Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Favorite Season

     Fall always has been my favorite season.  Michigan provides a colorful backdrop for this time of year with its array of scarlets, golds, and crimsons adorning our trees.  Then there's that crisp autumn air that provides just the right sleeping weather at night.  And Halloween!  It's the holiday I look forward too the minute summer ends.

    About the only bummer this year is the collapse of my once mighty Michigan Wolverine football team.  They seem only a shadow of their former selves of late.  But I don't let that dampen my spirit . . . too much.

     Oh, there's fresh Michigan apples which seem more in abundance this year than last year when our favorite orchard didn't even produce enough to sell in quantity.  This past weekend we ventured to the orchard and picked our pumpkins and bought a peck of McIntosh apples, big, ripe ones.

     My mission this fall was to find one of those caramel apples dipped in chocolate.  Supreme decadence.  Usually they carry those supermarket but not this year.  The hunt was on.  I tried See's Chocolates which had an outlet at an organic supermarket in Ann Arbor  They said they didn't carry them presently but would take my phone number in case they began making them.

     No thanks.  I wanted one sooner.  I checked Kroger's and they carried something similar, toffee-covered apples.  Good, but not quite what I was looking for.  I did pick up a pack of Newcastle "Werewolf" beer on impulse.  You never know when you might be entertaining the wolfman this scary season.

     Speaking of scary, when I arrived back at the parking lot, I slid opened the passenger compartment door to stow my beer when I saw a children's DVD lying there.  What??  I didn't remember anyone giving me a DVD for the grandkids.  Wonder when that happened.  Then I saw some  beads I didn't recall having either as well as other stuff stewn about.  And, hey, who swapped out the carseat I had for something else?

      Ooops?  Wrong car.  Guess I should have figured that out before I opened the door.

      Wendy and I stopped by a chocolate factory up north that has chocolate covered blueberries, potato chips, marshmallows, pretzels--pretty much anything edible in fact.  But when I asked about chocolate-covered caramel apples, the proprieter said, no, they didn't have those.  He admitted it sounded like a good idea and said if his equipment were fired up and ready, he'd make one for me right then and there.  But, no, it wasn't.

    . . . sigh.

      I settled for Kilwin's in Ann Arbor, which is the same place I got my chocolate-covered caramel apple last year.  I don't like to do repeats though.  So instead of the dark chocolate-covered sea salted caramel apple I got last year, I got one with milk chocolate instead.  Guess that'll do for this year.

      Here's a couple pictures illustrating some fall fun.  First is my grandson Grant playing in a big pile of leaves I created just for him up north.  You can tell he enjoyed it.  Next is my creepy yard display which this year features a new coffin.  It's heavy duty too as you can tell.  Not sure what to do with it when Halloween is over.  Maybe it could double as a child's bed.  Don't know how that would go over with the grandsprouts though.


 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Round Two


     I've written more than once here about watching my eldest grandson Grant on Tuesdays since I've semi-retired from my job.  Well, Grant's in pre-school now so I've got his younger brother Luke on Tuesdays.  That's him rummaging through my collection of Mardi Gras beads.

    At first I was a bit nervous watching this one as he's only seventeen months old.  Grant was well over two years old when he started at bumpa's daycare.  He was able to communicate for the most part.  The only time Luke puts more than two words together is when he says, "Here ya go."

    Example . . . I prepared my absolute favorite lunch for him this week, a ground bologna sandwich.  Even  cut it up into small pieces to make it easier to eat.  I put it on his high chair tray and he wouldn't touch it.  What???  As you can tell from the picture, he doesn't turn his nose up at much in the way of edibles.  But he did my ground bologna.

     As I began plucking the pieces from his tray, and eating most myself, FINALLY the little guy picked one up himself.  Ah, so NOW you want to share grandpa's favorite sandwich.  But instead, he handed it to me and said, "Here ya go."

     So I signed him up for a "Book Babies" program at our local library.  His mother wondered about that, thinking it might only provide him with an opportunity to piledrive the other toddlers.  I thought it might prove enlightening, at least to me since I wondered what kind of masochistic librarian would try to instruct a room full of charges all under the age of two.

