Category Archives: Cooking

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #46

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List one achievement, big or small, every day this week:

[I am writing my list based on last week, because who knows what the future holds!]

  • Monday, I made soup. I soaked dried beans until they were softened, then drained them, added fresh water, plus vegetable stock, stewed tomatoes, barley, wild rice and lots of vegetables. It simmered on the stove until everything was tender. I ladled up a couple portions for lunches later in the week, and brought the rest to the farmhouse for my family there.
  • Tuesday, I voted. I also made popovers to go along with the dinner my sisters were preparing at the farmhouse, and an apple pie for dessert. My sisters plan so well when they come to the island, I’m rarely able to make a single contribution, so it’s always a nice treat when I can.
  • Wednesday, the euchre team made up of me and my nephew Bob beat the other team (my sister, Brenda, and my cousin, Keith) both games!
  • Thursday, we did it again!
  • Friday, I saw my family off at the airport…without bursting into tears. Though I felt like it. I finished out my work day, then went home to unpack the two heavy bags they had sent home with me. Which included a lifetime supply of mustard, enough catsup to last a year, at least, if I ever even start to like catsup, and a few other condiments. There were some file folders and other things found in Aunt Katie’s drawers. There were potatoes from Keith’s garden, goulash left over from Thursday’s supper, and the balance of my soup.
  • Saturday, after ice and snow from an early winter storm sealed the driver’s side door of my car closed, I managed to crawl in from the passenger side door, climb over the console, and wedge this [too plump and inflexible] body down into the driver’s seat. That is after clearing the outside of the car with a broom and a kitchen spatula. Because the snow shovel was safely tucked into the garden shed, which was inaccessible because of the snow. Before coming home in the evening, I remembered to pick up a few groceries, and to put gas in the car.
  • Today, I drove in to work, then home again, on ice-slick roads. They seemed more slippery today than they were yesterday, after even more snow fell overnight. The first winter weather is always a driving adventure.
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A Late Report

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“Late” seems to be the theme today. I was up late last night working on home projects. I slept in late this morning. I was barely on time for my drawing class. After walking the dogs, working in the yard and fixing supper, I am now, late in the evening, finally sitting down to write my Tuesday blog.

I had a little trouble coming up with a theme. I’ve been publishing a blog for seven years now. Since I most often write about myself and my own experiences, I feel like raw material is getting rather scarce. I’m afraid I’m getting repetitive. Looking for inspiration, I went through a couple books of writing prompts; nothing piqued my interest.

When I was about to give up hope, I remembered: my “birthday list!” Each year, for my birthday, I have published a list, corresponding to my age:  favorite people and life-changing books have been the theme of past birthday lists. Of course my birthday this year is long past; I was in Chicago then, having a glorious time with my youngest daughter and her family. That’s okay, I can do the list now. Late. Because that’s how my day is going.

66 Random Things That I Know

  1. The sky is most beautiful, here on Beaver Island, in the fall of the year.
  2. The water in Lake Michigan is warmest in the fall. That probably holds true for other bodies of water, too.
  3. In places where there are evergreens among the deciduous trees, fall colors are most breathtaking.
  4. Water, too, provides a good backdrop for the changing autumn colors.
  5. Winter apples need a frost to bring out their juicy sweetness.
  6. If you count the seconds between the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning, that is how many miles away the storm is.
  7. Sleep is better when it’s raining.
  8. A jet stream is a weather pattern. Until I was forty years old, I thought a jet stream was a contrail. A contrail is the white trail that a jet leaves in the sky.
  9. Cheap wine is better appreciated if you can’t see the label.
  10. Better vodka is worth the extra cost.
  11. A good haircut can be life-altering.
  12. Sisters and brothers who grew up in the same household are more alike than even they know, no matter what their current differences.
  13. It takes about thirty days to form a good habit or to get rid of a bad habit.
  14. Either can be turned around in one moment of weakness.
  15. I think lateness is a way of revolting from life experiences that are not ideal.
  16. I believe procrastination is a side-effect of perfectionism.
  17. And perhaps what looks like laziness is actually the inability to act because of a lack of direction (or too many directions to pursue).
  18. Dogs are comforted by familiar voices.
  19. Pigs are some of the smartest animals.
  20. Chickens respond to novelty.
  21. You can move a chicken at night, without them knowing. Just drape a cloth over them to keep out the light, pick them up and carry them to their new location.
  22. Having the right tools for a project makes a big difference.
  23. Bicycling is easier on the knees than running.
  24. Cheaters never win.
  25. Honesty is the best policy.
  26. Summer always goes too fast.
  27. Humidity makes hot weather feel hotter, and cold weather more bitter.
  28. Most savory dishes can be improved with something from the onion family, or by lemon.
  29. Butter is now healthier than margarine.
  30. When it was new, margarine was sold as a block of white fat. The purchaser had to stir in the little packet of yellow colorant to make it look like butter.
  31. Friends that I know only through their writing are still true friends. Sometimes I know more about their lives and inner feelings than people I see every day. Likewise, I often reveal more in my writing than I ever would in “real life.”
  32. Letter writing is a great way to communicate.
  33. Everybody, deep down, wants to be accepted, appreciated and loved.
  34. Morning glories and moon flowers are more likely to sprout if the seeds are nicked before they are planted.
  35. Dogs have the right attitude toward life.
  36. We are all born with a sixth sense. It can be recognized and nurtured or denied and buried. In either case, awareness and practice will always improve intuitive ability.
  37. Anyone can learn to draw. If they want to.
  38. People that are good readers and enjoy reading, have a richer life than those who don’t.
  39. A book doesn’t have to be high literature to be good. It only has to speak to the reader at the time.
  40. That said, there is a lot of lousy writing out there.
  41. That holds true in the art world, too. If you like a piece, good. Enjoy it.
  42. Good teachers change lives.
  43. Continuing to learn, through life, is the best way to feel truly alive.
  44. Music communicates with us through our beating heart.
  45. Games are good for the mind.
  46. Plants have feelings.
  47. All life is precious (though I still set mouse traps this time of year).
  48. Daughters are more fun than sons (says this mother of two girls).
  49. Grandchildren are a blessing.
  50. Grocery shopping when hungry is never a good idea.
  51. A good experience, in a restaurant, is expected. Often food and service needs to be over-the-top before it is recognized.
  52. Inadequate service or a bad meal in a restaurant will be noticed right away, and never forgotten.
  53. A word of encouragement or praise goes a long way.
  54. Coming from a boss, it’s great incentive.
  55. Coming from a co-worker, it builds camaraderie.
  56. A compliment from a stranger is easier to believe than the same from an acquaintance.
  57. We are all, generally, too stingy with our feelings.
  58. Everyone deserves to hear something nice.
  59. A day can seem interminably long, when doing something unpleasant.
  60. Hours speed by when doing something enjoyable
  61. On that same theme, children seem to remain at two years old much longer than any other age…
  62. Until they reach their teen years, which drag on for a lifetime.
  63. But all in all, children grow up way too quickly.
  64. The longer you live, the more loss you have to bear.
  65. It’s always worth it.
  66. Life goes on, like it or not. May as well find the silver lining.

Home Again (A Photo Essay)

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After being waved off on the ferry boat by these good friends…

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Bob and Gary

…I spent a few days with my sister, Brenda, and her husband, Keith. I got in a visit with my brother, Ted, and sister, Robin. I did some shopping to round out my planned Chicago wardrobe. Keith and I both went to get our hair cut. I packed up my carry-on bag.

Wednesday morning, I boarded the train to Chicago, along with my daughter, Kate, her husband, Jeremy, and two of my grandchildren, Madeline and Tommy. It was a marvelous time, that deserves its own essay. My daughter is an excellent planner/organizer who managed to fit an amazing number of wonderful things into a four-day trip while allowing it to still be relaxing and fun.

Travel was always an adventure for me. We took trains, water-taxis and ubers. We enjoyed wonderful walks through many beautiful and interesting parts of the city. From the cutest sandwich shop, to the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, to the brightest southern-style breakfast, to a fabulous pre-theater Italian dinner, to (of course!) Chicago-style pizza, every single meal was memorable.  Likewise, every day was filled with wonders: a  blues concert on Navy Pier; Millennial Park; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History; and – on the evening of my birthday – the Broadway production of “Hamilton!” It was all made richer by the company I kept; their insights, love and humor surrounded me, and I couldn’t have chosen better travelling companions.

Then, on Saturday, it was back to Lapeer, where I once again enjoyed the hospitality of my sister and her husband. Though they left early Sunday morning on a vacation of their own, I took advantage of their laundry facilities, their lovely view, the company of their cat, and the steak Brenda had left in the refrigerator for me.

Monday morning, Kate and Jeremy picked me up early, for the long drive up north. It was good to have the day to talk, as I’d been missing them already. We made good time, chattering along, and finished up with lunch and lots of good-bye hugs.

Back on the island, I retrieved my car from the long-term parking lot, loaded my luggage into it, and went to pick up the dogs. They were almost as happy to see me as I was to see them! Home, then, to unload the car and settle back in.

A  glance toward the garden sent me scrambling, with bowls and baskets to fill. I picked what is probably the last of the peas, most over-ripe, two green peppers, five pounds of  Italian green beans, a few pole beans of the Blue Lake variety, three huge zucchini squash, four large yellow summer squash, and over one hundred tomatoes. I then walked the perimeter of the yard, to check the status of the wild blackberries. It was a good haul!

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I took the dogs for an evening walk, enjoying the woods and the quiet and remembering all the things that I love about this place.IMG_3627

Back in my kitchen, I cleaned and lightly sugared a bowl of blackberries.

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I cooked Italian beans with bacon for my dinner.

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As a storm brewed outside, I cleaned and peeled tomatoes, and set them to simmer on the stove in the large enamel pan. I filled the big kettle with diced squash, some peas, green pepper and tomatoes with a little water and put it on the back burner to cook. Then, before I had time to tackle the mound of beans, the lights went out.

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That signaled the end of my long home-coming day!

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project #35

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List the elements of your life where you feel challenged in a positive way:

[This is a perfect time for this list! It’s my birthday week, and I am just back (not quite home yet) from a wonderful birthday trip, to Chicago with my daughter, Kate, and her family. I am assessing all the usual signs of aging, plus taking note of accomplishments and goals. I am warmed by time spent with family, amazed by the bright wisdom and kindness of my grandchildren, and awed by my daughter’s determination, bravery, common sense and ability. I feel inspired and changed by my experiences, as I look toward my goals for the next year of my life.]

  • We did quite a bit of walking over the last several days. Chicago is a good city for walking, and the weather was perfect for it. It was fun, at the end of the day, to ask Kate how we did. She’d tell me the distance in miles, and also how many steps we’d taken and flights of stairs we’d climbed. I was pleased to be able to keep up with the young people. I’m determined to reincorporate daily walking into my life.
  • If anything has slowed me down in life, it is a lack of courage. I almost always stay close to my comfort zone. Listening to my daughter and her family discuss big changes, I realize how much I’ve chosen to play it safe, despite the cost. I am sixty-six years old, with only a fraction of my life still ahead of me. It’s time to stop letting fear dictate my direction. Time to be brave!
  • Having wandered, enthralled, through three wonderful museums, I feel challenged to get into the studio and be guided by all the fresh inspiration!
  • Seeing my daughter, who works very hard to be able to have the life experiences she enjoys, put out the effort and never lose sight of the big picture, I am encouraged to expand my boundaries, too.
  • I read every day. Sometimes, though, it’s a challenge to commit to good books that expand my view of literature and the world. This year, I selected five books for summer reading that seemed able to do that. Four were authors I had not read before. Of those, two are authors I will now seek out.
  • I write every day. The challenge is to not simply devolve into mindless drivel.
  • Everyday, I feed myself. I aim for meals that enrich me, beyond just physical sustenance. I think about flavors, colors and textures. The preparation. The arrangement of food on the plate. The experience as a whole.
  • I challenge myself, always, to be nice: to find an honest complement to give; to put a positive spin on something; to say the kind thing. Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes not. It’s always worth it.

Good Things

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Sometimes it’s easiest to see what’s wrong: with a particular situation, or a day, or with the whole world. It takes more energy to find the good things. Not always, though. There are times when my natural propensity for looking at the negative flies right out the window. I am left, then, with a humble appreciation of my rich life, and all the blessings in it.

I’ve had a lovely weekend. Well-balanced. It was productive, but not in a crazy-making way, where I plan more projects than I could possibly ever finish. Busy, but not too busy. I put laundry on the line…but also sat on the shore, reading, for one entire afternoon. I tended the garden, but also wandered the fields to collect wildflowers. I went over my notes for a class I am planning, and put hanging wires on a dozen framed collages. Then, I spent the rest of the day in my studio in frivolous and playful pursuits. I cooked and cleaned, but also took time to relax.

I could list the things I didn’t accomplish; there are quite a few. But why? They’ll be there, waiting for me. Right now, I’d rather just relish the good things.

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dried Rhododendron flowers make a nice bouquet

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wildflowers make another

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one almost-ripe tomato, two days before I harvested it for a wonderful BLT

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a row of collages, ready for the Museum Week Art Show

The 52 Lists (for Happiness) Project # 29

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List the happiest and funniest stories and news you’ve heard lately:

  • I cheered, just like everyone else, for the successful rescue of the young boys trapped in a cave. With water rising, monsoon season coming, and the whole world watching, it was high drama with a happy ending.
  • Rain, this week, was a relief for many of us around the state of Michigan. It has been a hot, dry season. Our “extreme fire danger” status has been lifted, which is excellent news in this season that brings so many campers to our woods.
  • My best friend, Linda, turned sixty-six years old yesterday. That’s almost unbelievable…and funny (though not unbelievably funny)…because my birthday is not that far away, and then I’ll be 66, too. How has it happened that we, who met in the sixth grade and bonded over a mutual love of mischief-making, have grown so old?  When we were both eleven-years-old, Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation made me laugh. Over the years, my best – rolling on the floor, laughing ’til my belly hurt, almost peed my pants – laughs have been with Linda. Our lives have carried us from marbles, pull-over sweaters and the Beatles; to husbands, housework and babies; to single-life adventures with teen-aged children; to all the things that make life enjoyable today. One of the best things is having Linda, who maybe knows me better than anyone (possible exception: my sister, Brenda), still in my life. We share interests in feminism, activism, art, cooking, gardening and books. And, after all these years, we still share some of the best laughs.
  • I have this Sunday off, for the first time since April. I’m almost giddy with all the possibilities! What I am not going to do is spend it sitting in this computer chair. So, as my mother used to say, “up and at ’em!”

 

July 3rd, Fox Lake Road

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Tuesday, again. The last day of my “week-end.” It’s my last chance to catch up on my rest and get ready for the busy week ahead. The day to finish up all the home and yard projects I planned to get done on my days off. It’s blogging day. It’s the day I try to get to town for post office, transfer station and grocery store. As usual, one day doesn’t seem like enough time.

We’ve had a week of extreme heat, unusual for Beaver Island, resulting in a string of uncomfortably warm nights. There wasn’t a breeze to be found, here on the Fox Lake Road. My little fan barely made a difference in the oppressive heat in my house. I spent several nights tossing and turning, too hot to sleep. A storm came through on Sunday night, bringing welcome rain and cooler temperatures. I’ve been sleeping long and well the last couple nights.

This time of year, one of the busiest weeks of the whole year on Beaver Island, it is important to be rested. Businesses are stretched to their limits with thousands of visitors in addition to regular customers. The hardware store is hectic all day long. By the end of the long work day, I am exhausted. A walk or a drive to Fox Lake with the dogs, a bit of time to pull weeds from the flower beds and water the garden, then supper, a half-hour of cleaning time, and I’m done. I have no energy beyond that. All projects have to wait for my days off.

So, Monday and Tuesday are always busy days, and this week more than most. I finished setting up my bullet journal for July, with the month already underway. I finished a load of towels and another of rugs yesterday. I have dark clothes on the line now. I filled a wheelbarrow with weeds trimmed from around the stone-bordered flower beds, and started digging a new fire pit.

I have a large fire pit in the front yard, four feet in diameter, that I planned to use for pit-firing ceramics, and large bonfires with friends. I have never used it for either of those purposes. It is too big and deep to be useful for roasting marshmallows. I use it, mainly, for burning windfall branches and my household paper trash. A smaller fire pit will be more serviceable. The large circle in the front yard could be filled in and used as a flower bed, or simply returned to lawn.

So, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon digging a hole, and removing the sod from the surrounding area. I used the soil I dug out to fill in low areas of the back yard; I filled the wheelbarrow with roots to be hauled away. Today, I plan to empty the wheelbarrow, then fill it with large rocks to border the new fire pit.

Inside, I have two unopened boxes to deal with. They are filled with metal frames and pre-cut mats: almost all the materials I need to get two large paintings and a dozen small collages framed and ready to show. To finish, I’ll have to make time to stop at the hardware store, and cut a dozen pieces of glass for the collage frames. With the tourist season underway and a couple special art shows coming up, that has to be done right away.

Beyond all that, there are bills to pay and letters to write before I go to the Post Office. I need to gather up the recyclable trash to take to the transfer station. I should go through the magazine rack and get rid of those publications that have been hanging out since Christmas.  I have a short list of necessities to pick up from the grocery store, and should go through the cupboards to see what I’ve missed. I know I’m (dread!) out of ice cream! It would be smart to plot out a week’s meals so I can put lunches and dinners together with what I have on hand.

That’s what’s happening, or should be happening, on this third day in July, here on the Fox Lake Road. From the looks of this list, I’d better get busy!