Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Throwback Thursday: Horses in the Desert

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Hello, friends. Allow me to introduce you to Royal Blaze, my scrappy and rotten Appaloosa filly. Blaze for short.

Mom and Dad surprised me, the lover of all things horses, with a four-month-old filly when we lived in southern Arizona between Huachuca City and Tombstone. Talk about hard to wait! I couldn’t ride her for quite some time. We had friends nearby with horse breaking experience, so they had Blaze for about a month. And poof, she came back and we started riding together. Not to say that we didn’t have moments of extreme excitement when we miscommunicated or she decided to make her own choices, but for the most part, we enjoyed our time together.

In this picture, probably taken between 1976-1977, I am in 8th or 9th grade. We lived, literally, in the middle of nowhere. The closest “town” was Vernon. I think that was a six mile drive, but I’m not positive. Vernon had a gas station/mini mart, post office, and maybe one church. Dad worked in Show Low to the west and we took the a little bus over a pass to the east to Springerville/Eager. Our bus driver lived right in Vernon. The bus stayed at her house. I have no idea what she did during the day while we were at school. But we all lived for snow storms and school announcements calling all Vernon kids to leave early to get over the pass.

You can see the mountain lion tree. That huge scrubby tree to the right. Our collie, Jody (Princess Josephine-hey, we had royal animals in our family), went ballistic one night. The next day, we found the huge paw prints. Mind you, this tree is in our front yard. I am sitting on Blaze IN the front yard. Mom is probably on the steps of the trailer taking this picture, due to the angle. That cat was very close to us, probably scoping out little kid or cat snacks.

You can also see the old car in the background, hood open, dad leaning over the engine. Good thing he was a great mechanic, since we owned cars needing regular attention. I wish I could ask my parents about this picture. I think the car belongs to my grandparents on my dad’s side. They made one trip to visit us out in the sticks. Actually, my grandmother or grandfather probably took the photo.

Now. Back to Blaze. In the White Mountains (named for the snow in winter, since they are obviously NOT white in this picture), we roamed far and wide. I shudder to think of the dangerous situations we avoided. I know God was protecting me at all times.

Our property bordered forest land. That meant plenty of wide open spaces for us to roam. Sometimes Jody went with us, sometimes not. She loved to find dead stuff to roll in, and was happiest when she came trotting home stinking to high heaven. The times she wasn’t allowed to go, I had to sneak into my boots and out the door. This did not always work. She was crushed when I left without her.

Timber Knoll was south of our trailer and Blaze and I explored the land on all sides. Once, a HUGE something was causing a ruckus in the underbrush. Loud. Scary. Both of us were skittish and beat a retreat off the knoll. I’m guessing it was a bear, judging by Blaze’s reaction and size of movement. Other times we avoided rattlesnakes and scary shadows. That horse. What a nut. She loved to spook and if I wasn’t paying attention, off I went. And off she ran to home. Or to the neighbor’s barn, which she deemed nicer than our place. I did spend quite a bit of time walking home and looking for that horse. I eventually learned to reflexively hold the reins if she spooked. That frustrated her but kept me in possession of a ride.

We had grand adventures, just me and the horse. Blaze was willing to tackle pretty  much anything except water and steep hills. I’m sure my mother had a heart attack every time I left. The area was pretty much wilderness with neighbors far and wide. And I’m sure she prayed for me and uttered words of thanks when we (or the horse, followed later by me) trotted up the driveway.

How about you? Did you have any special pets or adventures when you were growing up?


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Throwback Thursday: Mama’s Cooking

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my mom lately, especially in the car, which usually leads to driving through the tears. I truly miss all those phone calls, hugs, and visits since she passed away in May. She is happy. I will be fine. But I do miss her.

Which is not the main focus of my thoughts. For some reason, perhaps the upcoming season of feasts and gatherings, my inner foodie is on high alert. Mama was an excellent cook. Sure my dad usually had smart comments about biscuits being hard like hockey pucks or gravy being thick enough to plaster walls, but that was just dad. He loved to tease. That was how he showed love.

I know mama worked hard to keep us fed. She also worked as cheaply as possible, cutting costs, stretching meals, and making most meals from scratch. Even without much in the pantry, Mama was so creative, we still had filling meals. She might have been short on stature, but she was a giant in love and resourcefulness.

