Thursday, November 9, 2017

Food Glorious Food

I’m sitting here at my computer occasionally glancing out the window at a morning that saw 26 degrees. Brrr. It got me to thinking about the end of the year, upcoming birthdays (all three of our sons were born at the end of the year), the holidays and food. Specifically all the good stuff everyone will  be making to celebrate all those things. It’s put me in a generous mood. Hang on a second while I run downstairs to get my recipes box, books and folders. I have some good ones for you.
Okay, I’m back. Here’s my first share. Excellent cheese ball and goes a long way. Super rich but oh, so yummy. Got it from a woman at church many years ago. She’s gone now, but her cheese ball lives on.


Holiday Cheese Ball

1 8 oz pkg. cream cheese (regular)
1 stick butter
2 tsp minced onion (dry or finely chopped fresh)
1/8 cup beer
½ tsp dry mustard
Crushed walnuts

Soften cream cheese (can be left out overnight) and also the butter. Mix well with onion, beer and dry mustard. Shape into ball. Will be messy. I would say roll it in the crushed walnuts (really crush those babies), but it’s easier to pat the walnuts onto the ball. Place on a pretty plate, covered, and keep in fridge until you need it. Serve with nice crackers.

This next recipe I’ve had for ages and probably got it from a now defunct magazine. It, too, is rich. Maybe if you feel your monetary riches are passing through your hands like craft sand from all the holiday shopping you have to do, you’ll enjoy one of these and have richness restored. Or something like that.

Chocolate Truffles

10 oz baking chocolate (semi-sweet, bittersweet, or milk) Melt in microwave.
4 Tbs. of heavy cream stirred into melted chocolate along with 6 Tbs. of butter
1 Tbs. of your favorite liqueur or extract

Chill mixture

Sift ¼ cup of cocoa powder onto waxed paper. Scoop chilled mixture out one teaspoon at a time and form into a ball (yup, messy. I use a melon baller). Roll in cocoa powder. Place on pretty holiday plate or store  covered in refrigerator until your adoring grandchildren pop through the door hankering for chocolate or  you need a quick sugar and caffeine jolt.  

I have one or two more that I’ll post a few weeks before Christmas. If you try these, let me know. And if one of those truffles restores your riches - really let me know!

The photo up there is of my crusty old recipe box. I’ll bet you have one, too. Am I right?




Monday, October 30, 2017

Staying in October


Tomorrow is Halloween. Once all the ghosties and gholies have come and gone there will be a non-stop roll towards Christmas with only a brief pause at Thanksgiving. This means that Fall, our romantic version of it, will fast fade as we dream instead of frosted window panes, winter moons, babies in mangers and jingling bells. But just for a moment I want to stay in autumn and I always turn to music to help me do that. Wanna come along?



Jo Stafford was a singer from the 1940’s and 50’s whose exceptional voice graced us with “Moonlight in Vermont” found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOJ5k6G8-pA
Her clarity of tone wrings every bit of emotion from lyrics that take us right out under that moon. Makes me want to hop in the car, drive east and stroll beneath trees shivering out of their red, orange and gold leaves. I’ll snug my warm sweater up under my chin and trace the lacy patterns of clouds drifting across the darkening sky. Thanks, Jo. 

Nat King Cole renders a poignant version of “The Autumn Leaves” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEMCeymW1Ow
His voice is one of those, that when it makes you sigh, that sighs says everything because words fail. What a gracious gifted man and singer we had in him. When he sings this romantic song everything about autumn, all that we love, comes and kisses us on the cheek. Roger Williams piano version is also beautiful, but it’s hard to beat Nat.

Barry Manilow gives us a bittersweet goodbye to October in “When October Goes” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPqNGzg4M8c  Oh, my goodness. I just love this song . So much so that I only listen to it a couple of times a year and only at the end of October. I never want it to seem tired or worn. I hate to see October go just as much as Barry does. That little ache in his voice says it all.

I know November has its own sort of loveliness and I’ll be all about the holidays in a week or two. But for today I’m still hanging around in autumn. I hope you get a chance to listen to these or whatever else might help you stay there for a while.


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 23, 2017

Some Stuff You Should Know

I am fascinated by the origins of words and phrases and also quirky facts about our world.  Today I thought I’d share some of my finds with you. I’ll bet you can’t wait. Here goes.

EVOO – Okay, that’s not exactly a word or phrase, but it’s an acronym put into the Oxford American College Dictionary in 2006 because of its frequent us by Food Network star, Rachel Ray. It stands for extra virgin olive oil. Yeah, no, don’t say E-voo like some arrogant cow trying to impress you with her foreign accent. You say each letter so it kind of sounds like one word. Just listen to Rachel.  

Nerd – This word was coined by Dr. Seuss when he gave the name to one of his oddball creatures way back in the day. They were all that way, with their unruly tufts of hair everywhere, don’t you think? Perhaps I’ll start making up a word here or there and see how many stick. My first attempt? Blurf. I’ll imagine what it means in a minute.

