Monday, August 29, 2016

What's worse than being told you have cancer?

My son Cris and family. Cris is holding Lilli. This is before "The Day" 

What could be worse? When your 2 1/2 year old granddaughter has cancer. Yes, that is worse. Much worse.

Words are too small and too insignificant to tell how powerless and ineffectual I felt when I got the news.
 "Lilli has leukemia."
"What? How is that possible?"
"She is going for a biopsy but it is just a formality. They are sure she has it. She is going into surgery in a couple of hours."

And thus began the saddest week of my life. I have had sad weeks. I mean, I am 60 years old and have lots of sad weeks. Parents have gotten sick and died. We had a miscarriage early in our marriage. friends have died, jobs have been lost or quit--we lived in my sister's basement when our 5th child was born (that is a story for another day) but nothing compares to finding out that your little Sunshine--only 2.5 years old-has cancer.

As pitiful as it was to see Lilli poked and prodded and filled with IV's and made to take bitter steroids 2X a day--it was sweet to see her smile shyly as we suggested she take a ride in a little plastic car so she could patrol the hospital corridors. There are lows and highs and perhaps the lows make the highs that much better.

It was sweet when she came home. But it will be a long road to a cure. Her prognosis is great, but there will be lots of transfusions, lots of clinic visits, lots of chemo treatments. She will probably lose her curly hair and have to wear a little face mask if she leaves her home for the next 8 months. And for 2-3 years she will have to be monitored for fever, rashes--any sign of even a minor infection. And of course, have more chemo. It seems there is always more chemo. (I mean, how can a little 31# body process all those medicines and treatments? It is a mystery and I am glad there are pediatric oncologists. Two weeks ago I never even heard the term, now I know a couple of them by name.)

I am sure there will be trips to the ER. I am sure there will be long nights of crying as the medicines rush through her body trying to kill any remaining leukemia cells. I am sure my son and his wife will have many sleepless nights and many thousands of  tears (shed and unshed) before this is all over.

And as their mom, how can I comfort them? How can I tell them it will be all right. I am good at laundry and food, good at babysitting and encouragement--but that all seems so insignificant in the face of cancer.

How can this happen to a sweet little girl just starting out in this world? We know it happens all the time. The Children's Hospitals are full of equally sweet and innocent children with all sorts of maladies. We know that, sort of. Back somewhere in our mind we know that.

 But,  not in my family.

 But it is.

God knows. He knew before and he knows now and he knows the outcome. He sees the sadness and walks with us. He sustains us, fortifies us and binds our family together so we can face what this old world dishes out. We can do this--but...

 I wish it was me. I wish it was me. I wish it was me.

Life can be so darn hard.

Jill

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Best Age...

57 is also a great age!
I will be 58 in a couple of weeks and I think my life is about perfect. My kids are raised and live close. I have four grandgirls who live close and I get to see them all the time. I have a fun hard-working husband (almost 39 years!), I have enough to do to keep me busy, but not so much that I can't escape into a novel regularly. Maybe 58 is the best age?

But, then I think back to 50 years ago, when I was eight, and really, I think eight is THE BEST age. Can you remember being eight? You are kind of grown up then. I mean, you can ride a bike, pick your own friends, play outside without being under constant surveillance and generally can play all day long in the summer.

Well, kinda. I remember chores that needed to be done, but I was a pretty fast worker and my parents weren't too hard on me, so I was usually ready to play around 10:00 am. And I played hard. At eight, I was the neighborhood champion pogo-sticker. Yes, you read that right. I won the neighborhood competition and could even jump rope on a pogo-stick if the twirlers had the right pace.

Back in those days, the sixties, we were allowed to ride bikes about a mile to the local store to buy a dime's worth of candy. I can remember the feeling of my hair, which was pixie short, blowing in the wind and felt the freedom of being eight with a couple of nickles in my pocket.  I remember playing in a vacant field for days on end with some neighbor kids. The little copse was Gilligan's Island and I, of course, was Mary Anne. We played and laughed and dug a huge hole that we were sure would reach to China.

My face would be beet red and I would have dirt in those creases under my neck and arms. I had freckles and that short pixie-cut hair that made me look like I was always up to something. And  I was. I was growing up, learning to finding my own way. In short, I was eight.

There is something about being eight that is magic and I will never forget that feeling of being sort of grown up, but yet young enough not to have many responsibilities. It is a time that defines us as people. Will we be selfish, hard working, lazy, outgoing, introverted....? At eight we can be anything, do anything, and have the whole world in front of us. It is a magical time and even fifty years later I remember being eight.

 I don't want to go back but I sure enjoy the memories.

Take care,
Jill

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dog Biscuits...

Because we have two delightful dogs, we go through a lot of dog treats.When I  look at the ingredients and country of origin of most of them I feel guilty for feeding them to my dogs. I mean, they are part of our family.

I am reminded of an old My Three Sons episode, where Steve cooks up some eggs for dinner. They are horrible, burned and disgusting. The boys look at each other and everyone agrees they are inedible. Chip, I think, says, "Let's give them to Tramp."

Steve looks up horrified, and says, "Chip, he's our dog." And with that statement, Tramp misses out on the burnt eggs. I feel that way about dog treats. Why give our dogs something that we wouldn't eat? (We do give them good dog food, but I make sure I understand what is in it.)

So, with that in mind, I began looking for good dog treat recipes. This one is easy, good for your dog and fairly cheap.  This recipe is adapted from Sweet Peas Kitchen.

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dog Treats

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixing bowl combine:
1-15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 C oats (omit if your dog is on a grain free diet)
3 C whole wheat flour (you can use rice or gluten free flour if you want)
3 T all natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon, optional**

Stir well then put extra flour on your counter top and plop the dough on it. Roll it around on the flour till it is not sticky. Roll to about 1/2" thick and cut with cookie cutters or cut into strips. Put on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes. I like to shake the pan a bit and then leave them in the oven for a couple of hours. If they are not hard as rocks after than time you can bake them again for another 30 minutes. They will harden as they cool. 

** Do not use a pumpkin spice blend or anything with nutmeg. Nutmeg is toxic to dogs and can make them sick. 

I like to use a cookie cutter like this: It has 8 petals. I like this one because after I cut out one "cookie" I cut it into fourths, making little hearts. Cute! You can also use a small round biscuit cutter or the top of a drinking glass. Then cut each one into halves or quarters.

Scrappy and Rocky love these treats. 

I thought these sounded good too, but I haven't tried them yet. 

APPLE CARROT DOG TREATS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients together in a mixing bowl until dough forms. Roll dough out and cut as above or roll into small balls and press them down so they are about 1/4" thick. Bake until golden brown and cool on a wire rack. 

1 C whole wheat flour
1 C grated carrots
1 tsp baking powder--I use non-aluminum baking powder
1 egg
1/2 C unsweetened applesauce

Adapted from For the Love of Pooch

Take care and let me know if you have other recipes that your dog loves,

Jill 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Applesauce Day again...

We held our annual Applesauce Day at the farm at the end of October and I am just now getting around to updating my notes about it. I don't have any photos because Bob took them, gave them to me on a flash drive and when I didn't get them off for a while he took it back because he needed it. I think he still has the photos on it, so I will have to get it back from him.

Actually, though, it looked like last year.  It was better because we didn't have any injuries and we didn't have any jars break and as far as I know, they all sealed.

Stats:  We  had 16 adults, 7 kids, 1 toddler and 1 baby participate. That is a lot of people in a one bedroom cottage on a rainy day, but we all did well. We canned around 8 bushels of apples which made a ton of applesauce, but I forget exactly how many quarts and pints. We ate a lot too.

Some things we tried that worked great:

  • For filled jars of sauce that had to wait a bit to can [because the canners were full], my friend Jenny suggested putting them in a warm oven so they wouldn't break when we put them in the boiling water bath to process. That was genius!
  • Sometimes I have trouble with the apples sticking to the bottom of the pan when we are cooking them and the apples scorch. This year we put stainless steel trivets on the bottom of the pans, then added about 1 C of water and then put in the apples. No scorching. It worked great. 
  • We used a plastic dish washing basin [what you put in a sink if you want to wash dishes] and put it on a small table next to the food mill to dump the cooked apples in. That way it was easy to scoop the cooked apples into the hopper of the food mill. 
  • I reminded everyone to put the jar lids in the hot water with one lid up and one lid down so they didn't get stuck together. 
We figured out that Jenny and I had our first Applesauce Day in 2001. which made this our 12th year. I wish I had kept track of how many quarts and pints we made over that much time. 

One of my friends brought her mom this year and the two of them made extensive notes. So, in order to help us all remember what we did and how we did it, I am copying them here [with a few additions of my own]. Thanks Karen.

Applesauce Day 2012 Notes
Prior to starting wash all apples
You will get approximately 18-20 quarts per bushel of apples
2012 cost of a bushel of apple seconds $18-20

Stations
1.        Blossom and Chop
a.       Cut out blossom end of apples
b.      Cut apples into 8 pieces leaving the cores, skin and stems on
c.       Remove and discard any sections of apple that you wouldn’t want to eat
d.      TIPS
                                                               i.      A vegetable peeler is useful for removing the blossom ends and can be safer than using a knife
                                                             ii.      Make sure knives are sharp…have a knife sharpener handy as blades get dull quickly when processing a lot of apples
                                                            iii.      Use paring knives to cut out the blossom end and larger knives for cutting
2.       Steam and Strain
a.       Put approximately 1.5 inches of water into bottom of a large pot [having a trivet on the bottom is helpful)
b.      Pour cut apples into pot and steam until soft, mixing periodically to keep them from burning
       Tip: When cooked put hot apples in a plasic dish basin so you can scoop them out easily.
c.       Meanwhile gently heat new lids for canning jars in water in a small pot to sterilize. Put the lids in wtih one right side up, one upside down, etc. This keeps them from sticking together. It is not fun if they get boiling water between the lids and it gets your hand when you remove them from the pan.] Remove lids from hot water when needed with a long handled canning magnet.
d.      Scoop soft apples [out of dish basin]  into hopper of a food strainer and crank to separate pulp from seeds, skin and stems
e.      Pour applesauce into canning jars up to the first thread using a canning funnel.
      Tip: Take a clean cloth and clean the top of each jar to remove any applesauce before putting the lid on.
f.        Put lid on and screw rim on securely
g.       TIPS
                                                               i.      Add a metal trivet to the bottom of pot to help keep apples from burning
                                                             ii.      A double-boiler/steamer/juicer pot with siphon is helpful (such as the Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer) and multi-functional
                                                            iii.      Another good option for keeping apples steaming without burning would be to use a large stock pot with deep colander insert (such as the Prime Pacific Pasta Cooker and Steamer set with glass lid)
                                                           iv.      Victorio VKP250 Model 250 Food Strainer and Sauce Maker is comparable to the original Villa Ware Food Strainer and Sauce Maker No 200 used during applesauce day
                                                             v.      To keep filled jars warm while waiting to can, place filled jars into a warmed oven
                                                           vi.      Put lids opposite sides together when boiling to keep them from suctioning together
                                                          vii.      A magnetic lid lifter is very helpful for taking out hot lids
                                                        viii.      A canning funnel is helpful when filling canning jars
                                                           ix.      Tupperware Modular Mates Rectangulars Rectangular 2 (18 cups (4.3 L)
4 1/2"H x 7 3/8"W x 11"L (11.5 x 19 x 28 cm) is the right size container for putting under the strainer to catch the finished applesauce pulp

