Thursday, November 26, 2015

First time for everything.........

Today, for the first time ever, I ate in a restaurant for Thanksgiving. Mountain Man and I went to a local steakhouse where he ordered a steak with bleu cheese and bacon and I had pistachio-crusted salmon. Hey, at least I had garlic mashed potatoes! It was delicious and we topped it off with creme brulee and cheesecake with pumpkin drizzle. So, basically I bookended my day with pie, since our morning started off with a very early trip to the airport, followed by breakfast at Denny's nearby while we ensured our precious cargo actually made it airborne before we got all the way home (holiday travel is fickle). My pie at Denny's sucked so I only ate three bites. But, still, pie to start and end the day is never bad.

Except I'm on Weight Watchers so of course those indulgences are forbidden. But it's Thanksgiving so I'm giving myself a pass. Last night I was really hungry and wanted ice cream. As Jeff dug into the carton of coffee ice cream, I mentioned I'd really like a milkshake, but that I was out of points for the day. Licking the spoon, he yelled "Hold the line! Don't give up!" Can you tell he was watching "Gettysburg" just before his dessert? Needless to say, his Civil War motivation did little to quell my cravings, but I did not indulge and went to bed with my stomach growling.

Speaking of Civil War, since we just returned from our trip back East and having just visited Gettysburg, Antietam and other historic places, Jeff has been obsessed with watching movies and reading about these places. I guess we should have done our homework BEFORE the trip, but after is fine, too, since it's history, right? Still, he talks about it all the time. This morning, he was drawing imaginary fighting lines on the table at Denny's, explaining some strategy or other while I was busy texting Arlie at the airport. (I'm listening.......really...).

I remembered that I usually do some online shopping on Thanksgiving morning, but the crack-of-dawn trip to the airport kind of threw me off. Still, I logged on during the commute, and completed a few transactions. God bless smart phones!

When I got home I had a sudden urge to make this coffeecake I'd had once about 15 years ago. I have no idea what made me think of it again, but I picked up a can of cherry pie filling at the store just to make it so I looked for the ingredients. The first ingredient was Bisquick and I only had enough to make half the recipe, but that was fine since there were only four people in the house at the time. I was reminded that my box of Bisquick was from Costco, a place I have not ventured into for almost a year. I let my membership laspe, even! Gasp! But tomorrow I have to pick up my Christmas card that I ordered from Costco so I'm sure I'll have to renew my membership. If anything, I'll appreciate the ginormous packages of toilet paper because we go through that stuff like water.

I did some more online shopping today. What a cluster! It's so confusing to navigate all the black Friday specials (yes, it's Thursday, it just gets earlier and earlier each year) and it gives me a headache and anxiety trying to shop for four kids. Plus, one significant other and two extras we've acquired for the uncertain future. Yes, this year I have seven kids to shop for - all teens and young adults. I'm going to need a lot of Bailey's and Xanax to get through the season.

But today is about Thankfulness........and I'm truly thankful for everything in my life. I mean, I'm thankful every day - for my beautiful, but cluttered and often messy home, for my comfortable bed and the old electric blanket I found at grandpa's that still works great and keeps me so warm at night, for waking up with various kids under my roof, always happy to have them around for their goofiness, laughter and the way they amaze me every day with how smart they are. I'm thankful for food and flowers and my sweet old dog, and my lazy cats, and adventures with Mountain Man, and the fact that, even though not all Thanksgivings are full of family and friends and a turkey in the oven, a fruity adult beverage and the company of my husband are just as welcoming on a day we celebrate gratitude. I'm lucky.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Un-Thanksgiving......

It's Thanksgiving eve and something is amiss. I did not spend hours in a frenzied store. I have not spent the evening baking pies. I will not get up early to put a turkey in the oven. You see, the offspring will be spending Thanksgiving at their other parents' houses. For the first time, Mountain Man and I will be spending Thanksgiving alone, and it's not as terrible as it sounds.

For one thing, it was my idea. Arlie has not been to see her mom since April so I booked her a ticket earlier this month so she could spend the long weekend visiting her Spokane family. I had a mild panic this evening when I could not only NOT find the email confirmation of her reservations, but also no record of ever paying for it. I began to question whether I'd lost my fool mind and never booked the ticket at all. A long day of driving over the pass in snow loomed ahead. But, joy! I found the reservation and she's checked in. The only downside is she leaves at 8 a.m. so there will be a VERY early morning trip to the airport.

