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.

Thom and Katie weren’t expecting us to spend this much time with them, so Ted and I said that we appreciated their hospitality, but didn’t expect them to disregard their regular activities to entertain us. They insisted, however, that they’d enjoy showing us a trail they like in the Leavenworth area. Before driving to the trailhead, we spent our usual relaxing morning together. This time, however, we had a bit of excitement. Katie put Hadley down on the floor and Hadley raised herself up on her arms. When we arrived a week ago, her head was still a little wobbly, but it was pretty steady today. It was exciting to me to have spent enough time with her to see a change in her development while I was still visiting. I think she was showing off for Grandma.

After lunch, we headed for the trail. After walking only a short distance from the car, we had a beautiful view of the Wenatchee River and the Cascades.

When we walked down to the river, Sefton wanted to play in the water, so Katie stayed with him.

Thom, Hadley (with Thom, in her Baby Bjorn), Ted, and I walked all the way to the orchard at the end of the trail. Hadley didn’t really walk–she came along for the ride and a nap.

It was a hot day that brought a lot of floaters to the river to cool off as they drifted downstream.

I saw an oddly formed tree. It looks like it experienced some stress in its early life.

This group found a sandbar and set up their lawn chairs.

When the four of us re-joined Katie and Sefton, Ted took a picture of us cooling our feet in the water.

For dinner, T & K suggested that we go to Fire, an Italian restaurant they like at Pybus Market. The food was delicious and so were the desserts. Ted ordered a banana split, and definitely got his money’s worth.

We enjoyed this extra day with T & K’s family. Sadly, we are scheduled to return to Missouri tomorrow.

First thing that went right: The closest drugstore to our hotel in Spokane was less than a half-mile away and had lots of COVID tests. Ted and I bought testing kits and returned to the hotel to do the procedure. Second thing that went right: The test results showed that we were both definitely negative. Hurray! We can go back to Thom and Katie’s house. Our morning activities–purchasing the tests, returning to the hotel, performing the tests, and then leaving the hotel (again)–put us close to lunch time, so we decided to eat in the Spokane area and then get back on I-90. It was Sunday morning, so the restaurants were filled with after-church crowds but it didn’t take too long to get a table. After lunch, we had a smooth ride back to Wenatchee.

When we arrived in Wenatchee, we drove up T & K’s driveway, entered the front door security code, and hauled our suitcases inside. Third thing that went right: None of the neighbors called the police when two strangers with luggage entered T & K’s house.

It was a little weird to be in someone else’s home when they weren’t there but, at the same time, we felt at home since we’d already spent several days at the house with T & K and family. For dinner, we chose to go to McGlinn’s, where T & K had their wedding dinner. Just like the wedding meal, the food was good. Afterward, we settled in at “home” and relaxed with a Netflix movie.

In the morning, Ted brewed some coffee (regular, not T & K’s fancy machine coffee) and I fixed a cup of hot chocolate from a Swiss Miss packet I picked up at the hotel. (It wasn’t as good as Thom’s fancy machine chocolate.) Then we sat on the front porch–one of my favorite places in the house–and relaxed, enjoying the beautiful weather.

After lunch, we took a little drive to refill Thom’s gas tank and Ted washed the car. We snacked on the dessert we ordered as take-out at McGlinn’s last night, and waited for the beach crowd to return. When they did, they brought Papa Murphy’s pizza with them and we had a nice dinner with little effort. It was good to see the family again, and to have a quiet, relaxing day.

After a good night’s sleep in our luxury guest house suite, Ted and I headed for the main house to say good morning to Jeff, La, and Kyra. Jeff wasn’t there when we arrived, but he soon returned from his errand. Third thing to go wrong: He had driven to Kalispell to purchase a COVID test. He took the test immediately and tested (in his words) “definitely positive.” What were we to do?? It’s not a good idea to continue our visit in the presence of an active COVID case, nor would it be fun for Jeff to quarantine and miss our time together. Do we have to leave only a few hours after our arrival when we’ve been (a) waiting two years to see Jeff’s family, including (b) spending time with Alex and Kyra, (c) getting to know Kaitlyn whom we’ve only met once–at the wedding–two years ago, and (d) meeting Ollie, our first great-grandchild? Where will we go? Shall we change our airline tickets and go home? Shall we spend our allotted time with Jeff’s family on a mini-vacation in the area before returning Thom and Katie’s car? Shall we go back to Thom and Katie’s house?

I called Thom to tell him about the situation. Did he want us to return his car and spend a night at his house with his two unvaccinated young children before we flew home from Wenatchee? Shall we park his car in the driveway and take a cab to a Wenatchee hotel? He immediately said it would be fine for Ted and me to go back to his house even though he and his family would not return from the beach for two more days. His only request was that we each take a COVID test to make sure we are negative before entering their house. No problem; we’ll certainly do that. It would be an eight-hour drive back to Wenatchee, so Ted and I decided to go only as far as Spokane today. Ted googled “hotels in Spokane near I-90” and called one. No vacancy. He called the next one and reserved a room. That’s done. Then we all ate lunch and Jeff went to his bedroom to lie down. He did not look his best, and he said he was very tired. Ted and I went back to the guest house to re-pack our luggage.

Because we were only going as far as Spokane today, La and Kyra invited us to stay a little longer and at least go to the shore of Flathead Lake while we were there. Ted and I really hated to leave, so we agreed to the idea and the four of us climbed into Jeff’s new Tesla, leaving Jeff to rest at the house. We drove to the beach where they launch their jet skis on the lake. Ted and I were hoping to take our first ride on jet skis during our visit here, but we settled for getting our feet into the water. It looks like we should take another step or two forward, but the waves were hitting us up to our knees in this spot.

Kyra went out on the dock. It’s a floating dock, so she bobbed up and down as the waves washed against and beneath the dock.

I test-drove the Tesla on the way back to the house and it was fun, fun, fun. The Tesla has two obvious differences from any other car I’ve driven. (1) If you take your foot off the accelerator, the brakes engage. La said you get to know when to lift your foot so that you never have to use the brake. She added that Tesla recommends you use the brakes at least once per month, just to keep them in working order. (2) If you press the accelerator a bit harder than gently, the car takes off with some kind of low-level G-force. That was so exciting, I tried it three times where the road was straight and no other cars were visible. After that, I reined in my thrill-seeking impulses. La said the rapid acceleration is a nice feature when you want to pass another car within a short distance.

After the trip to the lake, the only thing left to do was put our luggage back into the car and say good-bye less than twenty-four hours after we’d arrived. At least we saw part of the family briefly. We took a farewell picture and then, sadly, got into the car. It felt awful to drive away. The photo should be showing Flathead Lake on the right between the house and the tree, but the lake is obscured by the wildfire smoke.

Kalispell was out of our way back to Wenatchee, so Ted and I decided to stop in Coeur d’Alene to buy COVID tests. Wildfire smoke was again visible on our drive.

Fourth thing to go wrong: We tried four drugstores in Coeur d’Alene, but every one was sold out of COVID tests. It was getting late, so we went to Google Maps to get directions to our hotel.

Fifth thing to go wrong: The directions didn’t make sense, and didn’t give an I-90 exit number, so Ted called the hotel for clarification. The desk clerk told him the hotel was near the Oregon border. That’s not the kind of clarification we were expecting. Is that what you get when you search “Spokane near I-90”? I-90 isn’t even close to Oregon! The desk clerk cheerfully cancelled our reservation for tonight and gave Ted the name of a Best Western hotel in Spokane near I-90 that had a vacancy.

