Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Trial Run for Grandpa's Camp

Growing up, we were nomads due to my dad's military career. A nuclear power plant would be built, and Dad's team would be shipped in to set up and train. Then we'd be on our way again. It wasn't conducive to making and keeping friends. I was always the new kid on the block. Things like music and schoolwork were the constants in my life. But there was always one place where we would go, where (like Cheers) everybody knew your name. You could be yourself. It always seemed like everyone loved us, and life was beautiful. The pine trees were tall, and the lake sparkled. Whether the sun was hot or the snow covered the ground, it was a happy place to be. It was Grandpa's Camp, in Northern Michigan. 

When we found our place here, we also found out we were expecting our first grandchild, who is now nine months old. We've had a sign made that reads Grandpa's Camp, and we hope to have the same feeling here for our family that I had growing up whenever we visited my Grandpa's Camp. Last night we had a trial run.

Two of our daughter-in-law Ruth's brothers have moved to a nearby town, and last night they came over for a spaghetti dinner, bringing their wives and seven kids. It was fabulous, and I got to see what a wonderful place this will be when having our own grandchildren visit. We just had fun. We did the s'mores in the yard around the campfire, of course, since it's one of my favorite things to do, and we ate a lot, since it's one of my favorite things to do. I guess that's what we always seem to do here — the things I like best. That works for me. It was almost like being an honorary grandma last night, and the kids couldn't have been better behaved or more fun. I think I had more fun than anybody else. I certainly wasn't ready for the evening to end, but we'll have many more. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autumn in the Foothills

One of the big reasons we wanted to live here was to celebrate four seasons each year. Our least favorite is summer. We got enough summer living on the West Coast. There was so much summer that the ground would bake so hard that when the rains finally came, it would run off, not able to soak in properly, and then the national news would have a field day reporting on which hillsides had slipped and taken their payloads of expensive homes sliding down with them. 

Summer here got a little hotter than we wanted. When we returned from our month long road trip, we stopped in town for gas on our way home and it was 99° in town. I wasn't amused. We climbed a thousand feet into the foothills to our home, and it was 86° up here. That was nice. So we picked a good spot to retire. Often in the winter it works the other way, with our area being protected from the harshest winds and weather by those same foothills.

Autumn has just begun, and we've had some growling, rumbling thunderstorms, and a couple inches of really good rain. Usually our rains come in the afternoon and last an hour at most, traveling across the foothills leaving a good soaking and passing on through. This time we got a couple of days of steady rain, not hard, but enough to make music on the roof and lull a body to sleep. The sun is shining today, and the cloud formations are beautiful. The earth is drying, but the tree bark is saturated and looks like someone touched it up with new colored markers. The wet forest smell is remarkable. The deer come down in larger groups, enjoying the cooler weather, I imagine. Their coats are starting to turn a darker brown, thickening up for winter, and they're looking regal. Last year's male fawns have their first little horns, which look sort of like chop sticks, but they wear them proudly.

One of the things I like best about Autumn, though, is knowing that Winter is next. I love the snow — the clean purity and the look of the deer tracks threading through it. It's not the same in town, though, so if you're a city dweller, don't blame me for the hassle that snow causes. We have to go to town for our groceries and doctor's appointments, and it isn't pleasant. It's a gray mess, piled up and dirty, sometimes taking up half of a parking lot, causing accidents and flares of temper. But up here in the foothills, it's beautiful. The silence of the winter woods calms the spirit, and the regal beauty of the elk and deer wandering through, along with the ever present romping of the bunnies just makes me happy. 

Autumn is a feast for the senses. Not only is it a wonder of sight and smell, and and the feel of springy mosses and vegetation beneath damp sneakers as you walk the woods, it's a wonder of sound, as the elk enjoy sunset with their haunting calls, males bellowing their challenges to each other as they entice their females in the ancient mating rituals that guarantee another year of babes to protect and prolong the herds. Also, Autum offers us our final opportunities of the year for sitting around the campfire in the yard, grilling outside, enjoying afternoons in the high 70's, and sitting around talking with our neighbors outside. We wish you were here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Vacation at home

Our week with Jeremy and Elisha was like living in that Dr. Seuss book, "Oh, The Places You'll Go." In just a week, and without ever venturing further than about 30 miles from our home, we went to Estes Park, The Rocky Mountain National Park, and our own Benson Sculpture Park in Loveland. We also went to the Ringling Brothers Circus, which just happened to be in town, and then on to the tour at the Budweiser Plant. On another day we drove into Boulder and went to the Celestial Seasonings Tour, where the men were subjected to hair and beard nets, and then on to the Leaning Tree Museum. I guarantee you that John was not amused with the hair net. I'll probably never get him back in that building.

In between all those wonderful little excursions, we did a lot of cooking and eating, sat on the decks watching the deer, laughed, talked, played cribbage and "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader," a game they so nicely brought with them and left here for future guests. We all turned out to be smarter than 5th graders at times, and Jeremy and I ended up about dead even by the end of the week on cribbage. I kept looking at the board today and wondering when I'll get my next game. I'll bet he could get work locally really easily...

When night fell, the fire pit beckoned, and we enjoyed the campfire experience without having to blow up air mattresses or sleep on rocks. Usually the quiet house is a good thing, a place of joy and blessings, but today it was kind of sad and empty with them gone. But now I'll look at the photos and smile, remembering all the things that happened between the pictures. To paraphrase a pillow I gave my sister, "I smile because you are my son; I laugh because there's nothing you can do about it."

To see the slide show, please click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Food and more

We've had a couple of days of fun so far. We've been through a small part of Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park. We've run wild in our own sculpture park in Loveland. There have probably never been more irreverently posed photos taken with some of those statues — and we're not even going to discuss the sheep sculpture. Jeremy is irrepressible and delightful. 

Last night's menu planning session turned into a major grocery trip for Jeremy and me. He was very impressed with our grocery story, the variety and quality of produce, meats and sea foods available. We're spoiled. I'll admit it. It's amazing that the cost of living is so low when the pampering factor is so high. We ended the trip by picking up a ready to bake pizza from Papa Murphy's, and put it in the oven at home while we started the prep work for tomorrow's dinner party. We'll have to run back into town tomorrow to pick up the lobster, but everything else is on track. 

He's teaching me some new techniques and recipes for special meals. We'll be making lobster bisque, beef wellington, eclairs, and some other things like beignets and crab cakes over the next couple of days. I'll be adding a fruits of the forest pie (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, rhubarb, apples, all baked in a double crust... ) and of course Jeremy's birthday is on Thursday, so there's going to be a Bacardi Cake to celebrate that, and maybe either cottage pie or pork pie (both meat pies). 

The whole day wasn't dedicated to food, although it seemed like it. Jeremy and I played cribbage, and then we went out to the fire pit and lit some sparklers, laughed and talked around the fire while we made our s'mores. Oh, yeah, I guess that's food, too. Jeremy grilled himself a banana to add to his. I wouldn't have thought of that, but we all tasted it and declared it really a great idea. Then after some more sparklers the four of us trooped back inside to play "Smarter than a 5th Grader" (none of us are). 

After everyone trooped off to bed I called Sherrie and she walked me through the mending of my link in the last blog, so if you haven't seen the outhouse tour, it's now fixed - thank you, thank you, thank you, Sherrie. Now I understand how it's done, and will be able to do it again. I think. One thing that would make tomorrow night's dinner even better would be your smiling face at the table with us, my friend. Good night. Sweet dreams, and wake up happy.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I give up

I'd like to start by inviting you to watch another slide show. What I'd really like to do is have another photo that you can click on, like I did when Ben helped me last time, but the new slide show's been up for three days, and I finally give up. It's there, but I can't get the link to work. The photo won't go in the right spot on the page. Then the slide show won't open up when you click on it. I can't ask Ben to fix it every time I do a slide show, so I'm just going to give you the link until I figure out how to do this. I may never figure it out, but that doesn't sound like me. I think eventually it will click into place. It should. So for now, if you want to see my cousin Joe's semi-famous outhouse tour, please visit (click here).

Now for the really good stuff...

Jeremy and Elisha arrived in Denver today, and we brought them home for the week. It's just been a wonderful day, full of laughter and talking, sharing our excitement in our home and life here in Colorado. It's so good to have them here. Tomorrow we'll start showing them our life here in Colorado with a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Life is good. Family is good. Being together is great.

A little Post Script here. I didn't end up posting this last night because I realized when previewing that the click here button did absolutely nothing. It still does nothing this morning. Too bad. I'll work on it in edit mode later, or I'll once again beg Ben to help. Maybe this time he'll explain what he did. Once in awhile I feel dumber than dirt. I guess I must have prayed for humility this week without realizing it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time To Let the Secret Out

Now that Labor Day is over, I can finally tell the secret I've been keeping. My Wisconsin cousins were having a reunion during the Labor Day weekend holiday. While we were there at Aunt Cookie's cabin, two of the brothers came to prepare a particularly crazy prank. They brought along some "wolf eyeballs" to be hammered into some of the tree trunks. They were also setting out remote speakers in the woods, and had brought along a CD of wolves howling. When the howling starts, someone in on the prank says, "Listen to that! It sounds like wolves!" and shines a flashlight into the woods. Then everybody sees the eyes glowing in the dark among the trees — really close, and not moving. You're surrounded by the looks of things.

Add in the campfires, children to be protected, and all those not used to roughing it, and you can well imagine the chaos that must have followed. I'm really sorry we weren't able to stick around for that. Apparently they had pulled a similar stunt at deer camp one year, which finally ended with Joe trotting into the woods with his gun (rifle, I think) saying he'd get it. A couple of shots later, he came back in carrying the CD player. Some of the guys had nearly wet their pants.

My cousins like to pull pranks.


I don't know if that means I found it, but I think it does. I found the download cord for my digital camera, and made my first slide show for the family Phanfare site, so it's on the same site as Ben and Ruth use for our granddaughter Ashley. To see the photos click on the image below

I'd really like to thank Ben for helping me actually link to the slide show once I got it done. I seem to be more retarded than retired. Once upon a time I was the one teaching him. Oh, how things do change...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Another Grand Week

Actually I didn't do much of anything except cook today. I read, reorganized my music files on the computer, and enjoyed the front deck for awhile. Then I read some more and moved to the back deck. We watched the deer in the yard. Whatever I might have been thinking about doing today — I didn't do it. But it sure was a wonderful day. 

In fact, it's been a really good week. We visited with neighbors, and just enjoyed being here. On Friday we met Ruth's folks in town and showed them the winding roads to our place in the foothills. We gave them the tour, and sat around awhile, and then piled in the cars and went to a neighboring town to see their grandson play in his first Freshman football game. It was the type of game you would call a character builder. There were more of his relatives there than any other player on either team could claim, and that's a sure bet. I'd imagine that at a conservative count there were at least fifteen of us there, many of whom we'd not seen in over a year.

The highlight of the weekend, though, would have to be our restraint in not allowing ourselves to be drawn into a hair-raising budget dispute after church. (How fast can you get out of a parking lot?)