My Wawona

Yosemite National Park

October 1, 2019

El Capitan
El Capitan

October 1, 1890 marked the official inclusion of this region into the newly formed National Park System. Long before that, however, the Yosemite Valley had inspired the natives who resided in the area as well as the early white settlers.

It was, contrary to popular belief, James Mason Hutchings and artist Thomas Ayres who were the first Americans to tour the area in 1855.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Hutchings and Ayres were responsible for much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, writing articles and special magazine issues about the Valley. Ayres’ style in art was highly detailed with exaggerated angularity. His works and written accounts were distributed nationally, and an art exhibition of his drawings was held in New York City. Hutchings’ publicity efforts between 1855 and 1860 led to an increase in tourism to Yosemite.”

Although the greater Yosemite area had been set aside by Congress in 1864, the Valley and Mariposa Grove were ceded to California to manage as a state park. The two areas had seen an influx of homesteaders and were being rapidly commercialized as well as being used for the grazing of sheep and cattle; the old growth sequoias were being logged.

Most people associate the founding of Yosemite with early environmentalist John Muir. Rightly, he is credited with not only pushing for park expansion but also  lobbied for the federal government to take back the iconic valley and grove.

Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“It was because of Muir that many National Parks were left untouched, such as Yosemite Vally National Park. One of the most significant camping trips Muir took was in 1903 with then president Theodore Roosevelt. This trip persuaded Roosevelt to return ‘Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park.'”

The years long efforts paid off when, in 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill which stripped the two areas still managed by California from the state and they were returned to the federal government which finally created a unified Yosemite National Park.

half dome.jpg
Half Dome

One trip to Yosemite is all it takes for a person to understand the granduer and how special a place it is. From towering El Capitan, to the massive Half Dome, or the fascinating Tuolome Meadows, Yosemite is a visual feast.

And the hubby and I wondered, when we visited in September 2015, how come it had taken us so long to get there. We arrived on the day after Labor Day which was a good thing as the summer crowds were gone. Reservations are generally required months – if not a year – in advance for the various hotels. I figured we were out of luck but checked anyway as we drove south a few days before our planned stay. What a surprise! There were rooms available at the Wawona Hotel or space in ‘dry’ tents. We opted for the hotel.

It was only after we arrived at the park that it dawned on me that the Wawona Hotel was nowhere near the Yosemite Valley. That day had turned into a driving ordeal. My hubby suffers from vertigo. Being close to any ledge can trigger a sensation of spinning as well as nausea. Knowing this, it was my duty to do the driving so that he could close his eyes as needed when navigating cliff-side roads.

Up, up, up we traveled from the eastern side of the park to the 9,943 foot high Tioga Pass – the highest mountain pass in California. Come to find out, THAT was the easiest road. From there we wound our way through Yosemite’s high country. Then we had to go down. From Tuolome Meadows – elevation 8,619 feet – to the Valley floor was a 4,619 foot descent. And all of it seemed to be a series of endless switchbacks and curvy roads carved in to the sides of mountains.

It was with a sense of relief we reached the bottom when it hit me… Wawona was another 30 miles which we had to add to the 230 we’d already traveled that day. No rest for the driver as the road climbed back up the other side through yet another series of switchbacks,cliffs, and amazing vistas.

Now close to sunset, we found the hotel and were charmed at the thought of staying in a 1870’s structure.

Our room was in the more recently added section… built at the turn of the last century. Located at the far western end of the first floor, the room opened out on to a wide veranda adorned with honeysuckle.

But that’s where the charm ended. The room itself featured a double bed and a twin bed. There was a sink attached to the wall next to the twin bed with a door in the wall next to it. The door, however, was locked.

The room was completed with a small square closet, small dresser and a table and chair. No TV and no phone. But we were up for the adventure and the price – less than $70 a night – was a steal even with having to use the bathroom down the stairs.

As we went to bed that night we could hear, through the thin walls, talking in the room next door; two men were conversing in German. We laughingly dubbed them Hans and Fritz and, although the hubby had taken German in high school, were unable to decipher their conversation.

Adirondack chairs on the veranda

The next day, after breakfast in the hotel dining room, we headed out for a full day of touring. That evening we bought deli meats, fruits, crackers, and a bottle of wine which we ate and drank while sitting in the Adirondack chairs outside our room on the veranda. A pink and purple sunset was the perfect icing on a wonderful day.

Despite the older beds and somewhat rustic accommodations we slept well… that was until about 7:30 the next morning when our German neighbors’ talking awoke us. It was then we discovered where the locked door next to the sink led. When the hotel was built, the rooms all shared Jack and Jill bathrooms. To accommodate a more modern customer the bathrooms had been designated as a private bath for one of the rooms only, and the door to the adjacent room was locked.

We had the room without a private bath. Our German neighbors, Hans and Fritz, had the bathroom. Did I mention that the walls were paper-thin and not insulated?

Soon, some rather unfortunate sounds penetrated into our hearing range. We dressed as quickly as we could and headed to breakfast… and decided that the Germans would hereafter be known as Fritz… and a scatological term which rhymes with Fritz.

Of course the thing one most recalls about any trip are the occurrences which are out of the ordinary. Our stay at the Wawona turned out to be the most memorable part. And we wouldn’t change a thing.

Wawona hotel barb
The author and traveling companion Alvin the Chipmunk (in his National Park Ranger gear) in front of the ‘old’ section of the Wawona Hotel

A couple of websites to visit:
For those who want to see the Wawona Hotel’s claim to fame, be sure to check out the movie 36 Hours.

Alvin – our traveling companion

This is…

American Idol!

June 11, 2019

top-12-contestants-american-idolThese four words burst into our collective consciousness on June 11, 2002 and launched one of the most successful reality TV franchises in American History.

The show was an instant hit, showcasing the talent of people looking for their big break. Week after week fans tuned in to follow the stories of the lucky few selected to compete in the contest. The premise was, according to the Infallible Wikipedia, this:

“Each season premieres with the audition round, taking place in different cities. The audition episodes typically feature a mix of potential finalists, interesting characters and woefully inadequate contestants. Each successful contestant receives a golden ticket to proceed on to the next round in Hollywood. Based on their performances during the Hollywood round (Las Vegas round from the tenth through twelfth seasons), 24 to 36 contestants are selected by the judges to participate in the semifinals. From the semifinals onward the contestants perform their songs live, with the judges making their critiques after each performance. The contestants are voted for by the viewing public, and the outcome of the public votes is then revealed during a results segment. The results segment feature group performances by the contestants as well as guest performers. The Top-three results also features homecoming events for the Top 3 finalists. The season reaches its climax in a two-hour results finale show, where the winner of the season is revealed.”

Along with the judges, viewers at home became music critics, repeating such phrases as “that was pitchy,” and “You’re going to Hollywood.” The judge everyone loved to hate, however, was Simon Cowell, who un-apologetically skewered the singing of contests with such pithy remarks like “It was all a little bit like angry girl in the bedroom screaming on the guitar.”

carrie-underwood-american-idol-results-2005-photo-GCI would argue that the high water mark for the show was in 2005 with the crowning of Carrie Underwood as the winner. She has been, by far, the most successful AI alum and her win and subsequent stardom created much excitement and interest in the show. That excitement coalesced into the 2007 season with it being the number one show on TV that year. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“American Idol ended the season as the top show of the 2006–2007 TV season. Its Wednesday episodes ranked first with an average of 30.02 million viewers, followed by the Tuesday episodes which averaged 29.54 million. The premiere episode became the series’ highest rated debut episode, viewed by 37.44 million viewers and receiving a 15.8/36 Nielsen rating in the Adult 18-49 demographic.”

In my household AI fever kicked in to high gear when my teenage daughter became enthralled with the show and AI took over our lives. Just before 8 o’clock each evening I’d hear the thunder of her footsteps coming down the stairs and soon we were wrapped up in the drama.

That year there was extra interest as a contestant from Bothell – six miles north of where we lived – was making a name for himself on the show.

Blake Lewis was, at the time, a local Seattle musician whose beat-boxing ability provided enough novelty that he earned a golden ticket to Hollywood. At first, it seemed, the judges viewed him as a one trick pony who would not survive the first round of performances. Week after week, however, Lewis proved that he could sing. He made each song his own with original arrangements, and defied the odds, advancing in each round.


For my 14 year old daughter and a couple of her friends, Lewis became almost an obsession like the Beatles were in the 1960’s, or David Cassiday in the 1970’s, or the Backstreet Boys in the 1990’s (It’s what 14 year old girls are known to do!)  Of course, Mom was pulled in to that universe also, as we then had to vote for him every week. And I’m not talking about dialing the phone one time and being done. Oh no. On American Idol they encouraged the viewers to vote many, many times. Hundreds of times. Once the performances were over we’d start dialing and continue until they closed them down.

And Lewis became the last man, literally, standing.

When the contest is down to the final three it’s time for the ‘hometown’ visit. Or, as the cynic in me believes, just another way to market the AI franchise to the public.

In the week before Lewis was to arrive in Bothell, my daughter and her friends “L” and “D” spent a couple of afternoons making t-shirts and posters and plotting the big event. Lewis’ female fans called themselves “Blaker Girls.”

During that week I became the ‘cool’ mom. I bought the many supplies and, on a warm, sunny afternoon on May 11, drove the trio of girls to Bothell so they could see ‘their’ American Idol.  I figured there would be a crowd so we got there several hours in advance, secured a parking spot and joined the throng of over 7000.

The girls were not disappointed. The fans were amped up for the parade and, after a long wait, there he was… riding on the back of a Mustang convertible, smiling and waving to the crowd.

After the parade, we moved with the throngs down to the park where he was to perform live and receive his hometown hero’s welcome.

From the Seattle Time’s article:

The Bothell crowd of more than 7,000 was growing restless. Where was its American Idol?

Some teens chanted “We want Blake!” Others hoisted “We Ache for Blake” or “Bothell Boy, You Rock!” signs. And then, off in the distance, the twirling lights of police cars, the thundering beats of the Inglemoor Marching Band and Blake Lewis, all smiles and waves and two-fingered kisses, sailing down Main Street in a Mustang convertible with his beaming parents.

It was a highlight in a full day of events for Lewis that started at 8 a.m. at KCPQ/Fox studios for a television performance on the morning newscast. There was a lunchtime “mini-concert” at Seattle’s Westlake Center, a parade through downtown Bothell and another performance at the Park at Bothell Landing in the afternoon.”

Lewis ended up finishing second the next week, much to our disappointment.

For the next couple of years my daughter faithfully watched American Idol and even went to the American Idol tour with a friend in 2009. For me there has never been a more fun season than that one. I no longer watch the show, but for a few months in the spring of 2007, it was a magic time. Sadly, our computer crashed that summer and all the evidence of the Blake Lewis hometown visit are gone…*

A few links:


*Update June 11, 2020 – During the lockdown of the past few months, I have sorted, organized, and sorted again. Lo and behold, video evidence of the visit to Blake’s Hometown parade exists! Many thanks to my nephew Chris, who put together the photos I took that day as well as found at least one I did not take. Not sure who did, but this Mom appears at the 2:19 mark with camera in hand next to the screaming teens. Enjoy.





Automate This!

June 4, 2019

The Curse of Automation

atm533On June 4, 1973, the US patent for the ATM machine was issued to Don Wetzel, Tom Barnes, and George Chastain.

As with many such inventions, it did not spring spontaneously into use as there were others who had conceived of the idea for at least three decades prior. Cash machines were used in both Japan and Great Britain for nearly a decade before they arrived in the United States.

For the purposes of this article, however, we will go with 1973 as the year this form of automation entered our American lives. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“After looking firsthand at the experiences in Europe, in 1968 the ATM was pioneered in the U.S. by Donald Wetzel, who was a department head at a company called Docutel. Docutel was a subsidiary of Recognition Equipment Inc of Dallas, Texas, which was producing optical scanning equipment and had instructed Docutel to explore automated baggage handling and automated gasoline pumps.

On September 2, 1969, Chemical Bank installed the first ATM in the U.S. at its branch in Rockville Centre, New York. The first ATMs were designed to dispense a fixed amount of cash when a user inserted a specially coded card. A Chemical Bank advertisement boasted ‘On Sept. 2 our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again.’ Chemical’s ATM, initially known as a Docuteller was designed by Donald Wetzel and his company Docutel. Chemical executives were initially hesitant about the electronic banking transition given the high cost of the early machines. Additionally, executives were concerned that customers would resist having machines handling their money. In 1995, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History recognised Docutel and Wetzel as the inventors of the networked ATM.

By 1974, Docutel had acquired 70 percent of the U.S. market; but as a result of the early 1970s worldwide recession and its reliance on a single product line, Docutel lost its independence and was forced to merge with the U.S. subsidiary of Olivetti.

Wetzel was recognised by the United States Patent Office as having invented the ATM in the form of U.S. Patent # 3,761,682; the application had been filed in October 1971 and the patent was granted in 1973. However, the U.S. patent record cites at least three previous applications from Docutel, all relevant to the development of the ATM and where Wetzel does not figure, namely US Patent # 3,662,343, U.S. Patent # 3651976 and U.S. Patent # 3,68,569. These patents are all credited to Kenneth S. Goldstein, MR Karecki, TR Barnes, GR Chastian and John D. White.”

Automation, of course, is not limited to the dispensing of money. It’s everywhere in our world. And nowhere is it more frustrating and confusing than in public restrooms.

When one enters such a place it becomes a midway house of horrors as one never knows what is or is not automated. Like the toilet.

auto flush toilet.jpgUpon entry into the stall I dread seeing the little black box with the red light attached to the back of the throne. I don’t know if it’s just me but it seems as if the slightest movement will trigger the flushing mechanism and the toilet turns into an unruly bidet, spraying the unsuspecting (me!) customer with a premature shower of love. Sometimes this occurs multiple times sending this user screaming from the stall.

Now I also don’t know about others but I always (ALWAYS!) wash my hands before I leave the restroom. Having survived the automatic flushing toilet, the next gauntlet is the sink. I am never sure if swiping my hands under the faucet will trigger a flow of water or if I must push on the neck of the faucet or, heaven forbid, use an old-fashioned handle. An automatic faucet is a mystery. What is the exact placement of one’s hands to produce the elusive water? Too high or too low and you get nothing, instead looking like a magician swiping your digits back and forth in an attempt to conjure up the desired fluid.

Need soap? The device on the nearby wall never gives any clue as to how its operated. I stare at it and try to guess. My first attempt is yet another magical wave of my hand. If that does not work then I start pressing on what looks like levers and buttons. The mound of clear gel on the counter below the machine provides evidence that I am not the first to guess incorrectly how to use it.

Now, with soap in hand and an idea of how to get water to flow, I wash my hands then turn to the scariest step of all: drying.

modern day stocksIn some restrooms you have a choice between paper towels and, nowadays, the device where you put your hands down into what looks like modern day stocks. The machine springs to life and blasts out a stream of air produced from the engines of a Boeing 747. In my hands go. I watch in fascinated horror as the skin on them wrinkles and flaps like the upper arms on my fourth grade teacher when she was conducting the school choir.

Or, heaven forbid, it’s an automatic towel dispenser. Usually there are two such devices, side by side, in the restroom which provides the opportunity to do the paper towel dispenser dance (TM). I stand a foot away from the silver boxes, extend my arms straight out and then move my hands simultaneously in a frenetic motion as though doing that 1960’s dance The Swim.

At last – if I’m lucky – two inches of blessed brown paper appears. I tear it off, dry three fingers, then start the dance once again. After three or four rounds of wild gyrations, my hands are dry, I’ve gotten the day’s workout, and I escape still slightly wet but mostly unscathed.

Ain’t automation grand?

Actual footage of me attempting to get a paper towel from an automatic dispenser.

On The Road to the Little House

May 7, 2019

Perhaps more than any other books I’ve ever read, this series captured my young imagination and inspired me to want to write and record my world.

The first “Little House” book was published in 1932. Six more followed over the next decade and Laura Ingalls Wilder was propelled from a farmer’s wife to one of the most beloved children’s book authors in history.

As a child I was entranced by the thought of living in a cabin in the big woods of Wisconsin, or in a dugout carved into the banks of Plum Creek in Minnesota, or in a claim shanty on the wind swept prairies of South Dakota. What adventures awaited!

I’ve had as a goal to visit the many homestead sites. In September 2013 I, along with my 20 year old daughter, went to Mansfield, Missouri, and toured the museum and also the house where Laura lived as an adult. This past week was round two as the hubby and I meandered from Wisconsin to South Dakota and traced a portion of the Ingalls family pioneer journey.

The takeaway for me as an adult – considering it from the perspective of a wife and mother – is how very difficult it was, especially for Laura’s mother, Caroline.



A cold day in late April at the Little House In The Big Woods

20190501_133037.jpg20190501_133141.jpgOur first stop was in Wisconsin. Although the Ingalls’ cabin is long gone, those who preserved the sites have erected faithful reproductions of the original structures. The little house in Wisconsin was certainly that: little. The main room was no bigger than a small bedroom by today’s standards. For the pioneers, this room was kitchen, dining room, living room, and laundry room (at least half the year). The entire family slept in a room the size of a closet.






The doorway of the dugout is approximately where the author is standing. (Above) What the inside of the dugout may have looked like. (right)




It was the next ‘house’, however, that really gave me pause. Laura’s family purchased a farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota… but there was no ‘house.’ Instead the family lived for some months in a ten by twelve room dug out of a bank above a creek. The actual dugout collapsed years ago, but a reproduction exists in South Dakota. When I walked in to that room I was struck by two things in particular. The first was the smell. It was a combination of earth, mold and dampness. It was depressing and dark. As Laura describes life in the dugout she tells how her mother whitewashed the dirt walls and floor with  a lime mixture. I imagine the lime served several purposes including pest control and to brighten the room. How hard it must have been for Caroline Ingalls to cook, clean, and care for her children in that tiny, tiny space.

In South Dakota the Ingalls family had to, once again, start from scratch. It was not hard to imagine how alone and desolate Caroline must have felt as one of the first pioneers in DeSmet. Their homestead was 160 acres – one quarter mile square – and it was a half mile south of the town. There were no neighbors, just the wildlife which called the prairie home. The Ingalls claim shanty was just that: a shanty. Unlike the cabin in Pepin, their home was a tiny one room building with the beds for a family of six in every corner, a stove in the center, and a few chairs and a table. The thin walls not much protection against the persistent winds and cold. Over time the shanty was expanded to include 2 small bedrooms and 12 by 16 living room.


A reproduction of the claim shanty after 2 additions. The last addition is the 12 x 16 section on the left.


What resilience these people possessed!

When we stopped at the Ingalls homestead near DeSmet, the woman who owns and runs the property came by to speak to us. I said to her I suspected when the Ingalls family arrived there that Caroline told Charles she was done moving and carving out homes in the wilderness. Our hostess confirmed my supposition. Laura’s parents lived the rest of their lives in that community, eventually moving to a proper house in the town eight years after their arrival.

20190505_115005.jpgIt is impossible to truly capture each of these places on paper. But Laura Ingalls Wilder’s narrative description of each place comes close. I felt as if her spirit was there with us in South Dakota, especially, as I mapped out some travels to locales she describes in her books.

It was at Lake Henry when the magic occurred. The hubby and I noticed the water in a nearby slough was roiling. Upon closer examination we discovered hundreds of fish flopping and thrashing about! We walked close to the spectacle, mesmerized by the yellow perch which spawn this time of year once the water raises to a certain temperature. From there we meandered across the back-roads, and observed white tailed deer, a muskrat which waddled across the road, and hundreds of birds: pelicans, herons, eagles, hawks, geese, and all variety of smaller ones.

We were reluctant to leave but how very glad we were able to experience a tiny portion of the pioneer’s journey.

So which of the three would have been the best? Probably the cabin in Wisconsin. But I am thankful for modern amenities: electricity, running water, flushing toilets, refrigeration, automobiles, and airplanes. What a blessed era in which to live.

A few links. First is to my blog article from February 7, 2017 about Laura Ingalls Wilder:

And some links to the various historical sites:

I know everyone would be disappointed if there was not at least one link to the Infallible Wikipedia:


… Blackberry Pie

Rubus Armeniacus

August 28, 2018

For those of us who love the results, putting up with nasty scratches and purple fingers is but a small price to pay for the culinary delights one experiences.

And for those who have ever found this invader in their yard or garden there are mixed emotions surrounding it.

I am talking of probably the most ubiquitous plant of the Pacific Northwest, the Rubus Armeniacus. More commonly known as the Himalayan Blackberry.himalayan blackberry

Like a number of other things, the Himalayan was a transplant to the area. The species originated in Armenia and Northern Iran. And we can thank – or blame – famed horticulturist Luther Burbank for its introduction to the PNW.

It all began in 1901 when 10 acres of land was purchased for the Boys Parental School on the north end of Mercer Island. The school focused on providing support for boys who needed extra structure in their lives. According to the information on Luther Burbank Park:

“The name of the Boys Parental School was changed to Luther Burbank School in 1931. Luther Burbank Park is named after the famous horticulturist born March 7, 1849 in Massachusetts. Burbank pioneered the hybridization of plans and ‘grafting’ trees, and is credited with creating the baking potato and many flowers. He also created the Himalaya blackberry – loved by some for its luscious fruit, despised by others for its invasiveness. Ironically, many of Luther Burbank Park’s delicate native vegetation are choked with Himalaya blackberry bushes. Burbank passed away in 1926. The State of Washington took over in 1957, and moved the school operations to Echo Glen near Preston in 1966.”

While I would disagree that Burbank ‘created’ the Himalayan Blackberry, it was his fault that the plant got a foothold here.

Its success, in a little over 100 years, is impressive. From Mercer Island it spread everywhere on the west side of the Cascades, often choking out its native counterpart, the Pacific Blackberry.

I found this information on the Himalayan, from the Infallible Wikipedia, especially telling:

“The species was introduced to Europe in 1835 and to Australia and North America in 1885. It was valued for its fruit, similar to that of common blackberries (Rubus fruticosus and allies) but larger and sweeter, making it a more attractive species for both domestic and commercial fruit production. The cultivars ‘Himalayan Giant’ and ‘Theodore Reimers’ are particularly commonly planted.

Rubus armeniacus soon escaped from cultivation and has become an invasive species in most of the temperate world. Because it is so hard to contain, it quickly got out of control, with birds and other animals eating the fruit and then spreading the seeds.”

While I don’t recall ever dealing with blackberry plants in Yakima, my first memory of the plant was as a young teen while on vacation with my parents and sister to the Long Beach peninsula. My mother organized an outing to go pick berries which were found in abundance along the roads. We were collecting berries and, apparently, the lady whose property on which were picking took exception. She sicced her dogs on us! No one got bit but we were more careful about where we picked after that.

I learned to make blackberry pie the year after I was first married. Since my hubby’s birthday is the third week of August, it always coincides with blackberry harvest. And his favorite type of pie is blackberry. We bought our first house in West Seattle and the blackberries were but one thing out of control at that property and in the alley behind it.

But we pruned them back and let them grow and I picked enough for the fresh pies as well as enough to freeze and then bag for future use, something I continue to do, always finding a patch near where we live.

It was in February – the second year in West Seattle – that I decided to make a blackberry pie from some of the frozen berries. Being a CPA, my hubby was in the midst of tax season and had to work most Saturdays. To reward him I spent a fair portion of the day cooking homemade lasagna and the pie.

Dinner – my brother was there that night too – was a hit. The lasagna was delicious, the garlic French bread savory, and the green salad with fresh tomatoes and green onions a delight.

And then it was time for the Piece de Resistance – the pie – I proudly carried it to the dining room where the two guys oohed and aahed over it. I cut three large wedges, served up with vanilla ice cream, and handed each their piece.


Before taking a bite of the pie, I looked over at my brother who was just kinda pushing his piece around on his plate and not eating. Weird. So I sliced off a forkful of mine and popped it in my mouth. It was awful. I glanced down to the end of the table and my husband’s face told the story. His lips were pursed in a tight ‘o’ formation and his head was pulled back in surprise, his eyes wide.

I started to laugh… and could not stop. It was one of a half dozen times in my life where I laughed until I cried. Soon the guys were laughing too, all of us wiping the tears from our cheeks.

When the hilarity died down, I did what any self-respecting cook would do. I retrieved the sugar bowl from the kitchen and we passed it around, lifting the crust and sprinkling generous amounts on the cooked berries.

I pieced together what, exactly, had occurred. When I pulled the berries from the freezer and put them in a bowl to thaw there was an excess of liquid. Seeing the berries look like they should for pie filling, I simply forgot to add the sweetener.

C&HSugar. Always remember to put sugar in your pies. And remember to be careful where you go to pick your berries. Mom said.

A couple links for your education:

…Grumpy Old Men

Get off my lawn!

August 21, 2018

get-off-my-lawnThis sentiment is most associated with a crotchety old man who, in a moment of exasperation, yells at the kids in his neighborhood.

And who can blame him, really? Those pesky kids can be as irritating and destructive as any unwanted vermin, especially when they decide his yard is the best place for a game of football.

In defense of the old guy, however, it’s not like his life is easy. No doubt he has a sore back, a nagging wife, and requires a daily afternoon nap (or two). Welcome to the world of senior citizens.

But rest assured, older Americans, today is your lucky day. Although we have no idea what inspired the day, it was proclaimed as such by President Ronald Regan that the event be celebrated on August 21st each year.

The Infallible Wikipedia is silent in regards to this important holiday. But on the National Day Calendar the following is shared:

“This day was created as a day to support, honor and show appreciation to our seniors and to recognize their achievements. Their valuable contributions to our communities create better places to live.

Take time today to spend with seniors you know, and listen to their stories of wisdom and experience, gain from their hard-earned knowledge.

‘For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.’

~ President Ronald Reagan – August 19, 1988 Proclamation 5847”

Getting older is an interesting process. And then that day arrives when you are offered your first senior discount! What an event! There you are, your $200 stack of Nordstrom’s finest piled on the checkout counter and the salesperson smiles at you then confidentially asks if you qualify for a senior discount. Of course, she intones, she really can’t tell but wants to save you thirty dollars… so you cave and admit you are eligible.

That is, of course, the way it happens the first time, right?

Well, not exactly. Here’s the real story.

I’ve just picked up a couple loaves of bread and a package of English Muffins at the Franz Bakery outlet. My purchase comes to three bucks and change. I’m counting out the bills and riffling through my coins looking for the exact amount when it happens.

“Are you old enough for a senior discount?”

Mortification overwhelms me. Do I look like I’m a senior? Oh. My. Gawd. I calculate what the ‘discount’ would be and realize it’s 30 cents. Thirty freaking cents.

franz kirkland

I look up at the clerk, smile and say, “Sorry, no.” Then grab the bread and scurry out the door. It wasn’t quite how I imagined my first time would be.

Since then (It was just last week, wink wink!) I’ve learned to embrace the whole Senior thing and enjoy the inevitable ‘No! You don’t look 60 comments’ I get. Of course I also embrace the philosophy of ‘Youth through chemicals’ and have discovered ways to mask the more obnoxious signs of aging. Clairol is your friend!

2017-Senior-Pass-Annual-Front-1_1.jpgA few days ago, my hubby informed me that the next time we visit a National Park he will be eligible to purchase the “America The Beautiful” pass – a one time purchase admitting him to the NP’s for the rest of his life. Now that’s a Senior Discount worth admitting your age.

So, those of you over a certain age, go out and celebrate National Senior Citizen’s day and be sure to ask for your damn discount.

… the Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days and Cat Nights

August 14, 2018

beagle with fanWhen the heat arrives in July and August each year inevitably someone comments that it is the “Dog Days” of summer. What, exactly, are Dog Days?

It’s actually in reference to the star Sirius which, ancients believed, contributed to the excessive heat beginning in mid-July. Although you can see Sirius – it is the star which is nearest to our solar system – throughout the year, it is in summer when it rises in conjunction with the sun each morning. It is this phenomenon which prompted the term Dog Days. There is some debate as to when Dog Days occur and it depends on who you ask.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Various computations of the dog days have placed their start anywhere from 3 July to 15 August and lasting for anywhere from 30 to 61 days. They may begin or end with the cosmical or heliacal rising of either Sirius in Canis Majoror Procyon (the “Little Dog Star”) in Canis Minor and vary by latitude, not even being visible throughout much of the Southern Hemisphere. Sirius observes a period of almost exactly 365¼ days between risings, keeping it largely consistent with the Julian but not the Gregorian calendar; nonetheless, its dates occur somewhat later in the year over a span of millennia.

In antiquity, the dog days were usually reckoned from the appearance of Siriusaround 19 July (Julian) to relieving rains and cool winds, although Hesiod seems to have counted the worst of summer as the days leading up to Sirius’s reappearance.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the dog days ran from various dates in mid-July to early or mid-September. Canonical “dog daies” were observed from July 7 to September 5 in the 16th-century English liturgies. They were removed from the prayer books at the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and their term shortened to the time between July 19 and August 20. During the British adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they were shifted to July 30 to September 7.

Many modern sources in the English-speaking world move this still earlier, from July 3 to August 11, ending rather than beginning with or centering on the reappearance of Sirius to the night sky.”

The star Sirius is the brightest star in our skies as it is a mere 8.7 light years from Earth. It is best observed in the winter as it is seen quite near the very recognizable constellation Orion. Orion dominates the night sky, appearing on the southern horizon. Sirius can be seen just below and to the left of Orion’s ‘belt’.f0895f14aed5a68fee572ee10326772f--orions-belt-sirius

Dog Days are not exclusive to the American experience, however, and on August 16th each year, it is celebrated as follows:

“It is possible that the Roch, the legendary medieval patron saint of dogs celebrated by the Catholic Church on 16 August, owes some of his legacy to the dog days. From the period of his self-proclaimed protectorate over the island, the Danish adventurer Jørgen Jürgensen is remembered in Iceland as Jorgen the Dog-Day King (IcelandicJörundur hundadagakonungur).”

I would be remiss if I didn’t also share the legend of Cat Nights. I had never heard of such a celebration until researching for this post. But according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, they are described thusly:

The term ‘Cat Nights’ harks back to a rather obscure old Irish legend concerning witches and the belief that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time (August 17), she couldn’t regain her human form. This bit of folklore also gives us the saying, ‘A cat has nine lives.’ Because August is a yowly time for cats, this may have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place.”kliban cats walking dogs

But back to Dog Days. One of my earliest memories is of the very first summer after my family moved to Yakima… must have been late July or August 1962. My mother was insistent that we ‘younger’ children (I turned 5 in 1962) go to bed at 8 p.m. It did not matter that it was still light outside. Since, in the northern hemisphere the sun does not set until well after 9 p.m that time of year and in Yakima is was closer to 10, we went to bed regardless. And it did not matter that it was uncomfortably hot. We went to bed regardless. It was a few years later that we got air conditioning which made the hottest of days bearable.

What I vividly recall is lying in my bed – which was under a window and watching the lightweight cotton curtains billowing in the hot wind and hearing the sounds of children playing outside. I know I thought it was terribly unfair that I had to be in bed, unable to sleep, while the rest of the neighborhood was having fun.

I moved away from Yakima in great part to avoid the excessive heat which arrived in mid-July each year and often remained until late August or early September.

Ironically, these past nine years I have found myself back in my hometown to help with my dad (who is now 95).

20180810_082117This year and last – as his body fat diminished – he has a much more difficult time managing his body temp. He’s frequently cold, even on the very hottest of summer days, and a battle rages over whether the thermostat is set to cooling or heating! Frequently the furnace is running and the indoor temperature is close to 80 degrees. Either my brother (who lives with my dad) or I will switch it to AC only to have dad turn on the furnace despite the outdoor temp being over 100 degrees. The picture to the left is one I took a few days ago in Yakima, right after switching the thermostat back to cool.

On a recent trip I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, and harkened back to 1962… and just like then it was hot and difficult to get comfortable. Of course the reason was because my dad had turned the furnace on!

A couple of links about Dog Days and Cat Nights:

… The Astor Street Opry Company

Shanghaied In Astoria

August 7, 2018

Shanghaiing or crimping: the practice of kidnapping people to serve as sailors by using  trickery, intimidation, or violence.  A crimp is someone who uses these methods to conscript a person against their will. A related term, press gang, refers specifically to impressment practices in Great Britain’s Royal Navy.

shanghaied1.jpgNow, while I have not been kidnapped in the form of shanghaiing, I did enjoy being in Astoria this past weekend and watching a performance of “Shanghaied In Astoria” – a musical melodrama now in its 35th season.

It’s good old fashioned, politically incorrect fun with over the top characters and toe tapping tunes. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Shanghaied In Astoria is a musical melodrama that is performed by the Astor Street Opry Company every summer in Astoria, Oregon. It has run since 1984, and has been attended by over 55,000 people. Traditionally the play is performed three days a week from July to September. (snip)

The story is set in 1904 Astoria around the Scandinavian Midsummer Festival. The Norwegian hero, Eric Olson, must rescue his sweetheart Miss Virginia Sweet from Max Krooke, her ward.”


Sneak Not Snake

A couple of sturdy women with the character Sneak. He knocked it out of the park!

I’ve attended the play five times now and can sing along with the cast. In fact, I even participated in a walk on role a couple of summers ago.

During intermission of each performance (the past four years at the least) they sell auction tickets for baskets.
The first year I bought tickets to be entered in a drawing for a walk on part. I won the honor of getting to play the part of the sheriff! I was given a badge, a play gun, and had one line: “Stop Krooke you crook!”
When I attended with my sister, niece and her fiance the next year, I once again purchased tickets and, once again, won the role of the sheriff!
Having done it the previous year, I didn’t want to do it again so I offered it to the members of my group but no one (not even my niece’s now husband who, ironically, is a police officer) wanted the role. So I gave it to a guy sitting next to me. He was thrilled!
Due to some family circumstances I was unable to attend last year, but we did make it this year. But, alas, they were not raffling off the role of the sheriff so I bought tickets for one of the baskets and… won.
Sturdy women.jpgSo I have a 100 percent success rate for raffles at Shanghaied. What’s not to like?
If you are ever visiting Long Beach or Astoria in the summer, it’s a fun evening of tossing popcorn at the villains, booing, hissing and cheering the hero (Sweet but Dumb!)
And be sure to enter the raffle drawing – who knows you might just get your big break on the stage!
A few links:
The Astor Street Opry Company:
A brief explanation on Wikipedia (of course):
And a video from a few years ago about the production:

… A Mountain Climbing Grandma

July 24, 2018

There are times in life when a real life story comes along that is so wonderful, you just have to share it. This is one of those stories.

Hulda crooks Mount fuji.jpgIt was on July 24, 1987 when 91 year old Hulda Crooks of California successfully scaled 12,388 foot tall Mount Fuji. She was the oldest woman to ever summit that mountain.

In fact, she was affectionately called Grandma Whitney due to the fact that she had climbed Mount Whitney – at 14,495 feet it’s the tallest mountain in the continental United States – twenty three times… all after the age of 65!

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

Mount Whitney peaks“In 1990, Day Needle, one of the peaks in the Whitney area was, by an Act of Congress, renamed Crooks Peak in her honor.  On July 24, 1987, at the age of 91, she became the oldest woman to complete the ascent of Mt. Fuji in Japan. She hiked the entire 212 mile John Muir Trail in the high Sierras, completing the hike in segments over five years.

Hulda Crooks was a long-time resident of Loma Linda, California and a Seventh-day Adventist. She often spent time with children in the community, encouraging them to appreciate nature and stay active. In 1991 Loma Linda dedicated a park at the base of the south hills as Hulda Crooks Park.

‘Early to bed and early to rise. Out jogging about 5:30am. Jog a mile and walk it back briskly. It takes me 12 minutes to jog the mile and 15 minutes to walk it. Do some upper trunk exercises, work in the yard, and walk to the market, and work.’ — Hulda Crooks describing life at 80

According to Congressman Jerry Lewis (R California), one of her hiking companions,

Hulda crooks hiking‘No mountain was ever too high for this gentle giant. With a twinkle in her eye, and purpose in her step, Grandma Whitney showed the world that mental, physical and spiritual health is attainable at any age.’”

This remarkable woman lived to the age of 101. Even more remarkable is that she did NOT start climbing mountains until she was 66 years old.

In the obituary for her from Loma Linda University it said, “She held eight world records for women over the age of 80 including Senior Olympic events in marathon and road races. In addition she climbed a total of 86 different Southern California peaks, each over 5,000 feet between 1977 and 1983. When Mrs. Crooks spoke about the advantage of a good diet, proper exercise, and a positive mental attitude, she was speaking from experience. It was during a period of poor health while a student at Loma Linda that she changed her lifestyle. During her retirement years, she would give up to a dozen talks a month on health and physical fitness. She would walk up to 100 miles each month to stay in shape.”

Back in 1997 there was a movie released which featured a heroine named Rose. The movie: Titanic.

For those unfamiliar with the plot line: Rich girl, Rose, meets poor boy, Jack, and they fall in love. Both are passengers on the Titanic but, due to societal pressures, it’s a hidden love affair. When the boat hits an iceberg, their love – and pretty much everyone on board – is doomed. In the final moments of the movie, we see Jack succumb to the frigid waters of the north Atlantic. But his ultimate sacrifice saves Rose.

It always struck me, as we got the briefest of glimpses into Rose’s life after Jack, that the real gift he gave her was the understanding that life is to be lived to its fullest. She promised him to live her life that way – and she did.

Which is why Hulda’s story is so inspiring. No matter what your passion might be, go out and pursue it! For me it’s writing novels. Haven’t published a single one. Yet. But I’ve completed five and am halfway through number six. And I have no shortage of ideas and plots for seven, eight, nine, and ten.

Now, climbing a mountain? Not on my bucket list. Or riding a horse now that you mention it.

For years my sister, Susan, and I have spent anywhere from two weeks to a few days each summer at Long Beach, Washington. It all started in the summer of 1991 when, with her then two year old daughter and my one and half year old son in tow, we made our first ‘girls’ trek. Over the years our activities changed depending on the age and interests of the kids. Sometime in the early to mid-2000’s her two daughters decided they wanted to ride horses. In Long Beach there are a couple of outfits where you can sign up for a guide led trot to the beach.  The first year we opted for the half hour ride. This consisted of riding a horse with an attitude in a single file line over bumpy, sandy terrain to the beach. Once at the beach the horses were allowed to fight with each other and trot a little bit horse ride views long beachbefore the whole pack turned around and went back.

The next year the girls’ wanted a longer ride so we opted for the hour and half adventure. Which just meant more time doing exactly the same thing as the previous year. The only real difference was that I walked like a chafed cowboy for two days instead of one.

When the third year rolled around I had made a decision. The night before the proposed ride I said to my sister, “So here’s the deal. I’m not going horseback riding this year. In fact, I’m never going horseback riding ever again. Tomorrow morning my plan is to put the girls on those horses then wave goodbye. After that I’m driving to Laurie’s Homestead Café and having breakfast. If you want to go on the horses, then that’s fine, but I’d love to have you join me for breakfast.”Girls with horses 2008.jpg

So if you are ever in Long Beach, Laurie’s has the BEST hash browns.*  Which my sister found out that fateful morning when we marked horseback riding off our bucket list along with climb a volcano. I’ll leave that activity to the Hulda Crook’s of this world.Laurie's breakfast

After all, I can always tap into my imagination if I need a new adventure.

And, of course, a few links:

Two scenes from Titanic:

And if you’re on the peninsula:

* With the continued shutdowns from the COVID19 Pandemic I am unsure as to the status of Laurie’s Homestead cafe. I will check it out next time I’m in Long Beach and provide and update here.

… Coca Cola

July 10, 2018

things go better with cokeIt is a slogan all Americans of a certain age are familiar with: Things Go Better With Coke. Except for in 1985 when there was a brief period in time when the world shook on its axis and consumers rebelled against  what was branded as “New Coke.”

The controversy began in April that year when Coca Cola replaced the original formula with the new version in an effort to regain some of its lost market share to Pepsi.

From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“By 1985, Coca-Cola had been losing market share to diet soft drinks and non-cola beverages for many years. Consumers who were purchasing regular colas seemed to prefer the sweeter taste of rival Pepsi-Cola, as Coca-Cola learned in conducting blind taste tests. However, the American public’s reaction to the change was negative, even hostile, and the new cola was considered a major failure. The company reintroduced Coke’s original formula within three months of New Coke’s debut, rebranded as ‘Coca-Cola Classic’, and this resulted in a significant gain in sales. This led to speculation by some that the introduction of the New Coke formula was just a marketing ploy to stimulate sales of original Coca-Cola; however, the company has maintained that it was a genuine attempt to replace the original product.”

New Coke was out and Classic Coke was back on July 10, 1985.

The history of the soft drink is, primarily, a tribute to marketing and also the use of corporate profits to acquire multiple business lines. Although its current rank on the Fortune 500 is at 87 (down from 64 in 2017), it will celebrate 100 years as a publicly traded company in September 1919.

For me, as a child, there really were only three choices in ‘soda’ or ‘pop’ as we called it: Coke, 7-Up, and Root Beer. Root Beer was a special treat as we occasionally drove to the A&W drive in and got a frosty mug of the treat, sometimes as a float. And I was never a big fan of 7-Up.

But Saturday nights always involved getting to drink Coke while we ate popcorn and played a game my parent’s called ‘DeVore Rummy.’

rummy handThe game was six hands of cards where you collected, first, two groups of three cards; then a group and a run of four (all the same suit); then two runs. After the halfway point, things got more difficult with needing to acquire two groups and a run, then two runs and a group and, finally, two groups AND two runs plus you had to lay your entire hand down – with no leftovers –  to win the round.

I have several distinct memories of playing the game. First, as a seven year old, tossing down my cards in frustration as I lost (yet again) and stomping away from the table in tears.

Then as a teenager, not acknowledging that family game night was an important event which was designed to keep us at home and provide an excuse for our friends as to why we were not out partying like so many were.

By the time my teen years rolled around I was frequently the only child still around on Saturday nights but often my friend Pam joined us, and we  added Pinochle to the mix; many a night that was what was on the menu instead of Rummy.

But the other things never changed. I can still see my dad, standing at the avocado green electric stove, a large aluminum pan with a wooden handle in front of him. He’d cover the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil and, when the oil was hot, put in three popcorn kernels and cover the pan with an aluminum pie plate as the original lid was long gone.

We’d wait for the telltale pop-pop-pop and he would add the rest of the kernels. Soon, with our heaping bowls of salted and buttered popcorn, and the always present glass of Coke, we’d gather round the dining room table for the games.aluminum pot

Over the years I grew to love the event – whether with my own parents, siblings, husband, kids, nieces, in-laws – for the wonderful gathering it is. And I no longer stomp from the room but instead, win or lose, value the time spent with family. And I always make sure there’s a bottle of Coke in the fridge for those who want it.

For more information about New Coke:

And for the exhaustive history of the company:

I cannot find the exact rummy game we played, so it must have been a family variation, but here’s a link to a variety of such games: