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

A Midwestern Garden of the Gods…and Grandma’s Stewed Tomatoes

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Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area

When people think about the Midwestern state of Illinois, the terms “flat”, and “corn fields” are likely to come to mind. Or perhaps one might think about its largest city, Chicago, or even its most famous native son, Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States.

But there is another Illinois, down in the southern tip of the state, where the terrain and its beauty will amaze you. The Shawnee National Forest encompasses the southeastern tip of Illinois, and it is in the national forest you will find the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area. The wilderness is a place of ridges, bluffs, canyons, and some of the most interesting rock formations I have ever seen.

More than 300 million years ago, this part of the nation was covered by a huge inland sea. As rivers brought sand and mud into this sea, the sand and mud settled along the shorelines, and with increasing weight and pressure, created thousands of feet of sandstone. At some point in time there was an uplift, and this sandstone was exposed to the forces of wind and rain. Because each of the layers of sandstone that had formed had varying mineral content, ribbons of color were exposed as the sandstone weathered. When I saw them for the first time I actually thought they might be petrified wood, but they are solid rock and they are beautiful.

The rock formations are called “hoodoos”. A hoodoo is a rock formation that has been carved and formed by the influence of ice as well as normal weathering. When melted snow falls into the cracks and crevices of rock, it will refreeze as temperatures drop at night. Ice takes up 10 % more space than liquid water, so the crack widens and rocks crack in new places, creating new shapes. As I read in one reference, if you understand the science of a pot hole, you will understand the science of a hoodoo.

There are many hikes, of many lengths in the wilderness. The easiest one, the one that will give you a good overview of the area and its many interesting formations is the Observation Trail.

The Observation Trail is an accessible trail that is a one quarter mile loop laid with flagstone. It is an easy trail to walk, with no climbs or obstacles…well, the one obstacle is staying on the trail, because you want so badly to get off the trail and onto the rock outcroppings…don’t, many of the drops are 100 feet or more.

I took so many pictures as we walked the Observation Trail…a one quarter mile long trail that took us over an hour. It provides truly amazing views of a truly amazing place…

Many hoodoos have a “totem pole” appearance.

This rock formation is called the Devil’s Smokestack.

It took all my willpower…and a husband that was constantly at my elbow…to keep me off that ledge for a better look!

About twenty-five miles south of the Garden of the Gods, you will come to Cave In Rock State Park situated on the Ohio River. We stayed in one of their cabins as we explored the southern Illinois area. We had a great view of the river, and the river traffic. We had that awesome view of the river any time of the day, as seen in the photos below. It was a quiet, beautiful place for a week-end stay, and a terrific base for all our explorations.

I hope you have an opportunity, at some time, to visit southern Illinois…you will get a much different view of this state in the middle of our country.

Grandma’s Stewed Tomatoes

I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house when I was a little girl. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother, who was raised in southern Illinois, moved into our house. One of the things she would always make, whenever my mom needed help in the kitchen, was a side dish of stewed and breaded tomatoes. I loved them, and I still do! Not only are they yummy, but they also bring back great memories.

I grew up within the Detroit city limits…it was, by the way, a terrific place to grow up. Every summer my dad would pack the four of us kids and my mom into the car, and drive out to one of the truck farms outside the city to pick tomatoes, or beans, or corn…or whatever was in season. We would also go out to the orchards to pick bushels and bushels of apples, peaches, and cherries…lots of those cherries never made it into a basket, and we never wanted supper after we were done picking.

Then it was back home, and mom and dad, with the help of my grandparents, would can all that produce….jars, and jars, and jars of good things to eat all the coming winter. All those jars of tomatoes became wonderful bowls full of stewed tomatoes, or went into soups and big pots of chili. I do not go out and pick tomatoes, but I do go out to the farm and buy a couple bushels of tomatoes each year to can and put into our soups and our tomato dishes. It feels like I am keeping all the good memories alive!

Grandma's Stewed Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 2 pint jars of home canned tomatoes, or a 28 oz. can of tomatoes from the store, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 slices of toasted home-made wheat bread, or any bread you would like, torn or cut into 1 inch pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in your grandmother’s old cast iron skillet…well, any skillet will do, I just happen to have my grandma’s frying pan.
  2. Saute the onion until translucent, then add the remaining butter.
  3. Stir in flour, and cook for 3  minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and sugar and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Season to taste.

Enjoy!

Danger! On the Edge

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Missouri is called the “Cave State” in recognition of the fact that we have, within our state borders, 6,400 caves. Some of them are very large, and some of them are very small. Some of them are tourist attractions, and some of them are too small and narrow for even the most dedicated spelunker to find his way into. But all of them are a feature of Missouri’s karst geology.

Caves develop when underground water dissolves the underlying rock. In the case of our area, it is limestone and dolomite rock that is dissolved. And if that underground cave gets close enough to the surface…well, the surface is going to “cave” in, forming a hole in the ground. That hole is called a sinkhole.

The picture above is of Slaughter Sink, just outside our town. At a quarter of a mile wide, and 160 feet deep, it is one of the largest sinkholes in Missouri. One of its features is a promontory on which you can stand and look…seriously, don’t look down…look across, or around, but don’t look down!

I have been to Slaughter Sink one time, and I stood on that promontory…and, seriously, I did not look down! DANGER!

But I do have to admit I enjoyed that one visit, and was very proud of myself for being able to walk out onto that rock.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

Wanderlust…It’s My Nature

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Let me tell you about all the things that cause me to wander…

The birds…

and the bees…

and the flowers…

and the trees…

and the moon up above…

and all the other things out there that I love….

sunrise on the river…

walks in the woods…

beautiful architecture…

the prairie…

winter…

history…

and I could go on and on…

This post is in Response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

The Persistence That Gives Me Hope

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Celandine Poppy growing out of a rock outcropping.

I often go for walks in the woods. It is in the woods that I can clear my head, I can put things in perspective, and I can be renewed, refreshed, and recharged. It is in the woods where I can discover the Earth on which I live, my place on it, and my responsibilities while I am here.

Current political realities in my country give me angst, and I often find myself distressed, wondering what will we ever do…so out to the woods I go.

The woods, the Earth, never disappoint. While hiking in the woods the last couple weeks, I found my energy, my hope, in the persistence I found in our natural world. Missouri is known as the Cave State. We have a unique karst geology, with a lot of caves, sinkholes, deep springs…and, as my father would always say, “a lot of rocks”.

Blue Phlox growing out of a rock outcropping in the woods.

To see, over and over again, wildflowers growing out of the rocky bluffs along the trail reminded me of the power of persistence. Ferns, wildflowers, even some trees persist in our world of rocks, and they are magnificent. I feel good after visiting the woods, returning home with my new phrase…

“Yeah, it’s that persistence thing.”

…and my whole world feels better!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

A Surprise For These Old Eyes

While hiking a woodland trail near our home recently, I caught a picture of a little Carolina Chickadee on a tree…

When I return from any hike or photo adventure, the very first thing I do is put my camera chip into the computer to view my pictures. I was hoping that the picture of the chickadee would be a good shot. What a pleasant surprise…I caught not one, but two chickadees working the bark of the tree!

That picture made my day. In the moment, I had missed that little head peeking around the back side, because my eyes no longer see as well as they used to…but my camera caught it, and I am still thrilled.

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Surprise

An English Marsh…and Quelquechose

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As we prepared for our trip to England I kept thinking of all the things I would see that I had heard and read so much about. I thought of all the places I would see for which my mind already held images from pictures I had seen. And as I stated in my last post, my favorite places from our trip were those of which I had no previous knowledge, no pictures already fixed in my mind.

I loved the narrow roads out in the countryside with the hedges trimmed in a perfect vertical line right up to the edge of that very narrow road. I did not get a picture…we are Americans who struggle enough to drive on what we think to be the wrong side of the road…so we just kept rolling, hoping everyone else would stay on their side of that universally accepted yellow center line!

I loved Kensington Palace, Hatchard’s Bookstore, Glastonbury Cathedral, the ceiling of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the look of ancient buildings set against the skyscrapers of our modern day, sitting on the patio of our rented flat while drawing our backyard, any liquid refreshment made with elderflowers, and all the many parks we found everywhere. I loved the hustle and the bustle of London, the multicultural atmosphere of the city, and discovering that good tea, made right, tastes really good. And for all the days of my life, I will hear the words, “Mind the gap”, echoing in my head.

As mentioned in my previous post, our son asked if there was anything I really had to see while in England. I quickly told him about my desire to see Stonehenge. I also told him that I wanted to visit some sort of wildlife refuge, if that were possible. We settled on Rainham Marshes RSPB Nature Reserve in Purfleet, about forty miles outside London, on the River Thames. We took the train to Purfleet, then walked out to Rainham, one of England’s ancient marshes. What a great day that was!

Rainham Marshes RSPB Bature Reserve

As much as I love a big city, I also love anything nature, anything that requires walking or hiking, anything that dampens the sound of our busy lives for a while, allowing the sound of birds, grasses, wind, or water to break through the din. I loved Rainham.

We walked the trail, from riverside, to creekside, to open fields, and past the ponds.

Here in America, most of us are just beginners at the art of birdwatching. In England, they are pros. I was absolutely amazed at the number of people out to see the birds on a weekday, and equally amazed at the equipment they had. We looked like amateurs with our little binoculars…and truth be told, we are happy amateurs. I am posting a few of the pictures…I have been able to identify some of them, but am still working on others.

We also saw a couple of frogs while in the blind..

And wildflowers and wild berries…

We found several snails on our walk, but I loved this guy resting on a leaf…

But the part of our trip to Rainham that touched me most, the part I am drawn to remember time and time again, is that section that holds memories and some relics of World Wars I and II.

the Pill Box at Rainham Marsh

The marsh served as a rifle training range over several decades. Still present on the site is one of eight original Anti-aircraft Ammunition Magazines. Also, still standing, is the Pill Box. It was used in World War I as a submarine lookout. In World War II, anti-aircraft gunners would be stationed on the Pill Box, attempting to keep German bombers from reaching London.

Rainham Marsh was a very special place, on a very special trip. It was one of the highlights of our trip to England.

Quelquechose

I know, what in the world could that word possibly be? It is pronounced kickshaws…and I really cannot say I know why they just didn’t spell it that way. But however it is spelled, or pronounced, this is a really tasty one dish meal, and is very much like a frittata. I found it in “The Tudor Kitchen”, a cookbook I purchased in Stratford on Avon. It is published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Quelquechose

Adapted from “The Tudor Kitchen” The original recipe calls for a parsnip, but we prefer a carrot for this dish. We leave out the bacon on evenings we want to have a meatless dish (which is most of the time).

We love having this dish with a simple green salad, and a glass of pinot grigio wine. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, trimmed and finely slice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot, chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1/4 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 eggs
  • 2/3 cup half and half
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Grated cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a 9-10 inch iron skillet, or other heavy skillet.
  2. Add the onion, leek, garlic, carrot, squash and bacon (if using), and fry on low heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the peas the last 3-4 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, half and half, and the seasonings.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the pan and cook gently until the eggs are almost set.
  6. Finish cooking under a preheated grill until the top has browned.
  7. Top with grated cheese, if you are not using the bacon.

Security

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Home…enough said!

In Response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Security

That Accidental Special Place Along the Way…and Chicken with Rice and Almonds

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Glastonbury Abbey, Somerset, England

It has so often happened, as we have traveled over all these many years, that the most memorable places we have visited are those we merely happened upon. That was certainly true as we traveled to England last summer.

While planning our trip abroad, our son asked me, “Mom, is there anything special you want to see?” I was ready with the answer, the answer I would have had to that question since reading “Salisbury”, by Edmund Rutherford many years ago. I wanted to see Stonehenge. And we did, and I loved it. But…then our son told us that he wanted to stop at a place along the way. He had rented a car for the trip from London to Stonehenge, and this place was along the route we would be taking. And there it was…that special place along the road, the one I never imagined, the one I loved more than anything else I saw on the entire trip. I loved it for so many different reasons, and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time walking the grounds of, and feeling the mystique of, the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey.

Glastonbury Abbey as it appears in the 21st century.

Legend tells us that the original church in Glastonbury was built in the first century by Joseph of Arimathea, on a journey he made to the area with Jesus, who was a child at the time. Legend also tells us that it was here at Glastonbury that Joseph buried the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. You may remember Joseph as the man who took the responsibility for burying Jesus following His crucifixion.

There is no historical evidence to support these claims, and the mystery of the Grail continues to this day. Archaeologists have found evidence, however, that the first church, of wattle and daub, establishing the abbey at Glastonbury may have been built as early as the second century.

The ruins of Glastonbury Abbey

That it is the burial place of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere is another legend associated with Glastonbury Abbey. There are several versions of how the graves were discovered, but we do know that when the bones believed to be that of the King and Queen were placed in a new grave in 1191, pilgrimages to Glastonbury rose, bringing much needed “tourist” money to the abbey. In 1278, the bones of King Arthur and Lady Guinevere were moved once again to a new grave within a rebuilt abbey.

The grave of King Arthur

Here are some facts we do know about Glastonbury Abbey, and its place in English history.

  • The first stone church at Glastonbury was built by the Saxon king, Ine of Wessex in 712. It was enlarged in the eighth century, and then again in the tenth. The stone to build the abbey came from its own quarry.
  • By 1086, Glastonbury Abbey was recorded as the wealthiest monastery in all of England.
  • In 1184, a fire destroyed most of the monastery, leaving only the bell tower and one small room.
  • The abbey was restored with financial assistance from the crown under King Henry II. It was during this reconstruction that the grave of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are said to have been discovered.
  • In 1539, Glastonbury Abbey was closed by Henry VIII as part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries. The property was stripped of its wealth and its treasures, most of the proceeds going to fund the military campaigns of King Henry VIII in the 1540’s. He sold the property itself, after which much of its stone and ornate stoneworks were taken away to build and adorn other buildings. At one time the abbey even became a quarry.
  • After years of decline and destruction, the abbey came under the protection of the Ancient Monuments Protection Act of 1882. Archaeological studies were conducted, historical research ensued, and Glastonbury Abbey was opened to the public as a place to visit, a place for quiet reflection, a place of renewal.

One of the most beautiful places on the Glastonbury grounds is the remains of the Lady Chapel. A Lady Chapel is the largest side chapel of a cathedral, and is built in an easterly direction from the high altar of the cathedral.

For me, the Lady Chapel was not only the most beautiful, but the most inspiring and sacred place on the grounds. I was most taken by the resilience of nature…that nature can surmount all odds, and burst forth to change our perspectives, our ability to hope and dream, and in so doing enrich our lives. Out of all the ruin, out of all the destruction, came wildflowers and grasses. They were the highlight of my experience, and they were that one thing about the abbey that still stays with me, making Glastonbury Abbey one of my most treasured experiences.

The most well preserved building of the abbey is the Abbott’s Kitchen. Built between 1334 and 1342, it is an octagonal building with its massive chimney still intact. Inside the kitchen are four fireplaces. The Kitchen has been set up to display a feeling of how the abbott lived within the confines of the monastery.

Visiting Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset was one part of our experience of a lifetime, traveling England.

Chicken with Rice and Almonds

While traveling in England, I purchased several cookbooks…it is what I do anywhere I go! I love making recipes from other places, and I especially enjoy experiencing the tastes of many years ago. One of the cookbooks I purchased was “The Medieval Cookbook: 50 Authentic Recipes, Translated and Adapted for the Modern Cook”, by Maggie Black, and published by The British Museum Press.

I can imagine the cooks in the Abbot’s Kitchen cooking up this dish for the abbot. Here is my version of this recipe. I hope you enjoy it, and maybe think about Old England, and what it might have been like at Glastonbury Abbey. Enjoy!

Chicken with Rice and Almonds

A fairly simple recipe to bring to life the food of many years ago.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. long grain rice
  • 2 1/2 pints chicken stock (I use homemade turkey stock)
  • 4 oz. ground almonds
  • 1# ground chicken (I use ground turkey)
  • 1 Tbsp. lard or butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 oz. slivered almonds, toasted
  • A sprinkling of white sugar or dried saffron strands

Directions

  1. Cook the rice in 2 pints of the chicken stock. Cool.
  2. Cook the ground meat in another pan.
  3. In the remaining stock, steep the ground almonds for about 15 minutes. Strain the almond milk into the cooled rice, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in the cooked ground meat and the lard, stirring to warm everything together.
  5. Season the dish as you cook it.
  6. Serve the chicken and rice in bowls with a sprinkle of slivered almonds and the sugar or saffron threads.