Goober Peas and Cold Mountain Air

1-photo 2It seems like ages ago. But when I look at the calendar, I’m reminded that it really was only two weeks. Yes, that’s how quickly vacation memories can escape.

As you may recall, my husband and I went down to the Smoky Mountains. We like road trips, although I’d have to admit that I like them more than he does. He likes to get there, pedal to the metal approach, while I like to soak in the changing landscape. It’s no surprise to report that between here in St. Louis and the Smokies, there are some significant changes. Flat, then rolling, then MOUNTAINS! Any guess as to which one I like the most? At least at this time of year.

We got off to an edgy start: the car broke down when we hit Paducah, Kentucky. Turns out it wasn’t just the battery. It was the alternator as well. Lucky for us that Paducah has a car rental place, so we left our car in the hands of the repair shop and continued on three hours later. By the way have you ever been to a car repair shop where they serve cappuccino and muffins? Yes, I got nervous about the bill. (Good news: it turned out just fine.)

1-log cabinArmed with the rental car, we continued our southeast journey, arriving in North Carolina in the early evening. Did I mention that we rented a log cabin? The cabin was originally built elsewhere, then disassembled and then reassembled and expanded in its new home in Waynesville. When you consider its original size (14’ by 20’), you begin to understand what growing up in these mountains might have involved. In fact, by the time we left we were pretty much amazed at what those mountain families had accomplished.

So the days started with coffee out on the deck and typically ended with a grilled dinner. During the day, we explored. Much to our delight we found that the Blue Ridge Parkway was uncrowded. (Apparently the timing of our vacation in late August was both wise and fortunate.) Up and down the parkway, the waves of mountains left us speechless. And appreciative. We stopped often at the overlooks to soak in the beauty and to try to capture it in pictures. A specific shout out to the inn at Mount Pisgah where you can enjoy a meal and rock in the creaky chairs out on the porch.

photo 3We also stopped along the country roads that led up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to sample goober beans (boiled peanuts) and rum jam. Here’s a handy link to the famous Goober Peas folk song. I remember growing up listening to Burl Ives sing that funny little song. In addition, we visited the Museum of the Cherokee Indians and the Carl Sandburg Home (and its 17,000 books and functional arrangement). Perhaps my favorite side trip was to see the elk in the Cataloochee Valley…although I’d be less than forthright if I didn’t mention that the steep drop-offs along the twisting gravel road scared me a tad. Talk about blind curves! At any rate, we were well rewarded. A 12-point buck let us admire him at a leisurely pace. Should I mention that when he looked over my way, I got back in the car?

On our last day, we drove over to Chimney Rock State Park that featured a hammered dulcimer musician by the name of John Mason. There’s nothing like mountain music played in its natural surroundings. By the way, old photographs show ladies in full dress and hats having a picnic in a nook in the rock that’s been nicknamed the Opera House. I can hardly imagine scaling the rocks to get there with modern gear and I’m flabbergasted by the idea that these women climbed up in full regalia. (We took the elevator.) We spent our last night at a folk festival held along the edges of Lake Junaluska. Between the cloggers, fiddlers, and family bands, we learned to appreciate the ties of tradition.

A week later, refreshed by the break and invigorated by the mountain air, we began our journey home. The only two stops this way were a visit at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville (well worth it) and then a quick stop in Paducah to pick up our car.

Gone in a moment. At least it feels like that. But as I re-tell our vacation story, I get pleasure out of reliving the time. It gives me an opportunity to sort out what was most important to us. Plus it gives us a chance to share our memories with our family. Like last night when we shared our pictures and vacation stories with our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. What a lovely ending: consider it a modern day story time around the campfire.

 

SMF-Jane1Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

 

 

iTips and iTricks #2

iphone and iPad Today I thought I would spend some time on doing things faster. So today’s tips are about using the screen and keyboard on the iPhone and iPad

Automatic Typing: Did you know that any time you have the keyboard up you always have the option of pressing the microphone key and translating whatever you say into text? This is very useful if you are on the go. You can even translate short audio clips from another recording. Just tap the microphone button and play the recording into the iPhone microphone.

Quick Write: There’s also a neat way to “quick write” those pesky extensions like .com or .net or .org when you are surfing the Internet. In order to do this, type the web address and hold in the period for a second and several popular extensions come up. Slide your finger to the one you want and it is entered. Now if you are like me, you may not hold the period button in long enough. Then you get a period at the end of the address with no extension. Don’t despair: Just press the period button again and hold it in. Select the extension you want and the period you typed will be replaced by the period and the extension.

Keyboard Tips: Finding the shortcut above inspired me to look for other keys that provided a menu when you held them longer. To no one’s surprise, in the alpha keyboard, holding down the vowels and some consonants gives you letters with accents used in other languages. On the 123 keyboard you can get all manners of dashes by holding down the hyphen key and holding down the quotes key gives you quotes in different directions than the standard ones on the keyboard. On the symbol keyboard holding the exclamation point gives you an upside down explanation point that looks like a candle. And holding the question mark longer gives you an upside down question mark.

Jump to the top: Since we are working on the screen, here’s an interesting thing that happens when you tap the very top of the screen. It normally goes to the top of the page you are on. So if you are doing a search using Google and you want to get to the top of the page, tap the very top of the screen and you will be there. Scrolling through your mail? Tap the top of the screen to get to the top of your e-mail. Most applications respond this way and it saves a lot of scrolling time if you are way down on a page.

That’s it for now. If you come across a tip or trick others might find useful, please send it to me and I will add it to the iTips and iTricks Blog. If you want to refer to the tips I mentioned in my first blog, click here.

IMG_1527-001About the Author:   Harvey Baker is the President of Saving Memories Forever. He learns about technology by making mistakes and researching how to correct them.  He is addicted to his iPhone. Maybe you are too.

Summer’s End

cowsAs a child, my brother and I competed for who could collect the most empty cicada shells. It was a clear-cut contest: whoever collected the most shells won. As an adult, spotting an abandoned locust shell inspires a split second of alarm followed by recognition and realignment. First, I remember what it is. Then I recall what it represents: an unofficial message from Mother Nature saying that summer is coming to an end.

Mother Nature tells me about the summer’s end in other ways too: the banks of the rivers and lakes are cracked and dry, the grass is a scorched brown, and the sun sets at least an hour earlier than it did at the summer’s apex. In contrast, my vegetable garden suddenly offers abundant crops that challenge me to keep up. Yes, it’s time to offer tomatoes to neighbors….maybe even complete strangers if it means that it they won’t just rot on the vine. But Mother Nature isn’t the only one handing out the notice.

About a month ago, department stores started promoting back-to-school-sales. Those sales have now reached a fever pitch. Trumpeting huge discounts and large supplies.
About a week ago, school buses started rumbling through the neighborhood on their trial runs. Now parents wait with their young children at the bus stop. The children are often uncertain, even teary-eyed, and wail their reluctance to leave.

And even though it’s still hot and muggy around here, local pools have posted closing dates. Events on weekday nights have become harder to find.

With one huge exception: the state fair. Here the barnyards are busy with determined cowgirls flying around barrels. The stalls are filled to full-capacity. The squeals of pigs and bleats of sheep. Screams of delight from the ride enthusiasts. Muttered complaints from tired adults. Carnival music. Blaring sound from main stage acts all mingled with the sweet smell of cotton candy and fried corn dogs. If you live in the Midwest, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Time now to give a once-over to your summer bucket list. Catch a summer flick. Pack a picnic lunch. Top off a round of Mini Golf with an ice cream cone. And, if you haven’t been to one, go to a state fair.

‘Cause there’s no such thing as an endless summer.

SMF-Jane1Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

 

Introducing iTips and iTricks and Tech Tips

iphone and iPadHave you ever had a question about your iPhone or iPad? You are not alone. I’ve been working with our Saving Memories Forever clients (many of whom have Apple devices) for several years now. And I’ve come to realize that many people have similar questions. I’d like to offer my help.

Let me introduce my blog and newsletter column! These two pieces are all about helping you improve your experience with your iPhone and your iPad. The bi-weekly blog is named iTips and iTricks and will appear through Saving Memories Forever under the Blogs icon. My newsletter column will appear under the Tech Tips column in the monthly Saving Memories Forever newsletter.

Here are my first few tips.

Cool Closing: Most of you know that every application you open continues to run in the background. Not a big deal usually, but running applications in the background causes your battery to run down quicker, leading to battery life and performance issues. As you already know, to close an app you click twice on the home button, place your finger on the 1/2 size application and flick up. Did you know you can actually close two or three applications at the same time? To do this, press the home button twice and place a finger on each app you want to close and then swipe to the top. It may take a little practice and it may not work the first time you try it. (Usually this is because your fingers are not on the screen at the same time in the right place.) But once you “get it”, it’s easy! Plus, it makes you look like a pro.

Rapid Recharge: You can make your device recharge go faster by putting it in airplane mode. When you do this, your phone no longer is making contact with the internet (which requires a lot of power). To get to airplane mode go to Settings>Airplane Mode>On.

Handy Helper: Use your smartphone to make life just a little easier. For example, I recently bought a set of 12 filters for an air filtration system I have. These small filters need to be replaced every 30 days. Have I forgotten to do this? Yes, it has slipped my mind a couple of times. But no longer! I’ve set up a monthly recurring event in my calendar that reads “Replace Air Filter”. Because the filters are small and I forget where I put them, I’ve added some text to that event so the whole event actually reads “Replace air filter. Filters in the top dresser drawer.” Obviously you can do this with any event that includes some other action like “Theater on Tuesday. Tickets and parking pass in the kitchen drawer.” Just think of how else you can use the reminder service!

If you don’t already know these quick tips, pick one and try it. If you come across a tip or trick others might find useful, please send it to me. I’ll review it and quite possibly put it up in the blog or newsletter. 

IMG_1527-001About the Author:   Harvey Baker is the President of Saving Memories Forever. He learns about technology by making mistakes and researching how to correct them.  He is addicted to his iPhone. Maybe you are too.

Celebrating a Wedding Anniversary

1235160_647766325236352_992224140_nI love being married. As one of my favorite quotes reads, “Being married means you’ve found someone who you can annoy for a lifetime.”

While I assume that happily married couples don’t make it their mission in life to annoy each other, I do think that there’s some wisdom in this humor.

Perhaps it reflects the freedom to be who you are. Or it reflects the understanding that it’s not always going to be an easy relationship. Or maybe it’s just an good excuse to laugh.

Come August 26th, we will celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Normally, we don’t make a big deal out of it.  We usually celebrate by just going out to dinner.  But this year, we’re traveling down to the Smoky Mountains for a few days of mountain air and Appalachian music. 

We’re going on this mini adventure for several reasons.

One, because we can.  We’re no longer constricted with school schedules. With that in mind, we’re happily anticipating that most of the summer crowds will have gone home. 

Two: we’ve picked a place that won’t bankrupt us.  We’re renting a cabin where we can cook our own meals (at least most of the time).

Three: because it’s time.  It’s time to slow down and mark this point in our lives. It’s also time to celebrate the fact that we still enjoy each other’s company and quirks.

We’ll post some pictures of our trip on Saving Memories Forever Facebook

Come along for the ride. 

SMF-Jane2

Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

 

 

Love That Dirt

55_why_gardenHere’s a surprising factoid: a whopping 75% of American households garden. Say what? Why would so many people endure the discomfort of heat and the likelihood of itchy bug bites?

Depending upon how you look at it, the answer to the question, “Why garden?” is both elusive and complex. Ask any gardener why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons.

I’ll start with myself.  I garden mostly because I like the creativity it offers and the huge feeling of success when I actually eat something from it.  I also garden because the garden is pretty and because it gets me outdoors.  I need that connection with nature. In addition, I garden because it ties in with my husband’s cooking talent. Plus, gardening gives us a fun new joint project: composting.

Why do you garden?

Here’s a list of possible reasons from the National Garden Bureau. I bet you’ll see that your interest in gardening is rooted (pun intended) in several core reasons.  For the complete article by Janis Kief, click here.

Six Reasons

1. Garden for safe, healthy food. Reports of food-borne contamination appear regularly in the press. With your own garden, you know what you’ve treated.  Or maybe you skipped pesticides entirely. Beyond that, you know veges are healthy. As the vegetables ripen, (and they all seem to be ready to harvest about the same time), the more immediate question becomes: how do you cook all of them?  We recommend the website AllRecipes.com. Just type in the vegetable that you want to use (example: basil) and a bunch of recipes will pop up. Very handy.

2. Garden for exercise. Give me a garden over a gym routine any day of the week. Get a good workout even thinking about it. An hour of gardening involves stretching, bending, and weightlifting.  On top of this, you’ll see the immediate results (no weeds!) in your garden.

3. Garden to add beauty and to be creative. Yes! This doesn’t have to be elaborate:  it can be as simple as adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door.  Think of your garden area as another room to be enjoyed.  A garden’s design also reflects a personal creativity and sense of style. And there are so many styles to choose from ranging from the romantic cottage garden, the peace of a Japanese garden, or the rather random approach (like mine) where I plan with color, height, prime blooming time, and plant “companions” in mind.

4. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connection. To me, gardens serve as a tranquil retreat from everyday life.  The beauty of flowers lifts my spirit.  Not to mention that pulling weeds can be a great release from stress! The sight of colorful flowers or a passing Monarch butterfly delights me. On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, plant and nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food.

5. Garden to learn and to meet people. Gardeners love to talk about their gardens.  They also like to share their knowledge and learn even more.  There’s a variety of ways to increase your gardening know-how such as seminars or Master Gardener programs.  Or (if you’re like me), just look online for YouTube gardening instruction. We found several great YouTube videos about composting that we used to get us started. Click here for one of my favorites. Gardening is also a great excuse to talk with your neighbors. Surplus tomatoes? Bet you can find a neighbor who would love them.  Bug problem? A neighbor might have a good solution.  You can also meet neighbors through community gardens.

6. Garden for lasting memories. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren.  Gardens also provide a beautiful way to remember a special person. My memories of my grandmother are inextricably connected to her beautiful rose garden in her back yard.

Discover your own reasons for being a gardener and share them with someone in your family. Enjoy the satisfying fun that gardening provides. Capture and preserve some of your family’s gardening stories…like our fearless Uncle Sam who battled the squirrels with his antique BB gun.

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  

Gardening Lessons from Mother Nature

vegetable-flower-garden-cantaloupe-marigold_226e3768261fe09454889d0d38bc8281I don’t care how many gardening articles you read, gardening is mostly about trying …and learning.  As they say, Mother Nature is a good teacher.

Let’s just say that I’m on a steep learning curve.

This year my greatest challenge was figuring out the dirt situation.

 

We moved into our townhouse in the middle of June so I rather hastily threw a garden together. After the first few shovelfuls of dirt turned up mostly chunks of concrete and heavy clay I decided the best solution would be to go with a raised bed. As an experiment (I actually thought it would work), I planted some veges outside the garden area to give them room and to see how they fared in the poor soil. More on that experiment later.

Building a raised bed called for manpower that I simply don’t have. So I enlisted the help of a friend who built me a 16-foot by 4-foot raised bed and then filled it with garden soil. Compared to the lousy dirt that I’d first discovered, this new garden soil was like manna from Heaven. It turns out, though, that the quality of good garden soil was still lacking. That’s a problem that I’m addressing with my new hobby of composting.

Then there was the matter of planning the garden. This is when I learned about companion plants and dealing with the “enemy”….rabbits. Planting with companion plants in mind was like working on a puzzle. It was fun! The solution for dealing with the rabbits was an amusing one. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Stuff old stockings with dog hair and then lay lots of them around your garden. Now these lumpy gigantic wormlike things don’t exactly look lovely, but they work really well (and eventually they pretty much are covered up with the foliage from the plants.)

So…what did I grow? Eggplant, tomatoes, basil, dill, zucchini, sage, thyme, cucumbers, bell peppers and chives mixed in with petunias, marigolds, zinnias, and some milkweed. Totally successful? No.

photo(4)Lessons Learned

There’s a long list of lessons learned from this year’s effort. Here are just a few things I learned.

• I learned that I need to do a better job of placing my crops. The tomato plants pretty much suffocated the red peppers. On the other hand, I’m not a person who places a high priority on neatly lined rows. I like my more random approach–even if it means fewer vegetables.

 

• Start with good soil…and then build it up. Even good soil needs help. Hence, our venture into composting.

• Only plant inside the garden. The cucumbers and dill that I planted outside the official garden area just wilted in the poor soil. In fact, I’d say they were pathetic.

• I also learned that that I don’t have to grow every type of vegetable that I love: in fact, it would be wiser and cheaper for me to buy peppers at the nearby Soulard Farmers Market. Come Saturday afternoon, there are bargains that you just can’t beat—and you’re getting fresh produce.

• I learned that less is probably more. I need to stick to growing the things that we actually eat in abundance. Basil (which we use to make a delicious pesto sauce) and tomatoes will definitely be part of next year’s crop. Dill and thyme won’t be.

• I learned was how much I enjoy flowers. As the flowers spread out, I noticed that my eyes were always drawn to their colors. I’m now including more flowers in my gardening plans.

Do you have some gardening wisdom to share? I’d love to hear your gardening stories and advice. Please comment!

SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village.