On the Beach

I’ve just returned from a few days at Daytona Beach, Florida. Walking on the beach reminded me of the time Mom and Dad came to visit us in Texas. We took them to South Padre Island. It was only the second time they experienced the ocean.

I pulled out some old photos to relive those moments. Although I couldn’t find all of them, here’s a couple showing their beach outing. I must go on a photo scanning binge and get the rest of them added here.

The folks enjoyed walking along the sandy beach and finding seashells. Mom got a kick out of feeding the seagulls some crackers that we had with us.

The mural in the background was painted by Robert Wyland and is called the Whaling Wall. We are standing on the boardwalk between the convention center and the beach.

For lunch, we stopped at Pirate’s Landing right before the bridge going from the mainland to the island. Probably the fried shrimp seemed the most familiar food on the menu. Seafood wasn’t part of our meals in landlocked Kansas when I was growing up.

Since this visit, the restaurant closed so you can no longer sit on their deck and admire the pelicans swooping over the water. The bridge suffered a partial collapse shortly after 9/11 but it was a boating accident, not an act of terrorism as was first feared.

The mural is still there and the beautiful South Padre beach still stretches for miles.



Mom’s Swiss Steak Recipe

Here's Karen cooking Swiss steak for Mom.

Here’s Karen cooking swiss steak for Mom.

We had our home-grown beef in the freezer when we lived in the country. Mom worked her magic on some of the lesser cuts of meat like round steak that tends to be tough. She used her Saladmaster electric skillet to cook Swiss steak. You can use a regular, large frying pan too.

The slow cooking tenderizes the round steak and creates its own gravy. I remember that tasting so good with mashed potatoes. Usually, we’d have home-canned green beans on the side.

I’ve put the recipe on a postcard, in case you’d like to mail it to your friends.

Swiss Steak Recipe Postcard
Swiss Steak Recipe Postcard by vallain
View other 1930s recipe Postcards at Zazzle.com


The green peppers and the mushrooms are more recent additions to the recipe by my sister Karen. Those weren’t ingredients that Mom used. The photo above of Karen cooking Swiss steak was for the weekly Wednesday Dinners-with-Mom. The sisters took turns fixing a homemade meal, usually at Mom’s house. Mom’s sisters, C.J. would be there also.

If you’re making it in an electric frying pan, cook it around 250 to 300 degrees. Karen says if it sticks and burns a bit, don’t panic. Just leave that in the pan when you dish it up.

Let me know if you try out the recipe and tell me how you liked it.

Home: A Sense of Place

This is a guest post, by my sister, Karen Kolavalli.

Karen Kolavalli, the author of this essay.

Karen Kolavalli, the author of this essay.

Whenever anyone asks “Where’s home?” I immediately picture an isolated farmhouse north of El Dorado, Kansas. I’ve been thinking about the concept of home this week as part of the coursework in an anthropology class I’m taking.

While I don’t have the writing skills of Daphne DuMaurier (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”) or Isak Dinesen (“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.”), my memories of my growing-up home place are just as poignant. The house burned down a few years after we moved out. I remember as a child, a family brought their elderly mother to the house and asked if she could look around. She had grown up there herself. I’m sad that I can never be that old lady revisiting my childhood home.

My family moved to the country when I was just 6 years old and we remained there until we moved back to town when I was in junior high. Growing up free and wild in the country was, and still is, the best childhood I could imagine. My four sisters and brother and I endlessly explored the woods, the pastures, the creek, and the river, together and on our own. It was a magical time and place.

Cindy, Karen, Ginger and Susan - Quite a long time ago, when we lived in the country.

Cindy, Karen, Ginger and Susan – Quite a long time ago, when we lived in the country.

I was a big reader and I would also get lost in the make-believe world of paper dolls cut from the Penney’s and Sear’s catalogs. We played a lot of board games as a family when bitter winter cold and snow kept us inside. The downstairs of our house was kept warm with a wood-burning stove. The upstairs was not kept warm at all. We children shared beds, which helped keep us warm, although not “toasty” warm. I remember ice on the inside of the windows upstairs in our late 19th-century farm house.

So, yes, that’s “home,” even though I’ve lived in many other places. “Last night I dreamt….”

Homage to the Flint Hills

Hills in Kansas? Yes, Kansas has the rolling Flint Hills where you’ll see tall grass prairie, limestone outcroppings, and a sky that goes on forever. It’s in the south-central part of the state.

I grew up nearby, and my mother spent her childhood in the Flint Hills. We love the sweeping vistas and subtle folds of the Flint Hills area. It was always a treat to take a scenic drive through the Flint Hills and to watch for windmills, prairie fires and big thunderheads.

Photo by Virginia Allain of the Kansas Flint Hills.

Photo by Virginia Allain of the Kansas Flint Hills.

Anyone who thinks Kansas is flat and featureless has never seen the Flint Hills. In Mom’s book, she talks about the thrill of seeing a prairie wildfire at night sweep across the hills.

In her collection of books, there was one of paintings of the Flint Hills. Each featured artist wrote about how the region inspired them. Artist Judy Love of Manhattan, Kansas wrote this, “The changes of light and color through the day and through the seasons transform these ancient hills into an incredible beauty that leaves me speechless.” She said that painting was her way of showing a “bit of what my heart feels.”

Here’s that book:

She loved the prairie wildflowers and taught us the names for some of them.

This one is aptly named the butterfly weed. (photo by Virginia Allain) Its official name is Asclepias tuberosa.

This one is aptly named the butterfly weed. (photo by Virginia Allain) Its official name is Asclepias tuberosa.

The hardy wildflowers of the windswept prairie can withstand drought and harsh conditions. Give them a try in your yard.

It’s hard to capture the prairie with a camera. Somehow the hills just flatten out under that big sky. As you cruise along in your car with the windows down, pull over now and then at the crest of a hill. Get out and admire the wildflowers. Listen to the sound of the meadowlark and notice the scissortail flycatcher or the hawk on the telephone wire.

The Flint Hills Poster
The Flint Hills Poster by Kcstore

Let your eyes follow the road as it forms a ribbon through the curves and folds of the land. Note the sparse trees revealing the line of a creek wending through the hills.

Savor it. The Flint Hills are a special place much loved by Kansans.