Friday, February 25, 2011

by “spring is coming”, I mean “blizzard is coming”

At the risk of repeating myself, I feel I must again quote “Spinal Tap”.
spinal tap
Artist, Polly Deutsch (Angelica Huston) and Band Manager, Ian Faith (Tony Hendra) in ”This is Spinal Tap” (1984)
IAN: This looks absolutely perfect. I mean it’s, uh, the right proportions. It’ll be this color right?
ARTIST: Yeah. Yeah.
IAN: Yeah. That’s...that’s...that’s just terrific. It almost looks like the real thing.
ARTIST: You got it.
IAN: When we get the actual, uh, set, when we get the piece, it’’ll follow exactly these specifications. I mean even these contours and everything?
ARTIST: Um, I’m not understanding it. What do you mean “the actual piece?”
IAN: Well I mean...I mean when you build the actual piece.
ARTIST: But this is what you asked for, isn’t it?
IAN: What?
ARTIST: Well this is the piece.
IAN: This is the piece?
IAN: Are you telling me that this is it? This is scenery? Have you ever been to Stonehenge?
ARTIST: No, I haven’t been to Stonehenge.
IAN: The triptychs are...the triptychs are twenty feet high. You can stand four men up them!
ARTIST: Ian, I was...I was...I was supposed to build it eighteen inches high.
IAN: This is insane. This isn’t a piece of scenery.
ARTIST: Look, look. Look, this is what I was asked to build. Eighteen inches. Right here, it specifies eighteen inches. I was given this napkin, I mean...
IAN: Forget this! Fuck the napkin!!!
- “This is Spinal Tap” (1984)'
For those of you unfamiliar with “This is Spinal Tap”, which I’m going to assume means you, Mom, and possibly you, Aunt Susie, the above confusion resulted from Ian using the wrong units symbol – inches, instead of feet – on a sketch of Stonehenge.
I think the National Weather Service might have a similar problem. As did Ian, they gave the units for inches, when they meant feet.
Does this look like 1” – 3” to you? Because it sure doesn’t to me.
OK, there is a bright side to this. It’s called ONE MORE CHANCE TO XC SKI! And it won’t happen until at least tomorrow afternoon, because tomorrow morning, I’m going to grit my teeth and expose myself to civic engagement via the joy that is Town Meeting. I missed it last year because I was out of town.
In the meantime, the cats have taken turns prostrating themselves at their altar.
That altar being, naturally, the woodstove.

can I bring a book?

Forgive my several days’ absence, devoted fans: I have been held securely in the clutches of one Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Christo is one kick-ass book. Holy smokes. Intrigue upon intrigue. I even neglected the online world this week while I ploughed through the adventures of Edmond Dantes, Danglars, Villefort, etc. etc. Sadly, I finished it this evening. Kevin knows me so well. No sooner had I shouted “DONE!” in triumph, then he replied, “Next…

Which reminds me that every time our parents dragged the three of us to one of their friends’ parties when we were little, we always wanted to be able to bring a book with us, and we were never allowed to. Something about “that’d be rude.” Humph.

I am so ready for winter to be done. I can tell spring’s on the way by the changing light. The other morning dawned cloud-free, and by 9:30 am, the temperature at the solar panels registered 150°F. But that doesn’t say anything about air temperature: 7°F this morning. True, it warmed up to a degree above freezing today, but on the whole, it’s been a cold winter here. Here’s sweetheart getting another wheelbarrow of firewood from the pole barn, as we’ve burned through our next-to-the-house supply.


I did my half hour run yesterday outside, determined to get some vitamin D into my system. A foolish proposition, given that I was bundled from head to toe, but I’m pretty sure it was good for my soul to be outside. Sub nine-minute miles, I’m happy to report. It turns out that the secret to running faster? is to run faster. Shocking, I know.

As for today, I spent half the morning and half the afternoon doing my Reiki gig at the hospital. I usually get an attack of nerves before I head in – sort of like mild stage fright. But the nervousness passes pretty much right away, and then I can proceed with my nefarious plan to put ‘em to sleep. Bwah hah hah hah hah!

By the time I got home from that, and from running errands (thank you, Parking Goddess, for your blessings today), I was good and ready for this:


That’s Charlie on my shins, and Maggie on my thighs. A mug of chai, a featherweight Kindle loaded with a gazillion free (because the copyright’s expired) books…life is good.

Charlie, mid-yawn, looks like an Evil Beastie, no?



Monday, February 21, 2011

from epic to epicure

What an epic day: a high point for running, for Reiki, and for the judicious use of Gruyère cheese. Can’t get much better than that.

I was originally going to do my week’s long run yesterday – Sunday – but instead, Best Beloved and I headed out to the back of beyond to my dad’s house to give it a good cleaning. It’s not on the market right now (it’s resting up for another crack at the hordes of VT summer visitors), but apparently somebody out there is house hunting in the middle of February and wanted to see it. And God bless ‘em, I say. Many prayers are being sent up to heaven for a speedy sale, and naturally I was pretty psyched when the realtor got in touch with us to arrange a showing. Please, please, please….

Thus, yesterday’s nine mile run was moved to today. Naturally, it was snowing when I woke up at 7 to cram a peanut butter English muffin down my pie hole. I started off on the treadmill and got 3.3 miles out of the way before heading out to enjoy the inch of snow. Hey, did you know that in 18°F temperatures, the nozzle of your water bottle will freeze? It will indeed. Also, the delicious Cliff Blok Shots, which are my mid-run refueling vehicle of choice, are not as satisfyingly melt-in-your mouth at those temperatures either. On the bright side, the roads were clear of ice under that inch of snow, and the run went great.

Nine, count ‘em, nine miles.

This is the point in the half marathon training where I sincerely hope it All Works Out, because geez, nine miles is plenty, but 13.1 is plenty more. Gulp. I’m not too worried, though. a) I’ve got til mid-May  b) I’m right on track  c) I’ve done this before.

Next up, Reiki.

Today I performed a Level 1 attunement for Kevin. Translation: Kevin can now channel Reiki energy as well. This is the first attunement I have done since becoming a Reiki Master last September. So THAT was wonderful. If any of my devoted blog fans want to hear me try and describe what Reiki is, let me know, via an email or a comment, and I’ll do my best. I’m finding that I’m more inclined to focusing my energy on giving treatments, rather than describing it, whether via this blog, or in more concerted or formal efforts to drum up business.

Suffice it to say, it was a great privilege and honor to pass on the ability to give Reiki to another person, particularly Best Beloved. And – let’s be honest – this now means that Kevin can give me treatments! Heh heh.

Moving on to the Gruyère portion of the post, I made potatoes dauphinois this evening.

  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes - sliced thin. I didn’t bother to peel them. As to what 2 pounds is – well, just slice them thinly. You want enough to be able to layer a decent size gratin dish twice over. So I used four fist-sized babies.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper
  • About 11 ounces of Gruyère, which is maybe a couple of cups, grated. Mind you, this is a boatload more than what Julia Child says to use…and for God’s sake, and no offense, Wisconsin, but use the real stuff. From Switzerland.
  • 1.5 cups boiling milk   

Butter a shallow dish. Layer half the potatoes, salt/pepper, half the cheese, dots of butter. Lather rinse repeat, for two sets of layers. Pour hot milk over the whole thing until potatoes just covered. Julia called for one cup; I found I had to use a bit more.

Bake at 350°F – uncovered – until potatoes are tender, the milk has been absorbed, and the cheese is golden and bubbly. Reports vary as to how long this takes. Start checking it after a half hour; you may find it takes quite a bit longer.

“Serves Six”. Yeah, that’s a laugh. Serves one hungry runner two big servings at dinner, and probably two more modest meals after that.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

wily canadians

Cruel, cruel nature. Yesterday’s warm temperatures, which created cool bridge formations in the ice on the bulkhead…
…were succeeded today by below freezing temperatures, snow flurries, and gusts of winds that blew snow some thirty feet high above the pond. Fortunately, my plans for the day were of the nesting variety. At some point during the night, we lost our internet connection, which devoted blog fans will recall, means that we also lose our phone. Alas, this meant that I was unable to blow half the day on trolling the internets for entertainment, and had to resort to (gasp) reading novels instead. (Dumas, Count of Monte Christo, if you must know.)
We eventually discovered that the AC adapter to the modem is the problem. I just got off the phone with a guy from the cable company to have someone come out with a replacement. You may be wondering, “how am I blogging without an internet connection”? and the answer is, we’re using an AC adapter from an old laptop. Hopefully things won’t catch on fire as a result. So I’m on the phone with the cable guy when I realize, much to my shock and horror, he’s Canadian. He confirmed it. He asked, what was the tip-off? Duh, dude, it was the “aboot”. I guess that gives it away, he said. It makes it easier for us to keep track of you guys, I replied. Wily Canadians.
So where was I.
Oh, so then I finally left the house, trying not to slip on the sheet of ice that is our driveway, in order to retrieve the mail. And joy of joys! An old friend sent us a gift for the cats.
A catnip-infused bit of goodness. Thanks, Auntie Elena!
I put it down on the floor and instant mayhem was the result.
Later, exhausted by the wrestling matches, each cat retired to its respective place of repose – Charlie in front of the woodstove, Maggie on the pumpkin chair, the toy abandoned on the floor. I gave it to Maggie for additional photo op:
I’ve got a nine miler scheduled tomorrow. I hope it warms up.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

hope springs eternal

I headed over to the hospital this morning to do my volunteer Reiki gig. It was – brace yourselves – warm today: above freezing. We New Englanders get positively giddy at the first signs of spring. I observed utter craziness: People Not Wearing Their Coats. People Being Friendly to Strangers in Parking Lots.

There’s something quite lovely about being a Reiki practitioner. I treat patients and their caregivers at a chemo unit. Not everyone I speak to is open to the idea of receiving Reiki: it is a little woo woo sounding, after all, and would you want a complete stranger touching you? But quite a few people are open to it. Today I had the pleasure of feeling this one woman’s tension just…dissolving under my hands. Ahhhhhh. Thank you.

Speaking of things which are dissolving, here are some of the icicles on the west side of our house, which, due to the wooded hillside above it, does not get a great deal of direct sun. So these icicles are the most recalcitrant…but they are softening up.




It felt more inspiring today than it looked, that’s for sure.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

outtakes and deleted scenes

Sap’s rising. How do I know? My incredible powers of observation and intuition, naturally. Here’s today’s evidence:

- the occasional slide and thump of icicles coming off the roof
- chickadees singing in the woods
- recent daytime thaws, and nighttime refreezings, have turned the driveway into a sheet of ice
- this hibernator (yours truly) has roused herself and gone into the woods on either skis or snowshoes several times over the past several days. That, alone, is sufficient evidence that spring must be on its way.

Apropos of nothing, it takes a fair amount of drivel to produce anything worth salvaging on this blog. To wit: here are some recent outtakes:


Here’s your basic flash-and-focus mishap. It’s…what is this…(I have to look at the pictures I got immediately afterward to tell what I was up to…) Oh, OK, it’s a hop hornbeam bud, OBVIOUSLY.




In this one, I’m attempting to focus on a willow bud. That’s the bright, fuzzy thing at the top of the picture. You’re looking at my gloves clenched between my knees and the tips of my snowshoes.



Here’s a stunner! Look how dried up my fingertips are! Unbelievable. Haven’t you heard of moisturizer? This one’s a beech bud. You can also see evidence of a protracted battle I had with a fountain pen earlier that day. (Purple ink on my fingers.)



An attempt at a making-out-with-Kevin self-portrait. Instead, you get to see mud, slush, and general nastiness.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

a wee bit of backcountry XC skiing

Oh, sweet – it just started snowing like mad about a half hour ago, and then stopped: just enough for the branches and twigs to get a dusting. My friend Greenough called me this morning and inveigled me into coming out skiing in the woods with her.

I’d forgotten what skiing in the woods is like and I brought the camera.


What’s wrong with bringing the camera, you ask? My tendency to do the occasional face-plant. All is well, though; nothing broken on either me or the Lumix. That’s Greenough, above.


Anyway, we rambled around, sometimes following trails, and sometimes bushwacking, criss crossing streams on little snow-covered bridges.


Here’s an abandoned beaver pond…


I’ll zoom in on the lodge at the far end…


When we were through in the woods, we went down and up the final hill for a few swooshes. This is where one of my wipeouts occurred.


A fine afternoon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out.

The data would suggest that I hate winter.  I mean, I am just having the hardest time going outside. I know I’ll feel more alive and vibrant and whatnot if I can just get out there and visit the neighbors, by which I mean, the trees, but UGH. It’s COLD.


This afternoon, knowing it was either that, or a dose of pre-dinner chocolate heroin sauce, I made myself go up into the woods behind the house.


Ahhhh…the woods. That’s much better. That’s the house, on the left. You can just make out the the solar panels, only the top few inches of which are clear of snow. The garage is in the middle (to the right of the dark tree); the pole barn is to the right. We’re on about ten acres, some of which is up here in the woods, and some of which is a beaver pond. More on that in a minute.

I saw a lot of fox trails. They don’t photograph particularly well.


Would you like to look at tree buds? The correct answer here is “yes, by all means!”  So, I recently pointed out beech leaves.


Well, here’s a beech bud. They’re stabby little buggers. Just wait another couple of months, and they’ll get even longer and pokier. Those things that look like scales are in fact, called scales. When you learn to identify trees in winter conditions, you find yourself paying attention to how many (if any) scales the buds have.


Take sugar maple (Acer saccharum), for example. Brown, 10 – 12 scales per bud. Here’s another maple – Acer pensylvanicum – striped maple or moosewood.


It might look from here as though there are no scales on these buds, but there are. If I’d taken this picture from a different angle, you’d see that there are two scales on these buds – facing each other, like two hands pressed together.

Back to the sugar maple. It’s covered in … what is that stuff? Moss? I don’t think it’s lichen. Huh.




Wow, something green…I remember green… I live in the Green Mountain State, right?

In other bark adventures, we have bark that gets shreddy horizontally, as with this paper birch…


And then we have more vertically-minded bark shreddiness, as with this hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana)


Eventually my fingers threatened to freeze off, so I made my way out of the woods and headed to the mail box. (I’m not showing you the dozens of pictures of slightly-out-of-focus buds. Consider yourself lucky.)


Not that you can particularly tell from this, but the back edge of this ‘meadow’ is really the pond. There’s a beaver lodge in here. I’ll zoom in for you.


That mound. There’s a hole in the top of it – I noticed it the other day on a foray into the meadow. I wonder if anyone’s inside.

Monday, February 7, 2011

how to drive your cat crazy

This one’s easy: play bird songs on your laptop in the middle of winter. This is also a good way to inject some zing into your own bloodstream as well.

I’ve heard birds outside in the morning the last couple of days, and I’m trying to identify them. Although I haven’t found an exact match, I’m going with cardinal for the time being.

I still have a cold. My brain’s melting. So’s the snow. Neither phenomenon is attractive, as I will demonstrate:

Me, watching the Steelers screw up the first few plays of the Superbowl. Note the pout.


The scene by the mailboxes. Blegh.


Not pictured: the dog poop. Somebody around here lets their dog crap in front of all our mailboxes. Grrrrrr.

I’m choosing to see this cold as my body’s way of releasing toxins. To go along with it, I’m in the midst of a major household purge – old paperwork, stuff I like but never ever use, stuff I never really liked but felt too guilty to part with…it’s spring cleaning time.

Whoops, I used up all my brain cells for the day. Bye!

Friday, February 4, 2011

in which space aliens make snow angels on our lawn

I woke up feeling like my throat had been pumped full of golf balls and finished off with a coating of sandpaper. The next round of chorus starts next week, so I’ve got a few days to wrestle this into submission. What did I do today? I have no idea – my brain’s melting.

But at some point I noticed tracks in the backyard that weren’t there yesterday.


Zooming in on the end point of the track closer to the garden shed…


Naturally, my initial impression is that the space aliens came for a visit and couldn’t resist making snow angels. And now for a close up of the one closer to the house…


It occurred to me that maybe instead of space aliens, it was, um, birds. Grouse, perhaps? I hear them in the woods in the fall, and then of course there was this other time a grouse visited the premises. Two trails led off into the woods. As nasty as I felt, I strapped on snowshoes and headed out the door.


Can you see both tracks, below? I’m going to highlight them…


As I thought, the two tracks melded into one…diverged briefly…



…and terminated into another set of winged explosions.

I’m sad to say, I’m not sure if they landed here from a spot in the trees and walked up onto the lawn and took off, or if it happened the other way around – a lawn landing, a foray into the woods, and a leap up into the trees. I also can’t tell how many birds it is – one bird, three journeys spread out in time? The top trail – the one closer to the garden shed – is definitely a two-fer.  Experienced trackers would probably have a clue. Not I.

Additional data, for my tracking friends (Arianna, help!):


It wasn’t long after my return to the indoors that the nap fairies abducted me for the afternoon. Again, I say unto thee, “Blegh.”