Escape to the Cape

Owing to friends with a lovely second home, our family spent a long weekend on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, this summer. We have been fortunate to visit these friends, originally from New York and Connecticut, several times and were eager to return. Here are my favorite things about Cape Cod:

1. The physical shape of the island. Flex your bicep and you have the shape. The southern portion of the Cape represents the "upper arm," Chatham the elbow, and the north–south portion is the "lower arm," or forearm. Provincetown then is the tip of your fingers.

2. Provincetown. On Nov. 9, 1620, the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod while attempting to sail to the Colony of Virginia. After two days of failed attempts, they returned to the safety of the harbor known today as Provincetown Harbor, set anchor and drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact. Today, “P-town” has a year-round population of 3,664 and a summer population as high as 60,000. It is known for its beaches, harbor artists, tourism industry, and as a popular vacation destination for the LGBTQ+ community.

3. The super-wide beaches!

4. The Beachcomber and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The CCNS, created on Aug. 7, 1961, by President John F. Kennedy, encompasses 43,607 acres (68.1 square miles) on Cape Cod and includes nearly 40 miles of seashore along the Atlantic-facing eastern shore. We always visit the National Seashore in Wellfleet at Cahoon Hollow Beach, where we also eat at the Beachcomber — and buy the Comfort Colors T-shirts to prove it.

5. Fish piers. Where there are fishing boats, there are sea lions, and where there are sea lions, there are sharks!

6. Sharks. Watch Shark Week programs on Discovery Network or download the Sharktivity app on your mobile device; you will see that Cape Cod is the epicenter of North American shark activity.

7. Gray shingles and blue hydrangeas.

8. Lobster!

9. Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. These chips are made in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on the Cape, and nearly always served with lobster rolls. And to think the iconic artwork of Nauset Light on the chip bag was painted by Posey County native Elizabeth Mumford. This local connection was even featured in the very first issue of Evansville Living.

10. Our hostess. Janice generously shares her cooking and entertaining skills. As we visited right after my birthday, she prepared this tasty Atlantic Beach Pie.

Photos provided by Kristen K. Tucker.

A Tornado Disaster Memorialized in Lubbock

Recently I flew to Lubbock, Texas, to join a small group of travel writers (all vaccinated) on a press trip. I fell under the spell of the “Hub City” of West Texas: its quirkiness, the high plains (Lubbock sits at 3,202 feet; you can see for miles), its culture, food, and people — not to mention Lubbock is the hometown of Buddy Holly and the home of Texas Tech University.

Soon after my arrival, in the beautiful open-air courtyard at the Cotton Court Hotel enjoying the drink of Lubbock, a Chilton, John Osborne, President and CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and Visit Lubbock, welcomed us with a dramatic story.

On May 11,1970, the Lubbock Tornado struck the city, plowing through downtown and taking the lives of 26 people. It was the first documented F5 tornado, Osborne explained:

“The impact of the infamous 1970 tornado changed the culture of Lubbock forever. In a matter of half an hour, the thriving heart of the city turned into ground zero for one of the most devastating natural disasters of its time. Now, Lubbock’s downtown is exhibiting a new birth of activity as revitalization efforts continue to shape the downtown of today. With significant projects like The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, Citizens Tower, and the Cotton Court Hotel, the resiliency of our community is depicted in each historic building and new structure. As we look back 50 years later and see the effect of the tornado, we are overwhelmed by the strength of the city and find hope in how we move forward together, honoring the past and paving a way forward to the future.”

Soon after I departed Lubbock, on May 11, 2021, 51 years after the historic tornado, Lubbock unveiled its Lubbock Tornado Gateway Memorial Project. Designed to mirror the storm’s destructive path, the impressive granite gateway takes guests on a minute-by-minute journey through the events of that fateful night. The memorial uses 20-foot tall walls inscribed with quotes, facts, and the names of the victims to represent the paths of the tornado. On one end of the memorial is a fountain; its roaring waters mimic the sound of the storm that night.

My complete story about Lubbock will appear in the September/October issue of Evansville Living.

Photos provided by Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) & Visit Lubbock.

A "Lagom" Approach

In the charming Wisconsin village of Elkhart Lake, Pirkko Jarvensivu has owned and operated Nordic Accents for 32 years. I have traveled to Elkhart Lake twice and each time, I paid a visit to Pirrko, always behind the counter or arranging displays and inventory in her beautiful store.

On my last visit I bought an attractive pocket-sized book, “The Nordic Guide to Living 10 Years Longer: 10 Easy Tips for a Happier, Healthier Life” by Bertil Marklund, MD, PhD (Greystone Books, 2017).

Since it’s the time of year when many of us evaluate our health, in this double-length post I will give Marklund’s book a bit of a review. I’ve since gifted the book twice, though sadly could not visit Nordic Accents for the second purchase. It is available on Amazon. It is important to note that this is a book review and not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professionals before embarking on any new healthcare program.

In the Introduction, Marklund tells us his parents passed away too early and through that experience he found himself considering what choices he could make in his own life that might grant him more healthy years to share with family and friends. As a doctor, he turned to the latest science on the matter of health and longevity. He found the main threat to our health is inflammation in the body. True to his Swedish roots of pared down simplicity, Marklund wanted to make his findings accessible and easy to understand for as many people as possible. His short book covers broad ground, providing a comprehensive guide to lifestyle choices, including areas such as sleep, diet, exercise, and social relationships, all geared to prevent damaging inflammation.

Right up front, Marklund explains the Nordic focus of [lagom], for which there is no English equivalent but is best translated as “just the right amount.” Marlund emphasizes that to live a healthy live you do not have to go to extremes. “It’s the small and simple changes that amount to a happy, healthier life,” he writes.

The first portion of the book explains inflammation and how to avoid it in lay terms. It is here he calls out smoking: “by far the most significant cause of free radicals and inflammation.”

The book is further organized into 10 Tips — a handful of pages on each tip taking a deeper dive than I share here, of course.

Tip 1: The importance of exercise
Physical activity will lead to extended life expectancy, stress reduction, delay in dementia, provide risk reduction for diabetes, protect against cancer, and offer risk reduction for cardiovascular diseases.

Tip 2: Time for recovery
“It has been scientifically proven that a less stressful existence improves health. So relax your shoulders and accept that: Life is not just about surviving, it’s about thriving.”

Tip 3: Sleep fortifies
Research shows sleep supports a strong immune system, which reduces numerous significant health risks.

Tip 4: Sun — but not too much
The sun is our best source of Vitamin D. Worldwide, “thirty people die of diseases related to Vitamin D deficiency for every one person who dies of skin cancer.”

Tip 5: Eat yourself healthy
Research agrees certain foods have clear links to health and disease. Foods can both protect against and create inflammation.

Tip 6: Choose the right drink
Certain drinks can promote health — coffee! — but water is the No. 1 drink for life. Booze also is covered, of course.

Tip 7: Keep your weight in check
Losing weight and then maintaining your ideal weight involves switching to a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise that is maintained for life.

Tip 8: Oral health provides general health
People are surprised to learn there is a correlation between gum inflammation and diseases of the body’s vascular system.

Tip 9: Be an optimist
Optimists live longer, have better attention levels and better memories.

Tip 10: We need each other
“People are pack animals — we need each other.”

Photo Card Memories

I love going to the mailbox during the month of December to be greeted by holiday cards. I appreciate all styles of cards — traditional, tiny, foil covered, and religious. The majority of the cards we receive are photo cards. This year, 60 percent are photo cards so far. I have participated in the growing trend for years — 56 to be exact — but never have I wondered where the idea actually came from. Turns out the first known “personalized” Christmas card was sent in 1891 by Annie Oakley, the famous sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She was in Glasgow, Scotland, during Christmas 1891 and sent cards back to her friends and family in the U.S. featuring a photo of her. Annie reportedly designed the cards herself and they were printed by a local printer. (Annie Oakley card)

I appeared on my parents’ Christmas card in 1964 as a 6-month-old. I recently found this card, along with the 1965 version, in a box including, among other things, my great-grandmother Mac’s wedding shoes (circa 1900), my father’s 1960 withholding tax statement from Ronan, Montana (he earned $2,460 teaching that year), and my sister Tiffany’s “Fang Baby” (a small stuffed doll she drew fang teeth on in the late 1970s) — along with dozens of other family ephemera (old Pizza Chef ads and menus). The Fang Baby is another story; she will be taking a trip via USPS to North Carolina soon.

Displayed on the piano in our home office for the holidays are 20 photo holiday cards from the 22 years since our oldest son Maxwell was born. I will have to do some more digging to find the two missing cards. We like to look back at them and have a few chuckles; nearly every card has a story. Here are the earliest cards each of our boys appeared on. Maxwell now is 22; Jackson is 19.


Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Here’s to 2021!

Remembering Pete’s

Nostalgia plays big in Evansville. Two Facebook pages — “I Grew Up in Evansville” and “You Grew Up in Evansville, IN If” — together have nearly 45,000 followers. On any given day topics range from reminiscing about the Mesker Park Carousel to bygone dining establishments, where Pete’s Supper Club is fondly remembered.

Until Indiana Gov. Robert D. Orr drove the bulldozer that knocked down the establishment and others blocking the way of the eventual Lloyd Expressway in the spring of 1983, Pete’s was among Evansville’s top dining destinations. Here, in an extended blog post, I will share Facebook comments about the legendary supper club, posted to the Evansville Facebook pages I mentioned.

▲ Image courtesy of Larry Lee

Pete Mosby was my uncle. He used to have Boots Randolph at the Supper Club. I remember taking my date from Central’s Turn-a-bout at age 16 and Uncle Pete taking us in the kitchen and showing us the live lobsters. He served us all Shirley Temples. We thought we were big time. Uncle Pete was bigger than life in my book (and louder). Oh, the stories I could tell! — Brenda Robbins Glenn

Pete’s closed on March 6, 1982, for the Lloyd Expressway. Pete’s was a high-class night club. Great food, valet parking, and great entertainment!! — Barb Maveety

Went there with my date on prom night in 1976. — Pam Lindsey-Parish

Big date night back in the 1970s: dinner at Pete’s then down the street to a play/musical at Evansville Civic Theater. — David Osterman

I guess this was the last of the supper clubs. Going out to dinner used to be an all-evening event with cocktails before dinner and dancing afterwards. Good times. — MaryAnn Jines

Men had to wear a sport coat or suit jacket — they would lend you one if needed. My friend did not want to wear one and we talked him into wearing one and he found $40 in the coat pocket. He picked up the bill. — Ron Collins

Loved it too. Remember Pete ranting and hollering if the band was late from break. — Johnnye Rohner

He was always ranting but he ran one of the finest restaurants in the country. — William Kleitz

It was a super classy dinner club with live music and dancing. My parents would actually take my brother and me; we would get to see them dancing and we had Shirley Temples. My brother would have Lobster Thermidor; I would have filet mignon. That was when I was about eight. Then as a teen we went there for prom and a few other special celebrations. We need another romantic Pete’s Supper Club. — Shari Short

Pete’s Supper Club — where single women always felt comfortable because Pete looked after you. And drinks, I believe, were two for $1. — Ruth Wagoner

▲ Photos of 1960s Pete's Supper Club Restaurant Menu courtesy of Ricky Zeigler,

Carl Earl “Pete” Mosby died in Evansville on March 3, 2002, at the age of 76.

The Supper Club

Outside of Florida, where we have vacationed for years; Iowa, where I as born; Kentucky, where I went to college; and Tennessee and Georgia, where we have had relatives living, Wisconsin is the state I have visited regularly, mostly to produce travel stories for Evansville Living. The Badger State is known for many things; among them cheese, beer, and football — and supper clubs. While the term "supper club" is not indigenous to Wisconsin, few other people embrace it with such enthusiasm and reverence. A late summer trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin provided me the opportunity to inquire what defines a Wisconsin supper club. Kathleen Eickhoff of Elkhart Lake Tourism is an expert on all things Wisconsin; here is her paraphrased description.

Photo courtesy

First, in Wisconsin children can be with their parents in bars. Supper clubs are family destinations and typically are located on the edge of small towns. They always feature a very large bar. The family arrives to the supper club at about 5 p.m. and goes to the bar first. At the bar, the adults order cocktails. The Old Fashioned — made with brandy, sweet or sour — originated in Wisconsin. Children may remember getting Shirley Temples. There is a minimum 60-minute seating period in the bar; more drinks can be ordered. When the family is seated for dinner an hour later, a large relish tray will already be on the table, and their dinner — high quality, home-style entrees — comes out in courses. Of course, more cocktails can be ordered. Supper clubs often feature live music, especially on the weekends, and dancing.

▲ Pete's Supper Club in 1983, photo courtesy Tim Dill

If the scene at supper clubs sound familiar to folks in Evansville, it is because the River City was home to several legendary supper clubs. First, Pal’s in the 1960s, and then Pete’s Supper Club, its successor, which was open from the late 1960s until the early 1980s when the Lloyd Expressway was built. The Evansville Kennel Club, closed just two years ago, was considered by its members to be a supper club.

Next, I’ll take a look at the history of supper clubs in Evansville.

Eye Candy from the Pre-COVID-19 Era

It’s been too long! Perhaps like you, the pandemic has me pretty bummed out. I am a writer at heart. Every day I think, “I gotta get a blog entry going.” And it’s only 300 words! But when so much of what you want to share cannot be fully enjoyed right now, why bother? That is a terrible attitude. Why bother? To share the beauty of this world. What we all need right now is a bit more eye candy. Here you go, I’ll make this a double.

In early March, a week before Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb closed the state, I flew to St. Petersburg, Florida, to chase away the winter blues by visiting my friend Janet who moved there from Evansville about five years ago. Janet knows what I love — glass, flowers, beaches, and fun. She set up our itinerary accordingly.

First, meet Janet. Here we are at her beautiful friend Eva’s International Women’s Day celebration before we went to drum circle. What an experience! I hope neither are a thing of the past.

Now for the eye candy. The Imagine Museum in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District is a privately owned museum founded in 2016 with a vision of creating the most significant collection of contemporary glass art in the world. Though St. Petersburg already was home to a significant Dale Chihuly collection (also on the tour), Imagine displays a considerable amount of glass by the iconic American artist. I was astonished we could walk freely around these beautiful works, many [not] encased in glass. What about children, I wondered? When I called the museum this week to confirm artists’ names, I mentioned this to the associate I spoke with.

“Children know to keep their hands to themselves,” she told me. “It’s the adults who can’t always be trusted.” Truth.

▲ Dale Chihuly vessel, 1988

▲ Anthony James, Portal Icosahedron, 2018, and Emily Brock, After, 2016

▲ Emily Brock, Coffee and Cake, 2016

For the past 100 years, the organization known today as the Morean Arts Center has been a destination for artists and art lovers. Today it houses among its galleries The Chihuly Collection and the Morean Glass Studio. The centerpieces of the Chihuly Collection are two installations, Ruby Red Icicles Chandelier and Mille Fiori, both created in 2010 by Chihuly and installed in 2017. This Chihuly exhibition marks the first time his artwork has been displayed in a facility designed specifically to complement the artist’s immersive installations. 

▲ Dale Chihuly, Ruby Red Icicles Chandelier and Mille Fiori

In the Morean Glass Studio, live glassblowing demonstrations are typically offered daily. From spectator bleachers, guests witness the blower and his associate, the narrator, create a gorgeous large vessel.

▲ Blowing glass demonstration at the Morean Glass Studio

Historic Sunken Gardens feels like an old Florida roadside attraction, and it is. It’s the oldest tourist attraction on Florida’s west coast and is one of the oldest roadside attractions in the U.S. The gardens were formed in the early 1900s by a private landowner who had purchased 6 acres of land, including a shallow lake 10 feet below sea level, which he drained to form his private “sunken” garden. Today the gardens are owned by the city of St. Petersburg and are maintained by volunteers.

▲ Chilean Flamingos at Historic Sunken Gardens

▲ Palm trees rooted for a century

We ate delicious, beautiful food in vibrant restaurants — pad thai at Nitally’s ThaiMex in the Historic Uptown district of St. Petersburg and vegan and gluten-free comfort food at Love Food Central were among my favorites.

▲ Pad Thai at Nitally’s ThaiMex

▲ Atmosphere of Nitally’s Thai Mex

▲ Love Food Central exterior photo

Janet says she is working on an itinerary for round two, post COVID. I’ll be there!

Across the Street

For as long as our family has lived in our house, we announce to one another sometimes several times a day, “I’m going across the street.” During our coronavirus quarantine, this announcement has been made even more frequently. Our across-the-street neighbors Tom and Donna are wonderful, but we’re not visiting with them several times a day; nor are we seeing our catty-corner neighbors Chris and Siobhan, who are equally wonderful. Where we are going now when we make this announcement is the “park” — the Evansville State Hospital grounds directly across Lincoln Avenue from our house.

▲ The vast grounds of the Evansville State Hospital have grown even more popular for families to visit during the pandemic.

My sons grew up playing on the grounds of the Evansville State Hospital. They know all the nooks and crannies. Maxwell remembers some of the original buildings; the last were torn down in 2008. On a recent walk with Maxwell and our family dog Jed, Max showed me a small ravine sloping down from behind the Eykamp Scout Center toward the baseball park along Vann Avenue. During 7th and 8th grade cross-country practices held on the grounds, the boys would duck into the ravine to lighten their training load.

In 1883, the Indiana General Assembly authorized the construction of the Southern Indiana Hospital for the Insane. The hospital was built on 160 acres of land on Newburgh Road, now known as Lincoln Avenue. The first patients were seen in 1890. The campus quickly expanded, eventually holding nearly 900 acres of what is now the East Side of Evansville, including the land eventually repurposed for Roberts Stadium, St. Mary’s Medical Center, and Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve. Using patient labor, the hospital staffed a working farm, including dairy cows, poultry, and an orchard. Due to stigma, early staff unofficially took to calling the facility Woodmere, meaning “tranquility in the forest.” 

▲ My kids discovered some of the secrets of the Evansville State Hospital growing up, like this plaque marking a time capsule buried in 1990 for the hospital’s centennial. It is to be opened in 2040.

Today, the land west of the main entrance off Lincoln and north to the Lloyd Expressway is owned by the city of Evansville. The land east of Administration Drive, including a softball diamond and the lakes, all the way to the eastern property line is owned by the State Office Building Commission. The actual State Hospital is owned by the State Hospital of Evansville.

▲ The Evansville State Hospital grounds are home to the Display Garden of the Southwest Indiana Master Gardener Association.

Food in the time of Coronavirus

COVID-19, the coronavirus unleashed on the world late last year, is causing a hyper focus on food. Consumers are stockpiling groceries and necessities, and restaurants and bars are forced to close or offer only delivery and carry-out. For levity or information, I have a few thoughts on eating at home in the time of coronavirus.

Is powdered/dry milk good? — a question posted on social media. I did not buy powdered milk but recall drinking plenty of it growing up, most often during Iowa snowstorms, or maybe we were low on money. (My school teacher parents were paid very little.)

We have plenty of bread, but fearing we might run out, I made cornbread from mix Monday night. Of course, I had that last piece in a cup of milk the next morning. This seems like a thing to do during quarantine.

I’ve discussed the differing attitudes about butter with my Social Literary Circle friends recently. Growing up there were two kinds of households: those who left their butter on the counter, maybe allowing family members to take a nibble any time, and those who kept the butter, or margarine like us, in the refrigerator. Butter also can be a food, as in sugar and butter sandwiches. I recall a Gourmet essay by the late Laurie Colwin who grew up on butter and sugar balls.

If you have been craving healthy vegetables and have a decent stockpile, I will share the nearly famous Gypsy Soup. Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook was among the cookbooks I inherited from my mother. I made a number of substitutions, using both sweet potatoes and carrots. The kitchen smelled heavenly.

If you are not cooking, please remember our local restaurants that are working hard to continue serving us during the coronavirus pandemic!

A Double Edition for a Dramatic Story

I did not visit the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, expecting to have a strong Evansville encounter. Those who maintain Evansville, Indiana, is the center of the universe, evidenced by the experiences we have everywhere we go, will, however, not be surprised.

We had just completed our five-course meal — surf and turf — with the captain of the Titanic in the ship’s extravagant dining room. Our group of journalists had been invited to talk with the “captain,” as well as Mary Joslyn, who along with her husband John is the owner and developer of the Titanic Museum Attractions in Branson, Missouri, and Pigeon Forge. As lead employee trainer Jodi Trees Justus prepared to lead us on our tour, she asked where each of the journalists was from. “Evansville, Indiana,” I replied. “Southwestern Indiana, across the Ohio River from Kentucky and near the Illinois border.”

“Evansville!” Ms. Justus exclaimed. “I know Evansville! My daddy was a state trooper who was killed in the line of duty in Princeton, Indiana, when I was just 1. There’s a sign — much larger than we thought it would be — over the Patoka River Bridge outside Evansville on I-69. My daddy’s sign can be seen going north; another officer is honored going south.”

I was stunned. I knew the sign; I knew her father’s name from the sign. I didn’t know her story. As Jodi hurriedly told me what happened on June 26, 1972 — lest we hold up the tour — I hugged her and vowed to learn more and write about Jodi and her father. She showed me photos on her phone — “I was a daddy’s girl,” says Jodi. Her photos show the young officer cradling his baby girl; another shows the state trooper looking rather stoic and brave.

Jodi told me of a story Courier & Press writer Mark Coomer wrote in 2007 about the police chase that ended her father’s life. I found the story titled, “A Crash One Night,” available for a small fee on Newspaper Archives. You can read an abbreviated text of what happened that night here:

I reached out to Sgt. Todd Ringle, public information officer for the Indiana State Police, to learn more about the history of the Memorial Bridge Project and the ISP’s efforts to honor fallen troopers. Sgt. Ringle reported three retired Indiana State Troopers (Sgt. Jim Nelson, First Sgt. Greg Oeth, and Sgt. Wayne Flick) approached Indiana Senator Jim Tomes of Wadesville to sponsor memorials on Indiana highways to honor three southwestern police officers killed in the line of duty. Senator Tomes authored resolutions that passed the Senate and the House during the 2013 General Assembly. On March 4, 2013, members of the Trees family stood alongside family members of the other two fallen officers as the resolution was read to the Senate.

A little over two months later, Jodi Trees Justus, her mother Marsha Trees Ayers, and her brother William Joseph Trees Jr., born six months after his father’s death, returned to southern Indiana for the dedication of the sign on I-69 on the Patoka River Bridge at the Gibson and Pike county line. The Southbound Bridge is dedicated to Oakland City Officer Michael Deno, who also was killed in Gibson County. A third sign on I-64 on the bridge over Big Bayou River in Posey County honors Sgt. John E. Hatfull.

▲ Jodi Trees Justus, Marsha Trees, and William Joseph Trees Jr.

Each year in the spring, the Indiana State Police honor the sacrifice of those who have died with a memorial service. The service begins with a traditional roll call of ISP units killed in the line of duty, and after each name is called, troopers fire off a single shot. Jodi says she has returned to most of these ceremonies.

Sgt. Ringle says the case on Jodi’s father is still open. Forty-eight years later the ISP would like to identify the speeding motorist whose chase caused the fatal accident. Jodi grew up believing her father died as the result of an accident; she had not considered a crime had taken place until she was interviewed by Coomer in 2007. At the time, an officer had told her, “This case is still open. We had a lead on it this last week.”

Jodi’s son, Riley Trotter, is a police officer in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Jodi promises to look me up if she comes to southwestern Indiana for the annual observation.

If you have any information about this case, please contact the Indiana State Police at 812-867-2079.

▲ Photo provided by Sgt. Todd Ringle, Indiana State Police.

Hoosier Chili

I did not set out to make Hoosier Chili a few Sundays ago. But as I assembled what ingredients I had on hand, the destiny of Indiana chili was manifest. The Thursday before I had picked up my now weekly Market Wagon order at Honey Moon Coffee Co. (South Weinbach Avenue location) — two well-packed paper grocery bags stored behind the counter of the shop in black insulated bags. Inside, regionally sourced: 1 pound ground beef, 1 pound stew meat, EverCrisp apples, orange fennel sausage, honey, eggs, peasant bread, salad greens, garlic, and mushrooms. Of course, not everything was meant for the chili.

I normally make my fathers’s chili, Jack’s Chili. For this batch, I wanted to use both the ground beef and the stew meat; an online search led me to this recipe for guidance. I especially liked that it asked for a malty beer. I used one of my favorites, Sun King Sun Light Cream Ale. The beer helped lay the foundation for the Hoosier riff on my chili.

My standard pantry brand of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste is Red Gold. Yay, an Indiana brand! Rather than soaking the beans, I did buy canned; the Schnucks label says they are “Midwest grown.”

While the recipes offered guidance, I amped up the spice all around, dashing hot sauce and throwing in an unsweetened chocolate square. The chili smelled really great simmering on the stove for a couple of hours.

I served the first round of the newly named Hoosier Chili with a spoonful of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. My family proclaimed this adaptation a success.

Meet Sunny

Lucky would expect us to pay it forward, especially if she knew more than 300 of her fellow felines awaited adoption at the Vanderburgh Humane Society. So two days after we lost our beloved Lucky, our family met at River Kitty Café.

River Kitty Café is a cat café in Downtown Evansville with 10 to 15 cats on the premise available for adoption or quality playing time. Visitors enjoy their coffee in the glass enclosed cat room for $5, or eat sweets (macarons!) and savories, along with coffee, beer, or wine in the main café, watching the antics of the cats through the floor to ceiling windows. The café serves as an outreach of the Vanderburgh Humane Society, which facilitates the adoptions.

Any of the kitties would have made great pets, joining Lou, our 12-year-old gray domestic male cat, and our 7-year-old mountain cur dog Jed. My husband liked Toby, an orange male tabby. We also liked three kittens from the “fruit group.” Co-owner Annette Gries explained the cats from VHS arrive with themed names; the “fruit group” — Lime, Clementine, and Tangerine — were siblings that came in together (and recently adopted together as well!).

We spotted a kitten with a tuxedo coat sunning in a basket in the window. It didn’t take long to start her motor; she was exceptionally soft and cute. We wanted to get to VHS to complete the adoption paperwork before they closed. We told Annette we had made a decision.

“Evangeline,” our son Maxwell said.

“Evangeline!” Annette repeated, pleasantly surprised, I think.

We had selected the kitten from the window, that, turns out, Annette had babied more than a bit; cradling her on her back, rubbing her belly and chin.

The adoption paperwork was completed at VHS, and we returned to River Kitty to pick up Evangeline in her cardboard box. That night we introduced “Sunny” to her new home — Sunny, as we found her in the sun, and, the abbreviation of her full name given by my husband, Sunny Von Bulow.

Our Cat Lucky

Our cat Lucky died last week. I had written about her and our other pets in the Editor’s Letter of Evansville Living this spring. We had no idea she would become ill, of course.

In August we became alarmed at how thin Lucky was; we realized she had lost quite a bit of weight and had an unusual posture. Our longtime vet Dr. Dan Grimm confirmed what we were afraid of: Lucky had a mass in her abdominal area and it was likely cancer. Dr. Grimm gave her a shot of cortisone to make her more comfortable and improve her appetite and we took her home to shower her with affection over the coming days.

A month later, last week, we were back in Dr. Grimm’s office and this time the sweet nearly 14-year-old cat that behaved like a kitten did not come home with us.

We chose Lucky from the Vanderburgh Humane Society. On her first evening home with us she enjoyed a bit of salmon, hence her name; we thought she was pretty lucky to be treated to salmon when she joined our household. She was an active, darling cat who was super friendly from the start.

▲ Lucky, 4 months old

When she was about one, our youngest son Jackson (who was about 5 at the time) came into the kitchen holding Lucky, exclaiming she had a “golf ball coming out of her ear.” Yes, poor Lucky; her ear canal was swollen and protruding and did look like a golf ball. Surgery was required to treat it. Just 6 months later the scene repeated, identically, with the other ear requiring surgery, too. As a result of the surgery on both of her ears, Lucky’s perky ears were permanently disfigured, giving her an exotic look somewhat like a Scottish Fold breed.

Anyone who visited our home in the past 14 years knew Lucky. More than a few tears have been shed for her — one awesome cat.

▲ Left: Lucky, 1, and Maxwell, 7. Right: She wasn’t an outside cat, but loved being outside.

▲ Lucky’s neighbors Hillary and Eliza made cards to cheer us up.

A Few Days in Green Bay, Part 2

This post continues my notes on Green Bay, Wisconsin, the smallest U.S. city to host an NFL team.

On game days and all days, locals and visitors flock to Kroll’s West, across the street from Lambeau Field, for its famous butter burgers served in a plain white wrapper (often listed on national “best burger” lists), booyah (a soup that’s a bit like southern Indiana burgoo but always made with chicken), and throwback atmosphere.

The superlatives continue at Uncle Mike’s Kringles, the North American Kringle Champion and winner of the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin.

Five breweries operate in Green Bay. At Badger State Brewing I was impressed with its brewing facilities, tasting room, terrific special event space, beer garden/patio – and of course the beer.

Our group (travel journalists) visited Anduzzis Sports Bar for one reason: the Ultimate Bloody Mary, a perfectly prepared bloody plus extras — one hamburger slider, one Buffalo chicken slider, two boneless and two traditional wings, three mini corndogs, three shrimp, pickles, olives, peppers, onions, mushrooms, beef sticks, meatballs, and cheese.

The 44th parallel north is a circle of latitude that passes through some of Europe’s best wine making regions — and Green Bay, Wisconsin. The city is home to an award-winning winery bearing the same name as the latitude circle: Parallel 44, where wine is made with their own grapes.

An unexpected and cool attraction is the Automobile Gallery, located in a historic Cadillac dealership in downtown Green Bay. Founder and president William “Red” Lewis believes “the automobile is the art,” allowing the public to view a wide range of automotive excellence. My favorite car was a sweet baby blue Metropolitan.

The Green Bay Botanical Garden, open year-round and covered with lush vegetation, once was a forgotten orchard dotted with telephone poles and power lines. The 100 percent community funded garden easily is one of the best botanical gardens I’ve visited.

If you’re waiting for an opportunity to attend a Packers’ game to visit Green Bay, your wait could be long. But as I learned, the city is far from a singular sensation. Add Green Bay to your urban destination list and see for yourself.

A Few Days in Green Bay

A recent trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin, showed me the oldest city in the Badger state is far from the one-trick pony or singular sensation you might think it is. Of course the Green Bay Packers are the heartbeat of the city but at a population of just 105,000, the city has a surprising diversity of offerings.

Green Bay is the smallest city to host a National Football League team. Celebrating 100 years in August, the 13-time National Champion Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team to be owned by its fans. The community is widely known as “Titletown.” Titletown also is the name of the impressive entertainment, wellness, and technology district the Packers have created just west of the iconic Lambeau Field.

I stayed at Lodge Kohler overlooking Lambeau Field and Titletown. You’ve seen the name Kohler in your kitchens and bathrooms. The property was developed by the hospitality group associated with the name brand fixture company headquarted in the company town of Kohler, Wisconsin, southwest of Green Bay. The showers at Lodge Kohler feature electronic controls and three shower heads. 

You can read the print edition of my story on Green Bay here. Because Green Bay has so much to enjoy, I offer a few more pointers here and in the next post.

A trip to Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame is required. There are so many fascinating facts about Lambeau. My favorite: When it snows on one of the 10 home game days (a given), a call goes out to the public for folks to help shovel the stadium, which can take anywhere from about six hours to a few days. Shovelers who show up are paid $10 an hour in cash. Years ago the shovelers were paid by check, but that presented an accounting problem: people didn’t cash their checks because they were from the Packers — not as valuable as a Packer share certificate, but a keepsake and Ebay worthy.

Six Days of London in 600 Words, Part II

In this second installment, I continue to outline the points of interest from my trip to London earlier this spring.

The Regent’s Park — One of the London’s eight Royal Parks.

▲ Britain’s early spring was on display in late February in The Regent’s Park.

Harrod’s — The famous department store occupies 1.1 million square feet and has 330 departments.

The British Museum — Opened in 1753, the museum is known for its vast volume of artifacts, including famous works of international dispute.

▲ Left: Among the British Museum’s 8 million artifacts are the Parthenon Marbles (about 50 percent of the Parthenon located in Athens, Greece) and a famous Easter Island Moai (shown here) taken from the Chilean island by the crew of a British ship in November 1868. The museum’s ownership of these artifacts continues to be subject of international controversy. Right: Splurge an afternoon at Fortnum’s in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room: Champagne, Fortnum’s famous tea blends, finger sandwiches, sweet and savory scones, and afternoon tea sandwiches. Guys, it’s not just for girls!

The Craft Beer Company, Covent Garden — 155 keg lines, 79 cask pumps, 200-plus bottles and cans.

Fortnum & Mason — Afternoon Tea, a London tradition.

Bill’s (Baker Street) — A classic English bistro.

Regent Street —A major shopping street in the West End.

▲ The distinctive curved roadway and buildings of Regent Street, laid out by architect John Nash in 1825.

The Metropolitan — Built into the old headquarters of the Metropolitan Railway, the route still runs under the building as the Metropolitan line.

Camden Town — A funky neighborhood with a labyrinth of open-air markets and eateries.

The Globe — A Marylebone favorite. It’s outdoor patio brims with guests drinking pints on warm afternoons.

Yo Sushi —Conveyor belt sushi in the Baker Street tube station.

Hamilton at Victoria Palace Arena — A highlight for Janice and Meghan.

Steely Dan with Steve Winwood at SSE Wembley Arena — While Janice and Meghan saw Hamilton, I was thrilled to see a big rock show in London with my son.

Buckingham Palace — The official home of the monarchy is open for tours 10 weeks in the summer.

▲ Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms:19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. The Royal Standard flies atop the palace when the Sovereign is in residence.

Trafalgar Square — From Buckingham Palace, walk down the tree lined royal road called the Mall through Admiralty Arch to Trafalgar Square.

Mr. Fogg’s Tavern — “Honest British grub and delicious tipples.”

The Gherkin and the IRIS Bar — Atop London’s most instantly recognizable high rise is the IRIS Bar.

▲ Left: Tasty Indian food along the canal at Camden Town. Middle and Right: Perched high above the city in the Gherkin, IRIS Bar offers epic 360-degree views and is open to the public by reservation.

Balthazar — The London outpost of the popular New York City brasserie; our waiter was a huge Indiana Pacers fan.

Mama Mia, Novello Theatre — The cheap seats were a treat on our last night in London.

Six Days of London in (about) 600 Words, Part I

Earlier this spring I visited London with my friend Janice. The calendar said it still was winter but the United Kingdom was experiencing an early spring. We went to visit our kids — my son Maxwell and Janice’s daughter Meghan, Butler University students studying at the University of Westminster.

▲ Left: Maxwell Tucker’s view from his 12th floor dorm room in Marylebone Hall — 60 square feet and a great view. The BT Tower, in the center of the photo, is about a mile from his dorm. Built in 1964 it is 581 feet tall. The Shard, far right in the frame, is about 5 miles from the University of Westminster, Marylebone. Completed in 2012, at 1,016 feet, the Shard is the tallest building in the U.K., the tallest building in the European Union, and the fifth-tallest building in Europe. Right: In Southwark, along the South side of the Thames River, you’ll see the Shard seeming to loom above the City Hall, where the Mayor of London offices are located.

We managed to keep up with the college kids and make the most of our time from our accommodations at Montagu Place in the Marylebone neighborhood of London, a short walk from the University of Westminster’s urban campus, located across the street from the Baker Street tube station. Here’s how we spent our time, in two (about) 300-word installments.

We departed Nashville, Tennessee, on our British Airways flight on a Wednesday evening and arrived at London Heathrow International at noon on Thursday. After a quick nap, we visited the urban campus of the University of Westminster, Marylebone, adjacent to the busy Baker Street tube station and across the street from Madame Tussaud’s — our six-day tour of London began.

Here’s what we visited, where we dined, and what enjoyed:

Grazing Goat A favorite of Max’s and Meghan’s for the best fish and chips and steak and ale pies of the trip.

Il Blandford’s Café — A cozy restaurant; my anchovy pizza was excellent.

Selfridges Don’t make the mistake of thinking Harrod’s is the only department store to visit.

Borough Market A foodie’s paradise. It has existed in one form or another for 1,000 years.

Marquis of Granby It’s here we remembered in the U.K. chips are fries and crisps are chips.

Angel in the Fields —The Londonist says it is compete antithesis of the high-priced eateries and pubs that dominate Marylebone.

Clarette A swanky French wine bar and bistro owned by the heiress to Château Margaux wine estates in Bordeaux.

Tower Bridge and Tower of London Walk along the south bank of the Thames River past City Hall, cross the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. Wait in line to see the 23,578 gemstones of the Crown Jewels.

Parliament Square, next to Westminster Abbey, surprisingly is home to a statue of Abraham Lincoln, a full size replica of the acclaimed original in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Westminster Abbey — Arrive in time to tour the Gothic abbey church; we did not. 

Parade of Planes

Each time I step outside the door of my home on Evansville’s East Side, it seems I hear an aircraft overhead. An avid user of the nifty smart phone app, FlightRadar 24, I can quickly identify the aircraft, its flight path, and altitude, among other data. Sometimes the plane has taken off from EVV, like this flight (right) awaiting departure to Charlotte.

I recently asked Leslie Fella, director of marketing and air service at Evansville Regional Airport (EVV), about the air traffic over the city.

Q: Has the air traffic over Evansville changed through the years?  
A: Traffic levels for overall EVV airspace, roughly 45-mile radius up to 10,000 feet above sea level, over the last five years have been in decline primarily due to drop in General Aviation Activity (cost of operation increased, fewer students learning, and overall economy impact). The year 2013 was the highest; 2015 the lowest. Although increasing, 2018 traffic levels are about 20 percent lower than 2013. Higher altitude (above EVV airspace) corporate, military, and airline operations have been increasing in the last two years.

Q: Why do jets flying cross-country fly right over Evansville? Do they fly over EVV because of our airport or are they following I-64 or the river?  
A: Aircraft fly over Evansville because of the city’s close proximity to the Pocket City VOR. VOR is the acronym for Very High Frequency (VHF) Omni-Directional Range (VOR), a type of short-range radio navigation system for aircraft, enabling aircraft with a receiving unit to determine its position and stay on course by receiving radio signals transmitted by a network of fixed ground radio beacons.

Pocket City VOR is located in Posey County near Marrs Elementary School. It is used as a crossover point for many long cross-country flights. Additionally, another VOR in Centralia, Illinois, is used for east/west flights. Aircraft using that VOR would also likely pass overhead near EVV. Visual references to features on the ground (highways and rivers) are not used during cross-country phases of flight.

The next time you look up to the skies you just might be witnessing your Amazon order on its way to Cincinnati before it arrives on your doorstep. 

▲ Left, a UPS MD-11F from Louisville (SDF) increases altitude over Evansville en route to Honolulu (HNL). Right, an Amazon Prime Air Boeing 767 descends to 26,684 feet just east of Evansville on its way to Cincinnati.

A New Identity?

I had reconciled with the idea that somehow, contrary to my family lineage that my ethnicity background is 25 percent Norwegian (an idea integrated into my upbringing), I actually was only 10 percent Norwegian and was very Irish — 25 percent. Like you, I got 50 percent of my DNA from my father and 50 percent from my mother. Both of my parents have Irish in their heritage (my middle name, Kathleen, comes from my mother’s Irish cousin).

DNA selection is random; I figured the Irish had stacked the decks for me and the DNA I grabbed from my parents was heavily Irish. After all, I was born with light blonde-red hair that has become very wavy as I age and, following the stereotypes, I can exhibit a temper. Like the fellow on the Ancestry DNA commercial who traded his lederhosen for kilts, should I begin eating rashers instead of lutefisk? (I’ve eaten lutefisk only once and rashers — Irish bacon — as often as I can get by with it.)

Ancestry DNA, the company I tested with, clearly explains that though DNA doesn’t change, DNA science does. As a result, ethnicity estimates can be refined or changed. Several months ago I logged into my account and saw where my ethnicity estimate had been revised. Lo and behold, I am 25 percent Norwegian — not 24 percent; not 26 percent — exactly one-quarter Norwegian.

Also befuddling to me as I worked through my ancestry was my father’s heritage. Though I knew virtually nothing when I began, I quickly discovered most of my paternal side was very English, arriving early to America — in 1620 actually, on the Mayflower. But my ethnicity estimate didn’t back this up — indicating less than 1 percent of my DNA was from Great Britain.

The revised estimate puts me at 64 percent England, Wales, and Northern Europe — a pretty big territory on the Ancestry map. Ancestry DNA does recognize France and Germanic Europe as distinct regions making it not likely that my father’s family was “Pennsylvania Dutch” (German?) as my Granny like to say. Of course, she also told us she was Native American!

An Architectural River Cruise

A few months ago I drove my 17-year-old son and his friend to Chicago for Lollapalooza, the huge music festival held each year in Grant Park. While they met up with their friends (and their parents) for the first afternoon of the festival, I had other plans. Within a couple hours of arriving in Chicago, I boarded a Wendella boat for the Chicago’s Original Architecture Tour® — one of my favorite Chicago activities.

The tour navigates all three branches of the Chicago River. The experienced and humorous guide tells the history of the buildings along the waterway and the architects and firms who designed and built them. Here, I’ll share some highlights:

Wendella’s tours depart from the Chicago River right under the Wrigley building, next to the Trump Tower. Note the clock on the tower: Its four faces (pointing each direction) are 19 feet 7 inches in diameter.

▲ The 1920 Wrigley Building is located directly across Michigan Avenue from the Tribune Tower and next to the fourth tallest building in the U.S., the Trump Tower.

Currently rising along the south bank of the Chicago River’s main branch, the 1,198-foot Vista Tower is posed to become the city’s third tallest building, after the Willis Tower and the Trump Tower. (It’s completion will push the AON Center, formerly known as the Standard Oil building and the Amoco Building, to fourth tallest in the city). When it opens in 2020 it will house 406 luxury condos, a 192-room five-star hotel, and lots of fancy amenities.

▲ Vista Tower

Lake Point Tower is the only major private structure on the lakefront side of Lake Shore Drive and likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future, given the city's prohibition on building on the lakefront.

▲ Lake Point Tower

Designed by Bertrand Goldberg and completed in 1964, Marina City was the original city-within-a-city development. The twin towers’ iconic corncob shape has appeared on classic airline posters and is the cover art for Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

▲ Marina City

River City is a mixed building also designed by Bertrand Goldberg, to whose Marina City it bears clear affinities. It was completed in 1986.

▲ River City, a Bertrand Goldberg-designed condo building with the Willis Tower in the background

The Montgomery Ward Company Complex is the former national headquarters of the oldest mail order firm in the U.S. The 400,000-square-foot property is located along the North Branch of the Chicago River and occupies 7 acres. Today the building serves as condominiums and also is home to restaurants, the Big Ten Network, Groupon, and Dyson.

▲ The Wendella tour guide points out the massive Montgomery Ward Center

When it was completed in 1930, the Merchandise Mart was the biggest building in the world in terms of total area. The 4,000,000-square-foot building located at the junction of the Chicago River’s branches has its own zip code and hosts 20,000 visitors and tenants each day.

▲ Merchandise Mart

Springs Are My Thing

‘He thought they said Pie and Lattes’

When people ask me if I played sports in school, I laugh. Then I tell them I was a “flag girl.” I was active, but not athletic. “Working out” wasn’t a term in our household; my sisters and I took dance lessons. In my 20s, I jumped on the aerobics craze doing the “Grapevine” with other women with big hair and spandex. Then came step aerobics and yoga. For a few years I ran — slowly. I found my exercise Zen finally with walking and hot yoga, practiced for 90 minutes in a room heated to more than 100 degrees with 50 percent plus humidity.

Today I walk outside with a friend at 4:45 a.m. several mornings a week. I’ve also learned springs are my thing. I’m doing Pilates at Evansville’s new Club Pilates, opened by Jeff and Bussie Cox of Newburgh, Indiana. The discipline always interested me; I read up on the founder, German Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) when I was younger and became interested in the contraption the fitness regimen uses — the reformer.

Pilates was a sickly child who turned to exercise to battle his ailments. At the outbreak of World War I, he was interned as an enemy with other German nationals. During his internment, he refined his ideas on exercise. He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs.

At Club Pilates grand opening, my husband Todd signed up for an introductory class. The morning of the class, he ran 14 miles. He suggested that I might take his spot at Pilates — he was done with exercise that day. I went, loved it, and have been nearly every day since.

One of the best parts (for me) is that some of the work on the reformer is done lying down. Todd did get to experience that at the grand opening on Aug. 18.

This photo of Todd on the reformer ended up in the magazine offices where we promptly held a caption contest.

Runner up:
“Where should they take the body? Alexander or Ziemer?”

“I thought they said ‘Pie and lattes!’”

Spirit of 76

I like to make connections. Some call it chance – when circumstances collide to reveal a story. Some, too, say connections are the result of active critical thinking, creating the context for the connection to be meaningful. Recently a vivid childhood memory was brought alive for me by a couple of unique connections.

Last month I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan; I was among 20 journalists – travel writers, magazine writers, and photographers on a press trip hosted by Destination Ann Arbor. You can read my story in the July/August issue of Evansville Living. Ann Arbor is home to the Big House, Michigan Stadium, the largest stadium in North America, Ann Arbor. It’s also home to the Gerald R. Ford Library. I have visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I was excited to the Ford Library, which is on campus. The 38th president helped the Wolverines to two undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933.

Under glass on a conference table outside of President Ford’s office in the library (which he used during his visits there), copies of notable correspondence are on display. Maria Von Trapp (the real one, she notes) admonishes First Lady Betty Ford for the forward-thinking comments she made on 60 Minutes in August 1975. An archivist showed us the president’s baby book – he was born Leslie Lynch King Jr.; his parents separated when the future president was just two weeks old.

The visit to the Ford Library brought back vivid memories of watching President Ford’s arrival in Evansville on Air Force One. I tried to recall exactly what year that was. My childhood friend Bridgette, who went with us to the airport, confirmed my memory; somehow we were allowed near the tarmac to watch the president deplane. Somewhere in my old albums I have photos.

Now, here’s cool connection, finally! Writing my letter for July/August issue of Evansville Living, I researched Vanderburgh County events of 1976 – the Bicentennial Year – seeking information I might use as the county celebrates its 200th birthday this year. Top in the search result was a document Scanned from the President's Daily Diary Collection at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, April 23, 1976 – the day President Ford flew to Evansville on the “Spirit of 76.”

▲ Scans from the President's Daily Diary Collection (Box 81) at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.


Interlopers Welcome Or Same Time Next Year

With two teenage boys, our mail brings us numerous high school graduation announcements. Unlike the announcements ordered from the yearbook company when I graduated from high school in 1982, today’s graduation announcements typically feature the graduate’s senior photo. Some announcements feature the whole photo shoot! I enjoy them all.

For a number of years our yard has been the setting for many high school senior portraits. Local photographer Stacy Walker ( knocked on our door years ago to ask permission to shoot pictures in our yard. So it’s a common sight in the spring, upon hearing Jed bark at the window, to peer out and see a lovely young lady in the swing with Walker behind the lens; or a handsome student on our rock bench, where we took our son Maxwell’s senior picture (with Jed!). I was inspired this year to take my own picture in the swing.

I knew Walker must have amassed a pretty large collection of photographs taken in our yard, so I asked him. He shared the pictures he took in our yard just this year. I asked him about his process:

“It’s funny because I have these type locations all over town. What I typically do is tell the senior where we’re going once they come in and I see all their outfits. For instance if I’m using your home, I’m typically at the State Hospital right before that. So I may select an outfit for the State Hospital and then another one for a ‘really pretty yard’ I know of right by there. Then when we pull in front of your home I assure them I previously knocked on your door and got permission. It always amazes me because in 15 years no one has EVER said no when I asked to use their yard. I’ve even had people offer to sweep and move things out of the way for me!”

Of course, Walker reminded me he always is really quick and never reveals the name of the homeowner, though some kids obviously knew — because I know them!

The Best of Billy

Wilbur “Bill” McCormick, a groomsman in our wedding and one of my husband’s lifelong best friends, died way too early on April 20 (my husband’s birthday), of a massive heart attack. He was talking in his kitchen with a basement contractor who had just arrived, mentioned he had walked his normal 4.5-mile walk that morning, and fell forward. Our doctor friends say this kind of “widowmaker” heart attack usually is caused by an occlusion of the left main artery.

My husband shared several fun interests with Wilbur — ping-pong, Indiana University basketball, and music and concerts. In the wee hours after Bill’s death, his children, their mother and Bill’s former wife Janet (to whom we introduced Bill), and Todd began to make a set list of music to be played at Bill’s visitation. I combined the lists, typed them up, and our nephew helped load the selections into our music streaming account.

Through the tears and the crowd at the visitation, and, yes, the laughter, I’m not sure the music could be heard. I think it should be; it is an excellent, varied, authentically Wilbur rock ‘n’ roll playlist. This summer, to help fill the void the physical world has lost with Bill’s passing, please enjoy what Todd and I are calling “The Best of Billy” (in no particular order):

Bob Dylan: Jokerman, I Shall Be Released, Tangled Up in Blue
Rolling Stones: Can’t Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses, Gimmie Shelter, Brown Sugar, Sympathy for the Devil
Bruce Springsteen: Candy’s Room, Sandy, Rosalita
The Kinks: Waterloo Sunset, Alcohol, Catch Me Now I’m Falling
Elton John: Rocket Man, Have Mercy on the Criminal, Honky Cat, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
The Romantics: What I like About You
David Bowie: Panic in Detroit, Time, Scary Monsters, Space Oddity.
Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart, Werewolves of London.
Queen: Under Pressure, Tommy
Neil Young: My, My, Hey, Hey; Down by the River, Ohio
John Hiatt: Tennessee Plates, Slow Turnin’, Perfectly Good Guitar
Al Stewart: Year of the Cat, Time Passages
The Beatles: Let it Be, Norwegian Wood, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Led Zeppelin: Dancing Days
Steely Dan: My Old School
Arctic Monkeys: Do I Wanna Know
Paul McCartney: Jet, Admiral Halsey
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication
George Harrison: Dark Horse, My Sweet Lord
Tom Petty: Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down, Refugee
Pink Floyd: Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Brain Damage
Robbie Robertson: Showdown at Big Sky, Somewhere Down the Crazy River
Jack White: Why Walk a Dog, 16 Saltines, Love Interruption
Dire Straits: Romeo Juliet, Water of Love, Communique
The Who: Eminence Front, Getting in Tune, Baba O’Riley
Jethro Tull: Locomotive Breath, Thick as a Brick, Crosseyed Mary
Cage the Elephant: Cigarette Daydreams, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked
Greenday: Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Time of Your Life
The Black Keys: Lonely Boy, Gold on the Ceiling
Cracker: Low
Gary Clark Jr: Don’t Owe You a Thing, Bright Lights
Modest Mouse: Float On
Houndmouth: Sedona
Gorillaz: Feel Good Inc., Clint Eastwood
Lindsey Stirling: Crystallize
Alabama Shakes: Future People
Walk the Moon: Shut Up and Dance
Hozier: Take Me to Church
Young the Giant: Cough Syrup
My Morning Jacket: One Big Holiday
John Prine: Flag Decal
Tom Jones: Delilah, It’s Not Unusual
Led Zeppelin: Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir, Whole Lotta Love, Immigrant Song
Coldplay: Paradise
Temper Trap: Sweet Disposition
Portugal. The Man: So American
Weezer: Island In The Sun, The Sweater Song, Beverly Hills
Twenty One Pilots: Heathens
Sublime: Santeria and Wrong Way
America: Ventura Highway, American Pie
Passion Pit: Take a Walk.
Panic at the Disco: Nine in the Afternoon, Northern Downpour
Fitz and the Tantrums: 6 a.m., Money Grabber
Dirty Heads: Cabin by the Sea, Vacation
Spoon: The Underdog
Tom Jones: Delilah
Pearl Jam: The Fixer, Lightning Bolt
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Home, 40-Day Dream
Chiddy Bang: Opposite of Adults
MGMT: Kids
Johnny Cash: Folsom Prison Blues
Cake: Mustache Man
The Killers: Hot Fuss, Human, Smile Like You Mean It, When You Were Young, Mr. Bright Side,
Al Green: Let’s Stay Together
John Mellencamp: Small Town, Cherry Bomb
Santana: Smooth, Black Magic Woman
Fleetwood Mac: Landslide
ABBA: Dancing Queen
The Doors: Light My Fire, Roadhouse Blues
Lettuce: Madison Square, Mount Crushmore
Ezra Furman: Lousy Connection
The Grateful Dead: Touch of Grey
The White Stripes: We’re Going to be Friends
Grouplove: Tongue Tied
Stevie Ray Vaughan: Life by the Drop

(This is a double installment so I could include the full list. Wilbur was a connoisseur of rock ‘n’ roll and rock ‘n’ roll concerts; old music and new music. We think Wilbur would agree with the selections, and we know he would like for you to enjoy his music.)

My DNA Story

If you received a holiday present requiring you to spit in a test tube or swab your mouth, you are among the millions of Americans who have taken an autosomal DNA test. An estimated 10 to 15 million people in the U.S. have taken DNA tests, and the number quickly is rising. Ancestry, the leader in consumer DNA testing, sold 1.5 million kits on Black Friday last November. Even more remarkable, the number of Ancestry kits sold last year exceeds the total number of Ancestry subscribers.

Curious about my heritage, I took the test with Ancestry a year and one-half ago. Based on my lineage on my mother’s side, I knew my heritage was one-quarter Norwegian; I had no concrete information on my father’s side. While my DNA results will not change over time, as DNA science and Ancestry’s database grows, more details have emerged about my ancestry; today my results show matches with 982 fourth cousins or closer. Also owing to the large and increasing number of matches I have is that three branches of my family have been in the U.S. a long time. On my father’s paternal side, I have become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution based on my fifth great-grandfather Joshua Reeder’s service in the Revolutionary War. Imagine my surprise when I learned my 10th great-grandfather was Mayflower passenger William White, who sailed with my 10th great-grandmother Susanna, and their son Resolved White, my ninth great-grandfather. An estimated 35 million people are direct descendants of Mayflower passengers.

Linking the family tree I am continually working on with my Ancestry DNA results reveals further details. I have connected with cousins on all sides of my family and have been able to share and learn family details. I’ll share some of my Ancestry results here.

This page graphically and briefly explains your DNA estimate, your matches, and the concept of DNA Circles. While my mother was fully 50 percent Norwegian (her father’s parents were both Norwegian), I tested only 10 percent Scandinavian. This is due to the randomness of DNA selection.

My ethnicity estimate is graphically depicted on the world map.

This slide illustrates the immigration of my ancestors in 1700.

The later immigrations in 1850 are depicted here.

When completing your family tree on, hints, such as these on my third great-grandfather Henry Groves, can help piece together your ancestry story.

Athens Remembered

A decade ago, my husband and I spent 10 wonderful days in Athens, Greece. Several points of reference reminded me of the trip we took with my husband’s cousin, Lee, and his wife Deanna. With shock I recalled it was 10 years since my mother died, and we departed for Athens just a week after her funeral.

In Athens we celebrated Valentine’s Day with dinner at a downtown hotel with rooftop dining; I’ve long since forgotten the restaurant’s name, but never will I forget the view of the Parthenon glowing at night across the historic city. Watching the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, I was reminded of visiting the 2004 Athens Olympic Stadium, just four years later. We helped ourselves to a tour of the stadium and the pools, already in decline, though the pools were still in use. You’ll find lots of imagery on the web of ruined Olympic venues, like this story in Forbes about both Athens and Rio. We also visited the Panathenaic Stadium where the first modern Olympics were held in April 1894.

So, this trip was on my mind — then Shutterfly sent me an email: “Look what we found for you? Remember 10 years ago?” And, I was brought back to Athens. In February, 2008, it felt as if we had the city to ourselves. The country was on the brink of an economic crisis, though we largely were unaware, and tourists were not plenty.

With lemons on the trees lining the promenades, the city was visited by a historic snowstorm. As the merchants offered us “Ouzo, for the weather,” we were happy to be snowed in the ancient city for a few more days.

▲ Todd and his cousin, in the Olympic Stadium of Athens, on our self guided tour.

▲ The 2004 Olympic Pool in Athens, in use in 2004 for aquacize classes

▲ Grand entrance of Athen's 2004 Olympic Stadium.

▲ A Valentine's view to remember, the Parthenon shines bright over the ancient city.

▲ Snow blankets the roof of the Herodion Hotel in Athens, Greece, during the February 2008 snow storm.

▲ The Panathenaic Stadium, Athens Greece, hosted the 1894 Olympics, the first in the modern world.

Cornbread and Milk

My leftover New Year’s Day dinner is to thank for this food nostalgia post. Again this year, I made bean soup — cooked until it was really thick and full of ham chunks (16 bean soup this year) and cornbread. While the bean soup was tasty, it was the cornbread I was thinking about as we shared our meal with my mother-in-law Diane.

I was already seeing the slightly sweet, crumbly cornbread in a glass with ice-cold sweet milk poured over it. I grew up seeing my dad eat his cornbread just like that. He said his parents would eat it with buttermilk, but he ate it with regular whole milk; that’s what sweet milk was called on the farm. Diane recalls memories of her grandparents enjoying leftover cornbread just the same way. If you haven’t tried it, I think you should!

While made-from-scratch iron skillet cornbread is best, any cornbread from a box can be a tasty snack in a glass of milk — pure comfort food. I have heard this concoction called Cowboy Milk before.

If we had no cornbread in the house (I presume), my father enjoyed saltines in milk, a treat that likely was a holdover from the Great Depression. Along the same vein, my mother made a warm, sweet, buttery bedtime snack for us from white rice left over from dinner: pour whole milk over warm rice, stir in sugar, and top with a small pat of butter. Or, you can put it all back in a pan and warm it up — best enjoyed in your pajamas or a flannel robe.

He Won’t Back Down

I didn’t see Tom Petty when he visited the Ford Center May 16, 2013. Because of that, the late rocker joins two of my favorite musicians — Warren Zevon and David Bowie — who I saw perform live just once before they died. Of course, that alone is fortunate and not everyone measures their affinity for a musician by the number of performances seen live.

I saw Petty, who was born Oct. 20, 1950, and died unexpectedly on Oct. 2, 22 years ago at Roberts Stadium, on Sept. 21, 1995. As for singer-songwriter-musician Warren Zevon, who’s been gone since 2003, my husband and I saw him at the legendary Phoenix Hill Tavern in Louisville in 1988. Bowie, who died in January 2016, visited Deer Creek (now Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center) in Indianapolis for his Sound & Vision tour in 1995. The concert was my birthday present.

But back to Petty, where I’ll conclude this three-post series on my favorite musicians who died this year. A recurring memory of college is of watching Petty’s iconic Alice in Wonderland themed 1985 video for his hit, “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” in the lobby of Western Kentucky University’s Poland Hall. 

Naturally, Indiana girls loved Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”

She grew up in a Indiana town

Had a good lookin' mama who never was around

But she grew up tall and she grew up right

With them Indiana boys on an Indiana night.

In 2006 with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Petty talked about being inspired to form a band after seeing The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan show in 1964:

“I didn’t think you could just become a rock and roll singer. I didn’t see how it could happen, because you needed to be in a movie and have the music appear on the beach and stuff. ... So when I saw The Beatles, it sort of hit me like a lightning bolt to the brain that, ‘Oh I see. ... You have your friends and you all learn an instrument, and you’re a self-contained unit. This is brilliant, you know. ... This looks like a great, great job to me.’”

Home At Last

Five times I’ve seen the Dan — more than any other rock band. Old rockers know the Dan is Steely Dan, the jazz rock band formed by east coast natives Donald Fagen and Walter Becker in 1972. Guitarist, bassist, and co-writer Becker died Sept. 3. He was born Feb. 20, 1950.

The last time I saw Steely Dan was two summers ago at the new Ascend Amphitheatre in Nashville, Tennessee. Opening for the Walter Becker and Donald Fagan and the Steely Dan Band was Elvis Costello and the Imposters, second on my list of most-seen bands — what a treat. While legions of fans knew Fagen and Becker for their studio perfectionism — the duo took a 19-year break from touring that ended in 1993 — the shows I saw in Cincinnati, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky, proved the band could bring it to the live stage just as they did the studio.

Dan Katz, television news anchor for 14 WFIE, is as much of a Steely Dan fan as my husband and I are. Katz, who has seen Steely Dan four times, says, “Steely Dan is the soundtrack of my life. I still listen to them on a regular basis, and they always put me in a better mood."

Since Becker’s death, Fagan has vowed to keep the music they created together alive through the Steely Dan Band and the group embarked on a small tour. Fagan also is staying sharp with his solo band, the Nightflyers.

Becker died just weeks before the 40th anniversary of the band’s largest commercial triumph — the release of Aja, which sold more than a million copies.

From Aja, “Home at Last” written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen:

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at Last

Favorite Bands

There’s a song by Dawes I like — the title song of the band’s fourth album, “All Your Favorite Bands.” Here’s part of the second stanza:

I hope your brother’s El Camino runs forever

I hope the world sees the same person

That you’ve always been to me

And may all your favorite bands stay together.

That’s relatable to most of us — at least the part about not changing and all our favorite bands staying together. Lately, unfortunately, the hope is that all my favorite bands stay alive. This year has seen the deaths of many iconic names in music history.

Three of these musicians composed a large chunk of the music I listened to growing up and through my teenage and adult years.

My parents’ Glen Campbell (April 22, 1936 – Aug. 8, 2017) albums are the soundtrack of my childhood. My favorite song (of all time) has long been his 1967 Grammy Award-winning song written by John Hartford, “Gentle on my Mind.” It’s been covered by dozens of musicians, but none quite so famously as Campbell.

On the day of Campbell’s death, my son Maxwell was attending a John Mayer concert in Nashville. Mayer announced the news by playing his favorite song (by memory), “Gentle on my Mind.”

The Jimmy Webb songs, “By The Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” (also recorded by R.E.M. and James Taylor), sealed the deal for me and Glenn Campbell. I wish I had listened to more of Campbell in recent years; it’s not too late.  

Walter Becker (Feb. 20, 1950 – Sept. 3, 2017), co-founder of Steely Dan, and Tom Petty (Oct. 20, 1950 – Oct. 2, 2017), are the other two music artists who we recently lost; I will write about them in my next blog.

Time for the September Issue

We’re well into September now, and I’ve made my trek to Barnes and Noble to buy “The September Issue” of Vogue. Long lauded as the barometer of the fashion industry and the magazines for which couture is their lifeblood, the September issue of Vogue is the most anticipated of the year, sells the most copies, and boasts the highest number of pages — the majority of which are ads.

Vogue’s September issue became a thing with the 2009 documentary, “The September Issue,” a behind-the-scenes look at producing the September 2007 issue. At 840 pages it was the largest issue ever for Vogue. Since then, the 2012 issue topped the charts at 916 pages.

For the 125th Anniversary Collector’s Issue, September 2017, Vogue commissioned four different cover images — yes, four covers — of actress Jennifer Lawrence (a native of Louisville, Kentucky, by the way). Annie Liebovitz shot the photo of Lawrence in front of the Statue of Liberty on the cover seen on the newsstand. The inside cover photographs, folding out into “gatefolds,” were shot by Bruce Weber, widely known for famous brand ad campaign photographs, and Inez and Vinoodh, Dutch fashion photographers. The fourth cover image of Lawrence actually is a painting by American artist John Currin. Behind Weber’s cover photograph showing a wistful Lawrence, a gatefold reveals 16 of the glossy’s cover stars.

The September 2017 issue has 775 pages; the 2016 issue had 800 pages; 2015, 832 pages; and 2014, 856 pages. Congratulatory ads — 150 pages of full-page and double-truck (two facing pages) ads — from Vogue’s big name advertising partners recognize the magazine’s 125 years with some very creative concepts and dominate the center of the magazine.

Of course, the issue does feature editorial content — profiles of actress Nicole Kidman and television personality Megyn Kelly and, as expected, fashion galore, including this highly styled retro fashion feature.

The September Issue — until next year!

The Cape

While vacationers from southwestern Indiana typically head to Florida for beaches, Northeasterners have long flocked to the historic Cape Cod. My son’s girlfriend’s family, native Northeasterners, have a home in Dennis, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod Bay. Cape Cod is a geographic cape extending into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of mainland Massachusetts. Since 1914, Cape Cod has been separated from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal, which roughly cuts 17.5 miles across the base of the peninsula.

I had a chance to visit in July. Fifteen towns comprise Barnstable County, which is essentially all of Cape Cod. I’ll share just a bit of what I learned about a few of Cape Cod’s historic towns:

In the flexing arm of Cape Cod, the town of Brewster and neighboring Dennis would be the biceps. Protected by the rest of the “arm,” Brewster’s and Dennis’s Cape Cod Bay beaches offer water that often is calmer and warmer than on the ocean-facing side of the Cape. Both are home to beautiful beaches and also old sea captains’ homes and other historic structures, antiques shops, and some of the best restaurants on the Cape.

▲ Dennis, Massachusetts

Our first stop in Chatham was to the Chatham Pier Fish Market, where we watched fishing boats bring in their bounty — loads of fish. All the fish attract dolphins by the dozens — and that leads to one of Chatham’s lead tourist attractions this time of year: sharks. Chatham’s quaint downtown is lined with attractive shops, restaurants, and taverns.

▲ Chatham Pier Fish Market

Provincetown, often called P-town, is located at the extreme tip of Cape Cod. With a year-round population of just 3,000, the count swells to 60,000 in the summer. The town is known for its beaches, harbor, commercial center, tourist industry, and its status as a vacation destination for the LGBTQ community. Provincetown also is home to the Pilgrim Monument, built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landfall of the Pilgrims in 1620, and the signing of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor.

▲ Pilgrim Monument

A Week of Italy in Food Pictures

Italian food is “twice blessed because it is the product of two arts, the art of cooking and the art of eating,” Marcella Hazan, author of the “The Classic Italian Cookbook,” is known to say. On a recent trip to Rome and Florence, we worked hard at the art of eating.

With a request of forgiveness to the fine restaurants I don’t identify by name (and with photo credits to Maxwell Tucker and Meghan Stratton), I present Italy in a week of food pictures.

What about the pizza, you ask? We all enjoyed plenty — from classic Magherita pizza to a Napoli with Anchovies. We simply were too busy feeding our pizza pie holes to take pictures. You could say the same of gelato. We treated ourselves most nights, but ended up with only one photo of gelato, enjoyed by Meghan on the Spanish Steps.

Buon Appetito!

Anatomy of a Winning Cover

I wore out my family with the mallet. In the May/June 2016 Evansville Living issue I wrote a feature story about the Lincoln Mallet. I had learned earlier in the year that a Spencer County family had among their family heirlooms — hidden in the attic and later displayed on the mantel — a mallet bearing the initials A.L.  The railsplitter himself had left it for a neighbor when he moved to Illinois in 1830.

Effusive accurately describes my excitement about the mallet and the story. I worked with the mallet’s owners and family in retracing its pedigree for our readers. And, I announced, the mallet was going on the cover. Never mind it was under glass (as it is today) at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.

Last month, Creative Director Heather Gray, Managing Editor Trista Lutgring, and Todd and I drove to Indianapolis for the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists annual awards. We left with the first place award for Magazine Cover Design for the Lincoln Mallet cover.

Like everything we do at the magazine, the creation of the cover was collaborative. Here is its evolution:

This is where we began.

We tried a green background, but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for.

Then, I took a close look at a magazine on my bedside table. What about a white cover with a white nameplate?  The mallet would take up a similar space as the subject did in this example. It was worth a try and I was out of ideas. How could the Wine Enthusiast cover inspiration translate to our cover?

That’s when I knew to leave Heather alone, and let her do her magic. I was confident the white cover could work, but I had no idea the treatment Heather would devise. Heather emerged with the final cover (right) featuring hand drawn script and renderings. Ta-da! Wow!

It attracted a lot of attention. Our readers expressed interest and surprise. And the judges for the SPJ awards must have agreed!

Hello, Puerto Rico!

Just a few weeks after visiting the ramparts of Quebec City, Canada, I stood at the entrance of San Felipe del Morro Fortress in the walled city of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Spring break had brought my husband and me, and our youngest son, to the U.S. territory of San Juan. There is plenty to do in Puerto Rico, we learned, and we didn’t leave San Juan. When we return, we’ll be sure to visit El Yunque, the U.S.’s only rain forest, and Vieques, an island seven miles off the coast that, according to its website, is “such a magical place it ought to be on everyone’s bucket list.

▲ San Felipe del Morro Fortress

What we did enjoy in San Juan were the beautiful beaches of Isle Verde, where we stayed at the Hotel Intercontinental, and Ocean Park, where we had a delicious meal at Pamela’s; the island culture alongside U.S. conveniences; the ease of travel (passports are not required to U.S. territories and the airport is served by about 50 flights daily); and Old San Juan and its fortifications.

▲ View from the Hotel Intercontinental on Isle Verde, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is an islet connected to the main island by three bridges. It’s one of the most historically significant destinations in the Caribbean and Western Hemisphere (with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean.

Old San Juan is a 500-year-old neighborhood originally constructed as a military stronghold. You can walk the grounds of ancient forts and then follow the blue cobbled streets down past colorful, well-manicured government buildings to local boutiques and designer storefronts, bars and restaurants, and hotels, as well as residences.

A bartender who promised “two mojitos for $11” got us in a bar called the Chapel Tasca and Bar near La Fortaleza, the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico and part of the city’s fortification.

A five-day trip whetted our appetite to learn more Puerto Rico and certainly to return.

▲ Lunch at Pamela's on Ocean Park Beach. Photo by Jackson C. Tucker

A Wintry Retreat In Quebec City

We left Canada just in time. Returning to the U.S. from a quick trip to Quebec City, Quebec, last week, my husband and I visited three Canadian airports and spent an unplanned night in Toronto in advance of the expected massive winter storm, on the busiest air travel day of the year for Canadians — the Friday start of their spring break. If only we’d stayed tucked into the 17th-floor room of Chateau Frontenac Fairmont, in Old Quebec City, overlooking the frozen St. Lawrence River with views of the Laurentian and Appalachian Mountains in the distance.


We had taken a rare opportunity for a get-away. Recalling Todd’s love of Quebec City when he visited on a business trip about 20 years ago, I had long wished to visit. My research revealed that reservations for early March were easily attained and reasonably priced. I booked a three-night trip.

▲ The Funicular

Quebec City embraces winter, thus, the list of what we did not do is much longer than what we did do. We did not: go down the toboggan ice slide, visit the Hotel Glace, ski Le Massif, dog sled, cross country ski in the Plains of Abraham, or ferry across the frozen St. Lawrence. We did: sleep in, bundle up and walk the historic streets of Old Quebec, enjoy delicious breakfasts and evening snacks in the Fairmont Gold lounge of the Chateau Frontenac, take the Funicular to Petit Champlain in the lower city, sample local beer throughout the walled old city and along the Grande Allee, and visit the Quebec International Car show at the city’s slick convention venue. 

▲ Shopping in Old Quebec reveals treasures at Ziba.

▲ The new Subaru BRZ was featured at the Quebec International Auto Show.

To say I fell in love with the charm of Quebec City is an understatement. The entire Old City is itself an UNESCO World Heritage site. I feel certain we will visit Quebec City again, likely in a warmer season, and introduce our sons to this ancient French gem north of the border.

For information on U.S. citizens traveling to Canada:

▲ Beer tasting at 3 Brasseurs on the Grande Allee.

A Governor's Home

After seeing Patrick Acton’s matchstick model of Terrace Hill, the Iowa Governor’s Mansion, I was excited to learn the mansion was indeed inhabited by the governor. It also was one of the nation’s most accessible governor’s mansions, with tours offered five days a week March through December as well as dozens of special events held there each year.

I suppose I am interested in governor’s mansions. While Gov. Mitch Daniels and his wife Cheri were in residence, I had the privilege to visit the Governor’s Mansion in Indianapolis to interview Mrs. Daniels. As of late, I pass by the mansion located at 4750 N. Meridian (at the corner of 49th and Meridian streets), driving to visit my son at Butler University. It has been interesting to watch security at the Governor’s Mansion change in the time Maxwell has been at Butler.

So I was eager to see the Iowa Governor’s Mansion. The Second Empire, 18,000-square-foot home was built from 1866 to 1869 by Benjamin Franklin Allen, Iowa’s first millionaire. Its tower is 90 feet tall.

Plans were made to arrive at Terrace Hill, located just minutes from downtown Des Moines at 2300 Grand Ave., a few minutes before a tour began. Docent volunteers — ours was excellent and her school-age son was along for the experience — conduct the hour-long tour through the first two levels of the home.

The third floor is the private residence of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and his wife Christine. Their three children grew up in the home, as Branstad is America’s longest-serving governor. Branstad was Iowa’s 39th governor from 1983 to 1999 and is now the 42nd governor, since January 2011. Soon Terrace Hill will be getting a new resident; Governor Branstad was tapped by President Donald J. Trump to serve as Ambassador to China. He will resign from the Governor’s office.

My aunt and uncle have visited Terrace Hill several times, including once for a dinner party when my uncle worked as an insurance company executive in Des Moines.

The $5 admission was a bargain for a walk through history in an incredible home.

Take Time for Marvels

I visited my aunt, uncle, and cousins in the fall in Des Moines, Iowa. With plenty of time to visit and no agenda — how do you reacquaint with the birth city you’ve not seen in 35 years? — my aunt and uncle took me to an Iowa treasure in the town of Gladbrook, about an hour northeast of Des Moines. It was an easy trip on the “Diagonal,” Iowa Highway 330.

Google Gladbrook (population 945) and you’ll quickly learn it is home to Matchstick Marvels and Iowa artist Patrick Acton, a former high school teacher. Acton has glued more than four million ordinary wooden matchsticks into 69 incredibly detailed scale models of renowned architecture, ships, aircraft, spacecraft, and life-like sculptures. Many models have historical significance, such as the USS Iowa battleship, the space shuttle Challenger, the Wright brothers' Flyer, and the U.S. Capitol, which measures 12 feet long. For $5, you can see these and other Acton creations at the Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center, the tidy and tight matchstick museum that draws visitors from all over the world.

Sixteen of Acton’s sculptures on display when we visited. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museums in North America, Australia, Asia, and Europe have purchased 20 of Acton’s matchstick sculptures.

Visitors to the museum also watch a short video documentary of Acton’s unusual hobby and see a display of the drawings, plans, tools, and equipment he uses.

An unfamiliar but clearly very grand Victorian building — a home, recalling for me, the Reitz Home — stood out from the rest of Acton’s structures. My aunt noted my fascination and explained it was Terrace Hill, the Iowa Governor’s Mansion located near downtown Des Moines. Tours are offered. Would I like to go?

Absolutely! And, with plenty of time, we made plans to visit Terrace Hill the next morning.  I will write about the Iowa Governor’s Mansion in my next post.

Carrie Fisher: Memories of a Birthday Cake and a Dear Friend

I wasn’t the only guest from Southwestern Indiana at Carrie Fisher’s 50th birthday party in September 2006. Carrie’s friend, the actor, and director Michael Rosenbaum from Newburgh, Indiana, invited me, magazine staff photographer Jesse Southerland, and my pal Jill Wilderman — a Hollywood producer at the time, from Poseyville, Indiana, now working in Nashville. Like millions of fans around the globe, I am sad over the way-too-early death of Carrie. Her death on Dec. 27 after suffering a massive heart attack on a Dec. 23 return flight from London to Los Angeles prompts me to recall the incredible evening I spent at her Coldwater Canyon estate, a home that once belonged to Bette Davis. The reason for my visit was to profile Rosenbaum for the January/February 2007 issue of Evansville Living.

From the moment we walked up the enchanting drive to Carrie Fisher’s famed Hollywood compound … we knew we were in for a special evening. It was an intimate party for about 90 of her closest friends. We were amazed to be sipping champagne amid celebrities like Ms. Fisher and her lovely mother Debbie Reynolds, and others, including Sharon Stone, Matthew Perry, Robert Downey Jr., Courtney Love, Beverly D’Angelo, Greg Kinnear, and Megan Mullally.

The most amazing aspect of the evening, though, was Michael. It was Michael, the kid from Newburgh, who absconded the Princess Leia-styled cap, hand-knitted by guest Tracy Ullman
for Ms. Fisher’s birthday present, and wore it through the buffet line. It was Michael who encouraged me to meet the famous architect Frank Gehry. And, when it was time to honor the birthday hostess, against a backdrop of slick Hollywood videos projected on a giant screen nestled in the trees, it was Michael Rosenbaum and George Lucas who sang the loudest and presented Ms. Fisher with the cake.

I reached out to Michael yesterday to offer my condolences; I knew he adored Carrie and she adored him. He shared his sentiments:

“Carrie was unlike anyone I have ever met. Although she will always be remembered as the Princess to many people across the world, she was much more than that to me. She inspired me to write and when I first started Smallville I was staying at a fancy Hollywood hotel where I was partying a little too much and she told me to get my shit together. She offered me to stay at her house in a bungalow all her friends stayed at. Meryl Streep, Richard Dreyfus, and others. I ended up staying for three months. That was who she was. Her doors were always open. I think I was the most creative during that time. I watched her work ethic and got to really understand the business. She was not only a great friend but a mentor and someone I always will remember fondly. Once while I was filming Smallville, she flew up to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with her daughter Billie and her assistant Kim and told me we were taking a road trip to see the Northern lights near Whistler. We piled into my van, drove up to Whistler and had an epic few days. She was daring, adventurous, and brilliant. I’m heartbroken by her loss, but I’m extremely thankful I was able to share so many great times with her."

[As we prepared to make this post, we learned of the death of Carrie’s mother Debbie Reynolds just one day after her daughter’s death. I will remember her as sweet and pretty — I would have immediately recognized her — and the welcoming hug she gave me at her daughter’s party. Debbie and her granddaughter Billie Lourd both made sure I helped myself to the fried chicken buffet and asked if I was having a good time.]

Holiday View

I am rushing through the holiday season. I don’t want this to be the case. I want the Christmas season to be simple, serene, and chaos-free. Instead, my family still is organizing multiple family get-togethers to accommodate various schedules, arranging for a surprise gift for my youngest son, wrapping nearly all the gifts, and buying stocking stuffers – on top of finishing deadlines at work. I don’t want to complain; I treasure the time spent with family and having my oldest son home from college. Nevertheless, it’s a bit much.

As we rush around the dark streets making all these preparations (just yesterday was the shortest day of the year) it is wise to recall a peaceful image – a vision that you can count on to slow your heart rate and calm your mind. For some, that image may be of the Christ Child, asleep in the manger. Perhaps you recall the loving, wrinkled face of a relative who has passed, but whose legacy is remembered, especially at Christmas. Maybe the New Year will bring you to a special destination, and those pleasant thoughts help you focus. Or perhaps you have a mantra, an “Om” or phrase that helps you center in stressful times. (Mine is the epigraph from E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End” — “Only Connect.”)

My family finds comfort in our pets and it is this image, snapped of our 4-year-old Mountain Cur dog Jed, snoozing in front of the fireplace, that is reminding me to slow down. Jed’s plans for the holiday? Chase the cats around, curl up with them on the heated bathroom floor, sleep in front of the fireplace, bring us his rope toy for play, get a bath, signal front porch deliveries with a bark, and enjoy getting scratched and petted.

Merry Christmas!

▲ Jed gets to rest during the holiday season, while the rest of the family is busy with shopping, cooking, wrapping gifts, and other seasonal "busyness."

Giving Thanks in Indiana

The Thanksgiving holiday arrived with visitors from the United Kingdom. Annmarie and Richard Miles arrived from Ponypool, Wales, to visit my in-laws William F. and Diane Tucker. Crossing the Atlantic with them was their infectious humor, generous spirit, musical talents, and my brother-in-law Brandon’s cornea, implanted in Annmarie’s right eye. Brandon, an organ donor, died at the age of 35 on Feb. 23, 2010, while on a ski trip to Frisco, Colorado.

I asked Annmarie, a writer, to share her experience with readers in a double installment of “300 Words:”

I remember it so clearly. It was March 4, 2010, the day after my surgery. I sat in my bed in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. I was in some pain but not much. I was warm and comfortable; glad to have the operation behind me. Recovery would take time, but I was told the end result could mean better sight than I’d ever known, and a much-improved quality of life.

As happy and hopeful as I was, I felt a pang of sadness. I knew someone somewhere was grieving. I knew my gain meant someone had lost. And so I sat in my hospital bed, praying for the family of my cornea donor, and I asked God if someday He would give me the opportunity to say “thank you” to that family.

Less than a year later, I received a phone call from an administrator in the eye hospital. They had received a letter via the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in Colorado, which had supplied the cornea. The letter was from my donor’s mother, and the hospital needed my permission to forward it on to me.
Had I been able to climb down the phone and grab that letter, I would have done it. However I had to wait a couple of days for it to arrive in the mail.

That was the beginning of my connection to the Tucker family in Indiana. From that first letter, a friendship and kinship developed between me and my donor Brandon’s mom, Diane. The internet and social media have made conversations easy and regular, and this year (after talking about it for about 3 years) we finally got to meet.

▲ Left, Annmarie Miles and my mother-in-law Diane L. Tucker visit with Brandon, donor of Annmarie’s cornea, at Park Lawn Cemetery. Right, Richard and Annmarie Miles enjoyed the privilege of decorating Brandon’s Christmas Tree, displayed by his mother Diane in Bill and Diane’s East Side home.

In November, my husband and I traveled from our home in South Wales to Evansville for Thanksgiving. There we were welcomed by Brandon’s family. I got to say thanks to his mom and she got to look into my eye and see the little piece of her son that lives in me and helps me to see properly. What better opportunity to express gratitude than to be able to sit around the Thanksgiving dinner table with such a special family.

We got to be tourists, too! We experienced Black Friday shopping and some great local restaurants. We were brought on a tour of the area; taking in places where Brandon went to school and work, as well as some of the features of Evansville. On Sunday we joined with Brandon’s church family where we shared in leading some of the music and worshipped God together.

The quality of my vision has improved wonderfully since my surgery. And now I have further insight. When I think of Brandon, I can see the house he grew up in, the brother and sisters he grew up with, the parents who loved and raised him, and the church family who cherished him.

The word ‘awesome’ is over used these days, but that’s how it feels.  It was genuinely an awesome experience. I’m thankful!

From a Manor Home to W. Florida Street

Growing up in Eldorado, Illinois, and later on W. Florida Street in Evansville, Jackie Dean Reeder (1934-1979) had no clue he descended from British peerage.  But he did. Seven generations separated my father — known to me as Jack D. Reeder, though his birth certificate listed his given name as Jackie Dean — and his seventh great-grandfather on his paternal side, Francis Heydon (Hayden), the last of the ancestors to live in the two manor homes in the Cotswold region of England owned by the family. The homes — not unlike what we see today on the retired PBS drama, Downton Abbey — are a far cry from the homestead in rural Saline County, Illinois, or the shotgun home that still stands today, rather sadly, in an industrial area of Evansville’s West Side (with a soft drink machine on the porch).

▲ The Reeder Family in Eldorado, Illinois, about 1939. My father, Jackie Dean, is the boy on left wearing tie and suspenders. His father, William Lowell Reeder, is behind to the right, holding his sister, Lela Mae; above Jackie Dean is his mother, Jessilee Johnson Kennedy.

My seventh great grandfather was John B. Reeder (1664-1717), whose father Simon (1641-1685, my eighth great-grandfather) immigrated to St. Mary’s County, Maryland, from Bedworth, Warwickshire, England. In Maryland, John Reeder married my seventh great-grandmother Mary Heydon (1665-1734). Her father and my eighth great-grandfather, Francis (1628-1694) emigrated from Watford, Hertfordshire, England, to St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in 1669. Presumably, he learned he would not inherit the manor or property (he wasn’t first-born) and the Revolution also was taking place in England, so he decided it best to come to America.

Francis’s heirs (Heydons) owned two manor homes, both still standing today. Shipton Sollars Manor has been for sale in recent years and previously owned by Lisa Vanderpump of Baywatch Nights and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame.

▲ Shipton Sollars Manor, Gloucestershire, England

The Grove, on 300 acres of rolling parkland traversed by lakes and waterways, today is a luxury hotel, spa, and golf course (home to the 2016 British Masters) 40 minutes from London.

▲ The Grove, Chandler’s Cross, Watford, England

I joked to my sisters: Let’s present ourselves at the properties with the message, “The heirs are here to claim their legacy.”  We’ve not yet bought our tickets.

(I have discovered these family stories from my research on Read about taking an AncestryDNA test and my research in the November/December issue of Evansville Living.)

Arrogantly Shabby

Our family took a beach vacation in early August, the week before our son began high school. We bookended the trip with weddings; our final destination was Belmont, North Carolina, for my niece’s nuptials.

For quite a few years we visited Litchfield Beach at Pawleys Island. Realizing that South Carolina’s Grand Strand beaches would be our best bet before the wedding near Charlotte, we booked a beachfront villa at a property we were familiar with — the completely throwback resort, The Oceanfront Litchfield Inn. While only a 25-minute drive from Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island is worlds away.

Pawleys Island is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and a marsh, where my kids grew up catching crabs. Rich in history and local folklore, tiny Pawleys Island is described by locals as “arrogantly shabby.”  Summer rentals range from simple cottages to plush, multi-level homes with spectacular views. The Oceanfront Litchfield Inn is the only commercial resort in the area. The property’s two towers are just seven stories; our villa room stepped right out to the dunes; the pool and beach bar and grill were just steps outside our screened porch.

We were surprised when we walked out and were greeted by a face behind the book, “Mob Murder of America’s Greatest Gambler” (written by retired Evansville Police detective Steve Bagbey and retired newspaper writer Herb Marynell). The reader was local banker Dave Keller, vacationing with his wife Janet and their son Scott.  They discovered Pawleys Island with Janet’s sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Tom Rearick of Bloomington, Indiana.

▲ Janet and Dave Keller (r) vacationed in South Carolina with Janet's sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Tom Rearick of Bloomington, Indiana.

Outdoor family activities abound near Pawleys Island.  Just a short drive or a four-mile bike ride is Huntington Beach State Park where you can tour South Carolina landmarks such as Atalay, the Moorish-style concrete winter home of Archer and Anny Hyatt Huntington —a philanthropist and sculptor, respectively — who left the park and the nearby sculpture garden, Brookgreen Gardens, as their legacy.

The chance you’ll see an alligator up close and personal while walking the boardwalks in the park is just about 100 percent. But don’t let that stop you from visiting Pawleys Island where life’s pace truly is a bit slower.

The Year of the Rabbit

It’s a sight I’ve grown accustomed to seeing this spring and summer: rabbits jumping out of the landscape berms when a car passes, rabbits nibbling on dewy grass, rabbits running round and round in the yard.

Wesselman Nature Society executive director John Scott Foster confirms my suspicions: “A mild winter and a lush spring/summer has created the perfect storm for rabbits. Not a lot of mortality over the winter and lots to eat over the spring and summer mean lots of babies are born and survive.”

How many is lots? I read up on rabbits. Starting in spring, a rabbit can have a litter of up to a dozen kits about every month. Females mate again, often within hours of giving birth. With offspring mating the same summer they're born, and in turn producing eight to 12 babies a month, it's easy to get in the weeds with rabbits.  I don’t have a vegetable garden, but if I did, I likely wouldn’t have much of one.

Experts say there is normally a gap between when prey populations increase and predator population follow. The East Side of Evansville is home to plenty of wildlife thanks to the close proximity to the nation’s largest urban hardwood forest, Wesselman Woods. It stands to reason we may see more urban foxes and raptors next year. My friend Laurie and I did see a red fox proudly showing us his meal — white rabbit feet hanging from his mouth — on a morning walk recently.

Rabbit is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, but 2016 is the year of the monkey. Rabbit ruled in 2011 and again will in 2023. In Chinese culture, the rabbit is a tame creature representing hope; rabbits are tender and lovely.

Fewer than one in 100 rabbits live three years. While they look cute and cuddly, pest control experts say homeowners should try to rid their yards of wild rabbits; they do carry diseases, including plague.

College Choice, Part 3

My oldest son Maxwell considered and toured many universities before enrolling at Butler University, Indianapolis. High on his list was University of Evansville, a little more than a mile from our home. Founded in 1854 as Moores Hill College and affiliated with the United Methodist Church, UE has about 2,500 students on its 75-acre campus on Evansville’s East Side. The university is known for its Sesquicentennial Oval, the ceremonial entrance to campus, on Lincoln Avenue. Its administration hall was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

More than 80 percent of UE students study abroad, many at Harlaxton (pictured above), the university’s satellite campus 90 miles north of London in Lincolnshire, England, and a few miles away from the town of Grantham, England.

In considering UE, Maxwell participated in the Changemaker Challenge, where he and two other Reitz Memorial High School students competed for the annual award, a full tuition scholarship! Their project — a city bike share program — didn’t win but two of the three members of Max’s team enrolled at UE. The experience was fantastic. It’s this sort of innovation the university is now known for.

▲ Jackson and Maxwell with Butler Blue III

Founded in 1855, Butler University comprises a 295-acre campus on the Monon Trail in Indianapolis, near the popular Broad Ripple Village and five miles from downtown. Butler is home to Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indiana’s "Basketball Cathedral"). Built in 1928, it’s the sixth-oldest basketball arena still in use. It’s where the Butler Bulldogs play, and where Butler Blue III — the English bulldog mascot whose real name is Trip — romps across the hardwood.

Butler is home to the state’s largest telescope, housed in the Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium. A carillon bell tower in Holcomb Gardens rests on the highest elevation on campus and consists of three Indiana limestone pillars some 130-feet-high; it is regularly played.

Butler will welcome its largest-ever freshman class this year, 1,200 students. The undergraduate student body is about 4,034 students. Maxwell will attend Butler’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business this fall and intends to explore its motorsports engineering program (partnered with IUPUI), as well.

College Choice, Part 2

We’ll continue our college tour of the universities we visited and seriously considered for my oldest son Maxwell. Max will attend Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, in the fall.

DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, has many claims to fame, including its high percentage of fraternity and sorority membership and the fact the Society of Professional Journalists was founded there. Located in Greencastle, 48 miles west of Indianapolis, the university was founded in 1837 as Indiana Asbury University honoring the first American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. DePauw’s enrollment is about 2,400 students on its 695-acre campus that includes a 520-acre nature park.

For 2014, DePauw University was ranked No. 1 in Greek Life by the Princeton Review. U.S. News & World Report ranked DePauw No. 3 in the nation for highest percentage of male students belonging to fraternities and No. 4 in the nation for highest percentage of female students in sororities.

Xavier University, in Norwood, Ohio, a neighborhood of the larger Cincinnati area, was founded in 1831. Xavier was the first Catholic Institution in the Northwest Territory and is the fourth oldest Jesuit university and the sixth oldest Catholic university in the U.S. The school has an undergraduate enrollment of 4,485 students and graduate enrollment of 2,165. The Muscateers’ motto is “All for One; One for All.” There are no sororities or fraternities at Xavier.

Xavier fielded an NCAA Division I football team until the 1973 season; fans often claim that Xavier is “undefeated since 1973.”

The Xavier men’s basketball team has enjoyed considerable success, reaching the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and 2008. Since 1985, every men’s basketball player who has played as a senior has graduated with a degree.

The core of Xavier’s 189-acre campus is the Academic Mall — six buildings with castle architecture overlooking Victory Parkway to the west and resembling a single fortress. Xavier’s 34th president is Fr. Michael J. Graham, S.J.; he lives on campus in a dormitory.

College Choice, Part 1

The decision is made. My oldest son, Maxwell, graduated from Reitz Memorial High School on May 22. On June 3 he registered for classes at Butler University, Indianapolis.

Like many families sending a child to college, we visited quite a few universities. Even before we began this process, we enjoyed checking out universities. If we’re driving through a college town, we’ll take time to get out and stroll. In the next few blog posts, I’ll share what we learned about the universities we visited and most seriously considered.

Bellarmine University, Louisville, Kentucky, is a private Catholic university founded in 1950. The university has a current enrollment of more than 3,600 students on its main 135-acre campus, located in the Belknap neighborhood of Louisville’s Highlands area. Many of us know the area because of its high density of good restaurants, nightclubs, and eclectic businesses along Bardstown Road. The university also is not far from the beautiful Cherokee Park, designed in 1891 by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Bellarmine's athletic teams are known as the Knights. The university is a member of NCAA Division II and competes in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (along with the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville) except men's lacrosse which competes at the NCAA Division I level in the Southern Conference. Bellarmine’s men’s basketball team won the 2011 NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Tournament, the first athletic national championship in school history. Its most recent president, Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, died unexpectedly earlier this year.

Hanover University, Hanover, Indiana, is a private liberal arts college, located on 650 acres near the banks of the Ohio River, 6.2 miles from historic Madison, Indiana. Founded in 1827, Hanover is the oldest college in Indiana; it is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Graduates of Hanover are known as Hanoverians. Its current enrollment is about 1,125.

In the 1940s the college turned down plans to rebuild the Sigma Chi fraternity house as designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, because it did not match the Georgian Architecture, which still today defines its campus.

Next up, DePauw University and Xavier University.

No, But We Ate

Let’s get back to New York.

“No, but we visited his grave.” That’s the answer to the most frequently asked question about my family’s spring break visit to New York City. It’s a question unheard of even last year, but this year, that’s another story because interest in the musical “Hamilton” is sweeping the nation. “Hamilton” is the hip-hop influenced Broadway musical attracting the attention of the president and past presidents and celebrities galore about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy it; I am sure I would. Traveling with teenage boys, we kept an open itinerary and focused on exploring — and eating.

What I can recommend are a handful of restaurants that we either sought out or discovered.

Leo’s Bagels, near Hanover Square in the Financial District
Try a salt bagel with scallion cream cheese and Scottish salmon.

Kori, in Tribeca
The Dolsot Bibimbap (BBB) is prepared tableside in a sizzling stone bowl.

Inatteso Pizzabar Casano
While dining choices are not abundant in the Battery, this classy pizza bar next to our hotel served a mean Margherita pizza.

You won’t find many Mexican restaurants in the Financial District (on Greenwich Street) but there is Tajin and it is truly authentic.

Essex World Café
Before we visited the new One World Trade Center, we had lunch at this café nearby; the cooks behind the counter were super friendly and the food satisfying.

Beyoglu (pictured above)
On the Upper East Side, this Zagat rated Turkish restaurant is a good stop for lunch or dinner after visiting a museum.

Obica, Mozzarella Bar, Pizza & Cucina
Not your standard pizza joint, Obica has locations in Japan, Italy, England, and UAE. Order a number of mozzarellas (black truffle!), pizza, and small plates in the popular dining spot in Flatiron.

Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Located in the lower level of New York’s famous Grand Central Terminal, Grand Central Oyster Bar is the oldest restaurant in the terminal. Arrive ready to make decisions — choose from 25 types of fish and 30 varieties of oysters.

After your lunch or dinner, visit Trinity Church at 75 Broadway in Lower Manhattan where Alexander Hamilton is interred.

See Forever in NYC

We skipped the beach this year (so far) and made New York City our spring break destination. Our oldest son, 17, will take a senior trip with high school classmates in June, triangulating the Alps with visits to Germany, Switzerland, and France. We thought visiting NYC would be appropriate before he travels to some of Europe’s grandest cities.

I won’t attempt to write a New York City travelogue in a 300-word blog — we worked hard at exploring and didn’t begin to cover the ground we would have liked to explore in a five-day trip.

▲ Kristen in Battery Park, looking ready for her TV commercial for insurance debut.

Our hotel was in Battery Park, located in Lower Manhattan. Post 9/11 and the 2012 super storm Hurricane Sandy, the southern tip of Manhattan has undergone a huge transformation in recent years. Commercial real estate brokers and foreign investors, doing deals over coffee or cocktails, were fixtures in our hotel dining room.

We arrived on a Sunday night. Early Monday morning we walked straight to the National September 11 Memorial, guided by the looming view of the new One World Trade Center Tower and Observatory, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Approaching the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial — all 2,977 names of those killed in the four coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaeda are inscribed in bronze panels surrounding the both pools — I immediately broke into sobs — so enormous was the experience of standing right there.

▲ A white rose is pressed into an engraved name of a person killed in the 9/11 attacks. Beyond the North Pool is the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, known as the Oculus.

The following day we bought tickets to the One World Trade Center Observatory. Visiting was a hassle-free and exhilarating experience. Guests are whisked in a minute-long elevator ride to the 104th floor 360-degree viewing area. While there are other fantastic views in NYC, including the Top of the Rock (for great views of Central Park) and of course, the Empire State Building, we didn’t want to miss, as the OWTC marketing suggests, the opportunity to “see forever.”

▲ All of Manhattan is spread before your eyes at the One World Trade Center Observatory, the tallest building in North America at 1,776 feet tall.

Check back soon for a few more blog posts on our trip to New York.

Iowa Still on my Mind

As I last wrote, Iowa has been on my mind. I was born there, and before my family relocated to my father’s hometown of Evansville, I lived in more than a few towns. We moved every few years for the next best high school coaching and teaching jobs for my parents.

Next on the list is the town we lived in when my sister was born — Graettinger, Iowa. I always thought the name was funny. Graettinger is in Palo Alto County, in the Northern reaches of the state. Shopping trips in those years were to Minneapolis. (Also, my mother was a Mary Tyler Moore fan.) Graettinger is small; home to only 844 people, 382 households, and 227 families. The town hosts the oldest Labor Day parade in Iowa. I remember participating in many Iowa parades (with my decorated bike and wearing dance costumes).

The next move for the Reeder family, then still with only two daughters, me and my sister, Miekka, two years younger, was to Baxter, Iowa, 33 miles northeast of Des Moines. It, too, is small with a population of 1,101 today. What I remember most about Baxter is that our house had two front doors.

We left Baxter before I went to kindergarten, moving to Melcher, Iowa, just south of Des Moines, also in Marion County. Now called Melcher-Dallas, two rivaling coal-mining towns that shared schools beginning in the 1960s merged in 1986. Through Facebook, our childhood babysitter, Kristi Roberts Rogers, recently found my sister and me. (Miekka, with her name, is fairly easily found.) Kristi took a picture of our old house, and recounted stories of my father, her basketball coach and teacher. (“He would get me out of detention to babysit you girls.”) I certainly remember Kristi and the house. I remember parades in Melcher, too, dressing as a Saint (the high school mascot) for the homecoming parade. I remember the town’s pristine bandstand in the Community Park, and the large water tower that loomed over the high school, across the street from the Sinclair Gas Station (now a Casey’s) and down the street from my house.

Iowa On My Mind

Every four years from the middle of August (the time of the Iowa State Fair) to early February, the world watches Iowa. Since 1972, the Iowa caucuses have marked the start of the presidential nomination race. For six months this year, Iowa towns with names familiar to me, and, of course, the state capital, Des Moines, frequently were in the news. I was born in Iowa and lived in more than a few of those towns in the seven years I spent there.

My roots since my ancestors have been in America are firmly in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. My mother was born in Leon, Iowa, south of Des Moines, to parents born in Lamoni, Iowa, and Derby, Indiana (Perry County). My father was born in Eldorado, Illinois, to parents from the area; the family moved to Evansville when my father was young. He met my mother while attending Graceland University, in Lamoni.

In this post and the next, I’ll write about the towns I lived in for those who, like me, enjoy learning a bit about communities.

When I was born, we lived in the Patricia Park neighborhood of Des Moines, on Urbandale Avenue.

▲ Photo taken in 1964

Photo of the house taken by my mother years later, in 1997.

Some of my earliest memories are of the nearby Merle Hay Plaza (now called Merle Hall Mall), the oldest and for a long time largest mall in Iowa. My aunt and uncle still live not far from this home.

When I was one, we moved to Winterset, Iowa. I’m the oldest of three daughters so I was the only child at that time. My father was a high school girls’ basketball coach and teacher and my mother was a grade-school teacher; there always was the next best job. Winterset is in Madison County, in the southern part of the metro Des Moines area. It is the setting of Robert James Waller’s novel, “The Bridges of Madison County,” and the same-named movie. The town originally had 19 covered bridges; today there are six. I wish I remembered them; surely my parents would.

Next, I’ll write about the Iowa towns of Graettinger, Baxter, and Melcher.

70 Years of Master Plans

Happy New Year! I hope you all are warm and safe in our winter storms.

While the Indiana General Assembly is doing the “heavy lifting” — to quote State Rep. Vaneta Becker — gaining approval to increase the Indiana Regional City Fund to fully allocate $42 million to each of three regions, let’s take a look back at some of the plans, successful and not so, that are stored on our city leaders’ shelves.

I really don’t know if the plans I reference still are laying around, but I studied them all for my master’s degree thesis, “Main Street, Evansville, Indiana: A 70-Year Perspective,” completed in 1999.

For background, in December Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors announced the approved plans presented by regional development organizations in Southwest, North Central, and Northeast Indiana. Each needs approval from the state legislature on each area of their plans but they may receive up to $42 million in state-matching funds. The first $84 million, generated through the tax amnesty program, was increased to $126 million allowing three regional cities to be selected instead of the two, as outlined in House Bill 1403. Now the legislature is seeking funding for all three.

Here is a look at a few of our city’s development plans and reports through the years (in more than 300 words, to make up for the delinquency of this blog post).

Fantus Company Plan, “The Foundation for Evansville’s Future, Inc.”, 1959. This report, according to a 1976 interview with Joseph O’Daniel, “pulled all the skeletons out of the closet …. We were negative in the community.”

Foundation for Evansville’s Future, New Image Campaign, resulting from Fantus Plan. This was a grassroots plan involving people in contact with the public.

Central Business District Development Committee and the Winslick Associates (St. Louis, Missouri) study. This late 1950s study on retail volume forever altered the complexion of Main Street as it suggested shrinking the core of downtown and anchoring it with a Civic Center on one end and “Riverside Development Area” on the other end.

Mayor William Davidson’s Traffic and Safety Council Plan, 1959, proposed to limit parking on Main Street or clear it of traffic all together.

Raymond A. Anderson Plan, early 1960s. This plan, authored by the executive secretary of the Redevelopment Commission, eliminated nearly 50 percent of the housing units in the city’s core.

Victor Gruen Master Plan, 1967. Mayor Frank McDonald announced this plan would not call for a lot of “bulldozing,” unlike prior plans. The plan stressed the importance of attracting one or two large Downtown department store within a Main Street Mall, a completely enclosed two-story pedestrian thoroughfare with all-season temperature control, adorned with greenery and artistic seating, with trams and mini buses providing service from parking and residential areas.

Blue Ribbon Committee, 1969. This committee of 32 prominent businessmen suggested the Main Street Pedestrian Mall, or Walkway. Its focal point was to be a fountain at First and Main Streets.

Landeco Plan, 1970. Partnering with a young Indianapolis company, Evansville looked to develop the riverfront with a new building every six months, including a 23-story convention center hotel, four 19-story apartment complexes, and two 19-story office buildings. A portion of First Street was slated to be a pedestrian walkway. Landeco brought the city one building, the 14-story Riverside One apartments, razed in 2003 to make room for Vectren. (I lived there before I was married.)

1984 Master Plan. Highlights included additional repairs and development of the Old Post Office, a $4 million riverfront boulevard that eliminated the concrete levee that for decades cut off Downtown from the river, dozens of new apartments and townhomes, trolleys, turn-of-the-century lamps, and wrought-iron park benches. As well, the plan called for a “cultural campus” on the riverfront featuring a 1,500-seat auditorium and a 600-seat theater for plays.

William Robinette and the Foster International Plan, 1986. This was the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based company that would implement the projects in the 1984 Master Plan, including the Old Post Office Retail Village and the Riverfront Condominiums, for which ground was broken in 1987.

1988 Halcyon (Washington, D.C.) Report. This plan updated the 1984 Master Plan and noted that it was stalled because “no clear leader or group” was willing to take charge. It also said the Walkway should be “left alone” with no further investment.

Mayor Frank McDonald’s Plan for Downtown Stadium, 1989. Rather than renovate the then-aging Roberts Municipal Stadium, a loosely knit group of Downtown supporters sought a new riverfront stadium.

Coopers & Lybrand Feasibility Study, 1990. This study was commissioned by the city to look at establishing a Downtown hotel-convention center and performing arts complex. This plan recommended the renovation of the Victory Theatre and expansion of the Vanderburgh Auditorium. The plan eventually included transforming the Sonntag Hotel, adjacent to the Victory Theatre, into the Signature Learning Center, now Signature School.

Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Updated Master Plan, 1995. Led by a group of connected business leaders, this master plan took into account the new riverboat casino, Casino Aztar (now Tropicana), opened in 1995. It featured a one-block events plaza at the foot of Main Street, complete with a carousel, stage, glass enclosed gazebo and fountain, and a bicycle path along the riverfront. It also suggested removing the canopy structures along Main Street, considered an eyesore. (Many of the canopies remain today.) Finally, this plan called for a major face lift to Dress Plaza and the esplanade along Riverside Drive to creating serpentine tiered seating and installing interpretive boards along the guardrail outlining the history of the river.

In the 17 years since I wrote my thesis, Evansville has created more plans. What’s at stake with the Great Southwest Plan for the Indiana Regional Cities Fund, is, of course, more than a master plan and encompasses more than Evansville and its Downtown. Still, this look back might be useful.

In a 1999 interview with the late Bill Brooks, longtime board member of the Evansville Convention and Visitors Bureau who retired from Citizens Bank, told me, “We have a tendency to commission these big plans then put them on a shelf. If you do a study, you must have a group to push it forward.”

Evansville has that group in the Economic Development Commission of Southwest Indiana and the region has been awarded the state funding. Now, let’s get started.

Babies in the Snow

I grew up in a house where Christmas was the favorite time of the year. From an early age, my sisters and I were encouraged to collect Christmas ornaments and décor so someday we would have so much holiday décor that we would have take time off from work (like our mother did!) to decorate.

Mom helped us each along by starting collections for her daughters. I was chosen to collect Snow Babies, popularized by the Department 56 company in the mid-1980s when it introduced the unglazed porcelain figurines that were made first made in the 1890s in Germany as cake toppers.

Before World War I, Snow Babies ranged from 5 to 7 inches tall and depicted children in one-piece snowsuits participating in winter activities like skiing, ice skating, and sledding. When Snow Baby production resumed after the war, the figurines made were smaller, usually ranging from 1 to 3 inches in size; models of children caroling, riding polar bears, and building snowmen also were designed.

Through high school and college, and into my married like, until she died in January 2008, my mother gave me a Snow Baby for Christmas and my birthday. My collection now numbers more than 30.

My husband and sons have never quite understood the appeal of the Snow Babies. Perhaps they don’t understand their vintage history, or they just don’t like figurines of little babies playing in the snow. So, for years my husband placed an annual call to my mother just as we were decorating. With much drama and elaboration, he explained, “Mary, we broke the Snow Babies.” Or, “Mary, I accidentally took the box of Snow Babies to donate.” It was a new story every year. And every year the Snow Babies were carefully removed from their boxes and placed for all of us to enjoy.

Merry Christmas!

A Paris District Primer

I arrived in Paris in April 2013 at the Gare du Nord on a high-speed Thalys train from Amsterdam. My first-class ticket was purchased weeks earlier online; at Amsterdam Centraal that Sunday morning, I learned the ticket was a fake. When buying the replacement ticket (I was running low on euros and not purchased yet what I needed in Paris), I learned my MasterCard didn’t have the “chip.” (“The chip, the chip, you must have the chip!”)

Just a few hours later, though, I stepped off the train and onto the streets of the station located in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. Before my visit, I was not aware of how the city of Paris was organized into districts, or arrondissements, a word that has been frequently reported since the Nov. 13, 2015, terrorist attacks. The restaurant and theater shootings occurred in the 10th and 11th arrondissements; the Bataclan is located in the 10th, not all that far from the Gare du Nord train station.

▲ Above, the Lourvre Museum is in the first arrondissement. Below, the Place de Vosges straddles the dividing line of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. 

The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, arranged in the form of a clockwise spiral (often likened to a snail shell), starting from the middle of the city, with the first on the north bank of the Seine.

Montmartre, Paris’ largest hill, in the 18th arrondissement, overlooks the popular entertainment restaurants in the 10th, where many of the tragedies took place. This week at the COP21 climate change summit held in Paris, President Barrack Obama dined with French President Francois Hollande and other leaders at a famous restaurant located in the 3rd along the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in the city. The Place des Vosges straddles the 3rd and the 4th arrondissements.

The Eiffel Tower dominates the landscape in the 7th arrondissement, on the south side of the Seine River. The geographic center of Paris, the first arrondissement, is home to landmarks including Louvre, the Tuileries, and Palais Royal.

The Eiffel Tower is on the left bank of Seine, in the 7th arrondissement and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur is located on Montmarte in the 18th arrondissement.

Thoughts on Brussels

Last week brought terrible news. The front line of ISIS’ (Islamic State of Iran and Syria) war on humanity returned to Paris, France, where 133 people died and more than 350 were injured in seven coordinated bomb and gunfire attacks carried out by militants. ISIS claimed responsibility.

Three brothers from Brussels, Belgium, emerged as leaders in the terror; two died in the attacks; one was killed in a massive raid in a Paris suburb six days after the attacks.

I have traveled to Brussels and Paris, each just once. While my recollections, thank heavens, have no direct connection to these acts of terror, I will share a few thoughts on these cities — Brussels first.

The Grand Place

The Brussels I visited briefly was pretty, rich in culture and history, and tasty. It didn’t look like a hotbed for terrorists, as it recently has been defined. The Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site, lined with guildhalls is astonishingly beautiful. Belgian chocolate is divine (with cocoa content regulated by law), and its beer is made by Trappists monks. Brussels is the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), author of the treaty signed in 1949 by 26 nations to combat the threat of communism. Today, the 28 nations comprising NATO agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by an external party. The [de facto] headquarters of the European Union are located in Brussels.

Brussels also is home to Manneken-Pis, the famous bronze peeing boy — who dresses in costumes and sometimes pees beer.

Manneken-Pis statue

Five World Fairs have been held in Brussels — in 1888, 1897, 1910, 1935, and 1958. I visited a relic from Expo 58, the Atomium, described by CNN in 2013 as Europe’s most “bizarre” building. Designed to resemble a single cell from an iron crystal, the Atomium consists of nine 59-foot stainless steel spheres, connected by a series of hollow tubes. The top sphere offers a restaurant and a panoramic view of the city.

▲ The Atomium

Brussels is just a few kilometers north of the boundary between Belgium’s language communities — French in the south, Dutch in the north. Historically a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels has seen a major shift to French since Belgian independence in 1830. Today, though the majority language is French, the city officially is bilingual. All road signs, street names, and most advertisements and services are shown in both languages.

Miller House and Garden Time

Columbus, Indiana, is among my favorite cities in the world. Inhabited by thinkers and doers even before it became a company town in 1919 with the founding of Cummins, Columbus is known as an architectural mecca. In the mid-1950s, the Cummins Foundation began paying design fees for public projects designed by highly regarded architects, an effort led by Cummins Chairman J. Irwin Miller to improve quality of life in the town.

The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote in 1976, “Columbus, Indiana, and J. Irwin Miller are almost holy words in architectural circles. There is no other place in which a single philanthropist has placed so much faith in architecture as a means to civic improvement.”

As the years passed, Columbus came to have a newspaper building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; a library designed by I.M. Pei; churches designed by Eero Saarinen and his father, Eliel; a Kevin Roche post office, and a Cesar Pelli shopping area.

Years before the home of J. Irwin and his wife Xenia Miller opened to the public in May 2011, my husband and I spotted it along Columbus’ Washington Avenue. In 1953, the Millers commissioned Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect whose father Eliel had designed First Christian Church in Columbus (one of the first churches in the U.S. to be built in a modernist style), to design a new home for their growing family. In 1947 Eero Saarinen designed the Gateway Arch.

The dining room opens up to this view, with a reflection pool.

The conversation pit in the living room is one of the defining design elements of the Miller House.

J. Irwin died in 2004; Xenia died in 2007. The family agreed to donate the home and gardens to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Today, twice-daily tours (Tuesday-Saturday, in small groups) are offered by the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

The Miller House and Garden is regarded as one of the five most significant mid-century Modernist residences in the U.S. Joining Saarinen’s creative team on the home were Alexander Girard, who brought strong colors and playful patterns into the modern aesthetic, and landscape designer Dan Kiley, a leading figure in modern American landscape architecture who employed the Miller home landscape’s grandest feature, a gorgeous allée of honey locust trees.

Landscape designer Dan Kiley planned a grand allee of honey locust trees parallel to home.

The Miller House is sited on 13 acres. While the home is located in a residential area on Washington Street in Columbus, Indiana, it's view from the back sweeps down to the Flat Rock River.

Tours have sold out months in advance – visit the IMA website before you go and book in advance. When I visited recently, the Visitors Center was planning special holiday tours – opportunities to visit the Miller House glowing at night.

Addicted to Facebook — of Aviation

If you see me checking my phone in public these days, it’s likely you saw me first glance toward the sky. I’ve become addicted to an app — I believe the only app I have ever purchased — Flightradar24. Called the “Facebook of Aviation” in a recent Wall Street Journal story, Flightradar24 is a crowd-sourced global aviation-tracking network created by Swedish aviation enthusiasts.

Airlines, airports, Boeing and Airbus operations centers, and news agencies use Flightradar24. Airport workers and car services use it to check flights. I use it to learn what jet flew over my house — and, as it turns out, Evansville truly is flyover country; ever-present, it seems, is the low, distant roar of overhead jets.

This is a Virgin America Airbus I heard overhead as I left for my walk before dawn this morning; it left Los Angeles International Airport at 11:50 last night and landed at Washington this morning a bit after 7.  With an upgraded version of the app ($3.99), users can track routes, as well as receive detailed information on the plane, including a photo and flight statistics.

To provide this information, the company, which was tracking Malaysia Airlines flight 370 when it disappeared and also was the first to conclude a Germanwings pilot intentionally crashed his plane in the Alps, relies on volunteers worldwide with 7,500 receivers installed on roofs, towers, islands, and ships.

Flight patterns are easily visible to users. Morning and night, Federal Express jets to Memphis, Tennessee, play follow-the-leader over the Tri-State.  The skies above the Eastern Seaboard are, as expected, crowded.

I’m not sure checking Flightradar24 is productive, though for me it is enjoyable and educational. Try the free app first, and if you like it, spring for the $3.99 full version.

Pity the Postal Carrier

It’s the time of year I make a trip to the bookstore to buy Vogue magazine — the September issue. I rarely buy any other issue, and I don’t subscribe (though I might), well, because I’m too concerned about the back health of my postal carrier — it’s a hefty magazine.

The September issue of Vogue is the subject of a documentary, “The September Issue,” about the production of the 2007 issue, at the time the largest Vogue issue ever produced, with 820 pages.

Published just ahead of all the Fall Fashion Weeks (New York, Paris, Milan, and London — Editor Anna Wintour visits each in the documentary), the September issue of Vogue is a bellwether of fashion, art, and culture.

The 2015 September issue has 832 pages; the 2014 issue had 856 pages. Ad pages are significant: 615 ad pages in 2015 and 631 ad pages in 2014. Target is the back cover advertiser for at least the past two years; Clinique is the inside back cover advertiser, and Ralph Lauren has the inside front, including gatefold panels for the past two years. The first page of the September 2015 table of contents is on page 112.

Beyonce stars on the cover of the September 2015, and the fashion feature, where the genius of Creative Director Grace Coddington is displayed, is titled, “Forces of Fashion.”

When former Evansville Living Creative Director Laura Mathis left our company last year to work in Owensboro, Kentucky, she gave me “The September Issue” DVD and a beautiful book, “Vogue: The Covers” (2011, Abrams, New York). I have enjoyed reviewing Vogue covers since 1892!

Vogue’s favorite September issue archives can be seen here.

To celebrate the September 2015 issue, Vogue borrowed a familiar magazine industry promotional trick — similar to Evansville Living’s Snapshots. Take a look!

Q & A with a Jammer

To make up for my absence, you will enjoy (I hope!) more than 300 words in this post.

Last month my husband and I took our sons, Maxwell and Jackson, on a sailing trip from Grenada, through the necklace islands of St. Vincent and The Grenadines. It was our hands — Todd’s and mine — that went up each day when Captain Sly, during “Story Time,” asked:

Who has sailed on the Mandalay before?
Who has been to the beautiful island of Bequia?
Who has been to the amazing island of Mayreau?
Who has been to Sandy Island?

We’re experienced “Jammers.” We’ve sailed now with “Sail Windjammer” (the “new” company) twice, and with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises (the “old company”) five times. Folks always seem interested in hearing about these Caribbean vacations, and I’ll write a feature story about the “Junior Jammer” sail (the week when children age 10 to 17 can sail) soon in Evansville Living. For today, here are the questions I am most frequently asked about these “No Foo Foo Ship” cruises.

Q: I’ve read about “barefoot” cruises off the coast of Maine where you have to work on board. Is this the same?

A: Sail Windjammer was formed two years ago from the legacy and culture of a former Windjammer company which operated for decades from Miami, plying the warm Caribbean waters with, at one time, five tall ships. I would imagine the Maine sailings are very different. On the S.V. Mandalay, Sail Windjammer’s historic ship, passengers are invited to help raise the sails — to the melody of “Amazing Grace.” The deck hands do need the help, and it is appreciated, but not required. Passengers do not cook or clean the ship, of course.

Photo by Kristi Epplin

Q: What do you do on board?

A: As much or as little as you like. Each day the activities director writes (and draws) the day’s itinerary on the board.

We like to sit on deck and soak up the Caribbean sun. (Grenada is just 12 degrees from the equator.) When the ship is under sail, it’s enjoyable to watch the Captain at the wheel.

We sail to a different island every day, and passengers can enjoy the beach or an island excursion. My family snorkeled nearly every day, and even swam with sea turtles at a national preserve. At Union Island, we visited the very unique and famous locale, Happy Island, a man-made island that celebrities, including Alton Brown, visit.

Q: How is the food?
A: The food is excellent! Unlike a cruise ship, passengers enjoy meals in the saloon and bare feet are acceptable. The dinner bell rings and guests choose their tables. Snacks and rum swizzles are served each afternoon around 5 p.m. and early risers get Bloody Marys and sticky buns at 6:30 a.m. Sometimes the crew brings a picnic lunch and bar to the deserted island we are visiting for the day.

Q: How big is the ship? How many passengers are on board?

A: S.V. Mandalay is 236 feet long. Up to 55 passengers can be accommodated in the staterooms. Meet the passengers on our trip!

Q: Do you sail from Florida?
A: Not on this itinerary — that would be a long sail. Most weeks of the year, S.V. Mandalay embarks from Grenada. American Airlines flies from Miami to St. Georges, Grenada, several times a week. Our family arrived a day early, and stayed a day after the sail, at a resort on the quiet Morne Rouge Bay.

Q: What is the crew like?
A: The Mandalay Crew is fantastic. They cannot do enough for the passengers. We enjoy visiting with crewmembers, many of whom are from islands in the West Indies.

Q: What are the islands like?
A: The islands in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are beautiful. Some are uninhabited, like Tobago Keys. Mayreau has 300 residents and Bequia has a population of 4,300 including a large concentration of international expats.

Q: Do you get seasick?
A: I rarely have had problems with seasickness. Because the ship is under sail — and really sailing — passengers will feel the waves. It is advised to have anti-sickness medicine on hand, or, wear the anti-motion sickness wristbands available today. There is almost always land in sight — the ship is island hopping — but on each itinerary there is always one or two big sails, where the captain takes the ship out 50 miles or so, and then sails back down through the islands.

Q: Would you go again?
A: Yes! We don’t plan to stop with our seventh sail on a tall ship!

Go, Dog, Go!

A crowd of at least 500 spilled into the streets at the corner of Third and Sycamore streets in Evansville. Nearly everyone was eating ice cream with their eyes cast toward the sky.

Marsh Davis, executive director of Indiana Landmarks, led the crowd in the countdown. Stewart Sebree, Indiana Landmarks field officer, was on his cell phone relaying the count to his wife Janelyn, who would hit the breakers.

Three — The horizontal band of lights above the door come on!
Two — The vertical sign displaying the word Greyhound lights!
One — The Greyhound dog topping the sign lights for the first time in years!
Run, Dog, Run! — The neon Greyhound runs!

Photo by Tom Barrows

For the past year, Indiana Landmarks has been restoring the outside of the two-toned blue building at 102 N.W. Third St., eliminating water leaks, renovating the windows, and returning the original colors to the porcelain-enameled steel panels. The restoration was designed by RATIO Architects, Indianapolis. Evansville’s Architectural Renovators is the general contractor. Greyhound vacated the terminal in 2006 when the company moved its buses to the METS terminal.

While the exterior of the building now gleams, the inside is finished as a “white box.” Indiana Landmarks’ local board members are seeking an area or regional restaurant developer to open a restaurant and bar; the future tenant will build out the inside to accommodate plans. To date, restaurant interest has been strong; board member Gene Warren has given more than a dozen tours of the property to prospective tenants.

The next time you’re Downtown in the evening, don’t miss a chance to see the Greyhound. The neon lights are set with an astronomical timer; during the week, passersby will see the entryway and canopy lights on; the neon-lit dog runs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Go, dog, go!

Cook like a Kid

Inspired by a tweet from Mental Floss (an American magazine presenting facts and trivia in a clever, fun way, and a popular blog and website) about my favorite cookbook, “Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls” — 9 Delightful Recipes From the 1950s You Should Make with Your Kids Today – I pulled my cookbook from the kitchen shelf and gathered up the ingredients to make “American Pizza.”

In our house (not my Granny’s!) homemade biscuits were made from Bisquick, but I didn’t have the only ingredient for the crust, so I ran to the store. Growing up in Iowa, my family made lots of homemade pizza; there were no local pizza restaurants that I can recall. (When we moved to Evansville in 1970, my father realized his dream of opening pizza restaurants with his friends.)

I remember making the “American Pizza” for my parents. Along with picking a stem of rhubarb and smushing it in sugar in a cup (sort of like muddling), eating this pizza is one of my strongest childhood food memories.

The Mental Floss post also highlights a breakfast I make for my husband still today (my boys like their eggs scrambled) — eggs in a frame. As a child, I loved making, and eating, this breakfast treat. The toast hole always is eaten first, and I add a dash of hot sauce.

I believe I’ve made most of the nine favorites Mental Floss suggests. The 1957 edition of the cookbook (the copy I have, though I wasn’t born until 1964), featured a panel of 12 boys and girls to test the recipes. I remember reading the children’s comments printed in the book and wishing I could test the recipes.

Linda said, “Our mother marked what we made excellent, good, fair, or poor.”

Chris said, “If we didn’t like it, Betty Crocker didn’t put it in this book.”

We Beat the Heat

The Hot Yoga Challenge is over. According to Yoga 101 owner Jenni Juhl, 110 students (nine men and 101 women) accepted the challenge to complete 40, 50, or 60 classes in 60 days, beginning April 12. Forty-four students beat the heat! Two students completed 60 classes and two students completed 50 classes. The rest of us hit the 40 mark. I completed 47 classes!

During the challenge a community forms — I noticed several women who work at 14 WFIE taking classes. After congratulating them, I asked them to share their stories, and with great yogi spirit, they had fun with my request.

Laurel Rawden (in runner’s lunge, Anjaneyasana) introduced me to hot yoga nearly 15 years ago; she was an early adopter at the original Yoga 101 studio in Newburgh. An account executive, Laurel has practiced hot yoga regularly, but never had completed the challenge. Laurel says, “I accepted the challenge to better myself! Mentally and physically challenged myself and I beat the heat! I will continue my yoga journey. I get strength from my fellow yogis.”

Erin Meyer (in standing bow pulling pose, Dandayamana Dhanurasana), Sunrise anchor, is a Yoga Challenge veteran. She completed it last year, too. This year she took her 40th class on the final day of the challenge, June 10. Erin says, “The yoga challenge has changed my body — I’m much more toned and getting stronger (I hope) all the time! There wasn’t any blood, but there was a LOT of sweat and almost some tears. I’m very proud to have made it!”

Jamie Bremer (in tree pose, Vrksasana) an account executive with the station, had a special challenge during the challenge — the former Jamie Pinkston married Nelson Bremer on May 16 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and honeymooned in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, taking a two full weeks off of the challenge. “I was scared I wouldn’t get the challenge completed — but I did,” says Jamie.

Safety Patrol

As the school year dwindles, many seventh-grade students at Holy Rosary School await an outing during the school day: the annual Safety Patrol trip to Burdette Park Aquatic Center, a reward for students serving in Safety Patrol. Both of my sons have been patrol guards; Jackson, completing seventh grade, celebrated in the swim outing last week. There are nearly 30 students on the patrol squad — most of the seventh grade — and that explains why I recall my son serving about only five times. Most Holy Rosary students arrive to school and are picked up in cars; still quite a few walk or are picked up across Green River Road in the mall parking lot. Guards had to be extra attentive and cautious last week during the Summer Social; in fact, the release of students was delayed a few minutes due to heavy traffic in the area.

I was a Safety Patrol guard when I was in sixth grade at Caze Elementary School. When my mother retired from teaching, also from Caze, she was given the Safety Patrol plaque from the Patrol Room, where guards from 1974 to 1988 were honored by name. The plaque also recognizes the program sponsor, The Independent Insurance Agents of Evansville. I believe my whistle is saved somewhere in a box.

The official School Safety Patrol program was organized in 1920 by the American Automobile Association. Today, AAA reports that more than 630,000 children participate annually in School Safety Patrol programs.

The popularity of Safety Patrol was satirized in a 1998 Disney Move, “Safety Patrol,” that was pretty funny. Famous people who served in the Safety Patrol include Presidents Jimmy Ford and Bill Clinton, five U.S. Supreme Court justices or former justices, 21 astronauts, and five Olympic Gold Medalists including Bruce Jenner.

Class #18. Namaste.

This morning I put my 18th checkmark on the Yoga Challenge poster displayed at Yoga 101. The checkmark denotes my progress in the challenge to complete 40, 50, or 60 hot yoga classes in 60 days.

To ensure my success in this feat — offered by Yoga 101 most years since it was founded 15 years ago — I’m challenging myself first to practice hot yoga every day for 30 days; I have taken a 60-minute, 75-minute, or 90-minute hot yoga class every day for 20 days. (I began my own count before the official challenge began.)

 Yoga 101 students completing the challenge receive an “I Beat the Heat” T-shirt and credit for Yoga 101 classes.

For the athletes reading who swim or run every day of the year and wonder what’s the big deal about taking 40, 50, or 60 hot yoga classes in 60 days, I’ll offer this: Bikram Choudhury, founder of the most popular form of hot yoga practiced in the U.S., calls the properly heated and humidified yoga studio “Bikram’s torture chamber.” Walking into studio heated to 110 degrees to 115 degrees with up to 50 percent humidity, I have thought of this on more than a few of the past 19 days.

Who are the more 80 than yogis doing this challenge? Men and women, teenagers to those north of age 75, longtime students and those new to hot yoga, folks wanting to lose weight (most of us believe hot yoga helps torch calories), and people who want to gain strength, heal injuries, or achieve a bit of yen.

A fairly consistent practitioner for more than a decade, I feel my best when I am doing lots of hot yoga, as well as walking and lifting weights.

Want to experience hot yoga yourself? Yoga 101 is the city’s only dedicated, independent hot yoga studio. The Downtown YMCA recently added a hot yoga studio and Tri-State Athletic Club built a hot yoga studio three years ago.

On the Boardwalk

The first Saturday of my sons’ spring break, I woke them up and asked them to get dressed, “We’re going to the boardwalk.”

“What boardwalk?” of course, was their reply. We didn’t load the car and drive to the shore — we drove to Tekoppel Avenue on Evansville’s West Side. When we arrived, much of the boardwalk was under water, as it probably is still today, with our recent rains.

But we will return to Howell Park.

One of only five urban wetland parks in the state (and the largest), Howell Wetlands is a 35-acre ecosystem with more than two miles of trails spread across the marsh, cypress slough, wildflower and grassland prairie, and bottomland hardwood forest. Included on the trails are boardwalks that normally traipse above Oxbow Lake and Bald Cypress Basin. This wetland environment provides habitat for beaver, waterfowl (which we saw plenty of), and the rare green tree frog (which we did not see). The most significant natural feature of Howell Wetlands is the oxbow lake — a remnant of an old channel of the Ohio River, regularly spilling floodwaters over its banks and into the surrounding land.

Howell Wetlands is owned by the City of Evansville (Howell Park is adjacent to the wetlands) and is managed by the Wesselman Nature Society.

A conservation station, located at the main parking, provides a large, sheltered outdoor classroom area and restrooms (for program/event use only). Admission to Howell Wetlands is free; it is open sunup to sundown seven days a week. Only foot traffic is allowed on the trials.

For information on Howell Wetlands, visit

You’ll see beautiful photos of the ecosystem (much better than mine, in better weather) and maybe you’ll be encouraged to visit yourself. I plan to go back to mark the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22!

A Language We All Understand

Stevland Hardaway Morris walked onto the stage at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, Tuesday night, guided by the beautiful rhythm and blues singer and songwriter India Aria (wearing a stunning white dress and white turban) and it was a wonder to behold. For nearly four hours, the 64-year-old musician, who we’ve known as Stevie Wonder since the world met him as a child prodigy, regaled the audience with stories (he had plenty) and songs, which he also had plenty of.

My husband had seen Mr. Wonder in 2010 at the legendary music festival, Bonnaroo, held in June in Manchester, Tennessee. When the opportunity arose to see him in the “Songs in the Key of Life Tour” in Nashville, tickets were scored as Valentine’s Day/Anniversary present. The show was an absolute treat.

Wonder opened the show with unbridled enthusiasm, statements about love, and a comment I especially liked: “If you hate anyone, you’re blocking your blessings.”

Mr. Wonder and his band of 20 (plus 10 local string musicians) nailed tightly each of the 21 tracks of the ambitious 1976 double album, “Songs in the Key of Life.” His voice, though matured a bit, still possesses incredible range and strength. Tuesday night he sang, played keyboards and piano and the harmonica.

A fun moment in the evening was when the musician called his daughter Aisha on an iPhone to wish her happy birthday. With Aisha on the line, her image projected on the big screens through FaceTime, Wonder sang the song he wrote about her birth, “Isn’t She Lovely?”

Mr. Wonder struck me as a very affable man — and he clearly has many friends in Nashville. Several joined him onstage for the night’s finale, “Superstition” — including Steven Tyler, frontman of Aerosmith, and comedian Dave Chappelle.

If I could have stayed for the next night’s show, I would have!

Arrival of the Lenten Rose

I waited patiently for the snow to melt. Most years, it is a treat to find my first flowers — always a Lenten rose — in bloom on March 1. But this year snow blanketed the ground. Tempted as I was to dig in the snow to see if the creamy white blooms were ready to announce spring, I waited for the thaw.

I was not disappointed. My Lenten rose plants had been snuggled under the blanket of snow and the protection afforded by last year’s fading plants.

The Lenten rose, named “Plant of the Year” in 2005 by the Perennial Plant Association for its many superior characteristics, also is commonly known as a hellebore. In the days before modern medicine, a tincture from the hellebore was a mainstay in the medicine bag of every good apothecary, though its roots are known to be poisonous. (My dog doesn’t dig up roots to eat and animal poisoning from hellebores is rare.) Folklore even says that Alexander the Great died hellebore poison.

In the 1929 book, “Perennials of Flowerland” (The Macmillan Company), Alice T. A. Quackenbush, noted the name hellebore means, “food of death.” She also wrote, “Probably blooming in any other time, the plant would seem of little garden value; when one remembers that it is possible to dig through snow and find bloom, it becomes precious.”

The Lenten rose grows well in USDA cold hardiness zones 4 through 9. Evansville is in zone 6B. While the Lenten rose is not at all related to the common rose, I plan to enjoy these first blooms until my roses bloom.

I'll Have What They're Having

“I want to be just like them when I grow up.” That’s what my friend Chicca said after seeing a photo of my son and I hiking with my Uncle Doug and Aunt Maddie, both 77, of Des Moines, Iowa, on Superstition Mountain near Phoenix, Arizona. Chicca’s parents, too, winter there so she is familiar with the active lifestyle embraced by folks retiring to the Desert Southwest. I got my first dose of it last weekend on a quick trip to visit my late mother’s only brother and his wife, at their place in a popular RV resort community in Mesa called Valle del Oro.

The sign on the entrance to the well-groomed community filled with 1900 lots for RVs or resort vacation rentals states “Active 55+.” If I have the energy, I can visit for a longer stay when I quality in just under five years.

Getting the lay of the land on from my relatives as we walked around the neighborhood, we met pleasant people at every turn – seniors completely enjoying life and each other’s company. And, why not? They have access to the Arizona sunshine, social opportunities, beautiful pools and a Tiki bar, gleaming shuffleboard courts and a viewing area from which to cheer during tournaments, pickleball courts, tennis courts, bocce courts, and a horseshoe court, daily crafts (stained glass, pottery, quilting), dances, lectures, golf, bicycling, running, walking, and hiking — all against the backdrop of the mountains and close to Phoenix (not to mention Cactus League baseball!). Most residents seemed to work it all in!

While we played bocce, men behind the courts worked on the impressive model train, a 12-year+ project; in a nearby picnic area ladies had a carry-in dinner; amid security guards readying for the Jay Leno show that evening (two shows!), we heard the clang of horseshoes and laughter from the pool and Tiki bar; and on the way home, we passed a block party. I’m inspired by this view of retirement!


I’ve been thinking about Evansville’s neighborhoods. Twice a week I now make a morning driving to the University of Southern Indiana, joining the nearly 50,000 vehicles traveling west on the Lloyd Expressway. Despite the construction of the cloverleaf interchange at U.S. Highway 41 and the resulting traffic congestion, it’s still easy to sail over the city at a pretty good clip barely glancing down at the rooftops below the expressway. And it’s the neighborhoods these rooftops make up that I’ve been thinking about.

Independence, Lamasco, St. Anthony, Jacobsville — the neighborhoods cut by the swath of the expressway have names — or at least they did. Now, the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development, with help from Matt Wagner Design, has compiled a map showing all the known historic and contemporary neighborhoods within the city limits. The prints are $25 and proceeds benefit the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana and United Neighborhoods; they can be purchased at the Arts Council offices at 318 Main St.

The 1957 Evansville phone book I wrote about a few blog entries ago also has prompted me to think about our city’s neighborhoods. The shotgun house my father grew up in on W. Florida Street, as listed in ’57 phone book, still stands in Lamasco, not far from Pigeon Creek or the Ohio River; I can picture my father as a young boy exploring the area. Today, there’s not much to bring visitors to this now industrialized neighborhood. But the house remains — one of the tidier homes on the block, with a white picket fence and, conveniently for the neighbors, a Pepsi machine in the front yard. The folks living in these homes not far from the shadows of the Lloyd Expressway are indeed neighbors, and their neighborhoods make up the fabric of the city.

Fried Chicken

The text message to my family got immediate responses. “Fried chicken.” I was sitting in the steamy Castle High School Natatorium Sunday morning for a swim meet. While I enjoy watching the competition of all the events, there always is plenty of time to read, visit, and study the heat sheet. I stuffed the Saturday/Sunday Wall Street Journal in my bag and had just begun to read the Off Duty section. A How To story caught my eye: Make Fried Chicken. Before I even finished reading the story, I texted my family:

Do you want chili or fried chicken for the Super Bowl?

Did I really just send that text? Before I could even process what I had done, the replies came. My family likes chili a lot – but not as much as:
“Fried chicken”
“Fried chicken”
“Fried chicken”

My Super Bowl Sunday would be spent in the kitchen, frying chicken the old school method, as outlined in the WSJ story, just like my Granny made — or at least that’s what I hoped.

The Wall Street Journal story noted the “All-American” food was enjoyed in Europe and Asia long before Columbus sailed here. Fried chicken took hold quickly in America, and a recipe appeared in the 1928, “The Virginia Housewife” with instructions to dredge fresh chicken pieces in flour, season with salt and pan-fry in hot fat until golden.

That’s what I did. Soak the chicken in milk with a dash of hot sauce; let it sit on a wire rack for a few minutes. In a paper bag (or a zip lock) shake chicken pieces with a mix of flour, a small amount cornstarch, sea salt, and pepper. Let chicken sit again on wire rack. Fry chicken pieces — don’t crowd — in a heavy skillet with ¾-inch oil. Drain on paper towels; repeat; enjoy!

Telephone Line

“Nostalgia” was runner-up for Merriam-Webster’s 2014 Word of the Year (“culture” was no. 1) and we are again exploring nostalgic themes in Evansville Living. After paying a visit to Dennis and Margaret Haire (whose collections, homes, and business, Maggie’s Memories, we have written about in the magazine), Creative Director Heather Gray arrived back at the office with a large tub of ephemera for an upcoming story. Among the treasures was the October 1957 Telephone Directory for Evansville, Chandler, McCutchanville, Newburgh, St. Joseph, and St. Philip, by the Indiana Bell Telephone Company. Evansville College is shown on front cover of the brittle book.

The inside front cover features an Indiana Bell ad promoting “Long Distance Visits,” with a chart on long distance rates from Evansville to dozens of cities. “The Details of Dialing” is covered on three pages (“It’s mighty easy to dial a call” and several pages promote new Indiana Bell products (“Every living zone should be a phone zone!”) — the speakerphone and telephone answering set.

Of course I looked up my family. My grandfather (my father had stayed in Iowa after college) was listed where I suspected he’d be, as was my husband’s grandfather and uncle.

“Yellow Pages” are included and that’s where I found particular amusement.

The most eye-catching ads were listed under Beauty Shops: “Who is the Lady with the Lovely Hair?” “Glamour for You; Air-Conditioned for Your Comfort,” “Let the Hand of Beauty Touch You.” And of course, Mr. Marcel of Paris Hairdressing Salon and Henri’s, both on Main Street are advertised.

I spent time reading through Restaurants. The Café Venice, F’s Steak House, Moon River Drive-In (Newburgh), Harold’s Stadium Inn, Double “R” Food Drive-In, Riverview Inn, Mac’s Famous Barbecue, and Wolf’s, was open then, too.

The back of the phone book is an ad promoting the bedroom phone – “All the Comforts of Home.”

The Perfect Treat

This time of year, if my friend Charlotte has come through for us with pickles, dilly beans, and strawberry preserves for Christmas — and rarely has she not; only last year, I think, when she had something that didn’t turn out right (and I’m not sure I would know!) — I indulge in the prefect treat.

It is true my doctor warned me only yesterday about the danger of simple carbs (the whites) in most diets, yet, still I will indulge a few times, because the perfect treat can be enjoyed only as long as Charlotte Pfeiffer’s strawberry preserves last.

Photo by Julie Hope

Spread a warm, flaky croissant or other favorite bread with good butter and spoon on top homemade strawberry preserves.

Catching up on reading I missed during the holidays, I came across Alexander Wolfe’s interview in the Review section of the Friday Wall Street Journal with Mireille Guiliano, the author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” and now a new book on oysters.

Wolfe described the interview setting: “In a corner booth at a West Village seafood restaurant, she slathers butter on a baguette as she lists the benefits that her lunch — bread, oysters, white wine — has over seemingly healthy ‘green things’ from juice bars.”

Guiliano, Wolfe notes, believes that a truly healthy diet is based on variety, including bread, chocolate and “champagne, of course” — everything in moderation. She notes her lunch meal covers various food groups and she eats at a “civilized pace.”

Guiliano, who had chefs in her family, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and began working in the marketing department at the champagne producer Veuve Clicquot (with the famous yellow-orange label) where she eventually became CEO. She left in 2006 to write full time.

I have not read her books, though her philosophy certainly inspires me — to enjoy my perfect treat and maybe even pour a glass of champagne to sip with it.

I Can Do Better!

77 percent – or C+ – that is the mark I would receive for consistency of “weekly” blog posts this year. At the end of 2013, the first year for the editor’s blog, “300 Words,” I gave myself 94 percent and vowed to maintain the weekly schedule. This is the 40th post for 2014; in 2013 I posted 49 times. It doesn’t take long to write just 300 words, but I sometimes get lost in the research and deadlines and life, of course, also get in the way.

I asked our editorial interns Rachel Christian and Laura Acchiardo to look back through the posts, count them, and categorize the topics. From the start I envisioned writing about a broad range of subjects. Am I stuck in any ruts? On any soapboxes? Preaching too much to the choir? Writing about myself too much? (Isn’t that what we bloggers really want to do?) Here’s what the blog “300 Words” covered this year.

Family is important to me; seven blog posts were about my family. Nature and wildlife, food and wine, and history were on my mind this year. Those topics each garnered six posts. Three posts were about architecture; four posts were about local goings-on; and three posts each were devoted to local goings-on and travel. Sports is conspicuously absent from my posts, though at least one of my family posts was sports-related (being a Cub Football mom). I’ll plan to incorporate more sports this year.

I don’t enjoy writing about politics, so even in with local and national elections heating up in 2015, you probably won’t see much from me there.

If you have a subject matter you would like for me to explore in a blog post, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Happy New Year!

A Detour

Like most of you, I'm wondering where the year went. I’ve been a bit slow to get into the holiday spirit this year. We’re last minute shoppers — why ruin all the fun? A late-in-the-game shopping trip to Santa Claus, Indiana, surely would cast my mood jolly.

It did. The quick trip northeast also brought me to Monte Cassino Shrine. I didn't plan on it. Leaving the Santa Claus Christmas Store (in the Kringle Place shopping village in Santa Claus), I thought of Monte Cassino Shrine — it couldn’t be more than 15 minutes from where I was, and what rush was I in? (Deadline, meal planning, shopping, cleaning, who’s busy?) So instead of immediately hopping back on Interstate 64, I drove through St. Meinrad, Indiana.

The small chapel of Monte Cassino is located on a hill near the Archabbey and is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the mid-1800s, monks and students discovered the location as a favorite spot for hikes, picnics, and games. They named the site Monte Cassino, after the great Italian abbey where St. Benedict founded European monasticism in the sixth century. In 1870, the shrine, constructed of high quality sandstone as it is seen today, was dedicated. Just a year after its dedication, a novena (series of prayers) to the shrine is credited for saving the village of St. Meinrad from a smallpox epidemic.

I didn’t stay long. I lit candles for my parents, grandparents, my husband’s grandparents, and brother, who we will remember, especially, on Christmas Day.

I drove back to town a bit more at ease and ready to welcome the holidays.

I wish you peace and Merry Christmas!

To visit the shrine, follow Indiana 62 east from Saint Meinrad Archabbey (located in St. Meinrad, Indiana) for about a mile. A sign on the left marks the entrance to the shrine.

The Real Best Christmas Pageant

Last week I saw the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Not the wonderful 1971 story about the unruly Herdman children who attended church for the first time for the snacks. I mean to say I saw the best Christmas pageant ever — the best this year, as it has been every year for the past 11 years I’ve sat in the crowded pews.

In my humble opinion, Holy Rosary School stages the best Christmas pageant ever in its annual Advent Program. Each year, the classic Christmas pageant (directed now by music teacher Ann Nagy and a team of teachers and parent volunteers), is told through music and a play that the entire school — students in kindergarten through 8th grade — participate in. Eighth graders stand with kindergartners dressed as shepherds; fourth graders play their recorders; the band plays the prelude, every grade sings, and an enthusiastic student can play an angel and a cow! Eighth graders act in the play, which is sure to feature fun and silly scenes, as well as the Christmas message, of course. This year’s program, “The Mystery of Simon Shepherd,” included plenty of the usual puns relating to animal sounds, “baaad” and “mooove,” - illiciting lots of chuckles.

The Advent Program is a fully staged production; indeed Carson Bitter of Newburgh even had to change costumes — from Angel Gabriel to the manger cow. His parents, Derek and Sandy, said they thought he enjoyed playing the cow best. Carson’s older brother, Griffin was in the program two years ago.

The finale features the entire school and a tear-jerker. This year children presented cards to the guests. 

As for my track record of attendance, I know larger families who have strung together attendance records of 20 years — because it is the best Christmas pageant ever!

Over the Meadow and Through the Woods

Approaching the holiday season, I like to read through my mother’s maternal family history in a book written by my great grandmother, Gladys Groves McPeeke in 1974. This side of my mother’s family immigrated from Scotland and Germany to and settled in the small town of Derby in Perry County, Indiana. This is one of my favorite passages:

Bird Nerds

Last week I traveled to a unique destination. I’ll write about McAllen, Texas, in the March/April issue of Evansville Living.

McAllen is a city about the size of Evansville in the Texas Tropics — the Rio Grande Valley. My trip was tourism focused — and what brings tourism to Hidalgo County, and the neighboring counties throughout the RGV, is birds.

Home to the World Birding Center, a network of nine birding parks throughout the valley (which is not a valley, and the Rio Grande is not a voluminous river; it is narrow and shallow with dramatic bends), the area is the No. 1 birding destination in the North America.

Birders at Bentsen State Park

Among those who aren’t “bird nerds,” the border — the Rio Grande separates South Texas from Mexico — is better known for illegal human migration than for bird migration. Many of the birding parks are along the river; at Bentsen State Park, its two-story Hawk’s tower affords a peek into Mexico. While I did see Border Patrol vehicles, the group I was with saw no illegal crossings and locals say the border problems are not something they see or experience in daily life. Birding near the river, my iPhone did think I was trying to roam internationally.

Green Jay and Kiskadee


There are 39 species on the American Birding Association list that can be found only in the Rio Grande Valley. We wasted no time checking off the birds on the list — like the Green Jay — an exotic that also is the official bird of McAllen.  

McAllen offers lots of food, shopping, and nightlife, as well as beautiful museums and galleries, which I’ll write about in the feature story, as well as share bird pictures from premier bird photographers.

A New View

There are approximately 240 square miles in Vanderburgh County, including 477 miles of County Roads and 75 miles of Highways. There’s plenty of pavement to take us where we need to go – or to where we might like to explore.

I like to get off the beaten path and investigate side roads that look interesting. It seems we often save this kind of random exploration for vacations, but if you allow enough time in your day (this is coming from someone who is chronically rushed) to take an alternative route in your daily travels, or just head out on an interesting drive, it can be eye opening.

It’s easy to live in our own little worlds. I have remarked that my whole world is within a radius of just a few miles on the East Side and Downtown. (I live very close now to where I grew up, shopped, and went to school, and that’s very close to where my kids go to school.)

Not everyone here lives in an urban neighborhood, of course, like I do. I like to see how people live differently. So for me, it’s fun to take a drive in the county, where the roads wind over the hills, and I’m likely to see something I’ve never before seen.

That’s what I did just this week. Returning from an interview on the far West Side, I decided I had time to explore parts of the county that weren’t very familiar to me, a task made easier, and more difficult, by voice guided navigation. (The ubiquitous voice, “Redirecting,” “Recalculating,” or “Proceed to the Route,” is too annoying to use for truly spontaneous exploration; just turn it off.)

A 20-minute or so detour yielded a lovely road, woods still speckled in fall color, and a new view of the
Ohio River.

Getting It Done

A new marketing intern joined us this week at Tucker Publishing Group. Welcome, Cole Schafer! During his interview, Cole had a great question: “How do you manage all the details? Who keeps up with everything?”

It occurred to me, as I talked through our processes, that the methods “for keeping up with the details” of publications have changed little since I served as editor of the Western Kentucky University Talisman yearbook in 1984-85. Then, I used folders to keep together every detail for a story. In a story about the history of WKU’s “Big Red,” for example, every note, phone number, and scrap of paper went into a folder. That folder was managed by the features editor, who would work with the writer on all the details.

Today it is much the same, but we are aided by technology. Our folders exist on our server — a folder for each magazine, each issue, each section, and each story. Into those folders go all the details: notes, photographs, cutlines, story drafts, and the final story, marked with an “F” for “final.” Just like my old yearbook days, it is people who manage the folders. Managing Editor Nathan Blackford, Creative Director Heather Gray, and Staff Writer Emily Patton each manage specific aspects of the folders. Emily, in addition to story details, keeps up with all the specifics for the Guide event calendar, along with Marketing Manager Katelyn Phillips. Heather, and Art Director Hannah Jay, keep tabs on photography and art.

Advertising, too, has many details to manage. Graphic Artist Julie Hope keeps up with the logos, copy, and photos relating to the ads she is creating — all stored in the relevant folder on the server.

It takes quite a few people — look at the “masthead” of our magazines where staff members and titles are listed — to produce city magazines. And the details certainly are important.

Photo Season

It’s open season on photography at the Evansville State Hospital grounds. On Sunday afternoon, when my dog Jed and I crossed Lincoln Avenue to walk the park that is now awash in red and gold, I counted five photo sessions in action. The most popular backdrop is along the duck pond that beautifully reflects the colorful canopy.

My favorite spot on the grounds has escaped attention of the family photographers, it seems, and I’m not sure why. The Southwestern Indiana Master Gardner Association display garden, located up the hill at the State Hospital near the Eykamp Boy Scout Center (another beautiful asset!), is a not-so-hidden hidden gem of our community. (The Lloyd Expressway is viewed with a glance to the north.)

The master gardeners began developing the site (their 1.2 acres) in 2006. The gardens feature a variety of plants in specific, named garden areas. It’s a place for education, demonstrations, and enjoyment by residents and visitors, open year round with ample parking and free admission.

Vegetables, too, are grown in the garden, and the results of the gardeners’ hard work are donated to the Evansville Food Pantry.

Nearly every time I visit the garden, master gardeners are working in some part of it. I also see familiar faces. A Hispanic family with young children often walks down my street, en route to the gardens. I’ve spoken to the family. Not long ago they knocked on my door to ask permission to cut flowers from our front yard to bring to church on the Holy Day of the Assumption of Mary. Watching the very young children carrying armloads of hydrangea home made me smile. So does seeing them play along the paths of the display garden, with mom resting a bit in the gazebo. Give yourself a treat and visit while we still can celebrate the glorious fall color.

A Week for Local Wine

I certainly want to do my part. Drink Local Wine Week is an annual event that recruits and encourages bloggers and wine columnists across the nation to write about their local wines.

I’ll begin with Olivery Winery, the granddaddy of Hoosier Wine located in the Indiana Uplands AVA. The opening of I-69 makes Oliver easier to get to than it was just a few years ago, and that drive will shorten more by the end of next year with the opening of the stretch into Bloomington. I recently visited Oliver on a trip to Indianapolis. The winery is located on State Road 37 just north of Bloomington — a little more than a two-hour drive from Evansville.

While I was familiar with Oliver and its wines — Evansville Living featured Oliver along with other local and regional wines in the March/April story, “For the Love of Wine” and I have purchased Oliver wines for years — I had never visited the winery, though the timber post tasting room, gardens, and waterfall beckon passing drivers.

I allowed plenty of time for my visit (I wasn’t running late for my meeting in Indianapolis), and I was among the first visitors on a crisp Saturday morning. As the day warmed, the tasting room and its beautiful outdoor picnic area (where live music is often featured) certainly hummed with people enjoying themselves. Oliver Winery also operates a tasting room on the courthouse square in Bloomington. If you’re driving up for Indiana University football homecoming this weekend, consider visiting Olivery Winery.

Of course, there are plenty ways to enjoy local wine without leaving town. Go to W. Franklin Street again this week and visit Winzerwald Tasting Room.

If you’re eager to drive just a bit, wine columnist Joy Neighbors suggests a leisurely drive along the Hoosier Wine Trail, roughly along the Interstate 64 corridor.

Fountain Heads and Light Brigades

With a population of 843,393, the state capital of Indiana — Indianapolis — is the 12th largest city in the nation. It’s bigger than San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, and Washington, D.C. Like most large U.S. cities, Indianapolis is a city of neighborhoods. In September, at the Indiana Landmarks annual meeting where the annual Servaas Memorial Awards are given, I learned about Historic Woodruff Place.

James Woodruff platted the area on the near east side in 1872 as an 80-acre suburb of houses in a park-like setting. Just a mile from downtown Indianapolis, Woodruff Place was the inspiration behind Indianapolis native Booth Tarkington's successful novel, "The Magnificent Ambersons." The neighborhood is bounded on the west the campus of Arsenal Technical High School, which opened in 1912 on the former site of the Indianapolis Arsenal.

At the award ceremony, Indiana Landmarks Honorary Chairman Randall Shepard, former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice, presented one of three Servaas Memorial Award for outstanding achievement to the nonprofit Historic Woodruff Place Foundation.

“It’s a miracle that so much has survived, and a tribute to the residents and the all-volunteer Historic Woodruff Place Foundation,” remarked Shepard.

Recipients receive the Memorial Award sculpture, "No Doors to Lock out the Past," by Evansville artist John McNaughton, as well as a cash prize. McNaughton carves the sculptures in batches of 20 or 30 to supply Indiana Landmarks with the coveted annual award.

Historic Woodruff Place Foundation, an all-volunteer group maintains the neighborhood’s distinctive public infrastructure — esplanades, cast iron fountains, statuary, planting urns, multi-globed streetlights, and its decorative concrete fence. 

"I like the idea of being a Fountain Head,” said Shepard. "The Fountain Heads maintain three large and six small fountains. They keep the pumps, plumbing, paint and seals in shape. Then there’s the Light Brigade, volunteers who repair, repaint and maintain the beautiful streetlights that the city had proposed replacing."

In 1972 Woodruff Place was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Treasure Hunt

More than a few times a year I travel to Indianapolis for meetings, my sons’ swim meets, or concerts. While I’m fairly familiar with downtown, the city is full of neighborhoods I’ve never explored. Recently, for the annual meeting of Indiana Landmarks, I spent the weekend in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis, where the organization has been headquartered since 2011.

The statewide preservation organization operates in a Romanesque Revival-style complex at 1201 Central Avenue. It began life in 1891 as Central Avenue Methodist Church where for decades it housed the largest Methodist congregation in the state. When the congregation merged with another in 1999, the church was vacated.

Rescued and repurposed as Indiana Landmarks Center, the complex reopened in 2011 after a nearly $20 million renovation. The late Bill Cook, his wife Gayle, and son Carl, all of Bloomington, Indiana, directed the restoration and funded $16 million of the cost.

For this visit, I stayed near Indiana Landmarks in the Old Northside Bed and Breakfast, an 1885 Romanesque Revival structure operating as one of a handful of bed and breakfasts, or inns, on the Old Northside. The B & B was full — most of the guests attended the weekend’s Notre Dame vs. Purdue football game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Old Northside, listed on the National Register since 1978, is a residential neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis located between 12th and 16th Streets, and Pennsylvania and Bellefontaine Streets. At the end of the 19th century, the area was home to some of the city’s most prominent businessmen, merchants, and politicians. The President Benjamin Harrison home is located in the neighborhood. (It was closed during my Sunday stroll.) Novelist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for literature Booth Tarkington, grew up in the Old Northside. His most famous novel is based on the second Indianapolis neighborhood I’ll write about, next week — Historic Woodruff Place.

Cub Mom

I’ve been a sports mom for nearly every season (never soccer, though) as my sons have grown to be teenagers. This is the first year, though, I have been a Cub Football mom. My youngest son Jackson, who plays wide receiver and safety on Memorial High School’s 7Th grade cub football team, is the kid I never see.

The team practices six days a week, plays up to two games weekly, and is run alongside the high school football program. It’s the big time. He has the bumps and bruises to prove it. Earlier this week we played North at the beautiful, huge Bundrant Stadium with the turf field. (The turf saved a washing of the already grungy football pants.) We’ve also played Castle North at Castle South’s nice new stadium. Of course, we play at Memorial High School, too.

In the early 1970s, I was a cub football daughter. My father, who had taught for two years what then was termed special education at Lincoln High School, was hired in 1972 to teach special education at Harrison High School. Coaching cub football came along with the job. My father had coaching experience; in Iowa, before we returned to his hometown,

I was in third grade at Caze Elementary. My mother taught at Caze; she was hired there after teaching at Wheeler Elementary her first year in Evansville, before it was torn down in 1972. I was impressed that the boys in the upper grades, whose names I knew from my mother, played on Coach Reeder’s Harrison cub football team. Caze, along with other East Side schools, fed into Harrison, of course, comprising the Harrison cub team. I don’t recall attending many games, but I have great memories of the team photo.

Sports daughter or mom, the sport I most enjoy is the one being played today.

Thank you, Laura!

What’s not to like about tomorrow? It’s Friday heading into Labor Day and at the office, we’ll complete the September/October 2014 Evansville Living deadline.  It will be a day of celebration — and sadness: Tomorrow also is the last day Creative Director Laura M. Mathis will drive from her Owensboro, Kentucky, home to design and lay out magazine pages.

Laura, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, has been creative director (first she was art director) at Tucker Publishing Group for 15 years, since the company began. She learned about TPG in a chance encounter as she  prepared to leave the printing company where she’d worked for nearly a decade, Link Graphics. Laura planned to offer freelance graphic design services while she stayed home with her newborn and 3-year-old daughters. Laura competed for the job (freelance, at first) to produce all graphic design for Evansville Living and won.

We have said that the early issues of Evansville Living were produced by moms — Laura and me — with infants on our laps (my oldest son was just one), working from home offices at 1 a.m.  As TPG has grown, so have our families. Laura’s daughters have become teenagers with both parents working in the print media business; Mark Mathis writes sports for the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. This family knows deadlines! Laura has, by our count, presided over 341 deadlines of issues and special inserts.

Laura leaves us to work as the new Marketing Director for First Security Bank, in her adopted hometown of Owensboro. She’ll do a great job and bring a lot of energy to the bank.

TPG magazine brands are very much the result of Laura’s design aesthetic and her refined ability to combine images and words to tell engaging stories.

If you know Laura, please consider thanking her for her contributions to our city and our magazines and wish her well!

Thank you, Laura!

At the company’s 10th anniversary party, photographer Daniel Knight shot mocked-up magazine covers of employees and guests.

Nutrition Numbers

My 50th birthday and the corresponding physical examination has me more closely monitoring my health. As I’ve done at various times in my life, I’m logging my daily nutrition and exercise, this time in an app on my iPhone, the highly rated MyFitnessPal. I know many people who wear daily fitness trackers, like Fitbit; I think I will buy one soon.

I grew up in a calorie-counting household. My mother was a dieter; there always was some sort of calorie index in the kitchen. In my own kitchen, propped in a corner cabinet, is a cutting board calorie counter from an antique store (that my husband can certainly name, but I cannot). It lists calories and cholesterol content – High, Medium, Low, O-none) for all the food you’d need to count in the middle of 20th century: chicken a la king, fruit cocktail, bass and mackerel, caramels, cranberry sauce, Parkerhouse, liverwurst, turnips, lady fingers, Tom Collins, and martini are among the daily food choices. Yogurt is listed with 115 calories for a cup and low in cholesterol.

There are dozens of nutrition and exercise tracking apps, in addition to the devices, that are worn, like the Fitbit, that of course count steps and physical activity. I did a bit of research and downloaded the free version of MyFitnessPal. The easy-to-use app tracks your complete daily nutrition and shows it in a number of formats, like a pie chart. On this day, I had a balanced diet. To log a food, like the Oikos Bananas Foster Greek Yogurt with Caramel on Top I ate earlier in the week, just scan the bar code on the container, which confirms this yogurt packs 31 grams of sugar and 210 calories. The times, they are a’changin.

Urban Wildlife

Residents on the East Side of have been intrigued for several years by the urban foxes setting up dens in our neighborhoods.

Since the largest tract of virgin forest located inside any city limits in the U.S. — Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve — is nearby, and the Evansville State Hospital grounds across the Lloyd Expressway, wildlife has a virtual gateway to my street, Lombard Avenue.

A pair of red-tail hawks have taken up domicile, a very large groundhog, and now, foxes are calling the corner of Lincoln and Lombard avenues home.

Last week, the gigantic groundhog was spotted slipping in the storm sewer. It’s the storm sewer that is providing two foxes — a very mangy fellow and his better looking comrade — a route under the street to our neighbor’s yard.

We’d had glimpses of the fox for a few weeks. Imagine our surprise when my family saw a woman placing a dog food bowl in our yard – leaving food out for the fox!

Dr. John Scott Foster, executive director of Wesselman Nature Preserve, says, “Foxes have discovered that the mature landscaping, big trees and kids at school all day in the suburbs of Evansville, and have found it filled with tasty mice, squirrels, voles and the like – it’s a wonderful place to live. They are street smart and happy to be here and aren’t going away.”

About the dog food, Foster cautions: “Don’t leave your dog or cat food outside and if you think they are getting too close (they won’t let you get close enough to catch them) spray them with a hose. Problems will only arise when people feed them (on purpose or not) and the foxes start to associate people with food. As long as that doesn’t happen, they are a wonderful addition to the squirrels, raccoons, possums, skunks, occasional coyote, deer and the like that end up in our back yard.”

Hi, I’m Johnny Cash

Bill Miller was a lucky boy. Because of his luck, we — legions of Johnny Cash fans — can be immersed in six decades of “original rock and roll” at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, open just 14 months (and already on Forbes and National Geographic "must see" lists).

Miller was just 12 years old at a 1971 Johnny Cash concert in Denver, when Cash looked straight in the eye at the boy with the Brownie Instamatic camera (who had traveled 500 miles from New Mexico with his father to see the concert) and tossed him a harmonica. That moment was the first of thousands Miller shared with Cash; Miller became a Cash preservationist, the steward of a collection of Cash treasures now on display in the Johnny Cash Museum that Miller founded and owns with his wife, Shannon.

The museum is located just a few steps off Broadway in downtown Nashville; I visited with my sisters. It brought back memories, as Cash, Glenn Campbell, and the Statler Brothers were always on the record player in our home. (A video in the museum theater highlighted a 1971 Cash concert where he performed with the Statler Brothers, who sang “Flowers on the Wall,” which I’ve been humming ever since.)

We spent two hours in the museum; I would go again tomorrow and the next day if I could, there is so much to marvel at.

Though Cash’s death (Sept. 12, 2003, in Nashville) is absent from the museum, included is a poem he wrote for his beloved June on the day she was buried. Visitors see many guitars and costumes; silver, gold, and platinum records; school photos; personal notes; military records; Cash’s artwork – a complete range of Cash memorabilia, authentically telling the life story of the Man in Black.

A Speakeasy

I first learned about The Patterson House, a speakeasy in Nashville, from Laura Mathis, creative director at Tucker Publishing Group. Recently, the Wall Street Journal included The Patterson House in its story, “A Pitch-Perfect Long Weekend in Nashville” in the recurring column, “Take Monday Off.” Following that advice, I met my sisters in Nashville for three days of fun.

I had read up on The Patterson House. We arrived early, taking a taxi to 1711 Division Street. It’s open seven days a week, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Patrons waited on the steps and porch of the historic-looking house. Only the small letters on the door identify the establishment. A nattily dressed host in a vest and a Windsor knot greeted guests in the library waiting room.

Two women were in front of us.

“Table for two, please.”

The host, peeking behind the blue velvet curtain separating the library from the bar, told them “It shouldn’t be too long; we’ll seat you as soon as we can.”

“How long?”

“Not too long, it’s hard to say.”

“Can we wait in the bar?”

“The bar is what you’re waiting for. You can have a seat here; we’ll let you know.”

“Can we go in to get a drink?”

“No, that’s what you’re waiting for.”

They hadn’t read up on the protocol: guests wait in the library — we sat on stools by the velvet curtain — to be escorted into the 30-seat bar that’s attracting national attention. Once inside (our wait was 20 minutes), you’re treated to the complete attention of the authoritative wait staff and bartenders, who put on a real show shaking and concocting the inventive cocktails — 50 are described on the pressed paper menu.

I enjoyed “Blood and Sand,” a classic whisky drink, and “Around the Bend,” made with bourbon.

Consider adding The Patterson House to your Nashville must-see list; I’ll definitely return.

Sugar Sand and Sea

Long before the first issue of Evansville Living (March/April 2000) was put on the press, I was interested in dialogue about cities. It wasn’t the political organization of cities that interested me; it was their Main Streets and neighborhoods.

My interest was inspired by a term I learned only in the early 1990s: New Urbanism. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually informed many aspects of real estate development, urban planning, and city land-use strategies. (The first Evansville Living Idea Home was built in Evansville’s Sutherland, a neighborhood developed by John and Susan Pickens using the principals of New Urbanism.)

During a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, before we had kids, we visited Seaside, Florida, the master-planned community on the Florida Panhandle renowned among architecture buffs for its proportions, scale, and walkability — all tenets of New Urbanism. We have visited Seaside for close to 25 years, most recently over the Independence Day Holiday. Its iterations continue to fascinate me.

Time Magazine, in its Jan. 1, 1990, "Best of the Decade" issue, called Seaside, “the most astounding design achievement of its era and one might hope, the most influential.”

Buzzfeed, the social news company, last year named Seaside to it’s "17 Quirky Cities and Town You Totally Need to Visit" list.

What makes Seaside so special is its whole: the pastel houses, front porches, picket fences, narrow lanes, and pavilions to the sea, leading to the star attraction – the acclaimed sugar-white sand beaches of Florida’s Northwest coast. If this sounds like a movie, it is: Seaside was the filming location for The Truman Show, which debuted 16 years ago.

The town of Seaside has more than 340 homes, cottages, town homes, and penthouse apartments. More than 200 are available to rent from the town’s Cottage Rental Agency.

Media Day at the Track

The 92nd meet of Ellis Park Thoroughbred opens today with a 12:50 post time. On Tuesday owner Ron Geary and his staff — along with a dozen or managers and employees of the Evansville Ice Men (Geary’s team) — hosted their very nice, annual Media Day in the park’s Gardenia Room. Geary welcomed members of the media and noted the first meet was in 1922 and that the “annual Media Day seems to come around quicker than Secretariat.”

Dan Bork, director of racing, began his remarks by saying, “Yes, we are having ostriches and zebras. I’m going to worry about the horses and we are getting great horses again this year.” Bork noted that Preakness runner-up Ride on Curlin broke his maiden last year at Ellis Park. “We get excellent 2-year olds.”

Again this meet (29 race days, through Sept. 1), Ellis attracts the top trainers. Kenny McPeek and Dale Romans (who had 10 wins in 2013) have horses at Ellis. Jockeys at the meet include Calvin Borel, Corey Lanerie, Robert Morales, and Jon Court (though The Courier-Journal reported yesterday that Court was “sidelined.”)

Ellis Park is known for its fun promotions, and they’re changing it up this year. Indeed Weiner Dog trials and races are back this year. They’ll also have lots of instant racing machine promotions. After working with the exotic animal trainer, Joe Hedrick in Nickerson, Kansas, the park had contracted with for ostrich and camel races, zebras are replacing the camels this year. A few other racetracks have races zebras to great fun and success. Expect every local headline on the day’s races to read, “Horses, Ostriches, and Zebras, Oh my!”

After the presentations, Geary invited us to lunch where we were offered salmon or pork chops, vegetables, salad, and a dessert bar including homemade banana pudding. They’re proud of their food at Ellis Park, too, and they should be.


Besides me, the First Lady, and all of the tail-end Baby Boomers born in 1964, there many things turning 50 this year. I joined the club on Tuesday. Mental Floss, the cool magazine and website, curated this list of 50th birthdays. Here are a few.

The Beatles
We truly grew up with the Beatles; it was in 1964 that the U.S. finally met them, on The Ed Sullivan Show. The door was opened for the British invasion.

The Ford Mustang
The 1965 Mustang was introduced in April 1964, and was known as a “1964 ½” model.

8 Track Cartridge
This magnetic audio-tape system was the second in popularity to vinyl from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when CDs took over.

“You Really Got Me”
It’s impossible this classic pop song by the Kinks is 50 years old, but it is.

G.I. Joe
Hasbro gave little boys what Mattel gave the girls — a line of dolls. G.I. Joes were World War II themed.

Gilligan’s Island
This can’t be 50, either. The series lasted 98 episodes and became a pop culture icon.

Lucky Charms
My favorite cereal as a kid.

Gen-X kids studying computers in 1980s high schools learned this early computer language. BASIC was invented in 1964 by John George Kemeny and Tom Kurtz.

Smoking May Be Harmful
Surgeon General Luther Leonidas Terry released Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States detailing the risks of cigarette smoking.

Buffalo Wings
The spicy chicken wings were invented by a bar owner in Buffalo, New York.

My favorite James Bond movie was the third, and the best, even today, I think.

The U.S. Civil Rights Act
Lyndon B. Johnson was president in 1964 and, completing the work begun by John F. Kennedy, President Johnson signed the most far-reaching set of civil rights laws in American history.

1964 – I’ll say it was a good year.

Me at 4 ½ months, with my mother, Mary Gladys Midgorden Reeder, at age 31.

A Night at the Palace


Tuesday evening I had the treat of seeing Elvis Costello, one of my favorite musicians since my teenage years, perform solo at one of my favorite venues, the Louisville Palace.

For 145 minutes Costello (born Declan Patrick MacManus in England in 1954) tore through his marathon set of 29 tunes — old and new — on his five acoustic guitars. With a discography of 33 albums, Costello’s tune selections are legion.

Costello began his music career as part of London’s pub rock scene in the early 1970s. His father was a bandleader who grew his hair long and played songs about “peace and love in Twickenham supper clubs in the 1960s,” Costello told the audience. “My father would say, ‘You’re a disgrace to the family; grow your hair long.’”

Though billed as a solo show, Costello invited Louisville native and My Morning Jacket singer and guitarist Jim James on stage for a few numbers, as well as local songstress Brigid Kaelin, who performed the musical saw and accordion.

Costello has played the Louisville Palace in the past and clearly was pleased to be back. Opened in 1928 as a Loew’s Theater, the Palace was designed by architect John Eberson to mimic an exotic Spanish courtyard, with dimly lit grottos and a deep midnight blue ceiling sprinkled with twinkling stars. Eberson designed the theater as part of a series of “atmospheric” theaters — with 100 movie palaces in dozens of states and even abroad.

Tuesday night’s performance was constructed around a theme: “A Year in Exile,” which Costello quipped about a few times. He also said a complementary theme was “the last year of my youth” and played a new tune of that name, which he says he still is writing. Costello, who will be 60 in August, reached for an electric guitar for that number in his encore.


Today my oldest son is 16 years old. In fact, he already is — he was born at 6:25 in the morning on a Friday at Welborn Baptist Hospital (which closed the following year). When I checked into the hospital, I was surprised that my chart said I was allergic to latex. I was sent to a room with no carpet and special equipment; no maternity suite for me. This also meant no epidural for me.

Maxwell William Tucker was born the next morning, June 12. Like all of you with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and pets — we wonder where the years go.

Max has grown into a fine young man. He’s a junior at Reitz Memorial High School and swims on the sectional-winning boys’ swim team. Most of his friends are driving. (Indiana drivers now wait until age 16 ½ to be licensed). He’s young for his grade; he entered kindergarten two months after turning 5. Max has heavily researched the car he wishes to drive — a 10-year-old German sports sedan.

Like his second cousin and best friend Brandt Hudson, who grew up in Tennessee and now lives in northwest Georgia, he is car crazy. Max’s favorite entertainment personality is Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear, his favorite television show. It’s a British television series begun in 1977 about motor vehicles; the irreverent Clarkson is one of the show’s extremely popular hosts.

Max began his birthday at morning swim team practice. We’re taking him and his younger brother, Jackson, to lunch. This afternoon he will work at his summer job at the Holy Rosary baseball fields; he is earning money to contribute to the summer car purchase.

Your 16th birthday no longer means keys to the car — but when it’s your oldest son’s birthday, it sure does mark the years, and the car will come soon.

Maxwell in Neyland Stadium at the University of Tennessee, during a fall college visit.

Summer Interns

Welcome 89, 90, and 91! For 15 years, Tucker Publishing Group has welcomed student interns. We’ve hired 91 to write stories, design ads and pages, and market TPG magazines.

Meet our summer intern staff:

Erin Miller began her internship in January; we asked her to stay for the summer. Erin will graduate from University of Southern Indiana with a degree in journalism in the fall.

“Jennifer Rhoades told me on my first day ‘We love our interns. We use them a lot, so be prepared!’ She was not kidding. I’ve learned everything from office printing etiquette to how to improve my writing skills. As an Evansville native who attended Harrison High School, I’ve always read Evansville Living and want to continue feature writing as my career.”

Alissa Byrne is a graphic design intern. The Castle High School graduate is a Purdue University senior majoring in visual communications design.

“I am still unsure about the area of design that I want to pursue. After being here for a week I have gotten a glimpse of the magazine creation process and I’m looking forward to seeing how I will be able to contribute to its success”

Celeste Zuber, editorial intern, is a senior public relations major at Purdue University and a Reitz Memorial High School graduate.

“I’m excited about being an intern and getting hands-on experience with writing and publishing to help me reach my goal to work for a publishing company in a city like Chicago or Indianapolis! Before I started, I wondered if magazines had editors like Miranda Priestly (a fictional character played by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”). Thankfully, editors I have worked with so far have all been nice and energetic people!”

We have all summer to work on that. Still, we won’t bark: “By all means move at a glacial pace. You know that thrills me!” We’re more sensitive. That’s all.

Best Cooks Ever

My friends are great cooks. I know this because I’ve enjoyed meals they have prepared, and because my kids tell me often what excellent cooks they are. My oldest son, Maxwell, to be fair, has, like me, enjoyed many meals cooked by these talented women. It is my son, Jackson, 12, whose compliments are so vivid:

“Mom! Do you remember that really fancy meal Mrs. Haynie cooked for us at her new house? She made that really fancy chicken, cut up, and that really fancy kind of rice? It was so good!” Of course I remember. The fancy rice was couscous.

“Man, I don’t know how the Millers manage to put out the meals they do. I’ve eaten over there a lot and every meal was great.” Yes, of course! Like us, the Millers are both working parents.

“Mrs. Brougham is a really good cook. Everything I’ve eaten there has been good. She is Italian, Mom.” Really? She’s Italian?

“Mrs. Zimmermann’s potatoes (at the Holy Rosary 6th Grade Fiesta) were the best food there. They were the best potatoes I’ve ever eaten.” I have no doubt about how tasty the potatoes were; I didn’t know you really liked potatoes.

While my kids don’t really complain about the meals I serve them — they are grateful — they tell me they want more variety. Our standard weekday supper is grilled protein, rice or potatoes, vegetable, and salad; for dessert, maybe some ice cream. (Not long ago, Jackson claimed I’d never made brownies; that is untrue.)

Over Memorial Day weekend, seeking to please, I shopped for what I needed for Jack’s Chili, and made a big pot on Sunday.

My family was full of compliments.

For your summertime enjoyment, I offer you Jack’s Chili.
As you will note, the recipe is flexible. This time I stuck to the recipe, with these alterations:

»  I used 3.71 pounds of ground beef. I did not buy extra lean variety; I don’t believe it was available when my father penned the recipe in the mid-1970s.

»  With the extra beef used, I overcompensated on all ingredients, including beans, tomatoes, and seasonings.

»  I purchased good quality canned whole tomatoes. As the chili cooks, I mush the tomatoes down.

»  I added two large bay leaves, brought back from the Grenadines, and about a teaspoon of paprika, also from the Grenadines.

»  I also added a generous pinch of a Mediterranean seasoning mix received recently as a gift (sea salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, and herbs).

»  I did not add beer.

»  I added two squares unsweetened baking chocolate.


Fire it Up

Last Friday, my oldest son Maxwell completed his sophomore year at Reitz Memorial High School, and brought home his treasures from the semester. Unlike his younger brother who brought home a locker full of clothes in a tote bag (enough to outfit an entire sports team), Max carried home two laundry baskets holding seven pieces of ceramic pottery. Max didn’t bring home clothes from his locker. He never went to his locker — not even once — the entire year, instead, carrying his books with him every day.

Max had told me what he was making in ceramics, a class taught by Mark Shoenbaum, who has also teaches ceramics at the University of Evansville. I had seen his study drawing for the art deco pitcher he was making and knew he was learning Raku glazing techniques. Still, I was surprised by the beautiful pieces that we quickly set out for display.

I love the art deco pitcher, which is constructed with slabs. His coil-formed vase, standing more than a foot tall, features rustic impressions made with the eraser end of a pencil. On the Raku bowls, made on a wheel, Max cut the sides to produce angles and stylized the rims. My favorite has horsehair fired into its surface — a popular technique with potters — which creates localized carbon markings.

Growing up I spent a lot of time drawing — a pastime I no longer indulge in. While I do believe I am creative, I would never call myself artistic. The only subject I could draw really well as a young girl were stylized ladies, resembling women in 1950s fashion advertisements — just as my mother sketched. Max’s father has one artistic talent: he draws funny dog-like animals with stitches in their faces, arrows in their heads, wearing blankets that he personalizes with someone’s name. Maxwell is raising the bar on the family’s artistic endeavors.

Endangered Species

The rare 1925 patented above-ground pool, Anderson Athletic Park Pool, designed by engineer Wesley Binz allowed dressing rooms under the structure. Postcard courtesy of Evan Finch.

A cool pool in Anderson, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home in Greenwood, and a diminutive home in the Rosedale neighborhood of Evansville — a Usonian home — all have made Indiana Landmark’s 10 Most Endangered places list for 2014 of Hoosier landmarks in jeopardy. The statewide preservation organization, with a field office in Evansville, announced the list in April at their annual “Rescue Party.”

The Mills house designed in 1955. Photo credit: Indiana Landmarks.

The list carries no legal weight, but it’s a way for preservationists to sound the alarm. Of the 99 historically significant structures that have made the list since 1991, 48 have been restored; 14 others are either being restored or have at least been stabilized. In 2010 and 2011, Evansville’s Washington Avenue historic corridor made the list.

The Peters-Margedant home in 1934-35. Photo credit: Indiana Landmarks.

Also on the list, since 2012, is the Harmony Way Bridge over the Wabash River from historic New Harmony to Illinois. It’s a 1930 iron toll bridge on the National Register. It shut down, deemed unsafe, in 2012. A study commissioned by Indiana Landmarks indicates the span could be reopened with minimal investment.

The Peters-Margedant House, at 1506 E. Indiana, made the list for the first time this year, though preservationists — local and statewide —have been watching it for years. This 1935 house likely ranks as the first Usonian house in the nation, predating even Frank Lloyd Wright’s inaugural Usonian home built in 1937. William Wesley Peters, who was Wright’s first apprentice at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin, designed it.

The Peters-Margedant home in 2014. Photo credit: Indiana Landmarks.

Indiana Landmarks reports that a local person has optioned the home and plans to move it to Warrick County unless advocates raise the money necessary to buy it and relocate it to the campus of University of Evansville. The architect Peters grew up in Evansville and attended Evansville College before graduating from MIT. He designed the home in two weeks for a family member. I will keep you posted.

The Azaleas Are Blooming

The gates have been open for a few weeks, though the azaleas, as we all know, are at least 10 days “late” this year. For decades, interlopers have been welcomed to the gardens near the corner of Lincoln Avenue on Roosevelt Drive to enjoy the azaleas. Each spring I make a point to drive down Roosevelt Drive (between Lincoln and Walnut Avenue, east of Boeke Road) to admire the beautiful, old azaleas that line the street, giving it the look of an impressionist painting in the dappled sun.

Joe and Linda Scott, now retired, have lived in the home with gardens for 18 years. Linda says more than 90 percent of the azaleas were planted by the original homeowner in 1930.

“We had lived in Evansville for 25 years before we bought this house,” Linda says, “yet we never knew about the azaleas. Our real estate agent showed us photos and the next spring, we were pleasantly surprised.

“A friend asked us if ‘we would continue the tradition,’” Linda says, who learned the tradition was opening the gate and announcing, with a sign, the “azaleas are blooming.” 

The Scotts are pleased to open their yard to visitors. “We enjoy it; we’ve met a lot of nice people,” Linda says.

Several years ago, our friend Billy surprised his wife on their anniversary with a picnic dinner and champagne on the garden’s lawn. I recall the picnickers were warmly welcomed by the homeowners, who came outside to introduce themselves.

Linda says this year the azalea blooms are about two weeks behind normal bloom time, which can bloom as early as mid-April.

The name azalea is derived from the Greek word “azaleos” for dry; this refers to its proclivity to thrive under trees and bushes that get little rainwater.

Alpha Dog

Jed needs discipline. Our 2-year-old mountain cur turned 2 earlier this month with no obedience training behind him. He is a good, loving, fun dog – just a bit undisciplined. “He’s still a puppy,” is what we say. During most days, Jed either visits the office or attends O’Hair’s Happy Dog Daycare; he sometimes stays home alone.

Last week my husband saw a segment on 14 WFIE News about the Humane Society of Henderson County offering obedience classes beginning that very night, for five weeks, at no cost to donors. At 5:30 p.m. Jed and I were driving across that dog-behavior-improving bridge.

Kent Preston is the executive director of the Humane Society of Henderson County and is conducting the training. Nine dogs joined us the first night. After the first class, I reported to my family that Jed was the third wildest dog there. After the purchase of a training collar and practice, I know, like any dog, Jed is trainable; he already is making progress and can heel appropriately – a big change from the jerking and lunging at cats, squirrels, and other dogs that previously defined our walks.

I thought we were doing just great until Jed’s willfulness came out. He heeled, halted, and sat – but not where Preston wanted him to sit – on my left side, beside my feet. Instead, he pivoted and sat in front of me. He wasn’t jumping or straining, so I began with the praise. From the inside of our circle, Preston, in an affable manner, called me out: “No, momma, make him sit where you want him to sit; not where Jed wants to sit. He’s got you: He’s the alpha dog.”

The Alpha Dog! I knew it. Jed has much to learn. The training, Preston reminded us, is as much for the owners as it is the dog.

Spice Islands

Last week I returned from the Caribbean with my husband to celebrate 25 years of marriage. We flew to Miami, where we stayed a night, then to St. Georges, Grenada, where we stayed before boarding S/V Mandalay, for a seven-day sail through the Grenadine Islands with Sail Windjammer. We stayed in St. Georges for two days after we disembarked.

We invited our friends, Larry and Kristi, to come along. We were to meet them in Miami; they were flying out of Louisville a day before the ship sailed – a day after we flew, still a day before the cruise departed. Their flight from Louisville was cancelled. (Cruise ship passengers, sure to miss their cruises in Miami, were in tears, Kristi said.) After a few hours of worry, Larry and Kristi were on a flight to Miami, then Trinidad, and on to Grenada, where we met Sunday morning at the family-owned hotel we’d booked on the secluded Morne Rouge beach. We spent the day at the beachside pool. We witnessed a baptism on the beach and the daylong celebration that followed. We ate delicious West Indian food at the two beachside restaurants associated the Gem Holiday Resort – foretelling the tasty Caribbean food we enjoyed on the ship.

S/V Mandalay — Photo by Kristi Epplin

Ten days spent in the Spice Islands on a 236-foot sailing ship and in Grenada was an immersion in West Indian culture. Most of Mandalay’s crew was local. Captain Bernard took us to Bequia and Mayreu, islands where he grew up. Purser Meivon, pointed out to me, in the distance (I have no concept of nautical miles) Petite Martinique, where he grew up. Later, in Carriacou, Meivon said that he where he was born. (There is no hospital on Petite Martinique.)

The Caribbean Sea was mostly calm.

The weather never changes – 80s high, 70s low – and the sun is intense from sunup to sundown, at 6:18 p.m. on our last night in the Grenadines.


This year I will celebrate two milestones. The first is next Tuesday, when my husband Todd and I celebrate 25 years of marriage. We were married at the then newly renovated Clearcrest Pines Golf Club on Evansville’s North Side. I was 24 and Todd was 26. The wedding was fairly small – my sisters were my attendants and Todd was attended by his father and cousin. My mother made my dress. A harpist played Pachelbel’s Canon in D and Handel’s Water Music, though Todd had convinced my mother Hail to the Chief would be played when he and his father walked down the aisle. It was April Fools’ Day, after all. We honeymooned at the New Harmony Inn, and then in Key West, Fla., helping to move his cousin, living in Boca Raton, Fla., along the way.

Todd and I had dated for eight years prior to our wedding. His story: We met while I was parading my dog Skippy back and forth in front of his house. He noticed me and brought out his English sheepdog, Fanny, for a walk. My story: Our mothers were friends (single school teachers socializing together) and I knew he wanted to meet me. He saw me walking in front of his mom’s house and asked if he could walk his dog, Fanny. I was pretty sure Fanny was not accustomed to long walks.

The second milestone? I’ll turn 50 in June. (I will have been married one-half of my life!) Since First Lady Michelle Obama began the parade of the last of the baby boomers turning 50 in January, I’m reminded daily I have plenty of company: Nicholas Cage, Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, and Rob Lowe are among those turning 50 this year. I’m not there yet, though, so I’ll save space for those words when it’s my turn in the parade.

Good morning, Captain, Sir!

Soon I will sail on this beautiful ship, the Mandalay. My husband and I, along with another couple, will celebrate 25 years of marriage on her as we sail from Grenada.

We’ve sailed on Mandalay before, in March 2004, with the “old” windjammer. Last year Florida tourism entrepreneur Charles J. Kropke brought back the freewheeling sail cruises through a new version of Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. He purchased the defunct company’s three-masted Mandalay and based his company, Sail Windjammer, on the heritage of the old company started by Mike Burke in 1947, after a night of drinking. Burke woke up the next morning and found himself the owner of a $600 sailboat he named the Hangover.

Despite all its troubles at the end, Windjammer Barefoot Cruises through the years gained a legion of wildly devoted fans. “Windjammer did not die because it was more than a company. It was a culture,” Kropke has been quoted as saying.

The Mandalay was built in 1923 for financier E. F. Hutton and his wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post. On our first trip aboard, we sailed from Panama. Arriving on the isthmus a day early, we enjoyed the hotel’s views of the Bridge of The Americas, spanning the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.

Aboard Mandalay, our destination was the San Blas islands, an archipelago of 378 islands, of which only 49 are inhabited – by the Kuna Indians. Unlike other windjammer trips we’d taken, which visited popular yachting destinations like the U.S. and U.K. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas, the only boats we saw during our week in the San Blas islands were the dugouts used by the Kuna, who eagerly sold us crabs from their boat — to be prepared for us by the chef!

I’m eager to board Mandalay again — this time in Grenada.

A Whale of a Time

You don’t have to travel far, less than an hour, for an authentic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. As luck would have it, I drove through Ireland, Ind., last weekend on my way to and from the Age Group Divisional Swim Meet at Jasper High School with my husband and saw the town of 600 decked out for it annual festival. With the opening of Interstate-69 two years ago in Southern Indiana, travel to Ireland and Jasper is much easier. Just hop on I-69 and exit onto Indiana 56 toward Jasper.

Ireland is an unincorporated town in Dubois County. It first was named American City, but changed to Ireland when its residents discovered there was already a town with that name. Its first residents in 1816 were mostly Irish. Just four miles from Jasper, you’ll know you’ve arrived at your destination when the painted green water tower is in sight.

Ireland’s first St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in 1982; it was discontinued in 2002 and established again in 2009 with two full weekends of events. Residents participate in a home lighting contest, festival goers enjoy a barbecue contest, Toast to the O’Blarney Drop Mug Holding contest, an Irish Road Rally, Miss Shamrock competition (held last weekend so Miss Shamrock and her court can reign over the festival), the St. Paddy Whack (a rock/paper/scissors contest, held last weekend), an Irish dance, a parade, mass with Irish music, and of course Irish food. The town’s popular restaurants, the Shamrock Café (established in 1940) and The Chicken Place are the hub of the celebration. During the festival, the Shamrock offers corned beef and cabbage, Irish stew, green bread, and green beer. The Chicken Place attracts “road food” seekers year-round, who return for, of course, their perfectly fried chicken.

Isn’t it Grand?

Recent research for a City View story on Evansville’s founding families led me to the Reitz Family Monument in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery. I had not driven in the meticulously groomed cemetery recently, so last week I took a quick detour returning from a meeting in German Township.

In operation since 1841, St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery is owned and operated by 18 Catholic parishes in the city of Evansville. The cemetery was located northeast of the city, in an area that now is bounded by Columbia, Michigan, and Garvin streets; it operated until 1871. Two sites were studied for relocating the cemetery: the present day Johnson Place on Lincoln Avenue, and property that was selected, 115 acres on Mesker Park Drive. In 1872, the grounds were ready for burials, and by 1879 all bodies were reburied in the new cemetery.

The Reitz family monument is located on highest ground in St. Joseph Cemetery, overlooking the park-like grounds and the West Side of Evansville. Francis Joseph Reitz erected the monument in 1919 to commemorate his parents and siblings. Reitz, his parents, and six of his siblings are buried here.
The website Art in Indiana calls the Reitz family monument “one of the most extraordinary private family burial monuments in the U.S.” The website is a project of art majors at the University of Southern Indiana.

I researched the monuments of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Fords, and Asters. Only the Vanderbilt family monument stands as grand as the Reitz family monument. The Vanderbilt family mausoleum, located in the Moravian Cemetery in New Dork on Staten Island, N.Y., was designed by Richard Morris Hunt and constructed in 1885. It is part of the family’s private section within the cemetery and is not open to the public today.

If you’ve never seen the Reitz family monument, I encourage a visit to St. Joseph Cemetery.

Ice Cave Man

I was delighted to find in my email yesterday Al Perry’s Lake Superior ice cave photographs. The nature photographer’s images are a fitting tribute to this winter. I asked Al, who was featured in the July/August 2008 Evansville Living, if I could share his images and what inspired his mid-February trip.

Ice caves in this area are part of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore in Northern Wisconsin.

Q: Why did you visit Lake Superior?

A: My wife, Joyce, saw a clip on NBC News about something that occurs only every 10 years or so — ice caves on Lake Superior. After viewing the clip, two hours later my RV (a converted Mercedes-Benz van) was packed with food, cold weather clothing and camera gear. I departed Evansville at 10:30 p.m. Sunday and arrived in Southern Wisconsin at 4:30 a.m. to get ahead of another snowstorm. As an example of my affinity for cold weather photography, in the last 18 months I have been to Iceland twice and Alaska three times.

Q: Where are the ice caves located?

A: The ice caves are located along a 3-mile hike on the shoreline of Lake Superior in Wisconsin (near Cornucopia, Wis., east of Duluth, Minn.). Every 10 years or so, Lake Superior freezes over and people walk on the ice to view and enter the ice caves. Ice is formed as water runs over the top and through the sandstone cliffs. Caverns are formed by the waves of Lake Superior beating against the red sandstone cliffs.

Q: What will do you with your ice cave pictures?

A: I make multiple uses of my photos including prints for sale at my gallery in McCutchanville and sharing with others on Facebook and photo-sharing websites.

Q: What else are you working on?

A: Ninety percent of my time is spent with nature photography and motion photography (slow motion, time lapse, and real time nature sequences). Ten percent is spent managing my farmland in North Central Indiana where I grew up.

Al Perry’s photo gallery and office are located inside the old McCutchanville School on Petersburg Road North of the airport. The gallery is open to the public 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Blue ice cave. / Sunset on Lake Superior as viewed from inside the cave.

A Movie, A Prison, and Connections

Last weekend my oldest son and I watched Captain Phillips, nominated for six Academy Awards. The movie, starring Tom Hanks, is based on the true story of the 2009 pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, whose merchant mariner Captain Philips was taken hostage (in the Alabama’s life boat) in the Indian Ocean, led by Adbuwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

The siege ended after a rescue by the U.S. Navy on April 12, 2009, when President Barack Obama ordered the marksmen shootings of three of the pirates.

A footnote in the movie’s credits informs that the real Muse, whose full name is Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, is in a U.S. prison in Terre Haute, Ind., serving a nearly 34-year sentence for his role in the hijacking.

That piqued my interest.  The USP Terre Haute is a high-security federal prison for male inmates. It also houses a Special Confinement Unit for federal inmates serving a death sentence.

I wondered what life would be like for a 23-year-old Somalian pirate living in a federal prison in the middle of America.  I contacted the prison’s administrator, who replied the Federal Bureau of Prisons would not comment.

Many high profile criminals have been housed at USP Terre Haute, including  terrorist Timothy McVeigh, convicted for killing 168 people (19 children) in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Evansville native Larry Mackey, now an attorney with the Indianapolis firm, Barnes & Thornburg, served on the legal prosecution team, delivering the trial’s closing arguments. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, at the USP Terre Haute, the first federal prisoner to be executed by the federal government since 1963.

Mackey recently visited Evansville to promote the annual Dan Scism Golf Scholarship, of which he was the second recipient in 1968.

Hello Kitty

When an email from my sister-in-law arrived in January with the subject line “Hello Kitty,” she wasn’t writing me about the ubiquitous Japanese fictional character. I read the note right away — Tracee had news to report: a big cat sighting, possibly a cougar. We had discussed big cats in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky before. Tracee is an avid horsewoman who’s lived in rural Monroe County, Ind., and rural Henderson County, Ky. — places where big cats have been reported.

Tracee sent me a picture from her friend Shane Rorer (used here with permission), of Elberfeld, Ind. The Evansville Sheet Metal worker was hunting on his family’s farm — in his family for more than 100 years — in Delaware, Ky. (in Henderson County), in January when he noticed property damage. He and his cousin installed a trail cam to monitor the farm. His cousin checked the cam a few days later and discovered the picture of the cat. Rorer says he is skeptical it is a cougar, but admits he has no explanation of what it is. “If it is a cougar,” Rorer says, “it’s a bit scary because I was walking through that woods in the dark.”

The cougar, also known as the mountain lion, puma, or panther, is native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes, is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Reports of possible mountain lion sightings across Indiana continue coming in even though state wildlife officials haven’t confirmed any sightings for nearly four years.

The state Department of Natural Resources has received about 300 reports of possible big cat sightings since early 2010, agency biologist Shawn Rossler told The Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) in a story on Jan. 31, 2014. The animals had last been confirmed in the state during the 1860s.

Snow Day Slow Food

Snow days call for comfort food, cooked slow. Visiting Healdsburg, Calif., last month I spent an afternoon at the Relish Culinary Center where our group prepared the mushrooms featured alongside a delicious braised pork shoulder. Sonoma is known not only for food and wine, but mycology, I learned, which set the stage for quite a few “fun guy” (fungi) jokes at lunch. Try Aihua International Market on N. Green River Road for more exotic mushrooms this time of year.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Garlic and Herbs

•  4 lbs boneless pork shoulder roast
•  Herb-Garlic Rub (recipe provided)
•  1 Tbsp vegetable oil
•  1 yellow onion, diced
•  1 cup dry white wine
•  1 cup rich chicken stock
•  6 sprigs fresh thyme
•  peel from one-half medium lemon
•  10 cloves garlic, whole

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Wipe shoulder roast with a damp paper towel and rub all surfaces with the Herb-Garlic Rub. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or over night.

Place a 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add vegetable oil and brown the roast on all sides. Remove the pork from the Dutch oven and pour off most of the fat. Sauté the diced onions in the remaining fat over medium-low heat until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine, stock, thyme, and lemon peel to the onion in the pot. Top with the browned pork. Return the Dutch oven to the stove and bring the liquid to a simmer.

Remove from the burner, cover tightly with a lid or foil and place the Dutch oven in the lower third of a 275-degree F oven. Roast for two hours, then flip the roast in the cooking liquid. Add the garlic cloves. Cover and cook for two to three hours more, until the pork shoulder is very tender when pierced by a fork. Let pork cool, uncovered. When cool, refrigerate covered overnight.

Skim the fat that has coagulated on the surface of the liquid. Transfer the pork to a platter or carving board. Discard the thyme branches. Reduce the jus on the stove on high heat to thicken.

To serve, slice or shred pork. Top with some of the jus and serve the excess jus in a sauce pitcher.

Herb-Garlic Rub

•  1 Tbsp fennel seed
•  1 ½ Tbsp minced garlic, sautéed in a little olive oil until fragrant
•  2 tsp black peppercorns
•  1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
•  1 tsp sea salt
•  olive oil to make a paste

Grind fennel seed and pepper in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Maggie Glisan, senior food editor at Better Homes & Gardens — headquartered in Des Moines — declared the pork perfectly embodied the “taste of Iowa.” I believe it is completely at home in Indiana.

Chef Donna del Rey, owner of Relish Culinary Center, suggests pairing the pork with a winter green salad topped with sautéed mushrooms, like black trumpets or Maitake mushrooms, in photo, cultivated locally in Sonoma by the company Gourmet Mushroom.


•  Clean winter greens, such as arugula and frisée.
•  Whip up your favorite vinaigrette to dress. Toss with greens.
•  Plate the greens, top with roasted mushrooms.

To Roast Mushrooms:
Clean dirt from 1 pound black trumpet or other wild mushrooms and trim with a small knife. Toss with ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 Tbsp kosher salt and 1 clove garlic, minced. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast about 20 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. Leave the mushrooms in the oven long enough for the liquid from the mushrooms to reabsorb and for them to lightly brown.

To round out the simple meal, serve with bakery crusty bread. [Serves 6]

The chef, whose husband owns a winery, suggests pairing the meal with an Anderson Valley Pinot Noir for its purity of red fruits like cranberry and cherry and its food friendly zing — perfect for a snow day or Valentine’s Day.

The pork recipe can also be found online at

(Thank you for reading the extra words in this blog post to accommodate the recipes!)

Travel Writers and Terroir

Last week I was invited on a press trip, also known as a familiarization trip or editorial research trip to Healdsburg, Calif. In two and one-half days, I visited six Sonoma County wineries and learned about the area’s winemaking history. I’ll write about traveling to Healdsburg in the May/June issue of Evansville Living, and in this blog over the next few weeks.

I am always interested in the journalists I’ll meet on these trips — more than a few now freelance for the magazine. On this trip, I traveled with journalists from AAA Journeys, Canadian Geographic, PHOENIX Magazine, Tallahassee magazine, Better Home and Gardens, DeSoto magazine, FIDO Friendly magazine, Tampa Bay magazine, and Lake & Sumter Style magazine, in addition to 15 freelance travel journalists on assignment. It’s fun and rewarding to share ideas and story angles.

I was in Healdsburg for only 60 minutes when I heard the word terroir, and would hear it many times, as winemakers described the importance of Sonoma’s world-class terroir, where the Alexander River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley meet.

“Healdsburg is a unique place on the planet,” says Bill Williamson, president and founder of Williamson Wines. “Napa is more singular; here we can grow a great variety of grapes.”

Does Indiana have a unique terroir for grapes?  Certainly, says Jeanette Merritt, marketing director for Indiana Wines. “Indiana soil is very different from north to south, east to west. Where you may find great limestone rich soil in southern Indiana, northern Indiana will have soils that are heavier in clay. That means grapes grown in one part of the state may taste different than grapes grown in other areas. This is beneficial to the consumers so there are many different styles and wines to try from our 73 wineries in Indiana.”

The Red Carpet

I was the only person with tears in my eyes at the Red Carpet arrival last week to the premier of Michael Rosenbaum’s movie, “Back in the Day” — and they didn't last long as the mood of the guests invited to Showplace Cinemas Newburgh certainly was celebratory. As friends and supporters lined up for pictures with Michael in front of the cool "Step and Repeat" screen (designed by Tucker Publishing Group), I dabbed my eyes. I was happy for Michael and his brother, Eric, part of the team,  along with a veteran Hollywood producer Kim Waltrip. Michael wrote "Back in the Day" 10 years ago; he also stars in it.

The Rosenbaums lived a few houses down from my family in South Broadview, the Newburgh subdivision where I grew up. Michael and Eric are more than a few years younger than me. My sisters and I hung out with the older Rosenbaum children. Their mother, Julie, was my first yoga teacher, and Julie has written for Evansville Living. When I see her — I did at the premier — she always says something kind about my mother.

Inside the theater, Michael and Kim enthusiastically welcomed their guests, chided Julie not to videotape the premier, the reel ran, and the raucous laughter began.

That 275 adults laughed uproariously should be no surprise. Earlier that week, Michael was introduced at halftime of the University of Evansville men’s basketball game. “He’s hilarious,” my son Jackson reported. “Funny Guy” was the title of the story I wrote on Michael in 2007. 

Michael made a movie in Newburgh about growing up. You’ll see familiar scenes — like the Knob Hill. The movie is comic fiction, not about “growing up in Newburgh” as a misplaced clause might suggest. “Back in the Day” is rated R and is playing at Showplace Cinema East and Newburgh.

We Like it Hot

Dreaming of warmer temperatures? Step into a hot yoga studio. Practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity, the hot yoga taught at the city’s original studio, Yoga 101, is rooted in a yoga style introduced in the U.S. in the early 1970s by Calcutta-born Bikram Choudhury.

I began practicing at Yoga 101 not long after Nicole Tibbs and George Barnett opened the first studio in June 2001. Nicole (who has been featured on the cover of Evansville Living’s “Healthy Living” magazine) moved here from Irvine, Calif. Barnett, a local attorney, had visited hot yoga studios. Before they opened the studio, Nicole completed the 9-week teacher training at Bikram’s Yoga College of India, Los Angeles. Though neither own Yoga 101 today, Nicole instructs several 60-, 75-, or 90-minute classes weekly. A Bikram-style class focuses on 26 postures — asanas — each completed twice, though other class formats also are taught. The heat and humidity remain constant to flush impurities from the body through hard work and sweat.

Readers of Vanity Fair now know that the hot yoga guru, Bikram, has been accused by former acolytes of sexual misconduct. Here’s a photo of the story in the January issue, next to my copy of Bikram’s book. The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has investigated police reports and has declined to prosecute.

“l love all types of yoga and I will always appreciate Bikram yoga for what it has brought to my life and to the lives of so many people,” Nicole says. “It's difficult for beginners because of the heat. But at the same time it is specifically designed for beginners. It's for people who have no yoga experience whatsoever and need to rehabilitate their bodies. We can't truly have healthy, happy spirits without healthy, happy bodies. They go hand in hand.”

94 Percent

94 percent — that would be the mark I would receive for the quantity of this blog since Evansville Living launched it on Christmas Eve 2012. This is the 49th post. I believe in continuous improvement, so I will strive to post 52 times in 2014. I have plenty to write about each week in 300 Words.

So, what topics have I posted about? Four posts were about Evansville issues — poles, parks, pools, and the new downtown hotel. My personal interests (but not yoga, surprisingly … yet) were the subjects of 12 posts. Architecture, largely of my own street, Lombard Avenue, covered seven posts. Two blog posts were about cooking or baking. I wrote about the magazine business three times. Travel was the subject of seven posts. I wrote about the Tucker Publishing Group staff, teachers, Indiana University basketball, and our pets. Twice I wrote about the weather. I wrote about the Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden’s fabulous winter respite event, Orchid Escape (coming soon!), and I wrote about Downton Abbey — among other topics that I didn’t note in a quick scan of the roughly 14,700 words for the year in the blog.

If you have a topic you would like me to consider exploring in “300 Words,” please send me a note to

To close the year, I’ll again leave you a few words short.  I wish the year 2014 to bring you peace, and what you need.

Tale of Two Cities' Hotels

When I received an invitation to visit Branson, Mo., in October, I was excited to accept. I wrote about the trip in this blog and I’m writing the story for print, as a Travel Journal in the January/February 2014 issue of Evansville Living, this week.

Not only would I visit the legendary Ozark Mountain town, but I planned to connect with the folks at HCW LLC, the Branson-headquartered developer of Evansville’s newest Downtown hotel, a Doubletree Hilton set to open in 2015.

I reached out to the City of Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke; his staff helped me contact HCW Vice President of Operations Robert Allen to establish an interview. With help from the public relations firm to the city of Branson who had arranged my trip, an interview with HCW LLC CEO Richard Huffman was set for Oct. 18, at its headquarters. I would have to miss visiting Branson’s Silver Dollar City.

HCW LLC is headquartered in its own development, situated on the Payne Stewart Golf Club. Allen greeted me and shared the HCW story through large format “beauty” shots of the company’s development — and indeed they are beautiful.

Erin Meyer, a reporter for WFIE-TV 14 News, drove to Branson that day to tape the interview for the station’s ongoing coverage of the hotel development. When Huffman arrived, Meyer and I talked with him, on tape, for more than 60 minutes. You can read the interview in the December/January issue of Evansville Business. These were among his first impressions of Evansville: The University of Evansville men’s and women’s basketball teams play in the Missouri Valley Conference; our city looks old driving in from the airport; our business leaders lead; our mayor never gives up; and the Ford Center is world class. Groundbreaking for the hotel, conference center, and residences is set for Jan. 23.

New Traditions

On Monday, the 112-year-old Social Literary Circle celebrated the holiday season with its annual Christmas party. Fourteen women who desired intellectual engagement organized the club on Nov. 4, 1901 — few women then were afforded the opportunity to get college degrees. The group’s first minutes described the circle as “a society for sociability and enhancement.”

What’s not to like about that? I have been a member since 2006.

By tradition, the holiday party is hosted at the president’s home. This year, the S. Alvord Boulevard address of the hostess was swept free of snow by her husband and helping neighbors.

This club is nothing like Bunco clubs — we do not drink at meetings; our bylaws state wine may be served at the holiday party, and we all enjoy that.

The protocol for the holiday meeting is: Attach a poem, a favorite Christmas memory, or a favorite family tradition to your gift bag. Place them both in a plain brown paper bag. (Oops, mine was white.)

Arriving at noon, we enjoy wine and social time first.  Then, an always-delicious meal is served. Sometimes, hostesses arrange for a bit of catering help in the kitchen. On Monday, we enjoyed a great chicken casserole, spiced pears topped with something good, and rum cake.

After lunch, we gather around for roll call and our program, which at this special meeting is the gift exchange. We each draw numbers. The poems are read, and we try to guess whom the gift is from; and the gifts are opened. Our members are very talented; the submissions are creative, thoughtful, nostalgic, and fun. Mine this year? A page from my baby book, Christmas 1965. I was 1 ½ and my mother wrote that I told Santa I wanted, “Bike! Baby! Horsey!” She wrote that I got all three!

A Mountain Holiday

While national retailers conspired to speed through Thanksgiving, we spent a leisurely holiday in Greeneville, Tenn., with my husband’s cousin’s family.

Cousin Lee Hudson and his wife, Deanna, have two sons — great friends with our kids. We visit several times each year, but Thanksgiving is celebrated, as it has been for eight years, in a special and unique way.

We arrived in Greeneville, home to 17th U.S. president Andrew Johnson, after lunchtime on Wednesday. Immediately, Coy, their oldest, loaded Maxwell and Jackson in his car and headed to Granny’s house.  “Granny,” or Miss Carol (as Jackson calls her), is Deanna’s mother who lives with her husband on a large country estate.

Waiting anxiously at Carol’s is Coy’s brother Brandt, and their cousins Cody and Calen from Memphis and Blaine and Morgan from Knoxville. Here are the kids in a picture from Thanksgiving 2012. For five days they all hang together, are spoiled by Carol, eat great food, play with the dogs and horses, hike the property, and still overdose on video games.

Back in Greeneville, we spend five days without kids, seeing them only on Thanksgiving Day when we drive to Carol’s house for dinner.

Lee, Deanna, Todd and I visit, listen to music, read, competitive nap, eat., and drink wine with friends. My husband brings his drum kit so he and Lee can play music with friends. Deanna and I knit, and talk about travel. We usually drive to Hot Springs, N.C., for dinner at the Iron Horse. About 25 minutes from Greeneville, the rustic town of Hot Springs is known for hosting Appalachian Trail hikers and its historic hot springs.

Sunday morning the party breaks up out at Carol’s. Coy, Brandt, Maxwell, and Jackson arrive back in Greeneville in time to play for a few hours before the seven-hour drive home.

Vintage Pies

Happy Thanksgiving.  Our family festivities began last weekend. Our nephew Kirk, a captain and pilot stationed at McConnell Air Force base in Wichita, Kan., will make his third deployment to Qatar before Christmas, so we celebrated early with my husband’s father’s side of the family.

When my mother-in-law Diane asked last week what I might bring for dinner, my 15-year-old suggested I bring carrot cake or pumpkin pie. Great carrot cakes are bought, I told Maxwell (at Maxine’s Café & Bakery or even from Pepperidge Farm); I’ll make the pumpkin pies. 

My children claim to have never seen their mother make a pie. Most families, said the youngest, bake pies all the time, like it’s no big deal.

I suppose I wanted my pies to be a big deal. The best pie recipes, I thought, will be old recipes — how pies were baked before we could buy pumpkin pie custard in a can and refrigerated crusts. I pulled out my mother’s first edition (1953) “Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook.” My pies would be vintage. I pulled them from the oven just minutes before we left for the family dinner.

Of course, the pies caused commotion on the drive. With every bump in the road, one of my boys shouted, “Oh, no, the pies!” When the hatch of our SUV was opened at our destination, they screamed as if the pies had slid to the pavement.

Our family, together for one of the few times during the year, had plenty to talk about during our celebration. But my kids also interjected their tally on the pie: “No one’s eating the pie, Mom” … “Kirk has the first piece” … “Is it burned?”

Among the thanks I will give, I’ll add thanks that my sons can no longer say I’ve never baked a pie.

Getting into the spirit in Louisville

"Lewisville," "Looeyville," "Looavull," "Looaville," and "Luhvull."  However you pronounce it, I like it. Our family did not visit Louisville when I was growing up. We ate pizza all over the Midwest (my father co-owned a pizza restaurant in Newburgh), but I don’t recall ever visiting the largest city in the Commonwealth for a piece of pie or any other reason.

Today, my family finds many reasons to visit Louisville. We were afforded one of these opportunities last weekend when we holed up there for “Christmas at the Galt House.”

The Galt House hotel is massive, with 1,290 rooms, including 650 suites — great for families. In recent years, the owners have invested more than $70 million in the hotel, also adding a beautiful $4 million conservatory connecting its towers. 

In the hotel’s Rivue Restaurant, our sons liked dining in a revolving room — there are two! The swanky restaurant and lounge bears no trace to the former Flagship Room, decorated like a Spanish ship.

New to the property is the Down One Bourbon Bar, located at Third and W. Main streets. I attended a bourbon tasting on the evolution of the spirit from corn whisky to small batch, single barrel, like John E. Fitzgerald’s Larceny Bourbon, aged for 12 years, and made with wheat as the secondary grain.

The highlight is the KaLightoscope Attraction — massive luminaries handcrafted by Chinese artisans from Zigon, China. The Christmas Village showcase displays feature three-dozen restored animated characters from downtown Louisville’s old Stewart’s Department Store.  Maxwell and Jackson soared across rooftops in Santa’s sleigh in front of a green wall.

Holiday festivities at the Galt House include a dinner show, The Colors of the Season, featuring regional talent by a Nashville-based production company.

When the fun is done, what I like best about visiting Louisville is the short drive home.

Publisher’s Picks

This is the time of year in the Tucker Publishing Group offices that we tabulate the Best of Evansville winners. It’s always fun, and somewhat challenging, because of the varied spellings voters give their write-in choices. We’ve written before about some of the more amusing votes:  Cod Stone Creamery was selected as best ice cream; Fiji, the South Pacific Island, has been noted as best local sushi; and Germania Maennerchor was spelled one year 22 different ways.

To tide you over until the Best of Evansville is revealed in the January/February 2014 issue of Evansville Living, today I offer my Publisher’s Picks — completely with bias and opinion.

Best Ice Cream: Lic’s Peppermint Stick.  It is in stores now!

Best Pizza: I’ve been a fan of The Slice, in my neighborhood, since it opened and my favorite pizza is easily their spinach and feta.

Best Workout: Hot yoga at Yoga 101. If you have not tried it, you must. I do believe it cures nearly everything.

Best Hairstylist: Mark at Posh has cut my hair for years. He reminds me that he “highlights” my hair; he does not color it.

Best Beer: Among local beers, I like it blonde or lighter. I’ve long enjoyed Turoni’s Honey Blonde Ale.  At Tin Man, I like their Bohemian Pilsner.

Best-kept Secret View: My husband and I enjoy eating lunch at Fifth Third bank’s top-floor cafeteria in their Downtown tower. The views of the city are great; the food is good and moderately priced.

Best Gift Shopping: A gift from Nance Galleries is special. The East Side store glistens with beautiful gifts and each is specially wrapped with an information card — a treat to give and receive. The extra touch makes your gift seem bespoke.

Best Entertainment Venue: The Ford Center!

The View

Each year, before the onset of fall, we wonder if we will have pretty color in SW Indiana.  Have we had enough rain?  Was spring too dry?  Was summer wet enough?  We fret about it as we pose our concerns in small talk.  Then, each fall, our disquiet is allayed when we are rewarded with a rich swath of crimson and gold.  In Evansville, some of the most dramatic color is seen right in the city – in Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, our 240-acre tract of virgin forest on the East Side of Evansville. It’s the largest tract of virgin forest located in any city limits inside the U.S.!

The demolition of Roberts Municipal Stadium this year makes the fall color of the preserve easier to enjoy for the many commuters who drive the Lloyd Expressway.  New to the view is an eyesore that the city says it is committed to removing: The light pole farm on the Wesselman Par 3 Golf Course.

(Photo by Jerry Butts)

According to Denise Johnson, director of the Evansville Parks Department, 60 lights mark the course.  “The lights for the Par 3 have only been on twice in the last several years and that was for National Night Out,” Johnson says. “Most of the golfers play during the daylight hours. If there were a special request for a golf outing – they could be turned on but this hasn’t happened in years.”

“In all my discussions about Roberts Park and Wesselman Nature Preserve, no one has expressed a desire to keep the lights. Most people reference the sea of light poles and how that’s all you can focus on. It is our goal to remove the poles when we begin construction of the new Park.”

I’ll look forward to the improved view next fall – and worry not if it will be pretty.

First Jobs

Inspired by the book selected for the annual community read-along, “One Book One Community” — Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make this Country Work by Jeanne Marie Laskas — the October/November issue of Evansville Business featured “On the Clock, Behind the Scenes.” In that spirit, Tucker Publishing Group staff members revealed their first jobs on the magazine’s masthead. Here again is where the folks who bring you local magazines earned their first paychecks.

Victoria Grabner, Managing Editor
Taco Bell. I know the secret of the cinnamon twists.

Jon Haslam, Editorial Intern
I worked at a laser-tag venue for six years and loved every second.

Theresa Scheller, Editorial Intern
My first real job was as a lifeguard at Burdette Park. I was there for three summers.

Laura Mathis, Creative Director
Arby’s. “Would you like fries with that?”

Heather Gray, Art Director
I mixed powdered pigments to color plastic at GE. Two words: technicolor snot.

Hannah Jay, Graphic Designer
In eighth grade, I taught swimming lessons all summer long.

Adena Rasure, Graphics Intern
Repairing houses after tenants left — what a sight.

Hannah Theiring, Graphics Intern
Lifeguard/swim lesson instructor at Newburgh Pool and for Newburgh Sea Creatures.

Jennifer Rhoades, Advertising Account Executive
I washed dishes one summer in high school at a Poseyville, Ind., restaurant named T's.

Jessica Hoffman, Advertising Account Executive
Dishwasher at T's restaurant (now closed) in Poseyville, Ind., with my sister.

Krista McDonald, Advertising Account Executive
I wrapped gifts at Thiele Pharmacy & Gifts in Alliance, Neb.

Valerie Wire, Marketing Coordinator
My first job was working at the Burdette Park Aquatic Center one summer.

Sara Short, Business Manager
"5-6-7-8," Point your toes! — Teaching dance.

Todd Tucker
Being the lowest form of life on a construction crew during a hot summer.

Kristen Tucker
Selling Bobbie Brooks pants at The Main Thing in Washington Square Mall.

Jeanne Marie Laskas will speak at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library’s One Book One Community of Southwestern Indiana presentation at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Oct. 29, 2013) at the Victory Theatre. The event is free and open to anyone whether or not you have read the book.

You’ll Love Branson!

Just because I grew up with a poster of Donnie Osmond on the wall of the bedroom I shared with my sister growing up on Evansville’s East Side doesn’t mean that I would love Branson, Mo.

My mom visited Branson, Mo., with my stepdad twice a year — in the summer and at Christmas — for most of the 1990s. She returned saying, “Kristen, you would love Branson.” I said, “Really?” Branson, Mo., didn’t sound quite like us. We were busy with our magazine company, raising small kids, and when we did vacation, it was to the beach, Caribbean sailing cruises with an advertising partner, and even to Europe. 

Branson, with its Ozark mountain beauty, down-home attitude, entertainment galore, and unabashed love for God and country was certainly right up my mom’s alley. Would it be mine? She was sure it would.

When an invitation came my way toward the end of the summer to join a group of travel writers at the “live music capital of the world,” I quickly reserved my space. With a destination PR firm organizing the trip — ensuring we experienced all that Branson has to offer — I knew I could do Branson right and share the story with Evansville Living readers, which I’ll do in an upcoming issue.

In four days, I saw five shows with dozens of entertainers (many whom I met), road a scenic train, cruised on two boats, splashed into a lake in an amphibious truck (and also drove it), shopped in beautiful developments, visited a Titanic Museum, enjoyed lots of delicious food, visited a unique college dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as “Hard Work U,” and had the opportunity to visit a great theme park – Silver Dollar City – and cave, which I passed on due to my still-healing ankle.

Did I like it? I sure did.

Cream City

I like Wisconsin. I was born in Iowa, after all, and how different can Wisconsin be? The areas of Wisconsin I most enjoy, though, are along Lake Michigan and the many beautiful lakes created by glacial activity.

Todd and I traveled to Milwaukee last weekend for the City & Regional Magazine Association Publishers Roundtable. If you’ve not driven U.S. 41 toward Chicago in the past five years, you’ve likely not seen the remarkable site of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Benton County, Ind. Spread over 50,000 acres with 355 turbines, it is one of the largest onshore wind farms in the world. That seems to be all that has changed along U.S. 41 in years.

Milwaukee has long been known as the “Cream City” — not for the state’s dairy industry, but for the cream-colored bricks that form many of the city's buildings. The beauty of Milwaukee’s architecture and its location on Lake Michigan make it a very pretty city.

We stayed at the conference hotel, the Pfister, built in 1893. The swanky lounge on the 23rd floor offered great views of the city and the lake, including a dramatic view of Milwaukee’s Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Built from 1892 to 1899, its Richardsonian Romanesque architecture is the same style of and strikingly similar to Evansville’s Old Post Office built from 1869 to 1875.

Just a few blocks from the hotel, on the lake, is the Milwaukee Art Museum, where the city hosted a private party for our group at its Quadracci Pavilion.

The Museum’s signature wings form a moveable sunscreen that open and close daily. Beginning Friday through Jan. 5 at MMA is a Thomas Sully exhibit. Unfamiliar with Sully? Peel a $20 from your wallet — Sully’s portrait of Andrew Jackson has been used to denote $20 since 1928.

All in the Family

Come and listen to a story about a dog named Jed. Don’t think he’s too special — he’s not the first pet in our family to be bestowed the Clampett name.

Jed is a 1 ½ -year old Mountain Cur adopted from It Takes a Village Canine Rescue. He had been living in a pigpen in Winslow, Ind. Mountain Curs are working dogs bred for trailing and treeing small game, like squirrel and raccoons. Jed loves to play with footballs and he jumps really high. During the week, Jed often visits our offices. He also goes to O’Hairs Happydog Daycare, where his best friend is an English bulldog named Maceo.

Jed was preceded by two really great dogs. Pearl Bodine was a beautiful blonde rescue retriever collie mix. Her X-rays showed she had been shot with pellets. Pearl’s successor was Jethro (he had the middle name Bodine, too), a black Labrador who died at the age of 16. In his prime, Jethro weighed 105 pounds!

Our cats are Lucky and Lou. Lucky, named because she dined on salmon soon after being adopted from the Vanderburgh Humane Society, is indiscriminately affectionate; repairmen to our home know her well, though she does have a knack for throwing herself on cat lovers. Her folded ears result from hematomas, surgically fixed, that she had in both ears as a kitten.

Lou is a plush gray cat, much larger than he looks in this picture. He is very sweet, never misbehaves, and has a small meow for a big boy.

Before these cats we had Cassandra, a sweet calico; Leona Helmsley, a blue point Siamese that characteristically liked my husband best; Lance, an orange tabby that sadly died young, named after the famous cyclist; and Hiawatha, years ago discovered as a tiny kitten up under my husband’s van.

Live at a Ballpark

While rooftop owners surrounding Chicago’s Wrigley Field seek to preserve their view during the $500 million renovation of the legendary ballpark, Indianapolis residents, too, are preserving a view of their storied ballpark — Bush Stadium. Now residents of Stadium Lofts can walk out their patio door to home plate.

Built in 1931 for the minor-league Indianapolis Indians, the team used the Art Deco park until 1996, when it moved into Victory Field downtown. For a time, Tony George leased it as a dirt racetrack. From 2008 to 2011, it held cars traded in the “Cash for Clunkers” program. The building, on the National Register of Historic Places, was on Indiana Landmarks’ “10 Most Endangered List” for about a decade.

John Watson spent most of his career revamping existing buildings in Indianapolis and served as a volunteer board member of Indiana Landmarks. In August, his company, Core Development, unveiled Stadium Lofts — the redevelopment of Bush Stadium preserving the shell and historic façade while turning it into a 131-unit apartment complex. Another 132-unit apartment complex, Stadium Flats, will be built at the site and the remaining land will be developed into up to 118,000 square feet of commercial space.

Watson’s group preserved many intriguing qualities of the ballpark. The former owner’s office — with a fireplace and hardwood floors — is incorporated into one of the apartments. The diamond — once made of dirt — is made of colored concrete and surrounded by grass.

More than 100 of the units already are rented, ranging from $699 to almost $1,500 monthly.

Indianapolis’ preservation efforts take the national stage this fall (Oct. 29 to Nov.2) when the city hosts the 2013 National Preservation Conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Indiana Landmarks serves as a host and sponsor. Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, is chairman of the conference.

See you next year, Chris!

Sunday evening my husband and I, along with another couple, saw a concert in Nashville, Tenn. For the right show, we’ll drive to Louisville, Ky., Nashville, or Indianapolis — or further. Seeing Chris Isaak is always the right show for me. This was the fourth time I have seen him perform; I’ve been a fan of the retro-cool crooner since my husband introduced me to his music soon after we were married.

Isaak is a 57-year-old singer, songwriter, and actor from the gritty California town of Stockton. He borrowed his brother’s guitar and started writing songs as a teenager, inspired by his parents’ music — Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash. He’s also a former boxer.

Isaak is a very prolific artist: he has recorded 13 albums, starred in two short-lived yet acclaimed television shows bearing his name, and has an impressive, eclectic, acting resume.

The MTV generation remembers Isaak for the Herb Ritts’-produced video of his biggest hit, “Wicked Game,” in which Isaak famously nuzzles model Helena Christensen on the beach.

Reviewers describe Isaak as the “incorrigible showman” and note his “matinee-idol good looks.”  His voice has amazing strength and he’s an excellent guitar player. His 5-piece band, Silvertone — most members together since Isaak’s early days — are tight and have fun.

Wearing a blue paisley sequined suit (from the famous rodeo sequin suit maker, Nudie, I’ve read), we saw Isaak preserve the legacy of rock and roll at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

“I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to support live music,” Isaak said early in the show, “because if you didn’t I’d be walking around Nashville in a sequined suit like a sparkly monkey like everyone else.” He asked who in had seen him perform before – nearly ¾ of the crowd raised their hands and cheered. See you again next tour, Chris!

September Issues

The September issues are arriving. In the magazine world, the September issue often is the largest issue of the year. Among the fashion magazine glossies, it always is the issue with the thickest spine, because September is the the month of fashion. The making of Vogue’s September 2007 issue was documented in a film, The September Issue. The magazine was 840 pages and weighed 5 pounds. A Wikipedia reference notes that the September 2007 Vogue has sold on eBay for $80 to $115.

I’ll share with you a few of our colleagues’ September issues, which are arriving in our office. (September/October Evansville Living will be in your mailbox next week.)

Louisville features Teddy Bridgewater. Actually, the popular University of Louisville quarterback is featured on two covers. The editors explain Bridgewater’s photos were so compelling they ran a split cover. We see Bridgewater looking straight at us; other readers will see Bridgewater hugging a teddy bear. Consumer magazines regularly split covers. This means sending a cleaner cover look to subscribers, while newsstand buyers get a magazine with more coverlines — more stories referenced on the cover to attract sales.

Milwaukee styled a rustic marquee for its arts guide cover.

417 — the area code for great Springfield, Mo. — created a retro family vacation cover.

Pittsburgh invites readers to “think green” with a hand-drawn chalkboard cover.

St. Louis produced a 200-page issue with a nice plunk factor. It features its Restaurant of the Year and its Butternut Squash Agnolotti. (I looked it up; it’s a flattened ravioli.)

The surgeon who removed actress Angelina Jolie’s breasts (genetic tests showed she was at great risk for breast cancer) is featured on the cover of Los Angeles.

I checked the eBay price of Vogue September 2007 — $15.45. The March/April 2003 issue of Evansville Living featuring Don Mattingly is offered by an eBay seller for $24.99.

The Analog Editor

I recently bought an Olympia SM3 typewriter, circa 1955. It’s a manual typewriter, German-made. Its keys make the perfect clickety-clack, and the margin bell chimes clear. I typed on a manual typewriter in college, pounding out dozens of term papers. High school buddies at Western Kentucky University paid me to type their papers. Somewhere along the line, I got rid of that typewriter, also an Olympia, a later model. Recently, I began to wish for it back. After a little research on manual typewriters, I set about buying an Olympia SM3. After striking out locally, I ended up on eBay, where I noted these typewriters were attracting bidding interest. I set my price, allowing that the typewriter might need to be worked on, and it was mine.

I plan to use it primarily for writing notes and cards, though already I have typed household lists and instructions. My sons think it is pretty neat, though they, along with their father, are predicting the Olympia typewriter will meet the same fate as the much longed for Pfaff (also German made) sewing machine, given to me years ago by my in-laws. My mother was an excellent seamstress and typist; she could just as easily adjust her justified margins as she could expertly finish a hem. I couldn’t imagine a household without the whirl of a sewing machine. It is true the sewing machine is long gone, but not before I completed the promised piece — an Indiana University cape for our rescue Golden Retriever mix, Pearl Bodine.

I’ve learned about my Olympia typewriter. Mad Men’s Don Draper types on a dark green SM3. Writer Don DeLillo and screenwriter Woody Allen also compose on the model. Be assured, I won’t type this blog (called typecasting) on my typewriter, though I do plan to enjoy it.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 7

As development continued on Evansville’s East Side, a survey was conducted to determine if East Siders would support a church; most of the city’s churches were within the city’s core. The First Community Church, 3407 Bellemeade Ave., was established in 1940 to “embrace all doctrines and creeds.” Designed by a St. Louis architectural firm, the church on the corner of Lincoln and Lombard avenues was erected in 1950 for $100,000. The church is a French Normal style and was built with St. Meinrad, Ind., sandstone. Today, it is the home to the Church of God of Prophecy.

Back across Bellemeade Avenue are the three remaining homes in the architectural inventory of Lombard I’ll present in this blog.

The home at 663, built in 1925 for the Walter Karsch family, is similar to another the home on the street, 823. Karsch was Secretary of American Trust & Savings Bank, located at 6th and Main streets. The home is defined by its massive front chimney and has been significantly expanded through the years.

Next door at 659 is another John R. Mitchell spec home. Mitchell was living in this Dutch Colonial at the time of his death in 1944. This home, too, has a twin — on Parkside Drive in Akin Park.

My family lives at 601, at the corner of Lincoln and Lombard. Our home, a Colonial Revival, according to Marchand’s notes, was built in 1938 by Roy Ryan of Ryan Construction Co. as his personal residence. In 1943, the Ryans moved to McCutchanville and Bernard Schnacke, brother of E. F. Schnacke, who lived across the street in the French Provincial home, purchased the home. It, too, has been renovated and expanded, and extensive landscaping now largely shields it from Lincoln Avenue — much busier today — where John R. Mitchell first began to plan his beautiful meadow.

Sources for this series of posts include the archives of former Evansville Preservation Officer Joan Marchand that are located at Willard Library, as well as current preservation officer Dennis Au. Michael Schopmeyer also provided research materials. Nick Hebebrand assisted in research.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 6

The founder of one of my favorite stores lived at 963 Lombard. It’s known that Frank A. Baynham moved here from 768 Lombard in 1941. Preservation officer Joan Marchand’s notes make no mention of the Baynhams’ monkeys ever residing in the charming English cottage — they didn’t come along until the store expanded in the 1950s and monkeys were displayed in glass cages. (I remember buying Aigner purses and shoes and watching the monkey at Baynham’s Shoe Store in Washington Square Mall — and stopping for Libs candy, too.) For more than 50 years, customers flocked to Baynham’s on Main Street and later at Washington Square Mall, North Park, and Eastland Mall.

Marchand’s notes from her 1994 Historic Preservation Week tour tell the story of the sprawling ranch home at 901 Lombard. It was built on two lots in 1940-1941 by George E. Cameron, described by Marchand as having “breezed into Evansville on the late 1930s oil wave.” Cameron’s brother, Arthur, built the white brick Colonial mansion at 411 Hebron for his actress wife, June Knight Cameron.

This painted brick cottage at 807 with an arched porch entrance was built in 1928 for Frank J. and Laura Lohoff. He was a sales representative for Evansville Tool Works.

A grocer, Philip Hoelscher, was the first owner of this 1921 bungalow at 773, promoted as having five “spacious rooms,” including a breakfast room and pantry. I admire the breezy porch.

A lovely classical portico and porch define this 1926 home at 761 built for Jode and Mada Hay. He was associated with the Orr Iron Co. and made a mortgage loan for $2,900 with Peoples Bank for the home.

One of the oldest homes on Lombard is the attractive 1915 bungalow at 753 built by Mitchell as a spec home.

Next week will conclude my series of posts on the history of one of Evansville’s oldest subdivisions, Bellemeade, and the houses that line Lombard Avenue.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 5

Amid the backdrop of the Jazz Age, before the stock market crash of October 1929, subdivision developer John Mitchell built this handsome Colonial Revival home at 918 Lombard Ave. The first owner was John L. Martin, who was associated with the Ideal Dairy Company, founded in 1919 to offer pasteurized milk to the city. Later owners of the home were Jim and Emily Fowler, who moved there in late 1965. Emily, who became fondly known as the “Mayor of Lombard” for her watchful eye and neighborhood spirit, lived here until her death in 2009.

Next door at 928 is a beautifully restored Colonial Revival, built in 1936 by the Stovall Lumber Co. for Robert Burkert, a salesman with Burkert Walton Inc., a printing company founded in 1906 that is still operating in Evansville today.

The charming brick and limestone English Cotswold cottage at 952, designed by renowned Evansville architects Anderson & Veatch, was built in 1937 for Harry B. Bourland, president of the Evansville Paint & Varnish Co.  — known today as Red Spot. The home’s unique façade is dominated by a large fireplace in its living room.

Former preservation officer Joan Marchand’s notes indicate that one of the city’s finest examples of the bungalow style of architecture is at 968, near Washington Avenue. It was built in 1927 for Simon A. Schmitt, who owned a plumbing and heating business and also installed suburban water systems. In 1938, the home was purchased by William C. Welborn, an attorney and founder of the Conrad Baker Foundation. The foundation supported the Old Court House in its transition after the construction of the Civic Center.

The home’s brick features an unusual diamond pattern. The house is adorned with half-timbering, as well as curved-topped windows and eave brackets. Indeed, it is one of my favorites, too.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 4

Lombard Avenue has long attracted the attention of preservationists and historians. According to the records of Joan Marchand, historic preservation officer from 1978 to 1996, Lombard Avenue between Washington Avenue and Lincoln Avenue was identified in 1993 as a possible historic district. No plans were pursued. Today, Evansville has two neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places: The Riverside Historic District and the Washington Avenue Historic District.

Continuing the tour of this tree-canopied street, the English Tudor Half Timbered home at 822 was built in 1925 for the Christian Becker family. Becker owned Becker Brothers Wagon at the turn of the century. Marchand noted that daughter Esther still was living in the home at age 92 in 1990.

The stately Colonial Revival at 862 occupying two lots was built in 1938 for Robert and Elaine Pott. Pott was an engineer and inventor best known for developing the impact wrench that was patented by Ingersoll Rand. He also is the namesake of the University of Southern Indiana’s Pott College of Science and Engineering. The Robert and Elaine Pott Foundation also has significantly endowed the University of Evansville.

While I do not know the history of the charming Arts and Crafts style bungalow at 872, I admire its lovely gardens.

The English Revival at 908 was built by the developer Mitchell as a spec home in 1929. It did not immediately sell. In 1936 it was rented, and then purchased, by the Phil E. and Elizabeth Drachman, owners of Drachman Chevrolet, the precursor of Kenny Kent Chevrolet. Drachman served as president of Evansville’s Redevelopment Commission in the 1950s and was an amateur artist and azalea grower — those efforts can be seen each spring in the home’s pretty bushes. Well-liked and widely admired, Drachman died in 1991 at the age of 89.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 3

"A Daring Neighborhood: An Early 20th-Century Developer took a Chance with a Subdivision Called Bellemeade."

A story published in the Evansville Courier & Press on May 3, 1994, by Anne Schleper about Historic Preservation Week activities ran with this headline. A Lombard Avenue tour was to be led by the city’s historic preservation officer, Joan Marchand.

"The Lombard Avenue development was daring at the time because it was so far from the city limits,” said Mrs. Marchand in the newspaper story.

''It was an unusual suburban residential development because it was out in the 'boonies.' It didn't develop fast because of that, and also because World War I intervened," she said.

The developer, John R. Mitchell, named the north-south street within the subdivision Lombard Avenue because he liked the sound of the name, Mrs. Marchand said.While Mitchell lived in the farmhouse on Lincoln Avenue, the first homes he built on Lombard were between Bellemeade and Washington avenues. Marchand’s notes indicate this bungalow, 722, was likely the first house in Bellemeade, built in August 1915 for Julius and Tillie Myer. He was a manager at the Home Federal Savings & Loan Association, established in 1914.

Next door to the earliest house on Lombard is one of the newest renovations. Last year, this home was a movie set — several scenes in Michael and Eric Rosenbaum’s movie, “Old Days,” were filmed in this attractive Tudor.

I don’t know much about the home at 772, but I love its two sets of porch steps.

The beautifully manicured home at 808 Lombard was built in 1930 and is one of the larger homes on the street. It also is set further back from the street.

Next week, we’ll continue on down to Washington Avenue, then back up to Bellemeade on the west side of the street.

Street Life: Lombard Avenue Pt. 2

Buy lots in Bellemeade. It’s a pleasure to show them. 

That was the message of Evansville veterinarian turned real estate developer John R. Mitchell as he marketed the street that now is Lombard Avenue in the years approaching 1920. For the next 40 years, Mitchell’s subdivision slowly grew; progress was impeded by war and the Depression.

He named his subdivision Bellemeade — beautiful meadow — and promoted the convenience of the nearby Bell Street street car extension, which terminated at the State Hospital, as well as the large size of the building lots. Lots on the east side of the street were 50 feet across and 395 feet deep.

The best-known house on Lombard, 600, gets its acclaim from the famous oilman who lived there, Ray Ryan, allegedly murdered by the mob in October 1977. After working out at the 21st Century Healthclub on Bellemeade Avenue, Ryan was killed when his Lincoln Mark V blew up when he started the ignition. The home, as it appeared when the Ryans purchased it in 1946, is pictured in the 2012 book, “Mob Murder of America’s Greatest Gambler,” by Herb Marynell and Steve Bagby.

The French provincial home was built in 1938 for E. F. Schnacke who was the president of the North Star Furniture Co. It has been expanded through the years but retains the original character. 

Next door, 654 Lombard is a busy home. Known as The May Home, it was gifted to University of Evansville in 1980 by real estate developer Guthrie May, who lived in the house for more than 30 years. The home was built in 1940 for Robert Gray. Today it is the official residence of the University of Evansville president, and is often the site of university functions, including the freshman class ice cream social held each August.

(My next blog post will continue to focus on homes on the east side of Lombard Avenue to Washington Avenue.)

Street Life: Lombard Avenue

My family lives on a shady East Side street that shares a name with one of the most famous streets in the world, in a city, I, unfortunately, have never visited. In San Francisco, Lombard Street is famous for having a steep, one-block section consisting of eight tight hairpin turns. Our Lombard is an avenue, the principal street in a moderately successful real estate development called Bellemeade that was promoted as “a home site for the person tired of the city,” begun 100 years ago.

In this blog post, and over the next few weeks, I will share some of the research I have studied recently on the history of Lombard Avenue. Our city is fortunate to have had dedicated preservation officers who created and maintain excellent records — the late Joan Marchand and today, Dennis Au; I’m also thankful for Willard Library, where Ms. Marchand’s archives are housed. Mike Schopmeyer, a neighbor with an interest in history and preservation, shared with me useful records of his home. Evansville Living intern Nick Hebebrand contributed to the research.

In April 1913, Evansville veterinarian John R. Mitchell bought 40-plus acres approximately two miles from the city boundary of Kentucky Avenue. The south end of the tract was bounded by Washington Avenue and the north end was bounded by Lincoln Avenue. The tract was just south of Woodmere, the state hospital. Mitchell platted the land into 89 lots and named the north-south street Lombard Avenue.

Mitchell bought what was known as the McCallister-Terry farmhouse at 3515 Lincoln Ave. to live in while he was developing Bellemeade. This home was constructed in 1830 and, over the years, it has been enlarged and embellished.

The 89 lots, which cost $300 or $500, were advertised as “large enough to give breathing space and have your own flowers, fruits, and vegetables.”

Next week, I’ll write about the homes that line the east side of Lombard Avenue.

Happy Independence Day!

On the eve of Independence Day, I offer an even briefer blog post — we’re all eager to celebrate the holiday. Here is a last look at our patriotic Evansville Living cover — as we anticipate the arrival of the July/August issue — and a few of the images that inspired cover artist Cedric Hustace.

Rock Show

I love rocks. As a child I always had a rock collection. I loved visiting the rock and mineral shows at Washington Square Mall. I bought rocks on family trips and polished rocks in my own tumbler.

When the agenda for last weekend’s Indiana Landmarks board of directors’ retreat held in Bloomington, Ind., at the Indiana Memorial Union Biddle Hotel and Conference Center informed directors of Friday night’s “Limestone Adventure,” I was excited.

After a half-day of meetings, we boarded a bus to Woolery Stone Mill. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Woolery Stone Company began quarrying this site in 1930. Scenes from the 1979 movie "Breaking Away" were filmed here. (Filmed in Bloomington and about Bloomington, “Breaking Away” is a story about the “cutters” — boys with a limestone legacy — and “townies.”) The quarrying operations are closed today, and the mill is available for special events. We enjoyed a catered dinner, local beer, and we learned about the history of limestone in Indiana.

Indiana limestone exists in a swath varying in width from one to ten miles and stretching 30 miles long, from Stinesville to Bedford. The stone belt was formed about 300 million years ago, from the calcium carbonate deposits of decomposing marine animals at the bottom of the inland sea covering the area.

Even prior to Indiana’s admission to the Union in 1816, a light-colored, fine-grained native stone had been used by settlers for cabin foundations, door sills, milling burrs, and memorials. The first organized quarrying effort of record was established in 1827 in Southern Indiana near Stinesville.

Our home landscape features lots of Indiana rock. Native stone of all variations — some of my favorite is variegated limestone — creates paths through our yard that lead to benches crafted from irregularly cut stone and limestone barn foundations.

Birthdays and Baby Books

Fifteen years ago, on a hot day that would end in storms, my first son was born. Just two days earlier, my husband and I had made the anxious drive to Welborn Baptist Hospital, sure I was ready to deliver. We were sent home after a few hours, without a baby. We watched movies; I remember watching “As Good as It Gets” — both of us love Jack Nicholson. Finally, late on June 11, we again made the trip to the hospital. At 6:25 a.m. on June 12, Maxwell William Tucker was born after a fairly difficult childbirth. Todd and I had lost patience in the childbirth class. We couldn’t keep our “hees” and our “hoos” straight, laughed, and were scolded by the nurse; we didn’t return for the second class. I don’t know if not having practiced Lamaze-style breathing made it harder for me or not.

As we welcomed friends and family to meet Max, I recorded these visits in my neatest handwriting in his baby book, a gift from my sister. Growing up, I loved looking at my baby book. My mother — a schoolteacher, readers may recall — chronicled my earliest days and milestones in a journal called “Here I Am.” On my 40th birthday, she gave me the book, with a note that it was mine to keep and that she hoped I cherished it as much as she did. I did. When my mother died, I found another baby book — a tiny photo album and journal made for my grandmother.

The pages of Max’s book now are completed with memories and milestones of his first five years, a diligence that continued with his brother’s baby book. Though there’s no page for a 15th birthday, I might make a notation: Maxwell enrolled in driver’s education today!

My Husband the Rock Star

My husband is in a rock band. He’s the drummer. Every great rock band needs a drummer. What would the Beatles be without Ringo Starr? The E Street Band without Max Weinberg? Or the Rolling Stones without Charlie Watts?  Still — and if you know my husband, maybe you think this is appropriate — in the lexicon of a band, drummer jokes are rampant. Websites are devoted to drummer jokes: How can you tell when a drummer's at the door? He doesn't know when to come in.

Todd began taking drum lessons 8 years ago. As a kid, he quit piano, though there are plenty of musicians in his family (his cousins). He has two drum kits; one in our home and one in a warehouse on the East Side that the band, “Acquired Taste,” leases for practice and jam sessions with friends. 

The band began as an instructional band operating out of the Guitar Lab. Additional members were added and a few other band names inspired by random thoughts were considered. You know the drill: You’re having drinks with friends when someone remarks on a news item, like “Margaret Thatcher is dead,” and someone exclaims, “That’s a great name for a band.”

Acquired Taste stuck when a friend remarked that Todd, and his music, were just that. 

Some might say Motley Crew (I know how to spell the heavy metal band’s name) would be a more appropriate name. Members include an engineer who plays guitar and sings, an ophthalmologist guitar player, a therapist female singer, a marketer keyboard player, a corporate trainer who sings and plays guitar, a CPA guitar player, and a retired heart surgeon bassist. 

Acquired Taste brings its loud and fun brand of rock-and-roll to the Roca Bar North patio this Saturday night at 8 p.m. I’ll be there!

Polish the Silver

While I look forward to nearly every aspect of summer — sunny weather, sunnier attitudes, weekly swim meets, baseball, my birthday — summertime also means my Monday lunch schedule clears, and that has me already looking forward to fall. 

