Monday, May 14, 2018

Love Letter to Eclipse

I'm sharing a short essay in the form a love letter about the eclipse. By the way, I'll be heading to Texas for another affair with Eclipse April 8, 2024.
Dear Eclipse,
Your reputation filled me with intrigue. I waited anxiously to meet you. Planning for your arrival became my passion. I needed everything to be perfect for you.
Months before your appearance, I hiked hills and valleys to discover the most glorious view of your arrival. I carefully selected a lush hilltop where I laid waiting for you. From there, I faced the direction you came to seduce me. Over the centuries, many had fallen in love with your loveliness. I was your newest lover, but most affectionate.
I learned that you were never late, in fact, the most punctual lover I had ever anticipated. I marked my calendar. I was ready and waiting for you on August 1, 2017 at 11:30 a.m. I wore a tee-shirt with your name on it.
The day finally arrived when we would meet. How did I respond as you entered my life? I was speechless. I softly gazed upon you during the early moments of your arrival, then your brilliance overpowered me, and I shielded my eyes from your blinding glory. When the moment of your total beauty opened, I instinctually tore off my cardboard rimmed glasses and wept. Your sudden darkness silenced the chirping birds that returned to their trees to roost. I wept as I watched horses return to their barn for shelter from the premature night you induced. The warm summer morning turned frigid. Shadows of ancient trees heralded your grand entrance. Crickets and frogs conducted their nightly serenade. Golden flames circled the darkened sun like a shimmering wedding ring. The commanding sun, accustomed to ruling the celestial stage; faded into the background, while the moon warmed up your audience.
You required my eyes to look up to heaven where you dwell. You consumed my soul with your glory. You multiplied my mindfulness of the creation of worlds; and their Creator. Light, darkness, animals, and our earth halted their daily rhythm, while you seized their prehistoric dance. I was forced to replace the cardboard glasses and shielded my eyes again as you performed your encore. Then you softly ushered in our brilliant sun and left as graciously as you arrived. A second dawn began. Birds woke up and began their morning songs and returned to the sky. Horses wandered from the barn to their pasture. Frogs and crickets silenced their melodies. A new day began all over again, only it was the same day.
Thank you for stopping my life then reviving it. Thank you for directing my attention upward, to orbiting planets and stars; and heavenward to the Creator, Jesus Christ. You gifted me with a fresh insight of love, and deeper appreciation for the details of the universe. I continued to remember you each day that followed.
With love, your greatest admirer,
Laura Marie

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Showing Love the Asperges Way

