Where Was February?

February always seems to go by the fastest, not just because it's the shortest month. It seems to be a little bridge between winter and spring and you never quite know what will happen. This year was no exception. We got to MN in time to spend a week with Mike before he died and the rest of the month sped by. The funeral went well, (as well as funerals go), the weather even cleared for the service at the cemetery. Lots of old friends and relatives for Steve and his sisters to see and catch up with. We spent a lot of time just sitting and talking, planning, reminiscing. Lots of "remember when Dad"... brought home 100 lbs of coconut (it was a GREAT deal)... 25 miles of Saran wrap(ditto)...10 bikes(also a Great Deal, but this was after the kids were gone). Mike loved a Good Deal and had a hard time passing one up. I learned more about Steve, his sisters and his dad than I've ever known before. There are about 12 years between the oldest sister, Patty, and the youngest, Bev, so the perspectives varied interestingly. The other NFM's and I watched and listened, storing info for future use.

Hannah and Grandma Jean wrapping the few caramels that Hannah didn't eat.

Steve and his mom went through recipes, looking for specific treats from his childhood, specifically, his Grandma Kate's strudel. This led to a couple of marathon caramel making sessions. If you've never had homemade caramels, I hate to tell you what you're missing. Made with butter, heavy cream and brown sugar, they're smooth and creamy, slightly sticky, buttery. It's a good thing we brought a gallon bag of them back with us, I could use a caramel fix right about now.

Steve, Lynn, Bob, Joleen, after about 100 wings, each.

We stopped to see a few friends on our drive back, Capt Randy Larson and his son, Zane, in Iowa, and Bob and Joleen Dewald in Knoxville. Great to see them again. Zane is so grown up, I wouldn't have recognized him. Thanks for the hospitality, food and beds. Thanks to advice from Bob and Joleen, we drove through the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, on the border of TN and NC. WOW, beautiful, even in the snow, it rivals the drive through Glacier NP in Montana and Moab canyon in Utah. Two thumbs up.

North Carolina didn't warm up much while we were gone. We're definately ready for some fun in the sun. For all the snow we saw, you'd think we'd have gotten in some skiing, but, noooo, just a lot of driving in the slush.


The Great TTH Debate

Here in the potluck-casserole-country that is Minnesota, you can have long, serious Tater Tot Hot dish discussions. Do green beans actually add to the flavor, yes or no? To cheese, or not to cheese? Cream of mushroom or celery? And should that cream soup be mixed with the ground beef, or layered? Should the tater tots be arranged in nice orderly, hay bale like rows, or artistically jumbled? Should the whole thing be spread thin in a cake pan to have more of the crispy edges, or thicker, in a casserole pan?

Lynn, Hannah, Amanda and Steve playing king of the snow pile.

Thank You

To all of you who have been so supportive and sent prayers and good wishes, thank you. Steve's Dad, Mike, passed away Friday, at his home, with his family by his side. The funeral was this week. We've gotten to spend a lot of time with our daughters, Steve's sisters and families. Hot dish, brownies and laughter have played an important role in our grieving and healing process.


A Delicate Beauty

It's snowing in Minnesota. I know because I'm watching it out the window. Steve and I drove to his parents farm last week to try and do what we can to help his mom, as his dad looses his battle with prostate cancer. Mike chose to stay at home and spend his last days on the farm where he's lived all his 78 years. He's confined to his bed now, so we sit to keep him company, get him a sip of water, straighten the covers he keeps throwing off. Steve's four sisters, spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren have all been coming and going. Mike is a lucky man.
So we are sitting, doing embroidery, playing guitar, while Jean sees to some of the final plans and has a little time to herself.