Holidays Fly By

Grandson Nathaniel was with us about 45 hours – not long enough to raise and lower the hall mirror! John picked him up in Charlotte on Friday, and daughter Lise and grandson David took him back on Sunday. The day between was July 4th. The time may have been short, but we visited with him intently. This was the only picture for which he posed, taken as the three were setting off for the return trip.

The day before Lise left, we had lunch at the Pisgah Inn. John and I have eaten there at least once a year since we moved here, but Lise had never been there. The restaurant is closed during winter months, which is when she usually comes to visit. We had a lovely drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to reach it. Our table was the one in the corner with the best view of the mountains. Since only half the tables could be used during the COVID-19 restrictions, the room was not crowded, and we had excellent service. We could see rain clouds in the distance and watched them as we ate.

After lunch, we went outside on the deck to take a few photos and look at the mountains again. It was a lovely day out for us. When we got home, Lise packed to go back to Denmark.

Neighbors Celebrate July 4th

Despite neighbor Shawn’s phone being broken, word got around that we would have a cookout on our street. People converged on Shawn and Bob’s lawn, because they had the largest flat, shady space.

Logan had a grand view of us all.

Logan hangs over his dad’s head.

We had a three-armed toy that Nathaniel threw with Logan, and it sailed into our Bradford pear tree. Nate and John carried the ladder around and set it up, supervised by Sufi.

The first retrieval attempt failed, so Bob and Nathaniel extended it before Bob climbed up with a long pole and knocked the toy out of the branches.

Lise asked Logan to show us his pond down a steep slope behind his house. We knew Bob had cleaned out the weeds and that they had been swimming there. Water flows into the pond via a pipe from the creek and out again through an overflow drain.

Logan ran down to the dock as Lise and I watched tadpoles swimming in the water.

Logan was looking for Herbert, the turtle, under the dock. Lise stood beside Logan and took a photo from above as he fed Herbert some bread. I also liked Lise’s selfie with her feet.

As the sun moved, we picked up our chairs to get in the shade again. People stayed outside a long time. When thunder moved closer, we took the food back to our houses. Only when the first raindrops fell did we fold up the table and take our chairs home. As heavy rain fell, Shawn, Bob and Logan stayed on their porch, while Lise, Nathaniel, and I retreated to ours. (David was working.) It was fun to share that storm from a distance. It had been a most satisfying party.

We had a small continuation of the party after the power went out. Joyce came to recharge her phone, since our generator was running. The rain was over by then. It was fun to chat with her in a smaller setting. Her phone was charged, and she went home when folks up the mountain began shooting fireworks. Most public fireworks in the area had been canceled, so we were thrilled to have a free show that we could see from our chairs on the porch.

Happy Birthday, USA! God bless America.

Lighthearted Logan and Lise

Daughter Lise was walking up the street with John and me when we heard something behind us. It was neighbor Logan (10) asking if he could walk to the creek with us. Yes, he had already asked his parents. Of course, we were delighted. He may have run off a little energy while making our day begin with a sparkle. We asked him to pose for our traditional creek photo, showing those who walk there with us.

Logan nimbly climbed down to the water’s edge. Lise, more sure-footed than she used to be, asked if he would stay there until she came down. Both have exploring minds, and they checked things out before coming back to us.

Lise commented on chicory blooms, so we stopped to look at them. Chicory is a wildflower related to the dandelion. People around New Orleans sometimes roast the roots of cultivated plants and grind them to brew with coffee. The blossoms have a striking blue color, which is what we were admiring.

Logan and Lise looking at chicory blooms

Smokey came down his driveway for us to pet him. Lise, a dog-lover, showed Logan how to scratch his tummy to make one leg run in the air. Dog and humans enjoyed that. Note the ankle weights Lise was wearing.

When Logan asked about Lise’s ankle weights, she explained that they strengthened her leg muscles and offered to let him wear them. After putting them on Logan, Lise began to skip down the road because she felt so much lighter. Despite adding about 1/5 of his weight, Logan didn’t slow down at all. He skipped, too.

After walking a good bit, Logan returned the weights. Something was chafing his skin, probably the Velcro fasteners. He certainly had the energy to run home with them.

We enjoyed our walk with Logan and hope he liked it, too. We would welcome his company any day.

Connie and Marla

Daughter Lise and I were delighted to spend an evening with our former neighbors, Connie and Marla. Our mother/daughter friends moved during the COVID-19 shutdown. The times were/are strange. When John and I should have given them a warm send-off, we felt a great virus-wall looming between us. We read about their move and saw photos as they settled in. That was better than nothing, but I’m so glad I’ve now seen them in their cozy house and the fantastic view of their new town. My favorite picture from the visit was of Lise with them on the front deck. I didn’t realize I’d caught Albert kissing Lise until I saw this on a larger screen.

Lise, Albert, Marla and Connie

It was wonderful to see them in person and hear them talk about people at work and neighbors. Marla bikes to work, and Connie has pampered her and her coworkers with goodies. Connie pointed in different directions to comment on various friendly neighbors. They have been welcomed to a place where they were meant to be. We rejoice with them.

Connie is a super cook, and we knew we were in for a treat at her table. I should have taken photos, but honestly, that could never convey the taste. We helped ourselves from a tray of cucumber slices, celery, and stuffed tomatoes. The lasagna was superb, and two fruit salads were perfect for the warm weather. Her chocolate cake with chocolate frosting could have been a meal in itself. The recipe called for espresso powder, which they were able to find in a local store in the spice section. As with any fine dish, nothing was overpowering. When Connie puts something together, the result is perfection.

Since we all see each other on Facebook, we were aware of recent happenings and could talk about a wide variety of subjects. As you might guess, the visit was totally satisfying for Lise and me. When we got home, John had already picked up Nathaniel from Charlotte and David from work. What a full day it had been!

Oldest and Youngest

Daughter Lise and son John $pencer planned to meet for lunch at a Thai restaurant halfway between our homes. It was perfect! We knew the dining room was not open, so John and $ thought about getting take-out and going to a park. On line, we found that parks are still closed. John packed a folding table and three chairs. I found plates and cutlery which Lise stowed in her backpack. We were prepared. As it turned out, we didn’t need those things. There were two tables beside the front door just waiting for us. The waiter brought our food in take-out containers, but he served us as attentively as if we were inside.

John, Lise, John $, and Rose at see-through table

We discovered that spilling something on a table with a metal lattice top could be dangerous. A small container fell over, and the soy sauce sprayed down near our feet. We were glad no one was hit.

Dog Sadie was right there with us, tied to a handicap sign. She caught a wasp which stung her, and then she wanted to be in the car. After we ate, Rose brought her back out where we could enjoy her. She wasn’t there when I took pictures, but I got a fairly good shot of the siblings, Lise and John $.

The day was sunny and warm, and we were comfortable in the shade of the covered area. No other people came to eat, so we sat back and enjoyed talking together for quite a while. This was the last of the sibling reunions, and they made the most of it. We wished Kate could have been with us, but she was home and back at work after her vacation.

Party for People and Dogs

We had another reunion meal together while daughter Lise was here. Niece Julie, friend Michael, son John $pencer, and friend Rose joined us on the porch. Lise, Julie, and $ were close years ago when $ first moved to North Carolina. Those bonds were lasting, even though they rarely see each other now.

We eight, together. We ate together.

While we ate, Michael’s dog Gumball was outside with us, and Rose’s Sadie was inside the house. Only after we ate did we let them greet each other. It was a bit tense.

Going outside seemed best. Julie spoke softly to Gumball.

Rose, David, and Lise were near Sadie when she took a rest.

We watched the dogs as they tentatively began to get to know each other. It was good for us to move around a bit, but we soon returned to the porch and separated the dogs again.

I’m glad to say we humans enjoyed being together without snarling or snapping at each other. In these tense times, that’s a very good thing.

Leavings

Daughter Kate and grandson Nathaniel had driven together to visit us, but they left in different directions. I didn’t get a photo of her as she headed home to New Jersey early in the morning. I can show you what she looked like about 25 hours before, when we walked to the creek. I don’t think she changed much in that time.

Lise, Kate, John, and Anne

The selfie is awful by my standards, because I would much rather have cut off myself than daughter Lise. Kate was wearing a jacket and knit hat. I think it might have been 55F (12.78C). Lise and I were wearing summer clothes. After Kate drove off, David and I chatted with her several times during her 12-hour drive. She was also talking to Michael at home, helping pass the time.

Nathaniel had breakfast with John and me before loading the car. He returned to Johnson & Wales to work in the dorms for the summer session and will stay on to begin his junior year. David helped him remove the seats the night before so that everything would fit. We would have gone with them if there had been room.

Of course, the last thing Nate did was lower the mirror. To me, the mirror ritual doesn’t count if there isn’t a photo to mark the moment.

John let me know when they reached Charlotte and again when he started home. In between, they carted everything to the dorm room and went shopping for basic food and supplies.

John was back home before Kate reached New Jersey, having driven about half the amount of time she did. I was glad both made it safely.

Cataloochee

The closest part of the Smoky Mountain National Park is Cataloochee Valley. That was our destination for Kate’s and Nathaniel’s last day with us. We walked up to a lookout point where I took a photo of daughter Lise and grandsons David and Nathaniel.

We were stopped, not by rain, but by a bridge closing. We couldn’t drive to the area where elk often graze, nor could we explore the old house and barn near there. Going back, the younger people went in the old church, but John and I opted to take a short nap in the car. We also wanted to walk across a log bridge, which we’d not bothered to do before. I liked the view as you approached it.

Bridge and stream are more picturesque from a different angle.

I love mountain streams and took a short video from the bridge.

I cooked our last dinner together. For the foodies: salmon with molasses/soy/lime sauce, sliced potatoes with Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese, green beans, double lime Jell-o salad, and frozen lemon pie.

Niece Julie and friend Michael came to pick up Lise to spend a few days in Winston Salem. I hope to remember to take a photo when they return her.

Party after Mount Mitchell Hike

Son John $pencer planned a hike near Mount Mitchell for his siblings and nephews. The only comment I can make is that all of them enjoyed the scenery, the exercise, and the company. John and I had his car serviced, and we met them on the mountain. We were going to a restaurant for a late lunch. Instead, we shopped for potato chips, ground bison, hamburger meat, hot dogs, potato salad, and baked beans and ate at John’s and Rose’s place. As often happens, Nathaniel ended up near the grill. He was chatting with Rose and $ in this photo.

We made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed the feast.

Nathaniel, Lise, Rose, John $, John, and Kate

Hammocks were a hit. David sprawled in one as John $ set up the other one.

Nathaniel took a turn with arms and legs dangling.

I wondered if he would really fit in it and soon saw the answer. He is so long and straight that he made the hammock look like a bathtub.

Rose had a chance to sit on a hammock while she petted Sadie.

A big food hit were the S’mores. Kate brought graham crackers, marshmallows, and Hershey’s candy. John $ built a fire, and the younger sets roasted the marshmallows. David always heats his marshmallow slowly so that it is molten in the middle without being burned on the outside.

Kate roasted hers, and Nathaniel did one for me. He and I like the marshmallows burned on the outside. For those who haven’t had one, a S’more is an informal dessert made with a roasted marshmallow, a few squares of Hershey’s chocolate candy, all sandwiched between graham crackers.

Lise enjoyed hers to the fullest, knowing she is not likely to have another when she goes home to Denmark.

The Johns, father and son, relaxed while the rest of us hung about the fire.

The drive back to our house took about 1 ¾ hours. I think everyone but the drivers of the two cars took a nap. Fresh air, a long walk, good food, and lots of laughter made us all sleepy. It had been a most satisfying day.

Double-digit Logan

Neighbor Logan is now 10 years old! Our state has not relaxed the rules about keeping a distance between people, so we knew there would be no big party to celebrate the event. We had a pop-up porch greeting, complete with cake, a candle, and gifts. Logan stepped out and accepted the slice of cake from Kate as we sang the birthday song. I don’t know who had the matches and lit the candle, but it all came together at the right moment.

My hands were busy with the camera. My eyes focused on Logan and the flashing lights on the patriotic glasses. I was happy to find that Bob and Shawn were visible in the doorway.

We chatted for a few minutes after the formalities were over. The cake was safe with Kate, and Lise had a chance to pet Emily. It wasn’t much of a celebration, but we did mark the day together. Can you believe our favorite neighborhood boy is now 10 years old? We’ve known and enjoyed him for six of the ten. Happy birthday, Logan!!