Leon Panetta Shares Political Trade Secrets in Fresno

Ultimate Blog Challenge Day 19 #blogboost

Do you have Towne Hall Lectures in your area? Fresno hosts six programs each year at the Saroyan Theater downtown, so a friend and I decided to buy season tickets. Leon Panetta spoke today, the season’s first presenter.

Fresno Soroyan Theater
Fresno Saroyan Theater

Our moods were cheery as we drove up to Fresno in perfect 75-degree weather, light traffic, and good company. My two friends had never met but quickly learned that their daughters were the two newest employee hires at TCOE, where Connie and I worked for many years.

After hiking up to the balcony, we realized that we had arrived early enough to get third-row seats. So we traipsed down and slid into the best seats in the auditorium.

The Saroyan Theater filled up quickly. Connie and Monica posed for me.
The Saroyan Theater filled up quickly. Connie and Monica posed for me.

What a privilege to listen to the former director of the CIA, and Director of Defense for President Obama. Son of an Italian immigrant raised in a walnut grove in Carmel, they used to shake their trees by hand, Panetta and his brother gathering the nuts as they fell. His dad told him that he was well prepared to work in Washington.

“You’ve been dodging nuts all your life.”

Leon Panetta "I've been dodging nuts all my life."
Leon Panetta “I’ve been dodging nuts all my life.”

Best Story

A renown physicist presented all over the country. His chauffeur, who traveled with him, complained that he always gave the same speech.

“I’ve heard that speech so many times, I could recite it word for word.”

So, when they went to Fresno. The scientist said, “OK, they don’t know me here in Fresno, you give my talk tonight.”

They exchanged clothes and the chauffeur made the presentation. It went over perfectly. After the speech, someone from the audience asked a detailed question involving formulas.

The chauffeur responded, “That’s the stupidest question I’ve ever heard. In fact just to prove how stupid it is, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer it.”

Up front and personal with Leon Panetta
Up front and personal with Leon Panetta

Most Vulnerable statement

“I’ve worked with nine presidents. No, I don’t want to do it again. I don’t want to kiss that much…” (paraphrased)

Overall Theme

The government is there to lead, to govern. Leaders have to take risks. The best thing leaders can do when they have a problem is to make the right decision. The second best thing they can do is make the wrong decision. The worst thing they can do is nothing.

Leon Panetta
Leon Panetta

Salient points

  • There is some low-lying fruit that the president (this one and the next) could pluck and actually accomplish something.
    • Entitlements – Will it involve compromise? Yes! Will it be popular with everyone? No! Does it have to be done? Yes!
    • Immigration reform
    • Approve the Supreme Court Justice appointment now. It’s the law. It’s their job.
  • In a Democracy, you have nice guys, and jerks, the lazy and the ambitious, crooks and honest members of the government. That’s life. Deal with it. You (leaders) have a job. Get it done.
Quite a crowd
Quite a crowd

There was time for questions after his speech. He actually answered the questions! That was refreshing. Monica, Connie and I had a great time discussing what we heard. Then we went home and waited for the last presidential debate.

Thanks, Monica, for suggesting that we do this.

What interesting events have you attended recently?

Where to Find Odd Walls that Get Noticed

Oddly enough, these walls don’t talk.

#blogboost, Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge

Mural Painting on  brick buildings
Mural Painting on brick buildings

What’s real and what is painted? Is the arch in the bricks real? This odd wall is in Exeter, CA. Exeter is an artsy town, well known for its murals, south of Highway 198 about two miles and about a half-mile from the Woodlake turn-off. Those are the last two stops before the road narrows to a two-lane highway leading up to the Sequoia National Park. This mural struck me as odd partly because of the equipment in the photo with the dollie in the painting.

A woody van?
A woody motor home?

The wall on this motor home looked real, but is it? The reflections tell the true story. We saw this food truck in Maui, HI near Ka’anapali Beach Club on the bike path.

Speaking of food
Speaking of food

I struggled to figure this picture out even though I took it. At first, I thought it was a wall, so I included it in this post. It looks like a wall with stuff pinned on it or maybe a floor. The napkin is a great clue along with the menu, so you know it is a table. The floor looks like it is on the same level as the table.  We went to an expensive restaurant called Pismo’s Coastal Grill in Fresno, CA (which is about 3 hours from Pismo) Between the table picture and the name of the place, it seemed odd enough to fit here with distinction.

What do you think?

Cee's OddBall


Local Woodlake: Constructing a Beautiful Future

WordPress Photo Challenge: Local #blogboost

These beautification projects taking place in the City of Woodlake over the past two years have amazed and thrilled long-time residents. First, the city put in new sidewalks on Valencia, then constructed a round-about.

The Woodlake Plaza is the newest ribbon cutting in town.

Ribbon Cutting ceremony at the Woodlake Plaza
Ribbon Cutting ceremony at the Woodlake Plaza

The Woodlake Plaza sign went up early on Valencia Boulevard, Woodlake’s main downtown street, alerting the town that changes were coming.

Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum opening in February 2016 across from proposed PlazaBy February that building had been razed. Construction began in shortly after that.

April 2016 construction
April 2016 construction

Work on the Plaza began in about April, or at least that was when I started taking pictures to document the work.

April 2016 construction
April 2016 construction


The winter of 2015-2016 was a particularly rainy year, so that slowed progress from time to time both on the round-about and the plaza. By August rain no longer plagued the project.

