Friday, November 24, 2017


Granddaughter (in-law) Heather was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family and some of ours; many of our relatives were doing other things on the big day, so combining two families really didn't make for too huge a crowd.  I volunteered to make the mashed potatoes, knowing how rushed that last-minute prep for a big meal can be, and ended up making a few other things.

I began thinking about my favorite holiday dishes.  Knowing full well nobody would eat much of either one, I made them anyhow, just for myself.  I should try cutting the recipes at least by half, but I never do.  They really aren't traditional holiday dishes.  Well, I guess the cranberry stuff (Mother called it cranberry salad, but it isn't a salad) is traditional in my own family, but I don't know anyone else that even makes it.  And the macaroni salad is a recipe I just happen to love that came straight from the pages of an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  

Hang on, I did a quick Google search of the ingredients and found that someone else DOES make it, minus the nuts.  I imagine the nuts were my mom's idea, because she put nuts in every sweet holiday recipe she used.  Click HERE and scroll down to see a blogger talking about "Cranberry Cream Dream" and sharing the recipe.  But I digress.

I can eat my mother's cranberry salad until I'm sick, and still keep on eating.  Something about that sweet/tart (more sweet than tart), creamy, nutty dish affects me like a drug affects a druggie!  Most people don't even try the stuff when I take it to a gathering, I guess because there's so many other sweet dishes on the table; or maybe they don't like cranberries.  The thing is, I'm always happy to take it home with me and eat it all myself.  I even sometimes HOPE nobody else eats any.  I wish I were hungry right now, I'd go have some.  Cliff had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, but I'm still waiting for hunger to set in.  I'm as full now as I was when I went to bed.

I didn't make any pies because I knew Heather's Grandma Sandy would bring some, and she is a pie guru.  Yep, Cliff and I had our first pumpkin pie of the season, and Sandy insisted we take the three remaining pieces.  "I have another one at home," she told us.  I love that woman. 

We ate in the shop, simply because Heather and Arick don't have a lot of seating room in the house.  When dinner was over and Heather was getting the meat off the turkey bones for storage, I told her I'd take the roaster full of bones home for my turkey frame soup and wash the pan for her before I brought it back.  I also rescued a meaty ham bone that was destined for the trash can.  Because who doesn't love beans cooked with a ham bone?  

I had some last-minute shopping to do Wednesday, so the little girl and I went along with Cliff when he went for his radiation treatment.  When he got out I said, "Go to Costco so I can get one of those cooked chickens for $4.99.  I'll just run in and get the chicken, nothing else.  Otherwise we're going to be eating out, and it will cost a lot more than five bucks."

Who buys a cooked chicken the day before Thanksgiving?  I wasn't even thinking about all the leftovers and bones I'd have when the big feast was over the next day.  Cliff and I each had a chicken-leg and thigh at home Wednesday (the kid wanted a PBJ sandwich), along with some peas and a baked potato cooked in the microwave: a real quickie meal, but delicious and cheap.  This left me with most of a chicken in the refrigerator on the day before turkey day.  It's OK, though.  This morning I took the chicken off the bones, saved the meat in a couple of separate freezer bags and the bones in another (yes, I save chicken bones until I have a lot, then make broth), and the chicken is saved.  I can almost taste the chicken salad sandwiches now!  Except... I'm not hungry.  

So we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with the family members that were in the area, and today I eat cranberry stuff, macaroni salad, and pumpkin pie all day long.  I won't be getting on the scales until next Monday.  The results won't be pretty, but usually within a week of eating right, I'm right back where I should be.  If not, give it time.  Christmas won't be here for a month.

Here's hoping all my readers had a perfect Thanksgiving, with memories to spare.


P.S.  I think I'm almost hungry now.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Facing the facts

There are phases of growing older that I noticed in my mother as she aged.  One thing that particularly bothered me was the way she clung to "stuff", insignificant items we all knew she would never need or use again.  I even saw her cry at the idea of leaving items behind when she and Daddy were moving out here to our place.  "I'm having to give up everything," she said, alluding to the fact that Daddy's cancer would eventually take him away from her.

