Grandma’s chicken in corn bread

I’m cleaning up some papers (picture a laundry basket with paper of all types piled in it, odd items (like a bike lock) interspersed throughout, and lots of dust and dog hair). This recipe for Grandma Elma’s chicken in corn bread surfaced. The dish was common in my childhood, especially for special events like the Fourth of July picnic on the farm. The chicken in cut into pieces, with skin and bone left in place, and baked. About half way through the baking, a corn meal batter is poured over the chicken. This recipe calls for the dish to be prepared in a 2 quart casserole, but I remember it in a 9″ x  13″  aluminum cake pan.

3 lb chicken, cut into pieces
1/4 c four
2 T oleo

Coat chicken with 1/4 c flour. Place 2 T oleo and chicken in 2 quart casserole and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

2 T oleo
1 c chopped celery
1 c chopped onion
1 T flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper

Sauté 2 T oleo, celery, and onion. Blend in 1 T flour, salt, and pepper. Place around chicken.

1/2 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t sage
1/4 t thyme
1/8 t pepper
1 T oleo
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c milk

Combine dry ingredients. Blend in oleo, eggs, and milk.  Spoon this topping over chicken.

2 T chicken soup base
1.5 c water

Dissolve soup base in water. Pour over topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

Enjoy this rich and savory dish under the shade trees while the sun shines above. Pair with watermelon and volleyball on the lawn.

Warm fuzzies

Sometimes warm fuzzies cluster together. I made a scrap quilt, lap size, for Grandma Siggie. It was very satisfying to match the scraps together. Grandpa Neil liked the quilt because it is practical.



The same weekend that Grandma received the quilt, George and I were given two crocheted scrap afghans, made by his Mom. I like to think of all of the bits of yarn that were used up to make it. George can remember some of the yarns from their original projects. Warm fuzzies all around!



Prickly ash buds

Prickly ash buds in our woods March 30

Springtime brings the good, bad, and ugly. The good news about prickly ash is that it’s native. The bad news is that it is prickly and invasive.

Beauty of Moscow lilac buds April 14

Beauty of Moscow lilac buds April 14

Fortunately we have more good plants than bad ones. Here’s a white lilac in our garden.

Garlic April 14

Garlic April 14

The garlic planted last fall looks healthy.

Currant April 14

Currant April 14

Spring Beauties April 21

Spring Beauties April 21

There was a lot in bloom in Grandpa Neil and Grandma Siggie’s woods on April 21.

Honey suckle


The honeysuckle leaves are pretty, and they come out early. Unfortunately, they are very invasive in Wisconsin and are difficult to remove.

The early frog catches the fly

The early frog catches the fly

Aging cow slip blossoms

Aging cow slip blossoms

Dog toothed violet and spring beauties converse

Dog toothed violet and spring beauties converse

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

It occurs to me now that I don’t know what the quality of the apples on this tree at the edge of the woods is. It’s likely that it is a wild tree since I don’t ever remember harvesting them.

Maple seeds on the tree in Grandma and Grandpa's yard

Maple seeds on the tree in Grandma and Grandpa’s yard

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Columbine May 8

Columbine May 8

Violas surround a lily

Violas surround a lily

Lupine May 13

Lupine May 13

Springtime in our prairie… it’s always fun to see how much good stuff has spread. Look at the pollen on this bee!

Lupine leaves May 13

Lupine leaves May 13

A friend gave us wild lupine seeds several years ago and it is spreading well. It’s neat to see the variation in the plants. This one has darker colored leaves with hairy edges.

Evening self portrait in the prairie

Evening self portrait in the prairie

Happy spring! May summer not come too quickly.

The complete quilt

Mom taught me how to sew when I was in second grade. One of my first projects was a t-shirt. Another project was a big stuffed whale. Mom had to help me with the zipper…the mouth had zipper lips to open and close it. I was delighted when she made the mistake of sewing the zipper in backwards (the zipper pull was towards the inside of the mouth). My part of the sewing was perfect…the biggest error was Mom’s.

What Mom didn’t teach me was how to finish a project in a timely manner. She has very little interest in finishing one project before starting another. This has been very freeing to me. Perhaps a little too freeing. I have no idea how many started, but unfinished projects I even have.

In the fall of 2011, a book caught my eye. It is Scandinavian Needlecraft and includes great embroidery designs, mostly on wool. The book wasn’t in our library system at the time, so I tried Scandinavian Stitches instead. Author Kajsa Wikman has lots of great designs in it, including soft baskets and stuffed fabric birds. I loved one of the baby quilts in the book, but I wasn’t about to make a quilt just to hang on the wall. It occurred to me that Jessie was having a baby in December and the quilt has lots of blue in it (a color that she might not see enough of these days). A winter theme, lots of blue, and a December baby…a perfect combination.

I dug through my stash and found the perfect colors for the sky. I needed a little more variety and was happy to find a great match at the local thrift store. A couple of small pieces were added for variety and everything was ready to go. The cutting and sewing began at Mom’s house on Thanksgiving weekend. The top went together quite quickly.

Fox peeking out from the snow

The hand quilting took longer. It turned out to be the perfect project for me. I quilted at the hospital while Grandpa Neil was there. I quilted at Grandma Siggie’s while we spent time together. I quilted at the nursing home while Grandpa Neil was there. I quilted with friends while taking time for myself. Some of the stars are less than perfect. Some stars have more than five points. Maybe Ivy and Clara will look for them when they need a quiet project.

Stars in the sky

Since I’ve never finished a quilting project, this was my first attempt at cutting the binding on a bias. I thought about it for quite a while, folded the fabric, and cut. Was I ever surprised to find the zig-zag that it made. Hindsight was much clearer than foresight.

First try at binding

It was a happy day when I got the bias tape cut, ironed, and rolled. The binding finally was domesticated.

Spool of binding

It was time for the label. Jenny made one for the quilt, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. A friend told me about her label making process: spray adhesive on a sheet of printer paper; apply an oversize piece of fabric on it; cut the fabric to the size of the paper; feed the paper/fabric into the inkjet printer; print with the desired text; and set with a hot iron. Since I hope this quilt will withstand lots of washing, I decided to make the label more permanent by embroidering on top of the ink.

The fine print

It then seemed to take forever to finish the label and sew it onto the quilt. I had put off putting the binding on so that I could sew the label only on to the back of the quilt. I did everything just right for this process until the last moment, a moment of excitement, when I sewed the label through the entire thickness of the quilt. It was fortunate that the bobbin thread was white and nothing puckered in the process! I wasn’t about to tear it out at this point.

The completed quilt

The completed quilt

The finished quilt was ready to give to Jane on March 24, when we celebrated Grandma Elma’s 93rd birthday. Jane and I met for the first time. It was a good day for many reasons, a small one was that this project was completed!

And now for something completely different…

George made a very good supper of squash and nettle lasagna tonight. That’s right…stinging nettles turned into a yummy supper.

Everything is good with lots of cheese

Childhood book

Grandma and I have shared many stories from her youth within the last few months. Grandma moved with her family from Milwaukee to Colby to Abbotsford. With one of the moves, Great Grandma must have culled the family book collection. Grandma wished that the book Poems Teachers Ask For had been kept because she enjoyed it so much.

I went in search of a copy of of the book for Grandma and found Poems Teachers Ask For Book II. I’m not sure if Grandma will recognize the poetry in it or not. Based on my favorite poems in the book, I will like your poetry better if your name is Henry. The number of poems written in dialect (Irish accent, southern drawl, etc) in the book surprised me. I almost immediately skip over these, which is probably a loss for me.

Loss and Gain
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.

But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

If All the Skies
by Henry Van Dyke
(1852 – 1933)

If all the skies were sunshine,
Our faces would be fain
To feel once more upon them
The cooling splash of rain.

If all the world were music,
Our hearts would often long
For one sweet strain of silence,
To break the endless song.

If life were always merry,
Our souls would seek relief,
And rest from weary laughter
In the quiet arms of grief.

The Height of the Ridiculous
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

I wrote some lines once on a time
In wondrous merry mood,
And thought, as usual, men would say
They were exceeding good.
They were so queer, so very queer,
I laughed as I would die;
Albeit, in the general way,
A sober man am I.

I called my servant, and he came;
How kind it was of him
To mind a slender man like me,
He of the mighty limb.

“These to the printer,” I exclaimed,
And, in my humorous way,
I added, (as a trifling jest,)
“There’ll be the devil to pay.”

He took the paper, and I watched,
And saw him peep within;
At the first line he read, his face
Was all upon the grin.

He read the next; the grin grew broad,
And shot from ear to ear;
He read the third; a chuckling noise
I now began to hear.

The fourth; he broke into a roar;
The fifth; his waistband split;
The sixth; he burst five buttons off,
And tumbled in a fit.

Ten days and nights, with sleepless eye,
I watched that wretched man,
And since, I never dare to write
As funny as I can.

My sweetheart

My sweetheart and I share the same favorite color…blue.

My sweetheart and I share the same unreasonably large affection for sweets, especially boxed chocolates, the kind with caramel inside.

My sweetheart and I love to read. Most recently we have been enjoying Strictly for the Chickens together. Fran’s search for a packing box large enough to hold her husband had us both laughing.

My sweetheart and I love fresh snow lit by a bright sun in a blue sky.

My sweetheart and I agree that Grandpa can be unnecessarily grumpy at times. We both still love him.

My sweetheart can fall into the snow, while waiting for me to cross the road and get the mail, and only proclaim “I’m not going to do that again!”

My sweetheart is kind, loving, and just sweet. Her mind doesn’t always work in the predictable fashion that it has for many years, but her personality and humor persist.

One of the things my sweetheart has taught me recently is the power of a good habit. Grandma’s favorite breakfast is shredded wheat, half of a grapefruit, coffee with cream, and a glass of juice. Other meals and foods, even some past favorites, can be questioned at times. Breakfast is always enjoyed with enthusiasm. Grandma says that when she was growing up, she was the only one in her family that liked shredded wheat.

May you have a sweetheart in your life to share joy with.

Photograph of Grandma and I

December 2011 - Photo taken by HVB


Quilting and Valentine’s Day

Grandma had a brilliant day last Saturday. The day was filled with energy and new ideas. Alice, Grandma, and I browsed through a quilting magazine and Grandma picked out a quilt with a basket square on it. She would like to make one for each of the boys  (Robbie, Charlie, and Henry) and thinks that muslin, blue, and green fabric would be best for it. It was fun to plan the quilt and think about the boys.

I am a fan of Valentine’s Day. Not buying lots of “cute” stuff (cards and stickers excepted). Not demanding a demonstration of your admiration of me (although voluntary actions will be appreciated). Not going out to eat (why would I want to eat with a million other people around?). Not celebrating a saint or saints. But I do like celebrating relationships…friends, family, and others. Happy Valentine’s Day to you when it comes around.

Happy 69th Wedding Anniversary to Grandma and Grandpa on Monday!

Birthing is hard…

“Folks, I’m telling you, birthing is hard and dying is mean- so get yourself a little loving in between.” ― Langston Hughes

I’ve been spending more time than usual with my grandma at her home while grandpa is in the nursing home.

Grandma asked me what day it was today. I said “I hate to tell you, but it is Friday the 13th. We will have to watch our p’s and q’s.” She asked me about the origin of that phrase and I launched into a description of typesetting and so forth. Grandma said “When I think of peas, I think of little green dots.” That was followed by her tracing p’s and q’s on the table with her finger, then conducting with her fingers in the air to the music on the turntable. She was content and happy, which is good for both of us.

I don’t reread books very often, only because there are so many I haven’t read at all yet. I just finished rereading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I haven’t read since high school. I need to watch the film, since it is so highly rated and is said to follow the book well.