Saturday, July 22, 2017

Rochester Cemetery

The Rochester Cemetery near Tipton, Iowa is a controversial topic. As a part of our Underground Railroad history bus tour -- we went to the cemetery to see 14 acres of original Prairie grass...

From an Iowa DOT page:  It would be hard to find 14 acres of Iowa land that mean as many different things to different people as the Rochester Cemetery. Depending on who you talk to, this township burial site is: A disgrace, a shamefully neglected tangle of brush growing over ancestral graves, obscuring and sometimes damaging the stones. 

A visual wonder, putting on a dazzling annual display of wildflowers that draws a steady stream of visitors. People come from miles around each Mother’s Day to marvel at the cemetery’s dense carpet of shooting stars, one of the prettiest of prairie plants with its explosive rosette of half a dozen blooms turning their faces downward, their petals thrown back upward like the blazing trail of the heavenly body from which they get their name. 

A historic site where visitors can see the graves of some of the earliest settlers in the area, dating back to the 1830s. According to local lore, the mother of the Divine Sarah Bernhardt, the fiery French stage actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is buried here. 

A rare and precious patch of native Iowa prairie, one of the last and most spectacular living remnants of the vast, variegated prairie that once carpeted the state, of which now less than one-tenth of 1 percent remains....
Karen Anderson has a WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE about all-things-Iowa-History.
Apparently, this is what real prairie grass looks like...and there are 14 acres of it in this cemetery.
Lots of people think it should all be cut and manicured...like a normal cemetery...
I was trying to pay attention -- but got way-laid by a GIGANTIC CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE!!
I had no idea this place even existed -- and it's only about 30 minutes from my house.
I thought it would be disrespectful to take pictures of the grave stones.  I understand that real people are buried there.

As I walked around on that beautiful summer afternoon, I read the markers and wondered about their lives.  Who they were, what they did, where they lived, how they died, and why were they buried here.  Who did they leave behind..?

Every cemetery in the world is full of people who lived...and every one of them had a story...

Again, on that day, in that place, I had a Hamilton lyric playing in my head.

The last song in Hamilton is "Who tells your story?"

Who lives, who dies, 
who tells your story?

When you’re gone, who remembers your name?
Who keeps your flame?


 ***************

Friday, July 21, 2017

Kids and Road Trips

This post is for those of you who think a "road trip" with the kids sounds like a good idea. IT'S A GREAT IDEA!! John and I both loved taking the kids up to Wisconsin last month for their train trip. And I think it's a memory they'll have for a lifetime...

But be forewarned -- today's kids expect A LOT OF ENTERTAINMENT. Yikes. When I first told the kids we were going to Wisconsin in Grandpa's new car, Warren said, "Does Grandpa have screens in the back?"

These kids are looking at screens EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY. Since the first day they were strapped into a carseat, they have ALWAYS had a screen in their face...

Hummm...this could be a long three hours...
We got up early to get a jump on the day. Both kids were so excited!!
Lilly said we were really going OLD SCHOOL ALL THE WAY -- I am actually reading the map!!
Lilly had a bag of activities...some little puzzles -- remember this one, where you move the squares around?  I had a box of USA trivia questions...
I didn't have to worry about the driving -- since I am never allowed to do that on John's watch...
We planned the big breakfast stop so that it would happen HALF WAY up there.
Timing is everything, people...the kids were good and hungry...and ready to get out of the car.
On the drive home, the kids were tired...and once again hungry. But we didn't want to prolong their time in the car -- so we stopped at one of the wonderful Wisconsin Convenience Stores -- KWIK STAR -- and ate some gas station food.

I let them each pick out some treats for dessert.  But, when we got back in the car, I said they had to earn Treat #1 by keeping their hands off each other for 10 minutes --

Oh, yes, I'm such a clever Grandma...
As it turned out -- I needn't have worried...soon after we got back on the road -- this happened...
It was a very big day...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 4th/Grandma Camp

Every family has their traditions. In America, July 4th is about cookouts and Fireworks. A few years ago, I decided the Farro Family tradition should also be about JELLO CAKE!
It's a white cake mix...poked with holes...with red and blue jello poured over it while hot...
My brother, Cal, and his wife Jeanne joined us on the porch for John's bbq'd pork chops
Warren wanted to sit next to Uncle Cal
The "Grandma Camp" activity was all about the Jello Cake. I had it all ramped up...
Elliott took the kids down to our blueberry bush
And helped them pick the blueberries
The BEST frosting for a child to manage is simply a container of Cool Whip. And that will be perfect for this cake...
Warren added all the blueberries, and Lilly lined up the raspberries for the stripes.
Uncle Ross cut the cake...the kids were SO PROUD!!
The Jello was all set up, the cake was cold...it was the PERFECT Grandma Camp/Dessert/July 4th Activity!!
NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Helen Farro's Italian Potato Salad

The other day, I got an email from a reader who wanted my mother-in-law's Italian Potato Salad.

NO PROBLEM...it's one of my favorite things about summer!!

ENJOY:

My mother-in-law, Helen Farro, was the best cook I ever met. And I am grateful that she came along at a time in my life when I was eager to learn. Every summer, I look forward to making her Italian Potato Salad.

It starts off with the usual suspects -- boiled eggs, potatoes and celery...
But then, Helen would add fresh tomatoes, green beans (mine are frozen), black olives and fresh basil...

As with many things Helen cooked, there wasn't so much a "recipe" as a technique.  Here's a basic recipe for the dressing:
 Whisk the first four ingredients while slowing adding the oil...until it's emulsified.  I'm using a lot of mustard nowadays -- often, instead of mayonnaise.  And I'm liking it!!  Also, I often use Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar (with "the Mother")
Mary Mulari recommended this vinegar and I AM LOVING IT!!  It has a wonderful intense flavor, and I substitute it for every kind of vinegar...

You can add green olives as well as black olives...fresh basil...hot pepper rings...bell peppers...
A key ingredient:  PERFECTLY cooked hard boiled eggs (no green around the yolk)...
Lilly's been helping to make this salad since she was a toddler

YUMMO...!! And, since everything is better with a fresh popover -- that's all I needed to make the PERFECT SUMMER SUPPER...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New York City Shirts

If I'm doing it right -- I do some kind of sewing EVERY WEEK. Last week, I cut off five pair of blue jeans to make shorts for Lilly. (I ended up with two pair that she will wear). The week before that, I Frankensewed a swimsuit and two tops for myself. The other day, my cleaning lady brought a pair of her husband's shorts that needed to be repaired.

Today, I'm going to hem a pair of pants for John, and take in a dozen pair of my own underwear that are WAY TOO BIG. (Nice problem, eh?).  Also, I found a pair of 10-year old white jeans that fit me again -- but the bell bottom is WAY out of style.  So that should be an easy fix, eh?  I might decide to do a different hem on the bottom of the pants...

Because of my obsession with thrift store shopping...I have created on-going project in my basement with my GIGANTIC t-shirt mountain/collection that must constantly be sifted, sorted, cut up, Frankensewed and re-organized. So many times, I start by making a big pile -- and it's fun to see what jumps out at me. NOT EVERY PROJECT is a success...lol...

Take my massive basket of NEW YORK CITY shirts, for example...
Times Square. This is where I start every trip to New York City.  I can still remember the look on Lilly's face when we got to the corner of 44th Street and Broadway!!  But, as great as it is, this shirt hasn't yet found a home...
This sparkly New York shirt -- featuring the Flatiron building -- is also still looking for an idea...
This shirt actually LANDED...on a jacket for Lilly....remember??
THAT was a victory!!  I made it shortly after we got back from the city.  And she wore it to school every day last spring.
This subway hoodie was PERFECT...and I found it for $2 at a thrift store in Iowa City.  But it was too small...
So I cut open the side seams..
And added 3"of black knit fabric to each side, and also to the sleeve seam...which NOBODY WILL EVER NOTICE...and THIS is the jacket Lilly wore to New York City on the Saturday of our trip. So I have LOTS OF PICTURES of her in this jacket...and the two of us eating a late lunch at Tavern On The Green...
That subway jacket was such a major part of Lilly's first visit to New York City...when she outgrows it, I'm pretty sure it'll have another life. Maybe it'll go to college with her as a pillow...or part of a quilt...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Wild Rice Salad

When I stop to think about it, most of my friends are very good cooks.  We often exchange recipes, cooking tips, zucchini, etc.

My friend Marion loves to cook -- and she recently sent me a recipe for "Fruited Wild Rice Salad".  The fun thing is -- we BOTH BOUGHT wild rice when we were in Minnesota (visiting Mary).

High time I did something with that expensive little box of rice, eh?
Here's Marion, on our last road trip, we were at a Wisconsin Supper Club.

Fruited Wild Rice Salad: (this is a HUGE recipe -- it will feed 20 people)

Bring 5 3/4 cups of water and 10 0z of chicken broth to boil. Add 2 cups wild rice and 1 tbsp. of salt. Reduce heat to med. and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup orzo during the last 5 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup of water if orzo sticks to pan. Cool.

Stir in 2 cups dried cherries, 1 cup chopped green onions, 3/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, and 1/2 cup diced celery. Cool and cover and refrigerate for up to a day.

Whisk together 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 1 tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. dijon mustard, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup olive oil. Drizzle over salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad can be covered and refrigerated for up to a day, let it come to room temperature before serving.

Stir in 2 diced mangos or peaches, peeled and diced.


I made this salad on Sunday, July 2. Marion said it was better on the second day, so my plan was to go shopping on Monday, buy some mangos, and then serve it at our July 4th cookout. I cut the recipe in half (because we would only be a Party of 8)...I added the celery, and used both dried cherries and cranberries.  Also, I didn't have enough wild rice, so I used a bag of "wild rice mixed with long grain rice"...

Well -- IT TURNED OUT GREAT.  It was so good, as a matter of fact...that the three of us -- me, John and Ross -- decided to sample it without the Mangos.  Humm...pretty good...

By the morning of July 4th...the only thing left to serve was a bowl of chopped mangos.  The salad was all gone.

DELICIOUS!!
****************
MMWI:  237.4  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

History Day Bus Tour

Sometimes, I can't remember if I wrote about a thing. Or if I only intended to. And since I LIVE ALL OF THESE BLOG POSTS...there often isn't much of a line in my head.

I often write about the great programs I attend in this area -- most of them are put on by the community college.  This spring, I signed up for a "bus tour" that would visit locations in our area that were stops on the underground railroad during the Civil War.

If I didn't report it at the time -- I SHOULD HAVE...and, well, maybe I already did.... 
We started the day off at the Antoine LeClaire house.  A local historian (Karen Anderson) gave a brief lecture inside before we got on the bus.
Largely due to Karen's efforts in the 70's, this house has been saved from demolition.  And now serves a wonderful local history center in the community.
We got on this beautifully equipped tour bus for our all-day excursion.
Honestly -- these seats were very comfortable.  And the views out the windows were terrific!
At most of the stops, there wasn't actually anything to see or do.  But Karen would tell us about the people who lived in that house or on that farm in 1850...and what their role was in helping slaves to escape from the South...
My cousin, Linda, went with me.  We stopped for a boxed lunch at a Rest Stop on I-80.
You cannot do an Eastern Iowa history tour without visiting Herbert Hoover's Museum.
Although he didn't have anything to do with the Underground Railroad...he was a Quaker, and they were big players.
Karen was telling us about the Quakers who lived in and around West Branch, Iowa.
We went into the Quaker church...
It was a beautiful day to be touring Eastern Iowa. I learned a lot of things I had NO CLUE about...and it is sad that we lose so much. History, I mean. We have very little connection with those who came before us. What their lives were like, how hard things were. How much turmoil there was.

The world we live in can feel messed up and discouraging...and then, you spend a day looking at what it was like for YOUR ANCESTORS.  We visited places where people lived in constant fear, afraid of their next door neighbors.  The law of the land required you to turn in a runaway slave, and if you helped them escape, you could be arrested, jailed, and lose your own property and livelihood.

For me -- history provides a perspective.  After that day of following the underground railroad route in Iowa, I saw my own life through a different lens.

We've come a long way.  And I am grateful. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Jon Dorenbus AGT

Lilly LOVES to watch America's Got Talent. Warren can hang in there for most of it, too...and he likes to pretend he understands what everybody is doing. So, it's often a show we watch together. As a family. Another 1950's concept, eh?

We all know how much I like to do the "old school" things...

A family watching a television show TOGETHER used to be a big part of life.   Remember Gunsmoke?  My parents sat down with us every Friday night to watch the latest episode...Bonanza, The Ed Sullivan Show...well, you get the idea.

That is NOT HAPPENING in today's world. Every child has their own I-pad, with shows dumbed down to their age level, always focused, via constant product placement and marketing, to sell them the latest gadget or game. They have their own I-tunes accounts so they can download those fun new games and apps...

But, alas, I digress...

We watch every episode of AGT together. And, of course, we root for our favorites. Uncle Ross ALWAYS cheers for the magic acts. Grandpa liked Jon Dorenbus because he played football for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Last Spring, there was a charity event at the convention center, featuring Jon Dorenbus from America's Got Talent!! (He came in Third.) This was double exciting, because my great-nephew, Cale, was in a competition to be THE OPENING ACT..!!

Well, I could hardly wait to GO SEE THIS FABULOUS LIVE SHOW. I bought three tickets. I figured it would be me, Lilly and Grandpa.

Ramping up to the event, there was a Facebook competition to see who would be the opening act...

 
CALE WON!! Which meant, of course, Ronda (his Grandmother, my sister) would also be attending the event. We were so proud..!!
It's a very big stage -- with hundreds of seats.  The biggest audience Cale has ever played for...
He didn't even seem nervous. AND HE DID GREAT..!!
Then, they introduced the headliner.  JON DORENBUS..!!  His close-up magic was put on the big screen. IT IS AMAZING...
After the show, Jon came out to sign autographs and visit with people.  He acted like he had all the time in the world.. I asked my niece, Amy (Cale's Mom) to take a picture of me and him. This is pitiful...
And this one ain't much better. But you get the idea!! We actually had a nice chat.
Jon's magic is excellent, but his story is the compelling thing. When he was 12 years old, his father killed his mother. Before that happened, he was a regular kid living a middle-class life in a Seattle suburb...and then -- boom -- it all exploded. His father was convicted of the murder, and Jon was adopted by an Aunt and Uncle. He took refuge in magic, practicing for hours and hours...

During his show, Jon shares that story -- even showing news coverage of his mother's murder. And he talked about how he persevered in life...he is a man of average-to-small build, and a career in the NFL seemed unlikely.  He shares his adult perspective on how his mother's murder affected him...and he has forgiven his father, even though they have no contact and no relationship.  He delivers a very sincere message -- about forgiveness...and focus...and making the most of your life, no matter what...being the best person you can be...

It was a GREAT, GREAT NIGHT...

I am only sorry that neither my husband John nor Lilly was able to attend.  They were both sick at the time.  But Ross went with me...and when we got there, we ran into both my sisters Ronda and Deena.  So it was a great family outing!!