Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tour de France?

I thought I would sit down this evening and write something while I cook dinner - that's usually the routine. But I am tired of writing about Kansas and wind and mud and flowers and dogs and cycling and obviously I am wallowing in Rutsville tonight. So, I asked myself, Where would I like to be if I could be somewhere else just now? And my self answered back, Le Musée Baccarat, in Paris!

Wow. I sure didn't see that reply coming. Well, maybe I did. It's been quite a few years since I have been in France, and I do love lots of things French.

Here's a link to the Baccarat Museum:

Where else would I stroll,
à Paris?

Certainly the Louvre. There you can view art such as this:

Venus de Milo (or Aphrodite of Melos)

Winged Victory (The Victory — “Nike” in Greek)

Liberty Leading the People

And of course, Mona Lisa:
Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo
Interesting current event on the Mona Lisa: some historian somewhere (yeah, I could really make it at CNN, couldn't I?) is trying to find the origin of the REAL Mona Lisa. Some people are exhuming the 500-year-old bones of an Italian noblewoman, and are hoping to re-create her facial features to see if she is the "Mona Lisa".

Well. Good luck. Can art not

What else would I do in Paris? I would go down to the Metro and peruse the sales down there; some of my favorite scarves are from Paris "underground". I would return to Château de Versailles. All I remember is all the gold in all the rooms. I want a second helping, s'il vous plaît. And that Spouse o' Mine and I had some dandy dinners, just at local spots... - we are good at scoping out the local spots. I would definitely take him along on this Tour de France...

I wonder....what would any of you visit in France?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nice About Today

What was nice about today:

No wind.

We can still smell the lilacs all around our yard, even after two weeks of bloom.

I put lots of tomato plants in the Darwinian garden: the heirloom plants I bought contained, for the most part, two plants each instead of one, unbeknownst to me at the time of purchase.

Cool temperature - hence, the still-blooming lilacs.

No wind.

A little overcast, but a little sunny, too.

I discovered two "volunteer" tulips this morning, out in the middle of nowhere.

A college mate from ?30 years ago? tracked me down today. She and her family of four now live in Cambridge (England, not Massachusetts).

No wind.

I cleaned out our junk drawer. No wonder it wouldn't close.

We had our pasture surveyed this morning. This evening we took Beau the Bloodhound out, and he tracked the scent of the surveyor in our pasture. This bodes well for a fun Easter Egg Hunt in future years...

No wind.

Homemade pizza for dinner.

Cello and guitar playing this evening while the pizza bakes. (Love our kids, miss our kids, but now our kids are gone and we get to play cello and guitar in the evenings instead of help with high school schedules, sports, calculus {him, not me}, fundraisers and volunteer-our-time activities.)

No wind.

Monday, April 25, 2011


The bride and groom were my grandparents.
He was 24, she was 21, when they were married.

Grandma Ruth's wedding photo

Here is the write-up of their wedding in Deer Creek, Oklahoma:


A very beautiful wedding ceremony was that of Miss Ruth Van Valkenburgh, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Van Valkenburgh, of Deer Creek, to Reo Webster, son of Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Webster, of deer Creek, which occurred at the Methodist Church, Wednesday morning, August 12, at 8 O'clock, with Rev. C. E. Vasey, officiating.

Miss Lois Van Valkenburgh and Miss Rachael Webster were bridesmaids and Miss Lauvera Lehman, maid of honor. Little Mabel Van Valkenburgh, ring bearer, was daintily attired in a yellow ensemble. Ralph Webster was groomsman. Glenwood Van Valkenburgh and William Latscrar were ushers.

The wedding march was played by Miss Frances Dester and vocal selections given by Miss Alpha Van Valkenburgh.

Immediately following the ceremony a reception was given at the Van Valkenburgh home to fifty-six guests. A dainty lap breakfast prepared by Mrs. A. M. Van Valkenburgh and Miss Clara Latschar was served. Out-of-town-guests were Mrs. M. J. Van Valkenhurgh, of Atlanta, Georgia; Mr. and Mrs. Fred Van Valkenburgh, of Danville, Kansas; Mr. and Mrs. James Teter, of Blackwell; Mr. and Mrs. Roy Webster and family, of Lamont; Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Gibson, of Addington; Misses Loretta and Verine Van Valkenburgh, of Harper, Kansas; and Mr and Mrs. Emmett Lyons and family, of Blackwell.

Mr. and Mrs. Reo Webster left soon after the reception for the Ozarks, where they expect to remain for about ten days.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Graham's Daffodils

The College Boy, Graham, took this photo just this morning.
It's a daffodil farm about 30 miles south of Western Washington University, where Graham studies.


What a glorious evening this turned out to be!

I am sure there are places in the world that enjoy these beautiful hours every day, maybe year-round, but I am here to tell you - rural Kansans count their many blessings. This is one of them, to be sure. What started out (at 4:00 am) as thunderstorms, carried on through the morning and part of the afternoon as cool and really, really dark. And cloudy and dark, I am OK with: no sunscreen to deal with, and no sweat. And the 4:00 am t'storms? Kind and gentle rumbles, the kind during which you can doze off and on, listening to the pattering rain and the distant clashes and rumbles. Certainly not the typical Kansas springtime thunderstorms of Holy Tornado, Batman! Get in the basement NOW!!!

This evening saw that Spouse o' Mine and I, parallel gardening (because we discerned decades ago that we are not compatible in the gardening arena). He in a front bed, Bloodhound-proofing it (so he thinks), and I, in a front shade garden, re-thinking some perennial plans...maybe put in a water feature? As that Spouse o' Mine moved limestone and tilled the soil in the front bed, who should come and lay his 120-lb canine body in the cool soil? Ha! I laughed, and after a few moments, so did the Toiler.

He moved on to moving dirt and limestone, and I adjourned into my grotto. I love it already! And there is little to be excited about, just in mid-April. I have four banana trees out, and there are a couple of salvia and dianthus which manage to winter over each year. I have the pond pump going as well. The bamboo is spreading; that's a good thing for this year. The next few years, I anticipate overgrowth. Tonight, sitting outside with a cat in my lap and a glass of wine in hand, I heard a frog, no doubt waiting for me to leave his 'hood, and also a female cardinal up in the tree above. What was she saying, I wonder?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Hundred

Today I had the pleasure of visiting with a lady who very recently celebrated her 100th birthday. We were not previously acquainted, but that did not keep us from having a delightful visit. I can see already that if I am blessed to make it to my 100th year, I will not be quite as lucid as this woman was. What a fun time I had visiting with her!

We exchanged brief histories (well, mine was...hers was, um, twice as long...). She told about growing up in Kansas. About marrying and having children during the Dust Bowl. She asked me if I was familiar with the Dust Bowl? She told me how once she put her baby son in her big bed during a dust storm, and covered him. The she and her husband covered the door and windows of their farmhouse with sheets and blankets. Still, the dust, which was as fine as ash, she said, came through and into the house. Later she picked up her baby son off the bed, and she described that on the sheet there was an outline of her baby in the dust that had gotten through. She described how they were very poor; one night for dinner she prepared potato salad - that was it. She put the potato salad into a cupboard to keep it from the dust storm. Her husband came in late from his farm chores, and by that time, the potato salad was covered in dust, and they could not eat it.

Her husband finally decided to head west with the family. He had heard there were jobs to be had. In California! So they headed west, to Pasadena, CA. This is where the story took an interesting turn for me - MY uncles from Oklahoma left their homes and headed out to Pasadena during this time in history, too! I guess John Steinbeck knew of which he wrote.

From there, her story became much happier: they saved money while living in Pasadena, and bought a farm in Washington State, where they were very happy. I can see why. I told her our son lives in Washington - her face lit up!

Here are some photos from Kansas, circa 1911:

The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe
Oil Gusher

Albin K. Longren taking his first flight, September 2, 1911. The plane was powered with an eight-cylinder, water-cooled, 60-horsepower motor. He built and flew the airplane without any prior experience.

A.A. Hyde, inventor of Mentholatum.
1918 influenza victims crowd
into an emergency hospital near Fort Riley.
The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed at least
20 million people worldwide.

Tonight that Spouse o' Mine mentioned that we might be able to catch a glimpse of the Space Station tonight. My, how things have changed...

It's a new world, Golda.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Odds. No Ends.

For the past seven or more days, I was under the impression that I had suffered a cello injury. Yes, that's right: I had bowing pain in my shoulder. It's the same pain as that which I suffered years ago when I slipped off the rock climbing wall and tried to catch myself by one arm (yes: my bowing arm), thereby wrenching any shred of ligament in my already midlife shoulder. THAT shoulder injury took months to heal. And it occasionally still rears its ugly head. Like last week.

Tonight I was out playing Throw the Object for the Bloodhound. And I got it sorted out: this is not some random cello injury. (No wonder that Spouse o' Mine looked askance last night when I told him I thought it was cello-related...) This is a pitching injury! I should be icing my shoulder like the best of them: Nolan Ryan, Dizzy Dean, Rollie Fingers, Lefty Grove...

Last week I witnessed ants, building high dikes around their ant hole/ant hills. And today's Bible verse: In Proverbs 6:6-8 (KJV, because that's the way I like it), King Solomon the Wise said,

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."

I think I like KJV because it uses fun words like sluggard.

And I have been a bit of a sluggard. There seems to be an inordinate amount of mud and cat fur in This Old House. In my defense, the weather has been such that That Spouse o' Mine and I have been spending most of our time outdoors whenever possible. With bikes. With mud. And animals.

And I have been antsy about getting some sort of garden started so that I will indeed have a harvest to gather in the later months. That Spouse o' Mine cautioned me this morning not to set my already-huge tomato plants out today...a possible frost warning is out.

That doesn't bode well for the four banana trees I put out this weekend. But I have to admit, having that extra 1/3 of our mudroom back is a delight of sorts. I have a window to look through once again, as opposed to a host of banana leaves.

We have a chicken in the oven, along with rice and other nice things, and now I am going to grab my gardening basket and head out to my garden to pick "a mess o' greens" for dinner.

Collard greens, ya know.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.
~Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe

Indeed, our rural Kansas world looks like Emerald City - the wheat fields and the trees are as green as green can be. Dappled into that are the white and purple lilacs (I heard someone here say "Li-lahks" yesterday; that's the difference between Kansas and Oklahoma.)

Since April is indeed showing the green light and I am thinking "GO!!", I put out four of my banana trees today. Boy, I sure hope we don't get a freeze (or blizzard) in the next month.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I have spoken to three kids, two parents,
and one spouse(traveling) over the course of this day.

I can safely say that I will sleep well tonight.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Papilio Multicaudata

This evening I spotted our first two Swallowtail butterflies of the season. Well, the first two Two-tailed Swallowtail Butterflies, that is. Yesterday I spotted an Eastern Black Swallowtail flitting about. This evening I went back in the house to fetch my camera, and the phone was ringing.

In that it is berry season on the West Coast, and my business is seasonal and relies heavily on the next three months of business, I felt obligated to answer the phone. Even though it was 5:35 pm. (Yesterday I answered the phone at 5:56 pm, and the Washingtonian orchard grower on the other end KIDDED me about working after hours. He knew it was close to 6:00 pm when he called!!) The phone call today was spent discussing the pros and cons of using hand-held testing instruments to test the firmness of strawberries, at-harvest and post-harvest, the results of which would be combined with tests for nutrition (plant, not human) and blah-de-blah-de-blah. During the 8-minute conversation I paced while looking for that camera. Found said camera, finished the strawberry conversation with a sale, and headed back outdoors somewhat sadly, thinking I had missed the butterlies on the lilacs.

But lo and behold!
Papilio multicaudata

It was something, trying to get a photo of this flitting object in the 10-mph wind. It would flit, the branch would sway, and sway again, the butterfly would adjust and accommodate for the wind... how do they survive?

I was hoping to get a photo of both butterflies, but I think they must be territorial, because the two of them seemed to refuse to stay in the same side of the yard with the other.

The day before yesterday I was out doing a 4.5-mile run/walk (as opposed to a walk/run: more walk than run), and I noticed that the ant hills along the road had been built up quite a bit. Somewhere in my childhood scouting days or other, I was taught that this signaled rain a'comin'. Sure enough, there is rain forecast for tomorrow. The ranchers are all out burning their pastures and tall grass, the farmers are all planting/fertilizing/whatever. And the ants are busy building.

This made me wonder: what do butterflies do in the rain? Do they go in the barn? That would be a fun sight: hundreds of swallowtails in our barn. I will have to research that. Or one of my occasional readers can fill me in...

Speaking of what do critters do...
Yesterday I dug up a wisteria. When I finally pulled all the roots out, here is what was left:

Dazed and confused
I am not sure if I hauled him, prematurely, out of hibernation, or what. I hope he will be OK. I love our toads. Anything that eats bugs is OK in my book.

Back to the Latin for butterfly: papilio

The Papillon is a toy Spaniel
whose name is a derivative
of its characteristic butterfly-like look
of the long and fringed hair on the ears.
Just FYI.
On another canine note,
someone has a bloodhound
who spends time and energy chasing butterflies...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The bees have moved from the back yard willows
to our front yard bloomers.

I walked outside this morning to the beginning of our tulip time!
I just liked the composition of this photo...
More bees...

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Picture...

...speaks a thousand words...

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I had a flashback from childhood this afternoon. It might be considered post-traumatic.

When I was either in my preschool or early elementary years, my family went to some amusement park or other. It might have been Six Flags, it might have been Disneyland. There was no Disney World, so we can mark that one off the list of possibilities. We went on a river ride, I recall. It started out serenely enough. Around this bend, around that meander, slowly, calmly, row, rowing the boat.

But suddenly, there were people to be seen along the river banks. Pirates! Pirates!! PIRATES!!!
(My mother once mentioned that I had an overactive imagination as a child...)

And then the cannons on the banks of the river began taking aim. Firing cannonballs at us! Into the river they splashed!

I was an innocent child! Why were the pirates yelling at us and shooting cannons at our boat?

And then the crocodiles in the river began opening their mouths as wide as they could, to eat me up!!

And why was everyone else on our boat so calm, I wondered as I shrieked and cried for mercy from the pirates. (I think my mother used the term hysterical when we once reminisced over this experience...)

I don't think I was an overly fearful young child, but the pirate/cannonball/croc combo certainly did lay the groundwork for some unabiding fears in my wee head...

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Furlough?

There's a federal employee in the house, and he's none too pleased about the looming aspect of a furlough come next week. While a few days off may sound inviting, a few days off with no pay - there's a bad taste to that. In 1994, the "furloughs" lasted something like 21 days.

Wowee. We could do a lot with 21 days off. Bicycle Europe! Take an extended cruise! Go visit the inlaws Down Under! Clean This Old House! Or...sit at home and pinch our pennies and make them last!!

As it is... we will sit tight and watch those nitwits in D.C...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Trans World Air Life

Today I was asked about an earlier chapter in my adult life:
TWA Flight Attendant.

It's been a few years, twenty, to be exact, since I stepped into my inflights and began a preflight for a "trip" bound for parts east: Europe or the Middle East. ("Trip" is in quotations, because any 80s flight crew member can tell you, that word was used in place of "flight", if ever the event that the cabin crew had to notify the cockpit crew that a hijacking was taking place: "Captain, can you give me an estimate of the remainder of our trip?")

I was based JFK Int'l. I flew flights to anywhere in TWA's Europe and the Middle East. Sometimes people ask:
Would you do it in this day and age? Yes.
Why would anyone want to have a "glorified waitress job"? Because I got to spend major amounts of time in Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Zurich, Lisbon, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Athens...

Oh, I would do it again!

Today I was asked if I was a flight attendant during the time of the Aloha Airlines Flight 243 fuselage tear. (A flight attendant was blown out of the plane.)

Yes, I was a flight attendant back then, and, no, even though it was a horrific scenario, I felt like it was as uncommon as being sucked up into a tornado. But after that question, I began reminiscing. Here are some bits of my look back into my high-flying experiences. (Note: I may have deleted a few of my fun fun experiences... it might have something to do with airline security and a hazy line over...hmmm...breaking a rule or two? If anyone is DYING to know, you can ask me personally.)

My answers to the email query:

Yes, I was a flight attendant during the time of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am 103, the Achille Lauro highjacking, the TWA 847 highjacking, (I worked a few flights w/ Uli Dereckson, sort of a "hero" F/A from that flight, on subsequent flights.)

I have experienced missed approaches, emergency descents, one emergency landing. The missed approaches bothered me the most, because if one is expecting to land in a matter of 60 seconds, but suddenly the nose of the plane goes up...Well! It's not a good feeling.

I instigated the Spanish police being called on board for one passenger in Barcelona.

I escorted a kidnapped 5 yr. old from Athens, Greece, on her way back home to Houston.

I had the President of Iceland, David Letterman, Dana Carvey, Joe Cocker, James Brown, Al Jarreau, the rap singer w/ the big clock, Bing Crosby's daughter on some of my flights.

I once carried a disarmed grenade through Phoenix security at the request of the FAA.

I once broke all the glass panes of a rotating door at JFK Int'l.

I have sat in the engine of a 747.

I have played on the elevators of the L1011 inflight.

I have done the merengue down the aisles of a 747. With other F/As and passengers.

I once flew from the former Yugoslavia to JFK with a crack in my window. The flight crew would not let me change seats. So I buckled in as tightly as I possibly could.

I once was sitting in the loo during takeoff. That was creepy.

I went through Checkpoint Charlie (East Germany) just a couple of weeks before they tore the wall down in Berlin.

I am sure I have more recollections.
I haven't thought about that chapter of my life in quite some time...

Monday, April 04, 2011

Silence is Golden

Early this evening, (or very late this afternoon),
I turned off every appliance and the BBC radio noise.
All I heard were the noises from outdoors -
mostly the wind.
Some animal makings -
hunger (the "whoof" of the ponies),
or curiosity (the bay of the bloodhound),
boredom (the quacking ducks).
I heard birds -
lots of birds up in the spring-budding trees.

I liked the quiet.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

April's Here...

This afternoon the temperature climbed to 92º.
I caved and turned on our air conditioner.
And then an hour later, it began hailing.

The roller coaster of springtime in Kansas has begun.
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