Mother Mason

One of my favorite books was “Song of Years” by Bess Streeter Aldrich. My mom had loved it when she was growing up and told me about it. Our library in our hometown had a copy and according to the library card my mom and I were the only ones who ever checked it out. That was a shame because it is such a well-written, lovely book.

Are you familiar with Bess Streeter Aldrich? Here is some information about this wonderful author: Bess Genevra Streeter was an American fiction writer born in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Attending high-school in the town of her birth, she was the winner of two magazine fiction writing contests prior to graduating at the age of seventeen. She was the last of the eight children of James Wareham and Mary Wilson Anderson Streeter] After graduating from Iowa State Normal School with a teaching certificate, she taught school at several locations in Utah, later returning to Cedar Falls to earn an advanced degree in education.In 1907, she married Charles Sweetzer Aldrich, who had graduated with a law degree from Iowa State University and had been one of the youngest captains in the Spanish–American War. Following the war, he served for years as a U.S. Commissioner in Alaska. They had four children—Mary, Robert, Charles and James. In 1909, they moved with their children and Bess’s widowed mother to Elmwood, Nebraska, where Charles, Bess, and Bess’s sister and brother-in-law Clara and John Cobb purchased the American Exchange Bank. Elmwood became the location for many of her stories, albeit called by different names. Aldrich began writing more regularly in 1911 when the Ladies’ Home Journal advertised a fiction contest, which she entered and won $175 for her story entitled “The Little House Next Door”. After this success she continued to write and submit work to publications such as McCall’s, Harper’s Weekly, and The American Magazine where she was generally paid between one and one-hundred dollars for her work. Prior to 1918 she wrote under her pen name, Margaret Dean Stephens. She went on to become one of the highest-paid women writers of the period. Her stories often concerned the Heartland/Plains pioneer history and were very popular with teenage girls and young women.Aldrich’s first novel, Mother Mason, was published in 1924. When Charles died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925 at the age of 52 Aldrich took up writing as a means of supporting her family. She was the author of about 200 short stories, including “The Woman Who Was Forgotten”, and thirteen novels, including Miss Bishop. The latter novel was made into a movie Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941), which starred Martha Scott and Edmund Gwenn and premiered in Lincoln, Nebraska.Aldrich received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in literature from the University of Nebraska in 1934 and was named into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1973. In 1946 Aldrich moved to Lincoln, Nebraska to be closer to her daughter and her writing slowed to just one story per year as age began to take its toll. She died of cancer on August 3, 1954 and was buried next to her husband in Elmwood, Nebraska.Aldrich’s papers are held at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. Books by Bess Streeter Aldrich are among the many fine books written by Nebraskan authors. (source: wikipedia)

So, I decided to spend some time during this social-distancing period reading some of her other books. I started with her first book, Mother Mason, published in 1924. Such a good book! Molly Mason is fifty-two and the loving wife of the bank president, mother of four fun-loving Masons, and she is active in helping with the library board, missionary society, and the women’s clubs. She is involved in nearly everything that happens in her midwestern town. In fact, Mother Mason never has any time to do just as she likes. Finally, she makes a break for freedom! Aldrich published stories about the Masons in a magazine during World War I. Americans demanded more, and in 1924 the same family became the subject of Mother Mason. Aldrich is known for writing strong female characters and this story is no different.

I highly recommend you check it out! Here is a link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0851LL36N

# 20 – Try a Cortado

I’ve always been a black coffee kind of person. It’s what I have first thing in the morning, it’s what I drink if I go out with friends. I never needed or even really thought about having other drinks with all sorts of added milk and sugar and flavor.

But why NOT try all the other drinks that are on the menu? Or even ones that aren’t on the menu?

A friend mentioned on a Facebook post how the Cortado was his favorite coffee drink. I hadn’t even heard of this drink before much less tried one – so as I was making my list of things I want to do before I turn 50, I added it to the list.

Except I remembered the name wrong and wrote down, “Cordero.” So you can understand the puzzled look on my barista’s face when I asked if she could make one. Bless her heart, she even looked up the recipe online and said it was some kind of lamb dish. I apologized and said I must have the name wrong and ordered some black coffee instead.

Then I did some more research and got the name right and went back to her. I drank it on a Sunday morning after attending a church service at the United Methodist Church. If you want to know more about how to make one, you can find information here: https://www.northstarroast.com/cortado-coffee/

It’s good. It’s not as bitter as my usual black coffee. I’m glad I know what it is and now I order it frequently.

So many things about life get on autopilot, don’t they? I simply got used to drinking black coffee every day – it was warm, it didn’t have calories, it was inexpensive, my friends drank it – there were lots of reasons why it became the default drink in my life. But I might have gone my whole life without trying a cortado. That could have easily happened. Would my life have been less because of it? Maybe not – but nevertheless, I’m glad that it is now part of my repertoire of beverages I consume.

And it makes me think about how so much of what we do every day happens just because that’s how we always do things. Most days I get up and within the first hour or two, I hop on my treadmill – walking or jogging. I love my treadmill. I first got one 13 years ago when our first child was born and I knew my chances of getting a workout in would increase if I didn’t have to try to make it to the gym. For me, my treadmill has never collected dust or been a place to pile stuff as it becomes for some people. I use it every day. Every. Day. Anyway, my dear treadmill recently broke and now I feel entirely out of sorts without my faithful treadmill friend as part of my day.

But I know that I don’t have to have a treadmill in order to exercise. I mean, I will miss it until it is fixed, but in the meantime I get to try some other things. Today I dug out some old workout videos and tomorrow I can go for a hike. I’ve been meaning to take a yoga class for about the last 15 years, so maybe I can do that soon. The options are endless.

And we forget that. No matter how much I like black coffee, not every day has to be a black coffee day – it could be a macchiato or a flat white day or even green tea! No matter how much I love my treadmill, my body can enjoy all sorts of activity. Some of these new things might open up brand new doors into my new favorite stuff and some of it might just make me miss black coffee and treadmills all the more. Either way, I’ve learned something.

So, yeah – try the Cortado. I recommend it.

For the Next Fifty: Keep trying new things. Every day if you can – a new recipe, a fresh perspective, a different route to work, ask unusual questions. There’s only so much time on this beautiful blue planet – find out as much as you can about it while you can.

#3 Learn to make savory pies

#3 – Learn to make savory pies – when we were in New Zealand, every morning we enjoyed going to the bakery and trying different baked goods. It was fun to see not just donuts and muffins but other cakes and pies. We liked the lamingtons – which were square chocolate cakes covered with coconut; but we adored the savory pies. Oftentimes they were meat pies – pastry shells filled with meats and spices, or there were vegetarian ones with cheese and vegetables, and also egg/ham varieties. In Rotorua, there was a shop just down the street that only sold varieties of pies and it was busy all day.

So, we decided that we needed to have more of these pies in our lives even after we returned from New Zealand. In the past I have made quiches, but I wanted to broaden my horizons.

I’m not a big meat-eater, but my family is, and so the first recipe I chose was for a cheeseburger pie. I know that when we have had cheeseburger pizza it disappears quickly, so I was confident that the pie variation would be a hit. You can find the recipe I chose here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/15708/cheeseburger-pie/

I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand but I was able to modify and the end result was eaten up quickly by my family.

In addition, my husband has made several variations of the small egg/cheese pies. He loves them when the eggs are not scrambled but rather cracked whole into the pie shell and then they cook that way. So good! If you would like to try – here’s a good place to start: https://timetocookonline.com/?s=egg+pie My favorite variation is egg, cheese, and spinach – but the sky is really the limit as far as what you might want to put in your pie.

For the Next Fifty years I want to make time to cook and eat the things I enjoy. Food is such a wonderful, joyful, nourishing thing in so many ways. In my career as a pastor I have visited so many people who are sick or enduring treatments of all kinds. They are rail thin, food tastes awful. So while we are able, let’s not waste precious time on weight-loss endeavors – let’s eat the delicious food, let’s gather around tables with the faces we love, and celebrate living! As I like to say: more living, less dieting!

If you click on the picture you will go to my Amazon affiliate link and see some little pie tins perfect for making the small, savory pies.