I had the sun in my eyes and the wind in my straw …

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er, hair ….

Well, it was just a feel-good day, wasn’t it? As I walked out the door, a strong sun was up and shining down and the birds were all atwitter in the neighborhood … what a gorgeous morning we were blessed with. I had my light jacket off before I even reached the Park so I had to tie it around my waist to enable me to dig in my cargo pockets for peanuts and the camera, when the occasion arose for each. There was a gusty breeze blowing which threatened to topple my bun and it pulled out some wayward tendrils which were whipping around my face as I walked. But it still felt good. Late Summer days like this should be bottled up and put away for those cold and blustery Winter days ahead. The Park was busy this morning … full of walkers, runners and a few bicyclists, and, of course everyone you passed along the trail commented on the beautiful morning. While walking home, I noticed that harvest décor is springing up everywhere. Fall is my all-time favorite season and I just love the holiday décor, especially the mums, hay bales and pumpkins, and, of course, those beautiful autumn wreaths that adorn so many doors. The scarecrows always make my day with their goofy grins and perpetual smiles. Perhaps we should take ourselves less seriously and manage to paste a smile on our face more often too.

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Ice Ice Baby …

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It was only 43 degrees when I left for my walk this morning. WWJ’s meteorologist told listeners that Mackinac Island, at 48 degrees, was warmer than us despite the fact that they have already had a light frost up there. At this rate, I might need to dig out my woolen hat and gloves next week if these chilly mornings are the norm – after all, Fall arrives this coming Tuesday. “Southeast Michigan Weather” is a site I follow on Facebook and yesterday someone asked when they thought the first snow might arrive. They responded that it would be mid to late October. It is Day #1 of training camp for the Red Wings so I guess it is appropriate to have chilly air to get caught up in hockey fever, by snow in mid-October. Yikes!

I had a few errands to accomplish along Fort Street, so I managed to get another four miles under my belt. I was just pounding the pavement as I strolled along, so no nature walk today … or so I thought, but when I crossed from Lincoln Park to Wyandotte I had to walk over part of the Ecorse Creek which runs under Fort Street. As I usually do, I glanced over to the water where dead tree branches or garbage like boxes or the occasional wooden crate are always sticking out of the dark and murky Creek. But today, there was something large right in the middle of the Creek on top of the half-submerged tree. I stopped in my tracks and watched a large heron, roosting on a big tree branch. He had tucked his pencil-thin neck down close to his body and was standing on one leg. He really was huge, which made me wonder what he has been eating because certainly no fish are swimming around in that part of the Ecorse Creek, and surely the reeds and bushes on the Creek banks would not provide enough sustenance for him. He stirred, probably because he saw me and viewed this human as a threat. He then stood to his full height and stretched languorously, a regal-looking creature in rather unpleasant surroundings. He was better suited for Council Point Park where I’ve seen several herons already. Soon he took flight, those huge wings carrying him down the narrow corridor of the Creek ‘til I could see him no longer. Perhaps he will join his counterparts at Council Point Park and I will see him again soon.

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Spreading the wealth … and good health.

09-18-14

Another gorgeous late Summer day which truly felt like Autumn had arrived. I headed down to Council Point Park and did two laps before I had to reluctantly tear myself away and head home. I arrived bearing “gifts” and started scoping out any of the usual peanut pals. My treasures included a fresh Ziploc bag of peanuts and a bigger bag with a half-dozen Pink Lady apples. The latter had been languishing in a corner of my vegetable bin in the fridge. They looked good before the power outage, but then after a day without refrigeration, they got a little soft and a tad wrinkly looking , so I decided I’d share them with my friends in the park. While I walked along the trail the first time around, I peered through the trees and bushes looking for my furry friends and didn’t see a single one, so I decided to make some “droppings” along the way. I set out each of the six apples at different locations along the perimeter path. On the second go-around, I noticed that four of the apples were already gone. Down the trail a few paces, one squirrel was sitting on his haunches happily gnawing away and still another squirrel was trying to carry, or maybe chase after, a half-eaten apple in the grass. I guess he was taking it home to the family. No squirrels were following me today, so I just kept the peanuts in my jacket pocket for the next trip.

As I walked along, I kept thinking about those squirrels enjoying their unexpected treat and it got me thinking about “horse apples” … no – it’s not what you think. Our neighbors Ann and Andy lived across the street for decades. They had large apple trees in their backyard. As each of their children arrived, they planted a tree to mark that child’s birth. There were two maple trees out front and two apple trees in the backyard, all planted in the 40s and 50s. But times were tough raising four kids who came along right after one another. Andy never sprayed those apple trees to prevent pests from attacking and burrowing into those apples before they got a chance to pick them and enjoy them. Those apple trees were bountiful anyway; some apples were perfect specimens and safe to eat, but many of them had worm holes or were otherwise imperfect. While the kids were growing up, alot of applesauce was made and even “put up” for Winter. Ann would stand for hours, peeling and coring apples, then her slight frame was hunched over the stove while she stirred and swirled those slices in a cast iron pot ‘til they were stewed, then simmered slowly into smooth, sweet and tangy applesauce. Through the years, and especially after Ann and Andy’s brood was gone, apples were offered to my mom, and she would make up batches of applesauce. But folks get older and spending the better part of an afternoon making applesauce got tiring. Ann asked if we knew anyone who’d like those less-than-perfect apples, as she didn’t want to waste food. Well, I knew the perfect recipient and soon I started lugging a bag on the bus every week to give to one of my bosses, Terry. His wife had a horse and these apples became that critter’s daily treat almost into the Winter. Terry and his wife each had their own hobbies – although he was a paralegal by day, his real love was his street stock race car, which he raced in Toledo or at Flat Rock Speedway every weekend in the Spring through the Fall. The wages he made as a paralegal helped support his hobby – gas and the substantial repair of dents and paint scrapes, the result of SS #81 being sideswiped too often at the track. His wife, Sheryl, had no interest in racing, as her passion was her horse. Well, they didn’t get in each other’s hair anyway. So, for many years that horse was blessed to be the beneficiary of those many McIntosh apples until Robb and I departed the law firm and went out on our own in 2003.

I left the Park wearing a silly grin on my face … I was thinking about that little squirrel chomping down on his treat and that horse with an apple clenched between his big teeth. Next time I visit, that squirrel will be on the lookout for me – maybe I ought to spring for cider and donuts … I do believe that one squirrel at the Park knows he is the apple of my eye. Just please don’t tell Buddy.

My trips to Council Point Park never disappoint … no expectations, just enjoying life’s little pleasures. Perhaps Henry Ward Beecher said it better than me …

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
~Henry Ward Beecher

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Hoodies and hot drinks.

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Before I set out this morning. I finally succumbed to the “feelin’ Fallish” weather and decided to wear my sweat suit … and, I sure was glad I did. I had some errands to do along Fort Street and when I passed the marquis at Memorial Park, it said 50 degrees. Well, brrr. The warm sun made it tolerable though. I glanced across the street at the Dairy Queen’s sign that proclaimed “pumpkin pie treats are back”, which probably would have beckoned more customers if they didn’t have to suck down a Pumpkin Pie Blizzard while holding the cup with gloved hands. As I passed the gas station, there was the usual morning hustle and bustle as customers fueled up their cars, then themselves on hot beverages. There was a queue to get in the door and each person came out with fingers clasped around a paper cup with steam wafting from the top. I think Mother Nature has hoodwinked us into believing it is still Summertime. My last stop was at Walgreens where I rolled up my sleeve to get my annual flu shot. Along with those SweeTango apples I’ve been eating, hopefully I’ll keep the germs at bay. I love those “sweeties” as they are sometimes referred to – lots of crunch, very sweet and perhaps I am just enamored by the name “sweeties” as well. Well, if the latter is the case, perhaps a hot apple dumpling should be the treat for the day instead of a cold apple and a chunk of cheddar. It is, after all, National Apple Dumpling Day, and who doesn’t think that a hot apple dumpling minus ice cream would warm their innards and put a smile on their face right about now?

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“Some bunny” always wants what she can’t have …

09-16-14

The weather was just fabulous when I set out for my walk. I decided to make the four-mile trek down to the River today, and, when I arrived the water was sparkling as the sun glinted down on it. A few pleasure boats were bobbing along, and the seagulls made it their business to cluster around, seemingly daring one another to swoop down closer to those vessels as they glided by. It didn’t feel as chilly this morning; must’ve been my great clothes combo I was wearing because I was ready to shuck off my jacket as the sun climbed higher in the sky while I walked home. As I wended my way through Wyandotte past those stately homes on Emmons Boulevard, in my peripheral vision I saw a movement in a front garden bed. I swiveled my head to look and there was a rabbit sitting on his haunches, looking very tall and regal amongst the green plants. He seemed a tad scared but he didn’t move. I thought he looked just like the tall chocolate bunny that takes center stage in your Easter basket. All that was missing were the Cadbury Eggs and jelly beans … and perhaps a Peep or two. I mused about that little rascal the rest of the way home and bemoaned that it was not Easter time with the whole Summer stretched out before us. Somehow the Summer of 2014 was too fleeting and we’ve now got less than a week ‘til Fall officially arrives. So, I may wish as hard as I want, but I can’t bring the Summer back for us I’m sorry to say.

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Super moons, sun spots and solar flares …

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There’s been alot of funky happenings in the solar system during the past week or so … we’ve seen a Super Moon lighting up the evening sky and how about those sun spots and solar flares which reportedly wreaked havoc with our GPS systems and caused us humanoids to have mood swings. On the plus side, Aurora Borealis sightings were right here in northern Michigan. Wow! Here in my little world, the moon and stars have not been aligned properly since that power outage. It seems it has been a fortnight of minor and major calamities, but the worst issue was my furnace which had a mind of its own and was exhibiting some phantom-like behavior. At one time I set it to 80 degrees to try to coax it to turn on, but it didn’t. But, when it did decide to kick on, it was only for three minutes, then off for three minutes, on for three more minutes … then promptly turned itself off the rest of the day. This happened the latter part of last week and I had three techs troubleshooting and scratching their collective heads. Finally, my regular furnace tech figured out the issue and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is a permanent fix. It was uncomfortably cold in the house and of course there was much angst on my part about the little nipper whom I left in the other room with his cage all bundled up until the warmth was restored again. Three morning visits for the furnace and yesterday to the grocery store to finally replenish the fridge and freezer contents I lost last weekend, left me absent from this forum once again. Determined to correct that status, this morning I crept out of my cozy bed, had a few sips of coffee and a warm bowl of oatmeal, laced up my walking shoes and kept donning light layers ‘til I looked a little like a ragamuffin. I scooted out the door before anything snagged me, stopped me in my tracks and pulled me back like a big rubber band. I walked directly to Council Point Park, a long-overdue trip, and immersed myself immediately in my favorite nature nook. It was cold enough for a jacket, so voilà– I have big pockets once again, so I slipped the camera into one and a Ziploc bag of peanuts into the other just in case any of my little pals were looking for handouts. They either spied a sucker or smelled those freshly roasted peanuts in the shell, because soon after I arrived I had a slew of fox squirrels tagging along on the perimeter path. I know my walks are not only a form of exercise but my little getaway and I really enjoy them. After today’s rain, the weather week ahead promises to be beautiful so I hope I can get out and walk every day. My ultimate walking goal took a direct hit lately and I must make up for lost time and get the remaining 145 miles done before the Winter weather arrives. Hopefully the planets re-align and Mother Nature Sirius-ly cooperates with me.

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Back in the saddle again.

09-11-14

This has really been a long week which has truly made me weary. When I set out for a walk this morning, I was glad to escape the house and the computer screen, albeit just for a little while – a chance to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. Fresh air indeed! The wind was whipping around out there at nearly 25 mph and I felt like a tumbleweed as I strolled along Fort Street … and a cold tumbleweed at that.

It seems I have yet to catch up with the one day I lost when there was no power. I had an agenda of my own inside the house for that Saturday, none of which was accomplished, and it seems I have been scrambling around to catch up ever since. I have been very busy at work and was trying to get time-sensitive documents done before the advent of yesterday’s predicted bad weather. Bad weather makes me nervous anyway, and needing to churn out work with a storm looming had me staying home hunched over the laptop and foregoing several walks. The storms never materialized because it was cloudy and rainy all day, but that’s okay with me. The various meteorologists started previewing dire weather conditions as early as Sunday, so when I went to the store, I was reluctant to get many groceries needing refrigeration since I lost everything in the fridge and freezer from Friday’s power outage. Gone were my collection of preserves, one of the indulgences I allow myself now that I no longer eat sweets. The other indulgence is the rustic bread I buy for Buddy and I to share, and that, too, was lost as that bread is baked with no preservatives and it thawed quickly in the freezer. So Buddy and I have lived on bagels the past five days. I wasn’t going to put any more in the fridge than necessary, so I had a bottle of marshmallow cream that I bought on a whim to slather on peanut butter with my toast. It stays in the cupboard since it doesn’t need refrigeration. So, I’ve eaten more sugar in five days than the past five years.

It is nice to get on a nostalgia kick every once in awhile. Back in the 60s, we kids used to eat Fluffernutter sandwiches all the time. I have always loved peanut butter, and it used to bug my mom when I’d have a hankering for some and I’d dip my spoon into the jar, draw it back out and enjoy a big mouthful. I guess that bad habit is akin to opening the fridge door and drinking from the milk carton. But, back to Fluffernutters … when I was growing up, it was a big treat to have a Fluffernutter sandwich. This was circa the mid-60s, long before people really watched their sugar intake. In fact the thought of all that gooey, sweet creamy marshmallow might either give you a sugar rush, or make you feel ill. But all of us kids ate them and they even had a commercial called “The Fluffernutter Song” … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6gljDcLrvQ&feature=related

Well, that video might bring back a few memories, but enjoying that treat wasn’t as easy as portrayed in the commercial. I usually made my Fluffernutters on toast, not bread, and the marshmallow cream had to be taken out of the jar with a hot spoon. I’d soak my spoon in my mom’s coffee (or my own when I indulged after I was “grown up”) and then slip it into the marshmallow cream. Otherwise, you had to wrangle that spoon around in the marshmallow cream which was a real messy sort of treat. You took your hot toast, spread it generously with peanut butter then slapped on the ooey-gooey Fluff. Mmmmm.

Remembering youthful good times and treats is always memorable – even those fleeting memories, like the man who ran the pony rides at the nearby carnival who walked one of his ponies around Sandmere Place, our cul-de-sac in Oakville, on a sunny Saturday afternoon. He was quite the crafty carnie because he figured all the neighborhood kids would want a ride and all their parents would drag out their cameras and pay him to take pictures. Smart man.

It’s good to take a look back sometimes to get you grounded, even when you dredge up the sad events and memories. This morning and evening I listened to retrospectives which replayed some of the horrors that took place thirteen years ago today. I heard a reference to the young man in the red bandana and his significance on 9/11. I’d never heard the story of that hero who rescued a dozen people in the World Trade Center, yet lost his own life when the South Tower fell. I just watched a video of Welles Crowther’s life and his heroic efforts. Just a little boy who grew up emulating his father and living life to the fullest, with his trusty bandana always within reaching distance. Even at the end. In the video, I watched his father crying for the loss of his only son, whom he said was also his best friend, and it caused me to sniffle and mist up when I saw him unabashedly dabbing at his eyes to wipe away his tears. I’m sharing the story and video in case you, like me, never heard of this brave young man: http://www.boston.com/sports/colleges/2014/09/11/boston-college-honor-welles-crowther-the-man-the-red-bandana/lL30e6HJBhBmH9sgOzxYPJ/story.html

We can return to a simpler time in our minds and hearts, but admittedly, we are all just a little less carefree today than before that fateful day.

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