Monday, December 30, 2013

A Bit Nippy

8 AM finds the temperature here in Minnesota at -10 degrees, up from the -18 degrees reported by Youngest Son earlier this morning.

Fresh brewed cup of coffee - check.
A good mystery novel - check.
Snuggling down under my new green fuzzy blanket (Thanks David, Staci and kids!) - check.

I think a pot of chicken vegetable soup and cornbread is on the supper menu.

Works for me.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Version of Turkey Day

Yesterday I cooked the three turkeys that Number One Son had brought me a while back.  Before de-boning, they together weighed a little over 42 pounds, which translated into 22 pints of turkey.

My family refers to Number One Son as "Mom's Enabler," due to the fact that he is the one who brings me Farmer's Market produce and meat on sale from the grocery, all to can or dehydrate.  Well, he did it again.  He brought me a new pressure canner.  The one I have been using holds 8 pints.  The new one holds 16 pints.  Both are merrily cooking away as I write.

Many times I have worked far into the night canning 8 pints of meat at a time.  Meat in pint jars require an hour and 15 minutes of pressure time, plus 45 minutes of heating up time and another half hour to 45 minutes of cool down time.  It is such a treat to be able to can all 22 pints at once.  I still have my biggest stock pot full of turkey broth to can, but I should be able to finish all of it by supper time, as opposed to the wee hours of the morning as I have done in the past.

So thank you, my enabler son.  My life has suddenly become easier.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Gentle Snowfall

I glanced out my window a little while ago and saw huge snowflakes drifting down.  It is beautiful to watch, even in the city.  Driving in it - not so much.  Looking at the weather map, it doesn't look like it will amount to much.

Those flakes floating down reminded me of days building snowmen with my young children, of snow forts built by those same kids and of snowball fights.  And of days I lived among the tall pines where a walk through the woods during a snowfall such as this was like walking through a fairy land.  And of crisp, cold nights where the light of a full moon made the snow sparkle like diamonds.  And of the taste of hot cocoa made from real milk with marshmallows floating on top that was so good after an afternoon of playing in the snow.

It is amazing to me what memories can be triggered just by the falling of a few large flakes of snow.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Presents

Christmas presents are nice.  I like them as much as the next person.  But I received two presents this year that are the best of all.

The first was when each of my grandchildren were genuinely happy to see me and showed me with hugs.  Lots of them.  You know how sometimes a kid needs to be prompted to hug a relative?  None of that here.

The second was being surrounded by my children and grandchildren.  Sometimes, what with busy schedules, we as a family have a hard time accomplishing this feat.  So when we all can get together at the same place and at the same time, it is a special treat for me.

I enjoyed every second of it.  Thank you, my family, for such a lovely day.

Love, Mom / Grandma

Monday, December 23, 2013

After it Snows...

in my neck of the woods, there arrives on the scene a small army of Bobcats, large front end loaders and dump trucks.  The Bobcats scurry about pushing snow from curbs into the middle of the street.  The front end loaders scoop up the snow and deposit it into the dump trucks.  The dump trucks haul it away to a vacant lot to await the spring thaw.  In addition to the sounds of engines and buckets scraping on the street, there is the "beep-beep-beep" whenever a piece of equipment reverses direction.  All of this activity takes place in the wee hours of the morning.

In the world of Lily the Yorkie, that little 9 lb. bundle of Energizer Bunny on steroids,

each and every scrape and beep is a direct threat.  It is not a threat to the person who takes care of her and pets her and feeds her.  Nope.  She could care less if the big bad beeping machines drive up the stairs and through the door of our apartment to haul me away.  Not a problem.

Those big bad noisy machines are going to come in and empty her food dish.  The only solution to this horror is to bark like mad and scare them away.

At 3:45 AM.

So after I got out of bed to quiet her down, I sat back and watched her for a while.  Lily has a little doggie bed that she loves.  The bed has a couple of pieces of old blanket in it.  Lily likes to sleep with her nose buried in the blanket.  This morning she pawed at the blanket until a corner of her bed was clear.  Then she went to her food dish, grabbed a mouth full of kibble, and deposited it in her bed.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  When in her estimation she had enough, she covered the kibble with the blanket.  All the while, fussing at the noisy machines in the street beneath my windows.

Might as well put on a pot of coffee.  I'm wide awake now.  The noisy, beeping machines have moved on to the next street needing to be cleared.  And Lily is fast asleep atop her pile of kibble.

Lily is the most annoying, out of control, over the top, naughty dog I have ever had.  And I just love her to pieces.  She makes me laugh, even at 3:45 AM.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Christmas Story

Every Christmas Eve, my Dad read the Christmas Story from the Bible.  He and Mother wanted to be sure that we understood what Christmas was really all about.  So this is for you, Dad.  I love and miss both you and Mom.  Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of Christmas.

From Luke 2: 1-20

2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

From my cozy little Home Sweet Apartment to you:
May you all have a truly blessed Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Words to Live By

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you.  Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."

--Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Friday, December 20, 2013

Canning Season Never Ends

So this past Sunday I am just sitting around, sort of being a slug, reading a murder mystery novel that I had downloaded from "Project Gutenberg."  (Those mysteries from the late 1800's sure can be fun!)  And my phone rings.  It is Number One Son.  He wants to know if I have any space in my freezer and I tell him that I do.  Not more than a couple of minutes later he walks through my door with a box that is about 18 inches square and maybe 6 inches high.  And three frozen turkeys.

The place where my forklift driver son works manufactures a large variety of egg and potato foods, mostly for institutions or restaurants, although some are sold in stores.  At Christmas time, the company hands out to the employees a variety of product.  He said that he still had lots of food that he had received, but he knew that I would like what was in the box.  Turns out the box was filled with frozen egg omelets with ham, onion and peppers.  Son isn't fond of onions or peppers and I am, so this worked out well.  I have tried a couple of them since, and they are good, especially with grated cheese on top.  And plain, they make a great egg sandwich.

Anyway, it seems that the store where he shops had the turkeys on sale for 58 cents a pound.  When I tried to pay him for the turkeys, he just laughed at me.  He says that after I get them canned, he will be taking a few jars home with him, and that if he buys the meat and I do the work of canning them, we both benefit.  Makes sense.

So as soon as I have enough empty pint jars again, I will be canning turkey.  I have lots of quart jars now, so I think I will make some turkey broth to can as well.  Broth is something I like to have in my pantry for soups or casseroles or chicken and biscuit dishes.

And I thought canning season was about over.  Not hardly!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

We're Having a Heat Wave.....

The temperature in my little Home Sweet Home this morning is right where it should be.  And as I have no desire to go outside and play in the snow, it looks like I can put away the long johns and wool socks.  Although I am going to keep them handy and keep an eye on the temp for a few days just to be sure.  It seems that the night before last when the furnace man put the outer covering back on the furnace, he accidentally knocked a wire loose, which shut down the heat to several apartments.  But it is fixed.  I am a happy apartment dweller again!

Note to Jess:  The problem was just what you said.  The door in the duct that regulated heat to my apartment was not working right.  I had passed that information on to my landlord, who, in turn, told the furnace guy and he either fixed or replaced it.  So thank you for your help!

It is really nice not to have to wear several layers of clothing inside.  And even better, I can feel my toes again.  Life is good.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Once Upon a Time...

there was a family who lived in the woods of northern Minnesota.  Their old farmhouse was drafty and starting to crumble.  This old house was heated with a potbellied wood stove in the kitchen area and a wood stove made from a barrel that sat in the basement.  It was the spring of the year, and the melting snow was seeping through cracks in the basement wall, leaving a couple of inches of water all over the floor.

While the mom in this family was wringing her hands and worrying about patching the basement walls when there was no money for said patching, her daughter reminded her that life wasn't all that bad.

While sitting at the table next to the potbellied stove, the mom heard a flap, flap, flapping sound coming down the stairs from the bedrooms above.  Slowly a pair of feet wearing swim fins appeared, followed by a bathing suit clad body.  Finally the head became visible, complete with swim cap, nose plugs and a snorkel.

This apparition then said, "Mom, could you go start a fire in the barrel stove?  I've invited my friends over for a pool party and I want the water in the basement to be warm."

