Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Dear Mary and Jeni,

Christmas Day dawned snowy and cold.   That sound like a good first sentence.  I am trying to keep up with all the pictures, but I forgot to take a picture of the tree surrounded by presents.  It is not hard to surround the tree as it is just 3 feet tall.  However I did take a picture of Jim with one of his favorite presents.  A lovely tie pin...ahem...well, that is what he is calling it, done in the 'wheat' motif.   He wore it proudly, as you can see, until the end of the day.

We opened our presents and then sat around waiting for Jon and E to turn up.  Well we waited for about a half hour and then I decided that I had to make some snowpeople.  It was perfect packing snow.  It was a quick job, but I had to make Christy come out and help me lift the bottom pieces over the snow piles next to the sidewalk.  That was wet heavy snow!

When we were done we took a few pictures for posterity. 

Then we went in to dry off and wait for Jon and E some more.  Once they came Jon decided our van needed to be uncovered, so he volunteered.  What a good brother.

We had a very slow game (with 6 people) of hand and foot and when we were done we were exhausted.  E tried to get us to play another game but no one was up for a second one.   I know I went upstairs and took a nap. 
Christy played with Alice, or maybe it was the other way around.  I am about to go to bed and I think I am the last one up.  Tomorrow we are going to a movie.  Up in the Air is the one we have chosen.  George Clooney....yum.

Love  to you all,

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Birthday Present

We went to the airport last night to pick up one of my Birthday gifts.  Of course I told Christy that it was a gift to her, but I know the truth.  It was fine on the way there although it was busy on the freeway.  However as soon as we got to the airport exit we ran into solid traffic all the way up to the terminal.  Evidently we were not the only people trying to get to the airport yesterday.  Someone must have told people about the coming storm.
Anyway as we waited in the long line the snow started.  It was rain for about 5 minutes and then little tiny very determined snowflakes.  By the time we had corraled Christy and made our way home the snow was already making the freeway look like a country road.

Christy had to kiss the parents even before she took off her 'sleeping bag' coat.

I am glad we made the tickets for Wednesday because this is what we woke up far, about 8 inches.  I think that is Block leader  Bob using the block snow blower across the street.  He went up our side and was going down the other side and up everyone's driveway.

One of Christy's requests was to go to Turtle Bread so I found my boots and off we went.  I bought some good looking rolls for our Christmas Pizza/Card Party snacks and we had juice and a roll before struggling back.  We tried to go to Brown and Greene but they hadn't made it in yet so we settled for the Rick Rack store.

We came home and rested for a while.  Well, some of us rested and others texted.
Now Jim has gone off to eat his homemade sandwich and read their paper at Sebastian Joe's.  They must not mind much because they gave him a pint of eggnog ice cream yesterday.  He accepted it to after I complained at his refusing it last year.  He took Christy and she is going to the Linden Hills Co-op to pick up some spices and buy some things only she knows about.
Jon and E came over and changed into their snowshoes and went off for a little jaunt.  They say they will be back later.   It is still snowing lightly but is supposed to pick up again later.  I expect we will play some cards later too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

And now for an encore performance:

of Mom's Wild Rice & Sausage Dressing (or Stuffing, as the case may be).

This is such a lot of sausage for the amount of wild rice made from cooking 1 cup of wild rice:

and I even left out one of the three pounds of sausage in the recipe.  There are a lot of cups of onion and celery that will also go in it though.

Christy called this morning too.  She's packing to get on the airplane.  I know you will all have so much fun together that I am not even

Love you all, Mary

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Amaryllis Left Behind

Dear Jeni,
I am posting some pictures of the Amaryllis that you had to leave behind.  It started showing color two days ago and now it looks as if it will really open.  I brought down my water mister that I use when I am ironing quilt blocks in case it needed a little help in opening up.  I misted it yesterday and today and it is opening up nicely although I don't know if the water had anything to do with it.
Here is a closeup of the one that is opening.

I also misted down below where the promised third flower is just starting to show.

I thought about it after I saw the third flower and I have decided that the leaves off to the side are a baby bulb being started.  What do you think?
I also read that it is possible to cut the bulb to start new plants.  One of the sites I went to had a video.  Don't worry, I am NOT going to do that.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Our Christmas Tree

Dear Family,

The tree is up in Whitefish! I don't know about those cousins in Missoula, whether they have trees up or not, since they'll all be going places for Christmas (not here). But school is out, I have precious precious time off (hence the post) and we have a tree, and people are coming over for Christmas Day dinner and did I mention I have time off? Even though it doesn't start until Christmas Eve I feel ecstatic about it. Lounge-y about it. Still in my pajamas about it. And here is the tree, thanks to Jon Drew for the inspiration, me for the first visualization, and Brian for bringing the concept to life.

It is not a photogenic tree. The pictures do not do justice to its...uniqueness.

And here's Katie, dressed in her Santa's Elf costume - she won a "Spirit" prize at school (forgot to ask: "spirit of what?")

