Sunday, January 26, 2014

January Winter 2014 - Snow Birds - Knitting - Chocolate Raspberry Sherbet and The Grammys

January Winter 2014
For The Record

We have had two significant snow falls this month. Well, significant for this area I mean.  The first one was on the third.  The TV news made us crazy.  There were constant updates on the potential blizzard.  Of course, there were repetitive explanations of what conditions were necessary for a storm to be called a blizzard.

By the end of the storm about 8 inches of snow had accumulated.  But, the next day was warm, and the day after that it rained, so the snow didn’t stay around very long.

There was another storm on the twenty-second.   I don’t remember as much hysteria over that one, probably because we didn’t turn on our TV much.  This second storm also left about eight inches.  Since that storm it’s been bitterly cold.  Again bitterly cold for this area, I mean.  The temperatures for the past four days have been lows of under the teens and highs under only thirty.

Yesterday, Saturday, in the late afternoon, it started to snow again.   It was pretty,  lasted a couple of hours and only left a bit of a dusting.

I haven’t left my cocoon very often this month.  I’ve been out of the house less than a dozen times.  And when I did the leave the house, I didn’t stay out for very long. The fireplace, my cozy corner, my knitting and marathon TV binging have kept me warm and occupied.

This morning’s sky is brilliant.  When I went out into our sun room, which is only a sunny room until about noon time, I could hear birds chirping.  I looked up into the tree branches, crouched down to peek under the pines
 and squinted to eye the neighbor’s feeder, but I didn’t see a flutter of a wing or a tip of a beak.  I wondered where they were hanging out.

I thought that perhaps they were huddled out in the wooded area across the street from our house. As I looked out the front door I spotted bouncing boughs.  I watched closely and sure enough, small finches were flitting in and out and landing on branches for the briefest of minutes.

I pulled on a hat, slipped into my clogs, bundled myself into my 10 year old black Land’s End Insulated Squall Parka (over my PJ’s I might add) and grabbed my camera.

I stood in our driveway and 35X optically zoomed in HD with my powerful Canon Power Shot SX40HS .  That’s when I noticed a group of them, hopping around under a large cedar.  Except for patches of bright yellow, they almost nearly blended in perfectly with the nest of old brown fallen needles.

From across the way with my zoom, I was getting some good shots.  But I couldn’t tell what it was that they were so intently and urgently pecking in the snow for.

I quietly inched my way closer and closer until I was only a few feet from them.  I thought at some point the appointed “watcher out for danger” would notify the others of this approaching stranger.
Apparently, though, the flock was very hungry or the berries too intoxicating, because they just kept going about their business, completely ignoring me.

In between the periods of unpleasant weather, when we did go out, I managed to get some great shots.  One day we took a ride to Tuckerton Bay.

This day I was surprised to see a robin who decided, I guess, to hang out here instead of flying off to a warmer climate.

And then there was this guy prettying up our bare front yard tree.

Today Ross, Dolores and I did go out for lunch at the new restaurant in town called Element.  Next time we go I am going to skip the meal and go straight for the thick dark chocolate coated raspberry sherbet.

Then we went back to Dolores’ and I tried to recruit another knitter.

I think I hooked her :).

Tonight is the night of the Grammy’s.  This is when I find out who and what everyone else is listening to.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Until The Next Time I See His Smile

I slip into my slippers, the red suede ones with the furry insides, and sleepily scuffle around my side of of the bed, slowly making my way towards the bathroom.  It’s still dark in our room.  Actually, it’s never really bright in our room.  The golden girl only briefly flirts with us on that side of the house.  She twinkles and winks at us until we wake up.  She then quickly slips off to bestow her favors down on those who live on the more desirable side of the street.
Sometimes, during the day, when I go into our room,  I find the darkness of the room strangely seductive.  It makes me want to crawl back in and under.
Our bathroom has a chandelier.  Nothing fancy.  It was the stock hanging lamp that the builder put in the foyers of all of the 1200 homes in our community. You know the one, brass with faux candles.  We changed ours out for something more substantial and “expensive looking.”  But, we decided to hang the old one in the bathroom.   We have a dimmer light switch on it and I like to keep it on low.
Through the faint light,  I see his smile.  He is holding Domani and Anne is next to him. She is wearing his pork pie hat.  It was the perfect hat for him. It’s been said that the pork pie hat is the mark of the determined hipster, the kind of cat you might see hanging around a jazz club or pool hall.  And you know, he was cool, so Joe cool.
I look at them, but it’s only a glance, really, that’s all I can manage. I whimper.  It hurts.   It feels like a splash of icy cold water thrown on my face.  I gasp.
It’s the same, in the dusk of every morning, it is always the same.   I  long to hear his voice. I yearn to be able to touch him. The pain is beyond my ability to express in words.
I start my day with a shake of my head not understanding why.
As I walk out of our room, I begin my ritual, my routine.  I flip the switch to turn on the overhead  fluorescent kitchen light.  You know the one.  The bare bones, long white, plastic one with two bulbs.  Another builder special.  That one we never changed. The brightness and glare from the light makes my eyes hurt and I squint.   I fill the kettle.  I open my lap top and browse around waiting for the whistle.  Soon my thoughts turn to the ones who are here.  I think about plans we might have for the day and I am temporarily distracted.
Like the faux candles in my bathroom chandelier, I suppose I have learned to keep my feelings on a dimmer switch, turned down low, until the next time I see his smile.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dear Kenny and Tyler The Magical Italian/Hungarian Flag Color Headband/Ear-warmer Story

