Thursday, March 31, 2011

Aunt Frances

I've been trying to figure out where my interest in birds is coming from.  Or should I say from where my interest is coming?  And I think I can track it back to Aunt Frances. 

Aunt Frances was my mom's oldest sister.  She was also a first grade teacher in the Green Lane school.  Lew was one of her first grade students!  She was the first person I knew to buy a Volkswagen beetle. I am remembering it as 1959.  At that time, the saying was "You could have it in any color as long as that color was black."  She always sent birthday cards with little devotional books.  And I remember visiting her in Gilbertsville.  Her home was where the National Penn Bank is today on the corner of Rt 663 and Swamp Pike.  Behind it was a lovely stream, and in the yard were feeders and houses.  Martin houses, bushes and trees conducive to certain types of birds, and feeders of all types and sizes.  I remember going out and helping her fill the feeders and in the spring, wash out the houses.  (She also had a huge garden that I helped her weed.  I wonder whether I really was helping.)  We would sing or pray while working.

She gave me my first lesson at reading a bird book. We'd look at birds and she'd help me identify them in the book.   I really coveted her book because she had so many marks of birds she found IN HER BACK YARD!!!  Many of the bird houses were made by her students.  She told me that one of the houses was made by Lew.  Every time we talked about the birds, the garden, anything - she would tell me how God loves everyone and everything. 

In October, 1954 there was a hurricane named Hazel.  I was four years old and really scared.  The wind was howling, rain pelting the windows, the power went off and we lit candles.  By the light of the candles, Aunt Frances, Grandma Krauss, Mom and I sat at our kitchen table singing hymns.  The women took turns holding me and showing me the hymn we would sing. As we sang they traced their finger over the words and music so I could follow along.  I wonder if I could read.  And then it was over.  I have no idea where Daddy and my brothers were.  Nor where Aunt Frances's three sons were.  Maybe all the men/boys were together.

Uncle Charles (her husband) was quite sick.  I remember he had a vibrating lounge chair - I suppose it was to relieve pain.  They also had a unique television.  There was a lighted ring around the screen. 

I always picture him in his chair watching TV.  One visit to their house had something to do with Aunt Frances's surgery.  Mom was a nurse, and she brought me along on the visit, but the surgery was hush, hush.  I had to sit on a kitchen chair and wait for the women to come out of the bedroom, then we went home.  I never did find out what it was!

 Many years later, Aunt Frances died of pancreatic cancer.  I think she was in her 80's.  We went to visit her in West Chester during her last months.  She spent her time connecting with loved ones, saying goodbye and doing what she had always done - spreading God's love.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


We really enjoy watching wildlife and since Homer died, there is a lot more activity around our back yard.  Frankly we are encouraging the birds with feed, but it inevitably attracts chipmunks and squirrels, too.

One of the bird feeders is a suet cage.  And for the last three mornings, I found it on the ground.  It has a chain that ends in a hook to loop over a branch and attach it back onto the box.
As I go outside to hang it back up, I talk to the squirrels because I am sure that's who is doing it.  Yesterday morning, while giving my squirrel lecture, I decided to wrap the chain through the box a few times, sort of like a double knot for sneakers.  I figured at least it would slow them down.

When I got up this morning, I heard a really noisy crow - just cawing and yelling to whoever would listen.  When I looked out back, I realized my lectures were falling on deaf ears.  The culprits were not squirrels, but crows!  Here was this HUGE crow hanging on the suet box trying to pick the chain and get it off the tree.  And a second one sitting on the roof, cawing back at him.

It reminded me of a Saturday morning cartoon I used to watch as a kid.  Heckle and Jeckle were two trouble making magpies sure to make you laugh.  They were a cross between Bugs Bunny and Chip and Dale.  One had a British accent, the other a Brooklyn accent.  At any rate, they always made me laugh, and most always were foiled in the end (think Wylie Coyote).  We really had great cartoons. 
Update:  Again this morning, the suet box was on the ground.  So I hung it again with a different "double knot".  Let's hope that works.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Winter Vacation (s)!

We just returned from our second of two winter vacations this year.  It has been a great way to spend this lousy, snowy season.  But apparently nobody told the weather that it is spring now!  I digress......

The first night home (Sunday night), I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  I was trying to remember where the bathroom was in this hotel.  I really didn't know I was home!  This trip we were gone 20 days.  The first night was on a train, nights 2-3 were in Orlando, night 4 in Daytona, night 5-12 was in Palm Coast, night 13-14 in Orlando, night 15 on a train, night 16-19 in Virginia Beach, night 20 in Warrington VA. 

Our first vacation was 18 days in January to Hawaii to visit David and Katie.  Covered briefly in another post, I can tell you it was the trip I didn't want to go on because of the distance on airplanes.  The way Bill planned it, we had a two night layover in San Francisco both ways.  It sure made the travel pleasant.  We had such a great time visiting "the kids" and touring Oahu.  The weather is spectacular as is the unique landscape.  I don't think the beach is any farther than 30 minutes away no matter where you are on the island.  Learning the history of Hawaii made the touring particularly interesting.  Also, many movies and TV shows were/are filmed on this island including (obviously) Hawaii 5-0, Off the Map, Lost, 50 First Dates, Gilligan's Island, - I forget what else.  It was really hard to leave - and not because of the weather - although that was a consideration :)  We really enjoyed visiting with the "kids". 

Our March trip was very busy but also really relaxing.  We spent days by ourselves in Orlando, with good friends in Palm Coast and with family in Virginia.  I got to bird watch at Frank and Bev's house.  Their place is on a lake with all sorts of wildlife.  The trees and flowers were blooming and we could sit outside with the camera and binoculars.  An eagle, osprey, blue heron, white egret, and loads of lesser birds.  I actually got pictures of some of them.

Bald Eagle gathering nesting material
Geese waiting to come on shore to eat and Poop
Blue heron
Palm Coast is between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine.  Our friends Barry and Sandy Miller invited us on their annual vacation to their time share week. 

Bill and Barry - modeling their hats and shirts.
We visited Daytona only once because it was bike week - too many folks!  St Augustine is a charming town and we visited it often.  It was a great week visiting with friends.  We ended the vacation visiting with family. 
The Johnsons - Bill, Linda, Frank and Bev
 We ended with a dinner with the Virginia Ballews.  In fact, I think we met the next family member.  Nothing official yet, but it seems likely.   It was fun and as always great to see them.

L-R:  Caleb, Josh, Elijah, Andy, Robin, Derek, Heather, Rachel, Clay
So there you have it.  The thumbnail version of "How We Spent Our Winter"  Maybe next post, I'll share some Hawaii pictures!

Friday, March 11, 2011

World Golf Hall of Fame Museum

Now I imagine that this is a ho-hum for some people, but we really enjoyed this site. Outside before you enter is the walk of fame. A flag for each member of the hall flies from a lamppost and like Grauman's Chinese Theatre, it has signatures of each member in the cement sidewalk. So fun to see signatures from Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Harvey Pennick and even Bob Hope. As you walk to the entry, you walk through flagpoles flying flags from probably 30 countries, driving home the WORLD part of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Inside, the first display is three rooms of Bob Hope memorabilia and old TV and movie clips. You could spend hours just in this part of the museum. The second floor holds memorabilia from all the other members. And the tower holds trophies from all the most prestigious events.

Some fun photo opportunities with giant clubs and posing on the bridge at St. Andrews. There is even an 18 hole putting course - made up of grass putting greens. There is even a chance to win a trip to the TPC Sawgrass pro event if you can get a hole-in-one on an island green. The first try is free, after that it costs you. Uh - we didn't win the trip.

We had lunch at the Caddyshack - owned by The Murray Brothers. Lots of fun memorabilia from the movie and from caddies of famous golfers. Food was fine too.

We ended the day at Harry's in St. Augustine where we met Zoe and Michelle, clients and friends of Barry and Sandy. Good food, great conversation and new friends for Bill and me.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


What a crazy, crazy day!  I was really looking forward to seeing Daytona racetrack and especially Dale Earnhardt's statue.  What a day!

We started the day at a lovely B&B - River Lily B&B.  Our hosts entertained with singing and playing and generally visiting with us.  It was especially interesting because Barry and Sandy OWN a B&B in Grove City, PA.  Here is the living room where we stayed.
After a great breakfast, we decided to drive to the speedway.  And we discovered - IT IS BIKE WEEK!!!
The closest we chose to get was across the street.  I did get a photo of the Dale Earnhardt grandstand.  But I can tell you I have never seen so many bikes before.  And Mike and Julia and I were in Sturgis SD for bike week.  We left the speedway area and drove to the beach.  Walked on the boardwalk for a couple of hours.  And then left the area for Palm Coast.

Here is a quick snapshot of the Daytona Beach area.  I tell you it was nuts.

So Bill and I took a leisurely drive up Route 1.  We didn't know we were driving into the biggest congregating yet.  There is a Harley Davidson dealer at Route 1 and 95 - the largest dealer in Florida.  There were somewhere around 150,000 bikes there.  Never have we seen so many.

Made for a memorable day - and we were really happy to get to Palm Coast.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Auto Train

What a hoot!  We decided to take the auto train to Florida.  The only train I ever rode (not including subways - I don't think they are trains.  And not including Strasburg railroad) was from Lansdale to Philadelphia and back.  While fun, that took about 40 minutes. 

We got to the station in Virginia and turned our car over to them.  They videotaped the exterior, slapped a magnetic number on the side and loaded it.  It happened so fast, it was loaded before we knew it!
That's not our car, but you get the idea.  The train leaves at 4:00 PM and arrives in Florida the next morning around 9:30 AM. 

We had a sleeper "roomette" - the seats faced each other until bedtime, then became bunk beds.  It was great fun.  Included was dinner in the dining car, a wine and cheese social, a movie in the evening and coffee, teas and lots of stuff.

Some people were in coach, with recliners.  Some had grand accomodations.  Overall the train transported 212 vehicles, 440 people and was 3/4 mile long. 

We really enjoyed it - until they brought us the car.  It seems the steward that transported the car was in a hurry and actually broke the seat adjustment.  Bill couldn't even get into the car.  After a lengthy and heated exchange with the insurance adjuster, Bill was satisfied that the damage will be paid for - not by us.

It was too bad it ended that way - because we really did enjoy the trip.  AND - we are returning that way too!  Hope he's not to nervous about it.