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Monday, November 29, 2010

Go To The Dogs

If a dog were your teacher you would earn stuff like . . .

*When a loved one comes home always run to greet them.
*Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
*Take naps and stretch before rising.
*Run, romp and play daily.
*Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
*Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
*On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
*On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.
*When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
*No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends.
*Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
*Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
*Be loyal.
*Never pretend to be something you are not.
*If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
*When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Shopping

Thanksgiving Day is over and the mad rush to Christmas has begun. The day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, is the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This year the Black Friday sales began before Thanksgiving but the biggest bargains were still reserved for THE day.
Those who enjoy being part of a crowd are welcome to indulge and savor the experience. According to the news reports, the crowds were lined up and snaked around some buildings for hours before the stores opened. I wouldn't go near a mall on Black Friday with a 20-ft. pole. I hate jostling crowds. Where the crowds are, I am not! I will do my Christmas shopping on a week day when the crowds are otherwise occupied.
We bought one Christmas gift though on Black Friday---by remote control. We had decided we will get a GPS which will do for a joint gift this year. We were watching the sales and saw a good one on Black Friday. But rather than battle the crowds we ordered it online, free shipping and no sales tax. That's my kind of Black Friday shopping!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Apple Butter

I have made Apple Butter many times but always baked it in the oven for three hours rather than doing it the old fashioned way in a copper kettle over a wood fire. I've seen it being done that way but never helped. As of today, that is no longer true.
My sister has a copper kettle and today we gathered at her house to try our hands at an old fahioned apple butter boil. The huge kettle would hold about thirty gallons of apples but we only made a small batch. We dumped in six gallons of applesauce and added sugar and cider. It has to be stirred constantly to keep it from burning on the bottom of the kettle. We took turns and here is proof that I took my turn stirring the pot.

The apple butter was finished sooner than we expected. That was probably because it was such a small batch and the fact that we started with applesauce instead of raw apples. In less than three hours it was time to stir in the spices and dip out the finished product. The yield was about three gallons so we each wound up with about half of the amount of applesauce we contributed. This is my favorite picture of the day. My sister is filling jars with apple butter while one of her grandsons takes care of the important detail of taste testing. I always said making apple butter by the oven method produces the same results as making it in a copper kettle but I will have to adjust my tune a little. The apple butter we made today has a little different twang than the stuff made in the oven. It's probably the wood smoke that does it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving List

A line of strong thunderstorms passed through at 2 a.m. and woke me up. As I lay in bed listening to the wind slamming the rain against the windows I began to realize how blessed I am. The roof on our house remained firmly attached and the only affect the storm had on me was to wake me up. I did not get wet or have to leave the safety and comfort of my bed. If I had been living in a plastic tent like some people in Haiti are doing, the story would have been quite different.
That thought led me to begin making a mental list of the things I am thankful for and too often take for granted. This list is by no means comprehensive or by order of importance, but here are some of the blessings on my Thanksgiving list.
*My heritage. I come from a long line of faithful Christians who passed on their faith from generation to generation and made it easy for me to know the Way, Truth, and Life.
*My husband. The fact that I married someone who fits me to a T is not to my credit.
*My children. There were times I despaired but they have all grown up to be respectable people who are friends with me and each other.
*My health. So far I have escaped the high blood pressure, diabeties, and cholestrol problems many people my age deal with. I only have scoliosis and rheumatoid arthritis. I have learned to live with the first and medication takes care of the second.
*My house. I have lived in the same house for 42 years. It is not fancy but it is quite comfortable. As indicated, the roof is tight and it adequately shelters me from all kinds of weather.
*My occupation. It has been a privilege to be a career homemaker. Moonlighting as a writer has provided the mental challenge which made life interesting.
*My friends. Every year when I send my Christmas mail I am reminded how many friends I have collected from near and far.
I could go on to list lots of specific "little" things like warm slippers in the winter, cold water on a hot day, etc. etc. etc. The things I could list are endless. It has been said that the two basic needs of every human being are something to do and someone to love. I have an abundance of both for which I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Word Puzzles

People who live with (or have lived with) writers know the truth and do not harbor any delusions about the glamorous life of a writer. My daughter is one of those. She knows writing is more prespiration than inspiration. She read Philip Roth’s description of writing in The Ghost Writer and sent it on to me because she knew I could identify with it. Here it is:

“I turn sentences around. That’s my life. I write a sentence, then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again. Then I have lunch. Then I come back in and write another sentence. Then I have tea and turn the new sentence around. Then I read the two sentences over and turn them both around. Then I lie down on my sofa and think. Then I get up and throw them out and start from the beginning.”
Of course, some days are more productive than others. On a good day I may be able to write two whole pages---that you can read in five minutes. Other days are like the one above and everything that is written gets trashed in the end. I would never be able to support myself with writing because it takes too long for me to produce something. It is not something that happens magically and flows as naturally as it can be read. It's like putting a puzzle together. You have to turn the words this way and that until you find the proper fit. And that's what makes it fun!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flour Power

I keep a little brush in the car because I never know when I will decide to stop at a cemetery. The brush helps remove moss on old stones and make them more readable. Two weeks ago I stopped at the Buch cemetery on my way to Lancaster. I needed more than a brush to be able to read the worn stones I wanted to see.
There are other methods of making a stone readable. Spraying with shaving cream and then wiping clean with the straight edge of a ruler will work but it is kind of messy and not cheap. Rubbing with chalk works but is slow. I decided to try another method someone recommended recently. I took a bag of flour with me yesterday and rubbed a handful on the stone. Viola! Quick, cheap, does not harm the stone or the environment, and it works! I'm sold! From now on I will keep a container of flour in the car with my brush.

Here is one of the stones before and after being rubbed with flour. The cemetery record (done in 1927) gives the death year of this person as 1814 and the age as 1 year 1 month 20 days. The flour clearly shows the year is 1847 and the age is 1 year 4 months 20 days.