The other kids will go to their dad's new house to celebrate their first Thanksgiving there. And so, that leaves Jeff and I with no plans. We entertained the idea of going to a restaurant - letting someone else cook sounded like a pretty great idea! But we delayed making reservations and so now, I'm afraid, everything is booked. We were also invited to a dear friend's mom's house, but Mountain Man is still holding out for a restaurant. I guess we could always walk in somewhere.

The other caveat is that two of the kids have barfed multiple times in the past 24 hours so we're still on barf watch. As in, who's next? The distinct possibility that one or more of us will wake up tomorrow feeling decidedly NOT like partaking in Thanksgiving dinner is high. So, better to lay low and not spread our potential germs anywhere (except maybe a restaurant? Sorry.)

Additionally, we've unexpectedly had house guests with an uncertain future and no timeline for checking out, so we have been strategizing how to handle that.

And, honestly, I'm completely fine with not cooking a big dinner. Or even eating one. We did "Friendsgiving" last weekend and that was MY kind of Thanksgiving. Yeah, it was work - we cooked a turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, a veggie dish......but the guests all brought contributions, everyone had a good time and we got to visit with people we don't see as often as we'd like. I feel like I got my Thanksgiving fix so I kept forgetting that tomorrow is the actual holiday.

The only thing I'm truly bummed about is all the desserts I'll miss. Pumpkin pie, cookies, pecan pie...but those aren't on my diet plan anyway. But, let's be honest, if I had some, I'd eat it.

It feels weird to not have any plans at all; weirder still that I orchestrated it. There was a time,  not long ago, that I could not imagine not seeing my kids on a holiday. I do not enjoy sharing my kids. But life has a funny way of marching on, and they get older and busier and this will just be the first of many Thanksgivings that Mountain Man and I will be spending alone. Might as well get used to it! Heck, I'm falling asleep as I type this at 9 p.m. so a day full of peace, quiet and rest sounds pretty good to me. I'm officially old.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 19 So lazy............

Today is my Friday. I work M-Th and today at work, about a half hour before I was off, I got that "HELL, YEAH! IT'S FRIDAY!" feeling, only on a Thursday. And that, my friends, is a great feeling.

I arrived at work today on an empty gas tank - ok, not empty, I had four miles left - but it was clear I needed to acquire some gas before I went home, since I live ten miles from work. So, I headed down to the Safeway so I could use my gas points.

I hate pumping gas. And I really hate it when the stupid pump isn't working. It would not accept my Safeway card. So, I had to go INSIDE (I know!) and ask the lady to help me. She had me type in my phone number but nothing came up. I used my old phone number and my ex-husband's information came up. I should have just used his gas points, because he stole my Fred Meyer points for FOUR years after we divorced before I realized it. But, my halo was burnin' so I didn't. I did, however, finally have to succumb to pre-paying since even the station attendant couldn't make the pump work. I decided to be conservative and had her put $40 on the pump. It stopped at $37.31. So, I had to go BACK inside and get my change. SIGH. I really hate getting gas in my car. I wish my husband would just fill it up once a week so I didn't have to deal with it (adjusts pearls).

Anyway, the beautiful thing was, I didn't really have any other errands to do so I knew I could just go home and relax. What a feeling! I stopped by Starbucks, of course, so I could relax while enjoying a holiday beverage.

When I got home, I saw two kids' cars in the driveway. Oh. So much for my solitude, sipping my peppermint beverage and munching on a marshmallow krispy bar while checking my social media. I mean, I LOVE my kids but I was not expecting them to be home. One zipped out the door minutes after I arrived and the other one took off not 30 minutes later, so I actually DID have my solitude and my treats and my social media, even if it was slightly delayed.

And that's pretty much all I did the rest of the night. I sat on my ample ass and scrolled through Facebook, and did some online shopping, and checked my email.

You know what I got up for? To make food and video tape my husband flipping a plastic cup off his ass. Not kidding. I'm telling you, Thursday nights around here are riveting.