We moved boxes of old double-knit clothing she'd bought at garage sales with the intention of cutting them up to use as quilt pieces, and she did make quite a few quilts after that.  But some of the stuff really made no sense at all.  However, we designated one little outbuilding as her storage space.  Most all of it was still there when she moved on to senior apartments, piled high with boxes.  From there, she placed herself in the nursing home of her choice, and that little shed remained full of her "stuff" until her death, at which time it was all hauled away as trash.  The only thing of any value among all that junk was a can of motor oil, which Cliff kept and used.

Yesterday I had a revelation that made me understand what prompted Mother's unwillingness to part with seemingly useless things.  Cliff is always looking for space to store various tractor parts and seldom-used tools, things he will likely need at some point but doesn't want the clutter where he has to look at it. Yesterday as he donned his coveralls to go outside, he said, "Hadn't I might as well tear that stanchion out of the corner of the barn?"

A panicky feeling clutched my heart as I hesitated, then said, "Well... we might need it sometime to restrain an animal we need to work with, so as long as I'm raising a calf or two each year, maybe you should leave it there."

It only took a minute or two for me to recall my mother crying over junk she deemed as precious, and to then see what I was doing.  I told Cliff, "Never mind.  Go ahead and take it out.  My problem is that taking the stanchion out reminds me I will never milk another Jersey cow, and that's silly, because of course I won't.  You can have that space."

Can you believe as I typed that last paragraph, my eyes teared up?  Me!  I don't cry, hardly ever.  Even at funerals of loved ones.  I just don't.  But somehow the idea of admitting I will never have another milk cow makes me cry; that's really pathetic and self-centered of me, but there you have it.  

I understand now how Mother was feeling, and her motivation for those feelings; I hope God will pass my apology along to her.  This is one of countless times that I've glanced heavenward and said, "I'm sorry, Mother."

Getting older means giving up things as it becomes necessary.  I still have my mobility, and a husband by my side.  I have much to be thankful for and I feel so very blessed.  I need to remember to count the things I can still do and rejoice, rather than mourning for things I'm unable to accomplish these days.

Peace.  I hope you find it easier to let go of cherished skills and talents as they're lost than my mom and I have.

On another note, in the previous entry somebody called to my attention that music on CD followed after cassettes, not 8-tracks.  So probably that was a cassette player in our pickup back in the 70's.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A magical trip to St. Luke's East

Our little girl's daddy didn't work yesterday, so since we didn't have her, I opted to go with Cliff to his radiation appointment.  He's been playing CDs on the way to and from the hospital, working his way through songs we hadn't listened to in a long, long time.  He asked if I wanted music playing, I said yes... and that's when the magic happened.

Waylon Jennings' voice came through the speakers along with the normal thumping, simplistic beat he always sang to:  "If you wanna go to heaven, gotta d. i. e., you gotta put on your coat and t. i. e..."; I was magically transported back to the '70s. 

I was working at Harmon manufacturing with a young lady named Lucy.  She was in a record club and had brought a small catalogue to work with her which, she said, contained bargains.  Looking back, Columbia was probably just trying to clear out 8-tracks, because CDs would soon be taking over.  There was a set of three Waylon Jennings tapes:  "Dreaming my Dreams" and two others, all great songs.  But I swear, we must have worn out "Dreaming my Dreams".  Packaged together the three CDs were a real bargain, so I paid Lucy whatever the cost was and she delivered the goods as soon as she received them. 

As the songs played one after another on the way to the hospital yesterday, I was flabbergasted at the perfection of every lyric, except for one that I don't remember ever hearing.  I guess we must have fast-forwarded through it a lot.  I remembered the first four-wheel-drive pickup Cliff ever had, a shiny black work of art, and how excited he was when we got about 10 inches of snow.  School was cancelled, so he and the kids took off to see if they could get that marvelous new vehicle stuck.  It was hours before I saw them again, but they came back smiling.  It's probably just as well I stayed home.  I'm sure they would have Waylon singing in the background, because that's the first vehicle we ever had for which we purchased an 8-track player.

The CD we listened to yesterday was one I purchased used, online, when I was replacing albums I remembered from the old days.  But it's been in the car all that time, and we don't spend a lot of time in the car.  Anyway, it was wonderful hearing those songs, with all the nostalgia they provoked.  I found the songs on Amazon Prime awhile ago and made a playlist, and I'm getting ready to tell Alexa to play it for me. 

If I had to choose a favorite, I suppose it would be "Darlin' Let's Turn Back the Years".  There's an instrumental interlude that I always claimed as "my turn to sing", and although it was about one key higher than I comfortably can sing in, I belted it out anyhow.  Every time it played.  Even yesterday.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Still kicking

In two more weeks, Cliff should be done with radiation.  We are both ready for it to be over, but I know Cliff is especially anxious.  Every day until noon, his forenoon is eaten up by a trip to the city.  It's an hour getting there, ten or fifteen minutes actually in the facility, and another hour coming home.  One marvelous thing I may not have mentioned, though:  Thanks to the Lafayette County Cancer Coalition, we received a very generous check to pay for the money spent for gasoline during all this.  The only reason we knew about it was that Cliff's brother had radiation treatments a few years back, and somebody brought it to his attention; Phil had mentioned this long ago and it happened to stick in my brain all this time (amazing, I know!).  I wonder how many others in our county have had cancer and not known about this; my daughter certainly didn't hear about it during her experience with "the big C".  I intend to send the organization a yearly Christmas donation from now on, even if I have to cut some other cause from my list.

My dog Gabe is growing and learning.  I'm afraid to mention it in case it jinxes me, but he hasn't had an accident in the house for a full week, as of tonight.  It's as though something magically clicked in his head and he suddenly knew what he was supposed to do.  He has taken longer to house-train than other puppies I've had, perhaps because he's male?  However, Internet sources tell me male dogs are no harder to house-break than females, so maybe it's just the different personality involved.  He thinks he's a lap dog, although he's almost outgrowing my lap.  

I've been recalling lately how the sun looked coming up over the ocean when I was in Cozumel, and this has driven me to do all sorts of travel searches looking for a getaway to someplace warm, someplace by the ocean.  Florida seemed cheaper than some other destinations, but Facebook friends tell me it isn't all that warm there in February.  I assumed it was because several years ago, Cliff and I were visiting our son in Georgia and drove on to Florida to a tractor show.  It was one of those years when the whole state of Florida seemed to be on fire due to a drought, but the weather was quite nice... probably in the upper 70's.  I guess maybe that was a fluke.  Truth is, I am just tired of being cold all the time.  It sort of warms me up to just read about sunny oceanside destinations, picturing myself being there.  Maybe that's all I need, so I'll keep on reading and visualizing tropical places.  Hawaii sounds amazing!  

In the past, the approach of winter sort of excited me, lighting a flame of pioneer spirit that made me want to say, "Bring it on, and lots of snow with it!"  I'd dig out my Carhartt coveralls and stocking hats and gloves, actually looking forward to heading to the barn before daylight and listening to coyotes howl in the distance as I milked my cows.  Now I dread going outside for anything, and winter hasn't even officially started yet.  It feels about as cold as I want to be right here in the house.  I check the thermostat constantly only to see it's still at 72 degrees, which used to be a perfect daytime temperature for me; but now I freeze.  I wear sweatshirts aplenty, but my fingers and toes and nose feel like ice cubes!  I don't think they make nose warmers, but I could sure use one if they do.  

And now I know why many senior citizens keep their homes so hot in winter.  

Cliff and I remind one another how fast the years are whizzing past now.  Winter will be over before we know it, and there will be another spring when the winter garb is put away and forgotten.  The days will be longer and once again I can spend an hour each morning on the back deck watching the sun come up, playing my guitar and singing along with the birds as they awaken.  

This wintertime mood reminds me of a story in the Bible, book of Acts, where Paul was a prisoner in what seemed like a hopeless mess.  The ship was tossed, hope was slim, but "fearing we would be dashed against the rocks, the sailors dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight."  That's me.  I've dropped all four anchors and I'm praying for spring.
So many of the old Bible stories I cut my teeth on as a child come to mind in difficult times and light my path.  Sometimes I think about Paul and Silas in a damp, stinking dungeon, no doubt rats crawling everywhere... and they started singing hymns!  And here I am complaining about the cold as I sit in a room with the temperature at 72 degrees.  Where's my hymnbook?  

