Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ordinary or Extraordinary?


We are in the between stages of the holiday, a gradually coming down to the daily and coming back to the routine. December has been festive and wintry! My goodness, something everyday and not always what I wanted to see. So the day after Christmas really felt like a day-after this morning. The freezing fog we had at dawn was more darkness and cold, but the forecast promised a nicer day coming along. I looked out the drapes beyond the Christmas tree and wondered how I would spend the day when I felt rather blah.

Then I noticed a print on the windows. I was irritated at first thinking someone smudged the glass. Then I investigated what looked like a wing...definitely a wing. Then on the other side a lighter wing. Oh my gosh, was this an angel? DH looked and snickered, only a bird flew into the glass. But even he admitted a bird hitting the glass was very rare this time of year. If it were a bird, it was a big one. No chickadee or finch. There were no feathers on the porch.

During the day, three people said that it simply was a bird. Fifteen others said it was definitely an angel.  What do YOU think?




Later in the day, the mail brought a tiny check and notification of a win in 3rd place for free verse in the Lebanon Poetry Contest. I was also listed with an honorable mention in the same category. It was a sign to me to keep plugging along, that I should keep writing in the new year. Hum, could those angel wings have been my muse calling to me?

This has been some day-after!






Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, 2013

 
 
I’m glad to have dime store Santas and plastic reindeer
To remember from my long-ago childhood,
With memories of cedar trees plucked from pastures
Shedding spiny needles on waxed hardwood floors.
I’m glad to have eaten large family dinners with shaking Jell-O salads
And Depression glass bowls filled with olives, the real star of the meal.
I’m glad to have worn rubber boots closed with elastic frogs
That failed to keep frigid cold from my childish legs
As I walked into Midnight Mass on starry nights under shadowy skies
Where not a single cloud bothered suppressing warmth from earth.
For without these memories what would Christmas be now?
Blaring canned music, multiple Santa Claus men at every store in town,
Sometimes sitting under forgotten suspended Halloween masks.
Now trees are decked out in color-coordinated glass balls
Costing the same price as a pair of chic designer shoes.
Gifts, gifts, gifts and commercialism galore.
No, without my memory of those simpler times when
Father Christmas sat among a flickering candle or two,
When paper chains and paper straw stars rested proudly
On tree limbs among tawdry silver tinsel strands,
I would be lost among the glimmer and glitz
Of today’s furry fat Santas and cold commercialism.

                                   Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Icy Day for Solstice


Yesterday morning is was warm and the moon stayed with us late into the morning, making for a long dark day readying for the Solstice.



It is beautiful standing inside looking out today, seeing ice trees, ice shrubs, ice formations off roofs. It is cold and continues to rain so who know if this will end well today. The electricity has flickered on and off for hours, but we are lucky as it comes back on while in other places residents are without power.

 
 
And so on this Winter Solstice, Mother Nature is saying:
Let winter begin!!!!
 
 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Death of an Author


Some days your feet hit the floor and the left foot leads. No matter what you do, you are out of step the rest of the day. This has been one of those days. The skies hang low with dark, menacing clouds. The forecast says rain turning to ice for tonight. After a quarter of inch of ice, then snow might or might not add to the mix later. DH had to be in the next town very early for a little procedure which was then canceled. After his being under the weather all night long, he did not want to wait for stores to open for my short shopping list. So we returned home. Things just got out of step and stayed.

After hunting for two hours for my old copy of SHANE,  I gave up and went to the library for a copy. It was there that I heard Janet Dailey had died. I must have been the last to know. What a shock to lose this vibrant gal so early at 69 years. In this season of remembering those no longer with us, I had to add another name...to recall past times and experiences of which there will be no more.

I don't remember the year, but the author was at a peak in her career. She had been in Branson for only a short while when I suggested to the local Friends of the Library we ask for her help in fundraising. Our library operated on a shoestring. No one thought it possible...said I couldn't do it...said they knew she was too busy at best! They dropped the matter, but I didn't.

I came home and wrote a letter explaining our need to raise money to help the library. I asked what she would charge for a personal appearance or if she could at least donate some autographed books for a raffle if nothing else. I figured "nothing ventured, nothing gained". I came home from work one afternoon to a voice message. It was Bill Dailey saying he was in charge of his wife's PR schedule and to call him at a given number. When I did, he said she would be glad to come, would sign books, and there would be no charge from them so any ticket sales could result in all funds going to the library. Great! Oh, but now I had to tell the board it was a done deal and Janet Dailey was on her way!

