Monday, December 31, 2007

Seeing the Old Year Out in Style

Such fun! We always have old favorite things to do, and places to go, and there are new ones to experience too. One of the first necessary visits was to our favorite Irish tavern in Myrtle Beach, Flynn's. We had an excellent corned beef dinner and a couple of pints. In this picture, Jim demonstrates the best position to be in after an evening at Flynn's.
In the afternoon, a fog, or low flying cloud, moved in off the beach and gave us this interesting view off our balcony. Looking straight out to the ocean from our balcony you could see nothing but fog, not even the beach below. Then down the beach, you could actually see it moving between the buildings. It came and went several times during the day, but the temps were mostly in the mid 60's and just beautiful.
We found a local winery, "La Belle Amis", that was hosting a bonfire event for the day, with these terrific Jazz musicians. They were just great, and one guy was making s'mores with Gheridelli chocolates and handing them out. What a marvelous taste! The wine was pretty good too, and what a great afternoon, to nibble on cheese and fruit, sip wine and visit with the people around us.
The winery had two dogs that worked the crowd and added to the fun. One was a border collie, Belle, who would herd any small child who came close, and the other Amis, just strolled among the relaxing guests, mooching snacks.One of our favorite stops is at a local seafood market, where we buy a whole bunch of fresh, never frozen shrimp. So delicious! Jim buys a half dozen oysters, and ceremoniously shucks them out, then sits down to eat them raw, accompanied by a bottle of dark beer. This year he had a special bottle of dark beer from Vermont, a birthday present from our favorite Vermonters. It's a treat he alone loves, and the rest of us just watch. This year he bought a couple extra dozen and we enjoyed them together in oyster stew, with scrambled eggs, and a couple in a brand new way, cooked in the half shell, with just a dash of hot sauce. Yummy. The shrimp gets parboiled and peeled, then we've enjoyed it in kabobs with the best fresh pineapple we ever tasted and other goodies, then just garlic and buttered, and with eggs. We have enough for one more shrimp meal, and it'll be great. There's something so very special about fresh shrimp. So sweet and delicious.

This shot is from this morning's sunrise, right off our balcony. So pretty and peaceful.
Happy New Year everyone.

Friday, December 28, 2007

At the Beach!

Once a year, we escape the snowey Northern Indiana weather for a week at the beach. My daughter and her husband meet us at a condo where we share the off-season wonderful rates to rent a multi-room suite high above the beach and spend a week soaking in the hot tub and walking the beach.
We left early Christmas Morning and drove the motorhome south. It was great to see the mountains again, even though they were cold and snowey. We spend Christmas night in a motel in Tennessee, where I used the microwave to warm a pre-packed dinner for my favorite birthday guy. A cornish hen roasted with rosemary and garlic butter, baked potatoes and a delicious salad made up our dinner, served with a nice bottle of chardonney. Cakes are out for me, and he's kind enough to go along with the wheat-free lifestyle too, so his birthday cake was a warmed dish of rice pudding, topped with coffee creamer and birthday candles. There was a change of hotels from our original plan, when they closed our original hotel for repairs, so Kim talked the management into finding us another, newer, nicer hotel, where we had a set of rooms so new they still smelled of fresh paint. We're on the 19th floor and the view is just beautiful. We keep seeing flocks of pelicans flying along the beach, BELOW our balcony. What a view!
Just a couple hours after we checked in, we saw two dolphins cruising by off the beach. They looked like they were just slowly rolling along, out for a stroll in the evening. Just gorgeous. We had a great seafood dinner last night at the restaurant next door.

So today, we drove up to the nearby State Park to walk the beach to see what had washed up onto the beach. It was fun to watch the shore birds running through the surf. We found lots of broken shells, one shark's tooth, and a sea anemone. Jim got stuck on a pier support when a big wave came in. Funny picture.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What a Difference One Breezy Night Can Make!

A few days ago there were 10 inches of snow and ice outside, and accidents everywhere as we slowly crept about the slickery roads. Then it got warmer and it was excellent snowman weather as things started to soften and pack down.

Last night it sounded like a spring wind booming around the house all night, snapping the cover on the motorhome shelter and keeping me awake. This morning we woke up to what these pictures show. A small leftover hump is all that’s left of Frosty today, and the green grass is showing all around. There’s a skim of ice in the plastic toboggan, where the snowmelt off the roof first filled the sled, then it froze over. It seems to be getting a little colder as the morning progresses.
The ivy is showing under the birdfeeders, and the birds are all off scavenging whatever’s been exposed by the melted snow today. There’s not one single bird feeding off what we put out.

And…the cable’s out! Not just the internet, but the tv and the phone, since we use the internet for our phone service too. Somewhere around here, the wind has taken our wires down and we’ll be out of touch with the world today, until they get it fixed. The wonderful thing is that we still have electricity. In the past, that was the first to go, but since they buried so many lines, we seldom lose that anymore. So life is good, we can’t call out, except by cell phone, and nobody can call us, but we’re warm and cozy. This note will have to wait until service is restored before posting. No rush, we’ll get it back soon.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas--and Peace to All of Us

Our idea of a wonderful holiday sure has changed over the years. These days we do very little shopping, and wrapping, baking, and making lists. We can't afford the dollars or the calories, and even more important, there's just noplace to put all that stuff we used to accumulate. Somehow though, as we buy and do less, we feel richer and fuller in our hearts than in the past when we were rushing from place to place. The fact that we have more time to idle around, and play with our beloved granddaughter has a lot to do with it, and life just gets better all the time. Our best wish for anyone reading this would be to find the contentment we're finding with our lives now. Here are pictures showing the highlights of our week so far.
Jim and Anna had a great time making snow angels outside, and built this Frosty to stand guard in the back yard for a while. His carrot nose was missing first thing in the morning, and he was sort of on a tilt, so we thought maybe a deer raided him overnight, but we found he had just slightly melted, and his nose was on the ground at his feet. The woodstove waits with warmth when they come inside, and provides a cozy place to soak up the heat and enjoy hot chocolate after a brisk time in the cold. The birds are really active on the feeders. We have at least 4 pairs of cardinals, and juncos, titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Gold Finches, Purple Finches, and one small downy woodpecker. They sure do love the black oil sunflower and thistle seeds we put out for them.

In the background, just to the right of the stump, you can see the beehive, where our tiny honeymakers are cozy and warm inside, insulated by their blanket of snow.

What an unlikely color on a drab day! Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal stand out like neon lights among the soft colors of a snowey day. Just gorgeous. Life is very good to us these days.
Jim and I wish all our friends a Merry and Peaceful Holiday Season. Love to you all.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Snow in Sunlight

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Pretty, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

What a great weekend! We had Anna on Friday and went out to cut down a small Christmas tree, brought it home and put it up in the bay window. Nice and small, compact and out of the way, and yet very pretty and visible from outside.

Everything's more fun with a three year old along, and Anna was thrilled with the whole process. She really got into choosing the tree, and wandered all over the field, trying to talk us into picking this one, or this one, or this one's just perfect!

We brought it home and started loading it with lights and stuff, and she was just beside herself with excitement, and telling us where to put each thing so it'd be "just perfect, and most beautiful.

After she went home with her Daddy, we rested a while. There's always a resting time after Anna. We love her, but she takes a lot of energy. Then went out to our favorite Irish Restaurant for a great dinner and a couple of pints while listening to our favorite Irish band. Than friend happened to stop by and we had a great far-ranging conversation with them. What a wonderful evening.

Bad weather was predicted for Saturday, so we planned nothing more than staying home warm and comfy, with a cozy fire in the wood stove. Andy, Jess, and Anna stopped by for a short visit, then went home to stay out of the storm themselves.

All day long as I sat basking in the warmth of the wood fire and enjoying the view out on our woods, friends and family called with good wishes. What a lucky person I am, to have so many good people wishing me well.
Dinner that evening was rosemary roasted chicken, a generous salad, olives and a bottle of beaujolais. We ended up in our comfy chairs in front of the fire with a great sharp Irish cheddar cheese, while we watched the birds feeding outside in the dusk.

And it's great that some forgot and called late, since as late as today, tuesday, I got another email with birthday wishes. Talk about stretching the event out for a while!

Winter's coming on now, and we have one load of wood stacked up and ready, and we're stocked up on food and wine, so we can just stay in and safe. Life is very good!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Snow Fun!

Our first snowman of the year, complete with carrot for a nose. The kids had a ball, with just enough snow on the ground to pack into this snowguy. We didn't light the torches, but it would make quite a sight if we did!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's what it's like today in our part of Northern Indiana. Pretty, isn't it?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Living With the Seasons

One of the things we really try to do here is live in touch with the seasonal flow and celebrate each phase as it comes. We consciously try to celebrate each day, realizing how fleeting it all is.
Yesterday was a day of joy. The trees around us were so bright yellow they tossed in the wind like dancers, and I felt giddy with the joy of it all. We had to make a quick trip to town, so took along the camera to capture places of particular beauty.

There's a stark quality to some already harvested fields these days, sort of a clearing away of the clutter to leave the bare fields ready for spring.

In contrast to that, there's the jubilant variety of colors in the woods that form a backdrop to it all.
This morning, our Anna is with us, and it's cold and sleeting outside. We always want to get her outside when we can, so decided this was the time to try out the fireplace in the teepee. She loved it, and we all had fun, sitting on the ground inside the teepee, watching the small fire and hearing the sleet patter on the walls of the teepee surrounding us. It was amazingly warm and cozy inside with that little fire going. Next Jim's going to set up a spit and cook a cornish hen.

When he told us of his plan, Anna told him spitting is nasty! Hmmmm, I guess there's only one kind of spit in a three year old's mind.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories we're implanting in that child's mind. Good ones I hope, and some she'll remember and teach her children about someday.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Bounty of Fall

Jim and I have been working lately to button up the house for winter. Jobs like put up storm windows, coil and hang away the hose, dump leaves into the garden and clean away all the plant debris to let it all rest until next spring, have to be done this time of year.

I gathered the herbs from the herb bed to hang in bunches and let them dry for winter. They'll add wonderful levels of flavor to the soups we plan to simmer on the wood stove in the cold days to come. This year the oregano sort of ran amok through the herb bed, so we have lots of that there, but also lots of lemon balm, tiny leaved thyme and parsley to dry and hang on the back porch to wait until we need them.I've formed the habit lately of taking a daily walk to gather sticks for the stove. It serves several purposes: gets me away from the computer for a breath of fresh air, exercise, cleans up the woods a little, and provides bunches of free firewood for those short time evening fires that really don't need big heavy chunks of wood to burn a long time.Being out there daily lets me notice all the changes too, as our place turns toward winter. This path struck me yesterday as being particularly gorgeous. It's the space behind the blueberry bushes, and always looks like an entrance to a secret space to me. Today, with the yellow leaves on the ground, it looked like a scene after the party, with the party favors and confetti left laying about. Do you suppose the deer and raccoons were dancing late into the night here last night?Today was one of those blessed days, when we were especially grateful to be retired. We needed a good brisk walk, so headed up to Warren Woods for a long walk under the giant beech trees there. We were amazed to see the giant trees that had fallen during the recent winds. Trees that measured up to 4' across the base had grown hollow in the center, as beeches do, until there wasn't enough strength to hold up their 70' height anymore. They came crashing down, taking other trees with them, and look like elephants laying there, but still dignified in their stillness. Beautiful trees, and they'll slowly melt back down into the soil to enrich another hundred years of trees to come.

After we left the woods, we wandered a little on the way home and found a roadside market with eating pumpkins and squash for sale. Karren chose this huge heavy beauty to bake for a while in a cast iron pot on top of the wood stove, then make into soups and pies. Jim chose a small acorn squash and brought it home, baked it right away with brown sugar and butter to eat for lunch.

We also found a vineyard loaded with overripe grapes, and the farmers who owned the vines. They were glad to let us pick lots of them at a very low price. We brought about a half bushel home and now have to decide whether to make them into jelly, or juice!Now this one's just silly, the result of two goofy people, with time to spare and a camera to play with!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sunday in Vermont

We're home now, but I'm still trying to catch up from the trip. We took so many beautiful pictures and just really wanted to share them, so I'm posting more now. The first picture is actually from Saturday night when we went out to the terrific McGrath's Irish Pub at the Inn at Long Trail in Killington, Vermont. Just up the hill from the famous Long Trail Brewery, and just down the hill a few feet from the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail. Back when Jim walked the trail, he got overheated and dehydrated near here and had to spend a day drinking Guinness to rehydrate. Tough job, but he had to do it. On Saturday night, we ended up our travels in the Pub and spent a few fun hours listening to Donal O'Shaughnessy, amazing Irish singer and joke teller. What a great night in an amazing place. This whole building is tucked so close into the mountain that parts of it come into the dining room and bar, with one whole wall of each room made up of the living rock of the mountain. Another rock forms a seat in the bar for casual comfy seating. It was a terrific time with great friends.

In the morning, we were off again to see more amazing sights. Our goal this day was to find a trail that Jim could take off and hike by himself to work out his kinks from sitting so much. On the way there, we saw more small streams and camping places, and swampy spots where there should have been at least one moose, but never was. While Jim was hiking, John, Lora and I found a gorgeous long overview with several mountain ranges marching away into the blue distance, and talked with a nice couple visiting there from Ohio. Then we came across a mysterious, beautiful place with several paths that explored different faiths. While walking there, we found a labyrinth! I'd always been intrigued by these very special walking paths, so plunged right in to walk the curving trails to the center of it. Once we got there, we found this nice little basket, where others had left little tokens of their walk. We needed to leave something, and finally found that perfect yellow leaf to drop in. Notice the little golden Buddha, and all the other little trinkets there. What a neat place.
We ended that amazing day back at the riverside property with a big fire and a picnic of hotdogs and goodies. The picture I'm placing for that shows John, proud landowner of this beautiful place, Lora, relaxing, with her eye on her beloved river, and Jim, poking at the fire. What a great, quiet night to just sit and listen to the river chuckle in its bed as it rushed by us. As you listened to it, you could hear so many levels of sound: the base note of the big rocks slowly moving against each other, mid tones of large waves flowing over the rocks, and the high, almost giggling sounds of the smaller splashes. Constant variety and always fascinating.