Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Unlike many who planned for weeks, months, or even years, we had always planned to leave our eclipse plans to the last few days.  From our rural home we would have 98.2 % totality.  But then I read an article where an astronomer said even if you have that degree of the moon's coverage, and you don't travel to see full totality, it would be like driving within 15 minutes of the ocean and never driving the rest of the way to see it; nuff said.

Thus ensued the countless hours scouring totality maps of Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.  St Joseph, MO, being in the direct center of totality's path, would have been a logical choice for us.  But news reports said the city was expecting crowds that would rival the Royal's World Series parade two years ago.  We were caught in that traffic jam and were forced to turn back without ever making it to the parade and rally.  I was worried.

We wanted a spot away from light pollution so we made the decision to travel to Indian Cave State Park, NE, a two and half hour drive.  We began checking the weather daily, comparing the park against our weather at home.  And much discussion was given to our route as well.  Our choices being the interstate, which took us right through St. Joe with possible traffic jams, and two other state highways.  Also, who in the family would be able to join our family trek? The night before, our route still wasn't decided. 

We left our home at 7:30 a.m., met up with other family, and decided to drive the interstate.  To our surprise, traffic was normal.  But we were driving through a lot of cloud cover and sporadic rain showers.  When we pulled off the interstate we still had another hour's drive to the park.  But the clouds were starting to thin.  We were seeing patches of blue sky and our hearts were hopeful.

Driving those winding roads through NE we saw so many people who had claimed their spots on pull-offs along the roadside.  How could I not think of all those science fiction movies I've watched with Paul and the kids through the years!  All these people hoping to see the same thing we were hoping to see.

Once in the park and settled, the clouds were thin enough for us to watch the  beginning of the moon's journey.  As we ate our picnic and the grandchildren played, thicker clouds started moving in.  Seeing intermittent glimpses we were still hopeful to see the moment of totality.  

Well those clouds hung tight.  The seconds before totality we knew we would not be able to see the sun's corona.  And yet still, there was no doubt totality was happening.  Complete darkness fell.  Dad scooped up the running children into his arms and we sat there and watched, listened.  In that moment I felt what I read others had reported feeling, awe, small, and a connection to all the other human beings sharing the experience.  Then moment's afterwards secretly happy that none of those science fiction movie plots had panned out.  No zombies that I could see.  As soon as totality passed and the moon began to move away, so did the clouds.  We were able to watch the rest of the event without any cloud cover.

We drove back in bumper to bumper traffic, finally arriving home at 7:00 p.m.  We knew whatever plans we made for the day it was always going to be a gamble.  We did our best to make the most of our once in a life time experience.  I view it as a success.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Sophie's Birthday Book

Book number thirteen is for Sophia.  
After 11 books for eight grandchildren it's hard to come up with a different birthday poem for each book.  I've resorted to rewriting songs for the narrative of the books, Quinn's being the easiest, Quinn the Eskimo.  Amelia's Here Comes the Sun was a logical choice as well.  But Paul was not a fan of my using Cecilia (Simon and Garfunkel) for Sophie.  But what can I say?  It was stuck in my head.  

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vacation Horror Story

The other day I was reading A Cup Of Jo's blog post: An Ode To Bad Family Vacations, sharing readers' bad vacation experiences.  I started to comment about one that we took in 2009 but quickly realized this story was too long for a common comment post......

My father-in-law used to live in Salisbury on Maryland's eastern shore, home to Assateague Island, one of our favorite vacation spots.  That year we planned a one week vacation trip out with our two daughters and their two boyfriends at the time.  (One eventually became a son-in-law.)  We had tickets to fly out on Saturday with a connecting flight in Charlotte on a puddle jumper into Salisbury.  On Saturday when we arrived at the airport we found our flight had been cancelled due to a mechanical problem with the  airplane.  They told us to come back the next day, Sunday, for the same flight.  So, okay.  Our vacation has been shortened by one day.  Disappointing but really not a big deal.

The next day we arrive at the airport and once again find our flight has been cancelled.  But this time it was due to weather in Charlotte.  Try as they might, the airline could not find a flight with the needed connection to accommodate six people flying into Salisbury MD.  The best they could do would have us arriving on Wednesday!  Most of us had jobs and only had one week off.  On top of that they tried to tell us we would be out the money, (a substantial amount given it was airfare for six), because the cancellation was due to weather.  But indeed, the original problem on Saturday was mechanical.  So we got our refund, thanks to our daughter brilliantly arguing our case.  We walked out of the terminal and caught the shuttle to the car rental facility where we proceeded to rent a vehicle big enough to fit six adults comfortably while driving halfway across the country; a 27 hour drive.   We rushed home to tweak our luggage for a road trip and headed out about dinner time.  We drove straight through.

Our first two days on the island there was constant rain.  Assateague's official bird is considered to be the mosquito.  (I have a magnet that says so.) Their size is phenomenal.  But I had no idea they flew in such torrential rain.  We could hear them beating  themselves into the windows trying to get in.  It felt like a horror film, Attack of the Killer Mosquitos.

Finally on the third day, Thursday, the clouds parted and we had glorious sunshine.  After two days of trying to squeeze in beach time between down pours on Assateague, we decided on this day we would drive to the Virginia side of the island, Chincoteague.

When we pull on to the beach we immediately read that in Virginia no alcohol is allowed on the beach.  Hence, the cooler stays in the car.  We proceed to stake our place in the sand and settle in.  Paul and the kids head to the water.  I am a beach person with a healthy fear of the ocean.  I never go in beyond my knees.  So Paul's dad and I make ourselves comfortable on the blankets.

After their swim the kids take off for a stroll down the beach.  Paul tells me he's going to head up to the restroom and asks me to give him a few minutes then meet him at the car so we can share a beer.  His dad is peacefully napping on the blanket.  Great!  

While waiting I decide to stand up and survey my fellow beach goers.  That's when I notice a woman and a gentleman standing in the surf.  The woman is the largest human being I have ever seen.  So much so, I wonder what kind of vehicle would accommodate her size. The pair are walking out deeper into the water, the gentleman is farther out than she is, about hip level.  She's not quite got her knees wet.  He is turned to look back at her.  And then she sits down in the surf where the waves begin to smash into her face.  

I stand there and watch for a second.  Neither one of them make a move.  And the surf continues to batter her face.  I take off running down into the water.  I get to the woman and the man is just standing there looking at me.  I start screaming at him to help me.  I grab one of her arms, pulling with all my strength.  I can't budge her.  I'm screaming at the guy, who now has her other arm, to pull with the next wave hoping we can use the force of the water to help move her.  But with each wave she sinks farther into the sand.

Within a couple of minutes my father-in-law is there.  At the time he was 74 years old and about 120 pounds.  In other words, not a lot of muscle.  I glance over my shoulder and at last here comes Paul running down towards us.  He takes my place and tells me to call for help.  Our phones are in the car.  
The first person I encounter on my way to the car is a woman and her daughter.  She asks me what's going on.  When I tell her she springs into action.  She throws her phone at me and shouts, "call 911".  She turns to her daughter and says, "get my kit from the car".  She's an off duty EMT.

I dial 911 and tell them what's happening.  The dispatcher asks me which beach I'm on.  Here I learn a life lesson.  Always know where you are.  Also, apparently at that time, they couldn't tell from the call where I was located.  I have no idea which beach I'm on, but I do know I'm in Virginia.  The dispatcher asks me to go out and stand by the road and tell her what I'm wearing so the ambulance can spot me.

Meanwhile, Paul tells me later the EMT woman has totally taken charge.  Thank God.  She takes a beach towel and wraps it under the woman's arms, across her back, and yells, "Well come on men!  Pull!"  They get the woman up onto the sand out of the surf.

The ambulance arrives and we get to where the woman is lying.  They expose her chest and use a defibrillator.  It takes 12 men to get her on the gurney and into the ambulance.  The ambulance pulls out leaving the police to question us.  While giving our statements to the police I see the kids walking towards us.  But they do not stop.  They continue walking right by us as if they didn't know us.  They assume we have been caught with alcohol on the beach.

After the police leave the children return and we tell them what happened.  Their reply- of course mom was the first one on the scene.  Apparently I've appointed myself lifeguard too many times, without any qualifications for the job.  Just a loud nagging mouth telling them they're too far out in the water.

That evening we go out to dinner in one of the nicest restaurants on the island, justifying the expense after the day we had.  After dinner we decide to hit the ice cream parlor next door which is also next door to the island fire station.  Paul takes our leftovers out to the car and sees one of the EMTs who was at the beach with us out in the station's parking lot.  He asks about the woman.  The EMT tells Paul she died on the way to the hospital.  

This is hard for us to get over.  It still is for that matter.  After much thought I still don't know what to think about what happened.  What was this woman doing there?  No one in her condition would be out for a day on the beach.  Why did she just sit down and not try to help us to help her out of the water?  Why was her companion so slow to help?  Was the final outcome their original intention?

We had two days left before our long drive home.  The rest of the trip was uneventful.  But hell, we deserved what little bit of vacation we had left to be enjoyable.  Since this trip we've been back to Assateague several times.  But we've never gone back to the Virginia side of the island.

If you would like to read more bad vacation stories, you can find Cup of Jo's blog post here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I've always loved shopping secondhand, mostly for the deals but also I like the feeling of recycling and reusing.  I was a big Good Will shopper and gave frequent donations but unfortunately they closed their store in my town.

On Tuesday one of my favorite blogs, Reading My Tea Leaves, wrote a post about the company Thredup, an online secondhand clothing store.  The company offered an extra 40% discount to the first 100 readers from her blog who placed an order.

I ordered a JCrew tunic, a pair of Lands'End Shorts, a Basic Editions skirt and a Studio West skirt, all for just over $23 with the discount.  My package came today and everything looks great!

Thredup will also buy your clothing.  I tried to order a Clean Out Kit today but unfortunately they aren't sending out any kits till after July.  It seems they're a bit overwhelmed with clean out bags at the moment.  So I'll have to wait and see how that end of the business works.  But for now, I'm super pleased.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lessons I'm Grateful For: A Book Recommendation.

I recently finished reading The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying.  The book was written by a young wife and mother, Nina Riggs, while dying of breast cancer.  I don't write very often about the books I read, even though reading is a huge part of my life.  But Nina's book is something I find myself thinking about every day.  

I am a person who is sometimes overly consumed with mortality.  This book for me has been a lesson on dying.  For years I've kept a common book.  I've copied down more of Nina's words than I have from any other source before.  Her courage, grace, and insight are not easily forgotten, nor should they be.  

Not often, but there are times when emotions are too strong for me to write about, knowing I won't find words that will do them justice.  Yet she wrote, leaving a legacy for her husband and two young sons (ten and six).  Nina died February of this year.  She was 39.

The truth of it is, I hope I never go a day without thinking of Nina's book.  To be honest, I had a healthy fear of death and now she's changed how I feel about it.   She's given me important lessons on living and dying.  Lessons that were delivered with humor, love, and hope.  Because, "Dying isn't the end of the world."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Amelia's First Book

This is my 12th book.  I must say, it's getting more difficult to come up with ideas.  

Here Comes the Sun, seemed the perfect choice for this little spark of sunshine.

Now, back to work.  Sophia turns one in August and Rowen turns two in October!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Friday Brunches

Our daughters, both teachers, are enjoying their summers home with their small children.  Our oldest daughter was lamenting the days gone when we used to spend time together (before children), going out for lunch or going to museums and other such outings.  So she came up with a plan.

Every Friday morning this summer either she, her sister, or her father and I host a brunch for the four adults and three little ones.  I love it.  I don't know which I enjoy more, watching our daughters sharing the bond they have as sisters, or their children bonding as cousins.  Either way, Grandpa and I are just happy to be included.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weekend Cooking

I realize the title of this post doesn't quite match up with the date of the post.  But here's to cooking on the weekends.

If you're in the mood for that wonderful yeasty taste of homemade bread, and you're grilling this weekend, I have the recipe for you.

Last Saturday I made grilled flat bread.  I followed this recipe from Food52.  If you haven't been on their website, and your're a foodie, I highly recommend you visit.  I get their email updates and follow their Facebook page.

This is the simplest yeast bread I've ever made.  I made it on the indoor grill so Paul didn't have to mess with it while he had a grill full of meat.  But really, it's so simple to do it wouldn't have mattered.  It's a great way to have fresh bread in the summer time.

Also, last weekend I noticed the stores had pickling cucumbers in the produce section so I was able to make both sweet and dill pickles, two of my favorite things about summer.

When I was younger I canned old fashioned hot water bath pickles.  Then one day it dawned on me that refrigerator pickles would be so much easier.  Not only are they easier, they're so much better. The pickles stay really crisp. The only problem, well two problems are waiting two days to eat them and keeping up with demand.  I can't wait for the farmers' markets to have the minis available.

You can find the sweet pickle recipe here.  I add sliced sweet mini red peppers and mustard seed to this recipe.

The dill pickle recipe is here.  My first jalapeno was ready so I picked and sliced it and added it to the jar.  I wish I would have had two ready to pick, one isn't quite hot enough.  Next batch I will add two.

Summer is such a great time for cooking and eating!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bulldog for Baby

I just finished knitting this little bulldog for our granddaughter, Amelia.

The pattern is in the book, Knit Your Own Dog.  I found a copy at the library.

The bulldog is a little bit of a challenge.  Those wrinkles and folds take some maneuvering.


Amelia lives in a house with two English bulldogs, Frank and Beans, roughly the same age she is.  
 She turned one yesterday. 

Now on to making her book.  I have one week till her party.  I'm always working up to the last minute on gifts.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Weekend Cooking

I enjoy cooking, when I'm trying out new recipes that is.  This past weekend I tried out a few.

Last week we picked, pitted and froze 24 and 3/4 quarts of sour cherries.  Yesterday morning I made cherry turnovers.  I used the recipe from The Vanilla Bean Blog.  Since I was pressed for time I used frozen puff pastry.  Delicious!! 

You can find the recipe here.

I also tried two other amazing recipes this weekend.

I made this awesome sauce for fish.  I think it's by far the best fish I've ever made, simple, fast and wonderful.  

I did substitute cod fillets for the tilapia.  The recipe is here.

And finally, I had some sirloins in the freezer so I thought I would fancy them up a little by adding some crab meat and an indulgent sauce. I made this Steak Jalisco.  I think next time I will omit adding the lime juice at the end.  

The recipe is here.

I usually try a new recipe at least once a week.  My husband is tolerant of this hobby.  When he doesn't like something he'll say, "So, what do you think?"  I know then I won't be making that dish again. 

These recipes got three thumbs up.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


One sunny day at the end of March I was doing my initial clearing out around my peony bushes, prepping them for blooms, when something small scurried from underneath.  Startled, at first I thought it might have been a mouse, but then I saw it was a tiny baby rabbit.  He was really tiny and seemed to be all on his own, no sign of a nest or siblings.  Since then, and until recently, I only caught a few glimpses of him

But lately we've been meeting each other regularly.  I have an herb garden planted right outside my door next to the house and deck steps.  I believe he's living here, or possibly the flower garden and lilac bush on the other side of the path.  He particularly likes the Italian parsley so I've left him one parsley plant uncaged to share. The area really is a perfect home for him, gardens backed by a hedge, deck and house 

The other evening when I opened the front door I saw his two little ears popping up over the ledge of the top step on the path.  He ducked back down giving me the needed seconds to retrieve my camera.  From then a game of hide and seek ensued with him popping up and then ducking again below the ledge of the top step.  I remained frozen.  He must have decided I was only a mild threat so he hopped the top step onto the path and allowed me a few seconds of photos.

Feeling a bit like Beatrix Potter, I've started calling him Pete, which I think could work for either sex: Peter or Petunia.  I look for him every morning and afternoon.  Each time I see him brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.

The night before last while I was dragging the hose out to water the potted deck plants, a black snake was making his way across the deck.  Paul removed the snake from the deck, leaving me to worry for Pete.  But yesterday there he was, relaxing by the parsley and the cilantro, safe and sound. What a relief! 

I'm hoping he'll stay for the summer, making my garden his home, and then I will get to watch him grow. (Which by the way, shouldn't he be bigger than this by now??)  And who knows, maybe I'll attempt a few Beatrix Potter like watercolors along the way.