Trip Notes–Part 4-A (heading home)

       The last sounds of applause at the Stratford Festival have died down and, alas, it’s time for me to turn the car westwardly and start heading home–back to Utah.  I have decided to take a more northerly route up over Lake Huron, across the upper peninsula of Michigan and eventually across North Dakota, which I’ve never visited.  This will then take me across Montana and I’ll drop down into the Salt Lake Valley from Idaho.  If the weather holds, there should be some pretty scenery ahead as well as some historic spots to stop by, including the Little Bighorn Battlefield, the infamous site of Custer’s Last Stand.
        I leave Stratford on a Saturday morning in a hellacious rainstorm, which follows me most of the day.  Actually, to head west, I’m driving north with the goal of reaching Sudbury, Ontario the first night.  To reach the upper peninsula of Michigan, one has to travel up over the top of Lake Huron.   This was the same weekend of the G-8 and G-20 Summits with all the world leaders in Toronto and a nearby resort town (and the Toronto protestors and street riots), so there was some concern that I would hit road blockades and traffic while heading in the same direction for a distance, but all went smoothly, thank heavens.
       The second day out, past Sudbury, civilization thinned out and towns became farther apart.  I knew I was still in Canada as along the road up on rock ledges were randomly constructed inkushuks, Inuit rock pikes shaped in a somewhat human form that act as signposts and are very Canadian.  The one pictured is less that 2 feet high, but some in the Arctic area are much larger.  It was also one of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic symbols, so that may have inspired locals to build their own versions.  Anyway, there were literally hundreds of them!  Once I crossed into the US, they abruptly ended.

Inkushuk along the highway

      I crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie, where for reasons passing understanding, an overly enthusiastic US border agent all but ripped my car apart.  I’ve never had this much attention to me or the contents of my car in over 20 years of visiting Canada.  I guess I just looked suspicious: gray hair, a picnic cooler in the back seat, a trunk stuffed to the scuppers, and Utah plates.
After more than 20 minutes of questions and close scrutiny, I was finally on my way.  The upper peninsula is long and sparsely populated–sort of the middle of nowhere.  To make matters worse, the dense fog that had developed in Canada, followed me, so stopping and taking photos was counter-productive.  I did stop eventually at the top of Lake Michigan for a shot and reflected as to how different this shoreline was in contrast to Chicago, well south of my location.

North Edge of Lake Michigan in Fog

      By taking this route west, after Michigan I headed into Wisconsin and Minnesota; again the section I crossed was very rural, forested, and sparsely populated.  What there were in the way of tourist items consisted of food: pasties (meat pies) and wild rice (3 lb. bags for $9.00).  Boating and camping were the chief recreational draws. 
      I did have one burned-into-my-memory experience in Minnesota.  I rounded a curve in the road on a state highway (no Interstates in this neck of the woods) and I recall seeing a pile of cars, wood, large appliances, and other unwanted items.  What an unfortunate place to create a town dump, I thought to myself.  Then I passed what was left of a Home Depot store and it hit me like a ton of bricks that all this destruction was the aftermath of a tornado.  I didn’t have the gall to stop and take a photo, but I kept driving, saying “O, my God; O, my God” over and over to myself.  We’ve all seen tornado damage photos, but they pale in comparison with the actual view of the landscape.  and this was 10 plus days later as I was to discover when I researched the event: it had occured in Wadena, MN on June 17.  It must have been awful!
     From Minnesota, I crossed into Fargo, North Dakota and stayed the night.  Let me tell you, there is nothing in Fargo.  For the most part, until you get into the far west part of North Dakota, the land is as flat as you’d imagine a northern prairie state would be with incessent wind; there’s nothing to stop it.

Flat Prairie landscape, North Dakota

   Then, you come around a big curve on the Interstate and this is what greets your eye:

Landscape of west North Dakota

More of the hilly landscape

It puts me in mind of the Badlands of South Dakota, but as they are crumbly, sandy formations, these are more rock-like.  Anyway, it was a surprise as I was expecting the Theodore Roosevelt National Grassland to be acres of 3 foot-high prairie grasses, not this!  After all that flat land, this certainly was a welcome change. 
      Next stop: the Big Sky country of Montana and my experiences on the last leg of my journey home.

Published in: on August 31, 2010 at 7:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Utah Has Monasteries!

You wouldn’t predict it, but Utah–Mormon Utah–has  monasteries, and the one near us in northern Utah is the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity.

Simple entrance to the abbey

 It’s about 40 minutes from us and is quite picturesque.  Recently, the abbey lost one of the founding monks and there was a newspaper article commenting on its somewhat dire population situation. 

The Cistercian-Trappist Order Abbey was founded on 1600 acres of prime farm land in Huntsville, UT  in 1947, and of the original monks only a few are left, as they are over 80 years old.  Being a monk is not a vocation that draws many young men anymore, so the population of about 13 monks is aging rapidly. 

It’s a simple place with old quonset huts serving as the dormatories, chapel and common rooms. 

Monastery Building

There’s a small gift shop where religious books and objects are sold, as well as their famous Trappist flavored creamed honeys.  There are about 10-15 different flavors ranging from banana nut to blueberry and raspberry to brandy and everything in between!  That’s about all they can manage these days with their declining and aging members.  I’m told they also used to offer their delicious honey whole wheat monk’s bread for sale, but the baker monk’s age caught up with him and he had to stop baking bread for purchase.

Neighbor farmers irrigate, plow, plant and harvest the abbey’s fields, help graze their cattle and share in the profits. 

The place is accessable to the public and when you visit, you are welcome to join them for the daytime prayers they chant at regular hours in the chapel; monastic life is built around seven daily religious services beginning at 3:30 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m..  You’ll also see some of the monks on the grounds and in the gift shop.  Their apparel is one of the few throw-backs to the medieval world that I can easily think of: a coarse white linen surplus (long robe) and a dark brown or blue over stole with a hood , all worn summer and winter.

Visitors can learn about the monastic life

 It’s sort of sad that with the death of the last few monks, this way of life will pass out of the area forever.  But the bread won’t.  Here’s the recipe if you care to try it.



  • 3 cups water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup liquid honey (or light brown sugar or molasses)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups white bread flour or all purpose white flour
  • 6 cups unsifted whole wheat flour (more or less)


  1. In saucepan, heat water to 100°F. Stir in honey. Pour into mixer bowl; sprinkle yeast over warm water/honey and stir in. Wait for bubbles to appear.
  2. Thoroughly mix in 2 cups white flour with spoon until smooth. Let mixture rest for half hour in warm place; mixture will foam.
  3. Using mixer or spoon, slowly mix in 1 cup whole wheat flour. Add olive oil and salt. Continue adding whole wheat flour until dough reaches right consistency (just slightly sticky). Check consistency with clean, dry hands. If too dry, add a few drops of water. If too wet, add a little more whole wheat flour.
  4. Knead dough for ten minutes on floured surface. Place dough in large greased bowl. Turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place (85°F) until doubled in size (about an hour).
  5. Knock down dough by pushing fist into center. Fold outer edges into the hole and push fist into center again. Repeat this knock down two times more. Turn dough upside down and shape into round ball. Divide in two loaves and place in greased pans, 9¼ x 5¼ x 2¾”. (Optional:) Brush top with oil or soft butter for darker crust.
  6. Final rise and baking. Cover pans and return them to a warm place for second rise. Preheat oven to 350°F. Let loaves rise until pans are almost entirely filled with dough (less than one hour). Bake in middle of oven at 350 for 35–40 minutes.

Turn baked loaves out of pans onto cooling rack. Enjoy!

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trip Notes–Part 3 (northern leg)

Sadly, my 3-week sojourn in familiar territory came to an end and it was time to set off for the next destinations on my trip: New England and Canada.  I packed, said my good-byes and set off for the north country.  As long as I was east, I figured this would be the chance to see family up in New Hampshire.  It had been over two years since my last regular visit (I had made the trip about 3 times a year since 1988 when my great-uncle UB (Carl’s father) was alive, he will be gone 2 years this September).  If not now, when?  So instead of heading straight for Canada and my beloved Stratford Shakespeare Festival, I turned due north.    