August 2016 sidewalks are in
August 2016 sidewalks are in place in front of the Plaza

August 2016August 2016

Woodlake event planners can now count on a well-shaded area to host many large community gatherings. Sidewalks and grassy areas are a vast improvement over weeds and puddles which preceded the plaza.

Woodlake Plaza
Woodlake Plaza October 1, 2016, at the ribbon cutting

The last major overhaul of this magnitude was in 1961 when the 1911 Brick Block, just one block away from the current plaza, came down.

Demolition in 1961
Demolition in 1961
Woodlake Plaza entrance on Magnolia
the Woodlake Plaza entrance on Magnolia

Ernie Garcia remembers skating at this location before 1940. Then the Lions built a building which became a community center used by Kiwanis, and the Seniors. In December 2015 the Toys for Joy program held a gift-shopping activity at the Lions Club building where parents could come in and shop for a nominal charge to find gifts for their children ages pre-school through high-school.

Lions Club Building on Magnolia
Lions Club Building on Magnolia in December 2015

The building held many fond memories for those who met there regularly. Kiwanis struggled for a while to find another place as large to host its weekly meetings. But Kiwanians support growth and change and look forward to the new Community Center coming soon.

Lions Club Building on Magnolia
Lions Club Building on Magnolia

From September 23 to 25 Woodlake celebrated its 75 anniversary of being incorporated while the high school celebrated 100 years of existence. The City of Woodlake wanted to have the Plaza project completed by that event but the actual ribbon cutting took place on October 1, 2016.

Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, opened February 2016
Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum opened February 2016

The plaza looks across to the new Woodlake Museum, which opened in February, and Miller Brown Park. Soon there will be a library next to the plaza making Magnolia Street the one stop location for researching about Woodlake. Next to the museum is a walk-through park with murals depicting the western lifestyle in Woodlake painted on existing buildings.

Woodlake Plaza
Woodlake Plaza

This tiny park provides a walk through to the main street through Woodlake, Valencia Boulevard. New street lights unify the look of the town.

Mural next to Woodlake Plaza
Mural next to Woodlake Plaza

In a town the size of Woodlake, about 7,000 residents, new construction attracts everyone’s attention. The people are so proud to see how these new additions have made the city more attractive. Visitors make positive comments as they stop by on their way to see the giant Sequoias at the National Park.

Rodeo Queen
Rodeo Queen

What’s new in your local area?

Check out the weekly photo challenge for more local ideas.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016


Travel Like an Expert: “Don’t Do This!”


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any way you choose.” Dr. Seuss

Over the years you would think I would have everything mastered for seamless travel.  Each trip is memorable for something I shouldn’t do. Here are some of them so that you can avoid the pitfalls that trapped me.

St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.
St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse in the background.

Seventeen Travel Tips

1)  If you fly for business, don’t book your flight far in advance of your meetings. I booked my flight in early August to attend a November conference. Two days ahead of time I entered all my meeting times into my online calendar for the first time. The meeting I chaired started at 4:00 p.m and my plane arrived at 5:00 p.m.

2)  Don’t trust the “change your flight plans insurance” to cover mistakes like, “I didn’t know I had a meeting scheduling conflict.”  While it may not be your fault, it is not the airline’s fault either, and insurance doesn’t cover that.  Read the 45 pages fine print.

3)  When you connect flights, make sure you get to the right gate and not the one next to the right gate. Keep checking for changes in the gate. Don’t read something engaging; they don’t hold the plane for 20 minutes after take-off for you to get on. (Apparently, they don’t call your name over the intercom either.)

4)  Book through United Airlines rather than US Air. If you miss your connecting flight, they will get you on another flight without charging you. I’ve done that twice. Both American and US Air did not help.

5)  Don’t print your ticket up at home.  If you are lucky, when they print your ticket at the airport, you might get a “Pre-Check” ticket, which is given randomly. Or you can buy them through Homeland Security for $100 for 5 years. The application may kick you offline, and you have an interview, but Pre-Check is like gold.

6)  Since Pre-Checkers don’t have to take their shoes off, don’t wear buckles on your shoes.

7)  When you do miss your flight, and they book you on another flight, and you leave the customer service counter without a printed ticket, don’t assume that you can get your confirmed seat without a ticket. This happened to me twice with two different airlines. Both flights were overbooked, and the clerks were rude.

8)  When the clerk tells you that there are no more seats on the flight and you have a ticket don’t assume that there are no more seats. Wait until the plane loads. Stand near the counter and look old and helpless. If there is a seat, he or she will find it just to get you out of his hair.

8)  Do not wear a blouse with trapunto stitching when you fly. The naked airport scan indicated that I was carrying illicit something in my blouse. The TSA agent had to put her gloved hand in my bra to check for hidden contraband even though I assured her there wasn’t much in there. On her third check, the agent got mad at the naked picture reader behind the plastic curtain.”It’s just stitching. There is NOTHING THERE!” she announced in a loud voice.

9)  Don’t try to joke with the TSA agent when they are searching in your bra for drugs and counterfeit money.

10)  Don’t overpack your carry-on luggage even though you don’t want to pay for checking a bag. If you can’t squeeze it in the overhead bin, the attendants and passengers get angry even if you look old and helpless. Best to check it at the last-minute, if you can. Better to pack light!

12)  If you are going long distances on a full train, don’t assume that you have been assigned to the correct seat.  I went to the restroom and came back to an occupied seat.

13)  If you sit next to someone on the train who either stinks or has on too much perfume, consider drinking all night.  At least in the dining car, you can choose who you sit with. (to a point).

14)  When you drive at night in strange towns, and your GPS tells you the streets to take, don’t assume 1) that they are not torn up, and 2) that they are not one-way streets.  In South Bend, IN, fortunately, there was a parking lot that led to the one-way street that went the direction I needed to go.

SFW 2013 STL Lights 114

15)  If you are going back east in the winter, don’t forget to take more than one coat. Costco sells down coats that roll into a little ball.  St. Louis hit twelve degrees with the wind chill factor. California winters do not prepare travelers for that.

16)  DO NOT eat fish and chips at 10:00 am in an airport restaurant. You might not feel the effects for 12 hours, but you will feel them.

17) Don’t forget to pack Imodium pills.

Here are some pictures from my trip to St. Louis, MO. I hope you will enjoy.

What travel “do not do what I did tips” do you have?

Oddball with a Twist of the Old West

Woodlake is a rodeo town. We have a rodeo parade on Mother’s Day. That’s how western we are. Forget the apple pie. And that’s no bull! (pun intended)

Just writing a caption for this is odd.
Just writing a caption for this is odd.

So I’ll let you try to write your captions in the comment box. Is he really going to rope this bull? The bull almost looks like it wants to help him with the chore.

Sharp shootin' sheriff
Sharp shootin’ Sam

Sam doesn’t look too dangerous here, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.  He doesn’t look like a man who’s afraid of his own shadow.

Stylin' rodeo horse
Stylin’ rodeo horse “Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful.”

This pretty filly had her hair styled especially for the Woodlake Rodeo Parade.

Have jail will travel
Have jail will travel

Not every business totes their own jail, but this one did.

For more oddball pictures check out Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Cee's OddBall


Shoes Speak Louder Than Words

“If the Shoe Fits…”

#blogboost, Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge

“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out. It’s the grain of sand.”  Robert W. Service

The sole that lost it's shoe.
The sole that lost it’s shoe.

“It’s great to be known for your shoes, but it’s better to be known for your sole.”

Cee's OddBall

your challenge

  • So what do you think the back story is on this poor lost sole?
  • In light of this photo, how would you complete the first phrase, “If the shoe fits…?”

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Brandywine, What Better Name for a Relaxing River?

Winding Through History on the Brandywine

#blogboost #Delaware trip

WordPress Photo Challenge H2O

Everything in Delaware winds. Driving from the airport in Philadelphia, I turned off the freeway onto a state road and headed towards Hockessin, DE. It felt like I had entered a land of make-believe.

Even state highways were paths through a deep, mysterious forest. And water showed up at almost every bend.

The day after I arrived, mom’s cousin Hal suggested a drive to the historic district of Wilmington. He knows I love historic buildings and babbling streams. This spot along the Brandywine was the perfect stop.


You can never say corner in Delaware, it seems. Points are obliterated in curves, drown in the gurgling streams. How could this pastoral scene be part of the 9-11 Battle in 1777?


Mr. Dylan Duck stands on his rocky lookout over the Brandywine surveying his family activities. Donovan and Dana Duck discovered something fishy in the Brandywine.


The twenty-mile lower stem of Brandywine Creek winds lazily around the historic district of Wilmington, DE. Maybe Dylan’s ancestors watched for Redcoats.


Possibly Dylan’s ancestral family watched Peter Minuit who founded New Sweden in 1638 along the Delaware River and inland to the Brandywine. He died in a hurricane on his return trip, but his colony remained. I can imagine the Swedes lounging with their feet dangling in the stream sipping a mug of home brew on a beautiful September day after harvesting crops all day.

Gossip Along the Brandywine in 1644

Overheard by Dylan Duck I

“This here is mighty fine wine, you’ve made, Peter.”

It’s not wine. It’s brandy, Beatus. Made from this gurgling stream right here. It’s the water that makes it tasty.”

Brandy? Wine? Whatever. It is delicious. ” Abram added.

“Sounds like a good name for this river to me, Brandywine,” Beatus said.

Don’t tell that old Swede, who built the grain mill, Andreas Brainwende. He thinks this stream is his, and we should call it the Brainwend River after him,” Peter said.

Brainwend, Brandywine, his hearing’s so bad, he won’t know the difference.

“You got the water in just the right place, didn’t you, Peter?” Abram said.

Yeah, a couple miles from here the creek pours into the Christina River,” Peter told them. “Ah the beautiful Christina, named after our queen. She’s a spoiler.”

“Yeah, she looks sweet, but looks are deceiving, so I hear.”

“Shhh, you two! Someone might be overhear you. You don’t want to mess with our governor!”

“I’m talking about that brakish water two miles yonder at the confluence of the two rivers. Christina’s waters would make a brandy that even you wouldn’t drink, Abram,” Beatus said

“You don’t think much of my tasting skills, Beatus?”

“Not so much.”

“OK, fellows, better finish it up here before you get us in trouble. The wives will wonder where we are.”


Hey, Marsha,” Hal called interrupting my reverie. “Haven’t you seen ducks before? What are you doing?”


What looks like placid waters now, once powered grist and gunpowder mills. Mills fueled the industrial era before the onset of steam-powered machinery. The DuPonts made their fortunes here. Ah, this was the place to learn history.

Ah, this was the place to learn history.


I could see that it was no wonder why many nineteenth century builders used stone to construct Wilmington buildings along the Brandywine. Mmmm, I wanted to put my toes in the cool water and feed the ducks, sip some wine and…

“Marsha,” Hal called again. “What is so interesting down there? Come up here. I want to show you something about this old post office building.


How do you ignore a 91-year-old retired engineer who was tired of Dylan and Donovan, the dark-feathered ducks, and wanted me to move on to something more mathematical? More than likely he wanted to go home and eat, my stomach reminded me that it was getting late.


“Did you notice the way the sun is casting a shadow on this stairway of Breck’s Mill?”


Hal scores again – something I would not have noticed without him.

The shadows had crept up on me as time swirled dreamily down the stream. But the sun was dipping in the sky. Strawberry-rhubarb pie in the fridge was beckoning us to come back to the 21st century and go home for dinner.

What wonderful, lazy afternoons do you remember sitting by a gentle stream, or lovely lake, waterfall, or even a water fountain?

Does water make your mind wander, too?

Catch more water pictures here.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

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What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake?

Woodlake Chamber Member “Woodlake Pride”

#blogboost #Woodlake Chamber

Garden Reception, October 8, 2016
Garden Reception, October 8, 2016

Gayla Event Scheduled

Mark your calendars for October 8th for an entertaining Woodlake Pride evening at the Woodlake Botanical Gardens. Starting at 4:00 pm.

That sounds fun!
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake
Good bass, catfish , and trout fishing in Bravo Lake

Woodlake is a foothill town of about 7,000 nestled in the center a circle of foothills on the west side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Bravo Lake occupies a large chunk of the heart of the town. In 1912 when Gilbert Stevenson purchased the acres to build the city, he envisioned a beautiful tourist town.  BUT Stevenson built a levee around the town’s primary landmark, obscuring it from view.

Whaaaa?? Was he shortsighted or something?

Maybe, but Olga and Manuel Jimenez had some great ideas to beautify the levees.

And the City of Woodlake agreed to it?

You bet. They bought the land.

Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
Visionary, Manuel Jiminez
What do you do with a big lake no one can see?
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens
The beginning of Woodlake Botanical Gardens

Worse than that, the area around it was vacant or worse – a weed haven. Manuel and Olga Jimenez change blight into bright and created Woodlake Pride, a service organization to perpetuate the beautiful park setting they created.

Manuel Jiminez hard at work on his visionary project
Manuel Jimenez hard at work on his visionary project

A student narrates the story of Manuel Jimenez’s vision for a student community service organization which he called Woodlake Pride in the video Woodlake Pride’s Wonderful World.

The real plan that Olga had was to “grow kids by planting gardens.” They started planting gardens in 1989, but eventually the city purchased 13 acres to turn into the beautiful gardens that we see today. The 1,700 rose bushes alone make this a wonderful world.

Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden
Just one of 130 varieties of roses at the Woodlake Botanical Garden

“It’s not like Disneyland,” Manuel Jimenez states.

Although it does not feature the number of varieties of roses found in famous gardens like the Boston Rose Garden, everyone marvels at the many varieties of plant life the Woodlake Botanical Garden on the way to the Sequoia National Park. It has become a major draw for sight-seeing.

Woodlake Botanical Gardens
Woodlake Botanical Gardens

It is that inspiring tale of what one person, or in this case a couple, can do in a community if they put their heart and soul into it.

Manuel and Olga Jimenez
Manuel and Olga Jimenez.

“The legacy I want to leave Woodlake is just the beauty. It’s amazing what a seed can produce,” Olga shared.

Tulare County Treasures Project.

What a beautiful world Manuel and Olga Jimenez created.

Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.
Keep in mind this the Main Street in Woodlake.

So if you want a ticket for the Woodlake Pride dinner, see Rudy Garcia at the Valley Business Bank.

Rudy Garcia on the left
Rudy Garcia on the left

For more information about Woodlake Botanical Garden click here.

See you on Saturday night.

Related articles about Woodlake Botanical Gardens:


What’s Odd about a Bologna Feed?

A Bologna Feed Fundraiser?



Yummy??? Look at all that mayonnaise and mustard.  mmmmmm???

Yes, each year Woodlake High School Foundation hosts a 50’s dress-up fundraiser and serves barbecued bologna as the main course.

I know. It sounds totally gross. It’s not bad unless you eat the white Wonder Bread (or whatever the new version of that is.) I don’t know about you, but white bread sticks to my teeth. Even though it matches pretty well, I don’t like lumpy smiles.

Keep on reading!

Leaves Make Me Nostalgic

WordPress photo challenge: nostalgia

Google defines nostalgia as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
synonyms: reminiscence, remembrance, recollection
Crape Myrtle tree
Crape Myrtle trees

When I was about age 10, my dad began to enjoy my presence. He loved to take pictures, so on Saturdays, he loaded up his equipment and me, his best view finder, into the old Buick in search of a perfect scenic spot. I loved his pictures of fall leaves. The love of fall colors makes me nostalgic and brings me joy.

Fall Grape Leaves
Fall Grape Leaves

We do not get the magnificent colors in all trees that Indiana does, but we still have some gorgeous fall plants. Several years ago on my own impromptu photo shoot, I found a grape field so beautiful I had to pull over, jump out of my car, and take pictures.

Fall grape leaves in December, 2012
Fall grape leaves in December 2012

Hoosiers tout many varieties of maple trees but the foothill community of Woodlake, CA in Tulare County honors the humble white oak or valley oak.

California White Oak
California White or Valley Oak

Wikipedia has a list of various kinds of oaks along with where they are found which I found helpful in trying to figure out which kind of oak this is.  Google lists images of oaks by type.

variety unknown to me

It takes hours to compare leaves to pictures to figure out what kinds of trees and plants we see along the roads. I never appreciated people who can spout off names like that until I started writing my blog. I don’t think this is an oak tree because the bark is too smooth. Kiwanis supports the blue signs we see along the highways in our areas that names the crop next to the highway. But most places do not have signs.

Elderwood, CA in December
Elderwood, CA in December

While I think this is pretty, it cannot compare to the eastern parts of the United States for color and brilliance. However, in the east, the mountains do not pop up over the tops of the trees. In Hockessin, Delaware even if the mountains were there, you wouldn’t be able to see them because forests line nearly every street and obscure everything but the nearest leaves.

Walnut tree
Walnut tree

When my first husband and I moved to California, we lived in the middle of a walnut grove. My understanding is that growers grafted English walnut trees to the hardy black walnut trees then painted the trunks to keep the bugs out.

walnut tree
walnut tree

Even though I did not like to eat walnuts, I loved gathering them after the shakers harvested the main crop. The ants and I got the rest of them. The ants did not like what I did next. But it served them right for biting me one day when I gathered walnuts by making a hammock of my t-shirt. I baked the walnuts in their shells at 250 degrees for an hour or so to cure them. My friends loved their presents. The ants – not so much!

back to the grapes
back to the grapes

I caught this vagrant red beauty leaving the nest and fluttering down to create the soft carpet below the vine for the winter.

For more nostalgic moments, click here.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

How Pierre Du Pont Turned a “Bad Investment” Into a Landmark

#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #3

Brief History of the Pierce Home in Longwood Gardens

William Penn sold George Pierce the land in 1700. Pierce built his home there in 1730.To save Pierce’s Park or Pierce’s Woods, scheduled for eradication at the local lumber mill, du Pont purchased the Pierce home and surrounding acreage. Longwood Gardens became the weekend home of Pierre Samuel du Pont in 1906.

Du Pont, one of 11 children, helped raise his siblings when his father died, and he married late in life. He devoted his life to running the family business, but also managed General Motors in the mid 20th century.

Under his management, GM enjoyed some of its most prosperous years. However, he did not consider real estate a good investment. He was not married when he purchased the nearly 200-year-old home in 1906. It became his pet project after he decided that he could do a better job of designing gardens than his designer.

When he married, he and his wife enjoyed expanding the many features of the home where they could entertain many people. John Phillip Sousa was one of the many that came to the du Pont home in Kennett Square, PA.

Hal did not think this simple home seemed like the home of a multi-millionaire. It was a weekend home that reflects the simplicity of life in 1730. Du Pont felt at the time that he probably made an investment mistake. His motives were philanthropic and environmental. The video you can watch on the du Pont side of the reflecting home connects the pieces of the story.

Pierre du Pont stood tall after his father passed away, leaving him as head of household. How many people do you know would take that responsibility seriously, and finish their education? He graduated from MIT at the age of twenty.

I have a couple of other videos you can watch on YouTube. They need some work. The videographer is not only shaky but talking to herself more than you. It put me to sleep listening.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour of the George Pierce/ Pierre du Pont home.

Shopping Like an Expert at General Food Store

Thursday’s 80-degree temperature in Woodlake could not have been more beautiful. My mood matched the weather as I drove downtown to General Food Store to meet with Gene Gong, one of the two directors.

Gene Gong
Gene Gong

Mr. Gene Gong works twelve-hour days, so it’s been hard to schedule a time to interview him. On this perfect day in Woodlake, he was waiting and ready to answer my questions about General Food Store and the grocery business.

What do you want us to know about General Food Store?

“We are a local store,” Gene Gong replied immediately

Next to Woodlake Hardware, General Food Store has been active in Woodlake in the same location longer than any other store. Congratulations to Woodlake Chamber members, directors Gene and Ray Gong, on celebrating the 55th year anniversary of their family-owned and operated General Food Store!

Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.
Where you will most likely find Gene or Ray.

We met in their front office, which is actually open to the public at the front of the store. I work best in private quarters away from distractions. Not these two! They are right out front, nodding to merchants as they come and go, speaking to customers, answering questions – always accessible.


As a small town, Woodlake is fortunate to have two well-stocked grocery stores. Gene likened their store to a corner mom and pop operation. Yes, they know most of their customers, but I remember most corner markets as being dim, dusty, and cramped. General Food Store is none of these.

Mmmmm that fresh bread smells heavenly!

Shoppers today have lots of options when it comes to shopping, especially for groceries. It seems that everyone is in the grocery business – national grocery chain stores, gas stations, outdoor fruit stands, discount stores, trendy, and bulk stores. There might be an occasional corner market in a large city like the one my first husband’s parents owned in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA.

What  does the small-town main street market sell most?

General Food sells time. And time is money! How many people in Woodlake have too much of either of those commodities? I don’t. But I act like I do.

It takes me 20-25 minutes at the most to drive into Woodlake and pick up grocery items and get back home. It takes me 25 minutes to drive to the nearest Save Mart in Visalia, and five minutes to find a parking place and walk into the store. I love Costco, but it takes about 30 minutes to drive there  and 25 minutes to find a parking place and a vacant grocery cart, not to mention going through a line to get into and out of the store. Then I have to shop and get back home – 90 minutes at least!

Additional Amenities of Shopping at General Food Store

Wal-Mart sells cheap merchandise but has long lines, a dirty store, filthy parking lot, and crowded rows. Who knows, we might end up being featured on the People of Wal-Mart website, or be standing next to someone who is. Yikes!


Look how spotless everything is at General Food Store in Woodlake. Do you see the reflection of the meat department in the floor? There is plenty of room to push a full-sized cart around without having to pick it up and squeeze past another customer. Yet, there was a steady stream of customers while I was in the store.


It is so simple to shop here. Park right next to the door. Customers walk in, get a friendly greeting, pick up their cart and find things they need. There is no long check-out line. General Food Store customers are back home after shopping and visiting with neighbors in less time than it would take them to drive to Visalia and park their car.

So what if I save $2.00 on a bag of chips at the $300 store?

Items are easy to find.

I’m not a huge drinker, but I enjoy a glass of sweet wine with my husband once in a while. My favorite brand is Barefoot. It’s inexpensive and tastes delicious to me. When I pick up a bottle in Visalia, I have to walk up and down two aisles to find my brand. There it is in the red wines, and again in the white and pink wine areas.

Time elapsed? Five minutes!

Not here.


All my favorites are together, and they are on special for the same price as I can get them in Visalia. How much time did I just save? About 60 minutes, on one item.


I love to shop for fresh vegetables. There are only two of us at home. Neither of us eats huge amounts of anything. You would not think that to look at my shopping habits.


In Visalia, I go to Costco, walk into that freezing cold room, practically run my cart around the perimeter, and grab a big plastic container of lettuce, one bag of broccoli and one of carrots. The lettuce sits in my refrigerator until half or more of it rots. Ewwwww!

When three-quarters of the bag of broccoli turns yellow, I throw it out. The peeled baby carrots get slimy before we can eat them all. I wash them off, but feel guilty because I don’t want to serve slimy carrots, so I throw them out. Then if I’m fixing dinner for company, I don’t have any carrots to serve. I either have to grab a can of something or send Vince to Woodlake to pick up some fresh vegetables at the last minute.


Vince hates the way I shop. I think I am saving so much money. What do you think?

Mr. Gong said that he stocks things people in Woodlake buy. Customers might not find the newest craze here. Yet, he keeps up on the newest nutrition and food buying trends.


“About six years ago people started using plain yogurt to make fruit smoothies. Woodlake people did not pick up on it right away.”

“Do you stock plain yogurt now? I started eating it about six years ago because a doctor recommended it to help me with weight loss.”

“Yes, now customers are buying enough of it to pay stocking it. But kale is in now, and you might not find that here.”


I bought a huge bag of cut kale from Save Mart in my refrigerator. After talking to Mr. Gong, guilt overwhelmed me and I ate a bowl of kale for breakfast this morning. I fixed it three days ago and stuck the leftovers in the refrigerator because I don’t like to be wasteful. I still have a half bag of uncooked kale in the refrigerator. It is about 2 weeks old. I think I need to rethink my shopping habits.


My husband drinks Lactaid. We go through a lot of it, most of the time. Then we don’t. I won’t tell you what happens to some of our milk. More often we just run out – just before Vince has breakfast at 4:30 am. We did not want to run into Visalia to get a half-gallon of Lactaid. After what Mr. Gong said about trends, I did not think they would have Lactaid, but I was WRONG!


I admit that we eat like gringos. I fix burritos and other Mexican dishes, but I do it the gringa way. However, 80 percent of our town is Hispanic. True Mexicans cook with spices that I have never heard of. My Mexican friends would be ashamed to eat my monster quesadillas. Vince goes to Super Taco if he wants authentic Mexican food. But the Gongs stock for their customers. I could buy eucalyptus leaves if I wanted them. Does anyone have a recipe for them?


Speaking of tacos, unless you are vegetarian, meat is the most expensive item on the grocery list. I eat chicken, chicken and, oh yes, chicken with an occasional filet of salmon and hamburger thrown in. I fix Italian meatballs for my Italian husband, and I do it the Italian way. I forgot to check out the sausage situation at General Food Store. There aren’t many Italians in Woodlake.


There are lots of fresh meat choices. Packages do not come in $30.00 sizes, which reminds me, I need to put my hamburger I bought at Costco in the freezer today or I’ll have to throw it out.


Apparently many customers like baby-back ribs. My husband does.


I believe in supporting Woodlake Chamber members. Mr. Gong has not been a member for several years and he renewed his membership during our visit. He is the first Woodlake grocery store to do so. You all know what this means, don’t you?


My shopping habits are going to change!


September Garden Challenge

#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #2

Flower portraiture – capturing the beauty of a single bloom


Yesterday Woodlake and Hockessin temperatures both registered 84 degrees. Don’t be confused. In Woodlake that temperature is perfect. Delaware sun and humidity mixed to make salt water spring like a national park geyser from my forehead and nose.

After meandering through Pierce’s Woods and visiting his 1730s home, stifling in the tropical section of the Longwood Gardens Conservatory in Kennett Square, PA, we came full circle in the huge conservatory and found this perfect chenille plant. Better known as Acalypha hispida, conservatory designers saved the best of the 1,100 varieties on the 2,000 acres for last.


OK, that may just be my opinion. By the time I found Princess Hispida, I had already taken 177 pictures, was dripping wet, ready to get out of the Conservatory, and stop somewhere for ice cream. I apologised to the princess for my abruptness, bowed low and snapped pictures for the Streaming Thoughts News.


Accustomed to thousands of daily admirers, she took my blubbering in stride. Her red dreadlocks stood out among the competitors and I circled around to capture the exquisite luxurious locks of her highness in numerous shots.


With so many competitors, you often forget their names, or where they sat, as I did with Princes Hispida. If you know the name of the plant, you can find where it is on the Longwood Garden’s website. I did not remember her name. Lucky for me, Google located a long red fuzzy plant in about .5 seconds. In Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, Princess H’s beauty is exotic. In Papua, New Guinea, she and her hardy zone 10 sisters are one in a million.

I wonder if I would look exotic if I moved to Papua, New Guinea. I’ll see if hubby wants to relocate.

For more entries in the September Garden Challenge click here.

What’s the Oddball Reflection over Hoover Dam Bridge?

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo of the Week Is…


Your guess is as good as mine. That’s not true because, after much pondering, I figured it out. The bridge appears to be sitting down on the job. Obviously, we are looking through the looking-glass. Is that Manny skydiving in the reflection? Yes? No? If no, then what?

The bridge appears to be sitting down on the job. Obviously, we are looking through the looking-glass. Is that Manny skydiving in the reflection? Yes? No? If no, then what?

We visited Hoover Dam in September of 2015, and I snapped this picture of the beautiful Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge as we drove across on U.S. 93. It looms nearly 900 feet over the Colorado River and is 1,900 feet long, the largest of its type. Built to bypass the original two-lane road across the dam, it handles 14,000 cars and many pedestrians which cross from Nevada into Arizona and back each day. In June of this year, the bridge closed when an unnamed woman tried to jump from it.

“O’Callaghan was a former governor of Nevada and former executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun. Tillman was a professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals who joined the Army in 2002 and was killed in Afghanistan in 2004.”

So what’s your vote? Oddball? or Not?

Here are some more pictures of it.

For more oddball pictures visit Cee and her many contributors.

Cee's OddBall

Travel theme: Seasonal

#Delaware Trip Winterthur Gardens #2

A Summer Stroll

In Winterthur Garden visit #1, we visited began our tour in the Enchanted Woods. I arrived in Delaware on September 1, too late for spring flowers, and too early for fall trees. Did I enjoy it anyway?

You bet. I hope you will, too.

“Let’s start at the very beginning…A very good place to start.”

Chandler Farms /Winterthur Gardens

Too Many Choices!

I did not worry about getting lost with all these signs. - I should have!
I did not worry about getting lost with all these signs. – I should have!

Down by the Quarry Garden

On the first day we walked, we headed towards the Quarry Garden. We walked mostly in the shade which meant that we walked for hours in about 75-degree weather. This is heaven for me because it is 75 degrees where I live for about two hours, four days a year.

Down by the quarry
Down by the quarry

We had not walked too far when Hal informed me that when he walked with his young Chinese friends, they took off and left him to take pictures while he checked out the various benches. I was quick to take a hint, and I headed off to the Quarry.

Henry Francis duPont wanted the view kept open forever. It's easy to see why.
Henry Francis duPont wanted the view kept open forever. It’s easy to see why.
Could I be on the yellow brick road? It felt that magical.
Could I be on the yellow brick road? It felt that magical.

As you can see, the gardens were not crowded. We ran into another couple out on their morning walk. A couple of families, thousands of crickets, birds, and other noise makers were there, but other than that we had the entire 1,000 acres to ourselves.


Stones are everywhere in Delaware: streets, houses, churches, fences, and pathways. The quarry must have done a lucrative business. I could not wait to get closer to the stream.


I maneuvered myself along the stone path by the water without falling one time. Since I can fall just standing still, this is quite an accomplishment. I never stand near cliffs or on tall bridges without railings.


Focus on Flowers

Age is not the reason I struggle with names of plants, in fact, names of almost anything. Details escape me. I’m too busy taking in the vista. I hope you’ll forgive me and just enjoy these summer flowers also.


The delicate purple tips fit perfectly on the mild summer day. I traveled light on this trip so I took all these pictures with my iPhone.


The garden was more natural, not groomed like Longwood Gardens. Hal said he would rather have a job here.


The water trickled down the rocks into a larger stream eventually winding down to the quarry lake. As a child, I would have dipped my feet into the water and squished muddy sand in between my toes. I contented myself with admiring flowers.


Time slipped by quickly. I did not worry about Hal. What I really mean is that I forgot about him, but eventually I came back to reality and headed up the hill towards the Enchanted Woods where he waited on a bench watching the kids playing. As I ambled back, every flower along the path called out like a child, “Look at me, Marsha. Take my picture.” So I did.


They did not stay segregated like they were at Longwood Gardens but mingled freely together.


Some of them looked large in the picture but do not be fooled. They were tiny.


If these were children you would rumple their heads, they’re so tiny and sweet. Since they are flowers, I let them be.


As I approached the top of the knoll, I could see Hal enjoying a bench, but I still did not hurry. He seemed to enjoy the fact that it took me so long to get back. We came back for another walk two days later.


Thanks for joining us on our seasonal stroll. Thank you, Hal for such a wonderful day.


Be sure to visit Alisa at “Where’s my backpack?” if you have some seasonal pictures you would like to post.


WP Photo Challenge: Edge

#Delaware trip #Winterthur Gardens#1

Hi, I’m Marsha, sitting on the edge of my seat at the edge of the Enchanted Woods at Winterthur Gardens near Hockessin, DE.

I asked Cousin Hal to snap a picture of me. He got 139 bursts of me. Too many hehehe! Not a bad picture for someone who is nearly blind. 

More than one of the du Pont boys who owned DuPont Chemical Company, where my mother’s cousin Hal worked, loved gardens. We were so glad he did as we meandered the broad path around the gardens for about three hours. Yes, we were lost at times. This map did not help.🙂


Winterthur’s 1,000 acres encompass rolling hills, streams, meadows, and forests. Founder Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969) developed an appreciation of nature as a boy that served as the basis for his life’s work in the garden.”

Off the edge of the pathway at a middle point in the 1,000 acres of Winterthur was an Enchanted Woods.


Do you dare to cross the troll bridge?
Do you dare to cross the troll bridge?

Come on chickens. We crossed the troll bridge into the Enchanted Woods. First, let me introduce you to Hal. As some of you already know he’s 91. In his day he engineered hard plastics like you would find in car engines. Although now he is at the losing edge of blindness, he walked three hours guiding me through the gardens at Winterthur. (The blind leading the blind at times)

As we entered the Woods Hal could not resist the first hands-on activity for us kids.

I felt like a kid here. At one edge was a fairy ring. Hal told me not to get too close. But, Hal is blind. What does he know, right?  Who can resist advice like that?

Along the edge of the path was Fairy Ring.
Nothing happened. Did I dare?

I was clearly standing on the edge. What would you do with a sign like that? You can’t read it either, can you? hahaha

Uh oh!

Soon I was covered in a mist that spread through the gardens. Everyone passing by knew I had disobeyed the sign. I hoped these were good fairies.

What happened here. Did the fairies cut down the trees? Maybe the trolls did it.
What happened here. Did the fairies cut down the trees? Maybe the trolls did it.

Here are a few more pictures of the fairy ring. These giant concrete mushrooms trapped several gleeful young children. We could hear laughter and see mist filtering through the trees as we walked around.

Like magic the mist started.
Like magic, the mist started.
Watch out!
Watch out!
Whew! I escaped unharmed.
Whew! I escaped unharmed, but those little spirits chased me for a while.

Lucky for me I run fast! :) That’s it for now. More later.

Did you enjoy your short tour? Did I keep you on the edge of your seat?

For more edgy stories click below.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016
I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

How to Tour Longwood Gardens Like an Expert

#Delaware trip Longwood Gardens #1

I love to walk. Hal, age 91, and I walked for two hours through Winterthur and met a couple who walked there often.

“We walk here and at Longwood Gardens,” they told us.


“Where’s that?” I asked. My mental wheels turned.

“Kennett Square, PA about 15 minutes from here.”

“You’ve never been to Longwood Gardens when you visited before?” Hal sounded incredulous that he could have overlooked something as iconic as visiting Longwood Gardens.

“Never heard of it.”

“Everyone goes to Longwood Gardens. We need to go.”



After years of practicing touring every kind of museum under the sun, the best advice I can give you about touring like an expert is never to think you are an expert. Make comparisons, guesses, then check your facts. If you know you are going somewhere, you can check your facts first, but you’ll probably forget them because you don’t need to know them yet. I love to go in green and come out with more expertise than when I went in.

That being said, you are going to become more of an expert about Longwood Gardens that I was, and can build on the knowledge you gain here.

The Outdoor Gardens at Longwood Gardens.


We arrived at about 11:30, and unlike Winterthur, there were no shady areas in which to walk. The sun warmed us and the water features added humidity to the air.



Pierre du Pont enjoyed water. We came across a lake across from the Italian Water Gardens. Framing the picture on the right is the column of a gazebo. Unless you happen to be a frog, you would not want to jump in and swim in this lake. If you do, you will look like a frog when you come out.


I stood inside the lakeside gazebo to photograph Hal looking at the lake.


What impressed me most about this gazebo was the ceiling’s intricate pattern. Pierre du Pont designed his own gardens and incorporated much of what he learned on his travels to Italy.


With thousands of plants on thousands of acres, it is a photographer’s paradise. I couldn’t click fast enough.

Longwood Gardens

Hal and I wandered into the garden and through the woods until 2:30. We caught the closing chords of the organ concert in the conservatory.


We did not let much grass grow under our feet, but there was some growing over our heads.


The display of flowers on the grounds outside reminded me of Buchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. There is a lot of stonework here in Delaware and Pennsylvania, but this garden is not built into the rock quarry.


Du Pont created the Italian Water Gardens with the most elaborate water show in the world when it was built in 1925-27. He could time the display, much like they do today at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Overlooking the Italian Water Gardens is a Canopy Cathedral. What attracted me were the windows. It was not as grand as the windows led me to believe, but it is worth the short climb to go inside to look out over the meadow.

Much of the wood for this structure came from reclaimed wood. The floors came from a toothpaste factory in Toronto, Canada.

Follow me as I go upstairs.

Finally, we look through the beautiful window panes onto the meadow and Italian Water Gardens.

I hope you enjoyed your tour today of the Longwood Gardens. I’ll take you to other parts of it in another post. Stay tuned.

Where to Shop Like a Movie Star in Maui

#Cee’s Oddball Challenge

I appreciate creativity but admit that it eludes me.

We drove south from Lahaina to Wailea where movie stars come to Maui and shop at the Shops of Wailea. They close down the mall when someone famous and sensitive come to shop. Nothing is cheap here. Even a little ball of ice cream wrapped in a dough was about $2.00.

It was warm so I sat on the fountain enjoying the tropical breeze with Vince.

Carol Sherritt finished her ice cream, and rushed off, camera around her neck, and began shooting pictures of all the windows.

I must have been blind, I thought to myself. What does she see that I don’t see?

All that to display a purse. I wonder how much it costs.
All that to display a purse! How odd! I wonder how much it costs.

I followed her and started snapping pictures, too, just so I didn’t seem like a stupid travel blogger who did not know what captured people’s interest.

After I watched her excitement I decided that the window was interesting.

What do you think? No, don’t answer that! I’m afraid for you to tell me that I almost missed an opportunity to entertain you.

Cee's OddBall

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