What An Adventure!!!

So Gramps and I decided to go on a little camping trip to Iowa, spending a few days with his two cousins and their wives along the Mississippi River.  Just a week to get away from the heat here in Texas, visit with family and enjoy the outdoors.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Doable, easy, no big problem.

Well, that’s what I thought too, at least on Day One. The first day of travel was uneventful. A peaceful day of driving and arriving at a pleasant State Park in Kansas.

After a couple nights in another campground, we headed for the Iowa State Park and the group campout, although with one camper tire that had turned up low on air.  After re-inflation, things started to fall apart, although we didn’t know at the time how much.  Other drivers passing us started pointing.  I thought they were rude.  Gramps finally realized something was wrong and pulled over.

Sure enough, a flat tire. Not just a flat tire, but an exploded tire!  We were driving on the rim and the tread was wrapped around the axle.

Gramps was unable to get the lug nuts off the wheel because it kept turning – brakes wouldn’t hold it, chocks no good, pry bars…nothing.  And we couldn’t call for help because we were in a “No Service” area – cell phones wouldn’t work.

Well, we were just going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers, so we flagged down a nice gentleman who drove Gramps to the nearest spot where the phone would work and he could call for roadside assistance.

As things happen, a nice burly man stopped on his own accord and offered to help while Gramps was gone.  He was able to get the lug nuts off and started to replace the wheel.  I could not call Gramps to tell him to return because, as you recall, I was in a dead zone.

By the time Gramps did return, the tire was almost in place and a service tech was on his way.  We finished getting the spare on, thanked all our helpers and drove off to find cell coverage, and cancel the service request.

We soon arrived at the State Park, set up, had dinner and fell into bed.

During the night, a big thunderstorm came up and we noticed a leak coming from the skylight.  So we put a big bowl under it and went back to bed.

Before sunrise, I picked up my clock to check the time (5 am!!) and found my hand in a pool of water on the top of the bedside table.  At the same time, I felt water dripping on the back of my hand. We had another leak!!  We got up and sopped it all up with paper towel, then put another bowl in place to catch the drip coming from the ceiling.  No more sleep for us.

That same day, we discovered the carpeting in the living area was sopping wet.  Not just wet, but saturated, soggy, boggy wet.  We finally discovered that the water tank fill hose is in that corner and we had used that inlet to fill the tank with about twenty gallons of water the previous day.  Searching further, we found a large cut in the hose, which meant that most of that water leaked into the camper and got sucked up by the carpet.

Well, we tried sopping it up with paper towels until we ran out.  It became clear that paper towels were not going to do the job, so to save the flooring, we started removing carpet. Gramps cut out a four foot square of carpet – can’t tell you how ugly THAT looks!!!

Then we decided to put the fan down on the remaining carpet to help dry it out. The only problem?  It’s a 12-volt fan, without an outlet in that area.  Time to go to Wally World!!  We needed a 110-volt fan and certainly more paper towels.

By then the cousin couple from Michigan had arrived, so we all began setting up their unit and cheerful visiting.  All was well for the rest of the day.

Next day, we found the truck carpeting along the sill was saturated.  Did it leak in the all-night rainfall?  Yes, we tried paper towels by the roll.  Then Gramps pried the carpet up with screwdrivers and pliers to allow air circulation. By the end of the day he had added a hair dryer that eventually ran three straight days and nights and never did dry out the carpeting.

Then the camper lost battery power, which meant we had no 12-volt lights or water pump, and no water service.  We started hauling water in a big tub from the fill station to the camper for the toilet and the sink. That was a fun day!!!  Meanwhile, battery trouble-shooting continued.

Suddenly the next day, the battery power come back on all by itself.  No one knows why or how.  We were just glad that finally something good had happened.

Finally all three families had arrived and we had nightly campfires together.  We had drinks for everyone, big dinners made by one couple each evening, long talks, lots of laughs . . . and bugs.  Biting bugs.  Bugs that bit some of us but not all of us.

