CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Chicken, Kale And Bean Soup

Some people are calling kale the new spinach. (Pound for pound kale has up to 120 percent more vitamin C and 150 percent more vitamin A than spinach.)

Others are calling it the new beef. (Kale is richer in iron, fiber and omega fatty acids than beef.)

And still more are calling it the new bread and milk. (Kale is the the new must-have snowstorm essential.)

I don’t care what people are calling kale. It’s become one of my favorite vegetables for another reason. Not only is kale packed with vitamins and minerals whose health benefits are indisputable, it is very versatile.

If you have any doubts, just ponder this: Kale chips are a great on-the-go snack that are easy to make. The addition of kale to an iceberg salad makes it a nutrition dynamo. And in the case of soup, it goes great with most other vegetables and any number of meats, including chicken and sausage.

And that brings me to today’s recipe, Chicken, Kale and Bean Soup. With two kale plants in our garden that are big producers and a pile of leftover chicken, soup seemed like a logical choice.

That’s what I call a no-brainer!

Chicken, Kale and Bean Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly minced garlic
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (more or less, to taste)
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (more or less, to taste)
1 15.8-ounce cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.8-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

4 cups water
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped into about 2-inch pieces
2 cups fully cooked chicken, cut up or shredded
2 slices bacon, diced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Shredded Parmesan cheese for topping (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add garlic, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans, chicken broth, water, kale, chicken and thyme. Stir well to combine. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until kale is tender, about 5 minutes.
Serve topped with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Yield: Serve 4 to 6.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 45: Life Is A Garden, Friends Are The Flowers

The riotous beauty of the daylilies has me feeling that I’m somewhat neglecting the glory of my hostas, so today I’m featuring the front yard.

As I’ve written in the past, I’m no fan of lawns and mowing, thus we’ve converted nearly every foot of our yard to beds, including the front yard.

The sight in the first few years was not good, but I had a vision. It started with the removal of the pitiful grass under the shade of the Red Oak Tree and the delivery of two very large rocks, one for Christmas and the other my birthday present, eight years ago. Then we started hauling in smaller prairie rocks ― lots of ’em. We used our trailer and a ramp and the wheelbarrow. We kept the neighbors amused, no doubt.


Then, I started with about a dozen hostas or so each year. I’ve recently learned this about hostas: the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap. It certainly does take patience, but this year they are spectacular ― all 126 varieties.

Here are some of my favorites:

The ones shown below were just tiny sprigs when I received them in the mail, and it has truly taken patience to see them become worthy of their names.

And what the heck, I’ll wrap this up with some of the latest daylilies:

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Baseball: Best Of Times Or Worst Of Times?

The All-Star Break has come and gone and baseball junkies can go back to their daily fixes this weekend as a full schedule of games resumes Friday. But the annual downtime in mid-July has again ramped up discussion about the general state of the game.

Just by chance, I attended the Minnesota Twins’ final game before the break. It seemed to fittingly represent so much of what’s good and bad these days about “America’s Pastime.” Does that longtime slogan still apply or has baseball passed its time?

My first hint that the game might be in trouble came the night before, when my son, Pat, turned down the offer to join me at Target Field. Pat played both high school and Legion ball, still loves watching Twins’ games and seldom passes up the chance to get a beer and a brat with his old man.

But on this occasion, the game conflicted with soccer’s World Cup final. Like a lot of millennials, Pat has caught the bug for that “other” football. It has global appeal, offers a faster pace than baseball and is really taking off in the Twin Cities now that a major league team has arrived. There’s even a new stadium close to completion.

Having better luck with someone closer to my demographic, I convinced brother-in-law Jim to join me, as the Twins took on the middle-of-the-pack Tampa Bay Rays on a warm, muggy Sunday afternoon. While Jim likes the game, he only attends occasionally, so I privately hoped the home club would put on a good show.

What followed was a mixed bag of pros and cons I could never have imagined. So let’s begin with one that somehow qualifies as both:

Jim was immediately impressed with Target Field’s amazing amenities. Countless food options include a new “Bat and Barrel” restaurant with big screens, numerous locations to sit in air conditioned comfort and avoid the high heat index, plus endless great spots to stroll around the stadium and still get a clear view of the day’s action. In fact, the Twins have done such an efficient job of appealing to the casual fan,  few are sitting in the stands. With so many choices other than baseball, it also appears debatable how many are paying attention to the action on the field.

What followed was a four hour and 38 minute marathon that included 18 runs, 14 walks, two bench clearing confrontations, a costly Rays’ balk related to a defensive shift and ultimately, a thrilling walk off grand slam by the Twins’ Brian Dozier. The Rays used nine pitchers and the Twins six. Tampa Bay started a reliever who only pitched two innings. Minnesota used their closer in the fifth inning. And, oh by the way, there was also a controversial video review of a play at the plate that left Twins’ fans skeptical of an “out” call that went against the home club.

During this time, Jim and I consumed two Polish sausages, two beers, a bag of peanuts and two Gatorades. We made four visits to the restroom, three walks around the park and discussed both in-game strategies and family vacations.

As we walked out of the stadium with dinner time approaching, Jim called it one of the “most exciting” games he’d ever attended. I agreed. Then again, we’d both contemplated leaving just minutes before. Such is the state, of a sport struggling to determine its identity while still trying to attract a wide base of followers.

 PRO: Stadiums have never been more interactive and fan friendly. Selfies, Twitter responses, quizzes and kiss cams are all ways for spectators to get noticed on the big screens.

CON: Too many of these distractions have separated fans from the game itself. Attendance is down for all but six of the 30 Major League teams in 2018. Even winning teams are seeing dwindling numbers.

PRO: Aware of its slow pace, Major League Baseball has made attempts to speed things up. There’s a running clock when pitchers take the hill, a limit of six mound visits from coaches and the waiving of four wide pitches for intentional walks.

CON: None of these cosmetic efforts has made much difference. In fact, the average game now lasts more than three hours, as batters step out frequently, pitchers shake off signs and lengthy challenges eat up minutes.

PRO: Baseball has tried to stay pro-active, with heavy reliance on analytics, defensive shifts based on statistical data and video replays to make sure umpires get important calls right.

CON: Traditionalists doubt the validity of analytics. Defensive shifts have created declining batting averages since most hitters fail to adjust. And even with numerous angles and slow motion replays, calls remain controversial and often drag on far too long.

PRO: Even the innovators and forced to look for an edge against teams with bigger budgets, teams like Tampa and Minnesota have smartly experimented with relief pitchers as starters or exaggerated shifts against dangerous pull hitters.

CON: The divide between the haves and the have-nots is getting worse, not better. Already in late July, the five American League playoff qualifiers look fairly predictable. Wealthy MLB clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers all own good records and are poised to add key pieces for the stretch drive.

PRO: Baseball was wise to select young, rising stars for its’ recent Home Run Derby in Washington, D.C. Bryce Harper and his pitching father winning it at home didn’t hurt, either. Throw in the live interviews with fielders during the All-Star Game and the 10 homers launched that night and the pros scored big points with young viewers.

CON: Baseball’s silly blackout rules and unwillingness to share streaming video rights have limited their social media presence. So they shouldn’t be surprised when megatalented Mike Trout is still far less recognizable than stars like LeBron James or Tom Brady.

I’ve seen some of the suggestions for improving baseball: Shorten the game to seven innings. Ban the shifts, so sluggers can rip impressive shots in the hole and increase batting averages again. Put a runner on second base to help end extra inning games quicker.

Call me old school. But I hate all of those ideas because they water down an already beautiful game.

What has always attracted me to the sport is probably what keeps many from finding it appealing:

  1. I love the leisurely, unpredictable pace of a game with no clock. But that doesn’t mean 10-inning games need to last 4½ hours. If you want a faster game and must have restrictions, keep hitters in the box, force pitchers to work quicker and limit the actual number of pitching changes.
  2. I miss the spontaneity of a questionable call. I miss the managers and umpires going toe to toe. Use the technology if you must, but make the decision in a minute or so and live with it. We’re finding that, in all sports, there are plays that will never be clear-cut no matter how many ways we dissect them.
  3. I hate the overdependence on the long ball. Yes, home runs are eye-catching and majestic. But teach and embrace the nuances of the game we’ve gradually shifted away from. Base stealing is way down. Bunting is a lost art. Would you rather encourage inflexibility by banning shifts and encouraging strikeouts or make adjustments to an always changing sport?
  4. One of baseball’s greatest attractions has always been its personalities. I remember nicknames like Walt “No Neck” Williams. “Stan the Man” Musial. “Charlie Hustle.” Make the promotion of your most colorful and talented players your highest priority, regardless of the price. Make your product more accessible and be less greedy.

Those of us old enough to remember the Twins’ Game 7 of the 1991 World Series will undoubtedly recall the level of drama that played out that night. Many consider it the most exciting game in team history.

Interestingly enough, there were no home runs. The Twins used only one pitcher. A well-executed bunt helped set up the winning run. Defensive shifts and video challenges were not employed.

Twenty-seven years later, analytics are a smart and natural progression of the game. Advanced technology is a good thing, too. Fan-friendly stadiums and faster forms of communication all come with the territory.

Is baseball in trouble in 2018? Not necessarily. But the caretakers of the game need to remember what made it “America’s Pastime.” Taters and technology are terrific.

But I’ll still push for pace, performance and professionalism.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Campaigning On The City’s Nickel

What is $104,000 to you? Recently, the president of the United States visited Fargo to support a political candidate. That’s approximately what his stop here cost to the city.

Mayor Tim Mahoney had raised the question of the cost of presidential visits. When the total for the frankly political visit was revealed, Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and John Strand raised serious questions.

When the president comes for an official state visit, as opposed to a political rally or fund-raiser, the citizens rightly foot the bill. When his visit is for partisan political purposes, however, the cost ought to fall on the party he comes to support.

Commissioner Tony Grindberg was quoted in the media saying that the expenditure was “insignificant” in its overall cost to the city. In dollars and cents, that may be true when you’re looking at the entire annual budget. But then you have to ask yourself: How many of these so-called “insignificant” costs should be passed on to the citizens without a breakdown?

Strand and Piepkorn were right to question the cost and Mahoney was right to ask for the numbers. But once presented, we saw no profiles in courage on the City Commission. Instead of simply moving on to the next topic, it should have set a date for citizen input and open discussion.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager that neither of our two political parties wants to pay for their opposition’s campaign expenses — not here, not in Duluth a few days earlier, and not in Grand Forks later this month, when the vice president stops in to stump for the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Whatever political party you support, I do think it’s a matter of common sense how such large sums are spent accommodating officials’ highly partisan appearances. State visit — we pay. Political visit— the party should pay. Of course, enforcing that might take common sense, an item in short supply nowadays.

* * * * *

A patriot is defined as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against its enemies or detractors.”

Treason is defined in 18.U.S.Code S 2381: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort with the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned for not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Former CIA chief John Brennan minced no words Monday when he accused the president of treason. The president was in Finland, standing side by side with President Putin while he attacked, demeaned and insulted the Mueller investigation and the FBI, the CIA and in fact all federal law enforcement and investigative agencies.

The undisputed fact is that the president of this country, while on foreign soil, attacked his own country while supporting a Russian dictator. This isn’t a political issue. It is an issue of American security. All Americans should view the facts and come to their own conclusions.

To call the Mueller probe a “witch hunt” ignores the true facts including the number of perpetrators charged, the number who have pled guilty, the number cooperating in the probe and the fact that just last week 12 Russian citizens were charged with crimes. The investigation is ongoing and must be allowed to proceed, regardless of where it leads. Draw your own conclusions.

After watching the notorious news conference of the president and Putin on Monday, I ask you: Where are the leaders of our Republican and Democratic parties? The president’s own party ought to be up in arms about what he said about and to Putin. They ought to be further outraged by his treatment and comments he made about our nation’s loyal allies!

I also watched the video in dismay as our president disrespected the elderly queen of England during his visit to London, walking in front of her and blocking her. It was a complete lack of manners, both American and British protocol.

Last but certainly not least, his attacks on the media shake the foundations of our country. Without a free and unfettered press, democracy will die. Every time I hear his favorite term “fake news,” I (figuratively speaking) want to punch someone in the snout. Print, radio and TV news reporters endanger their lives, and sometimes die in action, bringing us the very real news every single day of the week. God bless the media and all they do for us. Amen.

RON SCHALOW: The Traitor, Tariffs And Toddlers

“SHUT UP, Stan, or I’ll do something drastic, you meathead” screams Orville. “Another one, bartender.”

Stan stands by a stool for a minute, to let his eyes adjust to the low bar lighting. He sits and says, “I like where your head’s at, Orv. Preventative attacks never turn out bad. I’ll take your spasm under advisement. How many quarts of Smirnoff have you drained today? Just curious. Say, did you hear that the president is a traitor? He kissed Putin on the lips, and it went downhill from there. I think Vlad might have a case for assault.”

“The black one?”

“I’m not sure what color this Trump fellow is,” answers Stan. “It varies. Coke please. He has a hunk of asbestos on his head, so the dude isn’t up to code. I know that much. His load bearing walls don’t look like they are bearing the load. His chins are causing downward stress. I’m thinking of being outraged, but this president has been giving me spinal taps. It’s strenuously oppressive. Do you give a rip?”

“Not unless it’s the black one,” snorts Orv. “I think I voted for this Trump guy. Everything is fine. Probably made up by lib!#&*s, like you.”

“Could be. The cameras caught him smooching Putin’s bum in high definition, though. There was some outside the pants fondling. Nothing illegal in Finland, evidently. If Trump had dropped his pants, the whole affair wouldn’t have been more shameful. I hope Putin was wearing protection, so he can be poisoned at a later date, when we hate Russia again. A Trump STD. Can you imagine? Superbug city.

“Vlad still gave the big kid a soccer ball after being groped. Little Donnie was delighted and touched by the gesture. His mascara ran like a mountain stream, polluted with precious clean coal mine dust. The trout love it.”

“I told you to shut up, Stan. That stuff never happened.”

“Oh, it happened. There were 8 zillion witnesses. Some vomited in midtreason but were able to keep Saltines down for the replays and got the whole ugly Trump experience. Would you consider Putin to be unconventionally handsome? I need to know.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“I have no idea,” admits Stan. “Ugly, maybe. I was hoping you would know. I think Vlad looks like an Idaho russet. A polished one. Maybe a Yukon gold spud. You look like a unconventional sugar beet, past its prime. You know, Orv, I taste gasoline every time you take a sip of vodka. Ethanol, maybe.

“I could handle high octane corn squeezins when I was younger, during the best unremembered years of my life. but not anymore. My liver goes berserk, if alcohol touches my lips. A half-thimble of pot seems to synchronize my innards and help the pain a little. I have to smoke it in Cheney’s bunker, though. It’s inconvenient to my retirement lifestyle, but my gastrointestinal system demands continuity. Believe me.”

“I don’t want to hear about your stupid insides, you loopy pothead. And I was there for your wonder years, you souse.”

“Too late, dude, and former souse. Say, Orv. Did you ever put your kids in cages and make them eat liver? Kennel up, brats.”

“What!” screeches Orville. “Of course not. Why would you ask me such a thing? Bartender. Stay close.”

“Trump still has thousands of kids in cages, and I was wondering if you thought that was a good idea. Personally, I’m against the practice. Kevin Cramer says chain-link fencing can’t be a cage, but that’s an old timey Russian wives tale. You can’t squeeze through those holes. I should know. You just get diced. Only the jaws of life can get a guy out of a chain-link cage. Or some good metal snippers. An acetylene torch might …”

“We don’t put kids in cages, Stan. That’s stupid talk.”

“Well, we do now. Cocoa-tinted ones only as far as I know. It’s in all of the papers. Their parents are kept in another state, so they can’t speak to each other in code. Some say it’s just Spanish, but I can see Trump’s point. Toddlers shouldn’t be exposed to more languages than he knows. I’m not sure he has a handle on the one, for certain. Anyway, Don has no sympathy for short brown people. It could be his motto, or one of his golf course rules. The Aryans don’t feel comfortable around most types with clubs. A two-iron can open up a hell of a crack in a human skull. Take a look at this scar above my √”

Orv gets twitchy. “Shut up. Shut up. Shut up. Fake news, but if they were Mexican, or the sort, they likely had it coming.”

“Geez, Orv. There’s steam coming off your face. It’s not attractive. Where do you get your news? There’s no reading going on in this light.”

Orv waves his old arm. “From Ed. He’s sitting over there. You can’t see him unless he lights a heater. His Old Spice, mixed with BO, will drop a guy to his knees. He’s very knowledgeable. Ed used to lay bricks, when he could lift things.”

“Ed, huh?”

The bartender butts in. “Now President Trump is saying that everything he said said yesterday in Helsinki, was the opposite of what he actually meant.”

“Of course. The old switcheroo,” sneers Stan. “I should have seen that one coming. I’ve had the old switcheroo pulled on me so many times I was starting to feel stupid. I’ve wasted so much time and money before the switcheroo kicked in.

