Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best for 2011

Between the Sun and the Moon

We're leaving town for the weekend within the hour, so I won't be near the computer tomorrow morning to wish everyone a Very Happy New Year. So, I'll do that today, on New Years Eve, and resume whatever it is I do on here next week.

Until then, here is Haiku My Heart Friday

Softly falling dark

Waking up to the New Year

Live a peaceful life

See more Haiku My Heart at Rebecca's reduerda mi corazon

I pray for and wish Peace and harmony along with the strength and courage to face what life brings you, today,  throughout the New Year and beyond.

Happy New Year


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Traveling In My Mind

City of Rocks State Park near Deming, NM

This week is always strange. It’s the middle of Winter, yet the first day of Winter was only one week ago. But with all the snow on the ground and the piles in parking lots and at the edges of driveways, I feel like it’s the middle of it. The cold too. It’s below freezing every night and even daytime high temperatures aren’t going above the freezing mark. There is a chance that we’ll get up over 32 degrees Fahrenheit this week, but only for a day.
The kids are home from school. They get a break between Christmas and New Years. Mrs. Spadoman has some days off as well because of the holidays. We have plans to take the children to a movie one day this week, Tangled, and to go to the giant sledding hill another. Other than that, they’ll play in the yard in the deep piles of snow and have sessions of hot chocolate at the kitchen table while their outer ware tumbles in the dryer.
The sledding hill at Hoffman Park is always fun!

I think it was in the early 1990’s that I first went to New Mexico during the Winter. I was living in Grand Junction, Colorado in 1992 and traveled down there with a friend. Grand Junction was balmy enough, but a couple of hundred miles further South it was balmier. I liked the terrain, the food and the adventure and returned year after year.
Over the years, I’ve tried every possible living situation that my pocketbook would allow as far as spending time down South.
Silver City, Deming, Truth Or Consequences, Las Cruces, Albuquerque were all my favorites and still are. Now, I’m sitting inside more often and planning, or should I say day dreaming, about being there and breaking up this Winter scene. With all the memories of the trips each and every year since that first time, I can sit and watch the birds at the feeders here at home, and imagine myself at La Pinata in Truth Or Consequences, having Huevos Rancheros along with a cup of coffee as I day dream, while I’m there, about being someplace else.
The best Road Trip vehicle I ever owned. 1984 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser

That’s my point. I’ll miss home and won’t ever stay in one place as long as I think I will. I sometimes think that a month or longer stay would be the way to go, but I have never lasted that long away from home. Then, I get home, and I'm ready to take off again. Maybe it’s the adventure of the journey that I seek. Maybe I'm just running away. If there was a way to go back and forth to New Mexico in a reasonable efficient way, I would do it. I’ll also want to wander to other places like California’s North Coast or lately, New Orleans.
One year, Barb had a conference for work in New Orleans. I convinced her to take a few days vacation on either side of the conference, I’d go with her, and we’d take the train. The City of New Orleans, it was called. The daily service from Chicago to the Big Easy. We got on Amtrak at 8:00 AM in Minneapolis and got to Chicago by 4:30 PM. During the four hour layover, we walked around downtown and grabbed a fine dinner, then resumed our journey that evening. 

An Amtrak whistle stop at dusk

By 3:00 PM the next afternoon, we were in New Orleans, drinking chicory coffee and eating beignets, at Cafe Du Monde. We listened to all kinds of musical genres on Bourbon Street and traveled the streetcar to the Garden District. We ate at many different places, some renowned, like Brennan's, and some not-so-well-known, like Cafe Atchafalaya.
The famous Cafe Du Monde, lit up and active, New Orleans, LA
Photo by Joe Dunn Arts

I went back to New Orleans when I was on The Longest Walk II in 2008. I spent a week there as the group rested and resupplied before the big push to Washington DC. The Springtime in New Orleans was heavenly. Seeing the devastation left from Hurricane Katrina was not.
While I was there, I was able to get out into some of the neighborhoods and not just hang out in the tourist areas. One day, we found a laundromat with a great coffee shop next door. We stayed with people who lived near there, and enjoyed the company of friends, listening to music and telling stories about places we’ve been or are planning to go to.
Ah, to be so worry free as to travel at will. I could see going down there, perhaps today, or at least tomorrow,  grabbing a couple of nights at a B&B, listening to music, eating my way around and through the French Quarter and returning home in time for New Years Eve. I’d sit in front of St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square and smoke a good cigar in the afternoon, and watch the street vendors, musicians and vagrant characters come and go, as I sipped espresso amongst the pigeons. The horse and buggy tourists snapping pictures as artists and fortune tellers plied their trade.
A streetcar ride and a long walk down Canal Street, the ferry to Algiers and more lively Zydeco music from Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Maybe a late night snack at Desire, the restaurant at street level in the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Oh well, that was fun. I recalled my visits there and as I wrote about the experiences I’ve had, relived it in my mind. I feel better now. I got through another sleepless night and I see it’s past five in the morning. That’s my bellwether. If it’s after five AM, it’s okay to be up. Earlier than that, I’m sleepless.
Too bad I don’t have pictures to share. Maybe next time I’ll have a camera with me. But all the places I mention are well documented in Google Images as well as the highlighted websites I’ve provided. Sometimes, when I have plenty of time, I travel vicariously through the links, to other blogs or sites recommended by the author.  In the meantime, I’ll get up from in front of the screen and get ready for a trek to the VA. I have an appointment this morning, then a funeral to attend in the afternoon.
Do you have someplace you want to travel to? Right now?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What? New Years Resolutions?

This is a TV show we watched on Chritmas Eve. It's called Yule Log, and is a constantly running motion picture of a fire. Our Christmas Tree was too close to the fireplace for us to have our own fire, so we "borrowed" one from channel 45

To my Canadian and Down Under friends, I hope for you a grand Boxing Day.

It never ceases to amaze me how time and motion wait for no one. Every tick of the clock moves us towards the next moment, and gathered together, they become hours, then days. It’s Sunday. Christmas is over. The holiday season is still in full swing for many though. I know my Grandkids are celebrating with another part of their family. But it’s over for us. Back to everyday living started yesterday.
Speaking of yesterday, I heard the term New Years Resolution for the first time this season. I don’t have any. I don’t even think about making any. It’s not that I don’t want to change anything. But I’m such a realist that I know that I’ll never keep doing something that I start doing when I haven’t been doing it all along, so why start trying to do it all the time?
An example would be the band wagon approach to weight loss. Everyone is starting a new diet and on New Years, they will implement said diet. Sales of lettuce and fat free salad dressing go up disproportionately to the sales of Toasted Almond Fudge Ice Cream.
Although, I can’t remember a day in the past twenty-some years that I haven’t said, “I need to lose a few pounds.”
But starting an eating routine so drastic that I sit and bite my finger nails for nourishment and chew on raw broccoli spears has never worked. I can go into the whole idea of a real change in what we eat and how much we eat, habit changes, but the emphasis is really about vanity, what you think others think of the way you look and maybe a few health concerns.
Today, the day after Christmas, I still have to eat. I still must nourish my body. We certainly didn’t eat every morsel that we had prepared for the family Christmas celebration, and there is no way I’m throwing away, or feeding to the birds and squirrels, foodstuffs that cost the proverbial arm and leg. No way I’m going to let that food rot from neglect in the refrigerator either.
Folks, they hardly touched the home made oatmeal raisin nut cookies. By the way, the way I tweaked the recipe to make them crunchy worked. Lessen the brown sugar and make it up with the white granulated sugar and use egg whites instead of whole eggs. They came out perfect. Crunchy. And because we had so many other offerings, the cookies were relegated to sitting on the counter in a beautiful pan. Now they must be eaten.
Same with the stuffed mushroom caps. They turned out so rich with the crab meat, onion, celery and portobello mushrooms all sauteed in butter and olive oil as a filling. I made eighteen of them for eight people, but half the attendees were little kids whose gullets were filled with red and green peanut M and M’s, candy canes and Sprite. They may have eaten some of the other cookies that were available, like the Ritz Crackers laced with peanut butter then dipped into the chocolate almond bark.
It’s also hard to make small pizzas. We use the large cookie sheets as pans to bake them. And I don’t like a pizza with half of this or that on one side and the other side with some other concocted assortment of vegetables and pepperoni. Give me the whole pie laden with Italian sausage with no plain cheese on one end.
Italian Sausage Pizza at Spadoville