Missing is the peaked elf hat which sings a song when a button is pressed..."We are Santa's elves, we are Santa's elves, etc." Horribly obnoxious, except I do like the peak which flaps and wiggles to the music (more or less). However, a dress with candy canes on it overcomes a singing hat any day. Imagine a dress with chocolates! I'd soon be naked.

So we are pretty much on the road to being ready for guests on Christmas Day except...why, oh why don't I have Mom's Broccoli Salad recipe anywhere?

Love, Mary

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Hi there Mary,

We took Jeni to the airport today to catch her flight to the west coast.  She was traveling in her lovely new blue Land's End coat and looked quite spiffy with her matching sunglasses.  I took a few pictures, much to her dismay.

She had her sunglasses off for these photo's though.

And the day before Jim and I made our big move he took a picture of me being comfy in my big chair, surrounded by boxes, both full and empty.  Just a little break before continuing packing.

We have been here a week and it has been lots of fun. Lots of card games were played.   Jeni and I went to Land's End (where she got the coat at 1/2 off) and we spent some time at Target too. Now we have a few days to relax before Christy  gets here for her visit.  The stores were full of merchandise and clerks and surprisingly more shoppers than I thought there would be.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Here is the meal I made for E a few days ago. It is a roast beef & Christmas tree dinner.
The meal was designed around an interesting variety of broccoli that I found at Linden Hills Coop.

The broccoli trees are planted into a squash, yam & potato mash. with a roast-drip reduction drizzled over everything.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jon writes...
Three pictures that I have been forgetting to send...
This one is the bunnie under the dwarf lilac at 4425
who stayed and watch me rake the yard.

Also, two views of the eagle that has been roosting on a light pole at L. Harriet for the past 2.5 weeks to the delight of people passing under it...Until it poops.

JD out.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

kitchen chairs

Dear Mary and Jeni,
Dear Mary and Jeni,
Well, to tell the truth, so far it is only one chair. But the fabric is almost finished for the other two. Now I have to look around for a 4th chair to recover and paint. It doesn't have to match, but I would like it to be close in size. These are wonderful 'lady' sized chairs. Not too big and my feet reach the ground!
I have been having fun doing this project. It started from a picture in Fons and Porter's Quilting Magazine this summer. First I did the little footstool and now I have these chairs that I found free out on the curb in Mayville.
They were sort of a maple color and the seat was glued down with crud under the sides of the upholstery and they smelled of smoke. However that is all in the past and now they are just as cute as the dickens.
I hope I get them finished before I have to return to Minneapolis next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Giblet Gravy by Mom

I have been online recently and seen a lot of posts about gravy. Evidently Thanksgiving makes a lot of people nervous about that particular part of cooking a Thanksgiving meal. Our mother has made Giblet Gravy for years. She got her recipe from our paternal grandmother who never measured anything. I had to keep an alert eye on Mom to get this recipe down correctly. I have made it for 5 years now and it works every time so I guess we have it right.
The best part about this recipe is you make a gravy 'starter' a day or two before and then all you have to do is stir it into the hot drippings from the turkey and heat it up. Mom does it right in the roaster which she puts over two of the gas burners of the stove so she doesn't have to pour the drippings into another container.

It makes a medium dark thick gravy with many bits of the giblets and the neck meat in it. When you also grind up the cooked veggies it has some color too. This is not a gravy for someone who wants a pale thin gravy. This is a robust gravy.


I spent the afternoon (12/24/04) cooking and thought I would write down Mom’s method of making giblet gravy. She starts two days before serving, but the day before will do. Tools are a small stock pot and an old fashioned food grinder.


Turkey giblets and neck

One carrot, in pieces

One celery stalk in pieces

One small (2-3inch) onion quartered

2 cloves garlic, smashed or not, your choice

2 teaspoons each pepper and kosher salt

Water to cover


First Mom removes the giblets and the neck and puts them in a pot with water to cover. To this pot she adds one carrot in about 4 pieces, one stalk of celery also cut into pieces and one small onion, again in pieces. The onion was the size of about ¼ of a softball. She puts a couple of teaspoons each of salt and pepper and the garlic into this stock. Then she puts it on the stove to simmer until it is easy to get the meat off the neck. This will take at least one hour and probably more. I like to simmer it at least two hours. Add water as needed as it cooks out.

Eventually she thought it was cooked enough and decided it was time to grind up the giblets. (She used to simmer it for hours when we were younger and now she doesn't. I think it would be better to do it longer. The meat should be very tender.)

After the giblets and broth have cooled she made Dad get out the old-fashioned grinder and clamp it to the kitchen table. Then she told me to cut the tendons and gristle off of what I think was the kidneys. (There were two) After that she told me to pull all the meat I could off the neck. (This is why you cook it longer.) We threw the remainder of the neck away and stuffed the meat in the grinder with all the giblets and squished it all out into a bowl. We ground up all the veggies too.

Once that was ground up she mixed up some flour and water. Probably about 1-½ to 2 cups worth. It should be about the texture of Elmer's glue. Then she started heating up the broth from the giblets with the ground up stuff added to it. She tasted it at this point but didn’t add any more seasoning.

When it was boiling she added the flour/water mix, slowly whisking it in as she went along. She added it in about 3 batches and said she wanted it “really thick”. When we had added all the flour/water mix she cooked it about 5 more minutes and we left it on the stove to cool. It was very thick when it was hot. It was solid and pale tan when cool. She said you could add seasoning at this point but if you tasted it now it would taste really floury so she didn’t add anything at this point. When it had cooled we put it out on the porch, covered, until the day we cook the turkey. (We live in Minnesota and the enclosed porch is an extra refrigerator in the winter)

On the day you cook the turkey you will finish the gravy.

Once we have the turkey out of the roaster, we put the roaster with its drippings on the stove and scrape any crusty bits into the juices. When it is heated and near to boiling then we add the thickened giblet concoction in large spoonfuls to make the actual gravy. I like to use a wisk when I am slowly mixing the drippings and the 'starter' together. Because you have already cooked the flour into the giblet blend you don't really have to worry much about getting lumps in the gravy.

That is when Mom adjusts the seasoning to taste. We seldom need to add any more. The veggies and the giblets add a lot of texture and taste. It makes somewhere between 1 and 2 quarts depending on how much stock you end up with and how much drippings you have. We always have plenty for leftovers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Indoors, Outdoors and Quilting at Faye's

Hi Mary and Jeni,
This is what is left on my ancient crabapple tree. Jim's parents planted it in the late 1940's. It has had many branches fall off or die but it still has the apples each year. I am waiting for the Cedar Waxwings to come and clean it off.
Speaking of clean, this is my new, chair and a half sleep sofa. The cats love it. It is a good thing I took pictures as soon as it and the 'storage ottoman' were in place. The room is just a junk pile right now. I have also added three painted wooden kitchen chairs that I am in the process of making new quilted seats for. (no pictures of those yet)
Alice and Abbie above, and Abbie below.
It was not hard to find them on it for pictures. Here is Alice queening it up for the camera.
Then I spent last weekend at Faye's with my cohorts in crime. We just love being given the key to the store and being able to play all weekend. This is the quilt top that I finished on Saturday.
It is a queen sized (84 x 108) and is intented to be my summer quilt. I am putting a lightweight cotton backing on it instead of the flannel I put on my black and white quilt that is the same pattern.
Yes that is me being proud.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quilt Camp and More Leaves

Hi Mary and Jeni,
I was at quilt camp Thursday through Sunday this week. We had a great time. It was put on by Faye's Henhouse and hosted at the Cooperstown Bible Camp. The ride out was sort of scary as it had rained for over 24 hours and the gravel roads to the camp were, what we North Dakotan's call, 'greasy'. That means it is sort of soapy in texture and it is really easy to slide off into the ditch.
This is the quilt top I made this weekend. It is stitched into rows, but the rows are not stitched together yet. Luckily the Bible Camp has these convenient valances for you to pin your quilting up onto.

Another thing the Bible Camp has in abundance are oak leaves.
Here is a closeup of the pile I was standing in.
They also have lovely hiking trails. I went out and walked for 1.86 miles with my friends Deb and Karen. You are probably surprised that I walked that far. So am I. However, now that I am off of the cholestorol drug Lipitor, my muscles have stopped aching all the time. Even much of my foot soreness was part of the Lipitor problem. I have been off of Lipitor for about 3 months now and I feel as if I went back in time to when I was 5o. Heck, maybe 40. So we walked.
Above, Deb and Karen are waiting patiently for me to take a picture.
Below is a shrub, about 7 to 8 feet high. With these red berries. Anyone have a guess as to what it is? I certainly don't know. We saw many of these on our walk.
We crossed over the 'mighty' Sheyenne River on a floating bridge near camp and then started to walk back.
And walk back. Notice the lovely Oak Tree in the left foreground.
And walk back some more.
When we dropped into the woods for a while we saw this beautiful moss.

Eventually I tired of the woods and it's uneven footing and followed a deer track up onto the road. We saw this huge fir/pine/spruce tree and none of us knew what kind of tree it is. We hope someone will tell us.
Naturalists we are not.
However you might note that Karen is another leaf collector! Well, maybe you can't tell but she is holding up a handful of oak leaves.
How did they get that far ahead of me....?
Well it might be because I kept stopping to photograph leaves in the mud.
We are easily amused here in North Dakota
I think that is the last one.
Soon after all the leaves in mud we made it back to our sweatshop in the main lodge at the camp. It is a wonderful room and we all sewed merrily into the night. Some of us (not me) stayed up until 1 a.m.
I went upstairs early and read in bed for a while. (The first Jesse Stone novel by Robert B Parker) Then, since last night was the time change, I actually saw the sunrise this morning.
Here is a closeup of my quilt pretending to be a stained glass window. It is all florals from my 'watercolor' stash. It will be queen size (86 x 108) when I finish it.