Get the Ladder

Growing sunflowers. 
It's an every year pursuit. 
Most years, the seedlings don't make it past rabbit height. 
But I always dream of those mammoth, 10 footers. 
Since that's what the package says, it doesn't seem so unreasonable. This year, no rabbits molested the sunflower seedlings, and I was very hopeful that they'd get 
 They did get as tall as me - we could look each other in the face
But eye-to-eye is not what I was going for. 
I was going for "Go Get The Ladder!" sunflowers.
Remind me to look for 'Sunzilla' seeds next year.
You know I'm a garden gawker and look for sunflower growing in other gardens.
Driving to the store last week, I saw a line of huge sunflowers that made me swerve with both hands in the air. A row of the tallest, most impressive looking sunflowers in the back of this guy's vegetable garden. It was a surprise, since so far I had only been gawking his black plastic covered beds and his well dressed scarecrow, and hadn't I noticed his sunflowers before. 

If you're interested, here's a video on starting sunflower seedlings with a seems-to-be-brilliant trench planting method, (some random act kindness in the middle of the clip), and how to harvest and roast the seeds for eating toward the video end.



Cruising the after holiday left-overs is a favorite occupation. After Christmas and Valentine's Day, I can barely wait to peruse the Not Bought bins. A few Februarys ago, I found a heart shaped box of what seemed to be chocolate candy, but what turned out to be gladiolus bulbs! Just take off the lid, position the bulbs, and bury the whole thing. WHAT could be easier? My Youngest was still willing to dig in the dirt with me back then, so we planted the heart box together. I sincerely doubted that anything would grow from this Valentine reject, though. I was so surprised when the green spikes emerged within just a few weeks!
 Glads are not my favorite, since I'm not a fan of staking. ugh. 
If it's going to fall over, then it's probably not going to last very long in my garden. 
I will stake for food items, though - tomatoes or peppers.
("Will Stake For Food" - a book title? a cardboard sign slogan? my post-child rearing career?)
They are beautiful, even if they are so very pink. They return every year, but no longer in a heart pattern. Glads just shimmy all around the garden, don't they. Tricky.  I took these photos on an early Saturday morning, while on a garden walk with My Wonderful Husband. 
It's a summer thing we do.  
*** My dad happened to visit one evening this summer, and he stood looking at the gardens. After a bit, he commented that growing gladiolas had been a special talent of his own grandfather. Apparently, my great-grandfather provided a bouquet of fresh flowers, seasonally featuring his special glads, for his church altar every Sunday morning.



 ... back to the 2012 vacation.

There's so much to gawk at on the strip in Gatlinburg. 
Thought you might enjoy seeing a few more interesting snapshots from the trip.

Who would expect to see something of Dickens just down the street from Moonshine Holler? That's the beauty of it, friends. 
Moonshine Holler, by the way, had interesting effects on my sons. The Oldest was game for free tastes, The Middle didn't seem to know that free tastes existed, and The Youngest was traumatized by the thought that mom might have a free taste with his oldest brother. 
I was just calling the bluff of the Oldest, 
this is a necessary skill to develop when you live with teenagers
but My Youngest was horribly shocked. And the bluff is ruined if you admit that you were never really going to down some moonshine ... Poor kid.
The free moonshine tastes were served in communion cups.  !!!

In a crowd of men and almost-men, shopping downtown Gatlinburg is not what you might have experienced if you went with girlfriends. Let's just say I saw lots of gun/knife/gadget stores. After about five such visits, I was relieved to hear one of them observe, "Those stores are all the same!"   
Yes, they are. 
ANYway, I didn't go in most of those (mildly disturbing) stores - there's plenty to entertain on the sidewalk and in store window. 
Had to get a photo of the Witch King's helmet. 
Any other Lord of the Rings fans out there?
My Youngest just passed by and commented, "Mom, don't put that on there! People will know you're a nerd!" So true, son, but they probably already knew.

We call it  Street Food  - the best choice for at least one meal. Defined: walk along and buy/eat as much food as your parents can afford. 
It turns out to cost about the same as a sit-down meal in a restaurant. 
Look how happy this kid is, stuffing his face with a big ol' sausage, and get a look at that corn dog in the background! I got to share a few bites of that.

Really? A KILT? I just never believe that these kilt-wearing men are really  ethnically entitled to sport this gear, do you? 
And I have managed to ask a few.
Scottish Posers. 
This photo was not easy to get - even I am hesitant to photograph unaware odd people in close quarters. You never know what might happen. 

I checked the price on the Flying Blue Monkey mask - $55.  Way too much, even for such a desirable item. I know you want one, too. 
How great would it be to wear while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters? October is right around the corner, people! Plan ahead!

The Frankenstein mask came from the same store - only $10. 
Fun to leave in the cabin refrigerator. 
*** My Halloween outfit is all ready, do you see that? ***


What's Pinching My Stems?

 I usually stay in my flower garden and only rarely dabble in the vegetable patch. But I do so want to be friends with gourds.
But I'm having trouble. I don't get it really - I mean HOW hard can it be to grow a gourd plant??? One of the oldest plants known to mankind!
Seems like a very basic sort of vegetable to grow.

These tiny spinner gourds tempted me over into trying again.
You can see that it all starts out great! Beautiful little squash blossom -
Then curling up after one day -
 And quickly forming a eensy, tiny, adorable gourd!
 This one even got big enough to have stripes.
And then...
It's so sad - I didn't even take any pictures of it. The stem gets what looks like a pinch right in the middle. After that, the gourd baby turns yellow and croaks in an ugly way. Did some research last night, and the only thing I can find (!) that messes up gourds is mildew. Which killed my gourds last year. 

I sprayed the fuzz off them, but I find myself wondering what in the world am I doing trying to raise vegetables...

Send advice all you amazing Vegetable Gardeners! 


Moon Conversations

I happily admit to being a sky-gawker. 
Just ask any belt-gripping kid who's taken a drive with me during a glorious sunset.
Or when there are remarkable puffy cloud shapes in the blueblue sky.
Or during a lightning storm!
The ride can quickly become a little more (ahem) exciting
I want my guys to remember that their mom loved the sky. 
Maybe it's weird to type that ... is my love of the tragic is hanging out a little too much?

BUT MORE THAN THAT, I want their hearts to turn God-ward when they see something beautiful overhead.

We've moved on from the simple teaching conversations that satisfied them when they were young:
(me) "Look at that! Isn't that beautiful!"
"What is it?" 
"The moon - God made it."
"How did it get up there?" 
"God made it and put it up there during the first week of the world."
"Is it really made of cheese?" 

Now as grown and semi-grown people, they don't ask a million questions, and we are rarely outside together. So I have to watch and wait for opportunities to point their attention to the sky. And I try to remember that the word-stream that is actually going to HEARD is usually a short one, so the words have to  really count. So I go straight for scripture.

"Look at that! 
 "Do you see that full moon?!
 "Check out the moon nestled in those gauzy clouds! 
Is that amazing or what!"
I hope I'm creating a path in their memories that will assist the Spirit as He makes His pathway in their hearts.

For myself, aside from just the raw and wild beauty on display in the sky, 
and the fact that it's speaking day and night of the Creator, 
the heavens put me in my place. 
very, very small
They bring into sharp focus how BIG He is.
I like to be reminded of that.

We all need to be reminded of that.



"Watch What Happens"

Mini Golf 
Do I want to play? NO
Do I play?  yes
And isn't that what family vacations are all about?
I told the guys that I do have the ability to win if I WANT to,
but that I'm a non-competitive person.
So I never win but probably have the most fun.
And isn't that what family vacations are all about??
This is a true reflection on myself, I believe, 
but depending on who you ask, there will be mixed reviews.
about being non-competive, not about having the ability to win at mini golf
We were on our way out of the TN part of our vacation and happily on the way to KY,
so we decided to leave Davy Crockett mini golf behind. 
There's a nice little course behind the General Store in the park at Lake Cumberland, and it costs AHEAP less than the course in Gatlinburg. 
And by day 3 of the vacation, it was starting to matter more (and more and more...)
So we paid $4 each to play on a course that SOMEbody forgot to clean. 
After having to ask to use this ...
 ... we ended up playing for free.
(And I only asked for a discount!)

 Forty-nine seconds of  Putt-Odyssey
Just some FYI:
"OK, seven!" - seven is the stroke limit. You just can keep putting and putting and putting...
"Watch what happens." - Second Son, who is very competitive, is traumatized by his dad who has already putted FIVE holes-in-one.
"You sailed right over top of it!" - I am secretly delighted that his ball went right OVER the hole. Even though I am the NON-competitive one...
"Wow" - we were all pretty traumatized. 
As in all fun games, there was a prize.
Everyone had to chip in one dollar and the winner got to spend the pot on whatever from the store. I had my eye on a mood ring for $4.99, or a turtle charm $2.99 / super jawbreaker $1.99 combo.
Husband, the Putter Supreme Father, won and bought a box of frozen Heath bars for everyone to share. 
And isn't that what family vacations are all about???