All posts by turg7269

About turg7269

I am a Minnesota woman who grew up on a farm in Swede Grove Township and spent much time in the Arizona Desert during the winters. For many years I was a professional communications writer. I had my own recipe column with a weekly publication and was the press secretary/assistant communication director for Minnesota's Secretary of State. I am a two time cancer survivor and am currently in remission from Multiple Myeloma a blood cancer.

Letters From Grandma Pat: Cat Warfare and The Battle of the Black Death

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Dear Kids,

I am glad that you had a safe and Happy Halloween.   Please know that your parents’  idea of a “Daddy” or “Mommy” tax on candy collected on Halloween or Easter did not  originate with myself or your grandpa.  We would never have expected or accepted anything from our children more than what they were graciously willing to share.  At any rate, don’t eat all of the candy in one day….you, your stomach and teeth will regret it.

So, when you got home did you dump out all of your candy out for an inspection?  I bet your cats thoroughly checked out each and every piece.  They always remind me of the poor souls who had to taste all of a king’s food, to make sure it wasn’t poisoned.  I bet those folks wished they had nine lives like a cat and I bet you don’t know about the time cats saved all of humankind by winning the “Battle of the Black Death.”

Seriously,  we all know that cats do not have more than one life on this earth, so how did this myth about the nine lives get started? An Old English proverb says that, “A cat has nine lives.  For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.”  However, the nine lives myth is much older than this proverb and even merry old England itself.

The myth that cats have nine lives has been around for centuries. Even the famous English playwright William Shakespeare referred to it in his play, “Romeo And Juliet.” He wrote, “Tybalt: What wouldst thou have with me? Mercutio: Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.”

Actually, no one knows for sure when this myth got started, but historians believe it may have begun in ancient Egypt where cats were sacred. In fact, their goddess Bastet was pictured as being half cat and half woman.  Ha! The first cat woman!

Cats in Egypt were revered in life and greatly mourned after they died. They were mummified, just like people, and had their own tombs.  Interestingly, a cat tomb with over 80,000 mummified cats was discovered at Beni Hassan in Egypt in 1888.  That’s a lot of cat mummies.

The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks thought that number nine was special…even magical. Ancient Egyptians believed that their god Atum or Atum-Ra took on the form of a cat whenever he visited the underworld or as we call it today….hell.  During one of his visits to the land of the dead, Atum gave birth to eight other gods.  Therefore one life, became nine.

The Egyptians were not alone in thinking there was something special about the number nine. Tradition and religion made the Greeks think that the number nine had power for it was the trinity of all trinities. Not every culture credits a cat with nine lives. Spain has a tradition that cats only have seven lives, and in Arabia and Turkey the feline only gets six

It was the Romans who brought cats to Europe.  During their occupation of Egypt, the Romans learned to appreciate the pet felines for their mouse catching skills.  It didn’t take long before cats became popular European pets…that is….until the middle ages.  Poor cats!  Within a few centuries they went from being worshiped in ancient Egypt to medieval Europeans thinking they were a death delivering soldier of the devil.

Being born a cat, especially a black cat, in medieval Europe was just plain bad luck.  It is the only unlucky thing about a black cat.  Cats at that time were so terribly misunderstood.  Their nose-in-the-air attitudes and ability to survive falls that would have killed any other animal got them labeled as being other worldly and evil.

One guy, named Baldwin III, Count of Ypres, was so fascinated by a cats amazing ability to land on its feet that he decided to test the extent of this cat talent.  So, in the year 962 A. D.  he threw several cats off of a very high tower.  Well, the cats survived and ran away.  The experiment, with the poor unfortunate cats, was so entertaining, that the Belgian town made it an annual event and festival. Each year after a procession celebrating cat history, felines were thrown from an almost 230 foot tower.  Live cats were used until 1817, when the folks in Belgian decided that maybe, just maybe, this tradition was unkind and began using toy cats instead.

At that time, being thrown off a tower was the least of a cat’s problem.  During the middles ages, from about 1300 until the 1700, every few generations, a terrible disease called the Bubonic Plague would savage the cities and countrysides of Europe.  This disease killed up to 50 percent of the total population in some parts of England.  France lost up to 90 percent of its people in some areas.

The  Bubonic Plague otherwise known as the “Black Death” came to Europe in October of 1347 when twelve Asian trading ships docked in Messina, Sicily.  Crowds had gathered on the piers to welcome the ships when to their horror most of the sailors on the ships were  found dead and the remainder were terribly ill.

Before the ships of death had even reached Sicily’s shores, many Europeans were already frightened by the rumors that a “Great Pestilence” had ravaged the Near and Far East.  As early as the 1340’s China, India, Syria, Egypt and Persia had experienced the plague’s effects.  To protect the public from being infected by this horrible contagion, the death ships were immediately ordered to return to sea.

However, it was already too late. This disease, spread by flea-infested rats, had already jumped ship.  The plague had begun. Before it was over more than 25 million people in Europe, almost a third of its population would be dead.  Not only did this disease kill people, it also killed animals, including farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep, pigs and chickens.  So many animals perished that food and wool shortages occurred.

The plague is an ugly disease.  It causes its victims to run a high fever, vomit uncontrollably and experience an incredible amount of pain. Worst yet were the horrible black bleeding and oozing sores that covered the victim’s entire body.  These black sores are what gave the disease the name, “The Black Death.”   Its victims looked like rotting puss covered zombies.

Death from this disease came so quickly that a person could be healthy when they went to bed at night and dead before morning.  The nursery rhyme “Ring around the Rosy”  is believed to have been written about the symptoms of the Black Death.

Unlike today, in those days there were no doctors or medicines that could help the victims.  Panic ensued. People turned on each other, families abandoned their own sick family members, doctors refused help the sick, and priests refused administering last rites to the dying.

As in most cases of historical public panic, a scapegoat was needed. In this case it was….Jewish people and cats.

At the time the plague struck very little was known about how disease spread. So, people who under normal circumstances seemed to have perfectly well-functioning brains,  threw open all the doors and windows of their mental facilities to let reason and common sense escape and welcome in ridiculously stupid ideas to explain the illness.  Such as, that the plague of the Black Death was a punishment from a loving God.

While I would never speak for God or suggest he never has used a catastrophe or two to get our attention.  I don’t believe that disease is ever a punishment from God for sin, because Jesus paid the full price for all of our sins on the cross. Nor, do I believe that God tests the sick.  I think it is highly more likely that if a loving God is testing anyone, it is the people close to the stricken to see if they practice what they preach and meet the needs of the suffering with compassion, kindness and love.

No, I do not believe that the plague was a divine punishment. However, people during the middle ages were told differently.

In those days the most powerful authority in the land was the Catholic church.  Church leaders believed that the Black Death was God’s punishment. To end the plague, the church taught that communities needed to be cleansed of non-believers and perpetual troublemakers.  During the years of 1348 and 1349, violent panic-stricken mobs massacred thousands of Jewish people.  Many Jews were forced to flee to Eastern Europe to be safe.

In addition to the genocide of the Jews, cats were also targeted by the church.  A century before the plague, the church had taught that cats were evil. It was believed that devil worshipers and witches used cats to cast their spells…especially black cats.   This is where and when the superstition about black cats began.

Well, it didn’t take long before cats were feared and killed off by the thousands.  In some areas cat ownership was actually outlawed.  At one point during the middle ages cats had been almost entirely eradicated in England.

Humans often make poor choices and the attempt to rid Europe of cats was just that…a bad idea.  Cats kill rats. Rats had the fleas that caused the Black Death.  Therefore, when there weren’t a lot of cats, there were a lot of rats and a disease outbreak occurred.

Some humans ignored the law and kept their pet cats.  Other folks soon noticed that cat owners seemed to not get the plague as often.  It does amaze me that these cat owners weren’t immediately labeled as witches and burned at the stake.  Boy, did folks back then like burning witches at the stake, but that is another story.

For once, however, calmer heads prevailed.  It was decided that cats somehow protected their owners from the plague.  Primitive scientific research and thinking took place and it was determined that rats not cats spread the plague.

Of course with this discovery everyone wanted cats. Unfortunately,  there were not very many left.  It took awhile to re-populate the cat population. However, Tom Cats were up to the challenge and made every effort to impregnate every female cat they could find. (If you don’t know what impregnate means, ask your dad.) 

Due to the commitment to duty and impregnating excellence of the Tom Cats, it wasn’t long before cats were back at the job killing rats and controlling the spread of this horrible disease. Some say that without the rat killing skills of those medieval cats, humankind could have been wiped-out by the plague.  After all of the abuse from humans, isn’t it odd that cats helped save them.  Funny how life works out sometimes.

While cats helped humans land back on their feet after the plague, people still did not know why cats almost always landed on their feet.  It took until 1894 before science could explain a cat’s amazing talent for surviving a fall by landing on its feet.

French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey conducted experiments with cats.  Unlike the Belgians, he dropped them from short-safe distances.  With the help of a camera that took multiple images very quickly, Mr. Marey demonstrated the secret to a cat’s amazing gymnastic agility.

As a cat falls, it instinctively begins a twisting action beginning with its head and ending with the tail called an aerial righting reflex. It takes only one second for a cat to complete this reflex action. Kittens as young as three weeks show signs of this ability, which the kitten masters when they are about seven weeks old.  However, a cat cannot land on its feet if the distance is too low for the cat to make its twist or if the fall is so high that it becomes a cat pancake.

Here is how a cat can almost always land on its feet:

1. First the cat’s head begins to rotate.

2  Next, the cat will arch and twist its spine so that its front and back legs are rotating in opposite directions.

3.  As the cat begins the roll, it pulls in its front legs and extends its back ones, making the front half of its body to spin more quickly than the back half.  Then, the process is reversed.  As the cat’s back legs swing around, they are tucked up into the body and the front legs extended to prevent over-spinning.

4.  The result of all this motion allows the cat to land on all four paws cushioning the impact of the landing.

I better never hear of anybody throwing a cat around and claim its a science experiment.  Cats can and do get hurt easily.  And, like all of God’s creatures, cats were put on this earth to be treated kindly and cared for with gentleness and love.

I guess cats have earned the right to ignore the concept of humility and strut their stuff like a Lion King.  After all, if it wasn’t for their ancestors killing a lot of rats none of us humans might be here.

Have a great week and I love you all very, very much.

Love

Grandma Pat

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Letter to my Grandchildren: Cat Warfare…Peter the Great and A Delicious Cat

Almost three hundred years ago on, November 2, 1721 – Peter I was proclaimed Emperor of all the Russias. I hope you enjoy this bit of Russian and cat history.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

     Peter the Great                                              Furry  Yury

Dear Kids,

Boy, is it cold out this morning, you can really tell that summer is over for good.  We still have a lot of green leaves on our trees, but many of the trees in the neighborhood are already quite golden.  My neighbor across the street is having three really big trees cut down today.

Do you know who was as big as a tree? Peter the Great, who was born in 1672, ruled Russia as tsar or emperor from 1682 until 1725.  A tsar is the Russian word for king.  There were many things that made this guy exceptional.  Royalty or not, Peter stood head and shoulders above everyone because he was almost seven feet tall at a time…

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Thor’s Stories: Ghost Cat Trapping

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Following closely behind the Fourth of July with all of its bangs, pops and explosions, the next least favorite holiday on a dog’s calendar is…..Halloween.

Rex, Thor’s dog, always knew when Halloween was coming, because his boy, Thor, would put fake grave stones and bones all over the yard then forbid Rex from peeing on one or chewing on the other.

Next came the garden pumpkin harvest and massacre. Dogs always love garden pumpkins. After all, it is their favorite vegetable.  A pumpkin patch is a yard filled with big orange balls, because, a ball, is a ball, is a ball. And, since humans rarely eat them for food, pumpkins quickly become a dog’s favorite morning bathroom stop.

Rex was no exception to this rule.  Every morning before the sun could melt the frost on the pumpkin, Rex would engrave a design in the white ice crystals with his warm pee. Oddly enough, his bathroom art often resembled a miniature landscape.

After Thor had ended the reign of terror and forever saved his pumpkin patch from the ravages of Ned the Troll, the only real danger to the wonderful gourds was Thor himself. Thor really liked carving scary faces into those big orange orbs for Halloween.

While Thor loved carving on pumpkins, he hated sticking his hands into the belly of the pumpkin to pull out its cold, greasy, slimy, sticky guts.  So, he developed a Jack O’ Lantern production system.  After Thor lopped off the top of the pumpkin with his ninja sword, Rex was in charge of digging out the stringy stinky guts before the lad completed his carving.

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Rex didn’t mind this process too much, because one of his life’s greatest pleasures was digging. This activity became especially enjoyable when his arch enemy, the obnoxious rodent Morton the Squirrel couldn’t resist temptation; would get greedy for pumpkin seeds; and would move close enough to get covered in orange slime.  Pumpkin guts dripping off an enemy’s face is always sublime.

Yes, the human’s were convinced that everything was ready for another safe and happy Halloween. However, Rex and his animal buddies knew better.  Each year it was the same. For on this night of bumps and boos in the night, all of the cats with bad attitudes, who had used up all of their nine-lives and who had once lived in the neighborhood, returned to trick, NOT treat.

Ghost cats are a nasty lot and messing with one is best left to an experienced  professional…like a dog.  Yes, dogs hate them and good cats have no time for them either and with good reason.  Never, not even once did they try to be kind, gentle or loving during any of their nine-lives on earth.  So, since they gave no peace when on earth, they deserved no peace in the hereafter. And, they got their just desserts!  For these cranky bad-tempered snaggle pusses became ghosts instead of much loved pets for the angels.

The annual Halloween ghost cat preparedness meeting of Thor’s pets was scheduled and called to order.  Everyone attended including Ned the fainting goat.  The chickens were always excused from this meeting as it is about scary stuff, and they are chickens after all.

Rex began the meeting with a bang of the gavel.  Ned, the fainting goat…immediately fainted.  A motion was made, seconded and passed to make Ned an honorary chicken.  Morton the Squirrel rendered immediate first aid by spitting in Ned’s face until he woke up.  Morton’s mom, cleaned the squirrel spit off of Ned’s face, gave him a kiss and hug and helped him back to his pen, where he fainted with relief.

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Once, Morton’s mother had returned to the meeting. The ghost cat prevention plan from years past was distributed for review and discussion.  Morton the Squirrel’s mother asked Rex if she could have the grass and speak to the committee.

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“For years and years we have done our best to protect our humans and their children from ghost cats and their mean Halloween pranks.”  Our efforts have been very successful.

Rex, you have always been able to escape the backyard to perform street duty.  Due to your diligence, never has one of our neighborhood children been hurt crossing a street! Job well done!

Rex

Of course, we are all aware of the occasional skinned knee from a unfortunate trip and fall in a costume that was too long. While any injury to a child is regrettable, it is not the type of trick a ghost cat would use, but rather just another indication that humans could benefit greatly from additional safety training. However, that is an issue for another day.

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Morton, for once, your love of spitting has been put to good use.  You have done a great job of staying ahead of those nasty ghost cats and their use of unattended open flames.  You can take pride in the fact that no flaming candle, has become a flaming costume or house.

At this time, I would like to acknowledge our dear house cats. We all know that Halloween is hardest them.  For they are in charge of candy safety.  Without fail our cats inspect each and every piece of Thor’s candy.  Their dedication to quality control and devotion to safeguarding Thor has always outweighed their loyalty to fellow cats, including ghost cats, and for that we thank you.

However, I feel it is time to change our ghost cat trick prevention plan.  Year after year, we work hard to prevent the hurt and mayhem caused by these lost, angry and unhappy ghost cats.  While we have all become very good at preventing their mischief, now is the time to stop it.

Then, Morton’s mom presented her cat ghost rehabilitation and reformation plan. Which was unanimously approved, because everyone knows that mother’s always know best.

The cool night air of a Minnesota Halloween Eve would make it almost impossible to detect the cold breezes emitted by ghosts as they float by or through you.  So, the team decided that the ghost rehabilitation should take place inside the home with the dear house cats.

To implement the new plan, supplies had to be gathered and deployed.  They needed toilet paper, a large floor fan, gum, duct tape, black work clothes, wooden clothes pins, a bright shiny new penny, cloves, marshmallows, orange-colored cheese crackers, white feathers, a can of baked beans, a copy of grandma’s rules for acceptable behavior and Grandpa Walter.

Before any part of the plan could be initiated, Mother Squirrel called Grandpa Walter to ask for his help and for him to bring a large copy of grandma’s rules for acceptable behavior.  Yes, that is right, Grandpa Walter speaks fluent squirrel.

Grandmother’s have always known that whether it is young humans or some misguided ghost cat exampling, teaching and expecting good behavior is an adult’s most important task.  So Thor’s grandma always had a copy of her acceptable behavior rules posted in her kitchen.  In case a child, anyone younger than grandma, experienced a memory lapse and need to re-enlightened.

Grandma’s rules of acceptable behavior:

1.  Treat everyone just like you, yourself would like to be treated.
2.  Be respectful of your elders and others.  Always say please and thank you.
3.  Kindness like cleanliness pays.
4.  Be responsible and take responsibility.
5.  Always be honest with your words and actions.
6.  Don’t use bad words, unless you like the taste of soap.
7.  If it isn’t yours, it is not yours.
8.  When you want something, work for it.
9.   Don’t pick your nose.
10. Be thankful to God and count your blessings.
11. Never, ever, pull Grandpa Walter’s finger in grandma’s presence.

Ghost capture can be a challenge and more so with ghost cats. Therefore, choosing the right bait is essential in any successful trapping operation.

First, the committee discussed the only thing cats, living or otherwise, cannot resist. Catnip! With a negative shake of her head and a raised eye brow, Morton’s mom quickly put an end to the discussion of cats and catnip.  Cats using catnip is like humans using drugs, no good can come of it and it will only end in tears.

It was decided to use two other items that cats cannot seem to ignore…birds and expensive black work clothes.  Since they were going for ghost cats, they decided to make white ghost birds as bait for the trap.  As Rex headed off to Thor’s dad’s closet to find his best black suit, Mother squirrel scooted into the kitchen to find a bag of large marshmallows, box of orange cheese crackers and cloves. Morton quickly raced out to the hen house to get feather donations from the chickens.

Once the marshmallows, cloves, crackers and chicken feathers were all gathered together.  Rex returned with several of Thor’s dad’s best black suits and his mom’s favorite black pants. After throwing the clothes on the living room floor, Rex proceeded to nip the crackers into four equal pieces.

Morton and his mother assembled the birds with marshmallow bodies, clove eyes, orange cheese cracker beaks and feathered wings and tails.  When they had used up all of the marshmallows, except the one they fed to Rex, because marshmallows have always been one of his favorite snacks, they were done making birds.

Next they had to assemble a ghost motion detector. What always signals that evil spirits have infiltrated a neighborhood on Halloween?  Toilet paper! The dear house cats  accepted the challenge to make the motion detector.  Soon, toilet paper was hanging and dangling all over the place.

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With the motion detector completed and the ghost cat bait prepared, they needed to make the trap.  As luck would have it, just at that moment Grandpa Walter arrived!

He helped place the marshmallow birds on the floor, carried the big fan into the living room, chewed gum and put the shiny penny in his pocket.  After using the gum to stick a copy of grandma’s rules for acceptable behavior on the wall, Grandpa Walter opened and heated up the can of beans.  As Mother Squirrel and the dear house cats finished setting the trap, grandpa sat down in the living room’s swivel rocking recliner to relax and eat his supper.

With grandpa settled nicely in the swivel chair, and Rex and Morton, as usual, out safeguarding children as they trick and treated, it was time to set the trap in motion.  Mother Squirrel signaled grandpa with an affirmative nod that now was the time, then she turned all the lights off. As Mother Squirrel and the dear house cats put the clothes pins on their noses, Grandpa Walter removed his socks and shoes.

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Ghosts, even ghost cats like to show off by going through walls so there never is a need to open a window or door to let them in, but a window was opened to let the smell of Grandpa Walter’s stinky feet out.  While birds and dark clothes may be irresistible to cats, ghosts cannot ignore the horrible smell of rotting dead flesh.

It did not take long before the nasty stench of Grandpa Walter’s old sweaty feet attracted the attention of the ghost cats.

Soon a strong cold ghostly breeze raced through the house towards the living room.  Chairs tipped over; books flew off their shelves; the dear house cats’ fur all stood straight up as they began jumping in circles and hissing; the toilet paper began swinging and swaying as the ghosts roared in.

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Mother Squirrel stood frozen in terror as she realized that the rotten smell from grandpa’s feet had been more successful that any of them had ever imagined.  For ghost cats filled Thor’s home.

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First, the ghost cats rubbed up against Thor’s parents best black clothes covering them with cockle-burry ghost fur. Then, they attacked and shredded the flock of ghost marshmallow birds. It did not take long before they exampled their evil and dangerous trickster ways and flew towards Grandpa Walter intent on tipping the poor old man’s chair over.

Nothing ever scared Grandpa Walter and ghost cats were no exception to this rule.  As they screeched towards him, he calmly leaned forward in his chair, switched on the fan and released his secret weapon.

A fart exploded out of the old fella with such force that it put his swivel rocker into furious spin creating a tornado of stink.  Ghosts may like nasty smells, but even ghost cats are not prepared for the potency of a grandpa fart.

Almost immediately, the ghost cats were caught up in furious fart tornado as it whirled around the room flinging marshmallow birds everywhere and tangling ghosts cats in the toilet paper. Twirling at such great speed the ghost cats were soon completely wrapped up in the toilet paper just like mummies.

cat mummy

Since mummies cannot fly, the ghost cats fell to the floor, too dizzy to move.  Mother Squirrel switched on the lights and the dear house cats sprang immediately into action encasing the toilet-papered ghost cat mummies in layer of duct tape, because everyone knows that duct tape can hold anything.

With the ghost cats completely immobilized, Mother Squirrel felt that she had their attention and explained that their behavior on Halloween was unacceptable.  She did not care how or why they felt compelled to be mean to others, but their behavior needed to change immediately.  Then, she went over grandma’s rules of acceptable behavior one at a time.  Mother Squirrel then asked the cat ghosts to nod if they understood the rules.  As each ghost cat nodded, she gave them a hug and a kiss to the forehead.

That’s when the magic happened. For a gentle kiss to the forehead and loving hug can heal meanness.  In a flash, the duct tape fell away, toilet paper covered the floor, the ghost cats disappeared and in their place were real live perfectly fuzzy white, grey, orange and black calico kittens.

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It was then that Grandpa Walter put his thumb under the shiny new penny and flipped it into the air.

The moment the coin hit the floor the King of the Leprechauns appeared. He had been right in the middle of  a rather rowdy Halloween party when he had heard grandpa’s shiny penny summons.  As he rubbed the heads of the purring kittens, the King exclaimed, “I see that those pesky ghost cats were truly sorry for their evil deeds. I suppose they do deserve a do over.  I will see to it that they all find good homes with children who will love them very much! It is good that in the future there will be no more nasty ghost cats, only cats and angel cats. ”

angelcat

“But, first,” the king continued,”I think these kittens would enjoy attending a Leprechaun Halloween party!”  As quickly as the King had come, he disappeared with the kittens.

At that very moment the front door swung open and Thor, his friends, their parents and Rex returned home from trick or treating to begin their Halloween party.  They all just stopped and stared at the scene before them.

As, Thor’s dad saw a squirrel wearing hat and dress standing in front of what looked like his mother’s rules for good behavior that were stuck to wall with gum; he and his wife’s best black work clothes covered with cockle burrs laying on the floor; and marshmallows, crushed orange-cheese crackers, white feathers, toilet paper and duct tape scattered everywhere,  he calmly turned to a bare-footed Grandpa Walter and asked, “Did you start the party without us?”

As Rex began to wolf down all the marshmallows, and a squirrel began spitting on the dear house cats, Grandpa Walter slowly looked around the room noticing that grandma had not arrived for the party yet and replied, “Pull, my finger!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Snow Pile Misery and Mischief and Caramel Apple Cinnamon Bun Coffeecake

snow covered lane

Yes, the snow has finally began to fall here in Minnesota.  The flakes this morning are particularly large and lovely and are just now starting to accumulate making the yard look like it has been dusted with powdered sugar.

Since breaking my back, snow on the ground and the slipperiness it brings means that I am indoors for much of the duration of winter.  I have always hated being indoors. Still, those first few beautiful delicate white flakes initiate a sense of childlike joyful excitement, create a rush of memories and a need to preheat the oven.

Maybe it was because I was a lot shorter or that farmsteads were so isolated, but it seems to me that the snow storms during the 1960’s, when I was growing up on our farm, were monsters compared to any in recent memory.  Of course, no matter how severe the whiteout conditions or how buried we were in ten foot high snowdrifts, nothing ever compared to the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.  And….it didn’t.

Snow on the farm was always much more fun for children than it was for adults.  In those days, there were no cozy defrosted and heated cabs on tractors.  Snow removal was a freeze your face, hands and feet operation for our farm’s menfolk.  It was their  mission to remove the tons of snow that isolated us from contact with fellow human beings or an excess of family bonding.  Either way the situation that required immediate action.  Most importantly prevented our cow’s milk from being delivered to the creamery in town.

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The long tree-lined picturesque lane of spring, summer and fall became their nemesis. For it morphed into a glacial blue chasm that needed to be constantly defended against an onslaught organized by the wind and rolling sea of snow drifts  to erase everything of color.  Eventually they devour even the sliver-laden wood snow fences whose red stripes inevitably disappeared completely from view.

Our old green John Deere tractor and its front loader, which was purchased right after World War II, was well-trained in the task of removing nuisance solids.  Whether it was cow manure or snow, that tractor always seemed to have its wheels spinning in something slippery whenever it worked on destroying or making piles.

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There are many types of piles on a farm.  Some are more fun than others. Stinky or painful ones should be always avoided.  However, ones of grain or snow are great fun.  All of the snow removed from the lane and farm yard would create mountainous piles of snow for sledding, belly surfing, and fort building and defending.

A day of playing on a snow pile often ended with piles of wet woolen mittens; socks; hats; snow pants; and old plastic bread bags, forced into emergency service as boot liners, hanging on the wooden clothes drying rack.  In the heavily cinnamon-scented dining room around a great round oak table, warm delicious baked treats, made especially for weary snow pile builders and players, disappeared as quickly as the visibility outside of the old farm house’s leaded glass windows in a snow-laden gust of wind.

apple coffeecake

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Bun Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Lightly grease an 8 X 8 X 2 inch cake pan

2 cans of cinnamon rolls
4 large apples, peeled and finely diced(Tart apples are best my favorite is Haralson)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup caramel sauce

In a large bowl mix together apples, sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.  Coat evenly.

Open cinnamon roll containers and separate the rolls. Cut each roll into 1/4 in slices.  On a floured counter, roll out slices until thin.  If rolls are too sticky to roll out…coat with a little flour and proceed.

In the bottom of the prepared baking dish arrange the first layer of thinly rolled cinnamon bun dough.  Be sure to cover the entire bottom of pan and up the sides.
Seal all of the edges by pressing them together with your fingers.

Spread half of the apple mixture over the first layer of dough.  Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of caramel sauce on top of the apples.

Cover with another layer of flattened cinnamon roll dough.

Spread remaining apples on top of dough and drizzle with remaining caramel sauce.

Cover with remaining flattened cinnamon roll dough.

Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Cool for at least a half and hour.  Before serving,  drizzle with the icing that came with the cinnamon bun dough.

Slice and serve.

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Apron Protocol and Pineapple Bars

My dear cousin Diane sent me a picture last evening of her granddaughter wearing one of our Grandmother Esther’s aprons. Grandma would have been just beaming to see her great-granddaughter not only baking, but doing it right, by wearing an apron. The picture reminded me of this blog. Now, I have to find an apron, preheat the oven and mix up a pumpkin cheesecake for a treat for our neighborhood on this first day of snow in Minnesota.

The Swedish Farmer's Daughter

For the first time in years, this morning I got out my “box” of recipes.  This box is a cursive writing treasure chest of handwritten recipes from family and friends.  Some are generations old. Each woman’s handwriting is unique and instantly brings back to life a memory of her. Looking through all those elegant handwriting samples of these long gone excellent cooks, I was reminded of something else they all had in common besides cooking and cursive….aprons.

Working women wore aprons. Women from the upper class of society would never have been caught wearing this symbol of the poor struggling work-a-day masses. The apron became a symbol for the female domestic worker…wife, mother, slave and servant.

I do not think I ever saw my grandmother, great-aunts, or one of the ladies at church ever go near a stove or oven without having first put on an apron. They had never forgotten the lessons of frugality learned during the great…

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What is on my mind today? Clinton, DNC, Trump Dossier and the Franken-Coleman Recount

What is on my mind today?

It is a small, small world.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to read today’s news headlines only to see a very familiar name that I spent many hours working with one fall and winter during my sojourn at the Secretary of State’s Office.

The lawyer named in association with the Clinton campaign, DNC and the Trump Russian Dossier, is none other than Al Franken’s lead attorney for his recount ….Marc Elias.

As my old Swedish grandmother used to say in a matter of fact tone of voice, “My, but isn’t that something.”

What Is On My Mind Today? The Passing of Stan Kowalski, Professional Athlete, World War II Veteran, Life-long Veteran Advocate and Great Friend.

stan
Stan Kowalski (on the left) during a World War II Honor Flight to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC in 2009. 

On Friday, October 20 this world said goodbye and heaven joyously welcomed a great man….Stanley Kowalski.

Stan was born with a larger than life personality.  There was no forgetting Stan once you met him.  If he knew you, you were his friend. A more loyal and loving friend a soul on this earth could not have than Stan.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by local television station KARE-11 about Stan.  Their interview does a great job telling the story of this wonderful man.  Here is a link to their story about Stan.

http://www.kare11.com/news/stan-kowalski-fought-for-fellow-veterans/485484737

Throughout his life Stan was always one hundred percent devoted to the people and causes he cared about.   He will be greatly missed!

God rest his soul and bring the peace that passes all understanding to his family as they mourn his loss and celebrate a life well-lived.