Lots of people are asking me about the trainings I was asked to do in India.  It’s been frustrating for me because, since the scheduled February departure date was cancelled, I’ve had no idea what comes next.

Today, I went to Dr. P.’s office to drop off invoices for reimbursement for John (my co-trainer) and me for expenses we’ve incurred (visas, inoculations, etc.).  Dr. P. and I had a chance to speak for a few minutes, which I appreciated.  He became ill on a visit to India in October 2016 and has never fully recovered from that episode.  He told me he recently returned from Chicago, where he was receiving some medical treatments, and that he is not yet completely well.

I asked Dr. P. if he is still interested in having John and me provide trainings for his teachers and he said yes, he is, but he cannot set a date at this time.  Since John and I both have some summer commitments, we previously agreed that we will not be available to go to India before September.  Dr. P. is amenable to this and said he will call me when he is ready to proceed.

I want to follow through with the trainings, and I hope I will hear from Dr. P. in a few months.  If this doesn’t happen, I’m sure I will find another way to help others through education.  And I can still visit India.  After all, I already have a visa and the necessary medical protection.

My new sewing machine is too large to fit in the cabinet that came with the 53-year-old sewing machine I replaced in December.  I don’t like working with the new machine on a table because the sewing machine surface is about 2.5 inches higher than the table surface.  I know.  People everywhere do this every day, but I don’t want to if I don’t have to.  I also like the convenience of my sewing supply drawers in the cabinet.

I shopped online and in stores for a new sewing cabinet, but didn’t like anything I saw.  Most of the so-called “sewing tables” simply had an opening in the surface with a sunken platform on which to set the sewing machine.  I couldn’t even find a decent “sewing cabinet.”  What I saw, however, gave me ideas for converting my old cabinet.

I measured my new sewing machine and my old cabinet and decided that there was just enough space to enlarge the surface opening to fit my new machine.  Then I could install a sunken platform, set my new machine on it, and sew with a flat table surface, my large leaf for the fabric, and my supply drawers.  I’m handy with tools, but I don’t pretend to be a finish carpenter.  Luckily, my network includes a cabinet maker, so I invited him to take a look at my idea.  He said it could be done and voilá!  Problem solved.

Here’s my old sewing machine as it fit in the cabinet top.  It could be dropped below the cabinet surface for storage.

To fit the new machine, my friend had to cut the opening wider on the left and on the right, and shorten the hinged piece at the front.  The width of the opening is now equal to the distance between the two upright side panels of the cabinet.  Whew!  It fit!  The machine is sitting on a platform, just as I planned.

Cutting the opening wider on the left eliminated the space used by the mechanism for the retractable arm that supported the leaf.  To compensate for this, my friend added a hinged support that folds flat when the leaf is closed.

I can’t drop the new sewing machine down into the cabinet for storage like I did the old one, but that’s a small inconvenience compared to the ease of working with all this level surface and having my nice, large supply drawers within easy reach.  The solid maple cabinet lives on after more than a half-century of use:  two sewing machines for its original owner and now, many years later, a new sewing machine for me.  Sew on!

I brought cookies to school today to celebrate my birthday with the kids I help on my weekly volunteer day.  They are all teenagers, so of course they’re always hungry.  Even so, they were very appreciative and repeatedly complimented me.  The most frequent remarks were, “Thank you,” “Did you make these?” and “Did you work as a baker?”

It was fun to bake a variety of cookies like I used to do before our kids left home.  While the kids were growing up, I baked about three batches of cookies every two weeks; now I make a half batch and it still lasts too long for Ted and me.  I split these 14 dozen cookies three ways:  some for school, some for Kari’s family, and some for Ted and me.  At least for a few days, while Ted and I eat our share of the cookies, we can enjoy the variety of flavors like in the old days.

Left to right:  carmel-filled bars with mini chocolate chips; brownies with raisins and nuts, topped with melted marshmallows and fudge frosting; TV squares (no reason for that name) with mini chocolate chips in a meringue topping.

The only thing I brought home was an empty (reusable) box.  I think the cookies were a hit.

There were a few things along the way on Ted’s and my Spring Break Road Trip that I found interesting, amusing, or at least worth a picture.

The Biltmore gift shop offered wall hangings with bits of wisdom.  Here are two of them.

. . . and we’re proud of it!

Never underestimate the power of new shoes.

The Cummer Museum in Jacksonville also offered gift shop-based advice.

Yes!  Groove like the King!  Forever!

On our way home, we stopped at a rest stop and couldn’t help overhearing a lady on her cell phone.  She was standing in the parking lot and giving an update to her listener.  “I’m not sure where I am.  I think I’m in Missouri.”  (She was.)  If she’d been in Mississippi, she would have had no doubt.  All the restrooms at the rest stops provide location information.

In case you’re wondering which state provided the bathroom you’re using.

The Blue Angels are garrisoned at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.  When we pulled into a rest stop near Pensacola, we saw this in the parking lot.

Go, Navy!

The goal of the Spring Break Road Trip was to find warmer weather.  That didn’t happen until we got to Jupiter, FL.  Temperatures were in the mid- and upper 70s in Jupiter and in the Keys, but we finally hit the 80s in the Florida panhandle.

We had to travel 2,687.4 miles to get above 80 degrees.  The thermometer actually got up to 90, but I was zipping along on the interstate and it dropped before we reached a stopping point.

Now that we’re back in Missouri, it’s time for spring.  Twenty-eight days until we open the pool.

New Orleans was the last stop on Ted’s and my Spring Break Road Trip.  It’s been many years (1996?) since we’ve been to New Orleans and we were hungry for beignets.  We arrived in the city in the late afternoon and spent the evening walking around, enjoying the sights.  Yes, it was warm.

Our hotel was in the French Quarter and had a pretty courtyard.

The line to hear the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was a block long.  The sign above the door says “Preservation Hall,” in case you’re wondering.

It didn’t take long to find the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.  They were jivin’ in the street prior to their performance time in Preservation Hall.  (Drumming up business?)

The trombone player with the white hat is a PHJB member doing some impromptu jamming with the band in one of the bars on Bourbon Street.

It’s fun to walk up and down the streets of the French Quarter, listening to the live music coming out of so many open doorways.  We enjoyed that for awhile, but then got down to business:  beignets.  We’ve had beignets at Café du Monde on previous visits to New Orleans, but I don’t remember the Café being open 24 hours a day on our other trips.  Well, there’s such a demand for beignets that they are now available all day and all night.

This is the place–the home of the world-famous New Orleans beignets.  The open-sided outdoor seating was beautiful on this warm evening.

Two orders of beignets, please.  P.S. Don’t inhale before taking a bite.  The thick powdered sugar is a choking hazard.

Before heading back to the hotel and packing up for the drive home tomorrow, we went to the top of the levee and watched the Mississippi River flow by, then admired the night beauty of New Orleans.

It seems wrong that the river is higher than the city.  One year, we watched the Fourth of July fireworks from this levee.

The St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square was a beautiful evening sight.

In spite of the cold start we had, it was a wonderful Spring Break Road Trip.  The good times and the good memories are abundant, and a destination birthday was certainly a great way to celebrate.

With the Spring Break Road Trip on our agenda, I suggested to Ted that for this “special” birthday of mine, we make it a destination birthday and celebrate it on Key West.  I didn’t even have to twist his arm to get him to say “yes.”

Of course, we traveled on the Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) because it’s the only road connecting the Florida Keys to each other and to the Florida mainland.  The highway is 113 miles long with 42 bridges, and it’s scenic all the way.  It’s also slow all the way–think mostly less than 45 mph with moderate to heavy traffic on a two-lane highway and essentially no opportunities to pass a slower vehicle.  You have to switch to “island time” and just enjoy the ride and the scenery.  Add a major accident with a 45-minute delay, and we arrived hungry for dinner in Key West.  It was warm, and the tourists–including us–were out in full force.  There was lots of music and lots of action on Duval Street–the main drag.  The street is 1.25 miles long and extends across Key West from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

We picked a restaurant called the Gas Monkey–whatever that means.  The food was good and it was warm enough to eat outside.  What more could we wish for?

It’s Key West.  Key lime pie is mandated, isn’t it?  I don’t usually like Key lime pie very much, but the real thing was delicious.

This is the second-most photographed spot in Key West.  The line to take a picture was a block long in the afternoon so we came back after dark.  Then we were third in line.

We took a conch (cahnk) train tour of the city and learned a lot of interesting things about the history and architecture of Key West.

Some of the high points regarding Key West’s architecture include:  houses are built with higher ceilings on the first floor than on the second to allow the warm air to rise higher; since the 1923 fire leveled the city, all buildings are required to have tin roofs; porch ceilings are painted blue to keep the wasps from landing on them–the wasps think the blue is the sky; “zigzag roofs” are designed to create channels to drain rainwater for collection.  There is no fresh water in the Keys; it is piped in from Miami.  Our hotel had a 50,000 gallon cistern to store rainwater.

A few highlights of Key West’s history include:  (1) The Overseas Railroad was completed in 1912 and destroyed by the Category 5 Labor Day hurricane of 1935.  The rail bed was later used as the foundation for the Overseas Highway; (2) A fire leveled the city in 1923 and burned so hot that people had to go into the water to survive the heat; (3) The Depression hit Key West so hard that 90 percent of the population was unemployed and people were put to work under some of FDR’s programs to rebuild the city.  The city was then destroyed in the 1935 hurricane and rebuilt again (no government funding this time), after which it became a tourist destination; (4) In 1982, Key West, aka the Conch Republic, declared a faux war on the United States.  This is an interesting and amusing story.

And that’s enough history.  Let’s get back to being a tourist.  It was my birthday, so we went to the starting point.  This is the most photographed spot on the island and the “Mile 0” sign is the most stolen sign in the city.  The mayor got tired of replacing it, so he added a video camera and promised that, if you steal the sign, you can “arrive for vacation and leave on probation.”

I’m going to start over counting birthdays.  This one can be “zero” and then I’ll take the advice on the sign: “Begin 1.”  (We did not steal the sign.)

Walking around the city, we saw Rick’s Bar (Casablanca), Sloppy Joe’s Bar (Hemingway’s hangout), Hemingway’s home, and Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet).  We also saw an interesting sign on a driveway gate.

I think the message is clear, don’t you?

In Key West, they “celebrate the sunset” and it’s a big deal.  People start to gather an hour or more before sunset, so we joined them on Sunset Pier.

As sunset got closer, there were hundreds of people sitting, standing, eating, and/or drinking from one end of the pier to the other.

Key West = margaritas on Sunset Pier.

Live music kept us entertained while we watched the sun drop lower and lower in the sky.

Lots of boats gathered on the water to watch the sunset.

And then the sun went below the horizon.

After sunset, Ted and I had a delicious dinner followed by even better Key lime pie than last night’s.  It was a beautiful day and evening for a birthday celebration.  This one will be unforgettable and hard to beat.

After the Cardinals game, we drove to Key Largo.  I wish we’d have planned another day here.  It was warm and there were more things to do and more ways to relax at the resort than we’d known about.  Now we have an idea for a future spring break trip.

The weather was so nice, we spent the evening getting to know the resort and spending some time relaxing outside.  Then we found other things to do around the resort in the morning.

There was live music so we found a seat, ordered margaritas, and put ourselves into “island mode.”

I even got my margarita free.  Hahahahaha!

The conch (cahnk) shell is an icon of the Keys.

The resort pool was pretty in the sunshine, but more striking and romantic at night.

Island life at its best:  relaxing on a warm night in a hammock under the grass roof of a tiki hut beside the water.

Some of the resort property, complete with tiki huts.

Mmmmm!   Yet another way to relax while looking out at the water.

Where I would have spent a chunk of time if we’d stayed longer in Key Largo.  I wanted to swim out to the raft.

After lunch, it was time to board a glass-bottomed boat to seek out a coral reef in the Atlantic Ocean.

Here we go!

The water is beautiful green, turquoise, and blue.

Because of the type of water here, the coral is earth-toned in color.

We saw several sharks.

We returned through the “bowling alley”–an old, narrow, dredged channel marked by buoys.  It’s illegal to dredge in this area of water now because of the coral.

Mangrove roots are so dense that, over a hundred years, they collect enough sediment to form new islands.

We were in John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park.  There were a lot of people enjoying the park waters.

Two years ago, Ted and I went to a Cardinals Spring Training game in Jupiter, FL.  We enjoyed it so much, we bought tickets to do it again this year on our Spring Break Road Trip.  Just like last time, it was sunny with a temperature in the mid-70s–a great day to sit outside and watch baseball.  We were hoping some flying objects would leave the field, and they did–twice.  Unfortunately, both were hit by the Mets and the Cards lost the game, 5-4.  It’s Spring Training, so no big deal; just being at the game was fun for us.

One of the things I like best about Spring Training games is that the stadium is much smaller than Busch Stadium.  There are only about 4,000 seats and no more than 20 rows.  We were in the eighth row behind home plate looking directly down the first base line.  We could see all the players’ faces and could even hear them talking.  I believe this is referred to as an “intimate” setting.  Whatever.  It’s more fun and more personal than watching from hundreds of feet away.

Here we are in cardinal red, ready to have a good time.

It wouldn’t be a Cards game without a full stadium and a sea of red shirts and hats.

Jhonny Peralto got one of the Cards’ hits.

Greg Garcia also got a hit.  He was safe at first.

The Mets had a sidearm pitcher.  He reminded me of Randy Johnson back in the day.

Tim Tebow, a former NFL player, decided he’d like to try playing baseball.  The Mets are giving him a chance.  He wasn’t spectacular, but he got a hit.  His jersey has a number (97), but no name because he doesn’t have a contract with the Mets yet.  If they keep him, will he get a new shirt, or will the team seamstress just add his name to this one?

Here’s Tim.

I can’t believe what good timing I had on this picture.  You can see the pitcher after releasing the ball, Matt Carpenter showing the bunt, the catcher in position, the umpire focused on the ball, the first baseman running into the infield to play the bunt, and the ball just in front of the bat.

Carpenter was out, but he advanced the runner.

It was a good game and fun in the sun.  We’ll have to do this again.

It’s not my imagination that it’s been surprisingly cold on Ted’s and my Spring Break Road Trip.  On Wednesday night while we were there, Jacksonville tied a record low temperature of 28 degrees.  The record was set in 1871–146 years ago!  Today, however, the car thermometer hit 73 degrees on our way to Jupiter.  We walked around the area near our hotel without jackets and ate dinner outside without jackets.  After eight days of travel, we have reached Southern Spring at last!

Our hotel is handy to the stadium for tomorrow’s Cardinals/Mets spring training game.

The hotel is the green building on the left; the stadium is the red brick on the right.  Yes, we’ll have to walk all the way across the street.

We arrived early enough to walk around in the warm weather for awhile before dinner, so we checked out the stadium and the nearby restaurant/shopping area.  The Cardinals and the Marlins share this stadium for spring training.  We talked to a resident of Jupiter who told us that when the Marlins play in the stadium, parking is plentiful, but when the Cardinals play, parking is hard to find.  Dedicated Cardinals fans fill the 4,000-seat stadium.

Here’s the main gate to enter Roger Dean Stadium.

We’re hoping the Cardinals’ batters will send some flying objects out of the field during tomorrow’s game.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and the Marlins had a ball game, so there were lots of people in the area.  Many of them were in green St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts.  One street was obviously going to be the party street tonight.  There were games set up, sidewalk vendors, live bands, and lots of restaurants and bars.  There were also many policemen–I assume to handle the D&D’s that are likely this evening.  Families with younger children settled on blankets and in lawn chairs in the amphitheater area, leaving the party street to the party people.

The party street with St. Patrick’s Day revelers.  It was still early, but it was already very noisy and getting very crowded.

The family fun area, where the boisterous voices of green beer drinkers were replaced with the squeals of younger children.

When we decided it was time to eat, we selected a restaurant on a street filled with more “adult” diners than the party street restaurants and had some awesome bread, beef tips with fettucini, and peach melba for dessert.  Yum!

Our more sedate restaurant.  The empty table in the center was ours.

When we go to the game tomorrow, for the first time on our trip, we’re looking forward to wearing short-sleeved shirts and no jackets instead of long-sleeved shirts and fleece-lined jackets.  We’ve already unpacked the sunscreen.  Yes!!

We spent today in Jacksonville, FL (JAX) and we think/hope it was our last day of winter.  People in JAX have been telling us this is the coldest weather they’ve had all winter.  Well, thank you for sharing your cold weather with us!  We still needed warm clothing today, but it was sunny and pleasant outside–for late winter.  There’s another freeze warning out for tonight for JAX, but we are heading for Jupiter tomorrow and it better be warm!  Jupiter is just north of Miami, and that’s pretty far south for winter to visit.

We enjoyed our afternoon field trip to the Cummer Museum of Art and its gardens.  It’s rated as a gem by AAA, and we agreed.  We saw very nice artwork.

