On Whipped Cream

My yellow whipped cream bowl. Contemplating the goodness.

Because I’ve recently enjoyed a slice of pecan pie, with whipped cream, I thought I would post this musing from November 22, 2014.

Dan’s mother, Betty, would always whip the cream on the holidays when we visited, in a medium sized yellowware bowl. It was sturdy and nicely shaped. I loved how the whipped cream looked in there!

Dan’s mother, Betty Neary

I knew where cream came from because I have a vague memory of Grandma Schelle (or Mom?) pouring off a layer of cream on fresh milk. Our neighbors were dairy farmers.

However, for most of my childhood, we used the powdered “Dream Whip” boxed product that you added milk to, and then whipped it up.

We loved this!

After that, it was Cool Whip for many years. Or, the whipped cream in a can that my Grandma Thelen used. I really loved that!

Then, I got married, and noticed my mother-in-law, Betty’s real whipped cream.WOW! How fantastic! I still used Cool Whip a lot, while our 4 kids were growing up. Crazy to think about it now, all of those plastic containers and chemicals in the fake whipped cream!

But somewhere in those years, I started whipping fresh cream. I remember putting some in my coffee in the afternoon, if I was watching kids from our babysitting co-op, and I’d sit on the couch for a bit, and enjoy that.

 Also, we had a cylindrical Tupperware container, with a little mixer inside, to whip cream in. One time, I shook it so long that the air pressure built up and the lid flew off! It had become butter, flying all over the dining room, and my new navy cotton sweater I was wearing. It also hit Leigh, about 4 months old, in her baby swing, and Mom at the table. It was a huge mess, and even worse, there was no whipped cream for dessert!

Then, our oldest son, Bryan, became interested in good, delicious food as a young adult, and married husband and father. He makes the very best whipped cream! It has just the right amount of sugar, and a consistency that holds up well. He brings a generous supply of it to our holiday dinners. We have lots left over to enjoy and maybe freeze, remembering Bryan’s gift later.

Now, our grandson, Gus, knows the method. He offered me some that he had made, to take home last Thanksgiving, and this year too. Such a treat, and once in awhile, it’s worth it!


On a Stone Bench

This summer, it all began with a trip to the Maritime Museum in Arnold’s Park, Iowa. I saw this arched structure made from rocks. The sign said it was on loan from Clark Museum in Milford, Iowa. It did not say who made it, or when.

The maker’s name is “Anonymous”, as many pieces of folk art are unsigned.
A close up detail of the birdbath.

It made me think of my Great Grandpa Goecke who made stone sculptures. The one I specifically remember was a big stone basket in front of Grandma and Grandpa Schelle’s farmhouse. Grandma, Mary Ann (Mamie) Goecke Schelle, was his daughter.

Linda Schelle Johnston has inherited the stone basket. It now sits in her yard.

I wondered if he was inspired by the rocky shorelines of Spirit Lake, Iowa’s largest natural lake, where he spent many years, or if it was a popular craft of the time.

Mom (Jean Schelle Thelen) talked often of her Grandpa Goecke’s cottage on Spirit Lake. She gave me a photo from 1981 of her and our 2 older sons, Bryan and Brandon, on a rock bench at that cottage (now with a new owner). She told me that her Grandpa Goecke tied his boat to it.

Brandon, Bryan, and their Grandma, 1981. The rope shows that it’s still being used to tie down a boat.

I LOVE that picture and the idea of an ancestor making the bench. I wanted to see it, but I had no idea where it was located. I guess Mom had never taken me there, that I remember! And now, I couldn’t ask her, because she went on to her heavenly reward in 2014.

So, I asked around. I asked my brother Ed first. He’s a long time resident of Spirit Lake, and Mom and Dad visited him often, renting a cabin each spring and fall (the unbusy times), near him.

No, he had no idea either.

Next, I asked my Kennebeck cousins. They come to The Iowa Great Lakes (Okoboji) every summer for a week of pure fun, and their Mom was my mom’s sister, so she must have talked about it also.

No, they didn’t know where it was!

