Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

I Know What I Said, But …


Geez, I hate when people don’t do the things they say they will do, and now I’m turning into one of those.

I’m back from my little vacation, and had a wonderful time, but life has sort of been turned upside down this week, so I’ve not been updating. Or drawing names like I said I would, or packing auction leftovers that may end up on your doorstep.

So sorry!

Just a quick note to say I’ll be back soon with some interesting news, and some vacation pictures, and some auction pictures, and maybe even a recipe. At this moment there are about 1,000,000 things going on in my brain, and updating my blog hasn’t made the cut.

But it will. I promise.

Next drawing is this coming Friday, September 21. Send me your name and win fabulous junk! Why should I keep it all to myself?

Your chances of winning are good. Very, very good.

Let me know if you’re in. You might be in for some big surprises! (Or little ones, what with the cost of postage these days.)

Send your name before Friday afternoon:

And good luck to you!

Birthday Delights


When choosing friends, it’s a good idea to find those with whom you share values, ideas, passions and interests.

It’s also a good idea to choose friends who are really savvy shoppers, like Tracy and Jessica.

I am so fortunate to have A) good friends and B) good friends who give good gifts, but this present is practical AND funny. T&J have either been paying close attention, or else I don’t blather on much about any topic except my latest passion, which is live auctions. And so for my birthday, my friends presented me with these lovely presents.

Everything a fledgling auction attendee could want, including food for the road trip AND a big white hand, thereby saving my own big white hand. (There were more treats, including some made of chocolate, but those unfortunately became eaten.) I’m pretty sure the “Krabbie Patties” are purchased strictly for their nutritional value, and are not in any way related to either my name or occasional temperament.

What fun!

I’m attending another auction tomorrow and will write about it later. I’ll try to remember to USE my camera, now that I am in the habit of taking it along. There is one auctioneer I so badly want to photograph, but can’t think of a way to do it without embarrassing both of us.

I’ll figure it out, though.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with this Halloween and/or household hint: If you manage to sneeze while applying mascara, you can end up looking like that guy in “A Clockwork Orange.”

So that’s how they did it!

Liver Brownies for the Four-Footed.


I took a picture of all these dogs on my street corner, sniffing the air while I baked liver brownies.

Well, of course that didn’t really happen, as you can tell by the quality of the photo. If I had taken a photo of a group of dogs anywhere on earth, it might look more like this:

But anyway. You get the idea that I’m talking about dogs, right?

They love treats. I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I’d bake these for him every month.

I probably posted this recipe last Christmas, but it bears repeating. Also soothes my guilty conscience for not updating more often. Dogs love this stuff. It’s a little messy to make, but the aroma is sort of nice, and the treats freeze well and last forever, unless there’s a dog in the house. I found this recipe years ago in a veterinary magazine, so the recipe is vet approved. And dog approved, which is really more important:

Liver Brownies

1 lb beef or pork liver

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup corn meal

2 Tablespoons garlic salt

1 Tablespoon garlic powder

Heat oven to 350. Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender. (I usually puree the liver by itself in a blender, pour it into a bowl, and mix all the other ingredients in with a spoon.) Spread the mixture into a 9×13″ greased baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until the mix loses its pink color. Cool and break into pieces. Store (covered, unless you want everything in your refrigerator to smell like garlic) for up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.

Easy peasy.

Happy New Year to all!

PS: “I think it was a dog what stole my collar last summer. And I’d like it back.”

PPS: Pay no attention to the feline.

The Lettmans and Other Roadside Attractions.


Oh, the Thanksgiving weekend was such a blast! It’s taken me weeks to get over it, so now is a good time to update my blog, and this time I won’t put any tomatoes in it, as someone requested today.

I was invited to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Lettmans at their new home in Thief River Falls, and I was eager to get on the road with my shiny new car. (New in 2004, anyway.) The weather was perfect (no coat required, which is always a good thing in Minnesota) and Highway 2 winds its way through some interesting little towns that I hadn’t seen before.

There are some great road signs on this trip, too, and places I didn’t know we had: Savanna River and Swan Lake, for instance. In Minnesota? Who knew? I also liked Pin Cherry Road, Schoolcraft Park, Gosh Dam Place, the Big Fish Supper Club (attached to a really big fish!) and, in the land of casinos, an aptly named Sucker Bay. One I particularly liked was Lost River, and I tell you, it isn’t lost at all, but right there under that bridge.

