Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bats in the Belfry

Since Zorro, our guide dog puppy, has now gone into training, we’ve been taking the opportunity of visiting some heritage sites around the south west of England before the next pup arrives and we don’t get the opportunity, or have the energy, to do much of anything except chase around after him!

A few weeks ago, I read about Dunster Castle, which lies on the edge of Exmoor near the coast. A new area of the Castle had recently been opened to visitors, which included a section of the Castle which is supposedly haunted. Since we’ve never been to Dunster before, we set off.

The Castle is surrounded by the most beautiful gardens which we explored voraciously and the whole site has the most fascinating history. In 1066, the site was granted to William de Mohun and remained in the de Mohun family until it was sold to the Luttrell family in 1405. The Luttrells remained owners until Sir Walter Luttrell gave the Castle and Grounds to the UK’s National Trust in 1976.

I love the quirky little snippets of information gleaned from wandering around old places like Dunster Castle. Things like:

They packed seashells underneath the floorboards of the Castle’s inner hall to dampen the noise made by enthusiastic dancers

That in the 16th Century Oliver Cromwell tried unsuccessfully to destroy the Castle and Grounds

That the dining room didn’t have paintings but leather hangings, because leather doesn’t absorb or retain the smell of food

That medieval diners were not allowed to scratch their heads while dining because of lice falling onto the table. Eeewwww.

We ended our visit with a trip to the Crypt. Here we viewed the Castle’s resident bats via a spy bat cam and read stories about how visitors to the Crypt had been spooked by strange visions and occurrences during their visit. It certainly felt extremely weird in the Crypt and while AJ takes a pragmatic, logical approach to these things, I have to admit I’m more susceptible to atmosphere and clung to him like a limpet mine (with an occasional furtive glance over my shoulder) as he patiently read the stories and viewed the photographs.

But while I love exploring old properties, I always come away with a sense of gratitude that I live in modern times and can enjoy my creature comforts 🙂

Graduation – At Last

I haven’t been on the e-waves much this month. June has proven to be a challenge. BUT — Mike (grandson) graduated the 9th and with a huge sigh of relief the family celebrated.

The ceremony was the 100th for the country school he attended. They held it on the football field in front of the covered stadium. And, though it didn’t rain it was freezing out. As you can see I only had a sweater on and I was better off than the graduates and much of the attendee’s.

We had booked a zip line party for him months earlier for the following Saturday. The zip line is on Camano Island, a 2 ½ hour drive north. I can’t say enough about this place. It’s family owned and they make a good time a fabulous time. Here’s the website if you’re looking for fun in the NW.

Because of the eye surgery and I’m a coward I didn’t go on the line but there were eight that did and a few have the name ‘tree hugger’ now.

We had a 10:00 tour and it was 2 hours long so afterward we tootled around the island stopping at Stanwood. We were in the old part with the museum and it is almost a ghost town. We visited a great furniture store promising ourselves we’d come back with the cargo trailer when things settled down at home.

Then taking in a fabulous antique store we said goodbye and headed for home. We didn’t get far as being the good sports they are, our guys agreed to stop at the outlet stores. Talk about challenge… the parking lot was full and you had to stand in line to get into the coach store. But we persevered. ☺ Afterward we were more than ready for dinner and finished the day with the best buffet we ever had, at the Tulalip Casino.

We left home at 6:00am and turned into the driveway around 9:30pm. The end to a perfect day. I can’t begin to tell you how blessed I am to have this family. We can do anything — together. Jack would be proud.

PS. I know many of you know this but Jack (husband, father, grandfather, friend, ….) passed away the 5th of this month. We weren’t ready and are still trying to grasp it all. It doesn’t seem real to us. And maybe it’s because we know he will always be with us and for us. The picture below was taken from our son’s porch the eve of his services. Family were out there and seeing it they thought it was from a plane but we’ve since been told it wasn’t made by a plane, that it’s a cloud formation.

Book Review – Feyland: The Bright Court (Anthea Sharp)

It’s Book Review Monday again and I just finished a book I’d love to talk about. The cover alone would have made me want to read it, but I was already aware of the series.

Having read Feyland: The Dark Realm, I was pulled right back into the story with this sequel, although I believe it would make sense to anyone who hadn’t read the first book in this series first. This young adult book really speaks to all ages, from pre-teen on up.

Jennet and Tam Linn are the only ones who can keep an immersive video game from opening the crack between their world and the Realm of Faerie. Their world feels slightly futuristic and has a realistic approach to the peer issues teens face, all while entertaining the reader with a story that includes video-gaming, sword fights, and fairy kings. As well, the relationship between Jennet and Tam Linn is very appropriate and perfectly timed with the story.

Honestly, I buy the whole premise of Feyland. It’s an imaginative and engrossing story that I highly recommend. I understand there will be one more installment to this story and I will be purchasing it as soon as it becomes available.

