Sunday, December 25, 2022

From Our House to Yours...

Merry Christmas everyone. A few years ago all of the grandkids got together and did some Christmas songs. We even got our little 4 year old grand-daughter in Tucson to sing Jingle Bells and we brought that into all the other grandkids singing. It was fun to hear all 15 voices! 

Anyway on the podcast today you can hear the 15 grandkids playing their ukuleles, guitars and the little ones banging the percussions totally out of rhythm. That day watching and listening to all of the grandkids making music was one of my best days ever! 

Here is hoping you all have a peaceful and blessed season. From our house...Merry Christmas to all of you faithful listeners and readers of the podcast and blog.

To hear the podcast go to our website and scroll down to the podcast. 

Go to Solid Rock Minnesota:

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Three Blind Mice...and Then There's Me

Several years ago, after years of working on a computer at work, I needed to get eyeglasses for reading and doing stuff up close. Things like computer work, knitting, and anything else where I would be needing to see 1-2 feet in front of me. 

Up until then I had had perfect vision well into my 40’s and part of my 50’s. I could nail those vision charts at the eye doctor like I had memorized the letters on the chart. I could read right on down to the fine print at the bottom right corner where it said “Made in USA”. My eyes were just that good.

Well fast forward to about 3 years ago when I went to get my eyes checked. Not only did I need a stronger reader prescription, but the optometrist wanted to do a little correction for my far distance. What the heck? And as I listened to the eye doctor tell me it was normal for my eyes to change as I age, I wasn’t in the mood to start wearing glasses full time. But he gave me a prescription for progressive lenses anyway.

Well as time went on, I was spending more time on the computer at work due to changing jobs and having to enter all my nursing charting and much more on the computer. I needed those readers 100% of the time for up close stuff. And the time had come when I was getting tired of either taking off the glasses to see farther ahead of me or worse yet, wearing the glasses halfway down my nose and looking over them like the cranky librarian I remembered as a kid.

So I went on the computer and went to the online eyeglasses place where you can buy prescription glasses for ⅓ the cost of buying in a store. But the only problem is you can’t try them in person. You have to take a picture of yourself and then you can put eyeglasses on your face in that picture. The only problem I was running into was that I needed to take the cheater glasses off to take the picture. So I couldn’t see what I was doing when trying to take a picture on the laptop. I took several pictures on my laptop and most were either too close or too far away, or worse yet they were of me squinting trying to see what I was doing.

After about 7 or 8 attempts I did manage to get a picture the right distance away from the laptop and I had my eyes open and my head straight and not tilted. So I could start browsing through the hundreds and hundreds of eyeglasses they had. After several try-ons I chose a pair of plastic frames with the progressive lens, thinking they would hold up the best. I paid the amount and within about 2 weeks my new “wear all the time” glasses had arrived. 

I put them on and looked in the mirror. Besides taking up most of my face and feeling like I was looking through the bottoms of drinking glasses,, they were lightweight and I could see out of them. I would use them for work and use just the cheap readers at home.

Within 5 minutes of putting them on, I leaned over to pick up something off the floor, and they fell right off my face. So off to Walmart I went to get them adjusted. The person at Walmart in the eye department told me she could do a little adjustment but plastic frames are hard to adjust. So she did what she could and they felt a little better.

I got home and spent the day wearing them. I kept them on and attempted to get used to the progressive lenses. They were fine when reading off the laptop, but when trying to find the spot to look farther out several feet, I wasn’t having too good of luck finding the “sweet spot” of the distant view. I took them off and left them set by my laptop. I was just going to have to go with the cranky librarian look with the readers halfway down my nose.

Eventually I did figure out how to look through the progressive lenses and not feel like a drunken sailor walking, but it really messed with my depth perception. That would take a few more weeks to figure out. So once I figured out the “how” of looking through progressive lenses I decided to order a spare pair. The pair I had kept falling off my face everytime I bent over to pick something up. I decided maybe wire frames would be more adjustable.

So once again I sat down at the laptop and “tried on” glasses online. I found a plain pair of wire rims and ordered them. When I got them they fit much better and for the most part didn’t fall off my face. But I still pretty much only wore them for up close tasks. And that meant the glasses got set down on tables, got put in a pocket and sent through the washing machine, were left on a table in the yard for Max to find and bring to me. He even found them in pieces in the yard after I had mowed the lawn and they had fallen off the top of my head where they were propped while mowing. Unfortunately Max had found them after the lawn mower had found them first and shredded them. But he managed to deliver every piece he found. He does a better job than me when it comes to my glasses.

This has been pretty much my eyeglasses life the past 5 or 6 years. I have gone through about 10+ pairs of bifocals at least. I am careless, reckless and forgetful all in one when it comes to wearing glasses. And yet I find I am needing them more and more daily to get around in life. 

The other day I was outside working and leaned over to pick something up. Off went my glasses and onto a rock in the driveway. I picked them up and saw a huge chip in the lens. They were now pretty worthless. They were only about 5 weeks old and already I had busted them.

I went online to order new ones and got into a chat on the website where I buy my glasses. I told the person I just got them and they got chipped by the rock on the road. She asked me to wait a few minutes and then she came back into the chat. She told me that since I was such a great customer (probably because I bought 4+ pairs the past year) she would send me a replacement pair for free. So I am waiting for the new ones to come in the mail. While I wait I am wearing the old plastic ones when needed. And yes they continue to fall off my face multiple times a day.

I have to say that I have come to have a whole new respect for those who wear glasses daily and can keep them from falling off their face. I am in awe of those who remember where they set their glasses down and can find them right away. And most importantly…I have a whole new understanding for those who wear the progressive lenses and can walk a straight line. As for me and my eyes…we are still learning all those abilities. In the meantime, I just make sure Max is there to remind me that I wear glasses these days. He has taken on the job of being the keeper of my eyeglasses. Good job Max, you are better at it than this human.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

One Year Later

The past week marked the one year of my Best Half’s retirement anniversary. While to most people it probably would just be another day passing. And for my Best Half and myself it was pretty much just another day. But as we were sitting down eating breakfast together we had a chance to review the past year and how retirement is going for both of us home together…every day…all the time…together.

And I have to say it has been incredible to be on this retirement journey with my Best Half. After decades of working hard and trying to find time to fit in all of what life keeps dishing out daily, we finally seem to have gotten to this point in life that we can take a deep breath and ponder the next moves for the next adventure…or relaxation. The beauty of retirement has been being able to pace our lives to do stuff and be in that moment, just enjoying whatever it is we are doing at that specific moment in time. No longer are we rushing through things on the check off list only to get the next one done and then the next.

Are we doing all of the things we had talked about doing before we retired? Those things like traveling all over the country, taking on new hobbies, maybe doing more camping, more fishing and taking day trips just to see things in Minnesota we have always talked about and never had the time? The answer is a definite…sort of.

Last Spring after much storm damage to our house, we spent the good part of the Summer with construction and teams of workers around re-siding the house and putting in new windows. This took a good portion of our short Minnesota Summer, and we stayed pretty close to the house during that time. So our camping trips and cross country trips were put on hold. And then came the aftermath of the construction.

Once the house was done with the construction, there were several little things that needed to be done by my Best Half. Things like building a new flower box for under the picture window out front, painting that and all the trim around the two garage doors. We were changing up the color of the trim so it all needed to be done. And once that was done, my Best Half looked to the big shed out in the front drive and decided to paint that the color of the siding. And of course the trim.

When it was all said and done, we pretty much have a new looking house. And we both are really happy that we can go into our getting old years and not have to think of doing all of that work again. But it did eat away our first Summer of retirement. We did get to do some local fishing and bike riding, and even a few days up North camping. But some of the bigger plans got put on hold until all the construction was accomplished.

So here it is Winter. No camping locally on our horizons, but we are starting to plan to take a Winter trip for a few weeks later on this Winter. You know about the time cabin fever starts setting in and you start thinking you can’t take one more day on below zero temperatures. With the price of gas coming down, we actually feel like we can maybe take a nice long trip South. While we aren’t sure exactly where or when, we know it will be to warm weather. It may involve getting up the morning we leave and looking at where the warm weather will be. And that is just one more advantage of retirement. We can leave when we want and be gone until we come home.

Some have asked us if it has been hard being together day after day since retirement. You know, you always hear horror stories of couples who retire and are just not as compatible as they were in their working full time days. For the most part, it has been an easy transition from us apart and now together every day and sometimes all day. But we have our moments.

There are some times, such as this morning, when my Best Half tells me I’m really “on a roll”, meaning I am finding anything and everything to say that is annoying me. And you know, he is right. There are just some days, I look and see things I wish weren’t so oblivious to my Best Half. I’m sure anyone living with another person can relate.

Some of the nuisances are things like not wiping up the counter from his coffee mug or sitting at the kitchen table away from the table, with the dog lying sprawled out next to him…blocking the walkway from the hallway to the kitchen. These I will mention after having to suck in my gut and negotiate my way around them. And they will both move without saying a word. It is not a big deal and I guess it has become more of an expected response for both of us.

But there are 2 things that have cause for some frustration and annoyance on my behalf. And these are not negotiable.The first is putting mixing bowls on the top
shelf above the stove and microwave. While my Best Half is 6 feet tall with long arms for reaching, I am about 5’4” on a good day. I can reach the microwave and the shelf right above the microwave. And even that is on my tippy toes and maybe having to make a “jump and grab” maneuver. Everything else above that shelf is only obtainable with a chair or step stool. And I have awesome balance and usually will fall off what I climb 75% of the time.

The other thing that has caused some riff in the household is putting my cast iron pan in the dishwasher. Not once, but a couple times. To the point that I stopped using it. But this has been remedied by having a cheat sheet on cast iron care hanging inside the cupboard. And for the most part I have taken over cleaning the cast iron after use. But I have to say, at times, he has started caring for the cast iron pans and has been keeping them clean and oiled without any nagging from me. He really is a good guy.

Without asking my Best Half what things have bothered him regarding living 24/7 together since retirement, I will venture to guess there are plenty of my habits also. But he is too smart to say anything. No need to have both of us “on a roll”.  I can name several of my idiosyncrasies that even annoy me, so I am sure he could rattle off several too. But again, he takes the high road in this area of our marriage. A wise man.

All the little annoyances aside, retirement for the two of us together this past year has been an incredibly fun time. Sometimes we will look at each other late on a Sunday night and just grin, knowing we don't have to go back to work Monday morning. And when Monday comes along, who knows, we may even take to the highway for a drive to somewhere we have always talked about going to visit and never had the time. Yep retirement this past year has been pretty awesome for us both. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Rusty, Crusty and Trusty

The other day I was cleaning out where we store the pots and pans. It had become a towering mess of all sizes pots and pans and their lids teetering in a drawer. Each was strategically resting on the other in order to be just the right height so the drawer would close.

I was sick and tired of ramming and cramming those things constantly and fighting to get the drawer to close. Considering it was a whole collection we were given for our wedding years ago I realized we only used a few of them. The others just kind of sat in the drawer taking up space.

While I was taking everything out to organize it, I came across the old cast iron skillet that belonged to my mom. She had left it with me when they moved to a smaller house and she didn’t have room.

When I took that cast iron pan out and held it in my hands, a flood of memories came back to me. Memories of Sunday morning bacon sizzling in the pan and my mom standing over the stove flipping the bacon as it fried. I could smell the bacon as I sat there remembering those moments of my mom cooking. I could remember fried potatoes and pork chops, freshly rolled out homemade donuts that were my great-grandma’s recipe. All those things that my mom used that pan for.

It got me to wondering why that pan had been tucked away deep down in the pots and pans drawer. Why didn’t I use it l daily like my mom and all my grandparents did with their cast iron cookware over the years. I only used it once a year to make the donuts at Christmas time. It was the pan that I used so it would keep the temperature more even than the other pans.

