Tag Archives: Whole Foods

Day 1 of Mary’s Excellent Adventure: Riding the rails

My husband is a ferroequinologist, which basically means that he is a rail fan…AKA, train nut. When he helped our daughter move to Wisconsin, he was thrilled to return home via Amtrak. So when it was my turn to visit her, I thought I would drive. He — tactfully — showed me photos of the train. What finally sold me was the observation car and the promise of reading uninterrupted for eight hours.

So it was that we were on the road at 3:30 a.m., heading to the Toledo Amtrak station, where we found a lot of equally bleary-eyed travelers. Kind of like this…except he was sad not to be joining me.


Amtrak is notoriously late, but we left only 40 minutes after the scheduled time. The hubs instructed me on the boarding process so I quickly found my seat on the upper level of the car. Lulled by the gentle movement, I conked out almost immediately and woke up two hours later. Two hours later, we reached Chicago, where I was met by my brother- and sister-in-law, who entertained me with a stop at a thrift store and lunch at Whole Foods.





Boarded a new train at 3:30, but had to wait for a train from New York that had just arrived 6 hours late. Eeeeesh. More reading, but mostly sleeping off and on, with one eye open for the person taking reservations for dinner. My husband had made me promise to experience the dining car despite the fact that I’d be seated with three strangers. This is when my innate snoopy nature pays off — I have NO qualms about making conversation.

Just before 5 p.m. I made my way unsteadily toward the dining car, where I was seated with a 73-year-old divorced man traveling from Cleveland to North Dakota to see the daughter he hadn’t seen in 8 years, and a 50-something woman traveling with four friends, all of whom were seated together across the aisle. They’d been on the road for 10 days, traveling by train from Minneapolis to Buffalo, where they rented a van to drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Stowe, VT, then back to the Twin Cities by train.

The fourth seat was taken by a gregarious guy in his mid- to late 40s. The two of us generally monopolized the conversation, mostly because I kept asking him questions and he was game to answer. He’d first attended college in Thailand, where he met and married his first wife, a “spoiled brat,” with whom he has two children now in their early 20s. He owns 10 semis and contracts with auto dealers to transport cars. He was returning from having driven a new Volvo to the new owner in VA. Curious, I asked where he lives…he owns a house in the Philippines, where his pregnant wife and their six-year-old stepson live. He hoped to return in a few months. Neither of the other two seemed at all interested in learning our conversation and they took off as soon as they’d eaten.

As for the food….suffice to say that I’d choose differently next time.

Soon after we ordered dinner, Martin the Talker pointed out the window. We were heading into a DARK storm. My only thought was to wonder what happens to a train in a twister.


That brought a very quick storm of driving rain before the sun returned. Martin and I shook hands and went our separate ways. Still trying to recover from two hours of sleep the previous night, I conked out again and woke up a few minutes before we reached my final stop — La Crosse, WI.


Oh, but we can MAKE it for much less

Long ago on a shopping trip with my mom, Queen of “Oh, we can MAKE it for much less”, I spied a dress that I really wanted. All I remember is that it was brown. But for some reason, I really liked it, so she pulled out a pad of paper and began drawing as she checked out the dress front and back. I probably sighed and rolled my eyes. Did we ever make that one? Beats me.

Back then, I just wanted to buy it. I probably understood the value of money — I just didn’t appreciate it. Eventually, that penetrated my brain — probably when it was my own money. I no longer cringed at the term “homemade.”

So you see, if there is one thing I’ve learned from my mom it’s that homemade is often better. This applies in a number of areas: clothing, food, household items.  This is why I blame her for the fact that I can’t just make a decision to buy something; I have to look at it, think it over and then mull over the possibilities of how I could make it better. This is not a bad thing to have learned from one’s mom. Some might label us cheap. I like to think of it as a good use of one’s resources. And cheap. Very cheap.

This habit has served me well over the years. Just think of how bored I’d be if there were no projects sitting around waiting for me to get started and/or finish. There are, in my sewing room, at least 10 such projects underway. Okay, that’s a lie. There are at least 15. To my credit, I recently polished off a few of them.

For example, we have a butterfly chair that dates back to the late 60s. My parents built a study on to their house; this was my dad’s domain. It featured an orange cone-shaped wood burning stove, an ancient gigantic wooden desk that I think Dad resurrected from the old science building at the college. (The top of this is now my cutting table in my sewing room.) There was also the butterfly chair which began with a black canvas sling. Over the years, it’s been replaced in various colors, but when the previous one wore out, I decided not to buy one. Instead, I would make one using the old one as a pattern.

So I bought some lime green canvas about a year ago. Well, maybe 9 months ago. I started cutting the sling seat in May, but life and my abdomen got in the way — delaying work until last week. This is kind of like the bridge on Spring Street. It got started, delayed, started, delayed…and you get the picture.

Still, I finished my project. The bridge guys haven’t. My 40-year-old butterfly chair is back in circulation. And the cost? Oh, MUCH less than a purchased one.

Ike guarding the old cover, cut up to use as a pattern

New cover on 40-year-old frame

Which reminds me, a few years ago, daughter number 1 came home with some terrific fabric sling bags labeled “Whole Foods”. They hang over the shoulder and across the body and are terrific for the farmer’s market. Unfortunately, WF was no longer selling the bags. And I wanted one. Really wanted one. So…I took one apart, made a pattern out of old newspaper, and began making them out of random pieces of fabric. These bags have become my favorite gift and/or can be used as a gift wrap. As I was finishing up the butterfly chair, I noticed the bag pattern — it appears I have more to make.

Then…daughter number one just held out an old “Threads” magazine to me, commenting on how much she liked the shrugs made from a rectangle of fabric and two seams. Sort of. It’s a little more complicated, but basically that’s it. “Can you make me one?” Absolutely. I’m on it. That makes project number 16.