Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mouse Nest in the Woodpile

More About Birds and Animals...

Mouse NestWarm and cozy mouse nest

We found this beautiful little mouse nest yesterday while we were restacking the woodpile. I was much impressed with the skill with which the little creatures had made it. The nest was a warm, dry and cozy home in the woodpile, covered over above with split logs and a tarp. It was uninhabited, but I'm sure it's been full of baby mice at least once -- probably many times.

The nest is made mostly of chewed leaves and grass and some sort of hair (or something that looks like hair.) I don't know if they tear hair from their own bodies as some rabbits do or if they found some other source of hair or a hair-like substance.

Mind you, I don't like mice in my house, but they have their place in the ecosystem outside and I respect that. That being said, I've looked at a few dozen webpages about mice and their nests today, and I think this is the nest of a house mouse, a Central Asian species, that was introduced to the U.S. many years ago and is now one of the most problematic rodents in Kentucky (and the rest of the world.) One of their common nesting places is woodpiles!

Still, I felt a twinge of shame as we removed the nest and laid it on the ground. It was constructed so well that it held together when it was moved. I remembered the Robert Burns poem, To A Mouse. On turning her up in her nest with the plough.

I'm sure you've heard a phrase from one of the last stanzas of the poem:
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

There's much more to the poem, though, so if you haven't read it in full recently, it's well worth reviewing.

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Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database

History and Old Stuff...

Dennis gave me an assignment this morning, since I am staying home from church with a cold. He had found a web address for the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database in his America's Civil War magazine this morning and he wanted me to run the name "Netz" through their search engine. (Dennis's father always said that a Netz ancestor had fought for the Union in the Civil War.)

It seems likely that Dennis's father was right. The search engine yielded 19 Netz names from New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, and West Virginia. (Apparently the surname is not as uncommon as Dennis thinks it is.) Dennis is going to need a little more information to pinpoint the Netz who was his ancestor!

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Alfred Hitchcock's "Foreign Correspondent"

Hitchcock thriller from 1940

HitchcockDennis and I watched "Foreign Correspondent" tonight on Turner Classic Movies. It's a great Alfred Hitchcock movie that was made in 1940, the year that my mom graduated from high school.

Dennis watched for Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearance through the whole movie, but somehow he missed it.

We speculated that he was one of the people in the movie's great crowd scene* where you look down at the round tops of dozens of open umbrellas and you follow the bad guy's escape by the disturbance he makes in the umbrellas.

However, according to an online list of Alfred Hitchcock's Cameo Appearances, Albert's appearance was "[e]arly in the movie, after Joel McCrea leaves his hotel, wearing a coat and hat and reading a newspaper." He must have been standing on the street.

Beyond the cameo which we didn't catch, the movie was dramatic with a complex spy thriller plot. The story and the relationships within it were interesting, and the plane crash scene at the end was amazingly realistic. There were quite a few creepy Hitchcock moments also, and some interesting plot twists.

We thought the movie was very much a glimpse back into the political turmoil immediately before World War II, as well as an interesting documentary of life as it was lived in 1940.

The movie ends with Joel McCrea standing at the microphone reporting to America from London. All the lights have gone out and bombs are falling. Americans who saw the movie in 1940 must have been chilled by his message:

Okay, we'll tell 'em then. I can't read the rest of the speech I had, 'cause the lights have gone out, so I'll just have to speak from the cuff. All that noise you hear isn't static - it's death, coming to London. Yes, they're coming here now. You can hear the bombs falling on the streets and on the homes. Don't tune me out, hang on a while - this is a big story, and you're part of it, it's too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come... as if the lights were out everywhere, except in America. Keep those lights burning, cover them with steel, ring them with guns, build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them. Hello, America, hang on to your lights: they're the only ones left in the world! (Source: Wikipedia)

As I listened to the "broadcast" of these words, I thought about my mother graduating from high school in 1940. I looked at a timeline of 1940 after the movie ended, and I can understand why she always stressed that her class graduated into a frightening and uncertain world. By May of 1940, Nazi Germany's blitzkrieg was well underway and western Europe was falling.

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*Crowd image appears on the Foreign Correspondent page of Alfred Hitchcock, The Master of Suspense

Friday, December 29, 2006

Looking Back at Prairie Bluestem, 2006

Blogs and Blogging...

15 posts that search engine users frequently visit on my blog:
  1. Pilot Rock
  2. Dill Flower
  3. Dress Gloves
  4. The Last Leaf
  5. I Love A Piano!
  6. Shelving I Built
  7. Cornbread for Supper
  8. Alice and Jerry Readers
  9. Hair Care Tips from 1913
  10. Wedding at Oakland Manor
  11. Plastic Flamingos' Swan Song
  12. Tennessee Renaissance Festival
  13. Accounts of a Bad Nebraska Blizzard
  14. Black, The New Christmas Tree Color
  15. Gas Lantern Restaurant in Clarksville, TN

15 of my favorite posts from last year:
  1. Snake Stories
  2. Kids and Kittens
  3. Getting the Mail
  4. Help Me, Rhonda!
  5. Cattle Drive Chow
  6. Caring for Our Own
  7. The Peterbang Kids
  8. A Methodist Memory
  9. Barn of My Childhood
  10. Riding Horseback to School
  11. Ink Wells and Fountain Pens
  12. Adventure of the Castle Ruins
  13. District 44 at Johnstown, Nebraska
  14. Maternal Instincts and Little Rabbits
  15. Wild Fruits of the Nebraska Sandhills

15 random links of interest I've posted:
  1. Ta-da Lists
  2. NetDisaster
  3. Sew Now What
  6. Automatic Flatterer
  7. Download a pinhole camera
  8. Google's free book download
  9. Needle Lil More Time to Sew
  10. Hodgson Mill's Recipe Collection
  11. Raicaire's Embroidery and Needlework
  12.'s Bull Session Forum Index
  13. Harry Central (a story at Fan
  14. Dover Publications' weekly clipart sampler
  15. Seth Godet's pointers for interview questions

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Blogs and Blogging...

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Very Lady Genevieve the Herbaceous of Wimblish upon Frognaze
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (9)

All In The Family...

Elf patternElf pattern (place on fold)

I keep an envelope marked "Christmas Elf" in one of our boxes of Christmas decorations. It holds a half-elf, cut from an old Christmas card and I'm saving him for my future grandkids.

Here's his little story. One year when the kids were out of school for Christmas but still had a few more days to wait, they were bored stiff and terribly nervous, shall we say?! "There's nothing to do!" they whined.

After Christmas at our house, we were going to drive out to Kansas for Christmas with my parents, and I was busy trying to get ready for all of this. I certainly didn't feel that I had "nothing to do, " but it was clear that the kids were suffering.

I had seen an elf "wreath" in a magazine article about Christmas crafts. I think it was supposed to be made from felt, but I decided we could make one from paper. I sketched out the half-elf (above) on the back of an old Christmas card (stiff paper), cut it out, and set the kids down at the kitchen table.

Keely was old enough to use scissors well, so she traced the outline on folded sheets of paper and made about 20 of the little fellows. Isaac helped color them, and they drew their faces and other details with markers.

Then we cut a big ring of poster board, and the kids glued their elves shoulder to shoulder, with their heads to the center and feet to the outside, all around the outside edge of the ring. I don't think they bothered interlocking their arms, but it could be done. We attached a ribbon to hang it up.

It made a cute bit of kid art that they were proud of. We took the elf wreath to Kansas and gave it to Grandma and Grandpa Hill, and they hung it up until it finally got too bedraggled to preserve any longer.

When my grandkids make an elf wreath for me, I'll hang it up every Christmas (maybe even year-round in their bedroom at my house) and I'll remember my own little children and our drive to Kansas each Christmas and how happy their Grandma and Grandpa always were to see them.

Elf wreath

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Picture of Innocence (Ha!)

All In The Family...

Here's Casper, so sweet and sleepy. But if you look closely, you'll see that the hair on his forehead is a bit damp and matted from being sprayed with the squirt bottle just a few minutes earlier.

Casper is strangely fond of the kitchen sink. He jumps into it and tries to remove the strainer-plug that covers the drain. It makes an exciting noise as he jiggles it up and down, but he can never quite drag it out of its hole before someone arrives with the squirt bottle and chases him away! (We don't agree with Casper that the kitchen sink is a good place for him to play.)

This post is Casper's second appearance in the Carnival of the Cats.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hanging Out Clothes To Dry

Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

I enjoyed some comments about clotheslines by Victoria Malaney of Flintstone, Maryland, in the January/February, 2007 edition of This Old House. In her letter to the editor, Ms. Malaney, who describes herself as "a nearly 80-year-old", wrote,

"...Women back in the day took great pride in how the clothes looked on the line: all like things together by color and size. Shirts were hung by the tail unbuttoned, to catch any welcome breeze that would help get rid of the wrinkles. Pants by the back waistband only, socks by the toe.

"In spite of all the work, hanging clothes meant time outside the house and didn't seem like a chore. It is a time I remember with love and pride."

Clothesline plans are given in the October, 2006, This Old House: 15 Green Projects for Under $500.

Related posts:
Washers, Dryers and Clotheslines
Ironing Clothes in the 1950's

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

iPod Agonies

All In The Family...

Isaac has wanted an iPod terribly for a long while. He promised to sacrifice all other Christmas presents if only he could have the iPod he wanted, so we got it for him. We didn't hold him literally to his pledge, but his iPod was his Christmas this year other than some little stocking stuffers and a couple of shirts.

Isaac was so happy when he opened it, but when he connected the iPod into our computer, it didn't work right. iTunes (used for loading music onto the iPod) couldn't see the iPod even though Windows knew it was there. By Christmas night, Isaac's joy had turned to frustration and nearly to despair.

Today after much fruitless effort and suffering with downloads, online manuals, and so on, Isaac decided that we should go to Radio Shack in Hopkinsville (authorized iPod dealer) and ask a human for advice. I went with him and as we walked into the store, a clerk who was leaning against the counter asked if he could help us.

Isaac began to describe the problem, and the clerk interrupted, "Where'd you buy it?" I answered that I'd purchased it from the Apple website, and as I spoke the words, the clerk's face closed. "We wouldn't be able to help you with that," he announced.

Isaac said that he was just hoping for advice. The clerk replied that he didn't know anything about iPods. That was the end of the conversation. He did not want to talk to us anymore. He did not call another clerk over to hear the question. He did not even advise us to seek help online. He made it clear that he was unable,unwilling and unfriendly, so we left. I guess he was teaching us a lesson about where to shop.

When we got home, I persuaded Isaac to let me mess with it. I found some suggestions on the Apple website which I tried. I uninstalled iTunes, deleted the temporary files, restarted the computer, reinstalled iTunes, then rebooted the iPod as well.

It still didn't look like it was going to work -- and then suddenly it did work. Isaac was overjoyed and even admitted that I might not be as stupid as I look (even though I am terribly irritating.) Wink

He has spent the evening importing his music into iTunes and moving it into the iPod. He's been learning how it works as he goes along -- there was a bad moment when he erased everything he'd loaded so far -- but it looks like it's going to be all right.

I just hope that after he disconnects the iPod, the darned thing works right. And I hope that iTunes remembers the iPod when he tries to reconnect it again.

Ah, the little agonies of this age of technology.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (8)

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

The following story of a snowy Christmas eve is a Christmas memory in two ways. It recalls a Christmas of my childhood, and it also brings to mind the Christmas of 2000 when I wrote this for a little keepsake book and special website that members of my church made.

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I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL MEMORY of a Christmas Eve when I was about eight years old. A dry snow was falling that night and several inches of white powder lay on the ground by the time we read the Bible story of Jesus's birth and opened our gifts.

Our Christmas packages held new ice skates and mine were white. We were so anxious to try them that we couldn't wait until morning light! We laced on our skates while my father got a shovel and pushed back the snow on the little pond in the milkcow pasture. Then, with a million tiny snowflakes sparkling in the yardlight and dancing away into the long quiet shadows, we skated.

I outgrew those skates in a year or two, but the best gift my parents gave me that Christmas is still with me -- the happy memory of the utter joy and beauty of that night. God's great love for us shines through happy memories like this, lifting our spirits and warming our hearts each time He brings them to mind.

This is my 49th Christmas. [That was in 2000. In 2006, it's now my 55th Christmas!] Through the years, I have had times of walking "through the valley of the shadow of death" as well as times of walking "beside the still waters". Sometimes, I could only pray, "O Lord, you know!" and hand my heartaches and fears over to God.

Still, as I look back over the years, I see God's great love for me shining brightly through each of them. I thank Him for my savior, Jesus, and for the joy of celebrating Christmas! I thank Him for each day of my life and for all He has provided for me. He has brought me this far and He will lead me on.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (7)

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

Founders Square  Hopkinsville, KYFounders Square, Hopkinsville, KY, December 2006

The city Christmas tree on Hopkinsville's Founders Square appears to be lighted with a net that encloses the entire tree. I first began seeing these a few years ago.

Decorations weren't so fancy when I was a child, but it was still exciting to see them. Most of the little towns in the Nebraska Sandhills hung a string of colored lights across the town's main intersection and some decorations (candy canes, stars, angels, etc.) -- on the electric poles on Main Street.

On the long drive home from Christmas with my mother's family at Gordon, NE, one of the things that helped break the monotony was the Christmas lights in the little towns along Highway 20. Some of the few ranch homes along the highway had Christmas lights in their windows too.

My father loved to see an outdoor evergreen tree with colored lights and one Christmas he bought a string of colored lights for a tree in our yard. Back then, each bulb in the string was nearly full-sized -- mini-lights hadn't been invented yet -- and there were about a dozen colored lights on the string. He put them on the young blue spruce on the south side of our house, and they did look pretty, shining in the dark cold winter nights.

To enjoy our lighted outdoor tree, we had to go outside or stand at one of our south windows. I don't suppose many people outside our family saw the lights as the nearest neighbor lived about two miles away and there was absolutely no passing traffic at night. (After our house, the small, sandy, two-track road got even smaller and sandier as it branched off into the pastures of our ranch.)

I think the lights were on the outside tree only one Christmas before my dad decided he didn't get to see enough of them out there, so they became part of our indoor decorations. They were made with a good sturdy cord and incredibly long-lasting bulbs, and my mom and dad were still using them several decades later.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (6)

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life In Germany...

Downtown Berlin at ChristmasDowntown Berlin at Christmas, about 1988

The largest city that I've ever lived in is Berlin, Germany. We went to West Berlin in 1988 with my husband's job in the Army-Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), and by the time we left in 1991, Germany and the city of Berlin had been reunified and most of the infamous Berlin wall had been torn down.

It's interesting to me that in 1990, just a year before we moved to Kentucky, Berlin's population was 3,433,695 (East and West Berlin combined) and the entire state of Kentucky's population was 3,685,296.

Band at a Berlin Christmas marketA band at the Zehlendorf
Christmas market in Berlin
We lived in a part of Berlin called Zehlendorf. I'm sure it was once a little town that was gradually swallowed up by the metropolis. Zehlendorf had its own business district and they had a Christmas market (Weihnachtsmärkt) in December, much like those we had seen in the little villages of Bavaria.

For the Christmas market, streets were closed to traffic. Merchants set up tents and booths and sold all sorts of Christmas crafts, gifts, baking ingredients, and holiday decorations. Sausages and bratwursts, gingerbreads, and other holiday goodies were sold by vendors, most notably the spicy gluhwein (glowing wine,) served hot to warm cold fingers and toes. Children could ride a carousel or even a little pony.

Shepherd at the Christmas marketShepherd at the Christmas
market animal exhibit
The Christmas market photos at left were taken near the Paulus Gemeindehaus, a community center owned by the Zehlendorf Lutheran church. We felt very much at home at the Gemeindehaus because our church, the American Church in Berlin, used the building on Sundays for Sunday School classes.

The shepherd was watching over a little pen of sheep. Keely was a preschooler, just the right size to be fascinated by the sight of real sheep. I remember we stood by the sheep pen for a very long time before she finally had seen enough of them. Before we went home, I bought a carved rolling pin for making springerle, a souvenir of the Zehlendorf Weihnachtsmärkt which I have to this day.

While I was writing this post, I looked for the website of the American Church in Berlin (ACB) and learned that it no longer meets at the historic Alte Dorfkirche, just down the street from the Paulus Gemeindehaus. They've moved to a much larger church that's closer to the center of Berlin, near the area where the church was located before World War II.

I'm happy for the American Church, both because it has grown and because it has better facilities, but I enjoy my memories of the old village church in Zehlendorf. Worshiping in that historic Christian meeting house and attending Sunday School in the Paulus Gemeindehaus helped me feel like Zehlendorf was my home too.

The last Christmas we spent in Berlin, I sewed a dozen angel costumes for the ACB Sunday School Christmas program. I tried to make them sturdy so they'd last a long time. I hope they're still in use at the new church this Christmas.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (5)

All In The Family...

This is my family at Christmas in 1959. I'm the little girl with glasses on the end. My sister Charlotte is sitting on my mom's lap, and my brother Dwight is next to me.

My parents are 36 years old in this photo, my sister is 3, I'm 8, and my brother is 13. (I say this with some confidence because the processing date is stamped on the photo: "February, 1960.")

This photo was taken at the Harry Sees farmhouse at Gordon, NE, the house that my Grandpa Sees built and my mother grew up in. Gramp Sees was not with us the Christmas this photo was made because he passed away not long after my sister was born. He was in his early 50's, and he died from leukemia -- a disease that had few treatments at that time.

It was probably a sad Christmas for my parents, my aunt Becky and Uncle Larry, and Grandma Barb. I realize that as I look back today, but I have happy memories of our Christmas visits to Grandma Barb. I remember a big Christmas tree with tinsel, packages wrapped in sparkly tissue paper and my uncle carving the turkey. The pantry off my Grandma's kitchen always smelled like graham crackers, and she had a dispenser for wooden matches that hung on the wall near the pantry door.

And I remember the television set at Grandma Barb's house. We didn't have a TV, so I was mesmerized whenever I saw one.

At Christmas of 1959, Dwight D. Eisenhower was still the President of the United States. I remember telling my brother once that I wished we had a television just so I could see the President. In my young and innocent mind, the President occupied a place of reverence slightly below God but far above ordinary people.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Foggy Morning

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Foggy morning
Foggy morning

The tobacco farmers love foggy mornings like this, because it brings the tobacco leaf "in order", as they say. This time of the year, they're taking the tobacco down from the barns and bringing it into the stripping room.

In the stripping room, the leaves are pulled off the stalks and put into bales. As I understand it, a damp foggy morning like this makes the leaves nicer to work with. I think they soak up just enough moisture so they don't crumble and break when handled.

The poles that this barn was built upon have apparently rotted out and been replaced with concrete piers. It stands in a damp area, just above a little creek.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (4)

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

Wedding photo

Twenty-eight years ago yesterday, Dennis and I were married in a little church in Missouri. He was a senior in college, and I had just graduated and was teaching 4th grade.

The wedding was on Saturday and I went back to work on Monday and taught school for a few more days before Christmas vacation finally started. My students were excited and giggly about using my new last name.

I felt a little sad tonight as I looked through the wedding photos to find one to post. So many of the dear friends and family members who gathered for our wedding have now passed away. Even the little church is no longer used as a place of Christian worship. Its members joined with another congregation a few miles away.

On a happier note, we still have a few of the decorations from the Christmas tree in the church (at right in the photo), and they've been used on our Christmas tree for 25 out of the 28 years of our marriage. (We didn't have any Christmas decorations with us when we were in Bolivia for 2 years and we didn't have a tree the first Christmas we spent in Germany.)

And of course we still have each other (for better or for worse, etc.!) Hopefully we will have another 28 years together or more...

Friday, December 15, 2006

Washington Hawthorn in Winter

More About Trees and Plants...

Hawthorn berriesWashington hawthorn berries in December

About a dozen years ago, I decided to take the Arbor Day Foundation's offer of 10 free trees with a 1 year, $10 membership. The trees they sent were tiny and half of them didn't make it, but we do have two Washington hawthorn trees and three redbuds that survived.

Two of the redbuds have begun blooming every spring, and one has not yet bloomed. I suppose it's fighting too hard just to survive, because it's planted within the root system of an ancient sugar maple.

The hawthorn trees are covered with little white blossoms in late spring, and in fall and winter, they're loaded with red berries. The fruits stay on the branches fairly well through the winter and are eaten by birds, squirrels, mice, rabbits, possums, raccoons, deer, etc. They are supposed to be edible for humans as well, but I am not sure what is made from them -- jelly, maybe?

Hawthorn trees don't tolerate shade well, but they do tolerate poor drainage, moderate drought, heat, air and mine pollution, occasional floods, and most wind and ice storms.

Hawthorns grow slowly, but since they are a small tree (20-35 feet), they don't have too far to go. Our trees are at least 15 feet tall, so they've been growing a little faster than the average rate of 6-12 inches per year. They have full sun and a fairly damp, heavy soil where they grow. In heavy rain, water collects in a boggy area nearby though the hawthorns rarely stand in water.

The one thing that I don't really enjoy about these little trees is their thorns! They are densely branched, and each branch is densely thorned. This makes it hard to mow around them. We could prune off their lower branches, of course, but we haven't yet -- we just mow wide, instead.

The mockingbirds love hawthorn trees for their nests. They see the mass of thorny branches as an attractive asset, not a "pain" like we do!

Source of some facts for this post: Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America by Gary L. Hightshoe. Copyright 1988. Published by Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York NY. If you like trees and ever have the opportunity to purchase this book, do not hesitate to do so. It is a wonderful resource.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (3)

All In The Family...

Cherry bonbons, still wet with chocolate

I make the cherry bonbons pictured above and some other homemade candies every Christmas for two main reasons:

  • Grandma Netz (my husband's mother) always made a huge quantity of homemade candy at Christmas to give away and share. Every one of her children got a big box of candy from her as part of her Christmas gift. Grandma now lives in an assisted living home. Since she can't make her candy anymore, I make some of her favorite candy recipes and send them to her so she can still share them with her friends, visitors and family there.
  • My husband really enjoys having Christmas candy to give and to share like his mother did. He thinks Christmas is truly here when I put on my apron and the smell of chocolate fills the air and these wonderful fattening little goodies appear. This reason is just as important, maybe more so, than the first reason that I make candy at Christmas.

Here's Grandma Netz's recipe for the Cherry Bonbons, just as I copied it from her recipe files when I was a young bride. They are delicious and easier to make than you might think. This makes a huge batch. If you're just making for your own family, you could probably make just half a batch.

Elizabeth's Cherry Bonbons

1 stick margarine
12 oz. coconut
1-1/2 boxes powdered sugar
3 cups chopped pecans
2 jars maraschino cherries, chopped and well-drained
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
Vanilla to taste
Instant mashed potatoes to thicken mixture if needed

Chocolate Coating:
10 oz. Hershey Milk Chocolate bars
1 12-oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1/2 stick paraffin

Melt margarine; pour over coconut. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Add condensed milk and vanilla a bit at a time, mixing well. Add pecans and cherries. Mix all together well and roll into balls the size of an egg yolk. (Dip hands in powdered sugar while shaping.) Place balls on cookie sheet and chill.

Melt Hershey bars in top of a double boiler; add chocolate chips and paraffin, stirring until melted. Remove a few balls from refrigerator and dip into chocolate mixture to coat. Place on waxed paper and chill. Store in airtight container in refrigerator or cool room.

Also on the topic of homemade candy:

  • I've made peanut butter fudge for several years now using the online recipe for Myrtle's Peanut Butter Fudge. Grandma Netz told me that it was even better than her own recipe but the only difference is that Grandma Netz's peanut butter fudge recipe calls for marshmallow fluff, and Myrtle's recipe calls for mini-marshmallows.
  • I tried an online recipe for Chocolate Mints this year. They are really easy to make and really good. If you like Andes mints, you'll love these. I made them with dark chocolate chips and since I didn't have any "candy coating", I used vanilla (white) almond bark and they turned out fine. The recipe makes just an 8x8 pan, but the candies are so rich that they can be cut small.

This year I also made some dipped peanut-butter bonbons that are similar to Reese's Cups in taste (also Grandma Netz's recipe) and another kind of peppermint candy. I've packed up a couple of tins of them to mail to Grandma tomorrow along with her Christmas presents. It is truly a load off my mind to have this accomplished.

I have packed up the rest of the candy. The candy we're giving away is sorted into tins, and the candy that I'm saving for Christmas is packed into a Tupperware container. I'm going to put most of it in the shed until closer to Christmas so it won't tempt us (me) quite as much!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (2)

All In The Family...

Keely made this little angel in Art class when she was in 2nd or 3rd grade and gave it to me. The design was pressed into a thin sheet of art foam. Then color (crayon) was used to reveal the design. The finished product was framed in a recycled Christmas card. Keely always groans when I display it, but I like it. I imagine that the happy smile of the angel reflects the feelings of little Keely as she anticipated Christmas and prepared this little gift for her mother.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas Past (1)

Life In Germany...

Twenty years ago, Dennis, I, and little Keely (1 year old) had been in West Germany for a few weeks. We had been sent to the army post at Aschaffenburg by my husband's employer, the Army-Air Force Exchange Service, and we were staying in a hotel waiting for our apartment to become available and our shipment of household goods to arrive.

Dennis was working evenings so he got back to the hotel from work about 1 a.m. I tried to keep Keely on a similar schedule so we could all get some sleep. If she woke up before Dennis was awake in the morning, I hustled her out of the room and we went for a walk for a while.

German rooftopsThe photo at left shows the view from our hotel window. Though you wouldn't guess from this photo, it was a nice gasthaus at the edge of a little Bavarian village, and there were sheep in a pasture just over the back fence.

Breakfast was provided. The first morning that we ate there, I thought the huge slabs of butter were slices of cheese. Dennis learned to properly crack open the top of an egg and eat it out of its shell as it stood in its little egg cup. I was too revolted by the extremely soft-cooked state of the yolks to eat them. However, I quickly learned to love German coffee laced with cream.

I kept some snacks for Keely in our room, and she and I usually went downstairs to the restaurant in the evening for a hot meal. People stared at the American woman and her toddler because they didn't usually bring their one-year-olds to restaurants. There weren't any high-chairs, but we managed.

One of my main pastimes besides entertaining Keely was learning a few words of German. I had a dictionary, so I made flashcards for myself and filled a notebook with lists of words that I might need. I also tried to translate the newspaper. I had much better luck understanding the advertisements than the news stories.

As soon as our apartment became available, we borrowed a few items from my husband's co-workers and a couple of beds from Military Housing and set up camp. We were very grateful to get out of the hotel room!

I bought some Christmas presents for Keely, but I don't think Dennis and I exchanged any gifts that year. Our Christmas gift was our shipment of household goods that arrived on December 23. Finally, we could make a home again.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Scenes from Dover TN and Fort Donelson

Life in The Upper South... History and Old Stuff...

This morning while Isaac was taking the ACT at Dover, TN, I wandered around the Fort Donelson National Battleground and National Cemetery for a couple of hours. The Union victory here was a turning point in the War Between the States. The grounds were beautiful in the cold bright light, and the extreme quiet of the place was almost eerie.

Fort Donelson National BattlegroundFort Donelson National Battleground

Fort Donelson National BattlegroundCumberland River below Fort Donelson

Fort Donelson National CemeteryFort Donelson National Cemetery

Fort Donelson National CemeteryFort Donelson National Cemetery

Cumberland River, Dover TNDover Hotel, Dover TN

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Jefferson Davis Monument, Fairview, KY

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Jefferson Davis Monument at sunrise

Early this morning, the Jefferson Davis Monument was beautifully silhouetted against a clear December sky. For more photos of the Jefferson Davis Monument and State Park, please visit the post I made last summer: Seen at Fairview, Kentucky .

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Harton & Scranton Tobacco Warehouse in Hopkinsville, KY

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Old tobacco warehouseThe former Harton & Scranton Dark Fired Tobacco Warehouse

Someone is demolishing the old tobacco warehouse on 1st Street in Hopkinsville. The bricks are being salvaged for resale. It will be interesting to see if something is built on the lot after the debris is removed. This site is across the railroad tracks from the King Cattle Company, near the buildings that Cayce Mill Supply occupied until recently.

I was surprised at the extensive concrete foundation under this building. I suppose the site slopes toward Little River which runs nearby. The builder couldn't pour a concrete slab like most of the old tobacco warehouses have, so he poured a strong concrete foundation and put in a plank floor. (The wooden I-beams that might be used under such a floor today hadn't been invented yet.)

Several old tobacco warehouses in Hopkinsville have been torn down recently. All of them were near the railroad between 1st and 12th Streets. Their location was chosen for ease in shipping out the tobacco by rail.

Nowadays, tobacco isn't brought to town to be auctioned and stored in warehouses like this, and tobacco isn't shipped on the railroad. A lot of Christian County's tobacco is processed right in Hopkinsville at the U.S. Tobacco plant. Buyers come to the farms while the crop is still growing to negotiate the price.

Harton & Scranton hung their sign on a sturdy pipe and planted it in concrete, and it still stands today, watching over the demolition.

Old sign in Hopkinsville, KY

I've written quite a lot about tobacco growing in Christian County, KY. I observe and write with the viewpoint of a resident who is not a native. To read more, visit this label: tobacco.

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Coldest Morning So Far

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

10 °F /-12 °C was the temperature on our Weather Underground this morning, and the temperature on our thermometer on the porch at 6:30 AM. BRRRR! I am looking forward to next week -- several days are supposed to be in the low to mid 50's (the low to mid teens for the Celsius folks.)

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Netdisaster: Too Cool

And What I Think About It...

Flower Power attack on Prairie Bluestem!

It's a Netdisaster!

(Don't try these links if you have a serious shortage of computer memory.)

And so on, one disaster after another! It reminds me a little of Mr. Bill, if you remember him. The visuals are lots of fun -- and you can change the site and the disaster via the controls at the top.

Thanks to for the link!

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Elk Farm in Todd County, KY

Life in The Upper South... More About Birds and Animals... And What I Think About It...

Elk farm

A small elk herd is held in a series of pens, behind the Amish store south of Elkton, KY. We saw these bulls on Tuesday when we were over there, as well as a small pen of younger bulls and a pen of cows.

Elk are ruminants like cattle. Their first stomach, an anaerobic digester of cellulose, is called a rumen, . Ruminants spend their time grazing and ruminating -- that is, regurgitating food matter from the rumen and re-chewing it. (This is also known as "chewing the cud.") When the grass is sufficiently ground up and fermented, it passes to the next stomach.

It seems probable that the elk meat sold within the Amish store comes from this herd. Elk meat, like buffalo meat, is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork or lamb, and it compares favorably with chicken and turkey (according to nutritional information supplied by Grande Premium Meats, an online seller of buffalo and elk meats.)

Personally, I am not interested in trying elk meat for a couple of reasons.

  • Reason 1: I am finicky about meats other than beef, pork, turkey and chicken. I avoid mutton, duck, goose, venison, etc. (and the etc. includes elk.)
  • Reason 2: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). I would want certification that the meat was from a CWD-tested animal, if I were to try the meat which is unlikely (see Reason One.)
Some of the Asian countries use elk and deer "velvet antlers" in folk medicine -- antlers that are removed before they are large and calcified. South Korea is a major processor and consumer, as well as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

I wasn't able to find any official information about the current market for U.S. velvet antler, but producers have been greatly impacted by North America's CWD problems. I'm always sorry when someone who makes their living from the land is having difficulties, and I hope those people have survived the crisis with their farms or ranches intact, but frankly, the velvet antler business is vaguely sickening to me.

The elk in the photo appear well-tended and healthy and they certainly have handsome racks. Apparently their owner isn't selling velvet antlers. I wish they had a little more room to roam, but I know that Todd County farmland isn't cheap, and neither are the materials for a strong, high fence.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Making Friends

All In The Family...

Since Casper doesn't have anyone his own age and size to play with, he tries to play with Skittles. Skittles is about three years old. She's been a mother twice; she knows what he is -- a kitten that doesn't belong to her -- and she doesn't put up with much nonsense from him.

She doesn't enjoy his rough and tumble play, but she enjoys hiding games. He hides inside the box or under the dresser, and she reaches in blindly and tries to touch him. Then he jumps out and surprises her and runs back in (or under.) Oh, what fun.

Casper would like to snuggle with Skittles when he's sleepy but she won't let him. I think she knows that he would try to nurse her. This is as snuggly as Skittles permits: she lets him sleep on top of the box as long as he doesn't bother her.

They're in the utility room, across the room from the wood stove. It's a lovely place for cats to nap. The decor's not much, but it's comfy and warm. Dennis (who doesn't spoil the cats at all) put the towel in the box for them.

This little post is my very first entry in Carnival of the Cats.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Stagecoach Inn (Gray's Inn) in Guthrie, KY

Life in the Upper South...

Grays Inn 1

Gray's Inn, also known as Stagecoach Inn, sits near the junction of Highways 181, 79 and 41 just west of Guthrie, Kentucky.

This area is known as "Tiny Town", because of the cluster of gas stations and other businesses around the intersection, I suppose. It's located on the Kentucky - Tennessee state line, and Tennesseans come there to buy Kentucky lottery tickets. (This was true particularly before Tennessee recently started its own state lottery.)

I have learned everything I know about Gray's Inn from the historic marker on the property and from the internet.

The historic marker notes that Gray's Inn was built in 1833 as a stagecoach stop by Major John P. Gray, the man who founded Elkton. The National Park Service adds that the inn served several stage lines. I think it's likely (I am guessing) that stagecoaches from Nashville, Bowling Green, Elkton and Hopkinsville met here.

According to various internet sources, the inn was one of the stops along the Trail of Tears, when the last of the Cherokee Indian lands were seized and the Cherokees were forcibly removed to Oklahoma. We can be sure that if anyone from the group stayed in Gray's Inn, it was the military escorts. The Cherokees would have camped nearby.

It is said that White Path, a Cherokee chief who was near death, drank from the well and blessed its sweet water. He named the well "Utok Amawah" which means "well of sweet water". A few days later at Hopkinsville, KY, White Path died. His grave is located on a small knoll above Little River, across from Belmont Hill, on the site of the Trail of Tears Park in Hopkinsville.

The National Park Service notes that the inn was used as a Civil War hospital, according to local oral tradition. It also provides the following cryptic note: "Possibly birthplace of African blackface minstrel." That statement seems to suggest that early minstrel shows were performed there, and that possibly, this was the first place that they were ever performed.

At any rate, it's a handsome old house and a long and interesting history and tradition is associated with it. It's a reminder that Tiny Town has been a busy crossroads for a long time.

Gray's Inn 2

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Scenes from Hopkinsville's Christmas Parade

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Dennis and I went to the Christmas parade in Hopkinsville this morning. When we arrived, a few people were gathering on the sunny side of the street. It didn't look like there was going to be much of a crowd, but at the last minute, a lot of people showed up. The attendance was down a little because it was cold -- about 35°.

It was a "Small Town, USA," Christmas parade. I enjoyed it.

The links below lead to photos. If you see someone you know and you want a copy of the photo, I'll send you a high resolution copy that you can make good reprints from. Just let me know.

Waiting for the parade to start

With ear-piercing sirens, the parade begins

Hopkinsville Fire Department truck

Pembroke Volunteer Fire Department truck

Highland Volunteer Fire Department truck 1

Highland Volunteer Fire Department truck 2

Parade Grand Marshall Judge Arnold Lynch (with red vest)

Color guard of Army soldiers from Ft. Campbell

Color guard of Hopkinsville Police officers

Vintage Hopkinsville fire truck

1903 Oldsmobile

Hopkinsville High School Band banner

Hopkinsville High School band

Hopkinsville High School ROTC

More ROTC members

Antique auto: Merry Christmas from the Spains

Hopkinsville Middle School cheerleaders

Chevy Boy

The Beaver, local radio station mascot

Christian County FFA members

FFA float

Baton twirlers dressed in red

Blazers from University Heights Academy

Trailer of children

Knights of Columbus

A unique stretch limousine

Winter Season Magic float

Boys and Girls Club float

Dr. Sweet and his pack of Cub Scouts

Christian County Middle School Marching Colonels

Shoney's Bear greets a child

Shiloh Baptist Church float

Santa's sleigh pulled by vintage John Deere

The Magic of The Season float

Skills USA float

Local motorcyclists

Nativity scene float

Bicycle pulling a little Christmas tree float

Winner of a baby beauty contest

Christian County 4-H Horse Club

More riders from the Horse Club

A horse-drawn covered wagon

Hopkinsville Police Bike Force

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Night in the Heartland

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Isaac went to the Holiday Pops concert at the Alhambra tonight. It was a performance by the choral groups of the Pennyrile Academy of Fine Arts directed by Barbara Felts, Isaac's freshman choir teacher. She retired from public school teaching at the end of that year, and Isaac still misses her.

After Isaac got his ticket, I went Christmas shopping for a couple of hours. As I drove down Main Street, I decided to stop and get a photo of Ferrell's Hamburgers for the Hoptown expatriates who come to this blog from Google searches, looking for familiar hometown scenes.

Ferrell's Hamburgers in Hopkinsville, KY Ferrell's Hamburgers in Hopkinsville, KY

Ferrell's has been serving their famous hamburgers and other grilled specialties in this little building since 1929.

But what I really want to tell about is the Santa Claus at the mall. He 's enthroned at the center of the mall, and the little kids can come and tell him what they want for Christmas.

The first time I walked by, a little boy was sitting on Santa's lap talking in a very excited, very high-pitched voice. His young parents were standing by, glancing around in pleasant embarassment to see if anyone else had noticed how cute their son was.

When I passed by again, another little child had arrived at Santa's headquarters. He was dressed in a red Christmas sweatshirt and he was carrying a toy Rudolph (the red-nosed reindeer.) His grandparents had brought him to see Santa, but he had a death grip on his grandpa's leg and he had decided he wasn't going anywhere near the old guy in the red suit.

Seeing the difficulty, Santa Claus solved the problem. He got up from his chair and came outside his decorated area. Kneeling down on one knee, he asked the little boy, "Is that a reindeer you're holding?" The little boy loosened one arm from Grandpa's leg and flashed his toy reindeer's nose. "Oh, my goodness, how'd you do that!?" Santa exclaimed. The little boy didn't say a word, but he showed Santa the button to push.

I didn't want to stand and stare, so I walked on with a smile on my face, thinking about the kind heart of the man in the Santa suit.

It's a good time of the year.

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Note: You can see what's happening at Ferrell's anytime via the Hoptown Hall webcam, mounted across the street in the window of J. Schrecker Jewelry and permanently focused on Ferrell's.

Note 2: Isaac says I should also have mentioned that Ferrell's was the first air conditioned businessplace in Hopkinsville.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Casper's Adventure

All In The Family...

Yesterday, Casper was beside himself with excess energy, so I took him out to the lawn for a while. He was exhilarated but wary. Every hair on his little tail stood on end for the entire half hour he was outside.

First, Casper jumped off the front step and the crackle of leaves under his feet surprised him. Then Skittles was excited and pleased to see him outside. She invited him to several wild chases around the yard, which she won each time by racing up a tree.

What an adventure Casper had! He sniffed, snooped, tasted, touched, stalked, pounced, climbed, frolicked and cavorted -- just to summarize!

I enjoyed his first experience of the great outdoors. It was fun to watch him, and I had to laugh at the poofed-out condition of his little tail. I'm sure it was an involuntary response to the unfamiliar surroundings.

I wish he could go outside freely and often, but we feed an old half-wild tomcat and we're afraid he would fight Casper. The old tomcat and Casper have spent long periods of time eyeball to eyeball through the glass of the door. We don't want them to meet without that barrier. So for now, little Casper has to be a house cat most of the time.

Casper goes outside-2

Casper goes outside-1

Casper goes outside-3

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Winter Begins

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

One of autumn's last daysOne of autumn's last days

We've enjoyed some warm beautiful days of Indian summer this week. (The expression "Indian summer" has an interesting history; you can read about it at Wikipedia.)

While I was blowing some of the last leaves into the ditch today, an ice storm blew into the Kansas City area. Tonight, Dennis talked to his sister from K.C., and she said her boss had sent everyone home from work an hour early because the roads were treacherous.

The storm is moving this way, but no ice is predicted for us. We do have the word "snow" in our weather forecast for the first time. The last day of November (tomorrow) will be a rainy day, and tomorrow night, the rain is supposed to turn to snow. The ground will be too warm for the snow to stick, but the first day of December will be cold and windy.

Hopkinsville's Christmas Parade will be on Saturday, December 2. Some years, we've attended in sweatshirts, but it looks like we'll need coats this year. And with night temperatures in the 20's for the next week, it looks like winter is here.

I realize that the 20's don't seem that bad to folks from the north, but here in Kentucky, we consider it cold. I used to laugh about how folks here complained about weather that didn't seem too cold to me, the girl from northern Nebraska. Now after 15 years here, I whine right along with everyone else. Wink

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A couple of quotes about winter:

  • I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape - the loneliness of it - the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it - the whole story doesn't show. - Andrew Wyeth (artist)

  • There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you ..... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. - Ruth Stout (gardener and author)

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.