Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo file: Happy trails

Louisiana sunset through the windshield
Ahhh! A cool 64 degrees on our screened porch this morning turned my thoughts to hitting the road. Life, however, dictates otherwise right now; but with these May 2010 photos, I can certainly enjoy reliving a super special trip.

Husband and I were on our way to Louisiana for the birth of our sixth grandchild, Walker Vincent Skupien. I am usually not a fan of my attempts at through-the-windshield photos, but this sunset seemed to welcome us into Louisiana and beg to be photographed.

Jet trails in the western sky
I enjoyed how the sky changed in seconds and in fractions of a mile as we sped farther west.

And, of course, there was the exit sign. Ever since we had learned what our grandson’s name was going to be, we always had a good laugh, and still do, when we exit I-12 and head to our son and daughter-in-law’s home. 

Just for the record, Walker Vincent really wasn’t named after a highway sign!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Retirement warps time

Sarah after a 2010 Mardi Gras parade. . . Happy late birthday, Sarah!
Seems like retirement really has put husband Walter and me into a retirement daze about the passage of time. Recently my plans for us to call our daughter-in-law Sarah on her birthday kept going awry.

Her special day passed without our connecting. The next morning I reminded hubby that we had missed calling Sarah and that we needed to call “right now.” His response: “I thought her birthday was in September. . .oh, this IS September!”

Happy late birthday, Sarah! You bring joy, laughter AND ever-needed household organizational tips—by example--to your disorganized mother-in-law. Hmmm. . . what you have taught me could be the subject of another post!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Conserve water, save money

County Agent Stephanie Pendleton explains simple steps for crafting a rain barrel.
Since husband Walter has been experimenting with collecting rain water for watering our vegetable garden, we hopped on an opportunity recently to attend a program about backyard composting and rain barrels for the garden.

About a dozen of us gathered at a nearby library to hear what the Cooperative Extension Service’s agent for our county had to say. It was interesting to me that the assembled group crossed lines of gender, race and city of residence.  What we all had in common was an interest in the topics of the evening and the fact that, except for the county agent, we were all probably above 50 years old.

The county agent covered the basics. Her own experiences—and misadventures--were especially helpful and entertaining. She even clued us in on exactly where we could find some of the simple but hard-to-find components she had used in making her rain barrel.

A lively discussion followed, punctuated with laughter and shared experiences and ideas. Walter and I left with useful tips that will solve some inconveniences we had already experienced with our rain barrels, answers to something that had puzzled me about my backyard composting and a great feeling of having connected with others interested in conserving resources and spending less.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Simple pleasures

Isn’t it great that some of the most enjoyable experiences are relatively inexpensive? A few from my week:

Eldest son Walt called with a few new grandkid anecdotes. These hilarious, poignant and not-to-be forgotten stories are a joyful help for this long-distance grandparent who is missing those grandkids.

Youngest son Jeremy’s comment on my box turtle post (the post below this one) alluded to creative and fairly brutal teasing he and his brother inflicted on me during a stroll through downtown Gatlinburg, TN, in the midst of a Smoky Mountain vacation many years ago. I have to admit it was hilarious, even then, and on-target. For awhile “Turtle Woman” replaced other names they called me. Thanks, Jeremy, for helping me relive good times!

Hallelujah! That disagreeable 24-hour bug is no longer in residence in yours truly. I have graduated from a diet of toast and tea. I’m looking forward to my Pizza Man’s homemade pizza tonight!

May your weekend be wonderful!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Breakfast interrupted

A resident of our garden
I interrupted a box turtle who was busy excavating and chowing down in our compost pile this morning. I startled him and he startled me. I waited a minute or two until he poked his head back out.

Use of the word “him” is for convenience. I have no idea if the turtle was Mr. or Ms. He regarded me with a steady stare. Eventually he scrambled up the compost pile. To do what? To get a better look at a creature bigger than him? Makes me wonder what goes on in a turtle’s head. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Winner! Whoopee!

Embarrassed as I am by my procrastination, I have finally completed this post about my introduction to Scottish Breakfast Tea. Months earlier I was the happy recipient of five packets of the blend as a runner-up in a giveaway held by Purest Green on her Scotland for the Senses blog.

