was never afraid of work and would do anything for the family.

Dad was always there for me.  It didn't matter what the problem was, he always had time to listen.  He was a soft touch for his kids, and I knew that if I could get to Dad first, I could usually do whatever it was that I wanted to do.  I took advantage of that like most kids do.  That doesn't mean that he didn't discipline.  He did.  But most times it was not wanting to disappoint my Dad that kept me out of most trouble.

Dad has been gone for quite some time now.  But I still catch myself thinking that I really need to call Dad and tell him about whatever is going on in my life at the moment and to joke with him about mailing me piece of his world famous apple pie.

I wish he were still there to answer that phone.

I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Grandma's Attic

My Grandma Paul's house in St. Paul had the most wonderful attic.  When I was just a little girl, she would let me play there on rainy days.  Any cloud that produced more than three drops of rain would send me running to find Grandma and beg her to let me go play in the attic.  She would smile, take me by the hand and lead me up the stairs.  She had an old, heavy flat iron that she would use to prop open the door so it wouldn't swing shut and trap me inside.

The attic had a dusty, uneven wooden floor and a window in one end for light.  Some thought it was a sort of creepy, scary place, but I loved it.  The attic was filled with treasures that would keep me occupied for hours.  One end of the attic was out of bounds to me, I suppose because the things stored there weren't for little girls to play with and break.  But the end nearest the window was all mine.

There were trunks filled with old clothes, shoes and hats that were perfect for playing dress-up.  There were toys from when my mother and aunts and uncle were children.  Wonderful wooden pull toys and building blocks and real china play dishes and wooden puzzles.  There were stuffed animals and I think I even remember a barnyard set complete with cows and chickens.

The most wonderful things of all for me were the picture books.  I was, at that time, too young to have gone to school yet, and I couldn't read, but I spent hours looking at the books and making up stories to go with the pictures.  It was like being able to go someplace exciting in my mind.  I still feel that way when I read a good book today.....like I am transported someplace new, and if the book is an especially well written descriptive one, I can experience the sights and sounds and smells within the pages.  That must have had its beginnings with Grandma's picture books.

It is a shame that houses aren't built with attics any more.  Attics are a wonderful place for a child's imagination to grow.  I wish I had been able to spend time in Grandma's attic when I was old enough to appreciate the family history stored there.  Sadly, Grandma and her wonderful attic were both gone by that time.  I did not descend from a wealthy family, so I rather doubt that any valuable antiques were in the attic.  But I remember seeing boxes of papers and books and pictures that probably would be of great interest to me now as I research my family tree.  Yet, I do have the memories of rainy day play in Grandma's attic, and those memories are priceless to me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Did You Ever Have a Day...

when you just didn't feel like doing anything.  When all you wanted to do was stay in your jammies, read a good book, pet the dog, take a nap or two, and be just plain lazy.

Usually, I keep busy.  Housework needs to be done.  The hated and despised laundry piles up and shouts at me to get busy and wash it.  I usually have two or three sewing, crochet or scrapbooking type projects going.  I spend time with the pooches.  I like to bake, so I make goodies that I don't need but want all the same.  I experiment with using my home dehydrated foods to make soups, stews and the like.  I take trips to the grocery store or sometimes just go to the thrift store to nose around a bit and look for bargains.  When the weather is nice, I take the dogs out for some air and exercise.  Seems like there is always something for me to do.

But the other day I just didn't feel like doing any of it.  There was nothing wrong with me.  I felt just fine.  No hint of sickness.  Got up in the morning like I always do.  Fed and watered my fuzzy buddies, made a pot of coffee and sat down with my breakfast to plan my day.

And at that point, everything came to a screeching halt.  I found that I didn't really want to do anything.

So I didn't.

Life is good.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Farmer's Market Goodness

So this morning my phone rings.  It is Number One Son, and he and Becky are at the Farmer's Market.  They have found a few things I might be interested in.  Should he get them for me?  Well, of course!

A while later they are at my apartment with goodies.  A bag of rhubarb, some parsley, dill and cilantro and (be still my heart) fresh asparagus.  I dearly love fresh asparagus.