After the mom picked herself up off the floor and  wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes, she realized that most things can be made better with a good sense of humor.

The mom seems to have forgotten that lately, and she is glad that this memory surfaced, for she needed to be reminded that the world will not end just because there is water in the basement.....or that the furnace doesn't work right.


So yesterday the furnace man comes into my apartment.  Yep, the same guy who was looking for heating ducts in the attic that doesn't exist.  As he deposits black mud from his boots all over my kitchen floor and on the carpet in the other two rooms, (Where does he find this mud?  The ground is covered with clean, white snow.) he proudly tells me that he has found the problem with the heating system and my living room should now be warm.

This morning it is 58 degrees in here.  That is a nice temperature if you are going for a walk along the river on a beautiful fall day.  It is not a nice temperature for an apartment in the winter.

I think I will go make another pot of hot coffee, turn on my oven, open the oven door and sit in front of it until my toes thaw out.

I may have to flay someone before the day is out.  And maybe borrow Number One Son's new hat!

Grumble, dirty swear words, grumble some more!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hat

Number One Son hates winter.  Well, it isn't so much the winter part, for the snow on the ground and the frost on the evergreen branches are beautiful.  But he would be happy if he could have the beauty without the cold that goes with it.

He usually wears a baseball cap.  Or if it is really cold, a stocking cap.  But this year the cold must really be getting to him, because he went out and bought the winter hat to end all hats.  And it is a good thing that he has a well developed sense of humor, for he needs one to wear this hat!

I like it!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Then and Now

As I was reading some of the news articles this morning from both mainstream and alternative news sources, I got to thinking how different our lives are today from those of my paternal grandparents.  They homesteaded land in northern Minnesota in 1907.  They first put up a log cabin and later built a larger house, a barn and a few smaller outbuildings.  They raised nine children, all of whom grew into responsible adults.

They didn't worry about their food being full of chemicals - they raised most of it themselves.

They weren't concerned about meat being full of growth hormones and other chemicals, or about the animals being raised in the unhealthy environment of a factory farm.  They raised their own beef cattle, milk cows, hogs and chickens.  They butchered and processed their own meat animals and supplemented this with venison.

They weren't terribly concerned with grocery prices for they traded milk, butter and eggs for the staples they couldn't raise themselves.  They scoured the woods and fields for edibles like wild plums and blueberries to add to their diet.

None of the nine children were ever involved in a Knockout Game.  The very idea of hurting another person for no reason was abhorrent to them.

Not one of their children took medication to control their behavior.  Their behavior was controlled by their parents.  Sometimes with a trip to the woodshed, if the offense was serious enough, and most times with extra chores to keep them too busy for mischief.

Their education was not of the Common Core, government controlled variety, but of the basics that included reading, writing, math, and history.  Most of the nine children went through eighth grade in the little one room schoolhouse a quarter mile from their home.  The one their father helped to build.  Three of the girls went on to high school in the largest town about 20 miles away, where they earned teaching certificates.  All were able to use their education, along with common sense, to keep their families out of poverty.

They never signed up for government welfare programs when they became available.  It was considered a sign of laziness to expect someone else to take care of your family.  They would have been shamed to do so.

They didn't feel the need to provide entertainment for their offspring.  These kids made their own fun.  They went swimming in the lake near their farm.  They went fishing in the river.  In winter, they went sledding down the hill in the pasture or went ice skating on the frozen pond.  Most of their toys were homemade.  They made music and played games, both indoors on rainy days or outdoors on sunny ones.  Their mother had a hard time getting them to come inside for supper as opposed to kicking them outdoors to get a little exercise, as many do today.

They taught their children what was important.  Good manners.  Respect for others.  Love for and duty to family.  Right from wrong.  A belief in God and the teachings of the Bible.  A work ethic second to none.

These people weren't perfect.  Not by a long shot.  They messed up from time to time as we all do.  But they had a foundation for their lives that was solid and strong, so when things did not go well and they knew that they had strayed from what they had been taught, they got themselves back on track.  By their own bootstraps.

I understand that times have changed since my parents were young.  One can no longer trade for grocery staples.  Raw milk has been outlawed, for the most part, gardens are not allowed in some cities, and God forbid that a person should live, work or raise a family without being told how by politicians.  The government seems determined to control all parts of our lives that they don't already.  So I am aware of the sad fact that the way of life that I long for is gone.  Isn't it amazing that my grandparents were able to raise their family and live a life, not of wealth and privilege, but one that was good and had meaning, using the Bible as a how-to guide along with the lessons learned from their parents, and not by government regulations.

Sometimes I am convinced that we could use a bit more of the woodshed and a whole lot less of the feel-good politically correct.  And a bit of old-fashioned common sense thrown in for good measure wouldn't hurt, either.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lid Test Results

I just finished checking the jars of meat that I canned yesterday to make sure they had properly sealed.  I used equal numbers of the regular lids and Tattler lids.  The results are:

Regular lids = 2 failures
Tattler lids = zero failures

Meat is the easiest product to can as far as prep work goes.  Just cut into pieces, fill the jars, add lids and rings and process.  Meat is also the one product that gives me the most problems with seal failure.  I think that may be because during the canning process, the jars will vent out any air that is in them, and along with the air comes a bit of grease from the fat within the meat.  Some of the grease gets trapped between the lid and the rim of the jar, causing the lid to fail to seal.

I will check the jars in a week or so to make sure they stayed sealed.  For now, I will be buying three or four boxes of the Tattler lids each time I go to the store, until I can save enough money to order a case or two.  Eventually, I would like to have enough of these lids for most of my jars.  And, boy howdy, that's a lot of jars!  When I ran out of shelf space last summer, my youngest son picked up two heavy duty shelving units for me.  Each is 6 ft. high, 4 ft. long and 2 ft. deep.  And now those puppies are both nearly full.

I know that this sounds like an awful lot of canned food for just one person.  But home canned food will stay good in the jars for a very long time - years.  And I use it almost daily, rotating it out.  I figure that whatever I buy this year to can up is going to cost more next year.  And then there are the times when my kids will go shopping in Mom's canned goods section!  They know that they need to bring the empty jars back to be refilled.  And they are pretty good about doing that.

The Tattler lids lived up to my expectations.  I love it when a plan comes together!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tattler Lids

Woo Hoo!  I discovered yesterday that my local Cub Foods grocery, the only grocery I can get to by bus other than WalMart, now carries Tattler canning lids.  I bought one each of the large and small sizes.  I have four pressure canner loads of meat to process today, so I am giving them a test run.

I have heard about these reusable canning lids for quite some time, and most reports have been good.  The only place to buy them, at least in my area, was online.  I don't do plastic - cash only, so ordering online was not an option for me.  My daughter tells me that many Cub Foods stores will order case lots for a customer if it is requested.  So that may be an option.  If the experiment works.

Tattler lids are not cheap.  But neither are the metal lids that I have used for years.  I did the math, and found that just using the Tattler lids twice would pay for the metal lids to process the same number of jars.  And the Tattler lids can be used many more times than that.

Does it say "pathetic life" when I get excited about canning lids?  Probably!

Friday, December 13, 2013


is not one of my virtues, although I think I have gotten better with it over the years.  When I was young, my Dad gave me a little sign that said, "God, grant me patience NOW!"

My patience is being sorely tested at present.  My smoke alarm is still disconnected.  There is a second alarm in my bedroom and another right outside my apartment door, so I am not totally without that protection.  The water issue was resolved the following day, but the furnace issue has not.  My apartment is the only one in the building that is cold.  The furnace man has been in and out several times, checking the thermostat and registers, but so far he hasn't found the cause of the problem.

I can't complain too much, however.  It is not like the electric was out and there was no heat at all.  The temp hovers around the 61 degree mark, so I am not exactly freezing to death.  I have warm clothes and heavy socks and I will survive just fine.  I have enough empty canning jars now so that tomorrow I will can up some pork and beef that I froze for that purpose, along with the two venison roasts my son brought to me.  That should keep things fairly warm most of the day.  Sunday I will need to bake bread again, and although it takes longer to rise, the oven heat will help.

