Category Archives: The Grandparents

The Power of a Loving Touch


When grandma came to visit, she offered an extra ear to whisper into, extra eyes to watch over us and extra hands to tuck us in at night. At bedtime, she would listen to our prayers, settle the covers around us and rub our backs as we drifted off to sleep. Those back rubs were in high demand in our household.

This summer, I’ve had the privilege of tucking my grandchildren into their beds. Some nights, the five year old has a difficult time falling asleep. He is a deep thinker and lets his mind wander and linger on thoughts when he should be sleeping.

One night, after settling the covers over him, I told my grandson about my grandma and how she would rub my back at night. I started rubbing his back as I shared stories about her. As I talked and rubbed I could feel his muscles relax and sensed the quieting of his mind. As he calmed, I sat silently rubbing his back while thinking about long ago days when I was on the receiving end of one of these back rubs. As he drifted off to sleep, I continued to rub his back. Why? Touch is a two way street. That simple back rub was as relaxing for me as it was for my grandson.

An excerpt from The Power of Touch in Psychology Today succinctly highlights the benefits of reaching out and sharing a loving touch:

“Every evening at bedtime, DePauw’s Hertenstein gives his young son a back rub. “It’s a bonding opportunity for the two of us. Oxytocin levels go up, heart rates go down, all these wonderful things that you can’t see.” Moments like these also reveal the reciprocal nature of touch, he says: “You can’t touch without being touched. A lot of those same beneficial physiological consequences happen to me, the person doing the touching.””

Grandma taught me the power of a loving touch and I have never forgotten that long ago lesson. As an adult, when visiting her in the nursing home, I would remind our children to reach out and touch this wonderful woman. During our visit, one or more of us would be holding her hand, rubbing her back, massaging her arms, brushing her hair… anything we could do to convey our love via the sense of touch.

Touch. So simple. So necessary. Make an effort to reach out and physically touch those you love.

Follow the links below to jump start your very own touch therapy:



My $75 Loaf of Bread

I am trying to adjust to my new normal. As a public employee in Wisconsin, transitioning from a teacher contract to an employee handbook, life has become very uncertain. People expect change to happen at work each year. But this school year, the wide variety of changes feel like a roller coaster ride with mainly a series of plunges and I am not a thrill seeker.

So, to give myself a feeling of control, and financial as well as mental stability in this time of cuts and uncertainty, I put myself on a strict monthly budget and took a second job at night.

Looking for a positive spin to this new need for frugality, I decided to resurrect the motto of my grandparents “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Dad grew up on a Depression era farm in North Dakota. He didn’t know he was poor until he was an adult and was informed so by people who had money. While his family was not rich in dollars, they were rich in food, family support and laughter. One of my fondest memories of my ‘granny’ is spending time in her kitchen as she created the most incredible baked goods.

I have longed to recreate the homemade bread that I can still taste if I close my eyes. I remember watching Granny hold a huge loaf of bread against her chest as she walked around the dinner table slicing portions for all of us to savor fresh from the oven. And I have thought, I can make my own bread. It will be delightful and… save money.

Finding a bread recipe that is equal to my memories has been a challenge. And, the flops I have created in my kitchen over the last few months have been disappointing.

Recently, I found a recipe for no-knead bread that was intriguing. Unfortunately, the recipe (adapted from Jim Lahey) called for a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic). I went to my cupboards and like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboards were bare and did not hold a covered pot that could withstand 450 degrees in the oven. So, I went shopping. With my coupons, I purchased a cast iron pot for $71.43. Seriously. That was more than I planned (certainly not in my budget) but I really wanted to make this bread!

Following a recipe I found on The New York Times website for No-Knead Bread, I set to work. I mixed up my ingredients and then waited for 18 hours. As my dough did its thing, I was reminded of all of the dough Granny had in various stages of proofing in covered bowls in her pantry all those years ago.  I always thought it was weird (and slightly unsanitary) that she let dough sit out for what seemed like days.

As one day turned into the next, my dough was finally ready. I flipped it into my heated pot and baked my bread with fingers crossed. The smell of baking bread infiltrated every corner of our home. I could hardly wait to taste my first slice and when I did, I closed my eyes and savored.

I finally realize the secret of bread, which I wish I had learned from my experiences long ago…Great bread takes time.  And, as it turns out, a little bit of money.

I plan to stir up my fifth batch of bread dough this morning. Each time I bake a loaf, I divide my number of baked loaves by my original $75 investment (the cast iron pan + ingredients). Today’s loaf will bring my cost down to $15 a loaf. Makes me smile.

No-Knead Bread - Finished Loaf (294068096)
No-Knead Bread – Finished Loaf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a Viking in My Bedroom!

I listened to an interview with Eric Dregni, author of Vikings in the Attic, In Search of Nordic AmericaHe started by saying, “I always thought that Scandinavians were normal” and I knew I was going to enjoy what he had to say.

Mom, a North Dakotan from the eastern part of the state, grew up speaking English though most things in her home were Norwegian. Her mom made fattigman, flatbrød, rosettes, swedish meatballs, lefse and many variations of jello. I learned to appreciate Norwegian food as well as the heritage but never thought it was normal. One reason may be it was so different from the German traditions we experienced when visiting dad’s family. In fairness, the Deutsch traditions didn’t seem normal either.

Some of these practices are missing from my household today. Though Grandma tried, we never developed a taste or appreciation for lutefisk. Who wants to eat whitefish that had been soaked in lye? Not me. So my parents served pickled herring every Christmas instead, touting it as a delicacy. Nice try but no sell, herring is also missing from my holiday table. The foods we continue to enjoy during the holidays are swedish meatballs, lefse and an updated version of jello with real strawberries and less sugar. During our Thanksgiving meal this year the jello was about all my granddaughter (a very picky eater) ate. Thank you Grandma. Our grandson while eating his lefse with a liberal dousing of sugar, stated “Yum, a cookie.”

Looking back I remember fondly the visits and meals at the Sons of Norway lodge, listening to my relatives no-nonsense attitude about life and a children’s rhyme we learned, “her kjem den lille mann opp over armen din til å kile nakke” which translates to “here comes the little man up over your arm to tickle your neck.” The little man lived in a small metal home that belonged to my great grandma. She used her fingers to pretend the little man came out of the house and walked up a child’s arm to tickle their neck. The kids laughed because they didn’t understand the translation. If they had understood a little man was creeping up their arm they may not have loved this rhyme so much.

Not having enough Scandinavian in my life I decided to fall in love with and marry a man with a rich Scandinavian heritage. He taught me more Norwegian words, “ole kjørte så langsom han dritt buksa.” I proudly said these words until I learned their translation “Ole drove so slow he pooped his pants.” So much for trust and as my relatives would say, Uff Da!

While my husband’s family has many of the same traditions as my grandma’s they have a few that are different and notable. Two include eating potato klub and blood klub (blood sausage). Each Christmas I was invited to partake. No thank you. Please pass the mashed potatoes and yes, I will have another helping of corn.

This year, the day before Thanksgiving, my husband and I went to the grocery store. As we were shopping he disappeared and was gone for a long time. If I’d had my cell phone I would have called him to find out where he was. Finally, as I was heading to the cashier with a full cart, he reappeared saying in a booming voice, “I found it!” He was clutching a package of lefse. I had forgotten to put lefse on our shopping list but my Viking husband did not. If it had not been for him ‘sugar potato cookies’ would have been missing from our Thanksgiving spread. Now that would have been a travesty.

I Can Handle the Hot Water

I found this image at MaryJanesFarm blog. It resonates with me. I come from a long line of women who possessed incredible strength. They lived a truly sustainable, independent life. They grew their own food, helped build sod homes which were later replaced with wood framed homes, cooked, baked, canned, butchered, planted, and birthed. You get the picture. I draw on their strength to this day.

Family stories and lessons from these women give me perspective. Perspective is sadly missing today. Our nation’s political leaders appear to be acting on short term victories rather than long term national gains. How short sighted and how damaging to our future. I believe we are in for a very political hot water year. I wonder how they’ll handle the hot water?

“Say It” With Your Own Photo Cards

I met my siblings this past week to finalize paperwork for a legacy passed down from our grandmother to our mother and now to us. I wanted to bring a memory of these two wonderful women with me as I traveled to our meeting.

As I thought about grandma and mom, I searched for a picture that reflected the bond they shared and their prairie roots. Once I found the picture, I ordered copies of the print and considered how to make something special to commemorate the event.

Mom taught us the importance of giving and sending cards. Every Monday morning, mom would sit at the dining room table and write letters and cards to family and friends. She grew up in a tradition of letter writing which she maintained throughout her life. Using the photo of grandma and mom, I created a Photo Card using their picture on the front cover and a memory quote typed inside. I placed a copy of the same photo and a handwritten note within each card.

Greeting cards were an important form of communication when mom was growing up. While email and social media have largely replaced the need for cards, sometimes “saying it with a greeting card” is still the most personal way to share your thoughts and feelings.

If you are interested in creating your own Photo Cards here are the steps I followed:

  1. Scan your picture.
  2. Open Walgreens Photo on the web.
    I use Walgreens Photo because they have discount coupons
    I can place my order using my home computer and the web
    I can choose same day pickup which is important because I usually do things at the last minute and
    I can pay at the store since I do not like to type credit card information on the web
  3. Log into Walgreens Photo with user name and password. You get a user name and password by registering for a free account.
  4. Click on upload photos to upload scanned picture into an online photo album.
  5. Click on Cards and select a 5″ by 7″ Full Photo Folded Card, click on the Portrait Photo Layout and then click on Create Now.
  6. Click on Get Photo to open Online Photo Albums. Click on your photo and click done.
  7. Drag photo onto the front of online card. Click on inside tab to view the inside of online card. Type text. I used a memory quote I found on the web: “Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” ~ Kevin Arnold
  8. Edit text and picture then click on Order.
  9. The last step didn’t involve me at all. I had my husband pick up the cards that same day on his way home from work. Couldn’t have been simpler!