The family that peels potatoes together …

December 30, 2010

… a few hours later eats together!

Lulu and I peeled potatoes together.  We had fun while we were doing it — a nice memory to share.

When we were at DD’s the day after Christmas, we made a meal that is a long-time family favorite, roast beef with vegetables.  I have never tasted a potato, carrot or onion in my life that tasted better than the ones that are cooked with a pot roast!

Mama’s Pot Roast

(amounts of all of these ingredients are subject to personal preference)

* 3 to 4 lbs. of boneless chuck roast  (I don’t think I’ve ever made less than 3 lbs. but I have put in so much roast that the whole bottom of the roaster was covered.)

* Worcestershire sauce

* garlic salt

* white potatoes, peeled, rinsed and then either halved or quartered, depending on size of potatoes

* bagged baby carrots that are already peeled

* large white onion or two, peeled and quartered

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Put 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.

Wash the roast, dredge it in flour and then brown on both sides in the skillet.

Put the browned roast in a large granite roaster.  Fill the roaster with water just short of level with the top of the roast.  Sprinkle the top of the roast generously with Worcestershire sauce and then garlic salt.   (You want the W. sauce and garlic salt to stick to the top of the meat, so the water level can’t be high enough to wash it off.  Also, g. salt is after W. sauce because in the other order, the W. sauce would wash the g. salt off the roast).

Put the lid on the roaster and put in a pre-heated 375 degree oven.

Prepare the vegetables and add to the roaster (the more of them you can get in the water around the edges, the better) about a half hour later.  Generously salt and pepper the vegetables after they’re in the roaster.  Replace the lid and return to the oven.

Cook for approximately another 2 1/2 hours. (This varies depending on the amounts of all the ingredients.)

When you start salivating because of the wonderful smell filling your kitchen, and when you stick a meat fork into the roast and the veggies and they are all fall-apart done, it’s ready!  The pan juices make wonderful gravy, or you can just strain them and use them as-is as gravy.

Our traditional side dish for this is green beans.

Essen Gutt! (Good Eating!)


The art of a heart-felt thanks

December 29, 2010

On Christmas Eve day, Hubby and I went to the mall (yes, us and thousands of other crazy people). At lunchtime we went to one of the restaurants to eat before going home. Just after we sat down, one of our nephews walked in with his four small children. They stopped at our table for a minute to say hello, and then were seated on the far side of the restaurant.

When we were ready to leave, Hubby in the spirit of the season, told our waitress that he would like to pay our nephew’s bill too. She arranged that and he told her to just have their waitress say Merry Christmas from his aunt and uncle when it came time for our nephew to pay.

It felt good to get to buy lunch for our nephew and his children.  Just last summer, after much prayerful consideration, he gave up his job in banking and he and his family moved back to the area so that he could attend the seminary and become a pastor. We believe he will make a wonderful pastor and we’re proud of him and his wife both for being willing to make the sacrifices it requires for him to go back to school, even for such a worthwhile reason.  Fortunately, his wife is an IT person who can work from anywhere in the world, so she was able to keep her job even with the move.

Anyway, we figured the next time we saw them he would mention that he appreciated lunch. But we got so much more in the mail:

Does it get any better than that? It touched our hearts that he had involved his children in making a thank you note for us.  It’s a little hard to read in this photo, but way up in the left hand corner it says “Dear Uncle Jim and Aunt Sandy”.  And in the middle it says, “Thank you for lunch.  It was very good.”  And at the bottom they’ve all signed it.

I think those must be pictures of some of the foods they ate. Obviously a toasted cheese sandwich and a hamburger, and I bet the yellow are french fries. I’ve had to think about the rosy red spots.  I doubt that they had strawberries, so I’m guessing those may represent glasses of some red drink.  I can’t even come up with a guess about what the brown stuff is, but whatever it is, I think it looks overcooked, don’t you?

What a fun, unexpected surprise for us in a time when thank you notes are few and far between, especially hand-made ones.

Thank you, Aaron, for helping your children make us such a special thank you note.


“Dispatch, the perp’s a short guy with a red wagon.”

December 26, 2010

It was the day after Christmas, and the pastor glanced out the window at the crèche in front of the church and noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from among the figures. When he went outside to investigate he saw a little boy pulling a red wagon up the street, and in the wagon was the missing baby Jesus.

So the pastor hurried to catch up and said, “Well where did you get your passenger, little guy?”

The little boy replied, “I got Him back there at the church. I was going to put him back.”

“But why did you take Him?”

Then the little boy explained, “I had to. I really wanted a red wagon for Christmas, so I prayed to the little Lord Jesus and asked Him to help me get one. And I promised Him that if I got one I would give Him a ride around the block in it.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE.


A Day Like No Other Day

December 25, 2010

On no other day in the history of the world, have we been given a gift like this. Today we celebrate the day that Christ came into the world to save us from our sins.

Thank you, Jesus. And, Happy Birthday!


Straight No Chaser may make you giggly, but not drunk!

December 23, 2010

I had heard about this group because they started singing together when they were all students at Indiana University.  But, wow are they good … and I’m not just saying that because they’re from Indiana.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


A traditional Christmas treat — really good sugar cookies

December 21, 2010

I haven’t made sugar cookies in a while, but a new recipe in the paper made me hungry for them.  Now, that is not to say that I MADE the recipe from the newspaper, it just inspired me to make a great recipe I already had.  But I do think I improved on the old recipe, by using a thin frosting that was in the newspaper article, rather than the thick buttery frosting I used to use.

I have painted these cookies before and that was fun and gave a different look, but those just can’t match the great taste of a frosted sugar cookie to me.

Painted Powdered Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C. sifted powdered sugar

1 C. butter (2 sticks), softened

1 egg

1 t. vanilla extract

1/2 t. almond extract

2 1/2 C. flour

1 t. baking soda

1 t. cream of tartar

Cream sugar and butter.  Add egg and flavors.  Blend dry ingredients and add.  Refrigerate dough in a slightly flattened ball either in a large baggie or wrapped in plastic wrap.

Roll out a quarter of the dough at a time to keep from making it “tough” because of too much re-rolling.  If you plan to paint the cookies, do so and lightly sugar before baking.

Egg Yolk Paint:  Blend 1 egg yolk and 1/4 t. water.  Divide among cups and add food coloring.

Or leave them plain to bake, and then frost when cool, which is what I did this time.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes.

When the cookies were cool, I frosted them with the following frosting, which I added just a little more milk to to make it fairly thin.

White Almond Frosting

Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar, 4 t. of  milk and 1/4 t. almond extract until smooth.

One idea I had that worked pretty well:  Since the only Christmas cookie cutter I could find was the holly leaf (I cut the others with a drinking glass), I used a butter knife to spread the icing on the holly leaves.  It made it easier to get the frosting out on the points of the leaf.

After I frosted each cookie, I immediately sprinkled it with colored sugar, and I added some “holly and berries” sprinkles to the leaves.  Note: This amount of frosting didn’t quite ice the whole batch of cookies, I had to make just a little bit more.

Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed these with a glass of  milk, bringing back great memories from long ago Christmases.


Stars!

December 19, 2010

At this time of year everywhere I look I see a star.

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All reminders of the star in the sky on the night of Christ’s birth.

May we truly be reminded of Christ’s birth, and its importance to each of us, when we see Christmas stars.


Our days as “old ladies with box cutters”

December 18, 2010

My dear friend Linda at To Behold the Beauty just wrote a post about something that happened while we were working at the Jail. That post got me to thinking about that interesting job and the subject of box cutters quite naturally came to mind.  Box cutters were an integral part of that job.

Terry and Mike were the two guys who delivered the majority of the products we sold to the prisoners.  When they would make a delivery (several times a week), they would bring in cart after cart of products, with the carts piled so high that they couldn’t see over them; they had to look around the boxes to see where they were going.

Terry and Mike would open some of the boxes for us while they were there, but there were lots more that we needed to open as-needed.  So, we all had a box cutter.  Those of us who audited (the usual three were Marie, Linda and me) would keep ours in our desk drawer and just get it out whenever we needed to help re-stock.

But the fillers (there were usually four of them, mostly women about our age too) were constantly needing to restock in between filling, so they would each have their box cutter either laying on the table at their “station” where they stood to put together their orders or in a pocket.  And, as you can imagine, everyone was very vigilant in regard to keeping track of their box cutter — not only because they were constantly needing to use it, but also because it would be a serious mistake if one happened to inadvertently get put in a sack with a prisoner’s order, and then sent to him!

But there were just a couple of times when someone’s box cutter did disappear.  And as soon as it was noticed that it was missing, EVERYTHING STOPPED.  That became the most important mission — FIND THE BOX CUTTER.  Was it in the person’s pocket?  Had it been laid on a shelf when two hands were needed to arrange some boxes?  But, most importantly, could it have been put into a sack along with a prisoner’s order?  THAT was our upmost worry.  So as soon as the search had started, some of us would start dismantling the bags, one by one, beginning with the last bin of orders that had been filled and working back.

After each bag was filled with an order, the top of the bag was folded over and the order slip was stapled to the top of the bag.  So to check an order you had to take out the staples and then dump out the order on the table to make sure the box cutter wasn’t in the bag.   Then you had to reassemble it.  Very labor intensive, but necessary.  Luckily, both times this happened, the box cutter was located shortly and somewhere other than in a prisoner’s order, but it reminded all of us how easily it could happen if we weren’t always vigilant.  A valuable reminder.

I guess it’s no surprise that there were occasional accidents with the box cutters too.  In order to open boxes cleanly and quickly, the blades in the box cutters were replaced regularly, so they were always very sharp.  And the fillers were always working very quickly.  So, another occurrence that would make everyone freeze in their tracks was if someone said, “Ouch!”.  Sometimes “ouch” meant a paper cut from an order form or even from the edge of a cardboard box, but a couple time in the four years I worked there, it meant that someone had sliced their hand with their box cutter.  In those cases, the “injuree” was send to the nearest Redi-Med for treatment.  As I remember, there were no stitches required in either case — just a good cleansing and a butterfly bandage.  But there was another “ouch” involved for me when this happened — all the paperwork I had to fill out because it had to be reported as a “work place injury”.  So, I had an additional reason to encourage everyone to be very careful with their box cutters.

When I was a young woman just starting out my working career, if you had told me that my last and most interesting job would involve having steel doors clanging shut around me regularly, having interesting dealings with inmates in orange jumpsuits and using a box cutter regularly in my job,  I would have thought you were crazy!

Soon I’ll tell you the story of why taking Linda with me to work at the jail was the most valuable contribution I made as Matron.


A very temporary pet!

December 15, 2010

At our golf league Christmas party last week, my friend Peg read the following little ditty that gave us all a laugh:

I made myself a snowman as perfect as can be.

I thought I’d keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me.

I made it some pajamas and a pillow for its head,

then last night it ran away,

but first … it wet the bed.

Hope this gives you a little chuckle to lighten these hectic days.

Happy Wednesday!


The song bird in the nest

December 12, 2010

In a recent post I pictured the rehab facility where I stayed for 10 days as my “nest”.  Well, there was a very special “little birdie” who I got to know in that nest, and I would like to tell you about her.

Bertie was a wonderful purveyor of kindness and smiles as an aide at the rehab center.  A caring, loving soul who always moved quickly about her business, doing whatever needed to be done.  One time when she walked past the therapy room while I was there, I said something out loud about what a wonderful, kind person she was.  One of the therapists responded that the atmosphere of the whole facility was noticeably lighter and happier when Bertie was in the building.  What a wonderful thing to be able to say about anyone.

The very first day I was there, Bertie came into my room to introduce herself.  And she told me she loves to sing and offered to sing a song for me.  What a nice offer, so of course I said “yes”, but I didn’t have much of an expectation of what  she would sing.  She asked if I liked country music, which I do, so she said she would sing Hank William’s “Cheatin Heart”.

Whatever I expected, I couldn’t have possibly anticipated the beautiful, clear, even sophisticated  alto voice that came out of sweet Bertie (think Patsy Cline without the twang). I am always impressed by a singer whose every word is clear and understandable, and that was her.  But also, she has that talent to add interesting intonation and extra notes to a song, as professional singers do.  But at the same time, her singing was simple and straight forward.  No theatrics, no gesturing, just a beautiful voice.  She also sang a little ditty for me that she had written about herself.  What a treat!  And then she hustled on her way, spreading her good cheer to other patients, while doing her job.

I hope Bertie didn’t think she was done with me when she just sang for me once!  Because from then on, if I had a visitor in my room and saw Bertie going by in the hall, I would ask her if she had a minute to sing “Cheatin Heart”, and she always complied.

An added bonus was a hug from Bertie.  She always smelled so fresh and clean and just enveloped you in a warm, loving hug.  I never had a grandma who gave me those kind of hugs, but in my dreams they would have been just like Bertie’s.

As any of you know who have read here long, I am an early riser, and it was the same in the rehab center.  So one early morning when I was drinking a 5 o’clock cup of coffee that my great night nurses would snag for me, I decided to write a song about Bertie that I would sing to HER.  (Wouldn’t SHE be surprised! Especially after she heard ME sing.)

So, I wrote the following song about Bertie,which I sang to her the next time I saw her.  As you can tell, I’m not great at this, but it was fun to give something back to Bertie who gave her beautiful voice and loving spirit so lovingly to all.

I wrote this to the tune of one of the songs I remember from my childhood:  “Reuben, Reuben, I been thinkin’ … what a funny world this would be … if all the men had been transported … far across the Northern Sea.”

Ode to Bertie


Bertie, Bertie, I been thinkin’ what a great world this would be,

if singing caregivers just like you,

would always sing for patients like me!

Thank you, thank you, Bertie, Bertie,

for all the joy to others you give.

All the songs you gladly sing.

What a life of love you live.

Thank you, thank you, God for Bertie.

Thank you for her friendly ways,

how she lights up each place she enters.

Please bless her with long, happy days.

Okay, so songwriting isn’t my forte, but Bertie seemed to appreciate my song when I sang it to her (in a slightly less melodious voice than the one she has!)  And it was fun to give her a small repayment for the wonderful voice she uses so willingly to uplift her patients.

Thank you, God, for people like Bertie who light up whatever corner of the world they are in, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to know her.