Friday, February 28, 2014


When you bring a bunch of furniture and household items into an already furnished home, it can cause some problems.  Mostly of the crowdedness sort.

We have successfully unloaded everything in the U-Haul truck and it is a little difficult to get around the house.  We have created pathways, but we need to work hard on unpacking the boxes and placing the furniture in its final home.

A few items we brought back are one of a kind. We are really excited that they are now at our house, like the dictionary table, Winston desk and folk art matchholder case.

Some of the furniture we asked for because we didn't have one, like a sewing machine and rocking chairs. Other pieces were requested because we liked them more than what we currently own, like the two dressers.  So now we just have to get rid of the furniture that we no longer want.

However, there are a few items that I am unsure why we have them.  My honey can't quite explain it either, other than to say that he wanted them.  But I don't know what we are going to do with four end tables and an old couch that needs recovering.  The next few weeks should be full of fun conversations.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

National Museum — USAF

The one touristy visit we allowed ourselves on our U-Haul vacation was an hour spent looking at old airplanes at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

My honey and I were interested in the museum because both our fathers were pilots during World War II. The museum is made up of three huge airplane hangers filled with aircraft exhibits from early flight to recent rocketry.  We went straight to the World War II hangar to see our fathers' airplanes.

My honey's Dad was a B-17 pilot.  The B-17 in the museum was a later production model.  It is quite a large plane, with four engines.  The museum also had a cutaway engine on the ground, as you can see in the photo. A cousin took a flight in a B-17 and said the view from the clear nose, where a gunner sat, was amazing!

This museum has one of only four P-61 Black Widow in existence, which is what my Dad flew during the war.  It was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar.  (Other aircraft were retrofitted with radar.) The model the museum owns is also from a later production run.

The P-61 has an interesting tail design. Unfortunately, due to where it is placed in the museum, it's difficult to see the tail fuselage.  Still, it was a treat for me to be able to see the entire aircraft.  Up until now, I had only seen photos, small models and an incomplete version that they are restoring at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum.

It was really great to stop at the museum and on our next visit I hope to spend the entire day.  There's certainly plenty to see.

Now, for anyone who's not tired of old planes yet, here's a video I found on the interweb showing the P-61 in flight.  I'm always amazed by all that's out there to be seen.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trip by the Numbers

Three days, eight states, over twelve hundred miles and a drop of more than seventy degrees Fahrenheit . . . what a long, strange trip it was.

The open road 

was often crowded 
with trucks and other vehicles.  

Thankfully our journey is over, and we're back home.  The whole thing was like a mini-vacation, but not. Instead of fun, we had:  cranky drivers (and that was just us), a honey with a head cold, and one of us (me!) had the need to visit every restroom we passed.

I told my honey that next year for spring break, I'd like to take that same trip, but over nine days instead of three.  That way, we would be able to do all the cool things that we wistfully drove past.

Preview of tomorrow's post:  The one really cool thing we did on our trip!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On the Road

After all that sorting and packing, we had to do the loading.  We rented a U-Haul truck. The picture on the side of our truck highlights Nunavut, in Canada. Fitting, since we are headed north into the snow and cold.

We loaded all the big pieces on Saturday and then spent lots of time loading, tying and arranging everything else.  As per usual, all of the tasks took longer than we thought they would.

Finally on Sunday afternoon, we were on the road!  Here are just a few of the sights witnessed from the cab of our truck . . .

The mountains of western North Carolina

Sunset means it's time to stop driving . . . 

. . . but not before going through a really long, really cool tunnel into West Virginia!

PS  We're home today! Yeah!  Now all we have to do is unload the truck and figure out where to put everything.

Monday, February 24, 2014


Yesterday I left my in-law's house for what might be the last time. We spent the weekend sorting and packing, but the best part was reading a few old letters. My father-in-law, Robert, had a wicked sense of humor and it showed in some of his letters.  Alice was a sweet storyteller and I look forward to including some excerpts from her notes. (Luckily, they saved everything, so there's a lot of material!)

Robert and Alice had this house built for their family in 1970 and it hasn't changed since then. What struck me as I moved up and down the two flights of stairs over and over, and the house slowly emptied, was the wallpaper. Whatever happened to wallpaper anyway?  I haven't been in a modern house with wallpaper in a while.

