Friday, August 30, 2013

Cape Cod!

At some point in all the miles and hours of driving...a few starts and stops, (i.e., gwtting lost), I made it to Cape Cod, only one hour or so before that Spouse o' Mine arrived from the Boston airport/shuttle bus to Sandwich, Mass.  I had already taken a hotel room, and daughter Gillian met us there.  Off we went for seafood dinner on the shore, and then we two collapsed in our hotel room.

The next day, we did this:
Gillian's back yard...
 ...complete with swans!!
 Walking to Woods Hole
 I want this boat.  It is calling my name.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bloomsburg, Zanesville, and...

Bloomsburg, PA.  I checked in here the next night.  What a great town!  It's situated in a beautiful area of hilly, treeful Pennsylvania.  Once I checked into my hotel for the night, I jumped back into the car to peruse my surroundings.  I headed over to the Bloomsburg University campus to have a look-see...

The main drags of the campus area were terrific!  All the shops and restaurants were open, and students were all over the place.  (The first weekend of school, after all.)  And...the students were sober!  I mentioned this to daughter Gillian.  I said that perhaps it was a Christian University?  She answered that 7:00 pm was a bit early for the college crowd to be hanging from the rafters.    Nevertheless, I loved that in addition to all the students hanging about, there were lots of family-type folk, complete with strollers and toddlers in tow.  A good community, in my opinion!

The next morning, I once again aimed my car east, into the sunrise.  At some point I arrived at Zanesville, Ohio.  What a quaint   town! It’s an old town, and I saw lots and lots of old churches.  Beautiful old churches!  I am going to research just how many old (and big) churches this little town has.

As I was making my drive through this old town,  I very suddenly found myself in a pickle:  I dislike driving across long bridges.  Reoccurring dreams about the apex of a bridge, (or a Ferris wheel, in the variation on a dreamful theme),  make me unsettled, both in sleep and in consciousness.
So here I found myself, driving across not any bridge, but A BIG SUSPENSION  BRIDGE.  

In real life. 

Omigoodness.  I had no choice but to take it, not unlike climbing up the ladder to the high dive with eight other kids waiting in line.  There were cars behind me.  I had to go.  Somewhere in the middle of the bridge I broke out into song, “Jesus calls us o’er the tumult of our life’s wild restless sea…”  and slowly moved my car across the bridge.  Once over, I had my look-see of the town, albeit a bit on edge.  On the return trip over the bridge was equally as awful: I read a sign that stated:”Maintain 50 feet between vehicles.”  And I must have been the only one who read the sign!!  There were cars following right behind me!!    Am I the only one around here who follows the rules?!

From Zanesville, I continued on...east, and east, and east... eager to get to the coast, to meet up with Gillian and that Spouse o' Mine...

What I Did:Heading East:

I left rural Kansas last Thursday, heading east in the late morning.  Soon I found  myself navigating Kansas City, and then St. Louis.  There's not much to behold (in my opinion) in this area of my trans-con tour bound for New England.  However, I had hoped to hit the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) on my way east, but time-wise, it did not work.  (Rush-hour...spend a while in the museum, and then?  I wanted to be beyond East St. Louis before sundown.  (Sorry, good folks who live there.)

I stopped somewhere around Effingham that night.  The next morning I hopped into the car and headed to Terre Haute, IN.  I had a plan.  I wanted to stop at the Swope Art Museum.  It was a good mid-morning break.  Some people walk into a McDonald's, and some of us opt for the nearest museum.  I've said that before.  I perused the collections at the museum, stopped for a cup of coffee at the corner shop, chatted with a homeless fellow, and then I was on my way again...points east!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New England Adventure

