Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve

The sun went down on 2008 with a blaze of glory tonight and the year is grinding down as I post this at 11:30 Central time. Actually, the ball has probably dropped in New York.

I am feeling a bit sorry for myself. This morning I woke sounding like a sick rooster--sort of croaking. By the time I finished the route, the voice was completely gone. Certainly no parties for me tonight. You've got to talk to celebrate.

So, I decided to figure out how to post audio to the blog. Sometimes it would be fun to have that ability

Here is my first audio post. Dan and I enjoy Brody Buster, a Lawrence blues musician. He was a youth prodigy on the harmonica and appeared on Jay Lano when he was 12.

Please join in my little New Years blog celebration by listening to one of his band's classics at the top on the left.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas 2008

Christmas morning was good. We were able to spend a little over an hour with Mom. My brother came by so we had a good visit. Mom seemed to know it was a special day.

Our trip west went well. Not many travelers on Christmas Day. The Kansas Highway Patrol certainly had a presence, though. We counted four between Chapman and Salina. They weren’t wearing Santa hats either. (Several years ago we received a warning on Christmas Day when we were traveling between Colorado and Kansas. The officer wore a Santa hat.)

The house smelled of fresh baked bread and ham when we arrived. The kids were excited about their Santa gifts but anxious to see what we had in our bags too.

After eating until stuffed because everything was so good, we opened gifts. The big gifts this Christmas were electronic games. We were no exception with our new little Nintendo DS Lite. One of our gifts was Fun Facts for your Daily Life. It came with Brain Age, Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. Ended up the adults enjoyed these games as much as the kids did theirs. Well, actually, the Brain Age one is rather frustrating. I won’t say what age my brain is.

Doug & Drue bought Wii for their family. We bowled and boxed. It is a crazy deal. Unless you have tried it, you wouldn’t believe it. The new electronics are sophisticated.

Our weekend went by fast. It was time to hit the road back home all too soon. Certainly encountered more traffic on Sunday. I think everyone had the same schedule. The Corolla did well on its first Colorado trip. We averaged 34.34 mpg with a top of 39 mpg on the tank coming home. We drove 70 mph. With gas prices down, we weren’t as careful with our speed.

Special family, good visit, memorable Christmas.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We're Home!

We headed for the mountains for Christmas this year.

Our Colorado family were gracious hosts. The family created memories with laughter and games.

More about our trip tomorrow evening. Tonight I am a bit road weary.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chapman Valley Manor

Rhea over at The Boomer Chronicles perked me up after undoubtedly the heaviest mail day of the season.

Her post was about a site provided by the Government which lists and rates nursing homes. I typed in Junction City’s zip code 66441 here to see how homes compared within a fifty mile radius. I was not surprised to find Mom’s home, Chapman Valley Manor has five stars and is the highest in the area.

Both of Dan’s parents were there as well as Mom now. She is in good hands

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Party's over

The day was a success for two reasons.

First, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Since I have a way to seat everyone, it falls to me to host the office Christmas party. This is actually a lot of fun because the people are like family. Everyone arrives and pitches in with the cooking. We usually have a theme. Last year was Frogmore Stew. This year it was an old-fashioned fried chicken dinner. We fried six chickens, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, homemade rolls, strawberry Jello with bananas, coleslaw and pie for dessert. We tried to keep it simple and it was delicious.

The second reason the day was a success is that the house is clean. It feels good to get the whole thing done at once.

I guess today is the winter solstice so the sun is about as far south as it will get. Our house is a bit odd in that all the living area is on the south and the bedrooms are on the north, the idea being to take advantage of passive solar. Today was a example of how much energy is available in solar power. The temperature was around 12 degrees and other than early this morning, we didn’t put any additional heat in the house all day. It was all sun heated.

The chamomile tea I fixed when set down to write this has kicked in. I think I will go to bed. Most likely tomorrow will be the biggest mail day of the season.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Put in ear plugs and don't cut off a finger

Note: this is a copy of a post to the LJW Blog Perspectives.

The current financial crisis seems over powering even in the midst of cheery Holiday celebrations. One way to cope is to live a more basic lifestyle.

Basic lifestyle may vary by individual. With upcoming holiday vacation time, personally completing all aspects of a home improvement project is one type of basic living, which results in a great deal of financial savings. Many of us find ourselves dusting off tools long ago forgotten in the corner of the garage. Often the old saw brings back memories of the shop teacher yelling above the din. (Our kids would say, their Dad, a former shop teacher, yelling above the din.)

I wonder if young people, amazingly skilled in electronics, have any knowledge of these basic woodworking tools, the skills needed to run them and do something with what they turn out. Or loud shop teachers for that matter.

Perhaps this is why there appears to be a change in future state funding for basic education.

Recently, the ,Abilene Reflector Chronicle Lifestyles Editor, Kathy Hageman reported, the Solomon USD 393 Board of Education approved moving the wood shop equipment from the ag shop back into the original Wood’s building that was converted to a tech lab.

Mitchell Tigtmeier, Solomon vocational-agriculture teacher said, “What we have now is state funding has shifted back to the basics—to woods and the agriculture classes, ag education, animal sciences, metals, woods, drafting, project construction and cabinetmaking.”

While many school districts have maintained a vocational technical curriculum for students thinking of a career craft, I wonder if other middle or junior high wood and drafting shops were turned into computer tech classrooms. It is this early teenage time when young people are open to new opportunities especially hands on skills in woodworking and drafting.

Learning to draw up plans, identify woods, handle power tools and even something as simple as the proper use of a coping saw is best taught in a highly structured setting to both girls and boys at an early level. How many have a junior high woodworking project in their home? (I say "girls" because our daughter is a woodworker as is our son.)

It seems Kansas and the Solomon school district are moving in the right direction. It is time to get back to the basics. Most importantly, as Abilene's Hageman reports, "Board member Mark Wallace said, I feel the skills being taught are ones of interest to students.”

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"How much is that doggy in the window?"

Say, "Pleased to meet you, Miss Mya."

Doesn't she look like someone you know?

Mya belongs to my friend, Kathy, and she has entered the picture in a photo contest. She should win, don't you think?

This is my day

Notice the sideways snow. The roads never were too bad, although I had to drive my Beater '88 Olds. There was a wind chill in the single digits, but I was dressed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lawrence's Horse and Buggy Christmas Parade

Children and adults line Mass Street in a lively tailgate atmosphere for the Annual Horse and Buggy Christmas Parade Saturday morning. Mittens and stocking hats prevalent, but hardly needed.

As if in another century, the festive carriages pulled by perfectly groomed and disciplined horses slowly move by. I am reminded pride in transportation spans time.

Then the announcement, “Hold your hats and watch your wallets….hog tie your man and get a good grip on your woman...”

The Wild Women of the Frontier have arrived. Whooping, hollering and creating general havoc, the women make their presence known, just as they did a century ago.

The Wild Women attend many festivals and events around the Midwest. I had an opportunity to visit with several of them at The Great American Cattle Drive in Ellsworth. It seems friends from Topeka came upon the idea to form the group with the intent of educating the public about women from the 1800s and 1900s.

They choose a woman of history, research and design an authentic costume to fit the personality of their choice. They expertly ride their own horse while depicting hard working women such as Cattle Annie, Nellie Cashman, and Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity Jane). Etta Place, Belle Starr and Pearl Hart have robbed a stagecoach and bank or two. Or, Sadie Orchard, Laura Evans and Big Nose Kate who are in the “entertainment business.”

Biographies of all the women are on Wild Women of the Frontier web site. I personally recommend their recipe book also available there. Among other things, it includes Rules for Riding the Stagecoach as well as Carry Nation’s Fruit Cooler for Non-Sinners and Calamity Jane’s Red Eye A... Kicker.

There was another group of Proper Women in the parade. They were beautifully dressed in period costumes. The Wild Women are more interesting.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thinking of a Christmas tour

Several years ago, we made a Trekker trip to enjoy small towns and their celebration of Christmas.

We are thinking of taking off on a similar trip this weekend. Destination? Abilene, Kansas. They are having a candlelight tour of homes Saturday evening.

Also, the Abilene Reflector Chronicle states,
“Along with the Homes for the Holidays tour and the Hometown Holiday Weekend events, there are daily tours of the beautiful Seelye and Lebold Mansions, both recently placed on the list of Kansas’ 8 Wonders of Architecture.”

We have a enough to do here at home to keep us busy. On the other hand, little holiday plans like this make special memories.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gift suggestion

I just completed the coolest gift--a hardbound book.

Actually, a personal retirement memory book for our retiring postmaster. To put everything in, it took 20 pages. I had a 20 percent off coupon so the total was $32.00. Something like it would make a wonderful Christmas present.

I know there are other companies that do this, but I use Snapfish

They have other picture gifts such as calendars. Hmmmm

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I love Kansas

Thursday NPR program Talk of the Nation aired a program entitled "State by State." Several days prior to the program's airing, they asked for essays telling why we loved our state. Since we did not have big plans, I decided to send an entry.

Check here for the podcast of the program. I did not get read on the air but thought I would post my submission:

I love Kansas because its rich soil has nurtured my family for nearly 150 years.

I love Kansas because I see the red, yellow sunrise on a crisp morning or sunset over a sea of waving wheat or grass.

I love Kansas because living is honest. I meet family and friends in town, at work, at the lake, in church, or impromptu covered dish dinner at my house. We are there for each other.

I love Kansas not for nature’s magnificent miracles rather nature’s order. Rows of crops, hay bales and fence posts disappearing to the horizon.

And, yes, I love Kansas because its big cities have opportunities and its small towns have spirit. But, I can always escape to the countryside, feel the wind against my face and find my soul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Lazy shopping

Shopping is not my favorite pastime. At least just window shopping. On the other hand, I do love to find bargains.

Since today was a workday for me, hitting the 4:00 am sales was out of the question. So, I shopped online last night until midnight and was up again at 5:30 am to get a couple more things. Most places had free shipping.

I think I did pretty well. I still have a couple things to buy, but I am hoping Kim and I will be able to spend a few hours in down town Lawrence. It is a great place to get the spirit of the holiday

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“What’s most important is often too easily forgotten”

Alex Haley

In our family Thanksgiving Day is traditionally simple. It is a time for food and fellowship. The aromas of turkey, fresh baked bread and pumpkin pie draw us to the kitchen and finally the table.

During our short time of gratitude, we are all thankful for family and health. We overeat, talk too loud and laugh often.

Thanksgiving 1943 was not full of fun and fellowship for the late Alex Haley, celebrated author of the 1976 book and later miniseries Roots. He was a cook on the USS Murzim. At the end of a day spent preparing a Thanksgiving meal for everyone on the ship, he made his way out for a breath of open fresh air.

In an article entitled “Thank You” published November 21, 1982 in Parade Magazine Harley writes it was at that time, he got to thinking about Thanksgivings of his past. He searched in his mind of a way to apply Thanksgiving to the short day he had left.

“It must have taken me a half-hour to sense that maybe some key to an answer could result from reversing the word “Thanksgiving…to “Giving Thanks.” Haley wrote. “After awhile, like a dawn’s brightening, a further answer did come—that there were people to thank, people who had done so much for me that I could never possibly repay them. The embarrassing truth was I’d always just accepted what they’d done, taken all of it for granted. Not one time had I ever bothered to express to any of them so much as a simple, sincere, “Thank you.”

In the article, Haley tells of sitting down with paper and memories. He wrote heart felt notes to his Father, Grandmother and other special people in his life.

I kept Haley’s article and thought of it as I wrote letters to my parents over the years. In addition to the usual family news, I included a thank you for deeds done in the present or past. By thanking for answers to questions, I conveyed the value of their opinions. My father has passed and my mother is elderly. I sincerely hope I was able to communicate my appreciation for their continuing influence in my life.

In early December 1992, while our daughter was a junior in college, I was the subject of a paper for her sociology class. She wrote how I had helped the family and her in ways I did not realize. She gave me a copy of the paper and I will cherish it always. I need to tell her again how much it means to me.

My friend Sue sends the most meaningful thank you notes. She uses words like “beautiful, warm, and fun” when she writes or emails about coming into our home for a meal or party. How nice to receive that confirmation.

As Thanksgiving and the Holiday season approach, rereading Alex Haley’s 25-year-old article has inspired me again to say thank you by writing a short three-sentence note or better yet, a letter. As he said, it is a simple, meaningful gift. Most importantly, I should keep in mind something Haley felt so strongly about communicating that he had it printed across the bottom of his stationery. It read,

"Find the good and praise it"

Originally posted on November 20, 2007.

Twas the night before Thanksgiving

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving Posted by Hello

I have to post this picture every year!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Favorite recipes sometimes hard to find

Wouldn’t you know? I can’t find a recipe. The search has been fun, though.

Recipe cards are like old pictures or clothes. They bring back good memories. Here and there are a few retro ones that look good but a bit out of fashion.

Personally, as a kid, a meal would not be complete without Jello containing upside down half pears, fruit cocktail, or strawberries and bananas. I see the layered Jello salad recipes containing pistachio pudding and Cool Whip but pull out the cabbage salad with crunchy noodles and fresh vegetable salads that are popular with us now.

My Mom always made sweet rolls as well as regular rolls. The regular rolls were made by putting three little balls in each hole of a cupcake tin. She only did that during the Holidays. Bread machines have simplified that chore. We still have cloverleaves, though.

Green beans & mushroom soup continues.. A friend reports a dinner at her in-laws contains the old time Jello salads. Desserts haven’t varied much from pie--pumpkin, pecan, cherry or apple—although there are tasty pie-like desserts.

Over the years, Mr. Turkey has made his presence at our dinners dressed formally to casual, the only recipe is how long to fix him up. In the fifties, mom placed the bird on the table whole with stuffing inside. When I began having the meals, he was baked early, sliced with defatted juice poured over. Recently, our kids have deep fried or smoked him. Personally, I don’t care how he is dressed, just so he comes.

Well, wouldn’t you know, here is that dog-eared, stained recipe card filed under “Christmas.” No wonder I couldn’t find it, that makes too much sense.

Scalloped corn and oysters—no holiday family dinner is complete without this dish. It could be a developed taste because newer members are slightly less enthusiastic. Something about finding a whole oyster hiding in corn. This recipe is my grandmother’s. I am sure she told it to my Mom, though, as grandma never used recipe cards. Enjoy!

Scalloped Corn and Oysters
3 cups soda cracker crumbs
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
1 stick melted butter (not oleo)
Mix above ingredients together & put 1 ½ cups in the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass dish. Over this arrange drained oysters (two cans if you really like oysters) reserving the liquid. Add another light layer of crumbs then whole corn (frozen is better than canned). Over all pour 1 cup milk and oyster liquid (add additional milk if you can’t see liquid around the edges). Sprinkle a few crumbs over the top. Bake 350 25-30 minutes.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crazy Monster Cookies

There are several things going on this weekend and I needed cookies. That is why I decided to make a batch of Monster Cookies last night. I didn't get to bed until 12:30 am. I posted the crazy huge recipe over at the Rural Carriers blog because some of them wanted the recipe. If you have never made them, here is the recipe--good luck!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Peg's new friend

Peg, on her blog Prairie Post writes about a friendly dog that comes by her house regularly. Finally, she ties a note to its collar. Click here for the "rest of the story."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Extreme Makeover Home Edition at Chapman

Just to set the record straight up front, I did not see Ty Pennington.

The call came Thursday morning from Sherry. Labor coordinators for the Extreme Makeover home at Chapman need trim carpenters Saturday morning. We respond immediately. Dan as the craftsman and me, the flunky.

Six a.m. finds Paul and Janice, Dan and I bundled against the upper 30 degree temperatures signing a form saying we will not hold “ABC liable if killed or photographed.” Well, maybe it isn't quite that, but at least I saw those four words. Since each volunteer is asked to bring their own equipment, a line of vehicles carrying trimmer’s tools is the first clue there are more than a few ready to go to work.

Disappointment at not being a part of the activities in the house quickly fades when the cold morning generates a continuous line of workers and program professionals at Janice and my responsibility, the coffee canteen. A few questions as we serve up our strong brew keeps us informed on the progress just a few feet away.

A minimum of 36 trim carpenters are working in the house. A quick tour while the coffee is perking, confirms enough miter saws outside to keep the air nailers popping inside. Groups are working on separate projects such as hanging cabinets, stairs, crown molding, base, hanging doors, mantle and tongue and groove planks on the ceiling , our trimmers’ project. In addition, there are tile layers and granite countertop people working along side. Projects that might take two weeks to complete are finished in less than eight hours.

Meanwhile there are earth movers and skid loaders working on the yard. Around noon a line of trucks appears with trees, bushes and plants. By late afternoon when we leave, most are planted. Landscapers are working on a cobblestone path and what looks like a water fall.

Meanwhile, our coffee duties are replaced by serving 350 volunteers lunch cooked in a moble kitchen specializing in catering the film industry. While professional cooks expertly prepared, seasoned, and carefully presented the food, the hard working, dust covered workers could probably have eaten twice as much. When a well known hot dog manufacturer set up their grill for freebies a little later, they had a brisk business.

For at least two hours during the middle of all this activity, Louis Lamp, originally from the Seattle area, now at Fort Riley, stood on a earth berm and played his violin. When asked if he saw the camera on him, he said, “Yes, when I played, ‘Over the Rainbow’.”

Here are my observations about our day on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition.

This Emmy award-winning program funnels a lot of money and good works into the community in production of their show.

While the scenes we see in the final cuts are pretty much staged, everything actually does happen as depicted at some point.

People volunteer time and equipment. The owner of CW Concrete, Junction City, said, “All trucks, including pumper concrete trucks, fuel, and finish equipment and crews are furnished with no charge.” Major contractors and suppliers do the work and supply materials only for the advertising. In my area, P T’s Coffee Company of Topeka donated 50 lbs of fresh roasted coffee perking 24 hours a day.

Bruce Taylor, a Chapman resident, said the following about the city of Chapman and surrounding area. “They asked for three thousand volunteers and five thousand responded. They put out a call for twenty additional framing carpenters when they fell behind on Thursday and forty showed up.” Many feel because of the community support, additional projects have been undertaken around town, including a new tornado shelter and help with other damaged homes and a church.

Everyone seems caught up in the excitement surrounding the house and other projects. Despite the cold, windy day, Chapman was basking in the warm spotlight on Saturday. My feeling is this proud, hardworking community desires it.

They will “move the bus” on Tuesday. Chapman schools will let out early. The Tutwiler family will find a beautiful, well-built home. It is a big day for the city with a lot of Pride. We are excited to have been a part of it.

The Extreme Makeover Home Edition (Chapman) will appear as a two-hour special during sweeps week January 25, 2009.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Early morning housekeeping

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By LindaK

Check back Sunday evening. I should have something very interesting then...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carrot Cake (Mom's recipe)

Carrot cake is one of those food items that is easier to purchase ready made. The other foods that come to mind in that category are fried chicken, pizza, french fries, etc. Mainly it is laziness as most are better homemade.

We did give thought to purchasing Kim's favorite carrot cake last weekend. I decided to pass on the preservative laden OTC and make my own. It was good. In case anyone else out there has misplaced the old carrot cake recipe, here is Mom's.

Carrot Cake
2 cups sugar
1 teas. soda
3 cups flour
2 teas. baking powder
2 teas. cinnamon
1 teas. salt
1 1/2 cup salad oil
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 teas. vanilla
3 eggs
2 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix dry ingredients. Add oil, eggs, carrots and flavoring. Add nuts & pineapple. Don't use electric mixer. Pour into greased pan. Bake 1 hour at 325. (Set timer for 50 minutes and check it--mind was almost overdone at an hour)

8 oz cream cheese
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 cup oleo (I use butter)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (drained)
1/2 cup nuts
Cream butter & cheese. Mix remaining ingredients & beat.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cold feet-warm heart

...or is that cold hands, anyway

We were in Overbrook tonight filling the truck and multitudes of containers with gas. We burn through a lot of gas in a week with me driving around 110 miles a day in a pickup truck.

Through a steady rain, we noticed the bank said it was 37 degrees. Pretty much the weather most of the day.

While I was dedicated to energy conservation this summer, now I am going to confess this is where my individual commitment to conservation hits the wall. I hate to be cold.

Here is a list of definitely non energy savings winter habits:

1. A lap size electric blanket that warms my side of the bed only. At least I turn it off when I go to bed.

2. A small individual heater that sits by my desk.

3. Endless supply of hot drinks, including green tea, chamomile, and peppermint

4. Hot showers that last a little too long

5. Foot warmers when it gets really cold

We do benefit from our home's southern exposure with plenty of windows. On a sunny day, the passive solar gain heats the house. Maybe that offsets my on going evening battle against cold feet.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

1970 or 2008?

Today is our daughter Kim’s birthday. Since it is Sunday, we are having fun helping her celebrate. While they were here for brunch this morning, we brought out the “box” and inspected the mementos from her childhood.

I saved the Time magazine and Topeka State Journal published on the day she was born.

As one might expect on November 9, 1970, the Vietnam war is the biggest part of the news. The headline in the Topeka paper is, “High Court Rejects War Suit Action.” The first paragraph reads, “A divided Supreme Court refused today to hear a suit by Massachusetts questioning the legality of U.S. military action in Vietnam.”

Again quoting from the article, “The Nixon administration counseled the court against granting the Vietnam War hearing. Justice Department officials said a judicial inquiry into the legality of the war would hamstring the President, insult the Congress and embarrass the nation.”

The article continues to list other actions by the Supreme Court:

Ruled that mental patients who are new to a state may not be sent back to their old home states by hospital officials.

Declined to review the conviction of Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman for resisting arrest in Chicago in 1968 [Democratic National Convention]. He was accused to having a vulgarism written across his forehead.

Rejected a challenge to a provision of the 1968 Gun Control Act that prohibits unregistered possession of firearms by convicted felons.

Another front page headline in the 1970 newspaper is “Airplane’s Thieves Iranian Fugitives.” The article tells of nine Iranian men who hijacked an airline for an escape to Iraq.

War, politics, health care, Gun Control, Iran and Iraq. Yes, I said this is November 9, 1970 edition newspaper.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Diamond Dust

I noticed a Moon Dog while outside this evening. I hurriedly tried for a picture. It was gone in no time.

Research about moon phenomena indicates Moon Dogs are "almost invisible clouds that reside in the atmosphere where commercial airliners cruise, at about 30,000 feet. The clouds are composed largely of ice crystals, known as diamond dust."

Diamond dust! That is awesome. It is very beautiful. The down side is folk lore states that it means bad weather could be coming.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Graduated 1964

I received one of these chain type emails today. When I was finished, I thought it might be fun to post it. Feel free to copy and paste then change the answers to fit you.

1. Did you date someone from your school? Yes
2. Did you marry someone from your high school? Yes
3. Did you car pool to School? Rode the bus
4. What kind of car did you have? When I was a senior, sometimes my older brother let me drive his 1962 Chev. 327 "4 on the floor" on Friday.
5. What kind of car do you have now? Toyota Corolla

6. Its Friday night...where are you? (then) Football game playing trumpet in the marching band

7. It is Friday night...where are you? (now) Eating pizza in front of the television

8. What kind of job did you have in high school? none away from home. Helped on the farm & a little babysitting for the neighbors

9. What kind of job do you do now? Rural mail carrier
10. Were you a party animal? No Sometimes a bunch of girl friends would get together. Not many mixed parties other than school functions.
11. Were you considered a flirt? Pretty sure I was not considered a flirt. I was shy (believe it or not)

12. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? Choir & band. There were no girl's sports. Music & cheer leading were about all there was and I was not cheer leading material.

13. Were you a nerd? No, but the people in my class that were nerdy are the most successful now.

14. Did you get suspended or expelled? No, but had to sweep out the bus once because I hit the driver on the back of the head with bubblegum.

15. Can you sing the fight song? Yes--"Though other schools may justly, be proud of what they do. May boast of their equipment and their achievements too. We proudly pledge allegiance, with loyal faithfulness. To the first and best of high schools. To our own DCCHS." When we were freshmen, the English teacher made us learn the school song and I never forgot it.

16. Who was/were your favorite teacher(s)? I liked them all. Really--our school had good teachers.

17. Where did you sit during lunch? The lunch room--no special place.

18. What was your school's full name? Dickinson County Community High School. Since changed to Chapman High School

19. When did you graduate? 1964

20. What was your school mascot? Fighting Irish
21. If you could go back and do it again, would you? No Although I had a good high school experience.
22. Did you have fun at Prom? Yes, but it was more fun working with everyone planning and decorating before it took place.

23. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? Yes, every day, married him

24. Are you planning on going to your next reunion? Haven't missed one yet.

25. Do you still talk to people from school ? Sure. Visited with a lot of them when the tornado destroyed much of the school this summer.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Two things I am doing for my country

Vote and buy a few Christmas presents. Just think, if everyone would spend $50 on American made presents after they vote, what that would do for the economy.

I believe in less government and individual accountability. I believe in hard work. I believe everyone, young and old, rich and poor contributing toward this nation becoming energy independent. The best way to accomplish this is private sector initiatives and, most importantly, individual responsibility. Health care? No one person, party or government law should change it. The current program must be fixed and that has to be done with the industry's imput. Foreign relations, the world is complex. Who do I trust to represent our country? Someone with experience.

We are leaving at 6:30 this morning to vote.

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's creeping up on me

Thanksgiving and Christmas are almost one big Holiday anymore. I like it that way. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to see extended family or friends, as with Dan’s family, who we might not see at all during Christmas.

The one occurrence that brings this time of year into focus is the change back from daylight savings time. Doug (son) and I talked this evening about how early darkness can be a downer and cut into outdoor time. On the other hand, the long evenings allow more time for indoor projects. Cheery Christmas lights take the place of long twilight evenings.

Yep, I think I’m catching that Holiday feeling—whispers, secrets and hiding places. Plans, parties and good food.

And, it’s only November 3rd.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


This is Sister, our three grandboys' dog—thus the name. She is staying with us for a few days.

Sister’s heritage is not known. Clearly, she has some similarity to a boxer but the nose and ears are something else. The kids think she could have some Jack Russell.

All I know, Sis has boundless energy. She moves effortlessly. There is no lack of enthusiasm.

She is going home in a few days. We will miss her. I don’t think Skye will.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Whew! Missed

As I begin my eleven-mile drive to work at 7:00 am this morning, the thought occurs to me that rut is beginning and I should watch for deer.

A half mile from home is “deer alley,” our name because of two deer encounters, resulting in vehicle damage as well as numerous near misses and sightings. I keep the headlights on bright to catch eyes or movement and slow down.

Several miles further, I enter another creek bottom area where my husband had a similar encounter. I am still looking around.

Only three miles from work, in a more developed area, and no longer thinking about deer, it happens. I see a young buck with a small rack. In that split second, I can almost count the points. No time to brake, the deer is at my side. I flinch. There is no hit.

We, the deer and I, are lucky. Either he veered or I was going just fast enough to get by.

Tonight I read in the Lawrence Journal World, the KDWP and Kansas Department of Transportation state “late October and November are when deer are most active.” Probably since we live rural, over the years our family has experienced six deer/car accidents, one on K 10 between Lawrence and Kansas City. Most of the accidents have happened this time of year and after dark.

The article ends by urging motorists “to be on high alert during the week or two before and after Nov. 17, historically the day deer-vehicle collisions peak.” After this morning, I’m on high alert as of now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How is my week going?

Hint: How many direct mail advertisements have you received for local, state or national candidates? There you go!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Low in the 20s this morning--our first hard freeze. It's a good thing Dan picked the green tomatoes. I remembered to bring in my two hibiscus plants right before I went to bed. All is good.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

I had an early evening meeting tonight. When I got home, Dan had a plate of fried green tomatoes ready for me. They were delicious. He used a packet of Conrad Onion Ring mix and fried them in peanut oil. We dipped them in ranch salad dressing just like at the State Fair.

He just got in the house from picking a bunch more green tomatoes. Freezing temperatures are forecast for tonight.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Trip story for the Black Hills

Finally! I have completed the story for our trip to the Black Hills and the Buffalo Roundup. Perhaps down the road I will put up a slide show of more pictures. For now, I am glad to have it completed. Click on the picture on the left or here if you want to read about a fun trip.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gourmet meal on the road-it's true!

We seldom eat out when traveling in the Roadtrek. Instead we visit grocery stores all over the country, buy local food and find creative ways to cook it.

One standby cooking accessory is the trucker’s oven or lunch box oven which plugs into a cigarette lighter (12 volt) socket. It heats to 300 or so degrees.

Since it most likely uses quite a bit of battery power, we only use it when driving. I make up a big packet of the old Boys Scout tin foil dinner. It consists of hamburger on the bottom, covered with slices of potatoes, onions and carrots. Season well and seal. Place it in the little oven and plug in. I usually allow 2 ½ hours. You will know when it is close to done as the smell is fantastic.

I have used frozen hamburger and waited until later to plug it in. The frozen meat keeps everything cool enough.

It is handy to bake potatoes as a side dish also. One time we actually baked bread. Little tin foil pans fit perfectly inside. Meatloaf is delicious.

Add freshly baked bread and a bottle of local wine--who needs a fancy restaurant.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Am I showing my age here?

I have trouble riding the current popular models of bikes. First, the handlebars are short which causes my back to hurt if I ride too long. Second, the middle part is too high, even on the ladies models. If I stall out on a hill, I need to bale quick. These wide handlebars and the wide, soft seat pictured as an accessory look perfect. I am thinking of purchasing this retro type bike as a early Christmas gift to myself. Then I could ask Santa for all kinds of accessories.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

This n' That

Today was a work day for me. Normally I don’t mind filling in on my usual day off. Early this morning it seemed a good day to be confined to the mail truck. By the time I started the route, the sun was out for a near perfect day.

The Roadtrek is still in front of our house, waiting to be put to bed. Preparing the little RV for winter is not a job to be taken lightly. Frozen water lines would be a disaster. So, tomorrow, we will carefully drain all the lines and pump a special type of antifreeze into them.

The trees still are not at their peak. I am afraid our colorful fall will be either very short or non-existent. It’s been a wet fall and “they” (whoever that is) say the trees are more colorful when it is dry. We gave up our season tickets to KSU football games this year. I miss our trips to Manhattan through the Flint Hills. The golden grass with the red and orange hardwood trees is breathtaking.

Conversations with our kids and grandkids about holiday plans are helping me prepare for the winter weather around the corner.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Helpful financial information

Well, I didn't turn off the radio and glad I did not. There were several good stories today.

Steve Kraske, a political correspondent for The Kansas City Star is moderator of “Up to Date” KCUR public radio's daily show. Today, he hosted an informative discussion entitled, “Your Investments in a Turbulent Economy" with an emphasis on, " what you should be asking your adviser about your financial plans."

David Jackson, CFP of Waddell & Reed and Kathy Stepp, CFP, of Stepp & Rothwell discussed this complex subject with Steve Kraske and call in listeners.

Are you feeling as lost as I am with the words describing the current financial crisis? I recommend the Bloomberg Financial Glossary. I keep this link on my desktop for quick reference. There are also links on the glossary page to other investment tools.

Finally, with all the stressful information bombarding us from every direction, you might want to listen to this segment aired on NPR’s Talk of the Nation entitled "Bad at Multitasking? Blame your Brain." It will make you rethink a habit of doing several things at once.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No news is good--for one day anyway

The job description of a rural mail carrier is self-explanatory. We arrive at the post office, the mail is available to sort then down the road to deliver.

Oh, I forgot, it’s turn on the radio and down the road to deliver.

The radio--usually set too loud but necessary to be heard over the open window noise. The radio--set only on NPR, afraid to turn it off for fear of missing something important.

I am addicted to hours of surreal radio news. The stock market yo yos up and down. The people who we trust to know what to do about the economy seem to be grasping at straws. The election is polls, polls and more polls and who said what about whom. Then there is Iraq, Afghanistan and the ever looming Iran.

I am considering going cold turkey for a day. No radio. Five and a half hours of just me, whistling my way down the road. Oblivious to election, stock market and war.

In this case, withdrawal could be comforting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oktoberfest in Hermann Missouri

One last roadtrip beckons before we winterize the Trekker. It is a three-day weekend for me so Friday night finds us making our way to Hermann Missouri.

Hoping for Columbia, but hindered by drooping eyelids, the first Wal-Mart Parking lot we find east of Kansas City is our alternate destination. Our niece and family welcome us at 8:30 Saturday morning. A quick visit, delicious breakfast pizza and we are on the road again. We meet the rest of our group in New Florence, the exit off I 70 to Hermann

Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday we enjoy our favorite vineyards.

OakGlen Winery is first. Somewhat miffed this winery is the only one on the Hermann wine trail charging a fee to enter and taste, we decide to stop anyway mainly for the spectacular view of the Missouri River Valley. The band is excellent. Their wine is good with our meat, cheese and crackers. With the fees, we didn't feel an obligation to purchase any extra wine.

Our plan is to stop by Hermannhof Winery on our way back through Hermann. There is no way! It was unbelievably crowded. Hermannhof is located in Hermann and within walking distance of the Amtrak depot. Missouri and Amtrak work together to provide transportation from Kansas City and St Louis across Missouri. There are two opportunities to catch trains each way daily. Obviously, many young people take advantage of this trip.

We pass by Hermannhof opting for Adam Puchta & Son Wine Co.

Adam Puchta is one of Hermann's older wineries dating to 1839. Probation destroyed the vineyard, but was reestablished in 1988. We enjoy Norton and Chardonel wines as well as Hunter's Red. We linger here as perfect weather and colorful trees make this a quiet, relaxing stop.

We left Adam Puchta for the Rivers Edge restaurant. Not only does this restaurant have good food, the only access from the north is a ferry across the Gasconade River. A step back in time. Only one of our group orders wine with the meal, the rest of us opt for water--lots of it!

Sunday morning we start with a new destination, Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery. What a delight. We will be returning in the future. Nick Bommarito and his children established their 10 acres of vines in 1996 and opened in 2000. They only make five wines and only use grapes from their vineyards. The daughters serve the samples and Mr. Nick sells the bottles. They are personable and friendly. We park ourselves in the shade and enjoy several bottles of their excellent St. Vincent and Norton with specially prepared brats.

Robller Vineyard Winery is always on our list. A family winery with a fun tasting room, colorful terrace and entertainment most weekends. We hang around to enjoy Gary Sluhan and his Jimmy Buffet covers. Robert and Lois Mueller purchased their land in 1989 and the winery opened in 1991. We said hello to them as they roam among the guests. Their personal touch is evident from start to end. Hands down, our favorite stop each year.

Our wine trail finally ends late Sunday afternoon at the Hermannhof winery. The crowd mostly gone, we enjoy the traditional German music and dancing.

Although not too hungry, we picnic at the Hermann River's Edge Park. It is hard to finally say goodnight to our friends and ready ourselves for the trip home, a case of wine for the holidays in tow.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Proud Mary will never be the same

Thank you Sue and Blake for the opportunity to hear a legend. It was a great evening.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Can we make a difference?

Economic news is our country’s obsession. Personally, I hang on the advice of “experts,” while listening for stock market quotes and bailout legislation.

Today, as the stock market fell into the cellar even further, I felt hopeless. It is too big a problem for one individual to make a difference. Then I had an idea.

Savings bonds.

From a beginning as “baby bonds” during the depression, they grew up to become the popular war bonds during WWII. Savings bonds gave people with modest incomes the ability to help in the war effort while accumulating a modest savings.

What if every tax paying individual purchased a $25 savings bond, or more. How about a dollar for dollar reduction in our taxes for the bonds we buy.

Series EE are easy to purchase at any financial institution or online as small as $25. It is something we can do to help our country.

This is too simple—more than a little na├»ve. On the other hand…

Friday, October 03, 2008

Short--very short

The person who cut my hair the past few times quit so I made an appointment with our friend, Larry, a barber, who is in the same office. I said, "Cut it short, Larry." What I didn't realize is when you tell a barber to cut it short, it is "man short."

So, I have some "product" on it and it is standing up every which way. Dan just looks at me and laughs. A young gal in our office said I was up to date. I just needed to dye it orange.

By the way, I didn't realize how hard it would be to take a picture of the back of my head. I stood in front of a mirror, used a hand mirror to see the preview on the back of my camera. Probably the reason for the poor quality picture.

Anyway, I think this short hair is growing on me!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Buffalo Roundup Custer State Park, SD

Editor's note: Read a full description of our trip to the Black Hills, including the Buffalo Roundup here.

Photo courtesy of Custer State Park

The picture in the previous post was taken at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs. That visit was the beginning of a ten day roadtrip. While everything we did seemed better than the last, seeing our grandkids whether here at home or in Colorado is always the highlight.

The purpose of our trip was to attend the Buffalo Roundup in Custer State Park in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.

It is almost impossible to capture the sight of approximately 1500 buffalo some weighing over a ton, thundering down the valley. No one was very close.

These animals were not herded in a conventional method. Cowboys ride in front of the group, crack their bull whip and then quickly get out of the way. Sometimes the herd turned, sometimes not. One thing was evident, cowboys did not place themselves in front of a charging buffalo. Dan saw one hit one of the pickups used to push the herd.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


We had a good time with the grandkids at the zoo--but, what zoo is it????

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Top Job

How about traveling the world and writing about it—for pay!

Pam Grout has this gig. She is a professional travel writer and author of Kansas Curiosities, the Read Across Lawrence 2008 book.

Always on the lookout for writing information, I am excited for the opportunity to hear Ms. Grout speak Tuesday evening at the Lawrence Public Library. In addition, to her award winning column, “Now, Where Was I?” Grout’s articles have appeared in Lawrence Journal World’s Boomer Girl and many popular magazines including Travel & Leisure, Cooking Light, Midwest Living and Modern Bride. In addition, she has written fourteen books.

In her short introduction, she mentions an early love of reading and a journalism degree as her incentive to write. However, her father, who loves to travel and takes time to visit places off the beaten path, is the motivation for her fascinating career as a travel writer. Still she portrays herself as “lucky” when success comes her way. When asked how she broke into the professional writing field, her answer suggests the luck is more the result of hard work.

Smartly she lets us demonstrate our interviewing skills by asking the questions. Whether a personal journal, blog or for pay, she offers the following travel writing suggestions.

Try to find local residents who are willing to talk about the area and share insider views. The server at the locally owned cafe knows all.

When observing and writing, engage senses. The writer is the eyes, nose and hearing of the person reading the article. If the destination smells good, write about it.

Find at least three interesting bits of information or descriptions about the place you are visiting. Perhaps not the obvious rather the unusual

Finally, take a vocation vacation. Always be on the lookout for a good story when traveling.

All too soon, our time is over. Pam Grout has a wonderful career story. She demonstrates a keen ability to listen and a honest open approach. Perhaps in the end, these two traits are her best advice on being a good travel writer.

Lawrence Public Library is hosting additional authors and workshops at the library with their Read Across Lawrence 2008 and at their River City Reading Festival 2008 on Saturday 27th, 2008, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 pm. Pick up a brochure at the library check the schedule online or contact Maria Butler, Public Relations Coordinator

Monday, September 15, 2008

Crisp and Cool

We are located between Topeka and Lawrence Kansas. Here is our weather forecast for tonight. They are saying it could drop into the upper 30s in the Lawrence area. The moon is beautiful. The sky is clear.

Just for fun, I keep track of weather in other parts of the country. This was posted around 9:00 tonight.

I checked and the Fairbanks forecast is an overnight low of 37 degrees.

September 15th and our weather is comparable to Fairbanks, Alaska. Hope this isn't an indication of our winter.

We're taking a chance and not covering our tomatoes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Weeping Fig

I have two Weeping Fig or Ficus trees in my living room. Today I decided one had to go. The main reason is probably why they are called "weeping." Each year about this time, some kind of sticky sap is on the floor around the tree.

Both trees are actually three trees and the trunks have been braided in a bonsai fashion. Pictured is the larger. I think they look nice because I have always kept them pruned so they are bushy.

I look at it out there on my front porch and I feel sad for it. My plants are special to me. But, I guess at some point one has to let go of things like this.

We are loading it in the pickup to take to the garage sale next weekend. I think I'll give it away if someone promises to give it a good home.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Geezer--closer than I think?

This morning, Times Goes By alerted me that published a large Geezer issue. I don't consider myself a "Geezer", but perhaps I am closer than I think because I recognize the old songs.

Anyway, here are the...Greatest Songs about Aging and Mortality

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Scenes we should never forget

It’s been seven years since I’ve made myself watch movies taken September 11th. Here and here are two.

Not only the visual but the commentary of those taking the videos is sobering and profoundly moving. Of course, we know two additional planes were also headed for destruction. We all remember the feelings of disbelief and sadness.

Thousands died. Trust was broken.

My thoughts continue to be with families and our Nation forever changed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grumpy post

Pictures were promised, I know. There are two reasons why they are not here.

First, for some reason, my computer hookup is about the speed of dialup. It’s 9:30 pm and everyone is checking their emails before getting ready for bed. This would be understandable, but I am paying for a business worth of bandwidth. Not home, but business. I am paying $20 more each month for more speed—supposedly. Well, to make a short story long, I can’t upload the pictures.

Second, I am going to bed because I feel sick. Actually, I hate that word and try with all my might not to be sick. However, I do have a cold and I am coughing my head off. I probably could work, but have a year’s worth of sick leave that I’m going to lose when I retire. That is unless the Senate passes a bill giving us a percentage of that time on the end of our work years. The House has already passed it, but time is running out for the session. I guess that is another story.

Night Night

Monday, September 08, 2008

Kansas State Fair 2008

The Kansas State Fair is a yearly event for many families. We attended when I was a young kid, a break before fall harvest. As a teenager, it was 4-H judging and clothes construction style contests. It wasn't too many years until we began taking our own children toting 4-H entries and public demonstration equipment. Full circle, this year we were with our grandchildren.

The fair is food. And we manage well in that respect. I’ll just do a food rundown: Fried green tomatoes, Pronto Pup, hog dog, BBQ beef sandwich, nachos, cotton candy, chipped ice drink, hot apple strudel and cherry cobbler alamode, a couple of funnel cakes, ice cream cone, malt and drinks. No one said healthy eating was part of the fair.

In-between eating, the boys ride the Farris wheel, White Water, bungie jump, and Aaron rides the Mega Loop all by himself.

We look at farm equipment, listen to music, marvel at outstanding 4-H entries, and see a “rocket” take off at the Cosmosphere presentation. Oh, can’t forget the biggest pumpkin at 652.7 lbs and the butter carving masterpiece.

I wonder if the exhibitors are the same as 50 years ago. A tired vaccum cleaner salesman perks up as we approach, but we avoid eye contact and he settles down, obviously too tired to rein us in. I like to stand off to the side and watch the people who demonstrate the latest must-have cleaning or cooking tool and their audience. Reminding me of a card dealer at a casino, the crowd watches the demonstrator's amazingly quick hands work the product. Then, just when they think, "I don't need that," extra gadgets are added to the pot and the money flows.

We didn’t shake hands with a politician (too crowded) nor sit elbow to elbow with an arm wrestler. We didn’t purchase a delicious looking ear of corn, nor ride the sky ride. We missed the kids tractor pull and pig races. There is always next year.

What we did do is enjoy a day of Kansas State Fair 2008. And, there is a week left.

Great fair, great day. Pictures tomorow.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Signs of Fall

1. Barn Swallows mostly gone
2. Pelicans migrating through
3. Hunters parked nearby but no less Doves
4. Sweatshirt needed most of the day on the route
5. Pears are deliciously ripe
6. Sneezing
7. Thinking about chili
8. Chip's Monarch Watch Open House

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This n' That

It was April 1st of this year that I wrote about our ‘06 Toyota Corolla purchase. Feeling a need to off set our Trekkn’ miles with a car that gets good mpg, we felt the Corolla was about the best we could do without buying a hybrid.

This summer, using the air conditioner, we average 35 to 37 mpg. We still haven’t driven it to visit our Colorado family, a good test for road miles.

Even though Tuffy (we obnoxiously name our vehicles) has been around nearly six months, last Sunday was the first time I hand washed it.My sponge glided over it's rounded lines with little effort. It is designed to slip through the air effortlessly, most likely part of the reason for the good gas mileage.

On another note, Dan finished putting up the hay today. Most of it has been moved off the pasture. We don't have a buyer yet. It was a good year for hay so it is not much in demand this time of year. I am always relieved when that project is finished.

It dawned on me tonight that my computer is loud. As computers go, it is fairly old. I've been lucky in that anything that has gone wrong, I've been able to fix. I think the cooling fan must be wearing out and that is out of my expertise. Funny how these things have become a necessity--at least in my household.

Tomorrow is a special day. It is the anniversary of this blog. I've been doing this for four years. Thanks for checking in.

Monday, September 01, 2008

No Labor Day

All I had to do is churn up a batch of homemade ice cream and I was off to visit our lake family.

Dan did not initially go with me as he is finishing the prairie hay-baling project. Kim invited Marc’s parents in addition to our friend Sue. We girls had our swimming suits on and the little boys were in and out of the lake with us. Our afternoon played out--literally. It was great.

What is it about bobbing in water? It is relaxing, fun and inevitably prompts good banter. Kim was in and out of the conversation as she was cooking. We elder girls acted like queens for the day.

After eating the delicious brisket, potato salad and baked beans, we ended with all kinds of goodies and the ice cream. Then we chugged around the lake, enjoying the night air.

Today I am back to my at-home fall cleaning. Yesterday we celebrated a perfect “No Labor Day.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Weather Radio Story

The weather radio just went off. So that you know how that manifests itself, it is like a siren wailing. Loud, lasting around 15 seconds-- an eternity when there is a piercing noise assaulting the eardrums. A button on the front turns off the siren and the automated voice comes on giving the weather bulletin.

Simple and a possible lifesaver where we live.

Tonight, it seems no weather is coming our way. It is southeast of us and the storm is continuing to move that way.

Our weather radio is old. The newer models are selective about the alert area. Individual counties are programmed in so it only sounds when a storm is close by. Not ours. In the late spring and early summer when severe weather is more common, it goes off five or more times in one episode of severe weather. Usually the alerts are for other areas.

We live a little over a mile, as the crow flies, from the ghost town of Richland. The town was completely demolished because it was in the flood plane in the upper reaches of Clinton Lake. There is another small town about an hour south of us named Richmond. One night the weather radio kept going off but the storm was not moving our direction at that time. Just in case there was a change, I did not want to turn the radio off. I moved it into our bedroom near our bed so I could listen to the weather bulletin if the siren sounded in the middle of the night.

Sure enough, not long after we went to bed, it sounded its obnoxious high pitched siren. I poked the button and it said all those in the area of Richland should take cover as a possible tornado showed on the radar. Anxiously, I shook Dan and said we needed to go to the basement. Jolted awake and slightly miffed by the noise, he said, “We don’t need to worry, they said Richmond.” I said, “No, it was Richland.” He said, “Why would they say Richland when it no longer existed?” Half-asleep, I thought he had a good point. So, we went back to sleep.

The next morning we discovered a tornado was sighted over Lawrence. Yes, the path of such a storm would probably have originated over our nearby ghost town of Richland.

It has been an ongoing joke since. The weather radio goes off and then we say we better check to see if there is a tornado over Richmond. Only, after Greensburg and Chapman, it isn’t quite as funny.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm a map person myself

Sherlock Holmes and I have something in common.

A magnifying glass as a tool to solve mysteries.

My mysteries are not literary. Gathering clues from state brochures, welcome center hosts, local residents, friends and of course internet web sites, I then use a magnifying glass on a map. (Does anyone else have trouble seeing a map?) This is my way of solving how to navigate through a state using the best scenic routes.

As much as I love electronics, so far no GPS.

Recently, I read on one of my favorite blog sites, National Park Traveler, in select national parks for $15 a day, you may rent a GPS gadget that you place on the dash. As you reach a certain location, it will present an interpretative of your surroundings. While this might not be much different than CDs available at many National Parks, Kurt Repanshek feels it has the potential to be much more popular perhaps even to the point of eliminating the give and take of human interaction.

Repanshek, a former AP journalist and now freelance writer, writes in a blog post September 27, 2007, “is the relevance of our national parks dangling on the future of where technology takes us?”

National Park Rangers are highly trained and knowledgeable about the area they serve. Their presentations are well prepared. Most importantly, they answer questions. The interaction is invaluable. As far as I am concerned, a visit to a National Park, including our National historic fort sites in Kansas, is not complete without a presentation by a ranger followed by questions and answers.

Repanshek addressed this subject again several days ago when he posted “Another look at those GPS Rangers in National Parks.” He admitted they have proven to be beneficial. Rangers can see where the traffic in the parks is heaviest, directing people to other sites. Many parks are cutting ranger positions and the electronic devices are filling the gap. Importantly, they include tours in American Sign Language.

Kurt Repanshek again hints at his feelings when he ends his most recent post with, “Is this a good move for the National Park System?”

Granted, it appears the interpretative GPS unit is a beneficial tool. On the other hand, I want to listen to a real person who has answers to my questions and stories to tell. I think it would be a mistake for the National Park Service to allow GPS gadgets to replace our National Park Rangers.

I think Sherlock would agree, is always good ask questions to better magnify a mystery.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Symphony YouTube

I finally put up my YouTube video of the Symphony in the Flint Hills tonight. This is old news, I realize. I started it and then got busy. If you want to see any of my other videos (I know, like you have time to watch videos) do a search on YouTube web site for femail66409 or click here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You won't be able to get enough of this

I am not getting paid to advertise. It's just that this stuff is so good, I have to make sure everyone knows.

We like to put a half cup or so of Pina Colada juice over ice and add diet Ginger Ale. A splash of Rum is good, but I prefer it plain.

We discovered this juice because Dan was supposed to find pineapple juice for punch at the wedding shower at Kim's. He's a good shopper, this is better.

Obviously, it's 100% juice, but the label says it is made from concentrate. No sugar is added, but it naturally has 24 grams in addition to 120 calories per cup. My drink is about 60 calories of the best taste around this summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?

I always have my camera close at hand on the mail route--just in case. Today I had a first--a woodchuck aka groundhog. It was out on the road when I came over the hill. I thought at first it was a squirrel, but then saw the short tail and size. I stopped in a driveway close by and it froze. It did not move a muscle. I took four pictures and they all look exactly the same.
I was not as close as the picture appears. I had the camera set on the most close up and then I enlarged digitally. It helps to click on the picture.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New week, clean clothes

My hope is when I retire, Sunday will indeed be a day of rest. Until then, Sunday afternoon and evening usually have some type of project.

Today it is washing everything in sight.

Here is my wash routine. Dan built an open front lower cabinet in my laundry room. I have five laundry baskets lined up under the top, which is supposed to be a folding table, but is more like a catchall. (I could say I actually do fold clothes there, but my kids might read this post and catch me in the lie)

I carry dirty clothes downstairs to the laundry room three times a week or so and sort into the five baskets. The first two, hot water whites and cool water whites, fill fast and thus emptied regularly. The other three are red colors, my jeans and shorts and Dan’s work clothes. Dan’s basket fills quickly also. I end up washing my basket before its full, just because I need the clothes. That leaves the red-ish basket.

All of this is to explain why, when I finally washed the red basket today, I found several t shirts in the bottom that made me realize I hadn’t washed that basket for nearly three weeks. So, I decided to empty everything, including the top of my folding table which has hand washable things that are washed on the delicate cycle one at a time.

It was a beautiful drying day and I accomplished a lot. Everything is clean, folded and put away. It is a good feeling.

Washing clothes seems like a rather personal thing to write about, but I must be a bit enamored with the subject. I wrote about it here one other time. Not to mention two pictures of our clothes on the line here and here although the latter had Dan's theory about running the dryer. Washing was a time consuming chore when I was a kid. I often helped Mom, until she got an automatic washer and dryer--a huge deal and another story.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The New Yards

Last weekend we visited our niece in Columbia, Missouri. It was a family gathering for the dedication of their new little boy.

The area where Amy Kay and Dane live is an older area but has very nice homes. We drove around a bit to see if the whole neighborhood was as “green” as around their home. Some of the yards were entirely natural. And, interestingly enough, attractive. One yard in particular had native plants and grasses and in among the flowers were tomato plants. Some ripe tomatoes added color.

While sitting on the front porch, we watched a lawn service cut and trim the entire yard across the street using a push lawn mower and hand shears. Amy and Dane hand push their yard also. When I say "push" I mean no engine--an old time type mower.

Our Colorado family mows very little of their yard. Of course, out there grass does not grow like here in Kansas. But, still, natural is definitely popular.

We do not mow as much grass as in the past. Perhaps we don’t mow as often because we don’t fertilize. Still, I am not ready to give up my lawn mower. After giving it a bit more thought, I guess we could let the yard go back to native prairie and bale it. We would be in trouble if the pasture caught on fire, though.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Putting up tomatoes

We have eight tomato plants and they are producing well. Tonight I prepared a large pot of pizza sauce. Last week I made spaghetti sauce. All together I have put up close to six gallons of tomatoes.* (Don't you love that old term, "put up?")

Don’t be impressed. I didn’t do it from scratch. Mrs. Wages helped.

Mrs. Wages is a seasoning mix purchased in the canning supply area of the grocery store. A quick Google search informs me there actually was a woman by that name living in Tupelo Mississippi in the 1950s. She was an excellent cook---etc.etc. It’s one of those stories that seem so simple I wonder why I didn’t think of it.

Along with the spaghetti and pizza sauces, the salsa is good also. I have frozen everything I’ve made so far, but the salsa will need to be canned. I should try to figure out how to do that outside so I don’t heat the house.

I followed the directions exactly with the spaghetti sauce. It says to peel then blend the raw tomatoes in a blender and then cook for 20 minutes. Well, I decided to cook down the tomatoes a bit as it was just too watery. Also, there are too many tomato seeds in the sauce.

Tonight, I peeled, blended and then ran the result through a Foley food mill. I’ve had this cool canning gear for years—almost forgot about it. Thankfully, I never get rid of this kind of thing. It worked wonderfully to make pizza sauce without one seed.

*"Six gallons" means freshly picked tomatoes that fill up two three gallon buckets.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.

Tennessee Williams

As I write, my washing machine is humming, Dan is mowing our abundant crop of prairie hay and I am getting ready to make a batch of oatmeal cookies. The fluffy powder puff-like clouds and low humidity made a pleasant day on the mail route. I just drank a diet Coke so I’m feeling good with a little shot of caffeine.

Not everything is so pleasant for others we know and love right now. Several days ago our long-time friends whom we visited while on vacation recently were awaiting the arrival of another couple in Colorado. They never arrived because of a tragic accident in north central Kansas, which took both their lives.

Last night I received a call from our daughter-in-law in Colorado telling us she had received word her Poppy (grandfather) had died. He was a special grandparent.

So, I feel sadness for Drue and her family and Fords and their friends. However, right now, I am tackling jobs that appeal to me, baking cookies and hanging out clothes. I will see my Colorado family this weekend. We are stopping by our to visit with our local grandboys about their first day of school tonight

Life is this way, I guess.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

One more Colorado story

It’s not like I’ve never fished before.

As a kid, I remember fishing with a cane pole, bobber and worm for bullheads in Clarks Creek, later running lines all night for channel cat at Reading Lake, catching walleye below the dam at Perry and trolling for white bass at Milford Lake. Heck, we even spent a week fishing for walleye at Canada’s Cedar Lake several years ago. Of course, there is Clinton Lake and the farm pond.

Until last week, I have never fished for trout.

We are camped in Routt National Forest west of Ft Collins, Colorado. The talk at the bait shop in Gould is people are catching trout on worms, salmon eggs and power bait below the dam at North Michigan Reservoir located in nearby Colorado State Forest.

Three friends from our party and I are on the road at 6:00 am the next morning excited about the possibility of catching our breakfast. I am dressed in a winter coat against the 35 degree morning. As we approach the lake, to our dismay, a car is already there. We peer over the dam to see the young family who told us where to fish the night before.

We begin the steep descent to the area below the dam. The adults already there are accomplished fly anglers, beautifully arching their lines to settle the bait wherever they want it. We have rod and reels.

The couple assures us they will share the limited space around the pool. My friends get their hook baited and in the water. I am struggling to get the hook tied with my cold fingers. Finally, we are all “in.” My friends each catch a fish. I am hung up.

Hook retied and baited, I am back in business. I feel the hit, jerk to set the hook and the trout flies out of the stream and lands behind me. Excited about the fish, but embarrassed about my performance, I hurriedly put the fish on a stringer. The young couple quietly asks their son to move closer to them.

Everyone is catching fish. I feel another hit. Excitement takes over and I yank—too hard again. The fish escapes. The hook catches on the side of my jeans.

Nothing to do but cut the line and leave the hook hoping no one notices. I tie on another hook and move to a different location away from everyone. I finally catch another fish. We soon leave as everyone except me has caught their limit.

We return two more mornings and catch our limit each time. I improve. When asked about the fishhook in my jeans later that first morning, I said I put it there so it wouldn’t get lost.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Finally a Colorado story

I finally posted the story about our trip at our travel blog, wildlife, wildflowers and waterfalls.

I encourage you to click over and read about it but am linking the pictures here also. The North Park area of Colorado is new to Dan and I. It is beautiful and certainly we did not encounter crowds.

I think you will be surprised at the pine mountain beetle damage. It scares me to consider how Colorado will look in a few years. Their pine forests are being decimated by either the beetle or mistletoe.

Here are the pictures:

Colorado July 2008 1

Click on the picture for a slide show.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It was a mountain top experience

Since returning from the land of thin, dry air and cool night temperatures, I have been busy trying to catch up and put away. I am hoping tomorrow there will be time to tell more about our trip. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hang on--more to come

Yes, I am still around, although not where you might expect. I have posted two pictures which might give a hint. The internet connect is difficult. Lots to tell about so check back the end of the week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A successful shower

Tara is a gracious bride-to-be.

The shower was a success. Nearly all the copious amounts of sweets were consumed, washed down by all of the punch and most of the coffee. Guests seemed reluctant to leave. Always a good sign.

Now the countdown to the wedding. It sounds like Tara is ready.

Note: The little cartoon of Dan and I next to our Trekker on the left side of this page was drawn by Tara.