You can find more information about this book on the author’s website:

posted by Laurie Ryan

Guest Blog by Linda Shook – The Almighty Clothesline

Guest-blogging today is a friend Lavada and I met through Tacoma Reader’s Group, which is the largest and oldest reader’s group in the U.S. Linda has been an inspirational support to us  as authors, and we’re also delighted to call her friend. She has a great sense of humor, as evidenced by her ready laugh and quotes like this one she posted on her website:

“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes, and six months later you have to start all over again!”
**Joan Rivers**

I love it! 🙂 Well, without further ado, please welcome today’s guest-blogger, Linda Shook.

The Almighty Clothesline

“A clothesline was a news forecast, to neighbors passing by. There were no secrets you could keep, when clothes were hung to dry.”

Last summer, my grand daughter and I spent a Saturday morning driving around visiting various yard sales. I was down to the last $8.00 that I had allotted for this adventure, when we stopped at this big older home, with so much stuff set out, it would take hours to check it all out.  As I walked up their driveway, I spotted a treasure (at least in my mind). 

 It was a genuine umbrella type clothesline.  Now there’s a rule here in the mobile home park where I live~NO OUTDOOR CLOTHESLINES!  But I have a private back yard and I’ve always felt it wouldn’t be a problem for me to have one secreted in the back yard behind my house, not visible in anyway from the street. My neighbors never use their back yards so they wouldn’t be bothered by one either. There’s full sun all day~a perfect spot!

I asked the people what they wanted for their clothesline and an older lady said “$30.00…it’s only been used a couple times.”  “Oh” I moaned…”I don’t have that much cash left today.”  “How much do you have?” was her reply.   “Eight dollars” as I pulled it out of my pocket.  “SOLD” was her reply!  I handed over the $8.00. I couldn’t believe it. Her son even took it out and put it in my car for me.

I had to have Bob put a pipe down in the ground to hold the thing up and we put it down thru the umbrella hole in an old plastic outdoor table, which gives me a place to set the clothes basket when I’m out there hanging the wet clothes up and taking the dry ones down. 
I’m sure we can all remember the smell of line dried sheets and pillow cases from our childhood. And yes, even the towels…..even though they weren’t dryer soft, the fresh outdoor smell was worth the rough texture.

One thing I’ve discovered is that they don’t make clothes pins like they used to.  The ones sold today are pathetic replicas of the ones that mom used.  But I love hanging out clothes, towels, sheets & pillowcases.  For some reason I find it not only a way to save energy but calming. And the view from my side of the pegs is…..well delightful!

I hope to continue to hang clothes out during those sunny winter days too.  I remember was a kid, that mom would do that and yes they might freeze but she’d leave them out for as long as possible and then bring them in and hang them around the house on wooden racks.  They might finish drying in the house but they’d still have that fresh outdoor scent.  

The clothesline has played a huge part in America’s history.  Here’s a story from the Civil War days.
While the Union used many devious methods of spying during the Civil War, the clothesline telegraph was one of the most ingenious for relaying information about the Confederates’ movements. When the Union army was camped along the banks of the Rappahannock River in Virginia in early 1863, a black man named Dabney left a farm across the river and got a job as a cook and body servant at the Union headquarters. Becoming fascinated with the army’s system of telegraphs, he got the operators to explain the signs to him, and he immediately grasped and remembered them.

A short time later Dabney’s wife, who had accompanied him to the Union camp, asked permission to cross the river and work. She was allowed to go, and landed a job as a laundress at the headquarters of a prominent Confederate general. Soon after, Dabney seemed to know all the Rebels’ movements, and relayed the information to Union General Joseph Hooker within an hour after they were discussed among the Rebel generals.

One Union officer finally persuaded Dabney to reveal how he came by his information. Dabney took the officer to where they could view a cabin on the other side of the river and pointed out the clothes hanging on a line. He explained how his wife moved the clothes on the line according to the information she had gleaned from working around the Rebel officers at Lee’s headquarters.

“That there gray shirt is Longstreet; and when she takes it off, it means he’s gone down about Richmond. That white shirt means Hill; and when she moves it up to the west end of the line…[Hill] has moved upstream. That red one is Stonewall. He’s down on the right now, and if he moves, she will move that red shirt.” As long as the armies were camped across the river from each other, Dabney and his wife remained reliable sources of information.

One morning Dabney reported movements on the Rebel side, but said they were just a ruse. When asked how he knew, Dabney said his wife had pinned the bottom of two blankets together on the line, her way of symbolizing a fish trap into which Lee was trying to lure the Union soldiers.