                                                             x.      Things to have on hand:  a spatula (for the applesauce), long-handled wooden spoon (for stirring the apples in the pot), 2-3 wet washcloths (for wiping spills), magnetic lid lifter, canning ladle, small spoon (for spooning small amounts of applesauce), ladle (for scooping larger amounts of applesauce),  Tupperware rectangular container (for catching applesauce), mid-size bowl (for catching apple waste), large bowl (for stirring finished applesauce and dipping out sauce to put into canning jars), plastic tub or large bowl (for holding cooked apples while waiting to put apples into hopper of strainer), measuring cup (for scooping hot cooked apples into hopper), hot pads (for lifting hot pots)
3.       Canning
a.       Boil filled canning jars in a canner with a rack at a rolling boil for 25 minutes
b.      Set on a towel to cool
c.       Once cool, check to make sure all the lids have sealed
d.      TIPS:
                                                               i.      Remove finished jars from opposite sides of the canning rack or the rack may tip and dump the jars into the pot
                                                             ii.      Have a jar lifter handy
                                                            iii.      Things to have on hand:  canner with rack, hot pads, jar lifter, thick towels (to set hot jars on to insulate jars against drastic differences in temperature), timer

I guess I duplicated some of what Karen documented, but I don't think it hurts to say things more than once.
Also, so I can remember, we ate one batch of cornbread, several loaves of Jenny's bread, potato soup, a
crock-pot full of chili, seasoned oyster crackers, cubes of cheese [probably 1.5# would be the right
amount,]  cupcakes, green salad,  potato chips, water and various other snacks.  We never did make
hot dogs on the campfire because it rained all day, but miraculously we had enough food. I am not sure what
all we had because everyone pitched in but I didn't really eat much. A good time was had by all.


Take care,
Jill

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fresh out of Waldorfs..

If you never watched the British comedy Fawlty Towers this doesn't make any sense, but you can Google it if you want to.

 At any rate, I just made a tasty Quinoa Waldorf salad that is tasty and healthy. It is a bit of a twist from the original recipe from Family Fun Magazine.







QUINOA WALDORF SALAD
I used two apples-- a green and a red and it made 7 cups. So 3 Weight Watcher Plus points for 1/2 cup and that includes 1 point for a healthy oil. :) Enjoy!

Cook 1 C quinoa in 2 C of water, set aside

Mix together with a whisk and pour over the quinoa:
2 T honey
1/4 C lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarse salt or 1/4 tsp fine salt
3 T olive oil
2 apples, granny smith and 1 red apple, leave peel on for color
1 C finely chopped celery
1 T raisins [can use more, but it ups the point count]
1/3 C finely chopped fresh parsley [optional]
1 oz toasted chopped or slivered almonds
salt and pepper to taste, or I left this out and sprinkled with cinnamon

Chill. 3 points per 1/2 C.

This tastes very fresh and crisp-love the lemon juice with the apples. Nice for the summer. I figure I can pair it with 1 cup Greek Yogurt and for 6 points have a nice lunch.

 Me May 2, minus 66#.

Jill

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Landscaping...



This has been a busy week for me--continuing to landscape our cottage. I have all these great ideas that swim around in my head, but it is hard to actually make them happen sometimes and that is generally because they take hard work and time. I am sure you have a lot of great ideas and plans that are the same way.

This week I decided to spruce up the outside of the cottage. It always looked so sad and forlorn on the side where the steps go up to the house. I wish I had taken a before shot, but you know how that is...I was so busy doing I forgot to take a before photo. OK, I found a couple from when Bob was putting in the underground gutters. 

 It was kind of a  no-mans land under those steps and I just couldn't think of how to make that whole area look better.

Then I thought about putting in a tree and after talking to the friendly folks at King's Nursery, I purchased a Japanese Cherry [no fruit, just lovely pink blossoms] and this is what I ended up with.






 Cherry tree to the left with bags and bags of mulch and a rock border to keep the mulch from washing down the hill.






Here it is from the downhill side. I will add some more ferns and such as I have time and money, but I thought this was a good start. I figure I can add flowers later, but for now, I am pretty happy with my work. I have to say, I hauled most of these rocks, armful by armful from down hill where Bob and I had tossed a bunch during construction. It about wore me out, but I figure it was good exercise and I earned a lot of Weight Watcher's Activity points in the process. A win-win all the way around. 
I added some ferns to the  hosta and  lilly of the valley I planted under the stairs last fall





So, after this was done, and I planted 4 blueberry bushes, 2 raspberry bushes, a false indigo, some lemon thyme and a plum tree, Bob reminded me that we had another pile of rocks down by the cabin. And,  you may not know this about me, but I  LOVE rocks. So, I got my trusty wheel barrow and Bob and I loaded it up and then unloaded at the house. This is my fancy wheelbarrow.

