Archive for February, 2013

Sunday Night Suppers

My mom has always been a great cook and Sunday was my favorite day to eat. You may think that I’m talking about the delicious roast beef, venison, or chicken that we had every Sunday for the noon meal, but Sunday night suppers were even better. After the dinner dishes were washed, Mom would tell us it was her afternoon off and she was done cooking until Monday. Despite the heavier meal of meat and potatoes of Sunday dinner, we were hungry again by suppertime. Mom would pull out the popcorn pan, a heavy-bottomed thing with sides dark with old burned-on oil. Being this was her night off, she taught us at a fairly young age how to measure the oil and the popcorn into the pan and to turn down the heat at just the right time and when to shake it so it wouldn’t scorch on the bottom.  Since I didn’t always have my listening ears on, I often hid the burned pieces in my own bowl and to this day love the flavor of slightly scorched popcorn.    After the popcorn was dumped into a large bowl, a chunk of butter was tossed into the warm pan to melt and be drizzled over the warm fluffy popcorn  before sprinkling it with salt. Today’s dry microwaved popcorn with artificial butter flavoring is not even comparable.   We then cut slices of Colby or cheddar cheese, put them on top of saltine cracker squares and placed them under the broiler until the cheese bubbled and mixed up a pitcher of Koolaid with real sugar. If you asked us what flavor it was we would probably tell you “red”.  For this meal only, we were allowed to eat on trays in front of the TV while together, we watched “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “The Wonderful World of Disney” wiping our buttery fingers on our pajamas if we forgot to grab a paper towel.  The few dishes we used could be left in the sink to be washed on Monday. It was Mom’s evening off, and I don’t remember any of us tearing ourselves away from the TV to start washing them, nor did she ask us to.  Sunday nights were special, and everybody got to relax.  My sister and I both make popcorn the same old-fashioned way we were taught. I’m sure we both use a little less butter and salt than when we were kids, and I don’t think either one of us has made red Koolaid in a very long time.  My mom will be 88 in a few months, and my own age will soon match the speed limit that I am supposed to follow on my drive to and from work every day.  When I mentioned to her that I was going to write about Sunday night suppers, Mom wanted to make sure I told everybody that she did fix her family a hot meal for Sunday dinner “with meat, potatoes, and gravy and NOT just sandwiches!”  My listening ears are on, Mom, and a little finer tuned than they were back in the day.  So, dear reader, as a favor to me,  would you please go back and read the first few lines again? That way Mom can be sure that everyone will know I was raised in a proper home.  You can skip the part about wiping our fingers on our pajamas and leaving the dishes in the sink until Monday morning.  She is  not going be happy that I mentioned that.   Not happy at all.  Do you think I’m too old to be grounded?

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As many of you know, we are expecting our first grandchild in a few weeks. Our daughter is at the slightly miserable stage with Baby Max either bouncing on her bladder or playing kickball between her ribs. Our son-in-law just walks around with a permanent deer-in-the-headlights look. I think they have just realized that they are soon going to have a baby. A real one. When I mentioned the deer-in-the-headlights look a couple of weeks ago, she confided in a half-whisper: “We don’t know what we’re doing.” I didn’t want to scare them, but they are right. We parents don’t know what we are doing. We don’t have the answers when we are walking the floors at 3 a.m. with a wailing infant who has been fed, changed, burped, rocked, and lullabied. We don’t know what we’re doing when we teach that very active toddler that no means no and hot means hot because he just keeps going back again and again. We must not know what we are doing when we make sure that vegetables are eaten before dessert and that fruit makes a better dessert than cookies because we get to hear plenty of complaining. There is no instruction book on how to soothe your child’s boo-boo the best way, be it a bumped head or a skinned knee or God forbid, something worse. Then come the tween and teen years when parents REALLY don’t have a clue. We insist that homework comes before the TV or computer and family comes before hanging out with friends and our rules are answered with a lot of eye-rolling and heavy dramatic sighs. We obviously need a lot of help because we send up silent prayers whenever they go on a date or attend their first prom, and each and every time they get behind the wheel of a car. Somehow, despite that fact that we didn’t  know what we were doing, they grew up and became responsible adults. (Don’t panic here, folks. Some of them take longer than others.) The day they have children of their own is when something miraculous and magical happens. You become a grandparent. Grandparents, my friends, know everything. Just ask them. They know how to soothe a crying infant that has been fed, changed, burped, rocked, and lullabied.  They can fix any and all boo-boos. They know how to stop a toddler from sticking his fingers in the electric sockets. They know that vegetables should be eaten before cookies, but they don’t necessarily follow that rule.  When my daughter was small, she once angrily told me, “When I have kids of my own, I’m going to give them candy whenever they want!”  I remember my answer very clearly:  “No, I’ll be the one doing that because I’ll be the grandma!”  I can hardly wait.

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News Flash

A blizzard/hurricane/natural disaster somewhere in the nation means that the critical news teams will be out giving us the latest breaking weather reports before the event even happens. The thirty-plus inches of snow that recently fell in the northeast is certainly news and nothing to sneeze at, but I nearly choked on my coffee when I changed channels to check the weather report.    In a live broadcast from the northeast, the newscaster was reporting “It’s really coming down now!” to a background of a few big fluffy snowflakes and an accumulation of about two inches.  Two inches of snow is what Minnesotans brush off their picnic tables each spring before tossing a few burgers on the grill.  Later, another newscaster was describing the wind picking up while *gasping*  for breath.  There was more drama to that pre-storm report than a reprisal of Les Miserables on Broadway.  He should walk across a northern Minnesota parking lot at 30 below zero and he would really have to *gasp* for breath.  Having spent nearly 20 years in Florida, I am also interested in weather reports on hurricanes and often see the same video of a reporter wearing a wet hooded raincoat being buffeted around  and palm trees bent over double by the winds. I think this is supposed to make the reporter look brave and fearless. The palm trees always add another touch of drama to the scene, but always make me smile, because palm trees are SUPPOSED to bend over in the wind, as Mother Nature made them to be very flexible under adverse conditions.  Here is my own newsflash:  They bend and sway in light ocean breezes, too.  The producers of these news and weather shows must think that drama draws viewers and can sell more commercial time for that, but I for one would be happier with more facts and less “entertainment”.  Here up in our neck of the woods, we don’t see the reporters because it is way too cold and snowy for them.  With a foot of snow, we dig ourselves and our neighbors out.  With three feet of snow, we would do the same thing, but I must admit it would take us a little longer.  We trade stories and make Facebook postings about how many inches we have in our driveways. We put another log on the fire.  We add another layer to our already heavy coats and boots and end up  looking more like Michelin Men than real people.  Amazingly enough, we northerners have more  in common with the tropical palm trees than one might think.  We bend and sway and are totally flexible under the most adverse of conditions and afterwards, are able to stand proud and upright each and every time.  I think those folks in the northeast will do exactly the same thing…once they dig out.

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The Birds

After a fairly pleasant and tolerable winter in northern Minnesota, things have taken a turn for the worse.  The lovely white snow is fine, but these wind-chills-so-cold-they-feel-like-a-hundred-below are a bit too cold for me. Thirty years of living in the south has thinned my blood, and I have spent a lot of time during this cold snap under an electric blanket.  As a Farm Woman, I must make sure my animals are warm and fed no matter what the weather.  Barney the Chihuahua, whose gene pool is from sunny Mexico, doesn’t care for winter very much, and will hardly make it off the back porch when it comes time to “do his business” before dashing inside to curl up on the nearest lap, shivering.  Although my chickens don’t like to let their feet touch the snow and stay inside, they can usually get by with just a regular light bulb and their own body heat to stay warm in their snug little coop.  With almost constant below-zero temperatures, however, I added a heat lamp so they would be more comfortable.  I have it on a timer, and can look out the window after dark to see the light and know they are safe and warm.  Last week, it was particularly cold. Miserably, frigidly cold. Cold enough that my car barely started in the parking lot one day after an eight-hour shift at work and hardly warmed up on the 16-mile drive home. My feet were the coldest of all,  since I hate to drive in boots. Not even taking the time to warm up near the fire when I got home (and knowing that if I did, I wouldn’t want to step outside until sometime in June), I changed into barn boots, grabbed a bucket of water, and trudged through the drifting snow to the coop, head bowed to the wind and dreaming of a condo on the beach in Florida.  When I opened the door, the coop was dark inside and very, very cold.  Somehow, the chickens had managed to fly up and unplug both the regular light and the heat lamp from the outlets, which are located on the ceiling. Their feathers were all fluffed up and they were staring at me, no, make that GLARING at me making creepy little sounds in their throats. They were cold and hungry and immediately started gathering around my legs and making it hard for me to take a step in any direction.  I was surrounded.  If you picture that old Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds,  you’ll get the idea.  It was so cold in the coop that even the heated doggie dish that holds their water had a skim of ice over the top, the eggs were frozen solid, and there was not a happy camper in the bunch, including yours truly, the biggest chicken of them all. If I were to add the ever-rising cost of feed to the cost of the extra electricity to heat the coop,  each frozen egg is  worth about the same as a nice sized filet mignon.  According to the weather report, we are supposed to have temperatures slightly above zero this week.  As cold as it as been, that should feel like a heat wave, but I’m not turning off the heat lamp or the electric blanket just yet.  I’ve learned that just like a flock of cooped-up chickens in winter, the weather in Minnesota cannot be trusted.

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