Journey 202: All Aboard Ice Cream Co with Dayan and Jonathan

What a great evening, spent with two handsome young men…grandsons Dayan and Jonathan. Before school starts back up, I want to spend time with the grandkids, having summer time fun.

We started with dinner at Wendy’s, and finished our evening together browsing and shopping at Vintage Stock, at Northpark Mall. In between we stopped for delicious ice cream at a fun and unique location.

All Aboard Ice Cream Company, located just south of Joplin in the Redings  Mill area, has converted a Kansas City Southern Postal Car into a dining area. We ordered our ice cream in the building next door, the “depot”. With 16 flavors to choose from, we carefully considered our options. 

We carried our selections to the train car next door and settled in to enjoy the cold, creamy goodness. Postal car #34 spent 40 years parked in Pittsburg, KS before being relocated to Redings Mill. This historical railroad car operated in the area for years, delivering mail to many cities, including Joplin.

Anderson’s Ice Cream acquired the car to use as the future home of their newly renamed, All Aboard Ice Cream Company. We enjoyed sitting in the air conditioned car and looking at the mail slots on the wall. We found the one labeled JOPLIN. We moved to the back of the train to sit in the passenger section and finish our treat.

We gave our imaginations free reign as  we looked out the windows, wondering what it was like to chug  down the track. The ice cream was wonderful and I cherished our time together. I loved our conversations and the way the boys interacted with each other, Dayan answering Jonathan’s questions and both boys outdoing me in an ongoing game of Slugbugs. I love being their Yaya.

Journey 201: Beauty from Chaos

I was so thrilled today to finish up the flower border on the south side of the house. It’s been my summer project. This border was beautiful, back in 2010, after my grandson Dayan and I planted it. But the tornado and the two years of hot dry summers that followed destroyed what our hard work created. 

Further neglect on my part allowed nature to reclaim those beds, as rose bushes ran amok and grass and weeds found their way through the ground barrier. My focus the past two years has been on the backyard. This summer, it was time to restore order and beauty to these wild sections. 

The hard work has paid off. The remaining plants went into the ground last night. This morning I got to mulch, which, silly as it sounds, is one of my favorite garden activities. It feels so satisfying and nurturing, even, to fill the beds with aromatic cedar mulch, surrounding the plants and covering the ground. 

A thick layer of mulch keeps the weeds away, while holding moisture in the ground. It instantly unifies the beds and the plants thrive under their cedar blanket. The mulch breaks down over time, adding nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. I add fresh mulch once a year. 

I’m so pleased with the way this southern border looks now. Order is restored, out of the chaos of neglect. The young plants will fill in. This area is in maintenance mode now. I reclaimed the little brickio as well (brick + patio = brickio). This evening, as clouds piled up, ushering in several days of rain, I added colorful Lantana to clay pots and added them to the brickio. I love their splash of pink, yellow and orange. 

Last of all, I’ll add an interesting object to the space between the rose bushes. Dayan and I always thought we’d put a bird bath there. Since I now have cats, that no longer seems like a good idea! In between work and errands today I searched for the right garden item…a gazing ball? Statue? Large container with flowers spilling over?

I couldn’t find anything that resonated with me. And then, I thought of an obelisk, which is a tall structure that has a square base and a triangular top. I looked, without locating one. Greg was walking through a store with me. I had not mentioned an obelisk, because I had just thought of it. He suddenly said, “How about an obelisk? I could make you one.” That was my immediate confirmation that this was the perfect item to finish this section. So be it! We will make one together.

Such joy fills me as I walk along this border, to the Peace Gate, which opens to the backyard garden. For two years I’ve literally averted my eyes from the tangled mess to my right. No more. My gaze now rests with delight on this restored garden, as I enjoy a leisurely walk toward the gate. Welcome back, Beauty. 

Journey 200: Midsummer Moot – Art Day

Today was the final day of the Middle Earth Summer Camp! What a fun experience. This was Art Day, which is very fitting for summer camp. However, rather than glue, glitter and paper, today’s activity was to create art outdoors, using plants, flowers, leaves, sticks or stones. 


I carefully considered what to do, and had several ideas. With my backyard garden I knew I had ample resources available. I love being outside, creating, even in this heat and humidity. 

I made my decision, and again, two ideas converged. Yesterday I completed preparation of the side flower borders, with help from Greg, and mulched the first section. This evening, the rest of my flowering plants went into the ground, creating a flower garden any Elf, or Hobbit, would approve of! 
For me, this was the perfect art project, making use of natural materials outdoors. Into the ground went 20 plants, grouped by plant type and height: white cone flowers, Shasta daisies, meadow sage, Russian sage, purple salvia, pink fountain gauras, yarrow, a lespedeza and finally, a dwarf butterfly bush, tucked into a corner bed. 

Tomorrow I’ll mulch the newly planted sections and around the now tamed rose bushes. I am so pleased to complete this project, and what a great day to create outdoor art. Thank you to Middle Earth News for a fun summer experience. I am always thrilled to accept an invitation to return to Middle Earth. 


Journey 199: Midsummer Moot – Picnic Day

I love when fun events converge. This is Day Two of the Middle Earth Summer Camp, with the activity of having a picnic, AND it was the celebration of my stepdad’s birthday. What a great way to gather and enjoy family, combining the two. 


My stepdad, Walter, turns 87 on Monday. My sisters Linda and Debbie, niece Nicole and her kids Weston and Lola, and my niece Ashley and her hubby Jon and boys, Ethan and Kaleb, and Greg met at my mom and stepdad’s house to wish Walter a very happy birthday. We normally go out to dinner. However, today my sisters and I carried in sliced smoked brisket, rolls, baked beans, macaroni salad and potato salad and created a casual celebratory dinner. Mom contributed fresh tomatoes from her garden, German Chocolate birthday cake and chocolate brownies. 


Some sat at the dining room table to eat. The children joined me, Linda, Nicole and Ashley in the living room. We dined, picnic style, on the floor, seated around a colorful vinyl tablecloth that I picked up this afternoon. This was perfect, as it allowed me to incorporate a picnic into the evening as part of my Middle Earth Summer Camp. I appreciate my family for playing along so often with my adventures. 


And I appreciate my stepfather. He has traveled with my mom to so many beautiful places, from Hawaii to Italy, Egypt to Scotland. He entertains the young children in the family, playing games, going for walks, showing them magic tricks, and shares a love for animals with my mom. I’ve learned the value of taking care of myself, health wise, watching as my stepdad works out several times a week at the Y, while eating healthy foods as an every day choice. He’s a very fit 87 year old!

Which doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy a piece of birthday cake tonight. Surrounded by people who care about him, squealing, playing children and an assortment  of dogs, he smiled and laughed and accepted well wishes for another great year. Happy birthday, Walter! And thank you for all you contribute to our family….and for allowing us to picnic tonight on the floor!



Journey 198: Midsummer Moot – Ent Day

Just as I was missing Middle Earth, an opportunity to celebrate my favorite mythical country appeared. All the Hobbit movies have had their theatrical releases. All I have to anticipate still is the extended edition DVD of The Battle of the Five Armies, which will release in November. I’m looking forward to seeing the additional footage incorporated into the film. However, I was missing the Dwarves, Bilbo, Gandalf and the Elves now. 

Into my Facebook newsfeed dropped an announcement about Middle Earth Summer Camp! I was delighted. It’s a virtual camp that runs today, July 17-Sunday, July 19. The “camp” is divided into four teams: Dwarf, Hobbit, Elf and Man. Step one was to choose my team. 

This was more difficult than I thought it would be! Well, I quickly eliminated Man. Being human, what’s the fun in choosing that team? I debated between the other three. I have a fondness for each, for different reasons. The Hobbits are so good-natured, love the simple life, and have amazing gardens! The Dwarves are fierce, warrior-like, yet playful and they love music. The Elves are the guardians of Middle Earth, along with the Wizards, lovers of beauty and nature, and hospitable. 

After much consideration, I chose Team Elf. Rivendell, which inspires me greatly, and is home to Lord Elrond and a multitude of Elves, was the deciding factor. 

Today was Ent Day. Ents are ancient beings who dwell in the forests of Middle Earth. They look like walking, talking trees. They think deeply, speak slowly and consider every side of a situation before making a decision. Treebeard was featured in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and befriended the Hobbits Merry and Pippin. 

Our task for Day One was to write a haiku celebrating trees, and Ents in particular. The haiku is a form of Japanese poetry containing three lines. Line one and three contain five syllables each and line two has seven. Each team member who posts a haiku earns points for his or her team. Posting a picture of an ent-like tree garners bonus points. 

I had a long and busy day but as I drove from appointment to appointment and ran errands later, I was more aware of the beauty of the trees around me. Even the slightly comical looking “tornado trees” inspired me today, with their tenacity in surviving against the odds. I had intended to walk through the trees along the river at Wildcat Park, but by the time I got home I decided to appreciate the trees that survived in my own yard. I snapped a pic of the Redbud that bent and twisted in the storm yet held firm to the earth. Perhaps at one time, this tree was an Ent! Regardless, I’m glad it withstood the tornado. 

And here is my Ent Haiku:

Consider the Ent

Whose wise thoughts and words run deep

While his roots do not

I had fun with Day One of  Summer Camp. Days two and three will carry me through the weekend (just wait until my family sees how we are celebrating the day tomorrow!), engage my creativity and satisfy my longing for Middle Earth. I love these little surprises that Life offers up!


Journey 197: Joe’s Italian Grill

Tonight, after a long day spent primarily in the car, several of us gathered at Joe’s Italian Grill, located at 2705 S Range Line in Joplin. Happily, the restaurant was open this evening! It appears that Monday is the only day that they are closed. 

Elissa, Adriel, Nate Pugh, and Greg joined me at this new restaurant. We were seated in a small room off of the large main seating area. With the privacy it felt like a party! We treated the experience as such. 

The building, which formerly housed a Chinese  buffet-style restaurant, has been transformed. The surroundings are beautiful, casual yet classy, giving the feel of a nice sit-down establishment rather than a fast food chain. 

Our waiter was friendly and attentive. The food plentiful and definitely not fast food style. Oversized flat rolls, served with olive oil and herbs, were a wonderful start to the meal. I had the shrimp and crab alfredo and savored it. We each tried something different and all declared their meals delicious and very filling. We finished off the meal with a sampling of yummy desserts. 

It was a fun meal and a great way to wind down the day. I cherish these gatherings with family. And grandson Dayan surprised us by popping into our room. He was visiting the restaurant for the first time with his dad, stepmom and younger sister and brother. 

I look forward to more leisurely meals at Joe’s Italian Grill, with family or friends. And trying something new each time, from their extensive menu. 


Journey 196: Making Friends with Summer Heat

I showed a string of houses to a fun young couple today, starting at 9:00 AM. The majority of the houses were vacant and very warm, due to the air conditioning either being turned off or set at a high temp. With high humidity and a heat index of 98 degrees, we quickly became hot and sweaty. They were troopers though and gratefully, the last house we looked at had the air blasting away. What a relief to linger in that one for a few minutes. 

Back in my cool home, later in the afternoon, I was working on a word swag meme, using a picture from my backyard paradise. As I looked for an appropriate summer time quote to accompany the pic, I wondered when the hot, lazy days of summer lost their appeal for me. 

I didn’t grow up with central air conditioning. We had a window water cooler when I was a kid, living in Tulsa, OK. But that was it, other than box fans scattered throughout the house. No central air. Not even a window unit. Just that huge, boxy cooler that chilled the air with cold water before blowing it into the room. 

I wasn’t inside anyway, on those long summer days. I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. We played, climbed trees, rode bikes, sprayed each other with garden hoses. Summer meant freedom…from school, homework, extracurricular activities and early bedtimes. I loved summer days and warm, muggy summer evenings, alive with fire flies, crickets and tree frogs. 

At night our parents would call us in, and after baths or showers to rinse away the evidence of the day’s fun, my sisters and I would comb out our long wet hair and then grab our pillows and lie on the floor, in front of a humming box fan. When did all that change? When did summer become something to endure as I look forward to cooler fall days? 

Musing on these questions, I grabbed a cold bottle of water and headed back out into the brilliant sunshine. Seated in a canvas chair, on the brickio, I grew still and just allowed the day to be what it was…hot, humid, bright. Sitting there quietly, without judgment or complaint, I took in the garden. 

Bees and butterflies darted among colorful blossoms. Birds twittered. The ornamental grasses behind me rustled as they swayed. There was a breeze, after all. It carried to me the delicate  scents of basil and mint and lemon balm.  I settled deeper into my chair and sighed with contentment. 

Beauty surrounded me, in the the form of flowers, grasses, and plants. This garden soothes me and brings me deep pleasure and joy. I love it out there. And the heat? I baked. I inhaled heated air. I sweated and then the breeze cooled my skin as it evaporated the moisture. As I did with the rain, last year, I made friends this afternoon with the summer heat. 

And actually, that’s not quite right. We were once friends, long ago. I invited the heat, and with it, summer, back as an old friend. I welcomed summer again, and reveled in the sweet freedom and the caressing  warmth and the invitation to bask and do nothing more. 

As often as I can this summer, I will steal away to the backyard to sit with my old friend and simply enjoy our time of  getting reacquainted. I think it’s time to acquire something new for the backyard, something I’ve always wanted but have never owned…a hammock! What a perfect way to enjoy summer. 


My inspiration for the perfect hammock 

Journey 195: Bee Balm

Today I added a plant to my herb garden. I have a mental list of plants that I am on the lookout for, primarily herbs that can be dried and used in all kinds of helpful and interesting concoctions. Earlier this year I found Calendula seeds and now have that herb with its dark yellow blooms growing in the large black kettle. Recently I found the Bee Balm plant and I am so excited to include it in the garden.

bee balm

Bee Balm is a member of the mint family, along with lavender and basil. All three are beneficial for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. They produce richly scented blooms and leaves, which can be used for teas when dried. I have basil and lavender in the herb, or apothecary, garden. But I had not found the Bee Balm plant yet.

Also known as wild bergamot and horsemint, Bee Balm is a perennial, native to North American. It typically has wonderfully scented pink, red or light purple blooms on a compact, bushy plant. As my plant doesn’t have blooms yet, I’ll be delightfully surprised by the color.

bee balm 2

Here are some of the uses for Bee Balm:

  • The scent is a natural mosquito repellent, especially when the leaves are crushed to release the oils.
  • It is a soothing skin tonic for dry, itching or sunburned skin. (Boil 1 C of leaves and blooms in 4 C of water for 10 minutes. Let cool and strain. Used on skin or add to bath)
  • Brew as a tea. Bee Balm has a flavor reminiscent of bergamot oranges. The tea has antiseptic qualities, and contains vitamins A and C, making it an excellent soother of sore throats and cold symptoms. The tea is also great for digestive problems, headache and fever. (Brew ¼ C of fresh leaves or 2 t of dried leaves in 1 C of hot water)
  • The antiseptic action of Bee Balm also makes it great for poultices, and as a wash for skin infections and minor wounds. Rinsing the mouth with the tea combats gingivitis, mouth sores and throat infections.
  • The blooms are edible, and somewhat spicy. Add to salads or sandwiches.
  • And, planted near tomatoes, Bee Balm improves the growth and flavor of the tomatoes.

I am excited to include this versatile plant to my collection. I’m looking forward to harvesting and drying leaves and blooms, and creating teas and tinctures. In the meantime, it will grace the herb garden with its beauty and fragrance, while attracting butterflies, bees and other helpful insect allies. The unique bloom reminds me of the thistle plant, which may be the reason I was initially attracted to it. All the more reason to cultivate this amazing herb.

bee balm bloom

Journey 194: Italian Dinner

What to do when the restaurant I intended to try, and write about in my blog, happens to be closed? Daughter Elissa and her husband Josh, and Greg and I arranged to meet at a new restaurant in town, Joe’s Italian Grill. We discovered when we pulled into the parking lot that Monday is the only day Joe’s is closed.

What to do? We took the party to Olive Garden, since our appetites were whetted for chicken parmigiana and fresh, crusty bread. Last year I learned to go with the flow. If a planned first failed to come together, another first always appeared and it was always the perfect activity.  

My journeys this year have been the same. I don’t sweat it. I just open to other possibilities. In the spirit of adventure, I tried something new at Olive Garden, rather than dining on my usual Seafood Alfredo. 

I’ve never created my own Tour of Italy platter before. I chose eggplant parmigiana, fettuccine alfredo and cheese ravioli for my “tour”. Josh and Elissa created a Tour of Italy also that  they shared, leaving room, as Elissa mused, for dessert! Greg had chicken parmigiana. We shared a big bowl of salad and a basket of fresh breadsticks. 

We will all gather at Joe’s another time for a meal. Tonight we dined well. Primarily , we talked and listened and laughed. It was good to catch up on news and tell stories. That’s the real joy in sharing a meal. And the dessert did turn out to be pretty awesome! 


Journey 193: Persistence Wins

What a journey I’ve had, reclaiming the flower beds along the south side of the house. Five years ago, they were beautiful. However, the tornado, drought and neglect have wreaked  havoc on the careful work that Dayan and I originally did in 2010.

  Before the reclamation began. 

When I moved back into the house, I focused on the backyard garden, transforming it into my own private paradise. At last, this year, I turned my attention to the front and side gardens. It’s been hard work! I’ve sweated and over heated, cut my fingers and arms on broken glass left over from the storm, tangled with out of control rose bushes, dug and chopped and pulled weeds, and fought with roots and the weed barrier cloth that I put down five years ago.

I considered giving up and allowing grass to permanently overtake the beds. I was inspired to continue because I bought the new plants ahead of time, knowing I might need such inspiration! And, the deep joy that I experience as I lovingly tuck plants into the ground called to me with promises of fulfillment and satisfaction. I persevered, moving foot by foot, section by section.

Tonight, I’m proclaiming victory! The toughest section, the one that challenged me the most, was finally cleared and turned with a spade, and at last, plants went into the ground. Yellow, red and orange Blanket Flowers, rosy Indian Feather, rusty Stonecrop, Carpathian Harebells and brightly colored Fireworks Fountain Grass now fill the bed. I left a pink Honeysuckle vine, Spiderwort, and a Sedum Purpureum plant that  survived, as reminders of the resilience of Life.

As I turned the ground, I thought about a great conversation that Greg and I had today, around the blog entry that I posted two days ago. I wrote about transforming through phases of life, each phase birthing the next. Greg and I discussed that concept at length, and looked at our individual journeys as we’ve grown. There’s no going back on this journey, no returning to who we once were, any more than a butterfly can  return to being a caterpillar.

We learn, though, from every aspect of the journey, every joy, every challenge. Greg said something that I like so much, I wrote it down. He said, “Experiences inform us, rather than define us.” How profound, and how true. I don’t have to beat myself up over past mistakes or cling to old memories, rosy as they may be. I learn, I am informed, and I journey on.

I brought that truth to my present task, as I dug holes for the plants. I didn’t need to berate myself for the condition of this flower bed. Instead, I looked at all that I have learned through this experience: Don’t use barrier cloth…use deep mulch instead to control weeds. Don’t plant pervasive plants, such as ivy and liriope, as they are very difficult to control or remove. I have learned what plants work well for my area, my yard. And, I learned that persistence and hard work brings order out of chaos. I am not defined by my mistakes. Rather, I have been informed by my past actions. As a result, a better gardener has been birthed!

I know this bed will always require diligence and a watchful eye, or it will tend toward wildness. I willingly accept that and I know I am up to the challenge. I still have mulch to spread and two more sections to plant, but with great joy I surveyed my work, as darkness gathered. I was a hot mess. But this bed lay before me, cleared of its tangled overgrowth, flowers serenely in the ground.  I smiled triumphantly, through sweat, dirt and bug spray. Oh, how sweet this victory.