The kid is rolling in the dough

Despite the cost of everything shooting through the roof, we know someone making money. Even better, we are related to him.

He is our grandson, which should be a close enough bloodline to provide some comfort in our old age.

He’s only 9, but  I just read about three kids under the age of 10 making millions on YouTube. They wow viewers by partying on yachts, riding in Ferraris and traveling the world.

Our grandson isn’t on the internet; nor does he ride on yachts, or in Ferraris, or throw big parties. He floats on a pond in an inflatable raft, rides in a four-wheeler with his dad and grandpa and prefers being alone to big parties.

And he’s making money hand over fist. Well, make that hand over hot pad.

People usually have a dream in mind when they set out to make money. This boy was no different. His dream was a jigsaw. Aisle 22 at Harbor Freight.

Jigsaws aren’t cheap, especially quality ones, which the boy is sure will last longer. He has long shadowed his dad in the woodshop, watching, helping, sweeping up and working on his own projects, most recently a guitar.

The base is a rectangle of 2 x 4 blocks stacked 2 deep and bolted together. His dad helped him cut a face for the guitar with the appropriate curves. The boy attached a neck, also made from 2 x4 s, carved frets into the fret wood and attached tuning pegs someone gave him. It is a nice-looking guitar, albeit on the heavy side and still needing strings.In any case, he wanted to buy his own jigsaw. He saved allowance money, birthday money and asked for extra chores. The cash began adding up, but he was still short.

Then his oldest sister was selling frozen cookie dough for a fundraiser. He saw how much his brother and sisters wanted them, so he bought a box of 48 mounds of frozen dough for $17. That’s a big capital investment when you’re 9.

He baked a tray and “let them sit out for a minute because they smelled super good.” His four siblings quickly materialized, all clamoring for a cookie fresh from the oven.

He said, sure – for 50 cents.

A few days later, he baked some more. Not long after that, he began running a “special” – two for a dollar. His dad paid a full dollar for a cookie.

Next thing you know, the kid was purchasing a jigsaw.

He’s already made lot of things with the jigsaw but can’t reveal what because they are Christmas gifts.

With the leftover cookie dough, he bakes a few at a time for himself and eats one a day for Advent, which in his mind is something like the opposite of Lent.

The family is on their own for cookies.

Meanwhile, he has found a hollow log in the woods and plans on using the jigsaw to create a bird feeder. The birds will eat at no charge.


Lunch, anyone?
If you live in the Indianapolis area, and would enjoy a festive holiday lunch with an uplifting speaker (I will be that speaker!) at Second Presbyterian on N. Meridian,  Thursday, Dec. 8 at 11: 15 a.m. Tickets are available here:


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Money flies when you shop budget

I recently snagged a cheap flight on an airline known for being “economical.” I told one of the kids the airline I was flying and she exploded. Just like a volcano—molten lava flowed out of both her ears.

“Mom!” she shrieked.  “Don’t you know they’re the airline with issues?”

I asked if by “issues” she meant those videos of people throwing punches in the aisles. I informed her it was a predawn flight and people who brawl on airlines are still in bed that time of day.

She said it wasn’t that I would be in a viral video, it was that the airline is known for never leaving the airport.

I told her that an economy airline doesn’t mean you don’t leave the airport—it only means you may leave the airport in a teeny, tiny plane and have to flap your arms to keep it airborne.

I paid for my flight, which was amazingly cheap. Then I was asked if I’d like to pick a seat, which meant an additional fee. Did I want to pay extra to take a bag on board for a small fee?

It was a la carte. Some of your finer restaurants are a la carte.

A week before my flight, an email said for a small fee I could have priority boarding, which would mean early access to overhead bins.

I thought about it, as I think the fighting often breaks out when the overhead bins are full.

Four days before departure, I received an offer to bid on more leg room. As a matter of fact, I could make multiple bids on more leg room.

I wondered if the multiple bids were for individual legs, a bid for the right leg, and a bid for the left leg. Or maybe you could just bid for more space for your right leg and let your left leg cramp.

I didn’t need more leg room, but the bidding concerned me.