I could only spend a day with my second cousin Carl, but the lengthy detour was worth it.  I finally met his son, Doryan and his family (they had recently relocated from Oklahoma) and the weather was glorious.  Carl and I drove around the North Conway area and dipped into Maine looking for barns and other scenes I could photograph.  It’s beautiful country up there, no matter the season, and I have great skiing vacation memories that stretch back to 1988 when my Uncle UB and his wife, Mable, moved up there.  Following are some of the images I got and a photo of Carl:   

The old swimming hole, Saco River, near North Conway, NH

Old stone state line marker between Maine and New Hampshire

Weathered red barn and storm-ravaged tree, Maine

Clouds reflected in the Saco R., Maine

Cousin Carl

 We also stopped in one of my favorite spots in the old village of North Conway, Zeb’s General Store.  It’s been a general old-time country store for decades and was named after Zebulon Northrop Tilton (1866-1958), a crusty and legendary Martha’s Vineyard schooner captain.  It’s and old store with made-in-New England products, a penny candy counter display, soaps, and lots of maple syrup and maple sugar candy, plus crawling with tourists.  I still love it: creaky wooden floors, old shelves and drawers, and a real friendly atmosphere.  (Just google Zeb’s Country Store and you, too, can make a virtual visit.)   

The visit was too quick, but I had to shove off to drop back down to Massachusetts, make a right and cross the entire state and then completely across New York state to cross the border into Ontario, Canada.  I’ve been to Niagara Falls enough times, so I avoid the tourists and cross at Fort Erie, about 20 miles south of the falls.  After a gruelling 13-hour car trip I finally pulled into the driveway of my friends Bill and Louise, my home away from home in Stratford.  I’ve been staying with them since 1991 and a wonderful friendship has resulted.  

My good friends, Bill and Louise

I’ve been coming to Stratford since 1988, missing only one year, 2004 when I had the wonderful opportunity to teach for 2 months in Greifswald, Germany (I was cautious of over-extending myself, financially).  Over the years, my son, Ben, accompanied me for many seasons, as well as my mom and other friends.  Recently, I have gone solo and when I retired to Utah, I just couldn’t abandon the idea of not attending performances in 2010.  I have never counted, but in 21 years I have probably seen 140+ shows, many musicals and about 90% of the Shakespearean canon.  I’ve loved every minute of it (except for one show which was the sole turkey over 2 plus decades).  This year was no exception, the town was as charming and welcoming as ever and the theater was phenomenal: “Peter Pan” (not the musical, but the stage play of Barrie’s time and magical), “Evita” (incredible!!!!), “Kiss Me, Kate” (superb), and “The Tempest” starring Christopher Plummer.  I saw this after preview week on the official opening night and because I’m a Prospero Society member (a small bequest to the Festival in my will), I was invited to the post-performance party with cast and crew.  What food and fun and rubbing elbows!  As I don’t know what next summer will bring, I said my farewells with more gravity than usual.  The playbill for 2011 has been announced, and it’s more than exciting, but the liasion with Stratford will end someday.  Was this my final year?  I pondered all this over the course of my stay there and morning walks around the lovely river and lake park the town boasts.  It’s a great stroll at any time of day and a well-used public park, repleate with ducks and ducklings and spectacular swans and cygnets if one arrives early enough in the summer.  If that park were near me, I’d be living next to it and walking the circuit more than once daily.  I can almost walk it in my dreams.  Some glimpses of the park: 

The Moon Bridge to Patterson Island over River Avon, Stratford

Dragon boats tied up at Patterson Island

Backyard flowered trellis along the river walk

One of the Stratford swans

With my good friends here, the finest classical repertory theater in North America, the park, shops, restaurants, and pubs, to me, this town is paradise on earth. 

(Trip Notes–Part 4 to follow)

Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Even More Obits

As before, the local newspaper is a never-ending source of amazing obituaries.  Some more for your reading pleasure:

R.N…. “Flying was the love of R.’s life; he should have been married to the aircraft he flew.”

S.C…. “Hubba, Hubba”… “S. enjoyed fishing, camping, partying, BBQs, and most of all making people laugh” [a regular good ol’ boy].

W.R…. “W. did not know how to do things halfway.  Whether he was out-fishing his dad and brothers while using a broken fishing pole or turning a turkey (one that he had spent days hunting) into a lump of charcoal in his deep fryer, W. always did things whole heartedly.  He was happiest when on his boat in Willard Bay, hoping it would not break down.”

A.H…. “He was involved for 15 years in the pony league baseball program in Brigham City.”

S.F…. “He was his own man and a ‘real American cowboy’.  For 35 years he was a mink rancher and in 1990 finally lived out his dream of being a cattle rancher.  In Dad’s own words: ‘I’m a mean, fighting son-of-a-bitch!’…and he was.”

K.A…. “He had a zest for life…and the ability to tell a good story or a bad joke.  K. loved traveling [the world] and Las Vegas, of course, where he was known to place a bet or two.”

J.M…. “She was born in June, 1916 at her parents’ homestead within what is today Teton National Park [in a late spring snowstorm].”

A.W…. “A. enjoyed traveling, volunteering, digging artifacts in the desert, cross-country skiing, and anything to get out of housework.”

K.T…. “Loved working for the Greek Orthodox Church Food Festival…No one could make browned butter spaghetti like Yia Yia.”

S.L…. “She and he husband had a chicken farm in Big Cottonwood Canyon.  During the summer months when D. worked as a logger, S. tended some 4,000 hens and gathered their eggs, helped by their two young daughters.  D. died in 1981, but their marriage was sealed in the Ogden LDS Temple in 1989.”

J.T…. “was an avid Utah Jazz basketball fan.  Everybody knew not to come and visit or call when the Jazz was playing.  We knew she must be really sick when she wasn’t watching anymore.”

R.E…. [Died suddenly at age 43 as a result of an aortic dissection] “R. had a quick wit and was a master at the art of subtle humor.  He could name any episode of Star Trek in 30 seconds.  R. played the piano, was very intelligent, loved sitting down with a mean cup of coffee, a big piece of pizza and Fox News.  He was the very embodiment of still waters running deep.”

G.W…. “Mom was a topping and icing specialist…and boy, could Mom decorate cakes.  She made many a masterpiece out of chunks of cakes and piles of icing!”

H.C… “H. enjoyed traveling with her buddies on the back roads (sometimes taking three days to get out of Utah).”

J.H…. “E. and J. enjoyed square dancing together every weekend, a brief escape from the demands of raising their 10 children.”

V.C…. “Ever the lady, V’s favorite things boiled down to scrap booking, make-up, and guns.”

W.B…. “For ten years Mom directed the Utah State Junior Creative Writing Program…Among Utah poets, she is lovingly known as ‘The Queen of Light Verse.’  She also loved a good party and shopping.  Avon, Readers’ Digest and lots of mail order catalogs will surely miss her business.”

V.B…. “He and Mom proudly produced a whole bunch of temple marriages, missionaries, and Eagle Scouts.”  [Devout Mormons!]

And a final pure west parting shot:

W.D…. “‘I didn’t say Geronimo, I said I didn’t wanna Go!'”  [Caption under photographs of deceased.]

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trip Notes–Part 2 (the visit)

Bridge over Chester Creek

WOW!  A full month back east among familiar faces and place names.  I can

also content myself with lots of trees.  In fact, I miss the tree canopy enough that I made sure I took a picture of a familiar road in Rose Valley so I can remind myself at will what the shades of green overhead look like.  Some of you may even recognize the spot!   

Possum Hollow Road

Not to bore my readers with my daily doings, in a nutshell and no chronological order, I made the rounds over the next several weeks of family (several times) old friends, church (three Sundays), campus visits where I used to teach at Widener University in Chester, a return back upstate to visit my mom who is in an assisted living facility, and purchases of food supplies not available in Utah.  Other to-dos accomplished were doctor’s appointments, a hair cut with my favorite hair dresser, and visits to favorite stores. 

Pat (left) and Trudy, Widener colleagues

Beth, Widener Humanities Dept. Secretary

Cousin Stan (left) and Ken, Widener colleague

Good friends David (left) and Joseph

Good friends Jessie and Michael

Old friend Beth

First Saturday back east a group of us took in the Rittenhouse Square Art Show in Philadelphia.  Was nice to walk around the center city shaded square and view art; we saw several artists of note.  I also treated myself to a small etching of a figure as a personal treasure.  Not a week later, I attended a Phillies home baseball game at Citizens Bank Park with an old friend from my community theater days, TJ.  Unfortunately, they lost to the Florida Marlins.  But it was a great evening with a good friend in a super ball park!

I also hit the local auction one Friday evening and caught up with friends there.  In addition, I spent one afternoon at Bartram’s Gardens, an historic property tucked away along the Schuykill River in southwest Philadelphia where I used to volunteer for 8 years as a house tour docent.  Again, good to spend time with old friends, Barb and Bill, who work there. 

The John Bartram House

Barb and Bill at Bartram's

Saturday found me in Philadelphia again at the Italian Market (around 9th and Christian Sts.), meeting up with a former student from my days at Widener.  His cousin owns Claudio’s Cheese Shop and even though he’s now a CPA and lawyer, he still helps out on the weekends.  So nice to chat with Antonio and make some yummy food selections (not readily available in Utah).   

My friend, Madeleine, and I took a day trip to St. George’s, Maryland to stake photos of the Chesapeake Bay and boats and to have a wonderful Eastern Shore lunch.  From there we crossed the Delmarva Peninsula to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to end the day on the ocean.  A treat of tomato ice cream (it was unexpectedly good!) and hot carmel popcorn on the boardwalk rounded our adventure out.

Intersperced with all these activities, I was able to spend several chunks of time with my son, Isaac, and his family: Marj and sons, Luke and Ian.  The boys are growing like weeds and getting more handsome monthly (obvious bias here!).  All seem healthy, happy, and well.  I even arrived in time to see grandson Luke’s end-of-year school presentation on African culture; his 3rd grade class was one of three section to have made costumes and present song and dance from tribal Africa.  It was well done and impressive!

African dance and song presentation

Grandson Luke

Son Isaac, Luke and Marj (Ian isn't fond of cameras)

Another day a group of close friends who love art (The Art Salon, aka Les Femmes) got together in one member’s lovely and peaceful garden, complete with a gurgling water statue, and seasoned with glorious laughter and story-telling, enjoyed a fabulous group-effort lunch.  It was just like old times when we would convene several times a year for special dinners or art exhibits or other fun events.  

Help yourself!

The cast of characters: 

Jane--Artist and Hostess

Ann--Instigator and Lady

Polly--Sculptor and Comedienne


Becky--Gallery Manager and Pragmatist

Madeleine–Artist and Friend

Sue--Traveler and Art Lover


The afternoon soireé lasted over 4 hours and celebrated love and frriendship!  Distance hasn’t diminished our ties; we picked up right where we left off in 2009.  I am blessed to have such friends!

While I’m on Pennsylvania visits, it sure was good to see my brother, Ken (who lives with his family in Tennessee) and my mom (who will be 90 this fall and resides in an assisted living facility upstate in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.  

My brother Ken and Mom

I caught up with them at the start of my three weeks back on the east coast.  Our family has vacationed there since the 1960s and really love that neck of the woods.  In the late 1960s we built a permanent camp in the state forest that Mom christened “Halcyon,” as in the halcyon days of summer: gentle and carefree.  Sure was good to stay for a few days in the embrace of the camp and the trees.  Other than the forested old mountains, it’s fertile farmland and a major feature of the area is the Kishacoquillas Balley or Big Valley (about 6 miles wide in places) where a large Amish and Mennonite community resides.  Just as there are many such religious communities in other areas of the country and Canada, there are as many different variations of dress and buggies.  This Amish community is fairly isolated by mountains and distance, so their lifestyle is, in some ways, about 50 years behind the better-known Lancaster County, PA Amish.  Visitors to Lancaster County are usually fascinated by the black buggies used for transportation; in Big Valley there is not one, but 3 different colors of buggies: black, yellow, and white.  Amish who own black buggies are the most affluent.  Yellow buggies indicate middle-class and white buggies are driven by the lowest socio-economic class Amish.  The also dress in home-spun browns and off-whites and their farms are usually located on the poorest soil up against the mountains.  The black and yellow buggy Amish dress in more traditional garb: black pants and simple shirts and the women and children in black or vibrant blues, greens, or magentas.  I don’t know why a “caste system” has developed here–probably centuries old religious doctrine differences–and, no, the different groups don’t intemarry, further narrowing an already limited gene pool!  A photo of the colorful buggies and an open wagon:

A rainbow of buggies

Heading home after a long market day

The visit back “home” leg of the trip ended too soon and now I’m off to New England and then Canada before heading due west.

(Trip Notes–Part 3 to follow)

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm  Comments (1)