Thursday, December 28, 2006

I took lots of Christmas pictures, so here are some of them. As mentioned before, we had a wonderful time. We met at Joy's house in the Cities and spent the whole time playing or working together. They are not in order, just here.

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I taught the girls how to use Ashley's pottery wheel she had gotten as a birthday present

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Ashley entertained us with Christmas music

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World champion hoola-hoop girl

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Peanut got a new sweater from Joy

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Tasha pouted because she was left inside

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Grandpa Norm felt much better than last year

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Last year!

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Getting ready for Christmas Dinner

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Making eggnog (with "real" farm eggs)

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Eric and Jessica working on the eggnog

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A hot chess game

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Grandpa Bill fixes the fire

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The mad knitter

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A busy kitchen

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One of Jill's favorite books is now Jessica's Christmas gift

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Jessica is hungry

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Waiting and waiting for Christmas

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Dinner is served

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Jill ate too much and needed assistance in getting to the family room

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Jessica loves her spoon from Grandpa Norm

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And a lovely one it is, too!

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Christmas dolls from Great Grandma

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Joy and Ken

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My new socks and Joy's favorite socks (in the background)with Goldie approving

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My two girls

You have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Well, they’re gone!

We had lots of family this past week (almost .. well, four days).

We went to the Cities on Thursday night – got there in time to do some last minute Christmas FOOD shopping (all gifts were taken care of), unpack the car, go to a Chinese buffet for supper and watch a movie while waiting for Jill and Eric to fly in. The long-awaited storm fizzled out (but not in Denver), leaving just a little bit of snow and some ice, which caused the Seattle flight to be an hour late.

We picked up the kids at the airport and went back to Joy’s house where they dropped us off, talked a bit (very little) and they headed up towards Fargo, where Eric’s folks have a cabin. They used their Buick that they had given me with the condition they could use it when they needed it.

Early Friday morning we got a call from Joy – they were on the way home; rather than waiting until Friday night, they started on Thursday night! A whole day early!

We spent some time with Bill, Joy’s father-in-law. He lives in the lower level of the house and “minds the store” while the kids are in Florida. Norm worked on his spoons for Christmas gifts and I watched movies and napped (about two or three hours, total!).

We had peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for lunch. For supper we planned on ordering pizza in, but Bill was hungry for an egg sandwich, so I made those for he and Norm and I had another peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich; we watched more movies, then went to bed.

About 3:00 in the morning, I heard Tasha, Joy’s Cocker Spaniel, running upstairs (we were sleeping on an air mattress down in the basement) and heard footsteps. But the kids went right to bed, so it wouldn’t have been worth it to get up to say hello.

So Saturday morning, it was fun and games for 2 whole days! The girls came down to wake us up and give hugs all around. Joy, Ashley and I went shopping for a few things for them; Ken and Jessica went their way for a few more things for them. Norm and Bill stayed home and babysat dogs and took naps. A nice supper Saturday night and a movie before bedtime.

Sunday, Christmas Eve, brought church in the morning (with my annual tears during Silent Night – a long story, but I cry when we sing it, and I hugged both girls the whole time), preparation for the night celebration. Jill and Eric showed up so we had a great time with games and food preparation. That night the dinner had the whole Peterson clan plus Bill. A nice feeling.

Christmas presents were fun. The girls appreciate the little things as well as the big ones. And, to Joy and Ken’s credit, most of the gifts from them are clothes, not toys. The placemats I was weaving from tablecloths were presents, as well, and they were a hit with everyone (WHEW!).

Christmas morning, Santa brought little gifts to everyone – impressed the girls that he knows where EVERYONE is at every time!! Then we packed, said goodbye and headed home about noon.

We got home to my folks and brother waiting for us. The folks had been staying at Candy’s since Thursday, Charles came up on Saturday. I made Cheesy Cream of Broccoli soup, Candy brought over some bread she made and we had the Childs’ family Christmas, complete with more presents! The whole family was there – even sister Cara was there in spirit!

Tuesday, Mom and Candy and I went shopping in Windom (Mom loves our Dollar Store) and had lunch at Godfathers. Norm, Charles and Dad went to the Westbrook butcher and collected 350 pounds of beef and stuffed it in the freezer!

Last night we had spaghetti with Katie, Wally, Taraka and a friend of T’s. Late night (again)!

This morning, Candy and Wayne came to say goodbye, we had steak and eggs for breakfast, stuffed coolers with meat for both cars and they headed home – the folks to South Dakota and Charles to Okalahoma.

I ended up taking about a two hour nap today and still am exhausted! I will post pictures tomorrow.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Yule, Hanukah, or what-ever you celebrate. I hope you had family around you even if it wasn’t the whole family! It looks to be a beautiful day tomorrow. You have a beautiful day.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Are you busy, yet?

Christmas music on the radio, lights on trees and in windows, smells of baking in the kitchen. Last minute gifts being made or purchased. Presents wrapped. Christmas cards sent or frantically getting ready to send.

Sounds like my house. I have finished all the gifts I am making. Norm is still working on his and hoping they WILL get done.

I am also re-arranging the living room, as we found a home for the sofa, finally. It looks a lot less crowded, now, and will be less when I find a place for some of the boxes that are STILL holding on from moving last year!

The Christmas plans are slightly complicated this year, but do-able.

Jill and Eric are coming on Thursday, the 21st. We will meet them at the airport with the Buick; they will take us to Joy’s house and then head to Eric’s folks’ cabin up north. We will be car-less for two days, unless Joy’s father-in-law is willing to take us places. He lives in the basement of the house and takes care of the place while the kids are in Florida.

Joy and family will drive up from Florida and be here late Saturday the 23rd. We will have Christmas Eve at Joy’s. Jill and Eric will come back from the cabin; then they will leave for Seattle again Christmas night.

Joy and family will have Christmas Day with her in-laws then head back to Florida on the 26th.

We will head back here on Christmas Day to meet my folks and brother.

My folks will be here at sister Candy’s while we are gone. They hope to get here before we have to leave for the cities so we can transport presents for my kids. My brother will be here at our house, arriving about Saturday; he will sleep here and eat at Candy’s. They will have Christmas Eve with Candy; Christmas night will be here; I have an easy soup dinner planned that can be started as soon as we get home.

WHEW!!! It makes me tired to think about all of it!

Then we will be home and be able to spend some leisurely time visiting with my folks and brother before they head home.

As I said, complicated but do-able. The only way that we can get to see everyone this season.

I don’t know if I will have time to write again before I leave, so I would like to take this time to wish all of you a blessed season – Yule, Christmas, Hanukah or whatever religious celebrations you have at this time of year. May your New Year be bright and blessed. May all your days be beautiful.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas decorations

Okay, so the decorations HAVE gone walk-about and I am going to do something very simple this year.

Peanut and I went walking and cut some pine from one of the trees in the grove – we stopped to see Meggie’s grave and say hello to her (and to thank her for Peanut’s arrival here). Then stopped at the dogwood bush and cut some dogwood.

Thanks to the artificial holly and bittersweet I got yesterday, my electric candle and the ‘tree’ are now colorful and look rather pretty. I wanted a live tree, small one in a pot, but am too slow to carry through that plan. However, there is always next year!

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Can't really see the candle behind the vase, but it's there

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The candle is more obvious when the lights are out

Now I have a star, as Norm helped me wire the dogwood together, put a string of lights (yes, Heb, the shorter string is practically perfect in length) and some silver beads on a string. It’s in the studio window and now I’m trying to decide if I want to leave it blinking or if I want to have it a solid light.

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If you look closely, you can see the dogwood frame

On another note, Candy and I are going to go over to Llama Bill’s tomorrow. She has woven a hanging for him with the yarn from his first two llamas.. we are going to give it to him. I didn’t have anything to do with the hanging, but she wants my support “in case he doesn’t like it.” What do you think? Who wouldn’t like it??

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Who wouldn't want this on their wall?

And on another note, Norm and I picked up some corn from neighbor Barry. We got a ton of corn (oofta!); we don’t know how long it will last, but with this mild weather (50º today), it should last quite awhile.

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A lot of corn!

Christmas presents are getting closer to being done; all the decorating I plan on doing is done; now some baking for Christmas and I’ll be done. Cards are not done – I ran out of ink in my printer, so have to wait to finish printing the cards and letters. But the envelopes and labels are done, so I should take some time to put the labels on the envelopes while I’m waiting for the ink.

It looks to be a beautiful day tomorrow. You have a beautiful day!

Monday, December 11, 2006

New link

Michelle (Greenfingers) has a store at ... a cool place to buy or sell homemade articles. I am thinking about setting up a store for Norm and his spoons there.

Go visit and see the cool stuff she has!!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Where are my Christmas decorations?

I am about ready to decorate, now. I have put up two strings of lights – one in a window and one around the opening of to the studio. I am about ready to put up our fake tree (Joy gave it to us) because we haven’t gotten around to finding a living tree like Carla has. That is my goal for next year – to find one in a pot and either plant it or keep it alive from year to year until it is too big to stay in the house.

However, the decorations have gone (as they say in Australia) “walk-about.” They are supposed to be in the upstairs closet that holds my wool, my basketry, my costumes, my seasonal stuff. However, they are not to be found.

They are in the same gold suitcase they have been in since 1977, when we started using the suitcase to hold the decorations. I saw the suitcase when we moved and I said “it goes upstairs in my ………… closest.” But is the suitcase anywhere to be found?

Noooooooooooo! Of course not. Last year would have been the best time to look for them and discover they were not around, but last year I was not worried about any decorations except the lights around Norm’s halo that he had to wear for three months. Now that I am ready to decorate, where can they be?

I am betting Norm that it is hiding somewhere in his garage; he put so much there for “later on” that I think he put the suitcase there instead of upstairs where I asked it to go.

I think I will be satisfied with a simple greens / dogwood arrangement in a flower vase with lights on that. And a few more strings of light for the windows. The ribbon for the Christmas cards is up with the first two cards here already. Which reminds me, I have to get MY letter ready to go!

My plans for a multi-room decoration scheme is gone by the wayside and I’ll be happy with just a few things here and there, including my stuffed mouse that sings “We wish you a Merry Christmas!”

Hunting season is over – no deer in our freezer this year! But now Norm will have more time to work on things that need to be done before Christmas. A shower head to be repaired – a toilet to be replaced – a kitchen sink faucet to be replaced – a sofa to be gotten out and the living room rearranged.

We went to a neighbor’s today to pick out our steer. The neighbor raises his animals in a yard but they are not crowded, are not packed in and are fed hay and silage .. not grain. They were grass fed this summer and now are ready for butchering. He will be taken to the butcher’s on Tuesday. So we will have “minus one-hundred mile” meat that is not organic, but is not fed with hormones or stuffed with grain to fatten.

It was a beautiful day yesterday – it looks to be a beautiful day tomorrow. You have a beautiful day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Weaving project

I am (or, technically was) in possession of family table cloths that we had when I was a child.

However, they are stained and torn beyond use. What to do with them? I can’t throw them away – too many memories! Too many potato soup stains that *I* put on them!

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So, my clever little brain (yeah, right!) got working and I am making placemats out of the tablecloths. I tear one-half inch strips from the table cloths and weave the strips into fifteen by twenty inch placemats.

I started out with a cream warp, but when I ran out of that warp, I put on a warp that I call my Mexican one … red, green and white!!

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Larger tablecloth with cream warp

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"Mexican" warp
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Smaller tablecloth
They are going well and I have most of them finished.

A good way to get rid of something that is unusable at the present stage and be able to recycle into another use.

On another note, does anyone know what today it? The sixty-fifth anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Where were YOU on that day?

Have a beautiful day!

Are we getting carried away?

I know that health is all-important, especially the health of children. And avoiding poisoning from the atmosphere and other areas is equally important, especially for children.

However …I heard on the news, last night, that a barometer broke in an elementary school somewhere in the cities … this means on-the-loose mercury, does it not?

Of course! So what do the officials do? Close the whole school and send everyone home until the ‘spill’ is taken care of!

So, how BIG was that barometer? A room-sized one?

Does mercury give off noxious gasses that can be breathed in and cause damage? Does mercury cause any damage unless you touch it or eat it?

Now, when I was little, I considered myself fortunate if a thermometer broke when I was around … I would play with the mercury – it is such fun! You roll it around on the floor or table and it breaks into little pieces and then merges back together again. I would imagine that some children broke thermometers on purpose for that fun.

When I told Norm that I had played with mercury, he said “Maybe that’s why you are so weird!” And giggled like a school girl. I asked him if HE had ever played with mercury and he laughed until tears came and said “No, never! … Well, maybe three or four or five times!” So I said “Maybe that’s why YOU are so weird!”

I agree, mercury is dangerous – to eat or touch, but come, folks! Close an entire school for a bunch of mercury in one room? Are we getting carried away?

It is a beautiful, brisk -2º out, but with lovely sunshine! You have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back to the basics

Okay, enough of this family and daily diary stuff. It’s time to go back to the reason that I’m here …. to teach (okay, to learn something and pass on the results to you)…..

I rendered some lard this weekend … this is the lard that I got from the butcher when we picked up our pig last week.

Now, as we all know, lard is the best for cooking, frying and baking. Any old recipe will call for lard. Any new recipe will call for shortening (Crisco or any other brand). Crisco, a popular brand of shortening, was first produced in 1911 by Proctor & Gamble and was the first shortening to be made entirely of vegetable oil. The initial purpose was to create a cheaper substance to make candles than the expensive animal fats in use at the time. Electricity began to diminish the candle market, and since the product looked like lard, they began selling it as a food. This product became known as Crisco, with the name deriving from the initial sounds of the expression "crystallized cottonseed oil".

It’s hard to believe that I have been stuffing shortening into my fat little body all these years. Maybe that’s why I’m so weird?

I have tried to stop using shortening in my cooking, recently, by adding extra butter (never margarine) in cookies and cakes. However, according to some sources, lard is actually better for you in many ways. But, if you purchase lard, it sometimes has preservatives in it .. and aren’t we all trying to get rid of those?

Rendering my lard was not difficult – and was even fun. I was warned that the process would smoke and stink up my house, so I planned on doing it outside – however, the weather has not been cooperating, so I decided to try it inside. Yes, it does smell, but not terribly – kind of like cooking bacon all day long. The lard comes from the butcher in large tubes – kind of like sausages without the casing – and it was frozen. I put it into my large stainless steel pot and started to simmer with as low a heat as the stove would go. Because it was frozen, it took a while to melt and start looking like golden water.

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Straight from the butcher

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Liquid Lard

I strained it – tried a coffee strainer, but it didn’t work well, so I used part of an old (clean, of course) pillow case which worked marvelously. The cracklings (meaty pieces) are going to be given to the chickens, a little bit at a time. Norm says it will make laying the eggs easier, as the cracklings and left-over lard will grease the eggs coming out … who ever told him he was funny????

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Coffee filters plug up too quickly

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Cracklings are supposed to be good, but the chickens will benefit from the protein

After the lard was strained, I put it into a smaller (12 quart) stainless steel pot and warmed it up. I heated up quart jars and heated up the lids. Then poured the liquid lard into the jars to seal. It didn’t take long for the seal to take and now I have jars of lovely white lard to use – probably half a life-time’s worth!!

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Liquid Gold

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Now that I have it, what will I do with it? My ‘lard’ crock has been filled with shortening – I faked it when I was working at Historic Murphy’s Landing. I washed it out and now have really-truly lard in it. Not much, as I’m not sure how long it will stay good out of the fridge or sealed in a jar, but enough to coat the pans I season and use for frying – instead of vegetable oil or shortening. I will not give up my olive oil, but plan on doing what little deep frying I do with lard instead of vegetable oil. Sources SAY it’s better and has a higher smoke temperature.

I have a recipe for home-made Bisquick and will now use lard instead of shortening – I am tempted to throw away what I have made and make a small batch with lard and my new Golden White flour that I am testing.

So, that’s all about lard – all you wanted to know and were afraid to ask! I will enjoy my lard on this beautiful but blustery day. You have a beautiful day!

Friday, December 01, 2006


The other day’s post from Tammie got me thinking in the wee hours of the morning (when I wake up around 4 or 5, I have trouble getting back to sleep but know it’s not worth getting up that early, so I have time to think – and yes, I DO think, once in a while!).

One of my unknown truths – to some people, others know this – is that I have trouble making and keeping friends. I think it all comes from the constant moving we did when I was a child. My dad was in the Air Force and we moved no less than every 3 years, and sometimes every year. I was shy to start with and weird to end with and not many children wanted to be friends.

Plus, as I mentioned, I wanted to be a boy, so I played boy games and played with boys. My best friends, until I was in Junior High, were boys. As I got older, I was forced to play with my brother’s friends … two years younger than I. By “play,” I mean it in the innocent way (so stop your sniggering!). Robin Hood, Tarzan, Cowboys and Indians … that kind of play! The boys my age were becoming interested in girls as “girls” and not in playing Robin Hood with them out in the woods.

Every time we moved, I lost what friends I had made and had to make new friends in the new place. This problem continued into high school and then into college. Although I stayed in the same college for 4 years, making friends were difficult, keeping them even more so. I was always considered weird because I didn’t wear makeup, wasn’t really interested in boys, although I dated, and was more interested in reading than learning to be friends.

After marriage, my friendships didn’t last long, either … we moved to Australia and our friends there went by the wayside when we moved home. Then when home, we had to re-make friends as the friends we had when we left had changed, as had we, so we had nothing in common.

I did not make "true" (at least what I consider "true") friends until I started working at Historic Murphy’s Landing and found people that are "my kind" of people and are as weird as I am! I have made and kept many of them and treasure them in my heart.

I have made two lasting friends, however, in the many years past.

The first is my sister-in-law-in-law …. Norm’s brother, Darrell’s, wife, Mavis. We became friends when Norm and I were just dating and she predicted our marriage. That was 41 years ago. We have raised children together, sympathized about husbands and how alike they are and how to survive their weirdness …I treasure this friendship. She knows and understands how I feel and why I do what I do.

Another friend is Nancy – I met her when I was teaching through a spinning guild that a gal and I formed – “Spinners, Etc.” … Nancy has taught me to make sugar eggs and I taught her how to spin. Well, we’ve taught each other many things. She was the one who helped me chose my first (and, unfortunately, last) milk cow. We’ve been friends now for nearly 30 years. She knows my feelings and my weird ways and accepts them.

So, what is a friend? To me, a friend is someone who not only accepts me as I am, but is willing to allow me to do the weird things I do and not criticize. She does not hold anger if I mistakenly make her angry, but is willing to forgive me. She is willing to stick with me through thick and thin.

Those who have been my friends are special. Those new ones who have become my friends through the wonders of the Internet are special, as well. We may not have met face-to-face, but we have connected through emails, chats and phone calls. I hope someday to meet each and every friend in person some day. But until that time, I will treasure the new along with the old.

There is a Girl Scout song I learned as a child and still love: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver but the other is gold.”

You have a beautiful day with "true" friends by your side.