Monday, January 30, 2012

Grandpas and Grandsons

At times I think my Grandson G tells better stories than I write and I know many that read this are probably saying, “well that wouldn’t be too hard.” He might even tell this one a little differently than I will. As a fiction writer I take the liberty to embellish and exaggerate and he tells stories with the imagination that only a five year old has. I think there is a writing gene and I think he’ll probably have it when he learns to write. I also have to admit that my embellishing also sometimes sneaks into my blogs.

Last Monday I had a bottom filling replaced just because my dentist thought it was getting old. No big deal. About the same time my grandson realized he had a loose bottom front tooth. We got to chatting about what a filling was and that I had not had a cleaning, dental x-ray or Novocain for fillings until I got in the Navy when I was 19 years old. It’s amazing, now that I know what I know, that my teeth are as good as they are. I tried to explain that with proper brushing, cleaning by the dentist during regular twice yearly check ups and fluoride treatments he may never have a filling or crown like grandpa.

No this is not the end of the story. Not yet! Late Friday afternoon I felt like I had something stuck between the new filling and the crown behind it. I went right to the floss that immediately got stuck. I pulled on the floss and the next thing I knew the crown was floating around in my mouth. I figured that the drilling a couple of days before on the tooth next to it or them pulling off the clamp around the filling had loosened up the crown. I called my dentist and she asked me to try to get through the weekend with ibuprofen and she would get me in on Monday.

We had been talking about the “Tooth Fairy” in anticipation of our grandson’s tooth coming out in the near future so when he saw my crown, in a plastic baggie, he asked if I was going to put it under my pillow. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try because I didn’t know if I could just have the original re-cemented or if I would have to get new one for $800. Needless to say the “Tooth Fairy” did not show up and there was nothing under my pillow. The good news is that my crown is securely re-cemented into my mouth and my dentist didn’t charge me for the visit or work. She agreed it might have been connected with the work she did a couple of days earlier.

I was the first one up this morning watching the Today Show, reading the paper and having my oatmeal when Grandson G came out to show me the very first tooth that he lost. I know he was a bit nervous about the whole thought of teeth falling out. I can’t blame him for not believing us that it really doesn’t hurt and that it happens to everyone and even happened to his dog when it was a puppy. It’s something he’s never experienced before so of course he was worried. I was happy to see that everything went well and that he now realizes that there is no reason to worry about loosing baby teeth.

I just wonder what the “Tooth Fairy” will put under his pillow and if the “Tooth Fairy” will remember that she missed me last night and maybe leave something for me tonight.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Taste From The Past

I have had a craving for my mother’s Sauerbraten for at least 10 years but I’ve been afraid to try making it even though I have her recipe. It has, however, followed the path of her German Potato Salad that she made for every special dinner or picnic that we ever had. Our Daughter has come the closest to making it taste the same. The reason is that she cooks like her Grandma Margie who had recipes written down, but also tasted as she cooked.

The other day while walking through the store I found the perfect chuck roast on sale and told everyone this would be on the menu for tonight. It marinated in vinegar, water, bay leaves, a whole cut up onion and 10 black pepper corns in the refrigerator for 48 hours. At 2:30 pm today I transferred the meat and marinade into a roasting pan and cooked it for two hours. I took it out and added 35 ginger snap cookies and a whole bottle of dark Karo syrup and put it back into the oven for another hour. I then removed the meat and tried to slice it up. It was so tender and done it just fell apart as I cut it. So far so good. The ginger snaps just dissolve so all that is left is liquid and onions, peppercorns and a bay leaf. This all gets put through a strainer and is the sauce or gravy, which gets put back into the roasting pan with the meat to warm through again while the dumplings simmer for 20 minutes.

German Potato dumplings. You either love them or hate them, even if you grew up with them. My son and I love them and wife calls them wall paper paste. It’s not her fault, she’s Danish. My son, wife and I agreed that I had done very good for the first try at sauerbraten and that I can make it again. I think we have a new convert to dumplings in my daughter-in-law. I’m almost sure my mother left something out of the recipe because my son and I agreed the gravy was too sour when we were putting it through the strainer so we added some brown sugar and it was almost perfect.

Sometimes you have to even read between the lines of recipes. Memories came flooding back with each bite of sauerbraten and dumplings that I ate. We usually had it only at Christmas and some special occasions. In this case I was able to go home again, if only through my taste buds, for a short time. Enough left over’s for another meal, probably on Sunday. I’ll just have to make some more potato dumplings because there was only one left. Guess those came out ok too.

Never be afraid to try something you haven’t done before, it might turn out better than you think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Twice In The Same Week

I really didn’t think it was possible to embarrass myself twice in the same week. Yes I did and yes it’s only Tuesday. Tuesday, January 17, 2012, my wife’s birthday. Her dinner request was to have “Taco Fest” at home. Our daughter-in-law has mastered the art of creating taco’s with everything you can think of with sides of chicken mole and home made guacamole. There are always adult beverages involved too. Beer and of course “Stinky Gringo Margareta’s.” Stay with me this is really headed somewhere.

I had to do honor guard for a funeral this afternoon, outside, temperature 20 degrees and wind blowing out of the north at 20 mph with real fine snow blowing. We also have one tomorrow with the same wind and temperature, but of course I said I’d do it again. Oscar, the coordinator and friend calls me on the phone when we have to do these. “Hi Jim, this is the Grim Reaper.” When he starts the conversation like that I know we’re going to do a funeral somewhere. He didn’t know the time for tomorrow so he said he’d call me tonight. I told him we were having a party for my wife tonight and would be home. He and the other guys were kidding that they were planning to show up. None of them did. A call came in about 6:30 pm and I didn’t look at the incoming number and answered, “party central“, just assuming it was “The Grim Reaper” to tell me where and when to show up tomorrow.

It was not the “Grim Reaper”. It was my 85 year old aunt wanting to tell me that she first got a birthday card in the mail for my wife today and that it would be late and to wish my wife a happy birthday. Now I had to explain the whole day so she wouldn’t think her nephew , who answered the phone, “Party Central”, was going nuts or worse yet had spent the whole day drinking. My aunt understood completely, I think. I really only had one beer with dinner and I didn’t stop at “The Main Tap” in town when we got done with the honor guard today to warm up.

Oh well! It could have been worse. It could have been someone from church on the phone. From now on I’m going to answer the phone, “hi, this is Jim” at least until I find out exactly who is on the other end. For those that read my blog yesterday, I let the other guys bend down to pick up the spent shell casings after we fired. I didn’t want a repeat of my holey Sunday. Any bets on how the rest of my week goes?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Just One Of Those Days

Yesterday we stopped after church at our local grocery store for a couple of get well and birthday cards, a gallon of milk, some Chinese veggies and a roll of aluminum foil. My wife dropped the aluminum foil, and I, being the gentleman that I am, bent over to pick it up. You know what’s coming next. I heard the ripping sound that no one ever wants to hear when they bend over. Yes they did rip, all the way from the zipper to my belt in the back. I stood up and my wife assured me that as long as I moved slowly and didn’t bend over everything would be fine. Just another old guy shuffling down the isle to the check out. Now these were a pair of black dress pants that were not that old and I’m not that fat. Matter of fact I’m one of those guys without a butt. Everything was fine until we walked out the door and realized that there was a wind blowing. I must have looked pretty funny trying to get to the car holding the gallon of milk behind myself trying to hide the rip in the back of my pants. I still can’t figure out how it happened, but I got picked on relentlessly at home for the rest of the day and even today. It started out with did you get holy at church today? Take my word for it that it went down hill from there.

I think the teasing is over and I never did like that pair of pants anyway. After the first time I wore them I realized they were part wool and itched when ever I was some place where it was room temperature. This is finally a good excuse to get rid of them. Unfortunately I have a pair of blue pants that are identical. I even had a suggestion that I should acquire some black underwear for when I wear dress pants.

I have only done this once before and it was at the foul line while league bowling when I was in my mid to late 20’s. Luckily a waitress had some safety pins that sort of got me through the night. I remember the guys at the bowling alley giving me such a hard time that I left immediately after I was done. I think I got ribbing from every team we bowled against for the rest of that season.

Now that you have had a good laugh on me, think back, has this ever happened to you? My wife remembered that this had happened to one of her fellow teachers in Cedarburg and that he tried to use a paper stapler to make a temporary fix. Wonder how well that worked? Well, I guess we just have to learn to laugh at ourselves, hope no one saw us and that if they did, that the picture will not keep them awake at night.

Friday, January 13, 2012


It is never to late to reconnect with people we have known in the past. It sometimes happens by accident as it did for me yesterday. I saw an email address I thought might be for my high school track coach. For some reason I felt compelled to send him an email wondering if he was my coach H and if he remembered me after 47 years. I just wanted him to know that he was a very positive influence on at least one student during his teaching/coaching career. As a senior in High School I probably didn’t feel comfortable telling him how much he meant to me and what a great coach I thought he was. I’m glad that I finally got the chance to do that.

He emailed back last night, even though he was only hours away from leaving for a vacation in Hawaii, to let me know that he did indeed remember me, that my email meant a lot to him and that he would like to reconnect with me when he returned. If there is someone in your life that meant a lot to you or made a difference in your life take a minute to send them a note or call them. It can mean more to them then you will ever know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AT&T Pioneers

I’m still alive and well, just couldn’t get inspired this month to write about anything until today. Today I reconnected with some old friends and I’m on my way to making some new ones. I am once again getting involved with the AT&T Pioneers, the volunteer organization for current and retired AT&T employees. I was a life member, but became inactive when I retired in 2000 and worked for Park Bank for 10 years. Working seems to get in the way of volunteering if you let it. A friend from church, fellow VFW member and also retired AT&T employee asked on Sunday if my wife and I would like to go along with them to their monthly luncheon meeting today. They even picked us up. I took this as an omen to get off my lazy butt and serve in one more capacity which I enjoy doing and which gives me immeasurable satisfaction.

If you have never heard of the “AT&T Pioneers” it’s a nation wide group of 325,000 current and retired employees that volunteer for many different things. They celebrated their 100th anniversary in November 2011. In 2011 they collected 50,000 pounds of food, donated 25,000 cell phones and many, many care packages to U.S. Service Men and Women, continued to repair talking books for the blind, sponsor Honor Flights for WW II Vets, mentor students and too much more to include here. It brought back fond memories of beeper base ball for the blind, doing habitat with them, Santa Flights in the cold at the Reserve base in Madison, Stand Downs for homeless Vietnam Vets in the fall and enjoying the camaraderie and fun that we had volunteering together

This is a thank you to all who have been or continue to be volunteers, especially the ones you never hear about. Thinking about my good friends in Menomonee Falls and my son-in-law. You know who you are and all that you do and I know this country is going to need more and more volunteers to move forward. If you haven’t tried it, please do because everyone has a talent they can share. If you are in Dane County Wisconsin just go to the RSVP site on your computer and they can match your talent to their needs. I’m sure most counties or cities have something similar.

Thanks to all who volunteer