I was looking for a picture frame in our storage room and found a box labeled “family photos.” I couldn’t resist opening the box to see which photos were in there. I was surprised to find most of the formal portraits and Christmas pictures we’ve had taken through the 70s, 80s, and 90s while our kids lived at home.

The words “family picture” were not what our kids wanted to hear. It seemed like every time I wanted to take a family photo of a special event or a celebration, I had to listen to the kids’ gripes and groans before telling them that we were going to do it anyway. Period. When it was time to take the pictures, the kids put on their good sportsmanship faces and smiled for the camera. As a result, we have some nice family pictures that Ted and I (and maybe even the kids) enjoy looking at as we remember those times.

Get comfortable, because here come my favorite family photos from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Part 1: The pretty nice pictures

1970: Ted and I had our portrait taken at a department store photo studio. We’ve always liked the picture, but my parents insisted that it didn’t really look like us. ???

1974: Ted came home from work with the news that he would be attending a training in Washington, D.C. and ended that sentence with the suggestion that I join him after the training for a few days. Here we are at the Tidal Basin with the cherry blossoms in bloom–one of the most beautiful sights of the D.C. spring. We moved from D.C. to MO almost 49 years ago, but I still miss the spring flowers in D.C.

1978: This is one of my favorite pictures of our kids. I took it in the family room of our previous house.

1979: New house, new family picture. We took this picture during the first spring in the house where we still live.

1980: I think Ted and I set up a tripod and set the camera timer to take this picture in front of our fireplace.

1982: On a visit to see our parents, I took this picture of the kids climbing one of Grandpa Schroeder’s apple trees. Ok, so these weren’t their climbing positions. I asked them to crowd together for the picture.

1983: We took the following two pictures in Neenah, WI when we attended Russ and Betsy’s wedding. There was a playground in the churchyard (maybe a parochial school?), and it looked like a good setting for the 1983 Christmas pictures.

1988: I think I did a decent job of staging some of our home photos. It seems like a lot of professional photographers include a drapery and a plant, so I did the same.

1989: We went to Blanchette Park and let the kids pile on the Mazda RX-7. The weather and the fall colors made it a good picture. We felt a little bit naughty driving the car off the roadway and onto the grass to take the picture.

1990: The kids are growing up. We took our Christmas picture on the Lindenwood College campus in the summer because Jeff would be leaving for college in the fall. It looks like the dress code was white shorts.

1994: Ted’s and my 25th anniversary. We had a big party, bought corsages for ourselves (pink carnations, like our wedding flowers), and took pictures in “nice” clothes. When we changed into more comfortable clothes, we didn’t want to waste the corsages, so we pinned them on our T-shirts.

1994: This might be my #1 favorite set of two pictures. We went to Forest Park in St. Louis for the photo shoot. The family group looks very nice, but I especially like the picture of the kids.

1995: I have no idea where we took this picture, but it’s another of my favorite kids’ pictures–maybe my #2 favorite. Don’t the boys look cool with their sunglasses?

Part 2: The slightly “off” photos

1973: Here’s our first professional family photo with our first child, Jeff, and yes, that’s a maternity dress I’m wearing in anticipation of Kathy’s arrival. Oops! There’s baby drool on the shoulder of my dress.

1973: New baby, new family photo. This might be a church directory photo.

1974: The kids are a year older, so it’s time for an updated portrait. Oops! I wore the same dress and the same necklace as I did the year before.

1976: Thom was born, so an updated family photo was on the agenda. This was probably another department store studio photo. Neither Ted nor I remembers why he isn’t in the picture. Weird.

1988: The kids were especially cranky while I set up this picture–maybe because we’d already attended church and Sunday School and they wanted to change clothes and start making lunch. Still, they all smiled nicely. After we took the first picture below, I suggested we take a backwards shot to lighten the group’s mood. It actually worked!

1989: It’s Ted’s and my 20th anniversary, so we had one of the kids take our picture against our default outdoor background: the privet hedge. It was definitely the 80s: big glasses, big hair, and big shoulder pads.

1994: Another oops! picture. It’s our 25th anniversary and we’re wearing the same clothes we did five years ago, except that Ted put on a different tie and we added the corsages. What can I say? I obviously buy clothes I like and I get a lot of wear out of them before I get rid of them.

1993: Here’s another picture taken at Forest Park in a different year than those above. Jeff and Kathy were home for Thanksgiving break so, in spite of the cold and the snow, we had to get the Christmas picture taken. To keep our clothes dry while sitting on the snow, we brought white plastic trash bags with us. If you look closely, you can see the bags underneath the kids.

1994: Jeff, Kathy, and Thom were home from college for Christmas and I wanted a family picture while we were all together. In return for co-operation, I suggested a second photo in which we set our Santa hats to point upward for a touch of humor.

I had fun reviewing the box of family photos and I’m glad I didn’t let all those gripes and groans stop me from taking them.

We took a lot of pictures in 1982, and I posted some of them recently. Here are some others from that photo album that I thought were fun to look at.

One summer day, for no particular reason, Ted took a picture of me as I was sitting on the swing, relaxing on the patio. It turned out pretty nice. Ted gave me that necklace for Valentine’s Day one year.

We celebrated Christmas with our parents in 1982 and have some nice photos of them. Here are Ted’s parents.

I like this picture of my mom with our younger daughter. Mom is holding one of Kari’s many stuffed cats that needed to be included in the picture.

My dad looks pretty happy. This photo was taken in Mom and Dad’s living room. The pine cone wreath on the wall above Dad’s right shoulder was a gift from me one year when I made pine cone wreaths for us, for our parents, and for a few other people as Christmas gifts.

1982 was the year I decided I wanted a ceramic nativity set. I had never done any work with ceramics, but I knew I didn’t want to start with an ashtray or a mug–typical starter projects. I jumped into the deep end of the pool and bought three 15-piece nativity sets: one for us and one for each of our parents as Christmas gifts. I enjoyed making them and I finished all three sets with time to spare, but I’ve never worked with ceramics again.

Here’s my finished nativity. It’s sitting on a bookcase Ted and I bought for $50 the first year we were married. It moved with us three times and was gradually demoted from storing Ted’s and my books in the family room, to storing children’s books in the dining room (before we bought a dining room set), and then to the basement. We finally replaced it in 2012 after 42 years. (Note: I still put out this nativity set every Christmas. When Ted’s parents died, I was given their nativity set and I think I gave it to one of our kids.)

For several years, Thom’s dream was to drive a big rig. He knew everything about big trucks and he had a number of books about them. As we drove on highways, he would name the maker of the truck (Kenworth, Mack, White, Peterson, etc.) from behind by identifying the smokestack. A friend of ours, Mr. Siress, worked as an accountant at a trucking firm in St. Louis. He invited Thom to go with him to his workplace one day. Thom had a chance to sit in the cab of a big truck, and I think he was treated to a short ride around the lot as well. He pretty much floated on air for the following weeks. After the trucking experience, Mr. Siress took Thom to Lion’s Choice for lunch. From that day forward, Mr. Siress walked on water in Thom’s opinion. Here’s Thom, looking at a calendar with Mr. Siress. They’re probably admiring a big truck, judging by the calendar cover. The woman on the left is Mrs. Siress; the woman on the right is Mary M., a neighbor.

Ted turned 40 in 1982, so I planned a big party for him. A friend of mine made a bikini cake for the event. This is also the year I gave him the “Forecasters do it . . . ” shirt. That’s me on the left and Lindell T. on the right.

And that’s it for my selected scanned photos from 1982.

Kathy and Annette weren’t able to join Ted and me and Kari’s family for Christmas between the holidays in December, so we scheduled another Christmas celebration for the MLK weekend. Unfortunately, one of their cats was very ill and had to be hospitalized. The cat was scheduled to be released to return home, but Kathy and Annette weren’t going to be at home. The compromise was that Kathy came to our house for the “Christmas” weekend and Annette stayed home to pick up the cat to avoid the $100/day fees if they’d left him at the vet all weekend. When families get together, you can always feel the absence of those who aren’t present, so it seemed odd to have Kathy with us, but not Annette.

After being with Jeff’s family in Utah for Christmas, then celebrating with Kari’s family, our time with Kathy was Ted’s and my third Christmas get-together. It’s been a true holiday season for us. Kari’s family joined us on Saturday for our Christmas gift exchange. Here’s most of the group, and more gifts to open–some in hand-sewn gift bags made by Kari and me.

