Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 one more day

We are home from Colorado since last night around 10:00 pm.  According to the GPS when we left Monument, we should have been home around 8:00, but we stopped by Wayne and Ruth’s (brother & sister-in-law near Junction City). It was a good visit to top off the drive.

It was an easy trip.  We remarked it felt like we had a tail wind the way little red car sailed.  I texted Doug mentioning the good trip & he said it was a windy day in the Springs, blowing from the west.  Ahhh, it was a tail wind.  Also, the regular gas in Colorado  is mixed differently because of the altitude so Dan put in a higher grade.  Red car liked that a lot.

Today we attended the funeral of a long-time co-worker’s dad.  He was a WWII veteran with a beautiful graveside recognition.

Then I dumped all the gloves we have in the house out on the kitchen floor.  Work gloves, mechanic gloves, garden gloves, dress gloves, ski gloves….   I am throwing away those without mates and with holes.  Now, when we need a pair, there should not be a problem finding the right type.  Reality is,  gloves are like socks. 

Even though all gloves are in order,  there is one more day to make sure all business for 2011 is complete.  I have a pile of papers to be filed and somewhere in there I think I remember something that needs to be done by December 31st.  Why didn’t I tackle the pile of papers instead of gloves?  This post should have been entitled, “2011 last day, no more procrastination.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Garden of the Gods

Doug had to work today so the rest of us decided to travel down to Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods.  In 1909 The Garden of the Gods was given to the city of Colorado Springs by the children of Charles Elliott Perkins, who wished that it be kept forever free to the public. 

If today is an indication, it is well used by all who live locally as well as visitors.  The parking lot was nearly full today with Colorado cars as well as many out-of-state license plates. 

It was a beautiful day for a short hike and picnic. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sharing Christmas

Christmas Eve started with a candlelight service.  I’ve always wished I could try for a picture of a whole room of candles.  A camera couldn’t capture the beautiful feeling. 

After the service Kim, Marc and boys along with our neighbors Tom and Christi and last minute, neighbors Bret & Paige, who didn’t have plans enjoyed food and fellowship around our kitchen table.

Christmas Day was laid back between the excitement gifts and food at Kim and Marc’s.  Here are a few pictures of our Christmas.





Yes, we’re in Colorado.   More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May Peace, Joy and Love be with you on this day and throughout the new year. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas wedding 16 years ago

img135Kim and Marc were married just two days before Christmas.  It was a hectic time that year, but a beautiful celebration of their union. 

Kim was to start a clinical the first of the year in California.  Certainly, Marc would want to go along.   The Christmas date was their best time.  We were concerned it would be too much of a busy time for family and friends as well as all the people who help make such an occasion happen.

We need not have worried.  It went off without a hitch.

I am probably prejudice, but I think it was a beautiful wedding.  The church was already decorated so very little had to be done there.  Between classes and studying, Kim worked very hard on decorations for the reception.  White lights everywhere as was garland.  Many, many candle holders with pine scented candles.  Kim’s dress was white velvet.  It was a fairy tale evening.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This person has it right

I am wondering why I didn’t take a picture giving a face to this man.  I can’t even write a description.  This person is all about positive attitude and that is what I see as I walk in and out of the store.

I am writing about the Salvation Army bell ringer at Sam’s Club in Topeka.  If you’ve visited that store during the Holidays, he is memorable. 

The bell, his voice it’s there when driving into the parking lot.  It’s not that he is yelling, but his voice carries.   As he rings the bell, he is telling people to have a good day, to have a Merry Christmas, that their children are beautiful and God bless them, or, in our case, to drink the beer we just purchased slowly.  You absolutely can not help but smile within his outreach. 

Without a Bible or a church congregation, he is the personification of the message of this Christmas season—that is to  help those less fortunate, to show love for all people and to make everyone smile and feel good about themselves. 

I ask the greeter if he ever has a bad day.  No, he does not.  He begins when the store opens and works all day with the same enthusiasm and gusto.  I bet his red Salvation Army pot fills many times.  How can anyone pass without dropping in a little something with a smile.

And, then pass it on.

Postagram—five star app (in my book)

I can’t remember how I came upon Postagram.  It might be when I was looking for a way to send postcards from Alaska with  my own pictures.  For whatever reason, I have used this program a lot—18 times according to my account on the site.

Watch this YouTube video to see how easy it is to send a personal picture.

I’m writing about this app now in case an Apple product is under your Christmas tree.  Or, like just about every one else I know, you already have an iPhone.  It is also available for Android and you can use pictures on your Facebook account. 

Here is a picture I put on a recent Postagram. 