“This Trumpoodle lie don’t hunt, though, on account of the cameras I was telling you about, Orv. He’s still a traitor, and a poor dinner companion. Butter hogger. You know the type.

“So, Orv, if a traitor put one of you kids in a cage, when they were young, what would have been your measured response? Quick death? Slow death?”

“No one would have dared. And you’re the liar, you stupid Commie.”

“Quick death it is, then, comrade. You own a lot of dirt, Orv. And a bunch of delicious critters, some of them in kid cages. How do you feel about the traitor’s tariffs? Are you hysterical about them, like our congressman says?”

“Tariffs? What tariffs?”

“On stuff like soybeans, pork, steel, aluminum and a thousand other items,” explains Stan. “Evidently, and keep in mind that this is the sophisticated trade expert thinking of the traitor, we’ve been getting screwed by most everyone, including Canada. Anyone familiar with the Trumpanzee would automatically know this is nonsense, but the trade war is on.”

“Canada? Colder America? I don’t believe it. And I don’t care. I’m rich, and the government still direct deposits money into my account. I’m set.”

“And when you die, you’ll already be embalmed. Well, thank you, Orv. It’s good to know how the mind of a Trump cultist works.

“This reminds me of a story. Years ago, a niece and I were riding in the back of a car on heading west on main in Bismarck. She was as spitting mad as a 3-year-old could be over something. We drove onto the bridge, and I said, ‘Look! Look! It’s the big Missouri River.’ She shouted, ‘No it isn’t.’ This went back and forth until we were in Mandan. But the river was there, so I should have won something. She remained irate. And we never put her in a cage,”

“Stupid story, you pinko.”

Well, it’s lunchtime. I’m going to jump blindly into the sunlight and hope my retinas can block a seizure. At least nibble on a lime wedge, Orv. Even mole people need sustenance.”

“Screw you, Stan. I hope you flop around on the sidewalk like a mackerel.”

“Never change, Orv.”

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 44: Daylilies, Daylilies, Dayliles … And A Bunch Of Voles

The daylilies are coming fast and furious, accompanied by a fierce outbreak of mosquitoes. I have 189 varieties of daylilies. My sister, Beckie, and I collect these and together we have 225 varieties. We also belong to the Bismarck-Mandan Daylily Club and have great fun together at the annual auction.

On Sunday, my absolute favorite of all of the 189 burst forth with its first blooms: Wide Wide World. There will be weeks of pleasure from this plant, which I strategically placed right next to my patio for maximum enjoyment.

In the vegetable beds, Jim has so far trapped 15 voles, so he is triumphant. The magic formula turned out to be half a peanut superglued to a mousetrap, and he runs his trap line twice a day. The photos below show the initial crop of new potatoes and the damage the varmints can do if left unchecked.

He also spends a good portion of his time harvesting vegetables. The cucumbers are coming on big and pickle-making will commence any day now. His special thrill was discovering that his pepper crop is ripening early this year. Peppers are tricky to grow here in the north country and last year, he had to ripen these in brown paper bags, late in the autumn.

Below is a gallery of some of the newest daylilies to open, along with a few zinnias for good measure.

Further in Summer than the Birds –

Pathetic from the Grass –

A Minor Nation celebrates

It’s unobtrusive Mass –

No Ordinance be seen –

So gradual the Grace

A pensive Custom it becomes

Enlarging Loneliness –

‘Tis Audiblest, at Dusk –

When Day’s attempt is done –

And Nature nothing waits to do

But terminate in Tune –

Nor difference it knows

Of Cadence, or of Pause –

But simultaneous as Same –

The Service emphacize –

Nor know I when it cease –

At Candles, it is here –

When Sunrise is – that it is not –

Than this, I know no more –

The Earth has many keys –

Where Melody is not

Is the Unknown Peninsula –

Beauty – is Nature’s Fact –

But Witness for Her Land –

And Witness for Her Sea –

The Cricket is Her utmost

Of Elegy, to Me –

Emily Dickinson

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — My Favorite Cemetery

Accompanied by Dorette’s son-in-law, Paul Kuhns, I’m heading to Paris next week to attend the International Hemingway Conference. I also expect to visit again the most famous graveyard in the world, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, established by Napoleon in 1804.

The cemetery is huge ― 110 acres ― with more than 1 million individuals buried there. Most were ordinary folks. But people from around the world come to see the final resting places of an unusual number of famous artists, writers, musicians and other public figures.

No, Hemingway is not there (look for his grave in Ketchum, Idaho). But Marcel Proust, the author of “In Search of Lost Time,” is. Dorette took this picture in 2005 of me paying respects at his grave.

I’ve long been fascinated with both of them. Hemingway goes back further in my reading history.

As for Proust, I took John Updike’s advice that it’s best to read him in your 40s because it takes that long to accumulate experiences that will make the novel most relevant to your own inner life.

And it was, in fact, at about that age I became obsessed with all 1,267,069 words of the “Search,” all of which I still compulsively read once a year in English translation.

There are many interesting graves in the cemetery. American authors Gertrude Stein and Richard Wright are there, as well as U.S. rock star Jim Morrison, who receives more public attention.

Nearby is Irish writer Oscar Wilde.

Among others are Sarah Bernhart, Frederic Chopin, Georges Bizet, Isadora Duncan, Eugene Delacroix, Dominique Ingres, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (better known by his stage name Moliere), Sidonie Colette, Amedeo Modigliani, Yves Montand, Nadar, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Georges Seurat and Simone Signoret.

Tourists receive a free map. I like its closing comment, presented in seven languages:

“And now, let the pages of history turn to the rhythm of your footsteps, and the baroque monuments still you with their gentle poetry, leading you into a quietness propitious to meditation.”

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Roll On Down The Highway

Travel really does open your eyes. After 2,500 miles on a bus last week, Russ and I arrived home with a far deeper understanding of what really, truly matters in life.

Bathroom breaks.

We weren’t sure what to expect of our first guided travel adventure aboard a motorcoach. One thing we knew for sure: It couldn’t be worse than air travel. After our last journey aboard the flying cattle car that calls itself United Airlines, preceded by a self-propelled adventure with a GPS gone rogue, it couldn’t be all that bad.

We dipped our toes in the water with a weeklong expedition to Ontario and the Upper Peninsula. Our group included three dozen adventurers, many of them newbies like ourselves. After our first day on the road, we began to recognize the qualities that make the best traveling companions: A taste for coffee, a gift for laughter … and full-throated endorsement of frequent “comfort breaks.”

I can only imagine what’s on the minds of witnesses at travel plazas and fast-food emporia as they watch a bus like ours pull into the lot. As it barely pulls to a stop, dozens of intent women and men spill out with just two matters on their minds: Thirst … and urgency.

Our vacation was fueled by coffee. I’d say we averaged about 180 miles per cup.

Our expedition quickly fell into a familiar routine. We’d sip aboard the bus for an hour or two, then pull off the highway for refills. But before we could test the local brew, our buzzing swarm of moderately anxious passengers would attack the doors and make a hasty beeline for the facilities. Only after we’d waited restlessly in the queue, then flushed, were we ready to reload our traveling tankards of java and browse the menu for a tempting bite of something you’d never catch us eating back at home.

Travelers really need a “Yelp”-style review site for roadside bathrooms. I’d propose a five-star system, ranging from “life-changing” — for spacious multi-stalled facilities, regular paper refills and those hand dryers that put out a hot-air blast like a rocket booster — to the bottom rank, reserved for one-holers where you have to ask the cashier for a key.

Fidgeting in line, my female friends and I had deep discussions on what kind of builder could think it was a good idea to install women’s rooms with such a paucity of plumbing. We’re sure it was a male.

I don’t want to leave the impression that all we thought about was bathrooms. Far from it. As our comfortable bus rolled down the highway, some chatted. Some napped. Most, though, took advantage of the on-board Wi-Fi. In lieu of the landscape, we were glued to our digital devices. That meant other things occasionally crossed our minds … like plug-ins.

Our lively corps of vacationers leaned toward — how can I say this nicely? — the furthest margin of middle age. Never let it be said, though, that we disdain digital doodads. The first question volunteered as we boarded the bus for the first time was whether it had Wi-Fi. The second: Can we top off our batteries while we’re rolling?

We tired travelers were not the only ones who needed to recharge by nightfall. Each night, after Russ and I had finally managed to convince a new key card to unlock another door, we swept through our temporary quarters inventorying electrical outlets. Believe it or not, our noncyborg selves needed a total of seven to sate our electronics’ appetites, what with smartphones, Kindles, tablets, a FitBit, a laptop and a pair of hearing aids. Had Russ not forgotten his camera’s battery charger, we could have used eight.

That was fine in modern establishments, including the newest of the lot, where a pair of outlets was built right into the headboard. It was a bit more problematic at the quaint old inn on Mackinac Island; there, even the wiring had a vintage feel. To fully recharge the lot by dawn, we were forced to unplug the TV — a solution bound to solve more than one problem.

The best part of travel, they say, is learning to see the world through new eyes. The best souvenir of all is disembarking from the bus with that fresh perspective: Home is where you never stand in line to use the toilet.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

For years, I’ve watched our local police departments warn the public about the penalties that attach to the illegal use of fireworks. An offense has been clearly defined. A specific penalty has been set (subject to a judge’s discretion). And then … we have a law that is not a law!

“A law that is not a law” is one that is on the books but is not enforced by police and is ignored by the public.

Worse yet are the poppycock explanations we hear every year. Politicians don’t seek enforcement because “it’s not their job — that’s the job of the cop shop.” Then the cop shop tells us that fireworks are on the “low end “of their enforcement.

Low end, my rump. The actual reason violations are ignored is because they don’t generally enforce the existing fireworks law.

Don’t get me wrong, I like fireworks as much as anyone, with the exception of the explosive ones — those that blow up and disfigure your face, blow your fingers off, blind passers-by and so on. You get the idea.

So let’s see what happens, and to whom, when the fireworks (noise) ordinances aren’t enforced. People are killed or maimed or kill and maim others, with personal injury lawyers taking care of business. Fireworks can burn down houses, damage entertainment venues such as nightclubs, frighten children, cause brush fires and terrify pets and wildlife.

Noise from fireworks can cause distress in adults, too, especially those that sound like gunfire. The deafening noise can also cause tinnitus and deafness or aggravate nervous conditions. People who suffer from asthma may experience discomfort. Epileptics can experience seizures following fireworks displays.

And consider veterans or anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many things aggravate PTSD, but fireworks are at the top of the list. Not only those who’ve been on a battlefield suffer from this condition. Police and emergency personnel do, too, as well as individuals who’ve gone through personal trauma. One loud bang can bring back horrible memories.

Every kind of pet — dogs, cats, birds, hamsters — has a terrible time coping with the explosions. Imagine the distress of their counterparts living in the wild.

There are plenty of reasons for citizens to call the police because of fireworks violations. Most don’t share all the reasons that they called. Nor should they have to.

Every fireworks complaint ought to be treated as a call from someone who needs help. It needs to be investigated. Drive-bys in police cars don’t do a thing. The moment the car is out of sight, the explosions continue. Casual enforcement — or none at all — is how it has always been. But now we have more reasons than ever to require that each call be treated seriously.

If some officers were given an overtime option around the Fourth of July, and if they ticketed the violators every time they saw an incident, you can bet the farm that the number of scofflaws would shrink the next year. If you kept up regular enforcement up for a few years, chances are good that the need for extra enforcement would decrease in a few years.

A bonus: The fines violators were assessed would pay for the stepped-up enforcement. The revenue would go into the city tills, and the result would benefit the entire city.

Wouldn’t it be nice if those who love to set off their fireworks would think about others who might be impacted? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all thought about those most in need instead of only ourselves? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a law … one that was actually enforced?

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone considered the rights and needs of their neighbors? Damn straight, it would. Amen.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 43: The Daylilies Enter The Stage With A Bang

Now is the time when all of our hard work in the gardens of Red Oak House pay us with the joy of abundant blossoms and fresh vegetables. We’ve eaten the first of our tomato crop ― all juicy and scrumptious, along with fresh peas and beans. Now are the days of meals we call “nothing from the store.” Meanwhile, Jim is busy trapping a vole outbreak before these ruin our potato crop.

The daylilies have entered the stage with a bang. Their abundant blooms salve my displeasure that most of the zinnias have been consumed by slugs. Here is a gallery of some of my favorites from this week.

The winner for today was Happy Returns daylily, with 42 blossoms!

Wednesday, I counted 31 blossoms on Itsy Bitsy Spider daylily.

Although their beauty is more subtle, the hostas are blooming, too. What a great time of year it is.

“Each day you must say to yourself, Today I am going to begin.” ― Jean Pierre de Caussade