Logan Makes Waffles

Neighbor Logan (12) had been busy with school and Christmas holidays, so I hadn’t talked to him for quite a while. He came over to deliver a hand-written thank you note for his Christmas present. I am always impressed when someone writes a note, and he composes a really good one.

I had gotten involved with a computer problem and wasn’t dressed for the day. He noticed and asked if he should come back later. Most adults would not have been so sensitive!! I took a quick shower and texted him that I was ready if he was still available.

We chatted for a bit, then we were going to do Wordle at the same time. I forgot I had already done it. He had four of the letters by line four, I think. He got it!

We were deciding what to do next. I said we could play games, cook something, or …. I didn’t finish the sentence when he said, “Let’s cook. I love to cook. I’ve made things with tuna, and I’ve done chicken tenders.”

When I asked for clarification, he said he had breaded the chicken pieces himself. I thought to myself that he would soon be out of my league. I mentioned a couple of things for which I had the ingredients, and he jumped at making waffles. He walked in the kitchen and straight to the sink to wash his hands!! Golly! He didn’t have to be reminded!! The first thing in the recipe was eggs, and he went over to the refrigerator and got them out, along with milk. He did all the measuring. After we went over safety measures, he used the immersion blender. It was his first time to use one, and he was good at it.

Logan had a healthy respect for the heat from the waffle iron. He chose to watch me pour in the batter and take the waffle out. When it was time for him to go home, he helped pack the waffles in plastic bags.

Only minutes later Shawn sent me this photo. What fun it had been for me, and they put them to good use!

Winter Warmth

I knew it was warm, but not that warm! Wearing my lightest windbreaker, I stepped on the porch and immediately turned around and hung the wrap on the doorknob. This January the temperatures have gone up and down like a yo-yo.

When I realized the sun had really done a good job, I took a selfie on the porch at lunchtime. At the end of every year, without fail, I wonder if it had been warm enough to eat outside at least once a month. This year I’m going to document it so I can’t argue with myself. I rarely win.

New Year – Return to Roots

Nieces Kathie and Julie planned a small family lunch on January 1, and they brought the majority of the dishes. Since husband John wouldn’t touch black-eyed peas, I had never followed the standard Southern menu of collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread – all dishes to bring good luck in the new year. We had those three items plus ham, apple salad, a creamy lime Jell-o salad, and a sweet potato casserole. To top off that plentiful meal, I passed around Date Pecan Candy, a recipe our mother made for the holidays. Bob hadn’t really remembered the taste and was glad to have it again. Of course, being almost pure sugar, no one would want it again for another year, if then.

I scrambled to take a closeup so I could see faces and missed Michael, David, and dog Gumball.

Beth and Bob spent the night and did what they always do – made themselves very useful. I happened to take a photo of Beth cutting Panettone (pronounced with four syllables), an Italian Christmas bread/cake that I had never tasted before. They were given two huge ones and shared one with us.

Bob restored my bathroom sinks to working order. Both had mechanical stoppers that had stopped working, because something was too loose. He had never seen that particular type of connection and looked it up on the internet. There were two things he adjusted, and I know where to look now, not that I could fix one easily.

The year is off to a good start. I hope the same is true for all of you.

A Small World Airplane Story

Daughter Lise flew out of Spokane, Washington, on her way back home to Denmark. She sat by a man who was traveling with his wife and two young daughters. I don’t know how they got on the subject of Vikings on that short flight, but she thought the man said the name Lars Brownworth. She continued talking, thinking she must have misheard it. He said it again, and she asked, “Did you say Lars Brownworth?”

Yes, he was talking about the author of several books he had read. Among them were Lost to the West, The Sea Wolves (Vikings), and The Normans. Had she read any of them?

Lise said, “Yes, I have. I know the author.”

I hope she paused for impact.

“He is my first cousin.”

Of course there were exclamations of “small world!” The traveling man wouldn’t have known one of Lise’s names is the same as one of Lars.

I remember that young Lars always had his nose in a book, but he would put the book down if anyone spoke to him. I’m still impressed with his good manners. At that time he was immersed in mythology. I don’t know when he switched to history, but he seems to have lived it as he read it. He is now known for making dusty old figures come to life in his books. There is a special magic in that.

