Monday, December 28, 2015

Year End Round-Up

What did 2015 do for you?  It is the end of another year and, as always, we tend to get a little whispy-eyed with memories of the last 12 months.

This year had it ups and downs.  There were good things and there were bad things.  Of course, we all remember those incidences which just happened... like my mother-in-law passing just prior to Christmas.  That was definitely a down thing but you can spin it as an up thing: She was 103 and had lived a very full life.  Her health had been failing, along with her memory - and that hurt, especially my wife who visited her several times a week.  It's hard when your mother doesn't remember who you are - but, she knows you, just not your name.

Of course, there was my doctor visit in November which wasn't all that great.  My blood sugar was averaging 246 for the last six months and he basically told me, fix it or die.  Again, to spin a good thing to it, I have since lost 18 pounds and my sugar has been hovering around the 100-120 mark.  That is a very good thing.  I'll be going back in January for another blood draw to see what the new results will be.  I'm hoping to lose another few pounds in the meantime.

While on the subject of weight, I'll go clear back to the beginning of the year when I was making resolutions.  What were they?  Lose 25 pounds. Publish 3 books.  So let's see what I did.

Back in June I got so sick I could barely swallow.  I lost weight - a lot of weight.  I lost a total of over 30 pounds.  Then I got well.  I found them.  I didn't have to go that far to search, either.  They were ever so quick to return - and return they did.  Okay, I didn't get them ALL back.  I was able to let some free to roam and find another home.  About 10 pounds were left on the range.  So with the doctor's colorful health report, I've lost almost another 20 pounds, so, in total, I've lost almost 30 pounds this year.  THAT I call a success.  I reached my goal of 25 pounds.  Oh, for you readers, if you find these stray pounds, their yours to keep - call it my gift, if you will.  I don't want them back so they're free for the keeping.  I'm sure they'll be good to keep you warm - not healthy, but good.

Now, to the publishing.  In April I published "The Secret Voice" which has been a great seller.  I have had to order it twice from Amazon to keep it in stock.  I even sold a copy to the young lady who helped me at WalMart when I created my new poster of the cover.  My one classmate also works there and she's been telling everyone about and well, do you have any idea what it is like to have a clerk ask if she can buy a copy?  If you go to Amazon, it doesn't look like it is selling because all the copies I sell don't reflect... and I've sold a LOT of copies.

Anyway, I published that book and was able to finally get my 2nd book published yesterday and should be available now.  "CRACKED! The Writing Mystique" is a short how-to about handling the different aspects (mystiques) of writing including character detail, active/passive voice, writing sex and so much more.  As always, I made sure to include examples so it could be easily understood.

Did I publish three books?  No.  I really feel ashamed.  I could have done so easily but I didn't and there absolutely no excuse.  Of course, I've been working on the sequel to "The Secret Voice" and, as many writers will understand, my mind has been attacked by several other plots and stories that are screaming for attention. I was just busy with other things - like family and life, I guess.

Of course, this year, my wife and I tried to do a little more camping.  Of course, with her mother's health, we didn't want to travel too far away.  Most of the time we went to the local state park just a few miles up the road and would camp there for the week, skipping out Friday morning before it got too crowded.  We did do a trip up into Michigan with our middle granddaughters (ages 13 and 9) where we got in some great fishing.  That was about 5 hours from home... not too far, but away.

My garden.  It was a good garden.  I even was able to grow some sweet corn and it was delicious. My wife canned some tomatoes, making stewed, diced, juice and even several jars of salsa which I have pretty well decimated already.  She agrees - more salsa next year.  Yes, I have already received what I call the best fiction mags of the year - the garden seed catalogs.  And, yes, I already have delusions, uh, I mean, dreams of things I want to attempt to grow this coming year.  Since I was so busy doing mulch to certain areas, I am going to have to be a little more selective in what I want to grow in containers.  I have plans for a couple of tubs.  Of course, my two hanging deck boxes I have to allocate some nice draping plants.  And the step planters, those big 24-inch pots will need some color, too.  In just a few short months I'll be starting my garden seeds likes tomatoes, peppers and just not sure what else as of now.

Also, this coming year, I want to attempt raising some chickens - about 50 for slaughter and another 5 or 6 for eggs during the summer and fall.  Of course, if winter next year is anything like it has been so far this year, those chickens might make it through the winter.  Oh, and I'd like to also raise about 2, maybe 3 turkeys.  Living in the countryside does have its perks but then again, it also has the critters that like chickens and turkeys, especially the young ones... oh, and eggs, too!

So, as you can see, I'm already getting around to my New Years Resolutions for 2016.  I'll keep it simple.  Lose another 25 pounds.  Publish at least 2 books.  Raise some chickens and turkeys.  Grow a garden.  Travel, camp and fish more.  Oh, and spend more time with my wife, kids, grandkids, great grandkids, family and friends.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, December 14, 2015

I'm Back.

I know I've been remiss in doing my weekly blog but I had to take care of a few things and to be quite honest, I just didn't feel I could be fair to my readership.  Here's a little of what has happened in the interim...

1) NaNoWriMo.  Yes, I attempted and succeeded once again with this program.  This year I couldn't decide if I wanted to slap-write my 2nd Amish novel or do the writing book that was buzzing around in my head.  A friend suggested both.  That's what I did.  I accomplished over 52k words by the end of the month, completing my writing book and actually accomplishing quite a bit on my Amish novel.  So, hang in there, I've got some books coming out soon.  More later...

2) Health.  Remember my New Year's resolutions to lose some weight - okay, at least 25 pounds?  I actually accomplished that back in June, losing almost 30.  I got so sick, I couldn't eat and basically was on a liquid diet.  Yeah, I lost weight.  But to be honest, it just lingered around the corner and when I wasn't looking, most of it jumped back on board.  Not good.  I went to my doctor back in November and well, he tried to sugar-coat the results of my latest blood test.  "Get your diabetes under control or die."  WOW!  He said he couldn't sugar coat it because I'm a diabetic, which is true for the last 15 years.  Seems my A1C went from a not-so-great 7.3 to a Holy Crap! 10.4.  For those not in the know, an A1C in the range of 4.5 to 5.9 is consider good.  My diabetes was totally out of control with high blood results averaging 243 for the past 6 months.  I have since taken active steps to correct the situation.  He had changed my meds - I had him put me back on the old meds which were working.  Since then, my sugar has dropped drastically into more acceptable numbers.  I'm watching my food intake and exercising more.  My doctor said if I can get my sugar under 130 on a regular basis, he will be happy (and surprised!)  Last night, before supper, my sugar was 126.  I'm eating my healthier right now and from what I could tell - I went to the Medical Center with my wife and stopped at my doctor to get weighed in - my weight is down 6 pounds in one week.  I will allow a little variance since it wasn't the same scale, but still, those scales are checked often throughout the year - so there shouldn't be too much change.  But, we'll keep tabs on it.

3) I mentioned publishing a book back in item #1.  That's right, hopefully, sometime this coming week, I will release "CRACKED! The Writing Mystique" which is a book to help a new writer understand some of the secrets of good writing and aide those seasoned writers with their writing.  I figure the e-book will be released at $.99 - at least for a few days.  There will be the paperback but I'm unsure exactly how much it will be since I need to have CreateSpace calculate all the expenses. My New Year's resolution goal was to publish 3 books - I got two books out with this one.  Hmm?  Last year I wanted to publish 4 books and only got out 3, so this year I decided on 3 and only got out 2 books.  Maybe next year I should consider 11 books and publish 10.  Whoo-hoo!!

4) On the home front, I was able to get a lot of landscaping done before the winter chills came in. We had this home built in 2006 and now, finally, after almost 10 years, I have a sidewalk to be somewhat proud of.  Prior, it was some mud, grass, a couple of rubber mats and a short length of carpet remnant.  Now it is an attractive angled walk of bricks with an edging of mulch.  In fact, there is matching mulch in front of the low brick wall and a large expanse of ground (heavy clay) that wouldn't even grow weeds. Oh, and the angled ground which had irises and day lilies, it is now a lovely stretch of mulch.  I will be guarding it against weeds with a self-made concoction of weed-killer including dish soap and vinegar plus some other stuff.  It's not as harsh as RoundUp and therefore will take quite a few hits to finally exhaust the plant's growth and kill it.  Still, if it gets on my good plants, it won't kill them and I can spray with water to rinse it off.  Not so with RoundUp.

5) Hoarding. We've all seen those shows were people hoard and hoard. My wife and I have started to hoard, too.  Slightly different.  The local grocery had 8 weeks of specials where you could get certain items at a very low price in limited quantities.  We also had a couple of friends who got those mailers and didn't want the items.  Guess who got them?  Then they decided to also have a 10 for $10 sale and other amounts.  Imagine - 10 1 pound packages of Butterball turkey bacon for $10.  Around here, that stuff usually sells for the cheap side at $3.99/pkg.  Need I say we bulked up?  They had 80/20 hamburger for $1.99/lb.  Yup!  We bought in 3+ lb packages and re-packaged into 1 lb bags and put it in the freezer.  They had all sorts of stuff on sale and we bought and bought to stock up.  Our big freezer is packed and the smaller one is also full.  We did a lot of canning and freezing of our garden goodies, too.  I kid you not, we can eat very well for the next 2 or 3 months and not leave the house except for milk which we don't drink that much of, anyway.  Oh, I forgot to mention, my grandson hunts and has gotten 2 deer so far this year.  He can only get one more.  The 2nd deer is still being processed and I have NO idea where we will put it.  What's nice, I can take a little venison and some of that 80/20 hamburger and get a very lean mixture which is even better for me.

6) Weather-wise - I'm not going to complain one bit.  I'm basically still running around outside in shorts and t-shirts in NW Ohio.  Okay, when I go into town, I put on bluejeans and sometimes a light jacket.  There has been only a couple of days that I've actually had to put on my leather jacket because it was so cold.  My wife, on the other hand, thinks it is chilly - but then again, I'm the guy who runs around in shorts all winter in the house, putting on a shirt when company comes. LOL.  I can handle extremes of heat and cold.  I'll be honest, I prefer 70 for a temperature year round but we keep our house a little warmer if we use air-conditioning - meaning it is too hot outside with no breeze and the windows can't be open.  In the winter, we keep it a little cooler, about 68.  Just had a thought!  Maybe that's why we don't get a lot of company. LOL.  Just kidding, this house should have a revolving door for the way people come and go here with 4 sons and 10 grandchildren, 4 of which are on their own, some with families.  It's a mob when the family gathers here.

Hopefully things will get better in my life.  I intend to get my blog out in a timely manner each week and, once again, I apologize for my absence.

Until next I ramble on...


Monday, October 19, 2015

Camp Eats

As one adult Scout leader said to me: You're cut from a different piece of fabric when dealing with meals while camping.

That may be true. I am not your typical hot dogs, hamburgers, and PBJ sandwiches dude when fixing a meal while out camping.  Sure, for a day hike, make it simple: PBJ sandwich with potato chips. It's a light load on the back and the peanut butter is a great protein pick-me-up.


When at the camp, make a meal.  In the past, I've taught several Boys Scouts how to cook some tasty meals like Faux Red Wine Roast, twice-baked potatoes, spiced carrots and for dessert, Hawaiian baked apples. And, yes, it was done out in the open, over open fires and/or coals.

Just because you're camping, doesn't mean you have to give up healthy and/or tasty meals. There is absolutely no reason to resort to hot dogs or luncheon meat sandwiches as the fare of the day.  Don't think I'm a snob, either.  Of course, I know boys, and they enjoy hot dogs - I just don't plan on those being the meal each time we go camping. They learned how to bake a pizza in a cardboard box, do up stir fry and sometimes, create their own meals with just some given raw ingredients.

Let me move on.  That was a few years back (almost 2 decades!) when I was involved heavily into Boy Scouts.  Today, I am an avid RV motorhome camper.  That's right.  After several years - nay, decades, of sleeping in a tent, on the ground, I advanced to a popup camper for a short length of time for a few summers and then I retired.

My first purchase was a 28 foot Allegro motorhome.  It was a used beauty with 19K miles and 8 yrs old.  Now, nine years later, it has over 80K.  Some may not think that to be all that much, but one must realize, it is a "shared" amount of travel.  My brother-in-law bought a small motorhome the year before I bought mine. We often double up.  In other words, one time we will take his, the next time, mine. The four of us enjoying a trip together of 1, 2 or even 3 weeks while traveling this fantastic and beautiful US of A. We've been to almost all the states in the last 9 years except the New England states above NY and the 3 extreme NW states - Oregon, Washington and Alaska.  Oh, and Hawaii. By the way, he has almost 80K miles on his camper, too.

Last week my wife and I went to a local state park and just enjoyed the cool autumn weather, changing colors and the less hectic campground of summer's youth.  Of course, we still have our certain lifestyle commitments.  My wife had her church ladies' Wednesday afternoon card session. Since we were only 11 miles from home - but it seemed much further - she headed back into town for the social event.

I took that day to be my own special time and did some editing and writing.

My mind wandered. It was 1pm. I pulled out a bag of shrimp and a package of bacon from the freezer to start thawing. Supper was brewing in my mind.  I grabbed a couple of spuds and peeled them. A quick dice into cottage fries and they were ready to go into oil for the first crisping.  I decided to try a new technique I'd read about - pre-frying, allow to cool, then re-fry them for a crispy outside.  Here's what they looked like after the first oil dip.

It is now 4pm. The potatoes are cooling. The shrimp and bacon have defrosted.  I cut the bacon in half and wrapped up some shrimp.  I was a little ticked since I didn't have any ranch dressing to coat the shrimp or even some bleu cheese to stuff them before wrapping them up.  They were generic shrimp with bacon.  Oh well, here's what they looked like.  Remember, it is a small oven so I couldn't do all the shrimp.  It was a 1 pound package of about 30 shrimp - 16 got wrapped.

That meant, I had some shrimp left over. I knew my wife enjoyed when I'd do up my Easy Lemon Shrimp - so, I decided to make some of it. I thought my wife had a lot more pots and pans in the RV than I was finding.  I assumed she had taken them in to clean and just forgot to bring them back out. So I had to improvise. Normally this is done in a skillet, I had to microwave them. I should have put the butter on the top to allow it to melt down over the shrimp, but, well, we learn as we go when one decides to cook by the seat-of-his-pants.

Did I mention I discovered some sweet corn?  Yup!  We'd found a little roadside stand and bought a half dozen.  We had company coming to visit for supper the next night, so I knew I could sneak 2 ears away for this meal.

We had estimated my wife's return to be around 6-6:15pm.  I had everything on the stove or in the oven with a finish time of 6:15.  My wife pulled into the parking spot at 5:40pm.  Definitely ahead of schedule but I didn't get flustered.  I had cleaned the RV, taken out the trash, lighted a couple of candles and had a meal cooking that wafted on the air to tease and torment nearby campers.  At 6:15pm, we sat at the table and enjoyed the meal with a couple of slices of buttered "everything" Italian bread. For those who don't know what "everything" bread is: think everything bagel topping but on bread. That's right: garlic, onion, poppy seed, sesame seed, cracked pepper, coarse salt.  Mmm.

Cottage fries to left, bacon wrapped shrimp at top, lemon shrimp bottom right.

Need I say this meal was...   YUM!!

Of course, my wife loves me and she would have been thrilled with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Why?  Because she didn't have to make the meal.  Still, she loves her seafood and thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

By the way - clean up was very simple. The oven pan was covered with aluminum - trashed the aluminum foil. The lemon shrimp was done in one dish in the microwave. The corn was boiled in a pan. The fries were done in a small skillet with ONE cup of oil.  The dishes were paper plates.  So I had a few utensils and a couple of pans.  10 minutes, the kitchen was clean.

Oh, and the following night we made an old Boy Scout favorite - foil packs.  Yup!  That's a hamburger smothered with sliced potatoes and your choice of vegetables and condiments.  Me?  I had sliced carrots, celery, onion, soy sauce, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, green peppers, salt and pepper with some pats of butter.  It is all wrapped up in aluminum foil and baked on coals in the fire.  We started in the fire since I'd spent most of the day creating a great bed of coals but the rain forced us to finish in the oven.  Oh, I forgot to mention, I'd saved some grease from the bacon I'd had for breakfast and put some of it on my raw hamburger to "flavor" it.  My foil pack was absolute heaven.

