What's New

Nov
16
2011

 

            One lovely spring day, when everything in the world seemed innocent and inviting, I had an experience so humiliating that it still makes me cringe when I think about it today.  My friends Barb and Jim from Indiana were visiting. Sun lovers, they expressed an interest in all sorts of outdoor activities. We’d been to the beach, so we decided to go on a long canoe trip down the Rainbow River in central Florida. That struck a chord in me. I loved being on the river, especially when we’d had plenty of rain and the river was up.

            Barb and I decided we would wear bandeau bathing suits. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, a bandeau bathing suit has no straps, so your tan lines won’t show.

            BANDEAU noun \ban-ˈdō\ A bathing suit held up by an elastic band, worn by fools and those who don’t know any better.

            A thick wide band of elastic holds up the suit in front—the band, and what Mother Nature has endowed you with. Mother Nature had been generous to me. So, off we went with our husbands for a day of high adventure.

            That day we shared the river with about twenty 12- to 13-year-old Boy Scouts. We kidded back and forth with the boys, vying for first place, joking good naturedly about all sorts of things. They stopped to swim; we went ahead. We stopped to picnic; they shot ahead. The Rainbow is incredibly beautiful, so we stopped to take pictures and point out turtles and bass and gar.

            At one point, the Rainbow river turns and narrows through a rock gorge. Since the water was high on the day of my adventure, that meant that thousands of gallons of water suddenly had to squeeze through a smaller space. The force of the water can be tremendous. When our foursome turned the corner, we were surprised to see many of the Boy Scout canoes stuck together in a glut, right where the river was surging through the smaller gorge. I saw that we were going to ram them, so I stuck my paddle in the water to try to slow us down. No deal, Lucille. The force of the water pitched me out into the rushing river and sucked me forward with lightning speed.

            As a child, I had once almost drowned when I got caught under a giant rubber raft at the beach and couldn’t get out from under it. That day on the Rainbow, I saw myself being sucked underneath the knot of 15 or so canoes, and I panicked. I reached up in desperation and grabbed the side of one of the canoes to stop me from going under. I gripped it with a death grip. I held on, BUT MY BATHING SUIT WENT TO MEXICO (thank goodness it didn’t go to Chile!). I felt what was happening, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. My head was still under 2 feet of water, my hands were gripping the side of a canoe, and there I hung in all my glory.

             I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath  much longer, so I looked up from down under the water. I saw the shadowy figures of several boys. They were looking down with their mouths hanging open. One boy pointed while talking to the others. I couldn’t hear his voice, of course, but I read his lips.

            “LOOK AT THOSE!!!”

            I hung there, suspended between drowning and humiliation.

            Everything happened at once. My husband rescued me. He reached down to haul me back into our canoe and somehow managed to pull up my suit in the process. The canoes came untangled and started making their way through the gorge. We spun in an eddy while my face tried to return to its normal color. It would have been nice to have made a hasty exit, but there was quite a lot of river to cover before the gettin’-out place.

            We only saw the Boy Scouts one more time that day. As we paddled by their noisy group, they went instantly quiet, except for one boy, who stage whispered, “She’s the one! Her! Her! Right there!”

            There’s good news about this story, however. I learned to respect the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared. The Boy Scouts learned an anatomy lesson. The bad news is that I was Exhibits A and B.

Nov
16
2011
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Dear Martha,

Here’s the continuation of “Teddy Bodain’s Bodacious Trip into Meridian.” Ha ha! When we went to see the Grand Opera House on 5th Street, people were gathered all over, admiring the beautiful, red building. Mama wanted to read the poster that tells what opera or operetta would be presented that day. We went to the lobby to read the poster, and there was Miss Cassie Melman.

She said, “Why, hello, Mrs. Bodain. I’m so happy to see you!”

Mama looked surprised. She said, “Oh?”

Miss Melman acted like she was telling Mama a secret. “I just met the piano player of the opera house. I told him I, too, play the piano. He was kind enough to give me three tickets to today’s matinee. Three free tickets! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Mama didn’t act like it was wonderful. She said, kind of stiff-like, “How nice for you.”

