"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."
Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, December 26, 2010

RELAX, IT'S THE HOLIDAYS

This year, we worked to make the holidays as relaxing as we could.  With my energy waning, and the kids on the run all the time with their college commitments, this family needed some down time together, and I think we succeeded in that goal.  

On Christmas Eve, it was family movie night after decorating the gingerbread house.  

Notice that Paul has gotten stuck with a pair of ugly Xmas Eve PJ's exactly like Dave's.  Anna also got an ugly pair but refused to wear the top, instead donning a sweatshirt.  

Reesie had trouble relaxing, with trying to get at the gingerbread house and all.  She did finally settle down in front of the pellet stove for a good winter's nap, but was on high alert for quite a while.  She has grown into a beautiful, interesting cat. 
  

TRADITION

For more years than I can remember, we have built a gingerbread house for the holidays.  There were years where it was a group activity, with the kids' friends joining in, and other times it was an activity for just the 4 of us.  

It is now a family Christmas Eve activity.  We go to church, out to dinner, and then home to decorate the House.  

First, though, one must build the house.  I roll and bake the gingerbread pieces a few days ahead and let them sit and get good and hard before construction begins.  

Anna and I built the house on the evening before Christmas Eve.  We use Royal Icing as the cement.                                             


After 24 hours, it is ready to decorate.  Dave, in his ugly Xmas Eve pj's (a present from me) made yet another batch of Royal Icing.  
Paul, Anna and I arranged and sampled the decorations. 
  And, then we all decorated our house.  


 Once we add ourselves to the yard, then the house is complete

LET'S MAKE A PIE

I'm going to brag and say that I turn out a really fabulous pie.  This is only because my late mother-in-law, Helen, grabbed me by the short hairs and dragged me into the kitchen and didn't let me out until my abilities in the kitchen approached those of the women of Western Pennsylvania.  

Over the past couple of years, I've been passing these lessons learned down to our son, Paul, and he is one heck of a cookie baker and is starting to turn out amazing pies also.  

This year, husband Dave wanted some cooking lessons, so Paul took charge in the kitchen to teach Dad how to make a Lemon Meringue Pie.  

Here they are, minus Dave's head... sorry about that, Dave.  

 Here is Paul making the perfect pie shell.  I know for sure that Helen was looking down from Heaven, a big smile on her face. 
 And, here's the final product
 Beautiful and delicious.  The meringue was exquisite!  The filing amazing!  It did not set up as well as we would have liked, and next time I think we'll choose a recipe with a bit more corn starch.  

When I am in the kitchen, I hear voices.  Helen is always in the kitchen with me, but especially at holiday time when I am working with the recipes she handed down to me.  She is looking over my shoulder, urging me to knead a dough for just a bit longer, get it smoother!  Add a bit more butter and salt, life is short and it is Christmas!  Some day I hope that when Paul and Anna are working in a kitchen without me, they will also hear voices, mine and Helen's, coaching them along. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MEMORIES

One of the very distinct memories from my childhood is of my father pulling molasses taffy for the holidays.  In my memories, he was greased with butter from his fingertips to his elbows, his arms were built like Hercules', and the rope of taffy was about 15" in diameter.  And, of course, the taffy tasted like a piece of Heaven.  

In the journey through my Mom's small cookbooks, I came across this:
 It is the book my father used for making the taffy and also for molasses popcorn balls.  Molasses is one of the staples that sustained my dad and his family when they were hungry during the Great Depression.  You would think, then, that molasses would have been something he would have liked to forget and never touch again.  Not so.  For his entire life, he regularly enjoyed molasses, and one of his favorite snacks was fresh bread dipped in molasses.  I don't know about my siblings, but it is a snack I often indulge in myself.  I love molasses.  

David and Paul decided to build us some new memories and have a taffy pull.  With much coaching from brother in law Mike over the phone, they got it cooked to a hard ball and started pulling
 and pulling
  And, as if they had been doing this for years, they knew right when to stop pulling, form a rope, and start cutting before it was too late
Then it was time to wrap those wonderful tooth-pulling nuggets of joy.  

