Sometimes I’m disappointed in the last fifty pages of a good book. After lots of twists and turns in the plot of the story, the author neatly and quickly ties everything together with a happy sappy ending. That leaves me feeling like the author was tired of writing the story and decided to wrap it up fast and be finished with it. It’s very disappointing after 300 pages of a good read.

Yesterday was a different story (pun intended). I read a paragraph that made me think the author possibly started the paragraph and then just decided to keep going and have some fun with it. This excerpt is from Judith MIchael’s book Private Affairs. For maximum enjoyment, read the last highlighted sentence first.


In Olympic news today, I read an article regarding the absence of Bob Costas as a commentator. I have a feeling the reporter couldn’t think of the word nuances.

Or did Bob really report on nuisances? “It’s too bad the runner’s shoelace came untied just as the starting gun went off.” “She was favored to win, but forgot her swim cap.” “He’d do better if he could stop hiccupping.” The reporter also mentions that Bob only “occasionally [chimed] in with clear-headed commentary.” And yet, Bob’s career as a sportscaster for NBC lasted from 1980-2019, Not bad for a muddle-headed reporter whose strength was guiding viewers through nuisances.

When Ted and I bought our first house and felt “settled,” one of the things I wanted was a set of good kitchen knives. We shopped and bought Gerber knives. After 48 years of use and sharpening, they have become notched at the handle end of the blade. The arrow shows where the blade edge used to be flush with the visible portion of the tang. I decided it’s time for new knives.

I checked all my knives and noted which ones I use a lot, which ones I might not replace, and which other styles of knives I might want. I decided to keep the bone-handled knife and honing steel Ted and I received as a wedding gift because they are so beautiful. And yes, that’s the honing steel I was using when I sliced my wrist.

I liked my Gerber knives, so I went online to see if I could get some more. The answer is “no.” I learned that, in the 1970s, sometime after I bought my kitchen knives, Gerber dropped its kitchen line and now makes only hunting knives. I don’t hunt, so I did some more online research, went to Williams-Sonoma to see what they had to offer, and decided to go with Wüsthof. I kept the wedding gift knife and the Miyabi rocker knife I bought several years ago and added eight new knives. I treated myself to a new knife block as well. Of course, the supply chain is still out of whack from the COVID pandemic, so I only took one knife home with me. The rest trickled in, one knife at a time, over a period of three months. (Don’t you just love the supply chain?) Each knife arrived over-packaged. Does Wüsthof have only one size shipping box? On the other hand, none of the knives had shipping damage.

The new knives are amazingly sharp! Wüsthof sharpens its knives to a 14-degree edge; most knives are sharpened to a 15-degree edge. That single degree of difference is definitely noticeable.

Now that I have new knives, what shall I do with the old ones? I asked Kathy and Kari if they were interested in them. Kathy already has a set of knives and a knife block, but Kari said my old knives will be better than what she currently has and she’ll take the block too. That was easy!

When I removed the knives from my old block to replace it with the new one, the old one looked pretty bad. That’s not surprising, since it’s 48 years old and has been used daily. You can see how putting the knives and the honing steel in and out created wear on the openings, and how the finish at the bottom edge is worn from years of wiping the countertop beside the block.

I felt badly about giving something that looked so worn to Kari, so I decided to refinish the block for her. It was easy to sand the finish off with my power sander. You can see more damage on this side of the block where it rubbed against the side of the refrigerator for many years. The bare wood shows where I’ve partially sanded the block.

When I had the block sanded clean, the wood was beautiful. I finished the sanding portion of the project with a 600 grit sandpaper, and that made the surface feel as smooth as glass.

The next step was stain. I almost hated to put stain on the wood because the bare wood looked so pretty. I debated leaving the natural finish but, in the end, I went with a wiping stain and rubbed it in as much as I could.

When the stain dried, it was time for varnish. I tried spray-on varnish for the first time. I wanted only a thin coat of varnish, and I thought it would be easier to apply a thin coat with a spray than with a brush. Luckily, we just bought a storage shed. Ted suggested we use the shed box to form a wall to catch the overspray.

The spray varnish dried to touch in about five minutes and was thoroughly dry in four hours. With such a short drying time, it was possible for me to spray all sides of the block right away, rather than waiting a day to do whichever side had been on the bottom. When the entire varnished block was dry to touch (roughly 30 minutes), I fed a wire through the honing steel opening and suspended the block from two nails in a ceiling joist to finish drying. I hung the drying block over a step stool so that if the wire hanger failed for any reason, the block wouldn’t have far to fall.

And here’s the re-finished block–not looking shabby–for Kari. I haven’t re-finished anything for a few years, so this was fun for me. Now Kari and I both have updated kitchen knives and blocks.

Why, oh why do women’s pants have pockets too small to carry a cell phone (it falls out of the pocket if I bend over, and the back pockets aren’t any deeper), . . .

but women’s pajamas have three pockets–one on the top and two in the pants–large enough for a cell phone or even an 8-inch tablet?

What do I need to put in a pocket to keep me uncomfortable all night while I sleep?

When Ted and I were at the bike shop recently, we saw this bicycle. It has four sets of pedals, but no gears. Without gears, the owner said it’s difficult to keep it going with a full load of people. (I’ll bet it’s really tough going uphill!) To solve that problem, the owner brought it to the bike shop to have a small motor installed in the rear. Other features include headlights, two steering wheels (each equipped with a knob for easy turning), a child seat mounted on the front for two smaller passengers, and a fringed top for shade. Note: You can see the bike shop’s three unicycle stools behind the surrey bike. Each stool includes pedals to turn its wheel. You can sit on a unicycle stool and exercise while you wait for your bike to be fixed.

Like all wheeled vehicles these days, the surrey bike also has cup holders. The bell to the left of the cup holders rings when the horn button on the steering wheel is pressed. I’d love to take a ride on this bike.

As Ted and I were coming home from Pilates this evening, we saw a wall cloud in the northwest. These don’t appear too often in the sky. You can have a wall cloud without a tornado, but tornadoes develop in the southwest sector of wall clouds, so you can’t have a tornado without a wall cloud. Notice how dark the sky is beneath the wall cloud. It’s still ninety minutes until sunset, but our house was so dark inside, we needed to turn on some bright lights. After we changed our clothes, we tuned in to the weather report and learned that radar indicated some rotation in this wall cloud. There were no severe storms in the area, but we did get rain, lightning, thunder, and some wind. Bigger storms are moving in after midnight tonight.

Kari gave us this year’s school photos of the boys. When I saw Dylan’s, I said to Ted, “That’s Kari!” What do you think? Kari is a little bit older than Dylan in her picture. It was senior awards day at school, and she’s wearing her award medallion on the black ribbon; Dylan is beginning his junior year of high school. Hint: cover Kari’s earrings, then look at the faces.

It seems fair for Dylan to look like Kari, since Sky is a double for Dean.

I’ve mentioned before how much I’m enjoying the little hibiscus tree I bought for the summer. It was worth every penny for the joy it brings with its daily blooms. The blooms only last one day, but it’s always covered with buds. They begin to open when the sun rises and they begin to close at dusk. The following day, they self-deadhead and drop to the ground. We usually have 4-6 blooms at a time but, one day, we had eight and today we set a record of nine blooms. I’m planning to buy another hibiscus tree next spring.

Last year, our neighbors, Will and Karen, treated our neighborhood to an amazing display of fireworks on the Fourth of July. I spoke with Will the next day and complimented him on the show. “Oh, it’s going to be better next year,” he told me. “I took notes for improvements.”

Ted and I invited Kari’s family to join us for this year’s Will and Karen Fireworks Extravaganza. Kari and the boys arrived early to allow time for swimming and for a chance to relax in the hot tub. We’ve heard fireworks every day and night for about a week, but around 7:30 tonight, the noise became more frequent as people got things ready for the Big Show.

We were all visiting with each other in the back yard when we noticed that Teddy was missing. Teddy loves fireworks, so I checked our driveway seating area, and there he was–enjoying the pre-show all by himself as Will ran some test fireworks to assure the proper placement of everything.

When the “real” show began around 8:00 (sunset at 8:30), we all settled in and enjoyed our first-row seating, our table of snacks and beverages, and some good conversation–when we could hear each other above the noise. Other neighbors also set out lawn chairs in their driveways because they, too, remembered how good Will and Karen’s show was last year. See that blue canister sitting on the driveway? That’s a silent, odorless bug repellent we received from Thom and Katie last Christmas. It worked well–no bugs bothered us.

The city shows–with the crowds, the limited parking, etc.–usually last about 20-30 minutes. The neighborhood shows lasted about two-and-a-half hours, with occasional pops continuing until about midnight. Will and Karen bought all the good stuff and lots of it. These weren’t bottle rockets and little fizzlers; the entire show was the big stuff.

There was even a grand finale that lasted 10-15 minutes with shot after shot after shot all exploding just across the street from us.

Like last year, we could see fireworks shows all around us. I counted 11 neighborhood shows in my 180-degree sight range in front of our garage. They were all pretty good, but Will and Karen get the first place prize, and Will is a man of his word: it was better than last year. Afterward: no need to navigate large crowds or heavy traffic when the show ended. Family fun for sure!

Ted and I have been wanting to ride the Dardenne Greenway bike trail for several weeks, but the weather has been crummy and we’ve been busy. Today was the day–perfect weather and nothing on our calendar. This was our first sunny day after ten consecutive days of thundershowers that dropped at least 6-8 inches of rain on us. Need I say the trail was kind of wet? It’s a blacktop recreational path, but we had to coast slowly through large puddles of water in a number of low spots on the trail.

The Dardenne Creek, which the trail follows, is still high, as you can tell by the overhanging tree branches in the water.

Here’s a view of the creek from one of the bridges last fall. Compare that to how it looked at the same point today. Greener today? Yes. Creek banks visible today? No.

Just for fun, we checked the soccer fields in Rabbit Run Park, one of the parks along the Dardenne Greenway. Those fields are along the creek and flood with any significant rain. Sure enough . . . even though there was little standing water visible from the trail, the grass-covered ground was so soggy, we’d have sunk to our ankles if we’d walked on it.

I’m standing at the high water point at this part of the trail. The trail is still covered with (mostly) dry mud. Notice that there is a bridge in the right center of the picture. Dardenne Creek flows under the bridge.

Here’s the bridge. It was obviously completely underwater during the past ten days of rain. Check the picture above again. Now imagine how much water was flowing here to make the creek wide enough for the water to come up to where I’m standing. We had a lot of rain.

All along the trail, we saw tree damage from the severe thunderstorm we had on the third day of our ten-day rain-a-thon. This was the biggest fallen limb we saw beside the trail. The arrow points to the where the branch used to be attached to the tree. In some places, broken branches had already been gathered into piles. The Parks Department has been busy.

We turned around at the Mid Rivers Mall Drive overpass. The Dardenne Greenway ends on the other side of the overpass and joins one of the St. Peters City bike trails. We opted to quit here instead of riding through the soft mud that settled in the low spot under the overpass.

The Dardenne is still our favorite bike trail and we had a nice ride on a beautiful day. Happy trails to us.

The severe thunderstorm that struck our area a few days ago destroyed our pool toy storage shed, so we had to buy a new one. Assembling the new shed provided us with an afternoon outdoor project in beautiful weather, so it was (mostly) fun.

The basic shed assembly wasn’t too tough. There were eight pieces: a floor, two side panels, two back panels, a roof, and two doors. I like putting things together and Ted is a Master Assistant when I’m working on stuff. He let me do most of the assembly work while he handed me tools like a surgical aide and held pieces in place while I joined them together.

Everything was pretty straightforward except attaching the doors and finishing the roof. The black metal hinges on the doors (photo below) snapped into place and then required a bolt through each hinge for extra security. With one of us working on each door, I think Ted and I spent more than 45 minutes trying to get those 6 bolts screwed into place. We managed to get the top and bottom ones in tightly, but eventually gave up on the middle ones. It looked and felt like the metal exit holes for the bolts were smaller than the diameter of the bolts. We could see the ends of the bolts in the holes, but we couldn’t make the bolt threads turn their way through those holes. We finally made an executive decision to let the top and bottom bolts do the heavy hinge work on the doors and to let the snapped-in-place middle hinges go along for the ride.

It was easy to snap the roof onto the two hinges on the back panel, but we wondered what would prevent the front of the roof from blowing upward in a breeze. The pictures and directions for finishing the roof were confusing, but we finally figured out how to position the steel support bar in the surface maze of the roof. The roof locking piece was more of a mystery. Eventually, we found a place on the roof where it would fit and a notch on the side panel that would hold it and lock the front of the roof to the top of the side panel. Now it won’t flap up and down in the wind.

With everything feeling secure and looking good, we put the shed on our flat dolly, wheeled it into place, and added the pool toys.

All set! It looks good and it’s guaranteed for 10 years. We had a good run of 11 years on the old shed, which is now at the recycle center, preparing for its next life.

While we’re here, look at how the storage shed fits into the corner of the chimney and the house. The storm winds pulled the old shed out of this nook, ripped off the padlocked doors, turned the shed around, flipped it over, and threw it into the open area in the right center of the picture, all while keeping the pool toys inside. Mother Nature is a crafty old gal!

Today we learned that we have a second granddaughter. Thom and Katie presented us with Hadley Rose, who is 20½ inches long and weighs 9 lb. 6 oz. She looks just like her dad did when he was born (lower photo).

Welcome, Hadley. We can’t wait to see you and hold you.

