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Posts from the ‘Home and Children’ Category

Shaker Pie and Lemons


Last year we experimented with a Shaker Lemon Pie. We both agreed it was the best Lemon Pie we had ever eaten. Lemons are sliced paper-thin, covered with a pinch of salt and a lot of sugar and left to macerate for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature. Eggs are added and the resulting mixture is baked in a two crust pie.

There is always more filling than will fit into a pie tin–the resultant custardy type pudding is also quite tasty if a bit messy.pie20filling-m

But it only used three lemons and I still have a basket full–even though I gave them away to unsuspecting neighbors, family, and friends–anyone that did not have a visible lemon tree in their yard.

A bowl of finely chopped lemons is awaiting to be turned into a second batch of marmalade and that basket of lemons will be pickled. Some have already been frozen with a few reserved for fresh slices on fish.

Cold weather is hard on citrus fruits–with the orange trees being the most hardy. Limes are the least hardy–but this is a Meyer Lemon–not really a lemon and not really an orange. While I enjoy the scent of lemon that pervades my house I hope that tree survived the cold to present the same problem of abundance this next season.


Brrrr and Ingenuity

wind20break20for20front20door-mHouses in this part of Texas are not made with the idea that it might be cold outside–freezing temps for several days in a row. This house is over a hundred years old and has weathered hurricanes and tropical storms with grace—but freezing temps?

The washing machine on the back porch had a frozen water line.

The orchids had to live in the garage for over a week.

The dogs did not want to stay outside to do more than just their necessary business before rushing back inside and curling up on our bed.

I didn’t want to do much more than huddle under an afghan next to the gas fireplace (wood fireplaces are nice–but gas means instant successful lighting and no ashes or bits of wood trailed in).

But then there was the front door. There was a fairly large gap all around with cold air rushing in. Northern houses tend to have a small closed entry way to buffer the cold from the rest of the house–it would seem logical to have one to buffer the heat in the south as well.

That draft hit my feet and ankles every time I wandered downstairs to refill my soup bowl with bean soup or to savor another cup of coffee or hot tea.

Amazon to the rescue! A plethora of boxes–empty–were awaiting their turn for a ride to the recycle center. I pushed a stack of those boxes in front of the door–light enough to push away in case we needed to meet the mail lady with even more boxes but quite adequate to keep out the damp chill.

More cold weather is promised for early next week but those boxes are now in the hands of the recyclers.

Cherries and Snow on the RoofTops


In anticipation of grandchildren arriving I mixed up a batch of sugar cookies–for us to roll out and cut out stars and puppies and hearts and whatever their hearts desired from my stash of cookie cutters. But then they were running a bit of fever—and so had to stay home—-

Holed up in my sewing room–it was entirely too cold in the kitchen for me to hang out in there–we had the fan running to keep the washing machine defrosted, I let the dough linger. Snow was reported by some last night and this morning I could see snow on all the neighbors’ rooftops. A mere dusting of powder–but snow.

The days have been so dreary but today the sun came out. That snow melted rather quickly and the kitchen was warm enough for me to spend a few minutes with that cookie dough. I used the last of one flask of honey as the sweetener after converting it from it’s sugared state to liquid.

Tomorrow a Shaker lemon pie and maybe the start of some more marmalade.

Puttering Away on a Vintage Pfaff

In past years I would undress the Christmas tree, put away assorted decorations, and in general tidy up. Several loads of laundry would be done in preparation for a return to school, thank you notes written–usually on the bottom of the annual Christmas letter that invariably was sent out late.

Now, my three boys have homes of their home—I have doled out the ornaments to each of them–and enjoy driving down the streets seeing holiday decorations I don’t have to put up or taken down. While limited somewhat in physical activity with assorted physical ills, I spend a lot of time in my sewing room—

When my trusted Pfaff 7570 and its sister 7550 began to have problems–one with tension issues, the other one eagerly continuing to stitch after I thought I had completed the intended seam, I pulled out this old machine.

This machine was a leftover from my sewing machine shop img_7032-mdays–and had been well-used by its former owner. Once oiled up, threaded properly (with help from husband), I discovered it used precisely the same bobbins and bobbin carrier as did the many generations of Pfaffs using rotary hooks. The stitch is perfect–and it hums along at my bidding.

img_7030-mThe only hitch–is replacing the bobbin–my hands simply do not fit into that small opening–I think the original owner would have changed the bobbin by blindly reaching underneath. Still what a wonderful improvement from hand-stitching.


Creatures of Chaos and Contentment


Each morning begins with trudging down the stairs to the kitchen where these two lovely brunettes are occasionally sleeping soundly–one under the table, the other more alertly in the bathroom under the stairs. A rush to go outdoors while coffee is being made and then barking at the door to announce certain business has been conducted.

In they come–tail wagging furiously on the first one–a Border collie/Lab mix and snuggling by the second one–an Aussie/Border Collie mix with a naturally docked tail–amazing how that tail adds balance to the first one.

Next on the agenda is to fetch the daily newspaper. Dora–the Aussie has this down–she loves to have a special job that Toby cannot do—she could do it–maybe a time or two but then would find something far more interesting to investigate down the street and we would be running down the street in nightgown/pajamas respectively. Toby waits patiently by the dining room door well away from the front door and croons–I want one, I want a chewie treat; please hurry Dora. We don’t think she really likes them but recognizes them as a treat. Sometimes she gives them to Dora–having more important things to do.

Having received their treat it is time to rush upstairs to see if anything new has happened up there–and to hide part of the rawhide treat under my pillow–roll around on the bed, insist upon belly rubs, and guard the man at the computer.

Sometimes I find a yellow tennis ball hidden under my pillow. It squeaks when I finally crawl into bed at night.

Rounds and Hoop-de-doos


Although Christmas Eve began with mist and fog and generalized dreariness, by noon the sun was shining , the yard was no longer muddy, and we were all eager to get out of the house. It was a perfect time to capture something involving ’round’.

Two hula hoops used to live in the trunk area of the ForeRunner until backing up one day into a crepe myrtle tree–surprisingly sturdy—necessitating the removal of all the dog toys, bowls, water jugs and so forth to replace the broken window–may I add my assistance in holding the window while nuts and bolts were tightened was quite essential to successful completion of the task. It rather reminded me of medical school days in which I was assigned to hold a Retractor so the surgeon could see and provide an educational experience for me—I could see nothing–but I did get some strong arms.

On to the project.

I set up my tripod–still not used to it but I won’t be if I don’t use it.

8-20but20where20is20toby-mDogs ran out eagerly–everything is their favorite thing to do. But they discovered a very naughty squirrel leaping from tree to tree–not where it was supposed to be–maybe the neighbor’s tree out of their sight? This job needed a lot of barking and jumping up to try to catch that squirrel–never mind us standing over there with husband holding hula hoops and me behind my camera.

7-20now20dora20has20it20down-mEventually they did come to see what we were up to—Dora being the first to give it a try. It was a hard concept–why jump through two hoops when you can jump one and walk through the second? She managed a few jumps but then Toby had discovered the large purple ball was not doing anything–and needed chasing about.

10-20toby20is20chasing20the20big20purple20ball20around20the20yard20with20dora20encouragement20of20constant20barking-20the20hulu20hoops20take20a20rest20to20gather20their20courThe hula hoops were set aside, no doubt wondering if those barking creatures were going to return.

12-20this20is20so20easy-mSomehow that ball got stuck somewhere and Toby was ready to jump. She also could not figure out why anyone would jump through two hoops but then she watched Dora and knew she could out-perform–so sailing through both hoops as fast as she could both forwards and backwards–Foolishly I had not set my camera on sports mode but I managed to get a few good shots.

1820but20no20more20jumping20until20we20both20get20a20treat-mHaving shown off her superior athletic skill, she promptly sat down by one hoop, Dora came over to sit on the other side—and the message was clear—Where is our reward for doing this jumping thing?

If you wish to see more shots of this adventure–this is about as exciting as we get these days–they are on my smugmug site here:

Lemon Marmalade

Several years ago, we decided to plant a Meyer’s Lemon Tree. It was a scrawny thing–resembling Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.img_3596-m

Maybe not all that scrawny! We were delighted to find about half a dozen lemons on it the first year–huge sweet lemons.  A few more would have been nice–this was enough for lemon slices in water or tea and embellishing fish. We thought perhaps double that amount would be appropriate.

The next year we got our wish–I had a whole drawer in my refrigerator dedicated to lemons–they lasted nearly a year with only a few tossed in the end due to soft spots.

The following year the crop doubled and I had more lemons than I could fit into my refrigerator. Someone told me about freezing them–and so I gave it a try. Good for squeezing the juice over fish or baking with blueberries but not good for slices in water or tea or that particularly odd thing of putting a slice in a bottle of beer.

We tried a recipe for Shaker lemon pie—a pie made with paper thin slices of lemons soaked in sugar for 36 hours or so and baked in a two crust pie tin—it was wonderful but there are only so many pies two vintage persons can consume.

