Friday, September 12, 2014

Tomatoes


The end of the tomatoes harvest.

Well, except for all the green tomatoes still on the vine, which if anyone wants them please don't hesitate to come and get them!

Tomatoes bring wonderful memories of my mother-in-law, Alma.

She was the queen of tomatoes.

 Alma would start her seeds in the house in early spring.  Transplanting the seedlings as they grew.  Soon they were in every room that had windows and sun conducive to growth.   Cardboard half gallon milk containers began to be collected after Christmas and anticipation of housing future tomato plants.  These, as I began to learn, were great because they would eventually decompose, but before that,  would act as a deterrent to the cut worms that might take a tomato plant down in one night after they were placed in Alma's large garden.

Alma taught me about asking her family to haul truck loads of manure to her garden for a great mother's day gift.

I inherited her rusty old tomato cages.  After she no longer had a large garden or planted tomatoes, I asked her for the cages that her husband constructed for her.  She laughed.  "That's what you want from the house???  My rusty old tomato cages?"   But I knew that the secret to great tomatoes lay with those cages!

She devotedly dunked the juicy red globes in boiling water for a second, so she could peel the skin of the fruit.  Bob, her husband, did not like veggies much, but loved tomatoes just not with the skin on!

Tomato sandwiches were a mainstay in the summer for the Nordberg household.  The dark tender sweet tomato slice in between two thick slices of bread coated with creamy mayo and seasoned with salt.  So yummy.

But she disdained cherry tomatoes.  The bigger the better for Alma.  Beefsteak tomatoes were her specialty.  She did not process any tomatoes in the fall, but her window sills were always full of continuing to ripen tomatoes.....drawing the tomato season way out into the late fall.

Some years my tomatoes may come almost up to the crops Alma used to grow, but I don't think I will ever grow the perfect tomatoes that routinely graced her dinner table, summer after summer.

She's still the queen of tomatoes!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 1923u

Today would have been my mom's 91st birthday.

August was full of birthday's in our family.  Mom, grandmother, aunt, sister and now a grand niece and nephew on the same day....the last day of the month.

My mom was born to Astrid Moe and William Beaty Messer.   Ruth Phemia (on her birth certificate although we always thought it was Euphemia) Messer

I think my grandparents were fairly well off.  They had a live in cook, and summer house on the shore.  My grandmother and Lottie would be dropped off at the beginning of summer and my grandfather would travel to the shore on weekends.  According to family folklore my grandmother never set foot in the ocean and rarely graced the beach.  The three siblings were free to roam the beach each day and taught themselves how to swim and catch crabs.  Idyllic.

I don't know much about her growing up years except she was the middle child, had a bit of a speech impediment (of which I am told the other kids made fun of), she was bit by a collie (but must have overcome her fears because they always had a dog, was in the Eastern Stars (my grandfather was a mason), and she went to secretarial school after graduating high school.

Lottie, the live in help, taught mom how to cook and she was a fabulous cook, especially in the baking department.  She always made me a burnt sugar cake for my birthdays which was absolutely delicious!!  I'm sorry I never asked for the recipe, or a demonstration of how she made it.  I tried a burnt sugar cake recipe once but it was a bitter disappointment.  Mom was always interested in healthy food, not much for prepared foods, (I remember being so excited to babysit for neighbors because then I got a TV dinner) and we always had vegetables.  She was very frugal as well, and could stretch her 30.00/week food budget to cover 3 meals a day for 7 days.  We always had dessert, even if it was fruit.  She loved chocolate.  And she always had mints in her purse.

And she never went to McDonalds!  That would kill you we were told!  Although in the last years of her life she did manage to evaluate Arby's and it passed her inspection, allowing her and my Dad to have lunch there frequently.  As children, when we were traveling on vacation, we always went into a restaurant for a sit down lunch and dinner.  Looking back now, it really was quite a treat!

Mom loved being married and having a family.  She loved her home and always made it comfortable.....however, no one was allowed to sit on the beds, especially after they were made.  She was meticulous, I don't know how she did it but the house was always neat and clean.  I don't think they were big into clutter.  However, she loved gadgets and had a kitchen full of all the new conveniences and devices. At 5:00pm every day she stopped whatever she was doing, changed into a dress and put lipstick on to greet my dad after his workday.  She was madly in love with Dad her whole life!  He was her rock.

She had a grace and elegance.  She and my Dad had to frequently attend formal events and I loved to see her dressed up in beautiful long dresses, hair coiffured, and long gloves.  And she was hospitable with her own home.  My Dad's parents lived in an apartment their whole lives and would ask Mom they could bring their friends up some times to see their son's home in the "country".  She was glad to entertain them.  From bridge club friends, to high school church kids, choir parties, breakfasts after sun rise service, college friends, neighborhood get togethers, relatives from Norway and Scotland, friends parents from Germany, Mom would entertain in the dining room, terrace of backyard.  She loved people!

Mom gave us herself. She showed us how to work without complaining.  She didn't focus on herself but others. She was tenacious and firm but loving and kind.  She loved gardening- flowers- and had a prized rose garden!  She gave us her love for the beach and ocean!  She was "there", any time anyone needed her.  A wonderful mother-in-law to her three son-in-laws.  And a fabulous grandmother.  A gift to my daughter, especially, (her first grandchild whom she adored) they both loved to "shop", something I wasn't keen on, and they loved Princess Diana.

So Happy Birthday Mom!!  I love you dearly.  You were the BEST mom and grandmother and we'll meet again someday soon!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Garden

The vegetable garden is IN!!

I was going to say the the garden is done, but when you have a garden, vegetable, flower or ornamental, it's never done.  It's just the beginning.

But we finally had the cracking open of the thick layer of ice which covered everything this past winter, the opportunity to till the garden and infuse it with compost, chicken manure and leaves, and sequential  planting of different crops that will sustain us over the next couple of seasons.

I'm trying to see if I can grow, harvest, preserve enough vegetables for our family for the year.  I came fairly close to being self sustaining last year.

This year we have eaten asparagus almost every night for a month now.

The peas, although not sown early enough, have oozed out of the ground....up,up up they push with their green scrubby heads and their tangle of skinny arms reaching upward trying to grasp the netting they will attach themselves to and send out the sweetest green vegetable we eat.

We have long summer days here in the North Country.  Actually great for growing crops if we just can get them in the ground reasonably early in the spring.  The long light hours of our summers result in spectacular flower gardens too,  filled with lilacs, iris, hostas, peonies, columbine, evening primrose, lupine, apple and crabapple trees.

So now I wait, and nurture the beans, potatoes, beets, summer squash, winter squash, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, cucumbers and herbs to season everything.

I think having a vegetable garden creates an excitement about food.  Suddenly the whole year is being planned out; what we need for each season, how much, and how to store and preserve it, and the search for new recipes and possibilities for each season.  We look forward to eating something "in season", summer dinner is vegetarian many times,  but oh so yummy, fresh veggies picked just before eating.  Pickles all year long with our sandwiches, red, white, purple potatoes to give us energy and comfort in the fall and winter, squash made into soups or casseroles, carrots for the stew, and those dark purple beets that are so sweet and melt in your mouth with butter and salt!

It's a lot of work, but the rewards are terrific.  In the garden, we will always be the nurturer.  Gardens like children don't grow themselves.  Our maternal instincts are exercised each day as we care for our crops.

Hans Christian Anderson said..."just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."  I'm adding "a few vegetables are helpful too!"

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 1, 1945

This would be their 69th wedding anniversary today.  April 1st!!  I don't know why they chose that date, I'll have to ask my Aunt June sometime.  It probably had to do this the war and leave that my dad could get.  I know that they were married in the Luthern Church, and had the reception in my grandparents home.  They killed the chickens they had, put together all the sugar ration coupons that they could find to make a cake, Uncle Bill surprised them by getting leave and attending, and my Aunt Doris was in a car accident on the way to the wedding.  Other than that I guess it was a normal wedding for those days.


We celebrated BIG for their 50th wedding anniversary.  Sent out "wedding" style invitations, secured the Country Club, and had FUN!!
I think about 80 people came for all over.  It was a mini reunion for our Hillside Church friends, all the relatives came and many new friends that they had made after their move to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

And we planned!!  And had a program!  All the grandkids "performed" and Rob and I had a great time getting the show on the road.
For our opening all of the Williamson children and grandchildren sang "Ruthie, Ruthie", a song that Rob and I made up and put to the tune of "A Bicycle Built for Two"
Then, because we were new to the RAP scene, we spent hours developing a rap which the Nordberg and Fox kids delivered, the boys dressed up in my dad's officer uniforms and the girls wore army caps.  Here is a partial offering:

"We are the clan and we're here with the truth
About the early days of Ev and Ruth

Now Captain Ev was really neat
He wave to Ruth from the pilots seat
I'm off to England but I'll be back soon
I'll marry you neath the April moon

The weeding was set for April 1
But planning mistakes were some of the worst
Warnamakers sent the wrong wedding dress
So back to the store went the maid in distress

The flowers were few and there was no food
Doris and Astrid were in a mood
So into the kitchen shot Mae in a a flash
Chicken and pastries she prepared for the bash

Awaiting the bride, the guests sat still
When into the church burst brother Bill
He was back from the war, a surprise for the bride
So tears of joy his sister cried

And 5 more verses after that!  The grandkids were spectacular!

Then because Rob and I were doing a lot of barbershop at our church for dessert nights, we decided to have a barbershop made up of my uncle, cousin, brother-in-law, Ethan, old friend and the husband of another cousin

This time the tune was "In the Good Old Summer Time"  And we made up lyrics that described their first home in Hobb, New Mexico, where my dad was stationed instructing pilots!  Not much there in Hobbs, New Mexico but they were happy.....cooking in a coffee maker!  Don't ask me how she did it.

My sister Joan, composed a poem which Joey, Bobby and Laura recited.
"We have a poem to tell you...of people we love a lot.

They were married 50 years ago...that is where we'll start.
They are our Grandparents...and we know they love us too.
You ask us how we know they love us...well, sit back and we'll tell you.
They love to see us laughing; and dancing in the rain;
and even when we lose our shoes..they love us just the same.
They love to hear us singing...
They love to see us smile...
They love the way we take each day in our own unhurried style.
They're happy when we're happy; and sorry when we're sad,
and even though it may now show...They love us when we're mad.
They love us when we act so brave; when we fall and hurt our knee.
They love to watch us sleeping,
tucked away in our dreams.
They love to hear us whisper...
all our great plans and our schemes.
They love to see us deep in thought; They love to watch us play.
And though we're sure we'll never know....they love us more each day.

So, we think we're pretty lucky to be part of this special day.

We are glad, Grandma and Grandpa....
everything worked out this way.

Ethan and Kristen performed a "Praise Melody" on the violin and flute.

The 26 friends from Hillside Church sang a Blessing song.

Liz, Joan and I each gave a tribute.

And Ethan sang the finale...."Can You Feel the Love", from Lion King.

My folks were part of the Greatest Generation.  And they certainly contributed to that honor.  They loved each other through some tremendous difficulties, dying within a month of each other.

I'm so glad we honored them 19 years ago.  It does seem like yesterday when Rob and I were sitting around the dinner table developing lyrics and and encouraging everyone to participate and loving them on their very special day!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Words

I like words. 

I like the way they fit together; the visual picture they create, the sounds they make, the sensations they elicit.

The other night Rob read me the short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  He had found an old 1940's anthology of short stories that belonged to my mom in one of our many bookcases and despite my protestations about reading that particular story, he continued.  I thought the movies that have made from the short story have been incredibly stupid. But it was so engaging and enjoyable, so much better than any of the movies.   I encourage everyone to read those three very short pages. 

A Mind of Winter is a small book of selected poems for a snowy season.  Seems appropriate this year.

I love the introduction by Donald Hall:

"Winter is always again.  From the fire of October, so garish it would be vulgar if it were design, the year extends through diminishing sun into the grays and browns of an analytic cubist landscape.  One day the matted leaves take on a white, gradual thickening.  Snow decorates the tops of boulders and the flat extent of hay fields.  It reverses the twilight shades of November into multiple curves of white, against which deciduous trunks raise their bare verticals, and continuous coniferous green takes on more green."

"The best part of winter is snow falling.  Sky grays over, formidable in its warnings, and clouds blacken, until the first flutter falls.  Flakes gather density until the frigid air is a white fabric of descent.  Descent is the music of snow, proceeding to its coda, flat over garden and road and hay field."

"The best part of winter is imagining spring.  Walking in the whiteness that feathers to our boot tops, we dream awake that the days of April already warm us.  We look through the surface of the humped white garden to watch daffodils rise, and peonies patalled the color of snow."

"Winter is our bear -sleep of commodious shelter.  Winter is the year's pause."

"At winter's stuttering end, in March, midnight freezes and noon is tropical, maple trees grow tin pails, and from sugar houses smoke rises day and night.  Winter springs into sweetness."

Only in the north can one, not only imagine, but see that maple trees really do grow tin pails!  So much fun!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wolf

We went to the movies over Christmas vacation

The four of us.

"The Wolf of Wall Street"

We left the theater after 10 minutes.

What has happened to our culture??

Explicit sex, objectification of women, gratuitous greed, lying, cheating, promotion of divorce, corruption of one time honorable men, filthy language, promotion of drugs and alcohol

I once heard it said that the "bad news" has to come before the "good news".

People don't want to hear or know that they are sinners, but there is hope.

We are sliding precipitously.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What Is A Christmas Tree

 
Memories
 
 
 



We put the tree up together.

Unusual.

Usually, Rob, sometimes with the help of the "boys" erect the tree in the stand and then leave me the honor of decorating the tree.

But this year we did the whole project together, buying the tree on the coldest day of the year to date, -24 degrees, setting up the tree, lighting the tree and decorating the Christmas tree.

There have been years that our sole object was to get the largest possible tree that would fit in the house.  Yes, we've had to wire it to the ceiling and bannister, build an extra big and sturdy tree stand, purchase extra boxes of lights and squeeze into the narrow opening to get into the kitchen.

This year it was more manageable.  Not too big, not too small.  Just right.

As we dug through and unwrapped all the ornaments that adorn the tree, so many memories flooded into that livingroom.

There were ornaments from my Grandmother whose tree was always a tabletop tree filled with pinecone skiing snowmen and bright lights.  There were beautiful glass ornaments, in there original boxes, minus the stiff plastic from the tops, made in Germany, from my parents.  When my children were small, we only had non breakable ornaments, many made by my sister and myself.

We have ornaments from the places we have visited, NYC, Austria, Italy, Dubai, Washington, Grove Park Inn, Chimney Rock, Jamacia, San Fransico, Norway, Kentucky.

And so many ornaments bring back Christmas's pack with fun, anticipation, church, family and food.

And now I have put the memories away until next year.

The festive lights are gone and all the remembering of events in my lovely past.  And onto this next year!!  What does the Lord have in store for us these next 365 days?

I expect He will fill our lives with His love and wonder, living our lives in this sleepy little village.  I expect to see so much of His beauty enveloping me each day, in the lives of my friends and neighbors, my little flock of animials and my plots of gardens.  I expect He will teach me new things and challenge me in negative behaviors.  And I hope to become more like Him in vision and holiness.