That special pizza, the one with the asparagus tips, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, portobello mushroom with ricotta and fresh mozzarella cheese was to die for. We heated up some of the left over pizza yesterday, just our platefuls that we were planning on eating around dinner time. Today looks no different as we have no plans for any activity except to laze around, watch football and talk about upcoming plans to get out of Dodge sometime after New Years and head down to New Mexico.
The "Special" Pizza, hot out of the oven

There are other leftover items, some in great abundance and others that hardly have a serving left in a container, like the three or four shrimp. Maybe I’ll have to incorporate them into an omelette along with some black olives and onion. You know, omelettes and such can be served for any meal? They’re not just for breakfast. I never did make the Italian sausage Calabrese, and I won’t refreeze. That’s gonna be dinner tonight, and I better wash that down with another Cannoli so that cheese won’t spoil. The cookies will last another day.
Maybe that’s why they have Christmas and New Years holidays planned exactly one week apart. It’s my own personal rule of thumb that a leftover container does not get eaten if it has sat in the fridge for one week. So, in my estimation, we have one week to eat all this food, and if it’s not eaten by January first, we toss it. Kind of a contest then. Let’s see if we can eat this up and hence not waste anything by next Friday. It makes perfect fiscal sense.
See, that brings me back to the New Years resolution dilemma.  It’s gonna take at least another week or two to wean yourself back to regular size portions and balanced protein, fat and carb measurements let alone the overuse of butter and high fructose corn syrup!

You’ve been eating like a pregnant sow for a week straight in the interest of not wasting food and you’re thinking of going cold turkey into a lettuce salad and cous cous diet?
Nope, I’m going to be realistic. No crash diet for me. Gonna eat up these leftovers on a One Day at a Time schedule and add a salad here and there to the mix. I’ll diet when I change my scenery and head South. After all, I need some extra calories to stay warm out in this cold and snow we have here in the Northland. I’ll eat less in New Mexico, where the weather is warmer,  and get down to a steady diet of beans and rice, the complete protein and all that. The capsaicin from the intake of red and green chiles is good for the circulation. This dietary change must be gradual. Wouldn’t want to startle my fragile digestive system into anything drastic.
Oh look at the time, I’ve been sitting here typing this piece and I see it’s time to put on the coffee pot. The acid and high caffeine in the coffee has been bothering me lately, so I’ll be switching to drinking tea, starting today.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

I wish for you that Christmas, or whatever celebration you adhere to, is wonderful for you and all you hold dear, Mateys.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Menu at Spadoville

Haiku My Heart Friday
December 24, 2010
Christmas Eve is Celebrated Here

Dill Pickle Rollups
Crab Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Shrimp w/ Cocktail Sauce
Sweet Pickles, Dill Pickles, Black Olives, Green Olives, Sicilian Style Black Olives, Roasted Red Sweet Peppers, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage Calabrese
Deviled Eggs
Cheese and Cracker Assortment:
Swiss, Monterey Jack, Colby, Sharp Provolone, Muenster and Cheddar Cheeses
Ritz, Triscuit, Carr’s Water Crackers and Other Selections
Main Course
Na’s Home Made Pizza:
Italian Sausage and Mushroom, Plain Cheese, Garlic Olive Oil Asparagus Sun Dried Tomato and Ricotta
Grandma Spado’s Cheesecake
Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Cookies
Peanut M&M’s, Shelled Pistacio Nuts
Aunt Jayne’s Famous Chocolate Dipped Cracker Cookies
Italian Cannoli
Clementines, Oranges, Red and Yellow Apples and Red Grapes
Assorted Beverages

Maybe some Haiku here to honor my friend Rebecca at recuerda mi corazon, where you can see more Haiku.

Good Friends at my side

Within me I feel Spirit

Laughing all the way

We wish everyone could join us for the tears, laughter, fun and food. I hope there is Peace in the hearts and lives of all of you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Some Thoughts on Christmas

Cold Winter sun breaking through the clouds on the plains of Montana near Lame Deer

This is another story I post every year. I change the modern day facts, but the deeper story presented here is the same message that I always send to you, yes you. Last night was an amazing celestial event. The Winter Solstice, the Full Moon and a total Lunar Eclipse took place on the same night. This hasn't happened since 1703 and won't again for hundreds of years.

