We added a pool to our backyard in Fall 2009 and landscaped around it in Spring 2011.  We planted crepe myrtle bushes around the deep end of the pool and they grew very nicely.  I loved looking at the pink and white flowers.  You can see the tall, thick crepe myrtle privacy hedge behind these amazing syncronized cannonballers.

L->R: Zaque, Alex, Kyra, Jeff

 

In 2013, we had a very cold winter and every single crepe myrtle bush died down to the roots.  They started growing again at the ground level, but died off a second time the following winter.  The nursery experts told us we are on the northern edge of the crepe myrtle habitat so, in 2015, we gave up on the crepe myrtle and planted hardier red-leafed plum bushes.  As Ted and I sat poolside in the afternoon sunshine today, we couldn’t help noticing that our neighbor’s tomato plant is fuller and taller in one season than our plum bushes are after three seasons.  We could get more privacy from a row of tomato plants!  Not to mention lots of tomatoes.

The tomato plant is the tall green thing right behind the shorter red plum bush.

Yesterday, Kari took me out to lunch for my birthday.  Yes, my birthday was in March, but we’ve both been busy, and waiting until yesterday gave us something to look forward to.  Besides, this might have provided me with a record for the Longest Birthday Celebration.  My first birthday lunch with a friend was on March 2 because she wanted to get it in before Ted and I left on our trip to the southeastern U.S. on March 9.  From March 2 until July 25 is a 21-week birthday event.  Awesome!  Kari and I had a wonderful time and sat in the restaurant for over three hours, then talked for another half hour at her house.

The most amazing part of the lunch was that, while we were eating, one of my friends came into the restaurant and exchanged a few words with me.  That never happens!!!!  Most of the time when I go somewhere with Kari, we run into at least one of her friends.  Even when we took her to New Orleans to check out a possible college for her, we met one of her high school friends in the French Quarter.

I couldn’t believe it:  We met one of my friends instead of Kari’s.  It’s never happened before and probably never will again.  This really has been my best birthday ever.

I don’t know why I ever watch the news.  Newscasters–both national and local–provide daily examples of terrible grammar and word usage.  I can only surmise that the people who hire the on-air talent have equally poor English-speaking skills, so don’t realize what incompetent people they hire.

While preparing dinner tonight, I heard all of the following in less than 30 minutes of newscasting:

  • A water main connecting the city water line to multiple housing units broke today.  This is an expensive repair and the question was “Who is responsible for the repair bill?”  Unfortunately, the private property owners will have to bear the cost.  Miss Woo-girl gave us a phone number to call if we want to find out whether or not our house is under a similar multiple-residence water main.  Question:  How many houses does she think are under a water main?
  • Mr. Handsome then introduced the next story by telling us “A family was shattered by a bullet today.”  I couldn’t help picturing a family broken into pieces like a porcelain vase, and wondered how a single bullet could do that to humans.  (Making this a ridiculously inaccurate sentence.)  More information told us that two siblings were playing with a loaded gun in the house and one shot and killed the other–a seventeen-month-old toddler.  While the family’s piece of mind might have been figuratively shattered, the family members were still physically intact.  Note:  I sympathize with what this family is feeling now, but I think they deserved a much better and more accurate lead-in line to this story, such as “A family is grieving today . . . .”
  • Finally, back to Miss Woo-girl to introduce the weather.  It was 98 degrees today and a cold front is coming through, so thunderstorms are popping up in the area.  Miss Woo-girl transferred narration duties to the weatherman with the line, “So, Chris, tell us about those severe storms out there.”  Thankfully, the weather man is probably 20 years older than Miss Woo-girl and knows his stuff.  He gently corrected her by saying that none of the storms is actually severe, although a few are stronger than others.  Note:  I know from Ted that when there is a severe weather watch or warning in effect, all civil defense entities are notified so that appropriate actions can be taken for public safety.  This involves everything from blowing sirens to notifying hospitals and strategically placing ambulances and fire trucks in the affected area.  Trained storm spotters and ham radio operators are called in to assist with observations and communications, and extra employees go on duty in a vast assortment of community agencies.  I get frustrated when TV people imply that just because there’s thunder, the storm is severe.  They use the word “severe” so often–even to let us know when the storms are not severe–that they are like the boy who cried wolf.  I’m afraid people will begin to tune out the word “severe” and will not take heed when it’s important for their safety.

Yes, I’ve got to stop watching the news.  (But I probably won’t, because it provides me with a plethora of examples of English language ignorance.)

Over the years, we’ve lost some trees to weather damage and needed to have them cut down.  We simply had the tree company cut them down, grind them into mulch, and take the mess away.  People living in one of the subdivisions adjacent to ours were more creative when they had two large trees removed from their front yard.

The long shot.

 

This was the tree on the left in the long shot photo, above.

 

And this used to be the tree on the right.

As Five Man Electrical Band sang in 1970, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.”  As Ted and I went from place to place running errands today, a variety of signs caught our attention.

Along the highway, MODOT’s DMS (the dynamic message sign, also known as the overhead electronic message board) reminded us that, during this heat wave, “It’s the temperature, not the speed limit.”  I wish I could have taken a picture of it, but that wasn’t possible in the traffic.

 

On Mexico Road, we saw this sign.

No comment.

 

Finally, when we went shopping for new bath towels, I saw a pillow that was probably made for me.

Now it’s time to get back to my book.

St. Louis set a record high of 108 degrees today, the first time we’ve hit 108 degrees since 2012, when we had two 108-degree days.  The only other time St. Louis recorded 108 degrees was in 1954.  So far, we’ve had 7 days with temperatures above 100 degrees this summer–5 of them in the last 6 days.  The weather forecaster predicted tomorrow will be “much cooler” with a high of only 98 degrees, and she’s forecasting a “major break” in temperatures next week when she expects temperatures to be in the low to mid-90s.

Hey kids, take note.  I saw a shirt that describes Dad.

 

I know about the man part.  Now I guess we need to determine what the myth is and at which point he becomes legendary.

Kari invited Ted and me to join their family to celebrate Dylan’s birthday last week (July 13).  He is now 12 years old.  He usually picks ice cream cake for his birthday dessert, but varies the ice cream flavor each year.  This year, the cake was one-half vanilla and one-half chocolate.  Yum!  What an enjoyable evening we had!

Sky and Dylan ready for Dylan’s favorite meal:  ham, mashed potatoes, and Waldorf salad with lots of cherries.

 

Ice cream cake and candles for the 12-year-old birthday boy.

 

Kathy’s gifts had a hippie theme with a tie-dye shirt and cake mix, and a VW flower van card and model car.

 

Kathy also found a Lego chess set. Dylan started a chess game right after we left.

 

We gave Dylan stuff for his bike (lights, speedometer, water bottle) and he got a new scooter too.

 

Dylan tried out his new scooter on the skateboard ramp Dean built.

Is there anything better than summer fruit in season?  I don’t think so.  I made this for dinner and it tastes even better than it looks.

For the first time in quite awhile, I spent some time browsing in a bookstore.  While I was looking for some bargain-priced summer reads, Ted meandered elsewhere and came back with a suggestion for me.

 

The King lives, but maybe not so much through his favorite recipes.  I didn’t buy it.

Ted and I went out to dinner a few weeks ago.  Like so many other entities, restaurants don’t proofread their copy.

In 2012, Ted and I fixed up the basement to better accommodate our growing family.  We added a bathroom with a shower and decorated the “big room” to serve as a seating area and a play space.  The seating area easily converts to sleeping space when the kids and their families are here.  Since we did that, we haven’t needed to use the third upstairs bedroom when the kids come home for a weekend.  Now it’s five years later, and it’s time to make another change.  We decided to re-arrange the upstairs bedrooms.

First step:  We removed the double bed from the blue bedroom and put it at the curb.  It was picked up almost immediately by a lady who wanted it for her granddaughter.  We replaced the bed with the futon from the small bedroom.  This gave us seating and space for a project table in the blue bedroom.

