Sunday, December 30, 2007

Calendar Update

Good news! The kitchen calendar problem is solved. Kim & Marc somehow knew I was stressed about not having one and came through last night. They brought us an Audubon Nature calendar for watching the boys. That isn't the best part, though. With the calendar, they challenged us to visit each place featured on the calendar.

It's a deal!

Actually, they said one place this year. It's my idea to visit them all.

We've only visited one featured location, Arches National Park, Utah. However, as our family ages, we might find ourselves visiting there often. All of our kids mountain bike which will probably include grandkids as they reach an age to handle the rigors. Meanwhile, while they ride those breakneck trails, they won't have to twist our arm to hike and take photo excursions of the beautiful formations with the younger family members.

This calendar will be another keeper in our travel file because we won't be able to visit each place this year.

Goals are important. What better place to make them than a calendar.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I like calendars.

Not day planners. They require constant page flipping.

My mini obsession is the regular hang-on-the wall calendar.

I am sorry to see the end of the 2007 flower calendar here by the computer. In addition to a pretty flower picture each month, it has big squares for friends’ birthdays and anniversaries as well as a small reminder area. However, it does not have the phases of the moon like the kitchen calendar.

The kitchen calendar—the one we look at each day for appointments—is a Charles Wysocki Americana calendar. I enjoy it a great deal. A gift from a business firm, each month has a drawing of a New England Americana style business. My favorite is the May picture of “The Bird House.” It includes all kinds of birds including an American eagle. The little store looks like a birdhouse, as does the carriage and mailbox.

2007 was the first year in a while we bypassed the Kansas calendar in the kitchen. I still have a picture of a waterfall from a previous year’s calendar. The caption said it was on Wolf Pen Creek in southeast Kansas. Finally, we located the stream on a map in northeast Kansas near Sabetha. I am not throwing the picture away until I see the impressive waterfall for myself. I have a feeling we had better get there after a rain.

So, here it is, just three days left in the year. I still do not have a calendar. Our insurance agent’s American Family calendar is always nice but I want something special in the kitchen. I have enjoyed the Wysocki Americana calendar so much this year that I might look at another. I am still relying on our Kansas City realtor friend, Blake, to give us a nice one for here in the office.

I have a little time left tonight. I might make up a 2008 calendar on the computer to carry in my purse.

Did I say I like calendars?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best Christmas Ever

This Christmas was the best ever.

Well, I say that every year.

As you might have seen by the Smilebox video, all our children and grandchildren were together on Sunday evening and again on Christmas eve and morning. Then all moved on to other families. I loved it while I had them. We had a good time. The kids played in the snow. It is unusual for Kansas to have a white Christmas.

It worked out to also see extended "family" that are actually long time friends. Last night we enjoyed a meal prepared by Blake, Sue's son, who missed his calling as a chef.

Our daughter dropped off Sage (Colorado family's Lab) and Aaron (oldest grandson) asked if I would put some songs on his new MP3 player. What a wonderful afternoon of sorting through old CDs looking for rock n roll songs leaning toward heavy metal. I am afraid even at 8 years old, he will roll his eyes at Queen etc. Although Van Halen is good at any age. I found the Def Leppard case, but no CD. Perhaps just as well.

I'm taking down my tree tonight. The little cedar is dry and a fire hazard. Here is an observation Kim wrote about our Christmas tree.

I was looking at our Christmas tree thinking about how your tree reflects alot about where you are in life. When Marc and I were first married, we had the ornaments from our wedding and some ribbon - not very interesting. Now we have popsicle nativity scenes, multi-colored plaster Santas, and pictures in homemade frames. I think as you get older your Christmas tree becomes smaller and easier to manage - like Grandma's ceramic tree with the little electric lights.

Here is a picture of ours. Not little ceramic, but getting smaller.

I have a post appearing on the on-line edition of the Lawrence Journal World. Scroll down midway for "community perspectives." (See below)

Note from Linda: The LJW only links three blogs at a time so mine has rolled off. Click here if you still want to read my post.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Something for someone close

Why are the ones closest the hardest to surprise with the perfect gift?

I am down to the last few days and my shopping time is running out for a special name on my list. I could put a proven winner under the tree. Two of an item are always better than one especially for someone very easy to please. A newspaper would be a possibility. It is an after supper ritual.

I really want a surprise under the tree. Something different.

Each day I am getting more excited about having the entire family here. We don’t have a lot of traditions. We keep it simple and fun. The Christmas spirit is alive and well in our family. It will be good.

Now, if I could just think of a perfect gift for Skye, the boxer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In-Box or Mailbox?

The New York Time published an article Sunday, December 16, by Phyllis Korkki entitled Still Choosing the Mailbox Over the In-Box.

In the article Ms Korkki noted that today 275 million first-class cards and letters are expected to be mailed. From Thanksgiving to Christmas the USPS estimates 20 billion cards, letters, packages and other pieces of mail will be handled.

Korkki goes on to say many thought the Internet would be the beginning of the end of the USPS. Instead, the Internet, especially the online shopping aspect, has created the need for hard copy as well as a service to ship the packages. Consequently, since 2001, the first class volume of mail has remained fairly steady.

Finally, Korkki says,"...although email is now a permanent part of the communication landscape, the old-fashioned letter is far from dead...."

I agree. It is a great feeling to open my mailbox and find a letter from family or friends. I can reread it as often as I like and save it for reference later when I return the favor. And, sometimes the short three sentence notes are meaningful. My grand kids love to receive a note about something significant in their lives.

What do you think. Do you still choose the mailbox over the in-box?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Anatomy of an Ice Storm

It is Monday evening and a major ice storm forecast looms. My backup front wheel drive 1987 model car is ready for my ninety mile route. With studded snow tires in front, it is better than four-wheel drive on ice.

Tuesday morning it is raining steadily. The temperature lingers at freezing. I am not sure I have seen an ice storm begin with so much water run off. By noon it is running over the low water bridge at Deer Creek. Slowly the temperature drops and ice begins to accumulate on trees, fences and electrical wires. Trees bend more and more under the weight. Lines must be going down as the radio reports lost electricity.

Low night temperatures and a thick coating of ice give way Wednesday morning to limbs, mainly Elm, lying under trees. Several times I hear a sharp crack and see a limb go down. Hardy cedar tree limbs simply bend to make a tent of ice forming a house underneath for rabbits and quail. Pines bend but hold. Oaks with leaves still attached have an extra burden. I saw one large branch loose the battle. With pastures frozen over, cattle stand at gates waiting for a bale of last summer’s hay. Geese honk as they follow the Wakarusa Valley. Are they thinking of turning south? I would not blame them.

I had company on the roads. Douglas County, Clinton and Kanwaka townships are busy blading and throwing sand. I wonder if they have been out all night as many roads and all bridges and steep hills are treated. A rancher with a big bale heads for the pasture. Along with me, brown, yellow and white delivery trucks bring holiday orders. It seems everyone else smartly stays home.

Thursday dawns beautiful. There is no other word to describe the ice covered world under a clear sky and sunshine. Branches encased in ice radiated like stars or prism-like spectrum of colors. Ice on metal mailboxes melt from the inside out. A drive under a tree results in a barrage of ice falling like rain. Squirrels and turkeys, run about excited to feel the warmth on their backs. As the sun warms, steam rises. Birds, especially finches and sparrows fluttered in cedar branches. Hawks use warm updrafts from the melted fields to soar low looking for prey. Cattle spread out over the same fields grazing contently.

Three days, the ice storm is history. In our area, most have electricity. Trees survive although some still bend as ice clings on northern exposures.

The forecast? Snow tonight and tomorrow.

Pictures of the ice storm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm back

Dan was able to knock ice off our antenna. After three days, I am back on line.

Any thoughts about the storm will have to wait. Right now, my eye lids are as heavy as the ice on the trees.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Lesson in Time

I emailed my daughter for her permission to post this video. I thought it unfair that she did not know she was being taped. As a matter of fact, I did not realize the background conversation when I made this little poor quality video of our youngest grandson discovering the Christmas tree. When I previewed it, I decided both were worth preserving.

