If time is short, and the book is long . . .

August 31, 2009


. . . and you have a deadline to get it read, like a book club meeting, you may need to resort to this “formula” I was recently given for an abbreviated read of a book.

1.  Read the first and last chapters.

2.  Figure out how many pages are in between.

3.  Divide those pages by the number of days you have until you need to have the book read.  (I would vary this a little to make each day begin at the beginning of a chapter.  It seems like the beginnings of  chapters tend to do some summarizing and also tend to provide key information.)

4.  Each day, no matter if you were able to entirely finish the pages “assigned” to the previous day or not, start on the first page for that day and read as many of that day’s pages as you can.

If you do that each day, when you arrive at the day you should have the book read, you may not have read every page of the book, but you will have a pretty good feel for the essence of the book.

Of course, this is certainly not the way to “savor” a book, but, especially when you belong to a book club, I can picture it being a tool that might come in handy sometime!

Now, excuse me, I have to get back to reading — book club is in two days!

I believe in the power of prayer!

August 30, 2009



In just our close family we have had two very serious surgeries recently for brain tumors.

Jon, the beloved husband of our niece Julie, had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor a month ago, and now has had to have another extensive surgery last week because of infection. 

And two weeks ago, Cooper, the beautiful, energetic  two year old son of our nephew Justin, was found to have a tumor at the base of his skull.  He had 10 hours of surgery to remove it and while it was cancerous it appears they got it all.

I am very thankful that both Jon and Cooper are in large metropolitan areas where there are many doctors and medical facilities at their disposal.  But, I (and they) also know that prayer is the most powerful medicine of all.

So, on this Sunday, I ask you to include our loved ones, Jon and Cooper, in your prayers.

Thank you, friends.

A perfect gift for Mama, a lover of books

August 28, 2009


When Mama was a little girl she had very few possessions, partially because her family was very poor, but also due to the fact that  they “traveled light” because they moved so often.  From a very young age, she loved reading books and at times would have a few for a while, but for one reason or another, she was never really able to accumulate any books that she could call her own. 

So, as an adult, Mama had a very special love of books … both to read (she was an avid reader) and to just own.

Considering Mama’s history with books, imagine what a wonderful gift this was that she received at Christmas, 1979.

Mama and Her Bookx   Mama, the author!



My sister, Jean Marie, had secretly taken Mama’s memories that she had written down in notebooks over many years, typed them for months (this was truly an act of love because Jean and her husband owned their own company, so she normally felt wayyy past typing things herself) and then had them bound into a book that she titled I Remember .

Mama received a big heavy package from Jean a few weeks before Christmas and, per Jean’s instructions, I talked her into opening it when it arrived, rather than wait until Christmas morning.  It shows how curious she was about the gift (and my obvious excitement) that she broke one of her own very strict rules that Christmas gifts not be opened before Christmas morning! 

So, when she agreed to open it, I took her ever-present camera (because I KNEW she would want a picture) and made sure I caught her excitement when she realized what the gift was.  I am so glad I got to be there when she opened it.  She was elated!  Just before I took this picture, she was saying, “I’m an author!  I’m an author!”

Jean had given Mama enough copies so that she could give one to each of her children and grandchildren.  Mama faithfully wrote a personal dedication in the front of each of the copies and, because Jean had given them to her early, she was able to give them to everyone that Christmas!

 Truly one of the best gifts Jean could have possibly given to Mama, a lover of not just books, but also of family and family history.

Not exactly Buy One, Get One Free …

August 27, 2009


. . . more accurately, If You Ask for One Recipe, I Might Give You Another One Too.  (because that’s just the way my mind works!)

When I had the reunion committee here last week for dinner and a wrap-up meeting, I served Chinese Cabbage Salad and several of the committee members asked for the recipe, so they are watching for it here.  But, in addition to the salad recipe, I thought I’d give you my turkey meat loaf recipe too, because that is what I served with the salad yesterday … at lunch … for just Hubby and me. 

I know, you’re saying … at lunch? … for just the two of you?!  Wellll, yes and here’s why.  I wanted pictures to put with the recipe, and Hubby had golf yesterday afternoon and wouldn’t be home for dinner … so we had our big meal at lunch so that I could take pictures.  The sacrifices we make for this blog!




