Photos of Brady

Saturday, July 31, 2004


We will be rewarded today for making it through one of the longest months by celebrating the full moon. It is also a very special moon, as we had a full moon on July 2. When two full moons occur in the same calendar month, it is called a blue moon. I had heard the term all my life, and love the song by the same name. It wasn’t until we got a new meteorologist for the evening news that I learned what the term blue moon meant.

Full moons are separated by 29 days, so it is possible to have a blue moon occur in any month with the exception of February. I guess if leap year occurred and the moon cycles fell into place just so it would be possible to have a blue moon then, but for the most part February doesn’t have them and there are no recorded blue moons for February. The most common months for blue moons are January and March, most likely because February is a short month and none occur during that month.

Blue moons occur every two and a half years, on the average. The last blue moon we experienced occurred in November of 2001. Tonight you will want to step outside and experience the blue moon, as it won’t happen again until June of 2007. It is even more rare to have two blue moons occur within the same calendar year, or by definition, two months in the same year that have a blue moon or two full moons within the same month. This happens every 19 years or so, last occurring in January and March of 1999.

The term “once in a blue moon” has come to mean every now and then, or rarely. Whatever your memories or experiences about the blue moon, this is a very big deal. Tonight I will be outside gazing up at the night sky looking at the blue moon…here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, July 30, 2004


Many times I have had close encounters of the wonderful kind with hummingbirds. I had a walking garden at one time, and spent great amounts of time tending it. While I was weeding, planting, or pruning, hummingbirds and butterflies kept me company. I had planted much of the garden to draw them to my yard, and was rewarded with vast numbers of both.
After the work was done, I liked to put on what I called my ‘garden dress’ and stroll through the garden just enjoying the result. It was a dress I bought at a sidewalk sale at Wal-Mart, a bargain at four dollars. The dress was made from cotton, and was a comfortable baggy summer frock of bright orange covered with tiny flowers in pinks, purples, fuscia, and white. Many times I would step out the front door and hummingbirds would fly right up to my dress and hover there. As I strolled through the garden I created a great deal of attention among the little hummers. I had ten hummingbird feeders placed around the garden, so I never had a lack of them.
When I downsized my garden following a serious illness several years ago I missed the little guys. I kept the dress, and wore it until it became so threadbare it began to tear when I put it on. I have several others that they like, but not as much as my garden dress. I plant flowers they like in the half barrels out by the driveway, and the rose of Sharon tree is blooming. As they zoom through the yard from one to the other, I see them go by the windows in the front room. As I was looking out the window a few days ago, I had a hummingbird go flying by. You could almost see him put on the brakes and fly back to the window where I was standing. For several seconds we stood eyeball to eyeball, so to speak. Such a cute little guy, just saying hello.
This morning when I leave the house I will again draw their attention because it is raining. My uniform raincoat is brown, but it has a fluorescent orange lining. It is a hummingbird magnet. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I’ll be assailed with the sound of hummingbird wings as I walk to the car. A wonderful sendoff to the last day of the work week….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, July 29, 2004


I have had emails requesting this story be repeated.  I wrote it almost a year ago,  and hope that you enjoy it.

Today I walked down our country road like I have thousands of times in the thirty one years since I came to live here. The trees are bigger now, forming a canopy over the road where the branches overlap. The valiant little dogwood tree that stands at the edge of the road by my mailbox is much the same size it has always been, but its presence is a testament of the strong mettle that defines life here.

I have walked by that tree several times a day for more than half my life. It is planted four feet from the black top road in the rockiest, poorest red clay soil, by the bank that fronts my Grandparent’s property where I live. The tree’s trunk is actually made up of three smaller trunks that have twined together, and leans slightly outward from the bank toward the road. Over the years trucks have clipped branches, leaving them dangling and torn. I would get Grandpa’s saw from the garage and trim the tree, hoping that it would survive the latest attack. Several times the trunk has been scarred and gouged by heavy equipment working on the road. A time or two I was sure that the little tree had suffered too much damage to survive, yet in the spring there were green leaves and beautiful snowy blooms.

I have walked down our country road in anger, sorrow, joy and happiness, but the valiant little dogwood tree has stood strong. Storms of life have buffeted me and challenged my resolve. The winds of change have blown, bending my will. Like the dogwood tree I have not broken and I have deep roots on this country road. Life experience and a strong faith have helped me spread my branches and reach toward Heaven.

A valiant little dogwood tree has taught me much about life, about grit, about constancy. Although scarred, twisted and broken it remains beautiful beyond measure and a beacon of hope. A signpost of home.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Yesterday I was in the middle of my workday when my cell phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, fear gripped my heart. It was my son-in-law. I had called over the weekend for my weekly chat with my daughter, but no one was home and she never returned my call. I jumped up and ran outside the office where I could have some privacy.

It was my daughter. She had called to tell me they were driving down the coast highway in California. She got to thinking that I would forget that she had a convention to attend over the weekend and that her husband had gone with her so they could have a short vacation when it was over.

Hmm. My daughter will be thirty-two years old next week. As they were driving along enjoying the beauty of the Nappa Valley, she got to thinking I probably had forgotten that they were gone this week. She just wanted to call and let me know where they were and that they were having a wonderful time.

