Last Old-Fashioned Optician

Steve Grabowski, the “Last Old-Fashioned Optician,” stands in front of his shop, “The Spectacle Emporium” in the Laramie Downtown Historic District of Laramie, Wyoming.

 
My husband and I were strolling the Laramie Downtown Historic District in September 2022 when we met Steve Grabowski, who owns “The Spectacle Emporium” in Laramie. People come from throughout the world to order glasses from Steve. One of his specialties is vintage eyewear for re-enactors and for actors in movies featuring earlier eras. Steve comes from a family that has lived in Laramie for many generations.

Laramie was settled in the mid-19th century. Laramie was named for Jacques LaRamie, a French or French-Canadian trapper who disappeared in the Laramie Mountains in the early 1820s. He was one of the first Europeans to visit the area. LaRamie’s name was attached to so many places, including a river, mountain range, peak, U.S. Army fort, county, as well as the city, the town of Laramie was called Laramie City for decades to set it apart from other landmarks and entities named for the lost trapper.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Personal, Photography, Shopping

Lackman-Thompson Estate Farmhouse

A beautiful sunset sky is a backdrop for the historic Lackman-Thompson farm house in Lenexa, Kansas. The farmhouse is part of the Lackman-Thompson estate, which includes a brick barn, used for events, and several historic out buildings.

The Lackman-Thompson estate was once home to Margaretha and William Lackman, German immigrants who came to America in 1885. The Lackmans sold their estate to Kansas City horse and mule dealer Frank Thompson in 1908.

In 1932, the farm’s original barn burned down, which gave Thompson the opportunity to build a new brick barn — the barn that still stands today. The Thompsons’ son, Hugh, sold much of their estate to be developed into Southlake Business Park and bequeathed the remaining land to the Johnson County Community College Foundation.

The Lackman-Thompson Estate was placed on the Register for Historic Kansas Places — the only structure in Lenexa to receive the honor. In 1996, The JCCC Foundation offered the property to the City of Lenexa to preserve it and put it to good public use. Lenexa worked with many partners, including the Kansas State Historical Society, to honor the agreement.

The original Lackman house is now the home of the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureau and Economic Development Office. The city restored the barn, preserving its historical character as well as modernizing it.

Lackman-Thompson Estate Farmhouse Products on Fine Art America.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Kansas, Photography

Vermont Covered Bridges Jigsaw Puzzles

There are a little over 100 authentic covered bridges in the state of Vermont, giving the state the highest number of covered bridges per square mile in the United States. A covered bridge is considered authentic not due to its age, but by its construction. An authentic bridge is constructed using trusses rather than other methods such as stringers (a popular choice for non-authentic covered bridges).

Many of the covered bridges are on the National Register of Historic Places. Some are still in use on roads, while others have been retired but can still be visited.

Vermont Covered Bridges Jigsaw Puzzle Collection

Click here for Zazzle Coupons, Discounts and Promotions.

List of Covered Bridges in Vermont

Vermont Covered Bridge Society

Leave a comment

Filed under Games and Entertainment, New England, Photography, Transportation, Travel

Big Boy No. 4014 Steam Locomotive in 2021

Martin City, Missouri, features its train traffic as part of its charm. In the upper right is a photograph of a modern Union Pacific freight train engine which roared through Martin City on Aug. 11, 2021. Soon after, Big Boy No. 4014 (center photo) followed. In the lower right photograph, Big Boy is shown when it paused for a few minutes after it passed the Martin City intersection.

Big Boy No. 4014 Locomotive steamed into Martin City, Missouri, on its 2021 summer tour of the Union Pacific Railroad network. Martin City is part of Kansas City.

I felt an exciting big rush as this huge engine roared past me on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. I saw this same engine in November 2019 in Lawrence, Kansas.

Twenty-five Big Boys were built exclusively for Union Pacific Railroad, the first of which was delivered in 1941. The locomotives were 132 feet long and weighed 1.2 million pounds. Because of their great length, the frames of the Big Boys were “hinged,” or articulated, to allow them to negotiate curves. They had a 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, which meant they had four wheels on the leading set of “pilot” wheels which guided the engine, eight drivers, another set of eight drivers, and four wheels following which supported the rear of the locomotive. The massive engines normally operated between Ogden, Utah, and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service. Union Pacific reacquired No. 4014 from the Rail Giants Museum in Pomona, California, in 2013, and relocated it back to Cheyenne to begin a multi-year restoration process. It returned to service in May 2019 to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion.

