Thursday, September 30, 2010

A few fall flowers ...

Earth is crammed with Heaven
and every bush aflame with God.
But only those who see
take off their shoes.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning~

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A day of trains ... Part I

Monday, Grandpa Jones asked if I would come along on an all-day train excursion ... and bring my camera. There is a model railroad train convention coming to Grand Rapids in the summer of 2012 and Grandpa Jones and many of his friends are on various committees to prepare for that occasion. All kinds of brochures and informational pamphlets need to be made, along with promotional materials, etc.
We drove down to the Kalamazoo area to look at five model train layouts. It was so much fun. This first layout is one that Grandpa Jones was especially interested in seeing because as a boy, he often admired American Flyer trains.
This fellow's layout is before the age of electronics ... everything is mechanically built and operated. He has very cool sound effects. Everything works! The steam engines, the lights, huge cranes ... really fun to see!

I know several small grandchildren who would have LOVED to be with us Monday!

I had a lot of trouble loading these pictures today ... so they are out of order, etc. The following few pictures are from a fellow who has a rather pristine layout that he has freelanced. The entire thing can be run by computer. It even has the coolest bus system that runs all throughout the layout, stopping and starting and ... even parking!
This was NO dirty dungeon basement kind of setting ... everything was practically perfect ... but almost TOO perfect ...
Beautifully modeled buildings and streets ... I wonder how many hours went into doing all of this!

After spending a whole day at five different layouts, what impressed me most was the amount of work that has gone into each one. The landscaping and art work is gorgeous! Each building has intricate detail with signage ~ if you look in the windows of some of the buildings, they are completely modeled inside and out! There are real working track signals, lighting, and amazing sound! And many of these layouts are prototypes of actual historical railroads during a distinct period of time! There are farm lands and rivers and animals and people ... and it's really an accomplishment to put it all together. Some of these folk have worked on their layouts for twenty years or more ... some of them as family projects! I have a few more pictures to show you and have had my share of trouble loading photographs today ... so if you'll go to the next post, that's where they are.

A day of trains ... Part II

This is Part II of our Monday train excursion ... Blogger refused to allow me to load any further pictures, so I've been forced to do two separate postings ...
Of the five layouts we visited Monday, I think this one was my favorite ... but I'm not still sure! I loved this steam engine with real steam and authentic sound ...
This layout is an O-gauge collection of engines and cars. It's really fun to see the trains run ... three can run simultaneously ...
The owner/operator has done a beautiful job modeling each scene.

Grandpa Jones was busy taking pictures of every angle of every layout.
If Grandpa Jones was doing the narrative on this post, he would tell you every single detail about what was being modeled here. I don't know very much to tell you about any of it! I was completely impressed, though, with the artistry and detail these folk put into their work.
Doesn't it feel like you are right on this street getting ready for a day of shopping?!

The next place we visited was very cool too. The fellow who has built this layout is a musician ~ and his house was built in 1888. The layout is in his kind of dungeon-like basement. The buildings he has modeled were SO amazing ... look at this church!

... complete with graveyard!
He did a really nice job on the river, tugboat, barge, bridges too ...
I concluded Monday that all of these people who do model railroading are on the level of geniuses ... serious!

By the time we got to the last place we were visiting, I was kind of tuckered out from all of these trains ... and all of the train language and details that were very foreign to me! It all began to look alike to me! Very unfortunate, since NONE of it is!
This fellow is freelancing a modern urban layout of the TP & S Division of the Sante Fe in and about the Chicago area ...

There was even a sign on the top of one of the buildings lit with fluorescent lighting ...
So ... you've probably seen enough model trains to last you awhile, right? I walked away really impressed with all of the folk who are involved in this hobby. I like their enthusiasm and commitment to historical detail, and I really really admire their artistic talent as well!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fabulous Fifteen for OLIVIA!

We've just spent a week with Olivia down in Texas and I tried very very hard to get some pictures of her so that I could show everyone ...
However, it was NOT easy! I have about 15 pictures of her hiding behind her hands like this!
So I've stolen some nice pictures of her from Sabrina's blog so that you can see her up close and know how pretty she really is. I especially love this picture of Olivia taken last spring (I think) all dressed for track and wearing her medals. Olivia is a fast runner, extremely athletic and competitive. She is also in the high school marching band. She plays the flute beautifully.
This is another picture of Olivia taken from her mom's blog ...
We celebrated Olivia's birthday a week ago. We went shopping and picked out a few items for her very clean and completely organized bedroom. Olivia is NOT a messy teenager. She is quite the opposite of that! I've never seen a neater, more organized room in my whole life.
Olivia also loves horses ... I do too! This is a puzzle that she had put together and then her folks helped to get it mounted and framed for her room ... nice!
Shopping with Olivia over at Bath & Body Works is a real experience. I love the place. I love to just wander around and spray the air with all of that lovely fragrance. Olivia does too. She has a TON of Bath & Body Works stuff in her bathroom.
When we were getting ready to celebrate her birthday, Olivia was a little bit more cooperative about having her picture taken. Isn't this a beautiful picture of her? (And Karis too.)
We played a few games of Bananagrams together last week. Olivia is good at it! However, she doesn't beat me as badly as when we play games of Memory.
This comfy chair and end table/foot rest was what Livie picked out with the money Grandpa Jones and I gave her for her birthday ... but I think she added a little bit of her own money as well. Olivia has a bunch of folk she babysits for, as well as dogsitting, and she is quite good at saving her money. She is a real responsible young lady and works hard too. She is FIFTEEN today! Wow. I can remember turning fifteen myself and it hardly seems that long ago!

We're glad you are our granddaughter, Olivia. We love you very much. HAPPY 15th BIRTHDAY!

Friday, September 24, 2010

FALL TEXAS TRIP: Finally home!

We arrived home last night at about 10:00, after spending 14 hours in the van and driving for what seemed like forever! The endless stream of trucks, rest stops, fast food ... has taken its toll! I am GLAD to be home. :)
We started our day yesterday with just a little bit left of Arkansas to drive through. Traffic was really heavy. It seemed like solid trucks. Now and then we saw a truck with Scripture written on it. I always like to see that while out on the road. What a wonderful reminder of God's love to us.
I love crossing bridges, especially this kind. This is the bridge that crosses Big Lake Bayou.
Midway through, you also cross the Illinois State line ... at the very southern tip of it. Illinois is a really LONG state. We had a beautiful day for travel; although interestingly, everywhere we drove it was in the 90's. In Arkansas, it was in the upper 90's. All throughout Illinois yesterday, it was between 90 and 93 degrees. How unusual for this time of year!
I love the farm country of Illinois and enjoyed the miles we drove watching the farmers at work.

Psalm 65 is a beautiful song of David. He says, "You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The rivers of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so. You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges. You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance. The wilderness becomes a lush pasture, and the hillsides blossom with joy. The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep, and the valleys are carpeted with grain. They all shout and sing for joy!" And that is exactly what we saw all throughout our day yesterday.

We've unpacked the van and started putting our stuff away ... it's a process! I've uploaded all of the pictures from my camera now to this computer and have a bunch of editing to do. Grandpa Jones is off to the store to get us a few groceries. A cold front came through our area this morning with high winds and rain, so we are now comfortably in the upper 60's. The leaves are starting to turn ~ we thankfully haven't missed the peak ... but autumn is upon us! Our Texas families are far away, but each of them have shared their lives with us ... and we with them ... and we are thankful to be home again.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


When you start driving across the vast state of Texas, there are times when you wonder if there is EVER going to be an end ... not to your trip ... just to getting OUT of Texas! We finally did by about mid-afternoon today ... but I was starting to wonder! We had a completely unremarkable day, so much so that I only took seven pictures all day long! That was probably because for the most part of our day I was sleeping. I'm really a terrible traveling companion. There is something about the motion of car that works like a drug in my system ~ seriously! I took a picture of this truck carrying the horse because a few minutes before this truck came by, there was a truck full of chickens (with feathers subsequently flying all over the freeway) that I failed to catch a picture of!
We drove into Forrest City, Arkansas somewhere about 5:30 this evening (local time). We decided to drive a few miles and taste some Arkansas catfish at a little dive called "The Catfish Island Restaurant." I was all set to take a picture of the outside of the place, but it was such a pathetic looking building, that you would have thought we were crazy to have eaten there if you could see it!
We sat under the beady and very dead eyes of these beasties and consumed our catfish with 60's gospel music playing tunes like "Just a Closer Walk" and "I'd Rather Have Jesus". A very enjoyable dinner! I had been SO hungry from our drive, and also the fact that I'd hardly eaten anything in more than 48 hours, that I ordered way too many catfish and couldn't finish all of them. Grandpa Jones helped me out with them.
On the bulletin board up by the cash register, I noticed the gift certificate (above) for one free visit to Dr. Kevorkian ... yikes!

We hope to finish up our drive to Michigan sometime tomorrow, probably arriving home quite late. We've been listening to another audio book while traveling, which makes the long drive more tolerable. I feel rather homesick tonight and will be glad to finally be home!

P.S. I was able to successfully load yesterday's pictures from Bandera to yesterday's post ~ check them out!