It’s raining men

It’s raining men

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RM. Bryan, Innocent and Song

Humidity is rising
Barometer’s getting low
According to our sources
2221 Ashland Street’s the place to go

Cause’ this month for the first time
Just last week-end
For the first time in history
It’s raining men

This last week-end we hosted three male teachers in our home as part of the Fort Worth Sister Cities International Leadership Academy home hosting program. RM and I have hosted students and teachers over the years but never three men at the same time.  There was more testosterone in our home these last few days and it brought back memories for me of growing up in a family of mostly men; three brothers and a dad left mom and I bit outnumbered.  RM and I have three daughters and even our pets were female so our house is not accustomed to the male variety beyond Big Dave. It was nice for the novelty of it.

The International Leadership Academy (ILA) for high school students is a summer leadership program bringing Fort Worth students together with students from our sister cities in China, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, and  Mexico.  Our daughters attended ILA as students and as facilitators.  This year’s ILA also includes students from Vietnam. Students are housed in dorms on the TCU campus where most class activities are conducted.  More than 125 students participate annually.  This year, even more!  Over this last week-end, the students and teachers left the dorms to spend a week-end with Fort Worth area families.The 2015 theme, E3-Energy, Environment and Education, encourages students to explore and focus on critical and current issues and their global influence as they gain essential leadership and communication skills.

Since the teachers staying with us (two from Swaziland and one from China) were discussing energy and environment, RM and  I thought they should spend the week-end learning more about the gas industry in Barnett Shale.  So RM, through his job at Williams Industries, was able to line up a hands-on tour, complete with protective gear, hard hat and big white truck and off they went.  They spent several hours exploring pad sites, offices, fracking, and more.  I stayed home and read a  very good book and made a peach pie.  They came back hot and sweaty and hungry.  I think this tour was one of the many experiences they will not soon forget about their stay in Fort Worth, Texas.

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These guys seemed to like best:

1.  Listening to music – all varieties including Kenny Rogers

2.  Taking quick showers

3.  Shopping at Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target and I noticed they mostly bought from the electronics section

4.  Laughing with (or was it “at”?) RM.

5.  Sharing insights about their experience in Texas and  giving us feedback as they compare/contrast with their own culture

6.  Speaking English impeccably — we were amazed at their skill level and it made for more in depth conversation about religion and role of men and women in society.  We didn’t always agree but everyone spoke their mind (even the only woman in the room).

7.   Appreciation of spicy, Tex-Mex food and my cooking.  I love to feed people and these men gobbled everything up that I placed on the table.  No leftovers!

8.  They loved our car culture and took several photographs of the front grills of big Texas trucks — Love of Transformers is universal.

9.  Paying attention to the landscape around them and asking questions about how things worked or were made.

10.  Appreciation for the very good life we have here in Fort Worth even with the heat made only survivable by great A/C and gallons of water.

So thank you for the memories and Hallejulah — Amen, It’s Raining Men.

Pickle juice runs in my veins

Pickle juice runs in my veins

Pickle juice runs in my veins as I descend from a long line of pickle enthusiasts from eastern European roots.  We don’t know of a food variety we haven’t tried to pickle at one point in time or another. But bread-and-butter pickles are some of our favorites.  RM doesn’t understand this addiction to pickling as he loathes the smell of hot vinegar so I have to warn him when I am going into pickling mode so he can stay out of the kitchen (out of the house is even better).

This type of pickling didn’t derive in the old country but rather from the Midwest.The bread-and-butter pickles that we know today date back to the early 1920’s when Omar and Cora Fanning trademarked their family recipe for “sweet and sour” pickles. From Streator, Illinois, the Fanning’s were farmers growing cucumbers. One season, the family fell on hard times, and Mr. Fanning made the decision to use the small cucumbers, which had been considered waste up until that point, to create an innovative side business. The resulting pickles were such a hit that Mrs. Fanning was able to barter with her local grocer, exchanging the pickles for household staples like bread and butter. The name stuck, and bread-and-butter pickles were an overnight success. They were simultaneously marketed as “old-fashioned” and the “latest thing,” and their popularity quickly spread from the Midwest to the South, where bread-and-butter pickles remain a staple.

Here is my personal favorite recipe for basic bread-and-butter pickles:

  • 2 pounds Kirby cucumbers — they are selling them at Cowtown Farmer’s Market
  • 2 cups small diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • crushed ice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1T yellow mustard seed
  • 1/2 t celery seed
  • 1t tumeric — make the recipe so don’t leave it out
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, torn to pieces
  • 1/2 jalepeno or serrano pepper – I just threw a couple of serrano peppers in for contrast.

Sterilize your jars.   Cut up the cucumbers into 1/8 inch slices.  Layer the slices in a glass bowl with the onions,  salt and the crushed ice.  Keep them submerged and cover with a plate.  Leave in the refrigerator over night.  This step is how you get the mandatory CRUNCH of a great pickle so don’t skip it.

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ice bath baby cucumbers

Next day, drain the cucumbers and onions and put them in a pot with the rest of the ingredients.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for a bit.

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Before they go into the jars

Divide mixture into the jars and make sure liquid covers the top, leaving 1/4 inch gap at top.  Allow to cool and then put in refrigerator for at least 1 week.  They will keep for up to 6 months in fridge.  If you open them, you need to eat them within a month.  They will be ready just in time to celebrate National Pickle Day on November 14th.

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Finished — into the refrigerator they go!
John R. Taylor

John R. Taylor

My third great-grandfather was John R. Taylor.  He was born on February 1, 1812, in Centre County and lived his life in Potter and Gregg,  Pennsylvania.  We can’t find any evidence of a town of Potter but there is a county named Potter in the Keystone State. The county was named after James Potter —  a captain and later a major in the Indian wars.  In 1777, he was made a brigadier general of Pennsylvania troops in the Revolutionary army, serving with distinction almost continuously throughout the war, and receiving a commission as major – general in 1782.

From the archives, John R. Taylor was a carpenter and a farmer back in the mid-1800’s.  He had six children with Mary Ann Weaver and three children with Anna Mariah Sophia Weaver. His first wife, died in 1854, perhaps during child-birth as their sixth child, George Washington Taylor, was born the same year that records indicate she passed away. She was only 41. His second wife (no evidence they married but must have lived together beginning in 1857) outlived him by eleven years and died when she was 77. He died on February 23, 1881, in Centre County, Pennsylvania, at the age of 69, and was buried there. Records indicate he died of a heart attack.

John R. and Mary Ann’s first-born daughter, Mary Ann “Polly” Taylor, is my second great-grandmother.  She was born in November 8, 1845, in Centre Hill, Pennsylvania.  She married Simon M. Spangler in 1869.  They had seven children together. The couple and their children relocated to Harvey County, Kansas, around 1885, when she was approximately 40 years of age. One of their daughters, Mary Almeda Spangler, was my great-grandmother. She died at age 41 in Topeka, Kansas, at a psychiatric hospital but was buried with her husband, John Edward Hauck, in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton, Kansas.  She was reportedly distraught by her husband’s  failing health, and committed suicide, just a few months before he passed away on his birthday on July 27, 1928.

Below is a picture of my third great-grandfather — cherished by our family as it was taken around the time of the Civil War. Few photos from these times have survived.

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John R. Taylor – one of our oldest family photo taken circa Civil War b. 1812 d. 1881
It’s Time for Dinner

It’s Time for Dinner

Growing up in Kansas in a large family, we always ate our meals together especially dinner during the week and supper on Saturday and Sunday night.  Mom didn’t cook on Sunday night after making a massive meal for Sunday dinner (served nearly always at 1 p.m.) which is why we learned to make small plates of toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches or tuna Frenchies (as my older brother calls them).  I don’t think we were eating the same sandwich. Believe me, we didn’t call them small plates back then either.

Dinner time was family time. When the dinner bell rang, we came running. This is where us Hauck kids benefited from:

Family bonding:  Mundane everyday activities bring a family together.  We argued over chores but we spent time together during a meal, for little cost, that brought our family together.  We shared stories and common experiences and our parents shared their family stories with us.  We laughed a lot.

Less behavioral problems:  Dinner was devoted to conversation even when we didn’t want it.  Research proves that young people who communicate more with their parents tend to have less behavioral problems.

Helps kids developed parenting skills:  Kids learn by example. This pattern of eating dinner together in our family began generations back. And hopefully will continue with generations into our future.

Less violence:  Quality time together with a parent will reduce the anxiety and anger that a child will experience especially during the teenage years.

Less chance of drug abuse:  Again, daily, quality time will reduce a child’s chances of needing to turn to substance abuse.

So if the research shows the importance of family time together at meals, why are so many of us struggling to make it happen?  Here are some tips from the WebMD feature by Jeanie Davis that may help you in juggling meal time and for your busy family.

  • Set a goal. Twice a week, perhaps? Build from there.
  • Keep it simple. Family meals don’t have to be elaborate. Work salads and vegetables into meals. Focus on familiar favorites, like chili or frittatas.
  • Be prepared. Keep ingredients for healthful meals on hand, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep healthy ‘appetizers’ on hand. Stock the kitchen with fresh fruits, nuts, and low-fat cheese — stuff the kids can snack on after school, instead of chips.
  • Get the family involved. Let kids help prepare meals and set the table.
  • Use the crock pot. Put everything together before leaving for work in the morning. You’ll come home to the delicious smell of a cooked meal.
  • Pick up take-out, order pizza, or eat out. It still counts as quality time spent together.
  • Avoid portion distortion. Keep serving sizes under control, whether you’re at home or eating out.
  • Make it enjoyable. Leave the serious discussions for another time. Family meals are for nourishment, comfort, and support.
  • Set the mood. Play soothing music. Put flowers on the table. Light a candle. Create a relaxing environment

” A family that dines together, stays together.”  So turn off the T.V and the cell phones, gather at the family table, and ask each other, how was your day?

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The Hauck Family 1960’s dinner table – mom and dad at each end and the kids around the sides. That is me next to my mother and my grandmother Helen. Look! Tom is making a fake happy smile behind Mike’s head. Truly family time.
Tuna Memories

Tuna Memories

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My grandfathers — left to right Lawrence Edward Hauck and Joseph “Earl” Hovorka (the fisherman) Quinault Lake, 1963

My mother stocked a canned food pantry in our basement growing up in Kansas.  We had a large garden and she “put up” tomatoes, green beans, sour cherries, and cucumber pickles and relish. And any other yummy goodness when she could got her hands on it.  Occasionally, we had sand plum jelly and watermelon pickles (my favorite). But my grandmother, Katherine Hovorka, a good woman of Scottish heritage, was the queen of canning (she taught my mother her tricks of the trade).  My grandparents moved to Quinault, Washington, before I was born and enjoyed the lush gardening and fishing life found in the Pacific Northwest. Quinault Lake is located in the Olympic National Park and Rain Forest.  My childhood memories of staying with my grandparents with my family during the summers are epic.

One of my favorite memories is going to the beach to clam dig.  My grandpa had an old Jeep Waggoner that hauled all of us Hauck kids and our gear including sturdy buckets, shovels and clam rakes to the coast. We would get up before dawn and head out for the best clamming stops like Copalis Beach and others (see map below).  Grandma always asked the locals and checked official reports of where the best digging could be found before we ventured out. Technically,  clams can be found in muddy areas, freshwater or saltwater areas, but you do need to do a little work to dig them. Once you have located an area where there are clams, dig about 6 to 8 inches from the top to get the clams. Often times, clams will burrow deeper into the mud. A razor clam will often dig at least 12 inches below, only extending its neck for air.

Upon arrival, we would scour the sand and mud (best time is low tide) with guidance from grandma and my aunties, for the telltale signs of the favored razor clam.    The first clue we looked for when searching for the shy creatures, was a tiny dimple in the sand followed by a few water bubbles ( I used to think that the clam was farting).  I learned later that this is called a breathing hole.Then you dig as fast and deep as you can to catch the little muthers and when caught,  we flipped them into our sturdy buckets.  I shied away from what happened to the clams after catching them but I know my grandmother shucked them, made soups and salads and then proceeded to can the remainder while they were fresh.  This work was done back at the lake house in a special shed used just for this purpose.  Growing up in Kansas, my favorite savory shipment from my grandparents was canned tuna and other seafood.  This special delivery, just barely beat out the perfumed-laced bundle of evergreens and pine cones that arrived by letter carrier every December.  My grandfather loved to fish for tuna and salmon so whatever he caught, my grandmother canned and then shared with their family.  Looking for the perfect place for a summer vacation away from the heat of Texas?  Check out:  http://www.olympicnationalparks.com/accommodations/lake-quinault-lodge.aspx

Quinault

I love canned tuna to this day.  It must be packed in oil.  On my recent visit with my sister-in-law, she shared a tip for purchasing canned tuna that is on point for taste and texture to Grandma’s.  The canning business is called Merino’s Seafood and you can order the fresh and canned goodness by the case.  http://www.merinoseafoods.com/  They fillet and hand pack each can of tuna, add a pinch of salt and cook the solid white albacore fish in its own juice. They don’t have online ordering yet (it is in the works) so you have to call in your order.  They make you work for it, just like it should be.  Happy canning and to the elixir of life (toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches – recipe below).

Toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches from my childhood (no parental involvement required).

You will need:

  • 1 small jar of grandma’s tuna, drained or one can from Merino’s
  • scoop of good mayo (like Hellman’s or Duke’s)
  • diced yellow onion to taste
  • salt and pepper

Combine this mixture well and spread generously onto the bottom of a hamburger bun.  On the top inside of the bun, add a slice of cheese (back then we used Velveeta by the block).  Place both sides under a broiler until the cheese is melted and brown and the bun is toasty.  Remove and place the gooey cheese top portion on the tuna spread bottom.  Press gently together.  Serve with canned baked beans (doctored up) and chips.  Add a fresh orange cut into rings sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar for dessert.

The Muscle Shoals

The Muscle Shoals

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Dave, Tom, Dilyn, Mike, Debbie and Blogger in Muscle Shoals, July 2015

The Muscle Shoals include the towns of Florence, Sheffield, Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals.  The Tennessee River, the “singing river”, runs through these northern Alabama communities bringing fiddle playing, folk and later the Muscle Shoals Sound made popular by FAME studio, the Swampers, Jerry Wexler, Rick Hall and a long list of renowned music makers including Cher, Percy Sledge, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Osmonds, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and so many more. Over the 4th of July week-end, my siblings and our mates explored the must see sites of the roots of American music trail including Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, FAME studio, Alabama Music Hall of Fame, and W.C. Handy – Father of the Blues’ original home and museum.

My brother, Mike, and his wife, Debbie, have relocated to outside of Rogersville, AL, which made for a perfect gathering spot to celebrate Independence Day.  The week-end weather was cool with rain, which while dampening the fireworks, did not slow us down from cooking out, enjoying views of the river, and an outing to the Huntsville Space and Rocket Museum.  Trip highlights were many.

  • The Moon Tree and gardens around Helen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia is worth a two to three-hour stopover. We saw the black well where Helen Keller first tapped out the word, water, as well as a towering tree, named the Moon Tree because the original seed flew to the moon and back on a USA rocket before it was planted in this garden.  The gift shop missed an opportunity to sell books by Helen Keller including her autobiography. Did you know she wrote about twelve books in her lifetime? Instead, the voracious readers in our family had to seek out a Barnes and Noble to get our fix and to learn more about this incredible woman’s life journey.
  • While FAME studios has not changed a bit from its start in the 1970’s, something about the sheer magnitude of the number of incredible musicians that performed here made for an out-of-the-ordinary experience for our gang this week-end.  We pretended to jam at the same piano that Aretha Franklin sang Respect and RM lip-synched at the microphone in a private sound booth that Paul Simon swooned Kodachrome all the while we were collectively a bit aghast by the crudeness and dinginess of the place.  This studio is in serious need of a face lift and scrubbing.  It reminded me of a restaurant dive that never changes the decor or the grill or the grease trap out of fear that if anything is updated it will somehow change the taste of the burgers and jeopardize the steady draw of its customer base.  Many of these artists believed and came to FAME for a comeback or a kick-start because this studio had a certain magic and a string of #1 hits to prove its mystique.  The real secret to its success was the studio musicians, the Swampers, and the drive of the producers.  But maybe it was the singing river and the shoals, who knows?  Check out the documentary about Muscle Shoals, the small town with a big sound and learn more about the history.  http://www.magpictures.com/muscleshoals/ BTW…it is on Netflix.
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RM “singing” Kodachrome at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Greasy, man, real greasy.
  • A 4th of July cookout with my family including grilled halibut steak, Pacific salmon, veggies from our hosts’ garden and stories around the family table.  Laughing a lot and remembering…
  • A  family of tiny hummingbirds outside the window in the mornings at the feeder and among the flowers.
  • Sharing a love of music, books, crafts, hobbies and cooking. And getting reconnected to our roots.

So if you haven’t yet visited northern Alabama, plan on a visit and note that the W.C Handy Music Festival is the last full week in July in Florence.  Check out http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org for details and get down to some greasy rock and roll! Happy 4th of July and as Wilson Pickett recorded at FAME , “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.”

Mighty 4th of July

Mighty 4th of July

Sweet memories again this year from this previous blog as we celebrate the 4th of July together in Alabama. I hope we just watch the fireworks.

Red Dirt Girl

bottle rocket

The 4th of July is the holy grail of holidays for my older brothers. I woke up the morning of the 4th wondering if I would live to see the 5th. My dear brothers, especially Ed, looked forward to this day with relish, saving their money, working at the Boy Scout fireworks stand, with ode to punk clouding their senses like Mary Jane did a few years later. The punk was righteous. Black cats were too. Ant dens were lined with firecrackers and blown to bits as was any plastic toy no longer fit for service. The three boys played terrorizing games of lighting the fuse and then egging each other on for that last…possible..moment to pitch it before it exploded under the fleshy leg of a fellow 4th of July addict. Nothing was safe especially not the little sister. When I was five, I hung onto the porch on…

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