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.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Our winter weather has arrived in one heckuva big hurry.  We woke to a light dusting of snow yesterday morning and none of it has melted yet.

What's more, the weather for the beginning of this coming week is going to be much colder than we usually get this early in the winter season.

How about a low tonight of 6°F?  A high of 13°F tomorrow and down to 4°F tomorrow night?  Oh, ya, winter has arrived.

"Welcome, winter.  Your late dawn
and chilled breath make me lazy,
but I love you nonetheless."
                            - Terri Guillemets 

"Winter is the time for comfort,
for good food and warmth,
for the touch of a friendly hand
and for a talk beside the fire:
it is time for home."
                               - Edith Sitwell


(We've kept this fire in the kitchen
wood stove going all day.)

"The fire is winter's fruit."
                          - Arabian Proverb 

I've definitely been hit with a bout of lazy today, and I'm enjoying our good food, and am planning on plunking myself on the couch in front of the open living room fire for a few hours tonight.   Welcome, winter!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


Have you ever gone bowling?  I don't know if bowling is something that has gone completely out of style these days or not.

My dad was a good bowler and for most of his adult life, he regularly bowled on a league, sometimes two leagues, if I remember correctly.

As a teenager, my brother set pins in a bowling alley a couple of blocks from our home.  This was, of course, before automatic pin setters were installed in all alleys.  Prior to that, the teenage boys who took on that job had to be quick and pay attention at all times.

When I was in college, there was a small bowling alley in the town and I frequently double dated with a good girlfriend, the guy she was going with and . . . now this is weird but I can't for the life of me remember who was my date.  (Oh, my brain cells must be elsewhere tonight or else that info is buried so deeply that I can't bring it forth at the present moment.  What do you want to bet I'll wake up in the middle of the night tonight trying to remember who that guy was.)  Anyway, the four of us all liked to go bowling and did so quite a few times.

One New Year's Eve, many (many!) years ago, I had a date with an old friend from high school.  (I do remember who he was.)  The company he was then working for had a huge holiday gala on that night which we attended.  The party was okay, but the company was a large one and since he was a fairly new employee, he didn't know a lot of the people.  I knew no one except my date.  We left before midnight.

As he was driving me home, he suddenly asked, "You wanna go bowling?"  

Why not?  To a bowling alley we went.  Upon arrival, there were only a couple of other alleys occupied.  Evidently, bowling wasn't an activity most people chose to do on New Year's Eve. 

I can still remember the dress I had on.  A sleeveless, emerald green brocade with matching long-sleeved jacket that ended at the waist.  Very classy!  Lucky for me, the dress wasn't a long one, but ended just above the knee.  I'm sure the rented bowling shoes added some real style to my whole look.

What fun the two of us had that night.  We bowled three games and I beat him at every one scoring just over 200 in the last game.

So, have any of you ever gone bowling?  What memories does thinking about your bowling experiences bring to mind.  Did this silly post jog a memory of a personal bowling experience?  Do tell!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Making My Own "Punky Pie" Filling

When I was growing up, I don't remember ever having pumpkin pie, which my mom always referred to as "punky pie," except at Thanksgiving and no Thanksgiving dinner was complete without it as the dessert.  As our daughter grew up, she put pumpkin pie at the top of her list of favorites, and I made it several times throughout the year.

These days, since Papa Pea and I both enjoy it, we still don't need a special occasion for it to turn up on our table.

A place to grow pie pumpkins always appears in my garden, even this year when I had to grow them in a 4 x 8' raised bed.

A good friend in New York state generously sent me seeds for her favorite pie variety, Winter Luxury.  Even in their small area, they produced prolifically for me.  I had more lovely, round, medium-sized pumpkins than I needed.

Here's how I prepare mine for the freezer.

The rind is tough so I needed a hammer and my longest chef's knife to cut them open.

The easiest way for me to clean out the innards is with a melon baller.

Although I have saved the seeds and made roasted pumpkin seeds in years passed, this year all the cleanings went to the chickens.

I tell them it's their Halloween candy . . . and they do gobble it up.

All set for the cookie sheets.

I've found covering the cookie sheets with parchment paper makes for much easier clean-up.  I bake them at 350° for 55-65 minutes.  Test with a fork on the meaty side until they are sufficiently soft.  Then scoop the pulp out with a spoon and place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher or you can use an electric mixer if the pulp seems stringy to you.

After baking, I measure the pulp into two-cup amounts.

Then I put it into small freezer bags, flatten to get the air out, and freeze.

Here's our first pie of the season.  Was it good?

Oh my, yes!