Sunday, November 29, 2015


I recently had to do the unspeakable.  I shall post my confession here in the spirit of "keeping it real".  I bought two pairs of size 14 jeans, after staying in size 12's for at least two years.  My waistline had crept up a little before the holiday season even started, but my jeans were still fitting.  Sort of.  Anyone who has fought a weight problem all her life will understand this:  As I gain a pound here and a pound there, I always notice that some of my less roomy jeans are a little tight, so I move them to the bottom of the drawer and proudly tell myself, "Well, you are still in a size 12.  You can lose five pounds or so any time you please."

You know how it goes.  I was still hunting out the most forgiving pairs of jeans I owned, as well as digging out the sweats to wear around the house, when I started thinking about my mother's fruit cake, which I haven't made in years because (duh) I love it and it is very fattening.  I thought about my age and how quickly death is approaching and decided I did not want to go to my grave without tasting that fruitcake one more time.  

You have enough of the details.  I do, by the way, hereby promise that Cliff and I are going to get back on track by the first of the year.  Feel free to ask me later how that worked out for me.

Isn't it funny how once you start letting things go like this, you think of every food you have been denying yourself for years?  Last week I got out the waffle iron because from the time I was a kid, I have loved waffles and prefer them vastly over pancakes, but I deny myself for the cause.  While I'm still on a roll, I determined to have waffles.  

My waffle iron is Teflon, and supposed to be non-stick, but it was never non-stick even from the first time I used it.  I learned to use Pam spray before every waffle session, but once in awhile I'd forget and end up scraping stuck waffle bits off that thing for an hour, at which time I would give up and soak the mess off in the sink.  

Well, I haven't had Pam in the house for a long time, but it seemed to me that if I soaked a paper towel in Crisco and rubbed it around the hot waffle iron, that should do the trick.  

It didn't work, and I ended up with the usual mess.  Rather than waste the made-from-scratch batter, Cliff, Cora, and I had pancakes.  I came THIS CLOSE to tossing the waffle iron in the trash, but decided to buy some Pam and give it another chance.  We had waffles this morning, and they didn't even attempt to stick.  Nice, crispy waffles.  I am SO full.  

The worst thing about making waffles is that even with only two people eating them, there is a long wait between servings before the next one is done.  But good things are worth waiting for.  

I love the old waffle recipe from the 1960 Better Homes and Garden cookbook (HERE).  Beating the egg whites until they're stiff and gently folding them in makes for the lightest, crispiest waffles on the planet.

Yes friends, keep me honest after Christmas.  I need help... Cliff needs even MORE help... and I do not want to keep getting larger britches each year for the rest of my life.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When a toddler speaks...

Cliff and I have really enjoyed being with Cora while she learns to talk, but she has surely taught us to watch what we say.  Before she was actually putting words together, probably around the age of one year, I noticed her repeating things I said.  At that time she called cows "Mooo".  She would point at a cow or calf, say "moo", and I would absent-mindedly say "mmm-hmmm", emphasis on the "hmmm".  She would repeat my mmm-hmm exactly.

She's been calling us by name for a long time.  She has trouble with the "L" sound in Cliff, so it comes out "Ciff".  However, she pronounces Donna perfectly, and always has.  She sometimes calls us "Grandpa Ciff" and "Grandma Donna", because that's how her parents refer to us when they talk to her.  While I always call my husband by the shortened version of his name. Cora sometimes calls him Clifford, I guess because she hears her dad and others use his full name.  

I never realized until the child started talking how often I say "yup" instead of yes.  That seems to be Cora's preferred word when she answers in the affirmative, although she can't pronounce the "y" at the beginning, so it comes out "Wup".  She says this OFTEN!  Like many toddlers, she can't pronounce her "r's", so they, too, come out as "w".  Like that pesky wabbit, Bugs Bunny.

I don't curse, although occasionally if there's a big disaster (like when I shut my finger in a door, or spill something messy) I say "Crap!"  

