Edition 20 – Wednesday Whimsy

September 30, 2009 | My Jottings

On the marquee of our local veterinarian’s office:

“Dogs have owners…cats have staff.”


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Michael’s Roadside Diner

September 25, 2009 | My Jottings

Among the many hats I wear (virtually all of them are rumpled and fall down over my eyes), the chef’s hat is the one I am most plagued by these days.

On average I make about twenty meals a week (we usually go out to dinner once a week) and I am losing steam and good ideas about what to prepare. It’s not for lack of great recipes. I guess I’m just entering a phase of life that makes cooking seem like climbing Everest. Does anyone out there relate or am I the only one?

Breakfasts are easy enough, as all of us have specific things we prefer and most of us don’t deviate from that. Michael wants a bottle of kombucha as soon as he sets foot in the kitchen in the morning, soon followed by toast and peanut butter or eggs and hash browns. I like a small bowl of homemade Swiss Muesli, and Millie and Edith like Natural Balance. Others in our household like cereal and fruit, or two pieces of toast and two eggs, over easy. So when I’m bumbling around in the kitchen each morning (and it’s now dark outside when I get up) I can make all these things without thinking, as if I’m Rosie the Breakfast Robot.

Lunches aren’t bad either, but they aren’t quite as easy for me as breakfasts. I have to pack one or two lunches in the morning and I’m always trying to think of creative twists to making a sandwich or a container of leftovers (everyone around here loves leftovers, so that’s a plus), a serving of fruit, a salad or serving of vegetables, a slightly virtuous snack and a drink.

Here’s a quick lunch that I feel a little guilty about: a turkey sandwich on WW bread with mayo and lettuce, a banana, two ginger snap cookies, a small bag of grape tomatoes and a can of someone’s favorite diet pop. Here’s a lunch I feel better about, because I am on the slippery slope to becoming my mother and somehow think that home cooked means better, which I know isn’t always the case: a small container of the chicken, squash and rice casserole we had the night before that everyone raved about, a small container of my marinated red cabbage salad, a small container of fresh, sliced pineapple, a hard-boiled egg and a bottle of water. Maybe it’s the small containers that make me feel better about some of the lunches I make.

Dinners are another matter. I am managing and no one is complaining, but since I’m the only cook in the house, every morning I have to think ahead about what we’ll have, and I should be working on it by 10:00 a.m. Our days can be so busy that to turn my thoughts toward dinner at 3:00 p.m. just doesn’t work for me. I have friends who just do the “fend for yourself” method with their families occasionally, but again, we couldn’t do that here.

Michael readily admits that cooking is not his forte. If it were up to him to cook, we would have sausage, fried eggs and hash browns for dinner each night. Because I halfway value our cardiovascular health, we don’t go this route. 🙂

One night long ago Michael and I had a rare evening alone. Everyone else was being treated to dinner and a movie out, and we were home and I didn’t have to cook! In fact, I didn’t even want dinner. I wanted the luxury of not cooking and not eating dinner for one night. I gently told Michael he could have whatever he wanted for dinner, but that I was taking the night off from cooking.

I thought you might like to see the gourmet meal he prepared for himself. He was quite resourceful, using the leftover homemade spaghetti sauce (my grandma’s recipe that can’t be beat) I had made two nights before. Maybe Michael’s meal could be featured in the next edition of “Three-Ingredient Dinners” cookbook, because it consisted of 1) whole wheat bread, 2) the aforementioned homemade spaghetti sauce, and 3) grated parmesan cheese.

Pioneer Woman, read it and weep.


He asked if I wanted him to make some for me. He said it was delicious.


I politely declined.

He’s thinking of opening a diner soon – he’s sure that there are many people out there who would appreciate a simple home-cooked meal now and again.

I’ll give you plenty of warning before it happens, though.

A date at the cemetery

September 23, 2009 | My Jottings

We have some beautiful cemeteries in our area and I like to take my grandchildren there. They aren’t quite as interested in strolling through the centuries-old headstones and reading the names and dates as I am, but our grans do like to feed the ducks and the geese that live on the beautiful grounds.

At one of our cemeteries there are two large ponds surrounded by trees (and graves), and there are gaggles of Canada Geese and flocks of Mallard Ducks always waiting for handouts of cheap bread that I buy at the local Piggly-Wiggly. (That we even have a grocery store called Piggly-Wiggly is another story in itself; when I moved to Minnesota from California in 1981, it took a long time to get used to writing checks made out to Red Owl and Piggly-Wiggly.) There are other kinds of geese and ducks at the cemetery too, but I don’t have time to look up their different names. The other geese have huge, orange knobbly beaks that bulge out in between their eyes, and the other ducks have iridescent purple feathers on their wings and shoulders. Maybe these other birds are called Knobbly Beaked Geese and Iridescent Purple-Feathered Ducks.

Anyway, not long ago Grandpa Michael and I took Elijah to the cemetery to feed the geese and ducks. The grandchildren consider this outing to be great fun, and I enjoy it because it’s quiet and we can be outdoors, and we almost always see something that delights us.

The morning we went it had rained and it was still a little foggy out. As soon as the birds saw our van they started waddling toward us, and here are some pictures from our time.


Greeted by a gaggle


Elijah loved feeding the baby ducks


Elijah tries the Wonder Bread


Birds have always loved Michael


Elijah waiting for the babies to approach


Audacious Gander


Our future resting place

A few weeks ago I took Clara to the cemetery to feed the birds. After we tore up and doled out two loaves of Wonder Wheat Bread, we drove by a different pond with lily pads on the surface. Clara spotted a Blue Heron standing quietly in the reeds, and we pulled over to watch him. He slowly picked his way through the shallow water, lowering his head down at an angle now and then to spot a meal beneath the surface. How odd to see his long legs bend in the opposite direction as he stepped! Clara and I sat for at least ten minutes watching him, and twice he grabbed a small fish with his pointy beak and his long neck rhythmically convulsed as he swallowed.

Before Grandpa, Elijah and I left the cemetery, we rolled down the van windows to honk at the geese and quack at the ducks, then we drove around and looked at some of the names and dates on the older headstones. Elijah wanted to know why some markers were flat and some were tall. He wanted to know why some people were buried above ground in marble crypts. He asked why some graves had benches to sit on with the departed’s names on them instead of headstones. He wondered why some headstones were pure white instead of the more common gray. And of course he wanted to know why dead people are even buried in the first place.

I’m not sure I did a good job explaining everything to him, but I tried. I even told him that someday (hopefully many years in the future) Grandpa Michael and Grandma Julie would probably be buried right in this very cemetery. I told him that while our bodies would be there under our headstones, our spirits would not. I told him that our bodies were just temporary containers that hold who we really are inside, and that someday they would stop working. I tried to explain in terms a six year old could grasp, that when our bodies die, our souls and spirits live on – forever. I tried to explain that when we die here, it’s not so much an ending as a beginning – that it’s really like opening a door to our new (and more real) life. And that if we have trusted Jesus in this life, we will go to live with Him, and that it will be so wonderful, so fun, so beautiful, so exciting, so amazing, that there aren’t even words on this earth to describe how good it will be.

I knew I was falling short at describing death and heaven to Elijah. I prayed that something I said would take root in his little self.

We’ll go back to the cemetery soon. And the Knobbly Beaked Geese will run toward us with wings far outstretched and flapping, and we’ll empty our bags of bread and then search for a fishing Blue Heron. And then we’ll drive around and look at the names and dates on the grave markers, and I’ll pray that someday in God’s timing each of my grandchildren will fully understand how wide, long, high and deep is the love of Jesus for them. And how the knowledge of that love will change their lives here. And how the knowledge of that love will secure their lives there.

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.            Ephesians 3:16 – 19

I want to better understand this love for myself as well.

“Pick a little, talk a little…”

September 21, 2009 | My Jottings

My daughter Sharon called yesterday morning to tell me she’d been asked to be part of a new knitting book which is being written by a famous knitting author, to be published late next year. What an honor this is for her hand-dyed yarn to be recognized like that, and I’m sure I’ll have a post about that in the future. She was tickled about the news, and so was I.

While I was talking to Sharon, she asked me how my visit with my life-long friend Tauni was going, and of course I replied, “Really good! We just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk!” And Sharon said, “Well that’s great! It wouldn’t be very good if you answered,’Tauni flew all the way from California and we’ve been ignoring each other.’ ” And that made us all giggle. I cannot imagine Tauni coming all the way from SoCal and us not talking. And talking. And talking.

This made me think of a Meredith Wilson song from The Music Man — most of the profound and deeply moving lyrics are:

“Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more!

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more!”

And that’s the gist of that delightful song. I’ll wait here until you locate a Kleenex.

Now, I don’t think the “pick a little” part of the song applies so much to our visiting. Unless you would call reminiscing about our childhoods, families, friendships, adventures, and heartaches picking. I suppose I could say that we were picking over the details of our past, recounting things to each other and reveling in our memories about how our lives have intersected over the last 45 years.

But talking? Yes, we talked almost non-stop. It was wonderful. Both Tauni and I could be characterized as Word Women, and we both find conversation satisfying.

We sat at the kitchen table over granola, or Muesli and coffee, and talked. We sat out on the back deck while the chickadees landed on the feeder, and talked. We drove up the North Shore of Lake Superior and talked. We picked our way over grass dotted with Canada Goose poops in Two Harbors, MN, so we could find a place to talk. We sat in my bedroom with tea, and talked. We sat in the den in the morning sun, and talked. We sat in the living room right before bed, yawning, and talked. We talked while we put a screen in a window together. We talked while dinners were being prepared. We talked while eating our packed lunches on a picnic table on the shore of Brighton Beach. We talked over a Cobb Salad, a Tuna Steak with vegetables, Blackened Walleye and Cheddar Bay Biscuits. We talked over steak and prime rib with another good friend of mine named Carey. We talked while walking in the wind on the Lake Walk.


Last night before we went up to bed we shared with each other the details of our very different faith journeys, what drew us toward God even at young ages, and we marveled together about how God has seen us through deaths and divorces, lean times and plenty, heartache and happiness. And He has helped us keep our friendship intact all these years.

We both have other good friends, but we’re aware how very few of those friends enjoy the long history we have together.

Tauni and I lived over the fence from each other. We went to the same elementary, junior high and high schools together. We knew each others’ parents. We knew each others’ brothers. We knew each others’ family stuff. And I swam in her pool hundreds of times, which accounts for a large portion of my happier childhood memories.

Over the years we’ve prayed for each others’ children. We’ve exchanged books and recipes, long distance. She has kept some of my old hand-written letters (“Julie, you’re the only one I know who can fill an entire page with only five sentences!” she chuckled) and I have a file full of hers. And now that we’re fifty-somethings, we’re grandmas – although, thanks be to God, neither of us have dentures nor very many gray hairs yet. 🙂

Michael and I just returned from taking Tauni to the airport, and she’s on her way home to her husband as I write this. I wonder when I will see her again. Even if it’s not for many more years, we still have this long and lovely friendship, and this deep and meaningful fellowship in Christ.

I’m counting my blessings today, and one of the best is my friend Tauni…

Edition 19-Wednesday’s Word

September 16, 2009 | My Jottings

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”

Samuel Chadwick

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Our September Playlist

September 14, 2009 | My Jottings

Our stereo is hooked up to an intercom system that plays all over our house, which I love. There are controls in the different rooms so you can turn the music down in the bedroom while someone is resting, and still keep it louder in the kitchen where you’re cutting up jalapenos for the pico de gallo.

Here are the CDs playing over and over in our house and car lately:

1.  LOTP

Bob Bennett – A Compilation (especially “Saviour of the World” and “Mountain Cathedrals”)


2.  Jacaranda-Cover Art

Josh Garrels – Jacaranda (especially “The Rabbit and the Bear”)


3.  616C486N1BL._SL500_AA240_

Celtic Woman – Celtic Woman (especially “Last Rose of Summer” and “Nella Fantasia”)


4.  61JFVjCMRtL._SL500_AA240_

Little Women – Movie soundtrack (especially “Under the Umbrella” and “For the Beauty of the Earth”)


5.  41V67XM93VL._SL500_AA240_

Jennifer Knapp – Lay It Down (especially “Usher Me Down” and “You Remain”)


6.  maron_uptown_cvr_150

Maron Gaffron – Uptown (especially “Housewives Song” and “Uptown”)

What’s on your playlist these days?

Preparing for a guest

September 11, 2009 | My Jottings

Ever since we moved into this big house, we’ve had lots of company. We have a third floor guest suite than can sleep five, and we have enjoyed hosting friends and family every chance we get. As a matter of fact, I just extended an invitation to a dear Scottish friend who may be coming to our continent soon, and we’re hoping that she and her husband will take us up on our offer.

I like preparing for guests. I don’t buy pricey sheets for our bedroom, but for our guest suite I like having expensive, lush-feeling sheets on the beds. We have a little fridge up there that I try to fill with things I know our guests will like. I put piles of books and magazines around, have a boom box with soft classical music playing for their arrival, there’s a rocking recliner overlooking our woodsy back yard with a creek, and a puffy goose-down comforter on the queen bed for fall and winter visitors. In the summer we put in a window air conditioner with a remote control. For a Minnesota north woods touch, on the wall of the sitting room is a bird clock that sounds a real recording of an owl at noon, a cardinal at three and a chickadee at six.

The decor in the guest suite is a bit plain. Taupe-colored carpet. White chenille bedspreads on the queen and two twin beds, like my grandmother used to have, and a few yellow and green Waverly throw pillows. Dark olive green walls. Angled ceilings, since it’s on our third floor. A couple of very old floral needlepoint pictures hanging on the walls, that my maternal Grandma Oma stitched years ago. Some bookcases, a dresser, an old maple desk, a white crib, a television, a nightstand.


The view above looks out toward the front of our house.


This one above looks out over the back yard and Birdinal Creek. Our next visitor will be able to see that just a few maple leaves have begun to turn red and orange. See the little white fridge? If this were your space and you were preparing for my visit, you would put Golden Delicious apples in there, along with bottles of water, tiny Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups, and some fresh pineapple. You would also put a box of Carr’s rosemary crackers on top of the fridge and maybe a bit of cheese to go with them. 🙂


What do you (or what would you) put in your guest room in anticipation of visitors? I would love a new idea or three. Or is there someplace you go where nice things are done in preparation for your stay? What would you appreciate?

In less than a week, one of my dearest friends will wing her way across the country to come for a visit. Tauni and I grew up right over the fence from each other in West Covina, California. We’ve been friends for over forty-something years now, kept in touch, infrequently visited each other, and prayed for each others’ families.

It’s wonderful how when you share a deep faith in Christ with a friend, nothing really separates you. You can live thousands of miles apart, see each other once a decade, and not really be part of each others’ day-to-day living. But still there’s a bond that is so strong and steady, the passing of years and the distance of miles doesn’t weaken it at all. If anything, I think my friendships built on Jesus just get stronger and more satisfying as the years fly by. Tauni is that kind of friend for me.

We’re both grandmas now. We’ve both seen really hard times, and found God faithful in all of them.

I’m so excited to see her, and I’m happily getting the guest suite ready for her arrival.

Edition 18-Wednesday’s Word

September 9, 2009 | My Jottings

The heart that is constantly overflowing with gratitude will be safe from those attacks of resentfulness and gloom that bother so many persons.

A. W. Tozer

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I really am hoping to get this one, and soon…

Paperwork, moving and a raccoon

September 7, 2009 | My Jottings

For several days I’ve been watching an industrious and creepy spider spin her web right outside my office window, two feet from where I sit. She never seemed to be still, and her sinister jointed legs picked their way over the tiny strands with a delicate deliberation that gave me the willies. I am not a fan of spiders. I know how much good they do, eating untold millions of bugs each day, and I’m aware that our planet would be overrun with other insects if it weren’t for spiders, but I still don’t think fondly of them.

My friend Tauni’s daughter Shannon had some spine-chilling spider experiences recently — she wrote about them so well on her blog, here. Watching the spider by my window wasn’t anything like Shannon’s arachnid afflictions, but it still made me think. (You know how strange and off-kilter your life has become when spiders make you think.)

The nickel-sized spider outside my window died a few days after making her home there, and is still attached to her web. She is getting more translucent by the day, and her eight legs, previously eerily jointed, are now relaxed and stretched smooth and long. The fall breezes blow the sad remnant of her little web around, and her with it. I’m wondering if she will still be there when the first snow falls.

This kind of aimless pondering is the result of having too much paperwork to do. Looking at dead spiders in their ruined webs and musing about the complexities of life seems like the most normal thing in the world when you have piles of papers around you that must be tended to daily.

We have a business that is licensed by the State and by the County, and every two years the State of Minnesota comes into our home and goes over our paperwork to make sure we’re doing everything correctly and that we deserve to keep the license we’ve been given. The licensor spends the entire day at our kitchen table, surrounded by stacked notebooks full of my carefully kept paperwork, poring over every single page and issuing citations if something is not quite right. We love our work and are so thankful for it, but the bane of our business is the hours of paperwork, schmaperwork, that is required each week.

So gazing at a dead spider stuck to an old web is an oddly welcome diversion from all this never-ending record keeping.

And, I’ve been thinking about moving. I have always hated moving, because I’m a nester and love settling in and staying for decades in one place. Why try something new when the old has always worked? is the melancholy person’s motto, and up until recently it was most certainly mine. But I’m thinking about moving to a smaller house. Something that doesn’t demand so much of us.

I asked Michael recently what he would think about selling everything and moving to Madeline Island — just getting a cozy two bedroom house on the largest island in the Apostle Islands chain in Lake Superior, and he was open to the idea. He is open to most ideas, though, because he isn’t allergic to change like I am. He loves change.

I think if I didn’t have grandbabies so close by, I would call a Madeline Island real estate agent today. I’ve already looked online at the available houses, and there are two or three I think could work. But the thought of moving two hours away from these sweet children makes my heart ache. So right now, like my contemplation of the dead spider blowing in the breeze, a move to Madeline Island is something that I only think about when the paperwork Alps are getting too steep for me to climb.

Lastly, a few days ago Edith and Millie were outside in the morning, doing their intense sniffing and brisk trotting around the perimeter of the back yard. I heard them start to bark, but it was shriek-barking, not woof-barking. I figured they had spotted one of the eighty-seven bunnies that live in our woods, and I looked out the kitchen window to see. It wasn’t a rabbit at all, but a raccoon the size of an overturned wheelbarrow, teeth viciously bared, chasing Millie and about to attack. Millie kept darting away from the raccoon and then the animal would reluctantly retreat, waddling over the bank of the little creek in our back yard. Then the dogs would frantically sniff and draw close to the spot where the coon had disappeared, and there he would come again, up over the bank, rushing and growling toward our Schnauzers. He was alarmingly quick. I went to the door to call the dogs in, and the huge raccoon, literally the size of a giant, dome-like desert tortoise, chased them close to the house.

I haven’t seen the masked marauder since, but we all know he’s out there. Maybe helping his wife protect some babies? Maybe drawing maps and planning midnight raids to get into our garbage?

All I can say is, don’t try it, Rocky. Take your little baby raccoons and move it on down the creek. If I see you again I will come at you with a towering pile of paperwork that will make you sorry you ever set foot on the banks of Birdinal Creek. You will soon be transparent and lifeless, legs relaxed and outstretched, stuck in a web and wafting in the wind, a shell of your former rancorous raccoon self.

Oh dear. Maybe moving to an island, away from all the stress, really would help after all.

Contest winner

My Jottings

"Ma'am, you should never put water on a grease fire."

“Ma’am, you should never put water on a grease fire.”

I loved the entries of Deb, Kay, Tauni and Carolyn for the caption contest, but this one, entered by Carolyn, made me laugh the most, and it edged out the other ones just a bit.

This is my grandson Elijah in his fireman costume and I think the photo was calling for a caption.

I thought about not choosing this caption, because Carolyn is my daughter and some might cry nepotism, but if anyone else had come up with this entry I would have chosen it. 🙂

Carolyn wins a Target gift certificate as September’s bloggy giveaway winner! Yay!

Thank you all….