Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Getting Busy Again

Today I finished cleaning stuff off the TV stand I gave to Oldest Son.  With a small shelf unit stacked on top, it had become kind of a catch-all for odds and ends of sewing supplies, quilt books and crafty supplies.  Son's workplace is generous with holiday time off - paid, which is nice for him - so maybe tomorrow or the next day while he is home we can drag the stand down the hall to his apartment.

There are a couple of bags containing ham bones defrosting in the fridge.  Son picked up two of those bags of mixed beans for ham and bean soup and the beans are soaking in water until morning.  Tomorrow I'll boil the bones, remove the ham and simmer the soup all day.  After we have had a couple of meals of it, I will can up the rest.

There are four gallons of cranberries thawing in the fridge.  Once the soup is simmering I can start cooking the berries up to make cranberry juice to can.  Son brought me 50 lbs. of berries this past fall and I need to get them out of the freezer.  It is full right up to the lid, mostly with cranberries.  There are probably all sorts of good things down in the bottom of the freezer, underneath all those berries.  The only advantage I can think of about having a less than perfect memory is that you get surprises now and then.  Like when you find out what is at the bottom of the freezer that you forgot was there.

There is a reason for this burst of energy.  I really want to spend some guilt-free time with my sewing machine, and that is a bit hard for me to do when I know I should be doing things like making cranberry juice, especially since I have put it off for so long.

I have always enjoyed sewing since my mother taught me more years ago than I care to think about.   I was listening to my granddaughters talking about the latest fashion trends - the ones with the hefty price tags, and I had to smile thinking that they would be horrified if they were clothed the way I was at their ages.  I don't think I had a store bought dress until I was at least a Junior in High School.  My mother and I sewed nearly all of my clothes and when I think back, I had some really nice things to wear.  We didn't shop for clothes, but for patterns and fabric.  I don't sew clothes so much any more, for the prices of patterns and fabric have gotten so high that it no longer pays.  But I do love making quilts and that is what I am looking forward to working on.

Just as soon as the last gallon of cranberries is in jars and on my shelves in the form of juice.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Monday Ramble

I have a tendency to postpone projects in December until after Christmas.  I don't know why, for I have not one legitimate excuse.  My place is too small for family gatherings, so there is nothing extra for me to do for Christmas except make a few goodies to take to our family day.  I stopped putting up a Christmas tree when I had cats, for they would begin to undecorate it just as soon as I hung the last bit of tinsel.  The final straw was cutting my foot on the remains of a glass ornament the cats had been using for a rousing soccer game.  And yet, even without any extra holiday preparations, I still put things off until December 26.  Makes no sense.

I am busy cleaning out a fairly large TV stand that sits in my living room.  It has deep shelves on the bottom and smaller shelves on the sides.  It serves no purpose for me since I gave away my TV, and when I asked Oldest Son if he could make use of it, he said it would work well in his apartment to hold a microwave on the top and maybe pots, pans and kitchen stuff on the shelves.  The only bad thing about our apartments is the lack of kitchen storage pace.   I'm glad he can use it.

Once the TV stand is gone I can move my desk and set up my sewing machine.  The desk is an old one I bought at a garage sale many years ago.  It opens up with leaves like a dining room table, and with the TV stand gone, I will have room to add maybe three leaves and have a nice sewing area.  I have fabric for several quilt tops that I want to cut out and sew together over the winter.   I have been using my kitchen table for a sewing table, but it is irritating to get part way through sewing a project and then have to move it all in order to use the table for meals and other things.  It will be nice to have a permanent place to sew.

I have been glancing out my windows from time to time today, looking to see if the predicted snow has started to fall.  The weather guessers are telling us we could get nearly a foot of the white stuff.  We have had plenty of moisture here, but mostly in the form of rain and sleet.  Today the temperature sits at 23 degrees, so I am hoping for the sake of those who have to be out and about that we get the snow and not ice.   The radar shows we are on the edge of the storm with states to the east and south of us getting the brunt of it.

Seems like a good day for comfort food.  I thawed out a bag of leftover turkey and set it to simmering in homemade turkey broth along with some seasonings.  Later I'll make dumplings in the broth and open a jar of green beans to go with it.  Chicken or turkey and dumplings is one of my favorite comfort foods.  My Dad used to make the best chicken and dumplings.  More than once I showed up at his house, chicken in hand, and begged him to fix that dish for me.  Sharing that meal with my Dad is one of my best memories.

I am all done rambling now.  I have some apples that need to be used, so I think an apple crisp would taste good for dessert.  I'm having a nice day.  Hope you are, too.

Friday, December 25, 2015

When You Are a Grandma...

no gift can compare to these.

And when I am together with them and the four of my own....
well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry, Merry and Happy, Happy

It's almost here again.  So the next few days will be busy ones.

The last time the three youngest Grands were here, they gave me those big, sad kitten eyes while telling me how much they love caramel popcorn.  And since the first batch I made has long since disappeared between Oldest Son and me, I'm making a couple of batches to take with when we all get together.

It has been an unusual winter here in southern Minnesota so far.  Although there have been a couple of light snowfalls, the white stuff has melted shortly after it hit the ground.  Most of the moisture has been in the form of rain.  But the weather guessers are predicting one to three inches of snow for later today, so we may have a white Christmas after all.  I'm glad I only have to travel across town.

We will be together as a family early in the day on Christmas Eve.  I always look forward to that time for I love it when all my kids and grands are in one place at the same time.   Granddaughter Nicki made it home from the Army base in Texas.  I treasure this time for she will be stationed in South Korea when she finishes her training in March.  It may be some time before she can come home again.

Neither Oldest Son nor I have any other plans for Christmas Day, so we will spend time together.  Today is grocery delivery day and I have a ham on order.  Even though there are just two of us, it is still fun to fix a nice Christmas dinner.

I am grateful for those who visit this silly little blog.  I so enjoy reading and responding to your comments.  It is like having a whole passel of friends even though we have never met in person.  I wish you all a peaceful, joyous and blessed Christmas and a New Year much better than the one that is nearly finished.

God bless,

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Times Remembered

This morning I read a post over at Gorges' Grouse.  Gorges is good at writing interesting articles about times past.  This one was about a barn in his neighborhood that recently burned, and his memories of many years associated with that building.  It brought to mind a building in my memory that suffered a similar fate.

When my grandfather homesteaded his land in northern Minnesota, there were no schools in his neighborhood.  The closest school was in the small town several miles from their farm, and in the early 1900's, there were no school buses that would transport his growing family of children to school.  I suppose my grandmother could have taught them at home, but I am fairly sure that raising her nine children in addition to all the other chores on the farm that needed her attention took up nearly all of her time.  She prepared the meals, baked bread in the oven of a wood burning stove, planted a garden, preserved every bit of food she could, cared for the chickens, washed clothes in a washtub with water from the pump outside the house, heated on her stove.  And in her spare time, she mended their clothes and sewed shirts and dresses for her children.  Not much time to spend on lesson plans.

So my grandfather got together with some of his neighbors and they built a one room schoolhouse about a quarter mile from his farm.  By the time my Dad, the youngest of the children, was ready for school in about 1917, his oldest sister had her teaching certificate and was his teacher.  Dad once told me that having his sister as his teacher sort of put a crimp in the shenanigans he could get away with.  Dad was big on shenanigans.  His sister was big on threatening to tell their father.

That school stood for many years, even after the rural kids started going to school in town.  It was used as a town hall and for neighborhood get-togethers.  Many times over the years I visited that school.  And every time I looked at my Dad's initials carved in one of the boards that served as siding. This was done when he was about 10 years old.

And then one night just a few years ago, some boneheaded fool decided to burn down the schoolhouse, just for fun.  That idiot took away part of my family history.  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, for anyone who would burn a schoolhouse just because they have nothing better to do wouldn't care about hurting the people to whom that building had meaning and memories attached to it.

Like Gorges, I never took a photo of the building that held memories for me.  The building is gone but the memories linger.  Listening to Dad tell stories about his school days.  Running my fingers over the initials carved so long ago on the side of the school.  Nobody can take that away from me.

I do have one picture from that period of time.

The three boys in the back are Dad's brothers, Keith, Kenneth and Bruce.  The dark haired smallest girl in front is Dad's sister, Clarice.  Dad is on the end, the one studiously studying his hands.

The children are standing by the schoolhouse.   That is the closest thing to a picture of the school I have.  And when it comes right down to it, that picture of my Dad and his siblings is far more precious to me than any building.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Minnesota School Includes Muslim Prayer Song in Holiday Concert

Be forewarned.  This is a rant.

First, I object to the term "holiday concert."  On December 25th of every year, we celebrate Christmas.  We may have become a materialistic society, all wrapped up in finding the perfect gift, spending more than we can afford and glorifying Santa Claus, but the reason we have a holiday at this time of year is because on that day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Were it not for that event, there would be no holiday at all.

Generations of Americans have attended school Christmas concerts, Christmas plays and Christmas programs.  But now, with the trend toward political correctness, these Christmas celebrations in our schools are no longer allowed.  And that is to our everlasting shame.

Second, there is a time and a place for exploring other religions and the traditions of other countries.  A school in a suburb of Minneapolis has chosen to include a muslim song in its "holiday" program.  To be fair, there are songs from other countries and faiths included within the concert.  Local news reports state that, for instance, a Jewish song will be sung.  So why do I object to a muslim song and not a Jewish song?  Because to the best of my knowledge, the Jews are not beheading anyone, nor are they burning people alive in cages, nor are they engaged in mass shootings in theaters.  As far as I know, no Jew has ever waged jihad on America, nor has even one stood in the streets screaming, "Death to America."  That's why.

I have no problem with school children learning about other countries and the religions of those countries, nor do I have a problem with them learning songs from other countries to get a feel for any nationality or religion.  It is good to know what other countries and religions are all about.  We can never learn too much.  But these teachings and songs belong in a classroom setting and not in a "holiday" concert.

I have ancestors who came here from England, France, Germany and Scotland.  My children have ancestors who came here from Norway and Denmark as well.  They brought with them the religions and traditions of the "old country."  But each and every one of those ancestors learned the language.  They entered this country legally.  They jumped through all the hoops to become citizens.  They became Americans.  And they were proud to be Americans.

The excuse the school district gave for including the muslim song in their concert was this:

"In a statement, the district said that they have students from many different backgrounds and cultures, and they promote equal opportunities for all students."

That is all well and good.  I'm all for equal opportunity.  But this all inclusive politically correct BS needs to stop.  A Christmas concert is no place to celebrate a religion that wants nothing more than to kill me.

As far as I know, the concert has been given.  I have been unable to find any news source that reported on it after the fact.  Whether or not the school kept to the original program is unknown.    But if they did, shame on them.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Saturdays Can Be Fun

So yesterday I'm enjoying a mug of tea and the part of a murder mystery where everyone is a suspect and nobody knows yet who-done-it.  My phone rings.  It is Youngest Son, wanting to know what I am doing.  I reply that I am just piddling about, not doing much of anything.  He wants to know if I would like a visit from three of my Grands.  Of course I would.  He says they will be at my door in five minutes.

I am sitting at my kitchen table when they arrive.  As they come through the door they line up, youngest to oldest, to give Grandma a hug.  They sit down and proceed to tell me about their day.

There was a birthday party for a family friend.  Youngest Grandson's hair is still damp from working up a sweat jumping about in one of those blow-up things where the kids crawl inside and bounce around to their hearts content.  A good time was had by all.

Oldest Granddaughter told me that when they were coming back through town, she noticed that they were only a block away from Grandma's house and she told her Dad they needed to stop in to see Grandma.  Which they did.

Middle Child said they were on their way to a mall nearby where they were going shopping for their Mother's Christmas present.  Each of them had a certain amount of money to spend, and they were trying to decide if they would buy three smaller gifts or if they would pool their resources for one really nice present.  All three were excited to be going Christmas shopping for Mom.

We talked a bit longer, including their Dad in the conversation.  The Grands saw the jar of popcorn, a big bowl and my roaster pan sitting on the cupboard.  I explained that I was going to make a batch of caramel corn later.  Caramel corn is one of the treats I always made at Christmas time when my children were young.  The Grands extracted a promise from me that I would bring some when we get together for our Christmas.

And then all three lined up again to give Grandma a hug goodbye.  Dad even got into the act.  We are a huggy group.  I like that in a family.

They weren't here very long.  They didn't have to be.  The fact that they wanted to stop in to see Grandma was enough.

Later in the afternoon Oldest Son showed up at my door with a good-sized spiral cut ham in hand.  His workplace had given each of their employees a ham for Christmas.  Son used my WiFi while the ham baked in my oven.  I added mashed potatoes and candied carrots to the menu and we enjoyed a really good meal.  After supper Son cut most of the meat from the ham bone to use for sandwiches to take to work in his lunch, leaving me the bone to make a pot of ham and beans with, and a freezer bag full of ham slices so I could enjoy a few ham sandwiches this week.

I'm thinking Saturdays really don't get much better than that!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wadena, Minnesota Says "Take That, Atheists"

Wadena, Minnesota (population about 5,000) has for years erected a Nativity display in the center of town to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  This year the Freedom from Religion Foundation complained about it and threatened to sue the town, so the city council reluctantly removed the display.

Wadena residents did not take kindly to having their beloved and traditional Nativity display removed, so they did something about it.

It may be just a small thing, but each and every time we stand up to be counted for what we know to be right, we become stronger.  Good on you, Wadena.  And Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


One thing I forgot to mention in my previous post is that I save seeds.  I know that sounds silly for an apartment dweller to save seeds when there is no place to plant a garden.  But I save them for two reasons.

The first is that when things get bad, I have children who have lawns that can be converted into garden plots, should said children finally see the error of their ways and discover that raising food is a good thing.  To be fair, one of them has done this with a couple of raised beds.  Should seeds become hard to get, they need look no further than Mom's shelves.

The second reason is that my building has a communal deck large enough to raise several different kinds of plants in buckets or tubs.  Someone in a newer building than mine (this building was built in the late 1800's) probably has a balcony for each apartment that can be used as well.  Over the winter I plan to research the best way to garden in containers.  In the meantime, I have purchased seeds and I save seeds from produce, mostly from the Farmer's Market.  I am aware that hybrid seeds will not always produce fruit just like the fruit the seeds came from.  I don't care, as long as they produce something edible.  And sometimes seeds from purchased produce will not grow at all.  So to test those I have saved, I sprinkle a few seeds on damp paper towels, wrap that in a damp kitchen towel and wait to see if the seeds sprout.  If they do, I package the remaining seeds and mark them, storing them away from heat and light.

Another idea I saw was to sprout seeds in a quart jar.  Google "sprouting seeds" for instructions.  There are lots of websites and videos on how to do this.  I have not tried sprouting my seeds as yet, but will be giving it a go over winter.  There are seed sprouting kits in stores and online.  I see no reason not to buy seeds in bulk and use only those according to your own tastes (some might like radish sprouts while others may not, etc.).  Seems to me this might be a good way to add fresh green things to a person's diet.

We apartment dwellers may be challenged as to storage and gardening space, but with a positive attitude and a bit of research, there is no reason we can't find ways to accomplish what we set out to do.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What Do I Store

I have been asked to do a post about the items I store other than food.  I have been struggling a bit with this one.  There are many websites, blogs and videos out there telling about what folks should have in their preps.  A good place to start is researching those for information and ideas.  Many of those sources include things like water storage, tactical gear, options for cooking and heating with wood, etc.  While excellent advice, much of it is not applicable to my living situation.

I have to make decisions based on an arthritic granny living in a three room apartment.  I have no place to store the large barrels of water, so I save soda and juice bottles, wash them out, fill them and store them wherever I have a bit of space - behind my couch and other furniture, behind a door, in the corner of a cupboard.  I keep some empty five gallon buckets that can be filled from my bathtub in a power outage, before my building loses water pressure.  My "Need to Buy" list includes a water filter system to utilize the water from the river located a block away.

This past fall I purchased a good camping stove and a space heater, both fueled with propane.  I buy the small propane canisters as I have no place to keep larger ones.  These fit into boxes with lids that can be stacked, saving space.

I have several flashlights and batteries.  I buy candles whenever I find them on sale and keep a large supply of wooden kitchen matches.  My "Need to Buy" list includes several oil lamps.  I would prefer the old kerosene type lamps, but storing kerosene in an apartment is probably not a good idea.  Another lighting source I am looking into is the solar lights used in outdoor yard or patio decor.  Seems to me these could be used indoors at night and be recharged during the daytime hours.  Same goes for a solar charger for recharging computers, Kindles, cellphones, etc.

I have a basic first-aid kit and add to that items like non-stick bandages, gauze, tape, bandaids, etc.  I also buy antibacterial creams, burn ointments, hand lotions, lip balms, etc.  A couple of my favorites that I have used for years are A & D Ointment and Bag Balm.  Aspirin helps me with arthritis pain so I stock several bottles of that along with multi-vitamins.  I find that prescription drugs are a problem.  Most doctors, including mine, tend to write prescriptions rather than recommending alternatives, and they don't seem to want to write these prescriptions for more than 6 months at a time.  So the next time I have to make an appointment to get my several prescriptions refilled, we are going to have a chat about alternatives, and in the meantime, I am doing my own internet research on herbal medicines.

I have a large picnic basket with a lid that I have filled with sewing supplies - needles, threads, pins, velcro, various kinds of scissors, rotary cutters, etc.   Remember Grandma's button jar?  Got one of those, too.  The time may come where buying a new shirt just because a button fell off the old one will not be an option.  We need to know how to sew and mend and patch.  I also keep darning thread for mending socks.  These old skills could be more valuable than cash at some point.  I buy fabric on sale - all different kinds.  Some are good for clothing, some for quilting, etc.  Fabric is stored in tubs in the back of my closet.  Yarn for making caps, scarves and mittens is stored the same way.

I have a Kindle.  I love my Kindle.  I have several hundred books stored on it.  But I also buy paperback books at garage sales and charity stores.  And when I find information online that will be useful, I print it out and save it in a binder.  I do the same with recipes and instructions for canning and dehydrating.

I often buy a few boxes of canning lids at a time, trying to build up a good supply.  I have found that if I am careful not to damage a lid when removing it from a jar, it can be used once or twice more, so I save all my used lids.  I suppose it would be wise to invest in Tattler reusable canning lids, but right now their price is not within my budget.  I do have four boxes of them in each size and have used them with few problems so I may get more when I have the rest of my "Needs" list filled.

I have a tub of bar soap stored but lately have been looking into stocking the ingredients to make my own.  Same for laundry soap.  I store Borax, Washing Soda and Fels Naptha bars.  Small amounts of these ingredients will make gallons of laundry soap at a fraction of the cost of commercial laundry detergent.

This list could go on forever, but I think this is enough for now.  Each person needs to decide for themselves what is important to store and what is not.  Parents with small children would have items on their lists that I have no need for.  Those who are into bushcraft would have the need for tactical gear, where those of us that find the need for it is not practical for our lifestyles, do not.  However, I can not stress strongly enough the need to be able to defend ourselves, our families and our property.  Even in the best of times, there is a very real possibility that someone with evil intent could break into my apartment.  I refuse to live in fear, cowering behind locked doors, so I have made sure I have the means to stop the criminal before I am hurt or killed.

The surface has just been scratched here, but I hope it will be of some little help.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Note: Turkey Broth and Soup

This is just a note to myself so I will remember what I did concerning the turkey scraps.  After Thanksgiving, I had the bones and scraps from three large turkeys.  That yielded 21 quarts of rich turkey broth.  There was also enough broth for a stock pot full of turkey, vegetable and rice soup.  I had a couple of meals from that and canned the rest.  That gave me 12 pints of soup.  One pint is enough for a meal with homemade bread or cornbread.  Rice doesn't can well as it tends to turn a bit mushy, but I canned the soup anyway.  Waste not - want not, as my mother used to say.  Along with the meat Son took home from his turkey and the meat from mine that I froze, I'd say we got a lot of mileage out of those turkeys.

I have made turkey or chicken broth before and stored it in the freezer.  But right now my chest freezer is full to the top - mostly with that 50 lbs. of cranberries I bought at the Farmer's Market to make into juice.  I ran across a recipe the other day for cranberry jelly or jam that I think I will try to see how I like it.  But I really need to quit being lazy and get busy processing those berries.  I could use the freezer space!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

Winter came sliding in on Monday.  There wasn't much snow here.  Just enough on top of freezing rain to make the roads treacherous.  The local news reported nearly 150 vehicle crashes and several injuries.   After a harrowing drive home from work Monday evening, Son braved the elements and started out early Tuesday morning.  After his car slid through the first two intersections he came to, he turned around and came home, called his workplace and took a vacation day.  There is a mentality of bravado here in Minnesota when it comes to driving on icy roads.  Many risk life and limb just to be able to brag that they didn't let a little ice or snow slow them down.  Those of us with functioning brain cells realize that if our cars are wrecked or if we are wrecked, we won't be going to work for a while.  No work, no paying the rent.  Better to miss one day than a lot of days.  It is called common sense.

Yesterday was a strange day.  I spent the better part of it snuggled under my warm, fuzzy blanket.  I just couldn't seem to stay warm.  The only thing that tempted my appetite was a bowl of the turkey soup I had made.  And fruit juice.  Son came over to use my WiFi and I slept in my recliner through most of his time here.  I knew things weren't right when the coffee he brought with him didn't appeal to me.  My poor landlord came by early in the evening to do something or other in my apartment.  I'm not sure just what that was, for he took one look at me and said he would be back in a couple of days.  Guess I looked pretty rough.  Thankfully this morning I woke up feeling fine.

So now that I have had several cups of coffee, it is time to catch up on the household chores I let slide yesterday.   I have two large stock pots of turkey broth in the fridge to can up as well as the rest of the turkey soup.  The soup turned out really good, but I find that I am pretty much turkeyed out.  I have given up on trying to make small batches of soup.  Just can't do it.  I still have leftovers even when I palm some off on Son.  I still have a large pot of the soup left, so I will can that up as well.  I think it will taste pretty good to me in a month or so.  In the meantime, supper of scalloped potatoes with ham sounds good.  What a difference one day can make!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Sunday - Rest. Monday - Work.

I am trying to adhere to the Biblical "Day of Rest."  So yesterday I did just that.  There was some reading and some napping and some messing about on the computer and some crocheting and movie watching in the evening.  The biggest thing I did was heat up leftovers for hot turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy, shared with Oldest Son for supper.  It was a nice day.

Just because some of us are retired doesn't mean that every day is a day of rest.  I had the meat from my 21 lb. turkey, minus a couple of meals, in the fridge so I saved out enough for a few days worth of sandwiches and packaged up the rest.  I was able to wedge it into the freezer by doing a bit of restacking.

There were the bones and scraps from three turkeys waiting for me, so those have been cooking all morning.  When the pots cool down, I'll strain out the bones and bits of skin, pour the broth into my large stock pot and refrigerate it over night.  By morning the fat will have solidified on top of the broth and I can skim it off.  This I will save for frying as it adds some really good flavor to potatoes and other fried foods.  Using the fat this way means there is less cooking oil to buy.  I do the same with bacon grease.  The broth will be heated, ladled into jars and canned.

I have some broth and carrots, potatoes and onions simmering on the back burner.  Soon I will add pieces of leftover turkey gleaned from the bones and maybe a handful or two of rice to the mix.  It is turkey soup and cornbread for supper.  Snow is predicted here today and Oldest Son said soup would likely taste pretty good to him after a day of working outside in this weather.  Most times Son does his own cooking when he gets home from work, but now and then it is nice to have him come over to my apartment and share a meal.

Those who guess what the weather will be like on a daily basis are telling us we may get up to 6 inches of snow, starting this afternoon and continuing into tomorrow.  It isn't all that cold, the outdoor temperature sitting at 33 degrees this morning, which means the snow will more than likely be heavy and wet.  Power outages can be caused by that kind of snowfall.  My Kindle is charging just in case.  I have all the food and water I need and the propane space heater and the propane camp stove I bought this fall are both ready to go.  Yesterday Son got a few things at the grocery and he brought me a bag of Peanut Butter Cup minis and some other snacks.  I have plenty of coffee, chocolate and something to read.  You know, the important stuff.  I am ready.  :)

Friday, November 27, 2015


Yesterday was such a nice day, even though it started out not so great.  It started to lightly snow in the morning and made the first ten miles of our journey sort of exciting where the snow stuck to the road and made driving interesting.  Once reaching the freeway the roads were just wet and we arrived at Youngest Son's home on the other side of the city with no problems.  I am thankful that Oldest Son is a good driver and knows how to drive on slippery winter roads.

The turkey dinner with all the trimmings was a treat.  Oldest Daughter brought a corn/cornbread dish that was wonderful  I need to get that recipe.  Maddie Mae had made appetizers by wrapping dill pickles in slices of deli ham and cutting them crosswise.  They were pretty and delicious.  Boston had lined muffin tin cups with pie dough, filled them with apples and spices, added a lattice top and baked them into mini apple pies.  I took one home with me and enjoyed it as a bedtime snack.  I am pleased that my Grands helped in adding to the meal.  After pie with real whipped cream, we headed home, where a nap was necessary!  It was a good day with family.  I am thankful for them all.

Oldest Son and I will have two more turkey dinners this week.  The company Son works for gave each of the employees a turkey, and his is about 20 lbs.  I added a turkey to my grocery order that was on sale at 99 cents a pound.  The lady who does the shopping found the biggest one she could, at 21 lbs.  Neither Son nor I have freezer space for large turkeys, so Son will roast his later today and I will roast mine on Sunday.  Each of us will have leftovers enough to satisfy our appetites (Leftovers are one of the best thing about turkey dinners.) and both of us will be able to squeeze small packages of meat into our respective freezers for future use.

Youngest Son packaged up the scraps and carcass of our Thanksgiving turkey and sent it home with me, knowing that I would put it to good use.  I will wait until the other two turkeys have been cooked, take the remains of all three birds and make turkey broth to can and a batch of homemade turkey soup.  I am glad that I grew up with frugal parents who taught me to make use of everything, including turkey bones.

My grocery order included six bags of frozen hash browns.  I have dehydrated four bags already and the last two are drying now.  Roll breakfast sausage was also on sale and I ordered 12 one-pound rolls.  Three rolls will be made into patties and squeezed somewhere in the freezer.  Hopefully!  The rest I will brown, drain and can tomorrow to add to my food storage shelves.

One last note:  When I arrived at my Youngest Son's home yesterday, my youngest grandson was playing football in the front yard with his neighbor friend.  He wasn't the least bit embarrassed to come running to give his Grandma a hug.  His sisters were at the front door with more hugs.  And when my taller-than-me older grandson arrived, he too delivered a hug for Grandma.  And that, my friends, is what life is all about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Early Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday is a busy day.  I don't think I will be spending much time with my computer.  First off it is grocery delivery day and it takes time to get it all put away.  I am spending Thanksgiving with my kids and grands, and this year I am in charge of the pumpkin pie baking and I also have had a request to bring a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  As my freezer is full, the baking has to wait until Wednesday.  I don't mind.  It is fun to make goodies, especially for the grands.

I know that our world is in a turmoil.  There is so much insanity going on at the moment that sometimes it is hard to keep up with it all.  And I know how important it is to be informed.

But on Thanksgiving I want to concentrate on my family.  A good share of what I have to be thankful for will be gathered at my youngest son's home and I plan on enjoying every second of our time together.

I am thankful for all of you as well.  You read whatever silliness I decide to post and you comment, too.  I don't know if you realize how much that means to me.

So I am wishing all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day.  God bless.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 3

The last post in this series isn't so much about how to use home canned foods as it is about finding alternatives when you have no way to grow your own produce.  As you know if you visit here, I live in a downtown apartment, surrounded by asphalt and concrete.  After trying to use my windowsills, which are wide enough to hold pots for growing herbs, I find that there just doesn't seem to be enough direct sunlight for anything to grow well there.  I am planning to try next spring to plant a few vegetables and herbs in containers on the communal deck on the west side of the building, but even if I am successful, I won't be able to produce nearly enough for canning.  At best I will have fresh salad greens, tomatoes and maybe enough parsley and other herbs to dehydrate.  A community garden would be nice if one existed here.

The Farmer's Market is an excellent source for fresh produce.  I can get cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and squash at reasonable prices and the quality, depending on the vendor, is very good.  My son has been going to the Market for several years and has learned which vendor sells the best produce for the least amount of money.  Even though there are several Farmer's Markets close by, he drives to the one in St. Paul, which is farther away but where he knows the vendors and knows the produce will be good.  It is worth going the extra mile.  Some other Markets have vendors who just buy produce for resale, but we know who raised the food we buy in St. Paul.  The difference between a store quality tomato and a locally grown tomato is more than obvious.

Sometimes the cost at the Market is prohibitive for canning purposes.  The prices for sweet corn, peas and green beans in my area are fine if I want these fresh for a meal or two, but are too spendy for canning.  I suppose I could just buy those vegetables in cans from the grocery, but I find that because I am mostly cooking for one person, often times a regular can of corn is too much and won't get used up unless I want to eat corn for several days.  And the prices for individual sized cans of vegetables are beyond outrageous, if you can even find them any more.  So for much of my vegetable canning, I wait for a sale on frozen vegetables and can those.  That way I am able to can them using half pint jars, which is just right for one or two meals for me.  I have successfully canned sweet corn, peas, peas and carrots, green beans and mixed vegetables using the frozen vegetables.  It is just a matter of pouring the frozen vegetables into a pot, adding water to cover and heating them until they are thawed and warm.  They can then be jarred and canned using instructions for timing for that particular vegetable.  And why would I bother canning vegetables that are already frozen?  Because there may come a time when water is scarce, and the water used in canning is enough to be able to heat the food on whatever heat source is available without burning it.  And because a freezer full of frozen vegetables is useless should the power be out for any length of time, causing the vegetables to thaw and go bad.  And because canned vegetables, as well as anything else that is home canned, is fully cooked and can be eaten right from the jar if necessary.

When canning tomatoes I have found that it takes too many of them to make my own tomato sauce or ketchup or barbecue sauce.  Same goes for tomato juice.  I can diced tomatoes in both pint and quart jars.  If I want tomato juice I just dump the contents of a jar into my blender and whirl it for a bit.  If seeds in juice is a problem, just pour the juice through a strainer. I use the canned tomatoes for any dish that calls for them.

I admit to buying tomato products like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce and tomato sauce at the grocery.  And yes, I know about GMO foods, but when on a budget, you can't always be a purist when it comes to some foods.  I do try to avoid food products made in other countries that do not have strict food processing regulations.  Now and then I will find #10 cans of tomato products reasonably priced, and then I will re-can them in smaller jars.  I have successfully re-canned the above products, as well as mustard.

Another item I like to have on my shelves is beans.  I will make pork and beans to can.  I don't know if doing that is very cost effective, but I do love the taste of homemade pork and beans.  There are many recipes online, those made with a tomato sauce and those made with molasses.  I also keep a few jars of canned dry beans like Great Northern Beans on the shelf.  When canned, they are fully cooked and can be used for ham and beans or any other bean based dish, without having to soak the beans overnight or spend half the day cooking them.  Sometimes older dried beans will stay hard, no matter how long you cook them.  Canning them eliminates that problem.

I have experimented with canning foods that might not otherwise be considered when one is planning what to can.  The experiment of canning meat for Sloppy Joes was a dismal failure, as the taste of some of the ingredients completely changed in the process.  I use that up in casseroles or spaghetti sauce where the taste will be overpowered by other ingredients.  But the experiment in canning hamburger made into taco filling was successful.  I also tried canning diced celery, and although it softened up considerably, it is good for dishes where I want the taste of celery but don't necessarily need it to be crisp.  Don't be afraid to  experiment a bit, like with the taco filling,  Sometimes I wind up with something that is really handy to have on hand.

Other foods I can like fruit or jams and jellies or pickles require no explanation as to how to use them.

There are those who find it much easier to just buy their canned goods at the grocery.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Canning food requires time and there is work involved.  And there is the initial expense of a pressure canner, jars and lids.  Perhaps it has something to do with the way I was raised that makes home canning preferable to me.  Canning is something that my parents and grandparents did to insure their families would have plenty to eat over the long Minnesota winters.  It is something I have done most of my life, and I will admit to having a sense of satisfaction when I see all those full jars on the shelves.  Plus it is the best way for me to insure that my family will not go hungry during hard times.  That alone is worth it to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 2

There are a few more meats that I regularly can.  One of those is hamburger, if I can find a good sale.  We are now paying $4.99 per pound for hamburger, with the leanest going for $5.49 per pound, so I haven't canned as much as I would like to this year.  I brown the hamburger, drain it, pack it into jars without adding liquid and can it.  I found that adding liquid to hamburger gave me a product that reminded me of canned dog food.  Canned without liquid, the meat is indistinguishable from hamburger freshly browned.

This meat can be used in any recipe that calls for browned hamburger.  I make Sloppy Joe sandwiches from it.  I add it to spaghetti sauce or to lasagna.  I use it in casseroles or in tacos or in gravy over mashed potatoes or rice.  The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes I will make up a meatball recipe, brown the meatballs on a cookie sheet in the oven, pack them into jars and can them.  I have used cream of mushroom soup diluted with an equal part of water and canned the meatballs covered with the soup to make meatballs and gravy.  The plain ones are good with spaghetti or just plain, and the ones in mushroom sauce are good over mashed potatoes or rice.

There are some who can bacon by rolling slices up in parchment paper, stuffing the package into wide mouth jars and canning it that way.  I haven't tried that method yet, but plan to soon.  I buy boxes of bacon ends and pieces, cut the meat into about one-inch dices, lightly brown it, pack it into half pint jars and can it.  Canned this way, these bacon bits have several uses.  I mix them with scrambled eggs or add them to omelets.  I have used them in scalloped potatoes.  I have mixed them into those hashbrown and egg breakfast casseroles and in other casseroles for bacon flavor.  They can be sprinkled on a green salad.  I'm sure there are many other uses for canned bacon bits that I haven't thought of.

When I find a sale on bulk breakfast sausage I get as much as I can.  This is canned just like hamburger.  The sausage is good in scrambled eggs, omelets and casseroles.  I have used it in spaghetti sauce and lasagna.  But my favorite way to use this is in biscuits and sausage gravy.

Sometimes I find a product that comes in a #10 can.  Cheese sauce is one of those foods.  I know that I could buy the ingredients and make my own, but the cost of a large can is way cheaper than investing in the separate ingredients.  I heat the cheese through, ladle it into half-pint jars and can it in a water bath canner for 90 minutes (per Jackie Clay's instructions).  I have tried canning regular cheese and found that it turns out with a rubbery texture that I don't care much for.  The cheese sauce turns out great.  I use this for mac and cheese, as a sauce over vegetables like asparagus, as a dipping sauce for nacho chips, in casseroles and poured over scrambled eggs or omelets.  I'm sure there are many other uses for this that I have yet to discover.

I mentioned earlier that I have canned potatoes, but I'm going over that again here.  Living alone, it is sometimes hard to use up a bag of potatoes before they start to sprout or turn soft.  A couple of years ago, Oldest Son got a good deal on potatoes at the Farmers Market and brought me 100 lbs. of them.  I dehydrated some, but most I canned.

Some were cut into larger chunks and those I use like you would any boiled potato for a meal.

Some I cut into about two-inch pieces and filled quart jars half full, adding similar sized chunks of carrots to fill the jars to the top.  Those I usually use with a roast of some kind, either in the oven or the crock pot.

Some I cut into about one-inch chunks, filling quart jars with 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 carrots and 1/3 peas.  These are handy for soups but I mainly use them in stews.

Some I diced them into about half-inch pieces.  These I use for fried potatoes and for potato salad.  I added chunks of onion to a few of the jars.  The onion turns soft during the canning process, but the flavor is still there and adds to the flavor of fried potatoes.

The last thing I want to talk about is soup.  I have found that having a variety of home canned soups on my shelves makes life easier at times when I am busy and need to refuel but don't want to spend time cooking, or on those rare occasions when those nasty little viruses invade my system and I need to eat but don't really feel well.  I can soup in both pint and quart jars.  A pint is just the right amount to fill a soup bowl, and a quart is good for a couple of meals for one person and is enough to feed two people.

Chicken/turkey vegetable soup:  I fill a jar about 1/3 full of diced chicken or turkey and top that with frozen mixed vegetables that have been thawed.  I add water to cover and add whatever seasonings I want when I heat the soup to eat.

The rest of the soups I make the same way as I would if I were cooking them for a meal, only in large quantities.  As with the chicken soup, I add seasonings when I heat them to eat.  I am better able to control the amount of salt that way and sometimes seasonings will become too strong or turn a little bitter in the canning process.  I usually have the following soups on my shelves along with the chicken vegetable soup:  ham and bean soup, split pea soup and vegetable soup.  If I want vegetable beef soup, I just add canned beef when heated.  Some have canned cream soups, but I have not tried those as yet.  And others also can homemade tomato soup, but I am not really fond of tomato soup, so I have not.

The other food I like to can is chili.  And this I season as I normally would, with good results.  I make a huge pot full and can it in both pint and quart jars.  As with any food that is either a combination of vegetables or contains meat, the processing time is the longest time recommended for one of the ingredients.  When that ingredient is meat, it is always 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

And that is enough for this post.  I have one more coming that deals with the vegetables and other odds and ends.  Hope this helps.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Using Canned Foods - Part 1

Someone left a comment in an earlier post, asking me about my go-to recipes for using the foods I can.  I have been thinking about it and have come to the realization that I don't have recipes as such.  As a dedicated carnivore, my main meals usually have meat of some sort as the base, which is why I like to can as much meat as possible.  Unless I have company for a meal, I usually go with quick and easy.  Canned meat is fully cooked and as such lends itself to all sorts of applications.  The best I can do here is tell you what I can and how I use it.

I have more chicken breast on my shelves than any other kind of meat.  That is because it is one of the less expensive meats and local stores run sales fairly often.  And because I like it.  I usually cut the chicken into one-inch pieces to can.  Here is how I use it:

Often I will combine a jar of chicken with a jar of mixed vegetables and a jar of broth (or broth made  with chicken bouillon).  I add dehydrated onion and parsley and whatever seasonings sound good to me.  Heated, that makes a good soup.  Or I might make dumplings, either from scratch or using Bisquick, and drop those on top of the soup for Chicken and Dumplings.  Or I might make biscuits, thicken the soup to a gravy-like consistency for Chicken and Biscuits.

Sometimes I shred the chicken and heat it with barbecue sauce for hot chicken sandwiches.  Or I will take the shredded chicken, add some mayo, onion and pickle relish for cold sandwich spread.

Canned chicken can be used in any casserole recipe calling for cooked chicken.

I am not opposed to having a few convenience foods on my shelves.  I can get large bags of  Stove Top Stuffing at my grocery, and I divide that into meal sized portions to store.  I will make up a portion of the stuffing and stir in canned chicken.  That, served with a vegetable or salad and some cranberry sauce makes a good meal.

Sometimes I use the chicken cubes in a cold macaroni salad - kind of like a tuna salad only with chicken.

One of my favorites is to make a sweet and sour sauce with pineapple chunks, add the chicken cubes and serve it over rice.

If I get to Sam's Club, they carry fresh chicken breast for a reasonable price.  Those chicken breasts are huge - one piece is more than enough for two people.  I will cut that chicken into large chunks for canning.  To use it, I will often just empty a jar into a pan, top with barbecue sauce and heat it in the oven. That makes a good meal with a baked potato and a salad or with a plate of potato salad.  I  will also top the chicken with stuffing and bake it until it is heated through.  It is good that way with a vegetable and maybe some cranberry sauce.

Now and then, whole pork loin goes on sale, and I will buy as much as I can afford.  I always cut maybe half of one loin into boneless pork chops and freeze them.  The rest I cut up the same as the chicken breast for canning and use it pretty much the same way.  It is a nice change of taste from chicken, especially using it for pulled pork sandwiches.

I can some beef in large chunks to use like a beef roast.  A couple of years ago I canned chunks of potatoes and carrots together in quart jars.  I will dump the beef into a pan, surround it with the contents of a quart of potatoes and carrots, add thick slices of onion and bake it until it is heated through and the meat is slightly browned.  That makes a good roast beef Sunday dinner.

I use a lot of the smaller beef cubes for beef stew.  I had previously canned cubed potatoes, carrots and peas together in quart jars.  So I will combine the beef and vegetables, adding a pint of canned diced tomatoes and some dehydrated onion and maybe a bit of parsley along with some beef bouillon or beef soup starter for flavor.  Just a basic beef stew.  Sometimes I will serve it plain with homemade bread or sometimes I will have it over biscuits.

The small beef cubes are good used to make restaurant style hot beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy.

I recently canned the meat from six bone-in hams, cutting the meat and canning it the same as with the other meats.  The large chunks can be used the same as if I were making a traditional ham dinner.

The small chunks can be used the same as many of the chicken dishes.  I also use them to add to scalloped potatoes.

I think that is enough for this post.  I will do another about some of the other foods that I regularly can.  There are those who prefer to freeze meat and I do that, too, freezing enough for about a months worth of meals.  But should I lose power for whatever reason, the frozen meat runs the risk of going bad should it thaw.  There is also the problem of freezer burn.  I find that the home canned meats will last for years if kept in a fairly cool, dark place.  And for someone like me who lacks the patience and inclination to cook fancy meals, the canning solution works well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Another Ramble

Things seem to be slowing down here in my little corner of the world.  Canning and dehydrating seasons are about finished.  I would like to dry some more frozen hash browns.  I just spread them out on the mesh lined dehydrator trays for drying.  No need to blanch and they keep forever.  To use them, I just soak enough for a meal in hot water for about 15 minutes and fry them up for a quick and easy addition to a meal.

It has been raining here for the last couple of days.  Not a steady rain, but more wave after wave moving through.  Luckily, we did not get the high winds that some in other parts of the country had to contend with.  Today is clear but cold - the temperature being 31 degrees about noontime.

The company that Oldest Son works for has ordered a new forklift for him to drive.  It comes with an enclosed cab that has heat and air conditioning.  Son stopped in last evening when he got home from work.  He surprised me with a treat of a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.  Life is worth living if one has a box of Little Debbie Nutty Bars.  :)  Anyway, he showed me his insulated gloves that were soaked clear through.  The roof on the forklift he now drives had kept him fairly dry and he was bundled up in several layers of heavy clothes.  But I think he will be really happy when the new forklift arrives.

Years ago I lived in northern Minnesota, near Bemidji.  That town has had statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox as a tourist attraction near the lakefront.  The Paul Bunyan statue is 18 feet tall and they have been there since about 1937.

Picture from the Bemidji C of C website.

There is a web cam there now and every once in a while I will go to their Chamber of Commerce website to watch the tourists taking pictures of themselves with the statues.  It is fun to watch the kids - they seem to have so much fun standing on Paul's foot or running underneath Babe.  I looked at it today and found that it was snowing heavily there.  Don't suppose it will take too long before the snow moves south and everything here will be covered in a blanket of white.

My family will get together on Thanksgiving at Youngest Son's home.  I always enjoy spending time with my family.  My contribution to Thanksgiving dinner is the pumpkin pies.  I may have to make some other treats for the kids.  It isn't often I get the chance to spoil my Grands.  I do have to be careful of the ingredients in whatever I make.  Maddie Mae has a peanut allergy, so peanut butter cookies are out of the question.  Maybe chocolate chip cookies.  I don't remember seeing so many kids with allergies when mine were young.  Maybe that's because so much food now is processed, where then most everything was made from scratch.

I'm off the get a couple of things done, like wash my kitchen floor (How one person can make such a mess of one floor, I will never know!) and put away the extra bottles of ketchup and cooking oil I bought for my food storage.  After a little supper it will be time to settle in with yarn and crochet hook.  Maybe I can find a good movie on Hulu to watch.  With all of the insanity going on in our world, sometimes it is nice just to sit back and enjoy a movie.  Even though I know that the terrorists are still flooding in and the perpetually offended are still causing more hate and discontent, and I know that the other shoe is apt to drop shortly, I still do rather love this quiet life for as long as it lasts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Doesn't look like it will any time soon.  By the time this band of rain that starts in south Texas and is working its way north through Minnesota has come and gone, I predict the building of at least one ark.  My sympathies today are with my sons - one of whom spends many of his days driving all over the metro area, checking on the properties his company services with lawn care and landscaping and the other who is, as I write, out in the rain, playing in the mud, either loading trucks with his forklift or moving pallets of soil and mulch from one place to another.  They don't complain.  They are employed.

I don't care what the skeptics say.  Anyone with even a hint of arthritis in various joints of the body will swear that rain equals pain.  Therefore, you will find me over in that recliner in the corner, coffee mug on the table next to me, Kindle in hand, covered toes to chin in my green, fuzzy blanket.  Most times I will work my way through it, but just for today I believe I will take the easier road and rest.  This aging thing is a bugger sometimes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Carrots, Carrots and More Carrots

I started with 24 lbs. of carrots that were on sale for 99 cents per 2 lb. bag.  That's a really good price for my area.  If they were carrots I had grown myself or had bought at the Farmers Market, I would have just scrubbed them clean.  But commercially grown produce often has been treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting between field and market, so I peeled them.

Next the carrots were cut to fit my Vidalia food chopper.  For canning I often slice carrots, but the diced ones hold up better in soup, so I chopped them into 1/2 inch dices.  I ended up with 18 quarts of diced carrots.

These were going to be dehydrated.  You can dehydrate carrots without blanching, but they rehydrate faster if blanched for three minutes before drying.  And they hold their color better.

Dehydrated vegetables shrink down considerably, so I use plastic mesh inserts on my trays to prevent the small pieces from falling through.  I have 14 inserts, so I filled 14 trays, using 15 quarts of the diced carrots.  The other three quarts went into the freezer.  I set both dehydrators at 135 degrees.  I am not sure how long the drying process took.  The length of time depends a lot on humidity.  Vegetables dry faster on clear days than on rainy ones.  I started these early in the afternoon and just let them run all night.  They carrots were completely dried by noon the next day.  The 15 quarts of diced carrots dried down in volume to about 1 - 1/2 quarts.

There are several ways to store dehydrated vegetables.  Some use mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Others use canning jars and still others use Food Savers to remove the air in the bags and to seal them.  I have tried the Food Saver method, but often dehydrated food has sharp edges that can easily puncture the bags.  And canning jars take up too much shelf space.  I found that if I store the dried vegetables in freezer bags, sometime using double bags if there are a lot of sharp edges, that works just fine.  I am not recommending this method - just saying what I do.  Air and light are not the friend of dehydrated foods.  So I bought a bunch of those cardboard bankers boxes with the lids - the kind that can be found at most office supply stores.  If you have read previous posts here, you know that I whine a lot about my lack of storage space.  But I have one of those heavy duty plastic, snap together shelving units that fits nicely behind my bedroom door.  Each shelf holds 3 boxes.  I can fit 15 boxes on the shelves - 18 if I stack the top boxes two high.  Each is labeled with the contents, and that whole setup works well for me.  I have used dried vegetables that are 5 years old, with no difference in looks or taste from those recently dried.

If I want carrots as a vegetable for a meal, I will use my canned carrots.  But if I am making soup, which I do often in the fall and winter, I use the dried carrots.  I don't have a recipe.  I just put two or three quarts of water in the crock pot, some bouillon for flavor, a pint jar of whatever canned meat sounds good to me, and several handfuls of whatever vegetables I like.  The biggest problem is remembering that a large handful of carrots will rehydrate into at least a pint of carrots, so I need to use them sparingly.

I really like having the dried vegetables in my pantry.  They work so well for soups and stews and, if soaked in boiling water, most will rehydrate well enough for use as a side dish.  And it just gives me another option for food storage without taking up as much space as the canned vegetables do.  Works well for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Better Rant

I was working up a rant about the news of the day, when I came across this article by Alan B. West.  He says it much better than I can.  Read it.  It is worth the time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Where's The Beef

Tuesday evening Oldest Son stopped at the store on his way home from work and bought a little over 25 pounds of beef roast that is on sale.  I spent the evening removing fat and gristle from the roasts, cutting them into about one inch cubes, bagging it up and storing it in the fridge.

Wednesday afternoon my grocery delivery included another 15 pounds of beef.  Cleaned and cut into cubes, that also went into the fridge.

Early this morning I started filling pint jars with beef cubes.  When canning raw meat I rarely use water or broth in the jars.  The meat makes its own juices during the canning process.  Some like to add salt at this point, but I don't.  I season the meat when I use it, and if I use bouillon as flavoring in a dish, that contains enough salt.

Because the meat is cold when I pack it into jars, I take time to get the canner up to pressure.  Too much heat applied too quickly can crack jars, so I will usually take 45 minutes to an hour to heat it up.  After venting the canner for ten minutes, the pints are processed at 10 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes.  Quarts would take 90 minutes.  (Canner pressure varies according to elevation.)

I wound up with 38 pints of cubed beef.

I really like having canned beef on my shelves.  It has so many uses.  I have canned quarts of potatoes, carrots and peas together and combined with the canned beef, a pint of tomatoes and a bit of dehydrated onion and seasonings, makes a wonderful beef stew.  Just needs to be thickened and ladled over biscuits.  I also use it in a gravy over rice, potatoes or noodles.  Made into a sandwich and served with mashed potatoes and gravy, it makes a really good restaurant style hot beef sandwich.  It can be added to home canned vegetable soup or mashed up with a little pickle, mayo and onion for a sandwich spread.  Or it can just be heated in the oven along with home canned potatoes and carrots for a quick meal.  The uses for home canned beef are limited only by one's imagination.

While the beef is processing, it is on to the carrots.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Comment on Comments

My last post brought several comments from readers.  I have been blessed with a readership who leave kind, encouraging and often funny comments.  I suppose that is due to the fact that I tend to shy away from political commentary, although I will confess to going on a bit of a rant now and then when I have read about something that is so incredibly stupid that I just have to write about it to keep my head from exploding.

This time the comments included some suggestions for future posts.  The suggestions were very good ones and I will be addressing those in posts just as soon as I deal with the canning and dehydrating coming up this week.  If you read my last post, you know that I have about 15 pounds of beef roast ordered.  Sometimes the grocery delivery service gets it right and sometimes...not so much.  Regardless, I know that Oldest Son is bringing me 25 pounds of beef either this evening or tomorrow.  As freezer space is minimal at best just now, I will be canning up the beef right away.

I also ordered 24 pounds of fresh carrots that are on sale at 99 cents per two pound package.  I have plenty of carrots canned, but need to add to my dehydrated stash, so that will also keep me busy for a day or so.  I thought that canning/dehydrating season was over for the year, but at the rate grocery prices are increasing, it seems foolish not to take advantage of good sales.

When I first started this blog in 2009, I was convinced that my only readers were maybe one or two of my kids.  And the grands who liked it when I wrote about them.   It still is amazing to me that others find my writings interesting.  I have been lucky in that the trolls have been very few.  For a time I was flooded with those badly worded comments telling me what a wonderful writer I am, that I have such an impressive blog with important information found nowhere else and always ended with an invitation to visit their website.  They didn't know who they were dealing with.  This granny didn't fall off the turnip truck just yesterday!  My "delete" button took care of the problem.

I appreciate very much all of you who take time to visit here and those who comment.  It is fun for me to see what you all have to say.  Thank you.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Brick Wall

Sometimes I hit a brick wall when it comes to finding interesting things to write about.  I look at all the other blogs I read...the ones who have homesteads and tell about all the things they are doing.  They are building greenhouses and outdoor kitchens and taking care of chickens and goats and pigs.  They have dogs and cats who do amusing things.  And then I look around at my three rooms and wonder what on earth can I find that is worth writing about.

And then after a lady I consider a blogging friend left a comment on another post, wondering if I was OK because I hadn't posted for a while, I got to thinking that I was just being silly.  I may not have the chickens or pets or outdoor kitchens, but I do more than just sit here and stare at the walls.  I once knew a woman a little older than me who spent her days in a recliner set three feet away from her TV.  Most  days she didn't bother to get dressed, but sat there in her robe and slippers - all day - every day.

Now I rather like my life that is pretty much free of drama.  A quiet life suits me.  But not that quiet!  The things that happen in my life may not be as exciting as the things that others write about, but I'll bet dollars to donuts (I wonder where that expression came from.) that there are others who have lifestyles like mine.  And just maybe they would like to know how someone in the same situation fills their days.  I know I have often wondered what the day to day lives of my grandmothers were like.  All I have to tell me are a very few letters written long ago.  At least when my grandchildren are old enough to wonder, they won't have to ask.

So with that in mind, I will tell you that evenings this week I have spent time crocheting granny squares for a rug to use in my bedroom.  I make granny squares because they are easy and require very little counting of stitches.  I have tried crocheting afghans or rugs that are made in rows, but I usually screw them up, either dropping stitches at the end of a row or winding up with too many stitches in a row.   When I make the squares to sew together, I can watch something interesting on YouTube at the same time.  This week it was episodes of Antiques Roadshow, United Kingdom version.  I love listening to the British talk.

This morning I got a phone call from Nicki, who is in Texas.  She is taking classes to become an Army Medic.  She told me all about what she is learning and about her schedule for completing the course.   What she wouldn't tell me is the date she will be home for Christmas.  She is planning to just walk in and surprise us, the stinker!  She is excited about her classes and very glad to be done with Basic.  She graduates from this training in March and then will find out where she will be stationed.  It was so good to hear her voice.

This afternoon Number One Son popped in, laptop in hand.  He can pick up WiFi in his apartment, but the signal is much stronger here, so he came to catch up on computer stuff.  I talked him into staying for supper of homemade chicken nuggets and squash.  It didn't take much persuasion on my part and I probably didn't need to use the bribe of a pan of brownies, but it was fun for me to make goodies for his lunch next week.

I made out my grocery order for next week.  The store has a sale on boneless beef roast, so I am ordering 15 lbs.  Son said he would stop at the store and get me another 25 lbs. of beef.  I know that $3.99 a lb. isn't cheap, but hamburger here is running about $5.00 a lb., so I decided to take advantage of the sale before the price went even higher.  I shop only the sales now, with just a few other items like milk and butter added.  I have reached my goal of having a years worth of food put back, and because I use from my pantry on a regular basis, I mostly just need to replace what I use from time to time.  That's a good feeling, knowing that my family will be able to eat when things get tough.

I am sort of wishing that the presidential election was to be held this month instead of a year from now.  Not that I think it will matter much who is elected, but that I am already tired of the posturing and the sniping at one another and the accompanying lies.  I am afraid that our country is already so far gone that it will take a miracle to bring it back where it needs to be.  It would be nice, though, if there were more emphasis on dealing with the problems we face and less on poll numbers.  Sigh.

Here in the North, fall is fading fast.  Temperatures are close to freezing at night - cool during daylight hours.  Not too long ago I heard a flock of geese, honking like mad, heading south.  The weather guessers here predict a cold, snowy winter, a warm winter, and all points in between.  Me... I don't care.  I can fort up and stay busy all winter if necessary.  Sounds like a plan.  :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Basic Training Graduation

Last week my granddaughter graduated from Army Basic Training.

Her mother, her mother's friend and her brother were able to spend Family Day with her and then attended the graduation ceremony.

Nicki with her brother, Chris.

Jim, my daughter Jeri and granddaughter Nicki

Nicki told me in her last letter that she was excited to get her dress uniform - mostly because she had worked so hard for the privilege of wearing it.  She left right away for Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where she begins her training as a Medic.

There will be more letters as soon as I have her new address.  Because I lead such a quiet life (read boring) I have been writing some about my family when I was growing up and about the lives of my parents when they were children.  She said she enjoys those stories and I am glad she does.  She is one more of that generation who will know who and where she came from.  I think it is important to pass on the family stories from one generation to the next.

Pictures are nice and I am glad to have them.  But what I am really looking forward to is a hug from my granddaughter when she is home for Christmas.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jar Count

Well, it is actually more of a freezer bag count.  The pumpkin and squash were baked in the oven until tender.  I put 3 cups of squash in each freezer bag and got 12 bags of squash deliciousness.  The baked pumpkin was a bit lumpy when scraped from the shells so I ran it through my blender to smooth it out, put 3 cups of pumpkin puree into each freezer bag and that yielded 9 bags.

I had three large bags of apples that looked, just by eyeballing them, to be at least one bushel.  Those I ran through my handy, dandy apple peeler, corer, slicer gadget, and filled quart sized bags as full as possible.  That yielded 17 1/2 bags of apples.

Now about the cranberries.  I have found, much to my chagrin, that I am not as young as I used to be.  Birthday Number 70 is on the horizon.  I realize that there are many folks of my vintage who just skip along like they were still 30.  I'm not one of 'em.  This past year has been a bit of a trial due to health issues, one of which kept me hospitalized for two weeks last winter.  Arthritis flare-ups have made it difficult to stay on my feet for prolonged periods of time.  Understand, this is not a major whine nor is it a bid for sympathy.  I have no time or patience for either.  It is just a statement of fact.  Those are the cards I was dealt.  Those are the cards I play.

So with that in mind, I had to admit to myself that 50 lbs. of cranberries were not going to be processed all at once.  These berries are just plain beautiful and I didn't want to lose any of them by having them sit too long before processing.  I still have a lot of cranberry sauce on my shelf so I plan to make juice from these.  Son and I can go through a lot of juice in a year.

I got out my recipe to see how many cranberries it takes for one batch of juice and then I bagged up the berries accordingly and froze them.  Making cranberry juice is time consuming, so this way I can make a couple of batches at a time which is much easier on my failing body than trying to process 50 lbs. all at once.  Here is the recipe I use:

Cranberry Juice

4 quarts (4 pounds) cranberries
3 to 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar  (I cut the amount of sugar per batch to 2 1/2 cups)

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 about 7 quarts.

I have enough cranberries frozen to make 13 batches of this recipe which should yield about 90 quarts.  I have other things that need my attention this week, so I will probably make a batch or two of juice every week, starting next week.  I have to say that once you have a glass of homemade cranberry juice, you will not want to drink the store-bought kind ever again.  :)

And with that, I believe canning season is about done.  Unless I find a really good sale on meat.  And even if I don't, my shelves (and a closet in Son's apartment) are full to overflowing.  It is such a good feeling to know that whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at us over the winter, be it blizzards or ice storms which are par for the course here in Minnesota, I have enough food on my shelves to feed Son and me and any other children or grandchildren who may need it.  I can rest easy until Spring, when the cycle will start anew.  Just as my parents and grandparents did it.  Just as it should be.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Think I'm Going to Be Busy

Just got a phone call from Number One Son.  He went to the Farmer's Market this morning.  He is on his way here with 50 lbs. of cranberries, a dozen butternut squash, a couple of pumpkins and apples - not sure how many.  I will resurface when all of it has been processed.  And if you don't hear from me in a few days, send in a search party.  Tell them to look under the mountain of produce.  :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Batter Bread

In the cooler months of the year I like to make my own bread.  Although I usually use my favorite tried and true recipe, sometimes I am busy with other things and kneading bread takes time.  When I found the recipe for a batter bread that requires no kneading, I decided to try it, for I thought it would be good for those busy days when I need to bake bread but am pressed for time.  I am pleased with the results.  It has a good flavor and is easy to mix up without the mess and time involved in kneading bread dough.  The recipe came from the Red Star Yeast website.

America's Favorite Batter Bread

3 cups water (120°-130°F)
2 TBSP vegetable oil or shortening
6 1/2 cups bread flour  (I used all-purpose flour)
1 TBSP salt
3 TBSP sugar
4 1/2 tsp (2 packets) Red Star Active Dry Yeast (any dry yeast will work)
Butter as desired

Traditional Baking Method
In large mixer bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water and shortening or oil to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 30 minutes.

Stir down batter with a spoon. Divide dough evenly between 2 greased bread pans.  Cover; let rise in warm place until batter reaches tops of pans, 20 to 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately; place on rack. Brush with butter; cool before cutting.

These loaves aren't as pretty as loaves from kneaded bread dough in that the tops are a bit lumpy looking rather than smooth.  But they came out of the oven a beautiful golden brown and smelled and tasted wonderful.  I have heard that there are people in some circles who will pay a lot of money for "rustic bread" from a specialty bakery, so we will just call these loaves "rustic."  :)

I haven't tried the next recipe that came from the same source, but as long as the loaves turned out so good, I thought these rolls would be worth a try.

Batterway White Rolls
This recipe makes 18 3-inch rolls

3 3/4 cups Bread Flour  (Can use all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 cup Shortening, soft
1 1/2 cups Water
4 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 Egg, room temperature

In large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. In saucepan, heat water and shortening until warm (120-130°F; shortening does not need to melt). Add to flour mixture. Add egg. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover; let rise warm place until double, about 30 minutes.

Stir down batter. Spoon into greased muffin pan cups. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 20-30 minutes. Bake at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans; brush with butter. Cool.

If anyone tries this roll recipe before I get around to it, please let me know what you think of them.  Most times I don't mind taking the time and effort to knead roll dough and shape it into buns, but I think this recipe might be a fairly quick and easy way to have fresh baked rolls for supper on a busy day.  Any day that I can have fresh baked bread for a meal is definitely a very good day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Bit of a Ramble

A couple of times every year I go through a period where I have to dig deep to find something to write about.  This is one of those times.  I suppose if I lived a life full of strife and drama, there would be all sorts of things to report, but that just isn't the case.  All of my kids and their spouses and a couple of grands are gainfully employed.  Nobody is sick.  Everyone is reasonably happy.  No drama there.  I like it that way.

Youngest daughter is on her way to Oklahoma.  My Granddaughter graduates from Army Basic Training on Friday with Thursday being Family Day.  We are missing Nicki so very much and at the same time are so very proud of her.  I have to sort of smile when reading her letters.  Each letter I receive shows me a more grown-up person than the one I saw before she left home.  After graduation she goes to Texas where she will begin her training as a Medic.  I told her Mom to give Nicki a huge hug for me and I wanted pictures.  Lots of pictures!

This past weekend didn't work out for another Farmer's Market run, but Son says he plans to go early Saturday morning for cranberries, squash, pumpkins and whatever else he can find that I can make use of.  I wouldn't mind getting more apples for canning apple slices.  A couple of years ago I canned some apple pie filling but was not overjoyed with the results.  I do like having pints of apple slices on the shelf and I wouldn't mind having some in the freezer as well.  We shall see what he can find.

I am enjoying the cooler weather we are having here in Minnesota.  That means that I can bake without heating my apartment up to sauna conditions.  I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies Monday.  One bag of them disappeared.  I think they walked down the hall and into Son's apartment.  :)  I am experimenting with a no-knead bread recipe and two loaves are rising in the kitchen.  If I like them I'll post the recipe.  I just love homemade bread.

I was needing a rug for my living room.  The carpet is old and getting sort of shabby looking.  It is a huge hassle to move everything in order to install new carpet, especially when living in a small apartment with no real place to set the furniture for the installation, so an area rug seemed to be the answer.  However, area rugs are spendy.

Now I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression.  They lived by the words, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."  They passed that idea of frugal living on to me.  So rather than go out and spend a bucket of money just for a rug, I started looking around me to see what alternatives I could find.  My gaze landed on an afghan I had made a couple of years ago.  It is large and its only purpose was to look pretty draped over the back of a small bench at the foot of my bed.  I had never used it for anything else.  So on the floor it went.

I have to admit that it is a bit unusual, but it serves a purpose and I rather like the result.  I think I have enough leftover yarn to make a couple more smaller rugs for my bedroom.  Like I have said before, my apartment will never grace the pages of "House Beautiful," but I like it and I guess that is all that matters.

I think the bread is ready for the oven and I am done rambling.  I suppose I may have something a bit more exciting to write about later on, but I doubt it.  When it comes right down to it, I will take my quiet, boring life over those whose lives are knee deep in drama, any old day of the week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's Hot Chocolate Time!

Here in southern Minnesota the leaves are starting to turn color.  The nights are sliding closer to freezing temperatures and the days rarely are above 60 degrees.   One of these days I will glance out my window and see those flakes of white in the air.  It is time to make hot chocolate mix.

Every fall I make a large container of cocoa mix.  Other years I have used this recipe:

Malted Hot Cocoa Mix

1 (25.6 ounce) box nonfat dry milk powder
1 (16 ounce) container instant chocolate milk mix
1 (13 ounce) jar malted milk powder
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 (6 ounce) jar powdered nondairy creamer
1/2 teaspoon salt

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until well blended. Store in an airtight container. Keep in a cool place.
To serve: In mug, pour 6 ounces of hot water over 1/3 cup cocoa mix, and stir until well blended.

Although this makes a delicious cup of hot chocolate, I am thinking a bit differently about the ingredients I use.  Other years I have bought Nestle's Quick and powdered sugar and malt powder just for this purpose.  But I feel the need to be a bit more frugal.  Grocery prices across the board have increased substantially over the last year.  I can find other uses for my money than to buy fairly expensive ingredients.  So I tried this recipe using mostly what I already have on hand:

Cocoa Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup non dairy creamer
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together well and store in an airtight container.
To make a cup: put 3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix into a mug and add 1 cup of hot water. Stir to mix well.

This made a small amount for taste testing purposes.  It is good.  It tastes more like the cocoa we made when we were young before microwaves and packets of Swiss Miss - the kind where we heated the milk in a pan on the stove and added sugar and cocoa powder.  The only thing I don't normally keep on hand is the non dairy creamer.  You can't leave that out.  The recipe won't work without it.  But better to buy just one ingredient than several.  I will add Creamora to my food storage list.

I, along with many others, live on a fixed income.  If I can save a dollar here and there, so much the better.  Comfort foods are an important part of food storage.  They help keep up morale during hard times.  And hot chocolate is one of those things that make me smile, especially when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling and I am watching it, cup of cocoa in hand, from my rocking chair by my living room window.  Which, in my opinion, is the best way to experience winter.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coffee Delivery Service

It is funny how things work.   I have lived alone for over eight years now, so when Son needed a place to stay, it took some getting used to, having another person living here.  And now that he has moved out, it takes some getting used to again.  I have to admit, he spoils me some.  Little things, like making a pot of coffee for me before he left for work at dark-thirty in the morning.  I had teased him that because he was moving to the apartment next door, there was no reason he couldn't continue that practice.

I have railroad tracks running a block away from my apartment.  I can sleep right through the noise of a train whistle as it crosses that street intersection.  No problem.  But there are some noises that will awaken me from a sound sleep.  Years ago, when I lived close to my parents and when my mother was so very ill and her health was precarious at best, it was not unusual for me to get a phone call from my Dad in the middle of the night asking me to come to the hospital where she had been admitted for one complication or another relating to her rheumatoid arthritis, including several bouts of pneumonia.  Since that time I am wide awake at the first sound of the phone ringing.  Another sound that will wake me up is the sound of a key turning in the lock of my door.  And that is what I heard early this morning.

When Son came into my kitchen, a fresh cup of coffee for me in hand.

And about a half hour later, when he brought his coffee pot to refill my cup.

I love his sense of humor!

There has been nothing very exciting going on here in my little corner of the world.  I am still working on getting my apartment reorganized since Son's move.  He has taken several cases of my home canned food over to his place, and that has helped free up space for the ham, tomatoes and ham & bean soup I recently canned and which had been stacked in my kitchen for lack of room to put it away.  I thought I was about finished with canning season for this year, but I think there will be one more Farmer's Market run this coming weekend for cranberries and more butternut squash and maybe some pumpkins.  I like having cranberry juice on hand and the homemade juice is so much better tasting than anything I can buy premade.

I think I will take time to make a couple of loaves of banana bread this afternoon.  I will keep one loaf and share the other with Son for his lunches this week.  It is always more fun to be able to share.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I am not sure just how many apples I had for I didn't measure them, but I know it was well over a bushel.  I used my handy, dandy gadget that peels, cores and slices to prepare the apples, and then cooked them down for applesauce.  I found that after the apples were cooled, my blender worked well for getting rid of the chunks.  I have one of those food mills with the wooden piece used to squash the food out through the little holes in the metal cone-shaped piece, but I was getting tired and just wanted to finish.  I'm glad the blender worked so well for that purpose.

I saved enough slices out for a pan of apple crisp and canned the rest.  I wound up with 40 half pints and 18 pints of applesauce.  I added no sugar this time.  The apples were fairly sweet and both son and I need to watch our sugar intake.  If I want a little sweetness I can always sprinkle on a bit of brown sugar and maybe cinnamon for change of pace taste.  I may get more apples later to freeze for pies and crisps, but for now, I am pleased with the amount of applesauce I got from that batch of apples.

Posting will probably be light for a few days.  When Son came home I had rearranged things to accommodate his stuff and now I am busy putting things back the way they were.  When you are old and slow, everything takes time.  :)  I'm  still planning on getting cranberries at the Farmer's Market to make into juice, but think I will hold off until my house is back in order again.  It seems easier to do projects when you start out neat and orderly.  And considering how this morning my kitchen looked like an apple orchard had exploded in there, I still have a ways to go before I see neat and orderly again!