Friday, November 19, 2010

 Browsing through the Past

Just a few days ago, a friend on Facebook asked me to submit a recipe to an exchange that she has started. I set the idea aside, then almost forgot about it until this morning, when I got some family news, the kind that sets you to sighing and remembering and maybe crying a little. The news sent me to my recipe box.

The Home
This recipe comes from my ex-mother-in-law, who is still Mom to me, although I haven't even seen her in twenty years. In a few days, Mom will be moving from the house where she spent most of her married life, to a senior's residence . Just now, I was reading the website for The Home (as Mom calls it) and noticed "restaurant-style meals". That reminded me that Mom won't be doing much cooking anymore, which in turn reminded me of the Facebook challenge.

I grabbed my recipe box, which contains recipes I've gathered over the last forty years or so. Some of the recipes are neatly typed or written on cards, but my favourites are stuffed into the box in their original form -- ripped from newspapers, or better still, written as part of a letter. This one is in Mom's handwriting, so it will never be transferred to a card.

Adeline's Coffee Cake

350F oven, 40-45 minutes

1/2 lb. butter or margarine - Cream well.

2 cups sugar - Beat in.

4 eggs - one at a time.


1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond
3 cups flour
1tsp. baking powder

Pour 3/4 of batter in greased cookie sheet (one with sides). Spread one jar of cherry pie filling on top. Spread remaining batter on top in blobs. Bake. Sprinkle with 10X sugar when cool.

There. A recipe with lots of sugar, fat, and nostalgia for the seventies, when we didn't worry quite so much about sugar and fat.

Here's the kicker. It was only when I had printed the recipe into an e-mail and sent it off to the one person on the list that I was supposed to send it to, that I noticed the rest of the instruction:  After you've sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below and only to that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only mine and your name should show when you send your email. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy).

Oh, crap. This is like a chain letter. I don't do chain letters. Now I feel like a spoil-sport.

Never mind, I said to myself. If you post the recipe to the Turtle, that will be kind of sort of like sending it to 20 people, right? But without the pressure?

So if you're planning a 70s themed party for the holiday season, do consider including Mom's recipe -- and let me know how it goes.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

...come words of wisdom. Or so it seems. Maybe. I just came back from a Meetup (That's an official thing, a Meetup.  ( I only found out about Meetup a couple of weeks ago, when Peggy Richardson (that's Peggy on the right) popped into the NaNoWriMo discussion board and proposed a meetup for people doing NaNoWriMo. It sounded good to me, so I joined the group, met some fascinating people -- and since then, have attended  two more Meetups. Tonight I met C.J. Gosling, (left) yet
another lovely young thing, whose YA novel, The Guardian, will be coming out in February. I got to see the book itself, which is a work of art in more ways than one. The story is beautifully written and also beautifully illustrated.

So we talked about Charity's book (that's CJ's proper name) and we talked about NaNoWriMo and we swapped stories, and I talked about what a hard time I'm having this year, writing my NaNovel. I am trying to explore a mother's nightmare scenario - (one of many possible nightmare scenarios -- Parenthood is such a risky endeavour!) and I keep screeching to a halt. Perhaps I just don't want to go there.

And as we were getting ready to leave, Peggy asked me why I was trying to write from such a dark place when I just don't seem to be that kind of person. Charity said I told great stories, and wondered why I didn't go with those, instead of plumbing the depths of my angst, or my characters' angst...

Well, damn. Food for thought. I'm facing my NaNovel again, wondering whether I should turn around and head in a completely different direction with the story. You know, it's a sad thing to get to be an old lady and still come across as Little Mary Sunshine.

