Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-Bye Baby

My husband’s family is distantly related to the composer of the iconic song, Rock-a-Bye Baby. Effie Carlton penned the song back in the 1870’s as a teenager while babysitting. Ironically, she never married or had children of her own.

This family history came to our attention several years ago when an attorney from New Mexico reached out to RM’s dad and his aunt informing them of their rights to the patent fees for the song. While the amount they collect is nominal, the legacy is what is important to appreciate.

C1 tracked this history through online searches, reviews of databases and dogged determination.

Below is the obituary notice she unearthed in her research for us to read and learn more about our musical family legacy. Effie died at 81 during the winter of 1940 soon after attending a movie featuring her song. What a sweet ending.

Victory Garden in the Fort

Victory Garden in the Fort

Well, our little victory garden is growing nicely over at Locke. The onions, planted in late February, sprouted with about six shoots per onion. We are expecting over 18 shoots per bulb by maturity in June. They are loving the regular rains along with some sun shining spring days.

Locke Victory Garden

The tomatoes, eggplant and purple basil went in the garden last weekend after we shopped at Archies, carefully following social distancing practices.

Two weeks ago, we planted Swiss chard from seeds purchased from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello online garden shop along with cucumber for our container garden back on Ashland. Last year, we planted asparagus starts soon after we bought the Locke property in a side bed already established by the prior owners. Since this is just the second year in the ground, we must patiently wait at least one more year before we harvest asparagus spears for our Easter brunch.

Back on Ashland, we are growing garlic, potatoes and blackberries. We planted the blackberries last year, so like asparagus, theses starts take three years to mature to produce fruit with the hopes of providing over a decade of healthy production once established. Gardening requires patience and constant tending.

Ashland garden with garlic, potatoes and blackberries

Gardening is all about nurturing the plants you select to grow. Each step in the process is for the gardener to determine what the little plants need, watching for signs of distress like the cracked earth around their base, mildew spots on yellowing leaves or the encouraging new growth of tiny green leaves and shoots. We must also guard for predators like aphids and mold. And hungry bunnies.

Herbs are growing rampant in pots and beds on Ashland. Rosemary, mint, lemon thyme along with clumps of garlic chive beg for clipping much like our hair after too many weeks away from the tending of our talented dressers. Please stop by with your clippers and trim awhile, free to all who love plants as much as us.

Stay safe and tend your gardens.



Well, we, my middle daughter and I, are about half way through our recommended quarantine by the CDC after spending a week in Barcelona, Spain.  C2 and I are living in my other daughters’ home, while they try to survive with my husband in our family home just six blocks away.


While we were flying home after the traumatic Trump border closure, our family stocked our homes with eggs, almond milk, t.p, and fresh veg and fruit.  So grateful for their reconnaissance.  We muddled through the health screenings at O’Hare, please be sure we have snacks, health officials. Top priority.  Little concern for how many times I touched the pencils filling out the prescribed paperwork or the dude next to me with the mask half on, half off.  Please commit.  C2 and I ate a cheeseburger from the hotel lounge before jettisoning home to Texas. How did we not get COVID-19? Everyone is doing their best.


No fever after 9 days.  We take our temps. twice a day, and it varies from 97 to 99 depending on our activities and the level of heat of the day.  Seems lower in the morning and higher as the day progresses.  We try to walk outside at least 2 miles a day, and then I do yoga and fitness with my dear trainer and her team at Mindful Mule.

I cook and bake sourdough bread, serve up yummy little biscuits and try to offer variety because dinner seems our only common denominator outside of getting sick, getting someone else sick, or just doing nonsensical tasks that are not helping or hurting anyone. Should we wash the dog, or the windows?

salt cellarWe meet virtually for work via Zoom, Skype and FaceTime and we talk and text.  On one of our morning walks, an older women yelled to us from her front yard that we were the first humans she saw in five days. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad to see us. I will bet on relieved.

Not sure where we go from here but I am committing to compassion.  Please look out for your neighbor, share your t.p. and don’t forget to prepare for the long haul.  This is a marathon not a sprint.

xxo (kiss) and (hug) to RM.











