For many years, I’ve been experimenting with ways to view Ted’s and my vacation pictures on our big TV screen instead of crowding around my PC or looking at them on a tablet or phone. Over time, Jeff engineered several ways to access my PC to show the files on the TV, but I always had trouble duplicating what Jeff did to make it work. He’s far more intuitive about which key to click than I am, so the menus became mysteries to me and nothing seemed to work after Jeff went home.

One of my requirements for our new entertainment system was the ability to view my computer files on the new TV. Of course, it’s much simpler with a smart TV than with our 20+-year-old plasma TV. We have a new, more modern universal remote for the entertainment system and the installation team programmed the new remote to access my laptop. They named it “PC” on the menu–it’s shorter than “laptop.” I was told that when I scroll down and select “View PC,” five different things happen among the TV, the sound system, and my laptop, enabling my laptop screen to be duplicated on the TV with sound. Great!

The installer walked me through the buttons on the remote and the steps to access everything before he left. Hours later, when Ted and I decided to try looking at vacation pictures, everything worked on the first try. The sound system is the hub of our new set-up, so I had to (1) connect the laptop to the sound system, then (2) click on “View PC” on the remote. And there we are–ready to leave home and head to the Southwestern U.S. in 2017.

I can operate my laptop with a nifty mini keyboard (2″ x 6″) that Jeff gave me for Christmas many years ago. Jeff’s intent at the time was to allow me to control the pictures on the TV from the comfort of the sofa. The keyboard requires two-finger typing because the keys are so tiny, but I only need to use the mouse pad and the arrow keys to change pictures or picture files or to select the “slide show” mode. It works great and does everything a full-size keyboard can do–just as Jeff intended when he gave it to me. The installer said he’s never seen such a small keyboard. Thanks, Jeff.

Just a click of a right arrow brings up the next picture. This is one of the venues at the Polynesian Culture Center (PCC) on our 2018 trip to Hawai’i.

It was really nice to sit comfortably on the sofa to view the large pictures. We enjoyed it so much that we scrolled through three trips last night. Wishes do come true; sometimes, it just takes a few years.

While I sorted through pictures of my family last spring, I told Ted he should sort through photos of his family. My sorting system was based on (1) pictures I liked in (2) chronological order. Ted’s classification system was more detailed and was based on photos by (I assume) the main character in the photo. He had a separate pile for each person.

Today, I picked out an envelope of Ted’s photos of his parents to share on this blog, and they struck me as a love story. My photo love story begins with young Paul. Here he is, working at his job on a freighter on the Great Lakes. The “M” on his sweater is for Milwaukee Teachers College, where he was a history education major.

Here’s another picture of Paul on a Great Lakes freighter. I’m thinking there was some real work to be done, so he ditched the fancy BMOC college sweater and put on his working clothes.

While Paul sailed the Great Lakes, a young woman named Loella traveled to Niagara Falls with her sister and brother-in-law, Louis and Leona.

Loella liked this new coat so much, she had her picture taken in it.

This picture was taken when Loella became engaged to marry Gerhard. Two weeks before the wedding, Gerhard died. He was riding his motorcycle and was hit by a car.

Paul was the hired man on Loella’s father’s farm. Here’s Paul at the farmhouse. I’m not sure what he’s holding, but he looks proud of it. An award or trophy of some kind?

Paul and Loella fell in love and were married. Ted identified (to the best of his knowledge) most of the people in this wedding day photo. Left to right for the adults, we have: Theodore and Clara, Loella’s parents; an unknown man and woman; John, Paul’s brother and best man; John’s wife, Helen; Paul, the groom; Marcella, Paul’s sister and a bridesmaid; Loella, the bride; two more unknown people; Dorothy, a cousin of Loella and the maid of honor; Grace, a cousin of Loella; Bob, a brother of Paul’s; and Elizabeth and John (face not included in the photo), Paul’s parents. Ted recognized two of his cousins among the children. Myron is on the left in the front row and Jeanette is the third from the left in the back row of children.

Here we have the wedding party. Left to right are Dorothy, the maid of honor; John, the best man; Paul and Loella, the bride and groom, and Marcella, a bridesmaid.

Paul and Loella visited Keshena Falls, WI on their honeymoon. Keshena is about 45 miles northwest of Green Bay. I assume Paul was the photographer for this picture of his new wife.

Time moved on, and Paul and Loella had a family. Left to right are Mutzie (Ted’s sister), Gene (a cousin), Dan (Ted’s brother), and Karen (a cousin). The baby in the front row is little Teddy when he was seven months old.

This family picture was taken at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Manitowoc, WI. Ted looks like he’s between one and two years old.

Jumping far into the future, this photo is the most recent one Ted has of himself with all three of his siblings. Left to right are Gary, Ted, Mutzie, and Dan. Their families include 8 children, 14 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren. In addition, Ted and I are expecting a great-grandchild in March and a grandchild in June. The beat goes on, and so does the love story.

Reassurance for the squeamish: gory details have been omitted.

The tools: One of Ted’s and my wedding gifts was a beautifully engraved knife and a honing steel.

The task: For the 51+ years I’ve had it, I’ve used the honing steel to keep my knives sharp and I taught Ted and the kids how to hone our kitchen knives. Here’s Ted, demonstrating what I was doing with the knife I was honing. (Are you getting a hint of where this is going?)

The tragedy: After 51+ years, I have never even scratched myself honing a knife, but last night I sliced myself across the wrist.

I have a history of fainting at the sight of blood and at the thought of surgical needles piercing my skin, but I’ve always managed to remain conscious until the medical personnel took over. This was no exception. I saw the injury and slammed a wad of paper towel over it. When I quickly needed a second wad of paper towel, I directed Ted to tie a handkerchief around my forearm and to tie a pencil into it to form a tourniquet. (I learned that in first aid class in grade school and I finally had a chance to use my knowledge.) I kept my arm elevated while Ted drove me to the ER. So much for our plan to sit in our hot tub when we finished doing the dishes.

I was seen quickly and the wound was described as “suture worthy” and probably not a candidate for medical glue because of wrist movement. The first nurse I saw said the bleeding had nearly stopped, so Ted and I did a good job. She put a pressure bandage over my wrist and I kept my arm elevated while waiting for my turn with the doctor.

Because of strict COVID policies, the lobby was restricted to patients only, so Ted had to wait in the car until I was in a private ER room. While I was waiting my turn, I heard myself referred to as “the laceration.” Three different caregivers asked me at three different times if the injury was intentional. I assume a slashed wrist indicates possible suicidal thoughts. One nurse specifically asked if I’ve been thinking of suicide. No, I was mostly thinking about not fainting and wondering how on earth I managed to do this after 51+ years of honing knives almost daily. I said it wasn’t intentional; I cut myself while honing a knife. None of them knew what “honing” was. This gave me three opportunities to be a teacher again.

Nearly three hours later (obviously, my injury was not life-threatening), I was ushered into a room and Ted joined me. That nurse told me the cut was a little more than two inches long and definitely needed sutures. After another half-hour, the doctor arrived, examined the wound, cleaned it, and told me the bleeding had stopped and the tissue was already beginning to bond. She said nothing major was injured (artery, nerves, tendons) and that if I was willing to wear a splint and keep my wrist immobile for several days, it looked like the wound would heal satisfactorily if she closed it with steri-strips. I need to wear the splint 3-4 days, and the steri-strips will gradually peel off and be gone in a week or so.

