Archive for the ‘Writing practice’ Category

Making Fudge

A couple weeks ago our 12-year-old granddaughter was talking about another grandmother making fudge, but our granddaughter had never seen how this is done. Well….

I told her that the next Wednesday when she rides the school bus to our house on early-out day, we’d make fudge. She also was talking about caramels, so I told her we’d make caramels, too!

It has been a couple years since I’ve made any candy, since we don’t need to eat this calorie-laden stuff anymore, but I know how, and since I had an eager learner around, I knew we had to do this. After all, this is family tradition!

My mother has always told the story that on the Sunday before Christmas her father (my grandfather) always wanted his wife (my grandmother) to make fudge. That was the only candy he ever wanted, a batch of fudge on the Sunday before Christmas. This isn’t just any fudge, this is stir fudge. You cook the mixture to just the right temperature (without stirring), then add butter and let it cool to just the right temperature, then you stir it, just until it “turns.” You only know when it has turned when you are experienced at making it! If you stir it too much, the candy turns sugary. If you think it is done too soon and pour it out into the pan, the fudge will never set up. You stir it until it is just right! (Sound like a certain fairy tale?)

My sister and I learned how to make stir fudge from our Mom and Dad. Mom cooked the mixture and Dad stirred. My husband and I follow the same tradition.

So, this last Wednesday, we were all set to make stir fudge. By the way, the barometric pressure also has to be just right–it can’t be going down!

I discussed all of the ingredients with our granddaughter. I explained the difference between unsweetened chocolate and the other kinds of chocolate. I explained how we only use “cane” sugar. So many variables! We got all of the ingredients assembled and cooked to the 232 degrees. Then we added the butter and set the pan outside to cool (it was below freezing outside). She kept tabs on the temperature while we made the caramels (a traditional recipe from my husband’s mother). Fortunately, the caramels were poured into the pan to cool at about the same time the fudge was 110 degrees, the temperature for stirring.

My husband started the stirring, but let our granddaughter have a couple turns, and I took a turn as well. Then, all of a sudden, the mixture turned, but something just wasn’t quite right. We poured it into the pan, anyway and the mixture set up, but it just didn’t act right. Then when we scraped the pan with our tasting spoons, it just didn’t quite taste right, either.

I reviewed all of the ingredients and I hadn’t forgotten anything. I started reviewing any possible variables. It was then I realized the last time I made fudge was probably before I switched to using unsalted butter in our home. I researched the Internet and sure enough fudge needs salt to give it structure. Who would have known? Obviously, I didn’t. Now I do!

The fudge melts in our mouths and tastes ok, but it just isn’t quite right. I’m not making another batch of this sinful treat this year, but I’ll bet I buy salted butter the next time I make it!

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Earlier I wrote about making Raspberry Jam .

Well, it is raspberry season. We grow both black raspberries and red raspberries on our lot. However we also know where to find wild black raspberries, so we’ve been “on the hunt.”

Sometimes, however, this is a perilous venture… our oldest son got a case of poison ivy this year. Dave always wears long sleeve shirts and long pants, but those who don’t take this precaution end up with many scratches and possibly insect bites.

Bowls of Raspberries

Raspberry Pie

Our favorite is black raspberry pie, but we have several good recipes for using these delectable berries.

Weight control is difficult during raspberry season!

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A warm summer day, a picnic and much swimming. A couple days ago Wyatt, Jaiden and I headed to Lake Ahquabi State Park, about six miles south of Indianola. Kim and Elena also joined us for lunch and a little time in the water.

I used to tell our sons that I would consider them to be good spellers when they could spell “Ahquabi.” None of them ever took me up on the challenge, but Jaiden took me up on the challenge after I told her the story on our drive out. If she can’t spell it now (and she might be able to), I’ll bet she can the next time.

We found a picnic table under a tree near the beach and deposited our gear. Soon Kim and Elena arrived. They had been at the beach on the Gulf of Mexico only a week earlier. There Elena was afraid of the waves, so didn’t go into the water much; she mostly played in the sand on the beach. With no waves at the lake, she had no fear of the water. Kim or I stayed with her the entire time when she was in the water and we tried to emphasize the importance of not going into water over her knees. She loved the water.

Wyatt and Jaiden loved the water, also. When we go to the city pool, there are so many kids it is impossible to SWIM. Kids play, but can’t really do much swimming. I counted the people in the lake a couple times and reached numbers of 30 to 35 each time. At the lake, they were able to practice their swimming strokes. Both have had lessons; Wyatt just finished his second year a week ago. I was pleased with what I saw.

They also had sophisticated squirt guns (one is now residing somewhere in the lake) and they had brought some buckets and trowels. At one point they found a toad, named it Hoppy, and created a home for it in the sand with water and sea weed. (Thankfully, they released Hoppy back to the lake before we left instead of trying to bring it home.)

After lunch and after Kim and Elena left, I watched Jaiden and Wyatt from the shade of the tree. Farther out on the lake were several boaters, one person trolling his motor boat, some people with canoes, some stand-up paddle boaters, some 2-person paddle boats, and even some people with a pontoon boat criss-crossed the lake (from Wesley Woods, a Methodist Church camp on the other side of the lake).

I remember when the beach was covered with people. In the 1950s local and Des Moines newspaper headlines would extol the number of people who had been at the lake on a given summer Sunday, often many hundreds, even thousands. This is where my brother, sister and I took Red Cross swimming lessons with our friends. A school bus transported us to and from our lessons, each day for two weeks every summer.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed many picnics at the lake, and even stayed in some cabins for 4-H camp. Cabins have now been gone for many years.

In those days, the lake had ropes with buoys delineating the shallow water from the deeper water. We didn’t venture beyond the ropes unless we were confident of our swimming ability. There were two rafts in the shallower water and most of the time we would jump or dive off these rafts. There was one raft in the deeper water and further out a big tower with two diving boards, on opposite sides of the tower, one higher than the other. I never went off the highest board and probably only went off the lower one a couple times. I only remember two life guard stations, one at the ropes and one on the beach. I also remember the showers and changing rooms, and the locker baskets that held our valuables while we were swimming. In those days we had to pay to swim.

Everything changed as cities built municipal swimming pools.

Today swimming at the lake is free, but “at your own risk.” Today there are only a few buoys indicating to boaters that they should not enter the swimming area.

We arrived a little before 11 a.m. and left at 4 p.m. Afterwards I heard that Jaiden and Wyatt both slept well that night!

Jaiden & Wyatt - just to the right of center

Jaiden & Wyatt – just to the right of center

Jaiden & Wyatt, and Hoppy perched on the little seaweed island on the left side of the pond

Jaiden & Wyatt, and Hoppy perched on the little seaweed island on the left side of the pond

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Just in time for Independence Day celebrations!

What a privilege! This sculpture is almost literally in our backyard… only five blocks from our house.

Bill Friedricks with the Iowa History Center located on the Simpson College campus is responsible for raising the funds and making the arrangements for us to enjoy this piece of travelling art through at least December 31, 2013… the rest of this year!

This 2005 depiction of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is 25 feet tall and weighs 30,000 pounds. Along with two granddaughters, I watched part of the day-long process of assembling the structure. We were amazed at how big it is and how it took cranes to move the pieces into place. For pictures of the installation process you can go to http://tinyurl.com/kj2f5ns. (It is a great set of photos. However, be forewarned, my computer locked up two times as I tried to view them.)

A traveling sculpture it has already been on Michigan Avenue in Chicago; in Mesa, Arizona; Indianapolis; and most recently in Dubuque, Iowa.

Some people think the suitcase is indicative of the travelling status of the sculpture; however, others think it points to American jobs being lost overseas. The stickers on the suitcase are from Taiwan, Shanghai, China, Bangladesh, India and Thailand. Whichever theory, we are pleased and proud to have it in Indianola!

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Two of our granddaughters with the lady

Granddaughters with the man

Granddaughters with the man

Lowering the man's lower body into position

Lowering the man’s lower body into position

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

Showing the iron innards and the fiberglass exterior

"God Bless America"

“God Bless America”

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I’m a Jane Fonda fan. Jane is approximately ten years older than me. I think it’s sort of a generation, admiration thing.

A few years ago I read her autobiography My Life So Far. When I retired, I started doing one of her exercise DVDs five mornings a week (“Fit and Strong”). Then a couple months ago, I added a second DVD each morning (“Walk Out”). When I discovered her 2011 book Prime Time, I ordered it. I finished reading it last week.

Subtitle is “Love, health, sex, fitness, friendship, spirit. Making the most of all of your life.” Wow, that’s really inclusive! And, yes, she covers a lot of ground in this book.

Every woman nearing retirement, or in retirement, should read this book. To write this book, Jane did her homework. In her easy-to-read style, Jane presents new, very healthy, perspectives on old age, “Act III” as she calls it. She quotes many experts and she breaks down technical terms for lay understanding. In essence, she says, in Act III we are done rehearsing, this is it, the final act, and we have to get it right or we will be left with regrets.

As I look back at my underlining and notes in the book, some of my highlights are: stay positive, keep learning, reinvent yourself, eat right, exercise, develop friendships, enjoy your partner, reduce stress, be prepared, care and nurture, become an advocate, meditate, leave a footprint, get it right.

This is what the book is all about. The subtitle says it all!


Fonda, Jane. My Life So Far. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2006.
Fonda, Jane. Prime Time. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011.

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Four hours! Lots and lots of friends! How do these things happen?

We waited in line for the pool to open at 1:00 so we could get a lounge chair by the edge of the pool. Right away I noticed that Jaiden found a friend, in fact, several friends. They were inseparable for two hours! Then I heard the story.

It happened that the day camp group from West Des Moines that she had been with last summer spends one day during the summer at the Indianola pool. This was the day! She saw lots of kids and adults she knew and was so excited. They played and played.

Then when the day camp group left at 3:00, her new best friend from Indianola arrived. We normally would have left at 4:00, but, of course, Grandma gave in when Jaiden wanted to stay another hour to play with her best friend.

Four hours at the pool! A perfect way to spend a warm summer day, Jaiden had friends and I finished my latest book.

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Weather has not been good this year for swimming, so it was our first day at the local city pool. I took two grandchildren, Jaiden and Wyatt.

At first the pool was wall-to-wall people, but mid-afternoon, two school buses picked up many of the swimmers. Then, the crowds thinned.

We had been there a couple hours when Jaiden and Wyatt were playing under a water feature that fills buckets with water, then dumps the water on anyone standing underneath. Wyatt stood under a bucket with his head up and mouth open. Immediately after the water dumped, both Jaiden and I noticed blood streaming down from Wyatt’s mouth. Jaiden told him to come to me as I was also indicating that he should come to me. I grabbed a beach towel and we headed toward the First Aid station.

We already knew that Wyatt had lost one tooth the previous day, and another one was very loose. The young First Aid attendant was already helping someone with a bloody nose, and indicated that he didn’t know anything about pulling teeth. I asked if he could just give us a piece of gauze, which he did. We stuck the gauze in Wyatt’s mouth and prepared to leave the pool. When we got to the car, I had Wyatt take the gauze out of his mouth, and there was his tooth, in the gauze!

Whew! The tooth was not lost in gallons of water… the tooth fairy would find evidence of the lost tooth that night!

Wyatt - toothless

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