Borrego Springs, CA

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wrapping up the year

My last post left you in June at Tamarac NWR in Minnesota.  As it turned out, I still had more than three months left in my tour of duty there.

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Tamarac is another jewel of a refuge, and I enjoyed all the blooming ladyslippers along with all the birds I was surveying.  On my days off, I did the tourist thing in the area and in Fargo, ND.  I found a candy store that made chocolate covered sponge candy and chocolate covered potato chips.  That in itself was memorable.

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Then there was the malt shop and the Breadsmith store.  I make my own malts now, but I can’t wait to get back for some of those hearth baked breads.  I was able to visit kids and grandkids in Rochester twice during the summer, and perhaps they’ll be able to make a trip up to visit me next summer.

I had the pleasure of having four other bloggers visit, and how could I forget Mr. Smith the fresh vegetable grower?  Since the temps up there were 27* below zero yesterday, I wonder if he has put a shirt on yet.  Disappointed smile  My plans were to leave toward the end of September, but fate stepped in to decide otherwise.  The nice part about that was I got to enjoy the beautiful fall colors while worrying a bit about snow coming.

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All was not fun and games though at Tamarac.  The challenges began with the wood and deer ticks soon after my arrival.  Next was the mosquitoes.  Same say they are Minnesota’s state bird.  Winking smile  Early on the bears played havoc with my bird feeders, a horrible storm made toast of my outdoor screen tent, and I ended up aggravating my shoulder as the result of painting 200 sign posts.  Then the refrigerator broke, there was the government shutdown, and I was stuck by myself on 40,000 acres.  The leaves turned, and the invasion of the Asian beetles began.  I’m still finding those buggers crawling out from who knows where on warm days even after three months.  These little things keep life interesting though.

I need to apologize to Bob and Linda for including them in the collage of challenges.  I some how missed including them in the last collage.  I certainly didn’t feel they were in that category…really, I didn’t. Thinking smile

74 On the way to Bayou Cocodrie 20132

It was about the middle of October before I could finally head south to my next assignment at Bayou Cocodrie NWR in Louisiana.  I had to make that trip as quickly as I could because of my late departure, so not much time was spent visiting areas.  I did find two good campgrounds that I’ll visit on my way back north next spring, and I took a little time out at the Tom Sawyer Campground to enjoy the tug boat traffic along the Mighty Mississippi. 

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As you may remember, Bayou Cocodrie was a great disappointment to me, and I had to turn down that assignment.  Luckily, Stephanie had room for me here once again at Anahuac NWR along the Gulf Coast of Texas.  I’m now back in the land of birds and alligators and cattle drives for my sixth time.  I’ve already had a number of visitors, so life is good to finish out the year.

That’s a wrap for me for this year as 2014 is a little over five hours away.  Fireworks are a big thing here in Texas so I’ve wrapped Emma in her thunder shirt to help her get through ‘til midnight.  Happy New Year everyone!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, December 30, 2013

It’s about that time…

… to once again look back and reflect on Emma’s and my experiences this past year.  I find the best way for me to recall most of what happened is to look at all of my photos that I took.  So, as in years past, I hope you enjoy my walk down memory lane.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-13As 2013 began, I was volunteering at Okefenokee NWR in Georgia, but in less than a week of the new year I had to move off of the refuge to Okefenokee Pastimes Campground.  My brother Kurt (aka Nurse Ratchet) arrived from Arizona to help me recuperate from a total hip replacement surgery at Mayo Clinic in Waycross, GA.  I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t been there to help me.

71 Okefenokee NWR 2012-131

After a month, I returned to the refuge and went back to work.  I enjoyed all of the wildlife that is abundant in the great swamplands and long leaf pine forests of the refuge. ‘Oke’ is surely a special place and a wonder.

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At the top of the list, of course, were all the enjoyable times spent with family, friends, and fellow volunteers and bloggers.  The grandgirls each came for a sleepover in the rig, I and friend Jack held a wild baby alligator in our hands, and my sister Pam helped me with taking ‘flat Joey’ on some adventures.  In this time, I was finally able to retire my cane and begin walking naturally again.  Yahoo!