Ted and I have lived in the Midwest nearly all of our lives, so it’s a given that we’ve headed for cover in the basement several times when weather radar and warnings indicated a tornado was dangerously close to us. Having said that, Ted and I agreed that the thunderstorm we had this weekend was the worst we’ve ever experienced. The NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning (no tornado watches or warnings) and we experienced the worst of the storm. The red marker for St. Peters is about two miles from our house. The darkest / most severe section of the storm cell is headed directly toward us.

During the heaviest rainfall, we couldn’t see the houses across the street from us. It looked like dense fog outside our windows. By the time I got my camera, the rain had let up a bit, but it was still heavy. Wind gusts were 70+ mph. It seemed like the wind was blowing rain against the windows from every direction. The wind blew the rain in sheets and small waves down the street. We watched a beach ball blow past our house. Afterward, I asked our neighbors if it was their ball and Karen said no, they’d watched it blow past their house as well. There are three more neighbors with swimming pools uphill from us, and I guess one of them lost a beach ball.

Three of our gutters have underground drains to central areas of the yard; one drains onto a sidewalk. Water was coming out of that gutter like a gusher. Kari said all three of her rain barrels quickly filled. We have a hill behind our house and the street in front of our house slopes as well, so we had a considerable amount of run-off in our back yard. The water in the lower left is moving downhill to the left like a rushing river.

After the storm, neighbors started coming outside to assess damage, to talk about the storm, and to start cleaning up the mess. Everyone looked a little bit shell-shocked at how strong the storm had been.

Our damage was minimal. We have a vertical two-door storage cabinet against the house, tucked into a corner formed by the house and the exterior of the fireplace chimney. We store pool stuff in the cabinet–kickboards, noodles, balls, mats, etc. The wind ripped the padlock off the cabinet door latches, picked up the cabinet, ripped off both doors, turned the cabinet 180 degrees, flipped it over, and threw it into the back yard in a single pile. Except for one kickboard, the pool paraphernalia was still inside the cabinet.

We (and everyone else) also had a lot of tree litter and broken branches in our yard. In some places nearby, the street looked like it was carpeted in green. Ted picked up the bigger branches–the largest had a nearly 3-inch diameter–and I raked up the litter. Then Ted collected my piles in his wheelbarrow and added five loads of tree litter to the branches he’d already thrown on our brush pile. He’s going to have to get out his wood chipper when things dry out.

The neighbors across the street from our driveway weren’t quite as lucky as we were. A mature tree in their yard was broken by the wind and will need to be removed. Fortunately, it fell alongside the house and not into the bedroom windows or onto the roof. Within a half mile of our house in both directions, Ted and I counted 4 mature trees blown down by the wind and 18 homes with major (4″-12″) limbs broken off the trees. Amazingly, none of the trees or large limbs caused visible damage to homes or cars. We apparently have very considerate trees in our neighborhood.

It took Ted and me about two hours to clean up our yard. The next day, we went to Home Depot and bought Ted a Father’s Day gift.

The photo below is a screenshot of an ad that appears when I play my free Solitaire game online. Read the text carefully. It was probably written by a right-brained (creative/artistic) person who cannot “match three.” Or spell.

Ted and I celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary quietly. We remarked that it’s a good thing we were married in 1969 instead of 1970 because we had a great weekend with our entire family to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2019. If we’d been married just one year later, the COVID quarantines and restrictions would have meant canceling our celebration.

This time, we started our anniversary party a day early, when Kari, Dylan, and Teddy came over to our house to swim. It was a perfect day for swimming–the temperature was in the upper 80s and the humidity was low. The water temperature was 86 degrees, thanks to the warm weather we’ve had all week.

It was fun to swim, then get into the hot tub (we’ve lowered that water temperature for the summer), and then get back into the cooler pool.

After about two hours in the water, it was time for a game of sheephead. Dylan came prepared with a deck of cards and Kari brought The Chips (inherited from Grandma Sch). Teddy won the first hand and already has three additional chips on his pile. Ted was playing too, but stepped back to take the pictures.

The following day, on our real anniversary, we didn’t do any jobs around the house or yard. It was fun to have a “play day” when we only did what we felt like doing. Since the CDC says it’s now safe for fully vaccinated people to eat indoors at a restaurant, we went out for dinner–something we haven’t done for 15 months. Still being COVID cautious since new cases in our area are rising right now (post-Memorial Day weekend), we went after the peak dinner time. The “experience” of eating indoors at a restaurant was fun. We each ordered a glass of wine and toasted each other to the next 52 years together.

When we got back home, we lit our anniversary candle, enjoyed a piece of the Bissinger’s ohh-la-la chocolate that we bought as a gift to ourselves, and watched a Netflix movie.

Today, Ted and I decided we felt like biking the Katy Trail from St. Charles to Machens, so we did. Machens is the eastern terminus of the Katy and we’ve been there before, but it’s a nice ride. We biked 25 miles round trip–just enough for today. The weather was perfect and there were wildflowers blooming for miles along the trail. We met very few other bikers, so it was a quiet ride and we could bike side-by-side nearly all the time.

When we arrived in Machens, there were several other people there. Since it’s the terminus, people at Machens always ask “Where did you come from?” Today, there were three of us who started in St. Charles and one man who started in Clinton, MO, the western terminus of the Katy. We all compared notes on how much of the Katy we’ve covered. Ted and I have bikes 67 miles of the trail. One man who has taken the train westward, then biked eastward toward home, reviewed all the places the train stops along the Katy. You may bring your bike on the train, but they only allow four bikes and the bike has to be a regular size two-wheel bicycle–no three-wheelers, trailers, etc. There’s apparently very limited bike storage space on the train. As a result, it’s necessary to make a reservation and buy your ticket about a week before you plan to go.

The man who biked from Clinton started riding two days ago and finished the 237 miles by 2:30 p.m. today while we were there. He described the Katy as a “Missouri gem” and said he was really impressed with the maintenance and the condition of the trail all the way. His wife drove the support vehicle. She followed him on the highways, brought him lunch, picked him up at the end of the day, transported everything except his daily trail necessities, and arranged for overnight accommodations, When she heard we are from St. Peters, she said she’d been shopping there earlier this afternoon before she had to leave to meet her husband at Machens. I took a celebratory picture of the two of them with his dusty bicycle.

Ted took a picture of me at the Machens stop before we left for a good ride back to St. Charles.

When we got home, we cleaned the dust off our bikes, had a light dinner, then relaxed in the hot tub before getting into the pool. Next: a Saturday date night Netflix movie with fresh strawberry sundaes.

I wanted to title this post C12H22O11, but couldn’t get the subscripts into the title line. Just in case you’re not up on your compound formula knowledge, that’s the formula for Sucrose, a local bakery that uses Su as its logo, as if it’s listed on the periodic table. Last Christmas, Kari’s family gave Ted and me a gift certificate to Sucrose and we finally used it. It was definitely worth the wait.

I was expecting to order something like a jelly doughnut or a long john, but Sucrose is not that kind of bakery. They do have some cupcakes and cookies, and they offer some breads on Saturdays, but the main feature is irresistible desserts. We chose to spend the gift certificate on some chocolate raspberry mousse (served in molded chocolate cups) and some fruit tarts–a simple name for an elaborate offering.

We’ll be going back soon to try some of their other desserts. Thank you, Kari’s family, for introducing us to this bakery.

I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s book The Four Winds. It’s a really good fictional account of one family’s struggle during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The sections of the book are indicated by the year of the narrative and a quotation related to that year. Sadly, FDR’s statement in 1934 is true today.

The author’s note at the end of the book states that she started writing this book in 2017 and finished it in May 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. The Dust Bowl was the worst environmental disaster in United States history and included a collapse of the economy and massive unemployment. “Never in my wildest dreams,” Hannah writes, “did I imagine that the Great Depression would become so relevant in our modern lives. . . . In the end, it is our idealism and our courage and our commitment to one another–what we have in common–that will save us.”

I’ve been searching the internet for a hamburger bun recipe. What I really wish I could make are Wisconsin hard rolls. In this case, “Hard” does not equal “stale.” Wisconsin hard rolls are made without eggs and they’re crusty on the top.

I couldn’t find that (secret?) Wisconsin recipe, so I decided to settle for something that would produce rolls that were firm but not dry, and light but not mushy. Based on the ingredients, I found a recipe I thought might be pretty good and I tried it. The recipe is called “Beautiful Burger Buns” and they are.

They’re light, they taste good, and they don’t disintegrate if you add a juicy pickle or some sauce. Yummy!

P.S. I’m still going to stock up on hard rolls whenever we visit Wisconsin.

I saw this truck while I was stopped at a red light. I can’t imagine why the owner / driver needs spikes on the front wheels, unless Q ordered it for a James Bond sidekick who drives a pickup truck. Those spikes look lethal.

It’s been a cool, wet spring around here. Normal high temperatures should be in the 80s by now–and every now and then we actually get a day in the 80s. I’m such a sucker, I fall for it every time and say, “Spring is probably here for real now,” and then the temperatures drop into the upper 50s and lower 60s for highs, and the rains return. This will be one of those years that we go from winter to summer–suddenly it will be hot every day without the gradual warming of March, April, and May. The April 20 frost finished off all the spring-blooming trees, but the rain we’ve been getting has been good for the summer flowers. Our yard is looking flower-y cheerful these days.

The roses have been blooming for a few days, but I had to wait for the rain to stop to take pictures. The knockout roses are looking good.

The carpet roses are bushier than usual–maybe thanks to the rain.

This group of roses was gorgeous about five days ago but, again, I had to wait for the rain to stop to get a decent picture.

The poolside dahlias are becoming bushy.

The day lilies will bloom all summer, but the first blooming always has the most flowers at one time.

My favorites are the hibiscus tree and the marigolds. I love seeing these while I’m working at the kitchen sink.

The snapdragons will provide a variety of color in front of the hydrangea bush, which will bloom in two or three weeks.

Maybe it takes winter to make the spring and summer colors look so good. I’m loving it.

In 2018, an anonymous person planted some iris on the common ground area closest to our house. The flowers were a pleasant surprise when I took my daily walk and I’ve been looking forward to them every spring since 2018. At first, the iris looked like this photo. The arrow shows where the planting stopped–at the fourth rock.

Last year, I noticed some additional iris plants at the next two rocks. This year, the bed is expanding even more. The turquoise arrow shows one of the 2020 additional plants–a white iris. The green arrow shows a new 2021 iris (not blooming), and the orange arrow shows something different: a little shrub. The yellow arrow points to where the floral display now ends–at the eleventh rock. I wonder if the plan is to eventually plant something at every rock.

Here’s a closer look at the new shrub. I assume the gardener painted the top of the stake red so the grounds crew wouldn’t mow the little bush. It’s not blooming, but I hope it will be a blooming bush. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, the original purple iris at the first four rocks continue to thrive and I continue to enjoy them when I walk by.

As I was looking at the pictures of Jeff and La with Ollie, their first grandchild, I couldn’t help remembering when Ted and I had Jeff and my parents became grandparents for the first time. It logically followed to remember when Jeff and La had Alex, making Ted and me grandparents for the first time. Expanding on this theme, Jeff was the first great-grandchild of my maternal grandparents and Ollie is Ted’s and my first great-grandchild. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Ted and I, and Jeff and La were all approximately the same age when we had our first child and when we became grandparents for the first time. And yet, . . .

. . . I can’t get over how young I feel compared to how old my parents and grandparents seemed to be when Jeff was born. Maybe that’s the perspective of youth looking at age. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or do we look (and act) younger than previous generations did at the same age? Look at the pictures below as you consider that question.

This four-generation picture was taken when Jeff was ten months old. Ted and I are in the center with Jeff, and I’m five months pregnant with Kathy. My grandparents are on the left and my parents are on the right. Remember, Jeff is my parents’ first grandchild and my grandparents’ first great-grandchild.

Let’s jump ahead a generation. Here are Jeff and La with their first grandchild, Ollie, and Ted and I with our first grandchild, Alex.

Here are Ollie’s great-grandparents. We haven’t met Ollie yet, so we don’t have a picture of the three of us.

What’s your verdict on the aging thing? Ted and I choose to think we look younger than our parents and grandparents did at our age. Whether or not that’s true, it makes us happy to think so.

We’ve had a cool spring, so rhubarb has had a great season. For rhubarb lovers, this is good news, but if you don’t have a rhubarb patch of your own, it’s sometimes difficult to find fresh rhubarb in the grocery stores. Kathy, however, has sources, and she contacted her peeps to fill a big bag of rhubarb to bring to me when she visited this weekend. I’m going to freeze it and look forward to rhubarb in the future.

Here I am, cutting the stalks and filling quart containers for future rhubarb pies and kuchens.

Kathy’s big gift bag of rhubarb was filled with nearly six quarts of the delicious vegetable. I set one quart aside for a fresh (not frozen) rhubarb pie for dinner tonight.

I smiled all the way to the freezer and I can’t wait for dessert tonight.

Ted and I had a semi-spontaneous family weekend with our daughters and their families. “Semi-spontaneous” means the idea came up only a few days before the event. Isn’t it odd how, when you try to plan something for the more distant future, it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s calendar, but in the short term everyone says “Sure, we can be there”? It was fun!

This is the family birthday season when we have five birthdays plus Mother’s Day over a period of just a few weeks. Of course, I always celebrate a birthday “season” for myself and family members have teased me about it in the past. This year, because of COVID restrictions, several other family members admitted that their birthday celebrations have been extended to more than one experience as well. They’re learning how much fun a birthday season can be.

For many years, Kathy has made cloth gift bags for her gifts. We all enjoy her bags and, while we were sewing Teddy’s draperies, Kari mentioned that she’d like to learn to sew Christmas gift bags as a future project with me. I decided to start practicing and trying different ideas, so I made seven gift bags for this birthday bash. I tried lots of things: one and two-color bags with matched and offset fabrics; center and side fabric joinings; zigzag seams and French seams; buttonhole and seamed openings for cording; threaded ties with and without a ruffle above the cord; fabric, braided, and ribbon handles; envelope and rectangular bottoms; decorative stitching, etc. It was fun and I now know what’s easy, what’s time-consuming, and some of what does and doesn’t work real well. All the bags turned out nicely, and I’m ready to get started on Kari’s and my Christmas bag project.

Dean’s birthday was the earliest, so he opened his gifts first.

Next on the calendar was Teddy, who is now a teenager. They grow up so fast!

Kari’s birthday fell last, so she was third to open her gifts. That box in front of Kari is filled with bag-making Christmas fabric and notions. It was part of Kathy’s and Annette’s birthday gift to help Kari get started sewing her Christmas gift bags.

About a month ago, Kari told me that if Ted and I need a birthday gift idea for her, she’d like a bicycle helmet. She has one, but she hates wearing it because it’s uncomfortable. One time when she was at our house, she borrowed my helmet and said she liked it so much that if we didn’t give her a nice helmet for her birthday, she was going to buy one herself. In my opinion, that gave Ted and me a clear direction for what to give her for her birthday.

Because shipping sometimes equals or exceeds the cost of the gift, Kathy and Annette included Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts for Ted and me too, so we expanded the birthday celebration parameters.

While we were spending time visiting, Kathy and Annette brought up how difficult it sometimes is to take a photo with a cell phone when your finger or thumb can’t reach the shutter button. I showed Kathy how I use a floating shutter button and then we looked through her settings until we found one that will allow her and Annette to touch any point on the screen to take a picture. We tried it out with a selfie without considering the background or anything else–we just wanted to try clicking the screen to make sure this worked like it should. The picture turned out pretty decent–not counting the overhead light whiting out my left side.

Teddy had the honor of selecting the birthday cake. He made it himself and got creative with a family favorite–ice cream cake. I might have these flavors wrong, but I think the three parts of the cake were: (1) chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce and mint Oreo crumbs for the topping; (2) vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce and chopped butterscotch chips in the topping; and (3) traditional vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce and regular Oreo crumbs for topping. So many choices!

The family time was great but, as always, ended too soon. We all hope to have another get-together soon and (hopefully) with better weather. We were all looking forward to some pool and hot tub time, but the weather was cool and rainy all day. Pool and hot tub next time, right? Right.

A few weeks ago, Jeff and La were able to visit Alex and Kaitlyn to see their first grandchild. It’s still hard for me to believe that Ted and I have a child old enough to be a grandparent and that we are great-grandparents, but we’re excited about it and are looking forward to meeting Ollie later this year. Jeff posted some very nice photos of Ollie with his grandpa and grandma, and I’m shamelessly lifting them for my blog because I like them so much.

First, we have Jeff with Ollie.

Next, we have La and Ollie. Does she look old enough to be a Grandma?

And finally, my favorite. Jeff described this picture as Grandpa and his talented grandson singing a cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Note: All photo and copyright (if any) credit goes to Jeff. Thanks, Grandpa Jeff.

I’ve had a hankering for something sweet and have been wanting to bake something. I couldn’t decide what to bake until Thom sent a photo of a roasted rhubarb cobbler Katie made. Then, while I was talking with Kathy on the phone, she mentioned having fresh rhubarb and wanting a cobbler. I decided two mentions of rhubarb within a week was a sign from the gods. I decided to bake a rhubarb cobbler.

I made a quick run to the grocery store for some fresh rhubarb.

It didn’t take long to wash and chop the rhubarb, and it didn’t take much longer to mix the crust and the topping for my own rhubarb cobbler. Ted and I enjoyed some of it–still a little warm from the oven–for our dinner dessert this evening. Mm-mm good.

When the world locked down for COVID-19 in March 2020, there were few places to go, few things to do away from home, and lots of time to stay home and do very little. During the lockdown, Ted and I often said we’d go crazy if we didn’t have a backyard so we could get out of the house, and if we couldn’t exercise outdoors. A lot of other people in our area felt the same way–in the 40+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve never before seen so many people walking and biking in our neighborhood.

With documentation always on my mind (too much educational research in my background), I decided to track Ted’s and my exercise during the lockdown. The plan was to do it for three months because a three-month chart fit on a sheet of graph paper. Who knew we’d be living with COVID for over a year?? As the COVID restrictions continued, we thought it might be interesting to track our exercise for a year. We talked about what counted as exercise and decided on the following: walking, biking, Pilates, and anything indoors or outdoors that required at least an hour of effort and boosted our heart and respiratory rates. That category was cleverly titled “Other.” Because of COVID restrictions, our Pilates class didn’t meet from March until September but, during that time, we did hour-long Pilates routines in our basement.

Ted and I have always exercised regularly, but tracking our time provided affirmation of how regularly we exercise. It also showed us that when we take a day or two off from exercising, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. For example, one week in August when it was hot and we just didn’t feel like exercising, we marked off a week on our chart as “vacation.” So there! Even with that exercise-free week, we averaged 8.4 hours per week of exercise in August. Not surprisingly, we exercised the most in June (warm, but not too humid yet–average of 13.87 hours/week) and the least in December (cold weather and all those Christmas preparations–average of 5.6 hours/week).

The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week (2.5 hours/week) or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days per week (1.25 hours/week). We exceeded those guidelines, and we are pretty proud of that. Even in our lowest month (December–5.6 hours/week) our exercise time was more than double what the CDC suggests. Here are the stats for our exercise in the past year.

In the coming year, we plan to alternate more walking with our biking. Why? Because when the weather became too cold to bike, we marched up the steep hill on the street beside our house and realized (puff, puff) that, although our legs were really strong, biking wasn’t giving us a sufficient cardio workout. Other than that, the plan is to keep on keepin’ on. Move it or lose it, right?

According to Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” A homeowner’s fancy, on the other hand, turns to thoughts of outdoor spring clean-up. That’s what Ted and I have been doing for the past few weeks.

  • We had a new pool liner installed.
  • We had a new pool pump installed.
  • We drained and cleaned the hot tub.
  • We had the air conditioner inspected and cleaned.
  • We had the irrigation system turned on.
  • We bought a redbud tree to replace the maple tree that was removed last summer. The nursery planted it, but Ted and I removed grass from around the tree and replaced it with weed-resistant fabric and decorative rock.
  • We planted flowers. I shopped for and selected flowers while Ted ran other errands. I fell for a hibiscus tree (center, ahead of Ted). It won’t survive the Missouri winter, but it should be gorgeous all summer.
  • We hauled the lawn furniture out of the storage shed and washed it.
  • We took the covers off and chased the bugs out of the outdoor umbrellas.
  • I washed all the dirt off the concrete while Ted put things away.
  • We’re finished and ready to relax in our backyard resort while we let our fancy lightly turn to thoughts of something else.

I saw this truck when I stopped for a red light.

I couldn’t tell what kind of rescues Super Dave performs, so I looked him up online. He’s a handyman. The attitude displayed on his truck makes me want to call him when I need something handy done.

When Ted and I ordered a replacement bay window for our kitchen last August, I decided new windows deserved new valances. Those currently on the windows might be twenty years old. (Time flies. Who’s counting?) At the time, I didn’t realize it would take six months to get the windows.

When Ted and I excitedly (?) re-hung the blinds–which are only three years old, not twenty–on the new windows in February, we discovered that they didn’t look very nice. To allow for the window-opening cranks on the old windows, the two outer blinds were made shorter than the center one. The new windows have recessed cranks, so the two shorter blinds looked like mistakes on the new windows.

I talked to the decorator about this and she suggested sending the blinds to the manufacturer to have the cords made two inches longer. (Because of the style of my blinds and the mechanism that operates them, re-stringing the cords is not a simple thing.) There was enough fabric in the length of the blinds to accommodate the extra two inches, so the adjustment was covered by my lifetime warranty. Great!

I stalled again on making the valances, deciding to wait until I had blinds on all three windows. In today’s market, however, instant gratification is becoming harder to find. It took eight weeks to get my adjusted blinds back. On the bright side, we now have three equally long blinds on these windows.

Eight months after deciding to replace the kitchen valances, with the windows replaced and the blinds adjusted, I headed for my sewing machine. It was a quick project. These are the old valances . . .

. . . and these are the new ones. There’s not a striking difference, but the lighter color is a nice change.

We had a new pool liner installed a few weeks ago and we thought we were ready to swim. Then, one day while Ted and I were working in the pool area, we noticed that the pool surface had a lot of leaves on it. They should have been sent to the skimmer, but we discovered that hadn’t happened because the pump wasn’t running. I couldn’t get it started, so I called the pool company. The service manager (Jim) told me “That doesn’t make sense. I’ll come out and look at it.” He tried everything in his bag of tricks, but nothing started the pump. He told us he’d be back the next day with a new pump.

Jim and his daughter came back the following day and replaced the old pump in about 30 minutes. Now that we have a new liner and a new pump, we should be good for at least ten years.

The arrow points to the old pump. The new one is in the box on the right.