Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday's summary

So where am I at the end of the week? Well, in a good place, as they say. Visualizing the possibilities. Understanding the limitations.

It helps that according to the weather gods, this weekend brings with it the tail end of the bitter cold winds from some deeply northern territories. Here, in Wisconsin, we're not bracing for winter anymore. We've embraced it and we're moving on!

Both Ed and I get up to let the cheepers out. On this bitter cold morning, after another night of corresponding with my sister in Warsaw, I'm up at dawn to give her a quick call and Ed rises too and I say -- if you're up anyway, then you may as well go out and open up the coop, and he says -- let's both do it.

This is as close as we get to recognizing that it is Valentine's Day weekend.

The deal on the Warsaw apartment is still very much on the table (the seller is scrambling to produce needed documents), but in the meantime, I'm looking at other places -- ones with ugly kitchens and terrible bathrooms and horrible floors and walls. I'm trying to imagine how I would transform an awful space into a beautiful space, because ultimately, that's the best way to invest in something you think may be (eventually) a thing of great beauty, isn't it? Whether I have the stamina for flipping an apartment --that's a decision for this weekend. But I'm exploring the possibilities.

Breakfast, at the kitchen table.

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Typically on a Friday I do grocery shopping, but I had to squeeze in a doc's check up and a haircut into some available weekday hour and so this was my morning for it and it was grand to emerge from both unscathed and with a fresh look (well, at this stage of life, no hair cut is really original, unless I go to a short short style, which I have threatened to do, just for shock value, if Ed continues to not notice such important details of appearance). It feels grand to not be sick and to sit back and let someone massage the scalp. It's a fine mix of the important with the superficial and silly.

I have a few minutes to kill and I go for a cappuccino at the same place Snowdrop and I have been hanging out these past weeks. That turns out to be a mistake. The table is long and empty and the child's voice I hear is not hers. I hurry with my coffee and move on.

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And yes, the rest of the afternoon is with Snowdrop.

Let's play ball! -- she seems to be saying.

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Bounce away, Snowdrop.

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Tickle, tickle, little pickle!

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Last week she tracked the habits of older Italian men (hands behind her back, pacing...), today she tracks the habits of older Italian women: the walk with rosary (in this case, teething beads).

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I go home just as the sun sinks low and the winds gust to a vicious speed, giving me a real taste of how biting this season can be. No matter. Tail end, my friends: we're at the season's tail end.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thursday's discovery

Well, I slept more fitfully, although if my European negotiations had recently been the reason for my nighttime fretting, I should have had a miserable time of it last night. Just goes to show how at a certain point, you can get used to most any set of issues and stumbling blocks in life -- even clumsy negotiations with your small little sum over a small little apartment in Warsaw.

It may be that the deal I was trying for will, in fact, move ahead. But, the attorney (right now, I love attorneys!) who is navigating the legal end of matters in Warsaw flagged ownership paper improprieties and so we are all waiting patiently for the seller to demonstrate his ownership credentials.

Could it be that I fell again for a place with a dubious paper record? If so, shouldn't I go about things differently? Maybe I should be looking for apartments where there are nice young families wanting to sell and move out in their quest for more space? Nice honest young families with maybe a toddler throwing food on walls and scratching the cabinets, but basically letting the buyer see in brutal honesty what the place is really like?

As we wait for matters to clarify, we continue our apartment search -- me on the pages of the internet, my sister, poor thing, slogging through snow showered streets of a February in Warsaw. (Though I have noted that temperatures in Warsaw right now are thirty degrees upwards of where we are right now in Wisconsin, which says something about our cold and their far gentler winter.)

It's a sunny day, but I let Ed free the cheepers. There are some mornings where you just want not to fly out of bed to deal with chickens.

Breakfast in the front room.

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Then the drive to Snowdrop's, which is memorable because Lilly, the car, is making godawful noises (it's as if you were constantly shaking a container of metal parts inside) and though Ed has identified the likely problem, it's too cold for him to fix it this week. If you were to be a passenger right now, you'd have to shout to be heard over the racket.

But, there is the sunshine and more importantly, there is Snowdrop.

I admit -- I do spoil the girl by readily lifting her when she asks to be held...

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... but she is so happy being in this elevated position!

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Who could possibly say no to those outstretched arms?

And she has plenty of "down on the ground" time. There's the old hide and seek (I must someday tell her that hiding always in the same place -- the bathroom, begs for an easy "find")...

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And there are jumping and dancing games...

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And just today, she perfected reading while running. I can surely understand how difficult it is to put a good book down.

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Other memorable accomplishments? Well it's funny actually. As the newscasters announce that Einstein was right (you know -- the story about gravitational waves in the news today), little Snowdrop has her own aha moment. She is running with a rubber ball and it drops from her hand. And it bounces. She looks at it with disbelief, picks it up and drops it forcefully, deliberately again. And it bounces.

For the next half hour or so, all she does is run, drop the ball forcefully and explode with glee as it bounces. Me, I just repeat what she already recognizes -- that it bounces. Snowdrop, you bounced the ball! And of course, I applaud wildly. I feel though that she knows without my approbation that something important has just taken place.


Discovery! It has its interesting twists, but ultimately, isn't it such a good thing?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

sleep deprived Wednesday

Did I even get two hours of sleep last night? Let me count the night minutes: one hour of reading my gripping novel, then several spent on an obsessive check of email to see if there was an update on the Warsaw apartment negotiations, then, finally, when the message popped in that my offer had been accepted, another string of emails, this time discussing what steps need to be taken to make this a habitable place (to say nothing of what steps are needed to finalize the sale: as we well know, nothing's over until it's over and there are still technicalities that may unravel the agreement).

It's tough to do negotiations with people who choose to live across many time zones.

And so this morning, I can easily be magnanimous and offer to let the cheepers out at dawn, even though it is only 2F (-16C) outside. I'm awake, go back to sleep Ed. I'll do the morning run.

I have to say, it never ceases to amaze me how your spirits are buoyed by sunshine. It could be thirty degrees warmer and still, without the sun, I'd be psychologically shivering. This morning, I smiled at the patches of pink and orange on the icy snow.

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So pretty!

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(I have my tiny back up camera to tide me over until the replacement for my beloved mirrorless Sony arrives in March.)

Then, more phone calls with Poland (so inexpensive these days!), consults with Ed over breakfast -- What do I know about real estate deals?! Am I forgetting anything??

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... and I am off in my somewhat dazed state to be with Snowdrop who, thankfully, has decided to sleep in late this morning, giving me a moment to exhale.

I will introduce you to the wee little apartment and the fascinating neighborhood where it is located once the deal is signed and sealed. For now, I return to my playtime with the sweet girl who knows how to charm me right out of my sleep deprived stupor.

Have a plastic molecule, grandma!

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Grandma, do you suppose he'd let me touch him?
Ah, children -- the eternal believers in a good outcome...

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Quiet moments with books...

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Lively moments jumping to music (I jump with her, she laughs)...

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I forget that I am tired!

In the afternoon -- after her nap, which I wish had been my nap -- the little one gave some thought to a game she might play...

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... finally settling on running back and forth with laundry. Why not!

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Tonight will be different: today I'll sleep like a baby. I'm thinking twelve hours would be just about right. (That's Snowdrop's exuberant optimism, rubbing off.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

decisive Tuesday

Sometimes I wake up very early and check in with my computer before deciding if I should go back to sleep.

I did this today and then I could not sleep anymore and indeed, I spent the rest of the short pre-Snowdrop morning making rapid fire decisions. Most people do not think it's wise to make rapid fire decisions on important points and indeed, some have said you should never make any decisions at all in February, because you just don't think straight in a month where your breath freezes as you exhale. But I have often decided on the spot -- whether to immigrate, whom to live with, where to live -- my gut has had a terrific workout and it is used to me giving it instructions to act fast.

Perhaps you remember that I was in Warsaw in January in search of an apartment. I found one, then didn't find one, then found one that wasn't ready for me. Nothing worked out in the end and though I had a nice visit and learned a lot, I returned without a place to call home.

Well, this morning my sister sent me a link to a new place and I woke up just as her email came in and so within two hours she was inspecting it and on Snowdrop time, I chatted to her about it and by noon I authorized her to make an offer on the place.

Most would at least like to see the apartment they're about to purchase, but the thought of spending a lot of money to fly out for a few hours in Warsaw this weekend was just not sitting right with me. Besides, I know what the apartment has and what it's missing and I like it tremendously anyway and it's a good price, in a fantastic location. I only see the positives in life. The negatives may reveal themselves eventually, but by then, I'll have moved on to the next set of positives.

Just to make this day even more exciting, my camera, in which I've had to forcefully pull on the lens to make it work, breathed its last breath and so you will have only four photos today (after that it collapsed and I was pretty close to following suit).

First photo: sunrise on this bitter, bitter cold morning (as I went out to free the cheepers)...

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Second: breakfast, with a guy who never does anything quickly, without thoughtful contemplation (except decide to hang out with me in life)...

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And finally, two photos of Snowdrop. Both could be called a study of the cat and the girl:

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Back at the farmhouse, I make a pizza for dinner. As I'm flipping the crust into the air (sort of), I hear on the evening news that this day is officially pizza day in this country. Prophetic on my part, don't you think? No photo. Darn camera.

Monday, February 08, 2016


I should call this week "winter's challenge." Though Ed keeps reminding me we've had a relatively gentle set of months, I don't really pay attention to how it's been. All I do is look forward and I cannot offer much enthusiasm for the occasional snow shower and for the cold that will be with us for the better part of this week. The kind of cold where you worry about Snowdrop's cheeks, merely on the walk from the driveway to the farmhouse.

The insignificant flakes cavort and swirl just as I make my way to the barn to let the cheepers out.

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I scrape the car of ice, I sweep the walkway to our door, but it's all rather pointless, as there will be more freezing precipitation on and off, on and off, like the dreaded boyfriend whom you no longer like, even as he keeps showing up, flaunting his awfulness. Sheesh!

And so I focus on what's inside.

The farmhouse is tidy and content, if a farmhouse can really be "content." It has, for me, that feeling of days well spent. The breakfast aromas are still faintly in the air (or in my imagination, which is sort of the same thing). The linens are folded and stacked -- a reminder that they were used with great pleasure, just a day ago.

As we sit down to our own morning meal, Ed and I talk about the farmette land that abuts the street.

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How should we improve it? Is it ruined by the salt that seeps into the soil from the road? I tell Ed that I can just barely keep up with the farmette's flower beds that we've built over the years and yet I don't want to stop with our launching of new projects. I will find the time! I will!

And in imagining the months just after this one, I am able to move past the snow showers, the falling thermometer. What's a handful of days when you have weeks and weeks of spring, summer and fall just before you?!

Snowdrop comes to the farmhouse today and it's really lovely to have her here again. 

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Grandma carry!

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Grandpa Ed play!

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She doesn't care that we're in the thick of February's most unsavory weather, so why should we?

As with all toddlers, every day brings a milestone. I gave her a fat crayon several months ago. She was excited. She wanted to chew on it. Today, she worked it over the paper, looking to see if it left a mark.

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The thing about your kids and grandkids is that they are forever in the spring mode. Forward looking. Excited about the possibilities.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

the warmth of February: finale

I got ambitious. It happens sometimes -- I feel the rustle and kick of culinary aspiration and I dive into a meal preparation that's (for me at least) over the top. It's almost as if it has to be difficult or it doesn't count. This time it's a brunch and I did give myself time for prep work yesterday. Still, I was up plenty before dawn today to move things along.

I was frying lemon ginger doughnuts at a time when I usually wrestle with myself to get up and unlatch the cheeper coop.

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(When I do get to the coop, and I lure the girls outside with some chicken corn; It seems that the hens are gossiping about their fate in life. Well they should! A possum came by this way again last night!)

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It's rough being a chicken.

My youngest daughter comes down to help with food preparation. These are the warmest of moments -- having her there to glaze, to chop, to plate the apple cake and then to sit back over a strong coffee and exhale together before the hoards come to the table.

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And such grand guests they are! Ed of course, and the two young couples and... ah, guess who's peeking from the corner?

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The best eater of them all!

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She especially loves the squash pancake and the pepper and feta shakshuka, which, of course, transforms her face into a palate of oranges and reds.

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Oh, but it's good to have both daughters and their husbands here today!

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Snowdrop would agree. And she has found another sucker who never says no when she stretches her arms out waiting to be held and hugged!

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Maybe it's that my younger daughter is closest to her in age -- Snowdrop just worms her way into the warm heart of her aunt. Peas in a pod.

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Warm moments -- all of them.

After the house empties and the last scrubbed dish is stacked in the cupboard, I coax  Ed into taking a walk. They say it is warm and yes, the thermometer registers a high upwards of freezing, but the wind is brisk and so we keep to a brisk pace, continuing along the rural roads to the south of the farmette.

Through the forest, around the bend, with the view again toward Hook Lake...

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We're thinking surely we'll be alone on this remote road. But no -- a car approaches, very slowly and it pauses as we pass by. A woman rolls down her window and peers out. You're looking for the shrike, aren't you?

I don't think I heard right. A what? Ed shrugs his shoulders, equally puzzled.
The shrike. Aren't you birders?
I smile at that. No, just out for a walk.
Well, look here -- she takes out a fat book. It's been spotted in these parts. I read it yesterday, on the internet. She points to a photo of a black and white bird. The northern shrike.
It's rare to see it here?
She laughs at our ignorance.
Very rare.

As we wish her luck, I say to Ed how interesting it is to simply look for a bird. Not to take its photo, not to do anything but to recognize it and check it off your list.
Ed chuckles. Birdwatchers are like fishermen. So many people pursue their hobby for reason that have nothing to do with their hobby. A quiet walk in the woods, or hours of peace on the lake... it's not always about the fish or the birds.

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We return home. Deer pass through the yard, the cheepers have regained their calm and are safely in the coop. The farmette exudes peace.

Time to think about the week ahead. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

the warmth of February, redux

You're thinking -- Ocean has turned into a grandma's reflection on the weather and its impact on the human condition. Not so! Or -- not entirely.

For example, I will note that, in advance of next week frigid temperatures, we're having quite the mild weekend. It's upwards of freezing and that's a very nice thing indeed!

But today's warmth is the kind that comes barreling down from the north, or more precisely northwest, as my daughter and her husband are driving down from the Twin Cities to pay us all a visit.

Right after breakfast (where I think to myself -- Snowdrop is not the only one that needed a hair trim; let me attack the beard of Mr. Claus today!)...

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... (and after the beard trim) I begin to make inroads on food preparation for tomorrow's farmhouse brunch. It's not terribly complicated, but my afternoon and evening will be filled with family visits and tomorrow's morning meal will have to be on the early side so that we can send the youngest couple off on their merry way home.

So I peel the squash for the pancakes and I chop up the peppers for the shakshuka and I make the pecan butter and squeeze out the orange juice and get the apples prepped for the cake.

(I have to include a photo or two here: such eye popping color!)

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And then I am off to Snowdrop's home, where her greeting always warms the heart.

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We wait for the arrival of the aunt and uncle. Well, we don't just wait. Snowdrop paces in her new way -- with hands behind her back, like an old Italian man.

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There she goes!

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And now the youngest couple is here and Snowdrop is made richer by their presence.

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You want a kale chip? Okay!

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Late afternoon snack...

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Then it's nap time. And in the evening, six adults and one very wee thirteen month old go out to dinner.

(She sits at the head of the table, with her parents at her side.)

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We -- aunt, uncle, Ed, myself -- who do not often go out to dinner with the little one -- could not believe her behavior. Her parents ordered a side dish of scallops for her. She ate every last piece. With a few pieces of potato and arugula thrown in for good measure.

Toward the end she was a little dazed from all the good eating.

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And though it was really a dinner that was to celebrate last month's birthday of my younger daughter, we couldn't help but admit that Snowdrop grabbed our attention, if only because she wasn't especially attention grabbing. She enjoyed her food and asked for the occasional glance and smile. Nothing more. Nothing less.