Chinese Cabbage Salad

Combine in a large bowl:

1 head Napa cabbage, shredded and 2-3 green onions, chopped.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

100_5101c   I decided, belatedly, that I should add a picture of Napa cabbage.  I always get it confused with it’s “slimmer” cousin Bok Choi.  But a head of Napa is just right for this recipe, and with the Bok Choi one isn’t quite enough and two is a little too much.

For crunchy mixture, in a medium sauce pan combine and stir frequently (to avoid burning) until browned:

1/2 C. butter (1 stick), 2 pkgs. chicken-flavored ramen noodles, including seasoning packets, 1/4 C. sesame seeds and 1/2 C. sliced almonds

  100_5081x   Break the noodles into very small pieces while they are still sealed in the package.

100_5084x   Remember to add the seasoning packets from the noodles too.

100_5087x   You want the mixture brown and toasty.  After cool, store it in a plastic bag or a small plastic bowl with a lid until ready to assemble the salad. (Not necessary to refrigerate.)

For dressing, in a small sauce pan bring the following to a boil and let boil for one minute:

1/2 C. vinegar, 3/4 C. oil, 1/2 C. sugar, 2 T. soy sauce


After this has cooled somewhat, I put it  in a bottle or bowl until ready for assembly.  Also, not necessary to refrigerate this.  But, do shake or stir it well before putting it on the salad — it tends to separate.

 100_5095xx   When ready to serve, sprinkle noodle mixture and dressing over cabbage and mix with tongs. 

100_5093x   Since this salad doesn’t keep well once it is assembled, I only assembled half of it for our lunch.  We’ll have this other half at another meal in the next day or two.  (Yes, those are some of the sesame seeds in the dressing.  Without thinking, I used the same spoon in both mixtures and transferred some of the seeds.)


And, because we like this and I hope you might like it too, here is a recipe for the turkey meat loaf.  We can’t tell the difference from the ground beef one we ate for years.


I Can’t Believe It’s Turkey Meat Loaf

Combine in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a couple minutes:

1 cup 1% milk and 2 cups fresh bread crumbs (made from 2 regular slices or 4 light slices of bread)


20 oz. ground turkey, 1 pkg. dry onion soup mix, 1 egg (or 1/4 C. Egg Beaters), 1 T. Worchestershire sauce, and a tablespoon or two of dry bread crumbs if mixture seems too soupy

Mix with fork, just until blended.

100_5072x    Shape into 4 small loaves in a glass dish.

Note:  Total baking time is 1 hr. 15 min. at 350 degrees.

Bake for first 30 minutes. 

100_5079x    Then pour the following mixture over the top.

To make sauce, combine:

1/2 C. catsup, 3 T. brown sugar (2 T. if using Splenda brown sugar), 1 T. yellow mustard, 1/4 t. salt, 1/2 C. water

Bake for another 45 minutes, basting with sauce a couple times.

100_5094xx  The liquid in the dish can be used as gravy if you’re serving mashed potatoes with this, as we sometimes do.  And, of course, it can be drizzled over the meat loaf itself if you like.

I hope you enjoy one or both of these recipes!

Essen gut! (I think that means “good eating”!  It is one of the few German phrases I have picked up after being an in-law in a German family for 44 years!)

Mama Remembered: The Grand River and a pesky little snake

August 26, 2009


I can remember Mama telling this story to me.  She was a great story teller.  I think she was about seven or eight years old when this happened.  It’s hard to keep track of where they were and what age she was because they moved often from farm to farm where they either rented a house and fields or worked as hired hands.

Another slice of life from Mama’s book I Remember:

Grand River ran between our house and Trenton.  The river came out of its banks every time we had a hard rain.

One Saturday Dad went to Trenton for groceries.  He drove a team and a farm wagon.  It started raining while he was gone and by the time he got back to the foot of the hill we lived on, the water was almost touching the bottom of the wagon bed.

That river always came up fast.  I remember being down in the field where Dad was ploughing, along the river.  It had been raining up the river some place because the river began to rise.  In an hour’s time it was lapping up over the bank.  Dad chained the plow to a tree so it wouldn’t be washed away and he, the horses and I left for home up on the hill.  In two hours time the whole bottoms were covered. 

