Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Hurts Like A Sunny Gun"

My knee started hurting this morning when I was on the tread mill which is when "it hurts like a sunny gun" popped into my head. It is something my Grandma Ridnour used to say (instead of son of a gun) when we were little and got hurt. She also used to say about our owies, "it's a long way from your heart", meaning our heart wasn't going to stop and we weren't going to die from whatever the hurt was. When I was older I cut my finger. When Grandma said it was a long way from my heart, I held my hand over my heart and said, "no it isn't"! (She also used the sunny gun as: "Well, I'll be a sunny gun.")


I know I've used this photo of Grandma, Mom and me before, but it is my very favorite of the three of us. Not only did Grandma have a saying about hurts, she had a magic salve that would cure anything. She called it her 'green salve' - green because of the color, not because it was eco-friendly. One of the worst childhood owies was getting a splinter and having Mom dig it out with a needle. But with green salve we didn't have to go through trial by needle (which was worse than getting the splinter). All it took was a band aid smeared with some green salve. Apply. Wait a couple days and voilá, the splinter was magically drawn out onto the band aid. No needle surgery required.

Grandma's recipe for making green salve was her very own closely guarded secret. She would make a batch, distribute jars among family members and not make any again until someone ran out and requested more. Once the grandkids established homes of their own we received our own little jar of green salve.


I remember my green salve allowance as being in a used Mentholatum jar. Mentholatum was a stand-by of my Mom's and naturally became one of mine. Mom had plenty of those little green jars saved for the next batch of green salve. Every time she made it Mom and her sisters would tell Grandma she better let one of them help her so someone else would know how. Finally Grandma shared her secret recipe, which came to me written down in a little notebook of Grandma's that Mom had. I won't publish the exact recipe but some of the ingredients are lard, mutton tallow, beeswax and turpentine. Something Grandma called Paris Green is what gave the salve its pretty green color. Another name for Paris green is verdigris or copper acetate. And yes, it is poisonous.


I can promise you I won't be making a batch of Grandma's green salve. If there is anyone else in the family who wants to try it, let me know and I'll give you the recipe. In the meantime if I need or want a drawing salve an online search tells me there is a homeopathic drawing salve called Prid for sale at Walmart.


Other staples of the medicine chest when I was a kid were liniment, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide (which I once tried to use to make my hair blond not realizing there was more to it than just pouring peroxide on my head), Rawleigh's Salve, Campho-phenique, mostly used on chigger and mosquito bites and the dreaded Mercurochrome, Mom's go-to for scrapes and scratches. Dang, that stuff stung. Interestingly it is now banned in the United States because of the mercury in it.

Grandma's green salve wouldn't have helped when my knee started hurting like a sunny gun this morning. About the only thing in that medicine chest from my childhood that might help is the liniment. Well, if it was good enough for the horses, maybe it would help my knees.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"We're Barefootin', We're Barefootin'....."


Lil John Henry he said to Sue, if I was barefootin' would you barefoot too? Sue told John "I'm thirty two, I was barefootin' ever since I was two." We're barefootin, we're barefootin'. Take off your shoes and pat your feet. We're doin' a dance that can't be beat. We're barefootin', we're barefootin....*

Memorial Day is past and according to the media 'summer has officially begun' - even though summer doesn't really begin until the summer solstice June 21. The end of the school year did always mark the beginning of summer for us, though. It meant throwin' off the shoes and going barefoot. I just noticed how white the legs of my little sister and me look in that picture. I wonder if we had calamine lotion on because of chigger bites? Betty was about 2-1/2 and I was 4-1/2. (Summer of '48)


Summer of 1951 and all three of us are barefootin'. I remember my feet being very tender those first couple of weeks, after that not much bothered me. I could even run on the gravel. The only things we had to watch out for were boards with nails in them and animal doo-doo. It seemed chicken manure and cow pies were the worst. For some reason if we stepped in fresh cow manure - which happened often since we were the ones to go down to the pasture to bring the cows up for milking - we referred to it as "cutting our feet".


