Sky Glow

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Early in the morning, I look out my window as I read while enjoying my first cup of coffee. The glow of the morning sun is a welcome sight, and a look into the possibilities of a new day…

Some mornings bring fog, sometimes dense fog. But at some point that sun rising in the east cuts through, and gives a very special glow to the morning…

As I walk through the woods at a nearby nature trail, the glow of the sun is bright. But as it filters through the treetops, I can almost look right at it..

The glow of the full moon has always thrilled me, but sometimes that glow has to struggle to get through the cloud cover of a stormy night…

And then the next evening, when all the clouds have passed, the not quite full moon shines through with an almost magical glow…

Sky glow!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

We Are Pedestrians In An Un-Pedestrian World

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To be a pedestrian is to walk, and to be pedestrian is to be ordinary, perhaps even boring.

While in Oregon this summer, we walked and walked and walked. We were pedestrians in a world we had never seen before. And as we moved along, we discovered, and we walked into, around, and through experiences we had previously only lived vicariously through videos and books, on-line shares from friends, and travelogues. It was a new world for us…and it was anything but pedestrian.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photos Challenge.

The City of Roses…and Sweet Cherry Caflouti

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It has been a busy summer, and as autumn begins, I once again have the opportunity  to return to my simple indoor pleasures. The garden has, for the most part, run its course, travel has slowed down (though it never really stops), and I can reflect on the places we have gone and the things we have seen.

We try, and always succeed, in seeing each of our five children scattered across the country at least once a year. This summer we joined our daughter’s family from Minnesota, and our son’s family from Maryland on the Oregon coast for a most fantastic vacation. My next several postings will be devoted to our trip and the many things we saw, and the many things we did.

Our first stop was Portland, “The City of Roses”. Our three families flew into Portland, where we spent several days exploring the city, getting a feel for its inhabitants, and relaxing in a small house, on a corner lot, in an old and historic neighborhood.

What a charming little place to spend time with family.

Portland is the largest city in Oregon. It is located at the foot of Mt. Hood, and at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

Before European settlement, many Native Americans of the Chinook made this area their home. The thousands of Chinook from the Clackimas and Multnomah bands made this area the most densely populated on the Pacific Coast.

When streams of settlers traveling the Oregon Trail began arriving on the west coast of the American Northwest, they could not help but notice the vast forests. Two of these settlers, William Overton and his friend, Asa Lovejoy staked out a claim, cleared many of the trees in a business venture, built roads, and erected the first buildings in the area. Eventually, Overton moved on, selling his share of the settlement to Francis Pettigrove. As the settlement grew and prospered, it was called  “The Clearing”, and “Stumptown”, but finally, in 1845 it was decided by virtue of a coin toss between Pettigrove and Overton, that the town would be called Portland.

Early settlers found vast forests in the area that now encompasses the city of Portland.

By 1850, Portland had approximately 800 residents, and the town was incorporated in 1851. Industry in the area was benefited by its location on the newly laid railroad. Workers in Portland made their living in lumber, fishing, growing wheat, and raising cattle. Over the years Portland has grown to be the second largest city in the Northwest.

A few scenes from Portland…

Our first big outing was to the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland’s Old Town…what an amazing place. We wandered around the garden for quite some time, marveling at the beautiful flowers and plants and enjoying the kids as they enjoyed the huge koi! But one of the best parts of this visit was our lunch at the Tea Room. We ordered several items and shared them all around.

Both the grandchildren enjoyed watching the fish in the pond…

and our granddaughter could have stayed right here for hours listening to the soothing, beautiful music…

Another day we traveled to the International Test Rose Garden in Washington Park. Pictures do a much better job than words ever could to describe this beautiful place…

We met friends of our son’s at Washington Park to give the children an opportunity to play on the  playground. While they played, and wore their parents out, I took a walk along one of the paths and realized for the first time that I was actually in the rain forest…

We wandered around Portland for several days, enjoying the sites using their mass transit. One of my favorite places to visit was Powell’s Books, the largest independent book store in the world. I cannot believe I did not take a picture…guess I was too busy buying books, and wondering how on earth I would get them all home in my luggage…on a plane with weight restrictions. I did it, but it wasn’t easy, and Jim’s luggage was suddenly heavier than he remembered it on the flight here. And to round out one very busy day, we stopped for some of Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts. Oh, how the two kids enjoyed those!

And on our way out of Portland, we stopped at another of their magnificent parks for a picnic lunch…as we headed to the coast, and a beach house on a hillside. But more about that in another post!

Tired kids, tired grandpa…on our way further west…

Sweet Cherries…Sweet Treat

Some of the best sweet cherries, known as Bing cherries, are grown in the American Northwest. Here is a slightly adapted recipe for a sweet cherry caflouti from the Portland Farmers Market. A caflouti is a custrdy cake which originated in Southern France…and it is really delicious.

Sweet Cherry Caflouti

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. milk, warmed just a bit
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. amaretto (optional; you may substitute 1 Tbsp. of pure almond extract)
  • 1 lb. of sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • a bit of confectioners sugar

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and make a well in the middle.
  2. Add the milk, eggs and amaretto.
  3. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be similar to heavy cream.
  4. Butter the bottom of a cast iron frying pan with the butter, and cover evenly with the cherries.
  5. Pour the batter over the cherries and bake at 375 degrees on the middle rack of the oven until the clafouti is firm, about 35- 45 minutes.
  6. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  7. Dust with a bit of confectioners sugar. and serve warm.

Enjoy!

Welcome to Autumn

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Let me just start by saying…I love autumn. I love the colors of autumn, the temperatures of autumn (even if today is going to be an unusual 93 degree day here in Missouri), the foods of autumn, the crispness of the morning air that accompanies autumn. But…

on this first day of autumn, 2017, the world seems a different place, outside my front door, as well as inside my back door. I cannot wrap my head around what is happening in the world, but I can try to put it aside for a while, close it out…and so I do. But…

then, as I look at my inside world, I notice it changing also. Things that used to be so easy are not easy anymore. Change is not only in the seasons, it is a part of life, sometimes welcome, sometimes not so much so. My challenge this autumn is to find the change worth cherishing, to find the change that covers up the losses that come naturally. And so, as always, I went for a walk…

And as I walked, I found those things that go out of season to make room for those things I so love in autumn like these sunflowers that were so beautiful a couple months ago, and are now spent until their season returns…

and I found life hanging on as long as it is able…

and the highlight of my walk was this monarch chrysalis on our garage siding, getting ready to start a brand new life and a brand new journey…

So, as I come back inside my back door, I understand that there is a certain melancholy to this first day of autumn, 2017…

But I will not let it last for long…because there are apples to pick. There are pumpkins out there I need to turn into my favorite dessert, pumpkin pie. There are crisp, cool mornings to take walks while listening to the leaves crinkle beneath my feet. And best of all, there are holidays to prepare for, and that means family!

Yeah, life, it is changing…my challenge is to keep up with the change as best I can, cherish it, and plan for it! Now where is that 9 inch pie pan!

The Structure in Nature

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There is a structure in nature…a structure that promises constancy and reliability. In a world that seems without structure at times, nature gives the sense that everything will be alright.

It is why I often run away to the woods, to the sea, to the prairie…

The bee in the picture above is an insect. Insects are varied in their shapes and sizes, their habits and their habitats, but all reliably have six legs and three body parts. That is their structure. And the buttonbush blossom from which this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, an insect, drinks the nectar has a constancy of structure all its own. Each buttonbush blossom will always look the same, it cannot be confused with any other flower.

These damselflies are insects also. They have their own recognizable structure, different from that of the butterfly or the bee.

Structure gives nature a sense of order, and order gives life a sense of peace.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

Focus

I love the phrase, and I love to be “out and about”‘ When I go out, I find that my focus is constantly changing. Sometimes I want a view of the whole, to actually feel where I am, to put myself in that place…

But very often I find I want to get as up close and personal as I possibly can…I want to see what nature really looks like, how nature actually accomplishes those activities that make this planet a very special place…

I want to see the inside of the bloodroot flower…

I want to catch that bumblebee on the milkweed…

I want to catch the skipper as it pollinates the purple coneflower…

But sometimes I just want to step back a little and admire the beauty of a Monarch on a milkweed…

Sometimes I want to marvel at the feathers of a mallard…

And, all the time, just let me be out and about, to fix my focus, to enjoy any focus, to cherish this world with my own perspective.

This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Focus

A Midwestern Castle Ruin…and a Kale with Caramelized Onion Dish

As anyone who has followed my blog knows, I spent much of the last year visiting and writing about the national parks that are found in my home state of Missouri. It was fun and rewarding, and we even found one, George Washington Carver National Monument, to which we had never been, and discovered that it was actually our favorite.

The state of Missouri is currently celebrating 100 years of Missouri State Parks. There are eighty-eight state parks and historic sites in all in Missouri, and so, of course, my husband and I are in the process of visiting each and every one of them. We are very fortunate in Missouri to have free admission to all our state parks, and I hope that remains so forever.

The state has issued a Centennial Passport in honor of this milestone anniversary, and we are busy getting each page of our passport stamped. I was lucky enough to be at the opening of our newest park, Echo Bluff, where I was able to have my passport signed by the governor of the state, making it an extra-special keepsake. I am easily excited, and smiles come fairly easily, too! Over this year, as I collect my passport stamps, I hope to share some of what our magnificent Missouri parks have to offer…and in that endeavor we begin with one of our favorites…

Ha Ha Tonka State Park…”Smiling Water”

Ha Ha Tonka State Park sits at the side of the Lake of the Ozarks in south central Missouri. It is located in Missouri’s karst region, and is known as the best place within the “Cave State” to learn about karst. A karst region is simply an area where the landscape is built on a foundation of soluble rock such as limestone and dolomite. As these rocks dissolve over many years, sinkholes, caves, underground streams, and springs develop. It is possible to find all the elements of a karst landscape within the boundaries of Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

Ha Ha Tonka is a fascinating place in a fascinating area. On fourteen trails, covering a little more that eighteen miles, it is easy to see and experience a lot of what it has to offer. So, let’s take a little tour…I say little, because I have not been to all the views, nor all the experiences on all the trails, but what I have done, and what I have seen was well worth the journey, and the effort.

My favorite trail is the Spring Trail. It is 1.5 miles long, and takes you along a scenic view of the lake before climbing 316 wooden stairs up to a bluff top from which there are fantastic views of the park and the castle ruins…ruins we will talk about in a bit.

As you begin your hike, you will walk along the lake edge on one side, and a towering bluff on the other. It is an easy, flat, and surfaced trail for the first bit, until you get closer to the spring.

The Niangua branch of the Lake of the Ozarks

As you leave the lake, you will continue along a mill race which served a community mill, a reminder that a community existed in this place, and people lived here before the area was flooded to create the Lake of the Ozarks. It is very peaceful and still through here, and believe me, you can leave a lot of the things that have been bothering you for quite some time back at you car, and never think about them for a while. I love it!

Along this path is another trail that leads out across the trace to a small island. It is a circular trail, and will bring you back to the Spring Trail.

You can climb to a large balanced rock on the island.

My favorite activity on the island is studying the rock formations, how they have dissolved, and how ferns and mosses, lichens and other plants defy the elements and grow profusely.

Just before you come to the spring, your path becomes a boardwalk. Along this portion of the trail you will see new plants, depending on the time of the year. When we visited this spring, there were so many colonies of columbine in full bloom…

 

There are “Skinny Rocks” on the trail as you finally reach the spring.

And now you have a decision to make, because if front of you are 316 wooden stairs that lead to the top of the bluff along which you have been walking. They seem daunting, but they are not nearly as hard a you might think. There are plenty of places to stop to take a breath as you climb…and believe me, I have used most of them. It is worth the climb, because the upper trail is beautiful…

You can join another trail and hike on to the Natural Bridge. The bridge was formed when the ceiling of a cave became so thin in two places, that it caved in, making two sinkholes, with a stronger section remaining between them.

This part of the cave remained in tact when sinkholes formed on either side, creating a natural bridge.

And if you go to Ha Ha Tonka State Park, you must go to see the castle ruins.

In 1903, Robert Snyder, a wealthy businessman form Kansas City, purchased 5,000 acres in the area, including the spring. His goal was to build a luxury lodge to be used as a private retreat. Before it was finished, Snyder was killed in an automobile accident.

Later on, Snyder’s sons completed the castle, and for a while used it as a summer residence. At some point they turned it into a summer hotel, and then tragedy struck again in 1942. The wooden roof shingles caught fire and the entire castle was gutted, and has remained so ever since. Here are pictures of the ruins as they appear today…

But my favorite picture of the castle is one I took last year. I played around with it a bit, turned it into a black and white photo…and it made the greatest under layer for a Halloween card ever!

Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a beautiful treasure in mid-Missouri. I hope you will have an opportunity to experience its wonders someday, just as we have.

A Mid-Missouri Side Dish

Sauteed Kale with Caramelized Onions

  • Servings: 3-4
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I adapted this recipe from “The Cast Iron Cookbook” by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne. Swiss Chard is the green in the original recipe, but I often make it with kale.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch kale, cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white beans

Directions

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue cooking until caramelized, about 5 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add 1 Tbsp. butter to the skillet along with the kale. Stir in the orange juice, and the apple cider vinegar. Cook until the liquids starts to evaporate, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the caramelized onions to the kale, and keep warm.
  4.  In a small skillet, saute the white beans for 3 minutes, until slightly browned.
  5. Add the beans to the kale and onion mixture and stir them all together.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Evanescent…That One Moment, That One Time

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There are so many moments that you will have just one time, and in one place. Next time you return, if you do, it will be different…the light will change, the mood will change, the family will change, and so will you. You will look at the same place differently than ever you had before, and you will never look at it the same way ever again.

These moments in time are unique, they are special, often they are important…and for these many reasons I never leave the house without my camera…

I do not know what caused these geese to line up, all in a row as they did on this particular gloomy winter day…but I love that they did!

I love catching butterflies…they do not stay in one spot for too very long…

And always, the hardest moments for me come when we are visiting any one of our children, and it is time to say good-bye. So when I have the opportunity for one more moment, to enjoy one last beautiful site…I am going to take it and I am going to cherish it…and all our kids know that!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

 

Heritage-Handed Down

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Inside Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Heritage is what we hand down from the past. In America, we hand down to our future generations the ideals written down in a rather small, somewhat dark, and very hot in summer, room in Philadelphia. They are lofty ideals, those ideals written into the Declaration of Independence, those beliefs in freedom and justice, what we are taught as our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

After returning home from a trip to Philadelphia a few years back, I was struck by a picture of Independence Hall that I had taken. I was disappointed standing on the lawn attempting to get that perfect picture of that perfect building representing everything this nation stands for. But I could not get that picture, there was too much in the way.

And then it dawned on me…it was the perfect picture!

 

There it is, that building from history where it all began. In front of Independence Hall were people going about their daily lives. The building, itself, had a cloth draped over the lower part of its dome as repairs were being made. And in the background is our new America, the one of skyscrapers and progress, business and busyness. My picture showed my living nation.

And so we find ourselves in 2017 with new questions and new challenges in a country we believed had all the answers. Well, we don’t…but this picture encourages me to believe that we may still go about our daily lives while we continue to work to repair our mistakes. We can still strive, not to be bigger and more powerful, but to be a better nation and a better people.

I guess as I look at the picture of Independence Hall, I realize how much I believe in this nation, and its ability to live up to its lofty ideals…even if sometimes we really do fail miserably. And the heritage I pass down to my children will be theirs to pass down to a newer generation…and a newer generation…for, I pray, a very long time to come.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge.

Reflections One Morning in Arkansas

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Not so very long ago, we visited one of our daughters at her home in Arkansas. On our way home we spent the night at Petit Jean State Park. What a gorgeous place!

In the morning, before our final leg home, we went down to the lake to watch the sun rise. It was a great way to end a great trip, and reminded us to reflect on the importance of the time we take to spend with family, as we viewed the beautiful reflections of sunrise on the water.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting