December 2, 2011

Wreath & Door Spray Redux

It the blink of an eye, November came and went and, with the passage of Thanksgiving, Macy's parade, gorging on too much turkey and stuffing, Black Friday and the holiday season are upon us.

For years, even though my birthday kicks off the month, I was never a very big fan of November. It always struck me as grey and monotonous. The trees were leafless and the landscape seemed so barren. As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate the special "atmosphere" that November brings...a chance to rest amidst a bit of visual quiet after the colorful foliage displays of October - a chance to recover from the falling leaves and appreciate the "bare bones" of the scenery before they're eventually clothed in frost and snow for several months to come.

We were very, very lucky this November. After being bombarded aberrationally with several inches of snow in late October, November provided us with far warmer temperatures than usual (thank heavens for small favors) and a last chance to enjoy the sun's warmth. The grass has kept its bright emerald green hue and, while the diciduous trees are now completely bare, the foliage of the pines, firs, spruces and cedars remains.

I've started pulling out some of my holiday decorations. Two of the items I have at hand are a large wreath and door spray. They are quite old, actually - about 20 years now - and at one time were a beautifully fragrant combination of cut blue spruce branches combined with dried flowers and lovely velvet ribbons and bows. The wreath, which measures about 24 inches across, has bright, fire engine red bows, while the door spray has rich, dark burgundy velvet bows. The ribbons and bows have remained vibrant, of course, and even the dried elements are fairly bright still, but the spruce branches and their needles have turned from their original sea-foam blue green to a rather sad beigey-brown...and they tend to drop readily if the wreath or spray is moved even gently.

I've been reluctant to toss these two decorative pieces because they are so full of intricate detail and I have loved them through their life-cycles. So, suddenly, when I dear friend whom I'm helping prepare for a holiday housewarming party in 10 days mentioned that he wanted a big pine cone wreath sprayed in gold for his home, I had one of those "ah-ha" moments. I could carefully remove the ribbons and bows temporarily from my old items and spray them a warm and welcoming gold! They would no longer have the contrast of the greens (now beige) and deep reds, golden yellows and cream colors that had originally characterized them (and had charmed me), but they'd have a grand and elegant new life clothed in wonderful, intricate, golden detail!

I neglected to take a "before" shot (although I think I have a photo of the wreath in its original, fresh condition packed away in a box somewhere), but here's the "after" with ribbons and bows re-inserted. I couldn't be more pleased with it!

And the season begins!

November 19, 2011

And, now, for that marvelous month...November!

Even though the snow in the previous post melted within a matter of days (thank goodness!), it has taken me much longer to recover from that startling shock to the visual landscape out my windows, and to my system.

I am not a fan of snow. I needed the autumn to be autumnal, not winter-like. Once the snows receded, the green grass and orange and yellow leaves on the trees re-emerged to make the scenery much more typical for early November. And now, it's nearly Thanksgiving.

While all the brilliant colors of fall have given way to the stark, leafless landscape of winter, I'm continuing to celebrate the season with a few displays of color inside the house. And I'm starting to think about the festivities of fall, the cornucopias and the sumptuous dining of Thanksgiving.

I'll be joining friends for Thanksgiving this year, having hosted more than my share of celebrations, and having no family living nearby any longer. I don't mind, in fact, these friends of many years are, in many ways, as close as family to me and that's a great comfort.

I celebrated a birthday this month. Not a monumental one, mind you, but a birthday nonetheless. And just a day before, I learned that one of my friends of many decades with whom I unfortunately hadn't been in close touch in some years, had passed away. Actually, she died quite some time ago.

It was sad news to learn rather unexpectedly, and I discovered it when I read that her mother had died more recently. My friend's passing saddened me, but it wasn't surprising news, since I'd known she'd had a long history of medical issues. Still, I'd thought she'd gotten it all under control and had gone on from the illness that had plagued her 20s - when we first met - to reach a ripe adulthood. It just wasn't meant to be a very long life, apparently, but it was a life very well lived for another 35 years, and she lived it to the fullest, as I knew she would.