Well, there goes my hot tub time for the next week! The splint is going to be inconvenient, but it’s a minor thing compared to how bad my injury could have been. It looks like I need another 51 years of practice with my honing steel.

I like to do handwork and I’ll do anything except needlepoint and patchwork quilting. I hated needlepoint so much, I didn’t even finish a small piece I tried and I quit my patchwork quilt project before I finished the first square. I enjoy sewing, knitting, tatting, crocheting, embroidering, and counted cross-stitching. I like to do kits too, like paint-by-number and the Diamond Art kit Kathy and Annette gave me for my birthday last spring. When our kids were little, I made a lot of Christmas tree ornament kits; I sewed quilt kits for Thom and Kari as well as an original DJS design quilt for Teddy; and I made three 15-piece ceramic nativity scenes–one for myself, one for my parents, and one for Ted’s parents. I especially enjoy challenging projects and I have a very challenging project in progress right now. More on that when I finish it–hopefully by my goal of late February.

Thanks to COVID, I had time on my hands this year and decided to give some handmade items as Christmas gifts. I always have at least one handwork project in progress, but I often choose to engage in other activities, so it takes awhile for me to finish a project. With a Christmas deadline and the world in lockdown, I dedicated my spare time to gift-making.

In the spring, I made about 125 face masks for the family. In the summer, I saw an online pattern for table runners and napkins and decided to try another sewing project. I made three sets (in order below): one for Ted and me, another for Kathy and Annette, and a third for Kari’s family.

Then I switched to knitting and made dishcloths for Kathy and Annette, Kari, and my friend, Liz. Here are some of the dishcloths.

In the early 1980s, I made an advent calendar for our family. We hung it every year and the kids liked to take the ornaments out of the pockets and hang them on the Christmas tree.

At some point (college, her St. Charles apartment?), Kari wanted an advent calendar of her own and mine was looking worn, so we worked together and made one for each of us. Thom wanted one too, so I made one for him. This Christmas, Katie sent me a picture of Sefton continuing the advent calendar tradition, hanging the ornaments on the calendar I made for Thom. The DIY Christmas tradition lives on.

For many years, I’ve done little sewing beyond an occasional minor mending job. This year, however, was different and I used my sewing machine a lot. As a result, I discovered I need some new things in my project room: (1) a decent chair for my sewing machine; and (2) a plastic mat so I can get in and out of the chair without having to come to a half-stand to lift it out of the carpet pile. It was time to shop.

The box informed me that this is not an ordinary chair–it’s a “task chair .” It has “delicate curves,” an “inset” seat design, a “sculpted base,” and (wow!) matching “mobility casters.” Wouldn’t it look odd if the casters didn’t match? Without mobility, would they cast?

I started by taking the parts out of the box. (Duh!)

An hour later, I had a comfortable chair ready to roll on my new plastic mat.

Beach towels are nice for the beach (or pool) in the summer, but Ted and I have found ours to be kind of flimsy for drying off when we get out of the hot tub in cold weather. We went shopping for some nice big bath sheets with a little more substance to them than a beach towel from Target.

I was reading the tags as I removed them from the towels and it made me wonder if I should be concerned about washing the towels.

If three washings will make these towels “bloom” that much, how long will they keep blooming and how thick will they get? Will they become so absorbent that they just attract the water and remove it from our skin? I guess these are questions we’ll answer in the coming months.

The first of a series of predicted winter weather systems brought us freezing rain overnight. Luckily, we had only about 0.2 inches of ice and MoDOT treated the roads in advance, so they were only wet.

Our arborvitae trees felt the weight of the ice. . .

. . . and we had some pretty views from the front porch.

The ice melted before lunch and then the rain showers moved in. Light snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow. 2021 wants us to know it’s winter.

Lots of things are different in 2020 and Christmas is one of those things. We celebrated with Kari’s family on Christmas Day, but it seemed incomplete because we were missing Kathy and Annette, who usually join us. They chose not to travel this year because of the pandemic.

Last year, Ted and I were in Brisbane, Australia on Christmas, so we didn’t decorate indoors, bake cookies, or make special Christmas candies. This year, we did it all. Here’s our decorated family room.

Ever since Thom was old enough to buy gifts for the family, he and I have exchanged a Lego Christmas set. Most of my Christmas Lego from Thom is on the display shelf above the TV; the overflow is in front of the TV. This year, my Christmas Lego set from Thom was a pretty Christmas tree that spins on its stand.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day with Kari’s family. They arrived in the early afternoon. Before we started opening our gifts, we took a family photo. I took one, then Dean took one, so one of us appears in each picture. Sky’s girlfriend, June, joined us.

After some settling-in time, we opened our gifts. This year, several of us chose to give a variety of smaller gifts to others instead of a single large item, so there were a lot of gifts to open.

There was only one minor glitch. Dylan included the book Red Mars on his wish list, and it was one of the things Ted and I bought for him. Or so we thought. When he opened it up, Kari asked if that was the book he wanted. His tactful response was, “It’s close.” It was Red Moon, by the same author. Yikes! I told him I’d get it exchanged, and Ted and I puzzled over how we got the wrong book. We double-checked our online order which clearly stated Red Mars and included a picture of the book. I ordered it online for curbside pickup and I think the employee who brought it to the car grabbed the wrong book. Neither Ted nor I noticed the error while we were wrapping it. I took Red Moon back to the store the next day. The clerk verified my order and the error, gave me the correct book, and thanked me for bringing Red Moon back–maybe because it cost nearly twice as much as Red Mars and I’d only paid the price of Red Mars. Here’s the book Dylan wanted. It looks like a good story. I might have to ask him to lend it to me when he’s finished reading it.

Opening all those gifts was exhausting, so when we finished, the activity level dropped while I and my helpers prepared dinner.

I made the main course and Kari brought the salad and the dessert. Everything was delicious and I made the tables look Christmas-y. Check out my Christmas tree-folded napkins.

After dinner, we were too full for dessert, so it was hot tub time. With an outdoor temperature of 19 degrees, we had to hustle in our swimsuits from the kitchen door to the warm water. After that, the cold air wasn’t a problem and we were warm enough to move more slowly on our way back into the house. The water we dribbled on the patio from our wet feet turned almost instantly to ice on the chilled concrete.

After we were all dressed again, it was time to eat the cheesecake Kari brought and to visit with each other a little bit more before Kari’s family left to go home. Dean played Uber driver and took June home–with Sky’s help, of course.

Our Christmas celebration continued virtually. We visited with Kathy and Annette via Zoom on December 26.

Jeff and La spent a few days with Kyra in Provo, UT for Christmas, so we visited with them via Google Meet on December 28.

Thom and Katie visited her family after Christmas, so we celebrated with them today, giving us a week-long holiday celebration with our family.

It was a different kind of holiday for us, but it was good. It took a week, and it gave us the opportunity to celebrate Christmas four times–once with each of our children’s families. Happy new year to all!

