The monotony of travel

On Friday, I’ll be leaving town for two weeks.  It’s the same trip we make every summer.

It is one of the unanticipated downsides to moving here.  When we lived within a few hours of our parents and siblings, we took vacations every year.  Since moving here, we’ve used our vacation time and funds to visit our families.

Mount RushmoreAt first, we tried to invite them to come here, or plan joint trips.  That worked exactly once with each parental set, but at least we were able to visit the Grand Canyon and Mt. Rushmore before our parents decided we live too far away for them to travel here again.

So every year for almost a decade, sometimes more than once a year, we pile into the car and make the trip from Colorado to Maryland.  I love my family, but these trips are not vacations.  They’re visitations.

Yesterday, I spent hours selecting and putting audio books on hold.  Nearly a dozen of them.  Because there is nothing worse than driving 26 hours on route 70 without books.

Sometimes we drive straight through, not even stopping for the night.  By we, I mean my husband; I barely drive.  Sometimes we try to break the monotony by getting off the beaten path for at least part of the drive.

Rocky Ridge, home of Laura Ingalls WilderOne year we visited Rocky Ridge, the home Almanzo Wilder built for Laura Ingalls Wilder, and another time we stopped by the site of the Little House on the Prairie.  Well, my daughter and I toured Rocky Ridge; my husband and son walked the dogs.

Last year my husband and daughter visited the Grave Creek Mounds in WV while I walked the dog around the fence line.

Another year we stopped in Columbus, Ohio and saw a replica of the Santa Maria.  It was early Sunday morning, so we walked the dogs around the park while looking the ship.  It, like the Dunkin Donuts we were seeking, was closed on Sunday mornings.

The dogs may be a nuisance when we play tourist for a few hours, but I like having them with me when I arrive at my mom’s.  They give me a reason to go outside, away from the television which is always on.  Besides, I worry about Trixie dying if I leave her behind.  (She has cancer and sometimes refuses to eat when I’m away.)

On the road, they help me, too. Wherever you go, there you are.  I always volunteer to be the dog walker when we stop to eat.  I’d rather walk around than go from sitting in the car to sitting in a restaurant to sitting in the car again.

I also volunteer to stay in motel rooms while others eat or swim so the dogs don’t bark.  In the morning, I take them for a walk while my family eats breakfast.

I walk the dogs more away from home than I do when we’re at home, because it is a good excuse to be alone and active.  Honestly, I value the time alone more.

Walking is definitely beneficial.  Sitting in a car for 26 hours wreaks havoc on my crooked back, but the psychological effect of solitude and quiet restores me in a different way.  Walking the dogs makes me feel purposeful instead of anti-social.

St. Louis Gateway ArchEvery year we debate stopping at the St. Louis Arch, but we never have because my husband and I cannot agree on who will go up to the top with our daughter.  We both want to walk the dogs while the other goes inside.

I’m not sure if or where we’ll be stopping this year, but if you see a lady in black compression knee socks walking a dog, it’s probably me.

This post is part of a BlogHop at Generation Fabulous, where you can read tales of more Transformative Travel.


This is more like what I had in mind.

I did not even make it all day yesterday.  I repainted the canvases after lunch.  Then I touched them up some more before going to bed.

Here is the result:

DIY Ocean Abstracts Improved

And the first attempt:

Craft Fail: DIY Ocean Abstracts

Once again, keep in mind that the wall behind them is a pale blue grey.  Even with lights and flash on, I’m not getting true colours in my photographs.

I like the sky better, and the overall colours better, but I think the ocean isn’t quite right.  It seems less friendly than the first ocean.  I think I can live with it, though.  If not, I’ll let you know.  (What do you think?  Is the ocean too brooding?)

I used the same paints, but I watered them down with white and/or navy blue to neutralize them a bit.  I also blended them together more in the pie tin, so the effect isn’t as striped-y.

And, just because she hasn’t appeared on the blog recently, here is Trixie, engaged in part of her morning routine:  checking for chips or crumbs that may have been dropped after she went to bed last night.

How to paint an ocean abstract

Riding in the Car, with Dogs

I wanted to share Easter music with you today, but the youtube choices were not appealing.  Besides that, I am not really celebrating Easter this year because I’m spending today in the car, heading back to Colorado.

Yes, we drive from DC to Colorado.  More than once a year.  With dogs.  Or, this spring, with a dog.  Trixie came, but Jeb stayed home with my son.

Jeb will jump in the car with us at any time, but once there, he hunkers down and pants, obviously motion sick. He has never once put his head out the window of a moving vehicle.

Trixie, on the other hand, travels like a pro.  A pro who alternates between looking out the window, sleeping on my lap, and mooching for treats.  In other words, she acts like she does at home, perfectly content and at ease.

