O Christmas Tree – Around The Burg

My last Christmas in New Jersey was momentous. My daughter-in-law and my youngest grandson took me to a Christmas Tree Farm. It was magical in so many ways. That day was cold and cloudy and the back drop of the farm was woods and wooden fences. They raised pigs there. We looked in on the full grown sows and made our way over to a small enclosed area that housed the piglets for everyone to see and take photos of and with.

Of course I stepped right in with my grandson and I grabbed a piglet and cuddled him and oooed and ahhhed in his precious face. He began to wiggle and then squeal so loud I had to put him down.  What fun we had that day.

Now, eight years later, in The Middle, we decided to venture out with our youngest granddaughter to a Christmas Tree Farm in the town of Knob Noster, Missouri.

While the back drop was more open farmland with wooded areas here and there, it was still magical. We were accompanied by the melody of a mule braying. Off we went with a saw in my husbands hand and a metal cart for carrying the tree back to the car.

Well, these trees were pretty but they were the kind that are bush-like. What I mean by that is you cannot see any branches or trunk. Just thick green needles. I was taller than most of them. For the life of me I could not figure out how I was to hang lights and ornaments on the hobbit trees.

I am old fashioned and nostalgic when it comes to Christmas. I love trees that look like I made them. We hang ornaments of all kinds from the years we’ve been a family. A mixture of home-made to old memories to modern eclectic. It comforts me. These hobbit trees just wouldn’t work for me.

Now the magic…. there, in the very last row of hobbit trees, I see it! A six foot scraggly fir-type tree with trunk visible and branches sticking out in every direction. A tree that started out with great posture and then went left then right then up then over as if realizing there was a whole world out there to discover!

A tree with a kindred-spirit to me.

The saw came out, and as our granddaughter watched in wonder, down came the tree and we plopped her on the cart.

As we were pulling her back to the car the tears came. I missed my kids from the east and the times we spent together. Such good memories. And now the new memories with another little one. I smiled through my tears and narrated to our girl  on the art of setting up a tree and decorating.

We belted Lu into her seat and unzipped the back window of The Jeep. Yes, I said Jeep. Wrangler. Soft top. Where does a jeep owner put a tree? I’ll tell you where…. trunk between the front seats and body next to granddaughter and top out the back window, that’s where! Off we went!

At home we sipped on Christmas Milk (aka Egg Nog – don’t tell Lu what the real name is or she will never drink it again) while we hung lights and ornaments accompanied by Christmas songs. 

Here’s to new memories and journeys and traditions! Here’s to not staying stuck in the same old- same old but moving forward while cherishing the past memories that shape us into adventurers.


Cate B

Tell Me A Story

I love stories. I especially love stories told to me by the person who experienced it. I feel I’m invited into a part of them that normally may not come out in a conversation or a moment in their presence.

This happened to me this week. My husband and I went for a drive into the country and decided we would go t0 Lilac Lane Bulk Foods.

I love this store. It is owned and operated by an Amish family. Leonard is the young man you will find in the store most of the time. He is welcoming and friendly and laughs when I tell him something funny.

They have amazing prices on bulk foods from flours to spices and local honey. And when they have fresh baked cinnamon buns, well, let’s just say it’s all I can do not to buy them all and freeze them.

On cloudy days it can be a bit dim inside due to the fact that there are no electric lights. Just windows and I do believe a skylight. A wood burning furnace heats the store in the winter and you can hear the slight sound of a generator powering the small refrigerated section for eggs and cheeses.

This particular day had a sweetness to it. Leonard handed me a flyer to give to a friend of mine who was interested in visiting.

When I read his newsletter I read one of those stories. The warm kind we all have inside of us. A memory, the sweet kind. As I read I pictured vividly bits of his childhood and his home where he is now.

Here is what I read…..

