Wednesday, August 28, 2013

School Days and Mom's Taxi

It's July, 2018, and already thoughts are turning to the start of another school year. My daughter-in-law, a teacher, starts August 1st. The summers are much shorter than when I was a kid. 

As summer melts into school days and even though my own children are grown and out of school I still dabble in carpool lines with my grandkids. Just as when I was in Kindergarten, the time held tradition continues. (I'm third from the right)

When visiting my two oldest grandkids in Minnesota, Grandpa and I were always along for the ride to drop them off or pick them up. This year they are in eight and ninth grade. I remember when they were little and watching for them to find us in the carpool pick up line. Time goes by so quickly.

I always know when our local schools start because an elementary school is my backyard neighbor, I love hearing the kids' noise out on the playground and the school bells ringing. A school zone slows the traffic on my street as school buses rumble past my home.

Grandma Rita in Kindergarten! 

This year another of my grandchildren starts Kindergarten. I remember my Kindergarten days. They were fun and exciting times. One day I had the joy of driving my enthusiastic granddaughter, a Kindergartener, to her school. I think I was as excited to be in school mode as she was. It was a bit intimidating finding my way into the proper place for drop-off and then pick-up. I know all too well there are strict rules about such things. I may be a grandma but such adventures bring back lots of memories of driving my own five children to school.

I had a big, custom van that I drove my children in. I would be waiting for them in the school parking lot and not only my own but all the neighbor kids would come and pile into the van for a ride home. We didn't have to follow a seatbelt law back then so kids sat on the floor in the middle of the row of seats or crowded in however they could. I laughed because most didn't have far to walk home but they loved the social of riding with the others. Once the sliding door was closed, I often didn't even know who all was in the van so I asked for directions to the closest drop-off house. It was a fun time. 

With school starting in August, summer heat still lingers.  Today it reminded me of something I wrote in 1992 while living in Texas. It was a hot carpool day 26 years ago. I don't think the experience has changed very much when the temperatures are soaring. 

Mom's Taxi

It is so hot today!
The soles of my feet burn on the asphalt.
The top of my head smolders.
My clothes are wet and sticky.
Even my eyes burn in the intense heat.

Droplets form across my forehead and
I feel drips sliding down my neck.

I'm in my sun-scorched van
waiting in the carpool line.
School will be out soon.
When the bell rings,
I search the crowd for the little faces
I know.

From one school to the next
I travel.
Waiting at each school 
in the August heat,
in  the carpool line,
for my children.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Pledge of Allegiance and the 4th of July

My Pledge of Allegiance in Kindergarten.  Way back then there were only 48 stars on the flag.

 I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America 
and to the republic for which is stands,
one nation. under God, indivisible. with liberty and justice for all. 

Today, I still proudly salute our American Flag, now filled with 50 stars. May our Red, White and Blue continue to wave over our great free nation. 

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Canter's Deli, Los Angeles, California

Canter's Deli at 419 Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA, delivered the most wonderful plate of deli food I ever remember biting into. I don't declare this lightly. I have eaten at some of the most delightful deli-restaurants in the country but I wasn't expecting this surprise. On a recent trip to Los Angeles my friends and I headed out for a late meal on a Thursday evening. Our goal was  a popular food stand. Driving by it we didn't even park the car when we saw the long line of eager diners winding around the building. So it was pure serendipity that I ended up at Canter's Deli. 

This Jewish-style deli opened in 1931 and has been open 24 hours every day of the year except for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Because of it's location near the border of West Hollywood, it has welcomed many celebrities through the decades. Be sure and click on the link to see how many celebs you recognize. I did scan the diners but didn't recognize anyone. (I think the only famous person I ever saw while on a California trip was Sarah Jessica Parker. She had her three children with her. I may have seen others but didn't know who they were. Too bad!) 

After we were seated, I was particularly taken in by the lighted ceiling. I have never seen anything like it. Isn't it awesome? 

Our waitress, Lauri, a 5 1/2 yr old veteran of Canter's Deli, was most helpful. Trying to decide which  reuben to order I asked Lauri the difference between pastrami and corned beef. She smiled and left our table without a word, quickly returning with samples of both. It was such a delight to compare the pastrami and corned beef. The difference was obvious. The pastrami had been brined, partly dried, seasoned with various herbs and spies and then smoked and steamed. The corned beef is salt-cured. When we came in the front door the meat and cheese deli was on our right, brimming with choices. Now I had a better understanding of this Jewish deli offerings. 

Sampling each of the yummy slices of meat, we all agreed on the same order, a pastrami reuben. As an appetizer we also had a plate of kosher dill pickles on the table. This was turning into a meal I wasn't going to forget. 

The first bite of the sandwich told me I had just experienced the best reuben I've ever had. I've always been a reuben fan but this one was above and beyond. From the pastrami to the rye bread it was amazing. The sweet potato fries were delish as well. I savored every bite I took. 

The sandwiches were so big I decided to save the second half for the next day. 

This made room for my friends and I to share the creamy cheesecake. Walking into Canter's Deli we passed by the rows of bakery cases screaming "eat me" so what else could we do?

It's a good thing we shared the cheese cake three ways. It would have been a little sinful to eat one all by ourselves!

Here are some pictures of the other bakery choices inside of Canter's Deli. 

Such temptations!
Canter’s provides one-and-one-half hours of free

Besides the outstanding reubens, something else we appreciated about Canter's was the free parking lot next door (with validation). In Los Angeles, free parking is most appreciated. Since the deli is open 24 hours, this thoughtful sign at the parking lot caught my attention. 

I was surprised to learn that a Colorado cousin, Aurora Lowell, knew all about Canter's too.  At a weekend party we compared notes until our mouths were watering. Has anyone else been to Canter's Deli? This afternoon while writing this blog, I wished I was at that bakery counter. It would have made a very wonderful afternoon treat! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kentucky Derby Hats, Mint Juleps and Chocolate-Pecan Pie

I bought my Kentucky Derby hat in Solvang, California, before I even had a Derby party to wear it to. So when cousins, Aurora and Craig Lowell, invited my husband and I to the Kentucky Derby 2013 party at their home, I was ready.

The Kentucky Derby is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, on the first Saturday in May. This year that fell on May 4th for the 139th horse race, also known as much for the sporting of elaborate hats on the ladies as for the running of the three year old thoroughbreds. The men at the party were not to be left hat-less though. They joined in the fun.

My husband, Rex, wore his hat in honor of the jockeys. He says it was as close as he could get to a jockey helmet. I thought he was looking especially handsome in his hat. 

Craig, our host, donned his Harley hat. 

Stu didn't complicate his balding head with a hat but he had the Kentucky Derby spirit as he happily filled his plate with foods made with touches of bourbon and all good things. 

Aurora, our hostess sporting her new hat, held up her Kentucky Derby shot glass. She used it to measure the perfect mint juleps.

Kelly and Jeanette were in style in a floppy hat and a hat of many feathers.

Three month old baby Lindsey came with her hat too. She was sleeping so she wouldn't miss the two minute race later. 

Waiting for the post time at the Kentucky Derby party, we were offered the customary beverage of the race, a mint julep. Aurora, our hostess, had made mint sugar syrup using mint from her own garden. The syrup mixed with Early Times Mint Julep bourbon and topped with fresh mint leaves  made an extraordinary and refreshing cocktail for this grand event. 

Churchhill Downs, the racetrack hosting the Kentucky Derby, has hosted this event since the first Kentucky Derby in 1875. The race is one and a quarter miles. With this short and fast track the Kentucky Derby has been characterized as "the greatest two minutes in sports" or "the most exciting two minutes in sports."

This year the rain made a muddy mess for the horses and jockeys. In this picture you can see the soggy racetrack. 

Attendance at the Kentucky Derby is a source of pride as it always ranks first in North America. It surpasses all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. This year the attendance was 151,616, even with the pouring rain. 

After great anticipation, it was finally time for the race to begin. We tossed around who our favorite was to win. We would soon know, as they were off and running out of the gates.

It was exciting when we saw number 16, Orb, pulling out alongside the others as he plowed to the front. His feet were off the ground as he raced ahead.

The finish brought cheers as Orb was first to cross the coveted destination well ahead of the other contenders. It really was all a blur as Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary, Normandy Invasion and Mylute were the first five to finish the dazzling race.

Within only minutes the results were in for the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby is also referred to as "The Run for the Roses". To the winning horse a luxuriant blanket of red roses containing 564 flowers is awarded each year. From this win, a chance for the US Triple Crown becomes a possibility. The next races will be the Preakness Stakes in two weeks and the Belmont Stakes three weeks after the Preakness. Orb will be running to claim the 12th spot as winner of all three of these events in a 125 year old history. 

After the race results, we still had one more tradition of the Kentucky Derby to partake of, a homemade chocolate pecan pie. Some recipes call for the option of bourbon so it's the cook's call on that. I can tell you the pie tasted as yummy as it looks. 

The party started winding down after the pie and all the part-goers were full and happy. A few of us stopped for some last minute photos to remember this joyous fun. Below is Kelly holding Lindsey, Jeanette, Me, Aurora and Nicky.

And the last picture of the dear Rex and his own Roaming Rita. 

Cheers and since I have the hat, let's keep these Kentucky Derby parties going. Anyone?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Walker Ranch Homestead, Spring Heritage Day 2013

Walker Ranch Homestead, a part of Boulder, Colorado, Parks and Open Space, hosted a free open house Sunday, April 28th, 2013.   The Walker Ranch Homestead is located west of Boulder, 7.4 miles up Flagstaff Road. The sunny day, with a light breeze, welcomed many visitors  to the the Walker Ranch acreage. The winding road through the  gorgeous view of nearby mountain ranges was filled with Sunday bicyclists and cars carrying hikers on their way to the different trail heads. Even with the activity I  still spotted a lone deer enjoying springtime in the nearby forest. I missed that picture but stopped for this peaceful scene.

Turning off Flagstaff Road towards the Walker Ranch Homestead, we ventured down a chopped rock road. Before us opened up a gorgeous panoramic view of a nearby mountain range and the Boulder Valley framing the Victorian-era buildings of pioneer days in Colorado. On this Sunday outing I was accompanied by my husband, Rex, and our son, Matt, and his 3 month old baby daughter, Lindsey (below). Matt's wife, Kelly, (Lindsey's Mom) was working this event so we ventured down this dirt road to find what activity she was involved in today. 

The first event we found was the laundry demonstration. Kelly wasn't here.
Children were trying their hands at the ole washboard. They were having fun playing in the water and not realizing this was work in the olden days.

The hand washed laundry was blowing in the breeze. I remember the fresh smell from the clothes that hung on a line. I also remember the rush to get the clothes off the line when rain  started to fall on wash day. 

With the sun shining in my eyes, I had to look twice at the next table to believe my eyes. There was Kelly making butter. She had a plate of saltine crackers with homemade butter smeared on each one for us to sample. It tasted wonderful. Why do I buy butter at the store anymore when my darling daughter-in-law, Kelly, is so talented?
This little girl stopped at Kelly's table to try her hand at churning butter.  Kelly told her it wasn't ready yet and to keep going. 

As I strolled through the Homestead, I was drawn to the wagon barn where these delightful folks were playing and singing for us. It was foot stomping fun, drawing an appreciative crowd. This barn was for the wagons, buggies and farm machinery but it was also used to store the corn grown on the ranch.

Relaxing and wandering around the Homestead was a great way to imagine the life of others who once  walked in these same steps. This log house was built circa 1865. It's an example of a broad axe hand-hewn log house. A warm, cozy house made with lots of physical labor.

Inside the log cabin, the wood burning stove was hot and used to cook the meal for the day.

The kitchen was comfortably stocked with cast iron skillets, trivets, crocks and canisters. 

The bathroom was sparse with only a chamber pot, tub and a few basic toiletries such as a shaving brush, wrought iron curling iron (warmed on the kitchen stove) and a bar of soap.

Admiring the walls of the house made me appreciate how the structure was made from such rustic beginnings. 
Piles of logs and tools gave opportunities for more hands-on wood cutting and time to turn the clock back.

This young man took a successful swing and split a piece of wood perfectly.

On another part of the property is the Blacksmith's shop. This was built circa 1880. It was a busy place as all iron-ware, hinges, etc. were forged here. Wagon repairs and horse shoeing happened here as well. 

And what ranch didn't need to have calf-roping experts on hand? This is where the young ones and the visiting cowboys practiced their skills.

As I wandered past this wheat barn and the pig pen, built circa 1885, I just loved this door on the large barn. The knots in the wood and the bark still on the structure was a magnificent sight to me. Even though it felt like a spring day with the temperatures in the 60's, the snow still lingered on this north side of the barn. The elevation ranges from 7320 to 8040 feet so winters can be quite harsh. 

The Walker Ranch Homestead is open to the public only during their four seasonal special cultural history events. The next events are as follows:

Summer Heritage Evening 2013, Saturday, July 20, 5 pm-7:30 pm
Autumn Heritage Day 2013, Sunday, September 29, 10 am-3 pm
Winter Heritage Day 2014, Sunday, January 26, 1 pm-3 pm
Spring Heritage Day 2014, Sunday, April 27, 10 am-3 pm

The Walker Ranch property is 3,828 acres. The property is open to the public year-round. It's only the Homestead that has limited hours and events. The whole area is a beautiful escape from the Boulder-Denver metropolitan area which is only a short distance away. If you're in the Denver area or visiting Boulder, it's a lovely drive and worth the trip to admire the lovely mountain views, pine trees and perhaps even a deer or an elk.

 Be sure and stop for a close-up look too!

See you at the Ranch!