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Saturday, December 3, 2011


Willie and I had our first Thanksgiving all on our own this year. It was a strange experience for both of us. It wasn't until Wednesday night that we really decided what we were going to even do for Thanksgiving. This year has been so hectic and crazy with the two weddings that none of the kids could come to Rossville. I had to work the two days before and the weekend after, so I couldn't go to Des Moines. Willie had three days off, and I encouraged him to go to Des Moines, but he decided to stay with me.

Wednesday, I got a voice mail while I was at work. It was someone I didn't know, an older lady. She said she had a delivery for me and needed to know where my house was to deliver it. She left a number to call. I listened to the message again. I could not for the life of me, think what I had that needed to be delivered. Should I call this number? I thought to myself. I knew I hadn't ordered anything. What could it be? I decided to call the number. The woman from the voice mail answered. It was a flower shop. My daughter Valerie had sent us flowers for Thanksgiving!

I told the voice at the other end where our house was. "Oh, Dr. Mason's house." Our house, is not, in the eyes of the locals, our house. Our house is still and forever will be, Dr. Masons. We pay the mortgage, but it will always be his.

When I got home from work the flowers were there. Beautiful fall flowers that brightened up the whole house. A card from Valerie was attached telling us she loved us and Happy Thanksgiving.
It lifted our spirits. It helped us remember how much we have to be thankful for. Our daughter had made our day, and saved our holiday.

That night we went to the store. We got turkey breast and all the fixings. Thursday morning Willie and I got up and made our Thanksgiving feast for two. We made it together, it was a lot of fun. We sat down at the table, the flowers as our center piece, and enjoyed our Thanksgiving together. Thank you Valerie, we love you so much!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Snow Shower

This last weekend I got to go back to Des Moines for my future daughter in law's bridal shower. I wanted to do a winter wonderland theme for the shower. The wedding is December 10th, and they are going with a very winter theme for the wedding, so I carried that theme into the shower.

With the help of my daughter Alyssa and one of my best ever friends, Kelley, we put up snowflakes everywhere.
 I wanted it to look wintry, not Christmasy. We used snow flakes of all sizes and sparkles and pearl strings. It was a lot of fun.  We also had pine cones and buffalo snow, made the presents look like they were sitting in a snow drift. Kahlen even got in on the decorating action and went home covered in sparkles and glitter.

To go along with the winter theme, I made white chicken chili, and cornbread. For those less than enthusiastic about chili, I made mac and cheese. I also made a buffalo chicken dip, and glazed carrots. I almost burned the place down when I was preheating the oven, there was grease in the bottom that caught fire. We got the fire out and most of the smoke out before people got there though.
 For deserts, I made a chocolate coconut cake, yellow cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, rice crispy treats, oreo and nutterbutter balls. I think all of the food went over well. Something for everyone was my goal. Even the plates and napkins had snowflakes on them.
After lunch it was game time, or as I like to put it, torture Caitlin time. The first game involved questions that I had asked my son, Josh, and she had to guess how he answered, you know, newly wed game style. Alyssa looked forward to this game most of all. This game was played at her shower, and she wanted revenge. Revenge you ask, why did she want revenge? For every question she got right she received a chocolate. For every question she got wrong........ she had to put a piece of bubble gum in her mouth. Apparently Caitlin laughed a lot at Alyssa when her mouth was full of bubble gum, thus, the revenge.

And revenge Alyssa did get. Something you need to understand, my son, has a unique sense of humor, something I was counting on. For instance, when asked what he and Caitlin would do if there was an ice storm and the electricity went out, (and he was told to keep it clean, her grandma was there after all) what did he answer? Play a board game? No, read a book using a flashlight? Well, no, he answered shadow puppets. When asked if he could have anyone, anywhere, alive or dead, sing at his wedding, his answer........ Infant Sorrow. Yeah, Caitlin ended up with six pieces of bubble gum in her mouth. Alyssa was fiendishly satisfied.

Next torture game involved dark chocolate. I made snowflake shaped chocolates. But not just any chocolates, each chocolate contained an ingredient that Caitlin had to identify. You know, things like cinnamon, almonds, cranberries, hot peppers, bacon, cilantro, and garlic. She did real well, the only one she missed was cilantro, which I think was because I didn't put enough in. Her least favorite one was the garlic. Yeah, I put a lot in that one. That one got spit out.

We also played name that tune and wrote marital advise on snowflakes. Her favorite, "make hamburger and beans often, and buy an electric air freshener." Mine. I know my son pretty well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Alyssa's Bridal Shower

I have been getting ready for Caitlin's shower this weekend and I realized I have never written a post about Alyssa's shower. It has taken me a while because the day started kind of rough and I think I needed time to digest.

Many of you now may think it started out rough because I couldn't bare to see my little girl get married. Nah, it isn't that. I know she married the man that she loves. I did get nostalgic, and think about the fact that my baby was getting married, but in a good way. In a happy way.

No, no, the roughness of the morning was my own doing. First I slept in a little too long. I felt hurried. I felt frazzled. I was running behind and that was the trigger for the rest of the morning.

I was putting the finishing touches on things, and all was going well, despite being behind. I made a beautiful tomato salad with basil and fresh mozzarella, it has a name but I can't spell it. I had brought the tomatoes all the way from Rossville from my own garden. They were delicious. I had forgotten the cooler I had with the basil from my garden at home so had to buy basil at the store. It looked awesome just the same.

Valerie and I finished decorating cupcakes. We got ourselves ready. I was wearing a new dress that I had only worn once before. We got everything all finished up and started packing up the car.

This is where being behind in my time caught up with me and bit me in the butt. And it left a mark.
In my hurry to get packed up, I decided to carry a big cooler, with a container with the cupcakes on top of it, and the tomato salad on top of that. This is where I should add that the tomato salad was on a plate with only saran wrap on top.

And this is where you can start using your imagination. New dress, tomato salad. Yeah, exactly what you think. I was carrying the cooler, and everything on top down the stairs. I lost my balance. I fell. Now, don't worry, it was more like sitting down hard than falling. And I almost saved everything. A.L.M.O.S.T!
The salad ended up all over my dress. I was covered by tomatoes, basil, pepper and cheese. It was on my dress, on my legs, on my arms. Now we were going to be really late. I sat there for a minute. I considered bawling my eyes out. However, I had actually put on make up. This is not normal for me, I hate make up, it makes my face feel yucky. I wanted to look nice for the shower though, so I had put it on. So, I stopped my urge to cry. If I did it would mess up my make up and put us even farther behind.

I went upstairs changed my clothes. I put on jeans and a shirt. I was disappointed. I still wanted to cry.

Valerie and I finally got to the shower. We were late and we had the food. I felt embarrassed and anxious and like I had let everyone down. Everyone was very nice about it. They all understood, but I couldn't shake the feeling.
The rest of the day went very well though. Carmen and Anita had done the decorations. Carmen had some fun games and everyone seemed to enjoy the food.

Kahlen had other kids to play with and got to have time to kiss on her new little cousin, Ethan.

Alyssa seemed to to enjoy her day. Carmen had a game where she had asked her brother questions and then Alyssa had to try to answer the same questions the way she thought Shane had answered. With each wrong answer she had to put a piece of bubble gum in her mouth. She had a bit of a hard time talking by the end. It was fun.

All in all, my disasters aside, it was a wonderful day. Alyssa received beautiful presents, and I am so thankful to everyone that attended and made that day so special for her.

A special thank you to Valerie for helping so much with the food and to Anita and Carmen for the great decorations and games.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lost in Attica

So, I have lost, what fellow blogger, Pia, would term, my writing MoJo. I just can't seem to think of much to write about. My mind has turned to mush, much like the weather outside. It isn't that I don't have anything to write about, well yeah it is kind of that, I lead a rather boring little life.

The most exciting thing that has happened around here lately is when Willie and I decided to go find a park called Potholes in Indiana. We had heard, from one of Willie's friends, that it was really pretty. I looked it up on line and saw that it was northwest of Attica, Indiana. I knew where Attica was. I couldn't find an actual address or a site for the park itself. I found a few sites from people who had visited the park and posted pictures. The pictures were awesome and I was excited to see the park for my self.

On Tuesday, we got into the car, put Bazinga in the back and pointed it at Attica, Indiana. It took us about 30 minutes to get to Attica. We looked for signs along the way, we saw none. We were in no big hurry, and had no plans, and as such decided to just keep driving around Attica to look for signs.

We drove thru town, no signs. We drove south of town, no signs, we drove north of town, no signs. We drove west of town, still no signs. We never found it. It was nice to go for a nice long drive though.

On our way west we did find ourselves in a rather spooky looking area of Williamsburg. I was really glad that it was the middle of the day instead of the dark of night. We took a turn north and found ourselves in a better area. We decided to take one last journey north to try to find the park, but to no avail.

Finally, we decided to give up and head home. Bazinga was very confused after a long drive to end up at home again. He burst from the car expecting an adventure and found himself in oh so familiar surroundings. He sniffed around and looked at me in disappointment. Ah, well, he enjoyed the ride.

Note to self, get specific directions for the next time we look for this park.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Should Be Grateful......

