Saturday, September 19, 2020

Chilling

Our little trip to Ludington was very nice.  We found outdoor eateries for dinner, and ate the food we brought with us in our room for breakfast.  Ludington, which has had very low infection numbers, was fairly militant about the mask requirement.  Virtually every store and elevator had a sign advising that they would call the police if you refused to wear one.  So we felt comfortable there and were able to maintain a more than safe distance from the few people we saw.  The attitude was so different from our local scene, where the infection rates are much higher, but people (including store owners) are claiming that their "individual rights" are being trampled on by the governor's executive orders about masks.  Petitions are circulating to restrict her powers even though there is clear evidence that our state has fared better during this pandemic than states where no mask edicts were attempted.  In Ludington, the streets were mostly empty.  But we felt safe going into the shops that caught our eye; the business motto was "stay safe to stay open," which seemed both friendlier and more sensible to us.  

The weather was not especially warm, but lovely all the same.  We had some sun each day and it never got colder than the mid 60s in the day time, although there was sometimes a stiff breeze by the water.  For our outdoor dining, I was comfortable in a long sleeve shirt, sometimes adding a light fleece jacket.  






Since Ludington is on the west side of the state, we went to the beach each evening, hoping to watch a sunset.  Although the days seemed clear, and the sun began setting as usual, it would disappear before reaching the horizon, just below the position in the picture below.   We read in the news that the smoke from the western wildfires had reached Michigan, and we speculated that the sun was being covered by a smokey haze.  All we knew for sure was that it disappeared from view about an hour before sunset.

                                                

On the morning we left to return home there was a freeze warning, and when we ate lunch outdoors that day, we were both very cold even though the restaurant placed a propane heater next to our table.  For that meal, I wore two sweatshirts and a jacket and still felt uncomfortable, and even Jack, who rarely seems to feel the cold, was chilled.  Today, as I write this in the middle of the day, it is about 45 degrees outside.  We started a fire in our fireplace this morning and I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the onset of colder weather -- if it were not for the pandemic, this might be the year I would try to convince Jack to go south for a bit when the weather gets really cold.  This year it feels like there are fewer options.  I will cook a pot of chili this weekend to have with our fresh baked bread, trying to make the best of the best part of lower temperatures.  It is only September still, so I know we will have warmer weather again this year and I will have more time to adjust to the idea.  

I never felt completely relaxed on this trip and I blame the political news that kept creeping in for that.    I disabled my Facebook and Twitter accounts before we left,  and it has been a struggle not to go back in to check them.   There seems to be no avoiding the headlines, and of course the neighbors have political signs on their lawns and the balance of those is troubling.

Even so, it was good to get away, and good to return home.  We will self-isolate now for a couple of weeks to be sure we didn't pick up any illness on our adventure, but we are pretty confident that this was a safe trip.  

Our local quilt shop/Babylock dealer called this morning to say that my embroidery machine repairs are complete.  They offer curbside service so we will pick that up this afternoon.  And since I cleaned the house before we left and did our laundry the night we returned, I should have plenty of time to sew tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Getting Away

I disengaged my Facebook and Twitter accounts this week.   It was a surprisingly difficult decision and I am already missing social media a surprising amount.  Facebook, especially, is where I keep up with cousins and friends who I have not seen in person for years, and even my children post photos  and milestones there that I would not otherwise see.   But the political postings were making me crazy, especially seeing people I know post things that seem to me objectively false and yes, I'll say it, stupid, was taking the fun out of it.  I would have had no idea, absent Facebook, that so many people I know are Trump supporters who support things that are anathema to me; I will never look at them the same again, and it is hard for me to figure at this point whether that is good riddance or a sad loss.  And the final straw was when a random stranger, apparently a "Facebook friend" of an actual friend, told me I was a c--t and should shoot myself after I "liked" my friend's political content.  That is not the kind of social life, virtual or otherwise, that I am willing to accept into my life.  And so the withdrawal begins.

It is chilly again this week, going into the 30s and 40s at night and into the 60s or low 70s during the day.  We are already talking about adding another blanket to our bed, something my husband resists more strenuously than I do since I am always cold anyway.   Our house is surrounded by oak trees and the acorns are falling, the rat-a-tat-tat of them falling on our roof increasing every day.  And the deer are grazing up closer to the house again, perhaps drawn by the acorns.

                                                

Traditionally this time of year, with the children back in school and teachers back at work, signals a slowing down of travel and fewer crowds in tourist areas, so we decided to drive a couple hours west to Lake Michigan for a few days.   We have often stayed at the old Stearns Hotel in Ludington, simple accommodations in the first hotel built in the area in 1903, and recently found out that they have rooms equipped with a kitchenette,  (gas) fireplace and sitting area in case we need to keep entirely to ourselves.  I packed a bag of fruit and cheese and wine, and cereal bars for morning, to tide us over until we figure out whether we can find outdoor dining or whether we need to find a market for food.  Some people hate the hotel because it is old and a bit shabby, but it is clean and we love the high ceilings and plaster details.  

                                    

Although the weather is too cold to really enjoy the beach today, the lake has a calming effect on me, and I hope to drink it in with my eyes until it smooths out the wrinkles in my mind.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Labor Day Weekend

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This week it feels as if summer is gone for good.  It has been cold and often rainy and I have used a quilt to cover myself every time I sat for any length of time.   It has been a strange week, too, as the construction company was finally able to complete our new roof, blocking us into the house and garage for hours at a time.  It was strange to me that I chaffed at being blocked in even though I didn't need to go anywhere;  I just like having the option, I guess.

The cooler weather seems to have given me a bit more energy, although my feet still hurt enough that I cannot walk or stand for any length of time without discomfort.   I roasted and pureed half a bushel of tomatoes to freeze, stripped a pile of corn on the cob to freeze for winter soups, made a delicious vegetable soup with all the leftovers, and did a variety of other neglected kitchen tasks.  I am still baking bread at least weekly and we cannot imagine ever going back to "store bought" at this point.

In the sewing room, I finally got to work on the two "quarantine" lap quilts I have wanted to make for my grandchildren as Christmas gifts and was making good progress until my embroidery machine threw the embroidery foot and lodged a needle somewhere deep down below the bobbin mechanism, freezing the machine and forcing me to stop.  Since the quilt shop/Babylock dealer is closed down for the holiday weekend and still has limited hours because of the pandemic, this will stop me cold for at least a couple of weeks.  Although I am not happy about this since it has taken me months to get motivated, there is plenty of other sewing work for me to do if I can just keep the momentum going.

I arranged some of Jack's furniture downstairs near the wood burning fireplace which I finally had inspected but we still haven't lit.  We have gas logs in the upstairs fireplace and they are so convenient that I am spoiled by the ability to just turn a knob and have a fire.  But I have fantasies of having our families here with fires going in both rooms so that people can spread out and visit.  I do not expect that will happen this winter because the virus numbers are still so volatile, but at least the fireplace rooms will be ready.

Which is not to say that the house itself is "ready."  This is a big house, much bigger than we need or even wanted. We bought it because it is in the city, near hospitals and shops, but still has a country feel because of all the  trees.   I could easily do without the entire lower level but since it's there, we really need to get it organized.  Oh, and the sewing room; we really need to get that organized, too, and I have no excuse for not doing it.  It could easily be another year before we are really 'moved in' in any truly meaningful way.  The pandemic has provided the opportunity, but not the motivation, so the work still waits to be done.

My sister was finally released from the rehab facility a day ago, even though she is far from well.  She still tests positive for the virus and has been warned that she is still at high risk for heart attack or stroke and advised to spend her time sitting except when the visiting nurse stops by to help her with mild physical therapy.  She is happy to be home, but since we cannot visit her, I am more anxious now that there is no one always there with her. She told me that she woke up last night, for instance, and did not know where she was, and fortunately did not cause herself any harm when she tried to get out of the bed on the wrong side, thinking she was in the hospital.   Her son lives nearby so she is not uncared for, but I do not like being so far away.

I have been slow to hang pictures or photos in this house because I was waiting for Jack's furniture and also to purchase the few pieces that we know we will want to replace.  But I finally went ahead and hung a number of family photos just because I miss them all and we are enjoying them even more than we might have in other years.  I smile every time I look at the sweet faces of my grandchildren, and seeing our children and siblings also warms my heart.   I think I will start hanging other things on the walls now that I realize how much more homey it makes things feel and how much it lifts our spirits.





Now that we have an outdoor grill and are cooking outside a bit, we set up an old wrought iron table and chairs so that we can eat outdoors when the weather is pleasant.  We bought a chiminea this week and enjoyed our first outdoor fire, using for fuel the many small branches that our trees provide with every storm.  



I am planning to brave going out for a haircut this week!     The salon I go to is careful about limiting the number of people they allow in at one time, and careful about wearing masks and keeping as much distance as possible, but I am still more nervous than I'd like.  I am not sure when my mountain-man spouse will choose to do the same.  By contrast, the Barber shops near us where Jack might go are less careful, so Jack is in no hurry.   Fine with me.

Best news of all, my son's family is planning to stop over for an hour this weekend to visit.  It will be a short visit by plan, and we will stay outside and use masks and distance, because they are back working "in the world" and they are afraid of accidentally bringing the virus to us, especially after our scare with my sister.  I am so eager to see them, this will be a definite high point and will sweeten summer's passing.