Penguin Army
Happy Holidays
Caledonia, MI, USA
December 2008
(You can click an image to see a larger version of it)
Moffat Family in 2007

Hi Everyone

Winter has arrived here in Michigan – actually it arrived a few weeks ago with temperatures  below freezing, snow, and a huge freeze in the American economy. Thankfully, despite all the doom and gloom in the American car industry, right now Lisa’s Delphi Corporation plant is still open and she still has a job there. Hopefully the knuckleheads at the car companies, the Government and the United Auto Workers union will figure something out to prevent this from all crashing down. Since General Motors is still Delphi’s largest customer, as well as providing support for Delphi’s former GM workers, it’s hard to imagine that if GM goes away, Delphi will last more than a few minutes longer.

Jane and Lisa

We had several visits to Meijer Gardens this year – including a first for us – a night time visit to see the butterflies. That was interesting as instead of them flying around they were mostly hanging on various trees trying to sleep while people shined lights on them. We went with Kurt, Ann, Kyle and Zoe that night. We also went later in the year when Jim, Kim and Katherine came for a visit. Roger had a visit there with Jane Fletcher – a daughter of friends from New Zealand who stayed with us for a couple of days as she travelled across the USA on her way to Europe. And we also had a visit with Goldie, Jacob, Bailey and Brenden when they were visting from Georgia.

Rocket with Parachute

Early in the spring we volunteered again at the local Science Olympics as judges for the bottle rocket contest. This involves students designing and making a rocket based on a plastic “pop” bottle that is filled with a mix of water and compressed air and launched upward by the air forcing the water out the opening. The winner is the rocket that stays up in the air longest. The students devise all sorts of methods of trying to keep the rocket up in the air. Parachute mechanisms are common, but the day’s winner was a group that designed their rocket very long and light. When it reached the top of its flight laid it over on its side and floated so gently back down it outlasted even the best deployed parachute.

Mrs Mallard Duck

In early Summer a mallard duck decided that she wanted to build her nest under a large rose bush that is about 10 feet (3 m) from our garage. There was much activity there and eventually 14 eggs were laid. But over a period of a few days we noticed that most of the eggs had disappeared – a critter of some sort was coming at night and taking them. The likely suspect was a raccoon, who we had several of around the place until a concerted effort with a live trap reduced their numbers, (and hopefully eliminated them altogether!!).

Finally the water garden in front of the house is finished, and over the summer became home to 2 water lilies, 18 goldfish (which by attrition became 8 goldfish) and several frogs and toads.

Toad with his tongue out

Cecropia MothAnother interesting nature event happened in June when Roger noticed a large moth, apparently just hatched from its chrysalis, while he was mowing the lawn one afternoon. It turns out that it was a Cecropia Moth, one of the largest moths in North America, just out of its chrysalis on one of our small oak trees. It was about 4 inches across the wings (the wooden stake beside it is about ¾² (20mm) square).

One event we have participated in for several years now is the annual “Relay for Life” 24 hour walk to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Of course we don’t walk for 24 hours, but are part of a team headed by cousin Ann who does try to have someone from the team walking for the whole 24 hours. This year’s event was punctuated by some very severe weather soon after it started. Those of us who were there were ordered off the walking track to take shelter inside the school gymnasium while violent thunderstorms went over and about 2 inches of rain fell – and it was about 90°F (30°C) so very unpleasant weather. One of the highlights of the walk each year is the lighting of the luminaries – paper bags named and decorated for cancer survivors and cancer victims with a candle inside them to light Joan's Luminaire bagthem in the dark. Each year Lisa’s bag in honour of her Mum’s survival is a work of art, and unfortunately each year the bag ends up catching fire when the wind blows it. Next year we have plans to make it last, including having battery powered candle lights inside it instead of a real candle. Later in the year we participate in the “Annual Walk for the Cure”. This is for breast cancer research, again on a team organised by Ann, herself a breast cancer survivor. This is a 5km walk through downtown Grand Rapids again to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

At the end of May we set out on this year’s big trip – driving to Newark, Delaware to visit Minor and Mary Lee for a small Porch Party with Anne and Steve from Baltimore. Then on up the east coast, through New York, to Bar Harbor, Maine where we stayed with Steve and Jane for a few days while helping them out with this year’s fundraiser put on by some of the inn-keepers in Bar Harbor. It was held at Cleftsone Manor which is one of the few Victorian era “super-rich persons houses” built on “Millionaires Row” that survived a big fire in Bar Harbor in 1947. The theme was the 1920s with Prohibition, so we had arranged a door with a peephole that people had to knock on to get entrance to the “Speakeasy”. Jane and Mindy excelled themselves with excellent food. Lisa and Roger dressed up nice and mingled with the guests, and Roger took lots of photos of the guests and events, including a “raid” by the local policemen dressed up as 1920s era FBI agents who came to arrest the inn’s owner for liquor violations. The handcuffs were real police handcuffs! Lisa’s dress for the evening was a replica she had made of a dress her grandmother Evelyn had made for herself to wear as her wedding dress when she married Harvey Christensen in 1927. It fit perfectly with the 1920s theme of the fundraising evening. Lisa has also made miniature replicas of this dress for Kathy, Zoe and Kayla for their American Girl dolls.

View from Cadillac Mountain out over Atlantic OceanLady Slipper OrchidWhile in Bar Harbor we managed to “waste” an afternoon trying to find the path of the long defunct Green Mountain Cog Railway which went to near the top of Green Mountain (now Cadillac Mountain) in the first half of the 1880s. The line was removed sometime afterwards, but evidence of its path still remains, mainly in the form of large iron spikes driven into the rock that held the tracks to the side of the mountain. Once we found the line of these we were able to follow them well up to the top. Next year we need to find where the line left from Eagle Lake, and then knees permitting follow it all the way to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We also managed to find some of the Lady Slipper Orchids that were blooming on Cadillac Mountain near one of the hiking trails on the mountain.

The Clan Moffat Society AGM was in Chicago this year – the closest one we’ve been to in 11 years of attending – just a 3 hour drive away. It was very hot there the day of the Highland Games. The “highlight” of this year was the unknown idiot who was smoking in the room of his non-smoking hotel. Around midnight he set off the hotel’s fire alarm. Once we’d woken up enough to realise what the awful electronic noise was about, there were Moffats in various stages of dress and undress assembled in the car park for 20 minutes or so waiting for the fire brigade to arrive and tell us it was OK to go back inside.

Fuel Delivery on Mackinac IslandJuly saw us at Uncle George’s house for a few days for the biennial Christensen family reunion – AND it was George and Bev’s 50th wedding anniversary. After that we headed north to Mackinaw City with Kurt, Ann, Kyle and Zoe; Jim, Kim and Kathy and Joan for a few days, including a day out on Mackinac Island. There are no cars on Mackinac Island. Tourists either get around on foot, which we did, or bicycle, which we also did or by horsedrawn transport. Even deliveries around the town are done with real horse power.

Unfortunately our time there was cut short by a phone call from the neighbour telling us that he’d just discovered our power had gone out and the basement had flooded. The battery powered emergency sump pump had given out as well (its battery was close to dead, and the pump itself barely working). It turns out that just our power (none of our neighbours) was out. It was about 10 hours before he discovered it. This was the worst flood we’ve had, covering almost all of the basement floor with water. The power was restored and the pump running again by the time we got home around midnight. This started a massive cleanout of the basement over the next days and weeks. A lot of wet cardboard boxes and old computers were recycled, more shelves and raised flooring was put in to get things off the floor. A whole new battery powered emergency sump pump with a massive new battery was installed. Hopefully this won’t ever happen again, but when it does at least we hope the new battery system will run long enough to prevent such a mess again.

August saw Uncle Roger and “the kids” on their second annual trip to Greenfield Village. This year it was Kyle, Zoe, Kathy and Kittima. Kittima is an exchange student from Thailand staying with Kurt and Ann for the school year. She is a senior at Byron Center High School. The weather was much nicer this year than the rain of last year, so of course there were more people and the lines were longer, but we got a ride on most of the historic vehicles that are running around the village.

September saw us heading off to Oshkosh Wisconsin for the wedding of Lisa (not Christensen) and Jake. Lisa is Lisa’s cousin’s step-daughter. It was a great wedding, not marred at all by the unhelpful weather, and the surprise attendee was Kyle Sprouse (another of Lisa’s cousins’ children) back for 10 days leave from the US Army in Iraq. He arrived late in the day before the wedding. The trip back was interesting in that one of the major highways through Chicago was closed by flooding. We managed to get off that road onto another highway with seconds to spare and made it home another way. Kurt and Ann, about 30 minutes ahead of us on the road weren’t so lucky and were diverted off the closed road onto the local streets of south Chicago, some of which were also flooded, to try and find their way.

We have both continued to be involved in the Western Michigan Genealogical Society during the year, and Roger continues with various duties for the Clan Moffat Society, and has taught Lego Engineering at 2 different local schools after having passed a State background check that it was OK for him to be on school premises in contact with the children.

So here we are getting ready for Christmas again. As always this will be at Lisa’s Mum’s house and Aunt Carol’s house, with cousin Mary and her children Samantha and Mikey coming in from California, Mike and Joyce coming from Missouri and Ralph coming from Detroit.

Roger and Lisa PiratesDinner Club Pirates GroupOh yeah - we were still involved in Dinner Club too. Several themes throughout the year - perhaps the best one was Pirate Night. Others included Hawaiian Luau Night.





We wish you the best for Christmas, the Holidays and for 2009.