     There were about nine other moms in the children's reading room.  I was the only grandpa (the only guy as well).  The moms all spread out on the floor.  I took a chair.  Luke actually behaved quite well.  He only tried to ransack the reading room after the structured reading program had ended.

     I was surprised that most of the babies actually were respectfully quiet while the librarian demonstrated hand games and read a few books.  Luke wasn't quite as respectful when it was time for us all to read along with the librarian.  First it was a very loud raspberry.  Then he'd shout very loud whenever the librarian would finish a sentence.

     Finally, he decided to join in and actually did a pretty good job of reading along in the book, translating from English to more familiar baby talk.  But he also began gnawing on the library book when I was distracted.  That's a definite no-no.

     C'mon, Luke.  Can't you demonstrate for the lady that you belong in this class?  There were a few toddlers actually talking rather plainly.  And others who participated in the games and followed instructions.  And then there was Luke who grabbed the staff phone, opened drawers and put a basket for a beanbag-toss game over his head.

     Then the librarian was collecting her books back from all the moms and me.  Luke held the book out, saying, "Here ya go."  WOW!  Did you catch that?  This kid IS a prodigy, miss.  Unfortunately, her back was turned when Luke followed the one instruction to the letter.

     Well, there's next Tuesday

   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Connecting, Re-connecting And Not

     What is it now, August?  September in a couple weeks???  When my grandson announced to me--as he has been telling me for several months now--that Halloween is over, I had tell him that it’s coming again.  That really floored him.  Guess he thought it was one and done.  I don’t think he’s mastered the concept of annual holidays yet at his tender age of three and a half.

     This summer my wife and I have been busy with first-time events.  We had a first annual family re-union with my side of the family, an engagement party for my youngest son to be married next year, and a big wedding of a second cousin.

     There's nothing like these kind of events to remind you of the passing of time.   At the wedding, I saw cousins I hardly recognized, older relatives previously hale and hearty who looked frail and hobbled, and heard stories of younger relatives going into fields like engineering when the last I recall their previous engineering experience, it was dropping clothespins into a bottle or some such holiday kids' game.    I got hugs from cousins I'd never hugged before.  There were promises to get together soon but sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.

     Our family re-union a week or so later included my folks, their kids, their grandkids and their great-grandkids.  My parents now have five great-grandchildren.  My 84-year-old dad remembered how much fun we had playing volleyball at similar family gatherings and he felt he had another volleyball game left in him.  So we played.  My dad played pretty much the same way I remember him playing in the past; I sure hope I inherited some of his genes.  After the game he claimed he made a great save that kept the ball alive on the winning point.  I didn't see that myself.

    Then last week Wendy and I ventured down to St. Louis to meet my son's future in-laws.  Neither my wife nor I are that outgoing socially.  And the only ones we knew there would be my son and his fiance.  But  I felt we did okay.  I tried to be a good listener at the engagement party thrown by my fiance's dad.  And my wife knows that listening and paying attention is not my strongest attribute.

    The party was in a wine cellar, yet it was still a little warm and sticky inside, particularly with the people mingling.  Eventually we went outside, being Michiganders we're used to a more cooler climate.  What I really wanted to do was to go into the refrigerated area where the dozens of wine bottles were kept at 50 degrees.  But hanging out there probably wouldn't have been cool . . . in the social graces department; it most certainly would have been cool in temperature.

     Finally, with all the connecting and re-connecting, there was one miss.  I wanted to visit with my old college classmate who lives in Kansas, where we had already planned a stop to visit my wife's sister's family on our way to St. Louis.  I've traded Christmas cards and letters with my classmate's family for nearly 40 years since we graduated together from Central Michigan University.  But we'd never done a catch-up face-to-face in all that time.

    So I sent her husband a message on Facebook, taking him up on a three-year-old invitation to stop by if we were ever in the area.  I soon received a response saying that they would be available and could treat us to lunch or dinner.  Wonderful, I wrote back.  Just give us a particular time and we'd be there.

     But then . . . nothing.  No response at all.  I send a subsequent follow-up e-mail but still nothing.  You have to wonder--did they change their mind?  Did something urgent come up?  Did my or his messages get lost somehow?  I don't understand Facebook all that much and trust it even less.

     I guess with the age that I'm at I like to take opportunities to catch up with relatives and old friends.  You can't always count on a chance encounter or being invited to another big wedding.  It's not as dependable as Halloween coming every year.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Will There Be Ghosts?

 AGAIN, trying to play catch-up after being gone most of two weeks in Ireland.   I went with my wife Wendy, sister Sue and her husband Jeff.

     Now Ireland's a country where you can relax.  It just seems like the pace is slower there for some reason.  That’s great, though we Americans are used to somewhat quicker service at restaurants.   Just have to follow that axiom:  when in Ireland, do like the Irish.  Guess that means eat and drink slower.

     So I had my sister all nervous about staying in a haunted castle.  I actually noticed this castle originally when planning another vacation several years ago, but the only way you could get to it was to drive.  It’s a little over an hour’s drive from Dublin.  But since we, er, my brother-in-law was driving this trip, I thought . . . go for it!

     It was our first day in our rented car and we navigated northwest to county Meath, where there are more than a few castles and ruins.  My brother-in-law Jeff had his GPS set and we were on our way.  I don’t do GPS.  Compass, the sun and a decent map are my wayfinding aids.  And the GPS took us up some farmer’s driveway before announcing, “Arrive at your destination.”

    Uh, no.  This isn’t the castle, GPS.

     Luckily, the GPS allowed us to backtrack to a town where we followed the more traditional navigation method of map and detailed directions.  As we pulled into a quite narrow country road—they have a lot of those in Ireland—another car followed behind us.  Turned out they were also castle guests who had been lost.  

    As our party  gathered around a dining room table at the castle, my sister asked, “So what’s the history of this place?”  As if on cue, a door to the outside opened by itself.  Sure it was probably the wind, but I never knew the wind to have such incredibly spooky timing. 

   My sister Sue had resolved not to eat or anything after 6 p.m. so she wouldn’t have to make a middle-of-the-night bathroom trip, especially since her bathroom was located down a dark hall in the castle.  But our dinner was served late, and as Sue was enjoying seconds on some wine offered with dinner, my wife reminded her of her promise of a post 6 p.m. fast.  My sister’s draw dropped; she’d obviously forgotten.

    I had planned to roam the castle (roam is not really the right word since this was a small castle) at night to take some pictures in hopes of conjuring up a few ghosts but the bed-and-breakfast crew worked late into the night cleaning up from dinner and preparing breakfast for the next morning.  When I did venture out from our bedroom, I discovered the owner’s daughter watching the movie Bewitched in the main room.  Not until later did I ponder the irony of her viewing choice.

   So I fell asleep, though I did awaken during the middle of the night.  I discovered something about sleeping in castles.  They’re incredibly quiet.  Our old wood-frame house creaks and groans so often that you’d swear the place was alive.  But I’m used to that.  The castle with its stone foundation and walls hardly produces any noise.  And any noise you DO hear, a dripping faucet for example, is amplified ten-fold.  It provides a very unsettling atmosphere. 

   And I did near shuffling noises in the hall outside our bedroom.  That made it a little too spooky for a midnight stroll about the parapets. 

    Besides, I certainly would have passed this fellow who was scary enough in the light.



    Actually, turns out nobody experienced anything paranormal during the night.  My brother-in-law  made a trip to the restroom, so I’m sure that’s who I heard shuffling to the bathroom down the hall.  Jeff actually said he heard something crawling on the roof overhead.  I figure that was the daughter I heard watching Bewitched on TV.  She probably had broom in hand, ready to make a couple passes over the countryside before turning in.


   So the next morning, we packed up and headed out for more Ireland adventures.  Below is a selfie I took at the Rock of Cashel.  With a hat that was purchased for me so I'd fit in with the locals. Now THAT'S scary.





Friday, May 16, 2014

Catching Up

     Catching up is all I seem to be doing lately so the title is appropriate here. There is a downside in rushing to catch up, something I painfully learned recently. Hmmmm, downside is the appropriate word since what I did was fall down the basement stairs last week.

      Well, actually it was the last couple steps but darn did that hurt. My foot particularly was throbbing with pain immediately and for some reason I thought of that commercial featuring the lady who complained, "I've fallen and I can't get up."

      That could have been me. And I was home alone, so to speak. But I did manage to right myself after a few minutes and drag myself back upstairs where I could check myself for injuries. Turns out I had a sorely sprained ankle and a twisted back muscle. A week later they still bother me but they're healing.

     So what else is new? Here's a first. After close to eight years of blogs, I had one taken down because of a copyright violation. Wow. Apparently I copied a picture I found, most likely on Facebook, and re-printed it on my blog. So, did the person who took the picture and own the copyright somehow stumble across my blog? Then complained to the blog authorities? It's a mystery to me.

      Blogger is giving me the opportunity to edit out the offending material and repost the blog, but since the blog is old anyway, maybe I'll just delete.

      Crazy internet, isn't it? I have a Shutterfly account where I occasionally post photos and compose photobooks. They sent me an e-mail congratulating me on becoming a new parent. I forwarded it on to my wife. Maybe I shouldn't have done that though. I might face follow-up questions from her.

      I also got an e-mail through TripAdvisor, a service I often use to help me plan vacations, including one to Ireland next month. I reviewed a local restaurant where Wendy and I had a less-than-satisfactory dining experience. So the e-mail came directly from the restaurant itself. They kinda protested my review and invited me back to try something else on the menu, figuring I'd like that better. What's the appropriate catchphrase here? Once bitten, twice shy? Fool me once, shame on you . . .?

      I'm still working half-time as a temporary, despite being officially retired. In fact, I just this month got my first distribution from my 401k. Man, getting money from those people is like borrowing from a miserly uncle. Those financial institutions who hold your retirement monies want you to hold off drawing from your 401K until you're dead, or the until end of the world, whichever comes later.

      Back to my copyrighted picture, here's another twist on that. My grandson Grant was here for his usual Tuesday visit and he's still crazy about the crab monster from the movie Attack of the Crab Monsters. We cull through YouTube videos looking for crab monster movie clips. He also wanted to see pictures of crab monsters so I browsed Google images for crab monsters as well. As we were scrolling down--surprise!--there was a photo of Grant himself holding a picture of a crab monster. That was taken from my blog written a few months ago.

     "Hea, did you do that?" Grant exclaimed, shocked to see a picture of himself among all the other crab monster pictures.  

     Well, yes Grant, I sure did. Like I said, crazy internet.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Wanna Be 50 Again

     Last week I called in sick to work.  Though I'm retired, I still work part-time.  On this particular day my wife went to work early, as she needed to be in by 6 a.m.  I slept in another hour and a half but when I arose, my stomach was way out of sorts for what reason I don't know.  Guess that happens when you're 60.

     So I called in sick to work, which surprised my wife when she got the news as she works in the same building.  She didn't know why I was ill, so she called to check on me.  Woke me out of a rather deep slumber, but I managed to tell her why I wasn't coming in.  But she thought I wasn't quite clear in my explanation, but who does when they're so roused.  So she hurried home to check on me, feeling that my lack of clarity might indicate a stroke.  Guess that happens when you're 60.

     Bottom line:  she awoke me again when she got home, but this time, feeling better, I decided I would return to work with her.  All's well that ends well.

     Yeah, I do wish I were 50 again.  These days my mind loves to play tricks on me.  Even my blog refused to let me in as I kept punching the wrong password.  My eye doctor suggested last visit I wear glasses when driving.  My sometimes trembling hands have caused me to hit hot keys on my keyboard that cause all kinds of funky things to happen, or, worse, delete lines that I spend much time on trying to retrieve.  Guess that happens when you're 60.

     Anyway, enough commiserating.  Hea, spell check says I got that word right.  Boo-yeah.

      Though in some ways I've lost focus, one activity where I can stay on task is planning travel.  My latest inspiration involves a trip to Ireland which we're going to do in a couple months.  I like to go places and my wife doesn't mind so long as it's someplace where they speak English.  I figure Irish should be close.

    Since my interests wax towards the macabre sometimes, I booked one of our first nights in what they say is a haunted Irish castle.  My sister's a bit nervous about this since she and her husband are traveling with us and I booked them a room too.  So I asked my sister whether she wanted the room in the remote section of the castle where hauntings are rare save for an occasional spectral light and phantom soldiers outside the window.  Or she could stay in the room where ghostly children have been seen and where strange animal noises have been heard.

     It doesn't sound like it matters though since she's bringing her eye mask and ear plugs.

     Then we're going to stay down the coast of Ireland in a farm cottage.  That sounded much more peaceful until I researched the village where we were going to be overnight.  It turned up on a list of haunted Irish spots because it was the site of a bloody battle which is purportedly re-enacted by ghostly soldiers on its yearly anniversary.

     And, wouldn't you know, that date is the same day we're going to be staying there.  Well, leastwise my sister should get good use of the mask and ear plugs she's bringing.



 

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

A Winter Of Discontent

     Blast this snow and cold here in Michigan.  We're used to winters here but c'mon!  Enough is enough.  Just today I slipped on the ice right near my porch.  Not long ago my wife slipped on our driveway and fell face first into an inch of snow that had fallen overnight.  And I've gone through big jugs of ice melt, taking the last one from the shelves of our local store.  And that was weeks ago!

     Our driveway entrance has so much ice and snow build-up courtesy of the local snowplows that it almost takes four-wheel drive to just pull in.  I've been approached by movie execs asking if they could use my driveway to train new stunt drivers for the next James Bond movie.

     I thought the missus and I could get a break by heading south, though that would take us around Atlanta and I remember what happened there with far less snow and ice than what we have.  The expressways became a parking lot for a couple days.

     And though it was springtime temperatures in Atlanta last week, driving through there wasn't a breeze.  Whether driving north or south on I-75, we had to dodge shutdowns on the freeway.  I thought the problem earlier was just the icy weather but maybe Atlantans just can't drive.  Or maybe I'm just discontented and feel grumpy when it comes to Georgia.

     I mean, we hit the welcome center at Georgia and I wait my turn at the customer service counter so I can ask the travel adviser if there's an Atlanta Bread Company just off I-75.  She punches something into her computer, frowns, then says, "It says there are no stores in your state.  That's weird."

     Well, yeah lady.  You think a place called the Atlanta Bread Company would have at least one outlet in their home state.  But she moved on to helping other customers.  Then before we hit Atlanta, traffic back-ups forced us off the interstate but savvy driver that I am, I followed a line of traffic also getting off and probably knowing a way around this mess.  But the semi-truck I was following pulled a lane-switch at a busy intersection, leaving me stranded in the left turn lane.  More discontent.  And I turned the corner just as the crossing gates came down adjacent to some railroad tracks.  Yet more discontent.  And for a train that never came.  Extreme discontent.

     Finally, we were meandering around Atlanta looking for the Atlanta Bread Company since I found out there was one near (they actually have over 20 stores throughout Georgia).  Stopped at a traffic light, a driver in the next lane motioned me to roll down my window which I did.  "Are you looking for something?" he asked.  I told him the Atlanta Bread Company and he pointed to a nearby shopping strip.  HE should be behind that counter at the Georgia welcome center.

    They are promising a break in the weather soon but I actually had some even better news as my beloved Michigan Wolverines won the conference basketball championship this week.  That's much to the chagrin of Michigan State fans.  My boss is a die-hard Michigan State Spartan fan.  While I was south, my Wolverines beat his Spartans in fact.  I e-mailed him from my hotel, saying that I was looking for news as to how the basketball game came out.  His response:

Dave,

*expletive deleted*

Sincerely,

Craig

I think you can imagine what he said, though he did abbreviate it rather than spell it out.  Ah, that winter of discontent is worse for some than for others.

My poor grandsons haven't been able to play much outside this winter, as deep as the snow has been and as cold as it is still.  But, watching monster movies with grandpa provides some relief from our winter of discontent.