Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the sea

Take a land-locked country girl and show her a mighty ocean and she becomes mesmerized.

That girl was me. I was born and raised in a northeastern state that did not have a coastline, except for a bit along one of the Great Lakes.

My neck of the woods was rural, outside a small town, farther out from a big city. Sure, creeks, ponds, some lakes within driving distance existed there, and we crossed over rivers daily, but nothing compared to getting a glimpse of the sea.

My husband showed me the ocean – the Atlantic – for the first time before we said our I do’s. We showed our young daughters the ocean – again the Atlantic – for the first time several years later.

When we moved from the land-locked Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, we reveled in the fact that we lived about an hour from the massive Pacific Ocean, where our last-born, our son, caught his first ocean view.  

After settling in our new altered state (“Oregon, Things Look Different Here” – once a state slogan from the Oregon Department of Tourism) in the 1990’s, we were drawn back time and time again to that state’s Pacific coast.

The coast – not called the shore or the beach as we named oceanside in the east – became one of the places we always took those who came to visit us, from two sets of Midwestern friends to Papa’s mother and aunt who flew across the country to see us in our new home to my parents and sister who drove a very long way to see the west and us.  

And each time I couldn’t get enough of viewing the ebb and flow of those Pacific Ocean waves along the rugged coast and capturing as many photographs as possible with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Our first few ocean-side visits took place in summer or early fall months, and native Oregonians advised us to experience the Pacific in winter when it was often stormy, the waves violently slammed into the rocks, and when you might catch sight of southward migrating whales.

So that’s what we did. During our first year of residence there, we traveled to the coast shortly after Christmas to spend a few days. Our destination was a snug little cabin in a quaint harbor town called Depoe Bay, located on US Route 101. This town’s claim to fame is being known as the “world’s smallest navigable harbor.”

The late December weather was rainy and chilly, but it didn’t deter our mission.  We braved the elements to embark on a whale-watching cruise, but the only thing we encountered was a couple cases of seasickness, no whales in sight.

On another day, we watched diligently from the Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center, a state parks-staffed visitor center which stands next to the harbor entrance, to catch sight of the migrating whales, but still came up empty.

But our sightseeing certainly did not prove devoid and involved some first-time experiences for us. And I took plenty of photos to prove it.

Driving along the Oregon Coast on Highway 101 is breathtaking. The rocky coastline with Pacific waves crashing upon it does not disappoint viewers and travelers will find themselves stopping at every spot they can just to see the view.

One of the fascinating sights we observed while driving from Depoe Bay to Newport, Oregon, was located within a state natural area called the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a piece of land that protrudes into the ocean. This amazing place is actually a hollow rock formation shaped just like a gigantic punch bowl.

I imagine the devil got added to it because during stormy winter weather, waves slam into this bowl-like formation swirling, churning, and foaming away as if the brew inside is downright wicked. Speculation is this formation might have been created when a roof collapsed over two sea caves and subsequently was shaped by waves over time.

Shortly after we ate lunch at a picnic area near the Devil’s Punch Bowl, we experienced our first visit to a lighthouse. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located north of Newport, also fascinated us. For more information about this Oregon lighthouse, read my blog post here.

In Newport, we visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium, newly opened in 1992, for the first time. What a delightful place it proved to be for our young family as we enjoyed both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

Situated along Yaquina Bay, this aquarium, open daily from 10 am – 6 pm, is now considered world-class and ranked among the top 10 aquariums in North America.

Check out the aquarium’s live camera (sharks, sea birds, or otters) here.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium became well-known in the years 1996-1998 when an orca whale named Keiko, star of the movie Free Willy, called it home before he was released to the ocean once more in Iceland.

Our trip down a portion of the Oregon Coast wasn’t our last because this area of the Pacific Ocean continued to compel us to visit.

During the years we resided in the Pacific Northwest, we traveled the length of the Oregon coastline through the southern part of the state and into northern California, but I’ll highlight that in yet another Tuesday Tour blog post.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~Jacques Cousteau

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: mountain high, valley low

We lived in the valley.

When we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990’s, we found a home in the valley – the Willamette Valley, between the Oregon Coast Range Mountains and the Cascade Mountain Range.