Here's my grandson and husband at the swimming pool interacting in a unique way. My grandson has Aspergers Syndrome and finds it difficult to communicate the way most people want to be communicated with. When Rayco found out Grandpa John needed sunscreen, all of sudden he was so concerned and wanted to make sure every part of his snow white skin was saturated with sunscreen. You may notice that he even coated the bottom of of his feet. Grandpa John was very patient with our grandson realizing that this was a unique way for Rayco to show he cared.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Toast Fingers
December 2013
This is a recipe story I wrote for my family. As a child of a British mother, one of the cultural treats our family enjoyed for breakfast was soft boiled eggs with toast fingers. This tradition was passed onto my children as well. Hopefully our grandchildren and on down the generations will think of Nana Skilling (Joyce Davies-Conklin-Skilling, who immigrated to the United States when she was 21 years old) when they partake of this fun breakfast.
With love, Laura Marie Conklin-Nielsen-Holbrook
Magic happens when a slice of buttered toast is cut into finger width strips: TOAST FINGERS
Here’s how to produce this sensational breakfast:
Open a plastic bread bag (or make your own bread), remove one or two pre-sliced pieces of bread (or cut a slice of your homemade bread). Take those slices of bread and drop them into the toaster (or broil them in the oven). Push the mechanical lever down.
Now is a good time to reflect for a moment on the original ingredients of the bread and all the people and the good earth that provided it: flour, water, salt and yeast. It’s a blessing. Imagine the synergetic results your taste buds will experience. During this meditation, you must be aware on some level that the toast will jump out at you when its done or will burn in the oven if not watchful.
When the jumping bread has come to rest, and without being too anxious in order to avoid burning your fingers, retrieve the bread from it’s upright position. Lay it gently on a plate and butter it on one side. Don’t skimp here, spread the butter clear to the edge of the bread, making sure every part has a slippery film of this vital ingredient. (Use a butter substitute if necessary). Taking the same butter knife just used to spread the butter, saw off four or five finger size slices of bread. The end is near.
What good is a handful of lonely toast fingers? Not nearly as good without with it’s mate, the soft boiled egg. Take one or more lowly but wonderful chicken eggs and submerge them in a pan full of cold water, make sure the water completely covers the eggs. Bring the water and eggs to a full boil and boil for three minutes. Carefully spoon the eggs out of the boiling water (unless you have burn proof flesh, in which case you can just reach in a grab them) and onto a plate.
I almost forgot to include the egg cup! Dainty as it sounds, it’s the foundation that supports the whole event. Take your hot little egg and nestle it in an egg cup. Sit your hot little egg bum side down, which is easy to remember when considering anatomy and the smaller end, is heads up. Carry your egg cup to a waiting table with a beautiful setting of placemats, napkins, glasses of juice, salt and pepper, flowers arranged nicely in a vase and silverware, all that the Good Fairy prepared in advance for you.
Prepare your mind for some violence, despite the peaceful setting. Eye ball the egg and aim for the top 1/3 or neck if we are still talking anatomy. This is your target. Pick up a butter knife with your right or left hand, you choose. Holding it as weapon, cock your arm back and quickly release with fury, one solid hit to the targeted place on the egg. Instant decapitation is the desired result. If more than one attempt is made, it gets messy.
Keep the cap or head, it’s a delicacy.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. One might think it’s a necessity, but times are changing. Ready your toast fingers for their job. You may have a personal preference as to what this means: lining them up or arranging them decoratively, circling the plate. Let your personality shine through here.
Pick up one of the toast fingers and slowly insert, gentling turning the toast finger inside the egg. Remove toast finger and bite off only one bite at a time, nibbling the egg frosted toast finger to the next joint or about ¾” down. Do not gulp gluttonously! Savor the crunchy eggy bite. Repeat until the yolk is consumed.
Using a teaspoon, gently circle the inside of the egg, scrapping the last remains of the egg. Make sure the inside of the egg is completely cleaned out: WASTE NOT WANT NOT.
Avoid the top edge of the egg shell where small bit of broken egg shell remains! (Unless you need more calcium supplementation and you can bear the crunchy sensation on your teeth).
Don’t forget the cap or the head (we’re still referring to egg anatomy). It is a delectable tidbit of egg white!
It’s a meal in itself!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Message From Grandpa John and Nana Laura

When thinking about what I would like to give my children and grandchildren for Christmas, I thought about a lasting message. Grandpa John agreed to read two messages out of the 12 we prepared for our 12 Days of Christmas. Here's the link to our 12 days of Christmas messages. Enjoy! With Love, Nana & Grandapa John December 13 December 14

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A book about Pornography is calling to me, so I'm writing it.

I'm writing a book about the painful journey from competing with pornography to accepting I couldn't beat it.
There is a point in this journey that I began to find myself again.
Pornography addiction will destroy a person's happiness, a marriage and relationships if one allows it to.
I know, it destroyed my marriage of 25 years!
When I first realized my husband was choosing pornography over me, I thought I could win him back by becoming more attractive. It became a competition. When I learned to stop competing with it, and return to being myself, happiness and self love returned to my life.
I now find myself in a life that I only thought would be mine if I died and went to heaven. I feel so much love around me. Only when I learned to accept and love myself did I realize that I could be happy in this life and not have to wait.
Because I've kept a journal most of my life, including the decades I struggled with my desire to lure my first husband back into our marriage, I have hundreds of journal entries to sift though and draw from.
Some are ugly, some are enlightening; all are important.
This editing process and review of the life I left behind for a happy one is taking time.
I am thankful for your support and encouragement.
I know I am not alone and I know I have a mission to be of help to others through this journey.
My book is in the rough draft form, I need to complete it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Learning about PEARS (Hint: don't let them ripen on the tree!)

