Monday, December 22, 2014

Season's Greetings from Morocco

It's been over a week since I arrived in Morocco.  Between French classes, visits to the dentist and catching up with grandkids and friends, I'm just now finding time to write an update.

The day after I arrived we celebrated Leila's birthday with chocolate cake and a to-die-for chocolate cake.

There's been lots of rain here this month so everything is green and lush.  When I walk home from French class, I go through the botanical garden.  Very quiet and peaceful.  Rests my tired brain from trying to remember French words and syntax.

There are also fig trees, 

and date palms.

Wish they grew in my garden.

Joe has an orange tree in his back yard and 'tis the season.  For juice 

and Christmas secrets and cookie baking!

I hope you are enjoying your Christmas preparations.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crazy Busy Days

Lots going on the last couple of days.

Thursday we went to the Children's Museum.  But lunch first in an outdoor cafĂ©.

A ride on the dad-powered carousel.

Then inside to explore.

Yesterday was jam-packed.  A water park adventure.  WARNING.  Lots of cute old and young kid photos.

Next, trying to get four 5 to 9 year olds to take a nap.  Then a trip to a local brew pub (too busy sampling the local brews to take pictures.  Then back home for a bit before we all went to the Leander McCormick Observatory.

"The University of Virginia operates the McCormick Observatory, located on the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. The observatory was constructed after a gift from Leander J. McCormick to build one of the largest telescopes in the world. The 26-inch astrometric refractor was the second largest telescope in the world when it was dedicated on April 13, 1885 (Thomas Jefferson's Birthday). The telescope was the primary research instrument for the department until the 1960's and was used for astrometry into the 1990's."  Here's a link if you want further information: 

Our tour guide was an astronomy professor with same last name but no relation to my BIL.  While we waited for it to get dark, he gave us an overview to the solar system and universe interesting to both adults and kids, who asked lots of questions.

Then to the telescope.  It took quite a bit of time to make adjustments, involving much moving of the dome, the telescope and ladder containing The Seat where we could look through the telescope.  

We totally lucked out.  Although there was some cloud cover, we got to look at Saturn.  

It's like magic.  First all I could see was this blob of white through the eyepiece.  Then, suddenly there was Saturn, looking just like it's pictures.  The atmosphere was clear enough so we could see the Cassini Division.  It looks like a dark line and is the largest of the gaps separating the rings.  I could also see the four moons.

We also looked at our own moon, so large we could only see a small part of it through one of the eyepieces.  Then, through another eyepiece, we could view the whole thing.

Our awesome tour guide to the Universe

Driving back to the hotel, I took a picture of the moon as we see it from here.  Looks nothing like the close-up I'd seen a short time before.

Tomorrow, we're off to the Outer Banks.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fun Times in Charlottesville

The last couple of days have been busy.  On Monday, we toured the campus of the University of Virginia.  While walking around we came upon this building.

I Googled it later and found this tidbit of information.  "The building was constructed mainly with monies from the Peabody Education Fund, which had been set up by George Peabody, 19th-century advocate for public education in the South."  George Peabody was an ancestor--from the rich side of Dad's family.  Basically, all the Peabody's in the country are related.

Tuesday, we had Art on the Porch.  Lots of drawing and flying paper airplanes.  And paper cutting.

Every day we're down at the pool at least once a day.  The kidlets are little fish, swimming, splashing, jumping in.  It they're good, Uncle Luke will even toss them up and into the water.

Yesterday, we went shopping.  I gave each of the little kids $25 to spend as they wish.  Decisions of that kind take a lot of time.  An hour later, we checked out of Toys R Us.  They had to pay for their purchases, take the change (if there was any) and keep the receipt until we walked out.  Fortunately, the adults were on hand to help.  I couldn't have managed four of them on my own.

Last night, the kids got to stay up until dark to light sparklers I brought with me.  Even though we were careful, there were a couple of teeny tiny burns.  I was too busy lighting sparklers to take pictures.  But there was the usual Statue of Liberty pose, running and twirling around with them.

The generosity of my BIL and SIL in opening their home to an invasion is awesome  We've had a million laughs, wonderful food and lots of great wine and beer.