Second step:  Shopping at the Swedish Embassy.

 

Almost immediately, we found a table we liked.  It’s big enough for projects, it has storage for two 15-inch leaves inside the table, and it can be extended from 55 to 85 inches for really big projects.  Of course, IKEA furniture requires an Allen wrench, but it was an easy job.

If you build it, . . .

. . . you’ll get what you want.  Table closed on left.  Visible leaf storage and table fully extended on right.

 

We also found a chair we liked.

Allen wrench, then completed chair with leather cushions.

 

Finally, we decided that after 30+ years, we could spring for a new futon cover.  We re-arranged all three upstairs bedrooms to accommodate the remaining furniture and our needs, and voilà!  We have a project room that can be converted back to a bedroom by opening the futon as needed.  It just makes me want to work on a project!

Sewing machine, serger, table, chair, and futon–everything ready to be used.

What a good-looking guy, even after all these years.  Note that his smile gets bigger as he gets older.  He’s not only good-looking–he’s happy!

Third grade?

8th grade

2014

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it–a calendar picture that actually complements our kitchen wall!  It’s a photo of buffalo at sunset in Yellowstone National Park.  Every time I look at it, I first admire how good the picture looks against the wall, and then I remember something Dean Martin once said:  “Show me a home where the buffalo roam, and I’ll show you a house with a dirty living room.”

 

Note:  It’s a sign of the times that the calendar page is blank.  All of our reminders are on our Google calendar, which is accessible anywhere, not only in the kitchen.

Jeff, Kathy, Kari, and their respective families spent the last weekend of June at our house.  Jeff’s family arrived on Thursday and voted to kick off the weekend with the traditional lunch at Steak ‘n’ Shake.  That was irresistible to Kari and her boys, so they joined us as well.  After lunch, the kids all spent the afternoon in the pool.

Kyra and Zaque keeping cool.

 

We had some one-on-one time with Jeff’s family on Friday, which was very nice.  We went out to lunch and then spent the afternoon at Kari’s house.  When it was time for Kari to begin her “I’m working at the skating rink tonight” countdown, we went out to dinner with Jeff’s family.  That was an easy day for Ted and me–no cooking or dishes to do.

Kathy and Annette arrived on Saturday for lunch, then Ben and Amy joined us in the afternoon and stayed for dinner.  Thanks to the gorgeous weather all weekend, we had a relaxing day enjoying the new umbrellas and visiting with each other poolside.

Some of us got an early start reading, napping, and/or swimming on Saturday morning.

The new cantilevered umbrella provided an additional shaded area for relaxing.

 

The entire group was present for dinner on Saturday, when Ted and I had a chance to share our Wisconsin hard rolls with grilled burgers and all the appropriate supporting foods.

Burgers, Wisconsin hard rolls, German potato salad, chips, summer fruit, and ice cream cake for dessert.

 

The humidity was low enough in the evening for the temperature to cool down, making it possible to enjoy the firebowl for a few hours.  Luckily, we never ran out of things to talk about.

A beautiful summer evening for a fire.

 

Jeff’s family left early Sunday morning.  Annette, Ben, and Amy went to the St. Louis Pride parade, and Kathy spent the morning with Kari.  In the afternoon, Kathy and Kari came to our house and the four of us had some quiet, adult time floating in the pool and chatting without getting splashed “accidentally” by the kids jumping into the pool.

Annette, Kathy, and Kari, possibly dozing on a “waterbed.”

 

Kathy left after dinner Sunday night, but Kari stayed for awhile to visit, giving us some more quiet, quality time with her.  It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and I think everyone enjoyed it.  I can’t wait for the next time the kids come home!

For all of my growing-up years, I knew Sheboygan Falls as the town we drove through to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Sheboygan.  I suspect like most of us, I never gave my familiar surroundings a second thought; they were just there.

When Ted and I were planning our mid-June trip to WI, we looked for things to do in the area and discovered that Sheboygan Falls has not one, but two historic districts!  The Cole Historic District is one of the few remaining districts in the state of Wisconsin to display the early development of a Wisconsin community from the 1830s and 1840s.

Some of the buildings in the Cole Historic District on the east bank of the Sheboygan River.

 

After the construction of the Sheboygan River bridge in 1839, the Cole area declined and the city developed on the west side of the river.

The Sheboygan River as viewed from the bridge that resulted in the decline of eastern Sheboygan Falls and the development of western Sheboygan Falls.  The river flows under the bridge to the falls, but I couldn’t find a place to take a picture of the actual Sheboygan Falls.

 

In the 1800s, Sheboygan Falls had eight sawmills, two woolen mills, four hub and spoke factories, manufacturers of carriage and cabinet furniture, and the first foundry between Milwaukee and Green Bay.  While I was growing up, all I knew about manufacturing in Sheboygan Falls was that it was home to Bemis Mfg.–maker of toilet seats.  Bemis is still making high-quality toilet seats in Sheboygan Falls, and you can buy them everywhere.

A former woolen mill on the west bank of the Sheboygan River, opposite the Cole Historic District.

 

I’ve learned that more than 45 downtown building façades in Sheboygan Falls have been meticulously restored, that the downtown area is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and that the city has won numerous awards and national recognition for “exceptional accomplishments in revitalizing America’s historic and traditional downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts.”  Who knew?

I recognize this house, but must admit I didn’t appreciate its architectural value when I was a child.

 

Some of the restored downtown buildings on the main street.  I’m not sure, but Bob’s (steak sandwiches) might have been in the green-fronted building when I was growing up.  Those were great steak sandwiches!

 

I never paid attention to this architecture either.  I knew it as the corner to make a right turn to get to Grandma’s house.

 

Depke’s Shoes is still in business.  They used to have an x-ray machine for shoe-fitting.  After putting on your new shoes, you stood on a platform in the lower front of a jukebox-size structure with a viewer on the top.  You could see the bones of your feet and how they fit in your new shoes.  I’ll bet they don’t use that technology any more!

 

Hey, kids!  Remember Evan’s dime store in Kiel?  Well, the Sheboygan Falls Evans was (and still is) about three times bigger, and both are still in business.

 

The entire inside of Evan’s dime store is as crowded as these shelves of stuffed animals.  If you want it, Evan’s most likely has it:  toys, dishes, cookware, fabric, tools, home decorating, bed and bath furnishings, knick-knacks, cosmetics, . . . .

 

 

After spending time with Tom and Jo, our next destination was Kiel, WI to see Ted’s brother, Gary.  That meant playing sheephead, eating at a variety of restaurants, and picking up cheese and bakery to take back to MO.  Gary helps make this possible by contributing freezer and refrigerator space between the pick-up times and our departure time.  When it’s time for Ted and me to head back to St. Louis, the food moves from Gary’s freezer and refrigerator to our ice chest and safely makes the eight-hour journey.

We brought back enough hard rolls, filled coffee cakes, and cheese to share with the kids, and some more for Ted and me to enjoy after the kids left.

 

On this trip, we also took time to drive to Door County to buy frozen pie cherries.  People in the know are aware that cherries from Door County, WI or Traverse City, MI are the best cherries in the land!  Since the tart pie cherries are frozen in liquid in large containers, they make the eight-hour trip to MO perfectly, thawing just enough to separate them into multiple pie-sized portions before putting them into our own freezer.  Ted and I now have four cherry pies in our future.

 

When she heard Ted and I were coming to Wisconsin, my Aunt Ruth (LaCrosse area) asked if there would be a chance to get together if she and Uncle Ken drove across the state to see us during our visit.  Absolutely!  We had a delicious brunch with Ruth and Ken; my cousin, Donna; her husband, Jon; and Uncle Gibby.  (Gibby and Ruth are my mom’s siblings, and Gibby is Donna’s dad.)  It was a two-hour brunch, but the time went by much too quickly.  Just like with Tom and Jo, we wish we could see these family members more often, but we make the most of the times we get together.

The happy ending:  We had a great time, and the menus for the kids’ visit wrote themselves around the Wisconsin favorites Ted and I brought back to share with them on their late June visit.

Ted and I took a quick trip up north in mid-June to get cheese and hard rolls for the kids’ visit the following week–and also to visit family.  On the way to the cheese factory and the bakery, we stopped in St. Charles, IL to spend time with Tom and Jo, my brother and sister-in-law.  When we checked into our hotel, we discovered that the light bulb in the bedside lamp was burned out.  The desk clerk didn’t know where the extra light bulbs were stored, so she upgraded us to a suite with working lights.

 

We had a very nice visit with Tom and Jo.  Getting together in person is always more fun than emails.  They celebrated their 39th anniversary on June 10, and our 48th anniversary was on June 14, while we were at their house.  The four of us paid tribute to our wedding days with a delicious dinner.

The anniversary honorees.

 

During our visit, the four of us spent an afternoon at Cantigny.  In the early 1930s, Col. Robert R. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, established one of the most successful experimental farms in the nation.  He named the property “Cantigny” in memory of his fellow soldiers with whom he fought in Cantigny, France during World War I.  The property now focuses on horticulture, rather than agriculture, and provided us with a very nice afternoon of walking around the beautiful grounds.  We were also able to take a guided tour of the Colonel’s home.

A pretty, shaded path.

One of the beautifully planned and colorful gardens throughout the property.

Potted plants along a walkway.

Ladies posing for a photo shoot before going to their dance exhibition.

 

We had time to visit with Tom and Jo at home as well.

AJ joined us for a few hours before Jay picked her up to take her home. Vroom! Vroom!

Tom gave Ted and me a ride in his restored T-bird convertible.

We had a personal tour of the plane Tom is restoring.  This is a view from the back.  The wings will be attached above the cockpit.

 

It’s always good to get together with my brother and his family.   Thanks for a memory-making visit, Tom and Jo.

 

When Ted and I were first married, I worked for three years as a writer-editor for the U.S. Bureau of the Census.  I was one of three writer-editors in the department where I worked, and the expectation was perfection in print.  This was in the early 1970s, before PCs and spell check.  After writing and before publishing, we worked in a proofreading team of three, taking turns with one of us reading aloud and two following along looking for errors.  A lasting result of that job is that it sometimes spoils pleasure reading for me because I’m so well-trained to find errors in text.  (Not to mention being a grammar nerd with two college degrees in English.)

I’ve found lots of textual errors over the years, including factual errors such as the lady who took a coach from London to Dublin (not easy over the Irish Sea), as well as simple misspellings of homonyms and other “real” words that don’t make sense in the text, but don’t trigger spell check.

I found two pretty big errors within a few pages of each other while reading Robin Cook’s Foreign Body over the weekend.

Octaves go higher and lower in tone, not louder in volume.  Let’s replace “octaves” with “decibels” here.

 

She’s flying from Los Angeles to Delhi, India.  Depending on when you leave (orbital distance can vary), it only takes 7 months to get to Mars!

Ted and I saw an unusual sight this evening.  He was watering in the back yard and I was doing dishes at the sink, overlooking the back yard when a gaggle of geese came running through our lawn!  We think there must have been at least 40 of them in a tight group and they were really moving!  They ran across our lawn and into Steve’s yard (behind ours), moving to our left.  When they reached the barrier of Tom’s fence (the next neighbor on the left), they did a quick about-face and ran around Steve’s house to the front instead, still moving as quickly as they could on foot.

Fireworks were going off at the time, and most of the people who live around the lake where the geese live all year usually shoot fireworks over the lake.  Ted and I think the geese were scared and were heading for another lake in the subdivision.  (They often fly low over our house going from lake to lake.  No need to go to full altitude for such a short distance!)  Fireworks have been going off like crazy in our subdivision for the past few evenings, so we suspect the geese decided it was too dangerous to take to the air and chose to use a land route, looking for refuge in a different lake.

It was pretty funny to see so many geese so huddled together and moving so quickly on foot!