Speaking of (Not)writing, I've also discovered, which has given me endless hours of distraction.  I've revisited music I had forgotten all about, like Cream, and music that has stayed with me all through the years, like this:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Countdown Is On

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday. I am suitably excited and nervous and full of dread, especially since I have to be at work at 6 a.m. that day -- no midnight NaNo running starts this year. To make the project seem even remotely feasible, I've been reading all sorts of self-help books and blogs. I have been trying to follow Alexandra Sokoloff's suggestions on plotting, characterization, and  setting. Ms. Sokoloff  suggests that we start by making a master list of our favourite books and movies -- and/or the books and movies we wish we had written. When I did that, I realized that my favourites are all about character. It doesn't matter what happens to the characters (and in some of my favourite books, Terrible Things Happen.) or where these things happen, as long as I get the chance to know the characters and love them. Wait. That's not altogether true. I much prefer happy endings. I adore chick flicks. Nonetheless, I don't care how happy the ending is if I haven't fallen in love with the characters.

So I had a revelation. I write that way. I am much less concerned  with plot than with character, and setting is almost an afterthought. My favourite movie really should be My Dinner with Andre.

This brings me to today. Today, I came across a post at Write Anything   that dealt with the topic of Setting and set out several exercises to hone one's skills at description. I played with the last one, and this is what I wrote:

There are three iron tables outside The Vault to which smokers retreat from time to time. There, they can watch the cars go by, make faces at the dogs that always seem to be tied to the lamp post, and shiver in the Vancouver Island damp. Meanwhile, the rest of us have the benefit of huge windows
that let in what sunlight penetrates the clouds. We can sit on the main floor, where the bar is,at high bar stools arranged around little -- that is, small in circumference -- tables. There aren't many of them, because part of the room is taken up by the stage, which is used a couple of nights a week for professional shows or Open Mike.

Or we can sit in considerably more comfortable, shorter chairs at shorter tables on  the mezzanine, which is a mere five steps up. The kitchen is located right behind the bar, and from a perch on the mezzanine we can see everything that goes on in the kitchen. Better yet, we can watch the proprietor or his staff prepare perfect cappuccinos, lattes, etc. at those intimidating Italian machines. Of course, we can also hear all this happening -- particularly the coffee making, which is a very noisy operation --louder by far than the music that's piped in. To distract us from the noisefest, there are paintings on the very high walls --works by local artists of an avant-garde bent. The walls themselves are painted an unfortunate yellow, sort of goldenrod, but muddier.

Speaking of the walls, and the art, there is a certain amount of art involved in choosing a place to sit. If you wish to write at your computer, you probably want to sit at one of the tables near the electrical outlets. After a while, you learn where those outlets are. They are generally hidden behind the furniture, but with a bit of acrobatic effort, you can get plugged in, and then you're set for hours. The wi-fi is great, and nobody appears to care how long you stay. Occasionally someone will wander over and offer to sell you a carving of an eagle or a whale, but otherwise you are comfortably incognito.

At the back of the main floor, as you head toward the washrooms, there is an antique (read "battered") buffet on which are stacked fliers, business cards, and several huge plants that bring to mind the Little Shop of Horrors. Adjacent to the buffet is a bulletin board on which are tacked yet more cards, fliers, warnings of impending doom, calls to action...and across the way, behind the pastry case, is the vault door. It's a real vault door, harking back to this venue's origins as a bank. When its banking days were over, the building had several more lives - as an insurance agency and a clothing store and I don't know what else -- before it found its true calling as Demeter's Vault.

Somehow, it all works. I plan to spend much of November at The Vault, as I did last year -- but this time I've managed to convince a few more NaNovelists to meet me there, so my dream of completely taking the place over may yet come true.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Praise of Elbow Grease

My mother always extolled the virtues of elbow grease for cleaning (her daughters' elbow grease, that is, not hers!), but it seems to me that all I hear on the television are ads for products that will clean and polish the world and everything in it without the use of any elbow grease at all, so that we can all spend our lives lying around, eating bon bons. Unfortunately, a lot of those products are pretty toxic. And expensive.

Just the other day, as I was bemoaning the fact that my weight has been creeping (galloping?) up again, I thought, Hey! Could there be a connection? Could the fact that I don't have to put much of an effort into housework be contributing to my weight problem? I sit all day at work, my favourite leisure activities (writing, reading, knitting) are all sedentary in nature, and when I clean house, I expect my cleaning products to work like magic. Maybe if I worked a little harder, I'd burn a few calories.

This line of thought coincided with my discovery (on Facebook, if I remember correctly) of a recipe for an all-purpose cleaner that I could make at home for pennies. The ingredients were non-toxic.

Deep inside my I Hate to Housekeep personality, there's a Suzie Homemaker crying to get out. Or so it seems. I rushed out and bought whatever ingredients I didn't have, and I made some Green Cleaner. That was just the beginning. My daughter jumped on the bandwagon and demanded the recipe. The next thing I knew, she was calling to say "Did you know you can make homemade Febreze?" The two of us spent hours googling and YouTubing, finding ways to Do It Ourselves (whatever IT might be).

So now I've got spray bottles full of homemade cleaner which, in fact, I prefer to the commercial preparations. I can't find the All Purpose Cleaner video that I saw originally, but the interwebs are full of recipes. The one I've embedded here is similar to mine, except mine has more borax and vinegar, but no washing soda. I'm going to try them all. I haven't even bothered with the essential oil, because I love the clean fragrance of the solution. My mission now? to use up the commercial cleaners I have lying around, and from this day forward, to roll my own - and use a little more elbow grease.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I am Very, very full...

and grateful to my next-door neighbour, who invited R and me (and several other people) over for Thanksgiving dinner. She served -- and we ate -- turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cheese sauce, carrots,sweet potatoes, squash, fresh pineapple, apple pie, pumpkin pie, ice cream, whipped cream, and wine.


It was delicious, every bit of it, and we even got to bring home some leftovers, which we might just be hungry enough to eat some time this week, though at the moment it feels as if I'll never be hungry again.

While we were there, I found out that this same neighbour hosts a Stitch & Bitch in her living room every Wednesday night. I think I'll check it out. There will be people doing crafts that are not knitting, which might be interesting, if weird.

It's funny. We've been neighbours for years, but it's only just recently that we've gone beyond the "Good morning, lovely day" stage and started to get properly acquainted. I like this.

Speaking of gratitude, I saw Mamma Mia again the other day, and I can't stop singing this song:

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday Photo Shootout - Reflections

It's been a long, long time -- but I wandered onto the Friday Photo Shootout site this morning, just in time to take part in today's shootout -- and as it happens, it's raining here today, so my world is full of reflections.

I decided to head out in search of unusual reflections -- and promptly changed my mind because, well, it was (and is) raining.

So I lay down on the carpet and took this photo of me and my camera reflected in my faux fireplace. Shades of Dante.Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.

Later in the day, I really did have to go out, rain or no rain, to pick up the ingredients for dinner. On the way, I stopped to photograph these --  grapevines and assorted other greenery reflected in the  Turtle's window --
and this, the last rose of summer nodding good-bye to a reflected tree. At that point I decided that the warmth of home sounded really good, so I abandoned all attempts at photography and scuttled back to my den.

And speaking of reflections, I've recently given some thought to the fact that my faithful little netbook might not last forever, and all those pieces of fiction and poetry hiding in its files could end up at the recycling depot, lost to me forever. The sensible thing would be to dig them out, one by one, finish them, and send them somewhere --

But for me, writing is like knitting. I have knitting projects stashed all over the house in various stages of completion. The sensible thing to do would be to finish all those projects before I start a new one, but every time I see a particularly lovely skein of wool, my mind leaps to a new pair of socks, a new sweater, a shawl -- and off I go.

It seems I am addicted to yarn. And words. I am addicted to words. I love to watch them form on the page. Finishing a project isn't as important to me (barring a deadline) as the process itself. I could make all sorts of resolutions about finishing one thing before I start another, but I'm a pretty old dog now, and stuck in my ways, so maybe I'd better invest in  (1) more plastic tubs to hold knitting projects and (2) a whole handful of memory sticks.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I did it again.

I held off, this year, worried about overbooking myself and bringing on another bout of exhaustion/depression, but yesterday, finally,  I couldn't resist. I closed my eyes and clicked, and just like that, I'm signed up for NaNoWriMo again. And just like last year, I find myself ever so slightly obsessed already. I was glancing through the forum list last night, and I found a group of knitting NaNovelists. I took it as a sign. I don't need to do less; I just need to concentrate on doing the things I love, and let everything else slide. Or so I hope.

While I'm hanging around with the NaNovelists, I think I'll show them how to knit a sock that doesn't look as if somebody's been nibbling at it.  (I'm sure there's a story behind that image, but I haven't found it yet.)

Last year, I started with a title (Fly Away Home) and some characters. This year, I'm taking a different approach. Among the features I've discovered is an adoption agency. People drop off their surplus ideas (for plots, characters, etc.) and leave them in the hope that they will find good homes. I found a plot that looked interesting, and I made a note of it at My Writing Nook. That's my starting point. Now I'll set about thinking up some characters. I think I'd prefer to create my own characters, rather than adopting them, but plotting is my weakest point, so I'm grateful for the help with that.

Off to work I go. 

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Before I was so rudely interrupted,

I was telling you about the Manor Ball. I know it's been over for days, now, but I'm still glowing a bit -- I mean, who wouldn't be?

As I was saying, we arrived at the door, where Willow greeted us warmly. A quick look around revealed a party in full swing. I saw George Sanders twirling Zsa Zsa Gabor around the floor, dancing dangerously close to the bar - oh, maybe that's where that stain on Zsa Zsa's dress came from. I must say, she didn't seem fazed by the stain. She was dancing and laughing, then leaning in close to George's ear.  George, meanwhile, was looking across the dance floor, seemingly entranced by the lush figure of Marilyn Monroe. My, my.

Denzel, on the other hand, had eyes only for me. We danced and danced, until I simply had to take a break. I had long since lost my near-naked shoes (under a potted plant somewhere, if I remember correctly) and was dancing barefoot. We went out to the terrace. I collapsed into the nearest chair. Denzel gallantly took my left ankle in his hands and massaged my aching foot while I did my best not to moan.

Oh, dear. This is bordering on TMI, isn't it?

Fast forward, then, to the end of the party, the delicious brunch, the much-needed coffee, the startling sight of Marilyn holding court in the altogether -- this was indeed a night to remember.

Willow, you are indeed the hostess with the mostest. Thank you again for your gracious hospitality.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I should have stayed at the Manor.

My last post  ended "to be continued..."  I wrote that in good faith, thinking I would be able to continue my story at my next port of call. Unfortunately, the wi-fi there turned out to be less than --let's see -- less than extant?  The rv park manager said there was wi-fi, and I did manage to connect to it, but that was as far as I could go. There I was, connected to the network, but since the network had no connectivity,  my being connected to  it wasn't very useful to me. I decided that the "wi" in wi-fi stood for "wishful". Other than that, it was a great place to stay, and I'm sure we'll stay there again, but next time, we'll be sure to get a site closer to the hot spot.

Now I'm back at home, and the Turtle has gone to its winter home to hibernate. When I woke up this morning, it was still dark. I looked over the edge of my bed, expecting to see a five-foot or so drop to the floor, but something was wrong. I could tell that, even in the gloom.  So I turned on a light and saw that my bed was really, really close to the floor. It's odd. I seem to adjust immediately to being in my over-cab Turtle bed, scrambling up and down via the "dining room" bench. But when I get back home, I don't adjust nearly as quickly. Maybe I should build myself a lofty bed. I had one of those once, a bed that was six feet off the floor. I had to get in and out of bed via a ladder. I liked that.

Anyway, our journey of 9,980 kilometres is over. We had a lovely time. For the last two days, we were in Port Townsend.

On the first day in PT, Angel May and I made our traditional raid on the William James bookstore. I found three wonderful books. Her husband waited patiently while we sorted through dozens of books to find the ones we wanted -- AM's on quilting, mine on knitting. Then the three of us went to the Thai restaurant for lunch -- also a tradition on my visits. Robin opted out of this trip. He was busy cycling all over Port Townsend, trying to make up for several weeks of insufficient exercise.

As it happened, we were in Port Townsend for the last festival weekend of the season -- the Kinetic Sculpture Weekend -- so we went to the parade. I heard that I was expected to dress as oddly as I could manage, so I wore pajama bottoms, a muu-muu, a bright pink and turquoise rain jacket, hot pink Crocs, and my bicycle helmet, which I fitted out with some silk roses and ferns. Basically, I went as a potted plant. I fit right in. Unfortunately (or not), I have no photos of me, because I was carrying the camera. There were Kinetic Kops all over the place. I heard that they might throw me into jail if I failed to dress oddly, and I was taking no chances.
For those of you who have never visited Port Townsend, I should explain that it is a special sort of place. The architecture is Victorian, the populace is generally somewhat left-of-centre, politically, and I suspect that even if there hadn't been a parade, I could have walked down the street in my potted plant outfit without raising very many eyebrows.

Oh, yes. Have I mentioned the official Port Townsend bumper sticker? It reads "We're all here because we're not all there."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At last! At last!

I just glanced outside, and there it was -- my chariot, as Denzel called it -- the gleaming black Lear jet that will whisk us off to Willow's Manor for the Annual Ball. I'm still basking in the glow of last Autumn's party! I can hardly believe that a whole year has passed.

Just a moment. I am dressed, but I need to fasten the clasp of my diamond necklace...such a nuisance. It must be my excitement that makes it so difficult. I know. I'll just ask my handsome escort to fasten it for me.
 What do you think of my shoes? I decided this year to be completely impractical. These shoes had a lot to do with that decision -- I simply couldn't resist them.  They will show off my delicate ankles when I lift the hem of my gown in one of the livelier dances.

Oh, and speaking of gowns, this is the one that stole my heart. I know it's daring, but I'm feeling strangely free tonight, as if my time has come to shine.

It was the back of the gown that I found irresistible. I hope it has the same effect on my date.

Oh, yes. Judging from the expression on his face, I'd say the dress is a success, wouldn't you?

"Denzel, would you mind?"

"Not at all, my dear. It's my pleasure."  And he fastens the diamond necklace around my neck, then twirls me to get a proper look at me in my dress.

"You look fabulous," he says, and we're away. Our pilot helps us both into the plane and, at a nod from Denzel, goes to the flight deck, leaving behind a chilled bottle of Bollinger and two glasses. Denzel pours. Oh, my. Champagne. My head was already spinning with excitement, and now this!

It seems as if we have just left the ground, and already I see the lights of the runway below us.  We land perfectly, and when I look outside I see a friendly face. It is our chauffeur, who will drive us the last part of our journey. He waves and smiles.

In moments, we pull up outside the Manor. Oh, just look at it -- the fairy lights are enchanting, and I can hear the music. Is that Leonard Cohen I hear?  Yes! He's singing "Dance Me to the End of Love." Oh, what could be more perfect?

"Shall we?" says Denzel. He gives me his arm. I feel like a princess. As we reach the door, our lovely hostess appears, beaming, and hugs us both.  "Come in, come in," she says. Then she whispers "A few people arrived rather early, so don't be surprised if the party is a little lively already!"

To be continued......
Preparing for the Ball

I have had the most wonderful time getting ready for the ball, probably setting a world record for speed shopping. I would show you my dress, but I don't want Denzel to see it until he arrives at my door.

Speaking of my door, we might have had a little problem in that I'm not exactly sure where I'll be when it's time to leave for the manor. I confess that I was a little worried,  so I called Denzel. "No problem, my dear," he said. "I'll find you wherever you are." The next thing I knew, this photo arrived on my phone -- with a note reading "Your chariot,  madame."  Isn't Denzel a darling? I needn't have worried. No matter where I am, we'll be able to get to the ball on time.


Update:  We drove to Butte this morning and took The Turtle to Brooks-Hanna Ford. To our delight, they were able to put poor Turtle together again in just over two hours, at 1/10 the amount it cost us the last time we had an exhaust problem.  During our layover, we walked over to something called Montana Club and ate lunch. Our sandwiches came with a choice of salad, soup, or fries. We asked what the soup was, and the waitress answered "Spinach - cream of spinach." Predictably, Robin made a face and I said "Yumm."  When my soup arrived, I gave Robin a taste; he changed his mind, and soon he had his own bowl of soup. My impression was that the kitchen had skipped the cream and gone straight to butter, the soup was so rich. I think it was a 4,000 calorie lunch, but oh, my. (Who was it that said there's no such thing as "too rich"? Wait. I think that was me.)

In the course of the day, we left behind all traces of the Great Plains and moved into the North Woods. We've stopped for the night at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, not far from the Washington border and only 399 miles from Angel May's house, where we hope to spend the next couple of nights before we take the ferry to Vancouver Island and head home.

That means that  I really should be resting for tomorrow's drive -- but what are the chances? Oh, look at the time! Denzel will be picking me up in the Lear jet any minute now, so I'm off to make myself gorgeous.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

This is what happened: My sad tale of woe

Yesterday, we drove from Jamestown, North Dakota to Miles City, Montana. I had begun to get into the rhythm of the trip, and I rode contentedly along, noting changes in the topography, thinking about what I would wear to Willow's Manor Ball and who my escort would be, planning to write about it when we settled in for the night.

At Miles City, the very kind lady who ran the RV park assured us that yes, there was wi-fi. She was right. There was indeed a wi-fi network, and we did manage to log on to it for a minute, but then we were thrown off, and we never did manage to get back on -- so there went my plans. On the bright side, we had stopped at about 1:30 in the afternoon to check out Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- specifically Painted Canyon -- and I had taken a lot of photos there. In lieu of trying to remember what happened yesterday, a lot of water having gone under the bridge since then, I'll show you those. Then I'll tell you about today.

So that was yesterday. Today, we left Miles City at 8:30 in the morning. Everything went well until mid-afternoon. Highway 94 had given over to Highway 90 at Billings, Montana, and we had got as far as Livingston, just a few miles east of Bozeman. Suddenly, the engine quit. Deja vu. The last time we drove through this part of the world, the same thing happened. And happened. And happened. We knew what to do. "We should loosen the gas cap," I said.

"I did that this morning," said Robin.

Hmmm. After a dozen or so false starts, we managed to limp off the highway and into the lot of an RV dealer/repair shop. They had a look, said it was probably vapour lock, but advised us to take the machine to Silent Knight Muffler Shop (I love that name) in Bozeman and have our exhaust leak fixed. Sure enough, we had noticed a noise -- but we just had the exhaust fixed. Oh, well. Never mind. Off we went to Silent Knight. The fellow there sent us to the Ford dealer in Bozeman, who in turn set up an appointment for tomorrow morning at the Ford dealer in Butte, about an hour and a half from here. Tomorrow morning, then, we will find out whether this is a quick fix or whether we have to cut our trip short and head into Canada.

So here we are, at a very pleasant place called Sunrise Campground, baking in 30C heat but otherwise comfortably settled for the night. The wi-fi actually works (a big plus) and the office offers a no-charge loan of dvds for the night. I chose "Crazy Heart" on the manager's recommendation -- (When he came  back to the office after showing Robin to our site, he said "Your husband said you would be bringing back a chick flick." so I asked him to pick one we might both like.) And --- I got "Letters to Juliet", which was recommended to us just the other day.

Meanwhile, there still remains the problem of getting ready for a ball -- and by the way, my apologies for not linking to Willow's blog when I first brought the matter up.  So far, this is what I've decided:

My date. As soon as I let it be known that I would attend, the invitations came flooding in. (So little time...)  Colin Firth was on the phone within minutes, wanting to repeat last year's frolic, but that would be so -- last year, no? I considered going with Robert Downey Jr., but he's been doing all that Iron Man stuff lately, and I wasn't sure that was the kind of image I wanted to present -- then I came across Denzel's note, scribbled on the back of his calling card (Isn't that delightfully Old World? I'd never have expected it!).  "Let's dance the night away," he wrote.

Oh, yeah. Denzel it is. Here he is with that other redhead at the Academy Awards, looking as if he'd much rather that I were there.

Speaking of redheads, I should confess that I've let my redness slip of late, opting for a more Distinguished (old) look -- but for the Ball, I can reverse that process. Also, it should be said, I tend to wear my hair quite short (like this)

but again, the Willow Manor Ball is a magical event, and for the occasion, I intend to look more like Rita Hayworth in Gilda.

There. I have a date, and I know how I'll be wearing my hair. Now I really must start shopping.

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Late! I'm Late!

Well, I'm not really late yet, but I haven't much time. I just found out that I've nearly missed Willow's Manor Ball. It's four days from now. Oh, my goodness. Such a lot of shopping to be done, and I'm way out here in the Old West. I wonder how Robin would feel about staying here for a couple of days longer, tucked into the Frontier Fort RV park near the Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, North Dakota. I know it's not a shopping mecca (or I assume it isn't. We had trouble just finding a supermarket!), but we do have wi-fi, so I could just sit here and let my fingers do the shopping.

Somehow, though, I think we'll be leaving in the morning, as scheduled, heading west on I-94. I'll use my driving time to figure out who my date will be. Tonight , I'll start assembling my glorious evening apparel...and I'll remember to RSVP. You know, I really enjoyed the ball last year, and right now, an evening at the Manor sounds like just what the doctor ordered.

Before I go shopping, though, I should tell you about today. We started out in Minnesota, and I discovered that I quite like the place -- apart from the highway we drove, which was put together in blocks, like dominoes, so that as we drove, we heard and felt the seams. It was like this:





for hours on end. It drowned out my radio shows, and it made me grumpy.

The towns, however, were charming. I told Robin that I half expected a red-headed kid to come running out, singing "Gary, Indiana" with a lisp -- except, of course, that he would have had to sing "Aitken, Minnesota" or something similar. The towns were neat and tidy and the streets were wide. The trees were turning colour...

...and then we were in North Dakota, watching as the trees got shorter and shorter, then pretty well disappeared. The roads got better, though.

p.s. I almost forgot -- here's the song for you.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Day, Three States

And two posts in one day! Feast or famine.

We woke up in Michigan, drove into Wisconsin rather sooner than I expected, then found ourselves in Michigan again. Sigh. The roads were better in Wisconsin.  Never mind. After a while, we were in Wisconsin again, and finally -- about supper time -- we fetched up in Minnesota. We drove through Duluth as quickly as the city's massive roadwork project would allow, headed down Hwy 35, and made our way to the KOA campground (excuse me. Kampground.) near Cloquet.

All day, I berated myself for being so wrapped up in my homecoming that I forgot to take photos of the autumn colours in Ontario. At one point I pulled over at a rest stop so I could take at least a few pictures. I'm afraid my photography doesn't do justice to this season. The colours are virtually edible. I know I was looking at birch, maple, oak, sumac, and all the other lovely deciduous trees set against a background of evergreens, but as I drove along, I thought lemon-lime, peach, mango, papaya, pomegranate, cherry -- Have I mentioned that I'm always hungry?

Meanwhile, I enjoyed my usual love affair with NPR. Today's treat was a long bluegrass show out of -- Ashland, Wisconsin, I think. And by the way, when I went to program Ashland into Maggie (our GPS), I discovered that there are Ashlands in Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi (I think. Is that MS?), Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and, yes, Wisconsin. Heh. I knew about the one in Oregon. There are also listings under "Ashland Town of" in Massachusetts and New York. The world is so full of a number of things, you would think we could show a little more originality in our place names.  Or maybe we want to take a little of home with us when we move to a new place.

Anyway -- NPR.  Bluegrass. The show started with bluegrass, but it wandered some. I enjoyed this song -- but now I can't find the version I heard.

We moved out of that station's range right in the middle of this next song. I was most annoyed. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Funny. As we make our way home, I'm finally getting into the spirit of this, enjoying the travel for its own sake, not too worried about how quickly we're moving, how soon we'll be at the next landmark. There are just so many things to see. Today's drive (and to some extent, yesterday's) took us through town after town that was settled by Scandinavians of one sort or another. I remember a shop called "Swedish Passport" in Norway, Michigan. However, every town seemed to have at least one shop specializing in pasties. Pasties? They're Cornish. That calls for some research. Holidays are too short.

Also, the town of Crystal Falls, Michigan caught my eye. It has the most gorgeous courthouse. Photo from Wiki

Tomorrow, we make our way to I-94 for a less scenic, but quicker, trip across the middle of the country, hoping to visit more friends on the way home.
This is what I have learned:

Actually, you can go home again, but it hurts. It's also confusing and funny and chock-full of conflicting emotions. I'm glad I went. The thing is...

But wait. I'm getting ahead of myself. There's something else I learned. That is, if you drive from Manitoba into Ontario near the town of Kenora and make your way around Lake Superior, it takes three full days to get from there to Peterborough. I'm sure Ontario is bigger than Texas, and until Day 3, it's pretty much of a muchness. We weren't impressed. When we got to the Kawartha Lakes district, though, and the place names were familiar to me, my heart started beating faster, and then the 80 km speed limit got really annoying. Coming out, we drove the 401 through Toronto, Kitchener, London, etc. instead. It was much quicker, and it got us to Saginaw, Michigan on the first day, even though we stopped in Toronto for coffee with an old (British Columbia) acquaintance. Yesterday we drove from Saginaw to Escanaba, which is in a very scenic area on the northwestern corner of Lake Michigan. We should be having lunch in Wisconsin and maybe, just maybe, supper in Minnesota.

Now. Back to going home again. I became a (reluctant) vagabond when I was eight years old. I've lived in many places, enough that I think of myself as not really having a home. When I talk to other people who have a strong sense of home, I'm at once envious and baffled. However, I lived in Peterborough for over twenty years, my children grew up there, and it's about as close as anything gets to being home to me. Imagine my shock when, after being away for  nearly twenty years, I got to Peterborough and discovered that (1) it had grown and (2) I couldn't remember my way around, even in the part of town where I used to live.

Never mind. My daughter was there. She moved home a couple of years ago, and I hadn't seen her since. The great knitting marathon I engaged in last month was to produce "Rosary", her birthday sweater, and I got to give it to her. She loved it. She wore it everywhere, including our side trip to Ottawa. I took this photo outside the Aviation Museum, where she and I had a picnic and talked (and talked and talked) while the menfolk were inside, looking at airplanes.
Then we went to the Parliament Buildings and climbed up to the top of the Peace Tower. From there you can see forever, or so it seems. I think this photo shows the bridge to Hull, Quebec.

The following day, an old and dear friend picked up my daughter and me and took us on a tour of the town -- and a couple of nearby villages -- to show me what had changed, what hadn't. We visited a wool shop in Lakefield, enjoyed an end-of-season coffee at a charming lakeside cafe, and did a lot of remembering.

While we were out gallivanting, Robin took a cruise through the famous Lift Locks. I think that was the highlight of the visit for him.

Altogether, the visit was too short, and my eyes have been leaking since we left. I saw people I had known and loved, found that I still knew and loved them. Even though things like being able to find my way home from the grocery store had slipped my mind, the important memories were still there. I had been away so long, I was nervous -- fearful -- about going back, but I'm very glad that I did.

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