Tag Archive | family

The Right Amount of Sweetness

Every Saturday when I was a kid, my mom made pies – two pies of the same flavor – to be exact. The kinds of pies Mom made were blueberry, apple, cherry, rhubarb, pumpkin, or lemon meringue. She used the same two glass pie pans. As she rolled out the dough on the wooden board in our kitchen, I watched sometimes, but didn’t quite get the knack of making a crust like Mom made. It was flaky on top and crunchy on the edges. When my fork dug into a piece of Mom’s apple pie, tiny flecks of cinnamon could be seen in the juice of apples that had baked away. Each remaining apple chunk was the same size and each bite melted in my mouth. The rhubarb was just as nice as the cherry and blueberry.

The fruit and pumpkin pies were Mom’s specialty, and then she experimented by making lemon meringue. The lemon was tart and made my mouth water and pucker up underneath my cheekbones. The meringue reminded me of clouds floating up to make mountain peaks, and the taste was just the right amount of sweetness to blend with the lemon and chase the tartness away.

It would be nice to get a taste of any one of those pies today because no store or restaurant can top the flavor of what Mom used to make. I never became good at it myself because it seemed like such a chore. A pie crust needed to be made, and it had to be an even thickness and in a circle to fit a pie pan.  Apples needed to be peeled or pumpkin had to be cooked (yes, she really made it from scratch), and an entire hour would have to pass by before the pie was done baking. Mom would always laugh and tell me it was so easy to make a pie crust! To me, the entire process seemed like so much work and the pre-made crusts at the grocery store weren’t the same.  Plus, what had been created disappeared faster than the effort.

I wonder if I ever really appreciated that labor of love when I was making Mom’s creations disappear. Even if I forgot to thank her for the pies, I bet she knew we loved the treats by how fast we made them vanish.  If I can drum up a little patience, I’ll bake a pie and hopefully it will taste just as good as Mom’s. I just have to remember to use the right amount of sweetness.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone
who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine you can give.
~ Julia Child

Kept Me on My Toes

Bauer 11-20-15
Bauer

Bauer’s nose was causing trouble when he stayed with us a few weeks ago. That nose was pointed up high in the air and steered him to a couple of adventures. Bauer has stayed with us before while his master was away, and those times went pretty well, but this time, Bauer seemed more hyper than usual. I just thought he was hungry, but I later found out that wasn’t the case.

We’ve known Bauer for about three and a half years now. The first time my husband and I met Bauer, we were visiting our son Matt at his apartment. Our son found Bauer at an animal shelter in a small town in northern Minnesota. Bauer was very happy to meet us. He wagged his tail and jumped up to greet us, but there were times when he growled at us too. The first time he growled at me was during our visit when he was sitting on my lap. I tried to change the way he was sitting because it was getting uncomfortable. He growled when I held his front legs and put them in a different position. I growled back, but that didn’t scare him like his growl scared me!

As the years passed, we’ve found that the more Bauer gets used to us, the less he growls. Now, Bauer only growls at our dog Lila when Lila gets too close to Matt or me. I guess he likes to have us to himself. Lila has slowly gotten more used to Bauer too. Lila just moseys along like she didn’t hear anything. She doesn’t hide in other rooms when Bauer’s around anymore and doesn’t lose lots of fur like she did when Bauer first started visiting us.

Bauer is very attentive when I cook. As I worked to get things ready during this last visit, he patiently sat close just waiting for some morsel to drop. When dinner was over and the dishes removed from the table, Bauer hopped up on a chair and onto the table to help make sure no messes were left behind. While the dishes were being cleaned off and placed into the dishwasher, Bauer watched carefully to see if anything fell where it shouldn’t. Just as everything was cleaned up and I thought I could sit down to relax, I heard Bauer clawing away at the cupboards where the garbage can is stored. That’s when I figured out that Bauer could break the rubber bands that held the cupboard closed and that the chopstick that I placed in between the handles didn’t work too well either.  The next day, I bought a childproof lock that worked so well I didn’t want to bother with it every time I had to throw something away. Instead, I used a temporary garbage can in the garage, and Bauer found out how to get into the Tupperware cupboard instead.

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Bauer is a Beagle and Blue Heeler mix.

One night, Bauer was going crazy after our daughter Katie came home from work. Katie brings home lots of bags with papers and books and things to help her prepare for her next day as a teacher. Bauer kept sniffing at one of those bags. Katie said there wasn’t any food there, so I believed her. When I was getting ready for bed, I looked to see if Bauer was where I last saw him.  He wasn’t, and I heard funny noises coming from the dining room.  When I found Bauer, he was clawing and chewing away at a granola bar. Half of the granola bar was gone by the time I got there, and I sat and watched him enjoy the rest of it. I learned from previous experience not to get in the way of a dog and his food – especially Bauer’s.

Thankfully there was no chocolate in the granola bar, and Bauer seemed so happy to go to bed after he found that treat. Except his stomach told a different story the next morning when I found a puddle of something dark had soaked into my comforter. (No other dog has been allowed to sleep in our bed, except this one!)  Bauer threw up the following morning too, right on the sheets. All the bedding got a good washing those two days. I think the second mishap occurred because I fed him too much the day before. I thought with his nose going 60 miles an hour everyday trying to find more food meant he was hungry, but I was wrong. Too many treats from me caused that last unexpected outburst.

After those two unfortunate incidents, Bauer wasn’t so hyper any more. I was happy about that because if he was going to keep up those shenanigans, it was going to drive me crazy with the way he kept me on my toes all the time. It seemed like we were getting used to each other until the next day in the kitchen. Bauer gave me another surprise when he jumped up and grabbed onto a white container with his paws. The container dropped to the floor. Inside was a piece of lasagna that was supposed to be my dinner. I watched as he gobbled it down, licking the container clean. I wondered if lasagna would cause another upset stomach, but it didn’t. The only one who was upset was me because I didn’t get to enjoy the lasagna.

We’ll never know why Bauer seemed so out of sorts at the beginning of his visit, but it might have been because he had a little separation anxiety.  When Matt came back from his trip, and I told him about our adventures, Matt just said, “He’s smart.” Matt and Bauer spent another day with us, and the next day, the two of them got ready to head back to their home.  I watched the car back out of the driveway like I always do. Matt waved good-bye, and Bauer stood on the front passenger’s seat with his front paws leaning by the bottom of the window. He waved his farewell by swinging his tail back and forth while looking my way, and I thanked God we all survived!

Even though that little creature and his nose kept me on my toes, I think it’s funny how I can’t wait for both of them to come back for another visit. I hope it’s soon.  🙂

They Think I Dressed Them Weird

Christmas Picture of Girls

It seemed like such an easy plan, but the process completely wiped me out. The idea was to take a trip to the mall to get the girls’ pictures taken. The baby was only a month old, and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to get both children ready all by myself. The pictures had to be taken in time to be given as Christmas presents and sent out as Christmas cards. Well before that day arrived, I decided the outfits should match and that Laura would wear a dress. Since we didn’t know the gender of our baby before she was born, I made Katie’s outfit using one of my favorite patterns – a one-piece ensemble. I used a red, stretchy cotton fabric for the bodice and cuffs and booties to match. The rest of the outfit was red, blue, and white plaid.  Laura’s dress was the same plaid material with lace added to the hem and with a frilly collar sewn to the top.

After the girls were in their outfits with their shoes and baby booties in place, winter coats, hats, and mittens all where they belonged, I remembered the red bows. One bow was attached to a barrette for Laura’s hair and the other was a ribbon to get stuck on top of Katie’s fuzzy head.  I attached the bow to Katie’s hair with some sort of gooey stuff that was invented for just that purpose!

By the time we got to the mall, I was feeling less stressed and happy to be among the crowds of people. We hung out there for a long while on our first of many shopping trips together.  Luckily the bows and everything else stayed on for the adorable pictures.

Sometimes when our three kids look at old photo albums together now, they tell me that they think I dressed them weird. Doesn’t every older kid say that? Isn’t it because the fashions change? Probably it was because I didn’t dress them most of the time. I let them wear what they wanted . . . (Just saying!)

Anyway, luckily Laura and Katie think this picture is a cute one!  Looking at it brings back a lot of great memories, and I’m especially thankful I remembered the bows!

With the Light

Camp Fire

The stack of logs was perfectly arranged. Each one stood at an angle resting on its neighbor like a stack of playing cards waiting to be made into a house.  A match was struck to the tinder below.  We watched as sparks slowly ignited.  As each spark grew to a flame, each log became part of the fire.  The smoke gently blew towards me but quickly jumped to make another route.  The smoky trail chased away the ones in its path.  They moved to breathe in the more pristine air that was untouched by what the flames left behind.

I watched the tiny fragments that fell away from the log. The fire embraced the embers surrounding it inside and out.  Even though it burns, the ember doesn’t disappear quickly.  It sits and waits as if it enjoys the hot flame.  Does it know the beautiful colors it’s made by being with the light?  Deep red and orange flickers travel up towards the sky to make a yellow glow.  That light illuminated the pine trees that surrounded us and sprang towards the sky.  I imagined the glimmering tower of brightness could be seen in the darkness from many miles away.

“Look how beautiful the fire is now,” I said to my family. I grabbed my camera to take a picture.  Just before I was ready to snap a photo, the stack crumbled.  We giggled at the timing.  I didn’t get the perfect picture I hoped to get.  Even though the stacks of firewood fell in a pattern of their own, it still made a pretty picture.

This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop:  Write a blog post inspired by the word “light.”  Check out other blog posts by clicking on the link below. 

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Happy Birthday, Kona – One Year Old!

Dear Kona,

When I first met you, you were a little fluff of beautifully colored fur. Your little eyes peeked at us through heavy eyelids. As you walked a few steps and found a boot to sleep on, we wondered if you thought it was one of your brothers or sisters. We knew you missed them.  After a short nap, you woke up to make a very small puddle on the carpeting in your new home. You looked at us again like you wondered if that was okay. I knew then that you would learn what you needed to know because German Shepherds are smart, and you live with good teachers.

After you grew a lot and spring arrived, you were no longer carried into our house like a little baby, but entered like a bountiful bunch of energy.  The afternoon you came to stay at our house, we spent our time together in the backyard. I fastened your collar to a rope that was secured around our maple tree. Lila had her rope too. I spent most of the afternoon untangling both of you. You watched me plant zinnias in a garden you couldn’t reach because the rope was too short (for a reason), and I swear you barked a warning to me that bees were buzzing about my head because that was the only noise I could hear. I knew then that you would be a good watch dog.

Kona and Lila

After I planted the flowers, I grabbed the hose. The hose unraveled as I walked with it over to the garden. When I turned on the water, you pawed at the liquid like it was a new creation. You whinnied and whined and tried to get a drink. I knew then that you could make an adventure out of something ordinary.

When you came into our house and the water bowl was empty, you pounded on it with your paw to let us know you needed more. After I brought you back to your own house, you showed me where your treats were by standing patiently in front of the cupboard in the kitchen. I knew then that you would always be a good communicator.

Kona on the Front Steps

Whenever someone you know comes to your house for a visit, you make them feel very welcome. You murmur several greetings or maybe you sound like a hyena. It seems like you greet certain people in different ways, either with a tall hug, a nudge with your nose, or an accident on the floor. When this happens, we know you love us!

It’s been a fun year getting to know you.  I’ve enjoyed the walks we’ve gone on with Laura and Lila around the preserve, Lake Harriet, or the dog park.  I can always tell when you’re ready for a break by how you sit by the water bowl.  Sometimes I wonder if any water ever ends up where you want it to go!

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I know you’ve learned a lot in a short time, but don’t forget that you’re very lucky to have these two to love!  They’ve done a great job of taking care of you, kept you out of dangerous situations, and helped shape the delightful dog you are today.

Laura, Mike and Kona

Laura, Michael, and Kona
Spring 2015

Love, (You know me as) Your Grandma 🙂

 Kona and me Jan 15 2015

“Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” Mr. Rogers

Last week, when I went to see my daughter’s classroom where she will be teaching her first year, I wondered if I appreciated all the work my kids’ teachers did to get ready for a new school year. I didn’t realize how much work was involved to get the classroom looking so great.  Katie had been going to her classroom a lot before her first day of school, so her room looked pretty awesome by the time I came for a visit.

Here are some pictures of my favorite bulletin boards and posters that decorate Katie’s fourth grade classroom:

I wish I could have some of the above posters with me when I go out into the world.  For instance, “What you do and how you act makes a difference in our world” is a great reminder.  I also like the flamingo poster because sometimes people worry too much about fitting in when we should try to appreciate people and ourselves for who we are.  Katie put together the “BE…” sign and the Walking with Jesus poster.  My mom’s big, blue, wooden-beaded rosary hangs in a corner of the room next to a big statue and a little statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Katie painted the rocker she found at Goodwill, and I got to make a new cover for the cushion!  That rocker sits in the reading corner where Katie will read lots of books to her students.  Those kids have a lot to look forward to this year as they learn things they never knew.

Here’s to all our teachers and your guidance.  Where would we be without you?

When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me. ~Fred Rogers

To Walk Along the Jagged Rocks

“Let’s run over to Itasca before they get here,” my son-in-law Michael said. The four of us grabbed what we needed and went to the car. Michael drove while Laura, Matt and I watched the scenery go by. As we bumped along the highway, we listened to some old tunes back from when I was growing up, and no one wanted to change the station!

The day was just like the others since the four of us got there. It felt a little warm even though the sun wasn’t shining down on us. The smoke from the fires in Canada floated to northern Minnesota making the sky hazy. Some could smell the smoke, and I felt like I got a whiff once in a while, but I think that might have been my imagination. We sort of enjoyed the blanket of protection from what would have been a steamy summer day.

“This is the road I took to get here,” said Matt. “I think I went around the lake the other way.”

“Ya, this is the way you should go home,” we chimed in together. I thought about how our family get together was a hodgepodge of an event. Laura, Michael and I arrived at the resort on Wednesday night, Matt drove in on Thursday morning, and the rest of us were waiting for Dad and Katie to arrive that afternoon.

“I think I’ve been here before a long time ago with my family when I was growing up,” I said. When we entered the state park, trees towered high above us. Pristine lakes with names of women poked out to show us not only trees grow there. We only saw a few of the 100 lakes during our short stay.

After parking, we headed toward the path, and the Headwaters – Caretaker Woman greeted us:

We read the sign above to learn that the woman is “releasing a clutch of small turtles from a basket, renewing the seasons and continuing the waters of life.  Her flowing hair is like that of flowing water.  The turtles, strong water symbols, also symbolize the universal cycles of life in Anishinabe (Ojibwe) belief.”  Then I understood why all the lakes are named after women.  Click on the picture of the sign to learn more!

A few more steps down the road, we found the spot where the mighty Mississippi starts its winding journey 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s traditional for visitors to walk over the jagged rocks just to say you crossed the spot where the Mississippi River begins, but for some reason we didn’t even think to make that little journey. Funny that we traveled so far and didn’t do what everyone else does when they get there. That doesn’t mean we didn’t enjoy the view.

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We continued to walk down a path along Lake Itasca. Just as we were on our way back to the parking lot, the phone rang. Katie let us know they were waiting for us at the cabin. We left just as quickly as we arrived anxious to all be together again.

Maybe another time we’ll all get to walk along the jagged rocks together.

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces. ~George Santayana