Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jazz at the Bistro

Over a year ago, I asked Dad to pick out a concert so that I could purchase tickets for his birthday, but it has been difficult to find one that he could attend. So, when I heard Dad was coming for the weekend, I decided to surprise him and purchase tickets at the local jazz club in St. Louis: The Bistro at Grand Center. The Bistro is located in a really neat part of town - right down the street from Saint Louis University (where I worked for two years) and right across the street from the Fox Theatre and Powell Hall, the home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

After navigating through pouring rain and high winds (exhibit A: our hair), we made our way to the Bistro and sat on the left of the dining room very near the stage. (Feel free to move the cursor around on the linked site to look around the club. Make sure you see the windows and balcony above the dining room.) We had already eaten dinner at the Macaroni Grill, so we each decided to warm up with a delicious Cafe Mocha.

We had tickets to see someone who has been an acquaintance for a long time: Ron Carter. And, he was to be accompanied by "OGD", Organ, Guitar and Drums.

Ron Carter (not to be confused with jazz bassist, Ron Carter) is the head of Jazz Studies and conductor of the respected Jazz Ensemble at Northern Illinois University. We were very happy to hear Reggie Thomas (on organ) and Rick Haydon (on guitar.) The accompanying trio was filled out by Ron Carter's son, a fantastic fifteen-year-old drummer.

We realized we had many connections to the musicians on stage. Dr. Carter and Mr. Thomas had both been my judge or my lead conductor for several of the area, district and state jazz competitions when I was in high school, and they know our hometown band director very well. Ketra's brother, Andy, played first trombone in the Northern Illinois University jazz ensemble under Dr. Carter's direction. Aaron's best friend from high school, Scott Farr, and a family friend, Travis Lewis, both studied at SIU-E under Mr. Haydon and Mr. Thomas. So, we were able to have a short chat with each of them after the set.

The time went by so quickly. Some of the highlights were Days of Wine and Roses with some great improv solos, Stormy Monday Blues sung by Dr. Carter... and Angel Eyes, sung by a guest performer, Dr. Carter's twelve-year-old daughter. It had been a long time since I had attended a concert like that, and I have truly missed it. It was a really great concert - especially because I could be there with Dad.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A = 440

When I was a little girl, I was mesmerized by the many strange "toys" in Dad's toolbox. It's true that it contained regular tools that many other men had in their tool boxes. A hammer, a few wrenches, screw drivers of all shapes and sizes... But, Dad's box also contained odd items... things most people don't recognize. That's because Dad is a piano teacher, piano player... and piano tuner. (Musicians often refer to them as piano technicians these days.)

Before Dad and I set out on our "official adventures" this past Saturday afternoon and evening, I was excited to accompany him while he tuned a piano. This was an activity that was quite common when I was young and at home, but I cannot remember the last time I sat and watched him. First, he tuned Brother Chris' piano, and then he tuned Brother Jeff and Sister Tracy's piano. Here are a few things I learned (or was reminded of) that day:

* Dad received his tuning hammer (tool in Dad's hand, above) from Mr. Bill Gilstrap, a man who Dad worked for and who owned music stores in our area.
* Tuning hammers often come with two (or more) gooseneck heads on them: one for grand pianos and one for others.
* The tuning fork (see the piano ledge, left) rings at the pitch of A above middle C. This rings at the frequency of of 440 Hz and is known as the standard pitch reference (or concert pitch) for pianos, violins, and other instruments. Some piano manufacturers instruct that their pianos be tuned to other frequencies. To read about changes in standard pitch through the years, see this Wikipedia article on pitch.
* The odd items beside the tuning fork are rubber mutes - used to assist a tuner to individually tune each string that combines to create a note on the piano.
* The Kimball piano company has won many awards. (See piano lid in top picture.) :)

Here is a picture of Dad's strobe, quite different from his old model that I remember from my childhood. Sometimes, Dad tunes by ear, and sometimes, Dad uses the strobe. The strobe supplies a visual cue to let the tuner know if the note is flat (circles moving to the left), sharp (circles turning to the right), or in tune (staying in place.)

