Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The peace of the country


This is an aerial view of our property, before we got the mobile home. (Don't you just love Google Earth?) The highest spot on our property is right behind the barn (the gray-metal roof), the furthest building to the north. Our mobile home is now about fifty feet behind that barn. The elevation here is 883 feet.

At the back of the property, where you see railroad tracks winding by, elevation is 732 feet, a difference in elevation of 151 feet. Just so you know what a climb it is up out of there.

I'd already been for my regular walk with Cliff today, but I took a notion to stroll to the back of our place. Sadie can always use an extra dose of exercise. I heard a couple of birds carrying on a conversation and decided to share. Turn up your sound and see if you can tell me what kind of birds they are, because I don't have a clue.





This is almost at the back of our place. You can see the railroad tracks on the other side of the trees.

I like the way the white of the sycamore tree shows up against the sky.

Oops. A huge dead tree trunk has fallen on the fence. No worries, though: the horses never come back here unless somebody is riding them. Cliff will get it fixed before long.

That truck, owned by the railroad, is equipped to travel on pavement or on a railroad track, as it's doing here. I had hoped to see a train pass by, but this is as close as I got.

This is the entrance to the valley where I'll start my gradual climb back up to civilization.

There's the other end of the valley. I usually stop and rest awhile, going up that hill.

Ummm, Sadie? Don't you think that stick is a little long?

Oh, and just a note to say I will reach the age of 65 this coming summer, and I've decided my age gives me the license to never, ever make another New Year's resolution.

Not for the faint of heart, but...

Ever want to see a goat butchered? If so, trot on over to the Homesteading Neophyte.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

That's fifty pounds of popcorn bought at Sam's Club in January of this year.

It's almost gone.

I ate most of it myself.

No wonder I don't lose weight.

From yesterday's ride

Birds, hundred of birds! (Click to see them better)

I stopped to admire Farmer John's cattle...

and noticed that little guy has scours (that's diarrhea); see his pasty tail? I've lost calves to scours before.

Nice place for sale. Anybody need a little spread with room for some horses?

This is where I crossed 24 highway to get to the outer road, otherwise known as Santa Fe Trail road.

Now, when I left the house, my original intention was to get a video that would let you hear Blue whinnying to a herd of horses we had passed the previous day. He really knows how to trumpet a greeting. But after taking these pictures plus the fifteen-second video in a previous entry, when I turned on my camera to get the whinny I saw this message:

"Replace memory card."

Foiled again.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thirteen weird things about me (as if that was all)

1. I don’t deliberately listen to Green Day often, but when I hear them, I like them. Oh yeah, and I like Janis Joplin and Simple Plan and Lionel Ritchie and the Beatles, and so many others that I don't think I'm supposed to like.

2. And if my knees would let me, I’d go to Van’s Warped Tour every year. Even though I'm a folk-and-country-music fan.

3. I love condensed milk. I can drink it straight out of the can.

4. I am a Christian. However, I consider myself a pretty pathetic one. But I will still cling to the Old Rugged Cross.

5. I always say I’d rather be in Colorado, but the truth is, I like it right here in Missouri.

6. I can’t believe some people would rather I’d lie to them than to hear me say what I really think.

7. I only had children because babies are cute. I know that isn’t the right reason, but what IS the right reason? Why do people have babies?

8. I stopped having children because I realized I wasn’t equipped to raise children. Does that make up for number 7?


9. I wish my dog didn’t shed, but I wouldn’t take $1,000 for my dog.


10. I won’t be attending any of the Kansas City Bloggers’ meetings, because 3/4 of those people intimidate me. However, I would gladly meet up with certain ones of them.

11. I hate that I have huge feet, and even more, I hate that I passed that trait on to my granddaughters.

12. Riding the motorcycle scares me a little. But I love the things Cliff and I do and see on the motorcycle, so it's OK.

13. My best friends seem to be my long-time Internet friends. There are some of them that I know I could count on if I were in trouble (you know who you are, AOL people). If I really, REALLY was in a jam, those Internet friends are the ones I'd holler at.

Oh yeah, and when I notice some "follower" chose to NOT be a follower, I obsess about it. I wonder why they ceased to follow me. Because I'm an only child, and I obsess that way.



folk songs

Yesterday evening, and again this afternoon, I've picked up my guitar and strummed along as I sang simple folk songs; the songs most of us seldom think about because we grew tired of them when we were still children.

I learned to chord a guitar with a book of chord diagrams and familiar folk songs. Now, this was at a time when folk was trendy: Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; the Kingston Trio.

Folk songs almost sing themselves, they're so undemanding. Most of them have only two or three chords, which makes it nice for people like me who are klutzes with a guitar. And if you forget the words to a verse, you can make up some new ones.

So tonight I sat here running from one to another, hardly even thinking about it, not planning ahead what I'd sing. I started with "Greenback Dollar"; not the one the old Kingston Trio did, but the lovelorn ballad that came straight out of the hills and hollers of the south:

"I don't want yore greenback dollar,
I don't want yore silver change.
All I want is yore love darlin',
Say you'll take me back agin."

(You have to say "yore" for you're, and "agin" for again, to get the full effect.)

Then on to "Who's gonna shoe my pretty little feet", which is hilarious when sung by me, the woman with the biggest, ugliest feet in two states.

Next, "On top of old Smoky". Hey, I know we lampooned it as kids, but it isn't such a bad song, and it has some valuable life-lessons in it:

"Yore grave will decay you and turn you to dust...
Ain't a man in a hundred that a woman can trust."

Without a pause, I went right into a rollicking version of "She'll be a-comin' 'round the mountain when she comes." Now there's a toe-tapper if I ever heard one.

You can't have a hootenanny without "Down in the Valley".

"If you don't love me, love whom you please;
Throw your arms 'round me, give my heart ease."

Next? "Freight Train".

"Don't know where I'm headed for,
Makes no difference any more.
Got no future, got no home,
Can't do nothin' now but roam."

Then it was time for some real fun: Skip To My Lou! Hey, be honest. Have you tried singing that since you were in fourth grade? I dare you to try to sing it and keep a straight face.

"Lost my partner, what'll I do?"
"I'll get another one, prettier than you!"

I did a couple of choruses of "Rye Whiskey", and almost felt inebriated by the time I was done with that.

And as a grand finale, I sang "Go Tell Aunt Rhoadie", which has some lines that crack me up.

"Go tell Aunt Rhoadie, go tell Aunt Rhoadie. Go tell Aunt Rhoadie her old grey goose is dead." "Died in the mill pond, died in the millpond. Died in the millpond, a-standin' on it's head." "Only had one feather a-stickin' in its head."

Poor ole goose.

It's a good day for it!





That's my usual speed when riding Blue, and he can go like that for hours. If only my knees could take the wear-and-tear longer than two hours!

I think Blue's developing a weight problem might be God's way of getting me out of the house.

The livestock around here

A long-time AOL friend emailed me this morning asking about Libby.

Libby's been gone a long time, Jo. You must have missed
this entry. I did love Libby, but I realized I had neither the energy or the know-how to start from scratch breaking a horse, nor the money to get her to a professional. After realizing yesterday how fat Blue is without my even noticing the weight-gain, I'm questioning whether I deserve one horse! (Don't worry, Blue isn't going anywhere.)

Jo also asked about Meatloaf and Secret. I've deliberately been quiet about those two, because some city folks get upset about the fact that animals have to disappear... either to be butchered or to be sold. Meatloaf is living on borrowed time: He's only here because it hasn't been convenient to get him loaded and take him to the butcher shop.

Secret has been at Cliff's brother's place with a bull, getting her sixth or seventh chance to get pregnant... I've stopped counting. If nothing happens this time, we'll likely just cut our losses and take her to the sale barn, where she won't bring much, because cattle prices are down. But my freezer won't hold the meat from two animals, even small animals.

Will I ever have a Jersey cow again? Very possibly, yes; but I may buy a grown one, either bred or with a calf by her side. Time will tell.

Blue is going to have to reside in a pen alone, since out of three horses that live here, he's the only one who insists on overeating. I'll probably start letting him out for an hour or so a day, maybe twice a day, so he can play with his equine friends. But I've put off the inevitable for too long. He really can't be allowed to eat as much as he likes.

When I first got him, I thought he had foundered (because of his fat neck) and kept him on dry-lot for over a year. That worked just dandy, and would still be the ideal situation for him; unfortunately, that particular dry lot is now our front yard... more or less. I turned Blue out onto grass after both the vet and the farrier assured me he'd never had laminitis. There have been several times I've kept him stalled for his own good, but never for long.

I hope this entry doesn't set off a flurry of comments asking about founder again. To see more about my experiences with founder, click HERE.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My fat horse


I went outside at 10 o'clock to ride my horse, Blue. I led him to the barn, brushed off the dried mud from his most recent roll on the ground, and threw a saddle on. Unfortunately, the cinch strap wasn't long enough to fasten. Not nearly long enough. I tried the other saddle. Same problem. (Don't ask me why I thought a different saddle would make a difference.)

I called Cliff over to help me make an adjustment on the off side of the horse, to give me more strap to work with.

"Has he gained weight?" Cliff asked, smiling, as if he didn't know.


"I guess he has. How long has it been since I've ridden, anyhow?"

Because the last time I rode, the cinch strap was plenty long enough.

Blue has always had a weight problem; he's always had that big old cresty neck that makes him look like he's been foundered. Blue wrote the book on "easy keepers".
But he's never been this fat before.

He really doesn't look so much different to me, although Cliff says he can tell. He's the one who's been doing the feeding this winter, and I guess I haven't paid enough attention to my horse.

So, I've put him in a small pen with access to his stall. I'm going to limit his feed. Man, I hate to do it; it's like a mother having to put her child on a diet: I know it's for his own good, but he loves food so much!

When the weather's decent, I'll get out there and see that he gets some exercise.

It's going to be inconvenient, this time of year, keeping water out for him when the temperature gets below freezing. But something has to be done. If he's this fat in the middle of winter, what will happen when spring grass hits?


I did go for a ride, and Blue seemed happy to be out and about, whinnying loudly to every horse he saw along the way. It was a perfect day for a ride.

I took my camera along. Unfortunately, I neglected to put the card back in it before I left.

Maybe tomorrow.


beans, beans....


After Cliff had CABG surgery, I changed a lot of things about the way I cook. I looked for ways to reduce salt and use smaller portions of meat. I started using lots of bean and rice recipes; I have at least half-a-dozen such recipes that are standbys in my kitchen these days. Not only are these dishes good for us, but they're cheap; and most of the ones I use are quick and easy to make.

All these recipes call for canned beans: black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans. I'd pour the beans into a colander and rinse off the liquid to get rid of some of the salt. I can find sodium-free canned tomatoes for a reasonable price, but not beans.

But my trash can was filling up with cans; lots of cans.

So I decided to buy dry beans, cook them in quantity, and bag them in quart freezer bags... since I can't find pint bags.

A one-pound bag of dry beans costs $1.18, and makes the equivalent of four cans of cooked beans that cost 75 cents per can. So there's quite a bit of savings there, I get rid of the salt completely, and the trash doesn't fill up so quickly.

It's working out great for me, bargain biddy that I am.

Here are a couple of my favorite easy dishes:

SPICY BLACK BEANS AND RICE

SERVES 4
Ingredients

* 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil
* 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can canned Mexican style stewed tomatoes
* 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
* 2 cups hot cooked brown rice or long grain rice
* 1/4 cup chopped onion (optional)

Directions
In a medium saucepan cook 1/2 cup onion and garlic in hot oil till tender but not brown.

Carefully stir in the drained beans, undrained tomatoes, and ground red pepper.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

To serve, mound rice on individual plates; make a well in the centers.

Spoon black bean mixture into centers.

If desired, sprinkle with chopped onion.

_____________________________________________________

HEARTY RICE SKILLET

Ingredients:

* 1 15-ounce can black, garbanzo, or kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use black or kidney)
* 1 14-1/2-ounce can stewed tomatoes, cut up
* 2 cups loose-pack frozen mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, corn)
* 3/4 cup quick-cooking brown rice, uncooked (I use instant)
* 1 cup water (only use 3/4 c. water if you are using instant brown rice)
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or dillweed, crushed (I use thyme)
* Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce (optional) (I use 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper)
* 1 10-3/4 ounce can condensed tomato soup
* 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted (I use 1/4 cup)
* 1/2 cup reduced-fat shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (2 ounces) (I use cheddar)

Directions:

In a large skillet stir together beans, undrained tomatoes, vegetables, water, uncooked rice, thyme or dillweed, and, if desired, hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in soup; heat through.

Before serving, stir in almonds and sprinkle with cheese. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Info:

*This recipe is somewhere in-between 6-8 pts per serving.

Nutritional facts per serving (from bhg.com)
calories: 369, total fat: 11g, saturated fat: 2g, cholesterol: 8mg, sodium: 972mg, carbohydrate: 57g, fiber: 1g, protein: 19g, vitamin C: 81%, calcium: 21%, iron: 23%

Nutritonal facts per serving (from BHG Vegetarian Cookbook)
354 calories, 19 g. protein, 57 g. carbs, 10 g. fat (2 g. saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 1,244 mg sodium, 917 mg potassium

Nutritional facts per serving (from my own calculations)
358 calories, 8 g. fat, 8 g. fiber

A year's-end MEME

I found this at Green Olives & Pickle Juice II, and remembered doing it in years past. It's a rather fun way to review the past year.

End of year meme…..Take the first sentence of the first (unfiltered) entry you made in a given month and post it in order to sum up your year.


January: The past year has been a good one for us, all things considered:
We did learn this valuable lesson: don't sell your motorcycle unless you're sure you're done riding.

February: After Cliff and I bought our first place, a small house on twenty acres south of Oak Grove, my parents offered to sell us a milk cow.

March: The saddle I use when I ride is an old Circle Y; I bought it used from a tack store when I first bought Blue because I had gotten rid of my old saddle when I sold my previous horse, thinking I was done with horseback riding.

April: On my rides to the river, there was one spot where I loved to stop, get off my horse, and poke around.

May: I took my usual road to the river; saw a sign ahead, "road closed at RR crossing".

June: That's Cliff, his brother Don (who drove the U-Haul) and his brother Phil.

July: Our son, from Georgia, has been here since last Saturday, and will stay until Sunday morning.

August: Each day, be thankful for what you have.

September: Cliff and I rode 850 miles on our Gold Wing over the three-day weekend.

October: I began blogging on AOL Journals.

November: Cliff took off work Friday, so we decided to take a mini-vacation.

December: Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and likely always will be.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My world of music expanded in 1958

My early world of music consisted of the hymns in these books; I still know the words to at least half the songs therein.

My parents were country music fans, so I also heard plenty of that, growing up. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had chosen my own music: Rock and roll! I loved Pat Boone (so did my parents, because he was a member of the Church of Christ, just like us). I listened to Elvis, Tab Hunter, Ed "Kookie" Burns, Ricky Nelson... and the list goes on. It was MY music, and my parents didn't enjoy most of it, or understand it.

Somewhere around time I was in the eighth grade, there was a brand new school built in Kansas City North: Northgate Junior High School. The ultra-modern music room was circular; the music teacher was a likable guy with a great sense of humor.

I think it was one day a week that he made us sit quietly and listen to musical soundtrack albums. Oklahoma, South Pacific, and others.

I was sold on Broadway. Being a member in good standing of the Columbia Record Club (I skipped lunch and spent my lunch money on records), I ordered several albums of the soundtracks to various Broadway shows. I loved Rogers and Hammerstein, almost to the point of worship.

I recall listening to whoever that woman was that sang "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No", and my daddy walking by making some wise crack about her terrible voice.



I could just see Mary Martin "washing that man right outta her hair". Ezio Pinzo lectured, in song, that "you have to be taught". But isn't it the truth?

I just knew that "some enchanted evening" I would meet a stranger. (I did, by the way. His name was Cliff.)



I've wracked my brain, but I can't remember the name of that teacher who broadened my musical horizons. I doubt that I would ever have listened to those songs, left to my own devices. I remember what he looked like, but that doesn't help a bit.

If only I knew how to reach that teacher, I'd thank him profusely.

My all-time favorite Broadway song, though, wasn't introduced to me by that teacher. Oh no. I first saw it when I was watching Captain Kangaroo, in the mornings before school. And you can ask Cliff: I'm still liable to break forth singing this song, on any particularly beautiful summer day.




Oh, and this one too:

Ho Hum

I actually bore myself with these wintertime entries, but the show must go on.

By the way, I hope all husbands stayed out of the doghouse this Christmas (thanks, Toni).


Let's talk about my dog, Sadie, who has been climbing the walls due to cabin fever. She spends her time hauling a nasty, saliva-soaked rope-toy back and forth from Cliff to me, laying it in our laps and then stepping back briskly, staring at us in hopes one of us will either toss it or have a tug-of-war with her.

Cliff and I have been pretty faithful in taking our daily walks, but yesterday the weather was too extreme. Going up and down slick hillsides in pouring-down rain isn't safe for a couple of old codgers like us. Try explaining that to Sadie, though. She doesn't get it. Our walk is the highlight of her day. She lives for that walk.


Back at the old house, I kept Sadie on a leash when I took her out, because any time she saw another dog (they run freely in this neighborhood) she was off like a shot, and might not show up again for an hour. Until she returned I'd be frantic with worry, since we live a few hundred feet from the highway where my last dog was hit by a car and killed.

Now that we're farther away from the road, I don't use the leash; I let her out, she does her business, and then comes back to the door. Well, at least 99% of the time she does. It's the 1% that drives me crazy.

Last night when I let her out, she glanced over toward where our nearest dog-neighbors live and was off like a shot into the darkness, with me calling after her in vain.
About a half-hour later she came slinking back, tail tucked, head hanging in shame because she knew she'd been bad. I sent her off to her bed, which I moved far away from its usual spot beside my bed. Because I didn't want to look at her for awhile. This morning, of course, she and I are on speaking terms again.

Sadie has way too much energy to be cooped up in a house with a couple in their sixties. She sheds enough fine, short hair to make a new dog once a week. But she's my dog, and I love her. Let's see, she's a medium-sized dog in good health: I figure I have her for at least ten more years; let's face it, she could very easily outlive me!

But if I should outlast Sadie, my next dog will be smaller, and of a non-shedding variety. I'm already studying the various breeds. I really don't care for poodles, they seem uppity to me... although a poodle mix might work.


I recently learned through my blog-reading that Yorkies don't shed, which surprised me; but Mr. Google confirmed the fact. Cliff's brother, Warren, had a Yorkie he dearly loved that was actually with him when he died.
On the positive side, they're cute little feisty dogs, and seem very bright. However, I've been told they have sensitive stomachs and are sometimes hard to house-break.

I continue to ponder the situation as I sweep and vacuum handfuls of dog hair from my floors. Only ten more years to go, more or less.


Thank the good Lord for my Dyson.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

In Limbo

That's where Cliff and I found ourselves yesterday. He had some projects at the shop, but they all involved painting, and the humidity made it impossible to paint anything successfully.

I took the Christmas tree down and put up the ornaments. I'm not ready to bid goodbye to my Avon plates and the seasonal cups, so those get to stay around the house for at least another week.


This is my favorite plate of all, from 1988.

This is one of a series of Wedgewood plates made in England for Avon; I only have two of the series, but I intend to get the other six. They're cheap and plentiful on Ebay. I believe all the Avon plates from recent years are made in China. Big surprise, huh?

Looking back, we should have taken a motorcycle ride yesterday. Temperatures got up into the sixties. Trouble is, there was a slight threat of rain and some actual drizzle, so we didn't chance it. But we saw a couple of riders out on the roads, and envied them.

We've had some interesting daily walks lately: Snow to tromp through and zero temps for a few days, then after a warm-up, half-thawed snow-turned-to-ice that we had to negotiate around on the hills. Yesterday we waded through mud. Because Cliff's sister was working, we got her mini-Dachshund and took her along. When we got back from walking, I actually had to put her in the tub and rinse the mud off. She only clears the ground by about a half-inch, so she can't keep from getting muddy. I think we'll leave her behind from now on until things dry out or freeze over.

Let's just say our recent walks haven't been pleasurable; but I imagine we've burned extra calories wading, slipping, and sliding.

My old strings of Christmas tree lights are giving out on me one by one, so we went out looking for bargains. I had no desire to head to the city and fight crowds, so we went to some Dollar Stores nearby, and then to a little Wal-mart in Higginsville. We had great success, buying lights and a few ornaments at half-price. The stores in these little bedroom/farming communities weren't crowded at all.

So that's how we spent our day after Christmas. Now I sit here listening to strong winds, thunder and rain. I need some seed catalogues!

Patrick's Saturday Six


Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment at Patrick's Place, or put the answers in an entry on your journal…but either way, leave a link to your journal at Patrick's Place so that everyone else can visit! To be counted as “first to play,” you must be the first player to either answer the questions in a comment or to provide a complete link to the specific entry in your journal in which you answer the questions. A link to your journal in general cannot count. Enjoy!

1. How many members of your family not living with you did you see on Christmas Day? Eight. Unless you count visiting dogs.

2. When spending time with family, how long after you arrive do you begin to feel “antsy” about being there too long? Depends on which family members it is. Although I'm always ready to get back home pretty quickly, to my recliner and my computer room and my dog.

3. Is your family more likely to have pleasant discussions or heated arguments during a big meal? Pleasant discussions. Do you join in or quietly listen in? I join in when I'm not in the kitchen cooking.

4. Take the quiz: How Do You Really Feel About Your Family?






You Feel Nurturing Toward Your Family



You are very quick to forgive your family for wrongdoings. You don't expect them to be perfect, and you try to help them out whenever it's possible.



You feel like some members of your family are too unhappy. These family members tend to create unhappiness for everyone else.



When times get difficult, you are able to be the adult in your family. You are able to keep your family together.



You tend to be the rock in your family. You support everyone in their times of need, and they take your advice seriously.


5. Consider the family member whose views are most opposite of your own: If your friends or co-workers met the person, what single topic would probably be the source of the most embarrassment for you if your friends heard that person talking? I'm afraid this question doesn't even apply to my situation.

6. Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas? I honestly have everything I want this year. What one thing that you didn’t get would you like to have received? Cliff gave me a nice chunk of money to spend, so if I had wanted something, I could get it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hope "springs" eternal

"Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'" ~Robin Williams

I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow. ~Proverb

O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

So, Christmas is over. We don't do anything big for New Year's around here, and it's a long haul until springtime.

I look forward to spring more than usual this year. I've planted several trees and shrubs, plus tulips, iris, and other posies; I'm anxious to see which ones survive and thrive. We need to plant grass for a decent lawn, although Cliff says he'd rather wait until next fall to do that: fall-planted grasses seem to do so much better, and emerge with fewer weeds. There's enough remaining pasture-grass over most of the yard so that it's not just bare dirt.

I intend to do some vegetable gardening, taking it as easy on my complaining knees as possible. For some reason,
bending over to pick beans with arthritic knees is extremely painful; so I may go with pole beans this year. Or I may find myself something to sit on and move it along the row.

I hope to have tomatoes to can, but other than that, I don't intend to "put up" much produce. Canning and preserving used to be fun; now it's drudgery, and as long as our finances don't demand it, I won't do it.

I eagerly look forward to the seed catalogs, which will probably start arriving in the mailbox today.

Of course, with spring comes my annual feud with the neighbors who climb the fence onto our property and steal my morel mushrooms; I wouldn't mind at all if they'd share, but they don't. They're going to have to be more sneaky this year, because where we live now I can look out any north-facing window and see who's walking around the pasture.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

My noodle recipe

Rose asked for my recipe for noodles, which I got from my mom. You'll find it in an old entry HERE.

You can read me waxing nostalgic about noodles HERE.

On another note: Our Christmas guests had all departed and I looked out the window to see at least six male robins hopping around my yard! I think there were more, but I counted six at one time in the front yard, then noticed some in back too. What on earth are robins doing here on Christmas day? (Added later: I've now seen more than a dozen at one time in the pasture behind the house.)

I found some interesting robin facts online, but nothing that tells me what they were doing here at this time of year. Except at this site, where it is suggested that robins seen here in winter have migrated from Canada.

"
If you live in Missouri, for instance, the robins you've seen all summer may, during fall migration, head south to Texas, while the robins you see during the winter may have nested in Canada."

All I can say is that Cliff and I don't recall ever seeing robins around in December. But it made for a nice Christmas surprise.

It's a nice Christmas morning

I'm listening to K.T. Oslin singing "Blue Christmas". Hers happens to be my favorite version of that song, even though I never particularly cared for her music as a whole.

I had a couple of gifts to check out, gifts given to me last weekend. I think the givers wanted me to open them up right then, but knowing Cliff and I weren't actually exchanging gifts, I wanted to save them for today. Notice the nifty Harley-Davidson bag: When Charlene and Pat get me something at Harley Davidson, I know it's going to be something I like... even though we ride a Honda Gold Wing.

It's a bag/purse that attaches to a belt-loop; it'll hold my camera and some folding money, and any other little items that come in handy on a motorcycle ride. I love it! Thanks, Charlene and Pat.

My daughter's mother-in-law is so creative when it comes to buying thoughtful little Christmas presents; she gave me a nice queen-sized Christmas coffee mug with some sugar-free candy inside.

Meanwhile the noodles have been rolled out....

and cut and unrolled, just the way Grandma used to do it.

They're now laid out on a counter, just waiting to be dropped into the chicken-broth.

I mixed up the roll dough an hour ago...

And it's already risen this much.

Now to peel potatoes. No, first I think I'll take a shower and get out of these pajamas.

Merry Christmas to all (for at least the fourth time, right?)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from a longtime AOL J-land friend


That's her singing, by the way. I love this big old Internet! Merry Christmas, to Trish in California.

Cookies

I love to make cookies. Unfortunately, if I make them, Cliff and I will eat them.

So I don't make cookies any more.

Last night while Cliff was at work, I started feeling sorry for myself. See, it was "goodie night" at work, and I knew Cliff would be eating cookies. Cookies that I didn't have the pleasure of making. Not fair.

So I baked cookies: ginger snaps (which Cliff never cared for) and my all-time favorite, butterscotch cookies. Don't ask how many I ate before I went to bed.

BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 tsp soda
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Melt butter and shortening. Add sugars; mix well. Add egg; beat till light-colored. Sift flour with soda; stir into egg mixture. Add vanilla and nuts. Chill.
Roll into small balls. Bake on ungreased cooky sheet in moderate oven (375) 7 to 10 minutes. Remove at once.

I always double this recipe, by the way.

The Christmas dinner that grew

We tend to play things by ear during the holidays these days. Gift-giving is at a minimum: Grandkids get some spending money, and that's the extent of it.

Well, and Cliff gave me a substantial handful of cash to use however I see fit. I've spent part of that on a tuneup for my desktop PC, and the rest will go to pay a man to get my grandma's 100-year-old music box playing again. Believe me, that ain't cheap.


My oldest two grandchildren were here last weekend, and Amber said, "Grandma, are you cooking for Christmas?"

"I don't know," I answered. "I don't even know if anybody will be here."

"Would you cook some noodles?"

"Well, I suppose I could; do you plan to be here?"

Amber is as picky as anybody you've ever seen. I think there are, at most, four items I can cook that she'll eat... five, counting pancakes. But she is my granddaughter, and this is the Christmas season. So I figured Christmas dinner would be noodles. Oh, and mashed potatoes, because we put our noodles on top of mashed potatoes around here.

I've been hankering for "Buck Buchanan sweet potato pie", too. So Christmas is an excuse to make that. Amber won't eat any, but the rest of us will.

Daughter emailed a couple days ago and asked what we were doing Christmas day; I told her my plans for dinner.

"I'm cooking a roast," she said. "What if we bring it over there to cook it?"

Fine with me. Rachel had been planning to cook potatoes and carrots with the roast, but since I was having mashed potatoes, she nixed that idea. And suggested I make glazed carrots as a side dish.

That's one of the more simple vegetable dishes I know, so no problem there.

Yesterday it occurred to me that no Christmas dinner would be complete without hot home-made rolls, so I added that to the menu.

I think we'll be eating pretty good tomorrow. The chicken is cooked and deboned for the noodles, and two Buck Buchanan sweet potato pies are already made. It's a recipe I got years ago from the Kansas City Star.

BUCK BUCHANAN'S SWEET POTATO PIE

1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter,melted
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 T. Flour
2 large eggs
2/3 cup egg nog
1 Tablespoon whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp. lemon extract (optional)
preheat oven to 375. Peel, cook and mash sweet potatoes, measure out 1 1/2 cups. Mix with remaining ingredients and
pour into pie shell, bake 45 minutes till knife inserted midway between the center and rim comes out clean.
for additional flavor interest, experiment with other extracts, coconut, orange or pineapple extract for lemon extract.

The Cool Whip is thawed and in the fridge, waiting.

A Christmas Story

I found this over at Lee Lee's lulus.

It's a Christmas story that, as I understand it, was broadcast for many years on National Public Radio.

You can simply read it if you wish, but I suggest you take ten minutes or so to click "listen now" and hear John Henry Faulk tell the story. It takes a lot to make me teary-eyed, but this did the trick.

Click HERE.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I always loved Kansas City

When I was growing up in north Missouri, I'd spend a week with my sister every summer; she lived in Kansas City, North, near Gladstone. You could stand in her back yard and see the KC skyline. I loved that skyline. When I was at Sister's house, we'd visit Fairyland Park and the Swope Park Zoo. We'd ride the bus to the Katz store in North Kansas City. What a magical place Kansas City was.

When I was twelve years old and in the sixth grade, my parents moved to Kansas City hoping to find a way to make a living. They'd been eking out an existence on a farm where Daddy was a "hired man", and times were hard.

I missed the country life, and actually cried myself to sleep several nights, after we'd moved to the big city.

But we were about four blocks from Municipal Airport, which was Kansas City's only airport at that time. I could walk down there any time I pleased and watch planes take off and land. Now that was exciting.

I got over my homesickness for the farm.

We were exactly one block from the Missouri River levee, and I could climb up and over those rocks and walk right to the river's edge, as you see my cousins and Daddy doing in the above picture.


We were almost under the A.S.B. bridge, and it had steps you could climb and a sidewalk where you could walk right across and end up downtown. Nobody told me we were living in what was practically a slum. I could lie on my parent's bed after dark and watch the light on top of the KCPL building change colors. I thought I was living a miracle.

Years later after I graduated, I rented my first apartment on Eleventh Street. I'd catch a bus to work in front of Genova's Chestnut Inn (seeing country music singers' names
on the marquee who later became legends), or I could walk north to the Independence Avenue bus stop.

I worked in North Kansas City, so I transferred buses Downtown in front of Emery, Bird, Thayer. Waiting for my next bus, I soaked in the amazing displays in Downtown's streets and windows during the Christmas season back then.



The Kansas City skyline still moves me. If you've driven through Dallas or even St. Louis, Kansas City pales by comparison; but I will always love it. Because I remember when Downtown Kansas City was the place to be.

And I want to thank all the Kansas City bloggers who help keep those memories alive for me (even the angry bloggers). The Kansas City spirit is still there, even if Downtown isn't what it used to be.

I will always love Kansas City.


What to buy your man for Christmas

I got this from Tammy at "Down Home".

Christmas is just around the corner so it's time for me to share some gift ideas for those special men in your life! Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women. Follow these rules and you should have no problems.

Rule #1:
When in doubt - buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many cordless drills. For that matter any power tool is a good choice. He may not need it, or know what it does, but it will look good hung on the peg board in the garage.

Rule #2:
If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. "Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?" "OK. Bye-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?"

Rule #3:
If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99-cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars.

Rule #4:
Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties and never buy men bathrobes. If God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn't have invented Jockey shorts.

Rule #5:
You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

Rule#6:
Do not buy a man any of those fancy liqueurs. If you do, it will sit in a cupboard for 23 years. Real men drink whiskey or beer.

Rule #7:
Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after shave or deodorant. We do not stink - we are earthy.

Rule #8:
Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. "Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink." You get the idea. No one knows why.

Rule #9:
Never buy a man anything that says "some assembly required" on the box. It will ruin his Special Day and he will always have parts left over.

Rule #10:
Good places to shop for men include Northwest Iron Works, Parr Lumber, Home Depot, John Deere, Valley RV Center, and Les Schwab Tire. (NAPA Auto Parts and Sear's Clearance Centers are also excellent men's stores. It doesn't matter if he doesn't know what it is. "From NAPA Auto, eh? Must be something I need. Hey! Isn't this a starter for a '68 Ford Fairlane? Wow! Thanks.")

Rule #11:
Men enjoy danger. That's why they never cook - but they will barbecue. Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. "Oh the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?"

Rule #12:
Tickets to a professional sports game (any team within 300 miles) are a smart gift. However, he will not appreciate tickets to "A Retrospective of 19th Century Quilts."

Rule #13:
Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy a man you love a chainsaw. If you don't know why - please refer to Rule #8 and what happens when he gets a label maker.

Rule #14:
It's hard to beat a really good wheelbarrow or an aluminum extension ladder. Never buy a real man a step ladder. It must be an extension ladder.

Rule #15:
Rope. Men love rope. It takes us back to our cowboy origins, or at least The Boy Scouts.Nothing says love like a hundred feet of 3/8" manilla rope.

Rule #16:
Clamps. Men can never have enough quick grip clamps. No one knows why

Rule #17:
Buy your man Duct Tape. This is a man's most universal repair tool. All men know, if you can't fix it, duct it.


The last thing I need is...

Another blog to read. But darn it, I'll be reading some Kansas City blogger and they'll link to somebody and I click. About one time in twenty, that click leads me to such a fantastic read, I can't help but add it to my list.

My latest discovery: Just Cara. She's a lawyer. She's written a book. And she blogs.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed she has a link to this humble blog on hers (because I'm on the "Kansas City blogs" list). I only discovered her today!

Christmas letters: Love them, or hate them?

It's difficult for me to simply send out Christmas cards with only a signature on them. I either try to write a personal note on the blank side of the card, or enclose a Christmas letter... full-knowing that at least half the population hates them. And apparently with good reason.

Personally, I like to receive Christmas letters, so long as they don't go into too much detail. For instance, if you name each one of your fifteen grandchildren whom I've never met and tell their accomplishments in detail, I may drift off or go into the speed-reading mode. But I do enjoy reading news of friends and relatives that I perhaps don't see often.

I also like receiving photograph cards, where folks select a picture of themselves, their family, their home, whatever, and have that made into a card. It's unique, and it gives me something to keep if I so desire. Cliff and I have done cards like this many times. I'm sure we ended up in some trash cans, but that's OK. At least everyone got a look at us first, standing there with our cows or our tractors or our motorcycle. One year it was a turkey in the picture with us.

This year I wasn't going to send out cards; but a week ago I hurriedly composed a letter, doing my best to keep it brief, and started sending cards out with the letter enclosed. I didn't send them to people who see us all the time, or people who I know read my blog (Lord knows they already know more about our lives than they ever wanted to).

Here's what I wrote:

To friends and family:

Winter has settled in with a vengeance, but what can you expect in Missouri?

2008 has seen some big changes for me and Cliff. We bought a used mobile home, set it up in the pasture “out behind the barn” (I used to sing a song by that title) and moved in last July. I now have my first-ever dishwasher, central air, soft water (thanks to Culligan), and a decent view. We have sidewalks and a garage back here. Who could ask for more?

God was watching out for everyone, because a week after we moved out of our house, Cliff’s sister moved into it. She was coming here from Wisconsin and needed a place to live. This way, she didn’t have to make any sudden, permanent moves, and our old house is well looked after.

Because of the moving activity, my horse hasn’t been ridden much this year. I hope to correct that situation next year.

Cliff and I ride the motorcycle as often as the weather and his job permit us. Our favorite trip this year was to Arkansas, where we rode some of the most crooked roads we’ve every been on, hairpin turns and all. It was at the peak of autumn color, and totally breathtaking. We’re still talking about a motorcycle trip to Colorado one of these days.

After New Year’s, Cliff will start working four ten-hour days at work, which will give him three-day weekends. He’s wanted this for a long time, so he can hardly wait. In this economy, we’re thankful for his job and all the blessings we have.

Our son, Jim, is still in Georgia; we usually get to see him and his youngest in July for a few days; his oldest two children are grown up (21 and 23), and they visit us often. They both tell me not to expect any great-grandchildren from them any time soon, if ever; we’ll see about that. Our daughter, Rachel, lives less than two miles away; so we see her and her family often.

We make an effort to enjoy every day, and that’s our wish for you, too.

As I send these out, though, I always wonder if the recipients sigh to themselves and think, "Oh no, another Christmas letter."

Do you like such letters? What say you?

By the way, I'm listening to Johnny Mathis singing Christmas songs right this minute. If you're having trouble getting into the spirit of the season, listen to Johnny sing "Oh, Holy Night". Or even "Blue Christmas". What a voice!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas in the fifties


My parents gave me the best Christmases any kid ever had. Although we were in Church three times a week, we never celebrated Christmas at Church. I was taught that we didn't really know when Jesus was born, and that the Bible didn't mention anything about Christmas.

Oh, but we had Christmas at home! We had a Christmas tree every year, and presents and lights and decorations. Mother made fruitcake and divinity and brown sugar fudge. She bought hard ribbon candy.


She supplied nuts, with a nutcracker handy, in each room of the house.

It wasn't just Mama. My sister and brother and their families helped make the season bright each year. What an exciting time it was!


One year Mother and I went to the nearby Methodist Church on Christmas Eve to watch the children's Christmas play; when we returned home, Daddy was asleep on the couch and Santa had come to fill my stocking and leave my toys. I couldn't believe Daddy slept through Santa's visit!


I remember many of the gifts I received throughout the years: a sled; a farm set; a doll. I never got that pony I prayed for, but my husband fulfilled that wish in later years.

A
bove all those things, I remember bubble lights! I recall how difficult it was to get those magical lights to stand up on the limbs, because they had a strange way of falling so they'd be upside-down when I awoke each morning. All Christmas tree lights were big, back then, and really weighed down the limbs of the tree.

When the lights were plugged in, I'd stand there and wait until those bubble lights got warm enough to "perk"; I thought they were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen.
I still do.

When I was working at Kohl's, a co-worker told me she'd bought a single bubble light that you could plug into an electrical outlet. I searched in vain, but never found one. Oh, I wanted one so badly!


If you know where I could purchase that particular memory from my sheltered childhood, please let me know. It would make every Christmas from here on out just a wee bit happier. Because after all, Christmas is as much about memories as anything else.


A single bubble light would be the best Christmas present ever.

I've found my new theme song!

Questions people ask about my hot tub

First of all, let me tell you that had it been up to me, I would never have spent money on a hot tub. We could have spent those dollars on so many more practical things, or even on some fun things we could both enjoy. Cliff is responsible for the purchase of this totally impractical item. His thinking was something along these lines: Every time he's really wanted or needed something, like his shop, or any of several tractors, or a motorcycle, I've pressed him to get it; my theory is that we'd better enjoy life while we can. Cliff went without a lot of things for many years when our kids were still at home. He deserves anything we can get him now.

While he's the major breadwinner around here, I'm the one in charge of the budget; so I have a lot of power over how the money is spent. Quite literally, I hold the purse-strings. Isn't that how it is in most marriages?


Cliff had noticed how I've enjoyed hot tubs when we were vacationing, and he wanted me to have this one whimsical, totally non-practical thing, something I never asked for. When I tried to talk him out of it, he almost got angry. It was something he wanted to do for me.

After reading and hearing some of the horror stories about used spas, we knew we'd have to buy a new one.

So we invested in a hot tub that cost 1/3 as much as we paid for this mobile home! How redneck is that?

The water stays in it year around. You can never drain a hot tub for any length of time; fittings dry out or something, and it will leak when water is put back in it.

If we were to have an extended power outage (a fairly common occurrence in Missouri), it'll be destroyed, because all those pipes and fittings hidden deep in the foam that insulates the thing will freeze and burst. The man who delivered it and set it up said it probably wouldn't freeze for at least 24 hours, because of the insulation.

Keeping the proper chemical balance is tricky, mainly because of our well water. Softened water is death to the workings of a hot tub, and so is hard water with a calcium content as high as ours. So when we drain and refill it (once every three months or so) we use a mix of the two. Then it takes a week or more of adding PH reducer to get the PH down where it ought to be. Sometimes after awhile, PH increaser has to be added. I have test strips that give me all the information I need, so I know when to add what. Chlorine isn't so tricky; I just add a couple of teaspoons of stuff each time I get out of the spa, and that maintains it where it needs to be.

In weather like we're having now, the hot tub adds at least twenty dollars a month to our electric bill.

To put things in perspective, here's the kicker: Cliff asked me a while back which I'd choose to keep if I had to make a choice: my dishwasher or the hot tub.

"The dishwasher, no question," I told him.

But the important thing is that Cliff wanted to get me something outrageously lavish by our standards, just this once, and he did that. I think it's his way of saying, "I'd do anything for you, no matter how ridiculous."

Consider it my Hope Diamond.

Some of you think I'll catch my death, being out there in a swimsuit when the temperature hovers around zero: Well, the only hard part is getting to the tub and getting in, which takes about three seconds from the time I take my robe off. For those three seconds, it's COLD! Once in, the heat rises enough so that even though my hair ices up, my face stays nice and warm. If there's a north wind, the tops of my ears might get a little cold. Otherwise, I'm comfy.

You would think it would be horrible getting out of the thing; after all, I'm soaking wet and it's zero, right? But fifteen minutes in the hot tub at 102 degrees has me so thoroughly warmed through that getting out is no problem at all. I come inside, dry off, put clothes and shoes on, and then go back out and put the top back on the hot tub.

I hope this answers all the questions my readers have posed about the hot tub. If not, leave a question in the comment section and I'll answer it there.

Oh, Mrs. L wondered how the hot tub was helping my neck (in the previous entry) since my neck wasn't in the water. If you look closely you'll see two very powerfully jetted streams of water above my shoulders that were pounding directly on my neck.