Most of the walls were painted, but they had wallpaper in three of the main common areas of the house.  Was that common back then?  I don't know. The photo above shows the wallpaper they had in the entryway and main stairway leading up to the second floor.  Understated, a small floral pattern, hardly noticeable.  Lovely, no?

But the other two wallpaper patterns are a little more, well, shall we say off-the-wall?

Here's what's covering the wall in the main floor bathroom, the one most guests would use.  It's an odd mix of a variety of perfume bottles, along with a powder puff box.  Did anyone use powder puffs in the 70s anymore?  Not to mention I never knew my mother-in-law to wear perfume or makeup.  So how did they decide to choose this wallpaper pattern?

For that matter, how did it come about that their dining room took on the airs of an English countryside?  I never knew my father-in-law to hunt to the hounds.  He did fish, but as far as I know, it was usually ocean fishing when the family was on vacation at the Outer Banks, not fly-fishing in a stream.  I don't quite know what to make of the wallpaper choices, but they now seem a little odd to me.

I regret never asking either of my honey's parents how they came to pick the wallpaper patterns for their new home.  I'm sure I would have learned something, either about them or about the era.

Unfortunately, probably one of the first things the new owners (whoever they may be) will do is to remove "that old wallpaper".  That makes me sad.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fitbit Love

For those of you who have not heard me talk incessantly on this topic, you should know:  I love my fitbit!  A fitbit is one of the many new small gadgets that totally blow pedometers out of the water.  My fitbit tracks steps, flights of stairs climbed, mileage, and calories burned.

It also syncs (whatever that is) with my computer and gives me graphs, charts and way too much data to interpret.  Plus I can add in even more information.  Additional workouts like swimming or water polo, my daily weight, blood pressure, glucose, and more.

Amazingly enough, it also tracks my sleep.  It lets me know how long I was in bed, how many times I woke up and my actual sleep time for each night. For example, last night I was in bed for eight hours and forty minutes.  But it took me twelve minutes to fall asleep, I woke up twenty times and I only slept for seven hours and forty-one minutes.

There's a community element for people who want to communicate with other fitbit users. You can even link your account with your friends' and compete to see who takes the most steps over seven days.  At the moment I am winning, having walked over 83,000 steps in the last week.

And you can log your food to help you figure out how to solve for x, in other words, how to burn more calories than you consume.  This is my next big area of fitbit growth, because I only input what I eat intermittently, but would like to be more consistent.

I am mildly obsessive about numbers, so I enjoy seeing how my days can vary from very active to very inactive, even without working out in a formal way. It's also interesting to note that going to a different place can change some of the numbers immediately.  I'm lucky to climb one flight of stairs a day when I am in Los Angeles, but regularly climb over twenty at home in the Midwest.

We've been together since April, and I hope we're happy together for a long, long time.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Telling Stories on Alice

Since my mother-in-law passed away this past summer, I've been sharing some of my stories and memories of Alice.  And from what I've told, you might think that Alice was perfect.  Since she wasn't, I thought it was time I told a few mild stories on her, as I've heard them say in the South.

I was shocked my first Thanksgiving meal at her home. There were turkey cold cuts, sliced tomatoes and iceberg lettuce on the table.  There may also have been some sliced bread, plus mayonnaise and mustard for sandwiches, but quite frankly I was so flabbergasted at the spread, I don't remember much else.

But Alice didn't really care about food or eating and she didn't like to cook much.  Looking back on it, I think she figured that at least she was serving the traditional turkey.  To her it didn't matter that it wasn't hot or that we didn't have any of the customary side dishes.

She was also a fierce player of Scrabble. I'll never forget the time I put down a weak word.  I'm sure it was only three letters, but in my defense, it was the only one I could think of and it was a word.  She deemed it not good enough.

I was instructed to turn around my letters so that she could help me create a better word.  It seems that in the rules somewhere, it states that the total combined scores of a "decent" Scrabble game should consist of some amount of points (I don't remember now how many).

However, it was clear that I was not holding up my end of the bargain, and she was bound and determined for us to collectively achieve those points. So I did what any dutiful daughter-in-law would do.  I turned around my letters and she found me a better word.

In retrospect, these stories are more about me and my expectations than they are gentle digs at Alice.  After all, in spite of our differences, she raised the best honey in the world, at least in my humble opinion.

