Monday, October 13, 2014

A Ball and a Boy

Many years ago, we stopped to visit my grandmother in her little white house beneath the towering trees.  She had lived alone since the passing of my grandfather.  My kids livened up her home a bit, but she was good-natured about it.

My little boy was fascinated by the way his great-grandmother did things.  His favorite was her rubber band ball.  After our stay, he decided he wanted one too, so he started collecting rubber bands, but he quickly realized that it took a long time to make a big ball.  He would mention great-grandma's rubber band ball from time to time through the years.  When grandma moved into the nursing home, her children had the task trying to sift through the years.  My mother asked me if there was anything special I would be interested in (if no one else was).  I told her my son would be delighted to inherit the rubber band ball.  She brought it home for him, and he was so delighted! His fascination was unabated.

I unpacked the beloved ball yesterday.  I held it carefully, as it is starting to show signs of age.

My mind drifted to the stories of a young girl with 10 brothers and sisters, living through the great depression and learning to be frugal to survive.  Years ago she shared one of her favorite memories of those years with me. She recalled that on Sundays all the neighbors would come together, each bringing the best food they had to share~making a feast that ensured all the kids had one good meal for the week. On each Sunday they gathered to feed each other and maybe even more importantly, they enjoyed the reprieve from the hardships of daily life when they paused to visit and eat.  They created bonds for a lifetime on those afternoons.  They would see a need and lend a hand without asking.  Even as the years got easier, the camaraderie remained strong.  They walked together during the hard times, holding each other up, and I didn't understand until that day why my grandmother was so diligent in lending a helping hand to a neighbor in need.

As a young girl my grandmother worked for a family cooking and cleaning before her knight in shining armor made her his life partner.  She worked hard on their family farm and never took that for granted.  She understood hardship.  I always remember her beautiful, bountiful garden and how she would transform those vegetables into a feast.  I loved her meals.  I loved her green beans.  She could made everything the best.  I still crave green beans like hers...and mashed potatoes...oh and don't forget the gravy!  All my cousins will readily chime in with their memories of her cooking~it is one thing we can all agree on!

When I was in college I remember, a man and his wife introducing themselves to me, knowing I was her granddaughter.  They wanted to share their story of how they enjoyed my grandmother's cooking and compassion.  You see, when they were struggling college students and food was scarce, she would always invite them to stay for dinner after church on Sunday.  They described the bountiful feast she prepared in great detail...the rich aroma and savory taste.  They would eat until they were bursting at the seams--their empty stomachs grateful for the feast. It would help carry them through the week until her next invitation on Sunday.  Now they stood with me, years later, well established in life and careers with their children grown, but they never forgot those Sunday dinners at grandma's house.  They marveled at how she intuitively understood their struggle~she never said a word just prepared an abundance of food to share and extended the warm invitation.

The rubber bands are cracking, so I gently roll the ball in my hands.  Funny how something so small and perhaps insignificant to the casual observer has become so important to us.  I am grateful that as a small child, my son saw the value.  As I study all those rubber bands wound carefully together through the years, I realize that it symbolizes our family and our memories.  We are wound together in love, for better or for worse, but always there when needed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pumpkin Patch

Last year we missed our annual trek to a pumpkin patch.

Kade was adamant that we not miss the fun this year.

Luckily just a few miles down the road, a farm welcomes pumpkin seekers and offers lots of fun.

The petting zoo residents were resting in the late Sunday afternoon warmth~even the baby goats were quietly dozing and had no interest in rising for visitors.

The next stop was the barn loft where Chayse zipped down the slide into the fresh straw.

Swinging from the rope was fun too!

Soon we were bouncing down the road in the wagon on our "straw" ride to the pumpkin field.  Yes, dad, that is a Farmall tractor at the helm!

Once we reached the field everyone was off in search of the perfect pumpkin!  This is no small challenge.

Success for my happy pumpkin pickers!

Chillin' in the wagon.

The landscape made this farm girl smile.

And it also made me buy cornstalks, but I had to try to find the shortest ones!  Indiana corn is very tall...too tall for transporting efficiently!

Now we are ready to embrace October.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


The first colors of fall are emerging in my backyard.  

I stand in the crisp morning air, and I can hear the nuts falling from the trees.  

I watch as the squirrels scamper about collecting their winter food.

Oh fall, how I have missed thee.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An Excuse for Cake

I love birthdays.  I do not like to count birthdays, but I love a celebration of life and family. 

As the brisk fall air settled into the late Sunday afternoon, dinner for 10 was served on the deck.  Beef tenderloin, baked potatoes, and asparagus were on the menu, complimented by a fine cabernet sauvignon.


The cake.

No ordinary German chocolate cake.

It was made with lots of love and fresh ingredients in my kitchen with a master baker and a chatty princess whose excitement was spilling out of her!

 The cake was fluffy.  The frosting was perfect.  


This little girl loved ALL the birthday preparations for her mommy.  She wrapped her present with so much love.  Her eyes twinkled, her feet danced, and her face glowed with anticipation all day.  Her enthusiasm was infectious!

I still can't believe I live down the road from this "little" sister.  It has been years since we have been together on this birthday.

Finally it was time for cake, and another sweet face, as the sun slowly went down on a perfect birthday evening!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Teenage Smile

"Kiahra, do you know what love is?"

She looks at me quizzically, as she climbs out of her car.

"Love is standing at the checkout in Walmart and thinking, 'My daughter would love it if I brought home some cheesy pretzels,' and then turning around and walking clear to the back of the store to get those pretzels."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sunday Drive

With the top down, we backed out of the driveway in the red convertible on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  The back roads were quiet. The sun kissed our faces, and then as we cruised beneath the towering shade trees, the cool breeze lapped at our faces.  

The feel of fall finally arrived in the air, but Chayse noticed, "Someone forgot to tell the trees, Mom."

I suspect the colors will arrive soon.

Our destination for the afternoon was Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home.  In 1816 his father moved the family from Kentucky to Southern Indiana after staking claim to 100 acres.  Abraham was 7 years old.  Here he would grow into a man over the next 14 years.  Survival was hard work.  The loss of his mother at age nine was even harder.

Abraham helped build the coffin, and his mother was buried humbly at the top of the hill south of the homestead with probably just field stones at the head and foot of her grave.

In 1879 a local businessman would erect a headstone in her honor (though the exact location of her grave is unknown.  Later Abraham Lincoln's oldest son would donate $1,000 dollars for the care of his grandmother's grave.  This lead to the purchase of the land that would be developed into the park.

As we strolled down the quiet trail farther, we discovered the original homestead had been excavated and the hearth stones uncovered.  A bronze casting of the logs and stones now marks the site.

A few more steps and we came upon a log cabin.

It was surrounded by all the outbuildings and split rail fences. 
  A cow bellowed in the barnyard.  Sheep grazed quietly.  A fully re-created 1820s homestead.

Upon our arrival, I discovered my camera battery was dead, so I was using my iphone and at this point the battery died.  

We put away all the electronics and meandered the homestead.  

The brown cow continued to bellow as she tried to swish away the flies bothering her.  She came close enough to be say hello and get a quick scratch, but the kids were cautious as when she swung her head her horns were dangerous.

The day was quickly fading, so we reluctantly returned down the graveled path.  The brisk air and closeness to nature was refreshing.  Kiahra began dancing down the path~she leaped and turned gracefully with nature as her stage. I will treasure the moment forever in my heart.

Chayse scampered down the trail with her brother on her heals, and I walked briskly behind enjoying watching our children just be playful kids beneath the canopy where long ago Abraham Lincoln and his sister were children too.

I wonder if his mother sometimes paused as she toiled and watched her children scamper playfully too.

I hope so.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

No Ordinary Vineyard

As our time ticked away in San Francisco, I felt an urgency to visit the Tuscan castle nestled in Napa Valley.  European visitors come to California just to see the carefully replicated castle by skilled artisans, and I decided it was an opportunity that my South Dakotan and Alaskan visitors shouldn't miss either.  
All ten of us piled into the vehicles early on Saturday morning for our trek into Napa Valley.

At 9 AM we turned down the quiet, vine-lined lane.  The castle was nestled into the rolling landscape like it belonged.  

I eagerly stepped back into time in the picturesque setting.

As we approached the castle, we were welcomed by the pig in the 13th century barnyard.

My heart fluttered with excitement as I looked ahead to the stately castle as the early morning fog lifted with the moat serenely wrapped around the outer walls.

 Crossing the drawbridge past the huge solid wood doors made me feel like a little peasant girl giddy with anticipation of a long awaited visit to place in which only stories had been told.

The peasant girl had forgotten to send a messenger to announce our arrival though, but we were granted a tour in one hour, so we were free to roam until then.

The oldest cousins enjoyed the warmth of the rising sun, as they were still rubbing the sleep from their eyes.

The traditional stone workmanship and attention to detail left me gaping in awe.

The kids strolled the grounds around the castle as they waited~meeting this rooster who seemed to be scolding Kade as he followed him around at distance.  It is a big job, so I was entertained by the "help."

The peacock strutted around the grounds.

The emus kept guard up and down the fence keeping a close eye on the Kade~wondering if he was a long, lost cousin?

The curly tails of ducks bobbed in the moat.

The baby goat loved climbing the tree as the sheep grazed peacefully.

No detail was overlooked in the design and presentation of the castle.

 My romantic nature conveniently overlooked the labor intense work required to make everything work.

A big brother who tolerated a photo-happy sister more good-naturedly than usual~but what are sisters for if not to push the boundaries a bit??  Grateful we captured these special memories.

And in another rare moment, I paused with my parents and husband on the wall walk.

Finally, the greatly anticipated tour was ready to begin.  We met in the chapel before we spent the next two hours exploring the magnificent castle.  

From the courtyard to the dining hall my imagination came alive in a time long ago.

Then we descended into the cellars.  The underground labyrinth was cooled naturally and wine barrels lined the rooms and walkways.  

Along the way we learned about the art of winemaking, and our inquisitive 14-year-old son was fascinated by the process of creating wine and absorbed all the information better than I. 

 The torture chamber did not leave much to the imagination and reminded me a bit of the Tower of London.

 All too soon, the tour wrapped up in the tasting room.  The kids toasted with the finest grape juice to a fun-filled day!

A winery that welcomes kids is rare, but a winery that embraces kid and makes history comes alive is extraordinary.  It was the highlight of their time together.

As we drove back down the lane, tummies were rumbling, and we accidentally discovered a park that made for a perfect lunch.  The kids enjoyed the freedom to run and play (even the big ones) before we reluctantly headed back home again.

My Castello di Amorosa fall wine selection will arrive on Saturday, and we will toast to the fond memories of the day they welcomed our family into theirs.