Our company had never had foil packs and enjoyed the fun of creating them and even more fun opening and eating them.

Camping can be about hot dogs but with a little flair, it can be a lot more fun.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 12, 2015

School Fund Raising

It is every grandparent's nightmare.  The start of school and the few months before Christmas when every school in the nation seems to take on a plethora of fund-raisers.

If your grandchild is active in school, the typical grandparents will dole out the dollars to make little Billy or Beth Ann a proud child.

How?  You dare to ask?

Simple.  I currently have only 2 granddaughters in middle school. The older four have graduated and the younger four haven't started... yet.  That's right, another four coming through the ranks and it isn't getting any cheaper.

My granddaughters are active.  They play sports.  They play band.  They belong to chorus.  Oh, and the older of the two just started high school and now is thinking of joining some clubs.

The band is selling stuff to raise money for something - aren't they always? The one sport's group is also actively hustling something to buy.  And I believe the chorus/music department is pushing something, too.

I'm diabetic.  There is only so much candy one can buy and the diabetic candy is even more expensive!  Oh, wait, they have non-sweet, not candy stuff to sell. So the diabetic can't get away.

Just what I need. Wrapping paper that costs more than the present itself.  Really?  I want to purchase three sheets of colorful "holiday" wrap that will bring joy to any child opening the present?  What?!! I spent $12 on those 3 sheets and they will "nicely" wrap 3 boxes, 15 X 3 X 10.  Huh?  So basically it will cover a standard shirt/blouse box.  I buy a nice t-shirt (on sale) for $2 and buy a box, another $.75 and then wrap it in a sheet of $4 "colorful holiday" wrap.

We live about 2 hours away from these grandchildren, so it isn't like they can "pop-over" to let grandma and grandpa check out the list.

No worries!!  You can now do it ONLINE!!

That's right.  Grandma went online and she found grandpa's favorite candy - candy corn.  She was able to get a whole pound for only - do you want to guess?  Only $12.  But wait!  There's shipping charges.  Of course, if you spend $50, shipping is free.  Uh, another word synonymous with grandparent is retired and with retired is the ever-popular limited income.

Simple enough.  Just buy $25 from each girl and get the free shipping.  No!!  Each order is individual and the $50 is per child.  So grandma paid the shipping - another $8.75.

WHAT?!!!  Almost $21.  And I am now the proud owner of a cheap, clear glass container of one whole pound of candy corn - some have been dipped in chocolate.

Be still my heart.

It was delivered today.  I'm expecting the other box to come tomorrow.

Now for the truly sad part about this whole fiasco.

We ordered and the school will get its token amount - and it better be a goodly amount - but our granddaughters will get credit for the sales but it won't reflect on the scoreboard since only after the event is over and the sales have been finalized, will the final figures be revealed.  On the day the orders need to be turned in, some secretary is going to tally up each child's order form (key word here) and the one who sold the most will get the big prize at General Assembly the next day.  So much for Internet sales. Plus, the winner is always the person with the most relatives in the area.  My granddaughters have an uncle near them.  The rest of the family live 2+ hours away.

Personally, I would rather have just taken a ten (or a twenty since that is what it all added up to) out of my pocket for each girl and given it to the school directly.  Everyone would have been ahead.  I truly don't believe the school made $10 on my $12 order.  I certainly didn't need a pound of candy and it would have eliminated a lot of stress on my wife who spent too much time agonizing over all the possible items to select just the right one - in other words, the most for the cheapest price.

Be honest now.  When presented with the order form, it is Nature's mechanism kicking in to look at the full selection and then decide which item gives you the best bang for the buck.  It's only natural. We do it with any catalog.  We will select an item on desire THEN look at the price and decide to find another that is "less expensive" and close to what we want.

Before I forget - I commend those brave parents who take these order forms into work and covertly badger co-workers to buy.  When I worked in a factory, it was quite common to see several of these order forms either thumb-tacked to the bulletin board or discreetly sprawled across a lunch table.  Don't get me started on Girl Scout cookies since that seems to be the "get in your face" marketing ploy for sales.  Who can say no to Girl Scout mint cookies.  At pushing $4 a box, I'm learning how.

But, if you look at an order form, 90% of the time, at the top you'll find grandma and grandpa.  Mom and dad aren't at the top, they are at the very end of the list to make up the difference in the pseudo competition created to reach a certain level.

From mid-September until mid/late November, let the crazy fund-raising begin.

I wonder - will a school just accept a cash donation and get rid of this ridiculous thievery? The only ones who I feel are making out like bandits are the fund raising companies.  How much of that $12 I spent will the school receive?  Think about it.  IF I were to give $10 out of my wallet, I am going to bet I am giving them more than they get with all this fund raising.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Small Town Movie Theater

Last week I noticed our local theater was showing a couple of movies I really, REALLY wanted to see and well, they're not the type my wife enjoys, so it would be a bachelor night out.

I was primed and excited.  A Thursday night.  I was going to go on Tuesday night but decided there really wasn't any reason since the Tuesday 2-for-1 price really wouldn't have any bearing on the matter. Plus, on Thursday night, it is BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag and let them fill it for free with popcorn.  All you pay for is the butter and extra butter, if you want it.  I've seen a group of 4 girls come in with a black trash bag and get it filled at least 1/3, if not 1/2 full.  Side note: They threw the EMPTY bag in the trash at the end of the movie!!

Anyway, Thursday night it was - a cheap night for me.  Showing was "The Martian" at cinema 1 and at cinema 3 was "The Intern."  With judicial timing, I could see "The Martian" at 5pm and step over to cinema 3 at 7:30pm to watch "The Intern."  It was going to be a perfect night.

Two movies, free popcorn.  Perfect, just perfect.

Did you note the earlier sentence... going to be?  Drove into town, found a parking spot which was easy since the whole town square seemed dead.  Walked to the movie theater, a little confused since the lights weren't on.  And for a very good reason.

They were closed.  HUH??

Seems that week they started the new policy.  Only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

So much for my double feature.  So much for the free popcorn.  As my one daughter-in-law constantly tells me: Sucks to be you.

I went home.  I was really down in the slumps.  I enjoyed going to the show during the week since it wasn't packed full of young kids, crying babies and others who really didn't want to see the movie so they decide to ruin for everyone else.

There was no way in Hell I would be going to the matinee at 5pm on a Friday or Saturday.  Every 15 year old in town would be filling the cheap seats.  And waiting for the 2nd showing after 7pm was just as bad with all the families and/or daters.

So, Sunday night, I figure it might be a safe play.  Everyone is getting ready to go back to work or school.  The 5pm showing could be gamey but not too bad.  The 2nd show should be okay.

Of course, the free popcorn won't happen.  No, I'll pay the senior price for a ticket, $5 for each show.  That will be a major investment of $10.  Then I'll need a big tub of butter popcorn - that should be about $4.50 plus a large diet pop, another $3.50.  I might be able to stretch the popcorn for the 2nd showing, but I'll definitely need another bladder-buster pop. Okay, let's be honest, I love popcorn. I'll have to buy more for the 2nd show.  Hm?  $16 in treats - if I don't buy any candy and only $10 to get in.

What's wrong with this picture?

Usually when I and my wife go out to the show, we call it date night.  And I'm cheap.

Some fast-food chain $1 menu - 2 burgers, 2 fries, 1 large drink = $5.00
Tuesday night 2-for-1 tickets = $5.00
Theater refreshments - 1 large tub of popcorn with extra butter and 2 large drinks = $11.50
Oh, I forgot, she has to have her Snowcaps = $3.00 (the same one you can buy for $.99 elsewhere.).

Well, it "was" a cheap night out until we hit the concession stand. LOL.

What really upsets me though is the fact that the movie theater is closed during the week.  How many remember the drive-in movies?  They were open every night, then only on weekends, and then...

I'm worried that our local theater will be closing.  It was a nice theater when I was kid - it was big with a stage that had magic shows and all sorts of wonderful entertainment, not to mention the Saturday matinees.  I joined the service, moved away and now I'm back, it has been upgraded and downsized into 3 cinemas enabling it to show all the new movies for a week before the next big flick hits the screen.

I think whoever is watching sales and marketing has lost it.  During the summer, it was open and had poor attendance.  Let's review:  It is summer.  I want to go on vacation.  I want to picnic.  I want to play baseball, tennis, go swimming or just enjoy the summer evening.  Now it is Fall.  Kids are back in school. Everyone is home.  Let's close the theater since nobody came during the summer.