Big Boy No. 4014 departed Cheyenne, Wyoming on Aug. 5, 2021, traveling through Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. Along the way, the Big Boy will be on display in the following cities during the tour:

Saturday, Aug. 14: Fort Worth, Texas
Tuesday, Aug. 17: Houston, Texas
Saturday, Aug. 21: New Orleans, Louisiana
Sunday, Aug. 29: St. Louis, Missouri
Monday, Sept. 6: Denver, Colorado
It is scheduled to return to its home base in Cheyenne on September 7, 2021.

My blog post about Big Boy No. 4014’s visit to Lawrence, Kansas, in November 2019:

Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 Steam Locomotive Engine

Big Boy No. 4014 Steam Locomotive

Big Boy No. 4014 Steam Locomotive as it nears Martin City, Missouri.

Big Boy No. 4014 Steam Locomotive

Big Boy No. 4014 Steam Locomotive rounding the bend, heading toward Martin City, Missouri.

5 Comments

Filed under History, Photography, Transportation, Travel

Real World Cat Consulting

These three cats enjoy living in the same household, even though they have different personalities and joined the family at different times. Each cat may need a different introduction routine. The gray and cream colored cats are older boys. The orange cat is a young female who can hold her own with her older brothers. Photo courtesy of “Real World Cat Consulting.”

If you need some advice about your cat, Bonnie Still of “Real World Cat Consulting” can help you.

I met Bonnie in 2010, when I began volunteering as a photographer at Wayside Waifs, an animal shelter in Kansas City, Missouri. I learned a lot from Bonnie’s kindness, wisdom and empathy, as well as from her deep knowledge of the ways of cats.

“Real World Cat Consulting provides compassionate guidance and support to people experiencing a disagreement or misunderstanding with their cat’s behavior, and to increase the likelihood that the family remains together in harmony.

Bonnie Still is a certified Feline Training & Behavior Specialist with over 10 years of experience working with cats. She has helped hundreds of cats overcome their fear of people, resolved litterbox issues, taught cat guardians how to introduce a new cat to an established cat (or dog), helped others to manage their cat’s aggression towards themselves or another pet in the home and more. She has also guided others to understand their cat better, which increased their bond with their cat.”

Learn more about “Real World Cat Consulting” through these links:

“Real World Cat Consulting” Website

“Real World Cat Consulting” on Instagram.

“Real World Cat Consulting” on Twitter

“Real World Cat Consulting” on Facebook  

Real World Cat Consulting’s email address is realworldcatconsulting@gmail.com

Rupert and Mufasa greeting each other. Photo courtesy of "Real World Cat Consulting."

Rupert and Mufasa greet each other.  Photo courtesy of “Real World Cat Consulting.”

3 Comments

Filed under Animals

Farewell to Sunsets

Pelican Rock Sunset, Dauphin Island, Alabama Poster

Pelican Rock Sunset, Dauphin Island, Alabama

“The Sea of Sunset”

By Emily Dickinson

This is the land the sunset washes,
These are the banks of the Yellow Sea;
Where it rose, or whither it rushes,
These are the western mystery!

Night after night her purple traffic
Strews the landing with opal bales;
Merchantmen poise upon horizons,
Dip, and vanish with fairy sails.

I love watching and photographing the sun peek over the horizon in the morning and slip below the horizon in the evening, a pastime of millions (probably billions) of people.

My husband and I spent the month of February 2021 on a beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama, the “Sunset Capital” of Alabama, where we could see both sunsets and sunrises. Twice the beauty. We don’t have a view of either sunrises or sunsets from our home, so this was a real treat.

On the island, I photographed every sunrise and every sunset on the days it wasn’t foggy or raining.  I posted several of my sunrise and sunset photographs on Print on Demand sites, such as Fine Art America and Zazzle, and I’ve included a few in this post.

Toward the end of the month as I tried to get the perfect sunset shot, I thought “Maybe it isn’t a good idea to stare at the setting sun through my viewfinder.” You’re all thinking, “Well, duh, that’s an idiotic thing to do.”

Orange Sunset on Dauphin Island, Alabama Poster

Orange Sunset on Dauphin Island, Alabama

And yes, dear readers, I apparently damaged my retina and worsened my cataracts. When I got home I discovered that I could no longer see clearly through the viewfinder with my right eye. I had Lasik 25 years ago, which corrected my right eye to be able to read without glasses in the monovision procedure, and I can still do that even though everything is a bit fuzzy when I look through the viewfinder. I thought my viewfinder was dirty, but the problem is my eye.  I never used my left eye (my distance corrected eye) to see through the viewfinder, but I’m training myself to use it.