Unfortunately for my Yorkies, I took them to the groomer about a month or so ago for their semi-annual haircuts, so they don't have the long fur they had before to keep them warm.  They have been spending lots of time snuggled down in their blankets.  I may have to break out their little turtleneck sweaters if it gets any colder in here.  (Yes, I am one of those people who buys doggie sweaters.  I hate to admit it, but there it is.)

Sometimes a person just needs to moan and groan a bit.  Doesn't do any good whatsoever, but it makes you feel a bit better.  I know that all of this will be fixed as soon as possible.  And being impatient about it will only make it worse.

There are folks who are going through some horrible times (Mystic Mud) that make my problems look pretty tiny by comparison.  I'm pretty sure that if you are of a mind to remember this family in your prayers, it would be a good thing.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chippy is a Busy Boy

My grandkids are expected to do chores.  I applaud my kids for teaching them responsibility.

So it stands to reason that Chippy would do his share.  His job this morning was cleaning the bathroom mirror.

And when he has finished his chores, a rousing game of Candy Land is in order.

Followed by kicking back and watching a movie.

Heh, heh, heh.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No Water

I don't have room to store water barrels in my apartment, so I fill empty soda bottles and stash them wherever I can.....on a closet shelf, behind my couch, in a corner behind my TV stand and behind my bedroom door.

One of my children was asking me about the bottles of water.  I explained that any number of things could knock out my electricity - summer storms or winter blizzards, for example - and that this could affect my water supply.  She mentioned that the town where she lives was once without electricity for several days, but they had water.  The problem is that I don't know if the same would hold true in my town.  Their water delivery systems may not be the same.  I am responsible not only for myself, but also for the three furry buddies who live with me and we all need water.

So this morning I went to make my coffee, turned on the tap at the kitchen sink only to find nothing but air coming from it.  Same with the bathroom sink and tub.  Nothing.  Grabbed one of my water bottles and made my coffee.  Simple as that.

I have no idea what is causing this water problem.  It may be that someone is working on the hot water heater in the basement.  It could be something to do with the city water system.  It is -6 degrees outside today, but I doubt that pipes have frozen.  That has never happened in the 17 years I have lived here and during that time there have been much colder days.  So for now, I will just wait and see what happens.  If I don't have water in my apartment tomorrow, I will call the landlord and he will deal with it.

The point of all of this is that even without water flowing from the taps, I am merely inconvenienced a little bit.  I have enough water to last at least a couple of weeks and longer, if I am careful.  I planned to do a couple of loads of laundry today, but it isn't going to matter that I don't.  I have a plan in place to take care of everything that needs taking care of with the exception of a shower, and although I like my hot showers, I can manage just fine without.

When we think about being prepared, we often think only about the food aspect of preparedness and sometimes forget how important water is.  And if I didn't have water with which to make my coffee, well, life just wouldn't be worth living!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chippy the Elf

My youngest son's family has the Elf on the Shelf.  My Kindergarten aged grandson, Jacob, named the elf "Chippy."  Every day my son posts a photo of Chippy on Facebook , showing where he is each morning when he returns from Santa Land.

Chippy is a pretty inventive little guy.  He was in the silverware drawer, in the butter keeper inside the refrigerator and this morning he was on the couch, wearing headphones and listening to Christmas music.

But the best one so far was this one.

When Jacob asked his Dad how Chippy got the lid back on, David replied, "Magic."

When I talked with my son a couple of days ago, I told him that it was probably pretty pathetic that his mother, the grandmother of his children, had to check Facebook each morning, first thing, to find out where Chippy was that day.  I also warned him that if he should get word that his mother was locked away in a rubber room, clad in a huggy jacket, it would probably be because her neighbors had heard her, laughing out loud, all by herself and figured she had finally gone off the deep end.  And it would be all his fault!  And Chippy's.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

New Is Not Always Better

Every year my granddaughters sell various items to raise money for their dance classes.  I always buy a couple of the fruit and cream cheese filled bread braids.  They come frozen and I took one from my freezer early this afternoon and put it on a baking sheet to thaw and raise.  My apartment was cool today, so it wasn't ready for the oven until after 10:30 this evening.

Earlier this morning an installer came around to put in new smoke alarms throughout the building.  The old alarm in my kitchen had never given me any trouble and worked just fine.  But when I opened my oven door a little before 11:00 to check on the bread braid, the new alarm started wailing and yelling "Fire!  Fire!"  I shut the oven door and opened the window next to my stove, although there wasn't a whiff of smoke anywhere.  I did everything I could think of to shut that alarm up.  There are working folks living in my building who go to bed a lot earlier than I do.  I had visions of irate, sleepy people lined up outside my door. Do you suppose that I could shut the darn thing off?  Not a chance.

I finally set up my little mini step ladder, climbed up and tore it from the ceiling.  It must have a battery backup, for it continued to scream "Fire!  Fire!" long after I stuffed it under the pillows on my bed.

I poured a cup of coffee and sat down to wait for the bread braid to finish baking.  And I started to giggle, thinking about how silly I must have looked, rushing about and trying to get the alarm to be quiet.  Sort of like an old Laurel and Hardy movie.

I have a good landlord, and when I see him this weekend and tell him about my smoke alarm adventure, he will more than likely smile. He also knows that I use my oven often, for I bake my own bread every week as well as other baked goods and I use it for many of my meals, so I know that he will find a solution.

I have often joked that dinner is done when the smoke alarm goes off, but I didn't think it would be a reality.  Sometimes the old thing that works should just be left alone.

Friday, December 6, 2013


Temperature this morning sits at -5 degrees.  Geez, I love Minnesota!

My landlord is not going to be happy when I tell him that the new furnace for the building is not keeping up.  I should not have to wear long johns in the house.

We Minnesotans feel that it is our God-given right to complain about the weather.  I mutter under my breath as I dig in my closet for a flannel shirt.  I will mutter just as much in the summer when the heat and humidity both approach 95.  We have two days the end of May and another two days in September when the weather is perfect.  Other than that....not so much.

I sure must love my kids and grandkids, for they are the only reason I am here.

All things considered, that's a pretty good reason.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Pot of chicken soup simmering on the back burner all afternoon.
Cubes of cheddar.
Venison summer sausage made from the deer that youngest son shot.
Thick slices of warm homemade bread slathered with butter.

Fit for a queen.

No pictures.  Ate it all.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Warning! Grandkid Photo Ahead!

Yep, these are my Grandkids.  All six of them.   It isn't often that we can get them all together in one place, so I was really happy to get this photo from Thanksgiving.

Grandmas get to brag.  It says so in the bylaws.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Spirit or Lack Thereof

The Christmas Spirit is sort of passing me by at the moment.  It may be that because shopping for useless stuff that nobody cares about isn't high on my list of priorities.  Or perhaps that shopping for me involves several hours spent on a bus.  I think mostly it is because of my disgust for the commercialism that has become Christmas.

Christmas when I was a kid was a wondrous time of year.  There was the tree that always filled the house with the scent of pine, except for that unfortunate year when Dad bought one of those silvery aluminum trees popular in the late 50's - the ones that looked like several rolls of aluminum foil had exploded!  There was the smell of cookies and breads and pies baking.  There was the careful placing of the nativity set that reminded us of why there was a holiday in the first place.

There was the planning for Christmas Day when relatives would gather at our big old farmhouse.  Mother, ever the perfectionist, planned down to the last detail.  The good china was washed and dried and silver was polished.  The good lace tablecloth was covering the dining room table, with a red cloth underneath to show through and look festive.  Pine branches decorated every available space, adorned with ornaments and ribbon.

There were hours spent in secret, making gifts for parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Sometimes we would buy Grandma a bottle of her favorite perfume, but more often the gifts were made with our own two hands.  One year it was hand knitted slippers for everyone, and another it was some crafty thing that Mom had us make.  Later in my life when cash was scarce , I would fill boxes with the home canned goodies I had made and give those.

Oh, there were purchased gifts as well, but it seems as though those times of going to town to shop for Christmas were enjoyable as opposed to the frantic, hectic shopping of today.  I guess we weren't trying to out-spend our neighbors.  Big ticket items were not on the list.  I remember saving my money for a box of monogrammed handkerchiefs for Dad to use in the pocket of his Sunday suit.  Or finding the perfect fancy teacup and saucer to add to those Mom collected.

Those shopping trips to town always included a drive around after dark to look at all of the beautiful Christmas lights decorating people's homes.  Or walking up and down the streets admiring the Christmas scenes set up in store windows.  There were the usual Santa and elves displays, but there were also scenes of the baby Jesus in the manger, with Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels.  Of course, this was long before anyone took offense to this depiction of Christmas.

I guess I really am getting old, for I find that the memories of Christmas Past have much more appeal to me than Christmas Present.  And I can complain about it until the cows come home and nothing will change.  Unless I change it.

I have been under the weather for the past three weeks, so little has been done here in the way of actual physical work.  But I did spend time searching the Internet for ideas and patterns for homemade gifts.  I didn't do a very good job of planning ahead for this Christmas, and there isn't time to put to use those ideas.  But there is a long, cold winter in my near future here in Minnesota, and I can't think of a better way to spend it than in making things for those I love.

Maybe my Christmas Spirit isn't dead after all.  Maybe it has just been postponed for a bit.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts

So I  was sitting here today feeling a bit sorry for myself.  The creeping crud that I have been dealing with this month has kept me home bound.  I am feeling better than I did, but not well enough to go out.  My children and grandchildren are together eating turkey and talking and laughing and I am here.  Alone.  Poor me.

And then I got to thinking about all that I have to be thankful for.

I have a roof over my head and I can still afford to pay rent on it.  There is heat flowing out of the registers on my floors.  I have a bed with clean sheets and quilts to keep me warm at night, a pantry full of food and an oven in which to bake my bread.  I wonder how many are without those things today.

I was blessed with four children who, with just a phone call, would be here and have been here in the past to help me if I need help.  I work at being as independent as possible, but it is a comfort to me to know that if things go all wonky in my life, they have my back.  I love them all, but I like them as well.  They have grown into adults that make me proud to be their mother.  Between them they have given me six grandchildren who are the lights of my life.

I am thankful to have had parents who taught me so many things that have helped me over the years.  Mother taught me the practical things - how to cook and preserve food, how to sew and how to do all the daily chores that need to be done.  Dad instilled in me a work ethic second to none.  He worked hard all of his life and I never once heard him complain.  He also taught me the value of laughter, for if you can't laugh at yourself or the absurdities of the world around you, then life is nothing more than drudgery.

My parents also raised me to have a strong faith in God.  There have been times in my life that this didn't seem too important to me, but it seems that the older I become, the more important it is to me to remember the teachings of my youth.  And more important, to do my best to live by them.

I am thankful that I have reached a place in my life where I am relatively happy.  That wasn't always so.  I have been lucky to discover that my happiness lies within me and not with others.  I can decide each morning whether I am going to spend my day being happy or grumpy.  I vote, for the most part, for happy.  Oh, I still rant about the injustices in our world and will probably continue to do so, for some things just need to be said.  But that inner peace is what keeps me going, and I am thankful to God for it.

So instead of wallowing in self pity, I have thawed out a chicken, stuffed it and it is roasting in my oven, filling my little apartment with delicious smells.  A small casserole made with squash I canned this fall is ready for the oven.  One of my daughters brought me a pail of ice cream a couple of days ago, and I will whip up a batch of chocolate sauce to go with it for dessert.  And I will think about my children and grandchildren who are together today as a family, and be thankful that they consider family important.

And I will wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Black Friday

Black Friday has turned into Black Thanksgiving in my area, with more stores opening on Thanksgiving Day so crazed shoppers can fight each other for whatever electronic device is on sale.  Some people have even pitched tents at the front doors of stores more than a week ago in order to be at the head of the line to spend money.

There are a few retailers, however, who refuse to give in to this insanity.  The article about it is here.

Kudos to those stores who will not cave and will allow their employees to have the entire Thanksgiving Day to spend with their families.  Those are the businesses that will receive my money throughout the year and not just on one insane, greed driven day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Long Hair

When I was a young girl, I wished for long hair.  Movie stars had long, luxurious, beautiful hair.  Television ads for shampoo featured models with long hair that could obviously be gorgeous just by using the right hair products.  Yep.  That was for me.

My mother didn't think so.

In her younger years, Mother had a talent for cutting hair.  The ladies in our neighborhood didn't go to a beauty shop but came to my mother for their haircuts.  So it was natural that she would cut my hair.  I think she just didn't have time to mess with a daughters' long, flowing tresses.  Once, when I threw a hissy fit about home haircuts, whining that other girls didn't have haircuts given them by their mothers, she loaded me into the car, hauled me to town and I got a haircut.  Not at a beauty shop, but at a barber.  I came out looking sort of like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals.

I'm not sure I ever forgave her, but I never again complained about a home haircut, and I expect that was the desired result.

Out of habit, I suppose, I have kept my hair fairly short most of my life.

I'm sort of a no-frills kind of gal.  When a beautician asks me how I want my hair cut, my reply is usually, "Wash and Wear."  I have no patience for fussing in front of a mirror to make sure every hair is in place.  So about four years ago I decided to just let my hair grow.  It is now about two inches above where my waist used to be.  And I now realize that Mom knew what she was talking about.

I know this because nearly every morning I spend time brushing rats nests out of my hair.  I should braid it before going to bed at night to prevent this, but I can't seem to get the hang of it.

I know this because if I don't tie my hair up before cooking, I wind up pulling long gray hairs from my food.

I know this because I dragged the ends of my hair through the dishwater today, three times in as many minutes.

And I especially know this because just the other day I had to untangle a cat from these long, flowing tresses.  Cat still has claws on all four feet.  It was not pretty.

I will wait until spring and then off to the beautician I will go.  I will ask for a Wash and Wear style.  And I will donate these long, flowing tresses to "Locks of Love," an organization that makes wigs from donated hair for cancer patients .

I wish for many reasons that my mother were still alive.  But one of the best reasons is that she would get such a chuckle from hearing me tell her that she was, once again, right.

It Is Official...

We are totally without common sense.

I just read an article that explains that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are racist.  You can read about it here.

Really?  Racist?  Give me a break.  Basically, the article states that the American tradition of PBJ sandwiches may offend those who do not eat sandwich bread because other cultures may eat different forms of bread such as pita.  So a PBJ sandwich is racist because it is all about "white privilege," and  schools should be sensitive to the customs of those students whose birthplace was not America.

I have an idea.  How about we teach American customs in American schools.  And while we are at it, why don't we insist that people of other nationalities who chose to become American citizens learn our customs and traditions and language.  I have nothing against those who come to our country seeking citizenship and a better life for themselves and their families.  Had I found myself in their position, I would probably have done the same.   We all want a better life for our loved ones.  But I am getting really tired of being told that I should consider American customs and traditions "racist."

So now, if you will excuse me, I think I will go fix myself a PBJ sandwich.  And I refuse to apologize for it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kicked My Butt

Whatever this is that I thought was just a head cold has really kicked my butt.  I am not sick enough to stay in bed, but I will admit that for a few days, my idea of getting dressed was to put on a fuzzy robe over my nightshirt and call it good.  I'm sort of getting caught up on the household chores that went by the wayside when I wasn't feeling all that perky, but it is a slow process and one that leaves me out of breath.  My daughter told me that she had something similar that took her a month to get over.  I have only two weeks invested in this crud, so I won't complain.

My Yorkies seem delighted that I am not so busy as I usually am.  I have spent a considerable amount of time in my recliner listening to music or audio books.  They have spent a considerable amount of time on my lap.  I am afraid I have created a couple of pint-sized monsters, for they now fuss at me from time to time until I sit down and give them pets and snuggles.

