Sunday, March 10, 2019

Springing Forward?

It's that time of year again. I really don't mind having more daylight in the evenings but I kind of don't want to bother with the hassle of getting used to the change, ha! It's not like it really matters what time it is when everything is buried in snow. Lately, I'm finding it impossible to look out the window without mentally calculating how long all that pretty white stuff will be around. Will it be another month? Six weeks, or maybe . . .  FOREVER????

It's safe to assume Spenser isn't doing any math in his head. 

He was probably watching one of the herd of rabbits that inhabit our backyard, do a little happy dance in the middle of the path. They always seem to be having a pretty good time, no matter what the weather is like. As opposed to the rest of us who are feeling pretty sorry for ourselves for being trapped inside by the sub-zero temperatures. 

It's during these times that I usually discover some new or odd behavior the kitties have adopted. Like most pets, they're either eating, sleeping and running around as if they were possessed. However, this winter they have this weird double deck thing happening.

It's good they have worked out how to be in the same place at the same time without fighting but this is just odd. Is Stewart maybe plotting a take-over or are they just hinting for kitty bunkbeds?

We are also starting to run out of ways to distract ourselves. HM and Stew are still keeping up with everybody's vacation photos on social media. A trip to the tropics sounds pretty good right about now.

Spenser has lost patience with the whole situation and prefers to stare (apparently totally oblivious to the sun shining directly in his eyes) accusingly at HM and I, as if the snow and cold was all our fault.

Speaking of staring, keeping an eye on the amaryllis that refused to bloom at Christmas, has been interesting but also like watching paint dry. In my last blog post I was impatiently waiting for all four of it's buds to open at the same time and this photo is of the final result! Unfortunately, after two months of constant vigilance the full display only lasted about a week. Still, it was fun to watch the story unfold and definitely worth the tiny effort it took to pot it up and give it an occasional drink. 

 After the first initial blooms died back there was one small bud left. Stragglers usually don't amount to anything, if they open at all, so getting one more flower was a bonus. In the end, it blossomed perfectly and even though it looked a little silly all alone on that thick stalk, it was still very pretty.

Meanwhile, a second flower stalk was starting to develop.

This stalk bloomed a lot faster than the first one but still put on a spectacular show! The massive amount of snow outside made for this blinding light effect. The next challenge is to figure out how to keep it alive so it will flower again, hopefully at Christmas next time.

Last Saturday the weather cleared up for almost 24 hours, so His Madness and I made a break for it and drove across the state to visit old friends. About half way there we drove past this "clean coal" power plant. According to the EPA, power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the US and make up about one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Currently, the Trump administration is working to dismantle Obama-era regulations that would limit them. In our state they account for a whopping 42%! It's a grim reminder of how important it is to educate ourselves on where candidates stand on climate change before we vote.

As you can see, our friends have even more snow! Yes, that black hole is their mailbox. What can I say, misery loves company, ha! Actually, the weather has been so crappy we had to reschedule this trip three times. This is the snowiest (is that really a word?) winter in our state in 120 years. We are all hoping for a nice, gradual thaw that isn't followed by a record breaking flood!     

As pretty as it is, I'm really looking forward to it all going away! Oddly, since it has been snowing literally every day, it has stayed absolutely pristine. Sometimes, after dark it even sparkles like diamonds. This isn't the best photo of that phenomena but I will have plenty of opportunities to get a better one because there's more snow on the way and it will probably keep coming down all night!

Stay warm and thanks for stopping by! 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

In the Deep Freeze

 Let's just say it was an interesting end to January. After a couple of days of snow there was a last minute blast from the polar vortex. Not only were we treated to record breaking low temperatures but a few strange occurrences inside of our house, too! Let's just say Old Man Winter wasn't too subtle about pointing out a few places in the basement that need better insulation.

This really isn't anything new for us and it was mercifully short in duration but this latest episode affected a lot more people than usual. Poor Jack Frost had to work overtime. 

In one of many freakish events, frost formed in two different locations on the inside of our back door. Apparently, cold air found its way past the storm door and into a hole left by a missing screw on the escutcheon plate. Worn away weatherstripping is the suspected culprit for the dead bolt.

In the midst of the big chilly, His Madness noticed the basement walls were "sparkling". What??? A closer look revealed it to be frost, not glitter, but at least it formed in pretty patterns. 

In other places, not so much. The frost was mostly showing up on metal and concrete, until I noticed the kitty door! This relic from the days when milk was delivered to homes in glass bottles has been repurposed by Stewart and Spencer as their personal feline portal to the patio. 

Funny, they weren't interested in hanging out there that day. So, at this point it finally dawned on us that it would probably be a good idea to change the setting of the humidifier so there wasn't so much moisture in the air to condense on all those random cold surfaces, duh!

Moving onto day two, things weren't looking much better!

Apart from the wind and cold, it was a beautiful, sunny day!