I'm so tired I could go to bed right now and it's 7:22 p.m. It's also freezing in my house and I actually got a heater and put it on the chair next to me. Which is only making me sleepy. Or sleepier.

Meanwhile, Mountain Man biked three miles home in the 45 degree weather, and immediately set to making things out of leather and sticks and stuff. He's been a busy bee all night, going back and forth to the garage. He gets shit DONE. And, yeah, I always manage to get done what needs to be done, but he makes me look like a sloth. I could be doing any number of things today instead of wasting my life on social media. Like: cleaning the house, baking for our Friendsgiving this weekend, organizing my office, making jewelry, scrapbooking, doing laundry, organizing cabinets, brushing the dog,

I think I thrive on crisis mode, because instead of doing a little bit every day to get ready to have people over, I just go bat-shit crazy the day of the event and get myself worked into a sweaty frenzy cleaning, prepping and shouting orders at the kids. I make mental notes of things needing to be done, details I want to attend to. You know what's been on my mind all week? The fact that I want to tie raffia around the decorative holiday tea towels in the bathroom and kitchen. I have a thousand things to do and the one detail my brain holds all week is tying raffia bows on towels. I'm sick, I tell ya. I need an intervention.

I think I'll beg the husband to make me a milkshake and go to bed early.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17 and the big windstorm...

Today we had a windstorm. We knew it was coming but of course, no one can predict how much damage, if any, will happen. We had a big storm in August that uprooted trees and left people without power for days.

Today's storm also knocked out power, blew trees down on major highways and cars, and carried a good amount of rain with it.

I really hate windstorms. Mainly because there is this REALLY tall tree right in my back yard. You see, my neighborhood was constructed 15 years ago by basically razing all the trees and leaving this patch of trees right in the middle which were not meant to be strong and firm. These trees were once protected by much stronger, bigger and more wind firm trees. These trees are spindly - long, skinny, with few branches at the bottom but top-heavy with foliage. Perfect for snapping off in bad weather. In fact, I've actually watched two trees fall right outside my window and it's a stunning sight. And also frightening when they hit neighbors' houses and fences.

So, most every time the wind picks up, I spend a fair amount of time checking on "the butter knife" as I've affectionately named my tall tree. I feel like one day, it's going to slice through my house like a knife through butter. We're right in the way, after all. It would make a clean cut through my bedroom, coming to rest in my kitchen and family room. I've actually seen first-hand what it looks like when a large tree cuts through a house and it's quite terrifying. So, this tree and I, we've had a long relationship.

Now, chances are, if the tree actually does fall, it will fall away from the house due to the direction of the wind. But I'm not taking any chances. I have leapt from my bed more than once when I've heard, in the wee hours of the night, the howl of the wind, the shake of the house, and the unmistakable snap, crackle and pop of a tree falling in the woods. I've run to the door to escape, only to be thwarted by a false alarm again and again. Still, I'm not taking any chances. I've even made all the kids sleep on the living room floor in what I deem to be the safest distance from any tree damage on particularly harsh weather nights.

Today, when I left work, I was startled by a loud sound - a tree branch had come down on top of my minivan as I exited the parking lot. Too stunned to even get out and check, I drove off, my mission to get home to my safe haven on the top of my mind. But what safe haven? The Butter Knife was waiting for me. Damn him.

I've read disconcerting accounts of accidents involving trees. Just today, another fatality was caused by a falling tree on the very road Mountain Man and I drove on just two weeks ago during a Sunday afternoon exploring adventure. What a terrible way to go! I'm so paranoid of a tree falling on me, I actually spend my time driving looking up more than at the road, thereby putting myself in even more danger. This is why I should stay home during windstorms.

Lucky for us, our power stayed on, despite flickering here and there. We had a warm dinner prepared on the gas stove, so even if the power had gone out, we could still have prepared food. It's a bit blustery out, still, but likely by morning the winds will have fizzled out and power will be restored to all. Crossing our fingers.

Still, this is our November in the Pacific Northwest. Windstorm after windstorm and rain upon rain. November is a drizzly, cold, miserable month in a lot of ways. But I'm not complaining. My evening obligations were canceled because of the storm, and I made a pot of homemade chili and a pan of cornbread. My son lit the candles, and my husband and I caught up on the tv show we missed last week when we were traveling. My daughter, thoughtful in her preparations, had gathered flashlights and candles in the event of a power outage. I had time to hang out with my college kid, listen to music (and to her singing, always a bonus!) and watch videos. And, as the house grew quiet, time for blogging.

So, as much as I hate windstorms, I appreciate an unexpectedly free evening, even if I do have to keep a sideways eye on the Butter Knife. One of these days..........

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 15, not the highlight reel..........

So, I just returned from a wonderful vacation where I blogged daily, uploaded lovely pictures, and basically had a great time. And the whole experience reminded me how social networks show us the "highlight reel" of our lives. For instance, I'm not always frolicking in a national park, tossing fall leaves like I haven't a care in the world:

But, that's what makes the social networks, because who thinks to take pictures of the embarrassing things? 

Like that time in the Baltimore airport (last week) when I had to go to the bathroom and there were no seat covers and I didn't want to take time to cover the seat with toilet paper because I had to pee so bad. So, I squatted and I.......missed. Yes, I dribbled pee on the back of my jeans and underwear. It wasn't a lot but enough to make me think "Shit, how am I going to dry that out when I'm about to sit in a rental car for an hour?" So, I did the only thing I could - I grabbed a handful of paper towels, folded them, and shoved them down the back of my pants to absorb the dampness. And silently cursed the Baltimore airport for not having seat covers. (Fun fact: there were NO seat covers ANYWHERE on this trip - not a single public restroom had them - why?? Is that an East coast thing? Because, gross). Anyway, no picture of THAT! You're welcome. 

Also? Sometimes I wake up and my hair looks like this: 

Today, November 15, 2015. Not sorry. 

And today, since it was the day after returning from vacation, I had to go to the store and stock up since the kids ate food while I was gone (imagine!) and the cupboards were bare. Not really, we had plenty of food, but Cheez-Its were on sale 2 for $5 and who am I to pass up a sale? So, off to the store I went. On a Sunday. Just before the Seahawks game. GREAT timing. Several thousand of my closest friends were there so maneuvering the aisles was a challenge. In the produce section, right next to the (appallingly sparse) display of tomatoes, stood a woman, doing absolutely nothing. She was blocking the aisle, holding a small basket of groceries and staring into space. I think. She was wearing sunglasses so I really don't know where she was staring. The point is, she didn't MOVE when I came barreling through with my cart and instead of politely saying "Excuse me!" I tried to squeeze my cart between her and the sturdy post next to me. Calamity ensued. I brushed up against the fire extinguisher secured to the pole (clearly not very well-secured) and it sprang free from its holder and went clattering to the ground. I instinctively turned away because I was certain it was going to break and spray white foam everywhere but, thank goodness, it didn't spring a leak. However, imagine a full metal fire extinguisher hitting the concrete floor from a three-foot height and I was an instant (dubious) celebrity. Every head turned. I fumbled to replace it on the holder, but was unsuccessful. I scanned the area for an employee to help and said to the first name tag I saw "I knocked that off the wall" to which she replied "I know" with an eye roll. Well, excuse me! Clearly she had it under control so I gingerly placed it upright on the ground and walked away as it fell over again. 

See? No picture, but a video would have been awesome, right? 

Also, today at the store, I was innocently browsing the clearance racks when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was like a fly, only much bigger. I saw something move on the shoulder of a sweater hanging on a display. I seriously thought it was a mouse or a rat for a second and I thought, "Well, there goes the neighborhood" but I realized it was a BIRD! The bird puffed out his feathers and made a hissing sound. I shit you not. He HISSED. I was terrified but also intrigued. I wanted to snap a picture with my cell phone which was in my purse and out of my reach. So, I inched closer and the bird flew erratically to another display. Undaunted, I grabbed my cell phone and snapped away. Closer, closer.........I entertained thoughts of being beak-mauled by this puffy sparrow, but I soldiered on. Because, sometimes you DO get pictures of the not-so-awesome moments: 

He may look cute, but, believe me, he will CUT YOU. 

Finally, today I deep conditioned my hair. This involves glopping copious amounts of conditioner on my hair, putting on a shower cap, and then a towel wrap and letting it sit for twenty minutes (or an hour because I got distracted by the laundry). Anyway, when I was done, I just sort of quickly pulled my hair back in a clip and then decided to put on my new sparkly headband. Which, as you can see, perfectly matches my sparkly gray hair. Which I just colored two weeks ago. So, yeah, I get about nine days of coverage from one $7 bottle of hair color. Embrace the gray you say? I'm SO not ready for that. I also can't afford my awesome colorist's services every two weeks, so this is my life now:

Highlight reel? Most of the time. But this is me, keepin' it real. Hope you had a great Sunday! 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

November 13 and Mt. Vernon..........

Today we visited Mt. Vernon, George Washington's plantation/home. It was a beautiful day, which was perfect because much of the tour involves walking from place to place and it's a sprawling plantation!

Here we are with George, Martha and their grandkids! 

The house is amazing. 

It's a real, working plantation, with oxen! 

George and Martha are entombed here. 

This is the slave memorial. George freed his slaves upon the death of his wife, Martha. 

The Potomac river - and a big bird in the tree! 

The old tomb. 

Colonial folk

They have a real, working blacksmith on the plantation!

The plantation has flowers, fruits and vegetables. 

So much charm!

After Mt. Vernon, we went to explore Old Town, Alexandria. First, we stopped at Starbucks, which had a buy one, get one for a friend holiday drink promotion. Alex was his own best friend. 

Then, we did a little thrift shopping, where Alex somehow managed to channel both Macklemore and Adele at the same time. Hello. 

The buildings are just so artistic - old architecture, sometimes painted "new" colors. 

The famous fountain - I forgot to ask what it was called. 

Thanks, Alex, for capturing US in a picture! :) 

We drove through the National Mall at night and the Capitol building looked like a Lego structure with all the scaffolding surrounding it. 

The Supreme Court

A very blurry Washington memorial!

Jefferson Memorial

After our long day of walking, touring and shopping, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant for Pho. I had a vermicilli bowl and it was delicious! We stopped at Lena's afterward, a newly-opened restaurant, for drinks and dessert. The gelato was so good! Our last full day on vacation was packed full of adventures. It's been an educational week with all the history we've explored. Tomorrow, brunch with Alex and Tim, maybe a little more shopping, then off to Baltimore to return the rental car and board our plane to Seattle. 

November 12 and Alexandria, VA.........

Today, Jeff's conference was only for two hours so we checked out of hotel and went to Boalsburg. Just outside of State College, Boalsburg's claim to fame is that they started Memorial Day. So, thanks Boalsburg! As with all the small towns around here, Boalsburg has beautiful churches:

And beautiful homes:

We ate lunch at Duffy's Tavern, established in 1819! 

And on our way out of town, we stopped to fill up with gas and saw an Amish woman in a horse-drawn buggy, waiting for her husband in the convenience store. Since they clearly didn't need gas, we wondered what he was getting in the store. He came out with a fountain soda! The buggy had lantern-illuminated "turn signals" and a safety triangle on the back, since it was riding on the road with the cars. 

Love the contrast of the buggy with the gas station sign in the background!

And they're off! 

We started our drive to Alexandria, almost four hours away. The sun was fading fast, making most of our drive in the dark. 

We crossed the VERY wide Susquehanna river and saw this Statue of Liberty replica in the middle of the river! 

We finally arrived at our Airbnb in Alexandria. A sweet couple named Gina and Jemar run this one, and our room was in the basement. We were greeted by this cute sign, and their darling daughter, Sol, who kept us laughing the whole visit! She was a darling, spirited three year old. Our room was well-appointed with everything we needed, a private bathroom, and the charm of old Alexandria. 

My cousins Alex and Tim picked us up and we dined at an amazing BBQ place, followed by custard at The Dairy Godmother. I chose a boozy shake at the BBQ restaurant that was amazing! Afterward, we went to their condo nearby, met Alejandro the cat, and chatted until we were tired and Alex brought us home. It was another long, fun day. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 11 and Veteran's day........

Today I set out on an adventure! I found two antique malls nearby and decided I'd visit them both, and then go on a tour of Penn Cave. But that's not what happened.