Thank you Kim for letting me post this even though you think you sound a bit edgy. Considering it was dinner time and everyone was tired and hungry, it is a delightful conversation to overhear.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas list--not what you think

The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of year. However, the preparations, gatherings and long days may be stressful. Therefore, here is:

Linda’s list of things to do this Christmas season:

1. Do not overeat—impossible, but important to list
2. Get enough sleep
3. Write thank you notes in a timely manner
4. Try a new recipe
5. Visit a former coworker who is now in a care facility
6. Stay positive and cheerful at work
7. Keep up with blog
8. Fix nutritious evening meals
9. Walk two miles a day on treadmill (ski trip in January Yikes!)
10.Be organized with household tasks

On New Years Day I will grade each point with a letter grade resulting in my Holiday GPA.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bread Bowl dip

As of today, the Christmas season is on. Well, at least according to our boss. Seems to me it is a work in progress since before Halloween.

We didn't leave home this weekend. That's OK. I had plenty of work on my "things to do list." Also, there were activities nearby if we wanted to be in the Spirit.

My friend Joyce brought this to our last Card Night. It was delicious and a bit different.

Bread Bowl Dip

Get a round loaf of bread and cut the middle out of it leaving a shell. Save the top to put back on when you bake it.

8 oz. cheese Velveeta (cut up in small pieces)
2 cups (16 oz.) sour cream
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese softened
1 cup diced fully cooked ham
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1 can (4 oz.) green chopped Chile's
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter melted

Put cheese, sour cream and cream cheese in large bowl. Stir in ham, green onions, green Chile's and Worcestershire sauce. Spoon into bread shell and replace top and bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 min. Wrap in alum. foil place on cookie sheet to bake. The bread you have from inside of bowl pinch into pieces and put the vegetable oil and butter over them and bake for 10-15 min.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Skye's Friend, the two headed cat

We checked the weather and decided we better not plan on our road trip. They (whoever that is) are saying nastiness is arriving tomorrow night in the form of rain, ice and snow. It's the ice that scares us. We have one other possibility, next week. We'll see.

Maybe when I retire we can check out the New Mexico display, pablo. Ottawa is at our back door and a nice destination.

Don't worry, Erie's Linda, I always have my camera with me. Speaking of pictures...

Bill said his most popular post so far has been one with his cat. We leave Skye with a family when we travel. These are their cats. The name of the picture is Skye's Friends.

Image Hosted by
By LindaK

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Small town Christmas lights

I am struggling with putting the Roadtrek to bed.

We have it winterized so no running water. It is a bit top heavy so definitely no driving if the roads are slick.

It was Dan’s idea last year. The best early Christmas gift ever. When I stopped by home for my bathroom break on Friday, he asked if I would like to take off for a small town Christmas light tour that night. It was a great little trip.

This coming weekend is our only time to do a repeat. One problem, we cannot decide where to go. We have seriously thought of going the same route as last year—small towns southwest of us, ending in Cottonwood Falls and the Emma Chase CafĂ©.

We also thought of northeast and Parkville Missouri, a riverside town that is kicking off their Christmas celebration with music and fireworks. The downside is Parkville is very close to Kansas City and that means crowds, not our favorite thing. However, there is Atchison, Kansas and Weston Missouri up there that would be fun Saturday morning; whereas, we might be looking at Bluestem Supply in Emporia Saturday morning southwest.

Whichever way we go, I am excited about seeing what the small towns have cooked up for Christmas this year. And, I will get one more sleep over.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Are we eating the same now as we did 50 years ago?

I have a feeling not many of my readers (other than Peg) remember the wonderful food creations of the fifties.

Today on Talk of the Nation Neil Conan interviewed James Lileks, author of Gastroanomalies, and what he calls, "the most questionable culinary creations" of the good old days such as meat upside down cake and a sandwich loaf. It is only about fifteen minutes and well worth a listen.

Jello was a staple in my early marriage pantry. Lileks mentioned suspending pears carrots and celery and Conan added fruit cocktail and bananas in Jello. Guilty of all.

Several callers mentioned brains. I did not eat brains as a kid, but Dan did. He remembers them as being good. Just as one of the callers, I tried to fix them when we were first married. Take it from me, don't even go there.

I do not remember the sandwich loaf. It involves piling sandwiches and covering it all with mayonnaise. One caller said she is a member of an art deco group and she gets raves from a similar creation at their once a year picnic.

My farm background limits my gourmet food stories. We ate liver, heart, and plenty of Jello. Anyone else remember questionable food from the past?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Post Office Christmas Letter

I've created the Berryton Post Office Christmas letter for the past ten years. Our postmaster has a way of talking me into it. Truthfully, I enjoy playing around with that sort of thing.

I am not kidding myself. I am sure most of the customers take one look and toss. Over the years, I believe I've only had one compliment on the letter. I felt very honored because he was a retired corporate businessman. As I remember, the letter was set up in the form of a one page newspaper with little articles about Christmas stamps and office hours.

I repeated the concept for several years, but decided people wanted something that could be scanned in two seconds or less. If I could hold their attention for that long, they might stay on to get the intended message, which is "Buy your stamps from our little office."

Here is what I came up with. It will be a large post card with a picture of the front of our PO. I photo-shopped it to look as if it was hand drawn. The back is a short message concerning the hours and services.
Image Hosted by
By LindaK
As you can tell, our office is small. Hopefully, the approximately 1300 customers we serve will buy stamps from us after they read this note and we will justify bigger, newer digs.

As a reminder, if you are served by a small post office, buy there. If you are not, stop by a small post office nearby and buy your holiday stamps and services. It matters.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks Giving

“What’s most important is often too easily forgotten” Alex Haley

In our family Thanksgiving Day is traditionally simple. It is a time for food and fellowship. The aromas of turkey, fresh baked bread and pumpkin pie draw us to the kitchen and finally the table.

During our short time of gratitude, we are all thankful for family and health. We overeat, talk too loud and laugh often.

Thanksgiving 1943 was not full of fun and fellowship for the late Alex Haley, celebrated author of the 1976 book and later miniseries Roots. He was a cook on the USS Murzim. At the end of a day spent preparing a Thanksgiving meal for everyone on the ship, he made his way out for a breath of open fresh air.

In an article entitled “Thank You” published November 21, 1982 in Parade Magazine Harley writes it was at that time, he got to thinking about Thanksgivings of his past. He searched in his mind of a way to apply Thanksgiving to the short day he had left.

“It must have taken me a half-hour to sense that maybe some key to an answer could result from reversing the word “Thanksgiving…to “Giving Thanks.” Haley wrote. “After awhile, like a dawn’s brightening, a further answer did come—that there were people to thank, people who had done so much for me that I could never possibly repay them. The embarrassing truth was I’d always just accepted what they’d done, taken all of it for granted. Not one time had I ever bothered to express to any of them so much as a simple, sincere, “Thank you.”

In the article, Haley tells of sitting down with paper and memories. He wrote heart felt notes to his Father, Grandmother and other special people in his life.

I kept Haley’s article and thought of it as I wrote letters to my parents over the years. In addition to the usual family news, I included a thank you for deeds done in the present or past. By thanking for answers to questions, I conveyed the value of their opinions. My father has passed and my mother is elderly. I sincerely hope I was able to communicate my appreciation for their continuing influence in my life.

In early December 1992, while our daughter was a junior in college, I was the subject of a paper for her sociology class. She wrote how I had helped the family and her in ways I did not realize. She gave me a copy of the paper and I will cherish it always. I need to tell her again how much it means to me.

My friend Sue sends the most meaningful thank you notes. She uses words like “beautiful, warm, and fun” when she writes or emails about coming into our home for a meal or party. How nice to receive that confirmation.

As Thanksgiving and the Holiday season approach, rereading Alex Haley’s 25-year-old article has inspired me again to say thank you by writing a short three-sentence note or better yet, a letter. As he said, it is a simple, meaningful gift. Most importantly, I should keep in mind something Haley felt so strongly about communicating that he had it printed across the bottom of his stationery. It read,

"Find the good and praise it"

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Taste Soup

It is a busy time right now. My days are long delivering the mail. Lots of advertisements. Sometime after the first week of December, it will switch to Christmas cards. They are much more pleasant to deliver.

I was late getting home from work tonight. I quickly threw together No Taste vegetable soup. Sam’s sells a bag of fresh vegetables containing broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. We buy this regularly and use it for stir fry, soup and sometimes just raw. It is so much better than frozen. There is less waste than buying each individually.

As Dan and I enjoyed the soup, we discussed the history of our family’s own personal soup called No Taste. When the kids were home, there was a time when I decided we were going to eat healthier. I fixed a form of vegetable soup regularly, sometimes with chicken and sometimes not. The kids got tired of my healthy food. They started calling it No Taste, thinking this would encourage me to quit making it all the time.

I think they have since decided it has more taste than they remembered. The name brings back memories of our family growing up.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

KSU vs Missouri

A big game today at Manhattan. All of the state of Kansas will be interested in the outcome of this game. We are leaving soon. Full report later.

Missouri 49 Kansas State 32
Post Mortem
KSU played a good game. Their stats looked good.

First, Missouri is a very good team.

Second, in my opinion, KSU can't get into a rhythm. When they are clicking, things happen. That's both offense and defense.

Third, I agree with the assessment of a coworker of mine. We don't seem to have a solid tight end. We were on the goal line twice and had to settle for a field goal. We need a big brute of a tight end that can catch a little over the middle pass or walk over the defense to get a ball in the end zone.

There you go. As if I know anything about it.

I will say one thing I do know. That game next week between KU and Missouri will be a good one. Call it the battle of the quarterbacks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pig sighting

Dan and I were sitting at the table talking about our day when Dan looked beyond me down in the valley. There, just beyond our fence line, were three adults and six baby feral hogs. (They cannot be shot on government property).

I could let this ruin my day. However, there is word around the valley that the Kansas Wildlife and Parks and the USDA are working on the problem. I will admit the helicopter flyover last spring was productive. However, these few directly behind our house are the third group we have either seen or heard about within the last two weeks. Fall harvest of the row crops have them out foraging in the fields.

I will put up a picture for a few hours. It is such poor quality that I will probably take it off. It gives an indication of the size of the animals.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

No Rocking Chair but lots of Bridges

It was only a short drive from Kalona to the Amana Colonies. I wrote about a previous visit to the Colonies several years ago. It is a nice place to visit with lots of shopping good food. We especially enjoy their hand crafted furniture completed in their shop on the premises.

We quickly found the rocking chairs. Unfortunately, there were no solid walnut rocking chairs, only oak and cherry rockers. Since furniture for the showroom is completed only as the shop has time between custom orders, they don't always have all items available. I'm sure we'll be back.

By this time, it was getting late. My plan was to camp right by the Mississippi River and build a camp fire to roast our hot dogs sort of Huck Finn style. We took the fastest route to the river via I 80. At Davenport we followed the Great River Road to Muscatine, crossed on the Norbert F. Beckey bridge and south. We passed New Boston, a lazy riverside town in Illinois. It was getting dark and we still hadn’t found our campground.

The Big River State Forest sign said, “Camping Available.” Dan spotted a sign pointing toward a boat dock. Ahh, the river. We drove down the road, turned the corner. There was the Mighty Mississippi stretched out ahead with campsites right along side. We shortly had a big roaring fire. The hot dogs were delicious.

The next morning we drank our coffee and watched the sun slowly highlight the still colorful trees across the river. We spotted an Eagle soaring high overhead. We continued down the Illinois side, crossed the Great River Bridge at Burlington, then continued down to Ft. Madison. Once again we crossed at the Keokuk-Hamilton bridge, a rather plain bridge with an expansive river view.

Continuing south along the Missouri side to Quincy, we crossed the Quincy Bayview Bridge, ate a catfish lunch and returned. Continuing south, we drove around the historic Hannibal and found the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge but didn’t cross.

If there is any one part of the Mississippi River Trail anyone should see it would be the Louisiana to Clarkston Missouri road. It has been designated as a National Scenic Byway and rightfully so. The trees we only slightly past prime and the views magnificent. I posted a picture from there the day we returned.

Finally, we bypassed St. Louis, crossed the Missouri River at Washington and followed our usual way home through wine country.

Six bridges over the Mississippi River, colorful fall trees and good food completed a short but fun roadtrip even though we did not bring home the rocker.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Is there a rocking chair in my future?

If you read my last post, you might wonder what type of persuasion Dan used to convince me to head northeast rather than southeast for our latest roadtrip.

Several years ago, we visited the Amana Colonies in Central Iowa, where a local business builds beautiful, hand-made solid wood furniture. A fine looking walnut rocking chair caught our eye. It was rather pricey and we passed. However, Dan felt I needed the chair and consequently, I began to think I needed the chair too. Despite the price tag, we headed north on I 35 for the Amana furniture store.

But first, south of Amana is Kolona. The Amish arrived in the Kolona area in 1846. It now is home to the largest Amish-Mennonite settlement west of the Mississippi River. Their quiet unpretentious lifestyle is “expected and accepted” within the community. The Old Order Amish live and dress simply, shunning modern convenience and living “close to the soil.” The Beachy Amish, New Order Amish and Mennonites also reside in the Kolona area. All are friendly and willing to help anyone of any religion in time of need.

I sighted the Kolona Bakery first. A young, plainly dressed friendly girl served up our huge fresh rolls. On our way out, a black high-topped Amish carriage drawn by two matching black horses rounded the corner at a swift trot. It struck me this is not a tourist trap, but a community with business to be done.

We finished our breakfast and drove about thinking we might see why the gentleman was in such a hurry. Not finding his horses tied to any of the hitching rails throughout the town, we decided to drive out in the country to look at the neat, well-kept farms and perhaps see harvest underway. .

Several miles from town, we happened upon JK Creative Wood & Gifts, a store with locally hand crafted wood products. The owner’s family lived in the area many years. We enjoyed her wry sense of humor as she willingly shared their history. We purchased a couple Christmas gifts. As we left, she encouraged us to visit a neighboring business.

The Community Country Store is a step back in time. Outside we chose a large butternut squash. There were also fresh country eggs available. Inside we shopped with German speaking Amish women. I purchased a sack of freshly ground whole-wheat flour taken from a shelf along side bulk oatmeal, sugar, brown sugar and other necessities. One young Amish girl caught my eye. I wondered if the two-wheeled cart with the beautiful black horse might belong to her. Sure enough, we left the same time and the cart was hers. The spirited horse shook its head and took off. She smiled and shyly waved. I thought even in the simplicity of the transportation, she chose a combination of speed and perhaps a little daring not unlike any young person.

We visited one more furniture store and stopped by the Kalona Cheese Factory on our way out of town. We picked out several varieties of cheese as well as fresh cheese curds for our lunch at a local park. Then it was on to look at the rocking chair at the Amana Colonies.

Friday, November 09, 2007

We're back

from a two and a half day amazing roadtrip.

We left Wednesday morning heading north. You might think that is an odd direction to travel in November with the intent to see fall leaves. The travel plan was a compromise. I wanted to go south, down Arkansas way. Dan had good reasons to convince me to go north. He won and it was a good decision.

The trip took us up through Iowa and east to the Mississippi river. We followed the river south to near St. Louis, then along the Missouri River to Hermann and I 70 home. I will fill in the details later. I took this picture today. The Mississippi is in the background.
Free Image Hosting at

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day two of pretending to be retired

I took the entire week off. Dan and I are doing a little road trip for a couple of the days, but I also hope to get the house in shape for the Holidays.

So far, I have the livingroom clean. If I were on track, I should be clean through to the sun porch. Obviously, I have a scheduling problem.

At any rate, the livingroom is truly clean. All furniture moved, tipped over, cleaned underneath (other than the television cabinet), and plants cleaned and repotted. Our daughter Kim told me about a new product called Cabinet Magic. She says the Lowe’s store is the only place to find it. The link is to the Lowe’s website, but there is at least one other online place that listed it. I am going haywire with this stuff. It really does make things look like new. Get some—you’ll be hooked.

This afternoon Dan has left for a job. I am strapping on my fanny pack with the book on tape entitled Bridge of Sighs by Pulitzer prize winning author Richard Russo. This will work wonders for keeping me focused. I am determined to have the kitchen picked up and windows washed by the time he returns. (I can almost hear my kids laughing as I write this) Go ahead and laugh—I have the day off and I am on a mission—I am turning the computer off.

