Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our backyard woods on a rare sunny day this week...after 2 feet of snow!.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And a Merry Christmas to All!

But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come around - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And, therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!
--Charles Dickens
A Christmas Carol

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Flapper Girl" Salad

Sorting through my Mom's belongings, I came across a 1935 cookbook published by my hometown newspaper. It was fun to read through it and recognize so many surnames--there's even a couple in there from my Great-grandmothers! (They would have been getting rather elderly by '35.... but, in family tradition, still cooking and baking!)

Here's a recipe that caught my eye--I insisted on reading it aloud to my daughter and we both hooted with laughter!

"Flapper Girl" Salad

Mrs. M.W. Conley

Canned half pears
Canned sliced pineapple
American cream cheese
Spanish peanuts
Fruit coloring
Melted chocolate
Small birthday candles

Place lettuce leaves on plates. On these arrange half pears, rounding side up. Form the face of a flapper girl, using the ingredients above to form the features. Hair: grated cheese. Eyes: spanish peanuts. Eyebrows and dots for nose, melted chocolate (using toothpick to apply). Collar: half slice of pineapple. Mouth: round piece of pimento. Fruit coloring is applied on cheeks. Place tiny candle in mouth. A small portion of fluffy mayonnaise may be placed on the pineapple if desired. The small candles should be lighted just before serving. If the room is dimly lighted, the effect is still better. Serve mayonnaise separately.

This salad may be prepared quite a while before serving if fruit is thoroughly drained.

This little poem may be printed on the place cards:

I'm just a little Flapper Girl,
I've never been to college,
So what you'll find beneath my curl
Is not exactly knowledge;
A wee bit green, I will admit--
And I don't mind confessing
That I can be improved a bit
With just a little dressing.

Isn't that hilarious? I love that she's even smoking a cigarette! Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Pleasant Diversion Amidst Sorrow

As you may have gathered from my previous post, my dear Mom passed away the day after Thanksgiving. I was with her when she died and I feel good about that. It all happened much faster than anticipated: I had a long discussion with the doctor on Monday afternoon, (he felt confident to make a diagnosis by then), and by Friday morning it was over. She was in discomfort, but apparently she sidestepped the pain and suffering that her type of cancer would have induced. Typically, it was she who comforted me, assuring me she had had a long, happy life--and she was right....of course!

My daughter and I are sorting out her belongings and cleaning her apartment. Days of busy exhaustion have helped to numb what will become a settled-in sort of longing for this person who is no longer physically in our lives.

Two other sentient beings remind us that life is for the living--as it should be.... Have you ever seen anything more adorable than this??!! .....

An 89 pound Punch and an 8 or 9 pound Lola--they are buddies now! The two of them playing together is something of an art form; when the width of one dog's tail is equal to the size of the other dog's neck, it could get dicey! But it hasn't! Smiles all around!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


So live in each season as it passes;
breathe the air,
drink the drink,
taste the fruit,
and resign yourself
to the influences of each.

--Henry David Thoreau

R.I.P. Mom..... (1917-2009)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Some Assembly Required"

My Mom is an crocheting machine! Everyone in my family has one of her creations and I'm not exaggerating when I say I have probably 20 of them! She's always been artistic, with an eye for color--the bolder, the better! We've had a lot of fun over the years collaborating on design ideas. One of her projects that I have to admit I took for granted was the "63 Square Afghan." (If you're not familiar with the design, it's 63 squares, each made of an entirely different pattern; kind of a crochet sampler of sorts.) She churned out one of those babies in no time--in tans and greens--and had a grand time doing it. (It's hanging on a quilt rack in my livingroom now.)

Since she had such fun making the first one, I asked her if she'd consider making another one, only this time in one color to accentuate the textures. She said if I bought the yarn, she'd do it! So.... we presented her with a box of wool skeins, with the following instructions written on it:

Contents: 1 Wool Afghan. Some Assembly Required.

Mr. Pocketts and I trundled off to Mexico for an extended vacation and upon our return we were presented with the box--only this time it was full of neatly stacked, finished squares! (Each square even had it's own little numbered tag affixed) ....with some assembly required!

I'm embarrassed to say I did not get right on's been about 3 years now. So.... considering my Mom's questionable health outlook, (nothing definitely known yet; it's depressing, but nevermind), I thought maybe she'd like to finally see the finished product. And who doesn't need some motivation?!

The squares are now laid out on a futon mattress which was temporarily on the guest room floor--it made the perfect blank slate. I'm now diligently assembling strips (have about 5 done so far). It's turning out nicely--I think she'll be pleased!

When I discovered entire online groups are devoted to making--or at least talking about making--this afghan (I am not a member of any such group), I tried to describe this phenomenon to Mom. She couldn't help but laugh, having already been through it all--twice!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blog Hopping

is for

I rather like looking at blogs! There's a few I visit regularly, once or twice a week, depending; others I look at perhaps once or twice a month, as they are not as actively posting. The "blogosphere" (a term that amuses me) is a parallel world; a world in which most of my "real life" friends have no idea exists (it's equal opportunity--they don't read my blog, nor anyone else's, so I don't take it personally!). I've discovered so many good ideas, thoughtful projects and the like from total strangers who have an innate need to share, bless their little cyber hearts! Altogether, I find it inspiring...and there are days when one could use a little inspiration!

For those of us who choose to live in the middle of nowhere, such as I, blogs provide a comforting connection. Believe it or not, there are folks out there who live very much the way I do and pretty much believe in the same things I believe in: be it politics, religion, lack of religion, hobbies, literature, food, obsessions, food-obsessions, yada yada yada. I can walk down to the post office and not always get that feeling locally. (And if you've ever been a square peg in a round-holed small town, you'll know exactly how that feels!)

Ok, what I'm saying has often been said before, and far more thoughtfully and eloquently (and most likely in some kick-ass blog!), but I'm saying it now--in this one!

Have a lovely day, in both of your parallel worlds!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ch ch ch changes.....

We were supposed to be flying to California this weekend...alas, we are not. We had purchased the tickets (well, sort of purchased them; airmiles you know) several months ago and a pile of "must not forget to take to California" stuff has been collecting on the guestroom bed ever since. (No need to worry about that, when you live in the sticks like we do, your city-slicker friends are hardly beating down your door for a visit!) The reason being my elderly, 92 year old, mother is not quite well. She's had some sort of stomach complaint and loss of appetite for a few weeks and did she tell her doctor? figured he already knew! When asked to explain, it went something like this: "He takes blood tests all the time, wouldn't that show up in the tests?" Um, I don't think so! So we are going from there: with me as accompaniment, one doctor appointment down; later this morning she'll be chugging barium and having a CT scan, followed by another appointment next week or earlier, depending. So...that trip to California just doesn't quite fit in for now. After a few tearful phone conversations we got it all worked out: if all goes well, we'll go the first part of December. If all goes not so well, Ms. California (awesome daughter) will come here.

On a side note, have you ever noticed how some people talk to elderly people? It's this sort of sing-songy linguistic rhythm, as if they're talking to a child. Underlying it all is a patronizing tone, totally disrespectful and ultimately, it keeps an invisible wall between them (which the speaker probably wants). Some of my nieces talk to my mother (their grandmother) that way--drives me crazy. I'm proud to say my daughter never, ever talks to older adults like that. She does this thing where she addresses them like they're real people! And guess which granddaughter is the odds-on favorite?! Duh!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Whatever Lola Wants....

I have a Granddog now! "Lola" is eight pounds of "beefy" Chihuahua and something bigger. Daughter is sure she's a Chiwiener, also known as a Mexican Hotdog! Lola refuses to divulge much about her past: that crazy time before she was adopted from a southern California animal shelter. Much speculation from her mistress that a doggie DNA test would be appropriate. Hmm.... don't know if I have $99 worth of curiosity?

Lola will be coming to the Midwest in January....poor little thing, she's never seen snow or experienced temps below the 60's. She's in for a rude awakening! What to do?....
Why, bundle up, of course!

Isn't this cute? I especially like the adapted sweater. Perhaps I can find something of a "North Woods" cozy theme for her. Or, would it be too cliche to cut up one of my old Mexican blankets to make a little jacket for her?! Pretty sure I have one of those hokey little sombreros somewhere around the house, too.... I'm like that.

When I showed my Mom this pattern, she laughed. My Aunt and Cousin had just been visiting, bringing with them practically a suitcase full of little baby garments they had crocheted for my Aunt's newest grandchild. Well, ok, so that's where we're at!!

Semper Fido!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Frost is on the....Tomato?!

Font sizeWe had a frost here last week, and even some snow a few days ago--could hardly believe it! All that snow resting on some of the still-green leaves looked funny, like when Hollywood tries to make a snow scene but doesn't bother hiding green trees in the background. As I pulled out the shriveled remnants of what was once a great tomato plant,* I couldn't help but reflect....

