Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pilot in Training

My grandson Zach takes lessons to become a pilot.  I'm not sure when he started, but his Mother says she remembers when he could stand upright under the wing of the plane and he needed to sit on a cushion to see out the front window.  He's grown some since then.

Zach isn't quite 14 years old yet.  He has had a love of flying since he was small.  His Dad has a pilot's license and I suspect that may have had something to do with his wanting to learn to fly.

I love this photo of him, taken a couple of days ago.  It reminds me a bit of the old photos of barn storming pilots back in the day.  He just has that look about him.

I don't care that much for commercial flying, but I love riding in the small planes.  My Dad wasn't a pilot, but he loved that kind of flying and he passed that along to me the first time he took me to go for a ride in one of the planes that gave tours in Bemidji, Minnesota.  I was just a young girl, but I was hooked.  One of the most fun birthday presents I ever received was when Zach's parents (my daughter and son-in-law) rented a plane and I got to go for an hour's ride.  I loved every second of it.

I hope that when Zach gets his license, he will remember that his Grandma dearly loves to fly.

It's Official

Spring is here.  I can tell by the sound of the neighborhood kids skateboard wheels on the street.  And by the long legged teen aged boys doing tricks on little bikes in the alley across the street.

Actually, it's kind of fun to watch them.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Think About the Pets

I got to thinking the other day about how we are so accustomed to having the services we need only an email, text or phone call away.  But what would we do if this changed.

In my case, it concerned the care of my dogs.  Twice a year I take them next door to my friend, the dog groomer.  They are given baths, hair cuts, the excess hair is removed from inside their ears and their nails are trimmed.

One of my Yorkies, Jessie Jane, has weird nails.  The quick (the part inside the nail that has nerves and blood vessels) grows unnaturally long, so her nails can never be trimmed short.  Cutting into the quick causes pain and bleeding.  So as her nails grow, they curl sideways.  This doesn't seem to bother her or slow her down any.  Until yesterday.

Jessie Jane was holding up one of her front paws when she came out of her kennel for her morning cookie.  So as soon as she ate her treat, I picked her up and checked her paw.  Sure enough.  One of her nails had gotten so long that it was poking the adjoining pad on her foot.

Like most people, my first thought was to call the groomer and make an appointment to get Jessie's nails cut.  But then I got to thinking, what if I didn't have access to a groomer.  What would I do?

I don't have a proper nail trimming tool, but I do have a small wire snipper.  So I got it out and carefully trimmed the offending nail as well as the rest of them on that foot.  It wasn't a professional looking job, but she could run without pain, and that was what I wanted.

I am big on having a variety of foods on hand - store bought, home canned and dehydrated.  I have extra water stored.  I either have or plan on buying in the near future, alternative methods of cooking, heating at least one room of my apartment and light sources.  But, shame on me, aside from stocking up on food and water for them, I hadn't thought ahead for the care of my fuzzy buddies who share my life.

So this weekend I will do the research to see what I should have on hand for their proper care.  And next week I will go to a pet supply store that I trust to have good quality merchandise, and buy a nail trimmer, a good quality clipper for hair cuts, and whatever other supplies I need.  There may come a time when I won't have a veterinarian three blocks away as I do now, so I need to think along the lines of what to have on hand should they become sick, as Lily was the past couple of weeks, or injured.

Our pets give us so much.  They love us even when we are not lovable.  They are glad to see us even when we are cranky.  They only ask to be fed, have clean water and occasional pets, snuggles and belly rubs.  I will still take them to the vet when needed.  But if the time comes when that's not possible, I want to be able to do the very best for them that I can.  They deserve no less than that.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sometimes No News is Good News

I think I need to stay away from news reports for a little while.  Both mainstream, although I pay little attention to it anyway, and the alternative news sources I read daily.  I think my brain is on overload.  And about to explode.

The Democrats are sniping at the Republicans and the Republicans are taking pot shots at the Democrats.  Neither one is doing anything constructive.  But they are blowing enough hot air to bring on real global warming.

There are Congressional Investigative Committees questioning various and assorted witnesses about many of the latest scandals.  The Congressmen thump their chests, pound their desks and make speeches designed to make the public think they actually care.  After which they stand in front of the news reporters and pontificate, throw stones at the other political party and express outrage.  But nothing changes.  Next week most people, whose attention span is similar to that of a gnat, will have forgotten all about that particular scandal and will be more interested in their favorite TV sitcom character or sports team than they are in the fact that everything they say or do is now recorded and stored.  To keep them safe.