Enervated – Ha! This does NOT mean full of energy. It means drained of energy. Sure does sound like the opposite, though, right? Well, the next time you say it, drape your hand over your brow and hang onto the nearest chair or counter. Nothing like maximum drama to illustrate a word's true meaning. “I am enervated beyond belief by this pile of laundry.” Ask the arrogant cow if you might borrow her accent, too. As you glide to the floor you’ll impress everyone.

Jump on the bandwagon – In the late 18th and early 19th century horse drawn wagons, carrying a band (imagine that) were used by circuses, in parades and during political campaigns. And who wouldn’t love to be invited to “jump on” and join the fun? Every Tom Sawyer and Jane Finn out there, that’s who. Of course that meant you were all in for the clowns, drum majorettes, and the mayor. I once jumped on the “Spam for everyone!” bandwagon and have yet to live it down. Ugh.

Have a baby? Get a pet – This I read in a recent Reader’s Digest. Canadian researchers found that babies one to three months old living in homes with furry pets that carry high levels of (hang on while I type these loooong words) Oscillospira and /or Ruminococcus, gut microbes, have a lower risk of allergies and obesity. Hello, Fido! My father-in-law’s maxim of “You have to eat a pound of dirt before you die” kind of fits in with this study. In my mind anyway.

So, that’s probably enough continuing education for you right now. Go ahead and add to the list, though, if you’d like to and have time. I’m all ears.


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 16, 2017

Charlie, Ichabod and Wind

That song that’s not about Christmas will be creeping up on us soon. You know the one  “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . .” Maybe we associate it with the holidays because we all have favorite things that come to mind when a new season is upon us? Dunno. Anyway my favorite things list is long and seems to begin climbing the peak about now because summer has nearly completed her annual striptease and awaits the kiss of autumn – that naughty boy. She’s asked me to share some things on my list for October.

Ichabod and Charlie – I broke down and bought DVD’s of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. I’ve loved them both for many years. Charlie and I go way back. I was 16 when the Pumpkin debuted on television – yes, smarty pants -they had television back then. It was a greatly anticipated event and it didn’t disappoint. That pumpkin patch, mouthy Lucy, Snoopy with his WWI obsession. And, of course, the no show of the Great Pumpkin himself made this cartoon what it is today, a national treasure.

Ichabod and I go back even further than that. When I was in elementary school, living in Southern California, we only had one car. If Mom needed it for the day, she would drive Dad to work in the morning and sometimes one or more of us would go with her in the evening to pick him up. On the way we’d pass through a section of town we dubbed “spooky hollow” which amounted to a dip in the road and a clump of trees. It was all we had and our homage to the Disney special about Ichabod and his encounter with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. We loved plopping in front of the television to watch it every Halloween. Now I live in upstate New York where autumn is on full display every October and actually live in the Ichabod Crane School District. Huh.

Wind – My favorite kind of weather. Not of hurricane proportions, but the kind that almost makes you think God is speaking to you. Whirling around tree trunks and rattling our old shutters, it’s a reminder that another kind of weather is headed our way and why the heck don’t you have the storm windows up yet? We only have the two in the kitchen. I’ll get to them. Soon as God gives the word.

Sweaters – Early last week I pulled open the bottom drawer of the dresser in the spare room and there they were. I drew back the tissue paper I’d covered them with last spring and grinned. The teal blue one, the red one, the black one with tiny cardinals on the front. They spoke to me, “Hey, sister, time to think about getting us out of here. Did you hear that wind last night?” I took the teal one out and told the others to pipe down –for just a few more weeks.

From here I could rhapsodize about the big bags of Halloween candy on sale at CVS. Snack size Snickers, Almond Joy, Kit Kat's and hardly any calories if you only eat ONE. I could go on and on about the big pile of pie Wiapples in the bowl on the kitchen table or the whopping pan of lasagna I made for company the other day. The heat from the oven warmed the house nicely. It’s not quite time to crank up the furnace. I’ll save that for November.

Now – I’m guessing you have some things on your favorites list too. Brown paper packages tied up with string perhaps? We'd love to know. 


Image : Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 2, 2017

Oh, Masterpiece

Masterpiece Reviews

I’m a big fan of Masterpiece Theater. Especially the mysteries, but also some of the historical fiction. Here are my opinions on two of them.

