Saturday, December 31, 2022

Endings and Beginnings

The year 2022 will end in just a few hours. It's always a time of reflection - what was good and what was bad about the year. I guess the bad is that we are still talking about Covid, vaccinations, and the wearing of masks - or not. It's hard to imagine that this virus is still such a hug part of our lives after three years. The United States is still averaging 300 deaths per day, and we have lost 1.1 million people since they first started keeping statistics on the coronavirus.

While many people have resumed their lives as if the virus is a thing of the past, we have remained fairly vigilant in our effort to try to avoid coming down with Covid. There are many gatherings and events that we have stayed away from again this year, including any travel outside the U.S. In fact, we have done limited travel even within our country.

A big motivator for us in recent months was the birth of our first grandchild. It was imperative that we remain healthy so that we could visit her and her parents. It paid off as we were all healthy enough to enjoy her first Christmas with them. This baby girl was definitely the best part of 2022. Everyone told us that becoming a grandparent was even better than the expectations that have been extolled about it. That was no lie. To hold this little piece of your child - a little piece of yourself as well - defies description. We are eager to watch this little gal grow into her own person.

Looking forward to 2023, we have several trips planned with friends and family. We certainly hope that our health and Covid allow those excursions to take place. Our lives have been in a sort of holding pattern for a few years now, and we are ready to enjoy our retirement. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Medical Staple Removal

Thursday I went in to the plastic surgeon's office to have the Mohs surgery staples removed. I just assumed my plastic surgeon would be the one doing the removal, and I came prepared with a joke to play one him. I bought along my staple removal to suggest he use it to remove the staples. The joke was on me as a physicians assistant came in to take the staples out.

surgical staple remover
The bottom jaw of the surgical staple remover is placed under the staple, and when the handles are pressed they bend the staple and pull it out of the skin. Theoretically, anyway. They do not give you any anesthesia for this procedure. 

The first couple staples came out with little effort on her part or pain on mine. Then she got to the tougher ones, and those hurt! I knew she had a total of 22 to take out, so it was not a fun time. There ended up to be 4 that she couldn't remove, and she had to get my surgeon after all. He did a little clean up on the crusted areas around the wounds, which seemed to help him get the last of them out. It was no picnic, and the larger wound ended up bleeding again. I'm not sure the staples are a better option than dissolvable stitches for wounds in the hair after all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Things are Not Always What They Seem

Last Friday was the opening of a new museum in Charlotte. The Museum of Illusions is part of a global movement of illusion displays. A project that began in Croatia in 2015 is now in over 30 cities around the world. The museums offer an interactive experience involving vision and perspective to help you comprehend why your eyes see things that your brain cannot understand.

We purchased our tickets online ahead of time for the 11:00 entry on the 9th. The museum opened at 10:00 that day. There was no line to get in, and museum staff were readily available to get us started in the museum. At each station there was a staff person to answer any questions, give suggestions on the best way to photograph each exhibit, and to take photos if you wanted one of your group.

Having no idea what to expect, I have to say that all three of us really enjoyed our experience at the Museum of Illusions. It was thought-provoking, and sometimes puzzling as I tried to figure out what I was supposed to be seeing. I highly recommend a visit if it comes to your city, or a city in which you are traveling.

more illusions

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

More Mohs Surgery

two grinches
Last Thursday I went to the plastic surgeon's office. I wore my grinch face mask as it mirrored my mood at having more skin cancer. It was ironic that the grinch greeted me in the waiting room. I was scheduled for Mohs surgery to remove the two basal cell carcinomas they found on my scalp. I had a tiny one in my hair on the left-hand side towards my forehead, and a larger one further back in my hair on the right-hand side. 

Dr. Mu was my surgeon again - she removed the squamous cell and the basal cell hiding below it from my nose in December of 2019. While she was unable to get clear margins on either of these after the first excisions, at least she was able to get all of them in the second cut. The one on my nose took five tries!

After she was done Dr. Freeman came in to do the closings. He discussed the pros and cons of stitches versus staples, and we decided to do the staples this time. I have not had them before, and it sounds just like you think it would. Imagine someone holding a staple gun up to your head and firing away. It took 8 staples to close the one on the left and 14 to close the one on the right. 

Mohs followed by staples
hair loss
I was able to manage the pain with Tylenol, which is good as stronger drugs make me sick. The larger wound did bleed a bit that night, so I covered it with Neosporin and a gauze pad. Though I was advised I could wash my hair after 24 hours, I chose to wait an extra day to do so. A large chunk of my hair came out, I'm guessing from the area of the large incision. I'm not sure why they didn't just go ahead and cut the hair in that spot. While the dried blood came out with the double shampooing, the solution Dr. Freeman used to clean my head before closing up the incisions did not all come out. I can still feel it caked on my scalp. I guess I'll need to pick on it a bit before the next shampoo.

