You Know It’s Spring When…

person standing using red umbrella
Photo by Aline Nadai on Pexels.com We are in for storms

I’m going to whisper this: it looks as if winter’s finally let go of us. Don’t let winter hear you repeat this; it might get ideas about returning.

Yesterday some redwing blackbirds sang in the day as I took Oakley out for his first round of social networking. It was breezy, but not to the point where walking and standing were neat tricks. The mild air smelled fresh and slightly milky with notes of green. Beneath my feet, the tender soil yielded to each step, making a slight sucking noise as I pulled my feet from the mud.

Yes. Hello, spring and all the things that come with you: the mud, the bird songs, the unstable weather. Welcome.

We are under a tornado warning until 5PM Central today. It’s to be expected when the day’s high spikes near 60 only to be chased out by a cold front during the afternoon hours. Starting tomorrow daytime highs will be more in line with averages for mid-March. After a winter with a polar vortex, they will feel subtropical.

So far today, we’ve had three short rounds of rain followed by crystal blue skies. The southwest wind is howling away. A little while ago hail smashed against the windows. No damage, just noise.

Oakley has spent the last few hours either sitting next to me with his tush glued to my hip or taking refuge in his storm shelter between the arm chair and the love seat. The flying debris smacking into the house and other solid objects is a bit nerve wracking for both of us. I don’t blame him. A seat next to Mom soothes his anxiety.

We tried to walk at the big forest preserve this morning, but bailed. The thunder under a half-blue half-clouded-over sky was disconcerting enough, but throw a couple of bus loads of elementary school students in and you can kiss any semblance of peace goodbye. We missed our 30 minute goal by about five minutes, but the speed of return to the car likely compensated for it.

I made sure to charge my phone last night in case of power outages, both so I can contact the power company and communicate with the outside world. We’re prepared. We don’t really have much else to worry about as this system makes its way to its next destination. For that I am truly grateful.

 

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Getting Hygge With It

 

white polar bear on white snowy field near canal during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(No polar bears in the field just yet, but I would not be surprised if one sauntered past us.)

Today Oakley and I experiment with the Danish art of hygge. There’s no direct translation of the word, but the gist of it means making things as nice as possible inside with candles, knickknacks, good music, books, DVDs, dog treats, and of course, chocolate and red wine along with having friends over. We have all of the above, and while I’d love to have friends over, not in this weather will I ask them to leave their homes, so I’ll make a couple of calls. It’s how Danes survive their winters without going totally mad.

Our winter chugged along in mild beauty and splendor until last week when weather turned into more typical January patterns of snow and co. This week, Mother Nature decided to send a cross-pole vortex our way. We’re going to make history for the next 48-72 hours out here in the soybean field. Tonight’s low will be -23F. Tomorrow’s high will be -15F. Thursday we’ll be hovering around zero, but all will be right again on Friday with a subtropical high of 20F. Right now it’s 4F above with the wind kicking up the top layer of the snow.

As much as it irritated both of us, I kept Oakley home from day care today. Usually he goes twice a week, but attendance this last month has been erratic due to weather. Today local weather people call for blowing and drifting later this afternoon, right about the time I usually pick him up. That’s the rub. The route I vastly prefer cuts through open farm fields. It gets blown in after snowstorms no matter how diligently they keep after it. I’ve been blinded by ground blizzards before and don’t wish to risk that, thank you. The other route involves a US highway that follows the railroad line stringing together the largest towns in the county. It’s better sheltered and the first road plowed after storms. However, accessing it involves doubling back to the east which jacks up drive time as well as negotiating a two mile stretch of  construction. As in 30 minutes to go two miles. Nope.

So we nibble a couple of extra treats, play some games, do some puzzles as we listen to the wind underscoring the current selection playing on WFMT. We only have to get through 48-72 hours of this, and we will.

I can’t speak for Oakley, but I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

 

 

In Praise of Pantries

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Winter finally came to town this weekend. We didn’t get that much snow, but it was one of those storms that just strolled in early Saturday, pulled up a chair, and made itself at home until finally leaving in the wee smalls Sunday morning.

Luckily, we didn’t have to be anywhere this weekend. We made the big haul grocery trip a few days before, so we didn’t have to worry about perishables and had a fresh supply of nonperishables. Such is the joy of having a pantry and a freezer.

Oh, what’s in them? Something like this:

  • Fish, canned and frozen
  • Chicken from the place that meets both our specifications
  • Pasta
  • Jarred pasta sauce and canned tomatoes: crushed or diced
  • Rice, basmati and jasmine
  • Different canned beans and lentils. I’ve never been able to cook beans from scratch.  Yes, it’s cheaper and more ecologically sound to do so, but beans just won’t cooperate under my direction. Except lentils.
  • A few cartons and cans of soups: chicken broth for homemade, tomato soup from Trader Joe’s, clam chowder, and a vegetable soup Aldi gets from Germany a few times a year
  • Onions and potatoes and garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Frozen blueberries and green beans
  • Baking supplies including oatmeal
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Shelf stable Indian foods for the days when neither of us just can’t

I always have seasonings on hand so I can create tasty meals such as soups and curries out of a few items from the pantry. While I have the luxury of a dedicated room (about the dimensions of a good sized closet) for storing canned goods and supplies such as toilet paper and paper towels, I know a lot of people don’t. I wish they did. I know some other bloggers who have their stashes in plastic storage bins that fit under their beds or tucked into closets. That’s not a bad alternative.

Being well stocked mostly prevents the temptation of making runs for fast food, so our investment saves money as well. Plus if the weather goes bad, we don’t have to pick our way over crappy roads to go shopping.

And while we’re on the subject of pantries….please don’t forget your local food banks. With the chaos and insanity in DC, the most vulnerable (children, elders, and disabled) are at risk for being forgotten. Thank you.

 

 

 

Winter’s Peace

 

afterglow background beautiful branches
Photo by Krivec Ales on Pexels.com

Yesterday afternoon, rose gold light tinted the bare oak trees and open fields along the back road I take between our house and Oakley’s day care and boarding. The road skirts a semi-residential area with a reduced speed limit and light traffic, so no one honked at me as I slowed a bit to take in the beauty.

The days lengthen in increments of a minute here, a few seconds there. I didn’t have to turn on the headlights as I had to last week on the way home from picking up a happy, tired pooch.

Oakley hopped in the car, looked out the windshield and the passenger side window, then curled into a snoring ball on the front seat for the trip home.

I kept the radio on the classical music station for a score befitting a drive home under a winter sunset. Much had happened in the news yesterday, so I chose respite from it  during the drive.

Once home, the aroma of salsa chicken* in the slow cooker greeted us. Oakley did his dinner dance, crashing afterwards into a hard nap on his spot on the sofa. Hubby watched woodworking videos on his tablet. I watched “A Craftsman’s Legacy” on PBS. We minimized news watching, choosing tranquility over the need for being well informed.

Somehow last night, things felt more OK than they have in sometime. The pieces scattered from by last fall’s losses are settling into their new shapes and forms. The lines in Hubby’s face have relaxed. There still are moments and there will be moments when  missing his sister and brother in law overwhelm him, but like an outgoing tide, those will fade away in time.

For last night anyway, everything faded with the evening light.

 

 

*Salsa chicken: one jar of salsa of your choice (I like Aldi’s house brand Casa Mamita organic fire roasted vegetable) and enough chicken to cover the bottom of a 5-quart slow cooker. Take the skin off the chicken if need be, place in the slow cooker, pour enough salsa to cover on top, then cover and let it go until falling apart tender. Works with any part of chicken. Pick it off the bones if need be. Use in tacos, on salad, in enchiladas, or in rice bowls.

 

 

 

First Storm

 

 

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Bread, milk, eggs? Check. Coffee and tea? Check. Oakley’s food? Check. Better part of a bail of toilet paper from Costco? Check. Phones charged? Check. New snowblower? Check. Ready.

We had the first significant snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Only about six to eight inches which would have been enough of a pain in the butt had that been all it was, but combined with a leading edge of freezing rain and sustained northeast winds of 20 m.p.h. and gusting up to 50, it was a problem worthy of school closings.

Easily solved for us, though. We just holed up, hunkered down, and remarked “holy crap!” every time a gust swirled around the house. The lights flickered for a millisecond, but otherwise we came through unscathed.

Well, except that there was the driveway to contend with after the snow tapered off midmorning. When the wind hooks as it did Sunday and yesterday, it scrapes the front yard almost clean of snow, but pushes all of it into the driveway and into drifts against the neighbors’ hedge.  Hubby’s maiden run of the new snowblower took about 45 minutes. Now that he’s familiar with the its quirks, it shouldn’t take more than a half-hour next time. I peeked out of the upstairs window to see how things were coming along. He looked as if he was having fun; not quite at the level where he might be humming the theme from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” as he and the machine wen through their paces, but happier than he’d been in a while.

It was a welcome sight.

 

 

 

 

 

Gross

photo of crocodile in water
Photo by Aldo Picaso on Pexels.com

If we’d stumbled across a gator on our walk this morning, I would not have been the least surprised. Startled as hell, yes, but not surprised. I don’t know what the numbers were, but they must have been decidedly tropical. You know, the ones that make a person wonder why “gross” isn’t a widely used meteorological term.

Walking this morning was akin to wrestling with a blanked washed in hot water. Once we were five steps from the car, the beads of sweat formed rivulets that converged into rivers flowing south from my torso.

This was sweat. Not the sexy little trickle nestled in a fitness model’s cleavage. Not the sheen of an athlete. This was stinky, dirty, wait-thirty minutes-until-it-stops-or-you’ll- start-again sweat. My shirt stuck to my back and my hair stuck to my head by the time we completed the half-hour trail. I wondered if moss grew anywhere on my body.

Adding to the hilarity was my daily round of hot flashes, the bane of women in their middle years. (For younger readers and those not of a persuasion to flashes, it can be anything from feeling like you’re going to spontaneously combust for about thirty seconds to long, sweaty affairs that feel like you’re running a fever lasting up to fifteen minutes. Mine are in the former category and for some weird reason I get them in the morning, mostly. A lot of ladies get them at night. Now you know what they’re like. You’re welcome.) And we were inundated with bugs that mistook the herbal repellant for a condiment.

Oakley and I still put in our thirty minutes. He panted, but was otherwise unscathed. I jacked up the air conditioning in the car for our comfort and safety on the way home.  When we came through the door, he drank a half bowl of water and flopped in front of the fan.

I felt the same after a shower and a glass of iced tea. Once again, life became a bearable proposition.

At this writing, we have the first in a series of thunderstorms slated for this afternoon moving through the area. They herald a break in this heat that’s hung around since last Friday.

We welcome it, indeed.

Carrying On…

 

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

I think it’s safe to break this out now.

Finally, winter released us from its cold bony-fingered grasp. If winter is going to be protracted, make it interesting. One of my college friends who teaches at our alma matter posted pictures of snow arranged by the wind into five foot high drifts. That’s interesting. Days hovering around 40 with wind and your choice of rain, sleet, or snow aren’t. That’s just common March weather staying long past its welcome.

But finally the weather patterns broke. The clouds parted. Out came the sun. And now there’s talk of 80 degree weather next week. Instant summer. Just add water.

With luck, it will just be rain. If the sky dumps anything else onto us, I will slide down an icy hill into a deep pool of self-pity and despair.

There’s always a sigh of relief when the first dandelions emerge, gracing the good brown earth with their greenness. Even though the weather wasn’t unusually challenging, I could have done without many of the events. Oakley’s eye problem. Hubby’s UTI. Hubby and I both slogging through our respective bouts of crud. His finally went back to hell or wherever it came from a couple of days ago.

Hubby whispered the magic words to the mower that brought it back to life, then cut the grass around the house this morning. We will be clearing last year’s debris and the remnants of a critter nest from the raised bed this weekend.

The earth has been reborn and life goes on….

 

 

 

Recovery, Rebirth, Rinse, Repeat

A 14 above wind chill started Easter on Sunday, April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. Not funny, Mother Nature. Not funny at all.

We are about two weeks into spring, still early, but daytime highs for the most part have fallen about twenty degrees short of the average mark. Today we have a stiff wind blowing down from the northwest. It would be a great day in February, but not in April.

We should be drinking tea on the back step while debating what to plant in the garden. Instead, inside we are and inside we will stay for the duration. Hubby and I both made some progress in getting past the crud but we both still are vulnerable to relapse. He’s not waking up with the severe headaches and congestion; I’m still getting tired really easily. As in needing naps after lunch and dinner.  I look forward to the day when I wake up without a runny nose and can function without waking up on the sofa with my neck stiffened into an odd angle.

Oakley, too, has recovered from his challenges, namely the autoimmune eye problem. I spoke to the vet tech at the eye doctor’s office to update them on how he’d been doing three weeks after his last dose of Prednisone. His eyes are clear, a tiny bit of discharge in the morning, but of the usual AM type. She put me on hold and relayed the report to Dr. V. Dr. V asked her to wish us happy spring and to call if any drama reoccured.

That was it. Except for burying my eyes in the lovely deep fur in the back of Oakley’s neck and shedding a few tears of relief.

Now to get the weight gained from that off of him. We just have to do a little portion control and walk. Not a good idea today in the face of the livestock-launching wind, but as much as we can when the weather permits it.

When we have been able to walk, signs of the earth waking up after a long nap have started appearing. The branches of the oaks and maples sport tiny red buds. Newborn grass weaves green threads into the brown tapestry of soil. The forest preserve district successfully completed controlled burns of prairie restorations at the preserves where we usually walk. (In this case, “successful” as in burning the dead, dry plants to release the seeds and make way for new growth without the flames spreading to the storage buildings and the gas station just east of the one with the short trail. That could be a problem.)

Walk we will, once the weather chooses a lane and stays there. In the meantime, there are naps to take, books to read, and causes to support via social media and email. Just like the other hibernaters, we will emerge when the time is right.

 

 

 

Singing to the Moon and Wind

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Finally, March is here. If the old adage of “in like a lion and out like a lamb” has any truth to it, we’ll be in capris and shorts by the end of the month.

I just took Oakley out for a quick jaunt. The winds that tumble from the north carries the scent of green buds, damp earth, and grass with it. Oakley turned and faced into the wind, nose all a-quiver. Dogs have something like 44 million scent receptors as opposed to the paltry seven million that we humans have. If it was heady for me, it would be downright intoxicating for him.

In addition to the liminal winds, today also features a moon at her fullest. She’s hiding behind the clouds right now and on the other side of the world. At night when the sky is clear and dark and her polished face looks down on us, we sing to her.

To common ears, our music sounds as if a mildly insane woman and her dog howl loudly enough to wake neighbors and start their dogs and the resident coyote pack.

To the moon, our songs mean so much more.

We sing the primal songs of Oakley’s ancestors and contemporary cousins. The songs of reassurance, of community fill the air.

We sing the songs of the wise women, the craftswomen, and musicians who proceed me in my mother line. The playful, the joyful, the spontaneous  voices coming through me harmonize with his.

Wherever she is right now, the winds carried our songs to her, even though we sang beneath a daytime sky covered in thick grey clouds. We have sung in daylight before. We will again.

We have sung to her beneath star dappled velvet skies. On those nights I swear I have seen her look down at us and smile.

 

 

Onward

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I like this little guy. Quite dapper with the bow tie and hat, plus the broom to sweep away the last vestiges of 2017.

We spent New Year’s weekend watching the “Downton Abbey” marathon on our local PBS station. Few other options for amusement  existed. We had a small storm on Friday that dropped enough snow to make the roads challenging. As in what usually is a 30-minute round trip to pick Oakley up from day care morphing into two hours. On its heels came a brutally cold Saturday. Sunday wasn’t bad. We left the Crawleys and their staff to their own devices as we went for a New Year’s lunch and a new to us bookstore. Hubby found several books on woodworking and reproducing antique furniture. I found several history related books. A good time was had by both.

Monday sent the temperatures back into the deep freeze. If someone saw the two inch snow cover glittering beneath last night’s full moon, they might have thought that the midwest isn’t that bad in winter. Unfortunately, it can be. There are two options: a grey slushy day with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, or a picture perfect day of blue skies and sparkling snow with air temps that will shatter your lungs when you inhale.

Despite the cold, the earth spins on. We move onward into 2018. I will refrain from making any statements about it not being worse that 2017 for fear that 2018 will ask it to hold its beverage before spinning out of control.

Will we ever get back on center, though? I am heartened by  the current wave of political activism. One of my personal resolutions was to get involved at least through making phone calls to express my support or displeasure to Senators Duckworth and Durbin. I also resolve to do what can to get the local Congressional rep, Randy Hultgren, out of office in November.  He has been unresponsive and his staffers have been even worse. I’ll put my energy into getting in one of the candidates running against him, thank you very much.

We all have our work cut out for us. Let us continue. Let us begin.