are you out there, grandma?

I often think of my grandma Clara. She departed several years ago and, honestly, if you ask me the date or the year, I cannot say. I can say that I spent several days searching the internet for her obituary only to find out about a month or so later that it was her wish to have no services or obituary. It is too bad that was her wish, I bet a lot of people were looking for an obituary or a memorial gathering. Note to all the dying people(that means everybody):  the living want to read your obituary and they want to get together to remember you, please let them.

I have two grandparents left. My mother’s father and my father’s mother. I have grown up with my father’s mother, Marion, seeing her at least weekly until adulthood when the rest of my life took over. We even went skiing together many times during my teenage years.

Even with grandma Marion still alive and kicking, with two partial hip replacements, and nearing her ninetieth year, I still often think of grandma Clara. Grandma Clara lived in Arizona so I referred to her as grandma-in-Arizona most of my young life. I never called her grandma Clara. I had grandma and grandma-in-Arizona.

I think sometimes my grandma Clara might be hanging around. Sometimes I feel her with me when I am driving on a two-lane country road. There are some specific places that make me think of her but I don’t know why. Maybe now I think of her around those places because I thought of her the last time I drove through. I always hear the same thing:  Do what you want, do what makes you happy, don’t waste your life. Maybe I am just hearing what I want to hear.

Maybe I think of her while driving because I remember so fondly riding around with her when I was a girl visiting in Arizona. She had a convertible. We would go shopping or take the dog to the beauty shop. I remember a time going to Mexico (border town) with grandma and my aunt after I graduated from high school. I had to drive them home as they were not able. In that town they just let you walk around with your margaritas. My grandma and my aunt did just that.  I was too young for too many margaritas but old enough to become a designated driver.

I do feel her with me sometimes. Is she always with me? Is it a drive-by hello? Will she be there on the other side to greet me when it is my time to depart?

This photo is from many years ago with my grandmas. I’m the one in the middle.

kelly and grandmas

 

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butter, buttermilk, buttermilk biscuits

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Milk comes from cows. I got some milk from some cows not too far from here from a family friend. This family friend is embarking on a dairy farming adventure. There aren’t many cows being milked yet and the parlor isn’t quite ready so the milk goes into a giant metal milking bucket. Some of that milk made it into my mason jars. Some of it went to the new calves. I got to help by feeding one of the calves. As you can see, you must put the calf into a headlock while feeding.

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We put the milk into the cooler with the beer we brought to drink while watching our friend milk the cows. I let the milk sit in the fridge for a day or two then carefully took some of the cream off the top. I ended up with about a pint. I researched making butter with a Kitchen aid mixer. Since I only had a pint it wasn’t really necessary to cover the mixer with plastic wrap. Had I 6 cups of cream, like the recipe called for, I image the buttermilk would have splashed all over. I got a bit over a golf ball sized ball of butter and about 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. The wine is apple-plum from my fruit trees and was for drinking while making butter.

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With the buttermilk I made buttermilk biscuits, which was a first for me. I never have buttermilk on hand so usually make biscuits with regular milk and baking powder. I used the buttermilk that came from making the butter in the mixer for this. To go with this I made sausage gravy with milk from the cows that live not too far from here. I used the butter this weekend on my corn-on-the-cob which worked out perfectly since it was on the salty side. I haven’t bought milk at the store in over a week. I made butter, buttermilk, buttermilk biscuits (and gravy) and still have milk for other cooking adventures (like macaroni and cheese).

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I don’t think any of the kids drank any milk in a glass but they did eat the biscuits and gravy. I love that I know exactly where this milk came from. I saw the milk come from the cow, then to the jar, then to my fridge. I love that I used so much of this milk for new cooking adventures. My next planned cooking adventure is making mozzarella cheese.

Good thing I have more wine in the basement.

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depression cake

When I was a kid my mom made depression cake once in a while. I remember she would cook it in a metal 9×13 pan and put powdered sugar on top. There was a slide-top lid for this pan. I remember the cake to be tasty and moist. I don’t recall thinking it was WEIRD in any way. This is my cake in my pan.

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I have recently seen several posts on social media regarding making depression cake so one day, somewhat recently, I decided to make one. I made this cake as the dessert to follow the first grilled chicken (charcoal grilled) of the season and a giant batch of au gratin potatoes.

Liza asked me if the depression cake was going to make us depressed. She also asked why I had to make such a cake since we had the ingredients that were lacking during the depression. But we HAVE EGGS AND BUTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!! (this was her point…)

Well, I did serve the cake with whipped CREAM. And I did enjoy making the cake. Brian said his mom still makes depression cake once in a while. Liza and Laura do not recall their mother ever making such a cake.

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When I asked Liza if she wanted any cake the next day she said: “That cake smells weird.” I asked Vince (one of the kids) if he thought the cake was weird. He said, “No, but it doesn’t have any frosting.” No one but me had any more of that cake. It might be growing new life on the counter right now. My cake is also in a metal pan but the lid snaps on rather than sliding. It turns out it didn’t grow any new life for about three weeks when I took this picture. Note two very small spots of mold. I cleaned this out and made a new cake.

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This time I used my mom’s recipe. She got her recipe from a Daffodil Auxiliary cookbook she received as a wedding shower gift many years ago, before I was born. The only difference with this recipe is it has 6 tablespoons of cocoa powder rather than 1/2 a cup (8 tablespoons). Here is my mom’s recipe and her cake pan.

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I didn’t use a mixer as is suggested in my mom’s recipe. I made the three wells after mixing the dry ingredients then added oil, vinegar and vanilla each to one well and covered with water. I then mixed well with a whisk using the muscles in my arm. No mixer needed. These were the mixing instructions I found in several different online recipes.

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This time I served the cake with vanilla buttercream frosting using one cup of butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and about 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Maybe this time the kids will eat the cake since the other cake was missing the vital ingredient of frosting. This time Liza said the cake was good but it still smells weird so she just doesn’t breathe when she is eating it.

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better with bacon (and bacon fat)

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I used the bacon fat to make that crust. I didn’t just use three tablespoons of bacon fat. I used the whole half a cup (about half a cup) to make the pie crust of this quiche. The bacon fat was leftover from the quiche-no-crust that I made the day before. It was lovely fat without any yucky chunks…so why not make some crust and see what happens? I had never made an all bacon fat crust before but it worked out just fine. The dough was softer than when using butter and it rolled out nicely without tearing. The final result was just a hint of bacon taste to the crust and superb flakiness.

The innards of my quiche are a variation of the basic quiche lorraine recipe found in my Betty Crocker cookbook. I can tell I have used this page often because it is sticky with a rip on the page. Instead of 4 eggs I used 5 (fresh eggs from a neighbor down the road). Instead of 2 cups of heavy cream I used one, since it was all I had, and topped off shy of 2 cups with milk. Of course, the best part is the bacon, 8 crispy slices, and cheese (some Swiss and some cheddar). These items I piled in the bacon fat crust shell, covered them with egg/milk mixture and baked according to Betty’s directions along with temperature adjustments for my 1969 Frigidaire Flair.

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The quiche turned out tasty, inside and out. Now I have another approximate half a cup of bacon fat that is a lovely light yellow sitting on my counter.  I ask my self:  how many times will I make a crust with this fat until I decide to take a break? Is it like when you get the friendship bread starter? Will it go on and on?

Recipe:  Quiche With 100% Bacon Fat Crust

  • Crust for 9 or 1o inch pie plate, whichever you prefer
  • Use ONLY bacon fat when making the crust (I used about 1/2 cup bacon fat, flour, salt and 2 Tbsp ice water for 10 inch crust recipe)
  • 5 eggs slightly beaten
  • slightly less than 2 cups milk/cream (whatever you have…but cream is best)
  • a bit of salt, a bit of pepper and a bit of cayenne (or whatever spices you prefer)
  • 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon (save the grease for your next crust)
  • Cut up Swiss and cheddar cheese (or whatever you have) I used 3 sliced Swiss cut up and 3 slices cheddar cut up.

Once the crust is made and ready to be filled in the pie plate add Swiss cheese slices first, then bacon, then cheddar cheese slices. Then add egg/milk/spice mixture. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 for 30 minutes. Cover the crust to keep from burning. Cool for 10 minutes and then eat it up.

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post lent let down

It is an odd feeling when something is over. I am all done reading my Lent meditation (for the second time) and I have finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am now free to resume reading murder mysteries for leisure but I still crave something more thoughtful to read. I didn’t feel that I was giving up murder mysteries for Lent to punish myself. Instead, I chose to read something thought provoking for the days during Lent. I actually look forward to Lent as it nears. I like the quiet contemplative time.