Next week I go back in to have the staples removed. Hopefully that won't be too bad.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nothing Like a Newborn!

Baby Dub
We were able to visit our granddaughter when she was just five days old. It's been a long time since we have been around a newborn, and Baby Dub (BD) is a tiny one at around 4 1/2 pounds. Other than the fact that she is small, she is perfect in our eyes. To see your child hold his child is something to behold! 

We stayed with the new family for a week, taking over cooking, dishes, and washing the never-ending round of nursing and bottle paraphernalia. While the baby is being breastfed, they have to supplement some with formula and additional breast milk to try to get BD up to at least five pounds. I was truly able to use the title "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer"!

While we were there we also did a newborn photo shoot, with BD laying on the crocheted quilt that was made for my son by his great-grandmother. We also took pictures of the three of them. I must have taken over 200 photos of this sweet baby girl. If we lived in the same town, she would be the most photographed baby ever - haha!

We are looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks. It will be so special to spend BD's first Christmas with her.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Granddaughter is here!

Our granddaughter was born Monday evening! She is little, but mighty. As I'm not sure how much the kids want me to share, I'll just say that we are thrilled that everyone is healthy. We can't wait to get our hands on that baby!

My Mohs surgery to remove my latest two basal cells has been scheduled for December 1st. I pray that Dr. Mu will be able to get clear margins after the first cuts. When she did my nose three years ago, it took five tries before she finally got it all. Hopefully that will not be the case this time.

The Mount Holly Lantern Parade took place last month, and our community won First Place in the Group Category for the second year in a row. We are two for two now, and that puts a lot of pressure on us for next year's entry. The theme was Written in the Stars, so we decided to up-cycle our minions from last year. We added space helmets, rockets and stars, and created a girl minion. We weren't sure if the judges would approve of us reusing lanterns, but I think we made enough changes that they could tell the amount of work we put into them.

2022 Mount Holly Lantern Parade

The theme for next year's parade is Heroes and Villains. We are already brainstorming on what we might like to do. Due to the large number of children in the audience, it's important to pick something readily recognizable to them, I think. The minions were a huge crowd pleaser, so we need something to generate that kind of enthusiasm from the crowd. We just had a wrap up celebration party with our team of volunteers. I made sure the minions had one last hurrah by bringing minion cupcakes.

minion cupcakes

Saturday, November 5, 2022

More Skin Cancer

The dermatology office called to say that both of the biopsies taken last week are basal cell carcinomas. These are my 15th and 16th skin cancers. Ugh! We do not have a family history of basal or squamous cell carcinomas, and I was not out in the sun more than any other kids growing up in the 60s and 70s. I always say I wear my Irish heritage proudly with the red cast in my hair and my freckles, but it stinks that my skin has to suffer for it.

Now I have to wait for the scheduling office to call and see when they can get me in. With our granddaughter making her big debut next week, it will take some planning to coordinate when I want to have the surgeries done. Since these are very slow growing cancers, it won't be a huge rush. Celebrating my first time as a grandma is going to take precedence for sure!

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Virginia is Definitely for Lovers

We took a long weekend trip up to Springfield to see the kids recently. Our son and daughter-in-law wanted to have a last visit with us before the baby comes, which is going to end up being sooner than anyone expected. Due to gestational hypertension, Megan will be induced at 37 weeks. Apparently that is considered full term, and the goal is to get Baby Dub to the magical five pound weight. At that weight very few newborns have to spend time in the NICU.

We had a nice visit, and were able to go out to a nice restaurant to celebrate my birthday as well as the upcoming birth. While the kids finished up a few honey-do baby tasks, we visited a nearby park for a hike and opportunity to see some nice fall color.

Fall in Virginia

Before heading home on Tuesday, I was able to accompany the mom-to-be to her visit at the Maternal Fetal Medicine practice. It was really interesting for me to be able to see the non-stress test and the sonogram. What a thrill to be able to hear my grandbaby's heartbeat and watch her move on the screen. 

The next time we see them they will be parents. And we'll be elevated to grandparents!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Skin Scan

Tuesday was my annual skin check with my dermatologist. It had been three years since any skin cancer was detected, and I had graduated to only having to come in once a year. Well, my lucky streak has probably come to an end. There were a couple of spots in my hair that I wanted the doctor to take a look at, and she decided that both of them needed to be biopsied. As they gave me the shots to numb the area, I kept feeling it when they would stick me to see if it was numb. After three shots in each location, the technician had the doctor come in to give it a try. I still felt her stick as well.

As it ends up, people who have red hair or highlights (that's me with the red highlights and my mom was a redhead) need more lidocaine when having procedures done. This certainly has always been true for me. The doctor said there is a world-wide shortage of lidocaine right now, and it's been hard to get their hands on the higher dosage shots. She went from room to room in the clinic until she located one for me. And sure enough, the extra dosage worked like a charm and she was able to snip the samples she needed.

Now I just have to wait to see what the lab results say. That may take up to two weeks. With my history, I'm fairly certain that it will not be good news. But at least this time the scars will be hidden by my hair. Red highlights and all.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Foggy Morning

Because it was so cold last night, this morning Mountain Island Lake was wrapped in a cloak of fog. I bundled up and walked down to Sunflowers Point, which is fairly close to our house. It took a long time for the fog to clear, and the golden hour of photography was past. However, on my walk back, I saw this opening through the trees and it made my morning. The light coming through appeared as an angel, at least to my imagination. You might say the spirit moved me! 

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Golden Oldies Pickleball

Sunday our pickleball club hosted another 55+ community for a fun fall social event. Our club had gone to Trilogy in June, and everyone had so much fun that we decided to have another event. Jim was in charge, and he did a wonderful job. The event ran smoothly, we had beautiful weather, and everyone seemed to have a great time. Following three hours of play, we met at our Celebration Cabin for a boxed meal and fellowship. It was nice to be on the courts with people our own age as opposed to those 10-20 years younger. Some day they will understand that we just move differently at our age. Here are a few photos from the event.

Imagery/Trilogy Social

Wednesday Jim and I got our flu shots. Honestly, it is the first time either of us has gotten this shot. We never get the flu, so it didn't make sense to get a vaccine and get sick from that. However with Baby Dub on the way, we want to make sure we are protected so we don't take any virus to her when we visit. Our daughter-in-law hasn't told anyone they need to get the shot, but she is encouraging visitors to do so. The shot itself was fairly painless, and other than a sore arm neither of us had any side effects from the vaccine. With that shot, I am 100% up-to-date on all my vaccinations. Jim still has a couple more to go, including DPT and shingles. But one has to wonder about getting all of these shots around the same time, considering all the Covid shots and boosters we have received. These are uncharted waters for sure.

Saturday night is the Mount Holly Lantern Parade, and our community has an entry for the second year in a row. Last year we took first place in the Community category with our minions. I'm not sure how we will fare this year since we up-cycled the minions, readying them for space as the theme is "It is written in the stars." I think there are about 25 of us who will be walking and carrying minions, stars and the Imagery banner. Whether we win or not, it has been a fun project to work on again. I'll post photos after the event.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Busy Fall Weekend

fall colors

This past weekend was pretty busy - in fact every weekend in October is packed for us this year. Saturday was the Second Annual Fall Festival at Imagery. It was rescheduled from the previous weekend due to Hurricane Ian, so some of the vendors were unable to attend. But it was a beautiful day, and I think the sellers who were able to come had a good day. About half the tables were artists from our community, and there are some very talented people here. I always think that I'll have a booth with my photographs of Mountain Island Lake, but then I don't get around to making it happen.

Sunday was the Second Annual Imagery Rides show. Last year we entered both Jim's car and motorcycle. This year they added the category of electric bikes, so in addition to the car and motorcycle I brought my Trek Townie e-bike along. That required some juggling of vehicles on our part, but we made it happen.

me & my minion
On Saturday evening the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation had their black tie fundraiser. As an added bonus for attendees, the Lantern Parade Chair asked if anyone would be willing to bring a lantern and do a short walk through the event venue. I took one of our minions from last year and joined a dozen or so other lantern makers in the parade. It was fun, and the guests seemed to enjoy it. We were also able to then promote the upcoming Mount Holly Lantern Parade, which takes place on October 22nd. 

Our community is again participating, and we are fairly close to having all of our lanterns completed. It was so much fun last year, and I am looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with for this year's parade. The theme is "Written in the Stars", and that is just broad enough that it stumped a lot of people. We are up-cycling our minions from last year, and they will be in spaceships, riding rockets, looking like astronauts and chasing stars. We even added a girl minion this year! We may not win our category again due to the reuse of the lanterns, but it seemed like a good way to get another year out of all of our efforts from last year. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Stormy Weather

the calm before Hurricane Ian arrived
Hurricane Ian made its way to the Charlotte area on Friday. We ended up with nearly 4 inches of rain and high winds for a couple of days. There was only tree debris to pick up at our house, though the neighbors three doors down had a tree shear off and hit the back of their house. It did some roof and eave damage, and broke the kitchen windows. That was scary for them, but oddly enough their home in Fort Meyers had minimal damage. We certainly can't complain in light of what many families in Florida endured.

Before the storm really got going on Friday we went to Walgreens for the latest Covid shot - the bivalent booster, which is said to help protect against the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. We both ended up with sore arms, and feeling achey and tired. That was gone by later on Saturday however.

While most people act as though the coronavirus is a thing of the past, experts are warning that cases will most likely pick up again as we go into the colder weather season. It's been awhile since I gave the updated statistics, so here they are:

North Carolina has had 3.18 million cases and 26,468 deaths. In the United States there have been 95.9 million cases and 1.53 million deaths. Worldwide there have been over 615 million cases and 6.5 million deaths. The number of cases is no doubt vastly underreported since so many people are taking home tests and those results do not need to be reported.

In speaking with the pharmacist who administered my shot, I have to agree that Covid is never going to totally go away, and that we will probably get an annual shot just like the flu. Honestly at this point only getting one Covid shot a year instead of one every few months sounds pretty good.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Shower Me with Your Love

The baby shower for our daughter-in-law was last Saturday. The week before, Jim road his motorcycle to St. Louis so he and a friend could take a trip together. I decided to go up to Cincinnati last week, and then the two of us would meet in Indiana for the shower. While I was in the city of my birth, I was able to have lunch with relatives on both sides of my family. I haven't been to Cincinnati in over three years, so it had definitely been awhile since I had seen folks. 

Grandma Shower
My cousin Mary Ann was kind enough to let me stay with her, and she had a small grandma shower for me, which was super sweet. They gave a couple books, toys and a picture frame for the baby's photo - items for me to keep at our house for Baby Dub. They also each had a gift for me to take to the kids for the shower. But Debbie wanted me to open hers up. I first lifted out a little yellow crocheted cap. I immediately said there had to be a family story attached to it. She quickly acknowledged that there was. I next brought a little yellow sweater out of the bag, and it included a label. The label read "Made with love by Catherine Kubler" - my mother, who died in 1989. Mom had crocheted the set for Debbie's first-born, Nate, in 1985. Debbie had held onto it all these years, hoping that I would have a grandchild so she could pass it on. She wanted my grandbaby to be wrapped in her great-grandmother's love. Needless to say, we all broke down in tears at the sentiment. What an incredibly thoughtful gesture!

sweater set
On Friday I drove to Jasper, Indiana to meet up with Jim. We picked up a trailer for his motorcycle so we could ride together on the way back. Then we checked into our hotel in Jasper. We were able to park the trailer and bike at Megan's parent's house so we didn't have to haul them around. Megan's brothers and their families arrived at the house a little after us, as did Andy and Megan, so we were all able to have dinner together. I had them open the gift from Debbie, which was a good call as I teared up again as I relayed the story of the outfit's history.

Saturday morning we set up everything for the shower, with the guys lugging the tables and chairs around. They took off for a pub to eat wings and watch football while we attended the shower at the house. Everything looked great as the guests began to arrive at noon. We had sandwiches with sides, cupcakes and adorable cookies. We then played a game before Megan opened the gifts. As there were 30 people in attendance, this took quite a bit of time. They received some wonderful presents, and got a good start on outfitting the baby as well as the nursery. It was a wonderful, happy occasion to be sure.

Baby Dub shower

After checking out of our hotel Sunday morning, we stopped by the house to pick up the trailer and say goodbye. We had a long drive ahead of us, so we did not dally for too long. The drive home was fairly uneventful, despite the fact that this was the first time we had ever towed anything behind the new car. It took us 10 hours, which is kind of what we expected.

The kids will remain pretty close to home from now until the baby's birth. We may try to run up and see them once more before the Baby Dub makes her appearance. We are in the home stretch now!

Friday, September 16, 2022


American flag

We are proud to fly the American flag at our home (even if the HOA did require that we get architectural review board approval before hanging it). Despite everything that has and is going on here and around the world, I still love the country of my birth. I also love photographing reflections, so capturing multiple images of the flag on our car was a bonus for me.

Speaking of photographs, we just had four of our area photos placed on canvas for the screen porch. We wanted to have some blue on the walls to complement the new cushions we got for the furniture in there. Since the porch overlooks the lake, it made sense to go with some of our nature photography. I think these will work nicely. Now to get them hung!

nature photography

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Construction Update

The construction at our house is now complete, including sod replacement due to the damage caused by the construction equipment when the back patio was expanded and a retaining wall was built. These renovations were supposed to come on the heels of the screen porch addition in June, but instead did not commence until mid-July. The timing was unfortunate, but now that it is all done and the grass is beginning to look better it was all worth it.

screen porch with new siding door
For the screen porch we decided to just order new cushions for the wicker furniture as we didn't want to wait on new pieces. With Covid still impacting all things in our lives, furniture orders are taking 6-8 months to fulfill. Surprisingly we were able to get our custom cushions in just three weeks. We did, however order a cafe height table and two chairs for that space back in June. Those will not arrive until November. 

