Archive | October 2015

Dance of the Season

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A dainty trot and prance is what Lila, our dog, likes to do when we go on walks in the fall. Lila is a black Labrador retriever mixed with Chesapeake Bay retriever (we think). Since we adopted Lila from the Animal Humane Society and there wasn’t a lot of background information, our vet guessed that she’s mixed with Chesapeake Bay retriever.  Doc thought this because she has a large barreled chest, and, when she was younger, her curly fur traveled down the length of her spine. Her happy, affectionate, and quiet temperament must be from her Chesapeake Bay side, and her outgoing, kind, and even-tempered traits must be from her Labrador side. But when we get to the path between the bridge and the main walkway on our way to the preserve, her moves become similar to what a smaller dog would do during a circus act! She lifts her paws trying not to step on the scattered leaves. The texture of the leaves or her fear of there being something underneath must make her afraid to step on them. Lila struggles and tries to place her paws on the dark spots where the leaves aren’t covering the way.

That path doesn’t get maintained like the main path. In the winter, the snow doesn’t get removed, but we manage to walk along without having to trot or prance. Other walkers’ footprints make a pathway. The ones who traveled there before us make a manageable trail. Our footprints help to make a trail too.  When we get to the main path in the fall, Lila relaxes because most of the leaves have been swept away.

Watching her walk among the leaves is like watching her perform a doggy hopscotch. No need for drawing numbered boxes or throwing rocks to play this game.  I guess we’ll never know which side the prancing and trotting comes from.  Maybe it’s just Lila’s own dog dance of the season.  Her rhythm matches the fluttery way fall leaves dance to the ground and how waters of the babbling creek randomly hop over jutting rocks.

Lila’s performance is always something to look forward to this time of year!

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. ~Maya Angelou

Spicy Met Sweet and Tasty!

Last time, I shared the story of making applesauce, but do you know what goes best with applesauce? Potato pancakes. I found a container of applesauce hiding in the freezer, our last one from 2014. Just looking at it gave me a craving for German potato pancakes. My mom used to make them on occasion too, and I have her recipe:

Potato Pancakes

Ingredients:
Two eggs
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups cubed raw potatoes

Directions:  Put the eggs, onion, salt, flour, baking powder, and a half a cup of potato cubes into a blender, cover and process at grate until potatoes have gone through the blades. Stop blender. Add remaining potatoes a half a cup at a time, cover, and process at chop only until all potato cubes have passed through processing blades. Use a rubber spatula to help guide potatoes to processing blades. Do not over blend! Pour onto a hot well-greased griddle. Drain on absorbent paper towels. Yield – 12 pancakes.

Once I found a packaged version in the grocery store, but I only made it one time – the scratch recipe above is so much better. Be a little patient because potato pancakes take a little while longer to cook than regular pancakes.  I didn’t grease the griddle with oil like Mom used to do. Instead, I used Pam olive oil, and it worked very well. The pancakes were not greasy and tasted great. As the cakes cooked, the scent brought back fond memories of when Mom used to cook these up. Our family gobbled them down faster than it took Mom to make them – always a good sign of a family favorite.

Potato Pancakes

After you make a tasty batch and stack them on your plate, be sure to smother them with sweet applesauce. It’s one of the best combinations ever invented – almost better than when peanut butter met chocolate! The grilled mild Italian sausage that we served made for a nice combination and was an extravaganza for our taste buds. Spicy met sweet and tasty.  🙂

When’s a time you cooked something where the aroma gave you a pleasant memory?

Stirring the Pot

One thing I did when I was a kid was twist the stem of an apple while saying the ABCs. If the stem fell off when you got to a certain letter that was automatically the first letter in your boyfriend’s name. The girls at my school lunchroom table snickered when we asked each other what letter we were on when the stem fell off. Teasing each other about pretend boyfriends turned into an amusing game. I don’t remember the types of apples that were around then because I liked them all, just so long as they were crispy and didn’t have any worms living inside.

Now we have so many varieties of apples in Minnesota. Fireside, Honeycrisp, and Paula Red are my favorites from peeling to the edge of the core. Haralson apples are tart and work best for apple crisp. Over the years, Cortland apples have brought me the most memories because every fall our group of friends gets together to make applesauce. Kim organizes the event, and we use her grandmother’s recipe.

First, we decide when we can get together and how many bushels Kim should get. When we first started, we made five bushels. Now I think we are down to three. Next, we meet at Kim’s place and must remember to bring containers, pots, bowls, apple slicers, knives, and a snack to share because the event lasts for hours. After everyone arrives, we wash the apples.  We slice them with apple slicers, remove any bruises or stem marks, and toss the slices into a pot. After the very large pot is full, about a quarter of a cup of water goes in too. That’s all it is: apples and water, plus a lot of love – sounds like a grandma sort of recipe!

My job has been pot stirrer even though I’m not one to “stir the pot!” If any burn marks end up on the bottom of the inside of the pot, I hear about it later in the day when we wash the dishes. There’s a secret method of knowing when the apples are ready to be sauced. I carefully squish a few against the inside of the pot. If it doesn’t squish easily, they need to remain where they are to be cooked a little longer. When the apples are ready, we transfer them into the strainer. Diane, Dianne, or Kim take turns squishing the apples by twirling the masher.  The stuff that comes out goes into a bowl, and the other stuff that stayed inside the strainer gets tossed.  Sheila works on dividing the portions equally into everyone’s containers, plus she figures out the cost per cup and how many cups are in each container. Since we all bring different sizes, this job can be tricky. Every year the cost can vary.  We know this because Sheila keeps track! Something else varies each year too: the color.

Stirring the Pot

Stirring the Pot

Throughout the day we’ll talk about the happenings in our lives, but mostly we talk about the color of the applesauce. We usually compare it to the batch we made the previous year. Last year’s batch was very good, colorfully pink, and tasty. The year before, we thought the applesauce looked gray but tasted okay. In between those conversations, we reminisce about how long we’ve worked on this project together, when we did this before our children arrived on the scene, and how our children used to tag along to help. Last year, we were on our own and enjoyed delicious apple martinis, and the other sauce still turned out fine!

We’ve learned some tricks along the way.  Now that we use the Victorio Food Strainer and Sauce Maker instead of the old-fashioned “squisher,” the process has become shorter which is good – then we might have time to sit down for a game of dice after we eat a delicious bowl of chili, spaghetti, or soup that Kim prepared before we arrived.

The sauce has been at most of our Thanksgiving dinners and fall birthday celebrations for over 25 years, and my family is always happy to help make it disappear. The times when we find an extra container hiding in our freezer makes us feel like our day has turned into a lucky one. It’s a blessing to be a part of such a grand tradition and to know how to do something besides twist the stem.  I’ll always be happy to stir the pot whenever needed!

Constant use will not wear ragged the fabric of friendship. ~Dorothy Parker

Celebrate Good Times

She gently took me from the car and carried me like a newborn baby. Each step up the stairs, she held me a little higher. When we got to the bedroom, she swung open the closet door. She reached up to set me at the top of the closet so I could stretch down. When she unfastened the plastic, the bottom part fell. The ladies at the dress shop told her to unwrap me so I wouldn’t wrinkle. Even though she wasn’t the one who would wear me, she let out a sigh of relief because she didn’t want me to get dirty. It was her daughter, Laura, who chose me.

“It took her a while to figure out what kind of style she liked,” I heard the mom say once. Once she figured that out, it didn’t take her very long to find me.  After Laura ordered me, and I was all put together, I was shipped to the bridal shop. It took four months before Laura got to try me on. I waited patiently in a closet.  I heard people go in and out everyday. It seemed like forever before Laura came to see me. When the lady reached up to pull me off the pole, I thought she was going to take down the dress next to me. When she held onto my hanger, I couldn’t believe it was finally my turn.

The person took me upstairs to hang me on another pole for a while. I was wrapped in plastic, but I heard them coming up the steps. They seemed excited to see me. Their voices were loud and filled with laughter. It sounded like three different types of giggles. They walked right by me and sat down on the sofa. I don’t think they knew I was hanging right next to where they were sitting.

The seamstress helped Laura put me on and then the others came in. Now that the plastic was off, and Laura was wearing me, we both looked in the mirror at each other. I liked the way we looked together, and I thought we made quite a striking pair. It’s like we made each other shine somehow.

When I looked at the other two ladies in the room, I could tell by the look on their faces that they thought I looked good. The way their voices softened told both of us they approved. The seamstress suggested adding a few alterations so the bride would be more comfortable on the day of the wedding.

Laura came back to see me a few more times – sometimes with different ladies but always with her mom. Laura’s future mother-in-law suggested that the belt would look better sewn close to the bodice instead of around the waist, and everyone agreed.  The next time they had to make sure the hem was the proper length. Each time they came, I knew it was getting a little closer to the day when we would get to walk down the aisle together.  The last time they came, the seamstress showed the mom how to fasten the buttons and put up the bustle.

Now as I stayed hanging in the house where the bride grew up, I knew the big day was going to be tomorrow.  That night the house was quiet, but when they came back, it felt like a lot of energy was buzzing about.  Laura came into her bedroom and looked at me hanging on the door.  It wouldn’t be much longer before we would get to celebrate.  We would see how all the preparations would fall together.

The next morning, the doorbell kept ringing as ladies arrived bringing more bubbling energy with them. Happy voices traveled up the stairs as the morning went on.  Then the time arrived when Laura took me down from the door.  Her hair was swept up like a princess.  She carried me to the car, and we went to church.  When we arrived, the photographer took me for a while and took pictures of me in front of a window to make shadows in the sun.  After my solo picture, the mom and bridesmaids helped Laura put on her dress careful not to ruin her hair or smudge her makeup.  The mom closed up the back by using a hair pin to grab the little string to wrap it around each little button just like the seamstress showed her.

Laura and Mom and Dress

“Whew,” she sighed.  “I remember my wedding night and how it took the groom a very long time to unfasten the buttons…”  A few more giggles traveled around the room.  After Laura was all ready to go, lots of pictures were taken inside and outside.  The temperature was cool, but Laura didn’t shiver.

“People are starting to come,” said Marilyn, the coordinator who volunteered at the church.

“They are?” the mom said as if she was shocked that everything was going the way it was planned.

“Yes,” Marilyn said with a smile – like she’d seen this sort of thing before.  “You’ll need to stay in the nursery and hide before you make your grand entrance.”

The priest quickly stopped by to say hello and to give a few instructions to the bride.  After Father left, the father-of-the-bride came in to say, “They told me to come in here right when everyone was starting to show up.  I wanted to say hello to a few people!”

“I guess we’re supposed to do that later,” the mom said.  Marilyn came back in to let the bridesmaids know it was time for them to walk down the aisle.  I waited with Laura and her mom and dad.  It was very quiet in the room.  Off in the distance, we could hear the organist playing Ave Maria.

“It’s time for you to go,” she said.  We walked out to the commons.  Marilyn and the other volunteer closed the doors to the entrance after the groom and his parents walked down the aisle.  All was quiet.  The organist began to play Canon in D by J. Pachelbel while we stood together.  Laura’s dad linked his arm through his daughter’s arm, and the mom held onto Laura’s elbow.  I felt little shivers coming from the mom.  Everyone else seemed to be calm.

“Oh, my god,” the mom said very quietly.

“Mom!” said Laura.

“Whoops,” Mom mumbled.  Marilyn gave us the thumbs up sign, and we walked to the doors.

“Are you ready?” We gave a unanimous nod, and the ladies pulled the two big wooden doors open to show us the guests.  As we walked down the aisle, some people nodded and smiled at us – Great Uncle Jack gave us the thumbs up sign.  When we met the groom at the altar, there were hugs and handshakes and sharing of “love you” among the four.  Laura and I walked up two little steps with the groom who soon became Laura’s husband.

As the day went on, I didn’t stay ivory clean as the mom hoped.  Only once that entire day did my bustle come undone, and it was during the reception.  After Mom pinned it up, she said, “Oh, look how dirty your dress is on the bottom!”

“That means the bride is having a good time,” said a voice from a corner of the bathroom.  From what I saw, it looked like everyone knew how to celebrate good times!  I’m glad to have done my part of being the wedding dress.  This special occasion was celebrated a year ago today.  Now it’s time to celebrate another special occasion:  Laura and Michael’s first wedding anniversary!

An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today,
the memories of yesterday, 
and the hopes of tomorrow.  ~Author Unknown