Baked Stuffed Apples

My brother brought baked stuffed apples to our Thanksgiving feast. The mixture of flavors and textures made them absolutely delicious. He served them as a side dish, but they could also be served as dessert.

The recipe came from a Christmas magazine put out by Hy-Vee, an Iowa-based grocery store chain. I can hardly wait to make them. The apples were plenty sweet, so I’ll cut the amount of sugar in the syrup by a substantial amount.

Baked Stuffed Apples

2/3 cups water
2/3 cup sugar (I will cut this to 1/4 cup)
9 tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 apples (Gala, Rome Beauty, Jonagold, or Granny Smith)
lemon juice

Heat oven to 350° and grease the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Combine water, sugar, and 3 tablespoons butter or margarine. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves and syrup comes to a boil. Add vanilla and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cranberries, pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in 6 tablespoons butter or margarine until combined. Set aside.

Cut apples in half across the equator. Cut out core. Stuff apples with cranberry filling, packing tightly and mounding on top. Place apples in baking dish. Pour syrup around apples. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more. Don’t overbake!

The Bro & Sis Would Be Laughing

I’m so glad the bro and sis weren’t here this morning, sitting in the audience during my workshop this morning. They would have been rolling on the floor with laughter, and that would have been way too distracting.

Why?

Well, the topic was how to organize research and writing. During our mutual childhood, my reputation was more space cadet than organizational maven. I could not keep track of either time or toys as a kid, so their soda pop would have squirted out their noses at the thought of their middle sister (who also reversed the letters d, b, p, and q with reckless abandon) teaching writers how to stay organized.

Gross, but true.

So the bro and sis need to take note of this: the workshop was well-received and my true confessions of past space cadetitis gave the organizationally challenged in our group great hope. You two can snort Pepsi out your noses all you want, but my charts and forms made more than one writer’s eyes light up. If either of you want copies, let me know. Ditto for cleaning your closets, sorting your files. I draw the line at folding underwear. I don’t even fold my own underwear. No sense being too organized.

Gross, but true.

The Dream of a Lifetime – Recycled

This week’s recycled post was selected for one good reason. It made me laugh. Three meals at McDonald’s in one day is a feat I hope never to accomplish again. It’s more fun to read about when it happened in May of 2008 than it was to eat!

The Dream of a Lifetime – Recycled

Wednesday morning, my brother and mom picked me up at 6:15 to attend my uncle’s funeral. We spent most of the day on the road. In the course of the trip, we realize a dream that would make most seven-year-olds salivate. We ate three meals at McDonalds.

In our family, this accomplishment is earth-shattering news. My siblings and I spent most of our childhoods begging to eat at McDonalds. Since the closest one was 25 miles away in Sioux City and money was tight, our pleas fell on deaf ears. Except, of course, when Mom had saved up for a big city shopping trip. Then, if we were also running short of the straws for Dad, we ate lunch at McDonalds with strict orders to save the straws, ketchup packets, plastic spoons, extra napkins and anything else not nailed to the floor.

Our taste buds have changed in the intervening years, so we weren’t thinking of Golden Arches when we started out Wednesday.  Later, my brother said he did have the Clear Lake McDonalds in mind since his mother-in-law would be there with her breakfast gang. She was, and we had a nice visit. My yogurt cup was delicious.

We arrived at our destination around noon. With the post-funeral light lunch three or more hours away, we decided to get something to tide us over. Pipestone, Minnesota’s dining options are limited. Once again, we chose McDonald’s. Their side salads are pretty good, I discovered.

At the church, Mom had time to visit with her sister-in-law before the funeral. The service was sweet and touching, a good end to my uncle’s life lived long and well. The cemetery was beautiful with dozens of fern peonies buds opening to the warm and welcome sun. During lunch back at the church, we chatted with relatives more than we ate and didn’t leave until after 5:00. By 8:30 we were close to Albert Lea, hungry as bears. Mom suggested we stop at the travel plaza that housed several fast food places. We agreed, but we weren’t hungry for Pizza Hut. We were hungry for Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, but after quick waistline checks we shook our heads.

Our third option was – you guessed it – McDonalds. I ordered a salad with grilled chicken, then caved and added a large fries to split with Mom. As we carried our food to the car, my brother said, “I think this a new record. Three McDonalds meals in one day.”

At that moment I realized we are getting really old. Forty-years ago, a day like this would have thrilled us. These days it makes us green around the gills. No doubt about it, we’re slipping. I have proof. We didn’t even save our straws.

You Know You’re Getting Older When…

  • You’re “baby” brother turns 52.
  • You’ve made the family birthday cake so many times, that when you make it for your “baby” brother’s birthday, you barely need to look at the recipe.
  • Your youngest niece is too old for Easter egg hunts.
  • You don’t recognize the name of a singer mentioned by the younger generation when playing a game on Easter afternoon.
  • You discover the singer, whose name you didn’t recognize, was big in the 1980s.
  • You say “Surprise, surprise, surprise” while playing a game with the younger generation, and it means nothing to them.
  • Their response to your description of “The Gomer Pyle Show” is a blank stare.
  • You’re excited to show off the remodeled laundry room to the younger generation.
  • They’re old enough to appreciate the newly remodeled laundry room.
  • The last group of fourth graders you taught are high school seniors.

Where does the time go?

Here’s the Proof, Sibs

This is the last blog about last week’s writing conference. I promise. But before I close the book on the subject, please scrutinize the photo above and notice my presence on a conference panel of real, live, published, legitimate authors. As you can see, they even let me hold the mike and talk.

Of course, there’s a reason why everyone’s laughing. Before I answered the first question, I stopped the proceedings and asked a member of the audience to take a picture of the panel. I needed proof for my sibs that I was not telling tales again.

See, when we were kids, I lived in my own little world. My mother indulgently called my propensity for story telling “an active imagination.” My dad rolled his eyes. My creativity-impaired sibs, called it lying. Boy am I glad they weren’t in kindergarten with me.  They might not have appreciated the stories I invented and told about them during show-and-tell. I thought of it as my personal comedy gig which grew more inventive and outrageous as the weeks rolled by.

So maybe they do have a reason to doubt my recent speaking and writing claims. And maybe I do have a reason to gather evidence to dispel their doubts. Anyway, I’m thankful that Shelly Beach humored my request instead of kicking me off the panel. Of course, after pulling a stunt like that, she may never invite me back, which is another reason I’m tickled to have this picture. It my most shiningest moment of fame since kindergarten – and it may be my last.

Not What We Expected

Sunday was different than we expected. My mom’s been dealing with health issues lately, staying at my brother and sister-in-law’s off and on for the last six weeks while she doctors and tries to regain her strength. Yesterday, Hiram and I went to their house for lunch. After lunch, we planned to visit an assisted living facility with Mom, then discuss with her what she wants to do for the next six months – go to the facility or stay with my brother and sister-in-law.

We got down there, and Mom had already decided to stay with them this fall and winter. A look at the calendar told us we’d better move clothes and furniture immediately while we had the chance – the next several weekends are booked and busy. So we canceled the appointment at assisted living, loaded Mom in the truck with John and followed them forty miles to her house, with a brief stop at our place to exchange our car for Hiram’s pickup.

Three hours later, we were done loading, driving and unloading Mom’s car and two trucks full of Mom’s stuff. Whew! When we were done, we celebrated this new stage of Mom’s life with ice cream sundaes.

Mom won’t make final decisions about her house until next spring. Her health has improved somewhat in the past few weeks, so by next spring she could be ready to live there again. If you’d like to celebrate this temporary move with her, email me and I’ll send you her contact information. She’s had lots of changes lately and many more to come, and she’d love to hear your familiar voice on the phone.

The Dream of a Lifetime

McDonald's arches

Wednesday morning, my brother and mom picked me up at 6:15 to attend my uncle’s funeral. We spent most of the day on the road. In the course of the trip, we realize a dream that would make most seven-year-olds salivate. We ate three meals at McDonalds.

In our family, this accomplishment is earth-shattering news. My siblings and I spent most of our childhoods begging to eat at McDonalds. Since the closest one was 25 miles away in Sioux City and money was tight, our pleas fell on deaf ears. Except, of course, when Mom had saved up for a big city shopping trip. Then, if we were also running short of the straws for Dad, we ate lunch at McDonalds with strict orders to save the straws, ketchup packets, plastic spoons, extra napkins and anything else not nailed to the floor.

Our taste buds have changed in the intervening years, so we weren’t thinking of Golden Arches when we started out Wednesday.  Later, my brother said he did have the Clear Lake McDonalds in mind since his mother-in-law would be there with her breakfast gang. She was, and we had a nice visit. My yogurt cup was delicious.

We arrived at our destination around noon. With the post-funeral light lunch three or more hours away, we decided to get something to tide us over. Pipestone, Minnesota’s dining options are limited. Once again, we chose McDonald’s. Their side salads are pretty good, I discovered.

At the church, Mom had time to visit with her sister-in-law before the funeral. The service was sweet and touching, a good end to my uncle’s life lived long and well. The cemetery was beautiful with dozens of fern peonies buds opening to the warm and welcome sun. During lunch back at the church, we chatted with relatives more than we ate and didn’t leave until after 5:00. By 8:30 we were close to Albert Lea, hungry as bears. Mom suggested we stop at the travel plaza that housed several fast food places. We agreed, but we weren’t hungry for Pizza Hut. We were hungry for Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, but after quick waistline checks we shook our heads.

Our third option was – you guessed it – McDonalds. I ordered a salad with grilled chicken, then caved and added a large fries to split with Mom. As we carried our food to the car, my brother said, “I think this a new record. Three McDonalds meals in one day.”

At that moment I realized we are getting really old. Forty-years ago, a day like this would have thrilled us. These days it makes us green around the gills. No doubt about it, we’re slipping. I have proof. We didn’t even save our straws.

Pet Photography

Since I launched this website, many of you have commented on the photography. Deciding to use my own photos wasn’t an easy decision. But since I come from frugal German stock, two facts tipped my decision: the photos are free, and I face no copyright issues.

Recently my hobby led me in an unexpected direction – pet photography. In May my brother asked me to take some pictures of his new hunting dog, right after she was diagnosed with cancer. “I want some pictures,” he said, and I thought I saw a tear in his eye. “Just in case. You know.”

What was I supposed to say to that? So on a lovely spring day, I took lots of pictures of Maggie Mae and learned something more experienced photographers already know. Dogs don’t stand still. That makes getting a good picture hard. My brother made the job a little easier, because Maggie seriously adores him. When he stood in front of her she stared at him with big, moony eyes. (See photo above.)

My next foray into pet photography took place at my cousin’s house this past summer.  An accumulation of three rowdy red dachshunds begged a picture. You will notice that none of those pictures made it to this page.

This Sunday, I face my biggest pet challenge to date. I’m taking senior pictures for my daughter’s best friend. When Rachel called to set up a time, she reminded me that she wants her horse in some of the pictures. She’d told me this before, but I’ve been in denial.

From what I remember of my last ride on a horse, which took place when I was 13, horses are somewhat bigger than dogs. And they don’t stand still, either. Plus I really don’t like horses much. OK, I don’t like horses at all. Which makes me think Sunday’s photo shoot might turn into a unique blog entry.

You might want to check in next week and see. Just to clue you in, the blurry picture beside the blog entry? That’ll be the horse.

And one more thing, Maggie Mae is doing fine.