My swamp milkweed are finally blooming…
they are over eight feet tall…
now I anxiously await the monarchs…
but welcome others in the meantime!
My post this week for Six Word Saturday
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”.
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!
The largest troll is Little Arturs, who at sixty feet is anything but little! His mouth is wide open, so keep your distance!
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.
Furry Ema has a trap also, just waiting for anyone who bears ill will toward the tree under which he is sitting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A taste of Oahu at home in the contiguous 48.
I adapted this recipe only very slightly from Creme de la Crumb
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 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.
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!
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.
I live in the American Midwest. Many Americans call this “fly-over country”, and within that unseen part of the country is what is known as “drive right through it country.” If you are the type of traveler that sticks to the interstate highway, zooming through state after state, as quickly as you can in order to get to those famous mountains and ski resorts in the western United States…well yes, Kansas and Missouri, Illinois and Nebraska become “drive all night to get through them” states. And you would be missing so much of what is beautiful about this vast nation.
The best example of a traveler’s missed opportunity I can think of is the state of Kansas. If road trippers would get off of I-70 and drive along Kansas state and county roads, they would find a land that is beautiful and mesmerizing, a place that makes you understand how big this country really is, and how vast its opportunities. We have driven along Kansas highways and byways many times, and I never tire of its beauty and its openness. As my granddaughter would say, “It’s so grand, Grandma!”
This is America’s heartland, and the world’s breadbasket. Once, this heartland was covered in acre upon acre of tallgrass prairie. Today the National Park Service estimates there is less than 4% of the original prairie remaining. Other sources estimate a mere 1%, while some optimistic souls believe there may be as much as 18% remaining due to unknown patches here and there. Original prairie refers to tallgrass landscape that has never been plowed for other uses.
The largest swath of original tallgrass prairie remaining is in the Flint Hills of eastern Kansas. It extends from the northern border of Kansas on the Nebraska border, 200 miles south to just inside the state of Oklahoma. It is 80 miles wide at its widest point.
Its rocky terrain made it an undesirable area for farming. If you walk through the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills you will find pieces of chert, big and small, scattered across the landscape. The underlying bedrock of the area is limestone and shale. Over time this bedrock weathers, erodes and dissolves. Chert is a very hard rock found within the layers of the bedrock. When the limestone and shale erode away, the chert is left behind. Another name for chert is flint, and flint is what Native Americans used to make their spear and arrow heads.
We have been to the Flint Hills before, but one of my bucket list items has always been to attend the “Symphony in the Flint Hills”. This year was the year, and we gave each other the trip to the symphony as Christmas gifts. We spent three days exploring Kansas in addition to attending the concert. We were also excited to visit a place about which I have read a lot…Konza Prairie in Manhattan, Kansas. It was a major goal…to walk that prairie!
I have visited several prairies in Missouri, where our Conservation Department has saved many remnants of original prairie. But, honestly, there is simply nothing I have ever experienced on the prairie quite like the thrill of hiking Konza Prairie…even if it was 100 degrees when we finished (that is why you start out early in the day)! Please understand, trees are not a common feature in the tallgrass prairie, and that sun is hot as you approach noon. We were happy we had taken a lot of water with us…and our hats. The following pictures are but a few of the many I took as we hiked the shortest trail, about 2 1/2 miles.
When you hike the prairie, landscape is not all there is to take in. I have never seen so many butterflies on so many flowers in all my life…and I have been around a very long time. Butterfies, wildflowes, birds on plant tops…I call it eye candy!
And so, so many butterflies…
Finally it was time to experience the purpose of this trip…the “Symphony in the Flint Hills”. We arrived early in the day, and took in the many events that are part of this big day. We heard talks on issues important to those who live in, as well as those who visit the Flint Hills, took walks through the open land, and rode a covered wagon, until we got to the highlight of the day…the Kansas City Orchestra playing on the open prairie as the sun sets and the sky becomes a field of stars in every direction. It is simply stunning.
A trip to the middle of America, a trip to the tallgrass prairie is a truly inspiring experience. I hope you might consider stopping sometime in this fly-over country, country Midwesterners call Kansas! To learn more about the “Symphony in the Flint Hills”, you can visit their website. More information on Konza Prairie can be found on the Nature Conservancy website
While visiting a new place, I always like to find a food that is unique to the area. In Kansas, I found Bierocks (pronounced “brocks”). Bierocks are a traditional German food, brought over by immigrants who settled in Kansas and established the farming that has made Kansas part of the world’s greatest supplier of food.
Bierocks are traditionally made with ground beef. I use ground bison for our bierocks, it is lower in fat than beef, and is a traditional food source of the western United States. For many years you could not find bison to purchase for food, but there is a resurgence in its use…and it tastes really good.
These little pocket meals are tasty, and though they take a bit of work, we always have extras. I put the leftover Bierocks in the freezer, and we take them out from time to time for a quick and delicious lunch that takes only two minutes to heat in the microwave.
This recipe has been adapted from “Taste of Home”
For the dough:
To make the dough:
To make the filling:
Putting it all together:
We have always had a goal of visiting each of the fifty states. As this, our fiftieth year of marriage began, we set our sights on reaching that goal, visiting the two states we had not yet seen. In April we flew to Nevada to check off state #49. I was not particularly excited…my knowledge of Nevada was limited, and when thinking about Nevada, the mental connections I made were desert, Las Vegas, and gambling.
But then we took a tour of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and my mind’s eye view of Nevada will never be the same.
Millions of years ago, the land that is now Red Rock Canyon laid under a deep ocean. When this ocean receded it left behind deposits of shells and the skeletons of ocean life that lay up to 9,000 feet thick. These deposits, when compressed, formed into limestone and other carbonate rocks.
Over subsequent millions of years, the land changed again and again. At one point, movement deep within the Earth caused the sea bed to rise. Mud and sand entered from streams draining into the landscape and eventually became compressed into shale and sandstone.
By 180 million years ago, the area became the arid desert we know today. Red Rock Canyon is in the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in North America. The dunes that stretched across the area blew and blew, they shifted, then shifted again. The dunes grew and they receded, and over time, they formed lines, “crossbeds” which were cemented together by new sediments, fusing them forever. Iron present in the sandstone is what gives the rock in the canyon its red color.
And then, finally, about 65 million years ago, there was a dramatic uplift, the Keystone Thrust Fault, from deep within the Earth’s crust. This caused the oldest rock in the crust, the gray limestone carbonate rocks to push up and above the younger sandstone.
To take a look at Red Rock Canyon, we took a jeep tour with a knowledgeable and passionate guide. He took us all around the canyon and answered any and every question we had. If you ever find your way to Las Vegas, look up Pink Jeep for some of the very best tours available anywhere.
One of my favorite places in the canyon is that place where you can see real evidence of Native American life and activity from centuries long past. We spent a bit of time in this area, enjoying the beauty of the place, as well as discussing the lives of the people who, at one time, called this place home. Hunter-gatherers were the first to inhabit the area, with the most recent occupations being of the Paiute and Anasazi people.
These petroglyphs on the red sandstone are evidence of a people who wished to leave evidence of their having been here, their having been part of the story of mankind…
The rock formations in this area are absolutely amazing…
There is evidence at several places of fire pits that were used by the Native Americans. Today those fire pits are home to many desert plants.
I love the flora of any landscape, and Red Rock Canyon was no exception. The canyon is filled with beautiful wildflowers, trees, and bushes. Here are my favorites…
The most impressive was this very old, lone Juniper Tree…
So, if you ever find yourself thinking about a trip to the American southwest, and you are not a city person, or a gambler; you would describe yourself more a nature lover, an adventurer, don’t count Las Vegas out. Once outside town, and its hotels where you can spend your nights. there is so much more to the area than casinos and glitzy shows. I am so glad we found ourselves in Nevada!
After returning home, I found this recipe, and tweaked it a bit, to help us remember the time we spent at Red Rock Canyon. Fry Bread was a typical bread made by Native American women…and these bread tacos are delicious, and we think much more filling than typical tacos.
Fun and filling way to make tacos.
For the Bread
For the Topping
We have just returned from a trip to Las Vegas where the highlight of our trip was a tour of Red Rock Canyon. The lines of time can be seen everywhere in the park,
lines from the layering over time of sedimentary sandstone…
and lines caused by folding that occurred during dramatic uplifts…
as our Earth was forming and preparing itself to be our home.
In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge
Almost fourteen years ago, April 17, 2004, I was doing one of the things I always liked best…bicycling on the Katy Trail, the very best bike trail in mid-America, right here in Missouri. And suddenly, in the middle of a beautiful ride, I had a heart attack. I am fine now, probably healthier than I was before that day…
But I am changed. I wake up each and every morning and instantly feel a smile crawl across my face…it is a new day, and I have another chance to make the most of all I have been given. I never understood how precious that is until I almost lost it.
Shortly after my illness I woke up each morning and rushed out to see the sun rise. I created a small portfolio of 30 sunrise pictures that I named “A Month of Sunrise”. I even took a picture on the days the sun could not be seen. I knew it was there in the eastern sky…right where that brighter spot was. It started as just a trigger to get me going, to wake up my day to what it could be, but by the end of the month it was so much more.
I noticed things I had never noticed before. I learned to look at the whole sky. There were so many colors behind me that I had never before turned to see. I saw people up and about, starting their day just as I was starting mine. I realized that for each of them, there were things they were thinking about…some good things and some bad things, some things that filled them with joy, some things that terrified them. For each of us, we were facing a new day…and it would be whatever we would make of it. I learned to listen as well as to look. I heard birds I had never noticed before. I heard wind blowing through the trees, across the field, behind the buildings. I smelled the dew, and the freshness of a new day. I saw critters waking up and starting their daily routine. I understood better than ever before that the world is a lot of us, doing a lot of things, living a lot of different realities.
I no longer take any day for granted, and I still run out to see the sun rise every chance I get. Sometimes, when I am visiting them, or they are visiting me, my children come with me. They, too, have learned to welcome a new beginning each day.
My favorite sunrise picture is one I took at one of our favorite places along the Mississippi River, Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. It was shortly after my husband had recovered from a significant illness, and the bright sunshine was the beginning of a truly good day…an almost perfect day…
Falling in love with the sunrise, led me to begin to notice the sunset. The morning sunrise got me going, the sunset gave me time to reflect on how I had done with this one more day I had been given…so many one more days! One of my favorite sunsets was on a trip we made to southern Missouri, on a small lake…
The sunrise gets me going, lights my way…the sunset makes me grateful, and helps me to sleep each night…after I run out to catch the moon in whatever phase it is in!
In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Rise/Set
I go to my favorite place to be quiet, to be thoughtful, to reflect, to be renewed, and to escape all those things that would steal away all the goodness that is my life. I go to the woods…
Just me and my camera…in my favorite place!
In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge My Favorite Place