Mary Oliver

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?"

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Family Time

I'm finally back from my train trip to Arkansas, and I now that I've caught up on my sleep, I want to share a few of the many photos I took. My mom and husband came on board to help dad and I get settled. Here are my youthful looking parents!

Dad getting us lunch at Union Station in Washington, DC.

A kind stranger took our picture at Chicago's Union Station.

I'll show more photos from the train later, but the reason for the trip is my focus now. This is my Aunt Wanda, dad's older sister, with my dad at a cemetery, visiting some relatives that have passed on. I love that I share an interest in photography with my aunt, even though she is much better at it than I am.

Here is my dad with some of his "relatives". They're a family he spent a lot of time with growing up, and I've always thought of them as part of our extended family. One of the men is his brother-in-law, the other man is Dad's best friend, and the woman is their sister. Dad said he probably spent as much time at their house as he did at his own.

We went to Washington, Arkansas, where this magnificent magnolia grows. It looks like three trees, but it's actually just one.

Here's a rare shot of my aunt, allowing her photo to be taken with her little brother.

She doesn't enjoy having her picture made; she'd much rather be the photographer.

Here I am in the local radio station, in front of a display of the Hope Watermelon Festival t-shirts. The watermelon festival is in August, and if you know anything about Arkansas, you would know they grow the largest watermelons in the country. My dad and I were interviewed by the radio station about our experience with traveling by train. Hope is supposed to get a stop on the Amtrak schedule and they wanted to build up some interest in it.

Loved this restaurant, and loved eating there with the "dos loco gringos" you see standing in front of it.

Speaking of good watermelon, of course we had to eat some!

Razorback football is another huge interest in Arkansas, and here is my uncle, sporting a t-shirt with his grandchildren's names on it. (I felt I needed to explain why they are referred to as hogs.)

Another iconic photo spot is the state line at Texarkana, a city that is divided between Arkansas and Texas. I remember having a photo just like this one taken when I was about twelve years old, so I wanted an updated version.

No one in our family really likes standing on the Texas side, so we have to switch to make it fair.

On our way back home, we had a five hour layover in Chicago, so we got out of the train station and did a little speedy sightseeing. This is in front of the Willis nee' Sears Tower.

And of course, we had to have our photo taken in front of "the Bean" in Millennium Park.

I'll post more about the actual train ride next time. Hope you enjoyed the family stuff!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

All Aboard!

It's been a little weird around here lately. I've been struggling with having limited mobility, then feeling guilty about it, since it's only a temporary condition. But it's been so hot and sticky here, and having a plastic boot doesn't help. I know it could be way worse, so then I beat myself up, mentally. Not a great cycle.

I saw the doctor today and he said that there is still a pretty good chance I will need surgery to pin the bone, as this particular bone is notoriously bad at remodeling itself. Which will mean six weeks off the foot, after the surgery. Which will interfere with the start of school. And I teach on the second floor of a fifty year old building with no elevator.

But enough of all that. I'm leaving tomorrow for Arkansas, taking the train with my dad, to visit his sister. We're actually taking three different trains:

the Northeast Regional, from Newport News to Washington, DC,

the Capitol Limited, from DC to Chicago,

and the Texas Eagle, from Chicago to Texarkana, which is about halfway between Little Rock and Dallas, at least according to this map. (Click on the links for some cool information about each of the trains and their routes.)

I haven't been out there for twenty-five years, so it'll be great to visit the relatives, but more importantly, I have a unique opportunity to spend two days on the train, each way, with my dad, looking at the scenery, knitting this lovely shawl, out of some pretty, purple yarn, for my cousin, and talking. That makes me pretty lucky, despite the bum foot, wouldn't you say? Since I'm leaving the computer at home, I'll share stories and pictures when I return.

Monday, July 18, 2011


What a week! The VDOE committee I worked on last week was just fabulous. I can't fully explain how enjoyable that kind of work is for me. The opportunity to discuss curriculum with other 8th grade science teachers from around the state, review SOL test items and the testing data, and to be a part of creating documents that every science teacher in the state will use is a pretty powerful experience.

Our committee work was over at noon on Friday, but since Steve had to help Stephanie move from one apartment to another and I couldn't help because of my foot, I had the opportunity to spend a little over four hours on my own. Not surprisingly, I spent two of those hours sitting at The Yarn Lounge knitting! Every time I visit there, I am more and more impressed with their hospitality. The staff and regular customers/knitters are so welcoming and inclusive that I look forward to visiting, even though I only go every couple of months or so. On this trip, I treated myself to a beautiful skein of Malabrigo Superwash sock yarn (Turner colorway) and four lovely pewter buttons. I plan to use two of the buttons for my mom's sweater, although I'm not sure which two, as I'm going to let her choose. I'm thinking I may take the sock yarn with me on my train trip this week, but I doubt I actually knit it, as I have my Different Lines shawl planned for that. But at least I'll be prepared. I spent the rest of the afternoon ensconced in a chair in Ellwood's Cafe', reading and drinking iced tea with ginger ale. It was a lovely afternoon, quite luxurious and indulgent.

All in all, I thought I'd have a tough time leaving the gorgeous hotel and all its amenities, but it wasn't too bad. Although our bed seemed much smaller after the king size one we'd been sleeping on all week, and the food here at home was definitely not up to par with the four star meals we'd been enjoying, it is good to be home.

Yesterday, Steve and I went to Borjo's, the coffee shop near ODU, and we ran into a couple of our favorite people. I caught Corbin smiling after only three tries! Isn't he a cutie? (although his dad is cute too, you know I'm talking about the baby!)

Another thing that helped my return, was meeting up with Deborah, author of the Caffeine Girl Knits blog. Whenever she visits her brother in Williamsburg, we try to catch up over coffee and knitting. Luckily I came home in time to catch her last full day in the area, and we had a great time talking and knitting. Thanks for taking the time out to visit with me, Deborah!

On a somewhat random note, I'd really love to knit this sweater, but I don't think I enjoy such small needles, despite loving how the fabric looks. Maybe I'll see if my daughter will make it for me; she loves the small needle projects!

Now it's off to see the endodontist, to finish up my latest root canal. I see the doctor about my foot on Wednesday for follow-up x-rays; hoping for good news. Sheesh, it's like I'm already a senior citizen, planning my week around the doctor appointments! Hope your week is a good one!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Whistle While You Work

So, although I'm actually working this week, the setting is so wonderful that it really doesn't feel like I am. I'm getting quite proficient on my scooter and learning the easiest ways to get around the property.

And I'm elevating and icing my foot every evening now, in addition to propping it up during the day, so I think I'm making good progress towards recovery. This photo is for you, Mom!

See, it's much better now!!

Now, we're off to Bottom's Up Pizza for dinner.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No Feet, Just Food

Okay, so I promised food photos. This is a photo from the Strawberry Street Cafe on Sunday night; it's their renowned salad bar in a bathtub, but due to my foot, I decided to forego it for a crab cake. And a beer. Last night, we went to Whole Foods for their buffet, which usually doesn't disappoint. Last night, about half of what we got was good and the other half was not. The asparagus, greens, noodles, and the sesame tofu was great, but the kung pao tofu was awful. Entirely too salty and dried out.

Steve got the beet salad (good) and some fried fish (not). We did have some great sorbet to finish up, but I think it'll be awhile before we do the WF buffet again.

Tonight was another great meal; we ate at The Black Sheep, as recommended by Stef, and not only was it a great, kitschy atmosphere, the food was FABULOUS! Don't you love this frog lamp and coordinating sheep salt & pepper shakers? Every table in the place had a different set of salt & pepper shakers and all of them looked vintage. I would have taken photos of them, but I don't think the diners would have appreciated it.

This was the best fingerling potato salad I've ever had and the sandwich was great too. Avocado, cheese, tomato, onion, and horseradish. Grilled, not greasy.

Steve got a salad with cherries and beets, along with homemade corn pudding. Awesome.

Stef got an amazing loaf covered with olive tapenade and goat cheese. And for dessert, we split the Nutella Pound Cake ala coffee ice cream. Delicious.

And as usual, the hotel is providing wonderful food for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. I barely notice I'm working this week!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Left Foot

Before I go into the nitty gritty of my broken foot, I want to share this photo of my gorgeous niece, modeling the sweater in progress I'm making for my mom. Paige spent the night with us on Friday night and she was there an entire five minutes before I broke my foot, changing all the fun plans I had made for us. Luckily, she was a good sport about it, waiting on me hand and foot (yep, another pun) and keeping me entertained, including modeling for me on demand.

Here's my new best friend, a Turning Leg Caddy.

Trying to get around on crutches was so exhausting and disheartening that Steve suggested we rent one of these, and I've got to say, it has made a world of difference. In fact, if I hadn't rented it, I would have had to cancel my job plans for this week. This is the week that I work on a committee for the Virginia Department of Education and it's a great gig. I get to spend a week in a posh hotel, have breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided by the four star on site catering staff, receive reimbursement for travel and dinner, and get paid a generous honoraium, and the work is pretty rewarding too. Even better, Steve came with me this year and has been wonderful at making things as easy as possible for me.

The only drawback with the wonderful scooter is that it has caused me to overdo it a bit today, leading to some ugly looking swelling. Do not scroll down if you are queasy about seeing ugly, swollen feet. (Rudee, I'm counting on you looking at it and giving me your advice.) Even though it isn't hurting, I have been sitting for the past three hours with it elevated and am icing it, so I think it'll be okay. One thing for sure, I'm taking it easier tomorrow, regardless of how good I feel. And tomorrow, I'll have some photos of the great food I'm eating, just to mix it up a little from all the injury information.


don't scroll any further if you want to avoid the photo of my foot. Please read on if your name is Rudee.

A weird little line there near the heel, isn't it? It truly doesn't hurt though, and I'm really being good about not putting weight on it, so I think it's going to be okay. Right?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Never A Dull Moment

Well, I've gone and broken a bone in my left foot. The good news is I don't need surgery on it. The bad news is that my right foot is the one still hurting with plantar fasciitis, and now it has to support all of my weight, as I'm on crutches for at least two weeks. And how did I break the bone? By tripping over my own feet, apparently. I'm open to better stories, as this one is a lame one. (lame, get it? I crack myself up.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Lazy Day

I've had a lazy day today, just wandering around the quiet house doing very little. A bit of knitting, a bit of reading, and a lot of watching a neighbor cat trying to dodge the mockingbirds that were dive-bombing her. I felt sorry for her and gave her a saucer of cream. See her licking her lip?

She spent a lot of time in this position, but despite her efforts, she couldn't get a single bird. Isn't she a cutie, though?

I think I needed the rest today because the July 4th weekend was an unusually busy one for us. We had Steve's oldest and my youngest, along with their significant others, over for a cookout on Sunday. Looks yummy, doesn't it? Melissa decided we should do this every Sunday!

I love these kinds of get togethers; I just wish we could have had all the kids here. We made homemade ice cream for dessert, something I hadn't had for at least twenty years. We also had a few exciting moments, including one tiki torch bursting into flames and setting part of the flower bed on fire, and a jellyfish "attack" when we went swimming after we ate. I haven't been stung in years and had forgotten how irritating it is. I ended up taking a Benadryl and slept for fourteen hours, waking up in time to attend two cookouts on Monday, and I guess all the excitement wore me out! Hopefully I'll get my energy going by tomorrow.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bird Watching and Other Randomness

Happy Summer Days!

Gratuitous zinnia photos.

A zinnia and some rosemary.

I'm enjoying my plan to be more creative. Yesterday, I started a seashell mobile, which is something I've wanted to do for years!! It's not done, but I've hung it up on a tree outside so I can enjoy it as I add to it, sort of like a work in progress. That's what artists do, right?

I also decided to hang a couple of bird feeders to go with my homemade bird baths. One is a finch sock feeder and the other is bell shaped with seed stuck to it. So far, I haven't seen much action, but I plan to make a few more feeders out of empty 2-liter soda bottles and see what happens, as part of my plan to add more creativity to my everyday life. (Found some interesting websites while searching for directions.) I used to love making "food for the birds" with my girls when they were young. A favorite was to smear a bagel with peanut butter, roll it with birdseed, and hang it on a tree using yarn. Another was to use partially scooped out orange halves, although they were trickier for me to hang up, as they entailed hole-punching the peels and threading yarn through the holes.

A couple of nights ago, Melissa and I made couple of pillows, using old couch pillows, cutting the original, ugly fabric off, and re-covering the pillow forms with recycled sheet fabric. I'll take photos when we finish. (She finished, but took them with her before I could take any pictures; she's promised to bring them back.)

I tried another wonderful recipe from Moosewood Cookbook: Szechaun Eggplant and Tofu. Yummy. This is the only photo I took because we ate it so quickly!

The neighbor across the street brought us three wonderful tomatoes from his garden; no pictures because they didn't last ten minutes. Steve and I immediately made tomato sandwiches for our lunch. I'm so regretting that we didn't plant tomatoes and peppers this year. But I plan on giving the generous neighbor a loaf of homemade bread, in the hopes that he'll continue to share his tomatoes with us.

Yesterday was Beach Friday and I was starving when I got back. Luckily I had some leftovers from the vegetable fajitas I had eaten one night, so I heated them up, added an egg, and had a delicious lunch. Creativity at work here too!

Now I'm off to enjoy a lazy Saturday with my husband, puttering around the yard, the beach, and generally just taking it easy. Hope you have a good weekend too!

PS Thank you so much for helping my daughter out with the survey! She says thank you!!