Monday, November 28, 2011

For Your Viewing Pleasure

The unseasonably warm temperatures have been doing interesting things to the ice around here. The snow on the ice melts into puddles on the ice, and during the day these puddles look dark and forbidding. But if you add a killer sunset, these pools are transformed into beautiful swatches of reflected sky.

My son, who is not normally a poetical person, described it as resembling a painter's pallet. Each pool is a different color, just like daubs of paint waiting to be transferred to the canvas.

I took a number of shots, but I just can't decide on my favorite, so I uploaded them all. Deal with it.


Thanksgiving was very interesting this year. For one thing, we are in the middle of a heat wave. Temperatures have been up in the 40's almost every day. I'd been planning for a couple of weeks to have a skating party in the afternoon since all the kids would be out of school. I even went to the thrift store and bought a bunch of ice skates.

But alas, it was not to be. Thanksgiving found me wearing a tank top and airing out my house with both doors open. There was still ice, but with a healthy bit of water over the top of it. Not ice that you want to do your first test skate of the season on. A far cry from the highs 5 days before when I was swaddled up to my gills in order to keep warm!

We were planning to have the dinner out at my house, but the morning of my grandpa was too weak to travel. I still had my teeth set on cleaning my house, even if the company wasn't coming, so that's what I did all morning. Along about 3:00 we started to have conversations like, "So, what do you think we should have for dinner?"

The dinner was still good, though it wasn't planned in the military fashion my grandma would have approached it with, back in the day. We all enjoyed each others' company, and isn't that the most important part? Plus, the food was delicious, even if it was a little late to the party.

The dogs certainly didn't mind. They got their own Thanksgiving plates, courtesy of my mom, and their typical character traits were in full array. Jackie hurled herself at her plate and gulped down the food while Finley was still sniffing delicately around for the best first nibble. Jackie does not believe in savoring.

Get ready, set, GO!

Five seconds later. Literally.

So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving day? There are truly too many things to count, but to list just a few of them, I am thankful for friends and family that love each other, for a chance to spend time with them, and for a God that guides me every step of the way (at least the steps that I listen to Him!). I am grateful for a life filled with blessings, even the disguised blessings of trials that help me to grow into the child of God I'm meant to be.

And I'm thankful for purring kittens on my shoulders as I write this. It just doesn't get any better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Have More Cuteness Than You....

Be jealous, people, be jealous.

This evening I picked up two more residents for my kitty half-way house. They are the latest half-siblings of Snickers, Hobbes, and Lazarus Boopsie; yes, their mother managed to cram one more litter in before winter. As a result of being cold-weather babies as opposed to spring or summer litters, these babies are so fuzzy they look like polar bears.

I had cute kittens before I saw these guys. At least, I thought they were cute, but now they are not cute. Their sleek little faces now seem skimpy and spare, and their coats moth-eaten and plain. Poor sweet babies! It's hard to compete with the Shirley Temple of the feline world.

They are taming fast, though they are finding it a little intimidating to go from privileged princesses to one of the teeming masses. Especially the calico; she hides under things and spits at any kitten that pokes its inquiring nose nearby. Soon all six of them will be leaving to go to their new homes (or at least a number that approaches 6). For anyone who might be interested in such wonderful cuteness, I am planning to take them around the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, so you have until then to make up your minds.

What am I? Chopped liver!?!

The Burka of the Plains

The mystery, the allure....

A Pleasant Afternoon Stroll

I arrived back from California to find that winter had savagely attacked fall and torn it limb from limb. To go from 68 degrees to temps in the low 20's in 24 hours was a harsh transition. But not nearly as harsh for me as it was for John! I was at least used to the fall weather; he was still stuck in a warm California haze.

This weekend had the coldest temperatures so far this season. Yesterday afternoon was 3 degrees, feels like minus 7---perfect weather for a stroll. The key to comfort in extreme winter temperatures is in preparation. In the summer, it's "Let me throw on a pair of flip-flops and I'll be right out...". In the winter, it's more like this, "Let me spend the next ten minutes putting on 50 layers, and I'll be right out..."

I was very warm on my walk, but I had on: 2 pairs of socks and snow boots, sweat pants and snow pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a fleece sweatshirt, a nylon vest, and my super green jacket. On my head I had a ski mask and a cap, and two pairs of gloves on my hands. Quite cozy, but somewhere along the way I lost my girlish figure. And discovered the reason why there are so few female bank robbers---those masks do nothing for your looks, let me tell you!

It was a cold, gray day with drifting snow blowing across the prairie. But after days of suitably cold temperatures, I wanted to find out how the pond behind my house was doing. I had a suspicion that it might work as an ice skating pond once it was good and hard.

