Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

It is the last day of February and the mornings have been icy and cold. The weather is so changeable this time of year, one minute it is sunny, the next it is snowing.

We wake up to beautiful sunshine illuminating the frosty trees. Everything sparkles.

But by afternoon it is snowing in the foothills and everything is gray.

It has been unusually windy today. It blows through the trees sounding exactly like rough surf by the ocean. The sound of your voice gets quickly carried away.

The little vent cap on my roof is flapping away; tap, tap- tap, tap, tap. The wind blows down the chimney making a long, sad, whooo-whooooooooo. Like some disembodied spirit pining his lost love.

The wind chimes are frantically tinkling; at first softly, then all of a sudden a frantic burst like the crescendo of a piano at the end of a suspenseful thriller.

The little birds fly very low to avoid the wind, or hide out in the thickets.

While birds of prey take advantage of the wind to soar high above.

And I take advantage of the cozy house to catch up on a little embroidery. (I will show you my finished project when I am done.)

And here it is already the last day of February. A Leap Year.

My Maternal Grandfather was born on Feb. 29th, 1898. As a child it always fascinated me that we could only 'really' celebrate his birthday every 4 years (even though we did every year, anyway). My Grandfather was your typical Irishman. He spoke with an Irish Brogue. He called film, 'Fillim'. We would make him say it to us, and then giggle. He was a fisherman and went out onto the Atlantic off of the coast of Massachusetts with a large crew to catch flounder and cod for 2 weeks at a time. My Grandmother always had a freezer full. He lost a finger in a fishing net accident. We were always told it was from opening a tin can. Grandpa liked to tease us. He had thick black curly hair and gray eyes which my Mother inherited. He was a staunch Irish Catholic. His forearms were thick and strong and he knotted his own nets. He taught me some knots and later when macrame' was all the rage, I made money selling knotted tapestries of the sea.

He was married to my grandmother, Beatrice Euphemie until the day he died. Together they had 7 girls and the last one, the 8th, finally a boy. That boy was his pride and joy. He was the football hero and the first in the family to go to college. My Grandfather died happy knowing he had at least one son to carry on the name.

Those born on February 29th are called 'Leaplings' or 'Leapers'. Lore held that leap day babies were unruly and tough to raise. I can certainly attest that my Grandfather was at times unruly and tough.

There are about 187,000 born on leap day in the US and 4 million worldwide during leap years.

Legal permissions like getting a driver's license are granted either the day before or after according to official regions. In the US it is the 1st of March.

The reason why we have leap years is because of the length of the year. A year isn't really 365 days. Our planet actually takes 365 and 1/4 days to revolve around the sun. These additional 6 hours each year add up to an extra 24 hours over 4 years, at which point we add a day to our calendar in order to keep us in sinc with the sun.

Without leap day, annual events would slowly shift seasons. Eventually we would be celebrating Christmas in July.

Caesar is the one who incorporated the leap year into the Calendar in 46 BC.

And while the calculation of 365 and 1/4 days to lap around the sun was close, the true figure is actually 11 min. short.  This caused a discrepancy every 128 years.

So in 1582, Pope Gregory X111 ruled that leap year would be skipped 3 times every 4 centuries to fix the snag.

Whew! Glad I'm not in charge of figuring that out.

In the middle ages, farmers worried that messing around with the calendar would throw Mother Nature for a loop.

They worried that it would lower their crop yields or sicken their livestock.

There is an old Scottish saying, "Leap year was never a good sheep year."

So now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about Leap Year, I hope you enjoy this last day of February.

I think this is a good day to do some baking.

I will post the recipe tomorrow.

What are you doing today?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Consequences - Our Life Together

 For Blue Eyes and me, our beautiful time spent at World's End in the fall of 1971 was rapidly coming to a close. Every chance we could, we escaped together to this serene place to be together.

I was just beginning my 11th year of  high school, and Blue Eyes was in his senior year.

During our years in school we tried to be 'normal' teenagers 'without a care in the world.' I tried out for cheerleading the year before and made the team. Blue Eyes was working after school to pay for his first car. He worked for his Father who owned a packaging business. By then his parents were divorced and his Mother had to take a job for the first time in almost 20 years. There were 4 children, Blue Eyes was the oldest. The youngest was 10. Money was extremely tight.

I also worked in the evenings. I was a nanny to 5 little boys under the age of 7. I worked from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every weeknight. My job was to fix dinner, clean up, bathe and dress the children for bed. The Mother of these young children was going to night school. The Husband worked late hours. On weekends I also babysat after cheerleading duties and helping out at home with my 4 younger sisters. In order to remain on the squad I had to keep a B+ average.

But things were in a turmoil. I was forbidden to see Blue Eyes. It was felt that I was too young to date. Blue Eyes came from a 'Broken Home'. My parents were very strict.

So we continued to skip school occasionally to be together.

This did not end well.

Naturally we were caught.

My life took a sudden turn for the worse.

I was placed under virtual house arrest. I was not allowed to stay over at friend's houses. I was absolutely forbidden to see or talk to my Blue Eyes. The teachers at school were informed that if we were caught talking to one another, my parents were to be notified. I was called down to the guidance counselor's office every single day for 'counseling'.

It was a nightmare.

Blue Eyes would meet me secretly in the hallways between classes and hand me notes. I would tip toe downstairs late at night to call him. He would drive the 5 miles between us just to see me at my 2nd story window. He would throw pebbles at my window to get my attention and then toss me up a note.

But soon it was just too much for Blue Eyes. All the restrictions made it difficult for us to maintain our relationship.

So we broke up.
But he still wanted to be 'friends'.

As soon as my parents found out that we broke up, all the restrictions were taken away. I was allowed to date. It didn't make any sense to me, but now that I have raised my own children, I can see through their eyes. Somewhat.

It was the clash of the old rigid society with the new.

I was caught right in the middle of it.

So I followed the straight and narrow pathway. I tried to please my parents. I worked hard at school. I payed my own way by working. I tried to understand.

I would see Blue Eyes laughing and having fun with other girls. He wanted to remain my 'friend' and would stop and chat with me or call me on the phone.

But that was 'too understanding' for my sensibilities and I cut him off. I was depressed and dejected. I wasn't interested in the boys that asked me out. One of them would pick me up for school every day in his 1957 Pink Cadillac Convertible, with a single rose and a cinnamon roll. He was so good to me.

But I didn't feel the same way about him. No matter how hard I tried.

I didn't understand why my parents would let me date him and not the only one I really cared about.

It took the wind right out of my sails. I felt so alone. I became very withdrawn. It was a difficult winter.

Little did I know how difficult life would become.

Next time: Reunion

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend Observations

Hubby worked so hard for me this weekend! So when he was gone Sunday morning, taking our trash and recycling to the transfer station, I whipped up some Easy Banana Blueberry Muffins for him.

(You can find this recipe under the heading 'Baking' on my categories list)
It was cold this weekend. With fits of snow. Nothing that stayed around, but it was not a good weekend for working outside. But Hubby braved the elements so he could do a few things for me.
One of the chores was cutting down my beloved Golden Chain Tree. It was badly damaged in the recent ice storm, and listing so far over to the side that we couldn't save it.
This is what it looked like last summer. It would fill the whole yard with it's beautiful scent and would attract so many bees that you could hear them buzzing from the house.
My youngest son planted it as a gift to me on Mother's Day a few years ago.
The whole time Hubby was cutting it down, I couldn't watch.
I asked him afterwards if he felt bad. He told me that while he was doing it he thought of the look on my youngest son's face when he gave it to me. A mixture of love and generosity, and pride.
 He also had to cut down one of my dwarf apple trees. It too, had fallen over from the storm.

We love our trees and it is always sad when we lose any.
We are making some progress on the clean up, but it is going slowly due to the cold and wet weather. But every little effort brings us closer to our goal.
Look what just started blooming! I don't know what variety these daffodils are, but they have been coming up this early for years. I bought a mixed bag of un-named cultivars one year and they have rewarded me with their beauty ever since. A little surprise at a time when they are very much appreciated.
 My Christmas cactus has also been blooming.  Like a bright, tropical bird that has come to visit.
And seeing I'm on a roll.... my Kalanchoe is blooming it's little heart out.
So I moved it to the center of my table.
Flowers add to the quality of life in a way that can't be defined.
These little sweeties have been pretty much decorating the couch all weekend. For some reason they like to lie right on top of the pillows until they get them squished just the way they like them.
It's a good thing they haven't wanted to go out lately.
We've had visitors.

Every day this bald eagle flies right over the house. And circles. He has friends.

He is always accompanied by another eagle. The second one doesn't have it's white coloring yet.

 They are also accompanied by two red-tailed hawks and two ravens. Always.

I have noticed this sort of friendship before.

I believe they all help each other find food. Whether it is spotting a cougar or road kill, or whether it is 'herding' of prey, such as flocks of ducks, they all work together.

I let Ling Ling out on the deck the other day, only to rush over and grab her when the bald Eagle made a very close pass. He had circled around when he saw her. Unless you have seen one of these magnificient birds up close, you can't appreciate how big they are.

My camera doesn't do justice.

We have also had a very large flock of crows fly over every evening on their way to roost. These crows have been roosting in the high foothills ever since we moved here. Except for the last three years. During that time we had a hawk living right along this route that would attack them as they flew over. So they changed their route. But the hawk is gone, so they are once again flying overhead every evening. There are about 75 of them.

I love crows. One year I had part of that flock hanging around every day. They had discovered the dog food. Every day they would wait for me to feed my three big dogs and then swoop down and gobble up the dry kibbles. I enjoyed them at first. They were comical and sweet. One would find something in the grass and bob his head and make little chattering sounds. That meant, 'Come and look what I found!' They always shared. They never fought. The adults would leave the young ones in the trees for the day while they went out searching for food. The young would sit in the trees making mewing sounds, just like kittens.

But because crows like to share and because they are so gregarious, the little flock turned into quite a raucous crowd. I had to cut them off. They begged for days. But eventually they left. I had to do it during the summer when they were sure to find food elsewhere.

Every year we have varied avian visitors. These little guys live here year round. But this year has been difficult for them.

We have a predator.

A Cooper's Hawk.

I don't know if you can see him in this shot. He is on the ground right at the edge of the grass, directly in the center. He had just caught a robin. Right in front of me. I had come out to do some clean up on Friday afternoon and he swooped down and grabbed that little robin so quick. I didn't know what to do. I stepped forward and he flew into a thicket with the robin. But then he flew out. I went into the thicket to see if I could save the robin, but his neck was broken.

So I left. I felt bad. But the hawk has to eat, too. I just wish he would live someplace else. I have seen him before. He even swooped down on my cat one day. Ninky was coming around the corner of the toolshed. I was watching out the kitchen window. There was a flash and Ninky spun around to see what hit him. He had no clue. But I had seen and knew it was the Cooper's Hawk. Maybe asserting his territorial rights? He is too small to hurt the cat. But I admired his bravery.

He has been living here since early fall. I hope he is just a winter visitor and will move on come spring.

Well, the Oscars are on and I must go now. I must make some new observations.

The stars are out.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Recipe for Happiness


Take 2 heaping cups of Patience,

1 heartful of Love,

2 hands of Generosity,

A dash of Laughter,

1 headful of Understanding.

Sprinkle generously with Kindness,

Add plenty of Faith and mix well.

Spread over a period of a lifetime

And serve everybody you meet.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Happy Journey

( I took these pictures traveling 40 mph from the car with my Kodak Easy Share camera. I love that camera and so sad that Kodak is not going to make cameras anymore)

We went to see a house that my eldest son and his new bride are hoping to buy. (I can't show you pictures yet, until the final documents are signed) We are so happy for them. They currently own a townhouse near the city, but this new home is in the country and close to my son's job. It is 40 miles from us, but as luck would have it, the road from here to there can be taken 'the back way'. It is nearly a straight line as the crow flies.

Past beautiful old farms.

With mountain views.

My son is a senior program manager for a world wide computer company. How that happened from growing up in this tiny mountain town, I'll never know.

But back in the 80's when computers were just beginning to be a house-hold item, we went out and bought a Mac. With so many bells and whistles, it was the only Christmas gift we had under the tree that year.

I guess it payed off because both of my sons are computer 'geniuses' now. The youngest one owns his own Computer Consulting company.

You never know what will influence a child.

They spent their childhoods roaming the woods, building forts, and on rainy, cold days like today, on the computer. They used to fight over it.

Hubby and I didn't even know how to use it.

But we took classes so we could keep up.

You are never quite prepared for when your children know more than you do. But that's a good thing. Unless they remind you all the time when they are 14. But what 14 year old doesn't think he knows more than his parents? Well, that is what Hubby and I told ourselves, anyway.

This beautiful countryside is what we get to see on our way to visit. Forty miles might seem like a long distance, but here in the West, it is what you would call a 'Hop, Jump and a Skip Away'. Through that whole journey, there are only two small towns that we drive through.

One has the best bakery in the world, and the other has the best restaurants. So when we go to visit, we can bring dessert and maybe even dinner!

All we'll have to say is 'Got Milk?'

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Gift

I just put together a hand-made gift bag for a very special young lady in my life. She is just learning to knit and I wanted to gift her with a few new supplies to encourage her brand new pastime.

To begin, I found an unbleached homespun bag at my local craft store. I also used some pretty buttons and lace, plain tags, some pretty cotton dish towels, some unbleached cheesecloth, jute and stamps.

I hand stitched the lace and buttons onto the cloth bag on both sides.

This little bag can double as a knitting tote.

I glued lace and a button onto the manila tag and used some sentimental stamps. I used jute twine for the hanger.

I then tied a pair of bamboo knitting needles with lace and a small tea dyed tag written with the size of the needles.

Small muslin bags were also stamped to hold tiny knitting supplies.

Larger supplies were wrapped in double layers of unbleached cheesecloth, and tied up with jute twine and vintage silk flowers.

Books with simple knitting projects are wrapped in dish towels, tied with jute twine and more vintage silk flowers. The bamboo knitting needles were added.

I included some yummy mohair yarn and tucked everything in the cloth bag and tied on the gift tag.

A sweet gift for a very sweet girl.
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