I began my New England adventure three mornings ago.  I love traveling adventures.  Sometimes I wonder if I should invite a friend to travel along with me on one of my little jaunts, but then I self-admonish that most people wouldn’t have the patience to travel with me.
Case in point:  I do not use a GPS.  And I don’t generally use a map.  My theory is that there are signs along the highway that will point me in the right direction.  And I am generally correct.  (We taxpayers paid for them, right?)  Today, though, Day Three into my adventure, I drove a few hours and suddenly I saw a sign along the highway that mentioned that I was in West Virginia. 
How in the world did I end up in West Virginia?!  I am visiting daughter Gillian on Cape Cod, NOT daughter Claire in Richmond.  Omigoodness me.
I stopped and bought a map. 
But the highway sign was accurate.  I sure did not recall West Virginia reaching this far north into the United States of America.  Heck, these West Virginians don’t even sound like the real West Virginians.
More to come…

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


College Boy Graham is home for the summer, doing a computer science internship for an engineering firm in town.  This evening's Mother-Son conversation went through the "How was your day/Fine/What did you do in the Computer World/...he proceeded to tell me in a condensed version to be understood by a Luddite mother.

And then I announced, "Graham, I am leaving tomorrow."   "O...kay??" he answered, his eyebrows raised.  He had no idea what I was talking about.

"I am going to Cape Cod."

"You are?!"

"I will see you in two weeks."

Communication at its finest. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summertime Ennui

It's here: Summertime Ennui. 

That's my name for how I feel towards the late (and hot) summer.  I am so done with heat and hats and sunscreen and sweat and summer clothes and all things tropical.

Done, I say!

I wish to be fully-clothed.  Long sleeves are a good thing.  Piquant hats.  And scarves! 

I like snow and sleet and rain and clouds.

Winter boots, sweaters, rosy cheeks (not sunburned!), a stew on the stove, cinnamon rolls in the oven, wafting scents though the house...

As it is, I am either homebound in the air conditioning, or outside listening to the deafening cicadas and sweating and squinting through the bright summer sunlight.  I am wandering out every-so-often to water whatever garden needs tending.  The animals are lethargic.

I am lethargic.  I think that is both symptom, and problem.  I want to be able to do things outdoors - ride a bike, walk a dog or two, run down the road, garden in the yard - all during which I would like to do without that trickle of sweat running down my back.  (When that happens, I about-face and walk indoors.  Immediately.)

In two days, I commence a cross-country drive to Cape Cod, by my lonesome. I am looking forward to this trip.  Time was an element for that Spouse o' Mine, and so he will fly to Boston over the weekend, and somewhere, sometime, we two shall rendezvous.  And we will spend several days getting to know Cape Cod with daughter Gillian, who lives there.  There is a bit of business involved in this trip...suffice to say, it involves visiting cranberry bogs. 

I have never visited a cranberry bog, so I am excited!  I hope I get to take photos.  Some fruit and quality control folk frown on that, for competition purposes. 

But the best part of this trip is...New England...cranberry bogs at harvest...SURELY it will be cool?

Summertime Ennui: the cure surely must be New England and seafood and bogs and salt and sand...

and a daughter!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Sunday Song

This is one of my Mom's favorites:

His Eye is on the Sparrow

And I love it, too.

Matthew 6:26
King James Version (KJV)
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Matthew 10:29-31
King James Version (KJV)
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I lived in Cairo once.  For a year.  It was our newlywed year, for that Spouse o' Mine and me.  I look back at it as a good newlywed year.  Granted, it was fraught with Egyptian trials and tribulations.  But what a growth year.  Neither of us could, on any regular basis, fall back on our parents or siblings for marital assistance: we were truly on our own.  This was, you know, before email and cell phones.  I got to call my Mom & Dad once each month.  Sometimes I wonder if this was the foundation for our 28+ years of wedded strength.  We immediately learned to cling to each other for strength and happiness.

But now, fast-forward to this month's civil unrest in Cairo.  We listen to the news, to the reports of hundreds of deaths.  The unrest is staged in the places where we lived and visited and enjoyed.  The squares, the suburbs, the outskirts - we are familiar with it all.  We know people who live there.  I listen to BBC and hear about neighborhoods where I once shopped for fabric, for produce...the library that I adopted as my own personal "place of sanity".  And the place where I went each morning to ride horses.  I think of our Coptic Christian exchanges...they are in danger.  So sad.