I made it out to the pond, and saw to my delight that it was frozen hard and smooth. Maybe not quite hard enough for skating yet, but you could tell that's the direction it was headed. I went right up to the edge to see how thick the ice was, and discovered that it wasn't thick enough! I thought I was still on solid ground, but I went right through the thin ice. Barely escaped with my life!

It was still slushy around the grass, but where it was just water was frozen very solid. I can hardly wait til we can get out there on ice skates and frolic in a frigid, frozen frenzy. I shall feel just like the movie "Ice Princess."

I left the promise of good times to come and hiked out by the tree thicket. I hadn't been out there all summer, not wanting to meet a skunk out exploring. I'm assuming most of the skunks are safely tucked away for the winter, so it was a good time to see what had been buried under the snow last winter. One thing I found right away was a fixer-upper car for John. He'll be 18 soon, and shhhhh, don't tell, but I might give it to him for a present.

It was a pretty world to be out and about in, in spite of its cold grayness. The snow gently nestled between the frozen prairie grasses, making everything stand out a little more than usual. Soon it will all be covered to await another spring, but for now, the ghosts of last summer still linger.

Smugness is Unbecoming

You would think that by the time a person achieves almost 70 years of age that they would be beyond the crass, petty pleasure of I-told-you-so's. You would think that, but you'd be WRONG!

My mom didn't think it was a good idea to drive my van to California. She is a devotee of the mystical art of "hearing a funny noise", and insisted that my van was attempting to send a message. "Help meeeeeeeeeeeeee!", it said. Pshaw! I didn't hear anything, and besides, if anything happened, I have AAA.

Well, we didn't end up taking my van once my brother-in-law decided to come along. He likes his suburban-mobile too much to be without it for such an extended period of time. Oh, well, made no difference to me.

The day after we got back, John and I made a 45 mile trip to Crosby. We did our business, and started home; about 8 miles out the van started acting oddly. There was an odd noise coming from the right front tire, but it wasn't flat. In fact, the noise almost sounded like a voice calling, saying....No, it couldn't be.

We sat there and waited for rescue. How ignominious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Stinky-mobile

I don't know about everyone else, but my life is prone to sudden dips, turns, and whorls---all without any warning whatsoever. Last Wednesday I was cruising along, not thinking about anything but work, more work, and Laura's upcoming birthday when suddenly I found I'd be making a trip to California. Immediately.

My oldest son, who'd been spending 10 months on an epic journey of discovery, had suddenly found himself in need of an opportunity for a rigorous scholastic environment to maximize his potential. My brother-in-law agreed to go along to help with the driving (an unkind brother-in-law might point out that he did most of it---can I help it if it was his car, the roads were icy, and my driving made him nervous?).

We started off Friday afternoon, crossing the state in the opposite direction so I could visit Caleb and Laura at their schools. I was able to spend a lovely visit with Laura on her birthday, then left Saturday afternoon for California. By Sunday afternoon we were in the Sacramento area doing some frantically crammed food shopping for some of the goodies that aren't available on the prairie. Since the prairie was not originally settled by Asians, vegetarians, or by traders named Joe.

After a sprint through the must-have's of Sacramento, we headed down to Lodi for Jack to check into his motel. Not a moment too soon, because good ol' Jack was about ready to have a coronary at being forced to be in the proximity of so many ***shudder*** PEOPLE! Jiminy crickets! Someone has been in the wilderness a little long....

Jack's motel was like no other Motel 6 I've ever seen. It had been a Holiday Inn or something, but had gone bankrupt. Motel 6 snapped it up, and Jack stayed in very nice, shiny, and hot-tubby facilities. I wasn't jealous or anything (OK, maybe about the hot tub) because I was going to spend my night with my good friend, Ingrid, her husband Aaron, and her three little girls who have apparently never seen visitors before in their life.

The girls wanted me to sit by them, to tell me everything possible about my stay, fought over who got to carry my bags (I notice *I* had to carry them out at the end of the visit, after my novelty wore off!), and spent the evening fetching things for me to see.

Zaylie solemnly informed me on the way to the house, "Tina, you get to sleep in my room."

I replied in a suitably excited tone, "Oh, that's right, your room is PINK, isn't it. And you have a brand new bed your daddy made for you."

A moment's pause.

"How did you know that?

I know alllllllllllll about you, Zaylie Celeste.....Apparently someone has not quite grasped the mysteries of having a mama on Facebook.

It was a great visit, and many thanks to the family for hosting me on such short notice. Next time I might give you TWO days' warning instead of one! Then it was off to pick up John and head home to North Dakota. I'd had a chance to catch my breath by the return trip and was able to spend a little more time in noticing things than on the initial trek.

One thing I came to realize is that it had been over a year since I had experienced a change of pressure in my ears. In that whole year I had not experienced a change of elevation significant enough to cause it.

On a related note, in that same year period, I had not seen a single mountain. Oh, I'd seen the rolling hills of the prairie, but no mountains since September of 2010. I didn't see my first one on this trip until sunrise in Nevada the first day, since we came through the mountains after dark. It was nice to see such a large piece of earth rising to meet the sky. Kind of fills it up a bit, makes it seem not quite so big. I became somewhat of a mountain paparazzi, snapping photos while I drove along. Who knows when I'll get to see one again.....

As always, I was struck with how cluttered and dirty even the empty, open areas seem. Even in vacant fields there are still telephone poles, billboards, litter, and cars passing by on the road. It all looks so, so busy. And don't get me started on California's extravagant waste of trees. They're scattered around as if, well, as if they grew on trees. No wonder the state is in such financial trouble!

There are many interesting things to see between California and North Dakota. I drove past many of them, but being on the schedule we were, we stopped at only the most important. Which would be one of the most popular types of tourist attractions, the highway rest area. I even took my picture at one as a souvenir. Goodness knows I was getting no other ones!

By now, you're probably wondering about my blog title. Why did I choose it? Why, indeed. Traveling for 24 hours straight with rapidly ripening males is no picnic on the best of days. When said males decide to stop for a Super-duper Size Bean Burrito from Roberto's Authentic Mexican Restaurant, the trip takes on a whole new, shall we say, aura. North Dakota couldn't come fast enough!

Even the best of fun must end, and North Dakota finally hove into sight. My kitties were home, and we had a very satisfactory reunion, but my Finley pooch was still staying at his Grammie's. I went to pick him up, and he knew something was up even before we got home....he could smell it. I should think so, after percolating in Ewwwww de Burrito for hours! Both boys were very happy to see each other again after so long, and Finley even seemed to think the smell was a bonus.

Then it was time to curl up in my own bed. Since the babies had missed me so much, I let them sleep with me as a special treat. I think I may have been more comfortable in the car, by the time I had a kitten by my neck, a cranky moose of a tabby on my chest (she hissed at the kitten all night, but she'd missed me, too and didn't want to leave), a dog cuddled by my side and one warming my feet, and various other cats tucked into warm corners. I may have been more comfortable, but there sure wasn't as much love!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cookbook Review

I'm discovering something about this cookbook. I like my cooking better. Well, there it is, it can't be helped. I am determined to soldier on, trying recipe after recipe in search of the few gems that will find a permanent place in our family favorites.

Biscuit-topped Hearty Steak Pie

Cubed, fried steak
Baby carrots
Peas and pearl onions
Brown gravy
Refrigerated biscuits

One of our family's favorite veggie products are the vegetable steaks I used to create this recipe. They come in a can, and WE like them, anyway! I couldn't use store-bought brown gravy because of its beefiness, but I made my own out of butter, flour, George Washington Broth mix, and a little Vegex (it's a vegetarian thing made of really, REALLY modified brewers' yeast). And a little water. Because otherwise it would be a little thick.

As I was sampling the dish at the end, I thought how good it would be with potatoes and I couldn't believe they didn't put any in. Never mind, *I* would put some in next time. Then I re-read the recipe and saw that it did call for them and I forgot to put them in. Oooops!

Finally, a gem in all the dross. This dish was a pretty big success. My dad didn't effuse over it, but he seldom does anyway--you have to look for subtler signs. Like taking seconds or warming it up the next day for leftovers. I even made a big pan this weekend for potluck, and then ended up staying home because I felt a little sick. But that pan still got cleaned up, and I'm looking forward to making it again since it still hasn't gotten to church.

Peach-cranberry Cobbler with Corn Bread Biscuits

Frozen peaches
Orange juice
Brown sugar

If the people who produced this cookbook made the food as yummy as the names sound, it would be a whole lot better. One thing I've noticed is that none of the deserts have been sweetened enough. Or maybe we just have super tart food here in the frozen northland.

Making the cobbler was pretty straightforward. No substitution except for allspice, since we didn't have any. I was in a big hurry, so I wasn't super careful with some of the measurements. That might be why the cobbler topping was so bleh, but I don't think so.

A forgettable dish, but one that would be tasty if made, well, differently. The peach-cranberry combination was interesting, but it would need a lot more sugar and a better topping to be anything approaching tempting. As it was, once again I was left finishing it off. And I've been wondering why I've been gaining weight...

Editor's Note: There is no picture with this blog. My dear elder sister, who has been so kind to loan me her camera for my food photography, has lost the digital file. I know, I know, but we must make allowances for the ol' girl....she's not as young as she used to be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lazarus Boopsie Says...


