Category Archives: What Is On My Mind Today

What Is On My Mind Today? Happy Independence Day From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary!

july 4th


INDEPENDENCE.
…what it means according to the  Merriam-Webster Dictionary: 

Definition of INDEPENDENCE:
—-freedom from outside control or support : the state of being independent

Definition of INDEPENDENT:

—-not subject to control by others

—-not affiliated with a larger controlling unit 

—-not requiring or relying on something else

—-not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct

—-not bound by or committed to a political party

—-not requiring or relying on others

—-showing a desire for freedom

Definition of FREEDOM:   

—-the state of being free: such as the power to do what you want to do

—-the ability to move or act freely

—-the state of not being a slave, prisoner
—-the state of not having or being affected by something unpleasant or unwanted

—-the right to use something or go somewhere without being controlled
 —-a political right

Have a great time today celebrating independence and freedom! 

flag tractor
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What Is On My Mind Today? A Very Thoughtful and Delicious Gift

rhubarb-jam

Last week a friend of mine sent me the most wonderful and thoughtful gift.  She knew that I am not a jam maker so she made jam from several family recipes posted on my blog and added a few of her own.  Then, had them shipped to me.

There was Rhubarb Orange, Rhubarb-Pineapple-Raspberry, Zucchini Freezer, Apple and just for good measure she included a jar of Blueberry pancake jam.

Last night my dad called and said that he and mom were coming for a visit today.  They would get here about a hour before noon. Like father, like daughter, my dad has always loved jam.  So, I told him that we would have a jam fest for lunch.

This morning I woke up early and made his Aunt Ida’s Two-Hour Buns recipe.  When you are going down memory lane you might as well go all the way.  Besides, I cannot imagine having homemade jam on anything less than warm bread right out of the oven.

Then it was time to find my last stick of butter in the house and set the table.

Our lunch consisted of milk and warm bread topped with Mary Cummins’ jams.  It really does not get better than that.

Mary, thank you!  You made my day and my parents.

God bless you for your thoughtfulness, and for sharing the products of your expertise jam making skills!  Delicious!

 

What Is On My Mind? Top Secret Information: I know why Jim Comey was in Minnesota Yesterday

I have been asked to leak this top secret information.

The reason Jim Comey was in Minnesota yesterday was so that I could paint his portrait which has been designated to permanently hang over the front door entrance of the White House.

Unfortunately, while his six foot, eight inch body could fit through the front door of my home, his ego was just too big enter any mere mortal’s home or capture on canvas.

 

 

 

Recipes: Uncle Ing, Aunt Doris, Orioles and the Treasure Box ….Grandma’s Salad, Zucchini Freezer Jam and Kathryn Hepburn’s Brownies

bird oriole

My husband and I have lived in this home for over thirty years and for the first time I have Orioles at my bird feeder.  This morning I had both a male and female Oriole singing to me from my grape jelly feeder. Actually, I can still hear them singing.

Each time I see an Oriole, I always think of my Great Uncle Ing who was the first person to ever show me one of these gorgeous orange and black song birds.

Uncle Ing Kronbeck lived his whole life on the farm where he had grown up north west of Litchfield, MN.  He was the youngest in a family of six children. Esther the oldest was my grandmother, then there were Hilda, Anna, Ida, Victor and Ingvald.

Their childhood was one of hard work, poverty and a very sick mother.  My grandmother once told me that she was more of a mother to her brother Ing than her own mother.

This family worked together on their farm and survived World Wars, economic depression and contagion. Several of their family members contracted the flu during the deadly epidemic of 1918.   Aunt Ida told me she once spent an entire year lying in bed with an ice pack on her chest, due to an enlarged heart from an illness.  I do not remember anymore if it was the flu or Rheumatic fever.

Against all odds, all of the children survived to adulthood.  Not only that, but these strong people, while suffering through bouts of depression and sadness thrust upon them by the circumstances of life, always were steadfast in their faith in Jesus Christ and kept their sense of humor and wonderment of simple things.

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Uncle Ing holding his daughter Marion

Uncle Ing married Aunt Doris and they had two daughters Marion and Kathy.  What probably was more important to me at the time was that they had two amazing dogs Penny and Skippy.  Penny was the softest tri-color collie in the world and Skippy was a magnificent fetcher of a Springer Spaniel.

Penny                                                                Skippy

Not only were these dogs friendly….they were generous.  They had no problem with me climbing on on top of their dog house and pretending it was my pony.  At that age anything and everything became a pony.

Skippy’s favorite toy…a cow teat holder

In those days, Sunday’s were for church and visiting relatives.  For those of you that do not know what visiting is, it is actually taking time to be with the people you love.  You share stories, laughs and very good food.

Sometimes at Uncle Ing’s home, he’d play guitar and sing us songs in English and Swedish.

guitar Ing twelve string
      Uncle Ing played a twelve string guitar 

He would also let me sit at his “Seed Corn” sales desk and draw with his remarkable little pencils.  They came in a case that had bright colored advertisements on them.

pencils

To use the pencil and you had to pull the pencil out and insert its metal capped end into the back of the case.  They were dainty and delightful, and a perfect gift for a little girl who needed a pencil to fit into her tiny Sunday School penny offering purse.

purse

Visiting Uncle Ing and Aunt Doris was one of my favorite childhood stops.  It sure beat visiting the Aunties in town as every child in our family knew that their house was dark, scary and haunted.  However, had I known then that both of my great grandparent had died in Uncle Ing’s house, I probably would have been a bit more jumpy when the back door would open and close on its own.

Cow Ing

Everyone else had black and white milking cows, not Uncle Ing, he had the only weird brown cow in the whole community. 

What I remember most was that Uncle Ing and Aunt Doris’ home was filled with happiness and peace.

On one Sunday’s visit Uncle Ing walked us kids to a big tree in his front yard and showed us the nest of an Oriole.  It was a funny looking bird’s nest. It hung off of the branch of the tree just like a beard hanging off the chin of a Mennonite.  There, too, in the tree sat a male Oriole. It was the very first time I had ever seen an Oriole.  He was beautiful! We stood silently and listened to its beautiful song.

bird nest

Beautiful memories like beautiful days and people are the real treasures of this life.  That is why I have a treasure box.  I do not think even my daughter knows about my treasure box. It is a very stained and tattered little cardboard box where I keep all of the handwritten recipes given to me by the greatly loved women in my life who have found their eternal rest in heaven.  One of those was my Great Aunt Doris.

My first year in college, I lived with my Aunt Doris during the winter months.  I had a great time.  One day we sat down at the kitchen table and she had me go through her recipes and choose which ones I wanted.  Then, in her own hand, she copied them for me.  They are in my treasure box along with Grandmother Helen Vacinek, Grandmother Esther and Great Aunt Ida’s handwritten recipes.

I get a kick out of the great interest in DNA ancestry tests.  A DNA test can only tell you what you are. It is family tradition, lore and heirlooms that tell you who you are.

When I think about it, I have come to the conclusion that it really is a shame that email and text messaging were ever invented.  It saddens me to think that future generations will not be able to take out a treasure box filled with handwritten notes, letters and recipes from the people that loved them.  The expressions of love and wisdom from past familial generations that provide comfort and strength will surely elude children of the electronic age for their communications will be no more.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. I have shared them as written by my Great Aunt Doris.

grandma's salad

Grandma’s Salad

1/2 cup salad dressing (mayonnaise)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice – blend these and add
1 cup crushed pineapple well drained, so it’ll be a firm salad

Add
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup small marshmallows
1 cup grated carrots
Stir only to distribute evenly

zucchini-zucchini-jam

Zucchini Freezer Jam

6 cups grated zucchini, peel, add water to cook for six minutes. Drain well.

Add
6 cups of sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon or orange juice
6 ounce can crushed pineapple with juice

Boil six minutes, take off stove and add
2 3-ounce packages of apricot jello. (Or, one each of lemon or orange jello.)

Pour in jars

Keep in freezer.

xKatharine_Hepburn

Kathryn Hepburn’s Brownies

This is just the way Hepburn did it

First melt two squares of unsweetened chocolate and 1/4 pound butter in a heavy saucepan. Stir in one cup sugar, add two eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and beat like mad.

Stir in 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 cup of chopped walnuts. Not all mashed up you know, just chopped, good sized pieces, now mix all that.  

Butter an 8 X 8 inch pan and dump the whole thing quickly, stuff into 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Cool awhile and cut into one and a half inch squares and dive right in.

Editors note, tested in the kitchen of Ladies Home Journal and is delicious because of the 1/4 cup flour they have a pudding like texture.  Pat, I’ve also made them. (No baking powder or soda) 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Living With Cancer and The Best 40th Wedding Anniversary Gift Ever!

doug and pat wedding

Sunday was Doug and my 40th wedding anniversary. Our refrigerator is shot, works but many pieces are missing, so on Saturday we went to buy a new one at Best Buy, pick up a dog toy for my neighbor’s dog, she needed a new flamingo, and buy some picture books for my World War II buddy El who is in the nursing home.

Well, as life would have it, we had to go home and re-measure and go back to Best Buy on Sunday….our anniversary.

So, as a joke, I asked the salesman if there was a 40th Anniversary discount. He responded that, that is at 50 years and we will have to come back in ten years…without missing a beat my big quiet husband resolutely stated, “We’ll be here!.”

Best anniversary gift ever!

What Is On My Mind Today? Uncle Ed’s Honestly Great Fish Story

fish story

I saw this story online this morning and the picture reminded of a fishing trip with my Great Uncle Ed.

Uncle Ed was a great fisherman and story teller. Often times the two went hand in hand.

This particular fishing expedition took place on a Lake Calhoun that was west of our farm. We were well supplied with worms to catch lots of pan fish…sunfish and crappies.

It was a typical warm humid Minnesota summer day.  Perfect for leaning your elbows on the side of Uncle Ed’s old boat to daydream an afternoon away as you watched your red and white bobber for evidence of fish interest in your bait.

Then, serene contemplation was shattered when all of a sudden Uncle Ed’s bobber went under with a vengeance!  In a flash his bobber disappeared in the swirl of a mighty whirlpool, as his pole instantly bent in half straining to break. The pole’s tip barely clearing the water’s surface as Uncle Ed jumped to his feet, told us to sit down before we all ended up in the lake and began to battle the ferocious finned fiend fighting for freedom.

The war lasted quite a while.

Finally, Uncle Ed began to make headway on landing the fish as us youthful spectators in the boat strained to remain seated, have the net at the ready while competing for the most advantageous position from which to be the first to get a glimpse of what surely must be a monster of the deep.

As Uncle Ed brought his fishing pole tip along side the boat and as his bobber became visible once again to land lovers, a huge northern pike leaped from the lake directly towards the boat spitting out the very small sunfish it had been hanging on to by the tail with a oral explosion force that would have been the envy of any champion watermelon seed or cherry pit spitter.

That small orange-bellied minnow-sized projectile flew through the air right at Uncle Ed and almost landed in the boat. Then, the Pike smiled right at Uncle Ed, before the monstrosity of a fish with the sense of humor disappeared below the dark green water with a salutatory wave of its tail.

Uncle Ed stood transfixed. Before long he mustered a dignity not often found in today’s world.  He quietly held up the half-eaten micro sunfish so that all of us kids could inspect the toothmarks left by the giant predator.  With a sad look of resignation he just said, “Nobody is ever going to believe me.”

I have many great memories of my Uncle Ed.  Many years ago, right after he went into a nursing home, I wrote this poem about him and his old fishing boat.

Used Boat for Sale

By Patricia Turgeon

Old used boat for sale

Two oars, no sail.

No leaks, motor runs.

Proven lots of fun.

Must sell now, moving to a home

Where I’ll dance, dine and not be alone.

Buy my boat, I’ll sell it cheap,

To a home with children a mile deep.

Then, next spring into the lake it will go,

Following a path it has come well to know.

If you want to learn to fish,

This boat’s the answer to your wish.

My sons, daughter and grandchildren too,

Learned to fish in that boat just like you’re going to do.

The trick is to not be afraid

That is why flotation devices are made.

Bait’s not a problem, buy it at the store,

If you run out, go back and buy some more.

Bait the hook, let that bobber fly,

Be careful not to take out an eye.

When your bobber sinks out of sight,

Give the pole a snap and keep the line tight.

You’ll know the fish is caught when your line starts to drag.

Reel it in quick or weeds you will snag.

Use a net to get your catch inside, 

Holding your first fish will fill you with pride!

Call today, the boat will go fast,

A deal this good, just won’t last.

Now don’t think that it’s sad, that my boat has to be sold.

I’ve taken my turn, it’s called getting old.

So, if you can….grant me this final wish,

Keep that old boat filled with laughter, children and fish.

Aviary Photo_130940612067164444
Great Uncle Ed and Aunt Olive

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? Rock Picking Minnesota’s Farm Fields and Danish Puff Pastry

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For the first week in June, it is rather cool today.  When there is enough humidity in the air fog up my glasses, I will know that summer has finally arrived in Minnesota!

The effects of summer heat and humidity is something a farm kid learns to dread at a young age while doing field work, especially rock picking.  Getting rocks out of a field is a dirty, hot, sticky, exhausting and a very boring job.

rock picking 3

However, it is important to pick rocks out of the fields that are bigger than the size of an orange.  During harvest hitting a rock with the combine will cause the combine’s sickles to break. My Uncle Myrwin always called these small rocks, “sickle-breakers.” Fixing a broken combine sickle is expensive and brings the entire harvest to a standstill. You can easily lose half a day or more driving to town and back, finding and purchasing the right part, then installing the part to repair the machine. When you have hundreds of acres of grain to harvest before a Minnesota winter hits, you cannot afford to lose any time.

So, every year just after school let out for summer vacation, when all of the town kids took swimming lessons, visited libraries for story time and played, us country kids would find ourselves day after day from sun up to sun down in a hot grain field looking for grey rocks.

In reality rock picking season only lasted for several weeks from the time the plants were big enough to be visible in rows until the soybeans began to bloom or the corn became too tall to fit under the tractor’s axles. In my mind’s eye this character building torture lasted for almost the entire summer. There is nothing more endless looking to a young child sitting on a flatbed wagon than a couple hundred acre field full of rocks.

rock picking 2

In addition to boredom, one thing you could always count on during rock picking season was intense heat and humidity.  The crops loved it, but it sure wilted this kid.

On a family farm everyone has to pitch in and rock picking was no exception to this rule. We usually had two, but on occasion, when the plants were getting too big and we had fields left to do in a hurry, we used three rock-picking crews.

First, there was what I would like to call the slow crew with the little red H Farmall tractor pulling the wooden flatbed rock wagon. This crew prided themselves on accuracy. Many a time they were spotted in a virtual standstill seemingly sifting gravel on top of hills, to make sure no “sickle-breakers” got away.  It was the firm belief of their leader that small rocks would grow into big ones by the next year so there was just no point in not picking them all.

rock picking

This crew usually consisted of the very young, the old and the slow moving. A very prominent state-sanctioned slow moving vehicle sign was clearly displayed at all times on their tractor as a constant reminder of output expectations and of them being a field or road hazard.

It is important to note that this crew was made up of our most dedicated hardworking and thorough folks who were accustomed to long hot hours in a field.  No slackers here. They were the family traditionalists and came prepared to get the job done.  They strictly adhered to the farmer’s official dress code of a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants. They wore this uniform no matter how hot or humid the weather.

Should some misguided young wimp decide to challenge tradition and swap long pants for short, on a hundred degree day sitting in the blazing sun in a windless field of heat seeking black dirt while believing that the evaporation of their sweat is only serving to increase the humidity and misery index further, payback for violating the dress code was swift and merciless in the form of wooden slivers embedded in the back of soft tender thighs.

The sliver reprisal by the wagon was a two-for, as they hurt worse coming out, than going in. One of the traditionalists would get out their ever-ready tweezers that came with the jack knife kept in the middle pocket of their overalls and sadly shake their head while removing the sliver muttering, “Some people’s kids.”

The injured rebel, who had thought they had a cause, instantaneously learned that the wearing of the official farmer’s uniform of a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants was a generational homeopathic preventative for in the field unsanitary surgical procedures and major sunburns.

The second rock picking crew was built for speed…not accuracy.  It consisted of three members. One to drive and two to jump off and on the big red International tractor. The rocks they picked were deposited in a homemade skid that was mounted behind the driver just above the tractor’s wagon hitch.  This team’s quality control was inversely affected by the speed of the tractor and teenage attitude. The speed of the tractor usually increased the closer the rock picking season came to high school football training or date night.

Rock picking procedures established by this crew could be described as the original cross-fit exercise program–simultaneous weight lifting, throwing and running. It was part of their official bylaws that any”sickle-breaker” that was not in plain view would be disregarded. As they must concentrate on getting the best tan on their shirtless chests while finding, lifting, carrying and tossing the largest rocks in the field to build muscle, and improve the chances of the school football team winning the conference and them getting a girlfriend.

To increase aerobatic capacity rocks were picked on the run. The tractor must never slow down or stop. Should a member violate this rule, they had to eat dirt.

This rock picking crew could be seen racing up and down the fields at high speeds bare chests glistening in the sun, shirt tails flapping in the breeze as they occasionally picked rocks when not dodging lit firecrackers or dirt clogs.

It is important to note that an occasional female could be promoted to be on this team. However, no matter how concerned the fellows were for the girl wilting in the heat, only the boys could go shirtless in the field.  Regardless of how hot it got, any suggestion to the contrary would have killed off all of the old people in our entire community and most of the Mennonite neighbors, and in all likelihood would have gotten a robust Lutheran farm gal a one-way ticket to a place hotter than that field.  Yes, shirts for girls was the rule and like a horse in the old days that included being fully harnessed.

If you didn’t see this rock picking crew you could always hear them. Their work ethic necessitated the constant revving of the tractor’s diesel engine, a radio blasting rock and roll music, and shouts of general mockery to advertise their superior expertise and provide a motivational shaming to improve the progress of all the lesser rock picking crews.

The old folks prayed for that crew a lot.

Finally, there was a third tractor that was used for rock picking.  It was a very old John Deere with a front end loader.  My grandfather purchased this tractor on the black market, just after World War II. It is still on the farm today. This tractor was used sparingly for rock picking due to respect for its history and age. It had many other farm duties such as; digging ditches, cleaning out the cow manure pile, burying the farm’s garbage piles and in the winter clearing out the long snow covered driveway.

When used for rock picking this rusty old green tractor sported a driver and usually two pickers.  The pickers rode in front of the tractor in the loader.  This was most dangerous, as the loader’s controls worked in the opposite direction from what logic would dictate. T

The safety protocol most commonly deployed to protect this crew was quickness. Quick thinking and moving.  When you did dump out your fellow pickers for what ever reason while the tractor was moving they had to quickly to roll away from the tractor tires.  Then, pop out behind the tractor, run, catch up and jump on again.  If you dumped out anyone more than once, you were no longer allowed to drive and could expect to get hit with multiple hard dirt clogs. No rock-pickers were ever squished.  Safety first was always our motto.

Rock pickers get hungry, no matter what crew they were on.  Dinners were our big meal and were usually brought to the fields and served picnic style. The food would arrive at noon and was always hot. Whether fried chicken, potatoes and gravy or a casserole (or a hotdish as we call casseroles here in Minnesota) nothing ever smelled or tasted so good.  As on most farms, salads were served for the cattle, hogs and chickens.

Sometimes suppers were also delivered into the fields.  They could be leftovers or just sandwiches, chips and pop. No matter which meal was delivered it was always accompanied by plenty of home-baked, breads cookies, bars, cakes, pies and pastries to provide energy and help replace the many calories we had burned off working hard in the fields all day.

The family members that stayed behind in the kitchen also knew what heat and humidity really was….there was no air conditioning in any home back in those days and baking still had to be done. Only small electric fans and open windows were available to help cool down those cooks in those hot, hot kitchens.

I can still picture those loud little oscillating fans blowing the dead insect covered fly strips dangling from the kitchen ceiling light back and forth in the breeze.  My grandmother expertly ducking out its way to prevent the yellow ribbon of bug death from sticking to her hair or dropping flies into her cooking.  Oh, the horror of having a bug cemetery wrapped around your head!

bug death

Those hot cooks and kitchens never let the field workers down.  We were always fed and fed well.

Danish Puff Pastry would have been too fragile and sticky to be included on a field meal menu. It was made for special occasions as a treat or to impress guests. It is a wonderful light summer pastry that can kept simple when topped with just icing and nuts or dressed up with fruit pie filling or preserves and icing. Either way this pastry is a real gem.

Danish Puff Pastry 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/2 butter
2 Tablespoons of cold water

In a small bowl mix ingredients together like a pie crust.First cut the butter into the flour, when that is combined, add the water and mix into a dough.

Put crust dough onto an ungreased  cookie sheet and pat into a 6 X 12 inch rectangle.

Puff Pastry Top:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 cup flour
3 eggs

In a medium-sized sauce pan bring water and butter to a boil.  Remover from the heat; add the almond flavoring.  Then, quickly beat in flour.  When the batter is smooth, add the eggs, one at a time.  Beat well after each egg, until that egg is completely combined into the dough before adding the next egg.

Spread the batter over the crust to the edges.

Bake for about one hour.  The batter will shrink over the crust and be golden brown. Cool completely.

Top with icing and nuts, or with some fruit pie filling or preserves then drizzle with icing.

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of almond or vanilla extract
milk or cream

Put powdered sugar into small mixing bowl. Slowly stir in milk or cream one tablespoon at a time until the icing reaches the consistency you desire.  Icing is usually the consistency of syrup.

Add flavoring.  Stir until combined and drizzle over cooled puff pastry.