My husband and I along with a couple of others ate supper with the Daileys that night before her speaking engagement. They were lovely people. Bill was animated and full of tales of his own. Janet was a gracious woman, eager to help, share her stories, and endure questions. She made no mistake of having a super ego. She wrote romance and her fans kept her going. When she spoke from the high school auditorium stage, she made a crowd of women feel she talked to each of them individually. It was one great night and a wonderful boost for our local library.

I am so sorry that Janet the person is gone now and that Janet the author will not pen another story with a sexy cowboy or Levi-packed heroine dashing through the pages. Thanks, Janet, for all you gave the world. We will miss 'ya!













Friday, December 13, 2013

A Blue Christmas---Tea


No school here again today and roads slick this morning. The skies were dark and ugly. Now rain and warmer temps, but possibly more ice and snow tonight. After a slow start to the day, things moved again so the scheduled Christmas Tea here this morning happened after all!

 
Such a simple affair of just tea, cookies and nuts. But everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. That is the blessing: friends laughing and sharing, good time had by all.

I pulled out the Blue Willow cups and saucers and used at least one blue snow man teapot. It was a blue Christmas along with all the festive red today!




Isn't this a happy fellow? A special friend brought him to me for the season. I just love his face and feel quite happy when I look at his face!





 

 


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Lunch for Tai Chi and Tea


 
The weather makes this December difficult because celebrations keep getting postponed or canceled. The Tai Chi and Tea group managed to get their Christmas luncheon in today between storms after going through most of their usual routines. One of the members has a bed and breakfast where she hosted the group for a Christmas lunch today.
 
The Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast is an impressive Victorian built in 1893. The house was decorated and smelled of delicious foods. A cookie exchange sufficed for dessert after the meal. It was all lovely, and meanwhile outside, the sun was shining brightly helping melt the streets before tomorrow’s  forecasted freezing rain/snow.

The best gift of all is time spent with friends.
 
                        One of the hundred year old stained glass windows.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Enduring the Cold


 
Winter is always bad for eating as are the holidays. When housebound by ice and snow before Christmas, well, it is an eating frenzy. Using the oven makes the house toasty and the kitchen smell homey. But at this rate, we might not be able to get out the front door by Christmas. Maybe Santa can show us his secret?
 
                                                        Lunch--sausage and cheese quiche

DH warmed up his shop and went out to build with wood. That was good because then I put on the Christmas CD’s and turned up the volume so the music floated over the rattle of the washer and dryer. I lit a balsam candle to finish the mood. DH hates Christmas music. Are there any men who do like Christmas music? Surely there are, but I don’t know them. This morning I used the new Susan Boyle HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. It is beautiful…
 
 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Spice Day


Snowing, 6:30 am
 
 
The snow flies today after lurking in the dark and bruised sky of yesterday. All day we heard horror stories and cancelations fell like boulders in a rock slide. However, we sat in a pocket free from the ice and storms, waiting our turn. It is 16 degrees this morning, just right for wrapping up in a flannel robe, hugging a warm tea mug, and cradling a good book!

The cold weather also invites using the oven. The day is perfect for making nuts that will be gifts or snacks this month. I made numerous batches, including a new Mexican Walnut. Now the house smells of garlic and Worchester sauce, cinnamon and sugar, chili powder and cumin; the house feels warm and homey.

DH’s mom did not use much spice in her cooking. Salt was the big taste and some cinnamon. At my house, nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom were winter smells. Black pepper was used as liberally as salt. Black pepper sat on the table for shaking over cottage cheese and anything that did not have enough kick. Mom’s soups and chili meant cumin, chili powder, paprika. I do not remember any saffron or curry being used, however.

DH does not like spice. Over the years I have lead him to some new tastes, but put too much herb or real taste to a dish and I hear: This is too spicy! Now when we were dating, my dad always kept a huge jar of HOT Polish sausages on the counter top. DH loved those. Dad would razz me every morning when he got up and saw how many sausages were missing after Dad had gone to bed early the night before. “For someone who does not like spice, that boy sure can put away Polish sausage!”

The warm kitchen and the pages of Adriana Trigianai’s  newest book, THE SUPREME MACRONIC COMPANY, reminds me of the frozen raviolis I still have from October’s visit to The Hill in St. Louis. Yum…I feel an Italian lunch coming on!
 
 

             SO WHAT KIND OF SPICES DO YOU USE IN YOUR FOOD?

 


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Dithers

 
 
I think it is wonderful how we have weather warnings these days; we can plan crops, plan for travel, and plan for safety. However…knowing what is coming when I don’t want it makes me feel like climbing the walls. Also switching back and forth between seasons in just a day or two is maddening. Our bodies can’t adapt well to spring today, winter tomorrow.
The last two days the weather has been unseasonably warm. My sister took the day off work for Christmas shopping, and I met her over the state line. We had a great time together which is really what Christmas is, together for pleasure. The southeastern town is home to PSU which has a gorilla mascot named Gus. (Oh, how I love gorillas!!!) I was tickled to see that Gus was included in the local mall’s holiday decorations!
Meanwhile, we are saying goodbye to a maple that shades our deck. Two years ago a quarter of the tree broke off and nailed the umbrella and deck. We were lucky no one was still sitting out there that late afternoon. We have been nervous about the tree since and finally decided to let it go. There were bad places but not all the tree was bad. However, it would have been misshapen and ugly if only partially cut.
This tree has sheltered us and our children for 40 years, its girth growing. It covered our first picnic table set in the grass. It shaded the swing set. It was home to a wood pecker each summer. It was where our returning wrens landed and sang to us each spring. Under that tree I released my Granny. She had been so ill and I had prayed so hard. Suddenly, I realized I was praying for myself not to lose her, to not be left in the world without her influence. When I realized how selfish I was, I changed my prayers about 10:00 p.m. that she be granted ease and relief.  Five hours later she was gone, and I have special feeling for that tree since.
       
Winter weather is coming. By the end of the week we are to have frigid cold, sleet, snow, and/or ice. I am not happy about this as the storm will hit on days when a lot of Christmas luncheons and activities were planned. I always hate when the weather wrecks December, as I consider the whole month festive! We can be housebound in January after the food and frolic are over. But I am ready for what may come: soup materials, tea canisters full, numerous books waiting.
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It Beginning to Look Like....



 
Today is one of endings and beginnings. The year’s Thanksgiving ends as many people will be on the roads returning home after a long weekend. Today is the first Sunday in Advent, the traditional beginning of the Christian season before Christmas. The endings always seem harder than the beginnings, don’t they?
This year our holiday was a quiet one, and we faced recognizing that our holidays will be on the quiet side from now on. Parents are gone either figuratively or literally, siblings scattered, far-flung children are enmeshed with their own lives, and friends aging along with us showing us changes we don’t really want to see. Soon it will be memoires that sit at our tables in the winter months; holiday will mean any day and any place during the year that we can be with our loves ones.
Once we waved goodbye on Thanksgiving afternoon, I started putting autumn d├ęcor away. I took my time this year and tossed out a few things rather than repack. Ah…do I admit that there are still five boxes and two crates of autumn pumpkins and pilgrims? Autumn is a special season to me. The next morning I dragged out the Christmas stuff…another big ordeal.
I weeded Christmas things last year, but I did more plucking and tossing this year too. I still have much to use for decorating. Like last year, I am going to leave the decorations off the tree and rely on only the twinkling lights. I so enjoy the tree this way, a visible “less is more” feeling. I enjoyed the poinsettia trees, the family trims, the tea pot themed year, the red/white/blue year all in their day. But this year with Christmas only 23 days away, I am going for simpler stuff sitting around the house. Believe me, there is still plenty of red and green about!
I have huge ceramic nativities, but I am setting out a more modest one. The local Catholic Church does not decorate until week before Christmas. The local Episcopal Church does not put anything out until right on Christmas and the baby does not show up in the manger until Dec. 25 with the Three Kings arriving a week later. I like to have mine up early in the month to remind me in the bustle of busy days why we do all the holly and stuff in the first place. Then when January comes I want things put away for winter reflection, restoration, and writing days.
 
 
My favorite winter snowmen...made from chenille bedspread fabric. Soft and easily stored, cheery
                                                                              while sitting among us!
 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Story


                                        Ghost Writer

“Are you a ghost?”

“No, I am a muse. Can’t you tell the difference?”

“Ah, I suppose I can’t. You look imaginary to me.”

“Mercy fellow, you need a muse. You’ve been sitting at that silent computer for a long while now. All I hear is the click of torn nails on the desk top tapping out Bee Gee hits.”

“So if you are a muse, inspire me.”

“Sure, you want me to do all the work.  I’m here for guidance, not some Tom Sawyer sucker to paint your fence…or write your story that is.”

“I want to write a murder mystery, but I can’t get beyond how the body is found.”

“You have a body then. So how was it killed? Knife, strangulation, gun shot, overzealous sex or what?

“I hadn’t thought of HOW yet!”

“Man, then get going. Tell me, just tell me what you think.”

“Hum, I think he was shot…with a pistol, actually an old Colt revolver…in these dark   thick woods, tall oaks maybe…”

“Wait a minute, so this is a western with an old six shooter, but not in the Old West I know because there aren’t a lot of forests out there.”

“I hadn’t thought about a western. Say, that is a good idea!  In my mind it was in present day

Pennsylvania, but I like your idea better. Maybe he is in a stand of cottonwoods instead... yes,

that’s it.”

“In the back or somewhere else?”

“Pardon me, in back of what?”

“The victim, of course. Is he shot in the back or was he in a duel or was he shot in the head? Makes a difference you know.  If he was shot in the back, he might have been the story’s victim. If shot in the front, maybe he was in an attempted robbery, him being the villain. If he was shot…”

“Yeah, I know. I get the idea and I think he was shot in the back. But I still want him to be the bad guy. So how will I do this…hum…and I need a girl don’t ya think?”

“Depends, you mean a girl left behind, a girl shooter, a girl two men fought over?                What sort of girl exactly?”

“I don’t know, but if you’ll excuse me, I want to start getting some of this down while it is fresh in my mind.”

“Well yes indeed, and you’re welcome.”
“No, I appreciate it, really I do, but I certainly need to get to work.  But wait a minute, will you be back again tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. Do you believe in ghosts?”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Careful with the Camera


I take pictures when I am out and about. Our trip pictures are places we see or sites we visit; rarely do we stand in front a state sign or on the edge of a canyon while some stranger snaps us. We might be sorry someday that we have few pictures of ourselves, especially me who is the main picture-taker.

Recently it came to my attention that while many love to have their pictures taken, giving pristine poses and flashing coy smiles, some do not. For myself, I hate to see the loss of the person I used to be. It is hard to relish flab and wrinkles when I remember the feeling of taut skin, fresh and moist as unbroken lake water on a still day. Other friends hate their gray, their now ever-present bifolcals, or the scars from pre-cancerous burns. It doesn’t matter why, but that they are uncomfortable with being snapped. I think we ought to be considerate of their rathers.

This all came to me during a recent tea at my house where more than one of us was snapping shots. I heard someone gasp and moan when cameras came out, and I recognized her feelings. Another asked later where those pictures were going, where would they be used, and I recognized real discomfort. When I saw the pictures I took, I had a great group shot of everyone but one. She looked terrible to put it bluntly. I have too much respect for my friend to put up her picture publicly, so sharing the tea will have to remain a table top only.
 

While the tea was wonderful and warm and chatty and pleasant, I was left with some real thinking about pictures. I love having photographs from times past, and I study old family photos and studio takes looking for clues to who I am, whose face I wear.  I love candid shots that snap up the time and mood and season as much I like the faces. But I also remember that pictures were also one of my first horrors.

                                            My typical face when the camera came out.

My mother took me to the studio for portraits as soon as I was able. Many of those pictures are ones with tears. I fought the camera and wailed through them all. My mother was furious. What was I thinking? I have thought back and can’t remember WHY I cried so. I can feel those big lights, the goofy photographer, the toys jiggled in my face…nothing scary, but I cried. I hated it. How I wish I could recall what was in my mind, but I only remember the horrible sessions.

Now days EVERYONE has a camera of some kind in their hands, snapping here and there and actually invading our privacy at every turn. I remember years ago attending my son’s senior talent show. I was enjoying his music tremendously when another parent tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to move out of the way. Her husband wanted to set up video cameras to film THEIR daughter’s talent. The assumption was it was surely more important than my son’s. In dealing with them I missed part of my son’s time. Maybe everyone should put down the cameras and enjoy the moment instead of saving it on film.

Although I take a lot of pictures, I am nervous about it. I am well aware of invading the space of others. I ask permission often and most of the time people say, “Oh sure.” In a time where posting pictures means more sales, more bits of lame fame, or making social connections, pictures seem to be a given. Primitive people used to think a photo stole their souls or could be used for Black Magic. I doubt if such beliefs still linger, but there are people who just don’t want to be captured by cameras. So be considerate and try to see the other guy’s feelings, ridiculous as they might seem to you.  

Be careful with your camera.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remembering Mr. President


At the end of the week, an anniversary will arrive. It will be 50 y ears since an American president was murdered. The media hasn’t forgotten the interest in this man and makes sure America’s citizens today still see the assassination as it happened with film footage. I remember the time well and need no reminder. Seeing the films again brings back the horror and stunned breathlessness of that day.

I was in fifth and sixth grade when John Kennedy was coming to the front of politics. A wonderful teacher was teaching Civics…making us aware of current events. I listened. I became interested. I started listening to speeches, following campaigns, celebrating elections. JFK gave me a sense of real belonging; I wanted to do for my country!

Then when I was a freshman, the bullet took him out and changed America. There was a rumble in the halls during lunch; rumors flew, worry lines formed on faces. We went on to our afternoon classes which put me in my most hated class ever, Algebra, with a detestable man. We had not gotten far into class when the intercom announced the death of our President. I will never forget the smirk on the teacher’s face as he watched some of us crumble. Remember, this was in Republican Kansas but still there were believers in the dream of Camelot.

School was dismissed, and we went home early for a long weekend to deal with the shock.

Since then, many unsavory details have come to light about the man John Kennedy and the President JFK. I don’t like them, but they don’t erase the feeling I had in those days. Many dismiss Kennedy as just a randy Irish Catholic. They may be correct, but I think despite his inadequacies there is still much to admire. I don’t deny his weaknesses, but I choose to see the leadership he gave despite his defects. It can’t be denied that he galvanized a generation to action, tried to move the world towards a better place.

Maybe JFK’s faults gave us as much as his virtues. Maybe we should see that despite being less than perfect he did do good things and went down doing what he thought was right—in parts of his life anyway. After all, Camelot was a mythical place and John Kennedy was a flesh and blood man, but one who stood a little above the rest even if on feet of clay.
 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Remembering Poetry


I belong to the Crawford County Bombadils, a poetry group. I have never met any of the poets, but the president keeps everyone looped together by email. She gives us a writing assignment every month or two and then we share our work. This month she said to try recalling a very early experience you had of reading or hearing language that interested or excited or confused or enlightened you.  Then we were to write about it, not necessarily poetry.
 
 
                                                                 Erie Grade School
 

This is mine:t, reading, multiplication tables, and this was the year for poetry. Mrs. Wells taught us about rhyme and how to set up line lengths on a page. She sharpened our awareness to things around us, made us attentive to the seasons. We were taught to keep a Poetry Notebook.

One whole segment of the wall length blackboard had permanent white lines like a piece of paper. Sometime near the first of each month, we had a poetry lesson. As a class we thought up a list of images that represented the month’s activities and then suggested sentences to make poems while teacher put those sentences up on the blackboard page. Together the teacher and class produced a nice poem about October’s red maple leaves or April’s sweet Easter Bunny. We were to copy the poem neatly on a page to put into a “folder” we had made ourselves of construction paper and paper brads.

Then sometime in the month we were to write a similar poem of our own and include it the folder. We decorated our folder, and we were encouraged to draw or color scenes on the poem page that depicted the poem. Mrs. Wells taught us some minor drawing too. Of course a summer tree was easy, two lines and a ballooning circle overhead, but a winter tree? She taught us how to draw stately oaks with limbs and branches free of leaves reaching skyward. I loved those trees! And to this day, if sitting with pencil and paper I find myself doodling one of the trees if I let my mind wander.

Any free time we could work on our poetry. Then occasionally Mrs. Wells collected the folders and read each page leaving encouraging comments or helpful ideas on the poetry pages. While we were too young for metaphors and similes, for alliteration, we learned appreciation and love of poetry first; the rest would come. She planted seeds that would become a love a language and a working knowledge about the power of words. The brick building might be gone, but the poetry we learned in the old brick halls stills sings loud and clear in our minds and hearts, the songs never-ending.

