Friday, December 30, 2016

December 19 - 31, 2016, AZ

Thursday, December 29.  For the first time in eleven years, I have missed an entire week plus almost another week of writing in this journal.  I'm not even going to try to reconstruct the happenings of the past 2 weeks.  Last week happened to be the week leading up to Christmas and it was pretty social and definitely busy.  I also cleaned 3 houses that week - the money came in handy, as December is a rough month for me financially, just because there is a longer spread between SS checks.

Several of my close friends met at Tom's BBQ for happy hour and dinner on Friday night and had a fun time.  I managed to talk with most of my siblings and my sons to wish them happy holidays.  I'm thankful that I'm not as busy as some people are and yet, I sometimes get to missing the family connection.

Christmas Eve was a rainy, rainy and windy day.  Pat, Roger, and Connie joined me for dinner. Roger bought a prime rib roast and Connie made Shrimp Scampi.  It was a nice evening with great friends.

I learned that my brother-in-law, Hobe is now in hospice care and is not expected to live very long.  He has been on the decline for the last couple of years due to diabetes, a curse that he has had to live with his entire life.  I feel so bad for them.
My friend, Karen, from SC flew in on Christmas Day and we had a nice dinner and conversation catching up on the last year or so since we saw each other.  Her husband, Tom, passed away in October of 2015, so she has purchased a house here in my community and will be relocating some time later this year.  Most of her stay was related to the new house, although we did take a drive out to Tortilla Flat, had pizza at Organ Stop, and happy hour with Pat and Rog at Val Vista Village.  Tuesday was busy with house stuff.  When we did get into the house, she quickly decided that she is happy with her decision to buy, but will definitely do some work on it before she moves in - like painting everything, remodeling the master bathroom, and installing new flooring. She will leave the kitchen as is until she decides exactly what she wants to do with it. I guess I will be the coordinator for some of that work, but she plans another trip out here before I leave in the spring.

Karen, enjoying Organ Stop.

After taking her to the airport this morning, I hooked up the camper and have been getting ready for this week's camping trip with a bunch of friends.  There will be 11 of us and all have campsites pretty close together.  

Saturday, December 31.  We all arrived at McDowell Mountain Regional Park at about the same time on Friday afternoon and it wasn't long before we were sitting in a circle at Chris and Norm's camper.  Since a couple of folks have pizza ovens, frozen pizza was in order for dinner that first night - it was easy and convenient.  Norm got a good campfire going and we sat around until it started to rain at about 8:30 and it has continued to rain off and on throughout the weekend.  I don't believe that I have ever seen 3 continuous days of rain here in Arizona during the 7 years that I have lived here.  And it just happens to come on a weekend of camping.

I made biscuits and gravy for breakfast this morning and we all gathered at Gerry and Jeannie's motor home to eat - we had all eleven of us in there at one time.  It brought back fond memories of entertaining when we had ours.

We have managed to get a few dog walks and a nice hike in between raindrops today.  In spite of the weather and during a dry period this afternoon, we pulled off a delicious lobster tail feast and all managed to dine together.  Some had lobster and steak and we all brought side dishes - au gratin potatoes, broccoli/cauliflower salad, bread, and desserts.  Once the mess was cleaned up,  sat around for a couple of hours before folks started drifting off and calling it a night. The rain started again around 10:30 and continued throughout the night.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 12-18, 2016, AZ

Thursday, December 15.  The weather this week has been beautiful, mid to upper 70s during the day.  I've been keeping the furnace at 62 during the night and it hasn't even come on, although I have been warming it up a bit in the morning.  Starting tomorrow, the temps will drop down in the 60s during the day.

My Christmas shopping is done.  I have 2 beautiful boxes of oranges ready to go north to my son's but I'm holding off until Saturday to ship them.  They are getting frigid winter weather with heavy snow followed by single digit temps and below zero wind chills.  I was just dreading the long lines at the post office, checked online and learned that I could print the labels right here in the comfort of my home and just drop the packages off when I'm ready.  Yay!

