Feeling at Home at Bev’s Place

First, an update from last Friday’s post: The chocolate cake was a hit. (Was there any doubt?)

Second, as to our haphazard posting: If I ever get back on a regular writing schedule, it will be a miracle. (Hang tight, folks. We’ll get there eventually.)

Third, as to our housing situation: We signed the papers on Monday; it’s officially ours. (Yippee!)

mid-century home

I don’t know how well you can see her, but in front of the house by the two small shrubs we have a metal lawn decoration of a girl holding a flower pot.

She came with us from Phoenix. My kids were in grade school when we found her in a thrift shop, so we’ve had her quite some time. Over the years she took on a fine reddish-brown patina. As you can see, she fits right in with our Minnesota home.

I wonder how long before that’s true for me? When will this truly feel like our home?

At times it feels like we’re staying in a vacation rental, mostly when we walk to the river or stroll along the nearby golf course.

Other times it feels like we’re staying in the home of an elderly relative.

(There was a time when the sight of arm rails and assists would have bothered me. But after having undergone a couple difficult surgeries, I look at them now and think, “What a great idea!”)

Husband and I seem to have a knack for buying the homes of old ladies. Our first was in Nebraska from a woman named Willametta (great name, don’t you think?). The second was Eva’s home in Phoenix.

And now it’s Beverly’s home. Or Bev, as the neighbors say.

As I said last week, we know a few things about her. She collected recipes, enjoyed reading, worked at a school, enjoyed her sunroom and yard.

I found this picture posted on an online tribute to her (she passed away in March):

Beverly on porch

One of the many comments posted: “What a kind and classy lady.”

She does look rather classy, don’t you think?

Jerry, our new neighbor, said she had funny little sayings she’d repeat, perfect for whatever you were talking about. Jerry’s wife, Patricia, said no one could tell a story better than Bev.

“She’d make you laugh so hard you’d cry!”

I wish I could have met her. I’m certain we’d be friends.

Look what I found in the backyard, next to her cute little shed:

Peace

I have a hunch — just a hunch, mind you — that a grandchild painted it and gave it to her.

Walking through the home, it’s easy to feel the love and care that went into it. For over 50 years this was their home. Children were raised here, meals served, laughter shared and tears shed.

Someone asked me if I can feel her here. Meaning Beverly.

I don’t put much stock into the idea of ghosts, but I know others do so usually I say, “Well, she didn’t die here, you know. She died in a nursing home.” Thinking that will explain my lack of haunts.

It doesn’t of course. They point out “her spirit will inhabit the place she loved most.”

Now were it me? Were I a ghost?

Seems to me I’d travel. See the world. Hang out in Paris for a bit. Head over to Venice for a ride in a gondola. Spend some time in Egypt studying the pyramids… But like I said, maybe that’s just me.

Now should Bev drop by, maybe to check on things? I’ll show her how the Peace Rock is in its place and I’m doing my best to keep the yard and flowers looking nice.

I might also ask her a few questions.

Like, what did she put in the odd little space by the dining room table? Why are there seven outlets in the small sunroom, but only two in each bedroom? And why the five small nails under one of the bedroom windows?

But mostly: what the heck is the plastic hook above the basement light switch for?

light switch

Was it a key? A key to what?!

Augh, I may never know. If any of you have a guess, I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, in case you’re curious, here’s the nitty-gritty on making Bev’s chocolate cake mentioned last week:

Bev’s Rocky Road Cake

Ingredients:

  • One package Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 4 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 jar hot fudge topping

Mix the cake according to package directions except replace the water with coffee (this is optional; you don’t really taste the coffee, but it adds a nice depth to the flavor). Spread into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and immediately top with mini-marshmallows and sprinkle with nuts. Heat the hot fudge topping in the microwave according to directions on jar, drizzle over the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

chocolate cake

Thanks, Bev!

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Holidays and Family Dinners

In honor of the Season, and all the accompanying stress it brings, I hunted through M.A.’s journal hoping to find something that could help us. (In case you missed it, our discovery of M.A. was first mentioned HERE.)
Sure enough, we found something! Not only that, we found a most intriguing recipe for apple pie that includes… wait for it… wine! (Gasp!)

MA 2

From M.A.’s Journal

The holidays bring mixed feelings: Joy, for what we hope they will be, Dread, for what we fear they will be. We place so much importance on these days, wanting everything to be perfect, only to be tired by the end of them.
Remember that holidays are made by humankind, for humankind. No more than that. They are what you make of them. Resolve now to make them what you need, not what you imagine you want.

Family is coming. Why does that make us nervous? Are these not the people with whom you shared your childhood?
Yes. Perhaps that explains it.
When apart, we choose to think of our past as we want. When together, we’re forced to see things as they really are. No matter what we want to believe of ourselves, these are the people to whom we belong.
Are we shamed for not living up to their standards, or for they not living up to ours?
No matter, for both are folly.
If it is your actions, then change them. If it is theirs, accept. It is all you can do. That, and love. Love the quirkiness, the eccentricities, the pain. Yes, even the pain, for all of it is what made you who you are today.
Therefore, the Noble Woman has three tasks before her with regard to others:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Love

With regard to herself, a fourth task is added to these:

4. Resolve to do better

Also, make a pie. Families who eat pie together, smile together. No one argues. No one fights. The world is a happier place when people eat pie.

This is truth.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

Tipsy Apple Pie

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy with cheats
  • Print

There's not enough alcohol in this pie to qualify as tipsy, but the wine helps bring out the flavor of the fruit. If you'd rather not use it, I suggest a tart fruit juice such as cranberry.

Apple Pie

Ingredients

  • basic pie pastry for a 9″ double-crust pie*
  • 6 to 7 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used the Golden Delicious variety)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine (I used a Zinfandel)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • Egg wash and raw sugar for top of crust

Directions

Heat oven to 425°. Roll out pastry for bottom of pie, line 9″ pie plate. Roll out top crust; cover with a clean towel as you make the filling. (See note below for alternative to using crust.)

In a large bowl, combine apples and lemon juice. In another bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Add to apples, along with wine, and stir. Fill pie plate with fruit, top with bits of butter. Cover with top crust, cut and flute the edges. Cut a few vents on top of crust; brush on egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then lower oven to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes. Test to see if the fruit is tender by inserting a knife through a vent.

Note: You can use pre-made pie crusts to make this easier, or skip the crust altogether and make an Apple Crumble: Pour fruit filling into a greased 9″ baking pan or casserole dish. For crumble topping, mix together: 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, and a pinch of salt. Bake as directed above. 

Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman

In a previous post, I lamented the lack of philosophical writings for women. A collection of ideas where the chief goal was to empower, embolden, and other em-words like that there.

But was it true? Did we really lack such writings, or was I falling into a “poor me” mentality, as satisfying as it is lazy? I had to find out.

My trip to the library produced mixed results. The reading materials were plentiful and the cold brew coffee sold in their cafe (only $3.95) was lovely. The problem, as I saw it, was that the writings focused too much on what was wrong with women. They came from a premise that we were broken. Battered down and weakened.

After two hours of disheartening research, I bought another cold brew and headed home.

That was when my trip took an interesting turn. Continue reading “Recent Discovery: the Diary of a Noble Woman”

Dreaming of Captain Kangaroo and Chocolate Rum Pie

bob-keeshan-captain-kangarooA couple days ago someone asked me, “How do you sleep at night?” and I responded, “Fine, thanks.”

Only later did it occur to me the woman was probably being snarky. Especially as we were discussing how overly involved some parents were and I said my kids didn’t have that problem, as most of the time they were lucky if I remembered I had kids.

And that was when she asked about my sleep habits. Which upon reflection was a pretty quick change in topic, so yeah… she was probably being snarky. Continue reading “Dreaming of Captain Kangaroo and Chocolate Rum Pie”

The Election is Over; It’s Time for Philosophy and Cookies

Beings how I scheduled this post ahead of time, I have no idea how the election turned out. Therefore, I shall make a prediction.

I predict,

  • The sun rose today
  • The birds sang
  • The neighbor’s dog pooped in my yard

statue of philosopher eating a cookieOne more thing that’s fairly safe to predict: No matter who won, the other side is plenty unhappy about it.

It’s times like these when we need to step back, seek wisdom from our philosophers, and eat cookies.

(Not many people know this, but philosophers regularly ate cookies. If they look morose, it’s because someone over baked them.)

So whether your candidate won or lost, consider these philosophical musings, as well as a cookie recipe that promises world peace. (No, really!)

Continue reading “The Election is Over; It’s Time for Philosophy and Cookies”

The Fine Art of an Anonymous Note

The anonymous noteIf you work in an office, you’ve no doubt seen your share of anonymous notes. Maybe even written one?

It’s all right if you have. You’re safe here.

Anonymous notes are great for several reasons: Continue reading “The Fine Art of an Anonymous Note”

It’s Finished Flat Abs. I’m Over You.

We’ve grown apart over the years and lately, I’ve been thinking we were never meant to be together.

Do you remember when we first met? It was in that aerobics class in college. I was looking for an easy A, you showed up about a month later. I was impressed with your strength and… well, your flatness. And somehow you made me feel more pretty when we were together. Continue reading “It’s Finished Flat Abs. I’m Over You.”

Welcome to My Existential Crisis, Episode 5

In Which Our Alter Egos Discuss Life’s Purpose, Kierkekaard, and Peach Cobbler

If you missed our previous episode, click here.

Reporter: Hello everyone. Thank you for giving us another chance today. I know we thoughtfulhaven’t made the best impression the last few times.

Editor: Speak for yourself.

Reporter: What? You think you make a good impression? Don’t make me laugh.

Editor: I’m the only one who makes sense, so yes, I always make a good impression.

Reporter: (sighs) Maybe we should just start our discussion. And when we’re done, we can eat the Peach Cobbler I made. Is that all right with you?

Editor: Yes. I searched the room so I’m satisfied.

Reporter: What do you mean you ‘searched the room’?

Continue reading “Welcome to My Existential Crisis, Episode 5”