Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back, #2…

In July, Greg and I managed to make it back to Griswold, Connecticut to look at the sunflowers on the last possible day.  The next day we were leaving for our annual trip to Ohio.  We added another leg to our journey by traveling out to Fort Wayne, Indiana first to visit our friends, Misty and Jenna.  It was a wonderful visit with our old friends, who we miss a lot, and we were impressed with Fort Wayne.  Of course, Misty was a terrific tour guide.  And then we headed back to northern Ohio to celebrate our nephew A.J.’s high school graduation and then down to southern Ohio to visit my family.  Whew!  Sometimes you need a vacation from your vacation.

We weathered the dog days of summer by hanging out.  Not much went on in August but we did occasionally make it down to the beach to watch the dogs frolic in the water.

September was the beginning of a graceful slide into autumn and an interesting month for us.  We participated in our neighborhood yard sale, which is something we haven’t done in many years.  We welcomed a new minister to our church, the Brookfield Unitarian Universalist Church.  I was very happy about welcoming Rev. Craig Nowak because I was on the committee put in charge of finding him.  All that work yielded happy results.  And late in the month, we went down to Bangor, Pennsylvania to visit Greg’s cousins and his Aunt Ann, who we hadn’t seen for years.

October was gorgeous here in New England.  It’s my favorite month of the year.  When we weren’t enjoying the spectacular color, we were staying up late watching the Red Sox win.  To say that we enjoyed the World Series is a supreme understatement.  We also attended the wonderful wedding of Evan’s friends Bryan and Stephanie.  It was a very good month.

November was quiet except that I got to meet my sister Susan in Mystic, Connecticut for a sleepover.  It was great seeing Susan and I had a terrific time at Mystic Seaport.

At Mystic Seaport.  My mother's clan is Thomas, but I don't think any of them were oyster men.
So here we are in December, the end of 2013.  We lost our good friend Jim Egan in December.  And while that brought us great sadness, in general, we had many more gains than losses in 2013.
  It was a pretty good year.

Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve and a Happy and Healthy 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Looking back…

‘Tis the time of year to look back at the year that was.  I have gotten into this habit less from nostalgia and more from needing a concise synopsis of the year to answer questions like:  What year did we go to Timbuktu?  and Didn’t Uncle Sid die in 2013?  So, here goes my first six months of 2013…

In January, while I was still recovering from my knee replacement and nursing the worst cold I've had in years, Greg, Olive, the pug, and I took a road trip from Massachusetts to Apalachicola, Florida.  It was a good antidote for what ailed me.

In February, we got hit with Winter Storm Nemo.  When the heck did they start naming the winter storms anyway?  Nemo was a powerful nor’easter that dropped over 20 inches of snow on us.  We’ve lived in New England long enough to not let that kind of thing hold us back for too long, so my daughter Carrie and I planned an overnight trip out to North Adams, Massachusetts, to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA) to see Xu Bing’s Phoenix.  In this photo, you can see the scope of the project, which consists of two huge birds made entirely from materials taken from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, and tools.  But it is difficult to convey the beauty of the work.  If you are interested in seeing Phoenix in more detail, click here.

March came in like a lion for us and stayed lion-like for a while, but I’ll be damned if I can remember if it went out like a lamb.  In any case, we had more snow to contend with...lots more snow.

Spring finally came to us in April and nothing screams SPRING to me more than the forsythia blooming.  But the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15 shocked and saddened us.

While I stayed home and enjoyed the spring in May, Greg took off on his motorcycle and circumnavigated Lake Superior.  I would enjoy circumnavigating Lake Superior, but in an automobile.

June was a major event for me.  I turned 60 and for my birthday, Greg and I went to Norway.  That’s what Greg gets when he asks me what I want for my birthday.  I guess he figured that it was too much to deny an old woman.  We had a fantastic time in that spectacularly beautiful country!  It could well have been the best birthday gift I’ve ever received.  Sorry, I couldn't stop at one photo.

On the Nærøyfjorden

Scenery above the Arctic Circle.

To be continued…

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Life and Times of Olive the Pug: A Pug’s Christmas…

Olive, the pug, was excited on Christmas morning and anxious to get out for her walk, but a little perturbed when her human stopped to take some pictures.

Once back inside, the pug gazed longingly at the packages under the tree wondering which were hers.

“Dude,” she said, “Whose is this?  It has to be for me!”  Unfortunately, the sweater inside this bag wouldn’t fit a pug.

