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|Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt||A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan||Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli||Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman|
by Bill Blauvelt
The weather was certainly nice in these parts for families with Thanksgiving holiday plans. Perhaps not as nice as the year we gathered in my in-laws farm yard around the tailgate of my pickup and ate watermelon Rita and I had raised in our garden. But it was nice, never-the-less.
Much like the year my Uncle Duane helped me rake my yard on Thanksgiving Day or the year my mother and I went horseback riding. I will always remember that year for it was the only time I saw my mother ride a horse.
Dad and I regularly rode together and I have pictures of my mother riding in her courtship days but only one of her riding in my lifetime. Most of her interest in horses ended the day she went into the pasture with her six-year-old son. That day the horse my father expected me to ride to school later that year chased Mother and me out of the pasture.
Tony was a friendly horse. I suspect Dad was right when he said Tony was only playing and had we stopped running so would have Tony. But none of us did. Mother and I ran for the fence with Tony in hot pursuit. We were thankful to make the fence before he trampled us to death. As the only animal in that pasture, Dad said Tony was probably delighted to see playmates approaching and in his excited state came running and raring to greet us.
Dad kept that horse longer than any other and trained him to do many things including to kneel and lay down on command. Dad made a cart and one year I frequently drove Tony to country school. The neighbors often borrowed him when they worked cattle.
But Mother and I never trusted him and I rode a different horse to the first grade at Pleasant Valley.
Two first time food items will be remembered from this Thanksgiving.
While visiting Rita's parents we had mug-cakes. The cakes were tasty and ideal for people who find an entire cake is more than they can use while fresh.
The recipe is something like this: Combine the contents of a regular boxed cake mix with the contents of a boxed angel food cake mix in a plastic bag. Shake the contents together until well mixed. Add one-third cup of the combined mix and three tablespoons of water in an ungreased mug and microwave for one minute. (May need to adjust baking time depending on the power of the microwave.)
Rita's sister prefers a dark chocolate cake mix, a co-worker at the newspaper said strawberry is the best. I'm still in the experimenting stage. Not sure which cake mix I will prefer.
We also included turnip pickles for the first time on the Thanksgiving Feast menu. They were colorful and tasted good. However, they were a bit salty for me. Certainly not something anyone on a low salt diet should eat and not something we plan to make again.
They are simple to make but I prefer fresh turnips over the refrigerator pickle alternative.
With a winter chill in the air today, I'm glad Rita and I took advantage of the weekend's warmer temperature to haul off the tomato vines, put away the tomato cages, clean the gutters and put the snow blade on the tractor. I suspect one of these mornings we will have a reason to use the tractor.
Sorry I forgot the snow blowers. Though I now have two, I've never had much interest in a snow blower. Tried a combination snowblower and garden tiller once, but on nearly the first use the engine blew up. It was exciting seeing balls of fire flying away from the engine, but the show was pretty expensive, considering its short duration.
Following my uncle's death earlier this year, I kept his nearly new but 25-year-old Honda snow blower. Uncle Duane relied on a good neighbor to clear his driveway but apparently kept the snowblower on standby. I've also had a good neighbor who for several years has used his ATV to clear a path near my house. But this year he is recovering from back surgery and isn't allowed to ride an ATV or tractor until after the normal snow season.
Think I better try to get a blower operating. If the old new one doesn't go, I also have a well-used old one, I've never used. When the Telescope printing plant closed, Lonnie sold me the Snapper snowblower he used to clear snow from around the plant.
When Lonnie demonstrated the machine, it started on the first pull. I don't expect I'll be so fortunate. It's been stored for several years. The times I thought about using it, I didn't have fuel and wasn't in the mood to tromp through the snow to get some. Since the engine is two-cycle, I can't use the fuel I keep for the forklift unless I add oil.
I've waited too long to call on Lonnie for assistance. He unexpectedly died in mid-November. I'll miss him for more than his snow blower experience. He was associated with the production of the Belleville newspaper for 51 years and we frequently put our heads together to solve production problems.
One hot Sunday afternoon he and another Telescope worker named Fred were north of Nelson on personal business when their pickup quit. Desperate to get back on the road, they tried to call me. I wasn't home but Lonnie got in touch with my father. Dad was no longer phyically able to change a fuel pump but he knew who to call, found the needed pump in Superior and took the pump and tools to where the two men were stalled. With tools and pump, Lonnie repaired the truck and the two guys were back on the road.
Rita doesn't recommend pickled turnips as a health food but this is the receipe she found on the internet. It was noted the recipe came from the Middle East.
