Friday, August 8, 2014

Full Circle

 A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.  
Mignon McLaughlin

Thirty-six years ago next week, I got married. 

Fresh out of college, I brought a ten-speed Fuji bicycle, a student loan bill, and a saucepan to the new marriage. Bob had an old four-door VW 411 that ran only if it felt like it. Undaunted, we began a life together. 

Earlier that year, I decided I'd rather have a honeymoon than an engagement ring. We wanted to do something unusual because when real life took over, who knew if we could travel. Jobs - they take up so much time, you know. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway -- Washington through California was our plan.

Of course, we didn't have any money for a honeymoon either. Or camping equipment. We figured we'd pillage the wedding gifts to make that happen. Bob's stepmom, Barb, decided that was a stupid idea and called us over late one night before the wedding. It was like Christmas. A new tent, sleeping bags (which then served as our bed for the next eight months), camp stove, even a clothesline and pins to hang our laundry. She'd gone through her kitchen to gather needed cooking supplies. We were set. 

The other issue before us was that we were married in Michigan. The Pacific Coast Highway? No problem. Just fire up that old VW and start driving 2415 miles to get there. 

We were young? What did we know?

We did the big wedding thing and then parked my parent's car carrier on the top of the VW, filled it with our camping supplies and headed out. 

We made it from East Lansing, Michigan to Lansing, Illinois. The VW decided to die right there in five lanes of rush hour freeway. After the dealership proclaimed it dead, Bob called my parents to thank them for the wedding. Told them how much fun it was and wanted to know if they wanted more fun by driving down to Chicago and towing us home. (My father was well versed in towing that VW.)

Well, my mother -- she said, "I never had a honeymoon and by God my daughter's gonna have a honeymoon."

My dad and my oldest brother each drove a car down to Chicago. After switching the car carrier onto their three-on-the tree Chevy Nova's roof, we hugged goodbye and Bob and I were back on the road. 

With only an hour stop in Austin, Minnesota to see my grandparents at the rest home, we drove straight through to Yellowstone National Park. We used flashlights to read the directions for setting up our new tent. Boiled water in freezing weather to wash ourselves before falling into deep sleep. When we awoke in the morning, 

it had snowed. In the middle of August. We packed up and drove straight through to Astoria, Oregon and Fort Stevens State Park. Set up camp, made an egg and pancake breakfast, then slept for hours. We had found the Pacific Coast Highway and our adventure had begun.

We can't recall why we started in Astoria other than since we lost a couple of days in Chicago, we might have eliminated Washington state.  We obviously knew how to read maps, purchased at gas stations, as we found our way to Oregon and all the way down to Big Sur in California. Then time and money ran out and we headed back to Michigan -- 6000 miles by trip's end.

Couple weeks ago Bob and I took a trip. Even though we have been to many, many places in the past 36 years, I'd still never been to Washington state. I'd seen it across the Columbia River way back when, but you can't count it unless you've stepped foot in it. 

Two weeks ago, I stepped in it. Seattle Washington. And, as an added tidbit - my 50th state. Fitting, I'd say.

After 11 days of driving and ferrying around the state and Victoria and British Columbia, we finished by driving down to Astoria, adding that section of Washington on HWY 101 we'd not navigated on that first trip 36 years before. 

We drove out to Fort Stevens State Park and walked the beach.

 The beach hadn't changed, the wreck of the Peter Iredale still there. 

But a few things had changed. Instead of camping, we stayed in a hotel.

with wonderful beds.

and a rooftop view.

Ate food prepared by someone else.

Yes, that is poutine in clam sauce. Had to try it.

Other changes from our previous trip? 
We cheated - flew to Washington. Rented a car.
Had a better camera - digital. Focus. No more 24-picture Instamatic exposures in red. 4-cube flash.
We've gained weight. 
Our hair is shorter.

But, hey,

we still fall in love with each other. Some days. Most days.

Happy Anniversary, Bob.
BTW, I still don't want an engagement ring. Where you want to go on the next trip?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tomato Love

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
May Sarton

Through the years I have written about my tomato woes -- how each year I plant them in great anticipation -- accompanied by trepidation. I don't have much luck. Some years my plants just sit there all summer, same size as when I planted them. Some years in our drought, I can't keep up with the watering and they just plain give up. Some years we reach above 90 degrees very early and the blossoms won't set. It's always something.

You might recall these lovelies from previous posts. 


A bountiful harvest

Hopeful beginning, but just didn't go anywhere.

Never one to give up completely, this year I tried again. The early spring rains in Texas were most helpful in getting things going. I planted my tomatoes in another place in the garden and no kidding, they began to thrive.

My cages hopeful for fulfillment.

I tried something new here - sort of an instant caprese salad. Basil on top and the tomato coming out of the bottom.

I watered, I fertilized. I begged my husband, my daughter-in-law, anyone to water if I was out of town.  Progress.

Now, every tale must have conflict. Right? RIGHT? That must explain why when I returned from the lake this past weekend, some little #@$%^%$%^$%!!!!! animal had stolen that large tomato growing out in the garden.  Never ceases to amaze me what can make me sad, mad, and glad as there are a few hopefuls still out there on another plant ---

And I did get to observe some monarch caterpillars devouring my fennel (gladly I'll sacrifice my fennel froths for monarchs.)

I'm going to be away from my garden for a couple weeks. During that time, my green beans will produce a massive crop.

Wait, that's the morning glories combined with some green beans.

The Turk's Cap will bloom along with the petunias and a few other beauties.

Send good vibes that my middle son will water my only orange on my orange tree.

Alas a happy ending. Although I'm certain the Texas heat will totally debilitate my garden in my absence, I take comfort in the fact that I will eat this beauty before I leave. 

Between the cost of water in Texas, the fertilizer, the initial plant and every one's watering time and attention, that little nugget probably only cost about $500. 

Happy Gardening Everyone.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Recipe for Sane Family Travel

And that's the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.
Dave Barry

How does a family of eight travel to an expensive city and find a place to stay everyone can afford,  have everyone get to do what they want to do -- and no one hates each other at the end of the trip? Question before us a few months ago as we planned travel to NYC for youngest son's graduation.

Three sons
Two most significant others
Two uncles
Google Maps
NYC Subway

Step One: Go to AirBB and find an old brownstone in not the most popular neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Step Two: Eat at the airport after the long flight so no one is hungry while progressing to final destination. Study car services before getting there so you don't get highjacked into paying some outrageous price to get to your place of stay - and a car that arrives at the appointed time.

Step Three: Don't try to organize anybody other than yourself -- for whatever. Supply information on the subway, phone Aps for directions, Broadway plays, sports events, parks, gardens, museums, bus tours, etc., and let it play out on its own.

Step Four: Keep your cell phones on to send or receive texts every now and then that say, "Hey, we're here and gonna do this. Anyone want to join us?" If you feel like it. Meet in good people watching places - Bryant Park, the fountain in front of the Plaza Hotel, the yellow and purple egg at Rockefeller Center.


And while you are waiting, take a quick stroll through the bottom end of Central Park.

Step Five: Make certain where you are staying has a huge table in the dining room so all can gather at the end of the day, toss down their collected brochures, ticket stubs, found treasures, and share their tales of the day.

Tales which might have included

The Guggenheim



The theatre

Or more eggs.

Bike riding through Central Park

This old broad made it 7.3 miles around the park. This is me at the end.
Some of us, uh...

Brothers loose in the city.

Step Six:  Have a son who is a chef so he can come over and cook for you one night.

with the assistance of his sister-in-law - the only one who can keep up with him in the kitchen anymore.

while his dad and oldest brother do plate prep and cleanup.

And the rest of us fart around waiting for the food.

Which was well worth the wait.

Step Seven: Converse and enjoy.

There you have it. Recipe for successful family trip without scar tissue. 

Take that Dave Berry.


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