Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh, the horror...I mean, Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, it is time again for the annual trek to "Grandma's House" for the first of the traditional holiday get-togethers. We are all looking forward to the mostly edible meals, the guilt trips about why we don't come home more often, and the list of illnesses and disasters that have occurred since the last time we made the journey.

I can't wait to get to my mother-in-laws house tonight so she can tell me how sick she is and ask in a not so subtle way if I would cook the dinner for tomorrow. I will say,"sure, no problem," and then while I am trying to get everything ready for 10 to 14 people, she will be standing right behind me telling me how I am doing it wrong. Or, the alternative to all of this is the bringing out of aluminum foil wrapped packages and bowls from the freezer where she froze the rest of the dressing she made a month ago, or last year, or a couple of years ago, that just "needs to be eaten" because it is "perfectly good". "Why, there is nothing wrong with" eating food that has been in a 30 year old freezer that may or may not keep the proper temperature, regardless of power outages.

A little story about all of this. When my husband was growing up, he thought it was normal to be violently ill at least once a year, sometimes twice, with a "stomach flu". He thought it was just something going around and it wasn't any big deal. Until he got married and moved to Texas. It is funny how he never got the stomach flu while he lived down there. After the divorce, he moved back home to go to school. Again with the stomach flu. Then we met and got married. Wow, no more stomach flu. Amazing. I was finally able to convince him that his mother tries to poison everyone with her cooking. So now, it is kind of funny to watch him wandering around with his plate(tiny dinning table so we all just eat wherever we can find a seat) trying to find out of the way trash cans to dump his food.

Now at my Dad's, meals are always a little bit different. It won't make you sick, but it is rather far from traditional. Last year for Christmas, we had pizza. Granted, they were very good, but hardly traditional. Last year for Thanksgiving, he had a fish fry. With the turkey his wife made him cook on the side. Fried, of course.

My mom always does the traditional thing, Turkey, Dressing, 2 or 3 veggies, bread and a couple of pies to finish things off. We are generally so sick of turkey and dressing that we don't want to see it again for at least a year.

And the best part of all three of these meals is the conversation. We get to hear everything there is to speculate about who is sick, in the hospital, going to have surgery, who is in jail, who should be in jail, who is (as my mother in law so delicately puts it) fornicating, babies born, who died, job statuses, the state of various computers in as many various houses, and maybe someone actually gets around to asking us how we are doing.

And we actually drive almost 3 hours to get to enjoy this wonderful holiday season. Twice. After all, Christmas is just around the corner.

Monday, November 17, 2008

News...good and bad

Well, we had a little bit of unsettling news this past weekend. One of our friend's 16 year old daughter is pregnant. We are a little worried about her because she is so petite and so very young. But we are trying to be supportive of her and their family.

They have been barely making ends meet as it is. He is on disability and she is a waitress and that is essentially their only income. The daughter doesn't work, and the baby's daddy is only 15, not old enough to work. So we are going to do what we can to make it better for them.

The next time we see them will probably be New Years and she will probably be showing by then. I thought I might make her a couple of maternity tops since they really cannot afford to buy her a new wardrobe, especially at Christmas.

There is sooo much they are going to need. They will probably be able to find quite a bit at yard sales and flea markets, but you always want some new things too. I thought I would make up some baby clothes in a sort of unisex way until we find out whether it is a boy or girl. Maybe crochet a couple of blankets. Baby clothes do not take much fabric or much time to make, and I am definitely better at sewing than I was when my kids were babies. Although I did make my daughter a couple of dresses.

I did ask if they were going to use cloth or disposable diapers. Probably both, so I got to looking around for free patterns for cloth diapers on the web. They are so cute, and appear very easy to make. So I thought I might make up a few of those too.

If the situation were not so sad, I would be thrilled to be an honorary Grand Aunt. I think I would have prefered to wait a few years though.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Remembering the good old days

I was reminded yesterday of all the things we did growing up that I would NEVER allow my own children to do. Like walk a quarter of a mile through knee deep snow to chop a hole with a hatchet in the pond ice so the 3 or 4 cows we had could drink. When my brother and I were 10 and 7. Or walking through the bean field across the road from our house to the dump that was at the back. And digging through said trash to find "treasures". Or walking or biking up to the highway(about 1.5 miles) with a dollar in our hands to go to the little country store to get a coke, a candy bar, some chips, a few pieces of bubble gum, and if Old Lady Warren was there, maybe a couple of extra pieces of hard candy.

Of course, we had plenty of chores to do first before we could wander off for the day. Usually in the summer, it was picking garden. Then feeding everyone (cows, pigs, chickens, an occasional horse). Then snapping beans. I hated snapping beans. Then my older brother generally was excused for a while until evening chores. I on the other had, got the joy of helping my mom can everything. I really hated that, especially since my brother got to take off and I had to stay. But if I complained long enough, Mom would let me go just to get me out of her hair.

We pretty much had run of about 3 mile area. A mile and a half in any direction. And all we had to do was tell roughly where we were going and to be back by dark or dinner, whichever was first.

We spent a lot of time in the gullywash back behind our place. The neighbors behind us had these pine woods and there was this huge, I will say about 15-20 foot deep, gully that ran through almost the whole thing. We would take a broken down cardboard box with us and "ride" down the pine needle covered gully walls on the box. We did have to keep a sharp eye out for briars, but we had great fun. Those pine needles made for a smooth ride and since there was always a decent sized pile of them at the bottom, a fairly soft landing too. That gully was the scene of many pirate attacks, Indian raids, war battles, and games of Hide and Seek.

And none of these adventures ever had adult supervision. Ever. We would sometimes come home bruised and bloodied, from getting caught in the briars, or completely covered in mud or dust. Mom would tell us to wash off outside before we came in(we had a handy waterhose by the back door and a concrete porch to stand on while we did it). If our cuts were too bad, we would put peroxide or mecurichrome on them and go on about our business.

Only once did I ever get seriously injured. My dad had brought home this huge pile of broken down pallets to use as kindling in the fireplace. And they still had nails in them. That pile of rough broken planks was perfect for climbing on. Until the day one of them shifted under my bare foot and I slid into a nail and got a nice, rather deep, cut on the top of my foot by my pinkie toe. 3 stitches. And mom was LIVID! She wouldn't let up play on that pile any more. We were heartbroken. So we just climbed trees and jumped off into the tangle of honeysuckle vines and pretended to be Tarzan instead.

Wow, we really don't let our kids have any fun these days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Raising rabbits?

OK, so today I have been learning about raising meat rabbits. Apparently, rabbit meat has fewer calories per pound than any other meat, has very little cholesterol, and *surprise!* tastes like chicken.

From my research, I have learned that meat rabbits can dress out around 4-5 pounds in 8-11 weeks. That is a lot of meat in a very short time. And considering that the average litter is 5-8 kits, that is more than 20 pounds of meat every three months with only 1 breeding doe. I have also read that to start a family sized meat operation you would only need 1 buck and 3 does. So that would be 60 pounds of meat every quarter, that is 240 pounds a year! I am thinking that is a very cost effective feed to meat ratio.

And rabbits can be kept in 5 foot square elevated cages to keep predators out and make cleaning the cages easier. They are also very quiet so as to not disturb the neighbors. Another little tidbit I learned is that rabbit manure is the only manure that does not have to be aged before use as fertilizer. So straw from under the cages can go directly into the garden or flower bed. Cool, huh?

The pelts can be tanned for numerous uses as well. I can think of gloves and hats just for starters.

So just about anyone can raise rabbits for meat. They take up very little space, breed like, well, rabbits, and are a very healthy choice when it comes to meat.

I wonder if I can talk my husband in to building me some rabbit cages?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good Friends Make Life Nicer

I have noticed that my Random Thoughts have been incredibly random lately. I would like to explain that because my thoughts have been very random.

With the economy like it is at the moment, it is even more important that we not spend money on frivolous things. We have to stay focused on the big picture here. If my husband loses his job, how are we going to make it through the year so my daughter can graduate with her friends? What about my son who still has 3 more years? How will we make the house payment? What about insurance for my medications? What about Christmas?

These are all things we have to think about. As more and more Americans are having money troubles, and are trying to spend less, it is causing the nations retailers some pain. And that is causing a cycle of increased unemployment, more late payments or defaults on loans, and even less money out there to spend.

Personally, I think the real problem is the mindset that we as Americans have adopted. We think it is our right and duty to spend large amounts of cash on every item there is to buy. And retailers and ad executives are ultimately to blame here. They have found new and interesting ways to convince us that we absolutely must have "things" to be happy.

Case in point. This past weekend, we had house guests from Friday night until Sunday evening. We didn't go out to eat, we didn't spend a lot of time playing games or acting like consumers. We sat and visited with each other. We did go to the bread outlet (they do not have one within easy driving distance of their home so they stock up when they visit) and we went to Big Lots (they don't have one of those either). The rest of the time we ate, talked, and basically just enjoyed each others company. And we had a good time. And we didn't have to spend a lot of money to do it.

The funny thing about that is 20 years ago, we would have played a game that took all weekend to play or played several games that took 5+ hours. 5 years ago, we would have played maybe 1 game that took 5+ hours and maybe a couple of games that took 1 -1.5 hours. A year ago we would have played 3 or 4 games that took 45 minutes to play. Maybe we are just getting old. But it just seems more important now to slow down and enjoy each other that have to be entertained the entire time.

And as they say, talk is cheap.

Now I know why our grandparents would just sit and visit instead of wanting to do anything. It is actually relaxing to be able to visit instead of trying to plan a series of entertainments that every one would enjoy.

With relaxation being a lost art these days, and the amount of stress people are under at work, it just makes sense to take the time to enjoy life.

You don't have to buy a lot of specialized equipment, special clothing, or even special food (although I do cook a lot when we have company) to visit with friends. And taking time off from the world every couple of months to just sit and drink tea is a good thing. And good friends make it that much better.

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