We were invited to a party where I knew I would want to send a thank you note afterward.  So, I took the picture with my little camera (those with iPhones could eliminate this step) downloaded the picture and logged into the site.  As in the video, added the picture, wrote a short note and it was on its way.  All for $1.

And, it arrives in the mailbox, which I like a lot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update on computer security

For those of us using a Microsoft PC, there are many anti virus applications, free and to buy.  I have paid for Norton Antivirus, PC Tools for the past few years. 

About a year ago, I decided to download iTunes into my computer.  That’s when the trouble started.  It is as if it took over my computer.  The computer slowed down and would sometimes “freeze.”  So, I deleted iTunes and the computer improved.  That led me to believe the problem was iTunes. 

Then, Apple came into my life so I downloaded iTunes again.  Same thing with the computer.  I checked the Task Manager/Performance and the CPU Usage History was over 60%.  Contrary to what it might sound like, I do not have a clue what CPU is, but I know from Google that 1 to 5% is more normal.

So, to make a long story short, I found out PC Tools does not like iTunes, or the other way around, who knows.  So, I then started shopping for a new antivirus.  This web site turned out to be very informative about free antivirus protection.  From studying the information, I decided on Microsoft Security Essentials.  It’s free and a small file.  Plus, when running Microsoft, it would seem Microsoft Security would make sense. 

Then came the task of installing Microsoft Security Essentials and uninstalling PC Tools.  In the end, the whole process, including running the defragment, etc, took nearly the entire evening. 

The good news is, my computer is running like new! 

Oh, also the computer person on the web site recommended Malwarebytes, also a free program that checks for malware.  However,  one time fee of $24 allows it to automatically run a daily check for malware.  In the long run, it might be worth it to not have to worry.

I think I am finally all set for 2012 with a secure computer, I hope!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holton House B & B

Neighbors Tom and Christi invited us to go with them to the Holton House restaurant and bed and breakfast in Holton, Kansas, this evening for fried chicken. 

Tom knows fried chicken.  I can’t tell it like he does, but I believe he has eaten at most every chicken restaurant in eastern Kansas and beyond.  With those credentials, he says Holton House is the  best.

It wasn’t too busy tonight, but our reservations were for 7:30 pm, so the rush might have been over.  The service was exceptional as so often is the case in small towns. 

Almost immediately after being seated, we were served, family style, a bowl of slaw, cottage cheese and a small platter of fruit.  We were no sooner finished with this part of the meal when out came a piled high platter of chicken. 

Although I don’t have the background to back it up, the chicken was exceptional.  Since we were the last to be served, they sent two pieces for each couple home.  The real test will be when we eat our leftovers cold.

For dessert we received a small piece of chocolate cake.  I didn’t think I would be able to eat it, but after one bite, it was so good, it just slipped down.  

There is no doubt the entire menu is based on Brookville’s well known restaurant.  I think it is just as good too.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Quick, see anything wrong with this picture?


Target right?  And, not the store.

Doug was sighting in his gun over Thanksgiving and either Dan or Doug brought in the target and stuck it on the window.  Then, somehow, it just stayed there.  Here I had all those ladies over several nights ago and this target was stuck on the window. 

It never fails, whenever I entertain, there is something like this that I am sure people go away saying, “Can you believe that?”  

Dan scraped it off today.  You have to admit, it is a pretty good group, though.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Year to entertain

Every third year or so, it is my year to entertain.  This is that year.  And the reason why I have been a blogging slacker.

Not counting family Christmas, or we decide to have a few friends over, tonight was my last  Christmas dinner party of the season.  This group of 14 or 15 ladies has met for years.  We usually have educational programs, but tonight was a covered dish, I furnished the ham.  Great cooks, delicious food.

Tonight one of the ladies here told us this true story about her little four-year-old granddaughter.  I have to pass it on.

This little girl’s older brother was picked to play Joseph in their church’s nativity play.  So, she felt sure her role would be Mary.  However, when the assignments came, she was to play an angel. 

Last week the family visited her home.  She had a little Charlie Brown figurine nativity in her livingroom.  After her family, including her little granddaughter left, she noticed the angel which had been clear at the back was placed right in front, even in front of Mary. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ulu Alaskan knife “Women’s Knife”

One of the few keepsakes I brought back from Alaska is this Ulu knife. I am writing about it now because it was a bit expensive and I said it would be my Christmas present.


Translated, Ulu is Women’s knife.  It is traditionally used by women for everything from skinning animals to cutting hair.  Among the native Alaskans these knives are given as a wedding gift and often handed down generations. 

There are Ulu knives available in almost every store in Alaska.  Our friend from the museum in Soldotna grew up in Alaska so she was our go-to advisor on all things Alaskan.  She said, first and foremost, make sure the Ulu we decide to purchase is made in Alaska, not China. 

So, it became a quest to find a Ulu.  The Francis Rose Gift Shop in Ninilchik (on the Kenai Peninsula) had several hand made Ulu knives for sale.  I especially fell in love with this one.  I really liked the way it fit in my hand.  Francis Rose said if it felt well in my hand, it was made to be mine. The base and handle are petrified bones found above the arctic circle.  The handmade blade is still as sharp as the day I purchased it. 

This knife gets used almost every day.  I have not shed one tear cutting onions with it.  And, the rocking motion works very well when chopping vegetables or cutting meat. 

We found less expensive Ulu knives that were made at the Ulu factory in Anchorage.  We purchased several for gifts,  but we decided on this handmade by a native artisan for me.   I couldn’t have a better Christmas present.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Peanut Brittle

Of all the Christmas treats, I enjoy peanut brittle the most.  Good peanut brittle, that is.

My friend Sue makes excellent brittle.  It is because of her that I’ve haven’t made it much over the years.  When I was carrying mail, I had a customer who gave me a bag as well. 

With all the family here during Thanksgiving, I decided to try making a batch, remembering the way our neighbor who lived a mile west of where I grew up.  Their names were Roy and Pearl.  Each holiday they made peanut brittle and it was absolutely the very best—thin and tender.  One year they invited us over to help make some.  I was young, but I remember they cooked it slowly in a cast iron pot and poured it out on a granite slab that they took outside to get cold, then pulled it out into thin pieces. 

I have a bunch of Mom’s old recipes and I thought sure I would find a peanut brittle recipe with their name on it.  I did not, but this is the one I used.  It turned out very good.

Peanut Brittle

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) raw peanuts
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 2 teas. butter
  • 2 teas. baking soda
  • 1 teas vanilla*

In a 3 quart heavy saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and water.  Cook & stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils.  Reduce heat to low and continue boiling at moderate rate stirring occasionally until candy thermometer reaches 250F; about 30 min.  Stir in peanuts & salt. Cook until mixture reaches 295F about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; quickly stir in butter and baking soda (I use a teas. vanilla as well)  The mixture will foam. Immediately pour mixture onto baking sheets or whatever you have.  As it cools, pull and turn over.  (It works best to have plenty of soft butter to smear on the surface as you mess with it)    Note:  be sure not to let it cook too fast.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Blindsided by a Petty Crime

Here is the deal.  I am gathering items for a silent auction.  The theme, no surprise here, is mail.  I have stamps, blank greeting cards, a small Priority mailing box filled with homemade peanut brittle, KSU and KU emblems all to put on and in a new regulation mailbox.

Although we had a moderate list, it is the mailbox that prompted the 32 plus round trip to town today.   We found an inexpensive metal mailbox,  packaged in a box secured at both ends--$15.99.

To preserve the box for whoever purchases it at the auction,  Dan carefully opened the end later this afternoon.  As we pull it out of the box, it is quickly obvious we bought an old, dented, rusty mailbox.  Someone purchased the mailbox, carefully pried open the end, took out the new one,  replaced it with their old one and glued the ends back down.  The store will stand behind the purchase, but it will mean yet another 32 plus round trip to exchange it, a loss of time and gas for us, not to mention the store’s loss.

Our sister-in-law works in the returns area for a popular retailer in Olathe.  When we get together, we always ask about the latest scams used to steal merchandise.  These people are clever.  In the end, it is still a crime—one that is probably seldom prosecuted.

Of course I know none of my family and friends who read this would do such a crazy thing.  I am really at a loss to know what actually can be done about these shoplifting type of crimes.  All I know, it costs the retailers plenty, which then costs all of us. 

In case it isn’t obvious, right now, I’m plenty mad about it, too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Important information

This is the time of year when insurance/Medicare decisions have to be made. I try to review what is covered.  However,  we don’t always know about the medical secrets.  It might pay to read the fine print.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Sing Off Finale

Dan and I were vegetables in front of the television tonight.  Partly because of a let down from a fun week of family.  And, partly because it was the finals of the Sing Off competition. 

Hands down, we have enjoyed this show more than any we’ve watched in a while.  The talent among these groups is phenomenal.  It is difficult to tell that it is all without accompaniment.  I’ve felt for several weeks that Pentatonix from Arlington Texas would win it.  I was right.  This isn’t one of my favorite songs they performed, but it is an example of their talent.

The runner-up was the Dartmouth Aires.  They have said in interviews during the show that they are just a class at their college.  They always were fun to watch.  I think this Queen compilation is one of their best performances.

Urban Method from Denver was the third place group.   Their music was called “rappella.”  As far as I know, a new name describing their music.  Rap and cappella is an unlikely mix, but they were very good. 

Next Monday night some of the groups will be performing for a Christmas Special.   We’ll be watching.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Beginning to end, Thanksgiving

Doug, Drue, Trent and Carly are staying with Kim, Marc and family.  The kids would be bored out here.  They always have a good time with their cousins. 

This trip, Carly and Evan are the best of companions.  Well, actually, Evan thinks Carly is about the best older cousin he will ever have.  I have pictures of everyone, but this best captures the day.  IMG_3002 

Everyone arrived in time to help cook the dinner this morning.  We were traditional except for a tossed salad made by Kim and a pumpkin dessert made by Drue.  Both were exceptional.  I’ll post recipes later.

In the afternoon, we took a walk around the pasture, which is where the picture above was taken.

Then it was kicking back, watching a little football and finally a second hit at the food.  The kids headed back to Kim & Marc’s.  Before they left, we decided to try out luck at a little late night shopping and planned to meet again at 8:30 pm.

We went, we observed, we came home.  Unbelievable.  The line to get into Target met the line to get into ToysRUs.  Both together were close to two blocks long.  Thinking that waiting in either of these lines was not an option, we headed to WalMart.  We knew it wasn’t good when the entire huge parking lot was full as well as the adjacent Barnes and Noble.  The inside was crazy.  They had big shrink wrapped piles of items with people clustered around them all faced toward the stack.  Who ever took the shrink wrap off those items had better have an escape route in mind.

So, back home.  We’ll try again tomorrow.  Still a Thanksgiving Day to remember on so many levels.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Turkey (1)

This is my annual posting of this picture.  After all these years of posting it on Thanksgiving, it still makes me laugh. 

Every day I am thankful in so many ways.  But today, I am especially thankful for having our entire family together to share the bountiful food at our table. 

May I also take this opportunity to thank all who visit, share comments and generally support my little space in this big cyber world. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Healthy fudge recipe—for real

I’ve been away for a couple days because we were preparing the house and food for Dan’s family.  We had 23, including four little ones.  What a joy to have a chance to see them.  And, we are expecting two more by the end of the year!

I furnished the meat, potatoes, bread and a vegetable.  Everyone chips in with the rest.  Jean brought this delicious fudge.  We couldn’t believe the ingredients.  Here it is:

Black Bean Fudge

  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • Smash black beans with fork and heat 30 sec. to 1 minute
  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate and 
  • Melt 3/4 cup butter & 1 T. real vanilla and mix
  • Add 7 1/2 to 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup nuts

Put in greased 9 x 5 pan.  Chill over night.  Cut in 1 inch squares

Each square has 76 calories and 1 gram fiber

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guttering showing signs of needing attention


This would be the first clue that this guttering is close to pine trees.  Thankfully, this is their yearly healthy shedding of needles.

Austrian pines, the source of these needles, so far have been resistant to the pine beetle disease.  The outlook isn’t good.  We can only hope.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Virtual Library changing

Last week I placed the titles of all the books I’ve read this year on a virtual bookshelf.  There are 14 books so far.  As most of you who follow my ramblings know,  I mostly listen rather than read.  It seems, especially since I’ve retired if I’m working around the house more likely than not I’ll have ear buds in listening to a book on my cheap little mp3 player.  Right now I’m about half done with  “Audition” written by Barbara Walters.  It’s amazing how many current titles are available.

I’ve been noticing when I go to the State of Kansas Audio Books and More site that there is a notice that all books, including holds, will no longer be valid as of December 5th.  This is also the same site that loans eBooks to readers in the state.

After a little research, I found that the Kansas Libraries contract with Media Overdrive, which is the company that handles the Kansas  audio and eBooks, ends at the end of the year.  The state will not renew this contract primarily because Media Overdrive increased its yearly fee for this service 700%.  Interestingly, the past two years use of the service increased 200% each year probably mostly due to increased loaning of eBooks to more and more people with devices to read them.

Thankfully, the state has found an acceptable new contractor.  As of January 1st, we will check our books through Recorded Books, 3-Ms new Cloud based platform.  It sounds as if the new service will be more user friendly.  Overdrive certainly did have a learning curve. 

For those who aren’t familiar with how “checking out” an audio book works, I check it out, download it and when two or three weeks is up, depending on the length of time I set,  it is gone.  If I haven’t read it,  I then have to go to the back of the line to wait to recheck it.   It is the same for eBooks.  Interesting technology that I don’t try to understand, but just glad it is available. 

Thank you Kansas for continuing to provide this service.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gift suggestion for a young person or a person young at heart


Adam happened onto these one day  and decided to spend his money on them.  Kim helped Adam order them online.  I don’t know if they are in stores—perhaps a specialty toy shop.  They are educational and challenging, although a bit pricey.  In Adam’s case, they are money well spent. 

The web site contains a line up of impressive endorsements. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering veterans in our family

Dan was in college during the Viet Nam years, then was given a teaching deferment after graduation.  Although he took his physical, the call never came.  However, Dan’s first cousins, Fred, Kurt and Roger all served in Viet Nam, a difficult war with little fanfare for those who returned.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This picture was taken sometime in the spring or summer of 1942.  Uncle Bill is the youngest of the four boys and the only one called to serve in World War II.  I wrote about his service here.  He was a medic and participated in D Day. (Dad is on the far right).  Second from the left in the back is Uncle Lawrence.  His great granddaughter, Rachel and her husband, are currently serving.

Thanks to my cousin Sylvia  in Colorado, I also know that I have a  family member who served our country, before it was the United States of America.  Sylvie traced my Mom’s mother’s family back to the Revolutionary War.  She did all of this work after my Mom was unable to understand.  However, Mom’s brother, Sylvie’s Dad, did know and shared all of our pride in this heritage. 

So, this is a special thank you to family members and all others who have served during war time and peace to preserve our freedom.  To Carole’s Dad and Dr. Fyler who were POWs in WWII, to Ernie, a fellow post office employee who was sent into tunnels in Viet Nam, to Cheryl & Dwight’s dads, Sylvie’s Mike and Kaylene’s Kenny, Sue’s Dad, Peg’s family, including her husband and grandson, SSGT Tyler Britton, who has recently returned from Afghanistan.

And, to family members of others who gave the ultimate sacrifice.  Thank you.

Birthday parties are the best

Several weeks ago, I was visiting with Evan.  He was extremely excited about going to a birthday party, maybe one of the most exciting things a four-year old can do with his friends.

I know I’ve written about this before, but I’m with Evan on this.  Birthday parties are fun.  Doesn’t have to be much,  but it has to include candles, singing and gifts. 

Here is our latest birthday at our house.  It had the big three. 

Kim's Birthday_edited-1

Kim was born in 1970.  I saved the newspaper from the day she was born.  The Farmer’s Market commodity prices were interesting.  (Today’s Chapman Alide Pearl Coop prices) Wheat, $1.37 (6.45) a bushel.  Corn, $1.23 ($6.47) a bushel.  Soybeans $2.70 ($11.16) a bushel.   Also, there was an article saying the US was quitting the silver business that week.  No wonder it’s almost impossible to find a silver coin anymore in change.

So, happy birthday, Kim---and our other family who celebrate this month, Carly and Marc

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

This is why we can’t have a small dog

Picture taken about 120 feet behind our house.  They definitely have their winter coat.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

“I’m OK, You’re OK”

I’ve been sitting in front of the computer trying to think of what to write about the past two days and out of nowhere, this title comes to mind.

As a refresher, this Thomas A. Harris, MD book was published in 1967 but became a popular motivational study in the early 70’s.  Just as I thought, way in the back of a desk drawer, I found a cassette tape of the same title. Who knows why I bought it or why I still have it after 44 years.   I think I just like the thought.

So, what’s that got to do with anything?  Well….  

Women of Faith has been holding nondenominational conferences around the United States since 1996.  It was this conference that brought over 7,000 women to the Sprint Center in Kansas City for motivational speakers and beautiful music.  I was there with about 30 of my girl friends.

WOF speakers included Andy Andrews who fit the theme of the conference perfectly—Over The Top.  He presented twice, both of which were funny, high energy, autobiographical and inspirational.  One thought from his presentations, “Smile when you talk.”

Patsy Clairmont benefited the most from the huge screens on all four sides of the center stage at the Sprint Center.  She has superb comedic timing, which she combines with vocal and facial expressions  to convey her message of turning her life around after personal psychological hardship.   I bring home her thought of , “Make your Bed.”

Lisa Whelchel, Blair for nine seasons on “The Facts of Life” talked about friends.  I am reminded that to have friends, I must be a friend.

Brenda Warner, wife of Kurt Warner, is a US Marine, nurse, mother of seven children and gifted speaker.  Because of super bowl media,  most already know, her oldest child has special needs.  And, before football millions, she was poor and betrayed.  She reminds us to, “Never give up.” 

Music included the wonderful music of Amy Grant (without husband Vince Gill) who also brought her band, a refreshing change from canned musical backgrounds. Sandi Patty who  shared using her beautiful, almost operatic voice and provided unexpected humor in the process.   Deborah Joy Winans (of the famous family) and Mandisa, finalist from American Idol, season five gave us the hand clapping, dance in your place music, which everyone wanted to do anyway (Sprint Center seats are uncomfortable).

So, all of this is why the over all theme I brought back from the weekend is, yes, I’m OK, You’re OK. 

There you go.  Great weekend with the girls.  Now, back to getting some painting done on the house before it gets too cold.  

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Late tomatoes worth the effort

IMG_2951 These jars, fifteen pints of spaghetti sauce, are the end result of carefully taking care of plants producing too late in the season.  But, still better than none at all. 

The plants were loaded with green tomatoes.  But, they would not ripen.  The weather was warm enough, but two problems come to mind.  One,  cool nights.  Someone told me once, tomatoes will not do anything unless the nights stay above 50 degrees.  Second, short days.  They needed more sunlight.

We still have plenty of green tomatoes on the porch.  We’re thinking of wrapping them in newspapers and storing in the basement.  Other thoughts would be to fry them.  Dan’s idea might be the most intriguing—make green tomato pickles.  (He found a recipe)    That ranks right up there with green tomato pie……or jelly.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trunk or Treat

Stull United Methodist Church is a community church between Lawrence and Topeka.  It never ceases to amaze me how this small rural church finds ways to serve its members and the community at large. 

This is one.  I was not sure who had the most fun, the children who came by or all of us in charge of our trunk’s bounty.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Here’s a punch you’ll like

I mentioned several days ago Kim and I hosted a baby shower.  We served traditional fare, cake (cupcakes) nuts and punch. 

Punch…ever think,  what an odd name?  Turns out sailors brought the original drink back to England from India in the early 17th century.   Originally called paantsch, it was made from alcohol, sugar,  water, lemon, tea or spices.  The British often made it like a Wassail using wine or brandy.  When Jamaican rum was added, there was no going back.

I have a recipe I use each time I need a punch type drink.  I’m sharing it for two reasons:  maybe someone will want to use it for a celebration or the holidays and by posting it here,  I will know where to find it.  Nothing worse than to lose a favorite recipe, right? 

This drink is exceptionally healthy for a punch because there is no added sugar—all juices…that is, if diet club soda or Sprite is used.  I actually don’t think the diet sodas change the flavor either.

Dole Sunny Holiday Punch

  • 1 can (46-oz) Dole Pineapple Juice, chilled
  • 1 bottle (28-0z) mineral water, club soda or Sprite, chilled
  • 1 can (6 oz) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 lemon or lime, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) chilled champagne, optional
  • Combine ingredients in a punch bowl   Makes 3 quarts

The champagne would probably be good, I’ve never tried it.   The frozen fruit with pineapple/banana Dole juice found in the refrigerated section make a good ice ring.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Flint Hills in the Fall

Rick and Carolyn, long time friends and also relatives, stopped by Tuesday for a quick visit.  Just in passing, someone said we should make a day trip through the flint hills.  It didn’t take long for it to become a plan.

By 9:00 a.m, Wednesday,  we were headed west on I70 to Hwy 177.  We made the decision to base our roadtrip through the eastern Geary, northern Morris Counties creeks regions:  McDowell, Humbolt, Davis, Thomas and Clarks Creeks.

This area of the Flint Hills is close enough to Ft Riley, that many of the beautiful houses and barns are constructed similarly.  Rick said he was told by a friend who lives in the area that the Swedish immigrant stone masons wandered out into the local ranches to use their skills after the Fort was completed.  They might have even used left over quarried stone used in construction of the Fort.

IMG_2843 - Copy

At least one of the homes is a converted school.  The newly settled areas took great pride in their school buildings and were often constructed with stone just as their homes.

IMG_2814-1 - Copy  

This part of the Hills has more broken fields than those further south, part in due to the fertile creek bottom land.  Note the farmstead where my Aunt Ruth grew up.  Dark farm land against a backdrop of hardwood trees, mostly oaks.  Then, on the upper left of the picture was the beautiful Flint Hills grass.


Rick and Carolyn have long time family friends who farm by Clarks Creek.  We were able to drive down to the creek on their land.  It was still running despite the recent dry weather.


We finally made our way to here for lunch.


at the Katy restaurant, named for the familiar railroad that ran through parts of Kansas, Missouri and Texas.  The rail bed of that railroad runs through the state of Missouri, with Rocheport being one area I’ve written about in the past.

It was a beautiful day.  Here is a slide show of all of it.  Picture display uses SmugMug

Monday, October 24, 2011

Great Overland Station, Topeka KS



This beautiful building began as a Union Pacific railroad station in 1927.  It is located at 701 N. Kansas Avenue in North Topeka—in the flood plain.   So, it has survived a flood, as well as a  fire and abandonment. 

The Union Pacific Corporation donated the station to Topeka Railroad Days.  A project team directed the renovation and it opened its doors in June, 2004. 

It has been beautifully preserved inside and out.  We attended Joyce and Vernon’s 50'th wedding anniversary celebration there a week ago.  We were able to visit the museum currently on display while there.  

Here is a little more history.

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Also, there is a 50 state flay display around this war memorial on the site.  Very impressive.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Showers but no rain

It was a fun, busy weekend.  Tara and Laura, both nieces of ours, have a baby due in December.  Kim and I gave Tara a shower this afternoon with her friends, but when we heard Laura was coming back to Kansas from Houston, Texas, we decided to have another family gathering to celebrate her new addition as well.

I started to buy cute little paper plates to serve Kim’s cupcakes, but decided to drag out my glass dessert plates.
There was a time when any respectable lady’s meeting had desserts served on one of these glass trays.  Most trays were like the one in the left of the picture.  I received the “modern” tray on the right for a wedding gift 45 years ago.  Definitely, retro now.
Maybe these will make a comeback, environmentally correct as the are.  I don’t know who would still have them around, unless they are a packrat like me.
I learned today clothe diapers are also becoming popular among the young mothers.  My goodness, what will be next?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall’s last stand


Just when I’m dragging pots of flowers into the house because of freeze warnings, my last blooming plant of the season puts on a lovely show.  I forgot to check whether the  freeze last night got it.  The plant sits near cement so many it was spared.

Our tomato vines are loaded with tomatoes.  They are so close to ripening that we decided to see if we could give them another week.  Dan put together this fairly substantial stand to hold the tarp.



There is a heat light under the tarp.  We had a few get nipped last night, but for the most part they made it through the hard freeze.  Now for tonight.  It’s supposed to warm up again after tonight. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Metal detecting

Dan and I purchased two fairly inexpensive metal detectors about eight or ten years ago, sure that great wealth in old coins was in our future.  I even subscribed to a metal detecting magazine which featured wonderful finds by amateurs. 

We never got around to spending much time at it.  There are several problems with metal detecting.  One, permission.  Certainly it is right that permission must be granted before walking over private land, but it takes time to find agreeable owners. Second, since we do not have expensive models, we find a lot of pop top tabs, bottle caps, and nails when we do get out.

No permission is needed for public land, so last Saturday Aaron, Adam and I set off for the swimming beach at Clinton Lake with new batteries in our dusty metal detectors.

Our hopes soar when Aaron finds a quarter right after we get out of the car.  In the end, that quarter is all the money we find, even though we end up with a treasure trove of metal.

The beach itself yields the usual trash.   Aaron decides to wonder off the beach and around a curve.  The water is down significantly right now so there was quite an area where water usually covers.  In that exposed area is where our metal treasures were detected.  I think it must have been an old farmstead from the evidence of concrete laying about.  We found pottery chards, metal connectors for horse harnesses, and other old pieces. 

Probably none is really worth anything, but all three of us were excited to actually find something old.  All the grandkids will be here during the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I’m trying to think of a place we can go treasure hunting again.  Has anyone done much of this?  Any suggestions?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Short-eared Owl


Dan was driving around the pasture looking for Sirecia Lespedeza when he spotted this owl either hiding or nesting in the grass.  Owls are difficult to identify because they are so often heard rather than seen.  It’s hard to say if this one was migrating or still hanging around with the buzzards. 

Our Audubon Guide indicates this is a Short-eared Owl.  Here is some of what is said about this species.

Habitat:  marshes, open grasslands, prairies; open country during migration.

Range:  Breeds from Alaska across Canada south locally to California, Kansas and New Jersey.  Winteres in southern part of breeding range.

Often seen in late afternoon as it begins to move about in preparation for a night of hunting.

This is an exciting addition to our list of local birds.  When describing the short-eared owl, the Audubon Guide mentioned the very short ear tufts are rarely visible.  I think we have a tuft sighting as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Fatwood,  lighter knots, lightard, fat lighter or lightwood.  These are only a few names for the resin filled wood used to start fires for centuries.  According to various sources on the internet, fatwood is cut from stumps or heartwood of dead pines.  When the trees die, the sap or resin concentrates at the tree’s base

It helps to remember highly flammable pine tar and turpentine is most often made from the sap of pine trees.  It would make sense that if these resins were concentrated that wood would burn easy and hot.

Actually, neither Dan nor I had heard of fatwood until we saw our kids use it as fireplace starter.  Even though we know it works well, we use pinecones and pine needles gathered each fall.

Last week Tractor Supply had a small bag of fatwood for $6 so we decided to give it a try.  It worked great on our recent trip.  For sure we will be using it for a quick outdoor campfire and probably will use it more than we think to start a fire in the stove this winter.   It doesn’t take much and it doesn’t make a mess.

As to how it got it’s name, there seems to be no real answer.  Some suggest it is because it sizzles when started or from using a mixture of animal fat and wood as a fire starter.  If anyone knows, feel free to set the record straight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Big but not the Harvest

The moon was beautiful tonight as it peeked up above the eastern horizon.  I thought it was the harvest moon so had the tripod out ready to get the ultimate picture. 

After taking about 20 pictures, none too good, I found out the harvest moon is the one closest to the autumn equinox.  This year the harvest moon was in September. 

Here is my best attempt at photographing the non-harvest moon.  


Identifiable,  but not much character.  F5.6--1/40 sec

Here is another shot that isn’t nearly as clear, but much more interesting.

IMG_2701f16--6 sec exposure time.

I’ve seen some excellent photos of the moon rising.  It’s a hard shot, at least I think so.  I’ll keep trying. 

Fall in Southern Illinois

Sunday morning means breakfast at Lyndee’s in Hermann with Ray and Carole.  (By the way, this little home-owned restaurant is listed right up there with the wineries for a visit while in Hermann.  Good food with a friendly local touch.)   Then off to Illinois.

We visited southern Illinois  in May, 2008, but for some reason I did not post pictures at that time.  We did not revisit the Shawnee National Forest Garden of the Gods or Pomona Bridge this time but here are two pictures from our spring visit.







We should have gone back because looking at these pictures,  I can imagine how beautiful it would be with the fall leaves.



I actually got ahead of myself talking about the Shawnee National Forest.  First, getting there.

It is a short drive from Hermann wine country to St. Genevieve, Missouri, an early French city on the Mississippi river.  St. Gen, as the locals call it,  would be a place to enjoy a leisurely ride around the historical area on bikes, which we did not bring this time.  Definitely a reason to go back.

Instead we headed to the ferry, one of the few still operating on the Mississippi.  I almost got the fees in the picture.  It was $12 one way, not bad I didn’t think.



After the ferry ride, it’s a short drive, maybe 30 minutes, to Murphysboro and the Shawnee Wine trail.   

This picture is deceiving.  Shawnee wine trail is very organized with detailed  maps available on line.     

IMG_2661 This part of southern Illinois has dense forest.  There were many places where it was like driving through a red, yellow tunnel as we curved around to our favorite Pomona Winery.

We specifically wanted Pomona’s Apple wine.  We like it with fish and during the Holidays.  After tasting and visiting with the friendly owners, we load up our wine and head back.  But, before leaving the winery, we marvel again at the brickwork used in landscaping.

I like the Mississippi River.  So, we lingered along the River Road on the return trip.  The bridge at Chester is almost as exciting as the ferry ride.  The Illinois Welcome Center has a perfect place for a snack right at the entrance to the bridge.


So, here we are, as usual, driving in Missouri  with darkness approaching and no place to park for the night.  Then, out of nowhere, we see a sign,  Hahn State Park, a park I  overlooked in my State Park Book.  It is located near Bonne Terra and not far from St. Genevieve. 

We backed into a spot, fixed a bite for our evening meal and went to bed.  What a surprise this morning.  Big, tall trees with lovely fall colors. 

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We walked around the campground, exploring the small stream and visiting about the area with a local couple camping nearby.  Then it was off for home. 

We were gone 3 1/2 days, saw lots of fall color, tasted wine, but not while driving what ended up to be nearly 1,000 miles.  This is a trip we’ll do again. 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Beautiful day on the Wine Trail

Adam Puchta Winery is one of the oldest on the Missouri Wine Trail. This year some of the wineries here are adding modern names and blends, but Adam Puchta Winery's traditional wines are still some of our favorite. Our first visit this morning there set the mark for a day of good conversation, food and, of course, wine.

A member of the Almond Tree Winery's family is a chef in St Louis. His meal did not disappoint.

In the past, we've been able to slip into the Hermann City campground even though we didn't have a reservation. There is no way this year. It is packed with tents--even a teepee. The whole scene was colorful and certainly everyone was having a good time, but no place for us.

Even though the city park by the river says no overnight parking or camping, the local authority we talked to said we could stay here. Hoping to get a good night's sleep. Seems there is a train about every half hour. Hopefully, the city has a no whistle ordinance after midnight and the Octoberfest celebrations which recently have included firecrackers settle down soon.