Sunday, November 29, 2009

On Why You Should Not Give Up On Sweet Potatoes

When we were growing up on the farm our mother would periodically place sweet potatoes on the table and expect us to enjoy them. Instead we tended to "gag" as we tried to choke down this dish. The brother who was the most adamant about refusing to acknowledge the culinary delight of a sweet potato still refuses to eat them. In fact, if you offer some up to him he's apt to get a most astounded and disgusted look on his face before he calmly states, "No." And then he turns away as if you have mightily insulted him.

But he's the loser for all that. This recipe given me by a friend several years ago bears no resemblance to chunky sweet potatoes. This dish is creamy, sweet, and crunchy. I even like it as a leftover, cold. Now, that's saying something. So here goes.

Sweet Potato Dish

Mix together:
4 cups hot mashed sweet potatoes (I use canned, drained, heated, mashed)
1/3 cup butter
2 T sugar

Beat in:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Place the potatoes in a 1-1/2 to 2 quart casserole. I use a bowl, and not a flat dish, but I suppose flat would be fine.

Crumble and sprinkle on top:
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
2 T melted butter

Bake at 325 for 1 hour.

This year I made a bit extra added a nice crunchy layer on top. Yummy!


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things Said at the Dinner Table - And After

One learns many things at a family gathering. Odd bits of information gleaned while listening to family around a table and later here and there throughout the house.

For one! Thirteen-year-old nephew N visited the Dallas Cowboys stadium this past year and the family was able to walk out upon the field. As they were leaving, N was trailing behind. His mother turned back to see what he was doing and saw him pull a single strand of hair from the top of his head and drop it on the 50-yard line. Just trying to be part of the game I guess.

Two! Adult nephew and niece J and K spent the day with us. Their dad was not here so we were able to regale them with our versions of his childhood adventures. They did not know this little story about their father (who was not present and could not deny nor sputter...although he may sputter when he reads this). Growing up on the farm we raised chickens. Lots of chickens. During the summer they were more or less allowed to roost at night where they wished. But as winter approached they needed to be safe and secure in the chicken house. One fall evening we ventured out after dark to grab them from their roosts and carry them (upside down by the legs, more than one hen in each hand) to the chicken house where they would be penned up for the winter. Brother T was to gather the chickens from the rafters in the lean-to that served as Dad's workshop. He pointed his flashlight upward at the chickens with his mouth hanging open......need I finish this story? You get the drift. (Plop!!!!) Needless to say, J and K will undoubtedly file this mental note to some safe spot in their cranium and bring it forth someday when they relay this very important bit of family history to their own children.

Three! My Mom watches the "Today" show. I didn't know that she is a fan of Linny Boyette who himself is a diehard fan of the "Today" show. I had never heard of this guy! But Mom has and she watches for him in the crowd outside the Midtown studio every morning. If he's not there, she worries about him. And when he's there again the next day she is satisfied that he is okay and it is now okay to change channels to watch something else. Boyette sounds like a nice fellow and you can read more about him here. Daughter now and then travels to New York and says if she ever gets up early enough to go down to Rockefeller Center she will be sure to stand beside Linny Boyette. Otherwise she's afraid Gramma will be so busy looking for Linny that she won't see her own granddaughter!

Four! My sister-in-law teaches computer at school to several groups of young students. She refers to them as nosepickers. (I do not know what percentage of students can be included in this category but that's beside the point and is not necessary to the story.) She says she recently asked one young student to please stop picking his nose because she feared his habit would leave germ-ridden "stuff" on the keyboard. He looked up at her and replied, "It's kinda like's a hard habit to break!"

Of course, we had to climb in several vehicles and caravan out to the old farm, just as we have in previous years. (You can read about our version of "This Old House" here!) Niece G who is wearing a classy plaid skirt walked through mud after this photo was taken, losing one shoe temporarily and muddying her tights. She was shoeless the rest of the day. I gave her a pair of old hospital socks to keep her feet warm on the ride home. The socks did not match and they were very grandmotherly socks but she was very sweet and thanked me kindly, running out the door in happy warm feet.

We marveled at Baby M's baby feet and the fact that he has little pads on the ball of his feet. Daughter says the pads remind her of kitty feet. We spent considerable time admiring his feet and assuring each other that with such long toes, surely he will grow up to be a great athlete. Kitty feet and all.

Other musings: Daughter and I wondered "why, oh why!" can't the bakers cut bagels and English muffins ALL the way through.

We later lingered at the (now clean) kitchen table browsing and laughing through two boxes of family photos. A photo of dad's old 1928 Studebaker illustrated the story of how my mom and her brother drove to California in 1946 with three of us along for the ride. I really don't remember it...I was a mite young. I asked brother F if he remembered the trip and he responded, yes, he did. At least parts of it. Nephew J asked what Mom and Uncle Jake would have done if the car had broken down during the 3600 mile round-trip. She replied that it DID break down. Uncle Jake cut some wire from a nearby fence, made repairs, and they traveled on. You can read about that venture here.

Niece A joined in the laughter at the table but her siblings spent most of the afternoon with our grandson D in the basement playing games on the Wii. I'm sure the conversation down there was less than sparkling...just "game" talk.

Over the length of the day, eighteen persons managed to consume eight pies, a 15-lb. turkey, one large meat loaf, one vegetarian lasagna casserole (for souls not hardy enough for turkey or beef...heh-heh), 10 lbs. of mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce (my secret recipe is simple and yummy!), sweet and creamy sweet potatoes, and other assorted dishes. Everybody brought a dish or two and we had plenty of food to enjoy. But the fellowship of family was the very best part.

I ponder deep things such as how many tons of turkey carcasses ended up in the landfill this week. And why anyone would venture forth on the Friday after Thanksgiving in order to shop amidst maddening crowds.

Since I had cooked our turkey a day ahead of time and had deboned it, I cooked up the carcass and used the resulting broth for gravy. Best gravy ever. Even though it was a mite thin. Thin gravy. It's a tradition in our family. Every family has traditions and I can't seem to break this one, no matter how I try.

Hope you and your families are blessed in all ways. Especially this Thanksgiving weekend.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Twenty One - And How I Am Grateful

Strange how we see gratefulness more easily when we have come through the fire of suffering. If you've not been following my blog you may not know that 2009 was the year of Ovarian Cancer at our house. Surgery. Hospital stays. Fears of more surgery. Chemo. Aches, pains, weakness, loss of hair, daily shots of neupogen to boost the white blood count. And all the while hoping that I would not catch a cold or flu. My immune system was often at its lowest ebb and any illness would have easily landed me in the hospital.

Today it is 20 weeks since my last chemo session. During that time I have regained strength. Mentally, physically, and spiritually. Currently my cancer is at a stable place. This stability may last a few weeks or it may last years. Only God knows. He holds all my days in His hands and I am learning, day by day, to leave my worries and concerns there.

So today, while I am preparing for 21 guests and while I am bustling about the kitchen, putting pies in the oven, pre-cooking the turkey, cutting veggies, baking dinner rolls, I am amazed how good I feel. I am grateful for this year. And for tomorrow, family, good food. And for the knowledge that God is Sovereign and in control of all. My path is laid before me and I will walk it day by day. Good days. And bad days. And all the while I will continue to bow down and be grateful to God for all things. Even cancer.

You might think it strange to be thankful for cancer. But, you see, it is in the darkest moments when we finally relinquish our desire to control our own lives and when we finally give up on our own plans. And when you are able to bow down, then your worship is best.

Isaiah 43
But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

3 For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

To Tantalize the Twenty-One

We're expecting 21 guests, plus or minus, and just in case they're reading my blog this morning, here's a little preview...just to tantalize a bit.

Mind you, there will be more pies than this...this is just the main meal...later on we'll surely want an extra slice to tide us over till next year.

Mmmmm, smells good!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pie Crusts - Commercial vs. Home-Made

Does anyone else out there intensely dislike the refrigerated pie crusts offered in stores? The ones that come rolled up in a box? I find them barely acceptable and usually end up eating the filling and leaving the crust on my plate.

In my estimation, the very best crust in terms of flaky texture is made with lard. And while some folk still bake with lard I choose not to. These days I make my crust with butter. If I use salted butter, I omit the salt. For a recipe I still refer to my vintage (antique) Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1965.

In making pie crust, the shortening should be cold and should be mixed in until the texture is crumbly. In other words the bits of lard, or butter, or whatever, should remain a bit pebbly in size. Overmixing makes for a less tender crust.

I've found a shortcut to mixing in the shortening is to use a grater to grate cold butter into the flour, periodically tossing flour into and onto the grated butter (so it doesn't stick back together again). Once all the butter is grated into the flour, I use a hand-held electric mixer to whiz through the mixture until the butter is down to crumb size.

The water, of course, should be cold. Put some ice cubes into a bowl, add some cold tap water, and let it get nice and Cold! Then sprinkle in the recommended amount, stir with a fork, sprinkle in some more water, until the mixture is somewhere between clumpy and crumbly. A bit of kneading and pressing will make it into a cohesive mound.

It is at this stage that many go wrong with pie crust. The recipe usually says to knead several times. My comment on that is "Don't!" I may fold it the mound over on itself, but never more than 3 times (4 max). Overkneading produces "tough crust".

If I am making crust for more than one pie (today I made enough for five!), I will mix the flour and butter in one bowl. For the next step I take out a couple cups of the mixture, placing it in a separate bowl, then add the appropriate amount of water, a bit at a time. I find that I usually need to add a tad more than the recipe calls for.

When I am making the crusts a couple days ahead of time, I'll partially flatten them into a round shape about an inch thick. You will need to dust the counter top with a bit of flour, and redust whenever the dough is sticking to the surface. Wrap the partially shaped dough in plastic wrap or bag, then store in the fridge until ready to finish rolling out tomorrow. (You can also freeze them at this point.) Tomorrow, let them warm a bit before rolling out to size. Not too warm, just warmer than the fridge.

Long ago I tossed out those aluminum pie pans. They simply do not produce a well-baked crust. Instead of the aluminum I prefer Pyrex or pottery pans. The Pyrex are nice because you can see through the glass that the crust has reached a nice toasty color.

