Sunday, February 21, 2010

Retiring - for now

It's been awhile - yes, I know.

And it's going to be a good while longer before Wisconsin Snapshots will return.

The decision has been made - I'm going to live with my mom for the time being. So I'll be blogging from Oregon now. Since it doesn't make much sense to call a blog sited in Oregon a Wisconsin Snapshot, a new blog has been started.

So click on over, save the address, and join me for more adventures and memories in Oregon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sweet memories

Most families have at least one favorite Christmas tradition. We have a number of them, like doing jigsaw puzzles from the time the gift wrap flies until the last dollop of whipcream hits the pumpkin pie.
But the sweetest tradition of all is my Dad making buttery rich caramels and crunchy peanut brittle. It became "the men's project" as we added a son-in-law or two over the years. Dennis became an expert under Dad's tutelage. The caramels were a "must" for the holidays. Now the grandsons-in-law are carrying on (that means you, Brent!) along with some of the gals (yes, Anne, I read your blog).

Being home with Mom for Christmas this year, after missing quite a few years, we finally launched into sweet-tooth mode today. If we do it too soon, there's never any treats left for Christmas day...

Mom and I agreed, it was mighty strange to be sitting around the table all by ourselves, wrapping caramels. It was always a family gathering - gabbing, gobbling, and wrapping those golden nuggets.

Here's Dad's recipe (I have a copy he handwrote for me - one of my precious trreasures). It came from his mother, Ruby - in her day, it was made with rich yellow cream instead of canned evaporated milk. Both work just dandy!
Butter a glass pan - a 7x11 makes thickish caramels, a 9x13 makes thinner (and more) caramels.
In a heavy flat-bottomed saucepan (an electric skillet is perfect), combine over med. high heat:
2 c. sugar
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk (or heavy cream)
1 3/4 c. light corn syrup
1 cup butter (NOT margarine - must use the REAL THING)
Boil gently, stirring constantly, to firm ball stage (248 degrees - or use the cold water test: drop a small bit into a small bowl of cold water, let cool a minute and check for firmness). Remove from heat, quickly stir in:
2 teaspoons vanilla
Immediately pour into buttered pan. Let cool several hours, until cool and firm.
Loosen by dipping pan bottom in hot water, turn out onto a cutting board. Cut into strips then into squares. Wrap in wax paper (if you just put them into a bowl without wrapping, you will soon have one solid mass of caramel!).
We also made Peanut Brittle. A little self-control is a good thing, but it can be sorely tested on
a candy-making day...
Next up tomorrow: Popcorn Balls! These were Dennis' speciality. Over the years he won over many hearts with a delivery of a bag of his popcorn balls. Another sweet memory.
Traditions and special treats are a good thing - right, Martha!?

Monday, December 7, 2009


A small sign on the fridge: "Gettin' old ain't for sissies." No one epitomizes that more than my mom. She maintains that if she sits still too long, she'll just rust away. So she stays active, to the point the rest of us can barely keep up with her!

One of her favorite activities is helping a group of women tie quilts that are part of a charity project. Recently a friend passed away and as her daughter was cleaning out the stash of fabric she welcomed us to take all we could handle, which was a real blessing for the quilters! As Mom and I sorted through the huge bags, we found odds and ends of projects we could do ourselves. One was this small crib quilt. I sewed it together, and Mom tied it.
One of my cherished memories is learning to iron. This is the same ironing board. I still to iron, unlike a lot of my contemporaries. Mom was a good teacher, of the mechanics of ironing as well as the love of a job well-done.

Speaking of antiques ... this mom is Mom's old friend. She says she got it while living in a large army tent when first married, with a wood floor that she kept spic and span clean. The mop is older than I I said, antique.

Mom changes out the towels every twenty years or so...

and even though the squeezy part of the head has to be taped shut now, like so many older tools it just keeps on doing a good job. And just like her tools, Mom continues to "do a good job." We're so blessed to have her, and her generation, to show us how it should be done.
Which is more than I can say for today's built-in obsolescence. Have you noticed that?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter provision

A warning for the squeemish - our family has a long tradition of hunting deer and elk to provide winter meat. The follow photos aren't gory, but if you belong to PETA you won't appreciate them...

Two elk were harvested this season. This one, brought in whole, was tagged by my sister-in-law Diane. An improvement on the good 'ol days of backpacking the quarters out of the hills and canyons, the hunting party now enjoys two four wheelers, the modern pack mules. After using them to pull the downed animals up hillsides and across ravines, they then load the large meat-sacked quarters onto each end of the four-wheeler, drive it out to where the trucks are parked, drive them right up the ramp into the truck, and wa-lah!

Two elk were harvested this season. This one, brought in whole along side the fourwheeler in the truck, was tagged by my sister-in-law Diane. She and Bev, my other sister-in-law, have helped shoot and process deer and elk for a lot of years. Bev claims she's retired now, but she's right there to help with the cleaning, cutting and wrapping.

After skinning out, the carcass is quartered, then the meat is carefully cleaned and wiped down with vinegar water to help eliminate any "gamey" taste. The meat hangs in a cooler for 2-3 days to dry-age, then it is brought back to Mom's for the cutting and wrapping. After over fifty years of this, the family works together like a well-oiled unit. The meat is divided equally among the hunters participating in that year's hunt. Everyone is grateful to have meat in the freezer.

The other part of hunting is story tellin'! As the meat is processed, each step and every ridge is relived, with hilarious stories and not a few tall tales.
Yes, Bill, looks like you got him through the brisket!

Hunting is not only a bonding family tradition - it's a necessity for our families. We provide a great deal of our own food via the big game from surrounding hills, fish from the five rivers and clams from Tillamook Bay which is only a few blocks away, tuna from the deep-sea fishermen at our local port only a five minute drive away, and of course our gardens.
It is good to be so self-sufficient.
And share a heritage our grandchildren may be blessed to live.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Jingle balls, jingle balls..."

Two widder' wimmin aren't terribly inclined to do a lot of decorating for the have to take it all DOWN, you know. But we braved the spiders in the attic (at least Mom did - I stayed down below to catch) and uncovered some real Christmas treasures.

These old balls, some dating to the 1930's or so, were too precious to risk falling off a tree - assuming we even put up a tree - so they were given a place of honor in glass bowls, to show off their antique beauty.

The first bowl has balls dating at least 62 years because Mom remembers her older sister giving some of them to her just before I was born. The second bowl has a collection from a local Grange that Mom and Dad belonged to for umpteen years. When the Grange folded a numberof years ago, Mom managed to glom onto these, rather than see them in the garbage bins.

We do have a Christmas tree. I found it amusing to hang starched crocheted and tatted snowflakes (from my sister and several family friends over the years) on the fiber optic tree - which is "fake", of course. The juxtaposition of old and new tickled my fancy!

This little guy started life as a Halloween Ghost. But with a few buttons, a little stocking hat and a fancy ribbon, he doubles as a Snowman. Ummm - not so close to the fire, there, Frosty...

Last but not least, some cedar with cones and sprigs of holly threaded on a honeysuckle vine wreath (made from Mom's honeysuckle vines which were a family heirloom) are a cheery greeting for visitors as they come on the porch. They can even ring the bells, instead of knocking. We're all about multi-tasking!

So there you have it. Christmas decor, a la the Scrooge grammas.

Oh, I almost forgot. We did hang a few colorful balls on the elk antlers by the fireplace...
they don't look as tacky as it sounds.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Knitty stuff

As mentioned previously, this is a "knitty" year. In fact, even the newspapers and magazines are touting the resurgance of knitting. And that's a good thing - right, Martha?

Here's the finished hats - now dispersed to new babes in the family. The pattern is the Umbilical Cord Hat from Debbie Stoller ("Stitch 'n Bitch: the knitter's handbook; pg 188). It's easy, fairly fast even for a moderate speed knitter (takes me a day of fairly steady knitting, to complete one), and oh-so-cute! Two were made with stretchy sock yarn, one with cotton yarn.

These two are one the way to the Kizerian zoo (- um- that would be "home"), for Tessa and Baa. Made with sparkly Vanna White yarn, adorned with bells, sparkles and bobbles in honor of Christmas.
Does this remind anyone of "Narnia"?? Mom's resident lion, whom I can't help but call Aslan, is about 30" long and rules the couch. But he couldn't escape the Christmas hat, eh?
Next projects on the needles: a couple of scarves (one is pink, wonder who will be looking for THAT one?!), some hats, socks to finish...
I just became the happy recipient of enough yarn to fill two large 30-gal sacks! So yes - it is DEFINATELY a knitty winter ahead!
Wonder if Santa needs a new chapeau...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What did you expect??

Yep, I'm in Oregon. And here are Oregon Ducks, to prove the point (college team...very successful this year, BTW)! These two pairs have taken over the north end of town, trundling up hills (steep) and down, casing every yard for bird feeders that leak seeds, and thoroughly enjoying themselves in the ditches when it rains. These are the same ditches we played in as kids, only now they have grass instead of just mud....

No one seems to know just who they belong to. They literally stop traffic, as I witnessed this morning. Two were just in the process of crossing the street over to our yard, leaving one in the middle of the road and one sleeping in the grass. A lady in an oncoming car slowed...and slowed some more...then stopped, hands and shoulders shrugging as she waited for the middle-of-the-road sitter to finish the course. But no, he started calling his mate to wake up and get movin'! So here she comes, waddling at duck speed, to join him - and he didn't move an inch while waiting for her - that's true duck-love. The patient driver finally rolled down her window and asked if I knew who they belonged to (the most popular question of passing dog-walkers, strollers, and slow drivers as they go by our house). I declined any knowledge, which she may or may not have believed since the ducks were then quacking contentedly past my feet on the way to the bird feeders...

Not to be outdone by a stampede of ducks, the resident deer ambled through the back yard right after breakfast. Mom has watched this baby grow up, every since it showed up with her mamma as a tiny wobbly spotted fawn. They make regular forays through the streets and yards, and occasionally the gardens.
Mamma wasn't too far behind, grazing the rich grasses just below the dining room window. It was nice of the sun to help with the lighting, after hiding behind a week or so of stormy weather.

Ummmm - did you know this is how lady deer "tinkle"? I have to admit that this is the very first time I have ever, in all my years of living in deer country, seen a deer take care of business. When a gal's gotta go, she's gotta go!
Which makes me wonder - do the guy deer lift a leg, like a dog? Or squat like a bunny like the girls do?
One of life's little mysteries.