Sunday, July 8, 2007

Harry Potter Fever

For anyone who is infatuated with the adventures of Harry Potter, this month has been a long way coming. The fifth movie – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – will be hitting the theaters in about two weeks, with the final book installment – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – following a week later. For everyone who has wondered how this successful series will end, the seventh book promises to tie up all the loose endings and give us insight into the future of Harry and his friends.

I read the first book - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – during the summer of 1997. At that time the book’s author – J. K. Rowling – was a complete unknown, but I tried the book because of a recommendation from a friend. I was hooked after the first chapter and couldn’t wait for the next books. Book two and three – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – were released in the United States in 1999, so I got a double dose of my favorite characters. By the time the third book was published, Harry Potter had become a world-wide success and plans for a major motion picture were in the works.

The United States release of the fourth book – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – proved to be a marketing darling. Book sellers around the country were having Harry Potter release parties and staying open until midnight the Friday night before release. I remember being at “Girls in Action” mother-daughter camp with Christine, who was getting ready to turn eight, that Friday night, so we picked up a copy as soon as we got back to town. This book was huge – 734 pages – but I had consumed the book by Sunday night. Christine and Keith were listening to the book on tape, so it took them a few days longer to finish the book, and I was not allowed to give away any spoilers until they were done.

The year 2001 did not bring a new book, but most fans were satisfied with the release of the first motion picture. Seeing the entire fictional world on the big screen was wonderful and the imagery was almost exactly the way J. K. Rowling had written them. Although there were many things from the book left out of the movie, it was still a great two and a half hours with Harry and his friends. I still recommend people read the books, because no matter how well done a movie is, the book is always going to be better. The second film installment was released in 2002 and it was also a huge box office success.

There was a three year wait between books four and five, but when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released during the summer of 2003, it was well worth the wait. At a hefty 870 pages, it was a thrilling read, even though it left me with cramped hands. Of all the books to date, this one is my favorite. It is full of action, mystery, love and danger. The characters are growing up and Rowling’s prose has grown with them.

The third movie installment hit the big screen in the fall of 2004, and the sixth book – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – was released during the summer of 2005. I was waiting for the doors to open at Wal-Mart on the morning of the release and I spent the entire day devouring the book. Again, Christine and Keith were listening to the book on tape, so I had no one to talk to about the shocking ending for almost a week. The sixth book proposed more questions than it answered and it left me longing for the seventh, and final, book, which I already knew was going to be at least two years from publication.

The fourth movie hit the big screen in 2006 and this was the first movie that we saw at the drive-in instead of the cinemas. Although it was good as a stand alone movie, I thought there were too many major plot points left out of the film. Because of the length of the book, many characters were scaled back, or not used at all, but I understand the time restraints necessary to get a film on the screen. This is the only thing worrying me about the upcoming release of the fifth movie. The fifth book is the longest to date, and I’m afraid there will be much left out of the movie. I guess I will see in about two weeks.

Even though I am anxious for the next movie, the thing I can’t wait for is the new book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is to be the final chapter of this series. I have known since the beginning that J. K. Rowling would only be writing seven books, so this will be a farewell to Harry and his friends. My only hope is that all my questions will be answered and all the loose ends tied up by the time I get to the last chapter. The long anticipated seventh book will be released the weekend of Christine’s 15th birthday, and she has been telling everyone that I will be reading all weekend. “Mom is more excited about the new book than my birthday,” she tells people with a laugh. Thankfully, she and Keith will be going on a father-daughter outing in Louisville that Saturday, so maybe I’ll be finished reading by the time they get home. I plan to be at Wal-Mart when the books go on sell at midnight – that will give me all night and day to read.

If you have never read any of the books in this “children’s” series, I highly recommend them. They are for children and adults a like and make wonderful entertainment when read to your children or grandchildren. I also recommend the books on tape which are narrated by Jim Dale, an awarding winning vocalist who uses over 100 different voices for all the characters. His voice is captivating and these tapes or CDs make great entertainment when going on a long road trip or on vacation.

So don’t be upset if the door goes unanswered and the telephone answering machine is on during the July 21st weekend – I’ll have my nose in a book and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m finished. And if anyone else finishes the book by that Sunday, give me a call because I will be dying to talk to someone about the ending.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, July 2007

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grandmothers and Gardens

I have so many fond memories of working in gardens with both of my grandmothers, but I also have different memories for each grandmother. When I think of gardening with Granny Devine, I think of snowball bushes, elephant ears and sage. When I think of gardening with Granny Sallee, I think of peonies, poppies and corn. Each woman had a major input in my life and I can contribute most of my gardening knowledge to them.

Most of my gardening memories with Granny Sallee centered around activities on the farm in Bohon. The farm was 20-plus acres, but the house and Granny’s flower beds were on the one acre that was closest to Bohon road. I love this old farm house and have had many dreams of living there throughout my life. The house sits back off the road and at a slight angle, so when you come down the curving hill past the Bohon Christian Church, the house is sitting in the bend of the road. I spent many happy days roaming this farm and my most favorite memories are of helping Granny with her flowers.

Peonies were always Granny Sallee’s favorite and she had many clumps that ran along a ridge line on the upper side of the house. I know these clumps of flowers were old because I can remember Granny telling me she had planted each and every “start”. She loved these flowers so much, that when she and Granddaddy finally had to move to town, she brought some peonies with her and planted them near the clothesline in the back yard. Peonies were one of the first flowers that I planted 14 years ago when we moved to our home. I started out with three peonies; one red, one pink, and one white. Over the past few years, I have divided my original clumps and transplanted them in several areas of my gardens. The majority of my peonies are now along the length of our driveway where they are thriving in the full sun.

Granny Sallee also loved her poppies. She had these close to the house and also near her rows of peonies. These large orange flowers were always so welcomed in the spring, being some of the first to bloom after the tulips and daffodils. These beautiful orange flowers had deep black stamens and when the seed pods formed they added interest in the gardens. Granny would leave the seed heads throughout the summer, and then in the fall, we would shake the seed pods to distribute the tiny seeds in the beds. These little seeds would guarantee an abundant supply of poppies for next spring.

Corn was a crop that not only reminded me of my Granny, but my Granddaddy as well. Granddaddy had an old wooden corn planter and I can remember helping to push the planter into the tilled soil, spread the handles open and drop a seed into the shoot. When the planter was removed from the soil, the seed would be planted at the right depth for growing wonderful sweet corn. I would also give each corn planting a dipper of water from the five gallon buckets we had hauled from the house. I still grow corn in my backyard garden, but it is mainly for the memories and to have the stalks for fall decorations. In my garden, there is too much competition with the raccoons for the fresh corn. Now, I get most of my fresh corn from the Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons, and I let the raccoons have the few ears that I grow in the garden.

Snowball bushes were one of Granny Devine’s favorite plants. At her small home in town, she had a large bush next to her clothesline in the back yard. Every year, Granny would clone babies from her snowball bush by pulling down branches from the main plant, burying part of the stem in the ground and covering with a rock. It would take a year for the stem to take root, but once it did, Granny would cut it from the main plant and dig up a baby snowball bush. Although I don’t have one of Granny’s snowball babies, I have started several different families from one original bush that I planted about eight years ago.

Sage is one of my favorite herbs to grow and again, I learned to grow sage from Granny Devine. Granny would always have sage growing in her flower beds, and during the summer and fall you could always find paper towels laden with sage leaves drying all throughout the house. Granny always used her fresh dried sage in her Thanksgiving and Christmas stuffing. I dry some sage throughout the year, but I also let several clumps of sage go flower because the flowers are very pretty and they attract beneficial bugs to my gardens. Also, sage gives off a refreshing scent when you brush against it while walking in the garden.

Elephant ears are the one plant my Granny Devine loved that I have always had trouble growing. Granny grew her ears in plastic buckets; during the winter she stored them under her house and during the summer she would pull them out into the gardens. She was also able to produce babies from her elephant ears. I have grown elephant ears in the past, but I don’t like to baby these tender plants. The few times I have grown elephant ears, I have planted them straight into the garden soil. I did have one elephant ear that wintered over and grew larger the next summer, but most of the time, the bulbs die because I don’t dig them in the fall for storage.

As my children grow older, they have varying interest in gardening. Christine does not have any interest in flowers or gardening, but Amber and Marie are beginning to enjoy working with different plants. Amber has planted numerous flowers at her new home and she is taking an interest in learning about new plants. Marie’s best friend also has a new home, so Marie has been helping her start a new flower bed, as well as planting a few flowers at her own home. I have enjoyed being a resource person to answer all the gardening questions and I look forward to teaching the next generation of our family about gardening.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2007

Chip Off the Old Block

Recently, Christine and I have been watching Kids by the Dozen, a television program on families with multiple children. It is amazing to see how these special families operate. All of the families profiled have twelve or more children and most of them are home schooled. I can’t wrap my mind around twelve children, much less home schooling these twelve kids.

The Duggar family of Arkansas has been our favorite family to date. They have 16 children, all ranging in age from 18 to less than a year old. There are only two sets of twins, so this mother has actually been pregnant 14 times, and the couple says they are not finished yet! How do you raise 16 children? I must admit, this family is much more organized than mine. A homework assignment was the biggest family project, to build their dream house—which took them over three and a half years.

Christine and I have watched several shows featuring the Duggar family and we are just in awe of how this family works. I know Christine misses not having any younger brothers or sisters, but after having three children, I was ready to quit. Three children were definitely all we could afford to raise. I wanted my kids to have all the opportunities available to them and I wanted them to experience life and make decisions on how they wanted to live their lives.

When my girls were younger, they were involved in many types of extra curricular activities and sports. I wanted the girls to be involved and find what they liked to do. Swimming lessons, tennis lessons, horseback riding and soccer; these were just a few of the activities that my girls tried out, but decided not to pursue. Girl Scouts, 4-H, and mission groups at church; these were a must for all three girls and I think these groups helped my girls grow into the women they are today.

Even though none of my girls are interested in crafting, knitting or sewing, I do know they benefit from the projects I make. I just envisioned my girls growing up and crafting with me, but that never happened. They have their own hobbies and interests. At least Marie is interested in one area of creative arts; she likes to work with stained glass and mosaic tiles. I try to encourage her, but sometimes life gets in the way of being creative. Amber and Marie both love to go hunting and spending time on their dad’s farm. Christine’s world revolves around music.

Of course, as a mother, I have tried to push my likes onto my children. When Christine was three years old, I wanted her to take dance lessons. I had always wanted to give Amber and Marie dance lessons, but I could never afford it. So when Christine came along, I thought she would be my little ballerina. For two years I practically drug her to dance class; tap shoes, ballet shoes, tutus and all. She was so cute when she was all dressed up. I loved preparing for and attending her dance recitals, but after two years, I realized, Christine hated every minute of it. It was my dream for her to be a dancer, not hers, and once I realized this, I stopped making her go to dance class. For the next three years, Christine was happier on the soccer field.

Now that Christine is a freshman in high school, her interests have turned to journalism and a growing obsession with living in Finland. Yes, Finland, as in cold, snow. Land of the midnight sun. For several months now, she has been researching the foreign exchange student program for the United States and Finland. She would like to go to school in Finland during her junior year of high school. I realize this would be a wonderful experience for her, but just the thought of one of my children being half way around the world is really upsetting. I may not get to see Amber and Marie as much as I would like, but at least they are in the same county and I can get to them in just a few minutes. How would I get to Christine in a hurry if she was in Finland? At least we have a year and a half for more discussions and research before having to make a decision.

Christine is in the Newspaper I class at school and she has been the only freshman in a class full of juniors and seniors. She has been researching and writing numerous articles all year, as well as taking photographs for the paper and the year book. Her main goal this year has been to learn and master the editing program for putting the newspaper together and to learn some basic journalism skills. She has already applied for Newspaper II class
next year. Maybe Christine is going to be our “chip off the old block”, after all, Keith’s career revolves around the television media, and this is my 10th year as a contributing writer for Mercer’s Magazine.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2007

Friday, February 2, 2007

Living Green

This is going to be the year when our family takes recycling into the 21st century. Global warming is having such an impact on the condition of our world that if we don’t do something soon, our grandchildren and great grandchildren may not have a world to call home. I realize that individually, my family may not be able to have a major impact on global warming, but we can change our lifestyle habits and do our part. If every family would take recycling and conservation seriously, then maybe one by one we can make a difference.

I have always been a big re-user of newspapers and junk mail because these are both biodegradable. I use newspapers to start the foundation of new beds in my gardens. When I decide on the location of a new bed, the first thing I do is clear the area and then lay down thick wads of wet newspaper to cover the ground. After sprinkling a small layer of garden soil over the newspaper, I start layering the bed with leaf mulch, grass clippings and other yard waste. These garden beds are best when allowed to “rest” through a few seasons before planting, but they can be planted immediately, depending on how much organic material you have on hand. Because I have one acre to care for, I have pounds and pounds of yard waste to supply new beds. The newspaper barrier will break down in the soil almost immediately and provides the moist dark environment to attract earthworms.

Earthworms are the workhorses of the garden. Why dig and till the soil when you can wait a few months and let the worms do their thing? Worms live a charmed life—all they do is eat, poop and reproduce. Their voracious appetites allow them to eat all types of garden and kitchen waste and all that eating leads to pure gold; composting gold that is. As the earthworms tunnel their way through layers of newspaper, leaf mold and grass clippings, they leave behind aerated soil and worm castings, which fertilize the new soil.

With the introduction of a paper shredder to our home office, junk mail is a pleasure to deal with. I have always composted my junk mail, but because much of the paper is colored or thicker than normal newspaper print, it takes much longer to break down. Now, whenever we bring junk mail into the house, we automatically shred it. This eliminates the chance of identity thief, plus the shredded junk mail decomposing much faster because of the smaller size. This fall, I dug several large holes throughout my gardens in anticipation of planting new trees this spring. All fall and winter I have been filling these holes up with shredded junk mail and kitchen scrapes. I keep the holes covered with a layer of leaves and every few weeks I stomp down the holes and stir them up with my garden claw; this allows air to circulate which improves the decomposition. When it comes time to plant my trees, I will have nice big holes full of nice rich compost. There is nothing better for a new tree than loads of organic matter.

Aluminum cans have always been a recyclable item in our home, typically being sold by the pound. The past few years, our use of aluminum cans have greatly decreased, so we are lucky to get $25 a year for our cans, but in past years, we have gotten upwards of $100 a year for cans. However, food cans is not something I have been in the habit of recycling. It has been so convenient to just throw these cans into the trash and forget about them, but Christine has made me see the error of my ways. Since this past November, we have religiously been washing out cans and removing the labels (which go into the compost piles) before throwing the cans into the recycling bag. I have also used soup cans to sprout herbs and veggies in my kitchen windows.

Glass jars are an item that we reuse more then recycling, because there are so many uses for old glass jars. They can be used for all types of storage problems, from the kitchen to the garage. Baby food jars are great for small nuts and bolts, pickle jars are good for refrigerator storage, and commercial size jars can hold sugar, flour, or tea. During the holiday season, I always make fireside coffee, hot cocoa, or spice tea mixes as well as soup and cookie mixes to give to family and friends. Collecting jars throughout the year is a must in order to have enough containers for my gift giving.

Currently, our major recycling problem is plastic bottles—water, soda, milk, mustard, ketchup, you name it and we are drowning in plastic. Two liter bottles are great for making mini greenhouses for spring transplants, but there are only so many you need before you become over-run. Water bottles are reused as often as possible, but we still accumulate dozens within a month’s time. Although it is a little more trouble to recycle these bottles, it is well worth it in the long run if it keeps them from entering our landfills. Cat litter buckets are great to use in place of a five gallon bucket for yard projects and milk jugs can be turned into bird feeders.

I still have relapses, I am human after all, but Christine is trying to keep me straight. As a matter of fact, she has taken on the responsibility of the plastic bottles and soup cans; I just have to provide routine transportation to the recycling center. I know what you are thinking, my life is busy enough without adding trips to the recycling center, but fifteen minutes every other week is not too much to ask in the war to save our planet. Once it becomes habit, going to the recycling center will become routine. Start small, save newspapers or compost kitchen waste, but just get started. Our future generations are counting on us all.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, February 2007

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Mercer County Tourism

With tourism dollars leaving our county in record amounts, I think it is the responsibility of all Mercer Countians to help promote tourism. We are the ones living in this wonderful community, so we are the perfect people to describe all the breathtaking things Mercer County has to offer.

Since the Legend of Daniel Boone is no longer running, I feel a void in our community. Mr. Ralph Anderson and his wife have been so generous with supporting tourism in our county, but now it is up to the rest of us. In addition to telling people about tourist spots in Harrodsburg and the surrounding county, we need to be visiting these places ourselves.

With gas prices sky rocketing over the past year, traveling has become an expensive venture for most middle class families. Why not make up for that expense by visiting the tourist attractions in our county? Then after re-visiting these places again for yourself, tell all your friends and family about the beautiful things Mercer County has to offer.

Old Fort Harrods is still open for business, even with the closing of the legend of Daniel Boone. The Black Box Theater is currently the home of a traveling Smithsonian exhibit for the month of January and this is a great example of historical family entertainment. How long has it been since your family took a tour of the Old Fort or the lovely museum? Maybe this summer when you have family visiting from out of town or out of state, take them on a tour of the Old Fort and museum. Go on a picnic under the huge Osage orange tree in the front lawn of the park or have a family reunion in the shelter house and playground. Area. All money spent at the park will help to benefit the entire county and help build back our tourism trade.

Shaker Village at Pleasant hill is another historic site that many Mercer Countians take for granted, but this is another wonderful place to bring your family and friends. With 2900 acres of land, 40+ miles of walking trails, 34 restored Shaker buildings, and a historic boat ride, Shaker Village has something to offer everyone. You can learn about the history of the Shakers in Kentucky, learn about their religion and their trade business with the outside world.

Shaker Village also has numerous workshops and events help throughout year, so there is always something to do. Overnight lodging is also available and all 81 rooms are in restored Shaker buildings. Equestrians can bring their own horses to the village and ride on numerous marked trails. Music programs and Shaker Life and Beliefs talks are available through the spring, summer and fall as well as agricultural talks. There are on going demonstrations in wood working, broom making, coopering, and spinning and weaving. You can also visit the demonstration herb and vegetable gardens, along with the apple orchard. Animals abound on the Shaker Village land—horses, sheep cows, donkeys, ducks and geese—and there are usually plenty of baby animals, too.

The historic downtown area of Harrodsburg is also another tourist attraction for visitors. Not only are there many restored buildings and businesses, there is also a walking tour to allow for up close investigation of the many historic homes around the community. The Ragged Edge Theatre offers numerous presentations throughout the year, showcasing the many talented people of Harrodsburg and Mercer County. The water fountain park located next door to the Ragged Edge also hosts many musical performances during the summer. Downtown Harrodsburg is also host to car shows and motorcycle events which gives out-of-towners a taste of our quaint little town.

Historic Beaumont Inn is another tourist attraction with lots of home town appeal. Not only does the Inn offer spacious overnight lodging and good old Southern hospitality, but it is the home of the yellow-legged fried chicken and the best corn pudding since Granny Sallee’s. The Beaumont Inn Gift Shop offers eloquent gifts and souvenirs from around Kentucky. The Old Owl Tavern is the newest attention to the Beaumont Inn family, and as the name states, it is like a quaint old tavern. The tavern is a wonderful place to come and unwind after a long, hard days work.

Out in the county, Mercer is home to the Brightleaf Golf Course and Motel. This 18-hole golf course sits in the middle of some of the most beautiful land in the county. The greens are to perfection and the obstacles and scenery make this one of the best courses in the state.

Of course, Mercer County has numerous horse and cattle farms for the viewing. Anderson Circle Farm and the “Cow Palace” are big attractions and they also offer a large area for receptions, meetings, or any type of party you can think of. Many of the horse farms in the county offer riding trails, workshops and lessons

The Twin Hills Drive-In is another treasure that I personally am glad to see reopened. You may not think of a drive-in as being a tourist attraction, but it really is. There are people who come from Franklin, Woodford, Boyle and other counties—just to be at a real drive-in theatre. Drive-ins are an endangered species, so Twin Hills has the possibility of being a huge tourist draw for our community.

As 2007 becomes our new year, let’s remember all the wonderful entertainment our community has to offer. I know I have forgotten someone and it is not my intention to slight any business or organization, I just want to draw attention to all the wonderful opportunities available in Mercer County. The future also will give us the new Agricultural Museum, which I am excited about because it will be within walking distance of my home. So make a resolution this year to visit some or all of the attractions within our community and spread the excitement to all your friends and family. After all, in order for our area to grow, word of mouth is a powerful tool.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, January 2007