Wednesday, December 27, 2023

End of the year that was..............


Why are there unwrapped packages and still to be pulled Christmas crackers lurking on December 27th?  People are fighting health issues big time this year.  Sometimes big holidays just don't work out as planned. This time of year the northern hemisphere is rife with respiratory illnesses. Old style colds, beginning of the influenza season, more variants of COVID, and this year, a myriad of nameless upper respiratory viruses knocking us over and flattening us like rows of falling domino tiles!  

Personally I have coughed my way through the past four weeks. Still am. Have run a low grade fever - something I don't recall since childhood - had no appetite, and have lost weight. Getting ready for the holidays was not fun as I was exhausted every waking hour despite sleeping quite well at night.

Next week we have our initial visits with a new to us medical practice. Our Primary Care Physician shocked us in November with news she had decided to retire early. She has cared for us for almost 25 years and closes her practice this week. It's not easy to find a physician who welcomes geriatric patients. At this new practice will will be seen by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner as the actual practice MD is not taking new patients. We'll give it a try in hopes we'll be welcomed and treated kindly.  We're both trying to remain positive about the whole experience. Fortunately the location is a new medical building just a few minutes drive from home.

The weather is dreary today. Thick fog envelopes the now mostly brown and beige garden. The feeders are empty again so birds are few. Squirrels are active and a few days back there was a young deer in the garden.  We have some errands to run later and will buy birdseed and a few more odd and ends.

I'll then be packing away Christmas decor later in the week and readying for a quiet, stay-at-home New Year's Eve, popping the bubbly cork and nibbling on the Christmas leftovers!  Life goes on - may your days be happy and healthy and the coming year be a good one.

Monday, December 18, 2023

It's small things that matter -

I hear the mail carrier laughing at the box at the end of our driveway as she hands Bob the mail. Her name is Vanessa and she is awesome, the best mail carrier we've ever had. She brought me a balloon on my 80th in October, and handed me a beautiful birthday card. Her family came from Trinidad and she grew up in New York City. Not only is she thoughtful in regard to delivering our mail, she is fun to chat with, always has a smile and giggles a lot.

Christmas is about so many things. We try to keep them light and bright. We might be feeling low but we do our best to be the life of the party. Sometimes this is hard. I feel I've lost my way in regard to my blog. You may have noticed how long it's taken me to get back here since my previous post. So much longer than it's ever been in almost 17 years. I haven't shared my Christmas decorations although I did decorate, or told you of the holiday concert which took me back to when my granddaughter sang in that choir. Hearing young voices in a church setting was beautiful and lifted my spirits for a couple of hours. This week I will be in the kitchen baking and making a few of the important holiday snacks and sweets for a small Christmas Eve get together.  

I'm still fighting whatever this latest 'long life' respiratory infection is. All I know is that it's thrown us for a loop since we came home from Arizona at Thanksgiving. . . . . . and Christmas preparations have truly been an effort, especially last week. Bob is doing better whereas I'm still feverish and just keep coughing.

No more for now. Will I be back here in the New Year? I'm planning on it.  
Happy Christmas to each of you, your families and loved ones, and may the coming year be a good one for everyone.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Traveling to the American Southwest - Thanksgiving 2023

November 2021 Visit

I'm a little early with my greeting for the big holiday next Thursday.
 I'll be gone for a while as we travel to Arizona for Thanksgiving and an extended, always fun, visit with family. My brother-in-law and his family moved to Sierra Vista many, many years ago when his government career took him to Fort Huachuca. 
We have visited often over the years and always manage to find something new to enjoy. A few days in Tucson is also on our schedule.