“Have you ever wondered why we chose the name that we did for our store??? Well, when I was a boy, the small farm at Arthur, Illinois where I grew up had lots of old fashioned flowers and shrubs, including pink, lavender and white lilacs They had been there for a long time.

When my family made the move out here to Missouri, 15 years ago, I found it hard to leave the lilacs so I brought 10 cuttings along. Sadly only one survived and it si now doing well at my parent’s place where I planted it.

Five years ago, when visiting the old home place in Illinois, the owner gave me permission to take lilac clippings and so I gladly took 17 of them. This time, much to my surprise, they all survived!!! They are now all in a row bordering the driveway to the store; hence the name “Lilac Lane”….. “


Isn’t it great to hear of his childhood and fondness for the flowers? And even more special was reading how he was able to bring them back and after perseverance bring them to life. A special memory of his childhood and for his children and eventually for theirs.

Everyone has a story. Those precious memories planted deep inside that pop up when a slight breeze blows or a fragrance of something wonderful drifts by. I know you’re thinking of your stories. I am thinking of mine.


cate b


O Christmas Tree

I have a Christmas Tree story.  Many years ago, when the kids were quite young, we lived in a mountain town in California.  The town and outlying neighborhoods rested at about 3500 feet in elevation.  We were in a valley, of sorts, and the higher peaks went up to about 6,000 to 8,000 feet.  They say the elusive California Condor nested up in the higher heights.  I never saw one while we lived there, but a friend of mine did.

Back to the Christmas tree.  A family we knew asked our family to join them in cutting down our Christmas trees.  The man’s parents owned a cabin and land higher up the mountain and we could go up and each get a free Christmas tree – and a very fresh one at that.  Of course we said yes!

Our family piled into our gigantic four-wheel drive, older model, Chevy Blazer and their family into their four wheel drive pick up truck.

It had been snowing in the higher elevations -really snowing.  When we got to the road, that led us to the cabin, the man got out and unchained the gate.  The snow was deep.  We both set our vehicles into four wheel drive and up we went.  Our friends truck slid into a rather deep ditch.  Thankfully, we did not.

We tried pulling them out, etc., but realized he was very stuck and we all piled into our vehicle.  He assured us his dad could help him get the truck out the next day – and they did.

Here we were in a real live Winter Wonderland.  Kids were running around and playing in the snow.  Our friend was putting on some belts and such and wielding a hand saw.  I was wondering which trees do we pick?  All seemed very tall and I couldn’t find those cute ones on ground level.

With those thoughts running through my head I turned, and saw our friend halfway up a very tall pine tree.  He had his belt around the trunk and off he went – much like a phone repair man on a telephone pole.  Boy did he go high!  I had to ask his wife what the heck he was doing!?!  She calmly, and proudly, told me that he does this every year.  He saws the top of the pine off and there you have a beautiful tree.

I was wrapping my mind around that one, when I heard a cry and a tree came tumbling down from the sky.  He then proceeded to climb another tree for ours.  Amazing.  I had no idea that someone actually did that.

Here is a pic (not mine) of one climbing a tree:

Our experience had thicker forested area and branches all the way up.
Our experience had thicker forested area and branches all the way up.

Here is my previous experience, and what I saw in my head – commercial Christmas Tree Farm:

commercial tree farm
commercial tree farm

Well, we strapped the trees on top of our vehicle and loaded two families (total of seven children) into the vehicle and down the mountain we went.  We loved it.

Now, for the best part.  That tree was so fresh, and by fresh it was FULL OF OOZING SAP, that when we placed it into the metal tree stand, well, it flattened the stand.  Totally.  The legs rendered useless.  So, we had to build a stand out of wood, like an X.

We decorated it and kept wiping the sap off of our hands.  It was beautiful and perfect and fresh.

One evening, as we were finishing our dinner, a friend came by, as he often did.  He made himself comfortable on the couch right next to our beautiful, ever so fresh, Christmas tree.

That was when we heard a creeeeeek, and our friend say, “Oh no!”

We looked, and there was Brian, buried under our ever so fresh Christmas tree!  It was so heavy from the sap that it could not stand on it’s own.  I had visions of us going to the lot down the street and buying a not so fresh tree to replace this one.

No worries, we dug out Brian and he went to his truck and screwed an eyelet in the wall and we tied the tree to the wall.  Yes we did!

That experience has left us with a wonderful memory of a Christmas past.

The things we do…….. (not my pic)


Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!


cate b

So Long, Farewell

In two days we will have moved all our worldly goods out of the KCMO area.  It was a great tour of duty. Moving is exciting to me and exhausting.  It also stirs up all kinds of emotions.

Our last five and half years in this location has been very good, yet very hard in some ways.  I think we felt a bit lost at times.  Trying to find that fit.  Seems that most of the organizations we tried to fit into just didn’t fit quite right.  And that is part of life.  And that is okay.  For the most part we saw the “ill-fit” and moved on.  A couple of things we left scratching our heads, a bit bewildered.  But no worries, we picked ourselves up and dusted our selves off and moved on.

Now, we move physically as well.  It will be a very good thing for us and our family.  But leaving from one town to another stirs up some things for me.  When we left the east coast to come to the mid-west we left family, friends, memories of good and hard times.  All that was stirred up in me the other day.  Memories of a great family loss – https://wingedprisms.com/2012/07/22/our-darkest-day/

It’s odd how our minds and hearts get stirred up at times.  I like it, actually.  Even the painful ones.  They are strangely dear to me.  The memories are a part of me.

So, this is a time to reflect, a time to start anew, a time to look for all the opportunities and adventures the good Lord has for us.

the old mid-west
the old mid-west

I will be off the grid until next week when I look forward to telling you of our new adventures.  Have a great week, Dear Readers.


cate b


Root Beer Lake – My Memories of The Jersey Shore

South Jersey, as it is known, has a strange geographical “thing” going on.  Doesn’t that sound professional?  I don’t know what to call it and I really do not care what it is suppose to be termed.  It is a pine forest mostly made up of some kind of pygmy pines and white sand mixed in with dirt and rivers and streams all made of Root Beer Water.

Yes, I said Root Beer Water!  The water is the color of root beer or sassafras tea.  I think the color is from cedar trees – but whatever.  Like I said above, I really am not interested in the science behind it.  This post is MY memories of the shore.  And as through the eyes of a young child – it’s root beer water.  Of course, I do believe my Uncle Runny supported my imagination on that and he probably was the source of that belief.  He even told me that if I drank the water from the faucet of their tiny summer cottage – the water that stained  your sinks brown and smelled and tasted of metal – my hair would curl.  I drank a lot to no avail.  I still had straight hair.  Very disappointed.

The days my mom told us to pack our swim suits and towels because we were going to Lanoka Harbor, well, they were some of the best memories.  My Aunt and Uncle and cousin Paul had a lovely little cottage set among tall skinny trees where the ground was spattered with dirt and fine white sand.  It smelled delicious.

We all crammed into this cottage and slept – who knows where.  We ate on the screened in porch.  We waved to the neighbors.  My Aunt would hand us bowls and tell us to go across the street to pick wild blueberries so she could make a pie.  I hated blueberries then.  But I loved the idea of picking them ourselves so she can make a pie that I never ate.  Love them now and can’t get enough of them.

Later we would hop on bikes (me on the handle bars of cousin Paul’s) and rode fast down to the bay beach.  There was a giant metal swing set in the sand.  Other days – or sometimes in the same day – we took off on bikes in the other direction and swam in the creek.  The creek was the finest and coolest root beer water.  You could see your feet in the sand and schools of little black minnow – type fish swam around you, tickling.  My older brother and Paul swam out to the bridge that ran over the creek and climbed up and jumped in.  They were my heroes.

Uncle Runny liked to go to the boat docks.  I have no idea why, other than to look at the boats and talk to people.  Maybe he had a boat…..  Maybe we went out on  it…… I do not remember that.

Uncle Runny was a very kind man.  He was a very quiet man.  I rarely remember him having long conversations, especially with me.  He had three sons.  I think a little girl was a curious thing to him.  But he was so kind to me.  I remember watching him in the water.  He loved to swim.  He would get out there, even in the ocean, and just swim back and forth.  When he was ready for company, I went out with him and he just smiled and watched me jump over waves and encouraged me to just float over the waves.  Good times.

When I got my driving permit and I drove my mom and younger brother to visit the family at their cottage (thought my mom would have a heart attack when I passed someone) my Uncle Runny had just gotten a new giant cadillac and said to get in and drive him to the boat docks.  It was like driving on air.

I have no pictures of those days.  No pictures of Uncle Runny.  A couple of Aunt Marion (his wife and my mom’s sister) after he passed and she was quite older. But the images never leave my mind.  Very special times.

So, back to Root Beer Water.  Some days we loaded into the car and went to Root Beer Lake.  There are three lakes in the nearby town of Forked River (For-ked River).  I believe they use to be (at least one or two of them) cranberry bogs.  The one we frequented had a sandy beach and a concession stand with colorful awnings.  It was great to swim in root beet water – so cool and refreshing.  This lake had a road under the surface that was higher than the lake bottom where we swam.  It went across the lake and my brother and cousin walked across every time.  Still my heroes.  I tried to go once and had a fear I would fall off the road into deep, deep water.

Those were such good, sweet memories.  I do hope we have made sweet memories for our children.  And now we are making memories with our grandchildren. Life goes on.

Here are some pics from the web I found of the Pine Barrens of South NJ.  Check out the Root Beer Water!

Pine Barrens
Pine Barrens
Things to do in Root Beer Water
Things to do in Root Beer Water
Thirsty for a Root Beer?
Thirsty for a Root Beer?

Thank you for joining me in my memories of childhood at The Jersey Shore!  Take time to make new memories for yourself and your children and grandchildren.  They last forever!


cate b

Water, Water, Everywhere – My Memories of The Jersey Shore

Growing up at The Jersey Shore and being able to swim is a must.  My mother did not swim and she had a fear of the water.  So, she made sure that us kids could swim.

Well, I have memories of early June mornings, cloudy and cold, dressed in our bathing suits with towels and flip flops and getting into the car to go to………for me……… the dreaded swimming lessons.  I loved to be near water.  I wanted to learn to swim.  But it seemed to take me several summers before I actually got the hang of it.  For one thing, I was tall.  I remember going with my beginning swim group into the water and lining up to do a dead-man’s float -in what was almost knee deep to me, the tallest in the class.  I couldn’t do it.  I was cold.  I was self-conscious.  I was embarrassed.  I was told I was stupid after each class that I failed to learn.

Like most things in my life, when the time came to perform a certain task, I did it.  Always under pressure.  But I did it. For example, I took many swimming lessons but rarely swam in the water.  Therefore, people thought I couldn’t swim.  I was painfully shy and never defended myself.  When I had to prove to a Girl Scout Leader that I could swim the width of the pool in order to go across the rope to the deeper end, I did it.  Even after several girls said I couldn’t swim.

When I had to dive headfirst into a pool at summer camp in order to pass my Red Cross Intermediate Course – I did it.  I didn’t even know I could dive.  I haven’t made a dive headfirst into the water since.

After I got over the self consciousness of swimming, or really performing for and in front of others, I became a mermaid.  At least I think so.

Days that we weren’t found on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean you could find us on a small sandy beach tucked among shade trees by a small lake (or large pond) complete with lifeguards, roped swimming areas, wooden dock out far in the water for jumping and diving off. Kepwel Park.

Kepwel Park – a drive down a dirt road behind the Eatontown Mall (at least that is how I remember it).  I loved that place.  It was fresh spring water to swim and play in all day with shade for us Celtic freckled – skinned people.

I just love to swim.  Waves do not scare me too much.  Depth doesn’t scare me unless I stop to think about it.  One summer on the beach, with my then eight year old grandson, I was sunning myself and felt him hovering over my head.  He gently took the hair clip out of my hair and smoothed my hair down my back, and asked, “Uma?”

Me: “Yes Avery?”

Avery: “Are you a Mermaid?”

I smile every time I think of that.  Yes, in some ways I am.  The small, tall child that was so shy and afraid of other’s opinions and afraid of failing is now a Mermaid.  It is so hard to get me out of the water.

I don’t have pictures of the times at Kepwel Park.  The brightly colored umbrellas and blankets and awnings come to mind.  I have great visual memories in my head.  Here is about all I could find online – the old Springhouse.

Kepwel Park
Kepwel Park

In about two weeks I will be at The Jersey Shore once again.  Visiting the grandsons and son and wife and yes, the beach!


cate b


Truck Vendors – My Memories of The Jersey Shore

We had moved to The Jersey Shore in the mid-1950’s.  Our neighborhood was simple ranch houses and barely any trees.  The land use to be an apple orchard – from what I remember.  We had two tiny crab apple trees in the backyard- maybe they were leftovers??

The neighbor across the street and about 3 houses down had a very large apple tree in their front yard.  They would hand out baskets of apples each year to the neighbors.  They were the kindest people.  In the winter the father would attach the snow plow to his truck and do our driveway.

I remember my older brother laying in the living room window with a flashlight and sending morse code to their son.  It just excited me to no end.

One of the fun things that would happen on our street in the summer were the vendors.  We had the year round milk man and the bread man deliveries.  I remember my mom staying up to watch Johnny Carson and grabbing the milk at about one in the morning from the milk box at the back door to prevent it from freezing.

I have early memories of two unique vending trucks.  One was a produce man who drove around the neighborhood with awnings on the back of his truck and a variety of fruit and vegetables to choose from.  This image isn’t the exact truck – but you get the idea.  I think this one is older.

Produce for Sale!
Produce for Sale!

The next guy was quite unique.  We would hear a loud bell ringing and run and tell mom that the knife sharpener was coming!  That was a fascination to me.  I could use one of them now.

Knife Sharpener
Knife Sharpener

The best and the one that lasted the longest was the Ice Cream Man.  We had two brands that came around. Carnival and Good Humor.  We loved the Good Humor truck the best and was disappointed when only the Carnival truck was seen that day.

Carnival Ice Cream
Carnival Ice Cream
Good Humor Ice Cream
Good Humor Ice Cream

I loved the gentle sound of the bells ringing (not like todays annoying “songs” playing over and over).  I loved the change thingy on his belt.  And I loved the sky blue popsicles and the lime ones!

Seems we never had to go anywhere to get treats.  Right to your door.

There were two things we did not like coming to our door or down our street.  One was the local farmer’s bull that seemed to get out now and then and pick our street to take a stroll.  I remember – not sure it really happened this way – but in my active mind I remember standing at the screen door with my brother and watching the bull coming down the street.  My brother was holding a box of Sugar Pops Cereal and began to shake it.  The bull turned and started to come toward our door only to be thwarted by our mom who promptly slammed the door shut.  Shortly after that the farmer was seen escorting his bull back up the street and home to greener pastures.

The second and most dreaded truck to be heard coming was the Mosquito Killing Truck!  No warning.  Just a sound of a motor and our mom yelling, “SHUT THE WINDOWS!  SHUT THE WINDOWS AND GET IN THE HOUSE!”


I can remember a cousin of mine – when we visited his family’s summer home – riding his bike behind the truck and getting covered with that stuff.  He is still alive today, thank goodness.  They no long do this type of spraying, I believe.  Where we last lived at the shore they would spray the storm drains and that did the trick.

Memories of simpler times and neighbors coming out their houses, saying hello, and catching up with the latest family news or gossip.  I have good neighbors now but no one talks to each other.  Just a wave and a hello and we all go our separate ways.  I do know that if I needed them or they needed me we would help each other.  At least that much still exists.


cate b



Road Trip!

Two weeks ago my husband and I plopped ourselves in the back seat of our son’s car.  Road Trip!  We were heading to the east coast, a two day drive.  We were greeted with, “Are you ready?  Let’s go!”, spoken by our lovely two year old grand daughter, Lucy.  She was so excited.  Of course she was not fully aware of what exactly we were doing, but the excitement of Papa and Mammy coming too was delightful.

We left at night so she would sleep.  It worked well.  As daylight dawned this is what I saw sitting next to me:

IMG_3368IMG_3369She will get even when she hits about thirteen.




After cleaning up the throw up in the car – contained in her car seat, thank goodness, we were on our way for day two of driving.

I have to say this child was a trooper.  She was excellent in the car and she loved Cracker Barrel –




My husband and I usually go to the east coast about once a year to visit our son and family.  We were just there in October, but when our youngest son suggested we come along with him and his wife and daughter we couldn’t resist.

This particular area of the eastern seaboard is where we spent over twenty years.  That is the longest we have lived as a family.  I was born and raised in New Jersey and the Jersey shore is familiar to me.  I love it.  Living there, however, was harder than visiting.  It is a tourist county all summer long for Philadelphia, New York, Quebec, etc.  I loved being a tourist and this was the first time my son’s wife was there to see where her husband grew up and to meet the rest of the immediate family.  Same with Lucy.

But on a particular day walking “The Promenade” along the beach (it’s equivalent to a boardwalk but paved, no boards – they washed away years ago in a storm and replaced with pavement) I broke down when my son asked if I was enjoying myself.  Truth was – I was enjoying myself.  So much that I didn’t want to go home to the mid-west.  I’m old enough to know this was a passing emotional moment.  I knew the difference in being a tourist and a local.  It’s just that I miss the familiar so much sometimes.  And the most part of that is my family there.

I’ve only been in the mid west a little over four years (see my blog entitled Cate, Plain and Tall).  I really do like it here and as in any form of culture shock I am finding my new familiars.  Let’s face it, there is no beach or ocean here or really good pizza.  So I am adjusting.  I have new loves.

So after that little meltdown I moved forward.  The time with our family was fantastic and aw old friends as well.  Then came the day to pile back into the backseat of the car……… with little miss Lu.  She is one of the loves of my life and can do practically no wrong……. but waking up in a moving vehicle and seeing large blue eyes staring at your face can be quite unnerving.  Shiver.  She was delightful and I forgive her for throwing various items into my face from time to time.  No blood, I’m OK.

When we would settle into a hotel on the halfway points she would pace while us adults fell asleep.  It was lovely to find her in between Papa and I sound asleep.

Such sweetness to being a grand parent.  Lucy fell in love with her much older boy cousins and her aunt and uncle.  Such memories to treasure.

I would jump back in the car in a heart beat to travel again with these kids – well, give me a week to stretch out.

Here are a few pics to bore – I mean share with you 😉


IMG_3386Her is her first beach experience – not liking

the sand in her toes.

On right – it got a little better.

Oh, and here is where I got stuck on the beach.  Yes, stuck.  I couldn’t get the stroller through the deep sand and over the sand dune.  I couldn’t carry her – that would have been much like carrying a large tree in deep snow and I’m way to old for that!  I actually called her dad to carry her over the dune and then walked her home the two blocks!  And for the record, he did agree how hard it was!




IMG_3394Cousin snuggles.



















IMG_3471And finally, on the last day, success!  The sand was good.










Enjoy!  Make memories!

cate b

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