Since 2006, at least two Mondays a month from September to May (barring magazine deadline conflicts), I’ve attended lunch meetings of the Social Literary Circle. Founded on Nov. 4, 1901, Social Literary Circle now has 19 members on the roll. Our longest-term current member, Susan Enlow, who joined in 1963, practically grew up in the circle as her mother, too, was a member. Our hand-made annual directory, featuring the circle’s flower, the purple violet, lists 54 members in remembrance.

When I was invited to join the literary circle, by a lovely and gracious member, Virginia “Ginny” Schroeder, I eagerly accepted. Though I was the child who competed every summer for the reading award given by the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library — the Golden Apple — I had never before been a member of a book club.

With more than 100 years of tradition, the Social Literary Club keeps its rules simple. Unlike most book clubs, members do not read and  discuss the same book. Rather, each meeting is organized by a hostess and a program presenter. The hostess hosts the every-other-Monday meeting; the member with the program introduces and discusses the book she has read. Traditionally, members choose non-fiction books of significant historic, cultural, or biographic context.

Each member gives careful thought to the book she’ll present and the menu she’ll serve. The club’s requirements of hosting and presenting are not concurrent. While I sign up to host and present on the same meeting day, other members prefer to keep the duties apart — prepare a book report for one meeting and polish the silver for another.

Summertime Blues

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down at my MacBook to write this week’s “300 Words” entry about the beginning of summer vacation, which began Friday at noon for my oldest son, Maxwell, and will begin Wednesday at noon for my youngest, Jackson — after a field trip yesterday to Lincoln State Park and the school’s Field Day today. I planned to write how thrilled I was to shelve the school morning chaos of searching for clean uniforms and socks until fall. (Even so, it’s really not that different in the summer — we’re searching for goggles and swim jammers.)

I can’t write that story. My thoughts are consumed with the children and adults in Moore, Okla., who were killed in yesterday’s deadly tornado outbreak — children who won’t play in Field Day or look forward to the summer months. For the community of Moore, life this summer, and forever, will be very different. Like Evansville, Moore, Okla., has experienced the pain before.

We remember the unusually warm Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005. Around 1:50 a.m., a tornado touched down two miles north-northwest of Smith Mills in Henderson County, Ky., near the Indiana/Kentucky border, and then crossed the Ohio River into Vanderburgh County, Ind. Staying just south of I-164, the tornado traveled to the northeast causing extensive damage to parts of Evansville, Newburgh, and Boonville. The tornado lifted in Spencer County, 1.5 miles southwest of Gentryville. According to the National Weather Service based in Paducah, Ky., the damage path was at least 400 yards wide and 41 miles long. The tornado’s maximum wind speed was estimated to be 200 mph, making it a high-end F3 on the Fujita scale. It claimed the lives of 25 people; 21 in the Eastbrook Mobile Home Park on Evansville’s Southeast Side, and four in Warrick County.

We remember.

Sam, Alice, and Bill

We sent the May/June 2013 issue of Evansville Living to print last week before I left on a press trip to Arkansas. This week, I returned to Evansville and was met by the new issue, hot off the press. It’s always exciting when the new issue arrives. Yours should be in your mailbox this week; it’s on newsstands now.

“Why are you going to Arkansas?” That’s what I was asked before I left on a five-day tour of Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas. (Our lack of information about Arkansas was met by their unfamiliarity with us. Even journalists on this trip had little knowledge of Evansville. Those who did know of our city were surprised to realize it was on the Ohio River.)

The State of Arkansas and the convention and visitor’s bureaus of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Bentonville, Fayetteville, and Fort Smith are working hard, together, to promote the assets of the capital city and Northwest Arkansas — which now include the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The state promotes its many Clinton destinations as a “Billgrimage,” and certainly the privately-funded presidential library is the first stop.

Up the highway in Bentonville, Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton bristles when asked the cost of her investment in Crystal Bridges. “You don’t ask what a gift costs,” is her stock reply, according to the guides we met. The museum, opened on Nov. 11, 2011, attracted 600,000 visitors its first year — more than doubling projections. What also is known is that in 2005 Walton purchased Kindred Spirits, by Asher B. Durand as the museum’s centerpiece for reportedly $36 million from the New York Public Library.

I’ll write more about Little Rock, Ark., and Bentonville, Ark., in our July/August issue.


Photo by Timothy Hursley, courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark.

Our Pretty City

I had returned from Europe just a few hours earlier. While driving, my husband inquired, “So how are you doing, honey?” “Good,” I replied. “I’m happy to be home to my family and my pretty city.” A look of mock horror crossed Todd’s face. Did he not believe he and our sons were missed? Then it was clear. “You’ve just been through Holland, Belgium, and France,” he said. “Yes, and I am happy to be home to you guys and our pretty city.”

During my 13-day adventure, when spring was just budding in Holland and Belgium and had advanced only a bit further in Paris, a verdant green landscape arose from the chill in Southwestern Indiana. I was greeted with a stunningly beautiful spring. “Pretty enough,” I thought, “to inspire Monet,” the French impressionist still on my mind from various Paris museum visits just a few days earlier.

Of course, the Ohio Valley landscape has long inspired great art. Just three weekends ago, 200 artists gathered in New Harmony for the First Brush of Spring Plein Air Paint Out.

Returning from the European landscape caused me to look at our city with fresh eyes. Our area largely was populated by Western European immigrants who settled here because the countryside was more similar than dissimilar to their homelands. Here, they established many of the European gardening traditions that we enjoy all seasons, and especially in spring. 

As I walked my dog Jed in the Evansville State Hospital park near my house, being happy to be home was still at the top of my mind. How fortunate am I to have a 65-acre park to enjoy across the street from my house? But … if only it were preserved, developed, and maintained to the European standards of parks I had just visited.


(The editor has broken the rule of her blog; please forgive this entry of slightly more than 300 Words.)

Paris in Three Days and a Few Hundred Words
I arrived at Paris Gare du Nord train station on a Sunday afternoon. I got on the right Metro line to the hotel, La Manufacture, I had secured in the 13th arrondissement.  By 5 p.m., Deanna (my husband’s cousin’s wife, an American Airlines international flight attendant) and I were ready to begin our tour of Paris. We left the hotel light on our feet; our pockets stuffed with Metro tickets. With a laminated map of Paris, we were ready to walk at least 15 miles each day and to keep straight which side of the River Seine we were on.

Sunday Afternoon
My first day in Paris was the prettiest day of the year, so we walked up to Montmartre, a hill on the north side of Paris and home of the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur and the famous art district, Place du Tertre. From this stunning view, all of Paris was laid out before us.

Next, we strolled the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to see the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. We walked through the gardens of the Tuileries to the Louvre, where I stood in awe of its scale and beauty.

We finished our evening tour at Notre Dame, the French Gothic cathedral celebrating 850 years! Across the street, we dined at Brasserie de L'Isle Saint-Louis on buttery omelettes, pommes frites, and French red wine.

Out the door by 9:30 a.m., our first tour was to see the Eiffel Tower from the vantage point of the Trocadero and the Palais de Chaillot, as well as to walk along the Champs de Mars.

In Les Invalides at the Musee de l’Armee (our Paris Museum Pass provided featured no-wait access), we saw Napoleon Bonaparte’s monumental tomb.

We approached the Louvre with ease — clearly we could not do it all.  Standouts for me were: Mona Lisa, Aphrodite (known as the “Venus de Milo,”) and the Napoleon III Apartments.

After lunch of sandwiches in the Tuileries, we visited the Musee de l’Orangerie, home to Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and works by many of my favorite artists: Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.

Strolling Rue du Bac, we found Deyrolle, a most unusual shop. Dating to 131, the first floor of Deyrolle is a very nice garden shop. Upstairs patrons find an astonishing mélange of curiosities: preserved insects, fossils, science books and posters, and a vast assortment of taxidermy animals, both large and small.

We visited grocery stories – the destination La Grand Epicerie at Le Bon Marche and the more common, Moniprix, where just 89 euro cents bought my favorite mustard, Amora. Dinner was near our hotel in the popular Latin Quarter on Rue Mouffetard at a brasserie called Mouff’tot Mouff’tard.

We were out the door by 9:30 a.m. Our first stop was the Musee D’Orsay, designed in a historic train station and displaying art from 1848 to 1914, including Monet, Renoir, Manet, Seurat, Van Gogh, and Degas. 

We toured Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris”), which today continues to serve as the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Paris. Under the flying buttresses of the ancient cathedral, we enjoyed sandwiches and free Wi-Fi in the adjacent park.

After lunch, we walked in Le Marais to Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris, where locals took their lunch breaks in the sun.

Realizing the day was waning (“We need just one more day!”), we took the Metro to Pere Lachaise Cemetery to see, specifically, where The Doors’ Jim Morrison was laid to rest.  Before we could make our way to plot No. 30, stern-faced attendants shooed us from the cemetery — it was 5:45 p.m. and closing time was 6 p.m.  We would not be allowed to pay our respects to James Douglas "Jim" Morrison (Dec. 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) — at least on this visit.  (“If we only had one more day!”)

Though the Centre Georges Pompidou, located near the Les Halles is closed on Tuesdays, still it must be viewed. With its infrastructure visible on the exterior of the building, the Pompidou houses a vast public library and a vast public library, and the Musée National d'Art Moderne.

Deanna recalled a nice dinner she had enjoyed several years ago at Camille and we easily located it in Le Marais. We dined on the crowded sidewalk; on my right, patrons sampled escargot. To my left, a French family, with its dog under the table, dined on white asparagus nearly as thick as my forearm.

The next morning we took a shuttle from our hotel to Charles de Gaulle airport. Though we had indulged the day before on Ladurre macaroons (we stopped at the store on Rue Bonaparte), I was delighted to find Ladurre in the airport — and that was my last stop.


I am on a high-speed train to Paris. Just a few hours ago, in Amsterdam, I disembarked Luftner Cruises’ Amadeus Elegant river cruiser, seeing off my shipmates who joined Lifestyle Tours’ “Tulip River Cruise.”

I'm excited about visiting Paris with my husband's cousin's wife, Deanna. What a surprise — the cousins used our Paris vacation as an opportunity to get together, as well. As the landscapes change from canals, polders, dykes, and windmills to gently rolling fields and forests, I will share a few of the highlights of my eight-day river cruise.

The group from Evansville included my stepparents and stepsister and her husband — very much a treat for me. For readers who did not know I had stepsisters, this is a benefit of my stepfather remarrying a wonderful woman (a widow) who, like my stepfather, had three daughters.

The Dutch have a saying: God created the earth, but the Dutch created Holland. This refers to the Dutch’s eight-century history of harnessing the water and taming their below sea-level land. Viewed from the water, I was fascinated by these efforts.

At Kinderdijk, Netherlands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 19 working windmills dating to the mid 18th century can be toured. They are occupied by individuals or families who apply to live in the windmills and care for them. Applicants must be certified millers. There is a 19-year wait.

Each city and town in Holland and Belgium was as pretty as the last. Bruges, Belgium, certainly must be considered among the world's most beautiful cities, largely untouched by the bombs of war.

On April 30, crown prince Willem-Alexander will be installed during an investiture. His mother, Queen Beatrix, will abdicate the throne. The entire country will take the day off to celebrate.

Next week, “300 Words” will return stateside.

The Kitchen Garden

If there’s a cure for jet lag, it is strolling the grounds of the world’s largest flower garden. Keukenhof, or “Kitchen Garden,” also is known as the Garden of Europe. I spent the first morning of my “Tulip River Cruise” walking about the impeccable Keukenhof, located about 45 minutes from Amsterdam, Netherlands, in Lisse. More than seven million bulbs are planted annually in the park, which also features the most current and creative garden and landscape designs.

Acres upon acres (the property is 32 hectares in size) are planted with spring bulbs, and the astonishing beauty extends to Keukenhof's four pavilions, where more than 30 flower shows are produced annually. More than 600 growers present their most prized flowers, and leading floral designers create shows of stunning beauty and size.

In the Oranje Nassau Pavilion, the show changes weekly; I saw roses. In the Willem Alexander Pavilion, more than 100,000 tulips in the most exotic varieties were displayed. The Beatrix Pavilion presented an astonishing orchid show.

The Amadeus Elegant now is docked in Arnhem, Netherlands, a city just a bit larger than Evansville largely destroyed in World War II that is now nicely rebuilt. The cruise will continue through the Netherlands and into Belgium later this week, before returning to Amsterdam, at which point I will travel to Paris by train. I'll post “300 Words” next week from the City of Lights.

I'll owe you a few words - my word count this week is slightly light.

Through the Tulips

Tulips are finally blooming. I won’t complain about their late show. Saturday I will fly to Amsterdam, where I’ll board the MS Amadeus Elegant for a “Tulip River Cruise” through the Netherlands and Belgium.  After eight days cruising the Rhine and Danube rivers, I’ll take a train from Amsterdam to Paris, where I’ll spend three days.

Todd and I traveled to Amsterdam six years ago. We fell in love with the city of canals. Since I was a child, I have loved tulips and Dutch culture. At age 6, I sang and danced “I Am a Pretty Little Dutch Girl” on the televised Bill Riley Talent Show in Des Moines, Iowa. Please don’t gag or judge – I was only 6 and had a mother interested in performance. (I left the studio with Archway cookies as a prize.)

On the tulip river cruise, I am traveling with a group from Evansville’s Lifestyle Tours, including my stepparents. When I depart the river cruise for Paris, I’ll meet my husband’s cousin’s wife, Deanna, an American Airlines international flight attendant, an excellent guide for my first trip to Paris.

Learning of this trip, people naturally ask, “Are Todd and your boys going?” – after all, we do travel together as a family and for business. But tulips bloom in April, the same time Bronco League baseball begins; and it’s not recommended to take a high school freshman out of school. 

While I enjoy traveling with my family, I hope my trip encourages their spirit to embrace opportunities. I plan to post a “300 Words” entry shipboard next week, and, of course, you’ll read more about it later in Evansville Living. And while I’m gone, I know my family will make it just fine. But feel free to check in on them for me.

Math at the Beach

On April 1, I celebrated 24 years of marriage to my husband. Married on April Fool’s Day, I’ve been married half my life. How fast the years fly was on my mind when we spent spring break in Seaside, Fla.

Todd and I first visited Seaside soon after we married while vacationing with friends nearby in Panama City. Other than for a triathlon Todd competed in, we’ve never again returned to Panama City, choosing instead Seaside.

Seaside is the 80-acre vision of Robert Davis, who laid down the plat for the town in 1981. Davis, his wife, and architectural partners traveled the south studying small towns to create an old-fashioned beach town with a social and cultural atmosphere. Every house in Seaside is colorful and different, ranging in style from Victorian, Neoclassical, Modern, Postmodern, and Deconstructivism.

While we have stayed in many types of homes in Seaside, this year we returned to a special place with our sons that we first stayed in 20 years ago, The Mathematician, a residence in the earliest community building there. Designed by architect Steven Holl, The Mathematician features a tower and rooftop terrace overlooking a green that collects vacationing kids’ beach bikes (kids really can roam free in Seaside, like we did when we were kids), the famed 30A beach highway, and the emerald Gulf linked to the foliage-lined streets by nine beach pavilions. 

Folks who don’t “get” Seaside, thinking perhaps it is a resort, not a town, might not understand how cottages like The Truman House (featured with the town in the 1998 movie, “The Truman Show”), modern buildings like The Mathematician, and retro Airstream food trucks  work together. They do. 

Last year, Seaside was named Travel & Leisure’s Best Beach for the Family in its first Best Beaches on Earth poll.

New Boston and Boscoe

I know Southwestern Indiana pretty well. There aren’t too many parts I have not explored, growing up here, and now publishing city magazines about all corners of the Tri-State.

Last weekend, friends invited us to their rural Spencer County home (near Newtonville, between Santa Claus and Grandview). Because the kids didn’t go, my husband’s drums could come along — but that’s a different blog entry. The occasion of the invite — besides good company, making music, and Sunday morning breakfast — was to see Daniel “Boscoe” France play in Ferdinand. Evansville Living featured France in the November/December 2012 issue, and I’d not yet seen the blues guitarist from Madisonville, Ky., play.

But before Boscoe, we made a stop in New Boston for dinner. I’d never heard of New Boston or the New Boston Tavern. Right after we walked into the crowded, worn roadhouse, I heard a pleasant, “Kristen, Kristen” — Evansville friends with a home in Christmas Lake Village had come for mass at St. John Chrysostom Catholic Church and for dinner at the New Boston Tavern. Our table enjoyed prime rib, steak, salmon, German fries, and green beans. Year-round, it’s all grilled outside behind the tavern.

Then it was on to Ferdinand American Legion Post No. 124 for the Boscoe France Band. Next to a large American flag hung by the stage, France, drummer Jimmy Cummings, and bass guitarist John Gillespie quickly warmed up the house — patrons who were there for the band, and the kick-off and lineup announcement for this summer’s Ferdinand Folk Festival.

France was better than billed. He played his Gibson guitar to the enthusiastic crowd with his incredible and unconventional slide skills, behind his back, over his head, with bare feet, head thrown back and eyes rolled – and then with his teeth.

The fourth annual Ferdinand Folk Festival will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Ferdinand’s 18th Street Park. The event is family-friendly, will feature activities for all ages, and is free to attend. For additional information on the Ferdinand Folk Festival, visit


Over the weekend, my husband was away on a press trip to Rosemary Beach, Fla. I’ve taken plenty of these nice trips; this time, it was Todd’s turn to join journalists in the Florida Panhandle.

Organizing the schedules of our two boys, 14 ½ and 11 ½, is hard enough for two; take one parent of out of the mix, and we get barely ordered chaos. The boys are in different schools, so that means two trips in the morning (picking up neighbor kids, too, on the second school run). If neither son forgot anything (gym clothes, swim bag), that might be it for the morning. After-school coordination requires texts be sent to parents of swimmers to inquire who can take and pick up; it would be impossible to have a set weekly carpool schedule.

Raising an 11-month old puppy, Jed, adds to the coordination. If he doesn’t go to Doggie Day Care (I state that without the least bit of embarrassment — it’s such a great idea), he needs to be let out and checked on during the day. He saves his best behavior for when one of us is gone. This time, Jed chewed up a prescription medicine bottle that we did not know he could get to. I learned that to make a dog throw up you pour hydrogen peroxide in his mouth — a foamy mess. (He is fine, and we think his teeth are whiter.)

When the traveling parent returns, the family always is happy to share a collective “Whew.” It really does take a village it seems to run a household. Small presents and mementos come home with the returning parent: t-shirts, shells — or a wall plaque with a special message that reminds us just how hard and rewarding the parenting job is.

Candy Stripes, Cody, and Calbert

“I was so close to Cody I could smell his sweat.”

That’s what my son Jackson said after watching sophomore Cody Zeller and the No.1 Indiana University men’s basketball team warm up on the hardwood Saturday night before they won against Iowa, 73-60.

Thoughtful friends with tickets sent us driving up Interstate 69 to Bloomington, Ind. Neither of our children had been to Assembly Hall. After eating at the Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse, we arrived early at the hallowed home of the Hoosiers.

My boys were beside themselves with excitement. 

The IU floor was covered in cream, crimson, and candy stripes. A great many fans in the sold-out crowd of 17,474 were wearing candy stripes, too.

I was thrilled to see Calbert Cheaney, IU basketball’s director of operations and a former Harrison High School player, who was featured along with Harrison teammate Walter McCarty on our second magazine cover in May/June 2002. (Both played for the Boston Celtics.) Cheaney was honored Saturday for breaking the Big 10 scoring record playing at IU 20 years ago, a record he holds still today.

We saw Christian Watford, the senior from Birmingham, Ala. (whose buzzer-beating three-pointer felled then-No.1 University of Kentucky in December 2011) on his knees praying with his father Ernest before tipoff.  Watford’s epic shot was played on the scoreboard during the pre-tip festivities.

As I write, IU still is No.1 and the memories of Saturday’s game will be long in our minds. Zeller, whom we featured in March/April 2012 along with his ball-playing brothers, scored 22 points and had 10 rebounds in the win. Sunday morning, eager to catch SportsCenter’s report, we spotted ourselves in their game coverage. Our kids are absent from the shot. They had run to the restroom to change into their new IU apparel.


Last Friday morning, I sat in Mass with Jackson, my youngest, a fifth grader. This Mass was not the normal weekday school Mass. The church was filled with uniformed students with their parents or their classes who were there for the funeral Mass of beloved third grade teacher, Katie (Catherine Marie) Schwenk.

Miss Schwenk taught both my children at Holy Rosary Catholic School. A former sister of St. Benedict, she was a loving and attentive teacher in the Evansville Diocese for more than 40 years. At her funeral, Fr. Bernie Etienne said, “I really did think I was special around her — until this week, when I’ve had so many conversations with you all, and I look around here and realize Katie Schwenk made you all feel special.”

As I have been thinking about Katie, I’ve thought about the qualities teachers – especially teachers of young children – possess. My husband and I both are kids of school teachers. Through the years, we’ve discussed our own experiences with teacher traits when talking about our mothers. Usually, it’s with warm humor.

I grew up thinking most households required popsicles be “checked out” from the freezer – not that they would be returned, but so they could be accounted for.

And don’t all school teachers make buttons? Where else can a son-in-law get a #1 Syracuse Fan button made (for the Kentucky vs. Syracuse, April 1, 1996, NCAA Championship)?

My husband’s family lived in a holiday world, but not the theme park: Their home was decked floor to ceiling in seasonal holiday décor, strengthening our observations about teachers and holidays.

Though I offer humor relating to growing up in teachers’ households (teachers do live in houses, not schools) perhaps it is appropriate to think about and thank, if possible, your teachers today.

Photo courtesy of Holy Rosary. Katie Schwenk celebrates Field Day with Claire Talbert and Allison Compton.

Prizing Pools

This was to be a two-pool weekend. Our youngest son Jackson was entered with his team, the Newburgh Sea Creatures, in a meet in Louisville. Maxwell planned to stay home with his Reitz Memorial High School swim teammates in the SIAC boys sectional meet, held Saturday at the beautiful Castle High School Natatorium.

A short-lived illness kept Jackson home from Louisville, enabling the family to attend the high school boys swim sectional at CHS. It was incredibly exciting; Memorial narrowly edged out Castle with a win in the final event, the 400 Freestyle Relay – a dogfight between the teams’ anchors.

While I was glad to have seen the sectional meet, I had been looking forward to the competition in Louisville. I knew the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center was located in the Crescent Hill Reservoir Park and was the winter home to the Louisville Seahawks Swim Team.  In July, our boys swim in the team’s summer invitational held at the Lakeside Swim Club, a private – but more like community – swim and recreation club built into a quarry in a Louisville’s charming, historic Belknap neighborhood.

It’s interesting to me that the Mary T. Meagher (now 48, she was an Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder from Louisville) Aquatic Center was built in a park with a historic reservoir.

With our plans to attend the Louisville meet altered, I turned to the web to learn more about the aquatic center, where I found this comment, among others expressing pride:

“As a lifelong swimmer, this place just makes my chest swell with pride. Louisville is a very good swimming town with more than one option for first-rate facilities. This is merely the best public swimming facility in this part of America (for) 50-meter pool, swim lessons, masters.”

I believe Louisville prizes its pools.

Stealing Away for Orchids

I stole away to the tropics of the West Side for lunch today. Orchid Escape opened this weekend and runs through March 16 at Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden’s Amazonia: Forest of Riches.

The foliage of Amazonia is impressive any time of year; it’s a lovely place to spend your lunch hour in the dead of winter. Now, with the hundreds of orchids artfully mounted amid the staghorn ferns and other tropical plants, the effect is intoxicating.

I have an orchid – a white phalaenopsis on my desk – given to me by Michael Simon, executive vice president of his family’s business, Publisher’s Press, which has long printed our magazines, to mark our company’s 10th anniversary. Orchid lore suggests my type of plant thrives by adding to its pot just three ice cubes a week. That’s what I do, and it is nearly in continuous bloom.

The availability of orchids has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and today they are broadly available as houseplants. My mother carried orchids in her wedding – an exotic gift from her college friend whose family raised tropical flowers in Hawaii.

My intrigue with orchids grew with Susan Orlean’s, “The Orchid Thief” (which I listened to on audio book), based on her 1995 story in The New Yorker about the investigation of the 1994 arrest of John Laroche and a group of Seminoles in South Florida for poaching rare Ghost Orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The 2002 movie Adaptation was based on Orlean’s book. Though the film is billed as an “adaptation” of The Orchid Thief, its narrative focuses on the screenwriter’s difficulty in adapting the book to film. Most folks I know who saw it were confused.

Take a break from winter and enjoy a tropical respite at Orchid Escape.

My Mom

Five years ago, on Jan. 31, we buried my mother, Mary Gladys Midgorden Reeder Carter. She was 74. My mother’s death made me, and my two younger sisters, “adult orphans” – a term used today to describe adult children whose parents are dead. My father died when I was 14, at the age of 44.

My mom taught in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. for 30 years – first at Wheeler Elementary School, now closed and demolished, and then at Caze Elementary, which I attended through sixth grade. When friends and relatives speak of my mother, it is almost always about her easy laugh and good sense of humor.

My family moved to Evansville, my dad’s hometown, in 1970, to settle down from the nomadic life of his career as a high school girls basketball coach. My parents had met in 1951 at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. (My dad followed his best friend and W. Florida Street neighbor to college in Lamoni.) My mother worked in a travel agency, department stores, and taught school as they embarked on marriage chasing coaching jobs in small communities across the state. The Iowa communities – mostly small towns not unlike we have in Indiana – where I recall they lived are Osceola, Lamoni, Des Moines, Patricia Park, Winterset, Indianola, Pleasantville, Emmetsburg, New Virginia, Baxter, and Melcher.

Somewhere in the mix, they worked in more than a year in Independence, Mo., and also moved to Montana. Under the big sky, my parents lived near Flathead Lake, and my mother taught school on the Flathead Indian Reservation. They returned to Iowa after learning I would soon be born.

It can be sad to be an adult orphan, yet I’m thankful for healthy stepparents and in-laws – and the opportunity to share a bit of history.

Let’s Make it Through February

Moving toward spring is central in my thoughts, just as it is this time every year. Once the holidays are behind us and we have celebrated the New Year, I count the days till spring. Thank heavens February is short (it won’t have 29 days again until 2015), because a consistent thought this time of year is:  “If we can just make it through February, we’ll have more and more nice days.”

Of course I realize our climate here in Southern Indiana is actually quite temperate compared to most of our state and the greater Midwest. Still, I’m not a fan of cold weather, snow, or ice.

As January comes to a close this week, I’m reminded of this photo, a clipping from the Evansville Press. It sits framed on a library shelf in our family. Evansville Press photographer Don Goodaker (who also was a longtime friend of my husband’s family) took the picture of me walking our dog, Pearl Bodine, along the levee (now part of the Pigeon Creek Greenway), in Downtown Evansville on a nice day in February. Though I didn’t mark the clipping, I believe the year was 1991.  Evansville still had an afternoon newspaper and we lived in the Riverside Historic District with the dog and two cats.

We still have two cats and a dog and I still walk the dog. Like the golden retriever mix Pearl in clipping, Jed, our 10-month old puppy, pretty much walks me, tugging me and lunging at squirrels and birds. (Pearl failed obedience training for posterior sniffing her classmates; I have yet to enroll Jed.)

I’m eager for a few warm dog-walking February days.  It looks like the forecast for this week and early February is in my favor.  And Groundhog Day is predicted to be partly cloudy.

His Lordship Slept Here

I arrived late to the conversation about “Downton Abbey,” the British series on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater.” I missed the first two seasons. However, I’ve seen all three episodes this season and read about the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, most recently in the December 2012 issue of “Vanity Fair.”

Settling in to watch this season’s first episode, I was struck by the views of “Downton Abbey.” It recalled Harlaxton Manor, the University of Evansville’s British campus, located near Grantham, England. Then, I heard the show’s patriarch character addressed as “Lord Grantham.” As viewers know, the story is about the family of Robert Crawley, Seventh Earl of Grantham. Though I’ve never heard of any connection between Harlaxton Manor and Downton Abbey, I was curious to explore, especially as I visited Harlaxton Manor with my husband in 2005 to write a story for Evansville Living, “College in a Castle.”

The exterior views of Downton Abbey are of Highclere Castle in the county of Hampshire. Highclere was designed in the 1830s by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Palace of Westminster. Both have a sand-colored stone exterior and Gothic Revival turrets.

Harlaxton Manor is in Lincolnshire and was built by Gregory Gregory from 1837 to 1845 in Jacobean, Elizabethan, and Baroque styles. The University of Evansville began using the property in 1971 as its British campus, though it was owned by William Ridgway, a trustee of the university, until 1986. Since then, the University of Evansville has actively renovated and restored the manor.

Earl of Grantham was a title created in 1698 in the Peerage of England. (Fellowes uses the title fictitiously.) The title is now extinct. Though there are no direct connections, I enjoyed this bit of research and recalling the vision of the only manor house I’ve visited, Harlaxton Manor.

Music and Magazines

Over the weekend, I traveled to the City & Regional Magazine Association Publisher’s Roundtable in Cancun, Mexico. Evansville Living has been a member of CRMA since our inception, and publisher’s roundtable meetings have taken me or my husband Todd to many destinations, most often held in the city of a member magazine: Miami, Chicago, White Plains, N.Y., Palm Springs, Calif., Palm Beach, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn., are a few of the nice locales we’ve visited for the meeting. Though there was no host magazine in Cancun, the 25 publishers who attended made the most a sliver of time between deadlines at a location that proved to be extremely accommodating and even economical.

Todd is on the board of directors for CRMA. At the roundtable, limited to publishers (unlike the conference where employees of member magazines are encouraged to attend), Todd typically attends the meetings and I join in for the group social and networking opportunities. (I more fully participate in the conferences, where editorial and art tracks are held.) Through the years, we’ve made great friendships with these resilient publishers. We share information liberally (we generally don’t compete with one another), discussing best practices, printing contracts, circulation fulfillment, and revenue streams.

We have a lot of fun. Paul Byrne, publisher of Okanagan Life, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, never shows up without his guitar. At our farewell party, a wonderful Mexican buffet with a mariachi band, Paul played and sang songs he composed for his play, “Ink! The Musical,” which debuted in his market in 2006 and tells Byrne’s not-too-far-from-true accounts of Memphis and other CRMA magazines. Plans, I’m told, are forming for a CRMA band at the conference in Atlanta this spring. My husband’s drums fit in our car top carrier. Music and magazines unite publishers across North America.


I met Sam Featherstone a few days before Christmas. For more than a year, I carried in my briefcase a small book of my family history written by my great-grandmother. My intentions were to drop it by a printer, a friend, to be reprinted for gifts for my sisters and stepfather.  Finally, just a few days before Christmas, I ran into his shop without an appointment with my late request. I was met by the printer, Bob, and introduced to a family – Andy, Tammy, Susan, and Sam Featherstone – gathered around a computer proofing a book.

A few days later, my family history book was delivered to my office. Two days after Christmas, our family volunteered at SamStrong: Search for the Cure. My husband and our employees were very involved helping to market and promote the event the 19-year-old Reitz Memorial High School 2012 co-valedictorian with incurable medulloblastoma organized to raise awareness and money for pediatric brain cancer research.  Still, I personally had not been involved, nor had I met the Featherstones until that day in Bob’s office.

Not quite a week later, on Jan. 2, Sam passed away. His book, “SamStrong” – the book the family was proofing – is a collection of drawings and poetry he created during his three-year fight with brain cancer. It includes a moving forward by his mother, Tammy. Sam’s speech, delivered at Memorial High School in late November, also is reprinted.  Sam’s event, SamStrong: Search for the Cure, raised more than $200,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research. Also, the Sam Featherstone Memorial Scholarship has been established at The Catholic Foundation of Southwestern Indiana, Inc., for a Memorial High School graduating senior who succeeded in high school while overcoming challenges. Sam Featherstone’s light will long shine on our close community. I am grateful to have met him.

Fare for Turn of the Year

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays have been enjoyable; certainly they have been white. My boys say the city looks like a wonderland.

I’m considering what my family will eat tonight and tomorrow. Food for turn of the year is traditional; we’ll have New Year’s Day bean soup tomorrow. Our family will stay home tonight for a dinner we will prepare together  – something a bit more special.

A long-running subject of family jokes is my recipe collection. (It’s never used, of course.) My collection consists of a few dozen recipe books (a meager number for serious chefs), dog-eared Gourmet magazines (I miss it), and several boxes of family recipes on index cards. My family is wrong, though, about my recipes not being used. For inspiration for tonight’s meal, I’m going to one of my most referenced sources: my college Gourmet Cooking Class textbook, “The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook,” (The Hearst Corporation, 1980).

The best feature of the cookbook is the color picture index. For 24 years, this photo gallery has inspired me for special meals. My family requested beef for dinner tonight and indeed the Pinterest-like depiction of Main Dish/Meat in this cookbook offers plenty of recipes that interest me:

•  Filet Mignon with Mustard Caper Sauce
•  Celery-Stuffed Flank Steak
•  Braised Steak Caesar-Style
•  Mushroom Sherry Pot Roast
•  Beef Bourguignon
•  Carbonnade of Beef
•  Marinated Porterhouse Steak

As I finish this post, I’m not sure what we will serve; I likely will derive final inspiration at the meat counter. Whatever recipe we choose, I’ll garnish with parsley, just as the photos suggest. I brought a handful back over the holiday from a Georgia garden; everything improves with parsley.

I wish you a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve and a great beginning to the New Year.

Gledelig Jul*

Welcome to Evansville Living's editor's blog, 300 Words. I’ve recently been talking to our writers about the efficiency of telling a story in 300 words. That’s what I’ll do with this blog.

My great grandparents, Ole Midgorden and Mary Nelson, were children in 1871 when they left Norway for the U.S. with their families. They were married in Rock County, Minn., and raised their family of 10 children, in Lamoni, Iowa.  The youngest child, Dennis, was my mother’s father.  For my first post I will share the words of mother’s cousin, Dennis R. Midgorden, who recalled in 1995 the Iowa Christmases of the late 1930s:

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the day after with the Midgorden family was really a gay affair, with as many as 50 people gathering all day.  What had appeared to be a large house would seem diminished when the clan gathered for Christmas. When we all got there and shared our experiences, with laughter and thanksgiving, these quiet subdued Norwegians opened up, especially the men who had little to say normally.  This was true in spite of the fact that they did not celebrate by using hard liquor.  My father has been known to say as many as 50 words on a Christmas Day, which was way over his allotment on any given day. While the male members of the family were not given to many words and long conversations, the women more than make up for this lack.  Clara, Nellie, Caroline and the other women were jolly and happy, making up for the quietness of the men. Everyone, as I remember, was very careful not to offend anyone else and there was a real congenial atmosphere at these Christmas gatherings, where love and gracious living shined forth.

*Merry Christmas!