We spent thousands of dollars this year to spruce up the exterior of our house and what did we get? A fresh-looking house.

We spent thousands of dollars this year to install a hot tub and what did we get? An awesome hot tub.

We spent thousands of dollars this year to update our home media and what did we get? Great sound and a sharp picture on a big screen.

We spent thousands of dollars this year to replace windows with broken seals and what did we get? Cookies! We’re still waiting for the windows, but the cookies are really good! Happy new year!

Ted and I decided to update our home entertainment as a Christmas gift to ourselves this year. Everything was scheduled for installation on December 16, but we all know how the COVID supply chain works. Our Christmas gift was delivered and installed today, just in time to celebrate New Year’s Eve tomorrow night.

Step 1: Cut the cable and change from AT&T’s slow (24 mbps) internet to Spectrum’s 400 mbps internet so that we can stream more quickly on our new TV.

Step 2: Install an eero mesh WiFi extender system to improve WiFi reception in the family room, on the patio, and upstairs. Our modem is at my desk on one end of the front of the house. As a result, WiFi is often noticeably slower in the family room, on the patio, and in my upstairs project room–all of which are on the back side at the other end of the house. Here’s a picture of one of the eero units.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020-12-30-tv-eero-800x596.jpg

Step 3: Replace our old (18-20 years) sound system and plasma TV with a new sound system and a larger, smart TV. That happened today.

Our installation team included Mike, Chris, and Eric. They work together every day and have their jobs down to a system. Chris worked on the TV installation while Mike and Eric focused on the sound system. In the end, everything was correctly integrated. In the photo below, Eric (left) and Chris are unpacking the TV. It’s standing in the styrofoam packing on the right side of the box. Look how slim it is!

The Bose sound system we selected is a brand new model. Eric had to read the manual and direct Mike to do the assembly. The system is similar to previous models, but a few things have changed. The guys made sure they did everything right the first time.

It took all three guys to verify exactly how the sound system needed to be connected to the TV.

Author’s note: After this conference, I was pretty sure Mike’s pants were going to drop when he stood up. Thankfully, they didn’t, but I’ve noticed this year that worker men (as Thom used to call them) have new underwear that doesn’t slide down when they bend over. Thank you!

Moving on, Chris finished the TV hookups while Mike and Eric installed the speakers. It was a symphony in job coordination. That’s probably a bit of hyperbole, but the work was very well done in a clearly team-based manner.

When the installation was finished, the guys (mostly Mike) went through every set-up menu so that all Ted and I have to do is press the power button and choose what we want to watch or listen to. That took some time, but it was included in the service contract. When everything was working, they showed us which buttons to press and how to operate the entire system. They even showed me how to connect my laptop to the system so that I can access my files from the TV. After many years and many different ways of trying, we can finally sit in the family room to view our photos easily on a big screen. If I want to, I can even do computer work on this system because the new TV acts like a large (63-inch) monitor. I don’t want to. This is my space for relaxing and computer work takes place at my desk.

Check out the visible changes in our family room. The guys told us Bose likes to give you a lot of cable. Our previous sound system was also a Bose, and it had a lot of cable. I’m going to cover the bottom portion of the glass in the display case door to hide the cables in the new setup.

The sound system and DVD player yesterday:

The sound system and 4K UHD Blu-ray player today:

Behind the TV yesterday:

Behind the TV today:

The speakers yesterday:

The speakers today:

The 50-inch Panasonic plasma TV yesterday:

The 65-inch Sony OLED 4K smart TV today:

It feels good to be technologically up-to-date. What will we watch tonight?

This was a year to stay home. Because of the COVID pandemic, Ted and I have not spent a night away from home since we returned from Australia on January 15. With the world in lockdown mode during the first months of the year, there wasn’t much to do. Like many people, Ted and I hit the streets–walking and biking. It gave us a chance to get out of the house.

We love our ebikes and spent a lot of time on them all year. We found routes through the neighboring subdivisions that provided long and short rides. I think our longest neighborhood ride was just over 20 miles. We also tried out a number of greenways and bike trails in the area. Our longest trail ride was 40 miles. We rode the trails so frequently that Ted finally decided to leave the bike carrier on the car instead of putting it on and taking it off every few days.

Bicycling produces a wind chill. When the temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, that feels good; in the 40s, an extra layer of clothing keeps us comfortable. We biked so much that I set a personal goal to bike 1,000 miles in a year–from August 28, 2019 (when we got our new bikes) through August 28, 2020. I achieved that goal on August 20, so I set a new goal to ride 1,000 miles in 2020.

Our weather forecast for the next two days is rain mixed with snow, so it’s safe to say that the mileage after our last bike ride on December 27 is the final number for this year. At the end of 2019, my odometer read 364 miles. This is what my odometer shows now.

I bicycled 1,234 miles this year. Good for me! I love biking, so it was one of my joys in a year of challenges.

Not too long ago, Thom sent me a picture of a magazine with Thom and Katie in the cover picture. The photo was taken in the North Cascades by a man who used to work with Thom.

On that same trip, Thom took a picture of the other guy and Katie. Thom’s picture was the cover photo on a book Thom gave us for Christmas a few years ago.

Here’s a close-up of Thom’s friend and Katie in the picture. I’m sure they thoroughly enjoyed that trip, but I’m not a camper and, while the view is an experience in itself, that doesn’t look like a comfortable place to pitch a tent and sleep. Where’s the nearest hotel?

Tonight’s edition of CBS Evening News included a report about a Georgia artist who is making custom masks for his community. Here are some of his masks that were featured on the news report. The first two pictures are the artist.

It would be hard not to smile while talking with these two people.

During his interview with the CBS reporter, the artist offered the reporter a custom mask. Here is the reporter–before and after. The after is definitely more fun.

Google celebrated the December 21 winter solstice and the 600-year close conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter with a Google doodle. The next not-as-close conjunction of these two planets will be 60 years from now.

Reporters told me to get outside by sunset to see the conjunction because the viewing timeline was brief, so my watch time started with a beautiful sunset in a clear sky, followed by 30 minutes of waiting for the sky to become dark enough for starlight to show. At that point, it was easy to see the conjunction.

The TV weather guy said Saturn and Jupiter are so close to Earth right now that, even with a small telescope, it would be possible to see Saturn’s rings and the the bands of Jupiter. I don’t have a telescope, but I looked through some strong binoculars. I couldn’t distinguish rings on Saturn, but I could see that Saturn’s shape was oval, not round. When I compared my view to the Science Center’s telescopic photo of the conjunction, the oval I saw was in the direction of Saturn’s rings–in kind of a 10 o’clock/4 o’clock line. The binoculars weren’t strong enough for me to see Jupiter’s bands.

I took some pictures with my cell phone zoomed in on the conjunction and it’s possible to see the two planets very close together. Not Science Center quality, but not bad for a cell phone photo.

You get used to how your house looks and don’t pay much attention to it over the 25-year period of time since you installed new siding and shutters. It looks like your house and there are no broken windows, missing shingles, or large pieces of anything hanging from it, so it’s fine. One day last July, however, I came home and looked at the house from the car window. “Ugh!” I thought. “I didn’t realize the dark brown trim had faded this much!” I dragged Ted outside to verify the fading.

A few pieces of roofline fascia blew off in various windstorms over the years and we had it replaced. The color match was good when it was new, but after a number of years, you can’t get exactly what you installed, so the new pieces faded to different shades of brown than the original fascia. The arrows point to the replacement pieces.

We immediately made appointments with three companies and, in August, we signed a contract to update the fascia and the shutters. We opted to have the shutters repainted rather than replaced because they are in good shape except for the fading. When Jerry started removing the shutters, I asked if he minded if I took a picture. He said, “No, but wait a second. Get the back of my shirt in the picture,” so I did. Call JB Exteriors if you need them. The name and phone number are on the shirt.

After 25 years, there were a lot of vacant mud wasp nests behind the first-floor shutters and there was a lot of dirt behind the upstairs shutters. I power washed the mud off the bricks and Ted went up on the roof to wash the siding. The arrow points to some remaining dirt Ted is heading for.

Our name made it to the top of Jerry’s work list by November–only three months after we hired him. Jerry is the boss, so Don got tagged to do the job. He set up his equipment beside the driveway, put his ladders in place, and went to work.

The painter was backlogged, so the shutters were installed last week–five weeks after the fascia work was finished. Now our house looks fresh again and all the fascia and shutters are the same color. It took from July until December to go from meeting the contractor to finishing this relatively small job. It sounds like 2020, doesn’t it?

A few weeks ago, while Ted and I were doing some Christmas shopping, we saw this seasonally decorated vehicle at Best Buy–wreaths (one on each side), elves on the top and over the spare tire, window decorations, and some kind of stick-on lights all over the vehicle. Let the Christmas season begin!

After dinner tonight, we thought it would be fun to drive our neighborhood bike route to look at the holiday decorations at night. It was a pretty way to spend some time. Most houses had a modest to medium display of lights, but some folks went all out.

This scene includes a lake for the blow-up penguins standing beside it.

Luckily, this house is on a corner, so they could decorate two sides for public viewing.

These folks also did a good job of covering the front yard with lights.

This is one unit of an apartment building. They don’t have much space for lawn decorations, but they put as many lighted objects as possible in their limited area. They might win for most objects per square foot of space.

Without question, Ted and I voted this house the winner. Our guess is that it took two people four or five days to set up this display. They didn’t stop with outlining the entire structure of their house, stringing lights in most of a mature tree, and filling the front yard; they also completely decorated their backyard storage shed (visible in the center left) and everything else (swing set, fence, etc.) in the back yard. The lighted arches over the driveway don’t show very well with all the other lights competing for attention, but if you look closely, you can see them over the car in the driveway. Compare to Clark Griswold’s house in Christmas Vacation.

In contrast, Ted and I have a simpler holiday light display. Including some lights on the pool fence, it took me a little more than an hour. Merry Christmas!

The National Aquarium at Union Station in St. Louis is providing a safe way for kids to talk and have their pictures taken with Santa. Seven inches of Plexiglass separates the kids from Santa, so everyone is safely socially distanced.

Presenting . . . Scuba Santa and his elf.

This year, I am thankful for many, many things and one of them is Zoom. Only Kari’s family joined us for Thanksgiving dinner, but through the magic of the internet and the Zoom app, we were joined by all of our children’s families for a nice chat before dinner. It’s not the same as being together in person, but it’s the next best thing.

Some people (Laralee) say it’s not Thanksgiving without turkey. Most people have a traditional turkey with stuffing as the entreé; we were non-traditional and had turkey as an after-dinner snack. Ted and I saw this at a local chocolatier’s shop and decided to support local business. It’s a three-pound chocolate turkey. Teddy’s eyes (figuratively) popped out of his head when he saw it and realized it was made of his favorite food group.

Before Kari’s family arrived, Ted and I had the tables set. For some social distance, we put the adults at one table and those under 18 at another. The adult table got the turkey centerpiece.

Dylan brought some board games to play, so the gang headed to the basement for that. The kitchen table Ted and I bought with wedding gift money 51+ years ago lives on.

After dinner and pie (Kari’s signature pumpkin pie made with homemade pumpkin filling and my signature apple pie made with locally-grown apples), it was time for some turkey. Dylan broke off the first piece, and then we all took turns. There was a lot of turkey to break so everyone had at least two turns at destruction.

At this point, the kids suggested we “stuff” this turkey with m&ms. We didn’t have that many m&ms handy, so we kept breaking it instead.

Kari wondered if it was possible to break off the head like a chocolate Easter bunny.

The answer is “yes.” The head was solid, not hollow like the rest of the turkey.

After everyone tried a piece of chocolate to verify that it was edible, it was time to put on swimsuits and head for the hot tub. I divided the chocolate into two bags–one for Kari’s family and one for Ted and me–and then Dean and I did the dishes while the others sat in the hot tub. I was busy with the dishes and enjoying some one-on-one time with Dean, so I didn’t think of taking a picture of the hot tub crowd. Imagine six people sitting here in swirling 102-degree water.

2020 has presented all of us with many challenges, but it has also provided us with many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I had my eyes examined in October and ordered new glasses and new contacts. The glasses and a year’s supply of contacts for my left eye arrived in less than a week. I’m still waiting for the contacts for my right eye.

If purchased between October 1 and December 1, my contacts include a $200 rebate, but I have to submit a photo of the boxed contacts with the UPC visible and readable. December 1 is not far away and I’m still waiting for half my boxes so I can take the required picture. I’ve been calling my eye doctor every few days to see if they have good news for me, and I finally got an answer yesterday.

The office manager talked to a live person at the source and learned that, due to COVID and widespread mask-wearing, large numbers of people who have never worn, or even considered, contact lenses now want to wear them. As a result, contact lens production is running about six weeks behind former delivery parameters. My contacts might arrive around December 13. The office manager said the company representative for their office has promised to make sure that customers get their $200 rebate, even with the delayed delivery time. Trial packages of contacts, however, are available, so the office manager ordered a month’s worth of trials (complimentary) for me. They should arrive in four days. We’ll see. (Pun.)

Masked man with steamed-up glasses who recently ordered contacts

On a related subject, I went to Target yesterday and involuntarily let out a whispered “Oh, no, not again!” when I saw the toilet paper shelves.

I recently read a report describing “super agers” and found it very interesting. Several years ago, a Harvard study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital examined people in their 70s and 80s with the physical or mental capacity of their decades-younger counterparts.

Physically, as people age, their oxygen intake typically decreases by approximately 10 percent every decade after the 30s. Super agers in their 80s, however, who exercise at a high intensity 20-40 minutes per day 3-5 days per week have the aerobic capacity of people 30 years younger. The long-term effect of exercise depends on the intensity, duration, and regularity of the activity. A measure of high intensity exercise is that you can’t talk easily while you are exercising.

Mentally, those who practice intense mental activity have better-preserved areas of the brain that involve memory and reasoning. Super agers tend to move out of their comfort zones to gain new areas of cognitive expertise. They are also willing to endure discomfort (e.g., embarrassment or physical discomfort) to master a new skill. An informal measure of mental age is the answer to the question “Could you do the job you did 30 years ago at the same level?”

A surprising finding about super agers is that, after they reach 105 years of age, their death rate actually decreases. They still die, of course, but at a slower rate than people younger than themselves.

At least five years ago, Sixty Minutes reported on the over-90 population living in Sun City, AZ, a 55+ community. The interviewees were all very active individuals who danced, swam, power-walked, joined clubs, etc. After seeing that report, I made it my goal to be a power-walker in my 90s.

Change this to power walking and it could be me in the 2040s.

At this point, Ted and I have the qualities of super agers. We are both physically and mentally active; we both read constantly for pleasure and for learning; we’re not afraid to try new things (although Ted passed on the purple poi dinner rolls in Hawai’i); we exercise, on average, more than an hour every day (although we’re sometimes active for several hours on a single day and do nothing aerobic on another day); and we both believe we could do our previous jobs as effectively as we did 30 years ago. We know we’d have to catch up on new developments in our fields, but as super agers, we aren’t afraid of the challenge to learn new things. Will we go back to work? Hahahahaha! (But we could.)

Do we qualify as super agers? We’ll let you know when we hit 105.

I was reading an article in my news feed about Trump supporters who gathered in Washington, D.C. to show their support for President Trump after the election. The speaker might have known what she meant, but the reporter, proofreader, and editor are all apparently unfamiliar with the difference between a ringer and a wringer. Or maybe all of the aforementioned people actually meant that the President has been treated like a bell.

Alex sent me a happy text last week.

We have eight grandchildren–seven boys and one girl. Alex is the oldest grandchild and it looks like he and Kaitlyn will carry on our tradition of boys. I hope this COVID thing ends so Ted and I can travel to see our first great-grandchild before his high school graduation. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but you know what I mean.

This summer, Ted and I noticed that, on one of the subdivision common grounds near our house, an opening has been cut in the woods and a trail is visible. We assumed kids had made a path from our subdivision down to the creek and up the hill on the other side to another subdivision in order to save about a half-mile getting to their friends’ houses.

We had a lot of rain over the summer and weren’t too interested in exploring a muddy path, but we were walking by a few days ago and, since the ground was dry, we decided to see where the trail leads.

Here’s the opening. The trail is clearly visible. And intriguing.

Within a few feet, the trail forks. This was more complicated than we’d expected.

First, we walked down the right fork. After about 20 feet, it ended in a puddle–I mean a small pond–that might connect to the creek, but we couldn’t tell.

We turned around, walked the 20 feet back, and went down the left trail. That leg goes far enough to see the creek (about 50 feet), but the area is very overgrown and covered with brush, so we didn’t go all the way to the creek.

We couldn’t see any place that the trail crosses the creek, nor were there piles of litter (cigarettes, bottles, cans, etc.) to indicate that kids gather here–unless they’re very neat kids. I guess there are some people who just walk around in the woods looking for a quiet place to get away. All in all, it was an anti-climatic end to weeks of curiosity.

Last week, Ted and I decided to bike the Busch Greenway, which starts in the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area (recently re-populated with raccoons and opossums) and passes through the MO Research Park (where Ted used to work) before connecting with the Katy Trail. Although we’ve biked this trail before, we always see new things. This time is was wild turkey nests and an odd tree.

Our bike rides are always interesting.

The hot tub is just as nice at night. Maybe nicer. The sky was clear and there was no moon, so lots of stars were visible. Mars was beautiful–huge (relative to the other stars) and very red. It’s obvious Mars is unusually close to Earth right now.

The blue light bar on the left lights the “tranquility fall” feature of our hot tub. Do we look tranquil? Tranquilized? Maybe just happy and relaxed.

June 13, 2020. Ted and I bought a hot tub for our anniversary. Oo-la-la, this will be great! Of course, it’s 2020 and the COVID-delayed supply chain has become part of the new normal, so the expected delivery / installation date for our hot tub was August 28. Well, it’s too hot for a hot tub in the summer anyway, and late August will be just in time for the fall weather. Happy anniversary to us!

June 23, 2020. The hot tub salesman told us the concrete company and the electrician will co-ordinate their installation dates with the hot tub delivery date so everything can move forward as soon as the hot tub arrives. We contacted both contractors within a week after our purchase. Since they could be coming soon and the weather was nice (not overbearingly hot or humid July weather), we decided to get the hot tub area ready for the concrete. We picked up the decorative landscaping rock, removed the underlying growth-resistant fabric, and moved the small bush that’s still present in the photo below so everything will be ready for the concrete guys to get to work.

June 25, 2020. The electrician came to our house to determine what he needs to do to wire the hot tub. Of course, we need the maximum amount of wiring. Because the hot tub runs on 240-volt current, it not only requires its own circuit, but the wiring has to be run through conduit. Naturally, the junction box is on one end of the house and the hot tub is on the other end. Running the conduit outside the house is problematic whether it runs along the roofline or along the ground, so it needs to run the length of the house above the drop ceiling in the basement (ground level), then outside through the brick exterior, up to the top of the pergola, across the pergola / patio, back down to the ground, and then about 18 inches over to the hot tub. We signed the contract.

July 15, 2020. All home contractors are super busy this year because people, including us, are staying home and using their travel money for home projects. The concrete contractor finally had time today for a site visit to provide us with a job estimate and a contract. Unbelievable! The concrete pad for our storage shed was poured in 2007 and cost $800 for 80 sq. ft. of 6-inch deep concrete; 13 years later, the hot tub pad cost $2,500 for 64 sq. ft. of 6-inch deep concrete–a 400 percent increase per sq. ft.! We signed the contract. Doug promised to have the concrete poured in time for it to cure before our August 28 expected delivery date.

August 10, 2020. Chad called to let us know, that, due to COVID-related difficulties in obtaining materials and parts, our hot tub delivery date has been re-scheduled for September 19. He said we are lucky because the tub we chose is manufactured in Las Vegas, where COVID isn’t too bad (yet). The manufacturer in Washington state has already closed down for several weeks due to COVID and has no expected delivery dates before early 2021. We decided to continue with our plans to have the concrete poured. Doug has it on his schedule and at least it will be ready in plenty of time for our hot tub delivery.

August 24, 2020. Doug and Tim arrived to pour the concrete. They had to dig down 8 inches–2 inches for a gravel base and 6 inches for concrete strong enough to support the weight of the hot tub (947 lb.) plus 475 gallons of water.

Re-bar had to be laid to prevent the pad from splitting apart if any future cracks develop.

It took a lot of wheelbarrow trips from the truck to the back yard to fill 64 sq. ft. with 6 inches of concrete.

After moving the concrete into place and roughly leveling it, I counted 7 different tools Doug and Tim used to make the surface increasingly smooth. Here’s the last step of smoothing. Tim is checking to make sure Doug doesn’t miss an uneven spot.

September 5, 2020. After waiting for the concrete to cure according to Doug’s instructions, I painted it so it will look nice around the edges of our hot tub. We took paint samples to the hot tub dealer to match paint to the hot tub siding color. There’s plenty of time for the paint to cure before our September 19 delivery date.

September 14, 2020. Chad called to say our hot tub manufacturing date has been delayed until late October or early November. By the time it’s manufactured (about a week), delivered from Las Vegas to St. Louis (another week), and scheduled for installation at our house (another week), we’re probably looking at delivery and installation between November 12 (earliest) and November 19 (latest). Patience is a virtue, right?

November 9, 2020. Chad called to tell us our hot tub has arrived at the dealership and can be delivered November 13. He will contact the electrician so the hot tub can be set up and wired on the same day. Hallelujah!

November 13, 2020. Five months to the day after we ordered it, our hot tub was the first delivery of the day and arrived at its new home around 9:00 a.m.

I was proud of Kevin and his team. They work like me. After unwrapping the hot tub and turning it in the direction we wanted (controls and steps facing the house, captain’s seats facing the pool), they measured both ends of each of the four sides to make sure the tub was centered and square on the concrete. Great job, guys! Looking at an angled, off-center tub for many years would have irritated me every day. This crew was finished after about two hours and moved on to their next delivery / set-up.

Meanwhile, . . . Marcus and Kevin, the electricians, were here an hour before the hot tub delivery to get started on the extensive wiring project. There was a lot of outside measuring, etc. to be done before they started serious work, and it was 33 degrees. Cold! At least it wasn’t cloudy and windy too.

When the delivery crew left, we started filling the tub so Marcus and Kevin could check the electrical hook-ups when they finished. It took them about six hours from start to finish to do the electrical work. They left just as the sunshine came around to the patio and the temperature reached 50 degrees. Reality is starting to sink in: we finally have our hot tub.

Ted and I had cleared a path from one end of the basement to the other so the electrical team could work. We also removed ceiling tiles along the wiring path. We thought that’s what we were supposed to do. When I saw Kevin replacing the ceiling tiles after they finished fishing the conduit and wire across the ceiling, I thanked him and said I hadn’t expected him to do that. “You guys already did a lot more than most people do,” he told me. “Most people just leave everything for us to move.”

Marcus did a brave thing. True, he and Kevin checked and double-checked in the basement and outside before he did the brave thing, but still, . . . He drilled a nearly 1½-inch hole through the outside brick and the concrete basement wall. Of course, it was in exactly the right place on his first try, because he’s a pro. He later admitted that, being no dummy, he drilled a smaller “test” hole just to be sure of his placement before going for the big hole. He works my way too. He said he likes everything to look neat and clean, not just connected, when he’s finished. (The building inspector complimented the electrical work and said it was very “clean.”)

When the interior (flexible) conduit was in place, Kevin starting fishing the wire into the house from the patio and Marcus pulled it across the basement ceiling. There were no hitches. It was “we’re ready” and then the wire went all the way through more than 50 feet of conduit with at least two right-angle turns. Why doesn’t it work that well when Ted and I try to do something similar, but much simpler?

Then came the most interesting part (to me) of the electrical work. I was inside the house and saw Kevin aiming a flaming torch at the rigid exterior conduit. (Some conduit pieces are partially visible at the foot of the ladder in the photo below.) I was curious, so I went outside and asked what he was doing. He was warming the conduit so it would bend to make the 7 turns needed to get from the house to the hot tub. When it was warm enough, the conduit swung and moved as flexibly as a rope. Marcus told me they could also use a hot box, but the torches were better today.

After the conduit became floppy, the two guys moved quickly to put it in place because there was little time to spare before it re-hardened. If more than one bend was needed on the same piece, they usually had to re-warm the area for the second bend. In the second picture below, Marcus is bending the conduit around the pergola post and Kevin is ready to attach the strap to hold it in place. They told me the conduit is paintable, but I’m going to save that project for warmer weather.

Last, it was time to install a dedicated electric box (a dedicated shut-off is required for a hot tub) and fish the wire from the box to the hot tub. The building inspector will be here November 17 to verify that everything is safe. We had to take down our party lights to meet the electrical code because they were within 10 feet of the hot tub. One of the contractors told us (wink, wink) we can re-hang them after the inspector leaves. We promise not to grab the party lights while standing on the hot tub in our wet swimsuits.

By the time all the installation, set-up, and electrical work was finished, the sun was shining warmly on the patio. Ted was busy raking and chipping leaves, and mowing and trimming the lawn for the last time this season, so I checked out how everything works and set up the control panel. The water temperature was 60 degrees. I set it for 104–what Chad told me most people use. It’s possible to set it as low as 50 degrees. Brrrr!–why??? We’ll probably drop it to the pool temperature in the summer so we can go from the pool to the hot tub for a massage and then maybe back to the pool. Fun, fun, fun! Everything is ready to go as soon as the water warms up.

November 15, 2020. The water in the hot tub didn’t warm up in time to enjoy our new toy on its first day at our house, and thunderstorms most of the next day made sitting in a hot tub a risky thing. Probably riskier than grabbing the party lights. Between the showers, however, we balanced the chemical levels of the water, so it wasn’t really a wasted day. Today, Day 3, was a different story. We had a delayed anniversary celebration in our new hot tub.

Note: The white surface in the lower left is the inside of the folded-back hot tub cover. We didn’t slide it all the way off because it provided a nice “table” for our wine glasses.

Today I saw this meme that referenced Kamala Harris as the United States Vice President-elect. It was followed by the statement “All it takes is one woman to crack open the door, and the crowd behind her can come barging through.” (Nancy Armour, USA Today) Of course, other countries have had women heads of state for many years, but the United States is still largely a patriarchy.

My daughters and their peers might not realize how far women have come in the past 50-60 years, but I’ve seen a lot of change in attitudes toward women in my lifetime.

My elementary school had three classrooms and three teachers–one man and two women. Of course, the man was the principal. Good for our school board, though. When the man retired, they hired another woman and selected the senior woman teacher to be the principal. When the single woman teacher got married, she was allowed to keep teaching, but when she became pregnant, she had to resign. It was considered inappropriate for young children to have a pregnant teacher, even though we saw our pregnant moms at home.

When I was in high school, the “obvious” career choices for women were secretary, airline stewardess, or teacher. Of course, when you got married, you would probably quit your job to raise your family. I didn’t want to be a secretary and I wasn’t pretty enough to be an airline stewardess. At that time, you had to be a single female, look like Barbie, and not wear glasses. Very sexist by today’s standards. I’ve always loved school, so I probably would have chosen an educational path anyway, no matter how many choices I had, but my college roommate was one of a very few women in the School of Business at UW-Madison.

When I was in college, women were allowed to wear pants to classes. After all, it was a huge campus with 15-minute walks between classes, and it was Wisconsin in the winter before global warming was noticeable. For dinner, however, we were required to wear skirts. I’m proud to say I was part of the protest movement in my dorm to allow pants for dinner attire. We won. Another college memory of mine is avoiding construction sites (there was always a new building going up on campus) because it was uncomfortable for me to have to walk by and ignore the comments and wolf whistles from construction workers. It wasn’t flattering then, and it’s sexual harassment now.

When I got married, I was not allowed to get a credit card in my name. Ted and I still use the VISA card we took out when we got married because it has no annual fees. One card has my name on it, but the account is in Ted’s name and the card number is the same on both cards. I now have an additional credit card in my own name–something I qualified for many years later.

When Ted and I bought a house, the utilities had to be in Ted’s name because a woman could not be the head of the household and only the head of the household (i.e., the man) could be counted on to be financially responsible. We haven’t moved in 41 years, so our utilities are still in Ted’s name but it’s not worth changing. I simply pay the bills out of our joint checking account.

Like millions of women around the world, I’m still waiting to be judged first for qualities other than my gender. I think Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate and the vote to elect Joe and Kamala as President and Vice President has been a big step toward equality for women in the United States. Let’s see how far it goes.

We are in the middle of an eight-day string of absolutely beautiful fall weather–sunny, with high temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to the upper 80s. It’s November, so this won’t last, and we have to bike while we can.

Ted’s and my favorite bike trail / greenway is the Dardenne Greenway. We like it for two reasons: (1) it is quiet and always provides a peaceful ride; and (2) the scenery is varied, so it is interesting. If we connect to the St. Peters bike trails and the Cottleville bike trails as well, we bike about 20 miles. We decided to enjoy this Indian summer day by biking this route one more time this season.

We usually begin this bike ride at St. Charles Community College because it’s close to our house and because the greenway runs along two sides of the campus. As a result, we start our ride by biking around the campus, which is beautifully landscaped and is like riding through a park.

This route includes a variety of pathways. There’s a boulevard, . . .

. . . curves, . . .

. . . and what I call a wiggle-waggle stretch of trailway.

There are a number of sports fields along the way for a variety of sports. Here are two of them.

There are also several playgrounds. Again, here are two.

Like all the greenways and bike trails in the area, there are frequent benches to rest, to snack, or to just enjoy the peace and quiet while admiring the views.

The Dardenne Greenway and the Cottleville bike trails follow Dardenne Creek, so there are pretty creek views all along the way.

The Dardenne Creek drains a lot of area and can be counted on to flood during heavy rain. There are some signs along the greenway warning pedestrians and bikers that the trail may be under water after a “rain event.” The picture below shows the sports fields (on the right) in Rabbit Run Park, which is set beside Dardenne Creek. That’s a levee along the right side of the trail to keep the water from flooding the trail. When our kids played soccer, the games at Rabbit Run were always cancelled if there was rain, because Dardenne Creek always flooded the playing fields.

Because there’s a creek along the greenway, there are bridges to cross . . .

. . . and one bridge to bike beneath. This bridge allows the traffic on Mexico Road to cross the greenway. At this point, there’s a connecting trail up to Mexico Road leading to the St. Peters bike trail network.

There are meadows. This one has tall grass in the fall, but in the spring, it is covered with Queen Anne’s lace.

This meadow is being developed as a natural prairie.

There are five lakes along the route . . .

. . . and there are wooded areas.

I always think of Robert Frost when we get to this intersection in the woods. In “The Road Not Taken,” Frost writes “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I– / I took the one less traveled by.” Well, here’s a yellow wood with two roads diverging and the road less traveled by is the one that goes to the right. Why? It overlooks a lake, but it dead ends just around the curve. Ted and I took the more traveled by road to the left so we could continue our bike ride.

There is even wildlife along the trail–ducks, geese, birds, squirrels, and bugs, for example. (And once we smelled a skunk.) On this ride, for the first time, we saw seven deer. Most walked (not ran) into the woods when we stopped to look at them, but you can see three in the photo below. The third one is in the woods between the big tree in the middle and the deer on the right. (Zoom the picture for a better view.)

The Dardenne Greenway is part of the Great Rivers Greenway project (GRG). The goal of the GRG is to connect all the parks in the St. Louis Metro area. The Dardenne Greenway makes a lot of park connections.

When we got home, Ted and I relaxed with a cup of hot chocolate beside our fire bowl. It was another good day in The Life of Ted and Diane.

We had above-average rainfall all year through September. To comfort us, the experts told us we’d have beautiful fall foliage as a result of all the rain. They were right. The fall colors this year are stunning! The reds are brilliant and the yellows are bright. It’s been a delight to see so much gorgeous color wherever we go.

From our back yard, we can admire these colors in the yards of the three neighbors behind us.

Biking through the neighboring subdivisions, we saw these.

And this red, red, red, display was in a nearby restaurant parking lot.

When we went to Pilates at the community college last week, we saw “Camelot trees.” One of the songs from Camelot includes the words:

Well, here’s how it looks when the leaves fall in neat little piles. They will probably blow away tonight.

P.S. When the redbuds were gloriously blooming one spring, I mentioned that I think nearly everyone in the metro area planted at least one redbud tree in their yard. With the burning bushes so obviously red this year, I’d like to add that I think everyone in the metro area planted at least one redbud tree and at least two burning bushes in their yard.

One of the things voters feared in the 2020 Presidential election is Biden’s plan to raise taxes. Not everyone continued to read or listen to the details clarifying that Biden’s proposed tax hike would only affect those whose annual income exceeds $400,000. Today, while scrolling through my news feed, I found a string of social media comments about Biden’s plan.

And finally, . . .

Summer is officially over at our house. The golden leaves on the ground crackle under our feet, the pool is winterized, the umbrella is covered, and the patio furniture is packed away in the storage shed. Firewood will be delivered this week, just in time for some fall fire bowl time.

We left two lawn chairs on the pool deck for nights at the fire bowl and for days when it’s warm enough to sit outside in the afternoon sunshine. There are two additional lawn chairs on the patio (visible through the fence) because . . .

. . . our hot tub is finally at the dealer, waiting to be delivered to our house. It will be placed on the concrete pad visible in the center left, off the patio and left of the pool. We’ll need some lawn chairs beside the hot tub to hold our towels and robes while we luxuriate in the nice warm water, enjoying the relaxing water jets. We ordered the hot tub on June 13, almost exactly five months ago. You’ve gotta love the COVID supply chain issues!

Update coming when the hot tub is installed. I can’t wait!

In early October, there was a lot of digging going on in our yard and the footprints indicated it was being done by a raccoon.

Ted bought a trap and we caught Ringo that same night (October 8), then released him into the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area the next day. Whew! That was easy!

A few days later, we saw more raccoon tracks. We decided Ringo must have a wife, so Ted set the trap again and we caught the little woman (didn’t actually identify gender-type) on October 13. Look at the pile of dirt “she” dug up through the holes in the trap.

Ted released Number 2 and put the trap away. But wait! There was fresh digging three days later. Ted set the trap again and Number 3 (one of the grown kids?) was sitting in it on October 16.

What is going on??!! Is our yard the neighborhood attraction for the wildlife community living in the woods across the street? Did Ringo pass the word somehow to tell all his friends that the Busch Wildlife Conservation Area is an awesome place and that the transport carrier is in our yard?

In a forward-thinking manner, we decided to keep setting the trap every night until we captured every critter that was digging up our lawn. Two days later (October 18), we apparently captured a friend of Ringo’s family–an opossum. Check out those teeth! He was asleep and woke up when we lifted the trap. He didn’t make a sound, so maybe this was just a yawn. Ted made another relocation deposit at Busch.

We kept the trap baited and sure enough, on October 21, there was another opossum sleeping in it and awaiting transfer.

That’s five critters trapped and relocated. It’s been a week since we trapped No. 5 and there’s no evidence of new digging in the yard, so our 2020 wildlife relocation program might be finished. At least for awhile.

It’s time to make applesauce again. I don’t especially like the job, but we love our homemade chunky-style applesauce, so-o-o-o, . . . .

We bought a bushel of apples–“The World’s Finest Apples,” according to the box. They were beautiful apples.

Ted’s main job is to operate the apple peeler/slicer. Why do they have to put a sticker on every. single. apple??

Then I fill the kettles and cook and mash the peeled/sliced apples.

The applesauce needs to cool before I put it into meal-size boxes for future use.

Ted carries the boxes to the freezer. . .

. . . and we always save a few apples so I can make an apple pie to celebrate the end of the applesauce-making process. The supply of applesauce and the pie reward make the work worth the effort.

Ted and I decided to vote by absentee ballot this year because we think there will be very long lines at the polls on November 3. The line was a lot longer than usual for the 2018 midterms when I counted 75 people ahead of us, and there are always long lines for Presidential elections. Maybe especially for this Presidential election. Besides, the weather could be crummy in November, so who wants to stand outside if they don’t have to?

We’ve never voted absentee or by mail before, but the process was very simple. We filled out our absentee ballot request online and then headed for the Election Authority office just a short distance from our house, where we received our ballots and cast them immediately. As it turned out, if we were appearing in person with a photo ID, we could pick up our ballots and vote without the application. Oh, well. It’s better to be prepared, right?

The roads near the Election Authority office were clearly marked with “Election Authority Office” signs at each corner along the way, but we already knew where it was–next door to where my SCC program used to provide a GED classroom site.

Our first surprise was the number of campaign signs posted along the road and around the parking lot. The signs added a colorful and–dare I say?–decorative touch to a dreary day and a blah parking lot. I didn’t read any of them because I already knew who I was voting for. Does anyone decide how they will vote when they arrive at the polling place parking lot and see those signs? “Oh, I was going to vote for Donald Duck, but the Mickey Mouse sign at least 25 feet from the polling place door caught my attention and changed my mind.”

Our second surprise was the steady stream of cars coming and going and filling the parking spaces. When we left, there were at least as many cars in the parking lot and at least as many people in the room as when we arrived. If there’s a steady stream of voters like this–a rainy Tuesday afternoon–every day, a lot of people are voting early. Maybe the polling place lines won’t be so long on November 3 after all.

Curbside voting was available for those who requested that their ballots be mailed to them in advance. For awhile, there was a long line of cars at the curbside, but not when I took this picture.

When we entered the building, the number-caller shouted “5!” These were our numbers. There were seven election judges working, so it took us less than 30 minutes to get our ballots and to cast our votes. We didn’t really keep track of the time, so that’s a guess, but the line kept moving. I asked the number-caller if she goes home hoarse at the end of the day and she said, “We all do.”

Here’s a partial view of the crowd. There were people (including us) standing along two walls, people seated, and people voting at the tables with the red and white and the black divider screens (right center) and at tables in a large room behind the staircase. We even saw someone we knew–Ed, from the bike shop where we bought our bikes and where we keep finding new bike gear to buy. Ed told me once he has five bicycles and uses them all for different kinds of biking. He’s retired so he works part-time for the Election Authority and part-time at the bike shop. Today, he was answering questions on the floor and directing human traffic in the room.

In less time than we stood in line in 2018, we had fulfilled our civic duty.

I found some more old photos while I was looking for something else. I always enjoy looking at old pictures and remembering the good times they bring to mind.

Some of our visits to Thom’s house included helping him with home projects. In August 2006, we helped him tear out the overgrowth along his back yard fence. There was a lot of it and the yard looked noticeably larger when we finished. Things were going well, so Thom decided to take advantage of the extra help to dismantle some structures he didn’t like in his back yard. There was a good-sized pile of scrap lumber when we finished.

When we visited Thom in March 2008, he needed help lifting, holding, and nailing drywall to his bedroom ceiling.

In July 2006 and August 2008, we went to Houston for family reunions at Steve and Joan’s house. Who knows how goofy stuff gets started? During the reunions, we posed a “directional” picture at every place we visited. On July 2006, we were all on the same page about which way to go for our sightseeing. That’s (L > R) Ben, Phil, Russ, Steve, Todd (you can see a little bit of his hair, his orange shirt, and his black shoes), Matt, and Ted.

By August 2008, we were older and apparently more confused. This time it’s Ted, Carrie, Eric, Steve, and Todd. This might be inside the Houston Space Center main building. It was obviously time for a refreshing beverage.

Ted and I were excited to have grandchildren. Here is our first family group photo with our four children and almost all of our grandchildren. Julian didn’t come along with Thom this time.

We had a larger family in December 2005 when I graduated with my doctoral degree. This isn’t a digital picture (although we bought a digital camera in 2003), so we didn’t know until the film was developed that Annette is only partially present (left).

Going back in time, this is a photo of Ted and me going to a homecoming activity in October 1968. We had already purchased my engagement ring and our wedding rings, but hadn’t told anyone that we would soon be officially engaged. We’ve always counted it as our engagement picture.

Good times. Good memories.

Last week, I received an Amazon catalog in the mail. I didn’t even know Amazon mailed catalogs! I’m not big on catalog shopping, so I quickly riffled through the pages before throwing it into the recycle bin.

During my riffle, I saw a Christmas tree maze. I couldn’t resist drawing my way through the maze. Then I saw another activity page. I finally checked the table of contents (yes, a table of contents, not an index like catalogs usually have), and found lots of fun activities. The promise on the catalog was true: It was “Joy Delivered” and it put an Amazon Prime smile on my face.

Here’s the catalog cover. With the “kid” appearance, it’s no surprise it was a toy catalog.

Here are the activity pages. There’s even a page of stickers (bottom right) to go with “A Winter’s tail Tale.”

The catalog included a page with a recipe for “sip, sip, hurray” hot chocolate and another page to “Make a list, check it twice” with the note that the list may include “anything, like hugs, hats, or talking mice.” Maybe I’ll use that page to make my Christmas list. Who do I know that wants a talking mouse for Christmas?

Today was Ted’s and my third try to reach the eastern terminus of the Katy Trail, and the third time was the charm. The trail repairs between Black Walnut and Machens have been completed. During our ride, we passed the low point of the trail. The high point of the trail is 955 feet, near Clinton in western Missouri.

Since we’ve biked this route twice before, I wasn’t really thinking about taking pictures along the way. That means I have to confess that I found both of these photos online. The season is wrong (see the bare trees), but the low point is still 436 feet, and the depot and the gate at the end of the trail looked just like this.

Our goal has been to ride the Katy Trail from the eastern end to somewhere around Columbia because that’s as far as we want to drive to arrive at a trailhead. Today we met some other bikers at Machens who said they recently took their bikes on the train from St. Louis to Hermann to bike farther west. That sounds like a good idea. We might have to revise our western goal.