Friday, December 30, 2011


Grandma Elsea Rocking and Singing to Me in 1978
(I was 19 years old and a little too big for her lap)
December 30, 1911 was a rainy day, so the doctor suggested to Florence Phelps that she and Hugh name their baby "Rainy." They politely told him that her first name was to be Clara.  They did acquiesce to some extent and gave her the middle name Lorain, deviating a bit from the common spelling. And so it was on that dreary winter day in Fredonia, Kentucky that Clara Lorain Phelps was born to a tobacco farmer and his wife. They had ten children in all, but Clara was the most special to me. After she grew up to the ripe old age of 17, she got married. Then when she was 18, she had a child of her own; my father. My Grandma Elsea was one of the most loving people I have ever known. She made the best fried chicken, green beans, and coconut cream pies I have ever eaten. She had a ringer washer until I was about 7 or 8 years old, and she hung the clothes on a line to dry. The clothes line prop was a sturdy, forked tree branch.  That was good enough. She worked in a factory. She filled Mason jars too numerous to count with vegetables harvested from their garden and fruits from their orchard. She didn't like antiques, though she had several in her basement. "Take any of that junk down there that you want. I've had old. I like new," she once told me after I was married and had a child of my own. She could whistle through her teeth loud enough to get Grandpa's attention when he was down at the barn. She tried to teach us how to do it, but we never mastered it the way she had. More importantly, she whistled or sang happy tunes while she worked to prepare the meals. After she lost her hearing, she sang off key. We didn't care -- it was still nice to hear it. When Grandpa would get too grouchy, she would return to her bliss by simply turning her hearing aids off. She laughed with gusto. She taught my son and nieces how to blow bubble gum bubbles. She told stories of her growing up years and the good times she had with her brothers and sisters and in-laws and friends. She was selfless. She worked hard and loved us and loved life. She was a Christian. She passed from this life in 1988, and after these 23 years, I still miss her every day. So today, Grandma, on your 100th birthday, I pray that you are sleeping in heavenly peace.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas ... Uh ... Not So Much

So was today Autumn's Last Hurrah for us?  We shall see.  I think I set a personal record.  It's December 3rd.  I started the day as usual with a cup of coffee (two actually), got dressed, went to the bank, went to the store, went to Dierberg's to pay my power bill, stopped at the Donut shop (because I hadn't eaten anything yet), went to the gas station, and then came home.  By then it was noon and it was 60º.  As much as I wanted to stay inside and clean the house so I could finally start decorating (okay "wanted" might be stretching it), I knew time was running out to get the essentials done outside.  So the personal record I set was that this is the latest date in the year that I've ever mowed the grass.  You've got to remember, this is Southwestern Illinois and just on the southern edge of what I consider the Central Illinois Ice Belt. December isn't typically this warm.

I'm going to share a few blurry pictures (sorry 'bout that) of some tenacious little beauties.  Allow me to introduce you to Winston Churchill the Dianthus, Winston Churchill the Petunia, and Winston Churchill the Wood Violet.  They're all Winston Churchill because he said, "Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.''  As much as I'm not looking forward to it, I wouldn't go so far as to call the rain and sleet which is in our forecast for tomorrow night and/or Monday "the enemy," but these little guys haven't given in (yet).  Again, sorry for the blur, but it's too dark now to go out there and try again.

Tomorrow -- Church, Inside Cleaning, and finally Christmas decorating!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dinner With Friends -- Complete With A History Lesson

Last night my friend John and I spent a nice evening as guests at the home of our friends John and Margaret. While we have had occasion to get together with them at other venues, this was the first time I had been to their home.  On a previous occasion, Margaret and I had talked about the house and the renovations that they had done, but I had no idea how extensive a project that was.  After John 1 (I'll just refer to them as 1 and 2) had been there during the Christmas season last year, he told me that I would really love it.  We had been invited for dinner after John 2's birthday party a couple of months ago, but we've all been busy with other commitments, and this was the first weekend we were able to find a common, open date.  I'm so glad we finally made it.

