Sunday, September 30, 2012

I Could Entertain Royalty

Me with a turtle.
Sometimes I wonder if a camera crew is following me around for good blooper material or maybe a writer for a situation comedy show. I do some of the stupidest and funniest things -- all by accident. I don't mind playing the fool occasionally, after all it was the jesters who came in and lifted the spirits of the kings and queens of yesteryear.  But, there's just got to be a limit.

We were camping over the weekend at the Drake Country Fairgrounds as we attended the 50th Annual Ohio Gourd Show -- tomorrow's entry will cover some of that adventure.  After a stop at the bathroom, I walked through the vendor's areas, past the outside show area, just around the gazebo where people were eating, all across the fairground to the other end of the camping facility.  I there greeting my husband, petted the two dogs and went inside our little camper. Once inside I flung myself onto the bed, ready for a rest.  Dave came in behind me and with a chuckle, removed the toilet paper tail I'd been showing off.  I thought they did that stuff only on comedy's.  Yes, this is my comedy.  You laugh or you cry and oftentimes you have to make that choice on a daily basis.

Once while I was in school, I was caught doing a row of cartwheels down a main hallway.  I came up and with a jolt stopped starring nose to nose with one of my favorite, albeit intimidating professors.  This was a man of impeccable manners and grooming.  Here was an example to emulate.  Without even a hint of a smile, but a barely perceptible twinkle in his eye, he told me that buffoons were needed in our line of work.  I do wish he'd picked a kinder word, but the idea, I decided, was a compliment.  The jester, the one who laughs and can make others laugh, is a much needed ability.

My mom!
Last July my mother and I went skydiving. My 73 year old mom, full of life and adventure, had just retired, and has been tackling all sorts of things she's wanted to do.  She is an amazing woman.  It's an awkward thing, watching your mom jump out of an airplane and gently fall to the earth. I made my jump after hers.  First my shoe got caught on the way out and we just hung there for an eternity.  The rest went well and I counted us lucky to be in one piece and feeling only little pain as a result of the ordeal.

About two weeks later, I was tidying up in the kitchen.  I lost my balance and for each of the three times I almost caught myself -- I heard a bone snap.  My x-rays look ghoulish as nine screws and a plate were added to assist in the healing and stability of my ankle. It still hurts and I may have trouble with the darned thing forever -- all for cleaning my kitchen.  Skydiving is safe, but cleaning the house is evidently quite dangerous and painful.

Perhaps my favorite foolish story of mine is when I took in a cat to be spayed.  The mama cat had recently given birth to a litter and we decided to keep the last two kittens. She was taken in for surgery and would have no more kittens.  One of the girls looked like a twin of her mother.  When the time came to take the kitten in to be spayed, I had a bit of a time catching her as she was a barn cat going through a ornery period.  I finally captured her and placed her in a crate to be taken to the vet the next morning.  Mid morning I received a call from the veterinary office.  They had anaesthetised the kitten, shaved her and at that point, realised it was the mama cat who was already spayed.  I laughed uproariously.

I'm afraid I have to admit that I do this stuff all the time.  Most of the time I can laugh at myself with utter abandon.  When I can't, I know I need to take a step back and regroup.  Laughter is one of the main ingredients of life.  I dare not think of life without that simple joy.  I love to laugh -- even if it's just at myself.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lean Green Cleaning Machine

Tara carefully mixes the ingredients for an
inexpensive gentle washing machine soap.

 I'm drawn to old fashioned ways and ideas. The idea of creating items that are good for my family, not harmful to the earth, and provide me with delight in the process is a concept to be held tight to and worked towards.  If you can combine that with my love of herbs and essential oils and give me the opportunity to share what I've learned with like minded people -- well, that's just the best.

Last night I had the privelege of teaching my "Leen Green Cleaning Machine" class through the Grand Blanc Community Education program.  We had a great time learning and encouraging one another.

Sandy grates soap for washing mix.

Here's a simple, alcohol-free hand sanitizer:
* 1 Cup pure aloe vera juice
*2 teaspoons witch hazel
*15 drop peppermint essential oil

Shake thoroughly, pour into small spray con-
tainer. If you'd like a thicker version for a squeeze bottle, substitute alove vera gel for the juice.  Smell good, feel happier with the peppermint in the air, keep your hands from drying out and repell germs!

Tara models  sweet pantaloon apron
rescued from local charity store.

