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
Every American child has heard of, read from, or watched the television series based on, the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. They chronicle the life of a young girl growing up in an America that was reaching ever outward, and ever westward. Laura’s family was part of that pioneer settling of a young and expanding nation, and in so doing experienced the joys and the inevitable hardships felt when seeking life and opportunity in lands previously unknown, often misunderstood, and always demanding.
Charles and Caroline Ingalls moved five times from homestead to homestead with Laura and her sisters, ever looking for that one spot to put down roots for good. Laura’s books tell of the challenges of those years, but they also tell of a young girl who loved the land and grew attached to it in many of the same ways her Pa had done. The books speak of the simple pleasures of living in the vast unknown as well as the hard times that came and went over the years. The books also speak to the love and closeness of family.
Pa and Ma finally found that place to put down permanent roots…Ma finally put her foot down…in the town of De Smet, Dakota Territory (South Dakota now). Laura and her husband, Almonzo, lived on their own homestead near her parents. But they eventually suffered many of the same hardships as had plagued Charles as he sought out his place to call home. In July of 1894, the young Wilders with their daughter, Rose, packed up their belongings and moved…south and east…to the Ozarks of Missouri.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home in Mansfield, Missouri, about an hour and forty-five minutes from where we live, has become a popular tourist destination for those who love Laura and her books. We have been there several times, but on this visit a few weeks ago, we went with newer questions, and a different purpose for what it was we wanted to see. After reading, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Frontier Landscapes that Inspired the Little House Books, by Marta McDowell, this trip was to be about the land, the property, the Ozarks and its draw to a young couple seeking “home”.
Mansfield is located in the Ozark Mountains, and sits on the Salem Plateau. While the Ozarks are not the highest or most grandiose of mountains, they are very hilly, and they are very rocky. Farming them was a challenge, and a lot of hard work. For Almonzo and Laura, it was a new start, in a new place, with what they believed to be endless opportunities. They named their new home, Rocky Ridge Farm.
Almonzo found apple trees on the property when they arrived, added many more, and the Ben Davis apple became their primary crop. They also planted row crops such as corn. The land was rich in oak, hickory and black walnut trees. Black walnuts remain a major product out of the Ozark region, a taste so much deeper and stronger than the well-known English walnut.
Laura and Almonzo were very happy on their Ozark farm, and remained there for the remainder of their lives. They worked hard on the land, producing much of what they needed as a family. They were also active in their community.
Here in Missouri we celebrate Rocky Ridge Farm as the place where Laura wrote all of the Little House books. She also authored many articles for various newspapers and magazines about her life at Rocky Ridge, as well as practical articles about living life successfully on a farm.
When Rose grew up, and began her own successful career as a writer, she returned to Rocky Ridge to build her parents a “modern” house, with modern conveniences based on a floor plan from Sears Roebuck & Co. Yes, Sears once sold plans for, and kits for actual houses! The house was called the Rock House. Laura and Almonzo lived in the house for some years, but after Rose moved away permanently, they returned to the original house, where they felt most at “home”.
You are not allowed to take pictures inside either of the houses when you take the tour, so our main objective was to tour the houses, and then to walk the lands that Laura walked in Missouri. We wanted to imagine her life as she settled into her new home with new responsibilities and new challenges. We wanted to explore this Missouri homestead so loved by Laura and Almonzo, just as we love our own Missouri homeplace. But, on that day…
if you know anything about the weather of the American Midwest, you know that big, complicated storms can arise at almost any time, especially in the heat and humidity of a typical Missouri summer.
We had wanted to walk the three-quarter mile path between the two houses. Seeing this storm quickly approaching, and feeling the heavy winds that began to develop, we knew it was no time for a walk, and definitely time to seek the safety of the car and our drive home. What we did not know was that we would be driving into a tremendous storm known as a derecho. A derecho is a storm that is the result of several severe thunder storms which gather together to create a storm that stays together long enough to cover many, many miles. It is characterized by strong straight line winds, many of which can reach hurricane force, heavy rains, and tremendous lightning The rain poured, the thunder crashed, the lightning was the most impressive I had ever seen, and the winds and my steering wheel fought for many miles. My white knuckles should have informed us that being on the road, in the car, was not our best option! But we made it home…and it was actually kind of exciting…after the fact!
I was determined to walk that path between the houses, so the very next week, we went back. I was so glad we did! We left very early in the morning because Missouri is too hot in the summer for an afternoon walk. The air was rather still, and fog and haze was with us most of the morning, which only made the walk more beautiful. One can only imagine Laura and Rose walking the path back and forth to visit one another. Here is what we found on our walk in 2019…
And then there was the flora and the fauna…
But what I like best was a walk along a path that was traveled so many years ago by people who loved this area of the country as much as Jim and I have come to love it…
If you visit Laura and Almonzo’s home in Mansfield, you will begin your visit at the Visitor Center which has a very nice museum about Laura’s life on the prairie, in the big woods, and in Missouri.
After your visit, you are bound to be hungry. There is a little shop in Mansfield that sells the best fresh lemonade, a great hamburger that tastes like I made it at home, and ice cream cones that taste great even while driving through a thunderstorm.
If you find yourself in Missouri, I hope you have a chance to visit Mansfield, and that you take the time to take a walk back in time…a walk not so different from our Missouri walks today.
Midwestern Farm Food
This is a hearty meal to come home to after a hard day of work on the farm…or any day of hard work. I found this recipe in a book I purchased many years ago, The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker. I adapted it a bit, primarily using my mom’s flaky crust for the topping. It reminded me of the big dinners she would make for us after we had gone out into the countryside to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to can in our city home. When I make this again, and I will, I will omit the hard-boiled eggs which did not really add to the dish.”
This is a really good chicken dish. The chicken simply falls off the bone. Add a salad from the garden, and you will have a great meal, certain to satisfy any hungry person at your dinner table.
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”
One of our must see sites when we visited Hawaii was Pearl Harbor and its National Historic Sites. We happened to be at Pearl Harbor on Veteran’s Day, November 11. Since my Dad was a Navy Seabee, this made our visit all the more meaningful for me.
Within the memorial area is a statue of a Navy sailor. He reminded me of all the pictures I have seen of my Dad dressed in his “Navy Blues”, which he was so proud to wear on the day he married my Mom.
Near the statue is a plaque which brought a tear to my eye as it reminded me of all the stories Dad used to tell about his service in World War II. It truly does remind me of the “sailor” I called Dad.
The Lone Sailor represents the men and women who have served, are serving, or will serve in the Navy. He’s called the Lone sailor, yet he is hardly ever alone. He is about 25 years old, a senior second class petty officer who is fast becoming a seagoing veteran. He has done it all–fired weapons in war, provided humanitarian assistance in far-away lands, been attacked by the enemy and defended our freedom. He has made liberty calls in great cities and tiny villages where he was a tourist, ambassador, adventurer, friend, missionary to those less fortunate, and representative of our way of life. His shipmates remember him with pride and look up to him with respect.
Pearl Harbor is a well protected lagoon harbor on the southern side of the island of Oahu.
On December 7, 1941 its name and the significance of what happened there became forever recognizable to all Americans. On that day the Japanese Navy Air Service carried out a surprise attack on the United States Naval Station at Pearl Harbor. At the time, President Roosevelt called it, “the date that will live in infamy”, and the United States joined its allies in the Second World War.
The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument is that place where Americans honor the men and women who were killed on that horrific day. 2,335 servicemen were killed, 1,177 of them from the USS Arizona. 1,143 people were wounded, and 68 civilians were killed.
The USS Arizona Memorial was constructed over the ruins of the ship, which lies 40 feet below the water’s surface. Of the 1,177 servicemen who died on the Arizona, 900 were never recovered and are buried forever with the ship.
A tour boat takes visitors out to the memorial where the ruined hulk of the ship can be seen below the surface. No one is allowed on the memorial at this time due to structural problems still being addressed.
As your tour boat moves through the lagoon, you notice concrete memorials to other ships that were lost on that day…
There is a hangar on the grounds that houses an airplane exhibit. For me, the most impressive thing I saw in that building was the bank of windows with blown out panes of glass that still remain missing since the day of the attack…
While at Pearl Harbor we also visited the USS Missouri Memorial. It was on the Missouri that the Japanese signed a declaration of surrender on September 2, 1945. As a side note, this memorial truly captured my husband’s attention since that day just so happens to also be the very day on which he was born.
Our last major stop was to tour the USS Bowfin, a submarine nicknamed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger”. Her “silent service” in the Pacific was responsible for the destruction of thirty-four large enemy ships and ten smaller ones.Her efforts truly helped win the war in the Pacific, as well as helping to bring World War II to an end.
Here are some of the pictures I took inside the USS Bowfin. You never know what “close quarters” feel like until you walk around inside those quarters. Nor do I believe walking around the sub for half an hour gave me any realistic feeling of what that space would feel like after the normal “patrol”, which lasted six months out to sea.
Pearl Harbor is a testament to the tragedy of suffering and death caused by war. But it is also an amazing testament to the valor that comes from fighting those battles that can help make the world right again. It is a place forever seared into our American story, and the importance of this nation on the world stage. No one can come away from this place without a determination to look to leaders who believe in peace, who stress the dignity of all people in all nations, and who insist on promoting the idea of a world that seeks a tomorrow without war.
Oahu Fried Rice
Oahu is one of the islands that make up the state of Hawaii. As we toured the island we learned many things about the special advantages of living on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We also learned of some of the challenges.
Everything that Hawaii cannot produce for itself must be shipped or flown in from a very far distance. For that reason the state has a set schedule of resupply. In this way the government can assure its citizens of about a three week supply of necessary items for survival in the event a catastrophe were to occur that would make it difficult for the outside world to reach the island population. One of the items they always have in stock is Spam, and Hawaiians love Spam. There is even a Spam menu item at McDonald’s!
I was raised in a lower middle class family with my sister and two brothers, and we ate a lot of Spam. Mom fried it for supper, packed it in our lunches, and cut it into small bits to add to our scrambled eggs in the morning. The idea that anyone would love Spam was a great shock to me! But I have to say, the people in Hawaii do some exciting things with this lowly meat, and Spam is a commodity that can be held in storage for a very long time.
When we returned home, I toyed around with several different recipes to prepare a proper Spam dish reminiscent of the foods I had on the island. I found several recipes, and put a couple of them together to make one we enjoyed. I must say that while the Sriracha is optional, it really adds to the dish, helping take away some of the very salty flavor of the Spam.
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.
A couple activities came together nicely for me this week…
The first happened around our apple tree…
Many years ago, one of our sons gave us an apple tree, something we had wanted for a very long time. I am not exaggerating when I say many years ago, for it has to be at least fifteen. For the first ten years we had never once seen an apple on that tree. It blossomed beautifully each and every year, but produced no apples. Then we learned it takes two apple trees to produce apples, so we purchased another tree of a different variety of apple. And we waited…and waited…
Until three year ago when, finally we found apples developing on the original tree. We were so excited, and could hardly wait to eat the very first apples from our own backyard.
We left on vacation, and when we returned, every single one of those apples was gone…seriously, every single one. I blamed raccoons, squirrels, opossums, deer (remember, I live in the city), and even wondered if there were not some hungry teenagers lurking around in the dark enjoying our anticipated harvest while we were away. For two more years, we had the same result…even if we did not go out of town.
Then, this year, the trees blossomed, apples appeared…
and apples remained. I wanted so badly to pick those apples, but I waited. Finally, I went out and picked apples. I was willing to share…I brought some into the house, and left a large number, particularly those high up in the tree that I could not reach, for any creatures that had enjoyed our apples in the past.
The apples were not the most beautiful, but they were ours, and they were absolutely delicious…
Now on to the second part of my story. Every couple of years, I get the urge to go through every item we own. I am supposed to be down-sizing when I do this, not sure how successful I am at that aspect of my sorting.
As I was going through all the cookbooks I have purchased at different historical sites across the country and abroad, I came across a small book I purchased at one of the sites. It brought back so many memories of trips we have taken with our children and our grandchildren.
One of the recipes in the book was for Apple Tansey. I thought how fun it would be to make something from the apples in our own yard, just as colonial Americans made dishes from the apples in their own yards.
The recipe calls for three pippins, so I did some research…
The Algonquin Indians introduced apples to European colonists living in Quebec. We are not sure about the variety of those first apples. A pippin is a variety of apple that was cultivated in the American colonies, and still is today. It is apparently not the best eating apple, but makes very good apple cider.
The recipe for Apple Tansey is written in paragraph form, so I have tried to put it in some kind of acceptable recipe format. I also determined some of the measurements myself, since some of the items were not written with regard to amount.
It was delicious! Though meant to be a dessert after a family meal in colonial times, it made a great breakfast for us…especially after we drizzled it with some authentic Vermont maple syrup…
All in all it was a great week…getting our own apples, sorting through the moments of our lives, enjoying an old fashioned dessert on an old fashioned plate, in our almost one hundred year old house. Life can be so much fun sometimes!
A great apple dessert or breakfast entree.
This recipe is adapted from “Colonial Food”, by Ann Chandonnet. It was published in 2013 by Shire Publications in Great Britain.
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