The Huachuca Mountains are the third highest of the Sky Island mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and they rise almost 4,500 feet above the desert floor. The mountain range is oriented in a northwestern direction giving it more north-facing slopes and perhaps a somewhat cooler climate than some of the other Sky Island mountain ranges with similar elevation. The highest elevations support mixed conifer forests on north-facing slopes and pine forests on south-facing slopes. Lower elevations have extensive oak and oak-pine woodlands. Management of this mountain range is divided mostly between the U.S Forest Service and Department of Defense (Fort Huachuca). Fort Huachuca occupies roughly the northeastern quarter of the range; the Forest Service manages the northwestern quarter and southern half. A small part of the southern end of the range is managed by the National Park Service as Coronado National Memorial.  via USDA Forest Service

Wishing you all here in the USA - and Americans living overseas - a very happy Thanksgiving holiday.  
We all have so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

'House Proud' -

My Mother trained me keep a clean, organized and picked up house. She always worked outside the home but you could, as the old saying goes, "eat off her floors." She was a perfectionist. A hard worker, competent in everything she put her hand to. Sunday was our cleaning day. It was often the only day off from her job. She didn't rest, relax or crawl under the covers recovering from an exhausting week. She was up with the sun, the larks, or whatever birds were singing in the garden at that time of year, in her cleaning clothes, sometimes her hair tied in a scarf, the usual headgear in the 1950's prior to rollers, hooded hairdryers, blow dryers and curling irons. Back then facilities in the middle class English home was usually one bathroom with a bathtub, no shower for a quick wash, shampoo and rinse. I recall washing my hair under the taps in the kitchen sink, not easy or comfortable. Many years ago on my first visit to Florence, Italy, we stayed in a hotel that was at one time a palace. We had a suite which had only a deep tub. I recalled my childhood whilst kneeling on the hard, cold marble floor with my head under a conglomerate of gold-plated faucets while Bob assisted in rinsing off shampoo and conditioner. I complained, he laughed. Somehow I lived through it wondering why a Medici Palace in a piazza, steps away from the River Arno, couldn't be modernized. A building, historic, patinated, antiqued and gorgeous, and me, spoiled by all the mod cons of America. I soon learned of Italian history and beauty, and made a vow to return as an Italian in a future life!

My childhood Sunday mornings also became a cleaning day. . . . . .until my brother came along when I was eight. Once he was a toddler my mother decided Sunday morning cleaning was easier for her if I took him to the park for a few hours. I don't recall complaining. Pushing swings and roundabouts was more fun than vacuuming and polishing furniture. 

With the winter months approaching 'housework' becomes annoying. Burning wood on the hearth is wonderful and warming, keeping up with the dust it makes is a chore. Gardening is comfortable at last, cooler days and no mosquitoes, but we have no mud room in this small house so garden debris stuck to footwear results in gritty floors requiring extra cleaning. As Christmas approaches an assortment of live greenery, berries and such make their way to the mantel, tops of armoires, stairwell etc. Things are dropped, roll under furniture, disintegrate as the weeks pass by.........and all cause more dust.  Reminders of those childhood days of vacuuming, dusting and polishing come to mind, sadly the bending and kneeling required to do a bang up job is not so easy now. So, we do what we can, promising to declutter, downsize, perhaps hire a cleaner, anything to 'make life easier' and take away some of the stress of keeping house more perfect. Fewer years on our calendar mean we need time to do exciting things while we can. 

By the way, did you know dust is invisible to most grown men . . . . . . . .and small birds, such as my wren, are extremely 'house proud', just as my dear mother was.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Aging, snail mail, and keeping the homes fires burning.........

As they say, 'age is just a number.'

Just in case you missed the news, here's proof that I really did turn 80 in October. I received many much-appreciated cards, most arriving just before, a few a day or so late, even some on the actual day. No matter how one tries for the latter option, the postal service here, and now obviously across the pond, is totally unreliable. One should mail a card perhaps a month in advance of a special occasion and write a little note on the back of the envelope, such as "To be opened on......and the date." We won't even go into the postage charges these days - let's just say they are exorbitant, and the more they increase, which now is frequently, the service decreases and a lot of mail sometimes never even shows up. Sending mail with monetary enclosures has become a no-no as many are stolen. I had this happen when mailing a paper money Christmas gift to a young family member in England last year. Today, in a local newspaper story, a man was arrested, and is now imprisoned, after 500 pieces of mail containing over $30,000 in checks, gift cards, money orders etc. all stolen from North Carolina residents' mailboxes and Post Office mail boxes, were found in his home!

This unusual card arrived over a week after my birthday. It came from my family in France and although all international mail now goes by air rather than ship, it took 17 days to cross the pond by plane. Of course any fool knows that transatlantic flight takes less than 9 hours from most European airports. Wherever the card went before and after the flight took up the remainder of the time!  I love this card and the fact that 80 is 13 in Scrabble tiles. . . . . . I'm a teenager again!  

If you burn wood in a stove, or on the hearth as we do, you are probably out searching for firewood during these beautiful early November days. We received our annual delivery, a cord of neatly chopped and split oak and hickory wood, last evening, and this morning Bob headed into the back garden to stack the woodpile for the coming winter. Fortunately we had a little wood remaining from last year and last Saturday evening, being a cool one, we had our first fire of the season. 

Changing over to using the fireplace that sat dormant since springtime when the chimney sweep came, is a bit of a palaver. Bob heads into the attic and brings out the fire screen, heavy metal tools, fire resistant hearth mat. Saved newspapers and fire starters fill the old olive basket on the hearth. Chilled rosé wine of summer is now a memory and a glowing bottle of Malbec is opened, poured and swirled. We clink glasses with a toast to the winter evenings ahead. I think this small annual happening can be classed as a memoir for us. It's part of the coming season where warmth and light in the home is important. It brings thoughts of holidays ahead with family and friends. Sometimes we sit by the fire enjoying the patterns in the flames, with a mug of chocolate, perhaps a bowl of homemade soup. . . . . or another glass of warming wine. 

Still in the throes of autumn here in the southeast, the days are warm and long hours of sunshine strong and extremely bright. Now the earlier sunset of daylight savings time changes the garden colors quickly. The leaves are falling and the canopy of trees is taking on a lighter look. The moon is visible in the early morning sky. Birds are returning to the feeders and bird baths, and squirrels look chubby and healthy in their winter fur coats. Winter months can be bleak. Many loathe the cold days and even colder nights. A blazing, crackling wood fire on the hearth is a way to make those times delightful . . . . . . . along with a hot water bottle perhaps.

But that's another story . . . . . . .another memoir!

. . . . . . . . and here it is, Bob's woodpile completed. 
Looking forward to many warm hearthside nights ahead.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Neighborhood watering hole -

Up early. Still jet-lagged. The surprise of seeing the sun washing the sky with brilliant colors in the east, and the brightest full moon still hanging in the western sky beyond the back garden oaks, was beautiful. Our aging small house is down in a bit of a dip, tucked into land once a farm, the remaining trees are massive. There are no distant views, no hold your breath scenery, just ancient trees . . . . . and more houses dating back to the years when large houses were few and far between. Beyond them, winding streets and cul-de-sacs lead to Midtown, Raleigh's expansion of city living with almost skyscraper high office and apartment buildings, upmarket shops and restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues, and a few small green areas tucked in here and there thankfully. A manmade lake is in the future plan. 

Meanwhile, we have our old neighborhood watering hole, Eastgate Park. Tennis courts, playground, community building, walking trail, a few picnic tables, a large open field for games, and the best feature, Cooper's Pond. A memorial plaque tells a bit about the pond. established in 1915 by J. Cooper Young, who lived there until 1966. The city of Raleigh purchased it in 1972 to turn into the park so that the "simple beauty of the park land and water would remain for the pleasure of all of its citizens."  Home to Canada geese, mallard ducks, and some very old, large turtles, the pond remains peaceful and is now very colorful dressed in Autumn foliage (above). Nature is busy with paints and brushes and the coming cooler weather here will soon bring down the leaves.

Yesterday, walking around the neighborhood on a beautiful Autumn day around noon, I was grateful that some things don't change. In this rush forward to take down the old and change the landscape with little consideration for what has stood for years, it's still our much loved neighborhood. It needs to remain part of history and continue to bring small moments that lift the soul and bring joy to this sometimes difficult life. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Lifestyle Changes -

I'm back from the trip home to England. During two and a half weeks of mixed weather I wandered around wondering why I ever left. I thought about all the visits I had made in the 61 years since I emigrated. Each was different because of the people who were waiting. The beauty of a place stays with one forever. When that beauty fades a bit feelings become mixed and muddled. One wants to hide under the covers and have a few tears. If only the parents were there still. Mum waiting at the window as the taxi pulled up and deposited me with luggage. . . . . . and an American accent getting stronger each time. Dad in his usual Harris Tweed jacket staring at my false eyelashes in the late 1960's and wondering "why". Brother growing taller and smarter, with hair longer than mine after heading to university. The house looked the same, even the shrubs in the garden hadn't changed other than get taller. The washing was still pegged out on the line despite Mum buying a little electric dryer "for rainy days" of which there are many! We rode the red double decker buses for years. We walked to the village pub up and down a couple of hills - good for shapely legs we were told. Bob apparently liked mine. We sat by the open fire on cold winter visits and took dips in the mild waters of Tor Bay in the summer. Traipsed though gorgeous National Trust gardens on open days, ending with Devonshire cream afternoon teas and cups of Earl Grey, sometimes in a country home, other times in an apple orchard.

Those were the days. These are the new days. I feel this last visit has given me a new perspective on my former life. Growing up in another country, one such as beautiful England, perhaps made me a different person when I came to live here. I did eventually learn to fit in. I have had a wonderful life with a great husband and family, however a huge part of my heart always remained behind and now and then I have felt perhaps I made the wrong decision all those years ago.

Today is my 80th birthday! This is really a very hard day for me because I don't feel anywhere near this age. Where have all the years gone? Am I living on borrowed time? What should I do with the years to come?  Life is filled with quite important questions now and I don't have the answers. Sometimes I feel I'm drowning in 'what ifs' and what will I do. I want to learn to live in the moment. Much relies on health and movement and so far I'm doing well in those categories. However, a lot is about using my days and time to do what I want to do while I can. I'm learning to say "no" and I don't want to be the organizer any longer. I need time for myself to wander, look more closely at nature, read more, photograph more and most of all write more.  

Thank you all who have followed this blog for so many years.  I don't have plans to close it any time soon. I do feel I haven't got enough time to post as often as I used to. Perhaps I'm just slower. I hope to write more about the past rather than the present, if that makes sense. I do have stories to share of travels and life both here and back in those days growing up across the pond. For now I'll say goodbye...........after all it's my big birthday and I haven't organized anything spectacular, other than trotting off to a favorite wine bar with a few people who might enjoy popping a cork and toasting those coming days with a chilled glass of champagne.  Wish you were here to join me!!!

Friday, October 13, 2023

Visiting home again -

Time is flying fast and we've already been here in my home town for a week.
Needless to say it has been really busy and will remain this way for the entire
stay.  Many family members and friends to visit, places to see, shopping
 being done for things English I still find hard to live without, and restful times
 to just sit and enjoy the scenery with a coffee mug, cup of tea, or a glass of
 wine, depending on the time of day.

Weather has been quite good, warm and sunny at first, now cooler and
a little damp with light showers and bracing breezes from the 
English Channel.

Some photos to show you where my "home, sweet home" is - all of these
 were taken in Torquay, Devon.
I'll try to get back here during the visit - if you don't see me here, just
know it's because I'm having too much fun!

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Good things come to those who wait!


Thoughts on traveling require a nice cup of tea and something sweet. 

I've been awaiting another trip home. We were there last year in the lovely month of June, this year we're crossing the pond in October. It's different packing for a cool weather trip when bulky, sometimes heavy, items of clothing are required. . . . . .and we all know how boots and shoes weigh so much more than sandals! These last few weeks I've chosen my clothes and footwear, then had to rethink the whole situation as to what to wear if cold, if wet, even unusually warm, as the climate seems to make odd, expected, changes this year. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times things have been returned to closets and drawers!!! Today I think I have it done and I feel happy with what I will be packing tomorrow. I will be ready for whatever the weather throws at us, and whatever social situation pops up, from walking the beach to dining out in a posh restaurant. Yes, tomorrow is that day! Getting all the stuff into the suitcase might be a challenge but hopefully it will all work out. Also, my hair is cut, Bob and I had pedicures yesterday, I had my nails done today. We are ready to fly, literally!

I will be be seeing family and long time friends. My brother and family will fly over from France and spend a few days with us. I will also be meeting up for a cuppa  with a fun blog friend of several years, and her husband, for the first time. . . . .that's always exciting. Recently, we met a charming English couple visiting Raleigh and now are back home in the UK. As they will be in my hometown for a short break during our stay, we are getting together again for dinner at their lovely hotel which is also a favorite of ours, and where, long ago, we had my late mother's wake as it was her favorite place to eat and sit out on the patio viewing the beautiful seascape.

I've had no time to blog lately and I apologize for not commenting on your recent blogs. I do read them and promise to get back with you when I return from England. I admit that I now find preparing for overseas travel a little more difficult. . . . .I know I've slowed down a bit and not always able to keep up with you 'youngsters' out there. I turn 80 later this month! Where the heck have all those years gone?  I will continue to do what I can do even if takes longer.  You may see me here whilst in England - if not, you know I'm having too good a time with my loved ones, haha!!!

Cheerio for now!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Sunflowers, seeds and squirrels at Summer's end -


Some days back, in heat, but not too hot, in sunshine shaded by clouds in the Carolina Blue sky, we gathered our garden tools, put on gloves and hats, and went on a mission in the garden. Taking down the last sunflower was quite a job. Even with the last couple of feet bent and bowing to the earth, this fading beauty was still quite a monster, the huge head of seeds very heavy. The stem required the big loppers, no basic pruners could make a gash in it let alone cut through it.  Bob is almost 6 feet so I'm guessing the sunflower was around ten feet.  Why I never thought to stretch it out on the ground to measure it before cutting it up I don't know. Blame it on two older gardeners' just wanting to get the job done and the mess cleaned up! After all, there were other things waiting, the fried hydrangeas to clip, potted plants to toss, bird baths to clean and replenish, feeders to fill, and watering to do.

I've saved some of the seeds from this huge sunflower.  I made sure the seeds were clean and dry and have stored them in a glass jar.  There's no way I desire to plant an entire field of sunflowers next Spring. . . . . . . so I will be sharing these seeds with neighbors and friends who might enjoy them.

The sunflower head I left tucked into the garden bench - as I did with the former ones we cut down - and of course it didn't take long for the squirrels and birds to discover a feast!

We are currently under a severe flood watch here in central North Carolina.  Early this morning Hurricane Ophelia made landfall at the coast. Winds have been gusty bringing power outages and fallen trees - fortunately neither here at our home - but fingers are still crossed! However, the rain has been torrential and will continue another 2-3 hours.  Yesterday Bob mowed the brown dried out grass, and blew the newly fallen leaves and acorns. Today brilliant green grass has returned and he'll be out there again tomorrow with the leaf blower once things have dried out.

Autumn has arrived - I'm happy - but hurricane activity is always worrisome.
Stay safe if you are being impacted by bad weather.

Monday, September 18, 2023

New Bern in rain and shine -

We were at the North Carolina coast for a couple of days.
The sea air, mixed with some very heavy rain the first day,
cleared the cobwebs and brought some time to relax, meet
 up with old friends. . . . . .and make a few new ones.  

New Bern, North Carolina’s second oldest town, was founded in
 1710 by Swiss nobleman, Christoph von Graffenried, and named
 after his native city of Berne, Switzerland. Bern means “bear” and the
 “Bern Bear” symbol is seen on its flag. Throughout the city you will
 see many creative Bear Town Bears.

New Bern is a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast. 
The Tryon Palace complex includes a replica of the state's
 1st capitol, historic homes, gardens and the North Carolina
 History Center. 
The Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola is the drugstore where the
 drink was invented in the 1890s. 

Love the town of New Bern, NC
This historic home is on the market but requires so much work.
Hopefully someone with deep pockets will adopt her, restore her, 
and bring back her beauty of long ago.

Waiting for the storm to pass.

Morning brought sunshine. . . . . but the boats stayed put. Don't you
wonder why so many people buy boats but never seem to use them?

More on this lovely bookshop, and the owner, coming soon!