Back in February our church held it’s yearly grand fund-raiser – a silent auction. The organizing committee really pulled out all the stops and created an incredible evening of fun and entertainment. Our Fellowship Hall was transformed into something that resembled a New Orleans night club/café. Sparkling gold, green and purple beads and baubles decorated tall round café tables and stools, and similar colors decorated the walls and the many tables cram-packed with items for the silent auction.
One side classroom held some very yummy food – and plenty of it! I went back a couple of times because there was just so much to choose from and it was all very appetizing. (Church ladies sure know how to cook!) The other side classroom was a fun “ticket auction” area. You bought a sheet of tickets that all had the same number on and you went round the room looking at the various items displayed and each one had a plastic cup in front of it. If you liked an item, you tore off a ticket (or more than one) and popped into the cup. You maintained the stub which carried the same number as the tickets.
Both the silent auction and the ticket auction were closed at the same time. We had made bids on a few items and were happy to win a couple, especially tickets for a showing of the Peking Acrobats which were dated for our wedding anniversary. When the results were displayed for the numbers pulled from the ticket auction, we were even more happy to discover that we had won several items including a “Bird/Garden Basket”. The basket contained several different items including a fun, round, hanging bird house painted bright blue with a straw thatched roof which we hung from a small tree at the back of our yard.
About the same time that I first noticed my Baltimore Oriole, I also noticed a small bird “checking out” the blue bird house. After observing him a couple of times I identified him as a Carolina Chickadee. He would sit on the branch that the house hung from and then he’d sit on the peg just below the opening into the house and kind of look in. Then he’d hop back on the branch. He did this several times and then he actually put his head inside the opening before hopping back onto the branch.
This “checking out” continued for several days until one day he brought his mate to check it out too. They would both pop their heads in and out, then fly back on the branch, then after a while they would fly off. About a week ago only one of them came but this time he actually went inside the house. He stayed a few moments then flew off. This continued for a couple of days and then, as I was sunbathing, I heard this rhythmic tapping coming from inside the bird house. It went on for a few minutes, then the Chickadee flew out. He returned another day to do some more tapping.
Finally, two days ago as I was in my early morning quiet time with God, I noticed the Chickadee making repeated fly offs back and forth to the house. He was most definitely on a mission, flying off then returning about a minute later and going right into the bird house; out again and back a minute later. So I grabbed the binoculars, watched closely, and realized he was carrying tufts of stuff into the house. Bingo! He was nest making. Since then they have both been back and forth carrying more stuff in to create a soft nest.
Yesterday, while I was out of the house, Richard said he saw an amazing sight. He had glanced over at the bird house and noticed a squirrel on the branch sniffing out the house. All of a sudden the two Chickadees appeared and started puffing themselves up, hunching their wings forward and beating them back and forth making a loud whirring noise as they hovered in front of the squirrel. When that didn’t budge him, they “dive-bombed” him, actually hitting him with their wings, and he finally ran off.
This truly confirmed that we have “guests” in the garden and that they had set up home and were protecting their territory. We are now looking forward to watching the family form and hopefully we will see the little ones when they begin emerging. What an amazing creation God has made.
After our four enjoyable days with our friends Sherry and Greg in Minnesota, Rich and I loaded up the Harley and set off on the next leg of our adventure. We headed west from Brainerd toward North Dakota. The scenery started changing as we approached the border between the two states, becoming flatter and less green.
As was our norm, we stopped for a break and a tank up after about an hour and a half of riding. Then we continued for about the same amount of time until our tummies told us it was time to get some lunch. We had noticed that the exits had grown further apart and offered very few food options, so as soon as we saw an Arby’s we decided to pull off. We are not big “fast-food” eaters, but Arby’s passes muster for a quick lunch.
Once inside, I made my food choices and left Rich to pick up the order while I went to choose a table from which we could keep an eye on the bike. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and they were seated about three tables away from our window table. They were an older couple and the husband was in a wheelchair, and I could hear them talking quietly from time to time.
Rich bought our order to the table and we quickly got organized and ready to eat. Then, as always, we held hands and thanked God for a safe trip so far, asked him to continue to bless and protect us, to bless the food and continue to feed us spiritually. Then it was time to dig in and eat up.
I guess we were about half way through our meal when I became aware that the woman from the other couple was clearing away their things. Suddenly she was standing beside us and, leaning in toward us, she apologized for interrupting us. We said, no problem, and she carried on talking to let us know why she had come over.
She explained that she was “one of us” and that it had really warmed her heart to see us praying over our food before we began eating. She said that sometimes it was very hard to be a Christian because she felt we were in a minority. She also said that not many people were willing to be public about their belief in God and that as we prayed we had allowed her to feel as though she were “not alone”. It was a very warm moment of fellowship and my heart went out to her.
Rich agreed with her and told her that just a week or so ago we had done the same thing as she had. We had been having a meal at one of our favorite salad bars, “Sweet Tomatoes”, when a woman and her two daughters came and sat at the table across the aisle to us. Once they had settled into the booth, they all bowed their heads and said a prayer of blessing over their food. I remember how heart-warming it felt for us to see that, and as we left the restaurant Rich had paused briefly at their table to let them know how great it had been to witness that.
We exchanged farewells with the woman, and as she pushed her husband out of Arby’s I wondered what their story was. We feel very blessed to have met certain people, complete strangers, on our ride who have uplifted us and shared a God-moment with us. And I remembered that other couple in the rest stop parking lot in Tennessee who had cared enough about us to pray for our safety as we began our long trip.
So for the foodies out there I’d like to share our experience in Paducah, KY. As I mentioned in my previous posting, we stayed at a great little B&B in this small Kentucky town. It was a great find and the owners, Robert and Rachel (interestingly for this Brit, Rachel was from Manchester, UK!!), were wonderful hosts. Rachel had an amazing elephant collection which was also rather interesting because our daughter Melissa has an elephant collection too.
But the best part of this B&B was our room. You have to understand that the building looks like a non-descript ranch style house from the outside. As you walk in there is a spacious living area with a dining room and large lounge full of big comfortable sofas. Robert has installed a hi-tech media server that is connected to digital players in each guest room and a large wall-size screen in the lounge. Guests can pick from a vast menu of movies 24/7 and each room can watch a different movie at the same time.
Two of the three guest rooms are quite simple, comfortable but simple, with a small adjoining bathroom. However, there the “simple” stops. They each have another en-suite room that contains one item – a large two person hot tub! Yes, it was ours, all ours, no sharing!! The third guestroom is slightly different in that the bedroom is a little larger and has two big beds and the bathroom is much larger and in one corner there is a large 2-person whirlpool tub. We so enjoyed our hot tub later in the evening. It was such a de-stressor after two days on the bike. I slept like a baby afterwards.
When it came time for dinner Robert had some very good suggestions. He actually said, as he rubbed a substantial but not fat belly, “Anyone with a body like this who recommends a restaurant is probably giving you good advice”. And he spoke the truth. After singing the praises of several eateries in the area, he said the magic words “good Thai food”. Richard’s ears perked up and his eyes brightened. “Pad Thai”, was all he said,
A short time later found us back on Harley and headed into Paducah town proper ready to locate “Spicy Ginger”, one of two Thai restaurants that Robert had named. We were not disappointed. After sharing some of the best Pot Stickers ever and a couple of really good, crispy spring rolls, Richard ordered his Pad Thai and I asked for a Green Curry.
Both dishes came out looking a little different from other Thai restaurants that we have enjoyed, but resting in the enjoyment of our appetizers we tucked in. No disappointment at all. Rich said it definitely tasted different from previous Pad Thai experiences, but that it was “really, really good”. (That’s high praise coming from Richard whose vocabulary over food usually consists in “OK” or “not as good as others”, but “OK” is his predominant assessment!).
My Green Curry was also most definitely different to others that I have eaten, but the “mmmmm’s’” and “aaaaah’s” that ensued as I enjoyed the dish certainly bespoke the deliciousness (I don’t care if that’s not a real word – it fits the moment!). I do not lack in vocabulary when it comes to food, and apart from my audible mewls of pleasure as I ate, I remember telling our server that it was the best Green Curry I had eaten, that it was absolutely awesome.
So, for the travelers out there, Paducah, KY offers Escapes B&B as a very good and unusual place to stay and also has some great eateries.
By the same token, if you ever stay in Bolingbrook, Chicago, never ever eat at or order out from “Golden Palace” Chinese restaurant. We arrived here yesterday at about 5.30pm worn out from 430 miles on the bike, muggy weather, and dealing with several stretches of road works that slowed us down. We were tired and hungry and needed to eat and get to a spiritual concert and meet with friends at St. Dennis church in Lockport (that’s another posting), so we decided to order into our hotel.
As soon as we opened the containers I knew we were in for a bad experience. Trying to get the pieces of chicken out of the thick, sticky, General Tso “goo” was awful. My pot stickers were great clumps of congealed dough, and Richard’s crab rangoon looked greasy and sorry. We were hungry and ate some, but I immediately regretted it and it sat on my stomach for a couple of hours.
Thank goodness the fellowship and sharing God-time we enjoyed later at St. Dennis, along with a couple of slices of decent pizza, managed to wipe out that bad experience. Next time I will go without rather than put bad food in my stomach. I deserve better!!