Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Guys at the Wedding

Clay from Indiana, Peter from Michigan, Jim from Tennessee,
 Patrick from Wisconsin, Richard from Pennsylvania, Ed from Michigan
What a wonderful wedding Luke and Kelsey had three years ago today! Out in the narthex of the church, before the wedding, we were basking in the glow of family and friends. I snapped this photo of some of the guys in my family.

It was a serendipitous shot. There they are -- all smiles, all radiating the goodness of life and the joy of being with Kelsey (cousin, niece, friend, strong and beautiful woman) and Luke (handsome, lucky man) on their wedding day.

Luke and Kelsey on their Wedding Day

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 30, 2012

Right Angle Jet Streaks

I glanced up from my knitting this morning only to see this unusual right angle jet streak traced across the sky before dawn. It looked as if Sky Child had run the buttons on an Etch-A-Sketch this way and that, and then dropped the toy, perhaps to get ready for the cereal and toast that Mother Sun set on the table as the Galaxy Family got ready for another day at Solar School.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Curvey Aloes

I transplanted four aloe shoots that I rooted in water. The shoots came from an out-of-control aloe plant that was creeping down the sides of a too small pot. Long neglected, the plant was dried and mangy looking, yet it had green shoots centered in its stems.

I took that plant apart and threw away the dried stems that were tough and papery. The remaining stems were curling and distorted, but I rooted them anyway.

Now these four shoots, still curvey and misbehaving, have been tucked into a big pot that used to house one of my red geraniums. I know that I should have renewed the soil, but just didn't take the time to do that.

Aloes are such handy plants to have around the kitchen due to their soothing sap. Those quick accidental burns from a hot oven rack or stovetop pot will start to heal almost immediately when the sap an aloe plant is applied. You can break off a stem and peel it open and rub the sap over the burn. The aloe juice takes away the sting and soothes the burned skin.

This pot should be thriving and full of baby aloe shoots within a month or two.

Copryight 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freighter In Waiting

Anchored freighter -- Saturday, January 28, 2012 -- 7:13 am

A ship is anchored just off of White Rock Shoal this morning. Both Ed and I usually scan the horizon when we get up and this morning there is a ship, probably a 700 foot freighter, whose lights we could see very clearly through the faint dawn light before sunrise.

As I write, around 8:30 am, there are snow squalls that obscure the shape of the ship. From time to time it emerges as a dark line on the snowy horizon, then disappears.

Great Lakes shipping slows considerably in the winter months as ships go into layup for repair and refitting. The winter months are risky times to be working on the Lakes as ice and snow and heavy waves complicate navigation.

So, seeing this ship today is unusual. It might be carrying road salt from Goderich, Ontario to Detroit or Toledo. It could be moving aggregates (gravel, sand, cement). For sure, something weather related or mechanical has caused it to anchor close to shore along the Michigan's East Coast this morning.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 27, 2012

Warm Winter

Rainy days. No snow. Geese flying overhead. Grass turning green

This winter seems destined for the record books as we've had more January days in the 40's and 50's. Snow seems like something that happened last year. Winter boots sit idle in the mudroom. Snow shovels -- well, what is a shovel?

All of that came to an end late yesterday when snow covered the Thumb. Ah, Michigan weather! Wait a bit if you don't like it and it will change.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mobile Mary

My sister Mary entered the mobile world this week and I have solid proof of that. I received a text from Mary! Stunning!

As all of us who use mobile phones know, there are times when the darn things are best turned off. And there are wonderful moments, like yesterday when I heard from my sister, that we are so glad to be connected.

Mobile Mary! Very cool!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Volt Update: 41 Miles on a Cold Night

On a cold night last Saturday, Ed and I drove down the shoreline to Port Sanilac to have supper at the Van Camp House. It was the Chevy Volt's first trip to Chef Andy Fabian's delightful dining spot.

The optimum temperature for the Volt's battery to operate at is 70 degrees. Looking at the display above tells you that we were driving far below that level (it was fifteen above when we got back from dinner), yet the Volt performed spectacularly. We started out with 28 miles on the battery and actually used .3 of a mile more than that, thanks to the regenerative braking that adds power when the car slows or the brakes are applied.

When first starting out in the cold, the gas generator can override the battery power in order to keep the battery fluids warm enough. That happened several times on our trip down to Port Sanilac. The Volt would run on gas for a half mile or so, and then switch back to battery power.

Considering that I have to keep my camera in a warm pocket so that the battery stays active, the Volt's big 400 pound lithium ion battery really performs well in the winter cold. Come summer, I can look forward to overnight charging that will approach 35-40 miles per charge. Now, in the cold winter, the Volt is doing very well, thank you!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

3D Beauty and the Beast

Ed in his spiffy 3D glasses

Ed and I took a break from sports and politics this weekend (our two favorite television subjects) and headed out to the cinema. We saw the 3D version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Once again, I was captivated by the music of Alan Mencken who has done so many Disney scores.

Many of the 3D effects were remastered so you could tell that the movie had not been done in 3D originally. For example, silhouettes on the lower screen appear closer, but rest of the screen stayed flat, or one character stood out and all the rest did not. Still, it is an enchanting story and the music, so operetta-like, is spectacular, to say nothing about all of the clever cartooning in 3D.

Lumiere, Cogsworth, Wardrobe, Mrs. Potts and Chip from the props
at the backstage dining area of Hollywood Studios at Disney World

My favorite character is Mrs. Potts (on the right, with her little teacup child, Chip) whose voice is Angela Lansbury in the movie. I love Angela Lansbury's warm alto version of "Beauty and the Beast," sung about halfway through the movie. Then, too, I have always liked the duet version of "Beauty and the Beast," sung by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson which plays during the credits at the end of the 84 minute movie.

The last 3D movie that we saw at a cinema was "Coraline" from 2009. 3D technology has come a long way since then. I might become a 3D fan and I am looking forward to another day at the movies, watching 3D cinema.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter -- Early 1950's

From the Hayes family archives comes this winter glimpse that my Dad must have photographed. That's me in the navy coat, cozying up to my mother. Mom is holding my brother Tim while big sister Carla and our dog (was it Ginger?) complete the portrait.

I'm thinking this might have been the winter of 1951-52 when we lived in Richland Center, Wisconsin. That's the black Ford with its long radio antenna and the hills of southeastern Wisconsin in the background.

It's a great photo -- mom with Tim and a teddy bear, Carla and me in wool coats -- all with big smiles.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Winter Afternoon

Lake Huron shoreline -- Saturday, January 21, 2012

On a winter afternoon the sliding, slanting sun lights up the eastern sky, as well as the west. The single digit temperatures of the last few nights turned White Rock Shoal into an arctic scene. So white, so surreal that in the daytime brightness, the sun would hurt my eyes.

Come four o'clock, late in the day, the scene glows pastel and cold as the daylight creeps ever west across Michigan toward Wisconsin and spreads a layer of darkness over Lake Huron.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Evening Walk, Five Years Later

Remembering Vallanee Rose Luedtke Hayes -- 1921 - 2007

My footprints mingle with rabbit tracks as  I make my way back from an evening jaunt to the compost pile. The air is cold. So cold that it pinches my forehead and stings my cheeks.

I remember. In the winter twilight I remember my mother's death five years ago in the coldest month of the year. Born on the Ides of May in the swelling warmth of spring, when the days are long and promising, Mom slipped out of this world in the cold of January.

I had driven up I-75 in a winter storm on a Friday night. I pulled over in Gaylord to stay the night and let the worst of the winds subside. Reaching the Wisconsin farmhouse where she was born by midday on Saturday, I joined the watch of the faithful who knew an end was close.

She left with a tear, one tear, slowly descending her drawn face. One tear that showed reluctance to go, even though she, like us, must have known.

Tonight, in the warm quiet of my home, I will spread one of her quilts across a bed. She will come as a presence in the colors and patterns and stitches of the beauty that she created in that quilt. 

Beautiful mother. How I miss you on a cold January evening. 

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler


Friday, January 20, 2012

Leaving Orlando

I had a window seat yesterday when we took off from Orlando. President Obama had arrived within the hour before we left. So, on take off, I thought I spotted Air Force One, over to the edge of the airport. It's the long white hyphen, just to the left of the control tower.

The President spoke in front of the Castle at Magic Kingdom yesterday as a part of a new tourism initiative that would expedite travel to the United States. One of the statistics that I read yesterday said that every tourist visiting from countries like Brazil and India brings over $6000 to the U.S.

We visited with a family from Australia while riding the Monorail at Disney. Mom, Dad, three kids. They had been to New York City (the kids saw a Knicks game -- their first basketball game) and were now doing Disney.

Disney associates (or is it cast members?) told us that the Brazilian visitors buy tons of stuff in the gift shops and at the theme parks. Guess that I'm hoping Obama's visit helps bring more visitors to see our great country. We could use a few here in Pure Michigan, too!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wintry Roads

Think how much of the nation never sees this sight -- a country road in winter. Here's Geiger Road looking west in January of 2004. Late January and much of February that year brought snowing and blowing to Huron County.

As I write this blog post, I'm sitting in Florida with its sunshine and fair breezes. Looking at this photo is like paging through a National Geographic magazine today. Tomorrow it will be the day's reality

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More Magical

Karen and Wanda and Ed before the Epcot fireworks
Our Disney business meeting is getting more magical. President Obama is coming to the Magic Kingdom tomorrow to launch a new tourism initiative. We are scheduled to fly out of Orlando right about the time that the President lands and you know how magical of an experience that might come to be.

Already the Main Street parade has been moved to a later time and Disney visitors are being urged to choose another park for their magical experience tomorrow.

Magical rental club
We golfed on Tuesday and I found one rental club to be especially magical. A fairway metal, this club gave me the oomph on several par five holes that I had been waiting for. Unfortunately, the round of golf brought back my coughing spells, too. Not so magical.

Fireworks from IllumiNations, Reflections of the Earth
Magically spectacular. That how I would describe the evening pyrotechnic show at Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. From the huge moving globe to the laser lights and the multiple blossoming fireworks overhead, the show is electrifyingly beautiful. Very magical.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Moebius Mistake

It's a mistake. See the twist in this knitting? That twist is not supposed to be there when you start knitting a hat.

Usually you see the twist and know that you have to take out the knitting within a row or two after casting on the stitches. I was so brain dead while knitting last weekend that I was more than several rows into this project when I realized that that I had a moebius twist in my knitting.

What is a moebius twist? Well, if you take a long, narrow strip of paper, give it a half twist and tape the short ends together, you create a moebius strip. It would be like a twisted cylinder and would have one surface, not two like the page of a book. Such a twist cannot be undone in knitting. I might cast on intentionally with a moebius twist to make a twisted scarf, but for a hat, nope.

Knitting, unlike woodworking or painting or even weaving, allows one the opportunity of starting over. And that's just what I did. I gently pulled the stitches apart to undo the moebius mistake, wound the yarn back into the ball and started over.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crowded Kingdom Album

Crowds enjoy the Castle show with pyrotechnics and The Mice
We didn't get very far at the Magic Kingdom yesterday since it was also the Crowded Kingdom. It was fun to watch the crowds and visit some of the attractions that we had seen before. Here's a glimpse of an afternoon at Disney on a holiday weekend in January.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T for The Mice
Even the Orchids sing at the Tiki Room!

I climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. . .yes, I did!

Roy and Ed and the Main Street crowds

Sunday, January 15, 2012

At The Mouse

I brought my Michigan cough down to Florida to visit The Mouse this weekend. Ed and I are at a business conference at Disney. On the left is a metal mouse that had a walkway in front of it and a small post with a shelf at waist height.

"Ah ha!" I thought. "A place to use the self timer function on my camera." I set the camera for ten second delay, put it on the shelf, pressed the silver shutter button and hurriedly joined Ed for the photo that you see on the right. Ed, The Mouse, and Me.

Not long ago I asked my little friend Tessa how she liked her trip to Florida.

"We didn't go to Florida, " she replied. "We went to Disney!"

Yep. That's the power of The Mouse.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Val's Pink Quilt

My mother, Vallanee Rose Hayes, loved to take a common quilt block and interpret it with lots of fabrics and colors. She told me once that you shouldn't begin to plan how a stack of blocks would go together until there were at least 30 or 40 blocks in the pile. One way of thinking about such a style of quilting calls that "scrap" quilting.

Mom would look for fabrics that fit the color scheme that she was working with. Her colors grew as she added more and more fabrics, more and more blocks. Her quilts were planned, yet serendipitous. They were scrappy, yet balance for dark and light, hue and shadow.

The pink quilt shown above fits Mom's style to a tee. She loved pink and made it the cornerstone of this quilt for which I did the machine quilting. My sister Martha owns this quilt now. It is truly quilt to be treasured.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Girls

Two sisters in winter, all bundled up in wool coats with scarves tied around their heads, look confidently at a camera, probably a Kodak box camera. The snow looks deep but the smiles are warm.

That's my sister Carla (left) and me in the early 1950's somewhere in Wisconsin. I'm holding a pair of glasses. Carla has a small purse. We both have yarn dolls pinned to our coats.

We were good looking kids, way back then, learning to be sturdy Midwesterners who survive the cold weather and learn to love winter.

NOTE: So, Dad, where was this taken? What year could this be? Hmmmm.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tulips In The Snow

From the Graywood Designs quilt collection, here is Tulips In The Snow, the seventh pattern out of 36 released by my quilt design company. Based on an old block, this quilt is made up of nine large blocks whose motifs represent tulips.

Since I've always like red and green, this is a favorite quilt of the many that I've designed. I remember it especially since during the winter that I was finishing the writing and layout of the pattern, my friend Albert "Butch" Robinson died. I think of Butch whenever I see this photo.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Full Moon Morning

The sun rose at 8:05 am on Tuesday morning. The January full moon had set before sunrise. The weather was mostly clear with cloud lines at the horizons. This photo was the result. Another Pure Michigan morning in a January without any snow.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Journal Jumble

The Journal Jumble -- Blog log, Country Diary journals, weather log, travel log

My Dad got me started using a preprinted journal called County Diary. He used to order one for my Mom every year. Those journals became a wonderful record of Mom's life and I admired both my mother and my sister Mary who helped to keep my Mom's journal going, even in Mom's last days when my Mom couldn't write any more.

When my 2012 Country Diary came the other day, I thought I'd better finish up some of the entries in the 2011 book. So I got out the weather log that I keep for Cedar Bluff and the mileage log that I keep in my car. I used those log books to add a note or two about weather and travel to my journal.

I try not to be religious about writing. If I miss a week or two, I go back and write a general paragraph about happenings from those days. That's enough to jar my memory. I also tape cash register receipts, stamps, tickets and other assorted "stuff" onto the pages.

It's amazing what a little note, or a paragraph, or a piece of paper can do to bring back memories.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Bridge

I couldn't resist. After Christmas, while out shopping, I added the Sodor Bay Bridge to the Thomas train set up. Percy (green engine) was first across the bridge, followed by Thomas the Birthday Train. I set the bridge up on the kitchen counter just to try out the arrangement.

Sodor Bay Bridge will be a great addition to the Thomas train which is now a combination of the Melissa and Doug set and the Thomas set. Very cool.

Grandma approves.

Previous train post: Mantle Train

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Snow Sky

January 26, 2004 -- Along Geiger Road, south of Pigeon
What watercolorist would not delight in painting this winter sky? This photo, taken south of Pigeon along Geiger Road near Graywood Farm, reveals the pastels and grays of a winter squall moving across the Thumb's landscape.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Second Tank

OnStar RemoteLink as seen on Droid smartphone

I put a second tank of gas in my Chevy Volt yesterday afternoon. Started out from Cedar Bluff and drove over to Ruth to the Cooperative Elevator's fuel terminal. They don't have premium gas at the Ruth location (they sell E-85, though) so I couldn't fill up there.

I continued on to the Citgo station in Harbor Beach and put 6.9 gallons in the tank. My Buick Rainier used to take 16-18 gallons for a fill up, so it is really different to run my credit card, push the buttons, insert the nozzle and be done in a jiffy.

The funny part about the drive (about a 25 mile round trip) was that I was on electric power most of the way. So I drove away from the pumps at the gas station on EV power. Quietly drove away, I might add.

Alec McCormick who is on the sales staff at McCormick Motors in Pigeon asked me this week if I had driven my Volt in sport mode yet. Volts have three driving modes -- normal, sport, mountain. Each mode draws on a different configuration for powering the car. Alec is really impressed with the snap of the sport mode.

So, I tried sport out as I drove home from getting gas. Wow! I might want to drive this car more in this energetic, quick pick up and get going mode.

Total miles on the Volt so far: 1046

EV (electric vehicle) miles: 507

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, January 6, 2012

Courtyard Garden Sunset

The skies lit up at sunset yesterday. Cerise, navy, pink, orange, red, apricot -- the colors spilled across the horizon and tinted the landscape in a brilliant show of our solar system's power.

Here's a view taken from the courtyard garden at Graywood Farm. You can see the outline of the white picket fence across the lower line of the photo.

The large spreading tree on the left is a locust that Ed thinks we'll have to cut back this coming summer. It's branching system now spreads from across the driveway to touch the roofline of the farmhouse.

The tree right next to it in the photo is the big black walnut that I've written about before. Both trees were inky etchings in the artwork of yesterday's evening skies.

Previous post about black walnut: Fall Walnuts

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stunning Cactus

This Christmas cactus gave us wonderful blooms during the holidays. The cuttings for this plant came from my sister Penny. I brought them from Wisconsin to Michigan and potted several cuttings in one pot. The segments of the stems are smooth and scallop shaped. The blossoms are a lovely medium pink.


The flowers remind me of the summertime fuchsia plants that are often sold in hanging baskets in our part of Michigan. Christmas cactuses come from South America and are epiphytes, plants that live in or on other plants, but do not derive their sustenance from the host plant (a parasitic plant like mistletoe will kill the host plant).

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Compost Walk

I like to slip my little point and shoot Sony camera into my pocket whenever I head out for a walk. One day this week, on my return trip from the compost pile, the winter sky broke open with a luminous patch of blue. On a very cold day, blue skies mean sun and sun means warmth, so blue is a good color.

The compost pile at Cedar Bluff is tucked away on what we call the North Shore. It isn't far from the house, but it's not close by either. Orange peels (Ed makes fresh squeezed orange juice every morning that he can), coffee grounds, vegetable peels -- all of those non-meat organic goodies are tossed on a pile where we can eventually use them for soil enrichment.

If some critters find sustenance in the peels and parings that we've tossed away, well, that's okay. We've noticed evidence of a skunk now and then. That's about all.

The walk to the compost pile is a pretty rural thing. It's all about exercise and gardening, even in winter.

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Caucus On The Shoal

It is seven in the morning, pitch dark. The geese out on White Rock Shoal are making a loud ruckus. For several days they have been gathering and cackling. They feed on the bottom of the shoal. They flit inland to nearby cornfields. They return and chatter some more. 

I imagine there are lots of decisions to make. Big decisions. Stay north. Go south. Look, the swans are already here for the winter -- we gotta go today. I tell ya, we're later than ever. You lead. No, you've never taken us south. Let's go with him, or her. I'll stay this year. You go.

It seems like a noisy nonsense, but it is a matter of survival for these four hundred or so big birds whose seasonal migration depends on good judgment, innate sense and leadership.

Sound familiar? On this day when the Iowa caucuses kick off the 2012 Election cycle, I am hoping for good judgment and many voices in the process.

It's bound to look a lot like the confusion on White Rock Shoal this morning. Maybe it will even sound a lot like so much cackling and chattering.

In the end, the flocks will form and in great majestic shows of waterfowl strength, they will lift off into long skeins of V's that will head south.

Decisions made. Lead birds out in front. Committed. Flying.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, January 2, 2012

Snow Clumps and Football

The snow came in big clumps toward midnight last night. I turned on an outside light, opened a door and took this image through the screens. You can see one of the Adirondack chairs in the right background if you look carefully.

We are already thinking "GO GREEN" today since it is the day of the Michigan State versus Georgia bowl game in Tampa, Florida. All who are loyal Midwesterners should be cheering for the Big Ten teams that were totally shut out in last year's bowl games.

So, here's the how the photo above looks to me in my Michigan State frame of mind.

Go State! Beat Georgia. And, good luck to the Big Ten teams in bowl games. Let's go bowling and win!

Copyright 2012
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day 2012

2012 dawned warm and windy, for Michigan, that is. We are under a high wind warning, with winds of 50 mph forecast for 10 am to 10 pm. Here at White Rock Shoal, the usual flotilla of Canada geese that frequent the shoal are nowhere to be seen. Whitecaps lick the edge of the shoal. Winds are increasing with occasional rain.

It is the Eighth Day of Christmas and I light candles at the windows every morning in the dark. Rosemary twigs remind me of gardens that have been and will be, and of good food to be enjoyed and savored.

Sunrise is at 8:05 am here at Cedar Bluff. The sun sets at 5:03 pm, so we are still in that two week time frame of slightly less than eight hours of daylight. The theologian Martin Marty wrote a lot about "the winter of the heart." So many of us in the northern latitudes know that feeling, when the days are short and the heart can be heavy.

But warm holiday memories sustain. There are books to read, bowl games to enjoy, something to knit and quilt. A really big jigsaw puzzle spreads across the dining table. Ah, the cares of the soul are banished with family and friends to love, good conversations to come, and things to do.

So, welcome 2012. Bring it!

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler