Laura Ingalls Wilder at Home in Missouri, and Ma Ingalls Chicken Pie

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Every American child has heard of, read from, or watched the television series based on, the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They chronicle the life of a young girl growing up in an America that was reaching ever outward, and ever westward. Laura’s family was part of that pioneer settling of a young and expanding nation, and in so doing experienced the joys and the inevitable hardships felt when seeking life and opportunity in lands previously unknown, often misunderstood, and always demanding.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls moved five times from homestead to homestead with Laura and her sisters, ever looking for that one spot to put down roots for good. Laura’s books tell of the challenges of those years, but they also tell of a young girl who loved the land and grew attached to it in many of the same ways her Pa had done. The books speak of the simple pleasures of living in the vast unknown as well as the hard times that came and went over the years. The books also speak to the love and closeness of family.

Pa and Ma finally found that place to put down permanent roots…Ma finally put her foot down…in the town of De Smet, Dakota Territory (South Dakota now). Laura and her husband, Almonzo, lived on their own homestead near her parents. But they eventually suffered many of the same hardships as had plagued Charles as he sought out his place to call home. In July of 1894, the young Wilders with their daughter, Rose, packed up their belongings and moved…south and east…to the Ozarks of Missouri.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home in Mansfield, Missouri, about an hour and forty-five minutes from where we live, has become a popular tourist destination for those who love Laura and her books. We have been there several times, but on this visit a few weeks ago, we went with newer questions, and a different purpose for what it was we wanted to see. After reading, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books, by Marta McDowell, this trip was to be about the land, the property, the Ozarks and its draw to a young couple seeking “home”.

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The house that Almonzo and Laura built in Mansfield, Missouri. Over the years Almonzo added rooms as they were needed, and as the couple was able. A close inspection of the chimney will uncover fossils that were deliberately included when it was built.

Mansfield is located in the Ozark Mountains, and sits on the Salem Plateau. While the Ozarks are not the highest or most grandiose of mountains, they are very hilly, and they are very rocky. Farming them was a challenge, and a lot of hard work. For Almonzo and Laura, it was a new start, in a new place, with what they believed to be endless opportunities. They named their new home, Rocky Ridge Farm.

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This ravine is just a short distance from the Wilder house. It is a perfect example of the rocky and wooded terrain the Wilders found when they reached Mansfield.

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This is the view out Laura’s kitchen window…I wish mine was the same!

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Laura kept a chicken house, which is still on the property and still houses chickens.

Almonzo found apple trees on the property when they arrived, added many more, and the Ben Davis apple became their primary crop. They also planted row crops such as corn. The land was rich in oak, hickory and black walnut trees. Black walnuts remain a major product out of the Ozark region, a taste so much deeper and stronger than the well-known English walnut.

Laura and Almonzo were very happy on their Ozark farm, and remained there for the remainder of their lives. They worked hard on the land, producing much of what they needed as a family. They were also active in their community.

Here in Missouri we celebrate Rocky Ridge Farm as the place where Laura wrote all of the Little House books. She also authored many articles for various newspapers and magazines about her life at Rocky Ridge, as well as practical articles about living life successfully on a farm.

When Rose grew up, and began her own successful career as a writer, she returned to Rocky Ridge to build her parents a “modern” house, with modern conveniences based on a floor plan from Sears Roebuck & Co. Yes, Sears once sold plans for, and kits for actual houses! The house was called the Rock House. Laura and Almonzo lived in the house for some years, but after Rose moved away permanently, they returned to the original house, where they felt most at “home”.

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Rock House, the house that Rose had built for her parents in their later years.

You are not allowed to take pictures inside either of the houses when you take the tour, so our main objective was to tour the houses, and then to walk the lands that Laura walked in Missouri. We wanted to imagine her life as she settled into her new home with new responsibilities and new challenges. We wanted to explore this Missouri homestead so loved by Laura and Almonzo, just as we love our own Missouri homeplace. But, on that day…

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if you know anything about the weather of the American Midwest, you know that big, complicated storms can arise at almost any time, especially in the heat and humidity of a typical Missouri summer.

We had wanted to walk the three-quarter mile path between the two houses. Seeing this storm quickly approaching, and feeling the heavy winds that began to develop, we knew it was no time for a walk, and definitely time to seek the safety of the car and our drive home. What we did not know was that we would be driving into a tremendous storm known as a derecho. A derecho is a storm that is the result of several severe thunder storms which gather together to create a storm that stays together long enough to cover many, many miles. It is characterized by strong straight line winds, many of which can reach hurricane force,  heavy rains, and  tremendous lightning  The rain poured, the thunder crashed, the lightning was the most impressive I had ever seen, and the winds and my steering wheel fought for many miles. My white knuckles should have informed us that being on the road, in the car, was not our best option! But we made it home…and it was actually kind of exciting…after the fact!

I was determined to walk that path between the houses, so the very next week, we went back. I was so glad we did! We left very early in the morning because Missouri is too hot in the summer for an afternoon walk. The air was rather still, and fog and haze was with us most of the morning, which only made the walk more beautiful. One can only imagine Laura and Rose walking the path back and forth to visit one another. Here is what we found on our walk in 2019…

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Mornings do not get much better than this one on which we found ourselves out and about early in the morning.

