On Apple Trees, Cake, and Planning Ahead for Panic Attacks

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an apple tree.

Here, look upon my apple tree:

Apple tree 1

Beautiful, is it not?

Better yet, it provides a marvelous view from my kitchen sink.

Here, look upon the view from my kitchen sink:

kitchen window mn

The window screen makes it a little fuzzy, but you get the idea. It’s a damn fine view.

For comparison sake, here was the view from my former kitchen sink:

Kitchen window az

You’re probably wondering why I bothered taking a picture of a brick wall.

About three months ago, give or take a day, I got a wee bit concerned about our move from Arizona to Minnesota.

I started thinking that at some future point — say, in February when it’s 30 below here and 70 in Phoenix — I’ll think to myself, “HOLY FREAKIN’ COW, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”

So in preparation for that event, I took pictures of all the things in our Phoenix home that drove me nuts. Hence, the picture of a brick wall.

(Just curious, what’s that say about a person who plans ahead for panic attacks?)

I also have shots of my kids’ rooms (cleaning is not their strong suit), our “music room” (it was more a catch-all room), and – my personal favorite — a stack of dirty dishes one of my kids left by the empty sink.

The question is, will looking at a picture of dirty dishes ease the pain of moving away from my kids?

Um… yeah. It has. (I’m a monster.)

Anyway, back to the apples. I’ve no idea what kind they are except they are wonderful for baking. (Score!) Also, I’ve come to a better understanding of why commercial growers use chemicals. Up close and personal, my apples are not pretty.

Tell me, would you pay good money for these apples?

applesNeither would I. Yet they’re delicious in your morning oatmeal with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar.

So far I’ve made a couple pies, muffins, several bowls of oatmeal, and a wonderful cake that I will share with you in a moment.

(*gasp* She’s actually sharing a recipe?!)

This weekend I plan on picking the entire tree; I believe it’s time and the bugs have had enough of a feast. I foresee a batch of applesauce and apple butter in my future.

But first, cake!

This cooler weather (54° this morning) put me in the mood for baking. I scoured my cookbooks for recipes using apples and found no less than five for cake, all a tad different. I took what I liked best from each (more apples and spices here, less oil and eggs there, ooh a glaze!) and came up with this one. It turned out marvelous and it works either as a coffee cake or a dessert.

By the way, the town in which I now live has the best coffee. Really! It’s a downtown shop called Reality Roasters. Their beans might cost a little more, but dang, they’re worth it.

Just the thing for this cake. ☕

Apple Cake with Butterscotch Glaze

  • Difficulty: easy
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Apple cake

This is a rich tasting cake but without a lot of oil and eggs; Perfect for a cool autumn morning with a cup of coffee or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups diced apples, unpeeled (about 5 or 6 baking apples)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda*
  • Granola or rolled oats for topping (I used Full Circle’s oats & honey granola)
  • Glaze (see below)

Mix together sugar, oil, eggs and apples. In separate bowl mix together flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. Add to the apple mixture, stir well and pour into a greased 13 x 9″ baking pan. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of granola or rolled oats. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean. Prepare glaze while cake cools.

Butterscotch Glaze: In small saucepan over medium heat, stir together 2 Tablespoons butter, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half-n-half. Bring to a boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Let cool slightly and drizzle on top of cake.

Can serve warm or cooled. 🍂

*I know it sounds like a lot, but the two teaspoons of baking soda is correct. 🙂

 

No Worries: The Kids Are Alright

Our kids came for a visit this last weekend.

It’s their first visit since we moved here, the first they saw our new place, the first time they’ve been in Minnesota.

Before they arrived, I told Husband how strange it felt. It was like I wanted to show off the place, impress them a little. He agreed.

We wanted them to understand why we abandoned them in Arizona.

Driving away

Now let’s be clear, we knew we didn’t really abandon them. They are in their early 20s, old enough to be on their own. They have jobs, they have an apartment, they have family and friends nearby.

And yet

Why do these images persist? My daughter is at an intersection with a cardboard sign: “Hungry, Motherless, Please Help”

Angry robin 1Son is on a street downtown, playing his keyboard. He’s got a hat in front of him and he’s singing…

When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when.
But we’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.

We parents love riding that old guilt train, don’t we? If there isn’t enough to feel guilty about, we’ll make something up to fill the void. (One mother told me she felt guilty her daughter had to wear glasses. If she had eaten better when she was pregnant, maybe her daughter’s vision would be better.)

So it was good for us to see they were doing fine. Somehow for these last six weeks, they managed to keep themselves fed, clothed and sheltered.

Amazing.

They liked our new house, agreed the area was pretty. They seemed to enjoy Minnesota but thought our evenings were a little cold (HA HA, wimpy Arizonans!).

Still, I wondered what they thought of our moving. Did they understand? Did they think we were nuts?

It was a short trip as they had to get back for work, but before we dropped them off at the airport, we walked around Mall of America. We discovered it is one FREAKIN’ big mall. It has its own amusement park, for cryin’ out loud.

Husband and Son went on Ghost Blasters, Daughter and I did our roller coaster thing.

At some point (it may have been on the plunge down), a thought occurred to me: Our kids aren’t thinking about us.

Do you remember back when you were young and out on your own? When we’re trying to figure out the whole adult thing and find our way in the cold, cruel world? The one thing we weren’t doing at the time was sitting around wondering what our parents were up to. We had our own concerns and our parents didn’t enter into it.

Which is how it should be. Right?

They left the nest and are doing their thing, and now mama and papa bird have to figure out their thing.

So yeah. The kids are all right.

Jury’s still out on the parents, though. 😉

On Moving, New Homes, and a Harrowing Incident Involving Cat Poop

We made it.

From our home of 17 years in Arizona to our new place in Minnesota, our move is complete.

Currently we’re residing in the house we’re in the process of buying. The owners agreed to let us rent until closing, keeping us from having to move a second time (my gratitude knows no bounds). And I’ve so much to tell you, I don’t know where to begin.

So to release my crowded thoughts and frozen fingers, I’ll start with the view from our sunroom, which we have designated my writing room…

Sunroom

I HAVE A WRITING ROOM!!!

A-hem

And now for a brief recap of our trip here. Picture us in a car with one 13-year old arthritic dog and one very anxious cat.

Shall we begin?

Last Day in Phoenix

The city decided to turn off our water a day early. We were nearly done loading the car, but I hadn’t cleaned the house yet. (Yes, I know I’m under no legal obligation to leave the house clean. Even so. I clean.)

Fortunately I had two packs of Scrubbing Bubbles Flushable Wipes. Which I couldn’t flush, but whatever. They got the job done.flushable wipes

You’ve not lived until you’ve mopped an entire kitchen floor with bathroom cleaning wipes.
Use this information carefully.

First Stop, Flagstaff

We purchase “calming treats” for Merricat and stopped in a park for me to take a call. After three treats (the last one I shoved down her throat), they took affect and Merricat became… well, not a happy traveler but a more compliant one.

Merricat drugged

Fast Forward to Nebraska

Now why would someone fast forward to Nebraska?

If you’ve ever traveled through Nebraska, you’ll know it’s flat and boring and nothing ever happens there. And that’s where you’re wrong.

The eastern portion of the state (perhaps others, I don’t know) is quite lovely. With rolling hills and charming farmhouses.

Nebraska hills

Not a place you expect a crisis to occur, but occur it did.

I’m telling you, until you’re trapped in a Toyota Corolla with a pet cat who just pooped, you don’t know the meaning of panic. Quick as a flash, Husband pulls over, doors are opened, fresh air sucked in… soiled pillow removed.

As an indication of our love for humanity and all creation, I want you to know we did not leave the soiled pillow by the side of the road.

Per Husband’s suggestion (he nixed my idea of burning it), we sealed it in a plastic bag and threw it in the first trash can we came across.

Back in car, Dog looking out window, Cat acting like nothing happened.

Merricat and Freckles

Stupid cat.

Minnesota at Last

The next day we arrive to our new home in Little Falls, Minnesota.

The listing agent for our house, Donny, is there to give us keys. He tells us about a band concert in the park that evening. They do it once a year; we happened to arrive on the right day.

The park is walking distance from our house (truthfully, most things are walking distance from our house) and the band, all local, was quite good. For some reason we expected something along the lines of an old-time Sousa band, instead we heard selections from Van Morrison, Chicago, and Steely Dan.

Rock the park

The park – Maple Island Park – is lovely. The Mississippi flows through it (the slogan for Little Falls is Where the Mississippi Pauses) and there are walkways and bike paths throughout.

By one of the bridges we came across a young girl trying her darnedest to catch a duckling.

“Last year my uncle caught me one,” she said.

I asked her if it was all grown up now.

“No. It died. That’s why I want another.”

Duck photo

Don’t worry, she didn’t catch one.

Days 1 Through 7

We beat our moving “pods” here. Meaning we’re without belongings, but worse yet, without internet. We buy an air mattress at Wal-Mart and a table and chairs at a thrift store. A neighbor (Jerry) offers his truck to haul the table. Another neighbor (Buddy) mows the lawn for us.

We get our internet fix at the library and coffee shops and occasionally by using our phones as hotspots. Husband orders cable & internet. Router and Modem are on their way.

Day 8

Two of our three pods arrive. Several church members come to help us unload.

Unpacking

Afterward we gather our chairs on the front lawn and have pizza.

We slept on a real bed for the first time it over a week. It was glorious. Still no internet. That bites.

Day 9

The third pod arrives. This one contains Husband’s motorcycle and both our bicycles, all in perfect condition.

Packing cube

Still no internet. I’m bereft.

Day 10, Arrival of Modem and Router

Remember the scene in the movie 2001, when the ape people stare at the monolith in awe and wonder?

2001

That should give you an idea of what Husband and I looked like when we saw the soft light emanating from the router.

Now, one would think that since I was without internet for a whopping 10 days, I should have accomplished a lot.

Like, maybe, I don’t know… unpack things?

Sadly, no. From the looks of this place, you’d think I sat around and stared into space the whole time.

Well, no. Not into space. Just my backyard.

Backyard

From my writing room.

I’VE GOT A WRITING ROOM!

A-hem.

PS: The call I took in Flagstaff was a job interview for a position at the hospital near our new home (you guessed it, within walking distance). I start on Monday.

R.I.P. Fluffy, Bear of Noble Mien

Moving across country is not for the softhearted.

One must be willing to part with unnecessary items. Purge the dross. Winnow possessions to the basic few.

It is no time for sentiment.

Therefore, it is with heavy heart that I must say farewell to thee, Fluffy Bear. Steadfast Teddy these past 45 years.

Give or take a year.

Fluffy

Ah, how well I remember when you entered my life.

I, a sorrowful lass who lost her previous bear due to an unfortunate intake of far too much candy, and his subsequent visit to the washing machine.

Alas, poor Herman. Loved so dearly, gone so soon.

Then one sunny day, you entered my life after the family collected enough proof of purchase labels from a certain brand of toilet paper.

Our lavatory supplies were covered for the remainder of the year.

Your label read, “made of 100% fluffy synthetic fiber.” Hence your name. Fluffy.

Our early years were carefree and bright. Remember the times you watched me standing on the seat of the backyard swing, singing at the top of my lungs?

I’M ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD LOOKIN’
DOWN ON CREATION!

You were so kind, never pointing out my sour notes.

Later you donned your dapper attire, looking oh-so-noble in my niece’s cast-off baby jacket.

Perhaps other bears would object to the wearing of pink, but not you. You were comfortable in your skin.

And later when your nose fell off? Or your tongue? Oh, how many times they fell off! But each time you withstood the needle with such stoic silence.

It was admirable.

Sadly, all things must come to an end. And so it is with you, dear Fluffy. It is time we bring this relationship to a close.

Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…

Fluffy trashed

Don’t look at me like that, Fluffy. It’s for your own good. Do you know how cold it gets in Minnesota? You’d hate it there.

And that hole in your back? It’s not getting any smaller, you know. Why, the move alone might do you in. Never mind the cold.

Fluffy, no! Turn those orange plastic eyes away from me!

Be reasonable, Fluffy! I’m 50… um… some-odd-years-old. A 50-some-odd-years-old woman doesn’t keep a teddy bear.

It just won’t do!

You never know. You might like the landfill. Think of all the other toys you’ll meet.

Discarded dolls… unwanted G.I. Joes… unloved teddy bears…

Gah! I’m sorry Fluffy, please forgive me!

*rescues from trash*
*hugs tightly*
*weeps softly*

Come to Minnesota! We’ll keep each other warm! I’m sorry I ever considered parting; what was I thinking?

You and me, Fluffy. From now until the end of time, that is my promise.

Here’s your travel bed — my dresser’s top drawer…

Fluffy in transit

*waves back*

See you in Minnesota, Fluffy. ❤️

When You Know it’s Time to Move

It’s one thing to move when you’re unhappy, it’s quite another to move when everything is going positively swell.

We’ve got ourselves a swell life here in Phoenix. Our kids are here, family and friends abound, we have jobs we like.

Heck, I even like my coworkers. How amazing is that?

We live in a decent neighborhood, in a decent house, with decent neighbors who watch out for each other.

But yeah. We’re moving. To Minnesota.

When people ask us why, it’s not always easy to explain.

“You know it’s cold there, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

Snowing in April
The view from our hotel the first time we visited. It was mid-April.

We could say there’s a danger in getting too comfortable. You start to feel like you’re coasting along. No longer striving, no longer trying. Just settling in and waiting for the inevitable.

Sometimes what you need is a change of scenery.

“You know what the state bird of Minnesota is? The Mosquito!”
“Haha.”

Bench by the river
The Mississippi as it flows through Little Falls, a ten-minute drive from Randall, MN

Do you ever get an antsy feeling that something is not quite right? You feel a bit unsettled. Despite your life being perfectly fine, you have this voice inside saying, “You need a change… It’s time… Do something!”

And as Husband is a Presbyterian minister, we tend to put stock in that sort of thing.

We’ve been in the same house in Phoenix, at the same church, for 17 years.

Seventeen years. That’s half a century in Pastor-years.

He wanted to try something different. Still ministry, of course, but somewhere different.

Sometime after Thanksgiving, he “activated” his information. In essence, it alerts churches looking for a new pastor that he’s available. As per usual, he didn’t narrow the parameters as to where he was willing to go.

We’ve always been foolhardy in that regard.

“Hey, maybe we’ll wind up in Hawaii!”
“Yeah… or maybe Detroit.”
“Um…”

trees, Minnesota, small town
The sleepy little town of Randall, Minnesota

Fortunately for us, Presbyterians allow pastors to have a say in the matter. We’re not moved willy-nilly. We can scope a place out, take our time, interview the people there as much as they interview us. Do everything we can to make sure it’s the right move.

We were in no hurry, and with Husband having recently turned 60, we figured it’d be a slow process. We expected a year, maybe two, before we found the right place.

So imagine our surprise when he started getting emails from Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma…

“Oklahoma?”
“Um… no.”

river, small town, Minnesota, Little Falls
Look at all these homes blessed with riverfront views. Do you think they know how lucky they are?

Another thing we weren’t prepared for was how much politics would enter into it.

With each interview, Husband had a clear impression they were fishing for his political views, especially with regards to gay marriage. They weren’t asking overtly of course, but the meaning was there. And almost without fail, the churches contacting him were very conservative.

We began to wonder, was there some sort of code language we missed? Was there a phrase he used in his information form that inadvertently labeled him Alt-right?

He began researching locations as soon as a church contacted him, mostly to see how their area voted in the last election. What we hoped for was an area with some political diversity, neither all red nor all blue.

We look great in purple.

Most of the areas were heavily one sided. Such as South Carolina.

“I saw that 86% of your county voted for Trump.”
“Well, we ARE the Bible Belt, you know.” (Said in the most charming accent ever)

quilt shop, coffee shop, creamery building, randall minnesota
Randall’s quilt and coffee shop, housed in the old Creamery building. Soon to be my favorite hangout.

Then sometime in February he was contacted by a church in Randall, Minnesota. A Google image search showed us… well, honestly they need to hire a new photographer for that town. Most of the images are less than stellar.

But our emails with the church were lovely, as was a phone call. So a Skype interview was scheduled.

That then had to be rescheduled.

“So let me get this straight: no one from your committee can get to the church right now, on account of snow?”
“We really didn’t want to tell you that.”

snowy path, trees, minnesota
Are we nuts? Yeah, probably.

The eventual Skype interview was one of the most pleasant interviews he had, lasting for over an hour. It led to a second Skype interview, followed by a third… then a fourth… then a fifth…

The conversations were open, honest, forthcoming. They classified themselves liberal. They’re also pro-military.

They’re an interesting bunch.

They flew us up there. We hugged. (Heck, after five Skype interviews you’re practically family.) They put us in a nice hotel, drove us around town. Showed us the best roads for scenic motorcycle rides. (Husband took notes.)

They took us to a restaurant by a lake (of course), where Husband watched two snowmobiles make their way across the ice.

“That looks fun.”
“Um… yeah, actually. It does.”

snowmobiles, minnesota, family in the snow
Sure it’s cold, but dang it’s fun!

It’s an odd thing, but sometimes it takes a move across the country to find your kind of people.

So Husband wanted something different.

I think we found it.

church in randall minnesota

A Good Long Walk, Pioneer Style. Plus, an Announcement

Picking up where we left off last week, our caravan of Norwegians traveling from Decorah, Iowa, into the Dakota territories in 1861, had little in the way of drama on their trip. Nothing worthy of a movie. No Donner party mishap to report.

Shame, that.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 1.41.54 PM

And yet this next part of the tale is without a doubt my favorite, for it gives us the picture of old Great-Grandpa ambling ahead of the ox-pulled wagon, reading a book under the shade of an umbrella.

I can’t remember how old I was when my dad told me about it, but I remember the warm feeling it gave me. It gave me an awareness – an explanation for who I was. These are your people, the story said. This man who walks in solitude and brings a book to bide his time? Yes. It explains everything.

Along with this we hear of more practical matters, such as how they parked their wagons for the night, and later crossed the Sioux River on a ferry. You read this tale long enough, and you’ll have all the instructions you need to make the trip yourself.

Here it is in his own words (as published in 1907):

The course to the west which we were now to cover consisted of long stretches of naked prairie, with great distances between places where water and fuel could be found. We had to carry these supplies with us in our wagons so that at night we would be sure to have these necessities. Every evening the wagons were placed in a square, the oxen were turned loose to graze, and a fireplace, with a wall encircling it, was spaded out. Here we made our fire.

Before we went to rest the oxen were tied to the wagons, and at the earliest break of day they were again let loose so that they might both feed and slake their thirst in the dew-laden grass. In rainy weather we found it advisable to remain in camp; otherwise the chafing of the yokes on the necks of the animals caused sores to develop.

As a protection against wind and rain, I had provided a small tent under which we could cook and braise to our heart’s content. The varieties of food might not have been many, but oh, how delicious they were to our keen appetites!

The day’s journey was short, averaging perhaps fifteen miles. With an umbrella in hand and a book in my pocket, I would go ahead of the caravan as a advance guard, and when I was a mile or so in front of it, I would sit down in the shade of my umbrella to read until it (the caravan) caught up with me again. The long evenings of early fall were utilized for reading within the wagon by light of a stearin candle.

At last we reached Sioux City, near the point of influx of the Big Sioux River into the Missouri. The Big Sioux forms the boundary line between Iowa and Dakota. Across it we were transported by means of a ferry, and although the boat was a primitive one, the passage was very ingeniously accomplished.

First a cable was stretched across the river. The flat-bottomed ferry had a wide keel and at each end of the ferry this was made fast to the cable with a hawser. When the crossing was being made, the hawser at the front was shortened, placing the ferry aslant with the stream, so that the force of the current against the keel moved the craft across. For the return trip it was necessary only to reverse the arrangement of the hawsers. The adjustment of the lengths of the hawsers was all that was needed in the operation, the rest being accomplished by the stream itself.

After a three weeks’ journey we arrived at Vermillion, which, by the route we traveled, was approximately three hundred miles from Decorah. I had walked, not ridden, every inch of the way.

I hope you’ve been enjoying these last few weeks of my Great-Grandpa’s tale. I may from time to time present a few more interesting nuggets, as the mood strikes me or the need arises.

For now though, I have an announcement to make: We’re moving. As in, Husband and I are packing our belongings, selling the homestead, trekking across country to a new locale. (Though unlike Great-Grandpa, we’ll be driving.)

This is why I’ve been so busy lately, and why I’ve been so dreadfully behind in responding to comments on this blog or keeping up with my fellow bloggers.

Again, terribly sorry.

It seems packing up 17 years of living and laughing and loving doesn’t happen overnight. We had to tell family and friends, break it to the kiddos (they’re staying in Phoenix), get the house ready to sell, and sort through our own complicated emotions. Emotions containing fear, sadness, excitement, longing… everything all at once.

Yet whatever fear or sadness we felt were never outmatched by the overwhelming sense that this move is right. However nuts it may sound to anyone else, we believe we’re on the right path.

Where are we moving, you ask? Believe it or not, Minnesota!

From extreme heat to extreme cold. No half measures for us.

e223bc53a9eb36de358f18f3995b1dbd.jpg

I’ll let you in on more details in the weeks to come, as we still have to sort out moving details, as well as a place to rent until we (hopefully) find a home of our own.

In the meantime, through all of this, I’ll think of a man walking in solitude, biding his time by reading a book. Did he experience fear or sadness on his trip? Possibly. Mostly, I think he felt his path was right.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

So far on our trip, we’ve been in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon & California, and in each state we’ve seen truly beautiful places. Places worthy to call home, should we ever care to move.

IMG_0322One such place is the coastal town of Crescent City, California. A charming place, just a stone’s throw from the redwood forest. Redwoods!

It’s not a fancy town. I doubt any millionaires will be building vacation homes there any time soon. This is an honest-to-goodness coastal town, with real working fishermen, shopkeepers and restaurant owners.

But gosh, even so, I couldn’t help thinking they must be happy people.

I even said it to Husband. I said, “Gosh, these people must be happy.”

I bet every morning they wake up, take a deep breath, smell the salt air and think to themselves, “I must be the luckiest person in the world, because I live in Crescent City, California.” Continue reading “Bloom Where You’re Planted”