Great Sadness

I am learning what grief is, first-hand. My oldest sister has passed away from a brain tumor. While we were all sheltering at home, the tumor was growing, and we didn’t recognize the symptoms until it was too late. She was cremated and when it is safe for us all to be together, there will be a memorial service.

Sis was the first of our generation to pass away. Although she was in her early eighties, I thought she would be among us forever. There is a huge hole in my heart where she used to reside. I hope that eventually I will find she is still there.

One of the best qualities she had was her ability to include everyone in what was going on. She always made me feel a part of things, and welcomed Dear Husband and me to every holiday gathering she hosted. That was no mean feat, given that she had a huge family. I loved getting to see how the kids were growing and having the chance to hear what was happening in the adult’s lives.

I could give you a laundry list of all her accomplishments, but I know that her immediate family would prefer that her life not be spread over the Internet, so let me just say that she was an amazingly talented woman, who raised a lovely family, who was generous with her time and compassion. She was the person we all want to be.

I miss you, Sis.

Catching Up Part 2

I can’t believe I haven’t been here since February 25, 2018. I write blog entries in my head all the time, but it seems that I rarely get around to putting them down.

It’s been a tough year for all of us, more so for some. As I write more than 322,000 people in the US have lost their lives to covid-19. The numbers across the world are horrifying, and yet we have a portion of our population who see wearing a mask as an infringement on their personal rights. I’m so very tempted to let them suffer the consequences, but there are several problems with that thought. First, they could possibly spread the disease. The idea of wearing a mask is to keep the virus to ourselves, and perhaps it reminds us to be more careful as we go about our day, so that we aren’t in places where we can pick up the virus.

Secondly, the nation is paying for the astonishing cost of care that a person with covid-19 requires. Those who don’t wear masks/wash hands/social distance are likely not to be able to afford that cost, so we as a country have to shoulder the expense for those who are not willing to do what they can to eradicate this beast. How long will our medical personnel be able to keep up the effort required to help people with the virus? The constant fear of becoming ill themselves, and the emotional toll of seeing patient after patient die is more than we should be asking of them. While it’s nice that the President is sending military medical personnel to California to help in the hospitals, wouldn’t it have been better to head this off when they knew it was coming?? I digress.

I suppose I have to admit that there is a moral problem with my suggestion, but anyone who is so egocentric that they feel they don’t have to help in this fight has a moral problem. My husband feels this is a form of natural selection, but the problem with this is that they take others with them.

The vaccine is available. It’s just starting to be administered. We have a LONG way to go inoculating the country, but we’ve made a start. Hubby and I won’t be in the first or second wave, maybe not even in the next two or three months, so we are still sheltering at home. Christmas was hard, not being able to be with family.

I’m lucky that my husband is my best friend. We are comfortable passing the time together. We have a simple routine that gets us through the days. I’m going to need to get out and walk this Spring. I’ve gained the covid 15 (and more). I can see adding treadmill sessions to our Zoom exercise until the sidewalks are clear again.

We’ve been trying new recipes, cooking together. Hubby is an excellent sous chef, and willing to work with me in the kitchen so that we can try more complex recipes. I have such a taste for baked things and have been trying to limit them, but I just ordered a magazine called “Bake From Scratch.” Maybe a bad choice! I did not make a single Christmas cookie this year!

I hope that those of you who may read this blog, or just this post, are making good choices. I hope my friends are well, and have escaped all the problems that covid-19 has thrust upon us. I wish you well in this coming year, and hope that 2021 will allow us to be together again without fear. Hugggggggs!

Catching Up

Has it really been a year since I last posted? My friend, Cop Car, in her Christmas card encouraged me to get back to blogging, as it is how she keeps track of me. I just wrote to a friend that I’m saddened that people don’t write e-mails to their friends. It seems that I shifted from blogging to e-mails, and keep track of friends that way.

I’m having difficulty sleeping this evening, but I’ll need to give it another try, soon. I think I’ll try to do a VERY quick rundown of last year, just for Cop Car.

Fred had a very damp soaring season. It seemed as though it rained all week, making the field too wet for use on weekends. However, toward the end of the season he was up for a 2 1//2 hour flight, followed by a 3 1/2 hour flight, his longest at this field. He’s VERY eager for the season to resume. Did I tell you that he and two others bought a beautiful little one-seat glider?

