Category Archives: Family


Today Husband and I brought home our new kitten, Millie, a 5 month old tortie terror who loves to climb and is very, very active.



I have always maintained special play towers for cats are a waste of time, money, and space, and that cats will just ignore them and play with a paper bag instead.

We picked this up just after getting the kitten from the vet. I know in my heart it is an unnecessary purchase, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if she climbed all over it?

I regret buying more things as we think about downsizing and reducing our possessions.  We just can’t keep this up (but what if she really likes it and climbs all over it?).

How do you talk yourself into unnecessary purchases?  What is your plan for simplifying and reducing?

Pin Feathers

My mother didn’t cook much, but she was a good cook who really cared how her dishes turned out.  She was particularly fussy about her chicken. When I was a very little girl, mom would buy chicken from the meat man in the back of Nelson’s department store. The chicken came whole and was wrapped in white butcher paper.

She usually cut up the chicken she bought and baked the pieces. I have vivid memories of her holding each piece over an open flame on the gas stove to remove any possible remaining pin feathers that were missed when the chicken was processed.  There usually weren’t any such feathers, but it was something she had learned growing up on the farm, and she always did it.

Husband and I like to get big roasting chickens, but they have been hard to come by lately. In desperation the other week we took a chance and bought a “Southern Hen” in Walmart. It was indeed from the deep South in Alabama. It was the right size (about 9 pounds), and we decided to cook it whole in the slow cooker.

The roasters we usually buy are nicely processed and have clean skins with no pin feathers.  I would have needed a blow torch to remove the feathers and quills from our Southern Hen. I tried a lighter to no avail, and ended up laboriously removing it all with a needle nosed pliers.   My mother would have been appalled.  I guess they have different standards in chicken processing in the South.

The meat was tasty, but I made sure every bit of skin was removed and discarded once the chicken was thoroughly cooked. Husband has indicated that it might be nice to keep a few  chickens in our retirement. Our experience with our Southern Hen makes me think otherwise.

What do you remember about family food ways  from your childhood?

A Hill of Beans

Husband and I returned home from Minneapolis last Sunday to find that it was time to harvest our pole beans.  We had covered the four bean towers with a tarp before we left, and hoped we could forestall the effects of a killing freeze until we returned.  The very hot weather we had in July pushed the entire garden behind schedule, and the beans needed as much time as they could get to mature. We grew Good Mother Stallard and  Petaluma Gold beans.

We first encountered shell beans when we lived in southern Indiana.  Shell beans are like dried beans  (think cannellini and pinto beans) before you dry them.  They are fat and sweet and buttery. The pods are long and bulging. Our favorite is Vermont Speckled Cranberry Beans, but there seemed to be a shortage of seed last Spring, so we grew the two other varieties.  Good Mother Stallard is the quintessential New England  heirloom bean.  Petaluma Gold was a good variety that we grew several  years ago.  People sometimes let them dry on the vine and store them in bags, but  we like to harvest them before they dry and store them in the freezer. They are terrific in soups and stews.  They are also so pretty before you cook them. The header photo is some of the Good Mother Stallard we harvested.

It got so cold here while we were gone that the bean vines died despite the huge tarp we covered them with. The pods did not freeze, however, so we spent Monday night shelling the beans and blanching and freezing them.  My thumbs hurt from shelling them.

I realize that our obsession with pole beans is sort of odd, but they are such good beans. Husband gets gout from beans, but he insists we have them in the garden every year.

What are you obsessed with? Who have you known who had obsessions?


Good Teaching

Husband and I have returned home from the Association for Play Therapy International Conference in Minneapolis, heavy laden with books,  therapeutic activities and games, puppets, sand tray miniatures, and Mindfulness card decks for ourselves and our daughter.  I got a great devil puppet, and Husband insisted that I needed a  pelican puppet, even though he couldn’t articulate why he thought that. I also got a wonderful toy farm, since I was unhappy with my current playroom farm.

Although the first presenter we heard was somewhat disappointing,  the presenters on the following days were quite wonderful.  They really great teachers, which means, to me, that they did more than just present the material.  They incorporated personal experience, humor, and theory, and communicated it in a manner that was forthright and understandable.

Good teachers are as rare as hens’ teeth  and as precious as rubies. I have been blessed with really good teachers in my life.

What do you think makes for a good teacher? Who have been your best teachers? What are you good at teaching?


Promises, Promises

Husband and I are in Minneapolis attending the Association for Play Therapy annual conference.  It is a very well attended conference with typically wonderful workshops. This week we will attend 25 hours of lectures related to all aspects of play therapy, and browse the terrific vendors of  therapeutic toys and supplies.

Today we sat through 6 hours of a lecture that was quite disappointing, and not at all what was represented in the conference prospectus.  The presenter had a very ambitious agenda, and was very knowledgeable,  but wasn’t feeling well, and got off track and was distracted by questions from the audience. There were five objectives listed, and only the first two were addressed by the end of the day.  Husband and I were drawing funny cartoons for each other  by the end of the presentation.

I have higher hopes for tomorrow.  My workshops go from  8:00 am until 6:30pm. Husband gets off easier,  and only goes from Noon until 6:30pm.  I hope we won’t be misled like we were today.

When have you been disappointed by false advertising?


Today’s post is from tim.
i was 4
my bed was the one by the window
paul’s was the one by the wall
mom brought home the record of the new play called oklahoma
the songs are all so wonderful but that one about the surry with the fringe on top made me dance in my sleep
with eisenglass windows that roll right up in case there’s a change in the weather.
mom comes in
what’s wrong

what are you yelling

i didn’t realize i was singing i thought it was in my head
what are you singing
with eisenglass windows that roll right up in case there’s a change in the weather
we just got that record today
i like it
go to sleep you’ll wake up your brother

wha do you got for childhood flashbacks?

Ship Ahoy!

Today’s post comes from  Steve Grooms

When I was a boy the most romantic and impressive form of transportation was the train. I grew up listening to the lonely nighttime screams of passing trains. A kid in my school was so involved with trains that he memorized data on all the train travel in Iowa. You could ask him any kind of question about trains. He’d barely pause before reciting details of train schedules.

I’ve never had that kind of mind. I’m a “big picture” guy, not a detail guy, someone more attuned to forests than to individual trees.

The closest I ever came to developing an esoteric interest was when I fell in love with a hand-carved carousel built a century ago. I was smitten to the point of reading a lot of background knowledge about carousels. It is a topic I can talk about at length. But in the end, I could not work up enough interest to become an expert about all the various makers of carousels in the country. A true lover of carousels would be fascinated by obscure little carousels that just look garish and cheap to me. My deepest affections were for one splendid carousel, not the whole category.

This comes to mind because my daughter is in the early stage of becoming immersed in a new interest for our family: ship watching. My son-in-law grew up in a lovely old home on the US bank of the St. Clair River. The St. Clair is deep enough to host the biggest ships sailing the Great Lakes. The river is, in fact, the only connection between the upper lakes (Superior and Michigan) and lower lakes. Any ship traveling far in the Great Lakes must pass close to John’s home, “close” meaning about a hundred yards. Now that our family lives in Port Huron, Molly has become fascinated with the ships we see here.

The photo heading this column is one I took in late September. The ship is the Federal Seto, a particularly lengthy “saltie.” It is owned by a shipping company based in Montreal. Since I took its portrait the Federal Seto steamed through Lake St. Clair, passed through Lake Erie, and then through Lake Ontario. After running the length of the St. Lawrence Seaway, today the ship has just entered the Atlantic Ocean on its way Rouen, France.

The major distinction between different bulk freighters on the Great Lakes is between “salties” and “lakers.” Salties are shorter than lakers and have higher sides. They move freely from lake to lake but also across oceans. Lakers, many of which are about a thousand feet long, cannot fit in the locks that connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. They work hard but always within the Great Lakes. In addition to being shorter and taller than lakers, salties are younger. The salty water of oceans is extremely corrosive, so salties rarely live longer than 20 years. By contrast, because lakers are not subjected to all that salt they can live many decades, even longer than a century.

Ship watching is popular hobby in this area, and there are many resources. Web sites track the movements of these ships. Many museums educate visitors about the shipping trade. There are books on ship watching, and newsletters. If you want to know the precise location and sailing plans for individual ships, “there is an app” for that. There are, in fact, several apps for smart phones that track these majestic ships at all times.

I was surprised by my daughter’s surge of interest in shipping. She has always had an active mind, but this is the first time she has immersed herself in a topic like this. Molly knows a great deal about Great Lakes ship traffic. She has favorite boats that she tracks with interest. She is highly excited by the fact a new ship being built in Europe will soon join the fleets of freighters already working the Great Lakes, and she will be sure to be on the porch of her mother-in-law’s home the first time it travels the St. Clair River.

Have you ever developed a fascination with an esoteric topic?