72 On the way to Tamarac NWR, MN 2013

In the middle of April, I left Okefenokee to make my way to Scott, LA, for annual maintenance work on the rig.  While at Thibodaux's RV, I also had some new MCD shades installed and got new ‘shoes’ for the motorhome.  A costly stop, but necessary.  Then I was on my way to journey to northern Minnesota.  Along the way I got stopped in Arkansas a couple of times due to the weather, but that allowed me to meet up with another blogger, Carolyn, and the sister of Janna.  I did some sight seeing along the way, and battled wind storms as I got into the Dakotas.  They were strong enough to unravel my awning as I drove along.  It was a challenging journey.

73 Tamarac NWR, 201340

After several trials and tribulations, I eventually made it to Tamarac NWR in the middle of May.  The snow was barely gone when I arrived, and a week later my friend Jack arrived for a visit.  We spent a couple of days finding all the ‘big things’ we could in the surrounding area that are listed in Roadside America.  That was fun to have some company for these outings.  Thankfully, Jack is up to these kind of crazy outings.  We even went to another snazzy place to eat!  No Waffle Houses in this neck of the woods.  Winking smile

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May and June were spent doing bird surveys and battling ticks.  Each night I was lulled to sleep by the trumpeting of the swans.  I had to take the bird feeders in each night because of the bears, but it was worth it to spend time in another of our most wild and beautiful places.

That only gets us half way through the year, so I guess I’ll continue tomorrow on the eve of a new year…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A mystery solved

Yesterday and today, I worked the hunter check station on the refuge.  The staff member, Kay, that runs the station has to get there before four in the morning to check the hunters in.  That’s way too early for me, and I also prefer not to drive in the dark, so I leave the rig around 8:00 to drive the 15 miles over there.  My main job is to help with the identification of the birds and to assist with the gizzard removal documentation for mottled ducks.  That means I’m most needed when the hunters are done, and coming off the refuge.


I was a little late getting there this morning. Disappointed smile  Sunday seems to be a popular day for cattle drives along FM 1985, so the best thing to do is just pull over and wait for it to pass.  At least they were coming toward me this time.  I seem to usually get stuck behind these drives which means I can only chug along about 3 mph, and get to experience the joy (?) of fresh cow pies gushing under the tires.


It wasn’t long before I was engulfed by the moaning and groaning and plopping herd.  This was the view out the front windshield.  Fortunately it was a smaller herd so I was soon on my way once again.

It was a simply gorgeous day weather wise today, with bright blue skies, no wind, and surprisingly no mosquitoes.  However, that usually means a slow hunting day, and that’s how it turned out.  With the bright sun, I did get to take some different kind of photos today.  I centered on taking pics of the beautiful feathers of some of the birds taken.  The hunters are generally proud of their accomplishments and are more than willing to give me time for photos and show off their birds.


On the home front, yesterday the refuge’s assistant manager/game warden followed me back to the rig after the hunting was over for the day to see if he could help solve the problem of the low water pressure our rigs were experiencing.  After detaching the hose and pressure regulator, we were able to determine that there was plenty of water blasting out of the underground connection.


So, I decided to replace the pressure regulator with a new one.  After checking the faucets inside the rig, it didn’t make any difference…it was still just a trickle out of the faucets.  We tried the same thing with Bob and Terry’s rig with the same results.  If Bob took the pressure regulator off of his hose, the water flow was good, but not so in my rig.


The staff member left, and Bob and I just had to scratch our heads.  We both decided it was safer to leave the pressure regulators on, because no one wants to blow out the plastic water pipes in the rig should full pressure somehow resume.  With a shrug of his shoulders, Bob returned to his rig, but this mystery just plagued my mind.


After dark, as I was playing a computer game, and staring at the kitchen faucet, a light bulb finally lit in my brain.  I grabbed a pair of pliers and unscrewed the sprayer.  Sure enough, it was clogged with sand-like granules.  I then did the same thing with the bathroom faucet, and it was even worse.  I then tried each faucet, and it was like Niagara Falls!  Open-mouthed smile


I called Bob and told him what I found, but his faucet thingies were clean.  I think the fact that both of us had problems on the same day just threw my thinking off.  At any rate, all is well now and it’s another lesson learned.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 27, 2013

An expensive afternoon

Along about 5:00 this morning, Emma started pacing around and woke me up.  In the six years she’s been with me, she’s only done this a couple of times so I knew I’d better stagger out of bed to take her out.  I just slipped on my Crocs and grabbed a sweatshirt, but I was too late.  She had an accident on the carpet.  I took her out anyway, and she needed it.  I sure wish dogs could have their accidents on the tile rather than the carpet.

Anyway, it turned out to be a dreary chilly overcast day, so I decided not to work.  I had a list of two things to accomplish at home today.  One was the dreaded vacuuming, and the other was to check my pressure regulator on my water hose.  The last day or so, the water pressure at the rig inside faucets has been dwindling.

Since I’m  close to being a professional procrastinator, I didn’t immediately jump to these two tasks.  After all, I had to read blogs and comments and such first.  I appreciate the concern that many of you have expressed about my shoulder.  I want you to know that I have been doing PT exercises all along and am only babying my shoulder as far as reaching overhead until a week from next Monday.  I certainly don’t want my shoulder to freeze up.

Early this afternoon, fellow volunteers Bob and Terry returned from their holiday visit with relatives, and Bob soon was knocking on my door.  It seems their water pressure is next to nothing also.  I tried calling a refuge staff member about our problems, but of course very few staff are working until the new year begins.  They have to use up their vacation days by the end of the year or lose them.  It’s a rather common occurrence at many refuges at this time of year.  So, who knows when this will get looked into.

As far as the vacuuming is concerned, I did my best to clean up the area on the rug with a spray I have for pet stains and odors.  Of course, that means a wet carpet, so I’ve decided it would be foolish to vacuum until the carpet is dry.  Perhaps tomorrow?  I told you I was a good procrastinator.

That brought me to late this afternoon, and I got thinking about Janna’s comment about the Zoomba robot vacuum cleaner.  It’s hard for me to get my mind around a robot vacuuming my rig, but I finally decided that you can’t take your money with you, so I bit the bullet and ordered one.  It had been lurking in the back of my mind especially since my shoulder problem, and the decision reminded me of one made over 40 years ago. 

My younger brother Kurt (Nurse Ratchet) was back from serving in Vietnam and selling Rainbow-Air Vacuum Cleaners.  Though it was very expensive for a new couple starting out, we purchased one from him and I really never regretted it.  I hope it gave him a little commission, and it served me well for many years.  I hope the Zoomba will do the same.

I don’t often get in a shopping mood, but today seemed to be the day.  After ordering the Zoomba, I looked online for some socks.  In June of 2011, I went to a Navy Commissary with my daughter Robyn and purchased some Thorlo walking socks.  They have been the best socks I’ve ever worn, but the tops are getting rather fagged out and falling down to my ankles.  They’re not cheap either, and between the two purchases, I may have to start thinking about getting a job!  Surprised smile

Several readers asked about a recipe for the raisin gravy I made for Christmas.  So, here it is.  I score the ham and put whole cloves into the cross sections of the scoring.  I then pat several handfuls of brown sugar on the outside of the ham.  Put the ham on a rack in the pan, put a cup or two of water under the rack, cover it all with tin foil and bake at 325*.  About an hour before the ham is done, toss in two good handfuls of raisins into the drippings.  After removing the ham, stir in some cornstarch to make the gravy and there you go.  Easy-Peasy! 

I’m off for two days of working the hunter check station this weekend.  I guess I’ve kind of rambled on tonight.  Oh well, that’s the way it is for me…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rather ordinary days

It’s been a bit since I posted, but it hasn’t been very exciting around here.  I did have a doctor’s appointment on Monday for my shoulder which resulted in a cortisone shot.  It’s improved some, but certainly not back to normal yet.  I’ve been advised not to lift my right arm higher than my shoulder for two weeks to give it a rest.  I’ve found that easier said than done.  I have to consciously think about it all day since I’m right handed. 

