Take Time to Breathe – It’s Time to Slow Down

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I read a message on author/illustrator’s Sandy Gingras’  Facebook page who I’ve recently become acquainted. She mentioned how people are missing the point of beach life – simplicity.

A beach girl at heart, trapped in the Midwest, I can identify with her. All I’ve ever wished for is a little cottage by the sea. I’d be happy with a one room home to call my own – as long as I could spend my time outside with nature, the waves, the sand, and the sea.

But for now, I’m limited to beachy vacations to the South and Great Lakes regions.

As a writer, I get caught up in trying to check things off my daily ‘to do’ list, and often miss the little things in life happening right before my eyes – like the white-bellied plump squirrel munching on organic banana chips I’ve scattered for her on the deck rails. Or the black banded pennant dragonfly fluttering above scores of pastel lavender and eggplant-hued Cleomes in my garden.

When I take time to slow down, I notice the small things in life.

Yesterday, I eyed a Momma bunny in our backyard foraging bits of dried grass, meticulously moving the straw-like material from an old nest to a fresh one, in preparation for a blessed event! She allowed me within a foot of her presence. Nesting grass was tightly gripped in her mouth. I was overwhelmed by her beauty.

Inside the house, Miss Adeline, our Manx cat, was leaping windowsill to windowsill, vocalizing about her bunny friend, and dreaming about a future bunny buffet!

It’s these times when I slow down, my ideas and creative juices flow.

With that said, for those of you who love to travel, revel at nature, and spend time with family and pets – you might just like my upcoming book – Ocean Rhythms, Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets. It’s due to be published this summer by Ocean Spirit Photography. To accompany the essays, photographs will be at the end of each story. Cover reveal coming soon!

Have I started marketing yet? Not really. This is the first mention of the book.

Am I worried about marketing? Maybe. (Ha – who am I kidding – Yes!)

In the big scheme of things, I think it will all work out.

But for June 21, the beginning of Summer Solstice, I need to soak in the playfulness of the squirrels and the cardinals prancing about the deck rails, and listen to the words of Sandy Gingras —

“Take time to breathe”

Peace out, and love,

Sheree

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The Grateful Jar 2017 – What are your Blessings?

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Feeling the effects of cabin fever set in, I made reservations for New Year’s Eve dinner at Pangea, voted one of twelve best new restaurants in the St. Louis area. It was located in an area called “Newtown”.

The bright and contemporary restaurant was bustling with servers dressed in black, scurrying back and forth between table delivering cream-colored plates of aromatic delectables. The hostess seated us behind a half wall, far away from the brisk night air streaming in whenever the entrance door was opened.

The menu was set for the evening – Ricotta Knudi, Filet Mignon and Shrimp, Lemon Elderberry Cheesecake, and Ancho Chile Chocolate Mousse. Dinner and dessert were divine; I was left craving more of that par excellence flavor. My tall glass of sparkling Prosecco was a nice complement to the dinner.

After dinner, we motored homeward. Once inside, we turned on the TV searching for the Dave Clark New Year’s Eve Celebration channel. I suppose the food was too much excitement for me, as I fell asleep shortly after 10 p.m.

Hubby woke me up with a kiss at midnight, singing, “Happy New Year”.

For the last three years, I’ve started the tradition of a Grateful Jar (or a Blessings Jar). During the year, you pen all the things you’re grateful for, and drop the small bits of paper in the jar, to be opened on New Year’s Day, or shortly after.

Today, with the help of my sweet little Ireland kitty supervising, I read through the memories tucked away in the jar.

Here are the awesome people, places, and memories that made 2017 great.

This was posted by my friend Abby. (She must have snuck this into the Grateful Jar while we were on vacation)

“Blessed by the fur babies I kitty sit. Love all 4 of them so very much.” Abby

  • Despite my friend Dave Reed going through cancer treatments, he and his wife Dena prepared a lovely January birthday dinner for me.
  • August 23 – The view of the bees pollinating the purple and white cleomes outside my window. The cornflower blue Morning Glory wistfully twisting around the deck spindles.
  • The artist, Craig Hosner, I met on Santa Rosa who constructed a beautiful American flag in the sand with all-natural materials — seashells, pine cones, and oyster shells.