By the all-American sculptor, Remington, of course.  This piece is “Bronco.”

This is a picture of Mt. Washington in NH.  We were at the top of Mt. W. in October 1972.

This room displayed some of the modern art.  The photo at the left honors African Americans who struggled to achieve the right to serve in the military in WWII.  Notice the piles of old AM radios on the floor beneath that painting.

The portraits below were done by Andy Warhol.  They are:

Left to right, top row:  George Gershwin, Gertrude Stein, Franz Kafka, Louis Brandeis, and Golda Meir.  Left to right, bottom row:  Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sarah Bernhardt, Sigmund Freud, and the Marx Brothers.

No Campbell’s tomato soup can in sight.

The picture below is by Normal Rockwell.  I found the story behind it bittersweet.  The woman needs to go to the Mayo Clinic for some detailed tests, so she and her husband decide to treat the journey as a vacation.  They talk about it excitedly with their friends and finally make the trip.  The woman knows something is seriously wrong with her, but decides to spare her husband and keeps that knowledge to herself.  The husband finds out that his wife is seriously ill, and decides to keep that information to himself to spare her.  Shades of “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.

This should probably be titled “True love.”

After viewing the works in the gallery, we went out to the gardens.  The azaleas were in full bloom and the designs of the gardens were beautiful to see and relaxing to walk through and enjoy.

The English garden.  Spanish moss is growing in the tree on the left.  The tree hasn’t leafed out yet–it’s been too cold!

The Italian garden.

This is a huge live oak tree.

And this is the live oak from the inside.  Live oaks are monstrous, majestic Southern trees.  I wonder how old this one is.

Between the museum and the gardens, we saw a wall decorated with fish sculptures.

After the Cummer Museum, we went to see Fort Caroline.  The short story is:  The Fort was originally established by the French, who hoped to develop the entire eastern Florida coast as a mercantile enterprise.  The Spanish came and massacred the French.  The French (not the dead ones) got mad and came back to massacre the Spanish.  After that, the Fort was abandoned.  My opinion:  This is a perfect illustration of the waste of wars.

There is written history of the existence of the fort, but no artifacts have been found.  The National Park Service has re-created a fort to provide a feeling for what things might have been like, but there are no claims of authenticity for the recreation.  Our tax dollars at work.

The fort is actually (and historically) triangular.  Speaking of no authenticity, it doesn’t look like any fort we’ve ever seen before and I doubt if it would provide much protection from any enemies.

The (non-authentic) cannon was aimed at the gate, not at the river.  I guess it kept enemies from getting in by land.  No gunnery was pointed at the river on the other side of the fort.  Definitely not authentic.

The farther south we go, the colder the weather gets.  I don’t think that’s how it’s supposed to work.  Sure, it snowed in Nashville and Asheville, but the temperatures were in the 30s overnight and in the 40s during the day.  Not to mention that the latitude wasn’t too far south of St. Louis.  Hilton Head, on the other hand, is in southern South Carolina and not only was it cool while we were there yesterday, but today’s high temperature was five degrees cooler than yesterday’s and there’s a freeze warning out for tonight.  We’re in Jacksonville, Florida now, and there’s a hard freeze warning in tonight’s forecast with the low temperature expected to be in the mid-20s.  Luckily, we brought plenty of warm clothes with us, so we’re having fun anyway.

Today we visited Okefenokee Swamp Park in southern Georgia.  Of course it was cool (low 50s), but the sun was shining, so we were comfortable with jackets.  The swamp is over 500,000 acres in size, so we saw only a small part of it.  Due to drought conditions, there was no water in the swamp rivers in 2007 or in 2011, resulting in several large fires.  There was water today, however, so we were able to take a boat tour.

The front end of our boat as we traveled down the Suwannee River.  The Suwannee and St. Mary rivers drain Okefenokee Swamp into the Gulf of Mexico.

Mirror Lake. .ekaL rorriM

A pretty view under a walking trail bridge in the park.Our guide could name every plant in the swamp.  Now we can name some of them as well.

Several varieties of water lilies are native to Okefenokee Swamp.

This is soapweed.  Our guide made his hands wet, rubbed the weed vigorously in his palms and produced a generous soapy lather.

These are the smallest plants in the swamp.  Look at the next picture to see some individual plants.

Ted has dozens of the plants on his fingertip.

This plant is called “never wet.”  It actually repels water and never gets wet.  In a swamp!

The green clumps in this tree are mistletoe, a parasitic plant.

The bald cypress has very shallow roots, so it grows “knees” to help support itself. The knees–the knobby things growing upward–can grow as far as 100 yards from the tree’s trunk.We saw a half dozen alligators.  None of the alligators was out when we visited the Everglades two years ago, so this is the first time Ted and I have seen alligators in their natural habitat.  We learned that the females are much smaller than the males.  The male alligator will fight and eat any other male alligators he encounters in his territory so he can have all the female alligators for himself.  We had a glimpse of a baby alligator in the water, but it hid in the plants while our boat was nearby.  Our guide said if you try to grab a baby alligator with your hands, it will rapidly bite you a half dozen times before you can let go.  Ouch!

The bull alligator on the left is estimated to be 110 years old and is about 20 feet long. One of his many wives (on the right) is about 35 years old and 6-8 feet long.

Look carefully. There is an alligator in the water.At one point on our tour, we got off the boat and climbed a viewing tower.  I don’t know how high it was, but there were over 100 steps to the top and we were above the treetops.  We had a small tour group and took pictures of each other.

Ted and me in the viewing tower.

Here we are in the boat.We had a very nice afternoon and enjoyed visiting Okefenokee.  We also greatly enjoyed our time in the Everglades two years ago.  Are we weird to like swamps?


20 pi jokes and puns, just for the fun of pi.

1  3.14% of sailors are pi-rates.

2  Never talk to pi. He’ll go on forever.

3  Come to the nerd side. We have pi.

4  Simple as 3.141592…

5  The roundest knight at King Arthur’s table was Sir Cumference. He ate too much pi.

6  The worst thing about getting hit in the face with pi is that it never ends.

7  What do you get when you take green cheese and divide its circumference by its diameter? Moon pi.

8  What was Sir Isaac Newton’s favorite dessert? Apple pi.

9  What is the official animal of Pi Day? The pi-thon.

10  A pizza has a radius z and thickness a. Its volume is pizza (or pi*z*z*a)

11  What is a math teacher’s favorite dessert? Pi!

12  The mathematician says, “Pi r squared.” The baker replies, “No, pies are round. Cakes are square.”

13  Just saw American Pi. I gave it a rating of 3.14.

14  In Alaska, where temperatures get below freezing, pi is only 3.00. After all, everything shrinks in the cold.

15  What do you get when you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter? Pi in the sky.

16  How many pastry chefs does it take to make a pie? 3.14.

17  What do you get when you cut a jack-o’-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin pi.

18  What is 1.57? Half a pie.

19  What is the ideal number of pieces to cut a pie into? 3.14.

20  How many calories are there in that slice of chocolate pi? Approximately 3.14.


Thanks, Grammarly.

A few days ago, the forecast for today on Hilton Head Island predicted a high temperature in the low 60s with sunny skies.  The reality when today arrived was a high temperature in the mid-50s, cloudy with a few peeks of sunshine, and a 25-30 mph cold west wind.  In short, a blustery day.

It was too cold to swim or to sit on the beach, so we drove around the island to see what we could see.  A realtor’s sign told us we could own part of the foot.  We looked at the map and noticed that the island is shaped remarkably like a foot.  (So why is it named Hilton Head?)

The pink area is HH Island.

At the toe of the island is a lighthouse and a small specialty shopping district, so we took a look around.

The Harbourtown lighthouse.

The trees along the roads we traveled definitely had a Southern look.

Y’all come in and have some sweet tea now, y’heah?

After exploring the island, we went back to the hotel and explored the resort at which we are staying.  It has indoor and outdoor swimming pools.  Two women were sunbathing in swimsuits at the outdoor pool.  On a nearby chair, a man reading a book was bundled up in a jacket and a pool blanket.  Someone was wearing the wrong clothing.  Given the weather, methinks it was the two women.

The view from our hotel room balcony.

Part of the hotel’s beachside backyard.

We took a walk along the beach and then spent some time relaxing outside on the lee/beach side of the hotel protected from the cold west wind.

The beach was pretty deserted on this blustery day, but it was still a beach.  Yes!  We’re at the beach!

It’s a tough life.  I had to wear a jacket to be comfortable in a hammock at the beach.

Ted said this is the first time he’s ever been in a hammock.

Obligatory foot shot of Ted and me taking life easy and watching the ocean waves.

We finished the day with a delicious steak dinner and some very good wine at a nearby restaurant.  The restaurant was described as “swanky.”  The food and prices were swanky, but it’s a beach town filled with resort visitors, so diners were in very casual clothes.  Can a restaurant be “swanky” if the diners are wearing flip-flops and shorts or jeans?

Tomorrow we head farther south in our continuing search for warmer weather.

After clearing today’s snow off the car, we drove to the Biltmore Estate.  Guess what we saw on our way to the main house.

In honor of today’s three inches of snow.

The first sight of Biltmore is impressive to visitors as they enter through the gates at the end of the 2.5-mile driveway.

It’s not much (hah!) but it was home for George and Edith Vanderbilt.

We had lunch in the Stables Cafe, right next door to the main house.  It was really a stable.  The Vanderbilts kept their horses here in the 1890s.

Our table was in one of the stalls below the windows.  No horses were present.

It took six years to complete the major portion of the house, and many more years to finish everything.  It cost $5 million and has 175,000 square feet with 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces.  The fireplace in the library is 6 feet high and 10 feet wide.  About 60 rooms have been restored and 39 are included on the public tours.  Biltmore was a private residence with 125,000 acres of land (now 8,000 acres).  It was opened to the public in 1930 to help increase tourism in the area.  Biltmore is a working plantation with about 2,000 employees.  Some of the Vanderbilt family still live on the grounds.  It was designed by three major architects and was obviously the home of a very wealthy family (shipping and railroad money), but is not ostentatious.  It feels welcoming, warm, and comfortable.  Season passes are available to the public for $99 and allow people to picnic on the grounds and to use the estate trails for walking, hiking, running, and biking.  The season pass also allows admission to special events held at the estate.

We toured the house, the gardens, and Antler Hill Village.  Biltmore has its own winery (wine tasting and purchase available in Antler Village), greenhouses, and horticultural buildings.  We also saw horses, cattle, and fields of farm crops.  We spent nearly six hours at Biltmore and enjoyed every minute of the time.  It helped a lot that the weather was sunny with the temperature in the upper 40s.

This is the room I want to have–filled bookshelves all the way to the ceiling and all the way around the room, with a balcony to reach the upper shelves (see the railing).

Check out this ceiling.

This is a basement room called the Hallowe’en Room.  It has murals painted on all the walls.

The dining room table was designed to seat 64 people.  The room includes a pipe organ–for dinner music?

This is a part of the gardens where spring bulbs were beginning to bloom.

The grand staircase.  In one stairwell, Ted and I counted seven floors.

I must get a dress and headpiece like this.  Peacock feathers are so me!

Last night, the winter storm warning was cut back to a shorter time span with less snow accumulation.  We didn’t see any falling snow east of Nashville yesterday, and the warning was due to expire at 11:00 a.m. today, so we didn’t expect to wake up and see another three inches of snow on our car!  Now we’ve seen more snow in the last two days than we had at home in the last three years!!  Why did we think we should go south for some warmer weather?  At least it was sunny all day today and temperatures got into the upper 40s.

We hauled out the snow brush and cleaned off the car.  Again.

Our drive today took us from Nashville, TN to Asheville, NC.  We planned to drive and hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but that plan became dependent on how the unexpected winter storm warning turned out.  The weather was cloudy, but dry, with not a single flake of snow outside of Nashville, in spite of the dire predictions for a major storm throughout our driving area.  The Smokies are very scenic, so it was a pretty day of driving in spite of the clouds.

A typical scene in the Great Smoky Mountains.

We had no activities planned except for the park visit, so the highlight of the drive–a distant second to the scenery–was Gatlinburg, TN.  If you’ve been to Gatlinburg, I need say no more; if you haven’t, you should go for the experience.  Think “Wisconsin Dells, WI” or “Branson, MO” and you’ll be getting close.  Just add “Tennessee” to the mix and you’ve got the idea.  Gatlinburg is a one-street town, and all four lanes of traffic were slow–even at this time of year.  I’d hate to be here in the summer!  It’s the entrance to the national park, however, so we sat back in the car, crept along, and watched the show.

Slow traffic on the mile-long main street of Gatlinburg.

If you can’t keep it in the front yard or on the porch beside the washer and the refrigerator, put it in the upstairs window.

It’s Tennessee, so of course there’s moonshine . . .

. . . not to mention a mall with a denim-clad bear as its mascot.When we got to the eastern end of Gatlinburg, we had another surprise.

Hwy 441 is the road through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It was disappointing to see the barricade after seeing no snow all day.  Darn those higher elevations!  Since we couldn’t drive on the single road that goes through the park, we had to turn around and drive through Gatlinburg (again!) in the other direction, then drive around the park.

We stopped for dinner at a restaurant called “Applewood.”  If it can be done with an apple, it was on the menu.  We ordered chicken pot pie.  Included with the price of that entreé were apple juice, apple fritters, apple butter, fried apples, and apple dinner rolls.  We were too full to finish the meal with the special deep-fried apple pie.  Apples of many varieties were for sale as well.  We noticed the heaters running in the apple storage area to protect the fruit from the freezing temperatures tonight.  The food was delicious and we more than met our required daily requirement of fruit.

Even the curtains in the restaurant are apple-themed.

Appetizer:  apple juice with apple fritters and apple butter.

Side dishes:  apple dinner rolls and fried apples.

We looked out of our hotel window this morning and saw . . . snow!!!  There was a 20 percent (slight) chance of light rain in the forecast for Nashville, but nothing about 3 inches of snow!  The winter storm is forecast for east of Nashville. Three inches is more snow than we’ve had at home all winter.  I think we were the only people at the hotel who had a snow brush in the car to deal with the wet, sloppy mess.

My snow-covered car.

Snow still coming down at the hotel.


We didn’t have to go too far east of Nashville to find snow-free ground and, in spite of the winter storm warning, we had dry–but cloudy–skies all day.  Three inches of snow was not part of the spring break road trip plan.

Ted and I left home this morning, heading for the southeast U.S. and warm, non-wintery weather.  St. Louis had such an early spring this year–nine days above 70 degrees in February and four in March so far–we wondered why we felt we needed to get away.  We’re going to miss lots of the early spring blooms.  Then the forecast for next week came out:  it’s going to be unseasonably cold next week.  In fact, St. Louis will be having its coldest temperatures of the year while we are gone.  The low temperature one night is going to be in the teens, so all those early blooms are going to freeze.  Well, at least we’ll feel like we’re escaping from winter to bask in southern sunshine!  Or so we thought.

Today we drove to Nashville.  We’ve been here several times, so didn’t plan any activities beyond getting here.  We had the worst lunch we ever remember eating:  horrible sandwiches with toasted bread literally as hard as croutons at Applebee’s in Marion, IL.  Dinner was much better at a restaurant near our Nashville hotel.  It’s Friday night, so we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table, but it was worth it.

After dinner, we checked the forecast for Asheville, NC–tomorrow’s destination.  The plan was to spend some time driving and hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park one day and to visit the Biltmore Estate and historic Hendersonville the next day.  We might get Biltmore in, but the weather doesn’t look promising for doing anything in the national park.

Yes, Saturday and Sunday are our scheduled days in Asheville.  This is not an escape from winter weather!  We’re planning an early start for tomorrow so we can arrive in Asheville before the worst of the snow hits the area.

Today is International Women’s Day.  To recognize this day, I’m sharing a picture of some of my favorite and most respected women.  These women worked in a broad spectrum of departments at SCC.  We are all retired now and we get together for lunch every two months.  Each of these women worked to make a difference in the lives of the people served by the college and in the community.  They are smart, interesting, and fun.  I’m honored and fortunate to call all of them my good friends.

Left -> right, back row:  Me–adult education; Amy–not an SCC woman, but making a difference as a caregiver for Barb; Liz–business and industry.

Left -> right, front row:  Barb–academic success center (she has Alzheimer’s, so Amy brings her to our lunches); Terri–finance; Elaine–president’s office; Cindy–math instructor; Yvonne–continuing education.

Absent:  Barbara–science and technology.

Today, March 4th, is National Good Grammar Day, so “march forth” and use good grammar.

According to the National Weather Service, winter is over.  This means it’s practically summer, right?

Why, yes, it is.

We saw this Mini Cooper in a parking lot.  Check the outside mirror. . .

. . . and the roof.