Thursday Thoughts

And Use Baking Soda to Polish Your Silver
Following my blog post about slime, yesterday I got a text message from almost-10-year-old Kaiya. Nana, it said. I have a solution to your chair. I heard you can remove slime from cloth or clothes with vinegar. Wipe it on. It should be at least a little better. Her text message made me laugh. First of all, I laughed at the use of her phrase “I heard… .” I’m guessing she heard it from her mother as she tried to get slime out of the sofa. But second, it sounded so much like something I would have read years ago in the Rocky Mountain News in the Hints from Heloise column. It appears from Wikipedia that Heloise is still alive. Should she be considering retirement, perhaps Kaiya could take over her column: Kleaning Tips from Kaiya….Tomato Takeover
I mentioned last week that I am getting an abundant crop of tomatoes. So many, in fact, that I’m having trouble keeping up. Finally yesterday I decided that I would can a few pints of tomatoes, something I haven’t done for a number of years. Bec helped me peel the tomatoes, and I only got a couple of pints, but it is better than throwing them away…..

You Think She’d Know Her Colors By Now
As I mentioned, Cole helps me harvest my tomatoes. The other day he was picking the red tomatoes. I pointed out a few more, and they apparently weren’t ripe enough for his taste. “Nana,” he said, “those tomatoes aren’t red, they’re orange.” As my sisters always say, our grandkids keep us honest.

Birthdays
August is my month for birthdays. Tuesday Dagny turned 7. August 17 Micah turns 6. August 22 Kaiya turns 10. And Court celebrated his birthday yesterday. He was born 8-8-80, a date that will go down in history as one of my best days ever. I will never forget that moment when my doctor put him in my arms after hours of labor. I looked down at him and he felt like a stranger. Then I could see both his father and me in his features, and he was suddenly ALL MINE. It was nice of him to make it such an easy date to remember, and such an easy year to assist me in keeping track of his age. I guess I had something to do with the year……

Two of my August birthdays.

Birthday Love
The kids stayed with Bill and me while their mom and dad had a birthday dinner downtown. I took them home around 8, just as their parents were pulling into the driveway. They were all excited to see their daddy, who had been out of the house by time they woke up. They helped him open his presents, and then gave him the best gift of all…..

Ciao.

Pickling Fun

There’s an old schtick that goes something like First prize is a week in Cleveland; second prize is two weeks in Cleveland. I’m not anti-Cleveland, by the way. It’s the first city that came to mind when I tried to think of places people aren’t yearning to visit. I’m over-justifying my use of Cleveland because you never know what’s going to offend people these days.

Or, the other old joke where the plumber says something like The price to fix your toilet is $100; if the homeowner helps, the price is $200. 

Okay, I’ll stop with the corny jokes. Badda bing, badda boom.

At any rate, the above-mentioned feeble attempts at humor came to mind on Monday when Kaiya and Mylee set out to help me make pickles. My annual pickle-making activity that normally takes about 20 minutes of preparation and another 20 minutes of processing took a bit longer, but was considerably more fun.

My grandkids — down to the very last one — are big fans of pickles. Big. Fans. If you think I’m kidding, I will tell you that I opened a pint jar of pickles that I had made earlier this summer, and Cole ate the entire jar by himself. The fact that the pickles were quite spicy didn’t deter him in the least. The whole jar. I’m attributing my grands’ love of pickles to the fact that every last one of them is of Polish ancestry. Also, I make really good pickles.

I’ve mentioned that I put up pickles nearly every year. I make cucumber pickles, but I also pickle green beans, because BLOODY MARYS. The other day I went to my favorite farm store and there were plenty of pickling cukes, but also a whole bin of homegrown green beans. On the floor next to the vegetables was a big jar of beautiful dill…..

This is a bouquet of dill that Jen gave me last year. Nothing is more beautiful than fresh herbs.

It was obvious. Time to make more pickles. And time to teach my granddaughters how to make pickles. (I would also happily teach any of my grandsons, but Cole was the only one around and his attention span — being 4 years old — is about the length of that of a chicken. He played with Play Doh while the three of us worked)…..

Hot jars out of the oven. Drop in a clove of garlic, a two-finger pinch of red pepper flakes, a three-finger pinch of black peppercorns, and some dill. Insert the cut-up cucumbers (cutting done courtesy of Kaiya) into the jars, and let Nana add the hot vinegar mixture. Along the way, I explained the process, emphasizing the need for cleanliness and what to do to ensure that a jar achieves the necessary vacuum.

“Nana,” asked Mylee. “Can you pickle other vegetables besides cucumbers?” I explained about dilly beans and pickled okra and yellow squash and zucchini.

Alas, by the time we finished the cucumbers, time had run out. And so had our energy. Still, while I have no idea if either of them will ever have any interest in making and canning pickles, I wanted them to see how it’s done. It’s my hope that one of their many memories of their Nana Kris will be helping me in the kitchen, and in particular, making pickles……

As an aside, last year Dagny and Maggie Faith helped me make pickles. As they prepared to leave, I handed a jar to Dagny, forgetting that they had ridden their bikes over to our house.

“Do you want to put it in your bike bag?” I asked Dagny. Nope, she would carry it in her hand. “I’m trying to learn to ride without hands anyway Nana.” Well, of course you are.

She made it almost to the curb before it dropped on the cement.

By the way, lest I fool myself that I do a better job of pickling when the grands aren’t helping, I must remind myself that last year, I completely forgot to add dill to my dill pickles.

Slimed

I’ve written about slime on a number of occasions. Just about every time Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole come for the day, slime happens. Dagny (who, by the way, turns 12 today) is a slime connoisseur as well.  The purpose of slime rather eludes me. Play Doh I understand. I have seen my grandkids make amazingly intricate replicas of Play Doh food, or realistic-looking superheroes out of Play Doh. But slime? You just keep kneading it. Stress relief, according to Dagny and Kaiya.

I’ve taken to doing what I guess many parents and/or grandparents are now doing, that being buying sparkly Elmer’s glitter glue in bulk, hoarding contact lens solution even though I wear glasses, and stocking up on plastic storage containers from the dollar store in which to store the slime.

The popularity of slime, my friends, is an example of one of the most brilliant marketing strategies since Ray Kroc began hawking lukewarm hamburgers and a cheap plastic toy in cardboard boxes to kids and calling them Happy Meals. Elmer’s Glue must be making a veritable FORTUNE these days from kids making slime. It used to be that Elmer’s Glue’s success depended on parents and teachers buying tiny little bottles of glue to use to paste stars and half moons and suns onto construction paper. You have to sell a lot of little bottles of glue at fifty cents each to pay your CEO the big bucks.

Now, however, Elmer’s Glue is sold in gallon bottles at twenty-five bucks a bottle. There is Elmer’s glitter glue and Elmer’s colored glue and Elmer’s glow-in-the-dark glue. And every time one child in America makes a batch of slime, an entire bottle of one of these types of glue is used, making Mom or Dad or Nana go out and buy a new bottle (or two).

So, there I am, once every couple of weeks, filling my grocery basket with the makings for slime. I stand in line behind other weary-looking patrons with carts full of glue and Borax or contact lens solution. In an effort to maintain some control, I actually have purchased special containers to hold my slime supplies. My house has a lingering smell of boric acid.

Having said all of this, I will tell you that I have never understood why parents are so fed up with slime. It seems harmless, if also useless. Kaiya can make it in her sleep. Both Mylee and Cole feign interest, but they can’t even fake interest after about 10 minutes. Kaiya, on the other hand, will spend hours making it, and then stretching it and poking it pulling it and blowing bubbles in it and cracking and popping it. But what’s the harm in that?…..

Well, I was finally initiated into the I-Hate-Slime Club yesterday, when a tub of newly-made slime landed on my cloth kitchen chairs. Because you know what? Slime on upholstery doesn’t go away. It comes off of wooden and plastic tables and bowls and spoons. But slime on cloth — like diamonds — is forever…..

Bill did the best he could, but He-Who-Can-Get-Anything-Out-Of-Anything finally said, “Oh well, it think we can get new covers from IKEA…..

I have a great idea for Elmer’s Glue. It’s time they start selling Elmer’s Foolproof Slime Remover For Fabric. Shrink-wrapped with Elmer’s Glue.

Small World is More Than Just a Disney Ride

My teeny-tiny unimportant blog generally gets between 60 and 90 hits a day from somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 or 50 viewers. The discrepancy between these two numbers is because my sisters and my brother look at the blog a few times throughout the day, thereby increasing my hits. While these numbers aren’t remarkable, they are significant in that I started with maybe 10 hits a day, all from my family. They had to read it; I tested them!

Some really fun things have come out of this blog. For instance, I wrote a blog post in which I declared I was going to develop a taste for whiskey given that it looks so good when Frank Reagan, patriarch of Blue Bloods, drinks it along with his daughter Erin. I was subsequently contacted via my Nana’s Whimsies email address by a total stranger with whom I carried on a fairly significant back and forth email conversation regarding whiskey and Frank Reagan. We haven’t been in touch since. For a few years, I had a regular reader from Connecticut — a woman whom I had never met. When someone comments regularly, you begin to feel like friends. She has stopped commenting, and because her last comments made mention of being ill, I’m kind of heavy of heart. I pray for her every day.

Because of my blog, I have become more connected to old friends and some of my cousins who read my blog and might even comment, making me feel closer to them. I get hits from all over the world. Saturday, I even had a hit from Botswana. I love to picture a cattle herder out in the wilderness of Africa reading my blog. I’m not sure where I think he or she got the internet connection, but hey! it’s my imaginary story.

For a long time, the blog post that received the most hits was one that I wrote about a woman with whom I’m acquainted who donated a kidney to a friend. That record — over 200 hits — has stood for a long time. It held first place until a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about friends of ours whose son-in-law owns Bear Creek Distillery. While donating a kidney is important, what can I say? MAKING WHISKEY! Duh. That blog post has gotten significantly more hits than the kidney donation. I’m not sure if that fact has any social significance, but it is what it is.

