Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Roads of Life in Midwestern Country


The Road of Life

The road I call Life
Is ever changing before me.
There are so many twists and turns,
Hills, speed bumps and potholes

That I sometimes wonder
If the path will ever become easier.
I look at the windy road
And shake my head, discouraged.


“I'm right here,” the quiet whisper
Is like someone shouting,
“I'll help you get through each step,”
The voice reassures me.

“It may twist and turn,
But I'll keep you steady,
And when you come to a crossroads,
I'll show you which way to go.


“This path may be windy
And full of bumps, but I know
What's gonna happen, so trust Me.
It's the right road for you.”

When I penned this country-road-inspired poem very, very early in the morning on October 27th, I didn't realize I was less than a week away from hitting one of the biggest bumps I had encountered in the road of my life. That bump, a huge, bone-rattling, car-eating, heart-breaking pothole was my grandpa passing away, halfway across the country from me. I had no idea what was looming over the hill when I scribbled this poem, but in the days and weeks after Pappy passed on, I leaned on the words that had seemed to just flow onto the paper as I wrote that one late night.

As I looked back over the months since then, I realized the words came from Someone who knew exactly what was coming up on the other side of that hill, and knew I was about to need to see those words in black and white. And He knew I would understand the comparison of the sometimes unexpected stop signs and turns I encounter on the old country back roads to the twists and turns in the road of life. I'm so thankful for the country roads in my life, especially the kind I drive on that help me understand the kind of road--sometimes straight, with hills, turns, and crossroads appearing out of nowhere--I'll be walking until the day I join my Pappy in heaven.

So, now you know why I love my country roads....why do you enjoy yours?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Made in Michigan - Kellogg's Corn Flakes by Peggy Wirgau


It’s always interesting to hear when an important discovery or invention happened by accident. One of those “accidents” happened to W.K. Kellogg and his brother Dr. John Harvey Kellogg back in 1898, when they were attempting to make granola for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where Dr. Kellogg worked. Somehow, they managed to turn wheat berry into flakes. W.K. did a little more experimenting with corn until he created the corn flake, and the classic recipe for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was born.
The brothers had dreamed of producing convenient and healthy breakfast foods, based on the health principles of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church followed at the Sanitarium. They soon opened the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes became a huge success.
 
The Kellogg Company became the producer of other popular cereals, including Rice Krispies and Sugar Frosted Flakes. They were the first to offer prizes inside cereal boxes. The company gradually acquired other food-related businesses and introduced new products, like Pop Tarts and Eggo waffles.

Here’s a simple recipe for a pretty and nutritious snack or dessert using Eggo waffles from the Kellogg web site called Butterfly on a Flower. Wouldn’t this make a cute Easter morning treat?

 

 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring's Tease

April is here. It's supposed to be spring. Well, it was supposed to be spring in March but not much has been in evidence. We've endured a tough COLD winter. Now the weather is supposed to warm. Crocus, tulips, daffodils and such are to be poking their heads out of the ground. For every one springlike day we have been getting four to five cold wintery ones. Spring seems to be teasing us. Giving and taking back the hope we have that the winter is over.

Part of this may be because we had such a warm winter last year. March had also been warm and the farmers in the area had been getting the fields ready to plant. This year the ground was frozen to 54 inches. It takes a bunch of warm days to thaw that out.

There is hope though. More and more signs of the change of season have been showing up. A few days ago the snow geese visited one evening us on their way to Canada. They landed in the corn field behind our house circling and calling as they came. Then they moved in an ever increasing circle feeding on the kernels of corn scattered across the field. They've never done so here before. 
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They left but came back the next morning repeating their visit. Once they took off we haven't seen them since. It was amazing to watch their seemingly random flights but how they were all coordinated into fluid motion.

My next signal spring is here is when the ice is off my garden pond and I start the pump for the waterfall. I love the sound of the water and when the frogs and toads start singing their mating song it's bliss. I built the pond when we built the house almost eight years ago. I went to the pet store and spent a whole five dollars on feeder goldfish. I wasn't going to waste good money on something I might kill in the next couple of days.


Over the years some have died but more have propagated. Let me tell you giving goldfish away is hard to do. This winter was hard on them. Most of the large ones, 5-7 inches, died and had to be scooped out along with the dead frogs to dumb to bury themselves in the bog mud. They now fertilize the edge of the cornfield. After a couple of false starts the pump is now pumping, the water is falling and my screen door is open so I can hear the sweet sound. It's only eleven AM and it's 68ยบ. 

It's supposed to rain tonight, tomorrow and the next day. We need the moisture for the crops. It's another sign of spring. At least they aren't predicting snow.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Midwestern Grannies

Norwegian Grandma Syndrome
by Lisa Lickel

Yeah, I know...so I'm only a quarter Norwegian, but I am a grandmother. By the time this post is live, I hope and pray the second grandchild has arrived safe and sound for some more serious cuddling.


Now that I am a legit grandma, I pay attention to things like perception...mine and others. I never thought anything of how grandparents were supposed to look when I was growing up. My real Norwegian Iowa grandma had fluffy black and gray hair cut short, towered over me all her life, and wore aprons and slip-on shoes, rocked a mean rocking chair, mowed the lawn and collected eggs, which she allowed me to do with her, and kept piglets by the warm air register when it was cold in the sty. She had an outside loud, barking dog named Skippy and grew morning glories outside the back door. She kept windmill cookies in a speckled jar on the sloping counter in a house her husband's father had built in the country. She was in her mid-fifties, I now realize, when I was a little girl. Ahem. My age.

My hair is getting grayer, but it's not short. I wear glasses and a comfortable secretary spread, and aprons upon occasion. Not for decoration. I poke through my grandmother's recipe book and am glad that lard is in fashion again.

My mother's mother, a royal mix of high German, Polish, English and other stuff I'll probably never know, also had fluffy hair cut short, glasses on a chain, smoked cigarettes, was thin and elegant and owned a small poodle named Gigi. She had a drawer of stuff just for us kids in the kitchen, which we immediately rushed to on every visit. There was usually something new. She ate turkey, white bread, and drank Sanka, and made awesome fruit salads. There was a cupboard of board games upstairs, like Risk and Stratego, which I never learned to play, but had fun pretending how. There was also a shelf of children's books, of which the Pokey Little Puppy was an all time favorite. I could never bring myself to buy my own copy because I associated with Grandma. She was even younger than my dad's mom when I was a little girl.


I am dreaming of our retirement home, in a new community (to me) which we'll build in the not-far distant future. What I think of most is sharing it with the grandchildren. The best things of what I remember from growing up, and what I want them to experience with me...maybe chickens, although one child has chickens at their home; definitely the box of grandma toys, maybe coming up with a special treat we make together. Cut out cookies, making books.

What do you remember about grandma's house?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Noisy Quiet

This story IS set in the Midwest - at least part of it is. And it's 95% true (it happened almost 15 years ago, but still). Hope it helps you appreciate the beauty of this region we live in.

Noisy Quiet
By Joanne Sher

"What are you doing up there?"

My husband, three inches taller than I am, is looking up at me, probably convinced I'm insane. And maybe he's right.

"It's beautiful from up here."

He chuckles. "It had quite an impact on you, didn't it?"

I nod. "Come on up."

**

I've never known quiet to be so noisy before. It's a good thing I'm exhausted.

The mattress looks inviting, but I suppose I should get out of these clothes first. It certainly can't hurt, with the sweat dripping down my body.

I peel off my boots, knee socks, pants, long-sleeved shirt, and, of course, my hat. I slip into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt--an outfit much more fitting for the air temperature.

I examine the bed for creepy crawly things. Finding none, I smile. I stretch out on my cot and look straight up. At least I can't see the sky.

Don't get me wrong--I like a star-studded view as well as, if not better than, the average person. But if I had to choose between protection from the elements and those beautiful twinklers, there's no contest. Dry is definitely my preference.

You see, it's supposed to rain tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. You get the picture. Walking around in it is one thing. But trying to sleep? Can't imagine it's doable: at least not for me.

An Amazon sunrise - photo source
It's not like I'm a victim of false advertising. This is the rainforest, for goodness sake. It's not like I was expecting five-star accommodations or bright, cloudless skies. When I offered to pay my own way to go on an Amazon rainforest adventure with three dozen middle schoolers, just so I could write a story for my local paper, and maybe get published in a national magazine, I knew I wouldn't be ordering room service. But somehow, the ruggedness--the roughness--of it, didn't hit me, until now.

Oh well. Part of the adventure, I suppose. I close my eyes and listen to that noisy quiet.

My ears are practically overloaded. There are at least a dozen different sounds, none of which appear to be man-made. The croak of frogs sounds familiar, but the other noises are completely foreign. Birds, perhaps? Maybe a monkey? Some animal I've never seen? Most likely. But perhaps, before the end of the week, I will.

I don't think I have ever been this enveloped in God's creation: certainly not since I acknowledged Him just five months ago. Nearly everything around me is evidence of His handiwork. How could I have ever believed this was an accident: a series of random scientific processes?

I think back over the day. The airports were a madhouse: especially O'Hare. The tween chatter didn't help much either. However, the beauty of the Andes as we soared above them did. And what a contrast between where we'd spent the first part of the day and the sparseness and primitivity of the Iquitos, Peru airport. I laugh, remembering the monkey on the shoulder of the elderly woman, and the fact that it almost grabbed the hat off my head. Then there was the hour-plus canoe ride up the Yarapa river, and the incredible view of the native people and wildlife along the shorelines.

Once we arrived at our home for the next week, we were all quite eager to get our legs moving. The plants were so vibrant. Even the insects were more brilliant in color. I was so engrossed; I didn't even notice the heat.

I focus again on the many noises of the wildlife around me, trying to guess what each animal sound is in turn. I may never know if I'm right, but it doesn't hurt to guess.

I have a feeling this is going to be quite a trip.

**

"Come up there? No thanks." He sits on the ground and looks up at me perched in our tree. "You just enjoy it yourself."

"I will." I close my eyes and listen to this different noisy quiet. Sure, I hear cars zooming past our house. But my ears, perhaps sensitized over the past week, pick up at least two different birds, the wind rustling through the leaves, and the movement of the grass as my husband shifts on the ground. For a moment, I forget I'm in my own front yard.

It was here waiting for me. Too bad I had to go all the way to the Amazon to realize it.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Adventures

by Shelley Wilburn

Spring has sprung! April showers are hopefully going to bring May flowers! In Illinois we sure have had our fair share of showers lately.  But while they were getting rained on in Illinois, my husband and I took our first "big" motorcycle trip of 2014. We rode over six hundred miles to Louisiana to visit our youngest grandson, Abraham. Okay... we also went to see our oldest daughter and son-in-law, too. But when the baby calls and says, "Nonney, Paw Paw, you come see me?" well...you GO!



This trip it was all about Paw Paw. I didn't mind. Abraham is two. When he saw his Paw Paw, he got so excited that he wanted every moment with him. Abe loves Thomas the Train, building big train tracks, and going to the "pike" (park) to play. His favorite thing to do is swing and slide. So is his Paw Paw's. It was so fun watching them play. I couldn't decide who was having more fun, Abe or Paw Paw. 

Since they have only lived in Louisiana six months, they are still learning their way around and every day is an adventure! Our first complete day with Abe, our daughter Rachel asked if we wanted to take a ride to get a malt after we played at the pike. Well... DUH! Of course we wanted a malt.

We found the malt shop, and wouldn't you know it, I did not get a picture of it! What I did get a picture of was the Farmer's Market stand directly across the street! We are suckers for fresh produce too, so of course we had to venture across the road and check out the goods.



Rachel told us that in this part of Louisiana there are Farmer's Markets everywhere, usually every week and some every day. This particular one is every day. I wondered how they could possibly have produce every day, much less in the first part of April. Well... DUH, again! I was in the south!

As we walked across the road and began looking at the goods, Abraham yells, "Shrawberries! I need 'doze!" They looked yummy, and even though we had some at home, Paw Paw gave direct orders to pick up some "shrawberries" for that baby. The other fruits and veggies also looked good, so we decided on some pears and some cauliflower as well. 


I will say, the shrawberries were very sweet, the pears juicy and sweet, and the cauliflower roasted up very nicely. Back home in Illinois the weather was cold, rainy, and no Farmer's Markets. So I enjoyed every bit of that while we visited Louisiana.
We are hoping to have a garden this year, although we aren't very good at it. So I'm hoping the Farmer's Markets have some good stuff and soon! Have y'all been planning your gardens? Or will you hold out for the local Farmer's Market, too? Whatever your choice, I hope you have a great season! We'll be out on the road a lot on that bike. Probably burning up the highway between Southern Illinois and Southern Louisiana! Hmm...we may want to think about hiring a gardener...






Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring is here! Maybe...

by Stacy Monson

I'm a true Minnesotan. I love all 4 seasons - except winter. Well, I like winter for about a month but then I'm done with it. I talk about weather. I complain about weather. Yup, that's what Minnesotans do. We're obsessed with weather...and food.

So while we just got 9"+ dumped on us last Thursday and Friday, it's nearly gone. We had a glorious weekend to enjoy, and people did. Everywhere I went there were people walking dogs, or just walking themselves. People running and biking. The bikers were out in spades on their motorcycles.


We opened our windows - car windows, house windows, sliding doors. And since there are no bugs (read mosquitoes), we don't have to put our screens on just yet! (it's the small things in life, right?)

Macy's has an annual flower show in the downtown store. It's an annual pilgrimmage for many of us since it features living plants. Doesn't even matter what kind - just plants that are ALIVE! Keep in mind, we still had several snowfalls in May last year, so that flower show is an absolute necessity for many of us.  :)

I bought a bowl of my favorite spring flower - pansies. Not sure if anyone else would call them "spring flowers" (compared to tulips or daffodils) but to me they shout SUMMER IS COMING! So I bought a bowl and set it in my kitchen window. They make me smile every time I look at them.

Here's hoping spring is making YOU smile!

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