Camp Out, Pig Out

This is the eleventh year that four friends and Gramps and I have gone camping together for a long weekend in the spring. We have known each other for many years. In fact, one friend Ethel and I have known one another since the sixth grade. We have seen all the good, the bad and the ugly in each other many times over.

It started innocently enough with a group camping trip. We traded meals and that’s when we found out that Bill or Mr. Bill as we call him, was a master cast iron chef. He then became our breakfast guru.

Breakfast soon became a bacon lovers delight. Bacon does go with everything, you know! As in bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, bacon and ham, bacon and cheese, bacon and potatoes, bacon and . . . bacon. There are so many ways to eat bacon, as we discover each year.

Breakfasts lasted longer each year. First an hour, then two, now up to three hours including dessert. Yes, we have dessert for breakfast!

We have found that breakfast is so spectacular and lasts so long, what with all the courses and talking and more courses and more talking, that we usually don’t plan lunch anymore.

There is a mid afternoon snack. Something healthy, like brownies or cookies. Then a big dinner planned and served by one of us. It’s really just a big eat fest. Hence, the name – Camp Out, Pig Out. It has since been shortened to COPO.

Since Gramps and I are retired, we are the scouting party and arrive a couple of days early. We set up camp, get nearby sites for everyone and test the local sights and cuisine.

On Friday afternoon the other two couples arrive and set up their rigs. I always serve Friday night dinner because I have the time to cook while they are traveling.

This year we are having homemade grilled hamburgers (nothing better!), potato salad, fresh tomatoes, chips, guacamole and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Sound good?

On Saturday morning, of course, is a mega breakfast, Mr. Bill style. Bacon, bacon and more bacon. Yum! After this artery stopping meal, we usually divide up – men go fishing and/or boating, women go shopping.

In other words, the guys head to the nearest body of water, attach bits of fish/hot dog/bait/etc on the end of poles and sit for hours waiting and waiting. This activity is called fishing and men love to do it, talk about it, plan for it and buy equipment for it. Our men are no different.

Every year they go fishing. Every year they catch nothing. Every year they have a great time. Go figure!

The ladies, on the other hand, go shopping or sightseeing or both. We have been to antique stores, quilt shops, historic homes, museums, gardens, gift shops. And we have been successful every single time!

Oh yes, we have never come home empty handed. What glorious things we have found. What fabulous memories we have made. What fun we have had.

For several years now, Ethel has made matching T-shirts for the three of us ladies. One year as we were out shopping in our three identical shirts, I convinced a shop owner that we were triplets out for a day of fun. The other two were exploding trying to keep from laughing and I was having the time of my life.

Over the years, our COPOs have been varied. We have weathered rain, hail, scorching heat, wild fires and floods. We have had sick people, injured people and the forever healthy people. We have tried cooking all sorts of foods (except fish. We’ve never had fish!) and gone out for food.

 

One year our grandson Mac came with us to the annual COPO. It took about an hour for him to feel comfortable going in and out of everyone’s camper as if he lived there. Everyone became family to him about one minute later. He was fascinated with the super bacon breakfasts. And of course, because he is male, he went fishing with the boys. I’m not sure what he really did all day.

We gals brought treats for him from our shopping trip. It’d seemed only fair. He was nine and he had put up with the fishing thing all day.

Eleven years of these grand memories and here we are again! It’s Thursday night. Everyone will be here tomorrow. Saturday morning will be an eleventh breakfast extravaganza.

Then the guys and a fishing guide will hit the lake for a day of fishing. Maybe the guide will change the day’s outcome.

We ladies are going to a Quilt Show and maybe some antiquing. Whatever suits our fancy at the time.

Saturday evening will be dinner at Myra and Mike’s camper with the traveling tablecloth we use for every meal. Then we build a campfire and sit up late – maybe lil about 11:00 or so. Hey, we’re old!

Sunday am will find us back at Mr. Bill’s with the traveling tablecloth for super breakfast #2. What a way to end a COPO. Total PIGOUT!!!!

It’s Thursday night and I can’t wait. Hope it doesn’t end too soon.

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To Houston And Back Again

What would make 48 women get up in the middle of the night, drive to a deserted mall, then get on a bus and ride five hours to their final location? And do all that with joy and excitement in their hearts? Only one thing I can think of – The Houston Quilt Show!

And so it was. We 48 with bags, backpacks and credit cards in hand, made our annual trek to the quilters’ version of Mecca. The one place that calls to beginner and master alike, to traditionalist and modernist as well, to anyone who has ever looked longingly at fabric or wanted to make something wonderful from a scrap of woven anything – that place. We just call it “Houston.”

Houston has quilts to view of every kind, shape, color and era. One of the exhibits this year was “Dear Jane” quilts. They are near and dear to my heart. Well, Houston did not disappoint! Oh my, oh my!

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Even some of the backs are absolutely exquisite!

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Here’s a Dear Jane that forms a secondary heart design on the front of the quilt.

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Some are red and white, some are blue and white, some are black and white, and some are multi colored. It is a personal choice.

A person could spend days just viewing the lovely quilts hanging everywhere – the Christmas quilts, the modern quilts, the Millefiori, the dresses (yes, I said dresses!), the 20 foot crocodile and on and on.

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This is Best of Show which looks like a photograph. Here is the artist in front of her quilt.

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This quilt looks like photo up close and the shelves look like real wood. It is a masterpiece  of quilting.

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The miniatures were especially appealing to me. And I do mean small – these cuties were about four inches long and belonged in a dollhouse. I’m pretty sure they were made by elves.

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There were even quilts made out of linens and doilies and then quilted and beaded. They were exquisite beyond words.

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Entire quilts can even be done with thread alone as in this one. Beyond description really.

That night we had dinner at the Aquarium. How special is that? Yes, we had seafood for dinner and ate it in front of their cousins in the tanks, but it was so goooood!

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Anyway, the 350 pound Grouper didn’t seem to mind too much. The atmosphere was wonderful and the Pomegranate Kiss Martini didn’t hurt either. We had a grand time making friends and learning about the Aquarium.

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After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the show for more quilt Nirvana. Once we had seen all the quilts, it was off to the vendors’ section. Anything you could ever need, want or desire for quilting was there. And all the new things I didn’t know I needed!

What lovely fabrics and wools! Notions by the armload! Patterns to die for! There were shoes, clothes, jewelry, baskets, lights, irons. I got my rings polished. My friend even bought a sewing machine! An entire machine with all the extras, warranty, extra feet, carrying case, etc., etc. and had it all shipped home. What a great place is this Houston!!!

I bought a tin tray and some wool embroidery to fit on the top. I didn’t even know I needed it until I saw it! I was a very happy camper!

Finally the day was over and we tired, but very pleased 48 piled back into the bus with booty in hand. Bundles of fat quarters, quilt kits, rulers and stacks of wool were carefully placed in the overhead compartments. Patterns and books were kept to be read on the ride home.

In the dark of the night, we all looked at the pictures we had taken of the beauty we had seen. Soft conversations were held up and down the rows of seats, as we shared the sights and feelings of the day.

We talked, we laughed, we shared, we laughed some more, all in the darkness of a small bus. We tipped the driver. We gave a gift to the trip planner, coincidentally named Happy.

We knew the trip was coming to an end. Houston was now behind us and reality was again setting in. Our loved ones were waiting at the deserted mall to once again drive us home, where it all began.

But something was different. We still had all our goodies, our bags, our souvenirs, our new projects, and our pictures to take with us. We would remember. We had been to Houston!

Music, Music, Music!

Another September, another week at Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield, Kansas. What a delightful, wonderful way to get saturated in bluegrass, folk, country, gospel, celtic and every other kind of acoustic music you can imagine. Camping in the 5th wheel at the Fair Grounds and listening to instrumental and vocal tunes all day is my kind of vacation.

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Gramps and I have been coming for about five years now and love it more each time we are here. The music comes from all parts of the world, yet needs no translation. We understand each rhythm and beat. It’s truly magical, even if we don’t know the words.

Music is like that – it speaks to each heart if its own language. Even children and infants understand the seeming foreign tongue of a lyrical tune they have never heard before. People who can’t understand each other’s spoken language, can read and share music, providing a bridge across every barrier.

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Instruments are played, songs are sung, toes are tapped and fingers are snapped. It’s the beginnings of dance and we all have it in us – the response to music.

Simple words and notes can make us cry or laugh, pause or become excited. They can make us feel every emotion or stun us as though we have been slapped. They can stir rebellion or quiet the raging soul. Nothing affects us quite like music.

Music can do things like nothing else in the world. It can change a child’s brain who learns to play an instrument. It can enrich a child’s life who sings in a chorus. It can enlarge a child’s world who plays in an orchestra or band. Nothing affects a child the way music does.

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Gramps and I have done it all – we have sung in choirs, played instruments, taught songs to our children and grandchildren, provided music lessons to younger family members and probably sung “Happy Birthday” at least once to everyone we know.

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Walnut Valley Festival is one of the places we visit to learn, understand and share that mystical language we call music.

Monterey Car Week Granny Style

Car Week at Monterey, California is a Mecca for anyone interested in old cars, new cars, unusual cars, one-of-a-kind cars, expensive cars, junk cars, sports cars, any cars for that matter. That person would be Gramps.

This is a yearly trip for us in our truck and camper. We stay at a campgrounds very close to the beach and near several restaurants. The weather is cool and breezy, and we get out of the Texas heat for awhile. It is all very fun and wonderful.

