Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fire Starters

This sounds like a horror flick.  Never fear, it was my project this afternoon—with some help from Dan.  Our family hasn’t had Christmas yet, so I’m giving away one of the gifts.

I’ve been on somewhat of an organizational spree since I retired.  (There would be some that would say I have a long ways to go and I agree.)  Anyway, I cleaned out a candle storage cabinet earlier this fall and put all old unsightly, no longer odorous candles in a box thinking there had to be some project for them.

It came to me when we were cleaning up pine cones—melt the old candles and dip pinecones for fireplace fire starters.  Here is the result:

IMG_4896  First thing, I went to the internet and found instructions.  Mainly, melt the candles in a tin coffee size can in boiling water.  Wax is volatile and the double boiler is the safest way to handle it.  Then start dipping.  We quickly decided they needed two coats, which involved me grabbing a rather old candle from the living room for additional wax.  The instructions said you can add chemicals so they will look pretty when they burn but something about mixing chemicals with fire didn’t sound good to me when there are little kids around. 

It helped that we did the project on the enclosed porch.  It was about 45 degrees and that helped the wax to cool quickly so the project went fairly fast.

I tried one and they do work pretty good.  Basically, they are a sort of candle with the pine cone being the wick.  Once they start burning, they continue right along for longer than I thought they might. 

I’ll have to watch for old candles at garage sales for next year.  My sister-in-law, Ruth used to make beautiful candles. She doesn’t do much anymore because of the price of wax.  Sounds like used candles are the way to go.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Quiet Christmas Eve

As I write this, the wind is whipping snow about.  The light of the barn shows that it is still coming down.  We sat by the fire all evening.  They canceled the Christmas Eve service.  I’m not sure there were any services in the area.  There was a trailer across the bottom of the television announcing closures the whole time we had it on.

We planned on a visit with Mom at Chapman in the morning.  I received an email from my brother there saying they had a foot of snow.  I think we’ll postpone that trip also.  It might be a quiet Christmas Day as well.  Our Colorado family is coming home—if the weather is this bad in western Kansas, it might be a bit later than they thought.

I remember one other Christmas Eve like this.  I was driving a diesel Volkswagen Rabbit to deliver mail.  It was snowing and so cold, the fuel jelled up.  I had to borrow a car to finish the route.  We stayed at home that Christmas too.  It seems sometimes the Christmas’s that are most memorable are the ones where there are no plans.  I wouldn’t want it like that every year, though. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love those Christmas Notes

I love Christmas notes.  I received several on the computer that are particularly unique.  Even though I resisted at first, I’ve become more accepting of this form of communication.  Some friends have never had a mail delivery address, just email.   

A fellow Chapman Class ‘64 classmate, Carol Lindahl sent a particularly funny email Christmas note which included a recipe for Eggplant Soup with Parmesan Cream.  It included inserts about her odyssey in making it.  Very funny and unique, not to mention a must try soup recipe.

Just today, I opened an email from our friend Aubrey who wished us a Merry Christmas as she visited her parents’ home in Idaho,

I am currently sitting in front of a big window in front of the Snake River at my parents farm watching the geese and ducks swim around. Sage brush mountains are in the background look dry and stark. It is so windy here in the lower regions of Idaho and the skies at night are full of stars- I forget how big the sky is here.  Also, the mountains, oh the mountains...I so missed them!”

Still, as you might imagine having worked in mail delivery for so long, I have a  place in my heart for opening the mailbox and finding cards.  We’ve received lots of pictures and some truly beautiful cards.  I don’t care what anyone says, I love the newsletters.  It is the only way we keep up with some friends and family.  I put all our cards on a big bulletin board near the kitchen.  They will stay there until spring. 

Monday, December 21, 2009

A really good raisin recipe....really!

This is one of those discolored, ingredient marked up recipe cards. I wish I would have dated it, but I can tell by the typewriter that it is probably a 70's time period. My friend Scarlett gave me this recipe, therefore it will always be hers. I feel we should always put our name on shared recipes. It is a little piece of our history passed on for others.

I was going through my cards looking for Holiday favorites recently. I found several belonging to people I worked with many years ago (about 40 to be exact). When I saw their name connected with the particular recipe, it brought back fond memories. I have many of my Mom's recipes in her own writing. Maybe we'll get those out during the Holidays and share.

Raisin Mumbles

2 1/2 cup seedless raisins (Craisins make an excellent Holiday substitute
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tabl. cornstarch
3/4 cup water
3 Tabl. lemon juice
Combine ingredients and cook over low heat until thickened (about 5 min)
stirring constantly. Cool

Crumb mixture
3/4 cup soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. soda
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
Mix butter with sugar and mix in dry ingred--adding oats last. Press half of crumb mixture in 12/9/2 pan. Spread filling and top with remaining crumbs. Bake 20-30 min. in 375 oven. (I bake less--important not to over bake)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

At the Berryton Post Office, I’m gone but not forgotten

I know that because we had a Berryton PO Holiday Open House with food and everyone who didn’t have a conflict came.  There is always the question whether it is the food or me!

I served a large roasted pork tenderloin sliced for sandwiches, cheese, and condiments.  At the recommendation of a friend who caters, Apple Salad, Hot Spinach Dip and chips.   Carole brought a southwest type dip to try out on us and Jean, pizza.  Others shared goodies that customers had left in mailboxes along with my Peanut Butter Bars and Raisin Mumbles (I’ll share recipe later).

It was a fun evening, and we enjoyed the visit.  They are all friends and we banter like family.  I definitely don’t miss the Holiday mail delivery work, though.  Everyone thinks it is exceptional this year—perhaps a sign the economy is on an upward turn.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mom’s 94th Christmas


Mom had a good time at the party tonight.  She smiled the whole evening.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talking about delicious So easy too

Peanut Butter Bars
1 cup margarine (I use butter)
1 cup peanut butter
1/3 lb graham crackers, crumbled (if using butter a few more)
1 lb powdered sugar
2 cup chocolate chips (either semi or sweet)
Melt the margarine and peanut butter.  Add the graham crackers crumbs
(crushed in blender) and powdered sugar
Press into a 9 x 13 pan.
Melt the chocolate chips and spread over the top
of the peanut butter mixture. 
Cool, cut into squares

Sunday, December 13, 2009

People and their cell phones

Notice I didn’t say, “Young people” although they most often get the bad rap about cell phone usage.  This is about someone around my age.

I know this happens to everyone.  Not wanting to forget anything,  I’m pushing the cart up and down each isle.  There is someone else who is doing the same thing, only from the opposite direction.  Consequently, I meet this person face to face in each isle.  Usually, everyone is intent in finding their things, so it’s no big deal.

Today,  the person I keep meeting is talking on the cell phone while shopping.  She has someone with her pushing the cart so it is grab and throw groceries while obviously talking about someone.  Each time I meet her, I overhear a snippet of conversation.

I know the person is immature (cereal isle), self absorbed (baking goods isle), is either getting a divorce or about to (chips and crackers isle).  First, I couldn’t believe she is shopping while talking on the phone and second, that she is saying such negative things about another person in a public place (the store was busy).   

There is talk of banning cell phone usage while driving.  I would add “grocery cart” to that also. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

School Christmas concerts are the best

Checking mobile posting

Well, guess it worked. I set up the ability to post from my phone. Maybe I'll do better at keeping up to date when we travel. Still putting decorations up--got to get to work!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Indiana Christmas Roadtrip

Finally, I have the pictures assembled from the roadtrip to Indiana and the West Baden Springs Hotel. 

I wrote about it here

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Roadtrip still coming together


While visiting family in southern Indiana, we stopped by the West Baden Springs Hotel.  There is history and beauty here.  I am working on sharing more. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"Twas the night before Thanksgiving

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving Posted by Hello

Astropillars have pupated

The monarchs in space, dubbed astropillars, have made their pupae and now we have to wait nine to ten days. 

It appears they like space just fine. 

Check here for pictures.  There are other pictures here that are also updated regularly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One more year to see a launch

Chip and his Monarch Watch crew just returned from Florida where they watched their butterfly caterpillars take off into space.

I attended a quickly called Friends of Monarch Watch meeting last evening where we heard first hand about the experience.  Of course, the three had guest passes and were able to view the launch from the closest anyone can get which is three miles. 

Being able to see the astronauts close up as they loaded and observe the pre liftoff countdown is not open to the public, but the butterfly crew did say there are observation points available a little further away that are available for any of us to use.

2010 is the last year with limited number of lift offs left in the program.  After hearing how exciting it was to watch, listen and even feel the liftoff, I am wondering if this should be the destination of a roadtrip next year. 

Here is the official patch of this mission.  If you look closely, are thirteen stars, one for each of the astronauts children.  I was given a pin like this for helping with the project.  I wear it with pride as we follow our Monarch project in space.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Over the years I drove many miles each day with the window down.  Consequently,  my work clothes consisted of warm layers including a sweatshirt.

Today I unloaded my winter clothes storage container and reloaded it with summer things. After laying everything out on the bed, I realized that I have a lot of USPS sweatshirts. 

Looking over my array of warm clothes got me to thinking about transitions.  There are some that come around each year such as moving warm weather clothes out and cold in with the seasons.  Moving the clocks to daylight savings and back each year.  However, a transition into retirement from a long time job usually only happens once.

I have happily gone into my retirement.  I enjoy all  it involves.  However, when I looked over my old post office sweatshirts today,  I actually felt sad.  Maybe not quite finding the right time and place to wear these old warm buddies will help me get rid of them. 

But, for now, I think I’ll keep them on the shelf one more year. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Can a caterpillar turn into a butterfly in space?

I've spent the past two days working on a project to see if there could actually be a Monarch butterfly floating about in space. I wrote about it here.

This package contains the actual experiment that will be carried on the space shuttle IF (and it's always a big if) it launches as scheduled, Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pictures Out of Control

I like to take pictures. 

As a matter of fact, I will take this opportunity to thank my family and friends for their patience,  especially Dan.  He is so good about “flipping a U” so I can capture what I think is a great shot by the road and waiting for me to attempt the perfect angle of every wildflower and waterfall on our roadtrips. 

I purchased my first digital camera sometime in 1999, around the time our first grandson was born. So, I have digital pictures through all five grandchildren.  Not to mention trips, gatherings and, oh yes, mailboxes.  I have lots of pictures of mailboxes.

fall 039a_01

This picture was taken at least five years ago.  I found it to post on here in less than a minute.

The reason I found it so quickly is I am organizing all my digital pictures.  Over the years they were haphazardly thrown on a separate hard drive where there may be dates on the files—maybe not.  And definitely not always in the same place.  At one point, my camera was not set correctly and the built in information on the pictures is not correct.  Crazy to see a baby picture with the date that shows up when you hover over a photo two years before he was born.

Personally, I like to work with pictures on the hard drive.  Double clicking on a picture opens in an editing program, but I do not use it to organize them.  I like to have total control over that function.

The first phase is labeling the folders consistently with the year, month, description in that order.  That way, when the computer automatically files them, they fall in a logical order. Make sure all single digit months have a zero in front (January is 01).  This works well for me because I tend to take pictures by time rather than subject.  However, I am also grouping some together by subject and then year.  For instance, Christmas folders are “Christmas” first then year.  That way, all Christmas folders will be together.  Same with Easter, 4th of July, and, of course, mailboxes.

The next step will be to clean out the folders.  Get rid of duplicates, delete bad pictures and double check labeling.  Perhaps even sub organize in the folder.  For instance, spring mailboxes, summer, etc.

Maybe it’s time to start actually printing some of these pictures.  I’m thinking of making a album of only Christmas pictures.  It would be fun to get it out during the Holidays, then add to it before putting it away. Let’s see, I could also make a birthday album for each child, or maybe flowers or sunsets.  I am not a scrapbooker so will be cramming as many pictures in as possible.

And the family thinks I am out of control taking the pictures.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy Birthday, Kim


I’m not saying how old.  But, for people who know, Jack Benny and Kim would be the same age.  She is celebrating with her boys today. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Health Care Town Hall Meeting

Dan and I are planning on attending the Town Hall Meeting at the Dwight Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas, tomorrow night at 7:00 pm. There are 1017 pages in the Democrats bill, the Republican bill is somewhere around 80 pages. I feel we should stay informed on something that will probably never change again in our lifetime.

Here are more links and information. The web site for the forum is here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

I can’t believe who I saw last night


Michael Jackson


The Boss, Bruce Springsteen


And a cowboy, on a horse, no less!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It was the weather, I’m sure

A short time after leaving Hermann, Missouri, we came upon the city of Bland.

IMG_4310 With a name like that, we had to check out downtown


Around the corner the abandoned factory


And house


And church

IMG_4306-1with this at the top

IMG_4307-1You have to admit, rather creepy.

Then we saw this


  And we knew it was just the weather…and Halloween week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Leaves falling with the rain

Maybe we should have looked at the weather forecast before loading the Roadtrek for a last minute Missouri Wine Trail and leaf peeping tour.  On the other hand, maybe we would have decided to stay at home and missed a good three day roadtrip. 

It amazes me that anyone saw us come in to Laura’s Halloween party Saturday night.  We were invisible in camo from head to toe. Blake yelled our name immediately as we walked in.

Maybe it was the hat….

 Italy 09 661-1

As usual, Laura has the best parties, but we wanted to find a place to sleep for the night.  We settled on the Wal Mart at Blue Springs.  It was late and we were tired.

IMG_4294 was our first stop on the Hermann, MO, wine trail.  As usual, their selection is exceptional.  As a bonus, a chef (at least he had a chef’s jacket on) was serving lunch.  We had a moist and tasty meat ball sandwich with our wine selection. 

On to Robller Vineyard where we enjoyed Mick Byrd, who rightfully describes himself as an American Roots singer, songwriter.  His album, Outer Road, provided music the rest of the trip.  We ended up staying on a bit too long and only had time for Hermannhof winery before evening. We wanted to purchase a couple bottles of Norton wine, a Missouri grown grape.

Another night of raindrops on our roof.  But, it was only $15 for a good night’s sleep and shower in the morning at Hermann’s city owned RV park.  Monday we drove through red, yellow and orange hillsides.  It had to be close to peak color season in south central Missouri.


An interesting side on the trip was that Missouri appears to be using  sericea lespedeza, an intrusive plant on Kansas’s noxious weed list, as an ornamental grass.


Tomorrow, a haunted city—at least in the misty rain, it appeared so.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Christopher Columbus

While controversial, Columbus is given credit for discovery of America.  According to this account, financing was hard to come by in a region torn by plague, wars, the Inquisition and populations living in famine and malnutrition.  Spain finally consented even though Columbus is believed to have been born in Italy.

While in Italy, we traveled by train to Santa Margherita Ligure, Genova, Italy for one day.  We thought while in Italy, we should experience the Italian Rivera.  It is a beautiful area.  We were glad to experience it and the beautiful people.  However, in the end, we much preferred the Cinque Terre region.

Since Columbus is believed to have been born in Genova, it is fitting that this statue of him is in the San Margherita town square or piazza. 

Italy 09 370

Italy 09 370-1

It appears there are three ships below his feet and a world under his hand.

Italy 09 370-3


 Italy 09 374 


Happy Birthday

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cinque Terre, the people

Visiting Cinque Terre and only taking pictures of the beautiful scenery is missing another aspect of the area, the people.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Cinque Terre Italy Flora

Flowers and greenery in the Liguria Cinque Terre region of Italy cling for life along steep Apennine mountains to the sea. The mountains provide relief from north winds thus the growing conditions are right for grapevines, olive trees and flowers.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Where shall I start?  At this point, Dan and I are still trying to catch up on the two weeks events.  Yesterday the trip back took right at 24 hours awake time.  I thought this morning, after a good night’s sleep, I was doing well.  However,  the nap after lunch felt good.

So much to write about.  So many pictures.  I will not write it all at once.  It would become TMI (too much information).  So, stick around and I will try to insert stories as they come to me. 

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cascina Papaveri

Sue, Kim and I are enjoying every aspect of opportunities here at the Poppy Farm in Piemonte region of Italy.  Cooking is one of our favorites.  I have more pictures, but the battery is down on the camera.  Check tomorrow night. 


Patio with valley in background (better picture later)






Monday, September 28, 2009

Cascina Papaveri

The Poppy Farmhouse

All went well on our journey from the coastal regions of Cinq1ue Terre and the Italian Rivera to the central Piemonte region of Italy. 

We are guests of John and Robin Sims, owners of the Poppy Farmhouse.  Our introduction tonight was a four course dinner consisting of fresh stir fried peppers,  hand made pasta, lemon cream chicken and wine & cooked cream dessert (there is a name but can’t come up with it).  We have a delicious week ahead of us.

John also said we will be sampling wines from local vineyards.  It is true, the wine here is very good.

We will also have the opportunity to have a “Cooking Experience.”  This is not a cooking school.  We participate as much as we want.  There will be more about this.  Hopefully, with pictures. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hi from Cinque Terre Italy

If you dismiss missing a train and sitting at the train station after dark and a cracked window in the cockpit of the jet bringing us here, we have arrived with no mishaps.

The five towns of the cinque terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, where we are staying, Corniglis, Manarola and Riomaggiore.  I am posting pictures taken the first night we were here, then today from a boat ride and hikes on the trails from each town. 

Aaron & Adam's video 051

Aaron & Adam's video 057

Aaron & Adam's video 074

Aaron & Adam's video 087

Aaron & Adam's video 104

Aaron & Adam's video 126

Aaron & Adam's video 129

Aaron & Adam's video 182      

I’ll try to put more up tomorrow and label them better.