My Uncle Ron (Mom’s brother) had done a detailed family history for our files. That’s where I found information on William Goecke. He was married and lived in Carroll, Iowa. A few years after his wife died (in 1930), he moved to Spirit Lake (in 1934), and lived there until 1956, when he returned to Carroll. In Spirit Lake, he owned a house in town for the winter, and a lakehouse for the summer.

My Great Grandpa Goecke, at his Spirit Lake cottage. Photo sent to me by Ron Schelle, in June 2019.
I love that he named his fishing cottage!

I went to the courthouse with that information, sleuthing my way to the cottage with the stone bench. The helpful workers led me to the basement, through a dark corridor into a large bright room, and left me there.

It was quite fun! Searching through a massive, tabletop sized index of handwritten deed transfers (today, they’re all digital), sorted by year, and alphabetized, I found one address really fast—the one in town.

It was energizing to see his name written here.

The lake cottage was pretty easy too. He bought it in 1941.

Details of the cottage purchase.
Lake Cottage, division name.

Then, I went upstairs to the offices to get the actual address, after finding the division name and year of the sale. I got both addresses, and the current owners’ names. The lake cottage has an Omaha owner, and I knew the name!

After contacting my Omaha friend, I learned that her husband’s brother had purchased the property 3 years ago. They weren’t staying there until the weekend, and encouraged me to go have a looksee, although they couldn’t recall a bench.

I went the next day, very excited and hopeful. My imagination saw it along the shore, and I thought we could maybe take a new family photo there, with grandkids and myself, to hang on the wall, alongside the other.

Great Grandpa Goecke’s cottage, 12885 253rd Ave. My own photo, June 2019.

Well, it had been 38 years since the stone bench photo was taken. I really thought it would be there, but it was not. A sea wall, several feet wide has been built, taking over the original shoreline.

So disappointing.

However, I’ll always appreciate hand crafted stone sculptures, and think of my Great Grandpa Goecke, who gave me joy long ago, when I gazed at the basket on my Grandparent Schelle’s farmhouse steps, near Breda, Iowa.

Just for fun, here are a few stone photos from my walks, along West Lake Okoboji.

Icy rocks, West Okoboji shoreline, Nov. 2017.

I hope you enjoyed this little story, and can go sit on a favorite bench somewhere in your world!


On Getting Older; Being Younger

Dan and Shirley with baby Bryan, back home in Carroll, IA, for a visit.

Today, I’m reading a novel where the child asks his father what it’s like to get older. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I guess I was thinking about it back on June 9, 2010 also when I wrote this:

Young mother, young father, young child. That was us in 1973. One year into marriage, family and continued college life. Part time jobs, intramural games for Dan, dance classes for me: Modern (which involved getting up on a chair) and Arabic (also known as belly dancing) through the “Y”.

Our very first home

Small dwelling. A mobile home purchased with my parents’ co-signing the loan. It cost $2,000.00, and that included the deck extension. We moved that home from Breda, IA to Towncrest Mobile Home Court in Iowa City, IA.

Young marrieds next door arguing loudly and throwing dishes at 2 AM. Me selling Avon door to door. Dan janitoring at Hillcrest boys Dormitory (now demolished). Me, getting a full time job at University Hospital in the File department, after dropping out of college. Dan, picking up our son, Bryan, from the sitter after class, and bringing him to visit me at work, placing him up on the counter for a bit.

Me taking tennis lessons over my lunch hour—Imagine! Some days watching soap operas in the break room with co-workers. Every day eating my home packed lunch.

A move to Omaha in 1975 for Dan’s new job with a $12,000.00 annual salary. I would never again take a full time paid job. But I always knew that I could if I had to, or wanted to.

My evening Organic Chem class was a favorite. The professor set up a coffee bar, with powdered creamer; such a treat!

Going back to school at UNO (University of Nebraska Omaha), living in a Benson apartment, then house, 3 more children, a big 96 lb. dog, and lots of neighbors/friends to meet. Getting a degree while settled into our 2nd Omaha house in west Omaha near 120th St. Discovering quilts and gardening along the way to add to general creative, artistic outlook on life. Laughing often, with Dan and kids, at Dan, at kids, at myself, and by myself thinking about Dan and kids.

Our big dog, Sam.
First quilt, “Soft Hearts”, 1994, donated to Essential Pregnancy Service.
One of my first gardens, trying to re-create a rainbow.

1997, a family move to Long Island, New York, at age 45—our big adventure.

1998, coming back to Nebraska after 1 year and an ethically challenging experience. Tears all around. Some called it a Baptism by Fire.

Somewhere, back in N. Y., I got older. I no longer moved without thinking about it. I was active as ever, but now I was more AWARE of my movements. I felt like I had to chart my course each day to stay on track.

Like telling myself this: I will get up, go shower, go downstairs, make coffee. Along the way, pick up lint on the carpet (sometimes), open blinds, walk to laundry room. Anyhow, I no longer just DID things. I now had a heightened awareness of each action.

Enjoying excellent health, I thought it was due to my nutritious eating, early AM walks, and optimistic outlook. I really didn’t understand illness and disability.

So, now at age 57 (in June, 2010), how humbling it is to have a painful knee for no apparent reason, and not to be able to keep up with fellow travelers at the airport. I’m on every moving sidewalk, standing still, and every escalator.

No dancing on this trip, inconceivable!

Note: On 9-23-2010, I wrote that the awareness of knee soreness is still there, but I’m walking up steps, around NYC for 2 days, and dancing a little. I think it’s getting better!


On Country Lanes

Grandma and Grandpa Thelen’s Home Place, west of Breda, IA, in the 1960’s. I spent so much time here with my Aunt Nancy and cousins galore.

There used to be a farm that is now no more. Over and over, many farms are now no more.

It must be that as we get older, things from the past become more valuable, like my childhood farm, near here.

I pride myself on not being too nostalgic. The present is just so exciting!

We chose this quote for our water bottles at Cupcake Island, in Omaha, in 2006.

I thought of this quote, (along with the more familiar “You can’t go home again”, from the Thomas Wolfe book title) as Dan and I searched this past August for the farm of my youth, near Breda, Iowa. Our family moved from there in 1961, to Carroll, about 15 miles away, when I was in 4th grade.

We didn’t find it. I was so disappointed! Still, it was a gorgeous day, and worthwhile for the change in scenery.

We did see the land where my grandparent’s farm was. All that’s left of it today is everyone’s favorite tree. I think it was saved by the farmer (a relative) for our enjoyment.

The tree, looking to the west, from the road by the Snappy popcorn bins.
Another view of the tree, along with a windmill, from the north, near where the lane used to be, judging by the mailbox.

We also saw a familiar farm, now planted with exquisite wildflowers in a huge swath of it.

Nice work!

I knew the farm (and the lane) we were searching for was nearby. Dan patiently tried so hard to find it for me. We drove around in circles (squares actually). He remembered every intersection, telling me often, “We’ve already gone that way.” Patience was wearing thin, so we called it a day, and moved on.

Later, I asked Nancy, who lives nearby, “Will you please check out our old farm? And, do you know if the lane is still there?” She soon reported back that the lane is gone. The crops have taken it over.

Next, I enlisted my younger brother, Ed, to help. He would remember our years there. The first thing he did was to sketch out the location from the flower farm. It was so close, 1 mile north, and 1/3 mile west. Dan said, “We didn’t go that way.” I couldn’t believe it!

Ed’s sketch. Color markings are mine.

Then, Ed showed me a website that had a Historical Aerial Photo Project, and he found our farm! This was fantastic! Warm feelings ensued as I saw the very long lane leading to the cluster of farm buildings in 1960.

From the Iowadnr.gov website

Here is something I wrote on July 1, 2012:

This is the lane that our Aunt Janet called a “roller coaster” lane for its hills and valleys. Back then, in the 1950’s, it seemed so long!

On Friday (June 29), my brother, Ed, and I drove onto that lane and it didn’t seem so long. But it was a country lane packed with memory and emotion.

This is the lane where a parade of honking, headlighted cars came down on a July night long ago to surprise Mom and Dad on their anniversary (July 2) and to celebrate in the yard, where I saw Mom and Dad kiss for the first time, ha ha!


This is the lane that Dad carried me down in multi-foot deep snow to catch the car pool to school for first grade.

This is the lane that the oil man came down to deliver our heating oil, and to give us kids candy or gum. His name was Woody. My brothers and I would run up to him, shouting his name. We were so excited to have this visitor arrive!

Now, with the lane being no more, these stories, (and more), are just a memory.


On Peaches

Leigh’s peach tree in Omaha, planted in 2016, in the front yard of the house she sold this past May. This is its first year of real bounty!

The other night, we were invited to a small get-together. There would be six of us in the hosts’ backyard. When I ran into the hostess at the grocery store the morning of this little party, she told me that whenever they have an outdoor party, the guests have to bring a “piece”.

“A piece? What do you mean?” I asked. “A piece of what?”

“A topic”, she said. “A topic to discuss. It can be anything! Nothing is off limits.”

This caused me to have slight anxiety. We had already accepted the invite, for a fun night, and now we’re being asked to think!

After a while, I knew what my topic would be: Peaches! I know it sounds lightweight, and well, a bit fruity, but really, it can go much deeper.

Peaches are my favorite fruit. We could talk about the seasonality of them, how they’re available in the summer only, and the difficulties of transporting them to our grocery stores, making for hard peaches in the produce aisle.

We could talk about our favorite ways to eat peaches, such as with cold cereal for a summer breakfast outside, or baked into a cobbler, with ice cream, or blended into a dacquiri or zero proof smoothie.

One year, Dan and I worked on Zoofari, the zoo’s biennial fundraiser. I was at the zoo working when Jacob, from the Zoo Foundation, brought in a peach cobbler for our break. He had made it himself. I was so impressed! I asked for the recipe, which was his mother’s, he said. I found out later that it was the exact same recipe as one in my COOKING FROM QUILT COUNTRY cookbook, by Marcia Adams. This book is full of Amish and Mennonite recipes and fantastic photos.

Here is the cobbler recipe:

I had never made this until I tasted Jacob’s.
The rest of this fantastic recipe.

I have a memory from childhood of our family going to visit my dad’s friend who was a Sealtest ice cream salesman. When he opened his chest freezer, it was filled with half gallon cartons of different flavors; a kid’s dream! He always gave us a carton of Peach to take home.

A vintage magazine ad.

Then, there are the times that we pick up peach items at the store, anticipating the goodness, such as this peach spread. Normally, I like Smucker’s Simply Fruit, especially the apricot one, and the black raspberry. This jar of fruit had no taste to me! It made me want to make my own peach jam, and compare them.

The back label says “Natural flavoring”, which I was taught in a college nutrition class always means artificial (if the word flavoring is listed as an ingredient).

However, the REAL inspiration for my topic choice came from a Sunday New York Times article (August 25, 2019) on harvesting peaches in CA.

Such a great story!

This was serious stuff to bring to the party.

It involved a 3rd generation Japanese American orchard owner, aged 65. His grandfather started the orchard, and then was interned in the camps by President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 order.

The article was written by a volunteer harvester, who was doing the work for 9 years now. The usual immigrant farm workers were avoiding this orchard because of its small size, fearing they would be discovered more easily, and deported.

These were heirloom varieties, not meant for commercial sales. So, most likely, you and I will never be able to taste them, unless we plant our own, which brings me back to Leigh’s tree. The photo above was taken on Sept. 5, 2019. Today, I went back to take a look.

This is what I found:

Peaches dropping to the ground, ripe and bruised and attracting bees.

I assume the new owners are not interested in these peaches. I hung around for a bit, then walked over to inspect the fruit. Most of it was good. I decided to collect a few, and bring them home for cleaning.

Feeling slightly guilty, I put a 5 dollar bill into the mail slot, with a note attached that said, “For the peaches I took”.

Fresh peaches, soaking in the sink at home.

Each peach had spots or bruises that I cut around, releasing that sought after fresh peach aroma. Some had a kind of clear gelatinous build-up, not very attractive, surrounded by dark matter. I’m not sure what that was, but I imagine insects or honeybees building it up with the peach nectar.

Imperfect, on one side, all part of the adventure.

I will eat these fresh, maybe in Irish oatmeal. Or, I may try making a pie.

My neighbor’s recipe for the pie she brought over to celebrate our kitchen remodel in the mid 1980’s. I will never forget how good it was!
The rest of this recipe that I haven’t thought about, or made, for years! Nectarines are as good as peaches.

At the backyard party, we never did get to our topics. There were too many other things to talk about, naturally.

Enjoy the peaches while you can!


On Looking at Stars, Searching for Perseids

Where were you when the meteors zoomed by on August 12? I hope you got to peak at a few, or as I did, many!

Painting by Clara Neary, July, 2019

In the past couple of years, I had seen a few in the darkened sky over West Lake Okoboji and was extremely excited about those 3 or 4.

On August 8, 2019, I was into my 3rd August of hopefulness. The air was cool, the stars brilliant, the mosquitos gone.

The Perseids Meteor Shower is happening right now, and peaks on August 12. It appears in the area of the constellations “Cassiopeia” and “Perseus”, to the upper right of the Big Dipper.

I went to bed at 10:30 after a very long Danish movie on Netflix (“The Fortunate Man”, which I don’t recommend). This movie with an interesting beginning, lured me to the end and kept me from watching the first stars pop out.

So, at 10:30, I was torn. Do I go to bed or stay up? I usually stargaze in the early dawn, around 4 to 6 AM. I went to bed.

At midnight, I woke up and went outside. It was a good time! Wrapped in a sweatshirt fleece blanket, on our lakeside deck, I stared at the spot where I wanted to see shooting stars.

I imagined a couple of brief ones but nothing dramatic happened.

The next door neighbor’s yard lights were on, lighting up both sides of the house. I hope for them to leave in the next couple of days so those lights go off.

It is really annoying when so many neighbors have extreme outdoor lighting in this peaceful environment. I get enough bright lights in Omaha. Maybe I’ll go to my first neighborhood meeting to bring up the issue and gently plead for softer lights at night.

I do like our neighbors and am happy to see them and know that they’re there.

Around 1 AM, I was not tired at all. A speed boat went by with loud music close to shore. I liked it, kind of singing along to the familiar tune and seeing it all lit up.

There was a party of some kind across the lake. Sound carries really well at night. The young men and women were swimming, I imagined, from the giggles, excited yells, and splashes.


So, as I gazed and enjoyed my night time, I began to think that maybe I’d spend more nights outside in summer, maybe all night, switching my days and nights around.

I also thought of rural residents who have a sky view every night. Do they appreciate it, or do they take it for granted?

It’s such a gift, with or without meteors.

The next few nights were rainy or cloudy, so no viewing.

On Monday night, the 12th, I could hardly sleep. It was clear! I hadn’t been this excited in ages, Ha! I forced myself to go to bed at 10, then woke up at 2 and went outside.

Oh no! Thick clouds everywhere; even the moon had disappeared.

Also, another neighbor had strung very bright party lights between their trees. These weren’t the little twinkle lights. These were like spotlights, especially in the deep night.

Neighbor’s party lights, festive and pretty in daylight.

It was too much. The clouds, the near full moon, and these lights were all going to impede my viewing. Desperation set in, and I contemplated a criminal act, like going over there and cutting the wire.

Instead, reluctantly, I went back inside and read for awhile.

Around 3 AM, I looked out and was very happy to see that the clouds had moved on, clearing to show so many stars.

I became a night person for the next 3 hours, setting up a cozy deck chair with a blanket, pillow, and binoculars, in the darkest corner I could find.

The rare and glorious night proceeded like this:

I waited about 10 minutes, imagining little slivers of light moving. Then it happened! ONE bright and fast streak coming out from the Perseus constellation. No mistaking what that was. I was hooked.

3:30 AM. The stars are less visible. A foggy mist is rolling in, even hiding the lights across the lake.

4:30 AM. Suddenly, it clears, and I count 12 more meteors, appearing all over the sky, making 13 so far.

4:47 AM. No. 14, now NW of Perseus.

Then, No. 15!!! This one seemed to go west to east, long and bright, over the house, dipping a little.

4:50 AM. Chilly, damp and foggy, but some stars are still out. I pick some mint from my garden, and go inside to make hot tea, and write some notes. I think, “What am I missing while I’m inside?”

4:54 AM. No.16, spotted North, under Cassiopeia. This one left a streak behind it, briefly.

Around 5 AM, the fog cleared completely, and No. 17 goes right over the house, west to east, leaving a trail.

Next, No. 18 appears low in the east, in a dawn sky.

The Perseus constellation is now horizontal as the earth has turned. It was vertical when I first came out. And I see my old friend, Orion, rising in the east.

My neck muscles are stretched and strained as I bend back and keep looking upward. I’m moving now, standing more than sitting.

5:25 AM. Meteor No. 19, in the east, falls top to bottom.

Then, No. 20, right over my head.

This is so thrilling it almost takes my breath away, as I gasp at each surprising appearance.

At about 5:30, I hear a fish jump in the water which makes me look to the east. A meteor drops again from the sky, top to bottom, long and brilliant.

Little miracles of enjoyment, or big miracles, that I’ll remember for a long time, and think back on with reverence.

I can’t wait till next August 12th!


The Party’s Over

Liam, crying because he can’t have a lit sparkler (or because the party’s over).

“The pop is gone.” says the last teenager to leave.

The ice is low.

The granola is gone.

This pretty jar (from TJMaxx) stored the granola.
Our favorite granola. No raisins were added, just fresh fruit at breakfast time.

Two pans of Dan’s frozen Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas are gone.

Bryan’s extra tender dry rubbed ribs are gone.

One half cup of Ranch Beans, not to be thrown away, is stashed somewhere in the fridge behind too many leftovers to count.

The fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are gone.

The decorated cookies, brownies and bars are gone.

Festive cookies from Amy.

The visiting people are gone.

Some of the fun people.

The recyclables, clean and sorted, are now gone, all picked up curbside.

Sorted, without plastic bags!

Even the pelicans are gone.


The pelicans are the first to arrive for their party on the lake, flying and gliding gracefully for a smooth landing as they join their group.

One of many.

Then Dan and Shirley get to the empty lakehouse and prepare for family arrivals.

5 more people come as Conor and Jess and family get settled for 10 days.

One day later, 4 more as Brandon, Jenn and family (with Molly’s hamster, Leny) get to the lake. The party heats up with games, food, and drinks, including a prosecco whose cork blasted out a light fixture, shattering glass, and shocking all!

Three days later, 5 more show up as the Omaha Nearys get here, wheeling in their gigantic cooler of food. Abundance is now!

One Omaha Neary stays back, sacrificing for business reasons, tending to her newly opened store, “Exist Green”. All have been there with similar decisions and understand, still missing her greatly!

Then, 4 more family members come on July 4th for the fish fry and fireworks.

Highlights from that day:

Clara, 17, leaves (with a carload of siblings and cousins who want a ride) to get cleaned walleye from Wes’s house to add to the dinner, which was a success!

One year old Liam plays football with the big kids, carrying the ball like a pro.

The neighbors haul out big box after big box of fireworks to their dock, which begin while it’s still light, startling all of us on the lawn, to stop what we’re doing and look over that way, staring. We observe hot (Amy checked) ashes falling on top of our boat cover. We try not to tell Dan, thinking he’ll go crazy, but surprisingly, when he learns of this, his reaction is “Whatever. We’ll deal with the consequences later.” There is no damage.

The recycle bins have ceased to be organized by category but has things thrown in willy nilly.

The cocktails and mocktails need a new flavor, so a rare and sneaky venture to a neighbor’s mint patch ensues. The surly neighbor is gone, but it is well known to all that we MUST stay off their property.

The cell phone is lost for a day as there is too much noise to find it.

The door slams often, with people going in and out (who don’t know how to use it, despite a few lessons). Ha!

Shirley says to more than one person, “We’ve lost all sense of normalcy around here.”

Riley enjoys a calm moment at sundown, July 4, 2019.

About 10 PM, Gus makes popcorn, surrounded by adoring younger relatives, and a couple of older ones, (his parents).

Not a single burnt kernel!

The mosquitos arrive chasing all but the most hardy inside, where lights are turned off so as to see the fireworks.

We forget to turn them back on, even as we’re tripping over piles of sandals and saying good-bye to the departers, until Conor says “Can we turn on a light? I’m not sure who I’m hugging.” We all laugh and turn on lights.

Some of the sandals we tripped over, at one end of the house.

Soon, the day, and days are gone.

Paintings by Riley, Molly, Jess, Clara, & Tatum. Paint and canvases, supplied by Jess.

Now, there are only 2 left at the lakehouse.

And then, there are none.