So, without further procrastination, I will set my plan in action.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Home again

The weekend flew by--some of it through western Kansas and eastern Colorado. We enjoyed this sunset over Pikes Peak Friday evening within a half hour of our destination.

We decided on another trip to Colorado before the holidays. It is Carly's birthday today, her third one. It was a short visit, but enough time to celebrate with a picnic followed by cake and ice cream.

Unusually beautiful weather, warm with a slight breeze, enhanced our trip west. Overflow milo and corn piled high at elevators suggested a bountiful fall harvest in western Kansas. Sprouting wheat made a slight green tint over vast flat fields.

Peg at Kansas Prairie offered a welcome break of delicious homemade vegetable soup & Colorado peaches on our return trip. I forgot the jar of her hot-sweet pickles so I will have to make a batch of my own. I did make off with two Peace Lilies, though.

I am home for the week and have a long list. More later!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Two Kansas Mansions

As we entered Coffeyville from the south, we caught sight of a magnificent home. A welcome sign beckoned us.

Mrs. Margie Marang appeared as we entered ready to answer any questions. We could have taken a tour but were in a time crunch by then. Mrs. Marang told of a two-story entry, parlor, music room, conservatory, great hall and more on the first floor. The second floor had five bedrooms and three full baths. The entire third floor was a ballroom or gymnasium. Mr. W.P. Brown owned oil and gas interests as well as a lumberyard. Date of completion of the three-story 16-room mansion was 1906.

It was a magnificent home and it prompted us to remark it reminded us of the Seelye family home in Abilene, Kansas. Built in 1905, this 25 room three-story mansion also had a music room complete with a Steinway piano, a third floor ballroom, and a bowling alley in the basement. Dr. A. B. Seelye was a patent medicine magnate. His family manufactured over 84 different products such as Wasa-Tusa and Ner-Vena.

Both homes boast Tiffany of New York designer items.

The architectural firm of Wilder and Wright of Kansas City designed the Coffeyville Brown mansion but the brochure indicates both Wilder and Wright studied with the famous New York architect Stanford White.

Impressed with an article about an architect and pictures of his work in a New York magazine, Abilene’s Mrs. Seelye hired the featured architect to design her home, although I could not find his name. Because the style of both homes is similar, one has to wonder about the Stanford White influence.

There is an additional connection between Coffeyville and Abilene. Mrs. Marang, the Brown mansion docent and Coffeyville native, told us this story. In the early 1930s, a salesman came to town. He advertised a talent show to take place on the back of his truck. Mrs. Marang was then five-year old Margie Fortner. When it came time, her daddy lifted her up on the back of the truck. She tap danced to Turkey in the Straw and won the one dollar first prize. Her mother bought her a new pair of shoes and socks with the money.

The man with the truck was selling patent medicine.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Coffeyville Flood

Coffeyville, Kansas, population 11,000, is located on Hwy 169 on which we were traveling on our way home last weekend. The small town suffered a terrible flood last summer that made national news.

A Kansas Traveler newspaper article refreshed my memory. The Verdigris River overflowed the levees. It flooded more than 400 homes and 70 businesses. Then a oil leak from the refinery combined with the flood waters.

It was hard to believe how high the water marks were on the buildings, most still standing like skeletons. We visited with an old friend from Chanute, a similar sized town nearby, yesterday. He said the oil refinery purchased many of the devastated buildings and land. Our friend also told us the refinery crews worked around the clock building back the facility after the flood.

I was astonished to learn from the Kansas Traveler article that the flood affected one of the two grocery stores and six of the seven motels in town. It is amazing how many businesses were built in the flood plane. Although
any town along a river, with enough rain, has the potential of a flood. Clinton Lake, the Corp of Engineer lake near us saved Lawrence from flooding several years ago.

We stopped by Brown Mansion, Although we did not take the tour, we heard the history from a docent. More about that tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More than meets the eye

Our weekend trips are never planned events. There is a general idea of what we want to see, but that is about it. We like to keep ourselves open for surprises.

That’s how we happened to spend the night in Keystone Lake State Park only 15 miles west of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Keystone Lake is a flood control Corp of Engineers lake located on the Arkansas River. The campground was quiet, clean and only $6 a night. The only disappointing aspect of our stay is we listened to the heartbreaking loss of KSU to Oklahoma State called by an Oklahoma radio announcer.

Tulsa hosts the largest gun show in the Midwest. Dan attended once before years ago, but this was my first time. As you might expect, there were guns as far as the eye could see. Well, maybe that is an exaggeration, but there were many guns.

It was evident when we walked in that security was tight. That is good.

Certainly not everyone is buying at a gun show. Sometimes I think it is just as the name implies, “Gun Show.” Just as it is with a car show or horse show, it’s a means to let people know what is available. The most active trading seemed to be between the exhibitors. I did stand to the side to watch one possible transaction. It is definitely a “man thing.” Very little conversation, a little fault finding, and mostly just quietly looking at the lot. I finally walked away, sure that the transaction was not going to take place. Since pocketknives are of interest to me, I came back later and sure enough, there were the knives.

I observed multi generational groups. I imagined father, son or even including grandfathers having conversations such as, “This is like the first gun I owned.”

Often firearms are beautiful. I especially like dark walnut stocks with stainless steel hardware.

Disturbing collections of Nazi items including guns, clothes and metals were available for purchase. I passed by.

Civil War and Revolutionary War memorabilia such as hats, guns, signed pictures are interesting, though. As were examples of early weapons other than guns.

We spent nearly three hours at the show buying very little. It was interesting and educational. In some ways, it was like visiting a museum.

We left Tulsa on 169, intending to meet Dan’s brother in Olathe. We had one more stop of interest, though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grandpa and the Cherokee Land Rush

This is part one of another Trekker weekend. After stopping by Junction City for rations (groceries), we headed straight south on Hwy 77 through the middle of the Kansas Flint Hills to Arkansas City, Kansas. The Cherokee Strip museum was our destination for the day. This is the same trip Dan's grandfather made over 114 years ago.

Although not as dramatic as the Flint Hills along and around I 70, through which we had just traveled to Junction City, it was still a very beautiful drive. Wide open spaces with farm land here and there between large expanses of native grass and clean, small towns. Winfield, Kansas, felt like we were driving into burg right out of the 50s. The home of the annual bluegrass festival had a beautifully renovated downtown. County seat courthouses with their intricate architecture, have unexpected beauty in rural Kansas.

We pressed on as the museum closed at 5:00 and the afternoon was slipping away.

Dan’s grandfather, Fred, was an adventurous person. We know that because he was one of more than 100,000 settlers who lined up to race by horseback or covered wagon for 42,000 claims in the 1893 Cherokee Strip Land Run or Rush.

Intended as an outlet to hunting lands in the west, the Cherokee Indians were given this 226 mile long and 58 mile wide parcel of land, called the Cherokee Outlet, in exchange for tribal lands in North Carolina. (Trail of Tears). The Cheyenne, Arapaho and Comanche also occupied the New Cherokee lands. They were great hunters and recognized no boundaries. Conflicts arose and the land was relatively unused.

After the Civil War Texas cattlemen crossed the outlet along the Chisholm Trail, driving their herds to rail heads in the north. They often stopped to let their herds graze and fatten before continuing north. Soon they were staying too long for the Cherokee to ignore.

From 1883 until 1893 the Outlet was used to graze and fatten cattle because it was easier than driving them from Texas. The Cherokee Tribe received negotiated compensations, first from cattle ranchers then the Federal government.

Meanwhile, immigrants were flocking to the the East coast from Europe, many of them farmers hearing of promises of free land. It was during this time, the United States Government began talking to the Cherokee tribe about selling the Outlet. Finally, after believing they better sell rather than have the land taken, the Cherokee settled on $8.5 million. On the day before the deadline, congress appropriated $8.3 million.

The title cleared in May and on September 16, 1893, the Cherokee Outlet became the Cherokee Strip Land Rush.

