Category Archives: Mississippi River

Impromptu Sunday Drive

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What a lovely day, so much like Spring.  The daffodils started to bloom at our cottage this week.  The gold finches are molting more each day in preparation for their spring and summer survival colors.  Scripture reminds us not to worry about what to wear and what to eat as God supplies.  “Look at the birds of the air…”  I think Dean and I supply plenty of seeds for the song birds in our neighborhood besides what naturally exists.  Not that God doesn’t supply adequately enough, we just enjoy the entertainment of the songbirds outside our living room window at the feeders.

The mild temperatures warranted an impromptu drive this Sunday afternoon to the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  We packed a picnic lunch and stopped in the little historic river village, Elsah. We relished the quiet park and tiny town while munching on our sandwiches.  Then we made our way to the river hubbub of Grafton, IL.  Bikers, antique cars, and convertibles seem to take over the town.  We managed to park the car and found a few little antique and gift shops to peruse.  Such lovely art pieces.  I found a garden sign with spring-like embellishments for my arrowhead planter.  Just a matter of another 6 weeks before the houseplants go outside, and Easter 5 weeks away.  Spring-like rains and weather continue this week with a winter return next week.  Well, today I cherished this early taste of spring.

 

Lent, Love, Eagles, and Presidents

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So what do lent, love, eagles, and presidents have in common? They share this 4-day weekend in February!  And Dean and I shared these 4 days with my five grandchildren.  The kids took turns with video games, movies, building with Lego blocks, and cooking in the kitchen. I prepared cheese tortellini with a garlicky white sauce for our first Lenten Friday dinner this season. Our parish hosted a 3-hour mini retreat on prayer Saturday morning. A much needed spiritual renewal for me.  Saturday evening Hannah and I made chicken and dumplings which filled everyone’s belly and we had an extra portion for the “Souper Sunday” mission trip fundraiser. Overnight french toast and maple sausage welcomed our Sunday with Ella’s assistance.  Church-bound this snowy, sleety Valentine’s Day. We are warmed by God’s love.  Then gifts of hand-made palm crosses, sweetheart candies, flowers, and Italian cuisine fill this day of love.  Red and white sauces, heart-shaped pasta, meatballs, cheesy baked bread, and pizza.  The star chefs are my granddaughters, Hannah, Libby, and Ella.

On President’s Day Libby led her cousins in making chocolate pancakes.  The Lincoln Museum is a bit far for us, so in the afternoon we took a drive north of our hometown to the Mississippi River scouting for bald eagles. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tall bare tree across the mighty river, as well as gulls and a blue heron.  We meandered down the country highway to the Our Lady Of The Rivers shrine in Portage des Sioux.  A few more eagles were seen high in the trees along the way.   This warmer afternoon had the ice and snow melting to a slush.  Perfect for snow balls!  Not sure who threw the first one, but it became a free-for-all for a good 20 minutes under the Blessed Mary’s statue.  Libby wondered what Mary must have thought.  I think Mother Mary rather enjoyed seeing us all having fun this winter afternoon!  A few wet shoes and stinging fingers, we warmed up with hot chocolate and marshmallows when we got home.  A wonderful weekend to share with the younger generation.

The Year of The Mattress

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ValhallaValhallaMap
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

Storms Aftermath

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The storms aftermath. This post continues from my very late night WordPress post My Friday Family Adventures: https://deannagreensandgardenart.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures. Three days later, and I can still feel the van vibrant, hear the tree limbs scrapping the top of the van with the rain beating and wind screaming. Dean and I were spared what many others in our community were not. Demolished homes, though no deaths. Thank you God for Your protection of life, what matters most. We did not realize at the time, but that tornado blew a kiss towards us. Please view this video taken from Tornado Tim, a storm chaser. This local high school was hit just a few minutes after we saw the black cell carrying the tornado, and we would have been in its path, if the van had not gotten stuck in the mud. Words of advice: Do not do what Tornado Tim does, folks! Dangerous business!

My body has ached for 3 days, finally felt some relief while gardening last evening. Stress and pushing on a multi-ton vehicle will do that. Thankfully, my regular chiropractor appointment is this week. Electric power still out in many neighborhoods. Dean is off work due to no electric. The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are up. All the rains from the storms caused the St. Charles’ riverfront park to be closed yesterday with the Missouri River expected to crest. Same in St. Louis and Alton with the Mississippi River. Surely not another 1993 flood, please! The emergency alarms went off at 11:00am today while at work in the St. Louis County Police Headquarters building in Clayton. “Just a test of the emergency warning system” the recorded voice states. What warning signs are you paying attention to or ignoring? How are you preparing for survival? What life storms aftermath are you experiencing today? Nature has her ways to teach us. Prayer and faith with everything in life is essential.

The Stuff That Chicken Soup Is Made Of

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Chicken-Rice-Soup
It is a homemade chicken soup day today, as cool April showers water the earth. This spring keeps blowing in drastic changes in the air, with temperatures climbing into the 70’s and then dip down to the 30’s within hours of each other. Storms and tornadoes become a regular springtime threat in Missouri. This year it is flash flood warnings, and now the mighty Mississippi is cresting in some small local rivertowns. One of my favorite comfort foods is homemade chicken soup. During cold and/or rainy weather, nothing beats the aroma in the kitchen and flavor at mealtime.
My homemade chicken soup recipe includes fresh chicken and vegetable stock, herbs, and garlic are key. Organic brings out the flavors. It’s clean, no artifical product to dull the tastes. I roasted a chicken fryer for our Sunday dinner with plans to use the leftovers later. I simply put a fryer in the crockpot, added no-salt lemon pepper, a pinch of kosher salt, fresh thyme, and 32 oz organic vegetable broth. This slow-cooked for 8 hours while working at the spice shoppe. Sometimes I use a different herb mixture such as herbs de provence or an Italian blend. After our Sunday dinner, I diced 2 celery ribs and 2 carrots, minced 2 garlic cloves, and added to the existing stock from the roasted chicken. This time it is chicken-rice soup, so I added a 1/2 cup of brown rice. (If it is chicken-noodle soup, I add rice, gluten-free noodles.) I cooked for about 30 minutes on the stovetop. Then I added more vegetable broth and the leftover chicken chunks. The soup pot is in the fridge for lunches and future dinners. This is what we will have for dinner tonight. Steaming hot soup and a warm French baquette! Ummmmm!