The Parting Glass for Year’s End

The new year approaches quickly! A few months ago, a co-worker suggested instead of New Year’s Resolutions, we should begin a challenge in November. We started a walking goal to complete by Christmas. Many students and instructors offered encouragement as we walked laps around the parking lot or strolled the halls on our breaks. We were excited to reach our goal on the last day before vacation! After we return from break, a new challenge begins!

What are your goals for 2019? I’m focusing on activities that improve the mind, body, and spirit: Exercise challenges, meditation, reading (starting with Lewis’ Mere Christianity), singing at the Commission on Aging, and performing with Kilkenny Corkers.

Below is a New Year’s Gift for our fans-Slainte!

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Follow Kilkenny Corkers on Facebook for videos, concert dates, and other bits of “craic!”


Turkey Day with a Side of Mercy

While it always hurts to come across hateful comments about my father on social media, last month, I started receiving such comments on my personal accounts. Anger has often been my initial response in such situations. Recently, I did something unexpected, I paused and remembered a song I was learning, a song about mercy and how we all could use it.

I changed my focus and quickly recognized both the hate and pain surging through this troubled individual. The prudent option here was to ignore what was not really an attack, but an individual in pain, lashing out; in addition, adjusting my thinking helped me deal with such posts. I wondered where else “mercy” was needed…

Every semester, I perform for the Music Appreciation class at the college. This time, in addition to the usual presentation about oral tradition and Appalachian folk music, I added a current song I was learning. While the song is still in need of a final polish (and an amp for the strumstick), it felt right to sing about mercy. This holiday season, in addition to thankfulness, where do you need to show mercy? Is there a rift from long ago in need of attention? Are you still avoiding family members with differing political views? Perhaps it’s time to “mend the bond.”

Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Time to stock up on Lip Balm!

Ovens Need Not Apply

slow pot turkey


One of my favorite holidays is quickly approaching. I love spending time planning the large meal, shopping for ingredients, and getting an early start making dishes the night before. In the past few years, I learned a trick to prepare the main event, the turkey. Do you feel overwhelmed with preparing a 20+ pound bird? Do you find the breast meat dry? Is the gravy perhaps a bit bland? Is the oven prime real estate? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to bring out your Thanksgiving helper, the slow pot.

Several years ago, we started cooking smaller turkeys (8-10 lbs) in a slow pot. Need more bird for the crowd of guests, purchase two smaller birds and borrow another slow pot. These birds have more flavor and are more tender. Best of all, the oven is free for all the other goodies being prepared!

If you want to take your cooking another step, consider purchasing a Heritage turkey. These birds are descended from the wild turkey. Where your local grocer’s turkey is raised in 4-5 months, a Heritage turkey requires 6-8 months to mature. The added time is worth the wait and price. Domestic turkeys tend to be penned up in a cramped space and only eat grain, but most Heritage turkeys forage for food during the day and are supplemented with grain at night. Free ranging and extra time gives these birds a deeper flavor. It makes the gravy richer and provides an added flavor boost to those after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches.


baby turkeys


Three Heritage Turkey poults hatched on our farm this spring. Pliney the younger, Pliney the older, and Pompeii were easy to raise and were foraging within three weeks (My mom was visiting the weekend they hatched and named them after the people and town associated with Mt. Vesuvius). Unfortunately, our dog ate the Plineys, but Pompeii has grown quickly and will be our Thanksgiving star.




The preparation is similar to an oven turkey. Be sure to follow all safety guidelines: Use a completely thawed turkey, wash hands and any surfaces that touch the turkey, make sure the internal cooking temp reaches at least 165 degrees, and due to build up of juice in slow pot, stuffing is not recommended. However, cooking the turkey breast side down will immerse the meat in the natural juices, an added treat. Cooking time will vary based on the slow pot settings.

**Note: Slow pot turkeys do not have crispy skin, but there are several slow pot recipes on-line that include directions for an oven finish to create this effect.

**Note: Heritage turkeys can be quite expensive. However, I found many local farmers through Craigslist who offer these birds at reasonable prices.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Favorite Things: The Christmas Edition

Christmas quickly approaches! Only two days until school break starts for the kids, thought I better post something before the final, chaotic stretch to the holiday! I started journaling this morning about holiday stress but decided to tuck the negative away and focus on something positive. Instead, I’m sharing some of the season’s favorites!


Our Celtic nativity: Yes, Bethlehem is a long way from the Emerald Isle, but I LOVE my unique nativity, complete with Celtic knots and resin figurines that resemble stone. I searched for the perfect Irish themed nativity for about ten years and finally found one through an on-line store in England. Ironically, the shipping cost more than the set.

snowman earrings

My cheap, gaudy, snowman earrings: Chad bought them many years ago. Friends call them my “Summer diamonds…Summer real, summer not.” I love to dig them out of the jewelry box and wear them throughout the month of December.


Homemade stockings: My sister-in-law, Lissa, made my needlepoint stocking and her sister, Linda, made stockings for Chad and the kids. Linda’s are a particular favorite, complete with a Christmas tree to add mementoes over the years.

The Christmas seasonal culinary traditions: So many here…tourtieres, gravlox, sticky buns, overnight eggs, cheesy hash browns, fondue…nothing fancy, just simple, holiday traditions to look forward to every year.


Santa and Jesus: Coming from a family of history majors, I love putting this decoration out and hear the outrage from Mom about the historical inaccuracy. I prefer to view this decoration for symbolic value, a reminder of the true reason for the season.

Of course what makes these favorites is the opportunity to share them with family and friends. Each Christmas season is a gift and chance to be with those we love, help those who are struggling, and remember the simple gift of hope and peace that arrived in a stable so many, many years ago.

God Bless!

Memories, Tales, and Finding Yourself

I am so thankful that Chad’s relatives take the time to write down their stories and share with the family. Aunt Carol is one of those women who appreciates the memories and the importance of preserving family history. In her words below, she remembers a much simpler time on Grandma and Grandpa Ruzgis’ farm:

Some of my best memories of Gramma R was how generous and hard working this amazing lady was, although we didn’t think of that then. I don’t ever remember her complaining, although she had a lot to complain about. When I would stay with her, she would let me sleep in bed with her, she and Grampa R were always up around 4 AM to milk cows. I got to sleep in. I loved it when they called for the ‘cows to come home’ late in the afternoon for 2nd milking… come boss, come boss…

They raised most of their own food… apples, vegetables and potatoes. After milking the cows, the milk was separated (milk from cream) in the separator room. One of my favorite cows was named “Daisy,” (all of the cows had names). They did not have a tractor when I was young, but farmed with big work horses. There was a hen house, the chickens roamed free around the farm. It was frightening when someone yelled ‘chicken hawk’, everyone ran. I didn’t know what Chicken Hawk was, and I didn’t stick around to find out; I immediately hid in the house. A time I didn’t like was when they butchered the pigs. I’ll never forget the scream. They would slit the throat of the hog and drain the blood for blood sausage. Uck! A delicacy was the head cheese they made from some unknown part of the pig.

When we visited the farm, most slept upstairs. There was no inside bathroom facilities, we always had a pot we carried upstairs, then emptied in the morning. I remember my mom and aunts sleeping in the front bedroom, giggling all night long.

I loved going on grocery shopping trips with Gramma R in Scottville. She always bought me candy. I yearned for a used Brownie Kodak Camera I saw in a store window. She bought it for me after a lot of whining on my part.. We often stopped at Johnny’s Tavern in Custer. Gramma R would drink a glass or 2 of beer. Mom, and usually Aunt Rae and/or Aunt Phyllis were with us (someone had to drive). Johnny eventually built a larger bar and roller rink on the north side of US 10 farther to the west, but still in Custer. Gramma always wore a babushka on her head. I wish I had one of her babushkas, and I wish I had her old crocheted sweater vest, it was dark green with some orange trim. Always worn to town or church.

Gramma & Grampa R’s English was very broken and both were difficult to understand. They called me Kedala instead of Carol. It was so exciting when the cousins (Joyce, Janice & JoLynn) came over and we’d play in the woods & creek across from the farm. Karen & Ron Evanauskis were occasional visitors too with their parents, Johnny & Doris. On holidays, Gramma R would make her kuguli, yummy! She let me drink coffee brewed on the wood stove, and she always let me add lots of sugar. Unfortunately, I still do.

Grampa Ruzigs had asthma very bad. At night, he used to sit in the dark at the kitchen table and snuff some black stuff off the top of the can lid. He wasn’t very patient with us young kids, thought we were too noisy. Mike & Jerry used to give him a lot of grief. He was a very hard worker, never drove, always walked or hitchhiked to work in Ludington. Life was very difficult in those days. I wonder what kind of person he and Gramma would be today. I can’t imagine leaving your home and family and coming to a strange country where you could not even speak the language. Especially difficult when they had to leave a daughter behind in Lithuania, always planning to send for her, but the money was never there. Gramma never spoke of her.

I was thinking about the fall/winter holidays coming up and all the opportunities for family time. These large, delicious meals and gatherings are the perfect opportunity to hear old stories and learn about those people who still live through you. Thanks for reading!

Dead Highlanders, Family Traditions, and the Perfect Playlist

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
~A Scottish Prayer

One of the reasons why fall is my favorite season is because of the family traditions associated with Halloween. I look forward to harvesting pumpkins from the garden, the pleasant feeling of purchasing a plant that will die from cold weather and not from my lack of gardening skills (hardy mums), the creative costumes, and my two personal favorites, the unique music and decorating.
The decoration that holds the most significance for me is my grim reaper decanter and skull shot glasses, which belonged to Grandad (George Roche Jr.). Learning the history of the piece gave it even more significance, upon discovery that the set originated from pre-militarized Japan. While I don’t particularly enjoy drinking shots, many friends and family love to stop by on Halloween and drink a toast from the set.

I also love to dress up and watch my family embrace their creativity (or lack thereof). My favorites are the homemade varieties. As a preteen, I remember my father coming down the front staircase at Broadlawn in an outfit that was thrown together in less than ten minutes, a bathrobe, wild white wig, and beard and voila, insta-Gandalf. Though I have to admit as a preteen, the first word that came to mind was YUCK!
Another fond memory occurred ten years ago at our family Halloween with my sister and her husband, Muriel and Jeromey. Jer built a pirate ship in the yard for people to sit on while handing out candy. The entire family dressed up with a nautical theme. Muriel pulled off the perfect mermaid and sat patiently on the homemade ship for the entire evening handing out candy (since she was unable to walk in her costume). My frugal hubby packed up all his fly-fishing equipment and painted his face white with blood red streaks, going as a dead fisherman.

Looking forward to this year’s celebration, we host an annual open house for friends and family out trick-or-treating. Chad makes a batch of homemade sauerkraut to accompany hot dogs, cider, and any treats our friends and family bring (usually some of the tastiest homemade fare 🙂 This year’s costumes are no exception! I bought the boys and Chad kilts this summer, so George is dressing as a dead highlander and his good friend, who recently returned from a year with family in Germany, is wearing lederhosen and dressing as a dead German. Chad even wired speakers on the porch, so we can enjoy our unique playlists of the evening.

The special playlists of the holiday are favorites. I have both a classical and rock and roll Halloween mix.

Fright Night Classical Playlist (There are several Halloween themed CDs with many of these songs.):

Danse Macabre
A Night on the Bare Mountain
In the Hall of the Mountain King
Marche Funebre
Scherzo (from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana)
The Ride of the Valkyries
The Old Castle

Rock-n-Roll Playlist:

I Put a Spell on You (CCR)
Werewolves of London (Zevon)
Welcome to my Nightmare (Cooper)
Ghostbusters (Parker)
Thriller (Jackson)
Black Magic Woman (Santana)
Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow)
Desperation Samba (Buffett)
People are Strange (Doors)
Addams Groove (MC Hammer)
Bye & Bye/Saints (Stafford and White)

The last song is not really part of the rock-n-roll genre, but it should be included in the Halloween repertoire. “Bye & Bye/Saints” is a piece that includes a personal favorite of mine, “When the Saints go Marching in.” While there are aspects of Halloween that I do not enjoy, the larger part of the holiday is time with family and time for family traditions. It’s a time for children to use their creativity and create a costume. It’s a time to have fun being something or someone else. We make lasting memories with these holidays. We praise the Lord for the blessings of the harvest, the crisp weather, the comfort food shared with family and friends. In my own church, Halloween represents All Hallows Eve, to be followed by All Saints Day, and then All Souls Day. I like to take this time to remember those who have gone before us in the past year, remember the memories we shared, and drink a toast in their honor.

I’m trying to find time to blog every month about three important things in my life: Clan, Music, and Writing. If you would like to read each post, you can follow my blog and receive an e-mail with each new post. I also appreciate comments and constructive criticism as I am always looking to improve. Thanks!