Saturday, July 17, 2010


Look what I found! Compare this to Megan's blog and her pictures from the Kennedy Space Center. I remember seeing the front page of the Des Moines Register (among all the other front pages) on the wall at the space center and thinking Grandpa probably would have saved that since we lived in Des Moines at the time.

Today since it is too hot to do much else, I decided to retrieve some of the papers I brought home from Grandma's house and go through them in our air-conditioned bedroom. Lo and behold, here is what I came across. Grandma has written across the top of it "of great interest to Henry".

Also of interest on the back of this page is an article about whether Ted Kennedy will be charged in the accident on Chappaquiddick that occurred two days before the moon landing. Didn't realize these event happened about the same time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The End of an Era

Astro is gone. She passed this morning around 10:00. She will leave a void in our hearts and in our yard.

Now if only the Neon and Nikki would follow suit.

And here is a picture of our lonely little 3-person dinner yesterday on our Thanksiversary.

You'd think I would have moved the chair out of the way and taken the aluminum foil off the stuffing. Oh well.

Finally, this is the tree Millane's is supposed to be holding for us till spring.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Columbus Day Weekend

Dad and I were supposed to leave for Arkansas on Saturday but Dad decided he didn't want to drive that far. So we found cheap airfares at the end of the month and are going to go then. In the meantime we had a problem. We had been asked to speak at church on Sunday and had declined because we were going to be out of town. It was going to be a little awkward to show up. We decided to use the three-day weekend and go to upstate New York. I found a hotel on Hotwire in Glens Falls, New York. We threw some clothes in a suitcase, grabbed some money and the GPS and off we went.

First stop was Granville, MA where we went last weekend between Conference sessions. They had said to come back the next week because they were having a festival, so we did. They had vendors and booths in the green across from the country store and in a couple of other locations to which you were shuttled on a school bus.

When we first arrived, the fife and drum corps was performing.

Here's the green with the Granville Country Store in the background.We took the shuttle up the hill to the orchard where we bought cider and donuts last week. This time they were demonstrating how they make cider.

Dad sitting outside the cider shop:
They had some old tractors on display so Dad played farmer.

As we were leaving town, we went by the old drum factory. We have been by there quite a few times and we always thought it was closed down. This time a door was standing open and a sign said there was a gift shop so of course I went in. I found out that the drum factory had never shut down although its operations had been scaled back over the years. We got a tour and saw how they make toy drums.

This machine applies the paint.

He's about to run this sheet of painted metal through a machine that will turn it into a cylinder.

Besides toy drums, they also make professional drums but in their heyday they made drums of all sorts. They had one of their civil war drums on display along with a picture of President Eisenhower's son with his Noble and Cooley drum.

Then we were off on the backroads to our hotel in Glens Falls, NY. The next morning we were on our way to the garnet mine when we passed a sign that said "gondola open". We turned around and went back to ride the ski lift. Grandma liked to do this at Sundance for her birthday. I wished she could have gone with us. It was gorgeous.

The sky cleared later and the foliage was even more spectacular with a bright blue backdrop.

Next we were off to the garnet mine. It was well off the beaten path and just when you thought you must have gone wrong somewhere, there would be a sign telling you just one more mile or half mile or whatever. Finally we made it to the office/shop where you pay for your tour.

The tour consisted of following the guide in your own car up the mountain a little ways and then getting out and being told that this was where they mined garnet until they hit the water table and the pit filled up with water. Now they mine in a different area. Then you got to spend a half hour looking for your own garnets. They weren't hard to find. The ground glistened with the red crystals. But they were much too small to be good for anything. They use them to make sandpaper but occasionally someone has found a gem-quality stone there. We had about as much luck as we did hunting for diamonds in Arkansas last fall.

If you look carefully at this picture, you can see the large rocks in the foreground almost look polka-dotted. The red spots are the garnets.

We still planned to get to Fort Ticonderoga that day so we needed to be moving on. We drove through the woods on lovely country roads that we had all to ourselves while we sang along to the greatest hits of John Denver. I know it sounds corny but it was very pleasant.

Unfortunately it was 4:30 by the time we got to Fort Ticonderoga and it closed at 5:00 so we didn't pay the $15 each to go in. But we could get the idea from outside anyway. As we were leaving a whole flock of turkeys went running by. You have to look closely to see them because it was getting dark and the light wasn't great.

