Monday, September 22, 2014

What I Did on my Summer Vacation, Part 3

You know how teachers used to assign this essay for students returning to school?  Well, I'm just trying to finish my own before October.  School has begun, there is no getting away from that obvious fact.  I just want to document the brief, shining moments of vacation before school swallows them up.
We boarded the Badger, a ferryboat across Lake Michigan, quite early in the morning for a 4-hour ride.  Steve appreciated the break from driving, and it was a fun change of pace, exploring the ship and relaxing.  At lunch we discovered that Tertia had quite a terrible injury to the inside of her lip from her braces having poked it and then the spot being widened by catching on the braces every time she moved her mouth.  It must have been going on for several days, but she only seemed to notice it after we did and became concerned. We ended up in Mankato, Minnesota that evening.

The next morning we were encouraged to figure out a dentist's office was right down the street from our hotel, and so we showed up bright and early and after filling out some forms, got her in to be seen very quickly.  Thankfully, no stitches were necessary and the solution was simple - put wax on the poky bits until the wound heals.  A little easier said than done but she is much better these three weeks later.  It was a nickel-sized hole and I can't imagine how she managed not to be howling with pain all along.

The next few days of the trip West were taken up with Little House fandom.  This is the replica of the log cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin, as portrayed in Little House in the Big Woods.  As you can see the woods are not so big anymore, but it was a sweet little rest area as we were hurrying toward Minnesota.
In Minnesota we found our way to Walnut Grove and the site of On the Banks of Plum Creek.  It is a little private farm, left very unspoiled and undeveloped, where you can see the location of the dugout house and walk a few little nature trails.  There are still lots of grasshoppers around, everywhere you go.
We didn't see the in-town museums in Pepin or Walnut Grove because we were trying to make time across the country; and then later in DeSmet, South Dakota ("Little Town on the Prairie") we only bought souvenir t-shirts and declined the special guided tour that said allow 1.5 hours.  There's a limit to how touristy we wanted to be, but we did check out some of the historic buildings and the free museum.  And the Dairy Queen.  That night we stayed in Pierre.

The next day was a long driving day, with a stop at Wall Drug (is it possible not to stop at Wall Drug?  All of South Dakota seems to lead up to it, and it's a good place for a bathroom stop, and your kids can ride the giant jackalope.)
We stopped that night at Cody, Wyoming, which is a really neat Old West kind of town.  There was a regularly scheduled gunfight at one of the local saloons, and we had a very nice meal.  I decided that someday not too long from now, I want to buy myself some cowboy boots.
Next day we arrived at Yellowstone midmorning, and saw a fair amount of the essentials.  Old Faithful was going off at the same time as a more distant geyser.
The geysers are fascinating, but I really like all the weird mineral pools and thermal features.  We didn't have time to drive through the whole park, but we ate bison chili at the cafeteria and took enough walks to give the girls a taste of the park.  Quarta might have seen a bear as we were driving along at one point, but she wasn't sure.  After leaving the park we made it to Twin Falls for the night.  And the next day we drove all day and arrived home.  The house was still standing, and we had a Sunday and a holiday Monday before the school wars began again.

The travelling was not quite over yet for me, though, because Peter's graduation from Basic Training was the following weekend.  I'll do that travelogue in another post.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 2

On the great Chapman family vacation of 2014, Daniel was only along for the first part (WA to PA), and Peter was laboring hard at Basic Training in Fort Sill, OK the whole time.  Once we had checked into the Wyndham timeshare resort in Williamsburg, Sunday rolled around again and Peter called to check in.  It was a momentous occasion, with the whole extended family checking in.  The picture probably doesn't do it justice:
We took pictures of people talking to a smart phone on speaker mode.  Sound quality was iffy, especially on Peter's end.  But we got to hear about the things he was going through, and that little bit of contact had to sustain us for another week.
There is an incredible amount of history crammed into the "historic triangle" of Virginia (Colonial Willamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown Colony.)  We bought a pass for our family of 4 that let us into quite a bit, but of course that meant we had to get our money's worth by going somewhere each day.  Truth be told, the girls would probably have been happy swimming at the hotel all day long.  Buy Steve and I, history buffs that we are, made sure they got out to see stuff every day! This is the Colonial Capitol at Williamsburg,
At Jamestown, you could board the three replica ships and imagine what it might be like to make the Atlantic crossing in the hold as an indentured servant or even an investor, confined for months on end to a tiny space on top of all your worldy possessions.  Colonists tried all sorts of industries -- glassblowing, silk, and wine, for example -- which failed to turn a profit, before finally settling on tobacco as the predominant cash crop.
Back in Colonial Williamsburg, the view of the Governor's Palace.  We also had quite a lot of fun at the weaver's shop, the millinery, the gardens, the wigmaker's shop, the silversmiths, the blacksmiths, the print shop, the apothecary... just finding out how people lived in the old days.
We accidentally enlisted in the Continental Army and fell in with a drill sergeant, who trained us in proper musket handling.  It was a little taste of what Peter was going through, and we all appreciated it.  Even though we were perfectly wretched recruits and (shh!) deserted immediately after our first musket lesson.  Fortunately, General Washington found better recruits.

The girls of the family had an afternoon date to the restaurant that invented Death by Chocolate, and there was a lot of relaxing and swimming and talking and eating.  Quarta really enjoyed making friends with her cousins, who are close to her age.  We even did a bit of outlet mall shopping.

Then it was time to go and for our family to start the long drive across country.  We made the first leg as far as Grove City, stopping at Paw Paw tunnel along the C&O canal in Maryland.  Steve really likes canals; think of them as the forerunners of the interstate highway system.
Somewhere along here, I must have picked up the tick that I found on myself in the hotel 12 hours later.  But no harm done, I think.  It's been a few weeks now and no weird rashes or anything.  Weird that I grew up playing in wooded areas, yet this was the first time to my knowledge that I've ever even seen a tick.  But on to more pleasant subjects...

We had a very nice visit with Daniel, went to 2 different churches with him on Sunday, and even had a peek at his dorm room.  The girls enjoyed seeing the college campus and we enjoyed spending some precious time with Daniel before having to say goodbye.

For our adventures along the Westward road, stay tuned for part 3.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Little Bit of Handwork

I have been neglecting the blog of late, and here are some projects that really deserve to be seen.  First, some of my mother-in-law's quilts that I pinned for her over a month ago:
Pretty and sweet.
This one's intriguing, all in plaids.  You have to step back to see the overall pattern.  She's probably got both of these tied and finished by now!  My own quilting and sewing has not been progressing at all, but I remain hopeful that I'll be able to get back into it now that the school year has started up.  If I can just shake the first week exhaustion.

I have a finished project in knitting to share with the yarn-along.  I started this rug from T-shirt yarn in July or so, after I finished Daniel's Ipad cover.  My original thought was for him to be able to use it in college, but he ended up taking a braided rug that his grandmother made (the same one who made the above quilts).  I packed it along in the car when he and Steve left, and finished it while we were on vacation.  The t-shirts that provided the yarn were some of the boys' when they were small: the "Montana Bear Patrol" and the different striped ones that they got sick of wearing.  Tertia's Pooh dress is the pink, and there are a few other nostalgic memories in there.  I pretty much cleaned out all my t-shirt yarn for this, and it's quite heavy, although not quite as long as I had hoped.  Also on my travels I worked on the Mint Chocolate sweater sleeves, and made several dishcloths, not pictured.

Reading: I am starting Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich after reading some fairly lightweight books over the summer.  Also, encouraged by Daniel, I have an audiobook of Robert Jordan's Eye of the World out from the library, and am a little over halfway through it.  I'm not sure I'm sold on this epic many-book saga quite yet, but I'm a little more interested in it than I was at first.  I won't do a thorough book review this post though.  I hope to bring the travels up to date soon with the next installment(s) of our summer vacation.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, Part 1

I took a bit of a blog vacation this last month.  This summer it was harder to blog than it has been, with Peter away at Basic Training.  I started living for the short time he was allowed to call home every Sunday.  It's not like life got put on hold, except that it did, sort of.  The family wasn't quite right because he wasn't here.  Now it's the second day of school and it's really time to make up for all the blog neglect that went on.  I don't say I'm motivated, exactly, but I have missed being able to write.
This was what life was like when I last blogged.  Tertia watering the garden, mugging for the camera.  Pacific Northwest summers are lovely; usually not much rain from July through September.  It's a little-known secret.
Quarta went to summer camp, where she was like this...
And as soon as she came home was like this.
Then it came time to take Daniel back to college.  He is a freshman RA this year, and had to be in Pennsylvania a week early for training.  Steve took him out in the van, stopping for some scenery along the way.
 Arches National Park in Utah.  The girls and I waited a few more days, then flew out to Washington D.C. after Steve had already dropped Daniel off.
 We had one very packed day of sightseeing in D.C., starting with the National Archives, where Tertia took great delight in anything relating to Thomas Jefferson (having just graduated from a middle school named after him).
 She also asked to have her picture taken next to this picture at the National Gallery of Art.  Apparently she remembers this well from her own art class.
The Capitol had scaffolding up around it.  We went through the Museum of Natural History, then past the Washington Monument and down through many of the monuments I had not seen, to the Lincoln.
And Honest Abe is still seated where I remember him.  There is something reassuring about that.  We continued, very footsore by this time, around the Tidal Basin to the Jefferson Memorial.  It was a lot of walking... well over 5 miles I think.  We will try not to do that much walking in one day again, especially with Tertia.   But... it was for HISTORY!

That appeal to history did not work so well the following day, when we toured 3 Civil War battlefields (Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Chancellorsville, although I'm not sure I got the order right) in Virginia.  Not to mention the house where Stonewall Jackson died.  This was on our way down to Williamsburg, where we checked into the Wyndham resort for our family reunion.  You'll have to stay tuned for part 2 for that bit.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


I took this picture yesterday, on my Kindle, because I was entranced by the hundreds of honeybees doing their thing in the mint patch. There are a couple of blurry golden patches in the sea of green -- those are bees  (it's kind of hard to aim the camera app).  It's been lovely weather for August here, breezy and in the 70's and low 80's.  I haven't felt particularly inspired to do much of anything (as you may have noticed by my lack of blogging).  There's going to be a steep price to pay come schooltime, I'm afraid.