The king of America who lives in the White House continues to thumb his nose at the Constitution.  The pundits continue to offer up their opinions on panel discussions.  And promote their latest book.  Nobody dares call the President out on his lawlessness for fear of being labeled racist.  Or audited.  And nothing changes.

Although once in a great while there is a glimmer of hope, as in the state of Georgia, where legislation was passed that contains pro-gun reforms.  But then there is my state of Minnesota, who is working to pass legislation to take guns away from those involved in domestic abuse.  Those promoting this bill say that abusers "don't deserve to own a gun."  Now, I have no sympathy for abusers of any kind.  But my question is this:  Who will be the next group who "don't deserve" gun ownership?  Will it be the bloggers who write articles that question this country's leadership?  Will it be the veterans who, while in service of their country have seen things that now give them nightmares?  Will it be the person who has been under a doctor's care for depression?  Who is next?

And then there is the Obamacare train wreck.  And don't forget the Russians who are busy rattling their sabers.

I think I will, for a while, confine my reading to the blogs listed on the right.  Even though many of those folks address issues concerning the horrors going on around us and the major loss of our freedoms, they also provide helpful information on how we can survive this mess.  Some have offered good advice on various problems that have come up in my life.  Others show me tasty foods and how to prepare them.  Some take me on wonderful trips down memory lane or show me the beauty of nature in their corner of the world.  And still others just make me laugh.

Yep.  I think that is the game plan for a while.  I will never bury my head in the sand, for I do need to be aware of what's coming at us.  And I will never be like so many who blithely skip through life, pretending that everything is just fine and of course, nothing bad could ever happen here.  But sometimes I just need to back off for a time.  Before I become totally overwhelmed.  And completely frustrated with government insanity.  Or at least until my head is no longer in danger of blowing up.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm Ready

The blinds are down on all of my windows.  I refuse to watch at any more snowflakes falling.

The ingredients for peanut butter cookies and molasses cookies are waiting on the kitchen table.  The first pot of coffee of the day is steaming and delicious.

The Kindle is charged and ready to go.  The fuzzy blanket waits on my recliner.

Chicken soup is cooking in the crock pot.  Hot ham and cheese sandwiches are planned for lunch.  Soup and cornbread for supper.

Bring it on, Mother Nature.  Throw a temper tantrum.  Dump icy rain and snow on us.  See if I care.  I'm ready for you.  You can't wreck my day.  I'm going to have a good one in spite of you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And This Girl...

loves to dance, too.

Best. Bread. Ever.

I know I wasn't going to do any more posts about bread making.  But I just had to share one more recipe.

Take any other white bread recipes you have, whether they are Grandma's or mine or from anybody else, and toss them.  Yesterday I was digging through an old recipe box of mine, looking for something else entirely, when I stumbled upon the following.

Amish Bread

2 Cups warm water
1/3 Cup sugar
2 packets dry yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons bulk yeast)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted shortening)
5 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water.  Stir in the yeast.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Add the salt and oil.
Beat in 2 cups of flour until smooth.  Then stir in flour, one cup at a time.  Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  (Don't cheat.  10 minutes.)  The dough should be fairly soft but not sticky, and should be smooth and satiny to the touch.
Grease a large bowl.  Place dough in bowl, turning so all sides are coated.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size.  Punch down.  Form 2 loaves and place in greased bread pans.  Let rise again until doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a deep golden brown.
Turn bread out onto cooling racks.  Brush sides, top and bottom with melted butter.  Let cool completely.  (Except for the heel of one of the loaves.  Cut that off while the bread is still warm, slather it with butter, and enjoy!)

I doubled the recipe and got four nice sized loaves.  Three went into the freezer and part of the fourth was for supper.

That bread came out just as soft as any good bakery bread.  The crusts were soft as well.  Often homemade bread will be a bit dry the next day.  This stayed soft.

So this morning I used the same recipe, doubling it, and made buns and cinnamon rolls.  As with the bread, I brushed the tops with melted butter as soon as they came out of the oven.  I froze most of them, but kept out enough for a couple of meals.  Both the buns and the cinnamon rolls are soft and delicious.

I can see no reason to use any other white bread recipe.  I am just amazed at how good this bread is.  I'm going to experiment a little bit and see if I can't adapt the recipe for wheat bread.

Thus endeth the bread making posts.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

So this morning I went to slice some bread for toast and discovered there was none to slice.  Sometimes when I get busy I focus on the job at hand, ignoring other things around me.  It didn't register with me that when I made a sandwich for lunch yesterday, I used up the last loaf of bread.  I didn't want to take time this morning to make regular yeast bread, so I dug out a recipe I've been meaning to try.  Irish soda bread.  No yeast.  Minimal kneading.  No waiting for the bread to rise.  Perfect.

Irish Soda Bread

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raisins, if desired
3/4 cup buttermilk

*Note: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, a fair substitute is to add 1 tsp. lemon juice to each cup of regular milk, wait 3-5 minutes, then use wherever buttermilk is called for.

Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease cookie sheet.

Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl, using pastry blender, until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in raisins and just enough buttermilk so dough leaves side of bowl.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. Shape into round loaf, about 6 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Cut an X shape about 1/2 inch deep through loaf with floured knife.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter or margarine, softened, if desired.

Legend has it that the X cut into the top serves to ward off evil spirits.  I cut in the X.  I'm taking no chances!

I am not fond of buttermilk so I always use the lemon juice method substitution for baking.  I may have to see if I can find some powdered buttermilk to keep on hand.  Keeping fresh milk requires trips to the grocery, so I use powdered milk for everything except drinking.

The Irish soda bread turned out great.  It is heavier than yeast bread - kind of a cross between bread and biscuit.  Or maybe like a crusty artisan bread.  At any rate, it works for toast in my little toaster oven, for sandwiches and for just plain eating with a meal.  Some add raisins to the recipe, but I wanted it for use in place of a yeast loaf.  I may try it with raisins the next time I make it.  Soda bread isn't something I would make on an every day basis, but it served my purpose for quick bread to last until I make regular yeast bread tomorrow morning.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Looking Good

I hope I'm not celebrating too soon, but it seems that Lily the Yorkie is much improved.  The nasty stuff at both ends has stopped.  She spent the better part of the past two weeks sleeping, and today she is alert, barking at whatever she perceives as a threat to her food dish and is following me around like, well, a puppy dog.  Wherever I am, that's where she is.  I have to be really careful not to trip over her.  I won't complain about that one bit.  For a while there I thought I would lose her, and it wouldn't have been surprising considering her age and the fact that a dog that starts out at 9 lbs really doesn't have any weight reserves when it gets sick.  She is skinny, but has an appetite now.  I have spent time today holding and cuddling and petting and telling her what a good girl she is, even though for the most part, she is not.  She is mouthy and can be obnoxious and wakes me up before sunrise to give her a treat and tries to chew on the landlord's ankles whenever he stops in.

And I would be kinda lost without her.

New and Improved Gadgets - AARRGH

After the fire in my building last summer, new smoke detectors were installed throughout the building.  I hate them.

My apartment is laid out with the living room on one end, bedroom on the other, with the kitchen in between.  Because of the building codes, there is a smoke alarm in the kitchen and another in the bedroom.  There is about 4 feet of space between the two.  I know.  Makes no sense.  Building codes are a government invention and therefore don't have to make sense.

The smoke alarm in the kitchen goes off whenever I open my oven door while said oven is in use.  It goes off when I fry potatoes for supper.  It goes off when I boil water.  It goes off whenever I use the stove at all.  This is annoying, both to me and my neighbors.  I finally reached my breaking point.  I ripped the thing from the ceiling.  Took out the battery.  Set the alarm on a shelf.  Capped off the wires on the ceiling and called it good.

All was peaceful in my little apartment.  I could bake bread, cook supper and boil water for coffee without the ear-shattering screech from the alarm.  I still was protected by the smoke alarm in my bedroom and another in the hallway, right outside my kitchen door.  Life went back to being fairly pleasant.  It remained so for several weeks.

And then, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by a BEEP and a feminine voice telling me, "No battery."  I grumbled, rolled over and was nearly asleep again when BEEP, "No battery" again assaulted my ears.  Every half hour the smoke alarm informed me that it needed a battery.  Dawn was just breaking when I picked up the offending alarm, opened my closet door and stuffed the thing into a box and covered it with two bags full of yarn.  Closed the closet door.  Breathed a sigh of relief.  And then heard a distinct BEEP "No battery."

About that time I passed from annoyed right on to lunatic.  Pulled open the closet door.  Tossed the bags of yarn out of the way.  Grabbed the smoke alarm and headed for the living room.  I wrapped the alarm in a blanket.  I could still hear it, with the added feature that it set the dogs to barking whenever it went BEEP "No battery," which it was doing every couple of minutes now.  Got a comforter from the closet and wrapped it around the alarm and the blanket.  BEEP "No battery," bark, bark, bark.  Took the quilt I keep on the back of my couch, wrapped the whole works up in it and waited.