Now back to our hotel in hopes they had moved us to a non-smoking room. We got put in a stinking smoking room the first night and they were booked up and couldn't move us. They said the reservation requested a smoking room. I said I never requested that and they said that when you reserve on-line, they sometimes automatically put in for a smoking room. I wasn't happy about that Hotwire. I guess not everyone got Columbus Day off because the hotel was practically empty Sunday night so there was no problem moving us to another room. In fact the whole Lake George area was filled with little independent motels and cabins which is where I would rather have stayed but I couldn't find them online and didn't want to take a chance on getting up there and finding out everything was booked. Oh well, the Ramada Inn was OK.

Monday morning we opted to take the backroads toward Albany and see what we found along the way. (We were going to stop in to see Joyce and Jerry in Albany on our way home.) We found that the Champlain canal boat tour was not operating. It takes you through the locks - at least it does when it's operating. Then we came upon a sign for apples and cider and cider donuts so we headed that way. It was a rip-off. You had to pay $4.50 each just to go out and pick your own apples. It must be the only orchard in the area because no one in CT would pay $4.50 just to be allowed into the orchard to pick their own and they had people streaming in like crazy.

From there we could see a big obelisk on the horizon so we set off in search of that. It turned out to mark the spot where the British laid down their arms after the battle of Saratoga which was fought nearby. It was open for Columbus Day (It's a national monument) so we went in. You can walk to the top if you dare. I didn't. As you are aware, I have a thing about heights and it had the kind of open stairs that you can see through. I went up the first five or six flights that each had a landing at the top. Even that I could only do if I made a point of not looking through the stairs to the ground below. But about halfway up the landings ended and the stairs were just suspended from the wall and went up and up and up and up. Dad was ahead of me going up the stairs and when he reached that point he just laughed. I asked what was funny and he said, "You'll see." When I saw, I told him to take a picture from the top for me because I wasn't going any further. I waited there with a kid who wouldn't go up either.

Trust me, these pictures don't do it justice. Even Dad thought it was a little creepy towards the top where the stairs got narrower. This is looking up.

And here's Dad on his way down.

From there we went to the actual battleground and took the driving tour after watching a movie and posing with the Redcoats.
I'm out of pictures now. Dad took more but his memory card is too big for the computer to recognize. We found Joyce and Jerry's apartment in Albany and went to Fuddruckers with them and then on home.

I decided I like the East. There's a lot to do here and it's pretty. Why don't you all move back this way?

Thursday, October 8, 2009


It's a sad day at 2 Shanley Court. Our maple tree came down today. It has been dying for years and had been dropping branches in every storm so we figured we better take it down before it fell on the house or cars or somebody. Mollie wanted photographic documentation so here it is.

I seem to have done whatever makes me type underlined again. Kyle tried to explain what I was doing wrong but I still don't get it.

Pretty sad.

All these years I thought we had a Norway maple but turns out it was a sugar maple. My research had shown that Norway maples just turn yellow in the fall (like ours always did) whereas the sugar maples produce the brilliant colors New England is known for. But the arborist who took the tree down and Michael Millane both agreed that it was a sugar maple. An underachiever, I guess.

I actually kind of like how the house looks without a tree blocking its nice lines although I think we need to cut the hedge about a foot lower.

But we still plan to plant a replacement tree. I'm supposed to have the wood tested to make sure the tree didn't die from verticillium wilt because that is caused by a fungus in the soil which maples (and quite a few other trees) are susceptible to and if we planted another maple it would just die. They didn't think that was what it was but we'll see. What are your votes for what we should plant?

A Sunday drive between Conference sessions

After reading all your blogs about missing New England in the fall, Dad decided we should be out enjoying autumn and not sitting home watching TV. Since it rained all day Saturday, we went in search of some fall color between sessions of conference on Sunday. Things haven't really turned here so we headed north. Guess where we ended up. If you guessed Granville, you were right. Even in Massachusetts the leaves weren't at their peak yet but we found a couple of nice spots and got a cider donut and some cider at an apple orchard.

This is where we got our cider and donut. I wished I could send some real cider to Michael so he can show his California friends the difference between cider and apple juice.
You all know what this is.And this is a far cry from the prettiest New-England-church-with-fall- foliage picture but it was right across from the Granville country store so I took it anyway.
We may go back this weekend as they told us they had some kind of festival going on and the color should be better by now. Wish you could come along.

The Big E

What's September without a trip to the Big E?!

Here are a few pictures from our Opening Day 2009 trip to the Big E.

This is me with the Big E mascot. Not sure what he's supposed to be.

Dad tried out a new Camaro. (We didn't buy one.)

Dad tried out a Little Giant Ladder. (We did buy one.)
And here is the famous bacon cheeseburger served between grilled donuts!
Dad actually ate this and said it wasn't bad - sort of like kettle corn - a mix of sweet and salty.

This one is for Meg who brought her quarters to the fair in Idaho and couldn't find a Footsie Wootsie.
We didn't have funnel cakes. It was just a colorful shot.

And finally off to the Midway to see the rides we will never, ever go on again as long as we live. I believe the last ride Dad went on was with Evan on the Zipper in New Hampshire or somewhere up that direction See you next year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



I got home Sunday night from my whirlwind tour of Wales with Liz and Michael. Here is what we did.
Liz and I had a little time to kill between when we flew into Heathrow on the morning of September 6th, and when our train left for Wales, so we did a little sightseeing in London. We walked past Parliament and Westminster Abbey and on over to Buckingham Palace. It was a gorgeous warm day and the walk through St. James Park was beautiful. We saw pelicans there which reminded me of Megan feeding them at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake a few weeks ago.

Our first morning in Bangor, we took the bus out to Penrhyn Castle, with the help of some friendly natives who helped us navigate the bus system. Penrhyn Castle was beautiful, but not a true castle - more of a Newport summer- cottage- castle. It has built only in the mid 1800s by a sugar and slate magnate who wanted to build himself a showy castle-like estate to live in a few weeks a year. Unfortunately, we could only take pictures outside but the grounds were marvelou -especially the hidden door into the walled garden which reminded us both of The Secret Garden.

Can you find Liz in the picture down near the door? They had plants there with leaves 6 feet across and weird spiky growths and pink fuzzy stuff. Someone told us what they were but I don't remember other than it started with a "g".

Here are some more pictures of the view from the castle grounds.
We liked how the ivy had turned red.

We would have liked to have spent more time there, but Liz needed to get back to Bangor to register for her conference. I decided while she was doing that, I would be brave and take the bus to Inigo Jones. This was something I had a brochure for that was going to explain the slate industry in Wales for me. Unfortunately, the bus driver forgot to tell me when to get off, so some nice Welsh woman who knew where I was trying to go, came and told me I had missed the stop. So I rang the bell for the next stop and got off there and tried to make my way back. Eventually I got there and this is what I paid 4.50 GBP to see:

If it looks like an old workshop someone forgot to clean up, I think that's exactly what it was. Not exactly sure why it is billed as a tourist attraction.

The great thing about it was that it was in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't find my way back to Bangor. I found a bus stop but the bus that came flew by without even slowing down which I found distressing since I was just standing by a roadside with nothing around except the now closed-for-the day, Inigo Jones and it would be getting dark before long. I wasn't really sure what my next move would be if another bus never came. Finally, I saw another bus approaching and waved frantically. I figured even if it wasn't going where I wanted to go it could at least take me to some semblance of civilization and I could figure it out from there. I later learned that buses only stop if you signal to them. I had mistakenly thought that the fact that I was standing on a piece of asphalt labeled "Safle bws" in the middle of nowhere would indicate I was waiting for a bus (or bws, in Welsh) but apparently not. Anyway, I eventually made it back to Bangor and our hotel where I expected to find Liz waiting but she wasn't. She was having her own adventure with being sick in a foreign city where everything closes up at 5:00. Thank heavens for KFC which was open and had a public bathroom where Liz could throw up. It didn't seem our stay in Wales was off to an auspicious beginning.

The next day was Liz's presentation so I went to the campus with her and listened to some of the speakers. Her presentation went fine and she was very relieved to get it over with. She celebrated by taking the afternoon off and we went to:
(see below)
Just try telling the bus driver the name of this town!

This place's claim to fame is having the longest name. Other than to see that, there seemed to be no reason to go there. There was a gift shop next door but it sold things like Willow Tree and Yankee Candles which I didn't feel the need to bring home from Wales.

This was our only day of foul weather, but since Liz was leaving in the morning, we walked out on the pier in Bangor.

I guess the weather was bad even for Wales because we had the pier to ourselves.

In the morning, (Wednesday) we were heading back to London so Liz could fly out on Thursday morning. Michael was supposed to meet us at the train station, but since I had no way to contact him, I was nervous about things working out. I was very relieved when the train from Holyhead arrived and Michael got off and had the right tickets to travel with us.
And here they are on the train.

Michael had not reserved a room in London so I didn't know how that was going to work out but the stars favored us and we discovered that since the fine hotel we reserved didn't have a "twin" room available we had been given a "triple" for the same price. Apparently, the twin and triple etc. refer to the number of people that could actually stand in the room. It was not exactly spacious or well maintained but it did have its own bathroom which I was worried about when I saw the door marked "toilets" on the landing on the way to our room. The pictures don't really do it justice but you can see for yourself.

Anyway, it was a place to get off the street for the night. I can't imagine staying there for very long. I saw people coming out of this place with kids and I just couldn't fathom taking my family there for vacation and we've stayed some pretty crappy places. They offered a full hot breakfast but somehow I didn't want to eat anything that had been prepared there.

That evening we had tickets to Oliver. When we emerged from the underground at Covent Gardens, we were approached by a woman who wanted to give us a ride in the bicycle cab thing and since we had no idea where we were going we took her up on it. We had a map so we could have figured it out eventually but we figured "why not?"

The picture of the theater is a little blurry because I took it quickly in case I wasn't supposed to be taking pictures. Even though I bought the cheapest seats available, we ended up front row balcony which were wonderful seats and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I like the music and the sets were amazing. (Have no idea why I'm suddenly typing in blue and with underlines)

Liz had to get up and get to the airport the next morning, so then Michael and I were on our own. Our train back to Wales wasn't until 1:00 so I had booked tickets for the first tour of the day of Buckingham Palace. It is only open to the public during the time the Queen is on vacation which happened to be when we were there so I decided we should take advantage of that. Here are pictures of the back of Buckingham Palace along with preparations for the changing of the guards which we couldn't stay for or we would have missed our train to Wales.

Will you just look at that sky! I think London has gotten a bad rap for its weather. It's been beautiful when I've been there!

This is a picture of Michael at the King's Cross tube station. I hear it figures prominently in Harry Potter. I wouldn't know.

Then it was back to Wales. By the time we got back it was too late to do much besides walk out on the same pier Liz and I had walked out on. This time the weather was better. I thought I had pictures but I don't see any.

The next morning (Friday, Sept 11) we took the bus to Llaberis where there was lots to do. On our way to the Welsh Slate Museum we found an intriguing little bridge and path that led to the ruins of a castle.
They take their sheep seriously in Wales.
The Slate Museum was lots better than Inigo Jones and it was free. Wales supplied the slate for all the roofs in England during the Victorian age and continued to produce it until the 1960s when falling demand and rising costs forced the closing of the quarries and mines.

This is the giant water wheel that powered the operations.
Here you can see a gouge in the mountainside where the slate has been removed.

From there we took a tour of Electric Mountain where they generate electricity during periods of peak usage. They do this by releasing water from a large lake which powers turbines as it falls down into a lower lake. At night when power demand is lower, they pump the water back up to the upper lake so it can be used again the next day. So, they actually use more electricity than they generate, but they provide additional power during the day when other sources are inadequate. It was interesting but they didn't allow photography.

On to the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This was a cog-type railroad, not unlike the one we took up Mt. Washington years ago, that took us to the top of Mt Snowdon which is the highest point in the UK (or maybe just Wales -not sure)
Here are some more pictures taken from the train.A Welsh schoolgirl who switched easily between Welsh and English as circumstances demanded, helped us find the right bus to get us back home. It was a long, fun-filled day!

Saturday was the final day of our adventure. We were heading for Conwy to see the castle there and Plas Mawr which is probably the best-preserved home in the country from Elizabethan times.

The castle was very interesting but it made me nervous just thinking of taking small children there.As you can see in this photo, the city on Conwy is surrounded by a stone wall.
The picture above is of the chapel in the castle.
Once again, look at the weather we were enjoying!
On to Plas Mawr.

We ate lunch upstairs in a fish and chips shop.And we saw the smallest house in Britain down by the ocean

Then it was back on the bus to Bangor.
Here is the bus stop in Bangor where we spent considerable time.And here is the house that we looked for to know when to get off the bus for our hotel.
And here is Michael in the hotel relaxing until it was time to catch his train (which was actually a bus) back to Holyhead so he could catch the ferry to Ireland and then his plane back home.
He left just after midnight and I took a cab to the train station the next morning for the four hour train ride back to London where I had to take the tube from Euston to Paddington and then another train to Heathrow. Luckily the plane wasn't full and I had two seats to myself and was able to sleep a little on the flight back.

I was very happy to find Allan waiting for me at JFK. I had thought I would have to take a bus to Grand Central and then the train to New Haven where he would pick me up. The traffic was terrible but it was wonderful to be out of public transportation and no longer need to drag my suitcase and other belongings around with me amid the constant jostling of strangers.

And that, dear readers, sums up my trip to Wales.