Because we expanded the existing patio, we also felt that we needed some additional furniture there. We decided upon two lounge chairs by the same manufacturing company as the existing outdoor furniture. Those were ordered in June with the table and chairs, and should also arrive in November.

The back of our yard has a berm leading up to the high point of the yard. It just never made sense, other than to the developer I suppose. With the addition of a retaining wall, it now looks like it has a purpose. The last thing that needs to be done is the planting plan. Jim is working on that today, with the help of a local gardening specialist. Because we live in a different planting zone, with totally different soil, we wanted the advice of someone familiar with those variances. It is our goal to have all the plants put in this fall.

patio extension and stone wall

Once that is all done, we should have a fabulous outdoor entertaining space. The lake view is great, of course, but the plants should provide a nice foreground to draw the eyes to the lake.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

A New Branch on the Wolterman Family Tree

Back in May I had the best Mother's Day ever. You might think that it was because we hosted two pickleball pros at our house for several days. Or that by volunteering for the PPA pickleball tournament in Charlotte I was able to see in person many of the professional pickleball players that I watch on t.v. and YouTube. But it was something way more exciting and long-lasting that occurred that Sunday afternoon. Our son and daughter-in-law called to tell us that we are going to be grandparents. This will be our first grandchild, so to say that we are over the moon is a vast understatement.

We were asked not to say anything about the baby for a bit. Like many couples, they wanted to get through the first trimester before making any big announcements. As they are a little bit older, there were also some additional tests that needed to be run.

All the big hurdles have been passed, and our granddaughter should make her debut around the end of November. We do not know her name yet, so we have been calling her Baby Dub. A baby shower is planned for September 24th in Indiana. I volunteered to make a couple of diaper cakes to adorn the food and gift tables. I had never made one before, but there are so many great ideas on the internet. The biggest surprise was the cost of diapers. Oh my!

I've got the cakes made and wrapped in plastic for the transport north in my car. (I should mention that I was asked to use a minimal amount of pink.) In addition to the diapers I have decorated the "cakes" with items the baby/parents can use, such as baby wipes and wash, Desitin, washcloths and towels, pacifies and holders, a baby book, etc. Even the cake plates are covered with swaddle wraps. I'm pretty excited about how they turned out, and it's nice to know that the centerpieces are made of practical items.

Baby Dub's diaper cakes

In addition to the cakes, I have made the baby a gift. I won't mention what it is until after the shower. I don't think the kids read my blog, but there's no reason to spoil the surprise in case they do. In a few weeks we will see the expectant mother for the first time. That will make the pregnancy more real for us. We are still pinching ourselves over the news.

And in late November or early December, the Wolterman family tree will have a new branch. I just wish our parents were here to celebrate the occasion.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Happy Anniversary Baby

wedding anniversary
Friday was our 44th wedding anniversary. It's hard to wrap my head around that. We met at Iowa State University when we were 18 years old, and started dating a few months later. We married shortly after graduation, and relocated to St. Louis where Jim had secured a job. In St. Louis we completed master's degrees, raised a family and built a good life.

When we retired to the Charlotte area nearly three years ago, we didn't know anyone or much about the area. It was a huge leap of faith to come here, and only a strong marriage could survive the stress and upheaval of the massive move. During one of our three years here we buried both Jim's mom and dad, and my beloved sister. Having someone to share the grieving process with made all the difference in the world in how we coped with the huge losses.

The support network within our new community is phenomenal as well. Because we are in a 55+ community, we have experienced many deaths already. But I think most of us moved here in the hopes that the community will wrap us in a loving embrace when we experience a severe health issue or death in our family. That has certainly proven to be true so far. I am confident that when something happens to me or Jim, our neighbors will rally around the survivor. And the community will share in the grieving process.

Getting back to our anniversary, we didn't do a lot to celebrate this year, save for going out for a meal at one of our favorite restaurants. It offers waterside dining, so we always know we can sit outside. But as next year will be the 45th anniversary, we are already thinking of something big to do in honor of that occasion. We are both eager to cruise again, but there are still so many people getting Covid on the ships that it just doesn't seem worth the risk yet. Maybe by next summer it will be more under control. Who can say?

Friday, August 12, 2022

Pickleball Beech Mountain Style

Beech Mountain
We recently returned from a pickleball clinic in Beech Mountain, North Carolina. We stayed at the Pinnacle Inn because back in January when we signed up, this is where most of the more advanced play was supposed to take place. Unfortunately they had problems with their courts, so everything was moved to a recreation center. That was okay as we had both indoor and outdoor courts available to us, though they were not dedicated courts.

It was a relief to be in the mountains, where the temperature was 20 cooler than back in the Charlotte area. It was unusually rainy (and foggy) though, and a local told us they were experiencing more fall-like weather than summer. The clinic ended up to be just okay, but the chance to play lots of pickleball and meet up with friends (both old and new) made the trip worthwhile. 

We stayed an extra day so that we could do some hiking in the area. It was not crowded, and we found some waterfalls. Overall, it was a nice getaway for a few days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Floating Away

We have just returned from a road trip to St. Louis. Because it takes more than 12 hours to get there, we decided to spend the night in Frankfurt, Kentucky on July 8th. There are a number of whisky distilleries in the area, and we wanted to check out a couple of them. I don't like whisky or bourbon myself, but several of the distilleries have historic buildings and/or beautiful grounds and I'm always up for a photo adventure. This would be our third attempt at doing this as each previous try resulted in a rainout. As (bad) luck would have it, we were rained out this trip as well. 

Trying to make the best of the situation, there was enough of a break that we were able to check out the Josephine Sculpture Park on the night of arrival. The tagline for the park is "where art meets the earth", and you can view nearly 70 sculptures on their 30 acres of land. The park is free and open to the public, and we enjoyed the wildflowers as much as the pieces of art.

Josephine Sculpture Park

On Saturday we finished our drive to St. Louis. We spent the first two nights in a hotel so that we could have the flexibility to come and go as we pleased. We had dinner that night with our good friend Diane, and it was great to catch up with her. Sunday morning we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is one of my favorite spots in all of the United States. They are in the middle of a large construction project, adding a new entrance, events space and enlarged gift shop. That was followed by a stop at the ever-beautiful Forest Park, and lunch at Imo's Pizza. We were blessed with a beautiful morning, with lower temperatures and humidity. Later in the day we visited with my late sister's family, whom we had not seen since her funeral. It was nice to see them under happier circumstances.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Forest Park and the City Foundry

Monday we picked up a friend of ours and went to check out some new developments (at least new to us) in St. Louis. One of the areas was the City Foundry, Once housing the Century Electric Company, the 15-acre site is now home to businesses, a large food court, and an entertainment hall. From there we went to Union Station to see the St. Louis Wheel (a large ferris wheel) and take a peak at the St. Louis Aquarium. It's always fun for me to go to Union Station as my dad took the train in and out of St. Louis when he was stationed at Jefferson Barracks during WWII. It was nice to see the station bustling even though it was a Monday afternoon.
City Foundry & Union Station

The rest of the week was filled with playing pickleball with some of my lady friends, visiting my long-time hair stylist for a cut and lunch, and a Cardinals baseball game followed by a stop at Ted Drews for some frozen custard Friday we drove 3 hours south to a campground to join the SWT team for their annual float trip. This year it took place on the Gasconade River, which I had not floated on before. Despite the high temperatures (98 degrees on Saturday), we had a fun time and it was great to see everyone again.

rain delay
On Monday we left St. Louis at 6:45 a.m. to drive home. We decided to drive straight through, and it was a challenge. The day began with fog in Illinois, then we had heavy rains in Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. A stalled car on eastbound I-40 and a bad accident on westbound I-40 led to numerous delays. It took us over 13 1/2 hours to get home. I'm ready to stay put for awhile.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

The United States of Mind

For 246 years our country has been observing its independence from Great Britain. July 4th is celebrated with parades, picnics and fireworks. This year was no exception, but the tone might have sounded a little different. The U.S., and indeed the world, is still reeling from the lingering effects of Covid. Just when it seemed we were recovering, the war on Ukraine began. Gas prices have soared, followed by drastic increases in food, airline tickets and interest rates. Continued mass shootings and the overturning of Roe v.  Wade have also contributed to a general feeling of anger and distrust in America.

All of these things have overshadowed the fact that the coronavirus is still a major problem in this country. People seem numb to the fact that we are losing 295 citizens each day to the virus. Most have adopted the attitude that it is no longer if they will get the virus, but when. As Covid continues to mutate, people who appeared to be immune from earlier variants are succumbing to the new strains. Only time will tell if the current shots and boosters will continue to protect us. Ive said this before, but I think the real story that will come out of this pandemic is a study regarding why certain people never got the virus.