It was quite common for Dad to play some music on the piano after a tuning to give it a "test run". Playing all songs by ear, of course. Saturday morning was no different. First, he gave Tressa a little quiz on some hymns and familiar songs. Then, Tracy, Tressa, Abigail and I had a fun time dancing while Jeff taped the event. The mini concert even included Blue Rondo a la Turk, one of my favorites. Now, I wish I had asked Dad to play Tenderly, my absolute favorite from Dad's large repertoire. Here are some samples of that song from Rosemary Clooney, Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker, Louis Armstrong, and Jimmy Hamilton (Duke Ellington orchestra). Whenever I hear this song, I immediately think of sitting on the piano bench beside Dad and watching him play. Those times are too few and far between now, so I cherish these opportunities when I can hear him play such beautiful music.

Friday, February 23, 2007


While preparing for Dad's arrival this evening, I realized I had failed to make the auction post I promised. The morning after Mom came to Edwardsville a couple of weeks ago, we were up early and ready to go - with no idea of what was ahead of us. We had heard from the Corns that Highland was abuzz with news of this upcoming event. The lady that lived in the beautiful old home across the street from the Corns is known for having many antiques. She is in her 90's, and we believe she must leave her home because of the care that is required. The first of two auctions was being held that Saturday, and we set out to meet Sister Lydia and Brother Dale there.

I had no intention of buying much. But, I LOVE GOING TO AUCTIONS. Yard sales, flea markets, Goodwill and Salvation Army shops... but auctions even more than any of those. Anyone who has visited my home knows that almost all of my decor consists of purchases from these places. (Hopefully, it doesn't seem like that at first glance. Hopefully, it takes my explanation to figure it out.) I often receive questions of "Where did you get that?" and I'm happy to provide the answer. I love finding a good find.

There was a decent crowd present at the auction, a crowd that got smaller and smaller as the day went on. Items were not going for the prices that they should have been going. That's my kind of sale. (Because the woman worked in antiques, many of the items had price tags on them. If she paid what the price tags stated, I got most for an absolute steal.) And, while some hate it, I enjoy seeing what I've purchased in a pile to which has been added and added (...and added...) by the auctioning staff when no one else will bid...and I finally bid a dollar to win it. Some of the items I keep for my home. Some I give away to friends. Some I sell on ebay or at the yearly yard sale that some of the church folks and I have at my house.

Here is a collage I made so you could see a glimpse of some of the interesting things that were purchased that day. Some, intentionally...and some in those lots that were acquired untintentionally. An old tea kettle, an odd assortment of specialty cloth bags from jewelers - most for silverware, a few intricately knitted runners, a Mamma's Y&M Pies pan, an old flour sifter, a yellow glass cannister, many beautiful glasses, a piece of north European pottery, a beautifully knitted collar and cuff set. Junk to some. Some of it is junk to me. But, some isn't.

One of the finds I've most enjoyed is this book on Lincoln. Unfortunately, the publishing date page is missing from the text. However, the coverage on Lincoln's family, days in office, and the individuals who conspired to kill him has been interesting to read. It has been great to add this information to what I read last fall in two books: Lincoln's Melancholy and Team of Rivals. The most fascinating part? The pages and pages of pictures taken of Lincoln - listed in chronological order. I have enjoyed seeing the subtle changes in his features and matching up the picture dates with what was going on in history. Here are the first page in the chronology and the last.

Near the end, it was clear that some of the beautiful furniture was going to go ridiculously cheap. The dilemma? I have no truck. But, Lydia thought Brother Dale would allow us to use his. So, we asked... and then we started bidding... and bidding. I'm too embarrassed to post exactly what we purchased. But, maybe you'll see some of the refurbished creations in future posts. The biggest purchase was a antique dining room set: 6 chairs, table that enlarges... along with a buffet. They do need some work, so many wouldn't bid. But, I am up for the challenge... and it was a complete travesty that I was able to buy the entire set for a mere $15. (It doesn't need THAT much work!) We were so busy with all of the creative loading (making two trips with Mom's car and Brother Dale's truck) that I failed to take pictures of the set so everyone could see it. Now, it is tightly tucked away with many other things in my garage. But, here is a picture of one of the chairs so you can see the style. And, here is Sister Lydia squeezing in the tiny space we saved for her in the truck before we stuffed more in the front. I am so thankful to Brother Dale, Lydia, and Mom for their help! And, I hope I can show them good results from the purchases later this spring.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sweet Memories

When reminiscing about Katy and Tory's in The Mission of Mustard, memories of the sweet goodies I enjoyed there came to mind. When visiting the store, Aaron and I would leave with some of the following in our small paper bags:

Big League Chew Bubble Gum - a favorite for Aaron (especially during his baseball days) and our cousin Steve

Candy Necklaces - food and fashion

Laffy Taffy and Now and Later - Somewhat similar. Both were in different packaging back then. We'd find there were usually two camps: those who absolutely couldn't stand banana and those who would trade all of their other taffies to have banana

Lik-m-Aid - also in different packaging than what is shown in the link. Basically, the concept is to dunk the provided white sugar candy stick into pouches of colorful sugary powders. One had to be very careful when cutting (or ripping) open the different pouches.

Wax Bottles - similar to the ones shown here. Sometimes Katy and Tory would have the fruit flavored drink variety...and sometimes the cola variety.

Giant Chewy SweeTarts

Tart-n-Tinys - Aaron, you're going to have to help me on this. Back then, weren't these pastel colored without the slick bright coating?

Sixlets - my all-time favorite at the store

From other parts of my childhood, I also fondly remember...
Black Jack Gum, Fruit Stripe Gum, Chunky Bar, Bubble Tape, Ring Pops, Sour Patch Kids, Whistle Pops, Zotz (in lollipop form), and Pop Rocks. I have great memories of eating Pixy Stix at my aunt and uncle's while watching the barrel racing competitions held on their farm.

When I was really small, I really loved Marathon Bars, and I distinctly remember buying them in the IGA in Canton. They were very long candy bars made of braided caramel and chocolate, and they would stretch even longer. But, suddenly, they just disappeared. I've found out recently that Curly Wurly bars are very similar, so I hope to try one.

Whenever I am asked the name of my favorite candy, my reply is Toffifay. Again, these are a favorite from my early childhood, and they were first created the year I was born. Somewhere along the line, they just disappeared. Then, I'd find a package every couple of years at some of the strangest out-of-the-way gas stations. When I worked for Kiwanis and Circle K, I would often travel to Canada, and there was an abundance of them up there. So, some of my kind Canadian friends would have a few packs waiting for me upon my arrival or would bring them to the conventions in the U.S. One time, they even brought me an entire case as a gift. I'm happy to say that Toffifay is now making a huge comeback here in the Midwest.

Please consider visiting the Old Time Candy Store. (Even though I have not yet placed an order for myself, the owners are quite kind. The candy packs look great for special birthdays.) While some of their candies are extremely common within the St. Louis area, others are favorites of our parents from long ago which you can rarely find anywhere else. Sadly, others have been discontinued and can no longer be purchased. Wacky Wafers were always a favorite for Aaron and me, but they are no longer made.

Have any favorites from your childhood that you can't find anymore? What is your favorite candy treat to eat?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Mission of Mustard

It was one of those humid days when I would try to find a cool spot in the house and do as little as possible. But, Mom needed my assistance, and when I heard about the opportunity to run for a jar of mustard at Katy and Tory's store, I jumped at the chance - no matter how hot it was.