Recently in the name of progress, the two-storied, red brick school house was torn down in my Kansas hometown. I spent good years there, walked away with memories and lessons I remember still. One of the best years in that old school was the fourth grade, the last age group on the ground floor and taught by Phyllis Wells, who was a kind and genial woman, always.

I had wrestled through the alphabet, reading, multiplication tables, and this was the year for poetry. Mrs. Well taught us about rhyme and how to set up line lengths on a page. She sharpened our awareness to things around us, made us attentive to the seasons. We were taught to keep a Poetry Notebook.

One whole segment of the wall length blackboard had permanent white lines like a piece of paper. Sometime near the first of each month, we had a poetry lesson. As a class we thought up a list of images that represented the month’s activities and then suggested sentences to make poems while teacher put those sentences up on the blackboard page. Together the teacher and class produced a nice poem about October’s red maple leaves or April’s sweet Easter Bunny. We were to copy the poem neatly on a page to put into a “folder” we had made ourselves of construction paper and paper brads.

Then sometime in the month we were to write a similar poem of our own and include it the folder. We decorated our folder, and we were encouraged to draw or color scenes on the poem page that depicted the poem. Mrs. Well taught us some minor drawing too. Of course a summer tree was easy, two lines and a ballooning circle overhead, but a winter tree? She taught us how to draw stately oaks with limbs and branches free of leaves reaching skyward. I loved those trees! And to this day, if sitting with pencil and paper I find myself doodling one of the trees if I let my mind wander.

Any free time we could work on our poetry. Then occasionally Mrs. Wells collected the folders and read each page leaving encouraging comments or helpful ideas on the poetry pages. While we were too young for metaphors and similes, for alliteration, we learned appreciation and love of poetry first; the rest would come. She planted seeds that would become a love a language and a working knowledge about the power of words. The brick building might be gone, but the poetry we learned in the old brick halls stills sings loud and clear in our minds and hearts, the songs never-ending.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November, Chili Weather


 
Spaghetti squash with chili topping
 
It is one of the first mornings when I wake up and the floors are cold, the rooms have a bite. as I begin to brew tea, the warm steam makes clouds of condensation on the windows. Leaves are wet so they no longer tumble; they hug the deck boards, the windows, the now empty flower pots for dear life knowing well winter is coming for sure.
Foggy windows and a gentle nudge to the thermostat make me think of soups, chowders and chilies. I rarely follow a recipe for chili. Instead I use what I have handy, and my chili is like vegetable soup, a new mix and a new creation each time. Everyone has a favorite chili, and choices reflect regional tastes. I grew up with lots of chili powder and cumin in my mom’s chili, but DH thinks salt and tomatoes with beans is chili.
Here in town the Catholic Church has an annual chili feed as a fund raiser. They always set bowls of saltines and dill pickles on the table. Pickles with chili was a new one for me. (Remember I am the one who thinks pickles go with pancakes!) The Episcopal Church here makes chili for congregational dinners, but the present priest doesn’t care for it. Local chili is too mushy he says. He likes his with meat not cooked to death and with chocolate…a sweeter chili. And then there are those that put beer in their chili as it cooks.
My mother always crumbled up crackers in her chili. I tried it but never cared for it. I loved crackers WITH my chili as a child, not crackers IN the bowl. But we all put vinegar on our chili and never thought it odd at all. However, when I went to college, an English prof ridiculed the practice. He was a rigidly proper Brit who never liked paper napkins and refused to go into a place that used plastic tableware. He said he had eaten all over the world, but he was aghast when he came to Southeast Kansas where people poured vinegar on their chili! Ah, I never knew there was another way.
Then there are the beans…or beanless chili maybe. Does one use pinto beans, navy beans, white beans, kidney beans or what? I like them all, and now I love to use Anasazi beans too. These are mild bean grown in New Mexico, spotted like a pinto horse.  They are touted to be sweeter and less gassy, but I do know they are good.
And what about the bread accompaniment? Is it cornbread or crackers? I like both so it isn’t major issue for me on chili days. Topping, is it cheese or catsup?
So how do you eat YOUR chili? Vinegar for you?









