Sunday, August 31, 2008


We had some remarkable things happen in our family this past week. It goes to show that Heavenly Father is in charge and it's really not necessary to worry. We definitely are being watched over. The first remarkable thing was on Tuesday and happened to Peter. In his words:

My left rear wheel came off on the freeway today and there was basically no damage and I came through the experience safe and sound. I even got the wheel back, after it rolled diagonally through 4 lanes of rush hour traffic and came to rest against the left concrete barrier. A CHP car wove across traffic to stop it, and a highway assistance guy ran out and grabbed the wheel (and a lug nut that was somehow still attached). They both said it was my lucky day.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Our lucky day was Friday, but thankfully it wasn't life threatening. It just could have been a really big, smelly mess--but wasn't. We got a call Friday morning that Rooter Pro was going to come out that day to install risers on our septic tank. We knew they were coming some time, but it was going to be a big job and they didn't know just when they'd be able to work it in. We had our septic tank pumped two weeks before, so we didn't think there was any great need for them to come any time soon.
It turned out to be ROOTER PRO TO THE RESCUE!
We have a concrete slab covering the top of our septic tank. That gives easy access when the tank needs pumping, but if there happens to be a problem with the lines leading into or out of the tank, the only way to get at them is to dig each time. That's time consuming and expensive. Last year we had to have tree roots dug out of the line from the house to the tank. At that time risers were recommended which would provide easy access to the lines should a problem happen again. So, we've been saving since then to have that done.

Caleb was the backhoe operator. He started digging behind the concrete slab for the place to install one riser, and almost immediately hit water, which was not a good sign. They looked inside our septic tank and it was almost full to the top! He said we were within 24-48 hours of having it back up into the house. As I said, we had no clue there was any problem because we had the tank pumped just two weeks ago. (Usually a pumping will last at least 2 years.)
He also started digging on the other side of the slab for the installation of the second riser. I was really impressed with Caleb's ability to put that backhoe right where he wanted it and apply only the amount of pressure that he wanted to apply. When I commented to him about it, he said he had been driving a backhoe since he was 10 years old so he has had lots of practice. Where he really hit water was when he started excavating the old diverter valve.
The liquid from our septic tank empties into our septic field in the back yard, and the solids stay in the tank until pumped. Our septic field is divided into two parts. We have a diverter valve which makes the water flow into one side or the other of the septic field. Usually twice a year (at general conference time in the spring and the fall) we would switch the valve so the water would flow into the other side. Well, some time ago, the switch on the valve broke, so all the liquids have been going to one side. It became saturated, and started sending the liquids back towards the house. It was all underground though, so we didn't know it was happening.
Here's Caleb's assistant, Cory, trying to get the vertical pipe off the old diverter valve. It wasn't supposed to have been glued on, but it was, so they had a hard time getting it off.
They pumped the water out of the hole, and also re-pumped our septic tank.Here's part of a new diverter valve. They took the innards out of this new one to install in our old valve so they didn't have to dig the old one out.
This shows the new switch in place. They installed a new vertical pipe so we would have easy access for switching the valve.They installed a cover and began filling in the hole. We were given a tool with a long handle for reaching down inside the vertical pipe to flip the switch.
Caleb had a special saw for cutting holes in the top of the septic tank. The air got a bit dusty. In the background you can see two large black pipes which were used to make the risers. Here it got REALLY dusty. I went inside and closed the door. Caleb wore a mask while doing that, but he was still tasting concrete dust afterwards. I gave him and Cory each a drink of our nice cool well water. :-)
This hole was cut on the back side of the tank, right where the pipe comes in from the house.
The hole above was cut in the front side of the tank, where it empties into the leach field. There is a baffle in this hole and a filter which will catch any solids that should happen to escape. We just need to remove the filter when the tank is pumped and hose it off with water.
Here's one riser partially installed.

Each riser has a lid and the lid is screwed down. They are at ground level to make it easy to mow over them. It's going to take awhile for the ground to settle.
Here's the finished product. You can see the lid for one riser. (Kind of ugly, but at least they are green.) If you look really close you can see part of the lid on the second one. Off in the distance is the pile of dirt where the new diverter valve now resides.

We're extremely thankful that Peter didn't have any worse problems, and we're also glad that we didn't have to endure a flood of yucchy sewage invading our house. Our family has been extremely well taken care of.

I think it was Dr. David Jeremiah who said, "The way to prepare for an unknown future is to reflect upon God's blessings in the past." These will definitely be added to our list of blessings!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Hooray! It's Ray Day!
Kirsten goes a little bit nutty at this time of the year because at long last it is BIRTHDAY TIME! Even though her birthday is September 3, we start celebrating in August because her very best boy friend Ray has a birthday on August 27. He is exactly one week older than she is. They have been very best buds since they were in the same class in junior high. In fact, she has a 1986 junior high year book with his picture in it. Usually the Saturday between their birthdays is designated Ray Day by our family. On that special day we take both of them out to lunch and then go to K-Mart so Kirsten can buy him a gift and Ray can buy her a gift.

This year all Ray wanted was pajamas, so that's what she got for him. He seemed pleased. What Kirsten wanted was a coloring book, a spiral notebook, and a pad of construction paper, so that's what he got for her.

And this is just the beginning. Monday, Labor Day, we will take a birthday cake to the church picnic. Then on Wednesday, Kirsten will take another birthday cake to school, and that night we take her out to eat at Golden Corral, which is her favorite place to eat.

Oh, by the way, we've figured out that Saturday is pink day for Kirsten. She has known that for awhile, but it took me awhile to catch on. Today she wore a pink shirt, a pink necklace and pink socks. (Thank you Karen!) Her other days are Monday-yellow, Wednesday-orange, Friday-Red and Tuesday and Thursday-green. She gets quite miffed at me if the right colored clothes are not clean on the appointed day. It's handy because if I forget what day it is, all I need to do is look at Kirsten. :-)

Natalie Nufer Is Married!

On August 23 we took our friend Lorna with us and drove up to Westerville, Ohio to attend a wedding reception for Natalie Nufer and her husband Steven Monson. (No relation to Thomas S. Monson) They were married August 7 in the Mt. Timpanogos LDS Temple in Utah.
It was wonderful to see Natalie again and to meet her new husband. It was also great to see the rest of the Nufer family who are still at home.
Back row: Mindy (almost 13), Leslie, Ken, Natalie, Steve, Eric. Mindy supplied us with names and ages, but I forgot to ask how old Eric is. (We're guessing he's 14) Front Row: Janece (almost 11) and Anna (8).
And here are the happy parents, Leslie and Ken. It was so nice to see everyone again and to catch up on the latest news. Karen and her husband and baby boy, Zachary are living in Hawaii. Emily and her husband and 3 children are living in Utah. Kevin is at BYU, and Scott recently left on a mission to Brazil.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Basil Repels Cabbage Worms, Fleas, and Mosquitoes

I found this in a magazine just the other day: "TIP--Place a bunch of fresh basil on your outdoor table to repel mosquitoes." (Everyday with Rachel Ray, August, 2008, p. 113)

We discovered, quite by accident, that basil repels fleas. Some years ago a friend gave us some tansy plants to hang in our garage to hopefully keep fleas off our cats. It worked! We had the same plants hanging there for several years. Then one year we pulled up a basil plant and hung it in the garage, intending to harvest the leaves. We never got around to using the leaves, but the cats continued to not have fleas. Every couple of years we hang a new basil plant. To this day our kitties remain flea-less.
Well that gave me the idea to try an experiment. If basil could repel fleas, perhaps it would also work for cabbage worms. Awhile back I was gone for 5 days. Before I left I put a few basil leaves on some of the broccoli plants. During the time I was gone Jim picked in a head of broccoli that had no basil leaves on it. Before he could cook it, he had to remove 19 cabbage worms. (Extra protein--yum) The next head we tried had been treated with some basil leaves, and there was only 1 of the green crawly critters. In previous years we have sprayed our broccoli with bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which works really well, but this year we just didn't get around to it. Well, where do those pesky cabbage worms come from anyway? They hatch from eggs laid by cabbage butterflies. I just happened to catch a picture of one of the dastardly creatures flitting around. The tiny caterpillars that hatch from the eggs eat holes in the leaves. I've discovered that those little green eating machines can make some mighty big holes even when the caterpillars are almost too small to see. It's when they get bigger that they really bother me. They can grow to be an inch or so long. Some are solid green and very hard to see in the broccoli heads, but some are blackish with stripes. Both are yucchy and it's very nice to avoid them.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Did you ever stop to think about what you're actually eating when you have broccoli for supper? All those little green things are actually flower buds. If you are raising broccoli in your garden and you happen to wait too long to pick them, they will start to flower. (And by the way, that brown thing on the broccoli head shown above is a dried up basil leaf. We found that basil really does repel cabbage worms.)The flowers are actually quite pretty. Bees like them too.
The other night for supper we had some broccoli that was flowered out some. We ate it anyway. Broccoli flowers are actually quite good when raw, and would be a nice spicy addition to salads. Cooked they taste like--broccoli.
Once you cut off the main head of broccoli, even if it has flowered, just be patient. It will send up secondary shoots. They won't get as big, but they will taste just as good (or bad, depending on your opinion of broccoli.) I've had friends who have pulled out their broccoli plants once they start to flower. I also just read an article that said that once broccoli flowers there is nothing you can do, but that's a shame because you can keep harvesting broccoli for a long, long time in warm or cool weather.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Well it's finally done. It has taken me two months to post everything I wanted to about our family trip. It was a reunion of the Jim & Kathey Branch of the Ahlstrom clan. We hadn't all been together in two years and it was really nice. I do have a few regrets. It would have been nice if we had more time to just sit around and visit in places where we could actually hear each other. It also would have been nice if we could have visited Wilma again, (we had seen her in February though) and I would very much have liked to see my friend Penelope who I've known since first grade, but haven't seen for eons.

Well here's the story. It's actually in four parts, this being part 1. Some of these were posted before, but I've rearranged them to be in order. The last ones are new. It's old news now and perhaps no one will be interested but me, but I had fun doing it. ^o^
* * * * * * * * * * *
At last the day arrived for our family trip to California. We left on Monday, June 16 and flew to LA by way of Dallas. Kirsten has always been interested in people, so we had her sit on the aisle. She had a great time watching everyone. Jim had the middle seat and Betsey had the window seat in the row in front of us. I had a seat by a window too, and could actually see out, which was a pleasant change. The last couple of flights we've been on, our seats were right by the jet engines which didn't present much of a view.

When we travel I always take along something to read, but this time I discovered that a long flight can be shortened dramatically if the book I'm reading is really good. My friend Connie introduced me to books by Beverly Lewis, who writes fictional stories about the Amish and their culture. Connie loaned me The Shunning, and The Covenant which I didn't realize were each number one in its own series. The author is good at angst and cliff hangers and there's always a bit of conflict and or mystery going on that might not be resolved for several volumes. When I got to the end of the first book I groaned--"No, it can't end this way. There has to be a sequel!" Luckily sequels did exist and the library had them. I took two with me on the trip.

We arrived in LA around 5:30. Helena and her family arrived a few minutes later from Seattle, via a different airline, in a different part of the airport. We arranged to meet them, and Barb and Kyle at a car rental place. Barb and Kyle, who live in Utah, drove down from Solvang, where they had been visiting Kyle's grandmother. We knew we would need them to assist us because we had one rented mini van and 7 people and lots of luggage, a wheelchair, and carry-ons, etc. It worked out great. We checked into our various hotel rooms as soon as we could and then went to Peter and Karen's house--not that I was anxious to see Elizabeth or anything.

And here she is. At five months, Elizabeth's newest accomplishment was staying up in a sitting position. YAY Elizabeth! She looks pretty pleased with herself, and mighty cute sitting on this quilt that her mommy had just finished. This is definitely one of my favorite pictures. She melts my heart. ^o^ (Note: if you click on any of the pictures they will enlarge.)
We were all more than a little hungry by that time, so we went looking for a place to eat and settled on Claim Jumper. It was late and there were twelve of us, so we had to wait awhile. In the waiting area was a table with a painted-on checker board. Here are Kate, Doug and Kirsten. TUESDAY

Tuesday morning we were pretty zonked from traveling, so we didn't do much. Our hotel was right near a mall and several restaurants were within walking distance. For lunch we went over to Chili's. Kate rode in the "big stroller" with grandma. (Because of my breathing difficulties, I often use a wheelchair when I'm away from home.) What can I say? Here's another favorite picture.
We had an idea of some things we wanted to do, but didn't have specific plans for any day. We knew we wanted to include a beach trip sometime. Karen had suggested going either early in the morning or about 4 in the afternoon so the sun wouldn't be too strong. Tuesday seemed like a good day to do that, so that afternoon found us making preparations, including some hair braiding.
This shot of Barbie and Betsey was taken in the hotel lobby. It too is one of my favorite pictures of the whole trip.
Those who went in the water did a lot of wave jumping. Helena and Jim did a little kite flying. And here are our son Peter and his wife Karen holding Elizabeth. It was windy and very sunny. Barbie (our youngest daughter) says, "Ha! My tummy's bigger than yours, but I've got a good excuse!" (The good excuse will make her appearance on or about October 31.) Poor Kyle. He had a nice BIG sand pile and then a big wave came and washed it all away. I thought his expression was awfully cute. Awwwwww. Barbie always thinks he's cute. (If you click on Kyle's picture and enlarge it, his expression shows up much better.) I'm not sure what Helena (daughter #2) and her husband Doug were doing in this picture, but they look happy. ^o^ Their daughter Kate wasn't interested in going in the big scary water. She enjoyed playing in the sand and also making sand angels. Kirsten and I didn't go in the water, but we enjoyed watching everyone. There was something for everybody, and a good time was had by all.

Please go on to part 2…

The Doctor and the Pits--California Trip Part 2

Wednesday morning, June 18, I went to an appointment with Dr. Oommen George at the Hahnemannian Research Center in Irvine. Some months ago I contacted my friend PENELOPE, whom I had known since first grade. I remembered that she had breathing problems when younger so I asked how she was doing now. She told me she was seeing Dr. K.O. George. She described him as a "Brilliant Homeopath" who was doing wonders for her. On her next visit to him, she told him about me. She told him I have sarcoid and asked if he could help. His answer was "Yes, I can cure it." Well that certainly captured my interest! (Allopathic medicine says that the only way I can get any better is to have a lung transplant, which I do not want to do.)

We also found out that Dr. George's office was not too far from where Peter and Karen live, so we decided I should try going there. I went twice earlier this year and it definitely helped me. Traveling to California, however, wore me out and was terribly expensive. I tried something else for awhile instead, but didn't have noticeable results like I did with Dr. George. As long as we were going out there anyway, I decided to try Dr. George again. When I called to get an appointment this time I was sad to hear that Dr. K.O. George had suffered a mild stroke and wasn't currently practicing. I was told I could see his son, Dr. Oommen K. George, instead. He's supposed to be very good too, so I agreed.

I did go. Jim and I liked him very much. He is personable and knowledgeable and also computer savvy. Now that I've seen him once, he said we could connect via telephone and e-mail, and that I wouldn't have to go back and see him in person. YAY for not having to travel.

In Which We Go To The Pits

That afternoon found us at the Labrea Tar Pits. (If you have seen the movie "Volcano" that volcano in LA supposedly started at the Labrea Tar Pits.) We had been there many years ago, and I thought it would be fun to go back. I didn't know it would be so BEASTLY hot.

The sticky tar oozes up out of the ground, and has been trapping animals for eons of time. (They also found the bones of one woman, who they think was a long-ago murder victim.)

We spent part of the time outside on the grounds, and the rest of the time in the museum itself. The picture at the right was taken in the shade as we walked around the grounds, and looks pleasant, but believe me we were sweltering. Elizabeth and Kate were really good even though we were all very uncomfortable.

It was not only hot, it also smelled kinda stinky. Like tar actually. ^0^

Here's a close-up of the oozy, sticky, bubbly stuff.

I was glad someone got this picture of Peter. The tall building in the background happens to be where he used to work for Tokyopop, and yes, it's right across the street from the tar pits. He had been laid off just the week before along with 1/3 of the people who worked for that company. There was an interview with him posted on a website called Precocious Curmudgeon on June 10. It begins: "Among the 39 employees let go by manga publisher Tokyopop during a recent restructuring was Peter Ahlstrom. Peter was kind enough to respond to my interview offer, and after carefully reviewing a non-disclosure agreement, he submitted the following responses to my questions…" Click here to read the article. I would think it was interesting, even if I were not his mom. ^O^

No dinosaurs were caught in the tar pits, but the museum has lots of bones and displays of wooly mammoths and saber-tooth cats and other mammals and birds.
I thought it was funny that they had many different kinds of dinosaur toys in the gift shop even though there were no dinosaur bones in the tar pits. Kate didn't seem to mind a bit!

Please go on to part 3.