That’s right, I was one of the chosen and in two evenings was covered on my hands, arms, back, legs, ankles and feet.  With so many bites I looked like I had measles. And itch?!!  I felt like a bear in heat.  I was rubbing on everything and everybody.

Then the truck door panel, held on by one screw because Gramps had been working on it, came loose when the screw fell out and so every time he opened the door, the panel fell down a few inches.  It had to stay connected for mirror and window power.  Solution?  Climb across from the passenger door.  No problem!!!

Oh, and don’t use the driver side window either, because it had become unreliable and got stuck in open position once.  So when going through Toll Booths, Granny had to jump out, run around, pay the toll, run back and jump in the truck.  Quite a sight really!!!

Days with the cousins were fun.  We shared meals, we shared war stories, we shared many laughs and hugs.  The campout was over too soon.  Time to get ready to go home. Make plans to do it again.  Stock up on wine from an excellent Iowa winery, stock up on fresh sweet corn. ( We were in Iowa remember!! ).  Get the camper ready to go.

While breaking camp, we found that one of the gray tanks couldn’t be drained due to a broken tank valve.  Yikes!!  I was starting to get a little paranoid.  What more could happen?  I didn’t even want to think about it.

We drove home with dread following us.  What was going to happen?  Where would it happen?

Our first day of the return trip, we got to our campground with no issues.  Maybe our luck had changed.

The last day started out fine and then suddenly Gramps began slowing and pulled over to the shoulder – he heard and saw yet another tire (the old spare) flailing. It couldn’t be!!!!!!!

BUT IT WAS!!!!!  And it was the spare tire we had put on after the first blowout. Yessirree!!! The exact same tire!!!

We were getting pretty good at changing tires by then.  I knew exactly where the jack was and how to put it together.  We had just been through this routine.  It all was very familiar, and even a blessing to have trouble on a beautiful day, good highway, little traffic, and plenty of space for the tire change.  In hindsight, we should not have used that old spare, but rather the new tire.

By now, I was laughing a bit hysterically.  It all seemed so funny, so ridiculous, so arbitrary. Whereas earlier, I was stressed and worried, thinking how will we make it through all this?  If anything more happens, I will surely crack.  But then more happened and I didn’t crack.

It all looked pretty funny now, so absurd.  We had no control of anything, we might as well enjoy the ride.  We sure couldn’t stop or change it.  When my mind changed, it became a lot more enjoyable.  It was almost exciting, waiting for the next catastrophe to occur, to be surprised by the next disaster.

We started making bets on what would happen next.  Would we arrive home in a ball of flame?  Would the grey tank become too full and spill into the camper?  Would the roof come off in a wind gust?

The options went on and on and got more bizarre.  But it kept us entertained that last four hundred miles.

We got home in one piece, so to speak.  But we were limping for sure.

We got the camper into emergency surgery the next day, thanks to our sympathetic RV dealer.  We had only four days to get her fixed before a two-week trip to California.

Four days later she came back with all the immediate needs fixed.  Good news!  We could go to California without a care in the world.  She would work like a charm.

So we got her home, opened her up.   OMG!!!!!! She was full of ants!!!!!!  Ants everywhere!!!!!!!  ANTS, ANTS, ANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It feels like deja vu.

Am I in the Twilight Zone?

I’m back to hysteria again.

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Mother’s Cookbook

Does this book look at all familiar? It sure does to me! It is my mother’s cookbook! She bought it in 1968, the year it was published. I grew up with this wonderful fount of recipes in her kitchen daily.

It was used on the stove, on the counter, on the table and in her hands. Sometimes I held the book while she read the directions and cooked the dish. This pretty red and white number has withstood many a spill, spoon and steam over. It has been dropped, slammed, cut, burned and soaked. But it has survived to be cherished by a second generation, a third and now a fourth.

One of the great things about this cookbook is the basic information it has on the inside covers. I can’t tell you how many times I have used these substitutions in my cooking. Do you see all the rub and wear marks on the page? How many times has this cover been opened and closed over the last 50 years? I cannot even imagine!

