Monday, December 20, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Well, in all honesty, it's beginning to look a lot like autumn. Leaves are turning yellow and red here in the Tampa area. And even though we have had some cool and some downright cold temps (yes, compared to the average temps here), we still are having some warmer and sunshine-y days. And tomorrow I will be golfing with "the girls" (none of us having seen girlhood in 50 - 60 years) and I am hoping it is warmer than the predicted upper 60's when we tee off.

So finally got some Christmas cards written and addressed. Since this is a more metropolitan-style community than Duluth, there is a marked absence of mailboxes. The mailbox (L tells me it is a "snorkle" box) closest to us is across the highway - 6 lanes with speed limit of 50 mph -- and if you want to cross that road as a pedestrian, you risk being a statistic. So ya gotta hop in the car, and wait and wait to nose into that traffic. Three lanes each way, and I hafta go east (right), then in less than a block, cross three lanes to the left-turn lane, make a U-turn (it's legal at that place) and then cross three more lanes (westbound, this time) and make a right into a parking lot. And I did that just before 4 pm. Only to find that this mailbox has ONE pick-up time -- and that WAS at 10:30 am.

Click HERE to see the map. I enter at the green B, go right, U-turn at Osprey Lane, go left on 54, and then right turn into the parking lot. Most traffic is going 50 mph-plus.

Geez, all I wanted to do was get some Christmas cards in the mail. So BACK in the car and a drive up to the Land o Lakes (yes, that is the name of the city) post office. Technically, we live in Land o Lakes (by geography), but our mailing address is Lutz. L, my former postal employee guy, says that is because our mail is routed through the Lutz post office. Lutz, btw, is pronounced, LOOTZ.

If you want to see our humble winter abode, zoom in on the satellite map a bit. We are at the corner of Pond Drive and Lake Drive (far right side of the rv park), in the northwest corner of that intersection. If you zoom in enough, you can see our F350 on the Pond Drive side, and the Rav4 on the Lake Drive side. Hah -- it's official. It's on sat-tuh-lite!

Now I'm looking at two small boxes that need to be mailed. I'm afraid that this good idea of a few presents will be costlier than what we have invested in the gifts so far. Since it would be nice to have those gifts reach the recipients before Christmas, we may be paying a premium price for this procrastination.

I have set an alarm for 2:30 am, in case we decide to see the lunar eclipse. Maybe I'll come to my senses and just turn off the phone's alarm and go back to sleep.

And since the Vikes have gone down in defeat in this Monday night frost-box game, it's time for me to close up operations, too. 'Night.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Where have I (we) been??

Well, what a long, strange road it's been.
We left the Duluth area October 31st and headed for Chicago. L wanted to go to a exhibition of packagers and cappers and so on, called PackExpo. Some very neat machinery to assist in filling, capping, labeling and packaging of goods, and OF COURSE all it takes to automate is lots and lots of cash. Still, nice to see what life could be like if this business was very profitable.

Then we left on November 1st on a 2-day drive to Texas' Hill Country. Sigh... I feel like I'm home, when I am back there. Hard to believe that I had last seen Texas in August of 2009, when my house closing happened and we loaded up a full-sized U-Haul truck and headed to MN.

We spent several days in Texas, and L got to the Alamo and was impressed at the length of the battle (several weeks, for those who do NOT know that), and just how out-numbered the Texans were in that struggle. He even actually enjoyed several bottles of Shiner Bock beer (great stuff -- y'all should try it!). I believe we left Texas on Nov. 6th and arrived back in Lutz/Land-o-Lakes on the 7th. And "enjoyed" a flat tire on the trailer about 70 miles of so away from our destination. Always something interesting with at least one of our "fleet" of vehicles, at some point in our travels! Last year we had problems with the F350 on our return to MN in April.

L had been working with someone at a major home-shopping-type network for about a year, trying to get them to carry/distribute his glass cleaner product. And try as he may, he could not get a purchase order from them before we left for Chicago and Texas. But we got to FL and THEN the p.o. came thru. Well, there were so many loose ends that L felt compelled to go back to Duluth and do what he could to shepherd this order into production. That order was for 2,500 single-unit orders, all going to Germany for a European "cousin" of this shopping network. His operation is SMALL, folks -- hand-labeled, hand-capped bottles... very labor-intensive. It required using some outside labor for labeling, and then overtime for those of us who could/would be able to produce this quantity.

Without going into a lot of detail: we DROVE back from FL to MN, non-stop (except for refueling and potty breaks), leaving FL at noon on Nov. 16th (Tues.) and arriving at 3 pm the next day. Completely exhausting -- I fell asleep behind the wheel as we were getting VERY close to Duluth. Fortunately, he was NOT sleeping and guided the car back from the right shoulder to the right-hand lane lane. I snapped awake at that point and yes, we DID switch out drivers at that point. I had been awake over 30-plus hours by then. I do NOT sleep well in cars, no matter how tired I am. Unless I am behind the wheel for 5 hours at a time or more , apparently.

I can't tell you how many hours we put in, getting this order ready for pick-up. And the labor costs were higher, due to the last-minute nature of this order. But the important thing is that this order WAS generated, and now sales in Germany will tell when the next order will come through. The rep that L is working with, hopes to bring this product also to Great Britain and (we hope) to the U.S. market, as well. Those of you who ARE familiar with L's line of products will NOT see this under his own label, if it is ever on national-shopping network(s). It is under a private-label product line. It was strange, I must say, to see the instructions converted to German, on this new product's label!

Please note that we did NOT drive non-stop on the way back to FL. We left at 1 am on Saturday, Nov. 27, arriving back here in FL around 8 pm on Sunday. And I'll try to post some more detail on that.

BTW - we were SO fortunate to experience snow on this visit to MN, too. Sigh... is that REALLY a necessity?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Random Thoughts

We went to a college hockey game Saturday night. Fun. Haven't been to a hockey game in years - think the last one was the minor-league hockey team that was Houston-based, the Aeros. Funny thing... I was just checkin' out the Aeros website and see that it states, "primary affiliate of the Minnesota Wild"! Anyway, last game attended there was back in the 90's, I am guessing. The college game was played at an older arena, with a new one scheduled to open Dec. 1st. And I was scanning the seated crowd and was struck by the fact that it appeared to be so white (as in Caucasian). After spending 25 years in multicultural Houston, this is still so jarring to me.

This area has a LOT of blue-collar workers and those who work with their hands. The recession has been tough on the surrounding towns and residents. Homes are posted for sale and stay on the market for months and months. Sometimes a "For Sale" sign is removed and you are hopeful that someone has sold their home. But it is eventually re-posted with a different realty company now on the sign. And lake homes (such as the one where L lives) are especially tough to sell, as people give up luxuries during tough times.

It was L's birthday on Tuesday, and his daughter and her family had us to their house for dinner. Nice treat, where you don't have to cook anything! And another dinner on Sunday, this time at his son's home. They also invited L's daughter and her family (5 in the family for them), plus another couple - L's son works with the husband - so there were 11 to feed. So a SECOND treat, where we had no food responsibilities except to show up.

After eating and visiting with everyone, we drove in the direction of home, stopping at the Inn to watch the remainder of the Vikings - Packers game. Ugh -- a tough loss, and I did not like that so many of the Packer fans booed Brett Favre at the end of the game. Brett was on the Packer's sidelines, exchanging handshakes and so on with former teammates, being very gracious in defeat. Oh, well... I am sure that the Vikings have their share of bad sportsmen in the stands.Sigh... Being a Viking fan means you never ever really believe in your heart that they can "win the big one". Unlike the Twins, who have, at least twice in the past century (OMG - it HAS been that long) won the World Series. There are countless jokes told and retold, about two Minnesota Scandinavians being sent to Hell, and they are not discouraged by conditions there. Raised in so much cold weather, they are actually enjoying the heat. So the Devil changes tactics and makes Hell a frigid place, so cold that they will start complaining. But not the Scandinavians. As the temperature dips lower and lower, they begin to rejoice, hugging each other, hooping and hollering. The Devil is astounded and taken aback. "What", he asks these two,"are you so happy about?" One of them turns to him and replies, "The Vikings won the Super Bowl!" The Devil: "How do you know this?" and they reply, "Hell froze over!"

I am looking forward to this weekend and our push towards Tampa. Warm weather, you are only a few days away (with stops in Texas's Hill Country and in New Orleans, on our journey to Florida)!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn color

It must be very tedious to see these same-ol' same-ol' autumn color pix on various blogs. Sorry... I cannot help myself. The color is so much better if you'll click on the individual photos to make 'em bigger.

Yesterday (Thursday) was an absolutely, knock-down gorgeous day, weather-wise and color-wise. I grabbed L's camera (since I have lazily "forgotten" to charge my camera up recently), snapping photos on the way to town (about a half-hour drive), and then a few more on the way back. Leaves were beginning to fall already, and with cooler nights ahead, more of 'em would be following their fallen comrades. So there was no time for delaying the photo op!

This tall yellow-leaved tree is standing behind L's old Toyota Tundra pickup.If you enlarge the photo, you will see a tiny little white orb near the top of the tree, on the left side. It's the moon, trying to peek out through that beautiful blue sky!

This was the view I had when I headed down the driveway Thursday morning. Nature can brighten your mood, can't she?

Color, color everywhere. I took another photo... Just a bend to the left in the road, but so much more, on a bright and sunny fall day.

I'll leave you with this, another bend - to the right this time...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meeting the "in-laws"

As most of my "faithful" readers know, my husband Greg passed away in May of 2008. And now my status - it IS, after all, official since it IS on Facebook - is "in a relationship". My significant other and I both have strong personalities and can both have some blockheaded views but we are working on those. These sentences are just to lay the groundwork for my little tale...

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to a 50th birthday party in the Cities (Twin Cities, for those of you not from this area -- Mpls/St. Paul) for the youngest of Greg's cousins, D. I have seen this family only once since Greg died, when they graciously included me in a family birthday party for those with July birthdays, in July of 2008. It was hard for me - they were very solicitous, and the mother of the cousins (sister of my late mother-in-law) made some comments that she probably thought were kind, but they instead made me tear up. She is a lovely, kind lady and in no way intended to evoke those tears, I am sure.

(As usual, I digress. Maybe I should rename my blog, "I digress". Or "Off on a tangent".)

So I told L about the party and that I intended to go. I know he was hesitant about this, meeting the "cousins in-law", but he did agree to go with me.

The party was held in a tent in the back yard of Greg's cousin C (brother of D) and his wife B. Both great folks - good senses of humor, wonderful hosts, and I have known them for years. I think they were married a couple of years following my wedding, so about 23 years for their marriage now. We did not know that D had not informed her brother C that I was coming to this party - only that a "mystery" guest was attending. So when L and I walked in the door, they were surprised. And we were greeted warmly. Of course, L was a bit "stand-offish", as most would be under the circumstances. But that quickly changed as folks started talking with him - cousin C is an avid, and very GOOD golfer, and since L is trying to improve his game, they were off and running on that topic.

It was so good for me to see these cousins - C is the oldest, then the sisters, C, C and D follow - and one of the sisters brought their mother, Aunt M, and it was good to see her under better (for me) circumstances. There was plenty of wine (brother C is a wine afficionado) and they cooked up probably 10 or 12 entire beef tenderloins on the grill. We were well-fed, pleasantly so.

Brother C gave L his seal of approval, since L and he had traded jibes back and forth several times throughout the afternoon and evening. And Aunt M told me in confidence before she headed for her own home, "You have my approval." And then added, "Not that you need it..." Very sweet of her to say so.

My sister, who had been widowed about 6 years by the time she paired up with her guy, presented him to her brothers- and sister-in-law (those who were living in this area at the time). Now THAT has to be intimidating -- the direct blood relatives of her late husband! Needless to say, that also went well. So I feel blessed (and I am sure that Sis also does) that these meet-ups went well. I have heard countless tales of in-laws who resented the fact that the widow/widower of their child had the audacity to date again. Or a brother or sister of the deceased feels slighted by that same activity.

My husband's only surviving blood relative is his brother. And I believe he would be accepting of L -- but this brother is NOT one to keep in contact with his family, including the above-mentioned cousins. And I have not been in phone contact with him in some time, although I do occasionally talk with his current wife AND his former wife, both wonderful women. My direct in-laws are not a factor, since my father-in-law died in March of 2008, just months before Greg himself died. I am in contact with HIS wife (second wife - Greg's mother died in 1992) and she and I get along well, speaking on the phone several times during the year. She knows all about L, as we have conversed about him (and myself) several times. She is as supportive of me as if I were her own daughter.

All of this prattling on, just to tell you that "they liked him, they REALLY liked him" - to paraphrase Sally Fields in her Oscar-winning acceptance speech. If they had not taken to him, I know that I would still be with L. But it gives me a good feeling, knowing that Greg's side of the family does like him. And it's a weight off my shoulders that I was not even previously aware that I had been carrying. Other widows/widowers can certainly relate, I am sure.

Peace and hugs, y'all.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Suspicious characters detained at the border...

In a post titled "O Canada", I groused a little bit about a Canadian Customs official, but also pointed out that our country had much to complain about (LOTS more).

And of course they eventually provided me with fodder for a bitch session here on the blog. We got to the border around four-ish yesterday (Sunday). On the way BACK into the U.S. of A., you must stop for the U.S. Customs to examine your documents. Which we of course did. They said that they were doing random checks, had us move our vehicle to a certain point, turn off the ignition, and go into their headquarters. Where we surrendered our documents (again) and answered some of the same questions the Canadian guy had asked when we ENTERED Canada. L had to produce his Canadian fishing license (we had the legal limit of 4 fish - 8 fillets - with a strip of skin attached to show the species of the fish). Then L explained that he had his own business, I again replied that I was retired, and the U.S. Customs gal asked "From where?" I just don't get it. I think - for the next time travelling between between here and our neighbors to the north - I'll invent some stupid employer and even dumber position at that fictitious employer. Or maybe I'll tell 'em I am a professional blogger and that I am using this experience to give me material to blog about. Any suggestions for that employer or position?

We had to fill out a page on anything we'd bought in Canada - a pair of $29 (Canadian money) leather gloves and I had the receipt. They asked questions about my passport, which had only been renewed a couple of weeks prior to our trip. And "Where were you born?" - for me, and the passport declares my birthplace as California. So my reply was "San Diego". I must be of GREAT interest to them - all these questions FOR ME, including where my residence was. Geeezzzz... They wanted to know what OUR relationship was. I suppose I could have given them some raunchy reply, but I'll bet that they do NOT have sense of humor. Plus they dug through the entire car, which I could tell by the placement of items from where they HAD been, to where they were sitting upon our return. We were completely legal - no weapons, no tobacco, only 3 cans of beer (purchased in the U.S.), etc.

Yup, we were definitely suspicious. As were the others we saw in the same building: a husband-and-wife with 3 young kids, a handful of young folks returning from a church function (the one gal had a head covering similar to an Amish or Mennonite hat), a few young guys who had also been there fishing, and (as we were finally being released) two couples, travelling together, ages approximately 50's or 60's. Yes, we all looked like drug smugglers, or weapons smugglers, or illegal transporters of tobacco, or.... Sigh. So much time wasted for NOTHING. And after a 20-minute delay, we were on our now-not-so-merry-way. They sure know how to ruin a good mood. I feel very violated when this happens (I remember when they used to hand search all luggage at the airports). Hope they enjoyed rummaging through my dirty clothes bag.

When we returned to our vehicle, they had the hood up on the car behind us. I'm not sure just what one might try to hide there, but I'll have to keep that in mind and see if I could put a small suitcase wedged in there sometime. Just to make 'em happy and hoping that it contains contraband...

Well, just posting this makes me seethe. I have a couple of photos that I might post on one more blog. Happy trails, y'all. And IN SPITE of U.S. Customs, I still enjoyed Canada and we experienced mostly great weather. I might even try another visit. So I have to think about my pre-retirement employer...

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Another day on Roderick Lake, a day to do some SERIOUS fishing, y'all. And so we headed out this morning -- not ALL that early BTW. Probably got on the water about 10:15 or a bit later. We took the time to sleep in, then cooked up some bacon and eggs and I figured out the coffeemaker and brewed up some caffeine, too.

It was much cooler this morning than Friday had been, and very cloudy, too. So we both donned jackets (and I put a fleece zip-up under mine), and L popped on a baseball cap, as well. We actually did NOT fish on this lake (Roderick) but on another that his friend P does NOT "share" with most people. Obviously, P liked L enough to share the locale of this one with him, years ago. And that one is a goldmine, for walleyes. I kid you not: we were not on the lake for even THREE minutes, and L landed his first one. The second one followed by about ten minutes. Eventually, after about 2 1/2 hours, we called it quits. Plenty to eat for dinner, plus some to bring back across the border (regulations allow us 4 walleyes per license, per day) - so we can bring back a day's limit with us. It rained lightly, and neither of us had any rain-repelling gear (I did not have any, and he had forgotten his at his home in Duluth). But we kept on, keepin' on. It was fun - I hadn't done any of that since I was a kid, and my main memories from then, were of extreme boredom while being forcefully kept in a boat and told to be silent. Ugh.

So, from a relative rookie start-up, I did okay. I really was babysitting one of his baited lines when I got a "hit". Wow! He told me how to set the hook, and since it was raining, the handle on the rod was slippery. I had enough to do, just to try to hold onto the slippery devil, but then had to try to reel it in and land it in the boat, to boot. And I was gettin' that bad boy close to the boat, when he broke the line and took off with my bright yellow jig. Damn. All that for nuttin'.

Obviously, this li'l guy was NOT a "keeper", so we returned him to swim with his other li'l buddies. Isn't fishing (in the rain) glamorous? My straggly, rain-soaked hair and saturated jacket tell the tale without words! And the rain was washing the oils from my face, stinging my eyes.

We continued fishing, and I actually landed a few. Towards the end of our fishing day, L got one of the biggest ones we'd caught -- and, tah-dah! it had MY jig in its jaw! So I was revenged! Plus L got the jig back. We ran out of bait (crawlers), and ended up fishing with artificial worms, which strangely DID work.

So... It was a goo-oo-ood day, folks - and one last photo of the happiest fisherman at this camp.

Friday, August 27, 2010

O Canada...

This day finds me in the province of Ontario, specifically in a fishing "camp" on a lake named Roderick. L's friend P owns this camp and also the float planes (yes, plural) that bring folks like us to this site. L and I will have free lodging, as he will be looking at some generator glitches that this site has sometimes. P converted to solar power last year, but cloudy days sometimes makes the use of one or both generators for backup electrical power.

First, some comments on Canada -- and these are NOT criticisms, because God knows, those of us who live in the U.S. of A. have plenty to criticize in our OWN country. These are just observations.

Crossing the border was uneventful, altho' I did get the feeling that the Canadian border agent just plain ol' had "nose trouble". How else do you account for the following dialogue? We were asked what we did for employment. L replied that he had his own company, manufacturing cleaners. And I in turn replied that I was retired. He wanted to know from where. What bearing does that have on my crossing the border?! He already had our passports and drivers licenses, BTW. And we had already responded to questions about alcohol, tobacco, pets - in a truthful manner. Natch.

The liquor stores here are government (national, that is) run. So I believe that
means that the prices are set without input by local citizenry. And the hours? Well, you don't have time to reinforce your alcohol input on a late-night whim. At least not in Red Lake, the place where we spent last night. The blinkin' LCBO (not sure what those letters stand for) closed at 6 PM! We arrived at the door at, like, 1 or 2 minutes AFTER that hour. Frizzle-frazzle! I had one bottle of wine that was supposed to last me until at least Sunday?! And I do enjoy a glass or two with the evening meal or in the early evening. So we'd brought a bottle across the border with us, anticipating purchasing another one to pack into the fish camp. L is a beer drinker, and the fish camp apparently stocks that (I am sure we will pay for any he will consume), and he had 6 cans that he'd brought with him.

As usual... off on a tangent, I am. Returning to the subject (which was...) of finding a bottle of wine to purchase. We ate at a local restaurant called Howey's (the bay on Red Lake where this eatery is situated is called Howey's Bay) and L asked the waitress if any other place was open later than 6 PM for liquor sales. And she very nicely told us about a place called Village Variety, about a couple of miles away (she said the distance in kilometers, which is what our metric-using neighbors-to-the-north use for distances) in the Balmertown area. So after dinner we drove there and purchased a second bottle. L made the comment - after we had exited this little store - that he knew just WHAT the focus was (for sales) in that little "variety" store, and liquor was definitely IT. Case in point: the 2-liter bottles of Coke and other non-alcoholic beverages were HEAVY with dust. But not so, with the wine and other alcohol bottles.

L said that Balmertown has a gold mine on the outskirts of town. Said it was one of the richest (as far as production goes) gold mines in the world and is owned by Goldcorp. So the town has a good-sized population of men who work in this industry and probably entertain themselves after work with a drink or several. Thus, the variety store fills a need, I guess. And it sure did for ME!

L is currently perusing (hey, I know a coupla BIG words!) manuals on the generators while I am keying up this blog. It is SO peaceful, quiet, beautiful here. P does not live here - he resides in Red Lake - but has graciously allowed us to stay at "his" cabin. We brought some food with us - bread, milk, bacon, eggs and some sliced deli meats for quick sandwiches. And L hopes to have some luck fishing, maybe get a walleye or trout or two for at least one meal. There are others here, too - a group of six young guys headed here before us, in a larger plane - DeHaviland Otter - as they had a LOT of gear PLUS a lot of groceries. Hey, they're young and probably burn more calories than we old fogies do. And who knows how much beer was included in that cargo? L tells me that the Otter burns 45 gallons of jet fuel an hour. Our little float plane was a Cessna 180 - burns aviation gas.

The flight into this site was great -- albeit noisy. And somewhat bumpy, considering that we were flying into a stiff wind at times. I want to have the camera ready for the flight back. A novel experience that I really enjoyed!

The weekend before this one was L's 50-year high school reunion. Fun times, nice folks. That was on Saturday. On Sunday, there was a small gathering of some of MY classmates, as one gal was in town visiting from Arizona. We contributed one or two side dish-y type things, and brought something to throw on the barbecue, as well. The weather was beautiful for those days, and this one is promising similar weather. When August rolls around in northern MN, it can get suddenly QUITE cool/cold. I am enjoying each warm day, trust me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yep, I did it...

About two weeks ago, we were traipsing around a golf course where L's son was competing in a tournament. Nice course, obviously helped a lot to be a private country club where the dues would help to keep the course in top shape. Money DOES help...

Anyway, we were there for 3 days, as he competed Friday thru Sunday. After the round ended on Sunday, we packed up and went back to the car. And I, of course, discovered that I had forgotten my hot-pink (fuschia?) hoodie. I am NOT crazy about that term - hoodie -- but it beats the descriptive phrase, zip-front fleece cover-up with a hood. But I digress, as they say. In fact, I had left it in the little basket of the golf cart we were using, and said cart was now in use by someone else. A second tourney was going on, and this was a two-guy playoff. We were told that they were probably at the 3rd hole, and actually they were at the 4th hole, along with my hoodie in the back of a cart. So L halted our cart at #4 behind the spectators, I ran over to the other cart and grabbed my cover-up and dashed back. Twisted my right foot and ankle but no harm done. Or so I thought. In the week-and-a-half following, I had some pain and swelling and redness, along with a warmth that seemed to indicate infection.

In true Cleopatra-queen-of-denial fashion, I kept thinking it would get better. And I finally succumbed to seeing my doc on Thursday. Xrays confirmed that I had broken the second metatarsal bone of the foot. The good news is that NO CAST is required - it is a non-displaced fracture. Since L's high school class reunion is coming up this weekend, that is great. The doc required me to get crutches, with admonitions to STAY OFF that foot as much as possible. Yeah, right -- but I have propped up my leg/foot as frequently as I can, since being told to elevate it. And it aches less and the swelling is not as significant or frequent as it had been.

This is the second break that I have sustained in 3 years, the other one being my little finger in a stumbling fall I took in September of '07. That tumble also earned me seven handsome blue-sutured stitches in my chin, too. Before that time, my only bone breaks were the result of two sternotomies (where your breastbone is sawed thru, vertically), performed during my two open-heart surgeries. The last one was 18 years ago. Without going into gory detail, I had a defective mitral valve as an indirect result of a bout of rheumatic fever at age 9. First surgery was at age 38 - Feb. 1987; and the second at age 43 - June 1992 - when the valve was replaced with a mechanical one. I have some old photos that I will try to locate and share with y'all someday. I know -- the squeamish among you can hardly wait! But if/when I post the photos, they will be tasteful (say what?!). No nudity...

So I lead a dull life...

Friday, August 6, 2010

More sunset pix

A few days ago, we had had a bunch of rain. And that probably helped set the scene for these rather pretty sunset pix. I am only showing a few, and again I wish I had a better camera. Oh, well.

These are displayed in the order taken (some other not-so-good pix I just did not show!). I have been told that the difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer, is that the good one just does not share his/her crummy pix with others.

And the grand finale - the wonderful cloud formations made this a spectacular sunset to snap. I went inside TWICE, but as the colors deepened, I just had to return for a few more pix. Sigh...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Camp Widow

I do not know how many widows/widowers read my blog (or in fact, how many have EVER read this). However, having been recently in contact with a younger widow (lost her spouse at age 39), at her request, I am publishing this note --

Camp Widow will be held in San Diego this year, from Aug. 6 - 8 (Friday thru Sunday). It is NOT a place for much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Instead, it is a place to meet others who are in YOUR place, who have many of the same concerns and anxieties and problems that we have faced, are still facing. Young children at home, financial concerns, possibly how/when to approach dating... you get the picture.

Here's the website for registration:


It looks like a great time, with workshops that you will certainly find helpful, or possibly eye-opening. I wish that I had found this group, especially during my initial year or so of widowhood. Believe me, like most non-elderly widows, I was floundering. And I am not saying that elderly widows do NOT flounder. Loss is difficult for all of us, no matter the age when it happens.

Anyway... Quoting from the registration site:

"Camp Widow welcomes anyone who has lost a life partner to participate in this program. We are an inclusive, non-denominational organization focused on hope and healing through the grieving process." So... I think they are saying, if you see yourself as a widow/widower, then WELCOME.

Even if you can drive down for just one of the days and check out a few workshops, please check it out. And maybe let me know how it was for you. {{{HUGS}}} to you all. I'll be there in spirit...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Yes, just another way to bleed money away from a widow's hands...

In 2008, my husband contracted with APX Alarm for a two-year contract (reduced rates when signing for two years, probably). The alarm stick-up artists company would debit our VISA card automatically for those two years. So then the following turn of events occurred:

Greg died in May of 2008

I sold my house and closed on it in August 2009

I contacted APX that same month, and they told me that, unless the new occupants/owners decided to "pick up" the contract, APX was legally able to debit my VISA card until May of 2010

I informed the new owners of this and left it up to them. Obviously, they chose to NOT have a contract with APX, as the automatic "hickies" to my VISA account continued.

When I saw the debit for May of this year, I assumed it would be the last one

Imagine my delight at seeing yet another debit, dated June 28, 2010...

I phoned APX and had the door shut in my face, as far as being able to cancel the automatic renewal that had taken place. NO ONE had told me that this would be an automatic renewal, and now I am paying $43.xx monthly for a goddamned house that I do not even care about anymore. Although I am sure the current owners attach some value to this place.

The sweet-talkin' customer rep had the balls to ask me if "there was anything else he could do for me" -- as if this was NOT enough that they were doing TO me

This is a warning to one and all... pump those damned customer reps for ALL information and FORCE them to tell you when or IF a contract will renew automatically

I am SMOKIN'...

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Lots of deer movement in our neck of the woods recently. We saw a very young fawn gamboling along the dirt/gravel road last week. This was a bit unusual, as they almost always hover alongside their mamas at this age. He ran in front of us as we were driving along the gravel rode, heading into L's shop that morning, with Bambi mostly keeping toward the right side.

Every once in a while he would pause and look back at us.

He ran for about a mile, right up to the paved area which crosses a small creek/river. Then he balked at the paved bridge, turned around and ran back in the opposite direction, retracing his steps.

And last night, returning from my sister's place - she had fed us some wonderful oven-baked ribs and we had a chance to visit with her three grown kids - it was later than we usually return home. Probably around 10:45 or so as we got closer to our place. L had just cranked his neck to the left, checking to see if a friend's van was in the parking lot of the local inn and I began to chide him about watching the road and then I saw a large ADULT deer who had popped out from the wooded roadside SO closely in front of us, with no warning at all. Just leapt out in front of us. L prides himself on being SO aware of deer movement... and he had just been a near-statistic, himself.

Usually we can count on the deer doing their wandering and moving onto the roadways, either late at night or else early in the morning. But they have been very active in the daytime, this past week to ten days. Guess we need to have our radar on high!

L has an old riding lawnmower that he uses (this place is on a large lot which slopes w-a-a-y-y-y down to the lake) and with all the rain we have had, the grass was in serious need of mowing. So on the first day without rain and WITH the required time available, he climbed on the ol' machine and was making countless passes to get the grass down to a reasonable length. I was doing something at the sink (it faces the backyard where he was mowing) and he drove up to the window and motioned for me to come outside. After I got out there, he related how he was on the left side of the property (as viewed from the lake), made a turn, and was nearly broadsided by an adult-sized deer! His assumption was that this beautiful creature was bedded down between our place and the neighbors' place, and he startled it awake with the sound of the riding mower. In its hurry to get away, the deer came within an arms' length of L on the mower.

Family note: my niece is getting married on the 25th, to a great guy that the entire family likes. I hope they will have many, many years of happiness! Happy wedding, A and S!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I speak of tires and birds and other things...

Well... ya gotta laugh, cuz cryin' won't help. This is what happened on our drive into town from the lake this morning.

Details: driving along with an appreciable shake to the truck occurring. As we're talking about bringing the vehicle to the tire shop and getting a second tire replaced (we'd had one replaced a few weeks ago, when it blew out), we both felt it blow out. L looked in the rear view mirrors both inside and outside and said, "I think we have damage to the truck" as he pulled onto the shoulder. And yup, he was not exaggerating. The first tire blowout had been with an inside tire, but this was an outside tire and a strip of the tire cap about 4 feet in length, had obviously pounded the beejeezus out of the fiberglass fender as it was peeling itself off the tire.

<<< Oh, btw, this is what it should look like with fender intact.

We decided to replace the weather-beaten old bird feeder (one that holds seeds for the songbirds in our area) a few weeks ago. Then weeks went on without any birds appearing and the seeds remained at the same level, so we thought we had waited too long to hang it. However, THIS week we spotted some birds using it. A pair of yellow-feathered birds have been there intermittently - I think they are goldfinches, and this morning's chow-hound was a beautiful bird with red-orange on its head and down its back. I have just been Google-ing this bird and believe it is a purple finch -- which are NOT purple, btw, but have a significant red coloring very much like the one I saw at our feeder.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A few photos

Pretty sunset on the lake last night... here are a few photos. Wish I had a fantabulous camera, but you'll have to make do with my attempts with the current camera. Actually, these were taken with L's camera, as my own is kinda packed away. I need to dig it out and start using it (more). I think it is a bit better than his.

The deer population is still growing. As I was turning into L's driveway yesterday (about 5:30 or so), an adult deer casually strolled near his neighbor's driveway, made its way past the mailbox, and sauntered into the woods. And this morning, we came upon a mama doe and her little fawn, who were moving off the left side of the gravel road and into the woods. Mama was moving a bit more quickly than the lone adult deer we came across on Sunday.

Saw a blue heron on the beach (the temporary one that we have while the lake's levels are so far down) on Sunday, walking beween L's house and headed towards the dock in front of his neighbor's. And we were entertained by one of the loons, who dive completely underwater in search of food (fish), only to emerge from the lake, some distance from their original submersion spot.

I have tried another new recipe (from those freely distributed at the cardiac rehab place). This time it was chili -- and it turned out quite well. L and I both like things a bit spicier, so this was right up our alley. It called for 3 Tbsp of chili powder as well as a pinch of red (or cayenne) pepper. It was ALL very lean ground beef (93% lean!), lots of onion and I added more garlic than the recipe called for, too. The tomato puree was salt-free, except for the naturally-occurring sodium content of the tomatoes themselves. In fact, the over-all taste was a bit sweeter than you would expect out of chili -- but then the after-effect in your mouth grew a bit warm as the chili powder and cayenne did their magic.

And another "miracle" -- L actually suggested that we bring the chili with us, to have for lunch at work today! So we did that, and it was (1) healthy, (2) easy, (3) economical (read: much cheaper than lunch out!) and time-effective. What's not to like, eh? I must say that I violated my own principles and even added a can of black beans (I do NOT like kidney beans) as called for by the recipe. Well, confession here: it called for TWO cans of the beans, and I added one. But I think I will go ahead and add the second can when I make this recipe again. It was a lower-sodium can of beans, plus you actually rinse and drain the beans before adding them. The whole thing is YUM!

Sorry... don't want to turn this blog into a copycat of anyone who actually does a wonderful job of blogging about food. But it is SO nice for me to actually cook at home again AND do it in a healthy fashion.

That's it from the Crispy NorthCountry!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Little things...

Not much special to blog about...

We have now seen two does (as in deer, a deer, a female deer), one with a pair of very young fawns and the other one with a solo offspring. So, yeah, in one sense, it is springtime in the Northland. Although today was a nasty, nasty day -- cold would have been enough, but coupled with heavy, steady rain, it was bone-chilling. I won't even bother to mention how bad a hair-day it was. It is hard to realize - except by the calendar on the wall in front of me - that it is indeed nearly the middle of June.

The cardiac rehab sessions continue. I think L has had his eyes opened to just how much crap he has been consuming over all these years. On Wednesdays, the 1-hour session is, first, a half-hour on the various exercise machines, then a half-hour talk and Q-and-A on various topics. Last week the expert was a pharmacist who answered questions about prescription meds as well as mentioning interaction with food and also over-the-counter supplements (such as ginseng). This week's talk was on diet and specifically, sodium and how many places it sneaks in its sometimes well-hidden punch. And there were also some questions and explanations of saturated fat. L has always loved a local chain's pizzas (and they are quite tasty!) and I think his consumption of that product alone contributed to a lot of the blockage of his arteries! But he has been very open to the foods that I have prepared and has been pleasantly surprised at how much taste there is to items prepared with low-salt/no-salt products, such as the marinara sauce I made last week and the pork tenderloin that I baked last weekend with lots and lots of veggies.

On Thursdays, he golfs with several guys he went to high school with, and after the game, they gather at one of the above-mentioned pizza locations. Ordinarily, they will split a pizza between two guys -- a favorite is the pepperoni-sausage combo. He did this the week following the stent-placement. After that, he has refrained from the pizza (a choice that he made himself) and now gets a salad with 3 meatballs. That's progress for this guy!

Our breakfast for most weekdays consists of a good-sized bowl of fresh fruit that I prepare (between a cup and cup-and-a-half total) of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. That is topped with banana slices (half for each of us). If we have time, we have yogurt with the fruit. And we will tote an apple into the office, since the fruit is good for us, but not as filling as other items would be. Once in a while, we have oatmeal.

We both like lots of veggies, so when we do eat at home for dinner, we both consume probably at least a double-helping, whether it is broccoli, asparagus, or other veggies. The veggies with the tenderloin included carrots, new potatoes, onions and cauliflower. And I doubled the veggies in that recipe, and we consumed most of them! So we have leftover meat and I'll add another fresh round of veggies to that. To L's credit, he has not consumed one french-fry since he had the stents put in.

A national restaurant chain (begins with A) has added some items to its menu that are 550 calories and less. Now that is a lot for me to consume, but for a guy of L's size (about 6' 3" or 4" and over 240), his caloric demands are higher. So we have gone there for lunch, and he consumes what I do not finish of my dish. Aain, we both can taste the salt in some of the dishes... But we usually do not bring anything from home, to have for lunch - so what are ya gonna do?

Hmm... what else has been going on...

L's son and daughter-in-law were at L's place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. L's son purchased a used pontoon which needed a new deck put on it. So L purchased the plywood and the two guys spent hours removing the old deck and bolting the new surface on the pontoon. L had done the same thing on his pontoon last spring, while he and I were Skype-ing. I know it took him several days to do the task all by himself, so he welcomed his son's offer to help him with the reflooring chore. While they were working on that, I drove into town and picked up some groceries to put on the barbecue -- yes, it WAS a great weather-day that day. L and I had decided we would grill fish, but his son and DIL chose beef. It was a fun and impromptu meal.

The hope is that all of this rain will bring up the lake's water levels. It is down about four feet (!!) and many docks no longer reach the water. So lots of boats and pontoons remain landlocked. L has an expanse of beach that he has never had before, and his floating dock is inadvertently in drydock!

Well, ya'll, that's about it for now. I'll catch up with everyone soon, I promise.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two years

It is so hard for me to believe that yesterday was the two-year mark of Greg's death. Two years. And I am not the same person who was reeling from the unexpected sudden widowhood... not at all. And I could never have predicted the experiences that I have had since that day.

So many people who were so supportive. Finding other blogs written by other widows, some with young children, some so much younger than I was (at the time Greg died). Finding a network in Houston of widows (okay, some widowers, but mostly widows) so that I had someone to socialize with, someone who got it.

Defining what the new normal was for me. Taking my life into my own hands- no matter what others thought of my actions and oftentimes disregarding their well-meant advice because it did not, would not work for me.

My gratitude for family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers and everything they did for me. How can you say thank you to so many, for so many kind actions?

I know that others will walk in these shoes, are out there and looking for help, support, direction. And I pray that you, too, will heal with time. Believe me, I got so tired of hearing that -- but it is SO true: time will heal you, heal that deep wound that you felt when your spouse died. And if you are blessed enough to find another to love, do not be afraid to open your heart to that possibility. It helps the healing, makes you look forward again. It is not betrayal to your late spouse to love again.

So this is my two-year mark. And I don't know if I will mark the three-year time by musing about it. I hope you'll understand if I don't mention it at this time, next year.

{{Hugs}} to new widows and also to those who have been walking this path longer than I have. That is one of the things I missed for a long time: hugs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Health improved!

No, I am not talking about my health... rather, it's referring to L's health. Last July, he had a pacemaker attached to his heart. It was one of the things that he and I had discussed when we first started our phone conversations in early June of '09. He had apparently put it off for several years (he did NOT tell me that part) and I kind of pushed him, verbally, into getting it done.

As part of that pacemaker program, he has to have dial-up checks of the device and how well it is working. And on May 3rd, he had an in-the-office checkup. During that office visit, he mentioned to the technician that he had been having some episodes where he was short-winded. So the tech set him up with a visit with a local cardiologist two days later. During THAT visit, L expanded on his "short-winded" experience, and said that it involved a burning in his chest. Not. A. Good. Sign. This time, it was the cardiologist who nudged him into an angiogram. As the good doc stated it, "Your heart is in one piece right now. If you have a heart attack on Island Lake (this is the lake we live on), I don't know in what shape your heart will be, by the time you take that helicopter flight here and I see you."

I need to tell y'all that it is a 40-minute trip by vehicle from this place to the hospital, and there is a helicopter landing sight about 10 minutes down the road from this house. That would assume that he could get in a car under his own power, or that I could get a neighbor to assist me in getting L into a car. He probably weighs about 250, standing 6-foot-four.

Back to our story: the doc scheduled L for an angiogram on May 10th. For those of us who have lost a spouse, you can imagine my apprehension for this day. Hoping, HOPING that it would be okay, that things would turn out well.

And L was lucky, LUCKY -- there were several narrowings on the right side, mostly bunched together, that were able to be repaired by piggy-backing two stents. These blockages were about 80% - 90% blocked. On the left side, he has lesser blockages, in the 20% - 30% range. He had to stay overnight, was put on Plavix and has agreed to attend at least one cardiac rehab session. He SAYS he takes this as a warning, and of course his kids were (rightly so) shook up by all of this.

