Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sheep Shearing Day: Pictures and Homeschool Ideas

When the shearer arrived, I was still sweeping the dining room floor after supper, so I didn't get out to see the beginning of the shearing.  The shearer is Willard Malwitz.

Thank you, thank you to Mr. Malwitz.

This is the ram.  He is being done on our driveway, in front of the garage.

When a sheep is plopped on its hinder, it will instantly settle down.  I've heard tell that a sheep, if stuck on it's back, will soon die because of some sort of breathing issue.  I wonder if this is part of why they seem so calm in a sitting position.

The shearer held the ram's head between his legs when necessary.  It was getting quite windy by this time.  The wool would blow across the area Mr. Malwitz was working, somewhat impeding his progress.

The kids gathered any loose wool and put it in the box before it could blow away.

Done with the difficult belly area, and now on to the sides.

And then the back.  Look at that thick fleece.

He looks pretty naked.

This is the "after" shot of the ram.

And the "before" of the ewe.

They moved into the garage for her.  She looks like she's wearing a thick scarf.  She is tamer than the ram.  She nipped Mr. Malwitz once on his chest.  He said that often the tamer sheep are harder to shear because they are not afraid.  They remain a bit more frisky even in the sitting position.

I wish I could have better captured how nice and soft the large pieces of fleece looked as they fell loose.  Even though the two sheep looked the same to us, Mr. Malwitz said the ewe's wool was much different.  A different clumpiness to it and much oilier.

I didn't stay for the finish of the ewe.  The kids were getting wild and it was getting pretty chilly after our nice 70 degree day.

This morning it's very cold and wet.  I feel bad for the naked little sheep. But then I remind myself that most other sheep are sheared before lambing starts in March.  That means there are still days of below zero weather, with snow and even blizzards.  If the sheep survive that, I am sure they can live through low 40s and wet.

The sheep newly shorn
Look so forlorn
Out in the wet and the cold dreary day.

But they'll be alright
They will live through the night
And frolic once more when the sun comes to stay.

There are a great plenty of homeschool ideas to use with sheep.  There are stories on shearing and wool; spinning and yarn dying; weaving and crochet and knitting.

After Joe tried to spin a hemp bowstring using a piece of dowel and a plastic sour cream lid as a drop spindle, I ordered a couple of wooden drop spindles for our family along with a few bundles of wool.  I got them from Pacific Wool and Fiber, in Newberg, OR.

We haven't used them much, but we've lent them out, so they have been used, at least.  We still hope to have a chance (make time?) to figure them out one day.

A New Coat for Anna, by Harriet Ziefert
In post WWII Eastern Europe, Anna needs a new coat.  But there is no money to be had even for necessities.  Anna's mother barters the few remaining family treasures to first get wool, then spinning, then weaving and tailoring done for Anna's new coat.  She and Anna pick Lingonberries to dye the spun yarn a lovely red before it's sent to the weaver.

An accomplished homeschooler who keeps the wonderful Bugs, Beetles, and Barefoot Days blog posted on her fieldtrip to the Worcester Museum, Worcester, MA, and its sheep shearing demonstration.

Charlie Needs a New Cloak, by Tomie DePaola
Charlie is a shepherd whose cloak is in tatters.  When he finally decides to address this problem, he does the shearing, carding, spining, dying, weaving and finally even the sewing.  His labors yield a beautiful and warm cloak in time for the coming winter.

A creative homeschool mom has done a unit study based on this book.

There is also a social studies unit using Sheep Shearing as the center point at Hot Chalk Lesson plans.

Other books I've seen recommended, but have not read or used myself:
Farmer Brown Shears his Sheep, by Teri Sloat
Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round
The Thing That Bothered Farmer Brown
This series, done in cute rhymes, traces the entire wool to sweater process.  These books appear to be out of print, but check your library.

Phoebe's Sweater, by Joanna Johnson
Phoebe's mother is knitting a sweater to help Phoebe get ready for a new sibling.  Although I've not read this, it's become a favorite among knitters for both the sweet story and the knitting patterns included.  The author keeps the Phoebe on the Road blog to celebrate the many things fans love about Phoebe.

The author of the Step into my Thimble blog has a list of children's books that present knitting in some capacity.

The Weaver's Gift by Kathryn Lasky is a lovely photo journal of the process from baby lamb to woven blanket.  It's out of print, but definitely worth finding used or through your local library.

There is another story I would have loved to include, but it's name and author elude me. I believe it is a beginning reader, such as a Step Into Reading book.  I believe it is about an old Scandinavian fisherman who knits all winter.  Can anyone help me out here?

Week 5 workout, Days two and three, Take two

Wednesday I just walked and gazelled for about 1/2 hour.  Didn't think it was worth reporting on.

Today I had a good week five workout.  Kept my speeds up and kept focused on my times, but I did space out somewhere in the last 45 seconds of my last jog interval.  I was still jogging when the clock flashed the 45 second mark, but then when I noticed it was time to walk, I already was.  But my speed was still up.  Does that count?

According to the clock, I did 1.77 miles, 30.20 minutes, burned 228 cals and 71 fat cals.  I walked at about 3.0 mph and jogged at about 4.0 mph. 

I did ten minutes on the gazelle, but without all the alternate positions, just the regular.  I did two sets of the Nordic rider and remembered to count both times.

I was a little bummed because I thought this was my third time at Week 5, and since I give myself three weeks at each next stage, I thought I had to think about moving on to Week 6 next week.  But, yippee, I see from my previous posts that it's only my second time through, so I can stay at this workout next week without feeling any guilt or remorse.

Yeah me! My kids say that all the time and it used to bug me, but I think it's from the Zach and Cody show.  I think it's London Tipton who says that, so when my kids say it now, I have the cultural literacy to enjoy their television serial allusion.

At least I hope that's what it's from and I'm not merely spouting off that which I don't know.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Our Newest Additions

Last year, Joe built a chicken tractor for our chicks.
Joe's chicken tractor
As long as they are in the garage, under the heat lamp, this protects the chicks from the occasional cat that may sneak into the garage unbeknownst to us.  It also keep little humans at bay.  Within the chicken tractor, the chicks are in a child's swimming pool to contain the bedding material, and the heat lamp keeps them warm.  As they mature and need less heat, Joe will move the lamp outside the tractor.  In a week or so, they will begin to hop outside the pool and onto the garage floor.
All Nice and Warm in their New Home
Once the chicks start spending time outside, we move the chicken tractor onto the grass where the chicks get their first introduction to that cool green stuff.  Last year, Joe had to dump them out of the cardboard box he had put them in while moving the chicken tractor.  They didn't want anything to do with the grass at first.  But once they were dumped out, they scampered about, nipping the blades eating the bugs.
See the sleeping babies on the left? They don't care where they flop.
At first, the chicks can only spend the warm days outside, and we move the tractor back inside the garage at night, where it stays during the cool evenings and all day even, if the outdoor temperature is not warm enough.  If needed, Joe hangs the heat lamp again for a little extra heat.  Once the weather is consistently warm and the chicks are big enough, the tractor can stay outside at night, too. 
The tractor has a shaded side and an open side.  It is completely open to the grass on the bottom.  There are wheels that are supposed to make for easy moving, but don't quite.  Until the chicks begin to crowd the tractor, we move it around from place to place in the grass each day, or even twice a day, if needed.  When the birds are big enough to crowd the limited space, we prop it up so they can still use it for shelter.  But they are free to come and go as they please around the yard.

Because we live in a parsonage, and therefore cannot consider the property exactly ours, the chickens can't range completely free.  Probably those worshippers coming to church in their fancy church duds don't want to step in chicken pucky.  Last year Joe ran an electric fencing wire about four inches from the ground around the area where we wanted the chickens to stay.

It's nice to be able to do a little bit to provide for own own sustenance.


A week or so ago, Inge wrote on her shoes with red ink pen. 

I get a bit irritated every time I see it.

But this morning, after I got her shoes off, I was presented with more reason for irritation.

Little stinker.

Camera Trials

I am tired of everyone else having pretty blogs with lovely, vivid, and colorful images.  

I am not really much of a photographer.  Usually if there is something I really want a photo of, I'll ask someone else to take the picture and then at some point, I may or may not get the digital images off their camera or phone or whatever device they use to snap the photo.  (Case in point, my Easter cherry pie, the photo of which is on Rachel's camera, for which we did not have among our dozen or so of such cords the right one with which to attach said camera to our computer.  But I'm not worried.  I'm sure I'll get it sometime.)

It's not really a very efficient way to do photography.  Especially when one of the uses of the photography is colorful, interesting, and visually appealing blog posts.

So when Mom and Dad gave me $50 for Christmas, to be used however I want, I thought to myself that I would put the money toward a digital camera.  But alas, spending the extra money needed to fill in the difference, even though it was only a meager $20, was never very easy to justify in these inflationary times.  Now it appears that the price of the camera I had picked out has leaped by about another $20.  I suppose they added some new features or it's perhaps available in extra fashion colors.  It appears to be the same to me, but what do I know.

A few weeks ago, during Louisa's play at school, Joe's camera bit the dust.  Grr.  He thought it was faulty batteries, but the extras he always carries did not work either.  When he had time, he did some trouble shooting and checked the product website.  Unfortunately, the only thing he was able to determine is that it was time for another camera.

You remember that line from Beatix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit?  "It was the second little jacket and pair of shoes he had lost in a fortnight."

That's kind of how Joe feels about digital cameras these days.  When a person spends upwards of a hundred dollars on something, they'd like to get more than a year or two of use from it.  Joe has had three or four digital cameras in the last several years, each with different style cases and different methods of closing and opening, etc.  Whichever part breaks on the one he's replacing, he tries to find one with a different feature that might help him avoid the same problem.  But it seems that no matter what he comes up with, there is always something waiting to go wrong.

And since he is the primary photographer in the family, he likes to keep a working camera.  He takes photos of things he sees while out driving, things happening around our home and yard.  Perhaps most importantly, he photographs the kids and the silly and endearing things they do; and the important things that happen in their lives. (Like Louisa's play, from which we have photos of the first act of three. Stupid camera.)

Lest she feel slighted, I must also admit that Louisa is quite a prolific photographer.  But as I've noticed is common practice among the photographs of teenaged girls, there is always a tongue in the shot...Really it's true.  Scan the facebook photo albums of your friends.  All of the teenaged girls stick their tongues out for photos.  The most common direction is off to the side toward another teenaged girl...if one does not want the tongues of the featured persons protruding in a surprising variety of angles, one ought not to depend upon the photography of one's teenaged daughters.

The other day in Wal-Mart, the afternoon after Joe had bid his most recent camera adieu, he noticed that the rack on which they display the cheapo cameras now also includes the low-to-mid-range cameras that are equally good if not better than the digital cameras everyone had 10 years ago.  So he picked out a $30 camera for me, on which I can hone my digital photography skills.  I think he is tired of spending big money on cheap, breakable cameras.  He'd kind of like to buy a cheapo, but he wants me to try it out first.

So now I have a camera.  I've read the instruction book (very poor technical writing, in case you're wondering, John, H).  I've played around with a few shots, techniques, videos, and zooming in and out.  I've learned all about uploading and downloading and unloading and all kinds of loading.  I'm ready to roll.

But please be patient with me.  My last real excursion into the art of photography (and one for which I am to this day mocked in family circles) was the black and white photos I took during a childhood trip to California when I had my first camera (think 126 film, flashcube). 

When we were young, until we learned a little bit about taking picutres, or until we could pay for our own film and developing, it was a family rule that we had to use black and white film.  I understand that taking black and white photographs is really an artsy thing to do.  But for an elementary aged kid in the 70s, this was almost a cruel and unusual punishment. 

The particular photo that placed me firmly in the photographer FAIL category, was taken at Sea World in San Diego.  I was trying to visually capture the lovely flamingos in all their pink glory.  I was so disappointed when my film was developed.  The flamingos looked all,... well,... all black and white.

The Waterville Bag Lady, Summer 1988

I suppose the title of this post contains a pejorative term. My apologies right up front to any readers whose consciences are more tender than is mine.

Today while I was looking for images of famous paintings to use for my Poems and Paintings blog, I stumbled upon a post on Natalija Creates, titled The Black Sack. (The blog author doesn't appear to have her posts individually archived, but scroll down to October 6, if you want to read it.)  The Black Sack brought back to me a funny memory and inspired my thoughts for today.  Not really deep thoughts, mind you, but hopefully pleasanly diverting.

When I was 19, I spent the summer in Waterville, WA.  Although I spent my first six years in a little tiny town of Withrow, half an hour or so from Waterville, God saw fit to move me to the more urbanized Puget Sound area for the remaining years of my childhood.  This abrupt move left me with a heart that pined for things rural.  I wanted to know small town America.  I wanted to know the relatives who lived such a different life than my suburban Puyallup experience.  I wanted to ride horses and drive a wheat truck to the elevator.   So Aunt Elinor helped me to arrange a summer in Waterville.

As it turned out, I never did get to drive a wheat truck.  But I did get to climb up into the top of a wheat truck as it slowly drove along beside the combine. I got to drink in the aroma of the fresh wheat as it tumbled out of the doohickey thing.  It was a glorious fragrance.  Almost as good as a crispy loaf of bread fresh from the oven.

I got to drive a Caterpillar style tractor pulling a roller, while helping my Cousin Paul build an earth dam.  Unlike the land here, which is so flat the farmers must create lowspots to direct the standing water off the fields, landowners near Waterville must use dams and terraces.  Although they don't get much rain there, the melting snows each spring would otherwise gradually pull all the soil down the coulees into the Columbia River.  And so they dam and terrace.

I got to work for my Cousin Chip at Uncle Chris's Texaco, filling up customer's tanks and washing their windows.   I met many tourists who were passing through along US Hwy 2.  It was fun to visit with people who were enjoying their road trips and visiting distant places.  Or sometimes places not-so-distant. 

It was fun to meet local people who would say, "You must be Alfred's girl?"  Or, "You may not know me, but I knew you when you were knee high to a grasshopper."  Or, "Does anyone still call you Snickels?"

Only people from Waterville, who knew Alfred's girl when she was knee high to a grasshopper.

Best of all it was fun to get to know a little better, all my Aunts and Uncles and Cousins and Second Cousins and other Various and Assorted Relations.

During that summer, I lived in a little apartment that had 1950s furniture and white metal kitchen cupboards.  It was very cool. 

But it didn't have laundry facilities, so I would haul my laundry around the corner to the laundro-mat.  I was accustomed to hauling laundry and paying for washing, having lived in a dorm for many years of school and in an apartment for a couple years after that.  But as any laundro-mat user could probably attest, the difficulty comes with knowing what to wear while doing laundry.  Not that there is a certain laundro-mat trendiness against which one must measure one's attire.  But really, when you want all your clothes to be clean, what do you wear to wash them.  You might only do one load each of light and dark.  And you really, really want all your clothes clean when you're done.   You can't very well hang out in the buff while waiting for your laundry (no doubt reading the Watchtower Society mags that inhabit every laundro-mat I've ever been privileged to make us of).

One fashion option is to do a dark load one day, while wearing light clothes; and then do a light load another day while wearing dark clothes.  Another option is to wear something totally gross that you'd never need to wear any other time, and do both loads at the same time. 

I recall one particular occasion when I chose the second method.  And here's where I'll segue back to the Black Sack post.  I chose a faded black T-shirt and a straight black skirt.  The black skirt was really not a gross item.  But it was something I didn't use for working at the Texaco or driving a Caterpillar style tractor, so I didn't need to wash it that particular day. 

The skirt was really very cool.  It was a vintage number I had picked up on a dime, so it was a bit of a prized possession.  It was straight and black and hit just above the knees.  The fabric was a brocade with a leaf design, a bit satiny alternating with a more matte finish.  I really liked that skirt.  But it was, perhaps, a little dressy for the laundro-mat. 

I remember flopping my hair up into what today my daughters would call a sloppy bun.  It seems to be quite the thing now.  But during those former days of tidier hairstyles, it might have been a little unsightly. 

I grabbed my bundle of clothes and headed around the corner to pop the dirty stuff in the wash.  I must have had to cross a street, too, because I remember waiting at the corner for a minute, letting the cars pass.  But perhaps I had just stopped to enjoy the fresh air, dressed in my "doing wash" get up.  I don't really remember.  But I do remember waiting at the corner.

Later that week, my cousin Kelly and I were talking.  I don't remember how it came up, but she mentioned seeing this funny looking lady dressed in an ugly black dress.  When I asked a little further about when and where, we determined that this funny looking lady was me, in my laundro-mat attire, carrying my bundle of clothes.

"I thought it was a bag lady, Mary!" 

Yes, we got a good laugh out of that one.  It still brings a smile to my face today.

The moral of the story: Be careful when you choose to wear black.  Perhaps it's only because, as the author of the Natalija Creates, The Black Sack, post claims, you don't feel like presenting any particular fashion statement.  It might also be because you are headed out to do wash. 

But either way, it might lead others to the mistaken impression that you are an itinerant bag lady wandering the sleepy streets of home town America.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peeps, After Easter

We went into Bemidji today to get chicks.  We got six Barred Rock pullets, six Buff Orpington pullets, and twelve Cornish Cross for meat. 

We took the three littlest girls with us and it was so fun to see them looking at all the babies.  Fleet Supply keeps a constant supply of babies at this time of year in metal watering tanks under warming lights.  Two of the tanks were duck varieties, and I think they had four or five tanks with the various chicken varieties.  They also order a few turkeys in, but these sell out very quickly.  We reserved two Standard Bronze turkeys that will arrive in Bemidji on May 3rd. 

With the birds displayed in the metal tanks, they are at just the right height for the girls to peer over the edge.  They oohed and aahed and told everyone who passed that we were buying chickens.  They also pointed out to all the passers-by the two tanks that contained ducks instead of chickens. 

The fun thing about buying chicks is visiting with everyone who walks by.  Everywhere you look people are smiling.  Everyone loves baby chicks.  Many people came past just to see all the fluffy babies.  People stop to see the chicks and ducklings, but they stay to visit about how many they raised each year as kids, or how hard it was to come home from school that one fall day and find that the chickens were no longer afoot.  But everyone is happy while looking at the babies.

After Amber L. (an Oklee girl) put our 24 chicks into their box with a little sawdust and criss-crossed the box flaps to keep everyone safely within, we put the box into the cart and continued our shopping.  We needed two bales of sawdust and two bags of chick feed and a few other miscellaneous fleet items. 

At one point, Inge was looking around somewhat confusedly.  She could hear the chicks peeping quite aggressively, but we were no longer near the tanks where the girls had looked at the chicks.  She looked around and up and down and said, "Mama, where the chickies go?"

I held her up to the cart and opened the box a crack for her to peek in.  Then I tipped it a bit so Stella and Donna could see, too.  Inge stayed in the cart, sitting next to the box.  She kept sticking her hand through the box lid until she got nipped a bit.  "Chickie bite me."

I said, "See what happens?  Just leave the chickies alone."

A few minutes later, I was perusing the adjacent shelves when I heard all three girls give a little squeal.  I looked up and Stella was trying to catch a chick that had escaped.  I quickly grabbed the chick and reprimanded Stella gently, but she said, "Mom, it was Inge."

I looked over at Inge and sure enough, Inge had little yellow baby chick feathers stuck all over her hand.  Poor chickie.

By the time we got home, the three next older kids were home from school, so they had to have a turn at handling the babies.  Eventually the novelty wore off, a little sooner for the older ones.  But Inge sat up on the table next to the box, just looking at them and touching them and holding them gently.

Joe dragged out the plastic swimming pool we use when they are fresh and new and I grabbed the duct tape to repair the crack that developed in it last year.  Joe got the rest of the set-up going, the feeder and waterer and heat lamp while I've been writing.  He came in a few minutes ago and got the chicks to transplant into their new home. 

The final report, just in, "They seem happy enough."

That was followed by, "When do you have supper planned?"

I looked at the clock and said, "Oops! not again."  I must have the world's worst sense of time. 

On that note...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dancing With Myse-elf

I have a funny, slightly (make that really) embarrassing story to tell.

I went into our guest/shove-everything-in-there room to fold laundry this afternoon.  The reason I did it in there today is because,...well,... before our Easter company came on Sunday, the clean laundry got,...well,...shoved in there.  That's what the room is for, right?

Since the laundry mountain was in the guest/shove-everything-in-there room and since we aren't one of those newfangled families with a portable DVD player or even a functional laptop, I couldn't do my traditional bonnet movie viewing while I tackled the clothes pile.  So I grabbed my MP3 player with all the 70s, 80s, and 90s music that Joe had loaded on it.

It was awesome.  I was really getting into it.  Folding clothes, dancing, singing at the top of my lungs.

So I get to the song, Dancing With Myself (I guess it's the Blink-182 version) and I totally went nuts.  It was just really cool to be all alone, in a room all by myself, totally letting loose.

I had scattered all the various laundry baskets and piles around the floor as I folded and sorted things like towels, underwear, socks, pillow cases.  There were several directly in front of the door, in order to deter any little people who may think they needed their Mama.  Dad was in charge.  (He can handle anything!)

Oh, yeah, my story.  I was dancing with myself to Dancing With Myself.  As I said, I was totally grooving on it.  Picture if you dare, a somewhat overweight 40-something going nuts to this 1980s punk number.  Never mind.  Please don't try to picture that.

I was remembering a certain party some friends and I stumbled upon one Halloween in Madison.  Perhaps in this context stumbled is a poor choice of words, since I'm quite sure we were all in full control of our faculties.  I mean "stumbled" in the sense of wandering around a college town on a holiday weekend and somebody we were talking to mentioned a party at such-and-such a house. As it turned out, this particular party was a punk dance thing.  It remains to this day my one and only experience with the whole slam dancing thing.  Is it called a mosh pit?  I don't even know if that's the correct term.  Were you along that time, Joe?  Was that a mosh pit?

Whatever you want to call it, it was a very strange experience, with bodies so close together the participants were merely propelled around the dance floor.  My friend, Lisa, was knocked to the floor at one point.  She might have been afraid of being trampled. But what she remembers instead is falling over, seeing at close range the base of the lead singer's microphone for a brief moment, being lifted back to her feet, and propelled once again into the swirling flow of jostling bodies.  Strange days indeed.

To return to the present, I was in my guest/shove-everything-in-there room folding my clothes.  I was listening to oldish dance tunes.  I was really in the zone, dancing to that particular number, remembering the strange dance experience.

To be somewhat discreet let's say I wasn't swinging my arms much, since they were busy with clothes.   But I was definitely swinging.  I turn to put something into a pile directly in front of the door and there was my daughter, Louisa, peeking in the door, just laughing at me.  Just laughing.

I suppose I deserved it.  But it was great fun.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Couch to 5K, Day One of Week Five, Take Two

I did it!  I'm so pleased with how my workout went today.  I really should have done it outside, since the weather is absolutely lovely.  But since Connie was gone and two of my girls were doing some spring clean-up in her yard, I did the treadmill thing.  I didn't want them there unattended. 

But because I was working out alone, I committed myself to see how much I'd improved by really pushing myself.  Now, if you're already a consistent runner, don't laugh.  You just have to remember where I started.

I still did the seven minutes of warm-up, instead of the five, but otherwise I stuck to the program.  I kept my waking speeds up at 2.9-3.0 mph and my jogging speeds at 3.9-4.0 mph.  That's quite a bit faster than I've been able to do consistently since about the Week 2 workout.

I only did the Couch to 5K, because the girls heard a funny noise outside that I needed to check out and I didn't feel like going back downstairs after being out in the sunshine.  But I'm sure I'll be outside most of the afternoon doing some fairly active task.  Who can sit around inside on a day like today?

The treadmill told me I travelled 1.87 miles, burned 241 calories and 75 fat calories.   It took me 32.5 minutes.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, Everyone! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

Giavanni Bellini Resurrection of Christ
You say rightly that I am a king. 
For this cause I was born, 
and for this cause I have come into the world, 
that I should bear witness to the truth. 
Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
John 18:37

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Long Road to a Cherry Pie

I want to make a cherry pie for Easter.  I also hope to make an apple pie.  Or maybe two of each.  We shall see.
The origin of the cherry pie idea comes from my son, Matt.  Two years ago, my sister, Rachel, got married in Washington State on Matt's birthday.  When we got home I asked Matt if he wanted a special birthday meal, since he didn't really have anything special (except a trip to Washington and a very cool campground) for his birthday.

Well, a cherry pie couldn't be too difficult, could it?

Let me first say that I come from a family of pie snobs.  No offense, Mom, but from my youngest days, I remember pie crust analysis.  "This one is pretty good."  "It's not as good as Aunt Clara's this time."  "So-n-so used a frozen crust for her pie."  And so on.

Besides this, Mom would never have used canned pie filling.  The only possibility I can even imagine for her using cherry pie filling might have been some sort of fluffy salad for a funeral or something.  But I can honestly say that I have no real recollection of her ever having canned pie filling in our home.

But we did live in Washington State, with ready access to fresh cherries each summer.  So not only did we get cherry pies when the cherries were in season, but we had a ready supply of them in the freezer for use throughout the winter.

Another consideration is that I myself have a particular aversion to cherry pie filling from a can.  Although seemingly a popular use, in my opinion, there is no better way to ruin a cheesecake than to spread that thick, slimy stuff over it.

And finally, as if I need another deterrent, since I bake gluten free, the idea of a beautiful pastry with the light and crumbly layers falling onto a fork is a thing of the past.  I've used several different recipes for Gluten Free piecrust, and although many are very tasty, there is nothing that equals my childhood piecrust memories.

So with all these qualifications hanging over my head, even though it's been a year and a half since Aunt Rachel's wedding, I've still not made Matt his cherry pie.  I've periodically thought of it.  I've scoured the freezer sections of local groceries looking for sour cherries.  Lingonberries from Sweden, yes, for $7/pound.  But sour cherries?  Sorry, no.  I've searched the internet for sources for frozen sour cherries.  There are a few.  But the price is always prohibitive.  I love you Matt, but your pie is not worth that much.

So the other day, I saw sweet cherries in the freezer section of Wal-Mart and I grabbed two bags.  I said to myself, "If I wait until I find sour cherries, Matt is going to be an old man.  Just bite the bullet, Mary, and make a different kind of pie than those of your memories."

Now, after all that, what do you think I saw in Wal-mart the very next time I was there?  An end display off all sorts of canned fruits suitable for pie making.  I never even considered that they might sell canned cherries without the thick, slimy stuff.  Peaches, pears, applesauce and fruit cocktail.  Yes, those I've seen.   And yes, Mom, I've even purchased them on rare occasions, since Minnesotans do not have the ready access to fruit to put up for the winter that Washingtonians do.  But since these canned fruits are nothing I use on a regular basis, I don't generally even go down that aisle.  I had no idea how many different kinds of canned fruits were available.  Berries and apricots, among others, and to my great pleasure, sour cherries for pie.

I tucked four cans quickly into my cart and finished my shopping with a lighter heart.

So this morning, I spent an hour or so searching for just the right combination of Gluten free crust and cherry filling.

What I came up with is based mostly upon the recipes at The Art of Gluten Free Baking.  The author has an entry particularly on crust making, one for cherry pie, and one for apple pie in which she includes two variations.  Incidentally, the crust recipe has been adapted from one by Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table, the cooking show Joe listens to every Sunday as he's getting ready for church.

I'll post later, if they turn out well.  Maybe I'll even have Joe or one of the kids take a photo for me to include.

Or maybe that's a little too optimistic...

Update, 11/25/11.  I can't believe it took me almost seven months to get this link up.  Here is A Long Road to Cherry Pie, Part II.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day Three, Week 5, First Time Around

I finished my first try at the week five of the Couch to 5K.  I did all three days, but with lots of visiting and not so much paying attention to the clock.  I think I did the full workout today, with almost everything at the correct designated time, except that I did a 7.5 minute warm-up walk instead of the prescribed 5 minutes.

It felt good, but I confess to having developed a bad habit lately.  I think it started when I was battling with those first difficult days of the week four workout.  I have been holding on to the handlebars instead of going without.  It's much easier cardio-vascularly to pull oneself along that way, but it is kind of cheating.  I've been trying to break that habit.  Today, I tried to do at least 2/3 without, but sometimes I forgot and found myself holding on, again.

But soon we should be able to do some outdoor walks and runs.  That's perhaps more difficult to do with anther, since everyone's pace is different.  I may walk with Connie some days and do the Couch to 5K other days.  Since I'm not really following it, anyway, it's not important to keep up to any particular schedule. 

Just keep working.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken and GF Dumplings

The meat chickens we grew free-range last summer are much different than grocery store chickens.  I don't know why, exactly, but I have a few theories.  

Firstly, they are stringier, long and lean, and a bit tough.  I think this is because free-range birds get vastly more exercise than grocery store birds.  They make good crock pot meals, but they are less satisfying for stovetop use.

Secondly, they are yellow.  The skin is very yellow, as is the fat.  Some of the kids are grossed out by this.  I think the chickens are yellower because they are eating a less controlled diet.  The yolks of eggs from free range hens are very dark yellow because such hens eat their fuller range of dietary needs, such as bugs and strange plants, seeds, small twigs, leaves, etc.  This is alleged to make a healthier egg with more properly balanced essential fatty acids and a richer nutrient content.  So with the free ranged meat chickens.  They eat a little of everything.  I theorize that the fat and skin that appear so strange to those of us who are used to grocery store chickens is really more normal and hopefully richer in nutrients and healthier fats.

But they are strange to eat and take a bit of imagination to serve to kids who might sometimes be a little bit picky.

Today I tried to make Chicken and Dumplings.  I can't say I remember ever having eaten Chicken and Dumplings, so I didn't really know what I was doing.  But it's always sounded good so I though I'd try it.  Because of the number of eaters at our house, our volume ends up being quite large.  You will probably want to cut back a bit.

This is what I did.

Roast your Birds
Rinse two whole chickens and pat dry. 
Rub with your favorite herb mix.  If you want a more flavorful meat, rub the inside the cavity, and separate the skin from the breast and rub seasonings under the skin.  I just rubbed the outside surfaces well.
I used salt, coarsely crushed sage leaves, oregano, and a red pepper/lime seasoning salt from the grocery store.

Put chickens in a large greased roaster and sprinkle with a bit of onion, celery, and carrots for flavor.

Cover and bake at 300F for 2-3 hours.

While the chickens are baking, dice enough carrots, celery, and potatoes to feed your family; or prep whatever combination of veggies you like with chicken.  I covered the diced veggies with water to keep them fresh while waiting.

Note: Later when I was looking for dumpling recipes, I noticed that most Chicken and Dumpling recipes do not include potatoes. Several call for peas.  Since I don't know what's normal, I just made something up.

After the chickens were roasted, pull the meat off the bones and break it into serving sized portions.  Return to the roaster with the pan juices.

Note: I put the bones and most of the skin in a crockpot with water for homemade bone broth.  I'll let it sit in the crock pot for several days, then strain through cheese cloth and put in freezer if I don't have an immediate use for it.

To the chicken in the roaster, add the vegetables, and broth or reconstituted bouillon, enough to cover vegetables and meat.  If you have it, use homemade bone broth.  I used 3 cups of turkey frame broth concentrate from the freezer and the soaking water from the veggies.

Note: If you use bouillon cubes or granules, you can stir it directly into the hot pan juices and then use the veggie soaking water in the correct volume.  If you don't need the water for your meal, you can water your plants with it so you won't waste any veggie-ness that has leached into the water.
Cover and put back in the oven for another 1 1/2 hours.  

Add 2 cups frozen peas for the last 1/2 hour of baking. Turn the oven up to 350 F

For the dumplings, I kind of used the recipe from Nourished Kitchen.  

Gluten-free dumplings:
2 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup almond meal
1 c tapioca flour
1 1/3 cup whey (or liquid of choice)
4 eggs, beaten
1 cube butter, melted
1 teaspoon sea salt
Stir brown rice flour, sorghum flour, almond meal, and tapioca flour together, then pour whey into the flour and stir together until it resembles coarse crumbs.  

Note: If you set it aside, covered, for about eight hours or overnight it will be healthier, with a little probiotic action going, but I didn't think of it soon enough.
Mix liquid ingredients together, then pour into the dough and mix just until dough clings together.  Add more rice or sorghum flour if needed. I ended up adding almost another cup of sorghum flour.  Roll the dough in your hands to form balls about one-half to three-quarters inch in diameter.

Drop formed dumplings, evenly across the top of the roaster.   Cover the roaster and allow the dumplings to cook undisturbed for eight to ten minutes.  Cut one in half to test for doneness.

Serve in bowls and enjoy.

A final note: if you want more info on the benefits of cooking with bone broth, see my post on beef bone broth.   It has instructions for making broth and several inks to further reading.

Non-Couch to 5K workout

I worked out for 30 minutes today, but I did not do my Couch to 5K.  I started on the Gazelle with Connie on the tread mill.  But after about five minutes Joe called with news that a friend was bringing some roosters over for us.  So I wanted to cut short my workout.  I chose to stay on the Gazelle for a total of about 10 minutes, then about 5 minutes on the Nordic Rider and I finished with about 15 minutes walking on the tread mill.  I could have jogged, but then I would have been totally dripping wet when I returned home and I didn't want to sweat that much.

Remember the old deodorant commercial from the 70s?  "Some people perspire. I sweat."  My sister always laughed that I should have been featured in that commercial.  I am just a sweater.  I've taken to bringing a cloth diaper along to Connie's.  One of the unfolded variety.  I roll it diagonally and then tie it around my forehead like a bandana.  Works like a charm!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Couch to 5K, Week 5

This is my next big leap, but I can't really say I did it right this morning.  Connie and I were so busy with our visiting, that when I looked at the clock on her treadmill, it was already 15 minutes into my workout.  Some days, I'd be able to just start the interval part at that point, and just ignore the extra minutes of walking at the beginning.  But both Connie and I had other time commitments later in the morning, and I figured I better share her tread mill with her for a little bit.

The workout is supposed to be
5 minutes warm-up
5 minutes jogging
3 minutes walking
5 minutes jogging
3 minutes walking
5 minutes jogging
5 minutes cooldown

For a total of 31 minutes.  Because of my late start, I did two of the jogging intervals.  But that time I had 35 minutes of work-out done, so I worked on the other machines for another 15 minutes.

But I'm looking forward to this week's schedule.  I think I am ready to easily handle the 5 minute jogging intervals since they have a longer walking interval between.  Much more easily, even that the shorter jogs with the short walks in between.  Ugh, week four was hard.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Couch to 5K week 4, final day.

I again didn't write down any stats.  And I didn't really do very well today in my routine.  I exercised for 60 minutes total, which is good, but I didn't run as much as I should have.  No reason, really.  I am making progress on feeling less winded while running.  I hold on to the "handlebars" less while jogging.  I just got lazy toward the end and walked the last few minutes.  Not a good excuse.

But I'm within perhaps one good days' workout of my half way point on my ticker.  That's fun.

Next weeks Couch to 5K consists of three five minutes jogs with three minute walks in between.  I think I can probably do that.  After that it jumps to 8 minute jogs.  Yes, I know I could do that, but I don't really want to yet.  That's the biggest factor in the whole running thing.  Do I really want it?  I'm not sure.  Only if it's not too painful.  At this point in my life, I don't need pain. 

Eternal Promises amid Spiritual Battles

This is the day that the Lord has made. 
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 
Ps. 118:24

This is a somewhat strange post compared to my normal scrivenings. Sinful nature is strange, but we are all stuck with it. I couldn't sleep last night and felt especially plagued by my sinful nature. In the hopes that perhaps it will help someone else who feels the same, I'm going to write about it. It's kind of a free form piece to portray my thoughts and feelings at the time, followed by the resolution I found by morning light.

In my insomnia last night I was chasing myself around the labyrinth of my sinful nature. Lots of doubts and confusion. I felt as though I was the ONLY one in the whole world who had such an evil sinfulness lurking beneath my conscious mind. And that everywhere I turned, it was there, fear and uncertainty, and feelings of failure and inadequacy.

Failure was the big goblin for me last night. I feel as though I will never be a good housekeeper. Truth be told, I'll probably never even be an adequate housekeeper.   If I can get the basics done, food and clothes and shelter, that's about all I can hope for from myself.   I get distracted with one unimportant project after another. And then, "Oops! there went another day."

I used to say I would never live in the land of "someday."  Someday I will do this, or someday we'll be able to go there, or have this, or someday I'll get this done or that done...

I must be the worst person in the world.  I only live in somedayland.

Why don't I just take the bull by the horns and accomplish some of these many things that I leave for that illusive someday.

Someday and Never.  Twists and Turns.  Lazy or Busy.  Around and Around.

My rational self knows Satan's accusations are not true, but there I was last night stuck in the labyrinth of my own making. Turning and Turning. Around and Around. I felt mentally ill.  It felt as though I was holding at bay all my craziness, just by pretending to go through real life each day. And if I stopped to look into all the dark passages, there was craziness and instability each direction.

I feel better today, but that's because the ghosts and demons of the night are held at bay, once again. Or is denial the only thing that keeps anyone from being crazy. Are we all just playing along each day, pretending to be sane?

Are you worried about me yet?

Don't be.

