Monthly Archives: September 2017

What is On My Mind Today? What to serve for the next big……NASCAR Race!

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Here are some stand-up recipes for race day.

Best Lasagna  Recipe Ever

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Prepare a one pound box of lasagna pasta according to package directions.  Drain, and rinse pasta with cold water and set aside.

Meat Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
½ cup carrots, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 pounds ground beef
½ cup tomato paste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 cups red wine
4 cups diced canned tomatoes

Cheese Mixture:
15 ounces ricotta
½ cup basil, chopped
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 egg
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Toppings:
Mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesan cheese, grated

PREPARATION
Into a large skillet, on medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter.  Into the melted butter and oil add carrot, onion, celery and garlic.  Cook until golden brown.  Must be stirred occasionally.

Add the ground beef, salt, pepper and tomato paste to the caramelized vegetables. Stir to combine. With a wooden spoon, break up meat into small pieces and continue to cook until meat has browned.

When the sauce is a deep brown and beginning to stick slightly to the bottom of the skillet, add the red wine.  With the wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen all of the brown bits.

Bring wine to a simmer, then add the diced canned tomatoes.  Stir to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine ricotta, basil, Parmesan, Parsley, egg, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Cover the bottom of a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with the meat sauce.  Top with a layer of pasta.  On top of the pasta spread a layer of the cheese mixture.  Repeat.  Meat sauce, pasta, cheese mixture.  Cover with remaining meat sauce.  Garnish with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, to brown the cheese on top.

Cut into serving-size rectangles and enjoy!

Serves 12.

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beer bread

What goes with lasagna and Nascar?  Warm beer bread.

Beer Batter Bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Grease a loaf pan with butter and dust bottom of pan with corn meal.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
3 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

Once dry ingredients have been mixed together add:
1 (12 ounce) can beer.  Bland is best.

Stir just until all of the ingredients are combined.  Do not over beat.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from oven and drizzle two tablespoons of melted butter over loaf.

This bread slices best when cool, but tastes wonderful warm.

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Somethings in life really are black and white.  Oreo Cookies are a wonderful example of this phenomena.

Oreo Cheesecake Bars

Preheat oven to 350º and line a 9-x-13″ pan with parchment paper. Spray parchment with cooking spray.

Crust:
1 box fudgy brownie mix, plus ingredients
15 whole Oreo cookies

Make brownies according to package directions.  Spread batter evenly in pan and top with the Oreo cookies.  Set aside.

Cheesecake filling: 
3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
15 Oreo cookies, crushed

In a large bowl, beat together until fluffy sugar and cream cheese.  Add eggs, vanilla and salt.  Beat until combined.  Gently fold in crushed Oreo cookies. Pour cheesecake mixture over the brownie-Oreo cookie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When done the edges should be set and the center of cheesecake will be slightly jiggly.

Let cheesecake cool completely in pan.

Topping: 
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted

Drizzle with melted chocolate and white chocolate and serve.

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I hope you enjoy these wonderful recipes.

Now, my husband and I are off to the races…..just saying.

 

 

 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today? Genius Is As Genius Does….Gopher Hunting!

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Gopher population control can be a real issue for gardeners and farmers. Those little buggers can become annoying pests really quickly.  To limit the amount of damage these rodents could inflict, we would hunt gophers.

I usually gopher hunted with my Grandpa George who was in his eighties. I was not yet six years old.  Grandpa and my method of gopher extermination was to flood their holes with water and try to hit them with a shovel when they emerged.  I got to hold the water hose and grandpa was the shovel guy.  Any gopher who was a good swimmer, had nothing to fear from our shovel.  We sure scared them though!

My cousins and brothers were much more successful getting gophers, as they used traps.

Even our dog was more successful at getting gophers and Grandpa and I.

This video is about some folks who use common household products coupled with oxygen and propane to blow up gopher holes.  I bet grandpa would have been against us trying this method of gopher hunting. Using oxygen and propane to blow up gopher tunnels doesn’t seem like something a Swedish Lutheran farmer would do.  Too noisy and showy. Honestly, it all seems a bit Baptist.

Enjoy the video. Don’t try this at home! And always remember:

Election 11

 

 

 

Recipes: Yo, Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum for a Yummy Rummy Cake

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As I have mentioned before, I am not a drinker of alcohol. I have never been a drinker of alcohol, because when I was a teenager my grandmother asked me to promise her that I would never smoke, drink alcohol, or take illegal drugs.