Friday, February 21, 2014


I don't know much about the history of snowshoes. I don't even know what brand I own. What I do know is that I like the places they take me to a lot! Skinny trails, weaving in and out of trees, up and down hills, in places that grooming machines for cross-country skiiers couldn't ever manage.

When we were up north, a friend and I went on a three-hour snowshoe hike. It was fantastic! The views were great, the solitude was immense, and we only lost the trail a few times.  It had snowed quite a bit and in places the wind had blown much of the new snow into the trail, obscuring it.

We would see an impression in the snow ten feet ahead of us and another impression twenty feet ahead of that one. So we kept going, and sure enough when we got off the snow-blown ridge, the trail magically reappeared. (We also thought we were on the right track because the footing below us was mostly solid.  If we stepped off the trail, we usually went down a few extra feet into the snow.)

The only problem with snowshoes, at least my snowshoes, is that they get heavier as you walk.  Add to that however much snow you pick up with every footfall, and it is quite a workout.

I fell at least twice and had to crawl my way out of the snow and back onto the trail. My legs ached that evening and most of the next day. But my feet never got cold, and I would do it all over again to have that experience in the deep woods.

With lighter snowshoes next time?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hiking In, Staying, & Then Out

Our amazing long winter weekend was held at a park with camper cabins and a long walk in.  The 1.7 miles is up a hill and then down the hill. Most people drag a sled with supplies and we were no different.  We carried backpacks with light items, but our food, cross-country skis and poles, and snowshoes were all tied on the sled.

It was fairly easy to pull the sled on level ground but much harder going up the hill.  We didn't arrive as early as we wanted to, so the end of our walk was by moonlight.  Luckily, it was a clear night with a full moon.  We were excited to get to the cabin.

The cabin has electricity and a heater set at 48° so the cabin doesn't freeze. Then there's a wood stove that we played with all weekend, trying to get the place to the optimum temperature, whatever that was.  There are two electric burners, an eclectic set of dishes and kitchen items, plus a 5 gallon container for water.  Oh, and beds for six.

The bathroom is about 100 yards slightly uphill.  Amazingly enough, it's heated and there are showers with hot water!

After lots of winter activities, the end of our trip came too soon and we hiked out after breakfast on President's Day.  It was snowing quite a bit.  The new snow made the walk out quite a challenge.

Just make sure the sled doesn't hit you from behind on the way down!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Back to Work

Yes, Virginia, I actually worked yesterday.  My school district needed some help with the mandatory statewide testing for English Language Learners (ELL students).  I administered the speaking portion of the test, which needs to be done one on one.  The high school I was at has close to four hundred students to be assessed.  Here's one of our rubrics.

The powers that be made me sign lots of papers that I wouldn't divulge any of the test content, so I can't tell you much about what I talked about all day long.  Suffice it to say that by the end of the testing window, I will probably be able to recite much of the test from memory.

The highlight of my day was being able to interact with the lovely high school students.  I know that's not a description many people would use to describe youngsters of that age, but they really were lovely.  They were interesting, knowledgeable, polite, and just generally energizing to be around.

By the end of the day, my throat was a bit hoarse and I had a headache.  It has been a long time since I got up and out of the house that early.  And I had to do it all over again this morning.  Oh well, I'm sure I will survive it somehow.  Most everyone else does.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Weekend

We got back home last night after a four-day weekend up in the wintry north. Camper cabins, iced-over lakes, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, over ten inches of snow. . .   Here are some photos to whet your appetite for longer, thoughtful writings in the days to come.

Flurries, flurries, snow!  
Gorgeous weather, 
as long as we weren't driving!

The beautiful view from one of the cabins — not ours, boo-hoo.

Snow stacks 
in mysterious ways . . . 
is it a Presidential bust?

When I look at the many photos I took over the weekend, I am struck by the fact that they are mostly shades of black, white, and grey.  I will have to work to convey the multitudes of happy colors I see in my memory when I think of the long weekend.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Happy President's Day!

As today is a federally mandated holiday for bloggers, I'm doing the honorable thing and enjoying my day off.  For those of you that have a holiday, please do the same!

To all who still have to work today, a thought that might comfort you. (Or not.)

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had to work on President's Day.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Short Film Trifecta

Last week I managed to see the last set of Oscar nominated short films, the live action films.  These are short stories to the novel that feature films provide.  I have to admit, I am not so fond of short stories.  I was also not overjoyed with this year's live action shorts.  That's mostly because they were a rather depressing lot.

Spousal abuse and possible death, boy soldiers in Africa (and actual death), and how we explain death to dying young children.  These were the themes of three of the live action shorts.  Which were all really good films.

The movie about the young boy who was dying was tearjerkingly sweet (in a good way).  How a caregiver attempted to comfort him and give him answers was impressive.  The film about flight from spousal abuse had me very agitated in my seat, provoking intense vicarious anxiety for those involved. And the story of the African boy soldier is painful and shocking and difficult to watch.  But probably very true to the reality of the situation.

Then there were two other lighter films.  First there was The Voorman Problem, a clever and fun story about a psychiatrist called to a jail to evaluate a prisoner who believed himself to be God.

But my absolute favorite film is entitled Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)  It was the shortest and funniest film of the bunch.  (This probably means it has no chance of winning the Oscar.)

It's a Finnish movie about a family who awakens late for a wedding.  The house looks as crazy and unorganized as mine and the mother can't believe how she has to do everything to get her husband and two girls out the door. The solution that the two girls find for the missing dresses is ingenious and hilarious. And the ending?

Well, it might be available for purchase on the internet starting some time in late February.  If I've intrigued you at all, throw a couple of bucks the filmmaker's way.  It's a fun seven minutes!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Too Many Priorities

It has occurred to me over the last couple of days that I may have too many priorities for my leave year. I want to revise my novel and build up to running a marathon and travel and take guitar lessons and see movies and read books and substitute teach and write a daily blog and get in shape, and learn about my computer and, and, and . . .

Something has to give.  And it seems that the specific priority I have to give up changes from day to day.  Earlier this week I gave up time revising my novel so that I could go to the gym to jog/walk on the treadmill.  Yesterday I gave up doing my new weight training workout so that I could go to the movies.  I gave up guitar lessons a while ago (but I'm still going back to it, or so I believe.)

If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.  I'll be spending the next couple of days trying to figure out how to streamline my priorities.

How does writing, running, reading, relaxing sound?  Mmm, but I have to travel.  Back to the drawing board . . .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

Saint Valentine, Christian martyr, supposedly sent a letter before his execution signed "From your valentine."  And that's we buy chocolate and roses today.

Now to be honest, we don't celebrate this day of love at our house.  In any noticeable way.  (Is it too sappy to say that we celebrate our love every day?  Probably, and only somewhat true.)  But I thought that in honor of the day I will tell you about our first meeting.

We both lived at International House in Berkeley.  I visited there last fall and wrote about it here.  As in any dorm, many romances occurred.  More than 500 couples are listed on the I House: A Home to Romance website.  There were even residents whose parents had met and married at I House.  That seemed a little creepy to me and early on, I vowed that wasn't going to happen to me, no matter how many cute guys lived there.

However, fate decided to laugh at that promise, and about twenty five years ago on the patio below I met the man that I have been married to for more than eighteen years.

Although the photo is quite dark, the patio is often sunny and peaceful.  We both remember that at the table that fateful day was Jesus, a Spanish speaking graduate student that we both knew.  Nothing particularly important happened at the table, nor did we start going out immediately, but we both agree that was the first time that we actually spoke to each other.

Not an interesting story, no conflict.  That came later in the relationship. Thankfully, it's all roses and chocolates now.  (Not really.)

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Personal Training

One of my goals this year is to get into better shape.  A good friend of mine who worked with a personal trainer has been trying to convince me to work with one.  She's been bringing it up off and on for a while.  Seems that it made her more focussed, stronger, more likely to work out, etc.

So I decided to try it.  Focus, strength, frequency.  These are all good things. The personal trainer I would most like to work with lives in LA (Hi Kasseem!), but I managed to find one here and we had our first session earlier this week.

I did pull-downs and bench presses and twisting ab work with weight machines and a medicine ball, but the most difficult exercise was much more simple.  It was just a small exercise band around my ankles and then I had to sidestep my way back and forth across a dance floor.

I'm not sure which muscles it worked, abductor?, adductor?, but whichever muscle it was, it ached afterwards.

We filled out a card with all of the exercises and weights and filed it under my last name.  Now I'm supposed to go back again and go through the whole routine three times by myself.  And in three to six months, there'll be a change.

I 'll check back sometime in May or August and let you know how much more weight I can bench press.  And whether those leg muscles still hurt or not.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One To One Times Two

An unflattering confession:  I sometimes used to giggle at the gaps that some people (mostly older folks) have in their knowledge of technology.  And if that makes you think badly of me, I did confess yesterday that I wasn't as good a person as that optimistic, forgiving 109-year-old pianist.

But I stopped giggling after activating my one to one membership. Because it's clear that I am one of those older folks and although I have lots of knowledge, my gaps are pretty large, too.

I have had two personal training sessions and they have been great!  I have had the same young woman as my instructor both times.  Except for cleaning my computer during the first session (was it the first time in three years? — icky!), she keeps her hands off of my computer, and makes me do all the work.  I'm familiar with the theory that if I do the work, I will remember it better.

And for the most part it works.  During my first session, she helped me design my dock to contain only the applications I actually use.  Often after a question, she would direct me to type it into the help window of whichever application we were using, and the answer would magically appear.

Yesterday she helped me fix a mistake in iPhoto that I made over two years ago, and had no idea how to fix.  Turns out iPhoto saves your original photo and reverting back to it is very simple.  I was so happy I cheered out loud!

The only problem so far with my one to one sessions is that the apple store is in a mall.  And that mall has a See's candy kiosk.  I suppose I'm lucky that it doesn't have an actual See's candy store, but the kiosks are trouble enough for my sweet tooth.

So for my next scheduled training, I'm going to try to enter the mall so I don't have to pass by the candy kiosk.  Alternatively, I'll schedule my session for early in the day before the kiosk is open.  Plan your walk and walk your plan!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Documentary Truth

"Calmness is strength."

In an effort to fulfill my goal of seeing all of the short films nominated for Academy Awards, my honey and I went to our favorite movie theater and watched the movies in the documentary category.  They were all very good, and I am glad I got the chance to see them.

I'm not sure which film will win, but the film that intrigued me the most was The Lady in Number 6:  Music Saved My Life.  It is the story of Alice Herz Sommer, billed as the oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor at age 109.  She is incredibly upbeat and positive.

She's an amazing musician who still plays the piano every day.  Music certainly did save her life in the camps, but her optimistic personality must have shown through, even then.

She makes the statement that everything is beautiful, even bad is beautiful. The observations made by her and other survivors in the film were thought-provoking.  I could easily watch it again with notebook and pen in hand to record their statements.  I was left with the sentiment that I am not as good a person as she.

Here are the other films on the list in no particular order.

Karama Has No Walls is a fly on the wall account of a Yemeni government attack on student protesters during the Arab Spring.  Intense images of battle and its aftereffects are both searing and powerful.

A gay man who as a teenager was attacked by Neo-Nazis meets one of his attackers by chance as an adult.  Forgiveness plays the central role in the nominee Facing Fear.

Two interconnected stories come to the light in Prison Terminal:  The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.  The reality that many prisoners are dying incarcerated has led some states to create hospice care within the prison system.  One man's last days in that arrangement shows the humanity that can exist in even the most difficult circumstances.

A bit of the life of Ra Paulette, a man who literally digs caves out of mountains, Cavedigger, has beautiful images of sandstone caves in northern New Mexico. The film showcases the struggle of an artist to remain faithful to his artistic vision. Some of the obstacles he faces include lack of money, clients' ideas that differ from his, and the occupational hazard of cave-ins.

It was an emotional afternoon, and I admit that I was happy to leave the darkness of the theater and come out into the bright sunshine of the day.  But the films and the people in them stay in my mind.  The opening quote was the last thing a father said to his children as the Nazis took him away to die.  May we all be calm and strong.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Stream of Music

Wow, what can the world wide interweb not do?

We spent last night watching and listening to a concert at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, CA.  That's right.  We were able to watch The Dry Branch Fire Squad, a bluegrass group that we are quite fond of, from almost two thousand miles away.

Dry Branch Fire Squad
The only problem?  The concert started at 8pm Pacific Standard Time.  That means the music started at our house at 10pm Central Time.  That's past our usual bedtime!

Still, we fought the closing of our eyelids for an hour, and enjoyed the music and the excellent patter of the leader of the band, Ron Thomason.  If you watch this video, you'll notice that he talks way longer than the song lasts.

I realize that this youtube video is wider than my blog and I apologize.  For some reason, the clip won't load the way I normally do, and so this is a workaround.  Enjoy it in all its width!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bacon Grease Can

We had bacon for breakfast yesterday morning, which we almost never do. Since I had recently seen a cornbread recipe that called for bacon grease, I asked my honey to save the bacon grease.  As he poured it into an old soup can, I realized that we always had a can of bacon grease on our stove when I was growing up.

When I mentioned it to my honey, he was surprised and said that his family did too!  Neither of us remembered when that can disappeared.  My honey thinks it was in the late 70s with all the information on heart disease.  I have no idea when it happened at my house, but there hasn't been a can on the stovetop for a long time.

But there's something comforting and homey in a can with bacon grease in it, at least for me.  And when I searched the world wide interweb, I noticed other people like it too!  There are lots of vintage grease holders on ebay for purchase and the blogger behind has an entire post dedicated to bacon grease.

There are recipes, fun facts and a lot of photos of bacon grease containers. Interestingly, not one of them are old tin cans, like mine is.  She's even got this great World War II era Disney cartoon about bacon grease.  Apparently, it helped win the war.  Who knew?

I'm just hoping my leftover bacon grease will make that cornbread tasty!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Academy Animation

Lists are great!  Movies are great!  What's doubly great, though, are lists of movies!  Can you tell from my exclamation points how happy that thought makes me?

The ultimate list of great movies is the one with those films good enough to be nominated for the Academy Awards.  I would like to say that I manage to see all those movies, but there is no way that ever happens. Approximately fifty films receive nominations each year and I'm lucky if I manage to see ten on the list.

However, in recent years, I have been able to watch all the short films in competition for the Oscars.  Before then, they were almost impossible to find.  But, finally someone figured out that there was a market out there for all of us insane film buffs marking movies off our lists.

So now the short films are screened in theaters around the country a few weeks before the awards ceremony.  And because the films are short, they screen all five of the nominees for the same price.  In fact, the animation nominees are so short, they usually throw in a few extra "highly commended" films on the same bill.

This year I went in the middle of the day, taking advantage of the only slightly cheaper ticket prices.  There were lots of different kinds of animation, hand-drawn, computer graphics, even some stop motion.  I can't really tell the difference between all of those, so for me it was the stories the films told that were the most important.

I have no idea what the academy looks for in an animated film, and my picks haven't been very accurate in past years, so I'll be curious to see which film wins.  They were all interesting and some were even fun, but I liked the sweet message of Mr. Hublot the best.  I'll be rooting for it to take the gold statue.

Next week, I'll see the documentaries and live action entries, so stay tuned!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Blogs vs. Facebook

Facebook turned ten years old recently, so I decided to write about some interesting differences I have noticed between blogs and facebook.

Some bloggers post a link on facebook every time they post a page on their blog.  One of my nieces does that.  And as I watch her pages, I noticed that people commented on her facebook link to the blog way more than they commented on the actual blog post.

Then, there's that dang like button on facebook.  So easy to press, no need to think of something to write.  That was a genius idea.  When I recently posted a link to a post about my team winning the puzzle contest, twenty three people liked it.  That's the most people I know for a fact have read my blog.  Although, I don't know if they read the whole blog post, or just the quick summary I posted on facebook.

And, four people commented that day on facebook.  I don't think four people have ever commented on any particular blog post.  This is not a complaint, merely an observation about how different social media work.  And an acknowledgement about how facebook seems to understand how many people function.

I won't give up this blog for facebook though.  I get to write longer pieces here, and muse about whatever catches my fancy this leave year.  And anytime I want to, I can post a link on facebook, directing all my friends here. So get comfy, we got months more to go.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I woke up yesterday morning with a slight sore throat.  If I weren't on leave, and I had to go to work, I would have sucked on a cough drop, drunk hot tea instead of hot cocoa for breakfast, and gone off to the job with no hesitation.

Instead, because I could, I spent the whole day doing pretty much nothing, indulging my need to "rest."    That means I read, watched television, drank lots of tea, and generally lay around on the couch.

Maybe I won't get sicker because I took the time, or maybe I would never have gotten sicker no matter what.  I'll never know.  But it was good to have the chance to relax.

Relax when you need to, if you can.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Toast to Prohibition

One of the many perks of being on leave is that I have free time during the day to go to entertainments that I normally couldn't attend.

Last week, I got the chance to do one of those cool daytime "activities".  I got myself down to the central library of my town and listened to an amazing free concert.  The Rose Ensemble, a choral group devoted to performing what I might call "old music" was promoting their most recent recording, A Toast to Prohibition.

What a blast!  A group of vocal artists and musicians having a great time singing songs of the wets and drys.  The songs ranged from catchy dry tunes like Close Up the Booze Shop from 1913 to a slower paced wet song from 1932 trying to convince listeners to Okay Beer.  All of them were good fun to hear and the group explained the history behind each of the songs they sang.  It was very fun!

At the daytime concert I realized that I had missed their theater performances celebrating the same album.  That was done with staging and in full costume, but I'm hoping that maybe someday they'll repeat the production and I can see it.

Since the novel I am revising is set during the last days of Prohibition, this concert and CD seems like it was meant especially for me.  It will make up the bones of a playlist for me to listen to while I am grounding myself in the period.  It's a fascinating time and I'm enjoying doing research and learning more about it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saint Charles, Mo

Rising earlier than a bunch of college kids has its positives.  On Sunday morning before our last game at 11:20, I woke up at before 8am and decided to go exploring.  One of the team members had heard that Saint Charles was a sweet little historic town with cobblestone streets.  This was not at all evident around our hotel, which was very close to a huge overlit casino, and many chain stores and restaurants.

Undeterred, I asked at the front desk and was told that I could probably walk to the historic district in under twenty minutes.  It was cold outside, but not too cold, which was lucky, because my parka, hat and gloves were still locked in the trunk of the car.  The walk was well worth it.

Turns out that the old downtown of Saint Charles is a charming town with brick buildings and some cobblestone streets. Nearby Saint Louis is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding, although many of the Saint Charles houses and businesses seem to date from the mid-1800s.

I didn't know it before this trip, but St Louis is tucked between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.  Must be why it got its start as a town way back when.  Saint Charles is on the eastern side of the Missouri as it flows north for a few miles before making a hard right to head back down to the Mississippi.

There's an awful lot of history there.  Saint Charles was one of Lewis and Clark's first stops when they went west on the Missouri River.  It was also an early state capital. What I mostly saw were antique shops, old train cars, and one really cool combo bike store and coffee shop.

I got a hot chocolate to warm my hands as I walked back to the hotel in the modern tacky area of Saint Charles.  A pretty good start to an exhausting day.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I didn't see . . .

Home from my road trip, I realized that there were many interesting tourist sites that I was very near, but didn't visit.  Here are a few photos highlighting all the places I didn't see.

St. Louis' Gateway Arch

Mark Twain's house in Hannibal, Mo

University of Iowa, Iowa City
I would dearly love to have stopped the drive at any of these spots and spent hours and hours perusing museums, historical sites, and coffee shops.  It was unfortunately not to be.  Someday, maybe.

Tomorrow — what I did manage to sneak a peek at . . .

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Polo Tourney

Yesterday I coached a team of the most amazing young women.  They played their hearts out for three exhausting games.  Unfortunately we lost every one.  On the other hand, our play improved in each successive game, a good sign for the future.

The tournament was held at a large, public recreation center.  This place had just about every sport facility you could think of:  a 50 meter pool, a small water park, diving platforms of many heights, an ice rink for hockey and figure skating, a fencing room, snack bar, running track, exercise rooms for dance classes and spinning classes and kettlebell classes, and I'm not even sure what else was there.

The pool and water park area are kept extremely hot and humid.  I was exhausted after being inside all day even though I didn't swim a stroke.  I'm considering wearing my suit today and sneaking down the water slide.

We have one more game this morning and it's one we have the potential to win.  If everyone managed to get a good night sleep last night, and they're not too tired from yesterday's games and we keep playing as well as we did in our last game of the night, we've got a good chance.

And after that, there's that eight hour drive home.  It's been a good weekend, but it'll be good to get home too!