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.