By the time Cora was nine months old, she was repeating that word five or six times in succession if she heard me say it once.  So I don't say it any more.  

She still refers to herself often in the third person, which I think is my own fault.  As a way of baby-talking without even realizing what I was doing, I would say things like "Cora can't have that" or "Cora likes that".  You know, rather than saying "you can't have that".  So let's say I decide to put her boots on or zip her jacket:  Typical of a two-year-old, she wants to do things for herself and will say, "Cora do it."  

The strange thing is, she knows there is another way to refer to herself.  I recently asked her, "Did you have fun at Grandma's house?"

She answered emphatically, "I DID!"  Not "Cora did", but I did.

Maybe she is just patronizing us.  Perhaps she thinks we don't know how to talk right, and is saying things the way we taught her so we will understand.  

Because of the nature of construction work, she isn't here as regularly in winter as the rest of the year, so her dad has her a lot.  We don't let a week go by without seeing our girl, though, if we can help it; and her daddy is fine with bringing her over to spend a day if we ask.  Of course, there's no charge for those days.  Yesterday her dad woke her up and brought her over, per our request.  At the door Cora popped her pacifier (paci) out of her mouth and handed it to me with a grin, saying, "Want this?"  I usually put it away until nap-time.  

Some years ago... it was after we had first moved to the mobile home, so four to six years ago... I mentioned to Cliff that I missed babies.  "I wouldn't want to raise another child," I told him in jest, "but if someone left a baby on our doorstep, I think I would take it in."  

I don't remember his response, but in Cora, we have the best of both worlds:  We got our baby, but we don't have to get up at night with her.  We get lots of time to ourselves and we don't have to worry about eventually having to raise a teenager.  Of course, she isn't really a baby any more.  

Somebody is going to have a baby in the next five years, because I think if we are still up to the task, we might want another one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

All for the love of fruitcake

I don't know how many years it's been since I made fruitcake.  My mother discovered a fruitcake recipe back in the 50's that was second to none.  Most of the family loved it.  I had to stop making it because I ended up eating 75% of it, and by the time November rolls around each year, my jeans are already bursting at the seams.  A fruitcake would necessitate buying at least a size larger clothing by the time it was gone.  

Last year I ordered a two-pound fruitcake from Collin Street Bakery.  I paid almost $30 for it, but I figured if I ate it all myself, at least it was only two pounds rather than seven.  It was good, high-quality stuff.  But it wasn't my mother's fruitcake.

Today I realized that if I am ever going to taste my mother's fruitcake again, I'd better be making one, wardrobe be damned. Who knows how many more Christmases I have left?  So I found the recipe this morning and wrote down all the ingredients.

I spent $38 on all this stuff, but I won't be using all those nuts, raisins, pans, and dates in the making of one fruitcake.  This time of year you can't have too many nuts, raisins, and little disposable loaf pans.  

I was somewhat confused about the fluffy white icing, because back when Mother made her fruitcake, and even the last time I made it, the recipe called for Betty Crocker Fluffy White icing that was a dry mix, and we mixed it up ourselves with a mixer.  Today I could only find Betty Crocker Fluffy White Frosting in a can, ready-mixed.  I hope it's the right amount to make the cake stick together, but just in case, I bought an extra can.  I just now took the required Betty Crocker Spice Cake out of the oven, and as soon as it's cool, I'll be making my "Mystery Fruitcake".  I did not know that was the real name of it until I began Googling to see if the recipe could be found online.  This is pretty much my mom's recipe, except that she used one cup of regular raisins and one cup of golden raisins.  Oh, and she was liable to use a variety of nuts:  English walnuts, black walnuts, and pecans.  

Back in the fifties, I believe Mother bought her candied fruit at Kresge's, downtown Kansas City, where you could buy the exact amount you needed by the pound so there was no waste.  

Ah, Kresge's.  Those were the good old days.

