Monday, July 23, 2012

Redwoods and banana slugs

Do you have a minute?
Or ten? 
Pull up a chair and I'll give you the lowdown on our trip to Trinidad, on the redwood coast of California, on which we embarked two days after returning home from Virginia. This was our second holiday in the redwoods, a little south of the first, and every sight was new to us.

First, there were three chihuahuas. I called them The Three Amigos. 
They ruled the motor home, which belonged to our hosts, Jeff's sister, Theresa, and her crazy husband, Rick.

This is the cast: Theresa and Rick, back right; their neighbours, Bill and Robyn, in front; Rick's Dad and his "friend", back left. "Friend" is hidden behind Bill. 

This is the motor home, so kindly shared with us by Rick and Theresa.
And the Three Amigos.

This is the campfire, built by Rick a least a couple of times a day to combat the mist and chill that is the usual weather on the redwood coast.
And around which we sat one night and sang old 70's songs in the key of C.
I must enlarge my uke chording repertoire! 

This is Rick, running from a banana slug.
I told him a tale about the sexual habits of banana slugs and he has been afraid of them ever since.

Admit it, you want to know, don't you?
Oh, okay, if you insist!
Banana slugs are hermaphrodites. After they have fertilized each other's eggs upon mating, sometimes it is necessary for them to chew off their male appendages. If, you know, they can't get unstuck.

This is one of the elk that we saw on our first day's trip to Fern Canyon. There were several of the animals, just hanging out between the beach and the road, seemingly unafraid of humans.

Fern Canyon is the kind of place that you would never find unless you went looking for it. We drove for hours (well, it seemed like it) over gravelly, bumpy, narrow, mountainous roads. The redwoods were looking great, but the bumps precluded any magnificent photos. We finally pulled out of the forest at the beach, where the elk were grazing. A short walk later, we were in the aptly-named canyon.

I was glad that I had opted for water sandals instead of walking shoes, even not knowing that we would be wading through streams. The water was wonderfully refreshing...

...except for this one spot wherein resided a million millipedes.

They were nasty and smelled quite revolting.

The rest of the short hike was glorious.
Some of us can't resist climbing for a photo op.

The walls of the canyon were dripping water and all of the foliage was green and glistening and my camera lens got droplet-spotted. 

We walked on several beaches. One morning, we unknowingly ended up on a beach that was owned by native Americans.
Well, that was this guy's story, anyway.

He regaled the crew with tales of how he was really a wolf and had seances or something and he demonstrated to Rick how he pukes when he is under the influence of the spirits. Which kind of spirits he did not specify!
I thought Rick would punch him out, but he was remarkably circumspect.
You can see me in the background, pretending I wasn't there.
We found another beach to walk on.
And climbed on a great old redwood for the photo.

I should give credit to Theresa for the remaining photos, as I had packed the wrong charging cord for my camera and wore out the battery in Fern Canyon.
This beach was bordered with some very interesting cliffs. They were clearly stratified and covered in graffiti.

Always climbing.

Can you see the layers? There is one layer, not far from the top, that was made of large, round stones that stuck out from the rest.
Very cool.

And now, some gratuitous beach panoramas.

We visited a little memorial lighthouse that was perched on a cliff above the beach.

Jeff and I climbed down to the beach.
Of course we did!

As the sun was setting, we stood on the beach and watched. I had been nagging the boys to find me a nice piece of redwood to take home. Just a smallish one that no one would miss. Theresa thought that maybe this one would do.

But, being from Oregon, where nasty accidents often happen because of logs rolling in the surf, I thought this one might be safer.

Only it wasn't redwood, so I declined.

One morning, Rick's Dad took us all out to breakfast at the Samoa Cookhouse. Back in the days of logging redwoods, it used to be a camp cookhouse where all the loggers ate. Food is still served family-style and it was plenteous and delicious.
If you look at the photo on the left, it shows some loggers sitting on a redwood tree. Its diameter was 26 feet. The restaurant is packed with historic treasures from the 1880's to 1920's, when logging of the redwoods was rampant. It kills me that the lumber lords cut down trees that were so magnificent and thousands of years old. I'm not anti-logging, but when I researched the topic, I discovered that redwood is not a good wood for construction because it is fibrous and brittle. Fifty percent of the wood that was cut down didn't even make it to the mills, because it shattered on impact. The wood was used for things like matchsticks, shingles, and fence-posts.
We took the lords of the forest and turned them into matchsticks.
Can we all take a minute and reflect on that?

We visited Ferndale, a quaint little town that is full of astounding architectural details.
This is the house of the original lumber lord. It's now an exclusive country club.

Driving around the streets gave us plenty to admire in the way of residential and commercial architecture.

The morning of July 4th dawned bright and sunny, a pleasant surprise. I took myself off for a (so I thought) short run down the highway. As usual, I bit off a bit more than I could chew and ended up going almost four miles. Considering I hadn't run much in the last few months, I felt pretty good. The campground owners hosted a scrumptiously catered barbecue feast for lunch, so we stuck around and did it justice. 
Here's a nibble you can't resist. Picture a waffle-shaped pretzel with a Rolo chocolate slightly melted and pressed on top, then a pecan pressed on top of that.
I ate about a kazillion, and then we went home.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's not the work...'s the gear and the tools that make the man.

Daniel has been helping Papa fix the fence. 
The thing we love is that he wears knee socks with his shorts, just like his Papa.
Sweet, nerdy boys both!

Speaking of sweet, our baby is like chocolate: we can't get enough of her.
Not that I'm competing on the cute baby front, but this is a Nana blog, after all!

Sorry, Bethany, for beating you to the punch.
I'm shameless like that!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Domestic victories

There was a time, when my kids were young and hadn't yet become corrupted by chain restaurants, that a bowl of cherries canned by moi was considered to be a pretty okay dessert.
I threw out the last jar of black cherries a couple of years ago, finally admitting to myself that they would never be eaten. They were probably ten years old at that point. It pained me to do it, but reality is a harsh mistress.

The dear old cherry tree won itself a reprieve this year by providing a medium-sized crop. We gave a lot away, but I managed to freeze a few bags. The grand-kids will eat almost any fruit in the winter when it is frozen. 
Sneaky Nana.

I used to pit cherries with a little hand-pitter. It was painful.
I was very relieved when I found this device on clearance a few years ago.

Which was pretty stupid of me when you think about it, because they're only about $20 full price.
[Although there is one that pits ten cherries at a time and sells for a mere $300!]
Sometimes I endure a lot of pain because of my frugal principles!


I've been wanting to make a batch of laundry detergent for a long time. My big Costco bottle just ran out, so I decided it was time. I went to Winco and bought the necessary ingredients.

Plus a bar of Fels Naptha soap.

I made a small batch, as I'm not sure if I want to use the dry or liquid recipe in the long-term.
First, I finely grated one bar of low-sudsing soap. I used a third of the Fels Naptha bar and two-thirds of a bar of Ivory soap, as I had scored some free at Safeway last week.

Then  I stirred in a cup of the washing soda and half a cup of the borax.
Make sure you get borax, not boric acid.
And washing soda, not baking soda.
The wrong ingredient could be catastrophic.

I am told that the grated soap gets dry and crumbly as it sits in the container, so the mixture becomes finer. 
Use one tablespoon per load in your top- or front-loading washing machine, two if the load is particularly grimy.
There you have it: laundry soap for a penny or two a load.
And a minimum of effort and dirty dishes.


The next project on the agenda is to make some calendula balm. 
Hence, the baking sheet of dried calendula blossoms.

My flowerbeds are overflowing with calendulas that self-seeded prolifically this year.
I seems a handy idea to put them to good use.

The petals were easy to pull off after they were dry.
Hint: don't try to remove petals from fresh calendula blooms.
You will hate yourself and your sticky fingers.
All that was left in the end was this little pile of green stubs.

The jar of dried petals sits on my kitchen counter, awaiting my next spurt of energy.

An infusion of calendula and coconut oil, the balm is reputed to be good for all kinds of skin ailments, including bug bites.
Instructions will follow.


I spent this morning garage-sale hopping with my friends, Barb and Lori. It was garage-sale heaven in our town today. The weather was sunny-but-not-too-hot and signs everywhere proclaimed "HUGE garage sale!"
Some of the signs were lying through their teeth, but I found a pressure cooker for a reasonable price, which I've been wanting for a long time.  We all found lots of great stuff and we went home happy.

I'd love to hear about your domestic triumphs. You can share them below.
Yeah, you got me. It's just a ploy to get comments!
But seriously.
I'd love it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Meet Wrangler, my new grand-dog. 
He belongs to Charlie and Sam and he comes to romp on our lawn occasionally.
Sunday evening was one of those times.
He is a beauty, a weimaraner with a soulful stare and an appetite for Greek yogurt.

The local kids were all here and we ate several varieties of grilled pizza. 
It is the only way to cook pizza on a hot, summer's evening. 
The sky was all kinds of gorgeous.

Natalie and Jenny were bonding on the back lawn. 
Natalie whispers in Jenny's ear.

Wrangler loves to nap on Daddy's lap.

Silly old Nana woke him up with the camera flash.
Honestly, can't a dog take a nap in peace around here?

When I downloaded pictures to my computer, somebody had taken a few extras.

I love having our family together. 
It is rarely perfect, but it is heavenly.
In its own strange way.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Battling on

Well, I wasn't going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the rest of our trip to Virginia, but then I thought to myself, Self, this is your journal and you know you will forget unless you write about it. 
So here I is.

We landed in Norfolk and visited the Botanical Gardens the first day. The next morning, we drove up to Richmond, where we would spend the next three days. On the way to Richmond, we checked out the Naval Museum and Yorktown.

The Naval Museum in Norfolk was more interesting than I expected. It is contained in a larger building that houses Nauticus, a maritime science museum geared towards children. The Naval Museum is free; Nauticus is not.
The museum covers the history of the U.S. Navy from its inception in the early days of the Revolutionary War to the present. There are many actual relics of war... well as models of battleships. The detail is quite excruciating. And if you're lucky, like me, you will keep bumping into a cute guy wearing a Coastguard hat!

