Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Rascal - Book Review

For many years, I've had Rascal by Sterling North on my list of books to read. It's a Newbery Honor Book and typically you can't go wrong with one with one of these books. This was the case with Rascal - it was an engaging, well-written book that I enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone who likes autobiographies, wildlife, and history.

The book is set in 1918 when children freely played outside and explored the natural world. Sterling had an interest in the natural world and wildlife, and brought in wild animals to care for during this childhood.

During this time period of his life, he and friend went into the woods with a dog who discovered a den with a mother raccoon and her babies. Unfortunately, the den was disturbed and the mother and babies separated for a brief period of time. The mother and all but one of the babies were able to get away. The remaining one, later named Rascal, was cared for by Sterling in his home.

During Rascal's early life, he was easy to care for and wanted to spend all his time next to Sterling. They were inseparable and went on many adventures together. Rascal was free to come in and out of the family's home.

As Rascal grew older, he became more inquisitive and got into trouble with some of the neighbors - mostly with eating food they were growing in their gardens. At this point, the neighbors said that in order to keep Rascal he would have to be on a leash and contained in cage.

Sterling reluctantly built a very large outdoor cage, but it was not the life he wanted for Rascal. There needed to be a time when Rascal was released back to the wild since no wild animal should be captive. The right time came for this transition.

The book has a bittersweet ending - there's the loss of friendship and companionship, yet it is mixed with freedom to live one's life and freedom from captivity.
Rascal is a relatively short book - 189 pages - and is worth reading...especially on a cold winter day when it is better to  be inside where it is warm.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Festive Maple Bacon Onion Cheese Ball

For Thanksgiving, I made a Festive Maple Bacon Onion Cheese Ball. Everyone who tried it liked it, and it's one that I would make again.


16 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 - 1/3 cup Stonewall Kitchen Maple Bacon Onion Jam
Dash of pepper
1 cup finely shredded Colby Jack cheese
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/3 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped (I didn't use, but would do so next time)
1/3 cup parsley, chopped (I used Italian parsley because there was none of the regular kind. I would use the regular kind next time and try to chop it more finely)


Mix cream cheese, jam, cheese, green onions, and pepper. Chill until stiff (about one hour, though I let it sit in the refrigerator overnight). Drop onto parchment paper. Form mixture into cheeseball, using parchment paper to prevent sticking. Roll in chopped pecan/dried cranberry/parsley mixture. Serve chilled.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Favorite Photos - November 2019

When I look back on November, I am happy I took photos of the special things we did as well as the ordinary things that make everyday life meaningful for us. 

At the beginning of the month, we went to a wind symphony concert where Sophia attends college and heard her play the harp in a piece. This is the second week in a row that we went to a concert there. I'm happy she chose a nearby college so we can enjoy seeing her perform.

My sister and I spent a day together doing holiday activities. She wanted to see a new boutique hotel that had tours, so we went in the afternoon. Interestingly, it used to be a convent and about 100 nuns lived there. It was later turned into office space, and one of the offices was for the Minnesota Composers Forum, where I used to work.

The Celeste is now a hotel and the renovation and preservation efforts are beautiful. Below is a picture of the bridal suite with 18 foot high ceilings and a chandelier over the bed. This was part of the original altar in the convent.

The ceiling in the bridal suite also has a stained glass window that can be back-lit.

Throughout the month, there have been some spectacular sunsets.

It was a month to be grateful, and one things I am grateful for are the pets we have. This is Meenie. She's about 17 years old now.

The weather started getting colder. We don't have firewood yet for the winter, so we are using a little electric heater that looks like a woodstove. Danny and Scooby like the warm air that blows out of it.

I received sad news this month that one of my uncles died. He was the husband of my Aunt Marilyn, my dad's sister (pictured as a child in the photo below). My dad is on the right, with arm protectively around his little sister.

My cousin, James, texted me the photo. We had a good conversation and caught up as he shared the news about the death of his dad and declining health (and memory) of his mom.

Olivia and I went to a nursery to get some outdoor decorations for winter. There was a cute little sleigh with a fake reindeer in one of the greenhouses.

I decorated the windows with window stars that I had made in previous years and kept. I was able to decorate five windows with a variety of gold, orange, and brown stars.

On the 17th, we celebrated Olivia's 16th adoption day. We tried a new restaurant in Dinkytown (the University of Minnesota campus). It was really good and we enjoyed each dish that we tried.

There was another beautiful sunset.

On the 26th, I took Sophia out for bubble tea and a poke bowl in another part of Dinkytown. Because of her schedule and Olivia's homeschool co-op, we didn't go out for dinner as a family that night.

Sophia came home from the afternoon of Tuesday, November 26th through Sunday, December 1st. It was nice to have her home again for a longer stretch of time than just a weekend. Danny was so happy to see her.

Olivia made caramel rolls - a recipe that my dad used to make growing up. We realized that we could have added a lot more rolls (he and we use Rhodes dough to make the rolls).

On Thanksgiving, I had four helpers while peeling and slicing apples for the apple pie. They are looking at Sophia who is walking by the chair. I had just left for a couple of minutes and lost my space...only to find Scooby and Eenie on the chair I was using.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on the 28th. There were 11 family members at the dinner.

Cooper looked out the window on Thanksgiving. We chose not to fill the birdfeeder otherwise he would have barked all afternoon at the squirrels wanting to eat at the feeder.

Three of the four dogs hung out with the cousins on the family room floor.

I like this picture of Aspen and how alert she was as Eenie sat next to her. He is Meenie's twin (pictured above), so also around 17 years old.

On the day after Thanksgiving, we packed food with other Lions and family members at Feed My Starving Children. This is the second year that I have coordinated this packing event, and was pleasantly surprised and happy that 36 people wanted to pack food!