An Evening Of Song, A Bottle Of Wine and A Wombat

While on our way to the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, Gramps and I stopped to visit cousins in Dubuque, Iowa.  It’s a wonderful town on the Mississippi River, bordering Wisconsin and Illinois.  The weather was perfect and one evening we took snacks and a bottle of wine to a music concert at the arboretum.

The evening was cool (in July!), the grass was covered with blankets and lawn chairs and the air was filled with the singing voices of young people from all over Wisconsin.  We sipped our favorite wine from handmade glasses and shared a wonderful occasion with some of our favorite relatives.  The whole time we were surrounded by flowers, trees and bushes of magnificent beauty.  Could we have had a more perfect time?

Oh, and in the midst of this idyllic scene I saw a young woman carrying a small furry animal.  It wasn’t a cat or a dog.  It was . . . well, it was a wombat.  That’s right , a wombat.  A baby wombat in the arboretum in Dubuque, Iowa!

It was all snuggled up in a blanket and seemed as mesmerized by the stunning singing voices as we were.  But really, a wild animal in a crowded group of people just didn’t seem normal to me.  No one else seemed bothered, just me.

At the end of the program, we all showed our immense appreciation, finished off the last of the wine, gathered our belongings and headed home.  What a splendid evening we all had.

I think the wombat had a good time too!

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It’s Not All About The Fireworks

fireworks2July 4th was a special day for Gramps and me. We took the boat out on the lake to watch the fireworks put on by the local city. Sounds like a simple event, doesn’t it? Go see a bunch of big booms and then go home. But the way Gramps and I do it, it takes almost all day and becomes a grand affair.

First there was the beautiful boat ride across the lake to get to the prearranged spot. The sky had clouded over, which dropped the temperature pleasantly. We passed by the dam and saw many

birds and ducks on our way.

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IMG_0003We got to a perfect spot off shore with plenty of time to spare. After anchoring in place, Gramps put his fishing rods in the water. “Can’t catch anything if you don’t have a line in the water,” he always says.

Dozens of boats joined us in the cove. Some were playing music, some people were dancing, some swimming. Lots of children were laughing and beaming in anticipation. What a wonderful community we became.

While we watched a magnificent sunset, we enjoyed our picnic dinner of bratwurst, bean salad and hard boiled eggs. How peaceful! How serene!

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When the sun finally set, we were all ready for the fireworks show. It was brilliant and exciting and very colorful. Oohs and aahs followed each explosion. Applause was heard from all directions. Children and adults alike had a great American moment watching the fireworks.

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As the fireworks finale came to a close, we all lingered on the water. It seemed our new little community wanted to savor the day and evening. No one wanted it to end.

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Finally Gramps and I slowly motored back across the lake by the light of a half moon. Talk about romantic!

We had such a grand day filled with calm, excitement, quiet, big bangs, good food, fellowship and shared moments. And the fireworks were actually only one part of the day.

A Heavenly Retreat

I just returned from heaven! Well, not exactly. It was actually a quilt retreat, but it sure felt like heaven.

Twenty women gathered for four days to sew, talk, laugh, share and produce quilts. Does it get any better than that? I think not!

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This is what heaven surely looks like. Maybe not quite so cluttered, but certainly as colorful, as friendly, as relaxed, as exciting and as inspiring. I can hardly think of a place I’d rather be than in a room like this, filled with people like these.

IMG_0856Quilters generally are the most friendly, giving people. They will share whatever they have, whether it be knowledge, experience, fabric, notions, space, tips. Whatever you need, if they have it, it’s yours.

And creativity? Oh my goodness! A quilt retreat is a wondrous overdose of creative thought, expression and production. Just look at these examples from the design walls.

IMG_0835Aren’t the colors in this quilt spectacular?

IMG_0837Already getting the Christmas spirit. What a cutie!

IMG_0838This quilt still has borders to be put on, but it is coming along nicely.

IMG_0840A modern version of Log Cabin.

IMG_0842What a beautiful blending of shades and colors.

IMG_0844A close up view of previous quilt to show the details of the blending. Isn’t it magnificent?

IMG_0845Isn’t it amazing how this quilt appears to curve?

IMG_0846How to make a curve in a quilt with straight lines.

IMG_0847Doesn’t this look like a garden of flowers?

IMG_0852A most superb star! With the sharpest points!

IMG_0853The center of the star. Amazing!

IMG_0857This quilt tells it’s own story of living in New York, Central Park, bicycle paths, a building called The Lyric, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty and . . . . .

IMG_0859of course, quilting.

So I’m back from heaven with quilts done, quilts started, quilts worked on, quilts planned. I laughed harder than I’d laughed in a long while, ate more than I should have, slept less than normal, sewed til it hurt and had the most wonderful, most productive, most exhausting time. I wish I was back there now.

The Joy Of A Good Brrr!

Here we are in Texas having one of the colder winters in memory. Trying to stay warm has become a full-time job for most of us, Gramps and Granny included. There is whining and sniveling going on in all corners and everyone seems to be wishing for summer to come now, not later.

Granted, we are not shoveling our way out of mounds of packed snow or dealing with subzero temperatures, but a little ice and sleet go a long way here in the new Old West. And believe me, we can complain about the weather better than most.

Joy ChooseBut in the midst of all this misery, I have tried to see the joy and wonder of it all. Most of the time I feel as though I’m swimming upstream by myself, but I am determined to make this my year of joy.

So I share with you the happiness of cold that I have discovered.

1 – The joy of winter clothes. I love the feel of sweaters and sweatshirts. Adding scarves is very fashionable now. Fancy socks have become my new passion and joy. Wearing my fuzzy slippers around the house is a real hoot!

2 – The joy of winter foods. I love soups and chili and stews with bread and wine. I love pot roast. I love holiday fare with warm pie ala mode. I love hot apple cider.

3 – The joy of fires in the fireplace. Gramps and I have one every evening on these cold days. Very cozy and romantic! And our new house has a gas starter, which makes it so easy for Gramps.

4 – The joy of Winter Olympics. Love the skating, the skiing, the snowboarding, the luge. Love the whole thing – all of it – from the opening flame lighting to the closing ceremony.

5 – The joy of the cat. I adore having our new kitten Oreo sleep on my lap, purring and providing lots of furry warmth on a cold day. We even take naps together! How wonderful is that!!

6 – The joy of cuddling. Gramps and I tend to sit closer together on a wintery day. We hold hands to keep warm when walking outdoors. And who can say no to a warm snuggly hug?

7 – The joy of candlelight. With these early sunsets and more darkness in the evenings, I use candles more often. I love the look, the feel and the aroma of candles. Sometimes we turn out all the electric lights and just use the fireplace and some candles. What ambience!

8 – The joy of indoors. When grandkids come over and it is too cold for outside fun, we must rely on inside activities. We love board games, puzzles, reading, old movies, new 3D movies, cooking and crafts. Indoors can be as fun as outdoors.

9 – The joy of sightseeing. How about a family slide show or movie night? Or a road trip without getting out of the car? Can’t be beat, really.Joy Oh

So no more whining and moaning for me. I’m having a grand time in this chilly month. I’m finding the joy in the cold! Brrr!!!!

Flat Shawn Goes To Texas

A few weeks ago Gramps and I got a letter from our grandson Shawn. He said his teacher had just read a great book called “Flat Stanley”, about a fictitious boy named Stanley who was flattened one night by his bulletin board. He becomes only half an inch thick.

In the book, Stanley’s parents mail him to his friend for a vacation because they can’t afford to pay for a plane or train ticket.

Shawn further wrote that he needed our help with a class project related to Flat Stanley. He had enclosed a laminated mini Shawn and asked if we would please take it to several exciting places in our city and take pictures of Flat Shawn enjoying himself, then return the pictures when we were done.

Well, Gramps and I were thrilled to do this for Shawn. We took Flat Shawn everywhere with us for several weeks and took pictures of some great adventures. I wrote a story of all the places and fun times Flat Shawn had. Here it is for you to enjoy.

Flat Shawn Goes To Texas

Flat Shawn lives in Arizona. His grandparents, Granny and Gramps, live in Texas. Flat Shawn decided to visit Granny and Gramps, so he jumped into an envelope and was mailed to Texas. It only took three days to get there, but Flat Shawn was very glad to get out of the envelope and stretch his legs.

Granny and Gramps were so happy to see Flat Shawn. They loved him a lot and wanted him to meet all their friends.

Flat Matt Haircut

First Flat Shawn had to get a haircut and get cleaned up. He wanted to look good for all his new adventures in Texas.

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Then Granny and Gramps took Flat Shawn out to dinner and a movie. He had a cheeseburger, french fries and a soda, his favorite meal. The movie was animated in 3D, so Flat Shawn wore special glasses so he could see everything. Everyone had a wonderful time.

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The next morning Flat Shawn went with Gramps in the car. Gramps let Flat Shawn help steer the car out of the driveway. That was so much fun!

IMG_0927 The two of them went to the car shop to get a new battery. Flat Shawn picked the one he liked the best – the green one. Then he helped Gramps put it in the car.

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While he was at the car shop, Flat Shawn found a truck door someone had left leaning against the wall. Guess what? He fit right inside! How funny was that? Flat Shawn thought it was funny too!

Right Edge w:Flat Matt

The next day Granny and Gramps took Flat Shawn with them to their Bible Study Class. Everyone was so happy to meet Flat Shawn. They all smiled and laughed and gathered around him to make him feel welcome. They even showed him a book in the Bible that had his same middle name – Matthew. How about that?

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Gramps wanted to show Flat Shawn all around his yard and garden. While the two of them were pulling weeds they found some mushrooms that had sprouted up overnight. Flat Shawn had fun pretending they were tables and he was ordering food. He and Gramps laughed and laughed.

Flat Matt & Mason

That evening, Flat Shawn’s cousin Mac came over to visit. He and Flat Shawn are good friends.They were surprised to see that they had the same color shirts on – red! They both played with the Legos and then sat together in the big blue recliner to watch some cartoons. They both liked the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons the best.

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Granny and Gramps love to sing and belong to the church choir. Flat Shawn had a great time with them at choir practice. He especially liked helping Miss Kitty play the organ. She used her fingers and Flat Shawn used his feet. What a team they made!

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After awhile, Flat Shawn wanted to play the piano tool He wasn’t supposed to do that because Miss Kitty was not there. But Flat Shawn thought he could do it by himself. Uh oh! Watch out! The piano lid fell right on Flat Shawn.

No worry! He wasn’t hurt because he’s already flat. Granny and Gramps got him out safe and all was well. That was close! Flat Shawn didn’t play with the piano again after that.

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The next day Gramps and Flat Shawn went looking for a new tractor. Flat Shawn picked his favorite again – the green one! Flat Shawn likes green.

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When they got home, Granny was decorating the house for Halloween. Flat Shawn wanted to help. He put out pumpkins, carved Jack-o-lanterns, made ghosts out of sheets, and hung a skeleton by the front door. The house was all set for Trick or Treaters.

Flat Shawn had so much fun visiting Granny and Gramps. He had lots of memories to take with him back home to Arizona. But right as he was about to jump back in his envelope, Gramps had one more surprise for him – a pet to take home! A gecko named Flat Gary. What a nice going away present is that!

Now Flat Shawn will have company in his envelope on his trip home. Won’t his parents be surprised when he arrives with Flat Gary?

Granny and Gramps hope Flat Shawn comes to Texas again for a visit soon.

Camping With Teenagers

Large-5th-Wheel-RV-and-Truck-by-Larry-PageGramps and I have owned our RV for about nine years. In that time we have taken many trips — to the mountains, to the seashore, to forests, to deserts, through most of the US actually. We have spent wonderful weekends with friends, vacations with siblings, and overnight adventures with children. Seven-year-olds have been thrilled to sleep on a table that turns into a bed. Heck, Gramps and I have traveled to places from our past, dared to go out in uncharted areas for a bit of adventure and excitement and even had a few romantic trysts all by ourselves in the aluminum nest.

We had enjoyed most every kind of camping a person could imagine, until this summer. This time we ventured into the seldom-seen and less-often-done realm of camping with teenage boys!!! Yes, we invited two grandsons ages 15 and 17 to go with us to Chicago and then to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s famous Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

It seemed like a great idea and we made tourist plans we thought would keep them busy and interested for the week. We figured out the sleeping arrangements in the RV and planned meals for the four of us We calculated the weather and clothing needs and got plenty of cash from the bank. We were set and ready for a great trip.

The first surprise was the size of the two boys. We had not seen them in a year and as teenagers are wont to do, the grew! Really, they grew! They were big boys! Possibly the sleeping arrangements would have to be rearranged.

We picked them up at O’Hare Airport after their first plane ride. They were excited, humbled, thrilled and hungry. Hunger, I was soon to learn, was a daily- no – an hourly issue for teen boys. It’s not actually possible to fill two growing boys up at one sitting and so they get hungry again in about two hours. This happens all day, every day. Possibly the meals plans would have to be rearranged.

Boys between the ages of 12 and 19 spend all their free time connected to some sort of electronic device. Since we have no TV in the RV and don’t allow much hand-held “game” playing, we had planned a full schedule of fun sightseeing in Chicago and at the Airshow. We were unaware that if it doesn’t explode, crash, catch on fire or scare the peewatom out of you, boys of that age are not interested. Possibly the sightseeing schedule would have to be rearranged.

We brought enough cash for the trip and then some. No need to pinch pennies. Have a good time, get some souvenirs, do some unusual things but still have plenty of reserve for emergencies and the like. However, two fast-growing boys who have never flown before come with no shampoo, no shaving gel, no deodorant, no soap, socks with holes and only one T-shirt and one pair of undershorts each. So shopping it is. Possibly the budget plans would have to be rearranged.

The only things we didn’t underestimate were the fun and enjoyment we had spending seven days with two fine grandsons. We had all the laughter, good talks, teaching and sharing time we could have ever hoped for. All four of us came away with a closer relationship, a better understanding of each person’s character and much more appreciation of each one’s humor.

We already loved each other, but we learned to like each other and appreciate our differences. And that needs no rearrangement.

Vacation Attitudes

vacationGramps and I just returned from a two week vacation, which we take every summer to get out of the Texas heat. It’s always such a relief to head north, where the air is cooler and moister. In my head, it seems so easy — just put what we need in the RV and go. Basically, transfer our life from a hot place to a cool place.

But in reality, no vacation (or any trip for that matter) is so easy. Nothing goes as smooth as expected and never does the written word match what actually happens.

Everyone in the vehicle starts to get impatient and antsy after hours of driving. I don’t care now much you love road trips, hours in one car/truck with no ability to change the scenery, company or sometimes even the radio station can drive anyone to wonder if the trip is really worth it.

And then there’s the waiting, in lines mostly, at toll booths, at restaurants, for the next bus, for the next subway, for that special tour, for that fantastic ride. We may find ourselves in lines in our normal lives, but it gets very concentrated when we become tourists in another town or state. Instead of occurring once a week or so, it starts to occur several times each day. Patience begins to wear thin.

Best advice? Get over it! Gramps and I long ago developed the spirit that the fun starts the minute we leave our front door. That’s when the vacation starts. The process of “getting there” is half the fun. We have no expectations — what happens is the good stuff. All the time is precious whether spent in line, in a restaurant, in a truck or at a toll booth.

And the best time to take a vacation is right now. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait for the perfectPacking List For Vacation Or Trip time, weather, finances, etc. It will never happen. It doesn’t have to be long, far or expensive. Each trip is its own special memory and occasion. It never has to be more than what it is. Gramps and I once took grandson Mac, who was than about 6 yo, camping for two days. We went all of about three miles from our house, but you would have thought we took him to the moon, he was so excited!

black-blackandwhite-fun-grey-memories-favim-coBe sure to document the entire trip. I always say, “Every OP is a photo OP.” Even the driving portion needs to be recorded, in a fashion. There must be a law some where that every one of our trips must have a photo of me sleeping in the truck. Gramps always manages to get one of me without me being aware of it!

Remember, every photo is a precious memory. Everyone should have a copy, Make an album for each vacation and reminisce, especially with children.

Gramps and I usually plan some down time, if we are on an especially busy trip. Every vacation needs a day off, a day of rest or a day of unorganized activity. A day when everyone can do what they want, even if it is just reading a book or laying on the beach. A day of regeneration prevents burnout before the vacation is over.

Eating on the road can be difficult for some. With the RV, Gramps and I generally plan for and bring most of our meals with us. I don’t worry a lot about my diet while on vacation. I want to try new and different foods wherever I happen to be and want that to be part of my enjoyment. The general thought is, the calories don’t count while I am away. I don’t necessarily binge but I certainly don’t try to lose weight either.reading_beach

The best vacation attitude is: RELAX. Don’t stress about anything. Whatever happens willbe great. Getting there will be great. Being there will be great. Recording it will be great. Remembering it will be great. It will be so great, you will do it again.

More Special Days

dji_udc_graduate_cMy granddaughter Mary is “graduating” from Kindergarten this week. She is so excited! So am I!

When exactly did kids start having graduation ceremonies from Kindergarten? My children just went from Preschool straight through to First Grade – no ceremony, no party, no big to-do. It just happened. Now it’s a “GRADUATION”. And you know what? I’m okay with that! I love celebrations. I love parties. And I love making any day a special day.

Mary and I were talking on the phone a couple of weeks ago.

“So, Mary, I hear you are graduating from Kindergarten soon.”

“Yes and Granny can you pleeeeeeease make a dress for me? Pleeeeeeease!”

“Sure, Sweetie. What color dress would you like?”

“Oh, pink please with a purple flower and a pink bow and lots of ruffles and lots of twirl and pink buttons and flowers and lots of pink and maybe some purple . . . . . and pink.”

“So, a pink dress?”

“Yes pleeeeeeeease! I loooooove pink, you know.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Okay. Thank you. Bye.”

Aren’t conversations with six year olds fantastic? The last two weeks I have been busy twirling_dressmaking a pink and green (have to broaden the child’s world) dress for Mary for her special day. Both of us are so excited – we can hardly wait! She gets a dress with a lot of twirl factor and I get pictures of a happy happy girl – and conversations to be remembered always!

Last week 7 yo grandson Mac had a piano recital – after taking piano lessons for about 8 months! He practiced for weeks, he said, to play his compositions. At first he said he had been practicing for months, until I reminded him he had not even been playing long enough for that.

PlayingPianoThe day of the recital was grand! Mac was dressed up and clean with combed hair and a big smile. Parents and grandparents all went with Mac to lunch (hamburgers and fries) before the event and then sat with great pride in the audience to hear him play “Ten Little Indians” and “Thomas, the Trombone Player”. He sounded great, cameras clicked and videos whirred.

Special days like these  sometimes come with a lot of fanfare and sometimes can be completely overlooked, if we are not careful. What I know is making days special for kidscelebrate is important. It tells them they are loved, they are important, THEY are SPECIAL. It can’t happen too often.

Special days make a family stronger and a child happier. Special days can start traditions and make memories that last forever. Special days are worth the effort and provide a future worth looking forward to. What more can you ask of a day?