Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Know what I'm doing today?


Perhaps by tomorrow I will find some energy somewhere.  But just for today, I am living in the world of the lazy.

It's Great!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Done...For Now

Finished up with the strawberries this afternoon.  Once they were cleaned and put into zip lock bags, there were 5 gallons of berries.  Son had taken some home with him and I ate a couple of bowls full before bagging them to store in the fridge.  Out of that 5 gallons I got 20 half pint jars of strawberry jam, 22 half pints of strawberry rhubarb sauce and 11 pints of canned strawberries.  I'm thinking they will taste awfully good when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing about February.

So I am done canning and dehydrating for now...unless I find a good sale on something to can or dry.  Peak season on cucumbers, bell peppers and tomatoes at the Farmers Market is in August.  I think there are some dill pickles in my future as well as a good stash of my favorite bread and butters.  Many times we think only about storing the basics - sugar, flour, beans, etc.  But I believe it is also necessary to have on hand those things like jam or pickles or even candy to keep from getting totally burned out on food should the time come when our only option is what we have in our food storage.  A little treat goes long way to help make life tolerable sometimes.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Tis the Season...

for canning.  I finished canning the meat from my last grocery order.  Wound up with 19 pints of hamburger, 12 pints of chicken and 6 pints of pork.  I was disappointed in the  quality of the boneless country ribs.  There was way too much fat on them, unlike others I had ordered in the past.  That's the down side of ordering groceries.  Sometimes the quality is less than you would like.  Anyway, I decided to bake the pork and shred it when done.  The fat was easier to remove this way.  Then I stirred in some barbecue sauce and canned it as barbecued pork for sandwiches.  I would rather have worked on the canning when our temperatures weren't in the 90's, but I just don't think, considering our uncertain world, that waiting is an option.

A dozen bell peppers and 20 lbs. of carrots made their way through the dehydrators and are packaged up and on the shelves.

Oldest Son did a Farmer's Market run this morning and showed up with two and a half flats of strawberries and some rhubarb that will turn into strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb sauce and strawberries in syrup.

There are several Farmer's Markets in our area, but the one we like is in St. Paul.  They have a website that includes a list of the produce and dates when it is available, so we are checking that weekly to make sure we are able to get what we need.  By the end of the season I hope to have everything I need canned, dried and on the shelves.

I haven't had a chance to try out my washer and dryer as yet.  That will just have to wait until preserving the food I have here right now is completed.  It just seems to me that things are sliding downhill a bit faster now.  I am not in panic mode, but I do think it would be foolish let an opportunity go by to add to my food storage.

So I am off to the kitchen to hull some strawberries in preparation for another canning session tomorrow morning.  I think I will take my laptop with me and listen to an audio book while working.  Cleaning berries and a good murder mystery.  What a combination!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Doing The Happy Dance

Anyone who reads here regularly knows that my mobility is not what it once was.  Stairs can be difficult at times.  Two flights of stairs to the laundry room in my building can be particularly challenging.  And because I prefer clean clothes rather than dirty ones, I decided some months back to do something about my laundry situation.

I did some online research and found there are apartment sized washers and dryers that do not require special plumbing or special electrical hook-ups.  I compared prices and found a decent price from a place that would also deliver.  It isn't easy to find a store that will deliver to a second floor apartment in a building without an elevator.  But I found one locally.

Then I started saving.  Every dollar I could squeeze out of the budget went in the washer-dryer fund.  It took some time, but I reached my goal.

Today these little beauties were delivered.

They are small, but once my laundry is caught up, I won't have much to wash each week.  The washer is on casters so I can roll it up to the kitchen sink to use it and roll it back out of the way when not in use.  The dryer has an additional kit that makes it possible to use it without having to vent it outside.

Oldest Son says he will help me get them all set up.  That won't be for a couple of days, however.  I have bell peppers in the dehydrator now and have 20 lbs. of carrots to get to drying tomorrow morning.  There is also chicken, pork and hamburger to can.  My freezer is full, so the canning needs to be done right away.

Nonetheless, I am giddy with excitement.  These new appliances not only will make life easier for me, but they represent just one more thing that will enable me to hang on to my independence a bit longer.  I know that if I asked, my kids would do my laundry for me.  But I am so much happier when I can do things for myself.

I'm kind of stubborn that way.  Or so I have been told.  :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

So last evening...

the fellow who calls me for my grocery order was telling me about some changes in the way their organization does things.  Instead of the order takers having to sift through the entire inventory of the big box store to find one item, they are issuing a catalog listing the products available for ordering.  While that may limit some of my selections, it will make it easier and faster to place an order.  I am not concerned.  Oldest Son calls me maybe once a week while on his way home from work to see if I need anything, so if I can't order something I want, I'm pretty certain he will pick up anything I need.

Normally I place a grocery order every two weeks, but what with getting the order taker's computers changed over to the new catalog program and getting a new delivery schedule set up, it will be one month before I order groceries again.   Chuck (my order taker) wanted to know if the delay would be a problem for me, and then he started to laugh.  When I asked him what was so funny, he replied that he had been taking my grocery orders for quite some time now and he knew my grocery buying habits.  He said he was pretty sure that my pantry was well stocked enough to see me through longer than just a month.  He told me that he had changed the way he and his wife shop largely because of our conversations about the way I shop for groceries.  It is gratifying to know that there are still folks out there who can see the benefits of a deep pantry.

The new schedule will give me a new order taker.  I am going to miss talking with Chuck every other Monday evening.  I know the sound of his wife's voice from hearing her in the background.  I know that his little dog waits until he is on the phone before barking at squirrels outside their window.  He has asked me how to can hamburger and I now have his recipe for sour dough starter.  He left messages of concern when I didn't answer my phone while I was in the hospital.  I worried about him when I found out he had a broken hip after a fall on the ice.

It is reassuring to know there are still good people out there in the midst of all the hate and discontent and insanity surrounding us.  It is possible to develop friendships with folks you haven't met in person.

Kind of like those I have met right here on this silly little blog.

I Murdered My Herbs

I had planted herb seeds in starter pots.  They all came up.  Looked so pretty and green.  When they were big enough I transplanted them into larger pots and set them on my window sills.  At which point most of them just laid down and died.

I can grow just about anything in a garden.  But I'll be darned if I can keep a plant alive indoors.  I baby them.  I am careful not to over water them or under water them.  I even talk to them.  Tell them how pretty they are.  Doesn't matter.  They just won't grow for me.

There are a few stragglers left and they look pretty sad.  So I'm going to give it one more try and plant the rest of my seeds directly in the larger pots.  And if that doesn't work I will just pack up the whole kit and kaboodle until next spring when I will buy starter plants.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

He Was My Dad

He taught me how to change a tire and jump start a battery.  He showed me the proper way to paint a house.  He shared with me his love of gardening and of all growing things.  He made sure I knew how to safely handle firearms.  When using tools like a hammer or saw, he would hand the tool to me and say, "Here, you try it."

By example he showed me what honesty and integrity was all about.  His work ethic was second to none.  His handshake was as good as any written contract.

He wasn't perfect.  None of us are.  He told the dumbest jokes on the planet, the kind that make you groan.  He held opinions that were not even close to being politically correct.  But he loved me unconditionally no matter what stupid thing I did.   And I knew I could always go home.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.  I love and miss you so very much.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

All is well...

here in my little Home Sweet Apartment.  The weather has been a bit unsettled with days of sunshine and rain now and then.  There have been pockets of stormy weather, but so far they have fizzled out before getting to my town, or they have veered off and gone around us.  It is kind of sunny - hazy today with the temp hovering around the 90 degree mark.  Tomorrow should be interesting with temps predicted in the 95 to 100 degree range, followed by storms.  Even though I have good air conditioning in my building, I won't be doing anything too strenuous.

I am finished with the dehydrating of vegetables from my last grocery delivery.  Everything turned out just fine, but I wasn't thrilled with the dried grapes.  They were kind of a sticky mess.  Others have had good results with drying grapes, but I don't think I will mess with it again.  While sorting out my closet pantry I found 10 of the large cans of diced tomatoes (not the # 10 cans, but the ones that are bigger than a regular can).  Because storage space is at a premium I drained the tomatoes and dehydrated them.  They dried down to fit in a quart sized freezer bag.  Draining them gave me three quarts of tomato juice.  I am drinking one of them and froze the other two to use in soup.

I was thinking about using the four large drawers in the base of my new bed for fabric and yarn storage.  But while going through my pantry I realized that boxed mixes I have bought on sale were taking up room that could be better used for other things.  And yes, I buy mixes from time to time when the prices are really good.  I have cake and brownie mixes, scalloped potato mixes and (God forgive me) hamburger helper mixes.  There are also flavored rice sides and muffin mixes.  I know all the reasons for avoiding boxed mixes and for cooking from scratch.  And most times I do.  But sometimes, especially when the aging process has thrown me a curve and made it difficult to stand for long periods of time while cooking and baking, a mix that I can just stir together and pop into the oven just makes life a little easier.

So I opened all of the boxed mixes, stapled the sauce mix bag, included with some like the scalloped potatoes, to the main ingredient bag, cut the instructions from each box and stapled that on as well, and packed them into gallon zip lock bags.  I wound up with two of the drawers full, freeing up pantry space and leaving me two more drawers to fill.  I was surprised at how much space those original cardboard boxes took up when stacked in the pantry.

I spent some time making out my grocery order that will be delivered Wednesday.  My store has carrots on sale for 99 cents per 2 lb. bag, so I am ordering 20 lbs. to dehydrate.  They have boneless country style ribs on sale in the family pack size, so I have 4 of those coming, which I think I will can in large pieces using quart jars.  They can be used like a pork roast or maybe with barbecue sauce along with a vegetable and cornbread for a meal for two or three people.  Hamburger is on sale and while it isn't much of a sale, it is still a savings of a dollar a pound over the regular price, so I will can the 18 pounds ordered.  Whole chickens are going for 99 cents a pound so I am getting four.  I have one whole chicken left in the freezer and I think I will toss it into the crock pot tomorrow.  I really won't want to run my oven when it is so hot out.

I have been trying to get caught up with the odds and ends here.  Oldest Son is making noises about a Farmer's Market run soon.  I checked out their website and they have strawberries now.  I need to make some jam and I would like to can some in syrup to use as ice cream topping or for things like strawberry shortcake in the winter months when fresh strawberries are really spendy.

I'm thinking that retirement for me has nothing to do with sandy beaches and drinks with little umbrellas in them.  I guess I would rather spend my time making sure my family is fed.  And considering the insanity of the world around me, that seems to be a pretty good choice.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

I don't have words...

to adequately convey the horror of Orlando.  Or my total disgust of the politicians who are climbing over the bodies of the dead and wounded to push their agendas.  

These folks express those thoughts much better than me.

Please pray for the families of the dead and for the families waiting for word on their loved ones in hospitals.  And for us.  We need all the help we can get, not only in dealing with terrorists, but in dealing with a government hell bent on making it more  difficult to defend our homes, our families, our lives.

Smoked Fish

Years ago I had a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota. About two-thirds of the way was the small town of Motley. Motley was the home of Morey's Fish Company. Morey's specialty is smoked fish. Usually when we would head for the cabin with the kids, we would stop at Morey's for some smoked whitefish, which is a particular favorite treat for me. I can buy Morey's smoked fish in my local grocery, but it just isn't the same as a smoked whitefish direct from Morey's, wrapped in white butcher paper. Morey's has grown from its humble beginnings in 1934 to a major seafood plant today. The quality of their products remain the best ever and the fish tastes just as good as it did back in the early 1970's when we would buy some on our way to the lake.

Photos from Morey's website.

This morning I woke to find that someone had sneaked a smoked whitefish, wrapped in white butcher paper, into my refrigerator. Half of it is already gone. It was really good for breakfast. I'm saving the rest for a treat this evening.

Oldest Son and his friend Lori had taken a road trip to Bemidji and stopped at Morey's on the way home. Knowing how much I dearly love smoked fish, they brought me one. Thanks so much. It was a really fun surprise and treat. :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It has been...

a busy day.  Groceries were delivered early this afternoon.  After putting away everything except the food I had ordered to be dehydrated, I filled 13 trays with cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) and got those to drying.  I still have maybe a half gallon of mix left to dry.

I had ordered red seedless grapes that were on sale to experiment with dehydrating them.  Some folks dry grapes to make their own raisins, but this doesn't appeal to me.  Maybe if I grew my own grapes it might be cost effective, but using grapes bought by the pound at the grocery makes for some expensive raisins.  I had seen a video about dehydrating grapes as a kind of snack food like other dried fruit, so I filled half of a tray with grapes, cut in half to speed up the drying process, as a test.  I'll let you know how they turn out.

The rest of the afternoon I washed and chopped and diced until the tomatoes and celery were ready to be dried as soon as the slaw mix is done.  Chopped onions can smell up the fridge even if stored in freezer bags, so they will wait until I am ready to dehydrate them.  Both dehydrators will be running until all of it is dried.  I was really lucky this week in that there were so many vegetables on sale that can be dehydrated.

Yesterday was a fun day for me.  It was my birthday.  I don't do birthday parties or celebrations for myself any more.  I figure that after 70 of them, I have done enough celebrating over the years.  So I spent the day just puttering about with a little reading and a little sewing and a little napping.  All my kids checked in with birthday wishes.  Late in the morning Oldest Son and his lovely friend had run a couple of errands for me and they stopped by afterward with a pretty card and a cake, which we shared.  Later Oldest Daughter and my Grandson surprised me with a couple of house plants in a cute tin container.  She knows that I tend to kill flowering house plants, so she chose plants that have a fighting chance of survival.  I will do my level best not to murder them.

Youngest Daughter had sent me birthday greetings earlier in the day, and early evening I answered the phone to hear a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" sung by Youngest Son and his offspring.  They were on their way home from Jacob's baseball game.  His team of 2nd grade aged kids had just won their third game in a row.  Woo Hoo - Go Jacob!  They said they had a Dairy Queen treat after the game, in my honor.  (That's an inside joke.  In this family most events, large or small or even made up, are celebrated with a treat at the local Dairy Queen.)

I had a nice surprise later in the evening when my sister called.  She sang "Happy Birthday" to me as well and afterward we both decided we had inherited our singing abilities from our Dad, who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket!  We got caught up on all the family doings and it was fun talking with her.

While talking to my Grands, one of them asked me how I liked being 70.  After thinking about it for a few seconds, I told her that I liked it.  Even though my body seems to be coming apart at the seams sometimes, for the most part I don't feel any different than I did 30 years ago.  Any day I wake up in the morning is a bonus.  Although there might be those who disagree, my mind still seems to be working fairly well.  I am not able to physically do some things I might like to do, but I can still do many things that make me happy and keep me busy.  I have family close by and that makes me happiest of all.  So all things considered, 70 is a pretty good thing to be.  :)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Spent the Day...

sorting out my dehydrated foods shelf and getting the stray bags into the proper boxes.  I have more than I thought of some foods and less than I thought of others.  And I need more boxes.  I am concentrating on dehydrating right now and leaving the canning for later when the Farmers Market is in full swing or if there is a really good sale on meat to use for soup to can.  I am pretty near capacity on home canned foods right now.

This is my week for grocery delivery, so I made out my order this afternoon.  The packaged cole slaw mix of green and red cabbage and shredded carrots is on sale at 10/$10, so I am ordering 10 bags.  Red seedless grapes are on sale and I am ordering enough to snack on as well as enough to experiment with dehydrating a tray or two of them.  I'm not drying them for raisins but more as a dried fruit snack.  I'm trying to get away from the Oreos and chocolate chip cookies (Not entirely, but cutting down on them.) and going more towards healthy snacks.

Roma tomatoes and onions are on sale too, so 10 lbs. of each are on the list, as well as 12 bunches of celery, all headed for the dehydrators.  Looks like I will have enough to keep both running for a few days.  Delivery day on Wednesday will be a busy one, I think.

Yesterday Youngest Son delivered my new bed.  His sister came with to help haul it in and he set it up for me.  He also had an early birthday surprise for me, which was a new comforter/sheet set for the bed, and a new pillow.  I had no bedding the right size for a single bed and thought I would have to order some, but bless his heart, now I don't need to.  So thank you, Son and family.  That was a really nice gift that is appreciated.  I tried out the bed last night and slept like a baby.  It is comfy and I like it.  Now I need to sort through my fabric stash and quilting supplies to fill the storage drawers in the base of the bed.  I think there will be room there for extra yarn, too.  I'm loving all this new storage space and it will make getting to my crafty materials a lot easier than digging through a closet for them, which is what I have been doing up until now.

Oldest Son came over earlier to help me change the bandages on my legs.  I was pleased to see that there is no sign of infection.  The weeks worth of antibiotics I took seem to have done the job.  I added more antibiotic salve and bandaged them one more time just to be sure.  I have all the patience in the world when a loved one is sick, but none when it is me who is ill.  Odd, that.

So I think I have done enough for one day.  Time for a little background music and another couple of chapters of my murder mystery book.  It has been a good day.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Down Time

The past few days have been spent napping and reading and grumbling to myself.  I have had the flu.  Not the influenza kind of flu, which is more a respiratory kind of thing, but the flu, which is what we call anything else that causes us to feel like crud.  The rumbly tummy, can't get warm even when wrapped in a large, green fuzzy blanket, no appetite - that kind of flu.

When forced to be still, my mind wanders.  Well, it wanders anyway, but more than usual in times like this.  At one point I was thinking about my childhood and comparing it to that of my youngest grands.  They are active children, but their activities seem to be more structured.  I wondered if they had ever played Anti-I-Over with the neighborhood kids, or Fox and Geese or Duck, Duck, Gray Duck or Simon Says or Hopscotch.  Or if they had even heard of those games that were so common to my generation.

I'm pretty sure that, after their chores were done, they haven't been turned loose on a summer morning to play with friends with instructions from Mother to be home in time for supper.  If we didn't show up for lunch, it was OK because sometimes another mother would provide a stack of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a jug of Kool Aid, and sometimes my mother would provide lunch for the neighbor kids and me.

When we were old enough for bikes, our horizons expanded.  We could ride to the local elementary school and play on the swings and slide and teeter-totters.  Or we could have bike races in the alley behind our houses.  Or we could ride about a mile or so to the woods where forts were built, cowboys fought the Indians and where Hide and Seek was much more fun than played indoors.

Lest you think we were just a bunch of rowdy kids, I am here to tell you that there were rules.  "Stay away from the railroad tracks.  That's where the bums hang out," or "Mrs. Jones says no more crab apple fights in her orchard.  She needs the rest of the apples for jelly," or "If you run through Mrs. Brown's garden again and trample her green beans, she will make you work all day, replanting and pulling weeds."  And she would.  With the blessings of our parents.

One evening while reading one of my favorite murder mysteries, I heard voices from the street below.  The bicycle shop beneath my apartment has set out a nice metal table with four chairs for the use of its patrons.  At night, in the warmer months of the year, the bar patrons from next door make use of them.  Most times I just tune out the voices unless the conversations are amusing to me.  But the conversation that evening caught my attention.  Every other sentence contained words that would have brought out a bar of Ivory Soap to be used by parents for washing out the mouth of the offending child.  I realized that the ongoing conversation below was not unusual, but was the norm.  Nobody was angry - nobody was fighting.  Nobody was slurring words as if too many beers had been consumed.  It was just a regular conversation between friends.  I am not so naive as to believe that my own children and grands never say these words, but they have enough class not to utter them within my hearing.  When did language like that become acceptable in public places.  I think it boils down to respect - for ones self and for others.  Respect seems to be in short supply these days.

I wonder how many of my vintage collected a weekly allowance.  Not I, she said.  If there was a toy or an article of clothing we just couldn't live without, we either pestered our parents until they gave in, or we saved for it, which was the usual procedure.  Pestering usually gained us time weeding the garden while pondering the error of our ways.  Sometimes grandparents or favorite aunt would put a dollar or two in a birthday card.  Once in a while a grandparent would sneak us a half dollar just for the fun of it.  Money could be earned by babysitting or mowing lawns or shoveling snow from sidewalks.  All of this hard earned cash was put into the Piggy Bank until enough had been saved to buy the object of our desires.  But an allowance for doing household chores?  Didn't happen.  We were told that we had a roof over our heads, food for our stomachs and clothes for our backs.  And as members of our family we were expected to pitch in and do our share.  But get paid for washing the supper dishes - nope.

Well, today I am feeling much better.  Dirty dishes that were neglected for a couple of days have been washed.  A couple of soft boiled eggs and toast have been consumed for breakfast.  The better part of a pot of coffee has been drunk.  There are just a couple of small chores that require my attention, but not enough to cause a relapse.  Kids have been checking up on Mom - some who live farther away, by phone.  Oldest Son, who lives next door, brought me my mail and hauled out the trash.  He thinks I don't know he shows up every other day or so to do these things so he can check up on me, but I have figured that out.

It is odd where a wandering mind can travel when the body is forced to spend time quietly.  I can only wonder what paths it will take the next time.