When a mountain presents itself, you should go explore it and that is what our young family of five set out to accomplish. Today’s Tuesday Tour gives you just a glimpse at some of the mountain peaks we viewed and I captured with my simple point and shoot 35 mm film camera, during our years of living in Oregon.

The easiest mountain to view from the Portland area is Mount Hood, a usually snow-covered dormant volcano and Oregon’s highest mountain (pictured above), about an hour’s drive from the city.

Snowboarders and skiers abound on this mountain which boasts six ski areas and nature enthusiasts enjoy camping, biking, climbing, and hiking in the Mount Hood National Forest with over 1,200 miles of trails.

The Mount Hood area can be a treacherous place though where hikers get lost and over 100 people have lost their lives in climbing accidents.

At an elevation of over 11,200 feet, Mount Hood is easily seen from Portland and on clear days, we could spot it to the east of us from a street bordering our suburban housing subdivision.

Shortly after moving into our new home in this altered state so different from where we’d previously lived, we ventured off to check out this mountain, which has been touted as Oregon’s most likely volcano to erupt in the future.  

One of the interesting spots on Mount Hood we often took visiting family and friends to was Timberline Lodge, not only a ski resort, which has the longest ski season in the country open year-round, but a major tourist attraction as well. Built during the Depression years of the 1930’s by WPA, the lodge is a National Historic Landmark.

Visitors can drive to the lodge, located at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet, via the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Inside the lodge, one can view the furnishings provided by local artisans and craftsmen.

I regret that I don’t have a good photo of the lodge itself, but I distinctly remembered we climbed up the mountain a little at the lodge with our young children on a hot, summer’s day when there was very little snow.

Not long after our trek to Mount Hood, we ventured northeastward into Washington state to Mount Saint Helens, the famous volcano that blew off its top in 1980 when its eruption made world-wide news. The devastation that day in May killed 57 people, destroyed 200 homes, many bridges, railways, and 185 miles of highway.

Even though we visited Mt. St. Helens over a decade after the event, we could still see the destruction it had caused, particularly in an area called Lava Canyon.

That landscape, which had once been green and forested, looked like a barren wasteland. But amidst the scars, a little beacon of hope that the land might be replenished stood out to me when I captured this wildflower blooming.

In addition to those two famous mountains, we traveled to a scenic overlook called Bald Peak Scenic Viewpoint. Located in the Chehalem Mountains west of Portland, Bald Peak stands at an elevation of over 1,600 feet and if the weather cooperates and is clear, visitors can view five mountain peaks – Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount Saint Helens in Washington and Mount Hood and Mount Jefferson in Oregon – from the lookout point in this small state park.

The following photos aren’t the best because they were taken with a point and shoot camera and no telephoto lens, but it gives you an idea how amazing this vista truly is. Not only can you spy the mountains, but you can observe a panoramic scenic view of the Tualatin and Yamhill valleys, part of the Willamette Valley.

Mountains and valleys. We would not only observe those terrains during our years of residence in Oregon, but we would experience mountains and valleys in our personal lives as well.

Some years we encountered mountain top experiences, amazing times and sights we will never forget. Other times, we found ourselves in low valleys, facing challenging circumstances and decisions to be made.

But we wouldn’t change one thing about our time living there, a time that provided so many adventures, so many memories to keep, as well as long-lasting friendships that we still maintain today over 25 years later.  

And above all else, our six years spent in the Pacific Northwest caused us to grow spiritually and deepened our faith in God.

“You have to go through those mountains and valleys – because that’s what life is: soul growth.” ~ Wayne Newton

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, Summer

Words for Wednesday: a berry good summer

If it’s summertime at our house, you can be sure of a number of aspects.

The front porch swing is prepared for visitors to enjoy a nice, breezy summer day.

The perennial flower bed and various pots of brightly colored blooms, including porch boxes, paint some brilliance among the green expanse of yard.

The vegetable garden flourishes with summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, green peppers, and sometimes peas and pumpkins.

The fence is to keep the deer from eating our veggies!

And there will be blueberries. If the weather cooperates, the Japanese beetles don’t attack, and our structured enclosure with netting prevents the birds from feasting, scads of blueberries await picking.  

We are in the throes of filling our pails with tasty blueberries right now. They commence ripening around the fourth of July every year often coinciding with our grown-up kids flying “home” to roost for an Independence Day celebration.

Last year, because of the you know what, Papa and I picked our berries mostly by ourselves with a little help from nearby daughter and grandchild, who loves blueberries. When she was just a toddler, she called them “blueies” and gobbled them up as quickly as she could pick them (and still does!).

This past Independence Day, our oldest daughter and son-in-love traveled northeast from their home to ours to celebrate with us for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Unfortunately, our son, daughter-in-love and two other grandchildren from the state next door were not able to make the journey this time and we missed having our entire family together again, which hasn’t happened since our all-family beach trip in August 2020. But we have high hopes for an all-family get-together soon.

In between gorging on picnic food, playing tons of games indoor and outside, catching fireflies, and watching our own little version of fireworks in our back yard, we enjoyed some blueberry picking over the July 4th weekend.

It was hot and it was a bit sweaty, but the labor was worth the prize.

Fresh blueberries for breakfast on your cereal or in your pancakes, waffles, or muffins are delicious. Anything with blueberries is berry good just like this summer has been at our country home.

 “You’ll never regret eating blueberries or working up a sweat.” ~  Jacquelyn Mitchard

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: soaring west

You might say we followed Horace Greeley’s advice when he wrote this in 1837: “Fly, scatter through the country — go to the Great West.”

Our family adventure westward occurred 150-some years later in the 1990’s when we moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest. We traveled the Oregon Trail, but we did it the easy way, we flew from Kansas to Oregon.

As soon as we unpacked, we hit more trails in our newly acquired territory, but this time we traveled by car to explore our surroundings so different from those we had become accustomed to. I’m sharing some of those adventures on today’s Tuesday Tour.

As if to reinforce the reality of “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” one morning as we were preparing for the school day, something exciting happened.

Hot air balloons soared over our neighborhood subdivision. Our kids were thrilled to watch them while waiting for the school bus. And Mama had to snap a few photos with my trusty point and shoot 35 mm film camera.

Those balloons weren’t the only sights we would see soaring high in the sky. When the weekend rolled around, we were off to sightsee, driving west for one purpose – to get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.

Our youngest child had never seen an ocean. Our two oldest had been oceanside on the Atlantic coast, but that was when they were too young to truly remember. Papa viewed the Pacific Ocean from the air when he flew overseas for military duty, but this Mama had never experienced the Pacific either.

Our first sight captivated us. The Oregon coast was like nothing we had seen before. Papa and I were used to mostly flat, wide, sandy and warm Atlantic beaches as far as the eye can see, but what Oregon’s Pacific coast offered were more rocky beaches, steep cliffs, forested areas, huge sand dunes, and ice-cold ocean water.

Our formerly landlocked, Midwestern-raised kids were enthralled with our first steps onto the sandy beach at Seaside, Oregon, a popular spot. They couldn’t wait to slip out of their shoes and play in the sand and even though the water was frigid, they dabbled their feet in it with shrieks of delight.

We traveled to the next enticing spot along the coast – Cannon Beach, a trendy area with shops and art galleries, but most famous for its Haystack Rock, mammoth in size.  

As we continued south, we entered another coastal town called Rockaway Beach, where we found several miles of uninterrupted shoreline. But a fun discovery there was a kite-flying festival in session. We spent the rest of our day there watching amazing kites flying high over the ocean, enjoying a little train ride, and devouring some tasty treats.

Even though we previously lived in the windy Midwest, we never had much luck flying kites. But right then and there at that Oregon coast kite festival, we resolved to purchase a kite at a gift shop. Observing how high our kite could soar on the Pacific coast became a fun, family activity.

We thoroughly relished our first trip westward to the Pacific Ocean, but it certainly would not be our last. Eventually, we would explore the entire Oregon coast marveling along the way, but that will be fodder for another Tuesday Tour.

“Sometimes just being on a beach with my loved ones is all the adventure I need.” ~ Guy Laliberte

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in life changes, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: the adventure begins

We hit the ground running. Eager to explore our new locale after our move from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest back in the early 1990’s, we settled into our brand-new house as quickly as possible.

Even though I wasn’t crazy about making a move farther away from our families back east — okay, I’ll be honest…in my mind I was kicking and screaming about going because as one friend remarked we couldn’t get any farther away from our home state without falling into the ocean — but I was determined not to show my hesitation and angst to our young children.

So, dredging up a positive attitude and plastering it on my face and in my speech, I focused on painting a picture of our new home in that altered state as an exciting adventure for our family. We bade goodbye to our friends, our neighbors, our home, church, and comfortable way of life and set off westward on the Oregon Trail, so to speak.

Excitement commenced immediately since we journeyed via airplane to our new home. Our children, then aged 10, almost 7, and 4 had not experienced flying before, so exhilaration was high. Add to that, a fancy hotel stay for a few days, until our household goods and our family car caught up to us, was definitely out of the norm.

When the movers arrived at our new house with all our belongings, it was unseasonably hot. Not only were we surprised by that, but we were also a little miffed that folks told us we would not need central air conditioning. However, humidity proved low and evenings cooled off significantly. Eventually we did upgrade to A/C but didn’t utilize it that often.

Because a few weeks of school remained at our children’s new public school, we enrolled the two oldest and I located a wonderful preschool for our youngest to attend in the fall.

Our wise principal at our former Midwest school (where I had served as PTA President) recommended it would be easier for our girls to be the ‘new kids’ during the school year than at the beginning of the year when all the students in a classroom were new to the teacher.

He was right! Our girls settled in nicely with their new surroundings, teachers, and classmates and were welcomed with enthusiasm. Each morning, Papa headed out to work, the girls rode the bus to our neighborhood school, and our youngest “helped” me put our home in order.

But every weekend, we jaunted off to discover more about our new residence in this state so diverse from the one we had just left. Our first excursion was along the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest.

Columbia River Gorge on Oregon side

Beautiful scenery can be viewed along this waterway that serves as a border between Oregon and Washington. Eventually, the Columbia, which originates in British Columbia, Canada, winds its way westward through the Cascade Mountain range and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Driving east along this massive river, we got a taste of the Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000-foot-deep gorge, the largest national scenic area in the United States. The western part of the gorge is home to three dormant volcanoes, including Oregon’s highest point, Mount Hood, old growth forests, and waterfalls galore – over 40 of them.

We stopped at scenic spots along the Historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side of the river, then crossed it and came back home along the Washington side after visiting Bonneville Dam.

Columbia River Gorge on Washington side

The famous and often photographed Multnomah Falls was our first stop. This amazing sight is 620 feet tall, split into two falls basically, and is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.

Multnomah Falls

A paved path takes visitors to a footbridge where one can get a better view of the upper part of the falls. There are also trails to the top of Multnomah as well for more serious hikers.

Multnomah Falls is an extremely popular tourist attraction and busy with visitors year-round. After that, we opted for a quieter spot – Horsetail Falls – where there were a lot less people and our children could climb and scramble among the rocks.

Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls

In the years to come, we would explore the Columbia River Gorge several times, including the vastly different terrain and climate of the eastern part, a high desert.

We experienced a great kick-start to our adventure quest in the Pacific Northwest. Yet so much more waited on the horizon for us.

“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” ~ William Feather

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: come walk with me

“Walk through this world with me, go where I go…” (lyrics written by Sandy Seamons and Kaye Savage and recorded by George Jones, country singer)

Today I’m asking you to take a walk with me.

Come walk with me

In my neck of the woods,

To spot what wonders

We are likely to see.

Embrace the coolness of the morning

After the sun awakens the day.

Wind down the path listening

As feathered friends greet us on our way.

It might be surprising, never knowing

What we may hear or may see,

Perhaps a shy rabbit, a scampering lizard,

Or a blossoming tree.

Breathe in and breathe out

Fresh air that abounds.

We’ll pause just a moment

To listen to some sounds.

The ponds covered in lily pads

Provide a lovely sight,

While bull frogs bellow

With all of their might.

Come walk with me

In my country air;

For just a moment,

Find God’s beauty there.

“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: an altered state

A distinct change of scenery. A pronounced change of life. Even a distinguishable change of climate.

That’s what awaited our family in the early 1990’s. After close to a decade living in the Midwest, we moved across the country to the Pacific Northwest, a place truly diverse from our usual surroundings.

Due to Papa’s promotion/job transfer, we packed our household goods and watched movers load everything we owned, including our family vehicle, onto a trailer truck and drive away for a long haul west.

All we had left in our possession was one piece of luggage per person and our carry-on bags. We then boarded an airplane and landed in what felt like a different country or at least an altered state.

Moving from the flat lands and rolling small hills of the Great Plains, where there were four discernable seasons with hot, humid, and often dry summers and frigid, windy, snowy winters, to a mountainous, heavily forested location just an hour or so away from the Pacific Ocean with a mild climate and abundant rainfall astounded us all.

Today’s Tuesday Tour will highlight some of the first photos taken on my initial glimpse of that altered state and serve as an introduction for the next few posts of amazing places we visited in our six years of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Scenic spots we experienced inspired me to capture scads of scenic photos. My pictures back then were limited by my not-so-great photography skills and using an inexpensive film point and shoot camera, but I still managed to get some nice shots.

Prior to our big move, Papa had already acclimated to those new surroundings for a few months while this Mama and our three young children stayed in our Midwest suburb to get our house there sold.

Papa accomplished one dream he harbored when he accepted an invitation from some of his sales customers to go sailing in the San Juan Islands area of Washington. Living in a location so near the ocean and two major rivers would prove to be an extraordinary experience for us all.

Papa living the dream — sailing in the San Juan Islands, Washington

Before the move, I flew out for a few days to Portland, Oregon to join Papa in our quest for a suburban residence there while my parents came from their Northeast home to care for our children.

After landing at Portland International Airport, I could not stop exclaiming over the remarkably different environment right in front of my eyes.

The first thing that caught my eye and boggled my mind were the gigantic Douglas Fir trees…everywhere! Compared to the woods in the Kansas City area, those trees were massively tall. And I just could not get over it.

Even though it was early spring, grass was green, many of the deciduous trees already had leaves, and flowers were abundantly blooming. The majority of my first visit to the Portland area was spent searching for a place to live, but Papa and I managed a little bit of sightseeing as well.

What fun it was to stroll through the Portland Saturday Market, an open-air handmade arts and crafts market with local vendors, food kiosks, and live music.  Open on Saturdays and Sundays from March through December, this must-visit place, which opened in 1974, is known as the largest continuously operating market of its kind in the United States.

During the years we lived in the Portland area, the market was located near the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood under the Burnside Bridge. Now the market is situated in the Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willamette (pronounced Will-LAM-ette) River.

We still own a lovely hand-made pottery pitcher we purchased there, and I remember listening and enjoying the steel drum (or steelpan) music provided under a large canopy. Now the Portland Saturday Market is more permanent and folks can even purchase the unique merchandise from the artisans online. For those interested, click here.

We ambled along the waterfront park catching glimpses of RiverPlace Marina and the Portland Convention Center and just viewing the Willamette River. Soon we would call this unique (to us) place in the valley between mountains and ocean our home. And exploring beautiful new sights would begin.  

“Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.” ~ Leonard Koren

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in America, freedom

Let freedom ring!

It’s Independence Day, otherwise known as the Fourth of July. A day we here in the United States of America celebrate our freedoms.

As I consider this day and the many struggles, chaos, and trying circumstances my country has endured, I’m reminded of this excerpt from Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech so many years ago.

“…So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!‘ ”

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA, circa 1990

Perhaps we all need to be reminded that each of us is God’s child, no matter our color, no matter our race, no matter our religion and that we must cherish the freedoms we so blatantly take for granted in this great country of ours.

Today and every day going forward, let’s be united as free American people and proclaim, “Let freedom ring!” and not be afraid to defend it.

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.” ~ Pericles

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in gardening, Life

Words for Wednesday: Strawberry patch forever

One of the aspects of summer as a child that I vividly recall was my parents’ garden.

Every year, my elderly grandparents, who lived with us, wanted home grown produce and that meant a large vegetable garden. And every year, even after both my grandparents passed away, my mother and father planted one.

Nothing tasted better than freshly picked vegetables and fruit straight from the garden, especially after you endured a hot, sun-filled day plucking them from the plants. I spent many summer days on the back porch shelling peas, snapping beans, and husking corn to help my mother.

Vegetable gardens require a lot of work and attention, but the rewards are worth it.

Not only must you prepare the soil before planting, but then you must ascertain when to plant certain crops, sow either seeds or fledgling plants, water if there isn’t enough rain, hoe to keep the weeds at bay, chase critters out of the budding garden or put up a fence to protect the free smorgasbord that animals are enticed by, and then once the plants begin producing, pick the crops, and prepare them for eating, canning, or freezing.

