The boys decided to clean the kitchen pantry and were very cute as they worked together. I let them do it the way they wanted with no input about how things went in. First they took everything out of the cupboard and wiped off all the shelves. They discussed how everything should be put back in (since everything was now spread all over the kitchen) The conversation went something like this:
Pete: "The top shelf is for water soluble things."
Dill: "Ok, here is some coffee, oh, and sugar that's water soluble"
Pete: "The next shelf is for pasta and noodle-type stuff"
Dill: "Where does onion dip powder go? Is it water soluble, Should it go on the top shelf?"
Pete: "No, its sour cream soluble.... it should go on the third shelf."
Dill: "What goes on the third shelf?"
When they came upon the tea selections, they decided that they were "water soluble".... except for English Breakfast Tea- that one went on the 4th shelf--- 'breakfast foods'. I may never find my flour or tea bags again.... but it was worth the entertainment!
I am not sure when Pepper’s family started serving Chips and
dip…. But I have no recollection of family events at Pepper’s parents house
without them. I have been going over to their house since around 1986… and I
can’t remember a single time. Pepper’s Mom has a special Chip and dip set that
I believe had been a wedding gift. They always use that. My friend Sal has been
searching second hand stores for years trying to find me one, but they are
harder to find than you would think.
The dip is not a hard recipe… but there is a trick at the
end that is important for optimal taste and flavor. It is basically a 16 oz
container of sour cream (we use light… and 32 oz because we make a double
batch) and 1 dry package of French onion soup mix. You carefully make a hole in
the sour cream, pour in the envelope of onion powder and stir. To make this
easy, you could pour both into a medium size container and mix, but we like to
spare the dirty dish and love the challenge of not spilling the powder everywhere.
The ‘trick’ I mentioned earlier is that this must be done the day before you
are going to eat it. For the onions to actually un-dehydrate, they need time to
soak. The pre-planning will be worth it. I’d like to note here that Pepper was
in a play awhile ago where they talked about this recipe and added a “squirt”
of lemon juice…. This is not needed and Pepper’s family likes it the way they
have always made it.
A word about the chips. Since I mentioned that they like
things the way they like them I will mention the potato chips here. I once
thought that “wavy” type chips would be a great improvement because they could
hold more dip and be stronger (to avoid breakage into the dip). This did not
really go over well. Pepper’s mother and both brother’s commented negatively on
the change. All implying that they had liked things the way they were. Did I
mention they needed to be Lay’s potato chips? They do. And do not even think
about skimping on this with store brand… they would know. As a side note- I
have noticed that Pepper’s Mom moved to lightly salted Lay’s… this adjustment
went pretty well.
My children have never known a trip to Nana and Grandpa’s
house without chips and dip. That would never fly…. To them it would be like
shoes without socks or television without sound- just unheard of! The adults
are allowed to gather around the bowl and in a turn taking fashion, select a
chip, dip then move slightly out of the way for someone else… it works well. (We’ve
all had lots of practice) We had some issues with the kids dipping too heavily
which either broke the chip in the dip, breaking everyone’s rhythm- or deep
dipping, which meant the chip AND their fingers were covered in dip. This
problem was solved by Nana providing individual cups of chip and dip for each
of the kids. This solved the kid issues. Dori has graduated back to the chip
and dip bowl, but Macy still likes hers separate- probably to avoid the whole
turn taking situation. The boys do not seem to care…. as long as they can get
As a kid, when I went camping we always had s’mores. When I
first started camping with Jay in college she introduced me to Cat tails. Cat
tails are made by using a canned biscuit (Jay says the cheap, generic brand are
fine) rolled out into a “snake” then wound around the s’more stick. It is
cooked by browning above the fire. (This takes patience or burned biscuits
Once the biscuit is cooked (its done when the biscuit will
turn easily around the stick) you take it off and roll it around on a stick of
butter (similar to the way you’d roll an ear of corn) then dipped into a
mixture of cinnamon and sugar (more sugar than cinnamon). The end result tastes
like a sugar-cinnamon donut.
Our kids and most of their friends now know about cat tails.
Over the years anyone that has camped with us has had them. They are very good
and I am sure we have shared the recipe with many people. When Dill was little
he’d ask for “cotton tails” when we camped….. we knew what he meant and were
happy to pull out the ingredients.
When I was in middle school (but it was called junior high
back then) my parents decided to take a cooking class together. They choose an
introductory Chinese cuisine class…. But we all called it wok school. They
would come home from the class and tell us all the things they learned like the
right temp for the wok and why peanut oil was the ‘oil of choice’. One night
they learned how to make shrimp chips. These are very common where I grew up in
Ohio and came with soup at most Chinese restaurants, but they don’t seem as
popular where we currently live.
When you buy them to cook at home, shrimp chips come in a
small packet and look like limp potato chips. My parents carefully set their
electric wok to the correct temp, measured out the right amount of peanut oil
and we waited with anticipation for the oil to warm. They wanted my sisters
and I to give them our undivided attention while we waited because they said it
would be exciting. As a teenager, I felt it was as boring as watching paint
dry. My parents chatted about their class and even as a kid I
could tell that it was in my best interest to hang around and wait to find out
why they were so excited.
When the oil was finally hot my Dad took a handful of the
limp chips and tossed them into the oil. They immediately made a huge “Puff”
and filled the wok. It was pretty impressive…. I always loved those chips and
have taken my kids to Wah Fu’s… their
favorite Chinese place while I was growing up. When I am there, I think of them-
so happy showing us their wok skills and knowing all the ins and outs of the
menu. They went back and took the “advanced” Chinese cuisine course too but
none of the things they made were as impressive as those chips. J
Every year while I was growing up we had a family clam bake.
At first they were held at my Grandparents farm, later they were held at my
Aunt Sue and Uncle Jerry’s. The menu was pretty much always the same. There
were steamed clams that were put inside this huge square cooker and cooked on
site and everyone brought sides and desserts to go with them. My Mom’s job was
to make baked chicken. My Aunt Sue was always so happy that my Mom would bring
the chicken… she said she hated making it. My Mom once asked why and she said
hers never turned out as good as my mom’s…. but I think the real issue was the
mess it made in the oven. Aunt Sue was a bit fanatical about keeping her oven
clean, Mom- not so much.
So the recipe my mom used was to buy split halves of chicken
from her local Pick-N-Pay, then use a sharp knife to cut them in half so she
had 4 large pieces per chicken (and she bought LOTS of them for the clam bake)
She put them on deep cookie sheets and slathered them with Italian salad
dressing. (Everyone loved the flavor and thought it was marinated in something
mysterious!) They would drip and ooze and spark a bit and mom would pull them
out and put them in a huge roasting pan. She made them all on the morning of
the clam bake so the huge pan was still warm when we got into the car and
smelled great all the way to the party.
Every year I was expected to eat one clam and take a sip of
clam juice (which looked like dirty water) then I could have chicken… and corn
on the cob. I will still make chicken this way sometimes. Why not? I have a
self-cleaning oven! J
I always thought my Grandmother made really good potato
salad. I don’t know if it would ever win awards or become a published recipe…
but everyone in my family liked it. Once, when I was just out of college I
asked her if she’d show me how she made it. I drove down to her house and after
a fantastic dinner of Büƒ we started boiling the potatoes. Grandma washed them off in water,
but did not peel them. She just plunked them all into the hot water. We played
pinochle while they cooked with my grandfather and a neighbor. Both the
neighbor and I knew, without even talking, to let my grandparents win. Grandpa
didn’t care, but grandma did!
Once the potatoes were cooked and cooled we peeled them. This is done
without a knife or peeler because they are so soft from cooking that the peel
just peels right off by rubbing the skin with your thumb. The potatoes are then
roughly cut with a butter knife with the potato held in the palm of the hand
and put into a large bowl. (This feels weird and sort of tickles!) We then
added diced onion, a couple diced hard-boiled eggs and her secret ingredient.
This ingredient actually grossed me out… so I don’t use it. But since this is
her recipe I will tell you what it was: She added very old, brownish, somewhat
slimy celery.She felt “fresh”
celery gave it too much crunch. I like crunch, so I use fresh. She then added
pepper, seasoning salt, celery salt and Miracle whip (not Mayonnaise) and
stirred it well with a large spoon. On top she’d decorate by laying slices of
hard-boiled eggs and sprinkle with paprika. Last secret…. It had to sit over
night in the fridge. The next day, it was very good potato salad. J
My father’s favorite dinner was stuffed green peppers. I
hate the taste, smell and look of green peppers. Always have, always will. As
an adult now, recalling what the Green Peppers looked like and how she made
them… I think it was a very well prepared dish.Meaning she made it well. I may have some day grown to like
green peppers but my parents always insisted that I had to eat the insides of
the green pepper and could skip eating the actual pepper before I could leave
the table. The problem was that the green pepper taste permeated the whole
dish. The meat and the rice and everything else inside the green pepper tasted
like green pepper!I pretty much
chocked, gagged and held my nose through the ordeal every time she made it.
Even now I do not like the taste of peppers. If I see them
whole… I don’t like red or yellow ones either.It amazes me how smells can bring back vivid old memories….
Even walking through a farmers market where there are bins of green peppers I
have to resist the urge to plug my nose and yell “Yuck!”
November brings to my mind… food. So this month I’m going to
blog about food. Dishes and meals from my childhood and adulthood that have
become traditions or fond memories.
The first is reaching way, way back… to a dish called Büƒ.
My Grandmother made this dish for me when I was a kid. It was my favorite thing
she made. Now, a couple important details about this…. I liked very PLAIN food
as a kid. In fact in college Jay gave me Big Red chewing gum for the first time
and I thought I was going to die! The other fact is that my Grandmother (GG)
was not a very good cook. She tried, but I don’t think it was an interest to
So,Büƒ is made
from ground hamburger made into fat, little patties and pan fried in onions. GG
always tasted the raw meat before she bought it at the store. Many, many
cashiers gave her funny looks when the package came by with a hunk missing.
They told her she’d get botchelism or worms…. I am pretty sure she outlived
After the patties are cooked Grandma would make gravy with flour and
cold water added to the drippings. She served the patties and gravy over
potatoes that were whipped. She told me that when she was a child this was
served over mashed potatoes (same as whipped but no butter or milk added to
“cream” them up) but she liked whipped much better so that’s how she made them
I have tried to make this dish many times and it never turns out as
good as when my grandmother made it for me. The times she made it were on
special over night visits when I was the only grandchild that visited. A few times
in high school and while I was in college I would drive over to her house and
spend the evening with her and my grandfather and she’d always have this dish
ready when I’d get there.It was
always fabulous. Maybe it was because she tasted that raw meat in the store and
knew it was fresh and tasty. J
A friend of mine was talking to me recently about trick or treaters. She asked if we had many come to our house. I said no, none. I told her that our house was on a main road with no sidewalks and lots of space between houses. All things that deter young trick or treaters. I told her that when I was growing up our house was on a semi-main road with no sidewalks so we got very few kids.... but always a few. My Mom always said it wasn't worth buying a whole bag of candy so she always handed out money if any kids happened to stop by.
To this my friend just shook her head and said it seemed like kids came in from everywhere to trick or treat in her neighborhood. She estimated hundreds of kids walked up her driveway (or flew thru her flower beds!) She said, "There are so many kids coming into this neighborhood, it should have been disclosed by the previous home owner when I bought this house!" :)
I have had a bad habit of sometimes ending an argument with
“I’m sorry but…” I then go on to explain why I felt I was right.I watched a TV show the other day where
one of the characters said that the words someone says before the word “but”
really don’t count. In the show it was something like, “You don’t deserve this
demotion, but you will no longer
have the same security clearance”My sister (L) hates the word “but”. She says her kids will say to her:
“But Mom…” and it drives her crazy. She always responds with, “Do I look like a
Butt Mom to you?” Which I think is hysterical.
So at church I was thinking about the word while talking to
a friend. We were both waiting for our significant others to finish teaching
Sunday school so we were just hanging out by the coffee and snacks. I mentioned
the TV show and the idea about no words before the word “but” really meaning
anything and he said he had heard that “but” builds walls- “and” builds
I really liked that. I told him I said “I’m sorry but… “ and
he recommended that I say instead “I’m sorry and… “ because it would be much
more productive. I thought it was a very smart thought AND I wanted to
share it!! J
I went to spend the afternoon with Dori and saw all these bikes outside her dorm. There were more along the other side of the walkway too! We actually drove around town (rather than ride the bikes) and had a nice dinner. We passed a huge playground and park at one point and I asked her if she wanted me to pull over so we could try it out. She laughed... but 10 years ago she would have been thrilled. They grow up so fast!
When Pepper and I picked Dill up from swimming last Thursday, he was in a very perky mood. He hopped into the car and quickly told us about all the good things that had happened that day. He summed it all up when he said, "Today was a very good Friday-eve." Huh, I thought, maybe thinking of Thursdays as "Friday-eves" would make them all better!! :)
In 1976 my Mom started collecting bicentennial quarters. There were many around and my Mom thought they would some day go up in value. They were easy to spot and her collection grew quickly. By 1980, she had A LOT of them. So many that she used them as a down payment on a built-in swimming pool for our back yard.
After the pool was built, Mom started collecting bicentennial quarters again. It was hard not to. Every time one of us in the family would get change we'd check our quarters and Mom would trade us for non-bicentennials that we would spend. They were getting a little harder to find by then, but Mom's collection quickly started to grow again.
When Mom died in 1999, my sisters and I split the quarters up and each took a third. It was still quite a few quarters. I put mine in a dresser drawer and figured I would just save them, maybe someday they would be worth more. Every once in a while I would get them out of the drawer and let the kids count them or stack them up into tall piles. I pretty much forgot about them, but Macy remembered them one morning when she was in 3rd grade and her lunch account at school was getting low. She had lunch money, but really wanted more for the extra treat line that had candy and chips.
She took a large plastic bag, filled it with the quarters and stuck it in her backpack on her way out the door. When I found out about a week later (due to all the candy and chip wrappers I found in her room and backpack) I was more angry that the lunch lady took the quarters without questioning where they had come from then I was that they were gone.
At the time, I told Macy I was disappointed with her and that I wished she hadn't taken them. That they were from my mother and she had no business going through my room and dresser. She was having lots of behavior issues at the time and I really did not think what I said made much of an impact.
A few months ago, I came home and Macy was sitting on the living room floor with a bunch of coins. She scooped them up and gave them to me. She told me she was collecting them while she was at work. Whenever someone brought in a bicentennial quarter, Macy would trade it with quarters she had and then save the bicentennials. Apparently, from the pile she had collected, she had been doing this for quite awhile.
She still collects them. Every once in awhile Macy will hand me 2-3 coins and say nothing. I say thank you and put them into my dresser again. Sometimes I wonder if any of the coins are the same ones that my mother collected so many years ago... I guess I will never know. What I do know is that the tradition of collecting these coins has now crossed three generations and my daughter.... who really never got to know my mother- now has a connection to her. Bicentennial quarters always remind me of my mother, and now they will always remind Macy of me. That fact alone means Mom was right....those coins have definitely grown in value. :)
This is the 27th birthday I've spent knowing you, and I would love to get you all the things I know you dream of having.... I'd buy those new floors for the house that I know you keep wishing for. A landscaper to beautify the yard and a housekeeper to keep the inside spic and span. We'd travel- we'd see Europe and spend lots of time in Germany and Malta. I'd buy you a new wardrobe and hire a personal trainer and Ellen's chef so we'd make healthier choices and get as fit as we (ok, never) were!
I'd wine and dine you and take our family to new places and explore things we've never seen before (all from 5 star hotels!) I'd get you a $10,000 gift card to Barnes and Noble and a $20,000 one to Starbuck's and Target because I know that it is you that keeps them all from going out of business.
I'm grateful for you everyday. I know I can't get you all the things you dream about- but I promise to wake up beside you every morning. I love you. Happy birthday Pepper. :)
I think sometimes God knows when we need a little nudge. I
was feeling a bit sorry for myself for a couple reasons yesterday and I think
God wanted me to realize that I needed to get over it.
Every morning, when Pete heads out for the bus, I am awake
but still laying in bed. As he walks by the bedroom to the front door he yells
out “bye”. Then I hear the front door open, he shuffles out and then the door
closes (although on a couple extra cold mornings it will blow back open and I
have to get out of my warm bed to close it behind him!). He can see the bus
coming down the road behind us so he does not even head out the door until its
almost here. He does not wait outside long.
This morning was just like any other morning. I heard him
yell “bye” then the door closed. About 90 seconds later I heard the loud
screech of brakes and a sickening “thud!” I jumped out of bed faster than that
guy in the stocking cap in that Christmas story when Santa lands on his roof.
(I was kind of dressed like him too…. With bed head rather than the cap)
Pepper, who was in the bathroom at that moment was half a second behind me.
It was completely dark outside. I ripped open the front door
and called out Pete’s name. There were cars backed up around the bus in both
directions and nothing was moving.We both yelled out for Pete again. I couldn’t see anything and the
silence was deafening. After about a minute, the bus driver yelled that Pete
was on the bus and was fine. The car three cars behind the bus had run into the
back of the one in front of it.No
one was hurt, thank God.
In those moments and the moments since I have realized that
I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. I need to focus on the have and not the
have not, the needs met and not the things I just wish for. I need to focus on
what is really important and forget what isn’t. I have fantastic, healthy kids
and for a few very harried minutes this morning I thought I lost one…. Thank
you God for keeping them safe and for putting my thoughts back into
perspective, I guess I needed the nudge.
Today I went to the funeral of a co-workers daughter. I’ve
been thinking about her a lot since I heard her 20 year-old daughter died in a
car accident Saturday. For instance, just over a year ago, Dori was in a
motorcycle accident that could have ended much worse than it did. Last weekend,
Macy and Pete drove to a church event and sent a text when they arrived
safely as we agreed. Dill went with friends this weekend climbing
trees to set up a hunting stand 15 feet up a tree.
Last Sunday, while we were enjoying a family dinner with
B&D then Skyping with Dori…. this co-worker was planning her daughter’s
funeral. It’s hard to let children grow up and become more independent and make
their own mistakes. Some consequences are just too huge…. Too permanent.
Macy had some friends at her swim meet tonight. They are a
young couple from our church with three young children. I watched the Mom hold
one of the kids hand as they walked up the stairs to keep him from falling and
the Dad put his hand on the back of another one’s head when he almost bumped a
railing. After they left, Macy asked Pepper and I if we missed having young
kids. I thought about how much easier it is to keep them safe when they are
always in sight. I thought about a commercial for toilet tissue I once saw on
TV where a Mom wraps her child in toilet paper before allowing him to get on a
bike. At the time, I thought the commercial was ridiculous…. But now, I can see
the desire to keep growing kids safe.
Today, another person at the funeral shook her head and
whispered to me when she saw the co-worker barely holding it together: “There
but for the grace of God go I” she said. Pepper mentioned later that I always seem to know
what to say to people in these situations (like funerals and hospital visits)
and it surprised me, because I always just say what I feel. When the co-worker
hugged me and thanked me for coming I simply said, “No one should ever have to
bury their child. I am so sorry you have to do this.”
“If you were my child, I would staple you to your bedroom wall.”
I really loved spending lots of my summer nights in our RV. I missed getting to travel with it this year. But... I do have to say that my new Focus gets much better gas mileage and is very fun to drive. No way would I ever get over 44 miles to the gallon in my Silverado and 5th Wheel!! We're planning a few more trips this fall up north.... not in an RV, but with this car we will actually have some money left over (from gas we didn't need to put in the tank) to buy s'more supplies!! :)
When we took Dori back to college... she didn't know she was going to get a "free ride"from her brother!! This was a much better start to the year. Last year we started her first term by pushing Dori to her room in a wheelchair. I sure do prefer her in this cart over the crutches and braces and that wheelchair we dropped her off with last year! I'm very grateful that she COULD have gotten there under her own power this year if Pete hadn't been so willing to give her a ride! :)
Dill found a bargain at a neighborhood garage sale the other
day. He found 2 giant bags of ball pit balls for $1.00. He brought them home
and put them all in the tub to wash. He was in the tub with them for a very
long time… well over an hour. I
could hear him singing a song he made up as he washed each one individually…. The
words to the song were: “Washin’ my balls” and it was sung to the tune of Elmo’s
World. This boy makes me laugh! J
Last night I dreamed that we had a baby. This is a surprise
to me on a couple different levels. First, I never remember my dreams and this
one was vivid. My whole family was there waiting to meet my new baby. We were
at my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Sue’s house. Everyone from our old annual family clambake
was there. My grandmother who recently died and my grandfather who died 20
years ago were there with matching blue and white striped shirts on that said
“Mexican Hotel” .I have no idea
why their shirts would say that but in the dream I did not think to ask. Aunts
and uncles and cousins I haven’t seen in years were all hanging out at the
house and looked happy ~none of them aged a bit.
The baby itself was quite a surprise. Besides the fact that
I wasn’t trying to have a baby and am at this point to old take on such a huge endeavor....she talked to me on the way out of the hospital! I am holding her as we were
going down in the elevator, she was quiet so only I seemed to hear her but she
said the numbers that lit up as we headed down. “Seven, six, five, four, three,
two, one…. Bye, bye” Then as we
walked to the car she was telling me that she was very excited to meet the rest
of the family. When we got to the car I sat down in the backseat and explained
to her that I was a speech therapist so I knew that she should not be talking
yet. She was just too young. She rolled her eyes at me like the most skilled
teenager and told me the car seat I was putting her into was just too ‘strappy’.
Yeah…. we’re so done having kids.
The first time I can remember being mislead by an
advertisement was when a childhood friend and I first saw the Tidy Bowl
Scrubbing Bubbles commercial on television. The announcer assured me that the actual
scrubbing bubbles removed mold and mildew and left behind a shiny clean surface.
These adorable little tribble-like creatures with big eyes and scrubby little
feet started zipping around a grown woman’s bathroom sink and yelled “Your
wellllllcome!” as they spun away down the drain.
My eyes went wide at the sight of them. I was in love. I wanted those cute little critters at my
house. My plan was to use the sink stopper to keep them from being whirled away
down the drain and keep them as pets. I remember grabbing my allowance and my
friend and I riding our bikes to the Pick-N-Pay….. the grocery store my mom
always went to. I am not sure if the cashier even wondered why two 11 years
olds were buying bathroom cleaner…. But we managed to get it back to my house
without to much trouble.
I could barely contain my excitement when we sprayed the
stuff into the sink. As I watched with anticipation, all it did was foam. No
cute eyes or scrubby feet. No tribble-like creatures that talked to me. I was
very disappointed. At first, I actually considered going back for a different
can and telling that cashier that she gave me a broken one. It took me a minute
or two to realize there never were any real creatures. It was very
disappointing…. I still refuse to use that cleaning product. I still think the
little critters are adorable. :)
Yesterday I posted the pictures from our recent hike contest. Today I thought I'd post MY favorite picture from the hike. We came to a tree that had fallen across the path and it made a perfect arch. It was a great place for a photo op! It was before I fell but after we'd gone about 3 miles so we look a little warm. Thanks Macy for taking the shot! :)
Pepper and I had a few hikes planned for our latest
vacation. Dori stayed home to work and take care of things at home, but the
other three kids joined us and were pretty willing to try all the activities we
had planned with very little argument.
The first hike was not too long (about 2 miles) and included
a great walking path, a couple scenic overlooks, over 220 steps down to the
waters edge, a rustic campground and a very nice covered picnic area. The
weather was perfect and we ended with a picnic lunch that everyone was looking
forward to. (It is amazing how great a PB&J sandwich tastes at a picnic
table after a walk). It was a great day.
The second hike was a little longer (about 5 miles) and did
not include so many amenities. (The path was more difficult with roots and
prickers very common along the way.) To make that trip a bit more fun, we had a
contest for the best picture found along the way. Everyone got 3 votes to
choose the order ofwinners. We
decided the prizes together:
1st prize- any ‘reasonable wish’
2nd prize- choose where everyone sleeps that
3rd prize- Had to do no dishes that night
4th prize- pick the movie/game that night
5th prize- a hug from everyone else
(here are the pictures in place order)
At one point (the low point of the trip as far as I was concerned!) I tripped on a root and fell down. Pepper said I fell very gracefully but the kids all wished they had their cameras ready because they were sure that picture would have won first place! Luckily that was the only difficulty we had on the whole hike. We all had fun and enjoyed the day and the activity!