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I lived in Lodi, California from 1978-1990. Mama was raised there and her parents had settled there. After Grandpa died, Grandma bought herself a little grandma house and lived there until she ended up in a nursing home with Alzheimer's. I love my Grandma so much and she was the determining factor for my moving there in my very early 20's.

Lodi was then a small town situated between Sacramento and Stockton. Between Lodi and Stockton there was a small zoo and lovely shaded park called Micke Grove. We spent many lovely afternoons there with large and small groups of friends and family. I have memories of going there even as a very small girl!

At one family reunion, my Aunt Karen made this wonderful salad that has become part of my summer salad repertoire.

Rice-A-Roni Salad

1 box chicken Rice-A-Roni, made as directed & cooled down

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, chopped and drained

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp curry powder

salt to taste.

Mix well and chill. Right before serving, dice up an avocado and add. Serve immediately.

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Winter is nearly over and Spring is right around the corner. I know people who really cannot wait for sunny, warm days. But I want to expound on the joys of being home, in front of a nice cheery fire, with a book or a puzzle, some needle work or a craft for entertainment. The snow can snow, the wind can blow, the rain can pour down on the roof. But you are comfy and warm in your home, with the person or persons you love most safe inside with you. These are the days when it is great to put on a pot of soup or beans and make a loaf of bread or a pan of cornbread. With great smells emanating from the kitchen you cannot help but feel that all is well with the world.

When I was still working, on cold winter days, I was loathe to get up at 6am, and be at the office when so many more fortunate people were still snug in their beds. A gray and rainy day just made me want to be home and make bread...

Summer days are long and warm. In Montana, a person wants to spend as many hours outside as absolutely possible. We garden, camp and hike, have outdoor parties, and let the sun shine on us as much as possible. We know our time in the fresh air is limited. That the days will slowly shorten, the afternoons will become golden with the changing of leaves. That the mornings will become crisp to walk out into. And that soon enough the days will become dark and short, and the snow will lay in banks against the foundation of the house and garage. And again, we will be able to hunker down in our warm and cozy home, with little more to do than stay warm, sip a cup of coffee and read a book....

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There are only a few people in this world that have known this lady longer then me. Ever since I can remember, I have considered her to be the sweetest, kindest, prettiest and nicest woman I know. I have always been aware that I will never be like her, but she has always been my inspiration, and when someone tells me that I am "just like her", I can only say, Thank-you!, I really try to be!"

Today she turns 87. Because I have known her always, I tend to forget what she has lived through....

She was born during the Great Depression, during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, on a farm in North Dakota, in a house without running water. And she vividly remembers the move from there to Northern California in the early 1940s, in an old Model T, owned by one of her parents' cousins.

She married her high school sweetheart, had 5 children, and moved more than a dozen times, in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and again Oregon, before the age of 32.

Then, she gave up her beloved farm in Oregon, to travel with her family to Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and back to the US, at the ripe old age of 41. Once back here, she moved from Iowa to Florida, Texas and Montana, finally settling in Idaho. After living there until retirement age, she and Daddy moved to Montana.

She loves to be outside in her yard, playing with her flowers, listening to "her" birds. She adopts stray cats. She opens her big windows and watches the creek and wildlife that go by. She has always liked clothes and loves to dress nicely. She hates being left out of the fun...

She loves her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren with a ferocity passed on to her daughters and granddaughters. Now that she is in her golden years, she has lost so very many people she loves. Yet she continues to be positive and happy and only gets blue in the winter, when she cannot get out as much as she would like, and does not have much sunshine to brighten her days.

I love this woman with all my heart. Happy Birthday, Mama!

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