Winnie at Camp

Winnie - owning the place, July, 2014 Winnie playing with grandpa Winnie at Camp Grand Ma-PaWednesday, July 30, 1014

Dear kids,

I thought I should write you a letter from camp Grand-Ma-Pa to let you know how things are going.  I hope you are having fun at the beach, but I miss you.  Grandma and grandpa are pretty nice, but they don’t play kick-ball and I don’t know why.  Also, grandpa told me no way is he going to go hunting for anything slimy, like frogs or snakes or worms.  This doesn’t make sense to me.

 

They feed me well, but make me play with them all the time.  Sometimes they barely let me alone.  I have to play with them on the bed every night because they feel so sad when I’m sleeping in my crate.  I am trying to be a good guest, so I go along with all of the playing.

 

Grandma yelled at grandpa the other day because he tried to give me a pretzel.  One lousy pretzel!   It wasn’t even a whole pretzel, just a little piece.  Grandma told him that you don’t give me table food and he wasn’t supposed to either.  I wish Grandma would shut up.  I really wanted that blasted pretzel, but he didn’t give it to me.  I think he’s scared of grandma.   He gave me extra treats that night.  Don’t tell grandma.

 

I’m pooping and peeing every day.  Outside.  I knew you would want to know that.  When grandma and grandpa go away they put a pillow on the kitchen table so I can jump up, look out the front window and guard the house.  Can you believe I am the only one guarding this house, too, just like at home?  I’m exhausted.  More tomorrow.

 

Love, Your dog, Winnie

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My Patio

Patio Oasis- wall with gargoyleTuesday, July 29, 2014

Today I am grateful for my patio.  It’s not big, but it is my summertime oasis.  I used to take a book over to the local pool, sit and read, swim a little, then read and relax some more, in the shade of a huge tree.  Since they built new pools the tree is gone and these days the music is blasting so loudly that I can’t hold a thought much less read.  I don’t hang around after water class and laps.

 

I go to my oasis on the patio.  Sure when the neighbor’s air conditioner kicks in it sounds like a plane is landing on the lawn, but I don’t care.  I barely notice it anymore.  If it’s not too hot and humid, usually towards the late afternoon, I grab a big water bottle, the phone just in case the president needs my opinion, my current book and head to the patio.  It’s my detox.  My down-time.   I read a page, nap a little, read another paragraph, nap some more. . .you get the picture.  It doesn’t matter.  I once watched an ant traveling the stucco for twenty minutes.  In silence.  Just the birds and me and that one tenacious ant.  Now that’s retired!  I know many will think “get a life”, but this IS the life and I love it!

 

But the best, the very best, is when friends stop by unexpectedly and the wine gets poured and a gust of wind nearly takes the umbrella off as if Mary Poppins needs it for a mission, and the laughter drowns out the noise of the neighbor’s air conditioner.  That is when I am most grateful for my patio. . .an oasis with friends.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

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Lighting

LightingMonday, July 28, 2014

Today I am grateful for lighting.  Hey, I’m not planning on “walking into the light” and kicking the bucket, but who knows, the day is young.  I’m talking about turning up the light if things seem dark to you, or finding it if it’s missing you.  Metaphorically.  Or physically if that helps, too.

 

I went to a wonderful high school production that our son, Matthew was in a long, long time ago, but I still remember what happened and it didn’t have to do with him.  The show was “Anything Goes”.  The girl who was singing the title number, the show-stopper, the take-away tune, had a great voice and could move.  Except she moved out of her spotlight.  Or was the light supposed to follow?  I was never sure which.  There was a lot of flubbing around with the follow spot until it finally settled and followed her in a horizontal pattern as she moved across the large stage.  Shining on her knees.  She did the whole number with the light only on her knees.

 

Why she didn’t just sit to get in that light, I’ll never know.  Young, I guess.  I would have crawled across the stage, singing and emoting and it would have brought the house down.  No one leaves Mary in the dark!  I can find “my light” in a parking lot.

 

From now on, when I feel a little out of sync and find myself spiraling into a personal pity party I’m going to realize it’s because I wandered out of my light.  Sometimes it’s as simple as one step to get back in the follow-spot.  Other times I might have to turn that light off for a little bit to re-set.  I am grateful that I’m where I am supposed to be when I’m back in the light.  What about you?  Are you in your light?

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Jeopardy

Final JeopardySunday, July 27, 2014

Today I am grateful for the TV game show, Jeopardy.  All of the experts say in order to not completely lose your mind as you age, you should challenge your brain with puzzles and game shows.

 

Ever since we had the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) capacity added to our TV, we record Jeopardy.  Every night.  That way not only can we watch it when we feel like it, commercial free, we also stand a prayer at getting an answer correct.

 

John tried playing Wii Jeopardy with one of our sons and didn’t hit the buzzer first once.  He knew the questions, but tanked on the buzzer response.  That’s why I’m in charge of the “pause” button.  A question comes up that we think we might possibly, by some remotest chance know the answer to and I hit PAUSE!  Fast.  I’m very fast.  To hit pause!  While Alex and the contestants remain frozen, we discuss amongst ourselves.  Usually, between us, we can figure out the answer.  Here’s a sample.  Final Jeopardy question.

 

Me:  I have no clue what that clue means.

Him: It’s a one word character who’s now in the dictionary.

Me:  Yeah, I can read, but I still don’t get it.

Him:  Probably a Disney character.

Me:  Bambi

Him:  You think?

Me:  Mulan

Him:  Are they in the dictionary?

Me:  I have no clue.

Him: Back it up so we can read the question again.

Me:  It says, Oxford dictionary.  Probably it’s British.

Him:  That could be true.  But what?

Me:  You watch all those Harry Potter things.  Isn’t there something in them?

Him:  Yeah, wait. . . lemme think. . .I got it!

Me:  What?

Him:  Almost.  Gimme another minute.  (smell of a burning brain)

Me:  (humming theme song)

Him:  Muggles!  It’s muggles!  Hit play!

 

Sure enough.  It was Muggles.  We air-high-five at our brilliance.  Too bad it’s only possible through the modern technology of record/pause.  So thank you, Jeopardy, for saving our dwindling, aging brain cells.  We are grateful. . .even if it takes a while.

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Pickle Recipes

PICKLE RECIPES

 

Be aware that these are simply the recipes my grandmother and mother used to can pickles.  If you have never done any canning before, please go on-line to learn the in’s & out’s, so that you will have successful result.  Also be aware that some of these recipes seem to use a lot of salt and vinegar, but my mom insists that’s what keeps them crispy. 

 

DILL PICKLES

6 quarts pickles – Wash and jam into clean quart jars tightly.

Dill – fresh stalks.  You cannot use too much dill! Jam the dill into the jars in the open spaces between the pickles.  Use every part of it except the roots, being sure that each jar has a little of the bloom.

 

BRINE – Cold – Stir well until all salt disolves: 

10 Cups water

3 Cups white vinegar

1 Cup or at least ¾ Cup canning salt (be sure to use canning salt or the jars will weep in storage and your pickles will spoil.

 

Pour brine over prepared pickles.  Soak lids and rings.  Wipe the rim of the quart jar with a clean, wet cloth.  Put a lid on and screw a ring onto it.  Place in COLD water canner and cook until they lose their grassy green color.

 

BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES – Yield – 7 pints

Use a food slicer with a thin cut for this recipe.

Slice the following & put in large covered pot:

2 dozen large cucumbers

1 large green pepper

3 onions

Soak in:

½ Cup canning salt

4 Cups water

     for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

ADD:

3 Cups white sugar

1 pint white vinegar

1 tsp each of:

            Salt, turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, mustard seed, celery salt.

Heat gradually and cook until satisfied that the grass green color has left all of the pickles.  Put in jars and seal according to canning methods.

 

LAZY FARMER PICKLES

As with many older recipes, this one does not state how many pickles are used.  If you have a lot, you might have to make more brine.  My mom cut these about ½ inch thick.

Slice pickles and jam tightly into jars.

Boil together:

1 Cup sugar

1 Cup white vinegar

1 tsp celery seed

1tsp canning salt

1 tsp mustard seed

Pour over pickles, clean jar rim, put lids and rings on and process in hot water until the pickles change color, losing their grass green color.

 

ICICLE PICKLES

Because they were so abundant, this recipe did not list exactly how many pickles were used, but it’s about 5 quarts.

Slice pickles in quarters lengthwise & cut onions in chunks.  Soak overnight in ice water in the fridge.

Put in jars lengthwise with onion chunks

Bring to a BOIL:

1 quart white vinegar

3 Cups sugar

½ Cup canning salt

Pour hot brine over pickles in jars. 

ADD TO EACH QUART JAR:

1 tsp mustard seed

1 tsp celery seed

Wipe rims, put lids and rings on.  If they do not seal from the heat of the brine, process in hot water bath, 5 minutes.

 

 

 

 

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Opinions

OpinionsSaturday, July 26, 2014

Today I am grateful for opinions.  If I ask for an opinion it means I really want one.  An honest one.  Even if I’m not thrilled about it.  Besides, I can spot phony a mile away.

You cannot be an artist of any sort without being able to handle an honest opinion.  Otherwise how would we grow?  Do I like all of the opinions I get?  No, of course not. Does anyone?  Do I learn something from every opinion, whether perceived as negative or positive?  Sure do.  Probably more from a negative opinion than a positive one, because they seem to stick tighter and scream louder.  But even a negative opinion can be couched in a way where it will encourage and not disrespect.

When I was back living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, there was a theater critic who worked for the local newspaper.  She loved the community theater company and with each production she wrote glowing, sugary, over-the-top reviews full of accolades and dripping with praise.  But when you’re in a show, you know where the weak links are.  Maybe it’s the set changes, or the lighting was flubbed, or you missed a cue and didn’t show up at all like I did one time.  How can you be a reviewer without mentioning those obvious flaws?  Soon you lose all credibility.  After a while we didn’t even believe the praise anymore because it came off too flowery.  Nothing is ever perfect.  You don’t have to be mean, just at least notice and render a true, honest opinion.  Otherwise you could phone in your review without ever seeing the show.  When the toilet paper is hanging out of your pants you don’t need someone saying you look great.  You need someone to be honest and tell you to yank that paper outta there.

It’s the same way with writing.  I’ve been to writer’s conferences where a critique is requested by someone and then when the expert, the professional who has been asked to critique begins to point out flaws, the writer gets angry.  Didn’t you ask for an opinion?  Why get pissed at the person giving one?  Grow up.

It’s true for play readings, too.  If you read your play to an audience and there is a talk-back following the reading, you’re going to get comments.  I have been at a few of these where the author vehemently argued back, defending his/her choices. Didn’t you ask for comments?   Some threw their notebook.  One nearly punched someone and ran from the room slamming doors and shouting profanities.  Not cool.  Toughen up.  Sure it’s your baby, but not all babies start out that beautiful.  Some have to grow into it.

If you have any professional class at all, you will sit with your notebook, write down every single comment, nod politely, thank each person and pleasantly leave the stage.  You can go hysterical and bawl in your car on the way home, but there, on site, you gotta take it!  Then it’s up to you to decide which comments you will take a deeper look at.  And you should take a deeper look, because maybe you will learn something.  Being stubborn stifles growth. Some will be pure nonsense, but not all and even the stupid comments should cause you to look at your work with a more discerning, objective eye.

I love praise and compliments.  Who doesn’t?  But I learn more from constructive criticism.  That’s why when I recently received an honest opinion, I realized how grateful I am for it.  I can take it.  Oh boy, am I opening the door now!  Please be gentle

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Home Canning

Pickle jarsFriday, July 25, 2014

Today I am grateful for home canning.  My favorite thing to can, back in the day when I was “in” to being Susie Homemaker, was pickles.  Hated picking them, loved canning them.  Especially dill pickles.   I’ve gotten a bunch of requests for the old recipes, so I will be posting pickle recipes on my blog: http://heartprintsdotcom.wordpress.com/

 

My mom would make bread ‘n butter pickles which I hated when I was young, but love now.  Go figure.  Those you slice very, very thin, add onions, and that brine has enough sugar and spices to make anything good.

 

When I was talking with my mom about pickle recipes and the gardening posts, she laughed and said, “I saw an ad for cucumbers for 88 cents. . .a piece!  Ridiculous.  If I’d have had to pay for those vegetables by the bushel it would have cost a fortune to can them.  Only can if you have a garden or get them free when someone else is sick of looking at them!”  I agree with my mom.  This once.

 

There is no peeling involved, or even slicing for dill pickles if you don’t want to.  They only need a good scrubbing and they are ready to stuff into jars.  You jam them in very tightly because they shrink when you process them.  All you have to add is a big stalk of dill from the patch behind the garage on grandma’s farm and cram it tightly in between the crowded pickles.  The more dill, the better the pickles.  Add the brine, seal up, shove ‘em in the boiling pot and voila!

 

They start out Kelly green and are done when they turn Army green.  Pickles all winter!  Great pickles.  I get pickles all winter now, too.  From the store!

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