Saturday evening, I was notified by a friendly ding from my phone of a new comment on that particular blog post. It came from someone with the same last name as my maiden name. From the comment, I learned that I have a relative living in Denver that, prior to this blog post, I never knew existed. The comment came from her father, who informed me that his grandfather and mine were brothers. I have unsuccessfully tried to figure out what that makes us. And to add even more confusion to the mix, what relationship does that make his daughter — the woman who lives here in Denver — to me? Does anyone have an abacus I can borrow?

It doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, blood is blood. My cousin-the-commenter said he has a vivid recollection of being in my father’s bakery. In fact, he recalls getting his high school graduation cake from Gloor’s bakery, and even remembers Mom handing the cake to him. And even more important, he noted that his grandfather made homemade wine just as did mine. And he admitted that it was probably lucky they both didn’t quit their day jobs to become vinters.

There’s a concept known as six degrees of separation. The theory is that all humans are six or fewer steps away from each other. In other words, the “friend of a friend” idea will connect one person to any other in six steps or fewer. I’m no sociologist, so I can’t comment on the reliability of this theory. Still, as Walt Disney said, “It’s a small world after all.”

Hey Cousin Mindy. Let’s have coffee!

Saturday Smile: Grandson Love

This week was a good one when it came to summer visitors. Not only did I get a visit from two of my closest friends-since-childhood, but my sister Bec arrived on Wednesday for her annual summer visit. Bill’s daughter Heather also visited this week along with her youngest child, nearly-6-year-old Micah. We obviously don’t get a chance to see our Vermont grandkids as often as the others, so it’s wonderful when we have the opportunity to be together. If you doubt me, just take a look at this photo…..

Those two are sharing some kind of a laugh. That’s what made me smile this week.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Caroline: Little House, Revisited

I will confess to you — and is my face red to do so! — that I have never read a single Little House on the Prairie book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did watch the television program, but frankly not religiously. Still, I like All Things Westernso when I learned about Caroline: Little House, Revisited, a new novel by Sarah Miller, I was all in.

The novel was authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, the first knock-off to earn this honor. Caroline: Little House, Revisited tells the familiar story of the Ingalls’ journey from their home in Wisconsin to the Indian territories of Kansas. But, rather than telling it from the perspective of Laura, this story is told from the perspective of Caroline — Ma, as she is known to most of us.

In this novel, we are told about the perils facing the family on their journey, and also as they made their new life in the unfamiliar Indian territory in Kansas. Caroline, it would seem, is the glue that held the family together. She is not fearless — far from it, in fact. Her new life terrifies her, but she works endlessly and uncomplainingly, to keep her family fed and clothed and safe from all kinds of dangers.

The novel provides a picture of life in the 1870s in unsettled middle America. It provides a good look at what it must have been like to move, uninvited, into what had been Indian land — both from the settlers viewpoints and the viewpoints of the Indians. The story isn’t presented as black and white, but rather, gray.

The book shows the relationship between Charles and Caroline, and, if accurate, they were truly uncharacteristically in love. It confirms the books’ and television show’s assertion that Laura was a tomboy and extremely close to her father. It demonstrates the absolute reliance upon neighbors, whether you liked them or not.

Man, it was hard work being a woman in the pioneer days of unsettled territories. While I have always looked with some envy on pioneer women, this book makes me once again realize that I would never have made it. I am no Caroline Ingalls.

I loved this book and recommend it highly.

Here is a link to the book.

Thursday Thoughts

Tomato, Tomahto
In mid-May, I planted two tomato plants — a Roma tomato and a grape tomato. I used a new system that had been recommended by a friend — the Earthbox Garden Kit. This is what it looked like in May…..

This is what it looks like now…..

The tomatoes grew like crazy, and I have never had plants produce so much fruit. I can scarcely keep up with harvesting, much less eating. We eat lots of lettuce salads with tomatoes. I slice up one of the Roma tomatoes every day for Bill’s sandwich. I love my caprese salad with grape tomatoes and basil, also from my garden. Last night this is what we had for dinner…..

…..using this recipe.

Helping Hands
Bec used to tell me that caring for her garden vegetables wasn’t an issue for her; instead, she had trouble keeping up with the harvesting. That’s because she didn’t have a helper like this one…..

Cole has gotten very good at remembering that he can only pick the tomatoes that are red! Or at least pink.

Country Store
Our church is having its annual Parish Festival in a couple of weeks. For the first time ever, the festival will include a brat and beer garden. Perhaps it has something to do with our new young pastor. Just sayin…. At any rate, it also — for the first time ever — will include a country store with the proceeds benefiting some appropriate organization. They have been pleading with parishioners to provide some sort of homemade item(s). I have been been crocheting like crazy, and have managed to complete an afghan, several sets of three each dishcloths, two children’s stocking caps (which I, personally, think are simply adorable), a baby sleep sack, and a pretty pillow. I simply love having a purpose for my crocheted items…..

Hmmmm. Maybe I should contribute a couple of jars of Dee’s Bees honey.

Ciao!