Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Musing Over a Bowl of Oats

With a -35 degree windchill, this is oatmeal weather.  This is the bowl I just whipped up and I am enjoying as I type these first few lines.  I was never much of an oatmeal fan as a child.  I think my mom, usually an excellent cook, used quick oats, and the result was a gooey paste that was really difficult to swallow.

Early on in my teaching career, a friend and I shared a duplex up in the wilds of Spooner, Wisconsin.  Laurie was from Two Harbors, Minnesota, even farther north, and she quickly taught me the tricks behind a really good bowl of oatmeal, which is the winter mainstay of those true pioneers who inhabit the tundra of Lake Superior for six months out of the year.

I have been hooked ever since.

It is one of those breakfasts that I don't eat daily, but when the shock of cold makes my nose hurt when I let out the dog in the early morning and he quickly returns to the door hopping on three legs, I reach into my cupboard for my fine Quaker friend.

I have tweaked my recipe through the years, but it currently involves old fashion oats, a sprinkle of golden flax meal, and equal handfuls of dried cranberries and chopped pecans.  Of course you have to top it off with a healthy spoonful of brown sugar and a splash of whole milk to cool the edges.

And it has been brutally cold here in Wisconsin this winter.  Today is our fourth "cold day" since January 1st. It is dangerous for students to wait for buses and strong winds whip snow into drifts that close roads.  Last night I hung blankets over some of the older windows in my house--the ones that make the curtains flutter with each each hard gust.  My furnace is working non-stop, but at least I am not part of the propane shortage that folks farther north are experiencing.  

Prairie Eydie is hunkered down with a terrible cold.  She sent the kiddos to Grandma's, and she is burrowed into Amy Tan's Valley of Amazement and an economy box of Kleenex.  We text back and forth during the day.

The snow belt isn't the only place that is experiencing the furry of this winter.  My sister-friends in South Carolina are expecting serious ice today that will probably bring down power lines.  Just a few weeks ago I was walking on the beach just a couple of miles from their home and soaking up the sunshine. 

Stay safe and warm, dear Prairie Readers.  My oatmeal is done.  I have lessons to plan.  There will be school tomorrow--I hope. 

Prairie Sherry

Monday, January 20, 2014

Prairie Eydie Decutters December in January

These two women have no idea that Prairie Grlz exist.

I have friended Anne Lamott on Facebook.  Today Anne's status said she is giving half of her stuff away as a gift to herself.  WOW!  That is what I have been doing since December 26th.(You can also give a gift to yourself by friending Anne on Facebook.  Her status reports are just as funny & insightful as her books.)     

Yum-yum calories. 
Let me backtrack.  This December I didn't send out Christmas cards which is my favorite thing to do.  I also didn't invite friends or family over (Prairie Sherry and I exchanged our gifts at Mickey's Tavern over a plate of sexy fries and glasses of Hoppalicious.  I did invite my family over, but then panicked and retracted the invitation when I realized I was losing my mind.) or make that yummy artichoke dip with all that disgusting mayo in.   You may wonder why I was discarding these priceless traditions like White Elephant gifts.

Prairie Friends, I was too busy decorating my house to do anything but decorate.  After I was done decorating, I immediately turned around and put away the decorations. 

It turns out my children didn't even notice the holiday cheer I DUMPED about the house.  For example, I landscaped the top of my kitchen cabinets with a sprawling Dickens Village that lit up.  I even inserted tufts of cotton snow between the houses.  Most nights no one thought to plug in the houses.  Or worse, sometimes the houses were still lit when I made my morning coffee.  That made me stress about my carbon footprint, which is already huge since I have three kids. 

"Take us to Goodwill..."  (NOTE:  This is not actually Prairie Eydie's snowman collection) 

No one noticed the delightful snowman scene I created on  top of the game cabinet (formerly known as the china hutch).  I spent hours propping snow figures up on books and arranging rustic trees around them.  Apparently, I also stopped noticing the snowmen because two days after I was "done" putting away Christmas decorations, I realized creepy snowmen were still leering down from the cabinet, like a booger you walked around with all day and didn't notice until you took your make up off. 

