Saturday, January 27, 2024

Guess Who's Coming to Visit?

My older baby brother, who lives in Idaho (the puppy is either a labradoodle or a goldendoodle that is daughter is breeding)...

...sent a picture today of unexpected visitors in their neighborhood. I can't imaging looking out a window and seeing a couple of these in my front yard, probably munching on the shrubs, but I suppose this is just another of those places where mooses come walking. 

If memory serves, I think I heard Arlo Guthrie recite his poem on Prairie Home Companion some years ago, but then again my memory gets rather muddled:

Mooses Come Walking

Mooses come walking up over the hill.
Mooses come walking. They rarely stand still
When mooses come walking, they walk where they will.
And mooses come walking up over the hill.

Mooses look into your window at night.
They look to the left and they look to the right.
The mooses are smiling; they think it’s a zoo.
That’s why the mooses like looking at you.

So, if you see mooses while lying in bed,
It’s best to just stay there, pretending you’re dead.
The mooses will leave, and you’ll get the thrill
Of seeing the mooses go over the hill.

 

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Pie!

“Pie, pie, me oh my! Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry, all at once, so well as pie. Apple! Pumpkin! Minced an’ wet bottom! I’ll come to your place every day if you’ve got ’em! Pie, me oh my, I love pie!
Sung by Andie McDowell, Michael
 I have made two pie crusts that were perfect. The first time was in 1989.

A friend had raised a couple of pigs. We bought one, and they hauled the pigs to the meat processor. A week or so later, we picked up the wrapped meat and brought it home, including the head and all of the fat.

I found some instructions for making head cheese. It was quite good. And then I rendered the fat. After a couple of days of bubbling fat in the pots, I had all of this creamy white lard, and I decided to use some of it to make soap. The soap was not entirely successful. Although I thought I was following the directions, I failed to do something right. Some of the cakes of soap retained bubbles of liquid lye, which caused some excitement during the shower. 

By then we had made the decision to stop using hydrogenated vegetable oil (shortening) to cook with, and so any pie crust I made was either with oil (which was usually a disaster) or I just bought it ready made from the store. Of course, the store-bought crust was made with hydrogenated vegetable oil, but at least I didn’t have to invest in a can of shortening that I might use once a year.

Thanksgiving was approaching and it was time to make the annual pie. I had all of this lard and I thought, oh what the heck, it’s not going to kill us.... 

So I used the homemade lard to make the pie crust. I was stunned at how wonderful that crust was. But, I never used lard again.... until 2009. Once again, Thanksgiving was approaching. We weren’t going to have pie at all – just “pumpkin custard,” but then at the last minute, we changed our minds, and so I used some of the lard I had bought to make “suet cakes” for the birds.

And so the second time one of my homemade pie crusts came out perfect. The temptation to use the lard the next time a pie was requested was almost overwhelming, and  it is probably a good thing we don’t have pie very often.

But then we discovered Mrs. Smith’s pies. By the time I figured in the cost of the ready made pie crust and the cost of the fruit—pear pie is my favorite, with apple and pumpkin in a dead heat for second, and grape pie coming in third—and the time spent peeling fruit, slicing it up, etc. I decided Mrs. Smith’s pies are a good buy when they are on sale at $4.99.

And best of all, they use REAL APPLES, which prompts the question: What would they use if they didn’t use real ones? Ritz crackers and apple-cider vinegar?

Friday, November 17, 2023

Struggling Pays Off

Sometime in the early 1960s, our parents bought a 2-door Ford Ranch Wagon, very much like the one on the photograph, except ours didn’t have a white roof. 

Part of their ministry at church was to pick up people who had no way to get to the service. At various times they picked up a mentally disabled woman, Helen Opal; Elin, an elderly woman; Italia, a young teenager who was physically disabled and confined to a wheelchair; Betty, a middle-aged woman; and Hiroko and her 3 children. And as a side note, Hiroko had survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima but her face was marred by damage sustained during the blast. 

But the one who sticks in my mind the most is a boy named Ronnie Murphy. My brother says we picked up his mother too, but I don’t remember her.

The problem with the 2-door Ranch Wagon was that to get in or out of the back seat, whoever was in the front seat had to get out of the car so the seat could be tipped forward. One time when we were bringing Ronnie back home, my mom got out and said “let me help you,” and he replied “I don’t need any help,” and he pushed the seat forward himself.

And because we were sort ornery—and I am guessing one of the my brothers came up with this—this incident morphed into a “sing-song” ditty “Ronnie Murphy helps himself.”

We are now at the 2-year anniversary of the accident that has left Richard partially disabled. He has made tremendous progress in some areas, but we suspect other deficits are permanent.

Several months ago, he figured out how to get his sweatpants on and off by himself. I still have to put the compression stocking and his regular socks on, but he can now take off his socks and the compression stocking, so I don’t have to help him undress.

Standing back and watching him struggle is sometimes very hard. I have told him the story about Ronny Murphy, so on occasion when I ask, “Do you need any help?” He’ll say: “Richard helps himself.”

Sometimes a person needs to struggle to achieve a goal, and in this case, it has paid off.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

In Which a Loud Whack Is Heard

The church I attend holds the communion service on the first Sunday of the month. During the pandemic and up through December, the church switched from passing the elements to prefilled communion cups that we picked up at the door so we could maintain social distancing.

These convenient prefilled communion cups were rather difficult for some of us to use. The top compartment held the wafer (not sure what that is made of but it was truly awful), and the seal was hard to get off. The seal for the cup holding the grape juice was also hard to get off. 


 But we soldiered on.

At the annual meeting in December, the congregation elected me to be on the board that makes decisions for the church. The board also announced at the meeting that we would resume the traditional communion service in January.

Being on the board means that I am supposed to serve communion. When we were discussing on the first Sunday in January who would serve communion that morning, I told them that I did not want to serve communion because I am uncoordinated and clumsy and was afraid. They said that was okay, I didn’t have to.

But then a Sunday School lesson reminded us that “whom God calls He also equips” and so I decided I would take a turn after all. The first time I served communion it went okay.

And this past Sunday it was my turn again. And it also went okay but not quietly.

When I got to the last pew in the auditorium and took the tray with the cups back from the person I had served...

 I whacked the communion tray against the back the pew. Loudly.

Our pastor said not to worry, that one time someone coming down the platform steps after serving the organist stumbled and dropped the whole tray. 

It could have been worse.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Embracing the Slime

Signs of Fall are all around… still a little subtle but not too hard to spot. There is a bit of color now in the dogwood trees, and the plumes of goldenrod, which is one of the last flowers to bloom, sway gently in the breeze.


The sun has shifted in the sky and shadows are long. The hummingbirds were still here yesterday, but I haven’t seen one today, so I believe they have finally headed South for the winter.

It is approaching 90 degrees today, so it is certainly warm enough even if the days are getting so much shorter. Even so, the growing season is just about over.

The tomatoes in our bucket garden are on their last legs. There are a few green ones left that should ripen okay before the first frost. The jalapeƱo and bell pepper plants and the two okra plants that survived the groundhog have not gotten the message and continue to flower and produce.

I imagine okra is one of those vegetables that people either like or don’t like (well, I suppose that could be said of any vegetable, come to think of it), and then the issue of the slime.

To “slime or not to slime,” that is the question. I like the slime and have enjoyed the okra in Cape Verde Vegetable Soup originally from the “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” cookbook. Richard prefers it coated in cornmeal and fried. It’s great either way. The flower is gorgeous.

 I have a nice bag full in the freezer, which will be good for several meals down the road.

 

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

What We Have Here Is Failure to Communicate

A couple of nights ago I was putting food on the plates for dinner. Richard was having noodles to go with the pork dish I had prepared. 

Richard says, “Put the fork on the noodles” and rolls off to take care of something in his office.

I don’t think too much about this because occasionally he forgets his fork and one of us (usually me) has to come back and get it . I figured he just wanted to make sure he had a fork. 

So I put the fork on the noodles and put the pork next to the noodles.

He comes back, looks at his plate, and says, “I told you to put the pork on the noodles."

“No, you said ‘put the fork on the noodles’, which is what I did.” 

Well, of course he didn’t say “fork,” I just heard it wrong, but we had to discuss it for a while, which became yet another hilarious conversation.  

Just a bit ago Richard shouts from the kitchen, “I switched the tacos.” 

What?

So I get up and go in the kitchen. “What do you mean you switched the tacos?” 

"No.” he says, “I squished a cockroach. And you can put a fork on my noodles.” 

I put the squished cockroach on the deck railing for the birds.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Gotta Watch Out for Those Mammies

 Richard rolls into the kitchen wearing his serious face and says:

 “It bothers me that they are thawing out these mammy wooliths that have been frozen for thousands of years…”

I try very hard to keep a straight face so that he can finish his thought without being distracted by my laughing at him.

“What if in the process they also thaw out some bacteria or virus that has also been frozen inside the mammoth and it gets loose….”

And then he stops. 

“I said that wrong, didn’t I?”

And then we both laugh.

There are conflicting opinions about whether ancient bacteria and viruses brought back to life from a frozen mammoth could actually be a problem for us, after all, mammoths and humans were alive at the same time, but I hope we never find out.


Tuesday, April 25, 2023

...The Rats Will Play

One of the most memorable movie soundtracks is the music at the beginning of Jaws, where we are introduced to the shark. The only famous person that I know I have less than six degrees of separation from is the musician who played the tuba on that soundtrack, which was the theme for the shark. He was Tommy Johnson, my sister-in-law’s uncle. 

And one of the most iconic lines from the movie comes later when they are after the shark, where Roy Scheider's character says “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

That classic line popped into mind this morning when I got up and saw the mouse trap. Last week, while I was sitting the recliner at 4:45 a.m. with my coffee, reading my morning devotional, I caught movement in my peripheral vision and watched a mouse scurry across the living room, in front of the couch, and into the kitchen.

And the old maxim, where there is one mouse, there is usually another, proved true. I caught the mouse the next morning and a couple of days later I caught another mouse.

We have found this style of mouse trap is very effective at trapping mice – better than the spring type, which they tend to ignore. Peanut butter is put in the insert that fits in the back, the mouse goes in the front to get to the peanut butter, steps on the plate, and the door slams.

I did not catch a mouse this morning because the trap was dismantled overnight. This is the work of a pack rat, which was clever enough to pull out the insert to get at the peanut butter.

The idea of a pack rat running around the house is alarming.

We are definitely gonna need a bigger trap.


Monday, April 17, 2023

Play Time

Our trash is picked up once weekly on the frontage road. It is much too far to carry them, so one of us drives the trash bags up there as they accumulate. A few days ago, I carried a trash bag to the truck so Richard could drive it up to the trash can.

The bag was heavy, and a couple of times it drug on the ground enough to tear the bottom. An empty tomato sauce can fell out.

I didn’t pick it up (bad Leilani! Bad Leilani!).

Friday afternoon, as we were at the counter preparing some vegetables, I saw a rabbit hop down the driveway and go over to the can and start messing about with it. At first, Richard thought maybe it was trying to lick the dried tomato sauce.

Then we realized it was playing with the can.
 
The rabbit picked the can up in its mouth and sort of dropped/tossed it, and then picked it up again, turned in a circle, sort of dropped/tossed it again. This went on for about 5 minutes before it lost interest in the can and decided to sample things to eat in the front yard.

My brothers and I and our neighborhood friends used to play “kick the can” when we were kids. When I mentioned the rabbit to my baby brother in a telephone conversation, he thought perhaps the rabbit was having its own version of “kick the can.”

Lots of animals play. I guess rabbits do too. It was hilarious to watch. It did our hearts good.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Free at Last

Tuesday night the area around our house 4 or 5 inches of heavy, wet snow. Some people apparently got more than that. Even though it does not sound like a big deal compared to some places like, oh Buffalo or Minnesota, the snow did cause some problems: 13,500 people in the county were without of power. After  going off and coming back on several times at around 3 a.m., ours finally stayed on, thankfully.

We woke up yesterday to see that our driveway by the house was blocked by a tree. Richard sent me down the driveway—I was able to scoot around the branches—to see what else might have happened, and yes, indeed, another tree was down farther up the driveway. This tree had fallen into the bank on the other side so it was high enough off the ground that I could duck underneath it, but a car could not pass.

We were trapped.

I got quite a bit of exercise trudging the driveway. I made another trip yesterday after we received a call from a delivery man who saw the driveway was blocked. He left the package next to our sign, and I went up there to get it. It was hard going, the snow was very wet and difficult to walk through in my snow boots.

We were expecting another delivery today so this morning I made a third trip carrying a chair with a sign for the Fed Ex driver to leave the package on the chair. I had to wear the ice cleats this time because the wet footprints of yesterday had frozen overnight and it was rather treacherous.

Early this afternoon I made a fourth trip, with the wheelbarrow, to pick up the packages the Fed Ex driver had left on the chair. I was reminded of the day when our boy was in kindergarten that I had to use the wheelbarrow to get him up to the highway to catch the school bus because our driveway was a river after a heavy rain

While I was gone to get the packages, a man from church called and offered us the use of his electric chain saw. Richard will notaccept help from anyone unless it is dire straits, and he wanted to see if we could do this by ourselves. He said he would call if he needed the chain saw. I thought this is a case where we should get help, there are two people at church I could have called who would come, but I couldn’t force the issue.

Richard used the battery-operated pole saw to clear the limbs by the house. We will still need a professional tree trimmer to come and work on it though. One tree is being held aloft by another tree. Both trees are too low for a delivery truck to get through, but there is enough space for us to get the car through.

We put the pole saw in the trunk and drove to the second tree and were working on that when a pickup pulled up. The man from church didn’t wait around for Richard to call, he just showed up and I am so glad he did. Bless him.

I'll have to leave the chair for deliveries at the head of the driveway, but we are now free and can leave!