All Things Chokecherry

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It’s almost gone!

February isn’t the time of year you think about preserving or canning food products, at least in most parts of the country. However it is a time when many folks are enjoying them. My sister back in North Dakota, knowing how much I love consuming all things chokecherry, gave me a small container of chokecherry syrup as a Christmas gift. I have recently been enjoying it (sparingly – it’s a small jar) on French toast on leisurely weekend mornings, along with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea in my new University of North Dakota alumni coffee mug, another Christmas gift from my sister.

Growing up in North Dakota, my memories of chokecherries go way back. Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks and canners, however it’s my maternal grandmother who I remember most making chokecherry jelly and syrup. On warm late summer days we would pick chokecherries in an open area near my grandparents’ home in tiny Oberon, N.D., not far from my hometown of Devils Lake. Picking these tiny berries wasn’t like picking something like strawberries, where you would pick three and eat two as the berries were rather sour and bitter. In fact it was a rather laborious process as the berries were tiny and the bushes gnarly. However the reward was sweet when Grandma would take the bright and dark berries and turn them into divine jellies and syrup.  Even as a kid, I appreciated their dark, rich maroon color and their sweet, deep berry rich flavor. I would slather the pretty jelly over a layer of butter on my grandmother’s homemade bread and generously pour the syrup on a stack of pancakes.

chokecherryWhen I left North Dakota for Colorado, then the D.C. area and now California, I learned many people weren’t familiar with the fruit, much less the jelly and syrup, as the bush and its berries are more commonly found in the northern tier states. If you google chokecherries, you learn that Prunus virginiana is most closely related to the black cherry and was an important part of the diet of Native Americans in the Northern Plains and Rockies for both food and medicinal purposes, including using the bush’s bark to ward off and treat colds and tummy troubles. I also learned that in 2007 North Dakota made the chokecherry the state’s official fruit.

The Internet has made it easy to order chokecherry products online, however I am always on the lookout for them when I travel back to North Dakota. As my Grandma got older and moved out of her home and her ready nearby chokecherry source she didn’t always make chokecherry products every year. Some years back Grandma was still alive and living in her own apartment I made a date with her for the two us to make a batch of chokecherry jelly, a memory I will always treasure.

img_1211There aren’t an abundance of all things chokecherry recipes on the Internet, and I am not sure how many are available in cookbooks. I am guessing that back in the day all the cookbooks produced by churches in small towns throughout Northern Plains and other areas where chokecherries grow in abundance included multiple recipes for chokecherry products. Chef and cookbook author Amy Thielen’s “The New Midwestern Table,” a cookbook published just a few years ago, includes a recipe for chokecherry nectar. Thielen, who grew up in Minnesota, describes chokecherries as follows. “The flavor of chokecherries is like a rogue black currant – the same deep winy berry flavor but with a punkier nature.”

If you also appreciate all things chokecherry, please share with me your uses and recipes for chokecherry products.

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Posted in Cooking, food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fatty Fatty Two By Four

When I was thinking of a title for this blog post, Fatty Fatty Two By Four was what first came to mind. I thought the rest that followed was couldn’t get through the kitchen door, but when I googled it I found out otherwise! I’d rather not repeat it here.

When I was growing up in my small town of Devils Lake in North Dakota for much of the time I was a chubby kid, and I got teased for it. And that hurt. A lot. One time it also resulted in physical pain, but I will get to that later.

Like many people I have been immensely enjoying the new TV series “This Is Us.”  If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about triplets born in 1980, one of whom dies during childbirth resulting in the parents adopting a third baby born a few days earlier (brought into the hospital from a fire station) whom they adopt. The show goes back and forth between current day and when the triplets – two boys and a girl – were younger. The img_0912female triplet, Kate, played by the truly brilliant and beautiful actress Chrissy Metz, is a plus size woman who was also a chubby kid. One episode focused on the triplets at about age 10 when the family was enjoying a day at a public swimming pool. Some of Kate’s “friends” write her a note that she reads by the side of the pool that says “We don’t want you to play with us anymore. You embarrass us.” The note also includes a drawing of a pig’s head.