After we went to the neighborhood restaurant for breakfast, Duane and Becky left for an afternoon of fishing, and I went to work on the Farmer's Market Goodness.  I washed the rhubarb, sliced it into one inch pieces and bagged it up for the freezer.  The rhubarb will go well with strawberries later on, for pie filling, sauce or jam.  Then I washed the parsley, picked off the leaves and got them to drying in the dehydrator.  I will dry the dill and cilantro when the parsley is finished.

That left the asparagus.  I cut the spears into one inch pieces, blanched them and bagged those up to go in the freezer.  But I saved out enough for my all time favorite comfort food, creamed asparagus on toast.  When my family lived on the farm, we had a patch of asparagus that grew down by the garden.  Mom and I would always freeze most of it, but sometimes she would make creamed asparagus on toast for supper.  It was one of my favorite meals, and still is.  I always thought that she made it because we liked it, and that was probably part of the reason, but as I grew older and was feeding my own family, I realized that this was one way that she made the asparagus go farther.

I would have taken a picture or saved you some, but it just didn't last that long!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guardian Protector.....Not So Much

I have thought of Lily, my tiny Yorkie, as my guardian protector.  She barks at trucks that go past my windows.  She barks whenever someone is in the hallway outside my apartment door.  She even barks sometimes when the phone rings.  "What a dog," I thought.  "Only weighs 9 pounds and protects me like that."

I was wrong.

I started watching her when she was in protection mode.  She would bark like crazy and then head straight for her food dish, take a mouthful of kibble, trot off to her little bed in the living room, and hide the food under her blanket.  When I looked, she had about a day and a half worth of dry dog food hidden among the folds of the blanket.  Little stinker was in no way protecting me.  But God help anything that tried to get her food!

My landlord, Steve, just laughs at her when she barks at him.  She sees him once every month when he stops by to collect the rent.  She knows him.  And yet she barks at him.  I told him about what a wonderful protector she turned out to be, and that an intruder could carry me off and it wouldn't bother her in the least, as long as that same intruder didn't mess with her food.  "Well," he said, laughing, "she may not be much of a protector, but she is a really good early warning system."

I suppose there is something to be said for having your very own personal early warning system.  Guess I'll keep her!

Monday, May 28, 2012

I Really Hate Housework

That statement would probably send my mother over the edge.  She was really big on making sure that dust bunnies never had a chance to reproduce under a bed and that every window was covered by snowy white starched curtains and that the glass sparkled.  Sometimes I think that if I had a quarter for every time as a kid, I scrubbed down the stairs at the farm, using an old toothbrush to get into the corners, I probably could have retired a year earlier than I did.

OK.  You don't have to point out to me that this is an exaggeration.  I know it.  It is just that most times when I think about the farm, I see those stairs that I came to dislike with every fiber of my being.  Saturdays shouldn't have to be spent scrubbing things within an inch of their lives, just in case company might come over.  When you are a kid, Saturdays are for playing in the woods or a game of baseball or even a game of Monopoly with your sister.  Not for scrubbing.

I very rarely have my TV on any more.  One of the reasons is that commercials make me crazy.  Show me just one woman who dances about her kitchen with unrestrained joy because her wine glasses sparkle from being washed in one particular kind of dish washing soap, and I will show you one seriously deranged lady.  I suppose that the Suzy Homemaker type of commercials are more rare these days.  Commercials for video games and every electronic gadget known to man have taken over.  But I can remember when I did watch TV years ago, there were women who crooned over a new refrigerator like it was a long lost lover and, in their high heels and frilly aprons, exclaimed over the kitchen floors so shiny you could see your face in them, or floated about their bathrooms, happily sniffing the air because their favorite cleaning product made the toilet smell good.  Odd.....I don't ever recall getting all blissfully teary-eyed over a sweet smelling potty.

I think that if the truth be known, the only people who don't dislike housework are the ones who have cleaning ladies to do it for them.  The rest of us would probably rather be doing any number of other things.  Maybe I am just envious of those who don't have to bother with scrubbing floors or washing dishes or changing the linen on the beds.  That's more than likely it.

OK. I am all done with this rant.  And I have taken a long enough break.  Time to get back to what brought this all on in the first place.....washing the walls and woodwork in my bedroom.

Mother would be proud.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dance Recital 2012

It is a blessing and comfort to me to know that my grandchildren are being raised right.  All of them know how to say "Thank You" for gifts given them or for attending an event that involves them.  I am generally given hugs as well, and that is a bonus.