Shortest Shower and Fastest Walk

Due to extremely cold weather, our power company had sporadic blackouts lasting a few seconds. I was not concerned, because I knew we always had hot water when the power was out. Lathering my hair with shampoo on Christmas Eve, I ignored the shower light that went out and came right back on. Yow!! The water from the tank-less water heater immediately became cold. COLD!! I wasted one second deciding whether or not to step out. I stayed and rinsed off the shampoo. It’s not quite as bad as you might think, because I am now in the habit of standing under cold water for a moment at the end of every shower. I can stand more cold water than I ever dreamed of! When my brain got over the cold water shock, I realized we have hot water only when the generator kicks in during a power outage. Lesson learned. There is no photo, because my hair was plastered to my head and did not stand completely on end.

On the day after Christmas, I was determined to walk to make up for staying inside for a few days. Besides, I had eaten an unseemly amount. It was 9F ( -12.7C). I would have been fine if I hadn’t taken four short videos of the two little streams that run under the road. Below is one frame from each video, showing streams running under ice.

I shoved the camera back in my pocket and pulled my bare hands back into the sleeves of the coat. I chose to walk as fast as I could to warm the hands, rather than admit defeat and slink home. Back at my street, I was quite warm and stopped to talk to Frankie and her visiting daughter as they walked their dogs. Even with that stop, the house felt overheated. I am between cooling off and shivering now.

A Birthday Savored

This was a rare year that I had time to think about my birthday after it was over. Daughter Lise celebrates Birthday Month in November and doesn’t let Thanksgiving squash it. I feel blessed if I have a day before to think about my birthday and one day to experience it before Christmas crowds it out. How I appreciated all the phone calls and cards, both mailed and electronic! This is such a busy time that I never expect anyone to remember and am grateful when I am noticed beyond all expectations. Blogging friends sent many written words and wishes. Thank you all very much.

David spent the whole day with me, celebrating the entire time. We drove in the mountains for several hours, always a treat. A quick fast food sandwich was our lunch, and we shopped in the crowded supermarket. While we were home, birthday balloons were delivered. How I delighted in them! They have danced about ever since, reminding me how blessed I am.

Shawn and Bob had a pizza party for me, and that included live music! One of the musicians was a relative of a relative, so that made it very special, relatively speaking.

I wasn’t expecting cake or presents, so I was surprised by that. Shawn bought a lovely cake from the town’s best bakery. I have a very weak spot for bakery treats. It’s great that not only was Logan there, but also Shawn and Bob’s two grandsons were with us. The staff asked if they could have a taste of the cake. I know it sounds crazy, but I was glad there were only two huge slices left that we brought home. I savored that, knowing I would have eaten half of whatever was left. Gluttony for birthday cake knows no bounds.

This photo shows their singing Happy Birthday to me, which I could hear. What none of us heard was that the musicians sang that song especially for me. We were sorry that a raucous table between us and the music blotted that all out. It was very sweet of singers.

I love this photo of Shawn, a very gracious hostess.

I’ve never dreamed of sugar plum fairies, but I have dreamed of snow – lots of snow. I had some sent especially to me! This is a photo of the house where daughter Lise is visiting son John $ and Rose in Washington state. They have included me with phone calls and videos. I’ve had chats with daughter Kate, too, as everyone waited for the big storm that was sweeping the nation. David and I were amazed that we saw zero on the thermometer and found the constant blips with electricity to be a bit disconcerting.

That brings us to Christmas Eve, certainly far different from any before. In past years we always stopped whatever we were doing to listen to the service of lessons and carols live from Kings College in England. I knew where to find the service on line, and David kept it going. Because of the brief blackouts, we lost the internet connection repeatedly. We had the service bulletin on the screen and had do-it-yourself scripture readings when the power failed. David was able to reconnect as soon as the power came back on, so we didn’t lose much. If the choir cut out on an anthem or carol, we supplied the music by singing it ourselves.

Nativity by Shawn

Merry Christmas!

Birthday Eve, a Personal Holiday

On the cusp of old age, I thought I ought to ponder what took me 80 years to get to this day. I have scars and metal bones to show for the journey, but they aren’t nearly as important as all the blessings. I had a marvelous childhood with two parents and my older brother who is still in good health. We went to church every Sunday, grounding us in an eternal view of life. Husband John died only three days before our 58th anniversary, and what a fantastic life we led! This Southern country-town girl lived with him in Queens, on Long Island, and in England before moving to the mountains. Our children, three rich blessings, call me frequently from New Jersey, Washington State, and Denmark. Beloved grandsons are in the same state, one living with me and one three hours away. I look back now and can see God’s hand was guiding me all the way.

I don’t know why old age begins at 80 for me. Maybe it’s because none of my parents or grandparents made it to 90. John’s mother made it past that number. An interchange between her and John has become part of our family lore. John was in the habit of joking by saying, “Old age is a terrible thing.”

Mom heard him say it and challenged him. John replied, “If you’re not old at 90+, what are you?”

She replied immediately, “I’m in advanced middle age.”

Brilliant! We have laughed at it for years, while admiring her indomitable spirit.

I was trained to teach music in school. Practice teaching taught me that I’d rather be in a room full of spiders than to be in charge of a group of students. Although we have fantastic teachers in John’s family, teaching genes were not in my makeup. My calling came a few years later when our church needed an organist and choir director. That lasted 25 years, and I retired with no regrets. Concurrently, I was the secretary for an accounting firm. It was satisfying to be part of a team delivering the best service we could to our clients, mostly not-for-profit organizations.

I avoided music, so God sent me in a different direction. Writing became a passion. I found I’d rather write than eat or sleep. I can no longer see music to play it, but computer screens allow me to read and write. What blessings God sent me!

I have no idea whether I have days or years left to live, but I long to be a blessing to the wonderful people in my life. If you have the same leanings, praise the Lord with me, wherever you are. Eternity beckons!

Skunk Damage

I noticed holes dug in the lawn beside the walkway and wondered what had happened. Hours later I mentioned it to David, and he went out to look. At his suggestion, we viewed the video clips from the porch cam. There was the culprit, a skunk! He was active about three hours before I went out to walk. He could have been digging for beetles, crickets, or grubs. Skunks are nocturnal, so they are not likely to be out when I walk. Although the action is visible on my phone and computer, it is too dark to play here. The next day I took photos of the holes the skunk had dug.

My Neighborhood Job is Over

Last week neighbor Joyce had a retirement party to celebrate her ending 10 years at her job. We were invited to write a note to her and hang it on a tree. I wrote that my job had been to wave at her while walking, as she passed me on the way to work. Today my job ended on Joyce’s last day to go to the office. As I waved, she stopped to share her pleasure in the day for a few moments.

At right neighbor Shawn hangs our notes on the tree at the party.

I liked this photo of her receiving the standard gift of a golden baby. The agency helps babies get treatment for developmental problems. One of her comments was that she would say publicly that she hated the paperwork. Her supervisor said, “But you were very good at it.”

The theme of the party was hiking and being outdoors. I got tickled at the ending of the last speech. “There really isn’t anything more to say than … take a hike!”

Congratulations on a job well done, Joyce! We look forward to seeing more of you in the neighborhood.

Cutting Trees

This is not about Christmas trees, but getting rid of two trees that outstayed their welcome. When we moved here eight years ago, I liked having the two Bradford pear trees bursting with white blooms in Spring and parading colorful leaves in Autumn. They lost a bit of appeal when a large limb fell toward the house. Neighbor Jeff and his wife cleaned up the mess, donating the burnable wood to a relative. John painted the wound on the tree, and life went on. A few years passed, and I read that Bradford pears were no longer welcome. They were brought here in the 1960s and became popular with developers and home-owners. It seems they are invasive, the seeds being spread by birds, and are pushing out native trees. A few states are going to ban their sale in the next year or so. Ours kept on growing. It was easy to see that they could easily fall on the house. Their days were numbered.

I had an appointment and didn’t get home until after the first tree was felled and removed. This photo shows the tree man getting ready to cut the second one.

David and I enjoyed watching the men feed the branches into a machine to make wood chips. Then they cut the trunk in pieces and threw them in the back of the truck. I was impressed with their cleanup. They raked all the twigs, putting them in the truck, and blew the sawdust to disperse it.

Now the house is clearly visible from the street.

I was stunned at the view from my front door this morning. Without the trees, I could see the house across the street and the mountains behind. An older photo shows how limited the view had been. Grandson David and I have discussed planting new trees, ones that wouldn’t grow as large. I’m happy to wait a while until we have narrowed the list.

Before and after photographs: