Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ireland - Installment III

4:30 a.m. New Year's Eve 2019

It's very blustery outside and the temperature has sunk overnight from a steady three days in the mid 50s to a present 32 degrees and headed down into the twenties tonight. The past two days have been rainy and rather miserable for late December in Ohio when we usually have snow. I've worn my raincoat with the lining buttoned in more this month than I did in Ireland where all the travel literature told me that I should be prepared for rain in September! I wore that raincoat once to dash from our B&B in Doolin across the street to the pub for supper. The rest of the time it was just taking up baggage space that could have been used to bring home more lovely Irish woolens.
Murphy's Pub and B&B, Dingle
On our second leg of the trip we drove around the Dingle peninsula towards Dingle Town where we would be staying three nights. Rich had been really looking forward to this because we would be staying at Murphy's Pub B&B where our room would be over the actual pub. We all know what was on his mind here, I'm sure.  Three nights of imbibing in Irish beer and cider, sampling the fish and chips and then being able to stumble up the stairs to our room. No worrying about driving after the party.

Murphy's is right on the strand across from the harbour at Dingle and in the midst of all the tourist shops and Dingle Bay cruise ports. As with all of the pubs we encountered along the way there is music every night of the week.  Dingle Town itself is very much geared to tourists and the streets are crowded every day. Parking at Murphy's is in the back and a bit tricky with the twists and turns to maneuver into (see Installment I about not getting a larger car). And you have to climb a flight of steps with your luggage.

The really big attraction for Dingle is Fungi, the local Dolphin, who has been living in Dingle Bay since 1983 and puts on such a show that several short cruise lines have sprung up centered solely on viewing him. He is so reliable in his appearances that they offer a money-back "guarantee" if you don't spot Fungi while you're out in the bay on the boat.

Fungi statue, Dingle Town center

We couldn't go to Dingle without taking one of the hour long cruises and I will admit, it was impressive. On the way out to the rocky, cavernous area where Fungi lives we passed some colorful kayakers and several other cruise boats creating a festive atmosphere.

Fungi did not disappoint. Our boat idled just offshore along with the kayakers and other cruise boats and after just a short while the dolphin surfaced and began swimming around amongst the various watercraft. He never jumped full out of the water that day but put on a show for us by keeping us guessing where he would surface next, spurting water and air from his blow hole. I took very few photos and videos, caught up as was everyone else, with trying to guess where he would appear next.

 In Dingle we also met a man with a donkey and a dog, quite a colorful trio, who set up each morning the main square. On the second day in Dingle, Rich went out for his early morning walk while leaving me to prepare for the day ahead. He arrived back in the room, excited to show me what he had discovered in the square. I must admit it was a delightful surprise to find a small gypsy wagon and a gentle donkey just outside the pub. 

The fish and chips that Rich ordered most often were delicious because of the proximity to the sea and freshness of the seafood. I usually ordered some traditional Irish dish for supper but stuck with the seafood chowder for lunch. I think that we both agreed that Dingle had by far the best fish and chips. Two of our favorites were Sheehy's Anchor Down for both seafood chowder and fish and chips and Harrington's for fish and chips. Harrington's came in ahead of Sheehy's but only by a nose.

Harrington's fish and chips
Although there are quite a few pubs in Dingle Town, I think our best experience was at Paudie's Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel. The "Blowin' Ins," a trad(itional) duo were playing that night and are apparently popular in the area. Along with a pub full of tourists and locals, we enjoyed their music and maybe a half-pint or two of Guinness. I discovered that their superb Irish coffee paired well with the sticky toffee pudding as an after dinner treat.

During our wandering around the hilly streets of Dingle we also discovered Foxy John's Pub, a hardware store/pub combination, and Dick Mack's Pub where we had a beer in the "snug," a cozy little area that was partitioned off from the crowd. Many of the older pubs had snugs where tradition has it that the local women sat to chat, business was conducted in private or couples had some privacy while courting.

The "snug" at Dick Mack's Pub
 We had originally planned to stay at Murphy's for three nights but being someone who needs her sleep in order to fully enjoy the next day's activities (see paragraph 3 above, i.e. music all night) we decided to move on a bit along the Ring of Kerry  and stay the third night in a different B&B in Ventry. The drive from Dingle to Ventry took us along the Ring of Kerry where we had a couple of unplanned stops along the way. We arrived early in Ventry and decided to travel up to Slea Head which we had been told was even more scenic than the Ring of Kerry. Slea Head did not disappoint. Running along the bay with a steep drop off on the left (my side, remember) I was breathless for most of the route and not just in awe of the view! 

Traveling on our own as opposed to an organized tour allowed us to make impromptu stops along the way. One of them was the site of the ruins of a famine house, built in the mid 1800s. The house and its history brought home to us the tragedy of the potato famine and the horrible conditions that sparked the great Irish migration to other parts of the world. We were also able to stop at the ruins of a ring fort and beehive homes believed to have been built in the 11th century at about the time of the Norman Invasion. (don't quote me on this one as I found different sources all saying something different.)

Famine House 

A Chochan (beehive home) within a ring fort  at Fahan

I will say that the hike up the hill is not for the faint of heart. At first I wasn't sure that I was going to tackle it as I stared up the steep, rocky and winding path. I let Rich go ahead of me while I pondered my dilemma. In the end, given that there was a handrail on the path, I haltingly made my way up each hill and wasn't sorry that I did. Each location was fascinating in it's own right. The people who lived and worked up those hills earned my respect as they were much heartier than I. 

The view and Rich's new friend at the Famine House
At the end of each day I had been consulting my Fitbit, proud that I had been racking up at least 10,000-11,000 steps each day. At the end of this day I was dismayed to find only 5,000+ steps. I was positive that it had been more. Upon checking the number of staircases that I had climbed (a stairway is both up and down to be counted as one) I found that my Fitbit had been calculating those hills as stairways!

The Plough in Ventry is located high atop a rocky hill on the Dingle Peninsula overlooking Dingle Bay. The lawn area was charming and the view spectacular! In the house itself the decor was in a word, crowded, and the hostess was less than welcoming. I'll leave my review for TripAdvisor.

The next day we would be headed to Kenmare and a stay at The Shelburn Lodge.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ireland - Installment II

Doolin, a small, mostly tourist, village near the Cliffs of Moher and about an hour's drive from Shannon Airport was our first scheduled stop over in Ireland. We arrived there well before check in time at our b&b so we drove around the area a bit just to check things out. Since we traveled in September the tourist trade was very light and the streets not very crowded so our first impression was of a charming, picturesque Irish village. Rich, still becoming accustomed to the differences in driving, decided to venture out of town for a look around the countryside. We decided to stop for a mid-afternoon snack at a charming looking little tea room, The Stone Cutter's Kitchen, where I had my first taste of tea and scones, and the famous Irish hospitality. The somewhat rickety, mismatched tables and chairs only added to the authenticity of the little cafe. Our server was a lovely young woman who spent quite a bit of time chatting with us. She seemed surprised when we remarked on the narrow road and informed us that it was one of the larger highways in Ireland!

Fortified, we drove back to Doolin for check in at our b&b, Cois na hAbhann (Cush nah Own, by the river) where were met by a friendly, blue eyed husky named Mishka.  Our host, Brian, came out to the parking lot to greet us and help carry in our bags.  He led us down a short hall way to our room at the back of the house. We found it to be a comfortable,  light and airy room with views of the hilltop where contented cows were grazing and a small, stone wall encircled lot at the side. Brian showed us the breakfast room and pointed out the tea and coffee station that was available 24-7 and Dimpna, his wife, came out from the kitchen to welcome us. After a few minutes of easy conversation they both felt like old friends that we hadn't seen for a bit.

View from our window at Cois n hAbhann

Since it was a beautiful, sunny day and we had time before dinner, Brian advised us to go see the nearby Cliffs of Moher. So our  first real touristy excursion was to the famous Cliffs of Moher and as I mentioned earlier, as we traveled in the off-season, it wasn't at all crowded. It was, however, an exceptionally windy day and we chose to walk up the more civilized paved stairway on the shoreline facing the cliffs instead of hiking the path over the cliffs themselves. We had heard so many stories of tourists who got blown off the cliffs by strong gusts on windy days. It was a wise choice. Rich, who is more firmly anchored to this earth than I, walked all the way to the top. I chose to stop half way, sheltered by a shoulder-high stone wall, since some of the gusts had caught me by surprise and sent me off balance. The Cliffs of Moher were still an awesome sight from afar.

Atlantic Ocean over my shoulder

The Cliffs of Moher
Once again, overlooking the cliffs, cows appeared to be clinging to the rocky hills!

Once again, overlooking the cliffs, cows appeared to be clinging to the rocky hills!

After our long flight, drive from the airport and hike up to the cliffs, we settled in for a short snooze before dinner, pulling the curtains on the daylight. When we woke up very hungry two hours later to the sound of gentle rain on our window and pulled back the curtains we found that the "vacant" lot outside our window wasn't as empty as it had been upon our arrival. The cows had began coming down off the hill and into the small pasture for the evening and this is what I saw when I pulled back the curtain.

Same view two hours later!

Brian had recommended Fitzpatrick's pub which was a short walk next door across an intersection on the corner. Like most of the pubs we found that there was music every night from about 6 or 7 pm. This first night a musician named Jimmy, played traditional Irish music on the guitar with an occasional classic rock, i.e. James Taylor, thrown in. Fitz's, as Brian affectionately called it, was cozy, dark wood paneled bar with an open fireplace. The first evening we sat at a table for delicious dinner of traditional Irish fish and chips. Rich ordered this quite often on our trip with the aim of rating the "Best Fish and Chips" in Ireland. I, on the other hand, decided right away to order a variety of seafood and other traditional Irish dishes. The seafood all along The Wild Atlantic Way was, of course, fresh and very delicious. I had my first full pint of Guinness that evening and decided that I would take the half-pint option from then on. Maybe it was the fact that I was hungry and still jet-lagged tired or maybe it was the unaccustomed alcohol content, but the Guinness went straight to my head and made me quite giggly!

After a welcome and very comfortable night's sleep we woke up to a sunny morning and this critter staring in the window! All of the cows had wandered down to the pasture and quite a few of them were nursing their calves. Brian told me at breakfast that he had, "paid a premium" for that feature! Dymna prepared a traditional Irish breakfast for us, eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomato and blood sausage. Very delicious except for the blood sausage for which neither Rich nor I developed the palate.

We headed out to The Burren, 96 to 135 square miles, depending upon your sources, of glacial karst, exposed limestone. While 96 miles of limestone doesn't sound very exciting it was absolutely fascinating and probably one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland. This area borders the Wild Atlantic Way and is designated a national park of sorts. The first stop along the way was on my list of absolute must sees.

Scene from The Burren
Poulnabrone dolman, portal tomb, is the oldest recorded megalithic burial site in Ireland and the second largest of its kind. It's so difficult to describe the feeling that came over me as I stood before a man-made object that had been built over 6,000 years ago in such a desolate looking area. Mystical, magic, awed, speechless. I stood before it marveling first that humans could have eked out an existence on this rocky landscape let alone dig a grave where over 33 remains were found, one an infant, along with the everyday items for use in the afterlife that were buried with them. I could have stayed all day pondering the resilience of these ancient human beings.

Poulnabrone and a non-megalathic, Rich
At breakfast Brian had recommended that we stop at The Burren Perfumery, a small perfume and cosmetic shop located deep in the Burren. So we headed that direction from the portal tomb. Following the directions on the SatNav since we would never have found it by chance, we wound our way through multiple unmarked by-ways, each one narrower than the next, until we arrived at this amazing fairy tale shop.

I found The Burren Perfurmery to be such a fascinating place with the neat little sales room, the tea shop and the actual work room/lab, that I could have stayed there all day; lived there even. The women of the Perfumery create organic cosmetics and scents using the naturally occurring flora and fauna of The Burren added to organic base materials like anise seed oil, glycerin and macadamia oil. Visitors could actually peek into the lab and watch the creation of these wonderful products. I purchased several soaps and lotions while there and when I got home I ordered more online. Rich enjoyed the products of the bakery and tea room more so than the shop!

As our day on The Burren came to an end we headed back into Doolin. On the drive back we discovered this ruin of an old manor house with no signs or markings at all. But for the locator on our iPhones we would never have known that it was Leahmanah Castle, a 17th century mansion with a 15th century tower house near Kilfenora. All over Ireland we saw so many unmarked ruins that were obviously as old or older than this one. Had we stopped to snap pictures and research each one we would still be in Ireland. Not such a bad thought, really.

From here we drove back to Cois n hAbhann and a short rest before dinner at Ivy Cottage in Doolin and more "trad" music and drinks and conversation at the bar in "Fitzy's." After a second night at the delightful Cois n hAbhann we would be heading on to Dingle where Funghi awaited.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ireland - Installment I

I can't believe that it's been over two months since Rich and I took our big vacation to Ireland. And yet, here we are preparing for the holidays. It took me the whole first month, working an hour here and an hour or two there, to transfer and organize all of our photographs. Rich and I each took so many on our phones that I had to sort and delete and sort some more. The picture of the thatched cottage by the shore is one that seems iconic to me. Even though most of the small homes along the coastline are newer versions, this one looked to me like something one sees in those old movies like The Quiet Man.  Everywhere we went was so picturesque and lovely that it was deserving of our photography.

We flew into Shannon airport, much smaller than Dublin, where we'd been advised by our AAA agent that it would be easier to drive out of and get to our first destination, Doolin in County Clare near the cliffs of Moher. Considering that in Ireland they drive on the left we decided that might be the more prudent option. I do have one or two bits of advice for anyone looking to plan a trip to Ireland. After the long flight from Newark airport we were understandably tired and just wanted to get the smaller car that we had reserved and get on the road to our destination an hour or so away. When Rich queued up to get the car he told the agent that we had reserved a mid-sized, standard shift car with GPS (SatNav in Ireland), $12/day extra. "For just $25 per day more we could have a BMW that came equipped with SatNav and automatic steering." Without a second thought Rich agreed. (Keep in mind, we were both exhausted and excited to be on the road.)

Coming out of the airport and on to the main highway was fairly easy as the main highway was four lanes wide and well marked albeit a bit narrower than our four lane roads. It was startling to see large semis and tour buses coming towards us on the "wrong" side of the road but Rich, who did the driving, quickly got used to it. Great! Then the SatNav told us to exit at an upcoming route. No problem finding that, but here's where the rude awakening occurred. What was a regional highway there was more like the country road we live on! Except, and this is a big exception, there were no berms or easements on either side of the road. There were tall, dense hedges sometimes with very solid stone walls embedded in them creating a maze-like effect. But, because it was considered a main route there were still tour buses and semis coming at us, as well as cars.

The back roads that often led to some of our destinations were often only one lane with the same hedges and stone walls on either side. On those roads we encountered the same traffic but with the addition of farm vehicles hauling wagon loads of hay and such. On those roads someone had to back up to the nearest driveway or intersection in order the oncoming traffic to pass. As far as we could tell there is no set etiquette rule for who should back up but those tour bus drivers are pretty aggressive and that huge bus windshield means that the driver's expression and gestures are highly visible. I'll give you one guess as to who was going to back up.

 Don't even get me started on the round-a-bouts, confusing enough in the states but more so when you have to remember to "look right and go left," a phrase Rich heard all too often from the passenger seat!  I also learned that the "Traffic Calming" signs did not mean that drivers were very chill. No, far from it. It only meant that traffic was slowing down ahead, usually for a school zone or something similar. After the first two days of driving, Rich politely informed my that my constant loud gasping wasn't helping much. Good news though, we're not planning a divorce any time in the future.

So my bits of advice for car rental and driving in Ireland:
         1. Don't let the car rental agency talk you into a larger car!!!!!
         2. Be sure to get a GPS (SatNav) and automatic steering if possible
         3. Speed limit signs are big white disks with a red border and are in KPH; the speedometer on the car was in both KPH and MPH so be sure to look at the right one or you'll be going too fast!
         4. Save change for tolls.
         5. At the Round-abouts look right, go left.
         6. Driving in Kinsale is not for the faint of heart. More about that in a later post.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Do The Right Thing!

After lying awake for the past hour pondering a disturbing event that occurred in the field adjacent to our yard (and partly from a nagging pain from a surgical procedure that I had Thursday. Not to worry, nothing serious.) I decided that my blog was the appropriate place to write about something upsetting that ended up making me very proud of Rich.

I had donned my jammies and robe shortly after dinner because of the minor discomfort I was feeling so soon after surgery when I heard a gunshot nearby, followed by a squealing so loud and continuous that I had to get up and check the source. I looked out of the north and east windows in the living room and saw nothing. Our alpacas were screeching their warnings and all facing toward the west as they do when there is something going on that they don't like. This prompted me to step out on the front porch where I witnessed a group of three young men standing around the edge of the field chatting.

I followed their gaze about 10 feet or so into the field where I saw a large hog on its side writhing and squealing in pain. One of the young men stood in the group holding his rifle at rest by his side. It was clear that a hog had escaped from the local pig farm about a quarter of a mile down the road and across the corner  and their solution had been to kill it. Only it wasn't dead. It was suffering while these young men looked on and a young lady sat in the truck waiting.

As I stood there on the front porch, my husband, Rich, strode across the lawn with the meanest scowl on his face. If you know Rich, you know that he is a kind and gentle man who rarely gets angry, but he was Angry. He marched up to the group of boys and said, steadily, "Aren't you going to finish it off and put it out of its misery?"

To which the youth with the rifle replied, callously, "It will eventually bleed out."

Standing his ground, Rich asked, "Don't you have another bullet in that thing?"

"Yeah," the kid replied dully.

"Well use it!" Rich stood there glaring into the young man's face. The kid glared back for a fraction of a second until realizing that Rich meant what he said before he plodded back out to the hog muttering obscenities under his breath, and put a second bullet through his head, finally killing it.

The young men got into their noisy truck and sped off back down the road to the hog farm. A short while later they drove the noisy truck back, gunning the engine as they passed our house. This is the same truck that often passes by way too fast in an attempt to break some sort of speed record from the stop sign on the corner on their way to the hog farm. Rich came into the house to calm down.

A short while later the young girl who lives at the hog farm came down in a front-end-loading tractor to collect the dead hog and take it to (I assume) the lime pit that every hog farm is required to have in order to dispose of hogs that die in their care. Those  young men didn't even have the guts to stay and clean up.

Now we have grandchildren about the same age as those young men so I know better than to paint "all" young people with the same brush. And I know that those piglets that are shipped in to the farm down the road on a regular basis and shipped out as full grown hogs, are not pets but are destined to become the bacon that I occasionally enjoy on my breakfast table. But I also know that these animals deserve to be treated and killed humanely when it is necessary to do so, and what I witnessed out in that field was anything but humane. It was very disturbing to watch three young men standing around watching that hog suffer needlessly when they had the power to end that suffering.

Maybe some of my readers will have a different take on this incident. I don't know and don't much care. But I do know that I was never more proud of my husband when he, steely eyed, stared down that rifle toting young man and told him in no uncertain terms to do the right thing.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Signs of the Season Ahead

Is it because you live in the country that you become so attuned to the subtle changes in the weather? I've never been a "real" farmer like so many friends around us, but after eighteen years living deep in northern Ohio farmland, I've begun to notice the subtle changes in the air long before each new season is officially upon us. For example, one day in late February the temperature reached a high of 35 degrees from 21 in early morning. Still a bit chilly for one to call it Spring. But the daylight, expanding in length at that time, was different, somehow.

Soon after that, around the first week of March, I saw my first buzzard, a sure sign of spring, and the birds actually began to sing loudly in the morning as the still chilly sunlight appeared over the fields and woods. Over a week ago I spotted my favorite red winged black bird on our way over to Tiffin. For me, that means spring is here. Last week Rich found the beginnings of a nest in the wisteria vine over the deck. He gets rid of those quickly because to let it be completed means a constant battle with bird poo on the deck all summer long.

Large farm machinery has occasionally been cruising down the road past our country cottage, some on their way to be serviced and a few shiny new ones headed to their new homes. This is a busy time for Deere, Case and other machinery dealers as farmers need to get their equipment ready for planting. Down the road the farmer was shelling a field of last year's corn harvest while the ground was still frozen and dry.

Two weeks ago we spent some time with our friends, Dan and Karen, in Washington D.C. where they have a winter home near their grandkids. The daffodils were blooming in Arlington National Cemetery and hardy pansies were already planted around many of the public buildings. Although we were a week or two two soon for  the cherry blossoms it was lovely to see other blooming things. Out in front near the picket fence our daffodils are still only sprouted a couple of inches. They seem a bit late this year. I've been stuck inside with a nasty case of bronchitis for the past  couple of weeks so Rich brought home some lovely pink tulips to cheer me up. I'm much better now thanks to modern medicine.

My eyes are always closed in pics!

I have no  new pictures of the "kids" since I've been stuck inside so I'll leave you with this January picture of Asteri. She's one of our 2018 crias and of the two is the most curious and people friendly, always approaching the gate or window with her curious little hum. Come on out to the farm and see for yourself how much is going on this spring.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Thermal Whiplash And Other Related Weather Terms

I read in the paper the other day that the Polar Vortex is separating. Apparently the Moroccan heat has come between and separated the parts of the Vortex somehow. According to the article this forced the Moroccan heat north over the Arctic. Although I don't completely understand this colorful explanation I do understand that excessive heat in the Arctic means icebergs begin melting and this is what global warming really means. So although we have had subzero temperatures and fierce wind (more on that later), somewhere very far to the north of us there is ice melting and contributing to the rise of sea levels and displacement of polar bears and other creatures. It's bad for us and really bad for them.

One thing that I quickly learned when I moved to lived in the country eighteen years ago is that out here, chatting about the weather is not merely "small talk." As a city girl, I knew that when the conversation lagged one could always turn to talk about the weather to keep things going. In Ohio, after all, the weather is constantly surprising us. But out here in the country one can see the immediate and direct effect weather has on our economy and our life every day. So when farmers get together the weather is always a topic of conversation. The amounts of precipitation in the winter, snow, rain or whatever form it takes, has a direct effect on the crops that will be planted in the spring.

Closer to home, our alpacas, indigenous to the high planes of the Peruvian Andes, are able to withstand and even enjoy most winter weather. We provide shelter, whether it be our small barn or three sided "condos" (sheds). The animals always have the option to go inside or stay outside and under normal winter circumstances males and females stay outside within sight of each other. Because of their extremely long and dense fleece we have found them kushing in the barnyard with a couple of inches of snow on their backs after sleeping out all night. No problem.

On Saturday night, January 19th we had overnight temperatures sinking to near zero and high winds out of the north, making the wind chill factor well below zero. Our three geldings stayed snug and warm huddled in their condo and all the mamas and babies stayed in the back of the barn, snuggled down in the straw that Rich had spread for all of the animals. Our beautiful black herd sire, Mocha, because he is an intact male, has a pasture and shelter of his own up against the barn. He stayed huddled inside but unfortunately, instead of placing his well fleeced backside to the wind, he faced outward, toward the nearby barn door, where he knew the girls were huddled. It's purely instinct for the herd sire to protect his harem. When Rich came out early Sunday he found Mocha, still kushed and facing the barn door, head encrusted with icy snow, shivering, still guarding his girls.

We had worried about him being alone but felt that his survival instinct would make him sleep facing the barn, rear to the storm. Unfortunately his protective instinct was stronger and he had been looking out for his girls. Of course, Rich, immediately moved the poor guy into a makeshift stall in the barn and hung a heat lamp to help him warm up. His stall was adjacent to the girls' area where he could see them and yet couldn't get in to "pester" them, if you get my drift. Everyone was happy.

Today the weather channel reports that the temperatures are warming and that we are in for a "thermal whiplash" whatever that is. Mocha has been returned to his own area of the barnyard. The girls have been set free from the barn and the geldings are happily watching them from their adjoining pasture. Everyone is enjoying the great outdoors and the lovely new covering of snow that fell last night.

You may notice that our Leezza has fully recovered from her pre-Christmas bout with anemia and is gaining weight and growing fleece. She has been wearing her red coat to help her retain warmth throughout this cold snap and within the next few days we will be removing it when the temperature rises high enough. He fleece is shorter than usual this year and very brittle as a result of her illness. That means that it will only be useful for felted insoles and not knitting yarn. But we are so glad that she and her little Artemis are thriving after such a close brush with death.

I certainly hope the parts of the Polar Vortex can resolve their differences and get back together, letting the Moroccan heat travel southward to warm us up a bit. I don't know about you all but I am hoping for a cloudy day tomorrow so that old Buckeye Chuck  stays outside to play in the snow and maybe spring will arrive a bit sooner than usual!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Snow Day Dreaming

The snow began as a light flurry around eight o'clock this morning and has continued to build in density and wind velocity for the past hour and a half. It is slowly adding a new coat of white to Thursday's snow and accumulating on the pavement. The weather experts have been telling us for several days now that this storm, that was originally tracked in the Pacific Ocean, is going to be a doozy for us. They have stopped short of using the "B" word. No. Not that one. The other one, blizzard. I don't know about you but when I hear 6-8" of snow with 30 mile an hour gusts of wind that sounds like a blizzard to me. The falling snow is already obscuring the view of the woods across the road and is supposed to continue like this until the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Rich bungee-ed the porch glider to the railing a few weeks back and put straw into the barns and animal "condos" the other day in preparation for more severe weather than the mild winter we've had so far. Wednesday we stocked up on the few fresh food items we needed. So the pantry and fridge are fully stocked; we have coffee and alcohol; and I have a few good books and sufficient yarn to see me through the storm. We're all set here!

Early this morning I baked oatmeal scones with cranberries and walnuts and a maple glaze for breakfast and right now I have an Italian wedding soup with those tiny sausage meatballs in it, simmering on the stove for lunch. Doesn't this weather just makes you feel like cooking and baking comfort foods?

 So much has happened since my last post in September. We fulfilled one of Rich's travel wishes when we went to Springfield, Illinois for a long weekend. Springfield is a charming small city known for being the place where President Lincoln lived. His house feels like a home where kids were allowed  to play alongside important statesmen who visited and were entertained there. A visit to Lincoln's tomb made me pause to think about his life and was most inspiring.

We fulfilled one of my longstanding travel wishes by going on a Viking River Cruise down the Danube River with our good friends, Dan and Karen. My favorite stops were Regensburg and Passau, Germany. These medieval towns are well preserved and mostly escaped the WWII bombing. I found it amazing to stroll up and down cobblestone streets amongst buildings that had been in existence for hundreds of years.

We dined on excellent foods, saw scenery that was simply amazing and, of course, drank German beer! Another highlight of our trip was a carriage ride with Dan and Karen through the streets of Vienna, Austria. My head swiveling from side to side in awe and wonder, I kept pinching myself in disbelief!

It goes without saying that Rich and I both took so many pictures that it will take a valiant effort on my part to sort and categorize them all. We so enjoyed traveling with Karen and Dan and have made so many happy memories. The Viking crew from the captain, cruise director and chef, down the ranks to the waitstaff and janitorial staff and dock hands, all contributed to making each passenger feel so pampered. It was such a wonderful experience that the four of us have booked  trip down the Rhine from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands for June of 2020!

It took Karen, Dan and I months to persuade Rich to go on this trip. I think he had reservations about overseas travel. But with a few minor glitches we navigated the airports and transfers very well on our own and left to the rest to the Viking staff's capable hands. We did so well, in fact, that we decided to visit southern Ireland on our own in September, 2019 and Rich has done all of the itinerary planning and bookings on his own! 

With that to look forward to on this snowy, Ohio, winter day, I'm planning on settling in, surfing the net and doing some itinerary planning of my own. Did you know that most every town in Ireland where Rich has booked a B&B, there's a local yarn shop or woolen mill located nearby?