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Sunday, August 21, 2016

In the Kitchen with Nora

One of the things I have enjoyed most about being a grandmother is being in the kitchen (my happy place) and welcoming my granddaughters to help. Of course, baking cookies is easy to get help with. Nora is 2 years old, but she is a good helper. This is not limited to tasting the batter, licking the spoon or testing the finished product!  Even she knows that the first step to cooking is to wash your hands. Then we fill the mixing bowl with ingredients from the recipe and 1 step at a time, get the cookie dough ready to spoon onto baking sheets. I learned a long time ago that the secret to enjoying this whole process is having most things out, measured, and ready to add. As she gets older, she can read from the recipe herself and work out the math for measuring ingredients. Working in the kitchen together is one of the best ways I know for beginners to practice not only cooking, but also reading, math, and cleanup skills!

Last week we made chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the chocolate chip bag, and she mastered mixing butter and sugar, adding egg and vanilla, then the dry ingredients and finally, the chocolate chips (minus a few that went into her mouth!)

She wore herself out, because after 2 hot cookies and a little glass of milk, she crawled on the couch and fell asleep. The main problem with baking cookies is that they disappear so fast!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Joe's Birthday Celebration #79

This year we celebrated Joe's birthday for more than a week!  Our trip to San Francisco, the stay at Cavallo Point (his army base in the early 60's, then called Fort Baker), our visit with Jeremy and his family in Reno, and a family dinner back at home in Texas. I think he felt well celebrated!

While we were in Reno, Jeremy, Michala, Maddie, and Jordann arranged for us to have a dinner cruise on Lake Tahoe. The scenery was breathtaking, the food was excellent, and we enjoyed most of all sharing the special time with our Nevada family who now live so far away that we do not get to see them as much. They liked showing us their new home and surroundings, and we loved being with them and knowing what home looks like to them.  I even learned to say Nevada correctly. Our granddaughters there are growing into beautiful young women.

Joe's birthday cruise dinner.

                                                      Making mousse for Papa's birthday


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fort Baker 2016

We are back at home following two weeks of travel. The main reason for our trip was a visit with our son Jeremy and his family in Reno, NV. But we began and ended this trip with travel to and from the San Francisco, CA area, driving to Reno and back. This gave us non-stop air travel, but also a chance to do something Joe has wanted to do for some time:  revisit Fort Baker, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito,  the Army base where he was stationed in 1960 through 1962. 

 Originally inhabited by the coastal Miwok tribes, Horseshoe Cove became home to Fort Baker long before there was a Golden Gate Bridge. In 1866, the U.S. Army acquired the site for a military base to fortify the north side of the Golden Gate. The 24 buildings around the 10-acre parade ground at Fort Baker took shape between 1901 and 1915. The Army post remained active through World War II.

 In 1973 Fort Baker was listed as a Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places. When the Golden Gate National Parks were established in 1972, Fort Baker was designated for transfer to the National Park Service when no longer needed by the military. In 2002 Fort Baker transferred officially from post to park, when the base was closed to military use except for a small Coast Guard presence. In July 2008, this significant historic area opened as a unique resort, named Cavallo Point Lodge. 
Cavallo Point is the first bay area national park lodge.There are over 20 renovated army buildings nestled around a large grass parade ground. None of the restored buildings give any indication they are now part of an extraordinary ecologically sensitive enclave that includes remarkable lodging, a Michelin-star restaurant, and a cooking school.
The ‘post-to-park’ transformation displays adaptive, creative reuse of this 40-acre National Landmark District and has a state-of-the-art conference center.  The project also included restoration of endangered habitat and the regeneration of 27 acres of public open space

 Linked pathways, dining terraces, fire pits and moveable chairs create spaces for both gathering and quiet times.The removal of invasive trees has opened views to the Bridge and Bay which have not been available for 100 years.  A tennis court was re-purposed as event space; a rectangular lawn panel framed by a broad, gravel ‘fault’ zone reveals its former use.  The most dramatic transformation was the restoration of the coastal scrub habitat with genetic natives—58,000 plants propagated from seed harvested on the Cavallo Point site.  Guest quarters are now comfortable as well as educational set in a rich tapestry of landscape.

Since our daughter in law and granddaughters joined us there for our one night stay, Joe had the blessing of telling them stories about Fort Baker, Cronkhite beach, and other places that were so familiar to him, along with history.  That is the best way to learn!

When Joe stayed in the barracks as an enlisted man at Fort Baker, he did not dream that one day he would bring family back there and stay in the historic quarters which were once officers' housing!  The old houses were wonderful, our rooms lovely, and Cavallo Point celebrated his earlier time there as well as his 79th birthday.  I am grateful for him and for our experiences at this place.

                                Golden Gate Bridge with its typical shroud of fog.  July 20, 2016
Goodbye, Fort Baker!  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Love's Lookout

Love's Lookout, Jacksonville, TexasJoe and I grew up in the same small East Texas town.  Jacksonville is located in Cherokee County surrounded by rolling hills and pine trees. The scenic overlook in the photograph (not mine, one I found online) is called Love's Lookout. The scenic bluff was used for the location of a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater.

The ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful. When I was a child, we often drove on the highway between Jacksonville and Tyler because both sets of my grandparents lived in Bullard, about halfway between those towns. Typically, scenes that are so familiar and frequently seen tend to be taken for granted.  Not until you are far away do you remember those sights and realize just how lovely they were.

There is yet another fond connection for our family with this place and its name. In 1982, we bought the home built by John Wesley Love and lived there long enough to research and write its history, receiving a designation for the significance of the home with a State Historical marker. By that time all acreage but the 3 acres where the house was located had been sold (or donated, as the land for Love's lookout is located), but the oaks and magnolias and pines that were there were  lovely reminders. When I did the research for the historical commission I learned that there were earlier connections between our family and the Loves.  My father and uncle once worked in John Wesley Love's peach orchards picking peaches.  Joe's father had done work inside the home as a painter.

When we do go back to Jacksonville, our itinerary usually includes a trip to the Bullard cemetery where so many of my ancestors were laid to rest. The highway is bigger and better, but the sides of the road are still lined with red dirt and pine trees.  There are still remnants of the watermelon colored crepe myrtles which were always full of summertime blooms.  And Love's Lookout still beckons us to stop and look across  a green valley.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Porch Time

When we have moved into various houses over the years, I always like finding spots that become favorites, places in or near our home that I return to frequently for quiet times or just because it is a joy to be there. In our new house, one of those places is our back porch, a wide tiled area with a cedar roof and ceiling fans that extends almost the width of the house. After we spent our first night here, I went out to this porch early the next morning in time to watch the sunrise, which has become a habit.
There are rocking chairs and places to perch my coffee cup. The view is an entirely different one from our previous back porch, which led onto a wooded back garden with our herb beds, rose arbor, and fish pond.  This house sits near the edge of a small lake, fenced only by open wrought iron, and the few trees only break the skyline slightly. Since the back of the house faces north, I have an expansive view of sunrises and sunsets, both reflected over the water, changing daily and by the hour. I never tire of being there, but our Texas heat does drive me inside. All our gardening is done right now in our front flower beds, or in containers, but soon we will add some raised beds for a kitchen and herb garden and a few other green growing things like roses to clamber on the fence. I look forward to welcoming new garden friends. But even more, I look forward to sharing our porch with others.  Already, family gathers and we hope that soon friends and new neighbors will join us as well. Porches have a history of being good gathering places, and this one is just waiting for others to discover it as a favorite spot!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 4th Flags 2016

 Fourth of July in our new home means bringing out flags and finding new places to put them.  Nora calls them kites, so we have many kites in many places. I love seeing our big flags waving in the breeze of this summer weekend. Today there are even clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds for their background. We also have tiny flags that for years have lined our front sidewalk and in this home, Nora and Kristen lined the edges of our front flower bed with them after Nora had her own parade with one.
We also have some new ones, crafted one evening last week with a group of friends from our church.  A dozen or more women, young and old, gathered for good conversation, good food, and fun with scraps of denim, ribbons, lace, and torn strips of fabric.  Every single flag was different, all were lovely.  Kristen and I both made one. The most beautiful I saw was being crafted by a young woman from the Congo who with her husband and 2 small children has only been in our country a few weeks. I watched her as she chose ribbons and lace and deftly attached them to create a flag for a country that must not yet feel like her own. I thought how she must feel, the refuge she has sought here, and what freedom looks like to her. 

As the night skies fill with bursts of fireworks, we hear patriotic songs that we have sung since childhood, and as we pray for our country and its leaders, I am thankful for our flags, and the freedom to proudly wave them.

                                 AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL
O beautiful for spacious skies,
   For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
   Above the fruited plain!
      America!  America!
   God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
   From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
   Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
   Across the wilderness!
      America! America!
   God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
   Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
   In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
   And mercy more than life!
      America!  America!
   May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
   And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
   That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
   Undimmed by human tears!
      America!  America!
   God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
   From sea to shining sea!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hope Floats

Signs of recovery and restoration are in many places in our county following the Brazos River flood. While the river is still high, the area labeled as a Federal disaster and many homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, many more have been cleared out and cleaned so that some can return to the places they lived. Our church's Red Cross shelter has been closed; the remaining residents have received assistance to go to relatives or hotels. Agencies have come together in the previous shelter location (ordinarily our church gym and kitchen) for access by those who need help and direction. Friends, neighbors, and generous volunteers have helped to do the hard work necessary to clean and organize.  Fields that were under water show green beginnings under brown, withered foliage.  I have chosen to post photos and story of one of our favorite places as an example of the stories of many.

 Enchanted Forest is one of 2 garden centers owned and operated by the Linderman family.  Before our recent move, we lived near Enchanted Forest, so for 24 years have loved going there, stocking our garden and leaning on their advice in many ways.  Gary Lenderman and Danny Lenderman, his son, have in particular been good friends who have helped us over and over. We shook our heads sadly as we learned of the flooding at this beautiful place and saw pictures of what looked like a river instead of the place of beauty we have enjoyed with our family and friends.  So when they announced they would reopen on June 18, we were there along with others expressing the same "We are so glad you are back!"  Without exception, every Linderman family member there along with every employee smiled and welcomed us. We learned that all the plants floated away and all the plants now displayed were new ones. There was extensive damage to buildings, offices, and gift shop. But there were still smiles (along with aching backs, I am sure.)

Not every story of loss and grief will have the beauty and message of green growing things and poetry of flowers, but almost all the stories I hear contain somewhere a glimmer of one thing in common:  HOPE.  Last Saturday, T shirts were being sold at Enchanted Forest's reopening with this message:  "Even when the river gets high, hope always floats."  Typical of their generosity and gifts to this community, the proceeds all go to Fort Bend County charities.