Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wave good bye to 2011...

So here's the rest of my year...

July was pretty standard issue for me with all my complaining about the heat.  The exception was that I attended my 40th high school reunion with another trip to Ohio.  I had fun and was pleased to see that most of us are still in pretty good shape.  As a matter of fact, most of us have held up better than this
 Lexington _OT_L Greg and I came across in the Catskills earlier that month.

August came in like a lamb but left like a lion with Hurricane Irene wreaking a fair amount of havoc around here.  Once again we lucked out and had no real property damage while north of us in Vermont, the flooding was devastating. 

The calm before the storm...this is Walker Pond on the night before Irene.
I had a nice few days with my sister Susan in September while she was in New England on business.  We spent a night in Rockport, Massachusetts, home of Motif #1 and here it is.

October started out normally enough but on the 31st, we were whacked with a snowstorm that simply blew us away.  Being out of electricity, heat and water for six days took its toll.  Our mighty oaks lost many branches and the evidence is in a huge pile in our front yard.  But since then, our weather has been pleasant and mild.  Whaddup with that?

After we regained our electricity, November was a serene and mild month.  Not much going on and that’s a good thing.

So here we are in December and looking at another year drawing to a close.  I am pleased to announce that I have outsmarted the squirrels.  Our feeders have been squirrel-free for a month at least.  High five!  Still, I always have to wonder where the time goes and why it goes soooo fast.  I am looking forward to 2012…especially since I’ve been signing 2012 on my checks for most of this year anyhow.
  I think I just like the way it looks.

Here's Mr. Cheeky sitting on the wall in front of our house looking longingly at the bird feeders.

Happy New Year to all of you out in the Cloud!  See you in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Say what? 2011 is almost over???

Must be the time to start looking back at 2011.  Here’s the way it was in my world. 

In January, here in Central Massachusetts, we had record snowfalls.  I couldn’t believe how much it snowed.  We learned a valuable lesson though.  And that is that if you own a gazebo with a canvas roof, be sure you take the canvas off before getting three feet of snow or the results will be a bit disastrous.

I called this collage "Our Own Private Metrodome"
In February, Greg decided he had had too much and we high tailed it down to Key West for a few days to waste away a little in Margaritaville and enjoy a little while of snowless bliss…a benefit of being retired.  That was nice, but while we were gone, we had someone scrape the snow off of the roof at home and when we returned, we couldn’t see the first story of our house.  We managed to get in but it wasn’t pretty.

It had stopped snowing by March but we decided to gift our son Evan a trip to Baseball’s Spring Training in Arizona for his spring break.  At the Cincinnati Red’s park, it was a thrill to get to meet one of the idols of my youth.  There was George Foster of the Big Red Machine signing autographs.  Woohoo!!

He has held up much better than I have.
By April, the snow was gone except for traces here and there.  Greg and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston not once but twice to see the Chilhuly exhibit there.  The first trip was a bust because, unbeknownst to me, I bought tickets for school vacation week.  We had a good time anyhow but it was so nice on the second trip to see all those Chihulys up close and personal.

In May, Greg and I got together with our good friends Dona and Bob and took a trip of a lifetime.  We sailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Amsterdam, The Netherlands with stops in the Azores, Lisbon, Portugal, Cherbourg and Le Havre, France  and Dover, England.  After leaving Dona and Bob in Amsterdam, Greg and I spent three days in Paris.  It was relaxing, fun, interesting, beautiful, and tiring all at the same time.  What a great trip!  We went to Versailles the day before we left for home.  Wow!

Our June began with a rude awakening when tornados ripped through our area.  The devastation was heartbreaking.  Much of it is still visible today and will be for many years.  Personally, our property was unaffected so we were very grateful.  We spent a bit of time in Ohio in June attending a family reunion and my mother’s 83rd birthday party.  Our trips to Ohio usually include a stop at Grandpa’s Cheese Barn in Ashland, Ohio.  Highly recommended…at least two thumbs up and maybe more.

To be continued when I get my act together...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reflecting on normality…

Okay.  Now it’s time to return to normal…whatever that means.  Christmas is over and at least a third of the mess is cleaned up.  We had a nice, quiet time this year, which is normal for us at Christmastime.  Now that that’s over, it is time to start to reflect back on the year that is quickly coming to an end, which is what we normally do this time of year.
With that in mind and as a sort of metaphor of the human tendency to reflect on the past year, I am going to post a few pics I took last week of reflections in Walker Pond on an afternoon when it was pretty darn flat and mirror-like, which is unusual for Walker Pond in the afternoon for reasons I’ve never known.  Does anyone know why it is normal that it is windier in the afternoon?  Well, I don’t.

I might as well face it, though, the true reason I’m posting these pictures when it comes right down to it is that I am a sucker for reflections pictures.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Quirk…

A few years ago, I decided to quit buying wrapping paper for Christmas and most other occasions.    Giving up wrapping paper wasn’t easy for me.  I love pattern and color and I’ve always enjoyed the act of wrapping and making beautiful packages.  But one year, it just hit me that it was naughty and not nice for me to spend the money or use all that virgin paper just for one day. 

Over the years, I have used up piece by piece what commercial paper I had laying around.  So I have had to get creative.  I have a stash of cloth bags I’ve made that we use every year.  And I use old, outdated road maps and newspapers for most of the bigger stuff.  Brown paper bags make terrific gift containers.  They can be decorated and used over and over and over. 

So anyhow, that’s my quirk.  Greg and the kids are used to it by now and don’t expect shiny, glitzy packages with ribbons and bows.  They’ve also gotten used to the fact that I almost always forget about something that I’ve bought and remember it on Christmas night or the next day.  One year I bought Greg a Rolling Stones CD that he got almost a year after the fact.  I found it when I was cleaning out a closet.

What they haven’t gotten used to is that I often forget to put who the package is for on the darn thing after it is already wrapped.  So it is inevitable that on Christmas morning someone unwraps something that is meant for someone else.  Oh, well, it keeps things interesting.  Maybe I will try to reform myself this year and go see if there are any unmarked boxes down there now.  Nah.  Why change a life long tradition?!

My friend Dianne O-J repurposed some old blueprint paper using an egg cookie cutter as a stencil, a black sharpie and her imagination.  I think it’s great!  

O-J also gave me the directions on how to make these great bows out of just about any kind of paper you have laying around.  Jaunty and nice.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Barns of the Quiet Corner...

Last week I knew I wanted to go search for some barns to link up to Bluff Area Daily, Home of Barn Charm today.  I also knew that the best place around here to look is a bit south of us in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, part of what is also known as The Last Green Valley that lies between the Shetucket and Quinebaug Rivers.

This is a beautiful area of woods, rolling hills and unapologetic small farms.  Our town, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, is technically part of The Last Green Valley…lucky us!  According to The Last Green Valley website, the Valley “is half the size of the Grand Canyon National Park…Forest and farmland make up 78% of its 695,000 acres, yet it lies only an hour from three of New England’s four largest urban areas.”  To me, having the opportunity to live here in the Valley is the most incredible luck.

So I knew that Connecticut’s Quiet Corner was where I wanted to go barn hunting.  Driving into that area is like driving into a decompression chamber.  The air feels brighter.  The traffic is definitely lighter.  The small towns have indescribable charm.  It is fundamentally an area of uncomplicated, commonplace beauty.  It is a link to our past and a hope for our future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the Fence again…

Here we are at Fence Friday again.  Boy, the weeks go by fast.  But in preparation this time, Olive the pug and I walked down to see the horses.  I have seen the fence that surrounds the pasture where the horses graze ,oh, maybe a million times, but I never thought about how dilapidated it is.  I kind of like that.  It makes it much more interesting than a brand new, straight out of the box fence.

I did notice this time that part of it must have washed out with all the bad weather we’ve had and someone decided to do a makeshift repair.  That seems to work.  The horses don’t want to cross it.

The best part about going down to take photos of the fence is that the horses can’t resist coming to say “hello!”

Olive has gotten pretty used to the big guys by now and one of them is pretty interested in her.  I have to wonder what goes on in their heads when they see each other.

There was a new little fellow there this time, a pretty dark horse wearing red.  

Olive and I hung around for a little while talking to the horses.  But as it was late in the afternoon, the sun was pretty low in the sky and my fingers were getting pretty stiff and cold, we said good bye and headed home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finding the right spot…

I took Olive out as usual the other morning.  Pugs are a rather notorious breed when it comes to finding the right spot, if you know what I mean.  Places that are worthy of her doing her business are few and far between.  And between those precious spots are plenty of places a dog has to stop to read her pee-mail and deal with other distractions.  I get a little impatient with her at times.  But it leaves me plenty of time to look around while I am waiting, waiting, waiting…

The other morning I decided to deposit Olive back in the house after her business was complete and to grab my camera and go back outside for a while.  I realized that for my own peace of mind, I had to look around for the beauty on that particular morning.
These days are difficult in the northeast United States.  It’s a sort of Limbo state between the end of the fall color and the first winter snowfall.  The natural world around us is dying, brown and dull.  Sometimes it can be quite a challenge to find the beauty there.
Having my camera in my hands made me look twice and find the rose hips with their little shock of red and the still green leaves on that particular plant.  It made me look at the light refracting through the dew drops.  It made me stop, take a deep breath and remember that no matter where we are and what we are between, we need to stop and look at the gifts of nature and appreciate what is around us.

It made me realize that I am not that much different from my pug.
  I look for my spots in places that are few and far between and stop frequently to deal with distractions
 when I should really just look more closely at what is right in front of me.

  Even in these dying, brown and dull days, there is beauty out there.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Festival of (Giving) Trees...

I don’t do a lot of decorating for the holidays.  I would rather spend my rather waning energy preparing for a nice family get together.  So two or three years back, Greg and I bought a small, pre-lit Christmas tree that I decorated.  Well, I decorated it the second year we had it.  I never got around to it the first year.  Now that it is decorated, we put a garbage bag over it at the end of the season and Greg hauls it back up to the attic.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love seeing what other people do to decorate their surroundings this time of year.  But I get the whole thing out of my system and tame my urges the week after Thanksgiving.  That’s when some women in our neighborhood get together and decorate a tree that is donated to the local Festival of (Giving) Trees in Southbridge, Massachusetts.  Forty trees or so are donated and raffled off each year at this event.  The proceeds from the raffle and other activities go to local cancer charities.  My friend Cookie started this tradition for our neighborhood a few years back to remember our friends Howard Gunagan and Susan Robichaud who passed away too soon from cancer.  Cookie herself is a cancer survivor.  So it is an honor to have the opportunity to participate and remember our friends in this special way.

Every year I am amazed at the variety of themes and decoration there.  This year was no exception.  I find that because I am a color junkie, I am drawn to the more non-traditional trees.
  But they are all beautiful in the end.

This tree honored a woman named Violet. 
Our tree this year. The theme:  "It's a Jungle Out There."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

California dreaming…

It’s an ugly, messy and very rainy day here in Massachusetts.  I thought I would go back to California for a couple hours.  I feel like I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with my photos from when Greg and I went there in October since soon after we got home we got socked with a foot of snow with the power outages and all the mess to clean up.  So indulge me as I go back for a little while.

I have been seeing a bit about the Santa Ana winds lately.  They look pretty frightening.  I guess we all have our weather crosses to bear in this world.  It was beautiful when we were there except for the bit of smog in Los Angeles.  Still, you’ll hear no complaints from me.  We had a great time while we were in L.A.

Let me introduce you to Fred who lived in our hotel room in L.A.  Poor lonely Fred is probably still there in our room as he cost about $6.00.  I think that’s a bit too much for a bottle of Fred.  Sorry, Fred.

This is a Bugatti that was parked on Rodeo Drive.  Greg informed me that it is a fairly rare and very expensive automobile.  I guess whoever owns this puppy just stopped into bijan to pick up a few trinkets.  Personally, I like my Prius but it would be fun to ride around in one of those fine autos just once.

I think that Cookie Monster is a long way from home.  He must be calling Big Bird to ask him how to to get to Sesame Street.

And here’s Greg and me at Carney’s where I had one of the best hot dogs that I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  Man, that was good!  I’d fly back to L.A. just to go there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Morning devotion...

I was going to be late for church yesterday morning but I had to run back into the house for my camera.  Going back into the house set me back a little but what really delayed me was that when I approached Quaboag Pond in Brookfield, Massachusetts, I saw that it was completely and utterly flat.

Now, I’m a sucker for a good water reflection picture and I would have kicked myself had I not run back into the house for my camera because the pond was, well, it was like a mirror.  I stopped and took a couple dozen pictures knowing that I was running late but not really caring.  The fact is that I would have driven by the pond with just a glance and a bit of regret had I not had my camera and I would have missed that particular gift from Mother Nature.  To me, there is much spiritual worth in appreciating how beautiful the natural world is.  And my camera helps to remind me to take the time to stop to see and appreciate it even when I’m supposed to be scurrying along.

After the service, on my way back home, the breeze had picked up and the pond was rough.  There were even small white caps lapping around the shore.  As it turned out, I didn’t miss any of the service.  Lila, our music director, was just finishing up the opening music.  So I was sure glad that I went back into the house for my camera.