Ted and I will be celebrating Christmas near Brisbane, Australia this year so we had to finish our holiday preparations early. We have gifts purchased, wrapped, and ready to ship. The shopping bags will be hand-delivered to Kari’s house.

We hung a few holiday lights outside so the house will look “lived in” while we’re away. Kari will unplug them after New Year’s for us. That should really make it look like someone’s home, right? Note: It took me about 30 minutes to unpack, unravel, and hang these lights. Whew!

The Christmas cards and letters are ready to mail just before we leave town.

And the indoor decorating is finished. We weren’t planning to do any indoor decorating because we’ll only be able to enjoy it for a few days, and the Christmas look will be totally out of season by the time we return. However, . . . I found a cute Lego minifigure holiday set and couldn’t resist it. After I bought it, I had to build it. After I built it, I wanted to set it out and enjoy it. So . . . we have some indoor holiday decorations after all. Isn’t it cute?

Now, to give some perspective to the five minutes I spent decorating with Lego, here’s an overview of our holiday decorating this year. Can you see Santa and his sign in front of the TV?

Merry Christmas to all–wherever you celebrate.

Like much of the U.S., we had some bad weather yesterday. We were under a tornado watch and a wind advisory. Weather radar indicated circulation in the atmosphere near us, but Ted and I didn’t hear about any tornadoes, so I don’t think the circulation got beyond funnel clouds. That’s good news. The peak wind gust, measured at the airport 10 miles from us, was 64 mph. That caused some minor damage at our house.

We had a few fallen twigs in our yard, . . .

. . . and one of our lawn chairs was blown out of place.

Later in the afternoon, the wind changed direction, and set the lawn chair on its feet again.

Now we’re waiting for the wind to push it back in place against the house.

Jeff also had 60+ mph winds in northwest Montana last night, but his damage was a bit worse than ours. One tree was blown over and managed to take two more with it, blocking Jeff’s driveway. In addition, their area was without electric power for six hours–and Jeff’s house has electric heat.

As I write this, all is well for Jeff, his family, and their Thanksgiving guests. The lights are on again, the heat is running, and they managed to clear the trees that were blocking the driveway, using hand saws and their Honda CR-V.

Oh . . . all is good in our yard too.

I found this in a box of miscellaneous things. Friends and flowers may never fade, but this refrigerator magnet certainly did.

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” starring Tom Hanks, is coming out in two days. Did you know that Tom Hanks is descended from Nancy Hanks Lincoln? (Third cousin, four times removed.) He is also a sixth cousin of Fred Rogers.

Really. Not just publicity.

My wedding dress has been stored in the basement (and other storage places) since Ted and I were married. The dress is 50 years old, and I never had the dry cleaners do whatever they do to preserve wedding dresses, so it has yellowed with age. My mom and I designed and made my dress. I sewed on all that lace trim and all those lace appliqués by hand! Mom and I were both pleased with the results.

As I walked down the church aisle, I heard my Grandma make a little “aaahh” sound (she told me later I looked that beautiful), and that made every stitch worthwhile. Ted, on the other hand, didn’t even glance at me while I came down the aisle. He said he thought he wasn’t supposed to see me until I got to the altar.

About ten years ago, my friend Liz’s daughter was getting married, and Liz wanted to make a handkerchief for Janelle to carry on her wedding day. The plan was to use some of the lace appliqués from Liz’s wedding dress to decorate the handkerchief. Liz wanted my help because she doesn’t know how to sew. Working with Liz’s wedding dress prompted me to get mine out so we could admire both of them. We had a wonderful and memorable evening, talking about our wedding memories while we worked on the handkerchief for Janelle.

Cutting into Liz’s dress was a little emotional, but she said she can’t wear it again unless she puts a big panel down the back to make it wider. We had a good laugh over that and decided neither of us wants to wear our wedding dresses again, whether they fit or not. We agreed that if either of us ever marries again, we’re going to get a new dress for the event. After being married to Ted for 50 years, I think it’s safe to say we’re going to stick together.

When I came across my wedding dress and veil as we were cleaning out our storage room, I told Ted I’m ready to pitch the dress. I remember my mom telling me when she decided to do the same. She burned hers in a small wood-burning stove she had for warmth in her basement. Lacking that, I stuffed mine into the trash bag we were filling as we cleaned. I had no qualms about getting rid of the dress, but I asked Ted to take some final pictures of it, just for the memories.

While we were cleaning the basement storage room shelves, we found some interesting things. For years, I’ve put “special” greeting cards in boxes because they were important to me. I discovered six boxes of “special” cards! I think my definition of special broadened considerably over the years. I went through all six boxes and saved less than one boxful according to my revised, narrower definition of special. One of the things I found with the cards was an old Erma Bombeck column from the newspaper. Anyone with three or more children will appreciate Erma’s accuracy. Thom and Kari, the proof is in your baby books.

Our storage room shelves in the basement are full. We made a step toward getting rid of things last Christmas when we went through all of our Christmas decorations and kept only our favorites. Then we cleaned out some more stuff before the kids and grandkids arrived for our 50th anniversary party last June. Major discards at that time were toys for young children, pictures and wall hangings we’ll never put on our walls again, and surplus luggage.

This week, we got serious and went through the room shelf by shelf. When we finished, the trash can was overflowing, with four more days to wait until the trash pick-up. There was a recycle bin and another box of paper plus a box of cardboard for the recycle center. Better quality items went to Goodwill in two overflowing boxes. Ted said we don’t need two large ice chests, and I said I don’t need to keep my canning jars any longer, so they left our house too.

There’s space on the storage shelves now, and it feels good to have this job checked off the list–until next time. Still to be faced: three four-drawer file cabinets.

In December 1998, Ted set two personal records for his last lawn mowing of the season: (1) He did it in December instead of the usual November; and (2) it was so warm, he wore shorts to do the job.

Today, Ted set another record for the last lawn mowing of the season. He had to mow through snow in the shady areas for the first time ever. Even more noteworthy, the snow has been on the ground for six days in spite of sunshine and above-freezing temperatures all week.

The number of editing errors that occur in published books and elsewhere continues to amaze me. Here are some of my recent finds.


How to change the meaning of a sentence with a misspelling.

Know your cars

Ford didn’t build the Cutlass; Oldsmobile did.

Acrobatic dog

Read carefully, then put this picture in your head. Amazing dog, or editing error? You be the judge.

It’s November, and that means the winter concert season has arrived. Ted and I attended Teddy’s concert tonight and, as always, enjoyed it. As usual, it was a full house. The bleachers were filled, and people were sitting on folding chairs and on the floor along the other three walls of the gym. Or in the case of one man in the photos below, standing in the doorway.

The middle school concert includes the fifth grade (on the right) and the sixth grade (on the left) orchestras.
Our shining star is Teddy, indicated by the green arrow. He plays the viola in the sixth grade orchestra.

At the end of the concert, the director invited us to the spring concert and told us the students will be playing the same selections, so we will be able to tell how much they’ve improved. It’s true: each year, there is a very noticeable improvement after six more months of practice. On the other hand, Ted and I have been attending these concerts since Sky joined the orchestra when he was in the fifth grade, and the songs have always been the same. As a grandparent, I don’t really mind, since I only hear the music twice annually, but aren’t the music teachers bored to death, teaching the same songs every day, all year, every year?

Whatever. Ted and I plan to attend the spring concert and will enjoy hearing how much the performers have improved.

When Ted and I biked on Sunday, the high temperature was 67 degrees. When we biked past the National Weather Service on the MO Research Park of the Busch Greenway, Ted wanted to stop in to see some of his previous co-workers. While we were chatting, one of the forecasters told us they were preparing to issue a winter weather advisory for Monday. And so they did–just a short while after we left to continue our bike ride.

Those NWS forecasters were spot on, including the flash freeze–except we had more snow than expected. Compare our Sunday (high 67) and Monday (13 degrees) temperatures. I took the Monday picture when we went to bed. Overnight, the temperature dropped some more, down to 8 degrees at our house. The official low temperature (at the airport) was 11 degrees–one degree lower than the previous record of 12 degrees set in 1911–108 years ago!

After biking in 67-degree sunshine Sunday, we woke up Monday to falling snow that continued until late afternoon. The previous record for snowfall on November 11 was one inch in 1991; the airport had an official 1.5 inches yesterday, and we had 2 inches at our house. The average date for a St. Louis snowfall of at least one inch is December 21–more than a month later than this.

After the snow stopped, the skies cleared, the moon appeared, the temperature dropped some more, and a meteor streaked across the sky just before 9:00 p.m. Within minutes, people were posting security camera videos of the event.

According to NASA, the meteor was a basketball-size piece of rock that broke off from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter before entering Earth’s atmosphere. It passed near St. Louis just 59 miles above the ground and continued for about 70 miles before breaking into pieces when it was about 12 miles above the ground. The meteor traveled at 33,500 mph, creating a sonic boom that was heard for miles.

Ted and I didn’t see the meteor first-hand because we weren’t outside in the cold for the few seconds it streaked through the sky, but videos show a bright flash as the meteor streaked by. If we had been outside and seen the flash, we’d have probably looked at each other and asked, “What was that?” and the meteor would already have been out of sight.

The temperature didn’t go up much today, As a result, we also set another 100+ year record for the lowest maximum temperature for today. We made it up to 21 degrees. The previous record low maximum was 22 degrees, also set in 1911. The normal high for today is 58 degrees.

What a day, with record low temperatures, record snowfall, and a falling meteor, all within less than 24 hours.

The weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday was beautiful–sunny with high temperatures in the upper 60s. Monday’s forecast included nasty language: cold and snow. Ted and I decided to take our bikes out over the weekend for what could be the last time before spring. We chose two of our favorite routes: The Dardenne Creek Greenway on Saturday and the Busch Greenway / Katy Trail on Sunday.

With such good weekend weather, we met a lot of like-minded people on the usually sparsely populated greenways and trails. All of the trail access parking lots were crowded with cars that brought families of bicyclists, walkers, and hikers.

Sometimes, the fallen leaves made it difficult to see the path.

The field of Queen Anne’s lace on the Dardenne Greenway now flaunts more seasonal grasses.

The summer green lake views have changed to their official fall colors.

The bridges and creek views are always scenic. Someone hit this bridge rail hard!

Sunday was such a beautiful day and we were enjoying ourselves so much that we biked farther than usual on the Katy Trail. This meant we saw some new sights.

We crossed the Femme Osage Creek, which has an awesome old railroad bridge.

Farther on, we stopped at the Weldon Spring bike stop and discovered it has parking, bike racks, benches, trail information, and rest rooms. It was only three more miles to the Defiance bike stop, so we kept pedaling. There we found a restaurant and lots of happy people enjoying the outdoor patio and rooftop seating.

When we loaded our bikes back onto our bike carrier, we had pedaled 15 miles on Saturday and 27 miles on Sunday. Whew! What a great way and a great weekend to (probably) finish the biking season.

Since we bought our e-bikes on August 28, my odometer says I’ve pedaled more than 400 miles. Good job, Diane.

In my recent reading, I came across photos of an unusual and captivating pedestrian bridge. It is near Da Nang, Vietnam and is called the Golden Bridge. The nearly 500-foot golden walkway rises above the trees, and seems to be held in two giant concrete hands called the “hands of gods.” The bridge loops nearly back on itself and creates a feeling of being guided along by a giant stone god.

I closed my Facebook account about a year ago and don’t miss it. Ted still uses Facebook and, every now and then, he shows me some cute posts. These were fun.

I have my mother’s 1940 high school yearbook. That was the year she graduated, so there’s a short (and interesting) paragraph beside her picture. As I read her friends’ notations in the yearbook, I couldn’t help noticing two things. (1) Mom must have been as social as Kari and seems to have known nearly everyone. There were 387 graduates in her class, and it looks like most of them signed her yearbook. (2) I lost count of how many of Mom’s friends used the word “swell,” as in “we had a swell time” or “you are a swell girl.” That must have been the most popular slang word of the day because I also noticed it in the letters my mom wrote to a friend in the early 1940s.

Mom is Violet Lorenzen, the second photo from the top in the right column.

I also have my dad’s Distinguished Flying Cross, which he was awarded in 1945 as a Lieutenant during World War II. Dad was a B-25 pilot and was engaged in intense enemy aircraft fire that damaged his plane. In spite of the damage, he was able to keep his plane on course so that his bombardier could release the plane’s bombs and devastate a vital enemy railroad, contributing to a successful mission.

The DFC is on the left; the photo shows my dad in uniform as a lieutenant; the small name badge / pin was my mother’s ID when she worked for the War Department in 1944 making shells for the U.S. Army; the rose pin was awarded to my mother for serving as president of the local American Legion Auxiliary chapter.

In the 1980s, I embroidered a crewel family tree as a gift for my mom and dad. It documented our immediate family, from Mom and Dad’s marriage through their grandchildren at that time. I included extra yarn so Mom could update the information as needed. The family tree hung on the dining room wall until after Mom died in 1995. At some point after that, it was returned to me. My brother Russ said he always admired it and would like to have it. I made another family tree for myself showing Ted’s and my families, so I don’t need the one I gave to my mom. I sent it to Russ (with the extra yarn for updates), and I hope he’ll enjoy it for many years.

My brother Denny died in 1977. When my sister-in-law remarried, Mom cleverly added a branch in the lower left corner of the picture to include Bev, her second husband, Steve, and their daughter Heather.

A unique Hard Rock Hotel recently opened in Hollywood, FL. It is shaped like an acoustic guitar and can be seen from the air when taking off or landing at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. The door handles in the hotel are shaped like–what else?–electric guitars. The Oasis wing of the hotel includes swim-up suites.

The Noah’s Ark restaurant and hotel, a former St. Charles, MO landmark, was similarly unique. It was shaped like an ark with a white-haired “Noah” and animals on the ship’s deck / roof, and elephant-head doorknobs with the trunk forming the handle. Noah’s Ark was modest compared to what Hard Rock has done, but maybe Hard Rock got the idea from Noah’s Ark.

I think Ted is beginning to understand why I enjoy having a “birthday season” each year. Earlier this week, he suggested that we go to Bentley’s at the Lake of the Ozarks for his traditional birthday dinner on Friday night. Since this was seven weeks ahead of his December 20 birthday, he seemed to feel he had to justify it. (Why? I don’t justify my birthday season–I revel in it!) He pointed out that the trees are turning color; the weather forecast for Friday was for clear, sunny skies; we’d be out of the country on his birthday; and Bentley’s closes for the month of January–meaning he’d have to wait almost until my March birthday dinner at Bentley’s to have his December birthday dinner.

I didn’t need convincing, so we drove to the Lake in the sunshine, admired the colorful trees along the way, and had a delicious dinner. Happy birthday, Ted–and may you have as happy a birthday season as I always do.

Our window-side table view of the sunset over the Lake of the Ozarks.

Ted and I stopped at a Hy-Vee grocery store recently. Hy-Vee stores feature a world-wide selection of cheeses and we like cheese, so we checked out the display. We were: (1) pleasantly surprised to see cheese from Henning’s Cheese Factory (just outside of Ted’s hometown of Kiel, WI); and (2) shocked at the size of this Henning’s cheese on display. We estimated it at about 20 pounds–probably more. There was no price on it, so we thought it might just be part of the display and will later be cut into smaller pieces for sale. Whatever . . . it provided an exciting moment at a grocery store.

We should have put something beside the cheese to show the scale. Believe me, it was huge!