I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bookends” album on the trip, and “Hazy Shade of Winter” seemed especially appropriate, with that ending line, “Look around — there’s a patch of snow on the ground.” And so there was.

Where’s my friend Jean when I need her? Roadside animals aren’t nearly as much fun if she’s not there to be bitten by a lion, kicked by a stag or swallowed by a big fish. (Or lying in the grass to look up the tunic of the Jolly Green Giant, but that’s a whole other story.) But use your imagination!

Okay. So I didn’t practice cropping photos in my spare time. Sue me.

And hey: Thanks to the wonderful folks at Cass Lake who maintain a clean, well-lit and welcoming roadside rest area.  (No photo necessary.)

Highway 59 winds around lots of wide open spaces before it brings you to the town of Thief River Falls, which seems to be a small town with lots going on. But my goal was to spend time with the Lettmans, and here they are:

Let me say they are not actually that formal at home. They’re a lot more casual, and I don’t think any of them actually sit still for that long, so I’m not sure how the photographer did it. But what a great picture. And here are the 3 kids, Henry, Mahalia and Lydia, who are silly and smart and thoughtful, and fun to be around. Mahalia (in the red sweater) gave up her girly-girl room for me while I was there, and I appreciated the cozy bed and the curtains with little jewels in them that looked like stars shining in the night sky. Lydia (in the red scarf) is now a very special young lady who spent much of her time drawing; a talent those kids no doubt inherited from their folks. Henry is a bundle of boyish energy (where do they GET that?) but a good break-dancer, too.

These beautiful Lettman photos were taken by Sara K. Callavin of Two Harbors, MN, who does some very nice work. Credit where credit is due.

As soon as I arrived, I learned we were heading out to a local animal shelter to pick out two nice cats for the family. I don’t think I even took my coat off! I wanted to be screeching down the driveway before Mr L changed his mind. (Of household pets he is not a fan.) It took a while to find two that seemed absolutely right, so we brought them home, after a stop along the way to buy litter, a litter box, toys, food, dishes and a brush. Even felines require some of life’s little necessities.

The cats didn’t “settle in” so much as one of them taking over the entire house like he’d always lived there, and the other immediately hiding behind the washing machine. Your yin and yang deal.

A nice surprise at dinner was the Badger Shrine, set up in the corner of the dining room, complete with candles and an offertory. I might have missed it, but I was happy to see it as I’m pretty sure that may be the only plaster cast of a badger in the entire state. (For those of you who refuse to shop at Salvation Army, this is what you’re missing.) I did leave an offering, though I’m not sure badgers like gum.

On Saturday we were off to East Grand Forks, ND, for a day of thrift shopping. What fun! I found some wonderful treasures, including books, clothes, old embroidered dish towels, Christmas decorations and other stuff too numerous to mention. What a blast to peruse junk in another state. (SO much different from junk in Minnesota.) Just kidding. Seemed odd to me that a big college town like that (home of UND) didn’t seem to have any bookstores, or at least none that I could see. No lack of fast food places, though. (Not a complaint. Just an observation.)

I left on Sunday, enjoying a leisurely drive back home through Bemidji and Grand Rapids, and stopped often to check out shops or walk around for a bit. What’s more fun than a road trip? Nothing.

Thanksgiving comes close, though. It’s like Christmas without the presents, and this year my sister Be fixed a fabulous dinner for all of us. I didn’t take a picture of the family together, but I did take a picture of the beautifully set table before we were seated.

My creative sister Steff made this vegetable turkey, which made me laugh. I couldn’t bear to eat any part of it. I hope she still has it. Maybe she could freeze it for next year.

Here’s a Thanksgiving picture of my great niece Gabriella with her mom and auntie Katie:

And here’s a picture of my other great-niece, Madison, who could not be sweeter:

So that was my wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, reminding me again how much I have to be thankful for: a wonderful family, wonderful friends, thrift shops and badger statues, and Minnesota roads to explore. I hope yours was just as happy!

You Say Tomato…


Rick insists some tomatoes do have wings, and sent this photo as proof. I think this one had some human intervention, but who am I to say?

This one’s obviously a lady tomato. (Holy cow! Look at the… well, never mind.)

This one’s just plain confused. I think it was going to be four tomatoes, but then it got lazy, like I am about updating my blog:

This one’s obviously a bunny. I don’t know who the lady is behind it, but she seems to be enjoying the view.