And then it dawned on me. I remembered why it didn’t get used often. It was because since my Best Half does the clean up after meals it means he cleans and stacks the dishwasher. And not knowing how to care for cast iron, he automatically put the cast iron pan in the dishwasher with all the other pots and pans. Well it did come out shiny clean with all of the seasoning to keep it nice scrubbed off from the dishwasher. No one told him about seasoning cast iron, He was just doing his job.

So rather than hurt his feelings, because he thought he was doing a bang up job getting that old black skillet shiny clean, I just tucked it away except for the once a year donut making. And then I would try to just sneak it back into the bottom of the pots and pans drawer. Better to bury it under the stuff that can go in the dishwasher than hurt my Best Half’s feelings about cleaning the kitchen. Sometimes it is just better to choose the battles and let the tiny ones slide.

But that day as I was looking at the cast iron pan, I made the decision to start using it and learn how to keep it seasoned. I wanted to learn how to cook with cast iron just like my mom and grandmas did. I would season it and from here on out keep it face down in the oven after cleaning and wiping it down with oil. Just like they did for years and years. And so the YouTube search began on how to restore cast iron skillets.

While it didn’t seem like it would be terribly hard, it did seem like it would be time consuming at best. And I figured as long as I was doing one skillet, why not find a couple more to make a set. So I went on Marketplace and found some really old rusty and crusty cast iron pans and Dutch ovens. 

After a bit of negotiating and getting them for almost free I drove across the countryside and picked up the old rusty pans and even 3 dutch ovens. They were all in terrible condition and I had little hope they would be usable. But since they didn’t cost me much other than driving to get them, I was going to give it a shot.

I got the pans home and washed them out so I could look at them closer. Well, the rust was pretty much on the surface, and  there weren’t any cracks. They just were pretty crusty and needed a lot of work before they could be re-seasoned. While I was not sure exactly how to restore them, I decided to try and put them in a self cleaning oven. After hours in the oven, there was just ash left to wipe off. But still there was rust. So off to the sink I went and scrubbed and scrubbed with baking soda and let it set with vinegar soaking on it. Little by little the rust came off and I was looking at actual cast iron.

One by one I put light coats of oil on each pan and cover and let it sit for a bit before putting it in the hot oven for an hour to have the oil bake into the pans. I did this 3 or 4 times for each item. When it was all over, I had cast iron stuff that looked brand new! I was absolutely amazed.

Over the past couple weeks, I gave my daughter the Dutch ovens and a pan. She always cooks with cast iron and was excited to get the Dutch ovens as they have a big family and 2 is better than 1 in this case. As for me, I kept my mom’s skillet, a deep pan and a dutch oven. And I got a pizza pan. I have been using all of them in some way or another. As for the cleaning of them, I do it myself. After my Best Half saw all that was involved in maintaining cast iron, he turned the cleaning of the pans over to me. 

After I got all the new pans I realized if I was going to be using them daily, I needed to have them within reach. So off to Amazon I went and got some stacking pan holders for the countertop. And then I realized that to make cooking even easier, I need a spice rack on the counter so I wouldn’t always have to be searching through the “working” Susan as we call it in our house. Trust me, there is no such thing as a “Lazy” Susan in our house. If you call it that, you will be sorry.

Out to the wood pile I went and found some boards that would fit perfectly and hold 24 spices right next to my cast iron stash. I just would need to measure twice and cut once and nail it together. How hard could it be? 

It wasn’t too hard, but that measure twice, cut once rule didn’t work on my first attempt. I had forgotten to leave enough  space for spice jars on the top rack. I was ¼ inch off from them fitting. So back to the garage and the sides of the rack were cut longer. A little paint and there were spices right by the stove where they will be used. And no longer will we buy more Basil because we didn't see the full jar in the cupboard. I actually have 4 full jars of basil. I will never need to buy it again in my lifetime.

After everything was put in place I stood by the counter and admired the handy work of the past week. To me it was more than just reorganizing and cleaning some pots and pans. It was more like a tribute to my mom, my grandma’s and probably their mothers. All were hard working cast iron cooking women in their day. I am proud to say that finally after many years, I can join them in the ranks. Tonight’s meal…Chicken and Dumplings in the Cast Iron Dutch Oven