A short break from Facebook

Yes, a very short break.  I mentioned to my husband this morning that I was really getting tired of all the negative stuff on Facebook.  " I should just disable my account for 24 hours," I told him.

He made some remark to let me know he didn't think that was likely to happen.  "Hey," I said, "I have actually disabled my account for as long as a week, in the past!"

And just to prove my point, poof, I disabled my Facebook account.

Now, there are people I would like to have alerted... but those who know me well have no doubt I'll be back, and soon.  The truth is that 3/4 of my "friends" won't even know I'm gone in that short a time.

Most of my Facebook friends don't even know how to get to my blog if I don't share the link on Facebook, nor do they feel the need to do so.  I just felt like making note of the fact for my own edification.

I have a good book to read, and I still have the Sudoku app, which is enough of a time-killer to take the place of Facebook, all by itself.  Recently they started putting ads with it in order to sell an ad-free version for $9.99, but so far I've found a way around the ads.

I think I will avoid the news while I'm off Facebook, too.


My oldest granddaughter recently asked if she could have any old recipes that are written in my mother's handwriting.  I only found three, since I copied down most of her recipes myself:  The recipes for her noodles, fourteen-day sweet pickles, and brown sugar fudge are the ones she wrote herself.  I had my recipe box out looking for Mother's fruitcake recipe and remembered Amber's request, thinking I may as well give her these things now.  When I came on the brown sugar fudge card, though, I wondered, "Do I have another copy of this?  It's my favorite Christmas candy and I don't want to lose it."  

I remembered doing a blog entry to share the recipe in my old AOL journal and looked, just to make sure.  There was a small bonus, a poem I wrote, and I am copying and pasting the entire entry here.  The poem was originally for my chat room buddies, and I changed it in this entry to apply to my AOL J-Land friends.  It amazes me how appropriate it is for this very time in history.  If I were changing it now, it would probably be for my Facebook friends, some of whom are a little miffed at me because I insinuated they were "sheeple" for changing their profiles to the colors of the French flag to show they care.  Probably shouldn't have used that word, since I've been known to do things on Facebook just because everybody is doing it and it seemed like the thing to do at the time.  But I digress.  On to the old entry from 2003.

I found this poem in my Word documents while looking for another Christmas poem, and changed the words around a bit for my journal readers.  (Putting poems in this journal drives me nuts, because spacing and such is all messed up when you copy and paste.  That's why the last three lines are spaced by themselves!  Oh well, you get the meaning.)  


© copyright December 17, 2003

Donna Wood   

The normalcy of routine days
Helps all of us survive.
For otherwise, life's just a maze...
A fight to stay alive.
To read the items in the news
Would drive a soul insane:
Without some other, pleasant views,
We couldn't take the strain.

We seek out understanding folks
With humor bright and wry,
And make inane and useless jokes
While, somewhere, soldiers die.
We tend our gardens, cook our meals
And push the fear away
Full-knowing that the danger's real
And bombs might drop today.

I cling to everyday routine
And cherish it like gold
Ignoring threats that lie unseen
As I am growing old.
Life's a vapor, this is true,
A little puff of smoke.
I'm feeling just a little blue...
So please, tell me a joke!

The J-Land blogs we often read
Will help us all survive.
The laughs we share fulfill a need
And help the spirit thrive.
The friends I've found on AOL

Bring smiles, when skies are grey.
May all of you reap great rewards
On this next Christmas day!


Now, about brown sugar fudge:  My mom used to go into a frenzy of baking and candy-making, starting before Thanksgiving and not stopping until Christmas was over.  She made pink divinity, white divinity, several kinds of fudge, and my favorite:  Brown sugar fudge!  

She'd set out pretty dishes with an assortment of these home-made goodies, all around the house.  And I'd sneak around and dig out every piece of Brown sugar  fudge in each container.  She probably thought there were a lot of people  who loved the stuff, the way it disappeared.  But I think I was the only one eating it.   