We decided to bite the bullet and hire someone to guide us through renovating our kitchen. We put in granite counters, renovated the interior of four cabinets, added 8 more cabinets to make a faux hutch, with a matching granite counter top, replaced all the cabinet fronts and knobs, and installed a new sink and faucet. The couple who did the work did a fine job, but started late and dragged it out for a month. Still, I’m very happy with my “new” kitchen.

It’s possible we may have to look for a new stove/oven. The electronics are getting a bit odd, and I don’t think it is heating consistently.

Last fall we also got a new roof and gutters, thanks to Mother Nature. It took them two days, plus one more for the gutters several weeks later, but again, we’re very happy with the job.

We had a Grand Marquis that was 22 to 23 years old. I got into the car as a passenger one day, after having not been in the car for several years, and thought we might not make it home safely. I set Dear Husband to car shop as soon as we got home. We generally travel together in a car we bought two years ago, but wanted to have a second car that DH could use to go out to the soaring field. We settled on a stripped down Subaru Forester. We chose to add in heated seats, rather than paying for a package that included the sunroof.

We got to visit with my niece’s German boyfriend before Christmas. He flew in, and we took her to O’Hare to collect him. On his way back to Germany, she brought her parents along, and we all made the trip to the airport. I was delighted to learn that he had proposed to her. It makes me smile just to think about it.

Right after Thanksgiving i had a strange episode that felt like angina. My doc had me do an ultrasound, and then sent me to a surgeon. The upshot of all those visits was that I had my gallbladder removed. The surgery went very well, and my incisions are healing nicely. I am not supposed to lift anything more than 10 pounds for a couple of weeks, and I have some minor changes in diet that are not a problem. In all, I feel lucky that things have gone so well.

I thought that last year would see the end of my charity quilting group, but the remaining two ladies said that they wished to continue. I’ve finished one large top, and have two more in the works. Our first meeting of the year will be this coming Tuesday.

And that’s the highlights! DH seems to be doing well, and we’re keeping up with our exercise. I hope all who read this are well, and enjoying 2018.

We bought a home two and a half years ago, and I knew at the time that we needed to change some of the plantings at the front of the house. The previous owner planted holly bushes in a two-foot strip between the sidewalk to the front door and the garage. There are three major problems. One is that the area is in deep shade, no direct sunshine at all. And the second is that holly is prickly, and our guests could be scratched as they walk up the sidewalk. The third is that holly should be much too large for the area where these have been planted. The space requires a much smaller planting. I need to move two or three of the six plants to the back gardens, and give away the rest.

On the other side of the sidewalk there is a shrub rose and two plants which might be red-twigged dogwood. All three of those plants need to be moved, so that they get the sunlight they need, and the area leading up to the front door is open and inviting. I’ll have to research shade plants that will work in those two areas. Hosta and coral bells would work, but I’d like to look a little further.

We also have a bank of shrubs touching the front face of the house. There is a mass of overgrown juniper, a beautiful barberry, and a yew. The specialists at the Growing Place tell me we need to rip out the juniper because it is so overgrown. It would be okay to replant juniper there, but the present plants can’t be pruned back to a reasonable size. The yew brings in a green that doesn’t go with anything else that has been planted. I won’t mind ripping that out. I could bring in grasses behind the barberry, to contrast the form and color.

As soon as I learn how to upload a picture, this will make more sense. I have the perfect view of the house to share.

Winter’s End

We have had an astonishing Winter. We went 87 days with snowfalls of an inch or less. Actually, I bet there were about 85 days with NO SNOWFAll! I can’t remember a Winter like this; it’s a first. Temperatures were unusually mild. It felt like Spring a month ago. We were out on the lawn measuring everything that didn’t move, preparing for a landscaping class. Our neighbors were out working on their lawns, using leaf blowers to clean the sidewalks and drives.

Of course, now that we are in our last week of Winter, temperatures have plummeted, and storms are on the way. We had a couple of inches last night, and they are forecasting 6-9″ in the Chicago area, tonight and tomorrow. Cook and Lake counties, which border Lake Michigan, and DuPage county, are likely to have lake effect snow, which will bring them nine inches. We’re in Algonquin at the moment, and the northern suburbs may have six inches, perhaps a little less to the south.

I can deal with this. What worries me is that Winter could possibly come when we should be seeing Spring. I’ve lived through a blizzard that shut down Chicago in May. I’d rather not see that again. Everyone, think positive: NO MORE WINTER!!

Battle of the minds

We have a battle going on at my house. My husband seems to be thinking of ways to outsmart the neighborhood squirrels. I suspect that this is going to be fun to watch, because the squirrels have been hit and run experts for many years, and are not intimidated by the opening of the back door.

My sister gave us birdseed bells, suet, and a suet hanger for Christmas. I thought it was a splendid gift. I still do, actually, and so do the squirrels. I was concerned about the squirrels carrying the bell off, so we were careful about strapping it to the tree. I thought it might last part of a week, so that the birds might have a chance at it. It was gone in less than a day!

I could hear the gears turning in my husband’s brain as he thought about this problem. I came into the kitchen the next morning to find one of my pastry brushes sitting in the sink, with ORANGE bristles!
Sitting to the side of the sink was the other birdseed bell, with orange blobs and streaks over the surface. I don’t know exactly what he had painted on the bell, but I suspect it was something that would sear a squirrel’s mouth. I wondered if we were going to have to set a bowl of milk out on the patio to provide relief.

So, yesterday morning, after the surface had dried a bit, Dear Husband hung the second bell in the tree outside the kitchen window. There was a testing of the bounty, and then a pause for a couple of hours to regroup, while just the birds had a chance at it. Then, one of the squirrels came back to try eating from the bottom up. How did that sneaky little devil figure out that the bottom side of the bell was safe? DH says he should have hung the bell and THEN painted it!

While all this was going on, the squirrels had been ignoring the suet feeder, for the most part. When they couldn’t eat the bell, they changed their focus to the suet feeder. It’s two-sided, so it can hold two of the suet cakes at a time. I looked over later in the morning to see that both doors hung ajar and there was no suet to be seen!

Okay, so now Dear Husband is thinking about ways to lock the suet holder shut that will allow us to refill the boxes, but keep the squirrels out. And, he’s thinking about ways to paint the birdseed bells more successfully. AND, he realizes that he has to hang these things farther out on the branches so that the squirrels can’t reach them.

This situation is very different from our previous home where baffles and placement of poles was all that was called for. Someone has been training these squirrels, and it’s going to take some planning to outwit them. Scary thought isn’t it?

Middle of the Night Post

It’s the middle of the night and my feet are keeping me awake, so I’m going to post just a few quick thoughts.

My Thanksgiving post was the last time I saw my nephew, Andy. I’m SO glad that we participated, and that I had the chance to be with him before he passed away! It’s a Thanksgiving that will stay in my memory.

I was able to read what I shared with you at Andy’s funeral. Every friend he had ever made attended, and friends of all his family members came, too. He was a special man, and I’m glad his friends made the time to say goodbye.

Cookies. I think I had ten types of cookies by the time I quit baking. I wish I could say the Kolacke turned out well, but some of them didn’t stay folded over. They tasted good, but should have been rolled out thinner. IF there is ever another baking season like this, I’ll make my mother’s recipe for Kolacke, instead. Her’s were the little pillows of enriched dough, with indentations for raspberry or apricot jam, sprinkled with 10X sugar. I remember them fondly, and would like to give them a try.

Dear Husband is now official! His glider pilot license came in the mail last week. His thoughts are turning toward gliding, despite the fact that we are in the middle of winter. He wants to make a trip to Florida to look at a plane that is for sale.

My “Christmas” cacti are in riotous bloom! I have two large plants in the front window that are a hot orange color, with scads of blooms in all stages, and there are two pots of starts in my bathroom window that have the lovely fuchsia color. When they finish blooming, some time in early spring, I’m going to repot them, but I can wait until the blooms are done for the year.

I organized a dinner at a Chinese restaurant for anyone in our exercise group who wished to attend. I thought perhaps 25 people would participate, and was pleased when 22 showed up. I looked out the window around 3:30 in the afternoon to see that it was SNOWING!! It has been dry and cold for days, and we were supposed to get rain later in the evening. Since a large part of our class is in their seventies or eighties, I was surprised that anyone attended at all! It will be interesting to hear what they have to say about the evening when we return to class.

Enough. Perhaps it’s time to see if I can sleep. Night, all!

Christmas Giving

I’ve probably posted on this subject every year for the past ten years. I feel like the Grinch! I really don’t like to shop, and rarely know what to give my family, yet I need to make the effort.

My oldest sister gave me a book I can’t wait to read. My younger sister, who knows that we love to watch our backyard birds, gave us a suet holder and suet, and birdseed bells. Both of these are perfect gifts, something I really enjoy. Now, why couldn’t I remember that they love these things, too?

I told someone recently that I thought we should either have a specific limit as to how much we could spend on a gift, or, perhaps we should try having a year where we only gave things we made. I’ve been operating along a mix of those two ideas for a while, and both of them have pros and cons. It takes a lot of time to make things for my entire family, and not everyone wants something I can make. There are times when the perfect gift falls outside the cash limit that has been set. I need more ideas. I want to give more than a card, but not be bankrupt at the end of the holidays.

And, time is always an issue. I may have to start working on Christmas in September to accomplish everything. It takes a LOT longer these days to get it all done.

I feel very Grinch-y right now. It’s a good thing Christmas is past.

I Love Winter

I love winter when the sidewalks have been shoveled and the pavement is dry. I love winter when the roads are plowed and there is no slipping or skidding of cars on the road. I love winter when I can stand inside my cozy home and look out on the new-fallen, glittery white snow. I love winter when the temperature is between 30 and 40. I love winter when there is little wind, and very little wind chill.

I really do like winter, but as I age, the danger of slipping as I walk is a much more serious matter than it used to be. I don’t drive in snow storms unless I have no option. I don’t own clothing appropriate for temperatures below 20, or for snows higher than about six inches, and I don’t really want to!

Now that we live in a subdivision with sidewalks, we have to shovel, but the driveway is quite short, and the sidewalk length is manageable if we double team it. Still, I need to find someone to do our shoveling. Dear Husband shouldn’t be lifting heavy, wet snow, and I really don’t care to do the entire job on my own.

On the bright side, winter gives me a chance to piece quilts! I can hibernate in the basement, and sew to my heart’s content. Some days I barely make it upstairs in time for meals, and it’s a darned good thing that my hubby knows how to cook!

When spring arrives, perhaps the neighbors will see me once more.

Christmas Cookies

I’ve been baking, and I expect to bake all this week. I started with Turtle Pecan Shortbread. The picture looked wonderful, and the shortbread, which had almond extract, smelled heavenly! But, the caramel was a problem. You’re supposed to melt 24 caramels, and then dip two sides of the pie-shaped cookies in the caramel, and then in chopped pecans. The caramel is so hard and chewy you could break your teeth on it!

I have about 18 shortbread left that didn’t get to meet the caramel. I’m going to use chocolate to glue half a pecan on the center of each, and then drizzle them with chocolate. I’m thinking about dredging one edge in the melted chocolate and then in pecans, but I may opt for the easier version.

On the more successful side, I’ve baked Russian Tea Cakes (the little confectioner sugar snowballs), Peanut Butter Blossoms (which aren’t really a Christmas cookie, but are something my family likes at Christmas) and Thumbprints. I’ve frozen the Thumbprints, to be filled with jelly and/or icing later this week. I followed the directions, but they still turned out to be a two-bite cookie. I’ll have to talk with my youngest sis to see how she does them, because hers are one-bite.

I’ve also made fudge with semi-sweet chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and walnuts. And, I’ve made Haystacks with milk chocolate. I’m thinking about one more run of fudge, with milk chocolate.

I’m working on Kolache, the kind which are made from LOTS of butter, cream cheese and flour. I plan to use raspberry and apricot fillings, and I’m going to create and fill the cookies and then freeze them. They can be baked Christmas Eve morning.

I also plan to make “Fanciful Raspberry Ribbons,” and Sugar Crisp. (LOTS of Sugar Crisp.) That should be more than enough to create gift trays and have plenty for our house, too. I hope I manage to get them all done, and artfully arranged on the trays by Christmas Eve!