Winter Morning Walk

What do you mean you don’t recognize me? It’s me, not Charlie Brown. 🙂 (No scarf)

I’m either admirable or an idiot or an admirable idiot. 🙂 Despite a temperature reading of 16F I decided to do my 2.75 mile walk anyway. I know that I’m not suffering REAL cold – that’s for folks like my friend Honour in Bay of Fundy. Walking really does make me feel better while I’m walking. And I can cling to the notion of being healthy & determined while I sit at my computer staring at things that annoy me. I’ve been walking now since Sept 27 and it does feel ‘off’ if I miss it. I’ve also learned a few things I need to do in preparation.

From back in the fall, before all the leaves shriveled up in self-defense. Isn’t this pretty?

My routine starts in the morning with a cuddle with BC. She’s an excellent alarm clock. Then I weigh myself. Yeah, sometimes that ruins the day right then and there. Then I begin dressing. In layers. Since September the number of layers has grown.

Also not today. But wintery morning skies make nice photos. Thank goodness today was BRIGHT sunshine.

Today involved 5 layers on my torso, 3 on my head, 2 on my legs and 2 on my feet. Toss in some face protection as well and I’m all ready! Legs = my nylon yoga pants plus sweatpants. Feet = pair of knee-hi stockings plus heavy socks. Torso = nylon turtleneck, long-sleeve cotton tee, fleece jacket, hooded sweatshirt, nylon windbreaker (hey – I get COLD). Head = baseball cap, sweatshirt hood, windbreaker hood (and oh my – when I’m walking into the wind coming off the river I NEED all of those). Face is protected with lip moisturizer, a cloth facemask (that was new today trying to protect my cheeks), sunglasses. Oh! and my hands!!! I always wear surgical gloves under my mittens. When the temperature is below 20F, I use my incredibly warm mittens from Norway (which are usually too darn warm). 🙂 It’s very hard to reach my tissues to blow my nose when needed. But hey – I did it. I walked. Keeping to my personal commitment. But oh please – let it be warmer tomorrow!

Didn’t see any friends this morning. This shot was a few weeks ago. I’m on my front steps very near to her.

Determined Friends

I should have taken pics of the food table (right) and bar (left)

Well, we DID it. We had a small dinner party outside on the deck as the temperatures dropped into the 20s. 🙂 Thank goodness it started in the 40s. I am determined to see friends despite Covid and apparently my friends are also determined to brave the elements for the same purpose. I chose the invitees very carefully. It’s no longer only a matter of being my friends and thinking about who would get along with whom, now I need to think about how my friends “pod”, how they maintain social distancing, their parameters for maintaining health. So while I would have enjoyed having a BIG party, I think those days are still somewhere in the future.

setting up

I sent a lot of emails out beforehand explaining how I “pandemic”, and my plans for the dinner, and how I planned to structure the setting. Then the day of the dinner I sent yet another, offering Due Diligence on how we’d spent the last 5 days. My husband and I put up 2 canopy tents on December 28, four days before the planned Jan 1 date. The point of the canopies was twofold: shelter us from the forecast drizzle/mist and to trap heat from the propane heaters. You’d think I’d have learned about flimsy canopies and rain from last year’s Rosh Hashanah debacle with canopies. The canopies went up Tuesday, crashed in the rain on Wednesday, were restructured and braced on Thursday. Friday we changed the date from the 1st to the 2nd because the weather was not going to be good. Saturday we foolishly grilled our dinner. Why “foolishly”? Because the grill and one of the chairs were supporting the legs of the canopy that had already broken in the first rain. Saturday night that canopy collapsed again. Sigh.

the fan was there to dry the deck – it rained A LOT Saturday night

Sunday morning I got up early and began MY food preparation (we time who gets the kitchen when, when various dishes need the oven). I baked sugar-free gluten-free tahini chocolate chip cookies, rolled out the gluten-free crust for the quiche, and baked gluten-full bread. Then I started on all the non-food preparations (cleaning the kitchen & breakfast room, bringing up all the plastic and paper goods from the basement, etc.). When my husband woke we went out and took down the broken canopy and rearranged the remaining canopy. Then I began ‘fixing’ the deck. I had to rearrange the propane heaters, dry off the deck (hence the fan in the photo), put up an umbrella that had been put away for the winter (replacing the canopy), set up the serving table, hang the LED light curtain, hanging additional lighting, bring up folding chairs… you get the idea. Guests were invited for 6:30. At 6:00 there was a light sprinkle of rain. I thought – I can’t care anymore. If it rains, we’ll go inside, open every window and put in fans. Luckily the rain didn’t even last 5 minutes. Whew!!!!

coats, hats, blankets, and 3 people without coats

My friends all arrived, wearing their winter coats, bearing blankets, bearing food and most of all – in upbeat cheerful spirits, determined to enjoy and have good time. 🙂 For the most part we were all comfortable. As you can see some of us did NOT even wear coats (yay for all the heat that was indeed contained by the canopy/umbrella) and some were bundled up with hats and blankets. I was not wearing a coat which I find amazing, since I am usually cold. Maybe because I never really get to sit still when I’m a hostess – always moving to make sure things are as they should be. We had a wonderful wonderful evening. When everyone left by 11pm, I was outside til nearly 1am, covering up the furniture & heaters & fire pit in anticipation of the forecast “surprise snow storm”. Yeah, never happened but oh well at least my deck is all prepared for if we ever DO have snow. 🙂

don’t you love the pyramid heater???

Monday was all about cleaning up the INSIDE from the Ahuva-tornado that swept thru on Sunday preparing for the party. I had a few moments of existential despair on Sunday which caused me to open storage boxes and strew contents all over the basement floor, break the light at the foot of the basement stairs, and shove everything out of the way into my dining room. 🙂 There was a lot of cleaning necessary. Today dawned bright and sunny – FINALLY!!!!!! Hallelujah!!! – and COLD – 18 degrees F. Nonetheless, I am back in my groove, getting up to do my morning walk (bundled up like Charlie Brown) and now here sipping coffee, ready to return to work (okay, maybe not the latter). I look at these photos and feel so grateful for my friends who are determined to keep relationships going, no matter the weather.

ready for winter. and yeah, i did most of that at midnight in 20 F degree temps. brrr.

Ring in the New Year

frozen moment of the fireworks “raining” down in front of the hotel (do watch the live version below!)

And oh PLEASE let 2022 be MUCH better than the last 2 years!

You know by now that I fall into the “extrovert” category. As annoying as people can be, I neeeeeeeed them. 🙂 I love the excitement and energy of New York City. I love parties. I love meeting new people and talking to them. Okay – that last might need a few parameters but it’s essentially true. Covid has cramped my style greatly. Don’t misunderstand – I am EXTREMELY grateful that to date that is ALL it has done to me personally. My family and I are vaccinated, booster’d and wear masks when in public locations. We’ve been eating out at restaurants, going to the theater, being in the NYC holiday excitement. But even I am cautious about throwing a party at my home.

I got brave and decided to have a small dinner party to start the new year. I invited 8 others to join us for dinner on January 2, outside, with propane heaters, and canopies to shield us from the possible rain. (Okay – originally Jan 1 but the weather looked so bad that I moved it to Jan 2.) But if we are outside, we’ll be wearing coats and warm clothes. *I* wanted to GLITTER and SPARKLE. I decided my husband and I would go out for dinner on NYE so I could have someone else do the meal prep & serving & cleanup and *I* could SPARKLE. We made plans for an “earlyish” seating – 8:45pm (earliest I could get by the time I decided to do this) – even though *I* thought we should go for a much later seating so we’d still be in town when they set off the fireworks outside the restaurant at midnight. My husband nixed that but promised he’d stay awake to get in the car and drive to some point where we could see those fireworks. 🙂 I know he thought we’d both be asleep so it was a safe promise. So we were booked for dinner at 8:45pm at Catherine Lombardi in New Brunswick.

gotta glitter everywhere even if i haven’t had a mani/pedi in forever

Well. The best laid plans, right? In this case, however, the plan for fun was EXCEEDED. I dressed up – spent a good hour trying to put together the correct pants and footwear and necklace for my new glitter – oops – GLITTER – top. I felt pretty confident I’d nailed it. 🙂 I even wore makeup (no, the image below is NOT how I did my makeup). 🙂 We got to the restaurant and were seated, right on time. The tables were spaced very well, the wait-staff wore masks. We were at a table for 2 with only one table to our right (no tables directly to the other sides). We ordered cocktails (oh what a GREAT cocktail I had!!!) and as we were doing that the table to our right was seated – a family of 4. Two men in the chairs facing my wall, 2 women on my wall also. We all glanced at each other but kept on with our lives.

No, I don’t know why I don’t publish my RL face in this blog.

A few minutes later, after our cocktails had arrived, the man closest to my husband leaned over and tapped my husband’s shoulder. I, despite my hearing aids, could not hear what they were saying over all the ambient noise. I should have known. *I* am the one who is still living in the same town where she was born and bred decades ago. My husband is the one who knows people anywhere we go. 🙂 The gentleman and my husband had worked together on a construction job. My husband is a structural engineer, Paul is the owner of a construction company specializing in concrete structures, my husband’s personal favorite material. Those of you who know us both will not be at all surprised that from that point on the 2 of them exchanged a few comments, I ended up exchanging compliments and small talk with the women. Just before our dinners arrived, a table to our other side finished their meal and stood up to go. I was astounded when 2 of them came over to us. OMG!!! It was our neighbor Suzanne and her son Michael, who grew up with our son!!! It was great to see them, and hear what was happening. I took a photo to send to my son. Even funnier in the “isn’t it a small world” sense is that Michael lives outside of Knoxville, TN, which is where a good part of my husband’s family lives now as well. It was so lovely and wonderful to see the 2 of them! And I’ve made a resolution to get together with Suzanne one day soon.

We sat back down for our dinner, noticed that Paul’s table had been served as well. We ate our dinners and enjoyed the festive atmosphere and good food and service. Then we were all done with our main courses. In another day and age, the men would have repaired for cigars and brandy and the women off to to their chitchat elsewhere. In this day and age, my husband and the other man started talking construction, totally oblivious to the rest of us. 🙂 It was now around 10:30pm, and they were having a wonderful time chatting. I started plotting.

I excused myself ostensibly to use the rest room. I found one of the managers and asked if the table next to us had been drinking alcoholic beverages. Upon learning that they had, I ordered a round of champagne for the 6 of us. 🙂 I went back and sat down, but slid over the bench (the women’s side of the setup was one long upholstered bench) to join the women and 3rd man in conversation. 🙂 Our champagne arrived and we had to forcibly interrupt my husband and Paul to participate in the toast. 🙂 I learned that Paul had apparently also paid for a round of OUR drinks. Great minds think alike! As you might have guessed by now, we were all still there talking and enjoying when the management gave everyone the 20 minute warning for getting drinks and heading outside for the fireworks. 🙂 I took my champagne glass and we all headed outside to the street. As long as we stayed within the little fences we could bring our drinks with us.

oh just watch the video. 🙂

The weather was cooperating, it was warm, not raining. We had a countdown to midnight, and then the fireworks began! They were a lot of fun and not what I’d expected. They were shot off from the hotel roof across the street. There was music playing through a sound system. Loads of people cheering and laughing. Even so – we were not crowded into anyone else. When the fireworks were done we were still fairly near the other family. We walked over and hugged happy new year. Paul’s wife suggested that we should get together for dinner together some time (they live in the next county). I said that I would LOVE that! I’d just been remarking to someone recently about how does one make new friends at this age if you are not going in to work??? I guess go out to dinner!!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy new year to come, filled with peace and joy. And food and friends and fun and fireworks!

Skating in SL

Last night I was a bit cranky, a bit down. My mind kept circling in the same grooves, all of which were annoying. I remembered that “back in the day” when I was in this kind of mood, I’d head into SL for friends, live music, some relaxation.

I logged in and decided to head to my favorite go-to location – Fogbound Blues club. There was a time in this blog when I’d remember to capture all the links, the map locations. These days when I log in I can barely remember how to move myself, much less my camera, and even less remember how to find and save information. Trying to change out of my jeans & sweater to my adorable skating outfit was almost painful. 🙂

I’m extremely adept at physical activity in SL. 🙂

I made it to Fogbound and had a very difficult time moving about, or even getting my camera to do what I wanted. I finally saw an open chair and SAT there, listening to DJ Panther for a bit. As I sat there I IM’d my friend Honey who was inworld. She invited me to come skating. Ahhh, memories. We used to skate all the time back in the day, back at ShengriLa. (That is not a typo.) I said that sounded like a great idea and she sent me the TP (which is NOT toilet paper, for all you relative new-comers to this blog – it is Teleportation address).

I was just about to accept it when I realized one of my 2 absolute favorite musicians – Noma Falta – was playing live at the moment. (The other absolute fav is Komuso Takagawa, without whose music I could never survive the yearly traumatic procedure on my tongue.) I bopped over to hear Noma. I did a tad better once I got there, remembering how to find her, move closer, not bump into anyone. I stayed for one great blues song but then TP’d to ice skate.

What fun. For those of you who have never become immersed in a virtual reality, you have to believe me when I tell you that for me being in SL, living through my avatar, feels extremely real. My brain can accept what my eyes and ears send it and translate that as “real”. Honey and I skated and chatted and caught up on life. It was simply fantastic. Just what I needed. Well, maybe what I need is a new gaming computer. This Lenovo does NOT render the graphics anywhere near as wonderfully as my Alienware did in its day. My husband and son have fancy-dancy gaming computers. Maybe if *I* had one too, I’d spend more time in SL. Heaven knows reality has not been such a joy the last few years.

Yes, you are seeing a flying sleigh. 🙂 And look how HIGH I can lift my leg!!!!

Winterized

Succulents under the grow lights

I spend a lot of time showing you my garden and yard. Then comes the winter and it all gets shut down and put away. (Okay, I notice in these pictures I’ve not finished putting things away from the front porch.) It requires a lot of effort on my part to dump pots, and protect vines and move things about so that I can call in the professional yard service to do the “fall cleanup”. They always do more than I expect/want, in that they pull out all of my fencing. It annoys me but I’m also grateful that they do, because it WILL be easier to plant in the spring. After, that is, I go through the effort of putting back the metal fences that *I* consider to be permanent. The yard DOES look better without fences around barren lots.

Herbs and plants piled up on the porch – no pots sitting on anything still alive 🙂

Last winter was so warm that easily half of my planters came back to life when I moved them out to the front walk. I thought about buying a very small greenhouse to encourage that to happen again this winter. It turns out that there is more to a greenhouse than simply glass walls and roof. Until I figure out what I’d want to do for a heat source I’m going to pile up the planters on the front porch as I’ve always done. I’ve also decided against digging up my canna lilies this year. It was an interesting experiment last year, and it did work, but it also had some minor inconveniences. I find that this year I’m not as gung-ho to dig them up and prepare them to live in my basement coal bin. They’ll winter over in the ground or they (most likely) won’t.

I don’t know why the succulents seem to flower more once I bring them inside. You’d think that being outside with true sunlight all day would be more nourishing than 10 hours under a grow light. They’ve only been inside for a few weeks, and already several of them are putting up flowers. The palm trees always start out as if they will do okay, and then by spring they are in terrible condition and I end up buying new ones anyway. 🙂 This year I’m using 2 grow lights on them, and the lamps are positioned closer than in prior years. They may still fail because BC has decided that they are perfect for chewing. Now a greenhouse (with heat) would be the perfect place to store the palms!

The grow lamps cast a pink light in the photos, but not so much to the naked eye

Sunrise Walk

Some mornings when I do my walk I need to forcibly stop thinking and LOOK and LISTEN and EXPERIENCE the world about me. Practice some mindfulness while I practice physical healthy living. (Yes, I’m way too Type A personality to just sit and be mindful – but I can do it while I’m walking. *grin*)

This morning was the extreme opposite experience. Today I needed to remind myself that I could NOT stay in one spot and take photos of the sun rising. It was so majestic. Sunrise demands that you pay attention. Sunrise demands respect. Awe. Joy.

I apologize for the power wires and telephone poles, but that’s my world – old township before those things were buried beneath us. Yet the sky transported me why beyond earth’s surface today. What a wonderful walk.

Advent Cocktails

I have never in my life had an Advent Calendar. To be quite honest, I know nothing about such calendars except that people get them before Christmas and count down the days to the holiday. I gather that these days they can run the spectrum from simple home-made items to ridiculously over-priced indulgences dispensing extravagant gifts. Not my holiday, not my time table. BUT… Never say never, right?

My friend Ann and I were spending time together and we were discussing everything under the sun, including dining out and cocktails. She mentioned that her favorite restaurant was selling an Advent Cocktail calendar. (Or should that have been a Cocktail Advent calendar? What is the correct word order here????) I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do.

We had dinner together this weekend (we let our husbands come along as well) and the dinner was delicious. Recommending Tapestre restaurant for anyone in central NJ. The dinner was great, the company even better, and the cocktails I imbibed were delicious. Ann checked to see if she could maybe get her Advent Cocktails while we were there, but the answer was negative. *I* asked if I could still order one and the answer was POSITIVE!!! Reader, I ordered one. 🙂

Not only did Ann steer me right about the restaurant, and the calendar, she also picked up MY box when she got her!! Look at how PRETTY it is!!!!

Some of these cocktails look a bit dubious, and some look like they will be fantastic. I told my husband he has to do this cocktail count-down with me. Each little bottle should make 2 cocktails on-the-rocks. We should be starting tonight. I’m not sure I’m in a cocktail mood yet today. I wonder if we could make our own calendar for these drinks. 🙂 Maybe space them out and count down to New Years. Or count down to the last of the cocktails! I don’t know what the final day will be, but we are going to have fun getting there!

Colors of the Day

Ten weeks ago I began commuting to work. *grin* Not really, but that’s how the idea arose. We were having “Ladies Lunch in the Sukkah” (not yet blogged) and we were talking about the various changes in every day life since the pandemic. We were discussing the pros and cons of working from home. While I love the convenience, I do miss the office companionship. Kate said she missed her commute, because that was her only exercise. Amy said she’d read somewhere that missing the commute was a common theme and she’d read an article that suggested walking around the block 5 times before sitting down to work. I don’t know why but that resonated with me 100%.

Kate and I agreed we’d try “commuting” together. Well. *grin* It didn’t work out. The very condensed version is we made it ONCE, in the AFTERNOON (the commute home), along with her elderly dog. If you have ever taken a walk with a very small elderly dog you understand that there is no way we reached what I would consider a commuter’s pace. We also only made it around our block once. I’d say that counted as 2 blocks however because our block IS the size of 2 since a street stops before it bisects the block.

I knew I’d never make it around the block 5 times – how boring would that be???? Silly as it sounds, I didn’t even want to walk AROUND it once. No, I don’t know why. Maybe that’s leftover from all my own dog-walking days. I decided that “5 times around the block” meant 20 sides – 5 x 4 sides to a block. I set out in the morning and walked 20 sides. Yay me!!! I did it again the next day, and the day after. I got faster, I got more fit, I got inspired.

I am now walking 32 sides (that’s 8 blocks if you are counting 🙂 ). That includes The Hill – I walk UP the hill. I used to walk clockwise one day and then counter-clockwise the next. But now that I do The Hill, I always go clockwise so I can go UP The Hill. There is another slight rise walking in the last quarter of the route going clockwise so I always feel very virtuous at that point.

I mapped the route and it is 2.54 miles. On a good day – meaning one when I feel I can go at an exercise pace – I can do it in just under 45 minutes, or just better than 3 mph. Yes – these little numerical breakdowns are EXACTLY how I get through the walk each day. I use the time to try to take my mind away from my life & work, to try to practice ‘mindfulness’ – being in the moment. Hence the photos (this batch is the last of the fall leaves, I’m sure). I’ve also managed to NOT walk on days when I knew my body was not going to respond positively. Yesterday’s walk was a very short walk, no hills, no rises, because my back was hurting. I doubt I even did 2 miles. BUT – I DID get out and walk and I did it without pushing myself to the point of pain. *smile* I’d call that a successful walk.

Structures

Or Why I Married a Structural Engineer 🙂

30 Rockefeller Center (formerly the RCA Building)

I see I have not posted anything since Hurricane Ida. I had fallen waaaaaay behind even before that – lots of fun adventures out in Arizona in June, my birthday trip to NYC in July, hiking and sight-seeing in NJ in September – yep way behind. Add to that Sukkot, a trip to NYC in September, again in October, gardening, walking, the theater, and another all-day NYC experience, I may never catch up. I was loading photos from my phone to my laptop today and realized that I MUST share some of these pictures with you.

Main apse St. Patrick’s Cathedral

I LOVE architecture. My son learned this when we were touring in Italy together several years ago. All those paintings of dukes riding out to meet so-and-so. Endless. Boring. Even the Sistine Chapel was only “cool”, not breath-taking. (Yes, I know I am sadly deficient. It happens.) The REALLY cool pictures at the Vatican Museum were in the Gallery of Maps. OMG!!!! LOVED the Map Room! Loved the palaces, the plazas, the buildings. Architecture and maps.

Side entrance St Patrick’s Cathedral

I have several photos from my NYC trips earlier this year, but I’ll save them for when (if) I write up those adventures. In the meantime I’m sharing the pics from this past weekend.

Empire State Building

I LOVE architecture. 🙂 I even really like road cloverleafs and the ramp structures. If you build it, I will admire. 🙂

Paramount Building, Times Square

Tossing Sins and Giving Thanks

There was a wee little fish there too, but can’t be seen in this photo

This week was Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year (actually one of the 4 Jewish new years, but that’s a different post). Traditionally in the afternoon of the first day Jews will go down to a body of flowing water and perform the Tashlich ceremony. This is one of those fascinating customs that (most likely) grew out of superstition and pagan beliefs but became adopted and clothed in religious ceremony over time. There are many very interesting and, in my opinion, satisfying explanations for why we throw bread, why it should be running water, why there should be fish, but basically that’s all it is: we throw bread crumbs into the flowing water, symbolically casting off our sins. If only it were that easy, right?

there go my sins, floating away in the form of stale sourdough bread 🙂

Our congregation typically meets at one of the 2 parks in town, at the boat dock. This year that park was trashed by Ida and was still closed to the public by Rosh Hashanah. The congregational gathering was moved to a different town, different park, different water. Tashlich does not require a minyan – a specified number of participants – so I decided to walk down to the brook to do Tashlich. The brook is about 3 blocks from my house – and DOWN the hill thankfully.

With a little bit of storm garbage for poignancy

I grew up in this town and have seen many many changes. I used to walk down to the brook with a friend and we would go exploring. We could walk for blocks along the brook – ducking through the culverts under bridges, looking at the little fish, and in general having a good youthful time. Then more and more lots got developed, people got crankier and more possessive, and not only was access to the brook getting harder (my classmate Bobby’s family built their house on OUR access way) but the people who lived along the brook got hostile and nasty about kids walking on by. In short, it is much harder these days to get down to the brook to meander. There are still a few paths and the brook is usually only a matter of inches deep, not treacherous at all.

A typical pile of refuse from Ida

My good friends live in a house next to the brook. Either they or the previous owners – also friends of ours – sued Amtrak and NJ Transit because they owned the culverts and were NOT keeping them clear. That meant a heavy rain would back up the brook and flood the houses on both sides along the brook. The lawsuit was successful and the culverts ARE kept clear. They didn’t really help this storm, however. There was so much water that it was not necessarily a matter of the brook flooding. It was the river of rainwater flowing down the hill into the low lying houses. It was the underground streams so saturated that no more water could be absorbed. It was the rain pouring through windows and floors and walls into everyone’s basements. It was 30″+ of water on the FIRST floor of their house. That means not only do you lose your rugs, your furniture, your food (the refrigerator has less than 30″ clearance) but your electrical system is gone (water pouring through your outlets). Probably your plumbing is damaged severely as well, plus your hot water, furnace, laundry.

What it looks like when you need to empty your home

After Tashlich I walked about, unburdened for the moment by sins, but carrying a load of regret for all of my neighbors whose lives were left out on the curb, soggy, sodden messes. I’m very thankful that we had almost no water in our basement. Thankful that although my friends may have lost so much of their home and belongings, they are alive and well. The brook looks so peaceful and calm today. It’s so hard to imagine the raging merciless torrents of water of last week.

End of Grant, for those who know what that means