Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This morning, I engaged in an activity that I really enjoy.  It's something I learned to do in my early twenties, simply by trying and trying again.  My first attempt was not so good, but with practice, I became fairly comfortable with the results.
What am I talking about?  Baking bread. I am not talking about dumping ingredients into a bread machine and pushing the on button, but the real experience.  Using simple flour, yeast, water, sugar and a few other ingredients, I can create something worthy of fresh jam.

There is something so enjoyable, nearly sensual, about the process.  There is the scents...that warm yeasty smell that brings a sense of anticipation to the atmosphere.  Then there is the fell of the dough.  I set a timer, then it is just me and that dough.  At first it's a pile of flour that sticks to the board. I sprinkle on more flour, fold the dough in half, then turn it a quarter.  This action I repeat over and over again, and slowly, the dough comes together, becoming an elastic, smooth ball.  There is such an elemental feeling as you stand there, up to your wrists in warm dough.

Then I put the dough ball in a greased bowl, cover it and step away for an hour. 

The time up, I check, and find the ball has doubled in size.  Now comes the fun part. I plunge my fist into the warm dough, deflating it.  Next comes the shaping... I usually roll it out, and form it into loaves and put them in a loaf pan.  This time, however, I tried shaping them into free form loaves...like the kind you get form a bakery.  It seemed to go well.

Now, more rising time...that done, the loaves slip into a hot oven.  Once baked, you tip it over, and give it a thump, and hope it is done.  I rub butter over the crust, to soften and flavor. 

Then your kitchen has that warm, grandmother's-kitchen smell.  It's heavenly.... I love baking bread!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What happened?

Some of you may have noticed that I have been mostly absent from both this blog and from Facebook, for over a week.  I finally realized why.  I couldn't figure it out, but now know that I was withdrawing, hiding.  See, something happened last week that shook the stability of my world.  And until I tell about it, I can't seem to function.

My parents' home was broken into a week ago Monday.  My father was not home, and my mother was sleeping.  She woke up hearing noise, and believing it was my father, called out.  Getting no answer beyond more noise, she struggled to wake up. When she got up, she found the house empty, now, but a mess.  The front door was damaged, and the frame destroyed. Drawers were pulled out, dumped out, pawed through...including the dressers in the very room my mother had been sleeping in. 

Only some jewelry was taken, but the damage far exceeds the physical loss.  There is the primary loss of a sense of safety. 

I now find myself worrying about my parents in a way that I never have before.  I have to resist the urge to call, every day.  I find myself praying for them a lot more...yes, that's a good thing.  I check the door locks at least twice before I go to bed.  Sometimes more. 

So, that's it.  The reason I have been absent for over a week.  This event, and the aftermath, has permeated my every moment, my every thought...and if you'll excuse me, I need to go check the locks again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just what is Pocket Stew?

About a week ago, I mentioned on Facebook that I was making Pocket Stew for dinner.  I got asked by several people (on FB and via phone) just what it was.  So, I'll explain.  When I was a kid, I was in the Girl Scouts.  During a campout, we made these nifty foil dinners that were cooked in the coals of a fire.  I told my mom about them when I got home, and she figured out how to make them in the oven.  When I had kids, I made these for them...actually, I'd let them assemble them-thus even picky eaters would be happy.

Pocket Stew:

Ingredients (approximate):

1 pd lean hamburger (or ground chicken)
1 onion, sliced
3 potatoes, peeled, and sliced thin
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On two cookie sheets, lay out a length of foil for each family member.  Lightly grease the middle of the foil (cooking spray, or margarine).  Lay some onion on each.  Divide hamburger, and form into patties. Put patty on onion.  Put slices of potato on top of hamburger patty & onion, in center of rectangle.  Sprinkle some carrot on top.  Season with salt & pepper. 

Fold top of foil, lengthwise, two times.  Crimp edges.  Place 2 packages on each cookie sheet.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  To check for doneness, carefully open one package (watch out for steam). 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grammommy Nachos

This is a recipe that my mother developed, and I latter tweaked.  My kids always loved it.

Grammommy Nachos

1 lb ground beef (or ground chicken)
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 cup chunky salsa
12 fajita sized flour tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brown meat; drain (I like to rinse it too).  Stir in taco seasoning mix and salsa.  Cook until hot.  IN a bowl, mix cheeses together.  Lay flour tortillas on a cookie sheet (as many as will fit).  Spoon taco mixture onto each tortilla.  Sprinkle some cheese on top.  Bake in oven until cheese is melted and tortilla is toasted. 


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Passing the rock, yet again....

Some days it feels like life is on a treadmill.  Or in a chase scene from an old Western.  The same things keep happening over and over and over...much like watching the Lone Ranger passing by the same clump of trees and that same gray rock over and over again. 

Dishes get dirty. They get washed, put away.  Step away from the sink, and a minute later, there's a sinkful of the same dishes again.  Get that piece of molding fixed, and then find another repair needing attention.  Get home from a grocery shopping expedition, get everything put away, only to discover you are out of sugar.  It never seems to end.

Where am I going with this post?  Honestly, I am not really sure.  (hence, the name 'random musings') I have a habit of writing myself out of moods. I think I am trying to do that here.

So....I guess all I can do, when I find myself on the treadmill, and passing that same clump of trees, yet again, is to try to find the beauty of the moment, wherever I can.  I have a long standing habit of trying to appreciate things, to not take things for granted.  I am thankful every day as I walk into my workplace that I have a job that I enjoy.  I am thankful each time I get into my wee little car, and hear that engine start right up.  I am thankful that I live in a beautiful apartment, where maintenance handles the repairs.  I am thankful that I have three wonderful children, that even if I don't see them every day (or every week even), I do get phone calls, texts and emails. 

So tomorrow morning, when I drive through the predicted ice storm, I will try to appreciate how the street lights make the icicles glisten. 

Wait, better attitude.  I will look for random moments of beauty, a kind word spoken to me, the first glorious scent of my morning tea, the friendly guard who always opens the door at work, the sun shining sometime midday.  I will wait, and watch.  There..now I feel mostly better.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I remember when Saturday morning meant something really special.  My sister & I would pad downstairs in our footed pajamas, my brother sleepily following, hurrying to the television (the only one in the house back then).  I'd manually click on the set, manually spin the dial to one of the four stations (CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS).  And there they would be.  The joy of a Saturday morning.  Cartoons.

There were the standards, of course: Bugs Bunny.  Wil E. Coyote.  Tom&Jerry (ick).  But the ones I loved the most were more sci fantasy oriented:  Johnny Swift.  Thundar the Barbarian.  SuperFriends.  Justice League of America.  All those superheros.....  My sister and I would sit, far too close to the tv until my mom would come tell us to move...we'd sit and watch the cartoons, totally engrossed, for hours.... only taking a brake to grab a bowl of Qwisp cereal or Captain Crunch.  Yum! 

We would watch until the morning was over, and the shows were over until the next week.  Then we'd get changed, and go outside to play. 

But the magic was there...and cartoons were special.  I think that they were more cherished because they only came once a week.  Rarity increases the value.  Sometimes I miss those mornings.....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Life Intervenes

To those faithful few who read my blog, you might wonder, where have I been this past month? I've had a few computer glitches, cured several times via advice over the phone or in person by my computer smart sons, or by my daughter who figured out which buttons to mash.  My beloved puter seems to be working smoothly now, so I'm back.

This bump into the daily routine of life got me thinking about other life bumps.  Those random things that seemingly just happen to us.  They push us off the course to which we'd planned. 

Take my recent days without home computer access. Instead of being on Facebook, or reading Stone Soup (my favorite comic), instead I read several books, did some organizing, talked to friends on the phone, and did some mending.  That might not sound as much fun as gabbing on Facebook, but it gave me more time to talk to my parents, and made a difference in my house.  Not to mention the extra reading time! 

Then there was my recent experience at the main hospital.  I am legendary for my ability to get lost.  I was headed down from the 9th floor and looking for the South elevators, and got a wee bit turned around.  Well, I stopped by this one window, and saw the city from that lofty view. For an industrial city, there was so much green!  I never realized that there were so many trees around here. It was so beautiful.

Then there was last Thursday. I drove off to work, in the morning sunlight, thinking about how the day would be a pretty good one. I figured on a good day at work, then had plans afterwards.  Instead of this course of events, I got a call mid-morning that changed my entire day. Instead of my plans, I spent the rest of the day in the ER with my daughter, then the subsequent 2 days back and forth between home and her hospital room.  (She is fine..had appendix removed.) The good part of all this, beside her renewed health, is that I had several good conversations with her, mother/daughter time.  Also, I was warmed by my sons' response. I got texts from one son asking about his sister's condition, and the other showed up suddenly at her bedside.  Several good friends visited, and one of our pastors showed up in pre-op in time to pray over her beforehand.

Between the visits, the texts, and the phone calls, I was reminded about how interconnected we are.  The outpouring of concern and love for my family was warming,and something I'll hold onto. 

So, sometimes the bumps in life can bring good things....or at least interesting interludes.