Monday, July 28, 2008

I Picked These Flowers For You

Flowers Through the Years

A child’s handful of wildflowers given with all the love in the world
A corsage of tiny roses worn on prom night
Graduation day proudly brings a dozen long stems of red roses
Bright bunches bought to brighten a first apartment’s humble furnishings
The Wedding day bouquet full of passion and grandeur
Baby’s arrival brings a sweet nosegay
A wreath laid on the grave and we become one with the flowers

An original poem by Cindy

I picked this tiny bouquet of flowers this morning and wanted to share its simple beauty with you along with some verse.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Build a "Fantastic Contraption"

Here's something for Friday Fun.

Fantastic Contraption is an online physics puzzle game, and it's a lot of fun. It's very simple to get started, the tutorial shows you everything you need to know. The interface is very user friendly too. The basic premise is that you have to get an object from the building area into the goal using five different elements to build your "fantastic contraption". There are several scenarios which get increasingly more difficult. You can save your creations online, and for $10 you can build your own scenarios and have access to other user built scenarios. This is a puzzle game which will exercise both sides of your brain.

I am currently stuck on one of my scenarios but here is a link to one I have completed. Just click HERE and then hit the PLAY button and follow the onscreen instructions.

Below is a sample screen shot of one the scenarios.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Journals and Sketchbooks

We've been spending a lot of time getting ready for our vacation which is coming up in a few weeks. We are headed to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to spend a week with my parents and all my siblings - all seven of them, in the same house. I have to admit this has me a bit anxious. But I've been trying to up the anticipation levels and dampen the anxiety levels since I think most of my fears are unfounded.

In planning what we are going to bring with us, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Baby, who herself occupies the least amount of space, is going to be using most of the available storage space for all of her stuff. It's a good thing it's summer time and we're going to the beach so my clothes can fit in a shopping bag. I don't think we could fit it all otherwise.

Two necessities for me though, whenever I travel, are my journal and sketchbook. I have a whole little kit packed into a small messenger bag. Every night I record the days happenings in my travel journal. This becomes a great memento of the trip and also a nice read when I'm longing to get away and can't. There's always something I forget and reading about it brings me right back to that far away place. I also bring a sketchbook and watercolors, colored pencil watercolors, and if I can swing it, my pastels. We'll see if the pastels make it this year (they don't fit in the messenger bag) as I may have to give them up in lieu of my kite and geocaching equipment. I don't know how much time or opportunity I will have to sketch anyway. In the past it was just my husband and I, so I could sketch whenever I wanted to. This time there will be seven young children along. But I'm sure I'll be able to do some sketching, and who knows, maybe I'll be able to encourage some of the older children to take up these travel habits of mine.

Here are some excerpts from previous trips.

July 2, 2001 Chincoteague, VA

"Finally John caught an eel after many crabs kept stealing his squid. The eel went back. Thought we would try some live bait but that proved no better than the squid."

September 26, 2003 Minnesota

"All day we were in and out of the rain. We saw several rainbows along the way, the first in Minnesota. The landscapes in Minnesota were just amazing. There were lakes everywhere in this Land of Lakes. And where there weren't lakes, there were fields - of corn, wheat, and even sunflowers."

May 27, 2004 Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska

"There is a misty rain scattered throughout the area and we go in and out of it. This is typical. We go past some moss covered, steep cliffs ~ this area is utilized by birds as a rookery where they lay their eggs on the ledges. Amazingly they don't roll off. We see several sea birds hanging out here."

And here are some of my sketches.

Devils Tower, Wyoming September 30, 2003

Cape Lookout, North Carolina September 10, 2006

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quilt Giveaway

Happy Friday!

Dana at Old Red Barn Co. made a beautiful quilt and is giving it away. Go here to enter. Good Luck (although I hope I win - this would be perfect for Lillian's room!)

Maybe someday I will finish one of the many quilts I have started and I will have photos to share with you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Caboose Chronicles - Explained

When I started this blog, although just a short time ago, I never explained the meaning behind the name 'The Caboose Chronicles'. Of course my family would probably understand, but all the wonderful bloggers I have met would not. So I thought I would dedicate this post to giving a better introduction of myself and why The Caboose Chronicles is named as such.

Now I am a stay at home Mom, but this is my fourth career since graduating from college. My first career, and the most relevant to the name, was as an electrical engineer. I didn't work with trains the first couple of jobs I had, but eventually I ended up at Union Switch & Signal where I worked on the Copenhagen Metro project. That is when I was travelling all the time to Italy (where the car builder was) and Copenhagen (where the metro is and where we were doing testing). I loved this job. I loved travelling, testing, and working with the other subcontractors. But eventually I was tired of being home a month, then gone a month, and I wanted to have a life again. Also, this was a very stressful job and I needed a break. So I quit and went to culinary school for eight months (career #2), thus ending my working with trains.

Even though I don't work with trains anymore, I still love them. It kind of gets in your blood. The way being an engineer gets in your blood. It's a way of thinking, analyzing, and solving problems. My husband still works with trains like I did, only he has always been on domestic jobs and has never had to do the massive amounts of travelling like I did. Right now he works on a project for the great Alaska Railroad.

There are trains all over the country that you can ride for fun. We've been on the Conway Scenic Railway in New Hampshire, the Alaska Railroad, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad in Alaska and the Yukon - that is an engineering marvel. And there are so many that we want to ride. Pleasure trains are a great way to see terrain and scenery that you wouldn't normally have a chance to and they are so relaxing.

And then there is the hobby which can take over your life - model trains. For what is the next best thing to being there, but recreating it in your living room, or basement, or extra building which had to be put up to house all your trains. The extra building would be nice, but for now we have to settle for our layout being up at the Christmas holidays. We put it up after Thanksgiving and keep it up into March. Of course that was before Lillian was born. Now it's a whole different ball game. This past year we had just a small display, under the tree - she was not yet mobile. I think it will be a couple of years before we have the big display again, but once she's a little older, I know she will love it.

Previous years, half of our family room would be filled with 4- 4'x8' plywood platforms up on saw horses. On these platforms we would lay our track, and then create a scene with lighted ceramic houses; plasticville houses; figurines; felt for roads, streams, lakes; trees and bushes; and various other accessories. It would take days to put up, with many trips to the hobby shop for some more track, or a new train, or the latest accessory. Then we would run all the different trains and play like children, in our scene which we created. It is a magical thing, model trains. You can see pictures of our various layouts in the slideshow on the right sidebar.

So you see, since I love trains - big and small, and I couldn't think of anything else that wasn't already taken, I thought of The Caboose Chronicles. I liked it and so there you go. I have many interests and hobbies but trains will always be very special for me. I hope you enjoy these train pictures. It makes me want to be out riding the rails.

The Conway Scenic Railway - September 2001

The Alaska Railroad - May 2004

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad - May 2004

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad - May 2004

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Raspberry and Honeysuckle Memories

We have raspberry canes behind our house. These just grow wild, but we never seemed to pick any before the birds got to them. This year some raspberry canes started growing over by the gardens and were loaded with berries. So, as they started to ripen, I would pick them everyday. Each day would yield a handful of berries, which I would collect and we would have in yogurt or over cereal. Whatever was left over went in the refrigerator to save up for making something big. Finally I had enough saved and I made raspberry muffins. They were delicious. The recipe I used is at the end of this post.

Our honeysuckle is in bloom right now and always a-buzzing with bees. It smells just like summertime to me.

Picking raspberries and smelling honeysuckle triggered some childhood memories for me. I grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Pennsylvania with my seven brothers and sisters. Once we were into summer vacation we would spend the days rambling about the fields and in the woods. When the raspberries were ready for picking we would go trekking through the fields to the berry bushes which grew along the edges and where the fields couldn't be cultivated. It was great fun and we would be gone for hours, picking and eating berries.

Sometimes we would walk over to my Grandparents house, which we called The Farm because it was the main part of the dairy farm. It was 1 1/2 miles from our house. These were just country roads and they didn't have very much traffic at all. The honeysuckle grew wild all along them and we would stop and pick the flowers and pull the bottom off and get a sweet drop of nectar from each flower, to drop on our tongue.

I hadn't thought about those days for years. It's funny how doing something or a smell or a song can really take you back through the years. The brain is an amazing thing, how it stores memories and how they are triggered back to our consciousness.

Well, so much for my walk down memory lane. Here is the recipe I used for the Raspberry Muffins. It worked out well because I had just over a cup of berries.

Raspberry Cream Muffins
Submitted by Stephanie Moon


1 cup fresh raspberries
14 Tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup half-and-half cream
1 cup finely chopped vanilla or white chips
2 Tablespoons brown sugar


1. In a small bowl, toss raspberries with 1/4 cup of sugar; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Beat in the egg and extracts. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with cream. Stir in chips and reserved raspberries.

2. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Combine brown sugar and remaining sugar; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Here's a picture of how mine turned out. I didn't put the sugar/brown sugar on top. I didn't want them to be too sweet. And I only used 1/2 cup of white chocolate chopped up in them because that's all I had.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday America!

Song of the American Eagle
by Author Unknown

I build my nest on the mountain's crest,
Where the wild winds rock my eaglets to rest,
Where the lightnings flash, and the thunders crash,
And the roaring torrents foam and dash;
For my spirit free henceforth shall be
A type of the sons of Liberty.

Aloft I fly from my aƫrie high,
Through the vaulted dome of the azure sky;
On a sunbeam bright take my airy flight,
And float in a flood of liquid light;
For I love to play in the noontide ray,
And bask in a blaze from the throne of day.

Away I spring with a tireless wing,
On a feathery cloud I poise and swing;
I dart down the steep where the lightnings leap,
And the clear blue canopy swiftly sweep;
For, dear to me is the revelry
Of a free and fearless Liberty.

I love the land where the mountains stand,
Like the watch-towers high of a Patriot band;
For I may not bide in my glory and pride,
Though the land be never so fair and wide,
Where Luxury reigns o'er voluptuous plains,
And fetters the free-born soul in chains.

Then give to me in my flights to see
The land of the pilgrims ever free!
And I never will rove from the haunts I love
But watch, from my sentinel-track above,
Your banner free, o'er land and sea,
And exult in your glorious Liberty.

O, guard ye well the land where I dwell,
Lest to future times the tale I tell,
When slow expires in smoldering fires
The goodly heritage of your sires,
How Freedom's light rose clear and bright
O'er fair Columbia's beacon-hight,
Till ye quenched the flame in a starless night.

Then will I tear from your pennon fair
The stars ye have set in triumph there;
My olive-branch on the blast I'll launch,
The fluttering stripes from the flagstaff wrench,
And away I'll flee; for I scorn to see
A craven race in the land of the free!

While today is a day of picnics, fireworks, and celebrations, it is also a day to remember those who fought to make this country free for the past 232 years and those who still protect that freedom today. Please keep all who serve this great country in your thoughts and prayers.

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July!

God Bless America!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's Time to go to the Fair!

I love the end of June / beginning of July, not because it means my birthday is coming, but because it's time for The Big Butler Fair. It's always over the 4th of July and sometimes is still going on when my birthday rolls around and I get to go then. But this year it will be over before my birthday so we went Tuesday night. The Big Butler Fair, yes that is how everyone refers to it, is your typical, rural, country fair. It has animals, fair food, rides galore, and nightly entertainment. The entertainment ranges from Demolition Derby, to Truck Pulls, to an all day Country music concert on the last Saturday. I used to live only a few miles from the fairgrounds which is when I started going every year. Even after I moved farther away, I would always go back. This year was extra fun as we took Lillian for the first time. After she acclimated to the environment, she had a good time. The one disappointment was that they did not show rabbits this year. There were a couple in the petting farm area though. Another annual favorite is watching the peep incubator. Every day there are peeps being hatched.

Of course, after seeing all the animals, we had to get some fair food. But what to have, there are so many choices. Of course, you have to have several things since the fair comes but once a year. We had pizza, gyros, cheese steak subs, corn dogs, pierogies, and ribbon fries. We've found the pizza and gyros from "John the Greek" to be the best. Not all at once, mind you. And of course you can't leave without having some fried dough. That's a total fair experience.

We don't ride the rides. Just watching some of the rides makes me queasy. If we rode the rides I wouldn't be able to eat all that food. Of course I know that someday I will be riding those rides with the little one, but the kiddie rides looked doable.

There are also exhibits throughout the fairgrounds. The Butler County Tourism office had a tent with various exhibits about what there is to do in Butler County. There was even a table from a local winery providing wine tastings (4 for $1). Since we enjoy visiting local wineries we stopped and sampled. We didn't purchase any but we will go back to the actual winery sometime to pick some up and sample some more.

It was such a fun time and a beautiful night as well, I didn't want it to end. It was the first night in a while that it wasn't raining. Perfect temperature, no humidity, you couldn't ask for more. Here are some photos from the evening.