Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Blustery Day

We had a "blizzard" here over the weekend. I didn't take any pictures either during or after...I guess because  was so crushed with disappointment that I forgot. I haven't gotten snowed in even once this winter and I'd so hoped that this storm would produce that blessed state of too dangerous to go anywhere, but still warm and cozy inside. Nope. We got some freezing rain followed by a respectable amount of snow, but it was all melted by the next day.

Since then, the weather has cooled somewhat and stayed quite windy, especially the first two days. "Quite windy" is somewhat of an understatement. Imagine a wind that starts in Alaska, makes good time across the mountains, and hits the plains with nothing to slow it down until the Atlantic Ocean. I have to wear a hat to make sure my hair doesn't blow right off my head. Makes me wish I hadn't taken down all my warmth-capturing blankets "because spring is here". But it has been great kite flying weather. Too bad we didn't have a kite!

Not to worry, this inventive gal wouldn't let something like that get in the way of frolic. Caleb and I scrounged some old ropes and tied them to a tarp so battered that I wouldn't mind if it blew away. Then all we had to do was walk outside the shelter of trees and let nature do the rest. If only we had on roller skates!

The "kite" had some design flaws. The ropes were different lengths and the corners kept collapsing in on themselves. We are planning to fix that with some light-weight nylon rope threaded through a couple of wooden cross-pieces to hold everything open. Then we just have to wait for the next available Prairie Hurricane Day. If any readers in Minnesota  happen to see something that looks oddly like a human clinging to a tarp, call 911.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Prune Diaries, Vol. 3

In spite of the growing threats of physical violence soon to be perpetrated upon my person, I continue my quest to develop new and better recipes for the benefit of humanity. Can I help it if my taste-testing days happen to coincide with my days off? It's simply a matter of scheduling, that's all. To believe otherwise is to descend into the darkly shrouded mists of delusional conspiracy theorism. And no brilliant and intelligent and educated person would want to go there.....

At least some of my family supports my dreams. My dad has been very helpful in suggesting creative food dishes for me to try. Today's was one of his ideas, and it marks the first "treat" that I have actually tried myself. But this was good; I really enjoyed it.

The Ploppy Joe

Make sloppy joes as usual, but add in chopped prunes.
Couldn't be easier, and so good for you, too!

April Fools!

I am a slightly strange person---any of my personal acquaintances will tell you that, but, hey,  I've needed to be.  One of my cherished family traditions is the Sneak Attack Birthday Party, a way of approaching birthdays that I've been using with great success for quite a few years now. It goes like this: never let them see it coming. Have the party on a different day or in a different way, so that the celebration comes as a surprise.

This year was my personal best, as we celebrated Caleb's 15th birthday 1 1/2 months ahead of time. And as long as I was having it early, why not have it on April Fool's Day? Because nothing says April Fool's like a birthday party over a month early.

Caleb had told me that he wanted a San Francisco 49ers party, so I was planning to have a "tailgate party" in the car somewhere. But then it turned out to be Prairie Hurricane Day again, plus we had a church business meeting scheduled for the middle of the afternoon. So I decided to turn the party into a Surprise Tailgate April Fool's Church Business Meeting themed party. Never say I can't roll with the punches.

Devon and I went in early to set up the room. It didn't look too bad considering the high level of procrastination that went into its preparation. We got into Plentywood with only 1 hour to spare and had to take down the decorations from the Sabbath school room, put up the party stuff, and decorate his cake. Then out of the room and close the door so no one could see in. At least that was the theory!

In reality, it seemed like everyone was magnetically attracted to the room, and I had to strive for nonchalant unconcern while guarding the portals with lion-like fierceness. In the end, Caleb and Tiggy were the only ones who were surprised. But he was the most important one anyway.

After the board meeting let out, the kids went across to the park to frolic while I got the last few things in place. The pastor was kind enough to go get John so he could come, and my superior mom came bearing coleslaw and two kinds of potato salad. Plus a birthday border collie.  They got out of sight and we waited for the crew to trickle back from the park.

You'll notice how strategically Devon
"The Attention Seeker" Gibbs has positioned himself... 

I sent Caleb into the room ahead of me, and my mom was stationed inside to catch his first stunned expression. I think he was pretty surprised, and why wouldn't he be? It's April, not May. Next year, I'll have to have his birthday party 6 months early. 18 will be here before you know it, at this rate!

The kids pigged out on the tailgate junk food and soda (or pop, if you're from around here). In fact, I had to force them to eat a piece of cake when it was time. "No park until everyone has a piece of birthday cake." Hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. There's no way I was gonna get stuck eating the whole thing because silly kids forgot to pace themselves!

This is me trying to take a picture of Caleb.
 Looks like Devon's not the only attention hog!

All the junior pyros of the family tried to elbow each other out of the way when it came time to light the candles. Next year I'll have to light it in the kitchen. It's just that I was afraid if I tried to move it, some of those poor innocent football players might catch on fire!

Then it was time to open presents. Caleb got a cat scratcher/hide-a-way for his room (OK, that's not strictly for him, but we needed one and a birthday is as good of a reason as any), a few shirts, some great books, and a pair of happenin' cammo overalls. The first picture I took of him with his loot, he looked like he was at a funeral. This picture was when I told him to smile. Nut! He deserves to have it posted. Of course, his festivities are not quite over. Some time in the next week, we'll be headed to Williston to pick up a couple more birthday gifts and, hopefully (for Caleb, anyway) his learner's permit. I think I'm too old for this!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Because My Life is Just THAT Interesting To You...

