The Case of the Green Bean Casserole Revisited

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Will green bean casserole appear at your feast  this year? Some families are divided over politics, but ours is divided over green bean casserole. See my previous post on this topic from November of 2016.

How did green bean casserole become a Thanksgiving mainstay? I don’t think the Pilgrims hiked to their local Publix for a can of mushroom soup. And what do FRENCH fried onion rings have to do with our all-American holiday?

I discovered the original green bean casserole was created by none other than the Campbell Soup Company in 1955. During the 1950’s casseroles ruled in most suburban American kitchens. Campbell’s was inspired to create a quick and easy recipe around two ingredients that most Americans had on hand, greens beans and mushroom soup. Dorcas Reilly, a home economist who worked for Campbell’s, added the French fried onions for a festive touch. GBC became the “go to” for everyone’s Thanksgiving feast. Today, sixty-two years later, we still celebrate Dorcas Reilly’s achievement.

I decided to make things easy on myself this year and place an order for our Thanksgiving feast with my local Publix. For the record, green bean casserole can be purchased from the deli. And for those who need an alternative side, sweet potato casserole is also available. I am thankful.

 

 

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Our Twilight Tour of Forks

Forks, Washington seems like any other small American town, except for one unique difference. According to the Chamber of Commerce, 8.5 vampires live in Forks. When I entered the visitor information center I picked up a brochure inviting me to “Experience Twilight” in Forks.  The pamphlet included a self-guided driving tour of sites featured in the Twilight books and films.

I haven’t read the Twilight books, but I did see the first movie with my daughter.  Both are very popular with young adults. The story focuses on a love triangle between a teenage girl (Bella Swan), a vampire (Edward Cullen), and a werewolf (Jacob Black).

During our vacation in northwest Washington, my husband and I thought it might be fun to experience the self-guided tour. Our first stop was Bella’s home on K Street. The pamphlet stated that Bella’s bedroom was on the top floor, but “don’t disturb the residents of the house or the neighbors.”

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As you can see, the real family who lives here took measures to keep Bella’s fans from approaching the house.

We drove to Forks High School, where Bella was a student. I bet scores of giddy teens feel goosebumps in this place where Bella and Edward’s relationship began. How romantic!

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We walked into Forks Outfitters, a clothing store where Bella worked. Right next door Bella bought her groceries at the Thriftway. Both of these stores were stocked with Twilight T-shirts. No, I didn’t buy any.

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By the time we arrived at the Cullen House, home of the vampire coven, my bubble of excitement burst. Since this building is an inn, we were permitted to walk onto the porch. A sign next to the front door read, “Although this house was the setting for Stephenie Myer’s Twilight books, none of the movies were filmed here.”

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I couldn’t believe it. I felt let down. It was uncanny how much the various buildings reminded me of scenes from the first movie.  Still, I thought, Stephenie Myer must have visited Forks to write her books.

No way.  I checked the author’s website, and learned she never visited Forks until after she wrote Twilight. Myer discovered Forks when she searched for the rainiest place in the U.S. on the internet. She thought it would be a good place for vampires to live since it receives so little sun.  The Twilight Tour was really a make believe world invented to represent her imagination.

The whole town played along with this charade.  City Hall was involved. The driving tour directed us to stop by the water department and pick up a free souvenir. An employee gave us a stamped ticket which indicated we paid our water bill. Every person who follows the driving tour interrupts this lady from her job duties numerous times a day to get their free souvenir.

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The local Community Hospital had a special parking place for Dr. Cullen, head of the vampire family, and Edward’s father. That means this parking space could not be used by anyone else.  After all, on a slow night Dr. Cullen might be visiting the lab for a snack.

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Between Forks and the Quillayutte Indian Reservation, a sign indicated the treaty line between the vampires and the werewolves. This was the territory of Jacob Black and the rest of his werewolf pals.

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The Pacific coastline near Forks looks eerie right before sunset. Hmmm… that would be at twilight, wouldn’t it?

I appreciate Stephenie Myer’s creativity.  She successfully captured this setting without visiting it first. Myer’s home at the time was in Arizona, quite a contrast to the rainforests and rocky coast of Washington.

As much as I felt fooled by Forks, I have to give the townspeople credit for capitalizing on a fictional idea.  The town economy has benefitted from tourists (like me) who stayed at the Dew Drop Inn motel and ate at the In Place. Both of which I highly recommend. Hats off to the Forks Chamber of Commerce for promoting an image that’s brought new life to a once declining logging town.

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Olympic: Not Just Any National Park

Located in northwest Washington, Olympic National Park is like no other place I’ve visited. After reading about the glacier-capped mountains, wild Pacific coast, and the temperate rain forests,  I placed this destination at the top of my bucket list.

My husband and fellow adventurer, Herb, planned our trip to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary. However, he did not plan on Hurricane Irma’s arrival in central Florida, one day before we were scheduled to leave. Our flight to Seattle was cancelled which threw our itinerary off. When we arrived in Olympic on September 13, we relished our escape from the stress we experienced prior to, during, and after Hurricane Irma.

As we hiked the Staircase Rapids Trail,  I felt like I’d walked into nature’s cathedral. Huge conifer trees stretched heavenward in their quest for light. The fresh woodsy scent of cedar permeated the air. The gentle ripples of the Quinalt River refreshed my tired body. The experience was like a dream.  It was as if we’d suddenly been transported to another planet.

IMG_0513Little did we know, the beauty of Staircase Rapids was only a prologue to the wonders awaiting us.

The second day in the park we hiked to Hurricane Hill. This area is named for the seventy-five mile per hour winds which buffet the ridge. We joked about the name “hurricane.” Of course I had to send a picture of our location to my friends in Florida, with the comment, “Wish you were here.” Nothing like rubbing in our good fortune.

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I struggled with the seven hundred foot elevation gain, but the views of the surrounding mountains were worth the climb.

IMG_7083 Herb photographed a marmot in an alpine meadow.  This little guy was very excited. We heard him sounding an alert to his marmot friends.

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At the top  of Hurricane Hill we met a gentle deer in a grove of trees.  We were never this close to either of these animals. Herb used his telescopic camera for these images.

The mountain ecosystem of Olympic is in the center of  922,651 acres of  wilderness.  Highway 101 circles the  perimeter of the park and few roads lead into the interior.

We stayed in all four of the lodges operated by the parks service. Our favorite was Kalaloch Lodge, located on the Pacific Ocean. We saw a beautiful sunset from the porch outside our room.

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The beaches of Washington are very different from Florida. Few people swim in the freezing water. The shores are rocky and littered with dead trees.  We were thrilled to arrive at Beach 4 at the right time to see the tide pools.

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What a delight to witness a world that is usually underwater. I felt like I was trespassing. IMG_7574

These sea stars (starfish) and sea anemones reminded me of alien creatures.

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Sea stars come in various colors and walk using tiny water filled tubes located under their arms. Fascinated, I could have watched the pools for hours, but as the tide was rising, we had to retreat from the rocks before water surrounded them.

Olympic National Park is home to one of the most spectacular temperate rain forests in the world. The Hoh Rain forest receives up to twelve feet of precipitation each year.  Not only do trees compete for light, they compete for space. In the rain forest, plants grow on top of plants.

PGBF5398 Various kinds of moss hang from the limbs of primeval trees.

Trees also compete for space on the forest floor. When one tree dies and falls to the ground, other trees sprout on top of it and absorb the nutrients from the decayed tree. These dead trees are called “nurse logs.”

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When a nurse log disintegrates, the result is a very strange looking tree with a bend in it.

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During our two week visit, I tried to learn the names of the giant trees which have lived here for hundreds of years. We saw the oldest spruce tree in the world.

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And what about our anniversary celebration? Over dinner on September 17, we tried to remember how we spent our previous 39 anniversaries. We could only recall ten of them. I think we’ll remember this one.

 

 

Two Hurricanes in Three Weeks: Lisa’s Story

Lisa regularly flies from Orlando to Texas to visit her elderly parents. However, her most recent trip was one she’ll never forget. On August 24 her plane to Dallas was delayed. She missed her connection to Beaumont and was forced to take a later flight. After spending hours waiting in the Dallas airport, she wondered if it was an omen of bad things to come.

Lisa was aware of Hurricane Harvey’s location in the Gulf of Mexico but didn’t think it would affect Beaumont.  Her parents, Glenda, 84, and Lindy, 90, had a relaxed attitude.  At their age they’d seen many storms come and go along the Texas coastline. The weather forecast predicted thirty inches of rain for their area. Her parents thought it would never happen. Still, Lisa encouraged them to go shopping for extra bottled water and food, just in case they might not want to go out in the rain.

On Saturday, August 26, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Corpus Christi and looked like more of a threat for Beaumont. Lisa encouraged Lindy to fill up his gas tank. He did. That night bands of rain arrived and continued off an on for four days. Lisa emptied the rain gauge in the yard every time it was full. They received thirty- five inches of rain on their property.  The family was amazed their home did not flood, nor did they lose power. Every time the water would rise on the patio, the bands of rain would stop long enough for the water to recede.  Lisa attributes this miracle to the prayers of friends and family.

On Thursday morning she turned on the faucet to make coffee and there was no water.  Flood waters from the Natchez River contaminated the city water treatment plant. The local news reported the water would be off for several days. Lisa and her parents were resourceful. They gathered buckets and coolers and put them in the back of Lindy’s pickup truck. Lindy drove to a nearby soccer field which had become a retention pond.

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Lisa helped her parents carry buckets of water from the flooded soccer field to the truck. Back at home, they used this water to flush the toilet. They still had bottled water to drink, but wondered how long it would last.  Without water, it was necessary for every store and restaurant to close.

Originally Lisa planned to visit Beaumont for five days. With the airport closed, and roads flooded, she was stranded. Still, her main concern was the welfare of her parents. She knew they had to find a way out. If they could evacuate to her sister’s home in Dallas, her parents would be safe and she could get a flight back to Florida from there. She managed to access a Texas Department of Transportation website that posted passable driving routes.  One road, Highway 90, was passable.

Friday morning Lisa, Lindy, and Glenda threw their suitcases in the back of Lindy’s truck and started driving. The trip was frightening at times, especially when they drove onto a bridge across the flooded Trinity River.  A drive which  normally took six hours turned into nine, but they made it. Along the way they watched scores of vehicles coming toward Beaumont to help people evacuate. The lack of water forced those in hurricane shelters to leave.

Lisa flew home from Dallas to Orlando September 2.  Within two days she and her husband Bill were busy preparing for Hurricane Irma. Because of her experience with Harvey, Lisa’s first thought was to stock up on bottled water. Panic ensued. Publix and CVS had no water left on the shelf. She bought empty containers at Target, filled them with water and placed them under their carport. Hurricane Irma was a long time coming, and the path kept changing. Finally, the morning of September 11 hurricane force winds hit Orlando. Lisa and Bill’s power went out and stayed out for a week. City water was unaffected.

Between the two hurricanes, Lisa states her experience with Irma was much more difficult. “Living without air conditioning in Orlando’s heat and humidity is a big challenge.” By Friday night she and Bill checked into a hotel. Their power came on the next day.

Prior to all of the hurricane madness, Bill and Lisa had planned to take a cruise scheduled to depart from Puerto Rico. It was cancelled of course, by another storm named Maria. Lisa was fine with the cancellation. “I didn’t want to see a third hurricane.”

 

 

At Home on the Road

Greg and Ann’s home looks like any other cozy apartment inside. The kitchen includes a stove, convection oven, dishwasher, and microwave. The door on the full size refrigerator/freezer is plastered with family photos. A washer/dryer unit and half bath are conveniently located off the kitchen. In the living room a soft leather sofa sits across from a wide screen TV. A short hall connects the kitchen to a master suite with a king size bed and full bath.

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This home seems normal except for one thing. It can be driven! In 2016, Greg and Ann sold their house in Las Vegas and purchased their dream RV. Since last December they’ve traveled across the country, eventually arriving in Florida to spend time with family. I caught up with Greg and Ann while they “camped” at Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville.

ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME

The couple selected their 2016 Holiday Rambler Endeavor because of the amount of livable space inside.  Beautiful woodwork and cabinets make the RV feel like a home instead of a camper. The unit features three slide-outs that increase the width of each room. The Endeavor is forty feet long, contains three air conditioners, and features a huge amount of outside and inside storage. “I love the icemaker,” Greg remarked as he sipped his iced tea. “That’s something every home needs.”

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A JOINT DECISION

Greg and Ann’s journey into full time life on the road began years ago with shorter RV vacations. After Greg retired they took extended trips, spending six months at a time away from their house in Las Vegas. Whenever they returned it took them three months to catch up on maintenance and yardwork. Finally they realized the expense and effort involved with keeping their house wasn’t worth it. So they joined the many retirees who have chosen to live in their RV fulltime. Greg advises couples to “jump in the shallow end of the pool” before making the decision. “Don’t do it unless you both agree.” Life on the road involves adjustments.

Since their marriage in 1974, Greg and Ann have never had to share one car. They tow a vehicle behind their RV for day use. The couple must consider one another’s needs before making plans. Ann joked, “Since we live in closer quarters, we’ve learned to shout at each other, more quietly.”

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR STUFF?

Even with the ample storage, it’s impossible to fit the contents of a whole house into a forty foot RV. Greg and Ann sold many of their possessions. Greg admits he misses his home workshop, but the experience of seeing so many beautiful sights makes it worth the loss. Two of his favorite possessions, a kayak and an ATV are in storage. The couples policy regarding purchases: “For every new item brought into the RV, one item goes out.”

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SELECTING CAMPGROUNDS

Since Greg is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, they are eligible to park their RV at military bases. The couple also joined Passport America which offers its members a fifty percent discount at individually owned campgrounds. While in transit they plan their route one day before departure and reserve their next campsite the same day they expect to arrive. If they want to stay in one area for more than a few days, Ann makes a reservation further in advance.  Greg and Ann also benefit from a membership in the Escapees Club. This club offers mail service and educational tips for full time travelers.

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS

During our visit, Greg shared that they are currently in the process of selecting their state of “permanent residence.”  Florida, South Dakota, and Texas are the top choices for establishing residency for those who travel full time. These states offer no income tax, and low vehicle registration fees. When choosing medical insurance, its also important to select a policy that travels with you.  Requirements to drive an RV also vary from state to state. In Florida, RV drivers are exempt from obtaining a CDL. However, Ann is planning to take a hands on class in order to feel more comfortable driving. Greg completed the CDL requirements of Nevada.

LONG RANGE PLANS?

Greg loves baseball. The couple has seen games in twenty-one of the thirty cities with baseball stadiums. Like most outdoor enthusiasts, they want to visit every national park in the country. Both love the coastline of Maine. Long range plans? They’ve agreed to reevaluate their lifestyle in five years. Greg laughed, “I know of some retirement RV communities where you can hook up permanently.”

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Now I’m Sixty-Four

When I was fourteen my best friend and I listened to Sergeant Pepper’s until our ears bled.  This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the album’s release. A popular song on the album is When I’m Sixty-Four.  Paul McCartney’s lyrics describe what it might be like when two lovers grow old together.  In 1967 I thought people who were sixty-four probably needed canes and hearing aids.  And now here I am.

As a teenager, I couldn’t relate to When I’m Sixty-Four. It didn’t speak to me so I would usually lift up the needle on the record player and drop it down on A Day in the Life.  Now there’s a song with social significance, a satire about the news media! Like other baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, I challenged the status quo.

My first attempt at reforming the world occurred in 1970 when I was elected student council president of my high school. I petitioned our local school board to change the dress code to allow girls to wear “pantsuits”. Unless Ohio temperatures dropped below ten degrees Farenheit, girls were required to wear skirts or dresses. Students thought it unfair as temperatures frequently dropped below twenty, but rarely below ten.   Imagine my surprise when the school board agreed with me and changed the dress policy to permit “pantsuits” (no jeans yet) year round.  I was the heroine of our small community.

Baby boomers work hard to achieve their goals. When we started kindergarten in the fifties, schools were overcrowded. We had to perform well to get the teacher’s attention. When we graduated from college competition for jobs was intense. This made us competitive and ambitious. We relish achievement. Our identity is often tied to what we do.

Is that why old rockers keep on rocking? I attended a Paul McCartney concert in 2013. At age seventy-two he moved around the stage like a young man. He performed for three hours without taking a break. The concert made me feel like I had just taken a dip in the fountain of youth. Afterward I realized my life was slipping by too fast.  So I left my teaching job to write and travel more.  I wonder what Paul McCartney might think if he knew he inspired someone in their sixties to pursue their passion?

Like everyone, I don’t know what lies ahead. I feel good now, but what will I feel like in ten years? Twenty years? Remember my motto?  I want to do as much as I can for as long as I can with no regrets.  Is sixty really the new forty?

By 2029 the number of Americans over age sixty-five is expected to be 71 million (twenty percent of the population). At least I’m in good company. Although my generation is known for changing what we don’t like, aging is unstoppable. We can try to hide it with hair color and anti-wrinkle cream but time marches on.

My mother tells me, “Old age is not for the faint of heart.” It takes a certain amount of courage to accept the reality that aging brings physical decline. How will I handle old age?

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 84?”

 

 

 

Back to School

It’s that time of year again. The lazy days of lounging at the pool are replaced with harried schedules. Today, August fourteenth, is opening  day for many Florida schools. I retired from teaching third grade four years ago. I still think about and pray for teachers often, especially since I know so many who are still on the front lines, including my daughter.

Life in school is a subculture. It always amazed me how so few adults could be so out numbered by children and maintain control of a community. My years as a teacher were blessed by good administrators and parents who supported the staff. When children came to school they knew what kind of behavior was expected and they usually conformed. Just think about how hard it can be for practically anyone to stay in their seat, and raise their hand to speak. But they did.

I always thought the best teachers are those who can inspire students to learn. My favorite teacher as a child was my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Masters. Back then, sixth grade was still part of elementary school and we had one teacher the entire day. Mrs. Masters plastered her classroom walls with inspirational writing. Messages like “you can do it if you try” and “never give up” worked with me. Whenever I thought something was hard I would keep trying to do better.

I’ll admit, I didn’t always have an easy life as a teacher. It’s a challenging profession. Teachers have to think on their feet. They carry a huge responsibility of maintaining discipline and teaching at the same time. One year I had a group of rough boys in my class. I went to the assistant principal for help. He had a sign in his office, “Tough times never last, tough people do.” I asked him if I could make a copy of it to hang near my desk. That sign kept me from quitting that year.

At night I still have dreams about teaching.  In my reoccurring dream kids are usually running around the classroom, and I can’t find my math book to begin the lesson. I suppose it’s typical. That was always one of my biggest fears. Not being prepared. Organization is the key to everything for teachers.

Each day began with over the top multi-tasking. Taking attendance on my computer, listening to announcements, collecting homework, and reading notes from parents. If this wasn’t enough, some students required prodding to begin their morning board work. After all, idle minds make for a devil’s playground!

Reading was always the first subject taught to third graders. Afterwards depending on the day of the week, the students participated in art music, or P.E.  That was my planning time, often spent in meetings with other staff or making copies.  Math was usually after lunch. Somewhere in the six hour day we squeezed in writing, science, and social studies. It was hard to plan for and teach five subjects. It became harder when special reading intervention groups were instituted at the end of the day.

When the dismissal bell rang there was teacher “duty” to make sure every student left the campus safely. Then I could relax with a diet coke and read my emails before I gathered up all the papers to grade at home.

But I loved school. I loved the kids and they kept me coming back year after year. Teachers have a huge impact on students. Some children spend more time with their teachers than they do with their parents. I doubt if many teachers have time to read this, but I commend you for the work you do. If you can keep a child interested in learning, you are a success.