Friday, February 23, 2018

Love a good Rueben!

I have a recipe for Polish Reuben Casserole that I really like.  I don't make it very often because I usually try to stay away form pasta but every now and then I like to have some.  This was such a time.  We had gone to the store earlier in the day and I took the opportunity to make sure, or at least try to make sure we had all the ingredients. I had figured sometime in the next week I'd take the opportunity to make this.  Little did I know that would end up being tonight!
It takes an hour to cook so about an hour before we wanted to eat I got everything out and got started.
One of the things I like about this dish is that it uses lots of onions.  I put two whole onions it.  Well, I chopped them up first.  So I put the onions, mustard and sauce all together and stirred them up good.  We used to always keep cream of mushroom soup in the house to cook with so at the store I hadn't picked any up.  But when I was getting everything out I found we did not have any.  So we used some Alfredo sauce instead.
Another thing I really like about this recipe is that it uses sauerkraut.  I love the stuff.
I must have been distracted because even though I was trying to follow the recipe, this is the point at which I made my first mistake.  After the sauerkraut I should have put my pasta in.  I forgot it.  So on top of the sauerkraut I put the sauce and then the cut sausage.  I thought I was doing so well.  Oh, well.
On top of the sausage I put some breadcrumbs.  Here's where I made my second mistake.  I forgot the cheese.  But I didn't realize it at the time.  What I did notice was that my box of pasta was still sitting on the counter.  Bummer.
So I added the pasta and stirred it in as best as I could.  Then I tried to push any pasta that wasn't stirred in down into the sauce.  But that didn't go too well. 
At this point I put the tin foil on and stuck it in the oven.  Brombeere was making a cake and we had decided to share the oven since both the casserole and the cake needed to cook at the same temperature.  That worked out well.  Her cake didn't need to cook as long as the casserole so when the casserole had about 10 minutes left to go she was pulling the cake out.  In the process of clearing a spot on the counter for the cake she noticed the cheese sitting there unopened and asked about it.  Oops.  So while the cake was coming out we also took the casserole out, sprinkled on the cheese and stuck it back in for the last 10 minutes.
In the end, it actually turned out pretty good.  And I thought that using Alfredo sauce instead of cream of mushroom soup made it better.  We might have to do it that way all the time in the future.  Some of the noodles I had missed were a little crunchy but otherwise it was every bit as good as I remembered it being.  And it hit the spot just right!  Yummy stuff.  We had company for dinner but there was still enough left that I set some aside to take for lunch Monday.  Yummy!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Bit Icey

The other day they were predicting an ice storm. That happens on a regular basis but more often than not the storm tracks slightly north and a bit south of us and we end up getting either rain or snow.  Or sometimes nothing at all.  This time, however, the storm tracked right over the top of us and we got the ice.  Schools began cancelling the night before.  Bright and early that morning Brombeere got a call from her school letting her know her school was cancelling for the day.  But I still had to go to work. 
So I went out through the garage, as usual, and was greeted by a driveway all shiny with a nice layer of ice all over everything.  Made me really wish we were able to park our cars in the garage but that's a story for another day.  As it was, from the garage door all the way out to the street was glare ice.
All the cars were coated with ice, cold and slick.  I knew the walk passed the first car to the one I was taking to work was probably going to be the hardest part of the commute to work.
Walking very slowly and carefully, I made my way to the car.  I unlocked it with the fob and reached in to start it.  Made me wish I could have remote started it but my check engine light had come on a day or two before so the remote start wasn't working.  After getting the car started I started chipping away at the ice on the windshield.  It took a while to make any headway against all the ice and before too long it looked like my windshield was all shattered and broken.
That was a bit of a trick because I had to lean across the front of the car and chip hard at the ice.  It reminded me of what I have heard about working in space.  When the first astronauts tried putting a wrench on a bolt and turning it they turned instead because there was no friction, no resistance.  That's kind of how it was chipping away at the ice.  I had to be real careful my feet didn't slip out from under me. 
My goal this and every winter was to not fall down. I am glad to report that I got the windshield scraped without falling.  It took a while to get it clear enough to drive. Fortunately, the car running began to warm up and help soften the ice.
None of these pictures really show it but there was at least 1/16th of an inch of ice all over everything.  Frequently in the mornings I have to scrape a bit of frost off the windshield but this took me a lot longer than normal.  But finally I got it clear enough to go.  And, sure enough, the worst part of the trip was my own driveway.  The city crews had been out since early and salted the streets thoroughly and the drive was pretty much like normal.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Just Out of Curiosity

I first began taking pictures when I was in my early teens.  I had a little box camera, some kind of Kodak Instamatic that I would just drop a 110 film cartridge in and go shoot pictures until it was gone.  Then I'd ride my bike down to the local drug store to get it developed and pick it up a week later to see how my pictures turned out.  I used that little camera until I was on my mission when, in my last city, a few months before coming home, I bought a SLR camera.  There aren't many pictures from my instamatic days that have survived.  I started a scrapbook way back then and the pictures that made it into my scrapbook are about the only ones still around.

So, when I came home from my mission I used my SLR camera a lot.  The things was, though, that the camera I bought on my mission was a model made in East Germany, a Porst.  The United States didn't trade with East Germany so when I began to want accessories I had to figure out what brand was compatible.  And I did, Pentax was the compatible brand. So when I finally wore out my Porst I replaced it with a Pentax so I could continue to use all my accessories.  Eventually my Pentax wore out as well and this time I replaced it with a Ricoh, which was still compatible with all my accessories.  That was nice because by this point I had several lenses and filters. 

Then the digital age began.  I didn't get into digital pictures for a while, we didn't have a computer for a while.  My first digital pictures were still taken with my conventional SLR camera but when I developed them I would get prints and a CD.  I continued doing that for a few years before I finally just got the CD, no prints.  My first digital camera was a little Vivitar which I picked as my anniversary gift from my company at a "milestone" anniversary, my 25th, I think.  I still have the camera but a lot of the labeling has worn off the function buttons.  That makes things challenging.  Anyway, at that point we also had a pretty decent computer and I was in the digital photography age. I still used my Ricoh because the Vivitar was only a 7.0 mega pixels and the quality wasn't anything to brag home about.  It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't as good as my SLR. It also had only a limited (3x) digital zoom. But it was only a couple of years later that I got a Canon PowerShot, which pretty much brought the retirement of my Ricoh.  The Canon had 12.1 mega pixels, full high definition, a 35x optical zoom, and so many settings I was hard pressed to know how to use all the features it had.  The Ricoh went up onto the top shelf of my closet, along with all the film I still had, where it all began to collect dust.   

Fast forward to about the middle of last January.  There was a wonder in the heavens coming on January 31st and I wanted to take pictures.  The wonder was a confluence of events relating to the moon.  It was a "blue moon", meaning it was the second full moon in the same month.  It was also a "super moon", meaning the moon as at its apogee, its closest point to the earth.  And there was a lunar eclipse.  That combination hadn't occurred visible in the western hemisphere for 152 years. I wanted to see if I could get pictures but last time I had tried to take pictures of the moon I had trouble getting my Canon to focus on it.  It was too far away for the auto-focus to work.  But, hey!  My old conventional camera sure could do it! 

So I dug out my camera and all the film I had to see what was available.  I actually had quite a pile of film, some of it had been given to me since I had quit using my SLR so the pile had grown a little over the years.  But then I got to looking at the expiration dates on the film.  Some of it was pretty old.  My, its amazing how fast the time can fly by sometimes.  Some of the film was slide film, some was black and white, some was color.  It was different speeds of film, some for outdoors, some for indoors or darker environments.  But all of it pretty old. 

What I finally settle on was the newest stuff there but it was still 10 years past its expiration date.  It was a roll of 400 color print film, the stuff I used to use all the time because it was versatile enough to switch from indoor to outdoor without having to do a bunch of compensating.  It took me a few minutes to refresh my memory on how to even just open my camera, it had been that long!  But I got it open, started the film onto the take-up reel, and clicked it through until the counter got to the first shot.  Then I had to remember and check all the settings, making sure it was set for the film speed and all. I had forgotten how much work it was to put a new can of film into my old camera. 

So my purpose with this particular roll of film was to just shoot it and see if the quality was still any good after all these years.  So I wanted to shoot through the whole roll fairly fast and in a variety of lights and situations.  The role had 24 exposures on it, that had become a foreign concept.  With digital you just shoot all you want and never worry about running out of film.  I suppose, if your SD card was small enough, you could run out of room, but it would hundreds of photos, if not thousands, before that happened.  It just wasn't something I ever worried about any more, even when on vacation.

What I found was that the more light there was the better the pictures turned out.  This little cutie, Schwartzbeere's youngest, was sitting in his high chair, which is just inside the sliding glass door, lots of light.  Enjoying some lunch. But even with all the light coming in the sliding glass door, the picture is a bit grainy.  Cute little kid, nice picture, but the film quality definitely has suffered from age.

We decided to make a quick run over to Blaubeere's house since there was a birthday going on over there.  These next two I took out in the driveway as we were getting in the car to go.  They are the best shots on the whole roll.  Lots of out door light.  They both look pretty much normal, don't seem to have suffered in quality at all. 

We took an old toaster with us.  The toaster had quit working and we had promised it to Blaubeere's  second, who has been showing quiet a bit of interest in how things work.  He wanted to dissect it, to take it apart and see what was going on inside.  He has his own tool box, with a number of tools.  This picture was taken indoors, at their kitchen table. Not a real dark setting but still no direct, outdoor sunlight. Even though I made sure I had the light settings all correct the quality of the picture is pretty poor.  The good ones were taken with my phone camera.  Quite the difference. 

Watching him dig into the toaster was in interesting experience.  His initial interest was simply in tearing the toaster apart.  He'd grab at whatever part he could get his pliers onto and then twist and pull, trying to break his way in.  I was mean and insisted he slow down and try to disassemble it, looking for what was holding it together and using his screw driver and pliers and remove screws and nuts & bolts. He actually lasted quite a while with that new approach but ultimately he got back to twisting and pulling.  But by that point things were held together with tabs through slots and twisting and pulling actually was the right approach.  He just wasn't all too careful to get the tabs lined up so they'd pass out of the slots easily.  He got it pretty much broken clear down and we were able to look at the various parts to see what made it toast the bread. It was an interesting experience.

While the toaster was being dismantled in the kitchen there was a little concert getting started in the other room.  Blaubeere and her oldest were getting out some musical instruments.  An interesting duet, the violin and a banjo.  They're both still learning but they're actually getting pretty good.  Blaubeere is pretty much self-taught on the banjo.  Her oldest was taking lessons on the violin.  He and his sibs had been taking lessons for a couple of years when they lost their teacher.  But they still keep at it, learning a few new pieces and looking for a new teacher. 

The quality of these pictures is also pretty poor.  These were in the living room, where there is not a whole lot of light. Not much, if any more than in the kitchen. That seems to be the common thread, the less light the more the age of the film is evident.  Its really too bad they didn't turn out.  They would have been good pictures.  Ah, well.  It was kind of a long shot anyway.  Ten years past the expiration date is quite a ways.

In the end, only 22 of the 24 exposures turned out any good at all, good enough to be able to tell what they were.  We got back into town just in time to turn them in to get developed.  I had really hoped to get them back and see how well they had worked in just a day or two.  This was on the 27th, a Saturday, that we took these pictures and the super moon was on the 31st, the coming Wednesday.  But when I turned them in they said it would take a week to get them developed.  And I had to get the prints, they didn't do just the CD.  I guess conventional film wasn't as big a part of their business as it used to be.  That meant I wouldn't know if the film was any good until after the super moon.  But in the end, it didn't matter.  It was snowing all day Wednesday.  Couldn't see the moon at all.  But it was an interesting experiment nonetheless.  And, having learned that the film was pretty much no good, I tossed it all.  I'll stick to digital, thank you all the same.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Birds, Birds, and more Birds

A few weeks ago we went to visit Heidlebeere and her family and saw that they had hung a couple of bird feeders on two trees out in their backyard.  But what was amazing was the huge variety of birds that were constantly flocking around the feeders.  It was amazing!
They had a lot of little chickadees, all over the place! Both trees, all the feeders!
They would sit in the trees waiting for a turn at the feeders, there were so many.
They packed around the feeders.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear they had to refill the feeders every few days, there were so many birds.
Sloppy as birds are, there was plenty of seed on the ground under the feeders so, of course, there were birds down there, too!
But what was amazing was the variety of birds.  I never looked out the windows but what there were birds at the feeders and in the trees.
We see cardinals at our house on a regular basis, but here there would be three, four, and sometimes five pair of cardinals.  They would almost always be in pairs, male and female.
There were plenty of blue jays, as well.  They are a pretty bird.
Birds all over the place.  But what I found really amazing was the whole time we were there I did not see a single squirrel.  Heidlebeere said they never see squirrels getting into their feeders.  That's just plain strange. 
With no squirrels to compete with, its no wonder the birds were so plentiful!  It was amazing.
So much more fun than at our backyard, where the squirrels are always emptying the feeders.  Not only emptying them, but trashing them.  It was really amazing to see!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The End of an Era

President Thomas S Monson passed away several days ago, on January 2, 2018.  He was ninety.  Whenever a president of the church passes away everyone reminiscences about their experiences with him.  I'm no different, I suppose.  Years ago, when I was in college, right after returning from my mission, I ended up being the official photographer at the LDS Institute where I was attending school.  I happened into it, actually, it wasn't something I sought for.  I just took my camera to an institute activity and began taking pictures.  One of the institute officers saw me and asked if I'd be the photographer.  I said sure and that's how it happened.