This was definitely a good news/ bad news scenario. In the first place I had forgotten she told me about the convention. Secondly she figured I would forget and called to let me know where they were so I wouldn’t worry. The good thing is that while she was on vacation she thought of me and wanted to tell me all about their trip. Last night they were staying in San Francisco and doing some sight seeing today.

I thanked her for calling. When I went back to work I thought about how many times I make similar phone calls to my mother. Maybe it is because I turned fifty this year. Hard to say, but I have joined the ranks of parents who are being ‘handled’ by their kids. Matt is always saying that you have to be told six times before you remember something. That sounds reasonable to me. She only told me once that she would be gone for the weekend. Ha.

Just another day in the life….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, July 27, 2004


It isn’t often you have to wear a jacket in July, but because of the cool snap I dug out my hoodie to take to the gym last night. I am glad I did. This weather is so odd that it is the topic of conversation everywhere I go. Country people are obsessed with the weather. For the most part it is because so many of them are farmers, work in the log woods, or have livestock. We are in the middle of the haying season here, and all of the rain and cool temperatures have created another set of problems for the people who are trying to get their hay up.

Normally you see the signs of autumn around the end of August or the beginning of September. Last week I saw my first brown wooly worms and several Monarch butterflies. The flowers are trying to go into their fall cycle, and my autumn sedums are getting ready to turn color.

This morning I woke to temperatures hovering at 52. The people who have made their vacation plans going canoeing, floating, or going to the lakes have forsaken their plans and are finding alternate activities. This creates problems for the canoe and tube rental businesses who thrive in the summer heat. This ripple effect will end abruptly as soon as the front moves on and the sun cranks back up.

For now I am curling up under afghans at night for warmth, have thrown a blanket on the bed, and am drinking hot coffee in the evening instead of iced tea or a cold beer. I am a warm weather person, so I for one am not a happy camper. I loathe being cold and enjoy the heat of the sun on my skin. They say if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. I’m waiting and the clock is ticking….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, July 26, 2004


This weekend we had two days of fall weather here in the Ozarks. This is an oddity for July, which is usually mid nineties and drought conditions. For whatever reason, a cool front brought in three inches of rain, gray skies and fall temperatures. I had to dig out an old sweatshirt yesterday because of course I had shut the furnace down until fall.

Since it was only 55 degrees when I got up yesterday morning, I decided that hot oatmeal and coffee would warm me up. Mid morning I put on a big pot of homemade split pea soup with carrots and onions. With rain coming down in torrents, a pot of soup simmering on the stove gives the house a nice cozy, steamy quality.
It was a wonderful weekend. Saturday I cleaned the house and did laundry. The rain kept me inside, and I watched Trading Spaces, While You Were Out, In A Fix, and What Not To Wear all day long. I even got an afternoon nap. Don’t you love ‘me’ days? I caught up on blog reading, and did some writing. Sunday I finished the chapter I was working on, edited and printed it, had a great conversation with my friend in K.C., and read some magazines while watching more Trading Spaces and the Lance Armstrong coverage. Since my brother John wrote so eloquently about that today, I will suggest you visit his site for his thoughts. I admire everything Lance is and stands for, and applaud his historical achievement.

Today it is not raining, but only 55 degrees again. It is only supposed to be in the low 70’s for a high, so will have to pack my jacket before leaving for the day. I got so much done this weekend, and am so well rested that I am looking forward to the week. Live strong, live long. Make every moment count! I jumped out of bed motivated and excited about life…here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, July 24, 2004


Saturday morning is a day I can sleep as late as I want to without having to set the offending alarm clock, yet I was awake well before the sky began to lighten toward dawn. Taking my cup of freshly brewed coffee, I went out and sat on the porch to enjoy nature greet the new day.

It is so cool this morning, and a haze is hanging in the big woods. There are two half barrels out by the drive where I planted flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds, and I sat and watched several hummingbirds as they flew in and out of the blooms. They have a nest not far from there, and I like to watch them as they come and go from their  little ones.

There is a cool breeze stirring the leaves of the trees and the huge white pine trees are gently swaying in harmony. Together the sounds are a relaxing symphony. Of course the songbirds are sitting in the treetops, heads thrown back and singing at the top of their lungs.

So much joy and praise calls forth the sunrise from the horizon. My heart soars with the majesty of nature. Another day begins....here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, July 23, 2004


Many times I wake up before the alarm goes off and decide to get up before I have to hear it break the early morning silence. This morning was one of those times. I have a carriage clock than sits on top of the entertainment center in the living room, and I hear it chime every fifteen minutes. I love the Westminster chimes, and it is a way for me to keep track of the time during the night or as I go about my day.

Most of the time I don’t even notice it. It has become a part of life here, what mom refers to as the heartbeat of the home. It is especially helpful in the mornings before I get ready for work. If I am writing, reading or sitting on the front step watching the sunrise, I can hear the clock as it strikes another fifteen minutes of fleeting time.

As I am putting on my makeup and fluffing my hair I am amazed how fast time flies. The last half hour before I have to leave the house for the day goes by in a flash. Once I leave the house my day is ruled by the clock. I am looking forward to the day when I don’t have to constantly check the time.

When I was young I was constantly looking forward in time. I wanted to be sixteen, then eighteen, then twenty-one. My grandma Strain used to tell me I shouldn’t wish my life away. Of course I thought she was silly. Now I have come to understand that by constantly looking forward you can’t possibly enjoy the present. Grandma was very good at accepting life with all it’s frailties and disappointments. She never complained. My grandma Andersen was the same way. No complaints. They also knew how to appreciate the beauty around them and how to be content.

