NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Friday, December 25, 2015


While decorating the tree earlier this month I decided I didn't want to mess around with the smaller balls anymore.  What to do with them?  A quick google search led me to turning them in to wreaths!  Of course the wreaths I ended up wanting to make required buying more ornaments, but it was gluey fun and it was nice to give the kids something personal last weekend at our Christmas gathering.

Katrina's wreath features kittens 

Cory's wreath crawling with Christmas crustaceans

It was so much fun that I plan to snatch up buckets full of ornaments tomorrow on sale and make more of them for gifts next year.  Other folks get in to making gingerbread creations this time of year, but I'll leave that to those with more patience than I possess.

Grand Geneva's annual gingerbread competition display

Today I'm going to celebrate the good (for us) weather and the fact that our holidays are done by trying to get in a hike on my way out to Katrina's to feed her cat.  However you celebrate this season, hope everyone has a merry time!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Celia and Jewel

Our little family grew again today!  Now that Pumpkin and Katrina moved to Waukesha we decided it was finally time to get a kitten.  Cory and I went to the local animal shelter and of course when I saw all the adorable critters that needed a home...

Meet Celia

We ended up bringing home two!

Meet Jewel

Our other two cats are keeping their distance, they are not as excited about the new additions to the household as the rest of us are.

kitty hammock?

The kittens are for Cory and will go with him when the time comes.  When one of our older cats passes Wayne and I will finally take the leap and get a puppy again.  I'm not in a hurry, especially now that we have other young pets to amuse us.

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful

They haven't taken a nap yet and they've been here for 8 hours!

We open presents tomorrow.  What will they think when all the presents are suddenly gone?

Don't forget the critters in need this season.  I'm making a vow to mark my calendar and stop at the shelter with a case of canned cat food once a month from now on.  Speaking of those in need, if you didn't see Mandy Patinkin on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert reminding us to exercise our humanity, here it is!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

San Diego Flashback

It's hard to believe on a chilly day in the Midwest but once upon a time I was a California girl.

I've been watching a lot of reruns of  "That 70's Show", which in addition to all those Wisconsin references (like Bob saying "the evil spilling over from Sheboygan") has the added bonus of all the 70's clothes, slang and home decor to marvel over.  


Since we moved to San Diego right before I started kindergarten I don't know how much slang I was using, but I participated in a few clothing fads including lots of polyester, halter tops and probably even bell bottoms.  I took tap lessons and remember singing and dancing to disco, spinning around to make my bell sleeves fly.  My detailed memories are few, but who could forget going to Disneyland?  And Space Mountain, and Knott's Berry Farm, and Sea World....

Not to mention those trips to the beaches and to the San Diego Zoo.

I do want to go back for a nostalgia tour with my mother, which I wanted to do this winter but it might have to wait until next year.  One of the places that is a must for us to visit is the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala where I had my First Communion.  

After detailed historical research, in 1931 the Mission was rebuilt to what architects J. E. Loveless and J. Marshall Miller determined was what the 1813 church must have looked like.  The site of the first California mission has an incredible history, if you want to know more check this link.

Those of you who get to San Diego this winter, enjoy that sunshine for this retired California Girl and don't forget to get some sand between your toes.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Steve's Diner in Moncton

I was going through my photos today to get a recap of 2015 and discovered a couple of shots from Steve's Diner in Moncton that I neglected to post back in September.

I forget where we got this recommendation, but supposedly this is the place the locals like.  I wasn't that impressed personally.  High priced greasy spoon with a limited menu.  But I did like the murals.

Having a little bottle of molasses on the table was different, too.  All kinds of foods are different north of the border.  If you're up that way make sure to really look closely at the chip selection.  Some of the flavors are unbelievable!

I'd like to take part in Monday Mural but as has happened on other weeks the linky isn't working when I try to add mine.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Home for the Holidays

Home for the holidays.  

As usual we are home for the month of December, but still I dream of being elsewhere.  This year my free time thoughts inevitably would stray to thoughts of owning a little retro camper for my solo trips.  And so when I saw these little ornaments on Amazon I had to buy them and add them to our tree.

I made a little headway for the first time the other day by pointing out to Wayne that in addition to being safer for a woman on her own I would be able to do my local short trips in rainy and windy weather.  Often I cancel those short trips if it looks like I might have to take my tent down and store it wet.

When Wayne said he was having trouble coming up with a gift idea for me I told him he knows what I want.  But I don't expect I'll wake up Christmas morning and find a trailer in my driveway.  Can you imagine?  Nothing would ever be able to top that gift!

But as far as gifts go we keep it simple and we just give our kids, each other and my parents each one small inexpensive gift at our get together.  We have all that we need and the holiday shopping season is something all of us are happy to avoid, keeping the holidays joyful instead of stressful.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Today it was all about trimming.  Wayne enlisted the aid of his buddies and down came the tree on the side of the house so he could get the fifth wheel parked in the back more easily.

I've been busy the past month restructuring the house.  Cory's old bedroom is now the spare room and Katrina's old room is where all the exercise equipment and crafting supplies ended up.  

My tree trimming got finished last night so today I trimmed some cards to send out next year.  This year I used up the last of the store bought ones but  I have enough supplies from my scrapbooking phase to make cards for the rest of my life most likely.  I seek out the gift tags when I'm out shopping this time of year, they are cheaper than scrapbooking supplies and make great accents for homemade cards like the snowmen below.  I just covered up the little tag string hole with an accent.  I also like to cut out stuff from cards that get sent to me and recycle them like the words Joy Peace and Love below.

Katrina and her boyfriend Charlie are doing some trimming of their own, including outfitting Merida from Disney's "Brave" with wings and putting her on top of their tree!

Next up I need to start trimming my waistline, these cold temperatures have got me huddling in the house and adding hibernation pounds!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fire and Ice

Yesterday I finally emerged from the house, forcing myself out of the funk that grabs hold of me when winter descends upon southern Wisconsin every November.  After our snowfall the other day temps have risen to 40F and it probably won't get warmer until March so it's time to meet the challenges of outdoor exercise in the land of wind and ice.

I drove out to Lapham Peak to finish the small section of the IAT trail that I missed.  Passing through Mukwonago I was surprised by their mural and a quick search of the internet explains its significance.  The area was originally a Native American village and the tribal seat of the Bear Clan of the Potawatomi Indians. The name "Mukwonago" is derived from "mequanego" which translates to bear's den. The spelling "Mukwonago" was adopted in 1844 because of the similarity to nearby Mequon.

Turns out I didn't really miss much, the section of trail I walked was surprisingly flat and my focus had to be on making sure the packed down snow wasn't icy underneath.  But, it felt good to get some exercise and at least the sun was out and the wind was fairly mild.

Out of the ice and into the fire, I met Katrina at the Majestic movie theater in Waukesha to catch the final installment in "The Hunger Games".  The Girl on Fire didn't disappoint.  We need more female heroines, anyone have a book to recommend featuring one?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Clinton Post Office Mural and a Final Hike

On my way out of Tennessee I met Sharon near the town of Clinton which happened to have a U.S. Post Office mural.  The town had a newer facility but moved the mural from the old location.  I love it when they do that!

"Farm and Factory" was painted in 1940 by Horace Day.  The brick wall in the background represents the town's own Magnet Mills which opened its doors in 1906 operating as a hosiery mill. By 1930, the mill employed over 1000 people. At one point, the mill owners operated at a loss during the great depression just to keep people working. 

Of course "progress" was inevitable with more modern industry to come and the days of family farming were on their way out.

Nearby is Norris Dam State Park where I stayed a night on my way down to Tennessee.  While I wasn't crazy about their camping situation (no place to put a tent, sites not big enough for larger RVs) they do have an excellent hiking trail system and Sharon and I went for one last short hike above the dammed in lake.

I'll miss my hiking buddy!

I pretty much high tailed it home after that, but did make a detour in to Levi Jackson State Park in Kentucky for a quick look at the campground.  The camping facilities in Kentucky State Parks are generally more up to date than the ones in the Tennessee State Parks.  While not a huge hiking destination it did have some trails and as is common in Kentucky parks lots of family oriented things to do.

large sites at Levi Jackson

Temperatures barely cracking above freezing for the week ahead here in Wisconsin but I will force myself out of the house tomorrow and Wednesday for hikes because there is an 80% chance of rain on Thanksgiving.  Wayne will be working, Katrina will be heading up to the U.P. and Cory will be going to her place to babysit her cat.  Guess it will be a movie marathon day for me, which is much more appealing than all that cooking and cleaning anyway!

Linking up to Monday Mural again.  Click the New Deal art label below if you want to know more about the post office murals story and the ones I've seen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Crossing the Pond?

I'm back from Tennessee and this morning I woke up to this happening.

We got almost a foot of snow here in Kenosha county today!  So what is a girl to do but lay around in her pajamas and start planning next year's trips?

My recent trip to Tennessee pointed out a few problems that could be ahead with my travel options.  It seems my allergies are getting tripped more easily, the house I rented back in February triggered problems this time, specifically the bed.  Probably dust mites combined with scented laundry detergent even though I stripped everything except the mattress cover off the bed.  So, what to do?  I was thinking I'd finally take a trip to London and perhaps even take the train on to France or the Netherlands.  Solution?  Pack my tent and sleeping bag!  Turns out there are nice campgrounds in Europe, even quite near the larger cities.  No worries about allergies, and money saving too!  And maybe I'll invest in a tent geared for colder temperatures and extend my camping season a little if I get cabin fever this winter.

Tomorrow's forecast?  Wind chill factors in the teens.  Guess I'm staying inside again but since I haven't exercised since Tuesday maybe I should get on the treadmill...after daydreaming about European campgrounds some more.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Seeing Holly, Being Jolly - Old Sugarlands Trail

This trip to the Smokies has been an unbeatable mix of alone time and companionship.  Used to being on my own I enjoy hiking in solitude, but having someone to share discoveries with is a welcome change.

On Monday Sharon and I met to do a shuttle hike of the Old Sugarlands Trail.  The trail is wide for the Smokies and is relatively flat with just a short section of uphill to tackle where we started after parking at the Rainbow Falls parking area on Cherokee Orchard Road.

We smelled skunk and were glad it was not a live one on the trail!  The Old Sugarlands Trail was the original first paved road to Newfound Gap and before the road was paved it was a wagon road through the center of the Sugarlands Community.

possibly stone wall created when land was cleared for farming

We spied a lot of old foundations, stone property line fences and stone retaining walls and some of them warranted further exploration off-trail.  Sharon even spotted a few she hasn't noticed before.  I brought up the fact that every time I saw holly on the trail side during this visit it was just little knee-high stragglers and no sooner had we started discussing whether holly was actually indigenous to this area or not we started seeing American holly trees everywhere.

Many thanks to Sharon for patience with repeated posing requests

While the tree above is quite a bit larger than what I'd been seeing, research tells me a more mature tree could be anywhere from 33-66 feet tall!  Maybe that's why I hadn't been seeing them, maybe the holly was all above my head!  American Holly is a slow grower, and most of what we were seeing was around old homesites so was probably planted purposely for ornamental reasons even though it is indigenous to the region.

The Sugarlands community was actually named for the abundance of maples that the settlers encountered when they arrived in the early 1800's, but most of those were cleared when building began. Residents typically lived in one-room cabins until the 1900's.  Here's a link showing a photo of what the area looked like before the forest started reclaiming it.

One of the things I wanted to see on the trail was a cemetery that can be reached by taking a side trail.  Round trip it added another 1.5 miles to our already 4 mile hike but it was worth the extra effort.

temperatures are rising here again for the rest of the week

After enjoying a quiet lunch at the cemetery we resumed our trek through the Sugarlands, and it wasn't long before we came upon the CCC ruins which included some stairs in the middle of the forest floor, the clock tower remains and a large flag pole circle.  See this link for a picture of the clock tower when it was built and how quickly the landscape will fill in with trees when mother nature is left to her own devices.

Clock Tower

Soon we met up with the Little Pigeon River, making its way toward Gatlinburg. The gradual downhill slope of the trail leveled out as we enjoyed its soothing sounds.

The trail ends at Newfound Gap Road just down the road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  The mild, damp fall that the region has been having is confusing the rhododendren and I got my first glimpse of what its blossoms will look like if I ever get here during bloom time outside of Park Headquarters.

We also saw a rather large and extremely healthy American holly bursting with berries.

Don't miss this hike, lots to discover no matter what time of year you visit!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Short Walk in the Woods - Bud Ogle Place

I dragged my parents over to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to take a look at Noah "Bud" Ogle's Place, one of the first stops from Cherokee Orchard Road.  From the parking lot the road is still two way, so we planned that Dad and I would continue along to the one way motor trail and Mom would turn back to go check out some shops.

Big hunks of quartz on the site

There is an interpretive pamphlet available to purchase that will guide the visitor through the numbered 3/4 mile nature trail through the Ogle property.

I call this one "How Long Until We Can Gracefully Leave?"

My parents checked out the main house, then Mom went back to town and Dad went back to the car while I struck out to get have a short walk in the woods.  I had the trail to myself, which I was thankful for since the reason I've never explored this site is that it is usually full of people when I drive past.

This is the type of Smokies environment I enjoy the most, lots of rhododendren, a moist habitat that supports fungal growth and ferns.

It didn't take long before I heard the stream where I knew the tubmill would be located.

I took a few pictures, but made a plan to come back here again with Wayne in the spring when the greens will really pop and get right into that stream with my rubber boots and tripod in tow.

This spot also had rocks everywhere, in the streams and along the trail, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes when you visit even though it is relatively flat.

Back on the Motor Nature Trail we scanned the landscape out the open car windows, keeping our eyes open for bears and other wildlife but had no success.  All we saw was views of the Roaring Fork itself as we crossed over it again and again.

I could live with that.

Today I'm on the last leg of my trip home again, trying to make it back in time to see my Wayne on our 26th wedding anniversary!