Category Archives: Blog

Kitchen Progress

Fireplace cooking is cumbersome. And heats the kitchen (sometimes the whole house) as much in summer as in winter. What felt good in January can drive a person from the room in July.

The cast iron cook stove solved some of these problems. And the companion piece — the parlor or heating stove — solved others. A stove uses less fuel. The flat cooking service accommodated any cast iron  or metal pan with a flat bottom. Gone was the hook to hang the kettle. Thanks to a small, but well placed, oven, baking became easier. And what farmer or worker doesn’t appreciate some fresh bread after a day’s labor?

A great step forward for 1850’s cooks.


Artful Attraction

One of several nice things about sculpture is the option of the viewer to see all sides of a piece. However, this also leads to one of the problems with sculpture. Some works need a large display space.

Some bright person devised the idea of a sculpture park (or garden) to facilitate the positive and minimize the negative.

At the St. Louis facility the displayed pieces run from a traditional bust of a historic figure to the largest deer you’re likely to ever see. Some you can walk right up to and touch. But be nice, and obey the signs on others. The materials vary from metal, to stone, to fiberglass — or a mix.

A sculpture that hugs YOU!


Kitchen Past

On the American frontier houses were small and families were large.

And the frontier continued to move West. At one time it was Western Pennsylvania or Western Virginia. Then it became Ohio and Tennessee. The future states on either side of the Mississippi took a turn. And then the Great Plains — after a short interruption for settlers taking the Oregon Trail or heading for California gold fields.

But no matter which future state the pioneers settled, a few things were constant. The cabin, or house, or soddy needed a kitchen. And until well into the 1840’s that meant the heating-lighting-cooking all-purpose fireplace.

It what is now the American Midwest in the 1830’s you could get an idea of where the newcomers hailed from by where they put their fireplace. Those from the south put them on one end of the cabin. Families from New York and Pennsylvania put them in the center, opened both sides, and heated the bedroom.

Remember I said the houses were small. It follows that storage was limited. Forget knick-knacks or “prettys”. The mantle was for practical things — platters, candles, the clock, and hooks or pegs for tongs and ladles.

Can you smell the stew in the pot?  Bread is in the Dutch oven.


Charming Attraction

They flutter. They fly. They sip. They light for a second or few on you hat. Or shoulder.

Within the confines of the topical climate Butterfly House all of the above can happen within a minute or two.

It’s enchanting from the moment you step on the path between lush plants.

Some are excellent in the art of camouflage. Clinging to a tree trunk, the dull, brown side of their wings exposed, they appear as a leaf at first glance. A nice trick in the wild where hungry predators lurk.

Others remind a person of flying flowers. They skim through the air in flashes of blue, or orange, or yellow. Speed and agility are in their favor to live long enough to mate and find a proper place to lay eggs.

Does your city or community have a Butterfly House or Dome?

In St. Louis it is located in a suburban park and charges an admission fee.

My Library Shelf – Z

We’ve reached it — the end of the alphabet. And the book of the day…

the zookeeper’s wife

by Diane Ackerman

This was the second letter which sent me shopping for a book to fit. And I’m glad I selected this one.

We’re ending with non-fiction. The story centers around the director of the Warsaw and his family during WWII. It puts the emphasis on a different group of people than previous Poland during WWII books I’ve read.

The director’s home, still functioning after the initial bombing raids, becomes a refuge with a rotating population. All of whom must be protected, sheltered, and fed. Not an easy task during Nazi occupation.

Available from on-line retailers, bookstores, and libraries. Also watch for the movie.

Thank you for roaming around my home bookshelves on a jaunt through the alphabet. I hope that you’ve found at least one new read to enjoy among the history, biography, classic fiction, and romance fiction featured in recent months.

One Large Attraction

Some say “Bigger is better.” Others dispute that with “The best things come in small packages.”

Today I’m going to highlight a St. Louis resident who is on the large side — by physical size and popularity. He achieved the popularity on the day he was born – 25 1/2 years ago. And while it was a large baby, it took him years to reach his current, adult stature.

His early birthday parties were celebrated in style. And popular with local TV stations as well as St. Louis children young and old.

He’s a father of four daughters now. And he appears to take it all in stride.

Meet Raja – one of several (and the largest) of the “favorite sons” at the St. Louis Zoo. Be sure to stop in and visit with him and the rest of the herd the next time your travels bring you here.

Admission is free. There is a charge to park.

My Library Shelf – Y

Today’s selection is an autobiography published a little more then three decades ago.


By General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos

Flying. In combat. Testing new planes. Breaking the sound barrier.

This book is written in a matter-of-fact and easy to read style. General Yeager’s long career in airplanes began when he joined the Army-Air Corps in 1941. And the rest, as they say, is history.

WWII fighters. Then experimental jets. And he tells of more than the airplanes — his fellow test pilots, the support staff, their families, and the characters that live in the high desert testing grounds — all are given their due.

This modest American hero held my interest while filling in some of my knowledge gaps.

Check for this out-of-print volume at libraries and used book stores.


Practice Makes Perfect

Have you ever taken music lessons?

Or received coaching for a sport?

What about learning to cook a favorite dish?

How to you become expert (or even moderately proficient) at any of the above?

Practice. Practice. Practice.  And then some more practice.

While natural talent and ability gives immeasurable assistance — the best in their field practice, practice, practice. It does not matter if they have a world-wide reputation for excellence. To keep that standard they practice.

My Library Shelf – X

We’re getting near the end of the English alphabet, and some of the final letters were not popular on my bookshelf. Now is a good time to admit that I have reached the first of two which I had to purchase near the beginning of this project. While not plentiful — I did find one — and it was GOOD.

XO by Jeffery Deaver

This is a thriller. One of a series featuring California Bureau of Investigation agent Kathryn Dance.

Welcome to the world of a successful pop singer who has attracted an obsessed fan who will stop at NOTHING to get what he wants. Add a manager/father living dreams through his daughter and a friend who happens to be in law enforcement. I found myself absorbed in the story, turning pages, and telling myself “one more chapter”.

Don’t neglect the less popular letters at the beginning of a title.

Libraries with a wide selection of mystery and thrillers should have this available. It may also be purchased on-line or ordered from your favorite bookstore.

A Royal Welcome

Tourists in Europe visit castles. And churches. And palaces.

A prince wants to make a good impression on his guests. Paying close attention to the entrance view and details is one way to accomplish the goal. Imagine —

You are a wealthy family from a neighboring country and you arrive in a well-appointed coach pulled by a matched team of black horses. And at the apex of the circular drive, in front of the wide steps, you are greeted with artwork.

I’m not sure about you — but I consider this grand. And I’d expect my host to be educated, cultured, and yes: WEALTHY.

Welcome to Belvedere Palace in Vienna