The second monthly lunch in our neighborhood group of ladies was beautiful. Kelly hosted the group and said she enjoys using nice things. How do you spell “understatement”? Here’s a picture of the table we saw when we arrived. Each place setting had a charger, a dinner plate, a salad plate, and a dessert plate. Kelly described her decorating theme as “French country,” and each chair had a little gift for its occupant–a zippered bag with a screenprint of something French. (You can see one of the bags hanging on the center chair.) There were also small bottles of wine and a fruit punch with a bit of a kick for those who wanted something more than water or iced tea to drink.

Like last month, we all brought more than one food item. Each item was large enough to allow everyone to try everything and to take a serving or two home for family members who are not ladies and, therefore, were not invited to the luncheon. The take-aways are great for dinner after we go home. Kelly was prepared and had restaurant take-away boxes for each of us. Main courses are in the first photo, then there’s a quiche, followed by desserts. The oatmeal raisin cookies were Kelly’s contribution. She used brandy-soaked raisins. Guess who brought the scotcheroos. As usual, they all disappeared. They’re simple to make, but everyone loves them.

The lunch gathering is expanding. Last time, we gathered, ate, split the leftovers, and went home after two hours. This time, we did all of the above and then went out on the deck to play games and talk with each other for another two hours. We played a version of dominoes, Catch-Phrase, and St. Louis trivia. A good time was had by all and we now have a tradition that’s been ongoing for two months. It’s been so much fun to get together as a group rather than one-by-one as we see each other, that I have a feeling this will go on for awhile. What a great idea!

P.S. Last month’s lunch was served on paper plates, take-aways left the hostess’ house on paper plates, and there were no adult beverages (or cookies). The rest of us conceded that Kelly wins the hostess prize, but she should expect paper plates again next month! No pressure allowed for the hostesses.

Ted was fertilizing the backyard flowers today and thought they were so pretty, he took some pictures. These firecrackers have bushed out nicely and fill this flower bed.

The hibiscus tree produces fresh blooms every day. They open as the sun rises, close as the sun sets, then drop to the ground overnight. We’ve had as many as ten and as few as one bloom on a single day. Three to five new flowers daily is typical. The marigolds are great for keeping the bugs away while we sit around the pool.

These crepe myrtle bushes used to provide a privacy hedge around one end of the pool. Then we had a hard winter and most of the bushes died. These two survived, but they die back every winter and no longer grow tall enough to provide privacy. Ted didn’t want to throw them away, so he stuck them in the ground behind the storage shed where he keeps his brush pile until he has time to chip the brush into mulch. The bushes bloom every year, but the only way to view them in our yard is to walk behind the storage shed. I’m sure that chipping brush is a nicer task for Ted with some pretty flowers to look at while he works.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Ted and I decided it’s time to give the interior of our house a fresh look. The interior designer we hired gave us some very good ideas, and we’ve been following up on them. If all the stars aligned, we hoped we could have at least 90 percent of the work finished before the kids and grandkids come for a December visit.

My assignment today was to call the carpet lady, the electrician, and the painter to set up appointments for walk-throughs and bids on the work. These are post-pandemic times and contractors have been unusually busy for the past three years, not to mention all the labor shortages we keep hearing about. I crossed my fingers and picked up my phone. Here’s how it went.

The carpet lady. She and her design partner will be here on Friday to get a feel for what kind of designs they should plan for us and to measure all the rooms for carpeting. They can install the master bedroom carpet and all the second floor carpeting next week. Yikes! I wasn’t ready for that. Ted and I are fully booked for the entire month of September and we have plenty to do in the remaining days of August. We scheduled carpet installation for early October.

The electrician. He can do a walk-through tomorrow, submit a bid within 24 hours, and finish the work by the end of next week. Yikes! again. It turns out that I called at a serendipitous time. The company had two electricians assigned to a total house gut and remodel–a job that took a year–and they finished it last week. Four other electricians were working on a huge commercial project which also took a year and also ended last week. This means that six electricians are available for new work. We need the electrical work completed before the painter can start, so Ted and I decided to drop everything we’d planned to do in August that wasn’t necessary to keep the world turning, and we scheduled the electrician for a walk-through and a bid tomorrow, with work to begin ASAP after that.

The painter. No problem. He can fit us in around other jobs and finish ours by next week. Now my jaw is dropping, my head is spinning, and I’m feeling a little giddy. The painter is happy to work with the carpet people so that we only need to move the furniture in and out of each room once while the carpeting and the painting are being done. He’ll be here tomorrow for a walk-through and will give us a bid on the spot. We scheduled him for early October with the carpet crew.

After three years of delays, delays, delays on outdoor house work and yard jobs, if we didn’t already have September completely filled, we could have had the entire interior of our house freshened up with new lighting, new carpeting, and new paint by the end of next week. This time, it’s the customer (us), not the contractor, who is delaying two-thirds of the project until October.

Unbelievably, all the stars aligned. 1-2-3, hat trick!

Today was a perfect day to be outdoors. The temperature was around 90 degrees, but the humidity was low, the sun was bright, and the clouds were pretty. Ted and I picked up Dylan and Theo (Teddy is growing up) and headed for the Boat House in Forest Park. A lot of other people had the same idea, judging by the number of parked cars and the number of people we saw. The Boat House rents paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks. We opted for kayaks and paddled from the dock into Post-Dispatch Lake. Here’s the path we took for our one-hour adventure.

I took a picture of Dylan and Theo as we approached a pedestrian bridge and an oncoming paddle boat. Notice how synchronized their paddles are. What a team!

Here are the boys at the Lagoon Drive end of the Grand Basin.

Facing the opposite direction in the Grand Basin, Dylan took a picture of Ted and me heading back toward Art Hill and the Art Museum. The fountains all around the Grand Basin were really pretty.

This is another of Dylan’s pictures, also facing Art Hill. Theo’s smile shows how much fun we were having.

On our way back to the Boat House, we passed a family of ducks.

At the next bend in the canal, we spotted two herons. The one on the right is harder to see–look at the center right in the water beside the dying weeping willow tree.

This bridge made a pretty reflection in the water.

After an hour of kayaking in the sun, we were all in the mood for ice cream. The Boat House café told us the closest thing they have to ice cream is a vodka smoothie, but we had two underage people in our group, although Theo joked that he might be able to handle a vodka smoothie. We all voted for Dairy Queen instead, and we splurged and ordered medium-sized cones. The dip cone is Dylan’s and my DQ favorite. Theo went for a dip cone too (no vodka) and Ted, the individualist in our group, chose a twist cone. Yummy!

We all had a good time. None of us had kayaked in Forest Park before, but we’d all enjoy doing it again. According to the boys, our next get-together should include swimming in our pool and playing sheephead. That works for Ted and me. Our grandchildren are the greatest. They share their photos, their smiles, and their time with us. ♥♥

It’s been nearly 25 years since Ted and I re-furbed/freshened our house and we’re getting tired of the same old look. It’s time for a change. We both lack decorating skills, so we hired an interior designer to help us make some decisions. I mentioned to the designer that we have very little display space. Her suggestion was to get rid of some of the books and use those shelves as display space. “Gasp!” thought I. “Blasphemy!”

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.

Henry Ward Beecher

I cannot get rid of my books, but if I add up all the empty space on my shelves, I might be able to clear two shelves in the family room for display and still have space to add new books. We’ll see. Or I can forget about displaying things and stick with the books. With that said, when Kari called to ask if I’d like to go to the library book fair with her and Teddy, I immediately said “yes.”

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson

The library has not had one of its three-day book fairs since 2019 (before COVID), and they had so many books, they had to move the event from the Convention Center to the Family Arena. Professional sporting events and medium-name concerts take place in the arena, so it’s huge. There are four different gates to accommodate four simultaneous indoor events and the library used only one venue space. The parking lot was nearly half-full and it looked like Elvis might be in the building. (Or maybe someone else–Elvis would have filled the entire building.)

I came prepared with my largest carry-all bag, but I saw immediately that I was an amateur. A number of folks brought wagons or rolling file boxes. I might do that next year.

But that was still only medium level prep for book purchasing. These two came with dollies and four large packing cartons each. I won’t do that next year.

The Book Fair opened at 9:00 a.m. for a limited group of library friends and members; after 12:00 p.m., entry was free and open to everyone. Kari, Teddy, and I met at the gate at 12:30 p.m. and were given maps to guide our browsing. Hardbacks were $2.00, over-sized paperbacks were $1.00, and paperbacks were $0.50. What a deal!

The floor space within the outlined area on the map below was large enough for an official indoor soccer, football, hockey, etc. game (audience seating is outside that area) and the entire floor was covered with tables that were, in turn, completely covered with books. Under all the tables were boxes containing just as many more books. Volunteers patrolled the tables, and when the books started to lean over because people had removed some for purchase, the volunteers reached into the boxes below and pulled out more books to fill the empty spaces. Other volunteers continued to bring in boxes of books from the dock area to replace the empty boxes beneath the tables.

We browsed for nearly an hour before Teddy noticed how long the check-out line was. I had another appointment and had to leave in about 40 minutes, and Kari and Teddy were finished browsing, so we got in line. Keep in mind that the oblong outline in the above map is the size of an indoor sports field. The end of the line was at the red arrow and, from that point forward, moved clockwise around the floor. The exit to the cashier was at the green arrow, so we needed to move nearly all the way around the floor. Yikes! The good news was that the line was never stationary. I tried to look through some of the children’s books (green tables) as we passed them because I didn’t get to those tables before we got in line, but when I paused to extract a book, Kari and Teddy moved forward 4-6 feet before I even had a chance to examine the book.

Checking out was fast: Several staff members were available to count books for customers. They did the simple math to calculate the cost, and wrote the total on a piece of paper. Customers then took the piece of paper to the next available cashier and handed her their money–cash only, no tax to calculate. We made it from the back of the line to outside the front door in about 30 minutes. Not bad at all!

For the price of one new book, I now have 15 new-to-me books. There goes some of that display space the designer thinks I have.

I read for pleasure and that is the moment I learn the most.

Margaret Atwood

A week ago, the St. Louis area made the national news for the prodigious amount of rain we had in a 24-hour period. We weren’t really excited about breaking the 24-hour rainfall record by over 2 inches, but it happened. State and federal disaster aid is available to flood victims.

River floods are a result of heavy rain or rapidly melting snow upstream and affect areas along the riverbanks. Rainfall events are different: the rain falls faster than the ground and drainage systems can handle it, forcing it to accumulate in any low-lying area at the bottom of any hill. Unfortunately, we had three heavy rainfalls over short periods of time in fewer than seven days, severely affecting many homes and businesses. The owner of one business said his ground floor was covered by water three times in a week. Countless cars were completely submerged by flood waters. Because of the power of the moving water, rescue teams had to exchange smaller boats for larger ones.

Our rain gauge overflows at 5 inches, but the official reading for our area was 12 inches. Ted and I looked at the TV meteorologist’s map showing contour lines representing rainfall totals on a map of the metro area. We estimated that we fell in the 9-10 inch range. The following two rain events brought lesser amounts–around 2-3 inches each time, according to our rain gauge. After the St. Louis “practice session,” the storms moved into Kentucky and that state had far more flood damage than we did. Ted and I were fortunate. We had nothing worse than a very soggy lawn.

A few days after the last rainfall, Ted and I decided the Katy Trail was probably dry enough to bike. We headed for the Greens Bottom trail head and planned to bike westward to Weldon Spring–about 11 miles one way. We hadn’t thought about the fact that the rail trail on which the Katy is built runs along the Missouri River (low ground) and that it might have flooded, so we were surprised when we entered the trail and saw a sign announcing it was closed for flood damage repair.

The trail looked ok and there was plenty of room to bike past the warning fence, so we decided to try it. If it was washed out or blocked, we could always turn around. The first 2 miles were rough, but the trail rises gently in elevation from its eastern to its western terminus, so all was well after the first two miles.

The trail was badly rutted in several places. Obviously, the water was running from the trail into the creek.

There was a lot of accumulated debris on the upstream side of this bridge. The grader is ready to go.

Our first street crossing required dismounting and walking our bikes across. The ruts were 4-6 inches deep all the way across the trail.

This might have been a huge source of water runoff. The Katy runs along a limestone river bluff at Greens Bottom. The standing water at the bottom of this point of the rock wall led Ted and me to think that the rainfall from the top of the bluff tumbled down these rocks like a giant waterfall, then ran over the trail.

Our assumption about the water running down this bluff was supported by the piles of silt the bobcat piled up when workers cleared the trail. The arrow points to the base of the “waterfall” point in the above photo.

As we biked westward, we noticed a lot of trees that had been washed out by the heavy rain and the powerful flood waters. The Park Service has already been hard at work clearing the trail.

Along the way, we saw a volleyball that apparently floated away from its home and became stuck on a fencepost. Given its beat-up condition and the brand name facing us, we couldn’t help thinking “Castaway” and “Tom Hanks.”

We had to slow our biking speed for the first two miles in order to navigate around the ruts in the road, but the rest of our ride was smooth. It was another good 22-mile ride on the Katy with a flood adventure for added interest.

When I went outside a few days ago, I noticed a mushroom fairy ring growing in our neighbor’s yard. Then I saw another one in a nearby subdivision when I took a bike ride.

Fairy rings are sometimes seen as hazardous or dangerous, linked to witches or the Devil. On the other hand, they are also linked with good fortune. Take your pick. The rings can be 30 or more feet in diameter and can become stable over time as they grow and find food underground. I don’t think that will happen to this one. The lawn service mowers demolished it the following day.

It’s amazing to hear the creative ideas people come up with to pass the time. Guinness World Records was approached by Fire & Smoke, a restaurant sponsor of the Jacksonville Jaguars, to document a world record for throwing a hot dog into a bun. To set the record: (1) the hot dog had to be thrown a minimum of 20 meters (65.62 feet); (2) the hot dog could not be tampered with in any way to aid its projection; and (3) the bun had to be pre-sliced.

The challenge took place on November 27, 2018. (Why didn’t we hear about this sooner?) Mark Brunell, the quarterback for the Jaguars at that time, was the thrower. “Everyone can throw a football,” he said, “and everyone can throw a hot dog.” The catcher was Ryan Moore, a British flat racing jockey. This photo–presumably taken from the catcher’s position–gives some perspective of the throwing distance. Note the cheerleaders and the team mascot on the left.

Here’s the throw . . .

. . . and the catch. Author’s query: There’s a hot dog on the ground. Was a previous throw a miss?

You can see the Guinness World Records stamp of approval in the lower right corner of the photo below. The distance thrown was 20.96 meters (68.76 feet). “It took just about everything I had to throw it that far,” said Brunell. “It’s a pretty big deal and I’m very proud of that.”

According to Guinness World Records, record challengers have the option of adding condiments to the hot dog. Go on, give it a try.

P.S. You can see a video of this awesome event on YouTube.

Peggy, our neighbor, celebrated her 91st birthday this week, so some of the women in our neighborhood decided to give her a party. We all brought some food and had a wonderful time. Here’s Peggy, the birthday girl, still looking great at 91. BTW, on her plate, she has three of the four desserts that were contributed to the party. If that sounds like a lot, you should have seen the rest of the food!

And here’s our neighborhood group (clockwise from the top): Claudia, Maureen, Kelly, Peggy, and me. The party was so much fun, we’re going to turn this into a monthly gathering.

I recently found a bunch of old photos that made me smile.

1965: The first one is the yearbook photo of the girls in my dorm in my sophomore year. I lived in a small scholarship dorm that was much less expensive than the regular dorms. In return for the deep housing discount, each resident was required to contribute about two hours of assigned weekly housekeeping work–assisting the cook (yes, singular) with meal prep, serving, or clean-up; cleaning a hallway or a common area; cleaning a communal bathroom; etc. Most of the chores were done by teams. It was a good deal for us, and this is where I met the friends I still get together with.

2003: Ted and I were scouting out places to take a family photo for the kids’ upcoming visit. Here’s Ted, posing with Lewis and Clark and their dog, Seaman.

2003: One of those fun-loving National Weather Service guys had time to photoshop Ted and Vince at a beach. They’re both wearing NWS shirts, so maybe it was supposed to be a working vacation.

Summer 2003: Ted and I went to Washington, D.C. The breadline memorial is one of the rooms in the FDR Memorial on the Mall. Ted decided to get in line.

Christmas 2004: I think Kathy gave Ted the Packers sweatshirt, cheesehead, and ball cap. I don’t know who gave Sky the baby-size sweatshirt. It looks like Grandpa is trying to mold a future Packers fan.

January 31, 2004: It’s New Year’s Eve, but the Weather Service staff is hard at work. Tom, Ted, and Vince took a midnight break for some New Year’s Eve champagne. Alcohol is not allowed in federal offices, so they made their toast in the middle of the dead-end street in front of the office, off the federal property.

2005: I have no idea what’s going on here or who took the picture, but it looks like Ted and I are having a great time in Florida on our spring break trip.

2007: Ted and I have entered one dance contest in our lifetimes: the twist contest at our niece, Cheryl’s, wedding. You probably think the first place winners are on the left, but you’re wrong; that man and woman are the third place winners. Ted and I won the first place trophies. As long as we never enter another dance contest, we’ll have a perfect winning streak.

2009: The bobcat in this photo was in our yard to dig our swimming pool. Ted’s dream car?

2012: My dream car in Little Rock, AR.

2014: Ted took this picture of me in Mt. Rainier NP on one of our visits with Thom.

According to the news reports, 2.5 million people experienced cancellations and/or delays on 7,800+ flights over the July 4th weekend. Ted and I were two of those people on four of those flights during the holiday week and it’s true: none of the flights left the airport at the originally scheduled time. Our nonstop morning flight from home to Seattle was completely cancelled by the airline, so they assigned us to an evening flight the previous day. The change of flight time gave us a longer layover for our slightly delayed commuter flight to Wenatchee. Coming home from Jeff’s house, we had a 20-minute departure delay on the first leg of our journey and a 2-hour delay on the last leg, bringing us home at 3:00 a.m. (Insert yawn here.) Between the flights, we had a great time.

It was wonderful to see our boys and their families again. Hadley was only two months old the last time we saw her. This time, we celebrated her first birthday with her. Sefton was getting ready to start pre-school last summer and now he’s looking forward to first grade. Here we are with Hadley.

Hadley isn’t quite ready to walk, but she has a unique–and rapid–style of crawling/scooting over the hardwood floors.

Sefton wore a fun NASA T-shirt. A space helmet visor reflects the American flag, which is made of sequins. When Sefton flips the sequins in the opposite direction, the flag becomes a blue sun visor on the space helmet. When Sefton stands in the sunlight, the sequins make him giggle at the sparking reflection on the sink front. Awesome!

Thom and Katie took us to a nearby park on the Columbia River during our visit. There was a salmon ladder, but the salmon weren’t spawning yet, so we didn’t see them jumping up the ladder. Even so, the views were pretty and the playground was fun. There was a slide that gave sliders a little boost on their way down so that they seemed to “shoot” out of the slide. Thom and Sefton had fun trying that. You can tell by Thom’s balancing act that he wasn’t expecting to exit the slide at that speed.

On another day, we took a “secret” hike in the Oglala Gorge. I say “secret” because the trailhead was on a secondary (maybe tertiary) road and the entrance was overgrown, camouflaging it. Katie knew exactly where it was, so we parked and took off with Sefton as our leader, carrying a big stick because–hey!–he’s a kid and he needs a stick.

When we reached the summit of the trail, it was time to rest and to enjoy the view of the Enchantment Range of the Cascades. You can see the stick beside Sefton. He needed it to guide us going up and again coming down the mountain.

Of course there was a birthday party for Hadley. Like most one-year-olds, the cupcake and the special candle meant nothing to her, but the frosting tasted good.

While the adults visited with each other, Sefton took care of Hadley’s car. First, he filled the gas tank; then he took her for a ride.

We enjoyed the beautiful weather by eating most of our meals outside. One evening, we had pizza cooked outdoors in Thom and Katie’s pizza oven. Later, we roasted marshmallows and on another evening, we enjoyed a pan of s’mores.

After spending several days at Thom and Katie’s house, Julian joined us and we all headed for Jeff and La’s house for more fun together. When we arrived, I noticed pretty wildflowers growing along the driveway.

Our first day together was the pick day of the week for water fun. Jeff and La contributed jet skis, kayaks, and paddleboards and we all had a great time.

All that activity made us hungry, so we needed an ice cream snack after dinner. Sefton made a sign with a picture of an ice cream cone and the notice that “Ice cream shop is open.” Then we dug into the ice cream and toppings.

When we were finished eating, it was much later than Sefton’s bedtime, but you wouldn’t know it to look at his pj’s.

In spite of the message on his pj’s, Sefton went to bed and fell asleep. The rest of us settled in for a movie in Jeff and La’s home theater.

Ted and I stayed a few more days after Thom’s family left for home. Jeff took us for a ride around the area. The nearest town is Big Fork, MT so we went to town. Sure enough, there’s a big fork in town.

On another day we hiked a 5-mile trail along the west side of Holland Lake. The views of the lake were beautiful.

In the evening, we enjoyed a pizza dinner on the front porch, overlooking Flathead Lake.

It takes a long time (until after midnight) for the sky to get dark enough to see stars this far north in June, but we were so far from urban lights that the Milky Way was clearly visible. What a treat for city dwellers like Ted and me.

It was finally time for Ted and me to head for the airport to go home. On the way, we stopped at Rosa’s Pizza–Jeff’s favorite local restaurant and the place where he plays mahjong weekly. The pizza was delicious. It’s no wonder he eats it every week.

As we watched the sun set each evening, I understood why Jeff takes so many sunset pictures. It’s a beautiful view every night. My cell phone photos of the sunset aren’t as stunning as this one that Julian shared with me. He took it with a “real” camera. The peace it evokes is a perfect finish for the time we spent with our sons and their families.

I liked the puppy quilt I made for Ollie’s first birthday, so I decided to continue the fun by making a quilt for Hadley’s first birthday too. I searched “baby quilts” and “crib blankets” online, hoping to find an inspiration for “girlie” colors and themes. Eh! There were no “aha!” moments online. Hoping fabric choices would point me toward a design, I went fabric shopping and–unbelievably!–found nothing I liked in fabrics. I saw a lot of fabric, but inspiration continued to elude me, so I went home to mull things over. After a few weeks, I thought the fabric store might have some new fabrics. They did, and I settled on a butterfly print and a complementary fabric for the backing. I felt like my fabric choices were satisfactory, but not thrilling. I liked the puppy fabric and the puppy paw print appliqué idea for Ollie immediately. It wasn’t that way with my Hadley project, but the longer I worked on it, and the more finished it became, the more I liked it.

My next online search was for butterflies to go with my fabric choice. This was my online inspiration. It’s garish, but I liked the idea of butterflies fluttering over the entire surface of the quilt.

After buying fabric, my next step was to draw butterfly patterns. Four of the butterfly appliqués required two layers of fabric; the one in the upper left needed three layers.

I’ve got fabric and I’ve got patterns, but there are more decisions to be made: Which colors shall I use for the butterflies, and in which combinations shall I use them? What kind of lettering design shall I choose? Which colors of threads (matching or contrasting) and which stitching patterns shall I select to attach the butterfly pieces to each other and to the quilt? How will I get the antennas drawn and how can I stitch them? I made lots of samples to help me make these decisions.

I decided to purchase a third fabric (the dark purple) for the butterfly markings; lettering will be Comic Sans (one of my sewing machine choices); thread should match the fabric; zigzag will be best for assembling the butterflies and for attaching them to the top quilt fabric; I’ll use a disappearing marker to draw the antennas and I’ll stitch them with a triple stitch and embroidery thread. I tried sewing a double line to make the antennas bolder, but it was too difficult to keep the two lines of stitching exactly side-by-side, so I went with less visible (but more error-free) antennas. Whew! I’m glad that’s all decided!

The next step was to make the appliqués. First, fuse the Wonder Under (I like it better than HeatnBond) to the fabric; second, mark the patterns on the backing of the fused Wonder Under; . . .

. . . third, cut the pieces along the pattern lines; . . .

. . . fourth, fuse the butterfly pieces together, then zigzag the decorative pieces to the base butterfly; . . .

. . . fifth, attach the butterflies to the top fabric with zigzag stitches; sixth, draw the antennas; . . .

. . . seventh, eighth, and ninth, stitch the antennas, add the embroidery (“Hadley”), and draw the quilting lines; . . .

Those butterfly appliqués were a lot of work! They were fun, so I’m not complaining, but I kept track of my time and they took half the time of the entire project. I sewed Hadley’s name on one butterfly, my initials on another, and the year on a third butterfly.

After the appliqués were finished, it was time to attach the batting to the top fabric and then to attach the backing.

With everything put together into a single piece/quilt, the next step was to sew the quilting lines. I didn’t want to sew lines over the butterflies, but some of the butterflies covered more space than I wanted to leave unquilted. After several days of thought, my solution was to stitch in the ditch around the outlines of the butterfly wings and bodies. On the two largest butterflies, I also stitched around some of the butterfly markings. That stitching made the butterfly outlines visible on the back side of the quilt, which I think adds visual interest.

After the quilting lines were sewn, I finished the quilt by folding over the self-binding and attaching it with a decorative blanket stitch. Then I closed the mitered corners with a featherstitch.

Voilà! A first birthday gift for Hadley.

Here’s Hadley with her new quilt and her new doll. Happy first birthday, sweetheart!

Aunt Ruth gave me some more good laughs.

This one’s for cat lovers.

The perils of technology.

The next theme: airline logic.

For the coffee lovers out there. (Thom? Katie? Have you tried this?)

For gardeners.

Father’s Day is coming up.

And finally . . . this one isn’t funny, but it’s too good not to share.

A recent CNN news article by David Williams had an interesting story with a creative twist.

Zander Moricz, the class president at a Florida high school couldn’t say “gay” in his graduation speech because of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, so he talked about something else that made him different from his classmates:  his curly hair.

Zander began his graduation address by removing his mortarboard and pointing at his head.  “I used to hate my curls,” he said and told the audience how he tried desperately to straighten that part of himself.  He confessed that curly hair is difficult in Florida because of the humidity, so he decided to just be proud of who he was and came to school as his “authentic self.”

There weren’t any other “curly-haired people” to talk to in school, so he went to his teachers for guidance, and their support helped him.  “There are going to be so many kids with curly hair” he said, “who need a (supportive) community and won’t have one.  Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”

Zander closed by reminding his fellow students of the times they rallied against anti-Black violence and to draw attention to the climate crisis, and he told them that they have power and they need to use it.  “When you waste your power,” he said in his speech, “what you’re really doing is giving it to whoever has the most already, and right now, those who have the most are coming for those who have the least.”  This is good advice for all of us, whether or not we have curly hair.

June 4 was high school graduation day for Sky, our fifth grandchild. It was a beautiful day, but we weren’t sorry that the ceremony was held in the air-conditioned gym instead of outdoors in the blazing sun. Compared to the graduating classes of our first four grandchildren, this was a small group: 143 graduates. While we were waiting for the graduates to enter the gym and get things going, Dean noticed that Bernie Sanders was in attendance.

There was an empty chair and a wreath in a front corner of the gym in memory of a classmate who died.

The graduates entered the gym right on time. Notice that Sky’s long-legged stride requires the entire width of the hem on his gown.

With only 143 graduates, you’d think the ceremony would be shorter than an event for 500-600 graduates, but that wasn’t the case. There is apparently a requirement that graduation audience members spend a minimum of two hours sitting on backless bleachers waiting for the 15 seconds in which they can watch the one person each of them cares about. To make this happen, there were several musical selections and six speakers, all of whom told the graduates that they are part of an amazing class and that they should aim high because the world is theirs for the taking. Unlike most graduation speeches, I actually remember one of them, but that’s probably because the speaker used props and three of the graduates to help him make his point. (In other words, it was interesting and unique.) His story is too long to tell here, but his final point was that sometimes, when you fail to reach your goal, you discover something even better than what you were striving for.

Finally, after nearly 90 minutes of speeches and musical numbers, it was time to recognize the achievements of the graduates. Sky graduated Magna Cum Laude, which required a GPS of at least 4.0 plus at least four college-level classes. The Magna Cum Laude grads wore gold stoles.

After a variety of honors were recognized, it was finally time for “our” graduate’s 15 seconds of fame. Sky had his official graduation picture taken with the principal. Check out the shortest lady on the platform (second from the right). She’s the president of the Board of Education. Naturally, she stood next to the tallest person on the platform.

Sky received his actual diploma–no need to pick it up at the school office next week or to watch for it in the mail.

After all 143 grads had a diploma, they moved their tassels from right to left. Dean explained that the tassel moves from the passenger side (right) to the driver’s seat (left). Thanks, Dean. I’ll finally be able to remember which way it goes. The last step of the ceremony was the traditional mortarboard toss. The maroon mortarboards don’t show very well against the crowd in my photo, but if you look closely, you’ll see them.

When we got back to the house, it was time for family photos. I think we covered every combination of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, girlfriend, etc. with everyone’s cameras. Here are three: Sky with Mom and Dad; Sky with Grandma and Grandpa (minus his gown); and Sky with the entire group (picture taken by Sky’s girlfriend).

When Sky took off his cap and gown, Teddy decided to practice for his future graduation.

Next step: opening graduation gifts.

To top off the day, Kari and Dean hosted a graduation dinner at Maggiano’s restaurant. Sky chose the restaurant because he likes Italian food and because he liked Maggiano’s when Ted and I chose it for our 50th wedding anniversary. The food was delicious, and we all had a good time.

But wait! The party’s not over! Ted and I hosted lunch for the graduation gang the following day. With shipping costs so high, we took advantage of Kathy and Annette being in town to celebrate several other events after lunch. There were birthday gifts for those who have birthdays in May, an anniversary gift for Ted’s and my anniversary in June, and Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts.

Then there was time to visit with each other and to enjoy the pool and the beautiful weather.

Finally, it was time for Kathy and Annette to head home and for all of us to kick back, relax, and enjoy the memories of a happy weekend together. Congratulations, Sky–#5.

When I biked the Katy Trail in the 1990s, I thought it was boring. It’s a hard-packed fine gravel trail and you can’t “loop” it–you bike in one direction, then turn around and see the same scenery in the other direction. When our ebikes inspired Ted and me to become more dedicated bikers (our pedal-assist ebikes have a serious fun factor), we decided to try as many of the metro area’s bike trails as possible. I somewhat reluctantly included the Katy Trail on our list of trails to ride just because it’s a metro area bike trail. The result: I’ve come to love the Katy. Why? First, it’s a long trail (200+ miles across the state along the Missouri River), so even on busy days, it’s not crowded and you can bike relatively long stretches without seeing another biker (or walker); second, it’s quiet and peaceful; and third, there are pretty views all along the trail.

Ted and I biked 20 miles on the Katy (10 miles in each direction, of course) twice in May and I was reminded of what a nice ride it is. As we headed west from Defiance on the first ride, I noticed that the only sounds were the birds and the crunch of our bicycle wheels on the gravel. In addition, the Katy provides beautiful views of the river, the trees, the river bluffs, wildflowers, farms, small river towns, etc.

Each of our two May rides had an adventure–one less pleasant than the other. On our westward ride, we found a side trail that led to a park and decided to take it. It turned out to be two miles of rough trail to the park. In some places, the trail was very steep with switchback turns that were too sharp to maintain our uphill momentum, so we had to walk our bikes up. When we arrived at the park, it was disappointing: a parking lot and a small lake for fishing. I think there’s more to the park (somewhere), but we didn’t see a good way to search for it, so we started back downhill. I was lucky and made it down; Ted’s bike slipped on the loose gravel and he needed a half dozen Band-Aids on his knee and on his elbow. It’s a good thing we keep a few first aid items in our bike bags so we could clean him up and cover the wounds. That little side trail is permanently off our list.

Our second Katy ride was eastward from the MO Research Park to Frontier Park in St. Charles, a nice turnaround point. We’ve done that stretch before, and it’s very relaxing to sit in the park and watch the people and the river for a little while before turning back. Frontier Park is a nice starting/stopping point for another reason too: it’s right across the street from historic Main Street and its shopping. Two of our favorite snack stops on Main Street are Grandma’s Cookies and Kilwin’s. It was a hot day, so we voted for Kilwin’s. Here’s what you can buy at Kilwin’s.

We got in line and ordered ice cream sundaes.

The sundaes were delicious. Kilwin’s refilled our water bottles for our return trip, and we had another nice afternoon on the Katy.

The Onion is infamous for this headline because the satirical news outlet runs it after nearly every mass shooting. It was the front page headline and story again after the Uvalde, TX school shooting on May 24. The Onion ran the story 21 times that day, referring to a different mass shooting each time. The Onion article continues by saying that, after every mass shooting, someone says, “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them.” The Onion’s story always ends with the same sentence: “At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as ‘helpless.'”

In reaction to the Uvalde school shooting, Golden State Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, banged on the table during an interview and shouted, “When are we going to do something? I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m sorry, excuse me, I’m sorry, I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!” Then he left the interview.

In his address to the nation, President Biden asked, “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill people? Deer aren’t running through the forests with Kevlar vests.”

Schools that experienced a mass shooting are often closed or entirely renovated to decrease the traumatic reminders they present to their communities. Until last week, I was unaware that federal legislation created a grant funding process for schools to be razed after a mass shooting. After the Uvalde shooting, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez asked, “What kind of world are we living in that legislation was created for razing these schools?”

In the past week, I’ve learned that the United States is number one in the world for gun ownership. Civilians in the U.S. own 120.50 guns per 100 people, nearly twice as many as the second-ranking nation, the Falkland Islands, at 62.2 guns per 100 people.

I also learned that an assault rifle can fire 45 rounds per minute; however, assault rifles can be modified with a rapid-fire trigger that allows them to fire as many as 950 rounds per minute. I, personally, have never fired a gun and I have no desire to ever do so. That said, I’m confident that I could hold an assault rifle with a 30-round magazine, aim it in the general direction of a target, and hit the target. I can’t call that a “sporting” gun. It’s meant for murder, nothing less.

The Uvalde shooter purchased 1,657 rounds of ammunition with a debit card. U.S. soldiers carry 210 rounds into combat in 7 magazines of 30 rounds each. One magazine is in the soldier’s rifle and each soldier has 6 spare magazines. After the Uvalde shooting, 60 magazines were found–58 on the Uvalde school property and 2 at the shooter’s home. At 30 rounds per magazine, that’s 1,800 rounds of ammunition–8.5 times what a combat soldier carries into battle. 315 cartridges were found inside the school (142 of them were spent cartridges) and 192 were found outside on the school property (22 were spent cartridges). Why do civilians need a weapon that was designed for the military? Why can an individual civilian buy more ammunition than soldiers take into combat?

I understand that the Constitution supports the right of individuals to bear arms. The right to bear arms, however, does not necessarily preclude a need for background checks and a waiting period prior to purchasing a gun, nor does it necessarily mean that military weaponry should be available to civilians. Why are so many gun proponents opposed to a background check? What background check discoveries do they fear? Why is a waiting period an issue of contention? In other words, what are potential gun owners in such a hurry to shoot? Where does the line fall between the second amendment right to own a gun and the right of citizens to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” without fear of becoming a victim of a mass shooting?

Within days of a rare mass shooting that killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 15, 2019), the country banned most semi-automatic firearms. Since then, New Zealand has had only 4 mass shootings. In comparison, the U.S. has had 214 mass shootings in the first 5 months of 2022. (New Zealand has 26.3 guns per 100 people-4.5 times fewer than the U.S.) Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said, “One Canadian killed by gun violence is one too many.” Canada has banned 1,500 types of military-style assault firearms, and a new bill Trudeau is proposing will prevent people from buying, selling, and transferring handguns within the country. The new bill also stipulates that firearms will be confiscated from those involved in domestic criminal harassment cases. I don’t think those laws are unreasonable. What sane person would want guns in the hands of violent persons? Which gun owner will have to be gun-less if s/he cannot own a military assault rifle?

130 people were killed by guns in the United States over the past weekend. How many gun deaths will be enough to convince our legislators that gun control measures are necessary? How many more innocent school children, church-goers, concert attendees, grocery shoppers, mall walkers, movie-goers, etc., etc. need to die by gunfire before our voters and our legislators recognize the futility of thoughts and prayers and the need for gun control laws? Enough!

Did anyone miss my “best of spring” award this year? I usually post it in April, when lots of trees are blooming and spring color is everywhere. This year, however, warm weather is avoiding us. The entire spring has been unusually cool. We also had not one, but two, hard frosts after the trees began to bloom. The frosts severely affected the profusion and color of the tree blooms. Although the trees were still pretty, I didn’t see anything unusually spectacular to qualify as a recipient of my annual award.

The cool weather continues. For example, the normal high for this time of year is 82 degrees, but I did the laundry today and had to wash several pair of over-the-ankle socks, jeans, and three-quarter sleeved shirts. I’m supposed to be washing shorts and short-sleeved T-shirts and few, if any socks, because it should be sandal weather.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The flowering bushes were barely budding with leaves when the frosts hit, and they have bloomed very nicely. As a result, this year’s Dr. D Spring Award goes to our own mock orange bush. In all the years we’ve had this bush, it has never been so covered with white blooms.

Unfortunately, a few days later, when the wind and rain returned, the flower petals fell like snow.

The anonymously planted iris blooms on the common ground near our house were also very pretty this year. They started blooming around only four rocks in 2018 and they now bloom around eleven rocks. I didn’t get a picture of them, but I did take a picture of the little twig that appeared beside the iris in 2021. It has grown a lot over the past year and is obviously a redbud tree. It will be gorgeous when it blooms if the grounds crew doesn’t cut it down.

Happy (belated) spring!

This spring, it seems like it’s always raining. Fifteen of the 30 days in April included rain, and May isn’t far behind that ratio. The same thing happened last year. Rain, rain, rain until July arrived. Then it seemed like the faucet was turned off until September. Still, I’d rather have too much water than too little like the Southwest is experiencing.

On the light side, severe drought affects certain populations in unusual ways.

We had some exciting weather today. Two waves of severe storms moved through our area–one in the early afternoon and another one a few hours later. The second wave included a tornado warning for us. The storm sirens were wailing, so Ted and I grabbed a few things (car keys, drivers’ licenses, etc.), headed for the basement, and turned on that TV to keep informed.

See the circular storm cell in the upper right TV graphic? That entire cell was rotating. Ted (and the TV weatherman) said it is very unusual for a storm like that to rotate. Usually, strong storms develop in a line, not in a mass. In the large graphic on the left, you can see the white dot and line indicating the NWS radar, just a few miles southwest of our house. The lower right graphic shows the visibility. Or not. We had very heavy rain and winds gusting at about 60 mph. Three EF-0 (winds at 80 mph) tornadoes formed just east of us and there was an EF-1 tornado across the Mississippi River in Illinois.

The metro area had some wind damage (trees down), but the heavy rain was a bigger problem with lots of flooding and water damage. St. Louis County had 3 inches of rain in a little more than an hour. A storm drain on I-55 became clogged, causing the road to flood across all lanes. I-55 was closed for several hours to clear the drain and to allow the water level to drop.

We were lucky. No tornadoes, no roof damage, only small branches and leaves blown off the trees, and only 1.3 inches of rain. Isn’t spring fun in the Midwest?

This was the week for old friends. On Wednesday evening, I received a text from my neighbor, Claudia. She said Gene and Mary contacted her and said they would be in town on Thursday and wanted to meet Claudia, Ted, and me for lunch tomorrow if we were available. We all said “yes” and it was wonderful to see our old neighbors again. I think they said it was 2002 when they moved out of our neighborhood and relocated to a small town about 25 miles north of here. In 2013, they moved to Florida, so it’s been awhile since we’ve seen them. It was so much fun to catch up with them about what we’ve all been doing, what our kids are doing, and how many grandchildren we all have. We exchanged current contact information and will take them up on their offer to visit them the next time we go to Florida.

Thursday’s lunch with Gene and Mary was followed by a Friday evening dinner with a former co-worker of Ted’s. Roy took a little road trip from Green Bay to St. Louis to attend a Cardinals baseball game and wanted to spend some time catching up with Ted. We had a nice restaurant dinner and then spent several hours visiting with Roy at our house. It was just the way I remember NWS gatherings from Ted’s working days. At least ninety percent of the conversation was weather-related. Big storms of the distant and recent past were popular topics and so were changes in forecasting technology. The conclusion of NWS gatherings is almost always that, in the “old days,” most things were better. I’m used to that kind of conversation, so I didn’t mind. It’s always amazing to me, however, that these forecasters can remember the month, day, and year of every major storm. When Ted and Roy were talked out, Roy headed back to his hotel and left us with an invitation to visit him in Green Bay and to give him a chance to show us the area. (I think he momentarily forgot that we both used to live in that area.) It was another good evening with an old friend.

Coming up: A birthday party for Floyd, one of the teachers I used to work with and later supervised. Floyd’s 90th birthday was in 2020, but his daughter told me she couldn’t have the party at that time (thanks, COVID) so she’s having it this year. We’ll be celebrating Floyd’s 90th birthday as well as his 92nd birthday. If some of the other teachers are there, Ted can listen to my friends and me discussing education and how things used to be better in our old days.

I was cleaning out some photo files and found a picture I took from our backyard patio last October. This animal was relaxing on our neighbor’s back lawn. It looked kind of like a cat, but it was really big for a cat. A bobcat? I wondered. But the nose looked kind of pointy. Maybe a fox?

Then the animal turned its head and yes, it was a bobcat.

That was the first (and so far, the only) time I’ve seen a bobcat. It looked pretty laid back, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to get closer to pet it.

Ted and I met Kathy and Annette in Columbia to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. We had a wonderful time together, beginning with a long brunch at Bob Evans, and then heading downtown. We walked around for a little while and browsed in some stores. It was sunny and near 70 degrees, but there was a strong, cold wind, gusting to at least 30 mph, so we soon headed for The Candy Factory–our last downtown stop.

After we were all well-supplied with chocolate, we went to the food court at the Columbia Mall and snagged a table. We bought some refreshing beverages and settled in for a birthday party with presents, cookies, candy, and Mahjong.

The time flew by and, at one point, so did Annette. “Oh, gosh!” she exclaimed as she bolted from her chair and ran out the door. We all thought she’d seen someone who was hurt and we turned to look for the problem. When Annette returned, she was holding a $1 bill that she had seen blowing past the window. That was good for a laugh from the rest of us and it was just enough to cover our parking cost in the downtown garage.

When the food court vendors turned off their lights at 7:00 p.m., we realized we were all hungry for dinner. We unanimously agreed we’d rather have pizza than anything else, so we headed for Kathy’s and my favorite pizza place in Columbia: Shakespeare’s. It was Saturday night and we didn’t want to wait in line to join the noisy college crowd at the downtown restaurant. We decided to live on the edge and try one of Shakespeare’s other locations. Everything was the same, except that the crowd was smaller and less noisy, allowing us to have a dinner conversation without shouting. We noticed that the clocks indicate the time in a variety of Missouri cities, apparently without logic.

Too soon, it was time to go our separate ways and make the 90-minute drives to our homes. We had a wonderful time together and we’re looking forward to our next visit with each other. Happy birthday, Kathy!

Kathy–7 months old

It’s spring, so Ted made his usual appointment to have our air conditioner inspected to make sure we’re ready for the hot July days. Unfortunately, the technician identified a bad leak in the AC unit. The AC is 19 years old and we already repaired a leak in it four years ago, so we bit the bullet and ordered a new one. The furnace was installed at the same time as the air conditioner and is also showing signs of aging, so we ordered a new furnace too. We should be comfortably warm and cool for the next 20 years.

Before the installer arrived, we received a text from the company identifying the technician who would be coming to our house. Other companies have given us the name of the technician we should expect, but this is the first time we’ve received a picture and a brief bio.

Rick brought a helper with him. The helper set up the air conditioner outside while Rick replaced the furnace and all the indoor conduits, wiring, accessories, etc. There were a lot of boxes and pieces.

It took the guys a little more than six hours to complete their work, When they finished, we had a new AC unit, a new furnace, a new humidifier, a new air scrubber, and a new smart thermostat. They’re not glamourous, but we wouldn’t want to be without them.

You’d think the story would end here, but a few days later, we had a surprise package on our front porch. When we opened it up, we found . . . cookies! We received a dozen chocolate chip cookies and a large insulated water bottle from the HVAC company in appreciation of our business.

We weren’t expecting this, but we remembered the cookies we received from the window company in 2021. Those cookies were so good, I saved the recipe that was included with them. Surprise! Both companies sent the same cookies. This cookie company (in Kansas City, MO) must be successfully targeting businesses to promote customer appreciation. It’s that little added touch that makes you want to call the company for service next time, right? Yum.

I celebrated my birthday. Again. This is getting old (pun intended), but it’s still fun. My annual birthday season continued with Kari’s family and with Kathy and Annette. We did the usual stuff, but the best part was being together. My gifts were everything I’d asked for, including the games we recently played with Jeff’s family–the classic version of Catch Phrase (trust Kathy to find an old version in excellent condition), Skull King, and Mahjong. Kari applied her newly-acquired sewing skills and made a re-usable gift bag to conceal Skull King and a pair of socks with books on them in recognition of my love of reading. Sky’s girlfriend thoughtfully gave me a plant she’d recently propagated.

Ted buys me a pot of spring bulbs every year in late winter so that I can get an early start enjoying my favorite season. He gave me some daffodils in February and then, for my birthday, he gave me a pot of tulips. This is the first time I’ve had two sets of spring flowers to enjoy before they start blooming outdoors. Thank you, Ted.

My birthday dinner was simple: a buffet of carry-out pizza. It was a perfect meal with no cooking and minimal clean-up.

There was time to relax in the hot tub, time to play some of my new games, and time for my traditional Vienna Torte birthday cake.

It was so much fun to celebrate my birthday with friends in early March, with Jeff’s family in mid-March, and with our daughters in late March, that I’ve decided to have lots more birthdays.

April 1 was the 45th anniversary of the day my oldest brother died in the crash of a B-52 in Upper Michigan. Denny was stationed at Sawyer AFB, Marquette, MI and was a substitute crew member on a routine training flight because the assigned navigator had an ear infection and was not cleared to fly. My family experienced two weeks of shock and stress while we waited for the bodies to be released so that we and the other families could schedule funerals. I remember my mother saying that she always thought funerals were rushed too much and that, if you were only given a little more time, that final step would be easier to bear. We all learned that was not true.

Denny’s remaining family included his wife and two children, ages 3 and 5. This is a picture of Denny with his son, Eric. Before Eric was old enough to sit (and barely able to hold his head up), Denny and he could perform this balancing act. It’s a good memory to hold in my heart.

Today is a day to celebrate our families. I usually post a single photo of my siblings and me to mark the day, but this year, I’ve decided to pay tribute to six generations of siblings in my family.

I only have one photo of a grandparent with siblings. My Grandma S. is on the right, standing beside her brother, Phil and her sister, Gladys. The seated lady is Grandma’s mother, my Great-grandma D.

Ted’s and my parents and their siblings are the next generation. It’s unfortunate that the only picture I have of Ted’s dad with his siblings was taken on a day that Paul was enjoying a home visit from the hospital. I always think of him in that chair, but never in a reclining position. His siblings are Cella, Bob, and John. The picture of Ted’s mother with her older sisters, Verna and Leona, was taken before her younger brother was born.

My dad is the blonde standing in the center back. His youngest brother, Ken, wasn’t born yet. The other siblings are Gerry, Arch, Lynn, and Bob. My mom is on the left of her siblings, Gibby, Shirley, and Ruth. Two of her brothers had already died when this photo was taken.

In generational order, Ted and I are next. The only picture I have of him with all of his siblings is the one below: Gary, Ted, Mutzie, and Dan. I’m eleven in the photo with my siblings. Left to right, it’s Russ, Tom, Steve, Denny, and me.

After Ted and me, our children are the next generation. We took this picture at the zoo in 1979.

Our kids have grown up, so now we have sibling grandchildren as well. On the left is a 2021 photo of Thom and Katie’s family: Julian, Sefton, and Hadley. The top right is Jeff and La’s family in 2010: Alex, Kyra, and Zack. Dean and Kari’s family is in the lower right in 2017: Sky, Dylan, and Teddy.

And the beat goes on. Our first great-grandchild, Alex and Kaitlyn’s son, just celebrated his first birthday. So far, he doesn’t have any siblings, but I’m including him here as the first member of his future sibling group. Here’s Ollie.

I learned today that April 7 (tomorrow) is National Beer Day, a beer-specific holiday in the United States. It follows that tonight is (this is true) designated as New Beer’s Eve. National Beer Day was first celebrated in Virginia in 2009 after Justin Smith, at the urging of a friend, posted the idea on his Facebook page. The holiday was officially recognized in the Congressional Record by Rep. Dave Bath (R-VA 7th Congressional District) in 2017.

The Volstead Act enforced the 18th Amendment (prohibition) by prohibiting more than 0.5% alcohol in beverages. It was widely thought that ratifying the 21st Amendment to repeal national prohibition might take years, in spite of strong support to legalize alcoholic beverages. To circumvent this problem, the Cullen-Harrison Act legalized the sale of beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% by weight–higher than allowed by the Vostead Act, but still believed to be too low to be intoxicating.  The Cullen-Harrison Act became effective April 7, 1933. After signing the legislation, FDR quipped, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” And so it began.

Image result for beer in a stein

When I want to group photos for my blog, I typically do it with Power Point and I usually know what I want to do with the photos. Even so, once I place more than one photo on a slide, PP offers design ideas for at least one or two dozen different ways I might want to shape, group, or arrange the photos. For the first time, I stumped Power Point. The words inside the blue oval say “Sorry, no design ideas for this slide.” I guess the number of photos I’d already grouped exhausted PP’s creative abilities.

Without the computer telling me what to do (gasp!), I had to figure out something on my own. Oh, the trauma, right? I resized the photos all by myself. Mission accomplished.

I included a small snack bag of Hershey’s kisses in my backpack for our trip to Provo for Ollie’s first birthday party. After boarding the plane to go home, I dug into my backpack and pulled out the bag of kisses. I offered some to Ted and to the man on my left as well. Choc-a-holic Ted said “yes” and took a few kisses; the other man said, “No, thank you.” As I was returning the snack bag to my backpack, one of the kisses fell to the floor. The man on my left reached down to pick it up, laughed, and said, “Ok, I guess I’ll have one.” I still had the snack bag in my hand, so I gave him another and told him we all know it’s true that if you eat one, you wish you had one more. He accepted and we all had a nice flight home.

After landing in St. Louis, Ted and I were heading out of the airport when the man hurried to catch up to us. “Thank you so much for the candy treat,” he said. “That was the best part of the whole flight.” What a nice guy and what an easy way to spread a little joy.

When Alex and Kaitlyn told me they were expecting a baby–Ted’s and my first great-grandchild–in “mid-March,” I hoped the baby would be born on my birthday. Of course, we all know that babies come when they come, and Ollie was born two days before my birthday. That’s fine. It means we can share a birthday month instead of only one day. To celebrate Ollie’s first birthday, Ted and I decided to go to Provo to be with the family for the Big Day. What a great decision!

Kaitlyn’s family took full responsibility for the party preparations. Three of their children (including Alex and Kaitlyn) are attending BYU and live in Provo, but the rest of the family lives elsewhere, so Jeff and La offered their Provo home as a venue for the birthday gala. I’m telling you, those women had their ducks in a row. Their entire family–including the supportive men–marched into the house carrying food, folding tables and chairs, gifts, and everything else needed for a party. They took over the kitchen and went right to work. That’s Kaitlyn’s mom and dad working behind the kitchen island. At one point, I counted five of their family members working simultaneously back there.

Kaitlyn’s job was cake decorating. The photos below show Ollie’s smash cake with a little Mickey Mouse in the center; the flat cake in the background is a similar, larger “cake in progress” for the rest of us.

When the food was ready and the tables and chairs were set up, all twenty members of the party crowd headed for the buffet and filled their plates with delicious food. I took the picture below after I finished eating, in case you’re wondering about the absence of great quantities of food on the tables.

To give our delicious dinner some time to settle, we trooped downstairs to take a family picture. Two of Kaitlyn’s sisters had already left for another engagement. Fortunately, her other sister brought a friend to the party. The friend graciously offered to take pictures on everyone’s cameras so we could all be in the photo. This is an unusual photo in my experience. Ollie is celebrating his first birthday with three sets of great-grandparents, as well as two sets of grandparents.

After the photo op, it was time to watch Ollie open his gifts. The ball pit was fun. Ollie was pretty happy to be surrounded by balls, and only crawled through the tunnel into the castle once.

In spite of all the new toys he received, Ollie proved himself to be a typical kid. He picked up a box and carried it around with him, occasionally putting a smaller toy into the box. Jeff and La give him an elaborate labyrinthine tower with tracks for cars to run downhill. That’s Jeff on the right reading the assembly instructions.

The quilt I made for Ollie was less captivating to him than the ball pit and the cardboard box, but he looked at it carefully, pointed, and said one of the three words in his vocabulary–“dog.” Way to go, Ollie!

After all the gifts were opened and examined by Ollie (and everyone else), it was time for Ollie to attack his smash cake. What fun! Notice that he even shared some of the cake with his mom. When Ollie felt sufficiently stuffed with cake, the rest of us enjoyed some birthday cake in a less messy manner.

Here’s Ollie in his Mickey Mouse birthday outfit–before he ate his cake. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in having the headband with the mouse ears on his head. I think I can speak for everyone present and say that Ollie’s first birthday party was a big success.

While I was working on my second quilt for Ollie’s birthday gift, I said to Ted that, given shipping costs, we could probably deliver the quilt in person for what it cost to make two quilts. I was kidding, but after a second or two, we looked at each other and said, “We should do that.” We texted Jeff and La right away to ask if it would work for them to have us visit for Ollie’s first birthday. They said, “Absolutely,” so we immediately bought plane tickets. (Much cheaper than shipping, right?)

The weather on the first day of our visit was perfect for a walk to check out the neighborhood. Ollie loves to go outside, so he was excited. Alex tried to make him look cool with a pair of sunglasses, but either Ollie’s not the cool type, or he just doesn’t like glasses, because he took them off immediately.

Provo is in the Utah Valley and is surrounded by mountains. From anywhere in the city, it looks like you can walk in any direction and run into a towering mountain. The mountain in this view from Jeff and La’s townhouse complex looks farther away than the one that stood behind the Airbnb where we stayed for our Christmas visit.

Our walk took us to the pool area. Safety is obviously important, as indicated by the warning beside the baby pool.

From there, we went to the clubhouse exercise room. Ollie was fascinated by the treadmill. Alex set it at the slowest speed–0.5 mph–and put Ollie on it. The little guy crawled like crazy to reach the other end, but every time he stopped crawling to reach for the frame, the belt took him back again. Then he tried walking. That worked better, but he still couldn’t get to his goal. He finally noticed that the side rails didn’t move, so he planted his right knee and hand on a rail. Unfortunately, his left hand and knee still kept going backward, forcing him to “half” crawl. Alex took pity on him and put him fully back on the treadmill. By the time we decided Ollie had enough exercise, he’d done a 20-minute workout.

After all that exercise, it was time to rest a bit. We went into the playroom where Alex and Ollie got comfortable on a toddler-size sofa.

Then it was time to eat. Just like his Grandma La, Ollie loves mashed potatoes. Not every bite made it into his mouth.

It only took a little while for Ollie to feel comfortable with Gigi and Grandpa Ted.

Of course, we played games. This time it was Mahjong, sheephead, Catch Phrase, and Skull King.

The big attraction was Jeff’s new VR headset and his new game, Beat Saber. Jeff and Kyra excelled at the game; the rest of us had a great time with lower scores. Jeff cast the game to the TV screen so we could all see what the player was doing. In the photo below, Kyra is leaning to the side to avoid being hit by the white rectangle coming at her. If it hits you, a message bluntly tells you that you failed. You don’t get loving support or encouragement from a video game.

I found Zack, Kyra, and Alex sitting together on the sofa and got a nice picture of them–except for the lights reflecting on Zack’s glasses.

All good things come to an end, and so did our visit. We can’t wait to see the family again, so until next time, lots of love to all of you.

Ted’s sister, Mutzie, (aka the Quilting Queen) gave Kari a small quilt when Kari was a toddler, and she also gave Kari a baby quilt for each of Kari’s three boys. Kari loves those quilts (she wore hers down to rags) and thought making a quilt for a baby gift would be a good idea for our next sewing project. Since Ollie’s birthday was coming up and since I’d be working with Kari on her quilt project, it seemed like a good idea for me to make a gift quilt for Ollie.

The last time I worked with a sewing partner was during the years my mom taught me how to sew. Now that Kari has decided it’s time for her to learn to sew, I have a sewing partner again and I’m really enjoying it. We start our mutual sewing projects by shopping for fabric and supplies together, a subset of sewing that’s also more fun to do with a partner. Kari chose fabrics in blues and yellows. She wanted to make a simple quilt for her first effort, so she planned to sew the edges together (wrong sides out) and turn the quilt through, then topstitch a “binding” edge and quilt it. She bought calico for the top fabric and fleece for the bottom because some of the quilts Mutzie made for the boys have a fleece backing and Kari loves the softness of it.

My choice of fabrics was calico in light and dark blues. Kaitlyn told me that Ollie looks good in blue and he loves his Mickey Mouse toy, so I decided to put some Mickey Mouse appliqués on his quilt. I planned to use a bias-cut binding around the edges. Kari’s quilt gift will stay in Missouri; mine is going to Utah. We chose a medium-weight batting for hers because more than that would be too much with the fleece backing; I went with a heavy-weight batting for Utah’s cold winters.

Things were looking good. We worked together on Kari’s quilt when she had time to come over for an afternoon and I worked on mine between our mother-daughter sessions. I’m not an artist, but I found a clipart Mickey Mouse-like outline online, zoomed the PC screen to my appliqué size, and traced a pattern.

I cut out the appliqués, fused them to the quilt top with HeatnBond, stitched around the edges, and admired my work. It looked good.

If this quilt ever becomes valuable (hah!), “Antiques Road Show” will raise its value with the provenance of a signature, so I decided to put my signature in a corner of the quilt. I estimated where the signature would fit without being covered by the binding and I stitched it. So far, so good.

Then I pinned the top fabric, the batting, and the bottom fabric together, basted them, and marked my quilting lines. I was pondering how to draw long straight lines when I remembered that we have a spare 7-foot piece of finished oak baseboard in the basement. I checked to make sure it wasn’t warped, then washed it off and used it as a long straightedge. It worked great for marking the quilting lines.

As I was marking the lines, I discovered a problem or, in Bob Ross terms, a happy accident. One of the lines went right through the signature. With my seam ripper in hand, I ripped out the signature and repositioned it. After that, it was exciting to start sewing quilting lines to make my project look more like a quilt than like two pieces of fabric with a filling. I laid the quilted quilt on the table, examined the lines for straightness, and saw some more happy accidents. There were so many crooked places in the lines that I wasn’t pleased at all. I got out my seam ripper (again) and sewed the lines (again), then checked how everything looked (again). There were still some areas that needed adjusting, so I ripped (again) and re-sewed (again). 😢 Bob R’s happy accident thing is wearing thin.

After the third round of stitching lines, the quilt looked ok–not great, but passable–so I moved on to the binding. I started pinning the binding near the signature and guess what . . . the binding covered the bottom edge of the signature. Dang it! How many happy accidents can one project have??? I ripped out the signature (again) and stitched it (again). Then I sewed the binding to the top of the quilt, mitered all the corners, folded it over and pinned it to the bottom, making sure I caught the bottom edge with my top pins. I was ready to “stitch in the ditch” to attach the back of the binding and finish the quilt.

But, . . . when I finished that job and turned the quilt over, almost half of my stitches in the ditches had failed to catch the edge of the binding, in spite of how carefully I’d pinned it. I’d been pretty patient about all the do-overs so far, but this was the last straw. I’d already clocked 43+ hours on this quilt because I’d ripped out so much of what I’d done and re-sewed it at least twice and sometimes three times. I’d had it! Good-bye, Bob Ross, and take your happy accidents with you!

I was tired of the way this quilt was behaving and I told Ted I sincerely believed it was cursed and the universe was giving me a message. I was not happy with how my (almost) finished quilt looked and I felt like I’d have to make excuses for all the things that were not up to my standards. I definitely didn’t want another seamstress to see it up close and I did not want to give work of this quality to Ollie. “Despondent” perfectly described my mindset at that moment. I think the heavy-weight batting was the problem. It was too thick for my sewing machine to do its best work and it definitely made the quilt heavy. Not warm and cozy heavy, but “take this thing off of me” heavy. I decided (with Ted’s full support) to start over, and this is what I did with the Mickey Mouse quilt.

I bought some lighter batting, chose a blue fabric with a puppy print (remember, Ollie looks good in blue), and a brown fabric for the backing. The print I chose won’t remind Ollie of his Mickey Mouse toy, but what little kid doesn’t like puppies? I decided to stay with my original basic idea–appliqués and a binding–but instead of messing with a bias binding, I chose to do a self-binding.

To complement the puppy-patterned fabric, I chose puppy paw prints for my appliqués. The Mickey Mouse appliqués were a single piece of fabric; the paw prints had five pattern pieces each. I printed copies of my pattern and cut the pattern pieces out of one of the sheets to create a template. It was so easy to place the template on the quilt fabric, fit the adhesive-bonded pieces into it, and iron them in place.

Never let it be said that I don’t learn from my mistakes. This time, I drew my quilting lines before sewing the signature in the corner. I knew exactly where to place it and it was in the right place the first time.

I put the three layers together, basted them, and sewed the quilting lines. Every single line was straight the first time! The heavy batting was definitely the problem. Folding over the edge for the self-binding was easy. I attached it with a decorative stitch, and that turned out very nicely. A feather stitch closed the open miters at the corners.

Voilà! In less than half the time I spent on the Mickey Mouse quilt, I had a quilt that I think is even cuter and that I was excited to give to Ollie. Anyone who wants to examine it–seamstress or not–is welcome to do so, because I’m proud of this work, not embarrassed by it. The trash can was the right place for the Mickey Mouse quilt and this one is for you, Ollie.

The trials and tribulations I experienced with the Mickey Mouse quilt were happy accidents after all. The puppy quilt turned out beautifully and, when Ollie saw it, he pointed at the puppies and said one of the three words in his current vocabulary–“dog.” Happy first birthday, Ollie.

The high temperature of 85 degrees today broke the old record of 79 degrees. It’s time to get outside and play. First order of business: hit the road on our bikes. We spent an hour on a 14-mile bike ride around the neighboring subdivisions. Yippee!

Second order of business: Sit outside to enjoy the sunshine. Check!

Third order of business: a happy surprise. Ted knows how much I enjoy spring, so every year he buys me a pot of spring bulbs. This year, it was yellow tulips. Happy spring!

George Carlin had a routine he called “Syllable Inflation.” George’s example began with the first World War. At that time, “shell shock” (two syllables) was the designation for soldiers whose combat conditions stressed their nervous systems to the maximum extent, even reaching a point at which the soldiers “snapped.” As George Carlin said, it was a simple, honest, and direct term. During World War II, “shell shock” evolved to “battle fatigue”–now four syllables. “Battle fatigue,” said George, “didn’t seem to hurt as much.” Soldiers’ stress levels after the Korean conflict were referred to as “operational exhaustion”–eight syllables and now, according to George, “It sounds sterile”–not even like a human affliction. Soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War suffered from “post-traumatic stress syndrome.” That’s a decrease to seven syllables, but George pointed out that “there’s a hyphen to bury the pain under the jargon.” George closed this bit with a comment that, if the condition had remained as clear and direct as “shell shock,” many veterans might have received treatment in a far more timely manner. It’s been a long time since I heard that George Carlin routine (he died in 2008), but because of it, I’ve always been attuned to useless syllable inflation.

Like George Carlin’s syllable inflation, in Errors & Expectations (a book I read for my doctoral research), Mina Shaughnessy wrote that someone who has not learned the word “dregs” (one syllable) must say “what is left in the cup after you finish drinking” (twelve syllables, but Mina didn’t include the syllable count). When I hear an inflated word phrase like “wine bottle opener” (six syllables), like Mina, I want to teach vocabulary lessons and tell the speaker/author that we already have a word for that and it’s “corkscrew” (two syllables).

A long time ago, I started making a list of syllable-inflated words that I’ve heard and read, usually in newscasts and newspapers. (The list part won’t surprise people who know me well.) Here are some of the words from my list.

Hands-on learning (4) . . . kinesthetic learning (6)

Humidity (4) . . . environmental moisture (7)

Diarrhea (4) . . . gastrointestinal upset (8)

Coroner (3) . . . medical examiner (7)

Fire chief (2) . . . incident commander (6)

Warehouse (2) . . . fulfillment center (5); also distribution center (6)

Crop duster (3) . . . aerial applicator (7)

Heart attack (3) . . . cardiovascular event (8)

Fire (1) . . . rapid oxidation (6)

Study hall (3) . . . academic instructional period (11)

Stroke (1) . . . cerebral vascular accident (9)

Firings (2) . . . involuntary eliminations (10)

Layoff (2) . . . involuntary staffing reduction (10)

Affair (2) . . . inappropriate personal relationship (12)

Dishonorable discharge (7) . . . involuntary administrative separation proceedings (17)

The moral of the story: Keep it simple!