Watching that episode brought back a childhood bullying, fat shaming memory that I hadn’t thought about in many years. Like Kate most of my friends were thinner than I was, however, thankfully I don’t ever remember them doing something like Kate’s friends did to her. I do remember at around the same age – 10 or so – playing at my friend Kelly’s house two blocks over from my house. We were outside and a small group of boys started heckling us from a distance, although I don’t remember what prompted them to do so. They began throwing some rocks at us and at one point one of them yelled at me “you’re a big Fatso” or something along those lines in an extremely loud, taunting voice. It brought tears to my eyes and I decided to leave and go home. I darted across the street and cut through the alley and ran smack dab into one of those boys. I still remember the meanness in his face, his eyes squinted and his face red and contorted with disdain. He had a large rock in his hand and even though we were literally standing face to face he swung his arm with all his might and lobbed that rock right into the middle of my forehead. He then yelled fatso one last time and turned around  and ran away. I remember being dumbfounded and shocked and probably let out a loud wail. I then sprinted the last block home – hand to my forehead – and no doubt tears streaming down my face.

I don’t remember what happened when I got home. I don’t know if I told my parents or my sister about the incident, although I had to have told somebody something because I do remember having a giant welt on my head that I couldn’t hide.

The thing I remember the most was that the cruel bullying was painful both inside and out, and something that I certainly will never forget.The stones not only hurt my bones, they hurt my heart.

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Riding in The Back Seat: Christmas and Other Small Town Memories

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St. Olaf Lutheran Church

This time of year when I am Christmas shopping I often think of a favorite childhood holiday candy. Growing up in the small town of Devils Lake, ND, our family belonged to St. Olaf Lutheran Church. We participated in the Sunday School Christmas program and after the program was finished we gathered in the church basement and were given small brown paper bags of Christmas candy to take home. All bundled up in our coats and boots and hats, I remember clutching my bag in my mittened hands and walking out into the frigid night air and snow and icy streets.  During the short ride home, sitting with my sister Julie in the back seat I would open up the bag and look for my favorite candy, which, if I remember right, was bell shaped with chocolate on the outside and medium soft white minty stuff on the inside. I don’t remember what they were called, but.I always keep an eye open for them during the holidays to no avail.

Riding in the back seat in the dark winter night after the Christmas program with my bag of candy is just one of many fond car riding memories I have from growing up in Devils Lake. Before my younger brothers came along, it was just the four of us riding in the car from places like church. We always sat in the same spots. My parents in the front – Dad driving, Mom in the passenger seat – and my sister Julie and I in the back – Julie behind my Dad and me behind my Mom.

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We had a number of different cars growing up, including one similar to this – a blue Pontiac although outs was a four-door.

We would go for drives on summer nights and on the weekends – my Mom sometimes admonishing my Dad for driving too fast – around our small town and and in the neighboring countryside, including the nearby lakes. Almost every Sunday we would drive to my maternal grandparents house for afternoon dinner (aka known as lunch in some parts with dinner being supper), in nearby teeny, tiny Oberon, where we had a choice of taking two routes, one being around a park called Sullys Hill, a national game preserve that was home to a herd of buffaloes. During much of the year it was often dark when we drove back and from the safety of the back seat I liked looking at the black sky and twinkling stars and the occasional appearance of the Northern Lights. No electronic toys or in vehicle movies meant you concentrated on the outdoors and the people surrounding you. Although my Dad did enjoy listening to Johnny Cash when we drove to Manitoba, Canada, for summer drive-in-speakerscamping trips. Even as a young kid I enjoyed the Cash tunes as we crossed the U.S. border into Canada. Summer also meant going to outdoor drive-in movie theater, Julie and I often in our summer PJs in the backseat, eating popcorn and watching our Dad hook up the speaker on our car window..Some summer suppers were enjoyed at one of several drive-in restaurants, where after eating our burgers and fries I would silently say a prayer in the back seat that we would also make a visit to the local Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone of a Dilly bar.

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The Barrel drive-in restaurant in Devils Lake, N.D. I worked there as a car-hop in my teens.

Looking back that back seat felt so safe and comfortable and, well, like home, and it’s now  associated with an abundance of fond memories. It’s where I didn’t have a care in the world. My job, my role was so simple then. Just get in the back seat, always the same place. No decisions to make. Everything was taken care of, and the good times rolled.

 

 

Posted in Christmas, family, north dakota, Small town life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why? Why Not Minot

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few years now. Why? Because I am intrigued and a little perplexed why people keep visiting a post I wrote more than five years ago called “Why Not Minot”  At the time, I was living in Colorado and job hunting in my home state of North Dakota. I had an interview at a library in Minot that resulted in the “Why Not Minot” post. The post was really more about job hunting than it was about Minot, although I did provide some information about Minot and how it got the moniker Why Not Minot. To learn why, visit the original post.

One question I have is how do people find the “Why Not Minot” post? My blog does not have a large following – far from it. If you google the words why not Minot, you have to click several pages in to see the link to my post. And why click on it? There is nothing very intriguing about the few sentences that appear. Also, how did it end up popping up in the search engine results for Why Not Minot? Maybe if I knew that I would have more people reading my blog.

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Nonetheless, people have been regularly clicking on “Why Not Minot” for years now. Every year. Every month. Almost every week.

I wonder what the people reading my “Why Not Minot” are looking for? Nobody has posted any comments for quite some time, so I really don’t know. All of these musings have left me feeling compelled to share a little more information about Minot.

Minot is not far from the geographical center of North America, located in Rugby ND.
Minot is the hometown of Hollywood Hottie Josh Duhamel, who I understand visits ND quite regularly. He recently appeared in a TV advertising campaign promoting ND.
There is a large U.S. Air Force base located in Minot
Minot, like the rest of ND, can be downright frigid in the winter
During Prohibition, Minot was apparently a hotbed for Al Capone’s liquor smuggling operations (this is new news to me)
Minot is the home to the North Dakota state fair
Minot is where my Devils Lake ND hometown bestie Shelley and I used to go to the state high school track finals

I know that’s not much, but that’s all for now. Stay tuned for more Minot ND Why Not Minot highlights.

And please do let me know what you’re looking for when you read my “Why Not Minot” blog posts.

Posted in north dakota, Traveling, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Roku Me Some Gilmore Girls

In 1983 my first real job out of college was as a communications (PR) assistant with an international export market development organization in Denver. At the time the office was being automated, fully computerized for the first time. As the youngest member of our small staff, I had the highest level of computer knowledge, which in truth was at best mildly moderate, Nonetheless, I became somewhat of our resident computer expert. I trained other staff on software, mainly word processing and database management, and answered general computer questions as best I could. Apparently my computer knowledge was so profound that I was sent to our office in Hamburg, Germany, for several weeks to help that office with computer stuff. All these years later my memory is a little fuzzy on exactly what I did – something database related I think.

old-tvIt’s safe to say these questionable computer skills did not advance nor did knowledge of anything techie. In fact I was rapidly left in the dust. Truth be told I am quite techie challenged and find all of it rather bewildering. I have not kept up with the latest and greatest of techie stuff. It was just a few years ago that I got rid of my fat, old school TV (by putting it on the sidewalk with a FREE take me away sign) and just six months ago added a DVR into the cable mix.

My techie knowledge was challenged again, when I heard that new episodes of the Gilmore Girls would be available on Netflix. I figured all I had to do was sign up again for Netflix, get the DVDs in the mail and I would be good to go! Not so. I consulted with some friends and found out my beloved Gilmore Girls would be streaming on Netflix. Streaming? Surely Lorelei would also have been confused. You can stream them on your laptop, a friend said, or a Notepad or even your phone. After a 12-year absence, watch brand, spanking new Gilmore Girls on a laptop, or even worse a small Notepad or phone. I don’t think so. it would definitely not do it justice. At least for me.

It was time for a shout out to my friends on FB – btw I AM on Chatsnap 😉 – how do I watch the new Gilmore Girls on my TV? Do you have Roku, a friend asked. Now if she would have spoken these words to me I might have thought she said do you have a raccoon? This would have been equally confusing, because I had no idea what Roku was – the Japanese word for raccoon?

I did a little research and got the general gist of the thing – it allows your TV to access the Internet. Thank you Mr. Printer guy at work for putting it into simplistic terms. I headed to Target to buy me some Roku. With the help of a cute young sales guy, I finally found the Roku in the dizzying array of Target techie items. I asked him what the difference was between the two available Rokus. He said well one thing was how do you want to use it? I just want to watch the new Gilmore Girls I said.

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Twenty four hours later the Roku is connected (not without a little frustration and hair pulling), and I am all set to watch the new Gilmore Girls, which like many I have been waiting for with high anticipation for some time.

ggSo why all the fuss about the Gilmore Girls? I did not watch the Gilmore Girls when it aired live from 2000 to 2007, although I remember hearing lots of good buzz about it. At the time I thought I didn’t know if a young mother with a teenage daughter centered show would be the thing for me, not having a daughter or kids. It was about five years or so ago that I finally saw an episode in reruns, and I was immediately hooked. I’ve since watched all seven seasons multiple times, and again and again find them enjoyable and satisfying on so many levels.

I am not alone in watching the Gilmore Girls post run. One of my nieces in North Dakota img_1010has been binge watching the Gilmore Girls. I am sure there are many more. Even my celebrity crush Jimmy Fallon, showing that the series is not just a chick thing, is binge watching and has been offering witty commentary about the the Gilmore Girls on his show.

Just what is it about the Gilmore Girls that is so appealing to so many people? Well it’s funny, amusing. It has interesting family dynamics, including two mother/daughter scenarios. It has romance, both for younger and older folks. It has the character of Rory, which at the time it first aired there weren’t many of in a TV series – a smart, kind of nerdy AND also very pretty girl all rolled into one. There is the charming small town setting with lots of feel good things in it – including a cozy diner where everybody knows your name and Lorelei and Rory chug gallons of coffee and consume massive amounts of burgers and fries. There are all the quirky and highly lovable town residents. But I think what might be most appealing for me, and many, is the rapid, witty, well written dialogue often loaded with pop culture references.

download-2The four new episodes will air the day after Thanksgiving. I was listening to NPR this week, which is doing a series where people call NPR and express their thoughts on gathering with family and friends in this still contentious post-election atmosphere. One woman with two young children said she would not be spending either upcoming holiday with her parents due to what she perceived to be virulent political comments made by them on Facebook. Her words made me sad.

Whether you are boycotting your relatives this Turkey Day or the day leaves you tense or angry or sad after political Turkey Talk – which I hope neither scenario of is the case – there is always the new Gilmore Girls to watch. And remember although over the years the girls and their family have had some pretty heated family arguments, anger and periods of time not talking to each other, in the end they always come together and still love each other.

Lastly, thank you to my friend Shurette, who told me about Roku, for reminding me that it’s Roku, not Raku, preventing it from appearing incorrectly in this post!

Posted in Entertainment, family, Gilmore Girls, Pop Culture, Popular Culture & Entertainment, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Because He’s Republican, Stupid

Get over it. Shut up. Quit whining. It’s payback time, we put up with a Democrat for the last eight  years. You diehard Republicans don’t get it. For that matter diehard supporters of either party. You assume if someone is critical of a Republican or vice versa we support the other party. Not necessarily so. You Trump supporters also don’t get why people who didn’t vote for him are so upset. As an Independent over the years I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans – again something the diehards would never dream of doing, although some Republicans did in this election, which speaks volumes. When I look at a candidate I consider a lot of factors. First and foremost I want them to be a decent human being who respects others and who I think will do good things for this country. That should just be a given, especially the respect others part. Donald Trump does not fit that bill and in such a grossly exaggerated way.

So I am going to be a little upset if he wins. And he did. If you’re a Trumpster you’re going to strongly disagree with me. So be it. But don’t you dare tell me how I should feel, or think or speak. But yet you continue to do so. When I told someone I was disappointed they told me to be excited. People are saying, in a general sense, get over it and shut up. So in the spirit of the wise words of the Dixie Chicks, don’t tell me to just shut up and sing, or in this case just shut up and live.

And if you are upset by the headline of this post because you think I am insulting you if you voted for Trump, then google it. Something people who supported both candidates should have done far more of during the election.
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Halloween Gratitude

It’s been five years since I posted I Got a Rock – Tales of a Job Hunting Coloradan when I was in the depths of chronic underemployment and job seeker frustration. I go back and read it every year around this time, and it reminds me of how ever so grateful I am to be gainfully employed, and it makes me appreciative of my perseverance. If you are job hunting keep plugging away and don’t give up! You truly can realize your dreams even if there are a few, or more, bumps in the road.

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