It’s been over a year since our Pilates classes were cancelled due to the community college closing at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was our first sign that COVID was getting too close to us for comfort. Ted and I have been very careful to avoid becoming infected by this awful virus. We started wearing masks as soon as the CDC recommended that practice for prevention; we have practiced social distancing; and our hands are the cleanest they’ve ever been. We have a very small social bubble, and we get a little bit excited if we need to cross the line into St. Louis County for something–about 10 miles away.

The National Weather Service recognizes March 1 as the first day of meteorological spring. Therefore, spring has sprung! The sun is shining, and Ted and I just felt like we wanted to go out for lunch to celebrate. We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 16 last year–the day before the total lockdown started. (I had a lunch and a dinner coupon for free birthday meals and I didn’t want to waste them.) We ordered a take-out pizza once last summer, but the ambience of eating it in the car just didn’t measure up to sitting in the restaurant. I like to cook, so I’ve actually enjoyed preparing meals at home, but still, . . . . Did I say it’s been a year???

We decided that we’d celebrate the first day of spring by making something for lunch that we would have ordered in a restaurant. We (used to) like the grilled cheese sandwiches at Panera, so we made grilled cheese and French fries. Instead of our usual milk as a beverage, we blew our healthy diet and had Pepsi. To change things up a little, we decided to eat somewhere different from the kitchen table. It was only 52 degrees outside, so we chose the basement as our setting–someplace different than we’re accustomed to. We named our casual restaurant Unser Haus.

It wasn’t crowded, so social distancing was easy.

There were people chatting at the bar, so there was a little crowd noise.

We were seated in a booth, and the food was good.

Best of all, it’s the kind of restaurant that provides a chocolate after the meal.

Yes, it was a self-serve restaurant, but it was fun to do something different.

Yesterday, Hasbro announced that it is neutralizing Mr. Potato Head. Hasbro’s senior vice president and general manager announced, “The way the brand currently exists—with the ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’—is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”

The outcry was loud:

Dr. D exclaimed, “For crying out loud–it’s a potato! It doesn’t have a gender!”

Media analyst Mark Dice tweeted, “It’s time for the Republican states to secede.”

Piers-Morgan tweeted, “Who was actually offended by Mr Potato Head being male? I want names. These woke imbeciles are destroying the world.”

Steven Colbert’s segment on Hasbro’s announcement asked, “What part of this do you see as gender-based?”

Sean Hannity tweeted, “MR POTATO HEAD 1953-2021, Hasbro: He Was ‘Limited When It Comes to Gender Identity’.” After Hasbro clarified that only the “Mr.” is being removed from the name and that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head will be continue to be available as “just plain ‘Potato Head’,” Hannity responded, “Mr. Potato Head Lives!”

Long live non-gender potatoes!

Author’s note: When I was growing up, our Mr. Potato Head toy required actual potatoes; thus, the name of the toy. Complaints about rotten vegetables plus new government food safety rules prompted Hasbro to include a plastic potato body along with the facial parts in 1964.

English is a living language and freely adopts and adapts words from other languages. Kathy and I (fellow English majors) were talking today about some of the colorful, folksy terms we use to describe people, specifically words that are difficult to define, but that “we just know” what they mean. Examples include klutz, ditz, putz, doppich, frumpy, and schmuck.

Today, while I was reading The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict, I came across a new descriptive term: “twee.” In the book, Mrs. Christie speaks of her husband, Archie, and says, “I toned down my natural exuberance and chatter, because Archie found it cloying and more than a little twee.” I had no idea what “twee” meant, so I looked it up.

I like the word. The problem? It’s British slang, so if I use it, it’s unlikely my listener will know what I mean and I’ll have to figure out a way to describe a word that “I just know.”

Here’s our winter doormat. Be careful what you wish for.

When our kids were little, it was normal for our area to have 6-8 snowfalls of 4-6 inches, as well as one or two snowfalls of 12-14 inches in a season. After 30 years of climate change, however, it has become more typical for us to have several snowfalls of 1-2 inches and maybe one or two snowfalls of 3-4 inches in a season. More snow than that in a single event is becoming unusual and, therefore, remarkable.

This winter has been a snowy one for a change. After a relatively warm November and December (we took our last bike ride on December 29), we had a few light snowfalls of an inch or less in January. Then the pattern changed. At one point last week, 46 states had snow cover on the ground. Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Hawai’i were the exceptions.

January 27. We had four inches of snow. Whoopee! I love using my snowblower and this was enough snow to make a snowblower worthwhile. It wasn’t too cold, so I had a good time. Then Ted took a turn and used the snowblower to clear Jim’s driveway. Jim and his wife are 90 years old and they appreciate the help.

February 15. There’s a forecast for a major snowfall in our area. A big snowstorm always sounds exciting to me. There’s something magical about snow, and a heavy snowfall makes everything quiet and peaceful. It started snowing early in the day, but the flakes were tiny and didn’t accumulate much. By late afternoon, it started looking like serious snow. Our normal temperature at this time of year is in the mid-40s, but today we set a record for the lowest high temperature on February 15: 4 degrees. The previous record was 19 degrees in 1905. We didn’t just break that record–we smashed it! The wind chills were a vicious 25-30 degrees below zero. There went our dream of sitting in the hot tub while snowflakes romantically fell on us. It wasn’t a good day to go outside, but it was fun to watch the snow fall and to watch a movie with a fire blazing in our fireplace in the evening.

February 16. The snowfall ended, the sun came out, and we set another record low high temperature. This time, we made it to 5 degrees, probably because of the sunshine. The previous record was again set in 1905. Wind chills were still well below zero. It was so cold, the mailman didn’t even walk our package all the way to the door; he only went far enough to throw it to the porch. Luckily, it was a book and it didn’t break.

I bundled up in three layers of clothes and a sturdy pair of boots and headed outdoors, feeling like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story.” My first task was to stick our trusty NWS “Snow? How much?” ruler into the snow to see how deep it was. Wow! Seven inches!

The weight of the snow made our pool cover sag, so pool water seeped through it and froze on the cover.

I took a few more pictures outside, but I could hear my snowblower calling my name, so I got to work. I always go up the middle of the driveway first so I can throw half of the snow to each side instead of having it all pile up ahead of my path on one side.

The sidewalks were a challenge. Because it was so cold and windy, the snow was light and the wind blew it across the lawn, making it impossible for me to see where the sidewalk ended and the grass began. The curves in our sidewalks added to the challenge of finding my way through the virgin snow.

The second pass was a little easier, but our snowblower is designed to work with a foot of snow or less, so 7 inches kept me going slowly to give my little machine a chance to blow a path for itself.

While I was using the snowblower, Ted was using a shovel to clear the places the snowblower can’t go–the back step, the front porch, and the corners. Two-and-a-half hours later, we had all of our concrete clear. Then we cleared Claudia’s driveway. Claudia’s husband died three weeks ago and we know she doesn’t have a snowblower. That was a lot of snow for her to have to shovel in a double driveway. Another neighbor with a snowblower cleared Jim’s driveway. Although it’s only 5 degrees, the sun is melting the snow residue on the concrete. Even a snowblower is hard work–especially with seven inches of snow to move. I was sweating by the time I went back indoors.

February 17. Guess what. We had another two inches of snow overnight. We got out the snowblower–again–and cleared all of our concrete–again. It was easier this time because (1) there was a lot less snow, and (2) yesterday’s paths were visible. It was still mighty cold, however. We had 14 days in a row with temperatures below freezing, and 10 of those days never got above 20 degrees.

February 18. The skies dropped another inch of snow on us. The temperatures are warming up, however, and with the concrete warmed a little from the sun after we cleared it the last two days, we knew this last bit of snow would melt on its own.

February 23. Talk about extremes!!!! Eight days ago, it was 4 degrees; yesterday we warmed up to 58 degrees and today it was 71 degrees! You could almost literally watch the snow melt. By the end of the day, it was gone, except for a few places where the piles were deep or where there was shade.

February 24. Today, it was 62 degrees–a little cool to put the top down on my car, but warm enough for Ted and me to take our walk in long-sleeved shirts without wearing jackets. With the snow out of the way, I can smell spring in the air. The snow was fun while it lasted, but I like warm weather much better than cold. Think spring!

Author’s note: Ted and I know how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy this major (for our area) snowfall with the luxuries of heat, light, water, and food. We give thanks for our blessings and offer prayers for those who are suffering because of the storms across the country, especially in Texas.

The National Aquarium at Union Station in St. Louis is providing a safe way for kids to talk and have their pictures taken with Santa. Seven inches of Plexiglass separates the kids from Santa, so everyone is safely socially distanced.

Presenting . . . Scuba Santa and his elf.

Last week, I received an Amazon catalog in the mail. I didn’t even know Amazon mailed catalogs! I’m not big on catalog shopping, so I quickly riffled through the pages before throwing it into the recycle bin.

During my riffle, I saw a Christmas tree maze. I couldn’t resist drawing my way through the maze. Then I saw another activity page. I finally checked the table of contents (yes, a table of contents, not an index like catalogs usually have), and found lots of fun activities. The promise on the catalog was true: It was “Joy Delivered” and it put an Amazon Prime smile on my face.

Here’s the catalog cover. With the “kid” appearance, it’s no surprise it was a toy catalog.

Here are the activity pages. There’s even a page of stickers (bottom right) to go with “A Winter’s tail Tale.”

The catalog included a page with a recipe for “sip, sip, hurray” hot chocolate and another page to “Make a list, check it twice” with the note that the list may include “anything, like hugs, hats, or talking mice.” Maybe I’ll use that page to make my Christmas list. Who do I know that wants a talking mouse for Christmas?

According to Country Time lemonade, kids’ lemonade stands across the nation are closed “due to social distancing guidelines.” To help the kids, Country Time launched the “Littlest Bailout Relief Fund” to help put a “little juice back into the economy.” It will send stimulus checks to kids who can’t operate their lemonade stands this summer. In a company news release, Country Time said it wants to ensure that even the smallest businesses can keep their dreams alive, “So when life gives you social distancing, make lemonade.”

Through August 12, parents of children 14 years old or younger can apply for a chance to win $100 in Visa gift cards and a commemorative check. (Interested? Go to

In 2018, Country Time had a “Legal Ade” promotion to help kids pay permit fees on their lemonade stands, due to outdated permit laws. This prompted several states to exclude lemonade stands from businesses that require a permit to operate.

I am not a gardener. All the credit for flower care in our yard goes to Ted. The only thing I like about gardening is looking at the flowers.

For the 10 years we’ve had this plant, I thought it was a rhododendron. Thanks to Katie for educating me and pointing out the differences between rhododendrons and hydrangeas. Our hydrangea plant is especially pretty this year.

Gerry Hofstetter is a light artist who is projecting images of support and hope on the Matterhorn during the coronavirus crisis.

This picture shows the city of Zermatt, Switzerland. The hotel where we stayed last summer is just out of sight at the lower right of the picture.

We scored today at Wal-Mart.

There was a limit of one each, but it wasn’t clear if a package of one roll of paper towels and a package of six rolls of paper towels were equally counted as one item. A small-size package of each item was sufficient for us.

P.S. I saw an article yesterday that many stores are already notifying customers that they will not give credit for critical items purchased during the COVID 19 crisis period. Those hoarders will be well-supplied with toilet paper and hand sanitizers for awhile.

There is a worldwide shortage of condoms. Many condoms and contraceptives are manufactured in Asia–China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand–where COVID-19 has resulted in lockdowns of factories. Karex Bhd’s three factories in Malaysia make one of every five condoms in the world (10 million condoms per day) and the factories have been closed for 10 days, resulting in 100 million fewer condoms from that company alone.

A condom shortage could critically affect Africa’s fight against HIV, which would be serious. On the positive side, Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends having lots of sex while we’re quarantined. In his words, “You’ll live longer, get rid of tension, . . . [and] maybe you’ll make some babies.”

Birth rates often spike after cataclysmic events and natural disasters, so don’t be surprised if there’s a coronavirus baby boom in December.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Hint: Zoom in on the green sticker on the license plate.

By not renewing his license plate since 1992, this guy has saved about $1,500. Not to mention that he didn’t have to stand in line at the DMV office.

Shortages predicted to result from coronavirus-related production and shipping problems are causing people to horde supplies they think they will need. I’m not hoarding anything, but I get this, so I wasn’t surprised to see Wal-Mart’s shelves stripped of pain and fever-reducing medications, sterilizing mouthwash, and hand sanitizers. Yet, it seems like one product is being hoarded more than anything else.

That’s what Target’s toilet paper shelves looked like last night. Why are people hoarding toilet paper? One article I read suggested that buying lots of toilet paper might be making people feel like they have some control over the coronavirus, and therefore helps to calm them. If that’s true, there must be a lot of very calm people out there.

Ted and I made a Wal-Mart run and were surprised to see how many empty shelves there were in the store. Every department had gaping empty shelf spaces. Is the coronavirus affecting shipments and supplies? Are people buying and hoarding things faster than Wal-Mart can re-stock them? We don’t know, but it was a weird Wal-Mart shopping experience. Some of the empty shelves we saw were in groceries, . . .

kitchen utensils, . . .

pens and markers, . . .

pain-killing and fever-reducing medications, . . .

and germ-killing mouth washes.

As University of Wisconsin alumni, Ted and I receive the UW magazine. We each found an especially interesting article in the current edition. My “find” is a philanthropic educational initiative. I know a number of universities have similar programs, and I’m proud that my alma mater is one of them. (FYI, Bucky Badger is the UW mascot, thus “Bucky’s Tuition Promise.”)

Ted’s favorite article is cuter and more fun.

Recent pop-up ads on my tablet have shown “challenging” sudoku games. I like to do sudoku puzzles, so I took some screen shots and printed them just to see if the puzzles in the ads are actually solvable. Good news! They are.

A “normal” sudoku puzzle looks like this.

The rules are that each 9-square block must include the numerals 1-9. The same is true for each 9-square row and for each 9-square column. Within a 9-square block, row, or column, the numerals 1-9 cannot be repeated. The puzzles I printed from the online ads were structured a little differently, but the same rules applied.

This was one of the two puzzles. I added the colored lines to make the three puzzles obvious. It helped keep my eyes focused on the nine blocks I was solving. I quickly noticed that the center 9-square block is shared by all three puzzles, so the center puzzle must be solved first. After that, you solve the other two, but you cannot change any of the numbers entered in the center puzzle.

The second printout was a larger puzzle, apparently only solvable by “real sudoku master.” Again, I figured out that the center square needed to be solved first because it shares its corner squares with each of the other four puzzles. This puzzle was a more challenging level–harder than I enjoy doing–so it took me some time to solve the center puzzle. After that, the other four were pretty simple, maybe because I already had one corner of each already solved.

If the ads are to be believed, I’m a real sudoku master, since I solved both puzzles. Now, back to my real life.

It went viral on social media. Celebrities and sports teams got into it. The broom challenge was hot. It made the news in USA Today.

The broom challenge has actually been around since 2012 and claims that at the spring and fall equinox, it is possible to make a broom stand alone.

Too bad the broom challenge is based on pseudoscience and false claims. It’s a harmless social media hoax that can be done at any time of the day on any day of the year. The secret to success is the broom’s center of gravity, not the earth’s gravitational pull. Who has time to think up this stuff?

I forgot to check the Great Barrier Reef off my Down Under checklist, so check #4 for that. Yesterday we went to Mt. Tambourine, so check #5 for that. I’m down to my last item–seeing the Southern Cross in the night sky.

I only included “G’day, mate” as an Australian phrase I wanted to hear, but yesterday I heard “No worries,” and that’s a good Australian phrase too.

What a great trip. We’ve done, seen, or heard all the things I was most looking forward to and had a few bonuses I hadn’t thought of before leaving home–“no worries” and kangaroos. If my life were a holiday movie, it would be It’s a Wonderful Life.

Today (Wednesday), Ted and I spent the afternoon on Thursday Island at the northern tip of Queensland. It is the northernmost village in Australia and serves as the administrative and main population center of the Torres Strait Islands. The island is small–1.4 square miles in area with a population of less than 3,000 people, surrounded by beautiful turquoise water. It averages 300 days of sunshine annually. There is one hospital, one post office, one school, etc., but five churches and (naturally) six pubs.

The origin of the name “Thursday Island” is uncertain. Wednesday Island was named by William Bligh (yes, the Captain Bligh of mutiny fame), who might also have named Thursday Island. In the late 19th century, the names of Wednesday and Thursday Islands were swapped so the islands would be in weekday order. Wednesday and Tuesday islands are uninhabited; Friday Island has minor development. The whereabouts of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday islands remain unknown.

A sad fact about Thursday Island is that there’s water, water everywhere, but not a beach to swim. It’s dangerous to swim at the beach because of sharks, crocodiles, and a large, dangerous jellyfish-like creature called a marine stinger, which has tentacles that are 9 m long. Need I mention that the marine stinger (like the sharks and crocs) packs a wicked bite? On the positive side, Shoeless Jeff would fit right in here. Many current Thursday Island residents still live by a no-footwear policy out of respect for the spirits believed to live on the island.

Here’s a picture of Thursday Island. It’s in the center, with a “tail” to the right and windmills and a cell tower on high ground in the middle.

Before cultured pearls became common, Thursday Island had a thriving pearl-fishing industry. Divers came from Japan, Malaysia, and India to harvest the precious stone of the gold-lipped oyster. Pearl diving at that time was a very dangerous profession because it was done by free-diving without helmets or oxygen. As a result, many divers died. Along the beach walk, called the “Parade,” there is a sculpture honoring the pearl-diving industry on Thursday Island.

We spent some time walking around the downtown area of the island admiring the scenery, and we visited the island’s cultural museum where we learned about local culture and history. I found it interesting that, in the past, sailors on luggers (small sailing ships) would flatten the mainmast in heavy seas. This allowed the lugger to remain relatively steady in the water, gently rising and falling with the waves. It was said that a good sailor could keep the lugger steady enough to cook a pot of rice until it was finished while the ship sailed through the rough waters. On less steady ships, the rice sometimes had to be eaten before it finished cooking.

Our next destination was the Green Hill Fort. The fort was built in the 1890s because of concerns about a Russian invasion. It was shut down 30 years later and then reactivated during World War II as a wireless station. Walking to the fort took us up a very steep hill all the way–no breaks. We zigzagged our way upward for about three-quarters of a mile in the 90-degree heat, then down again (much easier) and finished two bottles of water in that mile and a half, plus two more during the rest of our time on the island. Luckily, there was a nice ocean breeze to dry our sweat as we walked. We didn’t “drip” until we stopped walking. Here’s a picture of a cannon at the fort aimed over the Torres Strait.

It was easy to find beautiful scenery on the island.

We also saw some interesting sights not included in the travel brochures. One was a discarded cigarette box. There’s nothing like putting the health risks of smoking cigarettes right in your face with straight talk and a picture of blackened lungs. The warning is more eye-catching than the brand name at the bottom of the box front.

