Sunday, March 30, 2008

Return to the Refuge

This weekend Shana and I went to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge for the first time this year. The weather was not expected to be ideal, but chances for rain were low and I was eager to get out for the weekend.

It started out a little inauspiciously. I stopped at the gate and asked if my choice of campsites was available, and the ranger told me it was, as far as she knew. I paid for two nights and a bundle of firewood, and told her that if 70 was occupied I'd take 68, but I would come back to tell her. When I got to the campsite there was no one in residence, and there was a dirty old crockpot box with a decrepit-looking string of outdoor lights in it at the far end of the parking slot. People will occasionally leave something, but it is my practice to clear out whatever trash is left on the site when I dispose of my own. I moved the trash under a bush, with the intention of taking it down to the dumpster when I next went that way. I proceeded to unload the car, secured the bicycles to a tree, set up our tent and camp kitchen, and walked down to the pump to fill up our water container. I scrounged around for firewood and kindling (coming upon a small group of does), then made myself up a little fire and settled down to knit while I waited for Shana to arrive. As I was enjoying the quiet, a couple with a dog came by and told me, unpleasantly, that the box of trash I had intended to take to the dumpster was theirs, and they had meant to reserve the spot by leaving it there. I apologized and volunteered that I had no idea that was meant to reserve the space without adding any detail - I could hardly tell them I thought their valuable place holder was an old box of trash! They were irritated, and I felt bad, but not bad enough to volunteer to take down my tent and move. Turns out they were RV campers and wanted the space for some people coming in later. They chose a space closer to the RV area and I think we all still had a good weekend. I truly am aware that people reserve a spot by leaving things at the site, but usually it is something obvious, like a tent or a cooler.

It was a cool and cloudy weekend, but we still had a great visit. Shana and I bought some hickory hiking staffs in Medicine Park and we liked them very much. I thought I might be able to use mine to keep people from crossing streams like Little John and Robin Hood but the opportunity did not come up. Before setting out for the day we asked one of the guys at the Refuge visitor center to recommend an easy three mile hike (Shana is still getting used to her new focus after eye surgery and wanted to avoid clambering over rocks) and we thought a short hike would be best. He sent us to a trail that IS short, but all uphill - more like a mile and a half of stairs than a walk. It was a nice walk with beautiful views but my legs are singing today.

After a night featuring a raccoon fight outside our tent the morning was drizzly and damp so we broke camp and headed back to the city. We had a few delays caused by my losing my keys (Yes, losing keys is my personal superpower. I think I would prefer X-ray vision, but you get what you get). After examining everything in our campsite twice or three times we pulled out without them and I left my card everywhere we had stopped the day before in hopes that they would turn up later. Shana was a Very Good Sport. I even indulged in a moment of paranoia and considered whether the cranky campers down the road might have taken them for spite. (this actually almost never happens. In general campers would NEVER take anything from another campsite) Turns out they were buried inside a towel in a bag I emptied at least three times during the search. Shana found them when we got home and were sorting out the clean things from those headed for the wash. The weather was clear and warm at home, and we had arrived back in town in time for a couple of laps around the lake and a snack at Jim's Diner with some of our group.

Jennifer sent me some new pictures of Logan resting after an all-evening fussy fit and I've posted them over at my Flickr Gallery. Too cute.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Alert The Media

Young Mr. Logan's sock monkey is complete, and as cute as I thought he would be. Like most sewing projects once I got started it didn't really take very long, and sock monkeys don't really need much set up. Now if I can just get him and Logan's Easter Bunny in the mail I will be off the Black List of Unsatisfactory Grandmas.

For an Easter treat Shana and I met friends at Tom and Jerry's Steak & Fish Grille. We had met here for brunch before and it's one of our favorites. The food is excellent, the atmosphere pleasant and the service top notch. It's not usually too crowded, and the music is low key and pleasing. I had Tiramisu French Toast, and Shana had her favorite Eggs Benedict. My first impression of the restaurant was the dinner they had catered at our church. I was impressed with the quality of their food in a less than ideal setup, and a visit to the restaurant confirmed my first impression. All that, and a locally owned operation, too! I prefer to spend my money close to home as much as possible.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

Well, not me. I see the same as ever - good enough but no prizes. Yesterday Shana had her eye surgery and will henceforth be seen without glasses. It's been something she's been looking forward to for a long time. In addition to being able to see much better then she has ever been able to with glasses, she will also for the first time in her life be able to swim without glasses. She's mastered the art of swimming laps (breast stroke) in glasses. It's less understandable how she was been able to jet ski with her glasses and magnetic clippies on! Another more frivolous benefit will be that for the first time ever she can enjoy the cute cheap sunglasses we like to buy for the beach.

Last weekend one of the things we did was to visit the yearly RV show at the fairgrounds. Shana and her father are considering splitting the cost of a small camper. Both of them enjoy the comforts of a camper: a refrigerator, actual beds. They also point to the relative convenience: a camper would stay stocked, packed and ready to go except for your food. John has a truck large enough to pull a small camper, and we would exchange vehicles when we were going camping without him. He'd like to take a couple a trips every year with us. I have my doubts about campers in general in comparison with tents, but may be susceptible to the proper bribe: I'll RV camp three times, Shana will backpack once. My tent will always come along so I can sleep in it if I want to. The hybrid camper with pop out beds that allows you to have the sound and feeling of sleeping in a tent is to be preferred to the enclosed camper. Other conditions may apply. It was interesting to see the variety of available units, from the extremely simple to "I'm with the band" elaborate. The really fancy ones even sported outdoor sound systems and flat screen TVs that fastened to the outside of the unit. There may be doubts about the state of the economy in some quarters, but the RV salesmen were very forthcoming about the low sales during the show. I saw "sold" signs on every type and price range, but the salesmen said the numbers were really down.

I dropped by this afternoon to give Miss Vivian her Easter bunny and to see how big she's getting. She was happy to see me - actual smiles instead of the suspicious looks she's been giving me lately. The bunny was a big hit, too. As usual, my keys and glasses were even more interesting than any toy. She's got 5 teeth now, with the sixth ready to come through any day now. It's surprising how quickly she's growing.

I blew through about half of a 3x1 ribbed sock yesterday, and I've got a sock with about three inches of cuff stashed at the office for emergency knitting. The second pink monkey sock is about halfway down the cuff. I find myself a bit cramped for crafting time at the moment, so lots of things in my queue look like they will be there for a while.

This afternoon I'm planning to set the knitting aside and start on a sock monkey for young Mr. Logan, who is suffering from monkey envy something awful. I'm glad I am just now starting on his though - I found the cutest socks at Target yesterday and they will make a fabulous monkey! Of course it can't be as cute as the little guy himself.

I ran across an interesting clip the other day (Thanks to Zippiknits). It's a talk by a brain researcher about her personal experience of a stroke. Worth watching on its own, and the site is chock full of interesting lectures. I watched a captivating one about ant behavior (yeah yeah yeah, but it WAS really good). Go see it here, (the brain one, not the ants) then browse around the site. I think I can safely guarantee you'll see something else that catches your eye.

In news of the random: I finally got a haircut. After several months of growing out my super short style I am back in a bob. There will be pictures, but not today as I need to address the little issue of my mighty roots. Also I finally ordered my MOO Cards. They are like little business cards - one side has your choice of pictures, either your own or chosen from a variety they make available, and the other has whatever you want. Mine will have my name, phone numbers, email and website address. I've known I wanted some for for quite a while, but had put off the order because I could not decide on a picture to print on the back. What I ended up with is (duh) the picture of wildflowers taken at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge I have on the top of my blog. I'll be interested to see what the quality is like, because they will also make greeting cards, post cards, and note cards from your choice of pictures.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring at Last

This week spring has magically appeared. The Bradford pears, after weeks of teasing us with plump little buds, have suddenly burst into bloom all over town. The barn wallows are starting to come back, only to find that pairs of purple finches have tried to take over last year's nests. I've been to The Bicycle Store to pick up a pair of knee warmers and a thin traffic-cone orange jacket for our evening hill training rides - they'll start very soon. I can hardly wait to start, although I know the first few times will NOT be fun, except for the camaraderie. Tomorrow we'll take an easy spin around the lake, and that will be nice.

Last week Roxy and I went to the dog park nearly every evening to take advantage of the warm weather. Roxy socializes or sniffs around while I walk around knitting an easy sock. It's been really crowded, and while I can watch the action while I knit reading takes up too much attention to keep an eye out for trouble. Not every dog who comes to the park has good social manners. A 3x1 sock on Magic Loop is an easy project to do on automatic pilot. A number of dogs hope that what I am carrying in my hands might be a treat. They come up to smell it, but so far none of them has tried anything funny. Roxy loves to go to the dog park, but she has limited interest in the active young dogs that fling themselves at her. One evening she had lagged behind me and did not know where I was. From the other side of the park I could see her looking for me, and helped her out with a low whistle. In spite of the 40 mph winds that day, our proximity to a noisy highway, and a big crowd of rowdy dogs, she homed in on my whistle instantly. This is the same dog who pretends not to hear me when she's running down the street. It's not convincing anymore.

Tonight a group of us are bringing dinner to Skyline Ministries. Skyline has a service every Saturday night and a rotating roster of volunteers bring a potluck supper for after the service. This time it's a group from Epworth United Methodist - most of the participants this time come from our cycling group. I'm bringing a turkey - that's what I promised Pastor Dale last time we visited about it. Sharon will bring a pot roast, Kimberly will round out my turkey dinner with side dishes, and Shana will bring a pasta salad with grilled chicken. It should be interesting. In case it is not entertaining enough, Shana and I are bringing Aunt Rita along. She should have an interesting take on the proceedings.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Fun

Today I dropped in to visit Alex, Vivian and Jamie. I am still being viewed with suspicion by Young Miss (although she does still like my glasses), but obviously Daddy is not! I can hardly believe how big she is getting. She's full of opinions, babbles like crazy, and is able to stand by herself (as of yesterday).

If you have time for a little video here's something worth seeing: This particular video is kid-and work-safe, but naturally I cannot guarantee everything on this site.

I've got three pair of socks on the needles - halfway through with the pink monkey socks and two pair of 3x1 rib for TV viewing. None of them are photogenic, so I won't put their boring piccies up this time. Instead I'll share an equally boring picture of one of my favorite snack treats - edamame. For the uninitiated they are boiled green soybeans. You can add the green beans to salads for extra taste and nutrition, but my favorite is the freeze dried bean. This particular (crunchy freeze-dried) bean had added wasabi flavor. They are a great salty snack, and a 1/2 cup has these advantages over potato chips:
120 calories
9 grams fiber
2.5 grams fat
1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
11 grams protein
13 grams carbohydrate
15 mg sodium
10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
10% Daily Value for iron
8% Daily Value for vitamin A
4% Daily Value for calcium
They compare favorably with peanuts in terms of nutrition, and with lots fewer calories. Everything a person could want in a snack, and it's portable, too. You can drop a packet into your bag and it won't be crushed or ruined. They make a nice addition to trail mix, or good on their own. I've even seen some chocolate covered ones. I have not tried those yet, but their time will surely come. Try some - you'll like them!