The best news of this is that he does NOT have that burning sensation anymore, not even when he picks up the pace during a walk. His PCP (primary care physician) will put him on a statin (cholesterol-lowering) drug next week. That will allow us some time to read up on the various ones and have some well-informed background when L discusses those drugs with the PCP.

Rather ironically, this cardiologist (Dr. N) is the one that I had an appointment with, about an hour before L saw him last Wednesday. I do like him, and he is a very "straight shooter" type. He let L make the decision (angio or roll the dice?) but did give him some very serious things to think about.

I am very grateful for the results and for the fact that, better late than never, L took a positive step towards ensuring that he might stay around a bit.

Oh -- and I won a 6-month free membership at a local gym! So now I can take action, too -- Do as I DO, not just do as I SAY. Wish us both luck.

Friday, May 7, 2010

It's sn*wing...

(above photo of my Rav 4, now with Florida plates... you can see where my loyalties are!)

Yes, it is... and it is not very common (so I am told) that all of April was snowfall-free, only to have snow flurries on May 7. People, it will be Mother's Day on Sunday -- a day that we celebrate by giving our moms flowers and other signs of SPRING. The local TV weather forecasters tell us that it will have an inch or more accumulation overnight, followed by rapid melting Saturday morning. That does NOT, however, make my heart sing. Ugh! Damned cold weather. Obviously, the Goldwing has NOT been out of the garage since we returned.

(following photos:
--- driveway leading away from the house out on Island Lake;
--- neighbor's dog posing down at the edge of the lake, along with two ducks for just general effect;
--- a Florida-plated F-350 truck;
--- snow on the barbee;
--- there IS a pontoon under that snow somewhere!)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Yes, I am still here...

*** I finished a post dated March 28th, that I had inadvertently left "hanging" in unplublished status. You might want to check that one out, too.

So -- a brief update on nothing in particular and everything in general...

We've settled into a routine here -- since L has retained the two guys who kept the shop running while we were in Florida, I don't feel quite so pressured to be there with him all of the time. Although I will go in and do labeling (apply the labels by hand -- this is a SMALL operation) when necessary.

This Saturday L's son G had a promotion ceremony at the Air National Guard base here in Duluth. He was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant, which is the highest rank obtainable by an enlisted person (as opposed to the other line of promotions that is available to officers). Quite a nice ceremony, capped by a speech that G gave. He thanked all those who had been instrumental in his life and was emotional at points in the delivery of the speech. I like L's "kids" (yes, I know they are adults with their own lives, etc.) and I think it works both ways. L's ex-wife was there (I knew that she would be) and L's daughter L (and her kids and husband), and of course, G's wife was there, too. Plus other friends of G's -- he is a well-liked man at the base and just generally viewed the same around this town.

L has been working on the trailer that we bought before leaving Florida. We loaded the Rav 4 on it, for the journey back home -- a simple flat-bed trailer, really. L has welded a gate/ramp for the trailer, so that we can load the Goldwing on the trailer when we want to use the motorcycle. He lives on a dirt/gravel road that is NOT kind to motorcycles, and we can tow the trailer behind the F-350 with its cargo (the Goldwing) when we want to go riding. We'll have to do advance planning for this, but we want to maintain the integrity of the bike - so this was the solution. He is very talented with things he can and will tackle -- knew just how to measure the components for this ramp and how he wanted it to work.

We'll be taking my mother out for Mother's Day (something I have not been able to do for years). L belongs to the local Elks chapter, and they are hosting a brunch this Sunday. I know that there will be TOO much food (for both Mom and me), but she and I can split things that we might want to have a "taste" of, but don't want to fill up on. Of all the cousins on my dad's side of the family, my sis and I are the only ones who still have a living parent. And Mom was NOT the youngest of the aunts and uncles, although she was on the younger end of the spectrum. She will be 83 this September.

My sis and her guy are flying to the West Coast this week. They will pick up an old VW that her #2 son and his friend found out there, and have had it updated, restored, whatever, to make it roadworthy. So they will take this old VW Beetle (I think it is an early 70's model) and drive it back to MN over several days. They plan to take back roads and in her words, "See America." She has always wanted this model of car, she said -- it's a red convertible. Their fleet of vehicles is growing, just as ours is!

Well, gotta get some things done, so I will finish this and post it. Hope it doesn't have a lot of typos!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contacting the satellite tv carrier

And so...

L wanted to see what channels he could see on DirectTV. Since he was the one who WANTED some sports stuff (read: hockey) I told HIM to make the phone call. Which he did. And of course that meant going thru all the crap that these types of calls entail: press 1 for whatever, press 4 for whatsis, etc. He kept saying "representative" or some similar phrase, and then FINALLY hooked up with a real LIVE person. Which was female and had a heckuva accent (according to him, white guy raised in a white-person region). Long story short, after plowing thru Q and A between L and said rep, he was FINALLY transferred to another person.

This was a guy (ethnic background unknown) that apparently met with L's criteria, as far as being an English-speaking person without a discernable accent. And so they were doing ANOTHER Q and A, including one Q to which L replied, "I'm in love with her!" in a slightly raised tone of voice. And I started laughing, because I KNEW what the question was -- and apparently the guy on the other end of the line also began to laugh.

Once they had plowed thru the issues (and L was certain that he had his answers, although they may not have been to his liking), he hung up. And told me what I already knew -- the question was, "What is your relationship to the account holder?" and in guy-fashion, L decided that what he really SHOULD have replied was, "Sexual".

Yeah, there really are NO men -- only older boys. IMHO.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back in COLD country

So -- we had a l-o-o-o-n-g trip back. We had bought a few vehicles in Florida and wanted to bring them all back with us. Have a 2000 Ford F-350 pickup truck, which is heavy-duty enough to pull that load. In the bed of the pickup truck, strapped down very securely, was the 1990 Honda Goldwing motorcycle. On a hitch behind the pickup, was a trailer (flat-bed kind) with my Rav 4 secured on it. Plus the remaining pickup bed area, the seat area (crew cab) behind the front seats of the Ford, and the entire Rav 4 were all loaded with stuff we were bringing back.

We left Florida late on Wed. afternoon (L had a dental crown installed that day), hitting the road about 5 pm. Things were going pretty well, until we got into some slight grades on the highway (I-75). Then the Ford began to lose power, and we could not get much out of it - 40 mph and we turned on the 4-way flashers so others would know to go around us. Finally we decided to hit a hotel that nite (Hampton Inn in Lake City, FL - the last FL county before entering GA).

Next morning we pushed off again, and we had the same problems. Stopped at 3 Ford dealerships (and probably talked to one or two more) - we worked with some nice folks at the first 2 places, but they were unable to solve the problem. Others could not squeeze us in at all - this was because it's an agricultural area and they work on lots of diesel trucks. We kept going back on the freeway, might get 30 - 50 miles, and the next serious-sized grade would cause the same problem. Finally got up to Byron, GA (only about 150 miles into Georgia, from FL), and set up an appt. for Friday morning. After an all-day session (they only charged us 4 hours labor, but spent more time on it, with diagnosing and actual work), PROBLEM SOLVED. I should mention that the dealership drove L back to the hotel, where he caught an hour or two of additional sleep. But we didn't drive out of Byron until just before 5 pm. Just in time to run into some serious Friday nite traffic in Atlanta - pure hell, and us watching carefully for exits, merges, etc, toting all that crap with us. Ugh.

We finally pulled off the freeway to eat, thinking that the traffic would be lighter after that. Cracker Barrel is NOT my fave place to eat, and this one was FULL of small-town families and lots of screaming, yelling kids. And parents who seemed oblivious to the antics of their offspring. I gobbled down my food and went into the gift/check-out area. Of course, Cracker Barrel does NOT serve alcohol, and by that point, I was in SERIOUS need of same. Splitting headache, probably from all of the stress we had just gone thru.

Long story short - we pulled an all-nighter, driving right on thru to Duluth. L was doing all the driving, and we finally had to roll into a rest area around 4 am in Illinois (just south of Champagne) off I-57. He was falling asleep and really needed some naptime. Try bunking TWO people in the front seat of an F-350! He put a pillow behind his back on the driver's-side door, sat upright, and I carefully positioned myself between his legs (he's about 6-3 or 6-4). I really didn't fall asleep (had caught a few winks earlier, while he was driving). But he DID get about an hours' worth of shuteye and it really helped. The next sleep crisis came in northern WI, and I told him that he was scaring me by drifting off. We got a little testy with each other - which actually served to wake him up! And he was okay the rest of the way to Duluth.

We stopped at our favorite pizza place in Duluth, Sammy's, where they have known L for years and years. Gobbled down the crew special (lotsa meat - a guy's delight) and a beer apiece and drove to L's house on Island Lake, about another 30 minutes plus. Tired, we were. Got enough of our stuff unloaded to get us thru the next morning and finally crashed for the night.

So -- just about over the 1st week back in the North Country and ready for the weekend. Gotta unwind and finish unpacking. Miss our friends that we made in FL, and yet happy to see the family/friends back here in MN.

Later, readers...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Phone on the road!

Yesterday was so beautiful, so several of us who ride motorcycles, took this opportunity to head out for a ride. A Harley store a bit down the road (heading west on 54, towards the Gulf coast) has a free-hotdog Saturday, where they'll feed you (chili and sauerkraut topping optional) - as many dogs as you want, and they have free softdrinks, too. I think 5 or so of us couples jumped on our bikes (mostly Honda Goldwings) and headed out.

Such a great day - blue skies and temps in the upper 70's to lower 80's. It has been a nasty winter here and we have seen way too many days in the 50's. It felt good to have the sun on our faces and bodies.

We follow each other in a staggered riding fashion - one bike closer to the right-side of the lane, the following bike closer to the left-side of that lane, and so on. In case one bike has a problem, the following bike can (hopefully) avoid running into the one with a problem.

At one point, we were riding behind L's friend F (and F's wife, of course). L and I communicate with an intercom, which is helpful and fun to do (sometimes). Anyway, L said rather abruptly, "Did you see that?!" And of course I had NOT seen anything -- and generally have to bob my head around his shoulders to the right or left. I usually check out the road in front of the bike from time to time, or enjoy the scenery off to either side of the road, on these rides.

I replied to his inquiry that I had NOT seen anything, and he explained that a cell phone had flown off one of the bikes and then had hit the pavement, taking several MORE bounces. I wrongly assumed that he had seen this in his rearview mirror, but he told me it was F's phone, now on a 6-lane highway behind our group of bikes. He decided to retrieve the phone, pulled onto the shoulder, reversed the bike's direction, and headed east on the shoulder (we were on the west-bound lanes). Then he asked ME to get off the bike and STOP THE TRAFFIC. What??!!

Fortunately, most of the traffic was slowing for a traffic light, so that DID help a bit. I just cautiously approached the nearest lane of traffic and put my hand up in that universal STOP gesture. I should explain that I had to stop traffic in TWO lanes, as the right-most lane was able to merge onto a northbound highway, at this point. So I had the cooperation of TWO key drivers -- God bless them both -- and was able to retrieve the phone.

Amazingly, the phone had NOT been run over. It was laying (lying?) in a flipped-open position and had obviously taken a few falls. I went back to the shoulder, where L had pulled the bike too far onto the soft soil and could not keep it upright. So I threw my body weight into the bike's side and helped where I could.

We rejoined the group and continued to the Harley shop for our free lunch. While there, F asked L to phone his cell number -- and the phone DID work, both in ringing and being able to hear the caller.

Some days later, F did decide to replace the phone -- it was no longer able to accept a charge, so... In the long run, this was an exercise in futility. I didn't do anything foolish while retrieving the phone, however, not stepping into traffic until I was PRETTY sure that the vehicles (one was a large truck) would stop. Sometimes you just caught up in the moment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's been going on...

Well, a little catch-up here.

Thursday night we went up to the Groves, our usual haunt on that night. It's a golf-course community with the usual clubhouse - and a restaurant. They have a good buffet -- and it has just changed hands and the food and presentation has GREATLY improved. This is a community that is a no-kids place, but (from what I understand) is NOT a 55+ community. Anyway... We have been going there almost since we got here into this area. On Thursdays they also have a DJ - for dancing and for karaoke. As with most karaoke places, there are good singers and those who cannot sing. Those who cannot sing do NOT let this lack of talent stop them from performing (and for some of those non-blessed singers, this means multiple songs every Thursday night).

So, I am kinda settin' the stage (no pun intended) for my story. I think I have an okay voice, and others in our group have encouraged me to sing at the karaoke night. I am afraid to force my talents (or lack of them) on the world. One of our party, J (Significant Other of E, a sweet lady) asked me what song I would sing. He took this info up to the DJ and returned to tell me that I would need to let the DJ know WHEN I was ready to sing. We were eating our buffet meal and having some drinks and I figured that I could put this off for the rest of the night.

But I was forced .. er drafted, people. After finishing my meal, dancing a few dances and consuming not quite a glass-and-a-half of wine, a chant went up: Jessica, Jessica, JESSICA! I cringed.

J was so great... he walked me up onstage AND stayed right by my side while I sang. I was unfamiliar with the mike and so did not know that I needed to position it RIGHT NEXT to my mouth, so I am told that the first several lines were really not audible. (A blessing for the audience.) I got thru the song, shaking like a leaf the entire time. But I did not stumble over the words and I think I carried the tune pretty well. Sigh... I sang For the Longest Time, a Billy Joel song that I am very familiar with. It was not so easy to get up in front of all those folks, and I welcomed the end of the song. Some did come up to me afterward and were very encouraging, telling me that I had a good voice and ought to sing more. We'll see...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not so sure...

So, sometimes I kill a little time. On Tuesday I got my hair color "refreshed" and that's always a nice time. You walk out feeling a bit more presentable, if you know what I mean. A step up from how you walked into that salon.

I had a few minutes following that and bopped into the dollar store in that strip center. Not sure if it was Dollar General or the Dollar Store - but that's immaterial.

After rounding up a few purchases (okay - I have to 'fess up that one of those was a little sealed bag of Jelly Bellies, those wonderfully tasty ADULT jelly beans), I headed for the checkout. And there I saw one of those items that makes you think, "Do I REALLY want to purchase a product for this purpose from the dollar store?"

I wish I had had a camera - because that would be much more effective than these few paragraphs. But words will have to do the deed, instead.

Readers, that product was a generic version of an EPT - Early Pregnancy Test. Would YOU purchase this?

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Yes, folks, we DID it. Entertained 5 folks (relatives) for days, all (at times) sleeping in this little place that has ONE bathroom and only a pull-out couch for guest sleeping. Adult(s) on the bed, kids on the floor. And after they left on Friday, I must admit that I enjoyed NOT having kids' cartoons on the tv, plus a return of the remote control to OUR hands...

But the kids were fun and WAY too full of energy (ages 7, 9 and 11) - and that is why God has parents bearing them when the parents are in their 20's or 30's. I actually spent more time with them then L did, as I accompanied his daughter and kids (before her husband flew here a week later than her arrival by car) on a few car trips in this area. Anyway, overall, we all survived. The kids could not (almost) get enough of the pool, even with the colder temps.

His daughter and the 3 kids were here for a week, followed by her husband flying in, and then they had 5 more days (two of those nights with us) of Florida time. Their last evening here, we went up to a development called The Groves. The clubhouse there has a restaurant, and on Thursdays there is a buffet plus a DJ for dancing and for karaoke. Not every singer is excellent, and we know (by now) which ones are not really worth listening to, and which ones have better voices. But they all have enough guts to get up in front of everyone and sing... and that is something that I would LOVE to do (but lack the courage for it).

We took his daughter and kids there the previous week, too -- and had an interesting experience that literally had the other diners/dancers mesmerized. When we were first seated, his daughter saw that one leg of this table (around which 6 of us were seated) was not too stable. But it seemed okay, as long as we did not put weight on it. It was a round table, seated 8, and there were 2 unoccupied seats at the wobbly end. L and I were finished with our meals, and the other 4 had consumed some of theirs - and then the waitress came up to see what else we might need. We think that she MAY have triggered the collapse of the table, as she lightly leaned on that side... and like the Titanic, the table tipped slowly to that side, as dishes, glasses, silverware and all began sliding to the abyss - er, floor . And continuing to mirror the Titanic, once it picked up steam, the remaining tableware slid faster to the tipping side,with all now on the floor. And then... silence.

We were stunned, and his daughter told her kids to STAY SEATED. I didn't know it then, but she was afraid that someone would think her kids had caused it (they had NOT). Then we began to retrieve a few things, but most were unsalvageable. I had been fortunate to grab my handbag (had been secured by a handbag hanger, off the floor) before it would surely have joined the rest of the mess on the floor.

L's daughter and I get along very well, and I am happy about that. After his family left, he thanked me for being so good with his family. And, really... who would NOT make that attempt? If you hope to be accepted in the greater family, you had better put forth your own best effort. That's my thought about this, anyway.

It IS possible that we will still have another guest in about a week or so. A friend of L's friend F (also lives in this RV park) wants to visit here, and F could not find an available lot for his friend to use for that week. So -- since this is ONLY one person -- I told L to offer our place as a bunkhouse. A vacant lot might still turn up, so this situation is still iffy. I am getting used to being a boarding house!

Anyway, I will admit that this was not without stress - but on the other hand, I felt truly involved in this family. And that was a nice, warm feeling. Truly.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lots of visitors!

Very quickly... Since we have moved in here, we have had lots of visitors. First, my sister and her significant other (such a weird term but one that most understand) were here just a few days after we got into our new place. They were here about 2+ days, then back to St. Pete to visit with another friend, and then back here again for another 2+ days. Had fun, L brought R (Sis's guyfriend) golfing one afternoon, Sis and I got to do some gal stuff (including her finding a dress for her daughter's wedding this spring) and it was pretty laid back.

Now we have a WHOLE house FULL of company - L's 2nd-oldest daughter, and her 3 kids (ages 11, 9, and 7) got here a week ago. Two days of driving by L (also her initial), and she was pretty happy to get here. She and I get along very well, so that is a blessing to me. The pull-out sofa has served as a bed for both my sis's visit as well as L's. And then kids on the floor, with sleeping bags. Today, around midday, her husband flew in and the gang went into Crystal Beach, Madeira Beach and so on (Gulf of Mexico side) for the day. Now they are back with us, kids are finished eating mac 'n' cheese and some of us (okay, the guys and a couple of the kids) are watching the US vs Canada hockey game (Olympics). So far, the visit has gone pretty well. The colder temps (for Florida) and some rain has been stressful, since it limits the activities and what the kids can do (for burning energy). But these are Minnesota kids -- so it has amazingly NOT been too cool for them to use the heated pool at our RV park. Many at the RV park have commented about the kids using the pool during the cold weather. Updates later on the remaining visit...

So that's been our life these past few weeks. I am kinda tired (again). No dull times around here! I think I will need to catch up on my sleep after this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We are IN!

Yes, somehow, we are inspected and living in our new home. A little disorganized, still, but IN. And we even had our first overnight guests, my sis and her guy, visiting us from Minnesota. They were here for two nights and parts of 3 days, and it was good to have some time with her. They are visiting with friends in St. Petersburg for a few days, and will return to spend a few more days with us, starting on Thursday.

Yesterday we finally got the F350 licensed. Ouch, that sales tax -- 7%. I must say that even tho' most states do this, it feels so unfair to pay sales tax on a vehicle which already was taxed when it was brand-new. However... it is nice to be street legal, since we're licensed and insured now.

Anyway, this is just a brief update -- and I will (hopefully) be a little more descriptive in a future post. Tonight, I am just TIRED. Had my second golf lesson this morning and felt like I made a little progress from the prior week. Then came home, rounded up Mr. L and ran out for lunch at Jason's Deli -- one of my very favorite-ist places to eat -- then to Sam's Club for fresh fruit (my body feels the need!) and to Home Depot for a Weber barbecue. I am anxious to cook a bit more things at home (yes, Virginia, you CAN eat too many meals out) and hope that this place will be conducive to that. Love the new cooking range -- they heat up SO quickly, these new electric models! Yawn... gotta run for some shut-eye!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Status update: home

We were pretty UP today - our home was to be inspected by multiple county types, and then we were free to move in. Four inspections were necessary... and by noon, 1 had been completed, and inspectors #2 and #3 were there, waiting to do their duty.

So we were buoyed by all of this activity - and went off to do some other things, including grabbing lunch at one of our favorite deli's. And we went looking for a golf club for yours truly, who is starting to take golf lessons and so far owns ONLY a driver.

We returned about 4:30 and drove to the park model. The construction permit papers are tucked inside a screen, and we pulled those out to see the four expected signatures. And three signatures were there. But only three.

Poor, poor Florida. Obviously there is NO incentive for things to get accomplished here in a timely fashion. Now it is after 5 pm, and we know that we will be spending yet another night in this tiny little Class-C motorhome that we have taken to referring as a "cramper" because the space is so limited. It really is NOT intended for 3-months occupancy, especially not when cold or wet weather keeps you confined inside.

I am going to pour myself a glass of wine. This whole thing could drive me to drink...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Doesn't this frost ya?

Oh, yes.... Florida is experiencing some chilly temps. Supposed to get down into the high 20's (or hopefully low 30's) Saturday and Sunday nights BOTH. We are residing in an RV park, and lots of folks are MANY years older than we are. And this cold weather is hard on them. Lots of propane is being burned, very quickly, as they attempt to keep warm in their RV's and campers. L's friend F works as the maintenance manager here at this RV park and has had many late-night calls as people run out of propane; and one couple blew out the electric circuits because they were running FOUR fairly substantial heaters simultaneously!

So... we are being cautious about propane consumption - we need it in this little motorhome for heating the water and running the heating system. But we have had to top off or refill twice in the last week, and since the cold temps will be around until next week, we may have to do so again.

Yesterday was pretty nippy, and frost was on a lot of windshields. Plus on our bicycle seats! If you enlarge either of these photos, you may be able to see the frosty seats... I chose NOT to ride the bike that morning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas and SNOW!!

So, yeah -- lots of snow over Dec. 24th and 25th. About 24" total, and ALL of it very wet, very heavy and sticky. Perfect for building snowmen, but the pits where roads and shovelling and plowing are concerned. However, some great photos are possible. Unfortunately, I only had some so-so ones, but I'll share them anyway.

This was one of the last ones taken - had a lovely blue-sky time so the sun played up the scene nicely. Other ones showed lots of snow, but they almost look like old-timey photos when black-and-white were the only photos possible.

This is taken during the heart of all the falling snows -- has that very greyed-down look, and the falling snow is very obvious. Yes, I agree that it was attractive. But driving on so many washer-board-surfaced roads is not fun. The wet snow packed down onto the paved roads long before the plows could attempt any clearing. And remember that many plow operators were not gung-ho to get out there (even WITH overtime pay) on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

It was snowing pretty heavily when this was taken - I think it was early afternoon of the 25th.

Taken towards the same general area as the proceeding photo, but without the heavily-falling snow. Maybe on the 23rd or a few days before that. But the snow had already made its presence known. Winter was here to STAY for the season.

But... it was a good holiday, and we tried to see both sides of the family as much as we could. My family likes him, and his family seems to like me, as well. A few days after our return to Florida, he helped his daughter get set up with Skype. It was fun to see them that first time -- the 7-year-old and 9-year-old were all, "Hi, Grandpa!" and also wanted to see me in the frame. But then they were very typical boys of that age, making all sorts of faces that they could see in their small set-in frame on their laptop monitor. We just laughed and laughed at that. It makes the miles between us seem less distant.

Now... that nearly nationwide cold snap is hitting us down here, too. Ugh. It can leave anytime it wants to! But... it seems that it will hang around for the next week, and MAY leave around next Wednesday. I know... it could be worse - and we could be shoveling that white stuff or dealing with much colder temps. Sorry, my northern readers. I know that it is much better here, as far as temps go.

Oh -- we had a low-key New Year's Eve party at the clubhouse here. Bring a snack and BYOB. Most were just there for the socializing, and that made it fun. Drinking and no driving. Perfect.

Happy New Year to all. And happy birthday, Dad - I hope you and your siblings are having a fun time up there, playing cards with the other ancestors who proceeded you. That must be one heckuva game - pinochle or cribbage or ?? Love ya.