New Driver

Our oldest grandson’s sixteenth birthday and newly acquired learners permit brought to mind some of my own driving experiences as a sixteen year old.

One of my earliest times driving on snow-covered roads, I came to a stop sign, slowed, braked, and slid into the intersection. But I wanted to turn the corner, not keep going straight. Turning the steering wheel as usual made the back of the car slide faster than Continue reading

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If It’s Red…

Although dreading the loss of several hours that morning, I took our Rav 4 to the dealer’s garage for a courtesy check-up. Although it seemed like everyone had brought their car in that morning, the garage mechanics finished with our vehicle in record time.

The man at the check-out desk handed me the lone key and pointed. “That’s your car, over there, hidden behind the other vehicles.” I followed his gaze and spotted our car’s red roof in the farthest garage bay.

Anxious to get on with that day’s to-do list, I hurried around the other vehicles and hopped into ours. I slipped the key into the ignition, but something seemed off kilter.

Then I noticed Continue reading

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The Elephant Cake

img_3690A sob erupted deep within and tears rolled down my cheeks. Not one to cry easily, my reaction to seeing the “with picture” elephant cake recipe caught me by surprise. Especially since I was looking for Christmas cookie ideas. Although I’ve never made that cake, my mother did when I was a young child.

Seeing the elephant cake recipe and picture bought back Continue reading

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The Challenge

He said it as a challenge rather than a command.

I pondered his words. The challenge seemed simple, or was it? How hard could it be to Continue reading

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Kids Say the Darndest Things

IMG_3515Some things never change.

Decades ago Art Linkletter penned the book, Kids Say the Darndest Things, using quips from the children on his show, Art Linkletter’s House Party.

And kids today still say the darndest things, as several tykes recently reminded me.

Last week, a friend and her three little ones came over to use our pool. Since swimming always makes kids hungry, we took a snack break.

An Oreo dropped to the ground and I knelt down to pick it up. The six-year-old hurried over, eyes filled with concern, and asked, Continue reading

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The In-law Cometh

IMG_3384She only came to help, to watch the grandkids for a few days while Son and Daughter-in-law (henceforth referred to as THEY or THEM) enjoyed a time away.

She didn’t mean to mess up things, it just happened.

It began with the dishwasher, or rather the dishwasher soap. Mother-in-law (MIL) uses powdered soap in her machine. THEY use little packets of soap wrapped in plastic.

“Just pop one of the packets into the soap container,” THEY said. So MIL did, every night before running the dishwasher. Then she noticed a strange thing. The plastic didn’t fully dissolve, which left a lot of soap unused. MIL decided something must be wrong with the dishwasher.

She showed THEM one of the half-dissolved packets on their arrival home. After an incredulous stare, THEY burst out laughing, and patiently explained that it’s important to remove the plastic before using.

Nothing else was said, but MIL noticed a new dishwasher in place on her next visit. Oops!

On another Grandkid Watch, MIL carefully wrote down THEY’s instructions to find the approved TV shows for the grandkids. Although MIL knows how to use her own DVD player and TV, she doesn’t have cable, or Netflix, or anything else. THEY have it all.  And it all seemed simple enough as THEY explained it.

Then THEY left for several days. That afternoon, MIL turned on the TV and changed the channel. As least she thought that’s what she did. TV snow and noise filled the giant flat screen.

Eventually she managed to find the grandkids’ Netflix shows, complete with picture and sound. Relief! But from that moment on, the TV setting only had snow and noise. MIL only hoped THEY could figure out what happened and fix it.

And yes, she explain the problem to THEM on their arrival home.

On MIL’s most recent Grandkid Watch, she decided to cook pierogies for supper. After dropping the stuffed noodles into boiling water, she hunted for a slatted spoon – unsuccessfully. A good improviser, she decided to use a slatted spatula instead.

While stirring the pierogies, she realized part of the spatula was gone and the food smelled a bit strange. Had that piece of the spatula melted? She fished around in the pan for a blob of plastic, but found nothing.

MIL couldn’t feed the grandkids pierogies cooked with melted whatever-spatulas-are-made-of. The food made an unplanned trip to the garage disposal.  Now, not only did she have to come up with another side dish for supper, but she needed to replace the melted utensil as well.

THEY arrived home before MIL could buy a new spatula. After explaining what happened, she found out the utensil had been cracked. Maybe the piece simply fell off and she couldn’t find it in the boiling water. Maybe it did melt. Either way, THEY said not to get another spatula, THEY had a spare.

Even though all the mishaps…and yes there are more, THEY keep asking MIL to come for a Grandkid Watch. And that’s good news, because I am MIL.


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The Unexpected

I spied it at a garage sale as Hubby and I drove to the bank. Although not quite what I was looking for, it would work – after a face-lift.

Hubby NEVER stops, or even slows, when passing a garage sale. But this one happened to be within walking distance of our bank, albeit along a major two-lane road. Hubby parked the car and headed into the bank. I trotted off down the road.

In a few minutes I stood in front of the white, three-shelf changing table. It seemed solid and plenty sturdy to use as a plant-potting table. I bought it.

The changing table didn’t weigh much, only awkward to carry – until I flipped it upside down and carried it on top of my head. More than a few stares and odd looks came my way while walking to the bank. But at my age, who cares!

IMG_3316Now for the face-lift.

First, it received a soapy scrub-down and hose-off.

Then I spray-painted it a bright, bold red. Next came waterproof liners for each shelf.

IMG_3348It looked bright, but boring. A piece of leftover border print, sprayed with outdoor varnish, added the perfect touch.

After months of wanting one, I finally had a potting table, although through a process much different than expected.

That started me thinking.

At times, life hands us the unexpected – usually something not wanted, planned, or easy. Yet it’s our choice on how to handle it.

We can moan, groan, and complain. Or we can use it to develop our character and deepen our understanding of life. By working through the unexpected with a positive mindset, we’re then able to walk alongside and encourage someone else experiencing the same or similar difficulty.

However, sometimes the unexpected is welcomed and enjoyed. Like finding a potting table and the lesson it taught.

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The Almost Vacation

We had great plans for our week of vacation…hiking, kayaking, biking, a motorcycle ride. But the reasoning behind taking the week before Memorial Day off resided in getting a jump on “summer-izing” the house and yard.

A work and play vacation.

But like most plans, things didn’t go quite as expected.

Even though the calendar said late May, our bodies still maintained their winter adjustment to cold temperatures. That week, a southern weather system moved in and brought extremely high humidity and 80°- 90°F temperatures.

To us, the outdoors felt like a suffocating, overheated sauna. Around noon each day, we staggered into the house, soaked with sweat and half sick. Unable to work in the intense heat, we thought it best to take afternoon naps instead.

IMG_3323We then worked during the mornings and evenings. While scrubbing up the table and chairs on our front porch, I noticed the faded metal frames had some chipping and rust and overall looked bad. Even the padded seats had seen better days.

A makeover for these turned into the first unexpected project.

IMG_3338We took off the table’s glass top and the padded chair seats before spray-painting the frames a deep red. And bought a bright-striped outdoor fabric for the chairs.

About those chair seats…a zillion rusted staples held the fabric to each foam-covered plywood base. These little metal strips refused to come out and trapped swatches of old fabric. Plus the plywood had aged and splintered.

This created an unexpected step in the unexpected project. Hubby now had to buy a sheet of plywood, and cut out four new seats. Each would need two coats of varnish before being covered with foam and fabric.

IMG_3337Next project…a recently acquired, used, wooden bench for the front porch. I thought a quick sanding and a new coat of paint would make this bench good to go. Yeah, right….

While sanding the bench, it became apparent that the acrylic topcoat of paint did not like to adhere to the oil-based paint underneath. The bench needed stripped before a new coat of paint could be applied.

By now we had relegated the cars to the driveway as the unexpected projects filled the garage. But at least we had a dry place to work during that week’s thunderstorms.

Ahh yes, the thunderstorms….

A yearly spring job is pressure-washing the front porch. Although pressure washing is not Hubby’s favorite chore, he cleaned all the porch railings, siding, and floor. And it looked really good…until the next day.