I love hot tea, and my favorite until now has been Twinings’ English Breakfast Tea. The Scottish version, a product of the Edinburgh Tea & Coffee Company, is Purest Green’s favorite brand and the one she drinks most often. It is definitely in the running for the top spot for me, too.

My taste test started well before the first sip. Combining to fill both the senses of touch and sight were the texture of the packet containing the tea bag and the packet's understated elegance.  The subdued gold of the logo stood out on a gold tint. A white border and attractive typography in white and black added the finishing touches. 

Good graphic design lifts my spirits, a leftover from working with a gifted designer during my days of formal—as in paid—employment. Adding to the enjoyment was the fact that the word “Scottish” now conjures up for me romantic castles, mysterious ruins, dramatic terrain, beautiful walks and fabulous food and drink, thanks to Scotland for the Senses and a number of other blogs about Scotland.

In my first test, opening the packet released a light floral scent. I did not notice that in subsequent tests, but the hint of a floral taste and the lightness and smoothness was a pleasure. Even though like many Americans I am addicted to a sweet taste, this tea would make it possible for me to abandon the artificial sweetener with which I abuse my cups of tea.

Directions on the packet said to infuse for 3 to 5 minutes. I experimented with varying the times, and about 1 minute was best for me. Obviously I prefer my tea not real strong. I followed up on the taste tests by going online to check out prices with an eye to making a purchase. Alas, the company only delivers within the United Kingdom!

Thanks again, Purest Green, for hosting such an interesting contest and for giving me a teatime travel experience without my ever leaving home! 

Friday, September 17, 2010

DreamHost: a dream team

I just received this email:

Your renewal of retirementdaze.com for 1 year has been processed.
Thanks for choosing DreamHost!
The Happy DreamHost Domain Registration Team

I left out some stuff in the middle, but that message means I have passed a milestone--not the one of the approaching one-year anniversary of my starting this blog. No, this milestone is actually my having completed renewal of my domain without extensive tech support!

Even such minimal independence from technical support was not true a year ago. I registered my domain with DreamHost. The questions I couldn’t find on their help section were answered quickly and courteously via email by DreamHost support. I appreciated the tone of their emails: personal, gracious and almost like a well-written thank-you note.

But the need for the tech support team’s know-how mushroomed with my decision to go with Blogger for publishing Retirement Daze. Everything about setting that up was in a language I did not comprehend. I couldn’t even sort it out with Blogger Help or by googling the terms, mysterious and incomprehensible to me. Everything I tried DID NOT WORK (Insert extreme hair-pulling, moaning, groaning and whining here)!

An exchange of emails with DreamHost support followed, and I soon became fans of Jose G, Ryan C, and Art A. They kept TRYING to walk me through the process, resulting in more emails from me. Finally I assured them that I knew their instructions were obviously correct. “But,” I emailed, “you have underestimated the depth of my ignorance.”

That did it. They realized that they were dealing with a total digital dunce. They guided me step by tiny step--then success. Through it all, their emails exuded patience, good humor and courtesy—quite an accomplishment via email. They almost sounded Southern! I know, I know: Southerners don’t have a monopoly on politeness.

But Southerners do have a tendency to bond. And I bonded. These guys were wonderful. The last email from Art:

“If you have any trouble with this kind of thing, please feel free to email me directly (email address was included here). I work Sunday - Thursday 12pm till 8pm PST.
Art A”

How can you beat that?

And no, this is not a testimonial solicited or for pay, just a huge, heartfelt “thank you.”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Walker and Baboo

Baboo soaked up some special Walker time during a weekend visit to Louisiana. This proud grandpa calls Walker "Smiley Face." Bet you can't see Molly Kate in this photo. She is still adhering to her new strict "No photos!" policy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nature’s yard art

A recent walk into our backyard yielded surprises. Seems like fungi decorated a piece of our firewood overnight.

Bracket fungus adorns a boot-shaped piece of our stash of firewood for winter.

Close-up of the bracket fungus, also called shelf fungus

A few feet away a spider web of giant circles stretched across the path I had intended to take. The yellow and black spider looked twice as big as the inch-and-a-half spider in a June 2010 post.
The spider web artist

Husband Walter suggested gently spraying the spider’s web with water so the web would show up in the setting sun. The sudden shower didn’t seem to bother the spider.
Web plus water

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beach blessings

Final rays of sun paint the eastern clouds.

A few final memories about a recent trip to Destin, FL, with our youngest son and his family:

Three-month-old grandson Walker had his first feet-in-the-sand experience on the beach. His daddy captured one of my favorite photos of the entire trip. Daughter-in-law Katie posted it and dozens of others from the beach visit on her blog The Daily Skup.
Walker enjoys his first encounter with the beach.

Granddaughter Molly Kate introduced me to the condo’s pool the first afternoon. She never seemed to tire of the games of chase in the pool (with her daddy or mother providing her evasive maneuvers). She relished the suspense-building Jaws sound, a mantra about hunger for “tasty toes,” and the final “attack.” Results included shrieks and laughter.

When we exited the pool, Molly Kate exhibited her recent aversion to having her photo taken. She did, however, consent to documenting her “tasty toes” and water-shriveled “pruny toes.”
Tasty toes, “pruny” toes

She also rapidly overcame her aversion, one that she shared with her mother, of getting sand anywhere on her. By the end of the stay, however, she was walking barefoot, plunking down on the sand and digging with enthusiasm. Sand in hair, ears, eyebrows and all remaining baby-fat creases? No problem.
Molly Kate picks a tiny shell from sand and seaweed.

After a day and a half of sun, we enjoyed clouds and cooler temperatures on the beach. The stormy clouds made a dramatic backdrop for photos. The threat of oil earlier in the Gulf of Mexico, the start of school and stormy weather evidently kept occupancy of condos all along the beach at a minimum.

I slipped out at 6:45 a.m. one morning for a walk alone on the beach. Only a few shafts of sunlight forced their way through. The drama of the clouds to the east and heavy rains offshore on the west was exhilarating.
Storm clouds gather.

Five days of beach, pool, grandkids, long conversations with daughter-in-law and son, and a front-row seat for nature’s weather spectacles made this grandmother blessed indeed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bathing suit malfunction

Packing my bathing suit for a recent trip to the beach with our youngest son and his family brought to mind the blue bathing suit saga. As a teenager I was aghast that my mother continued to wear an ancient, saggy blue bathing suit. Years passed.

On a trip to California with husband Walter and our six-year-old son, I found THE bathing suit. Hubby and I are not into water sports much, but that one-piece fit perfectly and was a gorgeous shade of blue with a slight sparkle. Fast-forward another decade.

I had the opportunity to go snorkeling—a first for me, on a field trip related to my work with a marine research funding program. With my nearsightedness and inability to wear contacts, I needed a prescription mask and needed it quickly. Harriet, a marine biologist I worked with, rounded up a mask. She also arranged a test of how well I could see before she turned me loose with the borrowed mask.

When I arrived in my trusty blue bathing suit, Harriet handed me a mesh bag. “See if you can fill it up.”

With the mask, wonder of wonders, I could see oyster shells and brightly colored Mardi Gras beads and doubloons scattered over the bottom of the pool. Working with Harriet was always an adventure. She managed to make even ordinary tasks festive events.

I stuffed the bag full and pushed off from the bottom. I surged upward, exhilarated by how well I could see. The instant I broke the surface, I realized most of the top of my bathing suit didn’t make it up with me. The blue suit’s elasticity had died. I slid back underwater to wrestle the suit back on to the appropriate body parts. Normally I would have been mortified.

Instead I was in danger of drowning, death by extreme laughter. I had turned into my mother, complete with ancient, saggy blue bathing suit. I got out of the pool, thanked Harriet and went shopping for a new bathing suit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Roadwork on Interstate 10 today turned the final five miles to the Ocean Springs exit into a 20-plus-minute exercise in stop, ooze forward, stop. Then I saw this IMPORTANT roadwork sign. How can you reduce speed any further than stopped? Arghhhh!