Now these two wonderful men thought they were "just" pulling taffy, but what they were doing was pulling out my memories for me, and at the same time building new ones. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LET'S GET COOKING

The other day I was looking through some of my Mom's small cookbooks and came across this one, from the Quaker Oats Company

 I recognized many of the cookie recipes and plan to get to work on those before too long.  I came across a recipe that was so ridiculous and interesting, I just had to try it.  

It's a meatloaf frosted with mashed potatoes.  
Here's my sous chef Paul frosting the baked meatloaf.  We then popped it under the broiler for 6 minutes or so, and it browned and crisped the outside of the potatoes a bit. 
 We cut into it and here's what it looked like, sumptuous!!  Could I have possibly have packed more calories into a loaf?  
 We dined and were awed at the combination of comfort foods, and certainly enjoyed this very bizarre idea.  Although enjoyable, I'm thinking it's not something to be put on the weekly menu. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A PINWHEEL QUIILT

There are so many projects (like Diagonal Madness) that I've put to the side until "after the holidays," I felt totally driven to finish the quilt I'm making for the great granddaughter of a cousin in PA.  And, in spite of a million Christmas things that need to get done, today I finished it.  

I'm just tickled pink (or fuschia) by this quilt.  In an earlier post I had issued a plea for help in arranging the fabrics in the design, and my sister had come through with a great design for the 6 fabrics I had laid out.  But, once I got working, I could see that 6 fabrics were too many and so spent a lot of time on the choice and placement of the fabrics.  I love it.  I'll get a back and label ready and bring it to Jan to quilt and she will make it shine even more. 
 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TOWARDS ALL

It's pretty difficult to imagine anything more peaceful than this


We rescued our dear Reesie kitten from Cape Ann Animal AidShe was born in a litter of kittens from a rescued stray.  That pregnant stray was placed in one of Cape Ann's foster homes, and it was there the litter was born.  Because there were a number of dogs in that home, these kittens, and especially Reesie, were imprinted very early with a canine presence and so became perfect kittens for homes with dogs.  She and our Cassy dog, from Schnauzer Paws Rescue, have formed an amazing friendship and alliance.  

At this time of the year, there are so many in need, I know that.  Every week, I work at a Food Pantry, and there I see a need that grows every day.  Please remember your Food Pantries now and throughout the year.  Pick up a case of cereal and drop it off, once each month.  

And, please remember all of God's creatures, both great and small, now and throughout the year.  Not everyone can rescue an animal, but nearly everyone can afford to buy a bag of dog food for a shelter, or be an "Angel" for an animal in rescue. 

If you are considering adding a pet to your household, please look at your local shelters and rescues first.  Most people don't realize that it's not just cats and dogs, but birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, chickens..... you get the picture, in rescue.  If you are considering adding a pet to your home and are tempted to go to the pet store at the mall, please visit puppymillrescue.orgIf after visiting that site you still feel comfortable buying a puppy at a mall, do so with the knowledge that any papers you are given with the puppy are false (especially those claiming the dog was sired by AKC Champs), that 25% of dogs from puppy mills die within their first year of life and another 25% don't make it past 5 years.  You should also know that the puppy was likely pulled from it's litter by 5 weeks of age, thereby missing some of the most important weeks of it's life, learning social skills from it's mom and siblings.  The rough handling it received in being pulled and transported constitute it's only experience with humans.  

As Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Schnauzer Paws Rescue, well, I certainly will say that if you are considering a Christmas gift to a rescue, please consider us for your holiday donation.  100% of any donations we receive are used towards the rescue, vetting and re-homing of Miniature Schnauzers and Schnauzer mixes.  Every penny of every dollar is used for the dogs.  If not Schnauzer Paws, please remember your local rescues and Shelters.  

Before I get off my soap box, I'll issue a plea that you fight the urge to buy a puppy or kitten as a Christmas present.  Over 50% of the dogs and cats that are given as gifts eventually end up in shelters.  You'll thank me for this advice, believe me!







Sunday, December 12, 2010

A RAINY SUNDAY IN NEW ENGLAND

It is a rainy and raw day here in New England, and we've spent the day relaxing, puttering, and enjoying a pot of chili.  

Some of us relaxed more than others did


That's what a pellet stove will do to you

This spot in front of the stove used to belong to Princess Misty, but since Reesie now weighs twice as much as Misty does, it looks like ownership has changed hands.  

