Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Long is the road from conception to completion. ~ Moliere

Boy, isn't that the truth?

Completion Week # 7 probably actually started four years ago. Our old bathroom was just that: Old. Simple. Basic. It still is, but now we have replaced the missing baseboards and tub trim. There's not much to say about it, except that it is completed the day before Thanksgiving holidays began, and looks pretty darn good. No need for a photograph...who wants to look at bathroom baseboard?!

Completion Week # 8: Yippee! This was a Thanksgiving family and friends affair: New gates in the pasture, fencing and t-posts repaired and replaced. Lots and lots of cedars trimmed and felled. In that we are surrounded by farmers and ranchers, I sometimes wonder what they must think about our not-exactly "farm and ranch" care of our little pasture. But it's done. Yippee! (Thanks for the help, you all.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving: Ending

Thanksgiving weekend is over.
The grad students have left.
The college grads are leaving tomorrow.

It was a good time.

Noontime Meal
Yesterday morning, the college grads and that Spouse o' Mine joined some other oblivious cyclists to partake in their beloved Pancake Ride. It was 23º outside.

The grad students left yesterday to work on their respective papers and research. The Grad Student daughter called tonight and said they thought they would not work tonight, but rather take in a movie. It's been a few years, but I do remember all the hours that Spouse o' Mine put in for his PhD. It is a long haul, and frequently not too enjoyable. But I reassured the Grad Student tonight that it would all be worth it soon.

The College Boy Skyped us yesterday, and he described his Thanksgiving out on the west coast. The kind family who invited him to join them has a time share in Birch Bay, WA - some 10 miles from the Canadian border. I asked him what it was like, and he first said, "It's a lot like Grandma's & Grandpa's at Hilton Head." Interesting, I thought, and I am happy to assume that all these years at Gma's and Gpa's (our abbreviations) at Hilton Head would have a top drawer in his memory.

This afternoon was a fair amount warmer, and the College Grad daughter and I pottered about in the yard, me, pointing out interesting plants which have not yet succumbed to our 13º nights, and she, digging up and transplanting them to take back to her new home in warmer Virginia. She took our carrots out of the garden. And lettuces. An onion. Also mint. This is what happens when parents allot a plot of "land" to each little kid growing up: now they have that mental seed planted within them, that they should go forth and garden. So even though she has a tiny city apartment, she does have sunlight and determination to make a garden for her new home.

Today the temperature was more moderate, but the wind reared its awful head and blew up to 40 mph. It is most unpleasant to be outdoors in this sort of atmosphere. It leads to bad hair days, to stocking cap/baseball cap attire, grit in ones teeth...oh, I could go on.

But I won't.

Biserka the Dog and I took a late afternoon stroll down to the creek. I took a little tiny video of the trees down there: swaying treetops and whistling wind. The sound, when I closed my eyes, reminded me of the tide at Grandma's & Grandpa's at Hilton Head:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: Present:

Thanksgiving here in rural Kansas: 15º in the morning, and not too much warmer in the afternoon. And shall we give thanks for the wind? There must be something beneficial about Kansas wind. (That will appear as an epiphany when I get that wind turbine in my back yard.)

The menu? Turkey, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes and fennel (from our garden), bowls of spiced nuts - compliments of the Grad Student, homemade bread, and collard greens (too, from our garden). Tonight we will have turkey tetrazzini and a decadent chocolate cake. I can hardly wait for the others to get home from their movie (Harry Potter!).

Here are the players of the Armstrong 2010 T'giving Day:

The Grad Student
The College Grad a boyfriend...
another boyfriend...
another boyfriend : That Spouse o' Mine!
Irakli found an Easter Egg ... not sure how that happened...
The music hour...
The missing one:
But he will be home in 3 short weeks, and we will be tickled pink!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving: past

I am writing this the evening before Thanksgiving.

I can certainly give thanks for my ancestors, Dutch people circa 1642, and those Van Valkenburgs which continued beyond. It surely took a lot of gumption to leave Maastricht, Limburg Province of the Netherlands, for unknown New Amsterdam, New York: now known as Manhattan.

And that Spouse o' Mine's lineage, back to Myles (Miles) Standish, Mayflower passenger, and a member of the Plymouth Colony..

And here we are, me from Oklahoma, he, from Toowoomba, Australia. Both here in the Flint Hills of Kansas.

A question was posed at book club last week: Who would you like to have a conversation with, if you could talk to anyone? My two choices were Will Rogers and ... I would love to have the chance to talk to my ancestors. How fun, and how enlightening.

Many Hands

"Many hands make light work."

Our daughters, the College Grad and the Grad Student, arrived home this afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving, along with their boyfriends. Just prior to their arrival, we had 5 round bales of prairie hay delivered.

Our tasks of the day included pulling up t-posts, replacing t-posts, moving an electric fence, loading up cedar branches and actual trees, hauling them across the pasture to the brush pile. (Which, I told that Spouse o' Mine, we cannot burn till late next spring, because some little critters have already made their winter home in the brush, and that would be cruel.)

Years of mucking stalls have incorporated a work ethic...
Pause for a chat between sisters who have been apart for six months...
Wow. It must have been gossip...
The canine observer...
That Spouse o' Mine and I are doing our share...
But wait! The wind picked up, and the temps went down!!!
Finished brush pile, and some colder extremities: forecast of 14º, after a 56º afternoon...

And tasks are all said and done. Bring on the frigid Thanksgiving Day.
We'll all go cycling...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Polar Ride

I took a bike ride this sunny, 35º afternoon. Even with my standard-issue winter-duct-taped cycling shoes (paisley, compliments of the College Grad), I STILL nearly froze my toenails off. (That's a term my mother used to use when we kids were kids.)

Behind me was another cyclist, so I circled back and asked Hello, how far are you going? And his reply was that he was going through the next two towns, the first of which would be MY stop, and so I drafted behind him while we chatted.

By the time I got home, my toes and my thighs were numb. I am going to have to rethink this winter riding: either find some winter-weight duct tape, or tend to my knitting by the fire.

The Heat is On...

I just walked by the thermostat and the temperature in our living room is 63º.

Our daughters are coming home in two days.

The forecast reports a low for tomorrow night of 14º.

Our daughters are built like greyhounds: not much there to keep them warm.

They come into our house and shiver like chihuahuas.

I remind them to pack winter wear.

Their definition of winter wear (stylish blouses, thin socks) is different from mine (turtlenecks under Fair Isle sweaters, Smartwool socks coupled with sheepskin slippers).

I will lay fleece lap blankets on the sofas, and we will turn the heat up.

I will haul out my Summer Paraphernalia box and find a couple of t-shirts for my weekend.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Autumn Sky

Last night that Spouse o' Mine heard them in the dark. This morning we watched, as hundreds of geese flew over our house. Amazing formations changed with seeming grace and beauty. Doubtless, the geese were not concentrating on grace and beauty, but simply their internal need to "get there".

Get there. Why? Surely it has something to do with nature's way of telling them that the weather forecast for this week is going to be drastically frigid and harsh compared to the past few weeks of our mild autumn.

Interestingly, they were all headed east, not south. Who was the head goose who decided on those coordinates? Time will tell how accurate those navigators are.

Also interestingly (to me, anyway), I posted a blog five years ago:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Ecclesiastes III 3:1

Friday, November 19, 2010

Good Morning!

That Spouse o' Mine was up and out the door shortly after 6:00 am today.
I got up and went out to take pictures of dawn.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another Day Another Deer

I took another jaunt down the road(s) this afternoon: first, down to Stone Barn Road, and then I circled back and went down Antelope Creek Road. Interesting, that the surrounding rural roads have such descriptive names. What the heck were Kansans thinking, when they named all the highways "K"?! I live on K-18. We have K-99, K-24, K-75...

I would rather have a pretty address.

On my way down to Antelope Creek Road, I approached an open field and spied two deer grazing. I came closer and closer to them, and they didn't look up. I think the rule is to never startle a wild animal. The addendum to that is never startle a deer (or plural) during rutting season. I haven't consulted my rutting season calendar and so I do not know if the deer were hormonal or not. I also don't know what the rule is about bucks losing their antlers, so I didn't know what kind of deer I was approaching at a slow run. All I know is that two pretty deer were up ahead of me, and I didn't want to fall victim to a deer stampede. So I called out, "Hi deer!"

"Hi deer!...Hi deer!...Hi deer!..."

I Hi deered them six times before one of them looked up. And then the other. And they both went back to grazing. Maybe they were wondering what that middle-aged lady was doing, lurching down the road.

They sure were pretty.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Motorist, Cyclist, Pedestrian

We live on a stretch of road twelve miles from town. Traveling from here to there, or any part inbetween, gives one chance for observation. For instance, barreling down the road (assuming Officer Higgs is off-duty...) for twelve miles allows for excellent hawk-spotting, especially this time of year. I like to count how many high-line poles between each perching hawk, who like to spy little vermin and snakes from up-high, and then deftly swoop down. I have found that motoring down the road allows for better hawk observation, because they tend to fly away when one approaches on a bike, and forget about seeing them up close and personal if you're on foot.

Cycling, on the other hand, allows for environmental observation. On our 12-mile stretch, I know exactly where the cooler temperatures can be found on my ride. I know exactly which turns in the road will lead into a windy headwind or tailwind. There is a stretch of about one mile which has no trees or hills to speak of, and those few minutes of cycling are more than likely miserable if there is even a slight breeze in the air. It is like the wind just lies in wait before it determines which way it should aim to make the cycling the most horrid.

Cycling this 12-mile strip has given me many opportunities to see deer in fields, in tall grass, lazing the the sun or resting in the shade of the trees along the road. Cycling is relatively quiet, and riding 15-20 mph, I have come upon deer many times before they have had a chance to flee. And then - I am the one who is gone! Once, however, I did have a deer run across the road in front of me. Not so close to me that I had to brake, but I have tucked that experience into the back of my mind, so as to not become complacent about a deer hightailing it and colliding with my bike.

Walking, running...
Today I went on a 7.5 -mile jaunt down the road, and I got to study a whole different scene than what I might view from a 55 mph car or a 18 mph bike. Roadside coyote tracks: the coyotes seem to trot parallel to a road; I don't know why. They also seem to poop alongside the road. I don't know why. Deer, on the other hand, seem to pick favorite places to cross the road. In a 20-yard stretch, I can see hoofprint-upon-hoofprint crossing back and forth across the road...not walking along the side of the road. And the hooves are all sizes: large, medium, and little ones, too. Then, maybe a mile or so down the way, I will spy another deer crossing point. Interesting. Turkey tracks, too, seem to cross the road ("Why did the chicken cross the road?").

So...are these observations to mean that deer and turkeys just meander from field-to-field, whereas a coyote has a place to be and is beating a path down the highway to get there?

I don't know, I'm not an animal behaviorist. I just notice things. Running along a familiar stretch, I see that the capstone on the limestone bridge down the way is beginning to look snaggle-toothed. I see a raccoon down in the creek, washing something. Cycling down the road, I am more aware of the clouds, the sun, the wind. I have noticed many times that if I am cycling or running (or of course, driving), that people will give a friendly wave. But if I am walking, people have no qualms about stopping for a quick chat. Case in point: today, I had two neighbors stop roadside for a chat. One was a friendly Hi-haven't-seen-you-in-awhile, and the other one was a Hello-have-you-seen-our-heifers?

Any way I do it, this traveling can be fun, if I let it be. Sometimes the car, the bike, the running shoes are nagging reminders that I have to be somewhere or do something. But...if I keep my mind on what's fun, interesting, beautiful... it seems to make all the difference.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wish List:

This is what I would like:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Art...and Not

This afternoon the Grad Student and I ventured out to experience a national craftsman exhibit at a local art gallery. We went, expecting art, and we got some. And we got some which was questionable. Sorry, artists.

I am not a ceramics fan, so the collection of contemporary ceramics, (ceramic pigs stacked on top of each other) did not take. There were some pricey aluminum pixels which were interesting, but they were certainly not calling my name in any way, shape, or form. (1"x1" metal squares clipped from soda cans and whatnot, then attached together with thin wire to make a mosaic of some sort: again, not calling my name. There were some oils. I questioned the talent there. Not that I am a great painter, but if I aim to attach a $6000 price tag to my 10" canvas, I'd better not have sloppy mountain slopes. (In my artistic mind, that is...)

So what was the highlight of this afternoon? We did enjoy some of the art - there were giclee portraits which were really nice. And some Asian ceramic vases which were out of this world, and affordable, to boot!

Here is "some art" that the Grad Student and I enjoyed on our way to the gallery:

This was the funniest bus I have seen in ages! We had a fun time taking the pics - the driver and ? family? inside were laughing and waiving as the Grad Student clicked on them.

And now... Completion Project Week #6:

What in the world is this, you may ask?

It's a dimmer switch, sillies. For weeks, nay, maybe a couple/few months, our dining room chandelier has been on the fritz. On one moment, off the next few. This weekend, the Grad Student was trying to study at the dining room table, to no avail (albeit politely), and so that was it!! This morning the three of us, that Spouse o' Mine, the Grad Student, and I , went to the Man Store and purchased a number of things, one of which was a new dimmer switch and switch plate!

Now, the disclaimer here is that that Spouse o' Mine took over the electrical nonsense involved in switching out the switch...I think he thought A) We would have too much fun with it, or B) He was in no mood to transport me to the hospital with electrical burns, so early on a Sunday afternoon. Football commencing, and all...

But it's done, and I did not even have to tat a doily this week.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I am not a football fan. I haven't been to a real game in years. The only reason I would be remotely interested in entering a football stadium would be to watch the halftime show.

That Spouse o' Mine does not enjoy my sitting in on his weekend football television viewing. I can't sit through a whole game on TV, and it is his opinion that I ask too many questions. And make grimacing faces and groaning sound effects. I pop in to check out a score if my orange alma mater Cowboys are playing, but that's about it.

This week, our local K-State Wildcats began their basketball season. I keep abreast of the collegiate basketball scene, although a big fan, I am not. But I can carry on a basketball conversation and it usually makes sense.

This afternoon, I was sitting and reading next to that Spouse o' Mine. He was watching TV. I heard the voice on the TV mention K-State, and I looked up: it was a football game. How could that be, I wondered? K-State started basketball this week. I asked that Spouse o' Mine, "How can that be? Basketball season started this week." He looked at me in disbelief. As if I were balancing rutabagas on my head. "Trish. It's still football season." "Really? How can that be?" Again, that look of disbelief.

How is it that all these years I thought the sports world was a neat and tidy, start-and-finish, ebb and flow, calendar-observant phenomenon?

I went back to my book.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We Love a Parade

There's one thing this town does well, and that's parades!

The best? Veterans Day Parade!
Ft. Riley is home to the Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division,
and our soldiers are our pride:

Blocks and blocks of soldiers in formation,
and then our elementary and middle schools are represented.
Parents in the military are invited to join their kids in the parade:

Occasionally you will see a student carrying his parent's military picture.
This means that his parent, sometimes both parents, are currently deployed.

"Seventy-six trombones caught the morning sun.."

"...there were horns of every shape and kind..."

We even have boy scouts and llamas...
...and cyclists...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What's Next?

Many suns and moons ago, my address was:

11 Hegaz Street
Cairo, Egypt

When I had a driver or taxi, I would tell them in Arabic that "Rayya fi Masr il Gadida, fi Shara Hegaz, numera hidasher - gamb Merryland wa issinema Roxi." (This is the phonetic I learned to scribble down as I learned to speak the local lingo.) It says:

I am going to Heliopolis, on Hegaz street, number eleven, by Merryland and the movie theater.

Our flat was the third floor of a family's building: grandparents lived on the first floor, second generation on the second floor, and our flat was for the son, third generation, after he returned from university in California. We had a family who lived on our patio and under the building, and the man's job was to dust cars off each day and to assist people as they parked their cars. For this, he received baksheesh (tip). His wife and small daughter swept our stairs each day. We also had a man who collected our trash every day. I don't think many Americans have ever witnessed poverty at this level.

Our flat has huge, and we enjoyed stone floors, tall ceilings, tall windows, and 4 balconies. Merryland was a park across the street from our flat. Each morning we would be awakened by either the minarets calling everyone to prayer, or by the lions kept at Merryland. Lions, at least these, were quite vocal just before the break of dawn. To be awakened by roaring lions is something I will always remember. It's kind of difficult to forget...

Now I am in a chapter of my life that does not include minarets, mosques, and lions. My life still includes dust, but not sandstorms. I live among fundamentally religious people...just a different religion - one to which I am better-acquainted. In the early mornings now, I awaken to the sounds of coyotes and owls.

Happy to have had both these experiences, I am.

I wonder...what's next?

Monday, November 08, 2010

My Nemesis? But I Thought...

It's an update on my cello lessons!

At last week's lesson I was assigned a number of Christmas songs, and I though to myself, "Ha! What an easy week!" And I also asked myself, "Why start Christmas songs before Advent? Before Thanksgiving, even? Pish posh!"

But here I am, humbled yet again by that which I cannot achieve. My gosh. I was emailing the College Boy this afternoon, and I related to him that a particular Russian song I was assigned this week simply brought tears to my eyes. Not so much that it was moving, but simply...because I sound so awful.

How can this be? I love cello music. I aspire to become a pretty good cellist. How is it, then, that I am beginning to feel like divine retribution has been sentenced upon me, with this, my instrument of choice?

I tell you what...this middle age business has some questionable facets involved in it...

Sunday, November 07, 2010

November Dusk

It was very nearly dark last night when I could hear the formation:

I could not make it out in the sky...

"The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night,
he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation:
The pert may suppose it meaningless, but I listen closer,
I find its purpose and place up there toward the November sky."
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1855, I Celebrate Myself, Line 238

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