So now I have this huge ball of blanket, comforter and quilt all rolled up around the alarm, living behind my recliner until I see my landlord again.  I can deal with that, as long as it doesn't go BEEP "No battery."  My poor landlord has twice already tried to fix the problem, and obviously the smoke alarm is not to be denied.  I'm thinking maybe a bucket of water or possibly a well placed shotgun blast.....

Friday, March 21, 2014

Be Back Soon

I have been dealing with a sick Yorkie.  If you have ever had a sick house dog, you know that they can trash a person's living quarters.  They can't help it.  Especially if they are old.  A Yorkie's life span is between 10 and 15 years.  Lily is 13.  I consider myself lucky to have had the pleasure of her company this long.

I've done all I can do for her.  She seems to be getting better.  Time will tell.  But her illness has left me with doggie bedding to wash, floors to scrub and carpets to shampoo.  After that there are baths for both dogs.  And because I am not as young as I once was, the clean-up takes time as well.  I will be back as soon as my household is back to normal - whatever that is.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Sheltered Life

I have taken to listening to the police and fire scanner for a little while in the evenings while I sit and do needlework.  Monday evening was pretty quiet in my town, so I switched to the channel covering Minneapolis in Hennepin County.  That's when I decided that I must lead a pretty sheltered life.

Within the first hour there were transmissions concerning a group of teen/young adult males roaming the streets, apparently looking for trouble.

There was another group of five older teen girls who had frightened some theatre-goers by waving a gun around, threatening people.

There was an apparent suicide in one hotel room and a murder in another.

There were several arrests on outstanding warrants and the usual traffic tickets.

There are skyways either two or three stories up from ground level that connect some buildings downtown, to make it easier for people to get from one place to another in the winter.  There was a fellow who was happily urinating here, there and everywhere in the skyway.  He was hauled to the nearest hospital for evaluation.

There were several calls, in that hour's time, for assaults and complaints about drunks.

But the last one I heard before I found some soothing music to listen to, took the cake.  A woman called from a bus stop in downtown Minneapolis.  She called 911 because she had a cockroach stuck in her ear.

My sheltered life - its looking pretty darned good to me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Green Eggs and Ham

When my son arrived at his home last evening, he was greeted by his son who was begging his Dad to make Green Eggs and Ham for supper.  Dad obliged, with help from Jacob.

But the part I liked best was Jacob's reason for wanting Green Eggs and Ham.

He had learned at school that if you mix the color Yellow and the color Blue, you get Green.  So that's what they did.

Here is the result.

My son told me that he has never seen Jacob so excited about a meal before.  I thought it was great that he wanted to put into practice what he had learned.  And that his Dad took the time to help him.  That's what learning should be all about.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Scalloped potatoes and ham made with potatoes and onions I dehydrated two years ago and ham I canned about the same time.  Cornbread made with ground sweet corn dehydrated three years ago.  Farmer's Market real honey.  Peach cobbler made with home canned peaches.

Let it snow.  I am prepared.

March in Minnesota

Ah, yes.  Minnesota.  Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.

I had thought about a grocery store run this morning.  Right up to the time I looked out my window and saw that the rain-snow mix was freezing onto the outside surface of that window.  I checked the website that I use to listen to the police scanner.  First thing I heard was officers dealing with two crashes out on the highway.  The second transmission I heard was a comment from an officer concerning the slick roads.

Wasn't much of a stretch to decide that the place to be today is in my warm and snug apartment as opposed to navigating the icy sidewalks.  I can't say that I am surprised at the weather Mother Nature is sending our way.  March has a way of teasing us with warmth and sunshine only to do an about face and dump snow on us.  On the up side, when Spring finally does arrive, it is heavenly.  And our Autumn is glorious.  Gives me something to look forward to.

After a relaxing lazy day of mostly reading, I spent my weekend attending to those chores that always need attention.  The laundry is done, the kitchen floor scrubbed to within an inch of it's life, the bathroom sparkling.  Well, maybe not sparkling, but as clean as a bathroom in an old building can be.

I spent some time rearranging my two shelving units that hold my home canned goods.  After mostly living off those shelves this winter, I needed to see what I was running low on.  Within my line of vision are 21 cases of empty canning jars, both pint and quart size.  There are another 5 cases of half pint jars stacked elsewhere.  I get most of my vegetables from the Farmer's Market in late summer and fall, but I can start canning meat any time.  I seem to use a lot of hamburger and turkey, so those are on my shopping list.  A couple of years ago I canned some meatballs and they were delicious, so I want to do more of those.  I also seem to use the canned bacon and sausage often, so more jars of those are planned.