Do your pets enjoy being in the car or merely tolerate it?

Daylight Savings with Dogs

Dogs do not understand daylight savings time.I am not a fan of the whole Daylight Savings Time thing, but this year, I feel like it came not a moment too soon.

Jebediah has been waking me at 6am every morning for the past two weeks.  I don’t feed him until 7am, because he eats twice a day; feeding him early just means he craves dinner early.

It would become a vicious cycle of ever earlier waking if it were left to him, meals creeping from twelve hour intervals to eleven, ten, nine, eight hour intervals.  As if he doesn’t get enough snacks during the day.

So I get up with the dogs at six, then try not to make eye contact while I make them wait an hour for breakfast.

Since dogs don’t understand Daylight Savings Time, that means he’ll stop waking up an hour earlier than he’s allowed to eat.

It’ll only last a month or so.  In the summer, he wakes with the sun.  That’s okay.  I don’t mind getting up at dawn.  I just hate feeling like I’m getting up in the middle of the night – especially those nights that Trixie needs an emergency 3am potty break.

Of course, when we Fall Back, that means Jeb will be waking me at 6am again.  For a week.

What do you think of Daylight Savings Time?  Love it or hate it?


25 Questions Answered

My blogging friend Lillian, at It’s A Dome Life, tagged me with these questions.  Usually, I put off awards and games of tags until I forget all about them, but I had just woken up from an unexpected nap (ie I fell asleep with my laptop still open on my lap), mind blank and groggy, and decided to just answer these and call a week of blogging done.

I don’t know if I mentioned it here, but Lillian is an artist, and she painted a portrait of Trixie.  I love it!  You can see it and read about her creative process here.

US Capitol Dome High Res Jan 20061. Where were you born?
I was born in Washington, D.C.

2. Were you named after someone?
Yes, online, I named myself Kay after my grandmother.  In reality, my mother named me after an actress/role in a melodramatic and creepy movie she loved as a teen.

3. How many children do you have?
Three.  Two sons, one daughter.

field beagle at home4. How many pets do you have?
Two dogs.  One boy, one girl.

5. Your worst injury?
I am incredibly clumsy, but have not broken anything larger than a toe.  I did trip, fall, and gash open my knee once, and still have a scar and wonky knee from that.

6. Do you have a special talent?
Yes, my super smell-ability.

7. Favorite thing to bake?

8. Favorite Fast Food?
No, I don’t like fast food.  If I’m desperate, I’ll eat a bean burrito from Taco Bell or a baked potato from Wendy’s, but it would be an exaggeration to say I like either.

Viaduc de la Souleuvre4 909. Would you bungee jump?

10. What is the first thing you notice about people?
It’s hard to put into words.  I notice their demeanor.  I notice how they speak to and about others, and the expression on their face when they do.  I notice what people don’t say, and whether they seem happy or sad or something of both.

11. When was the last time you cried?
I don’t remember.  It’s been a while.

12. Any current worries?
I do not worry obsessively, but I am concerned about genocides and the sexual exploitation of children.  I’m also troubled by the poaching of animals for supposedly medicinal (usually aphrodisiac) body parts or for the ivory trade.  I stopped buying quinoa after I read about how its popularity is hurting the indigenous peoples of the Andes.

13. Name 3 drinks you drink regularly.
I only drink water regularly.

14. What’s your favorite book?
This is almost as bad as being asked to name a favorite child.

15. Would you like to be a pirate?
No.  I have no desire to live a life of crime and poor hygiene on land, much less at sea.  If the rolling waves didn’t make me sick, the smell would.

Syringa meyeri Palibin zoom16. Favorite Smells?
Fresh, clean babies.  Lilacs in bloom.  Summer, just before it rains.

17. Why do you blog?
I love connecting with people, hearing their stories, and encouraging them.

18. What song do you want played at your funeral?
I will be in heaven, so I won’t care.

19. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
I am lazy.

20. Favorite hobby?

21. Name something you’ve done, you never thought you would do?
I am not a planner, but I’m a daydreamer, so I imagine doing all sorts of things, even though I never plan to do any of them.  Therefore, my life is a mix of unexpected turns of events that are also dreams come true.  It’s quite thrilling.

IMG_9913.222. What do you look for in a friend?
Kindness and a lack of pretense.

23. Favorite Fun things to do?
I love sightseeing, visiting museums, touring gardens and houses; taking photos at zoos; doing nothing with good friends and family; riding my bike to the library; reading to children; rocking babies; and being with my husband.

24. Pet peeves?
Lack of self control.  I think the world would be a much nicer place if people would hold their tongues and their tempers.

Rat terrier, the best breed ever25. What’s the last thing that made you laugh?
Trixie makes me laugh every day.  She’s bad in ways that are only funny in a small dog, and probably only to me.

I am going to break the rules of the game and not tag anyone.  However, if you’d like to take part, link me to your post in the comments.  I promise to come and read it.  Or just answer your favorite question or three right here.

Call Me Irresponsible

I was not one of the 20% of Americans who bought her pets a gift for St. Valentine’s Day, but I couldn’t leave them out of the Sunday Song love.

My dogs bring so much joy to my life.  Mine are definitely not the well trained, working dog type.  Mine are devoted companions who think everything I do is fascinating, but who will steal my lunch if I leave it unattended.

Neither managed to steal food last week, but Jeb ate a bird.  My daughter reported finding him at it.  We’ve no idea if it was dead first or he caught it.  The former seems more likely.  He did not get sick or show any ill effects.  Between that and the snotty tissues he stole, he had a good week.

Tell me about your pets.  One thing that makes them Valentine worthy or not.

(Call Me Irresponsible was written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  The singer is an employee of the company that made the video; his name wasn’t credited.)

Dogs are better than wolves.

I read two interesting articles about wolves and dogs this week, offering two new theories about why, despite being so genetically close they can interbreed, wolves are nearly impossible to domesticate, and dogs seem to be made for human companionship.

A team of evolutionary biologists has learned that although wolves begin exploring their world at two weeks, they are still deaf and blind.  (This was previously unknown.)  Wolf cubs are more fearful than puppies when exploring new things as a result.  This leads scientists to believe that wolves must be socialized to humans at a younger age than dogs in order to overcome their fear of people.

Kužka v službi komunaleThe second study learned that dogs can digest carbs and wolves cannot.  This leads to the theory that dogs were drawn to humans because we have tasty, digestible trash.  Or that some wolves were drawn to humans and their digestive tract adapted to the changed diet, turning them into dogs.

I’ve never had a puppy.  Every dog I’ve owned in my life has come to me as an adult, either from a shelter or as a stray.  So I cannot speak about puppy socialization.

I can confirm that my dogs like carbs.  They are huge fans of fruit, chips, and, well, pretty much everything except lettuce and celery.  I didn’t realize that wolves were pickier eaters than dogs (through no fault of their own).

Harry Colebourne and WinnieI’ve known dogs who were picky eaters, and that didn’t seem to prevent them from forming bonds with their owners.  In fact, it seems like many of us are willing to go to great lengths to cater to our dogs’ quirks.  Not to mention our fondness for cats, who don’t even pretend to like us most of the time.

It also makes me wonder about bears, who are well known lovers of trash.  And raccoons.  And a host of other animals.  Being an omnivore doesn’t lead to domestication in most cases, so there must be more to it than that.

That’s how it is with science.  Everything you learn leads to more questions.

What did you learn this week?

Dogs on the Furniture (on Pinterest)

Do you use Pinterest?  I joined it a couple years ago, and find it just as appealing as the cut-from-catalog paper dolls I played with as a girl.

I also enter contests on it, which means I have some odd boards.

My most followed Pinterest board is one that did not win me a Kate Spade Vespa last spring.  Sometimes I delete my unrewarded efforts at winning prizes, but not usually.  This one sat unnoticed for months, until, for reasons unknown to me, people started following it this winter.

I wish the people at Vespa would notice and be impressed and give me a consolation scooter this spring, but in the meantime, I am entertaining myself with my current favorite Pinterest board:  Dogs on the Furniture.

Yes, I have a board devoted to the pictures I run across featuring other people’s dogs lounging on their sofas, beds, chairs, and sometimes tables.

Although you might not guess it upon seeing my home, I enjoy looking at design books and blogs.  When someone with a beautiful home shares a photo of their dogs on the furniture, I pin it.

Trixie Sunbathing on the Table @AFadedGingerIt makes me feel chic and stylish when I later catch Trix sunbathing on the sofa table.  (That’s her, “What, Mom?  You’re not mad at me, are you?” pose, because she really does know she is not supposed to be napping on tables.)

If you have a photo of your dog on the furniture on your blog or website, share the link with me in the comments.  I will pin your dog to my board, so you, too, can feel trendy and sophisticated when Fido takes over your favorite chair.

If you want to share, I’ll look at your favorite Pinterest board, too (G and PG only).

Out with the old year, in with the dark haired man.

Do you like the year end lists, the years in review and best ofs?   I do, so I tried to compile a personal Best of 2012 list for you.

I started with Best Non-fiction Book I read.  I could not choose.  How do you compare a holocaust memoir to a book about breasts to environmental disasters to the assassination of a president?  I couldn’t.  So I scratched that off my list.

Similar problems with choosing Best Fiction, so I scratched that, too.

Then I couldn’t remember any movies I watched more than a month ago.

I made these cauliflower fritters last week, and they were definitely the best cauliflower I’d had all year.  So there is that.

But there is no list of Year’s Best from me.  Sorry.  Not even highlights or a year in review.

Instead, let’s talk about Superstitions.  Do you adhere to any New Year’s superstitions?  Or customs?


My family was woefully lacking in cultural traditions and superstitions.  We don’t even have a traditional meal.  No black eyed peas; no pork in sauerkraut; no long noodles.

I didn’t even realize how many people had New Year’s traditions until I was in my twenties.  Then a co-worker told me about the many superstitions she’d grown up with.  I think of her every year at this time and pray that the new year brings her many blessings.

Her family strongly believed that the first person to cross the threshold in the new year must be a man.  She said none of the women would leave their homes until a man had visited them on New Year’s Day, so all the male relatives had to go from house to house, in the morning, to ensure good fortune for the new year.

It had to be in the morning, both because the women wanted to visit each other in the afternoon and because they didn’t want to risk a neighbor stopping by and crossing the threshold first.

This list specifies it needs to be a dark haired man.  My coworker didn’t mention that, but all the men in her family had dark hair, so maybe she didn’t think about it.  In my family, it would mean my husband would have to visit every household while the rest of us stayed home.  My sons would doom a family to bad luck all year.


It’s probably good that we don’t follow that particular custom, but I like the kissing at midnight and not breaking things superstitions.  I’m all for kissing and not breaking things every day of the year, actually.

Does your family have any special customs for the New Year?  Traditional foods?

Suddenly, he is an old dog.

It happens to all of us.

We’re not young – we know that – but we don’t feel old.  At least not most of the time.  Then, there are mornings you wake up, and, yep, you feel old.

It happens to dogs, too.

Jebediah, who was still stealthily fighting for sofa supremacy on Wednesday, woke up yesterday morning suddenly old.  Still able to go down the stairs, he discovered he could not go back up.

His right hip looked to be the culprit.  He wasn’t able to bear weight on it and give the little push he needed.  When he did manage the first step, he slipped off balance and fell back to the bottom.  After his failed attempt, he was limping, too, babying that back right leg.

I helped him up the stairs, twice, and called the veterinary office to ask if it was okay to give him baby aspirin, was told no*, and made an appointment for later that afternoon.

(This is why I love Banfield’s wellness plan.  No thinking about the cost of the visit.  And the vets and techs there are all wonderful.  They’ve gone above and beyond for Jeb many times.)

Watching him confusedly returning to the stairs again and again, I blocked them off with the porch chairs.  I was afraid he’d get part way up and tumble back down while I was running errands.

Blockade in place, I went upstairs for my shoes.  Jeb tried to follow me.  Creeping under one of the chairs he got stuck, forelegs up the first stair, hindlegs trapped between the chair and step.  He might be gimpy and old, but he still wants to do what he wants to do.  I decided that the library books and other errands could wait, and I would stay home.

(How my life works:  Moments later, the phone rang.   One of the ladies from my book club had a spare ticket to the Van Gogh exhibit I’ve been wanting to see, already paid for, that she did not want to go unused.  I am a fan of last minute invites, but today I had to say no because of the vet appointment.  When was the last time I received an impromptu invitation like that?  I can’t remember, but, honestly, I am not complaining because there was nothing I wanted to do more than verify that my dog was not in pain or about to die.)

He’s not.  At his appointment, I fed him a banana while the veterinarian examined his leg, feeling for swelling and range of motion.  No swelling.  Range of motion only slightly less than his other leg.  Hip felt fine.  He didn’t wince or complain about having his leg manipulated.  Actually, it seemed to help, as he was limping less significantly afterwards.

The best guess?  He might have twisted it funny in his sleep or pulled a muscle when he was jumping off the sofa he’s not supposed to be on, aggravating the arthritis or arthritis-like condition he already has.  He’s to rest for a week, take his meds, and if it is not better, we’ll go back for x-rays.

I know Jeb is old.  He’s also been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease, which is incurable, but progresses slowly, shortening his natural life expectancy only slightly.  Knowing he’s not in good health, I don’t brush off limps and bad days and bits of weirdness like I did when he was a young dog.

I love that stinky beast.  He was my son’s dog, the one who lives back east.  Jeb is always so sad when his boy comes home, then leaves again.  Last year, consoling and petting him, I said, “It’s not fair, is it?  The boy grew up, and you just grew old.”

It’s a whole different kind of letting go, and I am not quite ready for it.  Not yet.

*Baby aspirin is usually, in the proper dosages, a safe pain reliever for dogs, but because of his Cushing’s, Jeb has kidney troubles, so his vet called in a prescription that would be safer for him.

Are pets a part of your family?