Thursday, December 30, 2010


My two favorite pictures from the holiday. Above - Maya and CJ
loving brother and sister

and below:
CJ hanging on for dear life -- "Don't you dare give me to that man!" and Maya shouting her list to Santa from a safe distance!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Makin Whipped Cream from scratch!

Four generations in Cohocton for Thanksgiving. Anne is known for her wonderful work in the kitchen, and today was right up there with the very best of her efforts! Everything from scratch - even the applesauce - and of course the whipped cream could be had on our choice of Pumpkin Pie or Apple Crisp. The smallest longing look would get you "some of each"! Ice Cream was also an option, but I don't think anybody passed up the whipped cream, though some had ice cream and whipped cream and pumpkin pie and apple crisp. The applesauce wasn't even desert!

And in true professional teacher fashion, Anne gave Maya a lesson in Whipped Cream without the can!
Bigger view at the link below.

Anne teaches Maya to make whipped cream from scratch! from Don Olney

Thanks for a great day Anne!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some free publicity!

Us on the front cover of The University City Magazine - a supplement to the Charlotte Observer! Check it out! and click on the Flipbook link and see us inside 10

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Marketing for Higher Education?

In this day of high unemployment and under employment, perhaps our institutions of higher education could take a page from the past?

Click image to embiggen and read - very funny!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No helium balloons allowed?

Click picture to embiggen and smile at the sign on the front of the fridge!
Taken at CJ's party!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Silly Monster cake from CJ's birthday

I assumed of course that somebody sold little silly monster figures, but on turning mine over I discovered that they were hand made! Sort of like reverse painting on glass? (see below) Very cool, and the cake and frosting tasted great. Smooth and perfect as that cake looks, it is NOT fondant! Credit to Premier Pastry from our neighborhood!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A good tale!

Warning - the following is political. If you are one of my liberal friends read on. If you are one of my more conservative friends - and yes I proudly have some very good friends who do not share my views on everything! - read on only if you are in a forgiving mood!

This was just too long to put on Facebook!


Life After Politics

After losing a senatorial election, the writer finds redemption in monks and fruitcakes

In election year 2002 I ran for the United States Senate. I was the Democratic nominee from South Carolina to succeed the legendary J. Strom Thurmond (R-SC). The venture was quixotic at best. As every schoolchild knows, the states are divided for political purposes into two groups: The red states are the Republican states, and the blue states the Democratic states. South Carolina is easily the reddest of the red states — redder than red, crimson, fuchsia, magenta. A color all its own. Unsurprisingly, I lost.

Soon after losing the election, I trudged burro-like back home to Charleston. With me were Zoe, my wife of forty years, and our two surrogate children, a small gray kitten named Maggie Pennington, and Neil Diamond, a ten-year-old canary. Within days of our arrival, little Maggie escaped and was run over by a car. Her short life ended in Zoe’s arms. The next day, Neil Diamond fell from his perch like a stone and expired without a chirp. I, myself, was rapidly closing in on my biblically allotted threescore years and ten. For all practical purposes, I was broke, unemployed, and homeless. Near the end of the campaign, Zoe had said that if I lost the election I would have to move to some other state. I couldn’t help but notice she had said I would have to move — not we would have to move. I was enveloped with the dread of becoming uninspired. Who would ever have imagined I would find redemption in, of all places, a Trappist monastery?

Dispirited and despairing, soon after we arrived in Charleston I awoke early one morning on the second floor of the diminutive carriage house we were temporarily renting (in less elegant environs than Charleston, carriage houses are called garage apartments). The weather matched my melancholy mood. Unseasonable frigid temperatures gripped Charleston. A freezing rain was falling. I stumbled outside, found a nearby vending machine, and bought a copy of the Post and Courier, the local newspaper, which had enthusiastically endorsed my opponent in the campaign. In fact, I got two copies of the newspaper, one for me and one for Zoe. I find, when buying newspapers from vending machines, that you can get multiple copies for the price of one. No point, I thought, in maximizing the profits of a publication that had supported my opposition.

That particular morning, the Post and Courier contained a mildly interesting feature story about Mepkin Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery forty-five miles west of Charleston, where twenty-nine Trappist monks live a communal life in prayer, poverty, and solitude. The property is historic. Mepkin was the plantation home of the early American patriot Henry Laurens. His ashes are buried at Mepkin in a picturesque cemetery overlooking the Cooper River, which, as all South Carolinians know, flows together with the Ashley River at Charleston to form the Atlantic Ocean.

Like other South Carolina plantations, Mepkin fell into the hands of Yankees after the Civil War. The property was ultimately purchased by Henry Luce, founder of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines, and his distinguished wife, Clare Boothe Luce. In 1949, they donated a large portion of Mepkin for the founding of a monastic community. The Trappist monastery was established there the same year.

According to the Post and Courier story, the monks of Mepkin Abbey, in an unprecedented departure from their life of solitude, had undertaken an uncharacteristically worldly endeavor: They were making fruitcakes, and one of their number had been designated to meet visitors at the gates of the monastery and converse sufficiently with them to sell the fruitcakes for the modest sum of eight dollars each. I immediately sprang from my lethargy, determined to find Mepkin Abbey and buy a fruitcake from the monks. I have never much liked fruitcake. Actually, I hate fruitcake. For me, it is the rare Christmas gift I can never bring myself to re-gift. But now I had a purpose in life. Perhaps that’s a little overstated. At the least, for the first time since the election, I had something to do.

I departed on my doubtful pilgrimage, driving endlessly through the bowels of the South Carolina Lowcountry, stopping at every country store and crossroads to ask directions, and trying hard to forget election year 2002. My progress was substantially impeded by the terribly inclement weather. Clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens. The freezing rain continued unabated. Fog shrouded the swampy landscape. The tangled branches of towering live oak trees on either side of the road wove themselves together to form tunnels for me to pass through. At last, the stone gates of Mepkin Abbey loomed before me. Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher was never more imposing, or should I say spooky? Just as the Post and Courier had reported, the designated monk was waiting for me, as if he had been anticipating my arrival for his whole life. Perhaps he had been.

He was dressed in the traditional habit of a monk, a simply constructed garment of rough brown sackcloth, with a floppy hood and a rope sash tied loosely at the waist. I imagined him to have once been a titan of business or industry or, perhaps, one of the Masters of the Universe described by Tom Wolfe in The Bonfire of the Vanities, now determined to repent and forsake the world and all its mortal pleasures. I could scarcely see his face. His eyes seemed to glow like smoldering embers in the scant illumination beneath his hood (or maybe that was my imagination). I got out of my car and handed him a five-dollar bill and three singles. Silently, he handed me back a fruitcake, wrapped in brown paper. I did not speak. Nor did he. Somehow small talk seemed inappropriate. Then, just as I was about to leave, he leaned so close to me I could feel his warm breath on my cold face. He spoke.

“We all voted for you,” he said.

“I’m amazed,” I stammered. “I had no idea y’all voted.”

“Oh yes, we always vote,” he said, “and we voted for you.”

“That makes me think God is a Democrat,” I said.

He leaned even closer and whispered in my ear, “God is a Democrat.”

At that very instant, the rain stopped, the skies opened, and the sun shone forth. On the way back to Charleston, with the redeeming words of the talkative monk ringing in my ears, and his fruitcake on the seat beside me, Johnny Nash’s timeless lyrics played on the car radio: “Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind / It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”

I most definitely had my groove back.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

CJ's First Birthday!

CJ turned ONE today! The big party was yesterday. Caesar James Sams seemed pretty much unimpressed by the hoopla, but had a pretty good time. Big sister Maya on the other hand was very excited and energized! Grandpa Don of course made tops for everyone!
A spinningly good time was had by all!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Happy Birthday to my baby brother!