I have been following some of the reports of Occupy Wall Street. I am going to state right now, I am in support of their movement. Many will disagree with me, and that is their right and their privilege to do so. I do not find it UnAmerican when people disagree with me. I do not find it treasonous when people do not agree with the government. Differences in opinion are our constitutional right and dare I say duty as Americans.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies;" Thomas Jefferson--The Declaration of Independence

Now, I am not saying we chuck our form of government and replace it with something radical. I am saying that definite abuses need to be addressed and those abusers need to be held accountable. Our government should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Those that have money should not have politicians in their pockets. When that happens then those who have money decide what is right and wrong. Normally, they decide this in their own favor. This is how our tax codes have been written, this is how deregulation of banks and wall street have occurred and brought our economy to a grinding halt. This is how the top 1% have seen their incomes rise by 275% over the last 30 years, while the rest of us have had to work much harder and longer hours and have seen our wages stagnate. 

I was at work a few weeks ago. It had been an awful day. We had recently gone through some major staff reductions and as such were short staffed, although perfectly staffed according to some one who probably hadn't stepped foot in a store in 50 years. I had been running, and I do mean running to try and keep up. Finally lunch came. I went to the break room and saw the company magazine. On the front was a guy in a suit looking all proud and powerful. The camera angle used was such that it really emphasized that he was looking down on those about to read the article about him. He had power, I did not. 

I opened the magazine to the article. I read it. I about puked my guts up. I was exhausted from running and apologizing to people because their prescriptions weren't ready over and over. I had been yelled at, and verbally abused because we couldn't keep up because of the recent cuts. "I am so so sorry," had come out of my mouth more times than I could swallow. These people had every right to be mad, we were way behind. 

I wanted to rip the magazine to shreds! Why? You might ask? The article was about Mr. Suit and his wonderful new approach to office  communication. Apparently, theses "higher ups" spend their time perusing the Internet and business magazines looking for "current event" articles to share with the class, oops I mean the rest of the staff. They get together and read their articles and then discuss them, because apparently they have nothing better to do with THEIR time. I was angry about this the rest of the day. I am still angry about it today. They are playing 6th grade classroom while we are running our asses off! And Mr. Suit thinks he has stumbled upon a great new innovation to increase productivity. If they have the time to do that, maybe they need to cut staff at that level and give the stores the staff to TAKE CARE OF THE CUSTOMERS! You know the ones PAYING THEIR FAT ASS SALARIES!

This is why I support Occupy Wall Street. Our Nation is broken. The ideals and the structure are still good. The Constitution is still excellent. The problem is in the way it has been usurped and abused by those that have the ability and the selfish priorities that have taken it over. The problem is with those that cannot see past their silver spoons to see what is going on beyond it. 

I DO NOT begrudge anyone who has worked hard for their money, earned it honestly and enjoys those benefits. I do not. I begrudge those that have lied, cheated and stolen their money from those that entrusted them with theirs. I begrudge those that think we, in the woking class, should pay more taxes than they do so they can have government bailouts and handouts and then reward themselves with bonuses and perks. I begrudge those that we elect, to protect our rights and our freedoms, being bought out by those same people who lied and cheated and stole from us. And I begrudge those who think we should produce more with less people, get paid less,  and be grateful we have a job at all. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who You Gonna Call?....

 I think I have said before that we live in a very small town with a long history. It was founded in 1859. According to Wikipedia, Rossville and Ross Township were named for Jacob Ross, a settler in the area. However, the location was first named Liggett's Grove in honor of John Liggett who built a lodging house there in 1829. Liggett's cabin was located on the Hubbard Trail, an early trading route established byGurdon Hubbard from Chicago to Danville. In 1833, this became the first state highway (now Illinois Route 1) and in 1914 was made part of the Dixie Highway. In 1838, Alvan Gilbert purchased the Liggett farm, and the next year became postmaster at the newly-established post office. Rossville was incorporated as a village in August 1859. 

And, of course, before that this land was  inhabited by Native Americans of different origins. Now, with that kind of history, if there is such a thing as ghosts, there are bound to be a few around town.

The building across the street from my house seems to be of great interest to those that do believe. It is an old Masonic Temple that was built 105 years ago. The same time my house was built.

It is a beautiful building, sadly run down, but you can imagine it as it once was. The detailing in the architecture, the windows, the red brick, is all stunning. Even the creepy guy above the door is mesmerizing. I'm sure at one time the original Masons that owned the building were very proud of it, and sad to sell it when the time came.

Since that time, the building has been a few different things. The last being an antique store. When Willie and I moved here last year, it was closed and for sale. We have spent many evenings on our front porch looking at the building and wondering what we could do with it if we had the money. We looked it up on line, the cost was meager, $15,000, less than a car. The repairs the building that would need to be done, would probably be several $100,000. Way beyond our means.

This last week or so the for sale sign has come down. This truck has been in front of the building several times since then. It you look closely it says, Indiana Ghost Trackers on it. I haven't decided if I find it hilarious or completely fascinating. A friend of mine that has lived in the area for her whole life says the building has been investigated for ghosts before.

I have joked around about having ghosts living in my houses before. To the point where I even named our ghost Ferdinand. We had a TV at one time, that would turn on and off, all by itself, for no reason. We would be sound asleep, and the TV would turn on. At first we thought we rolled on the remote, or for a long time we thought maybe the neighbor's remote might be on the same frequency and our TV was reacting to his remote. We convinced ourselves that was the case for a long time. We lived in a trailer park and our houses were very close, it made sense, a little anyway. Then a light in our front room started doing the same thing. Ferdinand had expanded his enterprise.

We moved from the trailer, which lets face it, it could have been the wiring that caused such things. We moved into a house in Danville, Il. It was older, built in the 1930's if I remember right. We left the possessed TV behind. Ferdinand still came with us. The light kept turning on and off, and he also took up residence in something else, but I can't remember what for sure.

When we moved back to Iowa and it seemed we had left Ferdinand behind. Maybe he liked the old house better, maybe it was wiring again. Maybe, he invaded my car. I have always had quirky cars. It may start out as a normal car, if I drive it too long, like a month or two, quirks always develop.  I had a car who every time we opened the back door, the dinger would go off, you know the one that goes off when you leave the keys in the car. The one that is supposed to go off when you open the front door. That was just one of its quirks.

I also drove a van for Van Meter School district, to take a child to Winterset a couple of times a week. It was fine when I started driving it. After a few months, its dinger started going off every time I hit the brakes to slow down. Yeah, that got very annoying very fast. I wonder if it still does it?

My van now, when I turn on the heater fan, the back windshield wiper comes on. Wiring on my cars always seems to get criss-crossed or something. It is never anything dangerous, just strange and obnoxious. Like someone or something is always playing jokes on me.

My cars always have quirks.  I mean, why does every single car I drive end up with strange quirks. Are they really quirks? Or do I have permanent visitors that travel with me. Does Ferdinand follow me every where I go? He has always had a thing for electrical items, and when quirks come up it always seem to be in wiring.

When I saw the truck across the street the first time I laughed and thought, what a racket, and wondered how I could get a job doing that? Then I looked up their website, wondering how much they make off of others' fears, and found that they don't charge a thing. It is a group of people who really believe in what they are doing. Not like the old movie "Ghost Busters." I would actually love to know what they "find."

What the truck has done, has made me think about, do I believe in ghosts? As I have aged, I have found myself believing things I never thought I would. Like, yes, I most definitely, not just believe, but KNOW that the full moon makes people act a little loony. Sometimes, a LOT loony. Thirty years ago, I'd have laughed in my own face if I'd have said that, but much experience has changed my mind.

So, I guess, I am much more open minded about the idea of ghosts than I used to be.  If I do have ghosts following me around, they seem to be more goofish than ghoulish. They seem to have a sense of humor and just like to play jokes on me. As long as that is all they do, I'm more than happy to share my space with them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Franklin D. Roosevelt ~~~~ 1933

Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money.

Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.

They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.

The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money, it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be values only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit, and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bucket List

December of 2012 will mark my 50th birthday. A half a century of life. Many feel old hitting such a milestone. Maybe as it gets closer I will have that reaction, too. Right now though, It doesn't seem to bother me. My age has only bothered me once. My 25th birthday, for some reason, that I still today cannot explain, was a tough one for me. I think that was the only birthday that I had that, "I am so old," feeling. Why then, and not say, 30 or 40? Heck if I know.

The only thing I feel about turning 50 next year is the urge to do and see things I have never done before. I have a bucket list in my iPhone. I started on it last year sometime and add to it now and then. Most of the things, honestly, I know I will probably never do. Most of the things involve travel. I would love to travel. I've stated that before on here. I have never had the chance to travel much. Most of my travels were with my Girl Scout troops in junior and senior high school. That was an awful long time ago. I want to do more, yes I am the greedy type.

So, here is my list. It is kind of a long one, which is why I probably wont get to do it all. It isn't in any type of an order. I'll be happy getting to do whatever whenever.

I have never ever been on an airplane. Not because I have any phobia, just have never had the opportunity. I would love to go on one. It would make it a lot easier to go to some of the places I'd like to go, but big boats are good too, I'd do that. Flying first class of course would be the most enjoyable, relaxing and watching out the window without someone almost on top of me is the dream. I'd be just as satisfied to go couch, just to be able to say I had been on an airplane.

A few of the things I would like to do could all be taken care of in one trip. For instance, I would like to fly over the Atlantic ocean. I would like to go to Europe. I would like to walk in the footsteps of the Beatles. All could be done on the same trip. That and going to Ireland, Scotland, and seeing the French countryside. It would be a long trip true, but what an awesome trip. Maybe go to Sweden, and see Stockholm too.

Another place in Europe I'd like to spend a lot of time, Germany. My father's family is from Germany. It would be interesting to see where the family is from. Look in a phonebook and see how many Siepmanns I would find. Maybe find a headstone of an ancestor. Walk the streets they walked on. See the places they saw. Breathe the air they lived in.

As much as I would like to do all of that, what I would really like to do is spend time traveling my own home country. I read an article once about a trail you can walk on the east coast. It goes from Maine to Florida. At the right time, you can start at one end and walk and see the seasons change. It would take weeks, but wouldn't it be the most aw inspiring thing to do? I would love it. Absolutely, love it. I would definitely want a good camera for that. I'd love to spend that time with Willie, like a second honeymoon.

There are other things I'd really like to do specifically with my husband. He was born in Hawaii, I would love to go there with him. One thing I know I would really like to do while we are there, eat gourmet Spam. That's right, gourmet Spam. I hear it is a huge thing in Hawaii. Therefore, I see it as a must do.  Plus, going to Hawaii would make two more goals possible, flying over the Pacific and seeing a volcano.

I would love to spend a summer in Alaska. Just get in a car and drive where ever I can drive to. I would love to lie down outside, with Willie and watch the northern lights. We could travel the state enjoying nature where it is still truly nature. A new camera would be in order.

Then there are the places I would love to take Kahlen, and any new grandchildren that will come along. Disney World or Disneyland scream to mind. I have never been there, my kids have never been there, what a wonderful big old family trip that would be. Maybe it could be on the way to another dream family trip, a Christmas cruise to the Bahamas.

Other Christmas trips I'd love to take, one would be to New York City. Ice fall in in Central Park. Yes, I said ice fall, I'm sure whatever I would be doing could not be called ice skating. I want to see the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I want to take Kahlen to see Santa Claus at Macy's in NYC. I know, I know, very touristy, but I've never been there. Oh, and we could go see The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast or what ever is playing while we were there.

I also want to take Kahlen to see the National Christmas tree in Washington DC. I like Christmas trees. I like Christmas. I would enjoy sharing Christmas with my family in new places. Seeing how Christmas is celebrated in different cities and towns. The decorations and traditions, how they are different, how they are the same.

I love camping, I love camping with my family. I would love taking a camping trip with the whole family to the Rocky Mountains. Camp at Yellowstone, I've been there before, with Girl Scouts, but never with my family.

Go to the Grand Canyon, camp, ride donkeys, take the gondola ride across the canyon. Go on a helicopter tour. Watch the kids' faces as they see it all for the first time too.

There is so much more. Constitution Hall, The Liberty Bell, The Lincoln Memorial, Gettysburg, so much history, our country's roots. The places they decided that birthing this nation at the risk of their own lives was important and necessary. The places that great decisions were made. The places where people gave all to keep our nation whole. It is overwhelming to think about.

So, there is the bulk of my bucket list. I'm sure there is more, but these are the most important to me. Maybe someday...... probably not.

So Many Leaves!

It is so yucky outside today. The Great Lakes Cyclone's fingers found their way clear down here. We have had strong winds and rain the past day or two. It is cold and windy and still spitting rain even today.

Of course the major side effect of strong winds, in the fall, when you have 37 trees in your yard..... Leaves, lots and lots of leaves. Our backyard is becoming carpeted with leaves. Brown is the new green. It seems as though we just got through cleaning up leaves from last spring and now they are back.

The good news, at least for now is that the vomit tree seems to not have much fruit on it this year. I have been studying it, looking for fruit, and just don't see a lot. So, far no big stink yet this year either. 
 The bad news, there are still many, many, many leaves still to come. Some haven't even changed color yet. Oh, the work ahead of us.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Photo by Dawn Blackburn Fat Dog Creative
My favorite dancing girl.

Photo by Katharyne Dunn
The perfect flower girl.
I plan on writing a happy blog about Alyssa and Shane's reception. However, since I didn't take many pictures myself I am waiting for pictures from a friend to use for my blog. I was busy enjoying the moments that come once in a lifetime and left the picture taking to others. I can't wait to share them with you. Some that I have seen so far are wonderful! Both from my friend Dawn Blackburn of Fat Dog Creative in St. Charles, Mo, and the wedding photographer, Katharyne Dunn, of Katharyne Dunn Photography in Altoona, Iowa. As you can see by the two sneak peaks the wait will be so worth it!

Until then I will share some of my pictures from a beautiful fall day out and about with Bazinga.
 We went to my favorite Indiana State park again, Shades. Some of you have seen photos from there before. I found a trail that I had never been on before, which actually took me over to a wildlife preserve adjacent to the park. I didn't see any wildlife, we heard some scuffling here and there, which peaked Bazinga's interest.
 Mostly though we saw beautiful fall leaves all around. It was just breezy enough that now and then we found ourselves in the middle of a magical whirlwind of leaves. I tried desperately to take pictures of the wind blown fantasy, but with no avail.
 My simple little camera was not able to catch the dancing leaves. It focused on the wrong things and I couldn't convince it to focus on anything else. Finally, I just pointed the camera up and hit the shutter over and over. Sadly, replicating our experience was not to be.
 Hopefully, one day soon, a camera with great resolution and more creative control will come my way. I have my eye on a Nikon, but it will take many months of money saving to get it. When I do, I will celebrate with a photo taking spree like no other. I can't wait!
 The photo below is a tree root that fascinated me. I couldn't, no matter how I tried, get my camera to focus on it properly. It made me very sad.
The root reminded me of a wood nymph or some other woodland fairy creature. The big eye, the hat and hair that drapes over the other eye. The little pouty mouth, that is so sad about how our world is changing, and not for the better. Perhaps the little wood nymph has a way to make things better. Can you see my little wood nymph, or am I just as crazy as others have tried to convince me I am.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Alyssa's Wedding

Photo by Katharyne Dunn Photography
On September 24, 2011 at five in the evening my youngest daughter became a married woman! The days leading up to the wedding were stressful, but in the best way stress can be. There were times I was ready to strangle my beloved daughter, but tried to keep an understanding heart.

The rehearsal dinner was simple and fun. Casual and laid back, just what was needed for both bride and groom, and parents alike. Pizza was delivered and enjoyed by all. A stressed out groom found time to tell his frenzied bride how much he loved her. A very stressed out bride had time to sit for a minute to breathe.

After the rehearsal dinner, a stressed out mother and father of the bride found time to visit friends and have a much needed glass of wine. That may surprise one or two of you, but don't be too surprised, it was just me partaking, Willie just relaxed and enjoyed laughing and talking. 

The night went by quickly and a little sleeplessly. The morning was absolutely lovely and a perfect early fall day. A perfect day for pictures. Calm breezes and warm temperatures made it comfortable for bride and wedding party.

Photo by Dawn Blackburn

Photo by Dawn Blackburn

Kahlen happily watched as preparations continued. She was one of the flower girls. She felt like a princess in her pretty dress. She looked like an angel from Heaven. She had fun showing off her pretty shoes and was fascinated by her pearl neckless. 

Photo by Anita Luvaas
The bride was gorgeously stunning and the groom handsome. Both looked happy if not terrified. The realness setting in, the foreverness both exciting and overwhelming. They both had the glazed over look of soon to be newlyweds.

Preparations all went as planned, the only thing that didn't go the way the bride wanted was having to stand on a balcony for pictures. Alyssa takes after her father and is a little fearful of heights. It took much convincing to get her out their.

The ceremony was simple and perfect. The bride and groom looked happily frightened and completely in love. Kahlen walked with her flower girl partner, and did everything exactly as practiced. She stood with the bridal party for part of the ceremony and on my lap for part. She just knew she belonged up their with her mommy and daddy.

Willie walked Alyssa down the isle bursting with pride. His smile beamed for all to see. He was dashing in his tuxedo, and watching them both was like a surreal dream. A surreal dream of the best kind. The kind where you are so focused on one thing that everything around you blurs and drifts away into a soft swirling fog. We each hugged our littlest and watched her walk to her groom. It was a vision like none I have ever seen before. It was my little girl, all grown up, marrying the love of her life.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lopsided Meatballs

Alyssa's wedding is one week from today. One week! This week has been very busy trying to get things ready that I can help with from here. I've made eight corsages, and three bridesmaids bouquets. I bought my dress. I've made meatballs.

I've made and frozen many meatballs. I am still making and freezing many meatballs. Many, many meatballs.

All summer I have felt a little guilty, I bought and planted a bunch of herbs. I planted rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, sage and chives. Then this summer, I never felt like cooking anything. At all. The herbs kept growing and I kept not using them. I felt bad for spending the money, on them and not using them.

 Well, the guilt is gone. I have harvested, washed, picked through and chopped so many herbs the last week that my fingers may be permanently green. I have used just about all of the herbs except the sage and chives. They have paid for themselves many times over now. If I had bought all of the herbs for the meatballs at the store it would have added up very quickly. I probably would have had to use dried herbs just because of the cost.

I have smelled like a walking talking meatball for days! No matter how many times you shower or wash your hands the smell just stays with you. And then of course there is the onions and garlic.

Anyone who knows me, knows I HATE onions. I hate them with a passion. I don't like them cooked, I don't like them raw. I know, and this is the ONLY reason I will ever use them, that they do add flavor to dishes. When I do decided to use them, which is very rarely, there is only one way I can do it, I "slap chop" the hell out of them. I dice them up very, very small with my knife, and then put the tiny dices in my slap chopper, and pulverize them. After that, I must cook them down to nonexistence, or I won't be able to eat them.

So.... that's what I have been doing. Chopping, slapping, mixing, cooking, frying and of course testing meatballs.

Yes, I said frying. I guess there are many thoughts on how to cook a proper meatball. When I was growing up, my mom pan fried her meatballs to brown the outside, and then put them in the sauce to finish cooking. I have always made them that way as well.

I am a big fan of the Food Network. Out of curiosity, I have watched many different shows about making meatballs. Alton Brown says that my way of making meatballs is NOT "Good Eats." He says to bake them. Tyler Florence, says to bake them too. He says, "it's how we  do it in our restaurants." They hold their shape better, they said. You can cook them faster, they said. Valerie, my daughter, said that she had baked them and it worked great. Ok, so I decided to bake them....once. They tasted fine, but they had a weird spongy texture that I did not like. I did not like it at all. Then I started thinking. I have never meant a restaurant meatball that I liked. Never. I mean they aren't awful or anything, well, sometimes, but they are never good. I rarely ever order meatballs when I'm out, even as much as I love them, because they always disappoint. Even as a child, I remember being unhappy with any meatball but my mom's. So..... why would I change that?

Now, my meatballs are not perfectly shaped orbs of meat. Pan frying them leaves them flat on two sides. I fry them on one side for five minutes and them turn them over and fry them on the other side for five minutes. They have two flat sides. But, I can't say that I care. I just want them to taste good. I've been writing this post in five minute intervals. I can fit about sixteen meatballs in my frying pan at a time. I have made approximately 247 so far. That's a lot of five minute intervals.

I may never make meatballs again.......

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

I woke up early as usual. I was a school bus driver for Van Meter School District at the time and had to be to work at 6:45 am. I woke up the kids to get ready for school. Sierra, our cat came with me, as she did every day, jumping on each bed as I turned on their lights and roused them. I gave them each a hug and then left for work. It was a beautiful September morning. I was thinking to myself about what I needed to get done for Alyssa's birthday supper. She turned eleven that day. It was her "spirit birthday" or so she was told by one of her teachers. A "spirit birthday" is the birthday where you turn the age that the date of your birthday is. Alyssa believed that that meant it was going to be a special birthday. Being newly eleven, which is still young enough to believe in magic, I'm sure she believed she would have a magical birthday.

I got to the school, got my bus ready and headed out. My route went as usual, I must not have had the radio on that morning. I parked my bus and went to my car. I wanted to go and vote in the school board election so I could get it out of the way so I could get on with my day. I turned on the car and the radio.

I turned off the radio, I turned off the car. I walked into the school. I walked into the cafeteria. There was a study hall of high schoolers in there. What would normally have been a buzzing noise of students talking, and lunch ladies working, was replaced with a strange hush. I looked around and went into the kitchen. I asked if they knew what had happened. The head cook, looked at me with a stunned face and said yes, and remarked on how quickly the study hall had changed. How quickly these high schoolers had changed. I looked through the kitchen serving window and looked at the students.

Faces, young faces, were dazed, fighting tears, reddening with anger. Boys, suddenly realized how quickly they may be asked to become men. Would their college plans change to a military future. Girls, some weeping openly, wondered what was happening to the world around them. What seemed important when they walked into school, fifteen minutes earlier, faded quickly to frivolity. I looked at the faces. I wanted very much to collect my children and take them home. I went to the office, the elementary principle was talking to someone, saying that counselors were saying it was important to let kids stay in their normal routine. Keep them in school, keep them busy. I left and went to vote. Suddenly, voting seemed even more important.

I went to vote, the people there hadn't heard. Shock froze their faces when they were told. I voted and went home.

I was riveted to the TV. I couldn't stop watching. I got on the computer. At that time AOL was the main way to get onto the Internet. I got on, and looked for more news even as I had CNN on the TV. I saw my brother was online and I IM'd him to ask where exactly my sister lived in New York. I wasn't very familiar with New York City, at all, and didn't know if she might be in danger. She was safe. As we were messaging back and forth I saw something that said that one of the towers had fallen and said something to him about it. He told me, no, he could still see the tower there, they had to be mistaken. After I finished reading his comment I turned back to the TV to see if I could see the tower through all that smoke. As I studied the screen, the second tower fell. There goes the second tower, was all I could write back. I turned away from the computer and just stared at the TV. I wondered if this was a bad dream, was it some strange "War of the Worlds" dramatization? The world seemed to have stopped for an eternity. Words left the reporters, people that you are used to hearing babble on and on, had nothing to say.

"You have mail" screamed my computer. It had interrupted me from my tunnel vision with a start. My heart jumped from my chest, it was like an alarm clock waking me from a deep sleep. I turned, it was an email from my friend Dawn. "All those people," are the only three words I remember about it.

Later that afternoon I went back to work to take kids home from school. I brought red, white and blue ribbons back with me. Each of us drivers tied one on our bus rear view mirrors on the door side of the bus so the kids could see them when they came out of the school. My afternoon route did not go as usual. I left the radio off.

Kindergartners to high schoolers were on my bus. The older kids sat, still in a stunned silence. Looking out the window as the world went by. A world that looked so much different than the world they went by just that morning. The younger kids asked questions. Questions I didn't know how to answer. Questions that had no answers.

I got back to the school, got in my car, turned on the radio, and went home. Conferences were that night at school. The principles decided to continue with them, again keep the kids in their routine. I got home, I asked the kids if they wanted to go to conferences, they said no. We stayed home. We tried to enjoy Alyssa's birthday dinner. I can't tell you what we had. I don't remember making anything. Willie's cousins were there. The four of us tried to make the evening as normal as possible for Valerie, Josh and especially Alyssa. Her magical birthday was not to be. We ate, we sang happy birthday, we opened presents. We watched President Bush address the nation.

Iowa usually seems so far away from New York City. Iowa usually seems like a different world than Washington DC. Shanksville, Pennsylvania, was not even known to me. That day, that horrid horrid day, suddenly they felt like next door. Suddenly, every single one of those firefighters, police officers, and people from many countries, faiths and creeds, they were all family. The world had shrunk exponentially that day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ramdom Stuff

 I haven't been in much of a inspired mood lately. I've had a hard time thinking of things to blog about, unless it is bad mood stuff, and I don't want to do a lot of that. So, I was looking at some photos I took recently and decided to just tell little tidbits about them.

I have decided that this is my new dream vehicle. Now, I know that since it is my new dream vehicle I should know everything about it. I don't, you can ask my kids, knowing things about automobiles is not something my brain does. I seem to have a finite amount of room for information in my brain. If I start remembering detailed information about cars, I'll forget something else. That something else might be something important, like, how to get to work, for instance.

All I know is that Willie and I saw it at a car show at the Hoopston Sweetcorn Festival. It is a Ford, I know this because it says Ford on it. It is old, it is reddish orange, and it has white walls. I don't have real big desires when it comes to cars. If it goes forward and backwards, turns right and left, stops on demand and has a heater, I am pretty well set. Oh, and not having the engine belt fall off every time it rains is a big plus, but I can work with that. I just really like the way this truck looks. I can see me tooling around in it. It looks fun.

 Now, from the lets point out the obvious, department. I just couldn't resist taking this picture, Someone drove by while I was taking it and probably wondered what the heck......

 This spider is living in my garden. As ferocious as he looks, I decided to let him be. I figure he is eating the bugs we don't want on our vegetables. Plus, he is way in the back yard and not in my house. As long as he realizes that he does not belong in my house, we can coexist.

 Kahlen has figured out how to take pictures on my phone. She has not perfected the art, but everyone has to start somewhere.

And finally, I have a definite love hate relationship with this bridge. It is the bridge over the Mississippi river between Iowa and Illinois on interstate 80. When I am going west on it I love it. It is a welcome sight, it is beckoning me home. It is the bridge to my family. When I am going east on it, well, I said no bad mood stuff for this blog, so I will stop. Soon, I will be going west on it again for Alyssa's wedding. That makes me happy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Trying This Video Thing Again

This is the sound of the thirteen year locusts when you have thirty-seven trees in your yard. (if the video works this time) If you can't get it to work try this link to youtube

This year is the year of the thirteen year locust in Illinois. For those of you who may not have experienced this phenomenon, it is a sound to behold.

These little critters come out in mass once every thirteen years. I'm not completely sure how the whole process works, but here are the basics. Once every thirteen years, these locusts who have been underground dig their way to the surface. They climb into the trees. They make a whole heck of a lot of noise, and mate. They shed their skin, leave a big mess and die, leaving even a bigger mess.

The birds and other insect eaters, get very fat and happy.

The last time they came to visit, we were in Iowa. I think they come in a different cycle there. Joshua, was seven or eight. He had been fascinated with these strange and new creatures. We went on a lot of walks in the woods and heard the loud humming most of the summer. Then one day we went for a walk at Walnut Woods State Park in Des Moines. The locusts were starting to die. There were locusts all over the ground, some already dead. some still dying. Josh, not ready for the end of this experience was trying to save the little guys. He would carefully pick up a locust that was on the ground still moving. He gently placed them back on the tree they had fallen from. Once he was satisfied that locust was safe he would move on to the next.  He was determined to save these rather disgusting looking bugs. I didn't have the heart to tell him his mission was doomed to fail. We spent the better portion of that afternoon saving locusts. Valerie was disgusted by the whole thing, the crunching of the carcasses under her feet grossed her out. Alyssa, helped Josh, but I think she was pretty disgusted too.