The weather called for severe thunderstorms and high winds. For once the forecast happened to be correct, almost down to the minute. At precisely 4:01 in the afternoon, high winds plastered thousands of tiny, wet, tree blossoms and leaves onto the porch. Once dry, these botanical masterpieces stayed glued to the siding, windows, railings, welcome rug, and floor.

Once again we cleaned the porch and washed the windows. And once again it looked really good.

Today, it’s nearing the end of the week after our week of vacation. The cars are still banned from the garage as we continue to finish the unexpected projects. We still have several patches of grass to seed, shrubs to move, and the deck and patio to pressure wash. And possibly the porch to hose down again – another thunderstorm is in the forecast.

The anticipated hiking, biking, kayaking, and motorcycle ride never happened.

But the entire summer is still to come, leaving us plenty of time for play. We are blessed, indeed!

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The Killdeer

A killdeer pretending to be hurt, to lure predators away from the nest.

A killdeer pretending to be hurt, to lure predators away from the nest.

I only wanted to spray the spring weeds with Round-up before they took over our yet-to-be-tilled-and-planted garden.

But my presence terrified two killdeer. The pair stayed close by and kept chirping a frantic chattering. Then one of the birds landed and spread out a wing, hobbling like it was hurt.

A killdeer nest between last year's cor stalks.

A killdeer nest between last year’s corn stalks.

Ah-hah! They have a nest nearby. I didn’t move and looked around. Finally I spotted the nest in one end of the garden – an impression in the ground, lined with tiny pebbles, and containing four eggs. It blended in so well, that had the birds not gone ballistic, I’d never have seen their nest and may have stepped on it.

Two newly hatched chicks, two eggs still to hatch.

Two newly hatched chicks, two eggs still to hatch.

I knew that once killdeer hatch, they  walk as soon as their fuzzy feathers dry. Although the young chicks cannot fly, very soon after hatching, the parents walk them to a feeding ground where they stay until able to fly.

Maybe, just maybe I could get a glimpse of the chicks before they left the nest– a very small window of time.

Killdeer chicks lay on the ground perfectly still when a predator is near

Killdeer chicks lay on the ground perfectly still when a predator is near

About two weeks later, I noticed that two of the eggs had hatched. One chick walked around, looking like a fuzz ball with legs. But as soon as the little chick saw me, it lay flat on the ground and didn’t move.

At least this presented an opportunity to take a few pictures. Later that afternoon, the third chick hatched. I never saw the fourth, but the next day their egg-less nest was abandoned.

Parents and chicks abandon the nest soon after last egg hatches.

Parents and chicks abandon the nest soon after last egg hatches.

Now, whenever I hear a killdeer, I wonder if it’s one of “our” birds.

And maybe, just maybe they will come back next year and again hatch their brood in our garden.

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Mother’s Day Along Pine Creek

IMG_3237Pine Creek Valley has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

After visiting our moms on Mothers Day, Hubby and I enjoyed a hike – actually more of a walk, along Pine Creek.

After almost a week of rain, a cool wind and clear skies made the day perfect.



The Bonnell family lived along this stretch of Pine Creek in the 1800’s. Off the path and on the mountainside, we found an old tombstone marking the grave site of a little Bonnell girl 1 year, 2 months, and 2 days old, who passed away in 1852.

Weathered and worn by time, the grave marker is difficult to read.

Weathered and worn by time, the grave marker is difficult to read.









Reminders of new life, come Spring, bright green patches of  ferns lined sections of the path.

Reminders of new life in springtime, bright green patches of ferns lined sections of the path.

Reddish wild flowers hung from rocky outcrops.

Reddish wild flowers hung from rocky outcrops.

A close-up of the flowers. Does anyone know what kind they are?

A close-up of the flowers. Does anyone know what kind they are?







Old mile markers slowly crumble along the rail trail.

Old railroad mile markers slowly crumble along the rail trail.









Rocky outcroppings loom above the path.

Mountain steams and falls ran full from the recent rains.

Mountain steams and waterfalls run full from the spring rains.









Notice the tree with the orange square in the foreground. A small section of the Mid-state trail follows the rail trail.

Notice the tree, in the foreground, with the orange square. This marks a small section of the Mid-state trail running along the rail trail.

This Country Grandmother had a wonderful Mother’s Day!


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