This has been a whirlwind week! I'm actually writing this on Sunday the 2nd of July, but since I wanted to keep it as a scrapbook for the parents, I'll do separate entries. I might just add one entry of nothing but pictures.

Allright... the 29th and 30th was spent cleaning, hanging the outdoor lights (thank you Dad and Jeff!) and doing the little things needed for the Saturday party. We picked up extra chairs for the deck, an extra card table set, surplus food that we couldn't get at the Strip (*gasp* the Strip doesn't have everything known to mankind???), and put the finishing touches on everything. We prepped, swept, tackled the unkept, and generally did what we always do before company arrives.

We did have a few sit down and goof off moments - the small dog in my Dad's lap is Poco the Chihuahua. He's an old little dog, with an enlarged heart and more medication than my disabled husband! But, he has tons of spirit and has been making himself right at home. Plus, he waited until after the party... and then he pooped on my stairs. Too funny, as my carpet steamer doesn't have an attachment for steps. I don't mind dog mess, and since my dogs didn't make the mess, I can't complain. Guest dogs (he's my 'little brother') are just fine, and when they make a mess, it's just a mess. When your own dogs do it, it's embarrassing! My Mum felt bad, so here it is in print: Shit happens, you know? It's not the end of the world if it happens to come out of a beloved pet. (Besides, look how proud he is in that picture... as if he is thinking "HeeHee!")

Besides, it matches the coffee stains I left there accidentally last week.

And, at least we can say that our dogs have never behaved like angels with they visited their Nonna - Chihuahua poop is nothing when compared to the elephant-sized dookie left by Greyhounds!

Where was I?

My parents and husband (and I) busted our butts getting ready for the party, and my Dad changed out some electrical outlets and switches that were not working right. He determined that we don't have grounded wires (eep!), so eventually we will have to hire an electrician to come in and do that work.

The work is done, this is a short entry, and I'll move on to the weekend stuff.

(PS: that's Mum loving on her Granddog, Zephyr.)

The Pittsburgh Strip

Wednesday is shopping day, and we shopped the Pittsburgh Strip to our hearts' content (that's Mum and Dad standing on the corner.)

Mum and Dad have never been to the Strip, and they delighted in the deli selection offered at the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (the best Italian market in Pittsburgh, in my opinion.) They purchased some antipasto salads, some excellent meats, a large bottle of olive oil, breads, Italian chocolate (with hazelnuts in it), and bought me a pizzelle iron for my upcoming birthday (thank you Mum and Dad!) I love Penco (as everyone around here calls it.) Just about every Italian delicacy you would want is neatly housed on their shelves. Rows of cookies and breads, shelves packed with canned goods, dried fishes in the cold cases, and olive oil (an aisle running over 20 feet in length!) Of course, I usually buy the house brand, which is kept in large glass jugs (bigger then my own body, and I'm not a tiny creature!) An entire large bottle will only set you back $20, and the extra virgin olive oil is light and smooth in flavor.

We ate at the Bella Notti, which has excellent wraps, sandwiches and pizza at an inexpensive rate. The waitress was very sweet, and even took a group picture off all of us, which I have not posted here yet.

We headed over to the Commissary afterwards (Facility 51 you know), and bought most of the things we need for Saturday.

Saturday - my birthday. I'm looking forward to it, as my parents are here. I'm cringing when I think of it, as the whole family will be here. We are expecting twenty-two for dinner on Saturday, and Mum and I (and Jeff helped) planned the menu out.


Mum and Dad Arrive!

My Mum and Dad arrived on Monday evening... and I, overwhelmed with joy, didn't bother to capture the moment with my ever-handy digital camera. My bad, yes. Instead, you have a lovely picture of a butterfly upon some grapes, courtesy of an online friend.

Their trip wasn't too bad, although they were both fairly worn out from driving! Mum really loves our new home, and she and Dad settled in very well. We gave them our bedroom, as they brought a lot of stuff and Mum has her oxygen machine for sleeping. Poco and Dusty, their dogs (yes, there are now seven... SEVEN... dogs in the house) trot around as if they own the place, and both of them are really enjoying the freedom of a large yard to run around in. Poco is on in years, and mostly deaf, but he still has the Chihuahua attitude (my Mum insists that he's a Manchester terrier, but we all think the bandy legs and domed skull bear the hallmarks of solid Chihuahua blood.)

Monday was a day for relaxing. Jeff and I went in to work for a few hours... not much to do, and then I came home and took Mum to Mass at Holy Rosary. I broke down and sobbed towards the end - it has been a long time since I have heard her beautiful voice singing harmony.

Afterwards, we headed downtown to see her old stomping ground. The house that she grew up in, as well as the homes of her friends, are gone. Years ago, they were left derelict by people who purchased them and didn't care for them, and fires consumed many of them a decade ago. The lot her home sat upon is now overgrown with trees and high grass. It was very depressing for her to see, and my only regret is that no one in the family took me to see the home when I came out here as a small child for a visit. I am a very sentimental person, and can spend hours absorbed in family history; being able to actually see my Mum's childhood home would have brought me such joy as a child. Well, that is the past, and a house is only a home when there is love flowing through it. To me, no matter where she lives, my Mother's love is what makes home a home. She was able to tell me some of the stores about her as a kid (I love those), and showed me where her Daddy's barber shop was. She pointed out where the old theatre was, and told me about the fun times she had when her father would treat her to ice cream. My grandparents, Lily and Frank, were very loving people, with good morals and kind hearts. I have always known this, but seeing things through her eyes was just wonderful. For a brief moment, I felt as if I had gone back at time, to walk beside her when she was just 14 or 15, and she roamed the downtown section of Steubenville when it was a bustling, well-kept and prosperous city.

My Mum is a brilliant author, and I really do wish she would sit down and write her memoirs!

We rested for the remainder of the day, and visited Yummy's in Toronto that evening. One of the local boys' baseball teams was there, in uniform, for an after-game treat. They ran and squealed and played tag, in between eating their ice cream and telling jokes.

I went to bed early, having been up since 4 AM. It was a wonderful day.


This is your chance to sound off about this web site. Many of you asked for fun things to be added, such as the daily cartoon, science news, better organized links, and even the local weather. I know 99% of my readers send me email rather than leave comments, but if you'd like to leave a comment here regarding your opinion of the web site, it will help me understand the things that you, my readers, are looking for. Of course, many of you do not belong to Blogger, and don't want to set up an account just to leave comments, so your email is still welcomed in my in-box. As always, AutriceDelDrago@aol.com. I do not accept attachments or embedded images.

What would you like changed or modified? I've had all sorts of helpful hints and comments come in... let's see what the majority of people would like:

Too many pictures, or not enough?

Are the links helpful? Would you like your own blog link added?

Is it easy to read, or do you want better organization of sidebars?

Do you want more articles regarding science, or (per your request) should I continue with the daily journal entries?

What do you like most about my blog, or what do you absolutely hate about it?

Personally, I feel the blog is a bit busy, but many of you use it as a jumping ground for your day online, pulling up the science news or hitting the PBEM. I've had a great many of you beg me not to change a thing!

Sunday Scribblings #13 - Music


a melody

inspired by nothing more

than the wind dancing around

the weathered bells of my front porch.

Nature is her own Muse.


Good Morning, World!

Morning is my meditation period of the day, when I can actually drag myself out of bed to appreciate the first rays of light. Today, I awoke too late to go to work (I set my own schedule, and prefer to go in prior to 6 AM) so I took advantage of the 6:30 time to make some strong coffee and retreat to my front porch.

The cool morning air, combined with the caffeine, brought me from my groggy state. Our yard crew pulled up at 8 AM, and I went upstairs to wake Jeff. As the crew worked, Jeff and I relaxed on the porch and watched the birds. A gentle drizzle started around 9 (we are expecting heavy storms today!) and I thought I'd snap a photo of the newly bloomed lily touched by the first few drops.

There is a bit to do today, and my parents should arrive by 6 PM tonight, if they decide to drive straight through. I've got to spruce up the bedrooms and polish up the fixtures in the bath. The bed linens are almost dry, and Jeff and I will put together our bedroom to better accommodate Mum and Dad. Aprea delivered her oxygen machine a few minutes ago (not that she'll need it, out here!), and Jeff and I are savoring the last few moments of rest before we begin our chores. I did attempt to capture some photos of birds at the feeder this morning, but I'm afraid everything turned out too blurry for my liking (I am a perfectionist at heart.) I think I will also begin to chronicle "Bold", a young bird new to the area who does not fit the mould of his species, being 20% larger and 90% more aggressive than the others. Just call me the Jane Gooddall of Pembroke - but, unlike her, I'm certain my version of Bold's story will bore your socks off.

Truly, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful morning in Ohio.

Why would I move to Steubenville?

A friend, Annie, asked me why we relocated to Steubenville. I've had several others ask as well. So, with nothing better to write about today, I'll take a moment and share why we moved.

I was born in California. My mother, however, was born in Steubenville, OH. She wanted to pursue a career in Theatre, and so, she set out for CA, and later NY, where she met my Dad (who is also involved in Theatre.) They fell in love, married, and moved to CA because the adoption laws in that state were favorable. Before they could adopt, I came along (it's a long story, and someday I will sit down and tell it.) When I was 16, my father's company downsized, and he found himself unemployed. He had always had a good paying job as an engineer, but his age stood against him... so they opened a map, closed their eyes, and pointed - right to Colorado! We moved, and a few years later, I met Jeff.

Jeff and I share similar passions - mainly our love of science and nature. Colorado was a wonderful state to live in, considering our interests. It is beautiful, with high deserts, towering mountain ranges, and dense woodland in the upper elevations. A paleontologist couldn't ask for better stomping grounds. Colorado has, however, become over-populated, which caused the housing market to skyrocket to the point where we could never afford to buy a decent home. How high, you might ask? The home we currently live in was purchased last year for under $90 K. This same home, in size and in land, would cost upwards of $260 K in Colorado Springs, CO.

Steubenville itself has a small population, and the people here are friendly. Colorado Springs' population is almost equal to Denver, with so many houses being built that the utilities offices can hardly handle to overload. Steubenville is under 45 minutes away from Pittsburgh, with Theatres, museums, galleries, and East Coast attitude (think of Chicago or New York as far as culture, but on a smaller scale.) Colorado Springs is 60 miles away from Denver, which lacks culture all together, and the traffic and commute between the two can take as long as 2 hours! There is hardly any pollution in Steubenville. Colorado Springs has a constant brown haze. Colorado is in the death grip of a drought, and you can only water your lawn twice per week (which means the whole damn city is a nasty shade of brown.) In Steubenville, we don't bother to water, and everything is green. Steubenville (and Pittsburgh) drivers simply drive, often waving vehicles into their lane with a patient flick of the hand. Colorado drivers are raging assholes, bent on shoving all other traffic off the road. The kids in Steubenville play football, go to church with their parents, and enjoy all the activities the town offers them (often free.) In Colorado Springs, the kids are as hard as their parents, lack manners (eating in a restaurant is hell for other patrons!) and seem obtuse. Steubenville, unlike Colorado Springs, doesn't care about being politically correct or fashionable. Steubenville is a place where kids are still taught morals. People are more polite out here, and more compassionate. In Steubenville, Senior Citizens are an asset to the community, beloved and respected for their knowledge. In Colorado Springs, they are "just old people who drive slow", are seen as asking stupid questions, and get in the way... that sort of treatment soured me to the city a decade ago. Focus on the Family is in Colorado Springs. In Steubenville, family is the focus!

I will be fair: Colorado hosts some beautiful things! There is the Air Force Academy, Glen Eyrie Castle, Garden of the Gods, Manitou, and some wonderful drives up through Grand Junction and Aspen. When I moved there so long ago, it was a delightful place! My only reason for not liking it anymore is simply because it has become too over-crowded!!! There are too many people moving there from California and other places. It has become the "cool thing to do", and I have never been one to go with the flow. The people have tarnished the beauty, to me. The charm is lost. The "me first" generation has taken over. Looking back, I firmly believe those who moved to Colorado Springs are nothing more than wanna-be posers, who couldn't hack it in CA or AZ, and think that, by moving to this clueless (culturally speaking) location, they will finally be popular.

To me, my new hometown is Nirvana. My family is here. We have a beautiful river, and are surrounded by rolling green hills (which are actually mountains, but since I lived in the Rockies for a long time, I think of these as just hills.) We have a variety of wildlife. There are acres of national forest just outside our back doors. It is slower paced. It is affordable! And, for the first time in 35 years, I can honestly say the neighbors are true neighbors... waving to you as they drive by, inviting you to sit on their front porches in the evenings, and genuinely concerned with how your day is going. Nope, I couldn't ask for anything more than this peaceful community, my slice of heaven, known as Steubenville Ohio. You can keep your BMWs and Hummers. Keep the Starbucks and other fancy haunts. $500 handbags and shoes, and other accessories, aren't part of the dress code here. You can wear the same outfit to work twice, and no one will make a snide remark. When you go to the local coffee diner, you don't bring your laptop because you'll have more fun chatting with the locals about so-and-so's garage sale, or looking at Mrs. Smith's grandchildren's photos (or hearing about the fish that got away, or the new boat, or the currently small-town politician's benefit ball, or the Girl Scout bake sale... etc!) For that matter, you can sit and drink your coffee without the endless noise of dozens of cell phones ringing, or people doing "power lunches". No one will look down on you if you don't try to keep up with the Joneses... and chances are, the Joneses out here are down-to-earth decent folk who don't mind sharing their left-over watermelon or potato salad with the rest of the neighborhood.

Other perks of this area: some doctors still make house calls. The 4th of July celebrations started this weekend, with free fireworks shows that light up the night sky for miles. You can walk just about anywhere without worry of getting run over. People open doors for you. Parking lots are never full. Everyone smiles. When sad times hit, people suck it up and drive on, working harder to get through the bad times instead of whining. Honestly, this place reminds me of those Walgreens commercials... in the little town of Perfect. Steubenville is not perfect, but it is a good place. It has crime on a small scale. There are unemployed here. There are some gangsta attitudes downtown. But the good outweighs the bad.


Saturday Chores

Summertime in Ohio is often heralded by the sounds of chirping birds and lawn mowers in the calm morning air. Today was no exception, and Jeff and I woke early to get some laundry done and tackle our front yard.

I should warn you now: I am the Weedwacking Queen. There is nothing I enjoy more than the feel of a power tool in my hands, and for some reason, I get immense satisfaction from powering a motor that whips a deadly plastic string around at a bazillion mph, just to see small green weeds mutilated according to my whim. Weeds and grass beware, for I have become quite adept at guiding that tool along a path, neatly snipping unwanted junk from between by dianthus and petunias. Today was a record - not a single petal was harmed. Of course, I had to stop once I ran out of string!

Jeff tackled the lawn proper, making little patterns as he walked to and fro. Perhaps it is a male issue, but I've noticed that baseball fields always have a pattern to the grass. Our little lawn is one of the lucky ones. From the air, who is to say it doesn't look like crop circles?!

We retreated to the front porch as the afternoon sun smiled down on us, and I whipped up a batch of iced tea for us both. Jeff made home-made potato salad, and we put the rib eyes in a marinade. This is how you spend a Saturday! Iced tea, cozy chairs and a good book in hand. The wind chimes played their tune in the breeze, and the dogs settled down to observe the birds and snap lazily at flies that came too close. Now, we are waiting for the fire to die down on the BBQ (no propane junk here), and I took some pictures of things that caught my eye.

We did get an estimate for a service to come in and mow our back yard (the hill is much too steep for either Jeff or I to handle), and it will only run us $25. Not bad, considering our old "mower/gardener" charged $20 for the back.

My parents called - they drove as far as Salinas, KS, and have stopped for the night. My Mum did very well, considering her usual panic attacks while driving (it can't be helped) and my Dad reported that he still had skin on his arm (she tends to clutch at things almost violently when she gets spooked by traffic.) They were going to skip trying to find a church for mass tonight, which really is best, as they don't know the area. We should see them pulling into our driveway Monday evening.

I think we will need to sand and repaint the back deck next summer. This will be a major project for us (do I get to purchase more power tools??!), and I'm sure it will take us a month or more, at our slow and steady pace. I guess we shall just have to enjoy the flaky deck until then. Really, it isn't so bad. The paint is coming off on only the side that receives full sun. Plus, it doesn't detract from how handsome my hubby is! ~grin~

Ohio Good-Byes and Phoenix Skies

Today was the last day of Dad's visit. It was raining today, as if Ohio, too, was sad to see him leave and openly expressing its tears.

I took my shower and found Dad and Jeff sharing their last few hours of the visit on the front porch. Dad loves spending time out there, watching the birds and chipmunks at play. He loves the green tree and the friendly neighbor's. So, part of me will always think of our front porch as Dad's Porch, the place I always knew I could find him when I came downstairs.

It has been wonderful having Dad here. It did Jeff's heart a lot of good - he has missed his father! They shared laughs over military careers, and talked about the future. I suppose many daughter-in-laws would be grumpy over having her husband's family visit; I am not one of them. Dad is a blessing in our lives, and I can't think of anyone who could replace this handsome Southern Gentleman in our lives. There is no "in-law" tacked onto his title in my heart - he is a Dad in the fullest sense.

We drove up to the airport under rainy skies, and parked. The airport was not crowded today, and we stood in line with Dad as he confirmed his ticket and checked his bag. And then the moment came, when we could have to say good-bye, as we could not follow him beyond the security checkpoint. Dad thanked us for our hospitality, and we reminded him that he would always be welcomed in our home... his presence made it feel like home, to us! We hugged him and kissed him, and turned away, and Jeff put his arm around me as I began to cry as we walked. I was already missing him - we both were. There is no sweet sorrow in partings; there is only sadness because the one you love has to leave. None-the-less, we comforted ourselves in knowing that we would all meet up again soon. It was not a final good-bye - only a farewell until we see you again!

Jeff and I stopped at Cracker Barrel by the airport, just to sit and nibble on stuff. I saw a plate there which had a beautiful painting of a bird. I thought of Dad, and how he loves to watch the birds, and bought it. It sits upon my Victrola, so that, as I gaze out the front window, I can see that plate out of the tail of my eye, and remember a very special gentleman who so enjoyed all the beauty of our new home state.

We love you, Dad!


Jefferson County BMV and Rainy Days!

I woke up with a burr up my bum, figuratively speaking. It has been almost a year since we relocated to Steubenville and during that time I had not bothered to get a state driver's license. It is not that I am lazy, or too stupid to pass the test - I simply have not bothered. But, without my Ohio license, we can not register the car, and the plates were due to expire in a week. We had to get the car registered, and we were not sure if it would take four or more days for them to process things. Oh my.

"Today is the day," I thought to myself, as I struggled to open my eyes wide enough to actually find my cup of coffee and listened to the rain pouring down. "Today I will take the test." Granted, I am not usually bothered by tests of any nature, but I have had to take tests in two different states in my younger years, and it seemed that, sans any actually class time, one must spend weeks memorizing traffic codes. I did not have weeks, as I procrastinated (and us living just down the road from a very nice officer of the Ohio Highway Patrol!), hence my sudden onset of worry despite my determination to obtain my goal for the day. I flipped through the manual I had picked up a while back, shrugged at the possibility of defeat, and headed out the door an hour later.

I found the BMV offices (Wintersville... it really is a small area I live in) easily enough, and soon discovered that my fears were completely unwarranted. Not only was the test touch screen computerized, but you could skip up to ten questions, if you did not know the answer. I passed with flying colours, only skipping one (why chance my dyslexia would hamper my perfect score?), and was given my paper slip to take to the BMV registration offices. I headed back to Steubenville, turned in my slip, gave my happiest smile as BMV clerk Becky snapped my photo, and was on my way - the proud owner of a brand new Ohio State Driver's License - yup, I am an organ donor and also a registered voter. As I headed for home, I got to thinking - my, but why not register the car today as well? The title was waiting for us at the courthouse downtown, and surely it won't take long to have the vehicle inspected!

I routed home, and picked up Jeff and Dad. We soon found ourselves back at the DMV (I stopped to ask where the inspection station was), and Becky waved me forward. Apparently, I did not have to wait in line again as I had already been there that morning. Fortune was with us, and Becky was able to complete the inspection. We then headed downtown with that new slip of paper, transferred our out of state title, and headed back to the BMV for plates. But what of our old plates, with the handicap symbol on the back???! A placard would require a prescription, which meant a quick trip up to Pittsburgh PA to visit the VA. And so, the three of us headed out, giving Dad more of an opportunity to see the lush greenery along the road. We then headed back to the BMV; once again, Becky waved us in, despite the office being packed with afternoon people. A massive storm hit as we waited in line, sheets of rain pouring down, and Dad was able to appreciate a true summer storm, having waited outside to enjoy a cigarette.

I can finally say, after all the running around done today, that we are now official residents of this state. Jeff and I both have identification that distinguishes us a proud Buck-eyes, and the car bears Ohio plate. I'm sure the Highway Patrolman up the way will be pleased.

Sightseeing the Ohio Valley and Beyond

We spent a lovely two days sightseeing the Ohio Valley area and Pittsburgh. Jeff had VA appointments yesterday and today, which was a wonderful excuse for us to all get out and about!

Tuesday was his Physical Therapy evaluation at the VA in Aspinwall complex in Pittsburgh (it looks like things will go well with that.) This hospital is nestled in a densely wooded area, bordered by fine old homes with magnificent front yards. The drive there is a little hectic, as the highway we take has all sorts of merging ramps and various off ramps, but we found the complex with little effort. We took Dad to the Strip after Jeff's appointment, to show him the shops - we also were low on olive oil and I needed some breadcrumbs - so the timing was perfect. We stopped in at the large Italian market there, and at Parma's for sausage. I found some delicious zucchini at the fruit and veggie market, to boot!

Afterwards, we headed home and I set the men to cleaning while I started my marinara, stuffed peppers and meats. Company showed up right on schedule (my Aunt Helen, Cousin Linda, and Keith and his wife and 2 boys) and we sat down to a huge Italian feast. My Aunt and Cousin absolutely adore Dad, and are so glad he his considering relocating to Ohio. Sorry, no pictures yesterday.

Today was the other VA appointment, again in Pittsburgh at the Highland Drive complex, and Dad was treated to a drive through one of our favorite Jewish neighborhoods (excellent kosher deli there!). I remembered my camera this morning, and took a few snapshots around the VA complex. There is a cozy garden area just behind the building Jeff's doctor is in, and I often sit outside and read my book or smoke while Jeff is being seen upstairs. It is a tranquil place, and I was so happy to share this favorite green nook with Dad. The small garden is surrounded by a high wooden fence, and if you didn't bother to leave the smoking area, you would never find it. Heavy stone benches and tables offer a cool place to rest, and small green trees and shrubs, plus my favorite rock, adorn the inside of the fence proper. It has become slightly overgrown, which only gives me reason to love it more, and birds chirp in the trees overhead.

We stopped by the CEKSF on the way home, in search of a light jacket for Dad. Oakdale really is a charming community, and the scent of freshly cut grass and approaching rain only made the trip all the better. Clothing Sales and the PX were a bust, as they didn't have anything, but I did spot the perfect birthday gift for my Mum (and will return there next week to pick it up!)

On a whim, we drove back to Ohio and headed up the 7 towards St. Clairsville - the Ohio Valley Mall has a lot of shops - and Dad got a chance to see the lush rolling hills. Luck was with us, and we found a nice dark blue light jacket for Dad (who, being from a desert climate, finds or crisp summer mornings a tad chilly.) We had a refreshing rain, and I captured some houses in the mist, as well as the photo below of Jeff and Dad (and his purchase find!) A stop at the Cracker Barrel for lunch, and we headed back. Jeff thought he'd be funny, and started snapping pictures of road signs, as my parents will be heading along this route in a few days. Needless to say, the man took pictures of every turn and sign they would need to look for during their trip from I-70, complete with shots of the corner of our street and driveway! I emailed them to Mum just now.

We are back at home, the men are napping while I work on this entry. I'm fairly exhausted - seven hours of driving does wear one out!

We are really going to be sad when Dad leaves for home, but we are all hoping that things work out well so that he can return here soon, perhaps to stay! It's been wonderful having Dad visit, and Jeff and I are blessed to have him in our lives.

Just a Monday

Dad came with us early this morning while I worked. He got to poke around and see what I do; it's a very part time job, and I put off work last Friday so I needed to get things done today. Never put off to tomorrow what you could do today, as the saying goes.

Jeff and Dad have spent the day puttering around the house. I came home and promptly went to bed. Dad really enjoys sitting on the front porch. He's been getting up early to observe the birds and chipmunks at play, and he enjoys seeing all the green. We have a lovely rain this morning (more storms should hit us this week) and he was able to see our morning fog.

Well, it's a very short entry for today. Today was a rough day. I'm feeling under the weather, and will probably head to bed in a few. I napped until 4 PM, and I'm still feeling tired. I know my body is needing some rest!

I'll even treat you to a rare sight - a photograph of myself. Jeff took it, and I have titled it "Killroy". No makeup, and bed head.

Scenes From a Slow Moving Train

If you get a chance, stop by Scenes From A Slow Moving Train, by AnnieElf. I really enjoy her upbeat posts. You can click on the link here, or else click on the link in the right hand column.

Happy Father's Day!!!!!

We had a wonderful Father's Day today. Admittedly, we didn't do much, which is a very nice way to spend a lazy summer Sunday.

Dad helped me weed the backyard flowerbeds while Jeff retreated into the air conditioned house; he is still worn out from yesterday, and we both have sunburns on our necks and noses. Later in the day, Jeff bar-b-qued a London broil (tenderized with rub and some of my marinara sauce), and we made twice-baked potatoes, and broccoli and onions. We presented Dad with a Steeler's Terrible Towel (if you don't know what that is, I don't think I should ever be able to properly explain it!) Later, Dad and I sat on the front porch and enjoyed conversation. It was a beautiful day.

I thought I'd take a moment to share my views on two wonderful fathers.

Jeff's Dad, Doug, is a delightful man - a true Southern Gentleman. He speaks softly, and can capture your attention in witty ways as he recalls things he has done in life. He was Air Force, and now works for the State of Arizona. Between those two jobs, he has done just about everything. He is a hard worker, and never hesitated to do what needed to be done to make ends meet. He has known ups, and he has known downs, and all the while, he has kept his head and done his best to get through everything life throws at him. He is always very polite, and will open doors for women. His smile lights up a room. He is a little shorter than Jeff, but they both have beautiful white hair (Jeff just keeps his close cropped so no one notices that he is balding while his father still has a full head of hair!) He loves to nap during football and baseball games, gets up at 2:30 am (before the hot Arizona heat sets in), and loves to read science fiction. There is no one I would rather have as my Father-in-Law.

My Dad, George, is a quiet man. This is the first Father's Dad we have celebrated without my Dad (he and my Mum are back in Colorado still.) It was difficult, as I miss him greatly. My Dad is a man of few words, preferring to listen. He, too, loves science fiction, but my Dad is not a sports fan. I don't even know if he could tell you what each state's major football team is (and I don't think he really cares.) His father, George (sr.), was a boxer (pro, at one time) and drove around on a motorcycle. My father was a gymnastic hobbyist (before the knees went) and drives around in a silver Mercury Sable! My Dad likes to tinker with gadgets, and rebuilds his computer on a somewhat quarterly basis. He loves Theatre (often serving as Technical Director during family operated productions), and is one hell of a fine public speaker (as long as he has his notes in front of him.) He doesn't smile fully often, because he thinks his teeth are terrible (but when he does smile, it lights up a room, too!) I am a Daddy's-Little-Girl, and an only child, so of course my Daddy is my super hero and teacher all rolled into one. I inherited my Dad's sarcastic sense of humor. I can still remember all the fun things we used to do with each other, like play "three little pigs" every day when he came home from work... he was the big bad wolf, and I would always stifle my giggles and hide in my closet when I heard him come down the hall ("I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow this door down!") I was a stupid little pig... I always hid in the same spot in the closet. My Dad cries during the scene where Bambi's mother dies. My Dad also cried at my wedding (which, of course, caused me to cry, which... of course, meant that I had racoon eyes from all the running mascara!) There is no one I'd rather have as my Father.

Jeff, not having any children, isn't a Dad - unless you count the dogs and cat. They didn't give him a card this year. The Cat forgot to pick one up.

Anyway -

Dad George and Dad Doug... Happy Father's Day to you both!
We love you!!!

Steubenville Festivals

Today was the day to partake in all the different festivals going on around Steubenville. Within a few minutes of each other, you could hit the Greek Festival, the Classic Car Show, the Dean Martin Festival, the Lion's Club Block party thingy, and a host of other activities. Our day started in downtown Steubenville, where we caught the parade going down 4th Street.

Steubenville is a very small place, and although it was once a fantastic "modern" city, things have diminished as the mills closed. However, that has not stopped hometown pride. Happy citizens lined the streets, waving to the local football teams, Mayor, Shriners, music groups, fire trucks, and other various parade participants. The downtown area blended, pocket festivals all merging over blocks as people took a leisurely Saturday stroll through the area. American flags waved on poles from the old buildings, and the general atmosphere was one of happy contentment. Yes, it was indeed hot today, but no one complained, and everyone seemed happy to be out in the sunshine.

The downtown area has changed over the decades. Once magnificent buildings now lay in dereliction. Windows are boarded up, and crumbling brick walls bear the hallmarks of pseudo-gang graffiti. Sidewalks need mending. Store shingles need replacing. But, damn it all, the streets were packed with families who wanted to celebrate all the various activities of the weekend. It wasn't the Steubenville of the golden heydays of the early to mid century; it was the Steubenville of today - somewhat dingy, somewhat depressed economically, but still strong and still determined to persevere.

As the midday sun got to us, we decided to do a lunch at The Ville (fine food and a very good price), and then drove up the 7 to enjoy Yummy's ice cream (soft serve in just about every flavor you could imagine!) Dad has never been to this area, and he got to enjoy all the rolling green hills (technically they are mountains, but having been to the Rockies, we all still think of this ancient mountain range back east as a bunch of clever hills!) The beautiful Ohio River sparkled on our right hand side as we drove to Toronto - not some brown murky sludge, but a cheerful flow of solid river that beacons you to stop, spread a blanket, and bask in the sunshine at its shore. A few barges and some pleasure craft were traveling slowly north, and you could see people enjoying their day out on the water. Yummys was a relaxing stop, and we ate our ice cream under the shade of an umbrella.

Afterwards, Jeff took a nap (the heat doesn't agree with him as far as his medications go), and Dad and I spent a few relaxing hours on the front porch. Our bellies still filled from the lunch earlier, I packed up the stuffed pepper mixings and tossed it into the freezer. If we get hungry, we'll scrounge around and make some deli sandwiches.

Cousin Linda called, and she has off on Tuesday, so we invited her and Jeff's friend Keith and his family over for dinner that night. I'm going to see if Aunt Helen wants to stop by as well.

Oh yes - after a year, the car finally got washed!


Dad Arrives!

Dad's plane arrived on time yesterday, and we had fun trying to spot him in the heavy crowd. Pittsburgh International is a fun airport; the gates are far from the terminal, which means that passengers must ride the underground rail all the way to the terminal proper. It usually takes a while for trains (and baggage) to reach the terminal, so we visually combed through every pack of people that came down the escalators. Finally, I spotted Dad in the crowd and called to Jeff. Dad looks great! He's trim, and as always, has a wonderful smile on his face.

We drove home, but by the time we hit West Virginia, the sun had set. Dad enjoyed seeing all the green on the rolling hills (Phoenix is flat and brown.) He also enjoyed sitting on the front porch, listening to the tinkle of the fountain in the yard. Steubenville isn't a busy town, and the night was peaceful. The fireflies have finally come out!

Today is the Greek Festival at the Greek Orthodox Church downtown. We'll probably poke around there for a while, and then drive around the area so Dad can see the sights.


OMG DONE! Finally! Done! Well, there is a little laundry that is in the dryer, but other than that, DONE.

My body crapped out yesterday, so Jeff took over all the domestic workload. He has done a fantastic job! The upstairs, downstairs and basement are spotless. The front yard looks glorious, and he added the solar lights to the walkway as an added perk. The food has been purchased, the homemade marinara is ready to go, and the fresh Italian sausage awaits its turn in the skillet. Everything sparkles (with the exception of the ceiling fixtures - at this point, to hell with them!)

The dogs know something is in the wind, since they have been brushed almost daily for a week. I'm sure they will be excited to see their Grandpa Doug again. The cat could care less, as all cats do, and has simply figured that we (her humble staff) have washed her bed to further our worship of her magnificence. Having said that, God help any animal that so much as sheds a single strand of fur on my carpets!

The final minutes are counting down before we have to get ourselves ready for the airport. Damn, and I just remember that I have not cleaned the car yet!

I'll post here as I find free time over the next week. So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Italian Food and Guests!

Jeff and I started our day driving up from Steubenville to purchase food for all the out of town guests we would be hosting. We wanted to find the best produce and meats, and that meant traveling to markets (and, of course, the Commissary for sundries.)

The Commissary in Facility 51 (also known as the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility) is a very pleasant place! The employees are courteous, and the Facility staff itself is informative and helpful. We were able to save a lot of money shopping there, and I also had time to stop in at DEERS and get issued a new ID card. We picked up some prime cuts of beef at a very decent price, and I bought all the fixings for my home made marinara sauce (it sits simmering on the stove as I write this!) We also stopped at Federico's foods, our local Italian market, for lunch meats and cheeses, as well as our favorite sweet Italian sausages.

Jeff's Dad is due Friday night, and I will probably be offline for the next 7 days. My parents will arrive two days after Dad Doug leaves, which means another 10 days that I will be away. I'm sure no one will notice... I don't seem to have many visitors to this blog, but my email will surely suffer!

Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, the new Area 51?

Jeff's neurosurgery appointment was yesterday. All is well, and he does not require any treatment for the numb area on his thigh (at this time.) On our way out of the hospital, we noticed a gentleman in uniform (303rd Psyops), and asked him if there was a military commissary nearby. We have missed having a military base nearby, as we used to save money by using Jeff's privileges to shop at the commissary, BX/PX, Class 6 and gas stations. As far as we knew, the closest base was over 2 hours away. However, the gentleman gave us directions to the reserve support center in Oakdale, PA. Joy!

There is a lot of construction being done to the major highways around Pittsburgh, so we began our "Commissary Quest" following the Specialist's directions. We most likely zigged when we should have zagged, as we soon found ourselves in the middle of rural "nowhere". We did discover a wonderful market that sells Boars Head brand meats, and home baked fare. The young ladies behind the deli counter were happy to point us back in the right direction, and we set off again, only to find ourselves in yet another small hamlet in the middle of nowhere. The VFW again pointed us on the right path, this time telling us to bear with the construction and utilize the highway instead of trying to detour (bear in mind, the directions we received prior included such details as "when you see the gas station, turn left until you see the cows" etc.) After a brief drive, we found the support center (which was amazing, as we drove through every color belt in the county during a period of three hours!)

I am very used to large military facilities, complete with guarded gates, roads lined with barracks and equipment, and so on. I have enjoyed driving through the Air Force Academy and Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs (also Ft. Carson, which is not a very pretty base), as well as Luke AFB in Phoenix, AZ, and the Port Hueneme Navy Base in Oxnard, CA. All three location in Colorado Springs have excellent facilities, and Luke AFB has a beautiful setting. The Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, in Oakdale, PA, is, at best... a glimpse into the era of soldiers wearing Class A's to leave the base. It is very tiny, surrounded by new housing development. On the base itself, ancient guard shacks stand empty along unmarked roads, while somewhat primitive signs(in terms of military base signage) point us to batches of buildings.

We found the commissary nestled along a path, the ancient building itself set apart from the parking lot with a cheery sign welcoming visitors (alas, it was closed, being a Monday!) The base veterinarian has offices in the same building. The BX was down the way, also closed, and nearby were in-processing offices, which were also closed. The whole of the CEKSF seems to shut down on Mondays, leaving visitors with the odd sense of having stumbled back in time to a bygone era. I promptly dubbed this tiny support facility "Area 51", as my imagination pondered old movies and silly theories wherein the Government had set up secret laboratories underneath 'dead' bases so the local inhabitants would be none-the-wiser to their experiments. Surely, underneath the CEKSF, humble soldiers buzzed like busy insects around top secret flying saucers, while white-haired scientists worked frantically on the life support systems of fluid-filled tubes, wherein captured aliens floated in unconscious bliss. This is Oakdale, PA, land of the hamlets and farms, the true middle of nowhere, nestled in a saddle of the green Allegheny hills. Has Groom Lake been moved??

To be fair, it really wasn't a bad little outpost. The people we did encounter were very friendly. The area is very tranquil, with rolling hills, fields of corn, and thriving woodland. We will return next week to replace my expired military ID, and to do a little shopping.

More about the CEKSF:
As a sub-installation of Fort Dix, NJ, the mission of the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility (CEKSF), Oakdale, Pa is providing vital installation support services to service members of all military branches, their dependents, civilians and retirees in order to promote an efficient, effective readiness posture while enhancing the quality of life for our customers in our geographic area of responsibility.

Headquarters, U. S. Army Support Detachment, Oakdale, moved from South Park Military Reservation an integral park of the Pennsylvania Military District, located in a county park of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in 1961 to its present location near Oakdale, Pennsylvania.

The facility was first occupied by Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 18th Artillery Group (AD and the 662d Radar Squadron (USAF). The installation provided logistical support to the Air Defense Missile Master site and nine Nike sites along with 124 Military Constructed Army (MCA) family housing units located in groups of 12 and 16 single units to provide housing for the military personnel required to man the missile control and launching sites surrounding the metropolitan Pittsburgh area.

In 1962. the Federal Aviation Administration assumed part of the radar mission from the Air Force and in 1972 assumed the complete radar mission. In 1974, the 18th Artillery Group (AD) was inactivated, leaving US Army Support Detachment and the Federal Aviation Administration as the remaining activities at Oakdale. The Nike Sites were all closed, but the MCA housing units remained active to serve all branches of the military service eligible for government housing. The housing units were inactivated and disposed of through BRAC 95. Approximately 72 of the 201 acres of land were released to the Department of the Interior in 1974 for the Legacy of Parks program.

In September 1974, FORSCOM approved a plan for continued support of reserve components in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This reorganization and consolidation of the US Army Support Detachment was focused on increasing the readiness of the 99th ARCOM (encompassing 11,870 personnel and 14,829 major pieces of equipment) and its major units consisting of an artillery group, a petroleum group, an ordinance group, a field depot, two artillery battalions, a supply and storage battalion, a personnel and administration battalion, a general hospital and three USAR schools. The US Army Support Detachment continued to provide base support functions to units of the 83d ARCOM located in Ohio, US Army Readiness Group, 14 ROTC activities, land the Armed Services Recruiters.

In 1977, Forces Command implemented the one-post concept, inactivating Headquarters, US Army Support Detachment. The post was redesignated at the Oakdale Army Support Element, and those support activities remaining were transferred to the existing Directorships of Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville, Pennsylvania. In 1983, Oakdale Support Element became a subinstallation of Fort George G. Meade, Md. In 1987, the facility was designated as the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility (CEKSF). In 1988, it became Garrison Headquarters under First US Army and 1993 CEKSF was realigned under Fort Drum, NY, and as of 1 October 1997 realigned under Fort Dix and the US Army Reserve Command, Atlanta, Ga.

The mission of the Directorate of Public Works is to support the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility and its tenants; Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Federal Aviation Administration, Community Club, Commissary, the Pittsburgh Readiness Group, the Maintenance and Repair Facility at Neville Island, the 99th ARCOM with approximately 66 U.S. Army Reserve facilities located in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In other news: my time to relax is at an end for today. We have completed work in the dungeon, reorganized our closets, cleaned the bedroom from top to bottom, and the only work left is a general dusting on the main floor, plus spring cleaning for the spare bedroom upstairs. It's time to get back to work!


NEWS: Stromatolite Reef (Early Archaean) Australia

Stromatolite reef from the Early Archaean era of Australia
News from Nature - International weekly journal of science.
Abigail C. Allwood, Malcolm R. Walter, Balz S. Kamber, Craig P. Marshall and Ian W. Burch

"The 3,430-million-year-old Strelley Pool Chert (SPC) (Pilbara Craton, Australia) is a sedimentary rock formation containing laminated structures of probable biological origin (stromatolites). Determining the biogenicity of such ancient fossils is the subject of ongoing debate. However, many obstacles to interpretation of the fossils are overcome in the SPC because of the broad extent, excellent preservation and morphological variety of its stromatolitic outcrops—which provide comprehensive palaeontological information on a scale exceeding other rocks of such age. Here we present a multi-kilometre-scale palaeontological and palaeoenvironmental study of the SPC, in which we identify seven stromatolite morphotypes—many previously undiscovered—in different parts of a peritidal carbonate platform. We undertake the first morphotype-specific analysis of the structures within their palaeoenvironment and refute contemporary abiogenic hypotheses for their formation. Finally, we argue that the diversity, complexity and environmental associations of the stromatolites describe patterns that—in similar settings throughout Earth's history—reflect the presence of organisms."

Australian Centre for Astrobiology/Macquarie University Biotechnology Research Institute, and
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, Herring Road, Sydney, New South Wales 2109, Australia
Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, 933 Ramsey Lake Road, Sudbury, Ontario P3E 6B5, Canada
Vibrational Spectroscopy Facility, School of Chemistry, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

Received 9 September 2005 Accepted 29 March 2006

This is exciting news from a Paleontological standpoint! Stromatolie Fossils are, in many respects, "the most intriguing fossils that are our singular visual portal (except for phylogenetic determination of conserved nucleic acid sequences and molecular fossils) into deep time on earth, the emergence of life, and the eventual evolving of the beautiful life forms from Cambrian to modern time. A small piece of stromatolite encodes biological activity perhaps spanning thousands of years. In broad terms, stromatolites are fossil evidence of the prokaryotic life that remains today, as it has always been, the preponderance of biomass in the biosphere. For those that subscribe to the theory of the living earth, it is the prokaryotes that maintain the homeostasis of the earth, rendering the biosphere habitable for all other life. They maintain and recycle the atomic ingredients upon which proteins that "are" all life are made, including oxygen, nitrogen and carbon. We humans are, in simple terms, bags of water filled with proteins and prokaryotic bacteria (the bacteria in your body outnumber the cells in your body about 10 to 1). We humans have descended from organisms that adapted to living in a prokaryotic world, and we humans retain (conserved in evolutionary terms) in our mitochondria the cellular machinery to power our cells that we inherited (i.e., endosymbiosis) from the prokaryotes of deep time on earth," states one source from FossilMall.

"Stromatolites and their close cousins the thrombolites, are rock-like buildups of microbial mats that form in limestone- or dolostone-forming environments," this souce continues. "Together with oncoids (formerly called "algal biscuits" or "Girvanella"), they typically form by the baffling, trapping, and precipitation of particles by communities of microorganisms such as bacteria and algae. In some cases, they can form inorganically, when seawaters are oversaturated with chemical precipitates. Stromatolites are defined as laminated accretionary structures that have synoptic relief (i.e., they stick up above the seafloor). Stromatolite-building communities include the oldest known fossils, dating back some 3.5 billion years when the environments of Earth were too hostile to support life as we know it today. We can presume that the microbial communities consisted of complex consortia of species with diverse metabolic needs, and that competition for resources and differing motility among them created the intricate structures we observe in these ancient fossils."

Finally, "Excluding some exceedingly rare Precambrian fossils such as the Ediacaran fauna, stromatolites are
the only fossils encoding the first 7/8th of the history of life on earth. They encode the role that ancient microorganisms played in the evolution of life on earth and in shaping earth's environments. The fossil record of stromatolites is astonishingly extensive, spanning 4 billion years of geological history with the forming organisms possibly having occupied every conceivable environment that ever existed. Today, stromatolites are nearly extinct in marine environments, living a precarious existence in only a few localities worldwide. Modern stromatolites were first discovered in Shark Bay, Australia in 1956, and through out western Australia in both marine and non-marine environments. New stromatolite localities have continued to be discovered in various places such as the Bahamas, the Indian Ocean and Yellowstone National Park, to name but a few localities."

The work that will be undertaken on the Strelley Pool Chert wil give us an even broader glimpse into a bygone era, and provide more data concerning the presence of organisms within the stromatolite formation located there. I will keep you updated as this study is carried out. Best of luck to those involved with this!