If Only Fran Could Speak…

Fran is the Best Dog Ever. There are many good dogs, and perhaps you yourself have a really good dog. But we are quite sure that Fran takes the cake when it comes to dogs. For ten years, she’s been our loyal friend — such a good listener is she! She enjoys eating and sleeping, but gets totally excited when we offer to take her on a walkie around the blockie. Or go on a car ride. We have no complaints about Fran….except that she can’t speak.

"I must guard the punkin stuff for Mom."

Well, sure she does the usual dog trick of barking when she hears the command “Speak!”. Any old dog can do that trick. But she can’t really speak to us. If only she could… We have taught her to say a few words in English, and she tries so hard to say them when we ask, especially if we have a treat or a dog cookie in our hand. She can say “hello” and “Mama” much better than those weird dogs on YouTube, and sometimes she will put them together and say “Hello Mama” which, of course, is the cutest thing ever! She became so accomplished with those two words that we decided to raise the bar a bit, and requested her to say “chicken pot pie”. And yes, dear gentle reader, Fran can say “chicken pot pie”. But not very often…

"I don't mind when AnnaRose jumps on my head."

However, these are all just tricks that she does in order to reap the rewards and benefits of obedience. We would like to have dialogue with Fran, mind-bending discussions and insightful conversations. We want to know what she really things about squirrels! (By the way, have you seen the wonderful Disney movie “UP”? If you have an interest in dog communication, you will love “UP”.) We’d love to hear what she has to say about Olivia from Bolivia. We think she might have an important opinion about natural dog food vs. Purina. I know she’d tell us what her life was like before we adopted her from the animal shelter.

"Mom, my ear hurts really bad. Will you take me to the doctor?"

"I know I look silly, but Mom says I'll feel better real soon."

If only Fran could speak… I know she would tell me when I was looking tired and suggest I take a nap with her. I know that she would share a sincere compliment when I dressed up and put on a little make-up. I know she would say “thanks” for the meals and the bits of lunchmeat and for saving her a bit of ice cream in the bottom of the bowl. There would never be even a hint of sarcasm in her conversations, only honest and genuine communication.

"Yes, I'm ready to go for a walkie around the blockie."

Alas, we must be content with her facial expressions and body language to determine her many precious thoughts. But I suspect that when we all get to heaven, God will have all the pets talking to us and to each other. That’s just how much He love us.

"Mom, I just love you so much. I adore you, Mom."

The Dearly Departed…..or are they?

Mother Goose definitely does not specialize in ghost stories or Halloween stories — I half-heartedly acknowledge the day, passing out the candy and then shutting the door tightly against marauders and such, you know.

But Mother Goose has recently been reminded of several incidents just within our family circle of deceased and departed loved ones being seen and oddly experienced long after they have been deceased and departed. My sources are reliable which makes the stories they tell even more mysterious. These family members are not prone to deceit or malice or even exaggeration, and so we must believe their stories — strange as they may seem.

The Return of Big Jim
Mark’s mother and father sadly passed away within two months of each other, leaving their home to their four grown children who elected to sell the house. A nice family bought the house in the quiet neighborhood, but occasionally they had a visitor to the family room in the basement. They asked the folks next door, “Who used to live here? We’ve seen a big white guy sitting in the big recliner chair downstairs.”

Mom’s Up Early This Morning
My own precious mother passed away four years ago. A couple of weeks after her departure from this world, my sister-in-law Linda got up during the night. There was Mom sitting at the dining table having her early morning cigarette and coffee. She immediately vanished, but her bedroom door frequently opens by itself.

The Case of the Bad Auntie
My sister’s husband Allen lost his mother at an early age. He saw her occasionally though, and often when he needed something important for school, it would suddenly be there for him. For some time, he was cared for by his aunt — an unkind person who didn’t care much for Allen. One day when she was being especially mean, a figurine fell from the shelf and landed on her head. Moms always take care of their kiddos, don’t they?

