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. 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.