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As we continue to look for ways to get out and about during this troubling time, we sometimes go for a ride. We have no real destination. Most often we strike out on roads down which we have never been, though they are not that far from home. It is always amazing to us that we can find so much we never knew about…so very close to home. Paydown was a place we found on just such a drive.
Traveling along Missouri state highway 42 we came across two structures very near the roadway. We had to pull off, we had to investigate, and then I had to return home to do some research to discover just what we had found.
The area we saw was what remains of a town that stood at the site first settled in 1826 by Charles Lane. Most of the early settlers probably cut timber and trapped animals for their valuable fur. As the area became a more permanent site where residents began to farm the land, Lane built a grist mill on Mill Creek to serve the growing population and their needs.
Eventually the area had a post office and a general store. Around 1850, the town was named Pay Down, in reference to the operator of the mill, a man who did not believe in folks owing money for services. His motto and his nickname, “Pay-down-or-no-deal” Kinsey. The name of the town is now spelled Paydown.
Records around the time of the Civil War indicate that the general store at Pay Down did business with the U.S. Government. Pilot bread, also known as hard tack, was baked at Paydown and sold to the Army. Sutlers, men who came through to purchase goods they then provided to troops in the field, also appear in the records of the general store. The sutlers purchased barrels of sugar cookies and “ginger nuts” for troops from Michigan and Iowa who were serving far from home. The records also show sales to restaurants in the St. Louis area.
The mill that remains today was built in the 1890’s about a mile from the original, and operated for about thirty more years.
But it was the building directly across the street that gave me pause. We have tried on many occasions to leave home and all the problems facing this country for a moment just …not to think. But in this country, and at this time, we simply cannot avoid, skirt around, run away from, or otherwise try to shield ourselves from what is right in front of us demanding to be dealt with, finally, and at long last. Right across the street is an old worn down building that was slave quarters in the mid-1800s.
The building was hard to look at, and equally hard as we attempted to take it all in, to understand its full meaning and its full indictment of the history for which this nation has never found closure. Yes, of course, there are historical places that show evidence of slavery, but as effective as they try to be, they do not quite give the same impression of its horrors as does this raw, untended example of what it might really have been like to live in this place with no walls but slats, no floor but raw boards.
Our history of slavery is one that will continue to taint our national memory, cast a shadow over the true understanding of our history, and forever tarnish our nation’s legacy if we do not face up to it, put an end to its regional glorification, and move on as a United States adamant in our resolve to be a better place where everyone is truly equal, and everyone has the same opportunities. That is, after all, who we say we are…well, the proof is in the actions, and not in the words.
Behind the slave quarters, and up from the road is a large, Greek Revival house which is known as the Paydown Manor. I was unable to determine exactly when the house was built, but 1885 seems most likely. The house was the home of Thomas Bray and his family. He and his wife Mahala raised nine children in the house, and Thomas operated the mill for some time.
There are ghostly stories that surround the house. It is said that Tom walks down to the mill each night carrying a lantern, and if you are very quiet you can hear the laughter of his children inside the house. I looked at the house from afar, took a picture, and went on my way!
We have been back to the site several times, just to walk around, explore the mill and contemplate what life might have been like in this little town in the middle of Missouri. We think about its history, good and bad. Before leaving I always try to find a picture that shows both the sorrow and the beauty of this spot that was once the home of Native Americans before the white man came to farm and trap for animal fur, and the young entrepreneurs who came to build and engage in commerce, the soldiers who passed through as they fought a war we have not yet completing come to terms with, the slaves who labored here, and nine kids running around catching fireflies, playing tag, and running through a big house, laughing. The picture above helps me remember all those different people, the lives they lived, and the legacy they left for the future.
Our new normal brings with it many memories of the past with its ordinary moments and its very special moments, too. It is almost as if we have been given the chance to find our new normal as we remember the experiences of what normal used to look like. If that sounds confusing to you, well, it sounds confusing to me too.
Early in this new life we are all living I began to remember those experiences from long ago that had felt special to me, as well as those days that were always quite ordinary,. Those moments, those days, those experiences were all…my normal.
As the medical experts informed us of all the risks, as the government put in place all manner of ways to “slow the spread”, we all began to realize that life was going to be very different, maybe for a very long time. And suddenly, even procuring groceries became a thing, a moment, an experience unlike it had never been in my grown-up life. And then it hit me…going to Kroger had once been very special, an event, and it was about to become an event again.
When I was a little girl growing up in Detroit, I spent a lot of time at my paternal grandparents house. I always tried to begin my weekends there on Wednesday night…yes, that does make for a nice long weekend! I knew that Grandma and Grandpa walked down to Kroger on Seven Mile Rd. and Livernois every Thursday to get the groceries for the next week, and I always tried to find a way to go with them. I loved those trips to the store. Why? There was a bridal shop on the way, and each month a new dress showed up in the window. Oh how I could not wait to see the new dress on that gorgeous mannequin! Then there were the ice cream cones, one for me and one for himself, that Grandpa always got at the dime store, whether Grandma approved or not.
And now I go to Kroger on Monday morning every two weeks to do our shopping for the next two weeks. I do not go any other day, and so we best be certain everything we need or want is on the list that hangs on the refrigerator. If we find we are missing something…well, Monday will come again. We have learned to adapt…even be more creative with recipes…because, maybe, Monday is still a ways off! I noticed this past week that I was like a kid looking forward to passing the bridal shop…I was going shopping, and it was an event, and I was even excited. Maybe, just maybe, this is good for all of us, discovering once again the simple things that are really important and should never be taken for granted.
It is from this same set of grandparents that I was introduced to the beauty of nature. They loved gardening, and while I was not as keen on it as they were, I did learn a lot from them. Then suddenly, as an adult, I grew into my understanding of all the nature they had taught me and I have never looked back. As we are “locked down” I spend a lot of time in my yard, I spend a lot of time looking at the bees and the birds, the flowers as they bloom at different times, and I take some pride in planting my garden. This year I will be planting a Three Sisters garden…more about that in another post.
Grandma had, literally, hundreds of Viewmaster slides from all over the world, and from those slides I developed my love of travel. I cannot travel right now, but Jim and I can, and do go for rides in the countryside down roads we never knew existed, and we discover so much we never knew was out there so close to home.
This is a scary time for the whole world, but it is also a time to look back at where we were, and realize that was often a pretty neat place. Maybe, just maybe, we might not mind returning to that life, if only just a bit, understanding that little things we have learned to take for granted are really pretty special after all! If we do, maybe, just maybe, we will all be better for the experience.
As does most of the rest of our country, as does most of the rest of the world, we find ourselves confined for the most part to our homes and our yards. If we follow the guidelines we have been given, we can go out for groceries, medicine, gas, and a walk in a local park or our own neighborhood.
It is during this period of “Stay Home, Save Lives” that I am so grateful for the opportunity to go out into the natural world. It is during this moment that I am so grateful to be able to connect with family members on various social media platforms. Nature and family…my two favorite things. And that got me to thinking…
We went to our hometown conservation area the other day to look for spring. Spring is truly breaking out, so we walked and walked. I was on my way through the woods looking for wildflowers, when I turned around to see if Jim was behind me. He was, but I could not see him for a minute or so. And then, suddenly, I knew he was coming…it was his red St Louis Cardinals hat that gave him away (Oh, how I miss baseball!). And that gave me an idea for interacting with my youngest grandchildren. I sent them two pictures, and asked them to find Grandpa. It is so fun to find a way to be close to them, and give them the opportunity to respond in some sort of shared activity.
Since we are told we can safely go to parks and nature areas, Jim and I do so at least once or twice a week. Other days we walk in our neighborhood, or just visit our own yard. It is so nice to see spring unfolding, and new life returning. I hope you enjoy these pictures of what we have found…not too far from home.
I love encountering wildlife! These Canada Geese are a resident pair at Bray Conservaton Area. They return each and every year to build a nest and raise their goslings to the age when they are ready to strike out on their own. The little orange skipper was a special treat!
Walking in the neighborhood and in the conservation area, we find many wildflowers beginning to appear among the dry leaves of autumn and winter.
But what I love the most on these early spring walkabouts are the lichen and the mosses.
Coming home from one of our walks to a lawn full of violets just makes for a big smile and a better day…
…and then I always feel like cooking, or baking, making some kind of treat to end a great day, no matter what the news is reporting.
Using What I Have
I go shopping once a week during the seniors hour early in the morning. Tomorrow is shopping day, so we are low on a few things…like milk. My daughter-in-law mentioned that she had made a cake with out milk or eggs called Vanilla Depression Cake. That seemed like something I could pull off, and as I looked for the ingredients I would need I found some cocoa way in the back of the cupboard. Chocolate Depression Cake, why yes, thank you very much!
During the Depression years, homemakers tried to make tasty treats for their families even when the cupboard was almost empty. Depression Cake was first developed during this very hard time for our nation. It had to put smiles on otherwise worried and distracted faces, because it is really delicious. I like to think of Depression Cake as proof that you really do not need a lot to show your love, you only need the desire to show that love to those around you…and a bit of creativity.
Chocolate Depression Cake
A great way to make a great treat with no eggs and no flour.
Credit: Adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate, and More
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/3 c. vegetable oil
- 1 cup water
- confectioners sugar for dusting the baked cake
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda.
- In another bowl, combine vanilla, vinegar, oil and water.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until completely combined and no lumps remain.
- Bake in a greased 8×8 pan at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool completely and dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Remember, we are all in this together…God bless and keep each of us!
As I was reading this rainy Saturday morning, I came upon this line from Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate,
We plan our days, but we don’t control them.
The sentence seemed to strike right at the moment in which we, and the whole wide world find ourselves in this moment of time.
We had so many plans for the coming weeks. I teach a children’s nature study at a local conservation area. We just had our first spring class…maybe our last for a while.
I was excited about attending training early in April to become a Xerces Ambassador and help educate citizens about the importance of saving our pollinators. That training has been postponed until at least June.
We were planning on traveling to Texas to see a bucket list item…Texas Bluebonnets. That trip has been put on hold.
Meetings, church services, get-togethers among friends have been cancelled.
And Jim and I find ourselves in that vulnerable over 60 crowd. So what to do?
The simple answer is…go outside! There is no virus in the woods, nor on the prairie, or by a stream. So we go out and look for the reassurance that a new season is coming. We find those signs for which we are searching, and it lifts our spirits, clears our minds, drives away despair, puts smiles on our faces…and tires us out for a good night’s sleep!
We begin in our own backyard…
But the very best find in the yard, one rainy afternoon is our first daffodils…
Late in the evening, the full moon out our back porch shone through the thickening clouds long enough for me to get a picture with my camera’s moon setting…
We traveled to a local state park where we could see green coming back with almost every step we took…
Just before we were all told to stay away from places where we might encounter large groups of people, we visited one of our favorite places, Shaw Nature Reserve, near St. Louis.
It was a very cold and very gray day, but we enjoyed every single second of our time outside. We were very lucky to have made the decision to visit on Sunday, because on Monday the reserve was closed until further notice to protect its workers as well as its many visitors. We had the park nearly to ourselves, and what a joy!
We saw signs of things to come, even tough it was so very cold…
I was really excited by finding our real reason for visiting. Each year, Shaw has literally thousands of daffodils that bloom throughout the park. The daffodils come up in the fields, they bloom on the hillsides, and they sneak out from within thick brush.They are amazing when in full bloom, and we caught them just as their bloom was beginning. The even more amazing thing this spring is that the park conducted a controlled burn. Yet, the daffodils came up…and they are blooming, even those that were temporarily damaged by the burn. Yup, there is always hope for better things to come!
The world is in crisis mode, I know, but going outside, smelling the fresh air, seeing new life, makes me sure we will weather this storm just as we have so many others.
Baking While Home-centric!
Being at home, with only parks and woods, forests and streams to visit gives one a lot of time to finish projects that have been on the shelf, sometimes, for years. It gives me time to clean…well, if I want to. And it gives me time to play with a new kitchen tool I got for Valentine’s Day and search out some new recipes in cookbooks I have wanted to explore for a long time.
I checked the apples that we picked last fall, and found the few we have left to still be in very good shape. So I checked for a good, new apple recipe. I found the perfect one in a book I bought from our church group some thirty years ago. The book is called Heritage of Cooking: A Collection of Recipes from East Perry County, Missouri. That is a long name given to a cookbook of favorite recipes from a group of Lutheran churches in east central Missouri. They are good old German recipes, from old German Lutheran families, like mine. This apple pudding is absolutely delicious!
Going with the theme of the present moment to do with what you have, I used some coconut sugar (not sure why I had that!) for the sauce in place of the brown sugar which I did not have, adding a half tablespoon of molasses. I am not sure if that is what gave it its deep brown color, but it was really delicious.
- 2 c. apples, peeled and cored
- 1 c. sugar
- 1c. flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (Missouri is famous for its black walnuts)
For the sauce:
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 c. water
- 1/4 c. butter
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Allow sugar and apples to stand until sugar is dissolved. Add egg and beat. Stir dry ingredients together and mix with apples and sugar. Add walnuts. Bake in greased 9″x 9″ pan for 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
Note: You can double the amount of apples to make the pudding more moist. I used about 3 cups of apples.
For the sauce, bring sugars, flour, and water to a slow boil until it is slightly thickened and glossy (about 10 minutes). Add butter and vanilla and stir until smooth.
Stay safe, and enjoy!
Unlike the beautiful sunrise just outside my bedroom window, not every day this winter has been full of sunshine and hope. But when this view does appear as I sit with my first cup of coffee and whatever book I am currently reading, hope always encourages me that better things are yet to come…you just have to keep looking for the good, you have to turn off the bad, and you have to strive to do your own part to make this world a better place.
So…we just keep looking, just keep sharing, just keep going. During the Christmas season we visited our son who recently moved from Michigan to Texas. We delighted at the lights in his neighborhood. Nearly every house is lit up for the holidays, a truly memorable, and beautiful experience.
And it was my introduction to mistletoe. The only mistletoe I have ever seen is that which is found in a plastic package at the grocery store. The mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows at the tops of primarily oak trees was so much more interesting than those packages. Seeing the “kissing ball” in its natural habitat led me to learn more about the plant itself. I love research because I love to learn about new things.
Our youngest grandchildren came from long distances to visit us before Christmas. They, with the help of their very crafty mommas, decorated our windows with snowflakes, and our dining room doorway with a garland.
One of my favorite conversations, a bit bittersweet too, came at the end of January when I went to take the garland down.
Jim: I think you can stop now!
Me: Why, it is almost February, time for hearts and cupids.
Jim: Well, I like that just where it is!
We do miss all our kids who live in five different states, but as I posted on facebook…apparently you can still come to visit our grandchildren’s art gallery on the 4th of July! And that is okay with me too.
And we went for long walks in nature…
Winter is a marvelous time to look up into the tree tops and down onto the ground beneath your feet. Absent all the green growth of spring and summer, absent all the extraordinary color of autumn, you can see so much that you miss during those seasons. The world is an exciting place, a fantastic experience, and…well, just plain fun and exhilarating!
Walks along our rivers, drives through the countryside, hikes in the woods, and visits to the woodland ponds always make for good days…and muddy shoes, even after I try to clean them off!…
Plants are as interesting and beautiful in winter as they are any other time of the year…
But my favorite find of the winter plant season was finally seeing a frost flower. Frost flowers can be seen in early morning after a very cold night. As the liquid inside certain plants freezes, it expands, cracks open the plant stem, oozes out, and makes these beautiful ribbons of ice. This was a really good morning!
Without leaves on the trees, the birds are easier to see. I love the way the little woodpecker and the northern cardinal are all puffed up to stay warm. The last picture, though not a very good one, is of a yellow-rumped warbler. I had never seen one, so I just had to share it…
And then there was the armadillo who scared me way more than I scared him…
It has been a long, gray, winter, and we found ways to experience every sunny day we had, some cloudy ones too! There have been personal challenges we had not anticipated this winter, I am not very proud of my country right now, and I sure would like the gray to go away.
But…as long as the two of us can roam the countryside together, as long as I can read and learn, as long as I can teach nature classes to young children, as long as I have family, as long as I can enjoy a sunset, there will always be hope for tomorrow. There really is no other choice but hope!
Tortellini and Spinach in Broth
Any time we come in out of the cold, or the gray, I like to fix something simple, warm, and comforting. This tortellini in broth is just that!
So good on a cold, gray, day! A loaf of crusty bread, lots of creamy butter, and a glass of white wine make this a great evening dinner!
Tortellini and Spinach in a Leek Broth
So good on a cold, gray, day!
A loaf of crusty bread, lots of creamy butter, and a glass of white wine make this a great evening dinner!
One definition for the word “epiphany” in Merriam Webster’s dictionary is “:a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.”
This is the twelfth day of Christmas, it is Epiphany, the day on which the whole Christian Church celebrates the showing of the baby of Christmas to all mankind as the Wise Men visit Him in Nazareth. He was two years old at the time, and Mary and Joseph had returned to their hometown with their child to carry on their real lives.
By now many of you have put away Christmas for another year, or wish you already had that job behind you. You have broken at least one of your New Year resolutions, and the kids have perhaps already lost or broken some Christmas toy or piece of it.
But I wait for this day, maybe even more than I wait for Christmas.
It is quiet, and it is peaceful in my house today (well, okay, Jim is still snoring a bit), and I am sitting here, as I do each January 6, thankful for all this season means. I absolutely love Santa, I have a collection of Santas that decorates our family room 365 days a year. But I also know and understand why we celebrate Christmas, and Santa is just another reminder. There would be no Christmas, had we no knowledge of the baby born in Bethlehem…He is the reason for the season.
So on Epiphany I think about what this season is all about, in the quiet, in the peace of my own surroundings. And I have a new epiphany of my own each and every year, a quiet awakening of what it all means, and I am grateful to be here and have the opportunity to celebrate life and love with family, with friends, and with…myself!
Each and every year, just before Thanksgiving, my Christmas cactus blooms. It is almost magical; even my grown children are amazed at its ability to know just when to brighten the room in which I keep it…my Santa room.
When the cactus blooms, I know it is time to kick into high gear, because Christmas is just around the corner!
We recently took a trip to Maryland to visit our grandson…and his parents, too! Our son’s family lives about thirty miles east of Washington DC, so more often that not, we take one day of our stay to visit our nation’s capital. Our primary aim on this visit was the Library of Congress.
The library was established on April 24, 1800, an integral part of the new nation’s move to its new capital city in Washington, DC. At its opening, the library was housed within the Capitol building, and held a total of 740 books and three maps.
In 1814, during the War of 1812, the British burned the Capitol, and with it the Library of Congress, destroying most of its collected 3000 books. To refill the shelves, Congress appropriated the funds to purchase the library of Thomas Jefferson which contained 6,487 books, and represented a large number of topics from many disciplines.
The library suffered another destructive fire in 1851, which destroyed all but 2,000 of the 35,000 books that had been collected following the first fire. Many of the books lost were from Jefferson’s original library.
The Library’s current building opened in 1897. Its architecture draws on the Beaux Arts style, known for its ornamentation and theatrical atmosphere. It was built to last, using marble, granite, iron, bronze and mahogany. It seems that Congress and the architects wanted to do whatever they could to avoid another disastrous fire.
The dome of the new building is plated with 23 karat gold. The plated dome is inside the library’s Main Reading Room, open only to scheduled tours, members of Congress, and government officials.
While we were not able to arrange a tour of the Main Reading Room, we were able to visit the library of Thomas Jefferson.
Our grandson was so excited all day, and could hardly wait until he could see the library of his “favorite” President. As you can see by his picture, he was devastated to find that, for their own protection, all of the books in Jefferson’s library are kept behind glass.
He perked up when he helped his dad find the books that were actually owned by Jefferson. Tabs within the books tell which are his original books, and which are replacements the library has found to replace the many that were lost in the fire. Those that have not been replaced are represented by empty white boxes bearing the name of the missing book.
The Library of Congress is truly a national treasure, as can be seen by the pictures I could not stop taking. I have included but a few in this post…
In 2018, the library reported holding 168,291,624 items, with its more than 90 million books held on a total of 540 miles of bookshelves, making it the largest library in the world. This number is always changing, and these are the latest figures I could find. The items in the library represent more than 450 languages.
Items in the library can be checked out only by Congress, government officials and employees of the library.
My favorite items in the library were the Gutenberg Bible, and the Waldseemüller map of 1507.
This Bible is one of only four remaining original Bibles printed on vellum by Johann Gutenberg, and completed in 1455. The other three remaining copies are located in London, Paris, and in Gutenberg’s native country of Germany.
In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller created this map of the world. It is the first map to depict the New World as a completely separate land mass. Waldseemüller named this new land mass “America”.
After leaving the library we walked to a nearby restaurant and had that all-American dish, pizza! I love eating in Washington, and strolling its streets just as comfortably as I walk the streets in my own hometown. But the best part is to feel how open and free we are, and can be, in this big, wide, wonderful country. We have our problems right now, but as I watched my son read to our grandson on the lawn of the Capitol, then watched as Luke did somersaults in the shadow of its governing bodies, I felt renewed hope that we will find the resolve to come back together and feel the shared pride of being Americans.
On the Top of the Kennedy Center
For our Birthday and Christmas presents, our son and daughter-in-law sent us to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to hear the Washington DC Symphony following dinner at the Roof Terrace Restaurant atop the Center. What a magnificent evening! The acoustics in the hall were amazing, and it was a truly special night.
The dish I had at the restaurant was salmon with Brussels sprouts in a brown butter sauce. It was amazing, so I tried to make a similar side dish at home. My recipe is slightly adapted from one I found on the Challenge Dairy site.
Autumn Brussels Sprouts
A delicious, easy side dish for all those holiday meals coming your way
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 1/3 c. raw hazelnuts, chopped
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 450°
- Melt butter with the hazelnuts in a small pan over medium-high heat until the butter is browned and has a pleasant nutty smell, about 3-5 minutes. Watch this carefully, it can easily get too brown.
- Toss the Brussels sprouts, browned butter and hazelnuts, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Spread mixture on a foil lined baking sheet
- Roast in oven for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, add the dried cranberries. Bake for 5 more minutes or until Brussels sprouts are tender. Don’t let them or the cranberries bake too long!
- Adjust the seasonings (I added more salt), sprinkle the top of the dish with about a tsp. of grated lemon rind and serve.