Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oh, Blah

Headaches are not my very favorite thing. It's been a beautiful sunny day and all I have wanted to do is sleep.

Friday, February 27, 2015

One Year Ago Today

We've reached the one year mark. It's been one year since Mom took flight and flew away to meet up with Dad in heaven. I'm not sure exactly how that works, but it's a nice to think about. I didn't spend the day in contemplation and, so far, there haven't been any tears, just a few memories in the midst of a busy day.

This morning I met my dad's cousin Gail for breakfast at Panera Bread. She insisted on buying my breakfast and as a RAK I didn't object. Sometimes we have to be kind by letting someone else have a turn at blessing. The restaurant was quiet during the morning. I ate my egg and cheese sandwich while she nibbled on a spinach and artichoke souffle'. We sipped coffee, shared stories, and looked at old wedding photographs. Before we knew it two hours had flown by and it was time to part ways. (It's not the best photo, but it's the best of the three I took.)

I did do my very own small Random Act of Kindness this week when I picked up my friend Joanne and gave her a ride to Ladies' Prayer and Bible Study. I'd received an email the night before that some of the woman who often go out to lunch after the study were bringing their own lunches to eat there at the church. When I packed up my own salad, I also packed one for Joanne. I even tucked a small bag of shredded cheese and another of chicken breast pieces inside of each container and tossed a couple of strawberry yogurts in on the side. She was blessed and so was I.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Mighty Matador

This morning I decided to read a chapter out of Otis Spofford to my grandchildren. It was about Otis and a friend dressing up as the bull in a presentation at school. My own children found the chapter hilariously funny, but I'm not sure these little guys fully understood bull fighting and so the story was somewhat lost to them.

I decided to look up some cartoon bull fights and give them an idea of what was going on in the story. We watched Disney's "Ferdinand the Bull" and another video where the matador was none other than Looney Toon's Goofy. (I didn't want anything to grim and gory...) (My husband has reminded me, in the comment section, that Goofy is also a Disney character. Now I am feeling a little goofy myself...) The boys soon had a little idea of what goes on in a bull fight, very little.

Of course, being boys, they decided to have a little bull fight of their own. I tossed Lucas a red dish towel and Simon was transformed into the bull. The bull tired of the game much faster than the matador and soon Lucas was left without a bull to charge him., so I did what any great and wonderful grandma would do. I put my hands down on the floor, pawed at the ground, snorted a time or two, and charged. This produced gales of laughter from the surprised bull fighter.

When my turn at being the bull was over, Simon decided to take another try at it, and for another five or ten minutes, my living room was transformed into a bull ring. Thankfully, there was little cleanup. (It was a very clean fight and there were no bull "leftovers" to pick up after the fight was done.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Colden Days

Today was the day to chase dust bunnies. I'm sure I didn't get all of them (I didn't even look upstairs) but I did chase a few and that is better than not catching any at all. (There are some parts of housework that are never noticed at all unless they aren't done, and dusting is one of them)

Wednesdays are (sometimes) Hannah Days. Once in a while she goes out without me, but sometimes we stay here together or go out running errands. Today, though we could have gone out, we did not. She chased dust bunnies in her room while I chased a few down here. I enjoyed her quiet company while tormenting her with my endless babbling. She tolerates me rather well, which is a very good thing. I love her eye rolls, raised eyebrows, and smiles and she doesn't seem to mind too awfully much when I laugh at her.

Our Deep Freeze of 2015 doesn't appear to be letting up much. I haven't heard the term "polar vortex" as much this year and it's been much colder than last winter. Our snowmen don't melt here, they just get blown away a few snowflakes at a time until they're all shriveled up like old people.

 On Sunday afternoon I made a mad dash for my camera because there was a bluebird sitting in the maple tree outside my living room window. "The Bluebird of Happiness" It made me smile in the midst of not feeling very happy. We all have bad days, but there are still plenty of things to make us smile, like bluebirds. And, in case you haven't heard we are expecting a new grandchild at the end of August, and my sweet niece, who has waited so very long to be a momma, is also expecting. So very exciting!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Gift of Two Mothers

Emotions have been running high lately. Dealing with crazed hormones should be enough, but this week also marks a year since my mom's passing. It was a year ago today that she started asking about "going home" and then started seeing and talking about family members who had already gone before her. I'm learning that sometimes tears lurk just below the surface and they will leak out when I least expect it.

 It's actually hard to believe Mom has been gone for a year already. It's been a long year of slow letting go, letting go of Mom and letting go of my own shortcomings. So many memories, so many things I wish I'd known, so many deep and heavy sighs...

A poem was shared the other day and I passed it on to my cousin who is just stepping into the role I stepped back out of a year ago. I wish I'd known about the "two mothers" years ago. Though I'm sure it wouldn't have changed the task at hand, it might have given me a little extra insight into what were actually "normal" changes that seemed so abnormal at the time. I barely got a chance to savor the second mom because I didn't know I'd been gifted with two...

Two Mothers Remembered 
by Joann Snow Duncanson

I had two Mothers - two Mothers I claim
Two different people, yet with the same name.
Two separate women, diverse by design,
But I loved them both because they were mine.

The first was the Mother who carried me here,
Gave birth and nurtured and launched my career.
She was the one whose features I bear,
Complete with the facial expressions I wear.

She gave her love, which follows me yet,
Along with the examples in life she set.
As I got older, she somehow younger grew,
And we'd laugh as just Mothers and daughters do.

But then came the time that her mind clouded so,
And I sensed that the Mother I knew would soon go.
So quickly she changed and turned into the other,
A stranger who dressed in the clothes of my Mother.

Oh, she looked the same, at least at arm's length,
But now she was the child and I was her strength.
We'd come full circle, we women three,
My Mother the first, the second and me.

And if my own children should come to a day,
When a new Mother comes and the old goes away,
I'd ask of them nothing that I didn't do.
Love both of your Mothers as both loved you.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Life As We Know It

Sometimes life takes us places we don't want to go and sometimes it dishes up stuff that tastes bad and is hard to swallow... Sometimes we wish the ride would slow down until our heads stop spinning, but that isn't the way life works. It's a roller coaster ride and we aren't allowed to get off until we get to the end of the tracks. No stopping to settle our stomach midway, and no deciding to get on a different ride altogether. You can sick along the way, but there's no getting off.

There was a brief break in the frigid temperatures this weekend, and a spot in my yard with just enough packy snow for a smallish snowman.I thought maybe My Darling would follow me out into the snow, but he didn't realize where I'd gone. I'm not sure he's into building snowmen anyway. When I returned to the house I found he'd decided to take a nap. By the time he got up I had finally come in and collapsed on the couch myself and our initial plan to go out for a ride never materialized.

Our snowbanks are getting hard to see over or around. Pulling out of the driveway is getting more and more hazardous with every pass of the town snowplow. The banks are high enough to hide a whole snowman body in!

The overnight wind and snow have already added "years" to the lives of my newest friends. "Motorcycle Man" looks like he's ready fall off of his bike and his eyes, that were bright and full of life yesterday afternoon, have grown dim. I'm afraid the winds are much to cold for an attempt at reviving his spirits today. I put his eyes on with spray paint and we have a wind chill of -17 F (that's -27 C). I could  could go out and give it a try, but I'm not feeling especially brave or adventurous this afternoon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness- Caught in the Act (Week 2)

This week I caught my across the street neighbor at an act of random kindness when I noticed him snow blowing and then shoveling out the fire hydrant between our houses on Monday. I'm not sure if in the other 14 years we've lived here that it's ever been shoveled out (it has a tall yellow stick to mark its presence...), but Dave is from the city and he has a different way of looking at things than us country folk.

I'm sorry to say his effort, though noble, didn't last long. We've gotten a ton of snow since and the snowplow has buried it once again.

For my part this week, I baked cookies and gave most of them away (to Ben, Sergio, and Nate) but made sure to keep enough to keep James and Hannah well supplied. And, fancy this, I shared my cookie recipe with a bloggy
/Facebook friend in Australia and she cooked up her own batch of Molasses Cookies. (These are Erin's cookies.) How cool is that?

Finally, I've been making a valiant attempt to keep both my fur and feathered friends fed. Probably because they're so much fun to watch... The bird feeder is well supplied and every few days I toss an ample amount of peanuts at the base of the tree. The birds like them as much as Little Red.

If you care to join the fun, post your own Random Acts of Kindness and hop on over to Betsy's and link up with the rest of us.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Icy Cold Winter Days

Please forgive the long and wordy blogs as I hibernate for a few days... :0)

Last night was slightly "blizzard- like" and we woke up this morning to several more inches of snow which are being swirled and hurled about. The drifts grow deeper while other spots are scoured clear, allowing brown bits of grass to poke through. Winter is a wonderful thing.

I think February is my favorite part of winter. Hurricane force winds howl, the lake churns up record breaking snowfalls, and we are all but forced to curl up on the couch with a good cup of coffee and a favorite blanket. When the winds die down and temps go up enough to face the outdoors with out fear of sudden and immediate frostbite, there are all kinds of fun activities to be had; skating, skiing, sledding, hiking, snow sculpting...

Lest you find me overly enthus- iastic, let me assure you, I have had my days of hating winter and vehemently bemoaning its existence. I found that to be totally unproductive and depressing. No matter how loudly I complained, February and half of March continued dole out massive amounts of snow and cold. There was nothing I could do to thwart what was meant to be. So, I decided to find something to love about it instead.

I love...
- giant snowflakes floating down
- deep drifts
- big snow shovels
- animal tracks in the snow
- ice on the lake
- silly snowmen
- whistling winds
- snow angels
- shadows on the snow
- cardinals at my feeder
- branches laced with snow
- warm mittens
- fire places
- hot drinks
- bright colored sweaters

I stay home a lot in the winter, and I don't feel guilty for it. I make soups and stews for supper. I read books, paint, and watch movies on TV. I pile extra blankets on the beds and enjoy the company of my cats. 

In the winter, every day is different. The wind and snow alter the landscape's appearance daily and sometimes several times a day. Ice on the lake freezes, and melts, changing the shoreline according to the whims of the weather. I love the excitement, but perhaps the biggest reason for loving winter is that it takes me back to my childhood when Dad went off to work in a blizzard and came home in one, when he piled extra blankets on our beds as we slept, when we would listen to the radio early on weekday mornings to find out if school had been cancelled. Mom would bake cakes or cookies, and we would play all day long when school was canceled. I just can't hate the cold of winter. It makes me feel too warm inside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Things With Wings

There has been a little drama unfolding in the old weeping birch outside my window. The tree itself is likely ancient and dying, but with it's faltering breaths is giving birth to all kinds of activity. The empty knothole where Little Red hides his stash of winter food was the location of a blatant robbery yesterday morning.

I was on my out to Ladies' Prayer when I spotted one of those beautiful bluejays that have been so evasive this year. They have redis- covered my generosity with peanuts, and have come to call, on Little Red. I didn't have my camera ready or I could have caught it all in pictures, that mean old bluejay perching at the edge of the knothole, reaching in, grabbing a peanut, and flying off. "Hey! That's not nice!" I yelled at him, but he paid no mind.

I bought a bag of "Critter Crunch" while I was out yesterday afternoon, filled a ceramic bowl, and placed it at the base of the tree where Little Red was sure to find it today. He did. And so did the bluejays. Not that I mind. Everyone is hungry on cold winter mornings

It's been a morning full of activity; bluejays squawking and Little Red running about trying to chase them away but not being very successful. I've seen cardinals, a red bellied woodpecker,  chickadee or two, and several of those beautiful, pesky bluejays. The quiet, gently juncos must be waiting until the crowds thin out.

Little Red finally gave up on the bluejays and decided to have some breakfast himself. Good thing. I'd have been really disappointed if he spent all his time trying to chase the birds away only to end up going hungry himself.

I was thinking perhaps I'd missed my calling as a wildlife photographer, but then I remembered all those little children whose pictures I've taken through the years, years when I either didn't have so much going on outside the window or didn't have the time to take notice. I only wish my mom was here to share the excitement with me. In their later years both Mom and Dad had enjoyed the wildlife in their own backyard. Maybe my fascination means I'm starting to grow up too. Or maybe not.

Either way, I'm thankful for the gift of feathered and furry friends who remind me that if His eye is on the sparrow (and little squirrels), I can be sure He's watching me too.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Frozen North

Quietness... Aside from the occasional sharp, piercing bark from Sofie or the ring of the phone. 

I took some pictures on this coldest of days, but "cold" really doesn't show up in a photograph. 

It was bearable today when the wind wasn't whipping and it wasn't.

 We're running low on firewood now... Good thing the oil tank for the furnace is full.

 I made tracks through one of the deepest drifts. It was up to my knees.

 Sofie was not amused at my photo taking this morning...

The drifts by the house were up to my knees, but the grass is still visible here where the Naked Snowman Club is gathered.

 Wind whipped snow. I'm wondering if this is where the kids made tracks last week.

And there's my picnic table. Or the edge of it. Right there in front of the lilac bush.

And the back back. The house holds the tree up during ice storms. Once upon a time the tree was the gathering spot for children. It seems a long time ago and yet just yesterday too.

Have a Cookie?

Here they are, Erin...

Molasses Cookies (my favorite)

3/4 c shortening (I used part butter)
1/4 c molasses
1 egg
1 c sugar
2 t baking soda
2 c flour
1/2 t gr. ginger
1/2 t gr cloves
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt

Melt shortening in 3-4 qt saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and cool. Add sugar, molasses, and egg. Beat well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Mix well. Chill. Form into ball and roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet (or parchment paper) 2" apart. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

Note: I add another 1/2 c flour to my dough because, unlike my mother's perfect, thick and chewy molasses cookies, mine typically want to spread out and be flat little pancakes.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

No Church Today

The little church here in town canceled services for today. No Sunday school, no morning meeting, no evening service. Blowing snow and a -25 degree F wind chills aren't kind to those brave enough to venture outside.

I've not done any serious grocery shopping lately, so this morning I took inventory of my food stash. Ben said he was coming over this afternoon and I wondered what kind of victuals I might fix. I found a can of sweetened condensed milk, and another of cherry pie filling, to go with a package of cream cheese waiting in the fridge. A box of crunchy granola bars from Target got crunched up and made into pie crust. (They tasted like crunched up graham cracker bars to start with.) Chicken soup, loaded up with carrots, celery, and onions, is simmering on the back burner. When the time is right I'll add some frozen spinach and a box of leftover rice form our Chinese take-out the other day. Maybe I'll even bake up a batch of biscuits to eat with butter and some of that honey my darling got from his bee keeper friend. And maybe a batch of those way too yummy molasses cookies like mom used to make.

Orville the Trick Fish swam his last stroke and was transported to the Pond Beyond on Friday night. I wonder if he might be doing back floats in Fish Heaven? No more searching the fish bowl and making determinations as to whether or not he's still alive. Yesterday morning I sent him off on the Porcelain Express, soaked the bowl with bleach, and filled it up with water for those crazy cats of mine. And you know, a fish bowl without a fish is just... well.. a bowl full of rocks, so I added a fish just in case anyone should ask what it's still doing on the shelf.

The cats are happy lazing about the house these days. In another month (or so) the snow and cold temperatures will have moved on and spring will be on its way.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Snow Day!

We got a blizzard for Valentines Day! Well, it looked like blizzard conditions for part of the day. The wind is still whipping the swirling snow into drifts that block the driveway. My Darling has already been out with the snow blower twice.

 Big, fluffy, white flakes falling fast.
Piling up on branches,
Obstructing our view.
Transporting me back in time
To days of walking home from school in a snowstorm.

It wasn't exceptionally cold this afternoon. I went out on the back porch for a minute and the snow almost made me feel giddy. I should have grabbed my boots and mittens, tossed my jacket on, and gone for a walk. Instead I snapped a few photos while I waited for the dog to do her business and then went back inside where I snapped a few shot through the windows.

I hear it's going to be a good night for snuggling with temperatures at record lows. Hope you've got someone to keep your feet warm tonight!