Snow fell all Christmas Day. Hubby and Son went out twice to clear the driveway and walks. Last night a big road grader came by and pushed ALL the snow in the street to our side. It was too late to do anything about it then.
By the time we attacked the mountain this morning the snow had frozen solid. We had to break it up before we could feed it to the snow thrower.
I measure the snow by how deep it is around the swing in our yard.
This is the swing in use last July.
This is the swing today.
Last winter the swing was completely covered by February.
Okay, I know the whole northern part of the United States is in deep snow. So this is probably not amazing to a lot of people. But the storm (see earlier post) that dumped on us all yesterday was followed by 25 mph winds.
View out our window at 9 p.m. Dec. 22
The snowplow came by this morning and cleared the streets. And filled our driveway.
The snow was so heavy Hubby had a hard time keeping the snow thrower going.
Twelve inches on the level. The rural areas are deep in drifts.
Best wishes to all the travelers. And good luck. You are going to need it!
It is said the sense of smell
Remembers longest and best.
So when we catch cinnamon aromas,
Scents of pumpkin pie and roast turkey
We grow all sentimental
For holiday and home.
Or when we are reminded of the darkened gym,
The lighted stage, the cardboard stable
And the glitter glue star;
Or sing shepherd songs of angels in the silent night.
Again we feel the childish anticipation
No matter what our age.
But houses, churches and lighted halls
Would be hollow, empty and even disquieting
Without the warmth of folks we love and know.
Whether dressed in plaid bathrobes and towel turbans
Or just standing near to touch and share.
Our fellow people are
What is our home.
Photo and poetry by me
It has been difficult to get the feeling of Christmas with only the two of us, plus our giant black cat, in the house. We really miss the joy spread by youngsters as they help with decorations and cooking. However, we were able to witness a special Christmas pageant the other night that really warmed our hearts. A group of twenty or so children gathered on the warmly lit stage to sing, “This is the season beloved of the year.” By the next verse they were joined on stage by three little girls dressed in white and one in a glittery gold star costume. They gathered around the hand-held microphone and, with huge smiles, sang their part, “This is the new star, shining so bright, Lighting the world on that first Christmas night. These are the angels proclaiming the birth, Singing ‘Hosanna!’ And ‘Peace on the Earth!’” Mary and Joseph entered dressed in bathrobes with scarves on their heads and laid their Baby Jesus doll in the manger. Next came the shepherds also in their little robes and carrying their grandpa’s canes. Finally, on hands and knees, followed a three-or-four year old dressed in a wooly lamb costume. “These are the shepherds, humble and mild, Hast’ning to worship the heavenly child.” Mary and Joseph stepped center stage. “See the sweet mother, Mary so fair, Joseph who guided the donkey with care.” While they were thus occupied the lamb rose up on its knees, put its front “hooves” over the edge of the manger and peered at the child; then gathered the “baby” up and cuddled him while Mary, Joseph and the rest of the children finished the song.
Almost every year at around this time we experience what is called THE ALBERTA CLIPPER. So named because Arctic weather drops down out of the Canadian Province, Alberta, and sends the temperatures below zero (-17C). Sometimes the thermometer readings continue to drop until -40F equals -40C. And things usually stay that way for days and even weeks. School does not close unless it gets down to -20 because the buses won’t run and it is dangerous for anyone to stand around outside in those conditions. According to The Weather Channel, Montana and the Dakotas are getting the icebox weather plus a big snow. New England is recovering from an ice storm that took out the electricity, among other things. Hubby had our snow thrower all primed and ready to go so he was able to move the big ridge of snow left across the driveway by the snow plow last night. Our house is so snug we can’t hear the wind blow thanks to the hours and hours spent in the attic installing insulation last October. We send best wishes to those who have to travel on icy roads and put another log on the fire.
Snow had fallen during the night. The walk to the park in the dark was made more interesting by new tracks put down by the paperboy’s bike, joggers, automobiles, and animals. I took my camera in hopes of seeing deer along the river path. But someone with big feet and a big dog was just ahead of me. Any wildlife had gone for cover in the brush. I was glad in a way. At six a.m. in July this trail is all chirpy with birds, and the sun is easing through the greens in the leaves, (cue Grieg’s Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt Suite).
But, even with the reflected light from the snow, the place had turned to Mirkwood (insert scary music from The Lord of the Rings).
I almost expected evil creatures to appear in my path. There were no giant spiders, and the place felt friendlier as sunlight turned the sky pink. A bunny had left tracks across the pathway.
They reminded me of another snowy morning in Grand Teton Park. I went to get photos of the rose glow of sunrise on the Teton Mountains. I found myself following very large bear tracks down the trail.
I tried to be very noisy and slow to give Mr. Bear plenty of time to get away. Glad I never saw the maker of those big footprints!
First, congratualtions to Running Spider for answering the Poetry Quiz for my last posting. I have edited that post by adding the words to the poem under my photos. NOW...
Here is the third installment of the list of valuable information that I started on November 02.
* Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is not enough. And sometimes more is just more. * You don’t always find what you want in a person, but you usually get what you expect. * Don’t become so focused on the windshield bugs that you miss the scenery. * Even though powdered baby food looks like fish food---the fish don’t like it---especially in large quantities. * A cow chews her cud approximately twenty-five times before she swallows it. * The value of a kitchen appliance is: The amount of time and effort it saves you—minus the time it takes to learn to use it—minus the time it takes to clean and maintain it—minus the area it takes up in the kitchen. * When you are traveling long distances by car or bus never pass up an opportunity to pee. * It is never so bad that it can’t get worse. * Don’t keep ointment for sore muscles next to the toothpaste. * You can tell a lot about a couple by the way they put up a camping tent. * When you take the “Do Not Remove” tags off your pillows--no one comes to arrest you. * It is not a good idea to scream at the driver.
I have to leave before sunrise on my morning walks to be home in time to get ready for work. So I usually don't take my camera along. That would guarantee losing track of time and being late. Today I was on call so I took the camera and am including shots of a park on one of my walking routes.
Maaaahm. Have you seen my coat?
Give thanks for all that is good in your life!
No posts until Monday. We will be hosting eighteen guests from out of town and we are going to PARTY! (CA fam--wish you were here!)
My predawn walk was a brisk one. The moon hung like a sliver of ice over the southeast and the dark sky was cloudless. I didn’t look at the temperature before I left the house and, although I was dressed warm, I was not prepared for the sting of the air on my face. Wow! But, no matter, in a few minutes the bare skin was numb. My breath fogged up my glasses, and my windbreaker took on a rattley sound as I walked through the park. When I got to the campus I could see a great change had happened. The place is normally an anthill of activity even early in the morning. But the students have gone on Thanksgiving break. With it being so cold and still; I got the feeling I was in one of those sci-fi movies where everything had turned to stone or stopped in time and I was the only thing moving. The streets were so quiet that I walked diagonally across an intersection that is famous for texting drivers taking out pedestrians talking on cell phones. The campus-grounds crew had put up marker rods along the sidewalks to give the snow removal workers an idea of where to go when real winter hits any time in the near future. They had also set up the life-size nativity by the fine arts building. The figures seem to be huddled around a heater grate in the ground. When I got home I looked at the thermometer. Fifteen degrees (that's minus nine celsius)! No wonder I could not feel my face! Brrrr!
This morning’s walk took me back around the pond. It was dark when I left the house. Orion and his dog were still visible in the southwest. The streets were quiet except for the distant growl of traffic on the four-lane. By the time I got to the water, the earth had rolled over toward the sun enough that I could see the silhouettes of a few wild ducks. Their quacking sounded like they were laughing at hilarious jokes. A whisper of breeze came up and rippled the top of the pond until it looked like wrinkled stainless steel. I startled a flock of Canada geese and they took off with a lot of honking and flapping. More ducks joined their comedian friends, their wings whistling as the circled in for a landing. The trumpeter swans had moved on. Down at the water’s edge I heard a quiet splash as a muskrat dove for cover. Further along there was a quiet rustle as a white tail doe and her adolescent fawn bounced over some brush and retreated waving their tails like surrender flags. There were more bird calls along the river. By the time my path circled back, the wind had picked up and carried the sounds of the town waking up.
It is times like these that make me think that wearing headphones during a morning walk is like holding your nose in a pastry shop.
Here is a continuation of the list of valuable information that I started on November 02.
* Never turn your back on the ocean, especially if you are between it and the sea wall. * Don’t kick cow pies even when they look dry. * Singing helps me ski better. So does screaming. * Put the rocks in before the sand. * A good compromise leaves everybody mad. * It is not a good idea to get between a man and his fire. * Always walk or ride your bicycle facing oncoming traffic. That way when they fill out the accident report you can tell them what hit you. * When children are crabby put them in water. * Don’t lick the spoon that serves the salsa. * When it hits the fan it will not be evenly distributed; even the innocent usually get splattered. * Two a.m. paranoias are reduced greatly by daylight. * Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. *If you are observant you can see Nature do some pretty spectacular things. This will usually happen when your camera is not ready.
This morning my walk took me past a pond where wild ducks congregate. Lately they have been joined by noisy migrating Canada Geese. Today the quacking and honking also included the sound of a French horn. The big trumpeter swans are making their way south and a group had spent the night on the pond. Trumpeters are HUGE birds. I met one face-to-face through a fence at a zoo and he could look me square in the eye. I am short, but a five foot bird with a seven-to-nine foot wingspan is an impressive creature. In fact they are considered the largest waterfowl species on earth.
I take an afternoon once or twice a month in December and January to make the hour’s drive to see the flocks that winter on a river north of here. A few years ago they were few and far between. But in the past ten years the efforts of Fish and Wildlife people have been very successful in improving the population. They are still protected from hunting. The farmers don’t like them because their enormous webbed feet can carry disease and pests from the standing water in one field to another. I just think they are one of the most beautiful creations on earth. The trumpeter swans and the Grand Tetons make this a great place to call home.
Back when Saturday Night Live was watchable... Gilda Radner did a skit as Emily Litella. Emily was a little old lady, slightly deaf, who was outraged by things she heard on the news. For example, “Why are they taking violins off television? Music is very important, especially for our children!!” Etc. Or, “What’s all this fuss about endangered feces! How can something like that be endangered? There is definitely too much of that stuff around!” Or, “Eagle Rights amendment! Since when are we giving rights to birds? They can’t even vote!”
Well, I am there. I hear things on the news and get really weird visuals. A few days ago I heard about people getting arrested for driving around school buses with the stop sign arm sticking out. I wondered why they were even letting people that stupid drive school buses. Or, maybe the bus drivers were just a little forgetful and needed the police to cut them some slack. Then I thought about it for a while….Oh, never mind.
Then, just yesterday, I heard they were shooting ducks in the lake to test their excrement for bird flu. Wow! I guess shooting ducks into a lake would sure get the excrement to come out. But what kind of cannon would you use to launch a duck into the air? And how would you collect the excrement afterwards? Got a really funny picture in my head. You’ll have to get your own. Anyway, I thought about it some more. Oh. That’s different. Never mind.
On a frozen winter evening
In a barn down at the dairy
Sits a maiden on a tall stool
Dressed in jeans and rubber boots.
In her hand she has a copy
Of a National Geographic
Which she reads in stolen moments
From her labors cold and wearing
Midst the smell of fresh manure,
And the pulsing sound of milkers
While the Holsteins chew their barley.
There between the yellow covers
Is the story of far travel:
Down a river called Zambezi
Sixteen hundred miles of water
From Zambia to Namibia
Round the corner to Botswana
Back to Zambia, past Zimbabwe
Over vast Victoria Falls.
Mozambique, then to the ocean
Rolls the river of Zambezi
Full of snorting, lumpy hippos.
There dwell baboons, snakes (black mambas)
Elephants, oxpeckers, catfish.
Crocodiles yawn in the shadows
Cormorants fly overhead.
There the people fish the channels,
Paddle canoes full of cargo
As they have for generations
To the towns along the river
Where, “To travel is to dance.”
Soon the maiden at the dairy
Puts away her hasty reading,
Goes back to the heavy Holsteins;
Washes warm and steaming udders
While the motor of the milkers
And the country music station
Accompanies her wishing
To do something in her lifetime
That few women ever do.
Since my memory has always been bad and is getting worse, I began keeping a list of valuable information that I usually learned the hard way. And, although some mistakes are too fun to only make once, there are others that are best not repeated. Below is a portion of that list. As you can guess there is a good story to go with some of them. But this is a blog so I will not elaborate at this time.
*Don’t run with a Tootsie Pop in your mouth *Never let your mother comb your hair while she is angry *Don’t turn on the vacuum cleaner while you are holding the cat *Riding in a convertible with the top down on a warm day is more fun than riding in the back of a pickup truck with the dogs *A good paper grocery bag will hold water just long enough for you to drop it off the roof on your brother *Odds of bad things happening increase with darkness and heat. *Don’t eat Junior Mints during a long car trip (especially if you are wearing light colored pants) unless you can be absolutely certain you won’t drop any on the car seat *Drink all your lemonade before eating your cake *The ten second rule does not apply at the beach *Don’t wait until it stops snowing to shovel the driveway *It is impossible to improve and look good at the same time. And sometimes the harder you try, the more stupid you look. *Never let your husband trim the hedge with a chainsaw *When you are really alone…you can sing as loud as you want * When you sing as loud as you want—you scare the cat.
I was teaching some nine-year-olds about the Beatitudes, specifically Matthew 5:15 Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
The point to be made was the importance of being a good example. I had to give them some background on the use of candles as a source of light and not just a cake decoration. Then I had to explain the term “bushel” as basket that would hold the amount of grain a person could lift and carry. To get the attention of children who had already sat through an hour-long meeting at lunch time, I brought a birthday candle stuck down in a little paper cup, and a small basket to put over it. I had them the minute there was flame. I gently placed the little basket over the candle began to expound. I realized I had their total attention. “Wow,” I thought, “I am really getting my message across.” Then I could smell something burning and saw puffs of smoke coming from the basket. The lecture stopped and I lifted the basket which was now taking on a toasted nature. While seven children watched in amazement I blew out the candle and waved the basket until the smoldering stopped. Then I segued into how a city on a hill cannot be hid. The class was still focused on the candle. “You are not supposed to set things on fire in the church.” one said. “You are right," I agreed, “But I bet you will remember not to put your candle under a bushel!” The scriptures are true. And the direction given us to not expand on what is in the lesson manual is true too.
I learned a long time ago that the best way to dish out punishment to children was to assign them cleaning duty. Although it made them mad at me, at least I got my cupboards cleaned. Grounding children not only makes them mad at you, but you get stuck babysitting. However, there are no children residents in my house right now. So I have been going through each of my kitchen cupboards over the past weeks to scrub and discard. Bleeech. I even had Hubby help me drag out the fridge so I could destroy the hairball monster and the slime lady that were living together there. The result was a kitchen floor that would pull your socks off. Bleeeeeeech. This floor is supposed to be “no-wax,” but it has taken a beating over the years. So I put on the wax, and then I have to strip it off every year or so when it turns gray. I use ammonia, which is great for the sinuses, (sarcasm here) and this time there was some elbow grease involved. It took most of the afternoon, and then both Hubby and I had places to go.
I told Hubby, since I would get home first, that I was going put down new wax. He was thinking food and was wondering if I would have things done so he could get to the fridge when he came in. I promised, yes. Then I realized I did not have enough wax to do the whole job. Finished evening meeting. Bought more wax. Put down a thin layer (still in my high heels) and had it dry before the man came home. In the middle of the night I woke up (I always wake up anyway) put down another layer of wax and slipped into bed. Hubby woke up and headed for the bathroom. Oh, No! What if he goes in the kitchen?! Should I yell, “Stay out of the kitchen!?” or just hope he does. I kept quiet. There was a flushing sound and he crawled into bed. I don’t think he even woke up. This morning I walked barefoot in the kitchen and enjoyed it.
First the Haiku:
At rest in a pumpkin patch
Hidden till Halloween
Now the story: One day a farmer’s donkey fell down a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to pitch dirt into the well. At first, the donkey cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer and his neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off.
PEARL OF WISDOM NUMBER ONE: We can get out of the deepest wells by shaking off what is dumped on us and taking a step up.
The donkey later came back and bit the daylights out of the farmer who tried to bury him. The gash from the bite got infected, and the farmer eventually died in agony of septic shock.
PEARL OF WISDOM NUMBER TWO: When you do something wrong and try to cover your “donkey,” it always comes back to bite you.
The following is my recipe for apple pie filling. If you are using canned fruit such as peaches or berries you can use the same recipe. Use a quart of fruit and, since the fruit is already cooked, you need only drain the juice into a sauce pan and warm it while you prepare the thickening.
4 to 5 thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples. Avoid Delicious apples. Most other red apples work fine. Granny Smith apples add tartness.
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
OPTIONAL ½ cup canned drained pineapple--chunked or crushed. Juice from pineapple can be used as part of the liquid to cook the apples.
Prepare and roll out pastry for a double crust pie. Line a nine inch pie pan with half of the pastry.
While preparing apple slices, place them in a two quart sauce pan with 1 cup water (part can be pineapple juice—see above) and lemon juice. Simmer apple slices and water, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until slices just start to soften. Remove from heat. Put a colander over a large bowl and drain the liquid off the fruit, then return the liquid to the saucepan. In a small bowl mix together the sugar, cornstarch, and spices. Add ¼ cup water to the sugar-cornstarch mixture and stir until smooth. Stir this into the juice in the sauce pan and return the mixture to the heat and stir. Continue stirring until it comes to a boil. If the mixture is thicker than pudding thin it down with a little more water. Add apple slices, and if desired, drained pineapple.
Pour the filling into a pie pan lined with uncooked pie pastry. Add the pastry top, seal edges and cut holes to let out steam. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes on the lower oven rack until crust is browned.
APPLE CRUMB PIE:
Prepare as above, except use an uncooked single crust pastry recipe. Fill pastry-lined pie pan with apple pie filling. CRUMB TOPPING: Stir together ½ cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup packed brown sugar. Using a pastry blender or spoon and then clean fingers, cut in 3 tablespoons butter or margarine till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple filling and bake 425 degrees for 35-45 minutes.