the hyphens that define my life

Road Trip February 26, 2014

Lawrence Kansas to Ames Iowa
287 miles
approximately 4 hours

I didn’t think I’d have anything to share tonight but America the Beautiful provides excellent fodder.

Goodbye Kansas. Hello Missouri.

I stopped only once in Missouri at a stray Starbucks to work and catch up on emails and calls. Other than a faded freeway sign announcing the birthplace of Jesse James and crossing a fantastic suspension bridge, the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, over the Missouri River, Missouri was uneventful.

bond bridge

(Photo from Google Images.)

Then BAM!  I crossed into Iowa.  Who knew Iowa was where the action happened?

Four miles into the state is the Iowa Welcome Center in Lamoni AND Amish Country Store.  Growing up in Ohio, my family would go to Amish towns for the country drive, the good food and excellent craftsmanship.  As kids, with our limited luxuries of a color TV and Pong, we were shocked at the thought of Amish children having to do without.   I had to stop. I took exit 4 to Lamoni Iowa and pulled into the gravel parking lot of the Amish Country Store, noticing there were no buggies or horses tied up at the designated hitching posts.  Inside the store, stacks and stacks and a huge variety of handmade baskets were for sale, shelved according to Amish maker.  Handmade quilts, candies, aprons and jam also lined the shelves.  If I had a bigger suitcase and didn’t have another leg of my journey, I would have purchased a few things.  I did find and buy a book (big surprise), The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book by Lovina Eicher.

The Amish Cook began as a column by Lovina’s mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, in 1990.  Lovina Eicher, took over the column in 2003. Cultural insight, daily living, and Amish recipes are detailed in this syndicated column that appears in over 130 newspapers.  How have I not heard of this column?  There are several books, The Amish Cook, The Amish Cook at Home, and The Amish Cook’s Baking Book.

I wanted to buy a loaf of homemade bread and jam and spend my afternoon chowing down, but thought of my waistline and refrained.  I started reading The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book tonight and was pleased with my decision to forego bread and jam when I read Elizaabeth Coblentz’s account of a quilting bee she attended in November 1991 where she was served coffee and a large doughnut.  She commented “Ugh.  Hard on the waistline.”  Elizabeth and I have bonded.

I’m only through 1992, but if you think you cook a lot or think I cook a lot, ooohweee, nobody cooks like the Amish.  I need to bake more bread and pies and meat and do a whole heck of a lot more cleaning before 6 AM to hone my Amish-ness.  Probably not.  Though I am inspired to start a quilt.

Back in the car, proud of my purchase, I drive out of the parking lot and notice the neighboring gas station.


Really Iowa?  That’s the best name for a gas station you could kum up with?  Oy!  I’ve seen this posted on Facebook by others but it is a shock to witness it in person.  I stopped and went in to get a t-shirt but, can you believe it, they don’t sell t-shirts.   A money-maker waiting to happen.

Once I recovered from the Amish Store and the Kum & Go (not to mention the irony of being neighbors), back on the road to Ames.

I still had over a hundred miles to go, but after the past ho-hum Missouri miles, my expectations were low for Iowa.  Then BAM!  Take Exit 52 for the Covered Bridges of Madison County.  Oh I loved this book!  As tempted as I was to venture off the highway, snow and cold kept me on my path.  Just before this same exit, another sign – John Wayne’s birthplace in Winterset Iowa.  Huh, who knew?  Not me.

Des Moines then appeared in giant mass, as if all Iowans live here.  Though I drove through a hundred miles of Iowa farmland to get to Des Moines, it is in the near middle of Des Moines that the National Silo and Smokestack Heritage Area exists.  Why here? I wondered.  I didn’t pull off the highway to check it out.

I safely arrived in Ames and head to Iowa State tomorrow.  Iowa has a lot to check out from Amish to Covered Bridges to smokestacks and silos to a rumor that I heard that Iowa offers skiing!  Iowa is also in the middle of the polar vortex and tomorrow offers a high of 1 degree.  One.  At 8 AM, the forecast says -8.  The high nor the low include windchill.  Ugh.  Cold weather can’t be good for the waistline either.


My Daily Blog: T-5 H.A.G.S. June 14, 2013

Schools Out for Summer.

HAGS!! is the new acronym to hit elementary school yearbooks.  I couldn’t decipher it on my own, I had to enlist the help of my 9-year-old to guide me through the elementary school vernacular.  My thought was that HAGS!! was similar to WHAS UP?!?!  Instead of saying HUGS!! you say HAGS!! Oh no.  HAGS is simply Have A Great Summer.  Of course. has some entertaining definitions and examples using HAGS in a sentence.  I won’t go into great detail here and highly recommend you check it out yourself, but I will tell you that my favorite defined HAGS as an STD (yes, you read that correctly, sexually transmitted disease).  HAGS could also stand for Herpes, AIDS, Ghonorrea and Syphilis.  Now read your elementary kid’s yearbook and interpret all 37 HAGS references with the STD message.  Fun to frightening in seconds flat.

No more pencils.  No more books.  No more teachers dirty looks.  These are all things worth celebrating, but school out for summer for me should be celebrated for not having to wake sleeping children, pack lunches and no homework!  Woo!  My life just got easier.  Except, now  I have to entertain 3 kids so they don’t fry their brains playing video games all summer, fight like mad dogs or push me further into the well of insanity.

What are your summer plans?  Here’s a newsflash in case you haven’t been paying attention – we’re moving to Spokane.  Though moving is a big project, it isn’t all-consuming right now, nor will it be once we arrive.  We’ll take it one box at a time.

We’re billing this summer as the “Summer of Adventure”.  It could equally be named “Spokane, You Got It, We’re Doing It”.  “Summer of Adventure” actually begins on Tuesday, before we leave, with our final trip to Disneyland.  As annual pass holders, we have our fill of Disney often, but Tuesday, with the help of our adult daughter, the boys will be at Disney all day long.  We’ll show up for dinner and take over for the rest of the night.  (Smart).

Nothing says summer like a good road trip!  We will be on the road and we will cover 1,237 miles but that is the beginning and end of “trip”.  We’re moving, no sightseeing or time-consuming tourist attractions on the way up.  Not much of an adventure?  Yeah.  Right.  If that’s what you think, you’ve never travelled 20 hours, in a car, with children, not to mention our menagerie.  Door to door in less than the 20 prescribed hours it takes to get there without losing our minds.  Safety first, of course.

The Adventure picks back up when we arrive in Spokane at the start of Hoopfest, “the largest  3-on-3 street basketball tournament on the planet”.  Check it out Spokane utilizes 42 city blocks for 456 courts on day one of this weekend extravaganza.  We are definitely going to check out this action.  The boys are already talking about forming teams next year.

That’s as far as we have planned.  Knowing what we’re doing next weekend hardly qualifies a dramatic action-packed title like “Summer of Adventure”.  Buying furniture doesn’t qualify either, yet it counts for me..  If you’re one of the kids, your biggest concern is when will the internet be connected?  If you’re my husband, his plans include buying a boat which certainly lends credibility to “Summer of Adventure”.  Buying a boat will be great for all of the lakes and summer fun in Spokane.  I cringe at the thought.  This will be our fourth boat since we’ve been together.  Boats are a lot of fun, but they are a lot of work.  There is no work sitting on the beach with a book where I am perfectly content.  Just the thought of the beach and a book takes me to a happy place on a lake, at the ocean, or next to a mud puddle.  With adventurous boys and a water-skiing husband that also loves to sail, we’re definitely boating this summer if not sailing too.

Bicycling, checking out the sites, entertaining friends and family, trying new restaurants and just absorbing our new surroundings will be adventure in itself.  Our summer will be full of fun.

HAGS!  Whether this is a wish for fun or catching an STD, I hope you have a great time doing whatever you have planned this summer!  Make it count.