A month gone by and it has been nothing but cold

snow 1-3-14
First snow fall, more to come

January has come and gone.  In the middle of the month Matt had surgery to address the continuing issues with his foot so we have been a little absorbed in that process.  But here are some highlights:

Geeze, it’s cold out there. We complain that we never get winter here any more but this year, we are getting way more than we want.  Snow and the polar vortex have made January interesting and miserable.  It convinced me that I would never live in a place where it got very cold and stayed cold for months.  No to International Falls, no to Alaska, no to the Arctic.  I suppose if there was snow all the time and groomed cross-country ski trails, it might help (I’m talking about you Vermont) but even so, when it is below zero, I don’t think even cross-country skiing would get me outside.  There is a point at which it is just miserable.

We have had a series of snow storms and that has been consistent for weeks.  On January 3, we got five inches and I went out into the yard with my skis for a go around.  By January 7th, the temperature had dropped to single digits and the back door window actually frosted over.

snow ski 1-4-14
I’ve got enough room to make a loop around the yard.
Frost on the door
Frost on the door

On January 15, Matt had surgery to cut a nerve to his great toe, doctor speak for big toe.  His saga is incredible.  Three years ago, Matt jammed his toe into the sand while boogie boarding at the beach.  He has been in pain to the point of being unable to walk normally for almost three years now and no one can figure out why.  Five doctors later, we came to the conclusion that the last best option was to just stop the pain completely and cut the nerve to the area.  It helped a lot but not completely.  There may be more surgery ahead.

With Matt on the DL, I get to shovel snow.  I don’t mind since it is good exercise but I have been doing a lot of it and this time it was cold in the extreme, single digits again, with a wind chill of freaking cold!  So Matt kindly paid some guys to shovel the driveway after the last storm which dumped another five inches.  I fed the birds instead.

This would be coyote tracks.
These are coyote tracks.

There have been animal tracks all over the yard.  Rabbits, of course, and squirrels but most interestingly, something canine.  We think it was a coyote.  I went out and took a look. It came over the fence, went straight for the rabbit hole, dug into it and there was nothing left but a few pieces of fur on the ground.  Then it walked away and hopped over the fence.  It came back again a few days later and checked under the shed, which is where I think the rabbits hide, but I saw no sign of dead rabbits this time.  I took pictures of the tracks but by then the snow had blown enough that they were not clear.  Matt has seen a coyote and that is the only animal that would jump a six-foot fence and kill a rabbit.  We don’t think a fox could make the leap.  Perhaps it could be these were not fox tracks and they sure were not dog tracks.  We plan on getting a motion sensor camera to see what goes on out there at night.


Gone with the Wind


I have always loved “Gone with the Wind.”  I am not sure why.  I have seen it dozens of times.  I keep it on hand in case I need to watch some mindless drama.   Mostly, I love watching Vivian Leigh.  She was radiant in that movie.  She progresses from the young love struck and willful girl with flashing green eyes to a sad and lonely mother who has lost her child. Her eyes are dead in the last scenes.

In between she secretly drinks, pouts, survives, and acts horribly to everyone she loves.  It is easy to see her as selfish.  But I have always thought of her as a survivor.  She did what she had to do.   Some of her actions were spiteful.  But more often than not, she did what she thought was necessary to save her land and her family’s heritage, even if in the end it meant marrying that awful Rhett.

That is what makes it so hard to hate her.  She is not completely evil.  There is some moral underpinning to her actions.  She even takes care of Ashley and Melanie in her own strong way.  She can pick cotton if she has to.  She can marry a fool and run a business too, and at the same time give Ashley something to do.   When I watch the story, I am like Rhett.  Why on earth does she fawn over that weakling Ashley Wilkes?  She is so much better than he is.  But then, that may be why she fawns.  She wants him to accept her and give her some legitimacy.  If he loves her, she is not the selfish, self-centered woman everyone says she is.  She is worthy.  But in retrospect the only person who gives her legitimacy is Melanie because she sees something there.  She understands that Scarlett has to do what she does.

Oh, I could go on.  What got me started on this was that I opened my Bradford Exchange plates commemorating Scarlett’s costumes.   I bought them almost 20 years ago.  I did not buy the whole set because after two plates I decided it was lame.  I just checked on Ebay, and they are actually worth something.  I put them on the wall  in my closet.  Then I got on-line and bought a few more to add to my set.

The Holiday Bacchanalia

We have now come to the end of the season of excess.  From Thanksgiving to Christmas we eat too much, we drink too much, we party to excess, we visit, we laugh, we argue, we get in touch with our families for better or worse.  We try to be good during the season, we try to be better people.  Our lives are magnified during these weeks–we want to be good and live large.

Then  comes the new year and the Bacchanalia, the excess that we lived in food and drink and merriment, comes to an end.   At least some of us look and say that was fun, but why did I engage in all that excess?  Why did I do that?

Our celebrations are not new.  They are tied to ancient Rome and the Saturnalia celebrations which occurred around the winter solstice During Saturnalia, there were public banquets and gift giving.  Slaves were permitted to be more lax around their masters and they were even treated to feasts.  Indeed, the winter solstice has been a source of celebration for many civilizations.  This need to engage in some kind of seasonal celebration seems to be part of the human condition.

Recently, I read an excerpt from Frederick Douglass’ memoir about how slave owners treated slaves over the holidays.  In sum, slaves were given a vacation for the six days between Christmas and New Years.  But there was a catch.  Most slave owners encouraged their slaves to drink to excess over the holidays.  Douglass theorized that this was a way to quell rebellion.  The slave, exhausted from having lived in excess for days, was glad, even grateful, to get back to work.

As I pondered the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I wondered if perhaps we too needed this time of excess to fuller appreciate our routine lives.  Maybe we need a period of living beyond our normal selves.  Then, the new year comes and we look back with enough awareness to think about how we might do better this time.  Or maybe we look back and say, I sure am glad to get back to my life.  We have a little more appreciation of our normal day.

In retail, January is for white sales and selling organization.  They tell us, it is time to get our lives in order.  After all that excess, we are perhaps more willing to admit that yes, we could use a little more order around here.  Yes, we could use a bit more discipline.  It might not last long.  But it points us in the right direction and it is a little harder to feel like you need a break, because you just had weeks of celebration.

So grab this post-Bacchanalia haze to do something positive.  Before you know it the February doldrums will be here.

On to the beach – New Years in North Carolina


I needed a break.  So a few days after Christmas, we drove to North Carolina to spend a few days contemplating the ocean, resting, and not doing anything in particular.  We did just that.

The trip down took 10 hours because I-95 is nothing less than Satan’s punishment.  A miserable black hole where your life gets sucked into interminable traffic jams for no apparent reason except that there are too many cars and not enough lanes.  it took us 3.5 hours to get to Fredericksburg, a drive that should have taken maybe 1.5 hours.

We were well behind schedule so we had to stop in Wilmington for dinner.  I got on the phone and started looking up barbecue joints and found raves about Jackson’s Big Oak Barbecue, home of the authentic Eastern Carolina style barbecue.  Their motto?  “We ain’t fancy but we sure are good.”  Amen, brother.  Carolina style barbecue sauce is our favorite.  What does that mean?  It means a thin, vinegar based sauce with lots of spices.  It is nothing like the ketchup thick, tomato, sugar sweet stuff they use in Memphis and beyond.  Rather than a thick consistency, Carolina BBQ sauce is thin and it permeates the meat as it cooks giving it a flavor that makes you pucker.  Well, we went right for it and had pulled pork sandwiches with coleslaw on top.  The coleslaw had a mustard based dressing that just set off the BBQ sauce.  On the side, we had hush puppies and collard greens.  Lord, you should not eat this stuff every day but for a treat, there is nothing better than a hush puppy done right.  Matt was so enthusiastic he then ordered ribs to see if they would be as good.  Well, the sauce has been thickened and that kind of killed it for us.  I got the banana pudding for dessert, made fresh every day.  That was a fortuitous stop and I am pretty certain we will see them again.

By the time we pulled in and got unpacked it was late and we were exhausted.  I slept ten hours the first night.  The next few days we did not do much of anything except rent movies from the Redbox and look at the ocean.  I cooked some dinners, one day we had stuffed cabbage, one day we had buffalo half-smokes with a black-eyed peas salad.

We watched “The Conjuring,” which I did not think was all that scary.  We watched “Stories We Tell,” a documentary about family perceptions and hidden lives.  We tried to watch “Anchorman.” I must confess, I did not find it funny and we turned it off after about 20 minutes.  I knew I would not like it but so many people told me to watch it.  Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Will Ferrell.  Sorry.  We watched “Admissions” with Paul Rudd because we love Paul Rudd who I do find very funny and charming.

On New Year’s Eve, we did the things we like to do.  I cooked a dinner of lobster sautéed in butter and olive oil served over a black truffle pasta with roasted asparagus and a salad with baked goat cheese.  Add to that a little champagne and caviar and viola, great New Year’s Eve dinner.  We watched the movie “Up,” because we love Mr. Frederick, Russell, Doug and Kevin.  This movie makes me laugh and weep and sigh.  It is truly one of my all time favorites.  If I am sad, I watch it.  If I want to laugh and  be happy I watch it. The sky was kind of clear and using my ipad, and my 3-D star map we looked at the constellations and the stars.

New Year’s Day, January 1, 2014.

We woke to a cloudy, cold New Year’s Day.  I was determined to go into the ocean.  It was in the mid-40’s outside and the water was just COLD!  I donned my bathing suit and flip flops.  Matt put on his swim trunks and we walked to face the water.  The wind was blowing and it was really cold.  But I took off my sweat shirt and pants and made a dash for it.  Matt cannot run so he took pictures while went in. It was not a polar bear plunge.  It was more of a run in and out as fast as I could because yikes! it was cold and my feet and legs went numb.  Then it was Matt’s turn.  He can’t run so he walked in and splashed with water.  YAYYYY!!!!!!!!!


Okay that woke us both up.  Now it was time for breakfast.  We love eggs benedict.  I made it with smoked salmon and lemony hollandaise.  It was yummy.

We had been watching a weather front coming so we decided to pack it up and drive home a day early.  We managed to get home in 7.5 hours, which is how fast you can travel the distance without any traffic.

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