The first gift I unwrapped was a lost memory that I was thrilled to recall. In the evenings, I like to shower and then put on something comfortable (more loungewear than pj style) and I have several pair of fleece Cuddl Duds (not a misspelling) that are nice and cozy in winter. When the weather turned cold, I put away my lighter weight loungewear and headed for the Cuddl Duds, but I couldn’t find the pants for my favorite pair. I looked everywhere. Several times. When I removed the gift wrap, there they were! I had totally forgotten that when Kathy and Annette visited us in May 2021, the weather turned unseasonably cold and Annette had only brought shorts with her. I lent her the Cuddl Duds pants to keep her warm on her trip home. I was so glad to see them again! When I couldn’t find them, I considered throwing the top away. It’s a good thing I didn’t.

Ted had a surprise gag gift from Kari. I gave him this shirt for his 40th birthday. At that time, every profession seemed to have a meme about where or how its practitioners “do it.” I came up with this meme for Ted. The shirt was originally sky blue (get it?) and the “rain or shine” letters were in rainbow tones (get it?). I’m not sure how the shirt got to Kari, but she’s been wearing it for yard work, etc. and it’s pretty thin and faded now. She admitted that, for years, she thought “do it” meant “forecast.”

I had a gag gift from Kari’s family too. When Sefton was just beginning to talk, he couldn’t say “Grandma.” (I’m pretty sure there are no babies who can clearly pronounce “Grandma.”) Thom thought Sefton’s version of the word sounded like “Meemaw” and he suggested to me that maybe I could be designated as Sefton’s “Meemaw.” I said absolutely not! I know there are women who are happy to be called Meemaw, but I’m not one of them. To me, the word conjures up an image of a frumpy, stooped-over, out-of-shape woman who dropped out of high school, has bad teeth, bad hair, and can barely utter a grammatically correct sentence. I was willing to wait for Sefton’s speech skills to improve to the “Grandma” level. The rest of the family knows this story, so when she saw this shirt online, Kari said she couldn’t resist ordering it for me.

Our weekend together wasn’t exciting, but it was fun. Teddy brought some new games with him and we had a good time playing them together. We also had some hot tub time and, with temperatures in the 30s, that felt really good. As usual, the time passed too quickly and all too soon, Kathy was loading her car to go home. She’s planning a return trip–with Annette–in March.

I think Ted and I are now finished celebrating Christmas 2021. Good times!

We bought this Whirlpool microwave in February 2017.

It was a replacement for this Maytag microwave. There was nothing mechanically wrong with the Maytag, but it was 24+ years old and outdated. It was only 1.1 cu. ft. in size, had only 850 watts of power, and the plastic parts were yellowing with age. A newer, larger, more powerful microwave sounded like a good idea. Note: I’d like to add that my Maytag washer and dryer are now 26 years old and are still going strong. Go, Maytag!

Unfortunately, we either bought a Whirlpool lemon or they really don’t make them like they used to, since the unit only lasted a little more than four years. Last fall, it started working sporadically. We could re-boot it by unplugging it, then plugging it back in, but by November, we were doing that trick nearly every day, so we decided it was time to replace the unit. “Supply chain” is becoming a phrase we’d all like to erase from the lexicon, but it’s a fact of life these days. We ordered a new microwave on November 27, 2021 (naturally, it wasn’t in stock) and it finally arrived, ready for installation on January 14, 2022–seven weeks later.

After they removed the old microwave, the installation guys commented on my notations on the wall behind it. When we moved into this house in 1979, microwaves were new and not everyone had one. We updated the kitchen in 1993 and replaced our original 14-year-old microwave with a new model–the white Maytag pictured above. That workhorse was still going 24 years later when we (mistakenly?) retired it in 2017. I noted on the wall that the 1993 Maytag was “not broken” but “replaced to update.” You can see what I thought of the one we replaced it with–the Whirlpool that only lasted a little more than four years. Does “dud” clearly convey my opinion?

Ted and I installed the Maytag, but the new Bosch came with free installation (Total Tech benefits from Best Buy), so we let the pros do the work this time. They finished in 30 minutes–much faster than Ted and I did four years ago. It helped that: (1) they knew what to do and didn’t even have to look at the installation instructions; and (2) there were two of them to hold the weight of the unit while the third one screwed it in place, compared to only Ted and me working.

Frankly, Ted and I didn’t realize how much we use the microwave until it went completely dead about a month before the new one arrived. Without a microwave, we had to adjust menus to avoid needing the microwave, and we became adept at heating some foods in a double boiler to keep them from drying out in a pot or a fry pan. A double boiler takes a lot longer than a microwave! The Bosch looks very similar to the Whirlpool, but everything about it feels more substantial. We’re happy to have a working microwave again and we hope this Bosch model will be good for the long haul.

Jeff recently shared this photo. Can you see what’s wrong with the picture?

The photo shows King Faisal of Saudi Arabia signing the United Nations charter in San Francisco in 1945. It’s an important and historically significant picture. Just for fun, a 26-year-old Saudi Arabian student “edited” the photo. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education mistakenly used the edited photo in Saudi Arabian social studies textbooks in 2017. The Ministry later apologized for its error.

Today we took down our holiday decorations. It’s a good thing we “minimized” decorating this year because of our Christmas trip to Utah. It still took almost three hours to put everything away.

Because we spent Christmas in Utah with Jeff’s family, we had a delayed Christmas / Ted’s birthday celebration at home with Kari’s family. Ted’s choice for his family birthday dinner was pizza and ice cream sundaes. The cooking was easy: pick up the pizzas and put out a make-your-own sundae bar. Kari’s sundae looked the most Christmas-like with mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I think Ted showed the most zest in his application of Reddi-Wip. (That thing over Ted’s head is a holiday ornament hanging from the ceiling light.)

After Ted lit a fire in the fireplace, we took some family pictures.

We minimized our holiday decorations because we’d be in Utah over Christmas. We set some things out and strung a few outdoor lights, but skipped the Christmas tree. I admit that I missed having the tree lights twinkling in the evenings. In the absence of a Christmas tree, we put our Christmas gifts to each other on the coffee table instead of under the tree. Note that some of the gift bags were sewn by Kari and me.

Of course, Thom and I continued our exchange of Christmas Lego. This year, Sky joined in by giving Ted and me Lego Christmas ornaments. He said we can add them to my “infinite collection of Christmas Legos.” That collection keeps growing, and I love it!

After opening our gifts, it was time to relax in the hot tub. The outdoor temperature was in the 30s, so the hot tub felt really good. We closed the evening with a good game of Michigan Rummy. No one ran out of chips, so everyone was a winner. Having the family of one of our children living nearby is the best gift of this Christmas celebration. It means we have lots of good times together throughout the year.

It wasn’t a Holiday Inn, like the Christmas movie, but Jeff and La rented an Airbnb house in Provo, UT for a Christmas get-together. All three of their children (our grandchildren) live in Provo, as does their grandson (our great-grandson), so it was a good place for the family to gather.

Ted and I had an uneventful flight to Utah, but a long travel day–up at 4:00 a.m. CST and arriving in Salt Lake City around 2:00 p.m. MST with barely time to gulp down a sandwich on our layover in Phoenix. It was exciting to see snow on the ground when we arrived. The cold weather was less thrilling. Zack offered to pick us up at the airport to take us to Provo and was at the curb right after we exited the terminal. Ted and I were very hungry, so our first stop was at an IHOP. It was a great opportunity for some one-on-one time with Zack before joining the rest of the family.

When we arrived in Provo, we went to Alex and Kaitlyn’s house and had a nice visit with them. It’s been nine months since our first great-grandchild was born, and we hadn’t seen him in person yet. Photo op, first thing. He looks like Alex did as a baby.

Ted and I wanted to see our grandchildren’s homes so we could picture them when we talk with the kids and hear about what they’re doing, so we also stopped at Zack’s apartment. Zack rooms with three other young men. He claims that cereal is a staple in his menu plan. What can I say? It’s a bachelor pad, right? Kyra spent the past week in Montana, so she arrived at dinner time with Jeff and La and Papa Murphy’s pizzas for dinner. With the entire group present, we let the good times roll!

Alex and Kaitlyn brought over a small Christmas tree to create some Christmas spirit.

Jeff and La planned the entire visit and brought lots of food, games, gifts, etc. from home. We needed some additional items though, so the four women–La, Kyra, Kaitlyn, and I–went grocery shopping in the morning. The planning committee did a great job. We ate well and had fun every day. Christmas dinner was baked ham with mashed potatoes and gravy. Ollie loves mashed potatoes (he got that Idaho gene from his Grandma La), so Grandpa Jeff helped Ollie meet his potato needs. I love the tie on Ollie’s bib! He looks like a junior executive at the head of the table.

On Christmas morning, La made a traditional family treat–cinnamon rolls. The smell and the taste were irresistible! And then there were presents for everyone. (Thanks for the photo, Jeff. Your view of the gift display was better than mine.)

We arranged ourselves on the large sectional sofa prior to distributing and opening gifts. The array of holiday socks called for a picture. Alex had “Spocks.”

Jeff got creative with his gift tags.

He also got creative with his gifts. Ted and I requested gifts that would fit in our luggage on our homeward flight, so Jeff found ways to make gift cards more interesting. One of ours was packed with Idaho potatoes; another was accompanied by an assortment of rocks from Flathead Lake.

This is Ollie’s first Christmas, so he’s still learning the ropes, but he caught on quickly and seemed to enjoy all of his gifts.

After our evening meal, we went downtown to see the holiday lights in Pioneer Park and Temple Square.

When we got back home, Jeff read How Murray Saved Christmas to all of us, and then we watched “Klaus” on Netflix. It was a perfect Christmas Day.

When I looked out the window the next morning, there was fresh snow on the ground. Again, the snow was exciting; the cold temperatures in the 20s, not so much. We bundled up, though, and walked about a mile to Kyra’s house so we could see where she lives with two other young women. On another day, we walked to the BYU campus where Alex and Kyra pointed out their classroom buildings and where Alex works in the IT department.

With all of Jeff’s family present, group photos were a must. I think we have pictures of every possible combination of our group members. Here are the photos of the entire group and of four generations of the family men: Ted, Jeff, Alex, and Ollie.

We had dinner at Outback one evening. Kaitlyn, La, and I left early to shop at Barnes & Noble before dinner. Both venues were in the same shopping center and B&N was selling all hardcover books for 50 percent off. Who can resist that?! Not Kaitlyn, who left the store with two full bags of books. I struggled to select only two books to carry home in my luggage, but I took pictures of 18 others that I would have liked to buy. I’ll use my B&N Christmas gift cards for some and I’ll get some from the library. After book browsing, it was time to meet the rest of the group for dinner.

Naturally, there was time to play with Ollie during our visit. He did really well with a house full of people for several days. He got overtired because he didn’t want to miss any of the fun, but he was never crabby. I’m sure he enjoyed all the attention–part of being the first child for Alex and Kaitlyn, the first grandchild for Jeff and La, and the first great-grandchild for Ted and me. Get used to lots of attention, Ollie.

This was a visit with Jeff’s family, so it’s a given that there were lots of games to play–sheephead, Skull King, Zahjong, and Catch Phrase. They were all fun. Zahjong is basically Mahjong, but includes some adaptations created by Zack. I was hesitant to try it at first, but after watching a few rounds, I bit the bullet and joined in. Surprise! I even won three times!

We played several games on our last evening together, and ended with Catch Phrase. We had two teams of four sitting in a circle in the living room. It was the older people (Jeff and La, Ted and me) vs. the younger people (Alex, Kaitlyn, Kyra, Zack). We sat alternately in our circle–old, young, old, young–and the game got crazy. I can’t describe what happened because it was a “be there” moment, but it was so much fun that, even when we were tired and knew we had to go to bed so we could all get up early in the morning, we decided to play “one more game” before quitting. Unfortunately, that game tied the score, so we decided to play one more to break the tie. As a result, we all went to bed very late, but it was worth every minute of lost sleep. It was a joyous ending to our time together and spending this holiday with family we haven’t seen for over two years was the best Christmas gift of all.

To celebrate his birthday, Ted and I made our usual trip to the Lake of the Ozarks to have dinner at Bentley’s, our favorite restaurant. Tonight, to continue his birthday celebration, we had dinner at Dewey’s, our favorite pizza restaurant.

Dewey’s has a great customer appreciation program. For every $150 we spend (about 5 meals for us), we receive a $10 gift certificate for our next meal. After several $10 gifts, we receive a big appreciation gift. It usually includes some Dewey’s glasses, some kind of Dewey’s apparel, and a gift certificate. Tonight was our big gift night. When the manager brought the gift bag to our table, I kidded her by asking, “How did you know it was Ted’s birthday?” “Is it?” she responded. A minute later, she delivered carrot cake for two as a free dessert.

We would eat at Dewey’s anyway, because we like the pizza, but the gifts make it an even nicer place to go. Here’s what we received tonight: two glasses, two pair of warm holiday socks, and a $50 gift certificate. Naturally, the socks say “Dewey’s” on the bottoms. The snowman figurine is one of our holiday decorations.

After learning a variety of sewing skills while making drapes for Teddy’s and Dylan’s bedrooms, Kari said she wanted to learn some additional skills by making re-usable Christmas gift bags. We worked together one afternoon and completed one bag for her. She took notes as we went along and has been working on her own, making additional bags at home. That’s a teacher’s dream: the student who transitions through learning and practicing to independence.

As long as I was going to teach Kari how to sew gift bags, I decided to make some for myself. Rectangular gifts are easy to wrap with paper; the gift bags are great for oddly-shaped items and for soft items (usually clothing) that don’t come in a box.

I made a variety of bag styles: sacks with handles, sacks with drawstrings and top ruffles, and rectangular-bottomed bags (like shopping bags). The finished products present a colorful display.

One of Willie Nelson’s fans described him as (I’m paraphrasing) “a wonderful blanket, crocheted by your favorite relative, that you’ve had for 30 years–tattered corners, mended holes, and faded colors, . . . but all soft in the right places.”

Sort like a Muppet.

In my humble opinion, I have the privilege of (temporarily) owning one of the world’s great rolling pins.

My great-grandpa took this piece of hard rock maple, shaped it on his lathe, and gave it to his daughter, my grandma, when she was newly married in 1921. When Grandma stopped making pies, she gave it to my mom, her oldest daughter. What a treat for my dad! He loved pie! If it had been awhile since Mom made a pie, Dad would casually say something like, “I remember pie. It’s round, . . . it has fruit inside, . . .” and that was Mom’s cue to get out the rolling pin.

Given my Dad’s penchant for pie, I was surprised when Mom said she was finished making pies and handed the rolling pin down to me. It’s a single piece of wood, so I can roll it smoothly and evenly with open palms. The handles have a wonderful fit under my hands. This rolling pin has been seasoned by use for 100 years by Grandma, Mom, and me, so dough never sticks to it.

I love this rolling pin and I think about Great-grandpa shaping it and Grandma and Mom using it every time I get it out. Today, I used it to make two apple pies: one for a neighbor who had minor surgery this morning and, as long as I was baking, one for Ted and me.

Many years ago, Kari asked me to pass this “heritage” rolling pin on to her. I’m still making pies, so she’s still waiting for it, but someday, Kari, you’ll be the fourth generation to use the rolling pin made by your great-great-grandpa. Which of your boys will you give it to when you’re finished making pies?

There’s a family in our subdivision that apparently admires the Clark Griswold style of outdoor Christmas lighting.

Here’s the front. That large tree overhangs most of the width of the street, so driving past the house provides a small taste of what it’s like to drive through one of those commercial “winter wonderlands.”

The back yard is also fully decorated. This is the visible portion of the back yard when viewed between the two houses behind the “Griswolds.” Not visible: the decorated above-ground pool and playset on the left, and the decorated storage shed on the right.

Can you say “jolly and bright”?

Today’s date is a rarity. The date, 12/02/2021, is an 8-digit palindrome, just like 02/02/2020, which occurs only 12 times this century. You’ll have to wait until 03/02/2030 for the next 8-digit date palindrome.

Today’s date is unique in another way. If you drop the slash marks from the date and enter it into an analog calculator, it reads the same upside down.

The year 2021 has 22 palindrome dates of at least four digits, a phenomenon that occurs only twice in each century, during the years ending in 11 and 21. It won’t happen again until 2111, 90 years from now.

Today’s rare palindrome kicks off a string of nine consecutive palindrome dates in December, beginning with 12/1/21 and ending with 12/9/21. There were ten palindrome dates in January 2021, running from 1/20/21 through 1/29/21. For the first time in history, Inauguration Day fell on a palindrome date: 1/20/21. That won’t happen again until 1/20/3021, 1,000 years from now.

It happens only twice in a century and we’re here to enjoy it. Life is good, isn’t it?

I recently saw a list of the AFI’s (American Film Institute) 100 all-time best movie quotes. The movies listed are from 1931 (Dracula)-2002 (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers). I’m not sure how often the list is updated to include new movies. My personal all-time favorite (and powerful) movie quote is from the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind. The line? “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The AFI also ranks this as the #1 best movie quote. Here are 20 more of Ted’s and my favorite movie quotes.

The November 19 lunar eclipse was billed as a partial eclipse. According to NASA, 99.1 percent of the moon was shrouded by the earth’s umbra (the darkest shadow) during mid-eclipse, making it very close to a total lunar eclipse. It was the longest partial eclipse of the century–between 2001 and 2100–lasting 3 hours and 28 minutes, and the longest eclipse in the past 580 years, according to the Holcomb Observatory. Lunar eclipses usually last about an hour, but this time, the moon was farther from the earth, so the earth cast a wider shadow and it took the moon longer to pass through that shadow. The peak of the eclipse occurred at 3:03 a.m. our time.

