Saturday, November 30, 2013

dawn to dusk

At this time of the year, it's easy to catch the first glimpse of the rising sun from our east facing windows upstairs. If there are wispy clouds hovering at the horizon, the range of soft colors can be lovely.

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A little work, a quick tidying effort, grocery shopping. Ridiculously picking up a handful of leaves off the porch roof, leading Ed to ask -- do you enjoy going up there? ...And me to answer -- I guess I sort of do...

A short while spent on the exam, an even shorter while on the lectures for this week.

A very long time on syncing iTunes music and creating my first ever playlist. I just never bothered before.

Breakfast -- a little different today because Ed has a craving for scrambled eggs.



Outside, it's warm, compared to what we had the past week. Surely in the mid thirties (I know -- how much my expectations have fallen!). Yet, when we drive by the lesser lake, we see the first batch of ice fishers.


I cannot imagine the ice being firm yet, but here they are! Ed wonders if maybe the water there isn't too deep. A pause, then home again.

I have soups and chilis to make in the next few days. I'll be leaving on Thursday and if I put into the fridge good soups and meals, Ed will feel compelled to finish them off. If not, he'll buy Subway sandwiches. His Thanksgiving meal was a leftover Subway.

I look up and notice that the sun is setting. Our west facing windows show it off well.


Take a deep breath, hold it and the next thing you know the day is done.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday after

When the holiday is that big, that beautiful, that long in the planning and intense in the execution, the afterglow spills into the next day and the day after.

It was a leisurely wake up. I didn't want to rush my departure. My little one and her fiance indulged me. A slow breakfast out...

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Kind tolerance for my quick photos...

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A time to talk -- they indulged me there as well, as I describe my vision for the first year of retirement.

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And then I'm back on the El and back on the bus and there's Ed, waiting to drive me home. Where I unpack leftovers for us to share.

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With Isis.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


It's different this year. (Of course, in one way or another, it is always different.) I mean, we set about it differently, even as the enduring powers that propel us are the same.

I wake up at my little one's house and always, always on these holidays I am the first one up, but not this time! They're already putting things in the oven and my older girl and her husband are just minutes away. Well now. That's different!

You'll see a lot of food passing through this blog post. Not all of it (in fact not most of it) is mine. We each bring things to it. I wont attribute every dish: just know that we've all worked hard to make this Thanksgiving absolutely perfect.

And it starts with breakfast.

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Ahhh! Wonderful!

Our collective thought is to skip lunch. After all, the Big Meal is (planned) to be early. But someone suggests a charcuterie tray of midday munchies. And it grows. At first, a cheese, a sausage. Then two sausages. Then someone brings to the table pheasant and venison jalapeno meats. Then another cheese. And a vegetable. And a fruit. And of course, the home made crackers.

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One daughter stirs one pot, the other daughter frosts something -- each dish put forth with such enthusiasm. And love.

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Then the big meal. Preparations. The girls' dad comes over. Many people, accessing the burners of the stove as best they can.

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Finally. We sit down and eat.


And it is such a good meal. The pumpkin soup, the brussel sprouts, the corn, the scalloped potatoes, the gingered cranberries, the wild rice.... Such a good meal! Best ever!

My girls spend a moment with their father reviewing the wedding album of my older one.

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I sit back and think about life's transitions.

The holiday season is magical. Truly it is. And just when you are starting to feel the seriousness of it all, someone brings out the cake and the jubilations pick up all over  again.

I call Ed. It's quiet at the farmhouse. Isis is, as always, asleep on the bed. I smile at that. Yes, all is right with the world. And I, for one, am so very grateful for that.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

day before Thanksgiving

It's not unusual for me to take my turkey on the road, so to speak. I've packed turkey racks and meat thermometers and basters and traveled with them to Chicago, even to D.C. in the past. Where there are daughters, there will be Thanksgiving -- is my working slogan.

But there is a catch: if I take the turkey out of the farmhouse, Ed will not follow.
You go be with your girls, he'll tell me.
But they like you and wish you were there too!
Focus on them. You know you miss them...

And so I wake up on this cold cold day...

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...make sure I have everything with me (sprigs of freshly cut rosemary -- check; Wisconsin cheese -- check; Wisconsin cranberries -- check...), have a rushed breakfast with Ed...


...and head for the bus for Chicago.

Of course, I'm not the only one. Living in a university town, you get used to the emptying out that happens around holidays. Kids go home. In all directions they scatter, the faster and earlier the better. Still, the bus is comfortable -- too comfortable in fact. It now has plug outlets and WiFi and I have no excuse not to work on proofing my exams. Three hours later, I am done (with the first proofing -- there will be more of this) and we are pulling into Chicago's airport, where I take the EL to where my girl lives.

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And I walk in on her baking crackers for tomorrow's platter of afternoon foods (hello, cheese from Wisconsin, etc.)!


We have a grocery store outing before us -- and of course, it seems that all eight million Chicagoans are shopping too, but that's okay. The atmosphere is jovial. I claim the big bird -- he's my responsibility, and some things for breakfast. She picks up her ingredients for whatever she and her guy are making and truly, it is as if we were living in the same town again. Shopping together with a daughter is a rare treat.

We take the bus back to her place -- she, me and mr. turkey...

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 -- and I fuss with the bird now, so that it will be at least partially brined and ready for the oven tomorrow.

A few more errands, and stops, and then it's time for dinner. It's the three of us: she, her fiance, me  -- again, these meals are so rare now, that they feel like a holiday when they do finally come to pass. We go to Azzurra, an Italian  place right in their neighborhood. Remember when having an Italian place around the corner was warm and comforting, especially on a blistery November night? It's like that now.


We walk home and talk about who gets the oven when tomorrow, and for how long.

I truly hope that every one of you has a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday. Large or small, turkey or no turkey -- it hardly matters. Stay happy and focused on the one(s) you love.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

the winds of Tuesday

If I had let the fast pace of a Tuesday get to me, I'd have fizzled out many weeks ago.

But I can't say that waking up at 7 and feeling already "behind" is especially a good way to start a day. Never mind -- the next to the last of the teaching Tuesdays. Life will settle down shortly.

In the meantime, there are so many things to love about these days. Here's one: having cleared off snow from the porch roof, Ive added to the dazzling view from the farmhouse bathroom (which is upstairs, right above the roof). Who would ever want to get off the toilet when a mere turn of the head will give you this?

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Then there is breakfast, with my nasturtium clipping blooming away, as if it were August. Between the confused nasturtium and the confused Christmas cactus, I surely have a heck of a lot of color in the sun room right now!


After, as I work away, I notice that we're in the midst of a quick snow flurry. Really? you mean I need to sweep the roof again? (I do it! It's only a tiny sweep!)

And still later, on campus, I have a quick errand to run -- one that takes me right by the lake. Let me just tell you, we're getting the cold and the winds right now! Do you see it?


Alright. Class is done. I sit for a few minutes in my office, admiring the darkening hill outside. It's a shame that I love home so much because actually, evenings in my office have always felt special. Very quiet. Very contained. (A view from my office, onto Bascom Mall.)

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But, home is better. So much better. I pack up my papers and take the old Ford home.

Some time tomorrow, I'll be traveling south.  Well, to Chicago. For a family Thanksgiving at my little one's home. Whether you, too are traveling, or staying home, I hope you are safe. And happy. Ensconced in love. Near and far.

Monday, November 25, 2013

it's Monday, what can I say...

Surely this is a repetition of all the other Mondays this semester: a day of hard work in anticipation of class tomorrow, with the added burden of now multiplying student queries as exam time draws near.

All this against the backdrop of unexpected snow. Not significant snow (which would put us on skis immediately!), but a serious snow. As seen from the kitchen window:

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The snowfall calls for a shoveling of the farmhouse path.

And, after breakfast...


... we come back to the question of whether to sweep (shovel?) snow off the porch glass rooftop.

Remembering the lesson from the last snow (do it right away or expect ice), I decided to go for it. Maybe it is the last time that I try to keep up with clearing the roof, or maybe not, but I do want to give it a whirl.

Now, I've received a lot of push back from many people on this roof sweeping, most recently in Ocean comments. Stay safe, stay off the roof! -- is the recurring message. And that message would have been screamed to high heaven today, because when I climbed out the bathroom window, I found the wooden boards of the roof quite icy in patches.

I smile at your kind concerns. Really I do. And maybe I am wrong and I will topple and come crashing down tomorrow, to wind up on the porch table, or worse, but I truly believe that I carry a far greater risk of catastrophy by taking the bike or rosie or the car onto the roads, Wisconsin roads, mind you, where people can legally use their cell phones and drive and, worse, where people think nothing of downing X number of beers then driving home after a Packers game. I am careful up there, on the roof. I don't drink prior to stepping out and I don't chat on a cell phone. That counts for something, really it does.

Late in the afternoon, I have an appointment with the APple genius people. That's always fun. I mean it. I come out knowing something I did not know before about my computer.  I could write an entire post about our two hour session today. But, I'm pressed for time, so I will leave you with my drive home. Past fields that hug out western borders...

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Up the snowy road...

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And finally home. At the farmhouse. Ed is working at the sheep shed and Isis is with him, but in seeing the farmhouse kitchen light come on, Isis trots out to join me. He probably likes Ed more than he likes me, but he likes the farmhouse slightly more than he likes the sheep shed, and he likes it when I cook a heck of a lot more than anything else in his palate of options.

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It looks like winter out there, doesn't it? Yes, it does.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

the last Sunday in November

Cold. Very cold. Single digits overnight.


Sunday farmhouse cleaning -- not to the point where it sparkles, but to the point where there aren't cat hairs on the stairs.

Breakfast. (Can I have pancakes again? Sure!)

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And then work. Solid work.

In the afternoon, I tell Ed that I need to hop over to REI -- our sports coop -- because this is the last day of a sale. Why do I buy into these gimmicks? Well I do. Last day of picking up a light winter jacket. And if you don't think I need one, know that I have been wearing my ex-husband's jacket and it now has both holes up and down the sleeves and paint spattered over it.
(So what? -- asks Ed.)

One shopping stop is about as much as either one of us can handle. Time to go home. Or, maybe not?
Do you want to take a walk somewhere close to the farmette?
I ask this tentatively. It's maybe 20 F outside. And I'm not properly bundled to deal with the wind that makes it that much worse.

This time he's the one that says "sure!"  We walk in the small hamlet just east of us, by Lake Waubesa. People who live here really love a lake view. Houses are clustered together, even as across the road, the landscape is completely rural. (How cold is it? Note that the pond here is already lightly frozen.)

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Ed suggests we get a beer at Christie's -- the local bar by the lake. It is so unlike us to go to a bar anywhere at all, ever, that I have to smile. We see that football has drawn a small crowd...


Neither of us likes football and in any case, the TV screen shows games that are of no interest to anyone in Wisconsin. The bar slowly empties out. We admire the small art market that a few dedicated souls have set up. No one's buying much of anything. Ed puts down 75 cents for a cookie. We're good for that.

Outside, the air feels even colder. We pass the not unusual sight -- a trailer with a deer on it. Hunting season.


The sun is setting. We head home.


My daughter and her husband are over for supper and maybe because I am happy to see them or maybe because I am just so distracted these days -- I take no photo of their visit. A first for me.

The end of November. It's a tough time of the year. If you're feeling the burden of short days growing even shorter, know that you are not alone. That's the message out there, no? We all go through the end of this month. How clever to place Thanksgiving right at its tail end! I'll start focusing on it as soon as I'm done with teaching for the week. Soon.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

sitting tight

I emptied the compost bucket today. Straight out of the shower and so my hair froze, as it does when one goes out on a sub-freezing morning with wet hair.

You cannot tell from these photos that it's cold, can you? Looking out the kitchen window, I think -- my, a delightfully sunny day's in store!

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Well maybe. Add to it a delightfully bitter cold day. (Though the birds don't seem to mind. Let me give you something other than a robin today.)


And that's it for venturing far.

Though I did go outside one other time. After a sunny (and late) breakfast (Pancakes? Sure!)...

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... we experiment with sweeping snow off the porch roof. Or, I experiment and Ed photogrpahs: it takes some nimble stepping in slippers to keep off the slippery glass. My feet are smaller and my steps are gentler.

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We don't intend to do this all winter long, but we did learn something today: sweep it right after it comes down, or forget about it. Below that dusting of snow we now have frozen ice. Interesting.

Otherwise -- I spend the day working hard on exam writing. Really hard.

And I work solid hours on something else, too. If you're one of those who pays attention to the Ocean sidebar, you may have noticed that there's a lot of travel for me in the next three to four months and it has required an enormous amount of time in the planning and coordination of it all. None of it is really triggered by retirement: three of the trips would have happened even if I were still working. The final one has to be done for reasons beyond my control. But the bending and flexing of dates -- that comes only because I will have the time for it.

Though time is still elusive on this day. I get lost in a steady rhythm of typing. And it is cold enough outside that I do not miss being outdoors. Not really. Well, not a lot. Okay, just a wee bit. A few more weeks, just a few more weeks...

Friday, November 22, 2013


Ed calls up from the kitchen. Wake up! It snowed! He is letting Isis in. Or out. Or both. But it's too early to go down and admire any white cover over our bare land.
No, take a picture.

But I am awake. I look out the kitchen window...

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... and a few minutes later I am outside, feeling the crunch of snow as I walk to the back of the barn and then back again.

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It's the second snowfall (or more aptly -- snow dusting) of this year and so you'd think the magic would be already waning, but it isn't. It still feels special.

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Albeit cold. Upstairs, wanting to warm up, I take Ed's hand. Icy fingers on his warm palm. He resists, but I'm insistent. More importantly, we're both now wide awake.

And so breakfast is on the early side.

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And then Ed takes off for his tasks, and I take off for mine, and the sun comes out, and by the time I return home, the snow is nearly a thing of the past.

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And the robin sits on the willow and smirks, as if he knew all along.

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But don't think we're in for a warm spell! Tomorrow night we'll dip to 8 degrees. That's 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Should we brush the snow off the porch roof before it freezes into a solid piece of ice?
Do you really want to do that all winter long?
No... but we're only just beginning with the snow.

Still, we let it go. It's winter. No amount of clearing and sweeping will change this basic fact.

Best to put energies to soup making. Chowder again. Fish and all the veggies that I could pull out of hiding.

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