Let it be known that I now strongly dislike holiday decorating.  I hate putting away Rudolph bobble heads and detangling beaded garland.  (It got too tangled this year, so I just threw it out.  Yeah, yeah.  Carbon footprint.)  Don't get me started on twinkle lights or mangy poinsettias. 

I have been making some changes so I can be clothed in my right mind next December.  Any decorations I didn't use this year went straight to Goodwill.  Smell you later.  I also ditched decorations that made me uncomfortable - like the Blitzen dessert plate.  Blitzen was sprawled on the ice with Xs where his eyes should be.  Why was I serving my children apple slices on that plate?  The Vixen plate left too.  It creeped me out that Vixen resembled a bloated Mariah Carey.  Perfectionist me thought I needed a dessert plate for each and every of Santa's reindeer.  Not true.  Who can ever name all the reindeer anyway.  Right?  Well, besides Prairie Sherry.

Next year, all I am doing is getting a large tree (Would you stop with the carbon footprint judgments?) and hanging up stockings.  That is where my kids find joy. I will find joy eating hot artichoke dip with my family and friends.  Oh!  And actually having time to watch Rudolph.  (Prairie Sherry has promised to make me reread this post next December if I forget and start to drag out the crowd of Christmas Barbies. )
aka Prairie Eydie

Prairie Eydie

Prairie Eydie's Top Tips to Get Through Those Winter Blues PART ONE

I am struggling Prairie Friends.  Struggling to get through another Wisconsin winter.  Usually by March I am ready to gnaw off my arm and blow torch my sweaters.  This year I am doing things differently so I can smoothly transition into Spring without personal drama. 

Prairie Eydie's Top Tips to Get Through The Winter  PART ONE

Take an interest in football, if only for a limited time.   (Your interest can even be insincere!)  I jumped on the Packer bandwagon for two weeks this January. 
  • Packers vs. Bears.  Who doesn't love it when the fans act like big, fat babies?
  • Packers vs. San Fransico 49ers.  Very close game.  I thought the Packers could win even after the game was over and done.
I would have continued watching football, but the Packers lost to the 49ers.  I am unable to watch a team other than the Packers or the Badgers. 

BELOW:  Meet my friend, Maren.  She is a real Packer fan and looks awesome in her Packer boa. 

I used to  worry  football wouldn't be fun because I had no idea what was going on.  Nonsense. Just be happy when the players are happy.  Be angry when your coach is angry.  Be aware your home team scored a touchdown when the bartender gives you a free shot.  Accessorize with a Packer boa.  Fun & Flirty.

BELOW:  A card guest blogger Lena left on my desk at work.

Make every Friday FABULOUS Friday and Not "Wear A Sweatshirt and Stained Yoga Pants" Friday.

I find Friday the perfect day to put on a cute dress and accessorize with a fairly heavy hand.  Everyone is looking "schlumpy" so you will look extra, super-duper good in comparison.

Tiaras are optional.   

Plus, why not end the work week feeling good about yourself?  Looking good erases missed deadlines and stupid comments made during staff meetings.  I have found that coworkers are joining me in Fabulous Friday because they don't want to be outdone.  (No.  I am not saying that women are competitive.  I am just . . . saying. . . ) 

Make sure to tune in for PART TWO of  this blog.  Also, let me know how you're getting through the winter.  (Readers in warm climates need not reply.)

Prairie Eydie 


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Prairie Sherry Picks Out a Post

The street value of these could probably
 let me retire next week,
but I need them THIS WEEK!
I have had more rest in the past 10 days than I probably experienced in all of 2013.  There have been times since the magnificent slip and fall on January 8 that the best I could do was to prop myself in a corner of the sofa and try to focus on Sponge Bob. Even if my foggy brain could have processed the fact that I was watching crap TV, I just didn't have the energy to do anything about it. If I wasn't actually sleeping, I felt like I was seconds away from dropping off into some sort of dream state.

Did I mention that doctors have given me lots of drugs?

