Three Thoughts for Thursday

The end of summer, a new exhibit at the Louvre, and the Man of Steel's latest adventures in this week's 3 thoughts.


  1. The saddest day of summer is when the public swimming pool gets drained. It’s just so final.
  2. Several passersby on our Gravel Road have mentioned seeing the Man of Steel mow the lawn with a 40 pound pack on his back. Lest a rumor starts that I banished him and all his possessions to the yard, please note that he is training for a mountain climbing adventure. (I’m not making this up.)
  3. One of this summer’s exhibits at the Louvre in Paris is a Barbie doll retrospective. Can you imagine what her presence is doing to Mona Lisa’s smile?

What makes you sad at the end of summer? Leave a comment.


Top Ten Reasons There’s No Place Like Home

Ten reasons weary travelers look forward to coming home.My spring and summer gallivanting ended a month ago, and so far, staying put is all I want to do. Here are ten reasons there’s no place like home.

10. The people at here speak my language. Not just English. But midwestern English. As in talk about sweet corn, State Fair, heat, humidity, sleeping weather, and knowing how many miles you’ve driven by the number of gravel roads passed.

9.  When something is misplaced, I know it’s somewhere in the house rather than in another state, another country, or snuggled up next to the dirty underwear in my suitcase.

8.  It’s easier to stay organized at home than on the road because…

7. …everything is in its proper place. Except when #9 occurs, which is far too often.

6.  Iowa in August and September is so beautiful, I can hardly stand the thought of being gone for even a minute of it.

5.  Sunday worship with believers in other parts of the world is a blessing, but Sunday worship with our local church family is a blessing and a comfort.

4.  Cooking in our kitchen means being able to eat everything on the table, including dessert, without asking if it’s dairy-free.

3.  At home, when #7 rather than #9 is in effect, there’s time to think deeply and do what I like to do best–get lost in writing.

2.  Home is where I can Facetime often with two of my grandkids, play with the other one whenever we want, and share the day with our daughter and son-in-law.

1.  For 39 years, whenever I’ve had to travel without the Man of Steel, he’s the one who makes the house feel like home when I return.

What makes you say, “There’s no place like home?” Leave a comment.


Top Ten Effects of Digging a Trench Around the Basement

A project to correct drainage issues around an old house can do more than dry out a basement as this list shows.An old house, even one that’s been kept in excellent repair, is a series of fix it projects. The summer project at this old house involves correcting some basement drainage issues. Step one in the project was to dig a trench to expose the basement walls around most of the house, which has resulted in these top ten effects.

10. The exterminator had dollar signs in his eyes when he gave a quote for termite barrier protection.

9.  This project, like all home repairs, will cost more than expected. See #10 to learn why.

8.  Someone sweeps up tracked in dirt several times a day. That someone is not the same person who tracks in the dirt.

7.  The heavy duty cycle on the washing machine is seeing heavy use.

6.  We prefer to think of the dirt piles around the house as creative landscaping.

5.  A trench where flowerbeds used to live means much less summer weeding.

4.  From the waist up, the Man of Steel is now very tan. Yes, that includes the top of his head.

3.  The basement feels drier already.

2.  The adults in the house stay alert when the 16-month-old is outdoors because large holes and towering dirt piles are kid magnets.

1.  A video of Papoo (aka: Man of Steel) operating an excavator elevates an ordinary grandpa to superhero status in the eyes of a 3 1/2 year old, machine and tool-obsessed grandson.

Are you doing home repairs this summer? What unexpected effects have you observed? leave a comment.



Three Thoughts for Thursday

Back from Alaska, no more empty upstairs, and bathroom etiquette in today's three thoughts.

  1. I recently spent 10 days alone at our house while the Man of Steel visited his brothers in Alaska.
  2. Tomorrow my daughter and her family are moving into our empty upstairs.
  3. #1 & 2 explain why today is devoted to a crash course in remembering to shut the bathroom door before availing myself of the facilities.

What are your bad habits when you have the house to yourself? Leave a comment.

Muffin Mysteries for a Fantastic Friday

When the biggest mystery in the house is muffins in the microwave, does it mean the residents of the house have memory problems?In the four years since this post first appeared on Down the Gravel Road, memory issues at the Philo house have only gotten worse. So much worse that this Fantastic Friday’s muffin mystery is one I don’t even remember. Which is why it’s worth solving a second time.

This morning, I was up bright and early. At 6:15 I left the house to walk, my back exercises, Bible study, and breakfast already completed. Ten minutes later, my phone rang.

By the time I fished it out of my pocket and untangled the iPod ear buds wrapped around it, and I inadvertently pressing several buttons, the caller gave up. The screen said it had been Hiram, so I tried to call back. But somehow I hit the mute button and had to hang up. Eventually he called back, and after explaining I really hadn’t hung up on him twice, he remembered why he called in the first place. Which is a miracle in itself, as the rest of the story proves.

“Did you put muffins in the microwave this morning?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered, and then added. “And I ate them. For breakfast.”

“Okay,” he said. “So these in the microwave are mine?”

I pondered the question for a moment.
I didn’t remember putting more muffins in the microwave.
But the older I get, the more I forget what I’ve really done.
The older I get, the more I confuse what I only considered doing with what I actually did. And the older I get, the more reality seems like a day dream and the more my day dreams feel like reality.

That’s when I realized Hiram and I have been married for a long time, and he’s rubbing off on me. As my internal dialogue confirms, though I have spent the last 35 years pulling him out of the anti-memory-time-and-space vortex where he lives, growing older is gradually sucking me into it with him. My days as household memory queen are numbered. Maybe even over already.

Hesitatingly, I answered. “I don’t think I would put a second set of muffins in the microwave. And my stomach feels full, so I ate mine.”

“Okay.” His voice remained cheerful and unperturbed. “They must be mine. I just don’t remember putting them there.”

I laughed. “We’re pathetic.”

He agreed, and we both hung up. I slipped the phone back in my pocket and felt something long and stringy wrap around it. I pulled the phone out again, along with a tangle of iPod ear buds.

Where in the world did those come from? I wondered. Then I stuffed them in my pocket and walked down the road cheerful and unperturbed.

Just like my husband.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

The Downton Abbey finale, a guitar player in the making, and bunny ears on babies in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. The Downton Abbey finale was perfect. After Nurse Jackie ended with a drug overdose and the mysterious Don Draper as mysterious as ever in the last episode of Mad Men, Downton Abbey’s finale where love and compassion make it possible to face changing times with hope and strength made it a story worth watching.
  2. After the Man of Steel repaired a little guitar for a six-year-old boy, the first grader’s music teacher* sent a thank you with the following message: “My student’s first goal is to pick out the tune to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. After that, he wants to learn the Smoke on the Water riff.” The Man of Steel’s been smiling since the email arrived.
  3. Our grandkids will all be together this weekend. I bought Easter props in hopes of getting some fun pictures of the 3 of them. The 3 1/2-year-old will cooperate, but does anyone have suggestions about how to keep bunny ears on a 14-month-old and 11-month-old long enough to take a picture?

*The music teacher is giving this little guy lessons on her own time. For free.

Chicken Tetrazinni, With Dairy and Without

This delicious casserole can be prepared ahead of time and, with a few substitutions and omissions can be made dairy-free.For supper last week, I made chicken tetrazinni, a family favorite that can also be made with turkey, for the first time in a long time. After his first bite, the Man of Steel decided he wanted it made again for his birthday meal extravaganza to be held in a few weeks. Because the dish can 1) be prepared ahead of time, and 2) be made in dairy and non-dairy versions (at least 3 of those attending steer clear of dairy), I was thrilled. In honor of the upcoming celebratory event, here’s the recipe for chicken tetrazinni, with notes about how to make the non-dairy version, too.

Chicken Tetrazzini

2 – 3 cups cooked, deboned, cubed chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (omit this ingredient in the dairy-free version)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter (dairy-free version uses Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green or sweet red pepper, chopped
12 ounces spaghetti
6 slices of bread, toasted and cubed
1/4 cup melted butter (dairy-free version uses Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put cubed chicken and cheese (omit for dairy-free version) in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain. Rinse with cold water and place in pan with turkey and cheese. Stir well.

While spaghetti is cooking, melt 3 tablespoons of butter or Earth Balance in a sauce pan. Add onions and pepper. Saute until onions are transparent. Add flour and mix well. Slowly add broth, whisking and stirring constantly until it boils. Let it boil gently for one minute. Pour sauce over noodle/meat/cheese mixture and stir well.

Toast the bread and cut into cubes. Drizzle with 1/4 cup melted butter or Earth Balance and stir well. Sprinkle croutons over the noodle mixture. Bake for 1/2 hour.

Top 10 Reasons Spring Needs to Arrive Immediately if Not Sooner

This time of year, every Midwesterner is itching for spring. Here are a few reasons to look forward to warmer weather.This time of year, most Midwesterners are itching for spring, and I’m one of them. Here are ten reasons spring can’t come soon enough.

10. Mom’s It’s-too-cold-to-go-out-to-eat-why-don’t-you-go-pick-something-up-and-bring-it-here excuse will no longer hold water.

9.  The storm sewers need a good rain to wash away the top hats, frozen carrots, old scarves, and coal buttons and eyes that once adorned many a jaunty snowman.

8.  I want to walk outside again while the birds are singing again.

7.  Parents have completed the list of 101-fun-indoor-winter-activities-for-young-children. Three times. Or more.

6.  A hamburger grilled over apple wood and served on a toasted bun sounds really good right now.

5.  Kids need to get outside to blow the stink off.

4.  Every parent of young children and every elementary teacher in the Midwest has a wild look in the eye that will only go away when kids have a chance to get outside and run off several months’ worth of pent up energy.

3.  Children around the country have outgrown their mittens, boots, and winter coats. The sled’s broken, too.

2.  The robins are back, and if spring doesn’t come soon, they will need tiny, knitted sweaters to keep them warm. Who’s going to chase them down and convince them to wear the darn things?

1.  The Man of Steel’s birthday heralds the arrival of the new season. This year he’ll celebrate the big 6-0. I’m eagerly anticipating the few short months of spring and summer when he’s 60 and I’m not.

Why are you looking forward to spring? Leave a comment.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Those Super Bowl wiener dogs, Man of Steel love, and Thurgood Marshall in this week's three thoughts.

  1. The Super Bowl commercial with the bun-wrapped wiener dogs running toward the Heintz condiments almost made me want another daschund. Almost is the operative word here.
  2. Last Saturday, the Man of Steel spent all day fixing a bathroom sink plumbing issue and he filled out a volunteer application for this summer’s Wonderfully Made Family Camp. Gotta love the guy.
  3. Wil Haygood’s biography, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, is so worth reading. A perfect way to pass the time until spring comes.

Zippy Deviled Eggs

These zippy deviled eggs are the perfect dish for gluten and dairy-free diners to take to a potluck.What to do when you’re invited to a potluck where dairy will likely be an ingredient in many of the dishes…and you can’t eat dairy? That was my conundrum recently, and the perfect answer was…drum roll please….deviled eggs!

In my case, this simple, protein-filled, gluten-free, and dairy-free offering has an added bonus. I love them. The Man of Steel hates them. So taking them to a potluck means I get to chow down on something tasty without making Mr. Steel feel bad.

Here’s the recipe I use for deviled eggs with some zip in their doodah.

Zippy Deviled Eggs

8 eggs
1/4–1/2 cup mayonaise
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon horseradish
salt and pepper to taste

Put 8 eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Place on burner and bring to a boil. Turn off burner, put lid on saucepan, and let sit for 20 minutes. Place saucepan under faucet and turn on cold water until the water in the pan is cool.

Peel eggs while still warm. Slice in half lengthwise. Put yolks in a small bowl. Place white halves in a shallow pan.

Mash the yolks with a fork until lumps are gone. Stir in mustard and horseradish. Stir in mayonnaise, a couple tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Scoop yolk mixture into egg white halves. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve them.