This one plant, ONE plant, produced enough tomatoes for 21 pints of canned tomatoes, 16 half-pints of tomato jam, 2 quarts of frozen tomatoes, several bowls of gazpacho, many a plate of sliced tomatoes (with balsamic vinegar, fresh mozzarella and basil), some tomato-bread salads, and a few giveaways to friends & family. Phew! All that for a starting price of $1.49! Add to that a little fertilizer and regular water and.... I'd say that pencils!

Here it is threatening to take over the backyard!:
Everyone who tasted it asked what kind of tomato it was.... truth be known, I don't know! Yeek! I only remember the original label said it was an Heirloom Italian of some sort and, no, it wasn't Brandywine. Guess it will just remain a sweet mystery!

The first glimpse inside offered this:
But if you looked closer, you saw this:
Even in the waning days of summer, it was putting out tomatoes like this:
Ordinary...yet's all there to be found!

*Ok, I tried to pull it out, but the stem was too large & stubborn---Mr. M.T. Pocketts had to do it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Ant, the Grasshopper and the Chipmunk?!

Remember the story of the ant and the grasshopper? The ant is always obsessively industrious, preparing for winter, while the grasshopper fools around (and probably has a lot more fun overall!) before receiving his ultimate comeuppance (which I guess is death or something near that?) Well, that happy story aside, here's our version:

In an effort to thwart "the naughty squirrel" who wanted all the bird seed, I read that squirrels didn't like safflower seeds, but birds do. However.... the writer neglected to mention, or simply didn't know, that chipmunks absolutely, positively, obsessively adore safflower seeds! They will compete with each other over who gets to shinny up that metal pole (hey, no problem!), do a flying leap (often with a twist) over to the feeder, and begin the process of gorging themselves. Once their little cheeks are ready to pop and are noticeably wider than the rest of their body, they scamper down the pole, run along the patio wall and disappear for approximately one minute before popping their hollow-cheeked heads up, ready to do battle with the other chipmunk who has been doing the very same thing in their absence. Repeat this all day long until the safflower is gone!

It's hilarious! Really.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cannery Row

A friend of ours dropped off a large bag of wild plums one morning a couple weeks ago.... and thus it began. Really, is there a more heavenly way to start your day than with wild plum jelly on toast to go with that morning cup of coffee?! I think not!

Luckily I had enough plums left to make a batch of Plum Cordial, a drink our Victorian grandmothers delicately imbibed in fancy, little crystal glasses. (The main ingredient, other than the fruit, is vodka--so just how many little glasses they had was their business!) You can see the cordial behind the jelly in the picture above--see the plums floating in the largest jar? It's now sitting down in the basement, nature doing it's job. On a dark winter day, when I pour some of this into one of those little crystal glasses, I'll swoon with the smell of plum blossoms in springtime!

I also made, for the first time, some sauerkraut. That may be putting it optimistically....I put some green cabbage into some canning jars and, like the cordial, put them down in the cellar and let nature take its course. (Would hardly recommend the two sharing the same meal though! ha!) Supposedly I have to go down and check it periodically to make sure enough liquid remains, etc. Hopefully there's a good Reuben sandwich in our future!

And then I pretty much went on a tear...if you've ever done canning and jelly making before, you know that when you have all your stuff organized, it's really not all that time consuming to whip up yet another batch of something. You just have to pace yourself and be prepared to have a bit of clutter mounting on the kitchen table. In the photo above, besides the plum jelly, there is sweet/hot pepper jelly and one of my own concoctions: "Apple Pie" jelly. This tells only half the story....add to that several other flavors, some of them experiments I made up: Jalapeno/Mint jelly, Prune jam, Spiced Grape jelly, Plum/Apple jelly, and 2 types of Tomato Jam. And speaking of tomatoes--see that voluptuous 'mater sitting in that bowl? It's just one of dozens, literally dozens, of tomatoes from one tomato plant. (More about that later!)

Ah, summertime in jars!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

As scarce as Hawks' teeth!

Had a little trip to the dentist this week....I tried to keep the whinging* to a minimum, but it was a challenge. Dental treatments have really come a long way since the days of lying in the chair with hardly more than my head and heels touching the seat--pain causing ramrod stiffness through the rest of my body. Ugh! (I had a lot of dental visits as a child--I'm sure I have emotional scars. But at least I have teeth?!)
The dentist I have now is wonderful--have been with him since the start of his career. He had this plaque (no pun intended!) hanging on his wall, made by a friend. Bet you can't guess where he went to school?!
And speaking of Hawkeye football, we'll be tailgating at their game this weekend. My daughter (sitting in California), upon finding this out and muttering a quick "Damn you!," enthusiastically offered some advice: "Do some shotgunning and a kegstand or two if you can. Oh, and take pictures!" Beings there's only so much I can comprehend, I had to have "shotgunning" explained to me. (Sadly, I already knew what a kegstand was; I've seen her pictures!) Righto! Like that's all going to happen... well, maybe..... but don't hold your breath for any pictures!

*Don't know if "whinging" is used here--it's an Aussie/English term...sometimes I forget where I've picked up words. Pronounced win-jing, with emphasis on the first syllable. Same as whining, but I like the sound of it better.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Endless summer?

I love summer! Really, I just love summer! It's my favorite time of year; July is my favorite month. I don't know anyone else who feels this way. (Most of my friends say Autumn is their favorite time of year; my husband loves the Spring.) I love all my flowers; the way they just go crazy in July, blooming their little hearts out.... and I'm always just a little sad to see them wilt a bit when they've performed so magnanimously all season!

Today was sort of a so-so day...the last official day of Summer (Labor Day weekend) and we didn't have any definite plans (which was fine with us)....but some things were sort of dragging us down (not worth mentioning). And then we got a call from dear friends of ours!.... they want to go to Mexico with us next Spring! We are so excited! We haven't been south of the border with them for years and years (they last joined us before their little girl was born and she's in school now.) Oh my! what a flurry of phone calls and reservations at our favorite, quaint hotel--they were happy to hear from us. So more than one phone call made more than one person happy today!
I love Mexico and I can't wait..... in the depths of winter, it will be summer! (I'm pinching myself! Really!)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Log Cabin

I've been trying to do a little work on what has become a long-term quilt project. It's basically a log cabin design which will have a little something extra in the middle (hopefully!) I just looooove the colors and prints--dark and light teals, jeweltone blues, sandy tans, creams, burnt red siennas, plaids, dots, smudges, florals. It's a joy to work on this!

Another part of the enjoyment comes from my little stereo, essentially just speakers, made for my iphone. I just plop it in, turn on Pandora to whatever music I want and stitch away! Yesterday I began with Edith Piaf (don't know if I've mentioned how I'm somewhat obsessed with 30's music?) and went from there. Funny, the second song was by Etta James. I guess the Pandora programmers assume if you like one, you'll like the other. Well, actually, in this case they're right--so they must be pretty good at what they do. Also discovered the band, Pink Martini. How could I have missed them?

Somebody else had a relaxing morning, too!

So there I was sewing away, occasionally humming along, so thoroughly enjoying my casual summer Sunday morning.....when my husband brought me a fresh-cut, pink rose in a crystal bowl. How appropriate when listening to...La Vie en Rose!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Summer of Pie

Some of my favorite accomplishments no longer exist...except in sweet memories. Such is the life of a pie baker. Pie lovers are a loyal bunch, with a devotion probably only matched by chocolate lovers. (Happily, I'm in both camps!) On a Facebook update, if I merely mention the idea of possibly making a pie, I receive several requests to join me (or live!) in my kitchen--they even say they'll bring their own chairs! I once posted a picture of a pie I made; my favorite comment from a friend was, "p o r n !"

I realize some people don't like pie--my own mislead daughter being among them. While her distaste for pie probably runs along the lines of adolescent rebellion, I can only wonder at others' woeful ways. Perhaps they've only had pie in so-so coffee shops? or only tasted "boughten" crusts with canned filling? Believe me, those kind of desserts--over sweetened, globby gunk in a bit of floury, undercooked mush--hardly deserve to be called pie! But don't they notice the fierce affection some people have for pie? Wouldn't it make you suspicious that there's something that's really, really good and you're missing it? Wouldn't you begin a quest?
It's out there!
I'm going to make a pie this morning. As soon as I post this, I'm walking into the kitchen....


In the meantime, here's a dessert I made recently: Blueberry Nectarine Cobbler. Obviously not a pie, but a close relative. A compromise of sorts, when you don't quite have enough time to make an actual pie. It was delicious...if I remember correctly!

Here it is with it's crumbly crust, just before being put into the oven.

Just out of the oven and still warm.

Let's have a bite! Ummmmm, good!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A face only a mother could love?

We had a visitor recently. As my husband and I sat out on the patio enjoying the flowers and birds over our morning coffee, I suddenly saw the strangest thing approaching us in the yard above the patio wall. It was dark brown and foaming at the mouth, snuffling along and very excited to be there. It sort of looked like a dog--more like a dog crossed with a manatee! All I could do was point in its general direction and stammer, "Da...da...da..." Truly, I wasn't entirely sure what it was at first.

Punch knew right away what it was; he was so excited to have one of his own in the yard! Oh my, such sniffing and snuffling, and sniffing some more again--add to that a nice, foamy layer of saliva to top it all off. Such fun!

Turns out this little lady's (yes, it's a girl!) name is Shelby and she lives 3 houses east of us. Her "mom" said she's quite an escape artist. I expect we'll be seeing more of Ms. Shelby in the future, as "Mom" is due for a real baby any day now. She's going to be busy! I can't imagine......

Yesterday I was a dog. Today I'm a dog. Tomorrow I'll probably still be a dog. Sigh! There's so little hope for advancement.
--"Snoopy" (Charles Schultz)

Friday, July 31, 2009

A birthday salute!

Yesterday would have been my beloved Grandma's 124th birthday. So....I baked a cake!
(Using her recipe, of course!)
Grandma and me in 1967.

Born in Norre Farup, Denmark (near Ribe on the western coast of Jutland) in 1885, she emigrated to America twice (long story), before finally marrying my Danish Grandpa in 1913 and successfully raising my mom and her 6 brothers and sisters. I was lucky enough to know her briefly, in the sense that a much-loved grandchild is loved by her favorite Grandma. She died when I was in 2nd grade. A few years ago, my Uncle sent me a DVD of his old home movies. When I played it, suddenly Grandma was on the screen, smiling and turning a bit away from the camera, embarrassed no doubt. Instantly, tears welled in my eyes....such a whirl of emotion I felt upon "seeing" this person who I hadn't seen in such a very, very long time. It feels good to remember her. I hope I have a Granddaughter of my own someday!

Grandma making a pie in 1960. Pie baking runs in the family!

Monday, July 20, 2009


It's been a remarkable year in the garden. For whatever reason, we have no bugs! Usually we go through gnat season, followed by no-see-ums, and largely rounded out by mosquitoes. (Asian Beetles, disguised as Ladybugs, and Box-Elder bugs will join them later in the Summer and early Fall.) I cringe thinking about what I may be doing to myself when I apply anti-bug stuff; those chemicals can't be good for you--but sometimes you get desperate! However, this year is different... we can walk out our backdoor, putter around the gardens, pull a few weeds, cut a few flowers for a bouquet, sit on the patio with some chilled Chardonnay...ah, life as it should be!

"Anyone who has a book collection and a garden wants for nothing."
--Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Saturday, July 18, 2009


We've had several chilly days lately, so rather than securing a sweater around my heftier-than-I-would-like torso and heading outside for some exercise, I've found myself puttering about in the kitchen. A non-baker wouldn't understand this, but there are times when the most unsuspecting ingredients find themselves together with the perfect recipe--and the planets are in alignment and all is right with the world. This happened to me this week....

A bin of fresh apricots was calling my name at the grocery store. I've never much bothered with the fresh ones; they're so little, and the canned ones taste just fine. I'm also suspicious of them--are they often as heartbreakingly "woody" as approximately 90% of the peaches I buy? (Or formerly bought, as is the case now, after cruel experience.) I threw caution to the wind and picked out what I thought to be the 14 (!) most superior specimens, announcing that I was going to make an apricot tart. When you announce something like that, you are well and truly committed, or you will be responsible for much familial disappointment around the house.

The second cosmic ingredient? Raspberries! Later the same day, we were over to a friend's house for dinner; he gave me a quart of plump, red raspberries from his little patch that is apparently threatening to not only snare him within its confines, but to pretty much overtake the back side of his house. I was happy to assist him!

Fresh apricots and fresh raspberries....this could only mean PIE!

I've never combined the two before, but these flavors, along with a little touch of almond for good measure, were heavenly. Yes, the stars were definitely in alignment!

I will close with a quote from Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1877). I couldn't agree with him more.
“The natural term of an apple-pie is but twelve hours. It reaches its highest state about one hour after it comes from the oven, and just before its natural heat has quite departed. But every hour afterward is a declension. And after it is one day old, it is thence-forward but the ghastly corpse of apple-pie.”

This problem rarely presents itself at our house...who still has pie left after 24 hours?!
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