I miss you Dave!
For the record, that's me on the left, Mom in the middle, and Dave on the right.
Spring, 1963!
Dave was in 8th grade. I would graduate High School in the near future, and Mom was 37!
The Dodgers won the World Series later in the year. Elvis and the Beatles were big. Kennedy was president. John and Bobby and Martin were all still alive. Lassie was on TV - Black and White of course. Gas was 29 cents a gallon. Average cost of a new car was $3,200. Oddly, a room air conditioner cost a bit more than it does now! They stopped making the Studebaker, and the DOW was 762!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween with Great Grandpa Mel!

Hard to get a great picture after dark, but this is pretty good! Greatgrandpa Mel gives Queen Bee Maya her Halloween candy, while Deanna looks on! Maya was in a hurry to move on to the next house!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blacksmith Mechanical

A new custom mechanical design for a friend. Not sure where the picture went, but below is the video!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Creation

New "Balancing Act".
"You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky."
Amelia Earhart
Video below!

Friday, October 15, 2010


To quote my granddaughter - "That's a lot!"

Thanks to the powers that be, and to all my family and friends for getting me here!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wedding of Susie Shannon and Tyler Hares

It was great fun creating this one-of-a-kind gift for Susie and Tyler. I've known Susie since she was a little kid, and celebrating the next generation is an honor! Move the heart back and forth, and the new couple kisses! Not sure how the video will look, but click below.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Stuff we made!

Our pieces don't often get framed, but these did! Thanks to the customer who sent us this picture!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Flat earth!

Looks pretty good until you google W. G. (Wilbur Glenn) Voliva -- the name in the lower right corner of the photo.
From Wikipedia --

Voliva was born on a farm in Indiana on Mar. 10, 1870. In 1889, he entered Union Christian College in Mermon Indiana; he graduated five years later and became a minister. In 1898 he was drawn to the teachings of John Alexander Dowie and eventually joined his congregation, the Christian Catholic Church of Zion, Illinois.

In 1906, the congregation revolted against Dowie's leadership and elected Voliva head of the church, which Voliva then renamed to the "Christian Catholic Apostolic Church." He kept tight control on his some 6,000 followers, which made up the community, even up to the point of dictating their choice of marriage partners. The city of Zion was effectively controlled by the church; all of its real estate, while sold at market rates, was conveyed under an 1,100 year lease, subject to many restrictions and subject to termination at the whim of the General Overseer. Religions other than the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church were effectively banned - visiting preachers from rival sects were harassed and hounded out of town by the city police force. The police force evidently carried bibles in their belt along with their billy clubs?

Voliva diversified Zion Industries, an industrial concern owned by the church that manufactured Scottish lace, to include a bakery which produced the popular Zion brand fig bar cookies and White Dove chocolates. Zion was a one-company town and its workers were paid substandard wages.

He was also a firm believer in the Flat Earth theory. Check out this article from the October 1931 Modern Mechanix. Not bad on the smoking thing though! Having one good idea does not make all your ideas good!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010


I planted some pumpkin seeds back in the early summer, and the vines have spread over about 1/4 of my Dad's back yard, but until now there were no pumpkins? Lots of great flowers - bright yellow and about 6" across, but no pumpkins. I was hoping to grow Maya's jack-o-lantern! Yesterday I checked again, and found one - see above. Found another one today - see below. It is kind of late in the season, so I suspect these guys may not make it to the big orange stage? From the shape of the one above, maybe it got cross pollinated with a neighborhood gourd?

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Mom is not a big fan of my picture taking, but I'm a big fan of our weekly rides around the area while Dad does the grocery shopping. Mom is a big fan of our rides too - remembering them when other things sometimes fade from memory! Thank you Mom!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Neighborhood Party!

We take Maya and CJ to our neighborhood park / playground most every week. Yesterday we had a great dish to pass picnic for the whole neighborhood! It was great! Lots of friends, old and new. Above, our new neighborhood sculpture - a pear tree, sculpted in steel by our friend Craig Wilson! Below, some neighborhood kids planted a real pear tree. Why a pear tree? The site of this park was originally part of a huge tract of land that was the Ellwanger Barry Nursery - one of several nurseries located in Rochester, NY in the early days! They sold nursery stock all over the country and world - including a huge variety of pear trees!
Below - our friend Dave Halter - sort of unofficial Mayor of our neighborhood!
Below - a kid more interested in drawing pictures of the events than in the events themselves!
Maya and CJ - with Deanna and Casey - arrived later, but by then my camera had frozen up and was unwilling to try anything! Below my friend Jeff Peden entertains the kids! Somebody suggested he juggle a favorite stuffed rabbit, and Jeff did it! Below, a still from a video on my new Kodak Play/Touch video camera!
And a neighborhood dog catches a ride!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Anybody know what this is?

Fruit from a medium sized bush - maybe 7-8 ft tall in a neighbor's yard. Fruit is more green than this with smooth skin that looks like a pear? Fruit is about 2" long.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Elephant Ear

Just wanted to share this image of part of an Elephant Ear plant leaf from my back yard!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Maya & CJ on Vacation

If you aren't old enough to have grandchildren yet, just wait! They are the best thing ever..... even when they are screaming and yelling and won't take a nap?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Largest single day harvest so far - 13! Some Vintage Wine, and some Mortgage Lifters!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A gift from a friend!

I'm not adding things to my spinning top collection very often these days, but my friend Rick Shannon found this in a friends basement. Those folks on the upper end of the age scale will remember the cardboard cylinder tube repair kits. The little punched holes in the lid to rough up the area around the hole in your tube, the little tube of rubber cement with its distinctive smell, and the little pieces of rubber to glue over the nail hole? This tube repair kit has it all, and a real spinning top in the graphics! My favorite things are always what I call top related items. Nothing spins here - except maybe the repaired bicycle tube - but while many products use the word "top" in the logo, name, etc. very few actually use a real top! This little piece has it all! Thanks Rick!

And - a side note on the English language. We seem to have a lot fewer words to learn, but the reason for this is that we use the same word over and over for very different things! I've always thought the word "top" was one of the most over utilized - try Googling "top"? Not many results will have anything to do with spinning! However, try writing a blog entry about a cardboard tube containing a tube of rubber cement that is all part of a tube repair kit! Tube sort of means the same thing every time, but not exactly!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another larger mechanical design

Move the lever at the upper left back and forth to make her dance gleefully across the stage! This piece is also about 14" across. Video below. Come see us tomorrow or Sunday to see the new pieces at Booth 449 - Clothesline Art Show!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

New larger mechanical design!

Unlike my previous small business card sized pieces, this one is 400% larger - i.e. about 14" across. Turning the wheel at the top or bottom of the piece rotates the propeller on this old bi-plane! I especially like the tread detail on the tires - below! Check below that for a video!
Temporary price = $100 plus shipping & sales tax - Order here

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Beth's Green Beans!

The title says it all .... well not quite all .... the picture helps .... but I can't begin to convey the fresh picked taste!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Vale of Rest

Cemetery located just down the road from my great great great great grandfather and grandmother's house and mill in Avoca, NY. ! No stones seem to be related to my family, but the one below, located almost in the exact center of the little cemetery, tells a very interesting story.
Rosa O. Tucker, wife of A. O. Tucker, died 18 days after the birth of her daughter R. (Rosa?) Lillian Tucker. Rosa was only 17 years, 1 month, and 11 days old. Lillian passed away less than 2 years later at age 1 year, 9 months and 12 days! Two way to short lives!

Note: Marrying at age 16 was not that unusual in the 1870's

Friday, September 03, 2010

Maeve will know this is a joke!

We parked next to this pick-up truck at the doctor's office the other day, and knew Maeve had to see it! I'm a big supporter of her vegetarian diet choice, but love to tease! Also note that this sign is on a big hulking pick-up truck that obviously hasn't seen any dirt this summer, and has a nice clean plastic cover over the "cargo bed".

This picture also turned out to be a great example of my love of reflections, light and shadow, etc. in photos!