End of the Line – Land Line That Is

Today I cancelled our land line.  It was a bittersweet end since I can remember the days when a landline was all there was.   It was a sort of security blanket that had become more expensive than it was worth.  As I thought back about  my life long affair with the telephone I thought of all the changes that had occurred in something seemingly so simple as the telephone.   Here are some of the things that I remember

This looks much like the first phone I remember having.

  1. I remember when our phone had a cloth-covered wire cord that was not permanently coiled.  The handset weighted about five pounds.
  2. I remember when the local phone company was the Morrison Telephone Company and you could pay your bill right there at the local office, the only office, in Morrison, Illinois.
  3. I remember when you only had 4 numbers in your phone number.
  4. I remember having a party line.
  5. I remember when Ma Bell bought the Morrison Telephone Company out and they came to our house to replace our heavy clunker phone with the cloth cord with a new shiny black plastic phone with a permanently coiled cord.
  6. I remember when we got a private line.
  7. I remember when you dialed the operator you got someone you knew at the local phone company, and they actually could help you because they knew your family.
  8. I remember phone booths.
  9. I remember three-tiered telephone rates, daytime, evening and nights and weekends.   You called long distance according to the clock to save money.
  10. I remember calling “home” person to person to let my folks know I arrived without paying for a long-distance phone call.
  11. I remember when you phone was hard wired and you could not just unplug it and move it.
  12. I remember when you paid extra for extra extensions.
  13. I remember when you called directory assistance you were re-routed to the town you were calling about, and they could actually help you, because you were talking to someone in that town.
  14. I remember when your exchange (the three numbers between the area code and your phone number) meant something.   Beverly8-1511, meant you lived in the Beverly neighborhood and your first two numbers were found on the numbers were B and E appeared.
  15. I remember when rotary dial was the only option.
  16. I remember when you dialed the operator for an emergency not 911.   The operator knew who was calling and where from, heck she even knew my folks.   No need to tell her why I was calling.
  17. I remember when Ma Bell was broke up

Yep I grew up with the telephone.   I watched the marriage of Ma Bell and every little company she found.   I saw the demise of Ma Bell and all the came with it.   Now I am part of the huge exodus from the phone company.   They are not changing with the times, I wonder what it will look like just 10 years from now.   Will I recognize it or will it be as foreign as the little company that serviced the first phone I remember?

Slaving Over the Stove

We picked up a small bunch of apricots last week at Costco.   They were the last package and they called my name as I love apricot jam.  I love to can and make jams but have no need to make or desire to have a dozen pints of anything.   I have been doing lots of reading about small size jam making and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. I was going to make two or three half pints of sunshine in a jar…apricot jam with a little bit of apricot brandy in it.

I grew up with a mother who canned and have done a fair amount myself over the years, but nothing like I was going to try this time. Part of it plays into the fact my house is at 6,000 feet above sea level and that impacts how long things have to process and the temperatures that it reaches are not the same as the cookbooks state.   I was going to have adjust for where I lived.   The second factor was most of my tools were nothing like what I had used in the past.   No big old white and blue speckled enamel canner and not measuring ingredients in pints, quarts and pounds.   I was going to use my stock pot to do the water bath not the big old kettle.   I bought a nifty little jar holder on Amazon. It was a simple wire rack just like Mom had, no sturdier or fancier.  This one fit in my much smaller stock pot (just under 9 inches across) and could only hold 5 half-pints.   I also used my largest in diameter skillet to cook the apricots, no big heavy old pot.     The theory in all of this is that the larger air surface allowed for “quicker” evaporation i.e. shorter cooking times.   I honestly don’t know if it was true, but I ended up with jam.

Making jam in a very small batch

Making jam in a very small batch

When I was done I had two 8-ounce jars and two 4-ounce jars of jam.  It all set up very nicely, in spite of the fact I could not find my thermometer and had to use the sheet test.  Thank heavens I still had an old Ball canning book from years ago when people tested by look and not temperature on a thermometer.    Some of the jars  did not seal, but I attribute that to the instructions having me pulling the jars and setting them on a towel while I cooked the jam.   In the future I will leave them in the pan of hot water until I fill them like in times past and the old Ball book suggested and I used to do.     So my first small jars of sunshine in a jar  will need to be given and used as gifts immediately instead of saving for the winter, but oh well I had fun and it is pretty yummy.


Bounty for my larder

Procarstination Caught Up with Me

We have been working on redoing our kitchen now for a couple of years.   We have been doing the pay as you go plan and are nearly done.   I have a few things yet to do, but the one I knew was coming but had been dragging my heels on was the refrigerator.    It had been freezing certain areas of the refrig  causing me to loose tons of fresh produce.   Yet it was always  frosting up areas of the freezer as though the door was left open.   Our trusty appliance repair man had looked at it and told us it was time to move on.      The refrigerator was old enough  that from an energy standpoint it needed to go; technology and energy efficiency had moved on.   It was so small that it really wasn’t large enough for us since we don’t shop groceries very often.   Suddenly this week the freezer portion of it went nuts and the time to replace it was NOW.

All my months of browsing the  appliance department every time I was near a large box store or the local appliance store had come to a halt.   Time for research and looking had come to an immediate end.    My quirky demands for some things that could only be found on the highest end refrigerator  and the desire for other things that could only be found on the lowest end models no longer mattered.    I could  no longer refused certain things and demanded other things.  Compromise and prioritize were my first and second names.   I also was a realist that I wasn’t going to find any refrigerator that I wanted for the price point I was seeking.   Nothing in my research had even come close to what I wanted to spend.    I checked online and the big box stores would take 10-14 days to deliver to my local.   So  I took some time off of work Thursday and went to the local appliance shop and found my new refrigerator.

It reminded me again of the joys of shopping locally.   The local store doesn’t keep much  stock on hand, but then what store does now days.   They did have white refrigerator, that they were willing to deliver out to my place the next day even if Friday was rural north and I was rural South.   It was just too small and I was giving up everything I really wanted, so I passed.   My salesman had already talked to the owner and they both knew I was in a bind but wasn’t going to just settle.  So we looked at things I liked and looked at when the next shipments were coming from the various makers.  Calls were made to see if they could x or y and how soon.   We got lucky in that a shipment was coming from one manufacture and they were able to add an add-on item and it will be in store on Tuesday.  It will be at my house on Wednesday (still not a rural south delivery day).   These folks understood my dilemma.   They wanted my business because each of them knew it made a difference.  Most of all they had no corporate policy that could not be changed or bent, they right then and there could make a decision that was out of their normal practice to make my life a little easier.

It wasn’t easy to get here, but now that the purchase is done I am ready for it to arrive and be one step closer to done.   In the meantime all the stuff that used to be in my upstairs refrigerator is now in the deep freeze in the basement and the meter wheel on my electricity is whirling like crazy.


Summer is Short – Enjoy it Your Way

Today we took our bikes out and rode in the Mt. Haggen Wildlife Management Area in SW Montana.    It was a great way to spend a summer day for Mr. RangerSir and I.   We climbed too many hills but the vistas were wonderful.   They reminded us of some of the many joys that we have without spending lots of dough or really leaving home.    The temps were perfect.   The Indian Paintbrush was blooming.   The sunscreen worked.  No mechanical problems.   Mr. RangerSir had control of  the camera and went crazy capturing the day. We enjoyed the day and each other.

wpicSo whatever it is you enjoy, do it.   Have no worries about what will happen tomorrow it will arrive right on schedule.   Summer will be here only for a short while.

Where were you?

Fourty-five years ago today was the historic moment when man first stepped on the moon.   I was a young girl and not in to all that space stuff, like my husband was, yet I can remember that day. It was a defining moment in history of what we could do if we set our minds to it.

July 20, 1969 Man on the moon.

I was at the cabin on Pike Bay in northern Minnesota.   It was a cabin like so many at that time, without running water or telephone.   I had been there many times and would be there many more, yet this was the only time that we ever had a TV at the cabin.   The portable television with tinfoil on the rabbit ears sat next to the Victrola.  Granny, Uncle Phil and I sat on three hardback kitchen chairs around the snow screen watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon as a Super8 movie camera on a tripod captured it all.

Space travel was real and walking on the moon seemed possible, but until it happened it was just a wee be incredulous.   Suddenly it was real, it had happened and I had seen it.   We, the US of A,  had done it.   As a family full of military men it was a moment of great pride because we had done it first.  We had won the space race ahead of the Russian, in the midst of the Cold War.

It was an amazing time and I got to experience it.

Making Yogurt – I met with success

Making homemade yogurt for me has never been easy.   Actually it has been quite hard.  I have given more yogurt to the chickens that I care to admit because my yogurt has never  set up.  I am once again trying a foray into yogurt making because I found a yogurt maker in the clearance corner at the local department store for less than $10, and my grocery store yogurt has gone up to over $8  container. I have become convinced that my problem is the long-term holding temp that I don’t think I am achieving.   I am an experienced home cook who has no problems with yeast breads and complicated candies so it seemed that this holding temperature was my problem.  I read and “chatted” with internet folks about their yogurt making and no matter what people suggested I could not get a yogurt out of my efforts.

I have never been much of yogurt person until I  found a commercial yogurt that had two ingredients milk and cultures, nothing else.  On top of that most commercial yogurt had not only milk and cultures but also thickeners, stabilizers and shelf-life extenders which I am not in favor of.   It was revolutionary for me when I found this two-ingredient yogurt because I liked it plain, no sweetener or  fruit necessary.   I had tried every brand, every style under the sun over the years  without success of turning me into a yogurt eater.   Yogurt was a necessary evil, not a good food I liked.  It was sort of like a milk version of Jello, with a spoonful of crappy jam in the bottom.  Yuck!

My first batch of yogurt came out just perfect.   I have been eating it all week on my homemade granola.  It was nice and thick, and I ate it before we had a chance to strain some of it to make  Greek style.

Seven jars of wonder

Seven jars of wonder

Now I have my second batch in the maker again.  I am also checking out the internet learning about  the different cultures out there I may wish to try in the future.   Cultures affect the thickening and the taste of your yogurt (tart vs. naturally sweet and things in between).  I am setting the timer for a little longer this time as well to see how that impacts the tartness of it as I am thinking of straining some of this week’s yogurt that we will use in lieu of sour cream.

As you can see it set up nicely.

As you can see it set up nicely.

A couple of things that about the electric yogurt machine in case you come across a deal like mine and decide to give yogurt making a whirl. The little glass jars do have the little line in the bottom where the sides and bottom meet and they are as hard to clean as anyone who has written any  review you might see has suggested.   I already had a bottle brush and use it immediately upon emptying the jar.    Long-term you will probably need a second set of jars, since you need to make your next batch within seven days, and I had one more left in the refrigerator when I started this batch that I need to transfer it out of to use again.    A second set of jars is more twice what I paid for the maker so am going to look at some of the glass containers I have around the house and see what I might come up with as I am only short a bottle or two.

My yogurt on my granola.  Mornings can't start out much better than this.

My yogurt on my granola. Mornings can’t start out much better than this.

Hippy Dippy Earth Mama

When I went looking for hippy earth mama pictures most of what I got was young women. Do you suppose that means I was suppose to outgrow this before I got to my 50’s?

Since my last vacation I have been embracing the hippy dippy earth mama side of myself (HDEM).  It has allowed me to continue to vacation even though I am back on the job. I am a lot more relaxed and a little less obsessed about what must be done at the end of each day.    I am embracing a more holistic view of life, with much more balance than I have had in years.

My closest friends know that  I have always been a HDEM.  Circumstances, mostly my job, have meant I needed to keep it in check in order to conform enough to be successful.   After all we all like to eat and shelter.   It is even nicer when we are successful enough in our jobs that we have enough money for a little nest egg and don’t have to worry that we are one or two paychecks from financial disaster or maybe be extravagant and  take a vacation.

There were ties you could wear and ties you could not wear.

For years I work as a manager in the systems and information technology field for Fortune 100 companies.   It was lots of old school in those days.   I was younger than most of my co-workers and female in a male dominated field.    I remember working across the street from an IBM office and it was there I learned about the uniform that was expected after coming from a blue-collar family in rural Illinois.   White oxford shirt, dark tie, coat and no facial hair was the standard dress expected for successful men.  No Exceptions!  There were few women role models, but those few women did the best version of the IBM look they could muster in a skirt.    Sounds sort of strange in today’s world of so much more casual, but indeed it was the way it was.   At one company I was the first and only woman manager of a department of mostly men, many 20 years older than me.   Talk about needing to look the part and walk the talk, I was that person.  My co-workers had no idea about my secret life as HDEM, though I had a unstructured, orange sherbert blazer that I loved and wore once in awhile just to throw them a curve ball occasionally.   I was following all the rules of John Malloy’s Dress for Success by day and buying my off hours clothes a Minneapolis Ragstock. I was an IBM’er by day and a Bohemian Art Fart by night.      Few knew the real me.

I  have been back to work now almost a month since vacation.  I am once again wearing my  hat as the queen of all that is technical at work.  It is comfortable place to be at work.  I am working with codes, numbers bits and bytes, dollars and cents,  and weighing it all out pros/cons, budget and mission and putting forth ideas and methods. Once conditioned after so many years or wearing the right persona I  find it near impossible to let loose  during the work hours and maybe I am not supposed to.   My job is different now I work from home.   I no longer manage a staff.   I no longer work a Fortune 100, not even a 500 company.   Yet I still seek to be a good worker be and seeking to ensure that employer gets that 110% contribution from me.  Before vacation it meant working long hours because I was never sure when I reached that 110%.   Now the HDEM is hard at work in me.  My day planner is a wild collection creativity full of quotes, pictures, doodles, ideas and thoughts, sorta of a reminder of who I AM steadily throughout the day.  Reminding me of when it is time to let go of my work life.    It is full of things there were no provisions made for when a Day-Timer was designed.   I am letting my creative muse run wild at 4pm instead of hoping for a little time, maybe sort of, when I find some extra time when the end of the day comes at 6 or 7.    I love cook and making yogurt and granola from scratch again.   I am taking more solitary walks.     Our TV reception disappeared and we have not fixed it, no loss there. I am doing yoga and walking instead of just walking.   I am volunteering again.  I am seeking out those things I want to try to see if I might enjoy something I don’t know about yet.  Yep the hippy dippy earth mama is a live and well and not so sure she wants to go back to part-time.