So, poor little Misty, she has to sit on my lap, she looks like it's agreeing with her well enough

 As for Miss Cassy, she's staying out of all of this and sticks with her thick blanket on the couch.  She did rise from that for dinner, but managed to stick her tongue at me as I pointed the camera at her.  I'm sure she was wondering why I was shooting pictures when dinner was due.  

 As you can see, none of this post involves how much progress I'm making in the sewing room.  Not all weeks are productive ones, that's for sure, and I feel distracted right now and can't get myself to sit for very long at the machine.  In spite of that, I am nearly done with the baby quilt and will soon move onto a couple of Christmas presents.  Others are running around mad and wild during the holidays, I'm relaxing... perhaps too much.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

E-MAIL SCAMS

So, today I got one of the e-mail scam letters.  Here it is:

From: Miss Nora Konate
 
 My Dearest,
 
It is my pleasure to contact you for a business venture which am intend to establish in your country. Though I have not met with you before but  I  believe one has to risk confiding in succeed sometimes in life
 
I can confide on you for the brighter future of my life since you are a human being like me. But what i need from you is Truth, Trust And Honest
 
There is this huge amount of Five Million Five Hundred Thousand united states dollars. ($5.500.000.00) which my late Father Deposited for me in the security finance bank here in Abidjan Cote D'ivoire as his next of kin before he died out of sickness
 
Now" am  decided to invest these money in your country or anywhere safe enough for security and political reasons
I want you to help me  to transfer my inheritance  money into your personal account in your country for investment purposes on these areas:
 
1). Telecommunication
 2). the transport industry
 3). Five star hotel
 4). Real Estate
5)  company enterprise
 
If you can be of an assistance to me, i will  be pleased to offer to you 20% Of the total fund.
 
I will be humbly waiting your soonest response.
 
Respectfully yours,
 
Miss Nora Konate
 



Of course, I roll my eyes and hit "delete."  But, wait, if these scams weren't working on some level, somewhere, they wouldn't still be around.  So, probably every 1 million or so and they suck some poor soul in.  And, all too often, it is a person who is not well.  


My father, who raised us to know that "there's a sucker born every minute" and don't let it be you, and "if it sounds too good to be true, then it isn't," etc., etc., was one of the wisest and cheapest people I'll ever know.  In spite of that, in his retirement he got taken BIG TIME by telephone telemarketers.  He was in the early stages of dementia and it affected the part of his brain that controls judgment, reason and money I guess.  It all happened so fast, and that's how these scoundrels run things.  Once they get a fish on the line, they run with it as quickly as they can before a family member figures it all out.  


By the time we got a hold on things, over $50,000 was gone.  And, this was from a man who was living in a home with his wife and who had 4 adult children paying attention to the both of them.  It made me realize if it could happen to my Dad, it can happen to anyone.  


Being the bull dog that I am, I went completely berserk on those telemarketers, contacting the Attorneys General in every state where they were located and harassing them until they relented and returned funds.  As a result of my insanity, major telemarketing rings in California, Utah and Florida were raided and shut down.  I even ended up on TV, being interviewed in our home by a Boston TV Station.  All of this I did with a baby on one hip and a toddler holding onto my pant leg.  I'm not labeled indomitable for nothing.  


I decided to write about this because I am certain that the e-mail I received went out to millions of others, and there is going to be one of the recipients who gets pulled in and victimized.  If you have elderly parents that use the internet, show this to them, explain it to them.  Humans are by nature so trusting, and that is a wonderful thing.  Shame on those who take advantage of our trusting spirits.  


There are so many other stories to put to paper, as this incident was just the beginning of a journey.  My father's dementia worsened quickly and shortly thereafter my mother was struck with Alzheimer's.  Therein began a challenge for my family, as we took care of our parents as best we could.  For me, it coincided with raising our children, who were 6 months and 2.5 years old at the beginning of the journey and 9 and 11 years old at the end.  Often when I reflect on those years, I have no idea how we got through them, but we did, and are undoubtedly better people because of them. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

PROGRESS ON THE BABY QUILT

Now that I got the fabrics all figured out for this baby quilt, I've started rolling on it and progress is fast.  It is set on a diagonal and here's what it looks like:  


I am very pleased with it and am glad I exercised patience when working on the design.  It will end up being 5 pinwheels by 7, with 3 graduated borders that add to the dimension.