Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Okay to Try Something New

Traveling up the windswept Coachella Valley in Southern California today, I was reminded of how much I did not want wind turbines to take over Huron County in Michigan. There are hundreds of turbines, clustered in rows and clumped along ridges, that make up a huge amount of electricity production along the I-10 corridor east of Los Angeles.

When I first saw turbines coming into Michigan, all I could think of was the clutter on the landscape that the California turbines represent. Fortunately, the Thumb area turbines are spaced apart and set onto the fields with some dignity and respect. You may not agree about liking them, but they are not an industrial blemish like the ones we saw today.

It took me a while, but I came around to understanding that it was okay for me to change my mind and take a new position on wind turbines, but I did.

I've tried some more new things this year, too. I golfed every month in 2013. I didn't golf every day or every week. I just set myself a goal in January of 2013 to golf more by trying to play every month. I made it. I did something new.

Tomorrow we'll see the Rose Parade and attend the Rose Bowl. I'm not big on crowds (some estimates put annual attendance at Rose Parades in Pasadena as high as one million people), but I will see the parade tomorrow. Again, it is something new, something that I have never done before, something that I wasn't really, really enthused about, but will try anyway.

Wind turbines and golfing and Rose parades don't have a lot in common, unless you count them as I do -- a way to see the world differently, with new eyes that take in the positives and eliminate the negatives. A few double bogeys and some wind turbines in 2013 remind me to take in the new things in 2014, like maybe a Michigan State Rose Bowl win.

I'm still learning that it's okay to try something new!

Desert Sliver Moon

The moon was a sliver in the Arizona desert at a quarter to seven this morning. My body clock is set on Eastern Time, so I had been up for a few hours and was motivated to step out into the 38 degree cold and snap a photo.

"It's pretty cold out, " Ed told me after he checked the air temperature, too. We both guessed it to be in the fifties while a thermometer told us high thirties.

Then we heard from A Wisconsin Native who sent this screenshot of the temperature in central Wisconsin. Eighteen below!

Well, all I can say that is encouraging is that the same moon that shines in the 38 degree desert is shining tonight in the cold air of Wisconsin.

It's winter, my friends. It is definitely winter.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Winter Weddings

Three of my nieces have chosen winter weddings, two in December and one in January.  At a winter wedding the bride's white echoes the winter snow outside. Inside, the warmth of family love and a new couple's sweet devotion melts away any of the cold coatings that threaten human hearts.

The latest winter wedding, yesterday's gala affair in Michigan, stood right up with the previous two -- a radiant bride, handsome groom, proud parents, and lots of relatives to whoop it up.

Congratulations, Karen Sue and Josh. 'Twas a lovely affair and we were honored to attend.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Pigeon Museum in Winter

Railroad tracks covered with new snow pass by the historic Pigeon Depot, part of the four building Museum Complex in downtown Pigeon, Michigan. A new research facility was added to the complex this past summer and now joins the Depot, Farmers' Market, and Vintage Shed as a part of Pigeon's ongoing nod to its rich heritage as a Midwestern farming community. 

Many small and medium size towns and cities across the Midwest are enlarging their historic collection possibilities. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin has the Galloway House and Village. Harbor Beach, Michigan hosts the Frank Murphy Historic  Home. The local library in Lomira, Wisconsin has set aside one room for the Town of Byron's historic society. 

These are but a few of the many efforts made to keep history alive and thriving close to home. While state and university museums hold treasures of the past, local, on-the-spot history collections have the capability of telling stories and holding artifacts in a way that the larger facilities, limited in space and needing to cover greater geography, cannot do. 

Pigeon's history volunteers bring zest and commitment to their task, work that is not obvious in this very tranquil winter view of the historic railroad depot. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Feed The Birds & Critters

Our crazy compost pile can't get any traction in the winter months. Compost needs bacteria and bacteria need heat. So in all of the cold, ice, and snow, not much is happening in the way of rotting.

Still, we take that walk out to the pile on the North Lawn almost every day. Those coffee grounds and carrots peels and orange rinds and apple cores get scattered on the snow where they provide pickings for critters.

It's part of the "feed the birds" concept. Maybe that's why these two fawns enjoyed strolling across the lawn on Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hike to White Rock

Part of the holiday crew that is staying at the lake house took a long hike out to White Rock today. We set out thinking we would see if the ice was thick enough to walk on and ended up all the way out on the edge of the shoal.

White Rock itself is covered with a thick coating of frosty ice. The wind was biting, but at our backs. We could see the water in the distance, but the warm sun was encouraging and the walk in the snow was invigorating.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sweet Light, Sweet Christmas

On this day, and days like it for people of the many faiths, we see light. We have walked in darkness together, but now we see the light. In the cold of winter, it comes and warms our hearts.

We name it many things -- God, Jehovah, The Great One -- but it is the same light, sweet sunshine to the soul, that shines on us all.

Merry Christmas. Have faith.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Walk

My Christmas Eve walk to the compost pile was exquisitely beautiful. Winter cold, ice on the trees cracking, long December shadows, thoughts of family coming on Christmas Day -- these are the best of times, the waiting and hoping for a special day.

Merry Christmas, from under the Willow that shades us all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Album Favs -- Six More

I can't let this season escape without looking at six more favorite Christmas albums.

At the top of this list is the 2000 release of "You Better Watch Out" by Michigan's own Three Men and a Tenor. I'm pretty sure it is Chuck Colby's rendition of Elvis's "Blue Christmas" that gets me singing along with their a cappella arrangements. The 3MT guys are regulars around Michigan and deserve to be heard again and again.

"Come Darkness, Come Light -- Twelve Songs of Christmas" by Mary Chapin Carpenter fits the category of holiday albums that feature winter, thanksgiving and Christmas, all on the same disk. Her "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" is plaintive, yet festive, and a carol that is not so over done on albums.

I have to include "The Muppet Christmas Carol" which is available as a DVD and a CD. My nephew Matt loves this production and watching it with him brings out all the subtle lyrics, especially those by the long suffering Beaker. My favorite song, "Bless Us All," is sentimental and syrupy and right to the point. It's a Jim Henson production with songs by Paul Williams.

My sis-in-law Sue gave us a copy of "Carols By Candlelight," that features the Falcone concert grand piano at Marshall United Methodist Church. Performed by Dr. David Sly, this collection of piano music is what I listen to when I'm in the kitchen making cookies. It is a limited edition album with local connections that warms the heart. Somewhere I have a Philadelphia Singers album from my sister Heidi that falls into this category, too.

I'm a Harry Connick fan, especially at Christmas. "When My Heart Finds Christmas" is from 1993 and includes "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," a great song for a guy like Harry to have recorded.

NPR fans willl recognize Garrison Keillor's "Now It Is Christmas Again," a compendium from the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church, with story and song. My high school choir director was a graduate of St. Olaf College and in his choir you learned Norweigan carols, many of which are on the album and take me back to my Ripon High School choir days.

There you have it. Six more holidays favorites from Wanda's big box of well loved holiday CDs. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ice Storm Album

Ice and snow swept across the landscape during the night and into the morning of December 22nd. The trees were covered with a sheet of clear ice, their branches heavy with the weight of the frozen mixture.

With temperatures hovering around freezing, the water crawled along branches until it finally froze and formed tiny icicles like little winter tongues tasting the storm.

Red berries became ornaments. Ice made paths up and down limbs. Snow fell softly by late afternoon as the storm subsided and left beauty in the woodlands of Michigan's Thumb.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice and Wintry Mix

Respecting the weather reports that ranged from storm watches to warnings, Ed and I decided not to stay in the city to see a movie today. We had been out and about, finishing our shopping for gifts and groceries. Parts of the Thumb already had a coating of ice that clung to tree limbs and power lines, but the roads were salted and very driveable.

The storm started this evening and the National Weather Service is calling it an ice storm. Ed calls it a nor'easter. A wintry mix of rain and snow is hitting the outside of the house. It sounds like heavy rain, but looks like ice. There are news reports of power outages in parts of the state.

While it would have been fun to see a new movie (I was hoping we could get in to see "Saving Mr. Banks"), it is surely comforting to be out of the wintry mix and safely at home on the longest night of the year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Snow Pope

Delightful. Absolutely delightful.

That's my word for this New Yorker cover that pictures Pope Francis making a snow angel. Attired in ecclesiastical garb with heavy boots and mittens, the pope looks out of the magazine cover with a friendly gaze. It's a decidedly up north version of this very new pope playing in the snow.

Somehow or another, the news can be heavy this time of the year. It's hard for the media to even think of taking a break from the constant cycle of reporting the daily stuff.

Then along comes an artist whose Snow Pope makes us smile.

Cool. Really cool.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gliding North

Christmas tree in Lexington, Michigan

I had shopping and errands to do in the city today. A trip to the Detroit area takes me down along the shoreline of Lake Huron. I make the run from Huron County south to Port Huron and then on to the Detroit area.

Port Huron is usually the start of city congestion and traffic. A border town, Port Huron's roads are often crowded. This time of the year, the area from the Blue Water Bridges and the border crossing to the mall two miles north is busy. Even the downtown gets a fair amount of traffic.

So, tonight, coming north, I was conscious of my very rural life. Driving north, I listened to XM radio's Holiday Pops station. Their evening concert with the Canadian Brass playing Christmas music was a delightful way to glide north along the shoreline.

Usually there is quite a bit of traffic coming out of the city. By the time I get to Lexington, vehicles have pulled off the road. People reach their destination or head down a side road. By Port Sanilac, still 21 miles to go, the road is empty. Now I can see the sky. The lights of the city are behind me. To the right is the great void of Lake Huron.

Tonight the lake sparkles. Ice and snow coat the shoreline and extend out toward deeper water. It is cloudy, but moonlight brightens the night through the cloud cover.

I have lived further north than Huron County. When I was in grade school, we lived in central Wisconsin, not up north, but more north than The Thumb of Michigan. Gliding north means leaving warmth and people and city behind. When one heads north, one is moving out to where there are less people and more space.

Tonight, gliding north, I was particularly conscious of the northern flavor of my life. The snow. The empty roads. The big brass holiday music on the radio. Christmas coming soon. Gliding north is a pretty good way to approach this time of the year, especially for us people of Great Lakes country where there is cold and winter. . . and Christmas, and home.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Silly Me

I have managed to separate myself from my laptop computer today. I had some errands to run at the end of the afternoon, so I left my computer at my office, not realizing that I really needed to head back and pick it up.

Silly me.

But now I remember! I turned it off and, wonder of wonders, the updates came rolling on. Ed and I call those Uncle Bill updates (sorry, Bill Gates. We really do admire you, but. . .) and sometimes they can go on and on.

Silly Bill.

So here I am tonight, working on my little Kindle Fire HD and hoping that the Silk browser will have enough gumption to complete the task of connecting to a server efficiently enough to allow a post to fly out into the wonderful world of digitality.

Silly Kindle.

Will it work? We shall see. And, yes, I really did have a post planned for today. But the photo is on the laptop, too, and, dear reader, we will both be content with this lovely photo of a stollen that I baked two years ago. The photo has nothing to do with the post. It was available and when you get stressed out with Christmas preparations, you take what you can get.

Silly me. Silly, blogging me.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Woods Walk

The walk to the compost pile is filling up with snow. I trudged through 4-6 inches of new fluffy white stuff on my way out to the pile with coffee grounds and orange peels. As usual, there were animals tracks in the deep snow.

Today the temperatures have been in the twenties and it snowed on and off all afternoon. Yesterday was clear and cold, barely in the upper teens and a good day to stay in the house.

My compost walk today was invigorating and warm since I had just shoveled out the sidewalk. The grandkids will have a great time playing in all of this white stuff next week for Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cold Winter Night

The temperature was in the mid teens when I started my trip back from the city today. I had some Christmas shopping to do and knew that the almost full moon would be rising right before 5 pm.

What I didn't anticipate on my trip up the shoreline was how clear the western sky would become as the temperature dropped to single digits. First it was seven degrees on the car thermometer, then four. This image of the Catholic church in Forestville was taken after moon rise with the sunrise glow illuminating  the horizon.

The cold night made the outlines crisp and dark and lovely.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Angel


It's the bleakest week of the year, these next few days. In the run up to Solstice Day I begin to feel the cumulative effects of short days and long nights. 

The weariness of the year presses on my heart and, like the ancients, I look around for some meaning, some sign. 

Ah. There she is. An advent angel with her 24 heart shaped pockets full of promise. Hung on a wall, with a funny nose, funky hat, and bead like eyes, she silently sings the song of hope. 

"Christmas is coming and things will get better."

A smile crosses my face. This unlikely icon, a doll hung on a wall, reminds me that in the darkest days there is light ahead.

There is still time for Christmas cookies and phone calls to faraway family and friends. Time to watch a holiday movie and sing a quiet song. 

And that, my friends, is good news, good news indeed. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Honoring and Remembering

Being part of a large family means that you get to meet lots of special people from the families that your siblings marry into. Not only are there lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, but there are also the wonderful in-laws, specifically in our family, the mothers-in-law.

This weekend we will be honoring and remembering Patsy Schamber, my brother's mother-in-law, as many of us travel to the East Coast to be with my sister-in-law and my brother as they bid farewell to Patsy who died last Friday.

It will be a time of honoring and remembering a woman who raised four children, worked as a nurse, traveled all across the globe, and loved her family to the very end.

This photo, from the summer of 2008, catches my dad, Stan Hayes, and Patsy in one of those photos that takes your breath away. They both looked into the camera with smiles that now shine into our memories.

It has been quite a year of losing our elders in our family. This weekend we will honor and remember Patsy, and be remembering Stan who died in May and Pauline whom we lost in September. They all are missed deeply.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Album Favs -- First Six

Christmas music is a big joy of the season. I'm always watching out for new albums, but get out the old ones every year, too. My box of CDs grows with the years and it is officially the holiday when the box is unearthed from its year round hiding place.

John Denver and the Muppets did "A Christmas Together" in the early 1980's. There's a great version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on this album and the "Silent Night" is one of my favs. I even have the piano music for this album and enjoy playing it every year.

Sting's very medieval sounding "If On A Winter's Night" brings me back to my days in high school madrigals when the group of us would carol with our luscious 8 part harmonies. This album is almost mystical and kind of edgy. It counters all of the sweet and syrupy stuff that is holiday music these days.

Straight No Chaser, an a cappella group from Indiana, has several holiday CDs. I listen to "Christmas Cheers" and enjoy the tight harmonies.

Amy Grant's "A Christmas Album" is plop in the middle of the 1980's Christian music scene, but her "Tennessee Christmas" always reminds me of my Memphis sister and her family. It can be a tear jerker for me. Yes, it can.

Chris Botti's silver sounding trumpet shines in his album, "December." Mellow, very mellow, and with a jazz touch. Listen to "Winter Wonderland" on this one.

Then there's Tony Bennett's Christmas album, "Snowfall." He sings with such exquisite diction, so full of soft vowels and consonants that flow that you hardly miss a word. Tony is a big favorite of mine and this album does not disappoint. "White Christmas" has some great trumpet behind Tony's voice, too.

I haven't listed these in any order of preference. Christmas is Christmas, and music is music.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mother Nature Decorates

It was a drift of red berries on woodland shrubs that caught my eye. Bright and red, those berries had a "knock your socks off" effect against the gray woods.

I made a u-turn and pulled out my camera. Got the shot framed and then I saw, in the viewfinder, the whitest birch and a little Charlie Brown type pine tree.

There it was -- the reddest red, a little green tree, and pure white. No bows. No ribbons. No baubles.

Just Mother Nature at work, decorating the woods for the holidays, on this stretch of Michigan highway.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


High winds combined with snow can cause a condition that I like to call "snirt." That's when the wind picks up the dust on the ground and settles it in with the snow.

