Sunday, September 30, 2012

At War With Bugs

I believe that with the changing of the seasons, the insects are searching for any bit of warmth they can find, and it almost seems like we are under siege by them.

Recently while camping, the husband/lover/best friend and I had some skirmishes with bees and flies.  The day we arrived at our campsite, and the moment I got out of our vehicle, I got stung on my hand in my pocket by a bee.

Apparently the bee got into my pocket just a millisecond before my hand did, and my hand looked like a big threat, so he did battle with me.  Now it has been years since I was stung by a bee, but this encounter brought back the memories of how a sting can make you do some ridiculous flailing and thrashing and squeezing of the stung part and saying lots of bad words nearly bring you to tears.

When we were young kids, we would spend our summer mornings getting our chores done, so that after lunch we could head as a family to the community pool.  That seemed to be a place where lots of kids got stung, as the bees loved to hang around the clover, and we were all barefoot, of course.

 I didn't know of anyone at that time that was allergic to bee stings, but now that I have children of my own, I have watched them get stung throughout the years, and one of them seems to show increasingly worse symptoms each time she gets stung.  The last time she was stung it was between the eyes on the bridge of her nose.  The following day she had no bridge on her nose, and the bruising all around both eyes appeared as if she had been in a boxing ring the night before.  Is she developing an allergy?  I don't know, but she would probably be wise to avoid bees.

That week while we were camping (mid-September), we also noticed that at a certain time of the day, the flies descended en masse.  They landed on us, on our food and drinks, on the books we were reading, and all over our camper.  The gyrations we both did to enter and exit the camper in as swift and skinny a mode as possible would have been hilarious to watch.  Luckily nobody else was camped anywhere near to us.  Even so, too many flies were able to get in there somehow.

Here is a view at about 4:00 PM looking out the door of our camper.  You can clearly see the hoards waiting for an ambush.  Those stinkers were relentless once they showed up each day, and needless to say we dined inside.

I've also recently noticed an increase of little spiders around outside our home.  The are probably strategizing on how and when to move their forces inside.  This little guy was on guard on my car's driver side mirror this morning.

My oldest daughter Rachel is a bit of an arachnophobe, so I'm sure she is fairly spazzing out as she looks at this picture.  Sorry Rachel, but it is a battle and they are all around us.

Last, and probably the most annoying and prevalent insects I have seen lately, are those stink bugs.  They are getting in the house, in the camper, and probably marching toward our vehicles too as I write this.

I have been told that they should never be squished in the house due to the hellacious smell that will be released, and so I've been careful to gently capture each one in a tissue and either flush it or set it free outside.  

However, we recently had an unexpected and darn near sickening stink bug happening.  The other day my son and his dog returned from a long walk.  The minute they entered the room we were in, we screamed for them to get out - it smelled as if he had tracked dog poop into the house. 

 But after we all checked our shoes and determined we were all clear, he noticed that the puppy's breath reeked.  It practically threw him back across the room.  Our theory is that she had chewed up a stink bug.  She's fascinated with any small moving insects, and most likely took it in as a snack.  After a treatment with doggy toothpaste and mouth freshener, the stench was gone.

So what's happening in YOUR neck of the woods?  Are you doing battle with the bugs?

And if so, WHO's WINNING?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Campaign Comments

Well, the 2012 Presidential Campaign is now in full swing, and you may be wondering what I will be having to say about it.  Probably not very much on this blog.  For the most part, I keep my political thoughts fairly private.

Today however, I noticed some political yard signs around the neighborhood, and I DO have a few thoughts to share on that.

First, I wonder if anyone really votes a certain way just because they saw a sign advertising one candidate or the other?  Whenever I have seen a political sign in someone's yard, I have never once said to myself, "Oh I guess I will vote for that guy."  Rather, I may be thinking, "Oh, I guess the folks living there are Republicans/Democrats," depending on the sign.

Another thought I often have is that the neighborhood gets junkier and junkier-looking as the election approaches, what with all the yard signs, banners, store front signs, and election decor.  I sometimes get a deja vu feeling taking me back to middle school student council elections.  I remind myself that this election involves adults, not adolescents.  Sometimes I have to do that several times.

Here's another thought I have.  If I were a gung-ho member of one of the political parties, and I wanted to donate funds to the cause, would I like it if my monies were spent on yard signs?

In spite of how I feel about the yard signs, I am mature enough to allow that others will have a difference of opinion with me on the importance of these advertisers.  Here is my mantra:

Let us agree to disagree agreeably.

Finally, I will be concerned about who will remove and dispose of the ugly yard signs.  I've learned to have this concern over many elections - seeing the election come and go and then months later people still have the offensive signs out on their properties.  We will see them along the roadways well into the next year, if history repeats itself.