It's all part of our Christian walk in this vale of tears.   The reality is that Satan and his minions are truly stalking us, tempting us, trying to draw us away from the promises of our Heavenly Father.  Promises of His love for us.  Of our value as His adopted sons and daughters.  Promises of our righteousness before Him.

The spiritual stalkers are real, but how much more so is our Father's love and faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor principalities nor powers, 
nor things present nor things to come, 
nor height nor depth, 
nor any other created thing, 
shall be able to separate us 
from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:28

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week 4, Day 2, Third time around

Again today's workout felt good.  I am glad I did not feel compelled to forge ahead to week 5 yet.  I think I'll be much more ready for it this time.  I didn't do any stats today.  I did the Couch to 5K with a 7.5 minute warm-up.  I didn't walk much at the end, but did cook down on the other machines.  We worked out for about 50 minutes today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

RLCC 2011 Academic Banquet and Other School Related News

Red Lake County Central is the official name for our kids' schools. I am not altogether clear on how these things work, but I believe that although the communities of Plummer and Oklee work together to provide education for area kids, they are each still independent, with their own school boards and separate school district numbers.   The way things work at this time is that each town provides pre-school/headstart for its own kids.  The elementary students, K-6, use the facility in Plummer, and the junior high and high school kids go to school in Oklee.  Extra curricular activities are shared; sports practices and athletic events are scheduled equally between the two facilities.  Those activites requiring larger numbers of participants than our communities produce, are also combined with the Red Lake Falls schools.

Mostly I am glad our kids are in public school.  It is a huge burden off me to not have the homeschool responsibilities always hanging like a cloud over our lives.  But we've traded it for the task of keeping track of numerous schedules, running around to various events, and having very, very short evenings to spend with our kids.

For instance, this coming Friday, Clara is going with her class to the Shrine Circus in Grand Forks and will not return until sometime in the evening.  Louisa's three act play opens that night.  Elsie has track practice in Red Lake Falls, so will not be back in Oklee until 6:30 or so.  Matt has a track meet, and so will return to Oklee sometime after 7:00, perhaps closer to 8:00. 

Last Thursday night, the younger kids got off the bus at about 5:00.  Some had homework to do and all needed supper.  Joe had church in Grygla at 7:00.  Louisa, Elsie and Matt participated in the spring choir and band concert in Oklee at 7:00.  I was left to decide whether or not to attend the concert and how to manage it if I did.  I knew there would be no baby sitters available for the younger kids, because any local teens would also be at the concert.  These concerts go long, so I certainly did not want to bring six little ones along with only one set of parental arms to manage them.  But yet, if I left Clara in charge of the others at home, five little ones is an awful lot for an eleven year old to manage on her own, especially when it involves bedtime.

I realize that there are many families whose kids are involved in many more things than are our kids.  We've made a conscious decision to try to maintain some sense of family living and family time.  I should not complain.  I just bring up those two recent examples to demonstrate the new situations we as parents must learn how to manage.  It's much different than having supper, getting everyone ready for bed and reading together for a half hour before our family devotion time.

There is no perfect solution in this temporal world, but we can make the best of whatever paths we choose to walk.  Joe and I are still learning how to manage the various new things we have before us in this year of transition to public school.

Joe and I went to college in Madison, WI.  Although not a huge metro area, the University there attracts students from every area of the United States and from around the world.  We were exposed to a multitude of world views.  Among those we counted as friends were kids who grew up in as many kinds of families and with as many various life styles as I could number.  We also try to keep up with current events and changing societal trends.

With all this in mind, we put our kids in the local public schools.  We really didn't know what to expect.  We didn't know, for instance, whether the school handed out condoms and to what extent and from what perspective the teachers taught sex ed.  We didn't know how prevalent was the use of drugs and alcohol among the students, and what kinds of pressure our kids would feel to participate in such activities.  We didn't know whether the kids would get poor grades if they stated scepticism about evolutionary theories or the success of socialism around the world.

And I'm happy to say that in most of those things, we've been pleasantly surprised.  In some ways, becoming accustomed to small town and rural living was a challenge for me.  But that story would be a different blog post.  But I am convinced that the blessings in such society far outweigh any drawbacks.  This is surely reflected in the more traditional values reflected in how our local schools are run.

Last night I had the privilege to accompany Matt to the Academic Banquet, which was held at the Plummer site this year. The academic banquet is held each spring to honor those students in grades 9-12 who maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above for the previous three quarters.  Awards are also given to the seniors in each of the core curriculum areas.  The parents and honored students are treated to a nice dinner served by those students in grades 7-8 who maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above for the first three quarters of the school year.  A speaker is invited to address the gathering, usually someone who has graduated from the community and done well in his or her life.  Everyone dresses up and it's a festive occasion.

The speaker at this year's banquet was Dr. Bryan Delage from Ortonville, MN.  He graduated from highschool in Plummer in 1981, and has served our country in both the National Guard and the Air National Guard; and provides medical care for the people in the Ortonville area.

Dr. Delage spoke on what he considered the most necessary things for a successful life.  He first assured the audience that the views he was going to described were not those of the school and that if anyone had any concerns they could come to him afterwards.  He started his list of things necessary to success with developing one's faith.  He advised that without a firm foundation, people have nowhere to turn when the troubles of life come their way.

Suffice it to say, that's about the last thing I expected to hear when I walked through the school door last evening.  And it was well received.  Heads were nodding around the room.

After that Dr. Delage continued with the importance of solid friendships and gave advice on how to choose and be a good friend.  He talked about failure and how it ought to be used as a base from which one can launch future success.  Dr. Delage pointed out that although little emphasis is put on personal responsibility in today's world, it's very necessary for personal success.  He exhorted the audience to own up to our mistakes and, as with failures, to build on those mistakes; don't blame them on others or hide them away.  Another of his points revolved around the idea that we are not isolated in this world.  We need to be able to acknowledge those others in our lives who build us up and support us.  And to do the same for others.

Probably Dr. Delage mentioned other things that were equally important, but those are the main points I remember.  He was a good speaker with a message of worth to the listeners.  I appreciate the time he sacrificed, both in preparation and in travelling to Plummer for the evening. 

I also want to thank the school board and the administration at both schools for the nice evening.  But more importantly, I thank them for the work they do daily for our kids.

Two Gluten Free "Feed-a-Crowd" Recipes, Topped off with a Small Serving of Hotdish Homily

At our church, our potlucks are not really pot luck.  Everything is very orchestrated to ensure a successful gustatory experience each time.  This year I'm assigned a hotdish.  The instructions state that we should prepare at least six quarts; usually the ladies prepare the hotdishes in large roasters.  And for any of my non-Minnesotan readers who don't happen to listen to Garrison Keillor, hotdish is the Minnesotan term for casserole.

Since my husband is one of the several at our church who need to eat Gluten Free, whatever I bring is usually Gluten Free.  But this year I'm assigned hotdish and one of the hardest things to make Gluten Free is hotdish.  Think about it.  What's in hotdish?  Most all have some sort of creamed soup, right?  So there's the first challenge.  No creamed soups.  Since I usually make a white sauce to replace cream soups, even in the pre-GF days, that's not too hard for me.  But in the volume I need to bring, early on a Sunday morning, thickening hot milk is not something I want to mess with. 

Secondly, many hotdishes have pasta and that's right out the window.  Yes, I could purchase Gluten Free pasta for the occasion, but it's pretty expensive.  And even the ones that work well enough to be a fair substitute for traditional semolina pastas, can overcook very easily.  When that happens, they fall apart into mush.  What if church goes long?  What if I have to bring 3/4 of my roaster home and serve it all week for leftovers?   It could easily produce a less than satisfactory result.

Rice is always good, but it also comes with the same risks that pasta does, in that it gets very gluey if overcooked or reheated.  So that leaves me potatoes and I'm sorry, but I don't relish the thought of peeling and chopping that many potatoes on a Sunday morning when I'm getting 9 kids rolling for church and have to teach Sunday school.

So I've been up against a challenge this year to find a good GF hotdish I can bring when called upon.  I'm going for something with hash browns, so I can be lazy and use a pre-packaged food item.  The first time I tried a lasagna type dish made with hash browns instead of noodles.  It was good tasting, but kind of soupy.

This weekend was some good practice for me since I had two opportunities to hone my art.  One on Saturday for a funeral and another on Sunday for a Baptism dinner.  And I'm happy to say they were both successful.

On Saturday I tweaked the lasagna type one so it was less soupy.  And for Sunday's I did a creamed hamburger with hashbrowns.  Perhaps you'll never have reason to cook in this volume, but with a little creativity, you can shrink them to the size you need.

But before I get to the recipes, as a little closing note to the Garrison Keillor comment above, I have this story to tell.  I am not a native Minnesotan.  When I was young, we ate casseroles.  But our pastor's wife, who was a native Minnesotan, made hotdish.  I always thought that was such a funny thing to call them.  I even remember asking her once why she called them that and she just laughed and gave me a hug and told me that that's what they were called where she grew up.  Little did I imagine that I'd one day be making hotdish as a pastor's wife in Minnesota.

At some point, during Joe's seminary years, the term hotdish slipped into my vocabulary.  I know it was during that time, because when we moved to Chicago for Joe's vicar year, our physician, during a well-child appointment, asked about Jeremy's eating habits.  I mentioned hotdish during my answer and Dr. Brown started to chuckle.  He said he could tell I was from Minneosta because of the word hotdish.  I kind of laughed and asked if he was familiar with that term.  He responded that he would not have known what I was talking about had he not been a long time listener to Garrison Keillor's radio show.  I think that was the moment at which I knew I had succumbed to Minnesotan-ness.

Please check all labels on purchased items to ensure they are Gluten Free.

GF Hash brown Lasagna Hotdish
  • 3 qt ground beef
  • garlic salt
Brown the ground beef and put in the bottom of a large roaster with the pan juices.  Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt (perhaps 1 tsp). 
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 lb grated mozzarella (approx 1/3 of a 2 lb bag)
  • 1 medium onion diced 
  • 1 large can (28 oz) diced stewed tomatoes
Blop/sprinkle the ricotta cheese over the meat.  Layer the mozzarella and the onion over the ricotta.  Top with the stewed tomatoes, pouring a bit at a time here and there, so it is evenly dispersed over the other items.  Use a rubber scraper to spread it if necessary.
  • 2 lb frozen hash browns (approx)
  • Salt and pepper
Pour a layer approximately 1 1/2" thick over the tomatoes.
Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally over the hash browns (perhaps using 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper)
  • 1 1/3 lb grated mozzarella (rest of bag)
  • basil and oregano
Layer the cheese over all and sprinkle the top with the herbs.
Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours at 350F.

Creamy GF Ground Beef and Potatoes
  • 3 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 large carrots diced
  • 3 large celery stalks diced
  • 1 c ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 qt heavy whipping cream
  • 2 lb frozen hash browns
  • 1 lb grated mozzarella
  • dried sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
Brown ground beef and pour it with juices into the bottom of a large roaster.  Salt the meat liberally (1 tsp?).

Sprinkle half the diced vegetables over the meat.  Coarsely crush about 1 tsp worth of dried sage leaves and sprinkle over veggies.  (If you don't have sage leaves, sprinkle a moderate amount over the veggies.)

Blop/sprinkle the ricotta over the veggies, spreading around a little if necessary.  Pour 1 qt whipping cream over the contents of roaster.

Spread a thick layer of hashbrowns over the cream (1 1/2").  Salt and pepper the hashbrowns (maybe 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper).  Sprinkle remaining vegetables over hashbrowns.

Top with grated mozzarella.  Drizzle remaining 2 c cream over everything.

Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours at 350F.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Again, Week Four

I started my third week of Week 4, Couch to 5K.  But it's good this week.  I've come to accept the fact that I need three weeks to conquer each level of progress and I suppose that's OK.  I've also pretty much stopped using the podcasts.  I just watch the clock and Connie and I visit and it goes much more quickly.

And I avoid all the stress of the "technology"involved in operating an MP3 player.  Some days it just drove me nuts.  It's probably partly my fault, since I found only one place I could conveniently hold the thing without it flying off or out, and without entangling myself in the cords.  Although women throughout the ages have used this location for any storing any number of things, the particular location, to which I must only allude, is somewhat prone to becoming a little sweaty about half-way through my work-out and the MP3 player did not like that.

Where do all the rest of you athletes store your players?

Getting back to Couch to 5K, I go through the workout just fine today and even was abl to visit through most of it.  It's amazing how much easier it is this week.

Another bonus I should point out for anyone else who is struggling to get back into shape after having been out of shape, or for anyone who is starting to work-out at forty-something, is the warm-up.  I've discovered that I can tell when my body is ready to roll and it's not always ready yet after the five minute warm-up included in the Couch to 5k program.  So I walk until I feel ready.  Then I'm much less sluggish feeling.  I don't have to force each foot to pick up and move forward.  And I have fewer aches and pains.

I didn't write down any stats.  But we were so busy talking that we exercised for an entire hour today.

Friday, April 8, 2011

2nd Go at Week 4, Day 3, Couch to 5K

I did the workout,but had a little interruption when Joe called to get some info that I was carrying around in my purse.

But afterwards, when Connie was on the treadmill and I was doing the other stuff, we got so busy visiting, that we walked/gazelled/Nordic ridered for about 20-30 extra minutes.  We just kept moving and didn't realize what time it was.

I plan to do Week 4 one more week, just to make sure I'm ready to move on.  I feel just barely able to do Week 4, so I don't think I'm ready to move on yet.

I guess I'm OK with that.

But I'd like to point out that thanks to our extra visiting, I've passed the one third way mark on my ticker!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thrifty Habits

I am a hard core second-hand shopper.  Now that my girls are teens and have their own money to spend, I occasionally get to a mall.  But except for the last year or two, during the previous 10 years, I had been in a mall three or four times.  I hate to see the high prices in "real" stores when I know I can get a better deal at the Boys' Ranch or the ARC thrift store or whichever one I visit.

We almost always stop at thrift stores on vacations.  Some of you have seen how we travel for vacations.  We vacation with twelve people in a twelve passenger van, all of our personal effects to last a couple of weeks, and usually camping equipment besides.   Not much extra room.  But we always find room for a few Goodwill items.

About twice a year we go into Grand Forks or Fargo for shopping.  For us that means we quickly get any "real" store stuff out of the way, so we can hit the thrift stores.  There are three we frequent, the Dakota Boys' Ranch store, Valley Thrift Store (ARC), and The Home Place (proceeds for the mentally ill).  We stop at Salvation Army occasionally.  I recently, discovered St. Vincent de Paul, and also got directions to the Goodwill, but we ran out of time so didn't get to Goodwill.  I hadn't even known those two existed.

When we lived in Madison, we had a home improvement second-hand store we'd shop at.  Contractors or anyone could drop off any usable home improvement type items they might otherwise throw in a dumpster.  People would come in and browse through the chunks of drywall, partially filled paint cans, lumber of all shapes and sizes and even used cupboards that had been ripped out of somebody's house during a remodelling project.  Very cool for those homeowners such as ourselves who are perpetually on a tight budget.

Some like-minded friends from our college years visited us recently.  One of the days they were here, we drove the 70 miles into Grand Forks, and thrift store shopped.  Char is at least as much of a second-hand junkie as am I.  Possibly more so, but I don't have a second hand store just down the road like she does, so it's a bit hard to get an accurate comparison on that.  I was tickled that she tried to get photos outside the various places we stopped.  It shows how near and dear to her heart is this whole lifestyle.  (Although it might also make for some pretty good jokes about North Dakota culture when she shows her vacation pictures to her Wisconsin friends and family.)

I have been known to patiently wait for small appliances after one breaks down, waiting for a chance to get to Grand Forks, hoping to find that mixer or popcorn popper or whatever that I need.  It drives my kids crazy that I won't just go into Wal-mart and buy one for $15.  But I've been there and done that.  If I buy a new one, I will hate it.  It will not be hefty enough to get the job done.  It will fall apart or the motor will burn out immediately.

But if I wait patiently until one pops up a thrift store, I can find an older model from "back in the old days" when they still made things that last.  My mother-in-law still has the mixer she got for a wedding shower gift almost 45 years ago.  I've been through about six of them in the 21 years of our marriage!

So to me it just makes sense to shop second hand.

I have another, less noble reason that I like to shop second hand.  And that reason is an offshoot of my competitive nature.  I hate when I hear someone say that I'm ruining the earth with my family size.  It drives me nutso crazy.  I know how frugally I live and how few things I actually purchase.  I also know how most mainstream Americans go through things.  Tossing things in the trash simply because they want new.  And at some point, I just made a commitment to try to be an "anti-consumer".

I must admit that back in the dark corners of my mind, I know that one of these days, if the right person catches me in the wrong mood, and questions me about "Mother Earth" and how I could treat her so poorly by inflicting all these extra people on her...well, I'll leave my response to your imaginations.  But suffice it to say that there is an evil little corner of my brain that can't wait for an opportunity to compare my style of living to theirs and see who really consumes more stuff.  (See, I got a little nutso crazy, even just writing about it.)

OK, but really, there is a reason I was thinking today about my second-hand purchasing habit.  Last night with Wednesday School, Soup Supper, and Lenten Service, there were several people trying to call the church.  But all anyone got was a busy signal.  I don't know if somebody drove over to the church to investigate, or if there was someone down at church who tried to make a call, I'm not sure.    But eventually, it was discovered that the church line was dead.  The internet worked fine and our parsonage line was fine.  But the church was dead.

Today, when the young fix-it man from Garden Valley Telephone got here, he checked everything out, starting down at the main junction and gradually working inward.  Everything checked out fine until he got up to the parsonage.  He knocked and asked if we had a church line up here.  And yes, we do.

So in he came and tested that out; and low and behold the phone up here was dead.  The phone itself.  The, uh, second hand phone.  I was kind of chagrined, since I am so adamant that used is better.  Shoot.  Maybe it got knocked off the counter.

I ran back to my more recent bag of "have on hand in just in case" purchases and pulled out another phone.  This one is a lovely, sleek looking, silver and black model complete with a Hello Kitty sticker on top.

The thorough Garden Valley man didn't want to leave until he made sure this "new" one was going to work.  So he tried it out and didn't think it sounded just right.  He tried switching cords and various other tricks to get us the best sound he could.  As a last resort, he offered us a $15 phone they sell at the phone company.  Now, I've priced new phones, and compared to the last time I did so, $15 sounded pretty reasonable.  But Joe explained that we probably had others around and we'd find something that would work.

After the Garden Valley man left, Joe played around with the original thrift store phone to try to figure out whether it could be fixed.  (We're also very into fixing things.  It's just another little thing we do for our "Mother".)  As Joe was working on the phone, we were joking about our second hand phones and Joe mentioned the Hello Kitty sticker.  I mentioned the price sticker that was still clinging stubbornly to the phone, ruining the style lines of the Hello Kitty sticker.

I asked him if it said $3, since that is generally what I pay for a phone.  What do you know?  Yes, that was the price.

Joe then pointed out that the other phone, the one he was working on, also had it's $3 tag on.

Oh, boy, what did that repair man think?   That he had landed among a passel of hillbillies?  Joe and I just laughed it off.  When one lives so far outside of the mainstream, sometimes one's choices seem a little outlandish to others.

Joe did eventually fix the first phone that was causing all the trouble.  I'm embarrassed to even say this...

Apparently it has a little "Hold" button on the side that someone's little fingers had switched.  Who would guess?  I didn't even know there was a "Hold" button.  And to think the church was without a phone for about 20 hours and the repairman came all the way from Red Lake Falls, all for a button that was switched the wrong way.

May I just crawl under my rock now?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Smarty Pants Trivia Parts I and II

Joe and I have been having a mild disagreement about whether or not the orange on the outside of Muenster cheese is dye or mold.  I averred it was dye, and Joe held that it was mold.  We try to maintain a "no googling during supper rule," which is frequently broken for learning opportunities such as this.  It's the homeschool family mentality after all.  For some reason we actually exhibited some self-control on this one and neither of us had yet checked the facts. 

Today the Wednesday school kids I pick up at the Oklee school each week were talking about cheese and I heard one of my kids tell the others that the orange color on Muenster was mold.  Oooh, I had to bite my tongue to not be right out there with my opinion.  But truthfully, I had no real solid reason to think I was right and Joe was wrong.  I just thought I was right.

So as soon as I got home, I sat down here and googled Muenster cheese. Guess what?  I am right!  Hurray! 

Muenster is, according to Wikipedia, an American cheese that is named after the German city of Muenster.  It is a soft cheese with a washed rind (I didn't find anything to tell me what that meant).  The orange on the outside is made from vegetable coloring.

Also according to Wikipedia, there is another cheese with a similar name, Munster, that is from the Alsace region of the France/Germany border area.  It allegedly gets its name from the word monastery (monestery=munster) where it was originally made by Irish monks.  It has a hard rind that can be eaten, but is frequently cut off.  According to the Cheese-France website, "The cheese is rubbed by hand with a solution of rock, salt and water. This will help the growth of bacteria giving a strong flavor to the cheese and preventing mold to developing."

But then, as with most things one learns on-line, according to eHow, they are all variations of the same cheese.  Hmmm.

Now for another bit of Smarty Pants Trivia, I have an embarrassing story to tell.  This time, just thinking I knew the answer was not enough.  As I was headed to Oklee to pick up the kids, I heard the daily trivia question on the Fosston station.  The question of the day was, "In what language was The Divine Comedy originally written?" 

"Oh," I thought, "that's an easy one.  Latin.  But maybe I better think again, just to be sure."  Now here's where I got into trouble.  Somehow, in my brain, I started confusing Homer with Dante. 

"Maybe he wrote in Greek, though," I thought to myself.  I started trying to remember Dante's second name, something like Algheria or something.  "That's got to be Italian.  So it had to have been Latin."

Meanwhile, the announcer is counting off the seconds and I'm feeling a little bit smug because I know the answer.  "Wow, this is so easy, I can't believe nobody's calling in."

And the announcer repeats the question and the phone number several more times, and gives a 20 second warning. 

Finally the clock runs down.

"Hehehe,"  I think.  "I know the answer and nobody else does."

"The language in which The Divine Comedy was originally written was....Italian."


And in case anyone is curious, his second name is Alighieri, or more officially, Dante degli Alighieri.  He wrote The Divine Comedy between 1308 and his death in 1321. 

So I guess it was a little late for Latin.  Shoot!  Serves me write for feeling so smug.