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Half of the RV volunteers left the refuge for the holiday to visit with friends and family.  That left five of us here, and I invited the two other couples to join me for a Christmas dinner at the bunk house at the Winnie facility.  Get a load of this refuge bunkhouse!  Bunkhouses are usually for college interns and visiting fire crews and other visiting staff.  This is the snazziest bunkhouse I’ve ever seen.  The kitchen is huge and has two ovens, two big refrigerators, two microwaves, and a dishwasher.  I was in a cook’s heaven.

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The second floor of the bunkhouse has all the bedrooms, and a balcony that overlooks the ground floor.  After living in my motorhome for seven and a half years, I felt a little giddy with all the counter space available.  Rolling on the floor laughing 

I had a couple of ulterior motives in having the dinner here.  I was providing the ham and mashed potatoes.  That meant two things to me.  First, I got to keep most of the leftover ham to make some ham and bean soup, ham sandwiches, and a second ham and potato meal for tomorrow.  And then there was the gravy.  Whenever we baked a ham when I was growing up, my mother made raisin gravy.  I love it.  Because I was providing the ham, I made raisin gravy too. 

The other volunteers brought cranberry salad, green beans, rolls, a very tasty pineapple bread pudding type of dish, pumpkin bars, and Christmas cookies.  As always happens at these gatherings, there was really enough to feed an army.  It was all very delicious, and when I got back to the rig Emma was pleased to have some of the ham and gravy mixed into her dry food.  Another raisin gravy fan!


Today it was back to the grindstone, as I had to do this week’s waterbird surveys.  Most of the ducks, geese, and herons that I count are far off from the truck and I view them through my spotting scope.  However, I did find this juvenile black-crowned night heron lurking in the reeds close to the gravel road. 

IMG_5358I haven’t decided if I’ll ‘work’ tomorrow or not.  I really should force myself to do some vacuuming.  I hate housework!  I just don’t understand why Emma isn’t bald with all the black hair that accumulates on the floor.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, December 22, 2013


While I was refilling my small spray bottle in the bathroom today, I got to thinking about fragrances.  I have some definite favorites, and a number of not so favorites.

One of my favorite fragrances is the age old Jean Nate After Bath Splash.  I spray myself liberally with it every evening after bathing before going to bed.  My PJ’s and sheets always smell wonderful to me.

It’s getting more and more difficult for me to find Jean Nate.  About the only place I’ve been able to get it is Walgreen’s.  It also brings back pleasant memories to me of my kids growing up.

If they couldn’t think of anything else, they always knew giving me a bottle of Jean Nate was the perfect gift for Christmas or my birthday. 

Back when I was a teenager and working in the ‘Loop’ of downtown Chicago at Wieboldt’s department store, I discovered a fragrance that I fell in love with about the time the Beatles descended on the world.


That fragrance was “Tweed”, and was imported from London, England.  Pretty snazzy for a high school girl!  While my sister Pam doused herself in “Evening in Paris”, I sparingly used Tweed.  It was rather pricey for a kid making $1.15/hour. 

A not so funny story, to me at the time, about Tweed happened when I was in my late 30’s.  I had to see a gynecologist for a little problem, and as the rather mature doctor walked into the examination room he exclaimed, “You’re wearing Tweed!  It so reminds me of my grandmother!”  Disappointed smile  Well, I’m a grandmother now, so I proudly spray on a little Tweed for special occasions. 

I don’t wear it often as I’m usually living in areas with goodly numbers of mosquitoes around, and they seem to be really attracted to perfumes.  It has also become very difficult to find these days.  I think the little I have left was ordered from the Vermont Country Store about a decade ago.  (I told you I use it sparingly)

A few of my other favorite fragrances are fresh ground coffee (even though I never drink the stuff), freshly mown grass, lilacs, and the sweet smell of little babies after their baths. 