I had a house guest on Wednesday when Pat and Rog dropped Louie off for the day, as they were taking a bus trip to Prescott.  He and Frisco are good buds, so there was no problem there at all.  I spent the day giving my house a good cleaning, much needed.  I think I'm a believer when they say that if your job is to do a certain task, then you don't want to do that task much at home and I think I have been slacking on the house cleaning activities at home.  The wood furniture all got a good treatment with lemon oil and even the window sills got vacuumed off.  It's looking and smelling pretty good around here.

There was a happy hour gathering at Nando's on Monday night, about 14 people got together  to celebrate some recent birthdays and anniversaries.  It was a great time and the margaritas tasted really good, especially since I wasn't the designated driver.

The last HCC board meeting for 2016 was held on Tuesday and we amended the by-laws and elected a new President and Vice President for next year. It's going to be interesting and I'm hoping for some positive changes around here and maybe even a younger perspective at activities and involvement.  We are responsible for the activities around here and Kathy does a great job at it.  There was good discussion with the exception of some very heated exchanges and even name calling at one point - come on, folks, were adults around here.

I got some new photos of the kids this week.

This is so darned sweet. They are always loving on each other.

After Charlotte's school performance.

Saturday, December 17.  Fish fry last night at Tom's BBQ was excellent and I think it might be the best that I've had here in the valley.  It was good a enough to take home for me to eat rather than giving it to Frisco. Now, that is saying a lot.

Today, Tom (next door neighbor) and I went to visit another neighbor, Kirk, who has been in the hospital for a month now and is facing another 4-5 weeks, followed by a recovery/rehab program either from his home or from another facility.  He was seriously injured as a child and lost the use of his legs.  Due to infection earlier this year, he has had to have several surgeries to remove some of the femur on both legs.  The guy is in exceptional spirits and has more determination to recover and get back to his independent life than anyone I have ever met.  I took him popsicles and some of my potato soup - just got a text saying he really liked the soup.

I finally did some of my baking - several small loaves of Cranberry bread to give as gifts. Feeling relieved to have that out of the way. Gifts and cards have all been mailed - I'm pretty close to being finished with Christmas preparation.

Sunday, December 18.  Connie and I went to see the movie, "Loving", the story of Mildred (black) and Richard (white) Loving, a couple who grew up in a mixed neighborhood in Virginia.  It was nothing for them to fall in love and, naturally, get married when she became pregnant.  Unfortunately, Virginia had a law that didn't recognize their marriage and prohibited them from living together in that state.  The ACLU became involved and, after several years, their case went to the Supreme Court and they won.  

I knew the story after hearing Nancy Griffith's song, The Loving Kind and also read about It when Mildred died back in 2008.  It touched my heart.  Another sad but true story that has you scratching your head and wondering how something like this could ever happen in this country.  You love who you love and it doesn't matter where they come from, what they look like, what sex they are, or anything else - why are we so closed minded and prejudiced?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

December 5 - 11, 2016, AZ

Sunday, December 11.  I guess I'm forgetting to write in my journal lately.  It's been a busy week but not a lot to write about.  

Pat and I had dinner at Waldo's BBQ on Thursday, then went to Castillo Nuevo to meet up with 
Chris and Norm and their friends to plan our New Years campout at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.  We will occupy 6 campsites and tonight we planned our New 
Years Eve dinner of appetizers, Grilled lobster tails, side dishes and dessert and who is bringing what.  We will have pizza the first night and one communal breakfast but all other meals are whatever you want to have.  It's going to be a fun experience, one that I have never done before, so I'm looking forward to it.

Arlene called me on Friday morning to see if I would like her ticket to the Hale 
Theater's production of A Christmas Carol and it took about 2 seconds to say yes.  She has been hit hard with some type of flu bug and couldn't go.  Around 2:00, her daughter, Sharla called to see if I knew anyone who would like her ticket - she was taking Arlene to urgent care and wouldn't be using her ticket.  So, Patty, joined me and we joined up with Marilyn and Karin, James and Betty, and enjoyed a wonderful production of this old classic Christmas tale.

This photo was borrowed for yelp.

Saturday was my community's bake sale, payment of annual dues, and election of area representatives. I had the ballots ready to go and we stuck around until about 11:00 after all votes had been cast.

After that, Connie, Jan, Cookie and I all went to an estate sale and a consignment shop, then stopped for a burrito before heading back home.  I was ready to spend some time at home and to pay some attention to my little dog who has been left home alone quite a bit lately.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

December 1 - 4, 2016, AZ

Sunday, December 4.  It is my brother, Russell's 51st birthday today and I hope he is able to find some comfort and joy in the day.  Unfortunately, he is one of those lost, homeless souls living in Cedar Rapid, IA.  Family members hear from him now and then and are willing to help, but unwilling to give him a home unless he wakes up and attempts to fight to overcome alcoholism on his own - something that none of us can do for him.  The latest that I heard was that he found work and a room to rent.

I went with Pat and Roger to see 2 tiny houses that were set up at Viewpoint Resort yesterday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside and it took us an hour to work our way to the front and then 5 minutes for the grand tour.  They are cute as can be, but way overpriced at $73,000 for about 250 square feet of living space and the bed is in the loft - not a good design for seniors.  In fact, many would even have a hard time going up the 3 steps to get in the door.  I think a travel trailer in the $20 range would be a much better option.

Last night, Pat and I went to my niece, Monica's house in Peoria for a Christmas Ornament Exchange, some yummy food and drink, and an evening with many sweet young ladies.  The drive is long, an hour each way but  made it and had a wonderful time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 28 - 30, 2016, AZ

Wednesday, November 30.  Wow! The end of November and I realize that I have done nothing in preparation for Christmas. It's not like I have a lot to do, but it's not like me to put it all off until later.  I did manage to get my house decorated for the annual event, so that is behind me.  I do enjoy the lights and decorations and they are starting to appear throughout my community.

Yesterday, I was walking Frisco and noticed that LeRoy and Diane have their house for sale for $6,000.00.  As soon as I got back home, I sent an email off to my friend, Karen in South Carolina, since I had recently gotten an inquiry from her about another house.  Over the last day and a half, several conversations and emails later, she is buying the house and will be coming for a visit later in the month.  Yay, Karen!  We won't be neighbors but will see each other whenever I get back here in the future.

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 21 - 27, 2016, AZ

Thursday, November 24, Thanksgiving Day.  I sure have been slacking when it comes to writing these days, although life is a bit more settled here at home in Mesa and there isn't a whole lot to write about.  

I decided to stay home and cook on Thanksgiving Day and invited Pat and Roger to join me and just happened to check in on Arlene yesterday and learned that she wasn't going anywhere, so I invited her to join us too.  All during the night, I was thinking about Kirk, my neighbor who is wheel chair bound and hasn't been doing well since the summer. So I went over and asked if he wanted to join us but he said no, so I offered to bring him a plate of dinner when it was ready.

I cooked half the turkey (the whole one wouldn't fit in my convection ion or the grill) on the Holland Grill,  and it turned out wonderful. It sat on a bed of cut up apples seasoned with allspice and brown sugar and was basted with apple juice - moist and beautifully browned.  I might have to do the same with the other half.  I made the dressing, cranberries and pumpkin pie and Pat made the potatoes, gravy, dinner rolls, and green bean casserole.  We had an enjoyable afternoon, a cocktail or two and lots of lively conversations.

Friday, November 25.  Happy 50th Birthday to my daughter-in-law, Tracey!  I got up this morning, got dressed, took Frisco out, and headed to the clinic for my annual blood work before eating or having any coffee. I got a sunken feeling when I noticed there were no cars in the parking lot and the sign on the door said closed for Thanksgiving. Dang, now I have to do it again on Monday. 