Few things are as rewarding as growing your own food. I realize that my part is small in comparrison to the creator who made the earth possible for us to plant in and harvest from. Feelings of awe and gratitude fill my soul as I participate in the bounty..
This is the first time my little Bosc pear tree has produced enough pears to actually do something with. I'm very proud of my Bosc pear tree, it has endured 5 years of mostly neglect and some abuse from the llamas, mule and horses (which love eating pear branches and leaves).
This year the pear tree has come through it all and rewarded my family with several dozen beautiful pears.
It was so joyful picking the pears. I used a long pole with a picking basket on the end. A pear is ready to pick when you can pull it to the side and it breaks off the branch. (One of the many tips from the O.S.U. Extension Service)
Last year I waited too long to pick the few pears, they fell off the tree and returned to the earth.
This year, I'm on it!
I picked 4 unripe pears last week to see what would happen. One of them was ready to eat today. The others are still pretty hard. In the grocery store, somebody has already figured out when to pick the pears and what to do with them. I googled "When to pick pears?" and up popped a bunch of information. This is a trusted site.
They say to pick pears before they are ripe, put them in a cold place (30 degrees) for a few days or longer (depending on the type of pear, Bosc is up to 6 weeks), then take them out let them ripen in your house. When we get pears in the store, they have already been in cold storage and are ready to be ripened in your fruit bowl (65 to 75 degrees). If you want to speed up the ripening process, put them in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana and the ethylene gas from the other fruit will hasten the ripening process.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Making Green Tomato Relish and Piccalilli. Waste Not, Want Not

Makes about 8 pints
12 pounds green tomatoes, (peeled and chopped)
1 1/2 cups coarse salt
1 medium head cabbage, chopped
12 cups (96 oz) Cider vinegar
8 onions, chopped
3 Sweet Red Peppers, seeded and chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 clove garlic, peeled
Sprinkle chopped tomatoes with salt,cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Drain thoroughly and place tomatoes in large kettle. Add cabbage and vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic clove. Ladle into hot sterilized jars. Sell immediately.
This recipe can be made by chopping the vegetables by hand and or using a food processor.
Making relish is a two day process if you follow the recipe here.
However, preparation is important.
Before any process in the recipe is started, the kitchen needs to be clean, crocks and utensils cleaned, jars and lids made ready. Vegetables and ingredients are gathered for a day or more and stored properly until ready to use.
Here's a photo of the beautiful, aged crocks turned upside down, drying in preparation to being filled with the relish ingredients. Each step of preparation is rewarding as the process unfolds.
Makes 5 to 6 pints
2 Sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
2 green peppers, seeded and chipped
4 cups chopped green tomatoes (about 6)
1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
2 large onions, chopped
1 small head cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup coarse salt
3 cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 1/4 cups firmly packed light brownsugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
Layer peppers, tomatoes, celery, onion and cabbage, sprinkling each layer with seal. Let mixture stand covered at room temperature overnight. The next day drain thoroughly. Put mixture n a large kettle and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle into clean hot pint jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace. Seal immediately. Process 5 minutes in boiling water bath.
Each step of preparation is rewarding as the process unfolds. When these things are in order, the first day of this two day process begins.
It's time for cleaning and chopping the vegetables. If you really think about it, it's much more then a two days process, especially when you sprout your own tomato seeds that you gathered from the previous year and have tended those little seedlings until they became mature plants and produced tomatoes.
It's more accurate to say, it's a year long process or life-style.
I would encourage anybody who is considering home food preservation to invite family members or friends to join you.
The social part of working and creating together is just one more valuable components of this experience.
Conversations while chopping and measuring are relaxed and friendly. Time slows down and words seem kinder and gentler during this interlude from daily outside stress.
Shared memories are created and relationship bonds are strengthened as cabbages are shredded.
Spending time with my son Abe is the greatest reward of making this relish. Who ever it is that joins you in this journey from garden to kitchen to pantry will enjoy this path you share. We always make enough for ourselves and some to give as gifts.
Abe shared stories with about the relish he has shared throughout the year. His friend Brad Smithard loved the relish so much, he invited Christina and him to come and stay in his hotel in Astoria, and of course Brad reminded Abe to,"Bring some relish."
Another happy recipient of the relish reciprocated with a rattlesnake barbecue and handmade rattlesnake watch band.
Even though true gift giving is an act that never expects a return, one may be surprised by how other's may want to show their appreciation.
Everything we have is provided by the Great Giver, so it is only natural to give back.
As my late mother, who taught me home production, canning and food preservation, Joyce Skilling, aka Nana Skilling taught, "It is better to give then to receive."
Read the recipe, check your pantry for what you already have and then acquire what you don't have.
Spend some time studying the process the recipe uses.
There are sequences to making relish or piccalille, some are more critical then others.
For instance, only some of the vegetables and salt are put in the crock the first day.
The green tomato relish recipe calls for the cabbage to be kept out of the crock until the next day and while the other vegetables are put in the crock with salt. The spices and vinegar are not put in the crock until the next day.
Gather all ingredients before starting relish.
We grew all the tomatoes for this recipe, but had to acquire the cabbage, green and red peppers, celery, onions and garlic. Fortunately we already had the salt, apple cider vinegar and spices.
I always keep a large supply of salt and vinegar in my pantry, I buy it in bulk. These are good items to have on hand for many reasons.
They are inexpensive and very important.
With my lifestyle of striving for self sufficiency and using natural remedies and cleansers, salt and vinegar are some of my go-to supplies.
I used vinegar in many ways from cleaning sinks to drinking it in water in the morning and also for bathing.
It's a healthy alternative to many over the counter cleansers.
Our tomatoes were picked after a light frost so they had gotten some frost bites.
Like us, we get a little weather beaten, but we're still good on the inside.
The frost bites were only skin deep and showed up as dark skin and in some cases soft spots. I just used a parring knife to cut those places off. The inside of the tomatoes were not damaged.
Abe sorted the bad tomatoes out, and put the ones we couldn't use in the bucket for the compost. He washed the usable tomatoes and put them in a bowl for me to cut. After cutting tomatoes into chunks, the tomatoes went into the food processor.
Have three bowls. Abe moved the bucket of muddy tomatoes next to the sink where he washed and rinsed the tomatoes. He placed them in the first bowl. The second bowl is for the parts to be cut off, it's the compost bowl. The third bowl is for the freshly trimmed tomatoes ready for the food processor.
Handling the tomatoes and vegetables is a rewarding experience. Take note of their textures, colors and fragrances. Let all your senses become involved, it's very enjoyable. Connecting with the food we eat and being thankful for the Good Lord for providing is good for the soul. In Brownsville, Oregon in the little patch of earth we've been blessed with, we had a bounteous harvest this year.
Allow your heart be filled with gratitude!
The photo is of the piccalilli. Each layer gets a layer of salt: cabbage,tomatoes, green and red peppers, onions and celery.
Now it will sit over night in one of my husband's (John Holbrook) grandmother Pyland's crock.
Relish and Piccalilli is made from what is left over after the harvest. Waste not, want not is a motto of days past. Nothing was wasted in my parents generation at least not by their families.
My mother was raised during World War II, 15 miles south of London in Cowley, Middlesex. Her family consisted of her father (William) Edward Davies, mother Emma Cockerel and her two older sisters Peggy and Phyllis. They shared a house their grandmother, cousins, aunt and uncle. They experienced extreme shortages and food rationing.
My step-dad, William (Bill) Skilling was raised in Cottage Grove Oregon and Northern California, he tells stories of the Great Depression when his family had to live in a cleaned out chicken coop. He spoke fondly of seeing his mother and aunts making piccalilli.
My father, William Douglas (Doug) Conklin's family consisted of his father William (Bill)Henry Conklin, mother Netta Delone (Dee) Aubrey, brother Dale and sister Anita (Ginger, they fared a little better in Hollywood California as his father's paint business "Treasure Tone Paint" prospered, but other family members tell stories of saving bits of string to have on hand since they didn't have any money to buy more or it simple wasn't available. His Aunt Clara could unravel an old worn out sweater and use the yard to knit something else useful. She continued this practice even after the depression ended and she was living comfortably in the river rock home her and her husband built with their own hands in Livingston California.
Some may think that recycling is a new idea one thought up by progressive thinkers, but it's actually a very old way of living.
It's nice to see it making a come back. In years past, everything was preserved and used.
I love the aromas and colors of the chopped vegetables. We put all the chopped vegetables that the recipe calls for in the crock.
Since we used heirloom tomatoes, we saved some of the seeds. I'll plant the seeds in January or February indoors and move them out to the grow boxes when the weather warms up. Cut slices of the tomato, I just picked some out of the bucket that is heading for the compost. These are Green Tiger Heirloom tomatoes.
After separating the seeds from the tomato, place the seeds in a fine strainer. Rinse the seeds with water, while pushing the excess tomato through the strainer with your thumbs or fingers. The tomato flesh quite easily rinses through the strainer, while the tomato seeds are cleaned by rubbing them around on the wire of the strainer. Enjoy the slippery texture of the seeds.
Air dry the tomato seeds on parchment paper or wax paper that has been labeled with seed type and date. (DON'T THINK "I'll remember.)
In a couple of days, when seeds are dry, put them in a jar or zip lock bag and store in cool dry place. (This is important because seeds need to be kept cool and dry, preferable away from light and animals that eat them, i.e. mice.)Keep them in a safe place until they are ready to plant, you have already begun next year food preservation.
These little jewels hold the future of next years harvest.