We had moved to Canton just a couple of years before, and it was hard fitting in at a new school and in a new neighborhood. But, thankfully, after many trips around the block together, Aaron and I were able to meet the Dean Court and Baxter Court kids and make friends while riding bikes, moving about on our roller skates, or finding new hiding spots in the neighborhood. Soon, it felt like we were one of the gang and had always lived there. And, it was through those friends that we heard about "Katy and Tory's." Approximately six blocks away, a small, red-brick store stood in the midst of white older homes. It was nothing fancy. The building was worn. The front sidewalk edges were crumbling. But, it was something special: an old-fashioned neighborhood store run by two white-haired sisters, Katy and Tory. And, that's how everyone knew them. Katy and Tory.

They had a little produce. Some staple items filled the shelves. There was an old butcher case in the back (something I had not seen close-up before) where they would cut through ribs or slice off a few thick slices of bologna as a treat for some of the children. While standing in a special spot where the worn, wooden floor boards would creak, I would shift my weight so that I could see through the glass and in between the sides of beef and watch Katy slice meat or package hamburger. But, the real treats were the contents of the candy case. Near the front door, the old case's sliding doors - wood frames with windows - shifted in the back so that children could fetch their own candy. Special candy that I had never seen anywhere else. Candy that wasn't sold in the big grocery stores across town.

And, it didn't matter how few pennies we had with us. We always seemed to have just enough to purchase a handful of our favorites because of the kindness and generosity of Katy and Tory. Two wonderful ladies who wouldn't let me leave the store without giving me a hug and a kind word - along with a lot of candy.

We didn't have much money back in those days. So, I had learned the importance of not letting items go to waste and eating everything on my plate. (I think I learned that second lesson too well!) At times, well...times were tough. I can't remember why, but that day Mom really needed mustard for something but couldn't leave the house. So, she sent me off on the important errand with just enough money for that important mustard. After securing the few precious dollars in my front pants pocket, I raced off on my bike to get the job done.

I vividly remember entering the store that day. I had never purchased anything from the "regular shelves" at Katy and Tory's by myself... usually just a few slices of bologna, a cold pop, or anything and everything from the candy counter. So, I sought out the jar of mustard and searched up and down the short aisles. In the end, of course, the task required Katy's help, and I happily carried the big glass jar of mustard up to the wooden cash register platform. Tory rang up the purchase and - as usual - insisted that I pick out a few pieces of penny candy for myself. She placed the jar in a small paper bag, and I tossed in the nickel and the few pennies that were Mom's change. Tory gave me her usual, sweet send-off before I set my sights on the cool cement front steps. The familiar thump of the wooden store door behind me and the singing birds in the nearby tall trees comforted me as I enjoyed a brief moment of peacefulness in the neighborhood.

My bicycle was a second-hand version. A good one, but nothing fancy. No extra features like some of the kids had, like tassles on the ends of the handlebars or a woven flower basket on the front. But, still, I appreciated having my bike, especially when running errands or traveling to the neighborhood playhouse on humid days like this. After devouring my candy and just seconds after leaving the shade of the front steps, I fetched my bicycle from the mossy side of the store and prepared for the trip home. Doing my best-but-not-well-thought-out-job of securing my purchase for the ride, I wrapped the crinkled top of the small brown bag around my handlebar, giving my right hand an extra tight squeeze to ensure its safety.

As you're probably guessing, it is quite difficult to know what moved more quickly in the next few seconds: me in my over-energetic pedaling in order to complete my errand for my mother and make up for lost time I spent eating candy on the step... OR ... that big jar of mustard being taken for gravity's ride right through the ripping, sweaty paper bag and crashing down onto the store front sidewalk. I was in motion, mind you. So, to my horror, I became the closest I've ever been to a walking piece of art. Modern art. You know, Jackson Pollock and the like. Mustard... on the sidewalk, on the nearby tree, and on the permanent anthills. On my tennis shoes, in my socks, and right leg completely covered. On my shorts, UP my shorts, on my shirt, on my arm. Worse yet, in my hair, on my glasses, and up my nose.

The crying started immediately. It was a mixture of knowing what I looked like, the bright yellow ooze that covered my clothes, the burning sensation in my nose, that I couldn't see with my glasses covered... but most of all, I knew I had ruined the sidewalk in front of Katy and Tory's store, I had failed in running the important errand for Mom, and we couldn't afford buying another jar of mustard right then. Literally and figuratively, I had made a mess of everything. The tears came more heavily and rapidly.

After taking a few moments to consider my options, I surrendered to the fact that I couldn't ride or walk all of the way home and drip the entire way. Besides... jagged shrapnel was strewn about in the wreckage from the yellow glass bomb, and I couldn't leave that for Katy and Tory or one of their customers to unexpectedly find. So, I knew I had to go back inside to explain my foolish mistake.

In short, I was received in a way that is so uncommon. As I stood at the front door leaning in, attempting to not to make tracks on worn wooden floorboards of the store, I called for assistance in between the sobs. Tory immediately saw the teary-mustardy-swollen-red-eyed look on my face and insisted I come in, despite my messy condition. Tory helped me with my glasses. Katy retrieved a towel. Tory wiped down my legs. Katy hosed down my bike and the sidewalk. Tory helped me rinse out my hair. Katy retrieved a new jar of mustard. Tory insisted I get another few pieces of candy. Four arms embraced me.

Because of being so upset, some of the details are a blur. But, both sisters immediately let me know that the situation would be OK, that I would be OK. And, they engulfed me with kindness, wishing me back soon, and sending me on my way with a shiny new jar of mustard for Mom, a second jar which they said was "their treat." With the few sticky coins (with the tell-tale yellow in the creases, that were change from the first jar) tightly clenched in my right hand (coins that Katy and Tory would not accept), I walked home cautiously with my left hand on my left handlebar grip and my right arm encircled around the precious gift that was finally presented to my mother. Katy and Tory told me they would not accept any offers of payment for my mistake and - if it were possible - treated me with even more kindness in my visits after that day.

The good memories of Katy and Tory and the precious lessons that I learned from them are too numerous to name. But, as I think about my gradeschool and junior high years, they stand out as two role models who continuously taught me so much - even though I didn't know I was learning. They were the embodiment of generosity, charity, and compassion for so many - but especially for the children on the east side of Canton. Especially for me. Yes, the material gift was only a jar of mustard, but the spiritual gifts were oh such much more. Especially to those who had so little.

Life brings many heartaches, struggles, and unexpected disappointments. How I wish we could be better at helping one another - especially when the other is down - instead of looking for other ways to bring him down farther. How I wish I could be better at that. What a different world it would be if we would so freely offer what we have and hand out hugs...and candy...and comfort to someone who has so little to offer in return. How blessed I feel to have known two individuals who seemed to always do just that.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.


Soon after I moved away from Canton, Katy passed away, and I understand Tory is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and is living in a nearby elderly care facility. I so very much wish I could talk to both of them today.

In recent years, Mr. Dave Pickel, whose photography shop is located in the renovated Wilstead's Grocery building just down the street, has refurbished the store that holds so many memories for the kids on the east side of Canton. This fall, Katy and Tory's was re-opened as a restaurant. Please visit the restaurant by watching this news feature filmed by the local NBC affiliate. Even though the memorable, original floors are gone, you will be able to catch a glimpse of some of the items from the store - along with with my best friend from my hometown, Susan, and her mother, Pat, who just happened to be visiting when the crew was filming. You'll also be able to see a few photos of the loving sisters, Katy and Tory.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Saturday Social, February 2007

For a year or so now, our church members have attempted to meet together on a designated Saturday evening each month and enjoy the blessing of fellowship... in an attempt to better know each other, support each other, and pray for one another. Our activities have varied, often including hymn singing, making crafts together, helping strengthen biblical knowledge, along with a consistent abundance of plain old visiting and eating. Of course, involvement in any of these activities is strictly voluntary, but I believe those who have participated have been blessed by the experiences.

This past Saturday, we met in the home of Brother Chris, our pastor. We had a slightly delayed start because of the weather, but the fellowship soon warmed us thoroughly. Part of my contribution to the "meal of snacks" were cold cut sandwiches, and I decided to make a second attempt at homemade bread. Mom, this is how it turned out:

Much better, yes... but not completely. Can anyone explain what might have created this large rip down the side? I have a long way to go in this art, but I am extremely happy that I am making progress.

It was a low key, fun evening. Some serious discussions were had over at the dining room table. And, as you might guess, I was in the living room where some not-so-serious discussions were shared. During a break, the Z family grouped up for a lovely family photo. In a few months, Lord willing, there will be 5 members in the picture.

Uh oh! Someone raided Mr. Potato Head's closet during the social. (I don't think Abi was the only one. Wink wink!)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bread 'n' Butter With My Mother

Mom and I didn't slow down much over the weekend, and it seemed most of our time was spent in the kitchen. Thanks to Mom's teachings through the years, I've acquired some skills and have not been afraid to tackle difficult recipes I've found in a magazine or strike out on my own to see if I can create something new. However, recently, I've longed to go back to the basics and learn some of the techniques I feel we've skipped over. I want to bake like my grandmothers baked and taste the same recipes that my family has enjoyed in previous generations.

Last year, I took on the task of going through Mom's recipes. Whether a recipe was saved on a receipt, business card, post-it, cut-out from a box, sheet of notebook paper or actual recipe card within Mom's recipe box, I attempted to carefully write out each one on two brand new 4 x 6 cards. One for Mom's new filing system and one for me so that I could start a true family recipe collection. It has been a blessing to make many favorites we hadn't enjoyed since I was a child, and it was especially touching to see some original recipes documented in the handwriting of my two grandmothers.

Since that time, I cannot estimate how many attempts I've made at a delicious bread recipe from one of my father's grade school classmates. In short, the bread always turned out short. Dense. Did not rise. It was scrumptuous enough, but something was clearly wrong each time. After a recent attempt by my dad in trying another recipe at home which yielded the same poor results, Uncle Roger explained that yeast is delicate and that we are probably killing the yeast with water that is too hot. (Honestly, I had no idea. I thought, 'the hotter, the better.' And, I was not with Mom during those times so she could coach me.)

So, Mom and I ran some errands and picked up a candy thermometer from the store - as this is one kitchen tool I didn't own. Then, we set out to try a whole wheat recipe posted by the Serven Clan, my new friends who are now attending Sacred Harp singings with us. I am not quite up to the task of trying this method. But, hopefully, someday.

I kept my eyes centererd on the mercury, ensuring that it remained between 100 and 110 degrees as I worked around the kitchen to add ingredients. After a little worry and much coaching from Mom, here are my fantastic results:
WHAT!?!?! No, you're correct, unfortunately. The loaf looks nothing like those pictured on the Serven Clan blog. Nope. Not even close. What happened?!?!?!

It took me a moment to figure it out - as I thought I had just ruined the bread recipe like I had done with so many before. However, the dough did double in size. I saw it rise. Hmmmm... Then it hit me. Because the recipe was so large and it was so easily divisible by 6, I made one-sixth of a batch and simply just didn't make enough dough to create a full loaf size. What a relief!!!! I think I have FINALLY got it! Now, I just need to make another attempt soon. Very soon. Mom and I enjoyed some wonderful bread and butter throughout the weekend. And, I've shared the rest with various friends, so more must be made!
Know what is better than homemade bread and fresh butter? Homemade bread with fresh butter....and delicious Halbgewachs Family honey! (OK. LOTS of honey.) Mmmmm Mmmmm Good! Thank you, Mom, for sharing your wisdom, some bread and butter, and some precious time with me. I love our weekends together!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Busy As A Bee

Last week, while preparing for big meetings and for my mom's visit, it was extremely hectic. I caught myself coming and going. Co-workers laughed at me when they heard about all of my errands. At least three said I was "busy as a bee."

"Busy As A Bee?"

Wandering thoughts...
'Just how busy is a bee? Pretty busy, I guess. That honey makin' and all. Yep. Pretty busy.'

But, how about "Sly As A Fox?"

Wandering thoughts...
'Are fox sly? Did I say that correctly? Are foxes sly? No, I think it's definitely fox for plural. It would be pretty humorous if foxen was the plural. OK, back to the question. Are fox sly? Well, they are awful sneaky while trying to break open those hen houses. So, I guess so.'

But, "Happy As A Clam?"

Wandering thoughts...
'Are clams really happy? How could one tell? Is it all about the shell looking like a smile? Then, are clams really happier than, say, oysters? Why couldn't the saying be "happy as an oyster" then? Maybe we should spread the word on this new one.'

I'm amused by these animal similes. Tons to choose from. Have any favorites? Please weigh in with your thoughts on their accuracy. Better yet, if there is no popular simile for your animal of choice, please feel free to submit your ideas for a new one.

Maybe the Green families would have something particularly insightful to post about skunks or squirrels. Maybe the Brown family and ShowJumper could comment on horses and mules.

Dad's Special Delivery

On my way home from work yesterday, I received a call from a local florist to notify me that I had a "special delivery." So, I could not wait to see what had been sent to me. After receiving it, I was afraid to open it - as it was just too beautiful. But, it was even more beautiful on the inside. Tulips, variegated roses, pink ribbon, a mossy heart... So pretty. (Mom, Dad, Aunt Norma, Uncle Roger, anyone...? Do you know what the purple flowers are?)

It was an especially special delivery when I realized these were from my dad. This picture does not do justice to the bouquet, but I knew Dad would be happy to see that the arrangement was so gorgeous. After a particularly bad Valentine's Day in 2000, I was shocked to see one of my co-workers carrying a balloon and a small stuffed teddy bear into my office. Dad had been thinking of me, and he just wanted to let me know. Since then, Dad has been so thoughtful to continue the tradition. I do not expect the gift each year, yet I am very appreciative that he would do something so kind for me.

The neatest part of the bouquet is the reuseable silver basket (which goes so well in my dining room) and these neat little test tube-like vials which hold the water and plant stems. So, this may take a permanent place in the middle of my table.

Thank you, Dad, for sending such a special delivery.
I love you very, very much.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My Funny Valentine

Last night, as I was feeling thankful that I made it home (after an hour-and-a-half drive through the ice and snow), I decided to make a little Valentine out in my yard for all of you. It was still there this morning as I departed, and my commute, unfortunately, took 2 and 1/2 hours to drive today. But, I'm here in the office now sitting right beside my little heater, and the day is going right along.

Hope you're able to take time to warmly wish a
Happy Valentine's Day to the ones you love.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mother-Daughter Weekend, Feb 2007

Mother-Daughter Weekend Feb 2007
After a long, fun night in the kitchen

I don't know when our tradition began. But, sometime after I moved away from home, Mom started visiting me each February for a three day weekend (usually around Presidents Day), and I began going home each October for a few days around the Spoon River Drive. We call these designated days our "Mother-Daughter Weekends", and they are always something to which I greatly look forward.

Don't get me wrong. My parents do travel together to visit me on certain occasions, and that is wonderful. But, there's been an extra-special blessing in spending time with them, one on one, and knowing each as an individual in addition to knowing them in their loving relationship as spouses and parents. That way, Mom and I are able to enjoy the hobbies and activities that we share that are not necessarily enjoyed as much by Dad, and we are able to have good girl talk, when needed. Our weekends are usually filled with crafts, cooking, antiques and flea markets, watching home design and decor shows, house projects, and the like.

A few years ago, Dad started coming for his own visits so we could enjoy "Father-Daughter Weekends." My special times with Dad often center around visits to the music stores, hearing live music at the local jazz clubs, or packing in several movies throughout the weekend. Even though the weekends with him vary from year to year, they have been just as wonderful. In fact, Dad hopes to visit in two weeks.

As you might have guessed, this past weekend was our annual Mother-Daughter Weekend, and we had a lot of fun together. Before I even knew what was going on in the community, I knew I would like Mom to show me how she makes pies and share any special tips she has. After attending an auction in Highland (more on that adventure soon, maybe tomorrow), we had a well-spent evening with apples, and Sister Lydia joined us in the fun. Here's a step-by-step picture story of our Saturday evening together.

Mom took on the peeling while Lydia attended to the coring and slicing. Unfortunately, I had left my recipe collection at work after sharing recipes with some co-workers. So, we tried a wonderful new crust recipe (included vinegar) from the Taste and See cookbook that was given to me by my "Aunt Sissy", Mom's sister. Mom was careful to explain the details behind using ice water, keeping dough cool, and adding tapioca to thicken fruit juices.

I mix up the new spice combinations that we tried, and Mom and I spread out the streusel topping for our second pie. It was a crazy evening - as we looked through so many cookbooks because of the absence of my recipe cards which held all of the family recipes. So, the counters were covered with books, bowls, papers and pies.

A little too late, we realized we had peeled and sliced too many apples. So, we moved right along with trying a new apple crisp recipe. That next morning, the dessert table at church was filled with delicious apple creations.

OK... OK... the dessert counter at church would have been a little more full if we hadn't decided to go ahead and taste the double crust apple pie. We worked up an apetite, so we couldn't resist! Mom stated over and over, "Now, I am not an expert." So, maybe they aren't the most beautiful pies... but I thought they were beautiful and tasty. And, I learned a lot!!

After the auction and a few hours in the kitchen, we were pretty tired. But it was a wonderful day spent together - especially with some yummy, spicy, warm apple pie to enjoy at its conclusion.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pillows In Place

Here's just a few shots of some of the new items put in place.

I know our church would love to have you visit us for services - which begin every Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. and each Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. Please consider visiting us for our annual anniversary meeting the 2nd weekend of June. For this year's meeting on June 8, 9, & 10, we have invited Elder H. D. (Harvey) Fulmer of Scranton, Arkansas and Elder Marty Smith of Atlanta, Georgia to be with us. Lord willing, at 10:00 a.m. on that Saturday morning, our dear brother, John Yadamec will be ordained to the office of elder. I know he would very much appreciate your continued prayers leading up to this date - as would our entire church. Hope some of you will be able to visit to worship our Lord with us, enjoy some fellowship... and maybe (least importantly) try out our new pillows! :)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So Sew Much Fun

In the late 1990's, our church was blessed to purchase new pews for our meeting place, and a dark navy and light blue woven material was selected for the seats. We have been very thankful to have these pews in our church building.

Several of the ladies have contributed ideas over the years to help with the decor, and this past fall, we took a step forward in our plan to update the pillows. After a couple of older visiting members requested blankets during our November meeting, we thought we could also make a few lap blankets that would match. So, I headed to the store to purchase some country blue corduroy, navy corduroy, and some fuzzy navy material for the blankets. (We still don't know exactly what that "home decor" material is made of, but it sure is soft!)

After postponements last month, a few of us gathered together to sew the pillows and lap blankets Friday night. I learned a lot, we had a wonderful time visiting, and I especially appreciated the extra time with Sister Barb as we worked. It was a long, long night of cutting, sewing, stuffing, and hand stitching, but the time together and the results were well worth the effort.

I started off the night on the sewing machine while sewing the light blue pillows.

Sister Barb continued the line with Sister Lydia while ironing and stuffing the pillows.

Sister Tracy finished the process by hand sewing the small openings.

Sister Lydia used her honed sewing machine skills as we moved on to the blankets and navy pillows.

Tressa was a big help in stuffing the pillows and, as always, keeping us entertained. She was the official pillow tester and became enamored with the Poly-Fil. Somewhere along the way, she realized what cool hair it could make. And, some of us couldn't resist in joining her.