I had the extreme honor to attend a Sweat Lodge ceremony last night, amidst all this cosmic activity, that seemed to lift and propel our collective prayers to new heights. The Peace evident to us was astronomical, no pun intended at all, as our hearts soared in the presence of the Spirits that we called from the rocks, trees and animals. The deer that walked into the yard, the woodpecker. Even geese, flying low and squawking loudly, passed over head. The sky was cloudy and we didn't see any of what we knew to be happening in the heavens above, but that was okay. We knew it was there and we all felt the power of the Universe within ourselves.

Early morning light on the trees, heavily laden with hoarfrost

So, here is my story and recollections of a time long ago. It was around Christmastime. Barb flew to Chicago. We we had moved from the Chicago area to Minnesota in 1974, just a few years earlier. Our youngest daughter, Jayne, was only a little over three months old and nursing. Barb took her with on the plane. I stayed at home with the other girls, Maggie was four and Alyssa was close to two years old.
Barb’s Dad, Ed, was in the hospital. The doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer in May of 1977. Now it was December and he was dying. The doctors said there is nothing further that they could do for him. 
He got the cancer from asbestos. Ed was a pipe fitter and worked around the asbestos wrappings on heating and cooling pipes for all of his adult life. He was only 54 and was dying from the poisons of the workplace. The hazard of working in his trade that the corporation didn’t tell anyone about. Imagine going to work and being slowly poisoned.
Barb was at her Father’s bedside and told him it was all right to let go. It is all right not to want to be in pain any longer. She understood and wouldn’t blame him for leaving this world as she knew he had to.
He passed, and walked on as peacefully as possible given the circumstances, and Barb made arrangements to get home and be with the rest of us for Christmas. She was determined to be together with her husband and children for Christmas, even though she experienced this terrible loss of her beloved Father.
This air conditioner quietly awaits the heat and humidity of Summer

We were waiting for her at the airport. We couldn’t afford to fly down with her, and the added burden of me and the children, who needed her attention, would have been a distraction she didn’t need as she attended to her Father’s bedside, preparing to leave this world.
Her Mother didn’t want her to leave. Ed had died and now there was the wake and funeral. All the arrangements and the visits of friends and family. But Barb had to go. Her family was waiting for her. It was Christmas Eve.
Usually, Christmas Eve was spent at home with Barb, me and the kids. We had a tradition that we started when we began having children. We never thought we’d be dealing with a death in the family at Christmas. And now we had a third daughter. Jayne was born in September. This was her first Christmas. Our routine would be to go to the lot where they had been selling trees for the past couple of months. We’d go there after it got dark and the tree sales were over for the year. We’d grab a leftover tree ala Charlie Brown’s Christmas. You know, the scraggly one that no one would buy? That’s the one we brought home. 
It didn’t cost anything to get a tree this way. We’d get it and bring it home and did the decorating on Christmas Eve. Barb would make homemade pizza from scratch. We would have a large table of snacks like cheese and crackers, pickled herring, little sandwiches made from Genoa salami and cream cheese. There were cookies and candies and pickle wraps and shrimp, if we could afford them. And those little smokies wrapped in crescent rolls and olives, both black and green.
The children wish you Peace

As we grazed on the food and ate hot slices of Sicilian style deep dish pan pizza, we put the ornaments and the lights on the tree. Music in the background from the stereo. Sometimes, we even played Christmas carols. Tinsel, and sometimes we’d string popcorn. The plastic lighted angel sat on top. We called him Harold, as in Hark, The “Harold” Angels Sing. We always laughed. The children wondered if Santa would bring them presents. When we put up the tree and decorated it. there were no presents there at all. They were all hidden and the children never saw the wrapped packages in the rafters of the garage. This scene played out in households across the land.
Our tradition was based on a simple ideal. The family was to be together, and we showed love, tenderness and generosity to each other while remembering that there are those that might be considered less fortunate than ourselves. We make sure the Spirit of God, as we understand Him, is present in our lives.
Santa would be left a plate of cookies and a glass of milk and the children would go to bed. I always rolled up a big fatty and put it next to the plate with the cookies after the kids went to sleep. I tell you, those cookies and that milk was gone by Christmas morning, every time.
A frosted buffalo skull greets all visitors at The Cabinette