There's noting better than hangin' with my family peeps.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Roadtrip

Yesterday, I took the Sage Lady, my pretty new Prius, and we went on a roadtrip.  A long one. Twelve (12, you read that right) hours and several caffeinated beverages later we arrived in Charlottesville, VA.  I LOVES driving this car.  Even makes road construction bearable.

Sitting and driving, there’s not much else to do but listen to my awesome roadtrip playlist and think.  Below are some random thoughts in no particular order.

I left at 3:00 A.M.  It’s always inspiring to watch the sun come up.  The sky shifts from dark to gray almost unnoticed at first.  Then it’s light, then bright, then sun shining in the windows.  Back in the day when we did karate weekend workouts on the North Shore of Lake Superior, Mr. Goodwin had those of us who wanted, get up before sunrise, face the east and meditate—or at least sit quietly—as the sun rose.  A wonderful, energizing way to start the day.

A carefully chosen roadtrip playlist is a time travel device.  It can transport you back in time to revisit high school sweethearts, husbands, lovers.

America is an awesome country.  We’re great at innovating, inventing, building stuff, but our infrastructure is sliding toward third world quality.  Seriously.  We need to stop spending money on wars and killing people and instead make sure feeding people in this country aren't going hungry, make sure they have access to good health care, and repair roads and bridges.  One bridge I drove across (with a semi beside me) was downright scary.  From the looks of the potted bridge deck and rusted supports this could be an I-35 disaster candidate.

There’s a LOT of rubber tire roadkill along the edges of the highway.  I’m grateful I wasn’t in the vicinity when those tires disintegrated.

There’s a gas station chain down this way called Sheetz?  What genius invented that name.  Were they aiming for corporate logos along the lines of “Stop in if you’re three Sheetz to the wind” or “Holy Sheets, we're here if you have an intestinal malfunction”.  Gotta say, it's an odd name.

The Blue Ridge Mountains are really, really blue--even in this pic taken with my iPhone.  I need to ask SIL and BIL who live down here, why.  Anyone know what causes this? 

Taken from a scenic view stop just outside Charlottesville
It’s interesting that the Appalachian Mountains, stretching over 2,00 miles along the East Coast, have such unique regional personalities.  Blue Ridge, Smokies, Green Mountains, White Mountains.

From my room in the hotel, I have a view of the mountains.  It’s already a great day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Busy, Busy Weekend

On Saturday, we crammed in a lot of things.  First off, Alayah and Louie were in a kids triathelon.  I mostly took videos, but here's a blury pic of the start of the swim leg.

Both Alayah and Louie did a great job

Then, on to T-ball.

Here's Louie at bat and coming in to home base.

Next up was Alayah.

Then, we met C's sister to celebrate her graduation—with ice cream, of course.

Finally, we loaded up the van and drove up to Santa Fe.  We stayed with friends of C's and I now have 6 degrees of separation with Mandy Patinkin and Bob Woodard.

Sunday was the day of the Santa Fe Century bike ride.  The trail starts in Santa Fe, heads down toward Albuquerque, then they turn around and ride back up the mountains.  Here's the biker boy eating his breakfast.

Two-eggs and bread plus coffee
While he was riding up hill and dale, the girlz decided to have way more fun.  We visited the Pecos National Historical Park, situated in the Pecos Valley.  The area was first inhabited in 1100 by Pueblo Indians.

The population eventually grew to 2000 by the 1400s and became a large meeting center where goods were traded between the Pueblo and Plains Indians.

Just imagine these remains being walls that were four stories high.

Part of their culture involved ceremonial Kivas.  These were underground, circular rooms accessed by climbing down ladders.

These ceremonial and social places symbolized the connection between the underworld and life above ground.

In 1598, the Spanish arrived in New Mexico and quickly changed the way of life for the Native Americans, building churches to convert them.  Only the bare remnants remain.

Returning to Santa Fe, we stopped at KaKawa for  the most decedent beverage ever.  It was like drinking a melted dark chocolate bar.