In those days, if you gave someone your word, you kept that promise, unless prevented by an act of God.  According to my grandmother, other than communion, there is no act of God that requires alcohol consumption.

I have always kept my clean and sober promise to my Grandmother Esther.  Contrary to what many people would think, going through life completely sober has its advantages. The only problem I have ever encountered has been the challenge of purchasing alcohol as a gift or for cooking.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed an alcohol purchasing system.  Being Swedish and knowing that genius has been defined as simplifying the complex, I kept it simple.  My alcohol purchasing system is based on two fundamental principles. Pretty is as pretty does and it is best to go with what you know. Therefore my purchases are based on bright shiny labels or on something I’ve tried. The only wine in this home is Mogen-David.  It is what is used at my church for communion.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I wanted to make a rum cake for my brain tumor fighting neighbor.  Therefore, I needed to purchase a bottle of rum.  So, off to the liquor store I went.

Since I have always been easily distracted by pretty colors, it took me a while to find the rum area, after wandering into the wine aisles.  Such creativity in labeling. Kudos!

Finally, I found what I was looking for….rum. When making an alcohol purchase, it has been my experience that price is not much of a deterrent if the picture on the label reels me in.  I immediately knew just which one I wanted. There was a pirate on the label! How can you go wrong picking a pirate? I was sold.

I took my purchase up to the counter and the fellow working at the store, narrowed his eyes to assess my purchase and immediately concluded that a rum rookie had entered his establishment.  He asked me, “Just what do….you….plan to do with that rum?”   I told him about the rum cake.

With several other people standing in line behind me, he laughed and said the pirate rum would not work for cake.  He found me a nice golden rum for the cake and a bottle of Mogan-David wine as it is the end of September and opening day of beef stew season begins with the first frost.

The golden rum worked great for the cake. The cake was outstanding!  However, I would like to suggest to the folks that bottle that stuff that they should seriously consider finding their own pirate for the label.   After all it’s..Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum!

Yummy Rummy Cake
This recipe is from, “Once Upon a Chef”.

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.

Grease the inside of a 12-cup Bundt pan with butter, then coat the pan lightly with flour. Tap pan and tip out any excess flour.

Cake:
4 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup golden rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups cake flour (must use cake flour)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

In a medium-sized mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, rum, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Set aside.

Into a large mixing bowl add cake flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix dry ingredients together.  With an electric mixer on low speed beat in the butter until well combined.  Next add in the liquid ingredients a third at a time, just until combined.  Be sure to wipe down the edges of the bowl after each addition.  Once all of the liquid has been added, increase mixer speed to medium and beat for an additional two minutes.

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 65-75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool the cake on a rack for ten minutes.

While the cake cools make the glaze.

Glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus two Tablespoons of rum

In a small sauce pan melt butter.  Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for five minutes stirring constantly.  The glaze should thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and stir in rum.

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While the cake is still in the pan use a toothpick to poke holes all over the bottom.  There should be lots and lots of holes.  Slowly, brush or spoon half of the glaze over the holes in the bottom of the cake and let it soak in.   Remove cake and place on a plate. Poke holes in the top of the cake.  Slowly brush remaining glaze on top and sides of the cake. Let glaze soak in so that it does not run off, but is absorbed into the cake.

Let the cake sit for about a hour, then serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

What Is On My Mind Today? Fear, Hurricanes, Fires, Earthquakes and God

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As a two-time cancer survivor I know a thing or two about fear.  One thing that I have learned is that fear can be addictive. The adrenaline rush of fear acts on the body much like an opiate.  Your heart and breathing rates increase as your fight and flight reflexes engage.

Sometimes,  fear feels good. Like the thrill you get when going on a carnival ride, riding a horse at a full gallop, or are jumping out of an airplane.  At other times fear can be overwhelming, such as when you get a cancer diagnosis or see your country ravaged by natural disasters or war.

Living in constant fear is awful, because fear is the worst of thieves.  It steals precious treasures…happiness, peace of mind and time.  What is worse, fear is contagious and has been weaponized.    Governments, religions and individuals often use fear to increase power, control people and receive attention.

Calamity begets fear. When disaster strikes, people, even unbelievers, feel the immediate need to put the fear of God in hearts and minds by communicating that the crisis is God’s fault, divine punishment for sinful living, or that the end of the world is coming and coming fast.

