Category Archives: Uncategorized

Surplus

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?

Day Brightener

I have been hit pretty hard at work with all manner of things to deal with since I returned from a week off.  It makes me think I should never take time off, since the pay back is heavy when I return.

Today I received a delightful and refreshing phone call from out of the blue, one that brightened my day.  It was from a friend I don’t get to see much.  She is a lovely person, although a little addled at times.  She  is often out of town teaching music at some small outpost of the North Dakota plains.  Between teaching jobs she lives with her extremely difficult mother, an elderly woman in her 80’s who still substitute teaches at the high school and is probably the meanest, toughest, teacher around.  Her mother is  the leader of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union, although she must be slowing down since I haven’t seen many letters to the editor from her lately regarding the evils of alcohol. She has a very interesting perspective on life.

My friend phoned me to ask if  I would come over to advise them on how to prepare their raspberry patch for Winter. I said I could tell her over the phone, but she said her mother wouldn’t believe anything she relayed to her unless she heard it right from me in person.  We made a date for tomorrow. I can hardly wait.  It will be an amusing end to a very long week.

What or who helps make your day?

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?

 

Bonnets

Today’s post comes from Jacque.

The trip to Ireland is a week and a half behind me now, which allows the fog to clear as routine life, my real life, resumes.  As I reflect on the trip the highlights are emerging from the distance of time and place.  One of the highlights is the County Down Museum for which there was no admission fee, a small facility located in the building that lodged the county gaol and gallows during the 19th Century.  Two wings of it display artifacts of the area reaching back to pre-Christian times.

The part that interested me, though,  was the exhibit about the gaol, especially the display about the women, arrested for “crimes,” then sentenced to life in Australia.  I have included the pictures of the narratives, telling of the women, children, and families transported for crimes. You will see that their crimes were crimes of poverty and survival, often preceded by the husbands and fathers of a family being arrested and sent off to Australia.  That left a desperate family with no financial support.

 

Down a narrow hall from the main exhibits was a reproduced gaol cell holding women and children, including the one pallet to be used as a bed and shared by all in the cell.  It was cold and dank and surely cleaner than the ones used 200 years ago.  I looked at it and shuddered.  I have seen exhibits similar to this before.  What made this one so meaningful to me, what set this apart significantly, was the display of nineteenth century bonnets re-created in the styles of the time.

 

 

The arrays of bonnets, embellished and decorated with scraps of fabric, embroidered hearts, lace, and ribbons were so lovely.  Representing these women without being creepy, I found the bonnets to be the perfect symbol of the lives of these women.   The beauty of this has stayed with me.  I keep returning to the picture of the bonnets to show others, to look at and study, to savor.    I find it a pleasing, perfect memory.  Ideal.

 

What ideal symbol have you encountered?

 

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?

 

Juggling

Today’s post is from Barbara in Rivertown

I just made a list of activities for the next several days, and made a copy in case I lose track of it. We are preparing our friend – I’ll call him Will – to move from a 3-bedroom house (with full basement and 2-story studio out back) to a 1-bedroom apartment in downtown Winona. He has Parkinson’s disease which has progressed over the past year, so there is a core group of six friends who are helping with this project, and a son arriving on Saturday.

Having just moved ourselves over a year ago, we’ve at least had practice, and remember (most of) what needs to be done. Of course there are differences, and a few wrinkles, like a bed delivery, in addition to the usual phone connection transfers and truck rental. Since Will is pretty slow moving, there is still a lot of sorting to do before stuff can be packed. And once he’s in, we need to seriously get going on house selling. It feels like we are juggling a lot of balls in the air, and I just hope I don’t drop one.  I used to be able to juggle three balls, wonder if I can still do that.

When have you had a lot to juggle, either figuratively or literally?