2017 Holiday Kickoff

Cooler temperatures in Charlotte and Christmas lights at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens kicked off this year’s holiday celebration. We started the weekend camping and cooking over a campfire Thursday night.

Then Friday morning started with a hike before going to the gardens only a short distance from McDowell Nature Preserve where we were camping. Our afternoon visit started in the Orchid House before walking throughout the park.

Much of the space incorporated holiday displays among the plants. Orchids decorated trees instead of the usual poinsettias.

When the Gardens closed to prepare for the evening event we prepared and ate dinner in the RV before returning after dark for the holiday lights.

Lights and music covered the grounds.

To be honest, we didn’t drive to Charlotte simply to camp and go to a light display. We were in the city to attend the ACC Championship Game. Unfortunately, there was some confusion when the Canes heard meteorologists in Florida celebrating the end of the 2017 hurricane season. It seems the team thought that meant the football season was over. Coach Richt will need to work on that before the team’s next game in the Orange Bowl.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

When I looked at my phone, and it shouted today’s date as December 1st, I thought back to how we started December a year ago. We flew to Washington, D.C. on the final day of November to attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree after being selected in a lottery for the annual event sponsored by the National Park Service.

Upon arrival in D.C., we toured the National Cathedral before heading to the zoo for Zoolights, a chance to wander the grounds decorated for the holiday.

Of course my favorite decoration was the well light Uncle Beasley, the triceratops and main character from The Enormous Egg, a book we read as a family on our first trip to D.C. and New England over twenty years earlier.

Then on the 1st, we crowded in the viewing area at the Eclipse for the lighting of the tree by President Obama and Christmas music by artists Chance the Rapper, James Taylor and others.

Tonight we’re attending another Christmas event away from home. This time at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens in Charlotte, NC. A little cool air and a light display is a good way to get in the holiday spirit.

I’d love to hear how you get in the holiday spirit. If you’d like to comment on this post, please do so on the blog. While you may see this on Facebook, I haven’t signed in to my Facebook account for well over a year and will not see comments left on Facebook. 

Get a Library Card…And Another…And Another

I can’t imagine anyone not having a library card. When you were young, we’d go to the library regularly to check out bags full of books. Before taking off for a long car trip, we’d load up on books on tape or later, books on CD.

Spending time flipping through books, looking at displays and selecting bookmarks provided a good opportunity to relax after school or escape the heat on a summer afternoon. Going to the library was always a treat.

Now I use the library much differently. Today I walked into the doors of a library for the first time in over nine months when we went to the Micanopy Branch of the Alachua County Library, and I left without checking out a single item. The visit today was simply to renew my library card. Yes, my Alachua County library card. One of three library cards I carry in my wallet.

Did you know you most counties in Florida have agreements with surrounding counties to provide library services to their residents? As a Marion County resident, I have a card for the libraries in my home county, and in addition to my Alachua County card, I also have one for Lake County. In fact, the last time I stepped inside a library, it was the one closest to our house. One in Lake County where I did check out books before attending a presentation on the history of cattle ranching in Florida.

Most of my library use today doesn’t require leaving home. I check one digital books that are magically sent to my Kindle and audiobooks (no more cassettes or CDs) that I listen to on my phone and best of all, magazines, dozens of magazines every month, that I read on my Kindle or iPad. It’s even possible to download music. And with different resources available in each county, the choices seem to be endless.

If your library card isn’t up-to-date, go in and renew it, and then start exploring all of the digital resources. And then go to your neighboring counties to add to your library card collection.



I may have to stop in a branch of the Citrus County Library this summer. Are four library cards too many?

It’s Omaha Time!

Two years ago this weekend, we were packing for our first trip post retirement. We’d be immersed in college baseball for four days in Omaha at the College World Series.

We will not be making a return trip this year but as pictures of this year’s teams arriving continue to show up in my Twitter feed, it seems like a good time to revisit a bucket list event and share want we learned.

You don’t need to buy tickets in advance. I used the CWS ticket site and purchased all tickets a couple of weeks before the games. Tickets would have been much cheaper in Omaha, either general admission or using the same ticket site purchasing resell tickets.

Attend all games, regardless of which teams are playing. You’re in Omaha. You’re there to watch baseball. Make the most of the experience.

Four of the teams we watched play in 2015 are making return appearances this year: LSU, TCU, Cal St, and UF.

Wear sunscreen and a hat. Games start at 2:00 each afternoon and since the sun doesn’t set until after 9:00, you’ll need to protect yourself from the heat.

Take pictures at the entrance gate, the dog pile statue and from inside the stadium. You need to prove you really were there!

Meet a winning team exiting the stadium to board the team bus. After each game, the teams board their buses around the side of the stadium. It’s easy to find the location since these 45 foot monsters are lined up waiting for the team long before the game ends. Players celebrate with family, friends and fans.

Visit Rosenblatt. The site of the previous home of the College World Series, across the street from the zoo, houses memorabilia making it an outdoor museum to the game.

Eat at the stadium. It may seem like a good idea to get away from the stadium for a meal, but grazing on ballpark food is definitely the way to go.

NO! THIS IS NOT STADIUM FOOD! Omaha is famous for steak and in the stadium you can feast on Omaha Steaks Burger, Steak Sandwich or Gourmet Frank. No need to search for a steak dinner.

Walk across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge and straddle the Nebraska Iowa border. Within site of the stadium, this 3,000 foot bridge crosses the Missouri River and provides a wonderful view of Omaha. Since it’s also connected to miles and miles of nature trails, it’s a good place to stretch your legs and get some exercise.

Spend some time at the Lauritzen Gardens. Omaha’s botanical gardens provide a change of scenery and since no afternoon games are scheduled on some days, this is a good place to spend some relaxing down time.

No trip to Omaha this year. Instead we’ll be watching from home. A good way to spend rainy afternoons and evenings in Florida.

Celebrating Nature Photography Day

Today the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) along with millions of photographers and photography lovers across the nation will observe Nature Photography Day.

Sunrise at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.

Nature Photography Day was designated by NANPA in 2009 to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and since my phone is filled with this type of photography, I thought I should participate. It only seemed appropriate to start with a sunrise.

Mount Moran and reflection in Lake Jackson, Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”~Albert Einstein

Bison and geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

Green oasis of Fruita surrounded by eroded rock layers in Capitol Reef National Park, Utah.

“The Earth has music for those who listen.” ~George Santayana

Tributary of Colorado River, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” ~William Shakespeare

Tulip Prickly Pear Cactus, Natural Bridges National Monument.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~Lady Bird Johnson

Owachomo Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Colorado River, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul alike.” ~John Muir”

Arch in Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

“Those who dwell among the beauties of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” ~Rachel Carson

Courthouse Towers, Arches National Park, Utah.

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Broken Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~Ansel Adams

La Sal Mountains at sunset as seen from Hell’s Revenge, Moab Utah.

Celebrate nature photography day by posting your nature pictures and use #NaturePhotographyDay in social media.

(I took all photos using the camera on my phone, an iPhone 7, no special equipment or filters.)


Not Exactly What We Planned

A three week trip begins with planning so we started researching destinations and activities in January for a May departure. With plans penciled in, we encountered our first stumbling block. The church conference John would be attending in June was a week earlier than we thought resulting in five days and two National Parks being eliminated from our itinerary.

Then just a week before our departure flooding in Missouri meant another change. We wouldn’t be riding our bikes on the Katy Trail. Instead, we decided to spend those days in Rocky Mountain National Park. And while we knew it would be cold with a couple of inches of snow possible, we were surprised by the events on this leg of the trip.

We pulled into Aspenglen Campground in the Rocky Mountains. Snow started to fall immediately after we set up camp. The couple of inches of snow predicted before we left home turned out to be a foot when we awoke in the morning.

Our first reaction: amazement, not only by the amount of snow but by the beauty.

After building a snowman and taking a selfie,we quickly packed so we could follow the snowplow out of the campground.

Since snow was still falling, we were afraid we could find ourselves unable to drive if we didn’t hit the road when we had a chance.
Our next problem, where could we stay? Hotels were not taking additional guests due to concerns about taking care of those already registered, campgrounds said their sites were inaccessible and roads were closed so leaving the area was not possible.

Finally Elk Meadows Campground in Estes Park agreed to clear a path to a campsite. Safe place to park. Electricity, water and heated bathroom. Time to settle in for a bowl of taco soup, a little reading and then some games.
The next morning was time to make our escape. John worked with campground employees to dig the RV out of the snow that was now almost three feet deep, and after lunch in Estes Park and hearing reports of clear roads to Cheyenne, we were back on the road.

Cheyenne was not on our original plan, but it turned out to be a good stop. We got the last campsite. Took a hot shower. Filled the RV with water and propane and emptied holding tanks ready for our days in the Tetons.

However, we decided to pass on taking a dip in the pool.

Don’t click it!

Another day, another scam opportunity.

I open Safari on my phone ready to search for a lab coat. (That’s another story.) But instead of a list of shopping sites, I’m greeted by a warning: Your Apple iPhone is severely damaged by (6) viruses.

The pop up appears to come from the App Store with its official icon shown in the upper left hand corner of the message, and it instructs the user to click the Remove Virus button at the bottom of the screen.

While not impossible, it’s unlikely that an iPhone will be infected by a virus, much less six of them…especially if your apps were downloaded from the Apple App Store.

Don’t get scammed. To protect your phone, don’t jailbreak it and DON’T CLICK THE REMOVE VIRUS BUTTON.



If you have a pop up that just won’t go away, try this.




It’s Best Friends Day!

So today, June 8th, has been declared National Best Friends Day or just another strange, fun, unique reason to celebrate. A day to join National Ferret Day, National Beer Day and National Picnic Day, but it’s also a day when we can tell a friend or maybe more than one friend that we appreciate their friendship.

As defined by Urban Dictionary: Best Friends are very special people in your life. They are the first people you think about when you make plans. They are the first people you go to when you need someone to talk to. You will phone them up just to talk about nothing, or the most important things in your life. When you’re sad they will try their hardest to cheer you up. They give the best hugs in the world! They are the shoulder to cry on, because you know that they truly care about you. In most cases they would take a bullet for you, coz it would be too painful to watch you get hurt.

“Throughout life you meet one person who is unlike any other. You could talk to that person for hours and never get bored, you could tell them things and they won’t judge you. This is your soulmate, your best friend. Don’t ever let them go.” ~Unknown (Certainly this is how I knew I’d met my best friend since only months after we met, John and I could talk for hours.)

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.” ~Henry Ford”

I like you because you join in on my weirdness.” ~Unknown

“Best friends are people you can do anything with and nothing with and still have the best time.” ~Unknown

And, they’re even there for you when you throw out your back. 😉

The goal of this special day, to celebrate National Best Friends Day by letting your best friends know how much they mean to you!

To John, my best friend of forty years, happy National Best Friends Day.

It’s time to childproof!

I can’t believe it’s been a full month since I’ve seen either of my adorable grandchildren. We had a great time camping in some of our country’s most beautiful places, but it’s been difficult to go so long without seeing Gracie and Johnny.

Today Gracie’s eight months old, and she’s become mobile while we’ve been away…lots of pictures and videos of her scooting and crawling have kept us connected.

And while Johnny at nearly five months, isn’t moving anywhere on his own, he’s sitting and playing and will be joining his cousin traveling under his own power in no time.

Mobile babies mean one thing, time to childproof their surroundings.

We’ve already changed the utility room door knob to one with a lock and key in anticipation of this new phase. The utility room is one that’s off limits for these two, and it will serve as a place to stash items removed from other rooms when they come to visit, but there’s a lot more to be done.

Childproofing Checklist:

  • Put safety plugs on electrical outlets.
  • Hide electrical cords behind furniture and keep phones and other devices out of reach when charging and make sure lamps are out of reach.
  • Find safe places to keep remotes for all electronics as well as any other items with batteries.
  • Anchor TVs to the wall or to other furniture to prevent from falling on child.
  • Secure furniture that can topple (chest of drawers, bookcases) to the walls.
  • Install safety gates at stairs and in doorways to establish boundaries of safe rooms and close doors to rooms that are off limits…especially bathrooms.
  • Cut off or tie up dangling cords on drapes and blinds.
  • Move cleaners, medicines, hand sanitizer, vitamins, dishwasher and laundry detergent and other potentially toxic items out of reach or better yet, lock them up.
  • Use doorstops to prevent doors from pinching finger.
  • Put locks or latches on accessible cabinets and drawers that contain unsafe items, and let’s face it, almost everything in the kitchen and utility room fits this category.
  • Remove tablecloths and placemats. Babies can pull them off the table and bring other items on the table down as well.
  • Don’t leave babies unattended even for a moment in or near a pool or other water, even small amounts of water, cleaning solutions, or other liquids in buckets or other containers create a danger.
  • Sweep, mop and vacuum and then sweep, mop and vacuum again to minimize the nasty things a child finds on the floor.

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good start. And while it’s impossible to prevent every bump, bruise or mouthful of dead bugs, we certainly want to do all we can to make sure our homes are safe.

Now’s the time…time to childproof your house.



And remember, even your purse or a visitor’s purse can create a danger since it may contain medicines, toiletries, or other hazardous items – move them out of reach.

Finally, it’s a good idea to post the number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ national emergency hotline, (800) 222-1222, on your refrigerator, and add it to your phone. Hopefully, it’s a number you’ll never call, but having it accessible makes sense.

6000 miles later…

Continue reading “6000 miles later…”