The  Chapter I remember the best is the one on Pastry and Pies. Mother was the best baker I knew and made the best pies ever. I think about her most often during the Holidays when I am making my pies. While rolling out the dough made with her recipe, I have conversations in my head with her. I tell her all about the happenings of the year, what the kids have been up to, the good, the bad, everything really. I trully believe she hears me up there in Heaven, where she is making angelic pies for the saints.

I learned to cook with this cookbook. Basic things and complex things too. I started with cream sauce. This exact recipe seen here was my first dish. I added a can of tuna and poured it over saltine crackers. I loved having pictures to follow. It was mistake proof at the time.

Years later I made this for my family. The kids loved it! My daughter still talks about it being one of her favorite dishes from her childhood. Who would have guessed?

For many years the magazine Better Homes and Gardens printed recipes that were to be used in the cookbook. This recipe was printed in 1972 and was to be filed under Meats. My cookbook is jam-packed with dozens of these stuffed under their proper headings. Most of them are award winning recipes, but very few of them are low calorie.

Most of them are wrinkled and torn but that just adds to the charm for me.

What cookbook nowadays has a chapter on Table Settings and Entertaining? Well this one does! Look at all the headings. Is that wonderful or what?! What a great gift for a new wife!

Take a look at these suggested menus! I’m very interested in Crab-artichoke Bake, but who does Hot Fruit Compote anymore? And isn’t that stain at the bottom of the page as sweet as can be? Is that broth or soup or tea? Could it be meat drippings or vegetable stock? What memories are in that little discolored spot on that page in that old book.Have a gander at their idea of the ideal kitchen. I have to say I love all the blue! But where are all the windows! It is way too dark for me. And who needs a rotisserie anymore, really.

Mother’s cookbook symbolizes so many things for me. It is a great repository of recipes, memories, nostalgia, good times. It continues to teach me lessons about cooking, life, sharing, relationships, old math principles and good housekeeping.

My daughter saw me cook with it and now my grandson Mac is getting to use it. Fifty years it has been our family, teaching its many lessons to four generations of cooks.

It is a tough little book with tender ways. No matter how many mistakes we make, it continues to forgive and forget.

It sits patiently on the shelf until needed. It always has the answer to any question asked of it. It never makes demands and only has suggestions for success. It never wears out and seems only to get better with age.

Mother’s cookbook. Ready for another fifty years of devoted service.

 

It Happened On A Monday

It happened on a Monday. It could have just as easily happened on a Tuesday or a Thursday, but yes, it was a Monday.

It happened at 6:30 pm to be specific. Again it could have been anytime but I remember it well and it was definitely 6:30 pm on a Monday.

What am I talking about? Mac’s first band concert, of course.

It seems Mac has decided to play the tuba this year – 6th grade. (Can you believe it? Wasn’t he in kindergarten just last year?)

There were tryouts at the beginning of the year on many different instruments. Mac blew into the tuba mouthpiece and the director announced he was “a natural”. My interpretation– “We are short of tuba players and you look pretty good.”

Anyway, Mac now believes he was born to play tuba, which is a good thing. He is in the beginning band, a very good thing. And they had their first concert last Monday night . . . . . at 6:30 pm, a very, very good thing.

The evening started out with Gramps and me arriving at the school and coming in to the auditorium through the back door. All the kids were nicely seated in the audience section and no parents were anywhere to be seen. Suddenly Mac stood up and said to us, “You can’t be here!” What ever happened to “Hello Granny”?

We smiled and waved to him. “Hi, Mac.” Again, “You can’t be here!” He’s very big on rules and regulations lately.

“OK” we said. “We’re leaving. Where are we supposed to be?”

Mac. “Out in the hall! You can’t be here!”

I’m not sure to this day what we were not supposed to see but obligingly we went to the hallway and there were all the other families waiting patiently.

Finally we were allowed back into the auditorium and all the kids were by then on stage in their performance seats. Of course, we could not see Mac. He was one of the four tubas in the back row.

The concert was great with lots of Christmas music. All the instruments were featured throughout the evening including the four tubas in the back row.

The time passed too quickly and before we knew it we were hugging Mac back out in the hall. “Congratulations” and “Good Job” were heard from everyone. Mac was beaming.

How special for him to have both parents and both sets of grandparents hugging him and telling him how great he did. Even his great uncle, a musician, made an appearance and was very impressed.

Nothing feels better than family hugs. Nothing sounds better than family applause. Nothing feels better than family support. Even if it just happened to be a first time ever band concert on a Monday night at 6:30 pm.

The Importance Of Saying I Love You

Every time I say goodbye to anyone I adore, I close with “love you”. Every time I end a phone conversation with a family member, they hear “love you” before I hang up. Every time one of my grandchildren walks out my front door, the last words they hear from me are “love you”.

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I want all my dear ones to carry those words with them whenever they leave my presence. I want them wrapped in my love and good feelings until we meet again.

For some people, that’s hard to do. For some people, those words don’t just roll off the tongue or come up easy in conversation. For some people, saying “I love you” to their own children is a difficulty.

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I think children cannot hear those words often enough. I think they need to hear those words from as many people as possible. I think those words need to be sincere.

Knowing you are loved provides stability and reliability in your life. It develops self-esteem, confidence and pride. Hearing the words of love reminds you of your place in the world, in the community, in the family.

Being told you are loved makes it easier to share your own love with others. You are more likely to love and express that love. It becomes a full circle of loving begets being loved begets loving, etc.

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My family knows I am going to begin and end every conversation with love words. It’s a known fact. It’s expected. If it didn’t happen, they would worry about me. Something would be wrong.

It has now become a tradition, a habit. Something comfortable and familiar that passes between two people. If it didn’t happen – if the words were not spoken – they would be missed. There would be a hole. The relationship would be changed.

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But we don’t forget. We speak the precious words to each other every chance we get. Every time. All the time. Love you. Love you too. And the relationships stay strong.

A Homemade Holiday

Think it’s not worth the trouble? Making things for the holidays or anytime, for that matter? Think no one will really appreciate your effort? Think it is all a waste? Think again, my Sweetie!

I believe the biggest and best gift you can give anyone is your time. It is precious, unique and will never come again. Any time you are thinking about someone, doing for someone or sharing with someone, it is a gift to be treasured and held in the highest regard.

So spending the time making a gift or fashioning a decoration or baking food or brightening up the yard is a gift of your time and thought. Do I believe you should do EVERYTHING – NO!!!!  That’s a killer and a misuse of your time. But adding your personal touch to each day and especially each holiday is very doable.

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And the memories it makes! Oh Boy! I have the best memories of my mother baking for every occasion. Pies! Cookies! Candy! Cakes! Everyone enjoyed her handiwork. Everyone was blessed by her efforts. And she loved doing it.

That’s the double blessing of homemade. The maker is as happy making the gift as the receiver is getting the gift.

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I love spending time on a project for one person. The whole while I’m thinking about them. How they will look when I give them the gift. How they will enjoy it. How it will benefit our relationship. On and on I think, until the project is done.

Then I get to really see their face when I give it to them and watch them enjoy it and feel our relationship deepen. What could be better than that?

I remember when we had young children, we decided to each have small blank books one Christmas. In each person’s book we would write down the gifts of our time we were giving that person. I had things like: “I  will make your bed” from my daughter, I will give you a back rub” from my son and “I will bring you breakfast in bed” from my husband.

There were many others that year and  in the years to follow. How fun it was to cash in the certificates during the year. Those gifts were extra special in so many ways.

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Putting forth effort for those you love is never a waste. It is love in the purest sense, it is a teaching moment and a good example for all those watching you. It couldn’t be more important.

So put your personal touch on every holiday. Whatever that means – making presents, making decorations, fashioning yard art, baking, cooking. It could be as simple as wrapping a gift or tying a bow or as interesting as smocking a Christmas dress. Whatever shows your talent and care.

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Show your love. Give of your time. Make you holiday homemade.

 

 

Why I Quilt

I love it. I have to do something everyday that gives me joy. Quilting (and sewing in general) does that for me. It brings a happiness that nothing else does. What a blessing to find that in my life and so early. I knew as a child I would sew the rest of my life.

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It gives me peace. When I am quilting, I am completely at peace with myself and my surroundings. Time and trouble have almost no meaning when I am in the midst of fabric and a sewing machine. For me, quilting is better at curing the blues than professional therapy.

It makes me use my mind. Quilting involves a fair amount of math; using fractions, the metric system, division, geometry and angles. I must use my brain to keep measurements accurate. I also have to make squares, triangles, etc. match up. There are many skills I have to learn and new ways of doing things. There is always something new on the horizon. Quilting keeps me on my toes, alert and always aware. I think it helps keep me young.

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It’s a way to be creative. Colors, shapes, sizes, contrast and harmony – all combine in a million different ways. How fun it is to explore the possibilities that quilting affords me. I can literally think of anything and try it out with fabric! It doesn’t get any better.

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It keeps me organized. Keeping all the parts of a quilt in order can be a chore, but it does make me develop a system. The system allows the quilt to go together in the right sequence and it is different for each quilt. That way I’m able to stop and start without getting lost.

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It allows me to be messy. When I’m quilting, it can look like a fabric bomb has gone off in my sewing room. And that’s okay! Allowing the fabric to speak and jump out can be a freeing experience. Try it – I think you will like it! And I don’t have to clean it up until I’m ready.

It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Making progress on a quilt is very invigorating. Every block done is a goal accomplished. And a finished quilt is a thrill beyond compare. All the thought, planning, work, ripping, re-sewing and love become a beautiful fabric hug.

It never ends. Even before one quilt is done, I’m looking forward to the next project. There is always a new energy and an eagerness to get to the next idea. Numerous thoughts concerning several quilts can be going on at the same time. Quilts follow quilts. They never end!

The community of other quilters. Sharing the love of quilting with other like-minded people just multiplies the joy. I have found quilters to be the most selfless, caring, inclusive, sharing folks on the planet. I can’t imagine quilting all alone. It is a gift that must be performed  with others. I must share. I must be taught. I must teach. I must know the happiness of a group quilting together.

Photographs for the book "Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting" by Sonja Hakala. (Photo by Geoff Hansen)

Photographs for the book “Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting” by Sonja Hakala.
(Photo by Geoff Hansen)

It is part of my legacy. I envision quilts I made being handed down to my family for generations. I have also made many quilts as gifts for family and friends. These quilts are part of me and show my love for those in my life. Like my laugh and my sense of humor, they will be remembered and talked about for many years to come.

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The act of quilting itself sets a good example for the younger generations in my family. As the matriarch, I want to be seen as a productive and active elder. I believe quilting does that for me.

The Grandparent Book

G BookGrandparents’ Day is coming soon. September 11 to be exact. Want to get a great gift for yourself or any other grandparent in your life? I have a wonderful suggestion: The Grandparent Book by Amy Brouse Rosenthal.

This is not a book about grandparenting skills. It is not a humorous book about funny interactions between grandparents and their almost always funny grandchildren. It is not a book about famous grandparents.

It is however, a place to record those precious family memories and special traditions you would like to pass along to the next generations.

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It is most definitely a platform for sharing the lifetime of wisdom you have surely accumulated and that your family needs you to share.

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It is absolutely a keepsake in the making. Your own personal legacy of memories, thoughts, cares, wisdom and learning, all stored in one easily transferrable book.

The book starts out with the basic statistics of who you are and where you come from. Then comes page after page of leading questions to be answered. . . . . or not. It’s a free country! There are plenty of spaces for photos and souvenirs to be added to the written words.

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Some of the great topics are: The Inside Scoop On My Siblings, Life At The Family Dinner Table, What Drew Me To My Future Spouse. There’s even space for family members to write special notes and comments.

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When filled in, this book becomes a treasure trove of memories, thoughts, feelings, traditions and unique family moments to be gifted and shared with those you love the most.

First it is a gift for the grandparent and then it becomes an incredible inheritance for the grandchild.  What other book could do more than that?