Yeah, I'm over it now, but I feel much better for venting.  


Thursday, November 09, 2017

My husband finally made the big time (but you'd never know it)

I was in the kitchen getting myself a cup of coffee when Cliff said, "Hey, that's the machine I lay under every day, right here on TV" and then said, "I'm pausing this so you can see."

The news crew was doing a brief segment about how tofu can increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer, but for about five seconds, this image was put on our local Fox 4 news:

I decided to delay my coffee refill for a minute and went to see.  

"That is the exact machine I lay in every day for five minutes," he said, almost proudly.  

"Not only that, but it's YOU in the picture," I responded.

"I think you're right!"

Of course I'm right.  I recognize the shirt and the arm, and so did he after it was called to his attention.  Normally Cliff would be wearing overalls, but he often wears his one pair of jeans to treatments.  He's hit the big-time.  He said he didn't remember anybody else in the room, but I pointed out that since it didn't show his face, he couldn't have seen a person taking a picture.  

Cliff's doing fine, although the he does have one side effect now from the estrogen in his body (lots of hot flashes) and one caused by the radiation (extreme tiredness and lots of sleeping).  Nothing terrible so far, and he only has to do this until December 5.  

I just wanted to share his fame with my readers. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Making biscuits with a four-year-old

I mixed the dry ingredients with just a little help from the kid with adding and mixing.  Then I added the lard, and she used her pastry-blending skills.

I kneaded the dough, then let her try her hand at it.  She decided she should press it all out ready to cut into biscuits, but I kneaded it back into a ball and rolled it out with my rolling pin.  In case you are wondering, yes... we DID wash our hands thoroughly before we stuck them in the dough.  After all, we handle a dog frequently.

I let the kid cut out the first biscuit.  How do you like my biscuit-cutter?  It's an old tomato sauce can.

Yes, a perfect circle!  At the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the lentil stew I'm thawing for our next meal, mine and Cliff's; the Little Princess will have mac-and-cheese or something.  Lentil stew is low-fat and low-calorie, and will help us compensate for the 5,000 calories we had for breakfast.  OK, it wasn't quite that bad, since we can neither one eat more than two biscuits each these days... not because we're counting calories, but because our stomachs fill up much quicker than they did, say, ten years ago.

 We made sure there was plenty of scrap dough to play with once the biscuits were in the oven.

Floury hands!  That's a sure sign of a good cook.

Look how much we managed to save for her to play with.  It kept her occupied for forty-five minutes.

I keep telling her one of these days she will be making the biscuits while I go back to bed.  

May all of you have a child or a puppy or kitten around (or whatever it takes) to keep you smiling in spite of what you see on the news. 


Sunday, November 05, 2017


No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!"     By Thomas Hood

I believe this little verse rings true to every person who ever suffered SAD. --- seasonal affective disorder, which begins for me every year in late October or early November.  I have a feeling lots of people have it who don't even realize it; until I learned about it years ago, I thought the Christmas season was the cause of my depression.  After all, December is never a great month for lower-income folks, what with gift-buying and taxes coming due, not to mention the cost of heating a house... especially with propane.  This time of year I tend to be slower to change from pajamas to daytime clothes in the morning, and you may catch me looking even more dowdy than usual (oh yes, that is possible), hair uncombed... not that I deliberately fail to comb my hair, I just don't care enough to remember to do it, plus the fact I've never been one to look at myself in the mirror.  I go days without seeing anybody but Cliff and the kid we babysit (and her parents, briefly), and I become a cave-dweller.  I play the part well.  

There are special lights, "Happy Lights", that are supposed to help with winter depression, and some of those have gotten cheaper over the years; so I may eventually get THIS ONE.  In the past, when Cliff and I walked in the pasture for about 45 minutes every day, even in winter, there was a noticeable improvement in my depression.  I could also tell a difference when I was holding down my last job at Kohl's Distribution Center, so I think just keeping busy plus being forced to interact with people was a big help, in spite of the fact I'd just as soon NOT interact with people.  Our little "borrowed girl" has been good for both of us in winter months.  This year my crazy puppy is making me laugh a lot, so he's good medicine.