The First Day of Summer

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Good morning from Oregon. Are we ever going to have summer? Our county fair is less than a month away and it’s still too cold to wash animals. The grandkids have been working on other projects lately though. You can … Continue reading

Sorry for Being MIA

Have been super stressed since the last time I posted here. My mother had a stroke and my son was here visiting from the UK and my cat is sick (I’m afraid she’s dying) and I’m just feeling a tad like pulling out my hair. I enjoyed what little time I got with my son but it felt rushed and hectic what with all that’s happening with my mom. My dad is taking good care of her but he’s not taking care of himself in the meantime. I’m trying to make sure they eat right (since dad is diabetic and mom usually is the one to make him to do the right thing with his diet). And, Oh yeah, there’s that day job thing, too.

The future daughter in law hurt my feelings a few times while they were here but I’m hoping it’s just because I feel ultra sensitive right now. I’ve prayed since my sons were born that they’d each choose someone I could love (or even like) as a daughter in law. I forgot to reverse that prayer and hope that she would like me. Alas.

Anyway, I seem to be Debbie Downer lately, so just ignore the woman behind the curtain!

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar … With Power Tools! By Valerie J. Patterson

I believe I completely know how Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor must have felt each time he held a power tool in his hand.  Sunday evening the bubbly hubby and I decided to finally open our screened-in outdoor living area so that we could take advantage of some of the cool evenings that have followed tremendous heat and high humidity days.  Ordinarily, Steve has this done in early May, and usually has dinner made and the outdoor table set for a nice little evening free of bugs and whatnot.

I love our outdoor living space because I can sit on our very generous swing and place a table in front of it, my laptop on top of the table, beverage of choice beside it, and allow the creativity to move my nimble fingers across the keys, their steady tap-tap-tap beating out the rhythm of a great mystery to be solved by my favorite heroine.

But I digress.

My swing turned 13 years old in May, and so did the cushion, which accidentally got left out in the elements instead of being securely tucked away for the winter.  Sadly, it needed replaced.  Not an easy task, I assure you since I wanted something very comparable to the original cushion.  So, Steve and I went shopping for what seemed like the eighth or tenth time, having taken back the cushion we bought in May because–while it looked nice in the store–it did not quite suit the character of the swing.

While we were out Steve said he wanted to buy a power/pressure washer so the cleaning of the outdoor living space would move faster and more thoroughly.  We finally settled on a washer about the same time we settled on the new swing cushion, which not only suits the character of the swing, but also passes the “Can I nap on it comfortably?” test.  We’re driving home and I asked, “Will you be power washing tonight?” Even though it’s 90+ degrees and humid as can be.  I’m anxious to use the swing and new cushion.

He shakes his head affirmatively, “I have a new toy, er, new tool to test, so I very well may power wash tonight.”

As we empty the trunk of our purchases, I caution that perhaps it’s not the best time to power wash given the fact that within seconds of being out of the air conditioning everything sticks to skin, and it’s as hot as a pizza oven outside.

He nods, considering my comments, but I can tell by the glint in his eye that he’s going to get that power washer out of the box and be outside before I can make the same cautionary comment.  And I’m right.

Sitting on the sofa in the house–where it’s not only cool and comfortable, but also humidity-free–I listen to the whir of the power washer and wonder what all the excitement is about power tools.  Changing into a pair of old capris and a tee, bare foot, and ready to get soaked, I open the side door and stick my head out.

“How’s it going?” I ask as I look around and notice everything is white again and spotless.

“This thing works like a dream,” he responds.  “I don’t think I need to repaint the banisters after all.”

I notice that he’s cleaned the screened walls, the banisters, and the flooring, but all the furniture is outside on the lawn.  “Can I power wash?” I ask.

“Sure, just put something on your feet.”

I grab his sandals from inside the door, slip my feet into them, and follow him out to the lawn.  He hands me the power gun, which isn’t as heavy as I imagined, and instructs me on how to use it.  I aim it at the first patio chair and squeeze the trigger.  A 46-degree jet of water shoots out and obliterates the winter grime covering the patio chair.  Instantly, I hear the tool man’s guttural, “ooh-ooh-ohho-oh” in my mind and nearly belt it out myself.

Steve turns the chair over and I do the underside before he flips it back over for me to do the topside again.  Instantly–and I do mean instantly–the patio chair looks brand new … like I just brought it home from the store.

I grin.  I can understand why Steve jokingly–or was it–said he had a new toy to try out.  I move onto the next patio chair, then the table, then my ornamental flag my friend, Sharon gave me eons ago.  Hah!  What do you know?  The flag looks as good as the day I first set it out!  Now, I’m ready to power wash everything in sight!  Let me at it!

I go back into the screened enclosure and look at my old friend the swing.  “You haven’t done this yet?” I inquire?

Steve shakes his head.  “Not yet.”

“Good.”  And I unleash my jet stream of water and soap onto the swing.  Last winter’s grime is no match for my, er, Steve’s new power washer!

I release the trigger, lower the gun, and stare at the now clean swing glistening with droplets of water.  I look toward the sky and unleash my own version of the tool grunt.

Yes, indeed, I am woman.  I use power tools.  Hear me roar!