Montana Morning Muffins…

Montana Morning Muffins…

Low clouds are hanging over the mountains this morning…but they’re still visible and beautiful.  I would never tire of this scenery!    Temp in the 50′s this morning with a slight drizzle.  My granddaughter Sarah and I are going to be out to walk Annie in a bit – rain or not.  Yesterday morning, Sarah and I made Montana Morning Muffins (we gave them a new name) and they were delicious for breakfast this morning with my son’s freshly brewed coffee.  He is off until Tuesday and that’s great.  His birthday is Sunday and the girls and I will be baking his birthday cake.  We will probably head to Yellowstone tomorrow and I can’t wait to see it.  I love this rugged, BIG SKY COUNTRY!

Here’s the recipe, as promised, for Montana Morning Muffins (adapted from the recipe for Orange-Yougurt Muffins in the Williams-Sonoma book, Muffins & Quick Breads):

Montana Morning Muffins

3 large oranges

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

5 tablespoons butter

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 & 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter standard muffin tins.

Finely grate the zest from the oranges – just the orange part.  Ours made about 3 tablespoons of zest.

Combine the zest, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the water in a small saucepan.  Stir over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.  Add the butter and stir until melted, about 1 minute more.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  Set aside.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, yogurt, milk and reserved orange mixture until smooth.  Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended.  Spoon into prepared tins, filling each cup about 3/4 full.  Bake until toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  15-20 minutes.  Cool in the tins about 3 minutes, then remove.  Enjoy! (I think the pics are clearer if you click to enlarge).

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As we were downloading the pics of the “food photo op” I saw my granddaughter’s amazing photos below all taken with a simple small point and shoot.  I think she’s asking for a more powerful camera for Christmas and I can’t wait to see what she does with that if she can do this with the small camera she has!  Obviously, it’s all about having an eye for composition.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget to click to enlarge for a clearer image.

 

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Below, a yellow-bellied marmot!

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By the way, I am doing these posts this week on the MAC computer with my granddaughter’s help.  I am so not used to a MAC!  ;-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Montana!

Hello, Montana!

I left Des Moines yesterday morning in a FIERCE Midwest storm – the likes of which I haven’t seen for a while.  I couldn’t find my umbrella, so by the time I had the luggage loaded into the back of my friend Susan’s car (who had kindly offered to drive me to the airport), I looked like I had just stepped out of the shower.  Not to worry though, I dried. Once the plane got up above the clouds and past a few major bumps, it was sunny and smoother flying.  Once we arrived closer to Bozeman, I looked out the window to see a mountaintop so close, I could almost touch it!  The scenery here is magnificent.  Definitely different from Oregon but amazing.  I can see why they call this “Big Sky Country”!  The sky stretched as far as the eye could see over the mountains. I was so happy to see my oldest and his precious family!  The girls have grown so much and are, of course, beautiful!  They love it here and it suits their outdoor, hiking, camping, mountain biking lifestyle beautifully.  Later in the week, we will head to Yellowstone and I will take some pics there.  In the meantime, enjoy a few of their Montana living pics below!

 

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Texting and driving…

Texting and driving…

I was out this morning running a few last minute errands in preparation for my flight to Montana in the morning.  I am so excited to see my oldest and his precious family…especially three beautiful granddaughters!  They are all growing up so fast and I love every minute I have to spend with them.  Their entire family loves the outdoors and loves Montana – especially hiking, mountain biking and camping.  I was reminded to bring “good shoes” which I will be wearing but I’m not taking my dirty hiking boots!  Surely, they know this Grandmom couldn’t keep up with them on the trails.  Right?!

My tall stack of library books was going to come due while I’m away with  no more renewals allowed.  So I stopped by the library and dropped them in the book drop.  Then off to Walmart where I stocked up on a few surprises for the girls and a few toiletries.  Not sure what my allergies will do in Montana, so I picked up some Sudafed just in case.

It was a good thing I was alert – and definitely oriented – since a young woman dressed in a high-powered business suit and heels came plowing quickly around the corner – literally missing me by an inch.  Not exactly sure what happens when you are hit head-on with a full cart of groceries traveling at an indoor-high-speed, but I don’t think it would be a pretty picture.