It's all in incomprehensible unrest.  I am so sad that Egypt is so volatile.  I think that maybe we discerned this volatility way back when.

But we still look at the reports and shudder.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Afternoon Musings

Here it is: Friday already!  Did I accomplish anything this week?

1) I partook in a second week of Line Dancing.  I have discerned that Line Dancing is not my cup of tea.  I don't like country music (who knew line dancing was synonymous with country music?!  Apparently everyone but me.)  If the dancing was set to music and at a normal tempo, then I was good to go.  Otherwise, my mind began to wander, and I was found Grapevining to the left when I should have been Rocking Forward and Back.  Was I this unfocused as a child?  (I even got sent into the middle of the dancers, because our teacher thought I was relying on watching everyone's movements.)

2) I planted and transplanted a whole lot of plants outdoors.  Late Spring, I was gearing up for Drought Season #3, which, blessedly, did not happen.  But the plants I thoughtfully placed in semi-shade, thinking that otherwise they'd burn to a crisp, are now seen to be leaning ever-so-earnestly out towards any sunlight they can find.  Years ago, that Spouse o' Mine commented (in a not-so-patient manner, I might add), that "...plants aren't furniture, you know..."  But I continue my plant and transplant ways to this day.

3) I got out my old family lineage book, The Van Valkenburg Family in America, and sent three kids, a son-in-law, and many nieces and nephews an email detailing their past 12 generations from Valkenburg and New Amsterdam, to Pryor Creek, Oklahoma.  

4) That Spouse o' Mine and I discussed the geneology this evening.  I think it would be so interesting to be able to visit with ol' Lambert and his Dutch kith & kin.  What must it have been like to set sail in 1642?  I think they might have been short folk.  That Spouse o' Mine kind of poo-pooed that notion.  How long did it take them?  What did they bring with them?  This is immensely interesting to me, because I married into a family who put up their South Dakota farm and ranch in the 70s, and set sail (yes - with farm implements and china and all sorts of interesting items on the boat) for Australia.  The boat they took, which sailed for three weeks, was one of the British warships which sailed in the Falkland Islands:  The SS Canberra:
I think I am accurate in saying that the SS Canberra was hauled into Pakistan (or somewhere...) this past year and taken apart.  It seems like there were some articles written regarding the use of extremely poor laborers from some country, who would dismantle ships like the Canberra, and how the poor laborers worked with toxic chemicals, etc.  It is not a happy story.

5) That Spouse o' Mine and I were planning two back-to-back trips the next two weeks, to Colorado, and to Cape Cod.  Well, push came to shove, and at the 11th hour, we opted to postpone Colorado for next month.  The logistics were unpleasant, trying to coordinate business and pleasure.  So, pleasure takes a back seat to business in August.  That's OK.  The biz seems to be paying the bills.

6)  Here's a fun #6:  College Boy Graham and an hours-old duckling:

 And finally,
7) A quote from a neurology study I was reading:
"... For example, studies have found that mice fed (-) epicatechin had better spatial memory and formed more new blood vessels than mice that weren't given the compound. And research in snails has found the slimy crawlers were able to remember a trained task for at least a day when given the flavanol, compared to less than three hours without it..."

This totally begs the question:
Snail training?!!

So now,
Off to the weekend!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is it Christmas?

A few weeks ago ("few" being the operative word: few=three?), I borrowed an incubator from a couple at First Lutheran.  In view of all the barnyard shenanigans going on between the ducks and the drakes, I thought we might be able to bring forth some Indian Runner ducklings from egghood to hatch-hood.  

I drove over to our friends' home, also out in rural Kansas, but still "a piece" from our place.  (I love country lingo;  I try to use it periodically; it's like being bi-lingual.)

Just as I was backing out of their drive, the Huz slipped two eggs into my hand.  Chicken eggs.  I said, "I don't want chickens."  Wife replied, "Give the chicks back to us."

And so, I left.

Duck eggs are sat upon, or incubated, for 28 days.  That was my mindset, four weeks and a Wedding Weekend trip to Colorado ago.  (Neighbor Melissa turned the eggs 2x daily in our absence; that must mean she is owed a ducking or two?)  Last weekend, Day 21, that Spouse o' Mine jumped out of bed on Saturday morning (Always hops out early on Pancake Ride day...rarely on weekday workweek day.) and went in to start the coffee. But soon thereafter he was leaning over my slumbering ear: "Trish?"
"There's a duck in the incubator."
"No, there's not."
"Yes, there is."
"Chickkkkk.  Chicken.  It's  a chicken.  Chick."
"It looks like a duck."
"It's not."

And just about then, my synapses snapped. My eyes wide open, I bolted out of bed and into the mudroom.  A chick!  Life from the incubator!  A chick!  This must be how Frankenstein might have felt. chick was just a product of very old animal husbandry technology:  keep a chicken egg warm for 21 days @ 100ยบ and LO!  you get a fluffy yellow chick.
 I love animal husbandry.

But here we are now, in Week #4, Day 26.  Ducklings pip (hatch) at Day 28.  This morning I went into the mudroom to perform the perfunctory "turning of the eggs" which we must do twice daily - morning and evening. 

But wait: I heard a squeak. 

Oh, no.  A mouse?  A MOUSE?!  HOW CAN THAT BE?  I listened for the direction of the squeak.  It came from close to the incubator.  Even as I made movement and noise toward the incubator, the squeaking continued.  It almost sounded like a ...

Peep, peep, peep.
Peep, peep.
Peep. peep, peep.

Ducklings!!!  We gots us some Indian Runner ducklings!

But...I only saw tiny chips in the eggshells.  No ducklings.

Apparently, from what I read, pipping (hatching) can take up to 2 days.  Well, be that as it may, I can hear some pretty vocal ducklings in that incubator in our mudroom.  (I hope geriatric calico Puzzle cannot discern the noise...)  I am guessing that tomorrow morning, we might be greeted with some astonishingly cute waddles of downy fluff.  

It's like Christmas Eve... 

Friday, August 09, 2013


It happens every year.  That time in August, when nature is possibly telling wildlife to take care for wintering...

I get a hankering for several household tasks this time of year:

Clean out the household.

Repair and situate the household.

Stock the household.

A) Clean out the household...this means go to the basement, to all the closets, to the art room, to the bike barn, to the brickhouse, and to the barn.  GLEAN, GLEAN, GLEAN.  (Sorry, kids whose lives are hundreds and hundreds of miles away;  I've saved the family silver...) 

B) Repair and situate the household...Hmmm... the cellar door, the few missing storm windows (dang, this "Summer of Painting"!!)

C) Food stores in the basement.  I am to collect a butchered lamb on Monday for our freezer.    I have an order out for a side of pork (having never done this before, I anticipate pork loin, chops, sausage and bacon?)  And I have many tomatoes for canning and freezing.  And a cellar pantry which, in the last few months has been dwindling, as per the season.  Now, in August, I can replenish the goods down there, and life this winter will be good.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Naked Ladies and Miscellany

When I was a kid, I liked to catch creatures of the wild and play with them, learn about them, try to "keep" them.  There was a lot of "catch & release" of frogs, crawdads, little snakes, turtles, and such.  I used to collect frog eggs and keep them in jars of pond water until the day that they hatched into tadpoles, and then began growing their tiny feet, which turned into legs, then arms sprouted in odd ways, and finally, their tails began shrinking, miraculously, into nothingness.  And then they were "FROGS".  And at that point, they usually hopped out of their enclosure and moved on with their lives.

Crawdads were not nice to play with, but it was a sport to catch them.  Interestingly, females often harbored their teeny-tiny baby 'dads under their tails.  Turtles were fun to discover and bring home.  Sometimes I would paint my initials on their backs, so as to mark in neighborhood history that I had found THAT turtle.  One afternoon I was playing with a turtle, and it stretched its head and neck way out of the shell, and bit the corner of my sweatshirt.  And it hung there.  My Dad was standing nearby with a neighbor man, Mr. Beck (Sam Beck, not Gene Beck, who was away in Vietnam at that time).  Mr. Beck saw the turtle and said matter-of-factly, "Well, you know, he will hang on until the next time it lightnings." 

I was in fearful awe.  How long would I have to go around with a turtle dangling from my sweatshirt?  (I was such a gullible child.  Once Sandra McCall rode her bicycle past my house, and called out that a tornado was seen in Japan and was on its way toward us.  I ran in with the news.  My parents were dumbfounded, and not at the impending doom.)  Back to the turtle: My father sauntered over and wrenched the turtle off my sweatshirt, and all was well in my world.

I remember playing with a frog out in my front yard one afternoon, hopping when he hopped, following him around in the grass.  I remember looking up and seeing Gene Beck in his Marine uniform, watching me from his parents' driveway.  He was home on leave from Vietnam.  He once told me, years later, that his first trip home was over the 4th of July, and we kids spent the day popping firecrackers, while he hid cowering in his bedroom, because he could not handle the noise that sounded like gunfire.

How was a little girl who played with frogs to understand what Vietnam was?

That Spouse o' Mine came home this afternoon and I went out to talk to him.  In mid-sentence, I said, "Well, lookie there!  Naked Ladies!"  He did look, but he already knew what I was talking about:

We did not plant these lilies, but there they are! 

A few days ago I mentioned a vibrant elderly woman in our past who drank buttermilk.  Mrs. Robinson had lots of Naked Ladies growing in her yard, and every year she would titter that her "Naked Ladies had come back this year!"

She was a fun woman.  She picked poke weed from her property to eat (like collard greens, I think.)  Some people think poke weed is toxic.  It never seemed to bother Mrs. Robinson.  She was not allergic to poison ivy, and would walk through her pecan grove pulling the vine from her trees.  She also had a chokeberry tree which bore fruit every year.  She hated the tree, but she used the berries.  Nowdays, if one reads about chokeberries and poke weed, he can learn about their dietary benefits.  (I suppose this assumes one knows the difference in toxic plants and berries found on one's acreage...)

Mrs. Robinson ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast.  As she got older, there were times when she forgot to turn off the stove and wandered outdoors to start her day, sans oatmeal.  We Armstrongs rented a pasture from her for the kids' horses and ponies, and we were over at her house every morning and every evening for horse graining, haying, and watering.  There were a few instances of turning "the fire" off for her, and her exclaiming about her burned oatmeal.  Mrs. Robinson was a treasure in our lives, and especially in our kids' days.  She was a blessing for us all to know.

Back to frogs:  A couple of days ago I drove into town for lunch with the ladies, and upon returning to my car, I spied a vibrant green tiny frog sitting on my car.  Quandary.  I was set to drive ~ 14 miles back home, and what would happen to Mr. Frog?  I had a to-go cup of coffee, and I poured it out, placed the frog into my to-go cup, and off we went, back home, and to the Grotto.  I released him near our grotto pond and wished him well.

This morning I was picking up the living room, and sweeping the hardwood floors.  There was a leaf  on the floor right by me.  And then it jumped.  And I jumped higher.

It was a tiny frog.      

Consternation on my part.

I took a cup and covered him, and placed a paper underneath him, and transported him out to the grotto pond.  

So...I think I must have at leeast three grotto frogs hanging around the pond.

Unless Martin the Kitten, who sees all things moving, has interceded.

And that's a whole 'nother chapter...

Lastly (this is really a disconjointed blog entry...), the College Boy Graham has been working here in Kansas this summer, for an engineering firm.  (He is a computer science major at Western Washington Uni, in Bellingham.)   Graham gets up in the morning and heads to work, most mornings.  Some mornings he takes a quick run (3 miles) and then showers and heads to work.  Nearly every evening, Graham arrives home from a day on computers, and stretches, and heads out for a 10-mile run.

Yowzah.  So...there are some of us who relish in the daily 2.5-mile experience, and then there is my baby boy.

Yup.  Love that kid.   

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Life Experiences

I think I have written about this before, but I am not above repeating myself.

A handful of years ago, I got a new car.  I was pleased with my purchase - the first car that I picked out and purchased all by myself.  (And it turned out to be a dandy car, up until the 4th of July of this year.)  I remember that I bought the car, a Volvo station wagon, on a Thursday.  We took it to church on that Sunday, and I parked on the street, under a tree.  I recall that it was a windy day.

We got out of church to find that a tree limb had fallen.  On my new car.  Pooh!  I looked at the dent/scratch on the roof of the car, and looked at that Spouse o' Mine and said, "Oh, well, now we don't have to worry."  The first dent/scratch was done, and then we could breathe a little easier.

This morning I drove my new car, also a Volvo station wagon, to church.  That Spouse o' Mine had gone in earlier, so it was just me in the car.  As I pulled up to the church, I remembered that windy day from years ago.  Since I was not early, (heh heh...), I parked behind a line of cars in the street.  After church we had patio fellowship, (read: Lutherans=coffee).  By the time patio fellowship was cleaned up, there were few people left at church.  I walked out to the street and my car was the sole car, parked half-way down the block.

But wait.  Right under the tree that dropped its limb on my new car years ago.  ANOTHER LIMB!!!  The very morning I drove my new car to church!!!  

I am happy I now know not to park under trees in windy Kansas.  I also think being "not early" to church may have played a part in the fact that my new car still looks pretty darn good after 2 weeks' ownership.

May the good fortune continue...

Friday, August 02, 2013

Churn Dash

This quilt block is called Churn Dash:

And this is a Churn Dash quilt.  I like the dark background - it is remindful of traditional Amish quilt colors and design:

This morning I made a buttermilk-mango smoothie (because we were out of yogurt, which is my normal addition to mangoes and blender in my summer mornings.)  After I drank it, I Googled "drinking buttermilk" to make sure it was a good thing to do, and not something that would see me visiting the loo every two minutes later this afternoon.  Here's the skinny on the buttermilk:

 Is it safe to drink buttermilk? 

I thought it was.  I recall a really elderly friend, Mrs. Robinson, drinking buttermilk, and she was a pretty vibrant person clear into her late 90s.

I observed what I thought was an anomaly of nature this morning.  But I must have been mistaken.  I have been under the impression that rainbows in the sky always have the ROY G BIV colors in a particular order.  That is to say, if there are two rainbows in the sky, and violet is on the west end (or right) on one rainbow, then violet will be on the west end of the other rainbow as well.  This morning, I saw a rainbow with violet on the north end (or right), and up above it, another rounder rainbow formed, but its violet was to the south (or left.)  And that rainbow very nearly made a circle of its own.  This was before my buttermilk, so I know it was not a dairy-induced hallucination.

Here are some clouds I was watching as the sun peeked out this morning. 
I'm thinking: Long Island:
 In the woods after the pre-dawn rain:

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Wedding Obstacles

I wrote briefly about my niece's wedding this weekend on Boreas Pass.  It was so pretty.  After the ceremony, we all caravanned back to the house for reception and bluegrass.

And before the wedding...what's a family wedding in the mountains without an obstacle course?

Daughter Gillian during her running/climbing leg... 

Cousin Sean and daughter Claire...

College Boy Graham...
 ...Frisbee/mountain bike sequence...
 Uncle Mike and Cousin Sean...across the bridge and up the mountain...

Father of the Bride, the Groom, and the Bride...

Bride and Groom...


The beautiful Bride...only a couple of hours...
To this:
So precious.

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