Kenny and Tyler’s
The New Year’s Day Visit

Dear Kenny and Tyler,
Do you remember…January 1, 2014

You seemed so comfortable here, at Grandma & Pop-pop’s house.  Why, it was if you had been here just the other day.
One of my favorite things is to peek out of my side window and see little faces expectantly looking up at the front door.
I’m sure you heard Rico’s bark as soon as you rang the bell.
After you were hugged and kissed by me and Pop-pop and then sniffed and licked by Rico, you stood there for a second with quizzical looks on your faces.
Even though it had been a while since you visited, I could tell that you were wondering if the toys were still here.
Well, when you were here the last time, the toys were in a chest out in the sun room.  But I moved all of the goodies into the spare room closet.
I asked,  “Do you guys remember the toys?”  You both nodded yes.
I’m not sure what there is about toys at grandma’s house.  Oh sure, there usually is a new toy to be discovered.   Many of the toys, though,  have been here since Bella was a baby.  That would be over nine years ago.  But,  you seem to be drawn to the old standbys.
Perhaps, since there have been so many changes in your young lives, it is the familiarity and consistency of the toys in grandma’s closet that is comforting for you.
The first thing you grabbed was the Mr. Potato Head set.  Kenny, you especially, always loved to play with this set.  It was called Spud Buds.  Included in the set was a Mr. Potato Head,  Rootie Carrot, and Pop Corn.

While Kenny was busy studying which parts go with what character, Ty, you wanted to play with the Three Little Pigs story play set by iPlay.  Remember how the doors would always fall off and then you would have to ask me to fix them.  But, I guess that was part of the play.

You and the toys slowly made their way into the living room.   Pop-pop taught you how to play checkers.  It was the both of you versus Pop-pop.  I’m pretty sure you won.

After a while, we decided to go out for lunch.  We went to a place on LBI called Kubels.  It’s a restaurant across from the bay on LBI in Barnegat Light.

We sat by the fireplace.  You shared a gigantic cheese burger and fries, with chocolate milk to drink.  While we were waiting for our food, Pop-pop did the “dancing forks” routine.  I don’t know why but that always makes kids giggle.  You thought it was pretty funny.  You kept asking Pop-pop to do it over and over again. 
After lunch we went to the public beach in LoveLadies. 

  It was cold, but you didn’t seem to mind.  Remember the dog? 

Kenny you were so excited when you found that sea shell.

Kenny you wanted to ride in our car for the trip back home.
That’s what the fresh cold beach air will do.

It wasn’t too long after we got home that it was time for a shower, pajamas and bed.   Ty, you wanted to take a bath in the big tub, bubbles and all.

Before you went into bed, I asked you if you wanted to hear a story.  Ty, you said yes right away.  Kenny you said no.  Ty, you came over to me.  Kenny you wouldn’t, but you made sure you were within hearing distance.  I kind of figured you really did want to hear the story.
During the two days you were here, I knitted head band ear warmers for each of you.  They were just like the one I made for your dad, with the Italian/Hungarian flag colors, remember?

The story I told you was about these two little boys who wore magical head bands. Whenever the little boys would put the head bands on, they could close their eyes and wish themselves anywhere in the world that they wanted to go.   Here and there, at times while I was telling the story,  I would ask a question.  Kenny,  I would hear your little voice from the other side of the room pipe in and answer.   It was so cute.
At the end of my story you magically wished yourself back home, to be with your Dad.

You, and Daddy slept in my spare room.  Kenny you slept on the futon with your Dad.  Tyler you had the other bed all to yourself.

One of the sweetest moment is first thing in the morning, when little sleepy people wander out of their room, still warm and cuddly.

