Monday, June 25, 2012

My Life on the Rocks

Growing up I had a nice sand pile and lots of stories to go with it, but I never had a rock pile. In fact, rocks were an abomination to my dad. Oh horrors, the idle rock that fell into the yard and dulled his mower blade! Kids will carry rocks when they go to the river or creek, but Dad made us leave them there.

So somewhere in my adulthood, I began to pick up rocks without hearing Dad’s thunder. The first rocks I remember toting home was from the Cimarron River. DH was fishing the rippling water while the boys and I picked up rocks, tossed bread to chipmunks, watched dragonflies freewheel above the water. I found small stones washed round and smooth by eons of water in the riverbed.

From then on, I brought home rocks, bigger ones when possible. DH even got into spying pretty or unusual rocks for me. He eased himself down a crevice in South Dakota because there would be some “goodies” there. Sure enough some lovely stones in shades of pink. I remember sandy-coated rocks from a trip to Leadville. I don’t remember exactly where I picked them up, but I do remember it was spring before I sucked out all the sand from the van’s carpeting!

Then there was the trip to Robert Frost’s home. I had two boys with me that did not appreciate what they were seeing. I stood at Frost’s mailbox, running my hand over his name. I looked out across the blue haze that lingered between majestic mountains and appreciated the view Frost had from his front porch…and I took rocks from his driveway. One is the granite that so marks New England. 

The other is a most wonderful shape. It fits in the palm of my hand like a gray stone heart. I use both as paperweights, but the gray heart one I often pick up and hold when my mind is stumped, always hoping to channel the beautiful wordsmithing of Frost himself.

I have a couple of painted rocks, but I much prefer the plain rocks touched by the earth’s forces of wind and water. The smooth round rocks can be a perfect as a freshly laid egg or maybe jagged a bit where a corner stuck above ground being hit by maybe a wooden wagon wheel. In New Mexico, a ways from a deep ravine, DH caught me digging with anything at hand trying to get a rock loose from the earth. What was special about it? Why I wouldn’t know for sure until I could see ALL of it; the rock just called to me.
Mom is a joke with the kids because they think she has rocks in her head. They may be right. I wonder, would those rocks be quartz, limestone, or granite? Could they be turquoise, a favorite stone I often wear on my outer body anyway? Or some stone pressed in to a gem like a diamond or a ruby?

Are you a collector of rocks or other things when you travel?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Cultural Event- a Tractor Show

1904 Model T...gas engine

Forty six years ago on this date, I had my first date with DH. I thought it was a one-time shot because he was older than I, and I could never compete with “older women” when I was just a fresh sixteen. The first date was to the movies in a neighboring town. I wanted to see Mary Poppins for the music and dance and energy of the show. I thought this old fellow was interesting in that he was game for a kid’s movie, a musical. But he returned the next week and took me to My Fair Lady. Oh, this might be the man of my dreams, one who appreciated artistic shows, who was going to college, and talked like he read great books.

Nearly half a year later and married, where did man of my dreams take me today? The tractor and gas engine show! Although he had been very sick for two days this week, he wanted to take the drive to see the tractors. We knew we had to be there early because the day was going to grow into a horrendous heat in the afternoon.

So we headed out, hit the farmers’ market first and then walked the grounds full of tractors. Shiny Farmalls, rusted John Deeres, and many in-between pieces lined up with the putt-putt-putt chuffing of the familiar machinery. The SEK Engine Club held their show on the grounds of a small museum I have wanted to get inside of for some time. So there was plenty to see.
                  This dresser could be found in many a miner's bungalow.

The museum had the usual local lore. This Crawford County Museum had lots of things reminiscent of the mining era. Clothes of the period, display of how mines worked, furniture and kitchen tools miners’ wives used. Note the lunch buckets miners carried down into the bowels of the earth. A display of dishes held some lovely flow blue.

This is a Yellow Dog, a prized item from the mining days. The produced light for drillers and tool dressers. Yellow Dogs can be worth up to $300 for collectors. 

We hurried through our trip as the heat indeed was cranking up to miserable. Then we headed home were the shaded deck allowed us to take a noon lunch without too much discomfort. Turkey on croissant sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, Candy onions, and sweet dills. Iced tea and some zucchini cake for dessert finished the meal. Then I cleaned the cantaloupe while DH stemmed the beans. Then a nap under the AC made it a perfect summer day! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Madeleines and Other Pans

It is hard to have a social event these days due to everyone’s special diets. This house has a no-no list and sugar is one thing to avoid. Hard to do. We compromise a bit, eating sugar on special occasions or tiny bits for counting of carbs. It is easier for me to bake several things at once and pop them in the freezer for retrieving a bit at a time or for company. This freezes things too hard to cheat with (unless you discount chocolate chip cookies that can be warmed between the knees while you read Chapter 12!) and it means you limit the number of days you are tempted to lick the mixing bowl.

I find that these days I also streamline recipes using shortcuts or make the meal special with napkins, teas, or friends rather than counting on the recipe to be a WOW factor. I recently bought some tea cake pans. They looked so cute, like mini muffins but with this “dip” in the top that allowed the cook to put a dollop of whipped cream or gelled fruit in the dip. I found it a lot of work just to have a glorified cupcake in miniature. I vowed no more special pans. (I found the Bundt pan a little over-rated when it appeared too.)

Then I kept reading about Madeleines on the blog Lines from Linderhof. ( Martha was always making cute and tasty things. She incited my interest when she said she made cornbread in her Madeleine pan. Hum, I talked myself out of them when I thought how I made jumbo cornbreads in a silicone pan and how well this works because the cornbread doesn’t crumble.

Then Martha made sweet cakes in her pans. She said that two of the little cakes were just right for a lady having tea. She hooked me. Madeleines are shell-shaped little things, and Martha is right. They are just right for tea, and I can see them as cornbread too. Today I made orange madeleines from a recipe that came with the pan that arrived this week. Such fun…

So while I was at it, I made my special fiber muffins in the muffin top pans. These pans are wonderful! I make the muffins large because I know I will eat two little ones anyway. These muffins are heart healthy as they use oat bran, wheat bran, and ground flax among other things. They also have two WHOLE oranges blended in.  They do use brown sugar, but they beat regular bran muffins.

Then it was time to whip up a loaf of molasses bread making the whole kitchen smell Ozarky from the thick Guinness-colored molasses. This is a new recipe and a most unusual heavy bread. It is not yeast bread; it is sweet and moist like a tea bread but has no fruits or nuts. It is good with mere butter or honey butter. It is a winner with a pot of tea.

While the oven was hot and the zucchini abundant, a chocolate zucchini cake was in order. Baked on a cookie sheet this cake is delicious and thin enough to be cut into brownie-sized servings.

Orange Madeleines

2/3 cup flour
¼ t baking powder
½ cup butter melted
2 eggs
½ t orange extract
½ t orange peel shredded (I used a little more)
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Spray pan with Pam. Sift together the flour and baking powder in small bowl.  In large bowl of mixer, beat eggs, orange extract, and peel until creamy. Gradually add in the powdered sugar. Beat until thick.
Fold in flour. Then melted butter. Mix until smooth. Fill Madeline pans ¾ full, bake for about 8 minutes. Cool 2 minutes and removed from pan. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Oak Projects

DH is self-taught in the woodworking department. His projects get bigger and better. He has fixed a few pieces of scrappy projects into nice pieces. He has designed his own pieces of furniture.

His last two projects have been more challenging with glass doors. One was a display cabinet for a beauty shop and the other was an entertainment center for a young friend. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How We Use Books

I was taught to never abuse books and even magazines to some extent. You never bent a book backwards too far so as to break the spine. You never turned a book face down with pages open to keep your place or left it open face up weighted down for the same purpose. You always used a bookmark and NEVER folded a page corner down! No marking in a book either.

When I went to college and saw people writing notes in their books, I nearly died. Then came the colored highlighters, and it took a long while to be able to splash that streak of yellow across the page, pretty or not.

When I married, DH drove me nuts with his treatment of books. Piled high, tossed on the floor, left in the bathroom, slayed under a bowl of peanuts like a Puritan sinner stretched on a rack…I found books all over the house and cringed. There were even books with telltale rings where summer glasses had sweat circles for posterity.  He is much better now. He uses a book mark, piles his books only on one table, and no longer turns down pages.

These days marks or memos in books intrigue me. I read them and wonder who read before me. Why did they disagree here or mark to remember there? Sometimes I want to discuss their opinions with them when I find notes on a page I am reading. If the reader has my sentiments, I feel a unique camaraderie with the former reader.

Lately I have been rereading books that I shared with my mother-in-law. I note where she marked or unlined. Maybe it was only a word she wanted to look up or practice using. Now I find her marks revealing her inner person. Often these markings bring a new understanding to me of this woman. If find that for all our vast differences, we shared some common responses to the lines we read. Like Miss Angelou wrote once, “We are more alike than we are different.” If only we humans could remember that…with the help of books, maybe we will.
Do you write in your books?


Is it just me or have some bloggers slowed down? It seems like many writers post less often and also comment less. Is Twitter for radom thoughts taking over entirely? I don't Twitter but then I said I would never blog. Things change.

When I am wrong I admit it. The new blogger is nice once I gave it a chance. I like the way the stats are provided. I can see numerous readers despite their not leaving comments. Shy? I think they must like the blog because they return to read even if they are quiet about it.

And the Kindle? Okay,  I am learning to love it. I am not ready to abandon "real" books, but this device has its place. I can read it at night without a lamp bothering anyone sleeping in the room. I can find free books. I can get books instantly when I want one! And, it is easier to tote in a purse than bigger book.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Green Vegetables

Isn’t this the best time for eating? When the gardens are lush and everything is so inviting in both taste and color? Even though my refrigerator was full after yesterday’s trip to the store, I did not want to miss today’s farmer’s market. I need a family at home to cook for in this delightful food season.

How will I use the bok choy? I don’t know. I love it when I have eaten it out, but I have never liked my own efforts at cooking it. But I did take a chance today and bought green tomatoes!

I remember my Gran cooking fried green tomatoes for my Grandpa. I wouldn’t touch them as tomatoes were supposed to be red for sure. I grew up and read the book Fried Green Tomatoes. Nice story but I shuddered at green tomatoes. Finally last week in Tulsa when I sampled the dish, I realized what I had been missing.

So today I tried my hand at making them. Oh, they were So So good! I made a small plate midmorning and took them out to the shop for DH to taste. He ate them all. I made a platter full for lunch and again they all disappeared.  On the negative side, the house smells like hot oil, the stove is greasy, and fried food is not necessarily on the diet plan. But DH thinks fried green tomatoes are worth it all.

Since DH is not fond of green vegetables, I have had a winning weekend on cooking greens. Last night it was fried (there it is again!) zucchini cakes made from grated zucchini, eggs, parmesan, flour, and oregano and then browned in butter. My…I am two for two in the green foods department right now!

Saturday Centus/Singing of Home


What a great Saturday; I can do Centus today! Jenny gave normal prompt of "Has it really been a decade?" and anotehr 100 words to use for writing. See full Centus rules and other writers at  My own is below.

Singing of Home
 “Has it really been a decade?” Twyla asked herself sipping morning tea. She leaned over the Nashville balcony, noting the Saturday silence.
She was surviving but not reaching stellar status she had hoped for by now. She was no Dolly Parton, but her moderately heavy bosom heaved and her tongue twanged the country lines she wrote herself. She played small bars, but no record deals yet.
She thought of Daddy, one overall strap tossed over his shoulder, picking beans trying to beat the Ozark sun. Mama would be stirring bubbling grits, the cream chilling in the ice box.
She began to hum…she was going home.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Writing Guild Hears Poet

Last night we had one of the best writing guild meetings. There three visitors and two joined on the spot. Our speaker was Olive Sullivan who once was a member a few years ago, and she know is on staff at MSSU.

Olive talked about writing in general and poetry in specific. She said she bounced around trying to find what kind of writer she was. She worked at a television station, did private editing, was on staff at a newspaper, and one job just lead to another. She did not want to teach, but now is teaching at the college level. She said she realizes now that teaching is her work that pays the bills; poetry is her passion. Once she focused herself and called herself a “poet”, her life took shape.

