Beloved Star-Spangled Banner

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light…”

196 years ago today…

On September 13, 1814, Attorney Frances Scott Key was aboard a British troopship at Fort McHenry to negotiate the release of an American civilian that had been taken prisoner.  When the bombardment of Fort McHenry began about four miles away, Key was detained on the troopship.  In the early dawn hours of September 14, 1814, Key saw the huge flag still flying over Fort McHenry, and he excitedly began to write the words to the song that is now our nation’s national anthem.  The poem’s original title was “In Defense of Fort McHenry,”  and the anthem we sing is only one of four verses to the entire song.  The last verse is so very special and inspiring, too.

It is also interesting to note that the song Key penned and put to music was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1931.  My parents were ten years old at that time.  Kind of brings it all into perspective for me a little bit more.  We are still a young nation.

The anthem is not an easy song to sing or perform on a wind instrument.  My son is a trumpet player, and he has played the national anthem on several memorable occasions.  One of the most special occasions was at his own high school commencement ceremony, where he stood on stage in the huge arena and belted it out solo.  His classmates and everyone in the audience brought the house down as he finished.  I know they were proud of his performance, but I also know that it was once again a recognition of our fervent pride in our country, too.  He put his heart and soul into it, and it showed.  It was a magic moment.  His mother… well, she couldn’t hold the tears back… didn’t even try.

I am probably in a minority, but I still fight tears every time I sing the national anthem at a public gathering.  I watch the flag going up the pole, and I think about Frances Scott Key looking out over the water to see that fort and that huge flag getting bombarded… and all he could do was watch… and start penning the words to our future national anthem.

Please go see the Star Spangled Banner at it’s beautiful home at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D. C. sometime.  You can’t miss it because it sits just inside the main entrance of the building… totally appropriate.

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Read up on the conservation (not restoration) project, too.  The painstaking detail work done is just incredible.  I was privileged to see the flag and some of the workers during the conservation project in the spring of 2001, and I finally saw the flag in it’s new home in the spring of 2009… memories that I will always treasure.

I think Frances Scott Key would be proud.

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The Rotator Cuff

I now know what a Rotator Cuff is.

I now know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am sad that I now know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am very sad that for the next 8 -12 weeks, I will know just how much it hurts to injure a Rotator Cuff.

I am grateful for ice packs, Advil, Extra-Strength Tylenol, 500 mg Naproxen, X-Rays and a $12 arm sling from Walgreens to treat my injured Rotator Cuff.


No, it was not a good day.  Just ask my poor Rotator Cuff… the right one… the one I fell on in the backyard.


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The Best Listener

“No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does.”
— Christopher Morley


Sometimes I think my standard poodle listens better than any human I know.
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Never Forget

Never Forget 2009

Never Forget 2009

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

— Rudy Guiliani quotes Laurence Binyon (English Poet)
in a NYC ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11

Every year since 9/11/2001, our community has sponsored a large flag display on the grounds of a local elementary school.   Each year, I go with my camera in hand, and it never fails to touch me in a deep way.  I took the photos above last year, and they are still some of my favorites with the sun shining through the flag.  It symbolizes “hope” to me, and hope is something I desperately needed in the fall of 2001.

9/11 touches me deeply, not just because of what happened on that fateful day in our nation, but what was happening to me and my family at that same time.  It was as if bad news was just piling on and would not quit.  Fear almost completely overtook me, and I could not see a way out.  It was, without a doubt, the hardest time I have endured in my lifetime, but it was also a huge life lesson for me in my walk with God.  Our lives changed during that time.  It was a very hard autumn season, though, and one I will never, ever forget.  The words of John 16:33 gave me so much comfort and reassurance during that time, too.

God bless the families and friends of those that perished on this fateful day in 2001.  You are in my thoughts and prayers today, as always on this day of remembrance.  As bad as our issues were at that time, I did not lose a loved one.  My heart truly goes out to you all.

As odd as it may sound, I think this commercial by Budweiser a few years ago kind of hits the nail on the head as far as my feelings about this day.  It was a commercial that was done solely to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims and their families.  No words… just the utmost respect… I cannot watch it without getting teary even still.

Update, September 14:  This is an incredible story that just came out, and I wanted to share it here, too.

Never forget.

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Supremes de Volaille a Blanc

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
Julia Child

Before the French title of this post scares you away, please let me just say that this is a great chicken recipe, and it is quite simple to prepare.  In fact, it is fabulous.  Really.  Please keep reading!

As a brief introduction, I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the Spring of 2009, including Julia Child’s kitchen that was moved there from her home in Massachusetts.  (This is just one of many great displays there, including the Star Spangled Banner.  That is just a “must see,” too!)

Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, 2009
Julia Child quote at the Smithsonian

Truth be told, though, I was afraid of this woman and her cooking.  I was afraid to even attempt any of her recipes.  I’m not exactly sure why, except that my mother never cooked any of her recipes either.  But after seeing this marvelous display at the Smithsonian, reading more about Julia and her cooking, and feeling that I might be missing something by not attempting to cook some recipes by such a beloved national icon, I finally decided to buy her first cookbook.  I am so glad that I did.  My goodness, I wish I had done it a long time ago.

This is now my favorite chicken recipe, compliments of Julia Child… “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc,” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream.”  (Yes, cream!)  The recipe is found in her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and over this past year, the book has become a favorite of mine.  I selected the variation with mushrooms, the “Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons,” or “Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream,” and I also added a few tiny carrots as well, with those being just a personal preference.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I have prepared this recipe so often that my book pretty much opens to this page now on its’ own… page 268.  I no longer worry about splatters on the pages because it’s just too late for that.  I guess that is the sign of a good cookbook.

Julia Child’s “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream”

What stands out for me in this recipe is the ease of preparation, the perfect moistness and tenderness of the chicken, and the unbelievable flavor of the sauce.  It is just a little piece of “heaven on earth!”

This recipe is among easiest main dish recipes I have ever cooked from scratch.  It is a classic, and I have not cooked it one single time over the past year that my family and friends have not just raved over it.  I think this is also the first recipe that Julia prepared on her cooking show in 1963, but I’m having trouble confirming that right now.

The selection of chicken breasts is very important, so be sure to look for large, good quality boneless and skinless breasts for best results.  I tried this recipe one time with smaller chicken breasts, and it just wasn’t as good.  So, please don’t skimp on the chicken.  I actually buy Tyson brand in the freezer section at our local Sam’s Club because they are consistently the best quality of any I have found in our area.  I also prefer a beaujolais wine for the sauce when I have it on hand, but that’s just me.  Julia states to thoroughly dry the chicken before proceeding with the rest of the steps, and paper towels will suffice for that task.  In fact, I now follow this step when cooking any meat now because I like the end result much better.  I also use a large enameled cast iron dutch oven when cooking this particular recipe, since it transfers from stove top to oven in the same dish.  The cast iron pot also works well for the sauce preparation.

Here is the final product!  Yes, that is two cups of cream in that sauce.  (I doubled the recipe because there would be a battle over the leftovers if I didn’t.)  I swear it is even better the next day, but who can wait that long to eat this amazing dish!

Supremes de Volialle A Blanc, variation with mushrooms and carrots (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

One of the wonderful things about Mastering The Art of French Cooking is simply the way it is written.  A basic recipe is given and variations are then listed immediately afterward, without having to repeat the “core” recipe.  Such is the case with this recipe, too.  There are two more variations that I need to try, but so far, I keep coming back to this one.  I will try the others soon, though, especially the variation with paprika and onions.

I always serve Julia’s Braised Rice with this chicken dish, and that recipe can be found on page 532 of the cookbook.  In fact, I have not used my trusty rice cooker once since I discovered this extremely simple, one-skillet method of preparation.  The rice cooks in the same amount of time as the rice cooker, with only about five minutes of preparation before the cooking time, and it comes out perfectly for me every time in my large, non-stick skillet with a clear, tight-fitting lid.   The final product is a distinctly more flavorful rice with a more pleasing consistency.

The chicken recipe can be found in the cookbook, as well as by searching for it online, and I highly encourage you to add this cookbook to your collection, if you do not already have it. I think you will be glad you did.  I actually ordered my copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking from Amazon and got a great price with free shipping when I added another item that I wanted or for free with an Amazon Prime membership.

Please make this wonderful dish for dinner sometime soon. You will be a hero… or heroine… or just plain loved for your efforts!  😉

“Learn from your mistakes, be fearless and have fun!” Julia gives good advice, doesn’t she?

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Labor Day Weekend

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.”
–Marc Chagall

A little birthday celebration…

a little wine tasting…

a walk down the monthly art trail…

a memorable drive around town…

a good college football game…

a couple of longtime friends visiting from out of town

= a great holiday weekend.

Hope yours was grand, too!


Someone turned the big, bad 5-0.  Thankfully it wasn’t me. Been there, done that.

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Llano Estacado Winery… My heart sang when I tasted their Viviana… 😉

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The first stop on the First Friday Art Trail, the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center.

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Our favorite work of the evening… brilliantly beautiful!

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We ate cowboy peach cobbler and drank cowboy coffee…

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Dirk West’s original cartoon drawings brought back memories!  I miss his humor.

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The gallery area at McPherson Winery was packed with people and great displays!

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Many others were walking the art trail at sunset with us…

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Will Rogers and “Soapsuds,” all wrapped in traditional red for game day on Sunday!

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I just adore Fall.  But then again, it does start with “F.”  🙂  Have a fabulous Fall day today!

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Stormy Day!

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Storm Clouds

Specs: Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Aperture Priority f/5.0, ISO 800, Exposure 1/400, Focal Length 12mm (Tokina)

These were taken just prior to the second round of storms we had yesterday evening. The colors were just magnificent, and I used my Tokina wide angle lens (with hood) to capture as much of it as possible.

I am loving the rain, even though the first round yesterday evening was pretty intense with 70 mph plus winds and hail.  Our roads flash flooded, and I almost had to swim home from running my last errand.  But, I never gripe about rain in this part of the country.  Never.

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