An almost icy coating results as the snirt covers fields and drifts across roads. Often it is caught in the ditchbanks where it creates patterns that resembled sculptured rock formations.

M-25, the highway that circles Huron County, running along the shoreline, is subject to many places where the snirt blows across the fields and on to the highway. These are the same strong westerly winds that form sand dunes and move wind turbines and cause us Thumb area residents to say that "gee, it really is cold today."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Winter Moon

The moon rose shortly after 1 pm today so by the time I went for a late afternoon walk it was high in the sky. Full moon is one week from today on Tuesday, December 17th, followed by that day we've all been waiting for, Winter Solstice, on Saturday, December 21st.

The temperature barely touched the low twenties today even though the sun was out for part of the day. Through the night the temps fell to single digits.

Clear, crisp, cold. Winter is here for sure.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Still Squashing

Even though the snow and winds have come to The Thumb of Michigan, and even though my garden supplied me with over 60 pounds of butternut squash this fall, and even though I have made squash soup and pumpkin pie and chocolate pumpkin cheesecake, I'm still squashing!

Jack's Fruit Market in Bay City had a wonderfully varied selection of winter squashes last week. I bought this very, very orange squash and roasted it this weekend. I scooped out the seeds, drained them in a colander, and am drying them for next summer's garden. I roasted the squash, inside facing down, on a sheet of parchment paper in a medium oven, 350 degrees.

The flesh of this squash, a deep red orange, was firm and evenly colored when baked. The texture, after fork mashing, was more like an Idaho baking potato. The squash was so sweet that I added a bit of butter and sprinkled maple sugar as a garnish. Half of the squash was more than Ed and I could eat as a side dish with salad and homemade pizza.

The seeds, once they are dry, will be transferred to a glass jar and stored out in the garage where it is dry and cool. I label each jar with the date of collection and take photos of the squash from whence cometh the seeds. We are only a week and a half away from Solstice Day and then it will be time to start planning next summer's garden. The photos will come in handy for remembering which seeds go with which squash.

Root veggies are amazing. Without refrigeration, with proper care, they provide a good meal months after harvest. That's pretty cool, botanically and nutritionally. This year, I'm still squashing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Me and My Telephone Man

I found this really cool telephone booth at the Bay City Antiques Mall on Water Street last Tuesday. I was out looking for green pottery. I use green pottery pots and dishes as planters for my Christmas cactuses, and it was time to hunt up some more pots. But, when one starts wandering through all of the booths at the very, very large antiques mall, one finds some really offbeat stuff.

This phone booth, solid oak and purchased from an antique store in Las Vegas, found its way to Bay City. Supposedly it is from the Stardust Hotel and Casino. It comes complete with a seat, a pay phone, the little shelf for writing notes while you are talking, and a door that has a lovely leaded stained glass window.

I dragged my favorite telephone man down to the Antiques Mall on Saturday so that he could buy my Christmas present for me (yes, we bough the big punch bowl from Tuesday's blog post -- think art glass, think nostalgia) and then we had a great time looking at all of the reminders of times past.

The phone booth was especially fun. I kind of think that Ed looks like he stepped off a casino floor to call home for more cash.

Those of you who are long time blog readers will know of Ed's connection to the telecommunications industry. And, for those of you who are new to the blog, I will say that this guy started in the telco industry by climbing poles. . .and he still has the gear to prove it, because I get to move those pole climbing spikes around every time I clean a certain corner of the basement.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Big Tree

Lunch at The Atrium in Bay City was made even more special when we visited their really big indoor real Christmas tree. The tree touches the rafter structure in this expansive dining room. 

The Atrium is located on Water Street, right across from St Laurents Nut House, home of our favorite peanut butter, along the Saginaw River. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sugar Cookies

Both my mother, Val Hayes, and my grandmother, Rose Luedtke, used the Mrs. Mehn's Cookbook, published in 1939,  in their kitchens. Here's Mrs. Mehn's sugar cookie recipe, all slicked up for the Van Camp House 4th annual cookie contest that was held tonight at the restaurant in Port Sanilac.

A Cranberry Coconut Bar cookie won the contest, but, really, I enjoyed the afternoon of messing up my kitchen with flour and sugar and butter and almond extract. This recipe makes over six dozen cookies. I took 18 to the contest and brought some home, so there will be lots of cut out cookies left for this holiday season.

Mrs. Mehn was the wife of an Wisconsin Evangelical Church pastor. She must have been quite the entrepreneur to have published and then sold this cookbook to many of the church families in Wisconsin. My sister Carla makes a great Cowboy cookie using a recipe from this cookbook. Or is it the corn flake cookie? Hmmm, I will have to find out.

A church history note: The Evangelical Church and the United Brethren Church merged in 1946 to form the EUB (Evangelical United Brethren Church). Neither of the two denominations nor the resultant EUB denomination were very large, so many of the pastors and their families knew each other quite well. So, Mrs. Mehn's Cookbook had quite an audience among church folk.

My father was ordained in the Evangelical Church before the merger, graduated from seminary after the merger, and served most of his ministry years in the United Methodist Church, a 1968 merger of the EUB's, the Methodists, and the Central Jurisdiction of the Methodist Church. The Central Jurisdiction was the segregated black church.

In 22 years, from 1946 to 1968, those denominational flavors came together to form one church, quite an accomplishment when you think about how factionalized much of American society is today.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Baby Owl

From my sketchbook comes this baby barn owl. My inspiration for this little owl is the illustrating done by Bert Kitchen, a British artist, for children's books.

This little guy is a part of the cover illustration for "The Barn Owl," a book that is available from resellers and used book stores. I picked up a copy at Bookman's on Ina in Tucson sometime last spring.

Mr. Kitchen's illustrations bring the essence of the birds and animals to the pages of his books. The animals are somewhat stylized (the eye of the artist is everything) but they are always engaging and a delight to see.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I hope Bert Kitchen will know how inspired I am by his wise and excellent children's art.

Another post with a barn owl

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December Fog

by Carl Sandburg

The fog comes
on little cat feet

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

The fog that poet Carl Sandburg describes came this week to Huron County. It sat and sat. Barns appeared and disappeared. Telephone poles, wind turbines, farm houses -- all floated in and out of a distant nothingness.

This barn on Helena Road, captured with a telephoto lens, sits looking at a corner where, just like the fog, I move on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fostoria Punch Bowl

Browsing at the Bay City Antiques Market, I came up short when I suddenly spotted this very large punch bowl. I immediately recognized it as the Americana pattern by Fostoria.

Our Mom had an extensive collection of Americana. We used the stemmed sherbet glasses for everyday jello and puddings. Birthday cakes were always served on Fostoria dessert plates. There were water glasses and a heavy pitcher and pickle dishes. Heavy and knobby, it was easy stuff to hang on to. I just assumed that other families used glassware like it for their meals. 

Part of my adult learning was about my mother's love of beautiful tableware. When registering for wedding gifts, I found out how expensive china and pottery and silver were. Mom's tableware was an extension of my Dad's ministry.

Dad, you see, would receive an honorarium for performing a marriage ceremony or a funeral. Those honoraria went to my mother and were used for lovely things like the Fostoria glassware and the Red Wing pottery that we used every day. 

So the large punch bowl at the Antiques Market brought me up short today. I touched the heavy glass and knew my mother would have loved having that big, big bowl for her Christmas holiday gatherings. And the punch would be red. It would be non-alcoholic and fruity and wonderful. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Red Ribbons

Using fine gauge wire and a needle nose pliers I made ribbon bows for the split rail fence at the lake house today. I have always used wide velvet ribbon but changed the look to a red sparkle organdy this year. I could buy ready made bows, but somehow the twisting and gathering and wiring fits into my holiday checklist.

There are eight posts along the split rail fence. The fence fronts the row of cedars that flank the drive in front of the house, so the red bows become a welcoming committee for the winter. Red and shiny, they stand out against the deep green cedars and the pale gray timbers of the fence.

I have to use heavy wire to tie the bows to each post since the winds will whip the ribbons into a frenzy with the first snowstorm that comes along. Even so, now that the ribbons are out, it feels more like Christmas is coming.

This year, with losing my Dad and with Ed's mom being gone now, the holiday already seems sparse, so it felt good to put out red ribbons today.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Crazy For XM

The radio system in my Chevy Volt has a dynamite sound system that is almost always playing when I drive. Both Ed and I enjoy classical music and often play the game of "what is that music?" by saying aloud the name of a composer or musician or work, and then punching in the XM identifier. 

Today's goodie was brass with pipe organ.  We both knew it was Trumpet Voluntary, but I identified it as Canadian Brass when it was Empire Brass. 

Since we've heard Empire Brass in concert, I asked Ed to snap a photo if the XM screen so I can look up this performance. 

Yep, I'm just crazy for XM radio and grateful for the company of great music when I drive. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spartan Legends

Game Seven -- Santa conducts the SMB during the Pregame Show

Today's game wrote the history book on this year's Spartan senior class as they beat Minnesota and went down in Michigan State University football history as undefeated in Big Ten play this fall.

From a fan's point of view, it has been quite a season.

There were two stadium evacuations due to lightning strikes, one during Game 1 and then again in Game 2. Game 6 against Michigan was played in rainy miserable weather. Game 7, today, was sunny but really, really cold.

Was weather a factor? You bet. Those first two games toughened up a Spartan squad (and the Spartan Marching Band). Players on the field and in the band learned persistence and patience as delays meant that one game lasted beyond midnight and another was played in rain, minus the thunder and lightning.

We fans have made more third down noise this year than in any other year. We've chewed out the refs and cheered for the drumline. We sputtered every time Mr. TV Man strolled onto the field and delayed the game with commercial time.

At the end of the seasons, MSU is first in the Legends division of the Big Ten and advances to the Big Ten Championship game against Ohio State next Saturday in Indianapolis. I'm quite a fan, but I will be watching from the comfort of my living room where I will not have to wear two coats and wool socks, a scarf and hat, and double pair of gloves just to watch the Spartan Marching Band in the best college football pregame show in the nation.

Go State!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cold Parade

We stomped our feet and moved around, trying to keep warm while waiting for parade unit #40 to come in the Howell Festival of Lights parade tonight. The cousins got to ride on the 40th float and they had a blast. 

Clever lighting made even the fire trucks seem like magic vehicles. The kids welcomed hot cocoa after the parade and a good time was had by all (even though we had to warm up after the good time!)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Messes

We kept the kitchen in a constant state of messiness on the day before Thanksgiving. We made turkey rolls with quinoa stuffing and roasted veggies. We made a goat cheese potato pancake salad. We painted Christmas ornaments. We ate supper. We painted plaster trees. We had ice cream. We ate waffles.

There was stuff everywhere and we had a great time and we are grateful for Thanksgiving messes!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Store Windows

The space that was the Graywood Designs Studio Store in downtown Pigeon got a sprucing up for the holiday season. There are two window displays, some little Christmas lights, and Christmas quilts from my Christmas design collection, Glad Yule, on the walls.

Pigeon's town wide lighting ceremony is this weekend, but I wanted to get the 44 South Main building looking a little festive.

Enjoy the sight, Pigeon and Thumb area people, when you drive or walk by. I hope that it will warm your holiday a little. I know that we all wish there was more retail in our little towns and that spaces like these were active stores once again.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Forlorn Owl

He looks kind of forlorn, this little owl from the tree ornament selection at Target. I brought him home to hang on the critter tree that will grace a corner of the sunroom this holiday season.

With his big eyes, crooked beak, and burlap body, this little guy must feel out of place. We will welcome him to the congregation of critters -- moose, deer, squirrels, fox -- that will gather to celebrate a Great Lake Christmas.

WHO knows, he might like it here by the shore of Lake Huron.

And then again, he may not give a HOOT.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Turning Nine

Max turned nine years old today. He is a Thanksgiving baby and so we shall celebrate with him on Thanksgiving Day this week. That means that we will get to eat both pumpkin pie and birthday cake.

Here he is, during the 2010 Christmas season, with his cousin Hannah. I love the sweet look in their faces. Photographers would not argue with the natural light effect in this photo either.

Happy birthday, Max!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Bit of Milkweed

Still intact, in spite of autumn rain and early winter wind, the gossamer threads of silk tease milkweed seeds from the pod. Come next summer, monarch butterflies will cling to another set of milkweed pods, thanks to this plant growing alongside my compost pile. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Snow Mower Man

Thanksgiving is late this year but the winter winds came early. Ed and I thought there might be chance to get in one more mowing of the lawns at Cedar Bluff. So Ed brought the big grasshopper mower over from the farm on Thursday and it rained.

On Friday, there were snow showers and the winds picked up.

On Saturday, it snowed.

But. . .the mower was here and Ed had to try it out. We have this theory that grass that is left too long provides a wonderful winter environment for the voles who love to tunnel through the grass on top of the sod underneath the snowbanks.

Ed made three or four passes on the lawn on Saturday morning and then decided that the blades were icing up. He loaded up the mower and brought back the snow thrower.

"At least the snow thrower has heated handles," he said as he came in the house to warm up and change gloves before we watched Michigan State football.

Tonight the outside temperature is 18 degrees and the windchillls are forecast to be minus two degrees. It will be a good night to stay inside and have some chili for supper. The lawn mower is safely stored at the farm and the snow thrower is ready for duty at the lake. And Michigan State won again. A good Saturday, indeed.

Blog post from five years ago -- moving the mower with Finn.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Elevator Sky

Late afternoon sun lights up the Cooperative Elevator Company complex in downtown Pigeon. The November skies, gray with snow clouds, are getting ready to coat the landscape with a white covering. 

Today's winds brought snow flurries and sights like this one. I took this photo from the second story window of my office across from Village Hall. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Power Trucks in Howell

The Detroit Free Press reported that 678,000 Michigan homes and businesses were without power due to the damaging storm that swept across the Midwest on Sunday. When I drove down to Howell on Wednesday to visit my grandchildren, I almost did not get a hotel room for the night.

The hotel, a Holiday Inn Express on the west side of Howell along Interstate 96, has been full due to families who were still without power. Then, too, crews from the companies that were working to restore power were staying at the hotel, too.

Earlier this week there were reports that said it would take a longer time than usual to get Michigan locations back on the grid because so many crews had been called in to help in the tornado stricken areas of Indiana and Illinois. There is no doubt that the aging power grid is no match for these big storms that take out poles and lines with an increasing frequency.

The best advice that I heard this week was the reminder to always report your own outage. Just because your neighborhood is out doesn't mean that someone has called to report the outage. Each homeowner should make a call and report the power loss. That's kind of counter to the neighborhood understandings of twenty years ago, but it is good advice to remember as these storms pop up more frequently.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Shoreline Triumvirate

Triumvirate is a pompous word to use for this image, but that's what comes to mind as I view this photo of the Harbor Beach lighthouse, a passing freighter and a flock of geese. Late afternoon light drew me to the shoreline where the lighthouse glowed in the slanted rays of November's waning light.

I drove to town to get some groceries and saw the freighter headed north. By the time I reached Lincoln Park and turned toward Trescott Street Pier, it was late in the day, that time that photographers call the golden hour. I pulled my Chevy Volt into a parking space near the pier where several other vehicles were parked, their drivers watching the majesty of evening light unfolding over Lake Huron and the lighthouse.

I walked along the shore to the pier, framing shots and taking them, but knowing that nothing spectacular was going onto the memory card. Then the freighter pulled close to the lighthouse just as the geese lifted in one great communal, mixed up company and flew toward the shore.

It was a triumvirate moment -- white lighthouse, strong ship gliding north, geese in a frenzy of migration -- that spells late fall in Michigan.