Frank - who was secretly very special to me - and I were driving along one day, when I spontaneously began singing, 'So between your chair and my chair, maybe there will be a highchair.'
I stopped suddenly, and he asked me why I was singing that. I shook my head and said, 'I don't know.'
It was a catchy little tune … and it caught him.
We had 54 happy years together before he passed away in 1989.
My brother, sister and I grew up in a rural home in Kansas, where we had a battery-operated radio for musical entertainment. However, the battery often lost power by the middle of the week, and we'd have to make our own music on the piano. We always had fun playing a trio or duet.
We were sometimes asked to furnish a musical number at church, a club meeting or a school event. We were even asked to perform at a Christmas program one year.
My brother and I had been working on a duet of The Stars and Stripes Forever, so we agreed to do it.
The night of the program arrived, and we were ready. My brother was to play the bass part, and I was to play the upper octaves.
We started the song with vim and vigor, but soon there was a clattering noise on the piano keyboard. One of my piano keys had lost its top ivory rectangle. I didn't know what to do, so I just pushed it aside. Then my brother lost two ivory tops from his keys, which he pushed aside, too.
In no time, we were playing on twelve keys that were missing their ivory tops. All of a sudden, some of the loose tops started clattering to the floor, and the keys' bare tops were sticky. It was as if the keyboard had been covered with sticky fly paper. And all this time, we were still playing.
Unbeknown to us, the teacher had glued the loose tops onto the piano keys that morning. When we finished our duet, the teacher apologized to everyone, explaining what had happened.
Now, whenever we hear The Stars and Stripes Forever, we relive that hilarious experience. I think we truly experienced the Kansas state motto that night: 'To the stars through difficulty.'
You Are My Sunshine is the song my mother used to sing to my siblings and me. The words to the song were a happy statement, and it was a great feeling to know that you were the sunshine in someone's life.
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy,
When skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away.
I've always loved that song, and I've sung it many times throughout my life.
When my mother became ill and was in the hospital, all of her children gathered around her bed, held hands and sang that song to her.
When Mom passed away, we were all reminiscing, and my brother Carl started talking about how Mom didn't always sing on key, but he said when she sang You Are My Sunshine to him, he felt like he was the most special person in her life.
One by one, the rest of us children related the same story, adding our thoughts and comments.
At Mom's funeral, we asked that everyone in attendance join us in singing You Are My Sunshine.
It was a sad time, but the song still remains a favorite to the whole family.
Everyone dreams of the perfect vacation, but we all have different ideas of what that is. What's your idea of a dream vacation, and who would you take with you? Would it be you and your spouse on a sandy beach in Hawaii, basking in the sun? Would it be you and your siblings enjoying the beauty of the Rocky Mountains? Would it be watching the magic come alive at Disneyland with your grandchildren?
Maybe you've already been on your dream vacation. Was it everything you'd hoped it would be? Would you do it again? Tell us about your dream vacation - the people who would be with you, the things you would do, the places you would visit.
Send your stories by July 13 to: Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265. Photos are always welcome. (If sending photos, or if you want your stories back, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped evelope.)
Grilling once to dine twice is a smart way to use the grill, and it's an easy way to enjoy two deliciously different meals. Here's how.
Grill twice the amount of beef and onions you need for one meal. Enjoy half of it, and save the other half.
For each bonus meal, just add a few simple ingredients. Grilled burgers and onion slices become a yummy pasta supper, while steaks with red onion wedges become a spectacular salad in no time.
-The Beef Checkoff through National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Onion Association
SCRUMPTIOUS: Add a baked potato and a salad to Beef Top Loin Steaks with Balsamic Red Onions, and you have a great-tasting meal.
This delicious steak dish is sure to be a hit.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons garlic-pepper seasoning, divided
4 boneless beef top loin (strip) steaks, cut 1 inch thick (about 8 oz. each)
2 medium red onions, each cut into 12 wedges
2 medium yellow squash, cut lengthwise in half
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano OR thyme
In a small pan, bring vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until reduced by half. Set aside.
Press 2 teaspoons garlic-pepper seasoning onto steaks.
Soak four 10-inch bamboo skewers in water for 10 minutes; drain. Thread onion wedges onto skewers. Brush onions and cut sides of squash and zucchini with olive oil; sprinkle with remaining garlic-pepper seasoning.
Place steaks in center of grid over medium, ash-covered coals; arrange vegetables around steaks. Grill steaks, uncovered, 15 to 18 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Grill squash and zucchini 8 to 12 minutes, and onions 12 to 15 minutes, or until tender, turning occasionally.
Remove onions from skewers; toss half of the onions with 2 tablespoons of boiled vinegar, oregano and salt, as desired. Carve 2 steaks into slices. Serve with onion mixture and half of the squash and zucchini; season with salt, as desired. Yields 4 servings.
Cover and refrigerate leftover steaks, onions, squash, zucchini and boiled vinegar.
Editor's note: To prepare on a gas grill, preheat grill according to manufacturer's directions for medium heat. Grill steaks, covered, 11 to 15 minutes for medium-rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Grill squash and zucchini, covered, 7 to 11 minutes, and onions, covered, 13 to 16 minutes.
This salad is full of flavor.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons leftover boiled balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Leftover grilled squash halves, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Leftover grilled zucchini halves, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Leftover grilled red onion wedges
8 cups mixed salad greens
2 leftover grilled boneless beef top loin (strip) steaks (from Beef Top Loin Steaks with Balsamic Red Onion Relish)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese, optional
Crumbled blue cheese, optional
In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper together until blended. Set vinaigrette aside.
Arrange squash, zucchini and onions over salad greens.
Carve steaks into slices; season with salt and pepper. Arrange over salad.
Drizzle vinaigrette dressing over salad and toss gently to combine. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, blue cheese and croutons, if desired. Yields 4 servings.
- The Beef Checkoff through National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Onion Association
GRILLED TO PERFECTION: Grilled Onion Cheeseburgers have a savory grilled flavor that everyone will love.
Spice up traditional cheeseburgers with minced garlic and fresh thyme.
2 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 large yellow or white onions, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable OR olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 ounces crumbled or shredded cheese (such as blue cheese, smoked mozzarella, goat cheese or feta) OR 4 slices cheddar, Swiss, provolone or Gouda
4 white or whole wheat hamburger buns OR kaiser rolls, split
Combine ground beef, thyme and garlic in a medium bowl, mixing lightly but thoroughly. Shape mixture into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Brush both sides of onion slices with vegetable oil.
Place patties and onion slices on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill patties, uncovered, 11 to 13 minutes for medium (160°F) doneness, or until no longer pink in center and juices run clear, turning occasionally. Grill onions 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender, turning occasionally and brushing with oil. Season patties with salt and pepper.
Top 4 burgers with cheese about 1 minute before removing from grill. Place cheese-topped burgers on bottom half of each bun; top with half of the grilled onions. Cover with top buns. Yields 4 servings.
Cover and refrigerate leftover burgers and onions.
This tasty dish gives the word 'leftovers' a whole new meaning.
4 leftover grilled burgers
3 tablespoons olive oil
Leftover grilled onion slices, cut in half
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 1/2 cups uncooked regular or whole wheat penne pasta OR 8 cups cooked corkscrew (rotini) pasta
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Cut each burger into 6 pieces. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat; add burger pieces, onions and tomatoes. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until burgers are heated through, stirring frequently. Stir in basil, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot. Add burger mixture; toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper, and sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Yields 4 servings.
One summer, the neighbors complained to my mother that my singing in the backyard was interfering with them watching television. Singing was a practice I started shortly after I turned 10, and it was inspired after I saw Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I was enthralled by the idea that Snow White could sing so beautifully that birds would land on her shoulders.
I, too, wanted to sing in a manner that would entice forest animals to kiss my hand, so I began practicing in the backyard, hoping the birds would thank me. Usually, however, all I received were complaints from the neighbors. My mother would say that although the neighbors weren't impressed, she was sure God had heard my songs and had smiled through my entire performance. That was a pleasant thought, because although the neighbors didn't appreciate a stellar performance, God did.
I love music, and I have long believed that one of the greatest gifts a person can have is the ability to move listeners through the use of song. Unfortunately, I don't have that gift. I still sing in my backyard, though, but I do it much quieter now. I've accepted the fact that the birds are not going to fly up from my flowers or bushes to sit on my shoulder and thank me.
Father, thank You for giving each of us the ability to sing, even when it's limited to our own backyard concerts. May we always remember that the song You placed in our hearts to express love can be sung at any time. Thank You for the angels You blessed with voices that can move us, inspire us and entertain us. Help us all to keep the song in our hearts thriving. Amen.
I am far from being a patient person. In fact, those who know me best might describe me as very impatient. As a child, I constantly complained about the amount of time it took others to satisfy my needs.
This desire for constant activity and attention led my parents to enroll me in the city soccer league to 'help release some of my energy.' Unfortunately, I only grew more impatient as I stood there - decked out in my lemon-yellow soccer uniform and side ponytail - waiting for the other kids to pass me the ball. At the time, it seemed like I had to wait an eternity. The only thing that could ease my impatience was a church song my mother would sing. As I complained about the children ignoring me and making me stand there forever, she would start to sing, to remind me of the importance of patience.
Have patience, have patience; don't be in such a hurry;
Have patience, have patience; you'll only start to worry;
Remember, remember, that God is patient too,
So think about it every day, and you'll be patient, too.
The words of my mother were always the element that could render me calm and allow me to take a step back and enjoy a slower pace in life. As I grew older, I grew to truly appreciate the patience song.
My mother is still the soothing voice in my heart after a hard day, and the stern conscience that pushes me to try harder and do my absolute best. This same voice has left a permanent place in my heart for a song that once drove me crazy as I was forced to sit down and have a bit of patience.
Now, as I pass into a new stage in my life and face the nerves that accompany the uncertainty of my future, I find myself listening to the voice of my mother, reminding me to slow down, stop worrying and have unending faith.
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