Friday, March 24, 2017

Our Ninth Cousins' Reunion Was Loads of Fun!

People often ask me, "Why do you insist on driving two full days both going and returning when you can fly?"  At the end of an 11 hour day of driving, I have asked myself that question.  I really don't like to fly in this day of terrorism and increased security at airports.  Allow someone to "pat me down" or search my baggage?  NO THANKS.

I truly enjoy the drive through a varying landscape and cultural diversity.  I pass through 8 large cities - Buffalo, NY, Cleveland, OH, Columbus, OH, Cincinatti, OH, Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, Birmingham, AL and Montgomery, AL and arrive at the small town and rural area where we hold our reunion.  At the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, I look out over Lake Erie, sometimes filled with large sheets of ice.  Driving through Central Ohio, I see huge farm lands and feel a sense of a slower pace to life than I live.  Into Kentucky and Tennessee, there is rolling terrain.  In Alabama, along the way there are both ramshackle rusted tin roof homes that have no doubt been there many decades as well as upper middle class large homes on large tracks of land. You see old, old wooden barns that are gradually falling apart through neglect.  Oh, the stories those barns could tell!

We hold our reunion on land "out in the middle of no where," many acres of land that have been in my family for generations, back into the 1800's.  No, we don't care to rent a convention room and have a formal dinner.  Not our style.  Rather, we enjoy target shooting, walking the land, catching up on everyone from the previous year.  And yes, the tales get bigger each year!

Any regular reader knows I am really into guns.  We set up all kinds of target shooting scenarios.  If the breeze is just right, we throw different sizes of beach ball into the water and take aim at them.  If you hit in just the right place, the ball goes flying into the air!  Another fun thing to do is shoot a plastic milk jug filled with water with a hollow point bullet.  The water splashes all over!  Then there are the regular peel off bullseye targets where many an ego has been crushed when your shooting partner beats you.

Eating is a big part of the day.  This year we kept it simple.


And there is Aunt Ilene!  She is 95 years old this year, Pam and Kenny's mom.  She's going through a phase where she doesn't want to eat or drink.  On the day before the "official" reunion, a few of us had gathered at the old homeplace.  I made a sandwich for her and said, "Here, I made this especially for you and I want you to eat it."  I then gave her a bottle of water.  I watched her out of the corner of my eye.  She ate a little over half the sandwich and gave the rest to the dog when she thought I wasn't watching.  She drank all the water, eventually.

It was really a fun time.  I look forward to this time every March or April.  It is important to stay connected to your roots.  It's good for your soul.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Haven't changed in 50 years!

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting up with an old friend from "way back."  Elizabeth and I were friends since junior high and high school days.  We had lost touch for decades but through facebook, we reconnected again.  It was great catching up. . . lots of laughs.  Another friend, who saw this picture on facebook, is trying to adjust her schedule and hopefully catch up with me - in person - before I leave where I am right now.  Hope you can make it happen, Sue.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Holy Moly!

Yesterday and into last night the Rochester area had severe winds, clocked at 80+ mph at the airport.  On my street, there was a huge tree knocked into the street, many homes all around me lost siding, my neighbor lost a beautiful glass top picnic table.  The roof was ripped off a high school.  In short, very extensive damage.  Through all this, the worst that happened to me is a few small branches fell in my yard. . . the type that Morgan and Bailey like to run with and fight over in the backyard. 

One street over from me, no one has had electricity since 2:30 yesterday afternoon.

Now I'm learning all the schools are closed because so many people do not have electricity and many schools were damaged.  The Jewish Community Center has opened their facility for people - with proper ID - to take showers and numerous other buildings are allowing people who have no electricity to come and stay warm.  The temperature is COLD!

Needless to say, I am very thankful that I escaped this disaster unharmed.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's March!

Forgive me for sounding excited about a new month. . . but in the Northeast, you learn to appreciate even the smallest sign that winter is almost over.  Even though we had a mild winter by Western New York standards, still the grey, dreary days of winter can take a toll on even the most positive minded person.

In Rochester, we had one snowfall of almost a foot.  The rest were a few inches here and there.   Definitely not a brutal winter.

I have become a strong warm weather type over the years.  The things I like to do involve being outside enjoying the sunshine and warmth.  My Weber smoker has been gathering dust over the winter.  So has my bike!  And maybe I should think about getting my lawn mower tuned up this year.

March, of course, can go from one extreme to another here.  We could have another heavy snow or we could have sunshine and blue skies!  I'm still waiting for the first crocuses to pop through the ground.

I am looking forward to my annual trek South this Spring for our Cousins' Reunion.  That's coming up soon and this year will be our ninth year.  You'll see pictures and posts on my blog.  It really is a fun time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Those were the days

Yes, that is really me on the right!  Robert Lauterbach was going through old pictures on his computer and sent me this one of Nancy and me backpacking with another lady on the Northville Placid Trail in New York's Adirondack Park.  This picture is over 20 years old.  We spent a week hiking from Long Lake, NY up to the northern end of the Trail in Lake Placid.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Brilliant morning sky

This was taken a little before 7 am this morning.  The colors were prettier than this shows.  Kind of looks like a raging fire, doesn't it?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

First of the season grilling

It was like a nice Spring day here in Western New York today.  So I dusted off the portable Weber Q grill and look what I did!

 I love the Weber Q grills.  I have a larger one for a crowd, but this smaller one is ideal for one or two people.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Nancy, may God bless your soul

At 1:30 this morning, awake, I heard a ping on my cell phone beside my bed.  I knew.  No one would be sending me a text at that time of day unless it was Robert.  "Nancy passed away at 1:25 am.  Very peaceful."  Nancy was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.  In the beginning, it looked like she might beat this awful disease.  To be honest, until just a couple of months ago, I refused to believe she wasn't going to survive.  I am an expert at denial.

Nancy and Robert have been good friends of mine for 43 years.  Soon after I arrived in Rochester, I met them.  We watched each other's children grow up.  A few years back, I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Virginia for Thanksgiving.  During my stay, they decorated their Christmas tree.  John held up a handmade Christmas ornament that I had seen on our tree for years as the boys were growing up.  "Mom!  Do you know where this came from?"  It was an ornament he had made in Nancy's Sunday School class decades ago.

Not long after we met, Nancy and I decided we wanted to get into backpacking and wilderness canoe camping.  What we lacked in skill and experience, we more than made up for in spirit and enthusiasm for the great outdoors.  Over the years, we spent many fun days in the Adirondacks of New York State, local day hiking and canoeing in the Western New York area, and even up in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada. We hiked, over several years time, the 130 mile long Northville-Lake Placid Trail in the Adirondacks.  This was done, sometimes in weekend jaunts and in some sections, on week long trips.  At times it was just us.  Other times we were with a group of friends.  We had experiences that I will treasure forever.

There was the time three of us, Nancy, me, and another woman backpacked into Wanika Falls.  The leanto journal had an entry that there was a resident mouse that made his presence known during the night.  Sure enough, during the night, that rascal mouse ran non stop around the back of the lean to, through a hole, and around the back of the inside of the leanto and right over my face, multiple times.  I was in the middle between Nancy and the other woman, can't recall her name now.  When I complained, Nancy insisted I was dreaming.  "Go back to sleep," she groaned.  Unbelievably, the mouse only chose my face to run across, not the other two.  And NO, I was not dreaming!!!

One winter, we spent a long weekend in the Keene Valley area of the Adirondacks, staying at a bed and breakfast, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in several locations there.  We skied the Jack Rabbit Trail, a lovely ski touring trail that runs from Tupper Lake, through Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and south toward Keene Valley.  The B&B innkeeper drove us to the Lake Placid section of the trail, after we dropped our car off at our ending point for the day.  It was an absolutely beautiful day and the snow conditions were just perfect for a wonderful day long ski through the woods.  At about the mid point, there was a small restaurant where we stopped for a welcome bowl of chili before continuing on our way.

Another day on that same trip, we decided to snowshoe up Cascade Mountain, one of the 46 High Peaks in NYS.  The trail conditions that day were not good at all, but turning back was not in our vocabulary.  We should have had crampons on our boots.  Crampons go over the bottom of your boot and are covered in spikes from toe to heel to make it a snap to walk or climb on ice.  Instead we had our snowshoes, which only had one inverted V-shaped "claw."

We weren't doing too badly, until we reached a steep pitch of solid ice.  It was probably close to being a 45 degree angle uphill and maybe 30 feet from start to finish.  "I'm not going up THAT!" Nancy proclaimed.

"Just give me a minute, I'll figure this out," I responded.

"NO WAY!" Nancy wasn't going to have any of this insanity.

This sheet of ice was surrounded on three sides, bottom and two sides going up, with small evergreen trees.  "I got it!" I yelled.  "We can hold onto these evergreens and pull ourselves up!"

She wouldn't budge in her determination. . . and neither would I.

I started up, slowly, but determined.  In maybe ten or fifteen minutes, I made it to the top.  Nancy was still at the bottom, not giving an inch!  I finally convinced her to try it and all the way up, she was calling me every bad word she could think of, even though she was doing just fine making her way up.

"Just HOW do you suggest we get back down?" She was really angry!

"I don't know, we'll figure something out," I replied.

The summit was just minutes away from that spot and an easy walk, almost flat, to get there.  The view was spectacular.

Miraculously, out of no where, we came upon a young man.  I asked him if he had suggestions on how we could get back down "that icy spot!"

"Oh, that is the fun part!" he promised us with a big smile.  He pulled an ice pick out of his pack that ice climbers use.  "All you do is sit down, hold the point of the pick in the ice on your side and slide down, fast or slow, depending on how hard you push on the pick."

Nancy's face lit up in an instant and she forgot about being angry!  I let her go first.  She was laughing hysterically, even climbing back up to do it a second time before giving me my turn!

Now I am sure this young man told all his friends about these two crazy women he ran into that day on Cascade Mountain.

As Nancy's illness and strength gained the upper hand on her, we found different ways to spend time together.  On two occasions in the last few months, we took outdoor chairs to Mendon Ponds Park and just sat there talking and taking in the beauty of this delightful park.

This doesn't even scratch the surface of the many good times we had over the years.  My life has been truly blessed by having Nancy as my friend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Target shooting fun!

I just placed an order for small beachballs online, 5 inches to 9 inch diameters.

Why would I be ordering beachballs in the middle of winter, you ask?  For target shooting, of course!

Our annual cousins' reunion is coming up soon down South.  There is a pond where we gather.  Placing beachballs in slow moving water and shooting at them is a lot of fun.  If you aim just at the waterline underneath the beachball, the force of the bullet sends the intact ball flying into the air.  Or hitting the ball dead center makes it "explode."

Another fun idea - fill a plastic gallon jug with water and close the lid.  Stand back because you may get wet!  Fire a hollow point bullet into the jug and water goes flying everywhere!

To set the record straight, this is done in a safe environment with no chance of a stray bullet traveling long distances and harming an individual or animal.  The other side of the pond, across from where we shoot, has a backdrop of land sloping down to the water.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Recipe Search - Can you help?

A reader responded this week to one of my blog posts from back in 2011.  She stated she learned to cook an Asian dish in her Home-Ec class in the 1960's, had lost the recipe and asked if I might know of such a recipe.  I have a collection of cookbooks from the old "Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers" that were popular in the 1960's.  A careful search through each of them turned up a dead end!

Here are the ingredients that the reader remembers:  ground meat, sausage, rice, soy sauce, bean sprouts, topped by dry noodles.  Do any of you have such a recipe?  I remember the "dry noodles" that were popular on Asian dishes back then but don't know the proper term for them.

I even did a search on because that site has a search engine for recipes with specific ingredients.  Didn't get anywhere with that either!

If you have this recipe, I will post it on my blog for the reader. . . she didn't give any contact information so I told her to check my blog in case that recipe shows up!