Friday, May 13, 2016

Mama was a COD

My mother was a true COD (child of the depression).  She could scrape the mayonnaise jar so clean, it looked like it had already been washed.  And yes, we kept all the mayonnaise jars (and the jelly jars - I wish I still had the marmalade jar collection).  She crocheted rugs from the plastic bread bags she washed and saved.  Even empty Kleenex boxes were saved, so we could come in from shoveling snow, put our feet into the Kleenex box without removing our boots, and make that emergency trip to the bathroom without taking off all the outdoor gear.  (There were, quite likely, bread wrappers on our feet inside the boots, as well.)

I was reminded of this yesterday, as I went through my ancient three ring recipe binder, placing all the old handwritten pieces into sheet protectors.  It's touching to find the recipes mom wrote out for me, often noting which sister gave her the recipe.  (Almost always, Bernice or Rosie, one from Bea.)  Those recipes were, without fail, written on scrap paper.

Often, as in the photo above, recipes were passed to me, written on the back of  outdated invoice paper, or key punch cards, which her brother brought to her from his employer.  Instead of "wasting" the paper, it was brought to our house, and put to good use.  I can't tell you how many recipes are written on the back of yellow cardstock, promoting a display spinner - the Harvard beet recipe is notable, because it's not only on the yellow cardstock paper, one of my kids took a bite out of the edge.

Junk mail was saved and anything printed on one side was turned, clean side up, and placed onto a small clipboard next to mom's place at the kitchen table - to the immediate right of her coffee cup, saucer, and spoon.  (Aside - I never saw her drink coffee from a mug, always cup, saucer, spoon.) She used those pieces to write her grocery lists, or to share a short recipe.  I actually have a three ingredient sauce recipe that was written on the bottom half of a piece of junk mail, and ripped in half, so as not to waste that extra blank space.

Today is garbage day in my neighborhood.  Each house in my neighborhood puts out two large bins on wheels - one for recycling, and one for garbage.  In my youth in Minneapolis, our family of four was allowed one metal lidded can (Oscar the Grouch style) per household, and it was picked up once a week; rarely did we fill ours.  Granted, we each also had a burning barrel in the driveway.

This is how trash went at our house:  There was a large wastebasket in the kitchen, lined with a paper grocery bag; this was for burnables, like dirty Kleenex, paper towels (which we bought one roll at a time, and used judiciously), labels from the canned vegetables, etc.  There was another bag for the unburnables like the empty vegetable cans, etc.  In a corner of the kitchen sink, there was an open milk carton, inside a bread wrapper (we must have eaten a LOT of bread) and all the wet waste went in there - egg shells, potato peels, orange rinds. All tin cans were rinsed, labels removed, both ends removed, and flattened.  Every week, before trash pick-up, the bag of cans and other unburnables went out to the trash can; the paper stuff went into the burning barrel, a twist tie went around the bread wrapper holding the wet trash, and it too went to the lidded can in the alley.  And that's how a family of four got by with one small can.

I know that these days we are no longer allowed to burn, but I can't help but wonder what is worse for our environment - burying all that waste, or burning it.  Granted, back in the 60s, we didn't get every single thing from the grocery store double wrapped, in moisture proof styrofoam trays.  We didn't get our sandwich in a plastic bag with a zip top - you learned to do the "drug store wrap," and your sandwich was in a piece of waxed paper, as were the celery and carrot sticks.  Ice cream came in cartons, which could be rinsed and flattened, before being put in the burning bag.  And those foil insulated bags that kept your ice cream frozen on the way home?  Saved and re-used, sometimes in your school lunch bag.

Just remembered... there was a man you called when the burning barrel got full and he came and emptied it in the back of his rusty red truck, by hand.  Actually got out of the truck and lifted it up himself....

All this from going through my old recipe folder.

Friday, May 06, 2016


Growing up in Minnesota, wherever we lived, there was rhubarb.  My earliest memories of rhubarb are of my mother cutting the first ready stalk, hacking off both ends, and letting me sit on the back step with a custard cup of sugar.  The end of the crunchy stalk was dipped in the sugar, and then a tart, crisp, gritty bite was taken.  I rarely finished the whole stalk, and never asked for a second one the rest of the growing season, but that very first taste was the taste of spring.

The last hobby farm my parents owned sported a large garden with a long row of rhubarb - it had to be at least 30 feet long.  As soon as it was ready to pick, mom filled the freezer with bags of frozen cut rhubarb, and put up jars of cooked sauce.  She gave away what she could to friends and relatives and then called our neighbor, "Scherber," to come and harvest what he wanted for his family.  He always showed up in his pick-up truck, three of his sons in the back, with a stack of galvanized wash tubs.  They were like locusts - they took everything that remained, every year, filled those wash-tubs to overflowing, and his wife thanked my mother effusively, saying how much it helped keep her large family fed with some sort of fruit throughout the winter.

My former mother-in-law (who hailed from South Dakota) loved rhubarb.  She also never did anything halfway - when rhubarb was in season, we had rhubarb everything - cakes in numerous iterations, pies in almost as many different ways as cakes, and sauce.  Even she couldn't make a dent in my mother's rhubarb patch.  I bet the Scherber family was glad of that.

The first house my now-ex and I owned had a patch of rhubarb.  It took up a large spot next to the fence where I wanted to plant a hedge to soften the fence line.  The first year we had the house, we dug up the rhubarb, but it came back the next spring.  That year, we roto-tilled the rhubarb, thinking that would destroy it.  Instead, rhubarb came up the entire length of the fence the next year.  That fall, I planted tulip bulbs and let everything come up together happily the next spring.  Though I gave up trying to eliminate it, I came to see rhubarb as a nuisance, almost a weed.

The taste of rhubarb now represents spring and promise, and that first fresh taste of grow-your-own abundance I remember from Lolo's garden. However, I haven't had rhubarb once since I left Minnesota in 1997.  For many of my adult years, rhubarb was not the taste of spring or youth, but the taste of "eat it, we can't waste it."  But now... without the taste of it in nearly 20 years, it has taken on a new symbolism, it brings back fond memories right up there with irises around the pump house, and the sound of spring peepers.

Today I made the trek to our local upscale grocer - AJ's.  I *love* shopping there, though I don't do so very often.  I made my selection at the seafood counter, and headed toward checkout through the produce aisle.  Everythingin the produce aisle is carefully, lovingly arranged.  The produce manager stood near the display, making fresh cuts on the ends of ruby-red stalks of rhubarb, and artistically arranging them in beautiful straight lines.  I couldn't help myself, I said (rather loudly) "OHhhh, rhubarb!"  He smiled when I asked if he minded if I disrupted his display, and told me to help myself while he went back to the computer to check the price; he didn't want me to have "sticker shock."  I told him I needed a couple other things as well, to take his time.  I also told him how delighted this Minnesota girl was to see rhubarb.  When he returned, he said "I'm glad I checked - it's only $5.99 a pound now.  When we had the hothouse stuff over the winter, it was $11 a pound."  I didn't think I could have sticker shock over the price of rhubarb, but I was wrong!   I told him that I'd once treated it as a weed, and now I am happily paying $5.99 a pound for that taste of my youth.  He smiled and told me that if he could grow rhubarb in Arizona, he could retire, just because of people like me.

During a visit back home to Minnesota a few years ago, I drove past the place where mom had a 30 foot row of rhubarb.  Scherber bought our old hobby farm and folded into his property when my mom moved away after my dad died.  The old farm house is torn down now, and two of his sons have built new houses on the property - one of them right on top of the rhubarb patch.  I guess they got sick of rhubarb too.  I wonder if they know that they have apparently built their new house on a gold mine.

(That little bundle of rhubarb up there at the top of the post cost $6.14.  I am happily paging through Lolo's recipe box and old cookbooks, deciding how to use it.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April Flowers

Played with my "new" camera over the weekend.  (New, as in Christmas gift from Gerry...)  What better subject matter than the intricate beauty of flowers?
 Bower vine

 Cactus garden


 Martha Washington geranium


 Plumbago (above)

 Red Bird of Paradise

 Ladies in waiting (gazania and periwinkle vinca)


One of the majestic yucca blossom spikes crumpled in the wind.  This allowed me to get some close up photos of the blooms, but we've left it collapsed until the bees are done having their way with it.

Round Robin Finale

Last July I posted the starting photos of the TAG Group's Round Robin, here:

The finished results were never posted... I have a variety of excuses.  We had so much going on the day of the reveal, I didn't get decent photos of any of them, but it isn't fair to not show some of the results.
 Diane's Queen of Fortunes (above)

 Yvonne's Queen of Stuff (above)

Cynthia's Queen of Halloween (Above and detail below)

 Deb's Queen of the Garden (above)

Sue's Queen of Chaos (above)

This was one of the most successful doll round robins I've been in.  No one "phoned it in" and everyone was tickled with the doll and the journal that came home to them.

After the December meeting, I announced that I was taking a break from hosting the group for a while.  Unfortunately, we are now four months into 2016, and we haven't had any more meetings.  The good news is that almost everyone involved has continued growing and exploring creatively, just not in a group situation.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I know what you’re thinking.  What does an overweight 65 year-old grandmother, living in the exurbs of Phoenix possibly have to say about Prince?  More than you would think, though nothing so significant that I’m going to get picked up by national wire services or anything. I can get pretty boring when I get lost in my memories, so feel free to stop here.

I haven’t always lived in Arizona – in fact, I’ve only been here for three years.  The first 45 years of my life were spent in and around Minneapolis.  Though I doubt I’ll ever return there to live, Minneapolis is home.  And in Minneapolis, Prince was ours.

Not only did Prince hail from Minneapolis, he grew up in one of the poorer parts of town – just like me. Though seven years younger than I, he spent some time in schools that fed into the high school that I claim. Growing up, going to high school, in one of the most maligned parts of town wasn’t always easy.  I remember being stiff-neck proud and defensive of my neighborhood, my school, and myself.  There was a time in my sophomore year of high school that I went to a dance in the next community – just a little suburb on the other side of the North Minneapolis line.  When one of those cute Robbinsdale boys finally talked to me and asked where I went to school, I told him “Minneapolis North.”  He snuggled up with a sly look and said “oh!  Where all the boys are on drugs and all the girls have red lights in their windows!” We definitely had a public image problem. It's only natural to feel a great deal for the person, the artist, who helped improve that image.  Prince's touch.

My very first real office job, not long after leaving high school, was in the warehouse district, just one block away from the Greyhound Bus depot, which later became First Avenue.  At the time, the bus line deposited an amazing array of people onto the streets near my office.  Some of them, we were forced to step over or push past on the way in the door in the morning.  I grew up on the North Side – I could handle it.  Later, I was amazed that dirty, smelly, derelict building was re-vamped into what it is now… Again, Prince’s touch on the fabric of Minneapolis.

Prince’s music is not the music of my youth.  Frankly, the biggest thing to come out of Minneapolis in my youth was The Trashmen, and “Surfin’ Bird.”  I was already a young mother when Prince’s music hit the scene.  Being a proper young mother, his music was confusing for me – joyful, sensual, moody, primal.  How I loved the way it could make me feel, and how I hoped it wasn’t triggering that in my daughters! (And now that they are grown young women, how I hope it DID trigger those instincts!)  You could turn it up loud and dance while doing housework (when everyone else was out of the house, of course)… you could car dance to it… you could have a good cleansing sob through it… you could use it to help you pull on your big girl panties and get on with life.

In the late 80s and early 90s, again working in downtown Minneapolis, you just knew that Prince was possible.  For all of us, there was some sense of his touch on the community, never knowing who you could spot when out on a lunch break, because of the draw of the presence of Prince.  I remember a time my favorite nail technician yawned her way through my fills.  Seems that Janet Jackson was in town the night before and Prince had a pop-up concert/party in an empty warehouse and my nail technician was there.  See, that’s the thing – nail technicians were invited.  Prince was possible for all of us. Once again, that quiet touch that makes the fabric of Minneapolis.

Fast forward a decade or so, and my now adult son tells me that some of the guys from his high school class have been part of Prince’s security team.  And when I tell him how I feel a little put-off that other cities are lighting up their bridges and their buildings with purple, he calms me down with the response, “Yes, he feels like ours, but be happy for the worldwide impact he had.  You should know that, Mom.”

This morning I turned on the Today Show to get a little glut of memorials, and to shed a few more tears, and watched Matt Lauer interview L.A. Reid about Prince.  Near the end of the interview, Matt says (with a slight shake of the head, and barely attempting to keep the skepticism from his voice) “but he never left Minneapolis.”  Bless your fuzzy little head, Matt, I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe. 

By being so much a part of the fabric of Minneapolis, Prince is a part of the fabric of all of us who have Minneapolis roots.  I can feel the words come straight from my heart when I say with pride that there he is, a Minneapolis kid who “made good.”  He is ours, will always be ours, but as good Minneapolitans, we’re proud to share.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Belated Happy Birthday

Yesterday should have been my father's 90th birthday; in June he'll have been gone 34 years. How is that even possible?  

Several times during the day, I thought about making some commemorative post, or changing my profile picture to his photo on Facebook, but then I didn't - because honestly, do I need attention that badly? Should I just hang a sign around my neck that says "it's all about me, really!"?  

But here's what's on my mind - this is the kind of man Tom Brokaw wrote about in The Greatest Generation. Quiet and unassuming, he gave an extraordinary part of his body and soul in WWII, and yet throughout my life, he acted as though it was no big deal, it was just the right thing to do, If anyone had referred to him as a hero, he would have laughed himself silly. He was just doing what he was supposed to do.

He never told us any stories about the day he was injured, or any of the days that lead up to it, for that matter. The only story I remember being told was about the German POW who was in the same hospital with him, when he came home to heal. They played checkers together every day (at least in my memory of the story it was every day). Neither ever learned the other's language - they just played checkers. He spent a year in that hospital. The summer before my eighth grade year, we took a family vacation, drove from Minnesota to Salt Lake, and right to the end of the driveway of the hospital where he recovered from losing his legs. We sat at the end of the driveway, didn't even go up to the building... and then we drove away. I don't know why.

I'm a day late, but... here's to you, Daddy. I know you loved me, and later, my children, unconditionally, though you never spoke the words. I actually remember being embarrassed at being loved so unconditionally, but I sure do appreciate it now. You thought I could do anything from help you milk 32 cows (at age 8!) to lower you on a rope from the roof - and I usually had to do it in a dress. I can't help but think of how you would have loved your tiny flock of great-granddaughters. Can you believe it? All girls...

Saturdays, early morning, were the best. I remember listening to you whistling and singing, as you rolled around the kitchen, warming up the first pot of coffee of the day. I drink my coffee the same way you did - just cream, no sugar. Some Saturdays we'd take a ride, just the two of us, and you'd stop at some small town drugstore and give me a $1 bill and tell me to go in and get two "drumsticks" from the freezer. You always made me fold the dollar to fit in the palm of my hand so no one would see it and snatch it away, and always reminded me to count my change. I miss you blasting Waylon, and Johnny Cash, but I still think you sang the best of all.  

You loved taking me for car rides. Of course, there was the time one of your sisters came to town for a visit, and you thought we should have wine. We never had alcohol of any kind in the house, and I was only 10 or so... we took a ride to a liquor store just off West Broadway, not the best part of town even then. You told me to lock my door, then you rolled down the window and gave one of the shady characters a $5 bill and asked him to go in and get you a bottle of wine. That Mogan David sat in the refrigerator for years.

I think of you every day, especially since moving west, the place you always wanted to be. Watching the farm behind us put up hay is an emotional experience... Oh, one more thing... thanks for the hummingbirds, and the Elvis song.

It isn't all about me... it's about him, and the others like him who never expected any recognition throughout their too short lives. Too little, too late...but Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

One More for the Round Robin

This is the starter appearance of one more doll for the "Queen of ___" round robin.  Cynthia's Queen of Halloween is all set to receive my additions, so I grabbed a quick shot of her before.  And just look at that journal....  Watch for the afters in a few months!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Round Robin start; TAG

The doll group, Tarts and Goddesses, began it's round robin last meeting.  We have five participants, all "built" on a paper mache' mannequin, with a theme of "Queen of ____."  Each participant chooses what her doll is to be queen of.

These are our starter photos, missing just one.  Now that the dolls have been passed on to the first person, we will keep them hidden until the RR is over.  Fun to get to see how they start, though!

Yvonne's Queen of Junk:

Sue's Queen of Chaos:

Diane's Queen of Fortunes:

Debbie's Queen of the Garden:

We are missing Cynthia's Queen of Halloween, but that will be coming along shortly.  Each doll is accompanied by a journal so the other participants can share their part of the story.  Watch for results in November!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Photo Review of June

Trying to do a little catching up - here's a photo review of the month of June...

 Our first harvest from this year's tomato plants - one cherry tomato plant and one Early Girl.

 Time for a summer wreath on the freshly painted front door!

 Pretty blooms on one of the cacti.

 An "aerial" view of the blooms.

 The fancy dish drainer I bought when the dishwasher died.  I haven't replaced the Spot Bot that also died, and the Keuring is still limping along, but not acting well.

 Cosmo is becoming more and more sociable in his later years.  He likes spending time in my treehouse.

My friend Cynthia and I took a monoprinting class using gelatin plates.  These are my favorites from the class, though I've been playing more and learning more, and have others I like better now.

 Leaves used in each of these prints.

 Not my usual colors.

This "French Mermaid" by Amy Maisel finally got her place on the bathroom wall.