After the New Year: Back South to Wales, London, and Home

From Conwy, we traveled back to Coventry for the New Year, which was spent with old friends. We also made time for a (muddy) walk along a canal.

I love how the water reflects the bridge (below)!

We passed a narrow boat, and I peeked inside to see a woman working in the kitchen, snug and comfy.

On 2 January, we drove south to Swansea (Wales), taking the scenic route through the Brecon Beacons, and stopping for a hike. Uphill … again — they are a mountain range, after all!

Stopping for a breather, I noticed this tree (below).

This is another one where I couldn’t decide which angle I liked best. A photographer friend of mine says the first (above), but I think it depends on whether you want to focus on the tree or the view. I took the pictures because of the tree, so I lean toward the second (below). What do you think?

I’m quite slow going uphill — plodding my way to the top, gasping the whole way, and having to stop to catch my breath even when I remember to use my inhaler before starting. I get there eventually, and when the reward is a view like this, well, it’s worth it, wouldn’t you say?

We went to south Wales to have lunch with The Engineer’s cousin and elderly aunt. She is nearly the age of my mom, and when we parted, she clasped my hand and said, “I probably won’t see you again, but you’ll remember me, won’t you?”

It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? I feel we are in that process with Mom, and Aunt’s words made me sad because they reminded me of what we are going through. I wish I could help Mom be easy in her mind, rather than having her feel lost (like she has since her hip fracture and resulting surgery). As adults, I think we become accustomed to dealing with problems by changing the situation to make things better. It’s difficult when we can’t, especially when it affects someone we love.

But I digress. Back in Wales, we spent a wet night in Cardiff, venturing out only to find dinner. On the way, we saw this creature hanging out near a waterway.

The picture isn’t much, taken as it was at night in the rain, but it was unusual to get so close without the bird squawking off.

With the end of our travels near, it was time to drive back to the “Big Smoke,” and even this went smoothly. We checked in our hotel, dropped off our bags, returned the car, and convinced the shuttle driver to drop us at the hotel rather than the airport.

Our plans included two nights in London to allow a day to explore some of the sights we hadn’t seen on previous trips.

First, we decided it would be prudent to first do a dry run of the morning of departure when our flight would leave at 8:55 am. Allowing for the three hours the airline asks for for check-in and security meant we’d need to be there by 6:00 am.

To do so would require getting from our hotel (attached via tunnel to Terminal 4) to Terminal 3 from which our flight would leave.

“No problem,” we thought. All airports have transport between terminals, right?


At Heathrow, the answer to that question is “Sort of. It depends on when you need to be there.”

After following the signs for the train to Terminal 3, we asked the airport employee what time the next one left.

“In a half hour.”

It was at this point the traveler in front of us began to panic.

“A half hour?!!!” he asked incredulously. “Is there a faster way?”

“Taxi. Or Uber,” the employee responded, looking for all the world like he didn’t care how many people missed their connections due to the limited train service. And to be fair, he’s not in charge of the schedule and probably gets asked that question hundreds of times a week.

We were very glad we’d decided to explore our route ahead of time.

And I was even more glad I thought to ask the next question.

“Do the trains run 24 hours?”

“No,” he answered, “they start at 7:30.”

“What if you have an early flight?”

“You have to get a taxi. Or Uber,” he said, adding as an afterthought, “Or you can take the hotel shuttle.”

In the end, we took the shuttle. It came on time, got us there on time where we breezed through check-in and security, and had two hours to wait for our flight.

Moral of the story: When traveling, always verify every detail, especially when there is a time constraint.

Having sorted our plans for departure day, we retired to the hotel where we enjoyed a meal at the restaurant and planned our day in London.

A few months ago, we watched a documentary on the Elizabeth Line, the first new tube line in decades. Part of it focused on the Canary Wharf stop, with its Crossrail Place Roof Garden. When we learned about the Museum of London Docklands nearby, we decided that would be our destination for the day.

The garden was a small oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city. We ate our packed lunch there.
Below is the tunnel to other lines and the Docklands Light Railway, which I thought very pretty in a 70s kind of way.

The ducks are very large in the Docklands!

And you can rent a hot tub or barbecue boat. Unusual combination, I thought, but when we walked back this way, there were two men getting ready to get into the tub. No idea whether they planned to enjoy barbecue as well.

We took a Thames Clipper back toward town. This is a great way to get a riverside view of many London sights, but it’s not a tour, so if you’ve not been there before, you might want to brush up on what you’ll be seeing.

I absorbed the view from the inside, so the pictures that follow are The Engineer’s.

We went under the Tower Bridge.

The Engineer caught the iconic sight below … a double-decker bus on The Tower Bridge.

Passing the London Eye.

We watch a lot of BBC crime shows, so seeing the New Scotland Yard was a bit of a thrill.

Here are the Houses of Parliament, where much drama unfolds!

We arrived at Battersea Power Station, now a posh new mall decked out for the holidays.

You can still explore one of the control rooms.
It’s in a bar.
We got a lot of funny looks from the cocktail-enjoying customers as we wandered through, me trailing behind The Engineer as he explored the dials and gauges.

After a last pub dinner, we took the tube back to the hotel, watched the telly, and took a brief nap before getting up at 4:30 am to catch the 5:20 shuttle to the airport. By looking upon it as a nap, I discovered I slept much better for those few hours than I normally do the night before a long flight.

As mentioned above, our departure was smooth, and our incredible luck continued with us arriving safely home without any major delays or problems.

I can’t say I was ready to go home; I never am, except from Oshkosh when I start to long for my own bed and a bath, but I’m certainly ready to start planning our next adventure.

As we re-oriented to normal life, I checked my datebook and remembered I had arranged to go to “Van Gogh in America” at the Detroit Institute of Art with a friend of mine that week. Still a bit tired from the trip, I briefly questioned my decision to arrange to drive two and a half hours each way to see some paintings.

Friends, I am so glad I went! It was brilliant! My friend drove, we arrived in time to lunch before our scheduled viewing, and the exhibit was breathtaking.

I’m lucky enough to have seen many Van Gogh paintings. The wonderful Cleveland Museum of Art owns several and has had several Van Gogh exhibits which I’ve attended, and about six years ago, The Engineer and I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I even went to the Van Gogh “Immersive Experience,” even though I’ve long held the belief that attractions with “experience” in the name are usually a rip-off.

For the record, I could see why some people believed that to be true of the Van Gogh one, but I liked it.

The Detroit exhibit was in a completely different league. There were several paintings I’d never seen and several I believed I’d seen, but hadn’t except perhaps in a book. I know this is true because they looked completely different than I remembered, while the ones I had actually seen felt like old friends.

And although I took a lot of photos, I’ll leave you with this one, so breathtaking I can only wish you the chance to someday see it too.

Driving North for Mountains, More Churches, and Football

On Boxing day, we drove to Hathersage, a village in the Peak District. (And can I just say here I think Hathersage is one of the prettiest place names ever?) We’d planned to visit an old friend who lives there, but she went to Scotland for Christmas, and by the time we learned of the conflict, we had other engagements we couldn’t change.

Because Hathersage is a pretty village and the Peak District is beyond pretty, we decided to go anyway to hike one of the trails.

On our way, we stopped in Chesterfield to check out St. Mary and All Saints, the church with a leaning spire. Someone once told me it’s looking for a virgin, and it must not have found one yet because it’s still leaning. Apparently there are many fanciful stories about why it leans. The reality, of course, is it was built with unseasoned wood which twisted as it dried. That was back in the 13th and 14th centuries, and it’s still standing, so maybe a leaning, twisted steeple isn’t such a big deal.

Continuing on, we came to Hathersage, and when I call the Peaks “beyond pretty,” here’s what I mean. Below are photos from our hike up Stanage Edge, as featured in the Keira Knightley version of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Stanage Edge

After this hike, we felt a lot of sympathy for the camera people on “Pride and Prejudice!”

We could see for miles.

I’m not sure which version of these views I prefer so I’m sharing both.

You can probably tell we are up fairly high, and I have a fear of heights so I stayed further back from the edge than the other three. And there’s no way I’d go over it like this climber, especially since it was quite a windy day!

Also, his rope looked mighty thin!

As the sun began to set, it became time to leave.

After our hike/climb, we were ravenous and ready for a wonderful meal at The Scotsman’s Pack where The Engineer and I were treated in honor of our 30th anniversary by Darling Daughter and Darling Daughter’s Partner. Thanks to them for a delicious dinner!

The next morning, we walked up the steep hill to St. Michael and All Angels. Naturally, in a place with a name like the “Peak District,” you’re pretty much always either going up a hill or down one.

Here’s the view from the top.

Inside the church.

On the way back down the hill, we came across an elderly woman with a walker heading in the same direction, a scary prospect. We were so worried she would lose control and go tumbling that we escorted her down, but I do wonder what she does when there’s no one around to help.

Once she was safely on level ground, we found the car and pointed to Manchester where DD and DDP were catching a train to Edinburgh. The Engineer and I continued to Burnley where we watched a football game in the pissing down rain.

It was great to be at a game instead of watching it on the telly, especially since our seats were sheltered from the rain.

I do have to say however, they had the worst excuses for mascots I’ve ever seen.

I guess they are supposed to be bees, but the costumes were sort of a football uniform with a bee head. They didn’t generate any excitement either; one of them spent most of his time laying on the ground on his side, and all I could think of was how wet he was probably getting.

Next, we went to Liverpool to tour Anfield, home of “my” football team. It’s almost impossible to get tickets to a game, but this was the next best thing.

Even without the Beatles connection, Liverpool is quite a city, with lots of free museums and an attractive dockland area.

Below is a Liver Bird, symbol of the city.

And I have no idea what these buildings were; I just liked the way one was reflected in the other.

The following day, we were welcomed to Wrexham where we stayed in an AirBnB old coach house — tiny but cozy!

We went there solely to see the Wrexham FC football club and buy an Aviation Gin Wrexham FC shirt, but enjoyed a delightful stay at the Coach House and also had a delicious Indian meal. Being there also gave us the chance to see the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct, built in 1805 and still in use. I’d learned about the aquaduct from Atlas Obscura and knew The Engineer would like it.

Of course I didn’t walk across it — way too high — but he did.

The aquaduct was designed to also be used for recreation, with room for narrow boats to cross. To our delight, one did so while we were there.

Later, a friend of ours, an avid kayaker and stand up paddleboarder, told us people also paddleboard across. Yikes!

We continued to Conwy, getting a little lost on the way, and arriving in time to see the castle, have some delicious fish and chips, and head back to Wrexham for our second night.

Icons of Britain that aren’t so common anymorer — Red phone box and post box

Conwy street with castle at the end.

Look for our saga to continue soon!

England: Drag Queens, Cathedrals, Churches, and Castles – A Photo-blog

We had a busy end to the year as we prepared to visit the UK for the holidays. We’ve not been there for Christmas for several years, with our last visit being only a few days before heading to France in 2019.

It was a good trip, especially since Darling Daughter and Darling Daughter’s Partner (DDP) overlapped with us for over Christmas.

Also — and I find this hard to believe — we had no travel mayhem at all. Our flights were pretty much on time, we got through immigration, customs and security without waiting in long lines, and we didn’t get (very) lost while driving around the countryside.

This was all the more miraculous because it seemed like everyone was on strike — staff at passport control, the railroad workers, nurses, ambulance drivers, and more.

Darling Daughter and DDP’s sleeper train back to London from Edinburgh was cancelled, but that was due to weather, rather than the strikes.

It’s interesting to note here that strikes in the UK are different from those in the US in that they are scheduled and held for a just few days at a time. This is kind of brilliant because it’s enough to make life uncomfortable by slowing down official processes, but not enough to cause major emergencies (at least as far as I can tell).

Our trip begain with four nights in Kenilworth, and in the course of the sixteen day trip, we slept in nine places. This should have been awful, but somehow it wasn’t.

On our first full day, we went to a pantomime in Royal Leamington Spa. This holiday entertainment, complete with much audience interaction, is traditionally geared to children, but you often see six or eight adults escorting a single child. Indeed, our group had no one under twenty.

The plays are loosely based on fairy tales and always feature the female lead being played by a man (read more about the tradition here).

Between the laughs, I thought how different this is from the US, where there has been a huge uproar and accusations of “grooming” about the somewhat new practice of holding drag storytimes.

Meanwhile in the UK, we shouting with laughter over the antics of the Dame in Cinderella.

You’ll have to pardon the quality of the photos; they were taken in a darkened theatre from the balcony, but they’ll at least give you an idea of what our Dame and her creative costuming looked like.

Of course, we loved her beehive!

Later, while reviewing our adventures, we all agreed the panto was a, if not the, high point!

There were several charity shops on the same street as our hotel, and the next morning, Darling Daughter and I made time to go thrifting.

I was quite taken with these books.

They’re a bit of a parody on the classic Ladybird Books, marketed and sold as “Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups,” and you really should check out the other titles.

One shop also had paper stars hung up as Christmas decorations. They reminded me of quilts, and I took a picture to remind myself to learn how to make them for next year. I’ve given you the link so you can make them too. 🙂

The Engineer’s family used to live in a village near Coventry, so the city is one we’ve explored many times. Still, it wouldn’t be a trip to England without seeing the Cathedral, and we headed there next.

I’m certain I’ve written about it before, but Coventry was almost obliterated by Luftwaffe bombing in November 1940, with the Cathedral being destroyed on 14 November. Instead of trying to rebuild, the church chose to leave the ruins and create a new Cathedral beside them.

The new stained glass is breathtaking, but I prefer windows like the one below. The Cathedral calls this type a “Medley,” made from the shards of the old Cathedral.

On Christmas morning, we went for a ramble around Kenilworth, taking in the sights and exploring the castle’s exterior.

One of the reasons I like to visit England in the winter is because it’s not generally as cold as at home, so the landscape is still green. You may even see a few late (early?) daffodils!

There were beehives along our route, their boxes slightly different from the Langstroth ones commonly used in the US. I’m not sure which type they are.

Another thing common to the UK, but less often seen in the United States is the practice of having an allotment, although this kind of home garden located in a community space. We passed this one on our walk, and seeing it made me happy the practice is beginning to catch on at home.

Along the route, we also poked our head in a church (St. Nicholas) to admire the beautiful woodwork and windows.

Such ancient churches like this are all over the country, and many are quite lovely. What I like most is the homey touches (which I unfortunately didn’t photograph) — nooks with toys to keep children occupied during the long services, a box set out for people to give and receive Christmas cards, a lost glove or mitten left near the entrance for its owner to find on their next visit — reminders that these historical buildings are still used for the purpose for which they were built.

That’s enough for now. Tune in next time when we head north to Derbyshire and Wales!

“You Can Call Me ‘Batman'”

You never know what you’re going see when hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley.

Beautiful rock formations,

felled trees gathering moss …

… or lichens.

You might even meet a small boy in a Santa hat going to his friend’s birthday party at the Octagon Shelter (built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression).

When I admired his attire, his mother prompted him to say thank you, which he did.

His next words, however, required no prompting.

“You can call me ‘Batman,'” he said.

When I answered that I’d be sure to do so, he then informed me he had a cousin called “Superman.”

I couldn’t help laughing as his mom rolled her eyes and mentioned what he really had was an imagination.

It had been a while since The Engineer and I took a winter hike, and today it felt good to be in the woods. We took the opportunity because I decided to have a day off from visiting Mom after having quite the Christmas celebration with her yesterday.

Since we won’t be around on the day, Darling Daughter and Partner, my Big Brother and Nephew, and The Engineer and I took pizza, pistachio panettone, and presents to party with Mom. (Sorry, I got caught up in all that alliteration and just couldn’t stop myself!)

We also took sheet pizzas, cookies and other goodies for the nursing home staff. They work so hard to make Mom’s life easier and more comfortable, and we thought they’d enjoy a little treat.

It was such a good day and felt great to see Mom enjoy herself (along with the rest of us).

Afterwards, Darling Daughter and Partner drove to our house for an evening of lasagna, gift exchanging, and Scrabble.

In recent years, we have been pulling back on gifts, with socks and chocolate featuring quite heavily in the lineup. This results in us being able to use and/or consume these tokens of affection, and I find myself enjoying the season more as a result.

We also watched England lose to France in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but the less said about that, the better. ;-%

Christmas Is Made, Not Bought

For those of us who don’t live in the United Kingdom, Christmas advertisements usually focus on all the many things available for us to buy, buy, buy. This generally isn’t an issue in our house because we rarely watch actual television, instead depending on library DVDs and streaming services for much of our entertainment (except English Premier League, which is sadly unavailable through these sources).

However, this year, it’s the Men’s World Cup, so we have seen more commercials than usual, and I’ll admit I like the ones that focus on the Beautiful Game. Others, not so much, and in particular the one that argues that “Less is not more; More is more,” or something to that effect.

With this in mind, I did my yearly search for the “best Christmas adverts.”

I found this, which it’s only fair to warn you, will bring tears to your eyes.

If you’d like to check out a few more UK ads, go here. Obviously not all of them are of the same caliber, but I believe you may find a few new favorites.

And, as has become my yearly tradition, I feel compelled to share the best Christmas song ever. Just in case you live under a rock and have never heard the exquisite harmonizing of David Bowie and Bing Crosby in this extraordinarily improbable duet, here it is again. Unfortunately, WordPress or YouTube, or maybe both, won’t let me embed this one, so you’ll have to click on the link.

Since life seems to have gotten away from me since Mom fell, and I’ve been out of commission myself with a head cold (which I sadly have now shared with The Engineer), I may or may not find time to blog again before Christmas.

If I don’t, please accept my very best wishes for a happy Christmas. And if I do, please accept my very best wishes for a happy Christmas.

Photo by Ma Bou00eete A Photos on

Please note: This is not our house. Our house decorations consist of two chocolate Advent calendars (with two more Advent calendars in various fridges — a wine one and a cheese one). Also, my little Norfolk Pine is strung with fairy lights and decorated with crochet stars similar to these. That’s the extent of our holiday decor.

The presents under the tree are wrapped in brown paper from the many packages we’ve had delivered. The tree and the gifts together provide a certain homey charm, I think.

I switched to using brown paper for our packages because we get so much of it. It seemed ridiculous to recycle rather than reuse it. Then I read that much of the wrapping paper available in stores can’t be recycled, and I switched permanently. I’m not saying that’s what you should do, especially because we use it partly because I’m #cheapaf. (Pardon me for talking in hash tags, but this one seems appropriate.)

Anyway, Merry Christmas! I hope your time is spent with those you love.

Walk a Foot in Her Shoes

Yesterday I got a text from one of Mom’s physical therapists:

“Hi, I wanted to let you know that I discharged the hoyer lift. Your mom should now be getting up with staff for transfers to/from wheelchair using a gait belt and front wheeled walker performing stand pivots. I am hoping to upgrade her further to be walking with staff to/from bathroom by the end of the week.”

This is incredible because a few weeks ago, Mom was in danger of being discharged from therapy due to her unwillingness to participate.

I wish I could tell you what changed her mind. The timing coincides with her going on Memantine for her forgetfulness and confusion, which is odd because I’m not sure the drug has had a huge effect on her mental acuity.

Still, it’s possible her increasing mobility may have a positive effect on her mental and emotional wellbeing.

I hope so because yesterday she asked me what good she was to anyone. When I asked what she meant, she said she’s useless because she can’t do anything.

After thinking a moment, I said, “Entertainment. People like to talk to you.”

It’s true. Mom always has a smile for anyone who speaks to her, and she’s good at making fun of her situation.

She seemed happy with that answer, but it’s frustrating for her to not be able to remember things from one day to the next, sometimes from one moment to the next.

Even if you try to grow old gracefully, it’s a grueling process.

Hats Off …

… to Mom for finally giving therapy her best effort. She’s been walking further each day — using a walker (obviously) and with a lot of help getting up, but she’s making progress. Her doctor put her on Memantine for her dementia, and she seems (slightly) less confused, which I think helps. She also “self-propelled” her wheelchair all the way down a hall to lunch a few days ago. The goal is to get her strong enough to transfer from bed to chair/toilet with only the help of an aide. Reaching the point where she can get up by herself and walk with the walker would be a huge accomplishment, but may prove beyond her ability. Still, it is so wonderful to see her moving again. As my brother said, “I thought she was going to stay in a chair forever.”

… to our hives. We’ve realized we left our honey supers on too long because none of the six had as much honey as we’d like to see going into winter. Most of what they’d made was in the honey supers, although in our defense, the queens were laying so many eggs, many of the deep frames were filled with brood from May on! At one point, we had to borrow ten deep frames of honey to keep various hives from getting too crowded (to try to prevent swarming), so we had that to give back to them.

Also, we have a lot of goldenrod, and they were bringing it in (you can tell by the smell), so we left the boxes on for that. Since the Yellow Jackets were always present, trying to rob, we were reluctant to really open the hives and check things out. Once the goldenrod ended and the nasty yellow things calmed down, we went through them all. What we saw made us immediately start feeding thick syrup (2:1 ratio of sugar with some Honey B Healthy to stimulate their appetites).

Some of the hives responded by draining the jars. Others were a bit slower. And we discovered a ton of dead bees on the pull-out part of the bottom board I’d won. It was a different design than the others we have — kind of like a metal tray. I can’t say I recommend it. They seemed to be get stuck between the board and the bottom screen of the hive. Unable to reach food, they died.

Below is a diagram from, The bit that’s pulled out on the bottom board is what I’m talking about.

Because we saw the mother (queen), and she was still laying, we decided to feed them along with the rest, and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the next time we checked, the population remained small. Ultimately, we chose to move them into a nuc box, which would be easier for them to defend.

Another option would have been to kill the queen and try to combine the hive’s population with another hive. Two reasons we didn’t do this are: 1) We’d have had to find her again, and 2) If the problem is something more than the bees just getting caught downstairs, we wouldn’t want to spread whatever caused the problem to another hive.

Still, I’ll be very surprised if they last through the cold weather, which makes me sad.

This week, we’ve been taking the final steps to winterize. To our surprise, those hardworking sisters were still bringing in pollen! Yesterday and the day before, it was only a few bees, but today there were lots coming in just loaded down with orange protein!

The nights have gotten too cold for them to take liquid food, so the jars came off. In their places, we added supers filled with the honey we’d been saving, topped with either sugar bricks or newspaper with sugar spread over it.

The latter is called “mountain camp feeding,” and is a method we haven’t used before. The sugar is supposed to offer the added advantage of absorbing some of the moisture in the hive.

Moisture in a hive is a very bad thing for a variety of reasons. Go here, if you want to learn more about the havoc it can wreak.

Most people use sugar bricks, fondant or the mountain camp method in late winter or early spring, but I’m paranoid about the prospect of them running out of food, especially when it’s extremely cold and we’d be reluctant to open the lid.

Today, we wrapped and covered. In the past, we’ve used a variety of methods to keep our girls warm and dry. In the picture below, you see hive wraps, hive cozies, and some insulated boxes The Engineer made.

The grey and pink covers are foam insulation, the two outer hives on the right stand have bee cozies that just slip on, and the two hives in the middle of the stands are wrapped. I see they now make the wraps with velcro, which ours don’t have. In the past, we’ve used tape and rope to keep them on, but this year, we’re just using tape.

Prior to starting the whole winterizing procedure, we treated them one more time for Varroa.

All that remains now is to cross our fingers and hope … and tend to the woodenware. The Engineer spent a good hour or two scraping propolis today so we’ll be ready when spring comes, and the photo below is his.

If you don’t keep bees, you may not realize what a job this is, but he’d much rather do that then think about Christmas gifts and cards, which was on my schedule.

Division of labor — that’s what it’s all about!

Last of all, hats off to me, only this time I mean it literally.

I got my hair cut recently, which means the beautiful knit wool headbands my friend Lynne made me aren’t always enough to keep the heat in now, and I decided to crochet myself a beanie from a pattern I’d used before. (Thank you, Lynne, I do still wear them, just need something with more coverage for those very cold mornings!)

Because I have plenty of scrap yarn (both donated — again, thank you, Lynne — and bought at thrift stores), I decided to use what I had.

I’m not very good at the whole “gauge” concept, and if you knit or crochet, you can guess what happened next. I ended up “adjusting” the pattern to what I thought would fit me with varying results.

Like the Three Bears, the first was too big.

The second wasn’t quite right either.

So, I made another, which turned out fairly good, but the color was wrong for my coat. I may give it as a gift, so I’m not showing it here.

The next one was made from velour yarn and looked like a tea cosy. It’s been repurposed as such.

But, finally, finally(!) I made one that works. Matches purple coat — check. Fits my head and does not look like a tea cosy — check and check.

I would have modeled it for you, but today was a no-makeup day, and sadly I’m too vain.

If you’d like to try your hand at a tea cosy, I mean beanie, you can find the pattern here. It really is pretty easy, even if you have to adjust for different yarns and head sizes.

And on the plus side, our local thrift store is getting two hats out of my venture as well. 🙂

P.S. I apologize for neglecting to post in the last weeks. I could offer many excuses including the fact that we took a little trip to Kentucky and Tennessee. Mostly though it’s just trying to get into a new normal that involves working around my more frequent and longer visits with Mom. I feel we’ve dodged the bullet this time, but I know the gun is still out there in our future, loaded and waiting. And yes, I do realize this is a dark image. I’m using it anyway because it’s accurate.

Q. What Have I Got to Complain About?

Nothing, that’s what.

I had a frustrating day yesterday –five hours with Delta online and phone trying to straighten out a change they made in our flights. During the last hour of it, as I was talking to the agent or on hold, Mom called me eight times and left five messages.

It’s become clear the anesthesia has sent her reeling into dementia.

But this morning, after I went to see her, I saw two women who had clearly come to visit someone. One of them was developmentally disabled, and the other used a cane, but probably really needed a walker.

I felt ashamed of myself. What right did/do I have to feel sorry for myself when things don’t go my way when there are people in the world whose every action requires just that extra bit of effort?

Sometimes I just need to get over myself and remember that whatever I’m dealing with, someone else is struggling with something far worse.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

That’s all — just in case someone else needed a reminder too.

Mother, Sisters and Princes

It won’t surprise you to learn I follow a lot of beekeepers on Instagram, and I’ve recently encountered some new beekeeping terminology I fully support.

It has to do with the three castes of bees, previously known as the queen, the workers, and the drones. But, no longer! Two of the beekeepers I follow (both women) have introduced new phrasing for these hive members.

Above is a picture that illustrates the three bee castes. (It also illustrates how poor my photo editing skills, but that’s beside the point.)

The photo above was taken of a poster we have hung in our downstairs bathroom. (There is no escape from bee education at our house.) And it was only after I took this picture that I realized that once again, the worker bees have gotten short shrift. They are at the bottom.

Not to be too opinated about it, but THIS IS COMPLETELY WRONG! They belong at the top.

Members of this caste of bees run the hive. Not only do they do all the foraging, make all the honey and propolis, clean the hive, care and feed the larvae (as well as the layabout drones), they also manufacture all the wax, guard the hive, and make all the cells.

Also, because they make the cells, these bees decide on the size of those cells, which is what tells the queen what type of egg to lay — fertilized for another female bee or unfertilized for a male.

Not only that, these girls are the ones who decide when and if the hive needs a new queen, and then they raise one.

Actually, they usually make several and let the new queens figure it out from there, but you get the gist.

Meanwhile, the drones wander around the hive begging food and fly to the drone congregation area to try to mate with a queen. Such a hard life.

While all this is going on around her, the queen is frantically laying eggs in the cells provided by her workers. Her entire life is summed up below. (Or you can read more here.)

1. Emerge from a queen cell.
2. Immediately locate all other queen cells and chew through the wax and kill the queen inside.
3. Rest and mature for a few days.
4. Fly to the drone congregation area to mate with multiple drones (who then die).
5. Repeat #4 a few times, sometimes many times. The more drones she mates with, the better the genetic diversity, which translates into a stronger hive. This is one time that promiscuity pays off, assuming she manages to return from all those flights.
6. Come back to the hive and spend her life laying eggs.
7. If she is very successful, the hive will get crowded. The workers will decide to swarm, and start making new queens in preparation.
8. Before those new queens hatch from the queen cells, the workers make the queen run to get her in shape to fly again. Or so I’ve heard.
9. The old queen then leaves the hive with half of the bees, and they find a new home.

There are other possibilities of how a queen’s life can end, but this is the happiest. Her life isn’t an easy one either.

All of this leads back to the topic of this post, the new names for the bee castes.

Ladies and gents, henceforth, I shall try to remember to refer to my bees as the sisters, the mother, and … wait for it, this is soooo accurate … the princes!

To be honest, I can go either way on worker vs sister bees because worker bee is 100% accurate, but mother and prince have to stay.

And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

Update on Mom: I come away sad every time I visit. She’s exhausted by therapy, but there’s no alternative. If she doesn’t do it, she’ll be bedridden for the rest of her life. If she does it, there’s a chance she may regain enough strength to have again some small control over her life. To even be able to go to the bathroom on her own again would be a huge win. But at this point, neither alternative is very attractive.

Also she’s still a little confused (although she’s not asked for my dad lately). She’s dependent on others for everything, when she’s always been independent, and is so grateful and happy to see me when I visit even though I boss her around. I know she feels she’s had a good life, a lot longer life than she expected, but she’s tired. It’s a lot to ask of a 92-year-old to learn to walk again, and I’m not sure she’ll have the physical strength and the emotional desire to succeed. Even though she has kept her good humor, I can see she’s tired of fighting and sometimes when she’s laying in bed, I can see her mind is very far away.

When she was in the hospital, I was telling the doctor how my grandmother died — doing as she pleased until one day she sat down in her chair and died — and how I was hoping that was how it would be for Mom.

He said, in the kindest way possible, “Most people don’t get what they want,” and something about it being very uncommon.

It makes me think that we need to get much better about death in our culture. There has to be a better way to ease my mother’s (and all of our) last days/months/years on this earth.

Sadly, I don’t know what that might be, or I would be seeking it out for her.

And now, I’ll end with something beautiful — two pictures of a Sweetgum tree leaf on rain-varnished blacktop that I took this morning. I know they are Sweetgum because I tried a new feature on my phone I didn’t know I had, which identified them.

Amazing! Honestly, sometimes technology makes me feel so old.

Update on Mom: Not Great, Not Horrible Either

I hoped the familiar surroundings of Mom’s room at her nursing home might jog her memory about when and where she is, but that has not proven to be the case.

Her personality has returned, but it somehow left behind many of her memories.

When I visited briefly yesterday, she was very annoyed not only by the fact that my brother hadn’t visited (due to being hospitalized and then quarantined for COVID — a fact she can’t seem to digest enough to remember), but also because “your father” couldn’t be bothered to come see her.

She was, of course referring to my dad, who died twenty years ago in December and whom she left in the late 1970s for the man who eventually became my stepdad.

When I reminded her of the above facts, she said somewhat plaintively that she’d like to see Dad again.

So would I, Mom, so would I.

Still it’s weird to hear this from her because the breakup of my mom and dad’s marriage changed all our lives forever. At the time, I blamed him, believing some of his actions caused the divorce, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to see Mom certainly bears a great deal of the responsibility.

For me, it’s like, “Now you feel this way? After completely changing everything for all of us, now you look back and wish you could see my dad again?”

It’s just seems odd that she’s dwelling on this.

Physically, she seemed to possibly, maybe be making some (excruciatingly slow) progress, but today she was, ahem, indisposed due to the effects of the antibiotic on her stomach and didn’t get out of bed.

And yes, she remains ticked off at Dad for not visiting.

However, she always seems glad to see me. For this reason, I am visiting every day, at least for now, despite –or possibly because — nothing much seems to be happening.

The possibility of this kind of outcome of her fall hadn’t occurrred to me. I imagined she’d either move forward with PT — maybe not to her previous level but close — or this would be the health crisis that her aged body could not overcome.

It sounds heartless, but when your parent reaches such an advanced age, you can’t ignore what will certainly be the outcome one day (and likely sooner rather than later).

Instead, we are in this sort of twilight zone, unsure how things will go.

And yet, personality-wise, she’s her old self. Except for some frustration with Dad (and with me and her brain when I explain why he’s not coming), she seems pretty happy. Also, she’s not in pain (at least she says she’s not).

So, even though her body and mind seem to be letting her down, her spirit remains indomitable.

I take heart in that.