A Squirrelly Solution

May 28, 2011

When a squirrel subscribes to his favorite Nuts to You magazine, how does he get it?

He puts up a mailbox.

Happy Saturday!

(I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture when I drove by this unusual sight yesterday.)

Change is inevitable …

May 27, 2011

… but how we handle it is optional.

At the golf course the other day, when my friends and I approached the third tee, there was an older woman just sitting on the bench in the tee area, gazing out across the course.  When we walked up we said “Hi” and exchanged a few words with her about the weather (and that, for once, it wasn’t raining!).  She was pleasant but I thought she looked a little sad.  And I guess she felt she had to explain why she was sitting there, because she told us that her husband was playing a round and she was waiting for him.

A few holes later, I saw an older man I recognized on an adjoining fairway.  He is tall and wears a distinctive hat.  And I suddenly put two and two together.  For the four years I have played alot at this course, I have regularly seen that man and now I realized the woman we had just talked to, playing this course together.  Because they were always there, no matter what weekday I was there, I think that they must have played the course almost every day.

I don’t know why she wasn’t playing now, but it made me sad to see him playing alone, knowing that his favorite partner was back there sitting on a bench waiting for him.  But then it occurred to me to look at it another way — it’s great that he still brought her along and that she still chose to come along, even though she couldn’t play.  Good for both of them.

Bye, Bye, Birdie

May 25, 2011

A few days ago, Hubby and I noticed this bird’s nest near our front door.

We could see three “babies” (but they looked pretty large.) in the nest, so we took several pictures, trying to get a good one.  That was harder than I would have thought.

So after we had taken a few (We didn’t go closer but stayed on the porch because it was easiest to see into the nest from farther away.), one of the birds surprised us by flying out of the nest.  Apparently it was leave-the-nest day and we just happened to be there to witness that momentous occasion.  Because just a short time later when I went to look at the nest again, they were all three gone.

This is the brave one who left the nest first.

Later when I opened the garage door to leave in the car, I noticed a weed beside this lilac bush next to the garage door. So I walked over to pull it.

After I pulled the weed and started to straighten up, I saw two little eyes looking at me from right inside the bush.  Can you see him?  He’s just about in the middle of the picture and toward the top.  He was sitting very still, and I feel sure that he was one of the first-day-out-of-the-nest guys who decided to sit very still inside that bush and just watch the world go by until he could decide what to do next.  When I returned an hour later, I looked for him again, but he was gone.

And when I went in the house, Hubby pointed out that one of the babies had been sitting on top of one of the chairs on the deck until just before I returned.  And he observed, “They must not be allowed to poop in the nest, because look at all that came out of that one little bird!”   I was sorry I didn’t get a picture of him, just his mess.

They are all gone now, and Hubby will now take down the nest, although I have every confidence that a new one will replace it next year.  And as soon as we wash the evidence off the deck, all signs of the “coming out party” we witnessed will be gone.  But it was fun to get to see.

Taste Trumps Looks

May 21, 2011

Is this the ugliest pie you have ever seen?  Yeah, me too.

Let me explain how this pie happened, you know kind of like how a train wreck “happened”.  Both require some random decisions to all  come together in an unfortunate way.

I had bought some strawberries at the grocery a few days ago and needed to use them…someone had asked about my rhubarb I planted two years ago, so that reminded me that I wanted to use whatever stalks on it that were ready, so that they wouldn’t go to waste…we were going to dinner with Linda and Doug so that is always a good time to fix a dessert to eat afterwards (they are great guests and will eat whatever dessert I make)…I remembered that I had a recipe for rhubarb cream pie that I hadn’t made in probably 30 years…I also had one frozen pie crust (of indeterminate age) in the freezer.

In my mind’s eye, all of the above could come together to make a wonderful dessert for after dinner last night.

This is what I pictured a piece of the pie I was going to make looking like.

This is what a piece of my pie actually looked like!

In my own defense, I was led astray by some anonymous cook on the internet who said that she made a cream pie recipe that said it was for a 9″ pie plate, but she just added “a little more fruit” and made it for a 10″ pie plate.  So I took that as permission to add more fruit without there being any adverse consequences.  Silly me.

This recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb … but I combined rhubarb and sliced strawberries to make a very full two cups of fruit.  Soooo, my pie didn’t firm up, even when I baked it longer than the recipe recommended.

I also did’nt like how the strawberry slices looked in this pie.  Next time I would dice the strawberries.  And I think I would dredge the chunks of rhubarb and strawberries in flour before adding them to the other ingredients to hopefully make them stay spread throughout the mixture, rather than congregating on the top.

Not only did my filling not set up, but the pie crust stuck to the dish badly, so I had to “chisel” the pieces out of the plate,  Those two factors pretty much guaranteed that there were going to be “heaps” of pie on the plates rather than attractive triangles of pie.

But, having said all that, this pie was delicious!  I will definitely make it again.  But … with less fruit … and with the pie crust floured so that it won’t stick to the dish.

Here is the recipe.  Feel free to make a beautiful one and post it on your own blog.  I can handle it.

Amish Rhubarb Cream Pie

1 1/2 C. chopped rhubarb

1 1/2 C. sugar

1 1/2 C. half and half (I used fat free and it tasted fine)

3 heaping T. flour

1/2 stick butter, melted

dash of cinnamon

dash of salt

1 1/2 t. fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Pour into an unbaked pie crust and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and after tasting my pie, I thought it was beautiful! (Of course, I may just need my glasses changed.)  But it really did taste good.

Note:  I’ve just looked at this post again and realize that the sunlight coming through the window may make the first picture, the one of the whole pie, look like it has mold on it.  So just to clarify, it’s still ugly, but no mold — just sunlight.

A Calming Memory

May 19, 2011

For many years as the boy stood at the end of the lane with his siblings waiting for the school bus, there was a man their parents knew named Irv who would drive by on his way to work in his vintage Model T Ford.  Because the boy had a fascination with cars he always watched for Irv and his cool car.

Years later when the boy was grown and now a policeman he was called to a disturbance at a home.  When he arrived, an elderly man was laying on the floor in a fetal position alternately sobbing and yelling belligerently.  The man’s adult daughter was standing near-by, crying.

When the officer asked what was going on, the woman explained that she and her husband could no longer take care of her father because his dementia was getting worse.  But when they told him an elder care home now had room for him and they would be taking him there that evening, he had immediately become  uncontrollable.

The officer approached the man on the floor, trying to think what he could do to help the situation.  But when he got down close to the man he realized who he was … it was Irv, the man he remembered from his childhood who owned the Model T Ford he had so admired.  He called the man by name and told him he was Art’s son.  And then he began to tell Irv his memories of his early morning waves to Irv in his great antique car.  Irv immediately quieted as he listened to the young officer’s memories of the old car he had restored himself and so enjoyed driving for years.

After a few minutes of reminiscing, the officer helped Irv to his daughter’s car and then left, sad to see a man from his past in such poor health, but glad that the memories he had shared with Irv had helped calm him.

Hubby was a police officer for 36 years so I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that he can still occasionally tell me a story from that time that I have never heard before.  He told me this story a couple days ago when something jogged his memory.

Garage sales are work, but also fun

May 18, 2011

I wasn’t going to have a garage sale this year because I just didn’t feel like I had the time to organize one.  But when my SIL, the other Sandra, asked if I wanted to help with hers, I was happy to get to be involved in one after all.  She would be doing it as part of the neighborhood association’s garage sale.

And, of course, once I started helping her set up, I came up with things to sell too.  One thing I did was go through a drawer in our bathroom that was full of miscellaneous hair decorations, make-up samples, extra tubes of conditioner which comes in the box of hair color I use, etc., and put it out in a box labeled “25 cents”.  I also put out alot of books that I had already read and were just taking up space.  AND, I had a whole drawer of decorating magazines from when we moved into this house seven years ago.  There were probably 50 of them (yes, I am somewhat compulsive when I am focused on a project, like decorating a new house).  I sold them for 50 cents apiece and all but a couple sold. I also took this opportunity to sell an 8’x10′ area rug that we no longer used.

SIL was selling living room furniture to make way for new so having her still very nice furniture, lamps and artwork setting in front of the garage, just about guaranteed that we had lots of shoppers.

I had just read in a magazine article about garage sales that the things you are selling look more inviting if they are on a pretty colored table covering, rather than on the usual brown rental tables.  So we used partial rolls of  solid color wrapping paper that we had to cover the tables.  I have to say, I think the article was right — the tables looked much brighter and more inviting when colorfully covered.

