Weather cold, weather hot….

…we’ll have weather whether or not.

When its cold we want it hot always wanting what is not.

(something my Dad used to say)

We didn’t get much of a winter this year. Our weather has been rather pleasant. No, I am not going to whine about the drought in California nor the abundant sunshine. I am going to appreciate that what we have is what we have and that God has it covered. He always does.

Today was a wintry type day for California. Breezy and cool.

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Overcast in the morning. I actually had to put a on a jacket this morning. It rained in the mountains and deserts yesterday with the possibility of more to come. There is a forecast of 30% chance of rain tomorrow but Thommmee didn’t cancel his golf game. This is good news here-but-we will see. Often the hype does not lead to much precipitation.

So…

it is hard to believe that last Friday we were at the beach.

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Thommmee and I made the 45 minute drive to Huntington Beach and it was fabulous!

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I couldn’t help but wonder why kids were out of school.

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(see their toys in the sand?)

Just a beach day I guess. There was a large group of kids picking up trash. It seems they do this often as part of a school class of some kind. Gee, they didn’t have classes like that when I was in school! The high school students did pick up trash, were very polite, took off their shoes, waded in the water, snapped pictures of themselves and each other. Seemed they were there long after the beach was cleaned-up. Oh well. It was a beautiful day.

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Of course we took our travel edition of Scrabble for a little friendly competition.

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We had lunch.

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Thommmee used his metal detector-looking for a big score. He found a nickel. Oh well.  He had fun. Another ‘prospector’ stopped by to exchange stories and brag about his big finds.  I tried to read a few pages on my book. Took pictures of the ships coming into Long Beach. Watched the birds.

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Chatted with some fellow beach goers. Wiggled my feet in the warm sand. Put my toes in the water.

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It was a great day.

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I do love retirement!

Day trip-Barstow, CA

We have driven through Barstow many times over the years. This is a place I have never given much thought to. We are usually rushing by on our way to Las Vegas or headed to Death Valley for our annual Thanksgiving camping trip.  Oh sure, we have stopped for a quick break but have never gotten off the road to see what was there. Thanks to my blogging buddy masgautsen at The thoughts of life and me, we decided to see what interesting sights we could find in our own backyard. She recently posted about sight-seeing in her own town. Isn’t that a great idea?

Sooo…off we went!

Barstow is about 85 miles from where we live. The only thing I actually knew about Barstow was that there is a decent outlet mall  there and it is where the cutoff from the Interstate 10 and the Interstate 40 hook up. As it turns out, this little town is full of history and played a large part of the California railroad history too.  With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad and the silver mine in Calico during the 1880’s,  Barstow began to evolve. Calico still exists today as Calico Ghost Town and is a popular attraction and camping place in the area.

Barstow grew and because of the railroad and its central location in the midst of the Mojave Desert, became a jumping off place on Route 66. This highway became quite famous when John Steinbeck published his book, The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Eventually major highways/interstates became the main transportation corridors through the area and Route 66 began its decline.

The Route 66 Mother Road Museum was really fun!

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Not only did it give a great history of the famous Route 66, but it offered a collection of remembrances of days gone by.

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Route 66 runs nearby to where we live so…

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…we are used to all the hype of the historical road with a variety of available collectables and scheduled events nearby. When visiting Chicago a few years back I got a kick out of seeing a sign showing the start of Route 66…

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…since we are so near to the end!

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These posters are just a sampling of the unique collections found there.

We then made a visit to the  Harvey House  .

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These establishments were built to provide good food and clean facilities in the Southwest beginning in 1870’s. They were found along Route 66  in railway stations.

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The first Harvey House open in Topeka, Kansas in  1876. By the late 1880’s, there was a Harvey restaurant about very 100 miles along the Santa Fe tracks.  This beautiful Harvey House is located at the Barstow Depot. The Amtrack still comes through

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but is no longer open to passengers. It is open to view,  for receptions, and weddings.  Barstow is still a major thoroughfare for rail cars and is a fun place to watch trains coming and going.

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There are old railroad cars (although not open) to climb on and view up close.

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The Western American Railroad Museum, offers an interesting collection of railroad memorabilia…

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…like this old safe.

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…and even a simulator if you really want to get the full experience. A group of Boy Scouts were  visiting while we were  so we decided to pass (but it really looked fun especially if you have kids).

A collection of nail heads was quite amazing!

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These dated nails were used in the railroad ties and became a sort of timeline.

You really have to see it to believe it!

Off we headed off to The Desert Discovery Center.

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What a great place for kids for a very hands on experience.  One of the most interesting things about this museum is the  Old Woman Meteorite. This is the second largest meteorite found in the United States. It weighed 6070 pounds when discovered in 1975. My favorite thing, however, was the turtles. They were so cute and active. If not swimming around in their pond, they were fighting with each other to climb out. The interaction between them was hysterical!

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 Desert plants are diverse and interesting…

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and I tried to capture a sampling of what they had to offer at the museum.

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People often don’t realize the real beauty of the desert if only you take the time to look up close.

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Well, maybe not that close!

After a picnic lunch in one of the local parks,

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we ended our trip with a stop at the  Mojave River Valley Museum.

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With free admission to this unique little place ( to the others also!) they had many interesting items, books, and displays to appreciate.

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(They also have a group of local men eager to greet you at the door)

If  hiking or desert camping is your thing, the Rainbow Basin Natural Area  would be worth the drive. Rainbow is noted for the beautiful shapes and colors of rock beds and of the fossil beds. It is  8 miles on a dirt road. We had the wrong vehicle for that trip, I am sorry to say, so will save for another day. Another interesting mention in Barstow, is the Skyline Drive In Theater which is the only one of its kind in the entire county -and San Bernardino County is a big county!.

We had so much fun with this sight-seeing adventure that I can’t wait until the next one!  We will try to do one or two excursions each month. For now, this will be our vacation!

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That’s Barstow!

Happy Trails

Today is National Scrabble Day!

Thommmee and I love to play Scrabble. In the warmer months you will often find us  sitting outside  with a Scrabble game between us. This may or may not also include something cooking on the barbecue. We will be busy trying to come up with a double or triple word score while trying to outwit each other (and hopefully not burning something on the grill)!  While I don’t consider myself to be particularly competitive, when it comes to Scrabble we are all in.

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Last week Thommmee had his best game ever with 387 points. Although it might not be much in the world of Scrabble, we thought it was pretty good  (anytime we exceed 300 points we are happy).

 

You will find us hauling our full-sized game on camping trips.

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At the beach, poolside, or vacation we carry our travel edition.

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My trusty Scrabble dictionary is circa 1978.

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We updated to a ‘new’ paperback dictionary a few years back.

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(I don’t like this nearly as well).

Nowadays we have our smartphones nearby to checkout the newest words such as ‘selfie’ and ‘hashtag’ which were added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2014.

Since Aril 13th is National Scrabble day-and I did not know such a day even existed-I decided to find out a little bit of the history of my favorite game.

Alfred Mosher Butts invented the board game  in 1933. He was an out of work architect.  It was at the height of the Great Depression and  he was looking for a way to cheer people up. Originally called  LEXIKO, the game is considered a cross between an anagram and a crossword puzzle . A few years later the name was changed to CRISS CROSS WORDS. The rise to popularity was slow. The game is now sold in 121 countries with 29 different languages available!  Did you know there are 105 playable two-letters words  according to the Official Scrabble players’ dictionary? There are 187,632 words on the official Scrabble list for tournament play. Nigel Richards, who has won the World Scrabble Championship three times and the National Scrabble Championship five times, travels the world to play in Scrabble tournaments.  I have seen some of these championship games on TV-very impressive!   Scrabble is owned by the Hasbro Company. If you have any interest in learning about the history or game of Scrabble, the Hasbro link will give you further information.

This is a great educational game and can be played by 2-4 people. Each person randomly selects 7 letters. Alternating turns, a player makes words with the letters on their tray and using the letters on the board. When the kids were younger, we would allow them to use the dictionary to find words. This game increases vocabulary while allowing for an enjoyable interaction between the players. Nothing quite like sitting around a table together and experiencing the laughter and conversation going on during a board game. If you haven’t played a game recently, dust off those boards and give it a whirl. Invite the kids, the family, a friend or a neighbor in for a good time.  You can pick up many of the old classic games at bargain price from  a thrift store or yard sale.

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Happy National Scrabble Day!

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Happy National PB&J Day

Who knew?

April 2 is National Peanut butter and Jelly Day.

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They say that the average American eats about 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they are 18. I have to think that may have been true in my day and perhaps even when my children were growing up (although I doubt it) but based on the eating habits of my grandchildren I don’t think that statistic is true today. The history of the sandwich apparently goes back to WWII when American soldiers created this tasty treat from their rations.

I absolutely love a good pb&j and still eat them to this day. Call it my comfort food but there is nothing quite like it!

In honor of this ‘holiday’ I decided to make some strawberry jam (well that and my fellow blogger, Simply Grateful Housewife, who is always canning something inspired me)! I jumped up early and headed off to the strawberry stand to get some fresh picked seconds. I don’t need the prettiest strawberries for my jam but I do like the freshest. Our area has many strawberry fields-we are now in prime strawberry season and the stands are abundant.

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I hustled home with my score and started to clean my berries.

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I got my supplies together,

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 pulled out my pots, washed my jars, and got them boiling…

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…while I finished up getting the berries ready.

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I used the recipe from the Ball Canning site.

You  will need:

5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)

Directions:

  1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
  2. COMBINE strawberries and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  3. ADD entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  4. LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
  5. PROCESS in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

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 Success!

So…then I had lunch.

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If you haven’t had homemade jam, try it! It is so much better than what you find in the store.  Maybe even cook up a batch of your own.

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Spring in our own backyard

When the kids were young I would take them exploring to see what treasures were in their own yard. We would look at rocks, flowers-whatever we could find. I have carried out that tradition with the grandkids. Today, however, without any kids in tow, I decided to head outside to see what signs of spring I could find.

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I found this beauty growing in an obscure corner of our yard.

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I love succulents.

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They offer such unique colors…

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…and shapes.

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The textures of the cactus…

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…give interesting diversity to our yard.

This herb left from last summer is crawling along its terracotta pot.

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A potato vine is in full bloom.

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 I rescued these snapdragon from our local home improvement store (they were about to be discarded).

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The Heavenly Bamboo has some interesting blooms.

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This lone beauty was poking out.

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Nearby, roses are in full bloom.

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The vegetable garden has been started.

We have several varieties of tomatoes,

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cilantro (love this versatile herb!)

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yellow squash, zucchini, jalapeno, carrots, bell peppers,

and lettuce so far.

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We actually have a very small backyard.

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Yes, spring is definitely here!

 

Day trip: San Diego

We live about 100 miles from San Diego so when out-of-town family showed up there this week, we headed off to meet  with them. They were visiting from Connecticut and were very much enjoying an opportunity to thaw out from a brutal winter. We were only to happy to  share our beautiful weather.  Bright and early the next morning we headed south.

Thommmee drove the coastal route.

We made a stop…

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 …or two along the way.

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 After about a 90 minute drive we arrived in San Diego.

We met them in Pacific Beach, a popular beach…

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  and vacation destination area of San Diego.

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 Picture perfect weather!

After lunch and some walking around, the next stop was a drive through the business…

 

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 and Gaslamp districts.

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Gaslamp is a historical part of downtown San Diego. This area was revitalized during the 1980’s and 90’s. It has many restaurants,  shops, and cultural activities. At night it comes alive with activity with special emphasis in dining, pubs, and nightclubs. There are a variety of festivals and special events scheduled throughout the year. (We were a few days too late for the St Patrick’s Day festivities).

There are so many interesting areas to visit In San Diego that it was difficult to select where to go in the few hours we had. After a  bit of exploration, we decided to head to Seaport Village where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

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This is another popular coastal area…

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full of unique shops,

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oceanfront views,

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restaurants,

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 casual dining, bakeries, and ice cream!

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(I just had to indulge)

There were beautiful succulents to appreciate…

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unique plants…

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…gorgeous trees…

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…and an overall relaxing atmosphere.

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(and did I say shopping?)

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So little time!

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So…..

if you are ever in the area, plan a few days in San Diego.

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There is much more to see and do.

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All too soon we were headed back.  Southern California traffic is  not much fun. It took us 3 1/2 hours to get home!

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Had a great time!

Reading, books, and other random thoughts.

I love to read! Let me clarify that… I loved to read. In recent years I have found it difficult to get through a book. I no longer invest the time it takes to complete an actual book. Why is that I have wondered. I have spent all of my life reading every book I could get my hands on, every cereal box placed in front of me, just about anything with the printed word!

So why now, when I actually have time to read has it become such a chore?

Let me go back to how my love of reading began.  It started with my father. My father was one of the smartest and most well read people I have ever known.  He grew up in a in a rural area during the Great Depression.  He only completed the eighth grade before he was called home to work full time on the farm. Probably not uncommon for many kids of the era. By the age of 15, he fled his home (with the blessing of his mother), to enlist in the US Navy and his ‘real’ education began. Perhaps it was during this time he developed a thirst for knowledge and a love of reading, I don’t really know. I do know he read everything you could imagine. It makes me wonder if his life had been different what doors might have been opened to him!!

Not only did he share his love of reading, Dad introduced us to poetry. He read to us about the moon being the North wind’s cookie, about the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat,  The Owl and the Pussycat  (who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat) but his very favorite was anything written by Robert W. Service.

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This poet wrote of the gold-seeking days of the Yukon. When I was in the 7th grade there was an all school speech contest. While others entrants were focusing on Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Longfellow, and other more conventional poets, he encouraged a very shy me to enter and memorize the entire saga of The Cremation of Sam McGee. Perhaps not a junior high school literary choice by some but I actually won first place with that poem. To this day I can still recite most of it (but cannot remember my bank password)! The following year we moved on to The Ballad of Salvation Bill but no prize. Since it is a story about a crusty old drunken prospector and a preacher, the novelty might have been lost on the judges that year.

I  still have my father’s treasured poetry books.

We were not allowed to read comic books because Dad said if you were going to read, read a real book (he excluded the Sunday funny papers from this rule). Because of him, some my earliest memories are the hours spent in libraries. Having a library card was like having a golden key to a wide world of possibilities. I worked my way through The Bobbsey Twins,

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Ellen Tibbetts,  Henry Huggins (and Ribsy),  Trixie Beldon, The Happy Hollisters, and just about anything else. As a pre-teen, I moved on to Nancy Drew, the famous girl sleuth.

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Next came The Hardy Boys.  I loved mysteries! I was scouring school libraries and exploring all of the library branches I could talk my parents into driving me to. I checked out the maximum number of books allowed and read most of them. I grew up in a time when you did not own many books but the ones I had-I read them over and over!! I was never without a book in my hands.

In high school we were required to read many books.

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The Iliad, The Odessy, Grapes of Wrath (which turned out to be my all time favorite book) The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, Anne Frank, Catcher in the Rye, and many more. The required reading continued in college. Don Quixote, Canterbury Tales. Malcom X-I was just never as fond of reading when it was required. I read many of the classics such as; Hans Brinker, Heidi, Jane Eyre, John Steinbeck, Moby Dick, Treasure Island, To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Beauty, Mark Twain-some as a child, some by choice-others required. My first grown-up type novel was when I “borrowed” an Ian Flemming-James Bond book.

I probably said good bye to the books of my youth after that.

And then I became a mom. Although I liked  the popular fiction of the day-Love Story, The Exorcist,  Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  James Michener books,  Looking For Mr Goodbar, and  The Thornbirds  …

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Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears, Goodnight Moon, and Where The Wild Things Are now became a huge part of my reading.  When my kids had required reading (and long  faces) we would read together.  I was now reading Newbery and Caldecott Medal books while trying to inspire them to enjoy reading as much as I did. I  too was reading them poetry with their favorite being The Spider and the Fly. When the romance novels came on the scene I was hooked. Sea Captains, castles, Southern  mansions-the longer the saga the better. Later it was popular fiction authors such as; Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Dean Knootz,  Jean Auel, John Grishman, David Baldacci, Jeffery Archer, and Nelson DeMille. I spent many nights turning just one more page.

So subtly did my love of reading slow down I didn’t notice for awhile. My coworkers shared books around the office. It seemed to take me forever to complete so I stopped accepting them. No longer did I ask for a particular book or bookstore gift card for my birthday. My friends, who are avid readers, made some fabulous suggestions and I would dutifully jot down the titles with the best of intentions of reading them. I would reserve books at the library, scour the bookshelves of friends and family, frequent the second hand book shops and read book reviews.  I read a few of them. Some I started but never finished. If I did finish a book it might take me months to turn that last page. I still love books and have a pile just waiting for me. I have a collection of antique books. I still check out books from the library.

I want to read, I really do. It isn’t for poor eyesight, overdue library fines, time, or lack of good titles to select from…

So what is it?

I have no idea.