Friday, June 22, 2012

Grandma's Marathon 2012 Elvis pictures

Each year we recruit various friends to cheer on the runners from Grandma's Marathon in Duluth Minnesota. 14 years ago we decided we would all dress as Elvis' and play music for the runners. We live just above the 18 mile mark, and each year we make the trek through the woods to claim our spot. It is amazing how many runners thank us for coming out, and how many remember us from year to year. This year our friend Sam Alvar came out to shoot photos of the runners and Elvis. He is a professional photographer in Duluth and captured some amazing shots! My hope is that some people will find their images we sure had fun collecting them. Next year is our 15th year of "Elvis at the Grandma's Marathon" party! We hope to recruit more people who are willing to show up at 9am on a Saturday and join us in the fun. I am working on a plan to have a disco ball suspended on some sort of frame just off the course. We will blast disco tunes and have a dance party for the runners. Enjoy the photos, courtesy of Seaquest Photography of Duluth Minnesota!

That's my hubby..the "real" Elvis!

Front runners, it is amazing to see them glide by with what seems like no effort.

Roland, Kim, and Mike

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This guy showed me his tramp stamp tattoo, something like, "After Elvis, no one!"

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This goes on for HOURS!

Every year there are some special moments, I wish there was a way I could find them and share this picture. I love it! Grandma's Marathon 8590

Our friend Andrew and his crazy dog George

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Patriotic Man! Grandma's Marathon 1041

Here is another special photo...that is one strong lady!

Sam says "Elvis did it!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Children Get It! We Are All Beautiful.

Here's my daughter's story: Marlena went to Preschool in the Lincoln Park area of Duluth. She is an only child, and we live outside of town, quite secluded. We are also older parents, so unfortunately she'd had little to no interaction with other kids prior to going to preschool. She was pretty traumatized for the first two weeks. She would hide from the other kids under a blanket, and my Mom (who lived close by) would come and get her for the second half of the day. One day, about three weeks into preschool her teacher told me she had to tell me about what happened that day, and she was hoping I wouldn't be upset,(I thought, oh boy, what now?) She said they had gone for a walk to a nearby playground,and Marlena was sitting on a bench all alone. Before the teacher was aware, one of the neighborhood boys had approached her and was talking with her. The teacher was surprised after a moment to notice Marlena and this boy on the basketball court, trying to throw his ball into the net. Her teacher whispered to me as she told the story, "He was a little black boy" and watched for my reaction. I simply asked, "Did they have fun?" She kind of flinched, and said, "Yes I think so!" I went to Marlena and asked how her day was. I noticed she was not hiding anymore! She said to me, in a very excited little voice, "Mom, it was great! I made a new friend, his name is Tyrique and he has brown eyes too, and the most beautiful brown skin!" I just about cried, it was just so sweet, and so wonderful, and so pure. We have revisited that moment many times as she has grown, and reinforced the beauty in everyone. That boy took the time to approach her carefully, and share in his game. She is still playing basketball, it is her passion. And she still has a soft spot for brown skin.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rendering Lard

This weekend we received the half pig we ordered last summer. Along with the meat we were asked if we wanted suet for rendering, and the liver. Heck yeah! Rick also asked if I wanted the feet and head, that I declined because I had no idea how I would use it. He also offered suet for the birds..oh to feed those birds in winter!

For the first time, Mike and I rendered our own fresh lard. First task was to cut the suet into chunks and grind it. It matched my pink "breast cancer awareness" kitchenaid! Then I put a small amount of water in the bottom of a roasting pan. This was then set into the oven at 290 degrees. Directions advised 300-325 but I think my oven runs a bit hot. In about an hour it was nicely simmering at 290 degrees. I stirred it often for several hours. When the temp reached 255 degrees the "cracklins" were sinking and there was a nice layer of clear lard on top. We took it out and let it cool a bit, then strained it through several layers of cheesecloth. At this point it was golden colored. I poured it into jars (a big one for my mother the pie queen) and into muffin tins and a loaf pan. This was then put into the freezer. When it was solid I wrapped the pucks and put them into a freezer bag for use throughout the year. I've never really used lard much, but my mother makes the best pie crust with lard so I will be trying that. Also, I will use it in any recipe that calls for shortening, and for our annual one time deep fried fresh veggie night. We don't really fry much at all, but once a year we treat ourselves to fried zucchini and green tomatoes. This was a fun "back country" style activity. The birds will benefit from the rough suet that I will hang in an onion bag in the big pine tree.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Click on the "Cookin' Cousins" button on the right side of my blog to enter a contest for some great items! I order freeze dried foods from Honeyville for long term food storage. Their foods are top notch, and nice to have in the pantry for soups and casseroles when I don't want to run to the store in the winter for fresh produce. Go for it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

My Life Has Taken a Beading!

I've been so busy with beads!
These are some of the pieces I've been working on:

I've made a half dozen of these crystal bangles (shown below.) It's a very easy pattern once you've made one. I’ve made this bracelet with several different color crystals. I love to wear two or three of these at a time. It is very comfortable and people always comment on how beautiful they are. The only drawback is that it is a bit pricey to make. It has over 144 bicone crystals in the bracelet and that means you’re spending about $20 just for the crystals. Add the beads and your time, 4-6 hours, and this bracelet is easily worth a couple hundred dollars. I must admit…it looks like it is worth a couple hundred dollars when you wear it!

It’s time to get back to blogging…sorry for the delay, for several reasons I just haven’t taken the time to update. I’ve been very busy with things around the house and things at work. The work stuff is technical, dry, and somewhat boring, but essential to our workplace. The home stuff is fun and time consuming.

It seems like I never have enough time for my beads, or enough money to spend. This can become a very expensive hobby. I like crystals, Swarovski crystals, and they are pricey! You can definitely tell the difference between them and the cheap knock offs. I made the mistake of buying some knock offs at a local bead store, I should probably just throw them away. They easily scratch and seem very dull when strung with other quality glass beads. A better option than throwing them away might be to make some Christmas ornaments from them. I just cannot get myself to throw them away! My dear daughter might enjoy stringing them with me for that purpose. Yikes, I just gave myself another project! Some of my bead magazines have patterns in them for just this type of bicone shaped bead used to make an ornament by stringing them over glass Christmas balls.

I currently subscribe to two bead magazines, Bead and Button and Beadwork magazine. I really like them both as there are similarities and differences in both. Beadwork has featured artists who create for each magazine. This is nice if you like a certain type of project, as these artists work somewhat in themes. Bead and Button is a little more “homey” in style and has a bit more variety in the type of project. I think that the projects in Beadwork have better directions and diagrams, and are a little more to my liking. It’s really a matter of personal preference, and I find that I enjoy both magazines when they show up in the mail. I mark the pages with a post it note when I find a project I want to try. I don’t bother with the ranking of expert to beginner, as I love a challenge! One thing I find challenging is finding the right beads for each project. Sometimes the sizes or colors are not available locally and are difficult to find online. I really don’t want to have 50 different sources for beads. I have found that I can substitute a size 14 for a size 13 seed bead. Going up or down one size seed bead doesn’t seem to affect a project, at least so far! I do find a difference when using larger beads. Going up or down a size in a bicone crystal will make some difference in certain patterns. Colors are not so difficult to substitute. In fact, I prefer changing up the colors from what the original pattern might have called for. It’s fun to see the final product, and know that I’ve put my own spin on it.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What to do with all these tomatoes!

We are experiencing a fabulous fall! Warm days and cool nights, very little frost yet and the end of harvest is near. The only thing left in the garden are the carrots. I’m so burned out from the frenzy of harvest that I’m just letting those carrots sit for awhile.

We had a wonderful tomato season this year. Normally we are seeing tomatoes beginning to ripen a couple of weeks before Labor Day. This year we were canning and freezing ripe tomatoes in early August! I think it paid off to start the seeds on St. Patrick’s Day and move the plants into the greenhouse in late April. We had very healthy large plants by our mid-May planting date. Combine that with a very warm wet summer and we were overwhelmed. I do regret that I didn’t start canning tomatoes earlier. Most of the first tomatoes were pureed and frozen. We will be eating a lot of spaghetti, chili, and tomato soup this winter! We started canning tomatoes when the freezer started to get somewhat full of bags of puree. I’d forgotten that canning tomatoes is not all that bad. It’s the peeling and coring that gets a bit tedious. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of heating the tomatoes, packing in the jar, adding salt, sugar, and lemon juice, and processing.

I was forced to find a way to use hard green tomatoes when the slugs attacked. Any tomatoes that were not tied up and close to the ground were being eaten by slugs. I had so many tomato plants and not enough cages that I just let some of my plants go wild. Those plants produced far more tomatoes than the caged ones! But they also had a lot of fruit lying on the ground. What to do? What to do? We ate quite a few sliced, topped with brown sugar, butter, and cracker crumbs, baked until soft…oooh so good!
The Recipe is from

Baked Green Tomatoes

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

* 4 large firm green tomatoes
* salt and pepper
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 3/4 cup coarse buttery cracker crumbs
* 4 tablespoons butter

Cut green tomatoes in 1/2 inch slices; arrange green tomato slices in a greased baking dish. Season sliced green tomatoes with salt and pepper and spread each with about 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar. Cover sliced green tomatoes with crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 350° until green tomatoes are tender but still firm, or about 25 to 35 minutes.
Recipe for baked green tomatoes serves 6.

We also tried hot and sweet green tomato pickles this year. Heaven! These are fantastic right out of the jar, tangy, sweet and hot, with a hint of tomato flavor. I love them on sandwiches, brats, and burgers. I’ve even eaten them on pizza, fabulous!



2 qts. quartered green tomato
2 c. chopped onion
3/4 c. chopped hot peppers
2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. salt
2 c. vinegar
1 tsp. celery seed

Put tomatoes, onions and hot peppers in large pan. Mix remaining ingredients together. Pour over tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat immediately, put in hot, sterile jars and seal.

NOTE: For spicy but not hot pickles, reduce hot pepper to half or less the amount called for and fill. Measure with chopped sweet peppers.

It’s nice to see the harvest wind down, and I’m happy that I have some time for other pursuits. The summer was hard work, but the pantry and freezers are full. This makes for a wonderful feeling of security and satisfaction. Winter for us, is a time for being indoors, reading, sewing, doing beadwork, and planning for next summers garden.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to Do With All This Produce?

I am an avid vegetable gardener. My family spends much of the early spring through fall in the gardens planting, picking, and tending the crops. We have about 2600 square feet of vegetable and berry gardens. This time of year we are picking a LOT of food! And once you pick you must find a way to use all of those veggies as soon as possible. If you find yourself with too much fresh produce these are some ways to preserve summers bounty.

Blanching and freezing You can blanch most veggies like peas, green beans, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, corn, cauliflower, and beets. Blanching is basically quick boiling the veggies before freezing in order to stop the action of enzymes which make the plants grow. The University of Minnesota has extensive information on blanching, gardening, and preserving at the website
I blanch my veggies, cool them quickly in a cold water bath, and drain them. I use vacuum pack my vegetables, but you can also put the veggies in a freezer bag, pressing out as much air as possible. I freeze berries for winter use by just cleaning them, coring if necessary and placing them on cookie sheets in the freezer. Once they are frozen I package them and freeze them for later. You can even freeze tomatoes whole! Just clean them and take off the stems, put them in freezer bags (even better, use a vacuum sealer) and freeze whole. When you need tomatoes for soup, chili or spaghetti sauce, just thaw your tomatoes and add. They will have the texture of a stewed tomato, how easy is that!

Canning If you have never canned vegetables before, I highly suggest either taking a class or finding someone who knows how and learning from them. Canning is a science and it requires proper equipment and meticulous habits. You must use a pressure canner for most vegetables which are low acid. The acidity in the food determines if fruits or vegetables are processed in a pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner to control botulism bacteria. Low-acid vegetables and meats contain too little acidity to prevent the growth of these bacteria and must be pressure canned. Acid foods such as fruits, jams and jellies, pickles, sauerkraut can be safely processed in a water bath canner. You can pickle vegetables using a water bath method, as adding vinegar brine creates the acidity needed for preservation. I always follow recipes carefully, and never add items or vary amounts in the recipe. I use the “Ball Blue Book of Canning” almost exclusively as there are TONS of great tried and true recipes in this book. For more information see

Drying Another way of preserving veggies is drying. You can dry veggies in many ways. I inherited a dehydrator from my parents. Back in the 70’s it seems like everyone was making their own jerky and dried fruit. Dehydrators were all the rage. You can pick these up at rummage sales for a great price and they do work! I dry carrots, zucchini, peppers, herbs, onions, garlic, tomatoes (mine are even better than the expensive sun dried ones from the store) beans, potatoes, and apples. This is pretty simple. You slice or cube the veggies or fruit, set it on the trays, turn on the drier to the appropriate temperature and just check every so often. I then bag or place the food in glass jars and use in soups or eat out of the jar. You’d be surprised at how good dried carrots and zucchini are! My daughter loves snacking on dried carrots and apples. There is basic information on drying at

Fermenting Do you like sauerkraut? Or old fashioned deli style garlic dill pickles? Ever tried Korean Kimchi? These are all fermented vegetables. Crock fermenting is becoming popular again as people are looking for ways to preserve foods without cooking. All you really need is a ceramic crock or a food grade plastic bucket. My first batch of sauerkraut was made in the crock from a crock pot, it worked just fine. This year I have stepped up to a polish pickling crock, and am currently fermenting 10 lbs of garlic dill pickles. Oh man, they are so good and were so easy to make! For more information on fermenting go to: