Category Archives: local

Back When

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The “Christmas Trees For Sale” sign in the store front window caught my attention.  Fresh pine scent, the friendly “howdy” greeting, footsteps on the squeaky wood-planked floor, and the jingle of the door bells as I enter and close the door into the little gift shop … each liven my senses … bring me to back when.  A little pony-tailed blonde-haired girl.  Cannot wait for the holiday season, Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Years.  But all the events leading to those wonder-filled holidays.  Baking, decorating, crafting, wrapping, and for me living on a tree farm, setting up the pine trees to sell.  Always Thanksgiving weekend my Dad and Grandpa brought in a truck and trailer overflowed with fresh cut Christmas trees.  Scotch pine, white pine, and spruce trees planted, trimmed, and cared for by Dad, and any family members looking for some extra $$ pitched in.  My siblings and I included.  We would play hide-n-seek in the pile of cut trees until there were no more to set-up.  Snow, ice, or rain, it did not matter. Wholesome fun. We had the time of our lives back when.

 

A weekend away in Branson, Missouri for early Christmas shopping and a membership inquiry with a vacation club for more of these empty nest long weekends and longer week dream vacations.  Dean and I are local shoppers, whether in our home town of St. Charles, Missouri or while on vacation.  There is something down-to-earth about brick & mortar and mom & pop shops.  Branson has the downtown landing and tourist attractions, but take us where the locals shop, eat, and play, please!  Nostalgic Dicks 5 & 10, Main Street Flea Market, the Classy Flea, and the Farmhouse Restaurant … Back when the Nativity was in every shop, home, and city hall.  The holidays included real pine rope trimmings with bright red velvet bow wreaths and pine cones.  Back when that fresh field-cut Charlie Brown tree was dressed with hand-sewn ornaments, Shiny Brite glass balls, and a collection of heirloom from Germany or England, wherever your family originated from.  Back when home-baked breads were served at every meal with a home-jarred fruit preserves, and your favorite sugar cookies piled on a plate or in a large jar for the eating any time.  But not too close to your mother’s or grandmother’s home-cooked dinner, “not to spoil your appetite”.  The house smelled of a fresh pot of chicken & dumplings.  I imagine my father’s Christmases in the 1940’s.  Filled with joy to have his father, my Grandpa Earl back home from the war.  Grandma Anna doting over the menu preparations.  Two or three simply wrapped presents with his name “Marty” on the tags under the tinseled Christmas tree.  Back when is close to my heart at this present moment in the guest bedroom of our 1940’s house.  My family has been blessed with fond memories and we will make more.

 

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My Own Backyard

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The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour.  The tell-tale sign of changing seasons.  A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week.  The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.

Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child  the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri.  The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source.  My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm.  My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with.  Thank goodness for gas heat.

And now I focus on my own heart matters for today.  Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice.  Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do.  Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful.  I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research  for an enrichment class to teach at my work place.   There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle.  Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding  a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on.  As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.”  I like the change back to some old ways and traditions.  What does simplicity mean to you?  How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice?  I would love to hear.

 

Oh, Mimosa, Mimosa

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What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make.  Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding.  Questions to ask ourselves:  What do we want now?  Five, ten years from now?  What is the the best thing for us?  How does this decision effect others around?  Who might we offend with the decision?  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?  Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices?  Can I  get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building?  What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents?  So on and so on.  With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone.  Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with.  “Own it.  And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older.  It is listening to your own advise, is it not?

I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days.  I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office.  With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day.  On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped.  I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray.  Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass.  My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday.  Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am.  I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime.  God hears our heart without words even spoken.  But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray.   The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day.  Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.

Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at.  But every now and then you have to treat yourself.  Simple pleasures.  Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”.  I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week.  Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday.  A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained.  After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri.  Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open.  We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff.  These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele.  Dean noticed as well.  We laughed along with them.  We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time.  I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared!  I love me a mimosa!  My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa!  By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa.  Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside.  He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress.  Too funny!

I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance.  And 1 spirited drink!

Pasta Arugula

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I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days.  A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking.  I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads.   There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.  Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.

I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking.  Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta.  So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style.  I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half.  Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach.  Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula.  Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread.  I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water,  and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.Pasta Arugula

To Eat Intelligently Is An Art

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“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote.  This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s.  This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture.  The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.

Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community.  The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people.  Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops.  An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma.  After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style.  I slowly savored every bite.  Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that.  A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese.  Gross!  I could not finish it!  The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family.  See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia.  I usually love the leaner slices!  Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers:  day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce.  Tell you how it turned out on my next post.

So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”.  It takes some planning and improvisation.  My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs.  Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal.  Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost.  As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joined

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Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.”  How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another?  Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse?  When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other.  Goodness is the goal not self-gain.  To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.

During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community.  The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend.  A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”.  Later women and children danced in festive colored costume.  Such a memorable evening.

Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox.  We unpacked and sorted more household items.  Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders.  Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels.  It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive.  At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction.  A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit.  Perfect.  On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage.  The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier.  Satisfied local shoppers we are!

 

Oh Hermann!

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This weekend Dean and I hibernated in Hermann, Missouri.  We were invited to stay at a lovely guest house by some wonderful folks.  We took a gander at antiques and patronized a gift shop in the historic downtown area.  The friendly salesman at the gift shop greeted us warmly and proceeded to tell us where he was from and why he retired in Hermann.  This retired banker from St. Peters, my hometown says the cost of living is so reasonable in Hermann, and so many services cater to the aging population in the quaint German town.  Just my thoughts exactly for the past almost 6 years, retiring in Hermann.

“You had me at ‘hello'” was displayed on a wooden sign in the gift shop. That would be my Dean and I.  Love at the first sight, e-mail, FB message, and date 6-1/2 years ago. Our garden courtyard wedding took place 5-1/2 years ago just 4 blocks from where I stand at that gift shop.  We had to pick up a pastry in this old Old World town. A local bakery was spotted amidst the neighborhood bars and shops.  A kringle, “krakeling” filled with strawberry ooze called out our name as we perused the dessert selections. My diabetic diet just went to pot, but back on track come Monday.  Besides the small town walking helped, right?

After an early Saturday dinner at the Tin Mill Brewery, Dean and I hung out with the local folks at the firehouse fundraiser mouse races. We fit right in, happy women with full hips and bearded men with a sense of humor. Homemade chili and desserts galore.  Bids for cash and guns kept us on our toes.  Loads of fun!  The laughter got louder as the evening went with the number of empty beer & wine bottles and whiskey & coke glasses. German people know how to celebrate life!  Not a need for a wedding or birthday to live life fully.

Sunshine beams through the tall-pane window as I sit in an elegant armed chair. Next to me my cup of hot Earl Grey tea laced with bergamot and half & half while a couple of Italian dark chocolate wafers await my consumption.  This crisp January afternoon brings my dream to life once again.  The heart dreams where the soul needs to be.  Our house and bed & breakfast in Hermann, Missouri.  We feel at home, at peace every time we come to Hermann.  From the time we cross the lighted bridge over the Missouri River, we are home.  Oh Hermann, we will be here to stay within 5 years.

Let The Good Times Roll

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Many of you catch glimpses of our lives on Facebook and Word Press.  Thank you for the continual contact.  And we love hearing your news as well!  So we wanted to summarize 2015, and tell you what we are hoping for in 2016.  Wow, 2015 was like no other Dean and I have experienced.  In 2015, the first half included 2 sunny vacations, and the second half we worked through details regards housing, floods, and the beginning of restoration.

In February we lapped up sunshine in California and came back to Missouri’s bitterly cold winter.  Dean’s father celebrated his 80th birthday with family and friends.  We had another Gall wedding celebration in April.  Yes, that would have been the 4th in less than 9 months with the extended family.   We planted and harvested lots of herbs,peas, and beans this growing season.  During the summer we vacationed in our beloved Minnesota with my sister and our dog, Midnight.  Throughout the year we frequented local music venues. But in December we ventured to Nashville thoroughly enjoying the Amy Grant and Vince Gill holiday concert. We ended 2015 with a bang at the Pokey LaFarge concert on the Delmar Loop.

Dean and I’s government jobs keep us occupied, and we are thankful for them.  My quiet husband does not share his own accomplishments, but I will boast on his behalf.  Dean received a promotion and raise late this year, and it is well-deserved.   He loves the research and the customer interactions at the National Archives, and it shows.  This raise will be handy as we work towards an investment property in 2016.   I keep very busy at my job with St. Louis County’s benefits office.  I am constantly planning ahead, while reminding myself to take a breath and being mindful of the present moment.   After years of my supervisors’ prompting, I am public speaking now.  My position as the employee wellness coordinator gives me a platform to work from.  The series of enrichment classes I have and am developing for the employees are on “resilience and beyond”.  I speak from personal experience and with heart.

In July Dean and I visited the German town of Hermann, Missouri for our 5th wedding anniversary, where we married 5-1/2 years ago.  We came upon a “business opportunity”, a cute historic guest house, a late 1800’s cottage-style.    Dean and I took a few days to think and pray on this possibility.  We decided to act on this dream.  The next several weeks brought us a declined loan as it was the wrong type of loan for this property.  So we began the process again with a local Hermann bank on November 7, but we quickly ended the process on November 10 after our main water line in our residence burst sending 1 – 2 inches of muddy water onto the slab floor.  It was and still is unknown how much will actually come out of our pockets.  We anticipate a few thousand for the insurance deductible and upgrades with all laminate flooring and all new doors.  The unexpected inheritance from my deceased patriarch was very timely for Dean and I.  It is being stretched to meet many needs.  So that Hermann historic guest house still needs a new owner as the current owners are hoping to travel with their retirement.  They asked, and we continue to pray.  See what God has in mind for us.  Dean’s 1st grandchild is due in May.  Another girl to spoil!  Vacation plans are being sketched, may have us going North, South, and West this year.

This rental house we are in while our house is in renovations has broadened my thought on “home”.  “Home” is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family.  And family comes in all shapes and sizes, this I have grown to understand.  One type and size does not fit all. The December record-breaking floods came 3 blocks from our rental house this week.  I had to remind myself where “home” is and who “family” really is to get through those stormy nights.  So “let the good times roll” and we welcome 2016!Home Sign

New Years Celebration BalloonsFrom Dean and Anna Gall’s home to yours, love and blessings that overflow this 2016.

Amidst Shorter Days

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A couple of weeks ago we moved into a rental house just a mile from home while the insurance company and general contractor debate the renovation of our home. The work finally started today!  With our housing situation I have lost track of the days into December.  Daylight has lessen considerably, with tomorrow the shortest day of the year.  Winter solstice comes in the midst of record-breaking high temperatures.  The air feels like spring.  Pansies are still in bloom outside the small local shops.  The trees in the woods are confused, too.  This past weekend plum trees displayed white blooms looking like white holiday lights along the country highways to Nashville, Tennessee.

Gaylord Grand Ole Opry Resort Christmas 2015While in Nashville we visited the Grand Ole Opry Resort, dazzled by the lights of Christmas among a jungle of green foliage and the marble white nativity contrasted in the December darkness.  Amidst these shorter days, God’s love shows bright despite the world’s darkness.  I will focus on His Light of Love these long nights.

Midsummer Day

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The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady by Edith HoldenI picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.