Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Monday, November 30, 2009
Rainy Day Monday
A grey and gloomy day, interrupted at lunch time till about 4 p.m. with a steady rain, in the high 50s. Gloomy inside, too, and when I was finished with an order around four I took down the autumn decor and replaced it with Christmas finery: a poinsettia garland, a poinsettia bouquet in a vase covered with foil, a Christmas bouquet of holly and mistletoe and other picks, two little resin figures (a Nativity scene and some Victorian carolers) and a holly votive candle holder, two different Christmas stockings, and Christmas art from past calendars.

The rain cleared up at rush hour, with the clouds racing across the sky like thoroughbreds on the track, big piles of gray hurrying southward as leaves scattered behind them. We still have occasional patches of fall color to accompany the burgeoning Christmas decorations. The city of Smyrna's decorations were lit up when I went by and the street was blocked off, so they must have had the official tree lighting tonight.

Leftover turkey for supper, a Wilson story on House, and a new Animal Cops...nice!

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Wilson Speaks!
Robert Sean Leonard talks House



» Sunday, November 29, 2009
At Last, Sleep! and Other Stories
I slept late! Or actually a whole eight hours. A first in over two weeks. Of course! I'm going back to work tomorrow.

I think I mentioned we had two different turkey carcasses given to us on Thanksgiving. James attacked those this morning. One was efficiently picked clean, but one had enough meat left on it that we can use it for supper tomorrow night. Mmmn. If there's something better than turkey, it's turkey leftovers.

Well, when we went rooting around in the fridge, we found the last container of last Christmas' turkey soup! So we took that out to thaw for supper tonight while we filled the stockpot with water, the turkey bones, celery, carrots, and sprinkles of basil, parsley, marjoram, and savory, and a little salt. Once it came to a boil, we left it to simmer and went out in search of an inspection station that was open. Both the cars are due to have their registrations renewed on my birthday, so we need emissions inspections posthaste. We had planned to get them last weekend before James' misstep cost us the two days. I can get mine during lunch later in the week.

We found the "Mr. Clean" carwash and oil change center (formerly Carnett's) open and got the truck inspected. Also walked around BJs, having needed some things and having coupons for stuff we use that expire tomorrow, and sampled the wares: more samples than usual quiches, roll-ups, turkey meat, Belgian chocolates, cheeses, salmon cakes, and roast chicken.

From there it was home so James could rest his leg and we could supervise the soup. It was already wafting the heavenly scent of turkey throughout the house.

I immediately changed clothing, grabbed boxes out of the closet downstairs, and took down the Thanksgiving decorations. The house is rather in transition now, Christmas decorations in the windows and on the doors and autumn still in evidence everywhere else. I've got Apple Annie next Friday, but I also hope to get some more decorating done.

More about First Sunday of Advent decorating in Holiday Harbour.

Had the turkey soup with rice and crackers and watched a new America's Funniest Home Videos with Bob Saget as the guest star for a Saget retrospective, followed by Extreme Makeover Home Edition with the gang creating a home for a little boy (who has leukemia) and his family. James spent most of that hour fishing the bones out of the turkey soup, straining the soup, and distributing the meat in each container. We got six quarts of turkey soup, so many we didn't have enough room in the freezer, so we have one out to have turkey soup later in the week.

There's even enough broth left over for James to use to make turkey gravy for the turkey leftovers tomorrow. Cool.

We're now watching the series finale of Stormchasers. I think these guys are full-goose bozo crazy. If I ever see a tornado, I'm hightailing it in the opposite direction, thanks! Anyway, we are being amused by the new version of Discovery's "The World is Just Awesome" commercial. I think what they're showing is an altered version of the original, because some of the scenes are different. I have to laugh at the Mythbusters clip, because, in the original, Adam sets Jamie's sleeve afire. In the new one, Jamie is returning the favor—with interest!

Oh! James bought Willow a new dog bed (really a throw that we have folded in half). He just put it down. She sniffed at it, patted it with her paw, and curled up on it, happy as the proverbial clam.

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» Saturday, November 28, 2009
Went to trivia. Had a good time. Meal was a bit greasy. Needless to say, still, problems.

Have ended up watching a Dirty Jobs marathon which included camels mating. Well, the camels may enjoy it, but let's say it's not attractive!

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Sad Sack Saturday
God! Is there a rule that says I'm not allowed to sleep at night? The first part was my fault; I was up late reading and got chilled. Plus I've been trying not to snack. So I was cold and hungry and it was hard to fall asleep. I finally put on heavier pajamas.

Then James' alarm clock went off at an ungodly hour. This aroused another portion of my anatomy. Forgot to bring something warm to sit in the bathroom. Cold again.

So I woke up with the start of a migraine, cold feet and hunger. We were headed over to Glenlake so James could take his blood test. Afterwards we stopped at the IHOP on Roswell Road. I had the gingerbread pancakes, nice and spicy, and a few rashers of bacon. That, along with two Tylenol, dispatched the headache. James made me some grilled cheese tortillas to help solve the other problems, but as soon as he left for his IPMS meeting, I sacked out on the sofa for two hours to the accompaniment of Holiday Traditions on low. Had Schuyler's cage next to me. I'm starting to believe egg binding may not be the problem. I hope so. She's been full of vinegar this afternoon.

Tidied up a bit and goofed off on the computer while waiting for James. Now we're just relaxing, still listening to Holiday Traditions. I'm a bit ticked, as the Holiday Pops channel isn't starting until December 7. Phooey. Dish doesn't seem to have a Christmas music channel this year, either. It's always been on 982. (Oh,'s on 949 this year. Weird.)

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» Friday, November 27, 2009
Purchases and Parakeets
Early mornings, little sleep, and shopping in Holiday Harbour.

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» Thursday, November 26, 2009
After the Feast
Thanksgiving got off to a good start: I found a newspaper at the first place I went, Food Depot. I also got some whipped cream to go along with the Indian pudding.

However, the Indian pudding we'd made looked like such a small amount we made some more; we just cooked it on high in the crock pot instead of at low. Should have left it at one—there weren't many takers. Of course the desserts were neglected anyway, as there was so much yummy food! Alex and Pat roasted a turkey and got a fried one as well, and Ron and Lin brought roast beef. There were also stuffing, cranberry relish, turnip greens, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, James' corn casserole, noodle kugel, stuffed cabbage leaves, and sweet potato souffle—and great conversation, too.

Alex gave us the carcass of the turkey and we had gotten a call from Juanita earlier that she had one for us, too, so we dropped by her house to pick it up when we were on our way home. Gosh, she had Christmas lights on already, outside and in, and almost all her villages the dining room on top of the bookcases, on the divider between the kitchen and the breakfast nook, on the table in the living room, and on brand new revolving tier shelves! I remember her original collection; she has about four times more now. The tree was up, too!

A funny—I called her right before we arrived, then shoved the phone back on my belt. When we went into the house, I realized I didn't have my phone. James called me in the house and in the driveway, but we didn't hear the phone ring. Then I opened the truck door and I could hear my phone ring. It was clipped onto the seat belt!

So we came home to relax. I am keeping a wary eye on Schuyler. She's having the same problem she had when we went to Owensboro, kicking at her behind. I deduced there that she had not drunk water all the way there and was probably...well, constipated. So I gave her first an apple and then an orange this morning, but she's still doing it. I put an extra dish of water in her cage and hope it will help. I hope I don't have to take her to the vet; she hates it so. She doesn't act sick: she's been playing tonight, and just sitting grinding her beak (which means she's contented), and cleaning her beak and preening. But doing the kicking thing, and not eliminating a lot, and squeaking when she does.

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and of course

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» Wednesday, November 25, 2009
That's Better
At 12:03 I left the house. I returned at 2:12. No sign of TruGreen guy having shown up. Nor did he show up. "Of course you know this means war." Heh.

I had to drive to a certain store to get a certain item at a certain discounted price. Actually, two items. I'm not mentioning the store name since the person it is for might guess what I bought. I also found a gift for Aubrey. A bunch down, two to go.

My next stop was BJs. The smiling bakery person indeed did have a nice no-sugar-added apple pie waiting for me. I also found a new jacket, one with a hood! I would have preferred the blue one, but that had a honkin' big Nike logo on the front. The black one just has the "swish." I can pin my ladybug pin over it. And it's really thick and warm.

So I got home, hid the gifts away. Now I addressed my Amazon order. $25 credit just waiting. I had the Hollyridge Strings Christmas album in my queue and a Dr. Who book. Then I'm not sure what happened—must have clicked on one of those related book links...and dang if I didn't find the perfect gift for Neil. One more to go...yay!

I also got my two Amazon Vine books today. The Red Door is the next Inspector Rutledge mystery. I hadn't read the series before, so bought and finished the first book, A Test of Wills, just yesterday. Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective who suffered from shell shock during World War I. He keeps the condition—including the fact that he hears the goading voice of a deceased compatriot in his head—a secret, not wanting to be accused of "low moral fiber" or cowardice. The books are nicely evocative of the era and I find the mysteries fairly complex. The other book is Al Roker's Morning Show Murders, written with Dick Lochte.

A fun Ellen today and now between Jeopardy telecasts and the new Mythbusters, am watching previously-recorded Thanksgiving specials. I also watched The Thanksgiving Treasure this afternoon, but that's the subject of a Holiday Harbour post...

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You have sixteen minutes, TruGreen.

In the meantime I'm working on my Christmas letter.

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Fingers Do the Walking
53 minutes and I'm outta here.

BJs is holding the pie for me. The other item can't be held, but there are plenty of them in the store.

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More Collectible Quarters
When Jen and Meg visited in August, Jen showed us a District of Columbia quarter they had received in change. Were they doing quarters for US territories, too?

Why, yes, they are: 2009 D.C. & U.S. Territories Quarter Program.

So far we have found DC, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, and are on the lookout for Puerto Rico, Mariana Island, and American Samoa.



Waitin' and Hopin'
Well, phooey. I was going to be out by nine looking for a sugar-free apple pie, buying a gift, and going to the post office.

Except I forgot that I scheduled both Northwest and TruGreen to come out this morning. The exterminator couldn't do the back yard because the gate was locked. And TruGreen...but I've already told that story. Northwest was here an hour ago—the manager was working today because so many folks had the day off.

If TruGreen doesn't show up before noon as they promised, I will be really pissed.



» Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Not sure what's wrong with my knees, but they've been giving me grief at night. Have to turn over in bed because they're hurting, and that wakes me, which explains why it's so hard to struggle out of bed in the morning. Once I get up, it's other problems.

Despite feeling icky, I drove down to the Garden Ridge near Six Flags. No luck on candoliers. All they have are battery-operated ones. Boy, what I wouldn't give for a time warp and a Woolworths! Spent too much time stuck in their restroom. Luckily I had my PDA with me and could read.

Decided to take a spin out to Arbor Place Mall. After enduring the long left turn on route 5, finally made it to the mall. Wandered the Borders for a few minutes, then walked to the other end of the mall to go to the Bed, Bath & Beyond. I found a new Christmas-themed runner for the table. I ruined the old one by washing it in warm water (the color ran) and it was a brocade design that was always too heavy for the table. This one is poinsettias and holly on light ivory fabric with cutwork design, like the fall one that I have.

I usually don't eat out, especially at mall food courts. You usually get big portions, or they have stuff I don't want. But when I went upstairs, I found a Chinese "buffet" that sold food by the pound. I dismissed the carbs like fried rice and lo mein, and the spicy or "coated" food like sesame chicken, and decided on a little bourbon chicken and teriyaki chicken. Just in case the bourbon chicken was peppered—some places make it hot, some places not—I got more teriyaki chicken, about 8 ounces total.

I didn't eat much of it. All of it was peppered. Ugh. I don't get the pepper obsession. How can you taste anything else with your mouth burning? The moment my tongue started to sting I completely lost my appetite.

Came home by Big Lots. The folks on my Christmas group find such good things in the DVD/CD area, like older movies for two or three dollars. All I could find were old karate films or Sex and the City, and no Christmas music at all. I remember going to Big Lots in the past and finding great CDs and cassettes, like "The Waltons Christmas Album" and music from Germany. Ah, well.

James' knee was well enough tonight for him to replace the battery in the smoke alarm in the garage. It's been beeping for days. I'd meant to wait until he was healed a bit more, but this afternoon Schuyler started imitating the low-battery beep. I think it's been beeping long enough, y'know? LOL.

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» Monday, November 23, 2009
Doctor, Doctor
Gah. I hope I'm not going to spend my whole week off wanting to sleep late!

In this case, the sleep was good for James. His finger looks 200 percent better than it did yesterday, although it is still swollen. While he rested his leg, I washed the towels and cleaned some of the master bath, including washing the floor, then loaded the dishwasher and scrubbed some oversized pans in the sink.

The doctor's appointment was soooooo long. It took nearly three hours. I signed all my holiday cards as well as read a fourth of a new book. James finished a modeling magazine, including the ads. Most of the time was wasted waiting. We still don't know if his finger was broken. He went to X-ray, and they told us to go back upstairs, and then when we got there they told us we didn't need to stay. So...I guess that means it wasn't? Anyway, the doctor was concerned enough about the scrape under James' knee that he gave him a week's worth of antibiotics. We're to quit treating it with Neosporin and a bandage when it stops "weeping." It really does look like a burn.

But...James got his prescriptions refilled, so it means he doesn't have to take another day off to do that.

Rather bittersweet House tonight, and a circuitous Castle in which Alexis proved herself, as they said in the old days, a "trump."

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» Sunday, November 22, 2009
Life's What Happens...The November 2009 Edition
Looks like James may have broken one of his fingers. He doesn't think he did it in the fall, but yesterday when he was getting out of his chair. He twisted his hand around, it hurt and then subsided, and we didn't think any more about it.

This morning we got up. Needed groceries and he said he didn't want to stay home, so we went to both Costco and Kroger; he took the little electric cart both times. But we noticed the middle finger on his right hand was very swollen and red.

So when we got home we put ice on it and it is looking better, although with a nasty bruise mark. So it's a good thing the advice nurse made the doctor's appointment.

We did have a nice time at Costco; we always make a joke about "having lunch at Costco," but they did have some nice samples: one quarter of a veggie burger, lobster spread on crackers, cranberry goat cheese on crackers, pesto and cheese on crackers, four-cheese ravioli, salsa and chips, crab cakes, buffalo tenders (the last two were peppered, James had mine and I ate the lobster spread as he doesn't like it), Ferraro Roche chocolates, a fingernail-size crumb of fudge, tiramisu...I've forgotten something, I know! Picked up a Christmas book by Wally Lamb and a copy of Up.

So we came home and put ice on James' finger and sat in almost the dark and watched Up. We had not seen it in the theatre. It's truly delightful...although this really isn't for kids. Not that it's violent, but despite the cute kid, the "talking" dogs, and the "dogfight," it's not really about childish themes. It's about dreams, and losing them, and trying to fulfill them when you should be forming new dreams. I sniffled through a lot of it. The little boy, Russell, is also very affecting. They are very subtle in conveying that his father's attention has been diverted away from him rather than bludgeoning you with the fact. And of course Dug the golden retriever is sweet and funny. Yep, Dug, when you defeat the alpha you become the alpha!

Anyway, suppertime...

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» Saturday, November 21, 2009
Limping Along
Needless to say, we had a slow day. James called the advice nurse at Kaiser, who called back just as we were getting dressed to go out. Looks like we did everything right, except she said not to use peroxide to clean the wounds. Just water and soap is fine. She made a follow-up appointment with the doctor for him on Monday. His right middle finger looks a little swollen.

So we went to the hobby shop for a while, then stopped at Publix for some groceries and a bite to eat. James rode the little cart.

Came home for a few hours, then we were off again to Jerry and Sue's for a game night. We got lost on the way there and arrived late. We knew someone that lived out in that direction previously and we confused the old directions with their directions. Nice crowd, good supper, played Cranium and Imaginiff. Everyone keeps their house too warm for me, though! LOL. I'm used to 64-67.

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Well, we've had an inauspicious beginning to Saturday. James missed a step outside on the way to walk Willow and fell on the sidewalk. He scraped his right knee and below, his right elbow, and two fingers on his left hand. I have applied peroxide and Neosporin and gauze, and he took some ibuprofin. It appears he hasn't broken anything; nothing is bruised or swelling, but he does have a painful spot above his right knee. It may be his tendon, since it hurts when he moves.



» Friday, November 20, 2009
A little better today. Digestion seems to have settled. Sound sleep so far as I know. Coffee-scented Yankee candle and Christmas music providing pleasant work environment. Birds back at the feeder. Goodness, do they look lovely. You would think with winter coming on they might look pathetic, but they are in full, bright feather, unlike during the summer when they were feeding chicks and looking dull and harassed. The white-breasted nuthatch is so dapper he looks like he's going out for dinner at a 1940s supper club. The tufted titmouse's crest is smooth and shiny.

James said he expected when we got home from vacation that Willow would be attached to his leg for a day or two, and she was very clingy Sunday evening and Monday. But it's Schuyler who now ceaselessly wants attention. She's either scolding or giving her two-note "hey, you!" whistle or giving the one plaintive single-note chirp.

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» Thursday, November 19, 2009
Day by Day
No nightmare last night, hurrah. Still feeling exhausted, and digestion all in a tumult. Took an hour of sick leave this morning to get in a little more sleep, and coaxed myself to work via a cinnamon Yankee candle and more Christmas music. During lunch I cleaned out the bird feeders once again. I fill them and it rains before the birds empty them, turning the seed into a sticky pile of glop with sprouts in it. Ugh.

I had to call up TruGreen today and give them a piece of my mind. To save money I did an advance pay for aeration and seeding of the fescue in the back yard. Three times they've called to say they were coming a certain day and three times no one has showed up. The clerk was very surprised when I noted it. Their records say the aeration took place on October 28. I was here all day October 28; the gate was locked, so they would have had to knock on the door or ring the doorbell to gain access. If for some reason I was in the bathroom and didn't respond, I would have expected them to leave a note at the door. So I don't know whose lawn was aerated and seeded, but it wasn't ours.

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» Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Going Up?
When I was younger I used to get teary at the end of vacations. That ended just a year or two ago. :-) I thought I'd escaped the usual after-vacation depression, but it turns out it was just tardy. Been dragging around all day after having yet another nightmare last night; disoriented and not knowing where I was. Ugh.

Ran to CVS during lunch for a "real deal": They had Star Trek for $10 if you bought a $15 I-Tunes card. Since I was intending to buy an I-Tunes card as a gift anyway, it really was a deal.

Plus I put up a few Thanksgiving decorations, and finished the rest after supper.

Otherwise I've been queasy and depressed all day. Ugh.

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» Monday, November 16, 2009
Has everyone seen the new Belk Christmas commercial with the little girl singing "Santa Baby" and transforming all the things she touches? That's...really creepy. I mean, do not Belk and the advertising agency know what that song is about?



Day Off
Slept as late as we felt we could. Still tired. Funny, didn't feel this tired when we were having fun. <wry grin>

Breakfast. BJs. Checked out the new Droid. Cool. Kroger. finally more milk. Checked on the progress on the Ditch. Lunch.

We went to Garden Ridge to check out the possibility that they had electric candoliers. One of our five-light candoliers has a socket that doesn't seem to work any longer. I saw some at the Christmas Tree Hill shop, but they were fancy ones with a "brass" base and almost $20. Last year Garden Ridge had them, but we didn't find any today. James did spot a Christmas gift, and also a Charlie Brown tree: yes, a dumpy-looking pine with a crossed "wooden" base and one red ball! I was wandering in the middle of the store and it looked like a discount store, with clothing on tables like at the old mill outlets of my youth, and books on pallets.

Also stopped at the hobby shop to bend Rusty's ear about our trip. :-) They went to a historical gathering (Historic Timeline?) this weekend that sounded fascinating.

Had leftover barbecue for supper. Found World War II in HD running on the History Channel for the next couple of days, but can't find parts 1, 4, 7 and 10. All the other parts are repeated multiple times. Are there no parts 1, 4, 7 and 10?

House is getting downright depressing. Funny that we had a story talking about overprotecting children from germs when we were discussing this same thing last week at Valley Forge! Things keep reminding me of vacation. There was an article in yesterday's paper about Amish romance novels, and it reminded me of last week. There are so many reminders in the guidebooks about not harassing Amish folks or asking them for photos; that they are just going about their lives, not tourist attractions. I noticed at Borders that novels about the Amish seem to be on the rise. Maybe it's because on a visceral level, we envy them. Oh, we don't want to give up our electronics or work the farm, but we admire their lives. They work hard and at the end of the day feel like they've accomplished something for themselves or their family or their faith. Not like most of us, cogs in big machines, feeling like we could just be replaced by other cogs and no one would notice.

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» Sunday, November 15, 2009
On the Road, Part the Last
We're home. We've been here since about 6:30.

It was a long day. We didn't get up until eight, but neither of us slept well. The bed was much too soft. Otherwise the room was nicely quiet and dark. We were right next to the elevator, but heard nothing. It was an okay place. The shower was rather wimpy and it was just a regular television, not a flat screen.

Breakfast wasn't bad. They had both sausage and bacon with the eggs, packet oatmeal, five different cereals in individual containers, coffee and tea and hot chocolate, some fruit yogurts, make-it-yourself waffles, only white bread for toast along with biscuits and bagels—but there was toast-your-own French toast as well. Perfectly serviceable.

There was a WalMart nearby with really cheap gasoline, so we topped off there and then returned to our journey. Although we were further south than yesterday, here the trees were all bare; it must have been the elevation. We didn't get back to autumn leaves until we reached North Carolina. How bright the yellows are this year, both here and up in Pennsylvania. I tried to get a photo of some of the yellow trees yesterday and failed miserably. They are like molten saffron.

We had traveled about an hour before turning south on I-77. This was a different route than we had come north, since we left from home, but were coming back via the vet's office. This route climbs gently through one edge of Virginia and the "top" of North Carolina through a place called Fancy Gap, and we made a "pit stop" at a gas station we had found previously, at the top of a hill overlooking a valley. You come on the valley a mile or so before the gas station, making a curve to the right and having the whole valley—farms, country houses, little groves of trees, horse, cattle, miniature people in miniature vehicles—spread out below you to the left. I bet it's gorgeous when the trees are at peak.

An unremarkable trip down to Charlotte, except that it became sunny and quite warm, up to the mid-70s. We stopped for lunch about 1:30 in Gaffney [South Carolina], home of the giant peach water tower, at Cracker Barrel. The place is next to an outlet mall and was mildly mobbed, but we only had a 20-minute wait, and lunch was delicious: the tenderest of pork roasts in an apple glaze. I had mine with carrots and applesauce.

The only other place we stopped was the Russell Stover Outlet Store in Anderson, SC, for James to stock up on sugarless candies. The supply of hard candy was very sparse.

We were making good time until we were a half hour out of Atlanta. The sun began to set and was in everyone's eyes. Since, as I've noticed in years of returning from work at this time, apparently half the population of Atlanta has no idea what sun visors are for, instead of prudently and understandably slowing down, they come to nearly a dead stop and inch along at about ten miles an hour. Grr.

We made it to the vet's office just about dark. The technician brought Schuyler out first and she took one look at me, gave a happy chirp, and jumped up to the bars of the cage to greet me. I remember how Sylvester used to snub me for a day or two after I left him to board, so this was quite happy for me, too. She came right up to the bars and kissed me. As I was talking to her, I heard this panting that sounded like a miniature steam engine. I said, "I can hear you, Willow!" and the tech loosed her and she skidded up to me, sniffed my leg while still moving, and then bounded past me with a happy "Daddydaddydaddydaddy!" romp straight to James.

We stopped for a paper on the way home, but then were otherwise in for the rest of the night (despite the fact that I have no milk). The big suitcase, which was now full of dirty clothes, was left downstairs and I started one load of laundry before even coming upstairs. The laundry basket in the bedroom is full for another load! All the toiletries were put away, and some of the books. I had some soup for supper, and James had chili and taquitoes, and Schuyler sat with me to watch teevee and Willow vacillated between James, her dog bed, and her crate. We watched both This Old House episodes we missed, Colour Confidential, and "Mr. Monk Goes Camping."

And boy, am I sleepy...good thing we both have tomorrow off. We have an "appointment" at Costco and at Kroger.

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» Saturday, November 14, 2009
On the Road, Part the First
Well, hooey—had a rotten night's sleep. First I couldn't fall asleep, then when I did, bad dreams, or repetitive dreams, ones about historical exhibits. Then 90 minutes before I needed to get up, nature called. Blah.

We'd done a good deal of packing last night, so after breakfast we just had to brush our teeth and put the last of the toiletries up and then we were off. (Well, after I had to go back into the hotel; I had left the biscuits and the cheese in the fridge.) We bought gasoline at the Wawa (it's a convenience store) and then set on our way.

Instead of going the way we came, up I-81 to Harrisburg, and partially across the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and then through routes 222 and 422 via Reading, we headed back to I-81 via our route to Lancaster, US-30, otherwise the Lincoln Highway. So we had one more leisurely ride through the countryside (at one point it got really leisurely) and I could drool over the old stone houses one more time. I have simply fallen in love with the beautiful 19th century stone houses here.

This means we also got to pass the three things that have amused us all week: Ursinus College (the "bear school," we called it; it's actually a pre-med), the church whose URL is "" (maybe they've been in a movie?), and the Valley Forge convention center, which is named "Scanticon." Doesn't that sound like it's a sexy underwear convention?

It was still grey and dreary this morning, but we had a pleasant journey. I tried to get photos of two funny things we had seen, but I missed "Shivery Funeral Home." I did get "Christ's Home Office." (It's a children's home, called "Christ's Home for Disadvantaged Children," but the sign is abbreviated. I didn't realized Jesus had his own home office...) Also managed to get some shots of the farms in the valley and the cows grazing peacefully at the side of a busy two-lane highway.

It turned out the outlet mall we stopped at yesterday was just the beginning of a ginormous outlet mall complex. I didn't think we were so close to the Lancaster outlets, but we were. So we crawled past cars lining up to go into outlet mall parking lots, then were let free to continue on to York (unlike Lancaster's country-ness, York is just a regular city).

It was here finally, when the road got back to a two-lane highway from a four-lane bypass, that we started to see the Lincoln Highway signs. None of the stone ones, sadly, just plain signs as pictured here. These popped up occasionally as we journeyed toward Gettysburg.

Gosh, the downtown is pretty: lots of older building turned to shops or restaurants, everything either decorated in a fall motif of cornstalks, scarecrows, pumpkins and fall flowers, or some starting to change over to Christmas. More of the white candles. (I have found out they are called "Hospitality Candles.") Maybe we should have made a day trip here just to walk around. I've seen the battlefield before, but never the town. There's even a huge "Lincoln Hotel" on the town square.

Actually, we saw a bit of the battlefield anyway, as the Lincoln runs directly through it. We saw two statues, an equestrian, and an officer. So now we can sing, like the gentleman on the Rick Sebak special, that we were on our way on the Lincoln Highway. :-)

We ate lunch at a McDonald's at the intersection of US-30 and I-81, then proceeded south. Our goal was to get past Harrisonburg, and we did (although we bought gasoline there). For amusement, during the earlier portion of the ride we listened to most of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR—hilarious show this week!—and then "Cigar Dave." (Sometimes before holidays Dave does food shows, but just more blah-blah about cigars this week.) After that ended, we put on our Gaelic Storm CDs. (Phooey! "Holly" and "Holiday Traditions" don't start until Monday.) The sun dropped lower in the sky and the near bare, but occasionally still rusty ridgeline of trees on our left looked like a dark scarlet blanket tossed over the bumpy spine of the Blue Ridge, falling in folds and curves until it reached the flat land.

Yes, the sun. After crossing all of Pennsylvania in cloud cover, it was as if Virginia ordered the sky swept, so we had a nice sunset against wispy cirrus clouds. Then it was dark, then we arrived in Roanoke and booked a room at the Comfort Inn. Hope the breakfast is good, because the price was $30 more than Staybridge! I guess that's what you get for staying near the airport. The room is large and comfy, and our room key got us a discount at the "Texas Steakhouse" down the road. We also walked around the Barnes & Noble for about fifteen minutes to walk off the yummy supper.

I've already taken my shower and am sitting here ready for bed. It only occurred to me after a week that there's not a dog here; I don't have to wait until bedtime to take a shower! LOL.

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The Party's Over
We're just loading the luggage cart.

As Jack Lord used to say, "Aloha!"



» Friday, November 13, 2009
Motel Review: Staybridge Suites, Royersford, PA
I can't say enough about this place. I didn't think anyone could live up to the lovely Drury Inns and the place we stayed at in Washington, DC, in 2004 (TownePlace Suites by Marriott). But this place was super.

Our GPS couldn't find the hotel because the street is new; so is the hotel. It still smells new. The small suite (studio suite) we are in is about the size of my first apartment in Atlanta. The bed was comfortable and you had a choice between foam pillows and feather pillows. The shower was strong and hot. There is also a full-size sofa; two side tables we have been using to hold laptops; a desk to work at; and a side table; a closet with real hangers, not those motel things that don't come off the rail; a laundry basket; iron and ironing board; short shelves for holding things; and a hair dryer at the sink. The towels were not plush, but soft. The television is LCD widescreen. Weird cable channel choices—Food Network but not HGTV, for example, but we spent half the trip watching the progress of Ida on the Weather Channel anyway. Both wired and wireless internet access is provided in all rooms.

The kitchen corner of the room had a full size apartment style refrigerator, a two-burner electric cooktop (no oven), a large undercabinet microwave, a full-sized dishwasher, and plates, silverware, and some cooking pots. We ate lunch out and had frozen dinners for supper.

The breakfast bar served sliced fruit; whole bananas, apples, and oranges; yogurt; skim and 2 percent milk; either eggs and sausage patties or eggs and bacon; freshly made oatmeal; make-your-own waffles; four kinds of Kelloggs cereal; and English muffins, white and wheat bread, and bagels for toast with either cream cheese, butter or butter substitute. There were different juices, drinks, Wolfgang Puck coffee, two types of tea, 2 percent milk, and hot chocolate to drink, plus for the Sundowner get-togethers on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., they had beer. The Sundowners this week were chili and chips; hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill (last of the season grillout); and soup and salad. They have had barbecue, nachos, meatball subs, pizza, appetizers, and make-your-own sandwiches scheduled for other nights. Plus they had a little shop downstairs carrying packaged dinners, soups, cookies, salty snacks, and other meals or treats if you needed them.

You eat in a pretty central area with tables and chairs, sofas around a fireplace which was, at this time of year, lighted, with the serving area at the right as you came into the hotel, and a little "parlor" at the left; this area, their "business center," also contains two computers where you could use the internet for free, and books you could borrow. USA Today and the local newspaper are provided. Down the hall are a 24-hour fitness area and an indoor pool which was only closed at night.

The staff was uber-friendly, from Adam, who gave us directions when the GPS couldn't find the hotel the night we arrived; to the other regulars at the front desk; to the nice blond lady who cleaned up the breakfast buffet. We just reused our towels while we were here and housekeeping even contacted us yesterday to see if we needed anything because we had the "Do Not Disturb" sign on our door! (Yes, we needed toilet tissue. We just asked at the front desk.)

This was also a perfect base for our vacation. We were within 20 minutes drive of an Amtrak/commuter rail station for travel to Philadelphia (Paoli Station, $1 for parking), and everything we wanted to see was within an hour's drive.

So we are and have been very content with this place. I'd recommend it to anyone.



Plain, Planes, and Trains
Well, it was our last full day today. We slept as late as we could and still get breakfast downstairs (about 8:45) since we went to bed stiff and cold from sitting on the platform in Exton for thirty minutes. I checked out the weather and it looked like we would have a break in the rain/drizzle early this afternoon, so we headed back out to Strasburg via US-30 again.

Well, from here we had to take route 422 to route 202 to US-30. I didn't remind James when he got to 30, so we continued going down 202. Oh, well. We'd go a few miles on, connect with route  100, and come back north to US-30 again.

And then we saw a sign called "American Helicopter Museum." Serendipity strikes again.

Well, yeah, of course we went. LOL.

This is a small museum; we walked around for an hour and saw everything. There were at least a dozen helicopters inside, from the Bell helicopter that would have been used in Korean War MASH units, to a Cobra. (There were also six helicopters outside.) Now here was a museum that provided something for kids, but was not "kiddy." There was a little play area with a toy helicopter to sit in and helicopter toys to play with, a place where you could draw a helicopter, and two helicopters you could sit in and pretend to fly. There were several little kids there, more than one with what looked like their grandparents, having a good time.

One wall exhibit traces the history of the helicopter, in another corner there is a tribute to the "Whirly Girls," 1955 female helicopter pilots (there were only fifteen of them), who wanted to encourage other women to become helicopter pilots. There was a small exhibit about seats, another about the development of the cockpit, a corner where you could work a helicopter flying simulation (for an additional fee), engine exhibits, ones about how the controls help the helicopter fly, and all sorts of other interesting things. There was also a gift shop (it's a State Law).

We finished thoroughly looking around and James taking photos, and resumed our course. We arrived at the Strasburg Rail Road in time for the 1:00 train, but it was already full, so we bought tickets for the 2:00 excursion, then went to the diner for lunch. James tasted his first piece of shoo-fly pie. It's hard to describe. Call it a sugar custard. It's basically molasses, brown sugar, and eggs in a pie shell, ironically less sweet than a pecan pie. This one was very evidently made with blackstrap molasses, as the molasses flavor was very strong.

We also checked out the main gift shop and the toy train gift shop (basically there are three gift James said, one for dad, one for mom, one for the kids...a model train shop, a general gift shop [shirts, magnets, ornaments, etc], and a shop full of more Thomas the Tank Engine stuff than I ever knew existed). By then it was train time.

They weren't actually running the steam engine today. It's weekends only starting October, and they ran it Wednesday for Veteran's Day. What we rode was a little interurban car from 1887, with a diesel engine. It was built as an experiment to transport people from town to town. It carried 40 people (there weren't 40 seats, so I presume some people stood) and also cargo and milk in the rear of the car, which had reversible seats so that a turntable was not needed when you reached the end of the line.

Well, from the very breezy area—it wasn't raining, but cloudy, with a whipping wind—outside the old terminal station (not original to the area; it was moved here from somewhere else and restored), we piled into this very warm small car: it had a real working heating stove at one end. It smelled of wax, so I assume it was burning paraffin. The motorman/engineer was an older man who had many years experience at train operation, and he had all sorts of information about the history of the area, the operation of the trains, information about the "Plain People" in the surrounding area (not only Amish and Mennonites, but Dunkers and French Huguenots; the French Huguenots were the original European settlers in the area under William Penn's land grant), and some funny stories. My favorite was about the time a cow was on the tracks. He said dogs, cats, horses, etc. will see the train coming and get off the tracks, but not the cows. So one day during the heyday of the video camera, he had to stop the tour to try to remove a cow from the tracks. She wouldn't budge! Then a little girl, about three or four years old, barefoot, came running toward the train. She said something very sternly to the cow in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and the cow snorted at him, but vacated the track with the little girl trotting after it! And all those tourists had his defeat by a cow on videotape! LOL.

We went past a turkey farm where the farmer was collecting the turkeys to take to market, and you could see the turkey heads peering out of the shed. We went past a corn maze that had just been mown down for the season. We passed an Amish elementary school where the kids were playing outside at recess. We finally stopped at the Amtrak tracks where our motorman told us about the difference in old tracks and new tracks (the old tracks were bolted due to the weight of the steam trains, the new are welded). Then we reversed seats and highballed it (well, as fast as an 1887 car can highball) back to the station.

Airplanes are magic. But there's nothing like a train ride to make you feel like a kid again.

We made it into the gift shop in time to buy a refrigerator magnet, a little book about the history of the Strasburg Rail Road, and two "stained glass" autumn leaves.

Then we hit the outlet mall on US-30. James needed some "small clothes" from the Hanes store, and I went into the Corning store and bought four more Corelle dishes to match the eight we bought not too long ago. Now we have a setting for twelve. We like these dishes: they are small so we don't eat large portions, and have a rim so that meat juices and gravies don't run off the plate.

We also went in a lovely place called the Christmas Hill Shops. Nice variety of non-tacky Christmas decorations: berry wreaths, candles, some prims, cards, nightlights, several different collections of Department 56 village houses, Radko ornaments, country-look items, light strings, etc. as well as non-holiday items. I got some Yankee Candle air fresheners for the car, plus a set that look like Christmas ornaments to hang on an artificial tree to make it smell like a real one, and four little "Blossom Bucket" figures, three to go with my Santa collection on the china cabinet, and a snowman family for winter.

James did a bit of shopping in the Pepperidge Farm outlet (we haven't seen one of these in a dog's age; the one in Buckhead closed decades ago, ditto with the one near the vet's office) for stuffing for the winter, and some ginger cookies. We also went into the train store associated with the Strasburg Rail Road. What a huge collection of railroad-oriented books!

Dusk was coming on as we drove back to the hotel. We passed several Amish carriages, which I found a bit scary. They have headlights at night, of course, but the headlights are on the carriage. The horse itself has no headlights (<wry grin>) and you need to watch a distance ahead of the lights.

James had found a small gaming store near the King of Prussia Mall, so we went there before heading up 422 to the hotel. This was actually tucked in a tiny shopping center about a mile behind the hue and cry of the mall, and it's evident it's a meeting place for the local gaming fans as AAA Hobby is one for James' hobby friends. The guys were all sitting around a table bantering with each other.

Anyway, we found a Christmas gift and I found a Scattergories card game. We're supposed to go to a game night next weekend; I'll have to remember to bring it.

We made a brief stop at A.C. Moore before finally lighting at the hotel. I had the coupon from the Sunday paper and was going to buy one of the magnetic mailbox covers. I couldn't make up my mind between the pretty country-Thanksgiving pattern and the autumn leaves and pumpkins fall pattern and was going to get both with unfortunately only one discount. Well, hurrah, they were half price!

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» Thursday, November 12, 2009
"It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"

Today was filled with interesting events bookended by just plain annoying happenings.

First, we worked this out so carefully. We watched the weather report daily and even by Tuesday, the forecast was for sunny on Thursday, which was good because we wanted to meet Emma Redmer in Philadelphia (it was her day off) and do the tourist thing at the historical sites. Then Ida blew her way into town. More flooding down south, high surf on the Atlantic coast, and as absolutely chilly, rainy/drizzly, damp day in Philadelphia as you could imagine.

We planned to take Amtrak round trip out of the Paoli station just south of us. Good thing we got up early, because traffic outside our door was inching along until we passed Valley Forge, then it mysteriously disappeared. In the middle of all this the oil light in my car went on! This car has been to Providence twice (and up to the Vermont Country Store from Providence once), to Washington DC once, to Owensboro, KY, once, and to Gatlinburg twice and not once has my oil light ever gone on. And of course by the time we got to Paoli station the engine was hot and it's better to check oil when the engine is cold. James said we would check it when we got back. We could add oil if necessary; I always keep some oil and water at the back of the car.

The ride from Paoli to Philadelphia was uneventful. The Philly 30th Street station is gorgeous, in the big vaulted ceiling style of old-time railroad station construction, with a beautiful winged statue which is a tribute to Pennsylvania veterans. As in all big stations, it is full of little restaurants, and we ate breakfast at a place called Cosi's. I had a huge square bagel with cream cheese and some steel-cut oatmeal in a bowl so big James finished it for me.

The nice Traveler's Aide man in the station told us where to get subway tickets and how to get to the subway itself, so we were off to the Independence Mall Visitor's Center to peruse the exhibit about the Underground Railroad while we waited for Emma to get in from New Jersey. Once she joined us, we got tickets for the Independence Hall tour (they're free, but only so many people can go in at one time), then went to see the Liberty Bell. This is proceeded by different exhibits about the Bell, and I did not realize that the name "Liberty Bell" came from its involvement in the abolition movement. The Bell itself is just about the size I imagined it; it's not like going to Plymouth and getting a good look at the rock! (Heck, I think the Liberty Bell and Plymouth Rock are about the same size!)

We had to go through security at the Bell and again at Independence Hall. I'm sorry, I know they're only doing their job and they must butt heads with Stupid Tourists, but they came off as uniformly rude. Even TSA wasn't this sour and impolite.

We had a long wait in the rain (finally retreating under one of the arches you see leading to the wings of the Hall) before being allowed in the building, where there is a short preliminary explanation about what we were about to see, and then we were allowed in the courtroom and then the assembly hall across the way, which you will remember if you've ever seen 1776, where the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution were written. The only authentic piece of furniture left is the chair on the dais where George Washington sat during the constitutional convention, but it is impressive nonetheless, with a lovely glass chandelier. The courtroom is in the old British style with the "cage" dock for the accused.

The remainder of the exhibit was in the other wing, which featured the printed versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation (with Elbridge Gerry's notes on it), and George Washington's copy of the Constitution. The guard here was what my mom would have termed "a hot sketch," and was telling a funny story about how Philadelphia should have actually been in Maryland due to a boundary dispute because the boundary was supposed to be the 40th parallel. Eventually it was declared that the 39th parallel was the real 40th parallel, so Philadelphia remained in Pennsylvania. (I guess this is where Mason and Dixon finally came in!)

Well, we had a lunch engagement. John Baxindine was meeting us at a restaurant called Campo's, on Market Street between 2nd and 3rd Street, so since it was already way after twelve, we headed in that direction. We came upon a little hobby shop on the way and ducked inside for a few minutes. This was the narrowest store I have ever seen: two narrow aisles between shelves on either wall and one central set of shelves! It had a good variety of stuff though: cars, planes, trains, rockets, etc. all stacked up to the ceiling.

Anyway, we had a fun lunch swapping stories. The food was good, too, although I decided to play it safe and just have a grilled cheese sandwich. The soup that I ordered with it was delicious: chicken with pastene in it. Eventually we parted, John heading off to a local bookstore and the three of us heading out to Penn's Landing and the International Seaport Museum. This was a long damp, windy trudge down to nearly water's edge and then down through a little bricked park with notes of Philadelphia firsts until we reached the Independence Seaport Museum.

This is a swell exhibit of the different facets of maritime history: the Silk Trade and other commerce, undersea diving and research, the Naval history of the area, the world of the sailor, and of course many exhibits about boats or ships, and how they are built. We wandered around this area for over an hour, then about quarter to four headed outside.

Zowee! The wind had been already brisk, but now the flags and pennants were flapping straight outward, ropes and rings rattling and clanging as a cold wind whipped in from the Delaware River. It assisted our walk to the ships by pushing at our backs, but, dang, was it cold! I had left my scarf behind, but prudently tucked my kerchief in my pocket; it kept my neck warm at least, but my ears were freezing because my hat had done a bunk along with my ear warmers. Thank God for the boonie hats.

Emma looked a bit doubtful as we approached the ships; she hurt her knee again recently and was worried about slipping on the deck or climbing about the ship. But we managed fine, considering that with the cold it was almost, as James joked, like we were re-enacting Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. We were all layered, and still all freezing.

The submarine berthed there, the Becuna, is a World War II vintage sub. It is very claustrophobic inside, and the doorsills very high. How men scrambled quickly through them in emergencies is beyond me! I could probably live with duty on a ship, but a sub? Talk about spam in a can.

The Olympia is another kettle of fish. This is a beautiful old warship built in 1892, Admiral Dewey's flagship, which he commanded at the Battle of Manila Bay. The ship is paneled below and painted above, with brass fittings and old-time fixtures included—not to mention big guns smack in the middle of the officer's wardroom and in the captain's and admiral's quarters! James said when he saw the ship originally you could go up to the bridge and see where Dewey stood—his feet are marked—when he uttered the famous words "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley," but it didn't seem to be open today, and perhaps not a good day to go up there anyway. :-) (Olympia also served in World War I, and was the ship that returned the Unknown Soldier from the battlefields of France.)

Trudging back to the museum was even harder as we were moving into the wind now. The cold crept into every gap in jacket and scarf. The sky was darkening and the lights beginning to appear along the shore, not only on our side of the river, but across the water in New Jersey. I stopped to take a few pictures of the New Jersey, berthed across the river, then we ducked into the gift shop to buy a couple of things before schlepping back through the "Firsts" park. A kindly SEPTA bus driver took us as far as the 2nd Street subway station, but Emma was walking down to check out something at a shopping area near where she had to take the train back to her home, so we walked along with her. She's in good shape from all the biking she does and was leaving us behind several times!

We walked by several buildings that appeared to be former department stores, and my suspicions were confirmed when we passed one grand old building surrounded by scaffolding and you could look inside the main door and see the big old Strawbridge and Clothier logo, a circular faux-marble bas relief. I wonder what the other stores were? Gimbel's? Wanamaker's? Maybe a B. Altman?

We dropped off Emma at the mall and descended into the subway, taking the train to the 30th Street Station. By the time we got there we were pooped from fighting the cold and collapsed near the McDonald's and had a doughnut apiece and James got us each a hamburger. Our train arrived on time and we were warmly riding back to Paoli station.

But fate had one last adventure for us: the conductor announced the first stop out of Philly—Ardmore, I think it was—and the third stop out of Philly, Exton, but never announced our stop! The conductor protested, "But I warned you the station was coming up!" He had, but what were we supposed to think when the train just stopped? It was so dark we couldn't see the station outside and I've been on trains before where they just stop before the station for some reason or the other.

Anyway, he gave us a sort of voucher and we got out at Exton and sat thirty minutes on a breezy platform waiting for the return train. This time we did get properly back to Paoli.

Now for the car problem. But there didn't seem to be one now. The oil is not "max full," but is also not down to the level where you are supposed to add oil. Plus the light didn't come on all the way back to the hotel! ??? Whatever.

Not to mention both of us forgot our room keys this morning and had to stop at the desk for a temporary key!

All's well that ends well, I suppose. Thanks for the chocolates, John! And we still have Emma's yummy homemade cookies left, too!

Also check out Emma's account of the day to check some things I missed, like the kids at the Liberty Bell.

Has everyone seen the Verizon commercial with the Island of Misfit toys characters? LOL.

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» Wednesday, November 11, 2009
True Colors
I was rudely interrupted in the middle of the night with cramps, nausea, and the expected result thereof. I will draw a veil over the rest, except to say that I read several more chapters of History Detectives. When I finally did get back to bed it was hard to fall asleep because my feet were ice cold, even though I had managed to get up at least once for my slippers and the fleece throw that is doubling as a robe. (It's actually Schuyler's heavy cage cover.)

All this is to explain why we started out very late this morning, about 10:30, traveling to Easton to see the Crayola crayon "factory."

I had looked up directions on Google Maps (and like Google Maps now, better than Mapquest, because it shows you alternate routes), but we programmed "Gertrude" (the voice on the GPS unit is a female) to take the shortest route. "She" sure did, through about fifty miles of Pennsylvania countryside.

But I have to say it was nice. Traffic was minimal; even going through a few small towns, there was little obstruction. I don't think we went any slower than 45 mph. And it was a pretty ride, miles of little farms, country acres, and homes that by-and-large had porches or stoops decorated with autumn bounty: pumpkins, scarecrows, big planters full of chrysanthemums and/or zinnias in fall colors, some banners or ribbons, or berries or branches. But the route was so inscrutable that I didn't figure out where we were until we emerged on the outskirts of Bethlehem, already decorated with Christmas stars.

Easton is a small, bustling city with a central square park crowned with a huge Civil War memorial topped by a Union soldier. The Crayola souvenir store is on the corner as you drive in, with the "factory" portion, which shares space with a canal museum (this LeHigh Valley area was the site of the last regularly-working canal in the US, which closed after World War II; Erie still hosts tourists, but it's not considered a business waterway any longer, although apparently business traffic is increasing on it again) two doors away.

I'd read some lukewarm reviews about the Crayola tour, and they were pretty much right. There really isn't a factory tour anymore, and they don't even have a cute little ride like at Hershey. All you do is go in a room and a person shows you how crayons are molded and labeled, and how the markers are put together. There is also a tiny exhibit of retired and renamed colors (the "Wall of Fame") and a history of Crayola milestones. I did have curiosity satisfied: they had some actual slate pencils. After having read the Little House books and other 19th century novels featuring slate pencils, I'd wondered what they looked like! Not at all like chalk!

The rest is geared toward kids, and I wouldn't even recommend it because it's really lackluster: the kids can color, cut out and paste paper, model clay, draw with different types of markers, play with sidewalk chalk, and paint, just like they can do at home. Why spend money to do it? Nothing is aimed at adults, which is odd as since Crayolas are over 100 years old, grandparents and parents, and especially Baby Boomers, have a great connection with Crayola crayons. We were not the only adults there without children, and we goofed off using some of the coloring stuff, but why not a room for adult questions? The guy who showed the crayon production line couldn't even answer questions about why Crayola crayons smell like no other crayon. We had questions like: where does Crayola get the pigments for the crayons? do they buy from outside pigment suppliers or make their own? how are the crayons blended? How about a hall with some vintage Crayola ads, or memories of the workers? (We did see a photo of one worker, a woman who, before Crayola invented the automatic labeler, did nothing but hand-label Crayola crayons 10-12 hours a day for 19 cents an hour and no health insurance at all.) They showed a couple of vintage boxes and had a television showing a couple of old commercials and that was it. Bleah.

The canal museum is also chiefly geared at kids. Lots of hands-on things, like how the lock system works—we did this and it was fun. There was a more adult-oriented game about earning a living as a canal-boat captain for a week, but everything else was kid-sized and simple, no real history imparted at an adult level except—and I found this ironic—about the railroads that eventually drove the canals out of business!

We picked up a couple of things in the gift shop, then paid for our parking and were back off down I-78 lickety split. It was 2:30 already, and we were trying to make Roadside America in good enough time to have a long look around before they closed at five. I-78 runs through rolling farmland, so we had a lovely ride even though the skies were solidly grey.

You could describe Roadside America as "a big train layout," but it's not about the trains. It's about miniature villages. As a small boy, Laurence Gieringer fell in love with miniature villages, and as he grew older, he began to create his own, whittling houses, carriages, animals, etc. His family helped him. As the collection grew, he had it in a barn, then it was featured in a newspaper story. Eventually the village grew so large that a building was created for it and admission charged to see it. Gieringer died in the 1960s, but the family still cares for the village and operates it as an attraction.

A whole web page with photos about the place.

When we took the aforementioned Colette bus tour in 1974, this was one of the places we visited. I loved it then and still adore it; it's an enchanted landscape where a 1950s community goes hand-in-hand with an old fashioned circus, a pioneer village, a funicular up to a skiing and skating resort, a Native American village nestled in the trees, an 1890s town, an Italian church on a hill, a coal mine, a limestone quarry, a fox hunt, several farms, an elevated trolley, a biplane buzzing the airport, a balloon launch, and, oh, yeah, lots of trains—and more. At the press of a button, animals move, coal is tipped from a car, trolleys run, trains whiz around their track, and other things move. Hymns are sung from the church at the 1950s village.

And every half hour the "sun" sets, the room purples and then darkens, stars twinkle from the sky as the lights in the various buildings wink out one by one, the "Star-Spangled Banner" is played, and then Kate Smith sings "God Bless America." If you are a sentimental slob like me, as the lights come back on in the buildings and the sun rises, you are left sniffling and teary.

We checked out the gift shop (it's a State Law) and bought a hex sign for the house. Would you believe there is one with autumn leaves and acorns on it? LOL. They represent long life, strength and endurance (ours noted "good health" as well). The cashier said they had expected a larger crowd today, but evidently a lot of people didn't get the day off. The kids weren't even off school. It's like that in Georgia, too.

We drove back to Royersford in the twilight—a bright scarlet line on the horizon despite the clouds—and in the dark to find the hotel staff serving hot dogs and hamburgers as part of their Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday "Sundowner" program. We hadn't had lunch, just a bag of trail mix, so this meant we didn't have to go out for supper.

And now we're watching television.

One more thing.

If you were able to talk freely today, whether you agreed with your government or not, you did so because people were willing to fight for your freedom. If you were able to travel within the United States today without papers and passports, it's because someone was willing to fight for your right to do so. If you could pick up a book today and read anything, even a book that was highly subversive, you did so because someone fought for your freedom to do so. If you can type tonight on the internet and call the president an idiot or the last president an idiot, it's because someone defends your right to do so.

To all our veterans, everywhere: Thank you.

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» Tuesday, November 10, 2009
And One Other Thing...
...happy anniversary to US. Nineteen years today.

Trains, Christmas, and an anniversary, all in one day. Cool.



Choo-Choo-Choo and Ho-Ho-Ho
I let James sleep a bit later this morning because he was sounding a bit hoarse last night, and it seemed to have helped. He consumed more orange juice with his breakfast and soon we were southbound and then westbound.

Much of our route today was on US-30, part of which is the original two-lane Lincoln Highway, and was more what I was expecting yesterday: some homes, and nice expanses of farms and fields. We passed several interesting looking places on the way, and the one place I was looking forward to seeing, the National Christmas Center, accompanied by eau de bovine (trust me, I'd rather smell cows than diesel exhaust).

Just as we were wondering if we had overshot our turn (we had), we stopped at a little outlet mall to use the facilities and discovered the road it was next to directly headed to our destination: the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. This is a huge building with different train engines, cars, tenders and even cabooses end to end on rails. (It's a huge cavern of a building indeed. When you leave, a sign informs you that you have walked two miles and burned 200 calories.)

None of the locomotives or cars is open, but on some of them you can climb up a stair next to the windows and look inside. There is a reproduction of the earliest steam engine as well as one of the "John Bull" locomotive, and the others are authentic rail cars and engines, with both steam locomotives and diesel ones, boxcars, passenger cars from the original wooden one to the luxurious Pullman, and even a "business car," the one the owner of the railroad rode in. There were small displays of locomotive lights and bells, rail repair tools, the contents of boxcars, and also a station office from about 1880, complete with timetable rack, baggage cart, telegraph, and other accoutrements. There was a special display about "refer" [refrigerator] cars accompanied by a circa 1950 newsreel, and also a simulator where you could "drive" a train into the station. James tried it out, but braked too soon and did not make it into the station in time. Much better than allowing it to go out of control.

We even "met" Thomas the Tank Engine's American cousin. :-)

We also went outside to the "yard" to check out the other trains awaiting restoration, including a couple of cabooses. It was a good day for walking outside, cloudy and not too warm. Before we left, I just had to go out back and take some photos of the lovely farms spread out behind the complex: barns, silos, horses grazing, harvested fields harrowed for the winter.

We finished up about 2:10 and, hungry, went across the street to the Strasburg Rail Road (that's what it's called) to a little cafè onsite, but it was closed. Worst, we had missed by ten minutes the last ride of the day.

The last time I was in PennDutch country, in 1974, we were on a Collette bus tour. The bus driver took the older kids, myself (age 18) and three other girls on a bike ride around the area. We were out pretty late, after dark, and that's where I saw my very first fireflies, over a growing cornfield. Our parents were furious. Anyway, one of the things we saw was a parked rail car that had appeared in Funny Girl, from the Strasburg Rail Road. This was a former working line that was turned into a tourist attraction, a short-line route that offers a steam locomotive ride through the Pennsylvania countryside. They've moved a Victorian-era station there, and there's a restaurant, a train store, and even an attraction that features Thomas the Tank Engine.

Unfortunately the trains only run three or four times a day.

Instead, we had lunch at Bob Evans, then decided we did have enough time to see the National Christmas Center.


If you love Christmas, you have to see this place. They lure you in with three lobby exhibits even before you pay: a World War II scene with a serviceman decorating a tree with WWII vintage clear glass ornaments, with Bing Crosby playing on the radio and showcases of V-mail, WWII Christmas cards, paper houses, waffle trees, and more; an exhibit of Nativities; and a Santa Claus with a tree strung with even more vintage ornaments.

Their web site lists their exhibits, but I was really interested in seeing their Woolworths exhibit, a room featuring Woolworths Christmas ornaments and toys from the 1950s, using original display cases and shelves (although one corner is devoted to other Woolworths merchandise, complete with a salesman). Completely overwhelming: tin toys, dolls, stuffed animals, ornaments, Nativity figures, Christmas trees, and more. James sat outside while I immersed myself in Woolworth-anea and memories.

There is also a gallery of "Christmas in Other Countries"; a corridor filled with nothing but figurines, toys, and magazine and book covers of Santa Claus; a gallery of old-fashioned Christmas memorabilia including vintage kugels and dresdens [1800s Christmas tree decorations], plates, cookie cutters, tree stands, etc, including a display case showing how glass ornaments were first made in Lauscha, Germany; a depiction of Santa's workshop, complete with a huge quilted Santa profile, animated reindeer, and a workshop containing hundreds of vintage toys; Tudor Towne, a storybook Christmas tale about anthropormophic animals celebrating Christmas for the first time; a room decorated like Virginia O'Hanlon's 1908 parlor at Christmas, with a copy of her "Is There a Santa Claus?" letter; a 1950s Christmas exhibition based on a film; a train setup that looked like a huge tiered wedding cake, with an upside down tree as a "roof" hung with Christmas ornaments; a 1950s storefront walk, complete with Salvation Army lass; exhibits about different Pennsylvania Christmas customs; a collection of Nativity sets from around the world; and finally "a walk through Bethlehem," which illustrates how Mary and Joseph would have lived, how the announcement of the census would have been announced, of the dangers they faced on the way to Bethlehem, and finally to the Nativity itself, where you exit back into that tempting lobby.

And the gift shop, of course. It's a State Law.

I found a whole wall of bird ornaments, including clip on ones, and found two small budgies, one green and one blue, and also a plain chickadee ornament, a St. Nicholas, two autumn leaf ornaments, and a Belsnickel that's really a place card holder, but it was quite cute. Also bought a couple of postcards.

By the time we were done it was dark and so we headed "home." The ride back seemed much shorter.

The hotel offers these "meet and greet" things on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and we were in time for James to get some chili. I don't eat the stuff, so I had English muffins for supper, along with an apple, and we watched Wheel of Fortune and, because nothing else was on, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader and Top Gun.

I did do a search on "Pennsylvania" and "electric candles" and it does appear to be a year-round custom. Apparently it's a sign of welcome. Very pretty.

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» Monday, November 09, 2009
A Visit to Addictions
We rose at the leisurely hour of 7:30 (well, for a weekday, since we are usually up at six), to the good news that the SEPTA strike has been resolved, so we can take commuter rail into Philadelphia if we want to. Yay.

They had corn flakes on the breakfast bar this morning, and bacon. I had my usual three slices, the corn flakes, oatmeal, two slices of whole wheat toast, fruit (cantaloupe and oranges), and two pints of milk.

This morning we drove out to the Reading Regional Airport to go to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum. This is a small (one tiny hangar stuffed with aircraft, and a static display on the runway of about a dozen planes, plus about a dozen display cases) air museum, which is, sadly, what the Quonset Point Air Museum should at least be, if someone would bother giving the poor sods financial aid. The "MAAM" came complete with a tour guide named Fred, who is a World War II buff, who first took us out to the static line. This included several civil aircraft, including an old Eastern Airlines passenger plane from the late 1950s-early 60s (back when airplanes still had curtains and their dinner came with china and silverware), and some helicopters, a Coast Guard craft, and a Navy plane which was the equivalent of a DC-3. I initially handed the camera to James, but he was having such a good back-and-forth with Fred—occasionally disputing facts with each other!—that I just took it back and took photos of the planes the way I see him do it, sometimes several angles to one craft.

Also took some photos of the landscape in the distance: it was a chill morning, with a low haze lying over the trees and the fields. The chill eventually burned off, although it never did become as warm as they predicted, as high cloud cover crept in throughout the day.

Anyway, inside the hangar are more aircraft, including aerobatic planes hung on the walls, a B-25 bomber, a Texan aircraft like James flew in on his 40th birthday, two trainers (the one used by neophyte military fliers and then the aircraft they graduated to), a superbly kept Beechcraft, and others. The "crown" in the collection is a P-61 "Black Widow" they are restoring. This is a World War II aircraft, and only four of them are left: one at the Smithsonian, one at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, and one in China, and this one here. It's in pieces right now, and will probably be several more years in restoration.

Several display cases included airline memorabilia and military mementos, and there were also two cars. The first one looked a lot like the HHR Chevrolet, and there was also a 1925 Pierce Arrow roadster with huge running boards and a rumble seat. I've always wanted a roadster like Nancy Drew drove in the early books, and this came close enough. And of course Pierce Arrow was the manufacturer of "Foolish Carriage," the Gilbreth family car in Cheaper by the Dozen, although their car was many years older (and larger...LOL). I had James take a photo of me with it.

There are also some display cases inside the main building of Pennsylvania boys who served. The most famous "Pennsylvania boy" was the fellow the airfield was named after, General Spaatz, from nearby Boyertown. [More info here.]

Fred apologized for talking so much, but he was fun to listen to. He talked a lot about the World War II re-enactment they hold here every year in June, about the declining industry in the area, his family, and hosts of facts about the airplanes. It was obvious he loves working there.

We didn't really know the museum size, so didn't have anything major planned for the afternoon in case it was extensive. If we finished in the afternoon I figured we could drive north to Roadside America, which is only a couple of hours to see at most. However, we got to the museum a little after they opened at 9:30 and left at 11:30. We first decided to get lunch. James punched a few buttons on the GPS and we picked an "Ozzie's Restaurant" out of the results.

However, on the way there, we saw another restaurant and decided to eat there instead. Terrific serendipity! This was the Crossroads Family Restaurant, and the food was yummy. I've been hankering for roast turkey and that's what I had. This came with a vegetable and the soup and salad bar. It was turkey breast, but very moist and flavorful. It was stuffed with a potato stuffing (!!!), but it had too much sage in it for my taste. Off the bar I had only applesauce (very nice!) and their chicken noodle soup, which was superb. I could have eaten lunch just on the soup.

Since it was so early (not even one), we decided to go out to Hershey and visit "Chocolate World." We drove there via Route 422, which we hoped might be a country road, but which was interrupted by little towns. I am quite interested by the houses here; a great majority of them are brick, or brick fronted, and many duplexes with small porches on the front. Some were well maintained, some not, but I was happy to notice how many of them had fall decorations! Especially near the farms, homes had corn stalks, scarecrows, pumpkins. Some just had Thanksgiving flags, and a few leftover Hallowe'en decorations.

Hershey was fun. Originally they did allow tours of the factory, but for years they have been at this "Chocolate World" visitor center. (And I do mean years: it was like that when I was last here in 1974.) You go on a Disney-like ride with moving cars that takes you through the chocolate process: from the jungle to how the beans are ripened, roasted, chopped, mixed, blended with milk, rolled, etc. until they become a chocolate bar, all narrated by three sassy cows and a bull.

I bought us tickets for the trolley ride, so after taking the ride we strolled about the gift shop [it's a state law...LOL] while we waited for the tour to start. This is huge: mostly chocolate, but also shirts, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, gifts, the usual things.

The trolley ride: another great tourguide! Two days and we've had three in that time. He introduced us to our motorman and called himself "your motormouth." He was great. The trolley basically begins at Milton Hershey's childhood home and traces his life, and the "chocolate empire" he built after failing multiple times as a caramel manufacturer due to the high price of sugar. His caramels were eventually a success in England, where they were enrobing them in chocolate. It was in this way he got interested in chocolate. Eventually he was worth millions, and had a wife he adored. Since they were destined to be childless, he founded a school for orphan boys [which is now a co-educational school for poor or abandoned children]. Sadly, his wife didn't live very long after he built her a lovely house. We saw the school, "Founders Hall," the home he built for his wife, the housing he built for his workers, the school building named for his wife, and the three factories (the original factory still makes the basic chocolates, a second does enrobed chocolates, and the third makes the Reese's peanut butter cups, which, ironically, Milton Hershey never liked, and now they are the best-selling chocolates of the bunch!).

We picked up a few things from the gift shop, then returned home, mostly in the dark, since it was now after five. We drove home via the same route, and I noticed more of the window candles. A couple of the homes did have further Christmas decorations, but most were just candles without any further holiday decoration. Maybe white candles only are a Christmas custom? I will have to ask on my Christmas group; I know there are some members from Pennsylvania.

Anyway, made supper in our tiny hotel kitchenette, watched Jeopardy and House, and just finished Castle.

Have to check out the weather report, but I believe we're going to the train museum tomorrow.

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» Sunday, November 08, 2009
Traveling to the Past
We had a super time at Valley Forge. The site was only fifteen minutes down the road, right off Route 422. The Visitor's Center is a modern glass and concrete structure, with a gift shop on one side and exhibits of relics on the other.

We decided to take the trolley tour, which is operated independently from the National Park, so it did cost, but it was a brilliant idea. The tourguide was a young woman who had been working at the park for six years and was enthusiastic about the history of the place. There is a one-way route you take around the park and we followed that, first stopping at a reproduction of one of the encampments, where we saw the log huts (built in the 1940s) the colonial soldiers would have lived in, a small exhibit of medical equipment, and a demonstration of firing of muskets and the one Kentucky rifle. Of course today we think of the huts as very rude and uncomfortable, but most pioneer folks lived this way all the time.

One of the things the guide talked about were the misconceptions about Valley Forge. It wasn't really a terrible winter; in fact, parts of it were so mild that the snow melted, and the mud was worse than the snow. The men were underfed and under-clothed, but the worst thing about the encampment was not the cold but the disease. Also, there were wives and children with many of the soldiers, one woman to every fifty men. They helped with camp life, but mainly did the laundry, which the men disliked. (Knowing how laundry was done in those days, I can't blame them.) The "soldiers" then told a few things about their costumes and their guns, and then we went on. It was a lovely day for a ride around the park, but it was a good thing I brought a short-sleeved top, since it was in the upper sixties and clear as a bell. I'm glad I remembered the hats, since the glare would have left me with a raging headache later and both of us with sunburned faces.

The trolley went on, to the Valley Forge memorial, a large arched structure like the Arc d'Triomphe in Paris, which was begun in the early 1900s, but not finished and dedicated until 1917, when the soldiers serving in World War I needed inspiration to serve in France. We also saw the park's only equestrian statue, one of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, Pennsylvania native. The guide told us how he got his nickname.

Finally we arrived at a stone house once the property of the Potts family (Pottstown, down the road, is named after this family). This was Washington's winter headquarters during the six months at Valley Forge, with the property consisting of the house, a nearby stable where Washington's horse (a dapple-grey, not a white horse, named "Blueskin") lived, and another house. The house consisted of a hall on either side (one of the halls was for carriage arrivals), and two small rooms, one where Washington worked, and another where his staff worked, and three small bedrooms upstairs, plus an attic for the servants. The kitchen, as normal in many houses in those days, was attached to the house by a sort of breezeway.

The park ranger told us that the furniture is antique, but not original to the house, but that the house was in remarkably good shape and about 85 percent authentic (the roof has been replaced several times, the walls painted, some plaster replaced, the kitchen completely rebuilt because the owners who had the house until 1877 knocked down the original one and made a larger addition), and the historians who tested the railing on the stair to the second floor says it is original to the 1700s, so you are touching the same railing that George Washington touched in 1777. Wow.

The house overlooks Valley Creek where it joins with the Schuylkill River (Valley Creek is where Valley Forge got its name, since there were two forges, a grist mill, and a blacksmith shop once powered by the creek; all were owned by the Potts and burned by the British), and a short walk away is the old Valley Forge railroad station, where visitors arrived before the automobile era. It has been restored as a museum documenting George Washington's stay at Valley Forge and the people who shared the house with him (not just Martha, but 20 people in total—what a crowd there must have been!). The old waiting room, complete with a fireplace, now has displays and some video re-enactments, and a small room to the side illustrates how the restoration work was done and how they know "how it looked." The station agent's area has a few old things from when it was a working station: an old typewriter, telegraph, etc. Too cool. I love old train stations.

We returned to the Visitor's Center and looked at the exhibits of old cooking equipment, pipes, weapons, etc. from the era (not necessarily dug up on the site), and one case of prehistoric remains from a nearby cave that started out life as a sinkhole and contained relics of mastodons, sloths, early horses, beaver, and saber-tooth cats.

Then we went in the gift shop. Have I mentioned lately how much I love National Park Service bookstores? I really could have been very, very bad—many standard books on the Revolutionary War and its personalities and then some books about interesting facts of the era, unknown facts, etc.

I always wonder why I take books along when I go on vacation; I always buy more! In this case I was good: I bought only a James Burke "Connections" book about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the new History Detectives book which has cases not shown on the television series! I didn't even know there was a book. Also got a new game which looks akin to "Timeline," and a keychain we are going to turn into a refrigerator magnet.

We brought a whole bag of low-cal snacks with us, but of course failed to leave any in the car, which is why, when we emerged and still wanted to go back to the train station (during the tour we did not have a chance to go inside the building), we ended up noshing on a granola bar (half each) James found under the car seat. It was pretty crumbly, but it was 2:30 and we were getting hungry.

So we drove back to the train station, stopping to take another photo of the arched monument and also of "Mad" Anthony, checked out the overlook over the Schuylkill, then looked through the station exhibit and also checked out the reproduction cabins behind the house, which were occupied by Washington's guards, the equivalent of his secret service. They were solely Virginians at first, but Baron Von Steuben talked Washington into having men from all the colonies. The guide emphasized how Von Steuben made an effort to unite the men of each individual colony into an army of the entire country, and how their drilling on the flat expanse that became the parade ground united them.

Incidentally, when you learn about Valley Forge in school, it seems like it is a very flat place; it's a valley, right? Actually, it is highly elevated, which is why it was a strategic location. All around the encampment one would have to charge uphill to attack it. Also, there are trees everywhere in the park, but they were not there during the encampment, simply because this was (a) farmland in those times and (b) any trees left were chopped down for the huts and for firewood. After awhile they were marching miles away to find trees!

The park is well used today by hikers, picnickers, joggers, and others, including lots of people with dogs. We saw dozens of breeds today, including what looked like a Bernese Mountain Dog club meeting!

Finally we left the park and went in search of food. Had a very late lunch (it was after three) at a Wendy's, and, since it was really too late to go anywhere else, we decided to check out this King of Prussia Mall. I've heard of this mall before; it's one of those places they talk about, like Mall of America. 400 stores and 40 "eateries," and that's just the mall, not the outrider stores. It's just a few miles south of Valley Forge and this strikes me as high irony, such a wealth of everything right near a place of such privation.

Anyway, the King of Prussia Mall isn't a mall, it's an exercise program. Honestly. I don't think we saw a third of it. We walked around part of the top level and about half of the second level, only seeing what they call the "plaza," not even getting into the "concourse," or whatever it is. Never got to the Borders; did find the Borders Express (isn't this what they used to call a Waldenbooks?...LOL), and visited the Lego store. James got a little kit of a "fighter jet" that can also be morphed into a space shuttle and a speedboat, and I got this Christmas tree.

At that point we surrendered to our feet, came "home" via the Giant Foods where we got some frozen dinners for supper, and relaxed, eating about seven o'clock and watching various shows across the dial, including Extreme Home Makeover. We also did some research into our Philadelphia problem. A possible solution: Amtrak! It runs from Paoli, about 22 miles south, to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. Then the only problem is getting the 30 blocks across town: screw it, we can take a cab, I suppose. Who knows when we'll ever come this way again?

Noticed something, again, driving back to the hotel. Last night, the moment we were in Pennsylvania, I noticed many houses with white candles in their windows. They didn't look like Christmas decorations. I wondered if they are some type of Pennsylvania custom. It's very pretty. Saw some tonight, too, and what was definitely Christmas decorations, a big pine tree done up in lights.

This is not our first Christmas lights: going up 411 through Georgia on Friday, we saw what was either a blue tree, or a white tree with blue lights, in someone's front window. Zowee!

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Much better. Would have been perfect had someone not set the room alarm clock to go off at 5 a.m. It woke James out of a deep sleep and was so strident it gave him a headache.

Then my alarm clock went off at seven. Gah.

We finally got up at eight. We were driving so much that this is to be our easy day. We are going to Valley Forge, which is "right down the road apiece." Might go to the infamous King of Prussia Mall. There's a rainy day predicted later in the week, which would be a good day for the National Christmas Center and Roadside America, both indoor attractions.

Still not sure what to do about Philadelphia. We can drive in...gah. It would be rotten to have gotten this far without fulfilling my goal and seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, etc. Our friend Emma is free on Thursday, so that will probably be our day there.

The breakfast bar here is quite nice. James had sausage patties and eggs almost exclusively, with a waffle. I had a bowl of cereal, a bowl of oatmeal, several handfuls of fresh pecans, cantaloupe and oranges from the fruit bowl, and two slices of toast. They even had cocoa; we took a packet for later, as James likes to have cocoa at night. Pity it's not sugarless. They did have sugarless syrup.

I love this hotel. The only problem we've found so far is that the bathroom door wasn't hung correctly and keeps inching shut. We have it stopped with a fold of towel. The room is quiet (except when it sounded like some kids next door were bouncing a basketball in the room), the bed is comfortable, there are feather pillows (!!!) for me (I tried the foam pillows; they are too hard), the sofa is comfy, the dataport and wireless (yes, both) easy to use, there's soap (not icky shower gel like at Unicoi), a good hair dryer, and the shower is wonderful. Oh, and the windows open, a major perk as far as I'm concerned.

(Dang it...I don't care if she won't sit on my finger—I miss Schuyler terribly. And Willow lying at my feet and looking up hopefully every time I walk in the general direction of the refrigerator.)

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» Saturday, November 07, 2009
Finally Off The Road...
...and are we pooped. In fact, I'm downright woozy right now.

Despite the bed at the Quality Inn being really comfy and it being nice and quiet, I don't think either of us slept well. We didn't get to sleep until about one and got up at seven. They had a small breakfast bar, but pretty heavy on the carbs. James had a waffle and some raisin bran with orange juice, I had a bowl of oatmeal, a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk.

Most of the day we were cruising up Interstate 81, which is like the spinal cord between the bones of the Appalachians. It goes through the Shenandoah Valley, which does have areas of business, but which is mostly livestock farms, some corn seen. Most of the trees were past peak, and we even passed some miles where the trees were already bare. In the distance on either side sit the rounded tops of the mountains, some in the distance and purply-soft.

James drove the first two hours, then I took over until we got to Christiansburg and had lunch at the Cracker Barrel, their chicken and rice. I had carrots and applesauce with it. Yum!

James drove as far as Harrisonburg. We ought to adopt this town; we keep stopping here! We needed gas, so we got it there, and also stopped at the Books-a-Million to use the bathroom and peruse the magazine stand. We bought the newest version of The Next Exit, which has been our road bible. I picked up our old one at the Cobb County Library book sale in 2004, when it was already three years out of date.

I drove until the Pennsylvania welcome center, where the sun was just slipping under the horizon. I'm terrible driving in the twilight, so James took over and was stuck there until eight o'clock, when we finally arrived at our hotel, after skirting Harrisburg and Reading. We hadn't had supper and were getting punchy. We headed for a restaurant, which the GPS said was there, but it wasn't, and we finally gave up, went into the Giant Foods, and bought a bunch of frozen dinners (the room has a pocket-sized kitchen, with a fridge, stovetop, microwave, sink, dishes, dishwasher). So I had one of the Lean Cuisines I like, the bow-tie pasta, and now I'm sick to my stomach and woozy. I think it's just from the late meal and the sun—I've practically got sunburn on one side of my face from the strong sun all day. (Yes, my right cheek is November! Yeesh!)

Speaking of evenings, I forgot to mention what happened last night when we swapped off drivers, before the orange moonrise. We were between small towns at that point and the only place to stop was in front of a small church with a lit sign. We did so, and happened to look up at the sky. With only the church sign and our headlights providing illumination, the night sky was brilliant with stars. Not only could we see the constellations, but also the faint mist of the milky way. Haven't been anywhere that dark in a long time.

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