Ted and I are night owls (and we’re retired), so we stayed up for the eclipse and slept in the next morning. We went outside around 2:30 a.m. to watch the peak of the eclipse and planned to go back into the house by 3:04 a.m. That’s not what happened. The sky was so beautiful, we stayed outside for over an hour. With the moon in shadow and a crystal-clear night sky, we could see far more stars than we normally do. The moon was beautiful, the stars were beautiful, and the night was perfectly calm. It was, however, only 24 degrees and we were dressed in our pj’s and bathrobes with Crocs on our feet. After an hour, we admitted that, although it was still a beautiful sight, we were getting cold, so we went back into the house.

I love looking at stars and finding constellations. With the moon darkened, the stars were unusually bright, but they weren’t bright enough to see them well in the few photos I took. Only Orion and the dog star, Sirius, were strong enough to show in the black sky. In the photo below, that’s the fully eclipsed moon on the right (my cell phone camera picked up all of the moon’s radiant light, so it looks full), and Sirius is in the left center. Orion is in the middle. A few of the stars show well; all of them are visible if you zoom in on the photo–or maybe if you look at the photo in a dark room.

In the opposite direction, we could see every star in the Big Dipper. Usually, there are at least two stars that can’t outshine the city light pollution. I don’t recall ever seeing the Big Dipper in a vertical position, but I don’t often check the night sky at 3:00 a.m. At this time of night, the handle rose directly upward from the horizon and the dipper was above it. It was easy to find the North Star to locate the Little Dipper, but even with the moon dark, I couldn’t see all seven stars in that constellation. I found Cassiopeia, but couldn’t see the Seven Sisters (aka the Pleiades), my favorite constellation. They might have been lower in the sky, behind a tree or a house.

This was a stunning lunar eclipse and a perfect night for viewing it. Theresa Massony, the author of an article I read about this eclipse wrote, “This lunar eclipse is not to be missed, unless you have time to wait a whole century for the next one.” So true! Ted and I took the time to watch this one. If we’re still around in 2100, we’ll catch that one too.

The high temperature at our house was 82 degrees today. It was a good day for a bike ride and the fall colors are at their peak, so Ted and I mounted up and admired the yellows, oranges, and reds in our neighborhood.

I mentioned in years past that I think everyone in this area planted at least one redbud for its spring flowers (we planted three) and at least two burning bushes (we have six) for their fall color. This house is near ours and has two old, huge burning bushes growing side-by-side. What a display!

The pictures below tell the story. Enjoy the yellow, orange, and red colors.

Here’s a tree that’s losing its leaves from side-to-side. According to this tree, fall is half over.

As we biked the last mile, we saw this view at one of the lakes near our house. It shows a variety of colors in a single scene.

The weather was cool and rainy, so I decided it was a good time to go through another old photo album to pull some pictures of good memories. The year is 1982, when Ted’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Here is their wedding portrait and their anniversary photo. Look at that wedding veil! All that fabric on the floor is her veil, not the train of her dress. I knit the doily the pictures are standing on as a gift to Mom one year.

The celebration began with a dinner at the church. Dad was ill and hospitalized at the time of the anniversary party. He couldn’t be at the dinner with Mom, but her sisters sat beside her for the meal–Verna on the left (below) and Leona on the right.

After the dinner, Dad was released from the hospital for a few hours to be with the family at home. We took a few pictures while Dad was at home. Here is the anniversary couple.

I don’t have any pictures of Mom and Dad with their children–Ted and his siblings–or their grandchildren, but I do have photos of Mom and Dad with their siblings. Here’s Dad with his sister, Marcella; his brother, Bob (behind Cella); and his brother, John (right).

Of course, the next picture is Mom with her siblings: her brother, Clinton; and her sisters, Leona (center) and Verna (right), sitting beside her.

Just for fun, here’s a picture of the three girls, circa 1912. Left to right, it’s Mom, Verna, and Leona. Those are big hair bows. It looks like Verna and Leona have identical skirts, blouses, shoes, and hairstyles. All three girls have similar necklaces and Loella’s hair and clothes are similar, if not identical to her older sisters’. So pretty!

Returning to 1982, Mom’s wedding dress didn’t fit her after 50 years, but it fit Lisa, her granddaughter, so Lisa modeled it for us.

When we finished taking photos, there was visiting, cake, and more food for everyone. Two of the grandchildren admired the cake and were probably hoping to have a piece ASAP. That’s Kari (4) and Kathy (9).

During that same summer visit to Wisconsin, there was also some kind of celebration with my parents, but I can’t remember what it was. The only significant date in that time period was my mother’s 60th birthday, but we have no pictures of a cake or presents, so I don’t know if that was the special event or if it was just an opportunity for the entire family to be together. While we were all dressed up (after church?) we took pictures. The first photo below shows the entire family. Left to right are Tom and Jo; then Ted and me with our kids; Steve (still single) in the red shirt; Russ and Betsy (dating, but not engaged until six months later); Grandpa L; Bev with her children, Eric and Cheryl (her husband, my brother Denny, died 5 years earlier); and Mom and Dad.

We took a picture of Mom and Dad and a picture of them with their children (me and my siblings). Back in the days of film, we couldn’t check to see if my eyes were closed or if Steve was looking at the camera. Photos like this give us things to laugh about later.

Then we took individual photos of each of us kids. Ted had glasses with photochromic lenses that went from clear to dark in bright light, so he looks like he’s wearing sunglasses in all of our outdoor pictures during the time he had those glasses.

While we were all dressed up, someone (probably my dad) took a photo of Ted and me with our children. I sewed the girls’ matching strawberry shortcake dresses.

Grandma wanted a picture with her granddaughter, Kari. If the lilacs and the snowball bush were blooming, this is around Memorial Day.

After the photo shoot session, it was time to change into informal clothes and have some fun. My dad joined the sibling chorus line in the back yard. I assume my mom took the picture.

Then Grandpa took Tommy and Jeff to the mill pond and taught them how to fish.

It looks like June 1982 gave us a chance to be with all of our family members for some good times and good memories.

I recently sewed a fall runner for our dining room table. The directions told me to make 16 of each type of leaf, so I did, but I decided I didn’t need a runner that long. Because I already had the extra leaves, my choices were to (1) throw them away; (2) make a smaller table centerpiece for the kitchen table; or (3) make a centerpiece and give it to someone else. I chose (3). I’m celebrating a friend’s birthday with her this week. She has a smaller table than I do and she decorates with lots of fall colors, so I decided to give it to her for her birthday.

Here’s my table runner.

This is the smaller centerpiece I made with the leftover leaves.

Now it’s time to work on another project. Will it be something new or will I work on the project I hoped to finish by February 2021 (first paragraph of the link) and haven’t touched for almost a year? Time will tell.

We run a dehumidifier in the basement over the summer to keep the concrete walls and floor nice and dry in the St. Louis humidity. About ten days ago, we received a letter informing us that the dehumidifier we’ve been happily running 24/7 for six consecutive summers could unexpectedly burst into flame. We qualified for a settlement equal to half the price of the dehumidifier. To claim the money, I had to submit the usual information–name, email address, model and serial number, etc. as well as a photo of the dehumidifier showing the specification sticker, model number, serial number, my name, the date of the photo, and evidence that I had cut the power cord on the device.

I emailed that information to the specified address on (see below) October 17. Today, only seven days later, a check for close to $150 arrived in the mail. That’s the fastest re-imbursement I’ve ever experienced! We’ll buy a new dehumidifier next spring, but we already have half the cost of it covered by this refund. Whoopee!

Fall is coming and the leaves on the trees are beginning to change their colors. I used to love looking at our sugar maple tree in the fall, but since I can’t do that any more, I have to settle for looking at Larry’s sugar maple tree across the street. A mature sugar maple stood where you see a small tree on the right, but it died the year after ours did and, like us, Larry had it cut down, then replaced it with a new tree.

After a nice stretch of warm weather (mid- and upper 70s), our thermometer topped out at 87 degrees today. The official high was a few degrees lower, but we live here, not at the airport. Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be somewhere in the 50s–quite a change. To celebrate this last day of summer-like weather, the flowers in our yard put on a showy display of blooms.

Ignore the deadheads on the rosebushes and just admire the blooms. The plants are going to succumb to frost pretty soon, and we’ll have to cut the roses back, so deadheading at this time of the year is low on the to-do list. Here are the knockout roses and two beds of carpet roses. Mind you, it’s almost Hallowe’en and these bushes are putting out blooms as if it’s late June.

The hibiscus tree has given us anywhere from 1-10 fresh blooms every day all summer. (The flowers only last one day.) Today, it had seven blooms–again, just as if October = summer. Check out all the buds that haven’t opened yet. Will they make it before the temperature drops to freezing? The whitish edges on the flowers prove that it’s fall. That effect has been increasing as the daylight has been decreasing. Apparently, tropical flowers depend on a lot of daylight to look their best.

I’m not one of those people who gets all excited about fall, pumpkin spice, and sweater weather. In fact, I’m getting ready to count down to the first day of spring, but meanwhile, today’s weather was awesome!

I’ve been having some occasional pain in my right knee for several months–nothing serious, and nothing long-lasting. And then . . . while Ted and I were busy getting things ready for Julian’s visit, my knee suddenly went into some kind of painful spasm that lasted about an hour. I had a second similar spasm three weeks later. After checking with Dr. Online, I decided I probably damaged the meniscus in some way and, given the pain level, I should probably see a doctor. I expected him to tell me either: (1) I’d have to take it easy for a number of weeks to let the injury heal; or (2) I’d need surgery to repair the meniscus.

I made an appointment, the doctor ordered an x-ray, I told him my theory, and he said, “That would be a good theory–if you had a meniscus. Unfortunately, your knee is bone-on-bone.” Gulp! This is how bone-on-bone looks. Yessir! Those bones are definitely touching each other.

I thought I’d better change my plans from resting my knee to replacing my knee. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy about the idea. But wait! Modern medicine can inject a lubricating cushion into the knee joint. I’ll be getting a series of three injections, given one week apart and I will most likely have relief from the pain in the first week and for up to six months. I was so excited about avoiding surgery and a painful rehab period that I didn’t ask about repeat injections after six months, but I’m holding that thought.

The exterior of the entire first floor of our house, as well as our beehive-style chimney, is made of antique bricks. (Antique = recovered from a torn-down structure.) Ted and I like the look of the antique bricks, but they’ve been here for 42 years and we noticed there are some bricks in the chimney that appeared to be loose, as well as some on the house that have broken edges from weathering. We called Mr. T, our chimney sweeper, and asked him to check things out and to do whatever tuckpointing is necessary. He replaced the loose bricks in the chimney about a week ago. After an entire week, I happened to look upward to the roofline and saw something on the roof ridge. It’s on the right end of the ridge.

Ted got out his ladder, climbed up on the roof, and removed the half-full can of diet 7-Up. Way to go, Ted!

Last summer, as we biked and biked and biked through the neighboring subdivisions, Ted and I noticed that quite a few homes have planting borders by Curb Appeal. We talked to some of the homeowners and they were all very pleased with the work they had done. In spring, we went to Curb Appeal, made our selections, and signed a contract to have the work done. John, the manager, said they would schedule us when our concrete work was completed because the curbs butt up to the concrete edges in some places and it’s easier to do them last. The concrete work wasn’t finished until September 23, so Curb Appeal scheduled us for the prep work October 1 and installation the following week. It was an interesting process to watch.

Prepping meant cutting away the sod where the curbs would be laid.

HOW TO LAY CURBING

There’s a machine in one of the trucks that mixes the concrete blend. Then it gets dumped into the yellow wheelbarrows you can see in the photo below and taken to where it’s needed. Those wheelbarrows have a little motor (you can see it on the wheelbarrow in the photo above) that is engaged by a lever on the handle. I bet that makes it a lot easier to haul concrete around! One guy shovels the mix into the curbing machine (below) and the machine operator (John) works backward as the machine releases and forms the curbing. The machine also lays two lines of rebar within the curbing as it moves.

After the curbing is laid, the finishing guy smooths it out and gently sweeps off the scraps.

The next step is to cover the curbing with release.

Then the finishing guy takes a roller with a pattern on it and rolls it over the curbing, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction, to create a pattern on the finished curb.

The expansion joints are cut about two inches deep on three sides–front, top, and inside edges.

Then the excess release is blown off. This mess isn’t bad at all. Check the following picture to see how much dust the concrete crew raised.

The guys did a nice clean-up job, raking the lawn and picking up the stray crumbs of concrete from inside the curbing as well.

The final step is to spray a sealant on the curbing and to tape off the area to avoid anyone stepping on it while it dries.

HOW TO LAY STEPPING STONES

When John was here for his final check before beginning the prep work, I mentioned that we didn’t realize we needed a sidewalk from the hot tub to the existing sidewalk at the house until the concrete job was finished and we walked around the hot tub. We can go around the hot tub, a pergola post, and the patio furniture (four turns) to reach the existing sidewalk, but a direct route toward the driveway/garage (no turns) would be much nicer. John said they also lay stepping stones. We checked out his displays and decided that would be even nicer than a regular sidewalk, so John marked where the stones would be placed.

To keep the stones at ground level, the ground had to be dug out along the lines John marked. Then he re-marked the edges for a reason unknown to me.

John (right) and Trevor (left) placed heavy-duty plastic in each hole where a stone would be poured. Then the guy in the center brought the motorized wheelbarrows over and shoveled the concrete mix onto the plastic in the holes. John and Trevor moved the concrete around to fill the holes completely and flattened the tops to ground level.

Trevor sprinkled release on the stones and then pressed a stamp on each one to give it a stone-like texture. When he finished, John used a little blow-torch to melt the excess plastic away from the edges of the stones. I guess, in theory, we could dig down a few inches and lift the stones out of their plastic beds.

Of course, the excess release had to be blown away. Of course, we had to clean the excess dust off the surrounding concrete, furniture, etc. It wasn’t nearly as awful as the clean-up after the concrete work.

Just like the curbing, the last step was to spray sealant on the stones and to tape off the area.

We really like the results and have been getting a lot of compliments from passers-by on how nice the concrete and the curbing look.

This area (curbing around the trees in the left center and around the arbor vitae hedge on the right) looks even nicer now because the grass has come in and the stepping stones are surrounded by green. They provide a great shortcut from the storage shed and the hot tub to the driveway and the garage. That’s one more home improvement job checked off the list.

See a performance at the Fox Theatre. One of Julian’s reasons for coming to St. Louis at this time was to see a performance by comedian Bill Burr at the Fox Theatre. Julian is not accustomed to living in the suburbs, so his plan was to simply take public transportation from our house to the Fox. That would be great–if the @#$%&! voters in our county had not voted down public transportation many years ago. We lent Julian one of our cars to drive to the Fox. He wanted a Steak ‘n’ Shake fix while he was here and decided to stop at Steak ‘n’ Shake for a carry-out dinner (no dine-in available) to eat on his way to the program. He enjoyed the performance–and the dinner–and surprised us by being back at our house by 10:30–long before his curfew. (Just kidding.)

Take bicycle rides. Kari left her bike at our house for Julian to use at will. In return, he adjusted her derailleur for her. It was a good deal for both parties. In addition to our bike ride on the Dardenne Greenway, Julian and I biked through the surrounding neighborhoods and he biked some of the St. Peters bike trails with Kari, as well as going out on his own.

Swim. Julian has always enjoyed our backyard swimming pool. Unfortunately, he had some follow-up surgery on his trampoline-injured knee just a week before arriving at our house and wasn’t supposed to soak the wounds in water. He couldn’t resist the pool, however, so he decided to try waterproof bandages. He tested them and they seemed to work fine, making it possible for him to use the pool after all.

Have pizza/calzones; play games. Saturday’s dinner was pizza for Ted and me and a Calzone for Julian. In the evening, we decided to play a game. Julian selected Phase 10, a card game he’d never played. He won on his first try. Unfortunately for him, he tried to figure out my strategy as I took the lead in the next game (I followed him in the play order). In frustration, he mentioned that he just couldn’t see what strategy I was using. Maybe because I didn’t have a strategy. I pointed out that the game is designed for ages 8+ and really depends more on which cards you draw than on any strategy. Julian decided he prefers games that involve strategy. We’ll go for that on his next visit.

Roller skate. On Sunday, Kari’s entire family came over to visit and to have dinner with us. Before dinner, Kari and the four boys decided to go roller skating (free for all, because Kari’s a manager at the rink and gave each boy a family pass for entry). When they returned to the house, we had a chicken dinner. Chicken is a big hit with Kari’s family, and even though they ate a lot of it, the highlight of the meal was the ice cream sundae bar.

Dylan, the artist, had the prettiest sundae, . . .

. . . but Teddy’s sundae was the most colorful.

And then it was Monday, Julian’s departure date. Luckily for Ted and me, Julian’s departure time was changed to two hours later than expected, so in addition to the eight extra hours we had with him after his early arrival, we had two more extra hours with him before his departure. We hope Julian had as much fun with all of us as we did with him, and we all hope he’ll visit again soon. Love from all of us to Julian.

Today, Ted and I took Julian and Teddy to see the Cahokia Mounds. Cahokia Mounds is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally the site of a city of 10,000-20,000 people (larger than either London or Paris at that time), it was the site of the largest prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico. Monk’s Mound at Cahokia is the second-largest mound in the world. In fact, Monk’s Mound has a larger base than the Great Pyramid of Cheops (also a UNESCO WHS), although it is not as high as that pyramid. Eighty of the 120 original mounds at Cahokia have survived. The most direct route from our house to the park is I-70, so we crossed the Mississippi River via one of my favorite bridges: the Stan Musial Bridge at St. Louis.

The entrance to the park’s Interpretive Center is impressive.

These are called the “twin mounds.” Conical mounds like the one on the right are always burial mounds; flat mounds like the one on the left usually indicate a place where citizens lived. The higher one’s social rank, the higher one lived on the mound. Commoners’ homes surrounded the base of the mound.

We saw a herd of deer on our guided tour of the park. The tour guide said deer are everywhere in the park.

The park’s big attraction is Monk’s Mound, the largest one. This is also a flat mound, but it is so large that there are four levels of social importance on it. Because it is so large, it is likely that an important leader (a king-like official) lived at the top of Monk’s Mound. You can count three terraces below the top of the mound if you look at the outline of the mound on its left side.

Every visitor’s to-do list includes climbing to the top of Monk’s Mound, and our group was no different. The two young men nearest the bottom of the stairs are our boys. There are two flights of stairs on Monk’s Mound with a total of 154 steps. Julian climbed them twice.

Here are Julian and Teddy after they reached the top of Monk’s Mound.

Julian got creative on his way down. Teddy (at the top of the flight) simply used the stairs.

There’s a nice view of the park from the top of Monk’s Mound. You can see another, smaller flat-topped mound in the upper center of the photo below.

From the top of Monk’s Mound, it’s also possible to see the St. Louis skyline, including the Gateway Arch. (Due to the clouds, you have to look closely to see the Arch.)

Cahokia Mounds includes a structure called “Woodhenge.” It is the astronomical equivalent of England’s Stonehenge, with 48 poles set around its circumference and another pole in its center. At the spring and fall equinox, there are celebrations at Woodhenge. If you stand in alignment with two of the outer poles and the center pole at sunrise on the equinox, then look east, you can see the sun rise over Monk’s Mound in line with the center pole. The dark, flat surface behind the center pole in the lower center of the photo is Monk’s Mound.

Rain showers moved into the area on our way home and we saw a stunning rainbow. It was a pretty way to end an enjoyable afternoon with two of our grandsons.

Today, Ted and I, Kari and Teddy, and Julian were hoping to visit Cahokia Mounds. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t co-operate. Although it was only partly cloudy here, a band of rain swept through Cahokia, scratching our plans for a day outdoors at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Teddy came up with Plan B for an indoor activity: bowling.

The pros have nothing to fear from our group, but we had a lot of fun. The first game was pretty bad (let’s call it the warm-up), but the second was better, and by the third, we were well into the spirit of things. We all had a good time and then we enjoyed snacks at home before Kari and Teddy had to leave.

Julian practiced putting some spin on his ball.

Kari mastered sliding into her release.

Teddy bowled several spares and made his goal of getting a strike.

Ted the Jock showed us how you nonchalantly walk away when you bowl a strike–one of several for him, including two in a row in the tenth frame of one game.

Scores varied by game, but Ted was always the high scorer and the only one with a three-digit score. The display showed first initials for bowlers, so to keep Ted and Teddy apart, Ted became “G” for Grandpa. We might have to ban “G” from bowling like Sky, Dylan, and I have threatened to ban him from miniature golf because he outscores the rest of us every time.

Just kidding, G.

It’s so exciting and heartwarming when your adult grandchild calls to ask if you’d mind if he comes for a week-long visit. Not at all! We’d love it! Ted and I have been eagerly anticipating Julian’s arrival this week. Unfortunately, Julian forgot to tell us that his flight schedule had been changed, and that he’d be arriving eight hours earlier than we’d expected. Oops! When he called me to say he had arrived at the airport, I dropped what I was doing and made an Uber-style run to pick him up. Luckily for Ted and me, Julian’s early arrival gave us eight additional hours to spend with him; unluckily for Julian, he ended up being drafted to help with some of the things we had planned to finish in those eight additional hours before he arrived.

One of the jobs Julian helped with was replacing some cabinet door hinges. When the new hinges were installed, the doors overlapped each other in the center. I suggested cutting out a little piece of wood with a wood chisel to set the hinges a little bit deeper, and Julian did the chiseling. When he finished, the doors closed properly.

The following afternoon provided beautiful weather for a bike ride. Kari came over with her bike and brought Dylan’s bike for Julian to use. The four of us headed for the Dardenne Greenway, which provides about a ten-mile bike ride through parks and woods, around lakes, and along the Dardenne Creek. It was such a nice ride, I became totally focused on how much we enjoyed riding with Kari and Julian and I didn’t take any pictures. Imagine us biking through the woods in the sunshine with the trees just beginning to change to their autumn colors. Later, the other members of Kari’s family joined us for a nice visit outside on the patio, then dinner indoors.

Today, we decided to hike the 3.4-mile trail around Lincoln Lake at Cuivre River State Park. It was another pretty day and this time, I took some pretty pictures. Here we have our hikers–in two pictures so Kari and I could take turns with the cameras.

There are other trails and trail access points in the park, and some of them are uphill from the lake trail. This one is 118 steps to the top, according to the sign.

We saw a few butterflies, a turtle, two small snakes, and several varieties of wildflowers. On the way out of the park, we passed a flock of wild turkeys and a young deer. In my opinion, these were the prettiest wildflowers, although they lost some of their striking color when a cloud covered the sun.

We’ve had dry weather for the past few weeks, so all the creek beds we crossed were dry.

For a change, there were some afternoon thundershowers in the area. We didn’t get any of the rain, but we saw some beautiful building cumulus clouds. In the third picture below, there’s a fisherman in a bright blue shirt, fishing on the peacefully still waters of the lake.

We stopped frequently to drink water, to look at the views, and to chat a little bit.

Circling Lincoln Lake is a pretty hike–a favorite route for Kari, Ted, and me . . . and maybe now for Julian too.

Last year, I saw a pattern for a fall table runner and I liked it. This year, I had time to make it. It was a Joann Fabrics project, so I downloaded it. The patterns were included, but not in the size needed (the top sheet of paper in the photo below). I thought about graphing the patterns to a larger size, but that was difficult so I came up with an easier idea. I scanned each individual leaf pattern and saved it as an image, then inserted it into a Word document. I set the screen display to 100 percent and enlarged the image until my ruler showed it to be the right size. When I printed the pages, I had properly-sized patterns.

I bought brown fabric for the oak leaves, orange for the maple leaves, and yellow for the oval leaves. There were three layers to cut for each leaf–two layers of fabric and an inner layer of craft-weight quilt batting. After cutting out the patterns, I marked them on the white batting and pinned the batting to two pieces of leaf fabric.

I sewed around the edges and turned the leaves through. The oval leaves were easy to turn; the maple leaves weren’t bad; the oak leaves were a real pain! After turning, clipping, and pressing the leaves, I topstitched around each one and then sewed “veins” on them to give depth to the quilted look. Only the center vein of the oval leaf shows well in the photo, but there is a stitched line down the center of each maple and oak leaf lobe.

After sewing all the leaves, the directions told me to “arrange them in a pleasing pattern.” I used the project picture to get started and then did my best to fake creativity. Then I was instructed to sew the pieces together in a “free style.” Hah! That was far beyond my creative ability. I didn’t see any way I could sew the pieces together in a continuous and attractive manner, so I went with the alternate idea: join them by hand. The directions warned that joining the pieces by hand would increase the time needed to complete the project. No kidding! You can’t fool those project designers! I pinned the pieces together in my “pleasing pattern” and then machine basted them in a very free style (wherever two leaves overlapped) with a contrasting (blue) thread to hold them in place for my hand stitching.

Then I moved to a comfortable chair with an end table at my side and spent hours hand-stitching the leaves together. My mother, an expert and professional seamstress, taught me that the back/inside of a garment or project needs to look as nice as the front/outside or the front/outside won’t look as nice as it should, so I stitched every joined edge on both sides of my runner. Patience is indeed a virtue. Thank you, Mom? Yes, thank you. I’m proud of my work and I probably wouldn’t feel as good about it if I hadn’t followed your advice. Ignoring the basting stitches that I haven’t yet removed, can you tell that the left photo is the underside and the right photo is the top side of my runner?

I think the finished runner looks very nice and very fall-like on our dining room table.

The project directions told me to cut and sew 16 leaves of each type, but when I put the leaves together, I decided I didn’t want a runner that long, so I stopped with ten each of the maple and oak leaves and eight of the oval leaves. I already have the additional leaves marked and ready to sew. Instead of throwing them away, I’m going to make a centerpiece that will be about half the size of my runner. I might keep the centerpiece for myself or I might give it to someone as a gift. I’ve never made anything like this before, so it was fun to try something new. Happy fall!

The concrete project is (almost) finished. During the five weeks of work and mess, Ted and I felt like we never had a chance to relax. We didn’t do anything to actually pour or finish the concrete, but there always seemed to be something to make a decision about, the noise level was high, and the mess was unexpectedly overwhelming.

The two of us decided to take a day off from work and hassle and do only pleasurable, relaxing things. We walk regularly around our neighborhood and know it well–even in the dark. We had some shopping to do on Historic Main Street in St. Charles, so we decided to walk a different route. Main Street is a mile long and runs parallel to the Missouri River. The Katy Trail runs through Frontier Park along the river, so we walked the two-mile loop down Main Street and along the river. It was a treat to look at less familiar things. Here are some things we don’t see on our regular route.

Daniel Boone greeted us when we got out of the car.

There’s a little waterfall on a creek that flows into the Missouri River.

A riverfront statue of Lewis and Clark commemorates their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. They supplied their journey in St. Louis and set out on the Missouri River at St. Charles. It’s a big claim to fame for the city. (Lewis and Clark, not the statue.)

The Missouri River is running very low due to a lack of rain here and upstream. After raining all spring and summer, setting some records and keeping the river unusually high, the faucet turned off in August. At least we don’t have water shortages here.

There are lots of park benches along Main Street and at the riverfront. This one is dedicated to the founder and owner of the Noah’s Ark restaurant and hotel, a former iconic St. Charles landmark (inset). It was built in 1967 and demolished in November 2005 to make way for the Streets of St. Charles, a business, entertainment, and residential complex.

We’ve attended many events at the St. Charles bandstand. It’s situated at the St. Charles trailhead for the Katy Trail.

Our grandson, Dylan, has had some of his artwork displayed at the Foundry Art Center.

Main Street is a treasure trove of historic buildings. This is the Grand Opera House, which now serves as an event venue.

It was about 90 degrees this afternoon, and we were thirsty, so we stopped at Kilwin’s for a Coke (Ted) and a bottle of water (me) and sat on their bench to people-watch while we refreshed ourselves. They also have an outdoor patio in the back, but we were doing the Main Street part of the walk at this time. We resisted the ice cream and chocolates because we were more thirsty than hungry. Maybe next time we’ll be hungry too. Except for an occasional kid’s lemonade stand, we don’t get refreshments on our neighborhood walks. No streetside benches either.

Dylan recently got a job at the Bike Stop. This business serves as a Katy Trail biker’s stop. We noticed that they rent bicycles built for six like we saw at the bike store.

Instead of going for cardio as we usually do on our walks, Ted and I walked for pleasure. It was still two miles of exercise, but it was a lovely day and a relaxing walk. We decided to do it again soon and to maybe look for other interesting walks, just as we look for a variety of bike trails. Best of all, there was no concrete work going on outside our door and all the mess at home is cleaned up. Yes, a lovely day.

In March, Ted and I signed a contract to replace our concrete. That contractor backed out in early July and returned our deposit. We signed another contract for the same job and, on August 16, we got The Call: “The crew will be starting the work on your job next week Monday.” It was time to do our prep work–removing and relocating our decorative rock from areas scheduled to be covered with concrete, getting all the outdoor furniture out of the way, moving the firewood, etc. Picking up the rock was the crummiest job. Ted shoveled what he could and I sat on the green gardening mat and tossed all the rock his shovel missed–about a third of it–into the wheelbarrow, which he then dumped into a different (unthreatened) rock bed.

The contractor for the hot tub pad poured a few extra inches on each side so we wouldn’t have to carefully balance the hot tub on the pad. Beginning with the first time we got into the hot tub, we wished we had enough concrete to walk around the hot tub and to slide the cover back without standing in the sometimes wet and (in the winter) always cold grass. We marked a larger area for hot tub concrete. Notice that the beds on each side of the hot tub are bare of rock. Thanks, Ted and Diane.

It didn’t take long to get tired of hearing a jackhammer. When the crew broke up the front porch, the entire house trembled. We might have to watch for cracks in our drywall. When I walked past the dining room door, I noticed a casualty of the jackhammer vibrations.

At the end of the first day, the patio was rubble. Patio party, anyone?

Whenever a concrete truck arrived, the name of the game was “hustle!” A full crew of five guys showed up and everyone moved as quickly as they could. It was impossible to bring the concrete truck into the back yard, so two guys were in charge of toting wheelbarrows filled with concrete from the truck to the patio area. If the guys pushing the concrete into place finished pushing before the next wheelbarrow load arrived, they shouted “Pour!” which I think translated to “Hurry up, we’re waiting for you.” When I complimented the boss on their choreography, he laughed and said, “And we didn’t even bump elbows, did we?” No, they didn’t.

Yes, everyone hustled–except the truck driver. He relaxed while waiting for a wheelbarrow to arrive, then opened the chute to fill the wheelbarrow with concrete. The temperature was in the middle 90s, but this guy didn’t break a sweat.

Dusty opened packages of new stamps and they looked like flowers lying on the lawn. Within minutes, the new stamps were coated with release and looked like the older gray stamps on the left.

Ted and I wanted to watch the stamping process, so we set up a peanut gallery (Howdy Doody reference) for ourselves. In the earlier photo (above), the Christmas-wrapped hot tub looked pretty clean. Not any more. Notice the dust around the crew members as they tamp the stamps into the concrete, forcing the release to poof out in every direction.

The stamps butted against each other like a puzzle. This corner is stamped, and Eddie is putting a stamp marked with texture only–no lines–against the side of the hot tub (upper right). After stamping the texture, Matt and/or Rick used finishing wheels to draw lines by hand in the texture pattern to match the stamps all the way to the edge of the previously installed hot tub concrete.

Ted and I thought the stamping process was dusty, but that was nothing compared to the dust raised when Matt cut the expansion joints. The dust is going higher than the house! This is the day we decided to schedule a power wash company to clean off the house. There’s not much wind, so Dusty (green shirt, standing on the patio at the fence) is visible, even though Matt (using the saw) is not. These guys picked up the broken concrete pieces with bare hands and never wore masks while they worked in all this dust. I can’t help wondering what their lungs look like.

Breaking up the front sidewalks and the driveway was easier because there was room for Matt to use the bobcat. First you lift a section of the sidewalk and break it away from the adjoining sections.

Then you load it onto the forklift.

And then you dump it into the dump truck. The guys filled six dump trucks with concrete rubble plus one trash bag. On this day (and most others) there were trucks with equipment trailers, pickup trucks, and the dump truck parked along the street on both sides of our yard. Add the concrete truck on the days they poured concrete. Our neighbor generously allowed us to park our cars in his driveway for the duration. This was trash day, and Ted and I were looking for a place to put the trash can so the trash pickup guys could find it among all the big trucks. We usually set it where the dump truck is parked. Matt (in the bobcat) saw us with the trash can and said “Put the trash bag in my scoop and I’ll put it in the truck.” Problem solved.

It was disconcerting to open the front door and see a huge concrete truck pulled up to the front porch. Two layers of 3/4-inch plywood covered the area where the truck drove.

There were some concrete glitches. One day, a truck arrived with plain–not colored–concrete, so there was a delay waiting for another truck. The crew filled the time by prepping other areas for the following day. The day the patio was poured, there wasn’t enough concrete to finish the job. The unstamped tan concrete in the photo below shows how much they were short. The tan color is Ted’s and my goal, but the stamped work is currently all charcoal gray with release powder. Matt (the foreman and the owner’s son) assured us that our finished concrete will be tan. It was hard to keep the faith. Unbelievably, people walking by complimented us on how great that gray, powder-covered concrete looked for the week it was curing! Note: Check the dust level on the hot tub now. You can’t even see the hot tub through the (formerly) clear plastic. Picture everything in the yard and on the house similarly covered with release dust.

Here’s Dusty, using the hand wheel to trace all the stamping lines, making sure they are even. I had to take the picture through the window screen to keep out of Dusty’s way.

All the sheet-covered stuff in the left half of the photo below is our outdoor furniture and pool toy shed. When Eddie saw the Star Wars bedsheet, he asked if we have the full set. I told him, “We used to.” It reminded me of a high school field trip Kari’s class took to the Science Center. A Star Wars exhibit was on display and she said everyone was saying “My brother had those sheets.” So did Eddie. The posts on the sawbucks were supporting the front porch roof. As long as they were down, Ted and I decided it would be easy to stain them before the guys re-install them–we just ran a roller over the four flat sides of each post. While we were staining, we noticed that the posts are rotting on the bottoms from sitting on 42 years of rainfall on the porch, so we added “new porch posts” to our to-do list.

The spot where Matt is kneeling has always formed a puddle when it rains, or when Ted washes cars, or when I hose off the driveway. We’ve always had a low spot in the back yard too. Rick (the boss man and owner) suggested a French drain beginning at the low spot in the back yard, then running under the driveway and the front lawn to the street to eliminate the wet area in the back yard and the puddle in the driveway. He connected the driveway drain and both downspouts on this end of the house to the drainpipe. Again, problem solved. In the photo below, Matt asked for a small amount of concrete from the truck and pushed it into place around the drain before they poured the driveway.

Here we have Matt, Eddie, Todd, and Dusty, roughly smoothing the first section of the driveway. They poured the driveway in three parts on three days. The light square in the lower right is the covered drain, safe from the rest of the concrete.

It was interesting to see how the back doorstep was framed. Matt drilled holes for the rebar posts, cut the posts off to be shorter than the finished step, wired them to the frame, and held everything in place with wooden spacers. They’re ready to pour the step.

Lunch break. Most days, the guys had Jimmy John’s for lunch. One day, they skipped lunch because they were busy pouring, smoothing, and stamping a load of concrete. Sometimes they sat in the shade of a tree. On this day, Eddie used the hot tub as a table and the other guys sat on our tipped-over wood rack. The plastic wrapping has been removed from the hot tub at this point. Even with the protection of plastic wrapping, you can see a layer of gray dust on the hot tub cover. For most of the nine days the guys were pouring and stamping, the temperatures were in the mid- to upper 90s and the heat indices ranged from 100-110 degrees. Matt told me that when they removed the protective plastic from the hot tub, they discovered it had melted to itself and they had to cut it off.

After the last pour, two guys stuck around for an eleven-hour day and hosed the loose release off the dry concrete. The sections poured on this day couldn’t be hosed yet. That’s why the end of the driveway near our cars is more gray than that in the lower part of the photo.

After everything was hosed off, the concrete needed two days to dry so moisture would not be sealed into it Then the sealing process began. It took a crew of three most of two days to apply three coats of seal. The seal added depth to the tan color of the concrete. The first coat was thinned with Xylene to remove any remaining moisture in the concrete. The second coat could be applied within 30 minutes, because the first coat dried so quickly. The third coat was applied more heavily and we were advised not to walk on it for 24 hours. We were allowed to put the lawn furniture back on the patio after 48 hours and to drive the cars into the garage after 72 hours.

First, Ted needed to wash the cars. Both were filthy and his water ran black. They are now touchable again. Note: The newly installed drain worked. There was no car-washing puddle in the driveway. Here’s a before and after photo of the old and the new concrete in the driveway.

And here’s a before-and-after look at the concrete on the patio–from terra cotta rectangles to tan flagstones. Rick (the concrete company owner) stained the edges of the hot tub pad to make them look nicer with the new concrete. You can’t see it in the photo below, but it’s dark brown and provides a decorative contrast to the new tan concrete.

With the fascia, shutters, and windows all updated on the exterior of the house last year and with the new concrete this year, Ted and I decided we needed a new mailbox to complete the fresh look of the house. We wanted a brown mailbox mounted on a stained cedar post with gold-toned house numbers. Apparently, most other people want a black or white plastic mailbox and post with black or silver house numbers. We did a lot of shopping. Mission accomplished. The new mailbox looks better than the old one.

The concrete truck, the digging, the release, and everything else that went with the job created an unbelievable mess. It was a huge relief when the power washing guys came and cleaned everything off so that we now have a touchable outdoor space that we can enjoy again. The old concrete needed to be replaced, the new concrete looks good, and Ted and I are so-o-o-o glad this project is finished. Halleluja!

Ted and I joined Sky’s family for his 18th birthday dinner. How do these little kids grow up so fast? Sky is at least 6’2″ tall and is beginning his law enforcement career classes during his senior year of high school. He’s so grown-up!

Sky’s girlfriend, Audriana, joined us, so we had a chance to meet her for the first time.

The highlight of the evening was probably the heritage gift Sky received from his dad. Dean passed on his original Star Wars collection of figures to his oldest son.

After a pizza dinner (yummy! who doesn’t like pizza?), there was the traditional birthday cake–chocolate cake with chocolate frosting–that Sky baked and frosted himself. He decided to put all the candles on a single large piece of cake. He said it was to reduce the spit factor (the more you spit on the cake when you blow, the less cake you have to share), but it might have been to make it easier to blow out all those candles. They made quite a glow.

Happy birthday to our fifth grandchild, who is now a legal adult, with all the rights and privileges thereof. Or whatever rights and privileges his parents allow him.

Ruth sent another batch of cartoons to keep me entertained. Sadly, it took me a few moments to “get” the first one. Ruth and I are both blondes, and we enjoy dumb blonde jokes–probably because neither of us is a dumb blonde. Thus, the last cartoon.

Ted and I still haven’t seen Ollie, our first great-grandchild, in person because of our aborted visit to Jeff and La’s house, but they sent pictures of the little guy. We love the pictures, but I couldn’t help looking at them and thinking, “It should have been me reading that book to him.” Next time, . . . .

Here’s Ollie, learning to play pool for his next visit to his Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

We left a book and a toy for Ollie, and were disappointed not to give our gifts to him in person, but his Grandma read the book to him for us. It’s called Never Touch a Dragon and he seems to be taking that advice seriously.

We’ve only met Kaitlyn on her wedding day and were looking forward to getting to know her better on this visit. That was disappointing, but it will happen another time, I’m sure.

Even though Ted and I were thrilled to spend lots of time with Hadley and Sefton on our visit to their house, there are always milestones that we miss because we live so far away from them. Shortly after our visit, Hadley reached the milestone of two months old and Sefton attended his first day of pre-school with his two favorite toys.

We can’t see our grandkids as often as we’d like to, but we love them all like crazy and are happy to share their lives in other ways–like these pictures.

Ted and I enjoyed our time with Thom and Katie’s family and we are grateful to have spent even a small amount of time with Jeff, La, and Kyra. After two years of not being together in person, our visits with both families were much too short, but we learned something for our next trip. The unplanned extra time we had with T & K’s family gave us the opportunity to feel that we were (temporarily) immersed in their lives. It was a treat to spend more time with Sefton and Hadley and to truly get to know them better–Sefton’s interests and personality and Hadley’s baby-ness and cuddling. Living so far from them, we never feel like we have enough in-person interaction to be a true part of their lives, and it was a good feeling to be with them a little longer than usual. When we plan our next trip, we’d like to spend more time with both families so that, when we leave, we feel like we’ve had a full meal, not only a snack.

Before driving to the airport, Ted and I each took another COVID test and were–again–definitely negative. The four days since our last test gave us some time to incubate the virus after our exposure to it, and we wanted to be sure that we tested negative before leaving T & K’s family–especially the two young unvaccinated children. Just before leaving for the airport, Thom (reflected in the window) wanted to take one more picture of Sefton and Hadley with Grandma and Grandpa.

After unloading our luggage at the airport curb, we had one more hug and one more kiss for everyone and then had to get in line to board our plane at Wenatchee’s single gate. The line wasn’t long. Ted and I felt sad about leaving, and we vowed to return ASAP. Let’s all work together to beat this COVID thing so we can travel freely again!

Once again, our 20-minute return flight from Wenatchee to Seattle on a propeller plane provided some nice lower altitude views. This photo of wildfire smoke in the Cascades looks like ocean swells.

We couldn’t see flames, but this is obviously the origin point of a wildfire.

A thunderstorm developed to the south of us. Hopefully, it rained on some of the wildfires.

Katie mentioned to me that the June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest melted the snowpack off Mt. Rainier. I later looked this up online and learned that Paradise, at 5,400 feet above sea level on Mt. Rainier, lost a record 110 inches of snow in 21 days in June. The snowpack insulated the glaciers so, without it, the glaciers are receding as well. When we’ve seen Mt. Rainier in the past, it’s always been snow-covered. The photo below shows large bare areas due to the absence of snow cover this summer. This is a view of the north side of Rainier; the south side has even less snow/glacier cover.

Ted and I had a three-hour layover in Seattle. We left the gate area to have dinner nearby about 90 minutes before our departure time, then returned to the gate and learned there had been a gate change while we were eating. We had to hustle to catch a train to a different terminal, then hurry to the new gate. We had an uneventful flight home, missing our boys’ families already and wondering how soon we can visit them again. The best of times are those you wish didn’t have to end. This was one of the those times for us.