My ophthalmologist told me that I should no longer take sunset photographs or even watch sunsets. There are probably ways to do it safely, such as using the camera screen rather than the viewfinder, but I’m probably not going to take the chance.

Eventually I’ll have cataract surgery, but I don’t think the solar retinopathy is going to diminish.

Be safe out there, everyone!

Sunset Sunbeams on Dauphin Island, Alabama Poster

Sunset Sunbeams on Dauphin Island, Alabama

Pelican Flying at Sunrise, Dauphin Island, Alabama Poster

Pelican Flying at Sunrise, Dauphin Island, Alabama

My Collection of Sunrise and Sunset Photographs on Fine Art America.

My Collection of Sunrise and Sunset Products on Zazzle.

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Dauphin Island Beaver

Beaver at Dauphin Island, Alabama Poster

Beaver swimming in the ocean near Pelican Point on Dauphin Island, Alabama.

I expected to see pelicans, cormorants, gulls and dolphins at the beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama, but seeing a beaver swimming along the rocks and edge of the beach was certainly a surprise. This beaver seemed to be exploring. I don’t think there was anything for him to eat along the beach, and ingesting salt water isn’t healthy for a beaver. Maybe he was lost. It was near sunset, a full moon, choppy waves, a lot of bird activity and even a dolphin cruising around. The next day, I saw a beaver swimming past a sunning alligator in the lake in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. That doesn’t seem very safe, either.

In articles I’ve read since, some biologists say beavers travel in saltwater to move from one environment to another. Other scientists said they are moving to brackish environments due to decreasing habitat. In these habitats near the ocean, the beavers have built their lodges to accommodate the tides. Biologists have found beavers suffering from saltwater poisoning, however, from consuming too much saltwater while while chewing trees and plants for lodge construction and while eating.

Beavers are large, semiaquatic rodents of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. This was a North American beaver (Castor canadensis). Beavers are the second-largest living rodents after the capybaras. Their usual habitat is freshwater, such as rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. They are herbivorous and consume tree bark, aquatic plants, grasses and sedges.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island at the mouth of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s called the Sunset Capital of Alabama and is home to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and other refuges, to 19th century Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Estuarium public aquarium, many white sand beaches, historic sites and points of interest.  Dauphin Island is considered one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring bird migrations. The Sanctuary consists of 137 acres of maritime forest, marshes, and dunes, including a lake, a swamp, and a beach. The three-mile trail system within the Sanctuary is a National Recreational Trail. The refuge is at the Eastern end of Dauphin Island, a 14 mile-long barrier island south of the Alabama mainland Gulf Coast.

Beaver in the Ocean, Dauphin Ocean, Alabama Poster

A beaver swims in the ocean near Pelican Point on Dauphin Island, Alabama.

In the top photograph, a beaver swims in Galliard Lake in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama. On the right is a Great Blue Heron. The beaver swam past an alligator basking in the sunshine.

In the top photograph, a beaver swims in Galliard Lake in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama. On the right is a Great Blue Heron. The beaver swam past an alligator basking in the sunshine.

About the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

About Saltwater Beavers in Canada.

Saltwater Beavers Bring Life Back to Estuaries.

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, Photography

Lighthouse Jigsaw Puzzles

Key West, Florida, Lighthouse Jigsaw Puzzle

Key West, Florida, Lighthouse Jigsaw Puzzle

During the months of Covid 19 social distancing and the Stay-at-Home regimen, I created some of my favorite photographs as jigsaw puzzles, an entertainment that can be enjoyed at home by yourself or with family and friends. One of my favorite photographic subjects is the lighthouse, which is a symbol as well as a reality of safety and sanctuary throughout the world. Zazzle offers jigsaw puzzles in a range of sizes and levels of difficulty. You can upload your own photographs and artwork to Zazzle, creating your own jigsaw puzzles.

Click on the links beneath each jigsaw puzzle to read more about these historic lighthouses. Many of the American lighthouses are on the National Register of Historic Places.

7 Comments

Filed under Games and Entertainment, Photography, Travel

A Tale of Two Kitties

Lester and Oreo are both HIV positive cats, but they can still live long and healthy lives.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this post more than seven years ago, but didn’t publish it. I was waiting for an update on these two kitties in their new home, but I wasn’t able to get one. So this post has languished in my drafts all of this time. I decided to publish it anyway. I’ve been taking photographs of cats for adoption at Wayside Waifs for more than ten years. There are always cats as wonderful as Lester and Oreo, some with HIV, available at Wayside Waifs.

It was the worst of times, but then it was the best of times (to misquote Charles Dickens) for two kitties, Oreo and Lester, who were homeless. They were brought separately to Wayside Waifs, a no-kill shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, area. Because each cat tested positive for the FIV virus, they were isolated from other cats. The Feline Immuno-deficiency Virus is a slow virus that affects a cat’s immune system, but a cat with FIV can live a long, healthy life if well-cared for with a high-quality diet and kept indoors in a low-stress environment.

Both Oreo and Lester are very friendly and sociable cats, so they were lonely in their own rooms. Staff and volunteers decided to put the two cats together to see how they clicked since they both seemed so easy-going. Like humans, cats have a wide range of personalities, so finding compatible roommates is both an art and a science, which many of the Wayside Waifs staff and volunteers have mastered. Lester, 8 1/2 years old, was introduced to Oreo, almost age two, in his larger room, Cat Fish Cove. They bonded quickly and soon were grooming each other, wrestling and sleeping and snuggling together. Humans should be so lucky to find soul mates like this!

Lester and Oreo, a bonded pair

Lester and Oreo, a bonded pair.

A family fell in love with the pair, and now Lester and Oreo are happily settled in their new forever home.

The medical report on both cats explained their condition: FIV  “is an active viral infection results in immunosuppression of the infected individual resulting in an increased susceptibility to secondary infections with other pathogens. The virus is spread through direct contact, although unlike FeLV (which is spread through prolonged intimate contact, such as grooming) FIV is more commonly spread through bite wounds. The virus is not a hardy virus, meaning it dies quickly once outside the body – making spreading via fomites, such as food bowls, unlikely. Positive cats can live long healthy lives as long as any secondary infections are treated properly. However, due to the contagious nature of the disease, they should not live in multiple cat households unless the other cats present are also FIV +.”  

Here’s a great article explaining FIV in non-medical terms: FIV: Catching a Bad Case of Rumors

Why This Vet Thinks FIV Positive Cats Make Great Adoptees.

Before Lester was moved into Oreo’s room, he would wait at the door of his hug room, hoping for attention. Because he is FIV positive, he wasn’t allowed to free roam or interact with other cats, unless they were also FIV positive.

At Wayside Waifs, Lester and Oreo were very happy together, and easily entertained each other, but they still liked human company. They’d often come to the door for some attention when someone passed by.

Lester and Oreo love to wrestle.

Lester and Oreo, a bonded pair

7 Comments

Filed under Animals, Cats

Tomato Plant Troubles

From the top left, clockwise: The tomatoes we brought to Colorado, where they ripened; damage to the tomato plant in the yard (what ate the stems?); the first ripening tomatoes; a squirrel claimed the first ripening tomato and then abandoned it; my husband’s tomato plants in pots on the deck.

Some gardeners can stick a tomato plant in the ground, and a month or so later are harvesting dozens of tomatoes.  I’ve rarely harvested a decent tomato, no matter what I did, but I keep trying.  This year my husband and I had some success!!! There’s nothing so delicious as a tomato you grew yourself. 

My first problem is that I always choose to live in shady areas. I love trees more than growing tomatoes. I have a sunny spot in my current yard, though, which gets sun about seven hours a day.

Some of my past tomato problems: No tomatoes form until the season is almost over; blossom end rot when tomatoes did form; split skins; squirrels bit into my tomatoes; deer ate the stems and leaves; and tomato horn worms ate the stems and leaves.  I’m still dreading finding a hornworm every time I check my plant.

But I’m glad I didn’t give up. I grew one tomato plant in our flower bed.  My husband planted the same type of tomato in two pots on the deck with a little less sunshine but better soil in the pots. We didn’t do a scientific comparison, but I think his plants produced a few more tomatoes per plant than mine did.

After weeks of no baby tomatoes, I bought some plant hormone, which I sprayed on the flowers.  Soon some tomatoes appeared. I don’t know whether it was coincidence or due to the hormone spray. Anyway, this year we got tomatoes!

The tomatoes started to ripen at about the time we planned a nine-day vacation to Colorado. We picked the reddening tomatoes, wrapped them in newspaper and took them with us to Colorado, where we ate our garden tomatoes every day! While we were gone, our daughter checked on our house, watered the plants, picked the tomatoes, refilled the hummingbird feeder and brought in our mail. We came home to a lot more tomatoes!

How Much Sun Do Tomato Plants Need?

 

How to Keep Deer Away From Tomato Plants.

In a previous year, this tomato hornworm (Hawk moth) grew very large eating my tomato plant!

11 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Life