A broken wrist hurts like heck, and I am really suppressing a desire to throw in some real profanity.  My jaw still aches from all of the teeth clenching I did the first couple of days.  Then there came the period of a relatively pain-free, drug-induced haze. I did have a desire to find that tie-dyed t shirt that I think is in the Goodwill bag and to put flowers in my hair.  I also had a desire to munch on bags of Fritos. I definitely ditched the bra because I couldn't figure out how to put it on with one hand.

Now I am giving up pill bottles one by one, and life is returning with some clarity. I can actually feel a dull throb under my plastic splint.  Ouch!  Well, sometimes more than a dull throb.  I ache all over, but at least I can form a coherent sentence--I think.
There are probably 700 pages of
reading and correcting here.

The first thing I noticed with this new-found clarity is a huge pile of papers that seem to have found a home on my kitchen counter. I believe that these are papers that I must grade and post before the end of the semester this coming Friday.  I seem to have a vague recollection of writing a semester exam while "under the influence" sometime last week.   I hope my sub will proofread and edit.

This little foray into limited-limb-use has  given me a much greater appreciation for my knees. They have been instrumental in the opening the toothpaste tube, the milk bottle, various pill bottles, etc.  I have always recognized that they were useful in my ambulatory life, bit I had no idea that they could fill in for a worthless left hand.   I will treat them with greater respect in the future.

My friends and family are certainly appreciated.  My poor sister sat with me for three days.  She made sure I didn't totter out into the street or attempt any one-handed filleting.  She also made a chart so that my addled brain could remember what I should be taking and when.  

Prairie Eydie and Kathy  came so that they could provide some company.  They listened to my senseless babbling both on the phone and in person.  Kathy filled my refrigerator and freezer so we wouldn't starve.  Eydie brought Lulu, who sweetly watched the longest kid's video ever created so that her mother could console me.

I have received tons of emails and Facebook messages.  My favorite sub, Missy, is holding my class together.  Believe me, I didn't even provide a bottle of glue.  This absence was not planned, and this poor woman is trying to create lessons out of smoke.

Good ol' Rory
My daughters afar from the nest have checked in regularly.  The youngest fledgling still in the nest has taken on extra duties.  It is really a pain to have a mother who acts more like a three-year-old.

The dog has faithfully remained by my side for continuous head rubs.  Oh my, a dog is pretty darn nice when you are confined to a 1300 square foot house for several weeks in the depths of winter.  Note to self:  Always have a dog.

And so my dear Prairie Readers, I need to go back to my finger stretches and wrist bends.  I have been terrible about physical therapy in the past, but I need to be able to collage in the future. Collaging requires mobile wrists.  
It really hurts to do this!

Prairie Sherry

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Prairie Pa Goes Prehistoric

Every week, I listen to second graders read. I do this because I like kids, but also to selfishly justify my existence on this planet. Perhaps the Divine will keep me here a little longer because of this.


Yesterday, I was listening to Beau James read.  He is a delightful second grader who loves large, scary creatures. Beau was reading about a shark that lived over fifty million years ago and was big as a bus. Beau was very impressed with the shark’s jaws; large enough to swallow a Volkswagen. He told me about the shark’s teeth. Each species of shark has different teeth.  When a shark loses a tooth, another tooth will grow in the same spot a few days later. We came across the word “prehistoric,” and I explained to Beau it meant very old. Beau looked at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Just like you?” Beau meant no offense, he is not capable of it. 

I thought about why someone calling me old, hurts. I am certainly much closer to the end than the beginning.  You cannot enjoy a long life without growing old.

I thought about how blessed I am.

NOTE:  Just so you know, I am Prairie Pa's FAVORITE child.  Prairie Eydie 

I survived growing up in Peshtigo, Wisconsin (it burned to the ground once), graduated from UW-Madison, served in the  United States army, was City Engineer in Stevens Point (they should have charged me tuition), started my own engineering business and sold it 25 years later for a tidy sum (thank you very much), married a lovely woman who I still adore after 52 years, and raised three children who are gainfully employed and don’t need any advice from me.

Want to know a secret? This is the zenith of my life. I do not have to get to the office at 5:00 A.M. and deal with disgruntled clients, sulky employees and cash flow. I go to bed when I want and get up eight hours later. I can putter in the yard for hours, read great books (i.e. Bill Bryson), visit with friends, and volunteer for tasks I enjoy.


