Monday, October 29, 2012

The Power of Words

After many miles and many events, I thought I would have the last few days of the month for wool gathering. No so, wham-wham-wham, things hit. I no sooner had pushed some of my worries to the back of my mind when totally new surprises came to rock my world. Finally, I had laundry done, desk cleared, and all hot issues turned over to Divine Power-at least temporarily.

Today allowed me to turn to submissions. I realized that a lot of my writing needed to be submitted by first week in November, which had looked a lot further away at the first of October! Then a few contests and readings times also close at the end of the year. So I began to dig and match up the right story with the right contest, the best poem for the most sympathetic editor.

When I read my own work, all the pieces are like relatives. That is I think most are good even if slightly flawed. Then there are those poems or stories that just make me smile because they feel perfect, just right, and I am so content with them. It doesn’t matter than an editor rejects them; they are my babies and I love them unconditionally!

When I arrived home from traveling, my copies of Spring by Tending Your Inner Garden were here. I find this book a delightful and positive read about how we women are reborn and revitalized in the springs of our lives. My poem recalling my sister-in-law and I cooking in my mother-in-law’s kitchen two years ago is on the pages. It wrenches my heart to read my own work again.

I cried writing that poem. It formed in my heart that day at the farm because I have a burdensome habit of seeing down the road in life. Sometimes I am wrong, but I have been right enough times to listen. Like the time I was home for Christmas and knew in my heart it would be dad’s last Christmas even though he had not yet received the mesothelioma verdict. That Memorial Day weekend I knew this would be the last family meal where we would all be together “traditionally” at the farm. The in-laws were getting weaker for sure but fighting leaving the farm; some of us would eat there again but somehow I knew either one or both of the parents would not. (It came to pass that the in-laws had to go to assisted living.)

That day in the kitchen though, each movement loomed up, each utensil felt odd in my hands. We ate at the same table as always, but things were changing in the moment as much as if an earthquake shook the floor. So I put the emotion on paper when I got home. It is nice that an editor published it, but if no one else read or appreciated it, the poem would always capture the day for me better than a photograph.

The power of words never ceases to amaze me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Soup Weather

We got in off the road just before the temps dropped and gray skies moved in for a few days. It is the end of October with November knocking on the door, and Mother Nature is reminding us to get ready--bring in the harvest, chop wood, hunker down.

When the temps drop, I think of chopping, dicing, and stewing. Nothing more satisfying than a pot of soup. Something about a soup pot or a cassoulet that reminds me of pioneer women cooking in cast iron over a fire place or maybe a Native American mother feeding her family from a hide pouch where meat and vegetables cooked over an open fire for hours on the plains.

The first thing I did was make a simple chili. No fancy Cincinnati chili, no spicy Southwestern TexMex. Just meat and beans with a little chili powder and cumin. I never eat chili that I don’t think of my English Lit teacher in college. He was a properly stiff and quite stuffy man from the East. He refused to eat anywhere that used paper napkins or plastic table service. When he came to Southeastern Kansas from world travel, he was shocked to see the natives pour vinegar in their chili. He said, “Why, I never…!” He said no pone on earth dumped vinegar on their chili but Kansans. I never knew any different myself.

A friend sent me home with a Missouri soup mix put out by Missouri Agribusiness. I decided to save it for later and made a slow cooking minestrone in the crock pot instead for the next day. Very tasty stuff. DH said he could do with less “green things” floating in his soup but thought it worth repeating again. (The green things were zucchini. I need to chop them smaller so he doesn’t see!)

Yesterday it was potato soup. Not a fan of potato soup, I wanted to try to replicate the baked potato soup I had tasted in St. Charles. However, I got side-tracked when I saw the Panera Potato Soup recipe. Its secret ingredient was a block of cream cheese! I chose fat free cream cheese hoping I was making a healthier choice without sacrificing taste. Wow, what a soup! It was so very good and that recipe will be a keeper.

This afternoon I have made apple dumplings. I have substituted again…Smart Balance for butter, Splenda instead of sugar. I halved the recipe so we would not be tempted to over eat on them. DH has been watching that over for an hour. However, what he doesn’t know yet is that the casserole tonight is a New Mexico version of spinach casserole. Unfortunately, spinach is green…and he will squirm at the green chili in there too. But hey, it is colder weather and we need to warm things up a little around here!

 Do you pour vinegar on your chili?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Heading Home

Oh, the most beautiful trees were in Indiana! There we found some reds and the yellows were golden. In most places, including home, the heat and drought has hampered the color. Many leaves fall off before changing colors and then the colors, while pretty, are muted.

We continued to take the slower roads through Indiana, and the scenery was beautiful. I admit the Indiana miles before have not always been my favorites. Corn fields can be gorgeous, but I found miles after miles of them could be tedious. In autumn, the corn had been harvested and the stubble held its own beauty. It also allowed the landscape to be scene and with the autumn color of trees it all was lovely.

We got off the road at Medora and saw the country's longest covered bridge. It was my birthday and we had an impromptu picnic in the sunshine. A local retired minister came by and told us about the bridge. He checks on it twice a day, makes sure no trash is around. He had a guest book inside the bridge and said it had been signed by thousands a year and hundreds from foreign countries.

By Lebanon, Illinois we were tired and disappointed when our favorite cafe was closed. We ate in a tavern which was food but no ambiance! Our favorite antique store has closed permanently. After a few stores, we decided we could not make St. Louis after all in what would be rush hour traffic. So we got a room, stretched out and waited for the night's next debate.
The next day was a bit rainy, but we went to St. Charles for lunch and meandering through stores. Both were tired and had a bit of tummy distress, but still managed to enjoy this favorite place a bit before crashing in a motel room. Lunch was at the Garden Cafe and while too nasty to eat outside,  the food was tasty. I am not a fan of potato soup, but I thought it might be a easy food that day. The cafe's baked potato soup was the best soup ever!   

The next day we spent some hours with our long time friends before heading to the west side of Missouri. They look us to the Soulard Market in a French section of the city. While most fruit and vegetable stands were closed due to the time of year, there were some great looking Honey Crisp apples to bring home.

Then it was a tour of The Hill, the Italian section of the city. My friend knew all the best grocery stores, and we filled our ice chest with cheeses, bread, olives, and frozen ravioli and manicotti. The stores smelled so good with all the herbs and oils. Then lunch at Concetta's which is our friends' favorite. We weren't disappointed either. My pasta was heavenly, the sauce so good, tasting of cream and butter...sinful!

And so we returned home with full bellies and a truck load of goodies...and memories too!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Patch

We stopped in Frankfort, the Kentucky capital, where we almost did not get a room. It was the U of K homecoming. But we did get a nice room finally and hunkered in to watch the VP debate. The next morning we checked out downtown before heading north. The most interesting place was The Woolery. A beautiful store in a beautiful building. Here I saw the most drop spindles in one place you can imagine! They were gorgeous.

Then it was on to see the grands! It was a most perfect day to visit the Pumpkin Patch with them. I had never done this as pumpkin patches weren't so popular when I was rearing their dad. Oh, but this was fun! To see these little guys meet the many...and we could feed them! Nothing, I mean nothing, sounds as joyous as the two year old when the cow's tongue licked his palm for the first time!

Then we all got to take a hay wagon ride to the patch to choose pumpkins. The sun was warm, the wagon rocked pleasantly. I could have ridden all day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Kentucky

Driving through Kentucky this time of year is beautiful. The trees were just beginning to turn. By the time we headed home, Indiana was the state that held the most vibrant trees though! Kentucky seems to go all out for holiday decorations. I noticed years ago the same group decorating as we drove across Canada. Something binding about seeing folks decorate their yards for seasons or holidays. I am not crazy about Draculas or dead faces, but I love autumn colors and festive arrangements. I saw lots. Kentucky folks decorate their barns year round as well. Note the hex sign; we saw so many.

In one small town, we saw decorating that was so amazing we got out and studied the people's yard! The home was old but so tastefully done. These figures were amazing! There were blue bottle trees on the porch. Pumpkins were scattered in the flower garden. Quite a sight!
In another small town, we saw scarecrows tied to each lamp post. A great idea we thought...each were different.
What fun driving through the countryside was this day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kentucky, Day Two

We pointed ourselves east towards Northern Kentucky by way of Elizabethtown, Bardstown, and Harrodsburg. This was a trail we made 26 years ago with two little boys when one wanted to see Ft. Knox and General Patton’s hat and car in the museum there. We decided to go back and see what we had missed the first time.

At Elizabethtown we visited the Brown-Pusey House which was built in early 1800's. By 1840 is was used as a boarding house by a woman known locally as Aunt Beck. George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libby lived here for two years while Custer procured horses for the army.
The real beauty of this house is the dining room corner cabinet build by Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln in early 1800's. It is a beauty. Note the inlaid star made of various types of wood to create shaded angles.

On to Bardstown where we wanted to see the Stephen Foster site where he wrote My Old Kentucky Home. Our first visit there was a disaster when we arrived late in the afternoon, tired parents with boys covered in mustard and potato-chipped tee shirts. Just as they raced ahead up the brick path, the palatial home’s doors opened and a wedding party in finery exited. The boys thought great, a party! We got separated from them, tried to hiss them back to us, and finally got off the grounds. DH said we should have crashed and gotten some snacks out of the deal!

So here we were a quarter of century later and now the grounds were near a lovely golf course, had a conference center, a gift shop, and an admittance fee. We were warned no pictures and keep your fingers off everything! But it was worth it…beautiful home of the 1840 era. Andrew Jackson among others spent time here in the home belonging to relatives of Stephen Foster.

We got up the next morning to leave Bardstown when we noticed we were near the Heavenly Hill brewery. Kentucky is known for  bourbon. They have a Bourbon Trail of many breweries you can visit for tours and samples. Now we wouldn’t know good Bourbon from bad, but we decided we should do at least one tour. We learned a lot: like this particular brewery pays 4 million dollars a month in taxes; that each building holds 20,000 barrels of booze; that oak barrels can only be used once by law; that the inside of white oak barrels (white oak only, no red oak as it leaves bitter taste) are charred and the burnt wood gives bourbon its smoky taste.

After they took us through the way the bourbon is made (must be 51% corn to be called bourbon), they took us to a tasting room and gave us as samples and a chocolate candy. It was interesting to smell, to see color, etc., but I just have to wonder who ever found out the taste of bourbon in the first place and called it good? It makes you shudder and burn…ah, I don’t understand it completely.
Then it was on to Harrodsburg and Fort Harrod. We had been to Pleasant Hill where the Shakers lived and passed on a return there. We had been to Fort Harrod too, but DH had no memory of it at all. So we went again. (Nice thing about being older is that on some days, everything is new!) The fort had some changes and improvements.  It is reconstruction on the foundations of a fort that was the first permanent European settlement west of the Alleghenies in about 1775.

There were living history demos now, and out behind the fort walls was a display of Native housing of the times. DH and I eased out and he looked at a fence made of twigs while I pursued the smell of smoke and a human sounding bird call.   I saw a wickiup and then a lean-to before I saw a “creature’s” eyes looking straight at me. I gasped when he eased himself up and walked towards me! For just a split second, I was lost in the story of Shawnee captives, of Miamis and Delawares  expressing anger with white people, of any good novel of pioneer or colonial times. He stayed in character and never broke a smile even though my knees were shaking. He was huge!

He was not portraying  full blooded native. He was showing a found living quarter, that is a dwelling made from cedar and cane and branches found on the ground. It was a temporary housing used on hunts or maybe by fur trappers. He explained how the cone house made of canvas to show would have been made out of layers of bark and more lasting…and the wickiup would be covered by branches for a longer lasting house. 

I had to know about the scalp lock! The natives would have pulled the hair out a little at a time and could not cry or make sounds showing weakness. He had his wife do his scalp lock the traditional manner and said he could not stand it unless they did it a little at time. I was mesmerized looking at this man and can’t imagine meeting him in the woods for real in 1820 or so!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kentucky Bound

The torrid heat blistered; health issues stabbed a dent in plans; drought dried out both body and soul, not to mention the lawn and fields; the summer evaporated. Since we had not seen our grands in nearly a year, we hit the road and tried to linger on the way. It was a blue highways drive as we took side roads through the American countryside when we could. We were head to Kentucky, land of pillared porches, bourbon, and race horses.

We left home for blood work in Springfield and then dropped down to highway 60. We were on our way. The boot heel was beautiful this time of year as the cotton fields, some harvested and some waiting their turn for harvest, pieced together browns and whites like a crop quilt. Some fields stretched to the horizon like a field covered with a light snow. Beautiful.
The first planned stopped was the Wycliff Mounds right across the Missouri border where two skinny bridges resting like a heel to toe set of socks span the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers. We had crossed there five times in 30 years, and time was never right to stop. This was the time…but when we pulled up at the gates, they were now closed on Tuesdays! What luck!


On we went towards Paducah, winding through bergs.

Soon we found a neat little antique store called Sisters and Friends in LaCenter, KY. Charming! We spent some time wandering the booths, all displayed with an artistic flair as opposed to an inside garage sale. We found goodies. DH spotted Blue Willow and though we agreed to tote no more home—one platter joined the trip. Also here, the owner and I had real fun when I told her about seeing dollies topping pumpkins. We ran awround gathering dollies and some crocheted collars trying them on pumpkins. She skipped outside and brought in one of her display pumpkins to dress as well. Fun!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Wow, chilly here! Freezing last night and to be colder tonight. Then hopefully we can have warmth and see the sun return for a little Indian summer. The trees are beginning to turn now, a dash of color here and there when we feared they would just dry up and vanish this year.
Yesterday was a bit chilly to feel too comfortable at a ballgame. Personally, I would rather have been at home near my tea pot and a cookie! But being a good wife, you know what that means. Dragging a wheel barrow of stuff to the stadium, looking at the field while your mind thinks beautiful lines of words, and waiting for the university band to perform at halftime which also shouts out HALFWAY THROUGH THIS ORDEAL! J

PSU had some tailgating issues a few weeks ago and have tightened up security. For the first time ever, I had my purse checked. I was shocked, but not as much as the checker when she felt the weight of the thing.When she pulled out gloves, hat, hand warmers, cowl, a new writer’s magazine, a small notebook (well, you never know when inspiration will hit!), two pairs of glasses, and a bottle of water, she said, “I give up. Forget the bottom and go on in.”
Our small writing guild is trying to grow. A new member put us on Facebook a few months ago, but visits are sparse. We are trying to have a once a week writing op that is for fun and oh, so tiny. Last week it was write 50 words about something that is special to you. If you have some free “line time”, please visit and leave us something.!/groups/266894820055092/?fref=ts

My birthday is on the horizon. DH has been working in secret to make me something. Because we will be gone on my birthday, he wanted me to see it now. Whala! A leaf burner. There is a long story behind this burner, but the real gift was not something for me to do work with, but that DH planned the project, secreted his work, and gave it in heartfelt manner.
I can’t help but read three or four books at a time. Different moods call for different stories or material. I had plenty of reading material started when I paged through Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright. It is fascinating and all books are stopped until I finish this one. Amazing. It was hard to get through the first couple of chapters because I struggled with Czechoslovakia names and words. The author gives quite a bit of history and then begins to go into detail about 1939 when Hitler takes over the Slavic countries, one by one. Why anyone every trusted him after the first few lies, I don’t know.

We all study WWII in school, but Albright makes me really see so much. One thing is how she paints the British people. My, those people were strong and determined. I have a whole new respect for them…and for Churchill. The author was reared a Catholic but found out at age 59 she was Jewish. Her story unfolds along with that of  her homeland, Czechoslovakia. Readers watch as her family members are annihilated in camps.

Inspiring read!