The association garage sale was advertised for Friday and Saturday, but SIL suggested that we start a day early because rain was predicted for Friday.  Two of her neighbors across the street opened on Thursday too, so the three together drew a pretty good crowd even though it wasn’t the whole neighborhood yet.  Friday was a madhouse!  We saw at least three different groups of Amish doing some serious shopping.  The Amish don’t drive cars, so they hire drivers to take them places that horses and buggies can’t go, in full-size vans.  And these three groups then each had a large trailer attached to the back of the van to haul their purchases.  An Amish lady bought SIL’s sofa and the whole group just picked the sofa up and took it out and put it right into the trailer.  That lady told us that they come from a town about an hour away, and come to shop at garage sales in this area twice a year.

Success!  Saturday at noon, Sandi’s final chair sold and our tables were almost bare.  We closed the garage door and literally put everything that was left in one approximately 2’x3′ cardboard box to donate to charity.  We took down the tables for my BIL to return and had the garage all cleaned up in an hour.

By the way, it is a well-known “rule” among garage salers that even though you are selling your own stuff to get rid of it, you “must” purchase something from someone else’s “stuff” — you know, just to show that you’re a team player. 🙂  And far be it from me to break the “rule”.

The only thing at our garage sale that wasn’t either Sandi’s or mine was a set of Christmas dishes that our friend Jane just didn’t have room to store any more.  Well, if you’ve ever had a garage sale, you know that the time of  year has alot to do with what sells and what doesn’t.  So even though Jane’s dishes were pretty and in perfect condition, they just didn’t get any serious looks, I guess because Christmas seems a long way off right now.  But when it got down to Saturday morning and we had marked everything, including them, down to half price (we were okay with doing that because Jane had said, “Just keep marking them down until they sell.”), I started thinking that maybe I “needed” Christmas dishes for the first time in my life.  So I bought them.  When I told Jane, she immediately looked at Sandi and said, “Well, now we know where they are stored, in case we want to use them!”  So, I guess their permanent home just moved to my house, but they may be doing some traveling!

Aren’t they pretty?  I  hadn’t seen the whole set until I got it home and took it out of the box.  And now I just love them!

I like the simplicity of their lines and pattern.

I’m so glad they’ve come to live at my house.  I like them so much that I think I will take everything out of the glass-front cabinet in our dining area and display them there.

Aren’t garage sales fun?

A Great Birthday!

May 17, 2011

Sunday was my birthday (the 65th, in case you’re keeping track).  So when we got home from Chicago mid-afternoon, Hubby asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner.  Neither one of us felt like going out, so I suggested we warm up the rest of the pork tenderloin that I had made on Friday.  We loved it, so looked forward to enjoying the rest of it.  But since it was my birthday, Hubby insisted that he would take care of preparing the meal.  It didn’t take him long to put the meal together — all he had to do was warm up the meat, make a bowl of the potato buds that we like just as well as old fashioned homemade mashed potatoes and make a package of corn in the microwave.  But I really did appreciate that he totally took care of putting dinner on the table.

More about the pork tenderloin:  There was a recipe for it in the “Dash” section of the weekend newspaper that finally intrigued me enough with its ingredients to make me try making a pork tenderloin.  I had talked about making that dish for years but just didn’t have a recipe for it that inspired me before this.

And it did not disappoint — it was delicious!  And so tender that you could cut it with your fork.

The recipe is from Jessica Harper who wrote The Crabby Cook Cookbook.  You can get the recipe here.

We’ll definitely be making this dish again.

Hubby also made a quick trip to the grocery for a mini-birthday cake and some of my favorite sugar-free ice cream.  He dug up the package of candles in the junk drawer.  I had to blow them out really quickly because the little cake was kind of overwhelmed by all that candle power!

The flowers in the picture were a gift from DD and I’m still enjoying them.

Gunny gave me a gift certificate to a large electronics store to use for a radio I want.

I also received lots of cards, phone calls and best wishes messages on my facebook page.

It was a great birthday.  Thanks to everyone who helped make it that way.

Wildlife, a Birthday and Triple Yahtzee!

May 16, 2011

Two weeks ago today I made a road trip to my sister, Martha’s house a couple hours away.  I go down to see her ever once in a while, but I especially wanted to go that day because it was her birthday.  And it is a drive that I really don’t mind.  Much of it is on good roads, sometimes even four lanes, through farmland or wooded, rolling hills. And, of course, what makes the trip most enjoyable is that I get to spend time with my sister when I get there!

Martha’s house  is itself in a rural area surrounded with lots of farms and wildlife.

These horses were in a field just a half mile or so from my destination.  Whenever you slow down or stop to look at horses and they come running over to the fence, as these two did, I assume they get treats from people who drive by sometimes.  But I think these may have been some pretty smart horses, because when Martha and I went back past that field on our way to lunch, I told her how interested in me they seemed when I had gone by earlier.  I then slowed down and rolled down my window in hopes of demonstrating their interest.  But, as I said, they must be pretty smart, because they obviously recognized me and/or my car from earlier, and had figured out that this was not a “treat” car, so they totally ignored me that time.

When we returned from lunch, we had some of the cake I had brought to celebrate the day.  Unfortunately, it was my favorite, easy angel food cake that you make in a 9×13 pan, which is definitely not meant to be frosted.  The recipe for disaster was that I baked it just two hours before I was leaving that morning and then, because our mother always glazed angel food cake (but, of course, the traditional shaped kind — tall with a hole in the middle and completely cooled) I decided right before I left to “glaze” this cake too.  Hmmm.  I may have gone too heavy on the glaze, because by the time I got to Martha’s the cake had fallen badly.  But we each had a piece anyway, and actually it was delicious.  It was about an inch high and, because I cut our pieces out of the middle where the frosting had all run, our pieces were half and half — frosting and mooshed cake.  It tasted pretty good and was definitely good for a laugh.

Then we sat down at the kitchen table to play our traditional three games of Triple Yahtzee.  But this time of year, playing at her kitchen table is distracting.  Her husband spreads corn under several trees in the yard every morning before he goes to work.  So the local wildlife knows exactly where to come to get a free meal.  And apparently the word is out that they have nothing to fear at this house, because they are very calm when they see humans, even if we step outside on the deck.

So, here are a few pictures of the animals who strolled up for a little light lunch.

The raccoon started out at the corn by a tree on the other side of the deck from the window where we sat…

but he soon joined the “lunch crowd” at the tree right outside the window.

This blue jay sat on the deck railing for a little bit, apparently just checking things out.

Then he went down and sampled the “buffet” for himself.

He seems to be saying, “Are you looking at ME?”

Then a friend joined him.

At one point there were six out there, but they were all in constant motion so it was hard to get their picture.

Even without the wildlife, I envy Martha and Will this million dollar view.

I took the pictures of the wildlife while sitting at their kitchen table playing Triple Yahtzee with the birthday girl.  And far be it from me to accuse her of “stacking the deck” against me, but I’ll just tell you that she handily won all three games, while I constantly interrupted the game to take another picture.

Happy Birthday again, Martha.  I love you even more than I love the view from your kitchen window!

Is this their version of a line dance?

May 13, 2011

I noticed these two geese each leading a line of babies across the lake.  But I have no idea why they were doing this funny thing with their heads.  Does anyone know?

I know that geese can sometimes be a nuisance, but I love seeing their babies in the Spring.

When is this all right? Mice on the table!

May 11, 2011

Actually it turned out to be fun!

At our golf luncheon two weeks ago, there was a favor at each place that was a mouse sitting on a piece of cheese.  They were so cute and, I’m told by Peg, Diane and Marsha who made them, pretty easy.

Here’s how they made them.

Bake sugar cookies (make sure they’re not round but “cheese” shape, whatever that is) and as soon as they come out of the oven use a straw (wiggling it around) to make random holes in each cookie, ala swiss cheese.

For the mouse, hold a maraschino cherry by its stem and dip it in dipping chocolate.  Immediately put a Kiss candy against the still wet chocolate, in the position shown. Inserting two pieces of slivered almonds in between to make the ears.  They said the hardest part was picking the little green candies out of a container of multi-color sprinkles with tweezers to make the eyes.

Stick each mouse to a cookie with a little bit of the dipping chocolate.

Presto!  Something I never thought I’d say, “Cute, edible mice!”

Good work, Peg, Diane and Marsha.  A definitely fun conversation piece for our luncheon.