Fun Ideas for a Stormy Sunday

We got our first winter storm this weekend. Rats! I was hoping winter had forgotten about us, but did you know it comes EVERY year!? It was also the grand weekend of Insulation Installation Sunday. Damon had been waiting eagerly all week because he was home sick with the plague (i.e. the stomach flu) and had nothing to do except read and watch TV. How bored he was, and how excited to finally have something to do.

I had thought that I did all my learning the first time. Gloves? Check. Face mask? Check. But, no, there were new lessons yet to be discovered. It wasn't icy cold upstairs, but I don't heat it and there was a snowstorm outside. What better way to stay cozy AND covered on a lazy Sunday morning than insulating in your flannel pajamas...

Bad. Idea.

See, fiberglass doesn't itch because it irritates your skin as something like solvent does (don't ask, I just know, OK!). It itches because the fiberglass is exactly what its name says. Long, twisted fibers made of glass. When those break, almost too fine to be seen, they tend to embed themselves in whatever porous surface is handy---like skin. And as it turns out, there are few more efficient delivery systems than warm, fuzzy flannel for catching those fibers and whisking them down to your epidermis.

It didn't help that this attic is a lot, shall we say, cozier than the other. I was also using paper backed insulation that had to be stapled into place. Not to difficult up at the top, but to get the bottom I had to roll around and lay on my back, nose-to-nose with the roof.

But all good things must come to an end, and even this joy-a-minute was finally finished. On one side, that is. We are saving the other side of the attic for another day. No sense in splurging all our pleasure at one time. And there will be a lot of pleasure to go around because of the second lesson of the day:

Read the label.

It took 7 packages of the other size insulation to finish both sides of the smaller attic. The insulation for this project was wider, and I had a third again as much attic to do. Who could blame me for assuming that I would need a lot more rolls than before? Only this insulation is half again as thick, so it turns out each roll has 70 feet in it. I used just over 1 of my 6 rolls to do one side.

How nice that I unexpectedly have enough to do the walls, too. Plus extra. Anybody need some insulating done?

What was Damon doing all this time? He was manfully soldiering on, helping to hold the pieces and staple, in spite of the return of his nausea. Of course, if I'd hired some molasses to help me, it might have been faster at times, but I was still grateful. Really. But if I get sick, I am holding him personally responsible.

At one point he had to make a dash to the window for some fresh air. I was all sympathy.

"You'd better not get any on the shed roof if you throw up!"

Thankfully, he didn't start that kind of uncouth behavior until he was safe at home with the rest of his plague ridden family (I tell you, I am all for locking the sick ones out of doors until they can produce a clean bill of health!). He might have summoned some of that inner strength from my encouraging words...

"If you're throwing up, you have to walk back."

"Walk back?" Squeaked in horror.

"You betcha! All that fresh air will do you good. Clear the head and all."

Meanwhile, the storm raged around us. Or whimpered. The great winter storm kept getting downgraded on its way to Eastern Montana. Not that I'm complaining. Because it's still so "warm" the snow tends to melt and make the roads icy. I happen to know a little about icy roads, and personally, I always vote clear and dry. But that's just me.

I got to see a bit of the roads because SOMEONE dropped the check he was planning to deposit and then went all the way to Plentywood before he found out. I got to meet him part way and give it to him. Of course, I can't complain too much, because SOMEONE also brought me soda to help settle my sympathetically upset stomach.

Now the storm has passed, for everyone but my poor sister, locked in a house with 3 sickies and now sick herself. Poor Noni. I even brought her soda...and left it outside. But not down at the gas pumps like I threatened. See how loving I am!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sibling Revelry

It's so hard to take pictures of my little kitties because every time I crouch down to get the shot, they think it's time to eat and come rushing toward me. So my wild kitten photography often consists of blurry head shots. The other day though, the little orange baby was perched on top of the rocking chair and couldn't make the usual rush because he was too busy keeping his balance. Perfect. I began the stalk.

I had the shot. The baby was looking my way, the light was good, the colors harmonious. I pressed down on the shutter.


Someone has developed a galloping case of sibling rivalry lately. He devotes himself to all kinds of coy behaviors he never used to do, all in a desperate attempt to regain his status as primary feline deity of the home. Tough tiddly, Hobbes, there are cuter paws than yours afoot!

A VERY Disturbing Photo

After his faithful companion Bob met such a horrific and untimely end, Larry seemed doomed to tragedy. Indeed, it was not many more weeks before Larry found himself in a bit of a pickle. What's next....

Laura the Carrot Salad?

Creamed Junior Asparagus on Toast?

French Peas and Pearl Onions?

Madame Blueberry Pancakes?