So if the snow and ice ever goes away and I can go out without slipping and sliding, I will be busy.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lazy Day

One of the nice things about retirement is that you don't have to do anything constructive if you don't want to.  Today I didn't want to.

My daughter and granddaughter stopped in to see me this morning.  Nicki is excited about her trip.  She has some sort of a heart shaped sticker on her leg.  She will remove it when she gets home so she can see just how much of a tan she gets in the Florida sunshine.  She makes me laugh!

My daughter likes to shop in my pantry now and then.  She made off with canned beef, potatoes, carrots and peas and a jar of tomatoes that will all be put together and made into a beef stew.  Canned peaches and pears also found their way into the box that held the stew fixings.  I am glad that my kids want to eat what I have canned.  But then, Moms always like to feed their kids, no matter how old they get!

It has just been sort of a lazy day otherwise, with a good deal of it spent curled up with a cup of coffee and my Kindle.  I did venture outside for a while.  The temperature here is close to 50 degrees.  I have opened some windows a bit.  It is so nice to be able to do that, and the fresh air flowing into the apartment is wonderful.

That's about all that's going on here today, and it is enough for me.  I will probably find some ambition tomorrow and get back to doing the things that usually occupy my time and energy.  But for now, I will refill my cup and read another chapter.  And love every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


I have been dealing with setting up my new Kindle, which involved setting up WiFi, which involved time spent on the phone to my service provider.  Got it done, but it killed a good chunk of my morning.

I have a bunch of books on my computer that I downloaded previously, but the file format needed to be changed to be compatible with the Kindle, so that took care of my afternoon and part of the evening.  I think I am going to like it once I get the books onto it and have time to actually use it.

When I finally got around to looking at my blog tonight, I found that it has developed those annoying highlighted words than when you mouse over them, an ad pops up.  Geez, I hate those.  I have no idea where they came from or how to get rid of them.  If anyone has any idea how to get them to go away, I'd appreciate the advice, keeping in mind that if I have to dig very deep, I get lost.  A computer geek I am not.

Other than that, it has been a good day.  Any day in March that it doesn't snow is a good day.  The piles of snow are melting and there is water on the streets in liquid form, not solid!  And I will just continue to pretend that it is spring.  Works for me.

PS:  I think I may have stumbled onto getting rid of those annoying ads, but if you see any words highlighted or pop-up ads, please let me know.  Thanks.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Granddaughter Was Robbed

My oldest granddaughter, Nicki, age 17, has been invited to spend Spring Break in Florida with a friend and her friend's mother, staying with their relatives.  She is really looking forward to this trip.

Nicki's mother, my daughter, has taught Nicki that there is no free lunch.  If she wanted to go on the trip, it was up to her to save the money she needed to go.  Nicki works hard.  She goes to school.  After school and weekends, she works a job.  She worked as many hours as she could get in order to earn the money she needed.  And she reached her goal.

A couple of days ago Nicki and her friend went to the Mall of America to buy some new clothes for their trip.  My daughter's posts on Facebook to tell our relatives about what happened, tell the story.  The first is the original post.  The rest are answers to inquiries about what happened.

"Thanks to the Bloomington PD and MOA security for finding and arresting the 3 15 year old girls who stole money from my daughter last night."

"They went into her changing room when she was grabbing a different size clothing....they bolted and Nicki and her friend yelled for security. Apparently security was already looking for them for something else. They are charged with theft, false information to a police officer and possession of marijuana. Luckily they recovered some of her money when they were searched."

"She went down to the PD at MOA and they were all lined up with their hands on the wall! Luckily she got $160 back out of $300."

"I think she has a new found respect for the police and security for everything they did. That's a win in this situation!"

I am glad that Nicki or her friend weren't hurt.  It could have been much worse than it was.  She learned a couple of hard facts.  First, you don't ever leave cash unattended, even if your friend is in the next changing stall.  And second, there are bad people everywhere, who want something for nothing and will take what they want if given the opportunity.

I am also grateful that the police and security people at the Mall of America took Nicki and her friend seriously, and did everything they could to help.    There are adults who will just dismiss teenagers because they are teenagers, but these people kept at it until the criminals were caught and arrested.