In spite of our odd weather for two years running and a vegetable garden that yielded two tomatoes and some lettuce, the lemon tree outdid itself this year. We had been picking one or two for table use, still green but quite satisfactory–now the branches were threatening to break. We picked two huge bags of lemons and left another third on the tree.

What to do with all those lemons?

And even worse, at a Christmas party, someone with the same dilemma gave everyone a large bag of lemons! Wish I’d thought of that first.

I considered the anonymous dropping off of lemons at various neighbor’s houses–ended up giving them a jar of my honey and a few lemons–perfect for winter colds. They were on their own for the whiskey addition.

But I still had a lot of lemons left. And more on the tree.

We now have two jars of pickled lemons made with an exorbitant amount of salt to be used in cooking sometime in February. The recipe called for cutting a cross into them, filling it with salt and sticking it into a Mason jar—I tried that but the lemons were far too large and I had to cut them into quarters just to fit them into the jars.

Then I tried making some marmalade.

This involves cutting up the lemons, soaking them in sugar for an extended time and then boiling off the liquid—-and playing where’s Waldo finding the seeds. My mother always put a small amount of whatever jelly she was making into a small cup for tasting–and so I did the same–except I was much lazier and just left a bit in the bottom of the pan.

Real hot biscuits or English muffins would have been better for taste testing but it was quite nice on a piece of whole wheat toast–certainly awakening the tasters.


And maybe another Shaker Lemon Pie is in the near future.

Navigating a 40 Watt World with a Swiss Cheese Brain

img_6875-mThe beginning seemed innocuous enough—I could not remember when I had certain routine annual exams–although one was just two weeks ago and one was scheduled at the end of the week. I chalked it up to my strategy of convincing myself of good health by not recalling why I am on first name basis with the pharmacist or that doctor waiting rooms make up the majority of my social life.

I could do all the routine things life demanded—laundry, a bit of housework, some cooking, and even working. I traveled to work, traveled to an Art Retreat. The nightly walk from the restaurant to the hotel was difficult–I stumbled–but the street was dark and rough. The stars overhead were amazingly clear–maybe I was looking at them instead of where my feet were going.

It was hard loading my truck with all the things one needs for a fabric art retreat–much harder than loading them at home–surely not the knowledge I’d accumulated during the five wonderful days.

The drive home was hard—there are few cell towers in some parts of Texas–and I was forced to look for road signs that read south and east—I could not read the map on the Atlas I have stashed in my truck–maybe the Stage One cataract in the one eye had progressed to needing surgery in just two weeks. The whole world was dim–a 40 watt light-bulb world.

When I got home and tumbled into bed, I awoke in the middle of the night to see a man in my bedroom, the furniture was all in strange places–and I wondered if I should hide or pretend to be asleep until the man went away—it was my husband on one of his many nightly bathroom trips. And the dogs were not barking–a sure sign of someone unfamiliar in the house.

The next morning I struggled with the daily crossword puzzle–something I usually knock out in about ten minutes or so. I lost my car keys four times in about an hour; my speech was garbled–putting two words together with one syllable spelled backward; I could not name certain objects–things I knew well–but could only describe them. And my blood pressure was high.

Seeking medical attention on the week of Thanksgiving is a challenge–I ended up at an Urgent Care Clinic where I was sent to the hospital for a stroke workup. Everything was normal–there were no tumors lurking in my brain, no stroke, no bleeds—nothing—just a generalized weakness ( hard to hold a coffee cup in my hand–and I needed help to go to the bathroom and in dressing–I forgot how to put my clothes on). Finding letters on the computer keyboard was impossible–it would time out before I could write a word–and even then it would be misspelled.

Sent home with the instructions to followup with a neurologist ( I have an appointment for February), and to get my blood pressure medications organized–I did that the following week—and had a scheduled appointment with the rheumatologist–More medication adjustments–and I just happened to ask for blood work as I had lost the order sheet from the previous visit.

That Friday I received notice my credit card had been hacked and I had bought several people some very nice gifts from AT&T so I missed the panic call from the rheumatologist that I needed to go to the hospital immediately.

On Monday I was admitted with a calcium level of nearly 15–an extremely high level. It had gone from 10 to 15 in the space of a week.

More testing–more labs—my arms were bruised.. I looked like I had been beat with sticks. Another specialist called in–this time an endocrinologist….very young and newly completed his residency–so he was ready to find the weird and wonderful diagnosis that seem to plague me.

I am now much improved—the world now has a 100 watt bulb atmosphere–I can do the daily crossword puzzle in about fifteen minutes and the letters on the keyboard are no longer a mystery. There are still gaps and I struggle to do certain physical things.

Insurance companies have taken over the business of medicine–no longer can doctors decide when to send patients home–I was sent home with no diagnosis and unable to care for myself–the second time–once my calcium was nearing normal levels, the insurance company thought I should go home–again no diagnosis. It is difficult enough to get proper medicine due to their guidelines on refills—I can understand strict rules about narcotics–but blood pressure medications? While some physicians may find it a challenge to take care of patients  in these circumstances–others just follow the guidelines –a cookbook approach—for me—not a good choice.

My working career is coming to a close–I don’t know how much longer I will work—I enjoy the challenges of figuring out problems, I enjoy patient contact— but rules that interfere with good patient care?

My current plan is to return to my usual strategy of not thinking about my medical diagnosis except when it comes time to fill my pill box on Sunday afternoon after church.



Picnic Point and Hammocks

img_6608-mReunions are always a fun event–even though you have to read everyone’s name tag to remember who they are—and it would have been nice if a larger font would have used for those of us with forty years under our belts.

The Medical School reunion is always scheduled around Homecoming Football game. While we lived in Madison and I went to Medical school there, we lived about three miles from the football stadium–people parked next to our house to walk in to see the game. Tickets were outside of our meager budget even though I got a reduce price and first chance at tickets due to graduate school status.

My wishes for the weekend were to see Vilas Park zoo–a favorite place during our stay there, and to walk out on Picnic Point.


The zoo has changed considerably since we were there last. Each animal species has a special environment created for them. No longer do the bears sit on the haunches and wave at us begging for marshmallows or stale hamburger buns. The retired  Rhesus monkeys are no longer there–they used to live in a circular cage. The penguins are no longer corralled into a small cement wading pool parading around miserably in what must seem to them horribly hot weather.

img_6602-mone of the displays was this tundra with the immense tires with incredibly low tire pressure. We rode a much smaller vehicle on the marshes around Anahuac during a Christmas bird count after one of our hurricanes. Here is Glen pretending to drive.

Madison Wisconsin is a beautiful city situated around several lakes, Mendota being the largest. The campus is large and spread out with lovely little pocket gardens everywhere and lots of bicycle racks. There is almost no parking on campus so people ride the bus or bicycle or walk. img_6612-mWe walked to Picnic Point–there are Indian burial grounds now marked off from foot traffic.

img_6629-mA sailboat was out on the lake–losing a lot of wind and not managing their sails properly.

img_6627-mThe capitol was visible across the lake through the trees.

Walking about campus to the designated meeting area we noted a new trend—large hammocks slung from trees with students lounging about in them reading–reminiscent of a past trial of what I called our purple pea pod camping sleeping arrangement..

Walking back to Deljoje Hall, the location of the reunion, the marching band was practicing. I was not the only one to stop and watch the band perform.


Everyone seems to leave when I take their photo

img_6658-mAfter a morning of weeding and general garden cleanup and attacking weeds, we both decided a nice drive in the countryside would be nice and maybe some good photo ops.

We hopped in the car, my camera at the ready in my lap and off we went.

I didn’t get a photo of Hogback Ridge–it is immense and is a protected wildlife site. The hill sides are quite steep and the soil must be quite thin as only grass grows there–few if any trees–and those are all small shrubs. There were a few late blooming wild flowers in the meadows surrounding it. I’m not quite sure how I would have taken a photo–perhaps a panorama–not in my skill set although my camera says it can do it with ease.

Our goal was the Elk Farm. Along the way we spied two apiaries–and I had to get out and inspect one of them. Keeping bees in Wisconsin is challenging due to the lengthy and cold winters–but here were about twelve hives with bees busily flying in and out. Queen excluders were on each hive–they had two brood chambers and two medium supers for honey and a pitched roof for ventilation. The bottom doors were plugged and they had just a single hole in one of the brood chambers to exit and enter. Maybe next year we will be successful in catching a swarm.

However, our mission was that elk farm.

We spied a very high fence–and knew we were there. Parking on the side of the road, I attempted to get photos of the elk.The male–doesn’t he get a bad headache carrying that huge set of horns around–sat calmly watching us. The harem though was not so calm. One or two would look and then they all got up and walked away.


More driving and I spotted some Canadian geese–the SandHill Cranes on the first corner were too far away for photos. We stopped and I took some photos–again–they waddled away as fast as they could go.img_6673-m


Next was stop to photo some particularly colorful trees and sumac. The Asian beetles and box elder bugs were in abundance and took great delight in taking small nibbles of me. The leaves and sumac were pretty but not enough to compose really good photos.

We went back to the farm and put up plastic over windows for the winter–safe from the horde of biting bugs.