The recipe for a 10-inch one-crust pie as Betty herself recommends in her vintage cookbook is as follows:

1-1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt (if using salted butter, omit)
1/2 cup shortening (one stick or 1/4 pound of butter equals 1/2 cup)
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water.

Double this as necessary for the number of crusts you want. When making several pies I will sometimes have enough dough left over to for a small single-crust. And if you do that as well, simply store it in the freezer for a quick bake some later time.

We're having pumpkin, apple and mincemeat. How about you?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

What a Difference a Day Makes or How I Love Vacuuming!

What a difference a day makes. Or in my case, "what a difference several months make".

It's been four and a half months since I finished my chemo. Hooo, Boy! Do I feel good! Not only do I feel physically good but I feel mentally and emotionally good, too. And since ovarian cancer is not exactly something that is ever considered "cured", I figure I'm going to enjoy every day. Even moments like today when I decided to do deep cleaning for Thanksgiving week. We're having company! Yayyyy, Company!

Hubby began the vacuuming by cleaning the large downstairs room that doubles as a TV/guest room. Then it was my turn and I cleaned the old basement laundry room, furnace room and storage room. Those three rooms are "utility" rooms. Concrete floor, bare walls, wood rafter ceilings. Over the summer months a few wispy spider webs make their appearance along with a few dead bugs, dirt, construction dust. Those rooms are now dust-free. I'll be able to run downstairs barefoot and not feel grit between my toes. I hate gritty floors.

Next stop for the vacuum cleaner was the garage. I figured I'd have to put in a new bag anyway, so why not fill this one to the brim. Again spider webs, dead crickets, debris tracked in with our feet. Tossed the old rug that stood at the entrance cause it was 'done for'. Drained the garden hose. Tidied the area. Put the clutter items out of sight underneath the steps to the kitchen. Placed a 'new' used rug before the door.

There's something about having things clean and tidy. It makes me breathe an appreciative sigh. I can let things go only so far before they begin to bug me. Sometimes I let them go a bit longer like when I was doing chemo or just because sometimes I procrastinate. I'm pretty good at procrastinating. But then, when cleaning begins, I go like gangbusters.

Tomorrow I need to check my grocery list and begin some baking.

I'm thankful that I'm feeling good these days. I hope that you, too, are looking forward to Thanksgiving this year with friends and family and with much thankfulness.


Everything Is Relative, Ya Know!

Here in the Upper Midwest, in western Iowa, it seems some complain constantly about the weather!

"It's too hot." "We need some rain!" "Sure wish this rain would stop!" "It's sooo dry, the farmer's need rain!" "I hate this bitter cold!" "The humidity is terrible!" "Sure wish it would snow!" "Oh, I wish this snow would melt." "I hate the ice." "Sure don't like all this mud!" "Doncha hate this weather!"

Lest I put too much emphasis on that, I should add that on pleasant days there are remarks such as "Isn't this a Great Day!", or "Wish we had more days like this one. It's just lovely!" "Doncha love this weather!"

I suppose it is human nature to moan and complain about the bitter stuff and sometimes to forget to enjoy the lovely days.

The following statement is a quote from Bill who lives in Wasilla, Alaska. Yep, Wasilla. That's Sarah Palin's hometown. And nope, Bill does not blog about Wasilla's most famous citizen. Instead he daily gives us a quiet glimpse into the life of Wasilla. (You can read Bill's blog here.") Today, Bill mentions this little bit of info about Barrow, Alaska.

"Today, in Barrow, the sun rose in the south, then set in the south an hour later. It will come up for just half-an-hour, will go down and then won't rise again until January 23."

Today I will not complain. Nope. Not about the coolish weather nor about the sometimes cloudy days nor about anything else in regard to the weather. Nope! Today I am grateful that I do not live in Barrow, Alaska.

It's all relative, Ya Know! Just like everything else in can always be better/worse somewhere else. Take what you have and just get on about the business of Living! And be grateful! And if you live in Barrow, come spend the winter in Iowa!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Do We Keep Count? And Is Our Count Accurate?

The unexpected always catches us by surprise. (Duh! Yahhh!.)

Last night when the women walked into the classroom I realized we had a full house. Packed! I was momentarily taken aback because I had planned for only twelve. I had brought in 12 copies of the lesson and here we had eighteen women! I handed out the lesson, asking friends to share.

Why do I keep count? Surely the count doesn't count, right? God is the one who keeps count, not we.

Somehow, it has always bugged me when Christians report a "count" after presenting some mission venture or children's day camp or any sort of meeting where the gospel was presented. The statement seems to go something like this....and I exaggerate a bit..."We had 982.5 people come to Christ last night!" Or..."There were 982 and a half people who were saved last night." And in the meantime, perhaps all but a few of those people will have gone their merry way, continuing to live life as they have always lived it, never again thinking a single thought about who God is and who they are in relationship to Him. But We! Oh, we have self-satisfaction in presenting the "NUMBER"!

I'm joking, of course, about the half. It's the presentation of a "count" that bugs me. The numbers are always presented as if 982 people are now most assuredly "in the kingdom". People who prior to the meeting (of whatever kind) were not. Not saved, that is. Not saved until we were able to count them.

This is how I see it. Just because someone raises their hand or "comes forward" or "says a prayer" does not mean they have become believers. The pressure of the situation, the desire to please, the "crowd think", or even a momentary hopeful whim can all be part of anyone's particular "assent". Many times, in presenting the gospel and asking for a response, a subtle manipulation occurs that isn't even subtle. And we do that because we want the "number". For indeed (to our way of thinking) if we do not have the numbers, then our work was for nought. (Please note that I am not speaking here of a sincere message by the messenger that every hearer can freely come to Christ with his plea for salvation and his prayer of repentance. That is a true call to the hearer.)

Sometimes we use numbers out of a mistaken notion (error, if you please) that our work is all about us and all about numbers. But you see....the work is not ours! The work is God's work. He is the "author" of salvation, the One who calls, the One who regenerates, the One who gives spiritual life to another soul. It is our task merely to present the gospel...the "story of God's dealing with man".....the creation, man's fall, God's provision for redemption.

Romans 1:16 says that the "gospel" is the power of God for salvation for those who hear. It is the presentation of the gospel, the good news that God provides redemption for His people, that brings people to Him. It is not our job to count. It is not our job to manipulate. It IS our job to speak the gospel, to let people know of God's great work on their behalf.

We also know this...that only God knows a man's heart. And it is only God who knows whether any of those people are counted as one of His. In fact He is the one who initiates. He does the calling. He does the regenerating. He does the work. We just do the talking. And the loving.

And if this is so...that it is God's work and God's work alone that causes a heart to turn to Him, then shouldn't we be a bit careful in stating (as if it were the truth) that 982.5 people were indeed "brought into the kingdom" at that last event? Isn't that profound presumption on our part? And in that presumption aren't we giving glory to ourselves rather than glory to God?

So having said all of the above, let me assure you that I am not quoting "numbers" for the sake of making some wild claim. I'm merely stating that last night we had a LOT of ladies come to class.

So even though I count, I am not counting as if I have accomplished any great thing. I keep track of the ladies for specific purposes. I have them "sign in" at the beginning of class for several reasons.

First, I want to know how many on a given night are brand-new faces. If they are there for the first time I recognize that I must keep the lesson solidly basic for those new faces. Any new face may be with us only a class or two and so I try to present the basic gospel every night. It may be the only opportunity to do so for certain individuals.

Secondly, if the women are in for a long time and have been or will be coming to class week after week, then I want to not only lay the basics, but also to add upon what I've laid out the week before. To go deeper.

And thirdly, having names in front of me helps me, indeed reminds me, to pray for these women. (Some of them were praying for me, too, during my cancer treatment!)

Last night we talked about God the Creator. Our lesson was taken from study notes in the Reformation Study Bible (click for more info). Three main points and accompanying scriptures.

The three main points...
  1. In the work of creation, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acted together. (You can touch the scriptures and "read" the verses)
    Genesis 1:1-2, Psalm 33:6, Psalm 33:9, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-16, Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 11:3
  2. God is self-existent and self-sustaining. The created universe is held together by God and without this activity of the divine Son, every creature of every kind, including ourselves, would cease to exist. Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3, Acts 17:25-28
  3. God has created each one of us and knows each one of us before we were born. Psalm 139:13 and Psalm 139:16
For next week's class I will print out 20 copies of the lesson and pray that I will need every copy! Can you tell I love these ladies!

P.S. You can read R.C. Sproul's introduction to the Reformation Study Bible here.


Monday, November 16, 2009

We're Saving 95.5 Percent on Our Heat and Cooling Bills!

Hmmmm...that title may be a bit overstated...but read on.

We've packed just about everything into this year that you can imagine. Early in the year we made it through two hospital stays, six chemo sessions, loss of hair (mine, not my hubby's, although his is a good deal whiter than it was before my cancer diagnosis). And finally, after chemo, a couple months of "normal". And hair again!

During that "normal" time we've put a new roof on the house and moved our laundry area from the basement to the kitchen. No, we didn't do the work ourselves. Although we're both fairly handy at do-it-yourself stuff, we're getting a bit long in the tooth. (For those of you who haven't a clue..."long in the tooth" is a phrase that was once used to indicate an aged horse. And since you probably drive a nifty Volkswagon or Chevy or Ford and may never have owned a horse, you've probably never contemplated the mystery of determining the age of a horse by his teeth. But I digress.)

As I said, two construction jobs done. Roof. Laundry. But we're not done yet. Today Doug the "Plmber" (as his personalized license plate reads) made a pretty nasty mess of our bathroom. The old cast-iron tub went out the door in pieces. Along with the tub went tile and sheet-rock. The new larger tub is in place but not yet hooked up. Doug the "Plmber" will be back tomorrow (and perhaps Wednesday) to finish the tub installation.

Once that is done, we'll have Roger the Handyman come in to finish removing tile, take out the old vanity, install the new vinyl floor and the new vanity and put in cupboard storage along one wall. Somewhere in there Doug the Plmber will remove and re-set the toilet.

But, hey, we're not done yet!

We've just about winterized this house enough to save 95.5 percent on our fuel bills (I exaggerate slightly, ever so slightly). We have decided to enhance that a bit (perhaps to 98.5) by removing the 45-year-old single-pane windows and having them replaced with new ones produced by Gerkin. Gerkin's windows are manufactured less than 40 miles from our house...the Green People will love us!

Jeff the Window Installer will be here the first of December. We're figuring with the addition of these energy-conserving windows we'll be able to heat this place with body heat alone. And if either of us runs a fever (God forbid!), we'll have to open the windows a bit to dissipate the heat. (I do tend to exaggerate, don't I !)

I told Hubby that "someday some new family is going to move into an awfully nice house". After all, we're not spring chickens, so it's not like we're going to live in this nicely renovated house for another 50 years. (Maybe 49, though. I have high hopes. Said with a silly grin.)

Perhaps next year will be "easy" time. This year was a whopper. But this I do know...we've been blessed this past year. God is good. No matter what.

Today's Verse? Psalm 146:2 "I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being". And again in in Psalm 146:5-6 "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;"

On my good days I will praise God. And in my days of suffering (should they come again), I will continue to praise Him for the sure salvation He provides for His people.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dark Stormy Clouds Promise Only Storms - Get Out From Under Them!

Worry can settle over us like a dark stormy cloud. Really dark, promising heavy and destructive storm. It's especially true of anyone diagnosed with a life-threatening ailment -- in my case cancer. I regularly visit an online "ovarian cancer" forum and read how others are dealing with this disease. Some deal with the uncertainty of their life with optimism and complete faith that God cares for them no matter what. Others sink into depression and despondency. Every last one of us is acutely aware of every twinge in our body, worrying that this new "twinge", this slight discomfort, this unexplained pain, may be the signal of recurrence.

So, then, how do we deal with this new, heightened sensitivity to the "life is fragile" scene? Initially, of course, we are stunned. Stunned that this body that we thought was healthy is instead harboring a deadly ailment. And we begin a process of "education" in the medical terminology and statistics of our particular ailment.

It's been nearly 10 months since my original diagnosis. I'm no longer stunned. I'm quite aware of the statistics. I'm in tune with my body. And thanks to the medical establishment, a good surgeon, appropriate chemo, I am feeling good. I feel really good.

For those who may be walking the same (or similar) road I want to offer this slight word of wisdom. It is this. One of the most important things in life is to remember that you live in the "now". We cannot live "tomorrow" while it is "today". We cannot live "next year" while it is today. We live "now".

Is it wise to make plans and preparations for tomorrow? Yes, it is. But use your common sense. For when all is said and done, one cannot control what will happen in life, neither next hour or next day or next year. I have long ago decided to live sensibly and wisely, and take care of "right now".

That means "right now" I need to get out of this chair and take care of today's tasks. I'm feeling good and well today. I have many things to do today. And I am glad for "today". I'll leave "tomorrow" in God's hands until it becomes "today".

Today's verse? Matthew 6:34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mystery Girl Has Her Debut! And What a Debut This Is!

The mysterious "Sock Girl" is making her first public debut. (You can click the images for a closer view.) Mind you, Sock Girl thinks she is quite lovely, so if you must leave a comment, please do not disabuse her of her self-worth. Remember that it is better to be kind than to be sorry. (Besides which, Scripture says the tongue speaks from the heart, and if you make fun of her, we will know exactly what your heart is like!)

Having warned you not to hurt her feelings I am certain you will use none but the kindest of words. However, I will say a few things myself and hope that Sock Girl does not read my blog. I try to keep her away from the computer, and besides, she doesn't even know I have a blog.

As you can see, Sock Girl comes by her name rightly...her lineage goes back to (you guessed it) socks. I found this pair on sale after last Valentine's Day. I thought they were pretty nifty but I cannot bear to wear socks with elastic, so they lay in my sock drawer until this past month.

It was easy enough forming her body and her arms and legs. A snip here, a tuck there, a few stitches where needed. I stuffed her with batting and added buttons for eyes. But that wasn't enough, Oh, No! Sock Girl had different ideas.

I thought Sock Girl should remain a simple girl, but, No! She insisted on a little razzle-dazzle and as much as I tried to talk to her about "inner beauty" versus the exterior, she still went for all the frills. Glitzy metallic eyelashes. Earrings. Necklace. And the ever-dramatic crazy eyes! She has spent a bundle on teeth whiteners as you can see. I should be so teeth should be so straight!

Sock Girl is a little weird. I admit it. And You Know It. But please don't tell her. She'll find out soon the first time she looks into a mirror.

On the other hand, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And perhaps she beholds beauty in a different manner than the rest of us.

Once Upon a Time in a Classroom of Thirty

Once upon a time I was a single, divorced mother of a young teen daughter, working a 40-hour week and attending night school full time. I was concerned that I might need to move to another location and if I moved, I was concerned that I might not find a job that would support the two of us. Hence the night school.

Twice a week I left work early, took a 30-minute nap, then headed south 65 miles to the campus, attended two 2.5 hour classes back to back, then drove home, arriving there at just ten minutes past midnight. It was hard...working 40 hours...being a Mom...studying intensely for the classwork. Ours was a compressed schedule, meaning we completed two college classes every 8 weeks. Tough economically (tuition $$$$$$ spelled with a capital $) and tough mentally and physically.

But that's where I was 22 years ago. Sitting in a business class that was driving me bohnkers. Here are my notes for that will see why this was not my favorite class.

My notes of Feb 18, 1987, 9:20 PM
Topic - Steelworkers Trilogy & Arbitration

The class has bogged down in questions re: the issue of arbitration clauses in union-management disputes.

I look around the room. Craig, sitting in front of me, is doodling flowers on his notes. Kim (the blonde one) is seated with both feet extended in front of her propped on the desk there. She's looking around the room rather confusedly. The dark-haired Kim is rubbing her eyes. Craig draws stems on his flowers. Connie, who seems to be suffering burn-out (aren't we all), is asking pointed questions in an obnoxious manner. Bill, a rather even-tempered, intelligent and likeable fellow points out two directly contradictory statements in one paragraph. He's right. They are contradictory. The whole book is contradictory.

Everyone is tired. The guy who works in an emergency room at a trauma center somewhere is tired tonight. He's chewing his fingernails. Dan is yawning and holding his head in his hands. Everyone appears to be taking notes. I wonder if they, like me, are writing something totally useless for studying for our final. This guy makes things so confusing.

We take a break.

Back from break. Probably six have gone home and not returned. Twenty-three remain.

The instructor, Mr. Say, makes a point re: arbitration and authority of the court in a given situation. The guy to the left questions in paraphrase. Say restates. Still not clear. "If you have problems with the paragraph, reading outside of class will not help." Huh? Why, then, are we reading the book?

Say, "Granted, it is technical; it is detailed. You can't really go outside of it and have a general gloss over as to what it means. There is going to be something re: the effects of the trilogy on the exam. Bear with it and hash it through. Any questions?"

There are no questions. I have been sleepy in other classes other nights but I am more tired this PM than any other night here. We've spent two hours now on four pages. The test we take Wednesday will cover four chapters of nearly 100 pages. Progress is slow.

Bill, the intelligent one, left during break. So did Craig, the flower doodler. I see other empty seats. I can't remember the faces. Jim left. The custodian from Woodbine asks a question.

I'm not listening. The least I could do is spend this time reading the material except it is difficult to concentrate. At least this way, half-listening, I pick up a point here and there.

Say says, "If you read it later and it still presents a problem, ask. There is going to be a question on the trilogy case."

My thought is that we're spending a lot of time on one 3-point question.

Mark with the moustache looks as if he's napping. Wish I were.

To sum up: I succeeded in completing my courses and obtaining a BA in business. Never had to apply for another job as I was able to stay where I was. Still..all that hard work was good for me. I had a sense of satisfaction in completing the classes and spending time in the classroom probably went a long ways towards keeping me out of mischief. Busy hands and busy mind don't have a lot of time to get into trouble elsewhere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

William and Jake and All the Others

I need to leave the house inside the hour. We're headed to Omaha for my next session of "chemo". My "real" chemo (carbo/taxel) is completed. But I'm on a clinical trial and receive an infusion via my power port of a third drug (or a placebo) every three weeks until June 2010. So we need to leave soon for the clinic.

But today is Veteran's Day. Every year I think I have a greater appreciation for our Veterans than I did the year before. Maybe it's because I'm getting older. Maybe it's because I fear the younger generation doesn't always understand or appreciate the lives (and deaths) of so many of our loved ones in WWI and WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars of the Middle East, and other times and other places where they were asked to go into harm's way.

I don't have time to write a long post and so I will refer you to the following.

You can read about my husband's great-uncle here. In October 1917 William Henry Kuckku left Emmett, Idaho for army camp where he spent four weeks (that's 4 WEEKS) training before being shipped overseas. He died in March 1918 in France at the Battle of Cantigny during WWI.

My Uncle Jake served in Europe during WWII. He came home after the war but was recalled into the service during the Korean War where he was wounded by a rifle bullet to the chest. You can read a tiny bit about his life here. His wound paralyzed him from the chest down and the only memories I have of him are of him in a wheelchair. He was the sweetest man, kind, gentle, laughing. A couple times he drove non-stop from California to our farm in Iowa to visit. This gave him sores on his hip bones and he spent the time flat on his back on the sofa so the skin could heal before heading back to California. Uncle Jake died young because of the complications of the paralysis.

My brother served as part of a helicopter crew aboard the USS Kearsarge during the Vietnam War, coming home after completing his 4-year enlistment. He still buddies around with his friend, Sam, a classmate who enlisted with him. The two are a couple of clowns.

Another brother spent four years in the Air Force, serving stateside. My hubby put in time in the Air Force in Korea.

Currently I have a niece (and her husband) and a nephew in the service, all having served overseas in Iraq and Korea.

This post is not witty, nor wise, nor anything of great literary value (perhaps none of my posts are any of that!). But I just wanted to recognize our servicemen today. Those who have gone before, those who did not come home, those who Did come home, those who still serve.

God bless you all. And the Moms that love you.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Of Which We Admire Maru the Cat

I have become enamored of Maru the Cat who has his own blog here. Maru is Japanese and speaks English only haltingly. I wish he would come visit at my house.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunlight at the Curb

Yesterday I stood in the sunlight at the curb, saying a last few words to a friend after a pleasant hour's visit at her dining room table in the City (the nearby City). When I call her "friend", I almost feel as if I should capitalize the word. Friend. She's my Friend.

Each one of us has numerous friends around us...people whose circle of life overlaps with our own personal circle. People with whom we may work, play, volunteer, worship, or even email. People we see daily and people we have never seen (the email buddies). Some friends are "friends". Some are "Friends".

Let's go back nearly 25 years when this Friend and I went through some hard times together. She lived two houses down from me and her daughter and my daughter were two skinny little kids who spent every possible moment together, building blanket tents in the backyard, riding their bikes around town, and once, wading through floodwater downtown after an unexpected 10-inch rain. Her daughter still lives nearby. My daughter has moved on to the City, the Big City, which means a five-hour drive when she visits us or we visit her. I'm thankful it's not a ten-hour drive.

My Friend's husband was a louse. Worse than a louse. A scruvy, cruddy, rotten shell of a man who later spent some time in prison and returned, unreformed and unchanged. He's still scurvy and rotten. In my own marriage I had suddenly discovered that my then-husband was no better. Worse. Rottenly worse. He, too, should have spent time in prison. A long time in prison. He's dead now. 'Nuff said.

So my Friend and I both left, taking our respective kids, moving into new lodgings. She found a small house across town, which in our little town wasn't very far, a matter of a few blocks. My daughter and I moved into an upper floor apartment a few blocks in the other direction. Regardless of our shared lack-of-wisdom, we both loved our kids more than anything. We loved our kids. Neither one of us was very old, not as wise as we should have been, but doing the best we knew how under the circumstances.

For some time after the "Leaving", we were often together. We were both going through the same fire and we often sat at the kitchen table (hers or mine) sharing what was happening in our lives, chattering on and on. Sometimes crying. Sometimes laughing. Sometimes quiet.

Life went on. Our children grew up. I retired. She moved to the City and continues to work. We seldom see each other anymore.

But yesterday, while in the City on another errand, I called my Friend and asked if she had any coffee. She responded with, "I'll make a fresh pot." It doesn't make any difference if I haven't seen my Friend for years ...we start up our conversation as easily as if we saw each other only yesterday. We talk about our lives, past and present, and we laugh. We laugh a lot. And we are grateful that we are where we are today, and not where we were way back then. We still love our kids and we talk about them.

Not many people know my Friend as well as I do. She is awkward in her speech and mannerisms. While she is good at her job, working in a large office, her relational skills are somewhat stilted. I know her co-workers do not see the Friend that I see. I know that they think she is "different". And they don't appreciate her good qualities. They see only her deficiencies and lacks. They don't see "Friend".

My Friend believes in God. She understands the Gospel. But she doesn't go to church. She's afraid to go to church. When she left her scurvy, cruddy, rotten husband the "church" counseled her to reconcile with him. She couldn't see how they could do that, to require her to stay with this man who destroyed everything he touched. But we talked about that. And I mentioned a local church that I feel is doctrinally sound, telling her that if she ever decides to go, to call me. And I'll walk in with her. My Friend needs people who will love her.

Before I get up to leave, she showed me around her little house in the City where she lives by herself. It's a nice little house with a nice little backyard. Room enough for her, two dogs, and a cat. An open attic where her youngest son stayed before he was arrested for drugs and went to prison. (My friend's life has lots of sad stories.) A small basement. Plenty of room. Then she walked me to the curb where my car was parked and we stood in the autumn sunshine filtering through the leaves of the tree across the street. We stood there and talked some more. It was a good moment.

My Friend is a good friend. She likes me no matter what. In spite of my flaws and sins and stupidity at times. And I like her, in spite of the same.

Proverbs 18:24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A Musing from an old Journal entry:

Sometimes our eyes are focused too close to the "here and now". We forget about the "will be".

God sees us as we will be. In other words, He sees us as already having attained that which we will attain when we leave this earth. Be patient with me as I ramble on.

There are always people that rub us the wrong way. We struggle constantly in our dealings with other people...imperfect people (as are we). Our own personality flaws cause us to dislike (or at least feel uncomfortable with) certain people. They're imperfect. We're imperfect. It's natural that we occasionally clash. Sometimes we simply have a difficult time understanding others who are in the midst of dealing with the pains that life has dealt them. I don't think I'm unique in relational difficulties. I think we all experience this. Daily.

Several years ago I was sitting in church. I looked around at the faces of those who had come to church that morning. I realized that their faces were etched with the experience of their years, all those losses, all those struggles, all those times when life's promises fell short.

None of us gets through life without being buffeted, punched, brought low by illness or death of a loved one, by some tragic circumstance, or even by the steady grind of daily life. It is our human lot. And that morning, as I looked around, the faces of my friends reflected the blows that life had dealt them. Their faces had become what they had experienced.

And then the Lord showed me their faces as they will appear in heaven, faces that will be clear and clean. Clear of anger, sorrow, frustration, loss. Clear of tears and disease and abuse. Clean faces. Full of joy. In my mind's eye they looked so beautiful!

I realized that's how God sees us and that's how we will be.

So that brings me to today's Scripture:
Revelation 21:4 "...and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

It's About Time! or Thankfully, It's Finally Done!

shirt quiltIt took me two years to make this quilt...not that I worked on it full-time. Quilting has evolved from a "passion" with me to "handwork to pick up now and then".

I pieced this quilt on my trusty Singer 403, circa 1960, about a year and a half ago. In the closet, high on a shelf, sat several batts. One of those was a Hobbs wool batt that I had been yearning for years to try. I'd heard so many comments that for hand quilting it "quilts like butter". I'd previously used Hobb's Heirloom 80/20 as well as Dream Cotton's "Request", both of which hand quilt very nicely. But I had a yen to try the wool. So I purchased the wool batt...about ten years ago and there it sat. On the shelf. Unused for ten years. (call me a procrastinator)

Well! Over a year ago I layered my latest shirt quilt using the wool batt. For a backing I used a name brandshirt quilt a cotton sheet that I found at Younkers for 75 percent off. Ralph Lauren brand??? Can't remember. But it was 100 percent cotton (which I desired) and it was large enough that I would not have to stitch together smaller fabrics to make a piece large enough for a backing. And I began hand quilting using a saucer, a cereal bowl and a cup from my dinnerware for the "templates".

This poor quilt has had numerous hiccups along the way. Last January I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Talk about a roller coast of an adventure...not as exciting, of course, but certainly a lot of ups and downs. Needless to say, I had no motivation to quilt. Hah! My preferred activity was lying on the sofa, staring at the ceiling, thinking I really should get up and do SomeThing! Then rolling over to the other end of the sofa, and staring some more. It's easy to look back on it now and think, "It wasn't so bad!" But it was. Not as bad as some have it, but bad. And before I (and you) get maudlin, I want to add that all went well, I finished cheshirt quilt bmo in July, and I feel better now than I did a year ago before my diagnosis. God grant me that this continues.

Another hiccup was that, forgetting that my dishes were my templates, I gave away that particular set of dishes and put my old set back in the cupboard. The next day I went to trace the quilting design on another area of the quilt and remembered that my templates now resided next door! Probably on Joyce's breakfast table. Do you think I went next door and asked for a plate, a soup bowl and a cup? No, I couldn't bear to confess and instead dug around in the cupboard until I found dishes that were "close" in size. Betcha can't tell by looking at the quilt. (big smile)

Aw, got to wandering there. I started to say that during those months of chemo I picked up this quilt a couple times and forced myself to quilt a block or two. But progress was slow. Then in August, after treatment was done, I began quilting in earnest again and I finished the binding just yesterday! It's a largish sofa size nap quilt.

I told a friend yesterday I have no inclination to make another quilt. Instead of quilt pox I now have quilt lethargy (even though I myself am not lethargic). But that's not quite true. I'd love to recreate my Y2K quilt in smaller form. (You can see my Y2K quilt here.) My DD loves that quilt and would like to hang it in her home. But the thing is huge! About 86x96 inches! And she doesn't have a wall large enough for an appropriate display! (Well, she Does have a wall large enough but we haven't figured out how to climb high enough to hang the thing!) So I'd like to recreate it using 2-inch squares instead of 2.5 inch pieces. I have a rubbermaid box full of 2.5 inch fabs, cut from my stash long ago. I'd have to trim them down and I'd like to sew them on my treadle which was fondly named Elizabeth Redeye by its previous owner.

I've had my coffee this morning, but not yet my oatmeal. Coffee makes me jabber. Whether in your ear or on this blog. The oatmeal is in the microwave...time to eat. And if you want to check out my WhiteStone blog (separate from the WWQP-BB, click here. Love to see you there.

P.S. Yes, the wool batt was a pleasure to handquilt. Even though the shirt fabrics have a very high thread count in comparison to shop fabrics, I was still able to needle fairly easily. With Q shop fabric, I know it would have stitched smoother still. Now I need to make a label with care instructions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

To Be Curly or Not To Be Curly, That Is The Question

Dear blog friends: Yiddle's comment to this post is so funny that I have to post them here for ease of read. With answers like hers, I'm thinking I should be asking her a lot more questions!!

Things I've wondered this week.

1. Why is that little yellow butterfly still hanging around my front yard on the 1st of November? Shouldn't this critter be on its way to someplace warm? He missed the senior bus tour to Orlando.

2.If Halloween candy is on sale at Wallymart, does that mean it is half-calorie as well? Only if you share half with me.

3. Is it true, as my granddaughter says, that candy eaten on Fridays has NO calories? Only if you give it ALL to me.

4. Why has my hair suddenly gone curly (after my bout with chemo), and will it eventually straighten out again? family curse, and only if you don't want it to.

5. Can I safely wash a jacket that is 100 percent polyester if its label says "dry clean only"? Depends upon how much the jacket means to you. Also see #6.

6. What kind of crafty project can I make with a piece of lime-green suede leather? gnome shoes. if you leave them out with a nice note the gnome will take care of #5 for you.

7. Did I tell Roger the Handyman to make the cupboard doors on our new bathroom vanity flat? Or did I request a framed surface? the gnome was probably eavesdropping on your conversation. if you leave out some half price halloween candy and a chalkboard he may answer that question too.