She said she knows not everyone would agree, but she sees journalism and poetry as closely related. Both take events and distill them for clarity into the shortest form possible. Both should leave the reader moved. She feels her journalism background helps her poetry. Both need strong active verbs to tell the story.

Olive pointed out writers would not make money at poetry. It is a love. Right now she said hardly any poetry is being published; most being published is self-published works.

She told us her best writing is done in her head while she walks, drives or showers. Walking has a rhythm to it and lines of poetry often shape themselves to the beat of her steps. Interesting. She read a few of her favorite poems to the group, one of which is being used in a poetry class at a women's prison.

The bulk of the group left inspired to go home and write, to practice their creativity whether it is with poetry or not.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Ozark Moonshine!

DH’s lab day rolled around again this week, and I always try to find something nearby to make the trip less routine. When I heard there was a still back in the hills, I knew what I wanted to do this time. At first, DH thought I had lost it. But since he is a design engineer, he did agree that seeing the process and machinery might be interesting.

My great grandfather was known to run a still in Crawford County, Kansas during Prohibition. During this time, Crawford County was nationally known for stills and moonshine production. Their drink was called Deep Shaft after the coal and lead mines that drew immigrants to the area for work.  I wish I could know more about this man and his times. His copper pot was out in the country somewhere, but one family member remembered he often cooked at home later. Said you could smell the sour mash when you visited! 

So I wanted to visit this modern day still just for fun. Like a Revenuer of the old days, we meandered the hills and hollers between Springfield and Branson. We finally found a sweet little log cabin nestled in a forested area. Two Shepard mix dogs met us with tails wagging. The tour lasted only about fifteen minutes because there isn’t much to brewing. There was the copper boiler for cooking….wooden barrels for storage while whiskey aged (some coming from Stone Hill near Herman, Missouri and others bought new from oak barrel manufacturer in Lebanon, Missouri)….a drill press where they bottled one bottle of white lightning at a time.

The Copper Run distillery of Walnut Shade, Missouri had a nice little tasting room for samples and where they made cocktails that included music on Friday nights. Now we stepped up to the bar for samples just for the heck of it. Even the smidge they put in a shot glass, was too much and we shared. I can’t see how folks can drink that stuff! Moonshine is not tasty to me! Burr…it made me shudder, just the touch I took on my tongue! But I did learn things and found the process interesting. True moonshine is clear as water. When you let it age, it becomes whiskey and you get the amber color. A fact I distorted a bit in a piece of fiction I wrote.

Finding ourselves close to Branson, we went on in to town for lunch and then walked around the Landing a bit. Now DH is NOT a shopper, but I had a couple of places I wanted to hit quickly. One was DEVO, a store of nothing but balsamic vinegars and olive oils. I wanted the oils until I tasted the flavored vinegars! Some had as much kick as moonshine but better tasting to me. I brought home their flavor of the month which was blueberry balsamic and a peach white balsamic vinegar. Yum, I can’t wait to use them.

Then before we left the area, I wanted to check out Hollister, Missouri, a tiny little berg known for its Old English style. Author Janet Dailey and her husband have bought the hotel named Old English Inn and have restored it to its original beauty. The staircase is gorgeous. Rooms are reasonable and the price includes breakfast in the little restaurant that is part of the project.

The day was disappearing and we both tired early. Although weathermen said the day was to be cooler by some, we found the heat strong enough to fatigue us. So home we came with our moonshine trip behind us.

The spring issue of the Oklahoma Review carries one of my still stories. If you are interested in reading, go to the table of contents page ( and click Spring 2012 issue) to seek out a short story called DEEP SHAFT.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rainy Day Baking

While having that first cup of tea on the deck this morning, I noticed a western sky shadowy as a young boy’s shiner. I knew the rain was coming, and we did need rain. In about an hour, the wind blew and twigs hit the roof. The rain poured down washing the earth tidy and fresh. Mother Nature was doing her own spring cleaning.

It was an opportune time to try some recipes and to use the oven. I stirred up some Lemon Ricotta scones. They were good but the extra work did not show. I believe my everyday oatmeal scones to be just a good. I stirred up a pasta and vegetable dish for lunch. again using ricotta. Hum, it was okay but not outstanding.

Then I did the tiny shortbread type cookie from one of Paula Deen’s books. That gal really knows how to use the butter! These cookies were fairly low in carbs, but then they are about the size of a quarter! These cookies were made into logs and chilled, then sliced and baked. The star ingredient is thyme. This is a nice herbal cookie that would go well will tea. I wonder if rosemary could substitute for the thyme? I know lavender would. So this versatile little cookie is a keeper.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

By Golly, Road Trip Two!

How fortunate am I to get two road trips in two days? Yesterday morning we traveled to Tulsa with friends with the express purpose of seeing the Broadway play Jersey Boys. We left midmorning so the pace was leisurely. I was totally in the moment which rarely happens for me. With friends doing the driving and mapping, I kicked back and just WAS. I absorbed the countryside, the blue skies, and the cattle munching in pastures. Life was good.

We drove into the city without a hitch and straight to the theater area. Got out, parked, and walked across the street to a café none of us knew about beforehand. It was the Back Alley Blues and Barbeque. Wonderful! Décor was tasteful and simple utilizing the Blues scene and an old warehouse. Floors were plywood set with beer caps. Walls lined with painted guitars and murals depicting the Blues. Parts of the walls were made of shipping containers once hauled on rail flat cars.

Oh, but the food!!!! Sandwiches as big as wheels of a Conestoga wagon, homemade chips, peach salsa, pork or beer can chicken and then the real goodies were fried dill pickles and fried green tomatoes. I knew I was down home with all the fried stuff…ah, move over Paula Deen. I know, not healthy but for one day?

Then we went to Jersey Boys. The play, the music, the story, the acting, the singing, the stage changes and sets ups….all were superbly magnificent. Many of the songs made their billboard rankings before I was old enough to be aware of The Four Seasons, but I knew them all from the Golden Oldies hours on the radio. Walk Like a Man, Sherry, and one I do remember hitting the air waves was You Are Too Good to be True.

I loved the creativity, the talent, the memories evoked on a June afternoon. The day was flawless….

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Road Trip

I walked away from everything today. I gassed up the truck, shoved in an old Willie (Don’t Fence Me In, Sioux City Sue, etc.) and headed up Highway 71 to meet my friend. Despite dry fields, the corn was a lush green. Wheat in shades of saffron grew up to the ditches lined with orange tiger lilies and white Queen Anne’s Lace. Skies were a faded blue denim; it was a beautiful day.
Tracy lived two doors down from me for over a decade. Now it has been fifteen years since she moved away.  We met fairly often, but it has been almost three years since we had a girls' lunch without the men. We declared today ours. The years fell away and we slipped into conversation like we still lived on the same street and were out for tea. She had the lion’s share of driving because we wanted to meet in Nevada, a small town suffering fading in economic pinch like many small Midwestern towns.
But we found a delightful place to eat on the town square. The décor of Jenny’s California Café was simple but comfortable. No clutter, wide spaces and crisp cushions on the chairs! The food was very good. Many choices of sandwiches and salads. Some unusual things on the menu were a hummus sandwich and fresh mozzarella salad. We did the salad with our choices of other sandwiches. Known for gourmet cupcakes the size of hub caps, the day’s choice was German Chocolate cupcakes and raspberry cream cheese coffee cake muffins.  Yum.

After eating we meandered around side streets and found a most lovely yarn and fiber shop. The gals there sell stock yarns but also dye their own yarns. There were alpacas, wools, synthetics…colors of a rainbow! I brought home one hank of a hand-dyed yarn…beautiful just to see and feel. The shop is owned by partners Leslie and Janet. One being the weaver and the other is the knitter.  Something here for everyone.

My friend brought me Teavana tea…so fragrant! So tonight the day ends with thoughts of good food, a good friend, wonderful tea, a hank of yarn, and memories made…a good day for sure!