Then there’s the other side of the coin.  At the top of that list would have to be the smell of diesel fumes, canned tuna, and frying lamb chops.  They all immediately turn my stomach.  Of course right now, the number one hated fragrance for me is the innards of mottled ducks.  But I have good news on that front.  As suggested by some readers, I put a glob of Mentholatum under my nose this weekend each time a mottled was brought in, and it worked!  I didn’t toss my cookies even once.  Nyah-Nyah

Well, that’s about it for tonight.  Anyone willing to share their favorite and not so favorite fragrances?

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, December 20, 2013


“B”- This morning, as usual, I took Emma on her first outs, and then settled in to read blogs as I had my breakfast.  Most days when I go to my ‘dashboard’ on Blogger, I have a little trouble.  For some reason, the list of the blogs I follow doesn’t appear, and I get a message that I don’t follow any blogs.  Instead I get some blogger update.  Today it was about monetizing my blog.  Usually if I refresh the screen, the blogs show up, but today I refreshed it 15 times to no avail.  What a pain.  I don’t understand this glitch or know what to do about it.  Anyone else have this problem?


                                                                          White-faced Ibis

“C”-  Yesterday, I participated in the Christmas Bird Count on the refuge.  The predicted fog didn’t happen, but the skies were overcast with a few sprinkles along the way.  For the sections I had to count the birds on, it was a busy time.  I had a helper with me that did the recording, and we ended up seeing around 10,000 birds.  For  many years, thousands of volunteers across the Americas have gone out on a scheduled day around Christmas to count all birds found in designated circles that are 15 miles in diameter.  Some folks get really competitive about this count, but I just enjoy being out and about and don’t spend much time trying to find rarities.  I think the numbers of expected species are more important for this ongoing study.  It seems to me that if there were a drastic cut in a species that has been normal, it would be a better indicator of a problem than having some rare species show up.  That’s just my opinion of course.


                                                                              Great Egret

“S”- is for shoulder.  I’ve been having some trouble with my right shoulder for about six months now.  Last Monday, I called for an appointment with a recommended orthopedic doctor in Baytown, TX.  That appointment will happen in a few days.  I’m hoping just a cortisone shot and some physical therapy will do the trick, and I’ll soon be pain free and have full use of my right arm.  In the back of my mind lingers my problems with my hip that resulted in surgery last year.  It seems the right side of my body is rejecting me for some reason.  I just hope I don’t have to put out an emergency call to Nurse Ratchet once again.  Sad smile


                                                   Three gator babies sunning with their mom.

“H”- Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll be working the hunter check station with Kay.  Donna Cave had a suggestion to put Vick’s Vapor Rub under my nose to combat the rank odor that occurs when the gizzard is removed from the mottled ducks.  That sounds good to me.  I don’t have any Vick’s, but I do have ‘Mentholatum’ and that should work about as well I’m thinking.  I do want to remind you that I have declined actually doing the gizzard removal, but I’m right there handling the paper work that goes with each bird.  Kay has no problem taking out the gizzard as she was raised on a farm and is used to slaughtering many chickens.  Confused smile  Growing up in Chicago, I got my chickens at the IGA!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fog changed my day

I woke up to some pretty heavy fog this morning.  I had planned to start my bird surveys early, but if you can’t see the birds you certainly can’t count them.  There was a RV volunteer work day scheduled to clean the Connex today.   That was something I was hoping to avoid.  I don’t know why it’s called a Connex , but it’s a big storage unit that reminds me of a 20-25’ long railroad car without wheels.  There was all sorts of stuff inside of it, and not very organized at all. 


                                                                           White-faced Ibis

We ended up with more than a pick-up load of garbage for the dump along with quite a few pounds for the recycle place.  Some of the stuff had been moldering away in there for over five years.  Stephanie, the volunteer coordinator, hates to throw anything away, so it was a good thing there were five of us old geezers to show her how to down size.  Winking smile


                                                                  Northern Shoveler drake

By 10:30, we were finished, and the sun had burned off all of the fog.  Still plenty of time to do my surveys, so off I went.  Today seemed to be a green-winged teal day for me.  I found them in six of the seven survey blocks, and one of the blocks had at least 1200 of them. 

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In between counting and documenting all of the waterbirds, I get a chance to observe some of the species close up.  It’s always interesting to me to see what they’re doing.  This gadwall spent quite a bit of time grooming himself.


                                                                  “Ah, that feels better!”

Tomorrow is the Christmas Bird Count on the refuge, and I’ll have to be to the VIS by 7:00.  Since the VIS is over 20 miles away, that means I’ll have to set my alarm for 5:30.  Yuck!  I think it’s going to be just as foggy tomorrow as it was today, so I think a 9:00 start time makes more sense.  I’m just a worker bee though, so that decision is out of my hands. 

Guess I’d better make a lunch to take along before I hit the hay tonight.  I don’t want to have to think about doing that so early in the morning.  Disappointed smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Had a little problem this morning

For the next six weeks or so, I’ll be working at the hunter check station each weekend.  I’m mainly there to help the new ‘brown shirt’, Kay, with the identification of the species of ducks and geese that are taken.  She’s not a birder, and is coming into this job cold.  She didn’t even know what a mallard was before this weekend.  It’s been two days of a very steep learning curve for her, and I must say that she is really doing well.


                                                                       Gadwall (male)

It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me too, as I’m used to identifying waterfowl through binoculars or a spotting scope while they’re alive and vibrant.  Seeing them lifeless and hanging by their necks in a bunch changes how they look to me.  I’ve found that check station operators mainly go by the colors on their wings and how the beak looks; whereas I’ve always viewed the bird as a whole and not by it’s parts so much.  It’s just a different way of looking at things.

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Although, I must admit that with a female Northern Shoveler, it’s the beak that’s a definite give away regardless of what the body looks like.  The local hunters call these ‘spoonbills’ or ‘bootbills’ or ‘smiling mallards’.   Not to be confused with Roseate Spoonbills or Mallards.  Confused smile  Kay has to learn the local lingo too.


Yesterday began the second half of the duck season here on the refuge, and for the last ten years or so the Friends of Anahuac Refuge group put on a Chile feed for the hunters.  The day dawned dark and very foggy.


That meant a good day for hunting.  Lots of hunters got their limits, and really appreciated the hot meal.  You can see how they were all lined up at the close of the hunt around noon to check out.  There’s a limit each day as to how many hunters can enter the refuge, and they must indicate where they are going to hunt when they check in at 4:00 a.m.  Where they can hunt is also regulated so the number allowed in each area is limited.  That’s why they line up so early (as much as 24 hours ahead) so they have a chance to pick their favorite spot.


That’s Kay checking out a party of hunters yesterday.  She records how many birds of each species are taken.  If you look closely, perhaps you can see the ducks hanging around this hunter’s neck.  The hunters aren’t always sure what exactly they’ve shot, so it’s important to give them a little education as they check out. 


                                                                Mottled ducks on the wing.

A species of special interest here is the mottled duck.  Over time they’ve been declining in numbers in their range, so hunters are only allowed to take one/day.  As I’ve said before, when a mottled duck comes in, we ask permission from the hunter to remove the gizzard and left wing of each of these birds.  Several readers have asked why we do this, so here are the reasons.  The wing is taken to determine the age of the bird by studying the colors of the feathers in detail.  The gizzard is taken to find out the levels of lead in the bird’s system.  Lead levels may indicate one of the reasons for this species’ decline in numbers.  Birds eat grit like little stones and things to aid in digestion, and ducks may pick up lead shot and ingest it.  The gizzard is where that grit is located.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that the smell of opening up the bird to extract the gizzard is a most pungent odor.  Some birds are smellier than others.  That’s where I had my little problem today.  One bird was especially rank, and after a few minutes of breathing in that fragrance (?), I thought I was going to lose my breakfast.  I had to get outside into the fresh air and inhale deeply.  Sick smile Oh my goodness!  That was a little embarrassing, but discretion was the better part of valor today for me.  I think we need a fan to move the air around a bit in that check station!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy