so I can pretend someone is listening

How I love the sky!

The house I grew up in was surrounded by trees.  There was the “orchard” in the back yard: two purple plum trees, two yellow plum trees, an apple tree and a pear tree.  On the property line were 3 or 4 big cherry trees and a hazelnut tree.  The apple tree had a big old branch that ran parallel to the ground that became a horse or a magic carpet or whatever imaginary fancy we needed it to be.  At the Bay we played in the woods all the time and always had forts or castles, and roamed around for morel mushrooms and Easter lilies in the spring and blackberries in the summer.  Trees were always around, no matter where we lived.  I didn’t truly appreciate them until we moved to the farm when I was in my 20’s. 

Oh, we do have trees.  Big old oak trees that were planted by some of the first white settlers over 100 years ago are scattered around the prairie.  A few old apple trees that don’t produce anymore except enough for the birds show where there were houses once upon a time that have been gone so long that’s all there is left of them.  Out back behind the barns there’s a relatively new forest of cottonwood and maples where the deer, elk and bears hang out.  But there were no trees around my little house, and I missed them.  I missed the shade in the summer and the sound of the wind whistling through the tree tops in the winter.  I felt so exposed.  The first year we must have planted 10 trees, most of which died quickly because I didn’t know how to plant trees in our wet clay soil.  It made me feel a little better to see the remaining baby trees growing outside but it didn’t quench my thirsting to be surrounded by trees once again.  I would go places surrounded by tall trees and it would feel so refreshing and comfortable.  I longed for my own little nest in the trees.

I don’t know when things changed.  One day I was at a friend’s house in the woods and it was windy.  I noticed how uncomfortable I felt with those big trees swaying around over me, and how vulnerable it seemed that I couldn’t see the sky to tell what might be headed my way.  I was relieved to get home and watch the western horizon to see the weather coming in.  Before we moved to the farm I never knew there were so many stars in the night sky.  I love watching the tall grass waving in the warm summer wind and trying to guess the incoming weather by the clouds blowing by.  We aren’t as wide-open as the prairie states in the Midwest, after all we have our views of Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens, and the woods behind the barns stop the view to the north but the foothills on the other sides are the only things that block my view of the sky.

Today has been a wet, windy day.  March is roaring in like a lion, gusts hitting the side of the house and making the windows rattle and sending the dog scrambling under the bed because it scares him.  The cat is sitting almost on the keyboard, supervising my typing speed.  Then, like magic, the sun comes out bright and strong, the cat runs to sit on the windowsill in hopes that it will stick around for a while and the dog creeps out from under the bed.  Five minutes later, another big gust and the cat loses interest in the windowsill and the dog is under the bed again.  And I’m sitting under the cat, under the nice, warm laptop computer, watching the sky to try to guess what the weather will be like by the clouds blowing by.  I can see the rain coming across the field to the south, and it’s a good soaker because I can barely see the treeline on the other side.  I can’t imagine living anywhere else.


March 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am knitting mittens.

You can buy them anywhere from Macy’s to the grocery store in Toledo.  So why would I knit mittens?

1.  I have leftover yarn from making thick socks and more leftovers from a sweater that are practically screaming at me to be used up.  Using up leftovers makes me feel frugal, and I love to feel frugal.  Then I can splurge every now and then.  Then I’ll have more leftover yarn, which I will use up and feel frugal, then I can splurge.  Etc.

2.  The weather is going to turn relatively cold.  Highs in the 30’s and sunny, which will mean the kids will want to wander outside a bit.  I might even wander outside a bit, if I don’t have anything to knit.

3.  Knitting is so predictable.  Knit, knit, purl, purl.  Repeat enough and you get a cuff.  Knit, knit, knit, knit.  Throw in some increases and you get a place to add the thumb while you’re knitting the hand.  Knit, knit, knit.  The hand is done, pick up stitches for the thumb, a few more rows and voila!  A mitten.  Made with love in every stitch.  So predictable.  Follow the directions, get a mitten.  If only the rest of life could provide that kind of satisfaction.

4.  Knitting is fun.  

5.  Knitting probably keeps me sane, though it might drive others the opposite way.

6.  Knitting “necessities” like mittens makes me useful.  

7.  My cat likes to supervise my knitting.  It makes him feel useful.  It also makes him slightly crazy, because he knows he mustn’t touch the yarn, or play with the yarn, or chew on the yarn, because that makes Mom crazy.  Crazy Mom is way less fun than playing with yarn.  Smart cat.

8.  Knitting doesn’t generate a mess like cooking, and knitting keeps your hands busy so it’s hard to snack. 

9.  Knitting is fun.  Bears repeating.

December 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sunday Dinner – Dutch Apple Crunch Pie

The house I grew up in sat on 2 lots in our little town.  It was an old house back then, and when it was built it was probably on the very edge of town.  The backyard had an old chicken coop, a “fruit house” that was like a above-ground root cellar, and many old fruit trees.  One of them was an apple tree.

Three seasons of the year this apple tree was our play-house and our horse (one of the main branches ran parallel to the ground and was big enough for us to sit on).  In the fall, though, it was a job.  My sister Kim and I would go out and pick up apples almost every day.  If we missed a day the darn yellow-jackets would find the apples and try to kill us for taking their food.  Once we picked up the apples, Mom would make and can applesauce with Red-Hots melted into it so it was a lovely shade of pink, and on special days she would make this apple pie. 

My apple tree now is only about 5 feet tall and kind of sad.  It’s all bent over from having too many apples on it a couple of years ago, but it’ll probably look cool 50 years from now if it makes it that long.  The apples it produces are great to feed the cows but not good for much else.  Oh well.  Maybe someday it’ll make enough good apples to make a pie.  I can hardly wait!

You can always tell the best recipes by the “patina” on them.  Here are my Grandma Mary’s recipe for pie crust, and Mom’s recipe for apple pie:

Never Fail Pie Crust  – makes enough for 2 double-crust pies

  • 4 Cups flour
  • 1 Cup shortening
  • 1 Cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • between 1/3 – 1/2 Cup cold water

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Using pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, beat the egg, then mix in vinegar and water (the amount of water is variable.  For me, if the weather is hot or humid, I use 1/3 cup of water.  If it’s winter and dry from the heater running, I use 1/2 cup.  It just kind of depends.)  Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.  Then I divide the dough into 4 pieces and put each piece in a zip-type bag and pop them in the refrigerator while I’m making whatever pie filling I’m craving.  You can also put the dough in the freezer if you’re not planning on making more than one pie, and it’ll keep for about 2 months if it’s well wrapped.

Dutch Apple Crunch Pie  –  This Dutch apple pie is different than most, because it has a top crust and then the sprinkles on top of that.  It is oh. so. good.

  • Pastry for one double-crust pie
  • 6 Cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients and place in pastry lined 9-inch pie pan.  Put on top pastry and cut vents in top.  Add Crunch Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp shortening
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix above ingredients together with a fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle topping over top pie crust.  Bake at 425F for 10 min.  Leaving pie in oven, reduce heat to 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes or until nicely browned.  Depending on your oven, this could take from 25 – 45 minutes, so rather than go by the time given keep a good eye on it and bake it as long as it needs to be baked.  Cool and serve.  In my house we let it cool until it’s just slightly cooler than lava, and serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Oh, my goodness.  I want apple pie.  I REALLY want apple pie.  I hope you like this as much as we do!

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Dessert, Recipes, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Stop the world, I want to get off

Yesterday was good and bad.  Good because I got to see Dick and spend the day with Mom.  Bad because I did all that at the hospital.  When I got there I had to go to the ICU to visit him, which frankly gives me a bad case of PTSD.  More on that tomorrow.  He was awake and alert and seemed glad to see me.  I said, “Hey, it’s My Favorite Martian!” because with the big drain tube sticking out of his head, this is what he looked like, except for the orange sky and green sparkly shirt:

He liked my joke about needing to go to the hospital like he needed another hole in his head.  Then he fell asleep in mid-sentence.  Being sick is hard work.  Being that sick is very hard.  Later on, they took the tube out because it wasn’t doing any good.  So for now, we wait.  What are we waiting for?  Honestly, he’s not ever going to be better.  Barring some miracle, which I know can happen, he will be as sick as he is now until he dies.  And that sucks.

In light of life sucking today, it is a minimal homeschool day, a minimal housework day, a minimal thought day.  It is an I-wish-I-could-trade-places-with-someone day.  I want to go outside and lay in the tall, tall grass, feel the warm sunshine and just look up at the blue sky and pretend that nothing else exists.  But the ground is cold and wet, the grass isn’t very tall and the sky is cloudy.  Life as it is exists.  The kitchen is horrible after me being gone for 3 days in a row.  It seems that children forget how to do chores unless you are there to supervise.  But I don’t want to nag them today.  I want to be like Ferdinand, at the end of the story.  If only for a while.  Maybe later.  Maybe tomorrow.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Sick, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment