Prince Charming


Potato-Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

Potato-Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

During the winter months, we always have soup and bread on Friday night.  This tradition began when we moved to New Mexico, I became a stay-at-home mom and actually began regular cooking again. (In Missouri Prince Charming was in graduate school while I worked full-time. He did a lot of the “cooking” then.)

Friday nights are quiet at our house. Sabbath begins at sundown, and the pace changes. It is my favorite time of the week. Probably the entire 24 hours until sundown on Saturday night is my favorite period of the week, but Friday night is especially slow and quiet–a true blessing. (And it is host to the bath.)

Because Friday nights are special, I like to make something special for dinner. It cannot be complicated, however, because I also do the cooking for the next day on Friday as well. There just is not enough time to prepare two elaborate meals.  So Friday night dinners are simple, but special. That is how the soup and bread tradition came about.  All of us love both. If there is not the scent of bread baking in our house on Friday, something is wrong. (Or it is summer, but I usually bake some type of bread then anyway).

Last Friday night I made one of Prince Charming’s favorite soups. I tell you this because it was sort of for his birthday, which was at the beginning of January. Poor guy! If there is anything worse than having a birthday between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it is having one just after Christmas. He always gets the shaft. At the end of November and beginning of December, I had a whole slough of birthdays which got their own blog posts. Did Prince Charming? No! And it had nothing to do with him, but everything to do with when it was.  He did not even get his favorite meal until three weeks after his birthday. So I threw in the soup as a bonus later the same week.

So, without further rambling, here are the recipes:

Potato Leek Soup in Bread Bowls

4 lg potatoes, peeled and diced

4 large leeks, sliced

8 c chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 c cream

pepper (optional–I never opt for pepper, but I know a lot of people use it in everything, and it was part of the original recipe)

Bread Bowls: Bowl-size round loaves, unsliced (4-6, depending on how many people you are serving), 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, 4-6 tsp olive oil, 4-6 T graded Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, combine potatoes, leeks, broth, salt and pepper if desired. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce to medium-low, cover and simer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile make bread bowls (recipe below for Italian bread which we love, but you can purchase them ready-made, or you can just serve it with bread on the side): Cut top off of loaves. Hollow out bowls leaving 3/4″. (Reserve leftover bread for croutons or bread crumbs). Rub inside of bread with garlic, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese. Place hollowed out loaves and “lids” on baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit over for 10 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in a blender or use a hand-blender. (If you don’t have a hand blender and make soup, get one!) Stir in cream. Heat through.

Spoon hot soup into bread bowls and top with parsley as a garnish if desired. Makes 6 servings (with some leftovers for lunch next week!)

Italian Bread

(This is our favorite non-flavored bread. I do not make it all the time because it takes a long time, but I have figured out when to start it so that the first rising is while I pick up Chic from school since she gets out at 12:30 on Fridays.)

2-1/2 c warm water (115 degrees F)

2 T active dry yeast (or 2 packets is OK)

8 c all-purpose flour

1 T salt

1 egg white

1 T water

Optional: Butter and cornmeal to put on baking sheet before baking bread

Note: I do this in a Kitchen Aid mixer on Speed 2 with a dough hook. The original directions were not for that; if you do not use a mixer for bread, I am sure you will know how to convert this. And if you use a bread machine, I am sure you can figure that out, too.

Pour warm water into warm mixing bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir in 2 cups of flour. Beat well. Add salt and gradually beat in all but 2 cups of the flour. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Continue mixing gradually adding as much flour as needed. (In my dry, high altitude setting, I can usually add another 1-1/4 – 1-1/2 cups.) Continue kneading for 3-5 minutes after last flour is added. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover with wax paper, then a damp dish cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down and let rise to double again, about an hour.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and form small, round loaves (for bowls) or longer loaves (10-12″ long). (Since there are 4 of us, when I make this soup, I make 4 bowls with half of the dough and a long loaf with the other half of the dough. Otherwise I make two long loaves.)  Place loaves on baking sheets that have been buttered and sprinkled with corn meal (if desired, I never do this anymore). Add 1 Tbls water to egg white and brush top and sides of loaves. To cover, prop up dish towel around and over loaves using glasses OR make a reusable cover by lining the inside of an appropriately-sized box with aluminum foil and storing in a plastic bag to keep clean. (I have to let my bread rise in the oven with a dish of water because of the lack of humidty in this region. Propping up a dish towel with glasses is not feasible for me, so I made the box as described. It works fine. I use it for some of my other bread recipes as well.) Let rise until doubled. I check it after 45-50 minutes which is usually enough, but sometimes it takes longer, depending on how warm the oven has remained.

Place a shallow pan on the bottom rack of the oven; fill with boiling water. Bake loaves in center of oven preheated to 375 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove and brush with egg white mixture again. Continue baking for 20 mintues longer, or until well-browned and done.

The bread can seem a bit intimidating because of all the steps, but it is really no worse than any other yeast bread if you plan the rising times when you can be doing other things. However, it is not something you can decide late in the day to have for dinner. If you do not eat the extra loave(s), your neighbors will LOVE you if you give a loaf to them, and it freezes splendidly.

Recipe  Credits:  Soup–Glamour Magazine, about 25 years ago. Bread–not sure.

2009

Here you learned that I was without computer. We were not happy. Who is when that happens? But it was right at the holidays. We thought it was going to be a week. It turned out to be two weeks, and it’s still not back to where it was yet. There is still stuff to load back onto it, and we have two computers now instead of one. (And my new one, though unbelievably small and cute, is difficult for me because the keyboard is so small.)

A lot of the things I do (besides blogging) involve using the computer. The thing I do most frequently with it is keep the records for my church’s finances. Prior to the crash, there had been a series of problems that put me behind in that department. Then with the crash, each passing day put me a little further behind. (I just started catching up today. And it’s year-end, so it is not as if I have the option about taking my time to get caught up.) That caused me a lot of stress. But in the end, what could I do about it?

Another major consumer of my computer time is blogging–both my own blog and visiting others. Obviously that was not happening, either.

But in the end, it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. Why? Because if I had had a computer and been able to work and blog, I would not have managed to do all the holiday things I did. As it was, it was the worst holiday season I have ever endured. Prince Charming and I have no intentions of ever living through such a fiasco again, but it would have been so. much. worse. had our computer been working and then be able to spend NO time on the computer. Though disguised, it was a gift to us.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Only the cat did not mind the chaos. Here she is on my work table.

Every year I do more for the holidays.  In this case, “more” takes on many meanings: in the form of more time-consuming  cards to send (200 of them), more elaborate ornaments to make, and more handmade gifts. The whole of 2008 was crazy. Much of it was “good” crazy, but it was an unusually busy year, and very little for the holidays was done ahead of time. So when the computer crashed and my list of how many ornament boxes to make and for whom was gone,

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

Ornaments boxes in process. In the end, I made 37 of them.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

How the ornament boxes looked when completed.

my list of who got handmade banners was gone,

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

I made 15 "winter banners (the snowflakes dangle) and 4 "merry" banners as gifts.

my Christmas card list was gone (I did not remember to take pictures of the pile of Christmas cards. Suffice it to say they were cute and had many steps), never mind all the work I could not be doing; I was a little stressed.

With my husband’s work computer we managed to use our external back-up drive to retrieve some of the information which I hand-copied (barely legibly) to complete everything. But the problem was there was not much time left, and much had to be sent or shipped, and I was doing more than ever.  It was horrible.

Prince Charming got on board as he always does and helped me. He could not do everything, but there were things he could do to help. The week before Christmas, we stayed up until midnight or 1 a.m. every night making cards, gifts, whatever. He did all the packaging and labeling and postage printing, and I did the most of the making and wrapping.  Prince Charming also made all the “treats” we give away this year. We usually do several things, but this year it was only pizzelles (for more than 50 families), and he did all of it. I did not make even one. And all day long while he was at work, I did more making and wrapping. Truly, it was horrendous.

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

This was a baby gift for someone who happened to arrive in this time frame. I loved making it, and the parents loved it. But I have to say it wasn't easy fitting a 10-letter name into a frame! (They call her "Halle.")

It is not like we never make our own cards or many of our gifts, but this recent holiday season just went over the limit of sanity. But the thing is that we do not want to change what we do. We LOVE making handmade gifts. Most of the people to whom we give gifts have plenty of anything they need, so handmade things just seem nicer; we are giving more of ourselves. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that I hate shopping.

So what we decided is that we are going to force ourselves to work on everything as soon as possible and all through the year. The ornaments are usually done in February, but the boxes are never done before the holiday season.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

This year's ornaments. I made the tops and put them on the gold balls.

Nor are the cards or handmade gifts. We have to start plugging away in any spare moment during the year–both of us–so we can have a relaxed, joyful and peaceful holiday season next year. (This year we got only a small fraction of the decorating done. I did not even get the autumn decorations off of my front door.)

Now Christmas is not my very favorite holiday, but I still love it a lot. I love the festivity and the way people tend to be more happy and generous a lot of the time. This year, however, PC and I could not fully get into the holiday spirit; we were just too tired. And that is not OK, especially for our children — it’s not their fault we the year unfolded the way it did and we did not force ourselves to do more all year long. There must be changes. So we are determined to make it happen.

Are we already working on Christmas cards, ornaments and gifts? No. Right now I am working on wedding invitations for a friend. They must be finished by Wednesday because they need to be mailed soon, and I am going out of town on Wednesday. Before I leave, I also need to make 100 swap cards to take with me since I am going to a stamping event. (And I am not even sure of the design for that yet.) After that I will make myself deal with Valentine’s teacher gifts and get them done right away, and after that holiday things will begin. The goal is to have everything finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. Everything. No exceptions. This is no small feat, because even after everything is ready, there is still wrapping, and like everything else in my life, I have to do that just a little bit more than ordinary. I always buy the wrapping, ribbons and trims right after Christmas, so there is no reason that gifts could not be wrapped and ready as made and purchased. (Yes, a few are purchased, but mostly through fundraisers my children have so we do not have to make them go sell stuff to friends and family.)

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

I love wrapping gifts, but it is another time-consuming thing. But part of the joy of getting it finished early will be enjoying the beautiful things under our own tree for a while!

So while without computer, I realized that I could probably very happily live without it for a good, long time. I was way too busy to miss it much. I thought I would miss the blogging more than I did, but I really did not have time to even think about it. HOWEVER, when I started looking at Sky Watch contributions yesterday, I realized what I had been missing. The reason I got so enamored with blogging so quickly after starting last summer was that I love the blogs I visit.

And I will be visiting again, and soon. But I have not looked at my reader in over 3 weeks. That probably means it has more than 3000 unread posts. That means I will not even attempt to catch up. If I try, I never will, so I am just going to start with what is new.  I tried for three months to catch up and could not, so I think it is better to just start fresh.

Back to my goals. I never do New Year’s resolutions. Does anyone really even remember what those are after a week or two? For me these things are goals, and most of the time when I have goals, I meet them. It is going to take some diligent determination, but I know I can do it. And next year, the holiday season is going to be more meaningful and joyful and fun and full of festivity, not last-minute misery. I promise!

200811-16canopybedcard 

Yes, it is true. Prince Charming and I are sleeping on opposite ends of the house.

“How could this be?” you ask incredulously. “You have told us how wonderful and perfect he is! He is thoughtful and kind. What is going on?”

Well, Reader, everyone except me has flaws. It is just the way it is.

 

Let’s have a little background. You read here about Chicklet’s eyes. I am happy to report that they are better (but here is a better picture of how red they were), but she is not quite well yet.

200811-16redeyes

And last Thursday the clinic called (because we had to take her to Urgent Care because of course this happened on a weekend) and asked if she was doing OK. They had taken a culture on her eyes (I assume–Prince Charming, he was still charming then, took her), and had the results which were a little disconcerting. She had the flu as well as MRSA. Thankfully Chicklet was acting quite fine by this point, or I would have been a little nervous. She has been no worse for the wear since. But I called to tell Prince Charming, and he nearly flipped out overreacted like fathers of little girls tend to do.

We do not know from where Chicklet’s infection came, but we do know that Chic had some kind of cold-like virus a few days earlier. She probably got it at school, then brought it home for the rest of us. Chic was stuffed up for a couple of days and is fine now. The rest of us are a different story.

Last Tuesday after four days of my own bout with some kind of bug, I went to the doctor. I usually do not run to the doctor so quickly, but I was sick most of last winter and finally got better after going to the doctor in March. I cannot do that again. I cannot exercise when I am sick, and I am too old to start over every summer in the exercise department. So I went. (The reason I do not try to nip things in the bud is because I have not had very good experiences here with going to the doctor. When I actually SEE a doctor, it is not bad, but often I do not have that opportunity. I have some ugly stories of sickness without treatment from earlier in our life here. It just seems like a waste of time and money to go.) The doctor was teetering between virus and bacteria. She finally decided to write a prescription for antibiotics, trusting I would not use it unless certain criteria are met. I have not used it yet, but I am pretty sure I will tomorrow or Tuesday. One of the criteria is that I am no better within 10 days after it hit me. Today is the 9th day. I am no better.

On Tuesday Prince Charming started complaining of being sick. All you wives of husbands out there  know the feeling, the sinking feeling, when your husband says he is getting sick. In my post about Chicklet’s eyes, I put a link to “The Man Cold” on YouTube. We have all been there. We know what it is like. So I inwardly rolled my eyes and braced myself for the worst. Little did I know what “the worst” was going to be.

Prince Charming is actually somewhat not horrible when he is sick. This is ONLY because he knows that I am sicker than him almost always but valiantly, as all women, do not have the option to stay in bed to get well, but do my regular duties and responsibilities without whining or crying like a 2-year-old less-than-sympathetic to his plight, and it will do little good for him to whine. (It was a training, process, ladies. He did not arrive this way.) So although I inwardly groaned at his revelation, I thought that it would not be a large inconvience to me because I would not let it be.

So off to bed we went Tuesday night. Have I mentioned I am a light sleeper? Probably not, but I am. I wake up easily, and just as easily do not go back to sleep for 2 or more  hours if awakened too much. Prince Charming, on the other hand, is a fabulous sleeper. He can wake up, go to the bathroom, cook a meal (hypothetically), go back to bed and be asleep before his head hits the pillow. Prince Charming hit the pillow snoring lightly. I wiggled around so he would adjust himself. He did, and stopped for a while. I was just drifting into sleep, when the snoring got loud.  (He always snores, but I can usually make him stop.) I tried to wake him, but I had no voice.  It is somewhat impossible to wake a sound sleeper when one can only whisper. So I kicked him. He moved AND CONTINUED TO SNORE. I kicked him again (a little harder). Same results. I was too sick to go anywhere, so I spent the next two hours catching a slight bit of dozing periodically, but mostly awake.

Then my coughing fit set in. When I have what I have, it turns into bronchitis quite quickly, and usually sometime during the night I will have a little coughing fit. It is a well-known fact that I avoid cough medicine if possible because I hate it, it makes me feel weird and sometimes makes me sick. So I was coughing while Prince Charming was snoring. After about half-an-hour, he finally woke up. I did not WANT him to wake up, but apparently I can cough much louder than talk when I have no voice, so it woke him up eventually. As if the snoring was not bad enough, he went through the familiar, irritating ritual of trying to get me to take some cough medicine.

“Should I get you some cough medicine?” he asked innocently and groggily.

“No!” was my abrupt, clearly irritated reply.

He waited as I was having a spasm of coughing, then asked (more awake this time), “I would be happy to get you some cough medicine.”

“NO,” was my firm reply.

More coughing.

“I really don’t mind,” he said.

By this time I showed every second of not sleeping that had happened that night. “I do not like cough medicine. You know I do not like cough medicine. I am sorry if I am keeping you awake, but your snoring kept me awake for 2-1/2 hours.” This was said as I grabbed my blankets and went to the loft to sleep in the recliner. (The usual progression of things at times like this.)

I was actually starting to feel rested and relaxed, away from the snoring, when Prince Charming came out to apologize and try to get me to go back to bed. Reader, what IS it about men that they cannot just leave things be? I had not slept ALL night, I was just getting comfortable, and he was there BOTHERING ME!

I do not even remember what I barked (in a whisper) at him, but I am sure it was not sweet nothings.

In the recliner I remained until a hint of dawn woke me up. Then I got up and went about my duties as usual.

So Wednesday through last night (and who knows how much longer), Prince Charming has been sleeping in the toy room. (We have a guest room, but it is somewhat of a work room and the bed is usually only completely cleaned off when guests are here.) And get this, I felt GUILTY about it. I felt guilty because someone who can sleep through a tornado or earthquake (probably even nuclear attack) went to another bedroom because his cold (or whatever) made him snore-without-ceasing VERY loudly. He did not make me feel guilty; that is my own issue. But other than my nightly coughing fit, I have been getting some excellent sleep. (Even though I can still hear the muffled snore behind a closed door at the opposite end of the house.)  I even kept one of the cats inside last night to help me stay warm.

Prince Charming and I are actually getting along famously, just not sleeping together. In a few days he will be well (unfortunately I will not be), and he can come back until he tries to get me to take cough medicine in the middle of the night. It is the first time we have ever done this. I am always the one to go sleep on the sofa or a recliner (guilt thing), but now that I am used to this, I think it is a good plan for future illnesses.

 

blue and bright

blue and bright

 

The above picture is Chicklet’s eyes.

Both of our girls have blue eyes. That is not uncommon with red/reddish hair, but we have to admit that we were/are a little surprised by it. Neither Prince Charming nor I have blue eyes. Neither do our siblings. Or our parents. Yes, there are blue eyes in the family (obviously), but none close to us. Prince Charming’s mother even had red hair with brown eyes. The blue is strange indeed.

Last night Chicklet’s eyes were getting a little red and watery. We began to fear she had conjunctivitis. We were not sure because we were out later than usual, and she had had a very mild cold and had not had a good nap, so we thought it just might have been from being tired. However, this morning it was only worse. Here are Chicklet’s eyes when she got up this morning:

not so cheerful

not so cheerful

Last year at Chic’s school, there was a “pinkeye” epidemic which made them close school for 1-1/2 days to disinfect.  I used to get this when I was a kid. But in all my bouts with this condition and all the kids that had it last year at school, I have never seen eyes like this.

In the picture her eyes are so swollen that Chicklet cannot open them enough to see how bad they are. A great deal of the white portion is not pink, but brilliant red. It looks like her eyes are bleeding. Last night she was crying, and she cried blood. 

Prince Charming took her to Urgent Care when they opened this morning.

Let’s understand right now that I am not a reactionary mom at all, or an uptight one. Usually when we go in for our annual “well check-ups,” the doctor always says we must be really healthy because she so rarely sees us. Well, we get our share of fevers, flus and colds, but there is usually no point for going in for those things, so we do not. But my daughter was crying tears of blood. That stabbed me in the heart!

The rest of us have varying degrees of colds. We are praying (and washing our hands every 10 minutes) that no one else contracts conjunctivitis. Nothing is worse than having a sick kid (or, God forbid, sick husband) than being sick yourself at the same time.

Note: I wrote this to post yesterday, but forgot about the My World meme. (Scroll down if that is why you are here.) So it’s today. But I was too tired too lazy did not feel like changing all the references about “yesterday, etc.” to make sense. If something does not make sense, then think about it a day earlier… or just get over it! (I am certain many things I write/say do not make sense!)

You just might be a redneck if… you are a mom.

Since I have been a mom, it has been a rare day that I can remember to put sunscreen on all exposed parts of my body. My children are always slathered in sunscreen. Chic has red hair and Chicklet has somewhat strawberry blonde hair (definitely reddish), and they have the skin to match. Neither has ever been really sunburned in her life. I never forget to put sunscreen on every exposed inch of THEM. But since they came along, their mother gets one or two good sunburns a year. Sometimes I forget to put it on entirely. However, I usually remember to put it on; I just miss an area. Yesterday it was my neck and chest. This is the result:

no photo enhancement; this is real

It was the annual Fall Fesitval for Chic’s school. It was a PERFECT day. It was hot, even for me. (I had two snow cones.) I wore several layers and was down to the sleeveless shirt before it even started. (I was in charge of the event and was there early to set up my own portion and direct everyone else.) My arms are not burned. My face is not burned. But I completely forgot my chest and neck when I was applying sunscreen.  Those children suck out brain cells when they are inside of us, and somehow there must be an invisible umbilical cord remaining to suck out more after they leave us.

If you knew the lengths I go to with what I wear to avoid a “farmer tan” or red neck, you would understand why this is so irritating to me.

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Card Giveaway

I will schedule a post of the results from the giveaway to go up on Wednesday when I am not here. This has been a lot of fun for me, and I hope it has for you, too!

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Why I am So Far Behind with Blogging

In my very short time blogging, I will be the first to tell anyone that it is OK to get behind, to not post, to not visit, to not do any blogging at all because we blog about life, life is not blogging. However, I for some reason feel the need to explain why I am so far behind, and some of you have not “seen” me in 3 or 4 weeks.

Do you know that in Google Reader, when you have more than 1000 new posts to read, it just says “1000+?” Well it does. This morning it said that. I quickly skimmed enough things that I just “look at” to get it to a number I could figure out, and there were 1066 in my reader this morning. A month ago this would have made me CRAZY, but 1-1/2 weeks ago, there were 1356 in there. In the past 1-1/2 weeks, I have gotten it into the low 600’s, but more keep coming, and there is just too much going on here. This is what it is…

First, I was on a trip to Missouri. (Oh yes, before that I had guests here.) I do this twice a year for business reasons and to spend time with my family. While there, I have computer access most of the time, but the time to do anything more than check important e-mails (which is not even the e-mail address for my blogging) is quite limited. While there, we play and visit.

Chicklet and "Boots"

So I came back and put a little effort into trying to catch up, but my life is a busy one. No, I do not work outside of my home, but I have a home business. Although it is not as on fire as it was a couple of years ago, it is at the limit of what I can handle these days. Last week I had three events relating to it. THREE! I usually try to limit it to one, but things just happened that way.

In addition to the business, I teach art weekly at Chic’s school. This is all day on Wednesdays. It is my third year doing this (Chic was not even a student there when I started), and it is a volunteer position. I really like doing it most of the time, but it is an entire day every week that nothing in my private life gets accomplished. This year is better than last because I have one less class (which means most of the time I actually have time between classes to tear down and set up for the next one), and I give students art grades rather than their teachers giving them grades for my class. (Which means that I have more leverage in class for their sometimes unruly behavior. But the Kindergarten teacher has shared with me that after parent-teacher conferences, one parent is quite angry with me and wants a meeting because his child got an A- in art. I will not elaborate on this other than to say that I grade on attendance, behavior and following instructions. I do not grade on ability–which I would like to do sometimes, but I am sure the parents would really flip out over that.)

On Wednesday nights Chic and Chicklet have a program at church called Pathfinders. It is similar to Boy Scouts/Girls  Scouts, but it is co-ed. In addition to this, in order for the kids to not get home at unreasonable hours on a school night, they start early–too early for some to go home after work, so there is food at this event. Who do you think makes the food? I trade off with one other person, and last week was “my” week. (It was not really my week, but it seems I get a few more than the other. I think it is because I “don’t work.”) So last week I was entirely tied up Monday-Thursday with my business, art, and Pathfinders. I forgot to mention we have to go to gymnastics after school on Tuesdays (it is a school program, but not at the school), and do not get home until 6. You can imagine when I made the food for Wednesday night. (I didn’t. Prince Charming did it this time.)

Friday I spent the day tying up loose ends for Fall Festival. My problem with THIS part of my life is that volunteers are scarce. At the last minute we had plenty food for the event, but we never had QUITE enough activities because we just did not have enough volunteers. I personally “manned” three separate activities. Prince Charming was in charge of two. (Which meant our kids were largely unattended, so we just spent a fortune buying them tickets so they would be entertained. Now we have PILES of loot that they won… PILES. (We could do our own carnival with their winnings.)

Saturday is a rest day for us. But Saturday night, we had a Pathfinder function to attend. It is not normal for those things to happen on Saturday night–maybe once or twice a year, but wouldn’t you know it would be the day before Fall Festival?

The Fall Festival was good. I do not know the money intake yet, but it seemed to be well-attended. It is only my second year of involvement with it, so I do not have a lot to which to compare it.

The point is, I had a LOOOONG week.

But the good news is that this week is much better. NO business events. NO Pathfinders. (I do not know why it is canceled, but I will never complain about that.) Nothing other than some Halloween activities. So after I catch up with bill paying and my Church treasurer job and some organizing stuff I need to do, I will attack the blogging thing. But the best thing about getting so far behind is that I can handle numbers in the hundreds on my reader.  I can go to bed without a second thought with an overflowing reader. So I guess all this activity has had its benefits.  But I am EXTRA glad it is over (for now–I have lots of projects coming up-but I have a week “off”… sort of.)

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The Dress

One last note. I got the dress. It IS pretty.  The color is nice, and it does not look horrible on me, and it actually fits in the hips (surprise), BUT, I cannot zip it up. I have always had a large rib cage, but after children, it expanded. It just will not zip. They are going to exchange it for a larger size, which IF it zips up will likely mean I have to alter the rest to be smaller. I will keep you posted. And that reminds me. Your comments on that were SO funny! I did not have time to reply (see above), but I am replying today within the comments, so check it out if you would like. (There are comments about SkyWatch in there because I do not know how to move the comments from the top to the bottom, so you will just have to skip over those.)

And check back tomorrow to see the results of the Giveaway! I’ll be posting 4 days in a row this week. How crazy am I? (Don’t get used to it!)

Louise is in another state right now, with the girls, doing some business and visiting family.  I thought I might take this opportunity to put up a post of my own, a “guest post,” as it were.  Not too surprising, I get to read most of Louise’s posts before they get published, and if any typos sneak through, those are obviously my fault (duh).  So this is MY chance…

But this post is about something other than stamping, or food, or bicycling, or SkyWatch, or any of that stuff.  This is about Louise herself — and how she attempts to control certain aspects of her life.  Like most of us, Louise likes to be comfortable (and Louise would insist on me ensuring that we pronounce all four syllables: com-for-ta-ble.  No sloppy speech allowed.)  Anyway, as I said, Louise likes to be com-for-ta-ble.  Unfortunately, the celestial forces that have to align for this to happen are the stuff that Nostradamus might try to write about (not that I buy his scribblings — I do not).  I am just trying to point out how remote, and somewhat cloudy, the exact requirements are for Louise to indeed get comfortable. 

Let’s start with the temperature — in the car, in the house, wherever.  Sure, we all want to be not too hot, not too cold.  Like Goldilocks, we like it “just right.”  And so most of us have a temperature range within which we can be comfortable (say it with me…).  This is true of Louise, but in my experience, the cooler limit is actually above the warmer limit.  In other words, while some of us have a temperature range this wide:

Others have a range like this:

Louise is more like this:

And whether she is hot or cold, air (hopefully of the opposite temperature) CANNOT be blowing on her.  Room fans, in general, are for other people.  Now, this might not be too bad, but I am almost always warm.  I prefer a cooler temperature and sort of like cool air blowing — if nothing else just to move the air around in the house.  Needless to say, this is diametrically opposed to conflicts slightly with Louise’s desires for her immediate environment.  To further complicate this situation and despite her aversion to blowing air, Louise likes to have windows open for fresh air (which I do not mind, if it’s not hot outside).  To be fair, though, Louise is adamant about keeping a freezing South-pole-like fairly cool house — in the winter.  She is “cheap” in this area.   It saves money on heating.

You all know Louise likes to cook and eat.  I am truly blessed to enjoy healthy, delicious food on a daily basis (just check out my waistline).  However, Mexican food is one of Louise’s favorites.  But it can’t be too hot.  Wait, let me rephrase that, it is probably already too hot.  No matter how “not hot” you might think that salsa is, it’s too hot for Louise.  Her palate is hyper-sensitive.  I often have to try some food item, and always the salsa, to determine the level of discomfort it might bring to Louise’s delicate mouth.  Honestly, I can try something in which I can detect no heat at all (none; zilch; zip; nada), and she practicaly has to spit it out because it burns her mouth so badly.  And she loves Mexican food — really, she does.  I’m just not sure how.

And we live in the Southwest now, so you’d think she’d be in gastronomic heaven — somewhere, someone must have mild food, right?  But we live in New Mexico, which has its own style of food, where everything is almost always smothered in red or green chile sauce.  And is too hot.  All of it — trust me, we’ve tried them.  Still, she finds ways to accommodate, and she does OK.  But, whenever she leaves the state, a “real” Mexican restaurant is likely on the list of places to stop.

And Louise also likes to travel.  She’s always up for an adventure — the more off the beaten path, the better.  On top of this, Louise is always going to new addresses in our home town as she shares her passion for stamping with others.  And as much as she likes to go to new places, locally or around the world, Louise does NOT ask for directions.  Ever.  That’s my job.  [N.B.: I think this is one of the reasons she married me.  I’ll give the complete list of reasons in my next guest post.]  She does not like to plan routes (again, my job), check weather/traffic (me, too), or make hotel arrangements (even if she is traveling alone).  It sometimes gets to nearly absurd extremes.  If she’s out headed for a stamping event, running out of time, Louise will call ME to look on some online map service to find her destination and route, rather than stopping to ask directions.  It’s a little kooky, but it does allow me to “come to the rescue” on occasion.  So I don’t mind so much.

And I think most of you are aware of how friendly and genuinely compassionate Louise is.  You’d think she would thrive on interactions with people.  Think again.  (Yes, that would be my job.)  Whether it is having to call anyone for anything, or perhaps having to go in to some establishment (store, office, pharmacy, etc.) to actually talk to a person, Louise will exert every effort to find another way to resolve the situation. This means online ordering and paying, self-checkout (one or her favorite inventions) or sending ME to take care of it.  And the simple explanation for my involvement in this?  Because I am the designated “people person.”  You see, in real life (not blog life) Louise is abysmally quiet and shy quite reserved and very much an introvert.  I, on the other hand, am a fully functional human being, able to move comfortably (com-for-ta-bly) among and through society.  People are generally a source of great amusement for me, and so they do not weigh me down much at all.  As a result, the cost is much lower for me to interact with the rest of the idiots in the world humanity, and so (most of the time) I am forced to glad to step in and remove this burden from my spouse.

So, you see, Louise is in many ways a walking contradiction.  She loves people, but deplores interacting with them in real life.  She always wants the temperature to be comfortable (you can pronounce it properly now), but it never seems quite right and no matter what, no air can be blowing on her.  Louise is one of the most adventurous people I know, yet the actual mechanics of figuring out where one is and how to get to the next destination seems to be beneath her.  (Don’t get me wrong. She has a marvelous sense of direction and can read a map quite well. Which she has been known to purchase rather than asking directions, but…) And Mexican food is her favorite; she just can’t eat most of it. 

But despite these potential areas of friction between us, I love how we complement each other (that’s complement with an “e” — we do say nice things to each other, but that’s not what I’m getting at).  Living with Louise is never dull.  I can’t imagine anyone better. 

Unless she looked more like Angelina Jolie.  And were rich.  And really liked football. 

But that’s another post.

by Prince Charming

Normally, I am a “shower girl.” Baths, for me, are not the way to get clean. However, they are relaxing more than almost anything, and I love taking a bath. (And will shower ahead of one if I think I am not “clean” enough.)

And what does this have to do with “smelly stuff?” I have pondered this connection for years. Why do I love baths so much?I believe there are lots of reasons, but a giant one has to do with the scents attached. I have all kinds of scents for my bath. This started when I was in my early 20’s and a Crabtree and Evelyn store opened in our mall. This place enchanted me, and not just a little. I immediately bought some “Spring Rain” milk bath for my mom. (Even then, I could not often splurge on myself… except for clothes and shoes.) She loved it. She became a “bath girl” for relaxation. Everyone in the family knew they could buy her the “Spring Rain” milk bath for any holiday and occasion, and it would be the perfect gift.

Then came Victoria’s Secret bath products (ohhhh, Honeysuckle!) and Bath and Body Works. My all-time favorite is/was Eucalyptus/Spearmint from Bath and Body Works (just recently available again), but I also have affairs with other scents. I am very much not faithful in that department. I have summer scents and winter scents and relaxing scents and energizing scents. I am a little bit picky about the type of scent, but I love many, many different ones. It is always a fun game to figure out which scent I will add to the bath each week.

There are other reasons I love baths. They are almost always on Friday night. My life is busy and stressful. (No, I do not “work” outside my home, but I work a LOT inside it, and I volunteer way too much occasionally outside it.) Fridays are the busiest days of all for me. OK, they are not. Wednesdays are worse because the whole day is AWAY from home letting the things at home pile up higher, and Fridays are at least mostly AT home, but they are extremely busy. So when Friday night comes, I have had it. I am exhausted and sometimes downright miserable. My body aches and my mind needs a break. The bath is just the thing. The warm water, the scents, the alone time, the opportunity to read, the time to just think… did I mention the alone time?

When Prince Charming came in to my life, he realized quickly how important this Friday night ritual was to me (and by extension, to him). Sometimes I just did not have the gumption to take a bath, and I think I it made him more miserable than me. When we married, he moved from 1000 miles away to my house. We had two bathrooms, the master bath and the upstairs bath. I always took my baths upstairs because I did not like taking them in the same place I took showers. Sometimes I would skip it because I was too lazy too tired to clean the tub. Prince Charming fixed that for me. He started cleaning the tub right after dinner. No excuses now!

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

sunset reflection in painting above "garden tub"

When we moved to New Mexico, our new house had a “garden tub.” For a bath aficionado like me, this was delightful. Don’t be too envious, the name only meant that it was a larger tub–there were not jets in it or anything fancy–just bigger. BUT bigger is sometimes better, AND it was not in the same place as the shower. Heaven!

With children, the whole bath thing is even more important because as much as I love Chic and Chicklet, by Friday night, I am mostly finished with being a Mom, too. (Although I sometimes let them play in my bubbles for a few minutes before they go to bed… a VERY few minutes.) Prince Charming, being the Prince that he is, is quite in tune with things like this. He sees what my life is like (although some of it is self-inflicted, and he wishes I would not inflict it upon myself), and does whatever he can to make it better. Part of this is insisting I take my Friday night bath. (Prince Charming bought the bath pillow featured at the top of this post. He understands.) I stopped sharing this information with my friends because they either a) hated me for it or b) tried to seduce Prince Charming so they could have such luxuries themselves. EVERY woman I know wants Prince Charming to teach classes to their husbands. This makes Prince Charming quite uncomfortable. Apparently it is not cool for men to go around instructing other men on how to be the perfect husband.

So here is what happens… after dinner, I blog for a few minutes quickly finish up whatever urgent business needs my attention. (Mind you, cleaning up the kitchen and dinner table would never be part of what I do here. I NEVER do that unless Prince Charming is out of town. I cook; he cleans up. I do not leave a huge mess, but whatever mess there is, he takes care of it. Except Saturday evening dinner and all day Sunday when he cooks AND cleans up. NOW ladies, into which of the categories in the previous paragraph do you fall?) So while I am blogging completing some important task, Prince Charming is cleaning my garden tub. He lets me know when it is finished, and in a few minutes I go upstairs to an aromatherapy haven. He lights a candle (or candles) for me that smell yummy. He leaves out the appropriate amount of towels (three) for me. And if at any time during the evening I balk for any reason, he almost forcibly makes me go take a bath.

Now is the time when most women would be leary; I know I was. “What does he want for all of these romantic gestures?” “What kinds of acrobatics am I going to have to perform when I get to bed?” “Is this bath worth it?” Well, the answer is that this is a “no strings attached” bath. Every week. It is my time. No kids, no phone calls (unless I really want to talk to someone), no husband, nothing but me and my scented paradise and the books/magazines that I choose.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

I would never have time to read were it not for my bath time.

Oh, WAIT… I almost forgot. There is more. He brings me water (because that is what I like to drink) and any confections of my choice. Periodically, it might be a leftover dessert item we have, but more often it is Godiva chocolates (hand-picked by Prince Charming–he loves to get seasonal truffles) or Nutella* on graham crackers. And if I run out of something or need something at any time during my bath, I ungracefully pound rap gently on the floor of the tub three times, and he comes running (not kidding) to see what I need.

* [Are you familiar with Nutella?  Find it.  Try it.  Love it.]

For the record, he says he does all this for himself as much as me, because my life is so busy and stressful, and this little break is beneficial necessary for my mental health state of well-being. This is probably true. In fact, I am pretty sure it is true.

But what is hedoing other than being on call for my every whim while I take my luxurious bath each Friday night? (It lasts 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Sometimes I even have to add extra hot water.  Hmmm…. maybe I should have him keeping hot water ready on the stove! JUST KIDDING!) I really do not care what he is doing. (The kids are in bed, by the way.) For all I know, he is surfing the internet’s p*rn sites, having an internet affair managing his fantasy football team/league or reading himself. (He does seem in a hurry to get me to the tub!) It does not matter to me. I trust him. And this is one of the best gifts he gives to me. (ONE of them. There will be other posts about other reasons he is Prince Charming.)

Sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

sunset through lace curtain over "garden tub"

To be honest, I think this whole thing is probably almost as good for him as it is me. No one wants to live with an uptight, stressed out witch partner. He makes sure I am not. And he gets his “strings.” Maybe not on Friday night (but maybe), but definitely more frequently than if I did not have this weekly relax/recharge time alone.

Before I get to the letterboxing, I have to tell you about a recipe I tried this weekend that I got from Heidi at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly.  I made it for the picnic lunch at our church campout, and it was an enormous hit.  When I told Heidi I was going to use the recipe, I mentioned that I have a reputation to uphold–EVERYONE raves about my cooking, and I wanted to make sure it was that kind of recipe.  She assured me it was, and she was right!  Go here and get the recipe and make it!  It is called Apple Cake Doris, and it’s heavenly!  (She has a beautiful picture there, so I didn’t bother.)

—————————————-

click to enlarge

Now about letterboxing.  After mentioning it in my last post, I had quite a few comments about it, so I decided to do this long overdue post.  (It is overdue because when I was thinking about starting a blog, Prince Charming suggested my first post be about letterboxing because it encompasses so many of my interests and loves.  I was really going to do that, but the blog started on a whim, and I just wrote whatever my whim was that day.)

First, I will explain letterboxing a little.  It began a very long time ago in Dartmoor, England.  I learned about it when my cousin sent me an article that had originally been published in Smithsonian Magazine.  It totally clicked with me, but my life just did not go in the direction it needed in order for me to get started.  Five years later I learned Prince Charming and I were going to be doing a little international travel, so we decided we better get serious about letterboxing so we could do it on our trips.  At the last minute, one of those trips dematerialized, but we did it on the other.  We also letterbox around where we live and on any other type of trip we take.

Chic in park we found

So back to what it is…  Letterboxes are weatherproof containers which hold a rubber stamp (preferably hand-carved) and a log book.  They may include ink or possibly another item, but the stamp and logbook are the only essentials.  The stamp may be carved to reflect the location of the box (scenery of the area, local animal, whatever) or just be anything.  The box is hidden, and clues are posted on the Internet for finding it.  (Major websites for this are here and here.) The clues can be incredibly cryptic or quite straight-forward.  The person who makes the box is called the “planter.”  My family has never planted any boxes, but we have all kinds of places in our minds that we would like to do it.  We just have been too lazy a little to get the carving materials a little hesitant about carving the stamps.

Letterboxing is somewhat similar to geocaching, but my family does not geocache.  Although I like the idea of the GPS locations, I like the way letterboxing finds are recorded (with hand-carved stamps). 

My family finds the planted letterboxes.  Whenever we have a weekend we can devote to it or are ready to travel, Prince Charming finds all (or a lot) of the relevant letterboxes in the area.  He prints the clues, and we go in search of the boxes.  We take with us our own logbooks, ink, cleaning supplies, a compass and our own personal stamps.  Personal stamps can be whatever one wants.  The best ones are hand-carved.  Mine is something I drew, but I had the stamp made because I knew I did not have the skills to carve anything like I would want. When we find a box, we stamp the box’s stamp in our personal logbooks and record date and other relevant information, and we stamp our personal stamps in the box’s logbook.  This way the box has a record of our being there, and we have our own record of the places we have been.  We then clean all the stamps, carefully re-hide the box, and move on to the next one.

So why do we love this so much?  First, it is just the whole concept.  I love rubber stamps; they are my business.  I love being outside.  The combination is perfect.  And who does not love having clues to find a treasure?

Cave at Tent Rocks

Cave at Tent Rocks

We also love it because our entire family does it together and enjoys every aspect of it.  We found our first letterbox when Chic was 5 and Chicklet was 2-1/2.  They think it is fun and ask when we are going if it has been a while since our last letterboxing excursion. 

Our log books are “pretty.”  They are not pretty because things are neatly recorded (they are not), but because they are filled with art.  Many letterboxers are amazing artists.  (Many are not, so it is not something about which to be intimidated.)  The different stamps in different colors are just pretty.  And each one has a hike (very short to long) and memory attached.  Logbooks are compact souvenirs that are priceless to me.

Subdivision trail near CO Springs

Subdivision trail near CO Springs

The thing I think we love most about letterboxing is the places we have been and the things we have seen that we would not have without letterboxing.  We have found parks and hiking trails near our neighborhood that we would have never found without hunting for a letterbox.  (And the hunt is the key.  I would say we find 2 out of 3 that we search for.  But the missing 1 is still a hike and still something new.)

Above and below are a just a few of things things that made it onto film that we would never have experienced without this hobby. (Most pictures will enlarge if clicked.)  The first picture is a nature preserve in Colorado.  There we saw many birds and had a fun hike.  (And got lots of mosquito bites!)  The second picture is a park that is inside a cul de sac in a neighborhood near out development.  The girls LOVED this place.  The third is a Tent Rocks National Monument.  We actually go there once or twice a year to hike, but we had never been on the trail for this cave until we were hunting for a letterbox.  The next picture is from a series of incredible hiking/biking trails that run through a development near Colorado Springs.  It was the most elaborate subdivision/development trail system I have ever seen.  What a treat for those who live near it!  And apparently the rodent population is well-fed there as well!

The next picture is a hilltop in Estes Park, CO.  In the spring it is covered with elk mothers and babies.  It was a short, fun trail, and we loved these ruins.

hilltop in Estes Park

hilltop in Estes Park

The hotel that  inspired the book (later a movie), The Shining, by Stephen King is also in Estes Park. We got this picture of it while searching for a letterbox.

The Shining Hotel

The Shining Hotel

Next has to be one of my favorite letterboxing finds.  We were led through an old cemetary with clues on the gravestones.  This group of stones was for the children in a family who died within weeks of each other.  How utterly horrible, but I know it used to happen all the time.  I loved these stones.  They made me feel like the parents realized how special their children were.

The Torkelsons

The Torkelsons

When Prince Charming and I went to Bermuda last spring, we spent two days letterboxing.  One of the locations was at an old fort (Bermuda is covered with them).  The beautiful ocean views are a dime a dozen in Bermuda (and worth more than every dime!), but the forts added interest to the trip and the scenery.

Bermuda sea through gunport

Also in Bermuda there were lots of feral chickens, but we would have never seen them had we not gotten off the beaten path to go letterboxing.  Besides this very proud rooster, we saw many hens with chicks.

When I travel to a specific area of the United States (as a National Park) or a foreign country, I have two main souvenirs:  A book about the region with lots of excellent photography and a book about regional flowers.  When searching for said regional books, we saw pictures of a Bermuda Longtail (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi).  We never saw one in real life, however, until we went on a hunt for a letterbox. If you do not enlarge any other photo, please enlarge this one.  I believe it is worth it!

Bermuda Longtail

Bermuda Longtail

My last picture is from our letterboxing trip on Labor Day.  There is a nature park/animal refuge about an hour from our home.  We never heard of it until we found it housed letterboxes.  We had a terrific time there, and I loved being so close to the animals.  All their animals are in captivity due to injury or some other reason that makes them unable to survive in the wild.  I cannot remember which hawk this was, but it was enormous, and I especially loved its eyes.  They look intelligent.  Many small birds do not have intelligent eyes, but the large birds of prey definitely do.  I have never before been able to be that close to such a bird.

hawk at Wildlife West Nature Park

hawk at Wildlife West Nature Park

And finally, I love letterboxing because it is something Prince Charming and I can do even when we are old.  We may not be able to climb some of the paths we do now, but there will be plenty of things to find, plenty of places to go and plenty of adventures to be had.  Letterboxes are all over the United States and in many other countries.  If it is not in your country, get it started!  It catches on quickly.  And if I visit your country and you have a box there, you can bet I will be looking for it!

click on photo to enlarge

click on photo to enlarge

I was driving home BY MYSELF last week and saw this sunset developing,  It was not spectacular yet.  I got home and watched a little more.  After a while, I decided to drive to a spot to get some good pictures.  It is not often that I have the freedom to just go somewhere and take pictures.  (Sunsets happen at bedtime, and although Prince Charming takes care of bedtime for the girls, I still need to be there most of the time for my part–song for each, hug and kiss–in the nightly ritual.) 

So I drove, with my dog, because there was thunder in the distance, and he did not want to be left home alone.  (After we got there, I think he wished I had left him.)  After parking, I spent the next 15 or 20 minutes slowing spinning in circles, taking pictures in every direction.  I was in the middle of an amazing view.  There were vibrant colors in every direction.  There were storm cells with lightning in two directions.  There was rain falling (but usually not hitting the ground–the darkness in the foreground of the sky in this picture is rain) in several directions.  I had 12 pictures left on my memory card when I was finished. 

What to pick?  I picked one of the last ones, not because it was the most spectacular, but because it does not really look real.  This picture does not look real to me, but it did not look any more real when I was out there.  It was even LESS real there because I could see the entire scope of sky.

I love New Mexico skies!

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures,  head to the SkyWatch blog hosted by Tom, Sandy , Imac and Klaus

by Louise Cannon

Each weekend David McMahon at Authorblog asks a question and asks readers to answer it on their own blogs. This week’s question is here.

The question is: Are you a nervous traveller?

Most of the time I would say that I am, but if it is a car trip and I am not driving, I am not nervous at all.  However, if it is a trip in which I am going to be driving all day with just my girls, then I am nervous.  I have no idea about what I am nervous , but I usually have difficulty sleeping the night before the big trip.  It is a strange phenomenon because I do not mind driving.  Just my neurotic uptight personality, I guess.

But my real nerves come when flying somewhere.  If it were not that flying is so fast and convenient, I would probably never do it.  I actually used to love it and had no fear whatsoever, but sometime in my twenties I was in a plane (a Cessna something-or-another with one engine and six seats, though I would not have volunteered to have the 5th or 6th seat!) owned by the company which employed me.  This trip was an all-day journey from southwest Missouri to Michigan and back, the purpose being to pick up two passengers in Michigan.

The trip began wonderfully.  I loved flying, and it was exciting because it was going to be a stormy day.  The weather radar showed cells building all around us.  On the way to Michigan, I sat next to the pilot with headphones on so I could hear what was going on.  Periodically we would get close to some cells, and turbulence would cause us to gain or lose a couple hundred feet of alititude at a time.  We were being buffeted like a feather in the wind, and it was exciting.  I would watch the radar and hope we would get closer to more cells.  I imagined myself taking flying lessons. The clouds we flew among were enormous, and the combination of their beauty and the bouncing made the flight seem like a surreal amusement park ride.  I was enjoying every second of it.

After picking up the passengers, we headed back.  I was relating to the passengers my exciting version of the trip so far and telling them how much fun I was SURE the return trip would be.  (Famous last words.)  We all settled in with our own good books and water handy.  Small squeals were heard when we hit good bumps.

The number of cells around us started increasing rapidly, and it came to the point that we were constantly in cells, trying to avoid the worst ones.  Still having entirely too much fun, I was hoping we could not avoid them because it was such a blast to bounce around in them.  The clouds were no longer pretty, however.  They had closed around us to make the scenery little more than grey.  Then, through my headphones, I heard we were headed for a tornado.  Now I have always wanted to see a tornado; I grew up right next to a “tornado alley,” but had never seen one.  But the nerves started to intrude at this point.  For one, it was so stormy and cloudy, that I did not think we would be able to see it unless we were IN it.  As much fun as the bumps were, the tornado did not seem like something that would be fun.  I suddenly was thoroughly unimpressed with slipping through the air with no visibility.  (And all thought of flying lessons bounced out of my head somewhere along the line.)

We never saw the tornado, nor did we get caught in it.  But my cavalier demeanor had already diminished, and it seemed there was no end in sight to the storm.  We were continually bumped and battered.  I was not terrified, but it was not exactly pleasurable anymore.  Then there was the Giant Bump.  Our little plane that had been previously flying with wings parallel to the ground was now flying with wings nearly perpendicular to the ground.  We apparently lost altitude during this as well because I remember all our water bottles being suspended in mid-air for what seemed like 3 minutes, but I know it was probably less than ten seconds.  The pilot did not “right” our plane in less than ten seconds, however.  Again, time was standing still, but it took more than a few seconds to get us flying level again.  I remember seeing the determined look on his face as he put all his strength into holding the plane as steady as he could.

No one knew, but my head was a mess the rest of the flight.  I prayed repeatedly for a safe landing, pretty sure my prayers would not be positely answered.  I watched the radar like a hawk to see what was ahead.  The pilot requested a different route because ours was so dangerous, but there were no. other. ways.  The storm had grown into a massive severe thunderstorm so big that going around it would mean running out of fuel.  My white knuckles clutched the armrests as we made our way home.

When we got below the clouds, it was calm.  I could not believe we had endured such turbulence and came into such relative calmness.  I did not kiss the ground when we exited the aircraft, but I wanted to.  The pilot who always had a terrific sense of humor said, “Cheated death again,” as we pulled up to the terminal.

Since then I have never liked to fly.  It is a necessary evil, and I do it, but without the least amount of joy.  I do not drink, but I always get on a flight and say that I am ready to take up drinking.  It is usually better than I expect it to be, but my nerves have never completely subsided. 

But what makes it worse is all the sounds and smells on commercial airliners that have no explanation.  When I am on a plane and hear a loud noise, then smell smoke, and no one bothers to say anything, am I supposed to just think all is fine?  Am I the only one on the aircraft that is concerned at that moment?

 

The last time I flew was with Prince Charming to Winnipeg for our 10th Anniversary.  One of the sounds I heard was an alarm bell.  No explanation.  If it is not something worthy of alarm, one would think they might not make it sound like a 5-alarm fire.  Another sound was the captain pushing his “ding” button for some kind of signal to the flight crew or possibly the passengers.  It is my opinion that there should be a card in the seat pockets that gives the meaning of all noises and signals.  To me, a briefing of what noises mean what from the flight attendant rather than how to buckle my seatbelt might be useful.  When that “dingy” noise happens five times rapidly, that sounds a little like some sort of trouble brewing to me.  What is different about when it happens four times than when it happens five times?  What if it is only twice?  Call me crazy, but I want to know what all that means! Maybe if we knew, we would all be screaming in a panic.  (I wouldn’t because I panic quietly in my head–but just as violently as those screaming loudly.)  But I cannot help but think that if I knew what those sounds meant, I would be a little calmer.

Because here is the strange thing.  Although it was a bad experience on the little Cessna that made me terrified of flying in the first place, I would still prefer to fly in it than a big jet.  At least on the little plane, I can see the instruments and hear the radio traffic and know everything is fine.  Clearly everything has been fine on the big jets as well (or I would not be here writing this), but NOT knowing at the time ties my stomach in knots and makes my knuckles ache from clutching the armrests so violently.  Probably the right answer is Xanax, but I have never tried that.  I am pretty sure if I did, I would be a vegetable upon arrival.

What I really want to use is a transporter like in Star Trek.

by Louise Cannon

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