Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16 2014

Valentines' Day in the frozen tundra - Here's what our celebration looked like: two home-made cards (guess which one is the calligrapher's), box of chocolates, and Brian made my very favorite soup, cream of zucchini. Simple pleasures - plus the power did not blow out as everyone anticipated.

And while all that was happening indoors, here's a taste of what was going on outdoors: Icicles growing daily, mounds of snow everywhere, and visible evidence we declined to take the latest suggestion to shovel our roofs - Brian had more than enough to do just to dig out to the car and generator.

This last round of storms has been so brutal there really isn't much time or energy to do much else other than try to stay ahead of the next round. Brian does the shovelling, I do the woodstove cleaning, laying the fires, and making huge batches of bean,barley and vegetable soup, something easily microwaveable for the inevitable outage when we can run the generator, but alas, not the stove or the computer. So far we've been able to get to where we had to when we had to, and nobody's lost any weight, so we're good.

My best news for last: another successful adoption in which I took a small part. I got to do the home visit for little Sammy, to make sure he was going to loving folks in a reasonable place. Lucky dog - they have 3/4 acres of fenced yard for him to play in, and were so taken with him when they drove out to his foster family to meet, the deal was sealed right there and he went home with them. Oddly enough, both husband and wife work where one of my former calligraphy students works, so I not only got great reports from them, but a back channel confirmation that they are boring everyone at work with stories of their great new family member. Best part of rescue..

And that's it from here. Hope all goes well wherever you are, and that spring finds us all REALLY SOON!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January 9 2014

Starting the New Year with plenty of winter scenes for our friends NOT living through it. It's been a wild ride so far, down to many degrees below zero, back up to the high 40s, then back down again to even more degrees below zero. It's pretty, I admit, but only if there's no need to go out and actually deal with it. Here are some snow shots and my best attempts at capturing the really beautiful frost patterns on the porch windows (again, disclaimer, not the best photographer).

There's very little left of the summer gardens, after all the precipitation and wind and temperature swings all my green buddies have either given up or gone underground. But as an antidote to the already seemingly endless winter, I've sprouted some arugula seeds on a windowsill and am hoping to be able to get a few leaves for sandwiches some day soon. We shall see.. In any case, even windowsill gardening seems better than no gardening at all.

The bluebirds cleared the berry bushes before the first big chill, and I haven't seen them since. I hope they are somewhere safe and warm. Thus far I have successfully resisted the impulse to make tiny parkas for the birds, it's just so hard to believe such delicate looking creatures can make it through these brutal winters.

And that is all the news I have at present. I hope things are milder wherever you are, and that 2014 brings good things to all - we can always hope, anyway. Be well!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15 2013

We have in fact survived the third storm in a week. The difference is that this one actually brought quite a bit of snow (about 8") to us, while the others just left some ice and a few pockets of white. It's definitely winter here - but I see from our friends in Jerusalem that they had quite a snowfall too! I assume it can't be a bad thing to be in sync with Jerusalem in any way.

One of the most cheering things in this snowy and usually grey time is the sight of the bluebirds flashing by. I'm amazed that such delicate, small beings can apparently do so well in such harsh weather. Since our friend Jerry gave Brian a custom-built bluebird house for his seventieth birthday, I do believe they've been around a lot more.
As you can see, this is a three story affair, and seems to have a lot more appeal to them than the single family houses we inherited when we bought the house. I have seen nests in the small birdhouses, but never seen a bluebird anywhere near them. Any thoughts from the realtors out there? I've tried several times to get decent shots of the bluebirds on their favorite berry bush, as they are there most every day and come in groups of about five or six. But alas, the flash predictably scares them off, and shooting through a window without doesn't get much. Here's the best one the lot - can you find the birds? There are three altogether here, too bad that brilliant blue can't be captured (at least by me!).

Last month we had the nicest surprise: a visit from most of the Palmer family. Bob, Maia and Felicia were on their way to a family bat mitzvah in CT and were kind enough to drop by. What a wonderful afternoon, I hated to see them go. We are so lucky to have such wonderful (and faithful!) friends, seventeen years after leaving SB and now in our tenth year (of our alleged five year plan) here in NY state.

On the calligraphy front, my two remaining students and I went to an event at OCCC, a demonstration of brush calligraphy. All I had to hear was the demonstrator was going to use a brush the size of a mop, and I was there! Here's what that looked like:

And from the students themselves, finally finished with the Uncial alphabet:
Marilyn is realy proud (rightfully so!) of her final project. Barb is promising to get one done soon... Good thing I am not an authoritarian type of teacher, I've been awaiting Barb's final projects for several alphabets now.

And as for me, other than keeping up with the class, I did get my newest great-nephew's "welcome" calligraphy done, before he was ready to start school.

Of garden news there is nothing, as even the hardy kale is covered over with snow. We may see it again in the spring but it's hard to tell. And in the dog world, I am happy to report that American Brittany Rescue has placed over 400 dogs in permanent homes this year. But I've had very little to do with that other than helping with the paperwork. Much as I miss Sadie (and I surely do) I am a bit relieved not to have anyone else's legs and feet to worry about in the snow. Come spring when it's just mud and muck, I'll be ready to foster again (I think). Untill then, it's just Brian and I here, keeping an eye on the weather constantly and always really, really glad when a storm like this last one doesn't blow our power out. Happy, happy, merry, merry...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3 2013

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were still reeling from Hurricane Sandy. What a difference a year makes - as on October 28, a year to the day that Sandy struck, my niece Kim presented us with our newest family member. Brady Marshall Miller entered into the world amidst great rejoicing all around. And the very next day, Mom was taken to meet what we're told is the last of her great-grandchildren. They look really glad to finally meet each other, don't you agree?

And interesting to me, at least, is the fact that this little boy will be named in Hebrew for my father, as was Kim and Brian's first son, Cameron, five years ago. As this is the centennial of my Dad's birth, I thought of all the conversations he and I had over the years about his having no sons (I was supposed to be the son!)and how it bothered him that there would be no one to carry his name forward in the klal. My Dad was nothing if not traditional. I'd like to think that he's really pleased that despite being an only son, and having no sons, his name and of course his legacy is very much present in these two little boys. Time will only tell about Brady, but Cameron has proved me right. I thought when I saw his birth photo there was something of Dad there, but couldn't get much agreement. But now that he's very verbal and unstoppably mobile, his sense of humor, and especially his inexplicable "New York" accent on some words, has gotten me more agreement. Fascinating to see the generations unfold.

Back here we are gearing up (gearing down?) for winter. The big pumpkin that I posted a while back with Hyla and Ayro standing next to it has been harvested and provided enough pumpkin puree for 18 pies! Brian is so happy, as pumpkin pie is among the very few desserts I won't eat. He will have all of them for himself. Here's the happy chef in process. And if anyone out there has had pumpkin experience, I'd love to know why we had HUGE vines and leaves, but only 5 pumpkins total. And two of those, when they were bright orange and just about ready to harvest, deflated like punctured tires, leaving behind a rather vile smelling pool of liquid. Halloween early trick? I can't figure it out...

And finally, a belated series of Halloween shots from a happy grandpa in New York City.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 10 2013

As the nights get colder and the days shorter, here's an update on what's going on here. First, Hyla has started kindergarten in "big kids school" and while the first week was rocky, she's now loving it. And her grandpa, as you can see here when Brian met her after school recently.

Next, while I haven't done very much with my ABR rescue group since Sadie left us, I do keep up with helping with paperwork (actually non-paperwork as it's all electronic). There were two young girls, Nini and ChouChou, that were the Gabor sisters of the web site. I must have sent several dozen welcome letters to potential adopters for each one. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE wanted to adopt them. Here's Nini, obviously completely content in her new home. I just wish all the great dogs could find as a loving home...

Garden news is mixed (as always). Strangest thing is that the three different kinds of full sized tomato plants we put in didn't produce much at all, and we didn't get to taste one until after October first - and that was sill-ripened. As will be all the rest (all four of them) since the nights are cold enough now to burn the leaf edges. We've stripped out all the remaining cherry tomatoes and will either eat a lot of fried greens or just wait and see if anyone turns red. Green beans produced lots, garlic fair, chilis only three in the whole season, less than one per plant. Very disappointing after last year's great harvest. We still have potatoes, arugula and kale in the garden cage, along with some very large marigolds, but it was a really sparse year for most things. On the up side, this is one of the best years for fall color I can remember. I guess what hurts the vegetables helps the trees - or so it seems.

As I was driving to class one day along the back roads recently, my eyes saw (but my brain did not register) a bunch of animals. My brain said to me, "What weird looking deer", and as I slowed down to try to figure out just what was wrong with this picture, it became clear: not deer at all. See for yourself.. apparently the new in thing of having sheep or goats do the mowing has come to the backwaters of our place. Thanks to our neighbor George for the great photos.

And lastly, my loyal calligraphy group of old got together at last (almost two years in the planning) for a dinner out. And it happened on Marilyn's birthday, so we not only had a nice chance to catch up but also CAKE! As you can see, cake can always make me smile. Such a sweet bunch of women, I'm so glad we met and have continued to stay in touch. Note the "Shalom" tees Marilyn, Barbara and I are wearing. I wore mine to class one day and they both wanted one for themselves. So I told them as long as they'd buy the shirts, I would do the screening. And so I did. There was one very strange moment when (after a decade's absence) I put my own very old shirt on the platten to align the design, and it wouldn't align! Apparently even Hanes Beefy Ts shrink a bit after several decades of washing. But it took me way too long to figure out just why, no matter which way I tugged the fabric, it just wouldn't line up. I am not getting smarter with age.

So that's it for now. Best news this week is that my friends Harriet and Alan got married - after only 28 years of consideration. Great folks, and great news. And next week I'm off to visit Mom again, leaving Brian to tend whatever needs tending here. Flying is always such an adventure...

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2 2013

It's been a mostly rainy, humid day as our wonderful neighbors at Blue Cliff Monastery finish packing up and straightening out from the six day retreat just completed, led by Master on his North American tour. It was incredible how so many people, cars, tents, and accoutrements could come in for almost a week with virtually no impact on the quiet, or anything else. Missing all this time was Three Leg, the doe I first spotted months ago with her fawns and husband/friend/visiting buck. But today, with most of the equipment and people gone, she was out by herself at one of her usual haunts, the forest abutting the monastery's compost pile. Too bad I didn't have my camera, it's so surprising to see Three with a front leg missing from the shoulder down, hopping carefully and otherwise looking perfectly healthy. And while I'm not sure of the status of the very handsome buck that accompanies her and the fawns sometimes, he certainly is a good looking guy - also completely unafraid of humans. Must be that they think we are all as gentle and understanding and respectful as the brothers and sisters.

We had a really nice visit from the Dotson clan this weekend, took them over to the play area at Blue Cliff where Hyla and Ayro tried everything that was there, and made us all smile with their antics. Pretty soon Baby Calder will join them, I'm sure - just as soon as that walking thing kicks in. Right now she mostly scoots around in froggie mode - very quickly!

Then Hyla and Ayro spent some quality computer time with me looking at - what else - dancing dog videos. I think I find this a bit more riveting than they do, but they indulged me. And surprisingly, when Hyla asked me to search for both "dancing sharks" and "dancing bricks", of course we found stuff. The internet is infinite...

Before dinner (which Hyla helped Brian make) we got a few things from the garden. As for the garden, there is not much to report thus far. Things are very late this year, on September 1 I picked my first and possibly only big sweet chili. We've gotten a few of the cherry tomatoes the girls picked, a handful of cucumbers, some peas and quite a few beans, plus a decent batch of basil leaves. But the full sized tomatoes are still a work in progress. I think the very hot July and cooler August confused them (it certainly did me).

On the other hand, the sunflowers and pumpkins are growing apace. For some reason, my photos of the attack of the giant pumpkin vines on the back porch door, where tendrils had wound themselves around the door handle and were about to pull it over, completely disappeared from both camera and computer. I guess they were camera shy, as I've shot them several different times and never seem to be able to retrieve the shots. Never having grown pumpkins before, I made the tactical error of threading the vines through the fence mesh - and have learned that lesson. I've put a sling under one of the errant pumpkins, but am not sure it will work. At least the first, biggest one had the sense to touch the ground early on.

And here's a selection of sunflowers for your viewing pleasure...

So that's the wrap up this Labor Day night. And as Rosh HaShonah and Yom Kippur rapidly approach for some of us, here's one of Brian's latest paintings that is right on subject.