While everything outside was frozen solid ( and a few things inside, too) the amaryllis that was supposed to bloom at Christmas finally decided to wake up and put on a show. 

A very slow moving one.

February 2nd . . . still waiting.

Maybe there wasn't enough light coming through the windows?

Thankfully, the polar vortex has moved back. Or somewhere else anyway. All of the frost just disappeared, although I'm not exactly sure where it went. Into the air it condensed out of? I was all ready to mop it up! In any case, it was an adventure and we probably got our money's worth out of Netflix this month. Five years ago, the last time it paid us a visit, it wiped out a lot of my roses. I've replanted them many times with more hardy varieties but since the bunnies find them too delicious to resist, they haven't survived either, This time around there was nothing to lose, ha! Now it's time to start planning a whole new garden!

Happy Ground Hog Day!
I hear Phil predicted an early spring.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Calamitous Yule & Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!
Best wishes for a bright and wonderful 2019! 

I'm sorry it's been so long since my last blog post! In fact, it's been an embarrassing length of time. Hopefully, all of the issues that kept me occupied elsewhere over the holidays have been resolved and Burt and Ivy will be making their sporadic appearances soon. Life is always unpredictable and I had a record number of unfortunate occurrences this past December. Luckily, they were nothing serious and everything was fixed by Christmas. At least that's what I'm telling myself, ha!

It all started with our fairly new furnace shutting itself off on really cold and windy days. So we turned to our gas fireplace for some heat but it wouldn't light! As it turned out, the air intake and exhaust pipes on the furnace were the culprits and an easy fix. As for the fireplace,  SPIDERS had invaded the gas line (they are attracted to the smell of gas, ugh!) and had kept the pilot light from igniting. I couldn't help but feel sorry for this poor guy who had to spend a whole morning with his head in the fire box but he got it fixed. The drawback is that the pilot light has to be on all the time to keep the spiders away and now I need to find a way to make that up to the environment.  

A few days later, with both heating issues resolved, we finally got a chance to get a tree. His Madness was very happy there were so many left! The place we buy our Christmas trees from bears no resemblance to those cute stalls in the movies. Maybe they only exist in fiction, ha! Have you ever seen one in real life? Anyway, the one we frequent is in the parking lot of a strip mall, facing a six lane highway. We have to shout to be heard over the traffic but the trees are always fresh and they smell really nice - once we get them home.

We did find a pretty tree but while bringing it into the house the top accidentally snapped off and then we noticed there were quite a few gaps and wonky branches. Fortunately, once it was decorated, it looked just fine. Lights and ornaments can go a long way in enhancing the charms of a freshly cut tree, ha! Of course, I forgot to relocate the ghost pumpkin to the basement. It sat on the hearth all during the holidays, Halloween is never really over at our house. 

My birthday falls a couple weeks before Christmas and that always gets me off track. Even though it comes at an inconvenient time, I do like having an excuse to put off working on holiday stuff for the day. Also, because I've got so many other things on my mind, I forget about being another year older! 

Luckily, it came and went without incident because there was a lot more craziness to follow.  

After the heat was restored, the tree acquired and the birthday celebrations were over, we made a trip to the veterinarian. Apparently, Stewart ate something he shouldn't have and Spenser just ate too much. In any case, everyone survived and the kitties are fine and loving the tree.

This little gem showed up in the mail with our Christmas cards.
This is my third summons, they get me every four years, like clockwork!

While catching up on Christmas shopping one day (HM can't resist a silly hat!), my credit card was declined! The bank had frozen it because they detected suspicious activity. A hacker was on a shopping spree at Walmart. Luckily, I had other cards but that was the one that was set up to automatically pay all of the utility bills for our home and the family farm, along with charitable donations we make monthly. It wasn't a tragedy for us but it took awhile to straighten out and I felt so bad that the places that help people with real problems didn't get our donations before Christmas.

In the middle of the credit card fiasco my phone finally gave up and refused to charge.
Lucky for me it was Christmas time.
(Who knew they had such cool wrapping paper at Target?)

Another piece of good luck was that Andy and Kristin were home for the holidays so Mr. Programmer was around to set up my new phone! One evening, after checking out its fancy camera, I joined them (around the now working fireplace) for what has become the typical family activity. They must have noticed they were all just sitting around, staring at their phones before I started giving them a hard time about it! Maybe not. We actually had a very nice Christmas in spite of a the hiccups. I'm truly grateful that they were all so minor, there could've been a few less of them, though.

Life has settled down for now. Apart from the blizzard on New Year's Eve, having to replace the DVR and my laptop forgetting all my passwords when I upgraded to Mojave, the daily disasters seem to be over. I'm hoping whatever was going on this Christmas season won't repeat itself next year - or worse yet, follow down the path of our Possessed Kitchen!

See you soon, or whenever I finish Jury Duty!  

A belated Happy Holidays to all those who celebrated!

Thanks for stopping by and have a very Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Day in Philadelphia

Last month His Madness and I decided to make an adventure out of a road trip. Mostly it was to deliver a lot of stuff to our son, Andy and his wife, Kristin. They had just bought a house so we assumed they would have room to store a few extra things and it gave us a good excuse to snoop around their new place. Since we just celebrated a national holiday, it reminded me of the time we spent in Philadelphia driving home. Our first stop on the journey was supposed to be a quick look around Sleepy Hollow, NY but Siri sent us off in a completely different direction and we ended up inching our way through the Bronx and upper Manhattan before we knew what was happening. 

Much later than we had hoped, we arrived at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Philadelphia, chosen because it was close to all the historic sites and they had valet parking. It happened to be a newly redone, 1920's Art Deco style building with this cute bunny motif everywhere. Turns out, the new owners have a really great sense of humor. In its previous life as the Parker Spruce Hotel, it had quite a notorious reputation, to which the bunnies allude. The former gay, sports bar is now a hip place called The Libertine. Happily, the big screens are almost gone. The staff was great and it was a fun and interesting place to stay.

The next morning we decided to tour Independence Hall, where the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The tickets are free but when we tried to reserve them online it kept showing that all of the tours were full. There are only so many tickets given out each day so we took a chance and went to the Visitors Center first thing in the morning and surprise, there were tickets available after all - with a group of fifty-six middle school kids, ha! 

The tour was short, there are only two rooms to it. The one above is where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Our guide was knowledgeable and gave a thorough explanation about it and the importance of the Bill of Rights. He covered the 13th through the 15th Amendments to the Constitution that ended slavery and granted equal rights to former slaves in detail and then the tour was over. What? As we were leaving I thanked him and mentioned that I'd noticed he'd left out the 19th Amendment. He apologized and said he felt bad about that but they were doing more tours now so he didn't have enough time to talk about women not being allowed to vote until 1920. So, the fact that our government denied half of its citizens the right to participate in what is supposed to be a democracy, for the first 144 years of its existence, is no big deal? I disagree.

Meanwhile, back outside, on the opposite end of  Independence Hall, HM is advancing the film in his cardboard camera. Nearly all of the historic buildings are clustered in one area so it's really easy to see everything in a short amount of time. I think the Park Service could do with some funding to spruce the area up a bit. The buildings looked a little shabby and a couple of them were permanently closed. The courtyard across the street is where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the citizens of Philadelphia. Wonder if they allowed any women to listen? 

I have to say the zoning is Philadelphia is very interesting, this is the very edge of the historical park area. This photo was taken from the Magnolia Garden across the street. There are a lot of shade trees and quite a few gardens in the park that provided us with a welcome relief from the 90° heat. Unfortunately, there was no escaping the sauna-like humidity.  

Next, we headed over to the Betsy Ross Museum for a feminist view of colonial times and some excellent air conditioning. This museum has come under scrutiny for many years because its premise is based on oral history. Whether or not she designed and made the first flag or even lived in this house really doesn't matter, it still offers an interesting look at how people lived in the late 1700's. 

There is an actual record of her being paid for making flags for the Pennsylvania navy in 1778.  Although Francis Hopkinson probably designed it, Betsy Ross is credited with changing the star from a six points to five and arranging them in a circle. She was an upholsterer by trade and had to hand sew the flags at night, alone in her room, to avoid being seen. If she had been caught making flags for the revolutionaries she would have been arrested for treason. Luckily, no one turned her in! Throughout the 84 years of her life she ran a successful business, had three husbands and produced seven daughters. I think she deserves a museum just for that!

Having cooled off a little we headed for Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continually inhabited residential street in the United States. It was named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a blacksmith and property owner. The homes were built between 1702 and 1830 as working class housing for tradespeople like glassblowers, silver and pewter smiths, furniture makers and shipwrights.     

Today there are thirty-two residences, two serving as a museum and is all residential but 300 years ago the ground level rooms were used for business with the residents living above. In the 1770's one third of the households were headed by women. The museum recreates a colonial-era home of a pair of dress-makers but unfortunately it wasn't open the day we visited. 

In fact, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, apart from a very friendly kitty. We hand just wandered off a side alleyway when I decided to take a photo and who walks into the picture? 

A Minuteman dude. He was leading a tour of European tourists who were looking around skeptically and probably wondering why anyone would think these building were that old.

It's a cute place, if the cobblestones would have been more even, it could be in a Disney park! Given what the rest of the buildings look like in the surrounding blocks, it's a miracle it has survived.Thanks to many dedicated people, working diligently over the years, it was saved from real estate development and Interstate 95. 

We finished off the day at the Philadelphia Museum of Art because they were open late that evening. This is the view from the top of the steps. Thankfully, the cheesy statue of Rocky has been moved to another place. There's a whole lot more to see and do in Philadelphia but we managed to get in quite a bit in just one day. Hopefully we will visit again, the gardens should be spectacular in the spring. 

Thanks for stopping by!