Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hiking in the Springtime

I never get tired of the lush greenness of the woods in our area. We spent some time hiking and geocaching while we were camping. The sun finally did come out and it turned out to be a beautiful day. The sunlight filtering through the trees on the new spring growth was just breathtaking.
There are quite a few caches hidden around Priest Lake. We discovered one in this burned-out tree on a hillside along the hiking trail.
The woods were full of little streams, created by spring run-off, meandering toward the creek...
...which in turn, feeds the lake.
Caches we found this weekend:
Geocaching is a great way to get off the "beaten path" and discover some of the best-kept secret places in our area. It was a fun weekend.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Housekeeping in the Woods

When I was growing up, my brothers and sisters and I would play in the woods by the hour. We would set up elaborate "houses" and visit each other. This past weekend I found myself doing the same thing with my own family. We had been planning for awhile to go camping at Priest Lake for Memorial Day weekend. Friday was rainy and cool, and Saturday was more of the same. So we set up camp with the idea of staying as dry as possible, while still enjoying the out-of-doors. Let me give you a tour of my "house"...

Here's the kitchen...
It's actually a propane stove on the outside of the trailer, but under the awning. The trailer actually does have a complete, but very crowded, indoor kitchen. When we're "dry camping" (which means no hook-ups) we prefer to cook outside. I usually make coffee on the stove, and heat up canned chili to go with the hot dogs we cook over the fire. Things like that. We do most of the cooking over the fire, just 'cause it's more fun. And it tastes good that way!

Here's the dining room (under construction)...
We actually didn't end up sitting at the table to eat, preferring to hold our plates in our laps and stay by the fire. So here's the living room...
...where we spent most of our time, under the awning, close to the fire. It was cozy for reading and talking.

And here's the bedroom...
I know, some people don't consider it to be true camping when you sleep in a trailer. I have to say, though, as chilly and damp as it was we were happy to have a warm bed at night. Does it count that we didn't run the heater and it got down in the 40s at night? I think that should count!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

There and Back Again

And so I guess you're probably waiting to hear how my trip home was, aren't you? After my oh-so-colorful experience of taking the Greyhound bus to Seattle (and then on to Tacoma) on Thursday, I can't say I was especially looking forward to repeating the experience on Sunday. I was to catch the bus at 8:00 a.m. in Tacoma and then change buses in Seattle. The main thing I was dreading was the hour-and-a-half layover in downtown Seattle.

We arrived at the bus station in Tacoma about an hour early. Not having much experience traveling by bus, I was just following the directions on the website: Get there an hour early. The only problem was, the bus station was closed, there was no bus in sight, and there were no benches on the sidewalk outside the bus station. The sign on the door said the bus station didn't open until 1:00 p.m. on Sundays. I knew buses still made pick-ups even when the bus station wasn't open, but Susan said she was not going to leave me standing on the sidewalk in that part of Tacoma for an hour--which I greatly appreciated!

We drove around for a little while and when we came back, a bus was there. The only thing was, it was a Trailways bus, not Greyhound. It said Seattle/Spokane, which was where I wanted to go, but my ticket was for Greyhound. I asked the driver about it. "Yes," he said, "this is the only 8 o'clock bus. You will change to Greyhound in Seattle." So I tagged and loaded my bag, and boarded the bus.

I immediately noticed that the Trailways bus was more comfortable and cleaner than the Greyhound buses had been. Since there weren't many passengers yet and we still had to wait until 8:00 to leave, I made a casual comment to the driver, "Since you're going to Spokane, I wish I could just stay on this bus all the way. It's nicer than Greyhound."

He said, "Give me the other half of your ticket. I'll take you to Spokane!"

I said, "Really?!" thinking he was joking.

He wasn't. "Really," he said. "We honor Greyhound tickets and they honor ours. The only thing is, this bus goes over Stevens Pass rather than Snoqualmie on I-90, and has 13 stops instead of 3. We don't have a layover in Seattle, and you'll get into Spokane an hour later-- but it's a more scenic drive."

I had been on both routes so I knew what he was talking about. I decided I would rather just stay on the bus and keep riding than have to sit in the bus station in Seattle waiting for the shorter route.

It was a relaxing trip. The driver and passengers were pleasant. The seats were comfortable. The bus didn't smell. Some of those 13 stops were simply stop-and-go at designated roadside bus stops, so that wasn't too bad at all.

And now I know. Next time I need to travel by bus, I will check with Trailways first.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writer's Conference

All my life I've had an inclination to write. Before I could even read I would sit at the kitchen table asking my mother to spell the words for me so I could write letters to my grandmother. When I finally learned to read and spell I expanded my correspondence to include several pen pals during the course of my growing-up years. My mother was (and is still) convinced that I would write a book when I "grew up." I have been open to the idea all this time, but I haven't had a story to tell yet, so other things have taken priority. For 18 years I published a monthly family newsletter, and then for the past 8 or so years I have been blogging. That's been the extent of my writing up until now.

Just about a year ago, I felt the Lord nudging me to start thinking again about a novel. I still didn't have a specific story in mind, but I began to research background information (which involves going through hundreds of letters that my Grandmother and Mother have saved) as well as the writing process. I do still have 3 years of homeschooling left, and that needs to be my priority for now, but I am enjoying the research in my "spare" time.

I was thrilled to be invited to attend the Northwest Christian Writers Association conference this past weekend. I realize I have so much to learn. It was a wonderful experience.

On Friday Susan and I sat in on several group editorial sessions with her editor, Steve Barclift, from Kregel Publications. It was fascinating to listen to various writers pitch their ideas for books.

Friday evening we enjoyed listening to a men's chorus representing the New Horizons Mission which ministers to street kids in downtown Seattle. They have an old-time revival style, singing songs I grew up with, so I couldn't help but sing along (softly). The key note speaker for the conference was Bob Cornuke, a "biblical investigator and international explorer," as well as author of several books. He is also a wonderful speaker. On Friday evening he spoke about searching for Noah's Ark, and on Saturday evening about searching for Mount Sinai. We were blown away by the discoveries he and his team have made.

On Saturday we had the opportunity to choose workshops to attend, two in the morning, two in the afternoon. I especially learned a lot in workshops presented by Ocieanna Fleiss, Bob Cornuke, and Jim Rubart.
The conference concluded with a lovely banquet on Saturday evening. Mealtimes were always fun, getting to know the other writers around the table. The first question was always, "What do you write?" Over the weekend I progressed from saying, "Nothing. I'm just a wannabe." to "I'm in the pre-writing stage. For now I just blog." (That sounds better, don't you think?) We also exchanged business cards so we could stay in touch after the conference was over. Susan said it reminded her of name cards in Little House on the Prairie!

I had a wonderful time, learned so much, and came away inspired!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Wheels on the Bus

Even though I am quite well-traveled, I had never taken a bus trip before. You see, Lyle had traveled across the country to college, from California to Indiana, back in the 1980s and he said it wouldn't be safe for a woman to travel that way for a long distance. He's always been willing to drive me anywhere I have wanted to go, and on the few occasions when it wasn't possible for him to go, I've just flown. However, this past weekend I finally got to experience a bus trip!

It came about this way: A few weeks ago at the Christian Heritage homeschool conference I was visiting with Susan Marlow, author of the Circle C Adventure books, about the writing process. She told me about the Northwest Christian Writers Association conference that was coming up in 3 weeks and invited me to stay with her and attend the conference.

Lyle immediately agreed that I should go. (Because, of course, my schedule is not full enough this month. I needed one more thing on the calendar! Seriously, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.) However, he said I could not drive the little old car we recently bought because he's just not sure how reliable it is. He was willing for me to drive the pick-up, but I wasn't so willing. A full-sized pick-up in Seattle traffic? No, thank you! So I began to explore other options. I discovered that a bus ticket to Seattle was only $78 round trip, and for one person that was cheaper than driving. I remembered what Lyle had said about safety, though, so I asked what he thought about that. Since it was such a short trip and in daylight hours, he decided it would be fine.

And it was. But, oh, my. The experience!

When Lyle dropped me off at the Spokane bus station I had to stand in line to get my printed ticket and have my bag tagged. Then I went to wait for the bus and watch the people. I had taken along a book to read, and a Sudoku book, and my crocheting, but I didn't need any of that. Just watching and listening to the people was entertainment enough.

There was the little old lady who kept fluttering about like a bird trying to find out why the bus was running late and when it would get there. I was amazed at the casual security in the bus station. She just left her bags and baggage sitting in a pile while she fluttered downstairs and back up and all around.

Then there was the portly gentleman who was loudly describing his business in great detail to anyone who paid him the slightest attention. He gets a pay raise every month, and they just place their orders right online. They have several divisions, one of which is cleaning products. Uh-huh. I know an Amway spiel when I hear one. I didn't make eye contact.

Next on our cast of characters was the bride on her way to her own wedding. She was concerned that the bus was running late because she didn't want to be late. She was pretty sure they wouldn't start without her, but still... The Amway salesman was trying to convince her that she and her new husband should go into his line of work. At one point, she politely excused herself to go to the restroom and when she came back, the Amway guy gleefully announced that he had a wedding present for her! It turned out to be a lighter (with his logo on it, I have no doubt).

About that time, one of the bus station employees propped the door open. Miss Flutter-by came flapping over to me. "Oh! Something's happening! The bus must be coming!" She was right. It was. So we all lined up to board.

The bus was pretty full, so I took a seat beside Miss Flutter-by, fulling expecting her to chatter to me all the way, but figuring that was better than Mr. Amway or some of the other seedier-looking characters. Much to my amazement everyone was quiet most of the way to Seattle. I had noticed that phenomenon on flights before, but didn't expect it on the bus. We stopped twice between Spokane and Seattle, and people did chat a little more while we were stopped. As we came into the city conversation picked up a little, and I discovered that my seatmate had hearing aids that she had turned down because of the highway noise. So that explained why she didn't talk as we traveled.

The bus was dingy and smelly. The seats were comfortable enough, but primarily I enjoyed the experience of it, rather than the pleasantness of it. I was slightly dreading the trip back home again on Sunday.

I was to change buses in Seattle and go on another 45 minutes to Tacoma, which is closer to where Susan lives. I was a little concerned about making my connection since the bus was running late. As soon as we arrived, I asked at the counter about the bus to Tacoma and was told it would be departing in 30 minutes. Another passenger from my bus was ahead of me at the counter to make the same inquiry. I was interested to notice that his "luggage" consisted of a black garbage bag. He plopped his garbage bag at the head of the line at the indicated door, and I lined up immediately behind it. I wasn't about to leave my baggage unattended, and the bus station was kinda creepy, so I decided I could wait about going to the restroom.

When the Tacoma bus came, since I was at the head of the line, I was able to get a good seat and didn't end up having a seatmate. Mr. Garbage Bag had not returned, so I just pushed his "luggage" out of the way with my foot when it was time to board. I wondered what would become of his bag. The bus was loaded and the doors were closed when he came hurrying out to board with his garbage bag in one hand and a pizza in the other. Apparently, he had gone out to get some supper.

The ride to Tacoma was relatively short and uneventful, except for the strange guy who came staggering up from the back of the bus about halfway there, and sat down right behind the driver. I wondered what led him to change seats at that time. As I watched him out the corner of my eye, I noticed he was making odd gestures with his hands. At first I thought it might be sign language, but the longer I watched, the more I was convinced that it was just random gestures. He did that for awhile, then stopped for a few minutes, then started up again. Pretty soon he got up and went towards the back of the bus again. I have no idea what that was all about.

I was very happy to see Susan waiting for me on the sidewalk when the bus pulled into Tacoma. I laughed as I got off the bus. "I'm pretty sure one of the characters in my novel will have to take a Greyhound bus trip," I said. "This was research!"

This post is way too long, and I'm out of time for this morning, so I'll have to tell you about the conference and my return trip in another post. Anybody else ever travel by bus?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sue Ellen's Girl - Review

"Where are you from?" he asked as he scanned my groceries at the local WalMart.
"Why, I live here in Post Falls," I answered innocently, even though I knew what he was getting at. In spite of having lived in Idaho for 13 years, and Kansas for 12+ years before that, people seem to think I still have a southern accent. I don't hear it myself.

"No, I mean, where are you from originally?" See? I knew that's what he meant.

"Oh! You mean my accent? It's mostly from Louisiana and Arkansas." I never know what to say since I lived in several different states growing up, due to Dad being a pastor and changing churches every few years.

"I thought so!" he said smugly. "Did you eat a lot of barbecue growing up?" Now, that one, I admit, caught me off guard. I had never been asked that before.

"Um. No. Not really. Why?" Beans-and-cornbread was on our menu far more often than barbecue.

"Oh, I had a mission in North Carolina and it seemed like they had a lot of barbecue in that part of the country. And people would tell you 'God bless' and things like that way more than they do around here. People get offended if you do that here."

"That's true," I allowed. "We're definitely not in the Bible Belt."

He finished bagging my groceries and said, "Have a nice day!"

"You, too!" I told him. "And God bless!"

"Definitely!" he said.

Several years ago I subscribed to an e-zine called All Things Southern which was  published by a very funny "southern belle" named Shellie Rushing Tomlinson. She would get why the above scenario (which happens more frequently than I would expect) strikes my funny-bone. Recently, when her new book Sue Ellen's Girl Ain't Fat, She Just Weighs Heavy came up for review I was happy to have the opportunity to read it. It's supposedly a self-help book, but Shellie admits that it's actually "short on the self-help, and long on the commiseration." My favorite chapter was the one on "Bubba Whispering" (i.e. understanding and relating to your man). I can't say I actually learned anything from it, but I sure did laugh! And I had to read certain sections out loud to my own "Bubba-wannabe" who loves being married to a "southern belle" but isn't always sure what to think of me!

Other chapters cover health and fitness, how to tell the difference between "normal crazy" and "straight running crazy," time management, manners, and even politics and economics! In addition there are dozens of wonderful southern recipes. There's one for Bodacious Black Bean Salad that I bookmarked to try soon. This is just an all-around fun book!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Floods

Due to the warm temperatures and rain we've had lately, the snow in the mountains is melting quickly and the Coeur d'Alene River has passed flood stage. Yesterday evening we decided to go on a little family drive to see it.
This section of the river is a popular swimming hole in the summer time. It's hard to imagine it being so crystal clear that you can see the rocks on the bottom.
 In the market for an RV site? I know where you could probably get one cheap. 'Course your RV would need to be a boat... but still!
I wonder if the water will be over this bridge before it crests? Probably not... but it sure will be close!
I loved the way the clouds looked against the mountains in the sunset light of this shot of the I-90 bridge. In spite of the high water, I enjoyed seeing the delicate spring greens throughout the forest. Such a beautiful time of year!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Goosey Goosey Gander

Mother Goose (No, not that Mother Goose! This is a different Mother Goose!) and her four little goslings were having a lovely time paddling around the pond at our local park. They were so happy to be reunited, as Mother Goose and one of the goslings had just returned from the other side of the dam. The three goslings who had been left behind had been crying piteously for mama, but she soon had all of her babies safely within reach and all calmed down.
Becky has been accumulating bread crusts in a bag in the freezer all winter just for the purpose of feeding the ducks and geese at the park this spring. Mother Goose and her little ones were happy to be the recipients of such bounty and eagerly came closer to shore (but not too close) to scoop up the tidbits Becky tossed into the water.
Such generosity did not go unnoticed by a neighboring family of geese. The New family on the scene was made up of a mother and a father plus six babies. (Which made us wonder where the father of the First family was... or maybe that was actually Father Goose rather than Mother Goose in the First family? Gender differences in Canadian Geese are rather subtle. At least to me! I doubt they are to the geese. I understand they mate for life and the father helps take care of the young--which is as it ought to be, don't you think?)
The New family decided that the First family had had enough of the bread crumbs, so they tried to chase them away. One of the New parents actually dunked one of the poor babies from the First family all the way under the water. When the baby didn't pop right back up we were a little concerned. A few seconds later, though, the little feller popped out of the water way across the pond. Mother Goose hurriedly paddled off to his rescue, leaving her other three babies behind to paddle around with their cousins.
Now there were nine apparently identical goslings splashing around in a group overseen by the New mother and father. How they could tell which children were theirs and which belonged to the First Mother Goose was more than I could figure out, so I found it amazing to watch one of the New parents herding two of the babies away from the group and over towards Mother Goose and the chastised little one. But the New family still had an extra one, by my count. Would they notice? Sure enough, they did. Pretty soon they guided the last little stray back to Mother.

We were fascinated.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Not Interested

Dear Young Peddler,
Whatever it is you're selling door-to-door in my neighborhood, I'm not interested. Also, you should know, just because my garage door is open and you can see me working in the backyard does not mean you should holler at me to try to get me to buy whatever-it-is-you're-selling. I'm busy. I am not interested in stopping my work to listen to your spiel. No, thank you.

I realize you haven't even had a chance to tell me what it is. Pointing that out to me at the top of your lungs so that I can hear you clear in the backyard through the garage is not going to make me more inclined to stop what I'm doing to listen to you. Unless maybe you think I'll lay down my pruning shears and take off my gloves and come out just so you'll stop shouting at me. Did you think that would increase your chances of a sale? It won't. So please. Just move along.

Thank you!

The Lady of the House

Lum and Abner comic strip

Way back in the dark ages--clear back in 1970, probably--I remember my uncles attentively listening to radio show called Lum and Abner. I was too young to pay much attention to it at that time. I had no idea that they were actually listening to re-runs from 30 or so years earlier. Several years later I happened across the show and became a fan myself. I think I was about 14 at the time. My opportunity to listen to the show was pretty hit-or-miss until the advent of the internet, which is kind of ironic when you think about it--an old-time radio show from the 1930s and '40s finally becoming widely accessible due to modern technology. A few years ago I even put together a web page as a tribute to the "old fellers." If you're not familiar with these characters, let me direct you there for more information. If you enjoy "down-home" humor, I expect you'll like it.

Earlier this week I was excited to learn that Donnie Pitchford, the president of the National Lum and Abner Society, has produced a comic strip based on the radio show that he hopes to run as a regular feature in the First Arkansas News. He is currently in the "looking for sponsors" stage. I hope he makes it. I was very impressed with the first comic strip and would love to see more. What fun!

How Huge the Night - review

When I post book reviews on Amazon I am asked to assign a star rating to each title, from 1 to 5 stars. I don't give very many books 5 stars simply because I like to reserve the 5-star rating for those which are real stand-outs. How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn is such a stand-out. It is one of the best novels about the Europe during World War II that I have ever read-- right up there with The Hiding Place and The Diary of Anne Frank.

The setting is southern France after it had been invaded by Germany. The main character is a 15-year-old boy named Julien who is trying to adjust to all the changes brought about by the war and make sense of it all. I especially appreciated the wisdom of Julien's grandfather as he helps him learn how to talk to and listen to God. There is a parallel story woven throughout the book about Jewish siblings, Nina and Gustav, who are on the run from the Nazis in Austria. It is very well-researched, based on actual events which the authors explain in a note at the end of the book.

You can read the first four chapters in PDF format, but I will warn you, if you do, you will likely be hooked and want to read the whole book. It is one of those stories that is hard to put down. I guess I don't need to say, "I highly recommend this book!" I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Working Dog

 Miss Cookie went out to supervise the lawn mowing yesterday evening...
...which would explain why her pretty white boots turned green!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Homeschool Senior Banquet

Finally-- I can show you what I've been working on for the past few weeks!

Last summer as we began to make plans for my daughter's homeschool graduation, she and her friends said they wanted to have a "prom" but with "no dancing, and no girl/boy stuff." In other words, they wanted a chance to dress up. I told them that would be called a banquet, and yes, we could do that. We decided that about a month before graduation would be a good time, and we planned it to be a gathering of just the seniors and their families. We've been looking forward to it all year.

There are 8 seniors in our group, and the parents hosted and "catered" an "hors d'oeuvres buffet" for our banquet.

The seniors had decided on red and silver for their class colors, so we planned the decorations accordingly. I tried to keep the decorations and favors a secret from the seniors until time for the banquet, just to make it more special. We did everything as inexpensively as possible, but with a little creativity it all turned out very nice. The food was delicious! (I'm hoping to get some the recipes!) Everyone seemed to have a good time.

The highlight of the evening was previewing the PowerPoint presentation that the seniors have put together for the graduation ceremony. Each senior designed their own segment, with pictures from their lives, set to a favorite song. They hadn't seen each other's presentations until last night.

The young people all looked so nice. (Some of the girls even had vintage outfits!) It's just so hard to believe that they've grown up so fast.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tulip Time

 On our way home from the Christian Heritage conference in the Seattle area, we decided to take a little detour to the tulip farms. Since it was already May 1, I was afraid we might have missed the blooms, but they seemed to be at their peak. What a feast for the eyes! I especially appreciated a sign I saw that said, "To God give the glory!"
Laura took more pictures which she has posted on her photography blog @ Through My Eyes. She got some spectacular ones!