Saturday, October 5, 2019

South Carolina Mountains - Table Rock State Park

  For my birthday trip this year, we decided to go to the South Carolina mountains instead of the North Carolina mountains where we usually go.  They are not quite as dramatic but they are still beautiful.

  We visited three state parks and a state wilderness area: Table Rock State Park, Caesar’s Head State Park, Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and Paris Mountain State Park.

  Table Rock in early morning.  

  The Cherokee Indians believed an enormous spirit presided over these mountains and that the rock in the center was his dining table, with the tree-covered mountain to the right the chair.  The haze covering the mountaintops gives the mountain range its name: the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  Later in the day we got a really good, almost clear view of Table Rock Mountain from the valley.  
  The park has beautiful waterfalls.  The state is in drought conditions so they weren’t as dramatic as they usually are.


To enter the park trails there is a kiosk where you register your group and the time you enter.  Unless you have an overnight permit you must be out before dusk.  People don’t understand the danger of mountain hiking and there have been many deaths over the years because of carelessness and being ill-prepared for conditions. 

This information is posted in the information center restrooms and other places as a sobering reminder to be careful!  

Cooling my feet in the waterfall pool ....

                     Bright purple beauty berries were in bloom. 

  October is a wonderful time to visit the state parks.  We had the trail, the waterfall, and much of the park completely to ourselves and spent a long time enjoying the sound and sight of the falling water and the glorious views.  

Friday, September 20, 2019

Climate Strike

Hey, ya’ll!  Will you join in?

From CNN this morning:  
     From London to New York City and from Perth to Paris, climate activists are taking part in a global climate strike today in what is expected to be the biggest day of climate demonstrations in the planet's history.  The Global Climate Strike is the third in a worldwide series of rallies organized by students, led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.
  Some of the first protests were held in Australia and organizers have said "well over" 300,000 people gathered at more than 100 cities and towns across the country. Melbourne hosted the biggest march, according to organizers, with 100,000 people turning out, while 80,000 rallied in Sydney and 30,000 in Brisbane. 
   Hope the day’s events are as well-attended in rest of the world.  I’m definitely on board, because of my grandchildren — I want them to know, when they inherit this tremendous problem from my generation, that I was one of the ones who tried to fix it.
  Sadly, there are no events to join within many miles of our home.  Maybe that’s the case for others as well. So, I was thinking we could share some ways here that we make the extra effort to help our planet.  I’ll start!

  As we replace things that wear out, we try to avoid plastic and find materials that are easy to recycle.  Here are a few of our choices in the last few years:

Glass and metal hummingbird feeder, wooden matches to replace plastic lighters.

Glass and steel cans instead of plastic, both recyclable in our town, and two of the few materials that are.  Alas, the glass jars are starting to come with this outer piece of plastic around the the lid. Why oh why?  It’s already sealed inside!  The jar is also reusable, handy for storing food in place of plastic “Tupperware”.  

Cotton and other natural fiber clothing (right). They can be cut up and composted when the item wears out and they don’t shed dangerous plastic micro fibers in the wash.

Brushes:  Outdoor scrub brushes of wood and palmyra palm fiber bristles.  We cut them in half to make them last longer and fit the hand better.

Kitchen brushes made of bamboo with plant-based and recycled plastic bristles.  (If we ever have to replace these we will get some now available with a replaceable head.)

Toilet brush and nail brush of wood and natural bristles.  The bristles of the toilet brush are made of coconut fiber.  

Reusable bags — small homemade ones are produce bags, larger shopping bags fold up small, easily carried in my purse.  The black one in front is folded up.  They hold a ton of stuff.  Yogi tea comes in a cardboard package and the teabags have no plastic fibers in them and can be put in the compost. (Did you know most teabags are made with plastic fibers for “strength”?  They are not compostable and the plastic chemicals leach into your cup.)
Last — dental floss.  700 million of these little plastic 
boxes wind up in the landfills and oceans every
YEAR!  This box is made of cardboard.  (Recently they have started wrapping the floss on the little (plastic) spool inside the box in a small plastic package!  Why oh why??)

  Well, those are a few of the attempts we are making to make the world a better place.  A proverbial drop in the bucket of waste globally I realize.  But what if everyone did the same?  Maybe industries and big polluters would take notice, feel the pressure, and change, cumulatively making a huge difference. 

  If you are interested in sources, most of these things can be found on Amazon but we make an effort to buy them locally first.  It takes work to find them, however.  

  In keeping with Global Climate Strike Day, would you comment and share a few of the things you do that others might be inspired, too?  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Laundry Day

“What have you done to my toys?”

“How long are they going to be up there?”