Whenever I hear that something is a sign of the end times, I find peace by turning to the Bible and re-reading the comforting words of Christ Jesus when he clearly states that no man will know when the end will be.  Only God knows, not Jesus, not any human.

Jesus further reassures us by instructing,  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24: 4-7.  

There have been many, many wars, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since Christ spoke those words almost two thousand years ago and humans are still here.   Are these the end times? I don’t know, nobody does.  What is important, is to believe that Jesus Christ is your personal savior, then, there is no reason to fear the end times. What is there to fear? Going to heaven and experiencing perfect love?

Can natural disasters be signs from God?  Absolutel!  The Bible tell us so.  The question is what is the message that God is sending?

Human’s cannot surprise God, he has seen it all before. I am pretty sure that:

  • God has been aware of humanity’s sinful ways since Adam and Eve disobeyed him in the Garden of Eden and then to make matters worse a jealous Cain put Abel under with a rock upside the head.
  • There have been hurricanes hitting coastal areas for as long as there has been oceans.
  • Forest fires have existed since lightening hit its first tree and man learned how to make fire.
  • Earthquakes in Mexico, or anywhere else, are never a punishment from God due to United States presidential election results, no matter what a Hollywood actress may believe.

This “disaster is a punishment from God” philosophy reminded me of when I was battling my cancer. I remember someone asking me what I thought I had done that God was punishing me so harshly.

After this empathy challenged person, who felt greatly blessed with good health and substantial wealth when compared to myself, a fifty year old woman stuck in a body cast, trapped in pain and a hospital bed in her living room, full of cancer and without a lot of good options, had finished suggesting that self-reflection and repentance on my part was necessary to appease an angry God, I responded.

My response then, would be the same as today, to those who suggest that disease and disaster are signs of an angry God.  I agree.  God gets angry.  He may use illness and other trials to test people, but, maybe, just maybe, he does not punish or test the sick, traumatized and devastated. Maybe he is testing the response of those around them.

Why do I believe this? Because, Jesus clearly tells me so in Matthew 25: 31-46

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I am a strong believer in the power of prayer.  God can and does do miracles through prayer.  However, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”   James 2: 14-17

God promises to never leave or forsake us. He always keeps his promises. Christians need not live in constant fear of the end times, physical or natural disaster.  It is during those times that we should look to our Heavenly Father and take stock of our blessings. Call on him for faith, strength, courage and to grant us the peace that passes all understanding. Then, it is time to bravely roll up our sleeves and get to work helping those who need assistance.

I will always have a healthy fear of God, but I have no interest in being a “Chicken Little, The Sky is Falling!” christian. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best, “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” 

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Prayer is a powerful. Please pray for those affected by the hurricanes, wild fires and other natural disasters.  Then, volunteer, give blood, or donate at:  

The Salvation Army Disaster Relief   https://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org/

Red Cross Disaster Relief: https://www.redcross.org/donate/disaster-relief?scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=CjwKCAjwos7NBRAWEiwAypNCe1F5-3X-x10xxZ_UJsDexvntU8pdxkfDJIPYaFVxOIE98y5BQb92uRoCK3EQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CIGEldnxmNYCFRU5Twod-6cAMQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Trivializing the Momentous and Complicating the Obvious

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Montana on fire

It seems to me that by now almost everyone in this country knows someone who has been personally impacted by Hurricane Harvey, will be hit by Hurricane Irma or is being affected by the horrendous fires devouring several of our nation’s western states.

These natural disasters have, are and will be affecting millions of our fellow countrymen and women.

So, what did I see first thing on the nightly news last evening and this morning.   Not hurricanes, not fires, not even North Korea and their latest nuclear missile, DACA…a program that effects less than a million people and that will not be ended for another six months.

Oh, I saw lots of people marching expressing their ire against President Trump…yet again.  Which made me wonder if I am the only person who is becoming totally numb to these protests?  Yes, I get it already,  Trump can do nothing right.  But, I’ll tell you, I am much less fearful of a leader in whom the media finds only fault, than in one that can do no wrong.  Just for the record though, under our Constitution, only Congress can make law, not this president or any other.

On the bright side at least these protesters are getting some exercise, however I think they could all benefit greatly from a reading of the children’s story, Peter the Wolf.  It is a Russian story so conspiracy theorists beware!

Then, to escape the mainstream media, as I do everyday, I went online to look at several different media outlets and saw this story about a 10-year-old girl and her donation of 167 pairs of her own shoes to hurricane victims in Texas.  I went to public school, so I did the math.  In my head. That is 16.7 pairs of shoes a year.  That’s a lot of shoes.  An impressive amount of shoes for any child to be sure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is wonderful that this little girl is pitching in to help with storm relief.  It’s with her parents and the media I have issues.

How is this, in any way shape or form news!  Especially, for a national news outlet? What is the media’s news story prioritization process?  What must this process look like?

I can just picture their newsroom meeting.  The beast in charge summarizes, “Well on today’s docket we have two major hurricanes—Irma could be the biggest and deadliest ever; DACA is on a six-month hold in hopes that Congress will get its act together and do the right thing to give these folks some permanent peace of mind in law; the North Korean nuclear threat is increasing by the day; Montana is on fire; well, actually many of our nation’s western states are fighting out of control fires; oh, and this cute little girl in Georgia is giving away 167 pairs of shoes that she’ll never wear again or put on any of her future children to hurricane victims.”

There is quiet in the room. Only soft breathing, and the occasional slap to an overly inquisitive hand is heard, as the powers that be mull over their news story choices and mentally wrestle with the importance of their weighty decision.  Quickly, they individually conclude that the hand slapper just lost her promotion.  Eventually, their eyes light up as they realize which story is most important to the viewing public. Then, in unison they all jump to their feet and yell, “Go with the shoes!”

I must say about our media as General James L. Kemper said about General George Picket in the movie Gettysbury, “Well, I got to hand it to you, George. You sure got a talent for trivializing the momentous and complicating the obvious. You ever consider running for Congress?

….just saying

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/09/05/georgia-girl-10-donates-167-pairs-shoes-to-hurricane-harvey-victims.html

Recipes: First Day of School, Rotten Apples, Cabbage Rolls and Refrigerator Pickles

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The first day of school is always exciting, even if the only thing you are looking forward to is getting back with your friends and recess. Yesterday was the first day of the new school year for many of Minnesota’s youngsters.  I really enjoyed checking out all of the Facebook posts of happy, and some not so happy faces, setting off to tackle another year of education dressed in new duds, and toting backpacks that in some cases looked almost as big as the child.

I will never forget one of my preschool students, a very petite three-year-old girl who marched into each class session with a look of determination and a backpack that absolutely dwarfed her. I never knew what she kept in that backpack, but she always had room left inside to cram her papers in to bring home.  Honestly, when that child unzipped that enormous backpack and begin pushing her crunched up papers in, over half of little girl disappeared.  I felt obliged to stand ready to fish her out of that thing, should it gobble her up completely.

As far as I am concerned when school begins, summer ends.  Yes, autumn is here!  It is now time to clean out the house and garden, and begin cooking and baking at will. For the most part, the hot humid days of summer are over. Windows can again be flung wide open, unless you are allergic to rag weed then you have to wait until after the first frost for any window flinging. And, turning the oven on to bake is no longer torture. It takes the chill off of your home and produces wonderful aromas that dance throughout the house.

I was going to try a recipe for rum cake today, but as a teenager I promised my grandmother that I would not be a drinker of alcohol and a promise made, is a promise kept.  Therefore, the only distilled or fermented beverages in my home are used for cooking, and as luck would have it, I am out of rum.  I do have rum extract, but making a rum cake using that stuff, would be an insult to cakes everywhere.  Due to a lack of planning on my part, and my refusal to buy alcohol on a Sunday, there will have to be a rain check on the rum cake.  Disappointing I know, but we must soldier on all the same.

I do have two new recipes that will help use up some of those end of the growing season vegetables.

The first recipe is delicious and a boon for time management…Crockpot Cabbage Rolls. These cabbage rolls are prepared with a sweet and spicy tomato sauce.

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Crockpot Cabbage Rolls

12 leaves of cabbage
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup minced onion
1 pound of extra lean ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Put the cabbage leaves into the boiling water for about two minutes. Drain.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, egg, milk, onion, ground beef, salt and pepper. Place about 1/4 of a cup of the meat mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf. Tuck ends of leaf in and roll up, just like a burrito or egg roll.  Place rolls in the crockpot.

In a small bowl, mix together tomato sauce, brown sugar, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over cabbage rolls.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

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This second recipe is a bit of pure tasty nostalgia.

Fall on the farm meant cricket serenades, swimming in huge piles of harvested corn and beans, apple wars with siblings, cousins and neighbor kids and pickles.

Apple fights were as much of fall tradition as a good snowball fight is in the winter. Throwing rotten and/or wormy apples at a worthy or whiny opponent was not done out of spite or to advance yuckiness.  It was not to create additional suffering for your target or laundry for your mother.  Nor was it to increase your thrill or justify the level punishment that would be meted out should you be caught. It was not to enjoy the sound of a good splat.  Not at all.  Rotten apple throwing was a matter of religious observance.

We were all Lutherans and wasting food in any form was highly frowned upon by those in authority and who were observant. Therefore, good tree apples had been long ago banned for use as weapons or ammunition in broad daylight. While good apples delivered a much smarter sting, sadly, we had to be content to use their softer rotten treemates to teach the unsuspecting how to, “take it like a man.”

With all of the flinging, fight, fun and frolic of fall, it is important to remember that it is also the time of year for pickles. I have always loved eating pickles.  My Great Uncle Ed would often hand me a very tart dill pickle and dare me to try it while loudly declaring, “That will grow hair on your chest!”  Eventually, it became clear to me that I needed to cut back on of my dill pickle consumption and focus on sweet pickles, as I began to have nightmares about displaying a hairy bosom in a prom dress.

This recipe for sweet pickles tastes just like the bread and butter pickles canned and shared at every family get-together by my grandmother and great aunts.  However, these are much easier to make and keep well for about two months in the refrigerator.  I hope you make and enjoy…..Sweet Spicy Refrigerator Pickles.

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Sweet Spicy Refrigerator Pickles

6 cups cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 cups onions, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups of sugar
1-1/2 cups of cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, scant

Place sliced cucumbers and onions in a large bowl and set aside.

In a medium-sized sauce pan combine and whisk together:  sugar, vinegar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric, and cloves. Bring to a boil.  Cook and stir until sugar has dissolved.

Pour boiling vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and onions.  As the mixture cools, press cucumbers under the vinegar mixture.  Cool.

Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before you serve.

Another pickle recipe on this blog:  Watermelon Pickles the Happy Pickle

 

 

 

What is On My Mind Today: A Good Habit to Have….Reading!

In addition to working on the same oil painting for the past six months, I have been reading lots of books.

Many of the books I have been reading are historical diaries.  It is fascinating to read first person history to learn about the situations and challenges faced by past generations from those who were actually there.

As a college-educated woman, I took several courses dedicated to instilling fear into the hearts of historians regarding the twin bogeymen of bias and braggadocio and how they taint first person historical accounts. Being able to discern fact from fiction is a good skill for any reader to have…especially historians. It seems to me that too few of today’s “historians” or historical experts immerse themselves in primary sources before diving headlong into the the shallow water of secondary sources such as the ever present, easily accessed and factually challenged internet.

A good example of this type of study would be of the Christian who reads a lot of Facebook posts about scripture and who can expertly google biblical verses required to further a narrative, but who neglects spending time reading the actual Bible.

While I do read my bible frequently, I must confess that I have never read the whole Bible from cover to cover.  After applying some thought to the matter, I found the situation unacceptable.  So,  I have spent the past several months doing just that.  I am through the New Testament and am in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament.

What a wonderful experience it has been!  I have learned so much.  There is definitely only one God and he’s it;  Jesus is the Messiah; and creating us humans and giving us free will must make God constantly bang his Holy Head against a heavenly wall. And yet, he still loves us.

In addition to working through reading the Bible, my reading list from this summer has been somewhat extensive and I must say there has not been a dud in the bunch. Well, one was close to being a dud, but I muscled through.  I strongly recommend picking up any of these books and giving them a read.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This World War II story will clue the reader in pretty quickly as to why you stand for the national anthem and our flag.  This book puts you right along side the downed airman and his trials adrift in the ocean and vividly describes the horrors he experienced as a Japanese prisoner of war.

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The Classic Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.   This book includes:
The Life of Olaudah Equiano; The History of Mary Prince; Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  These accounts are real and heartrending.

Eyewitness to the Alamo by Bill Groneman.   I may have never physically been to the Alamo nor seen the American’s fight to prevent the Mexican Army from taking the fort; however, after reading this book, I have in my mind.

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel.  This is a thoughtful read even though about two-thirds of this book is dedicated to Ms. Schlissel advancing her theory that women were the great bulwark and victims of western expansion. According to her, they did more than their share of the work and suffering.  Not only do statistics undermine her conclusions, but so do the actually women in their diaries. This book is a good example of a modern Monday morning quarterbacking type of historical bias.  As to  her repeated claim that women cared more for the dead along the Oregon Trail than did men, because women kept count of the graves in their diaries and the men just noted the death.  I would like to point out that the men were driving a large oxen team and the women were riding in the wagon or walking behind it.   Once the gals made sure that all of their kids were accounted for, and not likely to fall out the wagon, what else did they have to do?  It’s not like there were telephone poles to count.

These Is My Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1902, Arizona Territories, by Nancy E. Turner.  This book is a fictional adaptation of the author’s great-grandmother’s diary.   For those who are familiar with the desert southwest, this is a quick must read.  Good story.

The Ox Team on the Old Oregon Trail 1852-1906 by Ezra Meeker.  Ezra was there, did that and then, many years later, did it again to teach a nation just how hard pioneers on the Oregon trail had it.  It is a great read and a “how to” book on going west with oxen. Theodore Roosevelt even gets a mention.

The Fetterman Massacre by Dee Brown.  This is a military history about the second largest massacre of United States troops by Indians where no white soldier’s survived.  I had never heard of this event and thought it would be good to learn about it. The battle of Little Big-Horn where General George Armstong Custer died was the largest Indian Battle with no United States military survivors.

Captivity of the Oatman Girls by R. B. Stratton.  The Oatman Family was massacred in 1851 by the Gila River while on their way to California.  Two of their daughters, Mary and Olive, were taken captive by those who had slain the rest of their family.  One brother, Lorenzo, also survived the attack when he was left for dead.  I decided to read this book, because I saw a picture of Olive Oatman and her facial tattoos.  I wanted to know her story. It’s quite a story! It includes Mormon church history, bravery, love, cowardice, slavery, and freedom.  What a strong beautiful young woman!

Olive Oatman
Olive Oatman

Adeline and Julia, edited by Robert Myers and Janet Coryell.  These two sisters kept diaries.  The younger girl describes a very thorough picture of what growing up in Victorian times meant for a principled feisty female child who liked to be a tom boy. The older sister and a couple of her friends, decide to try their luck at homesteading in Kansas Territory.  These girls have a good time, survive hardship and always seem to make money in their business adventures including running a sod house boarding house.  This is a great book and should be required reading for all young women.

Butter in the Well by Linda K Hubalek.  This sweet bit of fiction is based on the Swedish homesteader’s experience.  It even comes with traditional recipes.

Woman Homesteader by Elinore Pruitt Stewart.  This is the best woman’s diary I have ever read!  I read it a second time, because it was hard to believe that it is a real account of Elinore’s life, but it is.  Ms. Pruitt-Stewart has many virtues that I admire: bravery, independence, kindness, practicality, a sense of adventure and excellent marksmanship skills. I strongly recommend this book.

 

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Elinore Pruitt-Stewart

Life in the Far West by George Fredrick Ruxton.  After reading so many stories about people who decided to leave everything behind and go west.  I decided to try and find one of the books that these early pioneers had read that inspired them to take on such an adventure. Mr. Ruxton, an Englishman,  died before reaching the tender age of thirty, but he packed a lot of living into those few short years.  This book was first published in 1849 and describes the life of a fur-trapper in the Rocky mountains.  Surprisingly, this book is written like a novel using the vernacular of time which has been sprinkled lightly throughout with wit and where the author adds a pinch of  ironic humor and observation now and again.  It is a book that is hard to put down once began. He ends this account of his life in the mountains on a surprisingly pleasant and happy note.

ruxton

I also have read a book on German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel and a rather long history of the Rothschild banking family.  My current read is a book called, “A Woman in Berlin.”  It is an anonymous diary that a woman began keeping in April of 1945 just as the Russians entered Berlin at the close of World War II.  This book graphically tells about the fall of Berlin from a woman’s prospective including her victimization by Russian soldiers.

I hope you find time, even if it is just a half hour a day, to pick up a book and read!

 

 

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