Saturday, July 25, 2015

roadstoeverywhere.com

I've made the switch!

My blog is now located at roadstoeverywhere.com.

That's "Roads to Everywhere" with no spaces and no caps. Dot com. If you have the Blogger site bookmarked, please change your bookmark. Or, if you'd rather, you can keep coming back here and clicking through on this post. Whatever is most convenient for you. I just hope you'll keep following along!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Conversation and Other Matters

Rebecca intercepted this exchange in the backyard earlier this week.

As "Head of Ranch Security" Cookie is diligent to patrol the premises daily to keep the squirrels and bunnies in line.
Happily, we have seen no snakes so far this year. 

We have noticed a fox or two and a coyote skulking about the neighborhood late in the evening or early in the morning. Not in our yard, though.

In case you were wondering, these pictures are not part of the Photography Challenge. Yesterday's challenge was too take some low-light pictures. By the time I took mine (around 9:00 p.m.) and got home, I was too tired to post, so I didn't get them entered. Besides, I wasn't that impressed with them. Low-light is something I need more practice with.
Today's challenge is to take some action shots. I haven't done much action photography. However, I like to use the action setting on my camera to take pictures of waterfalls. It shows the "splash" better than the regular setting, which mainly just makes the water a blur.
This is one of our favorite spots in the Idaho panhandle. It's called Fern Falls, and we visited it several times while we lived there. This picture was taken in the summer of 2011.

In other news, I'm getting ready to move my blog to my own domain: www.roadstoeverywhere.com. You can take a peek while I'm working on it, if you like. Just know things will be changing frequently as I set up housekeeping. I'll let you know when I'm actually ready to move.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Portrait Photography

I've skipped a couple days in the Photo Challenge. I was looking forward to doing the assigned Photo Walk over the weekend, but I wanted Lyle to go with me. Since his foot is out of commission, we weren't able to do it... but I'd still like to. Hopefully soon.

Today's challenge is Portrait Photography. I haven't done a lot of "portraits" but I did do Rebecca's senior pictures two years ago, and I was pleased with how they turned out. I borrowed my Dad's DSLR camera for them. I didn't know enough about the camera to mess with the settings, so I just shot them on auto.

Rebecca loves horses and western themes. Since we lived in town and don't own horses, we did the photo shoot at a friend's place. They have horses and a fun little pony as well as lots of choices for cool backgrounds-- fences and barn walls and woods. Here are a couple of my favorite shots:
I love the lighting on this one with the contrasting shadows.

This one is not posed, but oh, so fun! Rebecca had a handful of corn for Snickers-the-pony and Snickers was giving her a kiss.

Not long after that I was able to get a nice camera for myself. It's not a DSLR but it has a nice little zoom lens on it and I've been happy with it. It is a Nikon Coolpix L820. I shot this picture of my dad with it. Believe it or not, this picture was snapped in a fast-food restaurant, but the light coming in the window was great. It's one of my favorite pictures of Dad.
The photographer who shared today's challenge included "who-what-when-where" in her article. I especially appreciated what she said about "when":
When: Quite honestly? Now. And if not now, do it SOON. Plan it now. I constantly take photos, and even I want a time machine to go back and capture more.
It is a good reminder to take lots of pictures of our loved ones all the time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

And We Call This Health Care

We rarely go to the doctor. We just don't. We never had health insurance when I was growing up, that I'm aware of. Nor did we have it the first 15 years or so we were married. So we never got in the habit of being doctor-goers.

Of course now we are forced to have "affordable" health insurance. Not that we can afford it, but our government assures us it's affordable, so it must be. In spite of that, we still don't go to the doctor much.

Our experience over the weekend really doesn't do much to make us want to change that.

***
Thursday evening Lyle showed me that his foot was swollen and red across the top. I had him soak it in epsom salts and essential oils. By Saturday it was looking worse and he just wasn't feeling good in general. I figured it was probably infected and needed an antibiotic. I took a picture of his foot and texted it to my sister, who has 30 years of experience as a nurse.

"Yeah, that doesn't look good," she said. 
"I think it's cellulitis. He probably needs Keflex."

On Sunday afternoon I finally convinced him to go to the urgent care clinic. The PA on duty looked at his foot.

"Yeah, that doesn't look good," he said. 
"I think it's cellulitis. I'll prescribe an antibiotic."

Great! That's what we needed. $20 co-pay. Isn't urgent care wonderful?

Oh, wait. Not so fast.

The PA started tapping around on Lyle's chest with his stethoscope with a very concerned look on his face. He asked if Lyle had been experiencing any chest pains? No. Shortness of breath? No. Hmm. Well, there was something not right here. Better do an EKG right away. So the nurse wheeled in the equipment, stuck little tabs to Lyle's skin in various places and hooked all the wires up. The machine spit out a paper. The PA came scurrying back in.

"This is not good," he said. "You need to go to the ER right away. I'll have the nurse put in an IV and the paramedics can take you to the hospital. There's something going on with your heart."

Lyle and I looked at each other, completely baffled. "But I feel fine," Lyle insisted, "do I have to go in the ambulance?"

"Well, I can't make you, of course," said the PA. "But you do need to go right away. I'll call and tell them you're coming. This is much more urgent than your foot. But they can finish up with that there, too."

He handed us a copy of the EKG print-out, and we walked out to the car. "Do you want me to drive?" I asked Lyle. He rolled his eyes, "Of course not! I feel fine!" he insisted. I just hoped he wouldn't have heart attack as he drove. The PA had me worried.

It was about 5 miles or so to the hospital. We checked in with the receptionist in the ER. "Why did they send you over?" she wanted to know. I had to look it up. Premature ventricular contractions. "Oh, PVC?" she said. "Those are very common. Nothing to be concerned about. But have a seat."

In a few minutes Lyle was called into the triage room. The PAs checking him in looked at the EKG printout. Any chest pains? No. Shortness of breath? No. Hmm. PVC is very common. Nothing to be concerned about. "But we'll get you back as soon as a room opens up and have the doctor take a look." About the foot...

"Yeah, that doesn't look good," they said. 
"I think it's cellulitis. You need an antibiotic."

Soon enough we were called back to the exam room. The nurse came in and installed an IV line and drew several vials of blood. PVC is very common. Nothing to be concerned about. But that foot doesn't look good. She departed.

The doctor came in. Any chest pains? No. Shortness of breath? No. Hmm. PVC is very common. Nothing to be concerned about. Should probably run another EKG, though, just in case. The foot, though:

"Yeah, that doesn't look good," she said. 
"I think it's cellulitis. I'll give you an antibiotic."

And she departed. We waited. An orderly came in to check the supply cupboard. 

A student volunteer came in to see if we needed anything. Nope, we're good, thanks. 

The registrar came in to finish filling out Lyle's paperwork and to get the all-important insurance and payment information. 

And we sat. And waited. 45 minutes later the student volunteer was back. We asked if she could see what the hold-up was on having the EKG. Before she left, the doctor came back in. "Has the nurse done the EKG yet?" No, we've just been waiting. So the volunteer and the doctor scurried off to find the nurse.

The nurse wheeled the EKG machine in and hooked Lyle up again, and printed the report. Then she hooked the IV up to a bag of (guess what?) Keflex. "It will take 20 or 30 minutes to drip in," she told us. "Press the call button when it's done."

The doctor came back. The EKG is normal. PVC is very common. Nothing to be concerned about.

"Why?" we asked. "Why did the urgent care PA send us over here, if this is so normal?"

"Oh, they just don't see them as often as we do. Better be safe than sorry. We'd rather it turn out to be nothing, than them not send you, and it actually turn out to be something."

Because, of course, they aren't the one paying the bills.

After 35 minutes the antibiotic finally finished dripping. The nurse unhooked all the wires and tubes and handed Lyle a prescription for (guess what?) Keflex to continue taking orally. He put his shirt back on and we went home.

But not before stopping at the pharmacy to pick up his prescription.

Co-pay at the urgent care clinic. Co-pay at the emergency room. Probably more co-pays on the two EKGs.. and the IV... and who knows what else. Four hours of our day. I'm just glad we declined the ambulance!

Why can't a nurse with 30 years' of experience, who can expertly diagnose a simple condition via a texted picture, just prescribe the antibiotic?

That's really all we wanted.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Summer Vegetables

I never aspired to be a food blogger. Nor do I spend much time or effort staging my food. I have to admit, though, that there are times when I want to share a recipe and would like to have a really sharp photo to go with it.

Today's Photo Challenge is food photography. So here you have today's lunch. I can't say that it's an amazing picture because, honestly? The tomato juice bugs me. Oh, you hadn't noticed? Well, then. Forget I said anything, and feel free to brag on my photo.

During the summer I love eating lots of fresh vegetables. My favorite meals are grilled meat with salads and/or roasted vegetables. We have a nice deck just off our kitchen, so we eat outdoors more often than not this time of year.

On Monday evening we stopped at Sprouts and bought a mini-cart's worth of produce.

On Tuesday evening we grilled steaks and shishkabobbed green and yellow squash and red onions. (Is "shishkabobbed" a verb? Well, you know what I mean.) I also made a creamy cucumber and onion salad that night.

Last night we grilled hamburgers. I roasted a double-batch of cauliflower and squash in the oven. (Recipe: Chop vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until beginning to blacken at 475.) I honestly would rather have that than french fries.

Today for lunch I decided to make a frittata with the left-over roasted vegetables. I also made a tomato and feta cheese salad to have on the side, along with sliced peaches. It is delicious, even if my photography is not perfect. I'll just have to keep practicing.

What are your favorite summer vegetables?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Midsummer Macros






Just a few little somethings I happened to find in my yard this evening. 

It's really amazing what you can see when you look close, isn't it?


On a fun note: Each day the challenge sponsors choose their five favorite photos from the previous day's challenge to feature in the morning email. And guess what? They chose my picture from yesterday for today's list. They said: "We love how she captured the story of her summer day. The photo feels casual, but it is really set up well." How cool is that?


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

Good lighting... and story telling. Or more specifically, the Summer Photography Challenge for Day 2 is: "...to go out and practice using light and telling a story with your mobile phone camera."

I've been re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird this summer, and I've recently started working on mug cozies again to get my Etsy shop re-stocked for the fall. So I guess the "story" this picture tells is what I've been doing in my leisure time lately.

Harper Lee's long-awaited second book, Go Set a Watchman, goes on sale today. I am looking forward to reading it, but I don't plan to rush out and buy it. I'll read it from the library first. It will likely be awhile before my name gets to the top of the waiting list, but that's okay.

A few weeks ago Lyle and I were in Barnes and Noble one evening and I happened to notice a book discussion group gathered between the bookshelves. As I browsed nearby I overhead them discussing To Kill a Mockingbird. I was tempted to pull up a chair and join the discussion. I expect I would have been welcome, but I wasn't quite that brave.

The group discussed the book and the movie, as well as another book, The Mockingbird Next Door. I remembered seeing that book on the library website in ebook format, so when I got home I checked it out. It is the memoir of a reporter who became friends with Harper Lee and her sister and lived next door to them for a time a few years ago. It was a fun read, giving more insight into the lifestyle of the Lee sisters and the small town of Monroeville, Alabama, which was the inspiration of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird.

As it happens, my dad's people were from the Monroeville area couple of generations back. I don't know a lot about them, but I have the sense they would have been more like the Ewell family in the book, rather than the Finches. (Now that I type that out, it is kind of eerie that my family name is Ezell which is just one letter different than Ewell. Kinda makes you wonder!) Oh, well. It's not where you come from, but rather where you're going that matters, right?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Photography Challenge: Day 1

Just for fun, I am participating in a two-week long Summer Photography Challenge that starts today. I expect to learn a lot, and get some good practice.

I was joking with my sister on Saturday about her photography: "Wow! You must have a good camera! You get some really nice pictures!" She laughed. "Yeah. I do. It's all about the camera." She knew I was being completely facetious. "Seriously," she said, "if a person has an eye for composition, even a cheap camera can take good pictures."