I have been blessed (I'd say "lucky", but luck had nothing to do with it) to have two wonderful church families. My first was in California, and they were absolutely super. Love you guys!!!!!! Which is why I feel so fortunate to have moved smack dab into another great, nurturing little group here in Plentywood, MT.

One challenge to socialization for the Plentywood congregation is how scattered we all are. Our pastor lives 1 1/2 hours to the south. Some of our members live 45 minutes to the west. Some members are right in Plentywood. We are 30 minutes to the east, and some members are almost 2 hours to the east. We don't do a lot of spur-of-the-moment gatherings! But last Sabbath, we were all planning to be at church, so an after-church outing to the local dam was planned.

I'd only been to the dam for the first time 2 weeks before, but it is a nice place with picnic shelters, little stove thingies, boat launches, and lots of up-an-down hills. It was a much nicer day this time around, too! Our first visit coincided with Prairie Hurricane Day, a holiday celebrated with great frequency in these here parts. But on this particular day the weather was gorgeous and warm, with enough of a light breeze that we wouldn't get confused and think we were in a completely different state.

We piled out of the cars, and Noni  almost immediately discovered she was low on camera battery. I felt for her, I really did, but couldn't share mine lest there not be enough for me also. My heart secretly glowed with virtue for having been wiser than she in my preparations. Until I pulled my camera out and saw that my battery was almost gone, too. So much for virtue.

The first flowers of spring were blooming---prairie crocuses. Everyone ooooed and aaaaaawed over them, including me; when I was little, I thought crocuses were stupid because they bloomed out of plain dirty ground instead of green grass. After a couple of years with real seasons, I'm as excited about those little harbingers of spring as anyone else.

I  had make close, personal acquaintance with the grass to get my shots, all the time hoping my battery wouldn't die. I'm still picking prickles from my skin, but at least I didn't inadvertently land on some of the cacti hidden in the grass. That would have made the church social memorable for ME, at least.

We all had such a nice time, it's a pity we don't take the time to fellowship with friends more often. Life is too short to spend slogging away all the time and never noticing all the beauty that God surrounds us with. Sometimes I think that a lot of our gloomy, stressed modern outlook is because we ignore the joy that God pours into our lives through the little things like flowers, a child's laughter, and the blissful feeling of lying in the grass with the sun shining on our faces.

At the beginning of March
On the last day of March

The Prune Diaries, Vol. 2

As a devoted elder-care professional, I continue my quest for culinary perfection where it comes to prunes. This recipe was a rousing success. So rousing that the end results had me an hour late to church this week.

I bring you.......The Pralt.

 Prune Juice/Ice Cream Malt

Nature Photography

They don't call this "Big Sky" country for nothing! The sky and its changing features are the main points of interest out here on the prairie. Lately, things have just been so good that I can't keep up by posting one or two pretty photos at a time---I need to clean house and do them all at once.

Sunset last week

Sunset on our Friday-evening walk this weekend

The Sucking Swamp illuminated by the same beautiful sunset

The old Adventist church in Antelope, MT

Sunrise just a few steps from my door.

What a way to start the morning! Better than coffee (not that that's hard).

Cookbook Review

Wild Rice Mushroom and Cranberry Dressing
Wild Rice
Olive oil
Button mushrooms
Red onion
Dried cranberries
Chopped pecans

This dish was so simple to make that I hardly consulted the recipe at all during the process. Once you have the ingredients list, you can make the dish, because it's simply a matter of cooking the rice, then sauteing the veggies and stirring it all together.
I already like everything that goes into this recipe, so I expected to like it all put together. But I was less than impressed with the dish in its first manifestation. It didn't taste bad, but it was pretty bland. I ended up adding more and more to it in my quest for flavor, but it wasn't until I got to the cream of mushroom soup (because that's the kind of person I am, Ingrid, and I'm not ashamed to admit it!) that it started tasting like it was supposed to. Bottom line? I'll make wild rice again, but not with this recipe, since I ended up re-doing most of it anyway.

If you're wondering, I added veggie chicken to it as one of my steps-to-better-flavor

Raisin Spice Coffee Cake
Ground ginger
Baking powder
Baking soda

I haven't made much coffee cake in my life (I think this was my first one), so maybe these directions are standard procedure and every one in the world knows it but me. What I found different about this recipe is that you take the flour, butter, and spices and make them into a crumbly mix. Then you divide the mix, leaving 1/3 of it aside and mixing the rest of the crumbles with the wet ingredients and leavening. After finishing the cake batter, you sprinkle half of your dry mix on the bottom of a greased pan and half of it over the batter for a crumb topping. When baked, this makes a sort of crust under the cake. It was pretty good.
This cake was tasty and fairly easy to make. If I make it again, I will boil the raisins ahead of time because some of the ones at the top and bottom got a little burned. If you soak raisins or cook them before using them in baked goods, they won't burn as easily. The cake tends a little to dryness, but I assume that's because it's meant to be eaten with your coffee, as the name implies.