February 2021

For the record, I wrote this yesterday and posted in the wrong site.

February seems to be the limbo land of winter. Not much sun, the scenery changes only when it snows and the newness of snow has worn off. Even the excuse to get out the snow blower and actually use it this year seems to wear off and sidewalks are cleared later, after the snow finishes falling. That’s the way it works in my neck of the woods! In the house the food gets dull and there is little variety in company as we struggle with our personal ailments. One day of cloudy weather after another. I read an essay in a magazine this morning where a woman maybe around my age described an experience and her feelings this time of year in 2020, and they aren’t much different than mine are right now! And to think it’s the pandemic that does it to us, it might just be February! Some people go on vacation this time of year and I’m always a little surprised when I see it. I just can’t quite imagine it, my brain has gone dull as well. But March is right around the corner, and, as Frog puts it, so is spring! My neighbor and I made a big seed order last month and Joel promised to start seeds for us in the greenhouse and we have several broccoli sprouts already! I have always loved going to Longwood Gardens in the winter because in the conservatory you can see green grass, smell soil and the orchid display is phenomenal. It’s about my favorite time to go. As long as the roads are good, which is not true today. So today I will finish my project of sorting photos and getting them into empty photo albums that have been sitting around for an undisclosed number of years. I never really run out of anything to do. I just run out of energy to do them. Even in the summer.

Today it is snowing…. again. I’ll stay in my house near my wood stove and be thankful our joints can go up and down the back steps with another load of wood. Actually, my house is brighter when there’s snow on the ground , it almost makes up for the lack of sun! Have I cheered you up yet?? Do you need to hear yourself laugh? Go read the comics

On Wendell and Work

I have been eyeball deep in Wendell Berry for the past couple of weeks. He usually convicts me of my attitude toward work and this morning was no exception. I don’t mind working and have some of my own opinions about it. I think it is a great healthy thing not only for our bodies, but our minds as aouls. I get that. It’s housework. It’s the work that Must be done before I can do what I enjoy. I never developed a good attitude for it. If my parents tried to give me one, I think I was deaf. And I probably didn’t do well teaching my children, either. And yet they are good workers. I think part of my problem was and is the idea that it interferes with other stuff – work- I want to do. Another part is I feel like I am not good at it. I miss things. When I had been running my own household several years it was revelatory to me that there was dust on the lampshade. There ought to be a household physics class in our education system! If I clean the house especially for company and have the thought to express my love/honor for them by telling them “I cleaned specially for you” I zip my lip because I’m afraid they will be thinking ‘You did??’ I should give my friends better credit than that, but that is what runs through my head. I think I have attained cheerfulness and comfortabili ty, and hope that camouflages my other failings.

But if I had the ability to go back and teach my children the worthiness of work, what would I want to express. I think I have written before that one time one kid said “What are we doing this for? ” and anotherbreplied “So people don’t think we ‘re pigs.” I knew I had missed something when I heard that. When I was young we were taught to do as we were told, and I think I was generally difficult because I really do want to know why. That household physics class would have held my interest.

My last blog I quoted ‘Food is love’. May I also assert ‘Housework is love? I listened to a TED talk on garbage removal one time and it was eye opening. Mostly for the lack of respect for it and how not knowing what it accomplish es for us affords us that lack of respect. Wendell Berry would call that disrespecting the body. We shouldn’t clean the house out of fear of what others will think. We should clean because it needs doing for our good health and we can

do it ourselves. I would have taught household physics to my kids if I knew it. I would have taught that it is a privilege to share a well-ordered house, not a perfectly clean at all times one. I would have taught that cleaning is Part of what makes a house a home, but there are several other things as well. It doesn’t have to be so either/ or. Life doesn’t have to be so either/or.

My mom is different than me. She is a doer. I’m a thinker. I can think and write this, but she would have it all done by now. Now I’ll go do my housework, and at end of the day we can both say, ” I’m done. ” Generally.

Food. What of It.

I have been trying to hang on to these thoughts all day! Hardest thing I did! Yesterday someone posted how no one ever tells you that when you are an adult, you will have to think up supper every day for the rest of your life! Its’ that time of year again. The garden is really gone, the holidays are over and so is the fun stuff. Eating ‘out’ is barely an option these days. And it is easy to get weary of thinking up supper. One of my daughters, who is a really, good cook said, “Supper is overrated.” (Second time I have quoted her this week.) And it is. When I started to work 5 days a week my family quickly learned if it was hot and edible, it was good. I would get this frozen meal in a bag for a reprieve from cooking. I had my quickies, because there just wasn’t much time to cook. I have cooked for large groups of people and I have cooked for a family of seven. Now that it is just the two of us, I should be cheerful all the time, right? And full of good ideas and the time to make it, right? Well… there is still a kind of ebb and flow. The post did give me a laugh. The birds are probably rolling their eyes. Maybe no one told us we would have to come up with supper every night because they were doing it!

Back when I was cooking at a boarding school in Iowa, I ran a little short one night at supper. ‘A little short” means that most people probably got a little bit. It was the first night after coming back from Christmas vacation. One of the dorm parents said to me, “When you are far from home, the days are short and cold, plenty of warm food is a comfort.” Even when you aren’t far from home plenty of warm food is a comfort!

A couple weeks ago we seemed to be ‘eating through the kitchen.’ I kept coming up with another meal without going to the store. But we were really scrapping for lunches. I’m a fairly good supper planner and figure lunch will take care of itself, but my creativity at supper was limiting what there was for lunch and some days I get hungry and if I don’t eat, I just don’t have much energy. And the Man of the Place doesn’t have much time to invent lunch. So I made a plan to cook every night and then we have lefties for lunch. Not that original of a plan. One thing I find helpful is to look at my schedule for the week and plan food to fit it. There are always a few easy meals like hamburgers or spaghetti or fish, but there different ways of doing them. I try to spend some time in the week cooking a little extra and I think that is key. We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago and that seems to make a huge difference. So if you sorta like cooking but get sick of it, think about your space. When I was cooking at the boarding school, the head cook had a three week schedule of meals for 3 different seasons. You don’t repeat anything so very often and you can see what is coming before you get there. I am not as strict as that, but I do have a list of ‘Winter Meals’ and a list of ‘Summer Meals” and I don’t cross them….. except for maybe spaghetti and hamburgers! I love to cook easy with a flair. We eat a lot of fresh vegetables, as long as we can get them. We have a good, local market for fresh food, and some good stores, too.

So here are some ideas for easy stuff:

One of my friends is the rotisserie chicken. I didn’t think about this when I was teaching 5 days a week. And I like cooking a whole chicken myself, too. Once cooked there are few things to do with it. A standby is Chicken quesadillas.

Saute a chopped onion and some garlic. Mix in cumin to taste, and about a cup of salsa and about 2 cups shredded chicken. When heated through, spoon into tortillas that have one oiled side (the outside), grate some cheese over it and bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes. Or fry them in a pan. Sometimes I give up on the tortilla and just cook rice and add it to it. For the outside of the tortilla, I usually brush one with oil, then I rub the others with it so they all have just enough coating to make them crispy brown.

Lately we have resurrected an old favorite. Chicken and broccoli casserole. I do it pretty much without looking. You do use pre-cooked chicken and at least partially cooked broccoli then I make a cheese sauce and pour it over them , add carrots if I want, and , almost always onion, and top with stuffing Oh yes, I think Thanks giving mad s hungry for that one!

It is nice to have extra chicken in the fridge to add to stir-fry or top a salad with.

Another idea claimed from aforesaid daughter is what we call Fall Crack. Can’t get enough. Peel and chop a butternut squash into smallish cubes. You get out of it what you put into it. Saute it with some sausage and some sliced Brussels sprouts. Add cranberries, dried or fresh, if you choose. When the meat is brown and the squash is tender, it’s ready. Doesn’t take long. Another thing we do with butternut squash is slice it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and put in a ball of sausage in the cavity and bake like a potato. It takes a good hour or more in the oven, and can bake unevenly in the microwave. I do it in the oven and start it early. You can always keep it warm till you are ready to eat. ‘Early ‘ means a couple hours ahead of time. Butternut squash soup is good and easy, too. I also put it into a recipe called ‘Turkey chili’.

A jar of hoisin sauce, found near the soy sauce is the ‘next best thing to sliced bread’. It is not easy to make yourself, unless a reader wants to tell me. I’ve looked and figure it was worth the buy. I saute’ whatever vegertables I have, cook some rice , add whatever leftover meat I have, and finish it off with hoisin sauce. Always make plenty. I always use onions garlic and ginger in a stir-fry. And fry in sesame oil for best flavor.

We like our potatoes steamed. Any kind of potatoes. I call meat and potato meals fast food. I call spaghetti Italian fast food. Sometimes we have salad and potatoes.

Last Christmas I got Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredient cookbook. Sometimes I don’t know what stuff is, but generally I do. Lately I have tried the pesto burgers. A little jar of pesto added to your burger meat, with some spread on the buns, ooolala. . I think I add about half a jar per 3/4-1 # of burger meat. Theres also a recipe I call Jamie O’s sloppy joes. He has a more sophisticated word for it. You add canned tomatoes to the burger meat and maybe basil and oregano. And , as always, onions. I keep the onion growers in business. And I grow some too!

Once in a while I go to the library and grab a bunch of cookbooks that look anything like interesting, write down anything I might like to try. I give them a star or cross them off as I go along. My sister could find the best recipes in magazines. I could get the same magazine and miss them and then have it at her house. My daughter went to France to study and came home reminded that ‘Food is love.’ It really is. Sometimes I have to rise above my personal doldrums and not worry about variety and just have something ready. Because if you have worked away from home (or at some other job at home) , coming home to a meal ready to eat is just the best.

Snow Captivity

It snowed on Wednesday. I had lunch  at my neighbor’s when it started. I haven’t gone anywhere since. The Man of the Place takes the car to work because it handles better. Well, I Did get out on Friday. I walked to market. It was a significant snow but certainly not a paralyzing one but people don’t keep their sidewalks clean! There were sections where there was no salt or any kind of melting device and things were icy. And the cornered weren’t cleaned out. What good is a shoveled sidewalk if you have to walk through 2 feet of snow on the curb, with a shopping cart! So when I got home safely, I have stayed safe in my “pumpkin shell”.I keep very well. 😏 We have been eating our way ‘through the kitchen’ the past couple of weeks, so my grocery list was long but I wanted to be careful and stick to my list, hence, I braved the sidewalks. Yesterday I got up and started soaking beans, started yogurt, bread, made red lentil soup, granola, spaghetti sauce and mayonnaise.  Nothing in big quantities, but stuff that you want ready when making something else. I have 5 jars of soup in the fridge for lunches this week. I made turkey chili on Friday evening, only I think I put the meatloaf mixture into I stead of the turkey. I guess we’ll have Swedish meatballs with turkey this week!I

  I don’t know how it happens, but juncoes arrive with the winter. It seems every year we have a stem singing in the morning. We call it out winter warbler. It’s timely, like  a rooster, but, oh, so much nicer!

   The Man of the Place trolls the free stuff on Craigslist and one day he came home with a potting table. I loved it. Our neighbor saw it and said he went to get it and it was gone! We had a good laugh. In season I am going to use it for a potting table. Right now it’s holding Christmas greens. The M of the P also got me an under the counter dishwasher that way, too. And it works fine. I haven’t had one for almost 30 years. Dishwashers have been around for a long time. I have had portables, but not since we remodeled the kitchen. My first one was a portable that Joel’s grandmother gave me when she got a new one. It loaded from the top! If that sounds inconvenient , I remember holding my baby and listening to the dishes get done uninterrupted. It was a thing of beauty.