Ted and I also named a new species of animal: the motionless flat frog. There were few sidewalks and little traffic, so we walked on the roadsides and saw a lot of those frogs in the traffic lanes. The little critters must abound on the island. (The dark edges are shadows, not indentations in the road surface. The motionless flat frog is lying on the road.)

After about an hour-and-a-half of walking in the hot sun, we took a break and sat in a shady park to cool down a little bit. A man from our ship offered to take our picture.

Because of shallow water, our ship had to anchor quite a distance from Thursday Island. In fact, it was out of sight of the island. It was about a 30-minute ride each way by tender from the ship to the island and back. The tenders hold 260+ people and also serve as lifeboats. Their downfall is that they are very hot inside. (Better hot than dead in an emergency, right?) For our shuttle ride back and forth, the crew left the two side doors open for air, but we didn’t really have any air circulation until the pilot got creative and stuck a water bottle in a top escape hatch to prop it open. Clever!

Tonight our captain will take us south through the Coral Sea along the eastern coast of Australia. Our next stop: Cairns, Australia with an excursion to the Great Barrier Reef. Meanwhile, a day at sea tomorrow and more onboard fun and relaxation.

“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.

But maybe not.  Today, Ted and I set a record for walking:  18.25 miles.  After that, my pedometer broke.  Really.

We started the day with an omelette (French food in France) for lunch and then headed for Notre Dame.  On the way, we passed some green box-like things along the sidewalk and thought they were dumpsters for nearby apartments.  We were so-o-o-o wrong!

Top left: The boxes had legs that allowed them to fit over the concrete abutment along the sidewalk. Top right: From the front, they looked like dumpsters, but the front edge and top were constructed to be lifted to form . . . voilà! . . . (lower center) little sidewalk shops.

Because of the recent fire at Notre Dame, visitors cannot enter the cathedral, but there was still a crowd all the way around it on the sidewalks.  It was a sad sight, and the crowd was more somber than exuberant.

Here’s the classic view of the front of Notre Dame. The cathedral is located on an island in the Seine River.
The two rear towers and most of the roof were completely destroyed by the fire.

Our next stop was the Pantheon.  It must be one of the highest points in Paris, because we walked uphill all the way from Notre Dame.  There were pretty views of the Eiffel Tower and of Notre Dame from the Pantheon. 

The Pantheon was built in 1744 because King Louis XV wanted to dedicate a prestigious building to Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. In 1791, the monument was turned into the national Pantheon. Its crypt enshrines great men and women of France, including Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, and Marie Curie.

The Pantheon is in the Latin Quarter of Paris, so we walked around the neighborhood for a little while.  Since it was still early, we headed downhill and across the Seine to the Bastille.  We found the site, in spite of extensive road construction in the area, and were surprised to see that not even a remnant of the Bastille exists.  It felt like the Fourth of July without the Liberty Bell to visit.  The Bastille prison was pretty much destroyed after the French Revolution (no one felt warm and fuzzy about preserving it), and the site is now the home of an opera house.

The ultramodern building in the center is the opera house on the site of the former Bastille. There is no Bastille to be seen, although many streets and buildings in the neighborhood have “Bastille” in their names.

Time was passing, and our feet were getting tired, so we headed back to the hotel.  The sky became increasingly overcast and looked more and more like rain.  It took us a long time to cover the distance (or maybe it just seemed like a long time because we’d walked for so long), but we made it to about 30 feet from the hotel door before it started to sprinkle.  The shower didn’t last long, so we rested our legs and feet and went out later to feast on beouf bourguignon for dinner.  Yummy! (“Beef stew” sounds so much better in French.)

Again:  18.25 miles of walking in one afternoon!  Whew!

Note:  We’ve ordered vanilla ice cream twice in France.  Although it was called “vanilla,” it was French vanilla both times.  But of course, n’cest pas? 

I bought a shirt a few days ago, and noticed that the manufacturer has a clear mission statement on its tags.

I saw an article in USA Today that reported one-quarter of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been classified as “unstable.” According to the article, the ocean water in front of the glacier is too hot, causing the underside to melt where it grinds against the seabed. This allows the glacier to slide more quickly into the ocean and to become thinner.

My question is: How does anyone know where West Antarctica is? Every direction from the South Pole is north. Once you are north of the South Pole, moving in a clockwise direction around the pole will take you eastward, just like it does in the rest of the world; counterclockwise will take you westward. Where’s the starting point? Obviously, “West” Antarctica is an agreed-upon arbitrary area.

For my birthday, Kathy and Annette gave me a jar of Cherry Man jumbo maraschino cherries. They are available at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Kirksville and are the biggest cherries I’ve ever seen. I measured one and it was a little more than an inch in diameter, so only 14 cherries fit in this 12-ounce jar.

Around the lid, the directions tell me to: (1) Open jar; (2) Remove one cherry; (3) Put in Mouth; (4) Chew (yum!); and (5) Repeat. Ted and I did.

After only a few hours of sleep, Ted and I were up again before sunrise yesterday. (I can’t believe I did that two days out of three!) We were at the airport by 5:30 a.m., ready to fly to Hawai’i.

We had a four-hour flight to Phoenix, a two-hour layover, then a seven-hour flight to Honolulu. The flights were both on time and uneventful, unlike our Hawai’ian trip last year. We arrived at 4:30 p.m. Honolulu time (8:30 p.m. St. Louis time) and were able to enjoy walking around the resort for a little while in the daylight, then eat dinner outside before going to our room and nearly falling into bed. We were fine all day, unless we stopped moving–then we realized how tired we were.

After a long night of sleep, we had a wonderful time today and spent most of it outside in the mid-70s sunny weather. In contrast, Kari texted us that her kids had a snow day today. I bet they had as much fun as we did–with different weather.

We always like to learn things about the places we visit, so we usually plan what we’re going to do each day. This time, however, relaxing sounded so good, we didn’t plan anything except to do whatever we feel like doing. Today we felt like spending some of the morning on our balcony, sipping coffee (Ted) and hot chocolate (me), looking at the Pacific Ocean, and relaxing until we were hungry for lunch.

This is the view from our balcony. We stayed in the Rainbow Tower (left) last January. It’s nice to have a view of the rainbow mosaic this time.
We ate lunch outside to enjoy the weather.

After lunch, we decided to explore (i.e., compare) the resort across the street from ours. (We like ours more.) After that, we walked to the Ana Moana shopping mall, less than a mile away. We had no shopping to do, but it gave us a destination. It’s the largest mall in the state of Hawai’i, with over 300 stores on three levels and an unusual range of shopping choices–everything from Target and Old Navy to Dior and Harry Winston (the real designer stores, not outlets). Surprisingly (to us), there was no food court. Later in the afternoon, we went to the beach.

Diamond head isn’t too far from our resort. We’ll be going to its top while we’re here.

We stayed at the beach to watch the sunset. The crowd of spectators begins to gather around 6:00, then dissipates after the sun goes down. There is no twilight in the tropics; after sunset, it’s dark within thirty minutes.

Sunsets over the ocean are beautiful.
After the beach crowd and the sunset crowd left, this beachcomber came out to hunt for buried treasure.
This is the pool and hot tub below our balcony. That’s a decorative design on the pool bottom, not a swimming serpent.

We had a very relaxing day and we’re loving the sunshine and warm weather. I’m so glad we’ll get to do it again tomorrow. It’s a tough job, but . . .

Jonathan Haidt developed 27 non-political questions that can help identify if your brain is more Republican or Democratic. If you want to discover your brain’s political stance, go to Answer the questions truthfully, and don’t read the explanation at the end of this post until you’ve finished.

It’s very cold outside, so I’ll think about spring while you take the quiz. When you’re ready, scroll down past this photo.

As you might have guessed from the nature of the questions, Haidt developed a “disgust scale.” A scientific study showed that this trait (disgust) can help determine if you are politically more conservative or more liberal. Conservatives tend to be more prone to disgust.

Some scientists think disgust might be an ancestral reaction that protected more primitive people from contamination and disease. (Think drinking water vs. pond scum.) There are probably more accurate tests if you need a test to determine your political leanings, but this one was kind of fun.

Here are my results: 39% conservative and 61% liberal. I guess I’m less affected by disgusting things than I thought.

Ted and I were shopping at Von Maur and saw these holiday fashions for men.  I’m trying to picture Ted in the green suit and tie, but it’s not working for me.

Drawn like a moth to a flame.

I had this citronella candle burning while I sat on the patio under the party lights last night.  When I blew out the candle, I noticed the unfortunate moth.

This guy has been visiting us regularly.  We haven’t seen him in the water yet, so maybe he’s only sunbathing or looking for girl ducks in swimsuits.

In spite of the never-ending below-normal temperatures we’ve been having, Mother Nature is strong enough to start things growing.  As soon as I passed the carts and entered the Wal-Mart store today, I saw this eye-catching display.


Today’s Google doodle features William Henry Perkins, a British chemist and entrepreneur who accidentally discovered the first synthetic dye.  In 1856, when he was just 18 years old, Perkins was trying to synthesize quinine to treat malaria.  His experiment failed and, instead of quinine, his beakers were filled with a dirty brown sludge.  When he cleaned the beakers with alcohol, the sludge became a bright, rich purple dye that he called mauveine.  A long chain of chemical advances resulted in a bright, inexpensive synthetic color available to the masses.  Thanks to Perkins, we don’t have to smash roots and berries to have colorful clothing.

I saw this at Biltmore last spring.  Of course, every woman knows this is true, . . .


. . . but do you think Cinderella pictured shoes like these?  These pictures were part of an historical shoe exhibit at our Hawaiian resort.

The center shoe symbolizes Cinderella, who ran down the palace staircase and lost her glass slipper/shoe.  The 6″ high tiki head carved on the clog heel is pretty eye-catching too.  How long do you think the heel on the fish shoe will last?

The top sandal is called “Splendor in the Grass.”  The bottom one uses every part of a leek.  Check out its bulb toe.

Everything that needs to be done is checked off the list.  Now . . . Let there be peace on earth.

I had surgery to correct three hammer toes on my right foot in March 2016.  Although the swelling went down, shoes are often a little too tight on my right foot, so I decided to have Aaron, the shoe repair man, stretch the toe boxes of several right shoes a little wider.  I was surprised to see that Aaron has a new lamp in his shop window.  It’s wearing a right shoe.

The first overnight stop on our Midwestern Adventure Trip (MAT) was Kirksville, where Ted and I spent the evening with Kathy and Annette.  The girls treated us to dinner and we had several hours to catch up on what’s new with each of us.  After all, we hadn’t been together since the eclipse two days ago.  Before settling in for our talk time, the girls took us to see a Kirksville home with many unusual yard ornaments.  The objects definitely qualify as kitsch–a developing theme of this vacation.

Can you see the spider in the lower right center?  There is also a praying mantis hidden in the bushes, and don’t miss the smiling face on the center tree trunk.  You can see smaller sculptures ahead of the bushes on the left.


Yes, those are jello molds and yes, they spin in the wind.


A carved wooden figure welcomes visitors at the front door.  Note that there are elves under the bench on the left.


The entire width of the back yard fence is lined with sculptures–also constructed of jello molds and also capable of spinning in the wind.


After this kitschy stop, we found more kitsch at the girls’ house.

Annette made this for an art sculpture project while attending Moberly Area Community College.  It now serves as a storage shed for the girls.


We are definitely viewing a different kind of scenery on this vacation.

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.