HOMEMADE CRACKER JACKS

Cracker Jack Recipe:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
8 cups popped corn – unsalted and not buttered
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
3 TBSP light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Spanish peanuts (shelled & salted)

Mix and spread popcorn and peanuts on greased jelly roll pan.
Combine all other ingredients EXCEPT baking soda and vanilla in 2 quart saucepan.
Cook until butter melts, stirring often to prevent burning. Cook and stir for additional 3 minutes over low/medium heat – not boiling.
Remove from heat.
Quickly stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour over popcorn mixture and gently stir to coat all popcorn and peanuts. Cool.

(If you have peanut allergies in your home, you can make this recipe without the nuts.)

PAUL BUNYAN

This is what happens after you’ve been married awhile – anniversary celebrations mean you let your kids stay home from school and go to Paul Bunyan’s for breakfast.

First of all – the staying home from school part was a BIG surprise and the kids didn’t even realize it was happening until they woke up and realized no one was urging them to get ready to get out the door.

Second – we headed to Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, home of the massive all-you-can-eat family-style breakfast, which has been a destination for up north visitors for many years. They are particularly known for their sugar donuts which are freshly baked and warm and arrive at your table in large bowl fulls. And so we ate and enjoyed.

DISC GOLFING

I was taken on a Mother’s Day event by Jeff. We went Disc Golfing and to The Pub.

Our family has been going to The Pub since back when I was in high school, but I’ve never been Disc Golfing before. I knew what it was, but just hadn’t gotten to a course. In case, you don’t know what it is, it’s like a real golf course, except instead of hitting a ball with a club, you throw a Frisbee into a basket. The course comes complete with posted yardage and expected par. And yes, there are different kinds of Frisbees like drivers and putters.

This course had a lot of trees, which was logical, since it was in the woods.

My take on how I did? I did not have the strength to get the distance, but I did stay on the course path fairly well and didn’t lose my Frisbee in the woods or anything. And I improved as I progressed through the course so that was encouraging even though Jeff beat me by a lot. I would definitely go again.

THE FLOWAGE

An interesting place to visit “up north” is the Rainbow Flowage. I’ve been there many times in my life, but Jeff and Cindy have found an inlet that has one huge pile of driftwood! The day we were there was overcast and gray. We hiked up and down the beach, watched birds and explored.

Check out the picture of the eagle. We’ve seen a lot of eagles before and we’ve seen a lot of driftwood, but this is the first time we’ve seen an eagle ON a piece of driftwood in the middle of the water!

DID I TELL YOU ABOUT THE TIME?

My first vacation morning, I headed for a coffee shop with my laptop to do some writing. The shop was cozy and welcoming and … louder than any Panera where I’ve ever set up shop. (I was far from Panera/Starbucks country.) Everything started well until “Dorothy” came and settled in a couple tables away and then, for the next two hours I heard this …

“Oh, Carrie (the clerk) how’s it going for you? How’s your son? Did I tell you that Amy is having a lot of problems? Last night she couldn’t sleep, so I went over. Madge should’ve been there, but she went up to Milwaukee to visit the dermatologist. Oh, I should call my son and tell him to wake up my husband. My husband is a dear, sweet man. He was up late working last night — Greg, could you go in and wake Dad? Do it gently. He had a hard night. Tell him we have an appointment to check out that house over in Woodruff –  Oh, sir. You need a newspaper? They have newspapers here. Carrie, where are the papers? They haven’t come yet? Sir, I’ll walk over to the liquor store for you. They have papers there. – Hello, Betty. Right we were going over later this morning? Is that still a good time? Carrie, you shouldn’t let your husband have custody of your son. You’re doing the right thing. You’re working hard and … Did I tell you how much trouble Amy is having?

If I were writing a book about small town living, I could’ve written down Dorothy’s monologue verbatim and had my text!

So, I left and headed over to the park. The sun was now high in the sky, so I sat at a picnic table and worked. Later, that afternoon, I was still sitting outside (but not at the park) in the beautiful sunshine as the kids arrived home.

GOOD MORNING, UP NORTH

Just got back from a very fun trip “up north.”

And what a great welcome – I opened the shade the first morning to see a pileated woodpecker on the tree right in front of the window. By the time I got my camera, he was checking out Cindy’s garden.  Because of their size, pileated woodpeckers are fun to spot and watch (they are almost crow-sized).

I wish I could’ve gotten a clearer view of him – but I was taking the picture through both the window screen and the wire fence around the garden.

SEVENTY-SIX TROMBONES AND POMEGRANATE YOGURT

Sometimes busy schedules are interrupted by fun evenings when you get to do something out of the ordinary.

Last night was one of those nights.

But first – this has been an entire week of good times with good friends … and family. (And some serious work was done, too – truly.)

Last night, Jenny and I went to a performance of The Music Man. Close enough to the stage to see the expressions on the actors/actresses faces – added to the fun. Another unique aspect was anytime the audience was supposed to applaud, Seventy-six Trombones was playing in the background. Within seconds, random applause transformed into rhythmic clapping to the beat.

On the way home we stopped at a “first-time-for-me” place for a snack – The Red Mango. This is a growing frozen yogurt franchise with all natural, low/nonfat ingredients. The yogurt is self-serve – you fill your serving dish and then top with a variety of ingredients – everything from chocolate, fruit, cereal, nuts and popping boba.

You can taste test the various yogurt flavors – I tested both pomegranate and key lime. Both were good, but I settled on the original vanilla and topped with strawberries and nuts (and a few of the popping boba).

I would definitely go back again.

HANGING AROUND MILLENNIUM

Had a great day in Chicago with Ruth and Ruth and Melinda and Marissa and K.

First we hung around Millennium Park. Since it’s late – I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Ok, one thing I didn’t take a picture of (duh!) that I should mention – hmm at the parking garage? I put my debit card into the cash slot at one of those electronic pay-your-parking-fee-machines. Fortunately we found a very kind security guard who very kindly helped us out. Yeah, moving right along to the pictures