Astro…

I follow a few bloggers. One of my favorites recently posted and memories coursed through my head which initiated this. Brian (WritingfromtheheartwithBrian) was reminiscing about black Friday shopping years ago. At the time, he was actually staying home with the kiddos while his wife scurried for (bargain) Christmas presents. Top on their kid’s list that year were Game Boys. Those hand held games were the best invention since Fudge/Divinity/Penuche/Cinnamon Rolls/Soft pretzels with cinnamon/sugar/Cotton Candy in this mom’s opinion. (I might be hungry for something sweet). Game Boy was wholly responsible for peace on earth/good will towards sibs/keep your hands to yourself when we traveled. It’s one of the modern miracles.

Had to snap a picture of the 2 seconds Josh & Adam weren’t nitpicking each other to death, 1986…

Hubs is one of those guys who was born handy. He knows how to fix/repair/jerry-rig stuff although no one’s taught him. By year 18 of wedded bliss he had worked on, tore down to the frame, overhauled, replaced, spent hours meandering through salvage yards and literally months laying on his back underneath whatever junker we owned at the time, just trying to get back and forth to work.

Shannon helping to keep the 1965 International running in 1974…

But the times they were a changing. When we moved to Michigan in 1987 we had a 1984 Chevy S-10, but our other vehicle (questionable at best) was a 1978 Mitsubishi Sapporo-with a rebuilt engine Hubs had swapped-that didn’t quite fit and had issues. Our growing family of 5 didn’t fit in either one. Luckily Adam was small and was regularly delegated to the floor boards among our 6 legs & feet. Forget about seat belts.

The way of dealing with 2 younger brothers…

Although we didn’t know it at the time, John’s dad was in the last year of his life. Jim had been battling leukemia for a couple years and most of his fighting days were over. We knew we’d be making a couple trips to Iowa and desperately needed good transportation that comfortably sat all of us for the one way, 12 hour drive. We hadn’t been in Michigan more than a few months when opportunity knocked.

A local guy was advertising his 1986 Astro van. Said he needed to give up one of his rides before it was repossessed and decided to keep a Corvette and a pickup (with 4 kids) and sell the van that fit his family. Goofball. The Astro van had 12,000 miles and he needed $12 thousand to break even. It was perfect for us. At the same time my parents offered us their 1978 Nova because Shannon had just gotten her license. Just think, for the first time we had 3 reliable means of transportation for 3 licensed drivers. Another miracle.

Jim and his youngest, the Hubs in the mid-70’s…

I started driving during the mid-60’s and the 1986 Chevy van was the first car we ever owned that was an automatic. I was so pleased/proud/protective of that mini-van I wouldn’t drive it during the winter (much to Shannon’s dismay because then we were sharing the Nova). I garaged the Astro in my neighbor’s extra stall and drove the Nova when the weather was bad (that’s December through March in Michigan).

Jim’s favorite time of year-4th of July…

While the kids were on summer break that year we drove to Iowa. You’d think they would have been thrilled with all the extra room the van offered but still they fought. Shannon claimed the entire back bench seat and listened to her music loud enough for the rest of us to enjoy-ugh (Walk like an Egyptian, Livin’ on a prayer, I just died in your arms) but there were spats the whole trip. “Adam farted,” “move over, you’re on my half,” Shannon’s music is too loud,” “mom, Josh is looking at me.” (Oh for the love of pete). By the next Iowa trip each gawking/farting/crowding/griping son had their own Game Boy (fully charged) and peace reigneth the entire trip. In 53 years of marriage (to date) those 2 Game Boys remain one of our best investments.

Jim…

During that trip John brought his dad to the hospital for a blood transfusion (which he was now getting more frequently) when Jim said to his youngest son, “Johnny, this is the last time I’ll see you. I’m not coming back for any more transfusions. I’m done.” John argued and pleaded but Jim had made up his mind. He was going out on his terms and he was too tired to fight. He was right. He passed away a couple months later on November 4th. Jim was the first of our parent’s who died, but there were still 3 living Iowa parents so the multiple trips each year continued (along with hand held games/tooting boys/sullen teens) until my dad moved to Michigan in 2005…

The shape of things…

I’ve always loved shopping when I could afford it, spending numerous hours cruising malls and antique shops. Several years ago we vacationed in Las Vegas for 5 (very long) days. It was torture spending that much time in a casino if you’re not a gambler, but shopping made the trip worthwhile. What a great way to spend a day. I was the best shopper though I rarely gave into moments of instant gratification. When I did succumb it was usually an antique I could not live without while remaining sane.

One of my favorite pieces I bought ‘on the spot’ first time I saw it…

Realized the last few years I don’t enjoy shopping as much. Somewhere I’ve misplaced/deleted/failed to update my internal shopping app. I’m into living with less, not more. My needs outweigh my wants 10-1. No to more knick-knacks, holiday decorations or anything that requires dusting or taking up valuable wall space. Who knew I had a morsel of minimalist inside?

My disdain for shopping does not extend to groceries however. Still a favorite pastime except for the amount of money I spend and the empty shelves week after week. As soon as I get home from the store I write a new list of all the things I couldn’t find for my next grocery adventure. I’ve had clams (blech) on my list for at least a month running so Hubs can make his chowder again.