As we walked around the museum, we had exchanged a few words with another couple. The lady told us that her grandfather made this cigar holder. He had served on the Battleship Wisconsin, which is berthed outside Nauticus.

And here it is. We were going to look around the ship but were accosted on the way in and told that we needed to pay the Nauticus entrance fee in order to board.
We declined.
But it is a grand ship. It is one of the largest and last battleships ever built by the U.S. Navy.

The biggest flag I have ever seen hangs in the foyer.

On to Yorktown, on the Chesapeake Bay, site of the last battle of the Revolutionary War. Here, General Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American (led by George Washington) and French (led by Comte de Rochambeau) forces on October 19th, 1781. There is an interesting account of the battle here. Washington pulled a sneaky trick on the British, but it is unlikely that he would have won the decisive battle if it were not for the French. I told Jeff he needs to be nicer to the French. 
Our walking tour guide was inspired and passionate. He added vivid details to the battle story so that even I was intrigued. We found that most of the guides are history majors who really know their topics.

We walked on the very ground that British troops sweated and fought upon in the fall of 1781. It is an eerie thing, imagining those men, so many years ago, fighting and dying upon the same redoubt that I lay down and rested on this humid day in June.

There is a visitor's centre in the park and it houses General Washington's tent. The photo is rubbish, but I felt rather reverent as I stood before the tent.

After visiting the Yorktown National Cemetery, where many of the photos in the last post were taken, we moseyed on over to the town. It was late afternoon and we were starving, so we found a modest little restaurant and filled our tummies. I will forbear from telling you about the almost-naked old guy who came into the restaurant for a soda and stood at the counter flexing his tanned muscles and then went outside and stood on the beach and posed some more. It was disturbing.

We hung around for a few hours because we saw some posters for a concert that was planned for the evening. A good time was had by all. Jeff and I even danced a bit. We shared a bench with a sweet older couple. The man scared me a little because his dyed mustache and eyebrows reminded me of fuzzy caterpillars.
Behold, the Cupid Shuffle.
A hip-hop line dance.
Yes, you read me right. It was hard to catch the hip-hop intonation as performed by the band, but hip-hop it was. I wondered why a few older African American ladies were doing a country line dance! That explains it.

We drove down to Jamestown from Richmond the next day. Jamestown, across the peninsula from Yorktown and a little bit north, sits on the James River. It is the site of the first permanent settlement of Europeans in America. We watched glass blowers at work and I bought a nice little condiment jar.
I'm a sucker for glass.
The settlers established a glass factory so that they could export glass to Europe, as there was a greater demand for glass than their existing factories could supply.

We were in the middle of a heat wave, but the sky was threatening.

Excavation continues at Jamestown, searching for information about those first settlers.
Jeff wanted to join the dig.

This fort is where Pocahontas played as a child and was later taken hostage during Anglo-American hostilities and held for ransom. Her father, Chief Powhatan, refused to comply with the demands of the English and Pocahontas remained in the fort. A year later, she reportedly had an opportunity to speak to her father and she rebuked him for valuing her "less than old swords, pieces and axes" and chose to remain with the English. She later converted to Christianity and married John Rolfe. Nancy Reagan is among her descendants.

Jeff noticed that the hands on her statue are shiny, unlike the rest of her oxidized body.
We, too, brushed her hand as we passed by.

The threatened storm hit with a vengeance as we started towards the exit, so we took shelter.
It was a doozy.

I saw a sign that advertised the free ferry to Scotland.
We took it.
Why not? I said.

We find ferry trips to be quite boring.
How about you?

Jeff was very disappointed to find himself still on American soil, but there you have it.
Scotland, VA.
We soldiered on to Surry (the spelling bothers me) and found an excellent restaurant that provided us with a taste of Southern cooking. 
Country ham, baked potato, and apple fritter for me.
What, you thought I would order broccoli when an apple fritter was offered?

Jeff had country-fried chicken and hush-puppies. 
I think I am in love. Hush puppies and I get along really well.

The next day found us in the Civil War battlefields of Spotslyvania, Fredricksburg, and Chancellorville. The highlight for Jeff was finding a record of his ancestor, Thomas Ward Osborne, who fought in some of these battles and went on to become a state senator.

This is the site of the sunken road in Fredricksburg, a particularly bad battle for the north. The Confederates had a strong position behind this wall on the sunken road and on the hill behind it. Wave after wave of Union soldiers was sent up the slope on December 13th, 1862, only to be shot down. When the next morning dawned, about 8,000 men lay dead or grievously wounded in front of the wall.

We had an excellent tour guide, but, to be honest, my mind was mush by this point.
Let me just say that the cannons on this side of the field were firing against those little tiny cannons that you can see in the distance.

The second-bloodiest day of the Civil War took place here on May 3rd, 1863.
And I'm not even sure who won.

Another awesome tour guide.

So, here's what I think.
You should go visit these historical sites.
You should take every walking tour for which you have time.
You should take a hankie.
And you should not go during a heat wave.