There is a gift in slowing down enough to notice the beauty around you. I know this very well, but it is always good to be reminded. A dear friend of mine refers to these times as 3M moments. Magical morning moments, or magical midnight moments. I think I will take my cup of coffee and go listen to the songbirds and watch the sunrise…here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, July 22, 2004


Last night I came home from work with a lump in my throat. Scaredy was close by, and when I got out of my car he came running. Poor little guy. Is it always going to be this hard? He waited on the porch rail for me to come back out to feed him, but it was too early for me to lock him up in the garage for the night. I sat with him for a bit, and he is so hungry for love that I hated to leave him. It was our YMCA night and I had to get down to Mom’s to go exercise. He followed me for a while across my brother’s lot, but he turned around and went back to the front porch.

We were gone for a couple of hours, but when I came home he was waiting on the porch for me. It was almost dusk, so I went to the garage and fed him good. He keeps looking for Tiny. When I had him settled, I said goodnight and locked him in safe until morning.

When I came in to check my emails and comments, I was met with an outpouring of sympathy from the dear people of the blogging community. You all are the very best. It warmed my heart and made me cry all over again to read the sentiments of such dear people. I have come to think of you all as friends- an extended family that lends laughter, love and support.

I had been focused on Tiny being an orphan that didn’t have anyone but Scaredy and me, but I was so wrong. After reading all of your comments I realized how many lives Tiny had touched. He only lived a little over a year, but through his antics and adventures he made new friends from all over the world via the blogging community.

If so small a life lived entirely too briefly touched so many and brought so much joy, then he did not live in vain. It is true that right now Scaredy keeps looking over his shoulder for his brother, but his shadow is gone. In time we will both adjust, but we will never forget….little Tiny.

Thank you all so much for your words of love, comfort and support. It is one of the many things I have come to cherish about the world of blogging. God Bless.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Last night I came home from work and changed into something cool. Temperatures had climbed to ninety, and it was incredibly muggy. Scaredy was waiting for me on the front porch when I came out of the house, weaving in and out of my legs as I went to the garage to feed them. I moved the bricks that prop open the door, and walked into the garage.

Tiny was laying on the concrete floor. I could see that his eyes were open from where I was standing, but I knew he was dead. I ran next door to get Rocky, hoping that I was wrong. He agreed that he was gone, so I put one of the rugs Tiny liked to sleep on in my cut flowers basket and Rocky placed him in it. Scaredy ran off when he saw Rocky, so I left the door open so he could get in to eat.

We carried Tiny to their deck, and I sat with him for quite a while. The deck overlooks the big woods behind our houses, and Mom’s flower garden. Tiny and Scaredy came to me a year ago. They had been kittens in my garage, but when the mother moved her three kittens out of the garage to the big woods I thought they were all gone. I kept food out for a month, but after that I decided they would not be returning.

One day I came home from work and checked the food in the garage. Something had been eating it. It wasn’t long before two wild little kittens began to show up every evening for food. They have always been half wild, but they would let me pick them up to put them on the work bench to eat. Tiny was the smallest of the two brothers, and Scaredy was aptly named for his being afraid of everything, people in particular. They loved to stay in the big woods through the day, but when my car pulled into the drive each evening they came home and sat on the front porch rail until I went out to feed them.

Mom came out to sit with me, and we cried for Tiny’s passing. He looked like he had just gone to sleep. Such a beautiful cat. It is said that animals will go off to die alone, but Tiny came home. To the only home he had known. Where he felt love. I hope that somehow that gave him comfort. It was too hot to dig a grave until dusk. After supper Rocky and I took the pick and shovel to the edge of the big woods and dug a grave between Mom’s two big lilac bushes.

As the sun was setting, we laid Tiny to rest. He will be overlooking the big woods he loved so much, with all of our other family pets surrounding him. After we had covered his little grave with rocks, I walked home. The sun was setting, a beautiful brilliant red ball of color.

When I got home, Scaredy was on the front porch. I finally got him into the garage, fed him, and shut him up for the night. Now he is truly an orphan. He will be lost without his brother and friend.

Farewell Tiny. You will be sadly missed….here on my country road. 

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, July 20, 2004


When I first came to Smalltown thirty two years ago, our country road was an old fashioned road covered with oil and gravel in the crown style. This is a term for the center of the road being higher than the sides, or crowned. This was done in order to drain water from the road, and was considered very progressive at the time.

Over the years our country road has undergone many face lifts. Every several years or so we would have to endure the hot oil and gravel process in order to keep the road surface solid. It takes about a week for the gravel and oil to stop pinging up on your car as you drove through it. A little gas and a lot of elbow grease usually removed the oil from the car. In the off years we had to suffer the ‘patch’ method. This was accomplished by laying down long alternating strips of oil and gravel about fifty feet long first on one side of the road and then the other. The following year they would lay the patches down on the surface that had been skipped the previous year. I am not sure of the thinking behind the process, but over time the crown effect slowly evolved into a more even surface.

Last fall when the big highway construction was completed around Smalltown, our once dead end road was cut through to the business route. There were many sad faces here on our country road. We didn’t want this progress to affect our country way of life, and thus the privacy we enjoyed. Shortly after that we noticed more traffic, although that has waned some. When the road was cut through we were told that we had a choice to be hooked up to the city sewer system now or later. The money was the deciding factor, as once they surfaced the road we would have to pay a lot more. Mom, Rocky, my brother George, and I decided to take the least expensive way out. It was a mess for a while because the road was torn up from Mom and Rocky’s, past George’s lot, and then to my house. Once the work was done, they came and graded the road surface and put down a nice thick layer of oil and gravel. The road is now wider and flatter than it has ever been.

Last night when I came home the road workers had been here again. The new part of the road that had been cut through to the business route at the end of our road where the dead end used to be was breaking up. They closed the road off with orange cones last week, and we were hopeful they would just close it off again. Not to be. They have repaired the damaged part of the road and put down four inches of oil and gravel.

Once again our country road has been spruced up and given a new surface. It is sad in a way, because I have fond memories of the way it used to be when I first came here. When Grandma and grandpa lived where I live now, and I lived at Mom’s with my little daughter Jennifer. Simpler times. Happy times.

Things change and evolve. Even here in Smalltown…..and on our country road.
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, July 19, 2004


Good Monday morning.

It is a beautiful morning here on my country road. There is a light fog hanging in the trees of the big woods and we are enjoying cooler temperatures for a day or two. After a terrible storm on Friday in which we got three inches of much needed rain, things have been quiet.

The rose of sharon bush is blooming. I can remember when I was growing up in Shawnee, the neighbors had five rose of sharon bushes by their driveway. When the blooms faded and dropped to the ground we threw them like missiles at each other. Mine is a beautiful purple color, and is one of the few things I bought at the local grocery store that survived. When I planted it the little thing was only a foot tall and just a stick with a few roots on it. Eight years later it is twelve feet tall. Amazing that Bob’s cows haven’t eaten it over the years. The only thing they have ever bothered is my grandmother’s prize snowball bush. Each year a new generation of calves attempts to eat it over the fence just as it is getting ready to bloom. It has survived each attempt and blooms every spring.

The silver birch tree just outside my front window is losing it’s leaves. It will begin to lose them the first of July every year. Each year it is a surprise to come home from work and see the yellowing leaves drifting lazily to the ground. In a few months all of the other trees will lose theirs as well, but the birch tree is a reminder to me that summer is half gone already.

The sun has risen. It is always such a beautiful sight as the sunrays stream through the big woods. In an hour or so the sun will be over the tree tops and begin it’s journey toward sunset. Last night we had such a beautiful sunset. The sun was a red ball of brilliant scarlet as it set. Pure magic.

As the new week begins, the memories of a lazy weekend and the beauty of my country road will go with me.
Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, July 16, 2004


Today I went to the mailbox to get my mail, and when I pulled the lever to open the box the whole post moved back and forth. My heart sank. Grandpa put that post and mailbox up forty years ago when they moved here. When he put things up they stayed put. I had to replace the mailbox ten years ago because of rust, and I felt bad then because Grandma and Grandpa’s name was still on it. I put their old mailbox in the garage with all of the other things that I can’t bear to get rid of.

Their homemade aggravation board is there, and the metal chuck wagon Grandpa made to hold their food when they went camping at the lake. An old Sears and Roebuck lawn mower, the lawn chairs they carried everywhere they went. There are many things still there that tell the story of their lives here on this little place.

I thought, like we all do with things, that the post would always be there. I suppose that there are folks that would question why that post being loose would get me all stirred up. It is just one more thing that will be replaced. One of these days all of their fingerprints will be gone. As the old things are replaced there is more of me and less of them. Things change all the time, some say for the better. I suppose it is because I live here in their home that I feel that loss more keenly.

When I am working around the place there are so many things that make me smile. The metal stake that Grandma put orange halves on for the orioles that migrate through twice a year, a blue bluebird house that Grandpa made-except that a flying squirrel moved into it before the bluebirds found it. They chewed a bigger hole in it to make coming and going easier. Violet pots under the porch, a tin can that Grandpa put around a dogwood sprout in the back yard. The tree now towers over the mobile home, and the tin can split and rusted from the force of the tree trunk growing. The clothes line Grandpa put up for Grandma. A tin can, now rusted, that Grandpa put over the crank on the tongue of the mobile home to keep it from rusting.

I will put up a new post for the mailbox, but only when the one Grandpa put up completely gives way. It gives me comfort to feel them here. Their fingerprints may be slowly disappearing from around the place, but one thing I know for certain; their fingerprints will be felt even when they are no longer seen. In my memory and in my heart their fingerprints are permanent and enduring…..and in my stories of our lives here on their country road.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, July 15, 2004


Last night I was walking home from the neighbor’s house, which is at the end of our country road. I had taken care of the dogs and cats and was enjoying a leisurely stroll back home. I love that time of evening. The sun was just about to dip below the horizon, and the air is heavy and pungent with the wild honeysuckle.

Mom was out watering her flowers, and Rocky was cleaning and filling the bird feeders. I don’t know how many little bunnies I saw munching on grass and tender weed shoots. They are fairly tame, as they are used to us walking up and down our road. I always tell them it’s okay if they start to run. Most of the time they will go right back to their eating. I didn’t see Tiny and Scaredy in their usual place across the road at the edge of the big woods. I called ‘kitty kitty’ several times, and they came out of the garage. While they were so close, I fed them good and shut them in for the night.

The sun was a big orange ball as I walked back up to the house. Scrappy was in the kitchen window watching my progress, and Paddy was on the top of the living room chair also watching my progress. I watered my flowers, dry from the intense heat we have had the past week. You can almost hear an audible sigh of pleasure as they soak up the water.

Once the hose was put up and the water turned off, I went up the porch steps to unlock the front door. Only then can I hear Scrappy jumping to the floor from his perch. Both cats meet me at the front door every time I come home, and after I pet each of them I can check my email and go to bed.

This morning the cardinals were chirping in the trees before five o’clock. They always call the sun into sunrise, and their beautiful song is a favorite morning treat. The sun is now shining on the tree tops in the big woods behind the house. Another day. It will be a bit cooler today, and that is a welcome respite from the near one hundred degree range. I think I step outside and take a nice morning stroll....down my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Yesterday mom and I make the annual trek to the doctor for our annual physical. It is an all day ordeal, beginning with early rising. We make our appointments early because of fasting for the blood work, but it gets harder every year. We doctor in Springfield, so it is an hour and fifteen minute drive from Smalltown. In order to make an eight o’clock appointment, you do the math. Get up in the dark and leave by six thirty.

The hardest thing for me is not having coffee. If I have to get up so early I need copious amounts of coffee. I can deal without eating easier than I can deal with not having my morning coffee. I think it is time for a twelve step program. We arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, and made the check in for mammograms first. You ladies understand the desire to get that out of the way first. I can never understand why it is so cold in the radiology lab. Once that was over we went up three floors to the doctor’s office.

I had just enough time to fill out new forms for the receptionist before they called my name. It is always good to see my doctor. He was on the team of doctors who pulled me through an illness I was given no hope of surviving, so it is good to see him every year. While I look younger all the time, he seems to be aging. Ha, just kidding. I feel younger, but I look …less young.

After chatting with him for half an hour, answering questions, assessing medications and going through the actual checkup, I was pronounced good for another year. Hurray! That left just one more stop before I could eat and have coffee. The LAB. Yuk. I hate needles of any kind, but I got through it. After making our way out of the building, we went to IHOP for a good breakfast. The parking lot was full and people were lined out the door. Disappointment reared it’s ugly head, followed by puzzlement. How could they be so busy at 10:30 in the morning on a Tuesday?

We decided to run a couple of errands before going to Cheddars, another favorite of ours. I always order something I would normally not order as a celebration of another year. I ordered the chicken tender platter, which comes with mashed potatoes, white cream gravy, and a broccoli, rice and cheese casserole. I used to be able to eat it, every bite. Now I have to bring half of it home. That is something, anyway. Today it is back on the low fat low cholesterol diet I usually eat.

We did a little shopping, and were home in the afternoon. It was hot here, with heat indexes near 100, so I changed into my suit and went down to splash in Davey’s pool and catch a little sun. All in all, a good day….here on my country road.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004


As promised, these are a few of the many homemade ice cream recipes I have made over the years. For fruit ice creams such as fresh peach chop 2 cups fruit and add to mix before freezing. I used strawberry freezer jam or a box of frozen berries for strawberry, and maraschino juice for cherry (chop cherries and add about half way through the freezing process). Makes me hungry just thinking about it. Good luck!

Country Vanilla

6 eggs
2 cups sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 13 ounce can evaporated milk
1 gallon whole milk

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add sugar gradually. Add salt, vanilla, and evaporated milk, stirring well. Add 2 cups whole milk and mix well. Pour into canister and add enough more milk to fill can to fill line. Assemble freezer and turn till difficult to impossible to turn. Remove dasher. Replace top, pack with more ice being careful to plug hole in top of lid. Cover with towels and let sit to cure 1 hour. Makes 5 qts.


Fudgey Chocolate

5 squares baking chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups half and half
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

With mixer on medium speed, beat melted chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and vanilla for 30 seconds. Blend in half and half, and whipping cream. Stir in nuts if desired. Makes smaller batch. Freeze and eat.


Old Fashioned Vanilla

4 eggs
5 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 ½ cups sugar
4 cups whipping cream
¼ teaspoon salt

In large mixing bowl beat eggs until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until thickened. Add cream, vanilla, and salt and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate mixture until well chilled. Pour into canister and add milk to fill line. Assemble freezer and freeze. 4 qts.


* If you are concerned about Salmonella from uncooked eggs, you can always use equivalent amounts of Egg Beaters, OR you can use a cooked recipe. I have included one below.


French Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
6 egg yolks beaten
2 tablespoons vanilla
4 cups chilled whipping cream

Mix sugar, salt, milk and egg yolks in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles appear around edge of mixture in pan. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla and cream. Pour into canister, assemble freezer and freeze. Best if allowed to ripen in packed ice after freezing for a couple of hours.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, July 12, 2004


Once again it is Monday.

I hesitate to complain as I accomplished so much yesterday, but I have wondered how my life would have been different had I been born independently wealthy. Or maybe had I won the lottery. Since that isn’t the case I will be joining the working class in making my way toward the work place this morning. At least I completed chapters 20 and 21 and am well into 22. I have written well over 75,000 words so far, and am two thirds finished.

Tiny and Scaredy are both home. They had been gone on an adventure of the feline variety uncaring that I would worry where they had gone off to. Scrappy is doing well on his medication for the thyroid condition, although Saturday he is to go back for blood work to check his progress. Patty keeps to herself, content to look out the windows and contemplate how to jump up on top of the entertainment center. That is the last horizon.

I have collected the recipes for homemade ice cream that I promised all of you who emailed me for them last week. I will post them tomorrow. This is certainly the weather for making a big freezer full of ice cream and enjoying it in the shade. When it is in the nineties like it is here, you have to eat it in a hurry or it melts. The problem with eating it fast is that it causes ‘brain freeze’. Now that everyone has air conditioning it is simpler to just bring the canister of ice cream in the house and enjoy it there, but you lose the ambience of the whole experience. I will post several of my favorite flavors.

Have a wonderful Monday. I hope that something wonderful and unexpected is just around the corner for all of us.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Sunday, July 11, 2004


Today I have dedicated the whole day to typing the next several chapters of my book into manuscript. It is a long drawn out process for me as I am not the crack typist many of you are.

It is to be in the nineties here with one hundred percent humidity, so it seemed like the perfect day to write. The air conditioner is humming right along. Whatever you do today stay cool and enjoy the day. I'll be back at my blogging post in the morning.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, July 10, 2004


Today is a special day.

It will go unnoticed by people all over the world as just another day. The sun will rise and set, twenty four hours will pass, and most people will never know why it is special.

Thirty five years ago I met a special person who became a lifelong friend. We had several other friends we ran around with, but in the end it was just us. We had an immediate connection. We have shared the highs and lows of the teen years, problems at home, fad diets, and boys. I have wonderful memories of talking, laughing, crying, and eating. There was a time when we were the only happy thing in each other’s lives. I had always wanted a sister and a forever friend, and she became both for me.

Diane and I have shared years of happiness and joy, endured separation, tragedy and silence, and survived painful misunderstandings and disastrous decisions. Often she put my happiness above her own. I haven’t always been the best example of what a friend should be, and I have often said she was a better friend to me than I was to her. As with every relationship we have had our good times and bad times, but we are kindred spirits. That bond has carried us through the storms of life successfully, and brought us to the autumn of our lives comfortable with ourselves and each other.

I can remember the first time I saw the movie Beaches. The story was a good representation of my friendship with Diane. The theme song, Wind Beneath My Wings, said everything I had not been able to capture with words. Since I have always been the one running ahead and she was always chasing along behind, she heard the same song and heard a different message. We are each other’s cheerleader, confidant, and staunchest supporter. With that thought in mind, I suppose it is easier to understand why we each think we are the lucky one.

When bad things happen to her, I feel it in my spirit. I feel an overwhelming compulsion to call her. She has the same ability to know when I am going through difficult times. That bond has been unfailing. I could have a slumber party with her today and it would have the same result as our sleepovers had as young women. We would listen to music, eat too much pizza, and talk and laugh until our sides hurt. We know everything about the other, and we still friends.

I turned fifty in March. Although she couldn’t be with us in New Orleans, I called her from the balcony of our room on Bourbon street. As usual she was concerned I would fall off the balcony, and as usual I promised her I wouldn’t, even though it was close a couple of times. Last weekend we went to Kansas City to visit my brother George and our family celebrated Diane’s fiftieth with her husband and sixteen year old daughter. We ate and talked and laughed all weekend. From margaritas to chocolate chip cookies, over pizza and cheesecake, we caught up with each other. I gave her a gift of gold, a heart of rose gold basket weave surrounded with yellow gold filigree and flowers. It was the perfect thing for us. Two hearts so different, yet bonded together forever. The rose gold basket weave represented to me the many times our paths have crossed through the years, and stay interwoven now.

I started a birthday week for her years ago when I couldn’t afford gifts. Each day of her birthday week I would send a card, letter, or poem I had written for her. It has become something we look forward to all year. When we are old, we will still talk, laugh, and cry together like schoolgirls. We will act silly, relive the somber times of our lives with regret, and look forward to the years ahead with joy.

Happy birthday Diane, my dearest girlfriend. Although we have been friends for thirty five years, the journey has just begun. How I wish I could be there, but I will be in spirit. Eat some cake for me, and know that I will be right here to hear all about your day when you want to share it. We have come a long way, but the road stretches out before us. God bless you my friend. Happy fiftieth. Don’t forget to wear your tiara and feather boa! Today you are Queen for the day. Can you hear me clapping?!

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, July 09, 2004


Yesterday I went to the boot heel of Missouri to serve on an interview board. It was a good day, and a nice break from administering driving tests. In the process, I experienced something new and different.

We were taken to a little hole in the wall mom and pop restaurant called Myrtle’s. They are famous for their barbeque, and the awards and ribbons they have won for it are proudly displayed on the walls. The menu boasted many things I had never heard of before, and took our host’s suggestion for barbeque salad. They were all so enthusiastic about it that it wasn’t too scary ordering something new.

The waitress was an older woman with the energy of a teenager. She made the whole experience worth the trip. One of our Lieutenants accompanied me to the board, and he ordered one of the other specialties- a barbeque sandwich with slaw and french fries. It was a festive meal. Of course we had lots of fresh ice cold sweet tea.

When the food came, it wasn’t what I had envisioned. I had expected a glob of barbeque meat with sauce dripping over a bed of lettuce. Thankfully it was not. The salad came with a generous portion of smoked meat on top. It is served with your choice of dressing or barbeque sauce. It was surprisingly good. The sandwiches were served with fries, but I didn’t see the bowls of slaw. I asked about it, and the Lieutenant told me the slaw comes on the sandwich. Evidently it is not an oddity there, but I can’t imagine what that must taste like.

The slaw they put on the sandwiches is referred to as ‘dry slaw’. On the trip home later in the day the Lieutenant explained to me that it is just grated cabbage with a little sugar to sweeten it a bit. It is served on the sandwich much like tomato and lettuce would be. He came from that area, and said that when he came over to this part of the state he had ordered his sandwich with slaw on it. It was an odd request here, and his sandwich had been served with what he called ‘wet slaw’ on it. Not a good thing. Makes for a messy sandwich, and the taste isn’t the same.

All in all it was a good day. Nice weather, good food, pleasant company and we hired an excellent candidate. Can’t beat that….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, July 08, 2004


We’re having a heat wave.

Of course it is July, and usually we have been cranking the air conditioners on high for some time now. We have had a very long spell of moderate temperatures and rain. Today that will come to and end and we will skyrocket into the nineties with high humidity.

I am not looking forward to it, but it is part of the summer experience. It has been too cool to swim, lay in the sun, or any other summertime activity. I am just glad that I have air conditioning now to make life comfortable. Memories of how life was here in Smalltown with a window fan come to mind. Trying to go to sleep while sticking to the sheets and being so hot are distant memories.

I woke to temperatures at seventy one, and there is already a haze to the horizon. Once the sun comes up there will be heck to pay. It isn’t as bad as summer heat and humidity in New Orleans, but it will still be sticky.

Scaredy is sitting out on the porch rail waiting for his breakfast, and wondering where his brother Tiny is. He has been missing for two days. That cat is going to be the death of me. Since the neighbor’s cat got hit by a car I worry about my two. There is not much traffic on our country road, but when there is they go fast. Tiny and Scaredy like to lay out in the road.

Yesterday was an ordinary day, but today I am doing something out of the ordinary. I have to travel over to the boot heel for a promotional board. Since I have to leave earlier, I wish you a good day with moderate temperatures.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The sun is just peeking over the treetops in the big woods. Another day begins. There is a definite difference in the time sunrise and sunset occurs now. When we passed the summer solstice the days began shortening a minute or two each day. At any rate, the changes impact my day. I have to be on my toes or I miss the sunrise.

Today is thankfully going to be a regular ordinary day. I will go to work, give driving tests until four o’ clock and come home again. Rocky and I will go work out at the gym, then I will come home and write until bedtime.

I have shared before about the comfort of an ordinary day. Today will be that. Nothing special, nothing out of the normal, ordinary routine of life in a small town. I have time at work to write in between applicants, and catching a few minutes here and there has brought me to the twenty first chapter. I am on target to finish by the end of August.

Today Patty goes back to work. She has had seven months at home with Dave and Davey, but she had an offer she couldn’t refuse. The insurance and extra money will make a difference for them that will make up for her not being at home. I know she is grateful for this opportunity and we wish her well.

The stormy weather seems to have moved on for a day or two, and we are facing temperatures in the nineties with high humidity. Thank goodness for the comfort of air conditioning. Scrappy is sleeping at my elbow as I write, and Paddy is laying on the back of the arm chair in the living room watching Tiny and Scaredy sitting on the porch rail.

Yes, this is going to be an ordinary day. Hopefully it will be uneventful and will pass without fanfare. This evening I will watch the sunset while walking on the treadmill at the YMCA. When I get home I’ll have a nice glass of tea while the cats chase their toys.

I wish you the same, a day filled with the comfort of ordinary things enjoyed in an extraordinary way. Happy Wednesday.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, July 06, 2004


We had a good weekend at my brother George’s house in Shawnee, Kansas. He is always a good host, and we enjoy our time there. We usually eat out as there are so many places to eat we don’t have here in Smalltown.

We celebrated my best friend’s birthday while there. She has been a part of our family since high school days, and it was her 50th. Of course it wasn’t the big blow out I had in New Orleans, but we tried to do it Kansas City style. Lots of good food and drink, lots of laughter and catching up, and good company. Good times.

Somehow we never got around to grilling on George’s deck. We did sit out there quite a bit though. It was so pleasant, and he has a beautiful yard. The evening of the Fourth we watched the neighbors shooting their fireworks. It reminded me of the neighborhood picnics we had at our house when we were kids. Everyone brought theirs to the party, thus creating a huge display. Lots of fun.

One of the good things we enjoy while at George’s is the great cable channels. My favorite is HGTV. I watch as many of the home décor and design shows as I can. If I had that here in Smalltown, I wouldn’t get anything done. Love it.

While we were gone Patty, Dave and Davey lost their kitty Spook. He was a black cat, and a fixture in the neighborhood. Spook was a cousin and running buddy to my outside cats Tiny and Scaredy. Dave thought he had been hit by a car, and they took him to the vet on Monday. His injuries were too extensive for him to survive, and he had to be put to sleep. He will be missed.

Although the weekend was a good one and we had a wonderful time, it was very good to come back home to Smalltown. There is nothing like home, and I was happy when we made the final turn….down my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Saturday, July 03, 2004


It is a while before dawn streams through the big woods, and I am up drinking coffee and trying to finish packing. This morning Mom, Rocky and I are taking a road trip to Kansas City to see my older brother George.

Also noteworthy is seeing my best friend Diane. She celebrates her 50th birthday next week, so we will be helping her celebrate early. I am sure we will also do a lot of sitting on George's deck, barbequing, and talking.

Have a very safe and happy fourth, and I will see you all when we get home Monday afternoon.

God bless you and yours, and God Bless America!

Until Monday evening,
Becky Strain


Friday, July 02, 2004


One of the many challenges of living in Smalltown is trying to get things repaired when they break, bend, quit working. For the past month I have had problems with my cable. The TV picture looked increasingly snowy and when it became too bad I finally called the customer service number.

The reason I wait so long is that when you do call it is a fiasco, or what they call a ‘goat rope’ down here. In the past I have made the call, scheduled an appointment, and took a vacation day from work to be here when they arrived, only to have them fail to appear. Phone calls back to the customer service line yield no results. Yesterday was no exception. That is why I hate to call them.

I made the requisite call and scheduled the appointment for Thursday afternoon. They don’t give you a specific time, but a two hour block of time in which the technician might come. Since we were short handed at work, I arranged for mom to come up and sit in the house to let the guy in. I had to stop in town to deliver a paycheck to one of my employees that is out on maternity leave, and saw the cable guy at the house next to hers. Since I was in the patrol car and wearing my uniform he waved to me. I went home happy, thinking he had already been there or was just on his way.

When I got home, he hadn’t been there. Mom went on home. I waited. At five fifteen I called the customer service number to make sure he would be coming. I was told that he would be there. At six fifteen I called again. It takes anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to get through on the help line each time, so I was at the end of my rope. I finally got the point across that I was a disgruntled patron. I was put on hold while she checked with the central dispatch office. Five minutes later she came back on the line to let me know they had located the service tech and that he was enroute. Knowing he would have to come from another town, I was very frustrated. I went ahead and ate my supper. At seven fifteen dispatch called to tell me the tech couldn’t find my house and could I stand out in front of it. How could he see me standing in front of the house if he couldn’t find the house? At any rate, I went outside and stood by the road with the phone. He called five minutes later wanting to get directions. He had taken a wrong turn and had missed the bend in the road that leads to my house. I stood by the mailbox and talked him through getting from where he was to where I live.

When he arrived he was fussing with me that I don’t live on the road they gave him in the directions. It was too late to go through the history of the name changes of our country road, and why they keep the old one on the bill. He had evidently been called at home, and was in camouflage shorts and T-shirt. Camouflage apparel is the unofficial uniform of residents in the country. It took him a minute, but he recognized me from seeing me in town earlier in the afternoon. After a halfhearted apology, we trudged to the utility pole where he began addressing the problem with the cable.

One hour later, and three and a half hours after the outside window of my appointment time had passed I had a clear picture...here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, July 01, 2004


Do you remember how wonderful it was to enjoy the simple pleasures of a summer day?

The smell of freshly mown grass transports me back to our backyard in Shawnee, Kansas. We had an old swing set that came with the house, and it was an old rusty red. The swings worked fine, and it had a glider that was fun. I spent many hours swinging, singing songs from camp or that I heard on my little transistor radio. I liked to hear my brother John hitting baseballs. The crack of the bat as it connected with the ball is great. Except for the time it went crashing through my bedroom window, but that is a story for another day.

Gathering around an ice cold watermelon that has been packed in ice all day is a real treat. Mom put the big cold melon on some newspapers and cut it in thick slices the size of big dinner plates, then cut that in half so that we could take it out back and eat it in the yard. My brothers and I used to make a game out of spitting the seeds as far as we could. I never won at that, I think it is a guy thing. By the time you got your watermelon eaten there was juice running down your chin and both arms. Mom would bring out a damp wash cloth and wipe us down before we could go back into the house. Only wimps ate watermelon on a plate with a fork.

The sound of the ice cream truck coming was so exciting. We would hear it after supper from several blocks away, the driver clanging the little bell to announce the progress. Three little kids would go running in to mom to beg for a dime in order to get a treat. We didn’t get one every day, as money was tight, but we did get them often. Although I eventually tried everything they sold, my favorite was bomb pops. It was the biggest popsicle they offered, and since they all cost the same, was the best buy. Although I liked cherry, blue raspberry was my favorite. I wish I had one right now.

After the evening meal, the kids in the neighborhood liked to join in games of tag, hide and seek, freeze tag, red rover red rover, or an impromptu baseball game. We played until mom called us in for a bath, somewhere near dark.

Other good memories include eating a Slow Poke sucker while reading a good book on a quilt out under the shade tree in the front yard, cold Kool Ade and homemade cookies after coming home from an afternoon at the city pool, and allowance day. As soon as I got my allowance I would walk down to Crown Drug, the Rexall drug store near our house. They had an old fashioned soda fountain, and I would order the biggest coke they had while spinning around on the stool. When that was gone I would go to the candy counter at the front where I took my time getting all the candy and gum I could with the remaining money I had. Taking my precious choices home in the little paper sack, the rest of the day was spent enjoying that. Tootsie pop suckers, slow pokes, jaw breakers, junior mints, milk duds, cracker jacks, and double bubble gum. I liked double bubble in particular because there was a little comic inside.

Even now, I like to enjoy a treat on a hot summer evening and think about those happy carefree days.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain