A Winter Walk

We didn’t walk outside for five days in the past week because of rain/snow/ice/teen temps. Mostly we avoided falling rain and black ice. The lowest temperature was 4F/-15.5C. Brrr! Half a walk was our limit today, because it was 14F/-10C. The road was clear in only a few places and rather crunchy underfoot in others.

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We are neighbor Joyce’s Road Testers. Our walk begins shortly before she drives to work, so we will alert her if there are dangerous conditions.

I texted, “On duty. Road snowy at bend. Not particularly icy.”

Her reply: “Okay you crazies! March on! But be careful.”

She was glad I texted her again when we were home safely. Joyce, having lived in Georgia many years, has an internal temperature that plummets in cold weather. She freezes until there is danger of sun stroke outside. I’ve told people here that we still have our heavy winter coats from New York, and that’s the secret to keeping warm. My coat really is heavy. It weighs 2.6 pounds! (1.179 kilograms) Even if it gets shabby, there is no way I’ll get rid of it. John would call that job security, for the coat, anyway.

Our feet made beautiful crunching sounds on the snowy road. Two cars passed us, when there would be seven or eight on a normal day. The weight of the cars did not melt or compress the snow, just left perfectly-formed tire tracks. We turned around at the stop sign, because John’s toes were rapidly cooling and my hands were cold. A hearty breakfast came next. With son John $, we had bacon, livermush, cheese melted on eggs, English muffins, and all the coffee we wanted. Would you say we earned it?

No Tongue-in-Cheek

The tongue was not in the cheek, but it was on Logan’s nose! Neighbor Logan (7) livened up our day when he knocked on our door and announced he had shoveled our driveway. As he shed outer layers, John texted Shawn to see if he could visit. They were having an early dinner, so we had 25 minutes to enjoy him. Logan looked at a ship magazine that was lying on the table beside him as we chatted. I don’t know why I asked if he could touch his nose with his tongue. I assumed he couldn’t do it, but he jumped out of the chair and walked closer to show us. Moving at his usual warp speed, he was back in the chair but agreed to pose. Like our children and grandchildren, he is resigned to the fact that a camera is always lurking nearby.

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Logan made short work of stomping on air bags I had saved for him. There is something intensely satisfying about leaping on them to make the loudest noise possible. I like them deflated before going in the garbage.

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A few days ago dog Smoky came out to the road to greet us. We were surprised he was outside when the temperature was about 14F (-10C). The cold didn’t seem to bother him, but our toes began to protest. The steepest part of the road is right here, although it looks deceptively tame in the photo. I sometimes speak of a half walk or going to the stop sign. That stop sign is at the top of the road. We were quite warm when we came back up the hill. Smoky had retreated to a warmer place.

As the Snowman Crumbles

In a matter of days after Epiphany, John stripped the house of Christmas decorations. To keep a slightly festive air, he left all the items having to do with snow, as long as they weren’t Christmasy. That’s how we came to be sharing the breakfast table with one of our prized Pollock originals, the snowman. Mr. Snowman was probably on the mantel in previous years. I discovered this year that he is quite lively up close. When anyone touches the table or cuts meat, he gives a shivery response in the most genial manner. As we cleared the dishes, I was very disappointed to see that he was crumbling.

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On closer inspection, I saw the snow figure had not been damaged at all. He was as good as when we got him. He wasn’t crumbling, but he had a bunch of crumbs that somehow gathered to gaze at him. A taste test would be conclusive about the origins. I’m not that brave. John used a knife to scrape melted wax from candle holders, so there is a good chance some of the crumbs are inedible. Mr. Snow might like to keep his adoring public at his feet, but the dust-buster will remove that cluster shortly.

Over the years, we collected quite a number of mobiles by Chris Pollock. They are whimsical and tickle my fancy. When you walk through a room, they are more responsive than a real person staring at a cell phone. I’m not hitting at any particular person, just noting what I have seen in restaurants lately. Chris’ stick people have lots of personality, and his wood art is impressive. It’s my dream to commission him to design and build a sturdy mobile for our windy garden.

If you’d like to see some of Chris’ work, check out this blog post:  http://christopherpollockart.com/2017/05/09/fifteen-years-of-christmas-gift-making/

Goodbye Ritual

Grandson David doesn’t have a ritual for leaving, like Nathaniel’s lowering of the hall mirror. I watched to see what David did. He packed and packed and packed, ferrying bag after bag to the car. It made sense. Nathaniel had one carry-on piece of luggage for his week here. David traveled by car, stayed here over three weeks, and was exchanging his summer/fall clothing for heavy winter wear. Only Nathaniel has a HALLmark ritual.

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As David was leaving, he moved Patty’s Pocket for me. Adopted-niece Patty gave me a bird pocket which I hung in the Bradford pear tree. I hadn’t seen birds using it, although I could have missed the activity because we were on the go. This was a marvelous winter gift that the birds could use right away for shelter. David moved it higher and further into the center of the tree. If it isn’t used here, I’ll move it a shrub behind the house where I know the birds will take advantage of it. The pocket will be a seasonal rental for the ski crowd and a maternity suite in the spring.

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While John and David were making their record-breaking run to New York, I walked to the creek to see the ice. The weather had already begun to warm up when I took these photos. Despite the warming trend, I turned back a day later because the road was icy under my feet.

The record-breaking travel statistic was in the wrong direction – it was the longest it had ever taken John to drive that distance. Around midnight a warning light showed on the dashboard. They waited an hour in West Virginia for a tow to the nearest Honda dealer. I think someone opened the office at 8, and by 9 the new alternator and the man to replace it had come. Despite the long delay, David arrived at the college before his deadline.

To take my mind off David’s leaving, I worked with the new camera. I had tried out the phone WiFi connection, activating the shutter with the phone while the camera was sitting on the mantel. The photo shows both my hands on the phone as I took a selfie.

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I don’t know what went wrong, but the transfer connection to the computer no longer worked. Frustration was a good antidote for sadness! The basic function for which I bought the camera is now working again, and I’ve shifted my focus to February and March when the boys hope to come for their Spring breaks.

Used Bananas

Do you have to cope with used bananas as I do? One of us routinely takes bananas on a car trip for a snack. More often than not, they come back unopened, bruised, and mushy. Normal people would throw them away without a second thought, but that goes against the grain of a true miser. I usually use them for banana bread or banana pudding. Golly Pete! Are you thinking what I just thought? This must be a devious plan to get favorite items on the menu without having to ask! I can’t believe I have fallen for that all these years. Anyway, we had too many Christmas sweets laying their lethal traps for us. Grandson David requested blueberry muffins during his time here. We had them once before, so this time I added bananas. Only John noticed the Double B Muffins – Blueberry/Banana. I should think of a savory use for abused monkey fruit. Any ideas?

Our weather has been frigid. A few days ago we noticed rime ice on the mountain behind us. After church that day, we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, knowing any section could be closed. Before we came to a closed gate, we drove through an area of rime ice. It was the closest we’d been to this beautiful weather phenomenon where ice crystals coat every branch.

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Here it is a bit closer.

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It was 2F when we went for a half walk this morning. We still have our winter coats from New York, so our bodies were warm. I’m not sure what John might need to walk all the way to the creek, but I should get warm socks. On the other hand, it’s lovely to slack off once in a while. I usually look at the little stream, Park Branch, that we cross. Today it was partially frozen, although still gurgling. The new camera didn’t seem to mind coming out of my warm pocket to record it. The stream is flowing toward me in the first shot. 

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I turned around to record it going down the hill below.

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New Year

Neighbor Logan came over on New Year’s Eve, and we were finally able to give him his Christmas presents. His parents had company all during the week, and so did we. Our gifts were small items, inexpensive but chosen with care. He opened a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle and was pleased when I said it was for him to take home. We have a few others we keep for him at our house. He played with the vibrant blue Silly Putty and set of magnets. He seemed satisfied and didn’t realize I was very disappointed. I thought the blue goo was magnetic, which is why we bought the magnets. Nathaniel played with him, adding to the fun.

We were preparing for our little open house that evening. Logan and our grandsons were happy to eat broken cookies and a few chips as I set them out. No one ate much at the party, so I’m glad they had something before. People from three households came to chat while waiting for midnight. The early-to-bedders left before the new year arrived, but neighbor Joyce stayed. We were delighted to have her with us, because we don’t see her often. We watched the ball drop in Times Square on TV, blew our noise-makers, and said our good nights.

The weather was misbehaving. We were due to have cold temperatures, but the snow that was falling was unpredicted. Neighbors told us that I-40 was closed in one place because of ice. I was very aware that we were driving Nathaniel to the airport the next day and kept telling myself not to worry. During the night, I checked the roads we would be on and saw there were traffic problems. Thankfully they disappeared before it was time to leave.

We had a leisurely breakfast with the boys. I dislike the few hours before a departure, because I always want the time to count and can’t think of anything worthwhile to say. This time it was really different. We began to discuss some of our family heirlooms when Nathaniel took a covered butter dish from the china cabinet. The things we have are not materially valuable, but there are stories tied to various great-grandparents. The boys have always been interested in family history, and they were very engaged. We need to pass on this information, because our children were gone when these items came into our home after the deaths of our parents.

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The car was loaded when I called out, “Wait for me for the mirror!”

John said Nathaniel had already mentioned that he was going to lower the hall mirror, his ritual when leaving our house. David stood as silent witness. With due solemnity, Nathaniel lifted it up and hung it on the regular hook.

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We laughed as he ended on a goofy note, dramatically bending his knees so that he could see himself. Classic Nathaniel!

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Last Christmas Party of 2017

Relatively speaking, this was a most marvelous party. We were with my brother and Beth, all their children, in-laws, and grandchildren. The gifts were lovely and the food as tasty as could be. The best part was being there, chatting with everyone. We had seen the group for Thanksgiving, so the reconnect was instant. We didn’t pose for a group photo, but I had one that included many of the people, including a levitating teen on the sofa.

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The younger set played Clue before we ate.

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A few didn’t show up anywhere else.

There are pictures of our greats – niece and nephews.  One learned to tie his new bow tie, one modeled an Elf onesie, and the oldest was going to work.

And then, there was Nathaniel.

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Happy New Year, everyone!

Grandson David was working and couldn’t go to the party, but here is a photo of the ice cream cone he loaded at Dickie’s.  Working at Burger King gives him more practice than most people have.

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