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!