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It was the 4th of July weekend many years ago when my family arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and were welcomed by the chaos of police everywhere.  Earlier that day the neighbor guy was in his boat on the lake, fell out of his boat, and was unable to get back into the boat.  He was also unable to keep his head above water.

The weather was unseasonably cold that 4th of July weekend and the police and divers were chilled to the bone, so what does Grandma Harriet do?  She whips up a potful of chili.

It’s an easy chili to “whip up,” and because this steaming bowl of goodness is associated with that dreadful day at the lake we named the dish Harriet’s Drag-The-Lake Chili.  It seems sort of morbid, but the recipe is made with ingredients you can have in the pantry in case of an emergency feeding situation, morbid or not.  You don’t have to call it by the name its known by in my family, but you might want to make it.

1 pound hamburger, browned and drained (I add a small chopped onion to this)
1 can chili starter (Bush’s Chili Magic is perfect)
1 can tomato soup
2 cans spaghetti
1 spaghetti can of water
2 tablespoons chili powder.

Mix it all up and simmer for 20 minutes.

Husby and I recently had some on a cold winter day with a piece of warm cornbread on the side.  It really hit the spot, reminded me of Grandma Harriet, and there doesn’t need to be a bunch of officials dragging the lake to make it.

Easy and delicious, drowning neighbor not required.

Wordless Wednesday

The north wind is blowing hard.  January is usually the coldest month of the year in Minnesota, and like clockwork the chime of the new year brought in sub-zero temperatures.

The Epiphany has passed, and thus the Christmas season is officially over.  There still remains a glowing tree in the corner of the room, although the needles are falling off their sagging branches.  This week I’ll have to take on the doleful task of untrimming the sad, dried up tree and storing all of the decorations until next Christmas.  For now I’m going to take just a little more time to relish the glow of the holiday season.

Next week the house will look like its old self again and I’ll get used to it soon enough.  Perhaps once Christmas is packed away I can get onto the business of the new year.  Resolutions?  Not really, but some goals, and hopes for a healthy and productive year.

As the wind gusts beyond the window panes my mind is swimming with things I’d like to do, projects I’d like to undertake, stories I’d like to write, a life I’d like to live.

A belated Happy New Year to you all, and may it be one of the best years yet.

Wordless Wednesday

It started out as a joke.  Charlotte (my sister, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention) has always been agog and confused about the popularity of Hello Kitty and she can’t help but mock it with desires for Hello Kitty merchandise.  It started with her constantly saying how much she wanted a Hello Kitty coin purse.  Just to shut her up I actually got her one.  She uses the coin purse as a container for her iPod, and the music she stores on that iPod is called “The Hello Kitty Show,” despite the fact that the music has nothing to do with Hello Kitty but merely from the fact that it’s stored in a Hello Kitty coin purse.

Over the years she’s received many Hello Kitty things from various members of her family, and has even called her new car The Kitty Mobile.  Her mockitude of Hello Kitty has become part of her persona.

Last year she surprised me with a Hello Kitty gingerbread house.  She bought one for herself too, and also one for our mom.  Of course Charlotte assembled hers the minute she got it and it was the cutest little pink candy/cookie house ever imaginable.

I didn’t have time last year to assemble mine, but put it away with all the Christmas decorations at the end of the season.  When I unpacked the Christmas tubs this year, there it was.  I remembered how cute Charlotte’s Hello Kitty house was and was determined to make mine even better, because younger sisters always aspire to do as well or better than their older sisters.

Except this was a “gingerbread” house.  Not only that, it was a Hello Kitty “gingerbread” house.  (I use the quotes because although the house pieces were indeed cookie, they weren’t actually gingerbread cookie.)  No one can do Hello Kitty better than Charlotte and I discovered that despite my abilities to make stuff I pretty much stink at gingerbread houses.

The tree and Hello Kitty herself positioned in the front of the house were pre-decorated marshmallows and were hard as rocks, as were the gumdrops.  There was no temptation for me to eat these sugary candies because they were over a year old and plus, they were part of a Hello Kitty gingerbread house kit for God’s sake.  However, I instinctively licked my finger when some icing escaped my control and take my word for it, don’t ever, ever eat anything that comes out of a Hello Kitty gingerbread house kit.

I totally stunk at making this thing.  The icing was blobbed on in a very unprofessional manner and I didn’t have the patience to sit and hold the house pieces together until the icing set.  Needless to say there were gaps everywhere.

Oh sure it looks marvelous in the pictures, but trust me, if you actually lived in this little cookie house your roof would leak and there would be drafts coming from every corner.

Yes, I even had to decorate the back of the house.  Unfortunately the grout (icing) that holds the whole thing together looks more like a bunch of snow drifting from the roof.  Well, it’s a Christmas house ~ I guess the illusion of snow is kind of a good thing.

No matter now bad I was at making this thing I have to admit it was kind of fun.  It will also make me think twice the next time I get my sister something Hello Kitty related.  What goes around comes around.

Wordless Wednesday

“O Come All Ye Faithful/O Holy Night” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra from tom stiles on Vimeo.

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train

This year Husby and I did something new for a little holiday cheer.  Charlotte and Paenney invited us to join them to visit the Union Depot in St. Paul, MN to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train.  I’d heard of it, but have never seen it, and now with the new Union Depot all refurbished and spectacular it would be an opportunity to see that too.

The newly refurbished Union Depot in St. Paul, Minnesota

If you’ve never heard of the CP Holiday Train, I’ll turn you over to Canadian Pacific’s description…

Think of them as brightly-decorated railcars full of Christmas cheer. A fund-raiser for food banks in Canada and the U.S., our Holiday Trains — one travels through Canada, the other in the U.S. — have covered over 100,000 miles and raised close to $9.5 million and 3.3 million pounds of food since the program started in 1999.

The Holiday Trains make stops in communities across our service area, offering free concerts and seasonal festivities from a boxcar we’ve turned into a travelling stage. Over the three weeks of the program, the musicians on board the trains will play more than 150 free concerts from their boxcar stage. This year we are lucky to feature the star talent of Tracey Brown, Kira Isabella and Home Free. 

The concerts are free, but you’re encouraged to make a donation to the food bank—either a non-perishable food item or a cash donation. All contributions will stay within your local community.  ~  via Canadian Pacific Holiday Train website

We bundled up, donated a bagful of food and stood by the tracks waiting.  The night was cold and damp, but when the train pulled into the yard Christmas spirit warmed the hundreds of people anticipating the spectacle.

The bright nose of the engine

Just when the breath that’s been taken away by the splendor is restored and the lump in your throat from overwhelmedness has dissipated, the side of one of the boxcars is lowered to reveal a stage…with more lights!  And live Christmas music!

And what would a holiday train be without Santa?  Of course he was there!

Santa, rockin’ out

I’m so glad I got to see this spectacular vision.  Everyone there was in a good mood.  The train itself was thrilling.  The music was festive.  And it was all for the benefit of local food banks.  I’m already looking forward seeing it again next year.

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