I want you both to know that these days were the best way in a long time that I have started off a new year.

I will always treasure this visit, because it truly was magical.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Time 2013 The Rest of The Story Part II Bella’s Visit

Christmas Time
The Rest of The Story
Part II
Sunday, December 29

Bella’s Visit

We originally planned a “stay over at grandma’s”  for the Friday after Christmas.  But, because of our trip to Virginia, we had to move the date to the Sunday after Christmas.
We met Derek and Bella at 12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Plumstead Grill.  This is our usual meeting place.  It’s about half-way between our homes and saves all of us some drive time.
It was a cold and rainy day.
Bella no longer needs to use a car seat. She is nine years old and I am only a head taller than her.
On the ride home, Bella was ensconced in the new iTouch that she got for Christmas.  She was desperately trying to get past  level 28 of “Candy Crush Saga”.
We stopped at the grocery store so that Bella could pick out whatever snacks she likes.  We usually don’t keep that kind of stuff in our cabinets.  She chose White Cheddar Cheese Nips and Brownie Bites.
When we got home, Bella had a meatball sandwich.  I made them especially for her.  She says she loves my meatballs.
After lunch I asked Bella if she wanted to learn how to knit.  She told me that she thought she knew how to finger knit.  I Googled a video on finger knitting for her.  She picked it up right away.  In a short time, she had completed a scarf for her mom.
She asked me if it would be faster to knit on needles.  “Well, I could teach you, I guess,” I said.
Finally! For nine years I have been patiently waiting, impatiently, for her to ask me to teach her how to knit.
As I gleefully, (I couldn’t help myself) sauntered (okay skipped) off to my stash closet, I had visions of the two of us, shopping for yarn. I imagined us giggling over dropped stitches, and the one or two secret hidden mistakes in our latest projects.  We would Skype together to show each other the progress we were making on our WIP’s and brag about our FO’s. We would debate over whether or not to frog that UFO* that has been at the bottom of the basket for EVER.
 “Have you seen ‘What’s Hot Right Now’ on Ravlery?” She would ask. “Oh yes,” I would answer.
“I am just going to have to make that cute little hat.” We would both exclaim at the same time.
Back in the living room,  I coaxed myself out of my reverie.  Bella was eagerly waiting for me. With a spare set of circs** and some leftover sparkly yarn, I demonstrated the garter stitch for her.   She watched intently and then asked if she could try.
She was very comfortable right away.  And after only a couple of rows, she was knitting as if she had been doing it for, well, longer than only a few minutes.
As I sat and watched her, she asked me if I could get my knitting and sit with her.
I sighed and thought to myself, “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Since the weather was so crummy, we stayed in and watched “Beethoven’s Fifth”.  Apparently, this one was number five in a series of movies about a St. Bernard dog, named Beethoven.   It was cute.  Bella liked it.
I noticed, though, that unlike me, she had put down her knitting and was now playing something on her Nook.

At first I must admit I was a little disappointed.  “Had I already lost my knitting protégé?”  I wondered.

But as I watched this sweet girl, I reminisced about how it felt to be curious and excited.  I  recalled how much I looked forward to try new things.
Her giggle over the antics of that silly dog was contagious and I couldn’t help but laugh along with her.

That’s what the young do, you know.  They make us forget and force us to remember.

So, maybe someday, Bella will look back on this day as she proudly wears her first hand made sweater and have memories about the day I taught her how to knit.

*WIP - Work in Progress
FO - Finished Object
UFO - Unfinished Object
**Circs - Circular Knitting Needles

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Time 2013: The Rest of The Story - Part I: Fredericksburg VA

Christmas Time 2013
The Rest of The Story
Part I

December 27
Trip Home From Richmond Virginia

We decided to stop to see Johanna and Steve.  They live in Spotsylvania, Virginia.  The town center of Fredericksburg is only a few miles from their house.

On the way, we drove through the historical Civil War Chancellorsville battleground parks.  Ross is a history buff.  He was pretty excited about that.

Johanna and Steve live on about 12 acres.  The road to get to up to their house is more like private rustic pathway which winds through the woods.

As we walked up to the steps of the front porch, it was so still and quiet, I could almost feel the hush.
That is until we rang the doorbell. We were greeted by the chorus of the pack.  They have five dogs of varying sizes and breeds.  Gracie, Sadie,Maggie, Heide,(or lil one)and the one boy Mylo.

Johanna & Steve’s Backyard
We sat and visited for a while then we went outside to see the back of the property and to visit the two ladies who live in the coop.

