Thanksgiving Wrap-up

My request for a photo almost made grandson David late for work, but he was willing to pose with the finished family puzzle. Some of the crew stayed up quite late finishing it. I liked niece Chrissie’s stance, leaning on grandson Nathaniel. I’m pretty sure Nate was on his knees.

Chrissie took this photo the day before of Lise, David, and me.

Friend Linda chose photos from our family reunion to have the puzzle made. This is one we will work again and again.

The suitcases were packed and ready to go when Nathaniel did the mirror ritual. John, Chrissie, Lise, and son John $pencer were there for the final photo.

Daughter Lise had been with us two weeks before flying back to Denmark. After she went through security, we had a few more minutes with Chrissie in the airport before she boarded her plane to Massachusetts, and then we drove Nathaniel to Charlotte. I don’t know how far John and I drove, but Lise was over the ocean and Chrissie almost home when we returned to our house. This had been a most satisfying visit.

Last Fling

The last four days of daughter Lise’s visit were full of activities. We picked up grandson Nathaniel from college and ate dinner on the way home.

It was after midnight when we did the mirror ritual.

Lise, John, Nathaniel, and David watch the mirror go up.

The next afternoon Lise went in the airport to meet niece Chrissie while John and I made a loop around the area. They took a selfie with Santa in the terminal.

The younger generations took a walk, which was a good antidote for lots of sitting the previous hours. This is Chrissie’s selfie at the creek.

Chrissie, David, Nathaniel, and Lise

Chrissie took a photo of Lise that I would call “Cavorting at the Creek”.

In the evening we began to work a jigsaw puzzle. This was a special family puzzle that dear friend Linda ordered for us. She used photos we took at our family reunion last summer and had a puzzle made from them. There is nothing like putting your own face together if you can find the pieces!

Chrissie, Lise, David, and Nathaniel

Of course, conversation never flagged.

To be continued.

Stump Fire and Returning Nathaniel

Son John $pencer has a little camping auger he has been experimenting with. He drilled holes in a stump and showed grandsons David and Nathaniel how to set a tiny fire in it. The young men were in the dark, although they saw the light.

On our way to take Nathaniel back to his dorm, we ate at Flat Rock Wood Room not far from Carl Sandburg’s home. We were surprised to find any restaurant equally featuring barbecue and pizza. I thought the food was tasty and served imaginatively. The fellows all had a skillet filled with macaroni and cheese, topped with barbecued pork. David’s side dish was fried sweet potatoes in a tiny bucket. I had shrimp and grits with barbecue sauce.

On the way home I savored the memories of Nathaniel’s quick visit. He told us about his busy life – working one job in the dorm and one in the cafeteria, for a total of 40 hours a week. He attends one class in person and takes the rest of his classes on line. He doesn’t have much time to cook. I was delighted that he brought some sweet potatoes and was willing to prepare them any way we wanted. It’s a pleasure to cook with him. He never gets in my way, and I try to stay out of his. The mashed sweets were marvelous.

My favorite story was set in the cafeteria. There was an area in the dining room where people were not supposed to step. Despite a sign on the floor, people continually walked there while glued to their phones. Nathaniel suggested they tape it off and put a mannequin there. It was his suggestion that turned into his assignment. He said he changed the clothes on the mannequin once a week and put it in different positions on the floor. Lots of people commented on it, and no one stepped there again. I wish I’d asked for a photo, because I’m sure he took a few.

After we came home, David and I were relaxing in easy chairs. I said, “I don’t think Nathaniel moved the mirror down.”

John had looked and said that was correct. David got up, and I reached for the camera. The ritual was obligatory, even without Nathaniel. With the mirror lower, John and I can now see our heads. It would be comfortable for David about five inches higher.

COVID-19 Picnic

We are a family of somewhat happy refugees, waiting for developing news of the corona virus. John rescued grandson Nathaniel from Charlotte after his university closed. Our poor student was suffering from an awful head cold, diagnosed by a walk-in health facility. It definitely was not the dreaded virus. He didn’t do the mirror ritual until 12 hours after he arrived.

Nathaniel moves the mirror up to show he is with us.

Son John $pencer and Rose left our house to avoid Nathaniel’s illness. They checked in with us from time to time with calls and texts, which I really appreciated. While they were hiking, Rose texted, “It’s a beautiful day here. I hope you are all enjoying it as much as I am.”

The next day they hiked to the ridge line and got a good signal. Rose wrote, “I hope you all stay well. We are in our element here and enjoying our freedom and break from the news.” She sent me a photo of their campsite.

As that photo was coming in, David, Nathaniel, and I were chatting with Lise in Denmark. She was supposed to go to Sweden to appear in a promotional video for a new type of stomach balloon for weight loss. The border was closed because of the virus, but they were able to do the video in Denmark. She was having stomach cramps because of the procedure. She explained that this would be the worst day, and she would feel much better the next day. As we chatted, she made up a new verse of the Misery song. Years ago she made up a song with the boys because she had a miserable cold. After that, she would add a verse when any of them felt bad. Today’s verse was something about “If I pop, you’ll need a mop”.

Lise said in Denmark people are required to stay 6 feet apart. From her flat, she looks down on the street outside a bakery. They have put tape on the sidewalk, marking intervals of 6 feet for those waiting to go inside one at a time.

The boys and I had a picnic lunch on the front porch. Normally we eat on the screened porch at the back, but it was windy and cold there. The fellows sat in the sun as I hid in the shadows.

Porch picnic

Nathaniel went inside and came back with his vintage leather jacket. He wanted it to warm up in the sun and said, “I feel like Pastor Hofler in this jacket. All I need is a cigar to compete the picture.”

David might have leaned forward to get out of the picture. Note toes high-lighted with white.

The sky was very busy, making me think that people were flying because they couldn’t shop. Every time I looked at the sky, I saw another plane streaking over. As old contrails disappeared, new ones took their place. I showed the boys what I saw – a cloud in the center of a tic-tac-toe grid.

Sky tic-tac-toe

Have any of you had pleasant things happen related to the viral pandemic?

Chef Goes Back to School

Grandson Nathaniel’s week with us went by in a flash. We always enjoy being with him, and the pleasure was doubled, since grandson David lives with us.

People envy us having a student chef in the house. Now when he comes to visit, he brings his knives with him. That is a distinctive mark of a chef in my book. I try to listen to hear what Nathaniel might be in the mood to cook, and this time he talked about making a chicken sandwich. He didn’t give it a distinctive name, but it needs one. He grilled chicken fillets outside, whipped up a special bell pepper sauce, cooked crisp bacon, piled everything on a hearty wholegrain bread, and added lettuce. What a meal!

Nathaniel does not wear his heart on his sleeve, but he does wear a thermometer and a pen on his sleeve when he is in uniform. He would have liked that convenience the day I cooked a meatloaf wrapped in pastry. I can only imagine how fancy he would have made it, but mine was humdrum. He consoled me by saying that he loves home cooking because it is comfort food. When I said I would see if the meat was done, he checked it with a thermometer. He actually went to his room to get the thermometer, since he didn’t wear his uniform to cook here.

On David’s day off, we went to two thrift shops and enjoyed looking at things for several hours. Did we buy anything? No! I’m a miser, and David feels his student loans hanging over his head. Nathaniel’s refrain is, “I’m a broke college student.”

We did a bit better at a thrift store in Hendersonville. I bought $2 earrings, and John paid the same amount for a tie. We found a set of four wooden chairs for the kitchen table, feeling we got a bargain. Guests, note that you will be more comfortable to sit and chat after a meal now.

I often write about having fun and laughing, so I tried to catch a bit of the laughter after dinner one night. I kept quiet so the other five could be heard. There is nothing particularly special about our carrying on, but it was us at our silly best. I’m sorry I couldn’t remember how to include a WAV file.

We remembered the mirror ritual before leaving for church. The rest of the day was taken up with eating at a favorite restaurant and driving Nate back to Charlotte. He was a bit concerned about a heavy load of classes and working. I suspect he was eager for Monday morning to come so he could get it over with. There is only one first day of term, after all.

David acts as witness to Nathaniel’s lowering of the mirror as he left

Thanksgiving Begins

The first event of the Thanksgiving season was daughter Lise’s arrival. We picked up grandson Nathaniel from college and waited longer than expected to get Lise from the airport. Her flight from Denmark was delayed, making her miss the connection in New York. We were relieved that she was only four hours late getting to Charlotte. We were home by midnight and fell into bed.

The next morning we hurried to pack for the trip to my brother’s home in Winston Salem. Nathaniel deflated the air mattress by lying on it.

Nathaniel is thin, but he looks almost flat in this picture.

Son John $pencer and Rose participated in the mirror ceremony, when Nathaniel moved the hall mirror to a higher hook. He will move it down again when he leaves.

Dog Sadie is looking the wrong way.

Meal prep was underway when we arrived at Beth and Bob’s house. I took a photo showing a few people, not realizing how many would soon be there. We think there were 23 people to eat this feast on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

John, David, Don, Bob, Kate, and Nathaniel

I’ve never seen a group that could mix and mingle as easily as this group did. At one point Lise and niece Julie had a few minutes together on the sofa.

Lise and Julie

Grandsons David and Nathaniel were joking around near the back door with Grandpa. Nathaniel and cousin Kate modeled their leather jackets, both bought at thrift shops.

The photo I enjoyed taking the most was one of Lise and Zeke. When I was introduced to Zeke, I knew immediately who he was. Forty-four years ago his sister Mary visited us on Long Island. She was on a missionary trip, raising funds for her work with Wycliff Bible Translators. Mary’s first cousin was Bob’s first wife, who was the one who engineered her visit to us. All these years I remembered her talking about her family. She was the oldest, followed by two boys. When the fourth child was on the way, she set her heart on having a sister. She said she was so angry that another baby boy arrived that she said she was going to call him the ugliest thing she could think of. That name was Zeke. When I retold the story to Zeke, he laughed and said that was just like Mary. He claimed his mother said she was not going to have any more children and nicknamed him Zeke because it began with the last letter of the alphabet. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked if any of us knew his real name. We didn’t. It is William.

Lise and Zeke

I showed Zeke a photo I took of Lise and Mary when she visited in 1977. Of course he recognized his sister, and he was happy to pose with the grown-up version of Lise.

Lise and Zeke won the honor of being the ones who traveled furthest to our gathering. Lise lives in Denmark, and Zeke lives on a sail boat in Seattle, Washington.


What is the last thing you did before going on a road trip? I found myself dusting! Dusting the bathtub!

The day before we left, we were in the car six hours, taking grandson Nathaniel back to Charlotte. These are the before photos – the mirror ritual before Nathaniel left, and before we drove him back to campus.

I was in zombie mode while packing that night, so I got up earlier than necessary to check that I had everything. With the extra time, I got the dust out of the big tub. After hiking, both son John $pencer and Rose like soaking in hot water. I told Rose she was welcome to use my tub, one of those garden tub monstrosities. Daughter Lise is the only one who likes it so far, and that’s why it was last cleaned six months ago. The dusting was overdue.

Our first stop on the trip was in Nashville to have lunch with John’s cousin Harold and wife Susan. We were celebrating the first weekday of Harold’s retirement. Susan retired two years ago and has had her taste of first freedom. Harold does not feel free yet. He had come from his office where he was working on papers. He was an orthodontist and has many things to file and will take all the records to his home. We had a delightful time chatting with them.

Baking for the Baker

John drove to Charlotte to pick up grandson Nathaniel, and it was fairly late when they got home. We had a cheese snack when grandson David finished work and chatted for a while before heading to bed. I thought about the mirror ritual, but maybe Nate wouldn’t hang the hall mirror on the upper hook for just a weekend.

The next morning I asked myself, “What am I doing??? I’m rolling out biscuits for a young man who is majoring in baking and pastry? Am I out of my gourd?”

The answer to my question was no. I was doing what I always do. In chatting with neighbor Marla recently, truth came out of my mouth unbidden. I surprised myself when I said, “Cooking for people is the way I show that I love them.”

For the foodies, we had bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and Southern biscuits made with White Lily Flour.

After breakfast, Nathaniel called out, “I didn’t do the mirror!”

David came to the hall, and I had the camera. Nate took the mirror and carefully moved it to the hook where the former owners had a clock. He moved slowly so that I could get a photo.

Egging him on, I told him to smile at himself. That’s why all his teeth are on display. David can see his head in there, but the mirror is useless for the rest of us. Nathaniel will do the ritual in reverse when it is time for him to go. It’s a silly thing, but we enjoy it.

Christmas with Logan

Neighbor Logan’s family had more visitors than we did over Christmas. There had been no time to give him the little gifts we had for him until the day after Christmas. His mom was busy cleaning up after company, and his dad was doing a project in the garage. Logan chose to have cookies first and then open presents.

A few weeks ago Logan was in the musical Elf. When we saw an elf hat in the store, we had to buy it. He popped it on his head and wore it while he finished opening his gifts.

Nathaniel handed him another small package, one daughter Kate had sent down from New Jersey. Logan had a big smile on his face when he saw it was the card game, Uno. David and Nathaniel played one game with him that lasted over an hour.

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David, Logan, and Nathaniel play Uno.

This was Nathaniel’s last full day with us, and he made us a proper chicken pie. By proper, I mean it was made from scratch. He roasted chicken breasts in the oven, used the drippings as a base for the sauce, shredded fresh carrots, cut up celery and onion, and cooked peas and corn to go in it. He had planned to make his own puff pastry for the top, but we were running out of time. He made pie crust instead. It was delicious. The vegetables had just the right amount of body to them, and I liked the very fresh taste of the onions. He spoiled us to the end of the visit.

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Chicken pie, and yes, that’s a train on the table

I insisted on one last informal portrait of the fellows, to have their smiling faces all together.

122618 Last meal together this year for the fellows.JPG

We were not going to forget the mirror ritual this time. Nathaniel started high and ended in a goofy stance to check his appearance. Until next time….

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Our drive from Maryland to North Carolina was pleasantly uneventful until we were 20 miles from home. Traffic came to a halt in the gorge, and we sat there for one and a half hours. There was a long stretch with no exits, leaving us no alternative. The attraction of the moment was the rising of the moon. When we finally moved, we passed an 18-wheeler on a tow truck headed in the wrong direction. It was a strange sight. The four-lane interstate was squeezed by mountains on both sides with a concrete Jersey barrier down the middle. Perhaps the road was closed again later to allow that rig to escape.

062618 Moon rising in the gorge over stopped traffic on I-40.JPG
Darkness on the left is the empty interstate going the other way.

Needless to say, we dragged ourselves into the house, carrying as much as possible. Nathaniel clapped his hats on my head for an easy ride in.

062618 Carrying hats in the house.JPG

After the car was unpacked, Nathaniel performed his mirror ritual. His summer has officially begun.  [Every time he comes to stay, he moves the mirror to the hanger where the former owners hung a clock.  He is the only one who can use it easily, although David can see himself on tiptoe.]

062618 Nathaniel's mirror ritual.JPG

A couple of days later, a cloud invited itself to dinner on our porch. It shied away at the last moment.

062818 Cloud inviting itself to dinner.jpg