Notes from Barcelona

Notes from Barcelona

C2 and I traveled to Spain over Spring Break, during the mounting concern over the rapid spread of the corona virus.  The flight over was uneventful except for the medical emergency on the flight from Chicago to Munich.  A older woman from Romania collapsed on the way to the restroom, directly at our feet, as we had opted for the emergency row for expanded leg room.  The crew took excellent care of Nina, hooked her up to oxygen, monitored her vitals, made her as comfortable as possible, even with the language barrier, as C2 and I escaped to alternate seating. Note to self:  always carry a list of meds if you travel with a serious medical condition.

C2 and I walked nearly 50 miles in five days of exploring the streets of Barcelona. Our flat was less than one block off the Ramblas, the walking thoroughfare of the city, dotted with plazas, flower and pastry shops and Gaudi architecture. The streets are immaculate and after several noisy nights outside our flat windows, we learned that trash is picked up every night, roadways or calles de Barcelona are sprayed  with hi- power washers, and hard surfaces swept clean. Noisy, but with the virus ramping up, we appreciated the heightened effort.

Favorite sites were the Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. One side benefit of traveling during the cusp of a pandemic, is no crowds, no annoying tour groups or gaggles of tourists off the cruise ships. No lines, less people, as we slowly explored all aspects of this marvelous city.  The day we strolled the park was idyllic with bright blue skies, a warm sun and cool breezes.   All of foliage budded out, seemingly as we strolled by.  Oleander, succulents and flowering spring bulbs lined the pathways. Parakeets chirped their song.

At the Sagrada Familia,  I blinked back tears at the beauty of Gaudi’s adoration on display in all the minute details of the architecture, the carvings, the color, the stained class and the nod to nature in all aspects of the design of the space. The elevator ride to the top of the towering Passion Tower got my blood pumping as we stepped out on the high platform to look out over the roof of the church and out over the Barcelona cityscape.  There are so many great views in Barcelona, almost like a set designer styled our walks around the city.

My favorite open food market was Santa Catarina in the Born district, noted for its curvy, multi-colored roof.  C2 and I cooked several meals in our flat experimenting with local vegetables and pork sausages purchased from the market.  Artichokes are in season and featured in all the tapas bars. We ate them fried, marinated and roasted. Favorite dishes were sautéed sardines, stuffed calamari, and bombas (a fried potato croquette with aioli and spicy tomato sauce).  Barcelonians love their chorizo, cheese and pastry.  What’s not to love?

Due to Trump’s confusing television address, we didn’t sleep one night as we analyzed, consulted with concerned state-side family,  and rearranged our flight home.  Our airline routed us through Frankfurt versus Munich and then to O’Hare.  We cancelled a day trip to a monastery and local officials halted a guitar concert but we rallied on our last day in town, joining a small cooking class featuring paella, tomato toast and sangria. Our chef, born in Brazil, trained in London, living her best life with her Barcelona-based partner, demonstrated the finer techniques of paella using fresh seafood,bomba rice and smoky and sweet paprika. We met other travelers from London, Russia, New York and San Francisco.  We sliced and diced peppers, cleaned mussels and chopped tomatoes before assembling the paella in orchestrated stages and layers of flavor. After nearly three hours of smelling the delicious flavors of garlic and herbs, we were ready to eat! It fortified us for the long trip home.

Back in Fort Worth, we are on day 6 of a quarantine issued to us after a health screening in Chicago by the CDC.  No symptoms to date just time to reflect on our travels, and renewed appreciation of freedom, surrounded by the virtual support of our family and friends. Weird times.  Below is a list of Barcelona must-do’s when we travel again.

Places to eat: Tantarantana for tapas

El Quim in Boqueria Food Market – best dish was eggs and grilled squid

La Cova Fumada – very small, grandma still runs the kitchen. Try artichokes, sardines and house specialty, la bomba. Good bread.

Shopping: we liked the Born area best, found several espadrille sandal shops, pottery places and a fun gift store called Recordis Barcelona for unique, one of a kind items. Of course, all the attractions feature gift shops for souvenirs. Shop at a local food market or Carrefour for wine, nougat candy and chocolate to bring home.

Classes: Amazing Paella and Sangria by Nanda, find her on Airbnb.




Travels with Red Dirt Girl, Chapter 2

Travels with Red Dirt Girl, Chapter 2

Summer Vacation

Early in the young life of Tracy Lou, her family did not take many summer vacations away from Medicine Lodge except for a few trips to visit relatives living in Kansas.  During the summer, Tracy Lou’s dad picked up part-time jobs to supplement his meager teacher salary.  One summer, her dad painted houses, and both her mom and dad taught swimming lessons at the public swimming pool situated on top of a tall embankment inside the town’s city park.

Tracy Lou learned to swim as an infant and by about the time she entered kindergarten, she could swim the width of the pool.  Her parents taught her all of the strokes including the crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and sidestroke.  She mastered how to flip over on the end of each turn for smooth and quicker transitions back and forth across the pool. She could dog paddle for thirty minutes or more without touching the bottom of the pool.

Tracy Lou loved to jump off the diving boards, even the high dive, when she was quite young.  Her dad called her “a little fish”. She learned to do a front flip but she could never master more than a back dive in reverse. Back then, children were allowed to swim at the city pool without adult supervision so kids rode their bikes to the pool and spent the entire afternoon swimming, diving and playing water games with their friends.  The pool manager would make all the kids get out of the water for 30 minutes to ensure everyone took time to eat a snack, frozen zero bars were Tracy Lou’s favorite, rest and go to the bathroom.  These breaks also allowed the children to apply more sunscreen but they rarely did.

Tracy Lou’s mother loved to swim so in the summer evenings, her Mom would drive down to the pool in her station wagon to take a dip and Tracy Lou loved to tag along and swim laps beside her mother.  Tracy Lou learned that the only sport her mom participated in while in high school was swimming.  Her school, Topeka High, had its own in-door pool, which blew Tracy Lou’s imagination.  “That school must have been rich to have an in-door swimming pool”, said Tracy Lou.  The only in-door swimming pool that Tracy Lou had ever swam in was one in Alva, Oklahoma, located at a college the family visited occasionally.  Tracy Lou thought it was odd that her mom did not play other sports as a kid because Tracy Lou loved games of all kinds and dreamed of playing them all, especially basketball.



Summer Road Trip to Quinault, Washington

Tracy Lou’s maternal grandparents owned a lake house on the Quinault Indian Reservation in the Olympic National Park in the state of Washington. The family took a few road trips out and back in the summers in the 1960’s. Dad worked as a ranger for the National Park Service for a couple of these summers.

On one trip, the family left Medicine Lodge in June for the week long National Lampoon’s Vacation-like, family road trip from western Kansas to the rain forest of Quinault, Washington in 1969. On this particular trip, Tracy Lou was only eight. The plan was to put all four kids in the back of the old green station wagon and drive nearly 2,000 miles; stopping when her Dad found a good camping spot or a place of interest to her educator father and social conscious mother. “Good places”, as defined by the parents, were state parks, historical sites, and nature preserves.  Never a KOA campground or hotel for this family.  Her parents rented a U-Haul trailer to connect to the back of the family wagon and then crammed both the wagon and the trailer with kids, sleeping bags, cookware, food, tents, coolers, blankets, and all the other necessary supplies for a two-week road trip to and from Washington State.

The family typically got back home just in time for the start of school.  Her Dad borrowed heavily from the local scout troop for the necessary camping supplies.  The boys were so involved in that club that there was a huge and ferocious hand painted wolverine on the cement wall of their basement for the troop meetings.

One day, at the half waypoint of the trip, Dad, Mom and Mike traded turns driving over five hundred miles to brake at a campsite adjoining the Snake River. The entire family escaped the stuffy car to stretch their tired and aching joints.

Before the kids could venture off, they normally helped set up the campsite.  At that time, most tents, consisted of thick canvas with wooden poles and spikes, and were assembled by pounding the stakes into the ground to support the poles and then the canvas. This took the entire family pitching in to get the multiple tents upright because the ground was rocky and hard or muddy and wet.

This time, their parents allowed the four kids to head on down to the river before the tent raising ritual.  Tracy Lou ran to the river’s edge and put both feet in.  The river was wide and she could see small white caps as the water rumbled along across a few boulders and fallen trees peeking up out of the surface of the water.  The water felt like hot ice on the back of her legs and on the top of her feet but it beckoned the four of them in.  They noted the swift current but from where they stood, on the edge of the tributary, the stream massaged their stiff joints while they swam between each other’s legs, splashed, dived under, and threw some river rock to see who could make them skip the farthest.

They could see Mom and Dad heading down to the river edge so the siblings started to cross over to the other side of the river to a play a little game they liked to call, “running away from Mom and Dad”. Mike held Tracy Lou’s arm as they hopped up and down in the water, moving across the river to the other side.  The bottom of the riverbed, covered in pebbles, hurt Tracy Lou’s feet, so she paddled along holding on to Mike. Tom was treading along beside them when all of a sudden; the strong current in the middle of the river sucked him under and pushed him down the river.

Tracy Lou and her brothers screamed for help from the shore.  Dad sprinted down to the bank following Tom as he bobbed along unable to get out of the river.  Tracy Lou could see his wet head but he was drifting faster, swept downstream. Just ahead of Tom’s head, lay a fallen tree.  Tom smacked into the limb of the tree and went under.  Then he came up again and then back under.   Dad splashed into the water, reached under the limb and pulled Tom out of the water by the back of his trunks, all while struggling to keep his own balance in the strong current.  If not for the tree and Dad’s strong swimming skills, it is not clear how this adventure would end.

Everyone slinked quietly back to the shore to put up the tents and reflect on what nearly happened.  Rivers may look calm on the surface but can have fast under currents and that is dangerous enough alone, but with boulders, logs and other debris, Tom was lucky he was not seriously injured or drowned.  From then on, Tracy Lou knew to avoid crossing fast moving rivers even if she was a little fish.

Often on these camping trips, Ed fried doughnuts outside over a propane burner like the way he learned at Boy Scout camp.  He took an old pot, filled it halfway with oil, and set the pot on the stove on high.  Using biscuits in a tube, Ed would take each biscuit; pull a whole in the center of the dough until it looked like a doughnut. Then, he would place it in the hot oil to fry.  He fried several at a time.  Then, he took an old paper sack, filled it with a little sugar and cinnamon and then placed the fried bread into the bag.  He shook it all about and then brought out the hot doughnuts for us all to enjoy.


School’s out for the summer

Growing up in a small town had its advantages to young children, as there was a lot of freedom.  Tracy Lou’s family lived on Main Street and she walked alone the two blocks downtown to the library, to her dad and mom’s work, to the grocery store, to the swimming pool, to the cool waters of the lazy Medicine River, to the vacant lot out back and to her friends’ houses that lived in town.

On her block, there were many families with children but Tracy Lou was the youngest.  The Rhea’s, the Strack’s, the Newsom’s, and the many other families all had at least three children so finding a playmate was rarely an issue. Games included pick-up basketball, touch football, riding bikes, constructing elaborate forts from cast-off materials, and planning kid-directed block events like a carnival, track meet, or theatre production.  The children charged family and community members to attend these events and they even had a banking account for safekeeping the profits.  Tracy Lou’s brother, Ed, was the activity director but all of the kids participated in one way or another.

Life on the block was fun except when it was not.  Since the children had so much freedom to play outdoors and away from their parents’ supervision, accidents did happen from time to time.

One involved Tracy Lou and a gallon of house paint.  It was a hot, summer day and Tracy Lou was about nine years old. She lived just a few houses from the Rhea sisters so they often walked to the library to check out books together or she hung out with them while they did chores or practiced their musical instruments.  Teresa and Jeanne were four and five years older than Tracy Lou.  Teresa was willing to play Barbie’s with Tracy Lou and they often took their dolls outside and built tree houses for them in the bushes. Tracy Lou had the only Ken doll on the block.

Teresa taught Tracy Lou card games, jacks, and jump rope tricks.  Tracy Lou was enamored with Teresa and spent all the time she would give Tracy Lou that summer.  On the day of the accident, Teresa and her older sister, Jeanne, had a fight. Jeanne had a temper and she flounced off and went into the house.  Teresa and Tracy Lou continued to play jacks and completely forgot about the angry older sister.  They were playing jacks on the concrete behind their house situated at the base of a series of exterior stairs that led up to a tiny deck before entering the house. On the edge of the small deck, house paint cans piled up on top of one another.

Teresa and Tracy Lou were engrossed in flipping jacks and tossing the hard, red ball back and forth between them. Tracy Lou heard the screen door open above her. She noticed Teresa looking up at the landing above. Teresa yelled something at Jeanne.  There was a loud noise from the deck and Jeanne yelled back. Tracy Lou suddenly felt something cold and wet running over her head and shoulders.  She reached up to her face and first felt and then smelled wet paint all over her hair, over her eyes and in her ears.  She did not know what happened.  Later she learned that Jeanne had accidently kicked a can of paint over the edge of the porch and it opened in mid-air pouring paint on Tracy Lou, head to toe.

Tracy Lou sprinted the three houses home hysterically crying for her mother.  Tracy Lou kicked in the kitchen door with her foot, and her mother ran to her and hugged her tight.  She carried her to the bathroom and lifted Tracy Lou into the bathtub.  She ran warm water and washed much of the paint down the drain and in time, with soap and a lot of rubbing, all of the paint rinsed out of Tracy Lou’s hair and off her skin.

Alley Trouble

Directly behind the houses on Main Street, a dirt alley provided access to trash bins, parking, and to the backyards.  Cars and trucks bumped down it, blowing up dust. People on foot, instead of walking around each block, cut through the alley.

The children living on the block played in the alley a lot.  They peddled their bikes along the tracks in the orange, Kansas, dirt, skipped along it for quick access to each other’s backyards, and often met in the over-grown vacant lot on the other side of the alley to play baseball or football.

Tall, thin, poplar trees lined the path, providing a natural barrier from the alley into the backyards.  There were also a few hedge apple trees with chartreuse orbs of lumpy fruit bending branches low to the ground.  These thorny trees provided the mushy bombs for games of war between platoons of youngsters. Tracy Lou avoided this game as the hedge apples oozed a white, slimy liquid causing her skin to turn red and burn wherever it touched.

Normally, the kids did not throw the hedge apples at each other but flung them at makeshift targets like the back of an old garage or a trunk of a tree.  One time, one of Tracy Lou’s brothers broke out a glass window with a second-rate throw.  Mike rang the neighbor’s doorbell, and confessed to Mr. Newsom his error.  He asked Mike to walk down to the hardware store, get the clerk to cut him a piece of glass to fit the window, and then return it to the Mr. Newsom for repair. To pay for the glass, my brother did a few chores for him.  Back then, people fixed problems without a lot of fuss.

There was a nursing home for elderly people located at the end of the alley.  The children sometimes met up with the old folks slowly shuffling the alley to one destination or another.  To Tracy Lou, they seemed so tired and sad.  She always tried to greet each one with her best smile but most of the time; they did not even look her way. When she described how the old people acted, her mom told her to leave those poor people alone and she said, “They are living out their last days, the best they can.”  Mom was not so generous, Tracy Lou noted, when she caught one of the old men, stealing ripe tomatoes from her garden.

One Sunday, four neighborhood kids stumbled upon an old man laying quietly in the middle of the alley. He was motionless and as the kids got nearer, they saw that his eyes were open but not blinking.  Quickly, they ran to the nearest house and asked for help for the man. The ambulance came with sirens blaring, which got Tracy Lou’s attention.  She ventured down to the back of the yard, near where the ambulance parked, but her Dad told her firmly to go back inside the house.  Later, Tracy Lou overheard her parents saying he died.  At dinner, Dad led a prayer for the old man’s soul.  Mom was worried if the kids that found the man would sleep at all that night.

Of course, all the kids knew the exact spot of the old man’s demise so they cautioned each other to not step near it, sort of along the same rule in the old silly rhyme they sang together:

Step on a crack,
You’ll break your mother’s back;
Step on a line
You’ll break your father’s spine.

The alley seemed a place ripe for trouble.  One time, a neighbor offered to keep his Shetland pony in the vacant lot for a couple of days so that the pony could eat the grass and no one would need to mow the lot.  While grazing, one of the kids went up behind the pony to try to pet him, and was kicked in the jaw so hard he walked around with his teeth wired together for weeks and could only drink liquid through a straw that fitted perfectly between two of his incisors.

Another time, her brother Tom, played with matches in the alley, and inadvertently caught the entire vacant lot on fire.  The volunteer firefighters came to put it out while Tom cowered under his bed afraid to come out.  Tom thought he had burned down the entire town but only a large patch of grass turned black.  Of course, this story was retold many times in Medicine Lodge homes about the danger of children playing with matches.



Five Things I Love

Five Things I Love

I am traveling to Spain over Spring Break. I am absorbing all travel blogs about Barcelona. While doing so, I stumbled across this travel website called Roads and Kingdoms which is a virtual space to find great tips to take the exploration of your next destination to higher and hopefully less touristy levels.  Did you know that Barcelona hosts over 600 cruise ships a year in her harbor?  The guides are super helpful to organize your itinerary around the crowds and long lines.  My tip is to always arrive first thing in the morning to a popular attraction because big groups usually arrive 1-2 hours after the opening.

I discovered podcasts recently.  Yes, I live under a rock.  Actually, I live in a house on Ashland but somehow I never clicked on a podcast app until this holiday season.  Check out Milk Street or A Beautiful Mess for fun conversation about food, travel, DIY, and life.  I like the programs  when they run less than 20 minutes.  Longer than that and I find my mind drifting off topic.  I like Stitcher to catalog my favorite podcasts and the app works better than others I tried when I first starting listening to podcasts.

veggies andresThis cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed, is so great.  Lots of unique recipes, stories of Jose’s borderless adventures and photography.  It’s an awesome addition to my cookbook collection.  I especially love the sauce and dressing recipes he shares including miso dressing and his tomato sauce (so much garlic and olive oil).  I am training my palate for Barcelona.  Last night we tried the caper mayonnaise on roasted broccoli — divine!

Kate Spade handbags are some of my favorites.  If you sign up with your email, you receive alerts for big sales.  Don’t tell RM I signed up for more alerts because they drive him crazy on our home, shared email. Right now there is a big new year sale with code H12020.  I bought two bags for less than $100.  The bags are durable and fit into my sense of fashion. Kate Spade bags

I also bought this Cross Body  bag to take to Barcelona because it has locks and is pick-pocket-proof.  Say that three times fast. We’ll get to test the stealth of this bag in just a few weeks!

Hope your new year is off to a great start and you’re living your best life.



Deep Thoughts from Red Dirt Girl

Deep Thoughts from Red Dirt Girl

img_0053Try something you are not good at.  Belly dancing?  Water skiing?  Learn a new language? Take a little risk to get your heart pumping.  I recently tried snorkeling and it was overwhelming at first but then I felt so accomplished with I found my very novice groove.

Find self-compassion.  Treat yourself with kindness.  You won’t lose your edge or become weak. Treat yourself as good as you treat your loved ones.

Get organized.  Out of gaining order comes inner calm.  You will feel less stress.

Build resilience by building inner strengths.  Try meditation and gratitude journaling to build your internal resources. Take long walks and observe what you see.

Make a come back from a challenge by rallying your family and friends around you.  Use the power of positive mindset.  You can’t change the situation you are in, just how you approach the challenge.

Learn about playful intelligence – humor is linked to resiliency.  Use playfulness and humor to see the lighter side of life. Seriously, have a long belly laugh that could be on the verge of hysteria at this time of year.

Build friendships — you have to work on them.  So connect with a friend you have missed recently.  Invite them to take a walk or meet for breakfast.  Online friendships are not the same as person to person contact.

Check out podcasts like Live Happy Now to learn how to be the best YOU.  Happy Holidays and thanks for reading along. Let’s get this new decade started.