Blue Sky, Blue Water

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

Wanderings and Music on the Tallgrass Prairie…Oh, and Bierocks, Too


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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.

Chert, or flint, is left behind when softer rocks around it erode. You will find flint scattered throughout the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills.

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.

Starting out on the trail.

This creek, dry this time of year, these trees, were a welcome sight after a couple hours in the bright sunshine of the Kansas prairie!

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!

Butterfly Milkweed and Leadplant

And so, so many butterflies…

We saw many birds, but this Dickcissel sat still for me the longest……

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.

As we mulled around the ranch which was the site of this year’s concert, we took the opportunity to take a ride on a covered wagon.

Just as dusk fell, the concert began, and it was amazing!

And absolutely nothing beats music, out in the open air, watching the sun set on the immense American tallgrass prairie!

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.


  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This recipe has been adapted from “Taste of Home”


For the dough:

  • 5-5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (it is the only kind I use)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 large egg

For filling

  • 1 lb. ground bison (you may use ground beef instead)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 lb. shredded cabbage, cooked and drained


To make the dough:

  1. Combine 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt in your mixer bowl and mix well. Set aside.
  2. Heat water, milk, and butter in a small pan just until the butter has melted, no warmer than 130 degrees.
  3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix.
  4. Add egg.
  5. At low speed, blend until moistened, then beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.
  6. Gradually add remaining flour by hand, until you have a stiff dough.
  7. Knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes.
  8. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top.
  9. Cover and let rise in a warm place free of drafts until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down and let rise again until almost doubled.

To make the filling:

  1. Brown bison with the onion, salt and pepper, then drain.
  2. Mix in the cabbage and set aside.

Putting it all together:

  1. Divide the dough in half
  2. Roll each piece into an approximate rectangle that is 15×10 inches. (Mine never looks like a real rectangle!)
  3. Cut into 5 inch squares and spoon about 1/2 cup of meat mixture onto each of the squares.
  4. Bring up the sides of the dough to enclose the filling, pinching it closed to form a meat pocket that looks a lot like a hamburger bun.
  5. Place on a greased baking sheet, and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.


How To Do Las Vegas Our Way, and Indian Bread Tacos


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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…

This Cliff Rose was my very favorite…

The Creosote is a very important plant in the arid desert landscape…

This squat little Barrel Cactus…

There are Joshua Trees everywhere throughout the park…

I loved looking “through” this Joshua Tree…

This beautiful Desert Marigold…

and the unique Desert Rhubarb…

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!

Indian Bread Tacos

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.

Indian Fry Bread Tacos

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

Fun and filling way to make tacos.


For the Bread

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp.salt
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup warm water


  1. Mix the dry ingredients and add warm water. Work with hands until dough forms and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Break dough off to a bit larger than the size of a golf ball.
  3. Roll dough into 6 inch circles.
  4. Fry each piece in 2 inches of hot oil in a medium saucepan. When the dough is golden and poofed up, turn the bread and fry on the other side. Drain on a paper towel.


For the Topping

  • 1 pound of ground beef or ground bison
  • 1 pkg. Taco seasoning
  • 1/2 of a 15 oz. can of refried beans
  • 2/3 cup water, you may add a bit more if you like.
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced tomatoes
  • sour cream


  1. Brown ground meat.
  2. Add package of taco seasoning and the water.
  3. Stir in the refried beans.
  4. To assemble the taco. place some of the meat mixture on top of a fry bread, then top with lettuce, tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream.


The Lines of Time


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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

Just Me and My Camera…Sunrise and Sunset


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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


Just Me and My Camera…in My Favorite Place


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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…

in the spring to see the earth wake up after its long slumber…

I go to the woods in the summer when the whole world is alive…

I go to the woods in the autumn when it is alive with the vibrant colors of its last dance before the cold winds blow…

and I go to the woods in the winter, as it rests, and so must I…

Just me and my camera…in my favorite place!

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge My Favorite Place

I’d Rather Be…


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in the woodland…

on the prairie…

at the ocean…

in the mountains…

But if today I cannot be those places, I want to be right here…

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge

The Oregon Coast, and Oregon Style Salmon Cakes


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Here, in the great Midwest, here in Missouri, winter has not been a spectacular season. It has been, quite often, very cold…but without snow, and I believe that cold without snow is a waste of freezing temperatures. When we have had precipitation, it has been rain. The rain is much welcome, since we have been in drought conditions for some time now…but, snow melts into fresh water! I do not want anyone to believe I enjoy ice on the roads, but in a winter like we have had, a little ice on the bare branches of our trees has been a glittery, welcome sight on two occasions. As you can tell, winter fatigue has set in.

So, I remember the ocean, the Oregon sunshine, the walks on the beach with some of our family, the rocks I explored that I knew nothing about, and best of all…the sea creatures I got to see up close and personal.

The Pacific Ocean meets the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon.

I have written a couple posts about our trip to Oregon last summer, but now I want to share my favorite part…our week on the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln City. Each and every  morning, we awoke to the foggy layer that covers the ocean at sunrise, and watched it as it lifted and left a crystal day. Each night we went to sleep after watching the sun set off our patio…

The view from our beach house, where…

we watched the sun set each and every evening.

Each morning we got up, had breakfast, and went out to explore…up and down the coastline. The waters off the Oregon coast are pretty cold, too cold for most of us to swim in, but that did not mean we did not get wet, we did not tempt the waves, nor that we did not climb back in the car, many times, with really cold toes.

Our first big stop was Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport. We walked on the rocky beach to peer into the tide pools, and looked across the rocks and into the sky to find other wildlife. The two kids were awestruck…so were the big “kids”.

Peering into the tide pool

Sea anemones are amazing creatures

It did not matter that walking was challenging, because…

well…because getting to a new place to explore was the name of the game.

“Look at that, Luke!”

Look at all those birds…and what could this be!

And the birds…so many on the rocks of Yaquina Head. Many birds come here to nest.

And my personal favorite…the seals…

We also visited the light house at Yaquina Head, a most beautiful backdrop to the tide pools…

and we stopped to take pictures of the scenery on our way.



Another day we traveled to the Neskowin Ghost Forest…also known as the petrified beach. In the winter of 1997-1998, heavy storms uncovered the petrified remains of ancient sitka spruce trees that had been buried for centuries. At one time, possibly as many as 2000 years ago, these trees were part of a forest that was destroyed. Many believe the forest was destroyed by an earthquake or a tsunami. While we will never know for sure what destroyed the forest, what remains is a beautiful, almost haunting area of ocean fog, and over 100 petrified stumps.

Walking out to the petrified beach

There is something mystical and magic about this place…

But I have saved the very best for last. Not far from our beach house was a place, known to locals as the Secret Beach…and several people I spoke with indicated they wanted to keep it that way. We were so happy the owner of our rental house shared its location with us. It was to the Secret Beach that we went to walk, to explore, to hide behind big rocks, to run until we were exhausted, where I went to draw, and to gaze out on the ocean, knowing we could stay only until the tide came rushing back in.

Enter our Secret Beach…

The scenery was incredible, but for me, the ocean life exposed at low tide was the most amazing. It would have been impossible to count the number of sea stars and the number of sea anemones we saw. Here is but a sampling…

And then there was this little guy…

What an extraordinary trip it was to the Pacific Coast of Oregon…and now I am ready for warmer weather, further travels, and new discoveries! I hope you can find a secret beach, a secret forest…a secret and special place to relax too! I just can’t tell you where our secret beach is!

Oregon Style Salmon Cakes

I remember when I was a little girl, and my mom used to make “salmon patties”. The prize for each of us four siblings was finding the little, chewy bones in the salmon. These salmon cakes remind me of those patties mom used to make, but maybe just a little bit better…and I still look for those little bones as a special treat.

Oregon Style Salmon Cakes

  • Servings: 6 patties
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This is a delicious way to get dinner on the table in half an hour using a can of salmon.


  • 1 (14.75 oz.) can of high quality salmon
  • 2Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp. dried
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard, plain mustard will work just fine
  • 3 Tbsp. shortening


  1. Drain the salmon, reserving 1/4-1/2 cup of the liquid. Flake the meat.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until translucent.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the onions with the reserved salmon liquid, 1/2 cup of the cracker crumbs, eggs, parsley, mustard and salmon. Start with 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid and add more if the mixture is too dry.
  4. Mix until blended, and form into six cakes.
  5. Coat each cake in the remaining cracker crumbs, and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on each salmon cake.
  6. Fry salmon cakes in shortening, turning once, to brown on both sides.


That Expression!

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

The Moon is Never Quite the Same


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I love to go out each night and look at the moon. Sometimes I take a photo, sometimes I note its place in the sky, many times I just look and wonder.

On January 31, the sight of the full moon should be something truly spectacular. It is the second full moon of January, called a blue moon. It is also a super moon, the last one we will see in 2018, and we will also see a lunar eclipse as the moon moves across the shadow of the Earth. Now I just have to hope it is a clear night.

As I think about January 31, I think of the many pictures I have taken of the moon, and its many moods…my variations on a theme

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, Variations on a Theme