Finally, she got to open her first package, which was a nice squeaky toy shaped like a lamb.  Unfortunately, the toy made a noise that scared a pug so she didn’t want to play with it anymore.

Then, she got what her little puggy heart desired:   a can of organic pumpkin.  Her favorite gift!

She was a happy pug after that and was content to watch her peeps open what remained of their presents.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Blogging with Random Thoughts…

1)  Yesterday, we went to see The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug.  I enjoyed it a lot.  What an ending!  I don’t think I will give anything away if I say that many of the people around us, including me, burst out laughing at the end.  But it has me wondering if that is the typical reaction.

2)  If you look closely around ¾ of the way into the movie, you will see two pugs wandering around in Laketown.  One of them looks suspiciously like our Olive.

3)  Speaking of movies, my son Evan got me the complete set of the Harry Potter movies for Christmas.  I watched the first one last night.  Carrie got me a jar of date syrup and a book.  She knows my weak spots.  I got a light box from Greg.  That should provide loads of fun for me when I get it set up.

4)  Every year I get the family a new board game or two to play during the holidays.  This year I got two:  Munchkin and Thanks a Lot!  We enjoyed Munchkin but only played it once.  We played Thanks a Lot! until we went through the whole deck of cards.  It is non-competitive and a lot of laughs.  I won all but one of the matches so it is my new favorite game.

I decided to hang my big glass balls on the tree this year.  They were glad to get the exposure.
5)  I got to the half-way point of my Flickr 365 on Christmas Day, which is also my half-birthday.  I have managed to keep up so far.  Hoping I am on the down-ward slope.  Carrie, who started her 365 on New Year’s Day, is really close to the end.  If she can do it, I can do it.  Right?



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ode(ish) to Burgess and Asta…

The other night I was watching Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Yes, I am a nerd, okay??  The episode was “Schisms,” Star Date 46154.2.  It’s the one where Mr. Data (the android, for those non-nerds out there) was giving a reading of his original poetry.  One of the poems he prefaces with the explanation that throughout the ages, poets have written poems to those who have had a profound effect upon their lives and the poem he is about to recite is an ode in honor of one who has had a profound effect upon his life…his cat Spot.

Watching this sent me time traveling, remembering my cats.  I’ve had five cats in my adult life and, without exception, they have all had profound effects on me.  But I’m not a poet so I won’t be reciting any odes here.

The cats I miss the most at this point were the last two to leave us.  They were littermates that we got from a friend of ours who taught at the local elementary school.  Therefore, we named the male Burgess Elementary School Hale.  Burgess was a cat who had a personality as large and important as his name.  He was a handsome, Maine Coon(ish) cat with big paws that almost covered the palms of my hands.

But in spite of his size, he was very quiet when he wanted to be and quite graceful.  He was an agile and efficient mouser and the very best lap warmer in the wintertime.  I rarely sat at my computer without him sitting here on me, so every email I sent had a Burgess hair in it.

Burgess shows off the Lion Cut that he got every summer.
He was doglike in being a shameless beggar for food and had a real lazy streak in him.  He didn’t mind us laughing at him as some cats do.  He was gregarious and comical.

He rolled out of bed, but didn't bother to go back and waited patiently while I took his picture.  Silly guy!
His sister was Asta Charles Hale, named for the dog in The Thin Man series by Dashiell Hammett.  She was the rare cat who loved water and was a sink-sitter.

The last few years of her life, she took a shower every morning with my son Evan when he was home.  She would come out wet and with spiked hair, but looking very self-satisfied.

She liked to tag team with Burgess on mouse patrol and was also responsible for helping me trap two snakes that got into our house so that I could set them free.  Burgess would have killed them.  Asta was a Buddhist in practice and by nature.

She was our greyhound Tigger’s best friend.

Asta outlived both Burgess and Tigger and once Burgess left us, she took up residence on my lap.  She learned to accept Olive, the pug, as part of her family.  She was an adaptable, affectionate little soul.

I miss them both so much and consider them to be my true and valued friends.

Ode to Spot by Data

Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature;
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your sub-vocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.

O Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.

I probably won't post again until after Christmas day but I hope I have time to visit your blogs.
  In any case, I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays all around!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dark of winter...

I don’t have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD as it is called, so I have to admit that I don’t really understand it.  I don’t dismiss it, but I don’t understand it.  You see, I have always liked winter.  I find a blue winter sky dazzling, new fallen snow beautiful, the cold refreshing and the darkness comforting.

Today in the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the Winter Solstice.  It is the shortest day of our year.  But tomorrow on schedule, the earth will begin its steady tilt toward the sun and the days will begin to get longer.  It’s as it should be.

This time of year makes me think of one of my favorite hymns, which was written by Unitarian Universalist Shelley Jackson Denham who passed away earlier this year sadly.  This hymn called Dark of Winter.  It has a lovely meditative melody that I can actually sing in my way, but it is the text that I really love.  It was written to portray a positive image of night and darkness, which after all, is as necessary and natural as the light of day.  I think it has special meaning on this shortest day of the year.

Dark of Winter
by Shelley Jackson Denham

Dark of winter, soft and still, your quiet calm surrounds me. 
Let my thoughts go where they will, ease my mind profoundly
And then my soul will sing a song, a blessed song of love eternal.
Gentle darkness, soft and still, bring your quiet to me. 

Darkness, soothe my weary eyes, that I may see more clearly.
When my heart with sorrow cries, comfort and caress me.
And then my soul may hear a voice, a still, small voice of love eternal. 
Darkness, when my fears arise, let your peace flow through me.

 I wish you peace on this Winter Solstice.  Blessed be.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Winter Life…

As I sit here, it is snowing like crazy and it’s very cold.  But, like it or not, we all have our ways of dealing with winter.

Olive, the pug, has found that sitting in front of the propane stove until she is warm does it for her.

Our bird friends make more visits to the feeder.  They mostly sit and wait their turns.

Although the goldfinches are willing to wait, once it’s their turn they like to sit inside the feeder eating their fill and pitching their rejects on the ground.

I don’t think you will hear this little field mouse complaining.

Hoping you all stay warm and safe!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Losses and gains…

A dear friend of ours passed away on Thursday.  Jim was our Grand Marshall – the heart and soul of our neighborhood.  He is missed already.  Rest in peace, Jim.

In other news, I have been through hell the last couple of days.  All of my gmail accounts were hacked including the one I had attached to my blogger account, so if you got an email from me, rest assured that I am not in the Ukraine and don’t need you to send me money.

I managed to get my primary email account restarted and restored even managing to recover all my contacts that went missing out on some Cloud or another, but when I went to view my blog to make sure nothing was wrong there, I got the message:

Blog has been removed
Sorry, the blog at commonplacebeautyphotography.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.
Did you expect to see your blog here? See: 'I can't find my blog on the Web, where is it?'

As you can imagine, panic set in.  I didn’t know what to do, so I googled what to do and tried to follow the directions they gave me, but nothing seemed to work.  Where was my blog that I have put countless hours into for the last three + years??

When I went to bed last night, I was very upset thinking my blogging days were over.  But when I got up this morning I began doing my random clicking thing trying to find out where the blog was and why it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.  Eventually, I went on the Google Product Forums and typed in my problem together with the URL of the blog.  After I entered my question, for some reason, I clicked on my blog URL and voila…there it was in living color.  My blog restored!

I am very confused about how and why all this happened.  If this has happened to any of you out there, I would love to hear what you did to recover your blog and your sanity and, more importantly, what you are doing to keep it from happening again.  I did get suggestions on the forum for which I am very grateful.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Variety is the spice of life...

It’s cold here.  Not as cold as in the upper Midwest, but pretty darn cold.  It is also very bright and beautiful out.  It seems like the birds are extra active in weather like this.  They have been coming and going with great frequency to the feeder.  Now and then they have to rest though and when they do, I have been trying to grab my camera.  Here are the birds who have visited us lately.

The official state bird of Massachusetts:  the Black-capped Chickadee.  He looks official, doesn't he?

The cardinals are not as apt to hang around near the house.  If you look closely in this photo, you will see this dashing male's wife sitting on a branch behind him.

This little Junco looks curious, but the Juncos are very skittish so I don't think he knows I'm there.

Of course, the Wild Turkeys have to stop in the yard on their way through the neighborhood.  I got a kick out of watching them jump off the ground trying to grab the leftover crab apples off the tree.  Sort of the opposite of bobbing for apples.

This morning, there are American Robins in the yard.  We've noticed that they  have been sticking around during the winter the last few years.  So much for them being the heralds of spring.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let it snow...

Got up this morning to our first real snowfall.  It has been coming down steadily all day long but hasn't really amounted to much...about an inch or so so far.  I have nothing more to say about it except that it is beautiful.  I will let the photos I took this morning speak for themselves.