Sunday, December 21, 2014

Popular Christmas Cookies

I’m surprised I haven’t seen a headline on my online newspapers or Facebook entitled: “Ten Most Popular Christmas Cookies.”  Well, actually I just Googled that very topic and guess what—there is an article with that headline.   I clicked on it and read it.  Who wouldn’t?

My uneducated guess is that there wasn’t much of a scientific poll taken to find what cookies people prefer, but here is the general gist of the list! There were sugar cookies of all kinds,  cookies with Hershey kisses stuck in them, snickerdoodles, dipped cracker cookies, snowballs and gingerbread cutouts.  I can’t argue with any of these, but how could they leave out the delicious pinwheel date cookies.  Maybe they are too old fashioned for the modern taste.

So far my “go to” recipe for sharing this Christmas season are Ginger  Snaps.  They taste so good  each time I make them.  The one problem with this choice is that they need to be fresh—hot out of the oven.   The good news is that Ginger Snaps are easy to make.  A single recipe makes about three dozen, just right to fill a platter for sharing.

This recipe is one out of my Mom’s collection.  The name on the card is Noreen.  She is a friend and neighbor and the last “cousin” from my Dad’s generation.

Ginger Snaps

 3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

 Sift together:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ginger
 Beat shortening & sugar, add egg and molasses. Mix together all dry ingredients and add to shortening mixture. Form into small balls, roll in sugar. Bake 350 10 minutes (I bake six or seven because we like soft cookies)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

St Louis Botanical Garden Christmas Lights

The Hermann Wine Trail was fun but I wanted to do one more  Christmas activity on this last minute road trip.  A simple Google search for Christmas in St Louis brought up the special Christmas lighting at the Botanical Garden.  Even more exciting was the result of a Google map search.  Where we were at New Haven, Missouri was only a little over an hour from the Garden on just a backroad to I 44 which then exited right to the Garden parking.  We are not the most experienced city drivers, especially at night.  But, this was a easy destination.

The weather was still beautiful on Sunday evening.  The docents positioned around the light trail kept commenting on it.  The Garden was prepared for cold weather with bonfires throughout.  They even had marshmallows to roast and hot chocolate to buy.   The picture of Dan and I was taken by one of the bonfires where we sat and people watched for a spell.

I didn’t take many pictures—well actually I took a lot of pictures but not many turned out.  Night pictures are difficult.  Hopefully, there are enough to get the feel of the lovely evening.

For more lights, click here or on the picture, then on “slideshow” on the upper right corner of the web page.  Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Road Trip

All last week, we kept checking the weather.  We told ourselves, if the forecast continued to show a warm weekend, we were going to take off in the PW one last time in 2014.

The weather held and we took off.

First, we attended our Card group Christmas party on Saturday evening.  We look forward to the December meeting at Vernon and Joyce’s home each year.  We even played cards until 10:00 pm.  But, we had the PW with us and we made it as far as Cabela’s parking lot before parking and sleeping.

Our destination was Hermann and the “Say Cheese” Wine Trail.  We arrived in Hermann by 11:00, picked up our ticket and were enjoying the first tasting by noon—outside at a picnic table at Stone Hill Winery. It was there that I took this picture of another van conversion RV, although a little smaller than the PW.


The weather held all day as we made our way through the seven wineries on the trail.  On any other winter day, this area at the Hermannhof winery would be full.


This is one of the delicious pairings—warm goat cheese rarebit paired with Vidal Blanc from Hermannhof.


My favorite pairing was Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper Polenta paired with Syrah served at the Dierberg Star Lane Winery.  If I understand correctly, Dierberg is a California winery with a connection to Hermann. 

Robller Winery is located at New Haven Missouri.  We had never driven around the river front area of this little river town.  What a surprise.  It is a well maintained, interesting area.  There is a glass blowing store, a distillery and movie theater.  Definitely a place to check out another time. 

Robller’s pairing was a cheese plate from Cool Cow Cheese Company paired with Villa Rouge.  We usually save Robller’s for last.  The owners are friendly and make themselves available to chat about their operation.  We just like the atmosphere.  We weren’t disappointed this visit either when the owner of the Cool Cow Cheese Company came over to where we were sitting and filled us in about this cheese making business.

His cows come from a line originating on the Isle of Jersey, part of the Channel Islands of England where the Jersey cow was developed in the 19th century.  This line of cows was imported to the United States by George Vanderbilt and used in his dairy operation at the Biltmore mansion.

Tom, the owner of the Cool Cow Cheese Company, grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa.  (His father sits on the Board of Blue Bunny Ice Cream).  He indicated his family had some sort of link to the Vanderbilt family that enabled them to get into that line of cows.  We also learned Tom received 2nd Place at the Isle of Jersey International Cheese Competition as well as Cheesemaker of the Year.

Even though it was one of the more hurried Wine trails we have participated in, it was one of the most interesting.

Next,  St Louis Botanical Garden Christmas Light display. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

“The Goldfinch: A Novel” by Donna Tartt

I know the Christmas season is upon us so maybe a novel of 784 pages won't be at the top of a things to do list. The Book I'm referring to is "The Goldfinch: A Novel" by Donna Tartt.

First, I should say that The Goldfinch has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award: Fiction Finalists. That alone should say that it is a well written book.

Theo Decker is 13 when he and his mother decide to visit the New York Art Museum. They are on their way to Theo's school to discuss a possible suspension but they detour into the museum to get out of a driving rain storm. Theo is transfixed by a painting entitled The Goldfinch so lags behind his mother. It is at that moment that a terrorist sets a bomb off in the museum. Theo is briefly knocked out by the blast. When he comes to, he assists a dying man who gives him a ring with instructions who to take it to. Also he tells Theo to take the painting of the Goldfinch.

Theo's mother was killed in the blast which leaves Theo searching for places to grow up and places to stash his beautiful possession, the world prized, very valuable painting. He lives briefly with a society family of New York, then sent to live with his Dad and stepmother in Las Vegas.  And, eventually back to New York. The novel is narrated by Theo as he looks back at this time in his life.

This book is written in such a way that it can be left and then picked up again, making it a candidate for starting this busy time of year. I know because I did that very thing. The story is character based and so descriptive that I never lost the place or plot.

Now, here is my suggestion. Listen to it. David Pittu is an excellent narrator. Actually, I can't say enough about how well he reads this novel. Theo has a best friend named Boris, an Ukrainian immigrant, who plays a big part in Theo's life. Pittu is outstanding in bringing Boris's accent and personality alive along with his Russian friends. Hobie, another central character, steps right out of the book and into your mind.

The book covers many years of Theo's life--maybe 25 or more. And, according to the information it will take about that many hours to listen to it. It is well worth the time, especially since you can wrap gifts and bake cookies while you do. Without giving away any of the plot, it is guaranteed to make your heart race.  You will also cry, laugh, and think--especially think. At times it can be rather "deep" but I will say that this is the best book I read (listened to) this year--perhaps for several years.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

What a great day! 

First, and foremost, all of our family are home right now.  As I have said before, it is always a treat to have them all here at once.  The cousins have so much fun.  This is where the memories are made.

We had a delicious meal today—actually especially tasty.  I have a couple new recipes to share another time. 

For now, here are our pride and joys of which we are so very thankful.


Monday, November 17, 2014


Three of the four of us went to high school together so we’ve know each other for over 50 years.  One is related so I’ve known her since I was a kid.

The 1965-66 school year we lived in an apartment in Emporia.  Lots of memories associated with that year.  We weren’t much for drinking, but we sure enjoyed thePeter Pan Ice Cream store behind the apartment.  I believe that original ice cream store grew into the Braum’s chain.  It was that good! 

Kay (Kayzie) was the only foreigner—from Sabetha rather than the Chapman area.  Kayzie and I were the night owls—staying up until the late hours talking. 

In 1972, we started a tradition of getting together for a “Roommates Reunion.”  We faithfully did that for many years.  There was a time we didn’t get together as regularly.  Everyone got busy.  Now, we are all retired so we are enjoying each other’s company regularly once again.

Here is the first reunion with me wearing an example of what we wore when we were pregnant. 


Here we are a couple weeks ago—minus Kayzie—who now leaves in Phoenix AZ. 


Here is all of us


Always good to see our friends!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

All is Well!

Thank you to those who called to see if everything is OK with me. All is well. And, I will do better about keeping my humble little blog updated. I can't believe how long since I've checked in.

It seems every conversation we have lately starts with the weather so I'll start with that here. It is the middle of November, so cold weather should probably be expected. Single digits, though? That day that dropped at least 25 degrees within an hour was the day we decided we better winterize the PW (Pleasure Way RV). Leave it to us to wait until the very last minute. It was about an hour after we finished blowing out the water lines and dumping anti freeze in the traps that the front moved through. Good thing because this prolonged cold spell would have done some damage.

We finished the wood burning stove repair last week as well. Last summer a strong wind came through and blew the top vent pipe off. Those stove pipes are heavy and it involved climbing on the roof. Contrary to my expectations, it went smoothly. I just came up from the basement where there was a toasty fire--the stove is working great & that makes me a happy wintertime girl.

Along with getting the stove fixed, we cut a bunch of wood last week too. Dan and I are wood cutting maniacs. We marveled at how fast we filled up our little portable wood shed. I know--portable wood shed?? It is one of those small, very old Toyota pickup beds with an aluminum cover. It can be pulled with the atv. We pull it to the tree then back it up to the back basement door (the stove is right inside). It probably wouldn't fly in town, but works great out here.

I promised Kayzie I would post pictures of our roommate reunion, but I'll save those for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Floating the Wakarusa River

We were scheduled to float on the North Fork this summer, but it didn’t work out.  We have talked about floating on the Wakarusa River numerous times, but just never drove the one and half mile to the river and did it.  It was our neighbor Christi who said let’s quit talking about it and just do it. With the end of October looming and cold weather around the corner, we decided this afternoon was perfect.

We were on the river for about two hours.  We put in just south of us and then paddled up the river for a half mile or so before turning around and drifting down.  The river is backed up somewhat from the lake, but there is enough of a current to help with a slow drift.

There was a bicycle embedded in a high bank.  You will see part of it in a picture.  How do you suppose that bike got there?  The consensus among us was that it washed there in high water. 

We had one pelican that watched us most of the way.  He would wait until we got close and then fly on up the river.  Finally, he joined the others.

Tom and Christi are in the canoe.  Dan and I are in a double kayak.

Click on the picture below  for a slideshow of a few more pictures.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Changes ahead

It is now certain.  We will no longer have children living close by.  Kim, Marc, Aaron, Adam and Evan are moving to North Carolina.  So, we now will have one family 18 hours east and Doug, Drue, Trent and Carly 8 hours west. 

There have been hints of the possibility of the North Carolina move, but honestly, our hope was that it might not happen.  We felt selfish for that hope, because the best jobs and opportunities are not always nearby.  When Kim closed her physical therapy business,  we knew it was a matter of time.

The timetable is fluid.  The goal is to get a realtor in to the present house by the end of this week.  Then they will be flying to the Raleigh-Durham area to decide where they want to start looking for a home.  Marc will be working in the Research Triangle.

They do plan to enroll the kids in school second semester there.  It will hurry them up a bit, but I am glad the family is staying together. 

This week Dan and I will help finish the remodel project.  It should come together well.  Dan will be trimming and I will be doing whatever I can to help get everything done. 

One positive thought on the location of our two children and their families—lots to do and scenic.  We always enjoy our visits to Colorado.  It is a great stopping off place when we journey on west as well.  Everyone says North Carolina is beautiful.  We have visited what can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I have a feeling we will become more acquainted with the area now. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pictures from Fall past

I took all of these pictures when I carried mail.  The date on the slideshow was 2003.  I’m sure I have a much better camera now, but actually these aren’t too bad.  Of course, there is a loss of quality when uploading to YouTube. 

I’m sure the song by Ricky Van Shelton was in the 80’s because that is when he was popular. 

Anyway, enjoy!  This might be the only time of year I miss the mail route.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Laura Lincoln sings!

Laura has an dynamic voice.  Listen and enjoy.

We’ve known Laura since she was only a thought.  What a joy to have Laura, her husband, James, and mom, Sue for lunch on Sunday.  There are always a lot of laughs when they are here.  Thank you Laura for sharing your incredible talent.

Monday, September 29, 2014

We are home

We arrived home last Thursday.  It was a beautiful trip.

This is the roadtrip we took from the lake.  It is through the Spanish Peaks region in southeast/central Colorado.  The Aspens had not reached their peak but still very pretty.

Here is the map. It isn’t too clear but Walsenburg is the top middle and the bottom right is Trinidad.  The red line through the middle requires a 4-wheel drive from what I could tell.



Interesting rock formations formed by lava from a volcano.  There are many of these in the area.

I didn’t get a picture, but the road went around Monument Lake.  It was a beautiful color much like the volcanic lakes we saw in Alaska.  Since there are remnants of volcanic rock I wonder if that caused the unusual color.

Once we reached Trinidad, it was the most flat land we’ve seen in ages.  Since we didn’t have any stops planned, we drove all the way to Hays, Kansas.  Flat all the way. 

We observed that the farmers out in the plains take a lot of pride in their small towns.  Unlike in the mountains where tumbled down buildings are all over, the small plains towns are clean and well groomed. 

It’s been crazy busy since we got back.  I have a couple things to share later, though. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall Colorado Tuesday Sept 23

One thing about a  vacation, it’s hard to keep the date right.

We are roadtrip people, but today we stayed put.  This lake is so beautiful that we decided to just stay another day.  However, we had to travel the ten or so miles into Salida to empty holding tanks and pick up a few fishing supplies.  We were back in time to spend the entire afternoon fishing.  If you look closely at the one picture I am posting today, you will see the grill for hamburgers.  We caught a few trout, but they were very small.

We are not experienced fisherpeople so bait is always a question mark.  We have had luck in the past with salmon eggs which is what we used yesterday.  Today we tried worms and everything in between and  no luck.  After we gave up for the day, I walked around the lake with my camera and talked to several experienced looking  fishermen.  One said he had good luck with a very small fly with a casting bubble.  Another said he saw a man down the line catch his limit using multicolored marshmallows.  I should have called cousin Sylvie’s husband Mike to get the scoop before we left Monument.  Or better yet, take a lesson from him!

Well, we are getting the roadtrip itch so think we’ll head out tomorrow.  Have to check in to see where because we’re not sure ourselves. 

So, here’s our one picture for today.  After Labor Day all the camping spaces are first come first serve.  We paid for our famous site before we left but neglected to leave the tag on the pole.  So, when we got back someone had taken it.  I think this spot is also very pretty.  The picture was taken as the sun was slipping down.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fall Colorado Monday, Sept 23

It rained at the Riverside Campground last night so we decided not to trek around too much this morning.

No trip is complete without seeking out waterfalls.  I had two in mind but first we traveled through the big valley where Eleven Mile  and Spinney Mountain Reservoirs are located.  The Aspens showed color on the mountains in the distance with the lingering clouds.  I will include pictures when I get home.

The waterfalls are located in the Princeton Peak Canyon.  What a beautiful drive up into the canyon. At one point we drove through a tunnel of bright yellow and orange aspens.  The first waterfall is Cascade.


It was so beautiful there were professional photographers all set up to capture the color and water. 

The second waterfall I wanted to see was Agnes Vaile waterfall.  We could not find the access for the hike up to see it.  Only later when I had cell connection did I find out this was the location of the tragic rockslide that killed five members of a family this summer.  The area has been closed, perhaps permanently as it should be. 

Back on Hwy 24 we headed to our campsite on O’Haver Lake  located south of Poncha Springs.  To get here it took winding up a sandy, bumpy road  but oh was it worth it.   When we arrived, we were driving around the lake to decide which spot to camp—most were empty.  The Camp Host happened to be out and we asked if No 32 was available.  She said, “Snag it.  It is the most requested camp spot in Colorado.” It is nearly perfect.

Here are a couple pictures.




And, as the sun went down.