Here are the latest Covid statistics: North Carolina has had 2.87 million cases and 25,219 deaths. In the United States there have been 87.7 million cases and 1.02 million deaths. Worldwide there have been over 550 million cases and 6.3 million deaths. The United States is at a 67.5% full vaccination rate. Worldwide that number is a discouraging 61.8%.

Tension, like the air here in North Carolina, is thick enough to cut with a knife.

Mountain Island Lake

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Different Baby News

baby bird on the way
The other day I went to water the hanging begonia in the backyard, and something flew out and hit my shoulder. I'm sure the neighbors heard my startled shout! When I peered in the plant, I saw the brown speckled egg inside. I haven't been able to determine whether there are any additional eggs in there or not as I don't want to disturb the nest. 

I've yet to get a close look at the momma bird. Looking at bird egg photos online, it looks like it could be a wren. But many birds lay eggs with brown spots. Hopefully I'll get a better look at the bird. Now when I water the plant I go to the opposite side of the pot and slowly water. She's flown out one other time, but at least I'm not in the line of fire when I do that.

In other bird news, this morning I was watering my planters out front and heard some blackbirds calling out. One flew to the top of the small street tree across from us. Just like that a mockingbird let out a cry and took on the blackbird. Apparently protecting a nest, she was quickly joined by her partner, and together they chased those blackbirds right out of their area. It was something to see!

Speaking of mornings, this was yesterday's sunrise. We are so blessed to live here.

sunrise over Mountain Island Lake

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Golden Oldies Pickleball

pickleball social
We play pickleball quite frequently, sometimes a couple times a week in our community and a day or two a week elsewhere in the Charlotte area. This game has changed a lot since becoming the fastest growing sport in America. Most notably is the number of younger players getting caught up in the game. While this is great for the sport, it is not also so good for the older folks when playing in leagues or tournaments. Even the "senior" divisions are listed as ages 50+.

Despite the fact that I am in good shape for my age and pretty fast on the court, I do not have the athleticism of someone a couple decades younger than me. I am not looking to make excuses, just stating a fact. After talking with some players that I met from another 55+ community, we decided to meet to see if we could do a joint social pickleball event between our two communities.

We pulled together a fun night of play, mixing our players with theirs in a round robin format. We held it at their community because they have six courts plus a restaurant and bar. We had 90 total players register, and it was a blast. While there was downtime between games, no one seemed bothered by this. They used the time to get to know they other players in their foursome. At the end of the evening, the two clubs purchased pizzas and cheesy bread for the players, and we hung out for a couple of hours swapping pickleball stories. It was a great experience, and one we hope to repeat!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

High Country Getaway

Blue Ridge Parkway
The Charlotte area had some record-breaking heat last week, so we decided to escape to the North Carolina high country for a couple of days. Encompassing seven counties in the northern part of the state, the high country is typically much cooler than the counties down south.

We left Thursday morning, driving straight to our first destination. Craggy Gardens, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway and part of the National Park Service, is known for its abundance of rhododendrons. Peak season at this altitude of 5,860 feet is mid-June, so our timing was perfect. While it was a bit overcast when we arrived, the cloud cover did clear as we hiked the area. The low 70s temperature was a delight after the high heat and humidity we had left behind.

Nearby the Craggy Gardens is Mount Mitchell. That was the next stop on our itinerary. At 6,684 feet, it is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Established in 1915, the 4,789-acres became the first state park in North Carolina. Unfortunately the peak was shrouded in clouds the day of our visit, so visibility was nil. 

We spent the night in the Linville Falls community at an old lodge. While it was quaint, clean and beautifully maintained, it had no WiFi to speak of and we had zero cell service. It also had no air conditioning in the rooms. While that might not be a problem normally, the humidity was extremely high and the room was sticky. With its location between two highways, leaving the windows open at night was not an option. Suffice it to say, neither one of us slept well that night.

The next morning we made the short drive down the highway to Linville Falls. While we have hiked in this park before, this time we practically had the place to ourselves. That was a refreshing change from our last hike where Covid brought everyone and their brother out into nature. It was a lovely way to spend the morning. We grabbed lunch in Morganton before heading home. It was a short but very nice change of pace for us.

Craggy Gardens, Blue Ridge Pkwy, Linville Falls

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

And Baby Makes Three

A dear cousin of mine and his wife just had their first baby a few months ago. I had been invited to a baby shower for them, and I had made a baby quilt as a gift. Unfortunately the shower had to be canceled due to Covid. They do not live anywhere near me, so I was holding on to the quilt, hoping we could meet up somewhere. I wanted to give the present in person, especially once the baby girl had been born. I was dying to see them, and get my hands on that sweet baby.

But the timing just didn't work out right, and I ended up putting the quilt in the mail to them. I didn't want the baby to outgrow the quilt before they even got it - ha! They seemed to appreciate the gift, and I am hoping they will email me a picture of the baby laying on the quilt. That will have to suffice for the moment.

This is the first baby quilt I have made since we moved to Charlotte. I've used my sewing machine for other projects such as face masks, a Christmas tree skirt and a table runner, but not for the more traditional quilts. I selected flannel as the fabric, and I had never worked with it before. It wasn't too bad to handle until I got ready to quilt the top to the bottom. I do that on my sewing machine, and the fabric gave me fits. I had used large squares of the fabric from the front on the back, so maybe you just don't want to have flannel on the back as well as the front of a quilt?

It kept sliding, creating a bit of a mess on the back of the quilt. That is not something you want to have happen, particularly on a gift. I was able to somewhat work around the issue, but that may be the first and last time I use flannel in a sewing project. Or at least one that will be quilted. It turned out pretty cute anyway, I think.

quilt front and back

Monday, June 13, 2022

Under Construction

front porch
We are halfway (maybe) through a construction project at our house. I never really thought that we would do so much work on a brand new home, but I guess there are always things you wish were different. Going through a builder in a new development, we had very few options for customization.

Our screen porch off the living area had a footprint with both pros and cons. On the pro side, the porch was enclosed on three sides by the house. It was secluded and very private. However, it was not very large at all. If you had more than 4 or 5 people in the space, it felt crowded. Plus the design meant that the air did not circulate in the porch. We decided to extend the porch out to the end of our bedroom so that we would be able to accommodate more people as well as a bistro table and two chairs for dining while looking out at the lake. We also wanted to add porcelain tile over the concrete pad in the porch as well as the front porch to give those areas a more finished look.

At the same time, the contractor was to take out the two windows in the living room, replacing them with a sliding door opening to the porch. This would also allow us to see the lake from the living room while sitting on the sofa, and also let more light into the room. The screen porch was completed last Thursday, but unfortunately the sliding door has been delayed until late June. That is too bad because it would have been nice to get all the messy work done at the same time.

screen porch before and after

We are really pleased with how the front porch and the screen porch turned out. We are in the process of deciding what furniture arrangement works in the rear space, which is a little tricky since the sliding door is not in yet. We would like to keep the wicker furniture we have out there as it is Lloyd Flanders and is good quality. But we may order new cushions as the ones we have are 15 years old. Lots of decisions to make, but that's all part of the fun!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Floating Away

Saturday ten of us from the neighborhood took our kayaks out on Mountain Island Lake for a few hours. The temperature was perfect, and there wasn't too much wind - at least when we set out. The water was high enough that we were able to go back into a little tributary off the main lake. Back in that area you can usually see a lot of different birds. We didn't see a great variety, but there were plenty of blue herons. I didn't have my big camera with me, so I wasn't able to capture them. There was one large water bird that I am still trying to identify. It was similar to a heron, but it was black and white and had a scruffier chest covering. Since I only have a cell phone photo of the bird, I am not having much success.

I call myself a piddler paddler since I like to take my time and really look for wildlife. I was happy that Saturday's group seemed to be of the same mind. It was a nice, relaxing trip on the water. When we got ready to head back in, the wind had picked up. It was a challenge to cross the main channel, especially with all the motorized boats out on the water. But we all made it back safe and sound. I love living here!

Mountain Island Lake

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Memorial Day 2022

Taps for the fallen
Yesterday was Memorial Day, and it always fascinates me how many Americans do not understand the significance of the day. Known as the unofficial start of summer, it is typically celebrated with barbecues and family gatherings. In some families it has been called Decoration Day, as that is when they went to decorate the graves of deceased relatives. 

In fact, it is a day set aside to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. It is not to be confused with Veteran's Day, which honors all those who served in the military.

Our community held its second annual Memorial Day golf cart parade yesterday. As you can imagine, the golf carts are all decked out in patriotic themes. Last year the parade was led by a group of bicyclists, but since then Phases 2 and 3 of the community have been built out. It is very hilly, and this year's route was nearly 6 miles long. The Lifestyle Director decided to invite the e-bike riders to lead the parade this year. Seven of us signed up, and most of us put at least a little decoration on our bikes. I believe there were 14 golf carts who participated in the decoration contest, plus 4 more that were on loan from Carolina Carts, one of our community sponsors.

Before the parade, we gave thanks to those who have kept our country free through their bravery. As we rode through the community, with patriotic music sounding from the golf courts, neighbors waited on their front lawns to wave and cheer us on. I'm proud to be an American, and happy to call Imagery home.

Memorial Day 2022