Each year after the grandkids celebrate their birthdays, I have assembled my favorite photos of the last year and compiled them in a photo collage that gets printed and framed and hung on my wall.  It is a long process since the program that I use, Printmaster, is loaded on my PC.  The photos have to be downloaded to the PC, cropped and dragged into Printmaster, arranged on the page and then saved in a format that is recognized by all - .jpg. 

Many times throughout the year, I stand and gaze at the collages, remembering each photo, the occasion that it celebrates and the milestones those little girls have made through the years.  I finally finished the latest collages and this is the final result.

Charlotte, Age 4

Camille, Age 2

Norah, Age 2

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 14 - 20, 2016, AZ

Thursday, November 17.  Another 4 days and I haven't written - not much to write about.  I've been cleaning - outside of all windows and screens on Tuesday and I finished the job this morning.  Not only did I clean the windows in the living room and dining room, I attempted to rearrange the living room furniture.  It was a lot of pushing and shoving that ended up with pushing and shoving it all right back to where it was originally.  The problem was that there was no place for the rocking chair and no matter how I positioned the area rug, it just didn't work because of the angles in the room.  Oh well, now my body has to recover.

Monday was the night of the full moon, the super moon, it was closest to the earth since the year I was born, 1948.  I saw it rise behind the Superstition Mountains, although they are 20 miles to the east and it was beautiful. 

Connie and I joined Pat and Rog for happy hour at Val Vista Village and had a nice time listening to Dakota Kid.  I'm not a fan of line dancing and the entire floor was taken by line dancers, although there were a few couples dancing.  Pat and I danced a polka and a few others and we managed to get a whole bunch of women out there with us. It was fun.

We're having a cold spell and it was only 52 degrees when I woke up this morning.  I'm sitting here with a blanket over me, waiting for the sun to warm things up so I can get Frisco out for his walk.  We should get up in the mid-70s later on.

Sunday, November 20.  I picked Connie, Pat, and Roger up this morning and we all headed to Cave Creek Regional Park to check it out.  I wanted to see the campground and we all were interested in a short hike - and it was short because Connie struggled with breathing and I was having trouble with my left knee and it started to rain.  We were predicted to have rain today, but not until much later in the day - what do they know.  So we headed into Cave Creek to grab a bite to eat. The dogs were welcome at Harry's patio, and we sat and watched it rain and watched the Steelers fans getting crazy about their team - it kind of looked like Halloween the way folks were dressed.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November 7 - 13, 2016, AZ

It's Sunday night and I just finished watching 60 Minutes, walked Frisco under an almost-full moon, and am relaxing in my comfy pjs.  It's been a busy week with appointments, a couple of cleaning jobs, and news, news, news of Donald Trump beating out Hillary Clinton in the election on Tuesday.  I am heartsick and afraid of what we are facing over the next 4 years.  I only hope that he doesn't mess with my Social Security, Medicare and health insurance benefits, our country's natural resources, and people, people, people and their rights.  I had a FaceTime conversation with Ben and the twins on Wednesday night and he told me that Charlotte cried when he told her who was elected as president, and her response was, "he's mean".  I'm sure she formed her opinion from hearing adult conversations and talking with friends about what they have heard.  His campaign sure set a tone that is against many of the things we try to teach our children, as far as respect for others is concerned.

Our monthly community club meeting was held on Tuesday and I've been working on Minutes and volunteered to write a flyer to invite all residents to join and become involved with our social club.  It's not just a matter of typing the documents, they always take lots of interaction with other members and approvals before finalizing.

We had a very nice program on Veterans Day on Friday, fish fry Friday night with Pat and Rog, garage and estate sales on Saturday with Connie and Sandy, a pancake breakfast this morning with Nan and Dale and dinner with Pat and Rog.  It's been a good week.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

October 31, 2016, AZ

Grandkids Halloween Costumes

Norah the Lion

Charlotte the Peacock and ghostly Camille

November 1 - 6, 2016, AZ

My friend Nan, who works at City of Chandler asked if I wanted to work this week registering and printing ballots for early voting in the upcoming presidential election.  By the way - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been slamming each other for the last 6 months and I am ready for it to be over with.  So Connie and I both took the job with the city and it turned out to be a 50-hour work week, with a constant line (sometimes 2.5 to 3 hour waits) checking addresses and birth dates, then printing ballots and sending them on their way to vote.  All in all, it was a good experience - I only saw 2 people the entire week that were talking down the system and a few who were shaking their heads in disgust but not really voicing their opinions.  In fact, I saw many people shaking hands or giving a pat on the back with those they had met in line.  I'm glad I made it through the week and I'm not sure if I would do it again - it was exhausting for this old lady.

