Kittie Howard

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Marines, and Connection to Tun Tavern

(Source: National Museum of the Marine Corps)

November 10, 1775 is the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps. When the War for Independence (also, Revolutionary War, 1775-1783) ignited, the Second Continental Congress gave the order to "raise two battalions of Marines" for the armed conflict between Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies.

Legend has it, Samuel Nicholas, former Quaker and, later, the Marine Corps' first commandant, executed the order at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tavern's manager, Robert Mullan, was the "chief Marine Recruiter." The first Continental Marine Company was comprised of 100 Rhode Islanders and commanded by Captain Nicholas.

Although some historians say the actual tavern where the historic event occurred was the nearby Conestoga Wagon tavern, owned by the Nicholas family, legend prevails and Tun Tavern is officially recognized as the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Among other events, the tavern, later adding a restaurant, "Peggy Mullan's Red Hot Beef Steak Sandwich," hosted a meeting of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress.

Tun Tavern stood at a location now occupied by Interstate-95, where it passes Penn's Landing, a waterfront area along the Delaware River, and Tun Alley, at the intersection of King (later called Water) Street. Although the original tavern burned down in 1781 and much of the area's historic flavor has been lost to subsequent development, a commemorative marker on the east side of Front Street indicates the site.

I am location specific for two reasons: (1) Wrapped in tradition from the day they enter the Corps, Marines know the Tun Tavern's location, often quoting it to each other on this historic day and (2) when my husband, a former Marine, and I visited the commemorative marker's site, it was a personally scared moment for him to feel the Corps' beginning and be as one in spirit with past and present Marines. It can't be overstated that this feeling of oneness is at the heart of the Marine Corps.

As such, wherever Marines serve, they celebrate the Corps' birthday and their unity as one in remembering the past and serving the future with various tributes, from quiet gatherings in remote locations to gala balls on bases and elsewhere.

Part of this observance involves the cutting of a birthday cake, with the oldest Marine present passing a slice to the youngest Marine present. Everyone then partakes of the cake, symbolizing the unity birthday's unity. Even when my husband was in Vietnam, the Corps found a way for combat Marines to have a slice of birthday cake, more accurately, pieces of cake that survived being dropped from a helicopter.

 The National Museum of the Marine Corps, located almost directly off I-95 in Triangle, Virginia, and about a half-hour south of Washington, D. C., has a Tun Tavern-themed restaurant for visitors. Approximately 500,000 visit the museum yearly. Built entirely from donations and maintained by volunteers, admission is free.

True to its linguistic heritage, tun from the Old English for a barrel or keg of beer, the museum's tavern serves beer (and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages), but also included on its menu is non-alcoholic bread pudding, a staple from Colonial times popular with Marines that's served in many of its mess halls and dining facilities. (Note: Along with interactive exhibits for kids, the museum has a kid-friendly place for families to eat.)

So, having shared in the cake ceremony at an earlier event, now, 240 years after the birth of the Marine Corps, my husband is either at the computer or using his iPad or on his iPhone, sharing birthday greetings with Marines of all ranks and ages, what Marines do on this special day. Tradition triumphs, even in a technological age.

And with Veterans' Day being celebrated tomorrow, a salute and a thank you to those past and present who've served our nation with honor, dedication and sacrifice, including my husband (USMC) in Vietnam, First Gulf War and Somalia; my father (Army) in World War II; and my grandfather (Army) in World War I.

Today's Tun Tavern at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. As much as things change, they stay the same. (Source: National Museum  of the Marine Corp)

Interior of National Museum of the Marine Corps (Source: Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tegernsee, Germany

First, our thoughts and prayers are with families in the Carolinas who suffered -- and continue to suffer -- from the tragic deaths and the ravages and lingering effects of the unrelenting rain that pounded the area, especially in South Carolina. It seemed like there was no end to the rain. What a nightmare for so many.

* * * * *
Late August we returned from our summer vacation. After living inside one gorgeous European postcard after another for two months, though, we were ready to sleep in our own bed (ahhhh!), exactly how we felt after gorgeous postcard trips in our own country: Arcadia National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Dakota Badlands, the Grand Canyon, Vermont's Green Mountains and small towns, Louisiana's bayous and marshes, sections of Mississippi's Natchez Trace and Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway, and the magnificent drive from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to the Mississippi River Bridge at Memphis, come to mind this groggy morning. (Hmm, can't leave out Georgia's tiny, northwestern "hook" . . . oh, so much out there!)

As such, planes, boats, trains, metros/buses and Mr. H's driving (1,200 miles) covered a lot of territory this summer and without incident, thankfully.

When not in transit from A to B, we walked a lot, easily averaging seven miles a day. Those miles added up, creating a problem with one shoe. So, we drove to Tegernsee, Germany, across the border from our hamlet in Austria, in search of a new pair of serious walking shoes.

Some highlights:

Thanks to Wikipedia, an aerial photo of Tegernsee. The town's about 30 miles north of Munich, the capital of the German state of Baveria, and about 20 miles from the Austrian state of Tyrol (Tirol).
Today, Tegernsee's primarily a spa center and tourist destination popular with Germans, Austrians, and the Dutch. Because of the many wars in Europe, history buffs know there is much to explore in the wider area. However, a footnote caught my eye: On May 3, 1945, a wounded German officer, Major Hannibal von Luttichau, first persuaded the German SS to vacate their entrenchments and then persuaded approaching American soldiers not to attach Tegernsee. Thus, the old town remains much as it was deeper in history.

A Benedictine abbey built in 746 hugs the lake. (Wikipedia)

Taken from the car -- the sign welcomes visitors to a very small town en route to Tegernsee. Gruss Gott -- Greetings to God -- is a centuries-old greeting commonly heard in Bavaria and Tyrol (Tirol). Predominately Lutheran or Catholic, it's a devoutly Christian region.

But the Bavarian regional flag also hints at something else . . .

Ye ole beer hall . . . hoffbrau haus . . . especially appealing on a hot July day . . . when one can sit outside and enjoy . . . 

a beer . . . the house brew . . . 

and a soft pretzel . . . there were three in the basket . . . Mr. H. didn't want one so, ahem, I ate all three, burp! LOOOVE those things . . .

swirled in a bit of mustard . . . YUM!

Mr. H. ordered wurst and German potato salad . . . the latter is to him as  pretzels are to me . . .

I ordered radi, a white radish with a spicy "bite" common to the area that comes thinly sliced . . .  sometimes called the "Munchen radi," it goes great with beer. (I had a small beer; Mr. H. drank water because he would be driving later.)

Afterwards, we walked along the lake for about an hour . . . 

eventually stopping for -- you guessed it, apple strudel . . . and lingered over a cup of coffee . . . people were out . . . bicyclists filled bike lanes . . . ducks begged for food at the lake's shore . . . birds chirped . . . a beautiful day we didn't want to end . . . but we also had a mission: those shoes. So, we returned to the car . . . 

and headed into town . . .

to this shop . . . where nothing on sale was in my size, but a pair of Nike's worked . . . same price as in the States, even with the tax . . . so very happy to have new "wheels" . . .

we returned to the country road that linked Tegernsee . . .

and our Austrian hotel . . .

and our room . . .
with its gorgeous view during the day . . .

and at night. From Arkansas to Austria, the sound of music caresses one's soul.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Venice Charms

Originally a settlement on Italy's mainland, Venice's inhabitants relocated to a series of man-made islands in the nearby marshy Adriatic Sea in order to escape plundering bandits. By the late 13th century, Venice had grown into a major commercial and sea power.

Although we're staying in Lido de Jesolo, across the Bay of Venice from the city, last week we were part of the huge influx of tourists who visit this remarkable city with stone buildings that rise out of the sea, as if by magic when viewed from the distance. After a convenient bus ride to the ferry port and a relaxing, air conditioned 45-minute ferry ride, we approached Venice.

As with other visits, my heart thumped with excitement. Venice is eternal. Venice is beauty. Venice is romance. Venice is imagination.

Some highlights:

Our ferry docked feet from the Metropole, one of the most expensive hotels in Venice. Well-heeled tourists arrive by private taxi and dock at the hotel's private landing behind the hotel. If you saw "Casino Royale," one of the scenes was at the landing. But the real reason I mention this hotel is because it was once Europe's first orphanage. During Venice's lively history, mistresses of the city's elite would leave their babies on the doorstep for the nuns to care for. Those girls who had beautiful voices filled choirs. Others learned lacemaking, their handiwork sold on Burano, one of Venice's islands (that is especially beautiful in the morning). Vivaldi, who wrote the opera "The Four Seasons," worshiped in the orphanage's church. Several years ago, one of the Metropole's receptionists showed Mr. H. and me the circular stone stairway that had led to the balcony where the choir sang. Now cordoned off for safety reasons, seeing well-trodden steps was an awesome experience.

San Marco's (St. Mark's) church in the piazza. The exterior pressure washing finally completed, the church is magnificent! The doge's palace is to the far right. Musicians play in the evening across from the church.

Venice spreads out from San Marco's. This canal runs from the Grand Canal, in the far distance. There are no cars, etc. in Venice. However a causeway does link Venice with Italy's mainland, with a parking lot for those who own cars.

Wikipedia's photo of the Grand Canal and the Rialto (shopping area) is much better than mine.  One year we took a water taxi to the Riato's back entrance (fish market) and continued onward to the Rialto Bridge, eventually returning to San Marco's. Signs with arrows help the tourist return.

Along the way, so many shops. This linen shop caught my wistful eye.
The latest fall fashions on display. 

Except for the piazzas, passageways are narrow throughout Venice. Everything comes in by boat. 

But it's a short boat ride for the famed Murano glass from the nearby island of Murano.  Because Venice was so densely populated, fire was a constant threat centuries ago, especially from the furnaces where artisans made the blown glass. And also because these glass blowers were like rock stars in their day, the Venetians decided that it was easier to protect themselves from fires and keep these artisans under closer watch if the entire operation moved to Murano. Artisans who divulged glass-blowing secrets had to escape Murano quickly or else suffer the severe consequences. Although they don't show very well, the clowns in the photo are extremely intricate, with attention to the smallest detail and brutally expensive. A bit of caution: Although there are many affordable Murano glass souvenirs, always labeled as such,  the Chinese have flooded the market with very cheap imitations (wine corks, letter openers and the like) that initially look good but often crack later.
Amid all the shops, these actors in the theatre district  handed out flyers advertising a play during a festival the following weekend.

Of course, Venice wouldn't be Venice without a gondola ride. This is one of the passenger loading areas.

And one of its many canals.

Nor would Venice be Venice without a nice coffee and a treat  while the gondolas glide by . . . ahhhh!

Next stop: Vienna, Austria. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Welcome to Amsterdam!

Our Royal Dutch Airline KLM overnight flight from Washington, D. C. to Amsterdam was on approach to Schiphol Airport. A massive windmill farm filled a section of the North Sea below. Morning breezes effortlessly turned their sleek white blades as the Netherlands' shoreline came into view, a view that soon revealed another of the country's reclamation projects. A portion of the North Sea had been diked off. Pumps drained the trapped water to create new land that would enlarge the airport's runway capabilities in the immediate view and create more farmland in the larger view, much like the patchwork of green fields and and irrigation canals that came into view as the plane circled somewhat in preparation for landing.

The Netherlands, about the size of Maryland, is a compact country with strict zoning ordinances, where even the semblance of wasted space, say, near an intersection of highways, is turned into a park, however small, with leafy trees, flowers and benches. We knew from previous visits to the Netherlands, but especially from a visit five years ago when we rented a car and toured the country for a week, that most of the Netherlands consisted of farms and quaint villages. Although it surprises many, the Netherlands is the world's second largest agricultural exporter, with the United States as the largest exporter.

As the jet's wheels hit one of Amsterdam's elongated runways made possible by a previous reclamation project and we rumbled toward the terminal, Mr. H. remarked, a certain amount of awe in the former military man's voice, "Schiphol's huge now, at least twice the size of Dulles (the Washington, D. C. international airport)." And, so, five years since our last visit -- but this time on foot, with a multi-day bus/rail pass for longer city trips -- we began our five-day exploration of Amsterdam, a city we love, a city that 2,400,000 call home.

Some highlights:

The Netherlands's constituion mandates that Amsterdam is the capital of the constitutional monarchy, but the actual seat of government is in The Hague (Den Haag), where the World Court is also located (a gorgeous building we visited some years ago.) Approximately 800,000 live in Amsterdam central, with about 2,400,000 in the larger metropolitan area, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. But because of the city center's horseshoe-shaped layout, the many canals, and the city's amazing transportation infrastructure, we never felt lost in a sea of humanity. We were only a couple of miles from the city center, with nary a pedestrian around, when I took the above photo. We'd paused to listen to the birds chirp, Nature's iTunes.

During a walk along another canal, the driver of this electric car (so marked on the door) parked near a boat as cyclists rode by. It's impossible to overstate the Dutch's forward approach to environmental measures.

I love street vendors, and Amsterdam has a lot, ranging from displays of old books, to paintings, to  jewelry to odds and ends. However, don't be deceived. They are strictly regulated.

Flower shops abound. I thought prices were very reasonable. When we returned, about an hour later, these bouquets of flowers had been sold. In Rotterdam, the Netherland's second largest city -- and a major port, much as Amsterdam is a financial hub -- there's a massive covered area where thousands (!) of tulips, in a jaw-dropping panoply of color, await overnight shipment to all parts of the world, another reason why Schiphol is so huge. KLM's cargo jets work the time zones so that tulips arrive fresh daily. Of all the tours I've been on during our travels, that unbelievably gorgeous and utterly huge collection of tulips remains a definite highlight.

Before leaving North Carolina, a neighbor asked if Europeans understood English.  The answer is unequivocally yes in the Netherlands. Very aware the Dutch language doesn't travel far, the government embarked upon teaching English in its schools decades ago. Although it's possible to encounter those of a certain age in the countryside who aren't fluent, it's almost impossible to encounter anyone younger than, say, 40, who isn't fluent in English. (Most Dutch also speak German.) 

This pelican in the Royal Zoo roamed rather freely, more intent on peace and quiet away from a nearby squabble among his feathered family than my camera. The pelican is also Louisiana's state bird. (Even though I have a love/hate relationship with zoos for obvious reasons, I couldn't help but wonder if he'd like to return to the marshes/bayous and alligators. Probably not, I finally concluded.)

Outdoor cafes seemed to be on every corner and always filled. We stopped here for a beer and a snack. Okay, I'll fess up, my snack of choice was Dutch fries dipped in a mayonnaise sauce. But even with the city rail pass, we averaged seven miles a day walking, so I justified the calories. Before various states legalized pot, Amsterdam's "brown" coffeehouses or pot houses were extremely popular with Americans, with long lines waiting to get in (but excluding yours truly as I've never been interested in that stuff . . . not being judgmental, it's just not for me). But not so much now as the novelty has worn off. However, counter image, Amsterdam has seriously tough laws for those who do hard drugs. Like passing on the right in Germany/Austria, just don't do it!

Anne Frank's house, a must-see stop for anyone visiting Amsterdam. The BBC is presently working on a documentary about Anne Frank, as told through the memories of one of her surviving friends. The horrors of what happened during World War II -- or any war -- can't be forgotten.

An outdoor bronze display of Rembrandt's "Night Watch" (beneath the painter's statue) that was magnificent, almost as magnificent as seeing the painting in the Rijksmuseum. Consistently rated one of the finest museums in the world, the Rijksmuseum also contains 400,000 volumes of books/manuscripts climatically housed in tunnels beneath the building as there isn't enough space in this already huge complex for everything. Truly, the day's visit was an artistic feast of Dutch history. Mr. H. particularly loved the boats and military uniforms through the ages. 

But as one feast ends, another begins. Yours truly at Schiphol.  Next stop: Venice.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Off to Europe!

Our two suitcases are packed (one each) as we finalize last minute stuff before our early morning departure tomorrow for D.C. and Saturday flight to Europe.

I'm not saying exactly where just yet as the Big Plan ***drum roll*** is to post from our various stops. Since my new computer breezes along, it should be a lot easier than struggling as I did with the old one. (What a mess that was, sheesh!)

And, you're right, Alex, I'm loving my iPhone! Have learned to shut the phone part off, go about my way, and catch up later. But we do have international plans for the trip. Life's good!

Hope to check back in soonest!

Happy Summer, Everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2015

"The Princess and the Pea"

The Confederate flag and a pea: What's the segue? Read on . . .

With Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson's book of fairy tales in one hand, I opened the door to the living room. This hot August afternoon I wanted to be in the quietest and coolest room in the house to re-read a fairy tale.

Of the book's many fairy tales, "The Princess and the Pea" had caused a fifth grader to do some serious thinking, but not about the story's handsome prince. I was too young for that.

No, it was this business about sleeping on 20 mattress piled high above a pea and waking up bruised and sore, what happened in the story that proved a rain-drenched maiden was a real princess, not an impostor trying to snare the prince.

Even though none of the book's fairy tales had had a princess with freckled cheeks, I dismissed that as a minor technicality. Hans Christian Anderson was from Denmark (I'd checked the map), a long way from South Louisiana, and couldn't possibly have known about Southern princesses: belles with peach-dripping voices, delicate manners, a certain frailty, and a determined focus that usually won the  day.

Being a Southern princess-in-training was another ignored technicality. To my way of thinking, a princess was a princess, thus opening the way to conduct an experiment: sleeping on a mattress with a pea between the mattress and the box springs.

After re-reading the fairy tale, to make sure I had it right, I closed the book as I stood up and moved toward the piano, where I'd hidden a pea shelled that morning behind the metronome. Seizing the moment -- it wasn't often the house was this quiet -- I slipped into my bedroom, pulled up the bedspread and top sheet, then lifted the mattress with one hand as I reached to position the pea where my back would be while I slept.

Just as I'd positioned the green pea, my mother entered the room. "What are you doing?" she asked, causing me to jump as I jerked my hand out and the mattress and bedding fell down.

"Nothing," I murmured, eyes down, following that princess training rule perfectly. "Just looking for something."

After a long pause that ended with a perfectly executed turning sweep, my mother said, "Make sure you straighten those pillows on your bed."

That done, afternoon eventually turned into evening, then bedtime. Positioning myself just as the fairy tale princess had on the fairy tale's cover page, I was almost too excited about my experiment to fall asleep, but eventually did, with my fingers laced together above the sheets.

When morning's sunlight danced on my face, I stretched, only to cry out as I grabbed my shoulder. The aches and pains worsened when I stood. Tears fell when I reached for my robe on the nearby chair.

At that point, my mother, with her built-in radar for disaster, entered the room. "What's wrong?"

Not knowing what else to do, I dissolved into tears, explaining between sobs I ached because I'd slept on a pea, not exactly a sane thing to say to anyone. But that's what I believed.

In the long morning that followed, my mother stripped the bed to soak the white sheets in Clorox to remove green pea stains prior to washing the sheets. As best that could be determined by my attorney father (who first had to determine if I knew the difference between real life and a fairy tale), during the gymnastics of placing the pea beneath the mattress, my jerked hand and the swoosh of the mattress and bedding falling into place had caused the pea to roll forward,  eventually out of the bedding and onto the floor and hide, as peas do, until I stepped on it before getting into bed.

But even worse than pea-stained sheets, the doctor had to come -- what doctors did Back Then for people who had money to pay them -- and examine my shoulder. Because I'd slept in an unnatural position all night, a muscle had frozen. He gave me a shot near the muscle to relax it. That hurt, really   hurt, almost as much as my siblings teasing me for a week. But I sucked it in. What else could I do? I had been stupid.

So what's the point of a childhood story from another era that seems like yesterday?

It's this: Just as my pea belonged in a bowl with the other peas shelled that morning, the Confederate flag belongs in a museum with other Civil War memorabilia.

Yes, my fanciful experiment provided a story to tell on the stoop, but I also disrupted a household and caused unnecessary worry and expense. When conflicted, the greater moral always gives way to the lesser moral. I was wrong. And when I got it through my head -- fully understood -- that I'd been wrong, I apologized to my parents.

It's a step in the right direction -- getting it through some people's heads -- that South Carolina's elected officials will discuss what to do about the Confederate flag's status. It's a discussion that should spread throughout the South.

More importantly, these discussions should lead to positive actions, not only to remove the flag from state buildings and state flags, but that the South's secession and subsequent actions resulted in "A Failed Experiment in Nationalism," what is written above the back steps of Confederate States of America president Jefferson Davis' home in Mississippi. And if one doesn't know what nationalism is, well, the problem deepens. And part of why, at war's end 150 years ago, General Robert E. Lee advised against flying the flag.

But just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, I say to South Carolina's legislature, "Tear down that Confederate flag. It's oppressive. It fosters hatred. It's about race. And you know it."

"We are one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We are the United States of America.

My condolences to the families and friends of those massacred in Charleston.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Kermit" Takes a Hop

"Kermit," the tree frog named after the famed Muppet, decided to remain on our back porch and feast upon the insects that neared his perch, the light fixture we'd had installed on the side wall. Although the rosemary, basil, mint, and citronella plants mosquitoes hate had kept the tormentors at bay, Kermit not only decimated those who'd managed to get through the defenses but had added flies and other morsels to his dining pleasure.

Life was good!

Mr. H., whom mosquitoes love, could sit outside in peace, no longer bitten or buzzed by the little drones. As such, many a delightful evening passed as glorious sunsets crowned sun-drenched days.

The evening respite also calmed hectic days filled with gardening in the morning, before temperatures soared, and household projects in the afternoon. Although the interior looked fresh and no longer reflected the mess the renters had made, projects remained.

After completing a kitchen project, I poured a glass of iced tea and headed for the porch, only to stop dead in my tracks.

A black snake had slithered up the far wall and waited, within inches of snacking on Kermit.

As I raced though the kitchen, I plopped the glass of tea on the counter, then slammed the garage door open for the broom, raced back to the porch, opened the door near the light fixture, stepped back and banged the wall with the broom.

In the nano second before the snake lunged, Kermit hopped through the opening, onto the hall floor.

Not sure if the snake had a poisonous colorful marking on its head, I banged the door frame with the long broom, shut the door and stepped back as the snake coiled around the light fixture.

I then called 911. No false bravado here. I don't like snakes!

The patrolman who came uncoiled the snake with a long, somewhat curved metal prong. He said it was a non-poisonous Garter snake and repositioned the reptile in the thicket at the very far side of the house, as removed from Kermit as possible.

In an established, tree-filled, sometimes wooded, residential area that hugged water on one side and wrapped two 18-hole golf courses on the other side, everyone had a snake story, now including Kermit.

Problem was, I couldn't find Kermit to congratulate him on his daring escape. After placing bowls of water in strategic locations, I decided to close off that part of the house and wait until evening, hoping his nocturnal instincts would kick in.

When Mr. H. called from the Chapel Hill area that afternoon, I didn't tell him about the little frog who'd charmed his way into our hearts. Actually, there wasn't time. Well, okay, there was. I thought it wiser to focus on the positive. Kermit would be found.

And there really was much to talk about. Mr. H.'s nephew had graduated, with honors in Economics, from the University of North Carolina, had turned down a job in Durham for a job in Nashville and had been accepted into Vanderbilt's evening program for a combined M.B.A. (Masters of Business Administration) and J. D. (law) degree.

That evening, much to my delight, Kermit returned. When I neared the sink in the bathroom, I saw a green blob by the faucet. But excitement quickly turned to worry. Kermit had shriveled up, a tiny shadow of his former self.

After covering him with a hand towel (he was too weak to jump), I carried him outside, to the wall opposite where the snake had been. To my relief, he clung to the wall. He also tolerated a few fingertip splashes of water from the bowl of water on the floor before hopping further up the wall.

By morning, Kermit had regained some of his weight and snoozed behind the MiracleGro box in the corner, behind the chair where I always sat.

He refused to venture beyond this wall until after I'd scrubbed down where the snake had been.

No doubt about it, Kermit was a Phi Beta Froga.

But, as Mr. H.'s nephew had transitioned from one phase of life, prepared as possible for the next, so had Kermit.

He left the porch about a week later.

Kermit turned out to be Clementine after all.

When Mr. H. returned from Chapel Hill, he saw another, much smaller frog next to "Kermit" on the porch's pillar. Since we now realized the male frog was smaller, we knew what was coming.

That evening we avoided the porch so Kermit and Clementine could have a peaceful honeymoon.

By morning, Kermit was gone. For a few days Clementine hugged the wall, near a dark goo covering a mass of eggs, then disappeared.

Several days later, the dark mass flattened. Whether tadpoles had dropped into the bowl of water below and survived remains one of those questions Mother Nature will answer later, hopefully when another Kermit appears and the glorious cycle of life renews itself.

* * * * *
Computer updates: I now have a new Apple laptop, loaded with goodies, all discounted nicely as it's last year's model. Apparently the only real difference between last year and this year is that this year's pad doesn't click. Never mind. The WiFi mouse eliminates the need for a port. But I'm seriously careful about the computer's re-charge port. I fried the mouse port on the old computer by yanking it out too hard.

So far, I'm loving my new Apple. It's much lighter, does more stuff and is easier for a computer dinosaur like me to operate. That said, getting to this point was a technological hole that took time and money to get out of.

Another new toy is my first iPhone. But the jury's still out on this one. People really do expect immediate replies to texts. Sheesh! I think one has to be careful technology doesn't turn into a mental heroin.