What happened was I had breakfast at Perkins restaurant. They had SO MANY PIES. But I was there for breakfast, so, alas, no pie. But I did have cinnamon French toast and it was delicious. Plus a side of sliced bananas to make me feel better because I've been eating like crap this whole week.

Fueled for the morning, I set off for the first antique store. But there was a Christmas store right in the way so I spent a good amount of time in there browsing two whole floors of Christmas, and buying several ornaments. Whoops.

At the first antique store, I found a pretty cool treasure: a civil war-era tin cup for Mountain Man! Now, he already has a tin cup, but THIS tin cup belonged to a soldier at some point. Maybe even one who fought in Gettysburg or Antietam. Who knows? Now he can take a piece of civil war history with him on his rendezvous.

Speaking of Mountain Man, he specifically asked me to look for powder horns at the antique stores, so I browsed very carefully. There were none at the first store, but the next store, in a town about ten miles away, was a possibility.

The town was Bellefonte, and it was adorable! It's a Victorian town and has such charm and so many churches, plus a darling town "square" which is really a roundabout headed by the courthouse. I browsed several antique stores there and found not one, but two, powder horns for Mountain Man. He was very happy with his prizes today.

I had lunch at a corner cafe. It was a meatloaf sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. There was a LOT of gravy poured over everything. Yummy! Plus, homemade applesauce. I was very full. I drove around town after lunch, taking pictures out my car window while I was driving (don't worry, it's a very slow-moving town). I couldn't get enough of the Victorian houses and imagining what it would be like to live in one. They were stunning!

I did not go to tour Penn Cave because I ran out of time. I was kind of bummed about the wildlife tour being closed for the season anyway, but I thought the tour of the caves by boat would be a good photo opp. But there just wasn't enough time to squeeze it in today.

I drove back to the hotel and waited for MM to arrive for dinner. Earlier in the day he had texted me the dinner choice - a nice restaurant near the golf course. We were going with some of his co-workers and other conference attendees. I looked up the menu, decided on what I was going to have, and got very excited about their large selection of "boozy milkshakes."

(Cue wa-wa-wa sound when a game show contestant give the wrong answer). I was informed that the dinner choice had been changed by a very pushy fellow conference attendee and we were now going to a brew pub. Yuck. I was very angry about this but of course I had to be pleasant and shake hands and smile. The pushy guy turned out to be somewhat obnoxious as well, and he sat by me! I ordered a fruity adult beverage to put a hazy barrier between us, but when it arrived it neither looked nor tasted like what I ordered. I drank it anyway, because 1. it clearly had alcohol in it and 2. obnoxious guy.

Dinner was what I expected - mediocre. Service was slow. I couldn't WAIT to get out of there and on to the boozy milkshake location. FINALLY we said our goodbyes and headed towards the creamy goodness that is ice cream and alcohol. One of my husband's co-workers joined us. We had a grand time sipping our very fancy adult milkshakes - except for my husband, who's "Death by Chocolate" milkshake did not include the promised brownie on top because they were out. He said he couldn't die then, just be seriously ill. He's funny.

Tomorrow I was going to meet up with a friend who lives three hours away but it's not going to work out so I'm sad. But that's one of the sucky parts of adulting - we have jobs and responsibilities and we can't always do the fun stuff. So, after we check out of the hotel tomorrow, there is one more little town I'd like to see, then we'll start our journey toward Alexandria. It's a 4 hour drive so we'll have plenty of time to take in the scenery, which hopefully won't be rainy the whole time. I can't believe our week is almost over!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10 and random thoughts.......

Today I was kind of bored. I knew it wouldn't be as fun as the last couple of days because Jeff would be in his conference all day and I'd be on my own to entertain myself, but I didn't know that a good many of the popular tourist activities in this town require good weather and are more geared to summer tourism.

The wifi in the hotel was down so I decided to go someplace where I could get breakfast and connect to free wifi. Starbucks! There were three downtown near the university. I also found a Dunkin Donuts nearby and I've been wanting to go there since we saw them in York.  I figured I'd grab a doughnut, head over to Starbucks to get a coffee, and hang out there a while using the wifi.  But there was no parking to be found near the college. No worries, I figured I could find the same set up near a suburban mall.

Not exactly. I found a nearby mall, but it was nearly abandoned and some of the anchor stores were shuttered. Perhaps I arrived too early (10 a.m.?) but there didn't appear to be breakfast options at this particular mall. I was about to give up when I spotted a Barnes and Noble. Hallelujah! They had a cafe AND free wifi - jackpot! I found a prime table right next to an outlet (because I need constant power for my lame computer). I had a peppermint mocha frappucino - so delicious - and perfect for my sore throat this morning. I also had an almond croissant to fill my belly and set to "work." I did do a tiny bit of real work on my computer but mostly I scrolled Facebook and watched people come and go. The internet worked great at first but then it got really slow so I spent a lot of time just looking around waiting for things to load. I finally got bored and decided to go to Ross across the street.

I knew I couldn't buy much because my suitcase was already bursting when I arrived here. But I found this one cute top so of course I had to buy it. It's super thin and will roll up and tuck right in! No problem! But then I found this buttery soft blanket. It was so rainy and cold out today, I envisioned myself wrapped in this blanket next to the hotel room window, reading a novel and watching rivulets of rain rush down the windowpane. So, of course, I bought it. I have no idea where it will fit on the trip home but that's what husbands are for - to make room in THEIR luggage for your expenditures when you're bored in a small town. Ha.

I finally got hungry for lunch so I left Ross and headed back to Barnes and Noble. I didn't see many restaurant options around the area, and I wasn't feeling adventurous driving a rental car in the rain. I ordered a pizza - the description said it was "handcrafted and hand-stretched dough" topped with fresh ingredients. The picture looked great, too! Unfortunately, it was a glorified frozen pizza. The cheap kind. With three dime-sized pieces of pepperoni, a few crumbles of sausage and watery sauce. And it wasn't even very warm. I was so hungry I ate part of it, but threw the rest away. In another one of my poor food decisions, I also ordered a large vanilla cupcake. Oh, and an iced mocha. So, I cut the cupcake in half - certainly I did not need the whole thing after eating the pizza! But, guess what? I ate the whole thing! I immediately regretted it and I had a stomach ache for two hours after. Bad, bad decisions.

I headed back to the hotel at 3:30 because it was already starting to get dark. I'm such a baby when it comes to 1. driving in an unfamiliar town, 2. driving in the dark in an unfamiliar town, 3. driving. I just want someone else to drive me places.

Soon, Jeff returned from his conference. He informed me he would be attending a dinner but that I was not invited. I'm kidding - he actually asked if I could come to the dinner and was told NO so he said we would just go get dinner on our own and he'd skip it. But, being the benevolent soul I am, I told him to go ahead and network and I'd get room service or venture down to the restaurant by myself. I also secretly thought mean things about the company for excluding spouses. Jeff went on his way and I went to dinner on my own where I enjoyed two adult beverages, crab cakes, salad and ice cream from the Penn State creamery. Who knew they had their own creamery?

I got back to the room and the wifi was out again. It took a half-hour to shut down my computer and start it back up again and get connected to the wifi. In the meantime, my cell phone carrier sent me a text informing me I had used 40mb of my roaming data and would be limited to 50. Great. I still have two more days in this wifi wasteland. So, I attempted to connect my phone to wifi with limited success. Why can't wifi just be free and everywhere, all the time?

The best news: while I was eating dinner, a high school friend of mine saw a post on Facebook showing I was near Penn State and she messaged me that she lives 3 hours away and now we're trying to connect sometime in the next two days! How cool would that be? I have not seen her for 30 years. We were best friends our senior year of high school - and also the only two new seniors at our Catholic high school. We were inseparable the whole year and then we graduated; I moved to Washington and she went off to college and we never saw each other again. We were out of touch for years before we reconnected a few years ago on Facebook. I hope our reunion works out because it would be a highlight of this trip to see her again!

Tomorrow I think I will venture to a nearby town that is said to have some nice antique stores. Mountain Man is really pushing the antique stores, which I do not understand because we are flying home so what can we buy really? His response? Powderhorns. Of course. He also thinks if I just drive randomly in any direction I will run into Amish people and become best friends with them. I don't think he understands this at all. He had me listen to Weird Al's "Amish Paradise" this morning. I seriously think that's his only reference to the Amish way of life.

Also? I have only encountered ONE public restroom with seat covers. I don't know how this is relevant here, but I believe I did title this one "random thoughts." No seat covers in the Baltimore airport, at Gettysburg, Antietam, in any restaurant we've encountered. Why? Is there a shortage of paper? Do people just not use them in this part of the country? Come to think of it, there WERE seat covers at Barnes and Noble, but only in one stall. I do not understand this.

So, my day can be summed up this way: too many carbs, not enough walking. Also, tomorrow I need to venture farther afield. And I hope it stops raining.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9, Harpers Ferry and Antietam

Today we woke to the sounds of breakfast being made, a rooster crowing, and a dog barking. Yep, we were on a farm. Stony Ridge Farm in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Our breakfast was locally-made granola, yogurt, fresh raspberry jam and coffee. Our hosts, Lorrie and Bob, were friendly and full of stories. They left the "rat race" in Baltimore to live in what was a ramshackle farmhouse in Harpers Ferry. They camped out on the back deck for a year while they gutted and renovated the inside. Now, they run their B&B, Bob does graphic art and they both run a community supported agriculture business, growing vegetables, berries, and raising chickens for eggs.

After breakfast, we wandered down to look at the farm and animals. There were about 40 chickens in separate pens - younger ones who are almost ready for laying, and mature ones who are already laying many eggs a day. A large, loud rooster made his presence known and the two fainting goats greeted us at the fence. Sadly (for my enjoyment) they didn't faint! But they were so darn cute. The neighboring pasture had a sweet little donkey who came right up to the fence to see if I had a treat for him - I didn't. But he stuck around long enough for several pictures. I could have hugged him, he was so tiny and cute! The two mischievous kitties couldn't wait for us to come out and play with them, and McKiver, the huge dog, greeted us enthusiastically when we went outside.

Look at this princess kitty - and her one tiny white sock!

Pardon me.....

McKiver, the huge friendly dog. 

Cool chicks. 


How cute can a donkey be? 

It was soon time to go, so we ventured out into the cool, frosty and foggy morning to explore Harpers Ferry. We stopped in an antique store, then visited the Catholic church, which is said to have beautiful stained glass. Sadly, it was closed, but even the outside is impressive - like something out of a fairy tale, according to Jeff.

Like we traveled back in time! 

We even saw some amazing ruins from an old Episcopalian church, and walked through the town - the downtown area has both working storefronts and replicated storefronts that show how things used to be. 
The Episcopal church ruins. 

A popular spot in town is John Brown's house. John Brown was an abolitionist who staged a rebellion, was captured, here and later hanged. 

Harpers Ferry is the spot where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet. An armory was built along the river banks providing the town with a robust livelihood for many years. Some relics still remain, but it's mostly gone. Industry changes, the Civil War and repeated floods have ravaged the town, but it has continued to bounce back time and again. The Shenandoah offers some beautiful scenery. 

The mighty Shenandoah! 

Heron in silhouette. 

Cardinal - such a treat to see this! 

After Harpers Ferry, we drove to Antietam. This is the sight of the single most deadly battle in one day of the civil war. In twelve hours of fighting, 23,000 men were killed. The battle of Antietam included three farms, several orchards, a cornfield, where there was deadly hand-to-hand combat, several clusters of woods and "Bloody Lane" - the sunken road which provided great cover to soldiers until they became sitting ducks and were slaughtered "seven and eight deep, stacked like railroad ties." It's a very somber place. 

The Mumma graveyard. 

Burnside Bridge - soldiers were sent across this in clusters, which provided an easy target for the soldiers stationed in the hills above. 

The cemetery where over 4700 men are buried. Initially, bodies were buried where they lay in the battlefield. Later, they were re-interred here and in other places. 

Probably the highlight of my day was driving to Antietam and seeing an owl on the power cables! At first I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Then, I realized it was an owl and I shouted to Jeff to turn around so I could take a picture. It was such a perfect specimen, we thought it might be fake. But when it turned its head and looked at us, blinking its eyes, we knew it was real! I still can't believe it. It was huge, too. Made my day! 

Now, we're checked in to the Penn Stater hotel and conference center for Jeff's three-day conference. I will spend the days exploring and basically doing whatever I want. Bliss!