Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cheesy Sausage Potato Soup

Mom and I used to go to a restaurant in Harrison called RockHouse Barbeque. It held special memories for Mom since she once lived there. After she graduated, her first "apartment" was in Mrs. Cochran's house there on Pine Street. Her son was in the Army and she was like many widows, strapped as to how she would pay her bills in wartime. The answer came in renting her spare bedrooms. Mom would walk to her job across the street at Oberman's and was even able to come "home" for lunch.

Years later the house was sold and eventually became a restaurant. The house looked the same from the outside, but when we went in the layout was different. They had taken down walls to allow for a entry on the side, the living room and adjoining dining, sunporch and kitchen all opened up into a large dining room. But the walls that remained entered into bedrooms that had been turned into dining, the one on the North end of the house had been Mom's room. She loved to go there. We'd enjoy a quiet lunch ordering soup or their specialty barbeque. Their potato soup was my favorite thing to order. Very different from the simple one I make, theirs had sausage and cheese that made it heartier. One day I just asked how they made it, and lo and behold they told me! Not the exact measurements but the ingredients. That's all I needed to make this wonderful soup!

RockHouse Barbeque Cheesy Potato Soup makes a generous 8 servings
8 cups potatoes, cut in chunks
6 ounces Velveeta cheese
1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
1/3 cup butter
2 tablespoons oil
1 lb. Jimmy Dean Breakfast sausage
1/3 cup flour
3 1/2 cups milk or half&half
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Peel and cube the potatoes, cook them in salted water. When cooked, drain the water and set the cooked potatoes aside.

To prepare the cheese mixture: over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the 1/3 cup butter with 2 tablespoons oil.

Whisk in 1/3 cup flour...

... and mix for 1 minute.

Slowly add in 1 cup half and half or milk, whisking until well blended.

Add in the Velveeta cheese and grated cheddar cheese.

Now slowly add in the remaining 2-1/2 cups milk or halfand half (if using).

Cook and stir for about 30 seconds; set aside.

In a hot skillet, brown the sausage...

...then add the onion.

Saute until the onion is tender.

Add in the sausage onion mixture along with the salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder into the cheese milk mixture, and continue cooking until all of the cheese is completely melted.

Add in the cooked cubed potatoes to the cheese mixture; gently mix to combine.
Cook over low heat until warm and bubbly! This is where it gets personal...smooth or chunky, your choice!

Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Invite some birds to join you...on the other side of the window! Brrr!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Soup Weather

We woke up to a Winter Wonderland...again. It's not been that long since we had snow on the ground. This time we had sleet in the night and then when we got up yesterday, it was snowing like CRAZY! All day long it would be very fine snow and then when I would look again, the flakes would be huge! My Grandma used to say the "Angels were picking their geese" when the snowflakes would be fluffy like down.
Love to think about that...

The birds flocked the feeders all day long, trying to fill up for the cold night ahead of them.

Cardinals in pairs, I wonder if this is Mr. and Mrs.?

Seemed like a good day for soup...

Tomorrow the recipe!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pickers my Pick

Monday nights at 8PM Central time we are glued to the History Channel's new show American Pickers! It's two antique dealers who take to the road on the most hilarous hunts for treasure that you can imagine. This isn't your Grandma's antiquing though, looking through flea markets for silver and china.

Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are on a mission to recycle America, diving into piles of grimy junk or getting chased off by gun-wielding homeowners. They hit the back roads from coast to coast, searching for trash that can become another's treasure. They scour junkyards, basements, garages and barns, meeting odd-ball characters and hearing their amazing stories.
The people they meet along the way, the savers, are a part of Americana. Last week's show had them driving down a rural Iowa road when they pass by an old farm. A quick turn around and they are at the door asking the old gentleman if he might have some things to sell. He says he just might have a "few" things! The trip to the barn yeilded a saddle that he had once used on the farm, bought for $75 the pickers were able to refurbish and sell to a collector for $500. The bicycle was bought for $20 and sold to a California decorator for $2000.

Some people love what they do for a living, these guys were made for this! They are making a living telling the history of America one piece at a time!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Climbing a Tree

One of my fondest childhood memories was climbing the Maple trees that surrounded my house in Springfield, Missouri. It may sound odd but I spent a great part of my childhood, at least the summer months in that tree. Our corner lot was huge compared to the typical ones in neighborhoods these days. The house set in the middle, a simple Craftsman style, typical to the Midwest. Summertime and each day spread out before me like my kingdom. It was the 1950’s and we rode our bikes, had lemonade stands and climbed trees. The trees were the perfect size for climbing, the first limb low enough for my 10 year old arms to reach. I would swing my legs up and in no time be at the top. From there I could see above the housetops, all the way to the next block. I could see the corner grocery store where a candybar was a nickle and a tall bottle of Pepsi was a dime. I could see the neighbors mowing lawns and watch as people walked just below me on the sidewalk. We walked everywhere back then. Dad was at work, Moms didn’t drive and if you wanted to go to the city pool…you walked the 10 blocks. If we went downtown on Saturday, Mom and I would catch the city bus at the corner. I loved that tree and I think back often and wonder who lives in that house now and if other children have climbed that tree and set on the topmost branches, planning and dreaming what their lives would be like.

Kids still need that sense of accomplishment in their lives. There’s nothing like looking out at the world, above everyone in a tree. Simple pleasures that we need to share with our kids and our Grand kids!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Daily Plate's Daily Plate is keeping me on the straight and narrow! It's a wonderful tool to help you in the daily struggle called "Being Good!" Something about writing down the calories helps me to see the damage I can do with a bite of a cookie, a sip of a Coke or just a few chips. I know I'm guilty of mindlessly putting food in my pie hole even when I'm not hungry. I have the site saved in my FAVORITES so that I can easily keep a tally of my daily calories. I can't copy the whole page but you simply fill in the food and it gives many brands, restaurants and even homemade versions of meals that we make. The site "remembers" my meals and keeps a sidebar log of the ones I repeat so it's as simple as a click to add my meals up.

Smoked Turkey Breast
1 serving (1 serving: 2 oz (56g))

Mrs. Baird's Fiber Plus Whole Grain Wheat Bread
1 serving (1 serving: 2 slices)

The site is much more than a simple calorie counter, it has a pie chart that breaks down protein, fat and carbs to see at a glance where I'm going wrong.

...not THAT kind of pie!

It also has an activity/exercise calculator with just about everything that you can imagine doing. Like:

Applying Make-up (159 calories/hour)

Making Beds (159 calories/hour)

Cleaning House, vigorously (318 calories/hour)

Laundry, doing (171 calories/hour)

Grocery Shopping (284 calories/hour)

Driving Vehicle (210 calories/hour)

Talking on the phone (119 calories/hour)

Lying quietly, watching TV (79 calories/hour)

I can see that I need to bump up my activities.

I looked over the chart and these look like the best ones:

Chopping Wood (1349 calories/hour)

Digging Ditches (675 calories/hour)

Firefighting (873 calories/hour)

I just wish this one burned more calories...

Writing, sitting (143 calories/hour)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Inner Peace

If you can start the day without caffeine,

If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,

If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment ,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

.....Then You Are Probably The Family Dog!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Home Cooking

What did we do before Rotisserie Chicken was available in every grocery store? It's just the two of us now, but I take advantage of almost all of the convenience foods available. I do prepare what I consider "Home Cooked Meals," but the definition of "Home Cooked" has changed somewhat. Mom's and Grandma's everywhere are not in front of the stove cooking these days. Many have jobs, some are off leading exciting lives, and some never did stand in front of a stove and make a meatloaf.

My mother and Grandmother were wonderful cooks who never knew the dangers of fat or sodium or any of the other things that Dr. Oz warns us about! They basted a roasting bird to a rich brown, then used the drippings to make gravy! Grandma's fried chicken rivaled the best KFC, seasoned to perfection. She started her recipe by soaking the chicken pieces in a brine the night before in the fridge. The meal was a feast with buttery mashed potatoes, green beans cooked down with bacon, hot biscuits and ALWAYS pie or cake. Today, Home Cooking means we buy the leanest cut of meat available, season sparingly and use fat-free stock to make gravy...if we even serve gravy! We season with herbs to make up for the missing flavor of fat and salt, but it's just not the same.

Sometimes I just get a hankering for Grandma's cooking. Maybe it wasn't the rich food as much as the comfort of loved ones around the table...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Strangers In Our Lives

Many times in my life I've come across strangers in grocery lines, paying a bill or sitting next to them at a vet's office with one of our critters. I used to be one who developed a 'profile' about a person in minutes. Over time & with maturity I've learned if not from my own experiences then from those who I took the time to listen to, that all is not what it often seems. Once again, I'm glad I listened.

I met a lady at the vet's the other day. She waited patiently for her name to be called but in the meantime, sat and shared her story while giving my puppy some neighborly lovin. She told me how she and her husband had been coming to this vet for years and they trusted them explicitly. She had to leave her pup for a visit for a few days to go to the hospital as she was having trouble with her "tricky ticker," she needed her meds adjusted. I listened to her story and then asked "And where is your husband today?" She smiled and said, "You know he got me this dog 14 plus years ago. He wasn't feeling too good and didn't want me to be lonely. He had cancer and before he got too sick he wanted to take me out and pick out a dog. I've had her ever since. He's been gone and he was right, I got lonely."

Just then her name had been called and her little pooch was brought up for her. She scooped up that dog who was nearly blind and deaf and she loved on it so much. I asked her, "What did you name it?"I thought she didn't hear me as she was scooping up her credit card and invoice. She looked over at me and said,

"I call her Honey, this way I'm never lonely and it feels like he never left."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ozark Exercise Regimen

We owe a big “Thank You” to Jack LaLanne. "The Godfather of Fitness" was born September 26, 1914 in San Francisco, CA and admittedly, during his childhood days was addicted to sugar and junk foods. At age 15, young Jack heard Paul Bragg speak on health and nutrition which had such a powerful influence, it motivated Jack to focus on his diet and exercise habits.
The Jack LaLanne Show was the longest running health and fitness show in history, airing from 1951 to 1985. In addition to the Jack LaLanne Show, Jack has published numerous books, created countless health and fitness videos, appeared in films, marketed health and exercise equipment and vitamin supplements. Through his career, LaLanne has won numerous awards including the Horatio Alger Award from the Association of Distinguished Americans, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame. At the young age of 94, Jack LaLanne continues to work out every morning for two hours, spending 1 ½ hours in the weight room and ½ hour swimming. Jack LaLanne lives with his wife Elaine in Morro Bay, CA.

Hubby and I are trying to improve our diets and lose some weight. We have adopted the following exercise regimen each day in hopes that by warm weather we will have a slim body for Swimsuit Season…

Ozark Exercise Regimen
For those getting along in years, here is a little secret for building arm and shoulder muscles. Three days a week works well. Begin by standing outside behind the house, and with a 5-lb. potato sack in each hand... extend your arms straight out to your sides and hold them there as long as you can.

After a few weeks, move up to 10-lb. potato sacks and then 50-lb. potato sacks, and finally get to where you can lift a 100 lb. potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

Next...start putting a few potatoes in the sacks, but be careful not to overdo!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Try a Little Harder

Jayme over at Tales from the CoopKeeper is making great strides on her diet, excuse me I should say New Life. She's strong, Superman strong, and she's focused. I can't claim either of those in my M.O. Sure I can be strong for a little while but not long enough to lose many pounds. I sabotage my good intentions by leaving chocolate in the candy dish or buying baked chips. They are still empty calories and I shouldn't even put them in the grocery cart to begin with. Hubby and I are on diets currently and he's already lost an inch around his waist.

According to Dr. Oz that should be our concern as our waist size is a warning signal that our insides are aging too fast. Divide your height in half and your waist size shouldn't be larger than that. 5'4"=64inches, that's a 32 inch waist for me. I'm there, one more cookie and I'm headed for trouble. You know, I didn't really need Dr. Oz to tell me that...I can look in the mirror and see the extra weight. When I sit down my jeans remind me. When I put on last year's tops they don't fit the same.

According to a study by Michigan State University, a healthy lifestyle is defined by four basic criteria:

Not smoking

Holding weight down

Eating right


“We have millions of people now going through adult life leading unhealthy lifestyles and a medical system that can treat illnesses and keep you alive longer than ever before,” said Mathew Reeves, a Michigan State University epidemiologist. “If we don’t turn this around, the costs to society are going to be crippling.”

I have a treadmill that sets within eyesight of this computer. It whispers to me,
"Come over here and let's take a walk!"

I always have excuses.

"I need to clean house now."

"I will later, I need to run errands."

"I need to make a few phone calls, then I promise 'll take a walk with you."

Kind of like when the kids were little and wanted to play tea party. Time has a way of robbing the important stuff and then you are left with regrets. One thing I know for sure, I want to stay as healthy as I can for as long as I can. It's more than looking good, it's feeling good that is so important. So I'm just gonna try a little harder and make ME a priority. I can do that!
*Photo courtesy of purplejavatroll on Flickr

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Jetson Life

I look forward to Monday's edition of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. It has the Restaurant Inspection notices, important if you want to eat out and be certain that you won't end up at the emergency room! It also has the Bankruptcy Watch section that might save you from doing business with a less than stable business. But by far my favorite section is the News in Technology. A New York Times article reported the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month had devices that will replace remotes and mouses with simple hand gestures. Reading it I was transported back to the Jetson cartoons that I loved as a child! Jane would be preparing breakfast with little or no effort with high tech appliances that cooked the meal in the blink of an eye! Those appliances have already came to fruition, it's called a microwave and a Kerug!

Almost unbelievable is technology that will allow us to flip through the channels with a simple twist of the hand. Want to raise the volume...just an upward pat. Or a photo on the screen can be enlarged by holding our hand out and spreading apart. Where have you seen this? The 2002 film Minority Report had Tom Cruise moving images around effortlessly on futuristic computer screens with just a few sweeping gestures. This year companies like Microsoft, Hitachi and others will begin selling devices that will make us think we are the Jetsons!

Microsoft has a new video game system called Project Natal that will use nothing more than the human body to play the games. They hope to one-up Nintendo's WII with this technology. In the months ahead Hitachi will offer TV's that will let people turn them on, adjust the volume and change the channels with simple hand motions. Laptops and other computers will follow. The companies behind this technology are GestureTek, Canesta and PrimeSense.

How much larger can they go???
Sharp's 108 inch flat screen for home use

How much smaller can they go???
Nokia N97 mobile computer

I think this all sounds too good to be true! No longer will we set unable to change the channel or adjust the volume because we have lost the remote...Again!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Albino Eagle?

Every year the Corp of Engineers on Beaver Lake have an eagle count in the month of January when the magnificent birds return to the area to spend the winter. They migrate here to escape the bitter winters and frozen waters of the Great Lakes. This year a Leucestic Bald Eagle was spotted for the first time by Park rangers Alan Bland and George Ann Tabor. Hobbs State Park sponsors Eagle Watching Tours on pontoons each weekend through February, giving the public an up close view. We are so lucky that these magnificent birds have decided that Beaver Lake is a great place to raise their young!

The Leucestic Eagle looks like a snowy Owl from a distance, but with binoculars you can see the eagle's white head and snowy tail feathers. The wings and body are speckled with charcoal. The anomaly is rare said Karen Rowe, a wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. "Years ago we had a report of an albino eagle in Northwest Arkansas, but the photos were unclear."

A total of 134 eagles were counted on Beaver Lake, down from last years 200. Rangers do the survey in mid January each year as part of the national eagle census. Bald Eagles are no longer on the endangered list, counting will assure that we can stay on top of any drop in numbers.
Good places to see them on Beaver Lake are Van Winkle Hollow cove near Rocky Branch and Indian Creek cove near Lost Bridge...all just up the lake from GrannyMountain!

How great is that?!!!

*Photos by Flip Puttoff

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sardis United Methodist Church Secrets

All across the South in every community there’s those ladies who have perfected the art of baking. Whether it’s pies or cakes or candy, they are the Emeril’s, the Bobby Flays, the Paula Deens of their local churches. Sharing their creations at potlucks or reunions, they proudly display recipes that have been handed down from past generations. Martha Meadows of Slocomb, Alabama is known far and wide for her 15 layer cakes. You read that right, 15 Layers! She learned from her Mother who baked her cakes in a cast iron hoe cake pan. Martha is one of many in this community that makes the time honored cake. Members of the Sardis United Methodist Church make about 1,000 of them, selling various sizes for $5 a pound. A couple of years ago, they made enough to buy a new grand piano for the church. Last year, the cakes helped pay to remodel the church kitchen. In this corner of the country, where cotton and peanuts pay the bills, the worth of a cook can be measured in cake layers!

Mrs. Meadows uses a simple stand mixer to prepare the yellow batter and rotates six cake pans in and out of the oven, frosting each layer with warm, boiled chocolate icing as the next batch bakes. The result is known as a Little Layer Cake because the layers are thin. Baking and frosting one takes her two hours, “If you don’t count the cleaning!”
Over Christmas she’ll bake about 10, selling some to neighbors and donating others to her Baptist church.

The cake ladies of Alabama distinguish themselves with cakes whose recipes are a century old.
If you are thinking you might want to try this on your own, here’s some lessons from the Alabama Ladies:

How long do I beat the batter?
Mrs. Meadows: “It needs to be beaten a pretty good little bit,”
How long should I cook the icing?
Mrs. Meadows: “When it gets to cooking, turn it down.”

Another recipe from and 80 year old Augusta, Georgia lady simply said “Make a yellow cake.” Seventy-seven year old Jean Strickland said it was the best way she knows to make herself feel better- “If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake!” If you are feeling brave, here's the adapted recipe as posted in the NY Times!

Chocolate Little Layer Cake
Adapted from Martha Meadows
2 sticks butter, more to grease pans
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup shortening
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups milk
5 cups of sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 15-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease three 9-inch cake pans and line with rounds of parchment or waxed paper.

2. In a mixer, cream together butter, sugar and shortening until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time and continue to mix on medium until eggs are well incorporated. Stir in vanilla.

3. Sift flour, then add salt, baking soda and baking powder. Sift a second time. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture and milk in about 4 additions, then increase speed to medium. Beat until smooth, about 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl.

4. Spread 3/4 cup batter in each pan. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until cake springs lightly when pressed with a finger. Flip cake out of pan onto paper towels or cake rack while still very warm. Repeat with second set of layers.

5. When first layers go into oven, start to make icing. Put sugar and cocoa in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan and mix well. Turn heat to medium-high and add butter and milks, bringing to a boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, stirring continually, careful to watch that it does not boil over. Lower heat to simmer, add vanilla and stir occasionally for another 7 to 10 minutes. If using a candy thermometer, cook to the point just before soft ball stage or about 230 degrees.

6. Begin icing first layers, still warm, when second batch is in the oven. Flip layers over so that top side faces up. Use about 4 tablespoons of icing per layer. Icing will be thin but will firm up as it cools. Stack layers, then continue icing and stacking as layers are baked.

7. When all layers are iced and stacked, glaze top and sides of cake. Contours of layers will be visible through icing. If icing hardens too much while frosting cake, set back on low heat and stir until it is spreadable.

Yield: One 12-layer cake.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Full Life

Every morning when I read the paper, I scan the obituaries. We take the state paper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, they have listings for the whole state. I can't tell you how many times I have come across the obituary of someone who has led an extraordinary life that bears repeating. Since Mom is now in a nursing home I've been privileged to meet some of those extraordinary people. I used to do a newsletter for the facility and we had a "Resident of the Month" column that allowed us a glimpse of someones' life. It amazed me when I interviewed the person or more often the family, their great accomplishments came out. Nursing homes across the country house former artists, people who worked and excelled in industry, teachers who made a difference in the lives of children...and Moms and Dads who have outlived their children. Sad but true.

The following obituary was in last year's paper and it chronicles an amazing life. Please take the time to read this and if you know someone who's in a facility, go visit them soon and let them share a little of their life with you!

Al Kuettner, who covered the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s as a UPI reporter and then returned a generation later to find the South had made major progress in race relations, died Saturday at the age of 95. Kuettner died at Concordia Care Center in Bella Vista, Ark. He had been in declining health over the past few months. "He was one of the best reporters of his time, covering the civil rights movement day in and day out, always with an eye toward covering the story thoroughly and accurately, without bias or distortion," said Tobin Beck, former executive editor of United Press International. Beck edited Kuettner's book March to a Promised Land , which was published in 2006 by Capital Books.
Alfred G. Kuettner was born in Atlanta on Oct. 17, 1913, and grew up in a culture sharply separated by race. He attended Georgia State College - earning tuition money by working aboard freighters steaming to Africa. His ambition was to be a journalist, and after working at a weekly newspaper in Decatur, Ga., Kuettner was hired in 1942 by the wire service United Press, which later became United Press International. A decade later he was assigned to cover the budding civil rights movement full time, based in Atlanta. He first met a young Martin Luther King in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 at the start of the bus boycott prompted by Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white rider.
John Herbers, bureau manager for UPI in Jackson, Miss., in the late 1950s and early 1960s before becoming a civil rights reporter for The New York Times , recalled Kuettner's courage in covering what initially was an unpopular story in the South.
"I think he was one of the most remarkable journalists of his period," Herbers said Sunday by phone from his home in Bethesda, Md. "He wasn't in it for himself, his motives and accomplishments were based on his love of the profession and how important that he felt news of the civil rights movement was to society.
"When the civil rights movement began, not many journalists were covering the story in the South. Al was one of the early acquaintances of Martin Luther King. At the time the civil rights movement was not particularly popular. Al was a pioneer in his coverage of the story. Most station owners and news agencies did not want the story covered, because they were hoping things would go back to the way they had been. It took a great deal of originality and courage to report on the civil rights movement at that time."
Kuettner also had poise and savvy in potentially dangerous situations. When covering the integration of Birmingham's West End High School in 1963, Kuettner needed to find a phone to dictate his stories to UPI's Atlanta regional bureau. He arranged to rent a phone at a house across the street from the school for $5 a day. When the woman of the house upped the price to $100, Kuettner asked a favor of the local phone company, which installed a private line for him on a pole outside the school. But a hostile crowd shouted him down whenever he tried to use the line. Kuettner responded by asking the hecklers to line up and dictate their comments to the surprised UPI Atlanta desk editor on the other end. They did, and Kuettner's phone was not bothered again.
One highlight of Kuettner's career was covering Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., in August 1963 during a civil rights rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Kuettner recalled in his book that King's speech had been fairly unremarkable until King launched into the "dream" section, which had not been included in the advance text given to reporters. Kuettner was covering the rally with veteran UPI White House reporter Merriman Smith, and both scrambled to keep up with King's changes to the expected speech.
"We were writing furiously, trying to get down his words, because there were no notes, no text for this one - only King at his best," Kuettner wrote later. "We had no time to look at the crowd's reaction, but it was unnecessary. The reaction could be heard and felt like something visceral, now sweeping up almost in a sob from the depths of many hearts, making the long trek to Washington at last worthwhile for them."
Kuettner was a stickler for accuracy. On June 6, 1966, when another wire service reported that an assassin had killed James Meredith, who had broken the color barrier by enrolling at the University of Mississippi, Kuettner was working in his garden in Atlanta.
Kuettner got in his car, raced to his office, and called the hospital switchboard. Using what he hoped was an authoritative tone, Kuettner told the operator to put him through to surgery. When a male voice answered, Kuettner asked the condition of Meredith. "He is very much alive," the man responded. "I should know. I am the doctor working on him."
Kuettner was known for keeping calm even in the most stressful situations.
"What I remember about Al most was this calm demeanor even amid an anti-civil rights demonstration where a surging crowd would have rattled most," said Joe Chapman, a former UPI photographer who often covered events with Kuettner. "He was relaxed talking to anyone, from Martin Luther King to white extremists such as J.B. Stoner."
More than 20 years after Kuettner's reporting had taken him to Little Rock, Ark.; Oxford, Miss.; Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Ala.; Washington; New York City and dozens of places small and large, he went back to see what changes the movement had brought. He began work on a manuscript that would be completed another 20 years later.
"I realized that towns like Selma, Birmingham, Montgomery, and many others have begun to outlive the shadows of race reaction," he wrote. "There has developed, to say the least, acceptance of federal determination to protect the ability of citizens and their families to receive equalized education unhampered by restrictive race rules, to attend public events based on ability to pay a ticket price, and to live in peace "from sea to shining sea."
He went on: "I thought of the legacy left by those black and white who in spite of the bigots were determined that the races could live together in a country where men and women accepted and respected those of all colors who crossed their paths in peace."
When Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, Kuettner commented that he had not expected to see that milestone passed in his lifetime.
"He said 'we passed a phase. There's still a long way to go, but the foundation isn't sand anymore, it's in concrete,'" recalled his assistant, Stacy Gibson. Before the decline of his health in recent months, Kuettner had been planning to research and write a second book about race relations in the United States.
After nearly two decades covering civil rights for UPI, Kuettner left the wire service in 1968 to become senior editor at Pace Magazine in Los Angeles. The magazine geared toward teenage and young adult readers folded after two years. In 1970 Kuettner became education editor at the Cincinnati Post and Times-Star, and in 1972 he became public information officer for the University of Cincinnati, helping with the school's transition from a private to a public institution. In 1979, Al and his wife Helen purchased the Gravette, Ark., News Herald , but they retired several years later when Helen's health began to fail. Helen, his childhood sweetheart whom Al had married in 1953, died in 2007 at the age of 86.
Kuettner is survived by son Christopher and wife Christina of Morrow, Ohio, and their family of Ben, Michelle, Samantha and April. Christopher said his father tried to get into the military during World War II but was rejected because of a heart murmur, and so went to work for United Press in what ironically was a high-stress job.
"I think what he went through was as stressful as combat," Christopher said. He said in the early 1950s Kuettner went to South America to report on revolutions where he was close to gunfire. "I asked him what made him the most afraid, and he said it was flying on a DC-3 through mountain passes in the Andes. If the plane got lost in the clouds that would be it, you'd be dead."
Christopher remembers his dad as the ultimate professional journalist. "To my mind, he was kind of like James Bond with a pen and not a gun," Christopher said. "He was the consummate journalist - get three sources to confirm your information, and do your homework."

*Photo courtesy of

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Inner Beauty

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

Inner beauty is one of those things that's hard to define. On the outside the body may be worn and aged, but upon closer inspection there's a different person that lives inside. She may be wrinkled and gray, even stooped or unable to get up from her chair without assistance anymore. But if you take the time to visit with her, she tells you of long ago when she picked blackberries and made pies for her children. She canned hundreds of jars of jelly and gave away tomatoes to all of her neighbors every year. There was never a time she was too tired to sing her children to sleep. She knows every word of the Old Rugged Cross. This little old woman stood proudly in line to vote when it was deemed a privilege not a burden. She lived through a War, scrimped and saved through a Depression but holds no grudge against anyone that she has ever met. All across the nation there are Senior Citizens living long lives in retirement homes, assisted living or nursing homes. They still have lots to share, they just need someone to listen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spelling Test

i cdnuolt blveiee I cluod uesdnatnrd taht it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by ...istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Medieval Magic

If you're coming to Arkansas this summer, I want to remind you that the Ozarks have many wonderful things to offer. We have some of the best trout fishing in the world here on the White River. Don't pass up the beautiful lakes, Beaver, Bull Shoals, the Buffalo River. Everywhere you travel in Arkansas you will enjoy nature, wildlife, scenic drives and antique shopping.

But, I don’t suppose that visiting a medieval fortress is something that comes to mind when you think of vacationing in the Ozarks, is it? Well it didn’t for me either until I read about this Castle being built to 13th century French specifications. The fact is, Ozark Medieval Fortress is scheduled to open this May and it's within 15 miles of the farm Mom's family have called home for 7 generations! Located half way between Lead Hill and Omaha Arkansas, the Castle is currently under construction. It's going to take awhile since the fortress is being built by hand, stone by stone, staying true to building methods from the Middle Ages.

Michel Guyot is the mastermind behind this plan to build in the remote hills of Boone County Arkansas. His on site project manager Julie Solange says he wants to portray medieval history for American audiences. He has restored and worked on many French castles. Ten years ago he began building Guedelon, a medieval fortress near his home in Burgundy, France. It is now a well known attraction for tourists and historians alike.

If you go North 25 miles, Silver Dollar City at Branson, Missouri celebrates the Ozark heritage. For over 50 years it has allowed tourists to step back in time and sample a taste of an 1880's craft village. Ozark Medieval Fortress reaches all the way back to our European ancestors and hopes to allow visitors to see first hand how 13th century artisans cut stone, made rope and even made the tools they needed to build the castle.

The Castle will have 6 foot wide stone walls 1000 feet around that will surround a courtyard. A drawbridge and 6 towers, some as tall at 45 feet will be seen from miles away since the site sets high on an Ozark Mountain. Rough hewn huts will be the work areas for rope makers, basket weavers, stonemasons, carpenters and blacksmiths. Down to every detail, a stable will house draft horses. The project is able to cut the limestone on site as well as having plentiful timber for building.

On site at the Ozark Medieval Fortress

Workers are cutting the stone from this Arkansas mountain to build the walls of the Castle...

Guedelon in Burgundy,France

Scheduled to take more than 20 years to build, visiting this Castle in the making will be a learning experience like no other. Visit the website and be prepared to be blown away when you read the proportions of this giant historical project!
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