Saturday, September 14, 2019


  I have a few more photos to share with you from my trip home to Minnesota a few weeks ago.  I realized I had shown a number of Mason, the youngest, (because he was the one home all the time I was there) and none of the older boys.  So ...

  This is Lincoln, the oldest, who will be 11 in a few days (we are birthday twins — just a few years difference!).  He loves Legos and has been making intricate creations since long before he could read the instructions himself.  His favorite is the one at the top of the bookcase — Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter.  He plays on football and basketball teams.

The middle two boys are twins, age 10.

Jack is in the chess club at his elementary school and plays in chess tournaments in the city and state.  My daughter and I were shopping for some school clothes and spotted this chess-themed t-shirt, which says, “Always Three Steps Ahead”.  That’s Jack.  (He  loved the shirt!)

Aiden plays chess with the school club and has some trophies too but his “thing” at the moment is soccer.  He’s playing on his first traveling team this fall after playing on rec teams since he was four. 


    When I lived in Minnesota I was their day care person from the time the twins and Mason were born.  They are dear, sweet boys and I sure miss seeing them every day!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Goodbye and Good Riddance, Dorian!

  Just wanted to let everyone know that we safely rode out Hurricane Dorian at home and are okay.  And on the second day after, things are getting back to normal.  Everyone in the county has electricity except “two homes”, according to the news this morning, leaving me wondering who these unfortunate souls are!   

  This morning downed trees, water, and sand have been removed from roads, the post office reopened, and grocery stores are getting restocked with produce. 

Our fridge was pretty empty and we were happy to be able to get out to shop today.

  Wind gusts on the bay during the hurricane were 84 mph but “only” 77 mph where our house sits.  Although similar to Matthew (2016), there is far less damage from Dorian and we had our electricity back completely in less than 24 hours.  I think the county and city have had so much practice, they have this hurricane thing pretty much down now after four in a row — Matthew (2016), then Irma (2017), Florence (2018), and now Dorian.  

  On our way home from the store today we passed this uniquely protected business and started joking about the conversation that might have gone on between the two men you can barely see standing behind the black tube.  
 The day before Dorian: “Harold, this will the fourth hurricane in as many years we are gonna have to clean up the water and mold mess left behind. I’m not doing it.  We are gonna go out and buy our own dam!”
  The day after Dorian: “Well, Jim, you were right.  No water in our building. But now what are we gonna do with all the water inside this thing?  Any ideas how we’re gonna roll it up and where we’re going to put it until next year?”

  We are counting our blessings that Dorian is gone and our home and big trees are intact.  But ... hurricane season isn’t over yet.  We are hanging on to our gallons of drinking water and the rest of our “hurricane food”, recharging our battery powered things, and crossing our fingers!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hello From Hurricane Land

  September used to be my favorite month but not anymore.  It’s that time of year again — hurricane season — on the East Coast, and we have Dorian hanging out in the Bahamas, taking its time deciding when (and where)  to forge onward on its path of destruction. 

  This is what it has felt like for days now, the Waiting Game.  Everything in town is closed, sandbagged, and boarded up, even McDonalds, for the duration.  No school, no government, no mail.

  We are in Zone A, which means closest to the ocean (half a block from Winyah Bay) and under a mandatory evacuation order.  No one is going anywhere yet, however, because the hurricane is stalled. We have hotel reservations an hour and a half inland but won’t go until if and when it becomes necessary.  

   We checked out the beach yesterday and things were getting a bit stormy looking.  Today however, the sun is shining brightly and it seems like just another summer day. 

   Meanwhile ... we have banana trees that were planted by the original owner of our house that freeze every winter so they never produce bananas.  The taller one here is about 10 feet tall.

  We cut them back to the ground a couple times a year but they keep coming back and I was inspired by another blogger (Anne from New Zealand at Arty Green in Paradise) to see if there was any other use for them.  

Well surprise! They make the best grilled salmon you have ever tasted! 

 For a feast for two, take one smallish banana leaf, two salmon steaks (plus one for leftovers) rubbed with a bit of olive oil and season them with lemon grass, ginger, lime juice, and salt.  Husk two ears of sweet corn.


 The banana leaf will char and flavor the salmon with sort of a smoky-grassy flavor and be the juiciest salmon ever!  

  So delicious I couldn’t get a photo of the plate before we ate it all up!

  For dessert, slice up a third of a mammoth pear from our neighbor’s pear tree.  That’s my hand to give you an idea of the size of Malcolm’s pears.  

  Well, back to assembling the crate for the cat to travel in, filling jugs with drinking water and the bathtub with washing and flushing water, putting the citrus trees out of harm’s way in the sunroom, etc etc. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

St Paul’s Old Municipal Grain Elevator

(This is a continuation of my last post about the Upper Landing Park in St Paul, Minnesota.)

  From Upper Landing Park you see the tower of the old Municipal Grain Elevator down the river.  


  We walked up the hill for dinner and another little lesson in St Paul history. 

  By the 1930s the grain industry was flourishing on the river, and now the six-story Municipal Grain Elevator and sack house are all that is left of it.  For almost 60 years, through the 1980s, the riverfront was bustling with trains arriving from the Dakotas, Montana, and western Minnesota to unload wheat, flax, and rye, making the Midwest the  “Breadbasket to the World”.
  From the boxcars, grain was shoveled into either the sackhouse (below) where it was bagged or the elevator, then moved into the barges that lined the riverbank ready to transport it down the river. Some of the wheat also went by conveyors to a flour mill next door.  

  The buildings had deteriorated badly as they sat empty and, although they were of historical value, no one could agree on how to preserve them or what to do with them.  A contest was held that brought over 200 entries from across the U.S. and 13 foreign countries and the best ideas chosen.  The sackhouse is now called City House and is a pavilion and event venue with a food truck outside, a bar, tables, and (at the far end) an indoor play area with games for children and adults. 

  There are also a few exhibits inside, showing the site in its heyday.  

  At one time there were a hundred grain silos and the flour mill adjacent to the Elevator.  Wheat traveled from the railroad cars to the mill next door by a conveyer between the buildings to be made into floor.  

  From St Paul the Midwestern grain traveled to the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, Africa, South America, and all the way around the Cape of Good Hope to China!  

  There are a few pieces of machinery displayed inside the sack room, including this winch that was used in opening and closing the 3-ton iron hatches on top of the barges.  

  We got drinks and food from the Red River Kitchen food truck and sat at a table outside overlooking the river.  (The area is too prone to flooding to have a permanent restaurant, hence the food truck.)

  As we were enjoying our dinner we heard blasts on a huge horn and ...

Look what came right by our table! 
 Mason was excited when the captain in the wheelhouse returned his waves!  

One last picture of the river ...
the Jonathan Padelford leaving for the evening’s dinner cruise up the river.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Night Out in St Paul

  On my recent trip to Minnesota we had a night out in St. Paul, the capital city. We parked along the Mississippi River near Upper Landing Park and walked along what is now a beautiful waterfront on a clean river on a gorgeous summer evening.  

  Looking north, in the distance you can see several of the more than a dozen bridges of St. Paul, including the Wabasha Street Bridge which crosses Raspberry Island to Harriet Island.  To the right are two paddlewheelers, the boats that have been plying the Mississippi since Mark Twain made them famous.  The one on the right used to be a showboat with musical theater but hasn’t been in use for several years.

  Looking south, a walking/biking path follows the river downstream in Upper Landing Park toward the old Municipal Grain Elevator ...

... and back upstream toward the city, past a flock of beautiful bird sculptures which represent the navigation and migration routes along the Mississippi, and ...

four fountains, including this one that Mason 
quite enjoyed playing on.  See the hammock napper in the background?

💧  💧  💧
  Such a beautiful public green space now with people enjoying the lush lawns and scenic trails, but this glimpse of its place in history is far from glamorous.
  The stretch of the river was once the busy center of shipping commerce and cargo docks for ore and lumber, and the undesirable areas of land alongside became settlements for the poorest of the poor.  The area called Bohemian Flats consisted of shacks built of flotsam and jetsam from the river by male immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Germany. The recently arrived single men were a wild bunch and Bohemian flats was known as a lawless and filthy place, constantly mentioned in the newspapers for drunken fights and other debauchery.  As their fortunes improved however, the men married, had families, and sought out better places to live in the city.  By the 1880s their shacks were deserted and new immigrants from a small area in Italy began to move in.

Upper Landing/Little Italy 1950s I think

  The men found hard work as laborers in the city, some for the railroads, and built their own homes.  Little Italy, as it came to be called, suffered from serious problems including the lack of a sewer system and clean drinking water, the foul-smelling river water, and constant flooding of homes when the river rose in the spring.  

  The community remained until a devastating flood in 1952, which  caused homes and school to be condemned.  Families were relocated against their will, the buildings were razed, and a scrapyard was built on top.  The riverfront remained a mess and an eyesore, contaminated with a hundred years of human and industrial waste. But in the late 1990s it was named a Superfund site and funds were available for a real cleanup.   
  Beginning in 2006, construction of attractive (and expensive!) high rise apartments and condos began.  Developers kept the old street names and named new ones after some of the successful inhabitants who began their lives in America there in Bohemian Flats and Little Italy.