I need a new pair of jeans which should be a snap but it’s not as easy as it sounds. I could order a pair from Amazon but jeans are as personal as swimsuits. You have to try them on (by yourself) in person. The cutest pair on the rack make me look like Bigfoot with a 2 axe handle wide rear end and the least appealing pair does not look too bad. There might be an unwritten rule discouraging great grandma’s from wearing jeans.

Normally I am a rule follower to the letter but I’m not ready to give up blue jeans just yet. I refuse to wear ‘skinny’ jeans or a pair with so many rips it looks like I’ve been attacked by a grizzly and lived to tell the tale. Manufacturers seem to discount my segment of consumers so maybe I should heed their advice about giving up jeans. But the rebel inside says, no Neese. Do not give ‘them’ (manufacturers/fashion experts/influencers) the satisfaction.

I bought a new hearing aid a couple months ago and I’m in the process of having it tweaked (repeatedly). The doc sets ‘my program’ to what sounds good in her office, then I get on the highway and the noise from the road and tires drives me crazy before I’m 10 miles away. Walked in the house, said hi to Hubs, only to discover he’s acquired a serious speech impediment while I was away with his S’sssssssssssssss. He sounded like a ssssserpent. Well sssshoot. Called for another appointment and it was a 5 week wait (plus 50 miles away). I heard a lot of strange sssssounds from everyone during that time.

The day of my appointment I decided to stop at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor on my way home. Haven’t been there in ages and I shopped for jeans, but that’s where things went sideways. Somewhere between the pandemic and now, I gained some weight, lost some weight and discovered the overall shape of me has changed. Listen, I know gravity. I realize parts and attachments on this old gal are slipping closer to the ground at an alarming rate. Sections of me are saggy, pouchy, crepe papery plus flabby with knuckles that look like I was a heavyweight prizefighter back in the day. These weird body variances aren’t caused by a weight gain or loss.

Perhaps the reason is my lack of daily walking which has been a part of my routine for 25 years. My replacement knee is still touchy on the right side and my left leg constantly aches. I’m just not ready to go under the knife again which explains why my calves/thighs are not as firm as they should be but my leg shape near my knee is off too. My middle seems thicker lately although my weight is good. And my gut is out shining my lackluster chest which is another huge bust.

I’m going with the most logical explanation. I’ve morphed into a shape-shifter. But if this is my new superpower why would I ever shift my shape into this? Goodness no. Maybe if I concentrate using all my remaining brain cells, I can turn this tide and reshape my image into something more aesthetically pleasing who fits into normal sized, appropriately aged clothing lacking odd shaped bumps and misappropriated bulges…

Reluctantly wooing Rich…

Nearly 2 decades have passed and I’m still perplexed that dad moved to Michigan after mom passed away in 2004. Rock Valley was the town he called home his whole life, minus short stints at CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Army. He was exhausted from caregiving, yard work, shoveling snow and had grown equally weary of being a home owner after remodeling and repairing their home for 50 years.

Right before dad moved to Michigan in 2005…

At the time we’d been in Michigan nearly 20 years (which was just as surprising)! I thought we’d move back to Iowa in 3 years or less, yet here we remain. Dad and mom visited us frequently but it surely wasn’t home. After losing his wife of 62 years he realized at 88 not many of his friends were still around.

Dad was saved after my brother Larry was killed in 1958. From that day forward he dedicated his life to Jesus and our church (Reformed Church of America) serving as an elder, Sunday school teacher, a champion advocate/teacher/preacher/lay minister for prison inmates. All those activities came to a screeching halt when mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few years prior to her death. He was no longer able to gallivant to far parts of Iowa and South Dakota because Mom couldn’t be left alone for hours on end.

Dad’s testimony about losing Larry and accepting Jesus, 1958…

We were both apprehensive when I encouraged him to sell their old family home and move to Michigan because we’d never been close. Guess what? He agreed without fanfare. (Oh what have I done) In retrospect it was the right call and we both benefited during his last years.

Dad’s last Christmas at our house, 2007…

I did the Michigan legwork (set up a Bible study for him to teach at the prison and a nursing home when he arrived) while he listed the Iowa house. Five months after mom’s death we rented a U-Haul and moved dad to an apartment a block from our home. There were a few awkward moments but gradually he learned his way around our small town and met some folks his age.

Dad ((right upper) teaching a Bible study at a nursing home in Michigan…

There were some minor cultural shocks for dad after living in a small community for 8 decades. He never came to terms that in a larger city atmosphere (40,000 versus 4,000) not everyone goes to church on Sunday morning or bows their head in prayer before eating in a restaurant. He wanted everyone to do as he did where God was concerned and felt compelled to inquire about their “you need to get right with God” or “are you saved” status.

Soon after dad settled in North Muskegon, he was back preaching and teaching Bible study to inmates at the prison and felt a great sense of worth and fulfillment again. The thorn was finding him a church home. He was drawn to Christian Reformed but that church was 6-8 miles away, plus they had services at night and I didn’t want him driving after dark. He visited the Methodist church where we belonged but was unenthusiastic. After a couple months of searching we found a Reformed Church not far away (a straight shot except turning into the parking lot).

No sports clothes for dad. It was either a suit for God or bib overalls for work…

I accompanied him to services for weeks. He noted they dressed more casual than he was used to but was pretty comfortable from the get-go. He enjoyed the sermons and started attending Sunday school. I helped him fill out a ‘newcomer’s’ card, then he waited to be contacted.

Most of us are reluctant to change and dad was no exception. His assumption was every Reformed church operates in the same manner/programs as his church from Rock Valley. Dad anticipated getting a phone call to set up an appointment between him and the senior pastor after the church office learned of his interest in joining because that’s how potential members are welcomed into the fold in Iowa. Dad attended regularly and felt a connection, but after a few weeks he’d still not heard back from clergy about getting together for ‘the talk before you join.”

Dad waiting for clearance at a South Dakota prison during the 1980’s…

I decided to call the church. The pastor took my call and asked what he could do for me? “It’s not for me but my dad is eager to join church and has been wondering when the two of you can get together to discuss it.” “Ah, there’s not much to talk about really. We know Rich wants to be part of our congregation because of the paperwork. We’ll just set a date and welcome him on a certain Sunday, ok?” “Well no not really. He wants a one-on-one conversation with you. Dad needs to be wooed.” “I don’t woo.” (And there lies the rub)

“Dad’s kinda old school and has served in the consistory many times as an elder and they routinely visited members. But the senior pastor always visits potential members. Dad assumes every Reformed Church does the same. Could you make a point to stop and see him for a half hour before you set his date for his membership?”

Dad, 2008…

The pastor finally agreed it would go a long way to visit with dad for a few minutes. (Dang). Dad never realized I advocated on his behalf before he and the pastor met for coffee one afternoon. They got along famously-after dad was sufficiently wooed…

Something sinister’s afoot…

Without fail, it happens every election cycle. The ominous posts, snarky comments, innuendos, hate speech, canceling, gaslighting. It’s morphed into an entity of its own.

Boo/hiss to these naysayers…

No wait, my bad, this happens every fall, even when there’s no election. I might lose my last thread of sanity.

I’m from Iowa where ‘corn’ is grown…

I scroll through these menacing posts, comments, fretting, shaking my head, wondering how low and despicable it’s gonna get before Thanksgiving. It’s very disconcerting. My world crumbles every stinking autumn.

Frivolous opinions that hurt my heart…

Never gave it a passing thought before inundated by Facebook throughout every facet of my life. Meh, it’s just a phase and will be soon forgotten. Except it’s never over or forgotten, but shoved in the forefront for all the haters to voice their disgust and giving their disparaging opinions. Ugh.

Leave him alone dad. He’s going to heaven…

Every fall since adulthood you can count on this loathsome behavior, like turning back the clock and losing another hour of sleep in November.

The haters gonna hate…

Who are these heartless heathens and blasphemers? How did they get so powerful? Why can’t they simply let this one important fall tradition continue in peace?

Just look at todays youth!!!

It’s the non-believers. They might not be in the majority but they’re loud and obnoxious. Their words and voices are read and heard, yet not the loyalists like me. It puts me in a very awkward position, trying to defend myself against the masses (who are looney tunes).

Candy Corn wannabe…

There was no negativity concerning this natural phenomenon when I was a kid. There was world wide acceptance the closer we got to Halloween. Life was good.

It’s not the original. Might as well eat the compost pile…

However, I believe they may have altered the taste/recipe since my youth. Of course there were bound to be imitations. As soon as a new delicacy is welcomed and heralded by the world some nefarious company out there is trying to make it cheaper, using inferior products like imitation vanilla, corn syrup instead of sugar and artificial dyes. People with less than stellar taste buds buy into this crap and soon no one remembers what gave the first delicious original such a distinctive taste.

If they’re all not just yellow, orange & white don’t bother…

I think the original company sweetened this delicacy with honey. Real honey. While chewing it almost made the back of your bottom jaw ache. Such sweet pain.

Gonna leave this one alone, but I laughed WAY TOO HARD…

But just because the taste is not exactly the same as 60 years ago is not a reason to give up on a true tradition. I’m tougher than that! You’ve surmised by now I’m talking about Brach’s annual fall collection of Candy Corn. (In case you’ve never figured out that brown M & M’s taste the same as the red M & M’s, don’t be duped into believing Brach’s Autumn Mix, Candy Corn and Pumpkins taste the same).

Gotta keep ‘em separated! First the tri’s…

THEY DO NOT.

Brach’s Autumn Mix is awful. The brown sections taste like dirt (matching the color). Pumpkins pass the muster but they’re too big and the green stem is just distracting. The difference in Brach’s original Candy Corn is texture. The ‘white tops’ texture is crumbly, the orange and yellow sections are chewy. Those textures fight each other in your mouth, so I separate them. The tri-color ones get eaten first, leaving the bi’s (just yellow & orange-my favorite) for dessert. The chewing slows, allowing for the ‘like textures’ to meld before swallowing. Heaven.

Lastly the bi’s (the bestest)…

It’s too late to stop the hate Brach’s campaign this year but we can do better in 2023. I envision a world at peace with nary a negative post on Brach’s Candy Corn. Every living person enjoying their personal stash which never runs out. Can I get an amen?…

First influenced…

While going through some old pictures I detected a pattern. The first half century of life I was under some kind of a hypnotic spell. Nothing dangerous or scary but subtly swayed and persuaded. My life was impacted by my first true love. Mom. And a certain color she loved.

Shannon helping Mimi do some baking in the orange kitchen, 1972…

I don’t think mom understood exactly how influential she was. I would bet she was influenced by her Dutch heritage and being raised by both sets of grandparents (her mom died when she was 2 weeks old) except for this one color which somehow muscled it’s way deep in all facets of my life. It’s just a color! Ha! After I started noticing how much this color’s been in my life I have to laugh about it.

If you didn’t have an afghan like this growing up you’re not a Boomer. Shannon & mom…

Mom wasn’t crazy about wearing a dress or heels so when the ‘pantsuit’ became the rage, she accepted and embraced that style for the rest of her life. But she preferred dark, solid colored slacks, a fancy blouse, usually with a large bow at her neckline and a jacket that fell past her hips. (She thought her hips were big-they absolutely were not). She didn’t accessorize much, not wearing much jewelry, never nail polish but always wore pretty lipstick. And a nice pair of flats.

Mom in her orange coat and me in yellow & orange. Hahaha…

The color mom was hung-ho about throughout her life and much of mine was orange. I knew she liked orange and yellow just didn’t know how much her fondness of that color spilled over into mine.

The orange Naugahyde couch on the porch…

When we moved to 15th street in 1955 (I was 4) the kitchen had a sink but no cupboards so dad’s first priority was making that room functional. The kitchen had 3 doorways, thus the only cupboards were on the west wall with a double sink in the middle below the lone kitchen window. Dad built the cupboards. Nothing custom, maybe even a bit primitive, might have used plywood. No Formica graced that short wall either. Our countertops and backsplash were glued down linoleum that looked like beige/gold rocks. I never gave that quirky oddity a second thought and assumed everyone’s kitchen looked like ours. Of course the cupboards were painted orange.

Kitty Max and Adam on our orange couch courtesy of mom’s fabric giveaway…

Dad enclosed our front porch so when Iowa’s ‘hot August nights’ (sing it Neil) cooled down to 80 we could sleep out there and catch a breeze (no air conditioner). Mom bought this couch/futon where the back could lay flat making almost a full size bed, although it was covered in Naugahyde which made anyone trying to sleep sweat through the sheet. The Naugahyde was orange.

Shannon’s orange room in Sioux City, 1973…

After mom took knitting classes (proficient enough to teach classes soon after) I became her most used model of her works of art. In the mid 60’s when hot pants became popular, wanna guess what color my mini-skirt of wool worsted yarn was? Yup, orange.

My hand knit orange mini skirt from mom…

After Hubs and I eloped we bought a floral couch and chair from a deep-deep discount store (early American style just like mom and my MIL. I relied on what I was used to seeing and what they liked for years before establishing my own tastes). By year 4, the fabric had worn through. Mom said she had some upholstery fabric she wasn’t using that I could have. Yay, saving me money we didn’t have (and the upholstery job cost us a whopping $40 bucks which we had to scrounge and save). Not even going to say what color the fabric was. You all know.

My orange ‘popcorn’ sweater…

Eventually mom had her kitchen remodeled featuring dark oak cupboards on 2-1/2 walls with blue countertops. I guess she had grown tired of orange and yellow too. She was very proud of her kitchen and kept it (and the rest of the house) immaculate.

My antique orange influenced dish set gifted from my mom…

This week marks the 18th anniversary of mom’s death. I had gone to Iowa to see them a couple weeks prior to their 62nd anniversary in September. Mom called the night before she passed away while my sister was with her. She was struggling to get the words out but the last thing she said to me was, “I love you honey.”

Not mom’s fault. Our school colors were orange & black…

She died a few weeks shy of her 78th birthday. Ironically, her twin brother Floyd passed away a few weeks after their 77th birthday, so they both died in 2004 when they were 77. Always thought it was odd they died the same year mere months apart. Mom decided to stop chemotherapy treatments for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when the cancer returned for the 3rd time. Floyd died from complications with Parkinson’s Disease.

The curtains and coat…

Maybe I was easily affected and enthralled when I was young. We certainly didn’t see eye to eye on many things. Still my life was filled with the love of her favorite color orange for decades. Mom was an influencer way ahead of her time. In this day and age she’d probably have her own You-tube podcast…

Spy’s got me beet…

I’ve been nursing my last pint of home canned pickled beets for a couple months. It’s commonplace for me to eat half a jar when I get a craving but I’ve shown incredible self-restraint in case I needed a half cup of tiny diced beets for a special homemade salad dressing recipe. How would that dressing taste without those tangy tidbits and slightly pink tinge color? Not very good so I’ve practiced safe pickled beet denial.

Aww, the pickled beet recipe my mother-in-law jotted down 35 years ago…

Pickled beets were my second attempt into the world of canning 35 years ago. I wanted to can them because mom and I loved them. It was soon after we moved to Michigan in 1987. My neighbor Diane asked me to help her can Bread & Butter pickles (they’re out of this world delicious) and it wasn’t long before I questioned if I could pickle a beet better than store bought ones? (which are quite bland).

No it’s not a Halloween horror movie but my hands after I dice cooked beets…

No one on my side of the family canned but my MIL was a great canner when she was raising (the Hub’s and his sibs) so I asked her. (Little Johnny Wayne used to sneak down the basement when his mom was gone and eat a whole jar of her canned sweet cherries, then got rid of the evidence. Did he throw away the jars?) Sure Mag had canned pickled beets many times. She grabbed an envelope that was on the table and scribbled the recipe down from memory. I mentioned my pickled beet intentions to my SIL a couple hours later as she glanced at the recipe. “No this isn’t quite right,” she began. “Close but let me check the amounts and I’m sure there’s a missing ingredient.”

So I flipped Mag’s envelope and added correct ingredients back in 1988…

I was now armed with the right recipe but waiting to find some beets which Diane ordered for me at her ‘go to’ farm market. Beets are root vegetables which are harvested in late fall. I bought some jars and picked up my beets. They’re messy to work with, spewing a colorful shade of maroon over countertops, walls and hands, plus they don’t smell the best until they’re swimming in syrup. And it takes awhile to get them to that point. You have to boil them whole until they’re fork tender, drain, cool and ‘slip the skins.’ (I love that phrase), then dice or slice in the delicious, tangy syrup (almost makes your eyes water! Hubs always finds something to do in the garage when it pickled beet canning day, but I love the smell!) is heating up.

25 pounds of beets and half the apples I brought home this week…

During my Parish Visiting days, pickled beets were one of the favorite foods I brought to folks who still lived in their own homes. Think this beet obsession might be age related. Not one of my kids or grands will eat them (when our kids were little and I asked them to pass the beets, they’d snap their fingers, clap and make weird noises in their mouth, succumbing to fits of giggles. Every. Single. Night) but most older folks relished getting a jar. Many wrote notes specifically thanking me for the beets. And the clever ways they used to repurpose the pickled syrup after every last diced nugget had been consumed. Most common was cooking hard boiled eggs, removing the shell and plunking the eggs in the leftover syrup. Waiting a couple weeks (for the eggs to get all pickly. The eggs turn into an incredible color). From that day forward whenever I made beets, I canned and saved the extra syrup and would bring folks a quart so they could pickle eggs. Such wonderful memories.

Gotta accept the consequences of working with beets…

Since I’ve been going through beet withdrawal this summer I’ve been impatient for this year’s crop. Messaged the farm stand for their availability. Finally got a note my beets would be in only to have her tell me they didn’t get them and it would be another week. A couple days later I noticed their Facebook page advertising Northern Spys (my favorite pie apple). Waited to hear my beets were finally in so I hustled over to buy both.

A dozen 1-1/2 pints and 9 pints of pickled beets. Yum…

Shannon was interested in making some pies together (her kitchen is huge and she has 3 ovens) so I made a quadruple batch of 10” double pie crusts, (ha, we ended up making more crusts) lugged a half bushel of Spys to her house. When we were a family of 5 and could snarf a pie after supper I always made a 9” pie. Now we’re down to 2, Shannon’s house is down to 3 and none of us needs a big pie. Or pie period but we love them. We each wanted one 9” for company but then made the rest into 6, 7 & 8” pans. Just big enough for a couple slices. The small (pot pie size) will go to Landon when we attend his basketball games this winter. (He’s the only one who runs off the calories during one practice)!

Here’s the big share of pies, the rest are still in the oven…

The pickled beets are in my canning cupboard and pies are in the freezer. I have a half bushel of Spys to can into applesauce this week but what we got accomplished since Friday feels good. Although I never could dance, I’ve still got the beet…

A berry good week…

The feeling was familiar and reminiscent of a couple years ago BI (before inflation). Me, the grocery shopper extraordinaire, now a hesitant shopper because every time I walk in Meijer a hundred dollar bill flies out of my wallet. For 3 or 4 plastic bags to carry to the house. But the last few days felt like 2020.

Hubs gets irate when I give away what he considers ‘his stash’ of strawberry jam

Last week a post on Facebook advertised, Friday & Saturday at Meijer, Strawberries, 99 cents a quart (while supplies last). I love them and eat a bowl of strawberries every night when I can afford them. Strawberries aren’t something I can buy ahead because they’re extremely perishable (if you frown they’ll rot on the spot). They don’t have a long shelf life, which means going to the store every few days to buy a couple quarts. And if they’re more than $2.50 a quart I can’t justify keeping them in the house.

Hubs doesn’t care for fresh strawberries but when they’re canned into jam he has a smidge on toast with peanut butter almost every morning. Until there was no more strawberry jam in the cupboard which he’s reminded me of daily. So I bought 12 quarts, 3 to eat fresh and 9 to wash, remove stems, slice into quarters, then smash and freeze for jam. They’re really a pain in the butt to get ready for jam. They don’t smash easily but fight tooth and nail to stay in their original shape (wish I had that much willpower to stay in my original shape).

So we tried something different this time. Still had to remove the stem, rinse and quarter them but Hubs put small batches in the food processor and pulsed for a second. We still wanted pieces of strawberry in our jam just without the tedious process of using my pastry cutter or potato masher for an hour. I packed 5 cups each in ziplock bag and laid them flat in the freezer to save room.

Raspberry Jam…

A few days later I noticed Meijer’s new post on Facebook. Friday & Saturday, fresh Raspberries, 99 cents per 6 ounce carton. Well 6 ounces of raspberries doesn’t amount to much. A batch of raspberry jam takes several cartons to make 5 cups of smashed fruit. Still, a far better price than they have been which is about 9 dollars a pound-yikes! So I bought 21 cartons for 3 batches of raspberry jam, minus one big berry per carton-to make sure they were delicious. Pretty good deal for fresh fruit but pectin is up 75 cents a package (I needed 6) and 10 pounds of sugar is up from $5.49 to $6.59 (needed 2). Still haven’t figured out how inflation is up 9% when my sugar is up 20%, and that’s not an oddity with foodstuffs but the norm or lower than some of the price hikes.

Luckily I have oodles of jars, rings and lids I bought on fall clearance a couple years ago because rings and lids have nearly doubled in price. It’s almost cheaper to buy new jars which includes rings and lids than just the 2-part tops. Crazy. Brought up all my canning supplies, washed everything on Friday night to get an early start Saturday. Ok it was 10 a.m. before I was sufficiently motivated but I was done by 3 which included a half hour to eat my BLT.

Made some Peach Jam a month ago. Couldn’t afford apricots, my favorite…

The sum of my 5 hour canning fest was 54 half pints, 27 of each. Nothing was brought back downstairs but the kitchen was fairly clean, dishes were done and floor was mopped. I usually wait overnight to wipe, label and make sure all the jars have sealed.

An easy supper of nachos was on my agenda when Hubs decides he’d rather have tacos. “Fine, get a container of taco meat out of the freezer.” I’m dotting my chips with nacho meat, adding cheese and throwing them in the oven for a few minutes while I cut tomatoes and shred lettuce for both of us. Did I mention how small our kitchen is, especially when there’s 4 dozen jars taking up valuable counter space? Hubs is making tacos and placing them on his plate, which is sitting on top of a dozen jars of jam. Precarious right? Slid right off the counter, flipped upside down on the floor. Sigh.

I didn’t say one WORD. All his delicious food on the floor (formally recognized as clean). He gets the broom, dust pan, sweeps up the whole mess, plops it in the garbage while I scrub the floor. Again. My nachos are now lukewarm while he scrounges the fridge for leftovers and settles on 2 brats, buns and tops them with sauerkraut. We’ve both seen enough of our kitchen for the day.

Some of my African Violets are blooming like crazy…

The jam is now downstairs, the countertops are clear and the floor is presentable. Still want to can some applesauce, pickled beets, cranberry sauce and make a couple apple pies but the Northern Spys are not ready, neither are the beets. That’s ok, I might need a few days…

Skipping School…

My childhood home is in a small town in northwest Iowa. Kinda rural and secluded. The closest ‘big’ city was Sioux Falls. But like many rural areas, the countryside (which wasn’t farmland to feed the entire world) was dotted with numerous small towns/hamlets/villages within a 50 mile radius, some of which were in South Dakota. Rock Valley’s near Inwood, Fairview, Hudson, Hull, Sioux Center, Boyden, Doon, Rock Rapids, Ireton, Hawarden, Canton, Sheldon, Sanborn, Le Mars, Maurice, Orange City, Larchwood, Lester, Alvord, Carmel, Lebanon, Perkins Corner, Alton, Hospers, George, Newkirk, Akron and so on. Guess Rock Valley wasn’t as isolated as I thought when I was a kid.

I ‘heart’ Rock Valley…

Through most of my youth, it was just me, mom and dad. My 12 year old brother was killed when I was 7 and a couple years later my older sister got married. Mom started working after I was in school (not kindergarten because I went half days). By 5th grade mom and I routinely went shopping (during school hours). Yup, I skipped school with mom more often than I ever did with friends, and it was usually her idea. Yay me! Heck, I was game.

My afternoon kindergarten class. I’m in the top row on the right…

I walked home for dinner everyday (except cinnamon roll day or turkey dinner) because school was a block and a half away. Dinner was at noon and should not be confused with supper which took place between 5 and 6 o’clock at night. Most days mom came home for dinner so we ate together. Every few months she’d say, “do you want to go shopping this afternoon?” (Heck yes). And off we’d go.

My school. These buildings are long gone…

It was surprising how small a neighboring town might be yet still have some decent retail shopping. I remember going to Doon (very small) when I was very young. Dad probably had to go to Lem’s auto salvage for something. We’d stop downtown (I’m being generous with the term downtown) and he took me to a general store. He bought me red plastic high heels which were killers but I was so cool, and once he bought me a tiny wooden case/shelf that held a real china tea set). Having some shops/stores in every town had a lot to do with the weather. Our winters were wicked so it benefited everyone in town and was a boost to the economy. Mom decided where we were going, I just didn’t know it yet. If she were seriously looking for a good church clothes it had to be Sioux Falls or Sioux City. There was not enough selection in small town boutiques. Mom didn’t want to walk into church service and see anyone else in a dress like hers. Gasp! Those 2 big cities ensured mom she’d not likely see a duplicate outfit on Sunday morning.

But if she were shopping for work outfits (less dressy pantsuits, she was decades ahead of Hilary) or me we were prone to go with the smaller shops in nearby towns for the afternoon. Two of her favorite shopping towns were Le Mars and Sheldon. I think the name of her favorite spot was called The Fashionette in Le Mars but that was a few miles further away, so we often opted for Sheldon which was 30 miles away. The downside was Sheldon smelled ghastly-most of the time. Sheldon had a business that roasted soybeans after the crop was harvested (a huge Iowa crop). It may sound like a fabulous fall day of roasting marshmallows for S’mores over an open fire but do not be hopelessly romantic or fooled. It smelled horrible and made you gag.

The great little towns of northwest Iowa…

We’d start our shopping adventure at a small restaurant with a 3 sided, U-shaped counter seating on the corner of main street because they made homemade pies. We both had a thing for banana, coconut or lemon meringue. But first we’d order a meal. My ‘go to’ meal was a hamburger and French fries while mom ordered a bowl of their homemade soup and a side dish of pea salad. (Looking at those ice cold peas ladled in a mayonnaise based dressing with cheese chunks, onions, chopped up hard boiled eggs was harder to take than the soybean plant’s odor). Hahaha, now I make that exact same salad often and love it.

Our favorite dessert. Something delicious under that meringue…

It was usually a pair of shoes that drew us to Sheldon. Didn’t matter if the shoes were for work, high heels for church or a casual pair to wear around the house, this particular shoe store always carried what mom was looking for. I think there was a great department store in Sheldon where we could find something cute for me (maybe Wulf’s?). We’d walk through the downtown area which included lots of window shopping envy, but most often left Sheldon with something new for both of us. A couple of our shopping excursions were disastrous but for the most part I have good memories about skipping school with mom…

.

Play by play…

I was making a salad this week when out of the blue the name Skip Caray popped in my head. Where on earth did that come from? I haven’t thought of him in years. He comes from a family of sports announcers which included his dad, Harry and Skip’s son Chip. Skip announced Brave games on TBS for years. After becoming a rabid Cub’s fan when Chicago had an ‘off day’ and I was craving a baseball fix, I’d watch Atlanta for a few innings, although Skip was not the most sparkling personality to call a game.

Go Cubs go, go Cubs go, hey Chicago what’da say, the Cubs are gonna win today…

From 1982 through 2016 (half of my life), I was obsessed with baseball. Kinda a fanatic really. Before baseball, (BB) I dabbled my love between pro football and college basketball. Mary Ellen, one of my dearest friends when we moved to Davenport convinced me to take a bus trip to Chicago’s north side to watch a game (during the day because there were no lights at Wrigley Field for a few more years) of one of the fiercest rivalries in baseball. The Cubs and the Cardinals. When Mary Ellen was young, her grandparents lived in Wrigleyville and she visited them a couple weeks each summer. By the time she was 7 she was keeping game stats for hits, RBI’s, BB, walks and SO’s.

Steve Stone and Rick Sutcliffe…

It was a perfect summer day for baseball, I loved the atmosphere, the ivy, Wayne Messmer singing his (splendid) rendition of the National anthem, Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ to intro the game and the organ music. From that day forward I was hooked on the Cubs. America’s lovable losers. Although it would take more than 30 years before they won a World Series, (the last one was in the early 1900’s) the ball club was making strides. Landing their share of quality pitchers (Rick Sutcliffe), players and a few good rookies (Raphael Palmeiro/Jerome Walton) although not all their acquisitions were appreciated or prudent (Ron Cey). Oy vey.

One of the best-Pat Hughes…

But not all games are enjoyed in person. WGN carried about half of the Cubs’ 162 game schedule on TV. Since Chicago was 150 miles away I could ‘catch’ all their games on WGN radio. Who knew how fickle I was concerning certain announcers?

Thom Brennamen…

During my Cubs’ ‘MVP’ fan tenure, there’s been a revolving door of announcers. Many I found engaging with a great knowledge of the game. Some, like Ron Santo were revered and admired because of their playing days and their obvious loyalty to the Cubs. I believe my rookie season’s games were announced on the radio by Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau and I loved them both. Many announcers had great voices, other’s with voices that grated on my last nerve. Steve Stone, Milo Hamilton, Dewayne Staats, Thom Brennaman and Pat Hughes were fabulous announcers with in-depth knowledge and love of baseball.

Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for decades…

And now about the enormous elephant in the small booth. I’m in the minority about this ‘beloved’ guy but I couldn’t muster up fondness/empathy or patience for the man. He held absolutely no appeal for me. He slurred his words and spent half the game trying to pronounce a player’s name BACKWARDS which was pretty annoying since he mis-pronounced most of their names frontwards. He did have a nifty way of calling what he assumed was a home run with, “it might be, it could be, IT IS! Holy cow.”

Chip, Harry & Skip Caray…

Harry Caray started working for WGN and announcing the Cubs games on TV about the same time I became a fan. What are the odds? I learned to adapt. Harry did the first 3 innings on TV, then switched to the radio side for innings 4-6, then back to TV for the last 3. So I listened/watched the game the opposite way. On the radio for the first 3, watching TV for the middle 3, then switching back to the radio. Or I used the mute button. Harry & Skip Caray, Vince Lloyd, Lou Boudreau, Ron Santo, Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell are all playing or announcing in The Big Sky League. No one’s subjected to getting hit by a pitch, bad calls by the umpire, the injured reserve, trade deadlines, contract disputes or rain delays…

Nosey receptacle…

Some things I hold dear are odd because they appear neither meaningful nor nostalgic. I’m probably the only person who saved their parent’s handkerchiefs from the donation bag after they passed away. Is it possible to be emotionally attached to hankies?

One of mom’s hankies…

It would have been beneficial to dad’s overall health if he’d hadn’t worked for the Iowa State Highway Commission. During the winter he drove a snowplow over the hazardous roads between the South Dakota border and Sheldon, Iowa. Ice, snow, accompanied by a 50 mile-an-hour westerly breeze, producing blizzard conditions, missing suppers, working late into the night. It was part of his job and he rarely complained about it. Besides there always was a spot for the overtime pay he got during storms. But it was the months of April through October that bothered dad’s physical health.

After Larry died and Mona got married, I got the bedroom down the hall from mom and dad’s room, approximately 15 feet away. Born to a family of early risers, mom got up at 5 to start work at 7. She’d shake out the throw rugs (letting the front door slam a half dozen times), then dust the dining room and kitchen floors on hands and knees using a small rag. She’d gather all 47 grains (she did this every morning, how much dirt could there be from the 3 of us) of sand between her index finger and thumb and carefully place them in the dust rag.

Dad’s lunch pail…

Mom started a pot of coffee for dad’s lunch pail, wrapped his banana in waxed paper and set his thermos on the kitchen table. The rest of his lunch (in waxed paper) was in the fridge which dad packed before he left. Then she’d wash up and get dressed for work (after she’d worked for 2 hours). Dad didn’t get up until 6:30 but his day began much earlier from April-October. I didn’t have to get up until they were both out the door but when mom and dad’s day started earlier-so did mine. If slamming the front door and the whack/whack from shaking out the rugs wasn’t enough, dad had a early morning ritual that drove this preteen crazy.

The reason dad should have worked elsewhere was allergies. During the spring, summer and fall dad drove a huge mower on Highway 18 & 75’s shoulder and in the ditch. Dad suffered (causing me to suffer) the worst hay fever/outdoor allergies I’ve ever seen. It was like clockwork, every morning, starting before 6 (no alarms were needed in our house).

One of Dad’s work hankies…

Significant amount of sneezing. If I was awake I’d start counting to see if he could break his own record (I remember days when he topped out over 40). Mom, downstairs with the front door slamming shut every other minute and dad upstairs doing his morning reps of multiple sneezing. I don’t think he ever doctored for his allergies and never took an over the counter medication.

After 15 minutes with no respite from his barrage of sneezing, dad would wander downstairs to start the day. I’d hear them talking in hushed voices (no reason to wake up Denise yet-hahaha-but their quiet conversations were the only part of their morning I wanted to hear). In between her cleaning projects and his sneezing fits, I’d just lay in bed, waiting for the house to be quiet again. Then it was time for me to rise and shine, pick out an outfit, eat some cinnamon/sugar on Hillbilly toast and trudge the block and a half to school.

They were called ‘spit curls’ for a reason-hahaha…

I’m not sure when the first laundromat opened in Rock Valley but before mom become their regular customer she did our laundry using a wringer washer in the basement. Then she lugged heavy wash baskets of wet laundry and hung up everything on the clothesline outside-winter and summer. White clothes first, (the water was super hot and clean), sheets, colored clothes, towels and dad’s work clothes last. Dad wore blue overalls and long sleeved chambray shirts year round (plus longjohns 10 months a year). His hands up to his wrists were dark brown from that radiant Iowa sun but his arms were whiter than the snow drifts he plowed.

Shannon & Poppa 1973 (the overall, blue shirt and brown hands-priceless)…

The clothesline made everything smell wonderful but our clothes were horribly wrinkled (and stiff as a board during the winter when mom brought it in). After waiting for the clothes to thaw and dry, she made most of it wet again. Crazy! She’d sprinkle the clothes with a green glass 7-Up pop bottle, using a cork with tiny holes so the water would daintily dampen the clothes, rolled them up like a burrito then spend an evening attached to her ironing board to get rid of the wrinkles.

Which brings me to their hankies. Mom bought white hankies with various colored tatted edge or crocheted borders using fine thread. She didn’t carry a purse but always brought a clean hankie to church where she knotted a couple pink peppermints in one corner for her noisy, bored youngest kid. Plain white hankies for dad when he was dressed in ‘church clothes’ and red or navy paisley ones for him at work. Mom kept hankies in our car’s glovebox at all times.

Now that’s gonna leave a mark…

Mom didn’t press our sheets or dad’s work clothes but she ironed everything else. The pillowcases with a crocheted border (which left ‘indented marks’ on your face for hours after you laid on it), her white work uniforms and dad’s dress shirts. Can’t forget the hankies. Dad used one before he left for work and another couple during the day. After washing up and eating supper, he’d changed into ‘good clothes’ to do the Lord’s work (which required a white hankie, so he went through 3 a day! Mom ironed 25 hankies a week.

Mom saved the hankies until last when she ironed-maybe because they were easy or her eyes had glazed over and she could do this blindfolded. She’d unplug the iron (this was before steam irons and they stayed hot for as long as it took to iron 2 dozen hankies) and laid one flat on the ironing board. Ran the iron over it, folded in half, pressed, folded again the long way, pressed and folded it four times for a nice square that fit easily in dad’s pocket.

Undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt under the overall and I wonder where I got my cold arms…

I didn’t save all their hankies. Some of mom’s fancier ones were divided up between the girls in our family. I use dad’s hankies to clean my glasses and keep several around the house, my makeup case and purse because a smudge on my glasses drives me bonkers. Although I grew up in a home with a full assortment of hankies, I never use them for my nose (that’s why God made Kleenex). Definitely not a hankie snob but I’m kinda snotty about my hankie stash…