And Nicki had the satisfaction of being able to watch these three hoodlums being handcuffed.  That's got to be worth something!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Surprise, Surprise

When I arrived home late Saturday afternoon from watching my granddaughters dance, there was a surprise waiting for me.

I am not a big fan of surprises.  It has been my experience that my surprises more often than not involve a puking cat or a poopy dog.  Or a kitchen faucet that has sprung a leak.  Or a toilet that won't flush.  Something like that.

But this time it was none of the above.  This time it was a really good surprise.

In my absence, Oldest Son had paid a visit to my apartment.  My kitchen contained four 25-pound bags of flour and two 25-pound bags of sugar.  Plus he had saved me a couple of trips up and down the stairs by hauling my trash out to the dumpster.  When I talked to him later, he said that he needed to make more than one trip up with the bags of flour and sugar, so he figured he might just as well take out the trash on the downward trip.

So this morning I emptied the bags into buckets.  One each of sugar and flour stay in my kitchen for my daily use and the rest is squirreled away in my pantry.

I am so fortunate to have kids who do really neat stuff for me.  So thank you, Duane.  It is greatly appreciated!

Love, Mom

Dance Like Nobody's Watching

Yesterday will go down in the record books as a really fun day.

Youngest son called me Friday, wanting to know if I would like him to pick me up so I could watch his daughters dance in their first competition of the year on Saturday afternoon.  Is he kidding?  Of course I would love to watch my granddaughters dance.  So I did.

Boston, the older of the two, has done solo dances before.  Her sister, Maddie Mae has not, so this was the very first time she has appeared on stage alone.

Boston's dance was entitled "One Girl Revolution" and Maddie's was "Rock Star."  Their costumes reflected the theme of their music.

I am absolutely amazed at what these girls can do.  There are dance steps and acrobatics and attitude involved, and they both nailed it.  And both went home with a trophy to add to their collection.

This dance thing is a family affair.  Mom is backstage helping with costumes and hairdos and stage makeup.  Dad and little brother are in the audience, cheering them on.  The grandparent contingent consisted of two grandmas and a grandpa, all having such fun watching and cheering.  Most times the competitions are too far away for me to be able to attend, but this time it was close enough to home to make it possible.  Thank you, my family, for giving me such a fun day.

And Boston and done good!  I am proud of both of you.

Love, Grandma

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Level-2 Lookalike Firearm

I'm pretty sure by now most of you have read about the 10 year old boy in Ohio who was suspended from elementary school for three days for brandishing a "level-2 lookalike firearm."  And what was this horrific weapon?

It was the kid's hand, thumb upright and index finger extended.

It is official.  The world around us has completely taken leave of it's senses.

The longer we allow this stupidity to continue, the more we are losing our ability to defend ourselves.  I am not advocating shooting up the streets as if we lived in the Old West.  But when children are taught that any reference to guns is terribly wrong, we are creating a generation of wusses who will not only drink the Kool-aid but will passively line up for the privilege.

Those who wish to see all firearms removed are strong advocates of calling 911 for help when the bad guys break into our homes.  Let me tell you a little story about how well that works.

Close to six years ago, on a mild summer evening, I walked the two blocks to our local library.  When I returned about an hour later, I found my husband laying on our bed, and he wasn't breathing.  I grabbed the phone, called 911 and started CPR.  According to the clock in my bedroom, it took over 15 minutes for the first officers to arrive.

I have nothing but good things to say about our police department.  They were kind and courteous.  They kept me informed about what the paramedics were doing to help my husband, and when it was obvious that all attempts to revive him had failed, they were gentle and kind in telling me.  In the following days, one of the officers made a point to check on me to see that I was doing alright.  One of these same officers rescued my dogs last summer when an apartment in my building caught fire.

My point is this.  It took over 15 minutes to respond to a 911 call for a man who wasn't breathing.  I now live alone.  It wouldn't take much to kick in an apartment door.  How much damage do you suppose someone could do to my home and to me in 15 minutes time if I were deprived of the means to defend myself.

When my kids were young, there were gun safety classes for those who wanted to hunt.  I don't know if those classes still exist.  If they don't, we should be teaching our children how to safely handle a firearm, taking them out to practice and seeing to it that they understand that a gun is a tool - for adding to the family's supply of meat - for defending our homes and our loved ones from those who want to hurt us or take from us what we have earned.

If we don't find a way to stop the insanity of punishing children for any reference to guns, we might as well crawl into bed, pull the covers over our heads and wait to die.  These kids are the future defenders of our families and our nation.  I want my grandchildren to know how to defend themselves.  I don't want them to come to harm because help was too far away.  I want them to be the strong, capable individuals that I know they can be.  And I surely don't want them so conditioned to be afraid that they wet themselves when they see a gun.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Whenever I am in the market for a new item, I like to compare prices online before buying.  Or, depending on what the item is, I may search for patterns to make said item.

Earlier this winter I was looking to buy some new boots.  I Googled winter boots, and low and behold, nearly every website I visited after that had ads for boots.

Last week I was searching for patterns for cloth grocery bags.  Ads for grocery and tote bags are popping up everywhere.

This is not new.  This has been happening for a long time.  I just ignore the ads.  I have never, not even once, clicked on one of those ads.

But this winter has made me a little bit mean.

So now I spend some time each day searching for things like a duck-billed platypus or a dead armadillo or a purple aardvark.  Or maybe a gold plated thing-a-ma-bob or a jewel encrusted doohickey.

Who knew that there was really such a thing as goose down underwear!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One of Those Days

Ever have one of those days when you just can't seem to concentrate on any one thing?  Well, that's the way my day is going today.  I think it may be a case of cabin fever or possibly spring fever.  Whatever it is, I am restless.

The weather here in Minnesota has warmed up to 30 degrees.  There is no snow falling.  The winds are calm.  March in Minnesota has a reputation of turning mean and has been known to stir up a blizzard in the past.  But so far, things are looking good, at least into next week, when temps in the low 40's are predicted.

I walked the half block to our local mom and pop bakery this morning.  They have such good wheat bread and now and then I treat myself to a couple of loaves.  And a chocolate brownie with mint frosting.  I love the fact that even though my town is a suburb of the city, there are still some businesses that are locally owned and have been here as far back as I can remember.

I have been nursing a sick dog.  She isn't pukey or poopy sick - just off her feed and she sleeps most of the time.  I shouldn't be surprised.  She is an old lady now - 12 or 13 years old.  The vet said to just keep feeding her the homemade food and if she shows any signs of other problems, to bring her in.  She has dropped a little bit of weight, and as she was only 9 lbs. to start with, that's not a good thing.  I've been feeding her every three hours or so and adding my canned hamburger or turkey to the meat that is already in the food.  She is the Yorkie who has been the Energizer Bunny on Steroids, so it is a bit disconcerting to see her so quiet.  She does seem better today, though.

As long as I couldn't seem to settle to doing something constructive, I went for another walk after lunch.  This time it was just two doors down from my apartment, to an antique/junk shop.  I had seen some old cookie jars in the window and thought it might be fun to give a couple of them, filled with Mom's Chocolate Chip Cookies as gifts.  But the place was closed.  Why would a business owner not open the doors when they advertise their hours?  I could understand if they had an emergency or were ill, but this seems to happen on a fairly regular basis.  So I wandered off in the other direction and stopped to see my friend in the dog grooming shop, for a bit of a chat.

There is really nothing worthy of a blog post going on here today, so I am about done rambling.  I really think I need to get away from the apartment for a while and I may do just that tomorrow.  In the meantime, I think maybe a nap is in order.

When all else fails, take a nap.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Thoughts at 3:45 AM

Once in a while I will find myself awake in the wee hours of the morning, unable to fall asleep again.  Sometimes I will curl up with a book and read until I am tired again.  Other times I will make a cup of cocoa, sip it at my kitchen table and let my mind wander.  Many times that wandering takes me back in time.

This morning I got to thinking about life in the late 1950's and early 1960's when I was lucky enough to be living in a big old farmhouse.  I suppose because a basket of dirty clothes awaits my attention later this morning, I got to thinking about how the task of washing and drying clothes has changed since then.

After we moved to the farm, Dad replaced our old wringer washer with a new to us, improved automatic model.  This wonder of modern technology sat in our basement.  By the time I was about 12 years old, Mother's arthritis had progressed to where the basement stairs were becoming a problem for her and hauling a basket full of wet clothes out to the clothes line in the back yard was impossible.  A clothes dryer wasn't within our financial reach.  As the oldest child, laundry became my responsibility.

At that time, most folks hung the wash out to dry in the spring, summer and fall.  Some continued this practice in the winter, letting clothes freeze-dry on the clothes lines.  Our back yard was always drifted full of snow, so lines were strung in the basement.  I was always grateful that I didn't have to stand outside in the freezing cold to hang up the wash.

Most clothes dried wrinkled, which meant that ironing was necessary.  The steam iron may have been in existence then, but not at our house.  Mom's electric iron provided heat only.  The steam came from sprinkling the clothes.  Does anyone remember what this is?

The soda bottle was filled with water.  The sprinkler part was wedged into the top of the bottle, and the salt shaker type holes allowed tiny drops of water to be sprinkled over each piece of clothing, which was then rolled up and placed in a heavy plastic bag.  By the next day, the water had made the clothes just damp enough to be able to iron out the wrinkles.  But woe be to the person who let the bag of damp clothes sit too long before ironing, for mildew would form inside the bag.  Don't ask me how I know this.

There was another invention that made ironing day a bit easier.  Anybody ever seen these?

The metal pants stretchers were inserted into the legs of a pair of pants and then were adjusted so the fabric fit tight over them.  After the pants dried, the stretchers were removed and it only took a bit of touch-up with the iron to get them looking good enough to meet Mother's exacting requirements.  I hated ironing.  I loved pants stretchers.

Guess I won't be complaining much about tossing dirty clothes into the washers in my building, or about drying them in the dryers.  I have a little cart on wheels to haul laundry up and down the stairs to the laundry room in the basement.  I usually don't need to iron anything.  I don't have to use sprinkler bottles or pants stretchers.  Life is pretty darned good.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Mornings

One of the very best things about retirement is that I don't have to go to work on Monday mornings.  I have a very long list of things I am thankful for, and staying home on Monday mornings is right at the top of that list.

It isn't that I disliked my last job.  I have had several jobs over the years and the one I was working when I retired was probably the most fun.  I worked for a friend who has a dog grooming shop right next door to the building where I live.  The morning commute was wonderful.  I once counted 57 steps from my apartment door, down the steps and out on the sidewalk to the front door of the shop.  My job was to give the dogs a bath, dry them and brush them out afterwards.  I have always been a dog person, so the job was right up my alley.

It isn't that I can sleep late.  Sleeping late doesn't work well for me.  I am usually awake before the sun comes up.  That is a habit of long standing.  I have east facing living room windows and one of my little pleasures in life is to sip my first cup of coffee of the day, seated in my rocking chair, watching the sunrise.  The dogs have been fed and are napping, but the cat sometimes warms my lap and purrs contentedly in the early dawn.

I think it is the knowledge that Monday mornings are mine to with as I please.  Sometimes on a Monday morning I will stir up enough bread to last the week and set it to rising.  Other Monday mornings I will sit at my kitchen table and get my grocery list ready for a trip to the store.  And some Mondays in the warmer months I will grab Jessie Jane's leash and off we will go for a walk down by the river in the cool of the morning.

I think of my kids who are headed to their jobs on Mondays.  All four of them are hard workers.  I am proud to say that there isn't a slacker in the bunch.  I worry that when their time comes to relax and enjoy retirement, they won't be blessed with the opportunity as I have been.  I hope I am wrong, for by then they will have earned a rest.  I want them to be able to know the peace and contentment that their mother now enjoys.  And to be able to do whatever they wish on a Monday morning.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Biscuit & Gravy Kind of Morning

I woke to another morning of sub-zero temperatures.  But the sunrise was clear and beautiful and there are rumors of warmer days for later this week.  Not warm as in above freezing, but warm as in above the zero mark.  I'll take what I can get.

We in the frozen north require calories in the form of comfort foods to make it possible to withstand winter.  This morning the thought of biscuits and sausage gravy was overpowering.  In times past I have made the gravy from a simple butter/flour roux with milk added.  Until I found this recipe:

Homemade Chicken Gravy Mix
Makes about 2 cups of mix.

1-1/3 cups instant dry milk
3/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/4 teaspoon sage or poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix well and store in an airtight container.

To use:  Pour 1 cup cold water in saucepan, using a whisk to blend, stir in 1/2 cup mix.
Stir constantly over medium heat until gravy is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.
Makes 1 cup gravy.

If I double the water and gravy mix and add a pound of browned, crumbled sausage, there is enough for my breakfast today and tomorrow, with a couple of biscuits left over to have with butter and jam or honey.

I especially like this gravy mix because I can use it for several different dishes.  Sometimes I make just the gravy to have over mashed potatoes.  I use it to thicken chicken stew.  It works as a substitute for cream of whatever soup in casseroles.  There are probably other uses for it that I haven't experimented with as yet.

When I stir up a batch of gravy mix, I usually quadruple the recipe and store it in jars or freezer bags.  It is just one of those mixes that is nice to have on hand.