As the story was told to me, Fred, a 22-year-old man who was not yet married or settled down, participated in the highly advertised land rush as speculative venture. He wanted eventually to buy a farm near his relatives in Kansas. Fred staked a claim, lived on it the prerequisite six months out of a year, sold it and purchased the farm where Dan’s father was raised near Junction City, Kansas.

We did not realize how fortunate Fred was to have been able to claim land. With less than one 160 parcel of land available for every two that rush for it, many failed, some died.

Before the Rush, to avoid chaos, the Government opened four land offices inside the strip, one being Perry, which is where Fred filed his claim. He gave his address as Orlando.

It appears Fred traveled south through the strip and made his claim near Perry two days after the initial start. He gave his address as Orlando, Oklahoma, which makes me wonder he had scouted his land selection before the rush. He might have been thorough, but he was not a "sooner." These were persons illegally staking a claim by hiding in the strip.

While the museum at Arkansas City, Kansas, was interesting, we did not find information as to the location of Fred’s settlement. Another time we will travel south to Perry Oklahoma to find their records. Our goal is to find the exact location of Fred’s claim.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is building a new Cherokee Strip museum at Perry with scheduled completion 2008. Although we won’t “rush” we will drive our modern day covered wagon to that location another time

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Trekker weekend

We planned an extended vacation this week. Our destination was Arkansas to see beautiful foliage. However, those pesky trees decided to put their dress up party off for a while. We might still slip south in a couple of weeks, but things are getting busy around here so I don't know for sure.

Meanwhile, it was a great weekend even if the trees were still in their work clothes. Our objective yesterday was the Cherokee Strip museum in Arkansas City, Kansas. We wondered if there was a record of Dan's grandfather's land claim during the run. Hopefully, you will find what we discovered interesting.

Then it was on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a gun show. I have observations about that huge affair that might interest even those who cringe at the mention of firearms.

There is a problem, though. I also have things to do for the coming week. I am looking forward to writing about this trip but I am afraid it might not be until Tuesday night. Hope to see you then.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Still sounds good

Kim called last night asking if I wanted my old stereo. She acquired it when we broke up my folks’ home. With some hesitation, I said that I guessed not. She said she was putting it in their garage sale. I thought about changing my mind today, but decided there are some things one has to let go.

Imagine my surprise and, I must admit, relief tonight when I read the email saying she decided it might be a nice retro piece of furniture to keep.

The stereo was my first major purchase. It was 1963 and I was 17 years old. I worked for my Dad the previous summer and saved the money. Stereo music was relatively new, at least in Junction City, Kansas. I think my Mom was with me when we first looked at it. The salesman had a record demonstrating how the sound changed from side to side. It sounded wonderful. Constructed of solid walnut in the modern style that was popular back then, it was a nice piece of furniture with simple lines.

My Dad came to the store to look at it. He thought it was OK, so I paid cash. I bought the demonstration record and one other. It was country western. I think it was Glen Campbell.

That stereo played many hours. I remember Paul and Paula, Peter Paul and Mary, Pat Boone, Kingston Trio, Four Seasons, Pink Panther, Elvis, Beetles, and, believe it or not, Tennessee Ernie Ford (16 Tons, of course). Some 45s but I liked albums when I could afford them.

Kim said in her email that she put on her old school U2. It still sounded good.

Originally when Kim asked if she should sell it, I said Ok, but would she take a picture. Some possessions are hard to let go.

Sounds like my respectable old stereo earned a little more time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

News of the future

The twin cities of Minneapolis St Paul have introduced a "news of the future" source called MinnPost.

MinnPost has significant financial backing. Additionally, it boasts four dozen contributing journalists, two of which are Pulitzer Prize winners. The article insists it will be news based.

All published on the internet.

Would I check in on this new media source? Probably. However, it would not replace the local Lawrence Journal World web site, which includes videos, pod casts and opportunities to comment. Neither would it replace Junction City Daily Union, and Abilene Reflector Chronicle home town headlines and obituaries.

The internet is definitely global. The local cyber venture will give the journalists worldwide recognition. If someone like me checks the site occasionally, worldwide that amounts to a lot of traffic. With the advertised creative competition, who will assign the “news” stories to this group of super reporters?

Joel Kramer, CEO and Editor of the not-for-profit startup said, “We'll also have some fun.” My guess the fun will be to “hash out” the news rather than report it.

The Minneapolis cyber venture should be MinnPost Block Buster Blog.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tailgating at KSU (47) Colorado (20) game

One of our fall activities the past fifteen years is to attend Kansas State University football games. The past few years we gave away tickets to at least one home game so we invited Marc’s parents to split the tickets with us this year. They said sure.

Until last evening, we have not tailgated once. Because of the ticket share, we only attended one other game and it didn’t work to tailgate then. Kim and I decided it was now or never. Our next game is the second week in November and most likely a cold one.

Here we are tailgating last evening. Obviously, the boys are enjoying their own kind of tailgate food. Little Evan just finished his favorite meal and was in the Roadtrek catching some zzzs. The wind would have made our little tailgate uncomfortable so we tied up the sheet. It worked great.

The menu was brisket, potato salad, baked beans, salsa and cookies for dessert. We didn't get carried away on the food.

Kim made excellent potato salad and iced pumpkin shaped cookies. The cookies were a big hit with the little boys and the rest of us for that matter.

To accompany Kim’s potato salad, I made baked beans. I also made a popular salsa recipe that sort of doubles as a vegetable dish.

There is no better compliment than a recipe request. Kim asked for both. I decided to post them here. Enjoy.

Cindy's Texas Caviar Salsa
(I halved this recipe and it would serve six generously)
2 cans black eyed peas, drained
2 cans shoe peg corn, drained
1 green pepper, diced
3 green onions
2 med fresh tomatoes, diced (2 cans diced tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/2 cup parsley (fresh)
1/2 cup salsa
1 large bottle Zesty Italian Dressing
marinate overnight.
If you like more fire, use Rotel for can tomatoes

Kansas City Baked Beans
2 (16) ounce cans pork and beans
3/4 cup Kansas City Masterpiece BBQ sauce (or any brand)
1/2 cup brown sugar or molasses (I used molasses)
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored & chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine first six ingredients and pepper in a 1/2 quart casserole. Top with bacon.
Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Monarchs on the move

Chip of Monarch Watch is in the news again. This time National. ABC news had a spot about the Monarch's migration to Mexico. Chip was also featured.

Click this link. There is a story and link to a slide show. So far the link to the actual television spot will not come up. They keep promising to fix it.

I hope no one saw these butterflies headed south!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Growing old is not for sissies" Etta Clark

Talk of the Nation on NPR had a show entitled, “Teaching the Young to Empathize with the Old.” The guests were Jason Wilson, editor of The Smart Set, and independent magazine published at Drexel University; author of the article "Old Like Me" and Peg Gordon, intergenerational coordinator at the Macklin Intergenerational Institute and teacher of the class "Xtreme Aging."

Jason Wilson told his experiences simulating being old. This involved corn in his shoes, Vaseline on his glasses, earplugs and bandages tied tightly around knees and elbows. He almost gleefully told of his difficulties going to the bathroom and other daily activities.

Peg Gordon’s class included similar situations. I found the callers more interesting.

A caller explained she teaches a class of water aerobics. She talks to her older ladies like little girls. Neil Conan, moderator, asked if talking this way was demeaning. She assured Conan they enjoy her class.

Another lady, age 79, called to say she walks through a college campus each day. She said she feels invisible. No one smiles or speaks to her.

Gordon said she takes little kids into nursing homes. They get along famously with the residents. However, when it is time to pick the little ones up, the Baby Boomer parents send someone in after their children. They are uncomfortable being around the elderly.

Actually, Gordon said Baby Boomers are the least likely to want to participate or talk about working with the elderly. For some reason this age seems to think they will never get old.

All of the play-acting to understand aging is fine. However, pain and disabilities are not limited to elderly. We should all be sensitive to suffering.

For me, it is difficult to accept I may become unimportant to the people around me. The joy of bonding and recognition between human beings might occur less often and finally given and received only by a few dedicated caregivers and family members.

If I am fortune enough to have a long life, I hope I am able to subsist to the end gracefully and with a sense of humor.