Poldark – Ross Poldark is a scar faced (be still my heart) British soldier returned home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. He finds his fiancé, Elizabeth, engaged to his cousin, Francis, and his estate in ruins. And you think you have it rough. But, because he’s our hero, he forges on and eventually marries Demelza his servant girl. He’s remains besotted with Elizabeth, is determined to re-open an old mine on his property, becomes involved with smuggling and there are side plots, too. This all from the first season and it was just okay. Ross scowls a lot. A. Lot. Maybe that’s the reason for the “dark” after the “Pol”? I dunno. But he does even more of it in the second season where we’re bombarded for two hours with all the women’s problems. Such as jealously. Ross sneaked out and slept with Elizabeth in season one and – surprise! Demelza didn’t like it. She smacked him a good one upside the head to show him, too. And then the pregnancy. Whose baby did Elizabeth deliver – her husband’s – Ross’ mortal enemy - or does the wailing infant belong to Ross? And then there were war ships lost at sea with two of the other characters, the doctor’s wife and Elizabeth’s cousin, having husbands aboard. Oh, no! Are they alive or will Carolyn and Verity become widows – possibly on the same day! Oh, no! I’m sorry, this kind of stuff makes me glad I had my Kindle in hand and a Spider Solitaire game going. Yes, I could have changed the channel, but I just kept hoping it would get better. Like another mine explosion or Errol Flynn emerging from Sherwood Forest to capture Demelza's heart (so there, Ross!). Something. 

Grantchester – A little better. But this time there’s a brooding vicar and we’ve moved forward a century or two to 1953. The love of his life has also abandoned him to marry another, but at least Sydney Chambers and his police officer buddy, Geordie, have murder as a distraction. Grantchester is the name of this fictitious little town near Cambridge, England, and it’s full of charming characters who have it in for each other. Really, what would Sydney do if he couldn’t help out here? Oh, yeah. He smokes and drinks and pines for Amanda, the heiress he can’t have and he occasionally gives a tortured sermon. But then someone is murdered. Whew! Let’s get to the meat of the show here and shove personal problems aside for a bit - please. But, all in all, once you get all the characters straight (which his new assistant isn’t – though he struggles with it), this one can be enjoyed. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out whodunit but I don’t glance at my Kindle nearly as often whilst I'm trying to figure it out.  

Maybe I’m past the age where I can appreciate yet another female giving birth for our viewing pleasure or men scowling and lusting or horse and rider dashing along seaside cliffs. Or perhaps it’s just that these two fall short of my expectations. I’m much more inclined to love Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or Downton Abbey. All of which were superbly done in my estimation. Thank you Masterpiece!
  

So, there ya go. Any thoughts? 

Image: Free Digital Photos




Monday, September 25, 2017

An Ode to the Season

I’m very much in the mood for autumn, but the weather isn’t cooperating. Gonna be almost 90 around here today. Good grief, it’s the end of September. Still, Old Man Winter is grinning broadly as he peeks around the corner while gazing at the blueprints for our first blizzard. So here’s a poem I wrote several years ago that speaks to that future date – looming large.





Autumn at the Gate

She came upon the garden late,
and lingered there beside the gate,
as fallen leaves went whirling round
with rustling crunch upon the ground.

The rising moon, the hissing breeze
had found the bare bones of the trees
and pressed upon her heart, at last,
that winter now would come on fast.

Mid wistful thoughts of summer days,
the lovely, golden autumn haze
seemed as a lover’s kiss, and then,
she left the gate for home again.


Have a hopeful week!




Image: Our tree by the barn

Monday, September 18, 2017

Where We Keep Things

A few weeks ago, after a soccer game, we issued an impromptu invitation to some friends to stop back at our house for pizza. Husband had been given a whole one after an event he’d helped with that morning. It was a cheese pizza and not his favorite thing so I understood why he said, “Want to come back and have supper with us?” This surprised me greatly and I immediately wondered if I’d scrubbed the toilet earlier. Ugh.

So we get home and I go to turn on the oven but first I have to take out the frying pans. “I hate for a big space like this to go to waste,” I said. “We keep our bread in the microwave, too.” These two comments were said by way of explanation. I don’t know why I do that. Explain how we live. And then I thought of all the places we humans keep stuff.

Like my friend, Marie. “Oh, it’s in Mary’s closet,” she said, speaking of some random object. “That’s where we keep all the stuff we don’t have any other place for.”

Whoa. She’d just tapped into something universal. We all need places for our random stuff. Right? There are little spaces – like my shopping bud Karen’s purse – her home away from home. Everything you could ever want on a shopping trip is in that cross body bag. And it’s tiny! Four by six inches or something. No quarter inch goes unused. Tissues, aspirin, Band-Aids, safety pins, 30% off coupons and on and on. I highly suspect she's got a whole coat in there, too. Amazing.

Then there are bigger places like my closet. It’s my very own, no husbands allowed. All my old handbags, shoes, totes, a box of decaying birthday cards, the architectural plans for a house we’ll never build, large plastic bags from shopping trips that will be just what I need some day, oh – and clothes. Lots of them. My mother-in-law’s mink stole that’s at least 75 years old. In perfect condition. No one will ever wear it. But it’s in the closet where I keep stuff.

John’s Red Barn. The biggest place of all. I don’t go in there. It’s the man’s keeping place. You would die of boredom if I completed the list. An old Mustang carcass – the car not the horse. Ancient tools, washed out tuna cans filled with screws, spider webs, woodchuck hideout. Ratty oil rags, cardboard boxes, scary things in the old goat stall that have been there for over 35 years. His place for his stuff and I’ve come to terms with it. Really. No – my eye is NOT twitching.

In my head I’ve designed the best keeping place ever, though. At the top of the mattress there will be a compartment, zippered, and just big enough to hide six gold bars. They’ll be right under your head while you sleep and the robbers will have to get past you and your pet python to get to them. If you only have a couple of bars, that’s okay. You can make some fake ones with cardboard and glitter to fill up the space. By the time the robbers figure out which is which you and the python with be on them.

So – where do you keep things? I want to know your weirdest places. And I won’t tell anyone, even the python. She and I will be too busy enjoying our profits from skyrocketing mattress sales to bother with you. I’m just curious, that’s all.

PS: What do you think we should charge for the mattress and would it be a good marketing ploy to include a couple of fake gold bars?  


Image: Free Digital Images 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Havens

Yesterday, in a sermon, I heard of a young man who sought companionship and a sense of place among his peers in a youth group. He had all the classic symptoms of a child growing up in a broken home. Drugs caused his mother’s death and his father had been one of her “clients”. The boy is now battling his own addictions and in the hospital wondering “if anyone loves him” according to pastor’s story. That boy needs a haven.

It’s only one letter away from Heaven – leave out the “e”. I’m not talking about safe spaces filled with teddy bears and shared outrage at the unfairness of the world or the wrong headedness of someone else’s stance. No, I’m talking about something more lasting.

We all exude in our personalities characteristics that make us a haven for those who know us and/or love us. It’s a smile, an arm around the shoulder and warm bread from the oven. You know people like that. It makes your heart happy when you’re in their presence. How do we get to be like that? I’ve thought of a few ways.  

Be choosy. About your words. I was recently called a bigot by someone I love very much. She’s young and just beginning her journey into the marketplace of ideas. I cannot even remember what we were discussing, but I knew my response to that charge would affect her. I simply sighed. No counter blows, no huffing and puffing and no yelling. I was tempted to tell her what the word she flung so easily at me meant. In my very old dictionary the first definition is, from the French, “mustachioed man”. Which I am not. But I hope the haven of my sigh will allow her to know that a few quickly flung words will be excused by the love we have for each other.

Pick a room. When I was a teenager that room was Mom’s bedroom. I’d come home from school and find her reading, pillows propped behind her, coffee cup on the side table. She always seemed happy to see me. I’d plop down and ask what she was reading. She’d tell me and explain the plot. I’d tell her about some good or bad thing that had happened that day or ask what was for supper. A brief, peaceful interlude that signaled all was well as evening approached.

My children and grandchildren love the haven of my kitchen. Hot coffee or a Capri Sun and something to go with it. Zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies or a necessary conversation. Temporary respite. That room can be anywhere – even leaning on a counter at work comforting a co-worker. Two chairs next to each other at a dinner party. Anywhere. The more of a haven you are the more the comfort of your presence will be sought.

That boy who needs a haven? He might be next to you in line at the grocery store. Smile at him. That lonely old woman in the bed next to your sister’s at the hospital – ask if she’d like you to read to her. The grandchild who’s wailing over a lost love? Let them cry. Make them laugh. Excuse the foul language – just this once.

Be a haven. Be love. Bear the burden. It’s the Lord’s work and the world needs more of it. God bless you.


Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Lovely Interlude of September

Somehow, when September comes, it seems as though another season is upon us. But not yet. Leaves are still green, flowers still bloom and tomatoes are plentiful on garden vines.  Oh, there may be a stray breeze or two that hints at the cold to come, but for a few weeks it’s still summer.

Over the weekend I cleaned up the county fair. Not the one with the Ferris wheel and pink and blue cotton candy found over in the next town. No, I’m referring to the one the  granddaughters and I made in the living room last week. What fun we had thinking up exciting things to do!

Sierra made a bowling game. We cut up a wrapping paper tube into sections which she colored and set on a piece of stiff foam for the "alley". We found a Wiffle ball to roll against them. Melodi made a pitch and toss out of a sizable piece of cardboard. We cut a big hole out of the middle and she used a black marker to make sure everyone knew it would cost two bucks to toss three tennis balls into it. We draped a sheet over the closet door for a photo booth and made fresh popcorn to sell from red and white striped cartons. All the stuffed animals in the house were used for prizes. It was quite the project. Their dad came later and was the major attendee. He made a big deal out of each game. Bless him.

School starts today and nerves are tight. Lunches and water bottles are stuffed into backpacks. Buses zip by on all the side roads. Classrooms full of crayons, colored paper and A B C’s strung in colorful array around blackboards bring back school days memories to we who have been there and done that. Books are piled on shelves waiting to be cracked open and teachers take attendance. Every kid has chosen clothing, sandwich and attitude carefully. It will take a week or so for the nerves to calm.

I’m reluctant to put summer away. But that breeze, the one bringing winter, blows. It makes me turn my head skyward knowing the leaves only have a tenuous hold on the branches that soon will release them. The oranges, reds and golds will begin to dance around my feet and it won’t be long before pumpkins will grin from fences and porches around town. Halloween cards are already in the stores. Turkeys, warm sweaters and snowmen are peeking at us, too. Time won’t stop marching.  

But it’s still summer. I think I’ll take a short trip back to June and work my way forward through all the wondrous memories I’ve collected since then. That’s what memories and the lovely interlude of September are for. Don’t you think?


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, August 28, 2017

Just Try One


I was telling a friend recently how my late mother-in-law refused to eat squash. Why? Because she’d tried it once and found it repulsive? No. Because she didn’t like the name. “Squash” she’d say in a disgusted tone as though no one with any kind of decent upbringing would consider it either. Almost like she’d have joined with anti-squash tyrants to storm the streets if only someone would volunteer to organize it all. This  got me to thinking and you  know what that means.

Here are 5 things I suggest you try. I’d say “before you die” but every minute you stay breathing is before you die so I’m not going to say a dumb thing like that.

Anyway.

Peking Duck – Yeah, it was right there on the menu last Tuesday when you were out to dinner but you passed it up, didn’t you? Poor duck. All tiny and crispy and loaded with fat. Sauced up, too. Deep down inside something said "Try Me", but you wimped out. Again. This meant that Dutchie the dumpster diving rat and his brother, Ralph, always at the ready, got to gobble it down out behind Louie’s New #1 Asian Delight Cafe later that night. Why should that happen? Try the Peking Duck next time. One time – that’s all I’m saying.

Pennies – Try saving one a day for a whole week. Okay, that only adds up to seven cents by next Monday. I know, not much. BUT now that you have that saving principle firmly embedded in your psyche you can move on to two pennies a day. By the end of the  year you’ll have almost eight dollars (I think) in pennies and you’ll be musing, “Well, how dumb was that? What the devil do I do with all these pennies?” But maybe you’ve got big plans for that money, what do I know? Start with one a day– that’s all I’m saying.

Dancing – Do it in the kitchen. Go find Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and let ‘er rip. Even if you’re still in your jammies, do it. So freeing. One caution, though. If there’s a blob of jelly somewhere on the floor, try to dance around it. Could be, if you got carried away with one of your signature moves, you might hit that jelly blob and find your feet going in a different direction than the rest of you. And if you’ve forgotten to wear your nifty little fallen-and-can’t-get-up necklace (now available in electric blue) it might not end well. When they find you two days later that jelly won’t be good to anybody – even Dutchie and Ralph. But do dance in the kitchen – that’s all I’m saying.

Listen – Now, I’m not suggesting that you try to become a better listener. No. That would be cruel. Because I already know you’re a good reader – you’ve come this far. Wait. That doesn’t make any sense. Okay, forget what I just said. Stop right now and listen. Is the television on? Is a bird singing? Is someone yelling “Wolf!” in a crowded theater? Just try listening. It will make you a much better reader – that’s all I’m saying. 

Grow Something – I sent a friend some basil seeds last spring and I think she planted them. She hasn’t told me whether the plants are overtaking the house, you know, like in “Little Shop of Horrors”? I hope not. But, if you don’t want to grow an herb or corn or rocket flowers, try skin tags. All you have to do to get a nice crop of these (most notably on your neck) is to keep breathing. It takes a while, but hang in there. Same goes for warts, liver spots and nose hairs. All I’m saying is Try growing something, anything.

So that’s what I’m thinking this morning. If one of these helps you become a better person, drop me a line. And Cindy, if you read this, do let me know about the basil. Okay? Speaking for my mother-in-law I know she’d want to know. She never would have tried it.


Image: Free Digital Photos


Monday, August 21, 2017

Spiders - Again

Over the weekend, while cleaning the living room, I found it necessary once again to do some spider eradication via my trusty vacuum. It made me think of this post and I thought you might like to re-visit it – you  know – in case you find yourself in similar straits one day this week. It will give you strength. 


Spiders Spiders Everywhere

Isn’t it amazing, amazing I tell you, how stealthy spiders are? And, gosh, the places they choose to live. For instance . . .

Yesterday was the day I decided to take down the sheers in the dining room for a wash. These are the new, on Sale at Penney’s, sheers I bought last year in anticipation of painting that room. That hasn’t happened yet but I put the sheers up anyway just to cheer myself. It’s been a while so down they come and I bundled them in my arms and even though they were slip-sliding away in every direction eventually I wrestled them all into the laundry room. Unbeknownst to me I had guests.

With water running into the machine, I poured in the detergent and began to load the first pair of sheers. As I reached down into the basket, which butts right up to the machine, I came up short. There on the white enamel surface, two inches from my nose, she sat. Or bounced. Danced maybe? Scared the poop right outta me. I popped up quicker than our grand dog when someone yells, “Squirrel!” with my hand over my heart. Where the devil had that come from???

Okay, this was no cute little, almost invisible, critter. Nope. Around here we call these Farm Spiders. About an inch long with soul piercing eyes. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t squish  the big ones. If I have my vacuum handy I often invite them to the party in my Sears 4 HP Arachnid 7, but yesterday I was without my handy spider sucker. Sooooo – I went for my spider rescue kit. Ha! Bet you didn’t know I had one. Okay, I made this thing myself. It’s a plastic cup and a recipe card I got from an author who sends recipes if you sign up for her newsletter. It’s made of nice stiff, glossy paper and this one was for crab dip, I think. Anyway, here’s what you do.

1.    Approach spider (I know)
2.    Slap the cup over her (be quick here, spiders are amazing leapers)
3.    Slide card under cup
4.    Hang there for a second and calm yourself
5.    Lift cup, card and spider TOGETHER and carry outside
6.    Release spider onto the ground, not into the air as this can go very wrong with the spider perhaps wanting revenge and jumping onto your leg when you remove the card. Guess how I know that?

I followed this procedure precisely and all was well. Until I found the second one. On the kitchen screen. That must have been the first one’s husband. Somewhat bigger and able to escape while I was dealing with his wife. I could almost hear him, “Don’t worry, Blanche, I’ll come for you!”  As he’s dodging my feet, looking for the tall grass. Coward. It was the cup for the mister, too.


Tune in around Christmas for more adventures in Spider Land. Can’t wait to dig into the plastic bins of ornaments. I’ll have my Arachnid 7 handy.    


Image: Spider and Web by Pansa             Free Digital Photos

Monday, August 14, 2017

Family, Swedes and Pounce!

Whew – what a month! I hope you’ve missed me. I didn’t even have time to announce a blog break. Summertime is like that. But here I am again and you’re  probably thinking I’m now going to assault you with “what I did on my summer vacation”. Right? Well – you nailed it. One assault coming up.

Ever driven in North Carolina or shot down a slalom ski run? Same thing. At least  that’s my take on the roads around Rumbling Bald Resort where this year's family reunion was held. Everywhere we went we encountered hairpin curves and sudden swings that made us wonder if we should have stuffed extra undies into the seat pocket. When you’re gasping and pop-eyed for most of the ride certain bodily functions can fail. I have great respect now for the NC hill country natives – those people are tough.

Among the more delightful aspects of the family reunion, however, were our visitors from abroad. Sweden to be exact. Six charming not-too-distant relatives flew over to join in the fun and festivities. They introduced us to myths and legends of the old country, prepared a sumptuous Swedish feast and delighted us by singing in unison their national anthem one sultry evening. Spoke perfect English, bestowed on us gifts, and got to know their American kin with good humor and affection. Doesn’t get much better.  

Pounce! Our family card game of note. But I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it. In our family it has a longstanding history of fearsome games that go far into the night and can be learned and perfected in just a few hands. Which is what it tests – that – and your eyes.  Those two, the hands and the eyes, must  be super coordinated to win. It’s like double solitaire on steroids. Two of our Swedes, Folke and Marit, picked it up in no time prompting Folke to exclaim after he was able to yell “Pounce!”   “I am so happy!” If you want to learn how to play let me know. But be warned – it IS addictive.

When the hiking, boating, after dinner sing along, massive doses of food (including a best  pie contest), swimming, goodbye hugs and frantic packing were over, it was time to head home. And what luck – hubby and I got to take two of the revelers with us. My sister Shari (whom you  have read here) and our granddaughter Elaina were hauled along on the Road Trip back to NY. And because we didn’t get enough of good eating at the resort, we indulged at Waffle House, Chick-fil- A, and Wendy’s on the way home. In Elaina’s exact words, “The best eating day ever!” Oh, to be a teen again. The drive took 14 hours and, in spite of two pounding rainstorms and some road rage, no homicides were committed or even thought of. I’m pretty sure anyway.

At home we found a rip in the garden fence through which one, or several, deer helped themselves to the lush buffet they apparently thought we’d left for them. Stupid, ding dang critters! Beans wiped out, pumpkin vines obliterated, nibbles and crunches on broccoli and squash plants. Grrr. It took lots of wine and blueberry pie to recover from the devastation, but we all soldiered on. Shari’s blueberry pie with a butter crust was beyond awesome (see photo above) and will now be the go to fruit pie recipe in this family. White wine, excellent cheese, good crackers and therapeutic story sharing  also helped in the healing process. And some local gift shopping aided mightily as well.

The next two weeks were packed with activity including three birthdays, lots of pizza, the arrival of #2 son and another granddaughter, Lillie, from Washington state, more Pounce!, more eating, two trips to Saratoga for the horse races, swimming at Kinderhook lake, an awesome production of The Wizard of Oz at the local children’s theater (granddaughter Anna performed) and on and on. It all culminated with a five granddaughter sleepover at Grandma’s  house on Sunday night and Swedish pancakes, made by Grandpa, on Sunday morning. Then, in a sudden rush they were off to the airport or being picked up by parents. We kissed them all goodbye, waved them down the walkway with tired smiles and misty eyes as our shoulders slumped. Then I got ready for church and went and sat in peace to thank God for my exciting, exhausting, sweet, dramatic and blessed life.

How’s  your summer going? 

Swedish pancakes - where'd they go?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What's on Your Window Sill?

There are twenty one windows in our old, old house and they all have wide sills. In some of the rooms that means, especially for dear husband, more shelf space. This is especially true of the one in the kitchen. That window is ten feet long with a truly admirable sill. The back door is right next to the window so naturally that sill is a great place to store anything the man may need on  his way out. Or in. Like flashlights, two of them, keys, notes to self, his staple gun and once in a while a wrench.  

The kitchen counter where I prepare yummy good stuff to eat faces that window. It looks out on our couple of acres and smack in the middle of that sill is a cute little jam pot I picked up at a tag sale. It takes up about four inches of sill space. That’s my share. On occasion this poor little pot will shout at me that the flashlights are acting up again or the keys are winking at her. I pick her up, wash her face and tell her it will be alright. I promise to talk to the man and he’ll tell everyone to behave. So peace descends until the next dust up.

Then there are the sills that get drenched in a sudden thunderstorm. You should hear them scream. It's just water. Bunch of wimps. But I quick grab a towel to dry them off as I drag the windows down. I’m aghast at all the dirt that comes away on that towel. Sometimes there’s a dead ladybug, little feet up, or the dried corpse of a stink bug that must be dealt with, too. Ugh. I apologize to the sills and they seem content to have been attended to at last.

It’s summer so three portable air conditioners sit on three sills in three rooms. Hubby packs all around the units with rescued pieces of wood and old packing foam. Adds a nice third world touch to the décor of those rooms and I’m thinking of doing a photo essay that Better Homes and Gardens will surely snap up. Surely.

I was in a friend’s kitchen over the weekend and noticed her sill as I helped clean up the kitchen after a small birthday celebration. Oh, my. All kinds of cool stuff sat there. Tiny potted plants, a ceramic figurine, something that looked like a pin cushion. I mentioned my kitchen window sill and she steered my attention to the end of a counter where her own dear husband  “stores” all the things he’ll need for the day. She let out a sigh and I smiled empathetically. No further discussion was necessary.


Windows are awesome things. They let in light to brighten our days and help provide a steady income stream for Windex. Whoever invented them should get a federal commendation and an excellent health care plan. But the genius who thought up the sill? Those things could really mess up your home life so the jury’s still out on that one. 


Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Love That Sugar!


Two little girls and a trip to the store. What could be  more fun? The discussion was candy. My two young charges were all excited about the dollar I’d just given each of them. They perused the candy offerings at the local Dollar General and both decided on Mentos. One got strawberry and one got mixed fruit. A whole roll each for sixty five cents.

We didn’t have Mentos when I was a kid, but watching their pleasure as they each paid for their sugary treat brought to mind the candies of my youth. You knew that would happen, didn’t you? See if you remember any of these.

Candy Buttons – These came on a long sheet and were just that.Tiny colored buttons of candy on white paper. Probably our mother made us tear the sheet apart so we could each have a section of “buttons”. It didn’t occur to us dumb kids that they were all the same flavor. It was the color we wanted and often battled over. Then the dilemma of whether to pick or bite them off. That paper could get pretty slobbered up by the time all the buttons were gone if you chose the latter. I was a picker.

Jaw Breakers – Oh, yeah. Your jaw was in real jeopardy if you didn’t take your time with these little cement sugar bombs. You had to suck through the colored outer coating to get the whole deal going. Once that was done the real work began. How many times did you pull it out of your mouth to see how far you had to go to get to the point where you could clamp down and NOT break your jaw? I don’t know if they still make them this way, but in the center, and what they built the jawbreaker around, was a mustard seed. Anybody remember that?

Wax Candy – I loved them all. The lips, the mustaches, the little bottles with a pin dot of colored syrup in them. But my favorite was the orange wax harmonica kind of thing that really played music. Your lips got all sweet as you blew and the music, played badly by all of us, hardly had a chance after you took the first chomp of that wax. When you’d chewed all the sugar out of it you had a ball of flavorless wax to throw at your sister. Music, a sugar high and a cool saliva laced weapon. A three pronged wonder. It just didn't get any better. 

Big Hunk – Be still my heart! Every time I could beg, borrow or (yay) find under the sofa a nickel, off I’d go to the grocery store. It was a fifteen minute hike through several neighborhoods and a vacant lot in cheap flip flops to get there, but it was worth it. In roughly the shape of a ruler and almost as long, this was a vanilla taffy and peanut hunk of paradise. I loved them.Took a good long time to devour and I never shared. When they came out with one covered in chocolate I over the moon. But they may have cost a dime by then so I never got as many.

These candies are still around – except maybe the wax harmonica thingy. But the memories from childhood that are tangled up with them are not for sale – anywhere. I hope my little girls will have similar awesome memories of Mentos or any of the four million other ways there are to sugar kids up. They need that.  

So – what are your favorite childhood sweets and treats?


Image: Free Digital Photos

  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Few Short Reviews - Re-reads

More than reading I’ve been re-reading lately. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too lazy to find new reads, need comfort, or can’t remember all the good stuff in those books I’ve laid down and have now picked up again. Some of each, I guess. 






Witness by Whittaker Chambers – Written over 70 years ago and it still chills. Why? Because it’s about Communism and this man’s struggle not only to leave it, but to be a witness against it. The trial of Alger Hiss came ten years after Chambers and his wife fled and then hid from the murderers who would have had them disappear into the night. Ultimately Chambers became a devout Quaker and thereby gained strength for the fight of his life. Richard Nixon was the tenacious bulldog on Chamber's side in that fight. If you want to know what threatened and still threatens our republic today, read this book.

All Creatures Great and Small  by James Herriot – Ah, the comfort factor. I’ve read this and Herriot’s other books three and four times and they never fail to soothe. Or make me weep with laughter. Or nod in sympathy. Who would have thought that cows, pigs, opinionated farmers and quirky dog owners could be such fun? The Yorkshire vet who captured the hearts of millions back in the 70’s still does that for me. I am one of those captured hearts and you could be, too. Or maybe you already are. If so, we should talk.

What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza – Okay, I already know about the greatness of Christianity. But sometimes you need to have that reinforced by brilliant arguments not of your own making. God didn’t make me brilliant, but He's shown me a few who are. I may have to read this book several more times to internalize Mr. D’Sousa’s noble defense of his Lord. Atheist views pale.

I’m seriously resisting the urge to re-read Gone With The Wind. It would be my 7th go round with that one. But I’ve forgotten some of it and it would be nice to have a surge of old feelings come on with the first few chapters. I was sixteen the first time I read it. Maybe my flat stomach would come back, too? Probably not. And, yes, I’ve seen the movie, seen the movie, seen the movie.


So – what have you been reading? Are you a re-reader, too? 



Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest Blogger - My Sister!

Good Morning! I have a guest post this morning written by my sister, Shari. In honor of Father’s Day and our own father, she writes from the heart about an important facet of child rearing – discipline. Something, perhaps, that is sorely needed now as much as it ever was.  Enjoy her missive and please feel free to comment. We would love that. Blessed Father's Day to all. 






WHITE HAT BLACK HAT
Lucas McCain where are you?
By Sharon Wible


The home of my childhood was prosaic in its structure, provincial in its worldview and moral in its consequences for good and bad behavior.  In the minds of myself and my siblings there were not a lot of questions as to what was acceptable conduct. Punishment was swift and painful and every wrong doing was instantly judged as having been done “on purpose” ruling out the necessity of a jury. All misdeeds went straight to the judge for sentencing.

This method happens to be a very quick way to bring order to a household filled to the brim with children.

EXCEPT, Lucas McCain would disagree and because I loved him, I had to reevaluate the discipline style so feared in my youth.

The Rifleman had the same philosophy as my dad for taking care of bad behavior. BUT he had a lot of help! The bad guys always wore black hats and sneered when they spoke. The good guys wore white hats and were pleasant, happy people.

Lucas had a rapid-fire Winchester.

Over and over again this truth was reiterated; if someone threatened your life you had every right to protect yourself.  When the bad guy drew his weapon, the Winchester meted out judgment pure and true.

With his son, Lucas taught lessons of right and wrong with humor and hope. When the son strayed from the path, justice was given pause as mercy worked its way into the son’s soul. When the natural consequences of misguided actions took their toll, the pain of disappointing his father seemed punishment enough for the boy.

But television fantasy doesn’t play too well in the lives of non-scripted people in the real world. My dad didn’t own a gun and there were no evident criminals running loose. Dad also understood his children were not “evil” in the truest sense of the word. But at the end of a long and harried day at work with mom at the stove and kids running wild; order was necessary and swift correction cut short a longer war.

If love and respect for the father has been cultivated, disappointing dad will often be deterrent enough to keep the bad deeds at bay.

Thank you Lord for fathers!


Image: Our mom, Elaine and our dad, Wendell.