And this is not a tomato, but a picture of Mittens (“Miss Pinch,” a name you’d understand if you ever tried to brush her coat) helping me get ready for a weekend trip. Which I will write about as soon as I have more time. Right now I am creating a Christmas pot that nobody is going to think came from Martha Stewart, but you can drive by and have a look. Free!

Happy Saturday!

Oy, The Tomatoes.


Not to be outdone, Cathy (World Domination Cathy, not Salt Shaker Kathy) sent this photo of a tomato from her very garden. This one clearly is sporting a mohawk and a bit of a mullet. Anyone can see that! I wonder why she planted it that way, but I guess that’s her secret. This one should be used in advertising, I think. Maybe a promo for tomato juice or something:

And if that weren’t enough, she sent this little stare-down photo, too.

It’s raining tomatoes!

Got some good ones? Send us a pic! But remember… we already have a one-armed tomato.

Well, mohawks make me think of “Glee,” so I’ll close for now and go watch it.

Maybe they’ll sing some tomato songs.

Of Blogs and Barley.


I read a lot of blogs. If I have a lot of time on my hands, I usually look for random blogs to see who’s saying what. I especially like blogs about food, hospice work, or the lives of people my age, especially women. As someone who’s generally curious about other people’s lives (there’s another word for that, but I can’t think of it at the moment) I like to see how people my age are doing, how they’re living, and I like to compare my life with theirs. I almost always like mine better, which makes me feel smug.

I am continually amazed at the beauty of some blogs or the fantastic photos and videos people know how to post. I apologize to my dear readers for having/being none of those. I don’t like blogs about little kids (I know you people love theirs, but I find entire blogs about them boring) and I don’t like blogs where people swear a lot. It makes me think they aren’t very bright, or they remind me of those stand-up comics who are just sort of funny, but get a lot of laughs on the shock value of the oft-placed F word. It doesn’t work for me.

A lot of blogs simply end. Nobody says “I’m quitting this blog,” or “thanks for reading, but I’m done writing,” or even a hint that the writer, knowing he or she has snared you into their adventures, is going to leave you high and dry. 2009 seemed to be a good year for for stopping blogging with no explanation. Yet it is now 2011 and the blogs sit there, abandoned and unexplained.

I tell you, people, when the World Domination handbook is finished, it is going to be contain the caveat that if you start a blog and don’t update it at least every other month, it will be shut down. End of story. Be forewarned.

Hospice blogs often lead to personal blogs about people who are fighting serious illness, and very often those people die. You begin reading at the last entry, which might announce funeral arrangements, or else “Sorry to say that Helen died early this morning,” and then you start reading the entries backwards to read about how very sick Helen was, and then you go back to when Helen was just diagnosed, and then you go beyond that where Helen was enjoying life and her new husband or home or kids, and then you feel awful. Helen’s dead. Here’s her life, written out for those who are interested, and now she’s gone. Geez!

Reading those blogs makes me think of how precious our lives are, and how very grateful I am for my reasonably good health.

Speaking of health, here’s a healthy recipe that also tastes good. Not like those ones that fool you with tofu or 1% milk or artificial sweeteners that never taste a thing like sugar. Everything in here is good for you. It’s simple, it’s tasty, and I hope you appreciate how I managed to turn blog talk into a good recipe, because i worked a long time on the title, which came to me while I was in the bathtub.

And one more thing: I have made this recipe a lot. I take it to potluck lunches, like the one at work today. So I’m just saying: If you and I are invited to the same occasion where we’re asked to bring food, don’t bring this barley salad, because probably will, and due to my anal retentive nature, I’ll probably get there before you.

Barley Salad

3/4 cup uncooked barley

1 can of whole kernel corn, drained

1/2 of a green pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 cup Italian salad dressing

Cook the barley as directed on the package. (It takes about an hour to cook it.) Drain (if necessary) and cool. In a large bowl, combine the cold barley and all other ingredients. Mix and refrigerate.

I found this recipe online but I can’t remember where. And what is barley, exactly? I’ve probably bought 2 boxes of it in my entire life. I need to look it up. Oh, if only there were some building that housed reference books, where we could go and look things up. Or better yet, some electronic resource where we could type in a word and somehow, the explanation would magically appear. That would be better than the building, because you could look up important information without having to dress up to go out. You could read new stuff while you were dressed as shabbily as I am right now.

Well, enjoy your salad. And write a blog! I want to hear everything.

Summer Love


I’m in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal

After reading the lyrics to this Queen song, which I always loved, I wasn’t sure if Roger Taylor was actually talking about a car, or something more visceral, but let’s not analyze that just now. I’m talking about a car, and it’s one I just bought, and I do love it.

There’s something to be said for having to wait a long time to get what you want. Not hours or days, but years. If you are unable to afford a new car for whatever reason, and you have to coddle an old one along until you can, it increases your satisfaction quotient by about 100%. You get the oil changed in the old one, you make the necessary repairs, you try to ignore the rust as much as you can, the noises, the clunks, the dings, the new sounds coming from under the hood. You treat it well. It treats you well. You pray it’ll make it through one more winter without incident. (It did!)

So thank you for the many years of dependable service, Olds Cutlass, but it is time to bid you farewell.

After 2 months of looking, which is my idea of what HELL must be like, I found this lovely 2004 Ford Escape, which was within my budgetary confines, and which suits me well. It’s pretty. It looks new. It smells new. There are no payment attached to it. Thank you to Josh at Kia of Duluth for pointing out that when you find what you’re looking for, you don’t keep looking.

A word about the people I contacted on Craigslist: Nuts. They are all nuts. They are crazy, daft, goofy, incomprehensible, imbecilic, rude, dimwits. If you are one of these people, I take nothing back. I hate you. If you are the guy who keeps advertising your car lot’s inventory under “for sale by private owner,” and then never wanting to show said cars, I hate you. If you are the guy who advertised the Honda but could never manage to actually show it to me, or who kept saying “give me a call tomorrow,” I hate you. (I looked you up online, by the way. You are a total jackass. You know who you are. And so do I.)

If you are the people who saw me looking at your car with the FOR SALE sign in the window but wouldn’t shut off your mower to come and talk to me, I hate you. I hope your car never sells. If you are the guy who gave me your address but was never home, I hate you. If you heard me say I could not spend a penny over $8,000 and yet you showed me cars in the $12-14,000 range, I hate you.

Needless to say, I am not a good car shopper. I hope to never do this again. And if the 1995 Cutlass is any example of my shopping record, I may never have to.

The good news is the “new” car is shiny and pretty and fun to drive, and I appreciate it all the more for those cold winters with the Olds that sometimes had an inadequate heater or those hot summers when the air conditioning didn’t work, prompting one of my dear old friends to ask on a hot August afternoon, “Did you just turn the heater on?”

Life is good.

* * * * *

My other summer love is the Farmer’s Market at 14th Avenue East and 2nd Street. It’s open every Wednesday and Saturday morning from 7 until noon. If you haven’t gone, please do. It’s important to support local growers, but beyond that, the produce is fresh and beautiful and affordable, and the market is a fun place to shop.

On my latest visit I was intrigued by yellow beets; something I’d never seen before. They were beautiful, but so were the greens attached to them. I chatted with the grower who said they could be steamed or put into salads, and I was eager to try them. I found this wonderful recipe online at “Simply Recipes.” If you like spinach, you’ll like beet greens. This recipe is similar to steamed spinach, but has a bit of a kick to it.

Braised Beet Greens

1 pound beet greens

1 strip of bacon, chopped (or 1 Tablespoon bacon fat)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

3/4 cup water (I used chicken stock, which I had made last weekend)

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (probably optional)

1/6 cup cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink or large pot filled with cold water. Drain the greens and wash them a second time. (They’re gritty and sandy.) Cut the leaves and some of the red stems into bite sized pieces and set aside.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until lightly browned. (Or melt the bacon fat.) Add onions, cook over medium heat 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions soften and start to brown. Stir in the garlic. Add water or broth to the hot pan, stirring to loosen particles on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the sugar and red pepper. Bring this mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens and gently toss with the onion mixture until well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5-15 minutes, until the greens are tender. Stir in the vinegar just before serving.


Disconnected. And Grandma’s Marathon.


Through a series of half-understood conversations and well-placed phone calls, I managed to disconnect my computer from the internet. Not just with a cord, but by calling my internet service provider and telling them I wished to cancel my account. I thought I was simply canceling a mailbox that collected spam and porn, but I actually canceled my internet access. Imagine my surprise one Tuesday night when I came home and was unable to get online. And you can’t just call them back and say “Just kidding,” which makes you look like a bigger jackass than you already are, so I called Qwest and it took them one week and two visits to get me back online. But hey. Here we are. Seven times faster. (Possibly seven times more expensive.)

But here is the wisdom I gleaned from my week without internet access, those long boring days when my body would drift to the computer and stare at the blank screen, willing it to just turn on! If I could share any piece of advice with you, it would be this: If you don’t want to cancel your internet service, do not call your internet service provider and ask them to cancel your account.

There it is. Read it and learn.

On a happier topic, last Saturday was the running of the 2011 Grandma’s Marathon, in which one niece, one nephew, and two niece’s husbands ran, along with some folks from the office and other friends and thousands of runners from around the world. It was a cold, rainy icky day, especially because I got up at 4 a.m. to prepare the annual “Eat & Go” breakfast, where a bunch of us eat breakfast stuff and mosey on down to London Road to watch the half marathoners fly past.

I think that is my niece Heather looking our way, next to the oblivious guy in the white tee shirt.

Here’s my beautiful great-niece Gabriella and her equally beautiful dad, Mike. Mike had just run the half marathon and Gabby was admiring his finisher ribbon. Someone down the street had given her a black balloon, which didn’t seem too festive, but hey: she’s 13 months old. What does she care?

Here’s a whole bunch of runners at 43rd Avenue East. I probably don’t know any of them. I think the picture was a mistake. It was cold.

My beautiful niece Katie is holding Gabby on her shoulders, while Gabby’s Grandma Paula warms her hands on a coffee mug. I think Gabby was wondering why we were all standing under the trees in the rain. It must have seemed pointless to her.

About half a block from us, a group of young people set up a band and entertained the crowds. They were pretty good!

Although the runners are a long way off, my brother-in-law Chuck (in camouflage, though we could all easily see him…how are ducks fooled?) was ready with the cow bell. Just in case! Behind him is Heather’s husband Mike, and next to him, Mike’s dad, Jerry.

I’m a terrible photographer, I know. For years I’ve blamed it on the camera, but let’s face it: I’m just not good with picture taking.

After the half marathon we came back to my house to warm up with coffee and leftover breakfast stuff, and then went back down to London Road to watch the runners who ran the full 26.2 miles, like my niece Heather. I don’t know how they do it.

Later in the afternoon we all congregated at my sister Be’s house, where she always has the Marathon after-party, which is lots of fun. The runners are there with their friends and spouses and parents, relatives abound, little kids, one pretty spotted dog. My brother-in-law grilled hamburgers, brats and tuna steaks. Plenty of salads and desserts and a lot of laughter.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Glad to be back. It was a long, lonely week without internet access. It forced me to give up my dreams of becoming Amish.

More Things I Don’t Know About, and Quiche Lorraine, Which I Do.


One thing I love to do is eavesdrop on private conversations whenever I get the chance. You hear some of the best stuff that way! But the downside is that I’m often reminded of things I don’t know or don’t understand. There are so many of them. Here’s a partial list: the tides, human anatomy, flora and fauna, birds, space, the planets, poetry, world history, US government, tax structures, celestial navigation, religion, politics, the stock market, tectonic plates, the intricate workings of the internet, volcanos, and why people put those white oval stickers on their car if they traveled to Sweden.

But here’s something I do know: Quiche Lorraine. It’s simple, it’s tasty, its versatile, and it’s even good reheated. Once you figure out the basic combination of eggs and cheese that you like, you can make a quiche using anything leftover in the refrierator: chicken, asparagus, olives, tuna, mixed vegetables, ham, or anything else that you please. Here’s an easy recipe that I’ve had for so long that I can’t remember where I got it. I never can find shredded Swiss cheese in a grocery store, so I either buy a block of it and shred it myself, or I buy the slices and tear them up for this recipe. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Quiche Lorraine

Crust for a 9″ deep dish pie plate (You could make your own, but I think Pet Ritz works just fine. This dish isn’t so much about the crust as it is the filling. Says me.)

8 slices of bacon, crisply cooked, drained and coarsely chopped

5 eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

Dash of cayenne pepper

2 cups (8 oz) shredded Swiss cheese

2 Tablespoons flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk and cayenne pepper, and whisk or mix well. In a separate bowl, toss the cheese with 2 T flour to prevent it all from sticking together. Add the cheese and bacon to the egg mixture. Pour into the unbaked pie shell. (I recommend a deep dish pie pan or large quiche dish.) Bake for 40-45 minutes, until eggs are set. Let stand for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Here’s something else I don’t get: Why do they sell two pie crusts in a package anyway? After you take one out of the wrapper, you have to somehow reseal the whole package, which is nearly impossible, or wrap it in another larger freezer bag, and then you put it in the freezer and forget to use it. Why not just sell them individually?


Go figure.