Listen to the entire show by clicking here and then click on “Listen” at the beginning of the article.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More Missouri observations

Missouri is not a stranger to us. We have floated on the North Fork of the White River at least seven or eight times. Our kids loved to water ski on Table Rock and even parts of Lake of the Ozarks. The water is clear and there is less wind.

Wine Country is a yearly trip. We visited Branson once. Many of our friends enjoy trips there, but we bypass the crowds for more rural areas.

The road tax must be less because we nearly always find good gas prices. This time we filled up in Washington, MO, for $2.37 a gallon.

Missouri is a tourist destination. They are proud of their attractions. We know because there are billboards informing travelers. Perhaps a few too many. However, unlike Kansas, we did not see a billboard advertising false teeth or reversing a vasectomy.

Almost without fail, we find the people in the rural areas of Missouri friendly and accommodating. They are laid back and seem to enjoy slowing life down a bit.

And, slow it down we did last weekend.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Just the two of us

It's been fun over the years celebrating Oktoberfest in Missouri wine country, usually with a group. This year it was Dan and I making the adventure. (Pictures at the bottom, but they make more sense if you read first)

We started by enjoying a visit and lunch with friends near Gardner, Kansas. Cheryl recently had back surgery. She is doing amazingly well.

From southern Kansas City, we headed east. We had no schedule, only that we intended to drive the Herrman Missouri Wine Trail on Saturday. Somewhere between Blue Springs and Booneville, Dan brought up shore lunches. The more we thought about it the better it sounded. An exit off I 70 at Booneville, a visit to the local grocery store and we were ready for a shore lunch of pond fed catfish.

We ended up not bringing the bikes. However, we knew there was a picnic area down by the Katy Trail at Rocheport that would be a perfect spot for our fish fry. We had everything out to start frying, only there was one problem. The mosquitoes were relentless. We grabbed up our stuff and took off.

I remembered a well-maintained rest stop near the Herrman exit. It was nearly 8:00 pm when we arrived. As if prepared just for us, there was a well-lit picnic table. We fired up our outdoor propane burner, poured a generous amount of peanut oil in the skillet, rolled the catfish pieces in breading and fried up a shore lunch right there. Delicious.

We boondocked and arrived in Herrman yesterday morning by 9:00 am. After a stop at the candy shop (chocolate with a sweeter wine, of course) we took off south of town for the Adam Puchita vineyard. We were one of the first there. We sampled and purchased just one bottle. I think it was too early as they have excellent wines.

Back to town we drove up to Stone Hill. The view is spectacular from this winery. It is always a beautiful stop.

On the way out of town, we passed Hermannhof Winery. It was already crowded. It is a popular destination for young people—too loud for us.

By this time, it was about time for the KSU/KU game. We decided to head for our favorite, Robllers. We ended up listening to the game under a shade tree, thankful for a bottle (or two) of their good wine to ease our pain.

The entertainment for the afternoon was a musician from St. Louis named Bob. He played every song (this is Bob singing & playing) I have ever loved—at least it seemed so by that time. We decided to pass on the other vineyards on the Trail and enjoy Bob's music.

Bob packed up at 5:00 pm and so did we. Dan had taken a little rest, so he was in fine shape to drive. We headed east intending to cross the Missouri River at Washington, the next bridge after Herrman. We happened on to a very pleasant surprise there. Washington has a park with a picnic tables overlooking the river. We once again fired up our skillet, threw in a couple hamburgers. Instant mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli rounded out our throw together meal. There was no wine served.

We watched the sun set, sending its colors across the river. Local citizens gathered for this event and to watch the boats and jet skiers on the river. I am sure it is especially beautiful in the summer when the sun is further north and would set on the river.

We ate, crossed the Washington bridge and headed we did not know where. Once again things worked out as we ended up at the Graham Cave State Park. It was pitch dark when we arrived, but campers were sitting around bright campfires making it a welcome place to park the Roadtrek for the night. And, a place we plan to return to walk the trails and check out the cave at another time.

This morning, we rose early, showered and took off for Columbia First Christian Church to hear our niece, Rev. Amy Kay, conduct the morning service. Afterward, a quick lunch and visit, then Amy Kay was off to the CROP Walk and Dane to put Sebastian down for his nap.

Five o’clock found us home and unloaded. I’ll say it again, we had fun!

Missouri Wine Country 2007

Click on picture and then "slideshow."

Friday, October 05, 2007

In the movie “Sideways” Miles refuses to drink Merlot. His wine of choice is pinot noir. I liked the movie just because of the wine talk.

Speaking of wine, it is time for a little taste of Missouri vineyards and their Oktoberfest. We usually do this trip with another couple or a group. This year Dan and I are enjoying the long weekend in Missouri by ourselves.

We are thinking of taking our bikes and stopping by the Kathy Trail at Rocheport. We hope to be at our favorite winery in time for the KSU-KU game.

Back to the movie Sideways. I will probably be more like the character Jack. In contrast to Miles’ sophisticated preferences, Jack would throw back a glass and say, “Tastes good to me.”

Check back Sunday for a full report on the status of the Missouri grape.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stop to talk

Tonight I ran to town after the mail route. Dan has almost exclusively taken over the grocery shopping, but I needed a few things and he was busy.

I arrived at the store around 5:00 pm. Much to my dismay, it was crowded. As I maneuvered up and down the isles, it struck me how many were on cell phones

There were young professionals walking, talking and grabbing a few things maybe setting up a date.

Young people, obviously shopping for someone at home, talked while looking at the shelves.

A high school age boy at the check out unloaded his groceries, scanned his credit card, signed, and bagged groceries all the while carrying on a conversation on his cell.

As I was leaving, a young man was coming in. I was struggling with my bags, but just as I looked up, he said, “Hello.” I said, “Hi.” Except, when I looked a little closer, his eyes were focused off in the distance. Of course, he was talking into one of those blue tooth ear things.

I was putting groceries in the truck and several drove by talking on their phone.

I do appreciate Dan calling me from the store to see if I need something. Also, I know he will have it on if I forget. I wouldn’t ever consider not having one with me on the mail route.

Cell phones are a part of our world. It seems to me we should stop when we talk, though.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Class of '62 Rat Pack

The Class of 1962 met at the Chapman Golf Course, a very nice facility for a town of 1,300. Many gathered earlier on Saturday to watch KSU beat Texas. By the time we arrived from Ellsworth, 50 plus miles west, most were already in the celebration mode. Dan’s class was small, around 86 graduates. About a third made it to their 45th reunion.

Brookville Hotel at Abilene catered their signature fried chicken dinner. We ate and talked, talked and ate. There are doctors, engineers (railroad and professional), nurses, farmers, and everything in between in Dan’s small but successful class. Since I also graduated from Chapman two years later, it is a reunion for me too.

A brunch the next morning meant most left by midnight. We were in our Roadtrek so we stayed right there on the parking lot. After everyone left, we decided to move over by a row of hedge trees thinking we would be out of the wind. It turned out to be a good spot, so we thought. We slept soundly.

It was around noon when we finally bid goodbye and climbed in the Trekker to head for home. It would not start. The starter was working, but it would not fire. There was nothing to do but call my brother. We drove his one-ton farm truck home, so the local mechanic could check the Trekker Monday.

The mechanics called Monday evening reporting they replaced two parts. It still would not start. They were frustrated and I was upset. The van has less than 30,000 miles. It should not be broke down.

Tuesday midday Dan called me on the mail route, “Guess what, they fixed the van and you will never believe what was wrong.”

Hidden behind, they found fresh leaves, pieces of a hedge ball and a chewed wire. While we sat under the hedge trees, an opportunistic pack rat found his perfect winter home.

Monday, October 01, 2007

More on Ellsworth

It was a treat to meet my blogger friend, Peg, over the weekend. She introduced us to her family and I felt I already knew them as would any of her faithful readers. We circled our wagon in her driveway. We’ll be back.

Ellsworth sponsored the Great American Cattle Drive as a fundraiser for their Drover’s Museum planned for the city’s signature building on main street. It shows forethought by city planners. Ellsworth has a colorful history of cattle drives and drovers who worked them. In addition, the city is a short distance south of I 70. I think it would be a tourist destination for families traveling through Kansas.

Ellsworth also has a cave*. As you see by the picture, two or three shops had a underground street. I am sure there are others beside me who are interested in the cave’s history. Was it protection from elements or a place for men to gather? Or, perhaps, an idea brought from European immigrants.

* I grew up calling the rock-lined, dirt floor root cellar on our farm a "cave." We kept the eggs down there because it was cool. Perhaps a clue as to why the caves were constructed on the prairie.

The Great American Cattle Drive

If your computer will not show this video, click on this link to go directly to the YouTube site.

The Great American Cattle Drive, Ellsworth, Kansas

Peg has more pictures of the Cattle Drive.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our Conestoga is headed west

I searched for clothes that are appropriate for a drover's weekend--cowboy hat, boots, etc. I think we will settle on comfort. According to Peg over at her Prairie Blog, things are getting crowded in Ellsworth.

It won't take us as long as the pioneers to travel the route west along the Smoky Hill Trail from eastern Kansas to Ellsworth. Even so, our Conestoga will take 2 1/2 hours. No worry about a place to circle the wagon. We have a nice big driveway to park it in. I am excited. Check in Sunday night for a full report.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Don't do this if you want to stay awake

Tonight I cleaned up the kitchen and folded clothes. It’s been a busy evening. I finally fixed myself a cup of tea and came in to write a little something on my blog.

My mistake was the tea. Actually, the kind of tea. I often fix myself a cup of “Sleepy Time” tea before bed. I started to grab a bag when I saw the box of a new kind of bedtime tea.

“Bedtime Story” is marketed by Lipton. In is produced in a new pyramid tea bag so it has, “more room to infuse.” The box says it is made with real spearmint leaves and chamomile flowers. What ever is in those fancy little bags works. I am falling asleep as I type.

Seriously, try it. Guaranteed sleepiness in ten minutes.

Night night

Monday, September 24, 2007

Enjoying fall

Yesterday was the first day of fall or the fall equinox. The days are definitely getting shorter although not much cooler. Dan predicted today would be our last to run the air conditioner. We’ll see.

I look forward to fall and the cooler weather and colorful leaves. Maybe it was in my head, since I know it is now fall, but it felt different outside today. The sun is beginning is slide south which gives different look. The humidity is down so the warm day didn’t seem nearly as uncomfortable. The meadow still looks manicured and green although has hints of the golden color to come.

The animals are more active now. I watch the ditches for deer. Migratory birds are moving through. Pelicans are still here, as are gulls, buzzards, and a few barn swallows. I wonder if they are waiting for a northern tail wind to push them south. Snakes are out on the road, as are turtles. Squirrels are in a whirlwind carrying nuts to their hiding place.

Hope you are enjoying fall in your place also.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The auction

The sale bill stated the auction started at 11:00 am. By the time we arrived at 1:30 pm, the parking lot was full. The owner was a middle-aged man who died unexpectedly. He was single at the time.

Dan and I seldom buy at auctions, but we enjoy the atmosphere. People eating lunch or a slice of pie occupy chairs for sale. Small groups chat, enjoying the day.

As we walk around, I hear the auctioneer in the distance, “you’re in,” “you’re out,” “you’re missing the boat on this one” and “this tractor is knee deep in rubber.” The chant is background music celebrating the end of a household. Possessions accumulated in a lifetime carted away by family, friends or strangers.

I checked out the cassette tapes up for sale, all country western. The furniture was western in design with wrought iron accessories. Obviously a bachelor’s household, very few dishes. Surprisingly, I counted three sets of silverware. Original artwork from local painters. Lots of outdoor furniture.

We left without buying. We paid our respects to his possessions and enjoyed a visit with his neighbors.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ellsworth Cattle Drive

Ellsworth, Kansas, and nearby Ft. Ellsworth (later renamed Ft Harker) were established in 1864. Their mission was to help make the trails west safe from the Cheyenne Indians.

Naturally, Ellsworth was a rowdy town from the beginning. Soldiers, later railroad workers, and Texas cowboys converged on the streets looking for a good time. Saloons were numerous. Drinking, gambling and women often were a deadly mix.

Former cavalry man E.W. Kingsbury and Chauncey Whitney were elected sheriff during that time. US Marshals, Wild Bill Hickok and Jack Harvey often rode the streets. Read more details at the Cowboy’s web site.

On September 28th, 29th and 30th, Ellsworth is celebrating their history. The highlight is the Cattle Drive Parade featuring 140 trophy Texas longhorns at 2:30 pm, Saturday afternoon.

Saturday morning at 8:00 is a 5K run called “Running with the Bulls." Preceded by the Stock Tank Race at 9:30, the Cowtown parade is at 10:00. After the parade is a re-enactment of the “Shooting of Sheriff Whitney” at the Hodgden Museum. Check Peg’s Kansas Prairie for the complete three-day schedule.

The cattle drive is not an annaul event rather a fund raising effort by the community to finance the refurbishing of the historical turret building on main street. It is also an excellent opportunity to step into history for one weekend.

Hope to see ya there!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Westward Ho

Friday morning found us up and out of the house by 6:15 am. The reason, Dan’s colonoscopy. He flew through that procedure like a trouper and all is well. We ate a welcome (for him) breakfast at I Hop and were on I 70 west by 10:30 am.

Our destination is Monument to visit with our Colorado family. Our TOA (time of arrival) is always a topic when we see Topeka in our rear view mirror. There isn’t much variance. It is a eight hour drive.

I take a tote bag including magazines, an audio book, and newspapers. There is a cooler of cola, juice, and a jug of ice water. Picnic items include chips, yogurt and sandwich meat. We settle in for the drive prepared.

Eight hours in a vehicle seems like eternity to airline travelers. Not for us. Often the magazines aren’t opened. We visit and enjoy the sights along I 70. Yes, that includes Western Kansas and the ever-changing crops, clouds, and skylines. Sometimes we stop at Wilson for a bottle of Kansas wine. Quinter is half way and Grainfield, Kansas, is one and a half hour from the Colorado Welcome center at Burlington and a cup of coffee. We always stop at the TA truck center at Limon. Sometimes that includes a ice cream cone at the McDonalds across the street. We trade driving. During a lull in conversation, we slip in a short nap. We seldom turn on the radio.

The return trip is usually the same. It is then the lists are made, “Things To Do” this week, month and year. Often we eat less healthy, getting by with snacks and cookies sent by Drue.

We make this trip at least four times a year, often more. Despite all those hours in the car, Interstate 70, Dan and I are still friends.

Click here for video of our visit. Warning, lots of pictures of grandchildren.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Staying informed on the war

Three years ago when I started this blog, I made the decision to keep my posts informative and upbeat. Realistically, however, our world is not always upbeat and positive. For example, the past three days I listened to reports by General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top two American officials in Iraq followed by politicians, reporters and commentators going back over their statements with their own spin.

Today, Fresh Air on NPR, 89.3 FM approached the Petraeus and Crocker report realistically and honestly. If you have an hour to listen, I highly recommend this program. Go here to download a pod cast or click this link to listen on line to Thomas Ricks, senior Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Post visit with Terry Gross about his views on the hearing and the future of our presence in Iraq. With few exceptions, I felt Ricks avoided political jabs and frankly looked at the report with insights from his own time spent there as a reporter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kansas State Fair 2007

I only had time to make up this slideshow. It tells about our day.

Click on the picture and then "slideshow"

Kansas State Fair 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tailgating vs mail delivery

Free Image Hosting at

Tailgating wins by a shutout!

We attended the KSU game, spent the night in the Roadtrek right there on the KSU stadium parking lot. We drove around this morning to see the other RVs parked overnight. They were huge beautiful buses. Then we spotted the Catabago. The best of them all.

After the parking lot tour, we headed to Hutchinson for the Kansas State Fair. I am posting this and dropping into bed. Check for more pictures later.

Friday, September 07, 2007

This N' That

There is a very nice video about butterflies in the Lawrence Journal World online edition today. Click here for beautiful pictures and interesting narration.

Dan is taking Aaron and Adam to the open house. I can't go because of work, but he said he would take the camera.

We were finally blessed with nearly a two inch rainfall last night. It came in with a bang. They said the winds were clocked at 60 mph.

After our evening meal, we checked the marsh tadpole mud hole to see if any survived until the rain. Unfortunately, I don't think many made it. There were a few mature frogs around and I am sure there will be more soon.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Practical or an obsession

Free Image Hosting at

Several years ago, Dan was shopping in the sporting goods section of Wal Mart. He noticed camouflage tee shirts marked down to $5.00. They were good quality and they had a pocket, a necessary feature for trim work.

He bought four or five. An excellent buy.

A week later, he was back in the store. The shirts were marked down to $2.50.

He bought all in his size.

After that, if we were in a Wal Mart, we checked for camo tee shirts. They were marked down in all the stores. We even found several long sleeved shirts and camo underwear and socks!

Last week in the process of haying and running after parts for the baler, he wore two and sometimes three shirts a day. Hence, the line of camo flapping in the wind.

We laughingly thought, just for fun, we should get the camo out of the closet, hang all of it on the clothes line and take a picture.

We decided against it. Some might think we are obsessed.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Marsh is dry but still alive

The Kansas Wildlife and Parks constructed a wetland area in the valley. Each fall they pump water out of the Wakarusa River to create a marsh for migrating waterfowl. We noticed large gatherings of Pelicans drifting over the valley. I wondered if they were finding a landing place in the marshes. I decided to check it out over the weedend.

This egret was willing to poise.

Meanwhile the pelicans swirled overhead as if to say, "Look at us." My little camera couldn't capture their beautiful flight.

The marshes were dry and empty, or so I thought. There was a strange sound coming from the bottom of the marsh area. In a smelly mud hole about the side of a large kitchen there was constant movement with tadpoles and frogs. It was actually a sad sight. If we don't get rain this week, they will all surely die.

It helps to click on this picture to see the tadpoles

The frog looks like a green frog, although the range of that species does not include our area. We do have bull frogs and it is the same family. The picture is of an immature frog as it appears the tail hasn't completely disappeared. Let me know.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Preparing for the journey

Free Image Hosting at

Chip at Monarch Watch responded to this post by email. I am printing his comment as it is of interest.

The fall thistle that you've pictured is relatively rare this yr. Possibly a victim of the April 4-10 freeze. The annual sunflowers are scarce over a wide area in KS - don't see them in the usual abundance going west until you get to Hayes or south to Chanute.

Having our fall Open House on this coming Sat - lots of butterflies here (
KU Monarch Watch, Foley Hall, West Campus, 8:00 am - 3:00 pm) and a chrysalis for every kid.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't worry, be happy

Paying bills is a negative thing, especially on the checking account.

Part of the problem is most of our insurance bills are due the same time Not good timing. No matter when we pay the bills, we need insurance--we're locked in.

OK, granted, we do own too many vehicles. Blame the mail route.

The Trekker is my (our) joy and I am not too upset about that insurance bill.

We must have insurance on our home, even if our deductible is so high that the only way we would collect is a disaster.

Health insurance is essential. We need coverage for a major illness, and we do realize some return on preventive tests.

Finally (pun intended), there are gifts. I like to think giving is what we do for each other. Some would say it is insurance for the long haul. At least with gifts, if we use the insurance, the premiums don't increase.

I don’t want to total the amount of money we pay each year on insurance. It’s best to pay the bills and feel relieved we are covered no matter what.

Wait, not the case. We were informed by letter enclosed with our homeowners insurance that we were not covered for the following: computer related problem (?!), war liability (?!), Terrorism (?!!!) and several other things I do not understand. There was also some limited liability language, which probably was a result of me trying to get our premiums from hell a little lower. I don't think more gifts would help that situation either.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Imported Swiss Cheese

I've mentioned before that Dan does a lot of my grocery shopping. He is good at it doesn't seem to mind.

Last week he was shopping in HyVee and picked up some of those recipe cards that often are available. He decided to buy the ingredients for one of the recipes. That's how Le Gruyere cheese is in our refrigerator.

Imported Le Gruyere cheese aged over 150 days is imported from Switzerland. Quoting from the package, "Amazingly nutty and full of flavor. Renouned for cooking and traditional fondue." This cheese is delicious.

Tonight I sliced tomatoes, sprinkled them with oregano and a little lemon pepper. I then sliced the Le Gruyere cheese very thin and placed over the slices and broiled for a few minutes. It was wonderful.

It is expensive but worth it. This is a must have cheese for a wine tasting.

I found a recipe for fondue:
Swiss Cheese Fondue
Vegetarian (Don't let this fool you, it has 670 calories per serving)

Serves 4
1/2 pound grated Emmentaler
1/2 pound grated Le Gruyere
1 clove of garlic, cut or slightly crushed
1 1/2 cups of white wine such as a Chenin Blanc
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons flour
ground pepper, to taste
nutmeg, to taste

2 loaves bread with thick crust cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine Emmentaler and Le Gruyere with the flour stir and set aside (either in medium bowl or in a plastic bag). Rub the inside of the fondue pot with the cut garlic clove. Pour wine into pot and heat over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese by handful, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Add pepper and nutmeg to taste (you can add cayenne or other spices too). Bring to boil. Remove pot and put on lighted burner on table. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly or bring pot to table and set on a trivet. Serve each guest a handful of bread cubes. Spear fondue fork through bread cubes. Dunk and stir well to cover bread cube with cheese mixture. Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Barbershop is Open

No, I do not have formal training in cutting hair. I have memories of my Dad cutting my brother’s hair and sometimes trimming up mine and my mother’s. Maybe it was watching Dad that gave me the confidence to become a shade tree barber.

I have one steady client, Dan. Early on I cut our kid’s hair. I remember reading how to cut a little girl hairstyle that would frame a face. You pull all the hair up on top of the head and make one cut straight across. Sure enough, it was perfect. I didn’t last long with the kids, though. For some reason, they didn’t have confidence in my ability.

Dan, on the other hand, has all the confidence in the world in my ability. I have suggested that he might want to go to a barber occasionally. Absolutely not. He likes the way I cut his hair.

My instruments over the years have consisted of a comb, small barber scissors and an electric clipper. In recent years my son and son-in-law have “guards” that they put on a clipper and proceed to run it over their heads. Our grandboys have this type of cut in the summer also. Not to be left out, Dan purchased guards for our clipper. One time he decided he needed a haircut. I guess I didn’t get to it fast enough because he did the guard on the clipper cut himself. Thankfully, he is back to my cuts. They look better.

I started cutting Dan’s hair when we were married. We’ve been married 41 years. If I gave him a cut every six weeks, it would be around 350 cuts. Let's say each cut cost $5, that would be $1,750 so far we have saved in haircut costs. We have commented over the years that someday we would take the savings on haircuts and go on a cruise to Alaska. We’re getting close.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Dr. Chip at KU Monarch Watch sent me several pictures of the gardens and butterflies. Check them out here

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Over the years of mail delivery, we have towed vehicles many times. I drive nearly 100 miles a day and about 80 of those are on gravel. It is hard on vehicles. We belong to a professional towing service, but waiting for a truck to arrive out in the country never seems to be an option.

We have always used a nylon tow strap when we tow, which allows some give or bounce. When it is time to stop, both tower and towee break together hopefully keeping the tow strap taut, otherwise there is a lot of jerking.

The most dreaded tow job is trying to get something started—like a tractor. It usually involves frustration. Pulling someone out of a ditch or snowdrift is a good way to get rear-ended if everyone involved isn't careful.

My all time worst towing experience involves ice. Dan had driven a small VW pickup to Overbrook. He hit a patch of ice, went in the ditch and did something to the radiator. We had to get the pickup home, we towed—yes, I was in the back.

The road to Overbrook has a very long hill, at least a half mile long. We had to go down that hill to get home. We didn’t realize the hill, which faced north, still had ice on it. We started slow at the top. But, as we continued down, Dan had to speed up rather than use the brakes because of the ice. I don’t know for sure what would have happened had I put on my brakes, but it would not have been good. So, Dan had no choice but to gather speed to keep the tow strap tight as we descended the hill. I remember not knowing when we reached the bottom. I was hanging on to the steering wheel with my eyes shut.

Several years ago, we bought a dolly. A wise purchase.