I suppose I could have run to the doctor, but I tend to avoid clinics as much as possible.  A few years ago I came down with something similar, spent the better part of a day being poked and prodded and X-Rayed and was given expensive prescriptions that did no more for me than my home remedies do.  So I will keep in my own pocket the $75. I have to pay just to walk through the door of the clinic, the fees for poking and prodding and X-Raying and the steep price of prescriptions, and stay with the tried and true remedy of rest, aspirin for aches and pains, and my apple-cranberry tea laced with honey.  Seems to be working.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Doozey

I don't often get sick.  Which is a good thing because I am probably one of the worst kind of patient.  Good thing I live alone.  Anyone living with me would more than likely want to suffocate me after two days.  Grumpy takes on a whole new meaning when I am sick.

So anyway, it seems as though I can't make the transition between fall and winter without catching a cold, and this year it is a doozey.  I had a friend who had some medical training and he told me that it doesn't matter what you do, a cold takes 10 days to run its course.  I am on day 4.

I will return when I am all done coughing and hacking and sneezing and using up all the Kleenix in the house.  I don't care what my friend said.  I am making a big pot of chicken soup.

Can't hurt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ho Ho Ho!

So I am shopping for a few groceries this morning, and instead of the usual elevator music in the background, I hear Christmas carols.  I shouldn't have been surprised, considering the display of Christmas wreaths outside the main doors of the store.  But give me a break.  Halloween is only one week past and Thanksgiving is barely on the horizon.  I mean, seriously?  We are pushing Christmas shopping up to Halloween?  Kind of makes me want to just hibernate until the New Year.

So as long as I am going to have to endure being assaulted with Santas and mistletoe for two months, I thought I would share the following.  I don't know where I found it.  If it is yours, let me know and I will give you credit.

Dashing through the Snow

Please be advised that all employees planning to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are required to undergo a Risk Assessment addressing the safety of open sleighs.

This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered.

To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance. Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night.

While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all facility users are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks.

The angel of the Lord is additionally reminded that prior to shining his/her glory all around s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that EU legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr. R. Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.

While it is acknowledged that gift-bearing is commonly practised in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages.

It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded under provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Further, caution is advised regarding other common gifts, such as aromatic resins that may initiate allergic reactions.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.

Happy Holidays,
The Risk Management Team

Just for the record.....I refuse to utter the words, "Happy Holidays."  It's Christmas, dammit.  I don't get my knickers in a twist over all the ethnic holidays during the course of a year that have nothing to do with my ancestry.  So if "Merry Christmas" is found to be offensive, that's just too bad.

Bah, humbug!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sauerkraut Taste Test

About three weeks ago I did a sauerkraut canning experiment.  I needed an alternative to the old-time tried and true method of fermenting sauerkraut in a crock and then canning it.  The recipe I used called for packing shredded cabbage in quart jars and adding a teaspoon each of canning salt and sugar to each jar and topping them off with boiling water.  Then the lids and rings are put on the jars loosely and they are left undisturbed for three days.  After that time any film that has developed on the sauerkraut is skimmed off, lids and rings are applied more tightly and the jars are run through a water bath canner for 20 minutes.  The directions say to let the jars sit for three weeks before using.

The three weeks is up.  I opened a jar yesterday.  I found that it tasted good, but much more mild than store bought sauerkraut.  It doesn't have that pucker up quality of commercially canned sauerkraut.

I buttered a casserole dish, drained the sauerkraut and dumped it in.  Then I topped it off with a pint of pork roast I had canned earlier and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so.  I have to say that it was pretty good.  It tastes more like a cross between regular cooked cabbage and sauerkraut.  I like cooked cabbage as a side vegetable dish, so I liked it.  I only made three quarts of the stuff, so I am going to leave the other two on the shelf for another month or so to see if there is any difference in the taste.

I will probably experiment with other similar recipes to see if I can find one that is a bit more sour.  I know that I could just go to the store and buy a can or two, but I really like the idea of making my own.  I'm funny that way.  The more I can do for myself without running to the grocery, the better I like it.  This experiment hasn't turned out exactly as I would have liked, but it isn't a dismal failure, either.  Live and learn.  And keep on trying.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day of Rest

While I was growing up, I remember that my mother was quite insistent that Sunday be a day of rest.  So today I honored her beliefs.

I rested.  I read.  I played with the pooches and shared a bit of my popcorn with them this evening.  I napped in my recliner with Kizzie the cat.  I stayed away from the news, both mainstream and alternative.  I didn't read any blogs or watch any videos that had anything to do with the insanity in our world.

Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed.  It seems that every day brings a new scandal or crisis, either real or manufactured, in our government.  The Democrats are busy blaming the Republicans for whatever their agenda of the day is, and in turn, the Republicans and busy blaming the Democrats.  Sometimes I just get tired of the whole mess.

So today I just unplugged from it all.  It was wonderful.  I think Mom had the right idea.  After all, God rested on the seventh day, and so should I.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Great Cranberry Marathon...

has come to an end.  Started out with 50 lbs. of cranberries and ended up with 84 quarts of juice.  Number one son will pick up his share the next time he is in town.  I'm still trying to find space to store mine.  I have tried other recipes before with less than spectacular results, but this one makes a delicious drink.  I don't know where I found the recipe, so if it is yours, let me know and I will give credit where credit is due.

Cranberry Juice

4 quarts (4 pounds) cranberries
3 to 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar  (I used 2-1/2 cups sugar)

Bring cranberries and 4 quarts water to a simmer in a large pot. DO NOT BOIL. Simmer 5 minutes, or until most berries burst.
Pour berries and juice into damp jelly bag or a colander lined with four layers of clean cheesecloth. Let juice drip into a large bowl. DO NOT squeeze the bag.
When you have extracted as much juice as possible from the pulp, return pulp to pot with 2 quarts water. Simmer 2 minutes.
Pour this pulp and juice through jelly bag again to extract remaining juice.
Place the 2 batches of juice in a large pot.
Add sugar to suit your taste and 1 more quart water. Heat to dissolve sugar completely, but do not boil.
Quickly pour into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal.
Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yields 6 to 7 quarts.
Note:  I did not use cheesecloth as that is really time consuming and I had so many berries to process.  I used a strainer, which leaves a bit of pulp, but that doesn't bother me in the least.  The juice is for family consumption, not for entering at the fair.  It doesn't have to be perfectly clear to taste wonderful.

I hate to see anything go to waste, so I am dehydrating the leftover cranberry pulp.  When dried, it can be ground into small bits and added as flavoring for muffins, quick breads or cookies.  I dehydrate the peels when I am canning apples, and when mixed with the cranberry bits and a little sweetener, they make a really lovely tea.

I think I have just enough jars left to can up the butternut squash that Son brought me from the Farmer's Market.  And then I will give it a rest for a while.  Unless, of course, I find another really good sale...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

You Know You're Getting Tired...

when you can't figure out why the pot of cranberries on the stove hasn't come to a boil after 20 minutes, and then you discover that it really helps if you have remembered to turn the burner to the ON position.

I think it may be time for a short nap.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Past the Elbows and Up to the Neck

I wasn't planning to do much more canning this season.  But, the best laid plans, etc.  Number One Son went back to the Farmers Market yesterday.  Last year I had bought a 15 lb. box of cranberries and made them into juice.  Between Son and me, it didn't last long.  With that in mind, he brought me two 25 lb. boxes of cranberries.  I was glad that he found the same vendor, for the berries are beautiful.  Not a bad one in the entire box.  Makes the cranberries in the store look like they belong in a dumpster.  As I take a break here, I am about finished with the first box.  There are jars of cranberry juice covering the table, my wee bit of counter space, the top of my freezer...

And he brought me half a dozen butternut squash.  I had tried canning some last year and liked it, so those will go in the pressure canner after I finish the cranberries.

After Son hauled the cranberries and five more cases of quart jars up the stairs, we sat and talked for a bit.  I mentioned to him that my local grocery has pork loin on sale again, along with boneless beef roast.  He said that he needed to do a bit of grocery shopping and would take a look at them.  He did more than look.  He brought me 30 lbs. of pork, at least 50 lbs. of beef and 10 lbs. of bacon ends and pieces, just for fun, he said!  I dice the bacon, brown it and can it in half pint jars for adding to scrambled eggs or egg and potato casseroles or beans or any number of dishes.  The meat is in the freezer until I finish with the great cranberry marathon.

Even though I hadn't planned to do any more canning other than the juice, I was really glad to get the squash and meat.  Son said that it was easier for him to bring it to me rather than my trying to haul it all home via the bus.  As he only has two days off from work every two weeks, and as he lives at least 45 minutes away from me, I really appreciate his time and effort.  And a good share of the time, he won't
let me pay for what he brings me.  He says it is worth it because he doesn't have the time to do the canning and he gets to go shopping from my pantry shelves!

I love it when family works together, sort of like my parents and grandparents did things.  That's the way it should be.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Say It Isn't So

Our weather forecast for the coming week.

I was really hoping not to see the word "Snow" in our forecast for a while yet.  Yes, I know that it is too warm for snow to stay and it will melt right away.  But there is something about seeing white flakes falling from the sky this early that is just depressing.

I know that I have nothing to complain about.  Those poor folks in the Dakotas who lost so many of their livestock in the recent blizzard are the ones that have something to complain about.  They are the ones who are tough.  They bury their losses and keep on going.  I admire their pioneer spirit that is still alive and well.  We need more like them.

So if I see a few flakes in the air in the next few days, I will keep my whining to a minimum.  I just would like to see the leaves finish turning from green to red and gold before I see the ground covered with white.

Mother Nature seems to have a mean streak.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wake Up Call

As much as I joke about Kizzie the cat's supposed reaction to running out of food, that incident served as a bit of a wake up call.  I have been faithfully shopping sales and canning and dehydrating everything I can lay my hands on.  But after taking an inventory of my food storage, I find that there are gaping holes that need to be filled - mostly items that I can't make at home but have to purchase.

I have no idea what our government is going to do.  They may come up with an eleventh hour temporary solution - or not.  What I do know is that those in power have done their level best to inflict as much pain as possible on our citizens.  It is a level of meanness that I didn't think possible in my homeland.  And along with those acts of cruelty come the threats to the most vulnerable of citizens.  I don't care what your opinion is of those relying on the EBT program to feed their families or of those who rely on Social Security or of those receiving veterans benefits.  These people should not, under any circumstances, be used as pawns by those who are supposed to have the best interests of all Americans at heart.

So I have some decisions to make in the next few days.  Do I hold on to the wee bit of cash I have been able to put aside so that I will be able to pay my rent for a while should my Social Security check not arrive, or do I fill the holes in my food storage.  Can't do both.

I think what irritates me the most is that I have worked hard my whole life without making use of government welfare programs.  Even when times were tough, I refused to give in, but worked harder and made do with what I had.  And now my very survival is being threatened so that some politician can blame some other politician for the fix we are in.

God help us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Things We Do For Our Pets

So this morning I'm standing at the bus stop.  It is cloudy.  The wind picks up a bit.  It starts to rain.  My umbrella is back in my apartment.  And why am I going out in the wind and the rain?

The miserable cat is out of food.  I told her that fasting for a day or so wouldn't hurt her any.  She didn't see it that way.  She gets cranky if her food dish is only half full.

It's my own fault.  I wasn't paying attention.  I have been busy stocking up on people food and didn't notice that I was low on cat food.  When I got to the store, I filled my handy dandy little old lady shopping cart full to overflowing with cat food and kitty litter.  Don't want to run out of litter, either.

I am a coward.  I'm not gonna tell her that her food is gone.

Kizzie scares me sometimes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gold-Plated Apples

Yesterday was cloudy and cool and windy.  But we went apple pickin' anyway.

Number one son met us for lunch at the restaurant connected with the orchard.  We don't often get to spend time with my brother and his lovely wife.  Brother's job keeps him away from home much of the time, and his home is over two hundred miles north of mine, so time spent together is precious.  We were able to share a meal and talk and laugh and get caught up on what the assorted kids and grandkids were doing.  Son had to head for his home after the meal, for he needed to sleep a bit before going to his job that evening.

If we do this again next year, I will do some research before.  I didn't this time.  I just picked the orchard that is most well known in our area.  I had never been there before.  Turns out that the place has its own restaurant, motel and gift shops.  There are activities for the kids including pony rides and camel rides.  Yep, you heard me right.  Camel rides.  We had to hold my brother back!

And people.  Crowds of people.  And kids.  Lots of them, too.  And apples.  Highly over-priced apples.  We stood in line to pay for our apples, headed out into the orchard and filled our bags.  And even with the crowds, which I usually would rather avoid, and the blustery weather, we still had a wonderful time.

We came back to my place where we sat around the kitchen table, ate donuts and drank coffee, and talked and laughed.  I put together a pot of beef stew and made biscuits, and we shared another meal, and talked and laughed some more.

Even though the original idea was that my sister-in-law, who is more sister to me than in-law, wanted to go pick apples, it wasn't really about the apples.  It was family and love and laughter, which is what it always is about when we get together.

And now I think I will go peel a few of those gold-plated apples and make a pie.  And think about the man who was father to me and my brother and who made the best apple pie in the entire universe.  And who raised us to love and appreciate one another.  For that is truly what it is all about.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Truck and the Step Stool

So this evening Number One Son calls me.  We are talking about where to meet to go apple picking tomorrow with my brother and his lovely wife.  During the course of conversation, I mention that it would be nice if he could pick up a box of apples from a different orchard than we are visiting tomorrow.  The different orchards sells large boxes of what they call "seconds."  He brought me a box full last fall.  These apples may have a blemish or be a bit odd shaped - in other words, they are not perfect.  I don't care.  They are just as good as the ones we pick from the trees, and they are cheaper.  I might have to cut out a slight bad spot here and there, but that doesn't matter for applesauce or canned apples.

Anyway, my son said that he could take me to the other orchard tomorrow, if I wanted.  Son has a truck.  The truck is high off the ground.  My legs don't work well enough any more to be able to climb up into the truck.  I reminded him of this fact.

"But I got you a step stool," was his reply.

You just gotta love a son who will buy a step stool so his mom can get into his truck so he can take her to buy more apples that he will wind up hauling upstairs!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Let Them Be Kids

I read with interest an article about a school banning the use of footballs, soccer balls, baseballs, etc. on the playground at recess.  This same school is also banning games of tag and cartwheels.  Really?  Cartwheels?  I have an idea.  Let's just wrap these kids in bubble wrap until they turn 21.  What ever happened to "go outside and play?"  The most exercise some kids get is downloading an app.  I see kids outside who are wearing more protective gear than a NFL linebacker, for goodness sake.  How on earth are they ever going to toughen up and learn if adults are afraid that their kid might break a nail.

I don't like to see a child get hurt any more than the next person.  My own brood had their share of bumps, cuts and bruises while they were growing up.  But they learned.  And they toughened up.  And they grew into adults that I am proud of.   Adults who can handle most anything that life throws at them.  And they didn't learn this by being over-protected.

And then there is the elementary school that is not allowing their students to participate in any Halloween activities because someone might be offended.  The school principal sent out a letter to parents that reads in part:

"Some holidays, like Halloween, that some see as secular, are viewed by others as having religious overtones. The district must always be mindful of the sensitivity of all the members of the community with regard to holidays and celebrations of a religious, cultural or secular nature. The United States Supreme Court has ruled that school districts may not endorse, prefer, favor, promote or advance any religious beliefs...."

If you are so flipping sensitive that a bunch of elementary school children dressed up as ghosts, fairy princesses and comic super heroes offends you, then you need to do something about that thin skin of yours.  And I can't think of one good reason to change a long standing American tradition of celebrating Halloween.  These are just kids.  And the adults in charge seem to be bound and determined to suck the fun out of their lives.

Kids are kids for a very short time.  How about just letting them be kids.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall is in the Air

It is such a glorious season here in Minnesota.  Summers can be hot and humid - winters cold, snowy and blustery.  Spring is nice, for the ice and snow disappear.  But nothing can beat Fall.  The air is crisp and clean.  In another week or two the leaves will be in full color.  I really need to get out my camera and take some pictures.

Fall is the time of year for Farmer's Markets.  I have already canned up produce that my son brought when he made a Market run, and there is another planned to get cranberries.  I have lots of cranberry sauce on my shelves, so this years bounty will be made into cranberry juice that both of us enjoy.

And it is Apple Pickin' Time.  There are several pick-your-own orchards near my home, and this year my brother and his lovely wife plan to join however many family members can go with us this coming weekend.  It is one of my favorite outings of the year.

Whenever I think about apple pickin' time, I think of the last apple excursion that my husband went on.  We were with my youngest son and his family.  Our granddaughter, Maddie, stuck pretty close to Poppa.  She was small and he was tall and Poppa could reach the best apples that were high in the tree.  Mike left us the following summer.  It warms my heart to remember how he remarked after we came home, that the day had been one of the best he could remember.

I love the fall days that turn into such good memories.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nearly Finished for Now

The sausage is all canned and on my shelves.  I ran the sauerkraut experiment through the pressure canner yesterday morning.  The directions say to let it sit for three weeks before using, so I will see how well this method works then.  Both dehydrators are humming away filled with sliced and diced potatoes.

Two of the half pint jars of sausage didn't seal.  That happens sometimes, though not very often, thankfully.  I don't mind this time, as I have a hankering for biscuits and sausage gravy.  I may live in the city, but I can still enjoy a good, old-fashioned country breakfast.

Sometimes in the midst of the trouble and turmoil around us, it is good to be able to enjoy some of the more simple things in life.  Biscuits, gravy and a steaming cup of coffee won't take away those ugly things that threaten our way of life.  But they will make them a bit easier to bear.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dear Mr. President:

Let me say right off the bat that I love my country.  I would choose to live in no other country in the world.  America is my home and America is where I will stay.

That being said, I am not so enamoured with the leaders of my country.  I expect adult behavior from them and I have seen very little of that for quite some time.

Mr. President, how dare you bully 80 and 90 year old WWII veterans who want nothing more than to visit the memorial in Washington that is theirs.  It is not yours.  You did not fight and bleed for the right to visit a memorial dedicated to the heroism and patriotism of those who did.  They were there.  They fought.  They suffered things that you can't even imagine.  Many of them died.  And if they want to pay their respects to their comrades who didn't get to come home, who are you to say they can't.  Shame on you.

And then, Mr. President, I hear you giving a speech in which you tell me that if you don't get your way with the debt ceiling, I can forget about receiving my Social Security check.  Do I need to remind you that I paid into Social Security all of my life?  I get no welfare benefits.  Nobody gave me a phone before the last election.  I get no government subsidised anything. That check is all I have, because I was promised that it would be there for my old age as long as I worked hard and kept paying into the fund.  I did.  And you want to take that away from me and so many others like me so you can score political points.

If I were your mama, I would be thoroughly ashamed of you and of your colleagues.  God help us as a nation when we find ourselves governed by schoolyard bullies.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Still At It

So this morning I added 32 pints of chicken breast and 10 half pints of sausage crumbles to my shelves.  20 lbs. of potatoes have made their way through the dehydrators.  I still have 12 lbs. of sausage waiting for me, and another 30 lbs. of potatoes.  Should be able to finish up by Saturday evening.

But today I took a bit of a break.  I live in a very old building that was, like many similar old buildings, divided into apartments.  Whoever designed this apartment must have thought that the resident would never cook or bake or anything else in the line of processing food, for they put only about 18 inches of counter space on either side of the kitchen sink.  There are no other counters.  Because of the lack of counter space, my kitchen table gets a workout, and anyone who has done food preservation will attest to the fact that it is a messy process.  So I spent the day getting my kitchen back in order, finding the top of the table again and putting away the jars and bags of food already processed.

And then I took a nap.  Just because I could.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Up to My Elbows...

in Farmer's Market goodness.

Number One Son made a Farmer's Market run for me on Saturday.  He came back with a half bushel of green bell peppers, 5 HUGE heads of cabbage, a good sized bag of carrots and 50 lbs. of potatoes.  And 5 more cases of canning jars.  In anticipation, I had made a grocery store run on Friday for the ingredients I needed to go with the cabbage and peppers to make Amish coleslaw.  25 pints of that deliciousness now reside on my shelves, along with another 28 pints of carrots.  There are 2 pots of cabbage heating up on my stove with lots more waiting.  (Yep, my neighbors are going to be loving me by the time I finish cooking and canning cabbage!)  That will go into quart jars to be processed.  I'm hoping to score a sale on corned beef come spring to go with the cabbage.  I have never made sauerkraut before, so am giving that a go as well.  The potatoes will be sliced and diced and dehydrated.  They work well for scalloped potatoes and in soup and stew.  The leftover peppers were dehydrated as well.

So I had better stop playing here at the computer and get busy, because tomorrow my daughter and granddaughter are taking me to Sam's Club to stock up on meat, most of which will be canned as well.  Other people make hay while the sun shines.  For me, it is canning and dehydrating.

I am truly lucky to have kids and grandkids who are willing to fetch and carry and haul it all up the stairs to my apartment.  God bless them all!

Friday, September 20, 2013

People are Funny...

in a miserable kind of way.

So I was at the grocery store this morning.  Thought I would take advantage of the sale on beef roast.  I had bought four packages earlier in the week and canned them.  I wanted to can another six packages worth.

As I am putting the roasts into my cart, a woman comes up along side me.  As the third package went into my cart, she sort of starts to edge me out of her way.  When I didn't move, she reaches over me, grabbing packages like she thought there wouldn't be any more.  I just stood back and watched her.  A package of meat at a grocery store just isn't worth the hassle of dealing with an obnoxious woman.

When she had what she wanted, off she flounced, triumphant in her winning whatever game she thought she was playing with me.  Guess she didn't realize that she was playing alone.

I have to wonder what would happen if the poo really did hit the fan and there were fifty people just like that woman, all wanting to get their hands on the last loaf of bread in the store.  I think I am glad that I have thought far enough ahead so that I will be home, baking my own bread.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shopping Fool

As much as I dislike shopping, I am thinking that I will wind up a shopping fool this week.  My local grocery has sales on beef and pork loin.  I bought four packages of each this morning.  They are all cubed, jarred up and a pressure canner load is cooking away, with several more waiting.  Beef rarely is at an affordable price here, so I will be going back at least once more - maybe twice - to take advantage of the sale.  The home canned beef makes the best beef stew as well as lots of other tasty dishes.  This winter.  When it is cold outside.  And the ground is covered with ice and snow.  And I won't have to venture out in it.

I just wish I could get all of the shopping done at once, but there is only so much I can haul home on the bus in my handy dandy little old lady shopping cart that I use for groceries.  I'm not complaining, though.  Every day that I wake up in the morning is a bonus.  And every day that I still can get around well enough to do my own shopping is even better.  And every day that I still have the strength to haul my cart up the stairs to my apartment is awesome.

Life is still good.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

All I Wanted Was a Nightgown

So why are the clothes in the retail stores made for age 25 and under women.  Isn't my money as good as theirs?  Why can't they sell clothing that we grannies would be comfortable wearing!

Now that the weather has cooled somewhat and fall is just around the corner, summer clothing is on sale.  All I wanted were a couple of thin, cotton nightgowns.  I suffered through about two weeks of heat and no air conditioning recently.  I own winter sleepwear.  I own a t-shirt style nightshirt that was uncomfortably hot, even with a fan going in my bedroom.  I don't own any thin cotton sleepwear.  So I went to buy some.  I may not use them any more this year, but I surely will next summer, and I wanted to take advantage of the sales.

I don't want t-shirts with matching pants.  I don't want t-shirt style nightshirts in purple and orange stripes.  I don't want some slinky lacy evening gown looking thing to sleep in.  I am neither slinky nor am I the lacy type.  I could care less about looking fashionable when I retire for the night.  I have nobody to impress with my fashion sense at bedtime.  It is just me and sometimes the cat in my bed.  So why should I have to make a fashion statement to impress the cat!

In my frustration with the retail industry that caters to the tastes of the young, I dug around in my closet and found the bin where I keep my fabric stash and sewing supplies.  Found a pattern for sleepwear.  Dug out some fabric that I bought a long time ago for a purpose long since forgotten.  Cut out a couple of simple night gowns.  Spent a day at my sewing machine.  I now have what I couldn't find in the stores.  For less money, even if they had what I wanted.

I had forgotten about the benefits of home sewing.  You get a garment that fits, that is well made and doesn't fall apart the second time it is washed.  You don't have to waste time shopping. (I hate shopping.  I have never understood women who treat shopping as a form of recreation.)  You can get the colors and patterns you like in the fabric as opposed to whatever dreadful choices are on the racks at the stores.  And if you watch for fabric and pattern sales, home sewn clothing costs far less than buying ready made.

I learned to sew well over 50 years ago.  There was a time when I sewed most of my own clothing as well as much of my children's.  I think I stopped while I was still in the working world, for time was at a premium.  Now I have all the time in the world.  I could use some new shirts and slacks for winter.  And a fall jacket.  Think I will go now and peruse the fabric store sale ads.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Going Home

While reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, I ran across a post about going home again.  The writer talked of visiting various places where she had lived only to find them all changed.  Other people now live there, houses have been remodeled and yards and gardens done over.  Most bore little resemblance to her memories of them.

I get restless sometimes.  I wish I could move out of the city.  I wish I could go back to the north country I love.  Or to the drafty old farmhouse that I mostly grew up in.  But if I take a long, realistic look at things, I know in my heart of hearts that this will not happen.  The dubious joys of my "golden years" make it nearly impossible.

I love the northern part of my state because my family roots are there.  I have such good memories of time spent as a child in the house my grandfather built for his large family.  I can see in my mind the kitchen with it's worn plank floor and wood burning stove and the ice box in the corner and the stool by the back door that held a bucket full of well water and a dipper for drinking.  I see the upright piano in the corner of the main room that my grandfather played, and although I never knew him or heard his music, I see him through the tales told me by my father.  I can visualize my grandmother sitting in the chair that was hers, reading or smiling at the shenanigans of her grown children and grandchildren.  I see her in the early morning, long black braid, only touched with gray even in her later years, down her back, stoking up the stove firebox to cook breakfast.

I sometimes think about the farmhouse where I spent the better part of my youth.  I remember the warmth of the kitchen where it seems, in my memory, there was always something good baking in the oven.  I remember bedroom walls that were papered, for underneath was lath and plaster that couldn't be painted.  I recall warm summer nights spent sleeping on the screened front porch, and the storm clouds Dad and I watched from that same porch, rolling over the fields.  I think of the hours spent roaming the woods and fields behind the house and the dog that was always at my heels and the orchard and the garden. And the long row of peony bushes that were a riot of white and pink while in bloom.

My grandparents house is no longer there.  A number of years ago it was donated to the local firefighters to burn as a practice drill.  The farmhouse is gone as well, torn down to make way for a new house built on the property.

And then the realization comes to me that it is not the buildings that are important.  It is the memories of life in those buildings.  It is the laughter of my aunts and uncles and cousins when we all got together in the north.  It is following my uncle to the barn when he went to do the milking and playing with the latest batch of barn kittens.  It is the soft lap of my grandma and the absolute knowledge that she loved me.  It is my Dad's silly jokes and Mom's homemade bread.  It is the time and patience my parents put in to teach me so many things that have helped me over the years.  It is taking care of my baby brother when Mom couldn't, and loving every minute of it.  It is memory of a two-room country schoolhouse and bike rides down gravel roads and nearly burning my eyebrows off trying to smoke corn silk with the neighbor girl.

I have heard it said that you can't go home again, and that is true.  But every now and then, when city life comes close to being unbearable to this country girl, I can go home.  For it is not the houses, but the people.  Most of them are gone now, but they still live in memory.  And I think that may be enough.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beans and Cornbread

I soaked a bag of beans overnight and got them to cooking this morning for a pot of old-fashioned baked beans, just because I was hungry for a bowl of them.  My kids will probably laugh at me when I tell them that the first time I tried to make from scratch baked beans, they turned out terrible.  Baked beans aren't supposed to be crunchy.  I was still very young and still cared about what other people thought, and I didn't want anyone to know what a dismal failure they were, so I took them out back into the woods, dug a hole and buried them.  They were so bad that the dog didn't even try to dig them up.

I dehydrated a bunch of sweet corn last year when I found a really good sale on frozen corn.  It turned out great and rehydrates really well.  But I found that when I run the dry corn through a little electric chopper, it turns into cornmeal that makes the best cornbread I have ever made.

Homemade beans and cornbread.  Simple comfort food.  And oh, so good.  Don't think I will have to give any of it a decent burial this time.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Flying Geese

The eastern sky was just beginning to turn pink this morning.  Sitting next to my open window to catch a bit of morning breeze, my first cup of coffee in hand, I heard the honking of geese.  Lots of geese.

The geese come back here each spring from wherever they go for winter months.  The nest on the shores of the many lakes and ponds and streams, raise their young, and then head back south.

I will hear them from time to time, going out in the mornings during the summer in search for food and returning to their nesting areas in the evening.  But this honking was louder and more prolonged than a normal food run.  As I looked out and up, I saw at least a dozen V-shaped formations heading south.  This was followed closely by another group just as large.  I usually don't see these large flocks until mid-October.

The Farmer's Almanac has predicted a cold, nasty winter for us here in the north.  I wonder if the geese know about it.  Looks like they just might.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Big Sister

Having your big sister in the same school you go to is cool.

Having your big sister walk with you to your first kindergarten class is priceless.

It's That Time Again

It is that time of year again.  My grandkids started school for another year.

Zach is in eighth grade this year.

Boston started sixth grade.

Maddie is in fourth grade.

And Jacob started kindergarten.

I have one more school-aged grandchild, Nicki who started her Junior year of High School.  I think she considers herself too grown up for first day of school pictures.  Nicki, you need to send your Grandma some new pictures.  This one is a couple of years old.

The kids all seem glad to get back to school, and this year will be an adventure, especially for Jacob, who is just starting down the path of learning.  I hope their enthusiasm continues.

Monday, September 2, 2013

What a Difference a Day Makes

Woke up this morning to an outdoor temperature of 58 degrees.  The cat was pretty much Velcroed to my knees for warmth.  The dogs had to be persuaded to leave their warm beds for breakfast.  What a difference a day makes.

Find my warm, fuzzy robe - check.
Move the long sleeved shirts to the front of the closet - check.
Add the ingredients for the best malted hot chocolate mix in the world to my grocery shopping list - check
Start a pot of homemade chicken soup to simmer all day - check

Oh, I know that in a day or two we will be back to summer weather, but just for today, I will pretend that fall is here to stay.  And I will enjoy every minute of it.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


It doesn't seem like we have seen very much rain here over the summer.  But this evening the rain is falling.  After another hot day - not as bad as earlier this week, but hot nonetheless - the temperature has dropped 12 degrees in the past hour.  A cool breeze flows from one end of my apartment to the other.  I can turn off the fans and just listen to the music of the rain.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mini Heat Wave is Over

I think our mini heat wave is over.  This morning I have cooler breezes blowing through my apartment.  The constant panting by the pups has ceased.  Their appetites are back to normal.  That is a good thing, for they ate little over the last few days.  They are so small, 12 lbs. and 9 lbs. respectively, that I am concerned when they won't eat.  Especially Jessie Jane, who is the consummate garbage hound.  When she refuses food, I know that things are not well in her world.  My appetite seems to have returned as well, which is probably not so good.

As long as my kitchen was cool early this morning, I baked bread.  I had been out of bread for a couple of days, but didn't want to make the apartment any more miserably hot than it already was.  Six loaves and two dozen buns are cooling on my kitchen table.  I try to bake my own bread as often as possible.  The wonderful smells that fill my home remind me of coming home from school to find my mother taking bread from her oven.  There is little that smells so wonderful as bread baking.

I hope that the cooler days continue.  I love the fall of the year.  I live near the Minnesota River, and I so enjoy walks with the dogs on the paths along it's banks.  I wish that the city still allowed folks to burn the leaves raked from their yards, for that smell was one I always associated with autumn.  But soon the smells of canning apples, cooking applesauce and apple butter will fill my little home, and that is just as good.

Isn't it funny how different smells in the air can bring on such pleasant memories.