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For many people who traveled across the plains, the prairies, and the hill country of Missouri, one tree would often be the only tree they would see for miles and miles. I thought of that when I saw this tree in the middle of the fields by which we walked.

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I loved coming back down the path to see the break between the woods and the fields!

And then there was the flora and the fauna…

But what I like best was a walk along a path that was traveled so many years ago by people who loved this area of the country as much as Jim and I have come to love it…

If you visit Laura and Almonzo’s home in Mansfield, you will begin your visit at the Visitor Center which has a very nice museum about Laura’s life on the prairie, in the big woods, and in Missouri.

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After your visit, you are bound to be hungry. There is a little shop in Mansfield that sells the best fresh lemonade, a great hamburger that tastes like I made it at home, and ice cream cones that taste great even while driving through a thunderstorm.

If you find yourself in Missouri, I hope you have a chance to visit Mansfield, and that you take the time to take a walk back in time…a walk not so different from our Missouri walks today.

Midwestern Farm Food

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Ma Ingalls Chicken Pie

This is a hearty meal to come home to after a hard day of work on the farm…or any day of hard work. I found this recipe in a book I purchased many years ago, The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker. I adapted it a bit, primarily using my mom’s flaky crust for the topping. It reminded me of the big dinners she would make for us after we had gone out into the countryside to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to can in our city home. When I make this again, and I will, I will omit the hard-boiled eggs which did not really add to the dish.”

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken, 4-5 pounds cut into serving pieces
  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 pie crust large enough to cover your dish

Directions

  1. About 6 hours before serving, simmer the giblets and backbone in 2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Leave the saucepan uncovered as it simmers.
  2. Prepare the pie crust, cover and set aside.
  3. Fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp, remove it to drain on paper towel.
  4. Brown chicken in hot fat on all sides. Remove pieces to a 2 quart baking dish, putting the white meat on one side, and dark pieces on the other.
  5. Slice the eggs and crumble the bacon. Scatter them over top of the chicken pieces.
  6. Pour off most of the fat in the skillet, and stir in the flour.
  7. Mash and add the simmered liver.
  8. Pour the liquid from the saucepan into the skillet, stir well, and cook just until it begins to bubble.
  9. Salt and pepper the gravy to taste, and pour over the chicken, eggs and bacon in your baking dish.
  10. Place the rolled out pie crust over the top, crimping the edges around the rim.
  11. Vent the top with designs to distinguish the light meat side from the dark. Ma would use two different pine tree designs.
  12. Bake for 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

This is a really good chicken dish. The chicken simply falls off the bone. Add a salad from the garden, and you will have a great meal, certain to satisfy any hungry person at your dinner table.

Enjoy!

Trolls at Morton Arboretum…and Maid-Rite, Right at Home

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Several months ago I saw a notice on a Facebook page I follow of trolls at Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, not too far outside of Chicago. It was accompanied with a picture of one of the trolls..and I knew I had to go, I had to meet these trolls!

So we packed our bags and got on the highway toward Illinois…not as easy as it might sound with all the flooding along the river that divides Missouri from Illinois, that mighty and surging Mississippi.

I always tease about the flatness of the terrain in Illinois, but there is something comforting about driving through the comfortable Midwest of this great country we call home…

An arboretum is defined as an “outdoor museum of trees”. Morton Arboretum, dedicated to the conservation and study of trees, was established in 1922 by Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company.  He was from a family that loved the outdoors and especially trees. His father, J. Sterling Morton, was the force behind the creation of Arbor Day, and the family motto was “Plant Trees”.

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The acorn statue, several of which are found Arbor Court, symbolize the mission of the Arboretum, the study and conservation of trees. The White Oak is the state tree of Illinois.

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We had come to see the trolls, but first, as we walked around the lake, we saw the Lego creations on display at the Arboretum. They were amazing and were placed at intervals surrounding the lake.

And then it was time to go looking for trolls. The trolls are the creation of Thomas Dambo, a Danish artists who uses reclaimed wood to build amazing pieces of art. He has created six trolls for Morton Arboretum, his first large exhibit in the United States.

The trolls at the Arboretum are angry with humans who are more interested in getting rich than caring for the environment. They have come to tell us we need to stop destroying nature…or else! They are truly wonderful, and the most amazing thing about them is how very detailed they are. They are between fifteen and thirty feet tall, with one that is lying on the ground, ready to eat any human that comes along, measuring an amazing sixty feet.

We found all the trolls, and enjoyed walking and driving through the property while we “searched”.

My favorite troll was Niels Bragger. He is a big bragger and carries an even bigger club! Niels is found deep in a wood, and walking the 200 feet into his hiding place took us by large trees and beautiful woodland flowers. My favorite were the wild geraniums which were the biggest I had ever seen.

As we drove into Lisle, we saw our first troll high above the highway at the edge of the Arboretum. He is called Joe the Guardian, and he will be guarding all the trees at Morton throughout his stay until the end of the year. I climbed up to visit Joe, a muddy trip after all our rain…and I will not be wearing the snowy white tennis shoes I wore that day ever again!

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The largest troll is Little Arturs, who at sixty feet is anything but little! His mouth is wide open, so keep your distance!

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We saw Sneaky Socks Alexa, whose job it is to try and catch the little humans who are causing pollution and destroying nature’s trees.

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Furry Ema has a trap also, just waiting for anyone who bears ill will toward the tree under which he is sitting.

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And then there is Rocky Bardur who does not like the pollution caused by cars, and is really unhappy about the parking lot built at the Arboretum, a sanctuary for nature. I was personally happy to find a nice place to park our car, but I get his point.

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But there was more to this day than Legos and trolls. Morton Arboretum is a beautiful place with my favorite habitat, woodland. I took full advantage of walking many of the trails, breathing the woodland air, and enjoying the sights and the sounds of the woods. Enjoying a walk in the woods with my husband of almost fifty-one years, being in nature, seeking fantastic trolls…I just feel better. And I just leave the real world behind for a bit!

Thomas Dambo’s trolls will be on exhibit at the Arboretum through the end of the year, and is well worth an adventure into America’s Heartland.

I looked into the significance of each troll, and learned more about the artist at Thomas Dambo’s website.

Maid-Rite Hamburger Sandwiches

When I was a little girl, my mom used to fry hamburger with onions, a bit of salt and a dash of pepper. We would take slices of Wonder bread, put some of the loose hamburger on one half of the bread, then fold it over to make a sandwich. They were simple to make, they were cheap to make, and they made a perfect dinner for our family of six. Mom usually added a serving of corn or green beans that she and my grandparents had canned in the summer, and life was good. 

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Maid-Rite is a hamburger sandwich restaurant chain in the Midwest that makes a very similar sandwich and is very popular. It was founded by Fred Angell in Muscatine, Iowa, who opened his first Maid-Rite restaurant in 1926. It is one of Illinois’ iconic foods. There are as many variations as there are restaurants, but here is the way I like them…if I don’t just use my mom’s very simple version.

Maid-Rite, Right at Home

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, diced into very small pieces
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 c. low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • dash of pepper
  • 4 wheat hamburger buns

Directions

  1. Heat a skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Saute’ the ground beef and onion until the onion is translucent and the ground beef is browned. As the meat cooks, use a spatula to break the meat into small pieces.  Drain any fat that has gathered in the pan.
  3. Add the broth, salt and pepper.
  4. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  5. Divide the ground beef mixture between 4 toasted wheat buns. Add a slice of onion, ketchup, mustard, pickles, or anything else you would like. Or eat it as I sometimes still do…folded inside one slice of soft white bread!
  6. Enjoy!

Grandma Minnie…and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Bacon Drippings?

On this Mother’s Day, I am thinking a lot about my Grandma Minnie. I think of how she displayed such remarkable persistence throughout her entire life. I am not sure if it came from having been with her so often, or if she passed some of that quality to me through our shared genes…whatever, at this moment in time, I am glad to hear my siblings call me, “Minnie”.

This post is an abbreviated version of one of my very first blog postings. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy the memories it brings back on this special day in May.

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This is the original copy of the recipe as written by my Aunt Helen for my Grandma Minnie.

When I was a little girl, growing up in Detroit, my grandparents lived only a few miles away in a middle-class neighborhood typical of the city. I spent a lot of time at their house, and one of my best memories is how I always marveled at the idea that my Grandma Minnie could make cookies with the bacon drippings she always collected in a small crock on her kitchen counter.

Then last fall, as I was going through boxes that have not been gone through for many years, I came across an envelope my Dad had given me that contained recipes hand-written by his sister Helen. I never knew my Aunt Helen because she died at the age of twelve. But she has always been a big part of my life. I was named for her, and my grandparents talked often to me about her and how… “You are so much like her”, as Grandma used to say.

One of the recipes in the envelope was for Oatmeal Cookies and one of the ingredients was lard. This instantly reminded me of those cookies Grandma used to make, so I thought I would give them a try. Jim loved the idea because he got to eat bacon every day until I had enough saved bacon drippings to make the cookies. He was not as excited about eating them!

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My Aunt Helen

Recipe for Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup sugar                                          1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup lard                                          1 cup raisins

1/2 cup butter                                       1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 eggs, well beaten                              2 cups flour

2 cups rolled oats, dry                        1 tsp. baking powder sifted into flour

1/2 cup sour milk                                 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Drop very small spoonfuls on tins, greased first time only, and bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

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The cookies on the left were made with bacon drippings, the ones on the right with vegetable shortening. The cookie jar belonged to my Grandma Minnie, and I still love using it today.

I made these cookies two ways. I made them with bacon drippings first, then made some using Crisco shortening for the lard. If you are a dough-snitcher…and I am, try to avoid the urge to “snitch” from the version with the bacon drippings…the flavor is very off-putting! The cookies, however, taste pretty good. Jim actually prefers these if he is having a cup of coffee with them.

The cookies made with the Crisco shortening were very good…as was the dough. The thing I like best about these cookies, either version, is that they are not so sweet. I will make them again, with the Crisco, and hope you will try them, too.

                                                                   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eventually my Grandma Minnie moved into our house. She was a constant presence in our lives. She helped in so many ways, always being there if our parents could not. And she continued to cook for us occasionally. She continued helping Mom and Dad can every food imaginable each summer, just as she and my Grandfather had done for years. My brother used to go to the cellar and get a quart of peaches, sit down in front of the TV and devour the whole thing in one sitting.

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Grandma Minnie in her room at my parent’s house. Whenever I came to visit, she always had a pot of rice waiting for me. I loved that!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and grandmas out there in this big, wide, mostly wonderful, world!

 

Spring…and Staying Home

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Sometimes, for many reasons, most beyond our control, plans that have been in place for months don’t turn out quite the way those plans were originally written. So, what to do? We looked at our options, and turned our attention to what was possible.

Spring in mid-Missouri is absolutely gorgeous, due primarily to the dogwoods and redwoods that explode in the woodlands, on the cliffs, and even along the interstates. We have had an unusually cold start to spring this year, so those two spring staples are not yet in bloom.

So we went to the woodland looking for the blossoms of spring…and the ephemerals, those small, delicate, flowers of very early spring that do not last too long. Some of them, especially the ones that show up in the lawn are called weeds. Maybe, but I love them anyway.

In my backyard I have found…

We have some bird feeders, so I took time to sit and watch the birds. Some mornings there is a symphony of birdsong in our yard.

We traveled to Montauk State Park near out home to see what we might find, and were not disappointed. We did not find wildflowers…it was a bit too early, but we did find critters…and some evidence of critter activity…

We saw some watercress in the Current River as well as a beautiful Fritillary butterfly…

We have also visited Shaw Nature Reserve just west of St. Louis several times in the last couple weeks.

The trails there are varied in length and habitat type, as well as well maintained. One of my favorite trails is the Wildflower Trail, a woodland with a section of rocky outcroppings. It is the rocky outcropping that I most love, as that is where I find the most wildflowers of spring.

But the first thing you notice at Shaw in the Spring are the massive clusters of daffodils throughout the reserve. The daffodils bring in visitors from all around, and they never disappoint.

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So following a walk among the…daffodils, we head up to the Wildflower Trail…

And we find a few critters, too…

Yes, I missed my trip, but my goodness, I have had no time to pout…there is just too much to see out there. You just have to go out there and look for it!

Sometimes, after returning from a day outside exploring, we just want something for dinner that is easy and quick, but still really good. One of my favorites is this pasta dish I make with Missouri grown walnuts we get in the fall and freeze to use all year. I originally found the recipe in an article by Mark Bittman in the New York Times, and have adapted it to our liking over time.

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Pasta with Walnuts and Olive Oil

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 c. walnut pieces
  • 1/2 c. parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic,roughly chopped
  • 3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water comes to boiling, combine the parsley and garlic in a small food processor. Add the oil and process until you have a nice mixture. Stir in the walnut pieces, and season the with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta to desired tenderness.
  4. Toss the pasta with the sauce.

Enjoy!

Oahu Splendor–Part III, Culture and Luau Beef

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One of my favorite activities when I travel is to discover the culture and traditions of that special spot on the globe on which I find myself, a corner of the world that belongs to those people calling that special spot “home”. Hawaii has a unique culture and an abundance of unique traditions. For me, coming from the U.S. mainland, it was a very exciting and interesting corner of the world, and in many ways so different from my own.

Hawaii is part of a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean called Polynesia. Polynesia is an area bounded in a triangle with the points of the triangle being Hawaii,  Easter Island, and New Zealand (Aotearoa). Within that triangle are many islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, the Marquesas Islands, and Fiji whose people share a common language, customs and traditions.

To get a better understanding of traditional life in Polynesia, we visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center highlights historic traditions and customs of the islands with shows, village recreations, and interactive activities for visitors. It was informative and a lot of fun as these two old people tried to master some of the old-time games.

As you enter the Center you are greeted by Haman Kalili, said to have invented the “shaka” greeting. For the Hawaiian people the shaka, with only the pinkie and index fingers raised in a wave, is meant to relay the “Aloha spirit” of friendship and understanding. It is said that Kalili lost three fingers working in the sugar cane fields. He took a new position within the industry, giving a signal with a wave to the engineers of the trains moving out of the field area to tell them that all was clear. He also waved to passing children with his hand with the missing fingers. For the people who knew Kalili, his wave always meant, “It’s all right, everything is okay!”, or “Hang loose!”

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Once inside the venue you will travel from island to island, learning about individual islands and activities common in Polynesia. I have put together a gallery of pictures showing some of what we saw and learned.

One of my favorite tours was at Iolani Palace. Before becoming a state within the United States, Hawaii, for a short time, lived in a democratic monarchy. King Kamehameha V was the last descendant of  the Kamehameha monarchy to reign as king of the Hawaiian Islands. Then in 1874 the Hawaiian legislature elected David Kalakaua to the throne. He built this beautiful palace which was completed in 1882. Upon the king’s death in 1891, his sister, Lili’uokalani, became the queen and took up residence in the palace.

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Queen Lili’uokalani’s reign was a troubled time for Hawaii. Businessmen from the United States had complete control of both the sugar and pineapple industries on the islands. They also exerted much influence in the everyday lives of the people, and they favored annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United States. The Hawaiian people, however, were quite happy being Hawaiian and independent. What happened next was not America’s best hour, or at least I do not believe it was.

Lili’uokalani attempted to have a new constitution written, fully restoring all power to the monarchy, which would in turn diminish the power of the outside interests. This led the business leaders to push for quick annexation. When the government of the United States refused to annex the islands, the American businessmen staged a takeover, and in January of 1893, the queen abdicated her throne. For the next nine months she lived in the palace under house arrest. Eventually the Hawaiian Islands became a territory of the United States, and in 1958, Hawaii was granted statehood.

Hawaiian Luau

If you visit Hawaii, you have got to attend a luau. They are so much fun, and the food is absolutely incredible. We attended two luaus. Our favorite was the Chief’s Luau. It was a bit smaller, more intimate and more comfortable than the almost as good luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Hawaiian culture is centered on the importance of family, and everyone is part of the family. This family attitude was displayed by the Chief at his luau, inviting us all to have a good time, make new friends and eat all we want. Everyone sits at long tables, and you cannot help but to meet your neighbors. Our neighbors were from Australia, which made for a great sharing of experiences during dinner.

The star of the show is, of course, the luau pork. I would try, but know I would never be able to duplicate that flavor here in mid-Missouri. There is so much food, it is hard to choose which ones to take…so I took a little of a lot of different things!

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Following the meal is the time for entertainment. We were treated to Hawaiian music, singing, dancing, and Jim’s favorite, flame throwing and twirling. But the best part was when they called to the stage all those celebrating anniversaries. Well, that was us…50 years! I received a gorgeous bouquet of Hawaiian flowers and we both were given authentic leis made of traditional Hawaiian flowers Our new Australian friends tried to take a couple pictures for us from a distance…that picture of us dancing, though mighty grainy?…well, I love it!

While in Hawaii I purchased a cookbook…of course. The luau dish I made is really very delicious, though not as amazing looking as some others. My test is: Does Jim like? If the answer is yes, it must be good, because he is a very picky eater!

The dish calls for luau leaves…they are not even sold at Whole Foods on the mainland…so substitute with spinach. When you try this dish, and you should, make sure to use the most mature spinach you can find. More mature spinach gives the dish a better consistency and a better flavor. Enjoy!

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Luau Beef Stew

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

This recipe was adapted from “Sam Choy’s Aloha Cuisine: Island Cooking at it Best”

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mature spinach leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. sea salt (You can use Hawaiian salt, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 pounds stew meat
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups water

Directions

  1. Heat oil and saute onions in a large sauce pan until they are translucent.
  2. Brown stew meat.
  3. Add beef stock, water, and 1 Tbsp. salt.
  4. Cook until meat is fork tender.
  5. While the meat is cooking, wash the spinach leaves and remove the toughest stems and veins.
  6. Bring the water, the remaining Tbsp. of salt, and the baking soda to a boil in a large stock pot.
  7. Add the spinach leaves, reduce heat and cook, partially covered for 1 hour.
  8. Drain and squeeze the excess water from the spinach.
  9. When the meat is tender, add the spinach leaves and simmer for 30 minutes.

The Effort of a Day

morning

I will put all my effort into this day, for it is the one I have been given

Yesterday is gone

Tomorrow…well it will be tomorrow

 

In response to Ragtag Daily Prompt: Effort

Oahu Splendor-Part II…Pearl Harbor and a Spam fried rice?

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One of our must see sites when we visited Hawaii was Pearl Harbor and its National Historic Sites. We happened to be at Pearl Harbor on Veteran’s Day, November 11. Since my Dad was a Navy Seabee, this made our visit all the more meaningful for me.

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Within the memorial area is a statue of a Navy sailor. He reminded me of all the pictures I have seen of my Dad dressed in his “Navy Blues”, which he was so proud to wear on the day he married my Mom.

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Near the statue is a plaque which brought a tear to my eye as it reminded me of all the stories Dad used to tell about his service in World War II. It truly does remind me of the “sailor” I called Dad.

The Lone Sailor represents the men and women who have served, are serving, or will serve in the Navy. He’s called the Lone sailor, yet he is hardly ever alone. He is about 25 years old, a senior second class petty officer who is fast becoming a seagoing veteran. He has done it all–fired weapons in war, provided humanitarian assistance in far-away lands, been attacked by the enemy and defended our freedom. He has made liberty calls in great cities and tiny villages where he was a tourist, ambassador, adventurer, friend, missionary to those less fortunate, and representative of our way of life. His shipmates remember him with pride and look up to him with respect.

Pearl Harbor is a well protected lagoon harbor on the southern side of the island of Oahu.

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On December 7, 1941 its name and the significance of what happened there became forever recognizable to all Americans. On that day the Japanese Navy Air Service carried out a surprise attack on the United States Naval Station at Pearl Harbor. At the time, President Roosevelt called it, “the date that will live in infamy”, and the United States joined its allies in the Second World War.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is that place where Americans honor the men and women who were killed on that horrific day. 2,335 servicemen were killed, 1,177 of them from the USS Arizona. 1,143 people were wounded, and 68 civilians were killed.

The USS Arizona Memorial was constructed over the ruins of the ship, which lies 40 feet below the water’s surface. Of the 1,177 servicemen who died on the Arizona, 900 were never recovered and are buried forever with the ship.

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A tour boat takes visitors out to the memorial where the ruined hulk of the ship can be seen below the surface. No one is allowed on the memorial at this time due to structural problems still being addressed.

As your tour boat moves through the lagoon, you notice concrete memorials to other ships that were lost on that day…

There is a hangar on the grounds that houses an airplane exhibit. For me, the most impressive thing I saw in that building was the bank of windows with blown out panes of glass that still remain missing since the day of the attack…

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While at Pearl Harbor we also visited the USS Missouri Memorial. It was on the Missouri that the Japanese signed a declaration of surrender on September 2, 1945. As a side note, this memorial truly captured my husband’s attention since that day just so happens to also be the very day on which he was born.

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A photo taken on board the USS Arizona as Japan prepared to sign the declaration of surrender documents.

Our last major stop was to tour the USS Bowfin, a submarine nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”.  Her “silent service” in the Pacific was responsible for the destruction of thirty-four large enemy ships and ten smaller ones.Her efforts truly helped win the war in the Pacific, as well as helping to bring World War II to an end.

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Here are some of the pictures I took inside the USS Bowfin. You never know what “close quarters” feel like until you walk around inside those quarters. Nor do I believe walking around the sub for half an hour gave me any realistic feeling of what that space would feel like after the normal “patrol”, which lasted six months out to sea.

Pearl Harbor is a testament to the tragedy of suffering and death caused by war. But it is also an amazing testament to the valor that comes from fighting those battles that can help make the world right again. It is a place forever seared into our American story, and the importance of this nation on the world stage. No one can come away from this place without a determination to look to leaders who believe in peace, who stress the dignity of all people in all nations, and who insist on promoting the idea of a world that seeks a tomorrow without war.

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Oahu Fried Rice

Oahu is one of the islands that make up the state of Hawaii. As we toured the island we learned many things about the special advantages of living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We also learned of some of the challenges.

Everything that Hawaii cannot produce for itself must be shipped or flown in from a very far distance. For that reason the state has a set schedule of resupply. In this way the government can assure its citizens of about a three week supply of necessary items for survival in the event a catastrophe were to occur that would make it difficult for the outside world to reach the island population. One of the items they always have in stock is Spam, and Hawaiians love Spam. There is even a Spam menu item at McDonald’s!

I was raised in a lower middle class family with my sister and two brothers, and we ate a lot of Spam. Mom fried it for supper, packed it in our lunches, and cut it into small bits to add to our scrambled eggs in the morning. The idea that anyone would love Spam was a great shock to me! But I have to say, the people in Hawaii do some exciting things with this lowly meat, and Spam is a commodity that can be held in storage for a very long time.

When we returned home, I toyed around with several different recipes to prepare a proper Spam dish reminiscent of the foods I had on the island. I found several recipes, and put a couple of them together to make one we enjoyed. I must say that while the Sriracha is optional, it really adds to the dish, helping take away some of the very salty flavor of the Spam.

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Oahu Fried Rice

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 can Spam, cut into bite-size pieces (you may prefer to use a bit less than a whole can)
  • 3/4 c. diced fresh carrots
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 c. cooked rice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • Sriracha (optional)
  • extra green onion for garnish

Directions

  1. Scramble the eggs in the butter and set aside
  2. Brown the Spam in the vegetable oil.
  3. Add the onions and the carrots and continue browning for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the peas, and cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the rice, then the soy sauce, fish sauce, and the pepper
  6. Stir in the scrambled eggs
  7. Serve in bowls with a garnish of green onions and sriracha.

Enjoy!

Oahu Splendor-Part I, and Luau Teriyaki Chicken

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The number one item on our Bucket List has always been to visit each and every one of the fifty American states. And now, after fifty years, we can officially check that one as done. We visited Hawaii in November, having a great time and learning, once again, so very much about the world in which we live.

I say we visited Hawaii, yet we actually visited only one of the five islands that make up the state of Hawaii. The island of Oahu afforded us some fantastic and breathtaking sites, along with incredible new food experiences.

Our first view of Oahu came as we circled around to land at the airport in Honolulu. That is Diamond Head at the top of the picture.

Diamond Head, called Le’ahi in early Hawaii, is a tuff cone from a volcano that erupted some 100,000 years ago. The volcano that formed Diamond Head is no longer active. Its tuff cone was formed as cinder and ash accumulated following the volcanic eruption. No matter what formed it, I found it a spectacular site. Also amazing was having the ability to “look” beneath the surface, into the shallow edge of the Pacific Ocean. But if you look out to that very deep blue color…that color is what informs you that the ocean is not shallow very far out, as it drops off very quickly to enormous depths.

While on Oahu, we took several tours to see nature on the island. We did not spend the greatest amount of time in the city of Honolulu…I am a creature of nature, and nature is where we went. The island is beautiful once you make it out into the countryside…

One of the places we visited was the Waimea Falls Park. It is on the north side of the island and has a trail through a tropical forest to Waimea Waterfall.

We were treated to so many new sights…things people from the Midwest will never see at home…

Along the trail you can stop at a reconstruction of a historical Hawaiian village including signage which helps explain the lives of the people who lived on the islands many, many years ago.

What I liked best about my trip to Hawaii was the clouds. The clouds on the island were, for me, mesmerizing. I could not take my eyes off of them, and I will never forget them. As they form and move across the island, they run into the two ranges of mountains on Oahu. They are unable to climb over the mountains, and so they lay on them, slowly dropping their moisture as gentle rains. I tried all the time we were there, and was never able to get a picture to convey what I actually saw as I looked at the magnificent clouds every morning, every evening, and throughout most of the day.

One of the most amazing things you will see on Oahu are the flowers. They are abundant, and they are beautiful. Here is a collection of some of the flowers we saw on the island. I have tried to identify as many of them as possible…

One flower is very important to the people of the Hawaiian Islands…the Hibiscus. Hibiscus “breeders” have hybridized the plant to many different varieties.  You will find them everywhere, and they are beautiful. The Yellow hibiscus is the state flower.

We stopped at an overlook on the way back to town one night.

While the view was gorgeous, I most enjoyed the tree we saw climbing up to the overlook. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but the trunk was amazing. I also like the way the flower has found a home in the crook of the trunk.

And two more pictures…just because I cannot resist sharing them!

Hawaii is an amazing place. If you find yourself on Oahu, make sure you get out of Honolulu, off the beach at Waikiki, and into the countryside, into the real Hawaii. We want to go back someday to see the big island of Hawaii, to visit the big volcanoes, some of which are still active.

In my next post I will share the historical and cultural places we visited while on the island of Oahu.

On these really cold days of December, here in the middle of America, I can’t help but remember how warm it was on the island of Oahu, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of November.

Luau Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

While we were on Oahu we attended two luaus. They are so much fun and the food is simply fantastic. The teriyaki chicken was our favorite dish at the first luau The natural setting for the luau was smaller and more intimate. It was our favorite of the two luaus we enjoyed. We were brought to the stage with other couples celebrating anniversaries, and as this was our fiftieth anniversary, we both received authentic flower leis, and I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers. A gentleman sitting with us took our picture…kind of grainy, but I love it anyway. What a special evening!

Before I give you the recipe, here are some shots from our first luau

Luau Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

  • Servings: 4
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A taste of Oahu at home in the contiguous 48.

I adapted this recipe only very slightly from Creme de la Crumb

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless chicken thighs (I have the butcher debone the them for me)
  • 1 1/3 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees, Place chicken thighs in a greased baking dish in a single layer.
  2. Combine 1 cup of soy sauce, the water, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic in a saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  3. When the sauce begins to boil, mix the remaining 1/3 cup of soy sauce with the corn starch until it is dissolved and add this mixture to the boiling sauce. Cook and stir to thicken for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour half the sauce over the chicken, turning to make sure the thighs are covered with sauce.
  5. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for about 20-25 minutes. Check to make sue the chicken is 165 degrees at it thickest point.
  6. Carefully remove thighs to a cutting board and cut if you would like. Serve on a plate with the remaining sauce and extra sesame seeds for garnish.

Enjoy!

Nature Close to Home…and the Very Best Way to Prepare Fish

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We live in a world that at times seems turned upside down. Often I feel a need to make sure I am standing, and thinking, right-side up. So I go outside, I go into nature, I go where it is quiet, taking with me only those people I want to have close, and who want to be close to me.

Within an hour’s drive of our home in mid-Missouri is Montauk State Park. It is far from any big city, it reaches into the edge of the Ozarks, and I love the place. I love Montauk in any season, at any time of day, and in any kind of weather. Missouri’s state parks are incredible, and they have free admission whether you are a citizen of Missouri or you come from any other place in the world. Montauk is the park closest to me…so, it is my personal favorite.

I love Montauk in the springtime…

I love Montauk in the fall…

That is because spring and fall are my favorite seasons in Missouri. But mostly I love Montauk any season at all…

I love the same landscape every time I visit, yet dressed differently. Here are some of my favorite shots from over the years…

I love the fauna…

and the effects some of that fauna have…

I love the flora…

Our state parks will often have public programs. Montauk is one of Missouri’s trout fishing parks, and many activities and programs based on fishing are offered at the park. But they have many other programs, including hikes, night sky viewing, and children’s programs.

Montauk was, at one time, a small village on the Current River, and near several springs. It was the perfect place for a mill to service people in the area. The last mill built at Montauk was constructed in 1896, and still stands on the property today. Several times each year, the park gives tours of the mill. A most exciting project has begun that will make these visits to the mill even more fun. The original equipment is being restored, and in not such a very long time, Montauk will once again be milling grain to be sold on site. I can’t wait!

If ever you find yourself in mid-Missouri I strongly suggest visiting Montauk State Park.

But if you never get to my part of the woods, state parks are all across our land. No matter where we wander, where we roam, where we travel…countries across the globe have established parks for people; parks to explore, parks in which to learn about this amazing world…parks to cherish.

So, go on, go find a park…relax, take a deep breath, I promise the world will look better, and you will feel better too!

Easy, and Best Fish Recipe

This is the very easiest way to make the very best tasting fish. It is so simple and uncomplicated, making sure that the fish is the star of the show. Whether you catch your own fish in a stream near you, or buy sustainably caught fish at the market, you will love this recipe.

The Very Best Fish Recipe

  • Difficulty: easy
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Place a cast iron grill pan under the broiler for 15 to 20 minutes, until it is sizzling hot. There is nothing better than the sound of the sizzle you will hear when you lay the fish on that hot pan!

Ingredients

  • fish to be grilled
  • melted butter
  • bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • herbs to compliment the fish, to taste

Directions

While the grill pan heat under the broiler…pat the fish dry. Liberally lay bread crumbs on each piece of fish to cover. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice. Drizzle melted butter over the fish and place on the sizzling grill. Is that sound amazing or what!

Grill 3 to 4 minutes til fish is done.

Enjoy!

Our Own Apples From Our Own Yard…One Colonial Dessert

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A couple activities came together nicely for me this week…

The first happened around our apple tree…

Many years ago, one of our sons gave us an apple tree, something we had wanted for a very long time. I am not exaggerating when I say many years ago, for it has to be at least fifteen. For the first ten years we had never once seen an apple on that tree. It blossomed beautifully each and every year, but produced no apples. Then we learned it takes two apple trees to produce apples, so we purchased another tree of a different variety of apple. And we waited…and waited…

Until three year ago when, finally we found apples developing on the original tree. We were so excited, and could hardly wait to eat the very first apples from our own backyard.

We left on vacation, and when we returned, every single one of those apples was gone…seriously, every single one. I blamed raccoons, squirrels, opossums, deer (remember, I live in the city), and even wondered if there were not some hungry teenagers lurking around in the dark enjoying our anticipated harvest while we were away. For two more years, we had the same result…even if we did not go out of town.

Then, this year, the trees blossomed, apples appeared…

and apples remained. I wanted so badly to pick those apples, but I waited. Finally, I went out and picked apples. I was willing to share…I brought some into the house, and left a large number, particularly those high up in the tree that I could not reach, for any creatures that had enjoyed our apples in the past.

The apples were not the most beautiful, but they were ours, and they were absolutely delicious…

Now on to the second part of my story. Every couple of years, I get the urge to go through every item we own. I am supposed to be down-sizing when I do this, not sure how successful I am at that aspect of my sorting.

As I was going through all the cookbooks I have purchased at different historical sites across the country and abroad, I came across a small book I purchased at one of the sites. It brought back so many memories of trips we have taken with our children and our grandchildren.

One of the recipes in the book was for Apple Tansey. I thought how fun it would be to make something from the apples in our own yard, just as colonial Americans made dishes from the apples in their own yards.

The recipe calls for three pippins, so I did some research…

The Algonquin Indians introduced apples to European colonists living in Quebec. We are not sure about the variety of those first apples. A pippin is a variety of apple that was cultivated in the American colonies, and still is today. It is apparently not the best eating apple, but makes very good apple cider.

The recipe for Apple Tansey is written in paragraph form, so I have tried to put it in some kind of acceptable recipe format. I also determined some of the measurements myself, since some of the items were not written with regard to amount.

It was delicious! Though meant to be a dessert after a family meal in colonial times, it made a great breakfast for us…especially after we drizzled it with some authentic Vermont maple syrup…

Fresh apples frying in butter in a cast iron frying pan.

Not the prettiest presentation, but I put it on a fancy heritage plate…and Jim was dutifully impressed!

All in all it was a great week…getting our own apples, sorting through the moments of our lives, enjoying an old fashioned dessert on an old fashioned plate, in our almost one hundred year old house. Life can be so much fun sometimes!

Apple Tansey

A great apple dessert or breakfast entree.

This recipe is adapted from “Colonial Food”, by Ann Chandonnet. It was published in 2013 by Shire Publications in Great Britain.

Ingredients

  • 3 pippins (cooking apples of your choice)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. butter
  • 6 Tbsp. half and half
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • dash of nutmeg

Directions

  1. Core the apples, peel , and slice them round in thin slices.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Fry the apples in the melted butter until soft, but not browned.
  4. Mix together the 4 eggs, sugar, half and half, and nutmeg.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over the apples and let them fry until set, lowering the heat if you need to in order that it does not get too brown on the bottom.. Lift the sides of the eggs, allowing the uncooked portions to slide to the bottom and cook.
  6. Turn out onto a plate. Sprinkle with sugar and serve.
  7. Drizzle with maple syrup for an added treat!

Enjoy!