Although I detest these mini billboards, and I thoroughly dislike the ugly political bantering that goes on in a typical election, there is one thing that I feel strongly about - the need to vote.  I will become informed of the platforms as best I can, and I will make up my own mind and vote intelligently. 

I will vote.  Will you?

Friday, September 28, 2012

...And In With the New

Yup, the new camper is here.  We are both excited and recovering.  Excited, because it is the camper we have searched for and selected after many look-sees and several camper shows over the last five years.  Recovering, because - well I'll get to that later.

The husband/lover/best friend took his brand spankin' new Ford 250 Diesel Heavy Duty truck down to the RV dealer the night before to have the fifth wheel hitch installed in the bed of the truck.  A friend drove down separately with him to give him a lift home, after a dinner stop at the Outback Steakhouse, of course.

Then the next day I accompanied my husband in my car and we went back down to get the truck + camper.  What a stunning couple they were, sitting there next to each other.  Now I don't get this:  my husband cannot match his clothing to save his life.  He always asks me if this goes with that or not.  However, when he ordered the colors on his new truck to match the colors of the camper, allbyhisownself, the match is perfect and the two vehicles go together so well.  Hmmmm.  Boys' toys, I guess.

Let's take a look at the interior, starting with the entrance and kitchen sink area:

To the right of the entrance is the expandable table (a table leaf stores neatly away inside of it), and chairs with storage in their seats.  The queen size sofa bed is the air mattress variety, which seems to be the way they all are nowadays.  It has a handy storage drawer under it to store bed linens or pillows.

At the rear of the camper is the entertainment and living room area, with television, CD/DVD player and an electric fireplace that has several effects and puts out quite a lot of heat if needed.  I can easily imagine curling up with a good book, a cup of coffee, and a cozy blanket on a rainy, windy camping day. I will press the ON button on the fireplace, and all will be right with the world, at least in my own little corner of it.  My husband will be happily watching a movie (usually with lots of gunfire, explosions and intrigue) and nodding off whenever the mood hits.

The refrigerator is larger than the one in the camper we traded, and has the ability to control the temperature with settings 1 - 5, unlike our old one which was basically ON or OFF.  The oven here is certainly not big enough to cook a 25 pound turkey, but surely a smaller one, if needed.  We will probably use the bit of counter space by the stove for our coffee pot and toaster.

Here is the hallway to the "upstairs." The control panel for slides, awning, lighting, water pump, etc. is in the cabinet to the left of the stairs.  The connection for the central vacuum is also right there on the side of the kitchen unit.

The bathroom feels spacious, and has a corner shower with a skylight dome.  Since my husband is quite tall, this extra head room is a good thing.  There is plenty of storage room with a large medicine cabinet, a roomy cabinet under the sink, and a three shelf towel cabinet above the toilet.

And finally the bedroom, with king-sized bed.  This room is wired for a 2nd air conditioning unit, if we should ever be traveling in areas of the country that require two AC's.  There is a 2nd television with a swivel arm, which seems kind of extraneous to us, as we are not much into TV watching at all.  Having two in a camper is, well, crazy!  

And last, here is the view in the bedroom of the very large closet.  You could sleep a small child in there!  The closet has hookups for a washer and dryer should we ever want one.  For now, I'm just thrilled with all that storage space.  

So there she is in all her glory.  And we are still recovering, as I mentioned above.  

The truck runs fine.
The truck pulls the camper easily.
The camper is awesome.
The pair look stunning together.
We got home without incident.


The process of getting the unit into our tight alley and then parking it behind our home and next to our garage took the better part of 1 1/2 hours.  In the dark.  In the rain.  In our inexperience.  At 9:00 PM when the driver had been up for work since 4:00 AM.  It was a big heapin' pile of stress right there, folks.

Unhitching the fifth wheel didn't go smoothly either, as we had only heard the spiel at the dealer of HOW to do it, but hadn't actually done it there ourselves.

Anyway it's here, it's parked, and we are happy.

Now to make some NEW MEMORIES!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Out With the Old....

....Camper, that is.  I spent almost an entire day this past weekend unloading our camper and sorting through all of the items and reorganizing stuff to ready it for our new camper which we will bring home soon.

We travel pretty light, I thought.  That is, every time we travel we put needed food and clothing into the camper.  Upon returning home, we completely empty all food and clothing out.  So I was surprised to see how much stuff came out of the interior of the camper.  I was responsible for the "upstairs" living space; my husband took care of unloading the "cellars" and "garages."  Look how much stuff came out of the "upstairs!"

So I guess I'm feeling a little sentimental saying goodbye to this beloved camper.  After all, we spent many happy and memorable vacations in this comfortable dwelling.  Although it may look nearly new, we used it a lot and I hope its new owners will have as much enjoyment with it as we have.

Well then, let me take my last pictorial tour, room by room, as I say my goodbyes.

Goodbye to the food prep area of the kitchen.  I tried many new recipes at this spot, and made many oldies-but-goodies too.

Au revoir to the dining area.  Meals were consumed, books were read, and much good conversation happened at this table.

Auf wiedersehen to the living room. Movies, lounging, reading, and visiting all happened right here.

And food!  What's camping without the food?  Right here, folks.

So long, my beloved bathroom facilities.  Ever since we had our pop-up camper years ago, I'm always grateful to have my own private and clean bathroom.  You see, I don't ever want to have to "rough it" in the woods.  Things are rough enough in town.

And arrivederci comfy bed, where we were lulled to sleep hearing the comforting sounds of the woods.

Thanks for reading along, friends.  There's a lot of memories happening for me right here in this one blog post.  But memories are just that, and there's a whole lot of adventures out there waiting to happen, and we'll soon be making them WITH OUR NEW CAMPER!  

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jonah, and a Very Large Whale!

This past weekend we attended the Biblical Musical "Jonah" at the Sight and Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  We had seen previous excellent productions at this same venue in the past, and this show, as usual, was amazing -   an impressive 2000 seat theatre with a 300 foot wrap-around stage, stunning special effects, and a timeless message.

Of course, photos inside the theater during the performance were forbidden, so I'll just try to recount some of the special moments I recall.

Each visit we have made to the theater has truly been a unique experience.  This time we were seated in the orchestra section, and so we had excellent views of the hundreds of professional actors and their elaborate costumes.  Together with the sets that tower up to 40 feet high, many trained animal "cast" members, unmatched special effects, and moving music, it was an inspiring experience.  I frankly was in a state of awe and contemplation as I left the theater.  I could not deny the feeling of God's love and grace to me.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this Biblical story, Jonah is one of the Bible's most colorful prophets.  Although he has spent his life loving his God, there are some limits to this misguided prophet's devotion, and because of his rebellion, a massive fish ultimately swallows him.  We watched Jonah's sojourn on a trek of rediscovery to where he finally finds himself and understands the all-merciful heart of God.

This mammoth production featured breathtaking special effects that at times just made me laugh out loud in wonder.  I watched as a multifaceted 30-foot-tall ship broke apart right before my eyes.  In another scene, the entire theater was "under water" and a massive whale swam right over our heads.  Black light technology illuminated choreographed schools of fish.  In another act, part of the stage was a wharf with the bustling activity thereon, while the remaining part of the stage was the ocean with large sailing ships.  I saw a man swallowed by a whale, then forcefully spit out onto a tropical island.  At times I didn't know where to look, as there was so much going on all around me and overhead.  Fun, fun, fun.

This sweeping musical intertwines powerful themes of love, mercy, obedience and second chances.  Perhaps the most moving scene to me was when the entire city of Ninevah repented and cried out for God to show mercy and spare them from destruction.

If you are in the area and have the chance to see this story, please go.  It will be worth your time and money.  I enjoyed it, I had fun, and I might even have spent some time "looking in the mirror," if you know what I mean....

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Creating A Monster

My son Caleb told me the other day that I was creating a monster.  This is all in regards to his Weimaraner puppy, Sheila.  I plead innocent.  All I did was go to the pet supply store and replenish my corner cabinet, which is where I store the doggy treats.

I have a routine with Sheila.  Sheila eats her dinner each night, and there is no problem with that - she eats it all, then licks the bowl, then flips the bowl and licks its underside too, and then finally licks the floor where the bowl first sat and later flipped.  After she is done eating (and of course there is an immediate unloading in the back yard), she politely comes to me, gives me "that look," and puts her paw up on my leg.

I ask her if she wants a treat, and because she understands English she answers that yes, she most certainly does.  So I go to the corner cabinet, and I find some yummy dog treat for her.  After she does the obligatory trick or two for the treat, I give her the treat, and all harmoniousness is restored in the household.  Now how is that Creating A Monster?

Specifically he made the accusation when I returned home with my recent pet store purchase:

Now let's look at this from another angle.  We have very firm rules in our household regarding dog behavior, and Sheila has been diligently trained to obey these laws.

Here are some of them:

1.  Sheila may never be up on any piece of furniture.

2.  Sheila may not pest us at the dinner table.

3.  Sheila may not go upstairs to the second floor.

In one thirty minute time frame, Caleb himself - yes, he who trained Sheila to obey the above stated rules - HELPED HER TO BREAK ALL THREE OF THOSE RULES!

First, he called her up onto his lap:

And here's another view in case you couldn't quite see THAT THERE IS A 60 POUND PUPPY UP ON A CHAIR!

Second, Caleb picked up this same puppy and stood her up on the kitchen table!  I can see the pieces of the monster coming together!

Then finally, he went upstairs to his room AND COAXED SHEILA UNTIL SHE CAME UP THE STAIRS TO HIM!

Three rules engraved in stone.  Three rules broken.

So I need to ask:


Monday, September 24, 2012


Because of some broken bones, surgery, and other ailments, I've been sidelined from the sport I love so much - Judo.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with this sport, the object of Judo is to throw or take down your opponent to the ground, immobilize or subdue your opponent with a grappling technique, or force submission by using a joint lock, a strangle hold, or a choke.

Prior to my troubles I had tested my way over a period of about 4 years up through the belt rankings, starting as a beginner at white belt, then achieving yellow, orange, green, and finally 3rd degree brown.  I will admit that I had a far-fetched dream of someday achieving a black belt, but with each day that passes I wonder if there is any chance that it could really happen.  And, at my age and having gotten a later start into the sport, it would be quite a feat.  But hey, I have the rest of my life and one day at a time to work on it, right?

So today I was missing it.  I mean, really missing it.  I was thinking of the grueling workouts, the precision drills, throwing and being thrown over and over, and participating in randori (unofficial matches) at the end of the night, when we were already exhausted.  I was recalling the feelings of insecurity at being the only female judoka in our dojo, and learning that it was good when the guys wouldn't give me any slack.  When I would attend seminars and conventions, sparring with other females seemed almost too easy.  And finally, I was remembering the feeling of being in the best shape of my life and experiencing the thrill of knowing I was able to toss large guys and defend myself.

So here are some shots of what I have been missing:

I was the adult helping Sensei with this youth Judo class.
Some of my Judo buddies 
A mat drill
I don't have very many pictures of myself in action, because there's not usually a photographer around.  But here are a few I can share:

Here I'm a yellow belt,  starting to learn to throw.
At Rutgers University, participating in a weekend convention
A foot sweep take down
However, in spite of the great enjoyment and camaraderie that I experienced in the dojo, there are a few things that I DON'T miss:

I don't miss the aches and pains, the bruises, the pulled muscles, and the dislocated toes.  I consumed a lot of extra strength Tylenol and Advil.

However, if I were able to get myself well again and back in shape, would I go back to Judo?

Yes, in a heartbeat! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In Trouble With the Amish

This is why I love Fall - it's just so colorful!  I guess you could say I just have a passion for cucurbits -love that word! - a fancy word for the family of fruits that includes pumpkins, squashes, and gourds.

Roadside markets call out to me daily.  Here are some beautiful photos from an Amish stand I stopped at recently.  (The Amish lady there yelled at me, "No photos of people, no photos of people!"  I assured her I respected their wishes and was just taking pictures of their produce and flowers.  She smiled and was fine with that.  I probably should have simply asked for permission first.)

And speaking of pumpkins, I recently read an article in the magazine "Women's Day Halloween Celebrations 2012" in which I learned some new facts about these orange delights.  

More than 90% of the pumpkins processed in the United States are grown in Illinois.  In fact, the Condill family of central Illinois, who decorated the north lawn of the White House two years ago, grows more than 400 varieties of pumpkins, squashes and gourds on their farm, including pumpkins from six of the seven continents.

According to the article, "Although you may think of a true, bright orange when you think of pumpkins, across the world they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns.  What we would consider a classic orange pumpkin is a uniquely American crop."

Some of my personal favorites are the following:

   - The warty orange ones pictured above, called Knuckleheads.

   - The squat large warty green ones, called Marina di Chioggia.

   - The flattened-ball shape with yellow and green striping and blotches on a white background, called Survivor.

And, if you are of the mind to grow a record breaking large pumpkin (record holders are almost a ton), it is possible if you tend it somewhat like a child.  When tended correctly, some pumpkins can grow at a  rate of 25 pounds per day at the end of the growing season.

The 2011 World Record, Quebec, Canada

Now that's a big PUMPKIN!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guilty Feline

While washing dishes at my kitchen sink, I can look straight out my window at the side of my neighbor's house.  Usually there is nothing much of interest to be seeing on the side of his house, and I wouldn't want to be accused of being a peeping tom.  However, as I scrubbed a stubborn pan, a mini-drama unfolded right before my amused eyes.

First I see this cat, calmly sitting on the window sill, watching the birds, and then carefully bathing himself in the sunshine.

Perhaps he has noticed that I am watching, for soon he slinks away and I cannot see him any more.

However, soon there is movement, sort of like a violent thrashing going on up there, and next thing you know, here is what I am looking at.

So if neighbor Pete comes home and wonders what happened, I KNOW.  The cat is busted!

We have a dog, neighbor Pete has 3 cats.  Consider the difference:

The Dog's Diary
  8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
  9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
  9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
  1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
  3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
  5:00 pm - Dinner! My favorite thing!
  7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
  8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat's Diary
Day 983 of My Captivity

    My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.
    The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!
    There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.
    Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

    I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now ...

Dogs versus cats.  Hmmmmmm, I probably just made me some enemies...