Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Biltmore Estate

Tuesday was a busy day for us.  We spent the night at this lovely hotel at the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, N.C.  Then we were up early and had  a wonderful breakfast before heading to our tour of the old Biltmore house. 
 This house was built by the Vandercourt family in the late 1800s.  It is a very beautiful house.  We took an audio tour which was very good.  It took about 2 1/2 hours and we were done and on the road by noon which was our goal. 
The weather continued to be chilly which required us to wear jackets.  However we had a  rest from the rain.  After our tour we got right on the road and drove about 500 miles to Tallahssie Florida.  It was a long day, stopping only for bathroom breaks and fast food.  I am not very good at enjoying fast food so we passed up the last one in the evening and just settled for snack food for dinner. 

Today (Wednesday)  we drove south and planned to explore the gulf coast highway.  However, the rain caught us and it rained most of our scenic drive.  At one point we had to pull over because too many branches were flying around in the wind.  We  waited about 15 minutes and then continued our travels.  We drove all the way to Pensacola today.  It finally stopped raining and we have stopped for the night.  We are visiting the Navy museum tomorrow and then we really don't know what we will do next.  We need to be in Tennessee by Friday afternoon I'm sure we will find some way to spend the time.  I will keep you posted.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Few pictures from N.C.

 Our trip to N. Carolina has been busy.  We had lunch on Saturday with the family and Lisa's parents. 
 After lunch we went to a concert and watched Paul perform.  I took this picture from far away but you can kind of see Paul at the top of this picture. This picture was taken during the warm up time because I wouldn't take one during the performance.  It was a very nice performance. 
 Paul enjoyed teaching Bud this new game that David brought back from a mission trip to Ghana.  I think Paul won most of the time. 
 Olivia was gone for most of the weekend but arrived back on Sunday evening.  She spent the weekend with a friend at a rustic camp and was glad to be back in civilization with hot water and a warm bed. 
Joseph was not interested in me taking a good picture of him so this is the best I could do.  He is showing Bud his Lego project.
The weather has been cold and rainy here.  Tonight we are staying in Ashville N.C. at a really nice resort called the Biltmore Inn.  There is a house here that was built by the Vanderbilt family many years ago.  We will tour the old house in the morning and then take off for Florida tomorrow about noon.  We want to get as far as Tallahassee tomorrow night so we can take a day to drive along the Gulf Coast on a scenic drive.  I hope the weather warms up.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

North Carolina

We made it to N. Carolina last evening (Friday) just after dinner.  It was a quiet and safe drive from Michigan.  My only problem was that I left my cell phone in the hotel in Toledo Thursday night. I did manage to call them and they will send it to me so it should be waiting for me when I return.  Maybe I should be more careful with my phone. 
Today we were able to attend a symphony concert where Paul performed with the Winston-Salem Youth Symphony.  It was a very nice concert.  We will be here until Monday about noon.  I haven't been very successful at getting my computer hooked up to wi-fi so am using other computers and not as good at downloading pictures.  I will try some time tomorrow. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Winter and music

Yesterday were surprised by a spring storm.  Most of our snow had melted and then we received this storm which dropped about a foot of snow on us.  Jessica said it always snows on her birthday, well it was a couple days late this year.  I am hoping it melts soon but we are getting out of town today.  We are leaving for our spring drive.  This afternoon we will leave and get south about as far as Cleveland.  We will drive on to N. Carolina on Friday and spend the weekend with Bud's brother and family.  Monday about noon we are leaving there and going toward the Florida panhandle and spending a couple of days along the Gulf Coast of Florida.  By April 1st we will be in Tennessee to spend that weekend with Matt and Diana and the girls.  We will be back home late in the evening on April 4th.  It will be nice to get out of this snow.


I know this doesn't go along with the snow picture but I am trying to combine two subjects.  I found this clip on YouTube and wanted to see if I had advanced to the level of blogging to be able to insert a clip.  Well, I have and I am rather proud of myself.  Enjoy a little music from the past.  If you are sensitive to a little bad language, don't listen to the song.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WAR, What is it good for?

I have been pondering this post all week. I have been wondering how to speak what is on my mind and in my heart without offending anyone.  It seems that our country is so polarized that having a 'discussion' about this serious topic makes people angry if they are not in agreement with your ideas.  Well, ideas are just that,IDEAS.  They are not FACTS but often just the opinion of the writer, who is in this case trying to sort out the world and the need for war. 

I have been reading a lot about war lately.  One of my Christmas books was a book about the Vietnam War  which is called Matterhorn.  I started it a little over a week ago and as difficult as it was to read I managed to finish it.  It was very intense many times or so DISHEARTENING that I had to put it down and give my mind some time to digest the material.  I won't go on about the story very much other than to say it is a piece of fiction based on the author's experiences as a Marine there.  He is a very credible author since he received 15 medals as a Marine and is graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar.  This book did not 'slam' the soldiers that fought this war but just told their story.  One critic actually said that it was a "realistic portrait of eloquent tribute to the nobility of men under fire."  I agree with that assessment. 

I was in high school and college during the time of this war.  It was a 'messy' war and a difficult time in our country. Like many other Americans at this time, I was against the war and felt that we did not need to be there fighting and involved in what I thought was a civil war.  I will admit that I also marched one time in Mt. Pleasant when I was going to CMU in 1972. 

This war was the first war that Americans protested in such large numbers, the first war that we lost and lost our heart for fighting and maybe the first war that many people tried to avoid fighting.  Young men tried to avoid going to Vietnam in many different ways.  In my graduation class, most of the boys went on to college if they could because there was an automatic deferment for college students.  Some men decided to leave and go to Canada to avoid fighting.  This was a very unpopular stand in America at that time.  They were labeled as 'Draft Dogers' and it broke up many families.  Some men joined the National Guard and managed to spend all of their time in Arizona (OK, I know that I just put a politically charged and biased statement in this blog but it is my blog.  For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about I was referring to our former president George W. Bush who managed to stay out of Vietnam and really didn't have to even attend all of his training sessions to be able to count as 'doing his part' in that war.)  Still others managed to volunteer for  branches of the service that didn't have many soldiers in Vietnam or volunteered or volunteered to go to some non-combat zone. 

Then the draft lottery came along and eliminated almost all deferments.  All young men who had not served and were eligible were given a 'number' by drawing birthdays out of a lottery.  If you were lucky you had a high number. Bud's number was in the 20s but they didn't draft that year so he was lucky.   Whether you were for or against the draft lottery, it did keep people from avoiding the draft via college.  I also think it contributed to forcing our leaders to bring an end to this unpopular war because everyone was now subject to the possibility of having "their son" in the  line of fire. 

The war in Vietnam was also messy because of all the protests.  It became a protest against the war and against the soldiers that fought it.  I am not sure how it evolved into this 'anti-soldier'.  I, personally, didn't feel that way but having talked to vets, they came home to some pretty 'nasty' protests and were made to feel that they were part of the problem, not just following orders.  This was the first war that was viewed in almost 'real time' on the nightly news.  I remember the weekly 'body counts' on the Walter Cronkite news and watching soldiers being wounded or brought home in body bags.  Visually, it was difficult to watch but I think that war usually is difficult. It was also the first war in which soldiers had a 'tour of duty'.  The soldiers were in the war zone for 1 year and then they were able to complete their 2 years somewhere else if they survived the war. The soldiers had a short commitment to the war and they were constantly rotating in and out soldiers. It was a war fought by 18 year olds with a 1 year commitment to surviving.  They cam home to protesters that made them feel less than thanked. I am glad that as a nation we have not blamed the current veterans for the wars that we are involved in now.  I hope that is at least on lesson we learned from the Vietnam war. 

As you can see, I do have pretty vivid memories of that war and this book brought them back to me.  I KNOW that my memories are nowhere near as vivid and intense as those who fought in that war.  I have NO idea what it was like to fight any war.

The title of this post is from a protest song of the 60s called 'Feeling Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag' by Country Joe McDonald.  If you are interested, you could probably find it recorded some where.  It does pose a good question though. 

We have been involved in a war in the Middle East for quite a long time, and just put ourselves into another one this past week.  I didn't agree with the Iraq war and I don't feel this one is necessary either.  I know that I probably still have an idealistic view of how the world should be run but it seems that war really doesn't benefit anyone except those leaders that can't hang on to their power in any other way except to terrorize their own people. 

This has been a thoughtful post on my part.  NOT a divisive post.  I hope it made you think a little.  I will push the 'publish' button and put this out there for discussion. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Jessica

 We went down to Grand Rapids this past weekend to help Jessica celebrate her birthday.  Eva was able to get this old announcement sign from the church in Coleman.  Every Sunday the hymn numbers and such were posted on this sign with little paper cards and letters.  It looks nice hanging in Eva's entrance and a great way to put up little signs for people coming to the house.  I like it and think it found a very nice home.  It brings back memories for a few of us. 
 We had a great birthday dinner.  We didn't know if Doug would be able to join us, he had a rugby game out of town.  But the game was over in time for him to join us dressed as the 'coach'.  They won the game in case you were wondering. 
 Megan and her daughter Lauren joined us for dinner too.  Megan has been a friend of Jessica's for a long time.  Her other daughter was out with Daddy, Phil, at a Father and Daughter dance.  We were glad that they were able to join us.  It had been a long time since I saw them and Lauren was very charming. 
 The whole gang was here to celebrate.  The food was good and the company was terrific.

 Lauren had a great time helping 'Aunt Jess' open her gifts. 
Eva was very proud of her daughter.  One year older and a bit wiser?????
It was a great weekend.  We are thankful for such a wonderful niece. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hookers or Pushers

Last  Friday I took a new class on an old craft of Punch Needle Embroidery with my friend MaryAnne. It was fun and very interesting.  I think I have a new hobby. 

 When you do this type of work you use a hoop and a needle that is kind of the shape of an ink pen but it has a needle at the end which has embroidery thread in the eye of the needle.  You punch the needle through the cloth and it leaves a loop of thread on the other side.  These loops form a design.  I chose a snowman pattern. 

This is my pattern and how far I was able to get in one short session.  The instructor was really good and is learning how to do something similar but on a much larger scale, using yarn or strips of felted wool.  This past holiday season I kept seeing pillows in fancy stores that were very expensive but had holiday designs in them.  I am hoping to learn how to make them myself.  I already have my first order from Eva to make one like we saw in a store in Grand Rapids.  I t had a snowflake design in the pillow.  I think that would be easy, just 2 colors.  I will keep you posted. 

While I was in Grand Rapids this past weekend we drove to Rockford (north of GR) to a little shop that sells supplies for this craft.  When the owner saw us looking at the supplies he said to me, "You're a hooker" which I understood.  It seems that you can either use a hook to pull the loops through the fabric or a needle to punch the thread through the fabric.  The people that use a hook are called  'hookers' and the people that use a needle to push the thread through are called 'pushers'.  I think that pushing is easier than hooking so I am learning the pushing part first. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring and birthdays

  The snow is melting her in N. Michigan and we are getting some 50 degree days now and then.  Bud asked me this morning if I thought he should wear a sweater or not.  I noticed that he did put one on.  Smart man, it isn't going to get too warm today and the sun isn't shining yet.
   I am off to take a class on 'hooking' with a friend.  NO, it is not a new career for me, it is learning how to do rug type hooking.  I have been interested in that old craft and have this opportunity to take a short class.  They told us that we would complete a small project in 2 hours.  I am excited to try it. 
   After the class Bud and I are leaving to go to Grand Rapids.  We will be helping Jessica celebrate her birthday this weekend.  With the spring type weather, we just need to get out of town. 
   I hope you have a great weekend.  I will post pictures after my weekend activities.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Experimenting with recipes

I am not usually a cook that experiments with recipes that you find in magazines or the newspaper.  Eva is good at doing that, she will find a recipe in a magazine and try it.  I get my best recipes from her because she tests them for me.  WELL, in the interest of expanding my cooking skills, I am looking to find new things to cook.  This past week I found a recipe in Better Homes and Garden (in my retirement I am experimenting with magazine subscriptions too)  It sounded good and simple.  It was all that.  I thought I would share it with you. 

Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1. Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast by cutting horizontally through the thickest portion to, but not through, the opposite side.  In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup feta cheese and the lemon peel.  Spoon cheese mixture into each pocket.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat.  Add chicken.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees), turning once.  Sprinkle with remaining feta cheese.  Makes 4 servings. 

OF COURSE, unlike Eva, I didn't do the recipe just as it came in the magazine.  I decided that it would be good with some slices of black olives in the cheese mixture.  I liked that addition but I am sure that it would taste good without the olives if you don't like them.  I also didn't read the direction all the way through before I started cooking so I stuffed ALL the feta cheese mixture in the chicken breasts before I realized I was suppose to save some of it for the top.  I decided not to use those frozen skinless chicken breast that you get from Gordon's Food Service because I though they would be difficult to slice into.  They are often kind of thin.  I went out and bought some boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the grocery store since they are often thicker.  I only had 3 of them so I just stuffed the 3.  It was a good meal and definitely a 'keeper' for us.  I liked the lemon flavor and the fact there there weren't a lot of ingredients.  It was really quite easy and quick. I did have to cook the breasts a little longer but I have a meat thermometer and had to wait until the interior of the chicken breast was the correct temperature.

Give it a try.  It was good, fast and easy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Sonja

Today we celebrated Sonja's birthday with brunch at the Park Place Hotel.  It was a nice lunch and a good time to catch up with everyonen's activities.  Happy Birthday Sonja.  We are blessed to have you in our lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Diana's new quilt

I have finished the quilt that I made for Diana and Matt.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.  Jessica was my assistant for this quilt.  She picked out the fabrics and listened to me when I called with questions and doubts.  It is a very nice quilt, full of colors and designs.  The pictures don't really show the colors as well as the quilt in person.  This pattern is called 'Bar Code' and you can see why when you look at it.  I put the design on one side of the big pillows, mostly to save brown fabric but also because I thought it gave two possibilities of looks.  The valance is brown with a strip of one of the colors along the bottom.  It all looks pretty pulled together.  We will take it with us when we go down to visit the first of April.  I am glad that I was able to get it done in time to take it down.  I hope you like it too. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bud's new car

Yesterday Bud came home with a new car.  NO, it wasn't a surprise.  He has been thinking about a different car for a while.  The warranty was running out on his Cadillac and it has given him some difficulties.  We have a salesman at the Cadillac/Subaru dealership that had this car available.  Bud drove it over the weekend and decided that it would work for him.  It is the new model and style of the Outback by Subaru.  It has a different body style than my Subaru.  It looks a lot like the body style of his old Cadillac, kind of that 'crossover' style of cars lately.  I doesn't have many miles on it so he is hopping to drive it for quite a few years.  We are now a 2 Subaru family. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The age old question:  Would you rather have the power of invisibility or be able to fly?

While driving to Chicago, Sue and I began discussing how after women reach a certain age, they become invisible.  That means that they don't 'turn heads' when they walk into a room, they are a wife, mother, grandmother, aunt but not HOT.  What age does that occur for a women?  I am sure that some women are able to 'turn heads' longer then others.  But, I do think it happens.  It isn't my goal to always 'turn heads' but that was a nice feeling at one time.

As I worked on this post I began to think more and more about how superficial beauty gives away to wisdom.  While you may not attract the looks of young men/women any more, you have traded that for the wisdom of age.  I was driving to visit a friend and NPR was playing a segment titled "Aging and Dying Young As Late As Possible".  It was such an interesting segment that I came home and listened to it again.  They were interviewing a man that wrote a book after interviewing many older people.  His book was called "How to Live: A search for Wisdom from Old People While They Are Still on This Earth".  It reminded me that while 'youth may be wasted on the young', 'wisdom is a gift of the aged'. 

I have already spent a lot of time thinking of this blog post and may not be doing a great job of getting my message across.  I would recommend that you explore this topic by going to the interview that I heard.  You may go to and listen to the segment.  The last segment of the hour long show was about grief and death.  I found that segment very interesting too.  If you have experienced some recent grief or if you wish to know more about grieving, listen to that segment too.  It was very insightful for me.