Friday, February 26, 2021

A Little Bit Stir Crazy

Would I be as sick of winter if we weren't still more or less shut in, awaiting Covid Vaccine Freedom Day? Oh, yes. No question. I'm done.

Rick was out of town on Saturday last week and I decided I'd do two things: stop at wine store that has curbside delivery and get their six-for-sixty package and then get take-out. Coral Gables is a pretty old restaurant in my town and the one where (in days of yore) I would meet with my former work colleagues for lunch. I want to keep them in business. And they bring the food to the car. 

Our gang, in the days when we went to a restaurant

Now, the city had plowed in my driveway a bit when they were plowing the street and it wasn't bad but I figured I'd best hit it pretty hard to get out. So I did. Let's just keep a couple of things in mind: when you have a lot of snow, your driveway seems to get more narrow throughout the winter. And, when you are going fast, it's best to go straight -- and not drive into a snowbank.

I am so fortunate to have great neighbors who both dug and pushed me out, and then blew out the offending driveway-blocking snow for me. Yes, the pizza was cold but there are remedies for that! And it was very good.

I'm reading a lot of posts about how everyone is just about "up to here" with staying in. Monique sent me a link to this video by The Marsh Family, a family of six who live in Kent, England, and have fabulous voices and a tremendous sense of humor. I laughed and I needed to laugh. I hope you enjoy. (You might want to check out their other videos, too!) 

I'm coming back "to" after a period of low motivation and today finally got the Christmas things put away in the basement, freed from the totebags in which they were taken downstairs. I still have my Happy Tree up, but it isn't long for this world. I'll miss it. (It will be down by this weekend.) And, since the guest room was a catch-all for "things you don't want to deal with," I pretty much have that under control, too. (The bed there has now become Lizzie's afternoon napping spot.) 

Rick went to Indiana to meet up with his niece and ski a bit. He was then to take her to her train back to Massachusetts and head home the next day. She had a negative Covid test and has been careful and they thought "no problem." Well, Rick found out that Indiana is not really big into enforcing masks. The hotel, which is more like an outdoor sports theme park in the winter, was filled with unmaskers. Inside. Restaurant, halls, everything. 

I have rarely seen Rick so freaked about anything related to Covid but this was too much. Even though he kept masked and had two vaccinations, he isn't outside the waiting period. So he decided that he would get a Covid test this week -- it was that bad. No distancing. No masks. No brains. I'm sure he's OK but we're keeping more stringent space till he gets results. (This just in! Negative test, yay!)

Speaking of which, if you are having difficulty finding places in your area to sign up for the vaccine, check out the link at Vaccinefinder. I was surprised to see many places in my community I didn't know were doing the vaccinations. I'm sure age ranges might vary state to state, but it's something to work with if you can.

I started this post on Rick's computer. I am finishing it on mine. It wasn't the hard drive. It still has its issues but my computer goddess, Kim, has it going a bit faster. She said it was doing really well on her internet but when we plugged in here, there were still issues. So, maybe part of the problem is Comcast. In any event, I'm still on the market for a new one, but it seems a bit less urgent now.

The weekend is here. And I know a little boy who is turning four!

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

A Book for Rick

A few posts back I mentioned that I was making Rick his annual Valentine's Day "yearbook." 

Book from 2015

Traditionally I have written poetry and compile it into a somewhat creative book. (Some years more creative than others!) Sometimes it is handwritten, sometimes typed, always a one of a kind. Usually there are 10 or so poems that cover a range of topics: biking, travels together, Lizzie (or before that, Gypsy -- the "cat in the hat" who brought us together), the kids. You get the idea. 


Books have been large and small. The pop-up book nearly killed me. And I confess, I never seem to start this until far too near to Valentine's Day. I work well under deadline but sometimes that can kick you in the teeth.


This year my muse vanished. At least, my language muse vanished. I couldn't think of a rhyme to save my soul. Well, a few -- trust me. Stephen Sondheim would not be impressed. 


And really, when you think about it -- what was there to write about? After mid-March, the only place we went was to the lake. You could come up with a poem about masks (basks, casks, tasks...) or social distance (I had a few thoughts on that), but nothing was gelling.

Maybe 2014

But what I did have was a collection of photos from the year. Rick's January concert. Our rare but precious visits with the kids. Lake time. Cycle time. Our walk on Mother's Day. I had photos to work from and I had paint. 

This book ended up being a challenge because there were a lot of paintings and I'm no portrait artist! But as Monique reminded me, "it's the memory that matters." 

One of my favorite photos from our walk had Rick gazing into a reflecting pond. So, "Reflections 2020," came to be. 

This year's collection!

It features one adequate poem and 19 pages of paintings (some of those pages had two paintings) and written material chronicling our personal and world events in the year.

Here are a few pages: Rick's January concert.

Our dinner out, celebrating 24 years together.

Our walk on Mothers Day.

The introduction of masks to our lives.

A distant dinner with the kids.

Events at the lake -- on wheels, by the fire...

Rick's birthday, with his Cooper Hawk and bread and wine.

The flowers he brought me from his kayak paddle.

Hanging out at the lake.

Rick's take on Covid hair.


Autumn at the lake.

A mortgage payoff and a ride with a friend.

Our last time seeing the kids in 2020.

A big project. And fortunately, he loved it! Maybe the words will return next year!

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

This and That in my World

From where I sit, it's pretty cold and snowy in an awful lot of the U.S., Canada and in many spots in Europe. We are no exception to that -- and the birds are hungry!

Rick dug me out so I could make it to my second vaccine appointment. It was deep, and fortunately, fairly light snow. (I made it, though getting out of the neighborhood was a trick!) It was so cold, I took off my glasses when I was helping to shovel and the condensation on the lenses froze within seconds!

On the way home, I drove by the Ditch. There was no way I was walking in with just my tennies -- that snow was deep!

No one will be sitting on this bench today!

Meanwhile, on the home front, I did a Southern Exposure at Home last week when they delivered this wooden heart and all the paint and vase to hang from the front. I was pleased with it. Now it's on the hearth but it was outdoors for a bit and looked awfully cute!

A little Valentine baking was on tap, too. I made a half batch and wished I'd made a whole one!

There was some fun mail last week -- a few valentines from friends and this cute pin from Marilyn, who knew my word of the year was hope.

I'm still working on "A Woman of No Importance."  It's good, but heavy enough that I need to take a break from it, so I read one of the old Frances and Richard Lockridge "Mr. and Mrs. North" mysteries. I read the one on the right. The one on the left is another by them but with a contemporary edition (and, I might add, less sleazy covers). The cover on the right has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the book but I'm sure it sold a few back in the day!

I couldn't leave you without a picture of my girl who is mastering the art of cozy. It's a good life that this girl has!

After vaccine #2 I had a sore arm (but not as sore as the first time and a fever (101.2) the next day. Beats dying from Covid. Or even NOT dying and still getting Covid. Yes. Embrace hope. 

And hope that it warms up soon! Good thoughts to all in Texas and other spots facing this wretched cold, especially with no power.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

My Funny Valentines

With apologies to Lorenz Hart, "My funny valentines, they make me smile with my heart."

Rick and I were able to see the Toddler Twosome on Valentine's Day and what a joy it was. (Although after that, I was exhausted but it took awhile for me to get to sleep because I kept thinking that neither the kids nor their mom were masked -- and while I kept distance, as you can see, Rick was pretty close. Masked but close. Things like that totally freak me out these days!)

They came around six, having already eaten. We hadn't. And they were wired to play!

That's Rick, under that pile!

And in that one!

He was going to teach the oldest of the two -- almost four -- backgammon. It was really more of a counting game! But he was a very good counter!

The littlest was very into the fridge magnets and identifying all the players in the many photos.

Meanwhile, mom and the newest foster dog were keeping tabs on everything!

There were lots of smiles...

...Lots of teeth!

After they left, we ate a very late dinner -- shrimp and grits (my favorite!) and a wonderful bottle of wine.

I made a Pavlova for dessert. I've done this recipe before and for whatever reason, I couldn't quite get the peaks to be stiff after I added the sugar but it didn't matter. It was delicious. So easy and such a nice presentation. There's another I like too, but I couldn't find it! (Nigella Lawson's and Ina's, too. All good!)

Here's how -- if you want more details, let me know. Beat 4 large or XL egg whites to soft peaks and add 1 c. sugar (preferably superfine) spoon by spoon, whipping in. It should get to stiff peaks and mine didn't. Maybe there was a speck of yolk in the whites I didn't see.) Add 1 T. of cornstarch and 1 1/2 t. of cream of tarter and whip, whip, whip! Bake at 230 F for 80 minutes on parchment and let it stay in the oven at least two or three hours. It could stay in overnight if you want. Top with whipped cream gently sweetened with powdered sugar and your fave combo of fruit. I like the raspberry/blueberry combo -- the tartness of the fruit balances the sweet of the meringue. But I've done it with strawberries, peaches and kiwi, too. Eat fairly soon after, before the whipped cream deflates. NOTE: Meringue is not the best choice for a humid day!)


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Friday, February 12, 2021

The Story Behind the Painting

Thanks for all the wonderful comments on the art post. I'll have a few more things to show you soon but I'm working on a borrowed computer and the photos aren't uploaded! So many of you said especially nice things about the cottage painting that I thought I'd tell you a little more behind it.

This is Morgan's Forge, a cottage owned by friends from Michigan in Midford, about three miles outside of Bath in the UK. When Rick and I visited in 2018, we rented the cottage for a few days. We wished it had been more!

We had been on a long trip (you can see it in the tab on the menu bar if you're new to the Gypsy and want a little armchair travel). I was struggling with ruptured tendons in my foot and we had been on quite a pace. So when we opened the door and saw this lovely cottage, it was like a special gift.

After we settled, we walked down the hill to the Hope and Anchor pub for a lovely dinner and back up the hill (not so easy!). We would walk that hill each time we took the bus to Bath, a short ride away!

It was especially pretty on October afternoons!

Each walk up and down that hill brought such beautiful sights. I am a big fan of sheep and there is no place better to see them than in this area of England. 

From the upstairs windows you could look out onto the patio (oh, I wished it had been warm enough to settle out there with a good book!) or, from the other direction, over the hills. It was like something out of a Jane Austen novel.

Of course, there were other directions to walk than just down the hill and on one day when my foot seemed to be doing a little better, we did just that! After passing a few homes, we were on a path through the woods, between stone walls and hedgerows.

It led us past a castle, actually a folly castle built in 1775, but impressive nonetheless. It had once been owned by actor Nicolas Cage. It has a fascinating history which you can see here in this short wikipedia article.

Soon after that, we passed the cemetery of a country church, where we noted the grave of a WWI soldier, Harry Patch, whose remarkable story I wrote about HERE. You can see the red poppies marking the grave, just to the right of Rick.

I know I've watched too many British mysteries on TV (and will continue to do so!) and read far too many Agatha Christies and more, but I wouldn't have been surprised if Midsomer's Inspector Barnaby had shown up! After all, the vicar of a country church is almost always a key player in a mystery! (Anyone else watch "Grantchester"?)

We ended up at The Wheelwright's Inn, a pub in the village of Monkton Combe. And since it was a tad early to imbibe, we enjoyed tea and read the newspaper till a sudden burst of rain ended.

Rick and I said farewell after that for a few hours. He made his way one direction, me another.

But soon he was back in time for dinner and a cozy fire and a little British telly before we had to pack.

For several days, this place was our haven. After a long day of sightseeing -- a bike ride for Rick, a Cotswold tour for me, time exploring Bath together -- it was a welcome sight to see the blue door and wooden gate welcoming us home. 

The morning we left, the hills that had been so green before were now touched with frost. This was really the first "real" cold we'd experienced on the trip -- and considering it was nearing the end of October, that wasn't so bad. We headed down the hills with our bags and back to Michigan, carrying with us special memories. Some time into the next winter, the owners of the cottage posted a photo their neighbors had taken during a flurry of snow. It enchanted me.

I had to paint it. Being able to share the original with Mark and Martha gave me great joy, thanks to all the joy they had given us.

 No matter the season, I will always look back fondly at our time here. 

And long await the day we can return.

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