Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Summer Sights - Kansas/California/Colorado - #2

After the Civil War, blacks in the South discovered that the promises of political and economic gains of the Reconstruction were being stripped away. The Nicodemus Town Company was founded in 1877 and about 300 black settlers were recruited from Kentucky to settle in the Promised Land of Nicodemus, Kansas.

These courageous people discovered a harsh, challenging land, not at all as promised. A woman who was a member of the first group to arrive (after walking 30 miles from the railroad!) stated her disappointment this way, "I looked with all the eyes I had. 'Where is Nicodemus? I don't see it.' Her husband pointed out various clouds of smoke coming out of the ground and said, 'That is Nicodemus.' The families lived in dugouts ... 'The scenery was not at all inviting and I began to cry." I can only say POOR THING! These people left the lush, rolling hills of Kentucky for this harsh land with bitter winters and scorching summers. Some persevered, some returned back to the railroad community 30 miles away, some returned to Kentucky.

By the mid-1880's Nicodemus was a bustling community. It had churches, a bank, a couple of hotels, general store. Several of the townspeople worked, to no avail, to get the railroad to come to their town. Failing that, then suffering through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the town began its demise. What was a town of 200-300, is now a "neighborhood" of 12 residents.

They are a proud people whose roots run deep. One weekend each summer, people return to remember their ancestors and reacquaint themselves with those who have moved away. Nicodemus is now a National Historic Site, another important piece of our country's history.

The school - built in 1918.

African Methodist Episcopal Church - built in 1885.

The First Baptist Church - built in 1901. The wing on the left is in use today.

St. Francis Hotel/Fletcher Switzer Home - built in 1881. Now a private residence.

A nearby dugout. How would you like to call this HOME?

Shirley May's Deli & Catering seemed to be the only non-fast food place to get lunch.

We thought that since there flowers growing outside, it must be OK.

Very tiny!

We think this was Shirley May.

Drove to a nearby park and enjoyed a very tasty lunch of sandwiches and salads.

So hot and very excited at the sight on storms on the prairie!

I've always wanted to stop in Goodland, KS to see the Van Gogh "sunflower" painting. This reproduction is one of only seven in the world and was done by the Goodland Rotary Club in celebration of the Rotary Club Centennial in 2005. The artist was Camron Cross, a Canadian artist, who was devoted to painting one Van Gogh on each of the seven continents. It is fitting that Goodland was chosen because of all the nearby sunflower fields. The painting is 24' x 32' and stands on an easel that is 80' at its peak and weighs 40,000 pounds. That's some piece of art!

Dear Hearts!

A magnificient GOLDEN SUNSET at our stop for the night, Golden, CO.

The next day we would fly to Los Angeles.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Sights - Kansas/California/Colorado - #1

Our "Besties" came for another wonderful visit. Our original plan was to visit some sights in Western Kansas and then go to Breckenridge, CO for a few days, but that plan was changed when we received the shocking, sad news of the passing of a dear friend in California. We did the Western Kansas visits then flew from Denver to LA and back to Denver.

So here are glimpses of our Kansas sights. We visited Fort Larned National Historic Site out in Larned, KS. We've been here before, but knew Larry and Elaine would enjoy it. It's a very interesting piece of Civil War history and the migration to the West.

Looks like Larry didn't get the note that it was "White Tee Shirt Day"!

Yolks for oxen. Reminds me of the scripture where Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 - "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." NONE of our burdens are too heavy for him to carry!

The stockade - must have been a really rather brutal place.

Ball and chain with ankle lock!

Outdoor torture chamber! I should have stood inside for size perspective. I barely fit! And to think they would actually put a prisoner in here on a day like this - it was 107 degrees! Inhumane!

General store

More provisions: salted beef tongue, salt cod, four, malt, ground cinnamon, salt pork. Sounds like you could get most anything as long as it was salted - the method of preservation!

Officer Quarters

Enlisted Quarters - double bed bunkbeds!

The Bobsey Twins! Really now, Elaine and I did NOT plan to dress alike! It was laughable when we realized it. I guess good friends do things like that without even knowing it. :)

The Pawnee River - TRULY! Water is SUPPOSED to be flowing where the tall grass stood. More evidence of the drought. So very SAD!

107 degrees at 2:05 pm, and it only gets HOTTER as the day goes on!

Lunch stop. Do we (I) look like the heat has the upper hand????

After lunch we drove to St. Fidelis Catholic Church in Victoria, KS. Stained glass windows are magnificent!

This is the fourth church built by the local population. It was begun in 1908, completed in 1911, and restoration begun in 1994. It is a masterful creation with a rich history, and has been named one of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. It's a sacred place that is well worth a visit!

Crosses of every type adorn the nearby cemetery.

Next stop - Nicodemus, KS - the first western town built by and for black settlers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fabulous Friends!

To say I've been in a bit of a blogging slump is a bit understated. So much has transpired since July, I hardly know where to begin. Out of chronological sequence, but this is a view of a weekend spent with really dear friends. We had been traveling with Larry and Elaine for a couple of weeks, returned home, and then our friends Cary and Nancy came for a weekend. What a great time we had catching up with each other's lives, playing cards, eating and showing them a little bit of Kansas.

I tried a couple of new recipes for dinner, both from the July 2012 issue of Cooking Light. Our friends were my guinea pigs and all agreed the recipes were a big hit. We started off with a delicious Cherry-Peach Sangria. It was as delicious as beautiful! I made two pitchers, thinking one wouldn't be enough. We drank one on Friday evening and the other was a perfect mid-afternoon treat the next day. Everyone wanted spoons to eat the "stewed" fruit as it was SOOO delicious!

Cherry-Peach Sangria
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brandy (Next time I'll use half this amount)
2.5 cups pitted, Rainier cherries
1 (750 milliliter) bottle albarino wine, chilled*
1 cup chilled club soda
1 peach, thinly sliced
3 thyme sprigs
1 sprig purple basil (optional)
1 sprig sweet basil (optional)

Combine sugar and brandy in a pitcher and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cherries and wine and chill for 8 hours or overnight. Just before serving, stir in club soda and remaining ingredients. Serves 6. NOTE: You can use dark cherries but they will change the color. The Rainier cherries were beautiful. I used the thyme only in first pitcher (I poured through a strainer to remove leaves), sweet basil only in second pitcher. *Wine: I couldn't find albarino wine locally (a Spanish wine) so used an Argentinian wine, not too dry, not too sweet. Perfect!

Pork and Tomato Skillet Saute
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 6-ounce bone-in center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup thinly slice shallots
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 cups grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chops with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, shallots, vinegar, and garlic to pan; saute 1 minute. Combine tomatoes, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl; toss gently to coat. Add tomato mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until tomatoes begin to soften. Sprinkle with basil. Serve tomato mixture over the pork.  Serves 4.  NOTE: I doubled the recipe. Cooked chops longer than recipe called for. I cooked to temperature of about 140-145 degrees.  Used red and yellow tomatoes for more color. Don't know how this happened, but I forgot the basil. Would have made it even more beautiful! So flavorful and tender.

Served with oven roasted vegetables (red potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash (from local garden), red peppers, red onions and broccoli) and my Mandarian Salad. Was a really yummy meal!

On Saturday we drove around the countryside, which for the most part was very bleak, due to the extreme drought. We had never visited the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church located in nearby Goessel, KS. The historical marker describes a short version of the migration of the Mennonites who left their former homes in Russia in 1874. Their decision to leave their homes, come to America, settle in nearby counties in Kansas was due largely to the efforts of the Santa Fe railroad's foreign immigration department. These peace-loving immigrants who left the religious  persecution of their country, brought with them the red winter wheat, which in turn led Kansas to become the "breadbasket" of the United States.

We were able to enter the beautiful sanctuary of this church. The dark woods and smells immediately took me back to the Methodist church my grandparents and aunt and uncle attended in Iowa. We and our friends just sat and soaked in the richness of this sacred place.

Back home, where Rich played lovely music for us. I had purchased a copy of David T. Clydesdale's new piano book,  "Clydesdale's Keyboard Classics". David T. was our choir director/worship leader at Calvary for several years. What a fabulous musician! His arrangements are powerful and very exciting. He writes cords of five notes in each right and left hand, uses every key on the piano keyboard from end to end and really gives Rich's neuropathy-filled hands a work out. Just hearing Rich play his arrangements took us back to our years at Calvary! Very heart-warming but gave pangs of homesickness!

Among our many blessings are the very dear friends God has placed in our lives!! It's a treat to welcome them to our home!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Audrey!

Today is Audrey's 10th birthday! Don't you just love her smile?!!

This beautiful little lass is in 4th grade and loves school. She enjoys going to the Bible school program which is held one day each week across the street from her school during the lunch period. (Isn't that amazing a public school-approved Bible school program!!!).  She is also in her first year singing in the Newton Community Children's Choir.

It's been such a joy to watch Audrey mature from a VERY shy little girl to a lovely young lady. She loves collecting rocks! You should see her collection, which she keeps under her bed. She has hundreds of rocks! I'm certain she will be a geologist one day.

I especially love it that Audrey has a love for God and for His word. She loves reading her Bible. Audrey, I am praying this scripture for you ...

"Teach Audrey to know your commands and obey them, thereby demonstrating her love for you. Let her know your promised reward: that "she who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love her and show myself to her." Love her and show yourself to her, Lord.
John 14:21