Three days before my flight, an email asked if I’d like to purchase an extra wide seat. My first thought was, who’s been talking? I immediately jumped on the bathroom scale. I am not wider, which is why I stopped by the ‘fridge on my way back to the computer.

Would I have to pay for an oxygen mask? Was there a fee for a safety floatation device? How about the restroom? I haven’t used a restroom on a plane for decades, but what if?

Two days before departure, another email asked if I would like to buy Wi-Fi, which “would last for the entire duration of the flight.” Not Wi-Fi just during take-off, or just during extreme turbulence, but for the whole flight!

Despite pre-flight anxiety—free of charge; no fee required—the flight was wonderful. I define wonderful as when the plane stays in the sky.

I took a different airline on my return flight, one that gives you a seat, overhead storage, leg room, a beverage and snack, and Wi-Fi all for one price. The all-encompassing price and my budget a la carte airline were less than a dollar apart in cost.

Sometimes what looks like a savings isn’t a savings. Hence the old saying, “Let the flier beware.”


Below is part of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation written in November 1864, the year before the end of the Civil War. It is worthy of reading and reflection and truly puts some meat on the bones of this holiday. I’m am thankful for every reader whom I am connected to through cyberspace. I only wish I could welcome you to the table and offer you a piece of  pie.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Happy Thanksgiving!

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Five steps to taking down a turkey

One of our daughters recently said the thought of making dinner every night for the rest of her life can nearly trigger a panic attack.

I feel the same way each year as Thanksgiving rolls around and I have to cook a turkey.

To prep or to panic, that is the question.

Every fiber of my being longs to be a woman who awakens Thanksgiving morning giddy with excitement at the prospect of transforming a big naked bird, with creepy goosebump skin and a disgusting little bag with the neck, gizzards, kidneys and gallstones deep inside its cavity, into a culinary wonder.

But I never have been that woman and never will be.

I have learned to accept this. I only hope those who sit at our table have learned to accept this.

I awake Thanksgiving morning and prepare for battle. It will be me and the turkey—and only one of us will win.


Step 1: I pull the bird from the refrigerator and am shocked that it is still partially frozen. Every year for nearly 40 years the bird is still partially frozen and every year for nearly 40 years I am shocked.

Step 2: I check that the turkey hotline is in my cell phone under favorites.

Step 3: I begin sharpening knives hoping some visual intimidation will give me an edge over the bird. I even say so aloud throwing in some trash talk. “You’re fowl,” I hiss to the bird.

The turkey’s entire body shakes with laughter.

Step 4: I don my apron with big bold letters that say, “IN IT TO WIN IT!”

The turkey again responds, shaking with laughter. This time it shakes so hard that it bounces toward the edge of the counter and nearly falls to the floor.

“See if I care!” I shout as I lunge and push it back to safety. The bird and I have a long-standing complex love-hate thing going.

Step 5: I regroup, do some deep breathing, slowly circle the bird three times, then abruptly grab it, putting it in a half Nelson, or a quarter Nelson, whatever. The bird slips from my grip. I attack again; this time using a hammerlock. We tussle rough and tumble. The ruckus continues and the outcome appears uncertain.

I’m sweating, turkey juice is smeared all over the countertop, cookware is scattered on the floor and a turkey gizzard is sliding down a cabinet door—but I have prevailed. I have set a record, having ripped the plastic wrapper from the bird in under 7 minutes.

I take a short break and recaffeinate. In only four more ugly takedowns the bird is stuffed, basted and planted in the roaster.

I can taste victory. It has hints of sage, celery and yellow onion.


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Are you pumped for pumpkin spice?

Each year it starts just a little bit earlier than the year before. There was a time when the hoopla didn’t begin until November. Then it slowly filled October and spilled over into September.

Pumpkin Spice. It’s an all-out invasion.

Coffee shops and doughnut shops have traditionally led the charge, but now pumpkin spice is in Cheerios, cheese curds and face masks.

Perhaps you would be interested in some Native Pumpkin Spice Latte Deodorant. Yep, you can pumpkin spice your underarms. If that doesn’t say the holidays are around the corner, I don’t know what does.

Even dogs are lapping up the pumpkin spice craze. You can buy pumpkin spice dental treats for your pooch.

Oh, there now kitty, kitty, don’t get pouty. There’s pumpkin spice for you, too – pumpkin spice scented litter boxes.

Seriously? Do we really want to take all the fragrances of warmth and goodness associated with fall and the holidays and dump them into the litter box?

Yes, we do!

Pumpkin spice is all you can taste, see and smell everywhere you go—pumpkin spice ice cream, pumpkin spice Werther’s caramels, pumpkin spice Life cereal, pumpkin spice Cliff bars, pumpkin spice yogurt pretzels and pumpkin spice applesauce.

Oh, and, drum roll, please . . . pumpkin spice Kraft Mac and Cheese. It was such a hit in Canada that it is coming to the U.S. Yes, cheesy goodness with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice may soon be available near you. Perhaps the blue box mac and cheese will come in orange.

How about some pumpkin spice marshmallows on that s’more? Or in your hot chocolate? No? Maybe some, pumpkin spice coconut milk, a pumpkin spice bagel, pumpkin spice peeps or pumpkin spice mini-wheats?

Spam and hummus now come in pumpkin spice, too. Ditto for Pringles.

If you still don’t have enough pumpkin spice in your life, try some pumpkin spice toothpaste.

Salmon? Yes, pumpkin spice salmon. It’s so odd, it might be good.

Kale chips and Toll House chips have also jumped on the pumpkin spice bandwagon. Sounds like a party mix to me.

Burt’s Bees lip balm—pumpkin spice. Seems the bees ought to have some say in promoting a squash instead of honey or beeswax.

Even concrete comes in pumpkin spice. That’s color, not scent. (I think.)

Welcome to our pumpkin spice home, where you will be inundated with the color of pumpkin spice on the driveway and walkway, overpowered by pumpkin spice fragrance from the kitchen to the bathroom and our armpits, and every single food in the house will taste like pie.

At the rate we are going, in another few years pumpkin spice latte will be the national drink and a pumpkin will replace the eagle on the national seal.

As that short kid in the zig zag shirt who helped launch this whole trend would say, “Good grief.”


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Roughing it when the dryer quits

We have been without a clothes dryer for approximately 24 days, 6 hours, 44 minutes and 22 seconds. But who’s counting?

When the dryer stopped working, we did what we always do when an appliance fails. I informed the husband. He then pulled the dryer out, checked the plug, flipped the breaker a few times, hit the dryer’s start button a half-dozen times, shoved the dryer back into place and matter-of-factly said, “Nothing lasts like it used to.”

Those are our home repair skills at full throttle.

I proceeded to step two, which is calling appliance repair people. Call after call, it was the same story—short staffed, customers back-logged and the onset of cold weather had generated a lot of furnace tune-up and repair calls.

The earliest anyone could get to us was three weeks out. I snapped it up like the last chocolate chip cookie on a warm baking sheet.

In the meantime, I considered rigging something up on the patio or in the backyard to dry laundry, but we like our neighbors. They aren’t the sort of people we’d traumatize with our personal things flapping in the wind.

I remembered a friend who had lived overseas talking about hang-drying laundry because most of the places they lived did not have clothes dryers. She would routinely hang lines in the living space and hang-dry laundry.

Our best hang-dry spots are in a bathroom that gets a lot of sun (the shower rod can hold 15 hangers) and the utility closet that houses the furnace and a recently purchased folding rack.

It is a workable system, providing you don’t mind bath towels that feel like steel wool.

I’m not saying hang-dry laundry is stiff, but we no longer fold clothes—we bend them.

We no longer need a scrub brush for food stuck on baking dishes. An air-dried dishcloth is rough enough to clean any baking dish and sand down the kitchen table we’ve been meaning to refinish.

The real bonus is that our complexions have never looked healthier. We have roses in our cheeks. You would, too, if you washed your face with a Brillo pad.

We may be wearing our clothes a day or two longer than usual. Who knows, maybe three or four. What I do know is that last night the husband’s jeans walked themselves to the laundry basket.

The appliance repair people were to arrive last week. They called 8 a.m. sharp on Monday – to say they couldn’t come. One tech injured a knee over the weekend, one has Covid and another is starting vacation.

I’d bury my head in the sleeve of my sweater and cry, but the sweater is so rough it’d probably scratch my face.

We rescheduled. We were fortunate enough to find someone who can come in two weeks.

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When royal roots are relative

My better half has a mind for dates, numbers and details, and enjoys family history and genealogy. There are many people who enjoy genealogy, and they have many wonderful conversations. Usually with one another.

Because I do not have the brain capacity for infinite details, dates and numbers, we have guidelines about him sharing his vast wealth of knowledge with me.

First, he is to share interesting findings in brief, condensed, modified form. Further, he is never to share generational history with me when I have my car keys in my hand or when I am working in the kitchen with the blender and the mixer simultaneously running full speed and I’m trying to take something out of a 450-degree oven.

He has ample time for these activities as he is retired. I am not.

He recently cut out a headline and put it on the ‘fridge: “Wife still working while retired husband travels.”

He finds this hilarious.

I asked him where he plans on going.

The other day he revealed that he had found something stunning on a genealogy site that a second cousin, 59 times removed, or something like that, had directed him to.

Instinct told me to grab my car keys, preheat the oven and start the mixer, but heard myself say, “What is it?”

He said, “There is documentation that my 12th great grandmother’s sister was a queen consort of Henry VIII.”

He begins moving from screen to screen to screen on his computer demonstrating how the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone and the thigh bone . . . no, wait, the screens are showing how one generation is connected to another generation, when suddenly there we were among Lords and Ladies and his 12th great grandmother’s royal sister, Anne Boleyn (who, incidentally, the king had beheaded for treason).

I tell the husband that I find it hard to believe that records from that long ago were kept in such detail, let alone preserved. How is it that paper lasted almost five centuries? Not a single water leak in the castle? No termites or silverfish? Surely the records were moved from time to time and papers were shuffled. How is it they weren’t accidently thrown out with someone’s junk mail in the 1700s?

I’m going to need something more tangible than a computer screen before I start decreeing myself a shirt-tail relative to royalty. Perhaps a memento of some sort that has been handed down through the generations. A key chain would do, a refrigerator magnet or even a ballpoint pen that says, “Consort of the King.”

When my maternal great grandfather came as a teen stowaway on a ship from Germany, he had some marbles in his pocket that are still in the family.

Likewise, I’d find the 12th great grandmother’s story more believable if someone had passed down the king’s shaving cup, or perhaps a signature ring. A jewel-studded crown falling into our possession would be fine, too. I try to stay flexible on these matters.

The husband is skeptical of my skepticism. (Is there no end to the cycle?)

“Show me an ancient carbon-dated hand towel or little soap stamped with VIII and I’m all in,” I say.

I wonder if people long, long ago would be as interested in finding us as we are in finding them.




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Chillin’ out in the backwoods

The fine print describing the rental I secured for a leaf peeping jaunt to Maine said the cabin had everything we could possibly need. All the reviews said that, too.

The pictures showed a charming old house with original wood paneling, wood floors and exposed beams. It could have been next door to the place that Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn stayed in “On Golden Pond.”

Pictures showed a small kitchen with a small stove and small fridge, and an adjoining sitting area with a sofa, a chair and a wood stove. What a clever idea to add a charming piece of décor like a wood stove, I thought to myself.

One of the reviews praised the place for maintaining its “vintage” character. Vintage is often code for no updates. We haven’t been updated in years either—we’re vintage, too. It would be a perfect match.

“Great choice!” the husband said when we pulled up.

“I can smell the wood paneling!” he said as we lugged in our things.

“Where’s the heat?” the husband asked when the sun set and the temperature plunged.

“I think you’re looking at it,” I said, nodding to the wood stove.

I’d already looked around and realized the wood stove was not for décor or ambiance, it was for heat. Who would have thought a vintage cabin would come with a vintage heat source?

We enjoyed the fire until the hour grew late, hesitating to go to the bedroom upstairs since the heat was downstairs.

“I’m sure it’s toasty up there,” I said, lying through my teeth.

“Heat rises,” the husband said.

“Yep, heat rises,” I echoed.

Except when you count on it rising. Then heat doesn’t rise; it hovers around a wood stove. And then it dies out—at approximately 2:30 a.m. by our calculations.

The bigger problem was that I am the early riser and it is an unwritten rule that the early riser stokes the fire. And, if all the kindling and wood was burned the night before, then the early riser must venture out in the pitch black for more wood where hungry bears, territorial moose, aggressive deer and killer squirrels lurk in wait of easy prey.

I am torn between a desire for heat and a desire not to be maimed in the dark. A faint outline of the woodpile at the edge of the woods appears by the light of the moon. I calculate the distance between the woodpile and the cabin, multiplied by the odds of me falling in a divot on uneven ground running at breakneck speed with arms full of wood fleeing my four-legged attackers.

It is simple math. I put my big puffer coat on over my thick terry cloth robe, long pjs and wool socks—and wait until the woodcutter awakes.

I make coffee but am unable to hold the cup as my hands refuse to leave my coat pockets.

The woodcutter finally awakes, gathers wood and restarts the fire. What’s more, he traipsed downstairs in the middle of the night for the next two nights to keep the fire going.

The colors were so gorgeous that I returned home with 100 pictures of red, orange and yellow foliage on gorgeous hillsides and 500 pictures of red, orange and yellow flames flickering in a wood stove.


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Shore looks like they’re in the water

I am completely certain that I said, “Do not get in the water. There are no dry clothes in the car. You did not wear clothes for wading.”

I turn my back for maybe 10 seconds, then look around and there they are—in the water.

It’s my fault really. I should never have said, “Do not get in the water.” It was like telling fish not to swim and birds not to fly.

This may be one of the best days of fall. Sunlight dances on ripples of water. Trees on the riverbank arch in a fashion that clearly says, “Y’all come.” Naturally, you get in the water. You can deal with the grandma later.

Besides, the grandpa is in the water, too, so there’s that – the old man on your side.

I stand alone, the practical one, the one with a first aid kit, anti-bacterial hand gel and sunscreen in the car, the one focused on the “after.” After they get out of the water. After the pant legs they “rolled up” are soaked. After their feet are caked with mud and not one of them will be able to worm wet feet back into their shoes and socks.

After that will come the protest — the protest claiming they don’t need their shoes for the hike back; they can go barefoot. I’ll protest their protest, and someone will turn the tables and say to me, “But why not?”

I’ll be playing defense, explaining why you don’t hike uphill, over tree roots and rocks in bare feet.

But all that will come later, because right now there are more pressing matters, like what to do with all the teeny, tiny shells a little one has collected from the slope of the bank.

She has dozens of them in her small cupped-hand. What to do with these tiny treasures? Put them in one of your socks, of course! Then she has another idea—a far better idea—put them in one of Grandpa’s socks!

He’s already ahead of her, loading tiny treasures into one of his socks.

Oops! He dropped one. He picks one up. No, that’s not the one, she says. The one he dropped was a darker gray. Yeah, better make sure it’s the right dark gray shell among the billions of dark gray shells sprawling in every direction.

Her older siblings are skipping rocks, probing the riverbed beneath crystal clear water with sticks, when one of the boys shouts that he spies something bobbing in the water. An old, half-rotten wooden duck decoy slowly drifts into reach.

Perfect. They position the decoy just so, in hopes of luring two beautiful mallards upstream.

Maybe we can stuff a live mallard in a sock, too.  Or maybe the mallards will just naturally want to follow us back to the car.

The morning passes, the sun grows from warm to hot and it is time to go. I anticipate a conversation about whether the duck decoy will come or stay, but there isn’t one.

They position the decoy in a current and watch the water carry it away, confident it will be discovered by another band of explorers.


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When plans sour and the wind howls

Special dates on a calendar are punctuation marks in what could otherwise be one long, winding, rambling sentence spanning years. They are restful pauses, a contrast to the routine, something to look forward to.

Then it happens. The special events come undone and plans unravel.

You might as well knock over an extra-large latte on a desk calendar and watch the ink bleed and the coffee puddle into the shape and size of Lake Michigan.

The once-beautiful forecast for an outdoor event turns to severe storms with heavy winds and damaging hail.

You’re hosting a family get together and at 10 the night before one wing of the family calls to say someone tested positive for Covid. Again.

You arrive at a long-awaited trip to the beach and are met by purple flags snapping in the wind, warning of a jellyfish infestation.

Sometimes the unraveling is small scale, a slight tremor on the Richter scale of life. Other times, the undoing is catastrophic. The earth shakes, the ground cracks and threatens to swallow you whole.

A loved one is whisked off for emergency surgery.

Test results are back and they’re not good.

A horrific phone call with a voice saying, “There’s been an accident.”

You’d think we would grow accustomed to managing abrupt structural shifts of life, but it’s not just the logistics of change. There’s the emotional roller coaster of disappointment, dashed hopes and altered expectations.

We all have things to do, places to go, people to see.

One of the greatest skill sets in life is being able to adapt and meet new challenges, both large and small and in between.

One of my favorite Bible verses is one you don’t see in a lovely calligraphy hanging on someone’s wall, stenciled on tote bags or coffee cups. It is the verse where Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”

Some translations say tribulation.

I find that verse affirming and reassuring on those nights I fall into bed exhausted, spent and completely wrung out. It is the reverb of trial and tribulation. A part of life. To be expected.

Even better than knowing difficulty is part of the landscape is the second part of the verse: “But take heart, I have overcome the world.” The affirmation that life is hard, for days or for seasons, is followed by encouragement and hope.

They say the race belongs to the swift and we duly shower awards and medals on those with lightning speed and incredible strength. But never, ever, ever count out those who move slowly, navigating life’s trials and tribulations one radiation treatment, one round of chemo, one physical therapy appointment at a time, one step and one day at a time, courageously leaning in to changing circumstances and new challenges.

It is the plodders and the overcomers who are the truly strong among us.

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The (drum) beat goes on

We witnessed the passing of the drums last weekend.

It was a momentous occasion and not just because they were passed down from the attic over the garage, although that was dramatic. I was instructed to remove the extension ladder that had gotten the husband into the attic once he stepped onto support beams.

Per instructions, I then moved a stepladder into place and climbed up with arms in catch position as he tried to force the bass drum through the attic opening. Meanwhile, grandsons smart enough to know a disaster in the making when they see it, positioned themselves to catch the drums if, when, and most likely, I lost my grip on the bass.

They intervened and were bearing the weight of the large drum before I could lose my grip. I choose to think they were more concerned about their grandmother than the drum, but I have no intention of giving them opportunity to confirm or deny that. Why ruin a happy thought?

The kids immediately set up the bass, snare, tom drum and cymbals in the family room. I’ve not seen that on HGTV, but maybe I can send them the idea.

The banging began immediately. It was deafening, but oddly comforting – a blast from the past.

The husband was a drummer. His ‘60s blue and silver Slingerland drum set was the major piece of furniture he brought to the marriage.

We raised a drummer. For years the roof shook, the windows rattled and the walls rolled. Our son practiced after school and every bone in my body wanted to run upstairs, fling open his door and scream, “STOP! JUST STOP!”

But we were paying for lessons. We paid someone big bucks for the kid to dismantle our nervous systems so he could play in a high school jazz band.

And orchestra. All the kids had to take orchestra.

Do you know what it’s like when your kid plays percussion in the orchestra? Your kid goes to practices and rehearsals, you clear the family calendar, you clean up, you drive to the school and you find a seat in the auditorium.

The curtain goes up and there’s your kid. He’s going to play the timpani, so he’s at the far back corner of the stage. You’re pretty sure that’s him but he’s far away and in the shadows so it’s hard to tell.

You sit there forever, waiting for the timpani. Then WHAM! He hits the timpani. WHAM! DA DA DA DA DA! WHAM!

Show over. Five seconds, max. Hundreds of dollars in lessons, thousands of dollars in Tylenol, five seconds of play.

And now the drum set that belonged to the husband and was used by our son passes to our son’s children.

We needed two vehicles to haul the kids and the drums home. We set them up and within seconds the roof shook, the windows rattled and the walls rolled. History really does repeat itself.

We declined an invitation to stay for dinner. We wanted to get going before our son and daughter-in-law had a chance to change their minds and tried to catch us.

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