By the end of the school year our one pair of shoes would be completely worn out - another reason for going barefoot. I distinctly remember this pair of tan shoes I wore when I was twelve. I had worn a hole through the sole in late winter. I don't think I even told my Mom. I just cut a piece of cardboard to fit in my shoe and made do for the rest of the school year. I know it didn't work all that well because I remember my foot getting wet.


If we did wear shoes in the summer it was a pair of inexpensive sandals. I remember Mom buying Betty and me sandals at the shoe store in Villisca for one dollar a pair. Mine were the ugliest dark olive green - a color I like now, but hated then. Betty's were a lighter shade of green - not so ugly as mine. I'm sure they were leftovers from the year before.


I don't think they were any worse than these jellies which became popular in the 80's, though. Did Kari have a pair of jelly sandals or slippers? Probably. They were cheap (a dollar a pair) and came in so many different colors. Jellies were made from PVC plastic - at least my ugly green sandals were leather!


Possibly because he was just learning to walk, my little brother still had to wear shoes, but Betty & I were in summer mode already. Do 'ya think this photo was posed? Summer time and the livin' was easy - wake up, pull on a shirt and pair of shorts and out the door to play.


I don't remember just when I got my first pair of flip flops. I know I was an adult. They were the next thing to going barefoot. And they were cheap, too. I have never been one for bright colors, so my first pair were probably black and cost a dollar. They've gotten a little fancier, and pricier, since then. My current ones are suede embellished with beads.

I don't know if it is a result of going barefoot as a child, but I still kick off my shoes- even the flip flops - as soon as I come into the house. A couple of weeks ago I read the obituary of a woman about my age. (Not someone I knew.) I'm pretty sure she wrote her own obituary because in addition to the things she had liked it also listed these things she did not like: "cooking, bras and wearing shoes". A woman after my own heart. In fact, before I decided to be cremated, I had in my funeral instructions to be buried without shoes.

"She's barefootin', she's barefootin."

* 1966 hit for Robert Parker

Monday, May 26, 2014

Almost Mine Once; Could Be Again

Thirty-six years ago this month I gave my two-week notice at the recording studio where I worked in Des Moines and was packing up getting ready to move myself and three children 'back home'. The plan was to move over Memorial weekend. In the midst of what was already a stressful time, my Dad died suddenly (May 24) just after his 61st birthday. When I got back to the office after his funeral my boss said I didn't have to work until the end of the month, I was free to go immediately.

Part of my reason to move back to SW Iowa was to spend more time with my father who had been in ill health for several years. But the main reason was my desire to 'get out of the rat race' and return to a simpler way of living - raising my own food, living in the country. I was in no position financially to buy a house but was able to rent three different homes with some acreage during the six years between '78 and '84.

Then the summer of 1984 I heard that a nearby house with ten acres was for sale. The house was just what I had always dreamed of owning - a big old two story Victorian with a wrap-around front porch. It was about a half mile from where we were living. It was already empty. I went to look at it. The house wasn't locked so I was able to go through it. It was even better than I had imagined in terms of size; condition was another matter. There was a barn - even a hog house, so I could continue raising my pigs. I didn't know what I'd do with the ten acres but I imagined a pick your own strawberries business or an orchard, the possibilities bloomed in my mind.

I went to talk with my banker. He verbally gave me the go-ahead to make an offer on the place. I called the out-of-the-area owner and offered $10,000. and he accepted it. I was elated; ecstatic; beside myself with joy. That night I could not sleep. Around midnight I went over to the house. By the light of the moon and a flashlight, I wandered through the rooms making mental lists of what I would have to do first in order to live there. (Get the electricity turned on and the pump to the well working so I would have water to start cleaning!) At last I would have a dedicated room (office/den) where I could place the big old oak teacher's desk which was so important to me.

And there was what I am sure would be described as a pantry, but it was going to be my still room. Okay, so maybe I read too many historical novels, but hadn't I longed for a still room where I could hang herbs and flowers to dry? Finally try wine-making? Between the kitchen and my still room there was even a dumbwaiter that went all the way from the attic to the basement! A dumbwaiter! What other country home in the area had a dumbwaiter? The lady of the manor had arrived - at least in my mind.

For me it was a huge decision that summer to buy my own place. It meant staying in Southwest Iowa with my youngest son while my daughter lived with her father back in the big bad city during the school year. She had moved in with him the second semester of her freshman year in high school because she could not deal with the small town attitudes of her school mates any longer. (Oldest son had already graduated and begun his own life.)

As it turned out the decision was taken out of my hands by my banker when I went to sign the loan papers the next day. He had been out to the acreage to look it over and decided not to loan me the money - not because I was a poor loan risk - but because "the place needs too much work for a woman alone to handle. Now, if you were married......."  What a chauvinistic pig - to use one of that era's favorite terms. (Yes, I still harbor ill feelings toward him.) It was so hard to call the owner and back out of our deal. He was upset and so was I.

Saturday when we went to the cemeteries after leaving Lenox we went across country on the road I had driven so many times when we lived in 'the little house'. It took us right past my one time almost home. And look what I saw:


The four-car garage was still there. In the front yard was also a for sale sign. Thirty years after my deal fell through, the people who did buy it have listed it for sale. I could never have fixed the house up as much as the father of the guy who did buy the place was able to. He was a carpenter who put the house and building back to rights.


So now instead of a house in need of repair with a sagging front porch as it was when it was almost mine, it looks like this - like it looked when I was a young girl and Huntington's lived there - when we used to drive by and I dreamed of one day living in a big house like that.


This picture is of the back of the house. It is from the real estate listing. More of their pictures as well as description of the property can be seen here. The dumbwaiter is still there as well as hardwood floors and original woodwork. Also "a laundry shoot all the way to the basement". (I think they mean chute.)
There is a $70,000 difference in price from when I made an offer on it. Plus the several more thousands it would take to bring the septic system up to code.

It's too late for me to have that dream come true, but I can almost hear the wheels turning in youngest son Preston's head. His five-year goal is to move out of the city to an acreage in the country. A place like this near Des Moines would be at least three times the asking price of this one. How tempting this is going to seem to him. What if? What if the house he almost got to live in thirty years ago were to become his home after all?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Got Rocks?


I really like this picture my daughter-in-law, Shelly, took of me at the winery Saturday. We were sitting on the patio when the subject of the rocks around the fountain came up. I said I already had mine picked out but Bud wouldn't let me take it. Shelly said, "I bet I know which one it is because it's my favorite, too." So we walked around the barn to look at them. Sure enough, we both had chosen the same one. I said I saw it first even though Bud wouldn't let me take it. She told me to hold it up for a picture at least.

My family knows me and my love of rocks very well - as evidenced from some of the Facebook remarks when Bud posted a picture of me while on vacation. ("Please stay off the rocks.") I've written before about some of our rock hunting expeditions and how many rocks I left behind when we retired.


But here are a few more pictures of rocks that did make the move with us. This one I think of as Grandson Ki's rock. He and I found it while exploring the area around an old coal mine west of Carbon. We had given up finding anything and were climbing up the bank to head back to the car when I saw a small piece of stone sticking out. We dug it out to find this prime example of a chunk of petrified wood.


For some reason I always think of the geodes Mom had of her parents' as 'Grandma's Geodes'.


When they could just as rightly have been 'Grandpa's Geodes'. At any rate I have been thinking about having a family get-together this summer with the theme: "Cracking Grandma's Geodes". Part of me would really like to see what the crystals inside are like while the other part of me says, "Leave them whole, as they are, as Grandpa and Grandma Ridnour found them on their trips to Illinois."


But what if the cyrstals are that pretty topaz color like the ones in this small, partially opened geode? I have an affinity for the white and/or yellow quartz rocks like the one in the lower right corner. There's also another piece of petrified wood in this picture.


Which you can see better in this close-up on the right. I'm not sure what kind of rock the one on the left is, but I liked it enough to move it here.


As I did this one. It isn't anything special - just a rather flat piece of limestone - but it has a hole in it and someone told me a rock with a hole in it brings luck.


I should have taken this picture from another angle so the striations on it would have shown up better. Why did I ever believe that I would remember where all my rocks came from? Was this one from Deadwood, SD? Branson, MO? Or SW Iowa?
Back in the 70's a new boyfriend was making a trip to Colorado. He asked me what I would like him to bring back for me. I'm sure he was thinking some sort of Colorado souvenir tee shirt or maybe some jewelry. I think it surprised him when I said I wanted a rock - any rock. Just something he found while hiking. He did bring me a small rock - not this big one.


The largest rock which made the move with us is this one. It is probably about two feet high. Part of it is sunk into the ground, of course. But right above the ground level is a little ledge. If the flowers didn't cover it up I'd most likely have something setting on it.


We've only been rock hunting a couple times since moving. I do not want to have a huge pile of rocks I have to leave behind again. We came home with a few which Bud commandeered to use under a downspout where the ground had started to wash out.


Some special Celtic rocks. The middle one is one purchased at a nursery or landscape business when we lived in West Des Moines. The small one with the celtic design and the word  BE is the one I purchased at Portland Saturday Market when we were visiting Kari & Ken a few years ago. The man selling them said he had a place along the Columbia River where he went to find his stones to carve. I had no problem choosing which one I wanted - BE has been one of my favorite bywords since Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
The rock on the left is a piece of Connemara marble I stopped and picked out of a ditch bank in the west of Ireland in 1994. I was so afraid it might get confiscated at customs, but I got home with it.

Finally, in "Got Rocks?" a rock I don't have. When I was growing up there was a rock on the window ledge at Grandma & Grandpa's that truly fascinated me. It was almost perfectly round, the size of a baseball with stripes of black and red. Grandma told us her father had found it in a field when they lived west of Mt. Etna. Because that area had been home to Indians before being settled by white people, it was easy for me to believe the rock had been used by the Native Americans in some sort of game.
Not long before Grandma died, when she was giving away some of her things, I asked her if I could have that rock. She said I could. But when I went out to get it off the window ledge it was gone - no where to be found. I imagine one of the other grandkids got it before me. Or maybe one of them took it outside to play with and forgot to bring it back inside. Perhaps years from now someone will find it in the ground and wonder where it came from. If only rocks could talk. Will these special rocks speak to my children and/or grandchildren loudly enough that they will want them when I'm gone? I hope so. I hope they remember how much their Grandma R loved her rocks.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lovely Beginning to Mother's Day Weekend

We're having a rainy start to Mother's Day with more storms forecast which makes me doubly grateful my Mother's Day celebrating started yesterday. For the past several years my first-born has brought me a lovely hanging basket.


This year when I read about the 'Second Annual Clay Festival' at Penoach* Vineyards near Adel, I suggested we meet there. The winery was continuing a tradition first started at Atherton House in Adel - the opening of the kilns (based on the North Carolina kilns opening tradition), displaying Iowa potters' wares in early May. I had attended and enjoyed that several times before the Atherton House changed hands.


I want a fire pit like this! Large rocks to sit on and just an open area on which to burn. The 1917 barn in the background has been repurposed as the wine tasting area. They added the covered patio where you can sit and sip.


Which is where Douglas and I are showing off Shelly's and my purchases. She got red and I went for the 'Picket Fence White'. That reminds me of something I saw on their Facebook page: "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas, but if the white runs out, I'll drink the red." Sounds about right.


These were my pottery purchases - two little ring or what not holders and a flower frog. It didn't come with the little flower holder frog part (the sharp stem holders) so I'll have to find one of those to use in it.


When we left the winery and pottery festival we went to the west side of town to see Doug's current remodeling project.  This cute little cottage is on two big lots. Problem is the back lot is land-locked so Doug and his construction partner can't build another house on it unless they can get an easement.


Interior, standing in living room looking into dining room and stairway.


Stained glass window looking out into backyard.


Skylight in upstairs bathroom.


An idea of what the sinks will look like. There will be two. Doug built the cabinet they will set on.


Back out in the yard. I was picking some lilacs off one of the bushes. Doug told me I didn't have to pick my own flowers, that he had some for me. He does this every year for Mother's Day. I told him I did not want to 'expect' the hanging basket (even though I sort of do), but that I appreciate getting one each year. After touring his project we went to lunch. All in all it was a great beginning to Mother's Day. 


Today, Mother's Day, and what has become my traditional brunch - omelets and champagne. I started doing this years ago when I was raising my children by myself. It was just a way of celebrating being a Mom even though I never felt like I was a very good mother. The omelet is Swiss cheese and asparagus. The coffee is Vanilla Biscotti and the jelly on the toast is Honey and Thyme Wild Blackberry Jam from the Farmers' Market in Marianna, FL. The woman who made it said it was one of those flavors you'll either hate or love when she gave me a sample taste. Obviously I was one of those on the 'love' side - such an unusual combination. The flowers are those lilacs I was picking yesterday. A long time ago a person I was working with described me as a hedonist. I had to look up the definition of the word, but, yes, I am a bit hedonistic.


A little Mother's Day vignette - the Mother's Day card from my daughter, the cross stitch picture she made of my Mom, a pottery piece from the Atherton House Kiln Opening from a few years ago and, on the floor, an Isabel Bloom statue of mother and child. I think it was titled 'Comfort' which is what I always received from my Mother and hope I provided for my children. Happy Mother's Day 2014.

(* Penoach was the Indian name given to Adel by its earliest settlers in 1837. It meant 'far away'.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Vacation Wrap Up

This should be the final post about our vacation "Chasing Spring" - unless I think of something else I meant to write about it.
Eleven years ago I joined the Choice Hotels Rewards Program. You earn points for your stays at any of their hotels. With enough points you earn a free stay in any of their hotels. I also joined a couple other rewards programs but we generally always stayed at Choice. But like everything else, hotel room prices have risen. The room we used to pay $70-$80 for is now $100 or more a night. So we decided in order to cut costs on this trip we would try some of the cheaper places to stay. I think it was on booking.com that I found America's Best Value Inn in Sikeston, MO for our first night on the road.


This was a pleasant surprise. It was obvious that this hotel had once been quite the place - impressive entrance, huge meeting rooms, etc. I really liked the looks of the front entrance. I didn't take a picture but there was a pond between the hotel and the highway.


Sweeping stairways on both sides of the lobby were very attractive. For a 'cheaper' hotel, this wasn't bad. And our room was a suite. Like I said, very grand in its day and not so bad, now.

Choice had a spring special during the time we were traveling - book two different stays at two different hotels and receive a free stay. We didn't even have to wait until our points accumulated.

So, our second night on the road we stayed at a Quality Inn in Tuscaloosa, AL. It was undergoing remodeling so the lobby was a little torn up. Other than that the only odd thing was hearing something hitting our room window. It sounded like.....it was - a high pressure washer cleaning the exterior.

No pictures of our hotel in Panama City Beach, FL, but it was a Comfort Suites. Very nice. Not only a suite, but a whirlpool suite. That made the required two nights to earn a free stay. But would it apply to the time we were still on the road? Or would we have to wait a while?


Of all our cheaper stays, this Scottish Inn at Richmond Hill, GA was the nicest. It was definitely an old style motel, but clean, quiet and very inexpensive. ($46) Wish all the cheaper places had been this nice.


We did not have to wait for our free room. This was at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Little Rock. We were on the 8th floor with a nice view. After spending the afternoon at the Clinton Presidential Center, it was nice to come back to this room and Presidential Pizza.


All the Choice Hotels offer free breakfast. When we went downstairs the next morning and I saw the silverware, I thought, "Wow, this really is a fancy place". Then I picked the silverware up and discovered it was plastic. But expensive looking plastic. :) The Satsuma Marmalade in the picture is some I bought at the Farmer's Market while with Christine & Dale in Marianna.


Our last night on the road and the first time we had a pool and spa. The pool was as warm as most spas and the spa was hot - just what we needed. There was also a sauna.
This was another hotel that had once been quite grand, attached restaurant, many rooms and meeting rooms and of course, the indoor pool.


I thought it was interesting that both our first night's stay and the last were both hotels with grand staircases. This hotel is now the Econo Lodge Truman Inn in Sedalia, MO. Econo Lodge is the low cost choice of the Choice Hotels line. We stayed at another one in Murfreesboro, TN.


A closer photo of the stairs. The desk clerk told me that many people come in just to take pictures on the stairs, like prom pictures, etc. I can see why.

Being on the road was fun, but like Dorothy said, "There's no place like home". We were more than happy to sleep in our own bed again.


What wasn't so great about being home was another snow! So while we chased spring, at home winter was hanging on. Some lights on that tree and you might think it was the holiday season.

Before we left I wasn't even certain I could handle the traveling. Between my knees and back I was afraid I wouldn't feel much like traipsing around. But I did fine. In fact, I felt better than I had all winter. I'm ready for the next trip.


Which is a good thing because daughter Kari & son-in-law, Ken just bought their first house in Portland, OR. For sure I want to get out there and see it and them. Two road trips in the same year? Yah, maybe.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Presidential Libraries

Currently there are thirteen presidential libraries sanctioned and maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. Until last month I had only visited two of them, The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa - which I visited many years ago when my children were young (Douglas and President Hoover share the same birth date, August 10) - and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri (three times).


As of April 10, I added a third - the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park, which I have wanted to see since it opened on my birthday (November 18) in 2004. I liked the architecture of the building but did not realize it was meant to represent a bridge until visiting there. The bridge design pays homage to Clinton's 1996 acceptance speech for his party's presidential nomination where he said he would help "build a bridge to the future".


It also links the building to the nearby old Rock Island Railroad bridge - one of Little Rock's "Six Bridges Over the Arkansas River". The old bridge has been renovated and is now part of the city's pedestrian and biking trails system. Originally built in 1899 for the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad, the renovation took seven years and cost $10.5 million. It opened in October, 2011.
Note also in this picture the curved, flat fountain. There is one on each side of the main entrance to the building. I didn't even realize they were fountains until we got right up to them.


The nearby old Choctaw Route Depot now houses the Headquarters of the William J. Clinton Foundation as well as home of The University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.


A few of the pictures I took inside - The Oval Office.


Table setting featuring the Lenox china commissioned by the Clintons. The plates displayed images of the White House in the center instead of the customary presidential seal.


Dale Chihuly's "Crystal Tree of Light" exhibited at the White House's Millennium Celebration. There will be an exhibit of Chihuly's art work at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock from May 17, 2014 through January 5, 2015.


I forget the details about this bike - who renovated it and gave it - or even why. I think it was supposed to represent the style of bicycle he had as a young man. I just thought it was neat.

There were more pictures, but flash wasn't allowed, so some of the ones I took didn't turn out too well. As you could see in the first picture, the exhibit on display when we were there was "Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs". It was very interesting, but dimly lit, so no pictures from it.


A free shuttle took us from the Presidential Library to the Clinton Museum Store about four blocks away in the River Market District. Bud bought a boonie hat like the one he had in Vietnam and I bought a Clinton Presidential Center postcard to send to my brother Ron - because he was such a big Clinton fan. (Not)


On our way back to the parking lot we passed this little corner park. It is hard to make out, but that is a large brass rabbit sculpture. Bud said, "Look Jean, it's another rabbit". So of course I had to try to get a shot for our "It's a rabbit, Jean. We have rabbits at home." collection of pictures.

There was a time I thought it would be fun to try and see as many Presidential Libraries as possible. Now I realize there are too many I have no desire to see - maybe the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas - but that's about the only one. I like(d) Ike - president of my childhood.