Now that Lent is over, Holy Week is over and Easter has been celebrated there is an empty place where there had been anticipation. This place will soon be filled with planting and weeding but for the moment I still feel a little lost. I shouldn’t feel lost at all after having just celebrated Easter. The resurrection of Jesus is fascinating but I would be lying if I said I had no doubts about it. There are mysteries in the world beyond my understanding and the resurrection is one of them. But, that doesn’t mean my mind doesn’t try to make sense of it. Like, maybe Jesus had some voodoo zombie drugs and then some guys rolled the rock away and let him out of the tomb. That is my maybe-he-wasn’t-really-dead doubt. If I didn’t have doubts I wouldn’t be a thinking person. I want to believe, so I believe with just a little bit of doubt and wonder about what actually happened.

I could spend all my time doubting, wondering and analyzing the texts trying to figure out what really happened. That would be to miss the point. Instead of trying to figure out HOW the resurrection happened I should focus on what it means that it happened. What does it mean that Jesus came back? What did he tell us when he came back? What can I learn from these stories to make me a better person right now?

I remember for one of my eastern religion classes my plan was to write a paper about how reincarnation happens. I wanted to find out about the moments between one life and the next. What happens? How does it happen? In researching this I discovered that I was asking the wrong questions. I will never know exactly how it happens (if it does happen) because it is beyond my human understanding. The better questions are about what it means about how I live my life right now.

The resurrection is also beyond my human understanding. It doesn’t fit into a nice neat scientific category. But, then, science isn’t nice and neat and there will always be more questions than answers. Faith is different, although mine doesn’t fit into any nice neat category. When Jesus encountered His disciples after the resurrection He said, “Peace be with you.”   What if my new approach is one that before all else wishes peace upon all others? The new part of this approach is:  ALL others (not just MOST).

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Peace Be With You

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thoughts on holy week

Just after midnight on Palm Sunday, I was lying awake in bed thinking. I had just taken the puppy outside and finished up with the dishes. Well, it wasn’t really Palm Sunday anymore, it was early on Monday. I was thinking about Holy Week and how sometimes I really do wonder: What Would Jesus Do?

Perhaps he would sit quietly with the old confused people I work with at the memory care facility. They could all use some more love and patience. Perhaps he would wonder why everyone is staring at a screen and tapping it with their thumbs all the time. (instead of looking at each other)

What would Jesus get mad about? Probably the same things he got mad about over 2000 years ago, but in a different context. Making money using His name? The treatment and exploitation of the poor? The treatment and exploitation of the land? Pervasive selfishness and wastefulness?

Over 2000 years ago the masses killed the messenger because the message terrified them. I think the same thing would happen today. Then, on the third day, the messenger reminds us he cannot be killed. On Easter we celebrate the resurrection. God is with us even after we tried to kill him.

Most people I know will only celebrate with chocolate bunnies, dyed eggs and a ham this Sunday. They may not even mention the reason for this season. There are so many other things to think about at the beginning of Spring. New life is popping up all over the place and the air smells of blossoms. It is time to plant and time to clean. Is there time to think about God and ourselves? It is so much easier at Christmas time when we have a story about the baby Jesus coming into the world. During Holy Week we have the story of what happened to the baby Jesus when he grew up and then we killed him. I say “we” as general statement about what humans do. We gang up on each other, we kill each other, we fear what is different, we fear change, we resist being told we must change our ways. Seems like not much has changed in the last 2000 years, other than gaining several more distractions, in the ways of humans.

Is there hope for us? I like to think there is hope for us. Hope is in the little things. Hope is in doing what is right even when no one is looking, even without telling anyone or being rewarded. For me, I need to remember to be kinder to those closest to me, not just the people I care for at work. Hope is when life finds a way through the cracks in the pavement, through the fallen logs in the forest and out of the empty tomb.

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the night the eggs got dyed

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Easter is approaching. That means it is time to dye eggs. For us that means getting a bunch of kids together to dye about 400 eggs (more or less). We dye them for a local egg hunt, not to eat them all. Of course, we don’t plan ahead and boil the eggs the day before. We set up boiling stations outside, wait until about 8 p.m. to get started boiling and meanwhile work on drinking beer.

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While the adults were outside boiling eggs all the kids were inside running rampant. Something happens to a group of children when there are no adults around. I saw a glimpse when I had to go in the house to get another pan from the kitchen. One girl had the kitten and was running. Several others were running up and down the hall. Some were making loud noises. Some were crouched next to the dog crate. All the candy and cookies had been devoured. I made a quick exit with my pan reminding them not to let the kitten get out. “You know that show about the feral children?” I asked Liza, when I finally made it back to the boiling station. She just laughed.

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Eventually we had a batch of hard boiled eggs. Only a few of them broke. Those I threw out by the fruit trees before I realized that the dogs would eat them all and then they would fart. Oh, well. We worked on boiling eggs and cooling them and got the children started on a cooperative (mostly) effort in dying the eggs. Dying eggs requires at least one bossy girl so this worked out just fine. For a short time the sexes separated. Leaving the girls to do the work of dying eggs the boys ran out to the woods to be wild. This lasted until it began to rain. The boys then returned. Some of them to help and some of them to stand around asking when the hot dogs would be done.

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The children were cooperative most of the time and got most the the eggs dyed without breaking them. The adults females stood under the canopy boiling eggs and drinking beer. The adult males had long since vanished to go to the tavern to play darts. We had to stand under the canopy due the the downpour on our egg boiling event although we still had a fire going in the pit. Then it happened:  one little boy was fooling around and a cup of dye spilled on one little girl.

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Notice how the older boy standing looks somewhat disturbed. He looks to be thinking something like, “oh…this isn’t going to be good.” He knows this because he has a sister. The girl with the green dye on her shirt looks like maybe a demon got inside her but really it is from the flash. Demon or no she looks to be thinking, “MY SHIRT! I smell like pickles now!” And then:  “MOM!!!!!!!!” Mother and daughter disappeared to the house to clean and dry the damaged clothing. The other children continued dying eggs.

When they left a bit early I worried that the poor girl might be traumatized by this event at our house and never want to come back. I later learned that she is fine and would like to come back sometime to play with the dogs. No mention of the other children.

Recipe:

There is not recipe for boiling eggs outside on propane burners in a downpour. It is necessary to wing it. However, if I were to make a recipe it may go something like this:

  • way more eggs than the egg-hunting kids will ever eat
  • several packages of egg dye tablets
  • at least one bossy girl (to keep order in the egg-dying event)
  • several propane burners
  • several large pots
  • hose for water
  • canopy in case it rains (because you know it will)
  • cooler full of beer and ice
  • 2 bottles of vodka (you will see them on the table)
  • bags of chips
  • hot dogs (be sure not to cook these until after 10 p.m. when everyone is starving)

 

Disclaimer: I wasn’t sure if I should put this entry under “booze news” or “food and recipes” or if I should make a new category. Sorry for any confusion. Also, photos have been altered to protect the identities of innocent (and not so innocent) children.

 

 

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peanut butter chocolate bunny cookies

It all started with Saint Patrick’s Day at Grandma’s house. This was a time for my mother, my grandmother and I to relive old times. When I lived nearby we used to get together several Saturdays a month to have dinner and stay up late drinking and playing pinochle. This happens less frequently now that I live two hours to the north.

During dinner and cards we had one of my bottles of pear wine. Sometime after that my grandma surprised me by asking to have one of my beers. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Drink Guinness!

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After a while we were no longer able to play cards and sat around the table chatting for a while. Grandma had two wrapped “prizes” in a basket for the winner of the card game. I won two chocolate bunnies. Here we are with one bunny.

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No one really wants to eat these chocolate bunnies. I know they will just sit on the counter until one of the kids decides to stab it with a pencil or some other form of destruction. So, I will save them the trouble by destroying the bunnies myself.

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Time to kill the bunnies.

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Time to make some peanut butter cookies.

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And mix in the butchered chocolate bunnies.

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I will call them peanut butter and chocolate bunny cookies.

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Recipe:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar (I use half brown sugar)
  • 1-2 chopped up chocolate bunnies

Refrigerate for an hour or so before rolling into balls, rolling in sugar and baking at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Slightly smash down the balls before baking. If you bake without the chocolate, use the fork method. Of note, I don’t measure the peanut butter because I don’t like to put it into a measuring cup and then take it back out of the measuring cup. I don’t enjoy cleaning the peanut buttery measuring cup so I just eyeball it. Really the recipe should state: 1 cup peanut butter, more or less.

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spring fever: plants, seeds and lent

I get excited about the smell of blossoms and the first new baby plants at the stores. I get excited when I see the seeds for sale and I have to control myself so I don’t buy too many seed packets. So far, I think I have accumulated about 20 or so seed packets. I am drawn to the seed and plant displays everywhere I go. I am also drawn to the crates and barrels of onions, seed potatoes and asparagus crowns. I want to get them and put them in the ground.

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I used to think my favorite season was summer. This spring, I realized I was wrong. Spring is definitely my favorite season. A time to be excited about new life. I have lots of new life around me. A puppy, a kitten with many names (DC, Jody or Clarice) and loads of seeds waiting to be placed in the ground. Only one of the fruit trees is not yet completely pruned. I think I need to separate the rhubarb and I need to find a place to put the asparagus.

It isn’t really spring yet…but is seems like spring. It is a time for contemplation as it is also Lent. For Lent these past few years I have given up murder mysteries. Murder mysteries are my chosen form of escape from the world. Instead of existing in my world I can exist in a world where some detectives figure out who the murderer is and maybe even why. During Lent I choose to read something that makes me think about more than who the murderer might be. This season I chose to read a book by Barbara Kingsolver: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This is a book about the importance of our food. It even looks as though I picked up a signed copy at the used bookstore, which is a bonus.

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This book has inspired me to plant asparagus. Long ago I decided to eat only local strawberries when they are in season. Strawberries shipped from a warmer southern climate do not compare to the local strawberries that are RED and SWEET and taste like a strawberry. This will be the summer to load up on freezer jam from these local strawberries, as well. The last jar from two seasons ago is in the fridge right now.

Back to the asparagus. When I was younger I was not at all interested in the overcooked asparagus presented at family dinners. These past few years I have enjoyed grilled or roasted asparagus that still have some green and crunch left in them. Never have I enjoyed asparagus eaten on the day of harvest. I want to do that someday. I want to chop it and then eat it. I know that once I do that I will never buy it in the store again.

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glass milk bottles

I will sometimes take my cans or bottles home to recycle them if I am somewhere where people just throw them in the trash. We recycle so much stuff…and a lot of that stuff could be used again rather than gone through all the hassle of recycling. I believe that reusing is better than recycling but I am not the best at practicing what I preach…so here goes.

When I lived alone I rarely bought milk. I would occasionally pick up a half-gallon carton to make macaroni and cheese or to partake in some other baking or cooking adventure. Since I moved in with someone with kids seven years ago my milk purchases have increased considerably. Several gallons a week, usually. Say I buy 2 gallons a week….that is 104 gallons a year. That is 104 plastic jugs gone to the recycling. Then I imagine all the people on my street. How many plastic gallon jugs of milk do they get? Do they recycle them or put them in the trash? Is recycling all that plastic the best way to go?

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When I was a kid my mom got milk in a glass jar and returned the bottles. I hope to do the same. The local markets have milk in glass bottles that can be returned. The milk is local and the bottles are reused. The first half gallon I bought was sour so we were off to a bad start…now the kids will always be suspicious of the glass-bottle-cream-top milk. We have gone through one more half gallon and it was not sour. But…the cream top is a bit chunky at first which may disturb some people (even if the chunks taste like cream).

Trickery is in order here. I bought a box of Cap’n Crunch on sale at Fred Meyer after I got my hair cut today. Cap’n Crunch will be tasty with milk from the glass bottle even if there is a wee chunk of cream in there. I also suggested we pour off the first bit into another jar to be used for cooking something awesome like mac-n-cheese so the rest of the bottle will not have chunks. I have already done this first pour-off, tonight, so the kids don’t have to shake up the next bottle. For the record, the kids do enjoy the chocolate milk in the glass jar…you don’t even have to shake it.

Maybe it is messed up to be worried about using too much plastic but still buying crap like Cap’n Crunch and mac-n-cheese. I figure I’m going to buy the milk anyway so if I can get the family to go with the glass bottle I will not be contributing to buying 104 (or more) plastic jugs each year. Now if the beer companies would get in on the deposit bottle thing I wouldn’t have anything to put in the recycling container.

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