Saying Goodbye to The Keep

The Charm of Country Living

When I moved from a quarter-acre suburban lot in sunny Florida to a farm outside Memphis a few years ago, I traded worn-out flip-flops for boots. With all the farm chores, which at first included tending pigs, rabbits, and chickens, it didn’t take long to wear out the first pair so I headed to my new favorite store–Tractor Supply–for a second.

They may look spiffy in this photo, but it wasn’t long before they were as dusty-dirty as the first ones. So my third pair are heavy-duty black.

I seldom wear them anymore. Two of the pigs were sold and the other two ended up in the freezer. The rabbits and their offspring have gone to a new home. And the chickens–well, let’s just say the foxes and raccoons ate heartily. (The experience was so unnerving I doubt I’ll ever raise a chicken again.)

Years ago, while living in that Florida suburb, I got a strange whim I never expected to come true.

I wanted an alpaca.

In a strange turn of events, God gave me not just one but an entire herd. Yes, my friend, even pipe dreams come true sometime.

During this season of my life, I’ve done things I’ve never done before. Like watch a newborn alpaca take her first steps, surprise a fox that was a little too close for comfort, and shoved one of those huge pigs into a dog crate all by myself.

We won’t talk about the deer leg one of the dogs brought into the house.

But this amazing, enriching, exhausting, incredible roller coaster of a season is coming to an end.

Next week Griff, Rugby, and I will be leaving this place I’ve come to love and returning to the Sunshine State.

Another place I love.

Happy 105th Birthday to Oreos!

Join the Dunk Challenge

The world’s favorite cookie, first sold to a Hoboken grocer on March 6, 1912, was known then as an Oreo Biscuit.

At that time, the recipe called for lard. But after a lengthy (over three years) and expensive conversion, Nabisco earned kosher certification for the cookie in 1997.

A bit more trivia:

  • The Oreo name was trademarked on March 12, 1912.
  • Nabisco’s second Oreo flavor? Lemon! It lasted from 1920-1924.
  • The Oreo Big Stuf proved slightly more popular than lemon Oreos. After a seven-year run, the cookie was discontinued in 1991.

For a short history of the Nabisco company–and how it got its name–see a post I wrote last summer for Midwest Almanac: Nabisco and the Oreo Color Challenge.

The Oreo Dunk Challenge

How does Shaq dunk an Oreo? See the video and all the details on how you can win $2000 and a VIP trip to an Oreo Celebrity Dunk event. The challenge ends on April 30, 2017.

The Oreo Color Challenge

There’s no prize for this one, only good-natured controversy!

“What color is Oreo: black or brown?”

This question appears on the FAQ website page of Mondelez, the company that–105 years later –manufactures the world’s favorite cookie.

Your Turn

I love the Oreo Thins. Which Oreo is your favorite?

Use the China

Treasured Moments

She cried when she unpacked the gravy boat.

My younger daughter Jill wrote an update on Facebook the other day about unpacking the family china. To her, it evokes memories of family holiday dinners.

Especially the gravy boat.

We used it whenever we needed a gravy boat even if we were eating off paper plates.

Those days are gone. But not the treasured memories of shared meals and celebrations.

Jill wrote:

I really miss being a whole family, but I have to say that using this china with my family, Jacob and our girls, it means so much. You never know growing up what will stick with you and will be tear-jerking memories down the way in your life . . . like a gravy boat that can make me cry.”

Sure, I got teary-eyed, too, reading her update.

But it was the comment from someone who also received the family china that had me reaching for the Kleenex:

there were no tears because there were NO memories of using the china.”

This is my plea to parents everywhere.

Give your children the memories they don’t even know they’re tucking away in their hearts.

Use the china.

A Potential Valentine’s Day Story

Celebrating Love Lost and Found

Happy Valentine’s Day!

During my search for a Valentine’s Day card to share with you, I came across an image that–what can I say?–it spoke to me.

I felt that little tug in my heart that whispers: here’s a story.

So instead of sending you a valentine, I’m sharing this image with you. Do you hear its whispers, too?

Pretend with me.

Imagine your character is walking in a park, grateful for the warmth of a sunshiny day that promises spring is coming soon. Something shiny in the grass catches her eye, and she finds this ornate key and lock tied with slender ribbon to a ceramic heart. Deep inside she knows it’s meant for her.

But what does it mean?

Does it symbolize a love she has found? Or a love she has lost?

Which story would you prefer to read? Or to write?

Where Treasure Hides February Special!

On the Road: Bisbee, Arizona

The West's Best Small Town to Live

Copper ore mounted in front of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.

The charming town of Bisbee, Arizona is proclaimed as “The West’s Best Small Town to Live.” This isn’t idle speculation.

In recent years, Bisbee has been voted the Best Historic Small Town in America by both USA Today readers and Sunset Magazine. It’s also been named as an “alive” place to retire and one of America’s quirkiest towns by the AARP publication Modern Maturity.

My daughter Jill and I spent a few hours there while I was visiting with her family a couple of weeks ago.

Jill in the doorway of the historic Copper Queen Hotel Saloon.

The day was lovely, not too warm and not too chilly. The sun shone upon us so eating lunch on the patio of the Copper Queen Hotel was perfect.

But first we visited the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. The town, founded in 1880, was home to copper, gold, and silver miners. Since 1929, Bisbee has been the county seat for Cochise County.

I could have spent most of the day in the museum. The exhibits were fascinating. Here are two of my favorites: first a photo collage of one of my favorites–a lunchbox showing what a miner might have taken home with him at the end of the day; second a “movie in the window” showing what it was like for children to grow up in a 19th century mining town.

As we window-shopped the main street of the historic downtown area, I found this storefront. Jill had never heard of Woolworth’s but I remember when it was one of the stores frequented by my parents (though that was in Columbus, Ohio–many miles from Bisbee).

Though we browsed through a couple of thrift and antique stores, and found some really cool vintage items, I think our favorite place was the used bookstore.

Jill found a huge yet very inexpensive tome about Oscar Wilde and I picked up a copy of Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Half-Moon. We picked up three or four other books, too.

As I needed to add anything else to my “to be read” stack.

But back to Bisbee and a few trivia notes.

A view of Bisbee from the Copper Queen Hotel patio.

John Wayne was a frequent visitor to the Copper Queen Hotel.

Remember Wilson Wilson, the neighbor behind the fence on Tim Allen’s Home Improvement? That was actually Earl Hindman who was born in Bisbee.

The town has been used for several movies and television shows, including both the original and 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma and Young Guns II.

The town’s official motto is: An American Original.

Your Turn

Jill and I enjoyed our visit to Bisbee, and we joked about moving there while enjoying hot chocolate at a local café. What place would get your vote as the “Best Small Town in America” and why? If it’s not your hometown, would you move there given the chance?