Summer Start

The weather may not say summer, but the activities do. John drove to New Jersey to get grandson David. The first photo by cousin Jay is the segue to David’s summer. The college choir sang in Northfield MN, where Kirsten and Jay hosted David and his tour partner Aaron overnight. Cousins Carolyn and Eric were there for the concert, as well, and joined the others for an ice cream treat. (Kirsten and Eric are John’s first cousins on the Norwegian side.)

051817 Kire Eric Carolyn Aaron David in Northfield MN.jpg
Kirsten, Eric, Carolyn, Aaron, and David

David always makes me laugh. I wish you could have heard him tell the tale of ripping his jeans on tour. Every year they dare him to climb in the overhead luggage compartment on the bus, and he is still thin enough to do it. He was pulling himself out when he heard a ripping sound. Standing in the aisle, he reached his hand behind him and felt UNDERWEAR! He had to hold his jeans together until he could get to his luggage and change.

052717 David with torn jeans.jpg

Grandson Nathaniel sent us a photo of himself taken in a town near where he lives on Long Island. He, David, and John always dressed to go to the parade on Memorial Day. It was great to see he was upholding the tradition.

052917 N Memorial Day in Port Jeff.jpg

We didn’t have a parade to go to, but our neighbors came for a cookout. John found David’s DVD of Arlington National Cemetery, which he had playing mutely on the TV. That was most appropriate. As we sat around chatting, neighbor Bob asked if any of us had relatives who had died in service. Only Dave did. His brother died in Korea 20 days before the end of the hostilities.

052917 M Day Bob Dawn Frankie Sherm.jpg
Bob, Dawn, Frankie, and Sherm

I always enjoy this group of people, and I was glad we got in some neighbor talk. We have common concerns, after all. The funniest was about carpenter bees, something we all battle. There are as many ways to fight them as there are households. Bob said he uses carburetor cleaner! After the bee makes its tunnel in the wood, he squirts in the cleaner and plugs up the hole. We reached for our can of spray meant for these pests, and Frankie said they had tried it, implying it wasn’t very effective. I think it was Connie who mentioned swatting the bees with badminton rackets. I can tell you this, if there were a contest for bee beating, either Frankie or Bob would win. Bob made a bee bat out of wood. It had a handle and holes drilled in the paddle to let the air through. He claimed the bees taunt him, staying just out of reach. Frankie demonstrated her technique using a net. She went through the motions as she said, “It’s all in the wrist. Twist, throw, stomp! Twist, throw, stomp. I’ve gotten 30 at one sitting.”

052917 M Day Jeff Connie Marla Dave Bob Dawn.jpg
Jeff, Connie, Marla, Dave, Bob, and Dawn

Logan (6) didn’t take much time to eat, because he wanted to play with David. They built a tower for marbles with a set of plastic pieces. David said they were going outside, so I presume they flew an airplane and did other active things we didn’t see. When Logan asked if they could play with the Nerf guns, I said yes, not knowing that David didn’t want to. He said it would make a big mess, and it might interrupt the visiting on the porch. I backpedaled quickly, suggesting computer games. The two of them stayed with that until the party broke up. I overheard David suggesting strategy, but he paused the game so that I could take their photo. Both fellows cooperated quickly, putting on their happy faces, knowing I’d then leave them alone. Later I found David playing the game by himself. He must have been exploring the possibilities he had seen when Logan was at the controls.

052917 M Day Logan David.jpg

At different times John, David, and I watched the documentary on Arlington with the sound on. I feel we truly celebrated Memorial Day in a reverent way.

The real end to the holiday came a day later. Joyce, next door, could not come to our gathering because she had company. Tuesday afternoon she texted to see if we were home and if she could come over. She, John, and I had a delightful visit. For me, that was the final touch that made the holiday complete.

The Old Secretary’s New Computer

Have you seen the video of a secretary who has returned to work after computers came in? If you’ve never used a typewriter, you won’t understand this. She types quickly on the keyboard, copying something on the table. She comes to the end of a line, and her automatic reflex is to hit the carriage return of a typewriter. She throws her left hand across and knocks the big monitor onto the floor. Even that is dated, but it makes me laugh every time I see it. I wish I could have found a link to the video.

I rank right up there with that secretary in misusing a computer. I am an old secretary, after all, and I almost destroyed a monitor using an old reflex. This photo shows my little laptop on the right. The new monitor and keyboard are for the desktop, which, despite the name, is under the desk.

052317 Old secretary's computers.jpg

For the past year I used the laptop. I always closed the lid when leaving the desk to put it in sleep mode. Today I got up to take a break. You guessed it! My hand went out to pull that big monitor forward on top of the keyboard! Arrruuuuggghhhhh!


On our way home from an afternoon in the mountains, John asked if we should stop to see if there were any patriotic items we wanted. We use flag-based items from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Our collection includes kitchen towels, tablecloths, spinners, candles, bunting, flags, and lots of mugs. He pounced on the bunting that he would hang from the front porch. When I asked why he got so many, I heard him say, “I might not be here next year.”

I grabbed his arm and shrieked quietly, “WHY ARE YOU NOT GOING TO BE HERE NEXT YEAR?”

You can imagine the wild things going through my mind. Had the doctor told him the cancer had come back? Was the stent near his heart failing? Did he suspect he had brain cancer or Alzheimer’s disease? Why was he going to bail on me?

He looked at me quizzically and said, “I’m not going anywhere. I said this store may not be here next year. It’s in financial trouble and may go out of business.”

052217 John at Pisgah Inn
Not bad for a blind shot.  Bright sun washed out the image on the camera.

He looks perfectly healthy, doesn’t he?  I’m glad he isn’t heading through the clouds to heaven yet.  I took his photo on the deck at Pisgah Inn where we had a lovely lunch. The food was as good as always, but the weather gave us a real show. The dining room is on top of the ridge. On an ideal day, you watch fluffy white clouds drift by below you. This day there were heavy clouds, one of which slithered up the mountain and engulfed us in thick fog. Rain pelted down, hard enough that we could hear it on the roof. Before we finished eating, we could again see the valleys below. Going to the car, I snapped a picture of a Flame Azalea, its orange blooms a hallmark of this area. The shrubs are found in the Appalachians from Virginia to Georgia.

052217 Flame Azalea at Pisgah Inn

We headed down the mountain, stopping at an overlook to listen to thunder in the distance. We didn’t see any lightning, but I took a quick video of mist crossing the road.

Continuing down, we stopped at my favorite waterfall. This is the mountain spot to which my heart is pinned. When our son showed it to us years ago, I knew I wanted to live near it. Our house is about 40 minutes away, but John drives me by it several times a year. He’s a keeper.

052217 Favorite waterfall

Not included here is a video clip of the falls. I turned the camera to get as much of the falling water as possible, forgetting that it couldn’t be rotated. You’d have to lie down on your side in front of your monitor to see it correctly. Would you have done that for me?

Peanut Butter on Pizza

Peanut butter on pizza caught me off-guard.  This rude surprise happened in my own kitchen!!

I wanted a quick snack and got out peanut butter to spread on plain crackers. We store crackers in plastic boxes to keep them fresh and usually have several kinds on hand. I took one bite and wondered why the peanut butter had overtones of pizza. It was totally unexpected. Sniffing the crackers in the box, I knew. The last crackers stored there had been Focaccia with rosemary and olive oil. I remember seeing the box in the dishwasher, but the intensive odor of rosemary still permeated the plastic and inserted undue influence on plain crackers.

I can think of one solution. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on the crackers, top with pepperoni, and bake in a hot oven. That might be dinner for the next two weeks.

052017  Cracker override.JPG
Two different crackers.   Same taste due to polluted plastic.


I read an old folk’s magazine, figuring the articles are aimed straight at me. The main thing I pay attention to is news of scams. Some scams are invasive enough to hit the newspapers, but I might miss them there. Within the last month I read about a delivery con game. A truck pulls up to your house, and the driver tells you he has a package for you that needs a signature. He is wearing a uniform that is similar to that of a major carrier. If you ask, he tells you why he is using an unmarked vehicle. You haven’t ordered anything, but you see a box and jump to the conclusion it has your name on it. I forget the explanation he gives for needing your credit card, but it’s almost plausible. He scans your card with a cell phone, gets your signature, hands you a box, and leaves quickly.

Fast forward to the day John left to go to the train club. I was reading the newspaper in the kitchen, and my phone rang. The man said he had a package for me that needs a signature. Immediately red flags went up in my head.

“You are here?” I questioned. I realized I was using my hard voice, one that was very unfriendly to my ears.

“Yes, in your driveway,” he replied.

I had ordered something that I didn’t expect until next week. I knew my credit card had been charged, but there had been no notice that it had shipped. John didn’t tell me he had ordered anything, which wasn’t unusual. In panic mode, I couldn’t remember the details of the scam. Should I call a neighbor to come out and witness this event? No, there wasn’t time. Go out there and be wary. Don’t sign anything in a hurry.

The truck was painted in the colors of FedEx, and the man was holding a device that was not a cell phone. So far, so good. Oh, my! The box he removed from the truck was suspiciously big enough to be a computer. The nice man explained that he called me because there was no car in the driveway, and he didn’t think there was anyone home. He could very well have peeked in the garage, too, and not seen a vehicle. I fell all over myself apologizing, and said, “There have been scams about deliveries needing signatures.”

He smiled gently and said, “I know.” It was nothing new to him. I signed his gizmo, took the box, walked sedately through the front door, and did a victory dance out of his sight. I was almost too excited to be thankful that I had heard the phone and was not still planting Sweet William seeds or taking a shower.

I wrestled a monitor from a closet shelf, hooked up the hardware, went through the start up procedure, signed into Microsoft, installed a free anti-virus application and ran it, downloaded a free word processor, installed Dropbox, and stopped for lunch. If I did nothing else, I would be satisfied. The next day I installed financial software, and I’m using the machine to write this message. This has to have been one of the easiest transitions of my life. I’m so glad I didn’t tell the FedEx man to go away.

For those who want to see neighbor Logan again, here he is playing a wicked game of checkers with John.

051717 Logan against John

Breaking the Main Rule

The first time John went to Tennessee to play with trains, I made one rule for myself. That rule was, do not say “I should…”

I refused to press myself to do anything in the “must” category. I would not dust or vacuum, clean a bathroom, whack at the wicked wisteria, undertake a major garden project, or clean out a cabinet. John was doing just what he wanted to do, and so would I. In retirement, that’s the closest I get to a vacation when most days are filled with pleasant choices. I allow just enough pressure to keep us from living in filth and squalor.

Within one hour of John’s leaving this time, I broke that rule. After walking to the creek, I saw the little dish I’d left on the kitchen counter. Aaaarrrgggghhh! I soaked Sweet William seeds overnight, and I had to plant them. Rule or no rule, those seeds had to get themselves into the ground. To make matters worse, I had decided where they were going, and the soil was weed-choked and hard. My advice to myself is, “Next time think ahead, you silly goose. Only you can deflect a ‘should’ job.”

Here is a thought on a higher plane. Son $ sent a photo of his car 48 hours after he took possession of it. He proved his prowess with a standard shift, because you can’t get to a point like this without being a nifty shifter.

051817 $ car in the mountains.jpg

Mother’s Day Plus Two

Mother’s Day Plus Two

Good things come in threes, not just bad things. I had three days in a row of being with special people and doing fun things. On Mother’s Day, son John $ came for dinner and had a couple of four-legs with him. The dogs belonged to a friend who went to Cherokee for a few hours and picked up the dogs on her way home. She brought $ to us, since he has been without wheels after my car Snot was hit by a falling tree. This sounds like falling Dominoes – $’s Mazda was scrapped, and we loaned him the Sonata until he could get another vehicle. Snot is getting new windshields and a new roof. The first car happy ending is below. Meanwhile, John grilled brats, chicken-apple sausages, squash, and Bavarian sausages for our dinner. We ate on the porch and kept the dogs company. Most appropriately, we had a dark chocolate cake that John bought for dessert. Anything that ends with chocolate is excellent.


Three neighbors and I had a ladies’ day out to shop at Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Around 1937, the artists who had worked in Gatlinburg gravitated to an area called the Glades. The studios and shops are on an eight-mile loop out from the town. All of the items for sale are handmade in the US, many of them on site. Our mission was to replace a pottery chicken roaster. Connie and Marla had lived near this area before moving to our neighborhood. We stopped at a traffic light, and Marla recognized friends in the car stopped beside us. We went first to Treasures in Earthen Vessels where David Howard creates pottery. They were old friends, so they got their roaster and had a nice visit while Shawn and I looked at everything in the shop. The ladies posed, and we had David step in the picture. His son is getting married in a month, and he is very busy making a mug for each wedding guest.

051517 Connie Marla Shawn David the potter.jpg

A basket of plastic toy soldiers was near the counter. The sign urged everyone to take a free soldier home and pray for all the men and women in our military. I popped one in the bag with my purchase and didn’t think about it again until he fell out at home. The more I thought about it, the more I was impressed. In an unobtrusive way, David was supporting something that is close to his heart. His shop is Treasures in Earthen Vessels, 170 Glades Road #32, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

We went to other shops along the road, seeing wooden items, jewelry, baskets, and decorative items for the home. For lunch we went to Carver’s Orchard where the restaurant looks out over the apple orchard. The photo is dark, but the point was for you to see the background. Nice excuse for a bad picture, right?

051517 Shawn Marla Connie at Carver's Orchard.jpg

While I was out gallivanting with my friends, husband and son were looking at cars. They were gone longer than I was, after a very successful day. They put a deposit on a 2010 Subaru Forester, and the next day we took $ there to pick it up. I know he despises having his picture taken, but he agreed to a quick one, probably as payment for our help. You’ll realize $ is a very good driver when you learn that he chose a stick shift to drive in the mountains.

051617 $ with Subaru.jpg