Taken From the Front of The Property

Whenever we are visiting a new area, I always look for local yarn shops.  It just so happens that Fredericksburg has a nice one.  It’s called Old Town Yarnery.  From their website:

"Old Town Yarnery, located in the historic center of Fredericksburg, Virginia, is a full service yarn shop  displaying a wide range of fibers, colors, and textures. In addition to yarns, we offer knitting needles, notions, and classes. " 
  The shop has an ample and truly nice selection of quality natural fibers. I liked one of the sample scarves on display.  It’s called “Nottingham" and it was designed by Alex Capshaw-Taylor.  The pattern can be found on her website. “Worldknit & Handspun.  I bought three skeins of Cascade Eco Highland Duo in shades of brown.  It’ll be added to my stash and hopefully “Nottingham” will be one of my first projects of the new year.

  After lunch at  a local burger joint, called “Vivify Burger Lounge”, we began our homeward bound trip. 

Me and My Sissy

Tomorrow: Bella’s Visit

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Day After Christmas 2013 Dear Kenny and Ty

Christmas Time
The Day After Christmas

For The Record Part IV

Dear Kenny and Tyler,

Today, December 26, 2013 was probably one of the most important days in your Dad’s life.  I know it was a happy day for you also, but you may not remember it.  So, perhaps you might read this on a someday and you will be able to feel that particular day all over again.

One thing I can tell you, and I suspect that you have always known this, your father loves you very much.

Maybe, by the time you read this, you will have experienced a little bit of this life.   You might have children of your own.  If you do, I hope you can only imagine what it might feel like to be separated from your child.

As you probably have figured out by now, life isn’t exactly predicable and it’s hardly perfect.  But, like your father always says, “It is what it is.”

Your father never wanted the three of you to live so far away from each other.  It was not his choice, but it was one he was forced to accept.

So before today, it had been a while since you and your dad were together.
Oh, you probably remember the phone calls, and the computer face time visits, but , you know, it’s not the same as real hugs and kisses.

I think I will leave it up to you and your dad to talk about the time before this visit.  I only want to remind you of what this day was like.

The day was planned.  Your dad drove his Honda Pilot from your Grandpa Deak’s house in Franklin Park.  Pop-pop and I drove our car (the red Lexus) from Barnegat.
Your mom and Brandon drove the two of you from Grovetown Ga.
We were all going to meet in Richmond, VA.

Your dad left at 5:00 a.m. I know he wanted to make sure he was there when you arrived.
Pop-pop and I left at 8:00.   It was about a six hour trip.  Although we hit a little patch of snow and a few accident traffic jams, I was so excited.  I had not seen you in over a year.

As we were driving, I kept thinking about how emotional your father must feel.  I wondered what it would be like for you.  I hoped you would be okay with leaving your mom.

When pop-pop and I got to the Westin Hotel, you and your father were already settled in your room. It was number 628.  We called and you came down to the lobby.
I have to tell you, when you ran up to me and snuggled in my arms, well it was one of the best moments in my life!

I thought my heart would burst as I watched you with your dad.   It seemed that the three of you couldn’t get close enough.  It was as though you wanted to crawl inside of each other and never let go.  You kept touching him, as though you wanted to make sure he was really there.

We had lunch in the hotel restaurant.  It was more like a cafe.   You both said you weren’t hungry.  Your dad ordered a turkey blt with french fries.  He asked if you wanted some of his fries.  You said no.
Then the funniest thing happened.  He put some fries on a plate, actually three fries.  Kenny, you would look at the fries, but you were not going to give in and take one.  Ty, you put some pepper and salt on one and started munching.   Kenny, when you thought we weren’t looking you reached over and took one.   Your father and I looked knowingly at each other, you know the way parents do, and smiled.

After lunch you wanted to go in the pool. Pop-pop went in with you.

Later on, you came over to our room, number 641.  You stayed with us while your dad went out to get dinner for you.  You both played on your new Mini iPads that you each got for Christmas.

We spent the night in the hotel to rest up for the trip back to New Jersey.

The next morning we went to breakfast.  You both had pancakes.  Tyler you had bacon.  Kenny, you said you didn’t like bacon, but Tyler said, “Yes, you do Kenny.”
After breakfast we packed up and headed on home. We passed each other on the road a few times.  Your dad rolled down the window and you waved and shouted out at us, “Hi Grandma!  Hi Pop-pop!”

By now, I’m sure there would have been plenty of visits.  It probably would have become a routine.  But I have a feeling that each time you saw each other it always was like this day.  Reunions are like that.  Especially when two kids are with their dad.