Not every meal did I LOVE. I avoided fried grit pancakes with syrup if possible and cornbread milk toast. Eggplant, no matter how much she battered and fried it, did not agree with my taste buds. But she was famous for so many of my favorite foods. I’m going to do a quick brainstorm list and see how many I can remember. Just consider that each dish was made from scratch…

Grits and eggs

Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits

Hash browns and gravy

Tortillas and refried beans

Burritos

Homemade bread, butter, and jam

Spaghetti (my go-to birthday request favorite meal)

The Gasser (her noteworthy casserole, aptly named, which included beans, onions, green chilies, corn, hash browns, corn tortillas, and enchilada sauce)

Chicken and dumplings

Pancakes

Homemade syrup

Jam

Fried bologna and cheese sandwiches

Sliced hotdogs baked with ketchup

Fresh corn (either frozen or on the ear)

Macaroni and milk, the first meal after stomach flu

Homemade noodles

 

Mama was always purchasing, harvesting, preserving, and storing food. I still remember the 50-pound bags of dried pinto beans, onions, and corn on the cob. We had goats, cows, chickens, and ducks. Eggs were plentiful and the milk was sold for extra cash. Nobody can drink that much milk! I was not a fan of the bits of cream lingering in the whole milk, regardless of how much we carefully skimmed it off the top. Unpasteurized to boot! It’s amazing that we survived.

How about you? Did you have favorite home-cooked meals? If you know my family, do you remember any other special foods my mama made?

 

 


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Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten in the 60s

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I remember living in Cle Elum the same year I attended kindergarten, 1966-67.

Kindergarten. This monumental first year of school was so much different in the 60s than in the here and now. In fact, many students didn’t even attend kinder, but started school when they were old enough for first grade.

Kindergarten in Cle Elum? Mandatory dresses for girls, must be able to tie shoe laces, and had to be 5 before school started. I must have been fine for tying my laces, since I remember wearing saddle ox shoes. Which (I just googled) was the common name for saddle oxford shoes quite popular at the time. I always thought they were called saddle LOCKS. Haha. Celebrating my birthday in November placed me among the oldest in my class.

I loved kindergarten. We had art, easel painting, music, recess, lunch, NAP time, stories, play time, and so many other fun activities. I remember my mother telling me that my teacher put me at a table full of noisy boys, hoping that I would calm them down. What she probably meant was that I was bossy and would tell them to be quiet. I’m sure I did. Tell them to be quiet. My oldest kid personality came out shining.

If you are familiar with Cle Elum, you know that it is a small town near Snoqualmie Pass in Washington state. We had winter. The type of winter where snow fell, temps were frigid, and everyone knew winter had arrived. We used to live in a two story home. I distinctly remember the year when so much snow fell, we had snow mountains piled high around our house. It became a game to jump out a second story window, land in the snow, follow the tunnel back to the door, run up the steps, and jump out again. Never fear, adults were involved in this seasonal sport. Honestly. I am not making this stuff up.

Also. The “girls must wear dresses” rule. My mom finally got so tired of me standing at the bus stop shivering and freezing that she sent me to school wearing, hold on tight now, pants! She was really stepping out and being rebellious. But she also wasn’t about to let her little girl get frostbite while wearing a cute dress with tights.

I’m pretty sure the above picture was taken in our backyard in Cle Elum. That is me on the left and my brother on the right. We loved playing on that swing set. Our family did so many fun activities when we lived in the mountains. We camped, explored, visited family and friends, climbed mountains, and spent time beside rivers. The northwest became our big backyard.

I remember another funny story about our time in Cle Elum. Mom could hear my brother and I giggling and the toilet flushing repeatedly. She quickly ran into the bathroom and we were entertaining a guest raccoon. Apparently we had let it in, or it had invited itself in. I have no idea how we discovered its love of running water, but the flushing toilet was a perfect play area. My poor mother!

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Learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels also happened during my Cle Elum and kindergarten years. I was so proud! Good thing there wasn’t a car parked in front of me when my dad was taking this picture!

What do you remember about kindergarten? Were you a paste taster? I still remember the smell and the urge to sample, though I don’t remember eating any. Share a favorite kinder memory. Let’s compare notes.


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Throwback Thursday: Kids & Nature in the Arizona Desert

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I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.

It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.

I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.

Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.

Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.

I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.

Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.

How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?


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Throwback Thursday: Colors of Desert Sun

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The opposite of sun-bleached, we were sun-drenched.

Long shadows, blinded eyes, rich dense colors.

Yes, this was us in the early 1970’s. I was most likely in 2nd grade, dressed for Arizona heat. My brother was in kindergarten, already pursuing his unique personality and sense of humor. Little sister must have been preschool-age, but back then going to preschool was not a thing families did.

Yes. That was how our yard was landscaped. Gravel, dust, scrappy weeds. The interesting parts were the critters and wildlife we discovered as we played and explored the desert environments. In this location alone, I remember collecting gallons of tadpoles after desert storms, and hunting horned toads, tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, spiders, jack rabbits, and those scary spider wasps. We also rescued a tortoise from the middle of the road and let him burrow around in the back yard. Thaddeus Humperdinck. That was his name. No idea why.

Yes. Windows open. The weather must not have been too drastically hot, and judging from the distant clouds, we might have recently enjoyed rain. We had a swamp cooler on top of the trailer and I remember lying on the floor beneath it during the hottest part of summer days with my coloring book and crayons, cooling off in the damp wind it created. But in this photo, the time of day was when the desert sun was kissing the horizon, ready to give us well-deserved shade and respite.

Yes. This was a very cool station wagon. Not only a wagon, but a magic vehicle capable of transporting us on weekend family treks to historical, dusty, engaging, scary, crowded, isolated, or deserted Arizona hot spots. Haha, “hot” spots. Soda pop bottles, white bread, bologna, and we were ready to roll. Up hill, down hill, across stretching southwest landscapes, stopping for rare shade trees and dusty gullies, drips of streams and gorges filled with flash floods. Life was an adventure. Include: dogs, kids, play pen, stroller, and avid interest.

Yes. A home on wheels. And we used those wheels to move the trailer several times over our life within the metal, possibly uninsulated, walls. We survived desert thunderstorms, lighting shows, freezing temperatures, snow storms, and heat hot enough to cook (insert your favorite food). Home it was. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room-kitchen, and utility room. Kids lived on the right end, parents on the left. We six (plus critters) crammed a magnificent amount of life into that gorgeous tenement on wheels.

I loved living in the desert, back when heat didn’t bother me and I spent all my days outside, digging in the dirt, catching insects and reptiles, chasing kids in the ‘neighborhood,’ and making up daring adventure stories while riding horseback with my similarly minded friends. The nostalgia of childhood paints beautiful masterpieces in my mind, blotting the difficult times (were there any?) and adding exquisite details to enhance my thankfulness to God for a good, excellent, childhood.

What about you? Which photo takes you back to your childhood?


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1971: Throwback Thursday

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January 1971. My daddy and me, posing in our 70s single-wide mobile home trailer. I just turned 8 years-old.

Purchased brand new, our goldenrod and white 4-mile long mobile sparkled. Shag carpet, wood paneling, avocado/gold/rust colors, 2 bath, 3 bedroom, open concept living room kitchen dining room combo. Family of 6, plus assorted dogs, cats, birds.

It worked, this stylish model. I have so many memories of Christmases, birthdays, meals, chores, crowded rooms. This mobile home was truly mobile, as it moved from the original park in Huachuca City, to Presidential Estates further from town (moved twice while there), and then to the White Mountains. As a kid, it looked fine. But I’m sure the poor thing degraded with every move.

Dad eventually added built-in couches (convenient storage) and a full-size wood stove. Seriously! That stove kept us toasty warm in the White Mountains, come whatever snow and ice and frigid temps the season delivered. By the grace of God, we did not burn up in that mobile.

The girls scored with the bigger bedroom at one end of the trailer, mainly because we were older and bigger. The boys, including baby James, didn’t take up as much room. Both bedrooms connected to a central bathroom. Bunk beds gave us space and plenty of personal area, plus opportunities for causing havoc doing things like kicking up the bed from below or spilling liquids on the lower bunk resident.

One of my favorite memories of the top bunk, besides having Cry (our cat) crawl beneath the covers and sleeping cozied up to me, was looking out one winter night. I don’t remember what woke me, but it was probably coyotes or such. Snow covered the ground and the moon was full. I could read a book in that light! It was gorgeous and I kept the curtains open so I could continue to enjoy the feeling of being right out there in the middle of the night. The windows began just below the level of the upper bunk, so I really was floating out in space.

Others fond memories included my horse, Blaze, wanting to come inside. Why not? After all, the four of us kids, mom, dad, the cat, and the dog were nice and comfy. She just leaned up against the steps, sticking her entire head and neck through the door to see what was what. Whichever animal needed a little TLC was welcomed in. Kids (goats), rabbits, chickens, ducks. Poor mom! I imagine we created a disaster of mud, snow, dirt, footprints, grass, food, poop…

In this picture of daddy and me, he is standing right in front of a painting my parents had done of him. Handsome cowboy! I don’t remember him ever riding a horse – other than the 4-wheeled variety. Engines were his babies. He was a parts man who could rattle off part numbers and outrun anyone else in the department to locate specific items needed to repair vehicles.

Notice our caterpillar (sign of the times) and the record player and complete collection of country western music LPs. We. Were. Stylin.’

What do you remember about the 70’s? Were you even born then? The good old days.


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The Beach, It Calls to Us #ThrowbackThursday

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The beach and the Quantrells, we go way back.

This is significant because for most of my growing up years (1st-9th grade) my family lived in Arizona. It’s pretty difficult to find a beach (ocean, salt water) within the borders of this southwestern state. Not that I’m complaining! I loved the desert years.

(Heh, heh. Still live in a desert. Just one that is located in eastern Washington.)

I started going to the beach after I met my future husband, Kevin. His family always vacationed at the beach. Specifically Ocean Shores, Washington. Sure they traveled up and down that portion of the Pacific Ocean coastline, but the majority of beach time was spent right there.

Lucky me! I was invited to traipse along on summer vacations. It was a little cozy in the Prowler camp trailer, barely 6 inches of space above my nose. A little tight, a little close.

Fast forward a few years, and the new Quantrell family continued the tradition by hauling both babies to the Washington beaches surrounding Ocean Shores. They went as babies, toddlers, preschoolers, children, teens, and adults. We’ve taken along dogs, relatives, friends, family, bicycles, toys, fireworks, s’mores; you name it, it was probably in our truck, camper, or tent.

This photo shows the four of us enjoying the beach via beach grasses and dunes. Some of my favorite memories and experiences happened at the beach.

I can’t wait to go back with my grands. They need to experience MY beaches!

Where is your favorite childhood vacation location?

 


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Seize the Moment ~ #ThrowbackThursday

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Now, mamas, I’m not going to tell you, “Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,” but I will say, “Seize those moments!” I’d love to go back to this moment and enjoy that face-smashing hug a few more times!

Circa 1992, this photo shows my (our) daughter, Chelsie, loving her mama, right there in the middle of the floor. Sometimes you have to just be on the floor. Or the couch, the bed, the dirt, the tub, even, eh-hem, the potty. Wherever and whenever the moments present themselves, go for it! Abandon the to-do’s and not-right-now’s and seize the moment.

Lesson to me, the Nana. I need to remember this when my grands are all over the place. They are growing up so fast! Nothing is more important than those sweet hugs and kisses. I’d pass on the germs they share, but that goes with the territory of young children building up their immunities.

Seize a moment today.

P.S. Comment below and let me know which moment you captured!


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Photography & Me, We Go Way Back #TBT

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It seems I always have 3 things on hand: paper, something to write with, and a camera. Those ideas and great shots aren’t going to just record themselves!

While searching photos for images of my wonderful and recently passed mother-in-love (my second mom, mom to my honey), I found this little nugget. My photo habits might just predate the need I have to write (and write and write).

What habits or hobbies do you have from waayyyy back? I’d love to hear!

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Update: After messaging with Natalie (see comments), I realized I nearly always  have 4 things on hand: paper, writing tools, camera, AND a book (or multiple books-one I’m reading and several on standby in case I finish reading a book and need the next read).

Reading, writing, and taking photos, those are my lifelong loves in the categories of hobbies and habits. WE go waayyyy back!


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STORYSTORM 2018 Day 19: Karen Rostoker-Gruber Digs Down Deep

Dig down deep and daydream about your younger years. Recall incidents, feelings, and experiences and get ready to catch those story ideas as they spring to mind!

Thanks, Karen and Tara!

via STORYSTORM 2018 Day 19: Karen Rostoker-Gruber Digs Down Deep