Miss Melman said, “Do you know what’s playing?”

Mama said, “The poster says that today’s operetta is The Pirates of Penzance.”

Miss Melman clapped her hands. “Yes! I’ve always wanted to see it. I’m a big fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. I saw The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore back in Charleston. They are just the happiest, most funny musicals.

The Pirates of Penzance is supposed to be their finest work.” Then, she said, “Would you please join me, Mrs. Bodain? We could go to the matinee performance together and use these tickets.”

Mama looked at Pap. He smiled. “I think that’s a fine idea.” Mama’s face was all sunshine. She said, “I would be delighted to attend with you, Miss Melman. How kind of you to ask.”

I’m ashamed to say it, but I thought I would die on the spot. I knew that Mama was going to ask me to watch Dylan, and I wouldn’t get to go. I tried not
to pout. I was happy for Mama but sad for me.

But dear Miss Melman said, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Mrs. Bodain, would you permit Theodosia to join us? I have another ticket.

The three of us could go together.”

I didn’t beg, but my eyes were as big as saucers. I held my breath.

Mama looked toward Pap. She and I knew someone had to take care of Dylan. This was Pap’s special day, too.

We knew he would want to go to the hardware store and the livestock stockade.

Pap didn’t let us down. He said, “Why don’t I take this big ol’ boy with me, and we’ll go to the hardware store like men, while you hens go to the musical.” I wanted to dance for joy!

Mama said, “Theodosia, would you like to join us?” Great buckets of butterbeans! Mama called me Theodosia, right in front of Miss Melman.

I said, “Yes, Mama, thank you, and thank YOU, Miss Melman.” I acted ladylike, but in my mind, I was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels on the sidewalk.

The Pirates of Penzance was INCREDIBLE. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about it.

We are leaving Meridian this morning. Mama reminded me that now would be a good time to post all your letters. She is going to town one last time. I unknotted my handkerchief and gave her a penny for each letter. Remember the pennies we saved?

Love,
Teddy

Nov
15
2011
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Dear Martha,

Goodness gracious and great buckets of butterbeans! How can I ever explain all about Meridian? It was astounding! I will try to describe everything, so you can experience it with me.

Trains from all over Mississippi and Atlanta and other places arrive here in Meridian many times each day, blowing their steam whistles. Clouds of white steam shoot up into the air. When the conductor shouts, “All aboard!” you better scamper on that train because it’s about to leave the station. We saw many travelers with fine trunks and stylish clothing.

Dylan sat on Pap’s shoulders and waved. A girl wearing a sailor dress handed him a red balloon. He clapped his hands and said, “Loon!”

I have never seen so many bicycles in one place. They are every color of the rainbow and finely made. We first started seeing them on the walk into town, but there are many of them on the streets of Meridian, too. Men, women, and children ride bicycles—whole families. We saw a pretty girl and her beau on a bicycle built for two. I’ve seen women ride side-saddle, but here, many of them straddle their bikes with one foot on each side. No kidding! Most of
the women who ride that way were wearing special bicycle bloomers. Not skirts—BLOOMERS! It was a funny sight.

Can you picture a bunch of women in their bloomers, riding bicycles? Pap said, “What next?”

“Very practical,” Mama said. “Why shouldn’t women wear split skirts or bloomers? One day, women might wear trousers, like men. Skirts and dresses aren’t always best for working or riding a horse or a bicycle.” I hope someday I get to ride a bicycle wearing bloomers. Will you do it, too?

When we arrived in downtown Meridian, Mama said, “Dalton, I’d like to have our photograph taken while we’re wearing our good clothes.”

I expected Pap to throw his hat down, but he said, “Grace, I’d be right proud to have a photograph.” Mama said, “Good. I don’t know when I’ve seen you look more handsome.” Pap said, “It’s not every day that I get to walk hand in hand down the streets of Meridian with a gal as pretty as you.”

