Friday, February 27, 2015

Being Eaten Out Of House And . . . Log

Many years ago, my dear husband made this log feeder for the birds.  I fill the holes with peanut butter and the birds really enjoy this goodie we provide for them in the winter.  Some days when the weather is exceptionally cold, a filling lasts only one day.

Up here we have little red (pine) squirrels who take great pleasure in devouring the sunflower seeds we put out in feeders for the birds, and they would do the same to the peanut butter but the feeder is in a spot they can't get to.  However, I do have to watch the level of the peanut butter at the end of each day because we have what seems to be a platoon of nocturnal flying squirrels who can access the peanut butter filled log and go after it at night with great gusto. 

And as you can see in the above picture, if the peanut butter is gone, they gnaw at the wood around the holes to get every last, little, tasty bit of goodness and flavor they can.

Slowly but surely, our log feeder is being consumed by the flying squirrels . . . who must be getting a build-up of wood splinters in their bellies.  Or maybe they've heard a certain amount of fiber is good for them.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Repeat of a Past Post

A couple of days ago I got a wonderful handwritten letter via snail mail from a cousin I hadn't heard from in a while.  In his letter he enclosed copies of some pictures he had come across from the childhood we shared.

One of the photos was a picture of my maternal grandparents' house.  J and I both spent our early years living there with our mothers when our fathers were in Europe involved in World War II.

Seeing that house I loved so much brought back memories of both my grandma and grandpa.  Following is a reprint of a post I wrote way back when I first started blogging.  I'm sure it will be new to most of you because I think I had a grand total of two readers back then.  Here it is.

My Grandma Maggie

I almost named my daughter McLean.  That was my grandma's middle name (it was pronounced "MacLain"), and I thought seriously of naming our daughter after her great-grandmother.  But I knew it would get shortened to Mac, and I wasn't crazy about that.

Grandma was born in Beith, Scotland, in 1893, and immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was fifteen years old.  She remembered whole winters in the Old Country when they had very little to eat but potatoes.  Hardy stock, but certainly not well-to-do in a financial sense by any means.  She met and married Grandpa when she was just sixteen years old (he was twenty-five), and they raised seven children, a boy born first and then six girls.  I remember being shocked when my mom told me Grandma had had so many miscarriages that she didn't actually remember how many.

Grandma was an excellent example of making do with what she had.  Grandpa kept a huge vegetable garden, and Grandma canned and preserved everything.  She cooked anything my grandpa brought home whether it be fur, fowl, or most of the time, fish.  When they were raising their family, what he brought home for the table constituted a large part of their diet.  Since he was such an avid fisherman, there was nearly always live bait in her refrigerator, sometimes not as contained as she would have liked it to be.

My mom worked outside the home, and Grandma took care of me and my brother during the day.  She came to our house each week day, cooked, cleaned and cared for us.  After that she went home and did her own housework, got a meal for herself and Grandpa, then a couple of nights a week, got "gussied up" (a favorite term of hers) to go out for the evening.  Most often these evenings were spent with other lady friends at the local bingo hall.  What fun they had for the price of a couple of dollars.  I know because she took me with her many nights, and the socialization involved a lot of chatter and much laughing.

She and Grandpa had a solid but teasing/bickering relationship.  He referred to her as "The Old Battle Axe," and she constantly complained about him spending too much time with his "girlfriends" in the neighborhood.  Grandpa retired from his blue collar job early because of health problems but was constantly on the go, if not working around their house and yard, then off somewhere doing good deeds for anyone who needed help.  Often the women Grandma jokingly referred to as his "girlfriends" were elderly widows, single mothers, or those whose husbands were too lazy to do maintenance around their house or yard.

I can vividly remember sitting in our old German doctor's waiting room (I was probably only six or seven) with my mom and Grandma after Grandpa had been brought in there to be checked over after he had fallen out of a neighbor's plum tree he was pruning.  I can still see Grandma sitting there turning the broken parts of his glasses over and over in her hands while muttering words about the stupidity of the old coot, and why couldn't he stay home rather than running all over town (he'd only been next door) risking life and limb falling out of a tree and landing on his head.

Grandma believed you should never go out in public without your spurs on (by this she meant make-up and hair done and in nice clothes) because you never knew when you might need them.  She was a petite, little woman and being short, she liked to wear high heels (she had really nice legs!), and she loved keeping polish on her pretty fingernails.  She had beautiful snow white hair from an early age, and it always looked nice although I doubt she ever saw the inside of a beauty parlor.

When Grandpa died, Grandma found she didn't like living alone.  Each of her children, to the last one, wanted her to come live with them. Grandma decided she would just float around for a while, a month here, a couple of months there, but always ended up spending the longest times at the house with the most or smallest children as she adored wee ones, and wanted to be kept busy and feel helpful.

She died one day shy of exactly two years after Grandpa did.  That was in 1965 when she was 72 years old.  Cause of death was listed as leukemia.  Not that it wouldn't have been possible, but no one else in our large family has ever had any form of cancer (for which we can be very, very thankful, needless to say) and I've always wondered if she missed Grandpa more than anyone realized.

I have a strong feeling that if I had been blessed with more children, there would have been a boy named McLean or a girl named Maggie.  With hindsight, I can now see that by giving a descendant an ancestor's name, it's not only a way of honoring that person but possibly even carrying on their spirit.

The end.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wanna Sit On The Deck And Get Some Sun?

That, my dear readers, is NOT what would happen if you sat on our deck today.  First off, the wind chill would instantly turn you into a human ice cube, and then the wind would blow you plumb off the deck into the woods.

We currently have sustained 41.4 mph winds gusting up to 50.6 mph according to our local weather source.  There are times when it looks like a white out, but it's not snowing.  The wind is picking up the snow on the ground and blowing it all the way to Canada, I do believe.

This morning we saw a strange weather phenomenon.  We had what looked like large clouds of low hanging, rapidly moving fog.  It wasn't the blowing snow but rather masses of what must have been tiny ice crystals.  The "fog" didn't seem to settle anywhere, just kept blowing across the land.

I know some of you in "the south" who don't normally see snow and cold weather but are currently are not happy.  Those of you in the northeast are getting a little ding-batty what with all the tons of snow you've had to handle this winter.  We up here in the northern mid-part of the country are used to the temperatures in the deep freeze but this winter's continuing winds are starting to get through to us.  I don't mind it as much during the daylight hours when I can walk from window to window inside and observe what's going on out there, but at night listening to the wind howl is not a comforting feeling for me.

If we ever got a serious snowfall with the winds, we could be experiencing one humdinger of a blizzard like we read of in tales of long ago.  ("Wait a minute, Pa.  Let me tie a rope around your waist before you go out to do the evenin' milkin'!")

Yesterday we woke to a temp of -19.9 degrees.  This morning it was -20.4.  But tomorrow it's supposed to be above zero to start the day.  Gee, if the wind dies down and the sun comes out, maybe it will be warm enough to sit on the deck and get some sun.

No?  Okay.  I'll just keep taking my Vitamin D3 for another month.  Or two.  Or three.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

We Had Snow Yesterday!

Yep, and we celebrated by going for a hike.

I know many of you (especially some of you living where you don't usually even get snow in the winter) think I've slipped a cog or two for rejoicing at snowfall, but we've continued to be short of the stuff which could mean the threat of forest fire this spring in our heavily forested area.

Although we had a high temp of only 10 degrees (but above zero!), around noon time we bundled up, tossed granddog, Tucker, in the car and drove about two miles from home to experience the fresh air and exercise while beautiful, large, fluffy flakes fell.

Hubby had just received a new pair of insulated, slip-on chore boots he badly needed so decided to try them out. They felt fine while we were out, but then last night when he slipped them on for a last outside check, he noticed some very sore spots on his feet and legs where the boots had rubbed.  Turned out to have not been a good idea to wear them for the first time on a hike, but haven't we all done a similar thing in the past?  I know I have.

On our hike, the snow did stop about halfway through, but the covering on the ground was still gorgeous.  Got a total of maybe 5-6" which isn't much for us, but we're glad for what we can get this late in the season.

We followed a snowplow part way home, but you can't see it ahead of us because of the light and fluffy snow blowing behind it. 

This is on our driveway part way in to the house.

* * * * * * * * * *

As I wrote in an e-mail to a friend earlier this morning, I'm having trouble with guilt creeping up on me and spoiling the time I've been spending knitting lately.  I'm nearly done with my second pair of socks, and am already thinking of the skein of yarn I want to pull from my stash for the next pair.

My *&$%^! guilty conscience keeps reminding me of all those inside household-y jobs I could/should be working on now during this last month or so of winter.  I think I'm going to have to employ the ol' timer trick.  Set the timer for one hour when I will work like a busy little beaver on a project from the "should do" list and then reset the timer for another hour in which I can sit and knit.

Okay, I'm off to get the timer . . . but not before I check both wood stoves.  We had a low of -16 this morning.  Winter time is still with us.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Good / Bad

GOOD - We've been seeing whole nearly whole days of sunshine.
BAD - The temperature barely makes it above zero anymore.

GOOD - It's the coldest first thing in the morning, but warms up from there.
BAD - The coldest is in the range of -20 degrees.

GOOD - I've been able to spend hours before an open fire knitting socks.
BAD - I wake up in the night from a bad dream in which I have to knit warm socks for everyone in the county.

GOOD - Our house is staying warm and cozy.
BAD - We've worn paths from the wood box on the porch through the house to the racks by both stoves.

GOOD - We're eating almost exclusively out of the pantry and freezer stores.
BAD - I'm on my last jar of Bread and Butter Pickles.  (Do you know how much I love Bread and Butter Pickles?  This is serious, people, serious!)

GOOD - Wearing long johns these frigid days makes all the difference in the world and keeps me warm and comfy.
BAD - I don't have enough long johns to make it from Monday to Monday laundry days.

GOOD - I've been wearing old, discarded long johns of my husband's.
BAD - He has approximately 18" more leg length than I do.

GOOD - Food tastes sooo good!
BAD - All my pants are mysteriously shrinking.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mom Cooked with Me Last Night

Next month it will be eighteen years since my mom passed away.  But last night she was in the kitchen with me while I made our simple supper.

A couple of times each year Mom would fly up here to Minnesota from Illinois to spend time with her only granddaughter we had (unfairly) moved 600 miles away from her.  She had two grandsons back in Illinois whom she couldn't have loved more, but our daughter was her only female grandchild.

Mom was a great cook, so I always coerced her into spending time in my kitchen on her visits.  Like so many cooks of her generation, she didn't have a written recipe for many of her creations.  So the night she whipped up her delicious Potato Patties, I insisted she write down the instructions for me.

This is the recipe card on which she jotted down her simple instructions for me somewhere between thirty and thirty-five years ago.

I've got several recipes in my stuffed-full recipe box with my mom's lovely handwriting on them.  I know someday they will have a place in my daughter's kitchen, perhaps with some recipes in my own handwriting.

Have some leftover mashed potatoes in your refridge needing to be used up?  This recipe is simple and delicious.

Potato Patties

1-1/2 to 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and Pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.

Drop by spoonfuls (size of your choice)
into skillet of bacon grease, butter or
combination of both. 

Fry until golden brown on one side,
flip and cook on other side.

The batter last night made four 3" round patties with enough batter left for another four for breakfast this morning with our eggs.  (I tossed in some fresh frozen chives last night for a bit of color.)

I don't think Mom ever minded when I asked her to do some cooking when she was here because she always had a little "helper" standing on a chair beside her.  Apparently, that helper assimilated her grandma's culinary expertise because she's a good cook now, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Frigid Weather, Summer Planning, Good Hens and Busy Fingers

The cold, windy, inhospitable weather we continue to have has been good for staying warm and cozy indoors and doing some planning.  So Papa Pea and I spent a few hours this weekend going over our spring/summer To Do List.  Even though it's double-spaced, it's two typewritten pages long.  I've often voiced my opinion that "normal" people would pick one of the items on our list and proclaim that's what they were going to get done of a summer season.  If all went well.

We prioritized the items into an A List and a B List, then labeled the ones in the A List that we could start "early" . . . as in before the snow is completely gone and nice weather settles in.  To say we aren't going to be lacking in things to keep us busy this summer is an understatement.

I have been bitten by the sock knitting bug and think I may currently be addicted.  I'm wanting to knit several pairs for myself, something I haven't done in the past.  Above is a picture of the one I'm currently working on.  It's progressed some since the photo was taken.  I'm now ready to turn the heel and finish off the rest of the foot.  I made the whole top in k2, p2 ribbing, something that takes waaay longer to do, but I think this particular yarn lent itself to that particular design.

We have 12 (Oops.  My error here.  There are a total of 12 birds in our chicken house, but only 9 laying hens.  That makes our egg production sound even better, no?) hens in our little chicken house and they have layed fantastically all winter long.  On many days we get 7 eggs . . . that is if we're quick enough to collect them before they succumb to the bitter, freezing temps.  Most of the producing girls are from the batch of chicks we started this past spring.  We try to get by with only purchasing and starting chicks every other year with the couple/few our own broody hens will hatch out this summer thrown in for good measure.  

The really exciting news on the poultry scene is that we've ordered goslings to arrive this spring.  We've sorely missed having geese but couldn't tolerate the trio of breeding stock we had before when Father Goose turned rather vicious.  The last attack sealed their ticket to freezer camp.  The new breed we're getting are Pilgrims which are touted as being very docile and non-aggressive.  Let's hope!

We haven't made a trip to the big city for needed supplies since before Thanksgiving.  Putting it off is getting to be a (worn out, not funny) joke around here so we are aiming to take a day sometime this coming week to do so.  Hmmm, let's see now.  Do we want to go on a sunny day when the temp isn't forecast to rise above 3 degrees or should we choose a day when it might get to the mid-teens but with a warning of snow?  Eeny, meeny, miny, moe . . .

It has been fairly slow and low-key around here lately.  We're taking it a little bit easy, staying warm and bundling up really, really good when going outside.  Papa Pea has a much faster metabolism than I and warms up quickly once he starts moving although it's nasty outside.  Me?  Even on our 1/2 mile hike out to get the mail and back, I never get much heat going.  Maybe I have too many clothes on and my circulation is cut off.  Tomorrow I'll run out there in just my long underwear and jogging shoes.  Oh, yeah, and wouldn't that be a sight!  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Beautiful Sunshine

Who cares if the temperature is still below zero at 10 a.m.?  Seeing that wonderful sunshine streaming in through the windows helps the energy level and chirks up the spirit!

We got our biggest snowfall of the season this past Tuesday into early Wednesday.  A whole, big, whopping 5-6".  So, so different than last year.  Apparently Mama Nature gets a big kick out of keeping us guessing.

As so often follows a good snowfall, our temperatures have plummeted.  I was planning on a trip to town yesterday but since the wind was ferocious, whipping trees back and forth and moving snow on the ground into new (inconveniently placed) drifts and the wind chill advisory was severe, I wimped out and stayed home.  Today since the wind has abated, I'm going to gird my loins (and don several layers of down) and get out there in the sunshine.  It will be good to feel the sun on the limited amount of my skin that will be exposed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's Eat!

I made Rice Pudding again a couple of mornings ago.  I'm so happy with this recipe I just had to share in case any of you were interested.

I've searched for a rice pudding recipe made with leftover cooked rice (instead of raw rice that cooks in the pudding) for years.  (Yeeeaars, I tell you, years!)  

When I make rice for one meal or another, I almost always have a cup or two leftover.  Remembering a time or two many long years ago when I ate rice pudding and loved it, I've been looking for a good (as opposed to bad) recipe to use.

Here's what I've ended up with and think is purdy darn good.

Rice Pudding
3 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar (or honey)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (or even a bit more) cooked brown rice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together first five ingredients.
Add rice, raisins and cinnamon.

Pour into flat (rather than deep)
baking dish and bake at 
350 degrees for one hour.

Good warm or cold.  
We eat ours in a bowl
with additional milk.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Am I Creative . . . Or Just Neurotic?

I have what I consider to be a flaw.  (A flaw?  Just one, you say?)

This is it.

It's nearly impossible for me to sit still without having something to occupy my hands.  Some kind of handwork to do.  Even just manually filling empty capsules with kelp meal fits the bill.  (Sick, huh?)

This uncomfortable feeling of being idle (i.e., lazy, slouthful, shiftless, indolent . . . you get my drift) even comes upon me while visiting or having an interesting conversation with someone.  It may be that keeping my hands busy settles me, slows down my brain which has a direct correlation in keeping (possibly) unwise thoughts from escaping my mouth.

But this post is not meant to develop into a deep psychological discussion of my psyche.  Rather, I simply want to report that the past few evenings cozied up on the couch in front of an open fire, sporadically conversing with that guy sitting in the rocking chair going through his old files, has resulted in my busy hands finally finishing a knitted baby blanket I started . . . oh gosh, how many years ago?

It's fortunate this item was not started with a specific baby or baby-to-be in mind because said child would be starting college by now.

Finished size is 36" x 48".  Much bigger than I thought it would be.  Hunh.  Could be the reason it took me so long to finish.

I used a pattern made up by a good friend who's an expert knitter.  My yarn was different than that suggested in the pattern.  Another good reason the blanket turned out as big as a cloth ground cover.

It will eventually be gifted to a little boy baby because of the predominantly blue coloration.  For now it can be tucked safely away.

Finished.  Done.  Completed.  

Maybe good things do come from my "flaw."  You've all heard the expression, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop."  Well, we sure don't want no devilish activities around here!  How about, "Busy hands are happy hands?"  Yeah, I like that.  Even better, "Busy hands, happy heart?"  Maybe I'm not as flawed as I thought.  Hmmm . . . 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Further Reason for my Daughter to Worry About Me

I'm a fan of Abraham-Hicks Publications and subscribe to their "Daily Quote" via e-mail.

This morning I opened the following quote:

"The majority have been programmed
from their past experience to expect physical decline.
And while it is something they don't want,
they are programmed to expect it.
And so, they're going to get what they expect.
It's not that what they expect
is the reality that everyone lives,
but that everyone lives the reality of what they expect."

As I was reading this (all the while patting myself heartily on the back for my excellent job of maintaining my mental and physical highly-elevated state of functioning), I discovered I had put my turtleneck and crewneck sweatshirt both on backwards this morning when I got dressed.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A New Kitchen . . . Appliance?

For a while now, my dear daughter has been bugging me to get some kind of a stereo unit for the kitchen so I can listen to music, an audio book or the radio when I'm working in the kitchen.

We have a small stereo unit in the living room that is coming up on 20-some years old.  It's so old that it even plays cassette tapes.  Well, it did until this past Christmas when that function went kaputz.  We still have the use of the CD player and radio (who knows how long they will last), but since it's too far away from the kitchen for me to hear it, I really needed something in the kitchen proper.

Our daughter, being the most electronically inclined one in the immediate family, did the "leg work" for us and researched out what she felt would be the best unit.  She was the one who first suggested an under-the-cabinet mounted unit, and that's what we got.

It arrived via UPS late Tuesday so she offered to install it last night after she finished her day job.  It was hinted that a glass of wine and dinner would be much appreciated to insure she did a good job, and we were more than happy to provide that.

We gathered together a few (?) tools before starting.  Note bottle of wine included for a smooth operation.

I emptied the bottom shelf of the cabinet and preliminary measurements were taken.

Taking drill in hand, she goes for it.  (Yes, we did raise a true Renaissance Woman.)

Sometimes four hands are better than two.  (Don't I look like a male cardinal in my outfit?)

Tucker was totally bored with the whole project and wished we would finish so he could just go home.

Sometimes you have to make like a contortionist to get at the right angle.

Papa Pea and Baby Pea checking the back-up battery for operation when the power goes off.  It was deader than a doornail.  A new one is on my shopping list. 

Here it is in all its installed glory.  My new Under Cabinet CD/MP3 Player!  I've had CDs and/or the radio going all day today, and I love it!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What's Happening

~  It's cold.  But, hey, it's winter time in northern Minnesota.  Had a high of 9 degrees today . . . with sunshine.  Hooray for the sunshine.  Phoo-poo to the prediction of -17 tonight.

~  I sorted through all my boxes of yarn this past week I had stashed up in the loft/attic.  Oh, my.  Where did it all come from?  Who knew I had so much?  Some was packed in cardboard boxes (luckily we don't have a mouse problem), but I thought it was a good idea to purchase some plastic totes in which the yarn is now residing . . . in a safer environment.  Plus, it's all sorted and organized so I know what I have.  (Yeah, too much.)

~  This morning I summoned up the courage to get back to working on my winter wall hanging.  I've had the hand quilting done for about a week, but was being a Nervous Nelly about starting the free-motion (on the machine) quilting part of it.  I'm not the greatest at that.  I can turn out a fairly good job, but not without ending up with stiff shoulders.  So I downed half a bottle of wine and went for it.  Not really, but that might have helped my stiff shoulders.  Or not.

~  I finally cobbled together a great recipe for Rice Pudding made with leftover rice.  (I can never seem to make enough rice for just one meal.  Same way with mashed potatoes.)  Now if I can just remember how I did it . . .

~  Daughter stopped in with the kiddlies she cares for a few days ago.  It happened to be on the morning I had made the Rice Pudding for our breakfast.  The 14 month old twins dug into the leftovers with great gusto.  They are both using a spoon now to carry food into their wee mouths.  Well, they use the spoon in one hand while every other mouthful gets shoved in with the alternate hand.

~  Our egg production has stayed good all winter.  (Knock on wood.)  We're getting enough eggs for all my cooking needs and even a dozen here and there to give away.  I don't know what we'd do without our good eggs.  The chickens have been staying warm and cozy in their little house with attached "solarium."  They have it pretty good. 

~  I made this dish of Apple Crunch this morning because I had some apples that were getting soft.  And to warm up the kitchen.  And to permeate the house with the enticing aroma.  And to have to eat.  It's now 5:30 p.m. and the above is all that is left.  Daughter did stop by and helped us get "rid" of it.  Guess it was tolerable enough that I might have to make another one tomorrow morning.  Maybe some more Rice Pudding, too.