I am blessed with good health. I live in the United States (I could have been born in Stalingrad in 1939 rather than Green Bay). I have a few good friends and enough money to avoid distributing shopping carts at Wal-Mart.

So here is to you, my good friend Beau James. I know you have experienced some hard things in your young life, but I pray from now on you will be blessed even more than I have been blessed and live to be a “prehistoric” man.

Prairie Pa

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Guest Blogger Lena Returns With Even MORE Grace!

STRESS......I can define that in two words......Christmas shopping!!!!!

I was totally stressing out as another Christmas season approached.  It was once again time to find the perfect gift for friends and family. The hardest factors were staying within a reasonable budget and getting everyone something they liked.   I wasn't looking forward to Christmas morning when everyone would open their gifts and start complaining about what they got. Either it wasn't what they wanted or it wasn't of equal value compared to another sibling.  Each and every Christmas, I keep trying to find a way to opt out of the most joyful day of gift giving.
     This year I have discovered the kinds of gifts I absolutely love to give and to receive......GRACE GIFTS!!!!! To me, a grace gift is giving or receiving a gift for no reason. It comes out of nowhere and just surprises you. I loved when Prairie Eydie put the challenge on her blog to give five grace gifts in a week. What a great idea!!!!!
 I took on the grace challenge. My first gift was for my friend Jessica Bedner. She recently graduated from college and got her first teaching job in Madison. She is teaching second grade and finding out that it is nothing like the college courses.

So I sent her a gift of two backpacks full of markers, books, and activities. I left them on her front porch and she had no idea she was getting them. She left me a voicemail saying how excited she was to find the gift and now she is on cloud nine feeling so blessed.

     My second gift was to Lulu, Prairie Eydie's daughter. Lulu is three years old and the youngest of three with two older brothers. Eydie is always saying how she loves princesses but mostly lives with the boys hand me down toys. So...I sent her a pink bag with princess stickers, a placemat, and a pink princess hat with gloves. I left it in her mailbox because I wanted her to feel special.

Of course her mom sent me a picture of her totally enjoying her fun gift.

My third gift went to my aunt JoAnn. I made her a special collage and sent it in the mail. I have never sent her anything before so she was totally surprised. My aunt has always inspired me and I wanted her to know it.

My fourth gift went to my co-worker Jaci. She shares a room with me at school and we have discovered we basically love all the same foods. So I surprised her one morning with her favorite donut on her desk. She loved it!

My final gift was a text I sent to my husband, Frankenstein Jim. Just randomly in the middle of the day I sent him a text that said..."I love you". I never do that so he was totally caught off guard and said it made his day.

    I would encourage each and everyone of you to join in on the Grace challenge.  (How fun would this be to do around Valentine's Day???) 

Where Are Those Darn Prairie Grlz?

Where are those darn Prairie Grlz?  Have they prematurely ditched blogging to work on Hillary's campaign?  (Bill for 1st Lady!  Bill for 1st Lady!)  Did the cold weather do them in? Were they offered a movie deal starring Sharon Stone and Holly Hunter?  Has Sharon finally become Bon Jovi's musical muse?

Nope.  None of the above.

Yesterday Prairie Sherry broke her wrist.  She posted the above photo on Facebook.  For some reason this painful pic showed up on my Facebook news feed multiple times.  (This prompted me to take a well deserved, month-long hiatus from Facebook.)  

How did the break happen?  Well, Sharon was mailing a birthday card (at 6:00 AM), slipped on the ice, fell on her wrist, and broke it.

Sharon's daughter drove her to Urgent Care.  Unfortunately, Urgent Care doesn't open until 9:00 because everything URGENT happens between 9 and 5. Our prairie heroine was in such pain that an ambulance came to get her.  She was given pain killers and a splint.  (See above photo.) 

Sharon will have surgery Monday.  The good news is Sharon will immediately start physical therapy.  Tapping out blogs will be fundamental to her recovery.  The bad news is that Sharon rarely follows her physical therapy recommendations.  (Reread, "The Truth About Lying," July 8, 2013)  Feel free to email Sharon ideas of how to spend her convalescence.  

Prairie Eydie


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Yes, It Is Cold!

My youngest and I are on the second day of our extended winter break.  Yes, it is really, really cold outside.  Wind chills have hit minus 50 degrees in southern Wisconsin.  My friends and family up north have felt minus 70.

Maia and I did the throw-the-cup-of-boiling-water-into-the-air gig. We blew bubbles and watched them freeze and shatter before hitting the ground.  I am using my deck to flash-freeze some chicken noodle soup I made yesterday.  I bundled up like an Arctic Inuit to drag my garbage and recycling cans to the curb for this morning's pick-up.  The furnace seems to never stop running.  The dog has been caught trying to call the ASPCA after I forced him outside to do his doggy duties.  He would have succeeded if he only had better nose dexterity to hit those numbers.

We are surviving.

In fact, all of us have experienced a lot worse. It is really cold, but doesn't compare to a real blizzard with treacherous roads and getting up at 3 AM in the hopes of staying ahead of the drifts.  Maia and I easily drove to our local Target yesterday afternoon to pick up carpet cleaner and to stretch our legs in near-empty aisles.  The sky was an incredible blue, and we placed bets on what the car's thermometer would read once we hit our destination (only a minus 10 at 2 pm).  

Yesterday, I made the soup and cleaned the carpets.  Today it will be baking bread and sorting out a few closets.  When I find myself wanting to crawl back into bed for a long winter's nap , I just think, "WWMD?"  What would Ma do?  At least I don't have to twist straw to keep the house warm or grind seed wheat to keep the family fed a la The Long Winter.

Today's winter experiment will be making ice candle holders with balloons.

Winter in Wisconsin is always an adventure.  Dig out those buffalo robes to stay warm.  Draw pictures on icy window panes with a thimble.  Bank the fire before going to bed.  Make sure you have a clothes line leading from the house to the barn.  Stay safe, dear Prairie Friends.

Prairie Sherry  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ignore the Rumors! Prairie Sherry IS NOT DEAD!!!

Sea Oats-South Carolina Coast
Dear Prairie Readers,

Obviously, Prairie Eydie has taken the full brunt of blogdom during this past week. Thank you, my dear sister.

My absence has not been due to illness or despair.   

I have traveled cross-country and back (2,214 miles) to see beloved friends, hugged my grandchildren, enjoyed the wonderful company of my daughters, visited family, fed my chickadees, slept late, enjoyed good wine, read, eaten glorious food, and cuddled with my dog.
Childhood friend (sister), Mary Hayes, and me.

Good lordy, this has been a wonderful two weeks.  

I feel that I need to catch up.

Top Sixteen Books (in no particular order):

A Walk in the Woods
Little Women
Grapes of Wrath
The Good Earth
The Long Winter
The Joy Luck Club
To Kill a Mockingbird
Life and Death in Shanghai
Best Friends (Only my sister will know this one!)
The Secret Garden
Bean Trees
Of Human Bondage
Joy of Cooking
The Mouse Who Liked to Read in Bed (Sis, remember?)
The Chosen

Books I have recently read:

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
(Loved it!!!!! Thank you, Sue B!!)

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedarist 
(He always makes me laugh out loud.)

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan 
(This one didn't disappoint!  Prairie Eydie, my copy is going to you next.)

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell 
(Weird, but I kept reading.)

The Common Core Standards for Language and Literacy and The Continuum of Literacy Learning
(I-want-to-poke-my-eye-out-with-a-stick BORING.  Sucks the joy out of teaching and learning.)
Two of the daughters, the dog, and me.
South Carolina is really beautiful.

Have to get back to relaxing...
Prairie Sherry


I am not one for New Year's Resolutions (Do you need to capitalize that??), but I do agree with my 19 year-old.  This year I am going to try to reconnect to family and friends whom I have neglected.  I spent today with my wonderful niece and great-niece.  My poor nephew-in-law was sleeping, so he could get up at some awful hour and go back to keeping Milwaukee roads and streets free of snow.  Bless you, Charles.