We started with appetizers and cocktails in the gentlemens' parlor. The history lesson began when we learned that two other guests in this room were Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.  This, by the way, is called the Wade-Duncan House, and it was built in 1850 by Samuel Wade, one of Alton's former mayors. The ladies' parlor is on the opposite side of the house; no mention of Mary Todd or Jacqueline Bouvier being guests too.  Oh well.  The two parlors are separated by the foyer and beautiful stairway. Further back are the music room, the dining room, the kitchen and a second stairway.  The bedrooms and a family room are all upstairs.  I know I have mentioned that I love seeing old things made new again, and their home is the epitome of such an undertaking.  Margaret did an outstanding job making sure as many architectural details as possible were preserved during the renovation of the house, which had actually been on the city' demolition list. Thankfully, she could see that it was a diamond in the rough, and it is certainly a sparkling diamond now. It must have been exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, but she has a lot of energy and this was obviously a labor of love.  You can learn more about the home in this article.  Keep in mind that it was apparently written not long after the work had begun, and all that work was finished 12 years ago. That white brick shown in the borrowed photo above (from the original article), is now back to its original red color.

After a wonderful dinner, dessert with coffee, and lots of jibes and parrying between the two Johns, Margaret invited us on a full tour of the home (with the exception of the basement).  Everything was beautiful.  I was especially glad when she wanted to take us up to the attic to show us a steamer trunk which had belonged to Samuel Wade's daughter.  How that came to be in Margaret's possession is a story in itself, but the happy ending is that it made its way back home again.  John 2 invited John 1 to take a special solo trip in the dark up to the widow's walk which is still awaiting replacement railing. You can tell they're good friends, right?  Needless to say, John 1 declined that invitation.  During the renovations, Margaret also found a box up in the attic that fell apart as she picked it up.  Out dropped a metal tube.  Inside the tube was a rolled up paper; a music award which had been presented to one of Mr. Wade's other daughters.  It now holds its rightful place of honor in the music room.

We enjoyed a very lovely evening with our friends, but now it was time to return to Edwardsville and The House at 304 -- not nearly as grand, but still home sweet home.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Turkey Digi Stamp Wine Bottle Tag

So since I'm not sure what to expect this coming week, I'm going to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving a few days early.  I don't know about you, but I'm ready!

I have been invited to dinner this evening at the home of some friends, and I'm taking a bottle of wine.  Rather than buying a bottle bag, I decided a nice wine bottle tag with a Thanksgiving theme would be appropriate.  I found this terrific turkey digi stamp here at Karen's Doodles, printed it off and colored it in with my Copics (thanks for sharing this, Karen!)  Then I created a 3D tag with a fall-colored ribbon.  Tom T. graces the front of the tag, and a "Happy Thanksgiving" greeting is printed on the back.

Copic colors used were YG91 (Putty) and YR24 (Pale Sepia) for his feathers with a dash of E57 (Light Walnut) to outline.  His "hands" feet and beak are Y21 (Buttercup Yellow) and Y19 (Napoli Yellow).  His wattle was done with E02 (Fruit Pink) and E09 (Burnt Sienna).  I also used a little of the Burnt Sienna for highlighting the feathers.

I think this zany little guy adds a touch of fun.

A blessed Thanksgiving to each of you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It Takes a Big Crew ...

... to feed a bunch of hungry people.  After our Divine Services (complete with an awesome bell choir, I might add), you'll see what else was going on at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel today. Other than a little big wind, it was a gorgeous day to venture out for some good eats -- a 75º November day in the Midwest.  No complaints here. 

I'm happy to share a few photos I took before the voracious lunch crowd arrived.  I'm getting to know a lot of the names (it's only taken me 3 1/2 years), but since I still don't know everyone's name, I'll do the captions in menu-style so you'll know what everyone was preparing.  Keep in mind, some of the people you see here also worked yesterday (and the day before I think), and stayed again all day today. So this, by far, isn't everyone who made it all happen.

The calm before the storm

Two of our lovely dining room helpers

Bread, Cranberry Relish, Applesauce

Green Beans (sorry for the blur)

Mashed Potatoes




MORE Sausage!


Ya gotta have coffee with dessert!  Good job, David!

The Take-Out Crew

Take-Out Check-Out (More of the calm before the storm)

Evidence of a LOT of wonderful folks not pictured who worked at home to contribute all these (and more) wonderful desserts!

 So if you didn't make it this year, you missed some yumminess and good company.  Be sure to mark your calendars for next November so you don't make that mistake again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Card Making Therapy

Even as a kid, I enjoyed coloring.  I have a special drawer here at 304 full of coloring books, crayons and markers for my grandkids so that when they come for a visit, we can sit down and color together.  With the exception of when they're arguing about who is hogging a favorite color, they seem to enjoy it, and I have had some beautiful artwork made just for "Grammy" displayed on the front of my refrigerator from time to time.

In the last year or so, I started getting interested in card making after seeing a few video tutorials on line. I was (and still am) impressed by the imagination and creativity of others. When I grow up, I want to be that good.  What's amazing to me is that there are so many others. I could spend all day going from blog to blog getting ideas. Little by little, I have built a collection of supplies so that after a day at the office I can enjoy some quiet time (I call it therapy) making cards.  It's cheaper than a therapist.

I just had an email from a friend of mine in Virginia who recently received a thank you note from me. She had graciously invited me to stay at her home in Fredericksburg while my parents took the guest bedroom at her mother's home. She has a tea party business, so I thought a tea cup was appropriate.

Here's another one I did for friends I did in North Carolina.  They enjoy being at the beach, and I found a free "digi stamp" on line to color.  I accidentally made the sky look stormy, but I was kind of glad for that accident after I was finished with it.

It's also fun to have the inside track and know when one has just been dropped in the mail, and it's on the way to someone special.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Kitchen and Dining Hall at Concordia Seminary

Imagine this massive dining room festooned with all the traditional Christmas trimmings, and long, dark wood dining tables surrounded by joyful Christians singing carols.

It'll be a short post today.  I've been browsing my favorite blogs and saw this from President Meyer's wife's blog  It takes me back to my "little girl days" when my grandmother was a cook at the Seminary.  She didn't drive, so on the weekends, she would either take the bus to Coulterville (where we lived) or we would go pick her up.  I loved going to get her at "The Sem."  It gave us (my siblings and me) a chance to roam the hallways, which I recall as being rather dark, and make up ghost stories about Katie Luther.  Grandma had a dorm room there, and the Katherine Luther room was somewhere between the kitchen and her room.  We were sure she (Mrs. Luther) was in there -- dressed in black no doubt.  The real highlight was getting to go to the Christmas party in Koburg Hall, grazing at the buffet (Steve ate most of the shrimp), and enjoying the beauty of the Christmas carols sung by all those men.  The sound was so rich and warm, and I hope never to forget how wonderful an experience all of it was.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Little History Lesson For Me

I received an email from my cousin Adrienne today.  In it, she provided a link to a very cool website, Penny Postcards, which I'm sharing with you here.  If you have any interest in history and what places looked like back in "the olden days," you'll probably enjoy browsing this site.

As I was looking up places where I have lived, I learned that the Madison County Nursing Home, which was torn down in 2009, was once a poor farm.  When I saw the penny postcard of it, I couldn't place it because there's nothing else around it.  So I "Googled" it to exercise my mind and learn something.

Turns out, just before it breathed its last, it was pretty much right in the middle of town -- just a couple of blocks south of downtown Edwardsville.  Giving credit where credit is due, the 2009 photo of the poor farm above was posted on another blog by The Militant Moderate.

I also enjoyed seeing the postcard of the train depot in Sparta.  Most people who have seen this building probably didn't commit it to memory. Others who happen to recall seeing it before may be under the mistaken impression that it's somewhere down in Mississippi, since that was the setting of "In the Heat of the Night," the movie where this unassuming little depot played a starring role.

But Sparta, Illinois, not Sparta, Mississippi, is where this building still stands today. These days, it's an art museum.  I'm glad the good folks of Sparta decided to restore it rather than tear it down.

I like when old things are made new again.  After all, one of these days that will happen to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Blessing of Time

My parents and I just returned yesterday from a vacation back east where we visited old friends in North Carolina and Virginia.  In an earlier post, I mentioned stopping in Cairo, Illinois at Shemwell's, the old restaurant that I remembered as a kid.  As you can see, it's a happenin' place.

We started out last Saturday from their home in Missouri and spent the night in Knoxville, Tennessee.  On Sunday morning, we drove through the beautiful Smoky Mountains before arriving in Mooresville, North Carolina that afternoon at the home of my father’s Navy buddy, Donn.

At 82, Donn is a little more than a year older than Dad.  On a typical morning, he walks three miles before returning home for breakfast.  Time changes things, though, and Dad, Mom and their friends cannot travel as easily as they once did.

On Monday, the girls did a little browsing at one of Mooresville’s antique stores while the Navy boys stayed at home and reminisced.  I saw a lot of “pretties” and bargains, but I resisted the temptation to bring anything home.

Tuesday brought the younger set to Donn and Mollie’s home. Her daughter had business to attend to in Charlotte with her husband, so Mollie offered to have her youngest grandson, Jacob, spend a few hours with us until she returned.  I enjoyed spoiling him a little bit, and he decided I was his pal.

Tuesday evening, we celebrated our reunion at a local steakhouse where the waiter was kind enough to take a snapshot of our little group, and I took a quick snapshot of two sailors.

On Wednesday morning, we had a light breakfast before heading northeast toward Stafford, Virginia to see a few more friends.

It had been years since my last visit to Aquia Creek, a tributary to the Potomac River.  Our friend Barbara lives about a mile from the confluence of the two waterways. The shores of Maryland provide the horizon on the northeast side of the Potomac.  She had a wonderful dinner ready for us when we arrived, and her three daughters, Joyce, Cathy and Connie were there to greet us.

Once again I was reminded of how time changes things.  Barbara, who is nearing her 80th birthday, is a widow now.  Her husband, Wilson, was a gem of a guy and worked with my father in the Army’s Aviation Systems Command in St. Louis in the early to mid 60’s.

Wilson was eventually transferred to Washington D.C.  I have good memories of being with their three daughters and swimming in the creek off their dock when we traveled east to visit. The pylons remain, but I understand the dock has been gone for several years now.

On Thursday, Dad, Mom, Barbara, Connie and I headed southeast toward Chesapeake Bay.  It would have been too much of a drive to see the bay, but we had lunch at a restaurant called Leadbelly’s at Fairpoint Marina near Reedville.

Though it was a long round trip to have lunch, the food was good, and we had an excellent day.

I was glad for the reunion with Barbara and her daughters, but I especially enjoyed seeing Connie, who is closest to my age.  I was invited to spend the first of the two nights at her home.  She’s a lovely person who lost her husband to cancer 18 months ago.  It had been too long since we had seen each other (we were both in high school), so we promised to be better about keeping in touch.

Friday morning seemed to come too quickly. It was time to go home. We headed south to Fredericksburg, turned westward and enjoyed the beautiful farms in Louisa County, and then it was on toward Charlottesville.  There is so much to see in this area, but it was going to be a long drive to Winchester, Kentucky where we would stop for the night, so we didn’t stop to take pictures of the scenery.  Next time.

As we neared Charleston, we came to the White Sulphur Springs exit where I spied the lodging services sign for The Greenbriar.  I had seen pictures of it a few years back and had learned a little bit about its history, so I asked the folks if they would mind taking a little side trip into town for a quick look. They were happy for the break, and none of us were disappointed.

The Greenbriar is an amazing resort in a beautiful setting, tucked in the mountains of West Virginia. I was blown away by it’s size. One of these days I’m going back to stay for a night.

We had a truly wonderful vacation, yet there was a bittersweet chord that I knew would be present before we ever left Missouri.  As Dad left each of his friends’ homes, my heart ached for him.  Tears welled in his eyes when we said our goodbyes.  He tried very hard not to let his emotions show, but he cried as we drove away and said the words that I knew he had been thinking.  All I could do was hold his hand.

While time does in fact change things, our traveling trio had a healthy conversation about the many blessings we share as a family.  Good memories are somewhere close to the top of the list, and there was yet another blessing to add when I saw my parents happy to be home again.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee

Hello from Knoxville, blog friends!  I'm behind on blogging but really haven't had much to report lately.  Go to work...come home...Go to work...come home.  But life is getting more exciting by the minute.  My folks and I landed safely here in Knoxville last night after leaving East Central, Missouri for a vacation to see some old friends in North Carolina and Virginia.  Traveling with two octogenarians demands a slower pace, but with one shuffling foot in front of the other, we've been had a safe and enjoyable trip. We've done a lot of chatting and oohing and ahhing at the beauty of Tennessee's mountains. Sorry -- No pics, but we haven't made any stops in any of the mountainous parts.

I did take a picture yesterday of a restaurant where my grandparents used to stop 50+ years ago on their fishing treks to Kentucky Lake.  I'll post that photo later when I've taken more this coming week.  The restaurant is in Cairo, IL, which used to be a nice town and a good oasis for travelers at the southern tip of the state.  These days it's quite run down (and can even be dangerous at the wrong time of the night).  The beautiful architectural designs in some of the old brick buildings downtown are the remaining evidence of a once vibrant town. So sad. I always think if I had a million dollars (actually it would take more these days), I would make a big old building like one of those pretty again. Anyway, the name of the restaurant is Shemwells, and they have a legendary barbequed pork that is unequaled for miles around. I asked our waitress if they have many out-of-towners who make a special stop there because they remembered how good it was back in "the olden days."  She said that it happens all the time. They still use the original sauce, and now they also bottle it.  Of course, me being the shopper that I am, I had to buy some to take home, and got a business card so I can mail order for more when I'm ready.

We had eaten a late breakfast, so we got our sandwiches for the road. We drove for a while longer, then stopped at a "C" store for fountain drinks.  Somewhere around Clarksville, TN, we stopped to eat our sandwiches. Nothing to report from there except that it was about noon and we were in our fourth state for the day. The sandwiches were DElish!

Though we didn't stop there, as we drove through Nashville (we don't need no steenking by-pass), we all agreed that it has a beautiful skyline before turning eastward toward Knoxville.  This morning while I have coffee and blog down in the lobby of our hotel, Ma and Pa are upstairs in our room getting ready to come down for breakfast.  It smells good, and I anticipate another good meal before we hit the road to North Carolina.  Oh!  Here they are!  I'll be in touch again soon! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Two Years

Sharing a sweet memory from September 19, 2009.  Happy Anniversary Matt and April!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Life

September 11th.  It is a date among 364 others on our calendar.  In the wee hours of the morning on September 11, 2001, we didn’t know how significant that date would become, or how we would stop short in the years that followed whenever we heard it spoken.  Today especially, ten years later, as we hear radio messages and watch television programs recounting the events and recalling the sorrow we felt as united Americans that day, we can’t help but remember death and destruction. Things changed.  We can count, and keep counting, the things that changed because of that moment in time.

This morning, I had the sweet privilege of seeing a baby girl named Phiona become a child of God.  This precious life, adorned in a beautiful gown, knew nothing of what our loving God was doing for her in that moment.  She didn’t have to know.  She was not deserving of what was happening to her, just as no sinner merits so great a gift.  Phiona was the direct object of the verb in the sentence “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  I baptize you.  Phiona did nothing.  We are all helpless without Jesus Christ, no matter how old we are.  In his great mercy, Jesus, the Lamb of God, redeemed each and every one of us, whether we realize it or not.  It is during our Divine Service of Baptism when we are reminded of the comforting words of our Savior, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  (Matthew 28:18)  Therefore, we can abandon any thought that we have any power.  We have nothing except that which Christ alone gives to us.

So today while being reminded of death, and of dreadful acts, and of humankind’s sinful struggle with false authority and power, we, united in redemption, can redirect our focus to life -- the eternal life which we are given in Christ Jesus.  We can remember Saint Paul’s words to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” looking forward to that blessed day when every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Almighty God grant you blessings in abundance on this day and every day!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Boys and Wheels

I celebrated Labor Day this past weekend in east central Missouri with my nine year old grandson, CMS, at the home of my parents.  It's always nice to have a change of scenery, and I had been wanting to take him to the lake with me for a weekend -- no [other] girls allowed.  His household has enough estrogen to sink a ship full of rhinestone tiaras and pink feather boas.  Since his dad has been working long hours six days a week, C was long overdue for some scratching, spitting and other manly pursuits that girls just don't appreciate.  Thankfully, the weather was warm enough for him to swim for a little while on Sunday, but the real highlight of his weekend centered around wheels.

If he wasn't begging his Aunt Cathy for a ride on the four-wheeler, he was driving his pal, Daisy, around on my father's golf cart.  I really enjoyed seeing him spend some one-on-one time with his great-grandpa as a shade-tree mechanic's apprentice.

The cart seemed to work just fine before the tinkering, but the aroma of gasoline was apparently too tempting and beckoned them to do a little fine tuning.  Well, I guess it did ... but I'm just a girl, so what do I know?

C and I agreed on our way home that the weekend didn't seem to last long enough.  Nevertheless, it was long enough to make some memories.

We sure had a grand time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chair and Cheesecake (Dip)

THING ONE - CHAIR:  This old chair was given to me by a friend of mine.  Wouldn't EVERYONE want a chair like this??  Anyhoo, it belonged to his mother and was part of a set in their dining room when he was a little boy.  I don't know what happened to its siblings.  As I may have mentioned before, I'm a sucker for old stuff that looks like junk. I always think it can be fixed up and restored of its purpose.  I contemplated waiting until I actually DID fix this up before I posted pictures, but I thought it might motivate me to get started earlier if I pressured myself by telling the whole internet world of my intentions.  So now I HAVE to fix it up, right?

When I saved the close-up picture to my computer, I named it "Chair Before - Scratched and Disgusting."  This chair has been in a storage unit for about five years, and it's full of dirt and cobwebs and yuk.  I suspect some of the yuk happened prior to its storage days.

Before I get to the fun part of returning it to a beautiful throne fit for a king, I have to get all of the gunk off of it.  That's going to take a while, and I'm going to have a hideous expression on my face while I'm doing that part.  In fact, I can tell that I already have a hideous expression on my face just thinking about it.  I can't believe I put this dirty old thing on my good carpet to take a picture of it.  So that's that about The Chair.  When I'm finished with it, I'll let you take a gander at the finished product.  Wish me luck!

THING TWO - CHEESECAKE DIP:  Don't worry, Thing One has nothing in common with Thing Two.  I was just perusing some of the other blogs I follow, and I ran across a recipe for Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dessert Dip.  Which one of those words is not appealing?  I'll answer that: None.  So, even though I haven't made it yet and don't have my own photo of it, you can find a picture and the recipe at the Fake-It-Frugal blog here.  If you try it before I do (and I'll post again with a photo after I try it), please let me know what you think.

That's all I have for tonight.  I'm off to buy a remnant of upholstery fabric and a few Granny Smith apples!

Wait! Wait!  I've been watching "A League of Their Own" while I typed this and just got to this part: "There's no crying in baseball!"  What a great line.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Perfect Summer Lunch and Memories of Grandpa

It's a lovely Saturday afternoon.  The sun is shining, but the temperature is a mild 82º right now.  It's nothing at all like the extended heat wave we have experienced here in the Midwest in recent weeks.  There is also a nice little breeze which I welcomed while I was mowing my lawn earlier. They say we might get rain later, and we can certainly use it. 

It was about noon by the time I had finished mowing, so I was ready for a break and a bite of lunch.  I was tired and didn't really want to do any cooking, but I was out of lunch meat and other "easy" stuff. I had a couple of nice tomatoes, some bacon, and a little bit of lettuce, though.  Cooking bacon doesn't constitute REAL cooking, especially when you know you'll end up with the perfect summer lunch: a B.L.T. on toast.


I'm sure you've heard it said a thousand or more times, there's nothing like a freshly picked, ripe tomato. Of course if you're not a tomato lover, you wouldn't care one way or the other. But for those of us who do like them, the difference between freshly picked and "hot house" tomatoes, or those picked early and shipped to the stores is vast.

My grandfather, who was at one time a farmer, planted a huge garden every year and kept it looking pristine.  He was always very proud to sit down to supper and announce that most of the food on the table was fresh from just outside his door.

After I moved to Edwardsville and into a rental house with a yard big enough for a garden, Grandpa encouraged me to plant tomatoes.  So early in the Spring that year, I bought a package of "Big Boy" tomato seeds and planted them in a flat.  I kept the flat inside and in front of a south facing window so it would get plenty of sunshine.  My ultimate goal was to do the transplanting outside after the risk of frost had passed.  Not long after I planted the seeds and the little sprouts were just emerging from the soil, my grandparents came for a visit.  Grandpa spied my miniature garden, "What do you have growing in that flat?"  I reminded him that he had suggested I plant tomatoes, so that's what I'd done.  "Well, I didn't mean from seed.  I meant you should buy a couple of tomato plants and set them out later.  You'll never get anything out of those spindly little things.  Wait'll next month and go get yourself a few good sized plants."  Well thank you very much, Grandpa!  The gauntlet had been thrown. I kept my scrawny little seedlings.  As they began to get bigger, I thinned them and chose the best of the lot to set in the ground after Easter (one of Grandpa's rules of thumb).  A few months later, I took a picture of my son holding a big bowl of beautiful, ripe tomatoes fresh from my garden.  I proudly showed the photo to my Grandfather and reminded him of those hopeless little seedlings.  He smiled, "Well I'll be."  I could tell he was proud too.  While I couldn't for the life of me find that photo of my son and those tomatoes, maybe you won't mind the substitute above.  It's a peck of tomatoes I had picked from our garden on another summer's day a few years later.

What's better than the perfect summer lunch and all those juicy tomatoes?  The memory of my Grandpa, his encouragement, and that little moment in time that I hope never to forget.

Here's to you, Grandpa!