I remember my first camera. I saved up my money for it when I was in about the 7th grade. It was a little Kodak Instamatic that took 110 film. It took a steady hand (which I didn't necessarily have) and even then, the pictures usually turned out grainy. Cameras have come a long way since the late 1970s. And since we don't have to pay for film or developing (Kids, go ask your grandma about that!) it's fun to just snap-snap-snap away and then play around with the results.

Today's challenge covered composition, and talked about using the "rule of thirds" for composing your subject. Even before I knew about today's challenge, I enjoyed playing with that rule yesterday with my road trip snapshots. I had forgotten my "good" camera, so I was taking pictures with my cell phone and then editing them with Instagram.

A photo posted by Karla Cook (@ramblinroads) on

When I'm taking pictures from a moving vehicle, it's hard to think about composition, so that's where the editing comes in handy. Here's the original of the "finished" picture above:


First, I cropped off the mirror and window frame of the car. Instagram has the "thirds" grid built in so I was able to zoom in enough to put the canyon cut at the 2/3 vertical line and the guard rail at the 2/3 horizontal line. Then I applied a neat filter and frame. I like the way it turned out.

 Here's another one I did the same way. This one also has "leading lines" with the curving highway.
A photo posted by Karla Cook (@ramblinroads) on

And the original:

I zoomed in and put the horizon line at the 2/3 horizontal line, and the "end" of the highway (where it goes behind the hill) at the 2/3 vertical line. And then chose a different filter. I don't filter all my photos, but I think they are fun to play around with.

I'll be practicing some more during the next two weeks. I'm not sure if I'll post all the challenges here... or on my Instagram account. We'll see.

Weekend Road Trip

We spent all day Friday and Sunday driving so we could be in Nampa, Idaho for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday.

It took us just over 13 hours to get there. We averaged 66 mph with 5 stops on Friday, so it was a long day in the car. Lyle did all the driving. The girls were content with their earbuds in the back seat. The dog and the guinea pig went along, too, and rode in the back of our Jetta wagon. We put our car-top carrier on for luggage.
Laura and I entertained ourselves as we drove along by snapping pictures, posting them to Instagram and Facebook, and texting them to friends and family.
I love the scenery out west!
On Saturday we all gathered in my brother's yard for family pictures.
My sister is the "real" photographer in the family, and she took the portraits.

Me? I snapped a few shots of the men with their heads under the 1949 Chevy pickup...
...and one of the yard, just because I thought it was so pretty with the morning sunlight streaming through the trees.

 That afternoon we had a "party" with cake, family trivia games, and a slide-show of family pictures over the years. It was a fun day.
On Sunday morning we started home again.

We stopped to stretch our legs at Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho...
...and then headed on down the road, through the salt flats of Utah...
...and through the mountains of western Colorado...
...and made it safely home again.

It was a good trip.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Granddaddy Tapes

This coming weekend my parents and their five children, along with in-laws and grandchildren, will be gathering to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary which was earlier this spring. In preparation for a day of sharing memories, I've been gathering pictures and scrapbooks and all kinds of memorabilia to take along. As I was getting things together I happened to remember the Granddaddy Tapes.
Among my treasured possessions is a small box of dusty cassette tapes, maybe a couple dozen, that I recorded during the late 1980s and through the 1990s. They are mostly of my Granddaddy Easley telling stories of his life. He had a detailed memory and was more than willing to share his memories with me (and my tape recorder). At the time, I had the intention of writing a book about his and Grandmother's life story. They were eager for me to do so, but then my children came along. I was busy raising my babies, and then homeschooling, so that project got set aside. In the meantime, my grandparents have gone on to heaven; Grandmother in 1998, and Granddaddy in 2007. They left an amazing heritage for their 10 children, 26 grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than I can count at the moment.

I still have a cassette deck that I have held onto just because of that box of tapes. Last Saturday I asked Lyle if he would bring it in out of the garage and connect it to my computer so I could digitize the tapes before they deteriorate too badly. Obliging man that he is, he took care of that for me.

For the past few days I've been listening to the old stories of my heritage, as I transfer them to MP3 files, and remembering again how blessed I am. I was also reminded how important storytelling is. While many of these family stories are very familiar to me, I realized that my children haven't necessarily heard them all.

Maybe I should write that book after all.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Styling our stars and stripes shirts. Enjoying grilled hamburgers in the backyard with our kids. We are blessed.

"Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light.
Protect us by Thy might
Great God our king."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Glimpses of My Days

Since many of you don't do Instagram, and that is where I share a lot of the pictures I snap, I thought it was time for another Instagram update. These go back to March...

I'm finding the #hashtags to be a lot of fun. I like thinking up which ones to use for each post... and then seeing what other pictures people have posted using those same hashtags. Sometimes I get comments or likes from random people who have found my picture from the hashtag. You can click on the hashtags below the pictures to see other what other Instagrammers have posted using that particular hashtag, if you're interested.
A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

A photo posted by @karlacinid on

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Learning


As I've mentioned before, we cultivated a lifestyle of learning in our family. We were always eager to take a break from formal schooling for the summer, but the learning never stopped.

Summer days were definitely more relaxed and the kids had plenty of free time for playing outside and pursuing their individual interests. I think that's very important. I've noticed families who have practically every minute of the day scheduled for their kids year 'round... with sports, private lessons, and organized group activities. For my family, a little of that kind of thing went a long way. We found it worked better for us to keep our schedule flexible to allow for spontaneous activities.

When I was growing up my mother was very good to take us to the library weekly, especially through the summer. I remember devouring stacks of just-for-fun books. The library sponsored a summer reading program with a goal of a certain number of books to read by the end of the summer. I usually passed the goal within the first week or two, as I was a very avid reader. I continued that tradition with my own children. Sometimes we participated in library-sponsored events, and sometimes we just went to the library and checked out stacks of just-for-fun books.

 Mostly, though, our summer learning wasn't even that structured. My husband and I have made it a point to watch for and take advantage of teachable moments as we go about our normal lives.

Our family especially enjoys camping and travel. When we travel we find out where museums, national parks, and historical monuments are along our route, and we plan in extra time to stop and learn. My husband just automatically pulls over if we see a sign for “historical marker” along the way. Often we don’t even get out. We’ll just read the sign aloud, and talk about whatever historical event may have taken place at that spot, and then go on. Sometimes it doesn’t even take 5 minutes.

Here are a few of the educational benefits we have discovered while camping:

  • Nature Studies 
  • Survival Skills 
  • Primitive Cooking 
  • Physical Education (hiking, biking, pumping and carrying water...) 
  • Exploration and Discovery 
  • Socialization (They always meet any other kids whose families are camping at the same time!)
  • Reading (A very relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon at the campground, when electronics aren't an option!) 
  •  Photography 
  •  Astronomy 
  •  Meteorology 

And that's not mention the great family relationships we are building in the process! What does your family like to do in the summer?
Sonlight Blog Party

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Violets on the Tea Cups

Last month when I was in Indiana, Rachel had a gift for me. She said it was a thank you gift for helping her with her blog. I was so excited to open it up and discover a cup-and-saucer set to add to my violet tea set collection. It's the cup with a pedestal between the sugar bowl and cream pitcher. Isn't it beautiful?

My collection started in 1995 when my mother brought me the tea pot from England. Later she gave me a cup-and-saucer set that coordinated but was actually a different brand. Over the years the collection has grown piece by piece. I first started blogging about it in 2008, at which time I had the tea pot plus three cup-and-saucer sets. I've found several pieces at thrift stores or garage sales, but the ones I treasure most are those given to me by special people in my life.

Sentiment aside, I have a hard time choosing a favorite piece. I think it's so much more interesting to have an eclectic set, than if they all matched and were purchased at once.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Fun with Fred


Life of Fred is a series of math books that Sonlight has recently begun to carry. I used several books in this series with Rebecca for her last couple of years of school. We thought they were great, so I wanted to share how we used them.

First, you need to understand that Rebecca learns differently than the average student. She requires a lot of repetition and review, and it seems to work best to present material in a variety of ways. She can get bogged down in one area while moving ahead quickly in another area. My approach was to encourage her to move on ahead where she could, while finding another way to present the material in the area where she seemed to be stuck. She understands concrete concepts but struggles with more abstract ideas.

With that in mind, we actually started with two different levels of Fred books. We got the first book in the elementary series, Life of Fred: Apples. This was basic (first grade level) math, so very easy for her to work through on her own. But it's not your average first grade level math book. It includes a silly story line, which made it fun, as well as extra, random, more advanced facts from all subject areas. The author works in things like that because it's a natural learning approach. This made it seem not too babyish, even though it was very basic math.

Having already done several years of other math programs, Rebecca was ready to learn about fractions, but I knew it would be a hard concept for her to understand and work through. I got the Life of Fred: Fractions book for me to work through with her at the same time she was doing Apples on her own. Each day I would read a chapter from the Fractions book, and then work through the problems one-by-one with her sitting beside me following along. She had memorized the multiplication tables (using the Flashmaster device) so she was able to work the basic math steps as we came to them, though I knew she wouldn't remember how to tackle the more complex problems on her own. She continued working through the elementary level books on her own, while we went through the Fractions and Decimals and Percents books more slowly. This helped reinforce concepts she had already been introduced to, while giving her a glimpse of ways math is used in real life.

Rebecca loved the silly stories about little Fred, the 5-year-old university math professor. We couldn't help but grin at the outlandish predicaments he gets into as he goes about his daily life. He's a serious and naive little fella who sleeps under his desk in a tiny sleeping bag with his happy-meal toy doll, Kingie.

What I like about the books is the natural learning approach tied into the story. Almost anything is easier to remember with a story tied to it, and in the stories Fred is eager to learn about the world around him. Not in a stilted, unnatural way like you might think a textbook would be. But normal curiosity about the random things of everyday life. That's why you'll learn interesting things like who Archimedes was, the invention of photography, why whales aren't fish, and the difference between herbivores and carnivores alongside basic math facts like 5 + 2 = 7 and 10 + 10 = 20 in the Apples book.

When you read through the list of titles for the elementary level books... Apples, Butterflies, Cats, Dogs, Edgewood, Farming, Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, and Jelly Beans... you do have to wonder what in the world those things have to do with math. First, notice that they are in alphabetical order. That helps you remember what order the books go in. And yes, it's important to start at the beginning and go through the books in order because the story flows from one book to the next, and the concepts build on things learned in previous levels. I promise, Apples is not babyish. And then, those seemingly random words really do have something to do with the story in that particular book.

I don't know that I would recommend Life of Fred as a stand-alone math program for an average student, but honestly, it's going to depend on your student. I think it makes a great supplement, and is especially great for a special needs situation such as we had.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Weevils in the Flour


Awhile back I was reading some (way) back issues in the archives of the Altus Times-Democrat newspaper on Google News. Altus is the county seat of the little town where my mother grew up. I am working on a novel set in the area during the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression. This was an ad for a local grocery store during that time.

I guess they had more urgent things to worry about than weevils in their flour. "They are clean and harmless..." we are reassured. Yeah, I don't think I was all that worried about them being dirty and harmful. I just don't like the idea of bugs in my food. Apparently weevils fall in the category of First World problems.

On the other hand... I would like to have my groceries delivered right to my refrigerator, please.

Monday, June 1, 2015

African Safari

So I went to Africa for the weekend... um, I mean Sandusky, Ohio. It just seemed like Africa. Or at least a touristy facsimile of Africa.  The Teach Them Diligently conference was held at the Kalahari Resort, which has an African theme. It also features an indoor-outdoor water park. It is near Cedarpoint theme park, so I guess families in that part of the country go there on vacation.
The hotel and water park part of the resort were kinda cheesy, but the convention center itself was tastefully decorated with lots of African art and artifacts. It was interesting to just walk down the halls and see the various pieces.
 Sherry enjoys posing for silly pictures, so she took up with a couple of characters.
The conference went well. There were some slow times, but in general we were pretty steadily busy talking with homeschoolers.

Faux Africa aside, I was within 5 miles of Lake Erie and didn't even see it. We had planned to drive over to at least snap a few pictures on Saturday but it was pouring down rain, so we didn't. I changed planes in Nashville and Chicago and didn't see a bit of those cities, either. I guess you just have to find something interesting wherever you are, in case it doesn't work out to go out of your way for more sightseeing.

This concludes my ramblin' afield for May. I wonder what our next adventure will be?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Headed to Ohio

I'm flying this morning from Denver to Cleveland. I'll be hosting the Sonlight booth at the Teach Them Diligently conference in Sandusky, Ohio this weekend, May 28-30.

Hours are:
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday
9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday
9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturday

Not much down time, as usual for these trips, but I'll be watching for "blog fodder" to share because, no matter what, life is an adventure. Isn't it?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Homeschool Convention Memories and Tips


The first homeschool convention I ever went to was in 1997 in Wichita, Kansas. Laura was four years old and Rebecca was just beginning to toddle. I wasn't seriously considering homeschooling at that time, but a friend of mine was and she invited me to go to the convention with her. We bought vendor hall passes and went one evening just to browse and shop.

We received a tote box full of literature and samples as we went in the door. Yes, a tote box. Apparently they were meant to be sturdier than bags? I don't know. The handles soon broke and we had to carry them in our arms. If I had known then what I know now, I would have taken my own heavy-duty bag. Or better yet, a wheeled suitcase. We collected more information as we went around the hall and our boxes got heavier and heavier. I was just blown away by all the options... and encouraged to reconsider homeschooling my children.

Two years later, after Laura's kindergarten year at home, I attended the convention in Portland, Oregon with my sister-in-law. We spent the whole day there. Lyle kept Laura that day, and I took Rebecca with me. I had our double stroller and that gave me the whole second compartment for stashing catalogs and purchases. The stroller was cumbersome to navigate, but it sure was handy for keeping my preschooler and all our "stuff" contained. Late in the day, when Rebecca was ready for a nap, I just leaned her seat back and pulled the canopy down over her and then walked around and around and around the vendor hall, and even outside a little bit,until she went to sleep. That was the day I discovered comfy shoes are a must. 

Over the years since then I've attended around 80 homeschool conventions by my best count. With the exception of those first two, I've been a representative for Sonlight at almost all of them. At some conventions we are so busy I never have a chance to leave my booth. At others, I've had time to stroll around and visit other vendor booths... and even slip into a workshop now and then.

Naturally I've picked up a few tips and observations. I mentioned the wheeled cart (or stroller) and comfy shoes. Not all events allow wheels, so be sure to check about that before you go. A sturdy backpack would probably be a good alternative, if you can't take something with wheels.

Some events are very kid-friendly with planned activities and hands-on booths for the kids. Others don't allow young kids in the vendor hall at all. Personally, I think you'll get more out of the event if you're able to plan to leave the kids with someone else for the day. At one event recently I was trying to help one mom whose unhappy toddler in the stroller screamed the whole time we were talking. That was very distracting and frustrating for both of us.

There are times when the vendor hall is very busy and you may not be able to get into a particular booth you want to visit, or the line may be long. An insider tip to get around that issue is to plan to skip one workshop and do your shopping during that time slot. The vendor hall is usually much slower during workshops.

One other insider tip I want to mention is to take printed address labels with you. If you have some of the freebie ones that come in the mail occasionally, great! Those'll do! If not, you can print your own. You may want to anyway, to include your phone number and email address. That makes it so quick and handy to enter drawings and provide that info when you are placing an order. Plus it helps the vendor who may struggle to read your handwriting.

Do you have other tips I haven't mentioned? I'm sure others who are participating in Sonlight's Blog Party this month do! Check it out!
Sonlight Blog Party

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Florida Bites

We ended up not having time to drive over to the beach while I was in Florida. Nor did we go to Disney World. As we were riding the airport shuttle today, on our way out, a recorded announcement said, "Chances are, you didn't see and do everything there is to do while you were here..." My co-worker and I had to laugh. Yeah, we didn't see or do very much at all except work. However, we stayed at a very nice resort, and the convention was at yet another nice resort, so there were a few photo ops.
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and "had" to wait at the airport a couple hours before going to the condo. As you can see, waiting at the airport was a real hardship for me. I staked out one of the benches by this gorgeous fountain and read through several of the Psalms while I was waiting. It was a unique place to have devotions. I needed some alone time that time, so that served the need nicely.
Late that evening, after we had loaded and unloaded some of the convention supplies and taken care of grocery shopping for the weekend, one of my co-workers, Sherry, and I explored the resort a little bit. We were tickled to discover that the smoking area was called the Cigar Deck. So pretentious! No one was smoking cigars (or anything else), and it was actually a very nice deck overlooking the lake.
Another thing that cracked us up was the Sensory Garden, which was a nicely landscaped, short garden path. Sherry struck a yoga pose long enough for me to take a picture. I'm not sure she got the full sensory effect in that length of time, but we aren't real sure what that was supposed to be anyway.
The convention was busy. We worked long hours and talked to lots of people. 
It was held at the Gaylord Palms resort, which has alligators in the atrium. They weren't in the wild, and they weren't very big, but still, it was cool to see them. There were turtles in with them.

On Saturday evening my cousin, Kerry, who lives there, came over to see me. We went out for a quick dinner. It was fun to see her again. It had been several years. We were too busy talking and catching up to think about taking pictures.

And that was the extent of my adventure in Florida this past weekend. I've been to Florida twice now, and have yet to see the Atlantic Ocean. 

Someday we'll go back for a vacation. At least, it's on my bucket list.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Going to Florida


I'm headed to the airport this morning for another convention trip. I'll be assisting at the Sonlight booth at the Florida Homeschool Convention this weekend. The exhibit hall will be open 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. I'll be working with several other Sonlight reps for this event, most of them long-time friends, so that will be fun. Also, Sonlight's owner, Sarita Holzmann will be speaking. I'm hoping to be able to sneak off for a bit to visit a beach, but I'm not sure if we'll have time for that or not. In any case, it's sure to be a great weekend!

Monday, May 18, 2015

And Back Again

It was a lovely weekend with lots of driving, which is the way we like it! We drove from St. Louis to Fort Wayne on Friday, stopping for a bit in Greenfield, Indiana where I have relatives. I knew I wouldn't have much time to visit, but I had hoped to at least have a chance to say hi.

As it happens, Friday was my aunt Rachel's birthday. I had texted her to see if we could meet for lunch. She was tied up with work that morning, so she wasn't sure if it would work out or not. I texted her when we got into town. She said it would be a little longer before she would be available, but for us to go ahead and eat lunch, and she would join us as quick as she could.

Lyle asked if I would rather eat at Wendy's or Taco Bell. "Eh. Doesn't matter. Taco Bell, I guess." So he pulled into Taco Bell. About then Rachel called to see where we were. She asked if I had talked to Aunt Dee, who also lives there. I told her I hadn't called her because I didn't know how long we would be there.

I hung up the phone and Lyle said, "Aunt Dee's right there." I looked up and sure enough. Can you believe she was just coming out of Taco Bell with her lunch in her hand? Her car was parked next to ours! I opened my door and said, "Lady! Hey, lady!" She did a double-take and said, "Oh, Karla! Don't scare me like that!"

It was so fun to get to see her. I told her what we were doing and invited her to take her lunch back into the restaurant and eat with us. So she did. I thought it was awfully nice of God to arrange that little meeting for us. If I had chosen Wendy's, or if we had been just 5 minutes later we would have missed her.
Rachel joined us a few minutes later. Then we stopped by their office on our way out of town to say hi to her husband and daughter. We hadn't seen any of them since 2008. That's just way too long.
We got to Fort Wayne in time to set up the Sonlight booth that evening.
Saturday was a busy day at the convention. We had pretty steady traffic through the booth and were definitely ready to put our feet up by the end of the day.
We drove part of the way home on Sunday and enjoyed a relaxing day off. Today was our main travel day. We had lovely weather all the way. We didn't stop much but appreciated the novelty of rolling farm-land scenery through Iowa and Nebraska.

And so, we made it safely home again.