After the children were all snug in their beds, or bed as financial decree would have it some years, we’d place gifts under the tree. Wrapped in comics from the Sunday paper. Foil wrapped for those that came from Grandma and Grandpa. Tons of stuff. Some years saw bicycles and guitars, some years there were just cheap toys. Like everyday life, Christmas was a feast or famine from one year to the next. I don’t think the kids new it any different from year to year. We did when we didn’t have the shrimp.
The plane landed and we were waiting at the gate. We all hugged and walked to the car. We stopped off at an open convenience store and bought a frozen pizza on the way home. It was around 9:00 PM, Christmas Eve.
That year, 1977, we came home and there was no tree. The decorations hadn’t even been brought up from the dusty shelves in the basement. There were no snacks. But we did have the frozen pizza. We had a large potted plant in the living room. It was a a schefflera or something like that. It was pretty good size. We got the stuff up out of the basement and decorated that house plant as we ate the pizza. We were all together. My God how I wish we could all be together again. Always a family member missing, always something gone awry. 
But that year, 1977, we were together. The children had lost one of their Grandpas, but they didn’t know it in their consciousness. Maybe their spirits knew that something was different. But we did what we do at Christmas and decorated the house plant tree and had some food to eat. Santa came that night and put gifts around the terra cotta planter. I’m sure I got stoned. Back in the 70’s I did a lot of that.
This year, 2010, our tree was given to us by a friend that bought one, then was given one. He called me and asked if I’d want the spare tree in his front yard. I went and got the tree and found it to be beautiful, and for more reasons than the price tag. We brought it home last weekend and have been slowly putting lights and decorations on it. We’ll finish the job when we are all together on Christmas Eve.
Mrs. Spadoman and I will be here, along with my daughter and the Grandkids that live here with us. My other daughter will join us and we’ll make those sought after home made pizzas. 
We’ll graze once again on a table filled with appetizers, sing songs, play games, watch special programs on TV and be together.
I know this isn’t the happiest Christmas story, and I risk getting a reputation of being a pot head, but this was Christmas in 1977. And lately, this seems to be the theme in many places. Many people are saying that they aren’t enjoying Christmas. There are many reasons out there, each person feeling their own way around the holidays. There will be other stories here, and on other blogs, as the years roll by, but for now, bear with me and my recollection, these stories must be told as well.
Yes, Christmas of 1977 was painful, and since 1991, when our own daughter perished from this world, more pain, sustained pain, by all affected here in Spadoville. 

But I read other blogsites and find out there are people who do nothing for themselves and go out and try to put cheer and joy in the lives of others. 

I know of a blog friend who suffered last year from her daughter’s illness with cancer. I know someone who had a son in Iraq and wishes he could be home, but wishes more that he be still alive. This year, the daughter and soldier are gone, but there is other suffering that took these places in the lives of others.

Countless families around the world dealing with the losses of life and wounds from stupid wars. Residents of New Orleans, still reeling from hurricane Katrina,  and all over the world, homeless this Christmas. Hungry, homeless, and with no prospect of improvement. The list of atrocities goes on and on. People suffering all the year long, not just now in this season. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering that fills the lives of so many. I hurts to think about it, but think we must so as to do what we can to avoid the same mistakes and inhumanity in the future.
This year, 2010 is no different. The beat goes on. The wars still rage. Hatred is evident all over. More cancer and sickness. Peace is a distant thought.
All of us have had a sad time of it somewhere along the line. I guess I want my readers to know I have felt pain and I wish no pain for you this season or anytime. The joy you are to glean is that which tells you I understand and wish you the best. For thirty-some years later than that sad Christmas in 1977, this one is just as much a blessing. We have healthy Grand children and our soon to be ex son-in-law still has his cancer in remission. And although the years after have taken Barb’s Mom, my Dad and our first born daughter Maggie in 1991, as well as my Mother last February, we’re still here and put one foot in front of the other.

However you greet this time of year. Whatever celebration you adhere to. Even if you don’t acknowledge anything other than the passing of a new day, let peace bless every one of you. My prayers are for the health and happiness of the people.
I express this sentiment I have for each and every one of you by saying the words Merry Christmas.
Peace to All

Mitakwe Oyasin

Monday, December 20, 2010

In the Spirit of Christmas

Posting this story around this time of the year has now become traditional, like Lucy and Charlie Brown and the football kicking comic strip. Some may remember this from the years gone by, for others, this might be the first time you've wandered over here around Christmas.

The bottom line, which I'll put near the top today, is this:

Peace on Earth to All

So, I wrote this Christmas story and posted it the other day. In the story I mention a particular ornament that has been around my family for years. It’s that little plastic lighted angel that will sit on top of a Christmas tree. 
I mentioned that we always called it Harold. When my young tender children would ask why his name is Harold, my wife and I would explain to them that it was from the song, “Hark, the “Harold” Angel Sings”. I believe we also might have mentioned that the angel was singing because he had this tree stuffed well, you know where. (No, we really didn't say that to the kids).
My oldest daughter read the post after I wrote it. She shed a small tear for the memory. Her husband, John, took the Grand kids out to get a Christmas tree for their home the very next day. In the act of decorating it with lights and ornaments, my daughter called me and told me that “Harold” was broken. 
I told her to bring it over to my house and that I’d try to fix him up. She did and he was in terrible shape. I did the best I could do, and with the help of some Krazy Glue, put Harold back in good spirits. I even put in a new bulb and got the light to work so Harold will glow another year. So far, the glue is holding fast. I told my daughter to be easy with Harold when she shoves the tree....., I mean places Harold on top of the tree. He is tender there as he is quite old and such rectal operations wear heavily on the elders.

Harold lives another Christmas. He is lit and standing straight and tall. I thought maybe you good folks out there would like to have a look.

Harold the Angel as he sits on the workbench after surgery

A close-up of Harold
Remember to be good and nice to other people.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow, Meteors and Cold

Downtown River Falls, WI. Saturday morning, 12/11/2010

Just thought I’d check in. It’s been very busy around here for me, and there is no end in sight. Events to attend for the next six days and nights in a row, and by then, I'm sure we'll be getting into the Christmas preparations in earnest. As some may have heard, we received the fifth largest snow fall in history over last weekend. I couldn’t tell you what the official inch count was, but the wind blew much of it into drifts, some of which were knee deep to a giraffe! My old snow blower didn’t work. I’m going out today and buying another one, after morning coffee of course.
I’m posting a few shots of my back yard from the seasons over the past year. It really doesn’t give you a reference of the extreme cold that followed the storm. The coldest night was 21 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, ( I’m not sure what that is Celsius, but I do know they are the same someplace way down below zero).
This is looking out my back door sometime in early October 2010

It has since warmed up a bit and today, it is projected to be a high of 20 degrees with a 30% chance of snow.
Many of you live in warmer climates and I’m sure I’ll hear those that don’t have to deal with cold and snow thanking the heavens that they don’t have to be cold or how fortunate they are and how screwed I am because I live in Wisconsin. Go ahead, give me your best shot. I can take it. After all, I choose to live here. But I do travel and get a change of weather and scenery at least once during the cold dark Winter months.

View of the yard in November 2010

Speaking of cold and dark, the Winter Solstice is just days away. Next Tuesday is the first day of Winter and the longest period of darkness at the longitude and hemisphere of River Falls, WI. It’s also a full moon that night. And an added bonus, there is a total lunar eclipse of the moon! I’m planning on attending a ceremony that evening and it will include a fire.
I did catch some of the Geminid Meteor Shower activity in the wee hours of the morning Tuesday, (Monday night). I went to bed early and got up for some middle of the night business around 2:00 AM. I stood by the sliding glass patio window and peered out into the North by Northeast sky. There was no ground light. Some of the predictions were for up to 120 meteors per hour. I stood there for at least ten minutes straight and I saw a half dozen. I took a seat at the computer for a while and made note of what I was doing up at this hour on Facebook, then I went and watched some more.
This photo is from the above referenced article about the Geminid Meteor Shower

It was a beautiful show. Nature usually doesn’t disappoint. I managed to actually put on my fleece lined Crocs and step outside and stand there for a good minute or two and let the cold hug me before I returned to the shelter of my indoor viewing platform. I did notice that on such a cold night, the frigid air comes barreling through the old seal on that patio door. I did get a new door to install, one with high “E” glass, but didn’t get it put in. Now, there is no way I’m opening up a six by eight foot hole in the wall until we get a warm spell. By the way, a warm spell here is temperatures in the 30’s. Thirty degrees in January here is warmer than 65 degrees in Key West in January, trust me, I’ve experienced that phenomenon.
During last Saturdays storm, December 11, 2010
click to enlarge, you can see the tree line as a darkened area beyond the branches.

At any rate, take care folks. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. We actually have furnaces in our homes and stay quite comfortable. We also have heaters in our vehicles and seasonal clothing options that include wonderful items like long johns, thermal socks and flannel lined jeans, not to mention the goose down parka, wool hat and choppers.
What a difference a day makes
Sunday morning, the day after the storm, 12/12/2010

Enjoy your day. Peace to all

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom, December 14th

I wrote and posted this story in 2007. I’m reposting it today  to honor my Mother’s birthday, December 14th. This is the first time in my life that I can’t say "Happy Birthday Mom" to her, she passed last February. I just wanted to remember her today with this short story about one of the things we did together.

I dedicate the post to you Mom
A trip is in the final planning stages. Barb and I are going to Chicago to visit my Mom and Sister. My Mom’s birthday is the 14th of December and Christmas is just a little after that. Since we don’t travel during the Christmas holidays, I like to make a visit sometime close to her birthday. 

In the neighborhood sometime in the 1940's

The past few years, I have gone down and my Sister and I help Mom do some baking for the holidays. She is still fortunate enough to live independently, but wielding a rolling pin and hustling dough to and from the stove is quite a chore. Besides, I enjoy cooking and baking and this session has become a tradition not only for my Mom, but for my Sister as well.
My beautiful Mom

We’ll be making cannoli shells and something we call crustelli. The recipe is the same for the crustelli as it is for the cannoli shells. For those of you who don’t know what cannoli are, they are a Sicilian pastry. The shell, which we will be making, is a thin delicate dough that is wrapped around a stainless steel cylinder form and deep fried. The end result is a crisp light slightly sweet crusty shell which is filled from both ends with a mixture of heavenly sweetness.
Four generations

For the filling, we use fresh ricotta cheese and powdered sugar, whipped together until very smooth, a touch of almond extract and mini dark chocolate morsels. Small colored candied fruit has been used in the past and we may revert back to them someday, but for now, it’s the semi sweet chocolate mini chips that get the nod. The ends are adorned with a red and/or green candied cherry or pistachio nutmeats, then the shell is laid out and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
At the lake, sometime around 1950

The crustelli is the same dough as the cannoli shell, but it is cut into thin strips using a ravioli or pizza cutter. The strips are tied in a loose knot and then deep fried. These are placed on a tray and honey is drizzled on them. Powdered sugar is lightly dusted on top of that. 
Mom cooking for Christmas, not all that many years ago

Each of these treats are traditional at Christmas in my Mother’s home. I’ve been eating them since I cut my first teeth and I’m sure if I ask my Mom, I was gumming the crustelli as an infant. They are delicious. Even though we make them a couple of weeks before the holidays, they are simply placed in a gift box, the kind you’d use for a shirt, and they seem to stay crisp for quite some time. The “fixins” aren’t put in or on them until they are served. We keep them in a cool dry place.
The Feast on the table

Since I have been going down there and working with my Mom and Sister, I have been the beneficiary of a few boxes of each to bring home. We like to serve them when guests drop by or bring them to any affair we get invited to. We also serve them at our own table until they are gone.
Around 1985 when Mom lived with us in Pine City, MN

Over the years, I have had many jobs and some of them were as a cook. My Mom brags about all of her children and how good we all cook. I have also had the opportunity to make other food items with my Mom. We’ve made gravy. Gravy is what non-Italians call spaghetti sauce or tomato sauce. We say “Pass the gravy” and we wiped our mouths with an old dish towel that we call a mopene, (Mop-peen’) 

She loves to talk recipes and how she transformed some produce given to her into two or three dinner entrees. We will converse while we are in the kitchen. Stories of the past will come up. Most I know, but it is always a fine time to listen to an Elder speak of days gone by. It will be great fun and happiness in a world too full of pain. I’m glad I can take the time and go down to where she is and cook with her. 
Mom with Gracie Jayne, 2008

Baking with my Mom and sister will be like Emeril’s TV show, but at my Mom’s place.  I’d love to do a show like that. Cooking with Mama, or Carmelina’s Cucina. I can see it now. It would be a great hit. Seasonal recipes and traditional delicacies from her kitchen to your table.
Mangia, mangia!  Food Network move over.

I wrote this before making a trip to visit my mom in December of 2008. That’s the last time I went down to cook and bake with her. In 2009, I visited around this time. She left us last February and is on the journey home.
I remember Mom’s birthday today, December 14, 1920.

Her last trip to lake Sissabagama

Carmelina Rosa Caruso Spado Skalicky
We love you Mom