Spaghetti squash topped with chili...a new chili idea.




Saturday, November 9, 2013

Autumn Drive to Fort Scott



 
The day after we arrived home from the trip, DH jumped into a big project. He wanted to replace a bedroom window and repair a wall crack, and all this meant removing wallpaper, sheetrocking, mudding, sanding, and repainting. He ordered the window and set to work on the room. It was a royal mess for a week. It is almost done now except for the window which has not arrived yet.

During the week long mess inside there was cold and rain outside. This weekend the sun has returned with some mighty nice warm air, but more rain and very cold is forecast for next week. So although we were quite tired, DH thought we ought to do something. I thought just sitting on our deck for what will possibly be the last time this year sounded good, but he wanted a ride—a short one though. He said let’s check out Ft. Scott.

Ft. Scott, Kansas was founded when a frontier fort was built near the Marmaton River in the mid-1800s. The fort was again important during the Civil War when the border between Kansas and Missouri was volatile. We grew up about 60 miles from the town in Kansas and now live about the same distance away again only in Missouri. The town is an old Victorian beauty now struggling like other small towns to maintain itself. The lovely homes are mostly well attended and the slightly bumpy brick streets are worth the drive.
 
The fort is now a National Historic site and lovingly restored. The fort’s grounds butt up next to the brick street of the old town. Painted Lady store fronts house businesses, eateries, antique shops and specialty stores. Today was perfect for strolling in and out the few stores that appealed to us. We stopped just to sit in the warm sunshine on nice benches the town had provided.
 




At noon we drove down National Street hunting Nate’s Place which a storekeeper had told us about. Two matching mansions now serve as a bed and breakfast and a restaurant. We had a nice lunch there, although DH thought the place was confused somewhat in its identity. Lovely old Victorian rooms became the dining areas with red velvet chairs and lush, extra-large napkins. The menu, however, focused on mainly breakfast foods like eggs and pancakes with a few sandwich choices. I got the special of the day which was salad, lasagna, and garlic toast. It was very good and the lasagna portion was the size of a king-sized bed.
 
Once we had found a few junky treasures and had a big lunch, we found ourselves tired and spent. We came on home to collapse in our chairs. It was a good day although the threat of coming winter lingered at the back of our minds all day. We relished each vibrant tree and fallow field we passed knowing that soon the celebration of autumn  will draw to a close making way for  winter solstice to drape us in darkness.

 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More Sites in Indiana

                                                Fairy Garden at the James Whitcomb Riley home

Little pixy people
Winged above the walk
Pouring from the steeple
Of a mullein-stalk.

After we left the James Whitcomb Riley house, we headed for the Kentucky border. On the way we went through a berg named Metamora. The area looked liked it had seen more prosperous times. At the south edge there was the area for Whitewater Canal National Historic Site.



 
 


This canal was built when Indiana wanted to be a part of the canal systems that were a short-lived method of commerce. It was expensive to build and bonds sold did not make enough money. Eventually, Indiana became the only state to ever become bankrupt. Even today they are a pay as you go state and operate only with a very balanced budget. I think the rest of us could learn a lot from Indiana!

It was so cold while we were there that we did not linger long. We passed on a canal ride. The horses were resting in their little shed between pulls. We passed on walking among the shops, but we did visit the grist mill, always a favorite place for us. I bought a bag of stone ground corn meal there.

Then it was to our kids...hugs, games, books...one evening we made ice cream in baggies by shaking. Oh, the two year old and four year old loved shaking those bags, but they loved eating ice cream they made even better. The pumpkin patch was so, so cold on Saturday morning. Even the farmer felt sorry for us and gave us a special price since we had braved the cold and it was end of the season.



When we left, we returned to Indiana and made a brief stop in Madison. We had been here before, but it is such a lovely river town we like being here. The weather had warmed up so much and the streets were full of shoppers. We parked in front of a wonderful used bookstore! I could have stayed at Village Lights Bookstore all day.

                                                                 



                                                           


                                             Mark Twain room inside bookstore




But we meandered into some resale or flea market shops. Found this darling basket from Putney, Vermont in one. I don't need it and am not sure how I will use it, but it was too sweet to leave.

The car was loaded and a bundle of it was dirty laundry. The only thing to do was head for Missouri.