She left a beloved husband of many years, grown children - probably her greatest joy and certainly her proudest accomplishment - and she left many good friends. For me, while our contact was sporadic, our friendship was constant...not one that required frequent contact, for when we were in touch, it was as if no time had passed. She had a full and busy life, and mine took me in another direction personally, professionally and geographically, but that shared experience of our young adulthood was our common ground. I'll always treasure that time we shared many decades ago and I'll miss her. I wish I had known she wasn't doing well so I could have told her how important she was to me in my young life and how much I wish we could have spent more time in touch over the decades. But, alas, it was not to be...

So as I look ahead to Thanksgiving, I think about those who filled my holiday table over the years, parents and elder family members now gone; a few dear friends now gone, too. The memories of those good times provide the frame of reference for my life. Those who will surround holiday tables now become more important to me than ever. They are the new "family," and are part of my new reality.

As you enjoy your Thanksgiving, look around at those near you. Celebrate them and the good fortune to experience a special holiday that's all about giving thanks. I know I will.

October 28, 2011

Winter in October?

Well, here we are, barely one month into autum and we were slammed with a freak snowstorm yesterday (October 28), dropping about 2 inches on the ground...and it stuck! Oh, yes, it stuck, indeed. It's a veritable winter wonderland with autumn leaves still on the trees...crazy!

If this is what we get in the middle of autumn, I wonder what winter will bring?

October 5, 2011

And here we are the midst of yet another new season. Fortunately, I adore autumn. It's probably my favorite season of all, and here in the Northeast, it just doesn't get any better. The air is cooler - crisp, even - and, best of all, the scenery is wonderfully colorful. (Contrary to popular opinion, New England - while certainly lovely - does not have the corner on the market for brilliant fall foliage. We here in upstate New York have some of the most spectacular displays of leaves you'll find anywhere in the's magnificent!) Beyond the foliage, our fine, local New York State apples are available in abundance, along with pumpkins and all manner of interesting-looking squashes and gourds. It's just the best time of year here.

It seems that the leaves, like me, are taking their sweet time in changing into their fall wardrobe this year, too. It has been fairly warm in September, and no real hard frost to start the process in earnest, so I think we'll have a longer and more colorful season than last year, when autumn seemed to arrive early and leave fairly quickly. Tonight we'll be entertaining the possibility of some frost, so perhaps that will kick-start the process. We'll see.

Unfortunately, I don't have any readily available shots of autumn color yet, but I will try to take some to post. What I have seen, at dusk, on several occasions, were the local deer friends, who have figured out that the crab apple tree at the edge of the lawn is starting to drop its fruit on the ground...perfect for an evening snack! (Of course, I haven't captured any images of the deer, either, but I saw a doe and older fawn early this morning at the edge of the adjacent field, so they're clearly lingering in the woods adjacent to the lawn.)

Here's one shot I just took (a few days after I uploaded this post) as the sun was setting. (This is the view from my kitchen window, facing east.)

Wish I could say the rest of the landscape is as brilliant as this, but it's just not that vibrant in many areas...too much rain this summer, no early frost followed by more warmth to bring up the colors, so the colors are a little on the mundane side, I'm afraid.

When I pulled into the driveway a few days ago after being out for the day, I encountered a veritable gaggle of wild turkeys strutting through the yard. I hadn't seen them in many months, but am very glad they're about, and expect to see them again as the season evolves.

Hoping your autumn is as lovely as mine in the Northeast!

September 18, 2011

California Dreamin'

At this time a week ago, I was basking in the sunshine of southern California, visiting family in San Diego. After a tough week that saw certain areas of eastern upstate New York completely devastated by the relentless rains from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, that caused unbelievable damage from torrential flooding, it was a relief to leave it all behind. (Fortunately, my area and my home were essentially unaffected by the rains, but none of us in upstate feels immune when so many of us were so horribly affected by the devastation these storms wrought.)

Before I hit what is reported to be one of the most temperate climates in the entire U.S. in San Deigo, I traveled to the area of northern California - the central coast area, to be precise - that is arguably one of the most beautiful regions in the country - the Monterey Peninsula.

It's a bit of a long story why I was there, but suffice it to say I'd never been there and the area has been on my personal "bucket list" of destinations for many years. When the opportunity to go west presented itself, and the imperative to visit family began to jive with a slightly longer itinerary, I promptly added Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey to my trip planning. I'm so glad I did.

I mean, seriously, can you believe this incredible landscape? Now, don't get me wrong, I love the beautiful lush greenness of the Hudson Valley of upstate New York - it is beyond gorgeous here, but, I have to say, the dramatic views on the central California coast, at Carmel and Monterey, are just breathtaking. It's always impressive to be looking due west out to the Pacific Ocean and to see the waves crashing and splashing up against the rugged shoreline.

It was a relatively quick trip - out and back within five days - but I covered a lot of territory, from Carmel and Monterey in the north, to San Diego in the south. I had a great time and I can't wait to return to Carmel as soon as I get the next utterly beautiful there.

Once in a while, it's good to get out of the neighborhood and out of one's comfort zone and go somewhere new and different, or just distant, to gain some perspective, and perhaps a greater appreciation of what one has. I've always found it helpful to look beyond the familiar to find new joys in life...sometimes it's as simple as a change of scenery.

September 3, 2011

Summer Resolutions and a Labor Day Lament

In keeping with what seems to be my once-monthly posting schedule, I'm back. It's September, and Labor Day weekend at that.

As it happened, I looked out at my beautiful south-facing view from the laptop desk (yes, it's on a desk, not my lap) early this morning and noticed that the gently rising sun was illuminating the treetops in the distance. The barely sunlit trees revealed just the very faintest little hint of changing color. (See the round-topped maple tree just left of center in the distance in the photo below? Oh, yes, it's definitely showing hints of a warm gold starting to emerge there.)

We had some very hot days in early July, but most of the summer has been predictably warm, but pleasant overall. The evenings, as expected in late August, have started to get much cooler, so by early, pre-dawn hours, I'm sensing the arrival of fall in the air. Not cold, mind you, it's just cool and gradually getting cooler. Alas, the leaves are beginning to tell their pre-autumn tale.

This has been a strange summer for me. Those 13 or so of you who have been following might recall that I had plans to relocate to points south. Well, as with many plans we make these days, those have changed, too.

I had some serious ambivalence about a major, and permanent, relocation to a very hot and humid climate. There was, and still is much to recommend shaking up the status quo, but, practical realities dictated that moving 1,000 miles or so from my home state, home region, and hometown (nearby) wasn't the smart thing to do right now. The emotional realities are even more compelling. I love the landscape here, its seasonal changes, its beautiful greenery and gorgeous terrain. I live in a lovely rural area that many people adore as an escape from the harshness of the urban centers of New York City and Boston. I love the history and the culture of this place and the cultural resources of this region of the U.S. There is so much right in and around my area to see and enjoy. I also realized that, bottom line, I really am a dyed-in-the-wool upstate New Yorker and a true Northeasterner. Given a choice of where to live, I would rather stay here for so many solid reasons.

So, I can report now that any relocation plans have been moved firmly to the back burner, and most likely will be removed from that "stove-top" entirely. That said, I wouldn't resist the option of spending the harshest winter months in a warmer climate. I would absolutely relish it, but I don't want to spend summer months there. It's just waaaaay too hot down south in summer for this Northeastern cold-blood!

So, I'm staying put, and I'm just as glad about that as I was at the prospect of pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere to escape the winter's blast here in the Northeast. But, my most important resource - my support system of great friends - remains here. I have no family remaining anywhere in the state, so I must say, there were a few occasions when I relied heavily upon that solid support system to assist me with a few unexpected events this summer. I'd literally have been lost (or at least seriously, and potentially expensively, inconvenienced) without them. Sure, I can make new connections in a new place, but I can't replace the good friends who go back 20, 30, and some 40 years and longer. That's really not something to dismiss lightly. They're precious resources, those great, good friends, so I don't minimize their importance in my life.

Along those lines, one of the major events of the early summer (well, late spring, really) was a significant high school reunion in late May, and the importance of lifelong connections was reaffirmed over those two lovely days and evenings. One of our 27 surviving classmates (it is, and was, a small school and a small class), a vibrant, highly creative woman, had been diagnosed only a few months earlier with and advanced-stage cancer. Still, she made the heroic effort to join us, traveling from her waterside home in Connecticut to celebrate each other and the four decades since we had graduated. She had endured the chemo, but her doctors had told her there was nothing more to be done as treatment. Needless to say, the other 13 of us who attended our reunion were so glad she felt well enough to join us, and she seemed to be very glad to be among us, as well. Although it was unspoken at our reunion - it really didn't need to be said - we all knew that it very likely would be the last time we saw her. Indeed, sadly, it was. She passed away peacefully just a week ago at the hospital near her home, and with her passing the importance of keeping one's friends close became even more profound and pointed for me. It reaffirmed that staying near where so many of my friends are located has become far more important than my escaping the cold and snows of a few months of winter here in the Northeast. Life's too short to treat those friendships so lightly.

So, enjoy your Labor Day weekend, and if you can't spend it relaxing and reminiscing with family and good friends, think about giving them a call to say hello, so you won't regret what you didn't do when you ultimately have to say one final goodbye.

August 1, 2011

Midsummer Merriment

I might have the best of intentions, but it truly is a challenge to get over here to the blog to update. It's embarrassing, particularly because I, too, follow the blogs of others, and find myself disappointed when I check in at theirs, only to find nothing has changed in the past week or so. The nerve of them! I want to be entertained regularly and I so enjoy seeing what folks have been up to, whether they're well known in their professions or just recreational bloggers as I clearly am.

So, it has been nearly a whole month and I don't have a lot to show and tell here in the blog. If you've been conscious at any point in the past two weeks, you'll know that a very humid high heat wave has affected much of the central, south and eastern US. We were not immune here in the Northeast. The only saving grace is that, while it lasted several days here, this kind of weather front (or at least its very high temperatures in the 90s and, in some cases, 100+s) is usually fairly short-lived. In due course (about 4 days), the temperature broke and we were back to normal (70s and 80s during the day, low 60s at night - truly heavenly weather). We got some rain, the typical thunderstorms blew through periodically in the course of a given day, and it just felt like the usual summer story here.

I won't dwell on how it was pretty much pointless to do anything. My home, unfortunately, does not have central air, or the capacity for window A/C units (although I do have one in storage), so I toughed it out. The good news is that, unlike many homes in the mid-south and south, we have basements and that's usually - and, in my case, was - the best place to go. It was a good 10 degrees cooler down there and I have plenty I can do there during the hottest part of the day (late afternoon) in this house.

The house here, if I hadn't mentioned it, is passive solar design from the late 1980s, so, while that's grand during the cold weather months, it becomes a literal blast furnace during a very hot, humid midsummer day...can we say "sweat box"? Oh, yeah. Yes, of course, I've put drapes over the windows, but I cannot reach all of them (some are big expanses of glass on the second story of a cathedral-ceilinged space - on the west side, of course, where the late afternoon sun literally blazes through the window - and, alas, I don't have my great big, honking extension ladder available to reach them and cover them with a shade or drape. Ugh!

The kitties are also clever enough to find their way into the cooling shade of the woods adjacent to the side yard. They come back to the house for water, but they only nibble modestly at their evening food. Seems the heat puts them off their feed, too...just as it does me. Can't blame them.

So, stay cool if it's very warm where you are, and just remind yourself, if you live in an area where it gets very cold and snowy in the winter, as I do: summer is good. It's not freezing cold and there's no ice or snow to impede your travels. These are good things.

My summertime southern view:

Happy August!

July 4, 2011

Baby, You're a Firework! - Celebrating July 4th

Happy 4th!

How did it get to be Fourth of July so soon? It seems like I was just bemoaning the overwhelming snows of winter, and - voila! - it's already early summer!

Every year, a small hamlet nearby hosts a mid-morning parade to celebrate our country's birthday. It's not a huge parade (maybe 20 minutes long), but over the 30-odd years I've been attending this parade, it has drawn an increasingly large crowd of maybe 250-300 people and stops traffic, literally, in every direction! Not too shabby for a tiny country hamlet that boasts only a very chic country store and cafe/gallery, a full-service restaurant and bar, and a post office. That's it. Two eateries and a P.O....and one very special annual July 4th parade...heh, heh.

Still, I love this parade. Even though it has become increasingly attended by non-locals, mostly "weekenders" (and their guests) from NYC (about 120 miles away), it's still a total laugh riot.

I took a few photos at the parade this year, but I found the whole thing wasn't quite as special as it was a few years ago when both two- and four-legged participants marched (or were nudged, reluctantly) through the town (hamlet) square.

Of all the photos I have taken of this parade, this very sweet young man with the most disdainful expression on his face is my favorite...priceless!

Katy Perry must have been writing about him when she sings, "Baby, you're a firework!" and this, um, parade "float" (?), with its handsome stuffed tiger lolling lethargically on a red-white-and-blue striped inner tube perched atop a red garden cart (I think), was teetering perilously as it made its way along the parade route. Hilarious!

The post-parade tradition is strawberry shortcake with a glob of real whipped cream to cap off the morning. Ahh, shortcake...a staple of Independence Day celebrations, and we're no exception here. I ask, does it get any better (or funnier) than a small, local parade to celebrate this all-American holiday? Indeed, I think not.

Now that I've cheered the patriots, and applauded the parade participants, I'm starting to have a craving for a creamy potato salad with egg...yeah, that's the ticket...think I'll go make some now...

Cheers, drive carefully, and have a happy July 4th celebration wherever you find yourself today.

June 22, 2011

New Visitors to Welcome Summer

I've posted before about the fauna that seems to enjoy the woods and nice, grassy lawn that surround this house. There are all manner of birds, especially those fun turkeys, and songbirds, hawks, crows, and the occasional pheasant, and, of course, the deer. Deer are everywhere around here. I often see them in the morning or at dusk as they wander across the lawn and through the unmowed fields that abut the yard, but I had a special treat the other morning. Suddenly, out of nowhere was....a fawn!

This is not the fawn, but it could be its mom. I took this shot yesterday, so I'm not sure, but I've seen both. I couldn't decide if she had lost (misplaced) the fawn, but it has been a while since I've seen both together. Lately, it's one or the other, but not both.

I can't figure out if the fawn is old enough to be out and about on its own, but it seems to know that it's safe here, particularly in the fenced horse paddock (where there are no horses these days). I've left the gate to the paddock open (of course), and, today, the fawn strolled out of the woods, across the back yard (which is the view I have most of the time since it's the direction I face when I'm sitting at the computer - looking to the south and out beyond the yard and horse paddock to the distant hills), and trotted over to the far side of the little barn, around the corner, through the gate and into the paddock. I saw it re-emerge in the paddock beyond the barn, but I haven't seen it come out since then, so it might have decided to hang out for the evening here. I hope so.

This is still mom - look closely at the edge of the lawn. It's the view to the north, where the mowed area of the lawn gives up to Mother Nature. Mom likes to cruise through the tall grass there for the tastiest greenery. She comes through there often.

(In the foreground is a tall, grey PVC pipe into which I placed my trotting horse weathervane that I've had at several previous homes, although it never was on a cupola, always in the yard, usually in the little spot in the lawn where a standing clothes pole once had stood. This pipe marks the location of the well head so the snow plow driver doesn't whack into it in winter. Do you think it's tall enough?! Yikes. We get a lot of snow, but not that much! It was just a big old pipe standing about 9-feet tall, smack in the center of the driveway circle, when I moved here over a year ago, so I thought it would be fun to place the weathervane on top for a little equine symbolism and amusement. I am a horsewoman, after

I'll try to shoot a photo of the fawn next time I see it, if I see it. It's so adorable (from afar) little neighborhood baby Bambi.

Happy 2nd day of Summer, everyone!

June 15, 2011

New Toys and Belated Lilacs

Regrettably, I'm still a bit slow in the posting department, so I'm just getting to downloading some images that have been in my camera for a few weeks.

In between shooting these photos and downloading them, I purchased a new laptop (finally) after months of struggling along with an ancient PC (my previous laptop having bitten the dust last summer). I can't believe it took me a year, but I suppose there's an upside to having taken my time in replacing the latter machine...prices seem to have dropped by at least 30% since my earlier purchase. That's the good news. The bad news is that my new laptop will not speak to my old PC, despite the procurement of the (supposedly) necessary cord intended to link the two and facilitate the transfer. Dang.

The result of this electronic miscommunication is that I'm slowly rebuilding my links, files, images, etc....and doing it the old fashioned way. I probably need to get a memory stick or something, but since I haven't done that, I only have access to these new photos, not to anything in my least not easily.

So, here are some lovely lilacs that bloom every May here. I cut some to bring indoors (and because I've always heard that helps generate more blossoms next year), put them in a vase and took these photos. They are so pretty and cheerful and, while I'm not a huge fan of lavender colors, this particular shade of purple is very pleasant, don't you think? I can almost smell their sweet, distinctive fragrance....ahhhhh.

May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend!

Well, there is literally no excuse...and many explanations. It has been a crazy few months and the relentless winter here in the Northeast just about did. me. in. Seriously. I'm not a huge fan of the frigid months, and, while snow is pretty, to be honest, it is not my favorite thing. I like my lawns and my trees green. So Spring was a very welcome sight here, when it finally arrived. We had one wonderful week of perfection in May, then a week of nothing but rain. It's one extreme or the other this year.

That said, I found myself saying more than once that while Spring was rather late in getting here, every blissfully mild day of May was one to relish because the hot days of Summer are not far behind. Apparently, we're getting a taste of Summer's best on this Memorial Day weekend, this "unofficial" start of the summer season. I've barely put away the snow shovel and my winter boots and I've turned on the fans and am batting at flies and other flying insects! Still, no complaints - I'm truly appreciative of every lovely, sunny day we get.

We have had our fair share of flooding here in the Northeast - not uncommon after a heavy-snow winter and spring rains - but what we see routinely up here is really relatively minor compared to the floods and staggering tornado damage in the midwest and south. My heart goes out to all those whose homes and lives were devastated by Mother Nature's ravages, and my prayers go to them, too. It's shocking to lose a loved one to a powerful storm, and a daunting task to rebuild one's life when everything you worked for decades to establish is blown to bits and scattered to the four winds. It seems to be a pattern lately - if it's not the economy and people losing jobs, livelihoods, and their roofs overhead, it's the winds blowing everything they have apart. If you've lived long enough, you know it doesn't get easier to deal with such upheaval, but hopefully the years have brought some wisdom and some consolation to those directly impacted by these forces and they will recover and forge ahead again.

I'll close with my apology, again, for the long gap between posts, and with a reminder that today is the day we honor those who have served our country over the generations to help ensure that we have choices in our lives and to help protect us from those who would have things otherwise in this world. Like so many, my dad served in the military - he enlisted, wasn't drafted - and went to England during World War II, and my mom worked for the Army as a civilian, too, before my parents met. It was life changing for Dad, for sure, and, dare I say, the efforts of all of our soldiers at home and abroad changed the course of history, and our lives as we enjoy them today, as a result. I am and always will be grateful for their service. Job well done.

Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day.

March 12, 2011

Lurking Turkeys and Other Fauna of the Forest

It's been a bit of a wildlife wonderland out here in the country. Clearly, the fauna of the forest are starting to realize that Spring is upon us (thankfully) and they've been making their presence known.

Within the past 10 days, a flock of wild turkeys appeared one day - maybe two dozen of them - and thought the seed scattered on the ground around the two bird feeders was the perfect midday snack! The kitties thought they were HUGE! (They are.)

They first arrived when we were still totally snow covered, but it has been warming up gradually and the snows have started to recede. It's just here and there now, but the shot below was taken a few days ago, when the gang came out to see the latest items on the lawn menu. This represents only about half of the birds...they were all around. Fun to see and watch.

Here's another shot under the hanging feeder just outside the window taken a week or so ago.

Of course, no sooner had the turkeys returned to the "house on the hill" (as I call my country abode), I spied a red fox - yes, a red fox - in the yard one evening after sundown. Clever thing. I'm sure where the turkeys go, the fox is sure to follow. S/he returned twice more - the next night and a day or two later, always after dark. (I did a quick kitty head count each time, just to be safe!) I tried to get a photo, of course, but, alas, it was too dark.

Several days later, two raccoons also were checking out the leftovers around the bird feeder after dark one night. On another evening, a scruffy-looking opossum was perusing the offerings. The word obviously is out in the local animal kingdom that there's an all-night buffet up here on the hill!

Spring is coming!

February 27, 2011

'Round the Bend

It's been another month since I posted, so I am compelled to check in here, if just briefly, at CC. The phrase "around the bend" has come to mind a lot in the last few days. It has both an optimistic tone - the future, better luck, a new day, etc. awaits just "around the bend" - as well as a far more ominous one - she's gone 'round the bend, lost it, is totally wackadoodle, etc. I've been feeling a little of both sentiments lately.

Yes, the future, inevitably, is just around the bend. I think that's probably a good thing since staying stuck in this day, this week, this month, with the ceaseless winter barrage of snow, sleet, rain, ice that has assualted us here in the upstate New York region of the Northeast for the past two-plus months, is not a particularly appealing option. Oh, please, let's move on, shall we?

That said, enduring Mother Nature's winter wardrobe has left me more in the latter camp of weather-induced insanity. I have felt literally snowbound and snow blind, with the land and the sky reflecting the very same shades of white and grey. Snow has accumulated in quantities I haven't seen since my childhood. It was fun back then. It is not now. Not at all. The latest downfalls have proven to be the worst kind - relentless and unbelievably heavy, laden with moisture that, under other circumstances (read: warmer temperatures), would have been pure rain. But it wasn't rain - it was very heavy, wet snow, burdening everything in its path and requiring some Herculean, repeated efforts at shoveling it out of the way. Only the trees, shrubs, buildings, and the board fences (and the buried silhouette of my car), have provided a contrast to the visual monotony of the scene, and they're all fairly heavily snow-covered, too. Enough, I say. It must stop!

To combat the doldrums this environment presents, I made a conscious effort to provide some warm colors inside the house and, fortunately, I've tricked a few unsuspecting annuals into thinking that, even though they're indoors in pots and not out on the sun-filled deck or in the planters next to the house, Spring is nearly here. I've got a big pot of bright coral geraniums sporting five - count them, five! - fully formed flowers, along with one brilliant magenta petunia flower punctuating the drabness of the exterior landscape.

These lovely flowers are like little beacons of the season to come, fragile, fleeting reminders that after the darkness (or, in our case, the eternal whiteness), there is, in fact, new life ahead. I totally faked them out, along with a tiny part of the deep recesses of my brain that needs some assurance that warmer, sunnier days are, indeed, just around that literal and theoretical bend.

January 30, 2011

Cure for Cabin Fever

It has been a busy month (when isn't it a busy month?!), but I'm taking a momentary break from the fray to share a few shots of the snow-covered terrain around the country house, an unexpected (but not surprising) visitor, and a bit of winter brilliance.

It's old, but, seemingly, ongoing news that the Northeast has been bombarded with heavy snows. There appears to be no let-up in sight either. (It is, obviously, midwinter.) We're pretty accustomed to heavy snows in these parts, but some years are far worse than others. (Last year was a snowfall cake-walk compared to this winter.) I've mentioned this before, but the good news is that we're well equipped to deal with it before it comes and throughout its duration - which is more than can be said for other parts of the mid-south and south, that are paralyzed by it, so things calm down as soon as the falling snow departs.

Here are a few shots of the most recent arrival, about a week or so ago:

An unexpected visitor strolled by with a friend the other was bitterly cold, so I hope they were able to find some nourishment and protection in the woods next to the house...

Still, I'm not a fan of the white stuff. It's pretty when it first arrives at the start of the season (just before Christmas is nice), but, after about month, I've usually had enough. There's only so much shoveling and path-clearing I (and my muscles) can tolerate. I like my roads clear and dry, too, so, not being a "winter sports" enthusiast (I don't ski, snowboard, snowshoe and I haven't skated since childhood and don't care to go there again), I'm pretty much done with it at this point. After what, according to the weather experts, has been the eighth snowiest winter on record here in upstate New York (and still counting), I'm more than ready for Spring to come - much sooner than later, too, please!

