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

After the Flood

The river used to stop on the far side of those trees.

Unlike all too many of our fellow New Jerseyans, we were relatively unscathed by Ida. We had several moments of worry as we listened to the report of a possible tornado heading up the road towards us, but it evaporated about 8 miles south of town. Other than that all we had was a bit of water in one area of the basement.

There used to be land where now there are tree shadows

The water in the basement was a bit surprising. After Irene in 2011, when we lost the carpeting, some furniture, and other ‘stuff’ that had been on the floor, I did some serious re-organizing down there. Anything that can be up on blocks is up on 2″ blocks. Anything that can be stored in plastic bins is stored in plastic bins. I try to be mindful of ‘flooding floor’ whenever I move anything to the basement. If it’s not waterproof, it needs to be up. The exceptions of course are all the major appliances down there: washer, dryer, refrigerator, treadmill. There are so many underground streams here that I know that I’ll never banish completely the threat of water inside.

Don’t drive through flooded streets, especially not when that road is spanning the brook.

When I went to check on the basement Wednesday night, and found the water, I noticed I’d gotten careless and there were non-waterproof items directly on the floor. I picked them up and checked the other parts of the basement. We have French drains in the basement AND a sump pump. After Irene we also have a generator to keep the sump pump going should the power fail. I’m not sure why we got water this time. Either the pump couldn’t keep up (we got 8 inches of rain) or there is a weak spot over there, but I won’t know until I go down there and start moving everything out of that corner. Nothing there should have any damage – all on blocks or in plastic or is waterproof itself. I’ve had 3 fans going down there since Wednesday night. I’ll need to schedule some time to do major furniture movement and disinfecting the floor.

I count myself extremely fortunate, however. My next-door neighbors had standing water in their basement. I saw they had plastic floor tiles out drying in the sun yesterday. Some of my neighbors made poor choices while driving Wednesday night. NEVER go through standing water ESPECIALLY when the water is on a bridge that spans a brook. People all over town reported flooded basements and damaged property. We were spared the tornadoes that ripped up other parts of the state. There was a sink hole at the apartments on the far side of the railroad tracks. I believe that many many years ago there was a pond there. Back in the spring I was caught in a major thunderstorm. The water pouring down that hill and across the road was intimidating. A sink hole opening up at the top of that hill does not surprise me.

Can’t get there from here

The climate is changing and I’ll need to revisit my precautions. But all in all, a few road closures, some damp items, some flooded flower pots, are minor inconveniences. My friend Honour posted about the “roar” of the fish in the river. Here I share the roar of the river itself.

Check The Size

Yes, but is it waterproof?

My husband needed a new pair of sneakers. Oh wait – using the word “sneakers” signals my decrepit old age. 🙂 Let me start again. My husband needed a new pair of athletic shoes. To me that implies he was doing something athletic. He wasn’t. He wanted footwear that wasn’t sandals, wasn’t boots, wasn’t dress-wear. (/me whispers: sneakers). I made sure he knew how to access the coupons on my big shoe-store account and off he went. He says he’s very happy with the new footwear, but I have my doubts. Although it isn’t all the things it shouldn’t be, I can’t believe that (1) this is the correct fit and (2) that it will be at all comfortable for walking of standing. 🙂

I Doubt The Accuracy of This Message

Personal & Confidential? Important? Why is my reaction upon seeing this skepticism, not interest? Apparently the factory warranty on my auto is about to expire!!!!! Note, however, that there is absolutely no information about my car – no model, year, color. Oh yeah – my car is 6 years old and I bought it used. 🙂 You overplayed your hand just a bit, folks. 🙂

Sunny Excursion

MY bag is on that table!!!

Today’s excursion was VERY sunny, in more ways than just the weather. My usual outings consist of making sandwiches and grocery shopping. When I’m very lucky, I might also get out for a massage. Alas, that’s not happened since even before I injured my rib. At the moment the very idea of someone wanting to press on my rib makes me flinch. In November and December I had a series of medical appointments -that was a bit different. Nothing serious, just trying to get the yearly check-ups accomplished once we all figured out how to interact during a pandemic. But today, today was very special!!

Books to be placed outside later (or maybe that’s also what they do in bad weather)

My sister has been telling me for weeks (months?) that our local library was back in business. You place an order with them either over the phone or via email, and they would bag up your books for you. They would contact you to set a pickup time. At the scheduled time your brown paper bag would be waiting for you in front of the building. I am a Kindle Unlimited patron and I have been getting the vast majority of my reading that way. Besides, part of the fun of the library is the browsing to see what is there that you weren’t expecting, or hadn’t known existed. Back in December I treated myself to an outing at Barnes & Noble to get some REAL books. While I do appreciate the convenience of my iPad, there is something about a tangible book, with tangible pages, that still fills a particular need. One of those books was the first in a series by one of the authors I like – Jeffery Deaver’s new “Culter Shaw” series. I REALLY wanted to read the 2nd book but I didn’t want to spend the required amount for an ebook. I turned to my local library. Sure enough, they had it available ( because this is only new to me, not to the world). I dug out my long-abandoned “books from the library” list and found 3 more available and placed my order yesterday. Today I ran over to pick up my books!! Making the book acquisition even more wonderful – I just learned that Monday is a company holiday!!! I know it’s a national holiday but only this year, due to changes in scheduling because of Covid19, is this a work holiday for me as well. *huge smile* Oh my goodness!!!! THREE WHOLE DAYS TO READ!!!!!!!!

MY books – although it also looks as if maybe there should be fried chicken in there as well.

Baby It’s COLD Outside

Basking in a box in the morning sun

Good thing that *I* control the temperature INSIDE. 🙂 I woke up this morning and my phone app and my actual thermometer both agreed: 16 F. This wasn’t a surprise – we all knew this huge drop in temperature was coming. As one of my favorite bloggers has been noting, the weather is yo-yo’ing all over the place. Last Saturday it got up to 70 F. Today our high is expected to be 30. Wooohooo! Thirty whole degrees!

This may not be as obvious in a photo, but can you tell which bed is used and which is scorned?

My mother used to have an ash tray (remember ash trays?). I didn’t understand it when I was growing up. I think my sister might have it now. I’m SURE we didn’t get rid of it when we sold the house. It shows 2 men at either end of a table. I think there are either coffee cups or old fashioned glasses or something on the table. They are both semi-reclining, with at least one of them having his feet up on an adjoining chair. I’m fairly certain at least one of them is smoking. The caption on the photo is “Next week we’ve really got to get organized.” See – THAT is adult humor. 🙂 Kids are either totally organized or have no clue what being organized means. I neeeeeed that ash tray. 🙂 I have so many photos I took in order to post here, but I just can’t get organized to write a coherent narrative. Perhaps you’ve noticed that lately yourself. 🙂

My husband “torturing” BC with TV for cats

But writing to you makes me feel as if I’m having a social life, especially on a day when even if there WAS no pandemic I have NO intention of setting foot out the door. Brrrrr. I was supposed to have a massage, which I need badly because I have a spasmed muscle (why does WordPress not think spasmed is a word?) and only my massage therapist can help me now. She’s my only hope! But I texted her yesterday and asked to move the appointment because I am such a spoiled princess that even for my massage I am not going out there. 🙂 I’m willing to bet by now my good friend Honour is rolling her eyes and shaking her head. (She lives on an island in the middle of the Bay of Fundy – they know how to do cold up there.)

Got it!!!!!

One day I may have enough inner strength and control of my temper to tell you the saga of my attempt to get an attractive heater for my deck, so we could still see friends during the winter. Last year we had NO SNOW and fewer than 5 below freezing days. We were supposed to have friends over for dinner this weekend so I had been accumulating deck heaters. Or attempting to accumulate them. One I ordered online on Nov 2. I’ve been assured as recently as yesterday that it really IS on its way to me – it’s on a boat in the Pacific. Still. Before Thanksgiving I went out and bought Mr. Heater and he has been a rock star. He may not be much on looks but he heats like the sun. We took him with us to have dinner with friends last weekend. Between their wood-burning fire pit and our Mr. Heater we were perfectly comfortable for 7 hours of fun and food (all socially-distanced).

Now you know why I needed a ladder – I can’t reach the top without one. 🙂

Last week I began to lose faith that my slow boat from China would ever arrive so I bought a Pyramid heater at the grocery store. I set it up last weekend (remember last weekend? temps in the 60s?). We turned it on, saw & heard it sparking – nothing. I was fairly certain the problem had to be in the control box as there really was nothing else to that tower but structure. I didn’t know WHAT exactly although I had my suspicions because things didn’t really look aligned. I asked my brother-in-law to come help me debug it. He came yesterday, after our big snowstorm 2 days before. That meant before we could work on the tower I had to dig it out, clear my steps off the deck, and bring up both a ladder and Mr. Heater. No way we could work out there for any time without heat. 🙂 As usual, my brother-in-law figured out the issue and we fixed it. I got a lesson in spark gaps. I had thought the one piece was the issue but intuition can only take you so far – knowledge is power. Anyway, I now have 2 working propane heaters AND a propane fire pit with lots of ceramic logs. I cancelled dinner anyway. Even with 3 heaters going none of us wanted to sit out in 30 degree temps.

The handmade ribbon is so pretty

I plan to spend the day baking. This makes me happy. Unfortunately it also makes me gain weight. I’m planning to share with neighbors. Another thing that makes me happy is to get unexpected presents. I looked out the window and saw a package on my deck this morning. A little package. I figured it was something my husband ordered. Nope, it was for me (yes I took 3 steps out the door to grab it). It was from a co-worker. There is also a very long annoying story about the word “co-worker” but all I’ll say now is that corporate politics and policies are blocking me from being on the team (hers) I wish to be on. That team and I, however, are all acting as if I am indeed officially on that team. 🙂 Yeah, you really don’t want to mess with me at this moment. I opened the box and it was SO PRETTY and there were so many goodies inside. Maybe I can trade some of the goodies to my sister in exchange for the ash tray???? Spiced rum? Vanilla cinnamon Bailey’s?

Where to begin?????

Yes, Ahuva, There ARE Hummingbirds

If you’ve been reading my posts for awhile (18 months or so), you know that I had no recollection of ever seeing a humming bird until I took a trip to Phoenix in 2019. My husband and neighbors had assured me that there WERE hummingbirds in NJ, but I couldn’t even picture what they looked like, much less bring up memory of having seen one. Finally last fall I actually SAW a hummingbird among my canna lilies but failed to capture the moment in a photo. 😦

This year has been extremely disappointing as far as seeing butterflies. I have a garden full of pollinator- and butterfly- friendly plants, and I’ve had fewer than 10 sightings of butterflies. Lots and lots of bee-type insects, and moths, and some scary looking wasp-type things, but very few butterflies. I was thrilled to see a goldfinch feasting on my flowers a few weeks back.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a hummingbird! It was enjoying my firecracker plant (cuphea ignea). Note to self: plant more firecracker plants next year! I was sitting on the front steps and a movement caught my eye. It moved so quickly. Thank goodness my phone camera compensates for my shaky hands and for my inability to focus well. 🙂 I snapped frame after frame. I got as close as I could, loving every moment of watching the bird. I know these photos are not great, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Wings faster than a camera lens