Seriously, it is so much better than a regular wheelbarrow. I just put it in 4 wheel drive, spread the tarp over the cargo area and load it up. Bob and I put about 5-6 loads in there, and then I drove it uphill and then we unloaded. I had enough to finish off the front of the house. [Notice the blossoms of the cherry tree in the upper right corner next to my red wheelbarrow? I am going to love that tree!]
 Here are a couple of before shots of the back of the house. See the river birch in the middle and the Forest Pansy Red Bud [with purple leaves] further down?







The bushes are holly, boxwood and blueberry. And, I put a low growing lilac on the corner.There are raspberries in the tub with comfrey and creeping phlox around it.







 This is the after photo, the side  of the house with the rock border.


Here is the back with the border. You can see why I was glad I had my fancy wheelbarrow, can't you?








Bob had other jobs to do.  He wrestled with the tiller to till up a nice flower bed for me to plant wildflowers.  This is about the only ugly place at the farm, right next to the telephone pole. I planted a Red Twig Dogwood bush that my sister gave me by the guy wire and also some day lillies and a falst indigo that my friend Linda gave me in that area. The rest will be seeded with wildflowers.




He also mowed and had the place looking great!


Lovely!

Take care,
Jill

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What does the Bible say about...

If you travel in Christian circles at all, you will see and  hear this comment in various forms a lot. People quote the Bible...in context and out of context. They spout of what they think is the truth and then add that "God said it in the Bible." And so it goes.

And I guess if we got a bunch of people together we could basically agree on what the Bible says. I mean, even if we used different versions, we could probably mostly agree what it says.

But, what does it mean?

Many, many self proclaimed Bible believing Christians interpret the Bible and then tell everyone that they believe what the Bible says, while earnest Bible believing Christians of a different flavor believe something quite different about the very same passages. If we think we are the only ones that are right, I think we will be surprised when we finally meet Him face to face.

I mean, if the Bible were so easy to understand that if you read it and believed it and followed it, then all the other believers around the world and through history would be in agreement about it. After all, they read and believe the Bible too. But, all you have to do is drive around even a small town and see the variety of Christian churches to see that simply reading and believing the Bible does not mean that you know the truth. If it did,  then why are there Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Anglican, Christian, Missionary Alliance and a host of other churches? They all believe the Bible, but they interpret it differently.
Take any leader/founder of any denomination and you will see that their interpretation of the Bible is not exactly the same as another leader/founder of a different denomination.Was John Wesley more or less Christian than John Calvin? Even though they all believe the Bible, and can agree what it says, what it means is another story.
And truthfully, I am pretty sure that they all have some of God's absolute truth and they all have some misconceptions or things they see dimly.

It really bothers me when one denomination, church, group or person claims to know exactly what the Bible means and they proclaim that anyone who sees it differently has gone astray or is on the wrong path. What makes them so sure?

I live next door [and actually live between the parking lots of]  a Wesleyan Seminary that offers master's degrees in Divinity, Christian Education, Missions, Counseling and a few other things. My husband graduated from that seminary and what really struck him while he was a student was that they teach their theology [thinking about God] as THE truth and kind of minimize another seminary that offers the same degrees but prepares ministers for service in another denomination.  Probably they minimize our next door seminary. Yet, they both use the same Bible, have learned professors and excellent reputations. Who's right?

God knows. And I bet He can't believe how different our beliefs are when we all believe that the Bible is His truth and we believe the Bible. And, I am convinced that there are truths and errors found in every   church and theology around.God's truth doesn't change. But even sincere people of faith interpret that truth differently and I don't believe that any one person had it exactly right.

May we all be a bit more understanding of each other; love and encourage each other, and know that as believers we are part of the one true church and much of the differences between us don't change the way we are to live and the fact that Christ died for all of us. And that is Good News.

Take care,
Jill