Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween skies, conflicted

When I park my car in the morning at work, I go to the farthest parking lot to the west so that I have a bit of a walk into the building. I've been doing this to get a little extra walking in and because I enjoy the extra outdoors time before heading into my cubicle for the day where there's little chance of being exposed to actual sunlight.

Since the daylight savings time change last Sunday, I am now walking into work in daylight instead of darkish dawn.

The sky this morning was strangely beautiful. Lower to the ground were dark clouds looking only half-full and moving quickly across the sky... they were kind of wispy, a hardly half-hearted effort at appearing ominous. Beyond the dark clouds was beautiful blue sky and puffy white clouds, and those clouds were barely moving at all.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Visiting my niece

Where my niece, Michelle, goes to college isn't that far away from home, so since the kids didn't have school today, we made a quick road trip. I took most of the day off from work, and Joycie, Sam, my nephew, Michael (Michelle's brother) and I went up and visited Michelle this afternoon.

It was a beautiful afternoon, warm and sunny. Perfect weather for a walk around the campus. It's a pretty campus. Michelle showed us her dorm room (very nice, and she has a room all her own), the library, the recreation center... and of course, we hit the book store for some hoodies.

The campus grounds has statues all over the place. One of the founder, some unusual statues of unidentifiable origin, a big globe of metal that's really cool, lots of neat stuff. The buildings were also interesting, most of modern design. The walkways and the landscaping are beautiful. There is one statue that looks like it had seen better days, and it invited the kids to goof around.

I think it is a cement type material covering a wire frame... because the outside arms on the 2 figures on the outside of the group both are broken off...

Kind of sad, but it makes it interesting. We weren't sure if it was damage or an intended part of the statue.

It was nice to see where Michelle spends her days. We had a really fun afternoon together. Then we had a nice, relaxing dinner together before we dropped Michelle back off at her dorm and we headed on home.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rumaki recipe

If you search for a rumaki recipe, you'll discover that true rumaki is made with chicken livers. Ummm... yuk. I have a steadfast Life Rule; I do not eat organs. Never on purpose anyway.

This is a rumaki recipe that I got from an old friend. (She's not old, I've just known her for years.) It was a pretty big hit at the party last night, so I share it here.

I bought canned whole water chestnuts and drained them. I cut sliced bacon (regular, not the thick stuff) into thirds, and took a 1/3 slice of bacon and wrapped it around a water chestnut, securing it with a toothpick. Place in a baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F. until bacon is nice and crispy. Drain grease. (Which is a difficult thing to do with a pan full of toothpicked items, so I just took them all out of the pan, drained the grease, washed the pan out and put all the little critters back in.) In a separate bowl, mix well a sauce of 1 bottle Heinz chili sauce, 1 cup real mayo & 1 cup brown sugar. Pour over rumaki and bake at 375 again until bubbly.

I had a large bake pan, larger than the typical cake pan, and I used about 5 or 6 cans of water chestnuts and 2 packages of bacon. I also kinda sort doubled the sauce, more like 1.5 times, and it was plenty. I had to bake them in 2 separate pans, but once done, they all fit into the one big pan. I would say a single recipe would be about 3 cans of water chestnuts and 1 pkg of bacon, use a regular cake loaf pan.


It's a very rich hors d'oeuvre, and I noticed it was more the men eating it than the women. Probably the bacon thing. A couple of the guys told their wives to get the recipe. Yep, we're the typical "mostly the wives do the cooking" crowd. Not 100% across-the-board, mind, but the majority... I also didn't see any of the men oohing and aahing over the pretty blue washer & dryer. It is what it is.

Anyway, the rumaki, sans chicken liver, was really good. When I was packing Kev's lunch this morning, he asked if there was any left that I brought home. I just said, "you have got to be kidding." Oh, right.

I blame it on the beer...

Some friends of ours built a house this summer and moved in not too long ago. They threw a party last night to celebrate, and I got to see their home. It is so lovely. Open and airy, and beautiful wood floors. The floor plan is ideal. Skylights and lots of windows. I'm sure in daylight hours, it's bright and cheerful.

The kitchen is part of the great room including dining and living room, kind of like our floor plan. Only theirs is all open. There is a very large island in the kitchen. Perfect arrangement for the party. All the food was on the island counter, and everyone was standing and sitting around together, yukking it up. Fun.

And all new appliances... *gasp*! Stainless steel and buttons and electronics and beautiful and so clean... Ahhh.... Tracey chose their washer and dryer, and it's that new Kenmore set that's blue... Sweet. I don't want a new house or anything, but I would love all new appliances! When I opened their oven to put the rumaki I made into it to heat it up, I was like, look, Kevin, look, this is what a clean oven looks like! My poor old oven is not so clean... but it's used almost daily. I really should clean it. Maybe next weekend.

Kev was more interested in the huge TV with surround sound, on which was playing, of course, some college football game. Did I say huge? It was enormous. I could practically see Kevin's wheels spinning in his head. I have two words for you, dear... college costs.

The party was fun - just adults, which doesn't happen all that often in this crowd. Lots of parents there of our 6th grade boys that play sports together. Nice to let loose a bit and talk & joke around without worrying about little ears and all that...

I wish we could have stayed longer, but Kev is working day-12s this weekend, so we were the first to leave at around 10:00 or 10:30pm. Our nephew, Michael, stayed with Sam for the evening, since Joyce was on an overnighter with some girlfriends. Sam's getting close to the age where he can stay alone, but we're not comfortable with that just yet. Anyway, I like for Sam to spend time with Michael.

Michael is a junior in high school, and he's tall (over six foot), handsome and so very, very smart. He's trustworthy and dependable, and an excellent role model for his younger cousin. Our family is certainly fortunate with our wonderful kids.

Even though we were home at a relatively early hour, we stayed up late watching TV... Kev finally began dozing off, so we hit the sack. Kev's alarm went off at 6:15am this morning... and I woke up again at about 6:40am & woke him up again, which caused a rush of action. Kev has to leave the house at about 6:45am to get to work on time. He got up and hurriedly dressed and went out to put more wood into our wood stove (by which we heat the whole house, so it had to be done), and I got his lunch together and poured coffee for him. With my admonitions to drive safe, and don't speed, or at least don't get a ticket, Kev zoomed down the drive close to 7:00am.

Then he called me when he got to the parking lot at his work. Last night was "fall back" and we missed it... So he actually got to work almost an hour early...

Friday, October 27, 2006

A mother's guilt... aka thank God it's payday

My sister, Kathy, called me this morning to talk about my post from yesterday. She said that neither of her kids want her help with Halloween costumes this year, and it's the first of many years like that in the future... and she said other stuff, too. But that's basically when the guilt started.

Made me think about all the Halloweens we've had, and how fun it was making costumes and watching my little babies have so much fun getting all dressed up and getting candy, candy, candy! Ah...

So, yeah, I left work early and met Joyce and Sammy at Halloween USA, where I dropped over fifty bucks on an adorable Little Red Riding Hood costume and black net tights for Joycie. Carpe diem and all that.

Joycie tried the costume on, and she is going to look so cute for the party! She's taking one of my smaller Longaberger baskets to wear on her arm. It's one that is signed and dated 1998, and has been hanging on a hook since I bought it (well, I do take it down to dust it every year... or so...). That darn thing is probably worth fifty bucks, too, so hopefully it'll come home with her, and in one piece.

The big picture is that both my kids are planning to have an excellent Halloween, and I've done all I can to assure they will feel the fun when they put on their costumes.

I suppose that's important to me especially today because I learned of the death of a young man from our community. He was only 19 years old, and he had been battling a rare form of colon cancer for a few years. He lost the fight this morning, and he died in his mother's arms with his dad at his side. His name was Aaron. He was a friend of my nephew, Michael, and Joyce knew Aaron, too. Aaron touched a lot of people. If anyone would understand the importance of having a fun time, from what I've heard, Aaron would.

Carpe diem.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Discombobulation and other messy matters

I feel like every conversation with my daughter lately is a discombobulated mess. Am I the yoyo or is she?... One minute she's nice and the next she's quite disrespectful and condescending. And, uh... just got interrupted for a conversation with Sammy and Kev... What the hell is in the air?... Simple conversations lately are turning into tense almost-arguments.

I'm really tired of the last-minute bullshit, too... I know that's something that every mother deals with on a regular basis, but this week I'm sick of it.

Joyce is trying to decide if she wants to go to some Halloween party this Saturday, which would mean she needs a costume. So she looked through the old dress-up trunk half-assedly. She was thinking maybe a pirate, and when she explained what she'd use for the costume, I just asked a simple question... "what about all that would make one think you were a pirate?" Discombobulation ensued. Well, excuse me. It was just a darn question. A valid question.

And p.s., our old steamer trunk filled with a wide assortment of stuff for a quality dress-up session stinks. By 'stinks' I mean it smells bad. Like an old, dusty attic. And smelly feet. So much of the stuff in there is too small for everyone now living in this house... Joycie & Sammy sure had fun with that stuff when they were little...

There's a black, very nice, very subtle pinstriped suit jacket in there (from when hSam was a headless man one Halloween... I bought it Salvation Army), and it fit Joyce very well. There's also this really old stuffed monkey with super long arms and legs that have velcro on the ends, so you can pose the monkey on yourself. I told Joycie she should wear the suit, maybe with the fish tie that's in there, and pose the monkey on her back and go as a business-man-cocaine-addict. She didn't get it. Discombobulation ensued.

So now Joyce is over at one of her aunt's houses seeing if they have any Halloween costumes on hand that'll fit her and of which she'll approve. I'm guessing she'll want to hit 'Halloween USA' tomorrow... and if you haven't been into one of those temporary seasonal stores, give it a whirl. What a great lot of crap they have. Sam & I went last Saturday and got his costume... a gorilla mask and hands, very life-like (and over $45! jeez). He's going to wear them with a tan leisure suit with brown stitching, circa 1973 or so... from the dress-up trunk. It's hilarious.

The problem with being young woman in high school & dressing up for Halloween is that you want to go as something nice... and for most girls that translates into sexy... think the Mean Girls movie. Blatant, revealing sexiness is not really Joycie's style (thank goodness). I would do the goofy hobo thing, which is also not Joycie's style... don't ask me, I don't know what her style is anymore...

I used to love Halloween. I've even decorated our half-bath near the kitchen in a sort of tribute to Halloween, with photos of the kids & nieces & nephews, etc. in their costumes through the years, pumpkin carving, trick or treating. This year, Halloween seems almost too much trouble. Too much money. Too much cause for words that start with 'dis'... dismay, disruption, disturbance, disrespect... Mostly, it's the tension everywhere that's sucking all the fun out of it. Methinks I need some distance. Or perhaps a distilled beverage. On the rocks. Just a splash of Coke please.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Go here and check this out... This should be fun, and yet one more reason to love November...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Old and aging

I'm up early again... well, early for me on a Sunday morning. It's about 7:00 am, so Kev will be getting out of work in a half-hour & home by 8:00 am.

I am surprised I'm feeling so awake right now. But, there ya go... it's the age thing. Older people always say that can't sleep in late. I know why. Because they have to get up and go pee or because their back or knees or whatever are aching from being in the same prone position for too long. Or both. I was up very late last night (very late for me)... almost midnight, and still I'm up and awake early this morning. Part of it is also that my inner alarm clock has been trained to wake me at about 5:30am because I've been getting up at that time to go to work for so many years, that it is too much of a habit to break. On weekends, I wake, then go back to sleep. Since Kev gets home at 8am, I usually sleep until he comes into the house.

But this morning, I had to pee and my back was killing me. So I'm up. I'm 46 years old, and to me, that doesn't seem old at all. I'm in my 40's. Whoo hoo. But... I'm 4 years away from 50, and that seems a teensy bit old to me. Screw it. I'm old.

Joyce was babysitting yesterday, and she didn't get home until after 11:30pm. I know that I fell asleep every once in a while on the sofa waiting for her to get home (the source of my back ache)... but I just can't go to bed until she's home safe & sound. She'll be 18 years old soon, and I know I will still do this for quite a while... I'm trying to picture my going on to bed and sleeping while she's still out & about after midnight... I know it'll happen, but I'm having trouble picturing it. I had a busy day yesterday, and I was so tired... but I couldn't rest until Joyce was home.

And since Sammy is nearly 12 years old, he'll be doing the late night thing soon enough. He'll be driving in 4 years, when I will be 50... then staying out late and keeping me up through my early 50's...

Holy cow, I'm feeling old.

Speaking of old, we have 2 pickup trucks. The one Kev drives, which we call the "new truck" is a 1999 Chevy Silverado. Kev purchased that truck brand new. That's an important fact in our family, because we almost never buy a new vehicle. The other truck, the "old truck," is also a Chevy. It's a 1978 that Kev bought from an old guy living in a nearby town. Kev bought that truck in either 1981 or 1982, because we married in 1983 and he owned before then. The old truck was in pristine condition when Kev bought it. The owner was a short, old guy... I think he was in his 70's or 80's. He was "interviewing" the men who came to look at his truck to buy it. I don't believe he would have sold it to a woman. He wanted to make sure that Kevin would take excellent care of the truck before he would sell it to him. I remember it so well because it was so odd. The old man met a kindred spirit in Kevin. Kev is just shy of fanatical about taking good care of all vehicles he's ever owned. His 1999 pickup looks practically new on the inside, even though it's been well used. I like that about Kev, because I like my car to be well taken care of... and clean.

So we've had the old truck for at least 24 years. It does look its age. The body is rusting, the dash is faded and cracking and many little things, like the glove box lock, have worn out. We use it mostly for driving around the property, hauling wood and other odd jobs. Both the kids drive it, on the property only & from an early age... which is why Joyce is now a good driver and Sam will be when he gets his license.

But now that we have the tractor, the old truck isn't need to haul wood around our property. Kev did use it lately to haul wood from my sister's place back to ours, though. We have to keep it licensed and street-legal, of course, so we can go fill up the gas tank and do the odd errands with it. It's handy for hauling mulch and buying large items. We have a topper for it, but I don't think we've had it on the truck in years. The new truck has a matching topper that will likely never come off of it... too much trouble to put it back on. So it is nice to have a truck with an open bed...

Kev put a new Monroe plow on it a few years back. I think it cost about two or three grand to get that put on. I remember we used to joke that increased the value of our old truck ten fold when we put the plow on it.

But I tell you what... that old truck is the most dependable vehicle we have ever owned. I remember cold winter mornings when my car wouldn't start, so I would have to go out to the old pickup parked out in the pole barn, move whatever was in front of it (like our old 4-wheeler or the lawn tractor), and start it up and drive it to work. The old truck starts every time, even when it hadn't had the key turned in weeks and weeks.

However, our most recent large purchase made Kev think that we should sell the truck to help fund that purchase. So Kev has been doing a few little odds and ends on it to get it ready to sell. This past week, he drove it into town to get the exhaust system fixed. Turns out we had one of those life-time warranties on the muffler from about 20 years ago. The muffler on the old truck has been in need of replacement for about 3 years, and we put it off because it was going to be about $650 to fix it... since we use the truck on the road so rarely, we delayed. With the forgotten warranty, timely remembered, it cost nothing! Very cool.

After getting the muffler work done, Kev picked me up at work so we could go to lunch together. As I was walking out, looking at that big old pickup, I reached a conclusion. I discussed it with Kev over lunch, and discovered he feels exactly as I do about the old truck.

We are keeping the old truck. We're going to slowly begin making all the repairs and replacements needed to the body work and interior. The heart of the truck, the engine, needs little work. It's not an unusually beautiful or unique old truck, but it's our old truck. She stays in the family.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The affianced

Kev has arrived home from work now. Normally on weekend mornings, we would enjoy our coffee together, but since he now has to go to bed and try to get some sleep before he has to go back in on another midnight-12 (7:30pm-7:30am), he's just sitting at the table behind me reading the paper waiting for me to quit typing....

So one last photo before I sign off. My niece, Sara, sent this photo to me... it is Sara and her fiancé, Derek. A beautiful couple, outshining the beautiful setting!

Notice the time

Why am I up and posting so early?...

I have gotten into the habit of using my cell phone alarm each morning, instead of my old half-broken clock radio, and also instead of my brand new clock radio that I haven't taken out of the box yet (for the past 2 months)... My cell phone battery is croaking, so I have to charge my phone every night, and I've just been using its alarm function.

The downside is when I forget to disable the alarm for the weekend. I was up and in the shower before 6:00 am this morning before I realized it was Saturday. Ugh. So here I am, more than halfway through a pot of coffee and finally getting around to some blog posts that I haven't made time for lately. Most evenings, I'm just tired and have no inclination for getting on the computer at home because I am so swamped at work that after looking at a computer all day long, I've little desire to look more... Also, some of the things I'm dealing with at work right now are very difficult and frustrating. It's like trying to put together an extremely complex puzzle, all the while having a sneaking suspicion that someone has hidden the key pieces on you. Brain strain. So I give you my work-inspired haiku:

once trees living tall
now papers covered with words
all shouting me first

Instead of fungi

I just can't seem to get over my fascination with all the fungi. Kev and I took a walk around the pond yesterday evening before he had to leave for work (midnight-12), and I was stopping every other minute to admire fungi... and to also allow Kev to admire them all, as well. Let's just say his fascination is not equal to mine. I pointed out all of their unique colors, shapes and lovely patterns anyway.

Kev was also enthusiastically pointing out to me the things that fascinate him... like the many buck rubs on the saplings coming up thickly in the woods surrounding the pond. Then the ovals of flattened grass around the edges of the pond where the deer have been bedding down. Ok, I admit that I was also fascinated by his fascinations. The flattened ovals were all in different directions, so you could see that the deer were laying with some of them facing one way and some another. Kevin said that's so that they have a lookout for each direction. Wary deer.

When we got to the other end of the pond, finishing up our walk, there was another area of flattened grass ovals. On one of the ovals, just at the edge in the not-flattened grass, was a lovely white mushroom. And we're back...

Of course, this time of year, the falling leaves are doing their best to cover everything. When I would come across a mushroom or toadstool trying to rise above the leaves, I regretted not having my camera with me on our walk.

Old stumps and our many log piles are treasure troves of fungi. When I head out for a walk with my camera, I seem to head first towards a log pile... I think the logs themselves are also beautiful. The older the stack of logs, the more interesting the logs become. The logs change color and shape, and as they decay, their "bones" start to show. There are so many shades of gray in a log pile.

Birch tend to rot quickly, as birch is a very soft wood. Birch is nice on a campfire because it burns brightly. Since we had so many birch trees die in the past few years, from a borer or disease that went through our area, I can't remember exactly what... Kev has harvested a lot of dead birch trees. I thought the resting place this leaf found made a pretty picture.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My shy frog

This is my new cement birdbath that Kev & I bought on our recent road trip. The place where we bought it was one of those junky little roadside places. All the cement stuff was sitting in the mud and grass in the front. There was a fair amount of pieces, I guess... limited selection. The man who owned the place came out to tell us that everything marked with a yellow tag was 20% off and all the birdbaths, marked or not, were 20% off. Some of the price tags were so old, you could hardly read the price written on them. The man was a little shrimp of a guy, with a wispy mustache and a quick grin. He had only one of his front teeth, and that one stuck out like it was trying to hitchhike a ride. The guy was one of those people that could be 27 years old or 57 years old... you just couldn't tell. The building that I entered to pay him was filled with stuff for sale. In fact, there was a big blue and white sign on the door that read, "STUFF FOR SALE HERE." The stuff was all overpriced crap from I-don't-know-where... and it smelled in there like a musty cellar. He had a bunch of kids' puzzle books for the low, low price of $2.98 (which you can get at a dollar store for, yep, a dollar, and they won't smell as bad).

The man tallied up my bill, which came to $48.51. I gave him a fifty and said no need for change, gave him my thanks and started to leave. "No, no," he said, and proceeded to slowly gather my $1.49 of change and count it out carefully into my hand.

So now we have a statue of a frog with a pot belly and a strategically placed lily pad. His stance & expression make him look a bit of a lascivious little scamp, but the lily pad says not.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Endings and oddities

Counting carcasses... There are 3 fluorescent ceiling lights in the women’s bathroom I frequent at my workplace. The 3rd light, closest to the row of windows that run along the top of the high ceiling, has the carcasses of 15 large bugs laying in it. They have been there for months. Nearly every time I’m in there, I count the carcasses.

Explaining to your 11-almost-12-year-old son that a “fudge packer” is not a person who works in a fudge shop on Macinaw Island.

Coming home to a different house because your husband rearranged the furniture while you were at work.

Telling someone that your daughter’s Nintendo DS on which you’re playing Sudoku is a Blackberry because you know they won’t know the difference.

Knowing the words and singing along to Fergie’s “London Bridge” in the car last night with my 6th grade son & his friend... and also knowing that she is part of Black Eyed Peas. Also, not being able to get those silly lyrics out of my head.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Homecoming 2006

Joyce looked beautiful in her dress. Before Kev went out bowhunting, I got this photo of him and Kevin, Jr.

Then we went over to my Mom and Dad's so Joycie could show them her spiffy duds. Mom had a very, very rough week - she had emergency gall bladder surgery, so Joycie went to her. Mom is doing so good... she is one tough cookie. We took some photos out by one of their beautiful blue spruce trees, with the flaming red burning bush.

Then Aunt Kathy told her to push it out, and I caught this saucy photo of my beautiful girl.

Then over to a friend's house where the whole gang and then some met for photos. There was about 15 girls there, and probably 8 or 9 boys, not all the girls had dates, including Joycie, which is always the way it is. They sure have fun. This is Joycie with her close friends Allison, Kara (Homecoming Queen) and Amanda.

More autumn photos

Sam's last football game was yesterday. They won, so their record is 5 wins, 1 loss. Very good season. It was a cold, cold day, but no rain, thank goodness.

The homecoming parade and game Friday evening was also very cold, with rain mixed with snow, then lots of rain at the game. The parade is definitely not as nice with such cold, crappy weather, but we had fun anyway. Kev is getting pretty good at holding out the camera and taking our picture together.

I didn't stay for the football game Friday night... if my kid's not playing, I'm definitely a fair weather fan.

This is a photo I took of the last rose of the season. All the rose hips are bright orange now. Pretty.

And this is Reilly, who is just way too cute. I love how he'll look me right in the eyes.

He's so cute, I forgave him once again for rubbing his neck in turkey poop, and gave him a nice long bath yesterday evening. Sammy was gone to stay overnight at a friend's, Kev was out bowhunting until after dark and Joycie was at the homecoming dance, then she stayed overnight with a bunch of girls at her friend, Kara's house. Or should I say Her Majesty's house... Kara was crowned Homecoming Queen. Homecoming post showing my beautiful girl next...

Autumn road trip

Last weekend, Kev & I drove up to Hillman to the Thunder Bay Resort. Just the 2 of us. Haven't done that kind of thing in a long while. It was a beautiful weekend. The colors up north were gorgeous & the weather was perfect. The resort has a golf course, but they do other things, too... we were there for the carriage ride, elk viewing and gourmet dinner/wine tasting.

We had a beautiful room, which was like a condo/apartment with kitchen & living room, even a front porch.

This is the view out the front windows, I think this is the first hole of the course. All the windows had beautiful views.

Everyone scheduled for the evening's elk viewing event met at the grill/bar and the horse-drawn carriages arrived. This was the first carriage, which was the one that Kev & I rode in... that's Bill and Bob pulling it.

We took a nice ride through the edge of the golf course, then into the woods. Beautiful property. The owners used to show the elk in the wild, but for many reasons, they started an elk ranch a few years ago. This guarantees seeing the elk. We saw a large group of mostly cows and young. Then we came to the crest of small hill and saw the bulls.

The bulls were feisty, and fighting a little bit with each other. They were bugling quite often. There is no other sound like it, especially when you're standing that close.

These animals are definitely not tame. The guide told everyone to stand at least 4 feet back from the fence. With good reason. The bull elk were totally aware of our presence, and it seemed like they enjoyed intimidating us.

This guy saw me while I was down a little ways from the rest of the party, he did a little sprint over and charged the fence at me. Scared the living shit outta me. They are large animals with seriously large antlers. And he so knew he had scared me, then he went down the fence a little ways and charged at Kev. Showing off. I was very glad the fence is strong.

The guide explained that the bulls like to get in the mud because the ladies like it. It's mating season now, which is called the rut. Lots of mud-covered bulls.

After a while, we all got back on the carriages. There were 4 carriages in all, each carrying about two dozen people. We rode back through the woods on a trail along a river and came into a clearing. There sat a large log cabin. This is where our dinner was to be held.

Inside was beautiful, lots of knotty pine and mounts on the walls, and a huge stone fireplace. Large round tables were set up, and we were all assigned to a table. It was nice and warm in there, and it smelled so good.

A husband and wife own the resort, Jack and Jan. Jan cooks the dinner for everyone on two antique wood cookstoves. Dinner was wonderful. Each course was completed in front of us.

We started with shrimp cocktail and an apple tart, then a cup of perfect chicken noodle soup with a crusty croissant, followed by a unique salad, then the main course of pork crown roast and red skinned potatoes. Dessert was 3 small flutes of crunchy something wonderful filled with white chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce. Everything was absolutely wonderful. There were also 2 wine choices with dinner, a nice table white and a merlot. Both were good. The other wines we tasted were blueberry, pear, cranberry and raspberry. Far too sweet for me. There aren't many wineries on the sunrise side of the state, so it was nice to try some from one of the first established. I think it was called Stoneybrook. I'm just not a fan of fruit-other-than-grapes type of wine.

We rolled ourselves back into the carriages, which, thank goodness, we weren't driving! Had a beautiful ride through the woods, with a full moon giving lots of light. It was perfect. Slept ok, got up early, had a nice breakfast (also included) and headed for home. We went by a Michigan Magazine museum, which wasn't open, but the big head made us turn around and stop in anyway. It's stone. (And notice the beautiful colors of the trees.)

It's also very large. Kev is six feet tall.

We saw a bunch of cool stuff on the drives to and from Hillman. I took tons and tons of photos. Kev noticed these shoe trees.

There's a shoe tree near where my brother & his family live, and when something momentuous happens, folks go and throw their shoes in the tree.

I happen to know those red and white sneakers are pretty expensive. Makes me wonder what wonderful thing happened that their owner wanted to add them to the tree.

I couldn't pass the Sap Shanty by... Kev turned around for me so I could photograph it, too.

We stopped at one of those places that sells cement statuary and bought an interesting frog. He'll be a topic for another post.

Then when we got near home, I had to get my camera out again. Just a mile before our road is a big field, and standing in the field were several tall birds.

I had to look them up. They are Sandhill Cranes. Beautiful. Must have been a quick stopover for them, because they were gone the next day.

It was a great little trip for us, nice to be away together. Maybe we'll have to find that old sap shanty come this spring...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Then and now...

This morning on our drive into school & work, respectively, Sam & I passed an old car... it was a black hearse. Very old, so-so condition. That old hearse triggered a high school memory for me, and we spent the rest of the drive talking about my high school years and how greatly it's changed compared to now.

I was in high school in the 1970's; graduated in 1978. Sammy goes to our district's middle school, of which we have only 1. Grades 6th through 8th attend our middle school now, and 9th-12th in the high school. When I was in 6th grade, I attended the same middle school building, and I was in the class that was the first attendees of the brand new building. It was smaller then, and only the 6th grade attended. From 7th grade on, I attended the high school. In 7th grade, I dated a senior. Think about it, all you moms... and dads, too... The 70's were so very different.

I took art classes in high school, and some of the kids that were art class regulars were really cool. They weren't the jocks, the cheerleaders, or the brains, but they were cool. One guy, who was a talented artist, was kinda tall and skinny with long, straight blonde hair. He drove an old black hearse, which was pretty unique. Very cool. I believe I rode in it once... so many years ago, it's hard to remember. And it was the 70's, you know...

I told Sam about a stand of trees close to the high school building, just off the parking lot. The trees are still there, larger & older, but there's a small set of bleachers there now for the girls softball field. I don't think that field was there in the 70's, but maybe it was. Anyway, the trees were commonly known as the smokers area. High school kids (from 7th grade on... so ages 12 or 13 through 17 or 18) would gather there and smoke their cigarettes, and everyone knew it. I suppose it was allowed because smoking was more accepted back then. It wasn't uncommon for kids to buy a pack of cigs at the store "for their parents" and no one questioned them. I asked Sammy if he could imagine our high school principal allowing kids to smoke cigarettes anywhere on school property. No way. I think probably back then, it may have been the lesser evil... at least you knew where they were and what they were doing. The smokers were generally the low end of the high school popularity scale, I suppose. Those kids now are likely the adults working minimum wage jobs, if you get my drift. I'm not trying to be mean about it, just explaining the type of kid that was in the smokers group. Bad grades and less than spectacular attendance. Higher likelihood of not graduating.

Cutting class was also pretty common. "Yes," I said in answer to Sam's question, "yes, I did cut classes sometimes. But don't bring that subject up to your gramma & grampa, ok?" I also got good grades, though I didn't take trigonometry or chemistry... I graduated with a 3.78 gpa. Not too shabby. And I didn't cut classes that often. Everyone did now & then though, most everyone... if you were cool. And everyone knew you'd go out under the football stadium bleachers or on the pole vault mats.

Drinking was very popular, too. Another friend of mine in the art crowd was a girl that had a very nice, relatively new fast car. I suppose, thinking back now, that her parents must have had money. But being part of the art crowd, she didn't flaunt that. Not that I recall. She was 2 or 3 years ahead of me, but we hung out sometimes. I remember one lunch hour in her car (when we were not supposed to be in cars or leaving the school grounds) drinking PBR, the cool beer of choice back then (Pabst Blue Ribbon, stellar in its cheapness). On the blacktop road right in front of the high school, we were seeing how long of a black mark her tires could screechingly leave on the pavement. Right in front of the high school. I asked Sammy what he thought would happen if some kids were doing that over and over nowadays... I told him I thought the school administration would probably call the cops & it'd become a police matter.

I don't think anyone ever wore seatbelts back then either. I'm sure some kids drove old cars that may not even have had seatbelts. But probably they did have an 8-track player.

And streaking! Remember streaking? I remember there was a guy that streaked through a boys basketball game. Far out, man.

I think he was on the varsity team and streaked the JV or something like that, and he got kicked off the team... or suspended from school... Anyway, pretty cool prank you'd think, but everyone knew him, so I seem to remember it ended badly for him. If my son ever thought of streaking in high school, I'd... I'd... I don't know, probably have a stroke. I never thought of that boy's parents until just this moment.

I remember finding empty vodka bottles in the girls' bathroom trash, and not hidden at all. Now, the kids can't even wear clothing that has anything about alcohol or tobacco on it, or drugs, of course. Sammy said even a NASCAR t-shirt with Budweiser car on it is forbidden. As a parent, I say, YES. Back in my day, however, in art class, I remember doing batik. I still have a tiger print I made that my mom and dad made a hexagon-shaped frame for it... it's downstairs on a basement wall right now. I also made a pillow shaped like a beer can... a PBR can in batik, about 18 inches high. Did a pretty good job on it, too. Could seriously not take it home, though, because my parents would not have been pleased at all. I gave it to my friend with the fast car.

Fighting and name-calling was also more prevalent. Our school district, like so many now, has a "zero tolerance" rule on such things now. Again, YES!

Sex, particularly unprotected sex, was also more common back then I'm sure... at least high school pregnancies were more common back then. When I attended 6th grade at that new middle school building, one of the girls in our class didn't finish her 6th grade year as she was busy giving birth. She kept the baby boy, too. Every year after, there was at least one girl from my class that got pregnant, I'm pretty sure. If not at our high school, then definitely at a nearby high school where I had a couple of good friends. At that high school, in my 9th grade year, I went to class there for a whole day with a friend... which was super fun. But I remember being amazed at the pregnant bellies I saw there... it happened to be like a school record or something that year, because of grades 9th through 12th, they had around 12 girls pregnant. This was a smaller school than the small high school I attended... the 4 grades there comprised a population of probably about 400 kids. Thinking back on that now, it makes me sick. Actually, I remember feeling something along the lines of "this is just wrong" even back then. Drinking PBR, cool... having a baby... NOT cool.

This post kinda makes it sound like I went to a crappy low-life high school, but that was not the case. In addition to the smokers, the fighters, the class-cutting, the drinking, etc., we had the usual great stuff. Good teachers, high achiever kids, great athletes, fun stuff... good, clean fun. Hot baked potatoes at football games. Dances in the gym. Oh, wait, I think it was the cafeteria, not the gym. Cramming for tests. AV cart. Posters on the walls. Really bad spaghetti for lunch. Researching for term papers. Cruising McDonalds on Friday nights. The usual stuff.

But many of the things that passed for acceptable back in the 1970's would not pass now. Because we have evolved, that is, we have advanced, we have grown. Thank goodness.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Smart boy & other stuff

Yesterday was my Mom's 70th birthday, and though she's having some health problems lately, I sure hope I'm as strong and smart as she is when I'm 70... Yesterday was also my Mom & Dad's 54th wedding anniversary. They're my heroes.

Earlier this evening, I went to the Middle School with Sammy to cruise through parent teacher conferences. The format is very relaxed... basically the teachers are in their classrooms (or not), and you walk in and your child shows you the layout and explains the class & procedures and shows some of their homework, and you can talk with the teachers, sans privacy. Should you wish a private conversation, you can always set up a meeting, one doesn't need to wait for "parent teacher conference" night. I'm not really even sure why they call it a parent teacher conference. It's more of an open house. I like it. A lot. I find it much more informative to have Sammy show me around and explain what's what, without a time limit. I was able to talk with 2 of his 3 teachers, and they're both great. With the relaxed atmosphere, the conversations were easy and enjoyable. The other teacher had a commitment until 5:15pm, and I chose not to wait around... no biggie. I would have liked to have talked with him, too, of course, so I'll be sure to catch him next time.

Sam is enjoying 6th grade, and he really likes all his teachers and classes. He does well and works hard. We are so very proud of him. The mid-term reports I saw tonight were spectacular... some were even over 100% due to extra credit. My smart, wonderful boy.

Sam showed me the frog that his science (& social studies) teacher has in his classroom. It's the oddest looking frog, and it has a little stub-like tail thing going on... It's kinda prehistoric looking or something. I love it. And it just sat there in the bottom of the tank with wide open eyes looking at me like he was thinking, "if I were bigger and you were in this tank, I'd eat you"... or maybe we'd be friends. Strange little fat froggy. His name is Chubbs. Sam said he was part of a group of 4, but Chubbs ate 2 and 1 got out of the tank and died. Or did Chubbs chase him out?... Hmmmm...

One thing I love about Sammy now being in 6th grade is that I drive him to school each morning, dropping him off about 7:20am or so, before I head into work. I love our morning rides together. The sunrises this week have been so gorgeous. It's nice to have my boy with me to share them with. I like our talks, too. Though sometimes, neither of us really feel like talking. That works for us, too. I like our silences together, too.

Joycie went right after school to the boys' soccer game to get some photographs for the year book. Well, she took a little shopping trip with Allison first. I called her on her way home and asked her to pick up a loaf of bread. She was 1 mile past the last store... I was like, um, yeah, so... turn around. I told her it was good practice for being an adult. She said, "yeah, right, Mom, so my turning around and backtracking a mile to buy a loaf of bread is an adult thing to do." Yes, exactly! Welcome to adulthood, baby.

This week the trees have come into their autumn colors. The drive home is flaming with the same colors I saw in the sunrise this morning. I love this time of year. So does my hubby. Kev is out in the woods bowhunting tonight. Though, it's pretty much past dusk now and dark outside, so I hope he's heading in... Tonight was only the 2nd time he's been out, and usually by now, he would have been hunting just about each and every single day since Oct. 1st opening. He went out the other evening, but it was so dang hot outside, that it wasn't enjoyable. I'm glad tonight was nice and cool. Kev loves bowhunting, loves being out in the woods. And he works so hard, he deserves that time. I wish he could have more of it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Woodpile resident

Speaking of the woodpile, when I went out to photograph that pair of strange, short-lived fungi, I got chewed out by a chipmunk. I see this little guy around the woodpile Kev has stacked next to the wood stove often. That chipmunk takes his territory seriously. Which is unfortunate, considering his territory is going to become ashes bit by bit through the upcoming cold winter months... so I've been trying to scare him away from that woodpile. Not that I'm a big fan of chipmunks, since they can be destructive little buggers. But they're just so darn cute. So I decided to see how close I could get to him to snap his picture.

I didn't get that close on Sunday, and he scooted down to the side of one stack. Chewed me out a bit, then when I stepped closer, he ducked into the logs.

I found him peeking out at me from the other side.

I got some photos yesterday, then today, I snuck up on him... I think he was snoozing in the sun, so I got pretty close to him. But then, of course, he noticed me and took off.

But he let me get a nice photo of him first...

Maybe he wasn't chewing me out, maybe that was just his way of flirting with me...

Hey, good lookin'!

Enough with the fungi fetish already

Sunday afternoon I looked out my bedroom window toward the pond and saw this thing in the sand. Closer inspection revealed it to be... wait for it... wait for it... hey, you totally ruined the whole suspense thing.

Yeah, so anyway, yet another photo of fungi. I call this "Day 1"...

So yesterday, I looked again, and geewhiz, those fungi sure do age fast. This is "Day 2"...

And last night it rained, so I figured they would be blasted to smithereens... but I think today's heatwave just sped up the aging process.... I give you "Day 3"...

Weird stuff, huh. It's like they melted. It did get pretty hot today. Some folks enjoyed the heat, I'm sure, but not me. First of all, I'm still hacking and coughing my way through the end of this nasty cold, so I'm kinda predisposed to dislike pretty much everything right now. But also because this heatwave has brought out the beetles like crazy.
I think they're Japanese beetles, the ones that resemble ladybugs, but so are not ladybugs. They stink and they gather together and stink more. I hate them. They love our cedar siding on our house, and there are kazillions of 'em on and around the porch now. We can't use our front door until it gets cooler weather again and those nasty things go back into hiding. They fly into your hair and come in the house with you. I hate them.

Oh! and how big was that shroom, you ask? Well, here for your comparing pleasure is yet another fungi photo...

That's one big shroom...

I have so many, many more photos of fungi... I haven't even started on the variety that's living on the woodpile. I'll save them for a future day when I'm missing the colors and smells of autumn.