It's amazing what essential oils can do.  Smell is a powerful tool to tap into.  Lavender calms us and can assist in alleviating a headache. We can be lulled to sleep, energized, and even feel enamored by what experience with our olfactory attributes.  Smell on.
Jennifer looking beautiful in her apron is ready to
clean and make the world a better place.

Karyn repositioning her apron for
maximum benefits?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Pretty Pink Bike

I had great bikes as a kid.  And I spent countless hours riding my bike -- sometimes I pretended it was a horse, sometimes a car, but always a vehicle for fun and independence. My first bike had a Mickey mouse ringer bell on it, the next had a radio and horn appliance that was attached in the middle of the handlebars.  It looked more like a dashboard than bike handles. No one could ride on the handlebars, but it was worth it.  In my early teen years that bike became unfashionable -- I had to have a 10speed or nothing.  Thankfully my Grandma got wind of this and bought me an awesome one.  I looked cool, but no radio and no horn.  Because the 70's were so groovy, my parents bought me a red radio called a "toot-a-loop" and that solved the radio issue. It was circular and looked like a mis-shapen donut. With this far sighted construction, I could open it up, put in on the handle bar and re close it.  Again -- cool.

Before my daughter was born I purchased a mom type bike on the side of the road for $30.  It was only a three speed and I could sit up straight as I biked.  I have a wonderful photo somewhere of my daughter sitting in her child's seat behind me.  We drove up and down Martin Court a few times and my bike days were done for about 18 years.

A couple of Christmases ago my mom bought me a beautiful pink bike.  It was a wonder to behold. It was displayed in the kitchen for a while and then in the bedroom.  Eventually my husband took it out to the garage.  And there it sat.  I was afraid.  I was afraid I was just too fat to ride and I would tarnish the beauty of my pink bike.  I was afraid I might fall -- and after breaking a few bones in the last half dozen years, that's a legitimate fear!  I was afraid people would laugh at the middle aged far woman clumsily riding a bright pink old ladies bike.  I was afraid it wasn't going to be as fun as I remembered.  It has taken me two years to rally myself and ride that darned bike!

I decided yesterday morning -- Today is the day.  I'm going to ride my pretty pink bike and nothing is going to stop me from enjoying it.

Off to the shed I went to recover my bike. I had to rearrange things to remove it, but it all went smoothly.  The original seat had been removed and in its stead was a tongueless seat that looks more like a chair.  This is a great idea in theory, but I couldn't stay on my bike.  It's amazing how much you use that center console to steer and steady yourself.  That meant removing seats off two bikes to get my pretty pink and white seat back.  Off to the garage to find a wrench.  You should see the garage.  A professional organizer would get goose bumps.  Nothing ever gets put away once it reaches that space.  I thought of giving up, but I had made myself a promise.  On my third trip to the same drawer I couldn't find the size wrench I needed, but there, it was!  In the next drawer down was an adjustable wrench. It was beautiful in its rusted presence.  In no time I had the seats off and mine back in its rightful place.

The dogs has been outside with me racing around the yard.  I looked over just in time to see them on their backs, rubbing against a certain patch of earth with delight. That much delight could only mean trouble.  I herded them up to the door and got a whiff.  I still don't know what they got into, but it smelled nasty. So I had to bathe them both.  I was about ready for a nap, but I had yet to go on my bike ride.  Darn it!

I put the items I need to return to the library into my back pack, strapped it to my back and unsteadily mounted by pretty pink bike. It's not very far to the library, I wanted my first foray out to be successful.  It wasn't as easy as I remembered.  But it was great!  Nobody laughed -- at least no one that I am aware of.  I didn't fall.  I didn't forget how to ride a bike.

"It's like riding a bike" they say -- you just don't forget that kind of thing.  I am so glad I didn't give up when I couldn't find the correct wrench or when the dogs did they smelly thing. I am so glad I didn't give up on recapturing and recycling my childhood memories.  Tomorrow I'll get out again and ride my pretty pink bike that makes me happy just looking at it.  I'll ride my bike a get a bit of exercise and just enjoy the moments of freedom that bike riding has always given me.

But next time -- I'll remember to take my Toot-a-loop radio that my mom saved for me. It still works and it still looks way cool.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Release the Hounds

Ghirardelli H. Price (Delli) and my son Nicholas at the Wiener Dog Races in Frankenmuth, Michigan

When Casper Wilhelm Knecht Von Middlestaat, one of my many German ancestors came over from the motherland, I am sure they had no idea how German pride would be celebrated in decades to come.  It's probably a good thing!

I've wanted to attend this auspicious event for years -- The Wiener Dog Races. Michigan's own little Bavaria -- Frankenmuth hosts Oktoberfest with beer, pretzels, sausages and beer flowing. I didn't do any special training this year, for I didn't know the competition would be so fierce and so mind blowing.

Dachshunds  gathered from all over and in 10 heats, with about 10 dogs in each, they raced across a wooden dance floor in a very large beer tent.  I was the "releaser" and my son graciously agreed to be the "catcher." We decided to take advantage of the time before the races to practise with Delli.  Delli is a lover and not a competitor. He is happy to just be given food and belly rubs -- all day.  It was no surprise that he opted to immediately roll on to his back instead of being released to race.  I hadn't set my expectations high in the race category.  It's probably a good thing.

First there was a parade of dachshunds, where costumed dogs were recognized and the winners awarded a prize.  There were contests for the fattest and then the smallest dogs.  I thought we might be a contender for the fattest -- but we were out dachsunded by over 10 pounds. 

Finally -- we were in the first heat.  Nicholas gave Delli a pep talk.  We were ready.  We did all the right stuff and he took off when he was released.  It looked surprisingly good in the first few seconds of the race.  Something clicked in Delli's happy brain that there were nine friend possibilities around him, so he stopped to get acquainted with a couple of dogs next to him. They were happy to stop and sniff and chat.  I think Delli had a bit of a panic attack in all this socialization, so he did a u-turn and came right back to me.  Thus went Delli's first foray into the competitive world of wiener racing.

I can't tell you I was even disappointed.  I knew the fun would be just in being there. We weren't going to win a trophy.  But what a memory we made.

Next year -- we are going to do some training.  I think we can win.  Well, I think maybe we can win some cheers in the costume contest. 

A dog dress as Abu from "Prince of Thieves"
A long haired beauty dress as a bar maid.
Four German beauty queens with Delli.

This was my favorite costume -- a hand crocheted mermaid. It was
not the first place winner, but it was adorable.

The final word from Delli -- "You dragged me to this for what?"
Or -- "Where's my beer?" 
Or -- "I want the leiderhosen too, or I'm not wearing this."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Oreo Cookie Life

Me being kissed by my Daddy.
I'm trying to lose weight for the 10,000th time! When did I first think of needing to diet? As I recall, it was in high school when the cheerleaders started selling candy bars.  And wouldn't you know I had science with one of these candy toting, short skirted beauties -- it got to be a habit.  And then a friend and I would periodically split a large pizza with everything.  I thought I was a real porker back then.  I now see photos and I wasn't fat at all.  Why didn't some body set me straight?

The photo you see to the left was taken 22 years ago -- I thought I was fat back then, too.  Do I look fat to you? I do not, thank you very much. I should have just felt beautiful that day, but I was worried about my weight.

NOW, I'm overweight. Really. It says so on all the height and weight charts -- that or I should be about 8 feet tall in order to balance out my weight. Now, I feel miserable, I look terrible and my health is being negatively effected by my tonnage. It's time to do something about it!

In the double stuffed Oreo image of life -- I am the double cream.  The crispy outsides to my puffiness are my mom and my daughter. For most of my life my mom has been a size 2.  Yes, 2.  My daughter, age 19 is a size 0.  Try living in the middle of a tiny mom and an itty bitty daughter.  This sounds an awful lot like an excuse of some sort, it's true. But it is difficult to embrace your own beauty when your jean size is the size of your mom's and your daughter's if they were put side by side -- 20. 

I am a person of worth. My weight doesn't dictate or define my value as a human being.  Thankfully it just doesn't matter if my soul is chubby or svelte. I can embrace my beauty right now.  Sound haughty? No! No, it does not.  I am a beautiful woman at size 20 and each size I shrink to until I reach my goal.  My goal is to wear a size 14 or 16 jean.  I can achieve that goal.  And part of the reason I can achieve that goal is because I love me, and care about my health. I'm having to work at that on a daily basis, because sometimes that woman in the mirror shocks me.

Today was my weigh in day at Weight Watchers. I have now lost 10.8 pounds.  Yahoo!  I'm on my "weigh!" Have you ever taken a close look at any weight loss advertisement? Somewhere on the bottom of the ad, in fine print a disclaimer will read, "Results not typical." In other words, those people who have achieved major weight loss and some physical sense of success are the rare ones.  Most people who set out to lose weight don't usual make and/or keep their weight goals.  I don't want to be typical either. 

What I do want is to--
1. Feel good about myself
2. Alleviate joint pain
3. Improve my energy level and endurance
4. Look better
5. Feel just a little bit sexy

In the meantime, I'm going to love myself through the process. I'm going to declare myself beautiful -- to myself and believe it.  I will remind myself of that everyday -- perhaps several times a day, or as needed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Follow the link to The Fenton Patch to read more about the battle several of the women in Fenton waged to earn the right to own three hens.
the fenton patch

Hamburger Onion Pie -- a hand me down dish

My Grandma, my mom and me about 1980-82
"Comfort food" is the dish you delight in eating curled up in your pajamas, you go crazy and don't use a napkin and some how feel the comfort of home and the warmth of childhood.

For me, hamburger onion pie is one of the dishes that transports me to a place of less stress and general satisfaction. And -- it warms up the next day, or as a late night snack, tasting even better than it did at dinner.

This is a recipe that my mom included in my  first collection of recipes that I received as a girl in an adorable mouse recipe box (that I still own and plan to pass on to a grand daughter some day). The recipe came from my maternal grandmother and probably dates back to the depression era.  It uses Bisquick mix to make the crust and it first came on grocer's shelves in 1931.  It is a wonderful way to make a pound of hamburger stretch to feed a larger family.  I liken this to a pre-Hamburger Helper meal.

Here's my version of this delicious recipe:

First, put on your favorite apron and string of pearls. Next,

Craft a bottom crust from Bisquick following box instructions.  I like to add a teaspoon or so of paprika or other mild savory herb or spice just for color and a little adventure.  Roll it out and place in your pie plate. Crinkle or mold your outside crust to your desired appearance.

Thinly slice 1/2 to 1 whole onion -- depending on your like or your families tolerance for for flavorful onion.  Cook until translucent. Add your point of hamburger, cook completely.  Remove as much grease as you can.  Add 2 Tablespoon of Bisquick for thickening.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into prepared pie crust.

Mix together 1-1/12 Cups of cottage cheese and mix with 2medium or 3 small eggs.  Once combined pour over burger and onion mixture.  No need to mix the two -- they will seep together perfectly.  Sprinkle paprika over the top.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.  The crust should be browned and the center should be firm.  My husband likes to add ketchup as did my dad, but I don't think it needs it.  Just a little salt and a glass of cold milk does the trick for me.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Chickens in the Yard!

Here are my great-great grandparents Jacob (above) and Alice (Vorhees)Loy with her flock of chickens
somewhere in Ohio.

Happy is the day when I get to spend time with chickens. They are such happy creatures that know how to sooth my soul into gentle relaxation.  I didn't grow up with chickens, because we lived in a progressive township and this was in the 70's so we were groovy and not environmental.  The only thing I knew about chickens back then was that dad shouldn't have eggs for cholesterol's sake and that the colonel fried them up. 

In my adult discovery of chickens, I was quickly smitten with their unique personalities and quirky appearances.  I was given two mild mannered girls -- Lucy and Ethel -- and they were such easy going beings to have around.  I quickly added two more to complete my flock -- Lola and my favorite -- Reba.  The barnyard had llamas and goats and just like a folk decoration -- they liked to stack up on top of each other.  Hours were spent in enjoyment with the creatures of our place.

The chickens provided so much for so little. One night I had planned meat loaf for dinner and at the last minute realized their were no eggs in the fridge.  We had to wait until the most regular layer of the foursome deposited her egg of the day, in the midst of the lavender bush.  Then, and only then, could I continue my dinner preparations.  We ate just a little later than usual that night.  What a wonderful memory as to why.

Things have changed since those barnyard days and we live in downtown area of the small city of Fenton.  Tonight the city council will vote about the chicken ordinance that would allow a handful of hens to reside within city limits. I am giddy with anticipation that I might, once again, have chickens!  It's quite the controversy and emotions run high on both sides.

For me, having chickens is a symbol of something even greater. Allowing 3 or 4 hens to reside in my back yard,  allows me to live the American dream in ways that the political speeches as of late are too complicated to fathom. What a joy it is to go to my backyard and gather the ingredients of dinner.  It means a great deal to me that I can touch, smell and see some of the things that are combined for the nourishment of my family.  I yearn for a smaller distance between me and my food. I have a need to be involved in the production of that food. I am a part of it all, and it is unnatural for me to be separated from what I eat.

Our home was built prior to the Civil War and I'm sure that hens have graced this lawn before. It's time to redefine "farm" and it's time to participate in knowing what we eat and where it comes from. It's time to embrace our role in nature, knowing that we are part of it, not outside of it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Here's my Grandma, Jessie Loy, holding me in 1962 or 1963.

My Grandma Loy introduced me to a lifestyle that took me years to understand, even longer to embrace and finally appreciate. She had a life full of challenges I can barely fathom.  At a young age she lost her mother. She was later replaced by the exact stepmother and sisters that inspired the Cinderella story.  She worked hard and photos of her rarely sport a smile. Grandma was a mother to eight, but one died in childhood. When she still had three young children at home, my Grandpa died.  I'm right in the middle of more grandchildren and step-grandchildren and half-grandchildren than I can name.  My Grandma could name them all and inform you of their likes and dislikes.  She embraced and loved her family unconditionally.

Except for the men in the family, she would make all the gifts for each family member.  It took her the entire year. The kids would receive stuffed animals she'd sewn or one year, in the 1970's (of course) she made the teens macrame owls -- mine was yellow, because she knew that was my favorite color. Her daughters and daughters-in-law might receive nighties made of soft flannel or gingham aprons. 

Family groups would often receive food goodies that she had canned herself in her little kitchen.  Jam is the item I remember most and that is most dear to me.  I don't think I've ever sampled an unpleasant jam, but I did have a favorite.  Grandma never forgot it either.  Sometimes instead of a jar, she would send home a plastic margarine container of jam to be given to me --peach and pineapple. That jam was like ambrosia to me. If I really concentrate, I can still taste it -- and its been 27 years since I last tasted a piece of toast with Grandma's jam.  That is a long time to savor a flavor.

I've been making jams of all sorts this summer. It is so hard for me to make peach and pineapple because it just isn't good enough when I make it. Martha Stewart couldn't make it like Grandma did.  Yesterday the bread and butter pickles were completed. Today I'm wrapping up  too many jars of dill pickles--dilled green and wax beans are next on my list. It's a lot of work. My feet get tired, I get over-heated and I think I'll never get it all done. 

Finally, when I serve something to my family that I've made, and I see their enjoyment --- that's all I need to do it all over again. I love to put a package together for someone and give the gift of my time and energy.

Grandma's gifts weren't just the sewing and the crafting, the canning and  the baking. Grandma's gifts were the love that she included as she worked and created.  I learned that from her. I know it sounds a little bit corny, but "love"was a main ingredient in all that she did. I'm still learning that from her.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What a Tangled Web we Weave or Knit

I thought I'd whip out an adorable scarf before dinner time. The skein of new yarn boasted an easy pattern with a thick chennile type feel with faux fur puff balls sprinkled around.  I'd paid only $7 and it seemed like a Christmas gift waiting to be hand-made.  The directions guided me to roll the yarn in a ball prior to stitching.  Always a bit impatient to get started, I was tempted to skip the advice.  But with only 60 yards of delightfulness, it would be a quick job.

It took me about a yard a minute to get my tangled mass of yarn into a usable ball.  I was tempted to return it to the store, but didn't.  I was tempted to rip and begin again, but I stayed true and steady to the job at hand. This was a special Christmas gift being made by loving hands -- right? I just wanted to knit and see how it would look as it began to take shape.  I just wanted to see that I'd accomplished something today that was obvious and visible!

Finally, I began to see that I was making headway. My slow and steady approach was begining to make a difference.  A rhythm of sorts was created as my hands found ways through the maze. Gentleness won over frustration as the integrity of the yarn wasn't harmed by the detangling. I actually began to enjoy the process. 

The last foot of yarn was wrapped and a ball ripe with potential lay on my lap. I hadn't even started to knit and already, I felt like I'd made progress. 

My husband came home and asked about dinner.  He didn't know about my heroic yarn effort yet, because if he did, he certainly wouldn't have had the audacity to inquire about something that paled in significance to my yarn challenge.

So much of life is the journey.  We want to hurry up and get to the thing that we want to enjoy. When we are a child, we want to get to Christmas or our birthday. When we are a teen -- the driver's license is the mighty goal. When I have a good job, when my career takes off, when I  have a baby, when that baby is potty trained, when I finally lose weight, when . . . . THEN I will begin to enjoy. The destination isn't the thing, the journey is the thing.

I wonder how much of life is taken up by the arrival at the destination -- I bet it is such a small percentage of our lives that it would discourage us to know how few of our life moments are considered those "I have arrived" and "All is well with the world" moments.

 I am quite sure that the journey -- the life in progress moments, where we are untangling life and preparing ourselves take up most of our life.  It makes sense that we strive to enjoy those run on moments that both delight and frustrate, challenge and renew us. It is the every day stuff that makes up most of life.