Gramps loves all the cars – and I do mean ALL the cars. He looks at every one. He takes photographs. He takes videos. He talks to the owners. He does this all day, every day. Now I love Gramps and I try to be supportive, but after the first 50 cars or so I get a little bleary-eyed.

Let me tell you my view of Car Week.

Tuesday – The Carmel Concours with many stylish show cars, including the new Acura NSX. There were Porches and Metropolitans and an American La France fire engine converted into a car.

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Impressed yet?

Carmel is also home to many cute shops and boutiques. One shop I go to every year is the Christmas Store. I get ornaments for all the grandchildren and have them personalized and dated. I also found a couple of Frozen themed boxes for the two little girls.

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Wednesday – The Little Car Show in Pacific Grove. Now this was a really interesting display of all the smallest cars in the world. Mini cars with mini engines, mini wheels and cute mini parts. Everything tiny and compact.

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Me? I found some wonderful regular sized shops, where I bought fabulous things. At one antique shop, I found a white infant dress, embroidered with a slip for $15, a monogrammed handkerchief and a beautiful blue and white vintage summer weight quilt.

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We also had lunch at the best bakery ever! What a wonderful day it was!

Thursday – The Tour d’Elegance, which was the Pebble Beach Concours cars on tour. These are primo top-of-the-line cars. Lots of brass, silver, leather and works-of-art hood ornaments. Very classy, very showy. Lots of sparkle and shine. And it’s all free for the public to enjoy.

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I however, discovered a couple of wine tastings. Purchased a bottle of wine and a gorgeous cutting board. Shopping everywhere! Isn’t it grand!

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Friday – The Pacific Grove Concours and Rally. A car show and then a tour of the cars Hearing the engines roar and the horns beep was the most fun.

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After awhile I was off shopping again. Of course, we had breakfast first at our favorite little bakery. Must fuel the day. Then I was off to a small linen shop for embroidered tea towels for Christmas gifts for friends and a set of monogrammed napkins for me. Very French! Another great day!

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At the end of the day, I found a lovely little antique shop among all the sweet vintage buildings.It had the most interesting old windows with vintage glass pieces glued on. I’m thinking of doing this project for myself when I get home. I think I have all the makings except he window.

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Saturday – The Concours d’Lemons, a spoof on car shows in general and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in particular. These are the worst, oddest and quirkiest cars vying for “Worst of Show” any way they can, including bribing the judges.

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This show I really enjoyed and looked at all the cars in all the categories. When it started      to get too warm, I spent the remainder of the day in the shady tent lounge provided by one of the vendors. A good day all around!

Sunday – The Historic Races at Laguna Seca with hundreds of race cars from the 1920’s to 1970’s. Gramps and his brother attended this but I did not. It seemed the perfect way to end the week.

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And that is how Granny does Car Week – with a credit card and a shopping bag!

A Boating I Did Go

Gramps and I just returned from a three week vacation to the west coast.  A lot of the trip involved time on boats, a ship and other sailing vehicles.

IMG_0009One day we spent on a tall sailing ship, the Californian, for an excursion out of San Diego Bay.  That ship is a replica of an old revenue cutter, well-used and well-built.  These are photos of the “Bountiful,” another replica at the Maritime Museum, used in the film “Master and Commander – Far Side of the World.”

IMG_0010She has tall masts, plenty of sails (not always visible), a bell, a wheel and, as I learned, lots and lots of ropes called sheets.  That’s right.  The sheets are the ropes, not the sails, as might sound logical.

IMG_0023IMG_0018IMG_0020It seems nothing can happen on a ship without many people pulling on sheets.  Sheets tie things securely.   Sheets make sails go up and down. Sheets turn sails into and out of the wind. Sheets keep everything . . . well, shipshape.

IMG_0015IMG_0016The crew takes great care to keep the sheets neat and tidy. There is even a special way to coil a sheet on the deck.  Pretty impressive!

IMG_0030So take a lesson from the Californian.  Never leave without your equipment and make sure it’s always in ready-to-use condition.

I’m practicing coiling my sheets right now!

 

New Camera, New View

I recently got a new camera and have had more fun playing with it! Aren’t new toys so enjoyable?

Right after receiving the new camera, Gramps and I went on a short camping trip to Lake Tawakoni. There was the most interesting tree right outside our window that I just had to share with all of you.

IMG_0011Yes, that is all one tree! Five trunks from the same spot in the ground. I’ve never seen such – ever!

IMG_0012This is one trunk that went back into the ground and took root to form another trunk.

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IMG_0015 IMG_0014And here is the best part of all – a gnome house. How cute is that? You don’t find one of these in the trunk of every tree. Just special ones, like this one.

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.