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  • August 21 – The total solar eclipse visible in the Missouri sky over our house. The purple and red violet flares on the corona made me cry, it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life, almost spiritual in nature. The stillness of the event, the birds singing, the crickets chirping – stunning!Sheree pic eclipse crop VEnus contrast copyr
  • Grateful for good friends to confide in.
  • Writing a story on my friend Janet Jonas, of Gentle Touch Canine Massage, Sunset Beach. Hearing her inspirational story and her love for animals.
  • My story on the Waterfront Seafood Shack being voted 1 of 5 top stories in South and North Brunswick Magazine in 2017 by the readers.
  • Watching my niece and nephews grow taller, smarter and stronger.
  • Thankful for a beautiful dinner and dessert with the hubster for Valentine’s Day.
  • Thankful for a birthday outing with girlfriends Tina, Peggy, Janet and Abby.
  • The Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.
  • The dolphin excursion in Calabash, North Carolina, where I viewed more than 35 dolphins following a shrimp trawler.
  • Great friends and fellowship.
  • Being invited to Burbank in 2018 for a private taping of the Big Bang Theory by a special friend I met on Sunset Beach.
  • My love of cooking and baking.
  • Six fur babies that live with me and the hubster.
  • Ephraim, Wisconsin, and sunsets with the dogs and hubby on the private dock with the Adirondack chairs.

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  • Unexpected double rainbows on August 20 (the day before the solar eclipse). God sure was working that week.
  • Snow for Christmas!
  • The majestic 100-year-old white-washed barn in the neighbor’s corn field.
  • Spending Christmas eve with my crazy cousins!
  • Enjoying all the wonderful coffeehouses in Nashville with my friend Pat on a girlfriend getaway.

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  • Winning 4 writing awards at the Show Me Writers Conference in April, and a free registration for 2018.
  • Sneaking peaks at the cats and Bordeaux watch birds and wildlife outside the French doors and the storm door.
  • The adrenalin rush leading up to hiking Twin Falls on the road to Hana, Maui. Crossing the raging stream with hubby, thinking we’re going to fall over the drop off. Finally reaching the falls. Hearing the rush of the water, the chilly feeling it left on my skin. Enjoying watching Russell swim behind the waterfall.
  • Santa Rosa Beach sunsets, savory food, yummy coffee, the Red Bar, Eden Gardens, meeting Namon and Rebecca.
  • Walks with the dogs to clear my head near the lake in Heritage Park.
  • A sneak peek at the cover for my picture book with Pat Wahler, Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat.
  • Watching Christine’s hen in Nashville lay 6 eggs in a row!
  • Finding our friend Dave Reed is cancer free, for the second time in his life.
  • Grateful for Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis!
  • Dancing the polka with my cousin, Susie, around the tables at Das Bevo while listening to the Waterloo German Band.
  • Have a publisher request my poetry collection manuscript. (Still patiently waiting for an answer)
  • Being surprised with a sandwich from Jimmy John’s by my husband, delivered right to the front door.
  • Listening to two jazz musician groups this year at Jazz at the Bistro.
  • Touring Leiper’s Fork Distillery and learning how to sniff, swig and chew whiskey.
  • Meeting David Hodges from Evanescence and Alicia Witt, the actress, at the Bluebird Café in Nashville.
  • The weird art exhibit museum event with longtime friend, Tina, where we were told by museum volunteers NOT to take pictures of the pictures!
  • Walking to the Kindred Spirit Bench with Russell, Sandra, and the dogs in October before sunset. The sky was amazing!
  • Little girls named Remy at Sunset Beach in October, and husbands flying kites.
  • Touring the Bissinger Chocolate factory with friend Abby, and wearing hairnets and coats like Lucy and Ethel.
  • Meeting tango dancers Elise and Marco on the beach at Sunset Beach in October in the midst of a pumpkin-hued sky.
  • My love of photography and writing.
  • Sharing my love of travel with my husband.
  • The ability to vacation seven times this year.
  • Grateful for my fur babies and their funny quirks.
  • Grateful I’m able to comfort friends in difficult times.

What where some things you were grateful for in 2017?

 

 

 

Halloween in St. Louis – A Night of Laughs – Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I sent this funny story to my cousin Joe Palazzolo, for his feature article on Halloween a few years ago – St. Louis style, in the Wall Street Journal. Because we’re related, he wasn’t able to publish. Ashame for it to not be heard, so here you go!

DSC_1628 pumpkins at Charleston Tea Plantation copyrI remember as a kid, I’d trick or treat with my schoolmates at Resurrection of our Lord Grade School. And I vividly remember the Halloween I was about 10 years old. Things were alittle different…

I can’t remember what I wore that year — I might have been a ghost. The kids I hung out with that evening decided to egg cars; something I’m not particularly proud of.

My Dad mentioned that when the people doling out the candy ask us to do a ‘trick’, tell them a joke instead.

I explained I wasn’t very good at telling jokes, and he said “Not to worry…just tell them THIS joke — Why did the chicken cross the road?”

”Dad, I already know that joke!”

“I bet, it doesn’t have the same punchline that you think.”

“Okay, Dad, what’s the punchline?

“To lay it on the line!”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t have to know what it means, just tell the joke.”

I felt really confused, but yet I took Dad’s advice, and when asked to do a trick, I’d pipe up and say, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

At the first house, the nice thirty-something couple (holding a pair of red wax lips I so dearly wanted), asked, “Honey, why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To lay it on the line.”

“Ahhh.. Smart kid”, they both chimed in. “That deserves two pieces of candy.”

I kind of half-smiled as I held out my queen-size white pillowcase to accept the desired treats — wax lips, and some multi-colored candy buttons on long strips of white waxy paper.

I repeated this joke over and over, as we hopped from house to house Halloween night, and received the same positive response from all the adults. I was pretty puffed up and proud — like a chicken.

To this day, I still can’t figure what’s so funny about the chicken joke, but it went over well with the “big people”. I guess that chicken’s water broke, and she just couldn’t hold the egg in any longer. Good thing she was smart enough to lay it on the line, not in oncoming traffic.

The bright line down the center of the road is kind of a safe place, if you think about it. Whether we’re driving, or crossing the road, it gives us boundaries.

So be safe this Halloween.
Keep an eye on your kiddos.
And watch out for those chickens crossing the road.

Just Listen for the Beauty

This has been a popular post; so I’m sharing with you again.

_____

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

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I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

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Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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The Fuss About Persimmons

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In Our State this month, there was an article about wild persimmons, and how they’re the fruit of the Gods.

Frankly, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Every persimmon I’ve ever tasted made my face pucker and lips curl.

The article goes on to say you should never pick a persimmon from the tree…wait until it drops on the ground…that’s how you know they’ll be ripe and edible.

So I decided to give this theory a chance, since there are wild persimmon trees on our property.

Today, I pulled on my Sahalie shorts, Life is Good t-shirt, and donned my grey warm-up jacket. After lacing up my tennis shoes, the dogs and I sprinted down the deck steps to the first clearing where the persimmons lay strewn about the ground.

I collected as many could fit into a Kleenex, and stuffed the makeshift carryall in my jacket pocket. I laughed and realized ‘how silly of me’, because I knew I’d be back for more fruit.

My mini Aussie Shepherd and I raced up the deck steps. Gently, I removed the Kleenex filled with persimmons, and set the ripe cargo on our patio table. As I glanced back at our property, I noticed Red Dog, with his nose to the ground. As he raised his head, I caught him munching on those peachy treasures, savoring every bite.

Racing back down the steps, I collected more persimmons underfoot, and plucked two from the tree. Once inside the house, I selected one of the specimens I’d picked from the tree. I was eager to prove Sheri Castle, the article’s author, wrong about her theory.

As I bit into the tough skin, my face shrunk up like a prune. I spit it back out.

Next I selected a peachy-purple specimen, almost bruised-looking, and carefully bit into the fruit. Surprised, it tasted like guava, peach, apricot and even a touch of cinnamon. As I chewed, I noticed the skin was thin, with the pulp soft and fibrous – eager to shed its seeds. Yes, this persimmon was on the ground.

It’s probably too late this year, but next year I’ll be ready for those sweet persimmons as they drop like sugarplums onto one of Grandma’s quilts, at the suggestion of Our State (blanketing the ground to catch the fruit).

But for now, I’ll savor those tiny little ‘deer candies’ until they’re gone, and concede that I’ve figured out ‘the fuss about persimmons.’

 

 

Just Listen for the Beauty

I position the hot red-hued Adirondack chairs on our back deck facing each other. The hubster lights the Tiki torches and pots of citronella for ambience. We’re eager to relax as night falls over the pine, birch and maple trees on our three acre slice of heaven.

This night is different. It’s cool and crisp for a summer evening in the Midwest. Normally humid, our French door windows are fogged with condensation.

As I gaze up at the sky from my chair, I delight in the pastel white-blue clouds blended with the deep indigo blues.

We’ll see no stars tonight. Just as well, as I close my eyes and listen for sounds in the distance. The pooches settle in on the bright red and white patterned rug nearby.

I ask hubby, “What do you hear?”

“The pool, the people, the crickets…”

Dogs bark in the neighborhood adjacent to ours, cars putter slowly down the gravel road, and a plan’s engine zooms overhead. Through the window screen, I can hear the kittens playing, shuffling in the curtains, meowing inside.

“Just close your eyes and listen,” Russell says. “Just listen for the sounds of the night.”

My eyelids become heavy as I reflect on the beauty I discovered in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan this week. Creamy yellow and dreamsicle sunrises over Copper Harbor, vivid red orange and blue violet sunsets silhouetting kayakers in lake waters, endless waterfalls, pebble beaches, and an eagle flying above the shoreline as day breaks.

DSCN1326 sunrise copper harbor copyr

I believe beauty is where you find it. And it’s everywhere in this land, in every form.

It’s present in the smiles of my two pooches as the wind whips through their silky hair as we tool around town in my Chevy Equinox.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sabrina (copyright Sheree K. Nielsen)

It’s in the faces of the two sweet kittens we adopted…and their mother.

It’s in the eyes and weathered face of the 86 year-old woman I converse with at the airport, as she tells me how much she loves her children and grandchildren.

There’s beauty in the crisp morning breeze as the fan pushes air downward, and the comfort of the feathered pillow caresses my head.

Or in the ruby-throated hummingbird, wings fluttering, as it sips nectar from the lavender magnolia in my back yard.

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Beauty is present in the hugs from my long time friends that shower me with affection after I’ve been out of town.

There’s beauty in the smiles of the baristas at my favorite coffee shop as I walk in and they ask, “Hey Sheree, how ya doing?” Of course I know all their names. We’ve had a beautiful relationship ever since that coffee shop opened. As they pour those perfectly pulled shots of espresso into a mug, they leave time for latte artwork in the shape of a heart or a leaf.

I guess you could say, there’s a reason to find beauty in just about everything. I’m looking at seven of those reasons right now – my husband who is intently gazing at his computer from the leather chair, and my six fur kids playing, sleeping, or exploring.

Stop what you’re doing right now, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just listen and observe.  You’ll be surprised how much beauty you’ll find in whatever you see and hear.

Peace out and love,

Sheree

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Sheree’s Happy Phone Pics – Or Things That Make Me Smile

With all the negative stuff happening in the world right now, I’ve decided to post phone pics. Sometimes the picture quality wasn’t great, but everything I snapped pics of made me happy. It’s interesting to see just how many photos are merely simply pleasures in life, or of friends and family.

Well here you go! I hope my happy crappy phone pics make you smile, too!

Let me know which photos you like the best by leaving a comment below!

Peace and Love,

Sheree

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These two – I love them so!

 

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A secondhand store and its treasures

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Standing in front of Galliot Cay Sand Bar, Exuma Cays – a bucket list adventure

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The St. Louis Art Museum’s interesting masterpieces

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A Caribbean Island

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A visit to Tenth Life Cat Rescue and snuggling a kitten

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The corn field behind our house

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The cancer survivor tiles at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis

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The view directly in front of me

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The smell of a freshly groomed fur baby at Sebastian’s Pet Salon

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A 100 year old barn in winter

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My favorite comic strip by Hilary Price. Even better when it’s focused on English.

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Cousins

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The hubster being silly.

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An amazing book – Folly Beach Dances – photos by me and hubster; poetry by 6 women friends

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Corn Mazes involving Missouri teams

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Cappuccino at a favorite coffeehouse

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Sleepy cats

 

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Booksignings with friends

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Surprises from my honey

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Stolen moments

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Long time friends listening to a jazz concert

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A swinging bridge in Missouri

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Students that turn into friends

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These three

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Acceptance into a juried art show

 

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The aroma of a good peanut butter and cutout cookie, right out of the oven.

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Fun Hats

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Preparing a savory pork loin

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The smooth sounds of Cris Botti at the St. Louis Symphony

Comfort Food = Relationships

We all have one cookbook filled with favorite recipes from Mom, friends, and family, don’t we? And we’ve even gathered a few recipes from newspapers and magazines to add to this cookbook.

As Thanksgiving draws near, we are reminded of those people who took the time to either write, type or photocopy their cherished recipes and pass them on to their children, friends and acquaintances.

My cookbook, given to me by friend Peggy, is a cute spiral bound number with colorful illustration of glass olive oil bottles on the cover. The pages are chockfull of recipes created a lasting impression in my mind.

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There’s Mom’s Split Pea Soup, which literally takes several hours to create, but the flavor from the ham bone is so savory, the soup is worth the preparation.

Then there’s the White Chicken Chili recipe that my long time friend Tina finagled from a server at Lewis and Clark’s in St. Charles years ago that warms you on a brisk day with its spicy jalepenos.

Dad Nielsen’s recipe for dove breasts is in the cookbook, too. I refuse to ‘do game’, so the hubster cheerfully grills and prepares the bird.

My friend Diane B’s Tuna Casserole from 30+ years ago made it into the book – before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Mom’s turkey dressing recipe with walnuts, raisins, celery, and those yummy turkey livers and gizzards reminds me of the bounty prepared with her loving hands for Thanksgiving guests numbering 30+ at our South City home when I was a young child.

My friend Janet’s flat dumpling recipe means so much to me. In all the years Mom was alive, she forgot to write her dumpling recipe on paper. Janet helped me fill that void, and I often think of Mom when I think of Janet’s flat dumplings.

My cousin Chris’ recipe for Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Butterballs, along with the decadent cookies, was a gift on Christmas Eve. His recipe always reminds me of my cousins, and a festive cornucopia of comfort food and libations. And, of course, Beatrice the border collie trying to sneak roast beef from the dining room table.

It’s amazing how flipping through the sturdy pages of this aged cookbook is reminiscent of life and relationships formed over the years.

So with that thought, I’ll leave you with my favorite Coastal Cookie recipe, torn from the pages of my favorite southern home magazine. This recipe, tried and true, is ever so tasty and buttery. I love how the icing color mimics the cottony blue sky above. It brings back memories of lazy days in the sun and surf.

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Coastal Cutout Cookies

So this Thanksgiving, share a recipe with a friend or family member. You’ll never know when you’ll leave an impression in someone’s life.

Now go and have a Blessed Day!

The Sights, Sounds, and Smells of the Morning….

As I walk the paved path at a nearby park with my blue-eyed girl and cinammon-colored boy fur babies, I am reminded of the familiarity of my surroundings.

Hens and drakes skim across the lake, a killdeer sings her song of distress least anyone disturb her nest, and the cicadas low hum remind me of a small fan motor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI bump into Jan and Ralph, a cute couple, out for their morning stroll. They always surprise my curious canines with crunchy Milkbone treats. Today is no different.

Nearing the end of our walk, the dogs hop in the car. I quench their thirst by pouring water from an empty milk carton into their pink soft-sided bowl. Girl dog sloppily sips water from the mouth of the jug before it trickles into the bowl.

We make our usual morning coffee run to Starbucks, where I know the all the barristas names.

Lincoln greets me at the counter, and says, “The usual?”

“Tall cap, non-fat, ristretto, extra hot, with one pump of mocha, light whip and salt.”

“Dry?”

“Yes please.”

“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” Sarah says with her cheery smile, who is busy making my beverage.

“Yeah, I know.”

I love hearing the sound of the espresso machine as it screeches, before the dark caramel-hued liquid drops into the shiny shotglasses.

I head back to the car to find Boy dog sitting in the driver’s seat, or Girl dog posed in the passenger seat.

As I drive away, I roll the windows all the way down, so my animal children can feel the cool air caress their soft fur like an ocean breeze hugs warm naked skin.

As I turn down the gravel road to my home, cardinals chirp, squirrels carrying nuts scurry, and bunnies scamper. The oak, walnut, and maple trees are dressed in celery greens and corn-maize yellows ready for their fall fashion show.

Opening the door from the garage to the kitchen, I tell Boy dog to “push it,” and he gently nudges it open with his nose.

Girl kitty is waiting for our arrival home, talking in her best ‘quack’ voice that we’ve been gone way too long!

As I pen this note on the deck, the dog children rest nearby – one sleeping, the other pensive and curious about the sounds and sights on our property.

The Cleomes, bathed in shades of lavender, are favorites of the hummingbirds. I study their lacy blooms that fan out in a helicopter-like pattern.

All is right with the world.

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The Loveable Dogs of Excelsior Springs, Missouri

Last week, I enjoyed a getaway with friend, Nancy, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Hubby stayed home with the fur babies. I knew I would miss them all terribly, but this was my chance to unwind.

After checking in the hotel, and dropping luggage in our room, we decided to peruse the quaint shops of the downtown area. As we strolled about town, we discovered stores closed for shorter work weeks, and a number of stores boarded up. Much to my dismay, even the natural springs had shut down, a source of industry and profit for Excelsior Springs in years past.

Of course, the two of us found other things to do, like savoring scrumptious cuisine at trendy Gram and Dun restaurant in Kansas City, slipping into the pool and enjoying a massage at The Elms Hotel, grabbing a cappuccino, and snapping photographs.

Time flew, and before we knew it, Friday morning checkout was inevitable. I browsed Facebook for the first time in two days, while packing. I stumbled upon a story that piqued my interest – a pit bull adoption. The canine spent 5 years at a shelter before his forever family came to rescue him.

The story warmed my heart, as well as rekindled my memories of the dogs I met over the last couple days in Excelsior Springs like the sweet Jack Russell Terrier named Chance that greeted us at Bliss, a vintage store on Broadway. The frisky canine’s favorite spot was a mahogany-hued leather chair positioned near the storefront window. The terrier’s back legs balanced on the seat of the chair, while his front paws steadied on the chair’s arm – all the while barking at the passing cars and enjoying life.

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We also met a scruffy black and white Shih Tzu resting on the leopard-skin pillow placed strategically in the window of Cline Country Club Barber Shop. This view allowed the pooch to watch his attractive banjo player friend strum familiar tunes for a street side audience.

At the Artisan Gallery, on Thompson, an ebony and white Rat Terrier named Molly doled out an endless supply of kisses to patrons browsing the photography, paintings and pottery throughout the store.

On a side street, in the shady alcove of a local business, stood a caramel-colored puppy with snow-white face, secured loosely to a wooden ladder. Close by, a rugged man, set the foundation for an elaborate Italian-style fountain on the ground adjacent to the sidewalk. As Nancy and I leaned down to greet the rambunctious pit bull puppy, the owner told a story that brought me to tears.

“This morning, I felt someone was telling me to visit the animal shelter. As I looked at the kennels filled with dogs, I noticed a sign on one cage – “PTS: 9 a.m. – put to sleep. I couldn’t leave the puppy there. That’s why he’s at work with me today.”

“You’re a good man,” I said.

But the most compelling story was told by a man we met at the Dari B custard shop Thursday evening. We pulled into the one of the limited parking spaces at the custard stand, and hopped out of the car. Sitting curbside, a ginger-haired mustached gentleman wearing a t-shirt with the words the 9th Hour and scripture quotations by the apostle Luke, held a soft serve cone.

Close by, studying the tasty delight, were two Newfoundland’s. To his left, sat the older canine, with droopy eye sockets, languid lower jaw, and arthritic ridden joints that curved outward on the dog’s knee sockets. The other gentle giant sauntered over to me from the custard stand and nudged his big round head into my upper thighs, urging me to give him some lovin’. He stood about waist high. His sleek body, sparkling eyes and silky fur cued me he was still a young dog.

A conversation ensued with the gentleman, and we listened intently about the rescue of the young dog, named Jax.

A couple of years ago, with the intention of taking Magilla Gorilla, the older Newfoundland, for a walk, the man loaded his companion into his car for a ride to the park. As he steered his vehicle into a parking space, he watched a disturbing scene unfold in the distance. A Newfoundland puppy looked down the barrel of a shotgun, while the owner pointed the gun at the dog’s head. The gentleman jumped out of his car, with Magilla still inside, and cautiously approached the man with the gun.

“What are you doing?”

“This puppy’s worthless. He doesn’t do what I say. He tears things up. He’s a terrible dog.”

“Well if you don’t mind, can I have him?”

“You want him, you got him. Good luck.”

The ginger-haired man scooped up the puppy, placed him in the car with Magilla, and immediately drove home before the man changed his mind. He felt the hand of God leading him to the park, at that moment in time, to save the innocent and unsuspecting puppy.

Jax became a therapy dog, learning quickly from his older brother, Magilla Gorilla.

Magilla, while in his prime, pulled floats in parades, and plastered smiles on the residents of nursing homes. While a woman named Ida couldn’t remember her children’s names because of Alzheimer’s, she always remembered “the big black dog” and asked about him frequently.

As I reminisced about all the fur babies I’ve met while in Excelsior Springs, I especially loved their uniqueness.
Chance, the Jack Russell Terrier – outgoing and talkative,
The Rat Terrier – sweet and friendly,
The Shih Tzu – quiet and observing
The Pit Bull puppy – naive and playful,
And
Magilla and Jax – so stoic and gentle.

I quickly realized we could all learn a lesson from the dogs of Excelsior Springs, who don’t’ judge, are honest with their feelings, and don’t care what people think.

Loving unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”

~Josh Billings

Peace out and love,

Sheree K.

Dear Kindred Spirit…..How I’ve Missed You

DSC_1691 Ks mailbox copyri Dear Kindred Spirit, This is the fifth time in three years that I’ve visited your peaceful respite. The mailbox and the bench formed the basis for newfound friends – Nancy and Jazzy from Virginia, Jacqueline and Sandy – your keepers, and Colin and Dan from LA. It’s piqued the interest of friends back home, Lisa and Mark.

It’s with deep sadness since last I wrote in your journal, my Aunt Georgia succumbed to emphysema, and my sweet three-legged cat, Tripoli passed on. Though they’re gone, they shared a common thread. Both were both Kindred Spirits – bringing joy and happiness to all those around them.

And just last year, on the sandy shoreline, near the Kindred Spirit Bench, our dogs Sabrina and Bordeaux frolicked with Dan, the Italian greyhound, now running free on Rainbow Bridge. DSC_1702 dunes copyr

Oh Kindred Spirit, how I love your inspiration! From your weathered post, to the ocean’s depths,DSC_1697 flag copyright to your rolling dunes, to the red, white, and blue waving in the breeze!

A gracious ‘thank you’ to the couple who planted a foundation so many years, and started a movement of love…a way to share innermost thoughts and feelings in journals safely protected by a mailbox at sea’s door.

I come here today with my fur babies, and my husband – my best friend.

May your legacy live on! Xoxoxo Sheree Nielsen Wentzville, MO http://www.beachdances.com

For Mother’s Day…..Reminiscing about Uncle Willie’s Farm

me and mom backyard Meramec002 crop

Growing up, my best memories were the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of South St. Louis.

The corner confectionary sold rainbow-colored candy buttons and chunk chocolate. Housed in a shiny glass case, the candy was the main act, on show for all to see.

The brick five-and-dime store on Meramec Street, about three blocks from my house, sold everything imaginable. The same store where my cousin Carol, pounded her fists and kicked her feet in a full-out temper tantrum, because my Aunt Katie refused to buy her what she wanted.

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on Grand Avenue, still standing to this day, made superb lemon floats. I remember many reflective walks to the custard stand with my friend and neighbor Cindy Winschel.

As an adult, I loved hearing Mom’s childhood stories. She frequented Uncle Willie’s Illinois farm as a young girl, and spent lazy weekends exploring with sisters Georgia Lee and Isabella, often getting into trouble with her cousins, the Wagner kids.

What I remember most about Mom is that she was tough. Tough as nails. And funny.

So here’s a tribute to my Mom ‘Gladys’, and to all moms everywhere.

It’s a story that was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on October 13, 2010 titled Visiting Uncle Willie’s Farm. I hope you like it.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010001Happy Mother’s Day…no matter what kind of mom you are….even moms of animal children.

Visiting Uncle Willie's Farm - STL Post 2010002