I learned from Ben last week, after Norah's annual checkup recently, that she is anemic and might be gluten intolerant and her growth hormone was below what it should be.  She had an endoscopy on Thursday and the doctor said that it looked like a classic case and it probably is the cause of her not growing at the same level as Camille.  She is a voracious eater - always the last one at the table.  Now, the whole family has to be tested but can't be on the same diet that she is until the results are all in - it might skew the results.

When I asked Norah about her experience, she told me that the doctor put something on the inside of her wrist, she got a bandaid and she got a popsicle.

October 24 - 30, 2016, AZ

The week was spent cleaning the patio and carport and trimming the trees in the back yard.  I managed to make it to water aerobics every day and had a great time at it.  My body is feeling much better after it. 

The highlight of the week was the annual Halloween Party at the clubhouse.  It was lots of fun and the band was great - playing lots of tunes the old ladies (and a few men) could dance to.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17 - 23, 2016, AZ

Monday, October 16.  I did it! I got myself in gear to go to water aerobics this morning - I really need to keep this body moving, especially after the physical challenges I've had the last couple of months. It was a great time, nice bunch of ladies, and a great workout.

Wednesday, October 18.  My first week at home has been busy, taking on a few tasks a day, and so far I have got the inside dusted and vacuumed and the patio and carports cleaned off.  I also got the patio furniture outside and the swing in the back yard so I can enjoy the birds and the nice weather.  Naturally, the Pablo Verde trees needed a good trimming and I cut them back only enough to allow me to walk under them without getting bonked in the head - a job that will need to be continued at a later time (after the trash can is emptied).

I've also connected with some of my community friends: had drinks and dinner with Jan, 
Jim, Jeanne, Connie, and Jacki on Monday night to celebrate Jacki's 87th birthday. Arlene and Tom joined me for a drink on Tuesday night and we never tire of things to talk about.

Tonight, I watched the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and there is no doubt in my mind who to vote for.  Trump even said that he didn't know if he would support the elected president, he said he would wait and see what happens.  What a total slug of an example of humanity. I don't understand why anyone would vote for him - he is unethical and not qualified for the highest responsibility that a president carries.

I also got a call from Jan, inviting me to go see Michelle Obama speak tomorrow at the convention center - you darn right I want to go.

Saturday, October 22.  I arranged for Arlene to let Frisco out on Thursday so I could go see the First Lady.  Jan and Connie picked me up at 9 am and we headed to the light rail station where we met up with Jodi and Montana (Jan's daughter and granddaughter), Sandy (Jodi's sister-in-law), and Pam (her friend and coworker). The train took us right to the convention center and we  were directed through the lines to get to security and it all worked pretty efficiently. 

We ended up sitting in the cheering section - not necessarily because we should have been there - you were supposed to have a wrist band - but they let us on the bleachers and that is where we stayed.  We were handed banners to wave and instructed to cheer at various times while we waited for her to come on - at least a 3-hour wait.

Michelle Obama came on and she said all of the things that we expected her to say - stay above the crap that is going on in this election, encourage everyone you know to cast their vote, and pray that Hillary gets more votes than Donald Trump.  My picture of her didn't turn out too great, but it documents that I was there!

I have spent the last 2 days appreciating my home, not wanting to wander too far.  I did some cleaning, laundry and more yard cleanup.  

Arlene invited me to a wonderful dinner last night with Sharla and Tom, James, Betty, Tom K and I.  For a woman with poor vision, she sure cooked a heck of a meal - ham, roasted veggies, warm bread, corn, and cranberry sauce with apple and grapes.  We had lots of laughs and a great time, as always.  A great bunch of folks to hang around.

Today, I wasn't feeling too great - stomach has been upset all day.

Sunday, October 23.  I was off to the grocery store this morning to get ingredients for a broccoli salad to take to Nan and Dale's house for dinner - a smoked pork loin that they put on the smoker at 3:30 this morning.  Monica joined us and it was so nice to be with that part of my family again.  There is always lots to talk about and plenty to eat.  Sad thing is - I forgot to put the salad out when dinner time came around.  We divvied it up so everyone can have it with their leftovers.

I did go hang out with Connie at the pool for a while this afternoon - we had it all to ourselves.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 10 - 16, 2016, MO, OK, TX, NM, AZ

UWednesday, October 12.  Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Hoovey!

I arrived at Bob's house in KC around 3:00 and got set up in my usual parking spot. Later on, he and Penny had an appointment, so he dropped me off at Rita's and we visited until it was time to go to Waldo's Pizza.  Stella, Josh, and Barley, Aaron, and Bob and Penny all had dinner together and Joel stopped by so Lincoln and Harlow could say hello too.  It was a pleasant, although short visit with the family - to be continued at another time, probably next summer.

Rita picked me up Tuesday morning and we headed for Costco, then Brookside to do some shopping (lots of little boutiques and a modern day dime store) and we had lunch at Charlie Hoopers Bar and Grill.  When we got back to her house, we laid down on her king sized bed talking, then both fell asleep for a nice nap.  Bob picked me up and we went back to his house and when Penny got home from work, we all had a nice dinner together.

I was on the road by 8:30 Wednesday morning in order to meet Randy and Julie in Joplin for lunch at Cracker Barrel - they drove from Springfield so we could hook up - how nice is that?  Our lunch visit was very nice and then they headed to a nearby casino and I headed west on the Will Rogers Turnpike.  I only drove as far as Claremore because it would be another 2.5-3 hours to the next KOA.  It was a rainy drive, sometimes visibility was poor, and I saw several accidents along the way.  No problem stopping sooner than I had planned.

Friday, October 14.  I spent last night at the KOA in Amarillo, TX, after about a 7-hour drive, and I was ready for a break.  While setting up, a couple from St. George, UT stopped to chat about small rigs like mine.  They had just bought a Casita and were interested in hearing about my experiences.  Everywhere I go, people stop to comment on my trailer and that happened a few times on this trip as well.

Today's drive was uneventful, thankfully, and I stopped at the KOA in Grants, NM because of what a nice place this is.  They serve home-cooked meals and some of the best pies.  I ordered the turkey dinner and it was delivered to my site, steamy hot and delicious.  The grounds and facilities are well maintained, the staff is friendly. And there is a nice nature walk through the desert with mounds of black volcanic rock scattered all over the place. I love it and will stop here whenever it works into my schedule and route.

Sunday, October 16.  I was on the road by 8:30 yesterday morning and it wasn't long before I crossed over to the Arizona border and I pulled in front of my house at about 2:30 pm.  It is still standing, no worse for wear.  Naturally, there is a coating of dust on everything and the debris from the trees in the back yard needs to be cleaned up but I will approach it slowly. No sense in hurting myself by taking on too much at one time.

I unloaded the trailer - wow, that thing holds a lot of stuff - and then the car (Spotted Cow beer, a box of "in case" stuff, a suitcase full of off season clothes, the grill).  Several neighbors and Connie came by to say hello and welcome me back.  I warmed up my left-over turkey dinner and went to bed early (according to the Arizona time zone) because my body was exhausted.

Today, I continued putting things away, doing laundry, and running a few errands - a stop at the grocery store for meat and fresh produce, and the pet store for Frisco food.  I roasted a chicken for dinner, enjoyed a cocktail, and walked the park loop after dinner.  Home Sweet Home!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 3 - 9, 2016, MN, IA

Tuesday, October 4.  Happy Birthday to my sweet brother, Bob! He is not only celebrating his birthday, but his retirement from owning and operating Windscape Apartments.  Congratulations on a very successful career.  Jill is off again, this time to Dallas for her regular job.  It is strange having full days to myself - the twins started full-days at preschool this week.  They were both tired when they got home, naps must not have gone so well.

Thursday, October 6.  My summer in the Midwest and my stay with Ben and his family is winding down and I will be leaving here on Sunday after celebrating Norah and Camille's birthday on Saturday. My time here has been busy and I'm glad that I was able to help them with the transition from at-home care to preschool .  They are still adjusting, but it can only get better from here.

Today, I got my car organized and cleaned up the camper a bit.  I had to pull it out of its storage spot in Kevin's driveway yesterday, as tree trimmer were here and they needed to pull their truck in there.  All is well, that job is done.

Saturday, October 8.   Celebrated Norah and Camille's 3rd birthday today, starting around 9:30 when the Quinn's arrived and the gift opening began.  They were happy and excited about their gifts.  Ben fixed a yummy breakfast of bacon, toast, and frittata, and then the big gifts were presented - balance bikes.  Camille figured it out right away, but it was a bit hesitant.  Her bike might be just a tad too big yet - she is so tiny.  We then all headed to Lynnhurst playground for an hour of bike riding.  Norah was more interested in Ben's skateboard than her new bike - she even shifted her body in order to balance.

Waiting for the big surprise.

While the little ones napped, Jill and her mom and Charlotte made Runzas - a traditional fall recipe for their family -  burger, onions, and cabbage wrapped in dough and baked. And then after dinner, it was time for cake and singing Happy Birthday.

Sunday, October 9.  I said my emotional goodbyes to the family and then pulled out around 9 this morning and drove as far as Des Moines, stopping for a few groceries along the way.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October 1 - 2, 2016, MN

Sunday, October 2.  Jill took off in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday for SF. Norah and Camille had another day home from school since they require a full 24 hours after treatment for the pink eye.  They went back to school on Friday and I got a little break.

Yesterday was a good day for Ben and I, a walk to Brueggers for bagels, he took Norah grocery shopping while I took Charlotte and Camille for a walk along the lake. After naps, wee all went to woodlake nature center for a hike and then to Punch Pizza for dinner. Yummy!

This morning, we all slept in, so the day got off to a later start.  Ben took Camille for groceries today (stuff for their classes at school) and I took the others two to the playground.  Jill got back this afternoon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26 - 30, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 28.  Back on Monday, after packing up and saying my goodbyes to the girls, I headed off to Roseville to rescue my little dog.  He got a great report and the staff that I talked to really liked him.  He was so happy to see me, as I was happy to see him too.  I was back in time to unpack, get organized, and head off to pick Norah and Camille up at school.  I could see a change in them, even after only a few short days - mostly with their speech but also appearance.

This morning, I met my friend, Karen, for breakfast. She is visiting from Connecticut. We went to Wise Acres, a place near Norah and Camille's school. Breakfast was delicious and we had a nice visit, catching up on the last 2 years.  Karen lost her husband, Paul, about a year after Mike died, so we have a lot of experiences in common.  We are both adjusting, although you never stop missing them.

Unfortunately, Camille woke up with Pink Eye this morning, confirmed by the doctor and given medication to stop it. Hopefully it will not spread to the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 19 - 25, 2016, MN

Wednesday, September 20.  Yup, busy, busy, busy, although Monday and Tuesday were not unmanageable and I had a couple of mornings alone. Today, Norah and Camille had coughs and runny noses so they stayed at home today.  They were pretty good, needed a little extra TLC (whining and crying) but mostly cooperative and playing well together.  There are times when Camille, who has a strong personality (in fact, she thinks she is an expert at everything) is a little overpowering at times.  She does things for Norah, when Norah wants to do things for herself. I was very happy when Mom and Dad finished work and I could get myself a break.

Friday, September 23.   I started preparing to empty my room yesterday, making sure that the bedding was clean for the next guests, Leah, (who is a long-time friend of Jill and Ben) and her baby son, Luke.  I will be joining the girls from Milwaukee; Leslie, Linda, Jane and Chris at the River Valley Inn in Osceola, WI for the weekend.  I only had an hour to drive but I left Ben's house around 11:00 and dropped Frisco at the Petsmart Pet hotel in Roseville and did some shopping and some sightseeing along the way.

I drove along the St. Croix River on the Minnesota side and stopped at a few sights along the way.  The St Croix River played a major role in the lumber industry and was used to transport logs from northern woods.

Looking south toward Stillwater from a scenic overlook.

I got to the hotel early, sat in my car waiting, I decided to go to the grocery store but my car wouldn't start. I tried and tried but no go, then I remembered talking with the guy who did my oil change before leaving Arizona. I had asked him to check my battery and he said that it would do no good, that when it goes, it just goes. So, I think that is what happened here.  I called my roadside assistance and they were experiencing very high call volumes, so I decided to wait and see what happens in the morning.

The girls arrived, we checked into our rooms, and then sat around Leslie and My room and had a drink and mulled over the plans for the weekend.  Dinner was right next door at the Tippy Canoe. Unfortunately, my walleye was overcooked and my old fashioned wasn't the best, but it was all ok.

I received news from Bob and Randy that Travis Standlee, the man who murdered my brother, Ray, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and will not be eligible for parole until at least 35 years have been served.  He is also facing 50 years in the upcoming trial of the woman he is suspected of murdering only days after he killed Ray. I am relieved that he will not be drifting around as a free man ever again.

Saturday, September 24.  Wow, I slept in until 8:15 - boy, did that feel good.  First on my list today was to get that battery problem resolved.  My roadside assistance sent someone to jump the battery, a nice local guy who had all kinds of suggestions for things to do and places to see in the area, and he got my car going quickly.  I drove to the Walmart in St Croix Falls, bought a battery and had it installed - only a $93 repair, not bad.

I met up with the girls on Main Street in Osceola and we browsed through some of the shops before going to the train station for our 90 minute ride along the river.  It was so enjoyable and the scenery was beautiful - I bet it is gorgeous when the fall leaves are at their peak colors.

The bridge that crosses the river into Minnesota.

This building was a pump house, distributing fresh drinking water from underground springs to nearby homes and communities.

After our train ride, we headed to St Croix Falls to the Dancing Dragonfly Winery, sampled some of their wines (most were named after dances - like CanCan, Polka, and Foxtrot - and browsed the small art far that was on the grounds - a beautiful spot with fountains and ponds and rows and rows of grape vines.  It was cold, as the wind was pretty brisk and there was dampness in the air from the rain that would be coming through later tonight.

We had dinner at the Dalles supper club and lounge - had a tasty flank steak (delicious flavor, but a little in the tough side) and dinner was served with yummy popovers.  A good day!

Chris, Leslie, Me, Linda, and Jane

Sunday, September 25.  It was a lazy morning and after lounging around until almost noon, we went across the way to the Tippy Canoe to watch the Packer game. I wasn't real interested, so after breakfast I went back to the hotel and sat in the hot tub with Jane for a while. Then we both went back to the bar and watched the last half of the game.  They gave us a raffle ticket for every drink you purchase and I won a bottle of wine in one of the drawings. I think these girls bring me good luck - last summer I won't $300 when we met up for dinner one night.

The packers won and when the game was over,  took a drive to Interstate State Park, named because there is state park land in both on both sides of the river and in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. What a gorgeous place!  We drove through the park and then parked and walked the Pothole Trail that was scattered with huge boulders that looked like they fell from the sky.  The path led us to the top of the high rock outcrop along the river - it was a long way down.  We did see some potholes - they are holes formed in the granite by water.  One of the potholes was at least 10 feet deep and one was full of water, resembling a small pond. Some of the leaves are starting to turn with the shorter and cooler days - it is fall after all.  I would definitely like to come back here to camp in the future,