Not long after we returned to the house, the biker boy returned, beating his own time from the ride last year, not too much the worse for wear, but impatient with the picture taking.

An awesome day was had by all.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

First Days in Albuquerque

When I left Maine on Tuesday, my son texted me that it was SNOWING in Albuquerque.  Just to be clear, I was leaving Maine for a visit where it's WARMER.  So I was not impressed.  By the time I arrived, the snow had melted.  It was a bit chilly, however.  Never mind.  My heart was warmed by a huge hug from my son and my granddaughter saying, "I love you, Grammy."

I was so excited to see their new house.  The neighborhood reminds me a lot of the one in St. Paul, MN where my kids grew up.  Except here, flowers are in full bloom in May, rather than just getting their leaves.

Fast forward to yesterday, my new daughter-in-law's birthday.  Alayah and I decided we would walk to Old Town, an old, historic neighborhood in Albuquerque.  It took more than half an hour because we made frequent stops to admire flowers and pick leaves for 'cabbage soup'.

Arriving at the plaza, we made a beeline for the chocolate shop and purchased a box of hand-chosen delicious candy for my chocoholic DIL  Then stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch and a photo op.

Back home, the Lukester was hard at work building the first of several raised beds for the back yard.  After much trial and tribulation, it was completed.  The three girlz needed to make a run to the grocery store, leaving the boyz to do some therapeutic planting.

Saturday, we're off to Santa Fe where Luke will do the 100 mile bike ride and the rest of us will chill.

Catch ya later. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Visit to a House of Refuge

After breakfast and a walk on the beach

we visited Gilbert's Bar House of Refuge, built on the "St. Lucie Rocks" (Hutchinson Island).  It is the only one remaining.  You can find more information by visiting

Houses of refuge were built along Florida's east cost, a sparsely populated area when this one was constructed in 1876.  A keeper and his family lived in residence, and after storms, he walked the beach, looking for shipwreck survivors to rescue.

This would make a cozy place to live.  I can totally imagine myself here.  Come with me on a tour.

A cozy room for a quick breakfast.

A formal dining room to entertain guests when they drop by.

A nice old desk to write at and a gramophone to play my favorite tunes.

A cheerful bedroom complete with mosquito netting.

A great veranda for a morning coffee break


with an awesome view.

Sign me up.  Oh, wait.  There wasn't any internet back then.  Guess I'll stay in this time in the wilds of Maine.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fun in the Sun

It's March.  It's sunny.  It's possible to walk on the beach wearing shorts.  So, I guess I'm not in Maine.

I think these tiny birds are a variety of plover.  As the waves recede, they run out to catch any food carried in on the water.  As the waves wash ashore, the scurry back across the sand.

Then back for lunch, yummy cheeseburger soup, at The Grill in the clubhouse.

Thanks to Tony and his Christmas gift of a shirt from Asheville Sun Soo Tai Kwon Do (, I was able to get into the Grill Room ('golf' shirts required).

Later that afternoon, after a short drive and we reached the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center.  This an awesome place.  Located on Hutchinson Island, which is a barrior island, they have great activities and educational programs.  I chose not to join the fun of sting ray feeding.  With my luck, they would decide I was attack worthy.

There was a great presentation about the three kinds of sea turtles, loggerhead, green and leatherback.  The females dig nests in the sand, lay eggs and cover them.  When the babies hatch, they have to dig up through something like three feet of sand, then head for water.

They've also created a game fish lagoon, 

complete with sharks, jacks, snook and others.  And turtles.

 (These were taken during the fish feeding)

There's also a wonderful nature mile-long trail with a guided walk.

We hiked through a mangrove swamp

past Spanish Moss (named by the Native Americans because it resembled the bearded Spaniards)

And saw a replica of their dwellings.

The turn-around point is the Indian River Lagoon (named for the Ays Indian Tribe who were the original inhabitants of the area, known as the Ays Coast or the Province of Ays).  As you can see from the waves, it was a windy day.

On the return walk, we spotted a gecko in a tree beside the trail.  If you look closely, you can see him perched on the branch (he's the tiny light green slash just above the middle of the picture.

It's all about fun in the sun.