Ode to a Winter Day

Where I live we recently got the first of what will be many snowy days. Sometimes snow is the last thing I want to see when I venture out to go gallivanting. But I do happen to love the way snow falls and lies like a blanket on open fields. I’ve seen snow fall so heavily it seems to be sugar-coating the rows and rows of pines in that open field.

Years ago when I was testing my hand at poetry, this one came out of me. It’s an attempt to describe what I saw one day.

Snow Man
By Paula Geister

Step by step, a monstrous form
All arms and legs and head,
Takes his silent walk to the woods
To rest a bit, to find a bed.

The hulk takes giant steps tonight
On creaking snow like Styrofoam.
His breath is frozen in his beard,
But he presses on toward home.

Winter’s king all alone, he takes
The gloom from shrouded nights.
Stepping into the woods, he makes
The trees absorb his light.

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Burning Old Glory

In the United States, today is Flag Day. Citizens are encouraged to fly flags at home. We fly them properly. We fly them proudly. But on this day, we also burn them properly and with pride.

When we hear about a flag-burning, it doesn’t always mean a lack of patriotism. Sometimes, it’s the exact opposite.

The day was June 14th and I was visiting my family in Mid-Michigan. Part of that visit included a flag retirement ceremony. American Legion Post 101, of which my father was a member, conducted this ceremony on Flag Day and the experience has been etched in my mind forever.

The three-man color guard, including my father, marched toward the ceremony grounds. One of them proudly carried the American flag. They were a tight and disciplined group. It was as though they were still in the service of their country.

Indeed, they were.

We could hear their boots crunching the gravel underfoot, but that was the only sound except for the guard leader’s orders: “Forward march!” “Halt.” We faced the color guard and the Legion post commander led us in reciting the pledge of allegiance. Then he introduced the short ceremony by stating from prepared copy:

“We are gathered here to destroy these flags that have been deemed no longer serviceable. It is proclaimed that each of these flags has served well.

“The U.S. Flag Code states: the flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

I’d never seen a flag burned before. Certainly I’d seen news stories about radicals burning flags in protest. This was different. My thoughts were racing. I was like a three-year-old asking questions non-stop.

“How long must a flag fly before it’s this tattered?” “How do people know where to take a tattered flag to be disposed of properly?” “How many flags must they have collected in a year in a city of this size?”

I never asked those questions. I just watched.

I’d seen my father in his jaunty little cap and white gloves marching in parades before. But he’d never seemed so solemn then. Besides, parades are fun. And noisy. I could hear my father’s feet as he marched by on the pavement during a parade.

Now, if you listened, you could hear the sounds of traffic on M-57. Except for that, it seemed as though noise would be unwelcome. Only the post commander, resplendent in his uniform, spoke. He gave instructions to the Flag Bearer to come forward and receive the first flag to be issued to the flames.

“Who starts that fire?” I wondered. “Who will keep an eye on it and how long will it take to burn all the flags?”

Still, with all my questions, I simply watched along with everyone else. My stepmother stood beside me and I wondered if, as a legion auxiliary member, she’d witnessed a flag burning before. It was another question I didn’t ask.

In all my days, I’d never felt so awed by what our flag stood for. Now it seemed my questions really were unnecessary. The answer to questions that truly mattered occurred to me. Those answers explained why we say the Pledge. They explained why we burn Old Glory in this fashion. They explained why we need few words.

The answer was epitomized in one word: Respect.

The Flag Bearer came forward with the flag, which had been cut apart in accordance with the Code’s instructions. He placed that first flag in the fire.

“Why am I crying?” I thought. Another question and one only I could answer.

Smoke rose from the small fire; it was probably started with gas or some such thing. I wiped my cheeks and heard the post commander dismiss the color guard and the crowd.

I didn’t want it to be over. I wanted to watch Old Glory continue to burn. My stepmother said, “Come on, let’s go inside and have a drink. We’ll wait for your dad.”

Watching a flag-burning gave me a new perspective and the perspective is based on that one word. Respect. A new respect for our star-spangled banner.

Long may she wave.

Triggers

Stuart, who writes “Storyshucker,” has posted a very well-written and thought out commentary on the recent school shooting in Florida, first and second amendment rights and how people–especially students–are responding.

 

Storyshucker

We remain stunned by the unbelievably brutal attack on innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida. Who knows why the individual, obviously disturbed, felt compelled to do such a violent thing thereby ending seventeen lives and damaging so many more. Hindsight cannot help too much now.

The trigger has been pulled and there is no going back.

In the wake of the horror, debate rekindled over gun control and the meaning of twenty-seven little words. They have been dissected countless times but the conclusion has remained largely the same. Gun advocates cling to that decision because parts of the Second Amendment provide quite a sturdy position from which to take a stand.

But so do parts of the First. Enter the students.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, the organization and determination of the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School must be admired. Their collective response in speaking out was…

View original post 380 more words

Foodie Butchers a Bird

We’re going to learn about cutting up a fresh frying chicken today. Well, actually, I’d like to give some instruction and aid you with a video of someone doing it so you can get a good “feel” for how to handle the knife and the bird.

I learned how to cup up a fryer when I worked in a small grocery store that had a fresh meat case. Al, the butcher, taught me a lot about the various cuts of beef and pork and how to save money by using a fryer instead of buying the pieces already cut up. Since I was a young mother trying to save pennies, I was happy to watch him go through three or four chickens before I finally “got it.”

Some of the good reasons to learn and employ this technique:

  • Money saved per pound on chicken
  • Better use of the chicken parts, when done wisely
  • You get parts you like which aren’t found in “selected” packaging
  • Getting “back to basics”
  • A sense of pride in knowing a new kitchen skill

Let’s start with the money you save. It’s not going to make you rich, but when you’re trying to save any way you can, it helps. I mean, you shop sales, use coupons, and want BOGO offers, right? Well, there you go.

As for better use of those pieces, I’ll explain a little more of that later, but when the family likes both dark and white meat, you have it in one neat little package. Those parts you enjoy like the liver, the heart or gizzard are there too.

Notice how the wing ‘tips’ are saved for later.

You get a taste without having to buy a whole package of them, unless you want to do that. But even then, they’re usually frozen and most of us don’t prepare a whole meal of them at once. When you learn to cut up a whole fryer, you have the skill of a chef and a sort of “pioneer” attitude. (without having to catch the bird and pluck its feathers!)

Don’t worry about how much time you won’t save by cutting up your own chicken. This video of Alex from The Food Network shows her doing this is just over 2 minutes. You’ll get that good at it too.

I would add to her instructions that, when you cut those wings off first, be aware of the bones/joints attached to the wing portion. Once you make that cut into the skin, gently bend the wing away from the body of the chicken and then you can slice through. It’s mostly cartilage which gives way pretty easily. Same goes for the joint between the leg and thigh, which is something she mentions. Al taught me to feel for it with my finger; there would be a dip to slice into and then I could find the joint/bone. Always use a sharp, good quality knife.

Isn’t this fun and educational?

All right, now we get to some other practical considerations. You say, “My family isn’t into those internal organs or neck and back pieces.” That’s okay. They can be used, along with the carcass of the chicken, for making something you may or may not have heard of: bone broth. It’s something you make which yields a rich broth you can’t find in the store. “Why does that matter?” you ask. Because homemade broth has ingredients of which you know the origin. You don’t have to read the label.

Rather than type out my own recipe for bone broth, here’s a broth recipe which can be used for either beef or chicken. It’s very close to how I do it. Try a turkey carcass following your holiday meal too; it’s already roasted. (You may have to break the bones apart to get them in.) Beef bones, if not already roasted, work best when browned first for more flavor. Here’s another slow cooker recipe which uses slightly different ingredients. I like the idea of using a slow cooker because most of us want to use time wisely as well as using our money wisely. Besides, you don’t have to stand guard over it and cooking that way fills the house with great aromas.

Some great reasons for making broth:

  • Using every part of the meat you paid good money for
  • Saving money by not having to buy packaged broth
  • Knowing exactly what’s in your broth
  • Having it handy when you want it
  • Nutrients from the bones you wouldn’t normally get
  • Getting back to basics!
  • A new kitchen skill!

You can freeze broth in containers for use later. I use quart containers because that’s what I would have been buying anyway. Your call. Some cooks also can theirs. And don’t miss these excellent tips for making broth which come from the experts.

He doesn’t know what’s coming!

 

 

Eat hardy!

Food For Thought

At this time on Friday, if I’m going to write a Foodie post, it’s already done. Today, I couldn’t decide what to write about. Then I saw a link on a Facebook friend’s feed.

We in the U.S. are grieving another tragedy. Seventeen people killed in a mass shooting at a school in Florida. We shake our heads and wonder how to get a handle on this problem. No one seems to have a comprehensive solution. The ideas flying around out there can cause good friends to argue until things get nasty and petty.

I don’t have answers. What I do know is that if someone is so troubled to go into a school or any other public place (or private one for that matter) and kill someone, using a semi-automatic weapon or a pistol isn’t exactly the point.

One person murdered is one too many.

Here’s what I decided to post today. A different kind of food; it’s food for thought. Here’s the link to that article on my friend’s feed. It’s about a teacher and her Friday in-class assignment. I wonder how much this would have helped some of the kids I watched being bullies and loners as I was growing up?

 

Sharing Some Gnarly Trees

Recently, one of the lady bloggers from Sweden whom I follow posted a photo of a gnarly tree. Her beautiful blog consists of only photos. Landscapes, architecture, street scenes, manhole covers (lots of those), her pooch, and food. She often includes instructions for preparing the dish she shows on her blog. She includes a description in her native tongue and an English translation. She seems like a fun lady.

When I took a trip to Arizona to visit my daughter and grandson last year, we went to the Grand Canyon. On the south rim, we saw vistas that take your breath away. But the terrain we walked also boasted some sights we could actually touch.

Gnarly trees, for instance. And tiny yellow flowers growing in the hard and rocky soil. It was quite beautiful.

My Swedish friend suggested I share on my blog the shots I snagged of gnarly trees at the Grand Canyon. So here are a couple of them.

Now you should mosey over to inte fan gor det det and see what she’s got going on today. If you like, you can take a look at her gnarly tree too, the post titled “En Underbar Vinterdag.”

Leave her a comment and let her know you stopped by. Tell her Paula from The Fruitful Life sent you.

And be a blessing to someone today.

Drink Up, Foodie

Most of us like parties. We don’t even need a good reason to celebrate or get together. My best friend and I would often say at the end of the school day, “Let’s go celebrate.” That meant we’d be stopping on our walk home to have a soda in a corner booth at the family restaurant on main street.

What were we celebrating? That school let out; that we’d done well on a test; that we hadn’t been sent to the principal’s office; anything; or nothing at all. We just enjoyed each other’s company and it called for a “celebration.”

This time of year, however, many of us find ourselves celebrating something. A holiday; the beginning of a new calendar year; a break from school; anything. And we want to celebrate those things with people we enjoy.

If you’re inviting friends in or attending a get-together elsewhere, you know from experience that the drinks are a big part of the celebration. This week, Foodie Friday is designated to holidays and party drinks. (And speaking of “designated,” if you intend to drink alcoholic beverages at your celebrations, plan for a designated driver. Please.)

This first recipe is traditional for Christmas. It’s a British beverage dating back to the 1400s. The word ‘wassail’ means “Be well.” So, it’s the perfect beverage for drinking to one another’s good health. I got this recipe from my community theater buddy, Valerie VanderMark.

Wassail

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. water
  • 6 c. grapefruit juice
  • 3 c. orange juice
  • 1 quart cider
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

In a saucepan combine sugar, water, cloves and cinnamon. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes. Strain the mixture. Add juices, simmer to blend flavors and serve hot. Garnish with orange slices. It makes approximately 26 servings

This recipe is for a very different kind of drink and I got it from a lady, Nina Bale, who lived in my home town. I remember Nina well because, like me, she was petite. And, goodness, she dressed with impeccable taste.

Nina Bale’s Slush

  • 46 oz. pineapple juice
  • 12 oz. can frozen lemonade
  • 1 fifth Vodka
  • 1 large can crème of coconut or coconut milk

Combine all ingredients and freeze in a large container. For the party, taking out as much as you need, blend in batches at low speed in a blender. Pour into glasses or a chilled punch bowl.

Other seasonal drinks include eggnog, with or without the alcohol; hot buttered rum; and glogg, a traditional Scandinavian drink. If you like your buttered rum sans alcohol, but want the taste of it, add a bit of rum extract. Glogg can be prepared without alcohol as well.

And don’t forget the great old stand-by, hot chocolate. There are so many ways to flavor it if you want to experiment. Drink up! And say a toast to Foodies everywhere.

Be a blessing to all you meet during this holiday season.

 

“I Know You!”

The phone rang first thing in the morning and I didn’t want to answer it. I was still stumbling around with my coffee and hadn’t yet revved myself up for the day. I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello.”

The woman on the other end of the line introduced herself and explained why she’d called. She read a devotion I’d written and wanted to let me know she enjoyed it. Since the city in which I live was noted at the end of the devotion, she looked me up in her phone book. I knew exactly who she was; I had caller ID, after all.

She kept talking and I decided to let her. Her words were encouraging, and it was obvious from what she said that she’d been blessed by what she read. I was glad to hear it, especially from her, a woman I respected.

I decided I better introduce myself and let her know we weren’t strangers. We’d been going to the same church for almost twenty years. I knew she knew me because for a short time we’d both worked in children’s ministry.

Finally, I said, “I’m glad you liked the devotion, Carol. That means a lot to me. But I’m surprised you didn’t recognize my name.” Then I told her that on the previous Sunday, she and her husband had been sitting next to me in church.

People say all the time, “What a small world.” To some extent, I disagree. I’ve discovered that, with Christ is in my life, he’s opened it up and made it larger in ways I would never have conceived.

“You have heard of this hope before in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (Colossians 1:5-6).

Blackie

Of all the animals that lived with us as we six kids were growing up, the one I remember the best was Blackie. Blackie wasn’t my cat nor did he belong to any of my siblings. From years of experience with cats, I believe you don’t own them, they own you.

Blackie owned my dad and that was only right. They were a lot alike. Cats could teach graduate courses in Being Aloof. My father was equally distant to us.

Dad and Blackie were both tough. Dad, an auto mechanic, came home with scabs on his forehead because he’d come up too quickly from under a car hood. (Bang! “Ouch!”) He’d get those blackened fingernail beds and he’d have grease all over him. Blackie had bald patches, and a couple notches in his ear from years of cat fights.

One night, Dad and Blackie revealed their respective vulnerabilities. Aged, deaf, and not as quick as he once was, Blackie didn’t hear the car when Dad pulled into the driveway. We almost always heard it and usually ran to the door to greet him.

This time he dashed back outside with a flashlight in his hand. “I think I just ran over Blackie.”

We were stunned. We waited.

Dad came back in and dropped onto this chair. He rested his elbow on the kitchen table, put his head in his hand and cried.

Dad? Crying? We were stunned. We waited.

We rarely dared to touch my dad or gesture in an intimate way, but we stood there around him and were quiet. He didn’t tell us to go away.

Somehow in his death, Blackie gave my father permission to let us see his soft side. Dad wasn’t instantly cured of Being Aloof, but we knew he had potential. He was on his way.

Tips for Raiding the Foodie Pantry

Believe it or not, we don’t need to buy fancy products at the store to handle cleaning, repairs and conditioning. Practically everyone knows you can use dryer sheets for freshening things up and lint pickup. Here are some other tips using household items you probably already have around the house.

Rubbing Alcohol: It’s a great cleaner and disinfectant. It also leaves a streak-free shine.

  • Wipe candles with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove dust being careful not to touch the wick.
  • For your car, wipe your windshield wiper blades with a bit of rubbing alcohol. It removes road grime and they are less apt to become iced up.
  • Unclog hair spray or paint nozzles by gently removing the spray top and soaking in rubbing alcohol for about 10 minutes.
  • Make a home-made ice pack by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a seal-able plastic bag. Next time you have a sore area or injury, use this clever ice pack which also molds to your body. (alcohol doesn’t freeze)
  • Get rid of fruit flies by mixing rubbing alcohol with water in a spray bottle and spraying them. They’ll soon drop so you can clean them away. So much cleaner and less smelly than commercial bug sprays.

Cooking Spray: This has become a staple in many modern pantries and for good reason. Did you know you can also…?

  • Spray a thin layer inside plastic containers before storing tomato-based sauces. Stains normally left behind from the acidic sauce can be prevented this way.
  • Being very careful not to get any on the floor of the bathtub, spritz the shower walls with cooking spray to help loosen soap scum. Again, if you’ve ever over sprayed in the kitchen and it’s landed on the floor, you know it’s important to be careful. It is, after all, an oil.
  • Who needs commercial products when you can use cooking spray to take care of a squeaky or tight hinge?

Vinegar: It’s probably best to use white vinegar for these tips. The smell is milder and there’s no color.

  • Would you rather not use alcohol on the wiper blades? Vinegar may not keep them from icing up, but it also cleans away the grime that builds up.
  • For your laundry, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar to a full load of laundry. It will soften, deodorize, and de-lint clothes. It also removes excess soap, which can cause skin irritation.
  • Warm white vinegar in the microwave for about 30 seconds and use it to cut though hardened soap scum and hard water stains in your bathroom and shower.
  • Preserve fresh-cut flowers by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar to the water. Vinegar kills the bacteria and sugar feeds the flowers.

Cornstarch: It’s not just for making gravy.

  • After cleaning wood furniture, sprinkle a little cornstarch over the area and rub with a lint-free cloth. Cornstarch absorbs the excess polish and cleans away fingerprints.
  • Remove greasy stains such as lotion and baby oil from clothing. Blot as much as you can with a cloth, then sprinkle the cornstarch. Let it sit 10 minutes, shake it out, and dab with (that good old) white vinegar to break up the greases. Launder as usual.
  • If your shoes seem to retain odor, sprinkle a little cornstarch in them at bedtime. The smells are absorbed and it’s easy to just dust it away into a waste bin.
  • You can also make dry shampoo from cornstarch. Use ¼ cup cornstarch, 4-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary is a good one), a small jar with a wide opening, and a fluffy makeup brush. Mix the cornstarch and oil together in the jar. Before bed, dust the shampoo into your roots so it can absorb oil then carefully brush it out the next morning. If you’re pressed for time, try to do this at least a couple hours before you leave the house, so you don’t get that ‘grey’ look.
  • Clean your child’s favorite stuffed animals with cornstarch. Put the fluffy little beast in a paper bag with a bit of cornstarch, seal and shake the bag, then leave it overnight. The next day, remove the toy and shake it well or use your vacuum attachment to remove any residue.

Do you have tips for cleaning with ordinary pantry stuff? It’s environmentally cleaner and much cheaper to use those items you already have on hand. In fact, of the pantry items mentioned here, cornstarch is the only one I’ve not found at the dollar store. Use the comments section and let me know your tips and tricks.