Every spring, my city-born husband, the Papa of our empty nest out here in the country, strives to plant a small garden. Some years we enjoy bounty; sometimes the crops are scanty depending on weather conditions, pesky insects, and foraging animals. The solution to critters is he puts a fence around the garden every year.

A number of years ago, he planted six blueberry bushes in our yard. Very quickly we learned we must cover them with a net canopy supported by arching PVC piping (which Papa designed and built) to protect the budding blueberries from hungry birds. By doing so, we usually have a bumper crop. But then the attack of the Japanese beetles arrived, and we learned we had to fight them off as well.

For a few years, we also reaped abundant strawberries, but after a time, the plants stopped producing and those had to be dug out and replaced.  Papa ordered new ones and planted those three years ago.

The first year the plants were too young to produce, the next year, those hungry (but not angry) birds found them and decimated the crop. This year, Papa covered the plants in the spring with netting supported by a fence.

Earlier this month, we spent a few days away from home traveling to see some sights. And the photo above is what we came back home to find – loads and loads of strawberries. That photo was merely the first picking.

For a number of days, our baskets were heaped to the hilt full of fresh, ripe, ruby red strawberries. Strawberry freezer jam, strawberry shortcake, strawberries on breakfast waffles, we’ve had it all. And I deposited several quarts in the freezer for later as well.

It seemed the strawberry patch and my red-stained fingers would go on forever, but of course, that didn’t happen. Strawberry produce time has come to an end just as the blueberries are starting to develop on our bushes.

More picking. More freezing. More jam making. More searching high and low for recipes requiring those nutritious blueberries that hopefully will be plentiful.

According to some studies, blueberries and strawberries possess something called anthocyanins which can help reverse memory loss that’s associated with aging. That’s a good reason to eat them right there!

Strawberries also are packed with vitamin C, which boosts our immune systems, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. And because of their high polyphenol content, both strawberries and blueberries might help protect against heart disease.

And the great part is that much of the nutrition contained in those berries is retained when you freeze them. That’s why you’ll find containers loaded with blue and red berries in our freezer.  

It’s not true that the strawberry patch will last forever, and neither will the blueberries produce for longer than the few weeks in summer, but we will still enjoy their bounty for months to come when we pull out a freezer bag full of their goodness.

“If there were wild strawberries in Eden, and there must have been, Adam was a fool as well as a sinner to taste any other fruit.” ~ Hal Borland

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, travel

Tuesday Tour: show me

Life was good in the Midwest where we lived for eight years. Two of our three children were born there and our family of five made a lot of pleasant memories while residing there.

And although we loved living in our suburban home, we journeyed back East to visit our families often for holidays and summer vacations. One different venture though stands out in my memories and is highlighted on our Tuesday Tour today.

Back then, we used a camcorder to capture our vacation more than a still camera. I did take some photos with an inexpensive point and shoot film camera, but most of those were of our children at each of the spots we visited. But there are a few pictures I’m sharing here.

In the summer of 1990, we traveled through Missouri with several of our stops at family-oriented places to entertain, interest, and accommodate our young children at the time. It became a show-me-more kind of vacation in the “show me” state.

We were certain our children would enjoy our first stop at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, MO (near St. Louis) and they surely did. Think Purina as in animal chow and you can imagine what the attractions are.

In the pet center, we watched dogs perform all kinds of tricks, received informative lessons on pet care and even cat grooming, visited an enclosure where kitties lived a luxurious life (now a 20-foot, multi-level cattery), and enjoyed the barn area, where farm animals – cows, horses, sheep, hogs, chickens, and rabbits – were housed. Our children loved interacting with the animals and opportunities to pet them as well. Purina Farms is still going strong today but you must make reservations to visit now.

Show me another farm. One farm wasn’t enough so we visited Grant’s Farm, a historic farm located in Grantwood Village, MO. The land here was once owned by President Ulysses S. Grant but became the property of the Busch family of the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. One of the attractions there is the famous Budweiser Clydesdale horses plus an assortment of other animals including elephants, camels, buffalo, donkeys, kangaroos, and goats. Our suburban children liked getting up close and personal with the farm animals as well as enjoying animal performances. Grant’s Farm is still free to the public, but now there is a parking fee.

Show me more animals. On we ventured into St. Louis to visit that city’s wonderful zoo. The St. Louis Zoo is yet another free attraction then and even now, although currently you must make timed reservations to visit. This zoo, as one of the few free ones in the United States, now houses over 12,000 animals and is one of the most visited attractions in the area. I don’t know if it still exists or not, but our kids loved a play area in the zoo which featured a rope “spider’s web” to climb on.

Show me something different. Finally, we opted for another place of interest that didn’t offer animals, located a cool, air-conditioned place to visit in St. Louis, and explored another great children’s place called the Magic House. I recently searched online to see if it still existed and according to its website, I’d say this children’s museum has changed quite a lot since we visited in 1990.   I recall that our youngsters were mesmerized by the hands-on exhibits back then and the big attraction for them was riding a hovercraft just a few inches off the floor.

Show me something cool. From there we traveled into the Ozark Mountains for even more show me sites we’d never seen before, and our next stop was definitely cool. The famous Meramec Caverns, the biggest commercial caverns (a 4.6-mile system), in a state also known as the “Cave State” (more than 6,000 caves) is located near Stanton, MO. We took a mile-long guided walking tour through the caverns along lighted walkways marveling at the various cave formations, claiming to be the rarest and largest in the world, on the way.  

Around 150,000 people visit Meramec Caverns every year learning facts such as the caves were Underground Railroad stations, and many slaves were hidden there on their journeys to free states and the legend that the infamous criminal Jesse James and his gang used the caves as their hideout in the 1870’s.

Show me more fun. Our next stop was Branson, MO, home of Silver Dollar City, a 61-acre theme park which opened in 1960 near Table Rock Lake. Feeling like you stepped back in time to the 1880’s, Silver Dollar City consisted of mostly craftspeople and artisans enacting live demonstrations set up in authentic-looking historical building replicas when we visited the park back then.  Now the park features amusement rides and attractions as well as concerts and live shows, dozens of restaurants, and a plethora of shops. Open from mid-March until late December, Silver Dollar City and surrounding attractions are a popular destination in the Midwest. We’ve actually been there three times I believe.

While in that area, we also visited Mutton Hollow Craft Village, which sadly does not exist any longer. (Photo at beginning of this blog was taken there.) It was a smaller, similar old-style themed park featuring rustic cabins where you could watch craftsmen at work and listen to tales of how settlers in that area of the Ozark Mountains lived back then.

It wasn’t as busy or popular as Silver Dollar City, but we liked visiting there and our kids relished getting pony rides. Also nearby is an area where an outdoor drama takes place annually called Shepherd of the Hills. The event is a live reenactment of an historical novel written by Christian minister Harold Bell Wright and published in 1907. We visited the site but did not attend the dramatic production.

Show me unusual nature. Since we were close to Arkansas, we decided to travel further south through the Ozarks and wound up in Eureka Springs, AR, an entire city that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This mountainous town with its steep streets and sidewalks and no traffic lights consists of many Victorian-style homes and is a popular tourist attraction.

Of course, our young children weren’t that interested in its history nor its architectural style, so we found two aspects of the area that were more exciting for them. First was a visit to a nature trail in a park-like setting that led us to Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge.

Unusual natural rock formations, which became tourist attractions over a hundred years ago, entice visitors to view a 12-foot high, gigantic rock that looks like an inverted pyramid. It does astound your mind that it stays upright, and it makes for a fun photo opportunity.  Natural Bridge is exactly what it sounds like, a naturally occurring stone bridge that was carved out of the rocky cliffs by nature’s weathering.

Show me the end. Our last stop was a ride on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway. Our train was pulled along by a steam locomotive to the end of the line where we disembarked and watched the engine turn around on a historic turntable.

The train ride was fun for our kids and Papa, the railroad enthusiast, enjoyed every minute. Today visitors can take rides on an excursion train or in a dining car pulled along by a 1940-era diesel engine and watch the engines turn around on the turntable, but the steam locomotives appear to have been retired into exhibits.

Our show-me vacation proved to be one I haven’t forgotten even after all of these years. The photos I captured of our three youngsters enjoying our vacation and the few I exhibit here today show me we made great memories.

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” ~ Confucius

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