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
Today was the day to pick the first apples from our two trees! We had so, so many apples, but many have already been gobbled up by squirrels and raccoons. That is alright, we do not mind sharing. I just like to have a pie, a couple loaves of apple bread, and at least one apple pancake breakfast.
Oh, yes, the pie was very good!
This is my entry 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.
One of my favorite activities when I travel is to discover the culture and traditions of that special spot on the globe on which I find myself, a corner of the world that belongs to those people calling that special spot “home”. Hawaii has a unique culture and an abundance of unique traditions. For me, coming from the U.S. mainland, it was a very exciting and interesting corner of the world, and in many ways so different from my own.
Hawaii is part of a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean called Polynesia. Polynesia is an area bounded in a triangle with the points of the triangle being Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand (Aotearoa). Within that triangle are many islands including Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, the Marquesas Islands, and Fiji whose people share a common language, customs and traditions.
To get a better understanding of traditional life in Polynesia, we visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center highlights historic traditions and customs of the islands with shows, village recreations, and interactive activities for visitors. It was informative and a lot of fun as these two old people tried to master some of the old-time games.
As you enter the Center you are greeted by Haman Kalili, said to have invented the “shaka” greeting. For the Hawaiian people the shaka, with only the pinkie and index fingers raised in a wave, is meant to relay the “Aloha spirit” of friendship and understanding. It is said that Kalili lost three fingers working in the sugar cane fields. He took a new position within the industry, giving a signal with a wave to the engineers of the trains moving out of the field area to tell them that all was clear. He also waved to passing children with his hand with the missing fingers. For the people who knew Kalili, his wave always meant, “It’s all right, everything is okay!”, or “Hang loose!”
Once inside the venue you will travel from island to island, learning about individual islands and activities common in Polynesia. I have put together a gallery of pictures showing some of what we saw and learned.
One of my favorite tours was at Iolani Palace. Before becoming a state within the United States, Hawaii, for a short time, lived in a democratic monarchy. King Kamehameha V was the last descendant of the Kamehameha monarchy to reign as king of the Hawaiian Islands. Then in 1874 the Hawaiian legislature elected David Kalakaua to the throne. He built this beautiful palace which was completed in 1882. Upon the king’s death in 1891, his sister, Lili’uokalani, became the queen and took up residence in the palace.
Queen Lili’uokalani’s reign was a troubled time for Hawaii. Businessmen from the United States had complete control of both the sugar and pineapple industries on the islands. They also exerted much influence in the everyday lives of the people, and they favored annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United States. The Hawaiian people, however, were quite happy being Hawaiian and independent. What happened next was not America’s best hour, or at least I do not believe it was.
Lili’uokalani attempted to have a new constitution written, fully restoring all power to the monarchy, which would in turn diminish the power of the outside interests. This led the business leaders to push for quick annexation. When the government of the United States refused to annex the islands, the American businessmen staged a takeover, and in January of 1893, the queen abdicated her throne. For the next nine months she lived in the palace under house arrest. Eventually the Hawaiian Islands became a territory of the United States, and in 1958, Hawaii was granted statehood.
If you visit Hawaii, you have got to attend a luau. They are so much fun, and the food is absolutely incredible. We attended two luaus. Our favorite was the Chief’s Luau. It was a bit smaller, more intimate and more comfortable than the almost as good luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Hawaiian culture is centered on the importance of family, and everyone is part of the family. This family attitude was displayed by the Chief at his luau, inviting us all to have a good time, make new friends and eat all we want. Everyone sits at long tables, and you cannot help but to meet your neighbors. Our neighbors were from Australia, which made for a great sharing of experiences during dinner.
The star of the show is, of course, the luau pork. I would try, but know I would never be able to duplicate that flavor here in mid-Missouri. There is so much food, it is hard to choose which ones to take…so I took a little of a lot of different things!
Following the meal is the time for entertainment. We were treated to Hawaiian music, singing, dancing, and Jim’s favorite, flame throwing and twirling. But the best part was when they called to the stage all those celebrating anniversaries. Well, that was us…50 years! I received a gorgeous bouquet of Hawaiian flowers and we both were given authentic leis made of traditional Hawaiian flowers Our new Australian friends tried to take a couple pictures for us from a distance…that picture of us dancing, though mighty grainy?…well, I love it!
While in Hawaii I purchased a cookbook…of course. The luau dish I made is really very delicious, though not as amazing looking as some others. My test is: Does Jim like? If the answer is yes, it must be good, because he is a very picky eater!
The dish calls for luau leaves…they are not even sold at Whole Foods on the mainland…so substitute with spinach. When you try this dish, and you should, make sure to use the most mature spinach you can find. More mature spinach gives the dish a better consistency and a better flavor. Enjoy!
This recipe was adapted from “Sam Choy’s Aloha Cuisine: Island Cooking at it Best”
I will put all my effort into this day, for it is the one I have been given
Yesterday is gone
Tomorrow…well it will be tomorrow
The waters of the Mississippi River do not always appear blue. This river is not naturally blue. The Mighty Mississippi River is filled with sediment, filled with mud coming in from the Big Muddy, the Missouri River. But on a bright blue and clear day, when the sky is a sapphire blue, the waters in and near the Mississippi River are a beautiful, shimmering reflection of that which is mirrored onto it. I love this river in all its iterations, but when its waters look like this…well, that is just the best!
In response to Ragtime Prompts, Blue
Our two year old grandson came to visit this Christmas. He was intrigued by our German Christmas Pyramid, and he would ask me to light it several times a day.
One day, just before Christmas, he came to me and said, “Grandma, can we put the fire on the spin thing?” So, how does a Grandma say no to a request like that…not to mention I love taking pictures of all my grandchildren, and here was another perfect chance.
And how sweet is that picture…can you not just see the wonder in his eyes! Well, let me tell you the rest of the story. My camera caught that little boy at just the perfect moment. He was not at all enthralled by the “spin”. Not two seconds later, his real intention was as clear as the fire on the candle wicks…the real purpose was to light the “spin thing” so he could see how long it would take to blow out all those candles, and to display pride in his accomplishment. Unfortunately, my camera did not capture that expression, but it was equally endearing…because he is a lot like his Daddy.
These are the moments I treasure, my most beloved moments, supplied by family.
In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Beloved
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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