A very dear friend recently made a holiday venture of potting up some flower bulbs - paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis - that she put in pretty containers and placed in a local consignment shop for sale. I gave her a number of extra white, hobnail glass planters that I had accumulated (since I've been clearing out the family home for the past month) along with some others of a suitable size and style that I picked up for her at my local Goodwill. It was, all told, a modestly successful initiative, but what my sweet friend didn't tell me was that she also intended to return one of my glass pots, containing a beautiful, big amaryllis bulb already started in potting soil, to me as a Christmas gift. It was a lovely gesture, and the nicest part was that the visual gratification would be delayed by a month, when the stalk and flowers gradually would emerge. Emerge they did and it has been a glorious sight watching the deep, coral-colored blooms slowly unfold and brighten some of these bleak snowy days of winter:

It's an affirmation that Spring is indeed coming...I know it is.

January 17, 2011

New Year, New Look

As the handful of you who are regulars here will note, in the interest of a new year and new beginnings, I've given the blog a major face-lift (blog-lift?). I loved the old design, its warm and toasty pumpkin plaid and turquoise, but with a new year comes a desire to clear the decks, clean the closets and get a jump-start on Spring cleaning.

As with a room in one's home, I wanted to shift away from things that are too fussy and pare down to a more simple, more sleek and - dare I say it? - a more elegant look and feeling. So, here, today, I give you the new and hopefully more contemporary version of Country Contemporary.

It's funny how styles, whether in fashion or interior design, are so cyclical, with things that were once new and trendy relegated to the back room and things that were, perhaps at another earlier time, so fashionable, have come to the forefront once again.

Now, as I prepare to leave, once and for all, my family's home of 50 years - a fine example of a mid-century modern ranch with international style references that was the cutting edge of contemporary style in 1958 - it has struck me as somewhat ironic that things with such classic, mid-century style and lines have returned to the forefront.

There always will be a strong affinity for the traditional home, but there is a place for "modern" in the mix. I'm not talking so much about the usual 1950s "kitschiness" as much as the low, sleek lines of a 1960s or 1970s contemporary sofa - simple, linear, and uncomplicated. I'm not a connoissoeur of such style as much as I merely am an observer of this style evolution, as one who lived through that earlier era that influenced much of my personal aesthetic when I set out on my own as a young adult.

As these trends change, so, too, does the world of Country Contemporary, the blog, evolve -- as well it should. I'll be tweaking a few more things on the blog as we go forward...eliminating some of the visual and audio clutter (I'll replace the buttons with links shortly, so you still can find some of the other blogs I admire and enjoy) and tightening up the graphics. (I've removed the music for the moment until I can find a way for it to be more seamless in presentation - it was seriously slowing down the upload at my end.)

As things progress here, I hope you'll continue to join me from time to time along this appealing, and hopefully interesting, new path.

January 14, 2011

For the (Winter) Birds...

Snow, snow, snow...the latest Nor'Easter to hit upstate New York left us with a fairly substantial calling card, but it didn't deter the birds who have made my bird feeder their daily source of food.  Good thing I filled it up before the last storm.

I heard on the news yesterday that it's only 65 (now 64) days until Spring (March 20).  That's encouraging - only two months to go - and the daylight is lasting just a bit longer than it did two months ago.  It's no longer dark as night at 5pm (always a tough transition for me to accommodate) and we've rounded the bend back toward warm sun, lush green trees and grass, and longer daylight days and evenings...aaahhhh!

I've put away most of the holiday decorations and have transitioned to just those generic "midwinter" items.  I like to keep the symbols of winter - natural pine cones and some evergreens - as my literal and figurative references and decorative gestures. 

The nice thing is that the brilliant ruby reds of the holidays make the transitional color thread right to Valentine's Day.  It's just the shot of color I need in the house to brighten these sometimes bleak, snow-covered winter days.  I've even pulled the Valentine's and Easter boxes out of storage as I plan the pieces what I want to bring out that will carry me visually and psychically through the winter and right up to the very edge of Spring.