   I try to do new things with some kind of regularity. This year I cut snowflakes. I never could cut a decent snowflake. I always beg someone else. So with the help of Pinterest, I got a few done this year. I save them from year to year. I love papercraft. I also try to cook new stuff regularly. Last night I made what I call Jamie Oliver’s Sloppy Joes.(Actually I call it J.O’s sloppy Joes) I mixed a half of a small pesto jar in the aforesaid meatloaf mixture (which is beef, pork, and veal, I think) and cooked it loose like you would sloppy jos. I poured off the excess liquid and added some of my fresh made sauce. When it had warmed through I put cheese on top and let it melt. I spread a little pesto on the buns and, oh, it was yummy! That is something I will revisit! It’s from his 5 ingredient cookbook.

It’s just about time for fireside church! It’s Lessons and Carols morning! I’ll add pictures later…. if I remember.🌲

Words to live by

I have been thinking about how to set my frame of mind no matter how these elections turn out. For a lot of us there are no real satisfying answers, so where can I put my mind so that I’m not discouraged or dismayed? We receive a newsletter from the Lutheran Church we attended for a while, and the words from this pastoral admonishment is what my heart was looking for. I’ve pinned them to my refrigerator! With his permission I’m copying it here.

From Pastor Mentzer,

Dear Friend in Christ,

The current emotional climate in which we live, we can find ourselves tested. The numerous news outlets and social media serve as an aggravation to our already fragile feelings. There are many times that I yearn for a quick and decisive solution to the challenges we face. It is that temptation for a quick and easy fix that Scripture addresses.

Paul writes in Colossians, “May you be made strong with all of the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to God. For God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved son, and whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:11-14). The psalmist, in Psalm 40, finds comfort in the same promise as we hear “I waited patiently for the Lord, who inclined to me and heard my cry.”

God hears our cries. God is moved by our cries. God promises to give us what will save us. And so we strive to trust in the Lord. What I believe is this, in the moments when I am my most vulnerable, God speaks to me in word and through others. Many times it is a friend in Christ from within the congregation who offers me support and encouragement. God surrounds us with each other for the sake of mutual comfort and consolation.

Blessings, Pastor Tim.

Favorite Things

https://flickr/p/o1WonF
I hope that shows up as a photo. One day at the end of recess when I called them to come in, I   noticed some were dilly-dallying. When we were all together I gave them some stern words about coming when I called. And then I said, “Follow me.”  Which they did. I took them to a nearby area that was not part of our regular play area, to a place where a maple tree had dropped a carpet of gold on the ground. They went nuts! They rolled in it, made leaf angels, tossed them, just all the thrills of leaves on the ground. As we were walking back to our classroom one spunky child said to me, “This is the best day of my life!” She was one of  my main offenders from earlier and I wondered at how a scolding could be smoothed over with such joy. It is one of my favorite school memories.

The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow

The past two days have been glorious fall days. Storybook, as Mrs B. would say. I got a lot of laundry done.

I’ve been working on my walking routine because it is one of very few forms of exercise that I enjoy. Around a year ago I made myself a plan so I don’t waste time thinking about Where to walk. Town walks and park walks mixed in. Yesterday I met a woman who used to work at the greenhouses, and she walks 3 miles every day!

On the way home from the beach last weekend we were discussing the times nd people’s response to it, including our own. They are pretty hard to make any sense of but we talked about the difference between stewardship and control. If the goal is control, we tend to overdo, over-react, over-regulate. Like making everyone stay in their house to keep a virus from spreading. If the goal is freedom, we want to make sure all our rights are observed. Like being able to walk through the Market with an assault rifle strapped to one’s back. These are extremes, but extremes that we have seen in recent months . But, what if stewardship became a common word in our social dialogues, or even political dialogues? I am, admittedly, not fond of housework. One time when I had rallied the children to help clean before company came, one voiced, “Why are we doing this?” And another quickly replied, “So people don’t think we’re pigs.” I knew I was doing something wrong. So, like the goal a perfectly clean house to cater to what others think is not good, neither does a cluttered, disregulated one contribute to our health and well-being. To have health and well-being, we often have to give up personal desires or they will taken away by the ‘regulators’. We have many such rules outside our homes that are for the common good. Years ago, this city decided it would be in charge of hauling the trash. And there was an uproar. No more private enterprise, no competition for the best price, you can’t even choose to do without the service because you can deal with what little you have. Or combine with a neighbor to share the expense. (Which is what we tried). Why? Because people do what they want. If they want to throw it out the window, they do. If they want to make money hauling trash but not spend any in disposing of it properly, they do. So we have regulations that cover the lowest of the low that really don’t apply to the many. Probably people are paying a similar price as before and putting it out to be collected every week. Some would say their freedom has eroded. Others would say their quality of life has gone up. I think our politics sound a lot like this. What if we could move ourselves toward stewardship? It’s what our neighbors and we have been working toward in our community garden. It has transformed from everyone having their own plot and it all descending into a weedy mess to something that passersby stop an look at. It is in a vulnerable spot and we Do get taken advantage of. We do have our own spaces, but we look out for each other. We set it up to make for better maintenance. It rates low on my own personal satisfaction meter and high on hard work. Wil I do it again? Deo Volente.

In my Own Little Corner

I just finished watching ‘The Social Dilemma’ and I am pretty sure there is no such thing as my own little corner, but I can pretend there is , here on my blog. I have never had a large readership and the blog with the most hits is the translation of a Welsh song, So when people want that translation, I get hits on my blog. Mostly I am here because the keyboard keys called! The second most hits is the one about Miss T. I still think about her. Recently our pastor was fumbling around for an illustration of something in the present you wouldn’t exchange for the way things were done in the old days. His illustration started to fall through and I immediately thought of outhouses. Who would go back to that when you can have modern plumbing. But then I thought Miss T grew up sleeping on down mattresses between linen sheets, and still probably had to use an outhouse. Sigh. I guess there are trade-offs.

Current affairs: I think that in October we may have a beautiful Indian Summer and the tomatoes that are still green may ripen yet. Wait! It is October and the tomatoes are ….. green. I did pick two figs this morning! And pulled some whopper sweet potatoes out of the ground. There are about 50 more figs. We’ll see what happens. The green ones are very bitter. Google will tell you. And so will I. We have had a few days when we have had a fire in the wood stove in the morning. We are old and soft. Like ripe figs. Hopefully just as delectable! :>)

I had a birthday breakfast with one of my ‘school families’ this morning. The school where I taught kindergarten. We have stayed friends through the years. They have 5 kids like us and were inspired to homeschool during Covid lockdown in the spring. It was fun to sit around the table with a pile of kids. I taught 2 of the 5. Then I had the tour of their menagerie; the tadpoles, frogs, parakeets, crickets, and exotic chickens. They are making good use of their time. :>)

Mary invited me to sew with her on Mondays. A few years ago we sewed on Fridays. Then she moved closer and then she got a job. Now things have shifted enough she has got a day to sew with me. Before we worked on a quilt together. Right now, I think it is going to be an “I’m going to stop and sew day”. So long as one of us is willing to tote her machine. Good thing they make them totable. I cleaned up my sewing area last night. Sometimes mess crawls in on me gradually. I was a little surprised at how much more room I have. A clean sewing space is more inviting. Maybe I’ll make some progress…..

Back to the ‘Social Dilemma’. If you are on social media in any way, you need to watch it, especially if you share stuff. The geeks explain how it started and how it has developed and why. One thing they said that I found helpful for myself is that if you are not paying for it, you are the product that is being sold. Like my blog. That is why you see ads that I have nothing to do with. I’ll have to think about that. Especially since I cant add any of my own photos. ach.

Dear Sister(s),

I have an old cloth-bound  binder with email letters in it. I think I saved them over the course of a year. We got our first computer in 1998. So what were we all doing 20 years ago? Maybe when I see that thing again, I’ll get it out and tell you!πŸ˜ƒ

This is a public forum, but I am writing with my own 5 sisters and one sister-in-law in mind, but, if you feel sisterly, you’re welcome to listen in  if you want. Here is what I want to say first. I want to get out of Facebook. It is too distracting, election years are full of grief and (this is my take) I don’t like what it’s done to our way of communicating. I Like having old letters to re-read. I am not going to post any ‘Dear Sister’ blogs on FB, other than this one, so if you want to follow, do it via email , if you want to know there is a letter for you and comment on the comment section,  if you like. I just can’t bring myself to do the old carbon copy! And if you started your own Dear Sister blog, wouldn’t that be fun!🌺

So here is what is happening in my quiet boring old age life. I got another teaching job! I’m teaching music once a week to 1ST-5th graders in a hybrid school that is on its second year and already has over 50 students. It’s a half hour drive away, but it’s a beautiful drive. I got kind of addicted to Beautiful Drives during this year of Covid. (Nick calls it ‘Rona😁) My friend Margaret Marsch referred me. She told me she did, and I thought of someone else I thought would be perfect, so when the lady called I said you should ask this other person and if she turns you down, you can call me back. She had already asked her so then I said,  I guess we’re on the call back! I started pulling things out of the corners and ,over the years, I have accumulated some tools, so I feel like I have a pretty good start at least. I took the opportunity to buy a new cassette/CD/mp3 player. And then I found the box of cassettes…. The Mother lode! On the floor, behind the door in the closet, because who needs them! There’s a really old Cono tape that probably was the last one Dad did. I have the hardest time keeping a copy of the Carnival of the Animals. I think I have the record, but it’s been a long time since I have had a record player or wanted to give one space, but I had a friend who copied it on a cassette and it’s in the box!!

Emily and I met up at Longwood yesterday. I have been poo-poohing getting another membership because they say you have to wear a mask inside and out. After we got there we saw signs that if you were outside and not close to other people you could take it off. We did, it’s nice to breathe, but the people population really kicks in so I think we’re going to hold out for another year.We watched the fountains dance to ‘O Mio Bambino Caro’. We had the babe with us. It was perfect. Maybe Em will show it to you. 

We have got perfect fall weather. Last week was mild temperature wise but swelteringly humid. We have already taken out the AC. Our house sits ‘up a little’. You don’t think of it as being in a hill until you realize it’s uphill every time you walk home. But we can catch a nice breeze. I’m addicted to it. It was gray on 9/11. I was glad. It’s so heart-breaking to think what a beautiful day that had started out to be. I watched PBS American Experience of George Bush. I Thought he was treated pretty fairly. But what was really interesting was that I saw where Denis worked then. You see the crew Go down into the bunker. You don’t see Donny.πŸ˜ͺ I’ve just started to talk text this And I’m kind of thinking Of just not Correcting anything. Ha-ha.If I pause just slightly and my narrating it gives you another capital letter at the beginning of a word. And 2 different ways. Ok , I quit. I can’t read that many bloopers!πŸ˜‚

We have a willow tree in the back yard, big thing, that has what is called Slime flux disease. The wood gets wet inside and creates a bacteria that emits a gas that pushes out black sap over everything beneath it. Joel had a made a place for us to park out there and it was so gross. Besides all the leaves are coated. We just got smart enough to put up a tarp. I can’t wait till that tree is gone. 

I think my neighbor has a fire going on the back yard. It’s a fireinthebackyard kind of day.

Your turn! Love you!

Melinda