On the Road Again

A classroom turkey cartoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Today I am grateful to be on the road again.  Things will start happening fast and furious so I probably won’t be posting for a few days.  Have a wonderful, peaceful and joyful Thanksgiving holiday.  Yum!

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Let the Baking Begin

pumpkin pie and upside down

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Today I am grateful to let the baking begin.  My contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner at our daughter, Beth’s house is the pies.  I wish I could have gotten away with just pumpkin because that’s so easy.


But no, himself has to have apple and then there has to be one for breakfast and it seems only right to make my sister one, too, so there will be three apples, a pumpkin and the most yummy upside down pumpkin cake I’ve ever tasted.  Two apples are in the oven, one is in the bull-pen waiting to go in when they come out and the others are already done and pictured.


What a lot of work. . .especially when you are not in your own kitchen and want to be the least pain-in-the-ass possible.  It’s like a scavenger hunt for doo-dads and gizmo’s; sharp knives and my sanity.


Then there is the oven.  My sister has a fantastic, new, stainless steel, restaurant-quality oven with enough buttons and lights to land a 747 jumbo jet at O’Hare.  I stared at the thing for 10 minutes before I could even figure out how to get the oven on.  Then it turns out I hit “convection oven” whatever the hell that is.  When I set the timer, I turned my back and moved on to other things.  Except I had turned the oven OFF.  For a half an hour before I noticed it.  Geeze.  The curses were heard throughout the house so my sister came a runnin’ and gave me a crash course in the peccadillo’s of the beast.  We’re good now.  As long as I can keep the two cats from landing in something.


If you want to wow them all this thanksgiving. . .instead of making pumpkin pie, make this little gem I got on line a few years ago from Allrecipes.com.  Yes it made the YUM cookbook.  Let the baking begin! Just be sure you know how to drive your oven before you start.

Upside Down Pumpkin Cake

(best ever)

1 (29 oz) can pumpkin puree (30oz is 2 small cans so I use 30)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

Salt to taste

1 ¾ C sugar

3 eggs

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350

Mix everything together and pour into a 9X13 baking pan.

1 box yellow cake mix (with pudding, except I can’t find it so I use extra moist)

Sprinkle on the pumpkin mixture which is in the pan

1 C chopped pecans (or more) –  I use a cup more usually)

Sprinkle on top of the cake mix and pumpkin stuff.

1 cup of melted butter poured over everything. (I told you it was good!)

Bake 350 for 60 minutes.  Let cool.  It will seem a little “liquidy” but will solidify as it cools.

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Mom’s Ideas

Monday, November 23, 2015

Today I am grateful for my mom’s ideas.  Sometimes mom is just right.  There, I said it. . .but don’t tell her, lest she get a swelled head.  Although she is virtually blind, 89, still smokes like a chimney, has creaks and knuxes, almost no energy, and only one hearing aid that works sometimes if she bothers to put it in. . .there is  nothing wrong with my mom’s mind.  She is as sharp as a tack.


Before we went to my sister’s house, where we are staying while in Madison, we stopped to see my mom at her apartment.  I had barely said hello before she said, “I want to talk to you about an idea I have for Molly’s bridal shower gift.”  Oh boy.  That means she has an idea that she can’t implement.


She wanted to hand write some of her old recipes in a notebook and give them to Molly.  Have I mentioned that mom can barely see?  I told her it seemed like a better idea to get a loose-leaf folder and clear plastic sheets and rig up a book that way.  Once she saw what I was talking about she agreed.


We sat together for hours with her old, scuzzy, 3×5 inch recipe box, pulling out one well-worn index card after the another.  At first she could see what they were, but it wasn’t long before she was tossing them at me, “You read that!  I can’t see it anymore!”  So I did.


She vetoed some, but I used them anyway.  Sometimes she would hold the card and tell the story that went with it.  “I got this recipe from your grandma Jens, Willies mom and it came all the way from her grandma in Russia.”  Or she’d go off on a tangent about how she never used garlic because, “. . .your father didn’t like it.”  Or, how a pie made with her never-fail pie crust recipe, “never made it out of the kitchen” at the potlucks in Arizona. . .“The kitchen crew ate them,” she said.


Writing her recipes by hand proved too taxing for her, so I took them back to my sisters and typed them on the computer. . .for one solid, eight-hour day.  I’m glad because now I have them, too. Since I have to bake for Thanksgiving, I brought my recipe book along, so I added to the list.  Then my sister scanned her favorites, so she’s in the book, too.


Pictures of mom hand-writing notes into the “YUM”, recipe book for my niece, Molly, topped it off.  It was a group effort by a “mother and her pearls.”  That’s what she calls us. Her words, not mine.

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Kentucky Fried Chicken

Mom, crazy for KFC

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Today I am grateful for Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I know my mom looks slightly deranged in the picture, but she gets that way when she eats KFC!  Following the excursion at the dollar store the other day, I took her to one of her favorite places, KFC.  Nothing like school-paste-potatoes and hypodermically-raised-poultry to top off a day.


But I know it’s not just the food she loves at that place.  It’s way more.  When she moved to Arizona after my dad died, she tried to make the best of it, but she was lonely.  She padded on making friends for several years.  Two of her women friends shared that their parents were moving to Arizona to be near them.  I might be paraphrasing the story a bit, but mine is the truth as I remember it.


The parents drove from Missouri and while on the way, the wife got horribly sick and died.  I’m not sure of the logistics, but the husband, Lawrence, eventually did move to Arizona. . .alone.


“I feel so sad for Lawrence. This move must be so hard.  It’s nothing like what he expected it to be,” my mom said to me one day on the phone, “How horrible to have his wife die on the way here.”  I agreed.  It was awful.  She asked, “Do you think I would be out of line taking him a piece of pie, or cookies when I’ve baked?”  No, not out of line at all!  Kind.


So she did.  And a wonderful, loving, lasting friendship grew, with them frequently having lunch at Kentucky Fried Chicken, until Lawrence, too, passed on years later. It made everyone happy. . .them. . . me. . . his kids. . . and even the Colonel.


So I publish the demented-looking-mother picture, knowing in my soul of souls that it’s not just about the soggy potatoes and nasty-greasy-steroid-laden-chicken. It’s about unexpected love in the twilight years. . .and happy memories.


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Staying Inside

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Today I am grateful we can stay inside.  Guess why?  Yup.  Five inches of the fluffy, white stuff fell in Madison, Wisconsin and it’s still coming down.  Yea!  Really.  Yea!  Yippie!  Whoop-Whoop!  I love it.  It’s gorgeous.  And even though the pictures are taken through the screens, you can still see the Beefeater hat mounds on the porch posts.


We don’t have to go anywhere because we are decorating and doing kitchen prep for my nieces shower tomorrow.  John is looking forward to watching the University of Wisconsin clobber Northwestern (football for the unenlightened, like me), at 2:30, with my brother-in-law, on their big screen TV.  Talk about hog heaven!


We have a fridge full of left-overs, Chex-mix I brought from home and enough sweets to send the scale into TILT.  Alas.   Plus. . .my brother-in-law shovels. . .alone!  So bring it on, Mother Nature.  We’re ready for you.

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Time With Mom

Mom & boa in dollar store

Friday, November 20, 2015

Today I am grateful for quality time with my mom.  John and I took one for the team yesterday and went to the Dollar Tree with my mom.  She loves the dollar store.  But she can’t see.  She literally can’t see.  But when she could still drive, she would take herself to the dollar store or Walmart just to “poke around”.  Now I am her eyes.


I’m not the shopper in the family.  There is nothing fun for me about “poking around” in a store.  Hate it.  Always have.  Always will.  Stores are hot and cramped with too much going on for my feeble brain to digest.  But I did it anyway yesterday, because I know mom likes it.  HUGE points for me!  Applause!  Applause!


She backs through the store on her walker seat because they don’t have scooters.  Good thing.  I can manage her on the walker, but she takes off like a bat-outta-hell on those scooters.  She hits every aisle.  Nope, I take that back.  Every aisle but the “tool” aisle.  “What am I gonna do with a hammer?”  Saved by a hammer.


She scoots close to the Christmas stuff, pulls on the stockings, Santa’s, wreaths, bells, anything that she can reach, then says, “What’s this?”  I tell her, she says, “Oh, cute!”  giggles and we move on.  Repeat 10,000 times.  I know what it’s going to be so I steel myself before we go.  She backs into stuff, rolls over things, pushes hard when a cart of boxes is blocking her way. . .and we laugh. . . I pick crap up from the floor, peel dangling doilies from the handles of her walker and do damage control in her wake.


I don’t really mind because. . .well. . .it’s for mom. . .and I don’t get the opportunity to be around her very much when she’s “good mom” and feeling well.  So it was a bit of a treat to spend time with her.  She dropped about 12 bucks.  We spent 50!  Dangerous place, that dollar store. . .especially with mom. . .and me!

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Exceptional Women


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Today I am grateful for exceptional women.  There are a lot of them in my life.  Some of long standing, some new friends and I find something exceptional in each and every one of them.


Todays shout-out goes to a woman I connected with on Facebook, through a friend of long standing.  My friend thought our humor was similar (poor thing) so she thought we should know each other.  The woman is a minister, retired now and spending most days being the best grandma ever, but my friend was correct.  We did hit it off.  Who doesn’t need another friend?  Always!


I received a private message from the new friend when she learned that I was coming to Wisconsin.  She said it would be the biggest thrill of her life if I attended the church where she would be giving the “lesson”. . .(a sermon of sorts).  I gave her a lot of crap about actually getting a life. . .if my visit was going to be the biggest thrill. . .but I did go to the service.


She was everything I expected and more. . .easy, casual, opinionated, strong and very, very smart.  We had a blast.  And I am very grateful to add another truly exceptional woman to my ever growing list.

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