Can This Country be Saved?

What happens on a road trip? Lots of boredom, long stretches of road with no gas stations or scenery. Take the road from Billings, MT through North Dakota. We were traveling on this road forever it seemed when all of a sudden the landscape changed dramatically after we crossed the border from Montana to North Dakota. This is the good part of a road trip. We perked up and because we were ready to stop after driving 10 hours, it seemed serendipitous. It turns out we were passing through the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Did you know there was a Teddy Roosevelt National Park? We did not. We saw a road sign that read: Medora, 1/2 mile. Why not? Let’s see what Medora holds for us.

We came into a tiny town, but a cool town. Very touristy it looked like. But pretty deserted. Very deserted. We saw the Roughrider Hotel and decided to check it out. They had plenty of rooms and we were in the heart of Teddy Roosevelt land. The tourist season hadn’t started and nothing was open until the middle of May, including the hotel restaurant. Upon asking the desk clerk where we could eat, he seemed not to have a clue which was surprising considering how small the town was. He ducked into the back room and when he came out, told us there were two restaurants in town open, which he thought were just around the corner. We then asked if we could leave our stuff in the car overnight. “Oh no, very dangerous to leave your things in the car” he said. “Everything could be stolen.” Just then the manager came out and told us this was Medora, ND, and of course you could leave your stuff in the car overnight as there was no one in town, it was perfectly safe. We headed down the street to the restaurant the manager said was the best choice. It was a sports bar with dollar bills hanging all over the ceiling signed by happy patrons. We had dinner, then headed back to the Roughrider for a good nights sleep after asking the same clerk for a hairdryer as I couldn’t find one in the room. Panic ensued as he frantically looked through all the file cabinets, etc and couldn’t find one. He said he’d call the manager and let us know. After waiting quite awhile in the room, I told Tom we’d have to go to the car and dig out my suitcase where I had a hair dryer packed in the bottom. So we did and when we came back in, there he was grinning ear to ear with a hairdryer in his hand. He had managed to solve a problem! Why hadn’t he called our room to let us know he’d found one? Not worth finding out. Now I had two hairdryers, soon to be three as when I finally shut the bathroom door the next morning, there was the in room hairdryer hanging on the back of the door.

The Roughrider had breakfast for the hotel guests the following morning from 7am-9am, as there was nowhere else in town open. We got our institutional scrambled eggs and sat down at a big round table to eat and for me to finally read the paper I had carried with us from home. All of a sudden there was a swarm of kids coming into the room. They looked to be middle school students. Two adults in charge, apparently, sat at the table in front of us and the kids took over the rest of the tables. Lots of chatter and laughter. Then this poor lone girl who was aced out of the tables with the kids, plopped down across from us and politely asked if it was ok to sit there. We said of course and Tom told her she wouldn’t even have to talk to us. She smiled and said of course she would talk to us. My heart sank, there goes the paper I had been trying to read since we left and how would we communicate with a middle schooler? Very easily as it turns out. Miss Brynn Powell, from Plaza, N.D, population 200, was an incredible conversationalist. We learned all about her and her family, their travels, their jobs, the fact that she had dressed her first deer this past season after hunting with her dad, all about her school which has been in session almost the entire year, the fact there were 17 kids in her 7th grade class this year, the biggest ever, even though there were only 4 kids in the Senior class, and the best part? World affairs and how she feels about everything. She was very knowledgeable and had her opinions on everything. So thank goodness we had the conversation with Brynn or I would not have realized this Country could be saved. We thought it was doomed, but it turns out with young people like Brynn in it, we have a chance. She could have buried her nose in her cell phone, but she didn’t and chose to talk to us instead. What young person these days does that? So be encouraged America, all is not lost. There must be other Brynn’s in this Country but we found the best so far from tiny Plaza, ND.

A Metaphor For Life

Waiting our turn to tee off, Tom and I watched as our friend Tom A., dribbled his third drive right into the Barranca bushes about 6 feet in front of us.  I started to giggle as he threw down his club and started swearing ,face red.  Tom S. yelled at him,  “It’s just a game!”  Tom A. turned and shouted “Golf is not a game it’s a metaphor for life!”

But think about it and he’s right.  Both golf and life are full of strife.

You stand at the tee, take your swing and hope for the best. When all of a sudden your ball heads way west. Go north, go north you shout but it seems your ball doesn’t want that route. It’s the grip, the stance, head down, follow through. If you get those right, your balls flies north for you. Which mistake did I make or did I make them all? Forget it, don’t think the experts say, but thinking I’m doing on this day. Golf and life require some luck, so when that Westward ball comes, prepare to duck.

For golf is just like life in every way.  Ups and downs, failure, success.  Usually life is a great big mess.  You move to places you would not have gone, and sometimes these places can be all wrong.  You went West instead of North, or South instead of East.  But you strive to make the best of it at least.  Things will get better your Mother said and she was right.  You get that break, full steam ahead, success fully in sight.

In golf a 4 putt, there is nothing worse. Standing over that putt, hands shaking, thinking, just do away with me now, send out for the hearse. In life, 4 putts happen all the time, it does you no good to moan and whine. So get up on that tee, take a big full swing, then watch your life and your ball really take wing.

Tiny Tips for your New Year’s Resolutions

Can a tiny baking set help you with your New Years Resolutions? Yes, I think so.  I am here to tell you how.  We all make the same resolutions year after year.  Lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, meditate  to reduce stress.  Well, over the Holidays I discovered  the perfect weight loss and stress relief program for you.  It’s called “Tiny Cooking.”  But first you need the tiny cookware and you can get many versions of it here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=tiny+baking&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

This set makes food you bake in a real oven, but because it’s so tiny, you can indulge yourself.  What can you make with this set?  We were at our daughter’s for Christmas and one of the twins got a set.  We made wee cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cook-wees. You can also make a Teeny Frittata, Deep Dish Pizza and many other teeny things. Do you like to eat cookie dough?  Well, forget it.  There will be none left for the cook-wees.  Calories saved.  The cook-wees are pretty wee, so more calories saved.  And rolling out dough for the cinnamon rolls with that tiny rolling pin will take stress magically away. God knows we need stress reduction these days.   Trying to whip up butter and flour in a tiny mixing bowl is great exercise. To reduce the stress you might need to move the ingredients from the tiny bowl (where whipping up ingredients might be considered torture to some), to a little bigger one. And oh the instructions, a wee spoon of this and two wee spoons of that.  What stress relief.  It’s amazing, but you bake these tiny cookies and rolls in the regular oven at the same temperature and time as the regular size.

And here is a picture of most of us enjoying a chocolate chip cook-wee.  Don’t blink or you won’t pick out the actual cook-wee, but everyone is holding one up.  I don’t think you can tell me this isn’t a diet bonanza and a great stress reducer.

Did you make your resolutions?  Why not add tiny baking to those resolutions?

 

December Meltdowns

Twas several days before Christmas and all through the land, women lay weeping while  husbands were sleeping instead of giving a helping hand.  

The hours spent toiling and baking galore, nothing it seems was too big a chore.  She glances at her husband whose snoring grew louder, as he rolled right over to instantly crowd her.  She leapt out of bed and yelled “I’m finished, I’m done.  This Christmas it seems is not a lot of fun.”  Morning came early, so early it seemed.

The gifts, the cards, the decorating you see, the responsibility for that is all on me.  And I gazed at the pile of gifts to wrap as Tom sat in his chair taking a long winter’s nap.  I fumed, I steamed, I was furious you see, but I calmed down a little as I looked at my tree.  I took a deep breath, and sat down instead, and picked up the newspaper and here’s what it said:

Page 2 of the Saturday/Sunday Wall Street Journal, December 12-13

“SLOPPY WRAPPING CAN MAKE FOR BETTER GIFTS”  Jessica Rixom, assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Nevada, Reno led a study on the impact of neat vs sloppy gift wrapping.  The researchers conducted three experiments and all three with diverse groups of people found that the sloppily wrapped packages delivered more satisfaction to the recipient.  Why?  Because they lowered expectations.  The same gift, one wrapped neatly and one wrapped sloppily.  The neatly wrapped packages led to higher expectations about the gift and disappointment.  I was ecstatic!  No more excuses from Tom about not knowing how to wrap, therefore he couldn’t possibly wrap.  Now with him wrapping the gifts  for our family, they  would elicit low expectations and everyone would be much happier with the gift.  Manna from heaven.

I went over to Tom, threw the paper in his lap, “wake up” I said, you’re done with your nap.  The despair on his face was plain to see, as he walked into the room and saw gifts meant for me.

I grabbed a glass of eggnog, sat down by my tree, what a wonderful season this turned out to be.

I do have to give Tom credit for putting up the outside lights.  He doesn’t enjoy it but he does it.  He even helped a neighbor’s wife put up their outdoor lights as her husband refused to do it.  In fact when Tom went into their house to look for him, he found him sitting in a chair muttering “I hate Christmas, I hate Christmas.”   Whatever you celebrate this year I hope you have a wonderful Holiday and a happy, vaccinated New Year!

Comfort Food Really?!

Post election elation or depression, more lockdowns, schools not open, cases rising.  We need comfort food more than ever and to me chicken noodle soup is not comfort food.  Something new and exciting to occupy our time and taste, something everyone will love, something really daring with universally loved foods.  Enter the Oreo cookie, bacon and a sprinkling of an all purpose meat rub, spicy or not.

Our son Max seems to be a master chef on his Traeger Grill.  Almost every day he sends pictures of the amazing things he makes on this grill, things you wouldn’t think of to grill.  His latest?  Bacon wrapped Oreo cookies with a sprinkling of the aforementioned rub.

That’s it, three ingredients.  Two of which almost all of Americans love.  You could leave out the sprinkling of the rub if you like.  Wrap your Oreo cookie in a slice of bacon, sprinkle bacon with the rub, then cook on the Traeger at 250 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until the bacon is done.  Voila!  A new and exciting comfort food.  Guaranteed to spark conversation away from all of our current problems. Can you imagine the Super Bowl with these gems?  Sounds pretty perfect to me.

Does this look like comfort food to you?  I heard they were delicious.

If I Had it to do Over

Have you ever been on a vacation and realized that you’ve lived in the wrong places most of your life?  Somewhere it just hit you over the head?  That when you got home, you had a very hard time being back and wondering why you’re living there?

That happened to us this summer.  Where was this magical place?  A home to cream horns and unlocked doors.  Unlocked doors?   Really?  Neighbors telling you to just come in even if they’re not home and get whatever you need, then just bring whatever back when you’re finished or if it’s food, you’re more than welcome to have it.  Good Grief! Is this America?  Yes, and of course it’s the Midwest.  We were at a lake in Minnesota for a month where the summer time population grows to close to 70,000.  Where everyone is friendly and social, where stores and restaurants are all open and where you can go into the local bakery and order two cream horns, two pastries, 8 homemade cookies and two coffee’s and it costs you $11.80.  I know what you’re thinking, “Did you really eat two cream horns and two pastries?”  I had one cream horn and a coffee and I refuse to say what Tom had.

OK, I do admit that the coffee here is bad, real bad.  We tried three different breakfast places and while the food was good, the coffee was horrible.  There is a Caribou coffee in town and apparently we’re not alone in our judgement of the local coffee as this place always had a line.

We have relatives on this same lake and that was a one of the  highlights of our trip.  I had not seen my cousin in 30 some years and wondered if he was still the same bratty kid I’d remembered.  He wasn’t, but he’s a world class trash talker and the golf course really brought it out.  I bonded with his wife and the four of us had a lot of fun on the golf course and everywhere else.  Then there was my 92 year old Aunt who is the most social person I know.  She knows everyone on the chain of lakes, has her women friends over every Monday night for drinks and appetizers, another group on Tuesday night at one of their homes for drinks and dinner, is always going out and drives like she’s chasing the roadrunner.

Thunder storms,  amazing sunsets, golf, no TV, books, family there and family visits, college girlfriends and the best birthday party I could have hoped for.  Our daughter, husband and twins were there for 8 days and the twins planned a party as it was my birthday when they were there.  They were amazing planners and made a list including balloons, goody bags, streamers, horns, party hats and a crown for me.  They made invitations and wanted a pinata most of all.  There was only one place to get all of this and anything else your heart may desire:  Ron’s Warehouse. Ron’s is huge and the owner buys merchandise from stores going out of business, trucks that topple over on  the freeways, sight unseen containers, so you never know what you’re going to get at Ron’s.  I was secretly hoping Ron’s did not have a pinata.  They didn’t but had everything else and then some.  Ron’s is a very popular place.  The twins invited 14 people for dinner (they’re 7), and of course Papa would cook.  Which he did and it was a wild success.  With all that’s going on in this Country, it was great to be in a place you felt was normal life, remember normal life?

Have you ever had second thoughts about where you’re living after a vacation?