Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snow Moon and Snow

It is snowing again today, which makes sense, I guess, since this week was the rise of the Snow Moon, another gorgeous super moon.   My new little camera -- a gift to myself, surprise! oh you shouldn't have -- takes better photos than my cell phone did, but so far I haven't figured out the right settings to pick up the moon's features, which were striking in real life.      But what all of this means to me is that we will put off our trip further north to visit my brother for at least another week, which is a disappointment to all of us.   Cabin fever is starting to itch a bit.

The local deer are feeling it, too, and they are grazing closer and closer to the edge of the road.  Last week I saw several lying down underneath trees, no more than 20 feet off the highway.   Soon they will lose all sense of caution -- again -- which can make driving a bit more nerve-wracking than usual.    I have never hit a deer, knock wood, which is a pretty good track record for a life-long Michigander.

Not a lot is new since we are not venturing far from home these days.   I am making long lists of the things I should be doing, but not doing many of them.  I have gotten a couple of test recipes lately for cocktails, which makes me thing that the America's Test Kitchen people are finally starting to understand me, so that has been fun.    We are not really big cocktail drinkers, so I have been making a single serving for 3 or 4 of us to share, but it's been an enjoyable experiment.   And I've been  baking more than usual, yogurt cakes and banana bread and such -- comfort foods.    All in all I  have no complaints.   Life is slow right now, but it's all good.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Ice Ice Baby

Weather is the main topic of news hereabouts lately.  Every time it clears up enough to go out on errands I see the deer herds clustered around patches of scrubby grass, gorging themselves in anticipation of the next wave of cold or snow.  My grandkids have no school again today for the 8th school day in a row because of extreme cold, or snow, or ice.   Today the culprit is ice, making the roads too slick for school buses -- or me -- to be out.    Local people are posting clips on Facebook of their kids skating on the streets outside their houses, or rolling down car windows to punch through a full pane of ice that remains in the window opening.  Winds are going to pick up tonight to about 45 miles per  hour, which could cause wires to snap since they are coated in ice.   Outages are already being reported.    We hope it won't happen to us -- of course, everyone hopes it won't happen to them.   Theoretically we are luckier than some: Hubby has a generator, but we would have to go out for gasoline to run it.   Since I am the only driver here, that would mean me.   Can you hear me whining in anticipation?   I have gotten so soft in my old age.

We hope things get back to normal, just ordinary cold and snow, soon, just so we can get out of the house again.   We are scheduled to get a photo taken tomorrow, and we have volunteered to be judges at my grandson's middle school on Saturday.  Both things can be postponed if necessary, but I am hoping it won't be necessary.

Meanwhile, I am using the bad weather as an excuse to bake and cook.   Applesauce muffins, orange chicken, whatever nonsense I can get into without going to the store.  

Jack, unexpected as always, is using the time to figure out how to use a serger, something neither of us have ever used or wanted and which he inexplicably decided to purchase last week.     He has taken to making socks. so that we often match, and it is fun for him to have a new hobby since so many things became less fun when his vision was impaired by the stroke.    In the beginning I only wore his creations in the spirit of supporting the Team, but I have grown to like them.   They make me smile.

Speaking of  socks, my son's family gave us a few month's membership to the Sock Club, and that has been fun, too.  

And speaking of fun (notice my smooth segues), I received a sweet note in the mail from a former sister-in-law, congratulating us on our wedding.  She is someone I have not had contact with in the 30-some years since my divorce.  It was a nice surprise.  One of the saddest things about divorce is that  you generally lose a whole bunch of people you care about, just because you decide (or are forced to) to go on without the one person.   Her note brought back so many memories of times with her family and it has been long enough that I was able to entertain those memories without the sadness or bitterness that might have been there before.  She was just a child when I first met her, and all my memories of her are pleasant ones, so it was nice.

I hope you are keeping safe and warm, wherever you are.   I am deep in hibernation here, getting lazier by the day, and honestly not minding it a bit.   

Saturday, February 2, 2019

One Last Day

My brother is being released from the hospital this morning and I will finally be heading home.   He has been diagnosed with a rare side effect of another treatment he underwent, but they think they have a treatment regimen in place.  It will be months before they know for sure whether it works, but in the meantime he can go home.   And so can I!!  We are both ready.    There will likely be another hospitalization, probably surgery, ahead, but for now things are looking good, thank goodness.

I walked to the main hospital pharmacy yesterday to pick up the medications he will be taking home, which was a pleasant little walk since the halls of the hospital are lined with art work.   I have been here before, with him and other loved ones, and the artwork is always different.   Today I found a little gallery of hand-colored quilts, which I thought created a cozy and comforting space for patients and visitors, even though we are not allowed to touch them.  I was sorry that there was no information posted about how they were made, just that they were created by textile students.
When I left the hospital yesterday evening I asked, as I was paying my daily parking fee, whether my brother would have to pay the full amount, since he came in for an out-patient test and will be leaving after six days.   Well, come to find out that neither patients nor their visitors are supposed to have to pay the $20 a day.  Bummer for me that no one thought to mention it before, but good news that I found out in time for my brother!  
Another surprise was that it was a balmy 15 degrees yesterday afternoon, so warm that I didn't even need to wear my gloves!   It is supposed to be warm again tomorrow, and springy-warm by Monday, in the upper 40s, which means that I missed out on my chance to throw a cup of hot water or blow bubbles outside in the sub-zero temperatures.   Both are supposed to be pretty cool experiments, and I'm sorry to have missed the opportunity.   My grandson told me he tried tossing water into the air but said it disappeared so quickly that he couldn't get a good video of it for me.   I would have liked to see that!  I am grateful that my brother doesn't have to go out in the bitter cold, though, because I suspect he is feeling a bit more fragile than usual.

It will be so good to get home.  Not that it's been all bad.   Although dinner alone is not much fun, I have treated myself with the occasional glass of wine or dessert!
And it is always good to have time with my brother.   This time, the concern about his health led to several fairly deep discussions, the kind that we too often put off, and that was a good thing.    We are both getting (a lot) older, and our time together is increasingly precious.

One more cup of coffee and I will head over to the hospital.   My brother grumbled to me on the phone that he had hoped he would have been released by now, but he has to wait for one final doctor to sign his discharge papers so it's hurry up and wait.  He is eager to get out of here and I have a million make-up errands to do.  But I know we are so fortunate to have these minor frustrations instead of a major life disaster, and I am not going to let either of us forget it.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Change of Plans

Any anticipation about being homebound with my shiny new husband during our area's "polar vortex" didn't work out quite the way I expected.   The weather forecasters were certainly right this time and it got colder than heck; even the mail service was suspended for most of the week, to protect the mail carriers who walk for miles delivering our letters and bills.  With temperatures below zero and windchill's that were 35-40 below, schools, businesses, and government offices were all closed, while I was safe and cozy and thinking about what to bake.   

My husband and I were just settling into the enjoyment of Tuesday's sub zero temperatures when I became concerned because I wasn't able to reach my older brother, who lives further north than we do.   Just about the time I was ready to call the police for a welfare check or even drive up there myself, my brother phoned to tell me that he had been admitted to the hospital and they expected to do emergency surgery as soon as they could.   I drove through whiteout conditions down to the University Hospital where he had gone in for a routine out-patient test the day before.

Thank goodness, it was only a day before the medical team concluded that my brother does not, or probably does not have a rapidly ballooning aneurism that could kill him.  Instead, they think, he has a growth on his aorta that can be treated, at least temporarily, without surgery.  We should know for sure in the next day or so but, although he is still in the ICU,  they have cleared him to get out of bed by himself, which is a very good sign.   Meanwhile, I am spending my nights alone in a hotel nearby,  hanging out in the ICU during the day, and driving back and forth in horrific temperatures.  No kidding, the tips of fingers and nose start to burn within minutes, but things are good.  For one thing, so far, the car is starting after only a few seconds of complaint.      Better yet, while we still expect there will be some surgery in his future, and probably a few more days stuck in one of those back-flap hospital robes, it looks like my brother will be able to go home again early next week.     Meanwhile, I've explored the local community to buy him the underwear and socks that he didn't know he should pack because he didn't think he was going to stay.    And Jack is home alone, again, teasing me about my high maintenance family while we look forward to being together again.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Hunkering Down

Last I checked, there were 193 schools, businesses and community/government offices closed today in our area.    Cold and snow, snow and cold, with high winds to complicate it all.   We are likely to all be back out on the roads a few days before we really want to be, but it doesn't look like it will be today.     I sent my snow guy a message telling him I'd rather pay him twice than have him outside for as long as it would take to shovel my whole driveway.   It is brutal out there; the cold wind, especially,  is terrible.  Jack has gone out to shovel twice already, but can't stay out more than a few minutes because of the wind. 

There was a single junco at the feeder this morning, braving the wind and trying to dig out the sunflower seeds and eat them before they blew away.  Inside, though, we are cozy warm and breakfasted on french toast, bacon and coffee.     

Winter in mid and northern Michigan is beautiful, at  least from the inside out.  But it can be dangerous; we've seen reports in the past week of two people, one young and one older, who died of exposure after wandering from their vehicles and not finding their way back in time, despite short distances of less than a quarter mile.   We have a lot of woods and wilderness here, and too many people who don't know how to use a map and compass or dress for the weather.

This old fool is content to snuggle up next to my husband as we sit by a roaring fire and watch the blowing snow through the window while I house-hunt on the internet.  I feel fortunate, indeed.   

Saturday, January 26, 2019

January Cold

It's cold here, for sure.  Another polar vortex here in the mid-west while, on the other side of the world, they are suffering from record heat.   Although by the time I'd had my coffee this morning it was a mere 8 below (F) and sunny.  Jack's kitchen pipes were frozen when I got up and I started to feel panicky about my own empty house, 25 miles away.   Time for a field trip home to check on things!  And maybe I'll turn my heat up a little.   I generally keep my house at about 60 degrees, but the colder weather makes me nervous, so I think I will turn it up to 65.     That's silly, I know, when I am not even there to enjoy the luxury, but still.
Aside from the cold, which we are lucky enough to easily avoid most of the time since we are retired and have shelter, things are good and we are grateful.

My grands continue to be a major delight in my life.   The oldest, 14, could not think of a thing he wanted to ask for as a gift for either his birthday or Christmas.   We decided to give him a 'cheese extravaganza' experience since he loves trying new cheeses.  We started by making him a cheese fondue, then (on a different day) visited a cheese shop where he was able to taste whatever took his fancy, and and choose several cheeses to take home.   A few days later I made macaroni and blue cheese for dinner, which he AND (most of) his family loved, and I have to admit, so did I.   I used a variation of Ina Garten's "Macaroni and Cheese for Grown Ups."  But what I loved just as much was that, at such a young age, my grandson knows that he doesn't need more "stuff" and was willing to say so, which will lead the way, I hope, to more experiences as gifts.   He is the quintessential STEM child, with an intense interest in mathematics and science.  And he is more fun to talk to and puzzle over questions with than almost any adult I know.
Both my grandson and my granddaughter are musician, as I've mentioned before, and this week she played a solo at the school concert, Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor, Opus 3, number 6, 1st movement.   She knows it by heart, of course, and it was just a joy to sit and listen to her.   Tears ran down my face.
She is good at  math and science, but what she really loves is art.   When she isn't reading or playing music, she is drawing, but this year she also experimented with a variety of clay crafts, including using a wheel and making a fantasy 'coat of arms,' with one of her favorite animals, the fox, along with a stylized violin, drawing pens, and a book as her logos.  They are both such a fun mix of child and almost grown.   
We are expecting to be homebound this weekend as the temperatures drop even further.  I have not sewn anything for a long time and this might be a good weekend to get back to it, although I expect I will do more cooking than sewing.   My hubs just bought a new embroidery machine with an even bigger hoop AND a serger, which will be entirely new to me, so it is hard to do my old projects while I am waiting for the new toys to arrive!  I have nighties and a blouse cut out and ready to experiment with!  I also have a mile-long list of embroidery projects ready and waiting.   But my most pressing projects are belated Christmas gifts, cut out and stacked up at my house.  These days my regular sewing machine is at my own house, along with those overdue 'regular' projects, so until I have all those ready-to-go quilt pieces and other things with me, not much sewing is likely to get done.  Living between two houses has its challenges, and we are hoping that several lost items and lost habits will return to us once we are truly settled somewhere!

Tomorrow night I will also call an automated phone line to find out whether I will need to go in for jury duty at the regional federal court.   They didn't need me at all last week and, although I would treasure the opportunity to sit on a jury, I would be happy to be passed over until the weather is a little more mild.    
Life is good.  I have people to love, a fire in the fireplace and butterscotch pudding on the stove.   What more could anyone wish for?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Cold As Ice

We live in the Every-Quilt-You-Own region of the country.  It was 9 below (Fahrenheit) when we got up today.      But the sun is shining, finally.  At my Saginaw house I always park in the garage but here at Jack’s my car is stuck out on the driveway and is covered in a thick coating of ice today, which glistens in the light.    Pretty.   Awful, but pretty.  Since I am on jury duty this week and next, I am hoping the car doesn’t realize  how old its battery is until after that obligation is over.
It is good eating weather, though.   I made a lovely chili and cornbread last night, and I have chicken and potatoes simmering away in the crock pot in anticipation of our dominoes game tonight, assuming the roads will be cleared and salted in time for Evan to drive over.  There will be chocolate cookies for dessert since I discovered a roll of butter cookie dough in the freezer when I was searching for corn meal.    Even if all I do is hibernate, I know how important that fat layer is this time of year.   My doctor is too young to understand these things.

Our 6-week marriage is still intact.   And they said it wouldn't last!   😂😂😂    There is always a learning curve, of course, but Jack is a truly caring person and we both try hard to be considerate with one another.    So far it's been as easy as it should be.   Except for the challenges that we knew in advance would be there for us.   Jack's 38-year-old son lives here with us and we all still walk a bit on eggshells.   Me, mostly, since I am the interloper; his son moved back in several years ago.     We see him pretty rarely since he mostly keeps to himself.  And I have to admit, he and I both pretty much treat this place like Jack's House; I do relatively little to help and he does less.     It is, after all, filled with Jack's stuff and he has his own way of doing things.   I still take my own laundry home to my own house, and I do all the housekeeping chores there.   But I do  most of the cooking and of course I clean up after myself.   And I do not like leaving a clean kitchen at night and waking up to dirty dishes and pans on the counter, especially when the dishwasher is empty.  I am not a fan of kitchen mess, even if it caused by a co-equally responsible adult, but even less it is caused by a guest or a family member who has no other job or responsibilities, so I hope those issues will be resolved somewhere along the way.   I am staying as removed as possible during this transition period, although I will not cook in a dirty kitchen so, being the only driver,  I shuffle us out for breakfast more days than should be necessary.    For now the silent kitchen drama is taking place in a house that I do not own or claim any control over; but patterns have been set so the possibility of easy changes has been long gone from the 'barn.'   If it is possible to avoid it,  I don't want this to become an area of resentment on anyone's part so I have made suggestions but no real waves at this point.   But we continue to house-hunt and I can't imagine that I will be able to gracefully tolerate uncontrolled messes once we have a kitchen I claim as my own.   So we'll see.    Lots of adjustments to be made.

We had dinner the other night with a couple we have known for over 6 years, our first married couple dinner with another married couple.   This particular couple had always been friendly but they never made any social overtures until after we were married which reminded me, not for the first time, how hard it is for singles to have a satisfying social life.   Anyway, they invited us for dinner and we had a lovely time.    Since we only knew them through Search and Rescue almost everything we heard that night was new to us, and they have done so many interesting things, which made it even more fun.  The wife, Susan, has a lovely spinning wheel in one corner of a room and remarked that she had wanted "all her life" to learn to spin, and so she was finally doing it.   The yarn she has made so far is very professional looking, and spinning looks like fun.  Susan has offered to show me how to do it and I might just take her up on it, although I had not considered it before.     But her comment caused me to wish I had wanted to do something "my whole life" so that I could start learning to do it now.     But no complaints; I had, after all, wanted to be married, and here I am.  Life is good.