Anyway, the institute had a monthly program where they would invite a speaker to address the institute student body.  As the photographer, I took pictures of the speakers when they came.  And so when Elder Thomas S Monson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came to speak one month, I took his picture as well.
Elder Thomas S Monson
I usually sat in the congregation, off to one side, and used my tele-converter to get a nice picture.  That was before I had a good telephoto lens.
Elder Thomas S Monson
Normally, I took a few of photos of the speaker.  Then I'd put my camera away and listen.  Well, when President Monson passed away I went digging through my oldest photos again, looking for those pictures I'd taken as institute photographer.  Alas, once again I did not find them.  I was looking for black and white negatives since a lot of the pictures I took during that picture were black and white because my roommate had taught me how to develop and print my own black and white photos.  I had actually looked for those pictures several times over the years but had never found them.  Then, today, quite by accident, I stumbled onto them.  I had bought a slide converter a while ago and decided to finally get it out today and try it.  And the easiest slides to get to were a little stash of slides I'd collected and stuck in the drawer of my night stand.  Low, and behold, when I got looking at them, there were the pictures of Elder Monson!  Callooh! Callay!

Over the years, I've grown to really like President Monson.  While I had no trouble at all accepting him as the Prophet and President of the Church, I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that some of the leading brethren are more likable to me than others. President Spencer W Kimball, for example, was incredibly easy to love.  President Hinckley as well.  I could listen to President Hinckley all day.  In that respect, President Monson had a tough act to follow.  But he grew on me and I was sorry to see him decline and finally pass away.
President Thomas S Monson
 He lead the church through some turbulent times.  He had to maintain and institute some unpopular policies.  But he was faithful to the end.  Many have commented that the church slowed in its advancement and growth under his leadership, as though that was somehow a failure on President Monson's part.  I don't believe that is the case at all.  Knowing President Monson, he did exactly what the Lord wanted done.  I have no doubt whatsoever he was faithful to the end.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Thou Didst Hear

In my  distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.
(II Samuel 22:7)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Blast from the Past

I was looking through our old family photos today, looking for a couple of pictures I took while back in college (which unfortunately I never did find) when I came across these old photos of our cute little Heidelbeere.
An exercise buff from an early age!
"Talking" to grandma - still learning the finer points of telephone skills
These were taken in 1990, when she was just a little shaver.  What a sweetie!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sweet Hour of Prayer

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. (Psalms 27:7)

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Latest and the Earliest

We don't pick up Christmas ornaments every year anymore but this year we did, we got some from Erdbeere.  I really like them, they are what I'd call "old fashion".  Plus they have that "home-made" look.  Knowing Erdbeere, she most likely did make them herself.  At any rate, they came as a set and I really liked them so I got them.
And they fit well into the menagerie of ornaments that we have accumulated over the last forty plus years of Christmas trees.

Stars and orbs, "dusty" colors.  They fit well into my idea of good Christmas decorations.
This is our Christmas tree this year.  I think I have gotten a picture of our tree every year since we got married.  We have so many decorations that we've accumulated over the years that we don't even put them all on each year.  There are just too many.  But these new ones from Erdbeere and really nice.

Anyway, getting some new ones got me to thinking about our first Christmas. We had been married only several months when Christmas came.  It was easy enough to find a tree but we had no ornaments that year.  We had to actually go find some.
What we ended up getting was some little flat wooden ornaments, Brombeere found them.  They came as a kit, we got to paint them ourselves.  So we did that for Family Home Evening one Monday early in December that year.  When they were dry we hung them up and they've decorated our tree every year since.  We still have most of them.
I did some and Brombeere did some.  What a pair of artists!

Then we got some lights, made some chain garland with tin foil and put it up in front of the window of our first apartment.  It worked quite well for our first Christmas.  It was a real tree so it only did one year with us, but the other decorations were a great start to our fabulous collection that has grown almost every year since!
So, Merry Christmas!