I received a card in the mail today from Boston and Maddie, thanking me for attending their dance recital last Saturday.  The pleasure was all mine.  It was so much fun to watch those girls dance.  They danced with style and attitude, and I loved every minute of it.  And it was fun for me to see several people that I hadn't seen for a while.

Photos and videos aren't allowed at the recitals, but this was included in the card.

My hat is off to David and Staci for all the work they do so these girls can dance.  Staci puts in very long days at the competitions and recitals, helping the girls with their hair and costumes, and David works at Twins games to raise money for dance.  And how many Dads are willing to do cartwheels across a stage for the "Daddy - Daughter Dance!"  I really wish I could have gotten a picture of that!

Thank you, Boston and Maddie, for sending me the card and especially for the picture.  And for giving your Grandma such an afternoon of fun.  I am looking forward to the next time I can watch you dance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eating Peas

Sometimes while I am busy doing the daily chores that never seem to do themselves (I don't know why.  That's the only gripe I have about the way things are in the Universe.  Unpleasant chores should just do themselves.), I will have a flash of memory.  Not memory of whole days or weeks, but just of a snippet of time from childhood.

Like while washing dishes the other day, I remembered eating dinner at my Aunt Elaine and Uncle Oscar's farm home near Winona.  I don't recall the specific reason we were there, but I know that my family would go to visit from time to time so my mother could spend time with her sister.  I don't recall anything about the meal except the peas.  Oscar had a hired man who took his meals with the family.  At this particular dinner, I remember watching with fascination as the hired man ate his peas with his knife.  I just couldn't figure out how he kept those peas on his butter knife long enough to get them into his mouth.  I tried it a couple of times, resulting in having to sweep peas up off the floor.

I suppose that little bit of memory triggered my memory of this poem, recited by my Dad, with a little smile on his face:

I eat honey with my peas.
I've done it all my life.
I don't like honey with my peas,
but it keeps them on my knife.

Now, I can't remember one single fact that I learned in Algebra class in school.  But I have total recall about eating peas with a knife and that silly little poem.

I think I am scared.  And if I'm not, I probably should be.

Friday, May 18, 2012

National Honor Society

Our Boston has been inducted into the National Honor Society.

When Boston called to tell me about being accepted into the National Honor Society, she was so excited and was talking so fast that I could barely understand what she was saying.  I finally understood her to say that when she opened the letter telling her about it, she screamed.  Now all of us who have raised daughters know about screaming little girls.  However, in this case, the scream was entirely justified.

This goes beyond normal Grandma bragging.  This is more a quiet pride in a granddaughter who has worked hard to achieve this honor.

Congratulations, Boston.  You earned it.

Bad Memory - Sometimes a Good Thing

I don't waste time worrying about many things.  Most things are out of my control.  Many things I can not change.  Some things that one tends to worry about may never happen.  I prefer to remain as happy and positive as possible.

But.....now and then I worry a little bit about my fading memory.  I think this bothers me because several years ago, after a rather nasty illness, I suffered short term memory loss for a while, and still do just a little bit, though now this loss is probably more due to my age.  Nevertheless, my memory, or lack thereof, tends to bother me from time to time.

Like the time I had to call my daughter and ask her to buy a birthday card to give her son for me, as I couldn't remember where I had put the one I bought for him.  (Note to self:  Never, ever hide anything away for safekeeping.  The next time anybody will see it is when your kids are cleaning out your house after you die!)

Or like when my keys were missing, only to turn up after a couple of hours of searching, in the pocket of the pants I wore the day before.

Or like when I wrote out a detailed grocery list only to forget it on the kitchen table when I left for the grocery store.  I do that one about half the time.

But sometimes memory loss isn't all bad.  Like one day last week.  When I was really craving something chocolate, but wasn't about to walk to the store just for a candy bar.  Decided to clean out some cupboards instead.  Found a rather large bag of M & M's stuck back behind some canned goods.  Right where I had put it.  And then promptly forgot that it was there.

Sometimes a bad memory is a good thing.  Especially when the outcome is chocolate.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Turkey, Turkey Everywhere

This is a 24 lb. turkey.

My daughter and granddaughter were kind enough to go to the grocery for me a few weeks ago.  I had been there and had seen these turkeys on sale for 88 cents a pound, which is really cheap for our area.  But they were so big, I didn't think I could fit them into my handy, dandy little old lady shopping cart that I use to haul my groceries home.  The cart works really well for me, especially since I make use of the local circulator bus to go shopping.  And for that price, I wanted four turkeys.

Right after they picked the birds up for me, (I think it nearly killed them off, hauling those big birds up the stairs to my apartment.  Two of them weighed in at about 20 lbs. and the other two at about 24 lbs.  I really appreciate that they did that for me.)  I canned three of them.  I cooked them, de-boned them, cut the meat into small pieces and canned it mostly in pint jars.  I forget just how many I got, but I think I have enough canned turkey to last me a good long time, which is good, because I use it a lot.  Makes great soup, stew, casseroles, macaroni salads and sandwiches.  Canned up the broth that it cooked in, too, because I really like using the broth in homemade soup or for gravy.

Anyway, I had this one turkey left in the freezer.  So I hauled it out and set it in the sink in cold water to thaw.  Once it had thawed, I cut it up into pieces like you would a whole chicken, but with lots more swear words involved.  Cutting up a 24 lb. turkey is not for the faint of heart.  Into the stock pots it went.  Took all three of them.  Covered the meat with water and set them on the stove.

I added some carrot, celery and onion chunks for flavor and let them simmer until the meat was fork tender.  Took the turkey pieces out, let them cool and took the meat off the bone.  Strained the broth and set in the fridge so the fat would harden on top.  Meat went into the fridge, too.

The next morning I got the pressure canner going with the turkey breast meat in half-pint jars.  I have lots of pints already done, and really like the half-pint size for sandwiches or salads.  Just the right amount for one person.  Then I skimmed the hardened fat from the broth and put that in a small container to go back in the fridge.  Really makes fried potatoes taste good, and I use it for that as well as in homemade biscuits or dumplings.

While the pressure canner was doing its thing, I peeled potatoes, carrots and onions and thawed out big bags of peas and corn.  I diced the fresh vegetables and mixed the whole works together.

I filled jars about a third full of turkey pieces and topped that with the vegetables.  Into the canner those went.  With seasonings that I add when I heat it up for a meal, that's going to make some really good soup or stew.  Add some homemade biscuits or dumplings and you have a meal fit for a king.

I think I may have gotten just a wee bit carried away with the vegetables.  I was sort of on a roll, so I just kept on peeling and chopping.

So I jarred up the rest of the vegetables and canned them, too.

This is what I ended up with for canned turkey, turkey vegetable soup and mixed vegetables at the end of two days of non-stop canning.

16 half-pints of turkey breast
25 pints of turkey soup
20 pints and 24 half-pints of mixed vegetables

And at that point, I ran out of jars.  I still had about 12 cups of vegetables left, so I blanched them and onto the dehydrator trays they went, along with two pints that didn't seal.  The 7 quarts of turkey broth went into freezer bags and into the freezer.

I'm thinking that I got a lot of mileage out of that one turkey.  I had been wanting to can up some jars of mixed vegetables, so that worked out OK as well.  Will really taste good next winter.  Or any time.

Finding room to store it all in my tiny apartment, however, should be interesting.

Happy Cat

Noodle is particularly happy when I am canning, because that means that the box I keep my pressure canner in is then empty.

Which means that he can crawl into the box and sleep.

Or just hang out.

Wouldn't it be nice if people were so easily pleased?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mothers Day Happiness

I had a wonderful Mothers Day.  I got a phone call from daughter No. 2, wishing me a Happy Mothers Day.

Oldest son came by and took me out for breakfast at our favorite restaurant.

Youngest son came by with his family and took me out to lunch.  And then to the park.  We watched the kids play and went for a walk through the woods and along the river.

Daughter No. 1 and her family came by in the evening.

Mothers Day just doesn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Envy Rears Its Ugly Head

I am not, as a general rule, envious of people or their possessions.  I am perfectly happy with my simple lifestyle and don't care much about owning "stuff."  I feel no need to replace my beat-up furniture or to own a shiny new car.  The things that I do own serve me well, and I don't need to have a panic attack if the cat sleeps on the couch and leaves a little hair behind or if the dog gets sick on the throw rug.  Those things can be cleaned and work just fine, but if I had all brand spanking new, expensive stuff, I would probably waste a lot of time worrying about every little spot and hair.  I have neither the time nor the patience for that.

However, lately I find myself growing a little bit green with envy.  There are several blogs and YouTube channels that I follow fairly regularly, and it seems that most of those folks have planted or are in the process of planting their gardens.  I am envious.

I really enjoyed having a garden.  I miss it.  I like digging in the dirt.  I like watching things grow.  I love the produce that comes from a garden instead of a grocery store.  The weeding part.....not so much.  But the end result is worth the time and effort.

My landlord suggested that I plant some tomatoes in pots and put them out on the deck of my building.  But things that are unattended around here tend to disappear, so I decided against it.  I may have to start a little kitchen window sill herb garden and see how that works.  Until then, I will have to control my envy and just enjoy watching other people's gardens grow.  And wait for the Farmer's Market this summer.  The produce I get there is as good, almost, as what I used to grow myself.  My son said he wouldn't take me to the Farmer's Market any more unless he had a truck and a hand dolly for hauling all of the produce I buy.  Guess what.  He bought a truck.  I have a hand dolly.  Farmer's Market, here we come!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom...

I know that you are no longer here on this earth to receive this letter, but I am going to write it anyway.  You see, I find myself talking to you and Dad in my mind every now and then, so I guess a letter isn't all that crazy.

I wonder sometimes if you knew just how much I appreciated everything you did for me.  You lived in a time when mothers rarely worked outside the home.  Keeping a home for your family, seeing that they were fed and clothed and taken care of was your job.  And you did it well.  Much better than I ever could.

I know that I didn't always want to learn the things that you were trying to teach me.  I still can't make a bed with hospital corners and have it look as good as yours.  And the house cleaning thing...I'm not as good at that, either, as you were.  I don't live in squalor, and my apartment is relatively clean, but I just don't like scrubbing and waxing and polishing.  That's not your fault, for you tried.  That's just me.

Some things you taught me though, I learned really well.  I can sew a straight seam and the things I make turn out pretty well.  And when I am sitting at my sewing machine, I think about you and about all the pretty clothes you made for me and my sister over the years.  All those little dresses with white pinafores and the lacy Easter dresses.  I am guessing that you probably wished that I were a bit more girly than I was, for dresses didn't fare too well with baseball and tree climbing, but I want you to know I remember how good I felt when I was wearing such pretty things that you made for me.

I know that I grumbled and whined and complained about having to work so much in the kitchen with you.  I hope you understood that at ten years old, I just didn't understand how hard it was for you, what with your feet and hands swelling so badly and the pain in all the joints of your body.  I am glad now that you made me stay at it and taught me so much.  I am a pretty good cook, and although your gingersnap cookies were better than mine, I make one seriously good apple pie.  Maybe that is because of the summer that you had me fill the freezer with pies.

I wasn't real keen on peeling all those tomatoes from our garden, or canning them all.  Same for the tons of green beans and peas and sweet corn.  But now I am really glad that you had the patience to stick with it, for those skills are helping me make it through these times when everything is so expensive.  I think about you often when I am up to my elbows in Farmer's Market produce and my canner is bubbling away on my stove.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, even though I didn't always show it, I appreciated everything you did for me.  I don't know where I would be now if it hadn't been for your guidance and patience and understanding.

I know that I have told you in the past that I love you, but I am going to say it again, just on the off chance that somehow you will hear me and know it to be true.

I miss you, Mom.  And I love you very much.

Your daughter.

Marjorie Mae Paul Matheny
1924 - 1996

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Such a Noise

Last evening I was sitting at my kitchen table working on a crafty project.  In the spring of the year, before the weather gets too hot, I like to keep my front windows open a bit.  Outside my living room window I suddenly heard an awful racket.  I knew that it was a bird, but the chirping sounds he was making were so loud that they startled me.

When the noise continued for a few minutes, I finally went to see what kind of bird was sitting outside my window and to see if I could tell what he was yelling at.  I expected to see something the size of a crow, but there on the corner of the ledge outside the window sat an itty, bitty sparrow, yelling for all he was worth.  He would lean forward and sing like mad, sit back, take a few breaths and do it again.

Finally a little female sparrow joined him on the ledge.  He was quiet for a time and then flew down to a branch in the little tree just outside my windows.  There he sat, yelling loudly again for a minute or two.  The little female finally joined him in the tree and the serenade stopped.

Ah, spring.  Love is in the air, even for sparrows.

And it seems to take very little to amuse me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Am Trendy

I had to chuckle a bit the other day when I was at our local bakery.  They have the best 7- grain bread and I treat myself to a loaf every now and again.  The owner, who is just a bit younger than I am and has a similar country life-style background, was telling me about some homemade mango salsa that she had tasted.  When I asked where she had gotten it, she said that one of her neighbors had canned it herself.  I remarked that I was under the impression that I was pretty much the only person around who did home canning any more.  She said that several younger people she knew had started canning.  But she said that it wasn't the kind that we did when we were young.  We did basic vegetables, fruits, jams and pickles.  Whatever it took to get through the long, cold Minnesota winters.  She said these people were into canning gourmet salsas, specialty sauces and watermelon pickles.  But, she said, canning is canning.  She then said that this canning thing seems to be a new trend, so therefore, we must be trendy, too!

Well, what do you know!  After nearly 66 years, I am finally trendy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's the Little Things

I don't very often get down in the dumps.  I suppose if I took the time to dwell on all the unpleasant things that have happened over this lifetime, I could work up a pretty bad case of the blues.  I choose not to.  Those things are gone.  I remind myself from time to time to "Look Forward."

This has not always been the case.  There have been times when I have let past hurts and disappointments overwhelm my thoughts.  This was brought home to me a while back when one of my children told me that all I ever did was say negative things about my ex-husband, her father.  That hurt me so much that I started to cry.  Not because of what was said, but because of the fact that she was right.  And I hadn't realized it until it was pointed out to me.  And I felt awful about hurting my children with my negativity.

From that day forward I made up my mind to do my best to banish that kind of negativity from my life.  I don't always succeed, but I do try my best.  And it has helped my whole outlook on life.

There are still unpleasant things to deal with.  There always will be.  But I think that the trick is to deal with them and then move on.  I am finding more and more that it is the little things in life that make me the happiest.

An excited phone call from my granddaughters telling me all about their latest dance competition.  That makes me happy.

Spending a few days making a surprise gift for my grandson who graduates this year makes me happy.

Looking at a huge bouquet of lilacs on my kitchen table, picked from a neighbors lilac bush, makes me happy.

Watching Jessie Jane and Lily do their twirling, whirling Yorkie Dance Team dance in anticipation of a treat makes me laugh out loud.

Sharing a couple of jars of homemade jam with a neighbor who was delighted to receive them because they reminded her of her days on the farm, makes me very happy.

Looking through my old photos makes me happy.  Sometimes I feel sad, knowing that so many of the people I have loved are no longer here, but the good memories of when we were together overshadows the sadness.

I am not a Pollyanna or a Little Miss Sunshine type of person.  Nor do I bury my head in the sand and pretend that everything is all love and sunshine.  I am realistic enough to know that there are bad things and bad people out there.  I know that the economy could go down the tubes in a heart beat.  I know that the damaged nuclear plant in Japan could collapse in another earthquake, doing horrible damage to the entire world.  I know that going outside my own door at night these days is not the wisest thing to do in my neighborhood.  I know that politicians wouldn't know the truth if it bit them in the butt.

I can't change any of these things.  I can only change my attitude.  I can be aware, but not allow the negativity and the bad stuff to keep me from being a happy person.  So I find joy in the little things.  The last time I talked to my brother, he said that I sounded happier than I had in many years.  I think I will continue to look for the little things to make me smile.  It seems to be working.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Ain't the Same

I love the Dollar Store.  You have to watch what you buy, for lots of the merchandise is junk.  But now and then I find really good deals.  Coffee is one of them.  As I go through coffee by the gallon and because I am not a coffee snob, (If it looks like coffee and smells like coffee and sort of tastes like coffee, I'm happy.) I buy my coffee at the Dollar Store.  Food for my pets is cheaper there as well as some other things I use on a regular basis.

So a few weeks ago I was browsing the shelves at my local Dollar Store and saw some canned ham.  My Dad used to buy a canned ham once in a while when I was a kid.  It was good.  He would slice it up and fry it to go with pancakes and eggs or for sandwiches.  So I bought one.  Nice to have on the shelf if I had a craving for ham.

Today I decided to have ham and eggs for breakfast.  I opened the ham.  Didn't really look like the canned ham I remembered.  Popped it out of the tin.  Didn't smell like I remembered, either.  Started to slice it.  It was sort of like trying to slice canned Alpo.  So rather than waste it, I decided to try to make sandwich spread out of it.  I mushed it up, added some onion, pepper, a little sweet relish and mayo.  Mixed the whole works up.  Slathered on a slice of bread.  Took a bite.

Dollar Store canned ham makes Spam look like fillet mignon.  My Yorkie, Jessie Jane, is the consummate trash hound.  Can't leave anything even vaguely resembling edible within her reach.  She can tunnel into a trash bag filled with garbage waiting to go out to the dumpster, quicker than you can blink.  Good thing she is short or nothing on the table or kitchen counters would be safe.  I dropped a little chunk of the meat (if that's what it was, minus the mayo, etc.) on the floor for her.  She wouldn't touch the stuff.  This is the same dog who would dine from the kitty litter box, given the opportunity!

I guess I should have known better, but the memories of that canned ham meal my Dad would make were still strong, and hope does spring eternal.  But sometimes hopes are dashed.  It just ain't the same.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandmas Get To Brag

It says so.....right there in the contract.  "When you are a Grandma, you get to brag."  Now when you are just a parent, it is OK to brag just a little bit.  After all, when your kids do something awesome, they should be recognized for it.  But when you become a grandparent, you can pull out all the stops.  You get to tell anybody who will stop long enough to listen just how marvelous your grandchildren are.  It is such fun...probably one of the most fun things about being Grandma.  That, and the part where we get to enjoy our grandchildren without the responsibility of disciplining them.  I really like this Grandma thing.

Now, on to the bragging part.

This week I have not one.....not two.....but three (count them.....three) grandchildren that I get to brag about.

The first one I get to brag about is Zach.  Now, I ask you.  How many eleven year old boys do you know who take their mothers for an airplane ride.  As the pilot!

Zachs Mom emailed me these photos last evening.  Pretty darned cool.  I am so impressed by this boy's abilities.  I just can't imagine what it must be like to fly a plane, much less at his age.  When I was eleven, the training wheels hadn't been off my bike that long.  His Mom says that he does an excellent job doing what his instructor tells him to do.  He does everything himself, including landing.  Below are some photos that Jill took during the flight.

Valter's Aviation from the air.

He went above the clouds!

View from plane.

Marina in Stillwater.

Flying over St. Paul.

St. Paul.

Jill says that Zach wasn't thrilled with the Foshay Tower Observation Deck, but altitude while flying doesn't bother him at all.  I can relate.  I get a little bit shaky just climbing on a kitchen stool to reach something in the top cupboard.  But I love to fly and have no fear of heights while in a plane.

Which is something you need to keep in mind, Zach, when you get your pilot's license.  Your Grandma really does love to fly.  Hint!

Now on to the second part of this Grandma brag-a-thon.

Over this past weekend my granddaughters, Boston and Maddie, took part in their first dance competition of the year called "Talent on Parade" at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  Their Dad tells me that there were between fifteen and twenty teams competing.  In addition to the regular team competition, both girls performed in special dances, Boston as a solo and Maddie with three or four other girls.

Boston's solo dance involved using the bench that her Dad made as a prop.  I haven't seen them dance yet this year, but I am told that she dances on top of the bench and does a cartwheel off from it.

Both Boston and Maddie won First Place Trophys for their special dances.  This is above and beyond all the practice time they put in for the three dances performed with the dance team.  I am so proud of these girls.  They both love to dance and they both work so hard.  David tells me that both are taking extra lessons at the dance studio to improve their performances, although I think it may be hard to improve on First Place trophys!  Congratulations, girls.  You have earned every bit of the pride this Grandma has in your accomplishments.

Boston and Maddie's team went on to win first place in their Jazz dance and second place over all.  You done good!

When David called to tell me that they were on their way to the competition, I asked him if he had plenty of Kleenix with him, as he says he has a tendency to tear up while watching his daughters dance.  I can relate.  My heart is full watching them on stage.

Yep.  Grandma bragging rights.  I am so very proud of all of you!