Sunday, December 8, 2019

That Holiday Feeling

The holiday decorations are up and the house looks festive and cheery.  Whadda relief to have that done!  I'm finding the actual act of putting the decorations up isn't as much fun as it used to be (an understatement), but I still enjoy seeing the color and the memories everything brings to mind once it's done.  (There's no free lunch, is there?)

A treasured cross-stitch picture
by my daughter
given to me one Christmas past.

While unpacking these decorations, I made the decision to eliminate many items that I've not used in years and/or ones that don't have any sentimental value.  That felt really good.  (Hey, I'm getting good at this de-cluttering thing.)

A 32" x 32" applique piece
I did a a couple of years ago.
(It stays.)

Now it's time for me to bake a big bunch of sugar cookies for my daughter.  No, it's not that she allows herself to indulge in copious amounts of the cookies, but rather gathers together her little group of six happy urchins (children of her dear friends) and has her annual, huge Christmas cookie decorating party with them.  Thus far, the boys are still eager to enter into the spirit of the season (and frosting and assorted toppings) and dive into the project with as much enthusiasm and gusto as the girls.

I love this large jingle bell wreath
given to me by a friend
a few years back.

And then there are my own Christmas goodies to start making and baking.  Each year I waver between getting them done early (and often having too many disappear too soon) or waiting until right before the 25th and feeling we don't have adequate time to enjoy and share them.  Also, I kinda like to have them ready to make plates of assortments to give before the (sometimes glut of) sugar-laden goodies appear in everyone else's homes.  Such a dilemma, eh?

The little Santas on the right are
from Iceland and were
a gift to me from my daughter
when she visited there
about 15 years ago.

At any rate, I'm definitely experiencing that getting-close-to-the-holidays feeling now and plan to relax and enjoy the season to the utmost.  

Bring on the aroma of cookies baking in the oven and Christmas music on the player.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Really Hungry Flying Squirrel

We seem to have a flying squirrel with a voracious appetite that has been making nightly visits to our . . . 

. . . peanut butter feeder and . . . 

. . . suet ball.

If you have ever seen a flying squirrel up close, you know they are adorable, velvety soft-looking little creatures with huge eyes.  But this one is starting to border on the destructive side.

As you may note from the above picture of our peanut butter log feeder, he's doing a good job of starting to eat the wood from around the holes that I fill with peanut butter.

What was once a perfectly round suet ball surrounded by a string net bag suffered an awful beating last night.

We've seen flying squirrels on the peanut butter feeder at night and the seed feeding platform outside the window of Papa Pea's office upstairs so we know they are around, and we've always been happy to provide them with their nocturnal goodies.

But this guy has got to learn some manners and maybe knock on a window to let us know he's especially hungry and wants a refill of his snacks.  Like pronto!


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Cutting Down Our Christmas Tree

Did I fool anyone?  Even a little bit?

When we plow snow from the area in back of our house (and main entrance), we have to make a rather sharp left hand turn to go farther back and around our semi-circular driveway.  It's a tight turn with our 9' wide snowplow blade and Papa Pea has been threatening (for about 20 years) to cut down a tree that's too close to the plow path. 

The tree was removed yesterday and the turn is now considerably widened.  He dropped the tree exactly where he wanted it, and we should now be able to make the turn without the usual "back and forthing."

Just in time for the predicted heavy snow coming this afternoon through tomorrow.  But will we really get it?  So far, all the appreciable amounts of snow have gone south of us.  What does Old Man Winter have against all of us snow lovers up here in northernmost Minnesota? 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sending Thanksgiving Wishes to You All!

Here's to enjoying the company of good friends and family. 
 Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours!

"Toasted, roasted, baked and done!
Hope your Thanksgiving
is loads of fun."

                               - Anonymous

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Is It Winter Yet?

Yes.  And no.  We've had colder weather than usual so far this fickle weather month of November, right along with alternating spells of temperatures above freezing which makes . . . 

. . . for icy conditions.

I ventured into town last Friday and was glad to make it back home without sustaining bodily harm by falling on the horribly icy conditions on sidewalks, side streets and parking lots.  I simply don't understand why merchants these days aren't afraid of being sued by someone falling and seriously injuring themselves trying to get into or out of places of business.

Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching for those of us living here in the States.  I don't like the fact that it falls so late in the month this year.  That really shortens the time before Christmas, at least in my mind.

Last night I pulled out some felted wool ornaments I started to make after the holidays last year and am hoping to get them completed in time to hang on our tree or possibly soon enough to send off and have them arrive as little tree trinkets for others.  I'd better get on the stick if I want that to happen.

Today appears to be a mild one again.  Up to the mid-40s already at mid-morning and lots of sun streaming in our south windows.  However, more rain/snow/sleet is forecast for tonight and into tomorrow.  But I suppose that's just the way it often is in this unpredictable weather month of November.  We'll survive.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Remembering A Friend

Whenever I see ice beginning to form on ponds or lakes in our area, I think of my slightly crazy unique friend Lenore.

Lenore's mother wanted her to become a world-class figure skater.  That never came to pass mainly because, much to her mother's chagrin, Lenore had no desire to do so.  But, boy howdy, could that gal ice skate.

There is a special spot off the main highway near here that makes me think of Lenore every time I drive by it.  We would meet on a sunny, early winter day, drive to the area, park our venicle as far off on the side of the road as we could safely get, grab our ice skates and hike through brush and stubble until we got to a secluded, mid-sized pond where early in the season, before snow became deep on the ice, she and I would spend a couple of hours skating.  I often thought perhaps Lenore's mother had been right; she could have been a fantastic figure skater if she had so desired.

In the deep winter time, we'd go cross country skiing together.  Most of the time she'd lead the way and although I was in good shape and a competent skier, I'd often come around a curve to finally catch up only to find her waiting for me while taking one of her regular cigarette breaks.  I would be puffing, too, but only to catch my breath since keeping up with her was a challenge.

It wasn't just in physical activities that Lenore excelled.  She hand-crafted quirky, colorful dolls out of leather dressed to look like the French voyageurs who once paddled great distances across the Great Lakes.  Selling the dolls to select big city stores turned out to be such a success that at one time she employed fifteen people working for her.  Then one day she decided it wasn't fun anymore and she never made another one except as a special gift.

Each early spring, Lenore volunteered to check wood duck boxes that the local Department of Natural Resources had constructed and mounted high on trees on the shores of various lakes in the area.  Lenore's job was to determine whether the nest box had been used the previous year, clean it out in anticipation for the current year's nesting ducks and fill out a form to hand in to the DNR.

Gaining access to these nest boxes required carrying an extension ladder through some fairly rugged territory and then using it to reach the boxes.  Since someone had to help carry the extension ladder, she talked me into joining her on one of these expeditions.  But only once.  

I don't remember ever being so cold and muddy and miserable.  Spending the day slogging through mud and water up to my whazoo while carrying the I'm sure heaviest end of a long extension ladder turned out to be an experience I never cared to repeat.  Two or three times, I know we were "lost in the wilderness" but Lenore, of course, thought it all a great adventure while I felt lucky to get out of the woods and safely home before dark.

She was a skilled carpenter, quilter, photographer, flower grower and arranger and never hesitated to climb up on a neighbor's roof to clean out a wood stove chimney.  

Lenore passed away several years ago sooner than anyone who knew her would have expected.  Had she had more time, who knows just what other adventures she would have experienced.

Seeing ice forming on ponds, streams and lakes early this year brings back lots of memories of a fun-loving, very talented friend.  She's missed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

A Cozy Day

Despite the fact that our weather has been "winter-y" for a few weeks already, today is the first day that I've actually felt like I'm settling in for the upcoming, delightful slower (please, please, please) months spent to a large part indoors enjoying my home and all that goes with it.

I'm sure this "nesting" has a lot to do with the 3+" of snowfall we got over night and early this morning.

The raised garden beds have pulled their winter blankets up to their chinny-chin-chins.

Ooops, never did get the deck furniture stored away.  Must get that done pronto.

No question I'm into the winter baking/cooking mode and have welcomed it as I know Papa Pea did when he got a dinner last night of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy and baked acorn squash.  (Okay, he's never been too thrilled about the appearance of squash on his plate, but add enough butter, salt and pepper and it's passable.  Besides, a couple slices of meat loaf make up for most anything else in his book.)

I'm baking our first batch of holiday fruitcake as we speak.  Wonderful aroma wafting throughout the house!  Our fruitcake doesn't have any resemblance to what one normally thinks of as a tasteless batter containing chemically produced chunks of artificially dyed fruit and other questionable ingredients fruitcake.  (Not prejudiced at all, am I?)

Ours is made with a treasured recipe of my mother's containing honey, molasses, butter and other organic ingredients in the batter and organic dried raisins, craisins, sour cherries, dates, apricots and, of course, nuts folded in.

We've each been trying to eat a raw apple a day now.  Of all the varieties we grew here on the homestead, the ones we've voted to have the best flavor are ones from our crab apple tree, a Chestnut variety.  I've always thought of crab apples as so sour tangy that they were good for nothing but crab apple jelly.

Besides their flavor, look at the size of these little, red gems.  A good two inches across which is large for a crab apple.  We're really enjoying them.

I've been searching out new Christmas cookies to try for this season.  Like all of you, I'm sure, there are those traditional, tried-and-true goodies that would cause a family revolt if they didn't turn up at holiday time.  But as with my everyday cooking, I find myself yearning for something new and different to tempt my taste buds.  (Did I just intimate I needed urging to eat more holiday goodies?  Uh-oh.)

We had thought of making a trip to the big city today, but for a couple of reasons we made the decision last night not to do so.  And, boy howdy, am I happy with that decision.  'Tis a simply delightful day to be home.