 

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She apologized profusely, and said “this is what happens every time I TEXT and DRIVE!”  There in her hand was the evidence.  An iPhone mid-message.  She really was texting and attempting to fly down the aisle with a heavy cart without a clue about her surroundings.

I wondered if she really did text messages while beyond the wheel of an automobile!?  I wondered if she had read the statistics and had seen the photos of the tragic consequences of texting while driving?  Maybe this near accident – albeit a shopping cart – was a wake-up call for her to put the phone down and pay attention to the road/grocery store aisle?!

Since her fast-moving-cart was aimed for me personally, I was just glad she didn’t hit me!  I wouldn’t want to miss my trip in the morning for any reason!

 

The Kid…

The Kid…

I loved the movie The Kid starring Bruce Willis.  A Disney movie released in 2000, The Kid is a drama-comedy-fantasy about a 40 year old miserable – but successful – image consultant played by Bruce Willis.  Through magic, known only to Hollywood, Bruce’s character meets himself as a ten year old boy and the story of his life evolves.  It’s a great story.  Much like seeing the house you grew up in…years later…and saying you “remembered it being larger” or wondering how all of you fit into 3 small bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  Or seeing the backyard you played in with the big tree you climbed in and, somehow, it was all so much bigger back then. Remember the stages in your life when everything seemed so urgent - as if there would never be enough time for anything else?   If you could go back and tell yourself anything at one of those stages of your life, what would you say?

  • I’d tell two year old Dianne that someday there would be grandchildren who would actually favor her a little bit.  I’d also tell her to hang on to the ball even when the photographer asked for it back.  Apparently, he did and I told him “no, you have one”!

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  • I would tell 5 year old Dianne that she and her niece Sharon would always be together like sisters.  She would miss her when they lived far apart but they just had to call and the other one would come.

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  • I’d tell nine year old Dianne to “run” and not let Mama cut her bangs anymore.  In any case, I’d reassure that one day soon she could grow her bangs out – or not – just as she wanted to do!

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  • I’d tell thirteen year old Dianne that while it was true she would never be any taller than 5’4″ tall, she wouldn’t always be wearing a training bra!

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  • I’d tell 18 year old Dianne that even if that was “the style” back then, to let her hair grow out!

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  • I would tell 26 year old sleep-deprived, busy, happy mom of two Dianne to enjoy every single moment of these toddler years.  I would tell her that they were going to grow up altogether too fast and to enjoy the journey.  I would also tell her that all her children were going to grow up every bit as special as she dreamed they would.

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  • I would tell 39 year old Dianne, mom of a 5 year old creative entertainer, to believe him and encourage him when he said he was going to grow up and take over a well known television show one day.  He is certainly headed in that direction!

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  • I would remind thirty-four year old Dianne to treasure every moment with all four sisters together!  The sad day would come when two of them would be in Heaven much too soon.

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Through it all, I know enough to know that God is in control.  The Dianne of today knows not to take anyone or anything for granted…to enjoy each and every day.  I may not know what the future holds…but I know WHO holds the future!  

 

Enjoy a glimpse of THE KID below…

Iowa, simply beautiful…

Iowa, simply beautiful…

Lately, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in the dentist’s office.  Each time I’m there, I actually hope I have to wait for a while in the waiting room since that gives me time to browse through a wonderful photo book entitled Iowa Simply Beautiful.  The photographs by Larsh K. Bristol and Curt Maas are absolutely amazing.  Some are breathtaking in fact.  I looked on ebay hoping to find the book there but could not.  What I did find though is Iowa Simply Beautiful II by Larsh K. Bristol, Curt Maas and Kent Foster.

Paging through some of the photos, I have to look twice to be sure that I am not looking at photographs of Vermont, Virginia, parts of Kentucky or the hills of the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau.  Beautiful rolling hills, exquisite squares of patchwork green farmland, rivers, waterfalls…all in Iowa!  For those of you who think Iowa is “flat farmland”, think again!  It’s time to start traveling and see as much of this beautiful state as I can.

I’m reconciled to the fact that it is going to take a while for me to get to the British Isles, France, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.  I may never get there, although I hope I do.  In the meantime, I’ve decided that there is very little standing between me and some of the places I’d really like to see in Iowa!  This is not an exhaustive list by any means! So here goes…

  • The Amana Colonies    Their 2014 Oktoberfest sounds wonderful.  I will actually be in Memphis the first two weeks of October this year but there’s no reason YOU can’t make it!  I definitely want to see The Amana Colonies.  Check out the link – it looks like a terrific place to visit.
  • The Iowa State Capitol  Here, I’ve been in Des Moines for almost two years and have not scheduled a tour of the historical, 23 karat gold leaf-topped, Capitol building!
  • The Blank Park Zoo   Also sad to say that this animal lover from way back has never been to Des Moines’ wonderful Blank Park Zoo
  • The Bridges of Madison County.  Have you seen the movie by that title with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood?  I’d love to see and photograph these famous bridges.
  • The Danish Windmill and The Danish Museum.  Just about an hour from here is The 1848 Danish Windmill and Danish Museum in Elk Horn, Iowa.  Since I love the old classic movie Foreign Correspondent, partially filmed in Holland, I’d love to see this authentic windmill!
  • Field of Dreams.  I enjoyed the movie and would like to see the setting for it in Dubuque County, Iowa.

This post may have to be without photos until I have and/or make time to wander the beautiful Iowa countryside and farmlands and capture some of what I see and love on film!  On my Pinterest site (Click Follow Me on Pinterest sidebar at right).  On the site, there is a board of photos for the Amana Colonies!

Note:  Sadly, I read that Curt Maas passed away on September 7, 2005 and Larsh K. Bristol died in 2006 in an automobile accident on one of his beloved Iowa river roads.

Penny and Mike…

Penny and Mike…

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Dianne, Penny & Bobbie – 1967.

There is something to be said for friends who have been with you for fifty years of your life – especially when that friend is also your sister-in-law…or as I like to say “sister-in-love”.

Her brother was my husband for 39 years and the father of my three wonderful children.  Sadly, he died of a massive coronary in April 2006.  Mike, Penny’s sweet husband, has been with us for most of those 50 years and is like a brother to me.

We have been together through the lean times, the good times, the hard times, the sad and happy times.  There has been a whole lot of laughter, some tears along the way and a bank of wonderful memories.

They left yesterday morning for the ten+ hour drive back home to Memphis after spending a sweet week with me.  The thing about having been together for so long is that we are family…we pick up right where we left off.  They’re at home here and that makes me glad.

They are always an incredible help.  Each time they come, Mike fixes something or makes something right here in this condo.  This time, he put together a kitchen island that I ordered which has been sitting in the box for at least two months.  I had proudly put together two bookcases “all by myself” but this island/cabinet was way beyond my expertise.  It looks great and gives me much needed storage.

 

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Penny took things out of the tiny pantry and organized my new cabinet and it looks great!  There are two drawers in the cabinet where I can now store my silverware instead of having to keep it in a silverware tray in the tiny pantry!  It all looks so much better and I’m thrilled with it!

Mike also hung up a rack for my broom, dustmop and mop!  No more falling behind the dryer!  ;-)  Such a simple thing, right?  But a nuisance when you don’t have one.  It doesn’t take a whole lot to make me happy and this simple rack makes me happy!

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Probably the biggest challenge of all was my storage room on the lower floor here in the condo building.  I had tried cleaning it out one snowy winter day but it was so overwhelming, I wound up in tears and packed it all back in!  We ended up taking a box of things to Goodwill and the rest is now so neatly organized.  There is no way I could have done it without them!  I kept saying they were going to have to go home to get a rest but they insisted they enjoyed helping.  Thank you so very much for the immense help!!!

Two of the days they were here, they drove up to the Mall of America and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I had a dentist appointment this time but definitely plan on going with them on their next trip.  We also enjoyed delicious dinners at my daughter’s home three evenings plus a drive out to tour their new farm!  That was a lot of fun.  My grandchildren love Aunt Penny & Uncle Mike!

There was also a mystery that Penny solved and Mike fixed!  Over the past almost two years, I have been getting “holes” in my shirts & tops – just about at the waistline.  On some of them, there is a series of small holes.  My favorite tops that I wear more often have larger holes!  Slowly, but surely, my clothes were getting worn out and torn up!  Was it the washing machine?  No.  Did I have moths in the closet?  No.  Penny figured it out!

The granite counter top in the kitchen is made of granite floor tiles (definitely not a good idea!) and the edge all along the kitchen work surface area was sharp and rough…and consequently ruining my clothes!!!  We bought narrow, clear corner edging for the rough edges and wah-lah!  Now, it is smooth and the clear edging doesn’t really show.  I am also going to get into the habit of wearing an apron…since I had to buy several new things to replace the ones with holes!  Way to go, Penny & Mike!

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I was sad to see them go but look forward to seeing them during my two week visit home to the South in October!

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 Love these pics of them.  

Top pic:  Winter, mid 90′s in Terre Haute, Indiana.  

I appliqued the snowman sweatshirt she is wearing and she loved it.  

Below:  At my younger son’s wedding.

Penny & Mike at Justin's wedding

 

Valley Junction, Iowa…

Valley Junction, Iowa…

Today was a perfect August afternoon.  84 degrees, blue skies and a few scattered clouds.  My friend and neighbor Susan and I ventured over to Valley Junction for the weekly farmer’s market.  She had been telling me about the Farmers’ Market for weeks and, today, we finally made it.  Early June, I had been to Valley Junction to wander through the antique shops and especially browse through my favorite shop, Sisters,  on 5th Street.  It had been quiet that day and not too crowded, but today the village was alive with all the activity.  For all my Tennessee friends, it rather reminded me of the square in downtown Collierville.  Someplace each of you would like to visit!

Each Thursday afternoon, there are over one hundred vendors  selling fresh produce, fresh baked goods, unique arts and crafts, plants, flowers and delicious looking prepared foods.  Next time, I’d like to try some of the specialty foods.  I came home with two large red, ripe tomatoes, a loaf of  Asiago Italian Ciabatta by Big Sky Bread Company in Urbandale, Iowa and a large container of very fresh green beans!  All reasonably priced too.

Had we stayed later, we would have been there for the live music and I’m sure I would have loved that as well.  There was a young woman singing in one of the store doorways.  At first, I thought they were playing a CD by one of my favorite artists, Norah Jones!  She had a lovely voice.

All in all, a very enjoyable August afternoon…

 

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Loved the hand carved birds below by Whirlythings!

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My favorite shop is Sisters!  Hmm…I see a cowgirl hat I like!  

And lots of other things as well…

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Below:  Sisters also has a wonderful selection of bedding, laces, baby things and so much more!

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Spotted this old fashioned washer in the window of one of the antique shops.  

Reminded me of one Mama had many,  many years ago.

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Below:  A few more random pics from the Farmers’ Market this afternoon…

Will definitely be headed back and enjoying the selections and the music!

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Rest in peace, Robin…

Rest in peace, Robin…

Along with the rest of the world this week, I was stunned and saddened to read of Robin Williams’ tragic suicide.  I read the story in tears as I remembered all the times that Robin Williams had made me laugh…and the times he had moved me to tears.  An amazingly gifted actor, he could portray any emotion – drama or comedy - and everything in between.  I loved his movies and that quirky grin of his.  He will be greatly missed.  I miss him already.  Rest in peace, Robin…

 

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Sadly, this heartbreaking story reminds us that we never truly know what is in the heart and mind of another.  We see the smiles that don’t quite reach the sad, dark eyes.  We hear the response of “fine” when we ask “how are you?”  And yet, they’re not fine.  They’re hurting.  The pain of depression is raw and deep – but invisible all the same.  Unless you’re listening.  Unless you are paying attention to the signs that are usually there.  Depression can propel you to a valley so deep and dark, you feel there is no end to it…and no way out of it.  Depression is many degrees beyond sadness.  Depression is hopelessness and dark despair.  Depression hurts…truly, truly hurts.  I’ve been there.  Many of you have been there.  It helped that I am a strong believer and had my faith but the depression still hurt.

I spent ten years out of my long nursing career as a Child Psych RN, working with depressed, emotionally disturbed children.  Some of that time was also spent working with adults.  If you know someone who is clinically depressed, I can give you a few phrases NOT to say:  “you shouldn’t feel this way!”…”oh, you’ll be fine”…”buck up and get over it”…”you have nothing to be depressed about”…”what’s wrong with you?”.    There are other phrases, of course, but you get the idea.

You need to be there to listen, to care, to support, to get whatever help is needed.  You need to provide nonjudgmental, unconditional love to the person who is in a pit so deep they cannot get out.  Don’t leave them alone until you know they’re getting help!  Deep clinical depression usually requires medication (antidepressants and maybe anti-anxiety medication), inpatient or outpatient therapy and ongoing counseling.  In time, life will be better…just not overnight…and not without help.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I know that Robin’s family and close friends are asking themselves what they could have done differently.  How they could have stopped this tragic ending.  They need our prayers now.  We knew Robin from all the many faces and amazing characters he portrayed for us.  They knew him as husband, father, brother, friend…

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Can’t you just hear him saying, “GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!”

 

 

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Robin, I  hope that you are at peace and that you’re making the angels laugh now!

His biographical story is here

The sixth day of August 2014…

The sixth day of August 2014…

Another day in August…another milestone.  Joy and sadness.  Laughter and tears.  This was originally posted in Sweet Journey Home on August 6, 2013.  What can I say?  I don’t think I can say it any better.  I look forward to seeing my family in the South the first two weeks of October.  My niece Cindy makes everyone’s heart sing and laugh!  Here she is in the pic below with her two wonderful children.  Happy Birthday, Cindy!  I love you!

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The Sixth Day of August…

There are some days in life that are just bittersweet…today is one of those days.

On a sweet note, today is Cindy’s birthday.  She is my sister Gerry’s firstborn.  Cindy is beautiful with a heart of gold…just like her late Mom.  She has an ever ready smile and a wonderful sense of humor.  We are always laughing when we’re all together.  An amazing pianist and wonderful teacher, she must bless the hearts of the students at the college where she teaches.  No doubt, she blesses the hearts of our entire family…just as she blesses mine.  Happy Birthday, Cindy!  I love you.  Wish I could be there to celebrate with all of you!  But I will see you in October!

Love this photo from about 1957.  Cindy was almost 5 and I was 12.  (Guessing at the year and ages here.)

Apparently, I’d propped her up in the car window!  I was a really good baby sitter!

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Sadly, today also marks the tenth anniversary of my beautiful sister Dot’s death.  She fought a courageous battle against AML (Acute Myloid Leukemia) but Heaven needed her.  She had such strength and optimism.  She believed in FAMILY more than anyone I have ever known.  Dot remembered special days with a card, a note or a call.  She organized family reunions and made sure that we all got together.  She had a gift for staying in touch.  Dot had the burden/privilege of being the oldest…maybe that comes with the territory.  As I shared in the previous post, searching for our family roots was Dot’s inspiration and I will honor her by finishing it.  She would like that.

How I would love to answer the phone and hear her quip one more time, “Hello!  What’s going on besides the rent?” with that smile in her voice.  I miss her every single day…but I will see her in Heaven.

 I love this picture of my sister when she was about 21 years old. 

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A taste of Scotland…

A taste of Scotland…

If you’ve been following my blog since the early days of My Southern Heart, then you know it is my dream to visit the British Isles…especially Scotland and Ireland.  My original ancestor, Rev. William McGregor, was a Baptist preacher in Scotland – rare in those days!  I enjoy pursuing the answers to the mysteries about our Scottish ancestors.  Mama’s ancestors were Irish and I’m also on the trail of those early immigrants!  (Most of them were here before the American Revolution which makes finding them in Scotland and Ireland especially difficult.)
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Since it doesn’t appear that I will be setting foot in Scotland any time soon, I have started a small collection of Scottish mugs.  It started with one mug, of course, as most collections do.  They are made by Dunoon Mugs in Scotland.  (The only mug made by Dunoon Mugs in England is the one with the cat.)  The mugs I’ve collected so far are either fine bone china or stoneware and have very comfortable handles.  Suprisingly, beverages stay hot in them rather a long time.
I especially like the mugs depicting pastoral scenes in Scotland as this mug does.
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Of course, no afternoon cup of tea in Scotland – or Ireland for that matter – would be complete without a delicious scone to accompany it!  Like the one below that I wrote about here with recipe.
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I do have a confession though.  
The mugs may have come from Scotland, but the tea came straight from IRELAND!  
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Check out the brief slideshow below to see all seven of the mugs I’ve collected so far.

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