I'm declaring plum season over.  There are about 25 quarts in the freezer.  Zucchini is coming in faster than we can eat it.  I haven't done any blackberry picking this year and probably won't.  The boys are gone - Daniel and Steve on their way to college because RA orientation starts early; Peter still plugging away through boot camp.  He's more than halfway done now but it is a privilege once a week if we hear from him for a few minutes. I've been worrying about him a lot this week as he's supposed to be learning grenades, and no mom ever wants to think about that.

Then, too, I could start worrying about a lot of the world's problems this week.  Genocide in Iraq, Ebola in Africa, baby Gammy abandoned in Thailand because he has Down syndrome, thousands of migrant children with no good options.  That's why it was good to be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful little bees when I went to pick a sprig of mint yesterday.  But it's hard not to worry.  The house is too quiet.

I've been working hard on language learning this summer.  Since discovering Duolingo last winter, I've finished two "trees" - Italian and French (French was review but Italian was all new).  I'm about 2/3 done with Spanish and almost halfway with German - but German is getting hard.  I've also started their beta version of Dutch, which is better than any of the others from a teacher's and learner's standpoint... but I'm taking it slowly because there is too much cross-confusion with German.  I don't really have any fear about learning languages now, and there isn't a whole lot of confusion really, when you are studying multiple languages at once.  It's kind of like having children -- once you've had your first and then adjusted to the extra chaos of the second, you more or less hit your stride and start going on muscle memory or maternal instinct or whatever works for the third.  It's not hard, it just keeps you very busy.  And even if you run through 3 or 4 names (including the pet's) before coming up with your own child's name, you both know what you meant.  I'm starting to be able to recognize some interesting patterns in language structure that I would never have figured out if I weren't obsessive about learning so many languages.  Maybe one of these days I'll dig further into that Proto-Indo European textbook.  But for tonight, I'm heading to bed.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Randomday: Manic Squirrel Edition

I have started calling it Smeagol.  There is a squirrel that chewed a hole directly through the roof of the entryway.  There is a self-contained attic space there, with no access from the rest of the house.  Friday we had our friendly handiman come out and fix it.  The squirrel came out and ran away when he started working on it.  But today, danged if that squirrel wasn't back and gnawing at the new shingles over the patched spot.  We have been chasing it off on sight.  But I looked up squirrel repellent online and brewed up a strong tea of cayenne pepper.  I also read that squirrels hate peppermint oil, of which I had a little.  So this afternoon I climbed up there with Steve's help, and caulked the torn shingle after hiding a few cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil underneath.  Then I sprayed the cayenne tea over the ridge of the roof and as much other area as I could get it to cover, and we are really hoping that deters the Smeagol squirrel.

Other random matters: Quarta came back from camp this morning.  She was sick on the windy road home (nervous stomach and no breakfast) and spent almost the entire day sleeping it off.  

Plum season is almost over.  I have no more energy for picking plums and doing things with them.  I did try this recipe for a Polish plum cake today.  We'll take it to fellowship tomorrow and see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Political Tuesdays: Media and a Crisis of Confidence

As I've been following news coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, it has been dawning on me that I cannot trust the news media to present developing events in an unbiased manner.

This is really nothing new.  I was backstage at the Rally for Life in 1990 when a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands spontaneously turned to the media enclosure and chanted "tell the truth" for quite some time, in protest of entrenched media bias against the pro-life movement.  It was an iconic moment, and since then I've never quite been able to accept at face value the formula dished out by mainstream media.  I'm still a news junkie, just a somewhat cynical and suspicious news junkie.

The kind of coverage you see greatly depends upon the media outlet you choose as a consumer.  If I only read the Columbian (our local newspaper) I would know little beyond the current status of the legal marijuana shops in town.  I have an app on my Kindle that lets me read the Washington Post, and I'm enjoying having well-written articles on a world and national scale to read.  But the news feeds I choose to "like" on Facebook tend to lead in quite a different direction.  The cognitive dissonance is troubling, and leads me to question the most reputable of sources.

"Mainstream" media would have me believe that peaceful Palestinians live in Gaza under terrible threat from the warlike Israelis, who target mainly U.N.-run hospitals and schools.  Graphic photos show only one side of the story.  But the video by Dennis Prager I shared last week sticks in my mind.  I'm starting to question whether every mainstream outlet has a streak of anti-semitism.  Or is it just that Israel is a stable and relatively safe destination to fly into for journalists, and Hamas has a good public relations system and an abundant supply of gut-wrenching photos?  I don't see nearly the same amount of coverage, particularly photo coverage, from Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria -- all places where the death toll is vastly more than in Gaza.  But how safe would it be for a reporter to visit these places (assuming there was any desire to cover atrocities committed by Muslims)?  Maybe the very abundance of pictures from Israel tells us something about the stability and security of Israel -- and the laziness and corruption of those who publish only one side of the story.

If it bleeds, it leads.  As long as you have pictures and pre-packaged text that supports your