“It’s OK, Mom. I’m here.”
My dear Grandma and Grandpa lost their youngest son, Eugene or Geney, when he was only thirteen years old. He died of unnatural causes in their farmhouse — a horrible family tragedy. In their grief, they left their hometown and bought a fixer-upper resort over a hundred miles away. But sorrow follows like a shadow, and my grandma was desperately grieved at Geney’s passing. He was such a good son with a great outlook on life — he was active in church and always helpful and kind to anyone in trouble. He played the piano and the organ and sang in the choir. He played Little League baseball, and he was a natural on horseback. He was the ideal son. But now he was gone, and Grandma endured a long cold Minnesota winter without him. But one afternoon in the spring as she was looking out the front window of the lodge, she saw Geney walking across the lawn in his rolled up Levi’s and white T-shirt, his signature apparel. He looked towards her, waved and kept walking as if to say “I’m alright Mom. Don’t worry about me.” The great burdens of depression and grief were lifted from Grandma’s shoulders from that day forward.

Dear gentle reader, how do we explain these sightings and experiences? Surely they are as true as Mother Goose sitting at her laptop right now! We believe in an afterlife, and surely there is a place of rest for those who believe in Christ’s salvation. And yet….here are souls who have stopped back in after they’ve left. I suspect everybody has a similar story to tell, and I invite you to share with Mother Goose. Who’s been back to visit you?

Punkins Today and Way Back When…

We were carving pumpkins yesterday afternoon when my dear friend, Little Wife, stopped over. I took some fun pictures of the kids, but as usual, neglected to capture a picture of Little Wife. She is so elusive!

I think Erik really likes scooping out the punkin guts!

And, of course, Olivia from Bolivia found time in her busy schedule to supervise the entire operation.

We were all pretty pleased with the final outcome.

Little Wife had such a fun time watching the kids, and she told me the story of her first Halloween with Freddie Schnitzel who, of course, was her second husband. They went together to the pumpkin patch and picked out the greatest pumpkin ever grown in Illinois. They were so in love with each other, and very much in love with life in general. So they carved their wonderful pumpkin and gave him much personality, and Freddie named him Horace.

Little Wife and Freddie enjoyed their first child, Horace, throughout the Halloween season. They brought him along to the grocery store; they took him for long car rides; he sat in the place of honor in their home. Horace was very special, and they loved him so much. They assumed that Horace would last forever.

But over time, Horace changed. He was no longer fresh and exciting and full of fun. He smelled bad as though he had forgotten to brush his teeth for a few weeks. He was indeed putrid and foul. Horace was no longer the apple of their eye. He was shameful and pitiful, and beyond help. No matter how hard they tried, Little Wife and Freddie couldn’t fix their precious Horace.

So they threw him in the garbage can so they wouldn’t have to look at him anymore. And they forgot how lovely he was in the beginning, because it was just too painful to remember…

I certainly appreciated this cautionary tale from Little Wife.

I hope your day is full of sunshine and blessings. Love, Natalie

Mother Goose Crashes!

Accidents happen, don’t they? The whole point of accidents is that nobody plans on having one. We usually plan on having a baby, but there’s the phrase again sometimes — accidents happen. We usually plan to get to the bathroom on time, but as Mother Goose is learning in her advanced years, accidents happen. We usually plan to get home from a nice dinner out without any problems, but then — accidents happen.

Mother Goose is fine, dear gentle reader. Not to worry — just a few bumps and bruises on Mother Goose and three of her young tater tots, but we are all mostly fine. It was a dark and dreary night, with rain and heavy traffic. Mother Goose could have been more careful and should have been paying closer attention, of course. I never planned to go plowing into the back of the 2002 Nissan XTerra, of course. But accidents happen.

“I want to be remembered for the work that I’ve done, rather than the car accidents that I’ve gotten into, the men that I’ve not dated – or the man that I have.” Lindsay Lohan

Though I was not given the media attention of Lindsay Lohan in this car accident, I WAS given a traffic ticket from the nicest Chicago cops I ever met. They were thoughtful, efficient in their work and wisely informed us not to use the “chaser” towing service that immediately and miraculously showed up at the scene of the incident. Apparently these scam artists par excellence’ listen to their police scanners and like vultures on the side of the road come swooping in to take advantage of accident victims. They pretend to be our friends, they say they will bill our insurance company directly, they say that they’ll tow our car to the auto repair service of our choice. But BEWARE — they will hook up the damaged car and tow it away to be stored for an indeterminate length of time and turn around to charge the naive victim anywhere from $1,500 to $1,800 to retrieve their car.

So we chased away the “chaser”, called our own towing service, and thanked the friendly officers for saving us big bucks.

Mother Goose also thanked them for issuing her a lovely yellow citation which includes a summons to face the judge next month. Poor Mother Goose in court. Stay tuned for THAT story….

In the meantime, be careful. And bee blessed.

Cleaning with Mother Goose

Autumn arrives, and with autumn comes Fall Cleaning. Part summer grief and part holiday anticipation, Fall Cleaning is noble and important in the home of Mother Goose. Afterall, is not cleanliness next to godliness?

Here’s an amazing poem from dear Emily Dickinson to prepare our hearts for the fall cleanup:

She sweeps with many-colored brooms,
And leaves the shreds behind;
Oh, housewife in the evening west,
Come back, and dust the pond!

You dropped a purple ravelling in,
You dropped an amber thread;
And now you’ve littered all the East
With duds of emerald!

And still she plies her spotted brooms,
And still the aprons fly,
Till brooms fade softly into stars —
And then I come away.

In days gone by when Mother Goose cleaned her home, she tried to follow the rules of the Fly Lady who teaches that our homes can be divided into zones and our days can be divided into fifteen minute work segments. Fly Lady preaches well about cleaning our kitchen sinks and dressing to clean as though wearing shoes is really what matters and planning carefully what you will clean each and every day of the year. She teaches how to make and use a cleaning journal, how to organize the stuff, and how to put out a clutter fire on a flat surface such as a table or piano bench. But Mother Goose has stories to tell and has no time to clean like that anymore.

These days Mother Goose just starts cleaning wherever the biggest mess happens to be. For example, I’ve been noticing for several days how dirty my kitchen floor is, but there have been other areas that were even filthier (the bathroom, the kitty box, the mountains of dishes in the kitchen). So in prioritizing this way, things DO get washed up, but on a healthy flex schedule. Today, I wiped up the spots on the floor with a soiled wash cloth and some stinky spray antibacterial cleaner. The messy spots on the floor are gone! No, I did not completely mop the floor, nor did I swiffer the floor, nor did I even sweep the floor before wiping the gross spots. But, boy oh boy, the floor looks good enough now, and that makes Mother Goose very happy.

The same principle applies to vacuuming, of course. Only vacuum where the carpet is the hairiest, featheriest or seediest. This saves time and energy which can be better spent telling stories. And when you are in the bathroom, just grab a wet pop-up wiper and wipe down the toilet once a day. You’ll feel as accomplished as though you had spend hours scrubbing. Trust Mother Goose on this one, friends.

Cleaning in this fashion leaves us with so much more time. We have time to read and enjoy the amazing work of Emily Dickinson and Lewis Carroll and yours truly. Enjoy the important things in life today. Bee blessed!

A final word about fall cleaning — I only dust once a year, and that is usually precipitated by the imminent arrival of important guests such as sons who are on leave from the U.S. Navy.

Barefootin’

As children growing up in northern Minnesota, we spent so much time outside playing in the woods. We had tree houses, forts, adventure games and plenty of imagination. Mom didn’t have to “shoo” us out the door EVER. We loved being outside. We had a special theme that carried through much of our play — go barefoot whenever possible. We ought to be able to walk or run through the woods without shoes and without making a noise or complaining about the pain. Because, afterall, that’s what the Indians did and weren’t we at least 1/32nd Chippewa? So we didn’t bother too much with putting on our shoes and socks like the kids do today — we just ran out the door, across the soft green grass of home and into the woods where sharp sticks and rocks ruled. Our feet suffered quietly, and we were silent. We were fine.

Photo courtesy of Nature's Child. Thanks!

When I was an unruly teenage girl, my friends and I would walk for miles. We were unlicensed, driving was not an option yet. And we couldn’t bear to sit at home. By that time, I had left the ancient Indian ways behind and was now contemplating life as a hippie. Again, barefoot was the best way to live. We didn’t run crazy through the woods anymore; now the challenge was to tread the gravel roads and hot blacktop on our journeys to the next adventure. Incredibly, the same rules applied — endure the pain, ignore the pain, keep going though the feet were black and blistering and swollen. We made it an unspoken game — whoever swallows down the pain without complaining is obviously the better woman.

Photo courtesy of The Lulu. Thanks!

Well, guess who is still playing the game? Keep marching…though the tears streak down your cheeks. Your throat aches from stifling sobs as you try to be the better woman. At the end of the day, I look down at my poor feet and tenderly press the callouses on the sides and the bottom with a pretty oil. I know that my heart could easily get the same callouses if I don’t take care of myself. I carefully tend it and apply the aromatic oils of love. But I don’t ever complain or show the pain, my dear. Shoes are highly over-rated, and life is too short. My pain in life has made me a better woman. But maybe it’s time to go shoe shopping….

(Previously posted over at the Facebook…)

Jellyfish and Sea Dragons

It was Free Day today at the Shedd Aquarium — that meant that all eight of us could see all the best exhibits for only $140. Sometimes the word “free” can be a little misleading… It was so worth it! Mother Goose is a little wiped out after a day at the aquarium, so how about we just let the pictures mostly speak for themselves. Bee blessed!

Photo courtesy of Erik Stevenson

These are real. Seriously.

Jessi is thinking of how she might be able to train the jellyfish.

No bones, no blood, no brains. And yet, jellyfish can actually hunt for food. Erik stopped liking jellyfish after he learned this fact.

How did this girl get into the jellies tank?

Olivia from Bolivia

We have such a menagerie of pets at Mother Goose’s house! There’s Fran our dog who recently suffered an aural hematoma but is now recovered quite completely. And there are the seven Zebra Finches — six hens and a little rooster who doesn’t have a clue but is very protective of his girls. Three Glass Catfish in the globe aquarium — countless platys and mollies in the upstairs aquarium. And a partridge in a pear tree. No, just kidding about that partridge.

And then there’s Olivia our cat.

Olivia was here before anyone. Her home has been her castle, and the table has been her throne. From ages past and time gone by, Olivia from Bolivia has reigned in this house. Her words and her actions constitute the ultimate law of the land here. She would like us to bow as she passes by. She knows where every ray of afternoon sun will fall because she is the ruler of the sun and the moon and the stars. They rise and set according to her wishes, her whims and her orders.

She is suspicious of any challenger to her throne, even a mysterious ceramic one.

Olivia is learning to share her kingdom with other creatures. She loves to babysit the birds, from atop their cage. She admires the fish swimming in their watery worlds. And she enjoys a love/hate relationship with Fran. Actually, Fran likes Olivia a whole bunch! Fran likes Olivia much more than she likes other dogs or strangers at the door.

The first time they met, Fran thought that Olivia was a squirrel. Fran did what comes natural — chasing Olivia around and around the house, barking with the excitement of a hunter hot on the trail of the prey. It took many months for Olivia to forgive Fran of that case of mistaken identity, but today harmony reigns in the zoological garden of Mother Goose.

Little Wife Delivers Twins!

I had such a nice chat on the phone yesterday with my dear friend, Little Wife. She was very busy cleaning house but happy to sit down for a bit and visit with me. “Little Wife,” I said. “Your house is neat as a pin! Why are you cleaning?”

“Oh my gosh,” said she. “The boys are coming home today!” So that explains everything, doesn’t it? I’m sure you know the story of Little Wife in the delivery room almost twenty-one years ago. Wait! I guess I never told you that amazing tale, did I? Well, please forgive me, and please make yourself comfortable — Mother Goose will tell you a wonderful story now.

Little Wife and her husband, Freddie Schnitzel, were happily married and had enjoyed three fantastic years as blessed parents of a happily precocious and compliant, sweet little girl. Her name was Lulu. Being a mother came easily to Little Wife, and she was overjoyed to discover that soon she would be having another baby! Pregnancy was also easy for Little Wife — she experienced very little morning sickness and even had extra energy for traveling up north with Lulu to visit the family. (She even went bear hunting with her dad, but that’s a story for another day…)

Every month, Little Wife would visit Dr. Baloo who listened to her ever-expanding tummy for the very special sound of the baby’s heartbeat. Little Wife was glowing with anticipation of the baby’s arrival, but at each visit with Dr. Baloo, she would ask the good doctor, “You hear just one heartbeat, right, Dr. Baloo?” And he said, “Yes, Little Wife, just one heartbeat.” Smiling, Little Wife would carefully climb down from the examining table and head for home to continue reading “East of Eden” — it was a compelling read, but she just couldn’t quite figure out why. Little Wife also spent extra time with little Lulu because she knew that it would be a very big adjustment for her to have a new baby in their quiet home. They went for long walks and had long talks — it was a special time for them both.

After months and weeks of expectation, the day grew nearer for Little Wife to have her baby. She was visiting Dr. Baloo for what would be one of her final exams. (teehee teehee… final exams sounds like a huge test, doesn’t it?) “Well, Little Wife,” announced Dr. Baloo with a flourish. “It looks like you’ll be having an eleven pound baby!”

“Omigosh!” exclaimed my friend. “What in the world? I’m not THAT big! I’m a rather diminutive woman with a normal-sized pregnant tummy. How can this be?” But she smiled and climbed down carefully from the examining table. “I better get home and finish making all those Christmas presents for my family and friends. And maybe I should buy some bigger baby jammies for the little tater tot.”

Well, sure enough, that night Little Wife’s water broke while she was finishing all those Christmas presents, and Freddie drove her to the hospital. Lulu went to stay overnight with her favorite Auntie and Uncle. It was a long labor, but finally Little Wife pushed one last mighty push, and delivered a smallish baby boy. Tears of joy and hugs all around the delivery room as the nurses took the little fellow and wiped him off and weighed him.

As distracted as she was, Little Wife still had to deliver the baby’s placenta. Dr. Baloo was surprised at the delay of this final phase of an otherwise uneventful pregnancy and delivery, so he took a little peek to see what was holding up the show….

“There’s another baby!” Dr. Baloo shouted. He had spotted a tiny little foot within the mysterious womb of Little Wife.

Pandemonium and amazing chaos reigned in that hospital delivery room for the next hour. Freddie Schnitzel nearly dropped the tiny baby boy he had been holding so carefully as he rushed to the side of Little Wife’s bed. At this point, Little Wife didn’t know what to think. She was not having any contractions at all — her labor was done! But how did another baby get in there? That was the question on everyone’s mind!

Breach babies are a bit of a complication, but especially SURPRISE breach babies. The medical staff decided that with such a last minute surprise at hand, they couldn’t turn the baby around for a headfirst arrival into the world. Suddenly an anesthesiologist appeared at the bedside of Little Wife as well as an surgically trained obstetrician. With much gentleness and kindness, they informed Little Wife that she would be delivering the baby via Caeserian section, and everything would be just fine.

“Goodnight.”

And when she woke up, Little Wife was the mother of identical twin baby boys. “Well, my goodness,” cried Little Wife through her tears of joy as they placed the tiny little babies in her arms for the very first time. “Omigosh, look at them! How sweet and tiny they are! How much do they weigh?”

“Well,” said the neonatal nurse. “Baby number one weighs five and a half pounds. And baby number two weighs five and a half pounds also. It seems that your doctor DID guess the weight right at your last check-up. He just didn’t know how many babies you were carrying.”

Kids and Pretzels

Mother Goose is so blessed to have kids who like to help her out in the kitchen — there is no funner time than cooking with the young tater tots! This past weekend, Joe found a recipe for soft pretzels at Food.com that could be easily whipped up in the bread machine. And so we all dived in together!

We loaded up the bread machine and let it do its thing for an hour and twenty minutes. It is so nice for Mother Goose to have automation at this time — all that mixing and stirring and kneading and muscle-ing. Let’s just leave that to the young gals, right?

And there we were with the most amazing dough I have ever seen in the whole entire world. As we rolled it between our hands, it stretched perfectly and never once stuck to our hands or fingers. We commented over and over about the wonderful dough — I still haven’t gotten over the great texture of that soft pretzel dough!

A little shout out to King Arthur flour...

We formed and twisted the ropes into the proper shape and laid them carefully on the cookie sheet to rest and rise for awhile.

Aren't they so cute?

Meanwhile, Mother Goose got a nice big pot of water boiling on the stove. (Seems that most of my recipes call for a nice big pot of boiling water….) We gently dropped the pretzels into the boiling water, tenderly flipped them and removed them from their bath. I think this is a crucial step in the preparation of the soft pretzel, so do use care. And also do use the baking soda in the water. For some reason, that really helps hold the dough in place instead of dissolving the pretzels. Omigosh, we would have been crying our eyes out if our pretzels had dissolved in the boiling water….

And be sure to brush them with egg white or melted butter, and please sprinkle some stuff on them. We made some salty and some with parmie cheese.

Pop them in the oven and sit down to smell the baking pretzels. WOW, were they tasty! And they disappeared so quickly! Mother Goose just can’t get over the dough — so easy to handle. Have some fun with some kids today or tomorrow or this weekend — they’ll love you for it.

Kinda of pale, but very delicious...

Here’s the recipe!

Ingredients for making 8 pretzels (except we actually got 13 out of this batch!)

1 (1/4 ounce) package dry active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 egg white, slightly beaten
coarse salt
butter

Directions:

1 Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer.
2 Select Dough setting.
3 After the machine has completed its mission, it will beep.
4 Remove the dough onto a very lightly floured surface.
5 Divide into 4 parts.
6 Divide each fourth into 3 pieces.
7 Roll each piece into an 18 inch rope.
8 Shape rope into a circle, overlapping about 4 inches; from each end, leaving ends free.
9 Take one end in each hand and twist at the point where dough overlaps.
10 Carefully lift ends across to the opposite edge of circle.
11 Tuck ends under edge to make a pretzel shape; moisten and press ends to seal.
12 Place on greased cookie sheet.
13 Let rise, uncovered, until puffy, about 20 minutes.
14 In a 3-quart saucepan, combine 2 quarts of water and 1/3 cup baking soda; bring to a boil.
15 Lower 1 or 2 pretzels into the saucepan; simmer for 10 seconds on each side.
16 Lift from water with a slotted spoon.
17 Return to greased cookie sheet.
18 Let dry briefly.
19 Brush with 1 egg white slightly beaten.
20 Sprinkle with course salt or sesame seeds or leave plain.
21 If you leave them plain, after they bake dip into melted butter then in cinnamon and sugar mixture.
22 Bake at 425°F for 4 minutes; then turn cookie sheet around and bake 4 more minutes.
23 These are so good.

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