This isn't something I dwell on, so I promise you won't see me harping on it all winter.  It always takes me by surprise when it hits, and then I deal with it.

The dog, Gabe, is doing marvelously well with training.  The only times he has an accident in the house are the times I don't notice him standing at the door, wanting out.  I am putting the leash on him again when I take him out because, although I've used treats (tiny pieces of hot dogs) to get him to come when I call, sometimes the temptation of chasing a cat overcomes his love of hot dogs.  That wouldn't be so bad in and of itself, but the cats will go running out to muddy or manure-heavy areas and he follows.  Gabe's little white feet get washed at the sink three or four times daily, because they pick up dirt like crazy!  We won't even talk about how they look when he's found a mole-hill to dig into.    

Cliff and I are wondering how we'll get through this coming holiday season without gaining back all the weight we've lost, but I figure since we've maintained this long while using a bread machine and my new Instant Pot, we shouldn't do too bad.  

Here's my final word on the Instant Pot:  It makes great, easy-to-peel boiled eggs, but it's less trouble for me to use the method where you put them in a pan, bring them just to a boil, cover the pan, and wait twenty minutes.  It's nice for cooking beans, but since Cliff fixed the loose handles on my old cheapo, use-on-the-stove pressure cooker, that's what I prefer.  Why?  Because the beans cook at least four times faster.  Why again?  Because that pressure cooker has a higher pressure (10 pounds).  The Instant Pot uses much less and thus, takes longer.  I'm still using it a lot, experimenting with various methods and recipes.  I understand all the hype:  the younger generation is scared to death of a regular pressure cooker and most of them haven't been willing to try it.  I learned how to use one from my mother after I was married:  I would buy a roast, but it wouldn't be fall-apart tender like I wanted.  Mother suggested a pressure cooker and told me how to use it.  It's no big deal, but you do have to follow directions closely (how full it should be, the amount of water to use, etc.) and you need to stay in the house and listen to the jiggling to keep the heat "just right" under it.  After perfecting my pressure-cooker technique cooking roasts and beans, I went on to buy a pressure canner I also used for many years.  So I have plenty of experience.

I have a pound of black beans in my old pressure cooker as I type this (because I'm going to fix taco soup later).  Once the pressure cooker comes up to pressure, the black beans will cook for two minutes.  Then I'll turn off the burner and wait for the pressure to go down completely.  I'll use two cups of beans in the soup and freeze the rest in 1 1/2 to 2-cup amounts for future use, rather than buy salty canned beans.  

If you aren't scared to use a regular stove-top pressure cooker, you won't gain much spending money on an instant pot, but there are a few nifty things it does that I wouldn't try with a regular pressure cooker (cheesecake, cooking two things at once in little pans inside it, etc).  I think the reason for all the hype is that people who were scared to pressure-cook before feel safer with the instant pot, and indeed, it IS safer.  Once you have learned how to use it, you set a timer and are then able to relax.  It will regulate itself and then turn itself down to the "warm" setting when the time is up.  

I've seen several people online saying there's no need to soak beans when you pressure-cook them, but I beg to differ.  Whether you soak the beans overnight, or use the quick-soak method of heating to boiling and then letting them set for an hour and then drain that water off them, you do away with a lot of the most notorious "side-effects" of beans, and they are no longer "the musical fruit" the famous little rhyme mentions.  I will attest to the effectiveness of this method.

We still love our bread machine.  I usually try to make bread early in the morning so when Cliff gets up we can have a warm slice of home-made bread with butter for breakfast.  I slice the rest of the loaf when it's cooled, save a couple slices for use the next day, and freeze the rest, taking one or two slices out of the freezer as we need them.  It's not the only bread in the house, though.  There are some things store bread is better for, like wrapping around a hot dog, for instance.  Here's the only recipe I use, although I substitute melted lard for oil.

Recipe By:Kathy Nowell from

"Honey whole wheat bread for a bread machine."


  • 1 1/8 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast


  1. Add ingredients according to the manufacturer's directions to your bread machine. Use the wheat bread cycle and light color setting.

I've also made some wonderful pita bread using the bread machine to do the mixing, then taking it out to form it and let it rise.  That recipe is also on Allrecipes.