Hellllooo???  Nobody was home during the summer!!  Marketing 101.  I'm not traveling as much. I'm not attending baseball games or swim meets.  I'm not picnicking.  I'm home.  In the evening, after the meal, I'd love to attend a movie for some entertainment.

Nope!!  Can't do that.  They closed.

And the scary part?  They may close forever.  Movies are going to DVD faster than ever.  Why go to the theater when it will be available in about 7 months to watch on our own Smart LED 60+ inch televisions?

So, order from Chan Ling's carryout menu, curl up on the couch and download a new movie to watch on your smart television, It's coming!!

Drive ins are dead.  Movie theaters just haven't been notified as yet, but it is coming.

Don't let it happen!!! Go to a movie.  Enjoy an evening out.  Keep your local theater open.

Until next I ramble on...

UPDATE: "The Intern" - an excellent movie which I highly recommend.  "The Martian" was a good movie with a lot of twists and turns, told in an almost diary format. Something tells me the book was lot, LOT better!!!  Oh, and they changed the schedule at the theater for Sunday's viewing. I had to wait almost an hour and a half between movies or miss about 30-40 minutes of "The Intern" beginning.  I figure I can skip up to maybe 15 minutes of the start of a movie that's at/over 2 hours long... but half an hour? Back to "The Intern." Linda Lavin (aka Alice in the TV series Alice or as most people remember, Mel's Diner) has a small but very special part. She was priceless. Anne Hathaway, Robert DeNiro and Rene Russo were great. Even Adam DeVine (famous for Bumper in the Pitch Perfect franchises) did a bang-up job. Will definitely get "The Intern" when the DVD comes out.

Monday, September 28, 2015


There is an old, old song by Carly Simon which has the phrase: You're so vain, you thought this song was about you. Sometimes it is necessary for one to actually be somewhat vain. Of course, I mean that in only the nicest of ways.

BTW, here's a link to a remake of Carly's song:

Years ago, while I was in the service, at a duty station, one of the secretaries told my buddy he was vain to which he replied: That can't be. Vanity is a fault and I have none.

Nonetheless, give it a try, be a little vain — in other words do some egosurfing, auto-googling, egosearching, a vanitysearch ... whatever you want to call it.

Using your favorite browser — Google, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.  Type in your name, hit "Enter" and see where your name appears. You might be surprised!

On a whim, I did this the other day and discovered I was all over the Internet.  A pleasant surprise — okay, I'll admit, my head did swell just a tiny, tiny amount, if you're comparing it to Jupiter.  I'm amazed I didn't soar with the other hot-air balloons in the area that day.

Discovering your name at this website or that website can make a person rather proud. Of course, what is even more exciting, to find your name at a site you didn't know your name was going to show. Imagine my surprise, years ago when I did this to find one of my "paintings" at a website to honor John Carter. I'm a big fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his writings, including the John Carter of Mars series. I'd created a 3-D image, rather bland in shades of reds, blues and lavenders. With the soft plateaus and hazy plains, I envisioned it as Mars. I need to have that website updated, too. LOL.

But, I digress. When I did the search the other day, being coerced by PCH (Publishing Clearing House) to use their search engine to enter the drawing, I entered "Bob Nailor" to see what would display.

To quote Gomer Pyle: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

I discovered on one of MY personal web pages, the data was a tad out of date, by about three (3) years!!  Of course, I was able to immediately go into my domain and correct the offending page(s) as needed with more updated information.

I also discovered that my information was out of date at several other web pages including Google+, Good Reads, Amazon and, color me red, too many other places that I had some control over but had not kept updated.

Therefore, don't feel it is vanity to search for your name. Do so and find out if you are inadvertently being publicized on a page you'd rather not have your name plastered on, or discover, as I did, that your data is out of date — which could be worse!

Did you catch that?  On a page you'd rather not be on? Imagine finding yourself on a web page, which in and of itself can be considered an honor, but it's a website that you'd rather not have your name associated with.  For instance, a raunchy romance web page with an image of your book cover and your name.

I found my latest book cover, The Secret Voice which is an Christian Amish novel on a gay site with the following blurb: One hot dude. I sent a letter to the web owner with a simple request, either post a review of the book or remove the cover since I was quite sure the original photographer would be upset.  I had no issue with it being on a gay website but I didn't want it the cover to be used as sensual endeavor.  I can't control who reads my books or who reviews them or how they review. The web owner was very nice and explained that other people could post to his page and he would take it down since the object of the page was to invoke sexual responses.  Not all website owners will be as nice, but if you approach them nicely and professionally, most will respond politely.

The bottom line to this ego trip is simple. Find out where your name is listed.  Is it correct? If not, can you correct it or have it corrected?

Go forth, my friends, and EgoSurf.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Sound Off

Got to brag a little... just a little.  I finally con(ned)vinced my wife into a 60 inch LED Smart TV. I ordered it and it arrived on Wednesday.  I was elated.  I had also ordered a 32 inch for the office area.  I connected the smaller one and was amazed at the clarity and picture. Yeah, I HAD to set up the big one immediately.

OMG!  Talk about huge.  I love it.  I love it.  I love it.

I wanted to attach it to the wall and also ordered a wall mount.  It advertised as a universal mount that tilted and allowed the television to "roll, pitch and yaw" as needed for viewing.

Uh, the only thing the package I got would perform was - tilt.  Okay, I can call that pitch.  What happened to my roll and yaw?

For those who aren't familiar with the terms - I prior U. S. Navy.  Our ship would roll - that means it would rock left to right on the waves  The ship could also pitch - in other words, the bow (front) of the ship would dip down into the wave and then move upwards sort of like a teeter-totter moves.  Now the yaw if more difficult to describe.  It basically is all the other directions now covered by roll and pitch. The rear view mirror sort of does a yaw movement. It allows you to place the mirror in almost any angle and direction.

So, for me, paying for a mount that just tilt - not a happy camper.  Where I wanted to put the TV on the wall, it would be near the ceiling and about 5 inches from the corner on the one side.  Take a peek at the drawing. The red line in the corner indicates the TV as per how the mount will install. The blue line in the way I need it to be mounted for viewing - hence the roll, pitch and yaw requirements. The green lines are seating and the long lines are couches. The couch by the hall arch is for "overflow" seating when the family comes to visit and at that time, the TV is seldom on.  Just image having to sit on the couch and be the person nearest the door? With the blue line, you have a chance. With the red line, the viewing is going to be terrible.
Don't ask me to rearrange the furniture.  I despise having the TV being the focal point of the room. And that little green line at the upper corner is my lounger - need I say more?  Not all the furniture is shown and things are quite to scale, but close. The room is 24x15.

Now, let me get to the real meat of this discussion.  SOUND!!

I was watching a movie Friday night and the music practically blasted me out of my seat and then the characters would start to talk.  Actually it was more like a whisper.  I'd have to raise the volume and then the movie would have the dramatic music and once again I was blasted to become one with the stuffing of the chair. So I would lower it and then dialog whispering would start and I'd have to once more ... Long story short.  My finger got tired of raising and lowering the volume.  The next movie on and did the same thing.

WHY? Why do producers feel that we need to have our butt shaken in the seats?  I think it started back 1977, at the theaters when Star Wars was introduced to the public and the introduction blared and rumbled our seats.  We were hooked.  It was awesome!!

I was busy on Saturday and most of Sunday so I didn't get to watch much television. My #1 son came over, I had the TV on and of course, the music blasted us and I started to rant and rave.

He showed me a setting on the "Audio" menu.  I couldn't believe it.  "Sound Leveling."  If you think your teenage son is a smart-ass - just wait until he is over 40.  My son gave me an innocent stare and said: It's a smart tv, dad. Let it do its job.

Ah, yeah.  I wanted to rant and rave here about movie producers not have the brains they were born with and only wanting to destroy what little ability we have remaining to hear things.

But, in the infamous words of Roseanne Rosannadanna, Oh, never mind. It just goes to show you, it's always something - if it ain't one thing, it's another.

The mount I think is going to be shipped back and we'll get a large piece of furniture to hold the TV up close to the ceiling.  I don't want my little munchin grandchildren stopping between me and the screen as they try to remember why they were going/doing what they were going/doing.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 14, 2015

What A Week

My buddy is retired and he is continually complaining to me about how bored he is.  How can that be since I now find my life even more hectic than when I worked.

This week is a perfect example...

Monday: Holiday celebrating Labor Day.  It should be a day of relaxing, enjoying the last of the sun fun and even getting a picnic in.  NOPE.  For me, it was my #1 son and family visiting and telling us about the cars they been looking at for their daughter since she wants a little bigger one with the baby coming.  So far, pretty normal.  He takes us to a dealership where they have a car that has piqued our curiosity — since my granddaughter doesn't want it and my son thinks it is a great car.

WOW!  It's a 2014 Ford Escape - hold on - brand new!!  Only 175 miles on it.  Seems it came in late last year, got shuffled to the back of the lot and only when somebody questioned the "mistype" on the inventory sheet did they discover it.  That's right.  The 2016s are already on the display floor and they have a brand new 2014 to sell.  They were practically giving it away.  My wife liked what she saw.

Step back a moment.  Remember me mentioning dealing on a new RV?  Yeah, that's never moved another step forward.  I'd sent 3 emails to the salesman stating I was interested and I received 3 emails stating that that particular email address didn't exist.  Hmm?  I went to the website. Yup, I had the correct domain name.  I had the salesman's business card.  I decided that if a person can't give me the right info, maybe I should step back.  Plus, he didn't want to take my old RV in as a trade.  No deal at that point on my behalf.  Yes, in my magnanimous heart, I gave up my RV for my wife's car.

Tuesday: The dealership opens at 9am, I arrive 9:30am — don't want to look too anxious.  A salesman comes out and putters around and finally ambles over to help us.  I tell him I'm interested in the 2014 for sale BUT before we go any further, can they apply the Ford family discount since my #4 son works for Ford.  He gave me a strange look and ushered into his office so he can find out.  The next thing, I'm out test-driving the vehicle.  My wife gets behind the wheel.  She is in love.  We get back, Nick (the salesman) is working out the figures and we decide to "go for it" and see what happens.  Just then, a couple I've seen wandering around the lot amble over and start checking it out.  A few minutes later, Nick comes in, the deal is done and we are buying a car.  He picks up the keys, aims it at the auto and VOILA!  The car is locked just as another couple amble towards it.  Another guy shows up at the door, Nick gives him the keys and a mere 2 hours later, we are walking out and my wife is driving the new car home.  Of course, we have to get something to eat and get the insurance company notified.  A quick visit to her brother after supper and the day is about over.

Wednesday: My grandson calls and asks if it is okay for them to start moving things into our house. So, it is official.  My grandson and his family will be living with us for a few months to help them out. Uh, that means we have to get the guest room cleaned out for them.  I guess I should mention that the big walk-in closet has been a playroom for our #4 son's two oldest daughters (6 and 5) plus a bedroom for whoever wanted to stay over.  We got to get it all moved over to the smaller bedroom which was our office and most recently, my wife's mother's room until she went to the nursing home.  So stuff had to be moved out of the office so the guest room could be moved.  We're talking total chaos and my wife and I have discovered, there has never been a need to do everything in a rush — there was always the next day to get things done.  They want to move furniture by Saturday.  HUH?  So we got hopping on that.

Thursday: The day is mostly spent on moving stuff either to our bedroom or from the guest room to the office (new guest room) or to the basement.  Whew!  The first boxes start to arrive.  The room is basically empty, just a few items remain to be addressed.  We decided we needed a break and since we wanted to go camping but with all the work to be done, we didn't go.  A little spin out to the campground to see how busy it is.  Very surprised by the number of campers.  Of course, we stopped and visited some friends and they joined us on the trip to the campground.

Friday: More stuff gets moved in and the first box of my TV order arrives.  The wall mount.  Sometime in the next 3 days, the 60 inch and 32 inch LED televisions will arrive. My wife needs a little help with the baby shower cake she is decorating.  Seems it is bigger than any board she has, so I have to find her a sheet of spare wood for the "owl" cake.  This is for my great grandson.  My granddaughter likes owls.  It just fit in the back of the Escape.  Whew!

Saturday: My #4 son and family arrive to visit for the weekend and go to the shower.  Yup!  I now have 6 adults and 5 children, ages 6 to just over a month old staying at my home.  Chaos?  Just a little but that's our family.  Oh wait, #1 son, his wife and daughter come over and #2 son, his wife and his daughter visit.  The only ones missing are #2's eldest son and my #3 son, his wife and 2 daughters. The grandson staying with us is #2's second son.  While the ladies are gone to the shower, the boys move the furniture in and then bring over a truckload of wood for a campfire.  I take the 2 granddaughters (6 and 5) over to a park for them to play and be out of the way.  We also go to the store and I get the makings for tacos.  Silly me —I thought 3 lbs of good ground beef would be enough.  Wrong!  We went through it quickly.  Next time, I use 4 lbs or if more family show, even more meat.  Fortunately, the garden was willing to offer up fresh tomatoes for the event. LOL. That night a great fire.

Sunday: Ignored the alarm and my wife - didn't get up until 11am so I missed church.  Guess it was too much excitement for me the day before. LOL.  Usual chaos as #4 and family got ready to head home and everyone else headed out, too.  You can only park 4 cars abreast in my driveway — and with my 2 cars, my grandson's 2 vehicles (car and truck), my #2 son coming on his motorcycle, his wife and daughter in their SUV, my #1 son in his truck and their daughter in her car and my #4 son in his SUV... it begins to look more like a car lot than a driveway.  Guess I should mention, my RV is up along the house, too, so when somebody decides to leave, it can get to be a tad interesting as to who has to move a vehicle. LOL.

But that's my week, and somehow, during that time, I was able to almost finish the edits on a client's book, get a chapter and a half of a new book written and watch a little television, too.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, September 7, 2015

Updates to Updates

As we go into the third tri-mester of the year (the last four months), I thought I'd give a little update to what is happening.

Weight.  Good news, bad news.  Remember the 28 pounds I lost back in June when I was sick?  As a friend said, I found some of them. The good news is: Only half of them - so I'm still 14 pounds down which makes my target of 25 pounds by the end of the year - well, it is something I can possibly attain.  At least, I plan to make it.

Overall Health.  I'm not up to par.  I bought into the "you can't do this and that" and my sons have tried to make sure I don't do this or that.  So... now I can't do this or that without getting totally winded.  As stated last week, I bought a lot of mulch to put down.  Of course, having temperatures up into the high eighties and low nineties isn't helping, but I do a little and then need to rest.  I mean, like work for maybe 15-20 minutes and then break for 40 minutes.  It is all about bending over - pushing the gut into the lungs.  Still, I think it might be why the weight hasn't all come back... all that bending.

Mulch.  By the way, the mulch is looking good.  Of course, I didn't buy enough while it was on sale so the one area that I wanted to do probably won't get done - the swing set area.  Just as well.  I think I should put ALL rubber mulch there rather than a mixture of wood mulch with a light sprinkling of rubber mulch.  Since the rubber mulch wasn't on sale, I'll keep an eye open for it to better priced in the next few weeks.

Camping. Took the grand kids camping and now my wife and I can go alone and enjoy some quiet time at the campgrounds during the week since most families have their kids back in school.  OH! Went shopping for a new RV.  We own a 28 foot 1998 Allegro motor home.  Yes, a land-yacht. I'd like to get a "wider" motor home - not necessarily a bigger one.  Let me explain.  I want slide outs in the living area.  If my current motor home had a slide out, I'd keep it since I'm more than thrilled with the mileage I get with it.  Uh, we're talking 10 mpg and up to 14 mpg on flat interstates on cruise.  The new one I looked at would get "maybe" up to 7 mpg, possibly 9 mpg.  LOL. Sure.  I think we're going to hold off on it until maybe next year... unless the salesman comes back with a deal I just can't pass up.  (Like that's going to happen!)

Writing.  Has been stalled.  I've been doing a lot of editing for clients, so I don't have a lot of time for writing.  I've done some - a little - on my second Amish novel.  Was stumped for a while but with a little brain-storming with another writer (thanks, Elyse!), I've now got some great ideas to weave into the tale and give it depth.  With NaNoWriMo coming up in November, I have to decide if I want to attempt it yet again.  I  mean, I've competed 14 years, accomplishing 50K+ words 13 of those times. I've done NaNoWriMo since it's 2nd year of inception and only failing to complete the word count when I attempted a cookbook and my dad passed the month before.  Hint: Don't attempt a cookbook.

Gardening. The garden is coming to an end - sort of.  The corn is done and I've removed all the stalks from the raised bed.  My wife finally agreed that the green pole beans were finished, as were the wax bean plants.  Unfortunately I didn't tie-up my tomato plants - so they've sprawled all over but are doing fine.  We've canned a lot of salsa, diced, and stewed tomatoes - with more to come.  The shelves are filled with beans for the winter.  Still growing are the beets and carrots which appear might be a good crop this year.

Publishing.  I wanted to publish 3 books this year.  So far, only one book out. My Amish novel which has been selling like hotcakes at signings and shows.  On Amazon?  Not so well.  It would seem that the book hasn't sold well at all.  I've order copies twice now and figure I might have to order again before then end of the year - maybe twice!!  If you haven't checked it out - - you won't be sorry.  But, back to publishing.  Maybe with a little luck I'll be able to get out book 2 of my writing tips and book 1 in my Jewyl adventures is complete, for the most part, just some minor edits and a book cover design.  It's all about time.

Do you remember your New Year's Resolutions?  How are they coming along?  Given up?  Have you accomplished them?  Share.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 31, 2015

Time To Mulch

My yard is a cool yard... not flat like most but has some interesting quirks.  Let me explain.

When we bought our property back in 2005, there was a trailer of dubious quality.  The floors by the bedroom windows were rotted through so you couldn't get near any of the outside walls.  As one walked the hallway to the rear bedroom, if you did it properly, you could get a nice sway going. Okay, maybe not the best thing. (More on that later.) The fireplace seemed to work. (More on that later.) The kitchen was fantastic — large, open and extremely inviting. It also had an attached metal awning which extended 12 feet out from the trailer and was about 16 feet long and covered a cement patio.  So fantastic to sit under in the heat of the day and enjoy the cool, refreshing breezes.

BUT, the place, in reality was a dump.  Let me explain the "sway" that the trailer had.  The ground dipped and the 70 foot trailer extended out over this hill.  The previous owner created a "basement" of sorts with plywood.  Uh, would you believe at that the very rear of the trailer, it was not quite 12 feet from the ground to the bottom of the trailer?  Now for the sway.  The support was one single stack of cement blocks approximately 4 feet from the end — we're talking about 9 or 10 feet of cement blocks, each 8 inches X 8 inches X 16 inches. They were loose, not cemented together. The only other "support" was the simple 2-by-4 structure running the perimeter of the back to enclose the "basement" area.  The realtor even had the nerve to say "This will make excellent dry storage." as a marketing ploy.  Yes, the whole structure swayed as the trailer swayed.  To this day, I'm still amazed that the trailer didn't fall.

Remember I mentioned the fireplace?  We burned some wood in the fireplace a couple of nights.  We didn't spend too many cold nights in the trailer since they wanted us to get rid of the structure before we had our new home put on in the basic same area.  Anyway, when we told the trailer down, which didn't take too much work to accomplish, we attempted to save what we could: most of the appliances, some cabinets and counter tops, sinks and the huge garden tub.  We wanted to save the fireplace.  OMG!  Imagine our shock when we started to tear into the walls and discovered scorched insulation and charred wood.  We were very lucky.  The trailer could have burned at any moment with us sleeping — and it would have went up like "poof!"  We wouldn't have stood a chance of escape.

Oh, during the demolition we discovered the skeletal remains of a raccoon in one of the walls.

Now about that yard. With the new house coming in, a basement was dug and a lot of dirt got re-situated.  Then, when they put in the septic system, a new mound of dirt (call it a small hill) was created to cover the drainage area.  The basement stuck out of the ground for about 75% of the home so I had several truckloads of dirt brought in to create a walled terrace.  Here's a secret: You heard the phrase "dirt cheap" — well, dirt ain't cheap... especially when you build an 8 foot retaining wall.

So I have an area where my house is on one level, the driveway flows up to it and from the driveway the ground flows downward to a small area.  Across the front of the house, and in front of the retaining wall, it also slopes away.  Then where it all comes together, that's where the septic system creates another hill.  To the immediate side of the house, behind the 8 foot retaining wall and septic hill, the land is basically flat and is a walkout from the basement.  Behind the house, the basement is 60% out of the ground and that is the north wall so I've got some solid insulation in the basement on the north wall so help keep it sort of warmish.  In other words, during the winter, it don't freeze but it is a tad chilly.

So what does all this mean?  Lawn mowing is a bitch. Yes, the yard has character but it is an awkward act to mow.  Therefore, to help me (when I have to mow) and my son (who does most of the mowing anyway) — I bought a lot of mulch in the last couple of days.  I'm going to put mulch around the swing set so we don't have to mow that area.  I'm going to mulch my hillside flower bed so everyone will know what is grass and what is flowers (and weeds since I have so much trouble keeping them controlled) and I plan to mulch an area out closer to the road which has some "ripples" and gets a lot of stones pushed into it by my neighbor who plows his driveway snow into my front yard. It also has some small trees and a lilac bush which are miserable to mow around.  I'll mulch that area so no mowing.  Yay!!

I decided, while I was at it, I'd mulch behind and on the side of the garden which now is kept under control by the weed-whacker. Yes, my garden is in the front yard, up by the house.  We live in the country and when I had the garden in the backyard, the critters raided it before we had a chance to harvest.   Also, I have two raised flower beds that will be mulched so I don't have to weed them anymore.

As you read this on Monday morning, I will be killing the grass and weeds in those areas in preparation of putting down newspapers to be covered by mulch.  The newspapers will be a minimum of 10 sheets thick.  I don't want anything coming up through cuz I really don't want to have to use harsh chemicals like RoundUp to kill them.  Somebody suggested yard fabric.  It does nothing for the ground and if a mower catches it... what a mess.  At least, as the paper rots, it will improve the soil.  I did that with my raised garden in the front yard when I put it in two years ago and it is working quite well today.

Hopefully, the mulch will make my yard even more attractive AND much easier for me to deal with.

It's an old picture, but it shows some of the land's unique features. This is when the house was first built and we'd just finished building the wall.  The camera angle is from the septic mound. The swing set is now located approximately where the dirt and grass meet closest to you. My raised garden is located in front of the three windows (the kitchen) to the right of the front porch. I can come out the side door and collect my garden goodies and be back in the kitchen in seconds — we're talking fresh!

Maybe I'll update this with a better (aka more current) picture, but probably not. lol.

Okay, I updated. As you can see, the little tree at the corner of the porch has grown some. In front of the kitchen windows is the garden with pole beans standing in the back. The rest of the garden is now tomatoes, carrots, beets, garlic, onions, and peppers. The "corn field" has been pulled which completely covered the window to the left.  You can see the swingset and that horrible cluster of growth in front of the long retaining wall is what results in 3 weeks of camping and not weeding. My daylilies are in there — somewhere but are finished blooming.  I'll dig them then root out the weeds, plant the lilies and mulch.  That weed patch to the right (below the raised deck) is my rock garden, but again, the weeds took over while I was gone. Those Canadian thistles really enjoy growing in my soil where nothing else seems to want to grow.  Can't mulch a rock garden but will be putting more "small" stones in to fill it out.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Camping Lights

Remember those days of camping?  Out in the woods, sometimes even just a blanket made into a tent in the backyard!

Today, camping is something completely and totally unrelated to those tent days.

Over the years I've camped "under the stars" using just a sleeping bag made up folded blankets until I could afford to buy one.  I've camped in those old Army canvas tents.  Even the newer nylon ones.

As I matured (aka got old) I found that the ground didn't give as much as it used to when I was young.  In fact, it don't give at all.

In come the popup campers.  Shortly after getting married, we got a popup camper. My wife was insistent it had to have "solid" walls on the sides.  Don't ask me why!!  We bought a Palomino and it was great with an inside stove, frig and two slide-out beds and a large amount of storage.  She loved the fold-up cupboards.  And, yes, it had snap walls that created the illusion of solid walls.

But this was supposed to be about lights.  I'm getting there.

It was about this time in history, mid/late 70s that I noticed campers were getting a tad more sophisticated.  Electricity seemed to be more readily available.

Lighting up the campsite, at first, was using the Coleman lantern which, after you pumped it up and got the filament ignited - cast light at least 20 feet away.  In the Boy Scouts, about 4 of them and you had the area well lighted.

We finally moved away from the popup camper and got us a driving unit. Yes, the RV, the Land Yacht, as my one friend called it.  A simple RV - 28 ft long, sleeps 8 somewhat comfortably dependent upon size.  Everyone loves it since tooling down the highway, it is so easy for a person to amble back to the restroom and doesn't have to bother the driver to stop at the next available gas station.  Of course, most of the passengers get very upset if I decide to get up to use the rest room. For me, it is still about finding a place to pull over and stop.  Of course, it doesn't have to be a gas station.

Again, about the lights.  Well, my RV has a 16 foot awning.  It needed lights!  My first lights to buy were simple.  Plain lights, 10 of them.  Wow!  So impressive.  Next time out, I found a string of cool stars in red, white and blue.  Definitely, that was an upgrade.  Still, I wasn't satisfied.  I discovered a string of pink flamingoes - 10 of them.  Unfortunately, even though I was excited, my wife and our camping buddies, well, they weren't as excited about them.  So, I finally settled on a string of bamboo lanterns.

Sure, they looked good.  In fact, all of them looked good but... well, I wasn't satisfied.

I discovered LEDs.  In fact, I found a string - 16.4 feet long - consisting of 300 LEDs and the great thing was ... they could be almost any color I wanted them to be.  They flashed.  They faded.  They were fantastic!!  I was in Heaven.  Oh, did I mention there is a remote control so I can change the colors on the fly and decide if they will flash or fade in their rotation.  Here's some images.  Yes, I know it is daylight.  In the dark, they really stand out.
Let's make the lights red - my wife don't like this color...
(I think she associates it with some district. LOL)

This is with the lights on blue...

And now they're green...

Press a button - orange...
Here is what purple looks like...

And here they are - turquoise...

Yes, my lights were noticed by other campers - mostly kids who thought the rotating colors were cool.  One young lad brought his dad back to show him and they asked where I got them.  I wasn't going to keep it a secret.  I bought them on Amazon and the price was very good.  How do I know? Another camper talked with me and she was very upset with her husband because he got his lights at a certain camper store and paid over $200 for them last year.  Uh, I paid about $27 for mine.  What is really nice is the fact they are LEDs and don't use too much electricity and don't get hot.

This Halloween, the campground we go to on a regular basis will be having their bash. It is worth the trip just to see how the campsites are decorated.  I can only imagine the meters will be spinning so fast, you'll never see the marker on it.  They (the campers) decorate the trees, put out those blow-up Halloween decorations and it is just unbelievable.  We were leaving on Friday morning and some of the people had come in on Thursday and started decorating.  I couldn't believe it. Ghosts, goblins, witches, haunted this and that - I was going to be quite the show.  They even have a contest for the best decorated campsite.  THEN, the kids go Trick-or-Treating.  Imagine, 200 campsites and probably most of them are participating.  We wanted to join in the festivities this year but the two weekends are already booked full... over 2 months away!!  Next year, for sure!!

I've been moving all my outdoor lights at the house to LED.  Here's my simple glass ball globe that I have outside.  I change the color of it with the holidays.  At Halloween, I put orange string of LEDs in it.  At Christmas, a multi-color LED string of lights.  Valentine gets red and of course, St Patrick's Day gets green.  This is what the Christmas globe looks like.

The colors are muted due to camera, but in real life, there are points of different colors.

Yes, I love to play with lights. I got some ideas of other things to do - it just takes time to get all the kinks worked out.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Needed Vacation

Retirement!  One doesn't realize just how exhausting being retired can be!  Think about it —

Sure, I don't have to go to work every day, but still, I must decide what I am going to do to fill my day and make it an exciting event.  Trust me, waking up in the morning is great (that means I'm still breathing!) but there is more to retirement than just sitting on the front porch, rocking.

The garden needs tending, the flower beds seem to sprout more weeds than posies and well, if I don't go get the mail at the end of the lane each day, who is going to do that?  Plus, the lawn needs mowed, the dog wants to go out and there are those constant doctor appointments one must make and attend.  In a hindsight thought, going to the doctor can be a good thing since it proves you're still kicking.

But, it is the little things that make retirement worth the wait.  Imagine the excitement of a broken/leaking waterline?  Or the phone ringing?  Who could it be?  Remember, with retirement comes a very dubious honor: pallbearer or mourner.

If your name didn't make the "obit" column, there's a great chance today is going to be a fun one!

Hold on a minute.

Remember?  You work 50 weeks a year … okay, take away another 2 weeks for sick time, another 2 weeks for holidays and extraneous non-work days — I could continue but that isn't what this blog entry is about.  Out of each year, at least 2 weeks — that TWO weeks, could be more since I was up to 5 weeks when I retired — that is dedicated to that family favorite: VACATION or HOLIDAY for my non-US readers.

Yes, when I worked, I took vacation. It was a my get-away moment; that time when I grabbed the family and escaped to some idyllic locale and vegetated.


You're wrong.  Strangely enough, being retired can appear and seem like an eternal vacation.  My joke is 6 Saturdays and 1 Sunday.  If it wasn't for Sunday and going to church, I'd lose complete count of time.

Just like a person who works full-time, a retiree needs a break from … well, being retired.

I did just that.  I just got home from a week in the wilds of mid-Michigan's southern section.  I realize that sounds a little silly but let me explain.  My wife's sister and her husband have a small place on a private lake.  It is down in a valley.  To get a better idea of ownership, think of a pie with the lake being in the center.  Each slice of pie gets a portion of lake and then anywhere from a minimum of 10 acres to over 25 acres.  They have about 250 feet of shoreline.  Being a private lake and "ruled" by the owners, there are no motorboats allowed.  Electric motors only.  The water is pristine clear.  The wildlife is amazing: loons, eagles, beavers, deer, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks, of course.  Would you believe bear?  Yup!  Got them, too.  I saw the tracks of one AND the night camera picture, catching one in a berry patch.

A perfect place to sit under the shade of an oak tree and look out on the lake, listening to the wind whisper through the leaves and nearby pines.  What could be better?  Being on the lake, fishing.  I had two of my granddaughters along and we spent many hours on the pontoon, fishing.  Caught some nice bluegills and a couple of bass.  The girls are hooked on fishing.  They enjoyed catching small bluegills in the ponds at home but to catch the monsters we pulled from the depths — WOW!  Our first day fishing was astounding!  We caught enough for a great fish fry and the next couple of days brought in enough for us to bring some frozen fillets home.  As you can see, the fish were nice sized.

Corra with her bass

Corra with one her many bluegills

Hailey with her bass

Hailey with one of her four bluegills

A very proud ME with one of my many bluegills - no bass!
Notice the size - just a little over 10 inches!!
Some of the fish in the scaler - getting ready to filet.

No Internet and we barely had cell phone service.  My sister-in-law has a land phone and finally took the plunge for DISH TV since they live up there 6 months of the year.  Meals were simple.  Okay, we did have a couple of "big" meals: the fish fry and then a wonderful pork loin roast dinner.

I took my laptop along and was able to do a little editing and writing — very little.  I was relaxing, getting away from the frenzied life of retirement.

I might just have to make another trip up there real soon, maybe next month.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 10, 2015

Some Ranting

I've noticed what I can only call 'absolute food waste' of late.

Today I stopped in at the local Chinese restaurant for some carryout (or take away OR whatever you call it when you don't eat at the restaurant - another rant later) and while I waited for my order to be cooked, I watched two young men eat from the daily buffet.  These were two well-muscled men of about 25-30 years of age, definitely laborers, not office types.

#1 pushed his partially filled plate away with a "This doesn't taste as good as I thought it would." He then walked up to the buffet, got a new plate and filled it with fried rice and the same beef mixture.


If it didn't taste good before, what miracle would make him think a second plate would taste better? He sat down, ate about half and then placed that plate on top of the earlier one with a "Guess I'll try something else."  Once more up to the buffet and gets a sugar dusted donut ball.  Sits down, eats maybe 2 bites of it and puts it on the dish. "Too sweet." Oh, you guessed it.  Back up to the buffet and gets another one.  One bite and it is on the plate.

During this time, #2 isn't inactive.  He has been eating from his plate of several things and he, too, pushes it aside and goes up to the buffet.  On the discarded plate I can see stuffed mushrooms and white rice.  The guy opens the white rice container and piles it onto his plate, then puts what looks like the same beef mixture he had on his first plate.  Yes, he also grabs about four stuffed mushrooms.  Bites into one of the mushrooms and says "They got a funny taste." and then eats about three or four bites of the rice and beef mixture.  Yup! That plate goes onto the other partially filled plate.  Back up to the buffet for an egg roll.  One bite, the rest is put on the plate to be disposed of.

The two of them start out the door and the owner says "See you Tuesday, yes?" They both nod their heads in agreement, wave and leave.

My order is ready and I nonchalantly ask if they are regulars.  They come in every day.  The owner says they really love the food.  I pay for my order, tell him to say "ni-hau" to his wife and daughter and I leave.  I walk past the table where the two men sat and am still amazed by the amount of food they took and left on the plates.


I was at a casino buffet in Detroit.  Three rather plump women and one extremely large man were enjoying the meal at the buffet.  Well, I thought they were.  Each of them came back from the food service with two and three plates each, filled with almost everything available.

Okay, I do watch people but there are some people who demand you watch them. This quartet not only demanded you watch but made sure you heard them, too.

"Oh, Lori. Did you get the Italian chicken? It melts in your mouth." She licks her fingers.
"John, are those potato fritters as good as they look?"
And the conversation bantered about the table as each tasted and sampled their delicacies.  You guessed it.  A nibble of this, a taste of that.  Four platters stacked in the middle, still heaping with food.  I noted that John had at least a half dozen chicken wings on his plate.  He took ONE bite of ONE wing. The rest were never touched... and he LOVED them.

The four moved again to the buffet line and once more returned with plates filled with yummy food.

We listened to them rave and moan about how great each thing tasted.  But they only took one, maybe two bites of each item, leaving the rest on the plate.

Then they headed to the dessert tables.  I couldn't believe the number of desserts they brought back to the table.  One of the women had a huge slice of strawberry pie that was fluffed with cream and drizzled with chocolate.  I'm talking decadent.  She took a strawberry from the top, bit off a small segment of the strawberry tip, told everyone how exquisite it tasted, put the strawberry down and ignored the rest of the pie.

The waitress asked us if the party had left when the first round of plates had been pushed together in the middle of the table. We told her we thought they were back in line.  She left the plates, unsure if they were done.  When they arrived, the waitress hovered in quickly and they informed her to please remove "those" plates as they were done with them.  She took off as many as she could and made two trips.

Finally, the three women got up and whisked away to go gambling.  John remained and he gazed at the plates of desserts and patted his tummy.  The waitress asked if they were done and he nodded in agreement.  She cleaned the table and he asked for a glass of water.  She brought him a tall glass of water filled with ice.  He took a sip.  Put it on the table, pushed away and left.

Did I mention, no tip?  Even in a buffet, the waitress does perform a minimum of service and I feel, if he or she does it well, deserves a monetary reward.  This waitress I felt went way beyond the call of duty.  But then, if one is willing to waste food in such a lavish style, I wouldn't expect them to squeeze a tip out.

What really got my goat was the fact these people went to the buffet, filled their plates with heaping servings and then only "tasted" the food.  How insensitive and wasteful.

This condition does not only exhibit in those of the world, but also within the family.  I was at a family get-together and I watched my nephew, age seven, go to the table of food with his mother, take a handful of black olives and bite each one, only to spit it out because he didn't like the taste.  He didn't like the sweet potatoes, potato salad or the ham.  He threw it all in the trash... and yes, proceeded to get another plate of black olives, sweet potatoes, potato salad and ham.  He tasted and threw it in the trash.  When he went back for the third time, his mother told him he shouldn't eat so much.  I made the mistake of informing the mother that he had thrown away the food. She informed me that he didn't like those items.


You knew he didn't like them --- yet you gave them to him?  TWICE??

Only in the last few months have I been able to look at my plate and push it away, knowing that I shouldn't eat that much.  For years I was the "garbage disposal" for the family of four boys.  We went to a restaurant, if they didn't like or want to eat a certain item, it went on my plate and I ate it.  Yes, the repercussions became quickly obvious - I gained weight.  But the mindset, I was paying for that food, it must be ate was a difficult one to overcome.  It is still an argument within me when I don't eat everything on my plate.

To watch other blatantly take and throw away food....

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Never Saw This Coming

I think it was back in fourth grade, maybe fifth — our teacher had us estimate when we would retire. It was some sort of math thing but the reality of the moment never hit.  I was to retire in 2011 at the ripe age of 65. It was so far into the future …

When I state the reality of the moment didn't register, I mean the initial concept of being that old, so old, one would retire and not have to work.  Remember, this was back in the mid-late 1950s.  I think Eisenhower was the President then.  Hey, give me a break, in case you haven't noticed, it is now 2015, four years beyond my retirement estimate.

It was back then the teachers were attempting to get students to realize dreams of the future and what we could be.  I still played cowboys and Indians with my younger brother.  The thought of being a cowboy was still vivid in my mind but that was dashed when my bubble was burst with "Cowboys don't exist except in movies."

What did I want to be?  I considered being a person who painted - an artist. A few years more passed and once again I had to revisit the concept of "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

It was probably in early high school, Freshman year, I decided that I'd be either a teacher, a minister, or make my career in the Navy.  This continued to be my goal.  I joined FTA (Future Teachers of America) and became a nuisance at the church, hanging around constantly to help the minister.

Around the beginning of my Junior year, I realized I enjoyed writing and scribbled a short story which my English teacher edited. I sent it off to Children's Highlights.  Yes, it was rejected. My writing career was nipped in the bud early. The bright candle flame was snuffed.

Graduation was nearing — I was already over half way through my Senior Year.  In March, once more, they had a "Career Day" and I spoke with the Navy recruiter.  I spoke with my parents that night, and re-discussed the idea with my buddy, George, the next day.  We scheduled ourselves and signed papers for an "early up" into the Navy under the "buddy" system. (That's another story!)

Graduation was May 21, 1965. On June 6, 1965, I officially entered the Navy for a four year tour. My dream of being a career Navy man was now on the books.

What I never saw — What I never realized … there is more to life than just a career.  Yes, a career is important but that can change, as I learned.  Life was waiting just around the corner.

Strangely, I never considered marriage.  I always saw myself as the eternal bachelor, that favorite uncle in the family who came at Christmas time with all the wonderful packages and when a birthday came around, offered a fabulous gift the parents could never dream of giving.

I got married.  I had children … in fact, I had four sons.

This was not in my plans.  I went to college. I was going to be an accountant.

HUH?  What happened to Navy career? Minister? Teacher? A writer? Even the single life?

I was a family man. My life's goals were changing and I wasn't sure what was happening. So did my career. I stumbled from accountant into data processing, into computer programming —

My sons married.  They had children.

OMG!  I was a grandfather.

Wait a minute!!  Not once during my youth did I think/see myself as a father.  Now I was a grandfather.  I wasn't Captain Nailor in the Navy.  I wasn't Mr. Nailor, the education teacher. I wasn't Rev. Nailor, minister to a congregation.

I was Grandpa Nailor.

Huh! It was too late to step back and re-assess the situation. As the Unix Systems Manager with over twenty years with the federal government, I was retiring.  It was five years early — it wasn't 2011, but 2006.

This past week, another milestone — yes, once again, one that I didn't see in my youth — was passed.  I am officially a GREAT grandfather.  Okay, I've always been a great granddad, but now it is official.  My great granddaughter, Gracelyn Ann Nailor joined my family.

It was then I humbly realized that all my youthful plans had been secretly and silently weaving into my life.

I'm Captain Nailor, leading my family forward on the seas of life.
I'm Mr. Nailor, the teacher, showing my sons, my grandchildren and now, my great grandchildren the best way to handle life's realities.
I'm Rev. Nailor, the minister to my private congregation, giving spiritual guidance to my family.

Oh, and I'm a writer, too, sharing my stories with the world. This is only one.

Until next I ramble on …