I like things that are silly. They make me smile. They make me laugh. Silly is good.
So when I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday, I got a very good laugh.
And I immediately thought of Ritchie Valens. No, not that one!
This one. He is the one and only Ritchie Valens - the dog. He's my nephew's mixed breed Chihuahua-something dog. He's so cute! When I saw that picture on FB, I knew I needed to knit a hat for Ritchie Valens.
My nephew has a yellow watch cap for his FB profile picture, so I decided to knit a yellow cap for Ritchie too. Here's my American Girl Doll modeling Ritchie's new hat. See the ear holes?
Enjoy Ritchie. I can't wait to see the picture.
I haven't posted bulldog pictures in awhile. So I decided to take some close-ups of my lovable guys.
Otis is such a fine looking bulldog. He's really a love bug. He's calm, quiet, big and affectionate. He's my lovey dovey. At about 8 p.m., he starts walking into the bedroom and asking me to tuck him in for the night. It's so cute.
"Mama, is this my good side?"
I'm going to be honest. Duke is a pain. I love him dearly, but he's a pain. He's hyperactive and always gets into trouble. We have a saying in our house whenever there's chaos or something done by the dogs.
"It's Duke. It's always Duke."
He was so excited to see us when we got home from our road trip that his snaggletooth scratched my cheek. Fortunately, there was not broken skin or permanent mark. He didn't bite - but his bottom incisors stick out so much because of his bulldog underbite and are really big teeth - that when he gets excited - those incisors just get you. Sometimes he does this when he's just rubbing up against my leg. But when he's overly excited it's pure chaos. He actually left a black and blue mark just under Secundogeniture's eye because he was so excited to see him and scratched him with his recently trimmed claws.
Oh Duke. It's always Duke.
But they're great dogs. I love them. They bark at everything and protect us. If I were a burglar (which, by the way, I'm not), I would not want to break into our house. Their barking alone would be deterrent enough. These two dogs would smother you in their love and excitement.
Oops! I better go. I hear them rough housing in the TV room upstairs.
Secundogeniture is a senior this year and it's fall. He's looked at schools - but still not decided - so we went to look at more. Two weeks ago we visited his brother at college. Last weekend we traveled 13 hours, visited my Jackson cousins in the midwest, and visited a humongous school. Both experiences were good and have added to his decision making process. But he still needs to look at more schools.
Prior to visiting a large contingent of Jackson cousins on this combined family/college visit, I baked enough of Grandma Grace's famous krumkakes to feed the entire battalion of cousins. I discovered a very important lesson. Grandma Grace didn't try to Facebook or surf the internet when making her krumkakes in the 1970s and 80s. My first dozen cookies were overdone burnt until I put the computer away.
Once I ditched the electronics, the krumkakes came out perfectly. I was so excited. I had approximately 100 cookies for the 30+ relatives to enjoy.
Now here's where the story gets a little funny.
Here's a picture of my family visiting Grandma and Grandpa in Yankton, SD in about 1969. I'm the littlest one. My Jackson cousins lived in Yankton at this time as well and spent a lot of time with our grandparents. Apparently, Grandma Grace wasn't making krumkakes in the 1960s.
Fast forward to the mid-1970s. The cousins moved to Michigan. Somewhere along the way, Grandma met a woman who made krumkakes and she decided to buy her own krumkake iron. (No she wasn't Norwegian - she just liked the cookie). She started making krumkakes for every family get together. They were a huge hit in our family. But the cousins didn't really remember them as something extra special about Grandma Grace. In about 1980 or 1981, Grandma sold her apartment in Yankton and moved to Sioux City, IA where my family lived (about 40 minutes away). I got to spend a lot of the the late 1970s and 80s with Grandma until I graduated college and moved away. She taught me how to make the krumkakes. In fact, when she died, I inherited her krumkake iron.
You can probably see where I'm going with this story. It turns out that the Jackson cousins don't really have a memory of Grandma Grace and her famous krumkakes. So they appreciated the gift... but the they don't carry the same special childhood memory that my family enjoys of Grandma Grace and her very special cookies.
It's all about perspective. It got me thinking. We're all so different as the years go on. I don't think anyone is the same person in their 00s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. Many of my cousins knew Grandma best in her 50s, 60s and 70s. I didn't even meet Grandma until she was 68. So I knew her when she was in her 70s, 80s, and 90s. I spent a great deal of time with her then - especially since I was the youngest child at home and went to the dinners when we visited Grandma in Yankton. We went a lot. In hindsight, it was part visit and probably part selling the apartment and getting things taken care of to move to Sioux City.
Last weekend, my cousins told great stories about how Grandma Grace would make up stories and put each child as the hero of the story. That's not what I remember. But that's probably because I loved to pick a story from the My Book House series on our bookshelf and have Grandma read it to me.
I loved those books. I loved the stories.
I loved the artwork.
I would stare at the inside cover of the books and try to pick out every little detail. I imagined myself being in that long line of visitors heading to the fairy tale castle at the end. Grandma and I would talk about the artwork.
But most of all, I remember the wonderful feeling I got from those books. Those books and Grandma Grace are tied together. I loved how Grandma Grace held me in her lap and read the stories with great drama and love. I cannot separate the two.
This past weekend, I loved sharing stories with all my cousins, my aunt Shirley and all the second cousins. Because family is a gift and even though we all have our differences - we have so much in common. I especially loved seeing two of my cousins Pat and Jeff - because between the two of them - I can catch a glimpse of my Dad. The family genes really stand out. Even Secundogeniture noticed the resemblance (and he was young when his Grandpa died).
So God Bless family. God bless those memories. And thanks to all my cousins for making the effort to get together and reminisce and have some time together. It was really a wonderful treat.
And speaking of treats, Michael and I finished the last of the krumkakes on the long road trip home. Sweet!
My friend Kristen gave me a large bag of donated yarn. You know I can never resist donated yarn.
I quickly knit up nine dishcloths Leisure Arts Dishcloths from the Heart with the giant spool of Lily cotton yarn that was in the donated bag of yarn. But cotton yarn is harder to knit with so I rediscovered this great crafting glove that my friend Joan gave me several years ago. It worked wonders. It was like getting a little massage on my wrist while knitting.
I still have a lot of cotton yarn on the spool which started off with 840 yards. I think I'll be able to knit several more dishcloths. They're cute. They're fun. They make doing dishes fun.
Later in my life I have developed an interest in history. Perhaps in my youth I didn't have the patience or attention span to capture all the details and nuances of history. Now that I'm more mature, I am fascinated with how people lived or were forced to live in the past. Earlier this year, my husband and I watched AMC's Turn: Washington Spies.
This, in turn, caused me to read the book, George Washington's Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution by Brian Kilmeade. I really enjoyed this book and was able to temper the Hollywood version of the TV series with the actual facts from the book. I understand that both have to be different - but appreciate the truth is often a bit more mundane than Hollywood can allow. If you haven't watched the series or read the book, I highly recommend both.
I love his version of character narration with the extraordinary voices of Sam Waterston, Jason Robards, Julie Harris, Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, Morgan Freeman, Garrison Keillor, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur Miller, Studs Turkel, Colleen Dewhurst, Horton Foote, George Plimpton, Philip Bosco, Terry Courier, and Jody Powell, among many others. The mix of actors providing narration with the historians offering color commentary plus the letters, personal stories, hundreds and hundreds of photographs plus maps really bring this period to life. I learned more about our country's history from this masterpiece than I ever knew before.
At 23, I visited Gettysburg with my Marine Corps class of lieutenants. I appreciated it from a tactical point of view (which was the point of our visit) and will never forget the sheer horror of Pickett's Charge. But even though we read Michael Shaara's Killer Angels prior to visiting Gettysburg, it could not compare to the knowledge I gleaned by watching Ken Burn's fabulous documentary bring it to life.
What I liked about Ken Burns documentary series is that he talks about so many different aspects of the war. Of course it focuses on the politics, the finances, the generals, the young foot soldiers, and the blood baths that occurred on each battlefield (tens of thousands were killed repeatedly in single-day battles.) But he also throws in tidbits about homes being overtaken as military headquarters or hospitals and homeowners picking each final bit of produce from the garden rather than let those rebels (or yankees) eat one little green bean. The descriptions from historical documents of corn fields being razed as if they had been cut with scissors after a battle provides such description that no cinematography could add. The fine imported rugs in the parlors of family homes suddenly turned into field hospitals are completely soaked in blood as to be ruined. Entire towns losing every single young man to the war. One town lost more than 900 young men. Not a soul survived. These details that focus on the day-to-day life during the civil war create an empathy that you can feel deep within. I'm hooked. I can't wait to read and watch more.
Amidst all the farm fresh produce and canning, I have also found time to finish a long overdue knitting project. It started eleven years ago with my first black and white 7x9 swatches for a Warm Up America blanket.
But I persisted. I crocheted the swatches together first by going across in rows. Once that was complete I came back and crocheted them together in columns. I wove in all the loose ends and finished this epic journey by picking up stitches along the border to create a nice and new to me - garter stitch border all in white.
Here's the baby blanket just after I finished it. I'm quite pleased with the end result. Now for a good wet blocking and hopefully all will be right in the world.
I put her in the sink with lukewarm water and mild detergent and hoped that the acrylic would relax enough. I know that acrylic is not so great at blocking, but I was optimistic as I usually am.
I was extremely overeager to get a photo shoot complete before sunset so I hung the soaking wet blanket out back. You can see that it's already late in the day as evidenced by the dark shadows.
I keep thinking that one of these days I'm just going to host my very own quilt show and have the blankets and quilts hanging from the hidden clothesline or over the top sun porch railing. It would be such a happy backyard photo.
The wet blocking actually worked quite well. Never fear. I only left the soaking wet blanket on the clothesline long enough for the photo shoot. Then I whisked it away to the basement where I blocked it flat on top of the plastic topped pool table (which at this point I should rename the blocking table since it gets used more for blocking than for billiards). It's not as perfect as it might be if it were knit in wool, but it worked out quite well.
I'm especially pleased because the different patterned white swatches were made from different yarns and different knitters over the years. You can see that some are tightly knit and others are very loose. This is due to many factors including: yarn, gauge, knitter and pattern. But the unifying nine patch block squares and the flying blocks tie everything together and make this work.
Happy quilting, er, knitting!
With such an overabundance of fresh produce, I keep canning everything I get my hands on. My favorite thing to have on hand is homemade chicken stock. I sampled my first Crock Pot Freezer Meal... and while the ingredients were good... it lacked the robust flavor I'm used to since I opted to use a flavorless high-sodium store bought chicken stock.
Incidentally we had not one, but two, roast chicken carcasses in the refrigerator. This is a common occurrence at our house. We often grab a rotisserie chicken at Fresh Market for lunch or dinner.
Homemade Chicken Stock
In a large stock pot, place the chicken. Pour the water on top. Add the apple cider vinegar. Chop up the vegetables and add to the pot. Season. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 4-6 hours. Remove from heat. Pass chicken stock through a strainer to remove all meat, bones, and vegetables. The water will reduce a great deal during the cooking. You will be left with a rich, robust, flavorful chicken stock which is perfect for cooking. I pour mine into pint and quart jars. I've ordered a pressure canner for the proper canning of soup stock, but in the meantime, I fill my mason jars about 2 inches from the top, add the lids, and freeze them until I need them.
My friend Joanne taught me the trick about using the apple cider vinegar. I can't impress upon you what an impact this has on the flavor of the chicken stock. It's the magic ingredient and I wouldn't make it any other way.
This stock is so good - you almost feel better just smelling it! After I made this batch on Tuesday, we had a delicious chicken risotto for dinner last night just so we could use some of the fresh chicken stock.
If you follow me on Facebook or on Instagram, you've seen me post about the Child and Adolescent Recovery Hospital and Jackson Recovery Centers in my hometown of Sioux City, Iowa. It's open and I got the chance to visit it this summer. I can't tell you how excited I am that my hometown, and the midwest, has a top notch facility like this. I can only wish every state could have a facility this wonderful.
Kermit took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to give us a private tour. I can't tell you how impressed and pleased I was to see this come to fruition. Here we are posing with the busts of Mom and Dad in the entrance to the new hospital.
But you can take a tour, too. Just click on the video above (or click on THIS LINK to watch the video directly in YouTube
Disclaimer: The video contains actor portrayals of patients to protect the program's anonymity. If you look closely, you might recognize my niece and nephews playing the roles of patients.
I know Mom & Dad are smiling in heaven knowing that Siouxland is a little bit better place today because of all the hard work and efforts of a wonderfully giving community and amazing volunteers who have continued to make this dream a reality. Thank you Kermit for all your leadership.
We're huge fans of Trader Joe's delicious Corn & Chili Salsa. It's such a crowd pleaser. So I decided that since I was on a hot pepper roll, I should try to make my own corn salsa. I did a quick Google search and found that Jess had already done the work for me and recreated a homemade recipe of this great Sweet and Spice Corn Salsa. At first I was a little concerned because there is a LOT of sugar in this recipe. I was going to reduce the amount of sugar and then I reconsidered. I figured I'd start with a small batch and compare it to my beloved Trader Joe's (which, by the way, is very, very sweet). So I made one recipe as written (except I swapped the cumin seeds with the coriander seeds as noted in the comments). Yes it's sweet - but it tastes just like the TJ's version. So I'm sticking with the super sweet.
Here's what you need. The original recipe calls for corn straight off the cob. I thought about doing that with the last few ears from my farm share, but I decided to swap out my favorite frozen corn - Trader Joe's Organic Super Sweet Cut Corn. It lives up to its name. It's sweet and yummy.
I multiplied the original recipe x5 and managed to make enough salsa for several months.
I'm not sure how many ears of corn are in one bag of frozen corn... but I used one bag to make this recipe. It worked really well. I tried making just one recipe at first to see if I liked it. I used one bag of corn and followed the recipe. I managed to fill 2 pint jars. When I quadrupled the recipe, because YES, I did like it. A LOT. I found that when I made 4x the original recipe, I was able to fill 9 pint jars if I carefully distributed the corn before going back and adding the brine.
I can hardly wait for my corn salsa to age and give it a try.
Thanks Jess at Inquiring Chef for this fabulous recipe! Next summer when I'm all corned-out from my farm share, I'm going to try it again with my fresh corn on the cob.