I’m grateful that we live in a democracy for many reasons; not the least of which is that the Holiday Police Department won’t arrive to arrest me today. Yes, I’ve broken a personal rule to which I’ve held dear for 60 years; one that many would find worthy of detaching me from my tinsel.
I have pumpkins mingling with Christmas trees; strands of Christmas lights competing with a Thanksgiving-themed candle.
Who am I?
I know that Hobby Lobby puts fully adorned trees up when it’s a consistent 90 degrees outside and my favorite mail-order stationery company unveils their Christmas cards and wrapping paper about the time the front of my house is sporting its Independence Day miniature flags. But I’ve always remained firmly in the NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THE THANKSGIVING DRESSING IS GONE camp.
This year’s approach is a little different. I’m holding off putting the tree up until after Thanksgiving only because my spouse would grumble too much if I forged ahead with that one. But I make no promises about transforming the rest of the house before the bird is cold.
It started with yesterday’s Sunday afternoon when I found myself somewhat caught up on my to-do list. Friday I had picked up new red ribbons to replace the faded ones on the wreaths I put up each year on all our outdoor windows. So, I watched the Colts game and took my time fluffing the wreaths and changing out the ribbons. I thought of the years that in a hurry to get everything in place and move on to my other work during a busy Thanksgiving weekend I forgo the fluffing and hang the greens anyway.
So with the wreaths fluffed and be-ribboned, I went ahead and put them up. The pumpkins in their urns with autumn garlands around them then bothered me. A lot. So they were taken down too and the urns changed out with greenery that should be fine to leave up on through winter.
I decided to go ahead and re-do the wagon on the porch, adding greenery and pine cones and hang the front-door wreath. The exterior of our house is dressed for the season – umm, the Christmas one
I woke up this morning to a pretty first snow on our central Indiana landscape. It’s beautiful and makes me want to dive in and do more. The weeks ahead are busy, every weekend booked with a variety of good things. Wouldn’t it be nice to see to the decorating before it all begins?
With a blissful Monday off today, things may get real Christmassy, real fast. I’m diving in.
Why not? Tomorrow I'm doing another preview on a Christmas Walk for the newspaper and I'll come home motivated to deck the halls.
So I'm getting a jump at home. And looking forward to it. When do you put up your Christmas decorations?
When I crash-landed on Friday after a hectic week, it appeared that the weekend’s agenda was blank.
It felt heavenly.
I could finally see to what had become a full-page to-do list.
There were weekly items to complete: my Bible Study Fellowship assignments, this week in the Book of 1 Samuel; the Friday chore of grocery shopping, and, facing the music on the Weight Watchers scales (not my best week).
Then I had to turn attention to some writing-related work. I had an offer to share a space the first weekend of December at the annual Minnetrista Luminaries Walk and needed to see how that meshes with another invite to do a signing at the Octagon House Christmas Walk the same weekend.
I needed to get a check in the mail to secure the 2019 opportunity to have my books available at Warm Glow Candle at the Centerville exit off Interstate 70 and catch up on some bookkeeping on the home front.
I am still finishing a new program I’m giving Thursday to a women’s literary club, this one about how in a writing career – and in life in general – there’s always something new. I’ll also detail this new adventure of writing devotions and share a few.
Then I had a big fish to fry: Securing a 2019 health insurance plan now that Brian is on Medicare. This project takes longer than the others combined but we made progress.
I had some more frivolous things on my "hope-to-accomplish" list. I’ve lost some weight this year and have had a goal of a new winter coat. I knew what I wanted: something incredibly warm (I’m that “always-cold” person you know); something black, weatherproof, and puffy without making me look like Mrs. Michelin. I also had a size goal and didn’t quite make it. Then there’s all that winter-clothing bulk under a coat to deal with.
I am a consignment-shop junkie but nothing was showing up in my favorite haunts that came close to what I looked for. What to do?
My bestie Gay sent a photo of the interior of Macy’s and wow! It was loaded with the black coats that interested me. So I did something rare when clothes shopping. I asked Brian to go with me to pick out a winter coat. He held my jacket and purse and did some looking while I slipped on candidates, ala' Goldilocks.
I found one that I liked a lot – but didn’t love. It was knee-length and I had thought more about thigh-length. Then Brian found one I like even better, still knee-length. It’s a big, bad, WARM coat. I’m ready for snow, wind and rain – at least in the coat department.
It’s Sunday now and there’s church and a run to the library along with a pot of chili I plan to make. There’s a few things still on the to-do list but there’s a whole bunch of them marked off with blue Highlighter lines.
Yes! I call this a successful weekend.
Before the calendar flips at midnight to November, I've been assessing what's new in my writing adventures for the 11th month just ahead.
The New Castle-Henry County Public Library sent along this nifty poster about the upcoming author fair. I was pleased to be invited to participate, and am especially interested in hearing Phillip Gulley speak. Whenever I want a relaxing, well-written read, I pick up one of his Harmony Series books and delve in. Such a talented writer.
And hey! I know all these local writers who are also participating. In fact, at one time or another, I've written about all of them. It will be fun to spend the afternoon in their company.
As my own little sales incentive for the afternoon, I'm providing free gift wrapping and of course signing and inscriptions with the purchase of any of my books. Let me help you with your Christmas shopping for your aunt, sister, cousin, mom ... or for yourself.
But before the author fair, two other writing-related events are happening. Next Thursday afternoon, I'm taking a late lunch to speak to a local women's group. I'll be talking about how God always has something new for us, and address my new interest this year in writing devotions — of looking for God stories in my daily life. I'll read a few samples
Then on Saturday, Nov. 10 is Part II of the Devotions Workshop I co-facilitated with writer Debbie McCray at my church, Ovid Community.
hose who attended the workshop got an assignment to come up with their own devotion or devotions and be ready to read up to three of them, or as the case may be, showcase their devotional artwork or even song with others in the group. I'm looking forward to a morning of sharing starting at 9 a.m.
The next day, Sunday, Nov. 11, the fall issue of the magazine I edit, her magazine for women, comes out inside the New Castle Courier-Times. We always have extra copies at the plant if anyone is interested in picking them up.
The magazine went off to the printer late yesterday. Wahoo! Here's the cover:
SO, that's all what I've been up to, and will be up to in the next few weeks. How about you?
It’s a question I ask travelers upon their return from anywhere: What was your favorite part? When I ask myself this regarding NYC, I’m at a loss for an answer.
I loved it all.
I’m at the stage of life where I don’t need “things.” What I would rather have are experiences. And as a writer, everything is material. There’s something to be said for the challenge of figuring out a trip’s navigation and overcoming whatever obstacles we run into.
So what I loved most about NYC was not one specific location. It was being able to share these special days together with Brian and all three of our kids. Team Cronk. The memories made are irreplaceable.
As a confirmed rural / small-town girl, I’ve always enjoyed trips to cities. I don’t want to live in them but I want to understand them and get a feel for what they are about and their history. Plus, see what they have to offer. Brian has always felt the same, and this is why we’ve visited Boston, Philadelphia, D.C. multiple times (and we're going back soon), Minneapolis and now, NYC.
My top tip for visiting a city is to have a plan. We started with our wish list, then popped into the schedule the events that have non-negotiable times such as the Colts/Jets game and the Broadway show. Then we filled in with our other plans and restaurants. We had some “maybes” if there’s time, such as a stroll down Wall Street and photo ops with the Raging Bull. I can’t imagine just showing up and figuring it all out.
SO, for our final full day, we began the day with another great breakfast next door to Hotel Edison at Danny’s. Then we headed out on the Subway, destined for Battery Park where we caught a ferry in New York Harbor, bound for The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. These are two separate islands.
We learned in advance that Statue Cruises is the only company that takes you to these sites. Months earlier, we booked our cruises, which take about 15 minutes out to the Statue on Liberty Island, along with upgrades to go into the crown at 1:30 p.m. If you’ve seen the Liberty Mutual Insurance commercials on TV where the actors are in New York Harbor with the Statue behind them, those are no doubt filmed at Battery Park.
The ferries run continuously throughout the day and our timing from getting there around 11, I guess, was perfect, as headsets with an informative walking tour around the island are not to be skipped if you have time. Factoid: One might assume the statue’s star-shaped base is a nod to the stars and stripes. Not true! It’s designed to deflect cannonballs firing on it as they deflect due to the star shape rather than destroy in direct hits.
The gift shop is attached to the pedestal so you must walk through it to get to the pedestal and lower-level museum. In the pedestal, you can walk outside and enjoy views of the city, Ellis Island and the Harbor.
There’s an elevator to the pedestal but not to the crown. It’s around 350 steps round-trip up and down circular, very narrow stairway to the crown from the pedestal. The space in the crown is very small, allowing room for around six guests, and a couple of National Park Service rangers. But my crew agrees they will never see the statue in the same way having been inside it in such an extraordinary way.
The cruise takes you to the Liberty Island first and then you hop a boat to Ellis Island. Once you leave Liberty Island, you can’t return (unless of course you book another cruise).
Ellis Island is not to be missed. The museum is wonderful and you could spend the whole day there if your schedule allowed. You’ll see through films, displays and experience from walking around the main building where footsteps of millions of European immigrants walked from 1892 to 1954 – hoping to become Americans.
It’s a touching place to visit, as is The Statue, and to envision oneself arriving in this beautiful, precious land we are so blessed to call home – America.
I also must say right here that there are so many sound bites reflecting “hatred” among people on the news channels. Don't you believe for a second that this is the norm! We spent all or part of five days in NYC in the midst of people of all races, colors, creeds and stations in life.
We were treated beautifully. We saw nothing to reflect division or hated, we witnessed no anger. We simply were all in the same boat – quite literally as we journeyed in and out of New York Harbor. The news exaggerates and inflames the hatred a few feel. This is my opinion. This is what I see when living real life.
Most of us are simply humans with so much more in common than in what separates us. We felt this intensely in the midst of people from everywhere than in the perceived irreconcilable differences we see over and over on the national news.
Once you are finished looking around Ellis Island, you catch the next ferry back to Battery Park.
From there, it was late afternoon. We had one thing left on our agenda: Katz’s Deli in Queens. This was on Sam’s wish list as he had heard about this iconic restaurant on TV shows based in NYC.
We made our way via the subway to Queens and followed directions. One obstacle about NYC is that your Google GPS is very spotty, due, we suppose, to all the skyscrapers blocking signals.
We hoofed it through regular neighborhoods in this borough, passing inner-city schools, apartment complexes and businesses. It was awesome to get a quick feel for how regular people live their regular lives, apart from the tourist crowd.
Soon we saw the Katz’s deli sign looming ahead and when we entered, were given “tickets” where the prices of what we bought were written and we paid at the end with the clerk ringing up the amounts on the tickets.
I had corned beef on rye, only because it sounded so very “NYC deli” to me. I added slaw which was the best slaw I’ve ever had. I only wonder what the chili was like because chili is about my favorite food. Sam had Matzah ball soup and pastrami. The place was hopping and the walls loaded with photos of celebrities who had visited this deli with a slogan of “Send your boy in the army a Katz salami.”
That concludes my series on NYC, a trip will live in my heart forever. Thanks for sharing the trip with me.
Each of our days in The Big Apple is indeed a brand new start. Sunday began with donning our Colts attire and hoofing it to Junior’s, a restaurant with terrific breakfasts, a spot known for cheesecake (the server claimed it’s best in the country). Thanks to Marilyn for the recommendation.
Inside was a table of Colts fans with Hoosier roots. One was from Summitville, not far! We helped them with the how-tos on getting to the game. Our concierge gave us clear instructions which took us straight down the street a few blocks from the hotel.
We were to ride a game bus at the New York Port Authority, which wasn’t hard to find. We just followed the Jets fans. MetLife Stadium is only eight miles from Manhattan, located in New Jersey. Our ride was about 20 minutes.
There wasn’t a lot to cheer about as the game progressed, and the score wasn’t what we had hoped, but the fans were great and no one seemed to mind when we cheered for our guys, nor did they gloat when theirs were winning.
At halftime, there was a celebration for the 50th anniversary season when the Jets won the Super Bowl and Jo Namath addressed the crowd at half time. One of the Colts fans on the bus (with a few distant friend-of-friend connections to our gang) even got a photo in the parking lot of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christy! He didn’t even have “people” around him but was by himself, our new friend reported.
The ride back to Manhattan was longer, probably a half-hour wait to board one of the buses, and another hour’s ride back, as opposed to 20 minutes out Sunday morning.
Back at the Port Authority, we started to walk back toward the hotel, but son Ben spotted something special and told me to look. Behind me stood none other than The Gray Lady – The New York Times.
Next up was dinner and it was off to Melt, a sandwich shop with the accent on the melted cheeses and tomato soup. Just one of the endless, unique eateries in this city. Then Ben took off to see a band he likes, Nine Inch Nails at Radio City Music Hall.
It was a clear, lovely evening so the rest of us went to Rockefeller Center and took in the atmosphere, including ice skaters on the rink. We also stepped inside St. Patrick's Cathedral and walked around the two-story M & M store.
Series conclusion still to come: Day 4: LADY LIBERTY AND KATZ'S DELI.
It was hard to say which day we looked forward to the most; each had its own rewards. We took Marilyn’s advice and got not only our morning coffee but our breakfast at Danny’s Gourmet next door to our hotel.
We could get made-to-order meals or grab ready-made sandwiches right there The fresh-fruit bar was glorious. We ate upstairs there and were ready to head out on foot for the Empire State Building.
As with all landmarks in this city, we could see it so far ahead that it didn’t seem as though it would be far. We passed a busy shopping district featuring the Macy’s mother ship, the largest retail store in the world. Brian and I stopped in for a look-see after the Empire State Building. The cosmetics section alone spanned what appeared to be the entire street level. The purses went on forever in the second floor and I didn’t trust myself.
At the Empire State Building, the early arrival at 9:30 meant we could walk right in and hitch rides to the main exhibits of this building that was tallest in the world from its beginnings in 1931 to 1970 when the North Tower of the World Trade Center surpassed it. It’s now the 28th tallest in the world and fifth in the U.S.
Think King Kong and Sleepless in Seattle. There’s a great exhibit explaining its building and history. The elevator ride to the observation deck has a sweet surprise. As cables whisk you higher, look up and a TV screen in the top of the elevator shows a mini movie of builders working their way up as you go along with them and feel as though you are on an amusement ride ready to burst through the top of the building into the clouds.
There’s plenty of time to visit. The building is open until 2 a.m. This was one of Brian’s top picks for the trip and it did not disappoint.
We had delicious pizza left from the night before and a microwave to warm it. It tasted just as great the second day back in our room. Brian dozed; I relaxed and then took a long hot bath and washed my hair, prepping for our fancy night on the town.
To our surprise, the kids showed back up rather than meet us at the elegant Butter restaurant. They all took naps and by 4:30, we were ready to venture to Butter.
The meal was compliments of Sam and Allison and is the most elegant meal I’ve ever had. The restaurant's executive chef and chef is Food Network and Iron Chef America star Alex Guarnaschelli and the kids picked up her cookbook, The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart, at the festival earlier in the day.
I wanted to know how the restaurant got its name and the story behind the eclectic mix of dishware.
Our server was happy to answer that the late founder used to have a saying to describe something he loved. He would say “That’s butter.” And so Butter became the restaurant’s name. As for the dishes, Alex has a passion for all kinds of dishes so she collects them and they are used to compliment the food creations.
Then it was on to the Gershwin Theatre to see our first Broadway show! Wicked did not disappoint, and I still marvel at the swift set changes and staging that appeared instantly as if by magic.
And before we knew it, we had our second day and fancy night out under our belts.
Next: NYC Experience, Part 3: BRAND NEW START OF IT.
One of my (many) fave photos from the trip: Ben, left, and Sam with the Charging Bull on Wall Street in the financial district. It appears that the bull is trying to photo bomb, but reality is the iconic sculpture draws a large crowd and the boys had only a moment for me to capture the image. YES, there are crowds everywhere but without a single exception, everyone we encountered was polite, kind and cooperative.
Not only is a trip to New York City big, it’s too big to summarize in one small blog post. It's downright BIGLY! So let’s do this in four parts.
Some background. Over the past few years, some combination of our immediate family members have attended Indianapolis Colts away games to see match-ups with the Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings. So when the season schedule came out this summer, Brian asked our crew where they wanted to go. The kids said New York City.
And if we’re doing The Big Apple, let’s do it right. But how do you narrow a NYC wish list? We started with what we wanted to see and do most. Everyone had a say: Colts and Jets on Sunday was the starting point. Then came Ground Zero with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum; a Broadway show; Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and Ellis Island; Empire State Building and Katz’s Deli in Queens.
Nice start. Now, where to stay? I knew that the Art Association of Henry County folks take an annual Broadway tour every summer and always stay in Hotel Edison steps from Times Square. My friend and book-cover designer Marilyn Witt confirmed that it’s ideal. Done.
Of course this wasn’t just any old trip. This after all was THE BIG APPLE! It would also be a way to do up big my 60th birthday and Brian and my 40th wedding anniversary along with Sam and Allison’s sixth wedding anniversary.
So the process began of piecing together an agenda. We started early in the summer with reservations at Hotel Edison, a 1931 Art Deco establishment with modern amenities but the feel of old NYC. None other than Thomas Edison turned on the lights to open the place! We chose a family suite which worked out well for our tribe of five.
Sam got online and ordered our Sunday Colts/Jets tickets. We voted on seeing Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre on Saturday night, doing the Statue and Ellis Island Monday, 9/11 sites on Friday and Empire State Building Saturday morning. That was close to the order in which we secured reservations and tickets online. Word to the wise: Early! Get your tickets early as there are sellouts if you wait.
With our top picks secured, we filled in the schedule over the next few months. For example, our kids discovered that the New York Wine and Food Festival is the Saturday we’re there and they wanted to go. Sam and Allison enjoy cooking and learning about food culture so they planned our meal stops. Allison researched our logistics -- which helped like crazy.
We’re happy for a solid agenda. There’s so much to see and do with distractions every step of the way that a plan is essential to get in what you want most and still experience surprises along the way.
We took an early flight (two hours) and landed at LaGuardia. We went to the cab line only to be told there was a long delay. Ben hopped on his Uber app and we had a ride within minutes. We were headed for Manhattan.
Less than an hour later we arrived at Hotel Edison in Midtown and stashed our bags in holding as our room wasn't ready. First stop: lunch at O’Hara’s Pub. The restaurant is at Ground Zero, steps from a fire station. After 9/11, this small eatery became a spontaneous tribute site where first responders from all over not only the U.S. but the world arrive and place their patches on the walls and doors in a unique show of solidarity with their brothers and sisters who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001. It is an inspiring tribute.
After our meal we toured the memorial, which is in two parts – one for each tower that went down that day. Water falls into big square holes in the center. Around the edges are engraved names of those who perished in those towers. Each name, a life.
Steps away we entered the museum. It was packed with people and all around, as with everywhere you go in NYC, you hear people of every race and nation speaking in their native tongues as they go about their business. You realize that you are in an international, not only a national city. It's an awesome experience just to look and listen.
The museum holds displays of emergency vehicles from that day, artifacts of everyday life found on the street, snippets of messages left on answering machines from people in the towers from that morning, photos, news clips and art. One major piece of art is a wall of blue squares depicting the blues of the perfect sky that day. There is this quote in the midst of the blue: NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME. This is a translation of the original Latin of "The Aeneid."
It occurs that not only is this museum packed on the random day we visited, but every day, and you hear people talking about where they were when they heard of the horrific attacks. Fifty or perhaps 100 years from now, this museum shall still be packed with people as the people who remember the day are few, then none, but time’s memory remains.
From there, we hoofed it to Wall Street where the boys were able to squeeze in long enough for a photo with the iconic Charging Bull, in "pasture" there only since 1989, which surprised me.
Brian and Ben paused for a shot of them at Federal Hall, the site where the colonial Stamp Act Congress met to draft a message to King George III protesting “taxation without representation.” The building isn’t original but the lower Manhattan location is, overseen now by a statue of George Washington.
Then it was a Subway ride back to our hotel. As if on cue, we arrived at complimentary cocktail-and- appetizer hour in the lobby where live music performed – you guessed it – New York, New York.
After seeing our rooms and claiming our beds, everyone was in the mood for pizza so we found Pazeria Family & Friends Italian Restaurant & Bar and enjoyed a couple of authentic NYC pies. Leftovers would serve Brian and me well for Saturday lunch while the kids hit up the wine and food festival.
By the time we hit the sheets, we had walked 9.6 miles.
Next: Day 2: CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS.
We're solidly into the years when our kids' friends are getting married. Friday night was a special one, as we saw one of Ben's dear childhood buddies, Taylor Sullivan, tie the knot with his bride, Tara, the girl he met at Purdue and the one who knew early freshman year that she would marry the boy.
Not only were Taylor and Ben close during all their childhood, but his folks, Jim and Marilyn, were and are special friends to Brian and me as well. I'm so glad I got this photo of Marilyn and Taylor during the mother-son dance.
Seeing the pure delight and radiance on Marilyn's face took me back six years this month when I found myself utterly surprised at how magical and emotional it felt to dance with Sam at he and Allison's reception to "I Hope You Dance."
Here's Ben and Taylor and I'm glad I got this shot too.
And of course, Tara and Taylor.
After a beautiful evening at The Ritz-Charles, it was home to bed and then up to help my friend Patti prepare for another wedding. This time, it was for her brother. Patti promised to contribute her signature Sugar Cookies, her Aunt Martha's recipe.
Sunflowers and Ball jars were the theme and we decorated for close to three hours, discussing politics (being able to both agree on some things and disagree on others without getting mad; it's called civil discourse). We discussed a lot of things and the morning went fast.
We've done this for years. She bakes them. I help decorate them. I heard the cookies were a hit
This morning was our church's annual Labor for Your Neighbor. You sign up for a community site where you go help out. My team painted two sheds and weeded a couple's property. It felt so good and fulfilling to see the tasks complete when we pulled away!
Brian and I skipped the pizza party that followed. We're both watching our diets. He had a big reward Friday night when he got dressed for the wedding. He decided to try on an old sport jacket he hadn't worn in years, thinking it would still be too small. But no, it fit perfectly! So he wore it.
Here's a typical meal for me right now until I get over it. Gotta keep at this weight-loss thing. I think I can, I think I can ...
Have a great October week everyone.
What a perfectly beautiful second day of fall in Hoosierland. I've been on the run lately (when am I not, you may ask) with work assignments, working on new material for a program about writing devotions, and well, you know, life! This is a reprint from the New Castle Courier-Times about a special section on family food. Today, we're running a special section on family fun. Happy fall everyone!
SULPHUR SPRINGS — Iron Kettle Owner Melinda Grounds knows her customers.
On a Thursday morning she greets a regular, telling him that if he hadn't arrived in the restaurant by 11, she'd be calling to check on him. She knows that another customer is having a birthday over the weekend and privately shares with the visiting reporter that a surprise party — hosted by the diner — in the works. When still another customer calls in a to-go order, Melinda confirms the specifics of his standard order by heart.
It's all pretty much a typical morning in the life of the outgoing business owner who treats, and thinks of, her customers as friends.
"I just like the people, the community," says Grounds of why she does what she does. "That makes a big difference."
A Kennard native and Knightstown High School graduate, Grounds worked at the New Castle Kroger for 12 years, then purchased the restaurant from her aunt, Lida Sullivan at the start of 1992. The restaurant has been a staple in town for approaching six decades. The current owner says when she saw the Iron Kettle as "a good business and you sure don't want to see it go down. It keeps the town going."
Grounds and husband Ron live nearby. Their son Zach lives in Pendleton. Grandchildren are Ziranda, 10, and Boone, 7 months.
Grounds has good things to say about her employees. Tammy Fowler has been a cook and server at Iron Kettle for 20 years, opening up the restaurant at 5:30 a.m. each morning. "She does it all," Grounds says. "She can walk and talk and cook at the same time."
Fowler says of her job, "I just like the people and I guess you can put I really like my boss too."
Employee Dawn Bolden has been at the restaurant for seven years and describes her role as doing "a little bit of everything."
She says of working there, "Everybody feels like family. It's always fun to come to work. Never a dull day."
Lyndsey Doyle has been working in the popular restaurant for a few months and says the business has "great people and great customers. There's never a dull day here. Always lots of conversation."
Jim Hedges is one of many regulars. He lives north of town and is a retired Muncie South High School principal. His favorite dishes are Swiss steak, meatloaf and ribs. Along with the food, his favorite thing about the restaurant are the people.
Topper Painter, a retired farmer, says of the Iron Kettle, "It's just a good country restaurant. (I) come up here every day for lunch. Eat with my buddy here," he says, referring to Hedges.
Grounds said that the restaurant has regulars for each of the three meals a day it serves. Not only do regulars come in to dine, but there are to-go orders on a daily basis that can include farmers or say the Duke plant nearby that might call in a dozen or more orders to go.
Some of the meals the restaurant is known for include Monday's ham and beans day; meatloaf on Wednesdays and hand-breaded grouper fried or grilled on Thursdays and Fridays. On Fridays expect fried chicken and every day, there are homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. Grounds is proud of the homemade Ranch dressing.
And of course, there's plenty of other things on the menu.
But one thing is for sure, according to Grounds, "We don't have anything that's sugar-free or diet."
The restaurant also hosts clubs or groups that want to meet in the private dining room. There's no charge for the meeting space as long as folks order food.
Iron Kettle is located at 103 Meridian St., Sulphur Springs. Hours are 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Says Grounds, "Believe me if something's going on they call here. They call here for everything."
The following article appeared in a special section Sunday in The Courier-Times under the theme Cultivating Henry County: Family Farms. Any time I can mix it up with some llamas, it's a good day.
by Donna Cronk
For years, Allen and Sue Davis and their daughter, Lindsay (now Lindsay Brown), raised sheep on their rural New Castle property, west of Cadiz. After Lindsay's tenth year showing 4-H sheep, she and her mom were at the Indiana State Fair and watched a llama exhibition. But they did something more than merely watch.
"We bought two llamas," recalls Sue of their quick decision that day.
The two geldings, Prince and Romeo, were the start of a new era for the family, that of raising and showing llamas all over the country as well as Allen becoming a show judge with the Alpaca and Llama Show Association.
"It just kept growing," Sue says of their interest in these animals that has spanned almost 25 years. "We've met lots of nice people from all over the U.S. and Canada."
At one time they also bred and sold the animals but now maintain their herd for their own family's enjoyment.
There are two classes of showing llamas: performance and halter. The Davises work in the halter class.
When judging llamas, Allen says, "You're basically looking at the confirmation of the animal structure. You watch their walk, squareness of front legs and rear legs, walk, top line, sqareness of their rump, length of neck."
Historically, llamas were used for packing / utility animals in South America where they were better than horses or mules for that purpose. They are also guard animals by nature. Interestingly enough, Sue says that Noblesville has the largest 4-H llama youth association in the nation with an average of 100 4-Hers participating.
Lindsay says they are used on farms within herds to protect the other animals. If they become aware of danger, they sound a special "alarm" call to alert the others. A herd of llamas will surround its own young ones to protect them from predators. And when llamas are content, they hum.
Says Allen, "They're like a dog. A lot of it is in the breeding."
Other attributes of the creatures are that they are people-pleasers, very clean and can even be potty trained.
The Davis farm, called Rose Cottage Llamas, is home to the one-time national grand champion wool male llama, a Bolivian llama named Conductor. The family says he won every show he was in for three years. He also served as national reserve champion during his prime. He is deceased now but a large, framed picture of him is featured on a wall. Llamas can live into their 20s.
Allen says of llamas, "When you are around them, they have a calmness to them that makes your mind and your body calm." He says they are quick learners.
Says Sue, "I like to watch their gracefulness. They're nice to each other."
Adds Lindsay, "They always remember you by your scent."
Lindsay says of the animals, "They all have their own personality. There's always one female in charge." Lindsay and her children, Luke and Layla, were on hand to talk about the llamas on the day The Courier-Times visited. The Browns make their home in Hagerstown.
Right now the rural New Castle family has a herd of 10 females and three males.
Allen owned AJ Pools in Anderson for 40 years. He's now retired. Sue, who is a high school special education teacher at Shenandoah, says she misses showing the animals. However, with two young grandchildren, who knows? Rose Cottage llamas may again be back in show rings once again.