Monday, July 18, 2016

In Mint Condition

A couple of weeks ago I offered to help my friend, Ann, prepare for her daughter's baby shower.  The shower was being planned by Ann's sister, Sharon and Sharon's daughter, Sarah.  It was decided to have the shower at Ann's place because it was more centrally located.  Sarah lives in Seattle and Sharon lives two and a half hours from Ann's, so Ann was helping with the preparation.  A few days before the shower Ann called me while she was searching for a few last minute items.

"Do you know where I can find some good mints for the shower?  I have looked everywhere and just can't find any that I like."

My ears perked up at the word "mints" and before I could stop myself, these words tumbled from my mouth, "Why don't we make them?  I have an old family recipe.  Linda and I made mints for Maggie's (my niece) wedding and everyone loved them!"

"You know how to make mints?  Is it difficult?  Do we have time?"  Ann had good reason to question our ability at making mints as we have had a few other adventures in creating interesting treats.

I assured her that we could do it and told her the ingredients that we would need. (Well, I had to get the recipe from my sister...the recipe that our mother, Maxine, sent to her thinking it would be a fun business for Linda and her friend Janie to have...way back in 1973.)  The business never started, but the recipe remained in Linda's library of cookbooks and recipes.

I arrived at Ann's early in the morning after stopping to pick up butter, powdered sugar and the "secret ingredient" (Kayro Syrup).  I brought my large Kitchen Aid Mixer because I remembered that the batter becomes really stiff and a hand mixer would not work.  The following pictures show our progress.

These are the ingredients we used.

The butter was not soft enough so I put it out on the patio table.  It was really hot outside so it did not take long for the butter to become soft.

We mixed the butter with the powdered sugar and then added the Kayro syrup.  It looks like I did not mix the butter and powdered sugar first, but dumped all the ingredients in at the same time.

 Even with the mistake of not mixing the powdered sugar and butter first, the batter worked out fine.

 This is what it looks like before adding the flavor and coloring.

The next few steps will be videos. 
In the first video I am mixing the lemon flavoring into the batter. Since Apple devices don't allow Flash videos, click on the YouTube links to see the videos. YouTube link for Mint Flavoring .

Ann will now show the proper way to add the coloring. :-) YouTube link for Mint Coloring . For some reason this video is upside down, but it doesn't hurt presentation.

We soon realized that we did not read the instructions carefully.
YouTube link to Reading Instructions Helps

The next video is short and blurry, but it explains why we decided to use the color we had. YouTube link for Coloring Mistake II

Of course, we do not know that dinosaurs are this color, but we had a choice of dinosaur molds or shell molds.  We had little square molds but they just looked like blobs of dark teal.  The next step is to put the batter or dough (not sure what to call it) into the molds.  We first....well, watch the video, it explains it much better...and Ray thinks it should be used on Saturday Night Live. YouTube link for Having a Ball

Here is the last step...rolling the balls in sugar and then placing them balls in the molds.
YouTube link to Molding Mints

The next two pictures show what our first mints, the dinosaurs looked like.  I have to stress that these really are dinosaurs...really...a T-Rex and a Stegosaurus.  Ray thinks one looks like a dancing Godzilla with a smile on its face.

 We tried a few more to see if we just needed practice or if we were going to have a bunch of mints that looked like mutated monsters.  You can see that the shells don't look too bad.  The square piece just had no personality so we decided not to use that mold.

After looking at our creations and gagging on the strong lemon scent we thought the taste would probably be too strong.  Tasting just a tiny corner of one of the mints we knew we could not serve them to anyone.  We had used too much flavoring and too much coloring.  Fortunately, we had plenty of ingredients to attempt another batch.  Since the shells were the only mold that made what actually looked like shells, we chose them.  

Here is the final creation!

The only problem with these was that the flavors did not match the colors.  We called them mystery mints. The green mints were lemon, the lavender were raspberry,  the teal were mint and the coral color was cinnamon flavored.

What we were missing was the orange flavor.  When Linda and I made mints for my niece's wedding we had an orange flavor that tasted like those Orange Creamsicles we used to get.  So, I made a few more mints so I could have the orange flavor.  I did not want to confuse people by making yellow mints be lemon (since the green ones were lemon) so the yellow ones were a caramel flavor.

I don't know if Ann and I will be making any more mints.  We had so many because each batch yields about 125-130.  It is a good thing we can freeze them.  Of course, I brought some home for Ray.  I am just glad that they turned out so pretty after our first disasters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Schooled :-)

My mother, Maxine, would have been 97 today, July 6, 2016.  I have written a number of Maxine stories and really need to write more.  She would always have people laughing with her as she told stories; partly because she would be laughing as she told the story, and partly because her delivery was...well, just funny.

