Saturday, October 20, 2018

thirteen

I know many people who like to drop birthday celebrations when they get older. Don't remind me! -- is one common theme. I'm puzzled by this: you don't want to acknowledge how lucky you are to have lived this long? Weird. Then there are those who are so even tempered, that they can't understand the need for a high that accompanies a celebration (but then they also do not get the low of a cloudy, drizzly, achy day). Ed is like that. One day is as lovely as the one before, as full of the quiet as the one that follows, as extraordinary in its ordinariness as all the rest.

So you wont catch him celebrating his birthday (which is today). When I mock him for this, he'll retort -- it's an artifact!
I answer -- so is most everything that we do every day. We play by made-up rules. None of them have significance unless we impart significance to them.

He can't win on this day because for me, October 20th is loaded: not only is it his birthday (meaningless!), but, too, it marks the anniversary of our time together. Thirteen years. Only travel has given us time off from one another.  In all other days, since that joining of our lives thirteen years ago, there has always been a breakfast, like this one...



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... and a dinner (see below). Together.


I had set aside time to do stuff with the old guy (hey, 68 is no peanuts!), but the weather -- well, the morning cold sent the cheepers scurrying...


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And much to everyone's surprise, unexpected clouds dumped something that quite resembled snow (to the complete delight of Snowdrop, I hear).

A week of luminescence, a weekend of wind and the first delicate layer of the white stuff!


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What? Have you forgotten what snow looks like? It's very pretty. The barest and darkest of branches profit from a cover of delicate flakes.


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But is it hiking weather? Our October 20th nearly always includes a hike.

Let's wait a while.

I write, he chops trees. We are so perfect at this kind of rhythm.

The skies clear. The wind picks up, but even in this cold, cold set up, the snow melts. You want to go to Lake Farms Park up the road?

Up the road means we pass the hang out of the sandhills. And isn't that a beautiful sight?!


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Our walk is brisk. The wind is strong and I'm not surprised to see most of the autumnal colors blown off the shivering trees. The remaining leaves have not yet turned crisp. Their green looks strangely out of place next to bare branches.


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It is a good walk. All our hikes -- short and long, easy and not so easy are good walks.

In the evening, we return to our dinner place -- Brasserie V, where we sit at the bar and order moules frites and take that selfie that we've taken over the years...


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Happy birthday, happy anniversary, or, if Ed could just have it his way -- plain old happy. Nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Friday

It's no secret that I like to cook. And travel. And plant day lilies. And play with my grandkids. And I love to read about food. And travel. And family life. There used to be a hell of a lot more story bloggers out there who cared to write carefully on these topics. Reading them was a joy! (I say "write carefully," because in my mind, rants and scribbles are good for notification, but you rarely savor them.) Over the years, many bloggers grew tired of the constancy of the enterprise. Many moved on to other things (having to do with food or travel or family life). The list of blogs that I look at has grown really small.

But, not all is lost. If you're like me and you like personal insights and stories on at least food and France, I have something for you, snitched directly from the blog of David Lebovitz (whom I do read regularly and enjoy immensely): go read his latest post! (There's always a link to David in my side bar but if you can't be bothered to dart your eyes to the right, just click here). You'll see his own listing of some lovely email newsletters! They're like blogs, only different. David is correct -- if you decide to subscribe to any of them, you'll look forward to checking your email again. And that's saying something. (To keep myself happy, I read zero political blogs and subscribe to only one political daily email newsletter and even though it skews toward my way of thinking, it's still depressing to read. You need to provide email counterweights!)


In the meantime, here I am on a windy and gray October day, trying to work up enthusiasm for the weather as I work my way through the usual Friday shopping chores. I don't at all mind food shopping (so much hope for the next week's cooking!), but I do wish we had had one more day of brilliant sunshine, to kind of round off the week. So that I could end today's post with these words: now that was one luminous set of days!

Breakfast is hurried and in the kitchen. Ed has his meetings, I have my food buying. Still, it's good to start our day together. (Note the beard trim! I'm getting him spiffy and ready for the weekend!)


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In the afternoon, well of course, there is Snowdrop!

(Stealing Ed's bag of chips. At least they're multigrain...)


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(Insisting on hair ribbons and pigtails...)


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I suggest we play art class. It's one of my favorites, because it combines so well Snowdrop's love of the dramatic with her fancy for the arts. And there's always a happy, half-observational role for me -- as student or art teacher or baby sitter to her babies.

As she sets up shop, pulling out our little coffee table (which is always her preferred art table), Ed asks her if she knows its shape. Of course she does, telling him its a square (with a touch of the "what kind of a dummy are you, anyway" in her tone). He quizzes her further and to his surprise, she distinguishes it from, say, a rectangle. He is impressed.

Where did you learn that? -- he asks, genuinely curious.
She thinks about it for a minute. In my belly, ahah.


How a book is (once again) born:


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And now it's time for her to go. Her babies are fussy (says the baby sitter, aka Gaga)  -- she tucks them in, kisses them goodnight.


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I start dinner -- a stir fry. Lots of veggies, lots of patient chopping, steaming, stirring. I glance out the kitchen window and I have to smile: the setting sun chooses this moment to show its lovely face, touching just the tips of the willow, the birch, the crab apple.


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So I can say it after all -- that was one luminous set of days!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thursday

If a tree is leaning one way and you want to chop it down and have it fall in the opposite direction, there are ways to trick the laws of physics! Ed is mastering them by trial and error: the last leaning tree he felled went the way the tree gods had intended, leaving Ed to return to the drawing board to perfect his devious slight of hand.

After breakfast...


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... he sets to work. In an hour or so he pokes his head in and asks -- do you want to come out to take a picture?
Now, I've taken photos of him cutting down trees before. They are never great photos because I'm too concerned about standing in the way of the tree or, in the alternative, watching a horror unfold as the tree falls on the one who is chopping it down. But for some reason, Ed likes to have me there with camera in hand, just in case all goes well.

I stand at a distance and do a halfhearted focus on him putting in wedges, while answering his constant question -- is it starting to lean away from me?
No.
How about now?
No.


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And then, suddenly, there is that splintering noise of a tree coming down and lo and behold, the tree does fall in the direction Ed had chosen for it.

Did you get that? -- he asks, enormously pleased with his success.
Of course not. I was totally unprepared. You didn't tell me it was about to come down.
I hadn't known it was ready!

Ah well. It is now lying comfortably away from the old orchard, away from the pines, its top half sprawling into the construction site of the new development.

Perfect! -- Ed says, jubilantly.
I smile at his satisfaction. It makes up for the hours spent on the microwave, which still is quite broken, despite the new part Ed had wrangled in.



In the afternoon I pick up Snowdrop. (We're searching the school playground for her unicorn mittens. The girl is still post-nap sleepy and wishes so much I would pick her up! I do.)


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Recovered. Playing truck ride at the farmhouse. Her idea.


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A story unfolds. Food is involved.


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Our playtime isn't terribly long because I have an early evening date with Snowdrop and Sparrow's mom. We're heading out for a glass of wine at a new wine bar in their neighborhood. As well we should. When you see your daughter only when there are kids around, you never really exhale and chat about the consequential and inconsequential details of life. Sooner or later, you're interrupted by the demands of the young ones. So tonight, we catch up.


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We've had a string of pretty days. I am very very happy about that.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday

Sunny and cold. Beautiful but chilly. Bright and crisp.

We chase the sun at breakfast time. In winter, the front room nearly always delivers it.


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We've set aside the morning to pick up a TV for my mom. She'd resisted, thinking that a commitment to cable was a necessity. We're going to show her it's not. Off to the big box! (Isn't it amazing that you can get a lovely 23 inch TV for $88?)

On the way, I pause to admire the sandhill cranes. I take out my camera.
You already took a photo of them! Possibly the same ones!
Ed, that pretty maple in the Arboretum? I photographed it last year as well. We live a life of repeats!
At least that maple was a year back, so that no one really remembers.
October, November -- they're crane months. Ocean merely reflects that beautiful reality.

Snap.


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TV installed at my mom's, we return to the farmhouse. Ed wants to chop down another tree. A new microwave part has come in from Ebay -- that needs a tinker. Stop sign needs more food (here she is, belly getting fatter each day)...


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And of course, I have to pick up the little girl.

Snowdrop is ebullient! No nap for her today in school! She prefers to romp outside. At the farmette, she just wants to stay out and fly her art project -- a kite. I'm cold. She is not.

The kite spins like a tornado!



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She soars, I shiver.


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I remind her that we must get ready for storybook ballet. She begs for X more minutes. The amount is meaningless -- it's just a stalling tactic.

Ah, but that we could have it all!


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While in the big box store, Ed had picked up a pair of new shoes. Good bye to the ones with broken soles and holes everywhere, Hello, Wranglers. He loves your price tag: $19. Amazing.

He shows off his shoes, she shows off her kite.


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Snowdrop, hurry up and come inside!
In one minute!

She is full speed ahead today. Her energy knows no bounds.


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Is it the sunshine? An October exuberance?


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So much joy in one small child!


At the farmette, one or two lilies come back for a last smile at our autumnal skies. October lilies are magical: small, intense, beautiful. Like a child spinning a kite on a windy day.


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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tuesday

 Late Monday night, we pop the usual bowl of popcorn. Not for us the silly prebagged stuff: we like the baby white kernels (Amish, bought in 10 lb bags) popped up without the annoying hull bits that get in your teeth. Fluffy and delightful!

It's better than ever! -- we proclaim, almost in one voice.
That dumb little  $50 microwave appears to do a nicer job than our bigger built in machine.
But we have to fix the big one -- it would be weird without it there. Like a gaping hole. Besides, it has a vent and a light for late night cooking! And the little machine takes up precious counter space.
We should put the little one into the broken big one!

Laughter at midnight is a good thing.

Early in the morning, I get a call that my mom needs help as she is once again under medical care. I leave a sleeping Ed and take her to her home, stopping at various places to do some trivial errands. Things are okay, just in need of a little attention. As I drive back to the farmette and listen to the lovely music on the radio, I think Ed type thoughts -- one button and the heat in the car comes on. Another -- you have music. Amazing!

I call Ed as I pull into the driveway. It's nearly 11, but the guy is still asleep. I tend to the animals, filling Stop Sign's dish with lots of cat food. Ed has constructed a little cave of a place for her for the winter. We're hoping she'll take to it, though we don't really know where she hangs out at night. And here's a worry: she is petite as always, but she is getting a very fat belly. Are we going to get kittens along with the first snow? We had toyed with trapping her to get her neutered, but she is a distrustful cat and not at all acclimated to life among humans. We decided not to spook her just yet and now here she is, walking around with a fat belly.

It's noon. Ed's up. We have breakfast. It's a cool but sunny day. We'll take it!


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Our afternoon is a little different: in watching the weather patterns, I thought today might be a good day to take a hike with Snowdrop. She and I have gone to the Arboretum in previous Falls, but we have never gone beyond the vast meadows here, leading her to one day complain that we've never hiked in a forest.

Today, I corral Ed to the effort: we pick up the excited little girl at school and head for the woods.


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The "meadow" that we cross has a grand collection of maples...


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This is all fine and well, but the girl is most interested in reaching the forest.


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And we do and it's quite lovely! So much to study!


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So much to admire!


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When she is ready to turn back, I suggest a pause for a snack. She is thrilled that I have packed a blanket and a few cookies, nuts and pieces of fruit.


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(A playful pause...)


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Our Arboretum is a beautiful and vast space. We limit our explorations today so that Snowdrop isn't too overwhelmed by it.


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She needs her book time and her play time as much as she needs to set foot in that forest. Today, we have time for both.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Monday

Oh, the pretty side of fall!


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You know -- when sunshine plays with yellowing leaves of a crab apple tree, when it's cold, but not too cold. Green and gold cold.


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Well, a little too cold for October. Just above freezing. You tend to hurry indoors after feeding the animals.

I do hurry, in part because it's the day when Sparrow comes over early in the morning, to join us for breakfast.


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Invariably, he is in a sweet mood then. Most kids are in those early hours, when they've had enough sleep and enough food and are ready for the challenges ahead. Which for Sparrow includes such serious stuff as staying upright!


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Oops!


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Let's straighten you out a bit.


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No grandkid of mine makes it through babyhood without a cuddly moment reading this book:


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What do you think, baby Sparrow, is it outdoor weather? Let's give it a try!


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And before you know it, it's time to pick up Snowdrop.


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Juggling two young kid temperaments can be tricky. Sparrow likes it enough when I read some chapters of Anna Hibiscus to the two of them. He's even okay with the idea that Snowdrop is then eager to set up a dance school, where she is the instructor, Ed is the student and Sparrow is the audience.


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And he is joyous at the prospect of being part of a school picnic lunch, with plenty of misbehaving children  --  that was Snowdrop's next inspired idea.


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But at some point he let me know that a nap would have been very nice, thank you. Having been deprived of one, he crashes in my arms.

That's okay. Snowdrop entertains me by making up her own lyrics to "on top of spaghetti." (A song that I had been humming for who knows what reason to Sparrow as he dozed off.)


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Toward evening, the little girl wants oh so much to tend to the cheepers. Ed was held up on the phone, so she is on her own. The cheepers are excited: another hand to feed their hungry heads.


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Lovely day, no? Oh, there were some quirky moments: Ed's sailing gig got canceled (boat owners decided not to show their boat in Florida) and though he was offered another, he decided to give it a rest for now. Then, my mom had a bit of a set back. Too, the loud trucks resumed construction work in the development around us. But as Ed said -- wow! you press a button and we have warm soup (dinner was a reheat of yesterday's bounty). You click another and your furnace starts. Reach into the fridge and out comes a mango. Go to a doc and you get a vaccination for your child so she can run around and tell stories about school picnics where children misbehave.

Yep. All that, and so much more!