Sixth thing to go wrong: Ted called to make a reservation and asked about restaurants nearby. Our ETA at the hotel was about 8:30 p.m. and the desk clerk said there were a few restaurants nearby, but most would be closed by 9:00 p.m. We decided to eat in Coeur d’Alene. The fourth drug store we tried was at the last Coeur d’Alene exit on the western side of the town. We didn’t want to turn back to find a restaurant in the city, and the only restaurant at this exit was McDonalds. We turned off the highway, headed for Mickey D’s, and discovered they were serving drive-thru only. We ate this meal in the car. During our travels over the years, Ted and I have always said that we’ve never gone hungry. That was true again.

We drove the rest of the way to Spokane without incident. After checking in, I searched online for nearby drugstores and wrote down their addresses and phone numbers so we could start our search for a COVID test as soon as we got up in the morning. Then we showered and went to bed. This is not going to be remembered as the best day of our trip.

Today, it was time to leave Thom’s family and take an eight-hour drive to visit with Jeff and La. Ted’s and my original plan was to fly to Wenatchee, rent a car to drive from Wenatchee to Bigfork, spend several days with Jeff and La and their family, then fly home from Kalispell. Unfortunately, the effects of the COVID pandemic are not yet a thing of the past and we couldn’t get a rental car. Only four car rental agencies have offices in both Wenatchee and Kalispell. Three of them had no cars available; the fourth had cars, but would not provide a one-way rental. Thom generously offered us the use of one of their cars to drive back and forth from Jeff’s house, as well as an extra night with his family before flying home out of Wenatchee. Thank you, Thom and Katie. We accepted their offer. After hugs and kisses to all and one last photo of me with my second granddaughter (look at that grin!), Ted and I headed for I-90 east.

This has been a great trip and visit so far, but we had some glitches today. First thing to go wrong: Thom and Katie have visited Jeff and La several times over the past two years, and suggested that we stop at a Fred Meyer along I-90 in Spokane where we could fill the gas tank and eat at the deli. We found the Fred Meyer, but the COVID economy reared its head at the deli where there was nothing smaller than full loaves of bread and full-size cakes for sale. We asked about deli service and were told they no longer have enough workers to staff a deli, so the deli is closed indefinitely. Naturally, we turned to Google for a solution. Because the closest restaurant was a McDonald’s, we had a burger lunch and got back on the highway. Due to the many wildfires in this area, the air was pretty hazy with smoke, but it was still a beautiful drive through western Washington, the Idaho panhandle, and northwestern Montana.

Second thing(s) to go wrong: We had several delays for unexpected reasons (including finding an alternate place to have lunch) and, as a result, arrived at Jeff and La’s house later than we’d planned. We were texting back and forth and told them to go ahead and have dinner, but they insisted on waiting for us. They moved to this area almost two years ago, and Ted and I have been looking forward to seeing their new house. A zigzag driveway took us one-half mile up a mountainside to reach the house, and Jeff was waiting outside when we arrived at the end of the driveway. He escorted us to our quarters in the guest house to drop off our luggage, and then we joined La and Kyra in the main house. Kyra arranged a vacation from work to be home during our visit. It was so good to see all of them again. Two years is far too long between family visits. After chatting a bit, the pizza was ready to go into the oven. Yummy! Who doesn’t love pizza? It’s one of the things Ted and I have seen–spelled in English–in every one of the 25 foreign countries we’ve visited.

After dinner, there was a detailed tour of the main house and the guest house, and that took a long time because both houses are huge. The guest house has access to the main house via a courtyard and/or a covered passage. Our suite had a huge bedroom and bathroom with all the amenities: two large, lighted closets, a fireplace, and a huge bathroom with a gigantic bathtub set beside a large arched window with a view of the national forest just a few feet away. In addition, the guest house has a large party room with a pool table, a foosball table, and an alcove for watching movies on an 80-inch projection screen. But wait! I’m not finished. There is also another double bathroom (two of everything) and a full kitchen. It was like unpacking to stay at a high-end resort. Ted and I settled in very comfortably. The architecture throughout the two houses in stunning, including lots of bathrooms, forty-foot ceilings in some places, huge rooms, and lots of open space. Here’s a photo I took near the front entrance of the main house. The front door is on the left.

The guest house has a circular tower complete with a cone-shaped roof and (naturally) a circular stairway. Sefton wasn’t here to tell us to hold the pole when we go up and down, nor was there a pole, so we used the handrail.

After the house tour, we settled in for a visit and then we all headed for our bedrooms in various parts of the houses. Alex and Kaitlyn are expected to arrive tomorrow with Ollie, our first great-grandchild. We can’t wait!

Today, Thom and Katie took us to Ohme Gardens, an alpine-style state park in Wenatchee. Here’s how the website description of the park begins.

In 1929, Herman Ohme purchased 40 acres of land for an orchard. Among that acreage was a craggy, dry, desolate, rock-strewn bluff with a breathtaking view of the snow-capped Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River valley.

Herman and his new bride, Ruth, loved to stand on that bluff and dream of flourishing alpine meadows, shimmering pools and shady evergreen pathways where the hot, relentless summer sun allowed only sage and scrub desert growth. They set their minds on achieving that dream.

www.ohmegardens.org

The alpine garden was intended to be a family retreat, but the interest of friends and community members prompted the Ohmes to open the park to the public. It was later sold to Washington State Parks to be preserved for future generations. We had a pleasant afternoon, walking through the gardens and enjoying Ruth and Herman’s dream.

We walked up and down pretty hillsides and beside peaceful pools.

On one hillside, there was a watchtower that Sefton liked. It was open on all four sides. This side of the watchtower provides a view of Wenatchee, the mountains, and the Columbia River valley. We could see the rock outcropping that lies just above Thom and Katie’s house, but it’s too far to the right to be visible in this photo.

All of us except Hadley spent a few minutes looking at this pool. Hadley didn’t see much of the park because she was sleeping. Being adorable all the time tires a girl out.

Throughout the gardens, there were hidden gnomes and fairies. A map of the gardens indicated the areas in which gnomes and fairies could be found and if a visitor (Sefton, for example) could find all of them, that visitor could check them off on his map, turn the map in to the attendant at the gift shop, and get a sticker. Sefton found all the gnomes and fairies and earned his sticker.

After we returned to the house, it was Hadley’s and my turn to watch a GBC (Great Ball Contraption) Lego video with Sefton. Hadley was tired again from being adorable, so she didn’t see much of the show. You can tell she’s asleep because she has her nose buried against my chest. As long as I could hear her breathing, I knew everything was good.

After watching the YouTube GBC Lego videos, Sefton had to show me the GBC he built. His GBC didn’t have moving parts (he gets a break here–he’s only four), so he held one of his GBC balls in his hand and took it over the contraption’s course as he explained to me what was happening at each point along the route. Notice all the Lego he has in the drawer under his bed.

Meanwhile, pursuing a different kind of intellectual activity, Ted and Thom went out to the back yard and finished installing an RHC (Ring and Hook Contraption) that provides a way to pass the time as well as a challenge. The ring is attached to a cord connected to the post. You pull the ring back, let it go, and hope it catches on the hook. I tried it a few times and knew immediately that we’d be waiting a lo-o-ong time for me to get the ring on the hook, so I went back to holding Hadley.

For dinner, Thom cooked wood-fired pizza in their portable wood-fired pizza oven. Because it’s portable, the family can take it along when they travel in their Sprinter van. The oven reaches approximately 750 degrees and a pizza can be cooked in about two minutes. Unfortunately, Thom was reaching for something and bumped the back of his elbow on the oven chimney. The result was a pretty bad burn. You can see the bandage on his arm. Aside from that, you can’t go wrong with pizza for dinner–especially wood-fired pizza.

We’re having such a good time with our family, we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

We had another relaxing morning with Thom’s family. Hadley wanted to be with me while I read my book.

Sefton likes spending time with his baby sister, and it looks like the feeling is mutual.

For lunch, we prepared some picnic food and packed the food, a blanket, and the family into the car for the drive to Lincoln Rock State Park, just north of East Wenatchee. Julian opted to bike the 12 miles to the park. He beat us, and we found him and his bike waiting for us when we arrived at the park. Lincoln Park is named for a rock formation in the park and includes a lake created by the Rocky Reach Dam on the Columbia River. (Look for Lincoln in the rock.)

Thom, Katie, and the kids all went into the water, but Hadley was too little and too tired. Somebody had to skip the water fun to babysit her. so Ted and I volunteered for the (not) hardship duty. She’s really good at napping.

Our picnic site overlooked the lake, so Ted and I could watch Hadley on the blanket and the rest of the family in the water. Here are Thom and Julian having a ring race, paddling as fast as they can.

After swimming, it was time to let the swimsuits dry a little bit while playing bocce ball. I’m not very good at sports (except swimming), so Hadley offered to stay with me and watch the action.

Julian recently hurt his knee when he landed the wrong way on a trampoline. Ted and I were excited that he could be at Thom and Katie’s house during our visit, but he needs to go home tomorrow morning for a physical therapy appointment. After dinner, while Julian was still with us, we took some family pictures. Here are Thom and Katie’s family, and Ted and me with our grandchildren.

This is such a great visit!

What a relief! Thom and Katie are not morning people. There was time for me to do some reading in the sunlight, to drink the hot chocolate Thom always prepares for me in his professional-style beverage machine, and to join him, Katie, and Ted with their coffee on the patio. Of course, Sefton had many things to tell us, and Hadley wanted to be held by Grandma and Grandpa. (Well, ok, if we must.) Sefton found Julian’s skateboard and wanted a ride on it. His big brother made it happen.

There was some sibling time too, when the big brothers kept their little sister happy in her swing.

Sefton is very good about sharing–except for one thing. Katie told me that if they give Hadley the bird toy we bought as a baby gift for Sefton, he always takes it back. He was very generous sharing his “m&m&ms” with everyone, but not the bird.

In the afternoon, we all went to Pybus Market and checked out the shops. Julian was hungry, so he ordered food. Ted and I stopped at a cheese store to look at their cheese knives. We found one we liked and we’re hoping it will cut Ted’s daily serving of cheese to perfection. Sefton knew where the gelato store was and it seemed appropriate for all of us to have some gelato. What a great idea, Sefton!

After walking the length of the Market, we continued on to the adjoining Riverside Park, set along the Columbia River. The park has some unusual sculptures. The sphere is called “Pre-Mathematics” and the foot is called (duh!) “Ped.”

The park has a miniature train than runs all the way around it. There’s even a Wenatchee station house and an actual caboose parked at one end of the track. The train only runs on weekends and this was a weekday, so Sefton had fun running twice around the train track. He especially enjoyed running across the bridges. It’s no fun to run alone, so he needed Grandma to follow him all the way. (Surprise!–I didn’t run.)

It’s part of a big brother’s job to lift his little brother onto a high railing. Julian is still the one who can always make Sefton giggle.

After we returned to the house, Julian left to take a bike ride and Sefton invited Grandpa to watch GBC with him. Ted and I quickly learned about GBC–the Great Ball Contraption–and Ted settled in to watch a fascinating hour of GBC videos with Sefton.

Each “contraption” has an entry point for GBC balls followed by an intricate system of self-operated moving parts to move the balls through the contraption. In competition and conventions, individual contraptions are connected and the balls travel through all of them in a continuous circuit. Go to YouTube and search “GBC Lego” to find the videos. I bet you’ll be fascinated by them.

Meanwhile, I was busy bonding with Hadley. Ted and I have been waiting 23 years and seven grandsons for a second granddaughter, and I made the most of my time with her.

To end the day, Thom made a delicious dinner featuring biscuits and fried chicken. It was another good day with our family.

For the first time in 549 days (but who’s counting?), Ted and I took an overnight trip. We haven’t seen our sons’ families since our 50th wedding anniversary celebration 754 days ago. During that time, both boys moved to new houses in new locations, Sefton aged from two to four years old (a huge developmental change), and we gained a baby granddaughter and a great-grandson. Of course, we kept in touch with emails and texts, as well as phone and video calls, but it’s not the same as being together. With a lull in the COVID pandemic, we decided it’s time to venture a little farther into the world to visit our distant family members.

Our flight was early–8:00 a.m.–so we ordered a cab for 6:00 a.m. There’s nothing like an early start to the day. (Not!) We had a scheduled two-hour layover for our connecting flight to Wenatchee, but it turned out to be a 30-minute layover, so lunch became the crackers, cheese, and apples we had packed for a snack. While we were waiting to board our–wait for it!–propeller plane, we sat beside a man whose luggage tags indicated he was going to FAT. I asked him which airport that was and he said “Fresno.” Since Ted and I were tagged to arrive in EAT (Wenatchee), the man and I decided the two airports were a good pair: EAT FAT.

Except for tour flights over the Grand Canyon and Denali, I don’t think I’ve ever flown on a propeller plane. It was another new travel adventure for me. Here’s our plane as we saw it while waiting for our baggage. The plane was so small that carry-on suitcases didn’t fit in the overhead bins. We dropped them off on a cart beside the stairs to the cabin and picked them up at the airport door after our 20-minute–yes, 20-minute–flight. You can see the bags coming down the ramp at the rear of the plane.

Little planes fly lower than big ones, and that made the mountains much prettier to look at. We had good views of the North Cascades and of the wildfire smoke.

In the photo below, you can see a strip of blue sky between the smoke (below) and the clouds (above).

As we neared Wenatchee, we could see harvested fields and irrigated apple orchards. Wenatchee promotes itself as “The Apple Capital of the World” and there are a lot of orchards in the area.

I noticed a weird phenomenon while I was taking pictures through the airplane window. This is how the fast-moving propeller looks in a photo. Julian told me later that this effect is due to the direction in which a cell phone camera scans the scene in the 1/24,000 of a second it takes the photo. It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?

Although there’s a sign at the Wenatchee airport indicating the direction to “All Gates,” there is only one gate, so it was easy to find our way out to the curb where Thom picked us up and informed us that, thanks to the burning wildfires, “You’ve arrived at the worst air quality in the country.” The best part of the day came when we arrived at Thom and Katie’s house: seeing Sefton and Julian again and meeting Hadley for the first time. When we brought Jeff to meet our parents, Ted’s sister reached for him, but his mother charged ahead of her and said, “Oh, no–Grandmas first!” and took Jeff from me. I think that’s a good rule, so Grandma got to hold the baby first. Grandpa greeted Sefton and we both greeted Julian, who is spending a few days with the family while we’re here. It’s so nice to see the entire family in person again!

If Hadley falls asleep in your arms (is there anything sweeter than holding a sleeping baby?), she likes to turn her face into your chest. I could hear her breathing, so I knew she wasn’t suffocating, but still, . . .

Meanwhile, Sefton, who is very interested in clocks, showed Grandpa the clock he made.

And then it was time to play “hide Grandpa.” Sefton had lots of things to tell us–two years’ worth–and every sentence seemed to begin with “Grandpa and Grandpa, look at this.” I tried to teach him that I’m Grandma and the other person is Grandpa, but most of the time, we were Grandpa and Grandpa. He’s four. It’s fine.

After greeting everyone and holding Hadley, the next item on the agenda was a tour of the new house. There’s a circular staircase to the basement, and Sefton made sure to tell us that “You have to hold the pole when you go up and down,” so we did.

After a dinner of Katie’s Special Recipe mac and cheese, we took a family walk along a canal near the house. It felt good to stretch our legs after sitting on planes and in airports most of the day. Spending time with the family in person after more than two years apart made this a great first day of our trip.

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

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

EPSON MFP image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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