Linda is our family genealogist and has traced our family lines back many generations.  She is able to check sites like to see if there are any articles about family members in the archives.  Recently, she found this, and I thought today is a perfect day to share it.  Linda and I remember this happening, but had no idea that a newspaper in Arizona would have an article about it.

Some of you who know that the roads were a lot safer when Maxine did not have a driver's license.  My father kept trying to get her to get her license so that she could at least go to the store on her own.  She did have her license for a few years when we lived out in the country in Indiana, but did not bother to get her Ohio license when we moved to Ohio.  Sad to say that after my father died at age 66, Maxine enrolled in driving school and got her license at age 67.

Here are a couple of posts I have written about Maxine's driving.  Check them out if you need a chuckle for today.

Maxine Overdrive

Maxine Overdrive Sequel

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Winner of the First Smile a Day Picture Caption Contest!!!

This is the smile picture that needed a fun caption.
A few days ago I posted a picture on Facebook for my Smile Project.  Each day I post a smile. When Your're Smiling  I usually add some sort of comment with it, but this picture needed a caption.  So, I asked for people to add their captions.  After reading a few of them, I decided to make it a contest.  I had not created a contest for ages, so now was the time!  This blog post will show how I determined the winner and announce who that winner is.  I know that everyone is waiting for this 'breaking news' so I will begin.

First, I printed the captions that my friends had written.  I cut them into individual strips.  My plan was to put them all in a hat and have someone pick out the winner. I removed my sister's and husband's captions.  All relatives must be disqualified in such a high stakes contest!

Strips of the Captions.

Next, I folded each strip.  The excitement was growing. Who will be the lucky winner?  How many times should I fold each strip?   I must do this properly.  I don't want anyone to think this was rigged.

Folded Captions

Now, I must find the perfect hat to use.  It did not take me long to find it.  This hat had fallen from its holder just that morning as if asking for me to choose it.  I love how everything was working with me, even the hat knew the importance of this contest.

Thank you, Flower Power Cruise hat for volunteering to take part in the contest.

I had thought that I would have Ray pick out the winning caption, but he was focused on his drone software (and it was not being cooperative). I know he would have taken a few seconds to pick a caption out of the hat...but right when I headed to his walks Ary.  Perfect!  Ary loves to pull things out of nooks and crannies and bat around his discoveries.  I set the hat in front of him and he just looks at me.  So I dump them on the floor next to him.

Oh so close!  Has he chosen the winner?

Expectations are way too high...he needs a break from the excitement.
Well, now what do I do?  I decided that Ray would have to be the one.  I deposited the slips back into the hat and stepped into Ray's office (which is also our spare bedroom).   Ary must have felt guilty for failing me.  He followed me and jumped on top of the bed, and began pawing at the hat.  (Ray told me that Ary was not feeling guilty, but that he was just being a cat,)

Ary to the rescue!
And....if you look closely you will see the winner!  Steve Warner, you are winner of the first Smile a Day Picture Caption Contest!  You now need to message me your address so that I can send you the prize!  I am sure you are overwhelmed with excitement.  And, for those of you who participated and did not win...don't worry.  I know there will be other Smile Caption Contests.

And the winner is.....Steve Warner!
Congratulations, Steve. I would have had this written yesterday, but as you can see, Ary wanted to help me type this, and I find it difficult to type with a cat sitting on the keyboard.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.  I really love doing these and it is fun when others join me.  Oh, and I almost forgot! (Thanks, Barb, for asking me.)  Here is Steve's caption.

Mom said to get a hair cut and get a real job... That's bull$#!+

Monday, June 13, 2016

Just Three Words....

Late Thursday night (or was it early Friday morning...) I received a text from my friend, Ann.  We have been friends since I moved to Toledo when I was in the 8th grade.  Her family welcomed me with open arms as did mine with Ann.  Her text was just three words, "Are you up?"  I was in bed, but still awake playing Words with Friends.  Reading those three words I could actually feel my heart skip a beat.

Ann, her sister, Sharon, and brother, Jim had driven to North Carolina to visit their uncle.  Their brother, Gary, would be joining them on Friday.  I knew this.  It is amazing how the mind travels so fast with all the scenarios that those late night words, "Are you up?" can create.  Were they in an accident?  Was their uncle okay?

For once my thumbs cooperated as I typed, "Yes," and sent the text.  I quickly sent another, "Are things okay?"  But, I knew things were not okay.  My hands were shaking, but still, my thumbs worked the letters with ease.


"Oh no...what is happening?"  I prepared myself for bad news.

"Please, just between you and Ray.  Ben died today"

Ben?  Sharon's son, Ben?  Ben.... who survived deployment in Afghanistan as a medic?  Ben... who was now living in Texas with his wife?  Ben...who was now in the New Mexico Guard?  I had just read on Facebook that he was in Albuquerque participating in summer training.  Again, my mind went into over drive... running the movie of memories of Ben... meeting him as a tiny little new born until this spring when he brought his wife to Ohio so we could all meet her.

Ben with his dog, Kelty

My heart wrenched.  I have no children of my own, but I have two stepchildren and nieces and nephews.  When I was a teacher I felt that my students were my children while they were in my classroom.  I loved each one of them.  The closest I have come to losing a child is when a student died.  Even now, remembering those times I feel tears rolling down my cheeks.  And I wonder...."If I feel this way, how do Sharon and Dan feel....Ben's parents?  How do the aunts, uncles and cousins feel?"  It must be ten times...or many more times what I am feeling.

The Harris Family, June 2015

Words sound so hollow now.  The pain is raw.  Any attempt by me to express my sorrow to Dan and Sharon sounds trite to me.  So, I turn to writing and even that is failing me.  I stare at the screen, seeing blurred letters through unfallen tears.  Maybe a few memories will help.

Here is a collage of Ben in his military uniform.  The upper left shows how children were drawn to him when he was deployed in Afghanistan.  The upper right center was taken when Ben surprised his mother at the school where she worked.  He had just returned home from Afghanistan.  The lower right picture is Ben escorting his mother at his sister's wedding last year.

I remember picking up Ben at the airport when he was returning from a trip to Alaska.  His whole family, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins took a cruise to Alaska, but he had to return a couple days early.  I am not sure why.  My memory is how excited about his experiences in Alaska.  He was so animated and told in detail all the adventures he had there.  He talked about taking pictures and maybe being a photojournalist would be an interesting career.  He mentioned about how cool it would be to be interviewed on NPR about his work.

Ben resting by a mountain stream.

I like this memory of Ben because it was just the two of us....and he did almost all of the talking.  He was at that age when many young guys would just sit in the car and give one word answers, but instead he gave me a gift by sharing with me some of his dreams.  I will always remember this.

Ben Harris That's a Napoleon smooth bore cannon, which is the same as the Ohio Statehouse guns. Antietam is still the single bloodiest day in American history. More men died that day than all the previous wars. Even the D-day invasion saw fewer casualties. (Ben's words and description)

"My first army training at Fort Schnelling Minnesota, I'm the little guy. My infantry regiment and battalion first formed there to serve in WWI. Their commander was Leonard Wood, for whom the fort was named where my basic training was conducted. Coincidence or destiny to be in 1-41. I don't think so.'
Ben's words

After graduating from The Ohio State University Ben seemed at a loss on what direction to take.  I think he was so talented and smart in so many things it was difficult to latch onto one thing.   He led tours through the State Capitol Building.  Ray and I were on one of Ben's tours and (being a teacher) I could just see Ben talking to young children and capturing their attention.  He had so much knowledge and shared it with enthusiasm.   Ben was a counselor at the Philmont Scout Ranch where I think he would take part in historical enactments for the scouts.  His knowledge of the Civil War and World War II could match Ray's.  I wish they had had the chance to get into discussions about this, but that can not happen now.

The masterful Sgt. Harris at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico

Another picture from Philmont Scout Ranch.  Looks like these guys took their roles quite seriously.

There is much more about Ben.  He loved to backpack in the mountains.  That probably started with early hiking trips with his parents in the Grand Tetons.  Ben followed the Columbus Crew Soccer Team and of course, The Ohio State University sports programs.  I think his Grandmother Luppens might have had some influence on this because she was always current on sporting events.

 I will always remember the last time I saw him when he introduced me to his wife, Cherilyn.  The smile on his face told it all....He was in LOVE.  Their plans were to live in Texas because Cherilyn was still in the Army.  Ben joined the New Mexico Guard.  Ben embraced Cherilyn's Navajo culture and they planned to settle in Arizona many years from now, after they had traveled and raised a family.  In fact, we found out a few weeks ago that they are expecting a baby January 9.

Cherilyn and Ben

Tears return as the circle of life can sometimes seem cruel and unfair.  Ben, your spirit will ride the wind.  It will ride the wind over the Southwest to comfort Cherilyn.  It will ride the wind over the Great Tetons where your family has such strong ties. It will ride over Afghanistan where your service  was a source of pride to your family.  And it will ride over Ohio where your family and friends will grieve as we try to celebrate your life.

Ben Harris....I might have to use this as one of my smiles that I post each day on Facebook.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rae's Firefly

Two weeks ago I went to New Mexico to attend the Cuyamungue Institute Board Meeting for this year.  Last year I wrote about the meeting because we had set aside time to honor our dear friend, Rae.  She had been the Vice President of the Institute and her death left us all feeling a need to something special in her memory.  Before I started to write this, I decided to read the post I wrote last year.  It told about how we honored Rae and what we planned to build for her.  If you want to read it, check out this link: Happy Birthday, Rae.

Rae had a special table where she would sit and smoke her American Spirit cigarettes.  This is the only place at Cuyamungue Institute where people are allowed to smoke.  It is outside with an umbrella to shade us from the sun.  The umbrella did not function well, though and sometimes would blow away when the wind spirits wanted to have a bit of fun.  So, we decided to have a structure build to replace the rickety umbrella.  It was to be called, Rae's Firefly because she called the smoking area, Firefly.

Here is the Firefly Table as it was a few years ago.

Another picture of the Firefly table....but where is the umbrella?
Looks like a tree captured the umbrella when it was blowing in the wind...
Many people donated money to Cuyamungue Institute in memory of Rae when she died.  We had about 75% of the money from donations that was needed to build this structure.  In April, Stephanie Stephens and I presented a short workshop hoping to earn enough money so we could build Rae's Firefly.  Our workshop was such a success that I knew we would be able to begin building.

People enjoyed the Firefly even if Rae was not there.

This was also where Rae did business transactions.

....and of course, a place for a quick hair cut.

Ray (my husband...we call him TR, not to be confused with Rae...Florida Rae) and I drove to New Mexico in May with a van full of items that needed to be stored at Cuyamungue.  I thought Paul (the President of the board) acted a bit strange when we arrived.  When I climbed out of the van, Paul came running out to greet me and ushered be toward the Student Building.  I saw him get his cell phone out but my attention was drawn toward the area of the smoking area.  There it was!  A structure built of wood and logs from the area.  A table with chairs seemed to invite us to step in and enjoy the shade.  Paul was taking a video of my surprised expression.

Here is Rae's Firefly!  We wanted it to be open on all sides to get the desert breeze.  I am so thankful that Paul took time to build this.  He did have some help from a local young man.

Here are some pictures of Rae's Firefly and a few more of Cuyamungue Institute.  It is a place I love, the Land is a refuge for animals....four legged and two legged.  I can feel Rae's spirit there, and hear her deep laugh as she tells stories.

Here are Paul, Ray and Dave making music in Rae's Firefly

What a wonderful place for us.  It is not quite finished yet, but I know it will be perfect.  We could sit there and enjoy the fresh desert air and not swelter under the sun.

And here are just a few more pictures of the Institute....just because I want to post them.

Here is a picture of our buildings.

This is the May Pole that was built this year.

I can't forget a picture of the labyrinth!
Here are some of the Board Members, plus Ray, our photographer.
Ray took some drone pictures that are amazing.  I hope to put a couple of those in my next post.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Surprise Package!

I know I have mentioned how glad I am that there is a Facebook.  I know many think that people share too much information or post mean political stuff.  I know that there have been Facebook fights where people say horrid things to each other. I know that terrible bullying has occurred.  I could make a long list of why some people have a negative view about Facebook.  But, for me, Facebook has reconnected me with childhood friends, relatives I rarely get to see, and also the opportunity to make new friends that I may never meet, but who have the same interests as I.

I have written twice about my Smile Project on Facebook.  This is where I post a picture of a smile each day.  My Facebook friend, Susan Keeker, started this.  I have a rough draft about Susan and her sister, Jamie, but today I have to write a short post that says 'THANK YOU' to them.

Yesterday I received a package in the mail.  Ray had gotten the mail and set the package on the table for me to see when I returned from my walk in the park.  Stepping into the kitchen I noticed the package and wondered what it might be.  I had already received all of my on line orders, so this was a mystery.  When I opened this package all I could do was smile.  Susan and Jamie had made a My Social Book of all of the smiles from last year....and ordered a copy for me!   How kind, how thoughtful, how wonderful to open a surprise book of smiles.  Thank you, thank you and thank you again.  I wish someone would have been there to take a picture of me when I first opened it to catch that spontaneous smile. Oh well, maybe Ray and I will try to recreate it.

If I had not joined Facebook, I would never have reconnected with Susan and Jamie.  I am not sure when I last saw them.  Our families (along with the Lamars, Wilsons, Wileys and Tresslers) would all have picnics and get togethers when I was young.  My family moved to Ohio when I was in the 8th grade so the visits were sparse after that.  Jamie and Susan were quite a bit younger...maybe four or five, so I really did not get to know them until Facebook reunited us as friends.

Jackie holding the Smile Book and card from Jamie and Susan

Look at all of the smiles!
Well, we did not recreate the spontaneous smile....but I hope this shows how touched I am.  I will be smiling each time I think about this thoughtful gift!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I'm Thinking of a Geyser in the Hills.....

Smiling Al
A little over a month ago I began the Smile Project.  Each day on Facebook I post a picture of a smile.  I can not take credit for this idea.  Susan Keeker (a Facebook friend and family friend from long ago) started the Smile Project over a year ago.  After a year of smiles posted by her, she decided to stop...and that is when I began.  You can read more about it here. When Your're Smiling...

Each morning I get to choose a smile from many smiles I have collected and saved in my Smile Folder.  I have smiles from friends, family, former students, friends of friends and many that I have collected from Flickr.  I have enjoyed picking the Smile of the Day.  I have tried to get a balance of, children, men, women, animals, different cultures, etc.  What I have found is that no matter what the smile, someone is always touched in some way.  It has been so cool to read the comments and see how many people have liked the pictures.

Today, when I checked birthdays on Facebook, E. A. Hall was listed as having a birthday.  He would have been 106 years old today.  I am so glad that his Facebook page is still active because staring right at me was his smiling face.  I knew that today, I had to post Al's face for the Smile Picture.  I explained in my post a little about him, but my sister added a comment that made me realize that I needed to say a bit more.

Al (as we called him) married my father's first cousin, Dorothy.  My father lived with Dorothy and Al after he returned from WWII.  My father had been seriously injured in the war, losing a leg but earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.  When he got out of the hospital Dorthy and Al welcomed him into their home.  At that time they had two children, Tim and Susan.  I think my father lived with them until he married my mother...but that is a whole other story.  I just need to stress the love and sense of 'family' that my father must have felt from Dorothy and Al. This relationship lasted for the rest of their lives and continues with our third cousins.

Dad holding Linda, Mother holding me, Al holding Mark, Susie standing
in front of Aunt Nett

This is almost the same picture as above.  Dad must be taking the picture and
Dorothy is in the shot.  Linda and Mark are holding hands.  This was taken in
summer of 1951 because Mother is holding me...the baby.

Dorothy, Al, Jo (Dorothy's sister) and Maxine

My sister and I credit Al for our 'beloved' traveling game, Stink Pink.  My parents had driven to Yellowstone National Park with Dorothy, Al and their son, Tim. (The rest of us young children were left at our grandparent's.)  On that trip Al taught them the Stink Pink game.  My father continued that tradition on our own family trips.  He would begin by saying, "I'm thinking of a geyser in the hills."  When we were young we loved playing this game, but as teenagers, Linda and I would give a silent groan.

The game was to find out what the person was thinking.  If the person said it was a Stink Pink, then the answer had to be two rhyming words.  I know there are different variations of this that others play, but we called ours Stink Pink.  I could be thinking of an obese feline and say that it was a Stink Pink.  The answer would be Fat Cat.  As for the geyser in the hills...that was a Stinky Pinky, meaning that there were two syllables in the words.  The answer for that is Mountain Fountain. Three syllable words were called Stinkity Pinkity.

Maxine, our mother, would not be satisfied with just giving clues.  She would make up elaborate stories, often getting lost in the object of the game, but somehow winding back to a clue.  We really did have fun playing this game...even as teenagers.

I feel like this blog post is similar to Maxine's Stink Pink stories.  I began by talking about my Smile Project because I wanted to write about Al  but wandered into the game he taught my parents so many years ago.  With that, I will stop before I....Stinky Pinky.  (Wander Longer...not perfect, but it will work.)  Okay, Ray doesn't like "Wander Longer" because it, as Paul Simon sings..."Strains to rhyme."  He thinks Wander Yonder works.  Hmmmm, I can't think of any other way to end this now try!  :-)