Mama blushed!

We went to Mr. L.H. LeGrand’s Photographic Studio and had our picture taken. The photographer got under a black drape that hung from his enormous camera. We had to stand very still, and that is hard to do with an almost two-year-old baby. But Mr. LeGrand let Dylan keep his balloon for the picture, and he settled down.

I sat next to Pap, Dylan sat on Pap’s lap, and Mama stood behind Pap with her hand on his shoulder. Mama may not wear starched, white skirts like Miss Melman, but she was beautiful. When Mr. LeGrand took our photograph, he used flashing powder that flashed as bright as lightning. It startled us! We thought Dylan might cry, but he said, “Boom!”

We walked down Main Street and, Martha, there were more stores than you could shake a stick at. There were millinery stores with lovely new hats displayed in the windows. There were stores that sold clothing and sundries, drugstores, hardware stores, bookstores, butcher shops, a Christmas store, and a store that sold nothing but ice. The place where every woman wanted to go, however, was the Marks Rothenberg Department Store. It’s the biggest store you could ever imagine, with floors and floors of stuff for sale. Absolutely everything. We even bought a sit-down lunch and root beer mugs at their fountain.

But that’s not the best part! Wait till you hear this!

I’ll have to tell you tomorrow. Mama told me to blow out the candle. She’s told me twice, and she means business this time. Vexation!

Love,
Teddy

Nov
14
2011
See video

This is a really cool idea that links READING with WRITING!

Nov
14
2011
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Dear Martha,

We are camped at Meridian, Mississippi. Today is the day! We are going into town as soon as Mama finishes putting up her hair and Pap shines his boots. Everyone is excited about seeing this grand town and all the sights. I’m about to jump out of my shoes if they don’t hurry up!

Mama and I spent last evening taking baths, washing our hair, and laying out our outfits. Mama set the washtub right beside our wagon on the far side. She hung quilts around it for privacy while I heated buckets of water over the campfire. Pap hauled more buckets of fresh water for rinsing.

It felt great to take a bath. The mules and wagons churn up a lot of dust each day, and it gets in our clothes and shoes and hair. The water felt warm and soothing. I used a cake of soap and a sponge and scrubbed away the layers of sweat and dust. Mama washed my hair, and I brushed it dry near the fire.

Mama has been saving our good clothes in case we stop somewhere special. Well, Meridian is about as special as it gets. I’m wearing my new blue dress with the white pinafore. I braided my hair and tied blue bows on the ends. I’m not the only excited one. We’re all in a tizzy! Last night, we were so excited about our trip into Meridian, we forgot to eat! Just before bedtime, Pap said, “Grace, did we forget to eat supper?”

Mama looked shocked. Then, she said, “Dalton Bodain, I do believe you are right!” and we had a good laugh about it. She gathered some cornbread left over from midday, and we ate cornbread with honey and drank some of Girlie’s milk. It was like having a picnic right here inside the wagon, just the four of us. It was just our family, having fun together.

Dylan said, “Tornbread.” Isn’t that cute? Tornbread. He says something new every day. He is so adorable in his outfit. He has a matching hat, and it makes him look like a little man. Pap is calling. It’s time to go into town. Martha, I wish you were going with me, but I’ll write every detail in my next letter.

Love,
Teddy

 

 
Nov
11
2011

Fall is in the air. Even here in Florida, we’ve had the taste of an occasional cool morning…a slight lowering of the thermometer in the evening. And once you’ve had a taste of fall, there’s no turning back, not for all the candy corn in the world. There’s something about fall that takes me back to early school days. Nifty Notebooks, fresh covers on books, sharpened pencils, and white, creamy paste in its own little jar. As leaves began to fall from the trees and the P.T.A. started planning the school carnival, it could only mean one thing: the fundraising bake sale with those mouthwatering peanut butter cookies. Oh, my good glory!

I present to you a recipe so delicious it’ll knock you silly. Trust me. I tasted them this afternoon, and I was immediately knocked silly. I haven’t come out of my silly yet. EVERYONE who tastes these rich morsels of goodness screams, “I must have this recipe!” If I were extremely devious, I would hold it ransom, demanding hoards of baseball cards and whole rolls of Lifesavers in return. But, I am only slightly devious, so I’ve agreed to share. You won’t believe it till you try it. It really is that good.

I cook all the time, and there are many of you who do, too. But for those who are new to cooking, here’s the step-by-step recipe in photos.

1. What is so amazing about these peanut butter cookies is the recipe is only three ingredients: 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg. No kidding! The cookies are sweet, so if you like things not-so-sweet, add one fat pinch of salt. I like them sweet.

2. Spray a medium-size bowl with cooking spray.

3. Add 1 cup of your favorite peanut butter. I’m a creamy girl, but crunchy will do fine.

4. Add 1 cup of sugar….

5. And 1 egg. I break mine into a small bowl to make sure there’s no shell or creepy chicken stuff.

6. Stir it until things are mixed together. This might take 30 seconds. You’ll be surprised that the dough becomes stiff right away.

7. Wet your hands with a little water. Scoop the dough up with a teaspoon so that it’s about the size of a large marble. You remember shooters, don’t you?

8. Dip the top of each peanut butter ball into some extra sugar. Resist the urge to eat ten or so.

9. Place them on a cookie sheet. I use the kind that doesn’t require cooking spray, but if your cookie sheets tend to stick, spray away.

10. Use the tines of a fork to make a fun little crisscross on the top of each cookie.

11. Aren’t they pretty? This recipe makes about 18 cookies if you haven’t eaten any of the dough.

12. Pop them into an oven heated to 320 degrees for 14 minutes.

13. When they are set and JUST BEGINNING TO BROWN, take them out. You don’t ever, ever, ever want to burn or scorch the edges of your peanut butter cookies.

14. Gently lift them to a cooling rack, and let them cool until they are just barely warm.

15. Now, before you try one, remember: you have been warned! Are you ready to get your silly on? Try one. And another. And another and another and another and another.

16. Try them with a delicious mug of Constant Comment tea. If you’ve never tried Constant Comment, come on over to the dark side! By this time, you will be sharing your peanut butter cookies with your friends. Tell them not to hold it against you if you demand baseball cards and whole rolls of Lifesavers in return.

Lissa’s Incredible Peanut Butter Cookies

Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (any size)
  • Pinch of salt (if you don’t like sweet cookies)

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir until mixed, about 30 seconds. Wet hands and roll dough into walnut-size balls. Dip the top of each peanut butter ball in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake 14 minutes at 320 degrees or until set and turning golden brown. Do not brown too much! Transfer to a wire cooling rack until cool. Makes 18.

Nov
11
2011
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Dear Martha,

Today is Saturday, but we are on the move, just like usual. The sky is as blue as a cornflower. Sometimes, Mama and I look at the clouds and try to say what the shapes look like. But not today. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
 
I spent most of today walking or riding with Pap. Mama was happy to sit up on the wagon seat by herself and let me play. The train moves slowly—the pace of mules walking—so I’m allowed to go anywhere I like, as long as I keep up and don’t lag behind the last wagon. I feel as free as a bird! For a while, Pap let me ride with him on Gabriel. As one of the men who “pushes” the train, Pap has to get up early and build a fire or stoke the coals from last night’s fire, so Mama or I can cook breakfast. Then, he wakes the families along the caravan and meets with Captain Walsh about the route for the day. They look at maps and decide how far we’ll go and where we’ll make camp for the night.
 
After that, when we shove off, Pap rides along beside the wagons and makes sure everything is in working order. That’s when he lets me ride with him. I sit right behind Pap on Gabe’s back and hold on to his waist. When I want to get down, I slide off the back end, over Gabe’s rump. The only bad part is I feel bowlegged for a while when I get down. Yep, that’s me: Bowlegged Teddy.
 
I walked for a while with Minnie Good and her sister, Hallie. They both have cornhusk dolls they made before the trip. I carried Veronica. Minnie thinks she is elegant. Hallie specially loves her hair. When I told them it was your very own real hair, cut by your mother and glued onto Veronica’s china head, they wanted to touch it to feel how real it is.
While we were walking, Travis Lark galloped up with big news. He’s one of the messenger boys. He rides his horse, Dixie, all up and down the train delivering messages to the pushers or taking notes to different families. He said Captain Walsh announced that tonight we will camp just outside of Meridian, and we’ll stay until Monday! Do you know what that means? We will get to see the biggest city in Mississippi! Minnie and Hallie and I talked all about it.
 
Meridian has a huge railway station, wide city streets with lots of stores, and a Grand Opera House. Emily Carter has been there and showed me a stack of postcards. Miss Emily is nice. She has some fashion catalogues, and she gave them to me, Minnie, and Hallie. We rip out pictures of people and glue them to cardboard. Then, we cut them out and cut stands for their feet, so they’ll stand up on their own. The next thing we do is cut out all sorts of clothes from the catalogue pages and leave little paper tabs on them when we cut them out. Then, we fold them over, like paper dolls. Minnie and Hallie and I LOVE cutting out our paper dolls, and we each have whole families of them. We have dozens and dozens of outfits for them, too.
 
Miss Emily said maybe later on she’ll teach me how to make my own real doll clothes for Veronica. I can already sew and mend, but I’ve never actually cut out doll clothes and sewn them up. That will be lots of fun. Then, I can make Veronica matching outfits to mine.
 
As soon as I found out we’re stopping at Meridian, I ran home to tell Mama. Of course, she lit up like a Christmas tree. Mama has always wanted to see Meridian. Who knows what all we will see and do?
Love,
Teddy
Nov
10
2011
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Dear Martha,

We had school today. During the afternoon break, Miss Melman met with those of us who are 11 to 14 years old. I know what you’re thinking. My birthday isn’t until June, but it’s so close, she said I could join the older group.
 
Miss Melman reminds me of Miss Pedigrew at Salter’s Grove School. She tells wonderful stories. She’s originally from Charleston, South Carolina, and took piano lessons from the time she was a child. Martha, she has a piano on the wagon train! I know it seems hard to believe. Way, way back at the end of the train there are two extra wagons. Folks hired drivers and their wagons to take extra belongings and furniture to Florida. 
Miss Melman took us to the very end of the train and showed us her piano. She told us she tipped the men who loaded the wagon to put her piano in last by the back opening. That way, she can sit on the little stool and play it anytime she wants. When she’s not playing, she keeps it covered with three quilts and an oilcloth. It’s a deep red wood. Mahogany, she calls it. Mama would love to own a piano like that. She always wanted to learn to play. I guess that’s why she sings so much.
I told Mama about the piano. I thought she’d be happy about it, but she said, “What will Miss Cassie Melman do in Florida with a piano and starched, white skirts?” Then, for a while, she wouldn’t talk to anyone. I can’t figure her out sometimes.
 
Anyway, let me get back to the school part. Miss Melman will have school with several groups of kids each week. One of the men drives her wagon, and that frees her up to teach. Sometimes, we will meet during a rest period when we stop to let the animals rest. Sometimes, we will stop early, so we can have school for longer periods of time. The kids who don’t know their letters, or how to read very well, are in the beginner group. I’m in the intermediate group. Minnie Good is in my group, too. So is Travis Lark, the boy who beat me out of my marbles. They’re both 11. I’m the youngest, but I’m still the best reader. The only thing is, our teacher, Miss Melman, uses my real name, Theodosia, not Teddy. I told Mama. She said, “You tell Miss Fancy Pants she can call you Teddy like everyone else.” I had to grit my teeth when Mama said that. Why does Mama say things like that? Great buckets of butterbeans!
 
During our class, we reviewed the alphabet, the vowels, and consonants with hornbooks. Surprise! Miss Melman has a trunk full of BRAND NEW hornbooks because she is on her way to Florida to teach at The Sheridan School for Girls. Since they’re new, the horn coverings are very clear with no scratches or curled-up corners. Remember the ones at Salter’s Grove School? I still have a scar on my arm where a piece of old horn had curled away from the nail.
 
Anyway, Miss Melman said that she will read two books to us while we are on our journey: Alice in Wonderland, for the girls, and Tom Sawyer, for the boys.
I am so happy about that. It will make the trip go faster. After school was over, Travis and I played marbles again. I knuckled down as best as I could, but Travis won the lag and got to start. He picked off ten more of my marbles. I’m down to six. I lost my peewee and two of the cat’s eyes I won from your brother.
 
Vexation!
Love,
Teddy
 
Nov
9
2011

I introduced this hands-on manipulative at my two-day conferences during the summer of 2011. It was a crowd pleaser, for sure, and many teachers have written to tell me this is their students' favorite writing resource. You are welcome to copy it, tweak it, and add your own spin. Enjoy!

- Lissa

Nov
9
2011
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Dear Martha,

I lost my best shooter and 12 of my favorite marbles. Vexation!
 
That kid I told you about, Travis, showed me a thing or two about playing marbles. We played Ring Taw, and he was good! He said he’d give them back because this was the first time we’d played together, but I said, “No, we said ‘keepsies,’ and you won fair and square.” So my marble sock is half empty. I wasn’t too mad about it ’cause we had fun.
I’m planning to win them back, anyway.
 
Guess what? I counted the kids on the wagon train. There are 56 children from 24 families. That’s not counting the babies. Those are the kids who are at least three years old and older. I met another girl my age, Minnie Good.
 
Everyone likes her because she’s GOOD. Get it? I like her, too, but you will always be my best friend.
 
Martha, I have the best news to tell you. Miss Cassie Melman, six wagons back, is riding with the wagon train even though she’s a single lady. She was a teacher in Mississippi and has agreed to have school for us children several times a week, whenever we can. Isn’t that terrific?
 
I hope she has some good books. You know how I am with books. Miss Melman is pretty and wears her hair up under a straw hat. She also wears long, white, starched skirts. I think she looks so smart and stylish. I told Mama all about it, and she said, “Let’s see how long Miss Cassie Melman can keep those white, starched skirts clean.”
 
We’re starting school tomorrow afternoon. How in the world will we have school on a wagon train? I wonder. I forgot to tell you that we brought Girlie with us. You know Mama wouldn’t leave Mississippi without her. She’s tied to the back of our wagon on a loose line and walks along when we’re rolling. Mama milks her first thing each morning. I milk her at night. When we pass meadows of what Mama calls “good grass,” she tells me to run cut a basketful for Girlie. She says, “I don’t want her getting into milkweed or onion grass.” Mama puts the extra grass in a huge bag and hangs it from the side of the wagon. If we camp by a field of clover or good grass, Pap stakes Girlie out with the mules, and she can eat to her heart’s content. If not, Mama feeds her the sweet, dried grass from the bag. I think anyone who produces milk for an entire family deserves the best grass the Good Lord can provide, don’t you?
 
We made pancakes this morning for breakfast. I skimmed the cream from Girlie’s milk, poured it in a glass canning jar, added a pinch of salt, and shook it until it turned to butter. We’re camped right by a spring. The water’s cold, so I washed the ball of butter in the cold water to get the whey out. Mama said it was the best butter she’d ever tasted. I told Mama her pancakes were the best I’d ever tasted.
 
Pap said, “I have the two best cooks on the train.”
The candle has burned low and will soon go out. Mama saves the stubs for me, so I can write after she blows out the lantern. She is trying to save our oil until we get to Dothan. I melt the ends of the stubs and stick them together, so I have one tall candle. It’s not pretty, but it works.
 
I can hear Pap snoring. Mama and Dylan have been asleep for a while now.
I better get some shut-eye.
Love,
Teddy