Every year, I make at least one batch of Brown Sugar Fudge.  If I make more, I'll eat it all.  And my orthopedist would like me to keep my weight down as a favor to my mutilated knees.

Cliff says it's so sweet, it'll set your teeth on edge.  My daughter says it tastes too much like "pure brown sugar".  People at work have asked me to bring some so they can try it.  I oblige, knowing they won't like it.  "Too sweet," they say.    

In recent years, some of my grandchildren have begun to share my fondness for the stuff... so what do I do?  I hide it from them!  Oh, I let them have a piece or two, but then I shove the regular chocolate Fantasy fudge in their faces to distract them.    There's just something about Brown Sugar fudge that takes me back to childhood instantly.  I'm a little girl again, Santa Clause is coming, and Mamma's lap is available any time I need comforting.  It's just a shame the stuff is so fattening.  

Here's the recipe, but I warn you now, you won't like it.  I copied this direct from my mom's recipe card, and I love the way it's worded.  "... remove from fire".  Is that old-fashioned, or what?   

1 pound box brown sugar
2 large tablespoons white syrup
3/4 cup cream (or evaporated milk, but I like cream)
1/4 cup butter
   Cook slowly to soft ball stage.  Then remove from fire.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat till very thick.  Add nuts and pour in buttered pan.  Add a few marshmallows, if desired.  (I don't add marshmallows, but that's how my mom gave me the recipe)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We're home

We are back from Kansas!  

I was the one who pushed for this trip.  In fact, I wrote the check to pay for it with Cliff saying he wasn't at all interested in touring the Hesston plant.  "Once you've been through one place that makes farm equipment and tractors, they are all the same."  

Well, I found the John Deere plants interesting after having previously seen the Kinze place, so I thought this one would be interesting in its own way.  

I was wrong this time.  Cliff was right. If we go on another bus trip with the group, I will probably sit and read while those who are interested do the tour.  Don't get me wrong, I find it interesting to see how things are made, but I've seen enough farm-implement manufacturing.  

However, the rest of our activities were great, and I'm glad we went.  The meal at the Mennonite restaurant Tuesday evening was terrific:  Everyone ordered different meals, and we all agreed the food was perfect.  Our motel was the nicest, cleanest one I've ever stayed in, probably because it wasn't very old.

There were 43 of us.  That's part of Cliff on the left, then his brother and wife.  
Our Wednesday tour of the salt mine was so interesting that we took longer than expected to get through; so we had a little time crunch and were behind schedule when it was time to go on to the Cosmosphere:  the guided tour at the latter left me and Cliff wanting more.  The poor lady was very enthusiastic about the place and tried to hit the high spots, but we want to learn more.  Sometime when we visit my sister, who lives only forty miles from there, we will go back on our own.  

There was a 93-year-old woman with us (mother of the guy I used to work with at the orchard) who walked through these places on our tours.  She was worn out at the end of the day, but by george, she made it... frail, skinny little woman who ate like a horse.  There were others my age and older whose knees obviously hurt far more than mine who went every step of the way.  There was a movie at the end of the Cosmosphere tour, and several of us worked hard at just standing up when it was over.  It was obviously a lot harder for some than it was for me, and yet they struggled out of their seats without even a groan.  This left me with a resolve to keep doing things as long as I am able:  If I have to take a pain pill or two, so be it, but I'm not going to sit out the fun stuff unless I absolutely have to.  Our club secretary, who arranged all our activities ahead of time, had been under the impression the salt mine was a ride-through thing; and while a couple of rides were involved, most of it was on foot.  There were motorized chairs for the use of those who really needed them, so that saved the day.  The only thing I would have done different, had I known we would be on our feet so long there, was to have taken my cane-chair.  At the Hesston plant I had a couple of others threaten to steal it.  

It's good for me to have to live with a group of people for a couple of days, but I'm always ready to return to my hermit lifestyle when it's done.  Oh yeah, one little fly in the ointment:  Those of us who went on the trip parked our vehicles at the place where we have our tractor club meetings:  When we got in our car last night, the battery was as dead as a door-nail.  Thank goodness Cliff's brother and wife hadn't gotten too far down the road before we discovered the problem.  They brought us home and took Cliff back to get the car started.

I'm sure by the time another trip is planned, I'll be ready to go again!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

It's almost time for our trip!

It will be a hectic two days, our road trip with the tractor club folks.

Tuesday, 7 A.M.  Everybody will be loaded and the bus heads out.

10:00 A.M.  We stop for brunch at Emporia, Kansas.   Then on to the Agco location at Hesston, Kansas, for a two-hour walking tour of their plants, of which there are several:  Machine, fabrication, assembly:  baler, windrower, combines, and planters.  Yes, I will be taking my cane-chair AND my hydrocodone.  It's a two-hour, two-mile tour.

We'll check in at our hotel after the tour.

5:00 P.M.  Board the bus and travel to Yoder, Kansas for dinner.  Our very efficient club secretary gives us prices for meals so we know what to expect. 

Wednesday morning we'll eat a full breakfast at the motel.

9:10 A.M.  We will board the bus and head for the Salt Mine tour.  We get to ride through that on a train, so that will be nice.

When we get back on the bus, our very efficient secretary (yes, Joyce IS that wonderful!) will be passing out sack lunches which she and a friend put together, since she's afraid we wouldn't make the deadline for our next activity if we stop somewhere to eat:  We'll have a sandwich, chips, a drink and a dessert.  I know this because we had a sack lunch on the last tour we participated in.  We'll eat this lunch at the Lunar Outpost at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

1:30 P.M.  One-hour guided walking tour of the space center, then we have about 20 minutes to browse the gift shop.

3 P.M.  We enter the theater at the Cosmosphere for a movie.

After the movie we will load the bus, heading toward home.  We'll stop in Emporia for a buffet meal and then come on home.  

Hey, that is a lot of activity for a bus full of mostly senior citizens!  

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The calves are settling in

Grace loves her job as nanny.  As you can see, her own daughter got her belly full and wandered off.

The two Holsteins are doing fine health-wise.  The tiny heifer quickly recovered from her diarrhea (no doubt due in part to the Hydrocodone I accidentally gave her).  They both let me know when they are hungry.

The three calves seem to have no problem taking all of Grace's milk, since she never has more than a quart left when I take her into the barn to make sure she is getting milked out.  Last night I separated her from the three calves so I could steal a gallon of milk this morning before they had their breakfast.

The Holstein bull calf is pretty aggressive when it comes time to eat, and I think he will do fine nursing the cow next week during our two-day trip with the tractor club.  The freemartin heifer still needs to be pushed to the source when she's hungry; otherwise she just follows me around bawling, thinking I'm the source.  So I will probably have the grandson offer her half a bottle of milk replacer a couple of times while I'm gone, just to make sure she doesn't get starved out.  We'll see how she's doing this weekend.

Cliff and I put dehorning paste on Luna, Grace's baby, last night.  The Holstein heifer had already had this done at the dairy; she must have been born before her brother and they didn't know yet she was a freemartin, because she also had ear tags in place so they'd know who she was.  Tonight we'll try to castrate the Holstein bull calf and put dehorning paste on him, and that should take care of all the painful procedures the babies have to undergo.  I don't plan to wean these kids and replace them with other calves like I did last year.  I'll just let them take care of milking Grace until she's ready to be dried up for her next calf.  That's the plan, if only things go along as they should.  I am VERY thankful that the grandson won't have to learn how to milk a cow in order for us to go on our trip.  He was willing, I'll give him that.  

I am REALLY excited with anticipation for the trip to Kansas!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Adventures in calf-raising

Yesterday, finally, Heins Dairy had a couple of bull calves available.  When we got there, they had three calves for the taking, but one was a freemartin heifer.  Click HERE to learn about freemartins.  Anyhow, there was one bull calf that was a single birth, and then a small bull and heifer that were twins.  Even the single bull calf wasn't as large as I would like, and both twins were small, especially the heifer.  Beggars can't be choosers, and I would have chosen the bull twin until I was told the heifer would be $50 cheaper.  I didn't realize until it was too late that she had pretty loose bowels, but I'm sure I'll get her over that.  Those people take good care of their calves, and I've never had one get really sick.

Of course my intention is to get these calves nursing Grace alongside her daughter, and before long I won't have to milk at all.  They'll be able to handle however much milk she gives.  

Holstein calves have always seemed to me a little less smart than other calves, so sometimes it's an effort to get them to nurse a cow.  These two took the cake!  Their noses might brush up against a teat, but both of them would pass right by and try sucking on the cow's dewlap or elbow instead.  If I tried sticking my hand down there to try and guide either of them to the proper source, they'd follow my hand away rather than grab the teat I was trying to stick in their mouths.  Grace got tired of all this going on beneath her belly, kicked over the bucket of milk (I was going to pour out the extra anyhow) and pooped a couple of times.  That's what nervous cows do, they poop.  And sometimes pee.  

There are millions of Holsteins in the world.  If you buy dairy products at the grocery store, those almost surely came from a Holstein cow.  Dairymen breed their animals for one thing:  milk production and any attribute, like udder shape and placement or body type, associated with that.  I think in concentrating on this one goal, some old instincts have fallen along the wayside, resulting in cattle that are stupid.  This, by the way, doesn't matter to a dairyman.  All he needs a cow to learn is to come in with the herd and be milked; that's her only job in life... that, and have a calf once a year, but that's pretty much taken care of for her.  She doesn't even have to be a good mother.  In fact, the less she worries about her baby, the quicker she'll settle in to the milking routine.

I often raise Jersey/Holstein cross calves, which is how I acquired Grace, Hope, and the cow I recently sold, Penny.  None of those animals, as calves, seemed dull-witted to me, nor did the males I raised as steers.  It's only the pure Holsteins I get from the local dairy that are slow at figuring things out.  

Digressing a bit, I remember in the fifties that Angus cattle were called "the mother breed", I assume because they were excellent mothers.  But then all the beef breeds seem to make good mothers.  It's necessary!  They aren't in a barn being watched twenty-four hours a day; they need to be able to fend for themselves.  Several years ago we had three Limousin cows.  One of them had just given birth to twins and I walked up to one of the calves, bent over, and lifted a back leg to see what sex it was, like I was used to doing with the calves my Jerseys gave birth to.  That cow knocked me down the hill so fast I hardly knew what hit me.  A farmer later told me that Limousin cows are all like that, even the ones his kids had raised to show at the fair.  "You don't bother their calves," he said.  

Yeah, I noticed that.  

Back to my new calves.  Last night I ended up giving both of them their milk from a bottle; thank goodness I was able to get enough, after Grace spilled most of it early on.  They weren't even all that great at figuring out the bottle.  I had to straddle the little heifer and hold her still and keep sticking the bottle back in her mouth when she let go.  Oh, she was plenty hungry, she just didn't have the good sense to keep holding onto the bottle.  

This morning, I had success, probably because I'm a morning person and have more patience early in the day.  The bull calf managed to take the contents of one quarter all by himself, so he got a half-gallon or so.  I sort of lost patience with the little heifer and went ahead and mostly milked the cow, then brought the heifer back in.  She had success, finally, losing the teat several times but finding it again, even switching to another one and sucking away; I also gave her a little milk from the bottle, but didn't want her to have too much until I know her bowels are normal.  I think by tomorrow they will have the art of nursing a cow down pat, something calves of other breeds are born knowing.  

Meanwhile, Grace seems very anxious to get better acquainted with the new babies.  When they are in the barn bawling from hunger, she is lowing outside the door in that language you only hear from a mother cow.