Hello St Johns

Moving from an area with a population of over 380,000     to a small town of less than 8,000 is quite a change.

Last month my husband and I said goodbye to the Quad Cities.

Goodbye Quad Cities

We have spent this last month learning all about our new home in the middle part of Michigan (lower peninsula) – St Johns.

As someone who loves trees, the tree-lined streets are so beautiful, especially this time of year as the leaves all turn glorious colors of yellow, orange and red.  In the Quad Cities I could find areas of trees here and there but not like in St. Johns.  Just driving to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, the post office – there is no where I can go in the town without beauty all around me.

The town has such charm as historic, turn-of-the-century homes line many of the streets.  In the neighborhood where I live the houses are not set right on top of each other as they were in my old neighborhood.

While enjoying small town charm, friendly neighborhoods we are only 30 minutes from the capital, Lansing, so if I get too bored, there is the big city close by.

St Johns is surrounded by agriculturally rich land known for raising mint.   The growing of spearmint and peppermint is unique to this area, using the rich black soil that prevails. Mint farming began with a two-acre crop of peppermint in 1913. The county ranks first in the production of mint in Michigan, with approximately 5,000 acres of mint farmed. Each year the mint farming heritage is celebrated at the “St. Johns Mint Festival”. The Festival is a weekend long celebration of activities for all age groups which attracts over 60,000 people to the City.

For its size, St. Johns offers many amenities that enhance the quality of life for residents. “Points of pride” for City residents include:

  • Concert in the Park series of weekly musical performances in the summer
  • The historic Wilson Center Auditorium which hosts rock concerts, open-mic nights and theatrical productions throughout the year
  • Farm Market located in Court House Parking Lot during growing season
  • Old US Route 27 Motor Tour with classic cars

I also wondered if there would any really good places to eat.  THERE IS!

Main Street Cafe – great food and even great homemade pies – especially our favorite coconut cream pie.

pie

And the greatest thing is the friendliness.  Back home walking down the sidewalk everyone seemed to avoid making eye contact.  Sometimes I would smile and say hi.  Often the response I would get was “Did you just speak to me?  Are you some kind of nut?”

So great to walk down the sidewalk and everyone you meet smiles and says hi and might even stop and talk for awhile.

So – the verdict is in – I’m a happy resident of a small town – St. Johns, Michigan.

Goodbye Quad Cities

The past few weeks I have not written much or read my favorite blogs.  The first of the month we loaded up all our possessions and headed north to a small town in Michigan.

truck

We were moving from a fairly large metropolitan area.  Known as the Quad Cities.  the area is actually a collection of five cities located in Illinois and Iowa:  Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island located in Illinois.  Those five larger towns are surrounded by many smaller cities or villages.  We lived in a town just south of Rock Island – Milan.  You could drive from Milan through Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and then though smaller towns like Silvis and Carbon Cliff or Coal Valley without ever leaving a populated area.

The region has a population of 383,681 residents, per the most recent estimates. The region is spread across 170 square miles. There is a population density of 1,600 residents per square mile.

There are a lot of interesting places and people in the history of Quad Cities.

  •  Between Davenport and Rock Island is Arsenal Island, which houses the Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturer in the entire United States.  It is also home to a National Cemetery for veterans.  During the Civil War there was a prison on the island for Confederate solders and many are buried in an area set aside for prisoners who died while in that prison.

Inscription on the D.A.C. Monument.

  • A real-life Prohibition era mobster lived in Rock Island.  His life was the basis for a feature-length comic book, The Road to Perdition, which was later made into a movie of the same name.  Looney started with illegal gambling, bootleg liquor, prostitution and other illegal activities along the Mississippi River from Missouri to Wisconsin in the early 1900’s through the mid 1920’s.  His huge mansion in Rock Island still stands today.

 

looney

 

  • Ronald Reagan began his radio career at WOC in Davenport.
  • Walt Disney applied for his first job in Davenport… and was turned down.
  • Chiropractic medicine started in the Quad Cities also.  Daniel David Palmer began what he called magnetic healing in Davenport, Iowa.  He developed the theory that the basic cause of disease was misalignment of the bones in the body.  In 1897 he opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport.  Today Palmer College of Chiropractic advertises itself as the first and largest chiropractic college in the country.

palmer.jpg

  • The large agricultural equipment manufacturer also got its start in the Quad Cities.  Blacksmith John Deere, listened to local farmers near Grand Detour, Illinois that their plows which were designed for the sandy soil of eastern United States were not working in the thick prairie soil of the Midwest.  He designed a highly polished steel mold board and began making plows for the local farmers.   After ten years in Grand Detour, John Deere moved to Moline, Illinois which is located on the Mississippi River.  That location gave him water power and with the river great transportation options.  His factory quickly doubled production in this new location.  Today you cannot drive anywhere in Illinois side of the Quad Cities without seeing a John Deere factory, transportation lot or offices.

 

I will miss:

  • The Mississippi River.  For years I lived on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities but worked on the Iowa side crossing back and forth each day.  My husband and I often cross the river to shop at stores and eat at favorite restaurants on the Iowa side.
  • Whitey’s ice cream, Happy Joe’s pizza, Hungry Hobo, Rudy’s Tacos and Lagomarcino’s chocolate.
  • My Wednesday bible study pals.
  • Most of all, I have many friends I will miss.  But with Facebook and cell phones thankfully we can stay in touch.

It has been quite a change this month as I have moved to a small town – population approximately 8,000.  I was not sure how I would like moving to such a smaller place after living so long in the Quad Cities.

But I am loving it.  I will blog soon on life in a small town, but for now, after a month here I say “Goodbye Quad Cities.”

 

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Papa’s Waffles

I’m having waffles in the morning made by my husband.  I know that because our little granddaughter is spending the night with us and she always wants Papa’s waffles for breakfast.  When we go to bed she gives Papa her “cutie” smile and in her “cutie” voice she asks:  

Papa, will you fix waffles in the morning?

Of course he will.  He is such a pushover for that smile and that voice.

I love maple syrup with my waffles with lots and lots of butter.  But my granddaughter calls for grape jelly on her waffles.

After breakfast we will read some books.  And she will insist on reading a Bubble Guppies book.

guppies

Her mother brought this book a few years ago for us to read together.  It is really more a “look and find”  book than a book to read.  She has long outgrown the book as she now reads chapter books well above her grade.

When she first started outgrowing the book she still liked us to do the “look and find” for fun.  I began to get tired of it and tried to encourage her to read other books more in line with her growing knowledge.

My protests became a game and now she always brings this book out with the other books she can read.  We have this conversation:

Me:  No, I am not reading that book again.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  You are too big for this and I am sick and tired of it.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I hate this book

She:  Yes we are.

We argue back and forth until we are both laughing too much to even read.

When we downsized recently to move into a smaller house, I took a lot of her books that she had long outgrown to the local library and bought some new books.  But somehow I just could not give that book away.

I can see us when she is graduating from high school still arguing over reading that book.

Me:  You are graduating from high school.  It is time to quit reading this book.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I have done this for years and it’s time to stop.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I’m sick of this book.

She:  Yes we are.

And, of course, we will.

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

From Corn Fields to Mint Farms

Growing up in Illinois I am used to seeing acres and acres of corn fields any time I drive though the countryside.   Although Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the country, Illinois is a close second.  Some of the top-producing counties are in Illinois.

Seventy-five percent of Illinois’ total land area is devoted to farmland and much of that is in corn.  That’s a lot of corn!

The corn grown in Illinois is not the corn you buy at the store and put on your plate with lots of butter and salt.  That is sweet corn bred for its sugar content which is what makes it so tasty!  One of my favorite sweet corns is called “peaches and cream.”  It is a hybrid and combines white and yellow kernels.  Oh!  What a treat it is!  I usually buy several dozen ears in the early summer and put in the freezer so we can enjoy it all year long.  Nothing is greater than sitting down at the dining room table in the middle of a snow storm with a plate of steaming hot peaches and cream corn waiting to be enjoyed.

sweet corn

The corn grown in Illinois is field corn that is bred for starch.  This corn is used in food products like cornmeal, corn chips and corn syrup.  It is also used in making ethanol and polymers.  However, primarily it is grown for animal feed.

How do you tell the difference?  Sweet corn is shorter, has larger tassels visible, and is often a lighter green.  Field corn is taller, has smaller visible tassels, and is darker green. Sweet corn is harvested in mid-summer while field corn is harvested in the fall after the plant starts to die and the corn kernels become very dry.

Corn is seen in the field that belonged to the Gibson family farm businesses which was auctioned off by a court appointed receiver in Morocco

I love taking road trips through the countryside in the fall to watch the farmers as they harvest the field corn.  Although my husband enjoys it also, all the dust that it produces is a little hard on his allergies.

corn harvest 2corn harvest 3corn harvest

Growing up watching the corn as it grows in the field from the small plants in the spring to the tall stalks in the fall and watching the harvest, I never thought much about it until I moved to Virginia.  I married a young man in the Marine Corps who was stationed at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia just outside Washington DC.  As we explored Virginia that summer I enjoyed the mountains and the many historical sites, but I began missing all those acres and acres of corn.  When fall came I think I was as much homesick for the corn harvest as I was for my family.  As we headed back to Illinois after my husband’s discharge from the Marine Corps, I could not wait to see the corn fields.  Living a few years later as a missionary in the Philippines I once again longed for my corn fields.  Somehow home is associated in my mind with corn fields.

Now I am moving to Michigan.  While Michigan also grows corn, the area where I am moving is noted for its mint farms.  Driving around the area I did see a few fields of corn but nothing of the acres and acres of corn here in Illinois.  St Johns, Michigan calls itself “Mint City” and Clinton County, where St Johns is located, ranks first in Michigan in regards to total mint production.  In August every year the city holds a Mint Festival celebrating its history in mint farming.

I did some checking to see exactly what Michigan agriculture has to offer.  I found Michigan is:

  • #1 producers of tart cherries in USA
  • 6th producer of dairy milk
  • #1 producer of potatoes for potato chips
  • supplies the eggs for all the McDonald’s east of the Mississippi River
  • sells over 2 million Christmas trees every year

(these facts are taken from:the “Pure Michigan website: https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/michigan-agriculture-facts-might-not-have-known)

So – I’m taking a last trip through the countryside to see my corn fields.  I imagine next fall I’ll be asking my husband for us to take a road trip south to see the farmers harvesting the corn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Future Star of HGTV

My young granddaughter loves to watch HGTV with us.  She especially loves the show “Flip or Flop.”

Recently we took her to see an old factory that was being torn down.  Piles of brick and twisted steel were everywhere and there was still a large portion of the building standing with big gaps in the walls where the bricks had already fallen down.

building

Taking a look at the almost collapsed building, she told us they should call the show “Flip or Flop” and they could fix it up.

flip or flop

A few weeks ago she and her family moved to another state.  The last night in their house before moving  we sat on the floor and ate pizza on paper plates.  I commented to her that this was the last time we would have a meal in this house.  Had to try hard not to laugh at her response.

“No Grandma it isn’t.  When I grow up – if you are still alive – I will come back and buy this house and fix it up.”

First, I didn’t think it really needed any “fixing up” but she began explaining how she would take out different walls and make the living area more “open.”  She clearly has been paying attention to the show.

Second, I was a little unsure of her comment “if you are still alive.”  But, I have to face it.  At 70 I might not be alive when she gets all grown up.  My prayer is that I do get the privilege of watching her grow up – and maybe become a star on HGTV.

 

 

 

 

My Husband Has a New Love

addict

My husband and I have been scrabble addicts since 2008.  We have books recording every game we have played for the past ten years.  During the summer we usually play two or three times a week but in the months when Old Man Winter blows his breath around our house, we play every day.

You can check out my original admittance of our addiction in my post:

Confessions of a Scrabble Addict!

We began this year as always playing almost every day in the cold, bitter days in January.  All was fine until April when my husband left me and Scrabble for his new love.

And it’s all my daughter’s fault.

In April my husband had major surgery and was in the hospital for several days.  After coming home he was supposed to remain quiet for six weeks.  In an attempt to give him something to help pass the time my daughter bought him a Sudoku book.

sudoko

To be honest I didn’t think he would use it.  He is not the kind to sit still for long and although he does for Scrabble there is interaction with me.  So I thought he would work one or two and then quit.

Boy, was I wrong!

He started on the ones marked “easy.”   Every time I asked if he would play a game of Scrabble, he would say:

Let me just finish this one puzzle.”

But one puzzle led to another.  And another.

I thought when he got to the ones marked ” medium” he would quit.  Not that I doubted my husband is smart, but I thought as they got more difficult to solve, he might get frustrated and quit.

Boy, was I wrong!

He began working five to six puzzles a day which left no time to for me or Scrabble.

I still held out hope that he would surely quit when he got to the ones marked “hard.”  I can never figure those out and I thought he would have trouble also.  That would surely lead to frustration and he would come back to me and Scrabble.

Boy, was I wrong!

He is skipping through the “hard” ones and is almost finished with the book my daughter bought him.  So – now maybe there is hope.

Boy, was I wrong!

Last week, in anticipation of finishing this book of puzzles, he went to Barnes and Noble and brought a GIANT Sudoku book.

I’m going to try one more time today to get him to play a game of Scrabble with me.

If not, maybe divorce court will be in our future.  (Just kidding, of course!)

Guess I need to find a new addiction myself.  My daughter gave me a word search book – maybe that will work.

 

word.jpg