You can dial down the amount of garlic, but I like the slightly aggressive flavor of the slices in the brine. Use whatever white salt is available where you are, but avoid fine table salt as it's quite unpleasant and bitter. Gray salt will discolor the brine.
For those who like to tinker, although these are usually served as they are, a few sprigs of fresh dill, or dill flowers, in the brine will take them in a different direction. A hot pepper will add some zip.
3 cups (750 ml) water
1/3 cup (70 g) coarse white salt, such as kosher salt or sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup (250 ml) white vinegar (distilled)
2-pounds (1 kg) turnips, peeled
1 small beet, or a few slices from a regular-size beet, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
In a saucepan, heat about one-third of the water. Add the salt and bay leaf, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the vinegar and the rest of the water.
Cut the turnips and the beet into batons, about the size of French fries. Put the turnips, beets, and garlic slices into a large, clean jar, then pour the salted brine over them in the jar, including the bay leaf.
Cover and let sit at room temperature, in a relatively cool place, for one week. Once done, they can be refrigerated until ready to serve.
Storage: The pickles will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. They'll be rather strong at first, but will mellow after a few days. They should be enjoyed within a six weeks after they're made, as they tend to get less-interesting if they sit too long. If you are interested in canning, check http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can6b_pickle.html for tips on canning pickles.
A Different Slant,
by Chuck Mittan
I remarked Monday as a joke that I was having pie and cheesecake withdrawal. There was, however, a little truth to it. After four solid days of having eight kinds of pie and three kinds of cheesecake at my fingertips to satisfy even the slightest of hunger twinges, there was something so mundane so not delectably sweet about being back at work.
Though it can be a real lifesaver on long Tuesdays, our little cracker and candy snack box in the work refrigerator was not going to be satisfying after all that Thanksgiving pie and cheesecake.
We had Thanksgiving dinner at the home of my wife's brother, Tim. It is the big one. It is always there, it is always on Thanksgiving and it is always well-attended. This year, by my count, there were 43 of us. That's pretty much just Kathy's immediate family, plus a few tag along boyfriends, girlfriends and regular friends.
Kathy baked five pies at home Wednesday night before she went to bed lemon meringue, cherry and three pumpkins. The idea was to leave one of the pumpkin pies at home, eat one for breakfast Thursday morning or with coffee on the long car ride, and take the other three to Omaha. Add those to the pies already at the feast: another dozen or so pumpkin pies (homemade and store bought), another cherry and a chocolate cream.
In addition to being a refrigeration specialist, Tim is a also the maker of great cheesecakes, to the delight of his holiday guests. This year's offerings were his crowd favorite pumpkin and a new German chocolate recipe. Oh yeah, somebody's boyfriend or fiance or something is a chef and brought a raspberry cheesecake. And there were pumpkin scones, but I don't know who made them.
You'll find no alternative meat at Tim's house on Thanksgiving. It's the turkey holiday, so you will find plenty of that. This year there were three 20-pounders, one roasted, one smoked and one fried.
Before leaving Omaha on Friday evening, we stopped back at Tim's house to collect Kathy's pie plates and to have a run at the leftovers. On Saturday, Kathy was still in baking mode apparently, so to the pumpkin pie we left behind (merely so we would have some pie over the weekend), she added three more another cherry and two caramel pumpkin cream turtle concoctions.
Those two were almost as decadent as the cheesecake, but the name is deceiving. There was no turtle meat that I could find.
by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
We breezed through Thanksgiving Day, which this year was named "Brown Thursday" by retailers. They just couldn't let everyone have a traditional Thanksgiving; employees in stores that were open on Thanksgiving had to work instead of enjoying the day with their families. Then shoppers were pushed right into "Black Friday," the day of shopping chaos. I never chose to participate in that day for Christmas shopping.
I never felt the urge to get up at 3 a.m. and travel more than 100 miles to stand in line waiting for the store to open. Reports that tell of shoppers pushing and shoving each other to grab sought after items first are why I am thankful I stayed home. A friend who usually shops on Black Friday tells how she has her husband drop her off at the door when the store opens. He goes and parks the car and waits for her to call when she is done shopping. He drives to the front door and picks her up, then it's on to the next store on her list. She tells of acquiring many bargains that way. I know better than to ask my farmer husband to be my Black Friday "get-away" driver.
The weekend following Thanksgiving also saw record-breaking sales in the stores. The smaller town businesses advertised that Saturday was "small town shopping day," and many of us in the rural communities made trips to shop locally.
Monday was also designated as a day for Christmas shoppers "Cyber Monday," when people rush to their computers and place orders for gifts. Internet shopping is even more tempting because you don't have to get out of your sweats or pajamas to shop in the comfort of your home. Free shipping is also sometimes offered, which sweetens the deal on already reduced prices.
As far as I know, there are no other designated days for Christmas shopping, but who knows, they may come up with some more. There are some who have their Christmas shopping completed in July, but I'm not one of those.
I remember those care free days as a youth making December Saturday afternoon trips to the local towns and doing some Christmas shopping, and sitting at home gazing through the Sears, Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney catalogs. Those catalogs were well worn and marked with gift ideas. I guess catalog shopping was our parents' version of what is now cyber shopping.
However and wherever you choose to shop, I hope the true meaning of Christmas remains in our hearts. We need to keep Christ in Christmas!
Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman
When I first became a grandparent four months ago, people
would jokingly call me "grandma," and then apologetically
recant for fear the term might be taken as an insult by me. I
never quite understood why people would think I might be bothered
by being a grandmother or being referred to as one. Simply because
one of my children had a child of their own, it did not in my
mind automatically earn me a "remainder of my lifetime membership"
While I understand that for some the grandparent terminology conjures fears of the rapid progression of age and the decline of vitality, I am also given to understand that anyone with offspring can conceivably become a grandparent as early as the age of 24. Granted, I am not 24. But I am also not withering or turning to dust just yet.
The concept of gray-haired, apron sporting, cookie-baking grandmothers, is a meaning we attach to our personal visions of grandparenthood or an effect of brainwashing from the media. While there is nothing wrong with gray-haired, apron sporting, cookie-baking grandmothers, this is not something we all turn into the second a grandchild is born. That is something you eventually earn the right to be.
My own grandmother did not bake cookies. And if she did, it would not have been advisable to eat them. But for a kindly older woman, she was a master at using vocabulary commonly associated with sailors or reserved for men who work away from polite company such as kindly older women and impressionable young children. Hearing our grandmother use "those words," made us grandchildren giggle. Of course you did not want to be the one to whom such words were directed. Otherwise, it was funny.
My paternal grandfather did not like his food touched by others or his sides poked or tickled. I frequently got away with doing both of those things. He also sang in a pure deep baritone voice, could play the fiddle, and at one time he was one of the few who could converse with his own mother in her Norwegian native tongue.
My maternal grandfather smiled often, laughed heartily and told the worst jokes which rarely made sense. I never saw him angry, sad or unhappy. My maternal grandmother died when I was two weeks old. But I understand she worked as a proofreader for a local newspaper and was a stickler for spelling and grammar. What is that about apples and trees?
My children and their cousins will remember my mother for her bargain shopping prowess, the special treats she always found for them and her ability to feed several third world countries from her kitchen. My father is the grandparent with the cool outdoorsy stuff, the ability to fix anything with a lot less hype and duct tape than MacGyver and a whole lot better, as well as a generally quiet nature unless provoked.
My daughter was shocked one day as my father tried to tell her a story. "He told me to shut up and listen for a change," my daughter said after my father became frustrated from her constant interruptions and questions. He assured her she would understand if she would just stop talking. Sometimes the blunt way is the only way to get through to someone, eh?
The term "grandparent" is simply a title. What we choose to do with this title is what really counts. If you want to be a hip or trendy grandparent with knowledge of the latest music and fashion, then be a hip grandparent. If you want to be a cookie baking grandparent, then turn up the heat and get baking. If you want to knit skeins of hats and sweaters and everything else your pointy needles can conceive well then knit, or crochet or quilt, or hunt and fish.
The point of being a grandparent is not in showing a grandchild that people get old, tired and cranky and eventually die. They can figure that out in the way the media stereotypically portrays the aging population ad nauseum. If you want to be a grandparent in a way that will make even a small impression on the offspring of your offspring, then figure out what it is that you have to offer from your life and share it with your grandchild.
If you like books, read to your grandchild. If you like history, share what you know. As they grow, consider planning outings to places where historical events took place, or visit a museum. Whatever you enjoy or perhaps did not have time to fully enjoy amidst the chaos of working, homemaking and raising your own children, take the time now and explore your passions in a way that someone else, your grandchildren, will greatly benefit.
This evening, my grandson spit up as I held him trying to stand on my lap. The warm, regurgitated liquid fell onto my chest and then worked its way down my shirt. I've been spit up on. I've changed a diaper, or two. I've rocked a rocking chair many nights, sang songs and I think I do a fair impression of Cher. That is what makes me a grandmother. The gray hair is my father's fault.