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I’ve been watching too much TV. It has been a long winter, and by long, I mean cold. Since I am married to a man who flips the remote from one ball game to another all evening long, I watch TV in the bedroom. HE has closer access to the fridge, and I have closer access to the electric blanket control. We each have our own TV remote. It works for me. It works for HIM, too, and keeps us out of divorce court. I’m digressing, though. I’ve decided that America is trend-setting, and I’m not even talking about all those reality shows or all those Kardashians, either. My taste in TV tends to run to antiques, cooking, Downton Abbey, and Judge Judy. Eclectic is an understatement. I’ve noticed that TV Americans are getting away from the McMansions with huge master bedroom suites sporting king-sized fluffy beds. That’s probably a good thing, because nobody can afford those, anyway. We enjoy living in a small house, but ours is gigantic compared to some of these. The latest trend seems to be 200 square feet teeny-tiny houses with teeny-tiny stairs heading up to the single loft bedroom, every one of which is a mattress sitting on the floor. Obviously, these are for folks that don’t have bad backs or have to make a trip to the necessary room during the night. Either that, or that potted plant in the corner is a cleverly disguised chamber pot. One also cannot be a collector/hoarder like me, unless there is a big heated garage, and that would kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? I don’t think I would like a kitchen any smaller than the one I have. That means that there is only room for one person to do the dishes. I’m also certain that constantly sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with your hubby while he watches sports in a room small enough that you can reach over and flip the pork chops at the same time is not the stuff that happy marriages are made of. Unless, of course, you are married to someone who says, “Sit down, Dear. I’ve just finished making supper and I’ll finish the dishes, too. Here…take the remote. I’ll never use it.” Ah, dreams and fantasy. That’s the stuff good television is made of. Welcome, spring.
If you are interested in learning more about small and tiny house living, go to livinglargeinourlittlehouse.com/

I am about as far from a fashionista as they come. Anything beyond jeans and a t-shirt is way too dressed up for me. Still, I like the current women’s fashion of wearing a brightly colored scarf around the neck. I like it both for the statement it makes and to cover up an unfortunate hereditary condition that runs in our family called “caruncle”, also known as “turkey wattle neck”. I have only had one scarf the past year, a simple infinity type that looks decent without me having to fuss over it. Getting it to look right is the hard part, and I don’t know why, but some people just have the knack for it. I have even watched YouTube instructional videos, and although I have tried knotting and draping the scarf every which way but loose, I always end up looking like a Farm Woman who is trying to disguise a turkey wattle neck. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a new scarf. This one can double as a vest, neck scarf, and even perhaps a sari, if one is slender and young enough to pull it off. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway? On Sunday morning, I draped and knotted the darn thing around my neck, fussing and mussing with it until it looked fairly decent. Then I remembered that I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, so I gave up and tucked the whole mess into my collar so I wouldn’t spit toothpaste on it. When I finished brushing and looked in the mirror, the scarf was perfect! I looked like a YouTube video model. Well, almost like a YouTube video model. I went to church feeling like a million bucks, but knowing that it would be unlikely that I could ever get it just right again.

After my mother died, I inherited the large dresser that was in her bedroom for many years. I also inherited all the family photos, and there are boxes of them from both my mother’s and my father’s side of the family. It was not that my sister didn’t want them, but I have more storage room than she does, namely, the large dresser. All of the drawers are filled with loose photographs and albums of even more photographs as well as documents and scrapbooks. Even though I reminded my mom to write on the back of these photos so we would know who they were when we went though them someday, she didn’t. I guess that maybe the project was a little too overwhelming for her, but someday is here already, and it came sooner than we all expected it to. I wanted to make it my winter project to go through and clean out those drawers, but time got away from me and I didn’t get a lot done. It’s not that I’m lazy. I just don’t like to be cold, and spend most of those dark winter evenings under my electric blanket watching old movies and House Hunters episodes featuring Caribbean beach homes. Yesterday, there was finally a hint of spring in the air, and after a walk in the sunshine with Barney the Chihuahua, who also spent the winter under the electric blanket, I pulled out the first drawer and got started. After looking through Mom’s collection of childhood valentines from the 1930’s, I sorted the mixed-up photographs into piles and decided that I would harden my heart and toss in the trash anyone we didn’t know, was unfocused, or any landscape pictures of unknown places. You can probably guess what happened. I was transported back to bygone days. My mother and her sister Olive were young and beautiful in the early 1940’s and looked so carefree, despite the fact that there was a war going on and the world was a very serious place. Thrown into the mix were photos of our toddler grandson as a newborn, my daughter and nephew with silly grins on their faces sitting in Dad’s old boat, and my beautiful baby niece who was born prematurely and lived only a few short months. I studied the face of the grandmother I never knew to see if there was a hint of any of them in her smile or in her eyes. I found assorted posed family Christmas pictures, and a favorite first-day-of-school picture with half of the neighborhood kids standing on our front steps, dressed in our finest first-day-of-school clothes. I can still hear my mom asking us to say “cheese” while trying to squeeze us all into the picture and it looks like I may have been rolling my teenage eyes behind some very groovy glasses. Before I knew it, the afternoon had disappeared and I had only emptied out the first drawer. There’s five more to go, as well as my own boxes of photographs. I haven’t written on the back of any of them yet, but I’ll get to it….someday.

My vacations are usually pretty calm and relaxing. I don’t climb mountains, parasail, or surf the big waves in shark-infested waters. For the most part, I eat, shop, visit, and relax, with perhaps a glass or two of good wine thrown in. I’ve often wondered why, with such low-key plans, the airlines seem to want me to always have a heart racing, catch-your-breath adventure on flight days. Travelling this year with my BFF, we had an uneventful flight to sunny warm Arizona and a wonderful but very short week there. After being dropped off at the Phoenix airport, I attempted to check in electronically but got the message “See attendant.” Uh oh. Come to find out, our flight was delayed due to bad weather in every state other than the one we were in and the one we were going to. The chances of catching our connecting flight from Minneapolis to Bemidji looked dismal. The airline, of course, would put us up for the night. Not in sunny warm Arizona, though. We couldn’t have that kind of luck. We would be staying in below-zero Minneapolis, which wouldn’t have been so bad but for the fact that we had no jackets. Since we didn’t have room to pack a heavy Minnesota winter jacket in our carry-on bags, our jackets were locked in the car back in Bemidji. During the delay, we had a late lunch at a very crowded Mexican restaurant. So crowded, in fact, that by 3 p.m. they were out of salsa. Yes, I know that Mexican restaurants NEVER run out of salsa, but this one did. The margarita-drinking guys seated at the next table, which in this crowded venue meant that we were close enough that had we lived in another culture, we would have had to get married, said that the only thing worse would have been if they were to run out of tequila, and I think they were working on that. After a nice safe flight to Minneapolis, we found we had 10 minutes to get from point A to point Z at the other end of the airport to make our connection. We decided to make a run for it. I don’t run, but I walked very, very fast. Fast, that is, until I got to the down escalator, which was turned off. If you’re flying to the northern part of Minnesota, no matter what airline you take, your flight departs from the farthest lowest corner of the airport. There were no other stairs heading down. The escalator stairs were not wide enough for a person to carry their suitcase normally, so it either needed to be pushed down ahead or dragged behind. Neither was working. I held up the whole line of sweating, wheezing people trying to make that flight, but I think they were secretly thanking me for giving them time to catch their breath. As we all made the final dash to our gate, we learned that the flight was delayed due to “mechanical issues”. You would think that they could have told us that when we arrived at point A, but perhaps the airport security team entertains themselves by watching an old Farm Woman run through the airport pulling a suitcase, purse, and tote bag full of citrus fruit and takes bets on whether or not she will lose her grapefruit. When it comes to flying, I think the term “mechanical issues” is often used instead of “we’re waiting for all our late flights to arrive so we won’t have to pay for motel rooms for everyone and his mother.” We arrived safely at 11:30 p.m., only 30 minutes later than expected. It was 17 degrees below zero, with a wind chill factor of 35 below. Our jackets were locked in the car across the parking lot. Whoever said that a good brisk walk got the blood moving and warmed you up never lived in northern Minnesota. Welcome home.

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This recipe was created because I had a package of Canadian bacon and some rather tasteless Swiss cheese in the fridge that needed to be used up. Oh, and an insatiable appetite for pizza! When melted, the Swiss is firm and surprisingly, this combination gives you the texture of “real” pizza in your mouth. This is an original Minnesota Farm Woman copyrighted recipe. You may share it with credit, but do not steal and claim as your own, or you will have to clean the chicken coop for a month!

Ingredients:
1 6 oz. package thin sliced Canadian bacon
5-6 slices Swiss cheese
1 tsp. olive oil
10 or more slices turkey pepperoni
2 tbs. chopped green olives
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Optional toppings will add carbs, but you may add 1 tbs. pizza sauce, 1 tbs. chopped green pepper, onion, and/or mushrooms. You could change it up and add pesto, grilled chicken, and artichoke hearts, too!

In a non-stick skillet saute the Canadian bacon in olive oil until browned. (I used an orGreenic pan for this recipe, and nothing ever sticks.) Remove, cool, and wipe pan. Line pan with the cooled bacon, top with Swiss cheese. Broil on low until golden brown, cool. This should form a fairly solid disc. Lift, wipe pan, and flip over. Top with seasonings, pepperoni, and chopped olives, cover with mozzarella. Broil on low until golden brown.
Makes 4 generous slices. Each slice yields 3 carbs, depending on brands used and with no optional ingredients added.
Enjoy!

10959391_10205437575566096_1012712571256029305_nEven though she had more chickens than I did, my friend always called me “Chicken Lady.” She had a silly nickname for everyone she liked, and a probably a few that were not-so-silly for those she didn’t. She started my flock nearly seven years ago with a gift of four small banty chickens. I faithfully promised her that they would not be dinner and that I would return them to her if I changed my mind about raising chickens. (We all know how that turned out.) I also promised to sing to them every once in a while, because she told me that singing to chickens makes them happy. Only one chicken remains of that original flock, a nice little hen named Old Mum, widowed many times over. One by one, her rooster husbands have died of old age or disease. Chickens are not known for living long lives. Unfortunately, sometimes people aren’t, either. My beautiful friend, so young and healthy, got sick. The type of cancer that chose her should have never happened, but there it was. She fought it, and fought hard. It might seem strange, but we didn’t talk much about the cancer. Instead, we talked about chickens. Chickens and life and our grandchildren to be. Old Mum lost her last husband last week. Although he was old and nearly blind, he was a loving little rooster who stayed close by and always made sure that she got to eat first. Last week, I found him in a corner of the coop, nearly lifeless. I laid him out in a bed of straw and said my goodbyes, knowing that he would be dead by morning. I was surprised to see him walking around the coop the next day. Old Mum had taken her favorite seat on the windowsill, where she loves to peck at the frost that covers the window when the temperature drops outside. He was looking for her, I could tell. It took him several tries to fly up to the window to join her. They moved together against the frosted window, almost appearing to snuggle like the comfortable old couple they were. For once, I was at the right place and the right time with my camera. I found him the next day in the nesting box, wings spread as if he were flying away. They got what so many of us wish for: Another minute…another hour…another day with someone we love. Although I think of my friend often, I don’t know just why this particular moment brought her to my thoughts. For a moment, I couldn’t even remember how long she had been gone. I felt guilty about that, but then realized that she would more want it to be remembered that she lived rather than that she died. And live she did, before earning her wings. She lived and she cried and she laughed and she held those grandbabies close to her heart. I don’t think Old Mum has that much time left. Not only due to her age, but she is developing a malformation of her beak, making it hard for her to eat and requiring that she be hand-fed more often than not. Somewhere in heaven, my friend is caring for a bevy of colorful roosters, waiting for Old Mum to join them. Here on earth, I mix her food with warm water and sing to her softly as she eats.

Kids these days are technological geniuses, and our grandson Max is no exception. Like the rest of you doting grandparents out there, we are certain that Max is not only the cutest kid ever, but exceptionally bright. He’s not quite two, and although he understands many words, his vocabulary consists of about ten. He must take after his grandfather in that respect, because that’s about one evening’s conversation at our house. After I purchased a new smart phone, I think that perhaps little Max looks all the brighter because I am so dim. The cost of this fancy phone, by the way, is more than my parents paid for my first car. (That sporty 1967 Mustang was bought used and was really theirs but to this day I say it was mine, and to this day I wish I still had it.) I am not so technically challenged that I can’t add my favorite apps, take pictures, and text or call people, but it took me a little while to figure it all out. I managed to take a new video of little Max jumping in his crib while I chanted his favorite nursery rhyme of “Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, which I have repeated so many times that the lilting cadence even disturbs my dreams. If you have never heard that rhyme, let me just say that it is the toddler version of “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Max usually commandeers my tablet computer the minute he sees it and plays several games and puzzles, which I have installed just for him. Last week, he noticed the new phone and quickly figured out how to play the monkey video, and he laughed and laughed every time. Mind you, it takes at least four buttons to push to even get to the video application, and it even takes me a little while to find it, but he figured it out within seconds. I was happy, because watching the video over and over kept Max sitting quietly on my lap, allowing me to watch reruns of Dr. Phil. When babysitting a very active toddler, only another grandparent will understand that it is not so much the watching of the Dr. Phil show but the sitting and the resting that’s important. When I tried to make a call later that day, I realized that my entire phone list was gone. More than a hundred names and numbers were missing. Deleted. In place of the phone list were names and numbers of people, many of them from Pennsylvania, who were not known to me. I brought the phone in to that very expensive phone store, and the phone wizard who helped me couldn’t figure out how to get the numbers back, either. Apparently, The Boy Wonder not only deleted my list, but he synced my phone with someone else’s. Whatever “sync” means. I’m sure many of you are as dependent on your phone list as I am mine. I can’t even tell you my husband’s cell phone number. I just point to the word HIM on the list and click. With my usual luck, my old phone was 30 miles away, so we couldn’t reprogram the numbers from the old to the new. It was one long night of homework for me, entering each number by hand. It’s kind of crazy, but something totally amazing happens when you have grandchildren. You don’t get mad at them. Instead, your heart fills with pride and joy and love. In this case, there was a tiny bit of insanity thrown in, too. I say that because although my heart was filled with pride and joy and love, inside my head that night the words kept repeating themselves over and over, “Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, ‘no more monkeys jumping on the bed!'” Now that you’ve read this, I’ll bet you’ll be hearing it over and over in your head, too. You’re welcome.

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