A little snake about 6 or 8 inches long followed us toward the hill.  I looked back and saw him.  I threw clods of dirt at him and he would run down in a horse’s track.  Then when I went on, he would follow again.  It scared me.  I was afraid that if he got close enough he might bite me.  I don’t know what kind of snake it was.  I finally found a corn stalk that had been pulled up out of the ground.  The mud had dried on the roots, making it as hard as a rock.  I took that and killed that pesky little snake.

Dad laughed at me.  He said the little snake was just trying to be friendly.

It strikes me that parents weren’t as protective of children back then.  Today, I’m sure that she would have run to her father in fear and he would have reassured her and gotten rid of the snake himself.

I’m sure problem solving and self-reliance weren’t even concepts poor dirt farmers thought about.  But, whether they would have known what to call it or not, those concepts were being taught/learned at a very young age.



The Zoo, A Camera, Mimi and Me!

August 25, 2009


P1030643   We have a wonderful children’s zoo here.


  P1030644(1)   The entry sets the tone for a first class experience.



  The zoo is very well maintained and landscaped, so that it is a pleasure not just for children because of the animals, but also a real treat for adults, especially ones with a camera.

Last year my friend Linda and I took Coco, Lulu and Mimi there, and Coco and Lulu had their faces painted, but Mimi wasn’t comfortable having hers done.  So, when Mimi and I went to the zoo while the girls were here a couple weeks ago (her big sisters stayed home with Papa to swim), I think she had already decided she was going to having her face painted this time.  As we looked at the animals, she would ask every so often whether we would pass the spot where the face painter was last year. 

P1030496(1)  It was a beautiful day and not really “August hot”, but it was early afternoon and some of the animals, like these bobcats, were taking their naps.


 P1030502(2)  When you enter the African Veldt, there is mist everywhere for dramatic effect.




P1030513(2)   I have no idea what kind of bird makes this type of nest, but I am really impressed considering the trouble I have making a round ball of cookie dough when the recipe calls for that, and I’m not trying to fly at the same time!


P1030523(1)   As you might expect, the ring-tailed slooths were acting, well, very slooth-ish!

P1030525   I can say, without hesitation, that this is the closest I have ever been to a lion!  There was a window that looked out into his enclosure and he was laying on a wide ledge up against the window.  There were alot of people crowding around so it was hard to get a picture, but it’s also no accident that I’m standing at the “south” end of the lion but just taking a picture of his “north” end.   Let’s just say that the position he was in, left no doubt that he was a lion and not a lioness!   Moving on …





P1030544(1)   At first glance, I wondered if this was another unusual bird’s nest …

P1030557(1)   But then a giraffe wandered up and I realized it was his version of “fast food”!

P1030558(1)   This baby giraffe can still reach the ground to eat.  A worker told us that giraffes give birth standing up and the babies are born feet first, so they are born standing up!

P1030559(2)   A worker was up on the elevated walk letting people feed this giraffe his favorite leaves.

P1030545(2)   Up on the walk, it was fun to see his head up so close.  It was huge!


P1030548(1)   Do you recognize the stripes that I had “colorized” for my post yesterday?

P1030548(1)(1)   A Photo-shopped “horse” of a different color!


P1030562(1)   It added to the “feel’ of Africa that you could hear drums off in the distance occasionally.  Then we came around a corner in the trail and saw who was playing the drums!

P1030564(1)   Not exactly the fierce natives you might invision playing the drums!

P1030565(1)   The drums were very popular with all the children, except Mimi.  She suddenly turned shy and didn’t want to try them, so I had to settle for pictures of other kids playing them.






Then we came to the face painter!

P1030578(1)x   There was no line, so Mimi immediately showed the artist how she wanted her face painted — she pointed at the butterfly.  Except ….. she didn’t want any paint on her eyelids.   Hmmm.  The artist and I agreed that the design would lose something if the eyes were left unpainted.  She could end up looking more like an owl than a butterfly!

So the artist came up with a compromise … she would paint a butterfly on one cheek and flowers on the other.  That sounded good to Mimi and me.



P1030587(1)  A very pretty butterfly! 

P1030590(1)   But, apparently, her specialty is butterflies because I wasn’t as impressed with the flower on the other cheek.  I suggested she add a second smaller one  which she was perfectly willing to do.

At about this time she mentioned that she usually sold tickets at the front gate and was just filling in for the face painter.  Yikes!  But, she hastened to add that she was an art major in college.

P1030592(1)   Okay.  Not bad.  Maybe this was going to be just lovely.

P1030593(1)   Then she painted on the really green, really heavy vine to connect the flowers and the butterfly.

P1030600(1)  Okay.  The end product wasn’t bad.  Mimi got to have her face painted, without having paint on her eyelids.   And I really did appreciate that the face painter came up with a design that worked for Mimi.  So, we left happy.



Our final stop was the seals’ pool.











A fun day at the zoo.  And lots of pictures to help us remember our visit.

Some things I’ve learned about myself through Photography

August 24, 2009


I think of my mother often when I am using a camera.  She would be delighted that I finally “get” the fun of photography.

And, I have learned a few things about myself because of photography, for instance —


I am drawn to repeated patterns . . .









and bright colors . . . 






P1030548(1)(1)   (I can’t tell — is it obvious what this is?  If you don’t know, I’ll give you a hint — the color was a pleasant surprise when I played around with editing the hue and saturation of a black and white picture from the zoo.)


and the sky . . .






. . . and sometimes opportunities to show a unique perspective

 P1000151(2)    A window at a filling station.  A cooler filled with soda pop inside provides the color and is made interesting because it is viewed through a window that is reflecting near-by trees.

 P1000151(1)  A cropped version of the window above.

100_2245e1   I thought these bushes in the yard, photographed through a screen, looked a little like a painting.

P1010157(1)  I was amazed at how much more I liked this simple picture of a bird when I made it a negative.

100_4823g   There is something a little mysterious about just a glimpse of a pretty girl, isn’t there?

100_1838edit1   Bridge girders through the tinting at the top of the windshield.

100_1965edit2  A sunset taken in the rear view mirror (as the passenger, of course!)

100_2731e2   I took a picture of clouds from inside the car and inadvertently overlayed them with my husband’s reflection in the window.  When I cropped it to just the reflection, I got a picture I really liked!

I can honestly say that photography has made me look at the world around me much more closely and appreciatively.

A Sunday Replay: Swim for Your Life, Float for Your Soul

August 23, 2009


Me, Phoebe Ann and Linda 001xx  With friends at the kiddie pool, before I felt I had outgrown it!

When I was five years old, one of my teenage sisters took me and a little friend to the big people’s swimming pool at the park for the first time, after much begging on my part.  I was tired of that “baby pool”, that by the way, was shallow all around the edge and only about 3 ft. deep at its deepest in the middle. 

Background:  This is how it worked when you went to a public pool in 1951.  You carried your bathing suit and bathing cap (required for girls, to keep hair out of the water and the filters) rolled up in a towel to the pool with you.  (You hardly ever saw anyone out in public in a bathing suit.)  When you got there, you went to a counter on the front of the bathhouse where you paid your money and they gave you a big, heavy wire basket with a big safety pin attached to it, that had matching numbers on them.  You then went into the girls side of the bathhouse where there were booths along the side for those who were modest and benches out in the middle for those who were not, and changed into your suit and attached the big safety pin to it, usually at the leg opening, and put your clothes in the basket and then turned it in at a window.  That way when you were done swimming, you could come back to that window, give them your safety pin and they would give you the basket with the matching number containing your clothes, which you would change into before you went home. 

So, the big day came and ML took my friend and me to the pool, and this is the way I picture it happening.  I could hardly stand still while ML paid for us and got a basket.  Finally, we got into the bathhouse.  I immediately ripped my clothes off, threw them in the basket and put on my bathing suit as quickly as I could — I was soooo excited!  Then I pestered ML, to hurry up and help me put on my tight yellow, rubber swim cap (that required adult-type strength to pull down over my Mama-induced home permed curls).  That done, she turned away to finish getting ready herself and to turn in the basket at the nearby window.  Thennnn, and only thennnnn, would we all together go out to the pool!   Now, while I don’t remember hearing those exact words, I’m sure that the ever-responsible ML said something like that, but I don’t think I heard her — or I just totally ignored her because I was soooo excited!  Because I didn’t wait for anything or anybody — I immediately walked out of the bathhouse and jumped into the edge of the big people’s pool! 

Now, several things were unfortunate at this point.

1.  I didn’t know that, unlike the kiddie pool, the big pool wasn’t shallow all around the edge — I had jumped into 5 ft. of water, and couldn’t swim.

2.  ML didn’t notice me leave the bathhouse because she was busy helping my friend get ready and turning in the basket, and there were lots of women and girls in the bathhouse, so it was very loud and chaotic.

3.  My friend was not the mouthy little kid I was (probably the reason we were friends), so she didn’t “tattle” to ML about me leaving without them.

But, by the grace of God, my friend did somewhat follow my lead.  While ML was turning in the basket, she walked out the door to the pool.  When ML turned around and saw the back of her going out the door, she assumed I was just a few steps ahead, so she wasn’t concerned, but she did quicken her step to catch up, before something could happen.

A few seconds later when ML walked out the door, she was surprised to see my friend standing on the side of the pool alone.  ML hurried over to her, and said, “Where’s Sandra?”  and my friend said, “Down there.”  and pointed at my yellow bathing cap bobbing up and down under the water.

The view from below:  As soon as I jumped in even my little five year old mind knew I was in trouble.  I went all the way down and touched the bottom and proceeded to bounce and try to get air when I was at the top of the bounce — that only worked about half the time, and I was only gulping in about half air — the other half was water.  I remember seeing the legs of a guy sitting on the side of the pool and thinking I wished I could bounce over close enough to him to grab his leg (which would probably have given him a heart attack!), but I just wasn’t coordinated enough to be able to do that.  So, I just continued to bounce, gulp, bounce, gulp …  not exactly a recipe for success!

I don’t remember the “rescue,” but this is what I’ve been told:  ML immediately jumped in and grabbed me and started to push me toward the side, at which time the lifeguard realized what was happening, and jumped in to help.  They put me on the deck and started pushing on my back and lots of water came gushing out.  Apparently, that was good enough! (Today, they would probably call EMS, and I would have been kept in the hospital overnight for observation!), because I do remember while walking home, ML specifically telling me that SHE would tell Mama what happened.  She probably figured (correctly) that this story blurted out in five-year old hysteria, would give Mama a heart attack!  I don’t remember ML or me getting in trouble, so I’m guessing Mama was just relieved that I was all right.  Its also my guess that ML and I were both soooo upset that Mama figured we didn’t need any further punishment!

But, what this experience gave me (no surprise) was a huge fear of water.  Ironically, Mama had had a similar near-drowning experience when she was a teen-ager, so she herself had a fear of water too.  The result of this incident and Mama’s own fear was that she had a strong desire for me to learn to swim because she didn’t want me to have the same life-long fear of water she did.  So, over the years Mama took me to swim lessons multiple times, and I usualy didn’t even last one lesson.  They seemed to always start out just bouncing around in water that wasn’t over my head — that was fine.  But, then they would invariably say, “Now let’s play a game — Ring Around the Rosie!”  Hey, I may have been a little kid, but I wasn’t a dumb little kid.  I knew how that game ended, “We all fall down!”  Uh-Uh — not me.  That would mean getting my face wet.  When they started to play that game, I would say I had to go to the bathroom.  Then I would get out of the pool and Mama would take me to the bathroom, where I would tell her, I wasn’t going back. 

Eventually Mama took me enough times that I finally overcame my fear and I actually stayed long enough to learn to swim!  Buttttt, in order to pass, you had to be able to float on your back.  Swimming, even with my face in the water, had become okay, even fun.  But float on my back!!! Lean back in the water, and totally “trust” the water to hold me up!?!?!  THAT was something I really didn’t think I could do.  Well, finally, with the help of a very patient teacher, one who was able to gain my trust, I did learn to float on my back.  And, now, I call that my survival mode.  If I were ever in water and had to stay afloat for a long period of time, I am not a strong enough swimmer to be able to depend on just swimming and/or treading water, but I do know that when I didn’t have the strength to swim to save myself any more, I would be able to flip over on my back and float to rest.  I believe that that ability would be the single thing that would allow me to survive.

I tell you this story for two reasons.  First, because it was a traumatic experience in my life that had a long, lingering impact on me.  I am thankful that Mama perservered in taking me to swimming lessons, so that I’m not an adult who can’t swim.  And I am, because of my experience, a strong advocate for children learning to swim as early as possible, and being taught every rule of water and pool safety possible.  During the ten years that we rented a condo for a week on the ocean near Gunny and his family, all three of his children learned to swim in the pools at our condo complex.  And, all three of  DD’s girls know how to swim too.  That makes me very happy.

And the other reason I wanted to tell this story is that floating on my back has always reminded me of what faith is like.  I think in life itself “floating on your back” is trusting in God.  You can’t see God and His support — you just have to trust that He’s there and will hold you up when you can’t support yourself. 

Floating on your back and Trusting in God — both acts of faith that require trust in the unseen, but result in rest and comfort — one for your body, the other for your soul.

Am I the LAST one to know this?

August 22, 2009


Did everyone else in the world know this?  How did I miss it?

100_5066x    When did some clever packaging designer come up with this?  See the little tab you can press in on the ends of the aluminium foil package?  Apparently they are meant to hold the roll in the box.  I wouldn’t know because I’ve never used them.  I had no idea they were there!

At the after-reunion reunion committee meeting we had this week, somehow this came up in conversation.  I was shocked that I, the possesser of more rolls of wrap than I can probably use in a lifetime, had never heard of such a thing!  We were meeting here, so I immediately went to the pantry …

100_5050x   … where I have “a few” rolls of wraps, and grabbed the aluminum foil off the top of the stack to see if it had the tabs that had been mentioned.  Sure enough, it did!

Later, I took the time to look at the other boxes to see if they all have the tabs — they don’t.

100_5068x    I found it especially interesting that a 100 sq. ft. roll of Saran wrap had the tabs, but a 200 sq. ft. roll didn’t.  Maybe the larger roll is heavy enough that it doesn’t require the assistance of tabs?  Or is it that Cling Plus is easier to manage than Premium?  Questions I can ponder at my leisure, since I’m retired.

Well, now that I know they are there, I’m going to start “engaging” the tabs whenever they do appear on a box.  I’m all for any little convenience that makes life easier.

Be sure to tell me if you didn’t know this either.  I’d really like to think that there are at least two of us who didn’t know this!

May this be the hardest thing you have to think about today.  Happy Saturday!

A Warm, Sunny Day in August …

August 19, 2009


… with three little girls we adore. 

When DD’s three daughters spent the first week in August with us, we had a great time.  And the weather was perfect, which allowed us to spend alot of time outdoors.

It is especially fun to see the girls enjoy activities that have been around for generations …

P1030228(1) P1030308(1) 


… like running through the sprinkler (an activity I remember enjoying when I was a child!)

P1030221(1) P1030222(1)



P1030207(1)   Mimi (5)

P1030295(1) P1030281(1)(1)   Coco (11)

P1030306(1)(1) P1030319(1)(1)   Lulu (9)





When they had had enough of running through the sprinkler, they spent some “recovery time” on the deck.



P1030371(1)   But, you know children, their recovery time was quick!   So, Lulu and Mimi decided to give their big sister, Coco, a massage.

P1030400(1)    I showed Mimi how to do the chopping thing on Coco’s back, and she liked that so she did it with alot of enthusiasm!

 P1030403(1)   When they were all finished giving each other massages, Coco and Lulu asked Papa to take them out to the middle of the lake to swim.

  P1030406    If they swim at the edge, their feet get “mucky” so he takes them out where they don’t have to worry about touching the bottom/muck.





P1030404(1)   Mimi understands that she’s too little to swim out in the really deep water, even with a life jacket, but I’m guessing here she’s imagining a day when she will be a a “big kid” and be able to swim out there.

P1030420(1)   After a while, she asked if we could go down and sit by the water.  So, we did and she made a game of sorting rocks. 

P1030452(1)  She put all the ones that had pink in them in one pile.

P1030444(1)    And I forget what her criteria were for the rocks that went into this pile.  But, she was very serious about examining each rock and deciding on where it went.

P1030447(1)   I told her I thought the black and white one in the middle of this group looked like an oreo cookie!

P1030453(1)   And we decided this one looked like a house slipper!

How long has it been since you have really looked at rocks?  It had been a while for me, and I really enjoyed seeing their beauty through her eyes.

When the rest came back from swimming we went in the house for a snack.

P1030458(1)   A fun August afternoon in the sun.