Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Isis! Be quiet! Go back to sleep!

There's just a light cover of snow. Do you want me to sweep the roof? 
No, you're not nimble enough. I'll do it.

What do you want for breakfast?
Pancakes! Where are we eating?
Sun-room. We can pretend it's warm outside.

DSC06970 - Version 2

So there's this photography class online... I'm not sure what it's about, but maybe it would be fun to do it anyway... though what I really want is to get out of the iPhoto editing rut...
Go back to learning Photoshop.
There's a new version... oh! They've gone to an online Photoshop with monthly fees! 
You never even learned one tenth of the old version!
I don't want go back to the old version! That's five years old now. This one is new and improved!
That's so like you...

Okay, forget the one with the online monthly fee! I can purchase Photoshop Lightroom 5 -- that's just one fee and I can still get educator rates! And I saved all that money on yoga this month!
You don't save it if you spend it on something else. 

I'm reading about Lightroom 5 -- it sounds like simply mastering that program's file management is a challenge.
I can do it! I'm motivated!
Do you even know how to work the TV? This is way more complicated than running the TV...
Ha ha... That's because we have all these different TV viewing systems and Chrome this and Youtube that... Anyway, I'll buy an instructional manual...
Actually you can get one on kindle -- oh, but wait, you've never fully learned all your kindle features either! You are surrounded by technology that you can't fully use!

That's sums it up pretty well.

But, there's always the new year to learn something new!

For now, I'm turning my back to this cold cold weather (and believe me, that early sun has long since receded and the snow is falling and the temperatures are dropping even more)...

DSC06966 - Version 2

...and I'm setting out to my daughter's place to help her prepare for a New Year's Eve party that she and her husband are hosting. Of course I'll stay and party with the young set! I'm hoping that Ed, who is dropping me off, then returning to the farmhouse, doesn't fall asleep and forget to come and get me at midnight!

I'm also truly hoping that your New Year brings you new things to learn and enjoy, but that, too, you find plenty of the old to keep you warm and comforted.
Happy, happy New Year to all you Ocean readers!

Monday, December 30, 2013


Can I show you cold? The farmette at temperatures that stay significantly below zero degrees? It looks like this (taken on the way to empty the compost bucket):

DSC02666 - Version 2

This morning, Ed and I have a soft wake-up. Why hurry to face that? Frigid stuff. Tolerable for a two minute dash outside. Unpleasant otherwise.

Breakfast. I consider eating in the front room. There is a momentary beam of sunlight, my chicks seem luminous, the orchid behind them is showing off its bulging flower buds...

DSC02673 - Version 2

But in the end, I set the table in the kitchen. For however long, we have the light coming through the porch roof. Let's enjoy it. I saw yesterday how fleeting it all can be.

DSC02679 - Version 2

During the morning meal, we talk about exercise. Movement on days this cold. Many people, wishing to stay healthy, incorporate all forms of machinery and routine fitness programs into their week. I'm with Ed on this right now -- I don't want boring repetitions. I want to find enjoyable ways to move. Yoga was so much part of my life last year. Should I go back to regular classes now that I'm retired?

They're expensive. A retired person watches her pennies. And the thought of going out in a cold car is off putting, especially on a sub-zero day! But most of all, yoga classes come with a schedule. I do not want to be tied to a schedule. I do not want to be in a hurry. Everyone on my floor at the Law School will tell you that in my teaching years I was always running. To class. To office hours. To meetings. To the next class. Every day, breathless. I want to be free of this. So to sign up for classes where I have to be somewhere at 9 in the morning is, right now, very unappealing.

Ed suggests Youtube Yoga. I groan. How many bad instructional videos do I have to watch before I find a good one?

It turns out not that many. I find one on the second try.

I spend a blissful half hour at home, doing yoga.

And now it's barely noon. I had wanted to go to the Law School to start the tedious process of closing down my professional life there, but I need help from tech support and they're not answering emails today. Probably they're on break. At the university, between Christmas and New Year's, nearly everyone is on break.

So I sit down at the kitchen table and open my book project file (noting that the last time I touched it was in early September of 2012).

Oh! I'd written nearly 150 pages! I thought it was half that! Of course, I have new ideas for it and so in many ways, I have to start from the beginning, but that's okay. I don't mind infusing it with new life.

I spend the rest of the afternoon perusing the pages of my dusty old book file, alternating with glancing outside, wondering how it could be that today's high will have been all of 2 degrees and we haven't even started in on January yet.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

small favors

Anyone who studies weather maps could have told you this was coming. We've been inundated with warnings of winds and freezing precipitation and arctic blasts. But did it all have to come so early in the day and with such deeply gray skies?

Worse: when I get up and walk toward the northern (bathroom) window, I see that a new coating of ice is forming on the porch roof. I mean, not even 24 hours of pristine clarity! Yes, I knew we would have snow. But ice again? What a total disappointment!

And much as I love to torture my Ocean friends with accounts of repeat trips onto the roof, I can tell you this much: ice without a thaw is impossible to remove. And it will make it that much more difficult to push off snow when it does come.

Shrug your shoulders and move on!

It's Sunday! Farmhouse-cleaning day!

And, therefore, a very late breakfast. Some would possibly call it lunch, even as the components for me never change.

DSC02651 - Version 2

Since it is mighty cold outside and terribly uninviting, I consider whether this is the point where I reenter my book project.

No, not yet. There are still big interruptions ahead. And besides, there is the seed catalog waiting for our inspection and, too, an Ed on the couch next to me, ready and happy to distract me with it.

So we settle in and begin formulating a plan for our vegetable garden for next spring. And you would think that this is an easy task. Tomatoes. Sure. Cucumbers. Peas. And, as of last summer, a new favorite -- corn. But, there is the annual squabble that we go through -- whether to use old packets of unused seeds, or entirely new ones, packaged for the 2014 season. Guess who wants to use up the old ones?

Yes, and he always wins (for the most part: we do throw in some new varieties). And when a plant is deficient in some fashion, he'll blame the weather (we planted it too early!) and I'll blame it on using dated stuff (see -- here it says that the root stock is weaker!) and of course, there is no ready answer and we'll go on like this for years, I'm sure, because we like to hang on to our own convictions.

Still, it is an exciting thing to be thinking ahead toward May.  We are hungry for that season, especially when the outside weather is this unpleasant. We add to the shopping cart that ever wonderful strawberry we discovered last year (Mara des Bois), and asparagus, and some broccoli spears, even though Ed swears that broccoli does not like the soil at the farmette. I intend to prove him wrong.

An afternoon can pass in a snap when you're thinking spring thoughts. Feeling somewhat guilty at being so couch-bound, I take a very brisk walk up our beautiful rural road (and yes, I have to admire that winter sky, gray as it is)...

DSC02656 - Version 2

...and spend the rest of the afternoon unthawing my frozen limbs.

And here's a shock: as I glance outside now, at dusk, I see that the thin ice on the porch roof is no more! Somewhere in the course of the day, presumably before the arctic blast blasted upon us, there was enough warm air that it up and melted! Don't believe me? Look at this!

DSC02658 - Version 2

Evening. The lights shine through the now almost clear again roof.

But it is now very very cold. The kind of cold that keeps you firmly indoors. Except that we promised ourselves bowling. It is the night of the cheap game at the bowling alley and since my daughter is not here for dinner this week, we take a deep breath and head out for the lanes.

...where we play five games, four of which are quite terrible for me, but all quite good for Ed.

After, we were to pick up take-out food, but honestly -- it seemed a waste. I'm tired, but surely I'm capable of roasting a head of cauliflower and boiling some eggs to add to a salad. Throw in a handful of sauteed shrimp and we have an easy meal.

DSC02659 - Version 2

I'm sure there is a moon out there tonight. But it's far too cold for me to go out and confirm it for you. -8 is the expected low. Ridiculous? Well, it could have been even colder. I appreciate every small favor and every extra degree that gets thrown our way.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

one day

If you were told -- there will be one day this winter when the sun will shine brightly and the temperatures will soar, maybe ten whole degrees above freezing -- and if there is nothing holding you back, nothing that must be done, what would you do?

Well yes, eat breakfast. Sure. Me too.

DSC02598 - Version 2

And after?

I say to Ed -- let's not wait until the afternoon to ski. Let's go now, while the snow is still crisp!

Unusual for us. You'll have seen this park before. Many times. But I don't think ever before noon.

DSC02606 - Version 2

DSC02610 - Version 2

It's warm, even now, in the mornng. Just above freezing, so that when you're pushing on those skis, it can get quite toasty! Off come the hat, the scarf, down goes the zipper... free! I am free of winter for a while! Hills, give me those hills so I can fly!

DSC02616 - Version 2

DSC02605 - Version 2

And then we are home and we both look up at the porch roof and I say to Ed -- that thick layer of ice after the ice storm? (That same ice storm that has created ice dams for the first time ever at the farmhouse!) I don't think it's melting much. The sun only gets to the edges of this north facing roof.

And then it strikes me: maybe I could chip off at least a little bit of that ice around the edges? (Because if not today, during the one day thaw, then when?)

Maybe you are not the type to give in to projects that have no real purpose except that they have a beginning and a possible end. Maybe you can walk away from something that proves to be ridiculously hard. Slippery, thick ice, clinging to those roof beams, refusing to recognize that there is a thaw, damn it! You're supposed to melt!

I could not walk away from it. Once I understood that inch by inch, I could hack away at the roof ice and then sweep it off, I took on the project and stayed up there for several hours until my wet socks froze around my toes and my arms were too sore to do anymore of the chip and sweep motions.

But by that time I was done.

And it could be that neither of us will ever go up on that roof again, but it surely has been a fascinating study of the work of the seasons up there. It could be that by tomorrow, or the next day, all will be covered again, but at least today, it's clean and clear out there. Take a look out from the bathroom window (all farmette buildings accounted for!):

DSC02623 - Version 2

Even better, over p.b. and j. lunch sandwiches at the kitchen table, we see this:

DSC02624 - Version 2

Down on the ground again, I am not the only one loving this winter sunshine. Our resident opossum (who lives under the writer's shed) comes out to pick at the fallen crab apples.

DSC02636 - Version 2

He's used to our comings and goings and Isis is used to seeing him here. As Ed brings Isis to the farmhouse for an afternoon snack, I think how delightfully odd it is that we should be the four permanent residents here: Ed, myself, Isis and the opossum.

DSC02641 - Version 2

Dinner: I make buckwheat crepes, stuffed with salmon, cheese and egg. With asparagus on the side. And a huge spinach arugula salad. Was it grand? No, I prefer the buckwheat crepes I had at the Breizh Cafe earlier in December. But good enough. The day was grand -- I'm fine with the buckwheat crepes being just good enough.

Friday, December 27, 2013

another ending and a celebration

Up early. At sunrise. Captured in the bedroom window.

DSC02561 - Version 2

Breakfast. Rather rushed.

 DSC02567 - Version 2

Ed is off and away for his Friday tech meeting. And I eagerly, eagerly pick up the next stack of exam essays to grade. This is the last batch and it comes from a class where I know many of the students from previous classes. I'm truly eager to see how they did. (I wont know until I submit all grades: grading is completely anonymous.)

No interruptions today. I want to get to the end.

And I do.

And now I enter the final grade ever (it's an A+, richly deserved) and after I do this, I burst into tears.

Retiring is a funny thing: I look forward to it (I wouldn't do it if that weren't the case) and I look back as well and of course, what stands out is the best of the best (it's always that way, no?) -- the most special classes, the kindest, most earnest students -- their faces are before me now. Sigh...

In reality, I'm not yet completely free from work obligations. There'll be meetings with dissatisfied students. There'll be the dreadful task of emptying my office at school -- 25 years of folders and marked up texts. Uff! Chuck it all! Light a match to it!

Maybe not.

In the meantime, in the late afternoon, I bounce back to a less emotional state. It is a beautiful day -- with loads of sunshine and warm temperatures (right around freezing). No question: what we need is a good hour out on skis.  A heavenly hour, of quiet, of blue shadows and lightly golden skies.

DSC02575 - Version 2

DSC02576 - Version 2

DSC02580 - Version 2

And then we're home and Ed takes a quick nap and I get ready and now out we go, for a majestic retirement celebration at L'Etoile...


... on the terrifically sweet invitation of my Law School friend and her husband. Here they are, to my left...

DSC02587 - Version 2

...and joining us are my daughter and her husband, to my right...

DSC02585 - Version 2

...and I'll spare you the photo of Ed or myself because you see too much of both of us here on quite the regular basis! Even though, shockingly, he did comb his hair for the occasion -- you might not have recognized him!

I haven't eaten at this very special restaurant since I did my moonlighting here (that ended just about the time Ed and I began spending time together -- in other words, eight years ago). It is a superb place of great food -- such great food that awards are cluttering their hallways. I'll leave you with a photo of my dessert -- a meringue, champagne citrus sauces, pomegranate, ice concoction -- all refreshing and deliciously prepared.

DSC02590 - Version 2

The moon is weeks away from being full and there is a light cloud cover tonight. And still, on the drive home tonight, I say to Ed -- it is such a bright, bright night! ...isn't it?  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December 26

There are the days before Christmas and the days after and it really is remarkable that they all share one month because really, they have nothing in common.

Oh, you may argue otherwise: breakfast! There is always the farmhouse breakfast!

DSC02544 - Version 2

But after? What a difference a day makes!

First, we spend a while blowing a hairdryer on a set of windows. They've created substantial ice dams. We breathe a sigh of relief when we can release the screens and we take them to the farmhouse shower, where the built-up ice will surely melt.

Then I settle in to grade. From morning 'til dinner, without interruption. No that's not right: I stop once -- for about a half hour. Yes, yes -- to sweep off the porch roof! It may well be the last time. Today, I note that the wood beams are iced over. That's not good. Even my slippers slide. But, I get the job done, enjoying, as always, the beautiful view onto our farmette buildings from up high.

DSC02553 - Version 2

Then, back to reading essays. I read 79 so far. 65 to go.

Evening. A winter still outside. Though I know there will be movement soon. Every day I find new tracks of deer and other animals, many of them quite close to the farmhouse.

DSC02559 - Version 2

Dinnertime. Yes, you guessed it -- leftovers. The day after. What a difference...


A morning of snow, of winter, of Christmas.

He wakes up, shifts position and without even opening his eyes, says, as if programmed to do it -- Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you too.

I read the NYTimes editorial -- commentary on this mighty day that is so important, so tradition ridden and I think -- yes, it is exactly that: a day like no other. A day of finding joy in life. Of working with all your might to create those pockets of joy.

Pancakes for breakfast! (At least for Ed. My joy is in my oatmeal with kefir, fruit and honey.)

DSC02486 - Version 2

DSC02488 - Version 2

Like Scrooge, this morning I open my books and do accounting for the year. Unlike Scrooge, mine are meager sums. But, this annual exercise is always a happy event as it always, always shows a small profit for the year. Ever since I first started keeping financial records some forty years back, I rounded up my recorded expenses. The reality check comes at a time when we're all groaning under the burden of the holiday bills. Yes! piggy bank money, to be sure, but still -- all nicely black. Enough for that extra treat at the end of the year. Ice cream anyone?

In the afternoon, Ed and I ski. We talk about breaking out and moving beyond our local park trails. Yes, we consider it, then we smile. Not today. We stay local today and pay tribute to the immense gift of being so close to a county park.

DSC02495 - Version 2

DSC02497 - Version 2

DSC02501 - Version 2

Evening. My older girl is cooking dinner for us. A Spanish Christmas! -- she tells me.

Such cooking talent! We have an excellent meal of seafood paella.

DSC02533 - Version 2

Her husband finishes their gingerbread house project...

DSC02515 - Version 2

...we eat (not the house!), and this brings a close to the holiday, to days of holidaying, to this season of festivities.

Thank you, Ocean readers, for all your sweet, sweet comments and wishes. As always, I am touched by your generosities.

DSC02510 - Version 2

Onwards now to the tail end of 2013. Such a year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Our holiday plays out in three acts -- the scene shifts, the players have to vary slightly, but it is one beautiful Christmas, made only more special by its quick appearance and then quick passage.

Perhaps the most custom heavy is Act I, played out on the 23rd this time, when my girls and their guys arrived from a weekend in Chicago. I'm to cook dinner, but I'll be doing it at my older girl's home. The tree is there -- it is the holiday hub for us this year.

A quick stop at the farmhouse, a chat with Ed...

DSC02414 - Version 2

...and off we go. Ed stays back at the farmette for this one. There are two traditions that we observe that are just entirely alien to him -- exchanging presents and eating a meal of beef fondue. There's a lot of bend and sway in him these days, but life is best if we allow each other to choose for ourselves where the bend and sway takes place. So tonight, he stays home.

Therefore it's the two young couples, and me, and it is such a beautiful evening! (Oh! And Goldie the cat. ...Who loves enclosures!) A few snap shots to bring back the best images:

DSC02421 - Version 2

DSC02419 - Version 2

DSC02428 - Version 2
(he's from Minneapolis, she's from Madison, the present is from her sister + husband)

DSC02431 - Version 2
(what did I tell you...)

The beef fondue is a quirky meal to have in place for Christmas Eve. I reached for it some two dozen years ago: feeling overwhelmed with work, kids, Christmas baking, meal planning, gift buying, wrapping -- the usual holiday stuff that drives a young parent to near panic as the holidays approach -- I needed a special but also easy meal for Christmas Eve. Nothing is easier than cutting up portions of good (pastured!) beef and making a half dozen dipping sauces for it. 

These days, fondue carries the tag of being so retro. Well now, I am that old! It was common when I first started cooking -- especially cheese fondue, which I think was America's first wake up to the idea of using a good, flavorful cheese in a dinner menu. Our version uses beef boiled in an herbed broth.


(Here you see Goldie's caretakers giving her the treat of cooked beef. She did not reject it. Neither did Isis when I took his share home.)

DSC02434 - Version 2

So long as we're now in the retro mode, I make, as you know, crepes Suzette (which, of course, means flaming them in a Grand Marnier orange sauce).

DSC02436 - Version 2

We sip sherry at the end (not so retro anymore! This one is making a comeback!) and sing along to the too familiar songs from Christmas Even on Sesame Street. (The girls were babes when that tradition got started. Their partners kindly humor us on this.)

And then Ed comes to pick me up and to deliver the errant gift that refused to be UPS'ed on time and it really is such a fantastic evening!

And now it is December 24th and it is as cold as I remember it ever being on this day! (The temperatures never get beyond the single digits.)

I see the sun rise from our bedroom window and I am just so happy to be entering now Act II of our holidays: breakfast at Hubbard Diner.


Ed joins us for it. I'm well dressed this morning -- all gifts from my girls -- and this is the last hour that we have with my littlest one and her fiancee, so you'll see more pics of her and (sadly) none of my other girl and her husband! Never mind, the older two will make an appearance in Act III tomorrow!

DSC02447 - Version 2

It's sad, of course, to see my youngest then take off. There are too few meals in life with your kids, and especially with those who live in far off cities. But, this year we had two Acts together and so I have few complaints there.

DSC02453 - Version 2

The day refuses to get any warmer. It is too tempting to stay in the farmhouse and admire the sky, the snow, the winter sun from within. No! Mustn't get soft! We get in the car and turn toward the park down the road.

DSC02455 - Version 2

And we spend a wonderful hour on the ski trails.

DSC02468 - Version 2

The sun is low when we return to the farmette.

DSC02481 - Version 2

We pull into the driveway. We'll be spending a quiet evening with Isis. Basking in warm thoughts!

I'll leave you with this last image from the old orchard -- for your own Eve.

DSC02484 - Version 2

For Ocean readers who celebrate Christmas -- may you have a joyful holiday! Ed will say -- every day is a holiday and in that spirit, let me wish for all of you a time full of good cheer, good food and, of course -- enduring love.