Michigan: Four seasons in four days.

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Living here in Michigan, you have to have multiple wardrobes at the ready, though admittedly, this has been a rather wild week of weather, certainly not like a normal February in southeast Michigan.

I can tell you that Thursday I escaped for a walk in just a light jacket which I left undone most of the time. The temps escalated soon after the sun was high and bright in the sky, making it a delightful Spring-like day.  Friday morning was foggy and soggy with humidity that made it feel sticky, and then the temps soared, fueling two rounds of severe weather just like we have in Summer.  Yesterday, it was beginning to feel Fallish, and today … Winter returneth.  I was back in my down coat, and halfway through the first loop of the perimeter path, I wished I had worn my hooded scarf to keep me warmer, as that wind had a real bite to it.  It was a beautiful and clear day, if you didn’t mind the polar-like temps and a biting breeze that made a “real feel” of 20 degrees, even though I departed at mid-day.  Yikes!!!  Talk about a reality check, yet, I can’t help but wonder, how long Winter will grace us with its presence this time?

Since no trees or bushes have leafed out yet, the winds are harsh at Council Point Park. The stiff breeze caused ripples in the Ecorse Creek, and maybe this was why the mallards were a bit fractious, or, perhaps it was too chilly for a “dip” in that murky water so they were voicing their displeasure.

The walkers were few, but the squirrels were plentiful, and I came prepared to tender peanuts to my pals. I vowed I would leave no furry friends going without treats like the other day.

As usual, the squirrels were quick to greet me, shortly after I stepped on that asphalt path. One chubby fellow scrambled down the tall tree lickety–split, and soon announced his presence at my feet.  I tossed some peanuts and a pair of squirrels immediately went diving for them, the wind raising the silky fur in their bushy tails, as their paws grasped the treat and their sharp teeth cracked it open.

I promised my friend Ann Marie, a fellow walker and a follower of this blog, that I’d get some pictures of the squirrels encircling me to get their treats. But the angle of the sun, probably since I left later than usual, would have my own shadow photobombing every shot … there will be lots more peanuts, squirrels and photo ops down the road, so in the meantime, I’m attaching a blog post entitled “Sole Mate” from a few years ago.  It shows a furry fellow up close and personal.  This little guy had an affinity for climbing up on my shoe in his quest for peanuts.  https://lindaschaubblog.net/2014/06/23/sole-mate/

I didn’t pause too long in one spot and moved on, wanting to get my four miles in today. Dead leaves and spent peanut shells littered the path and skittered along with the wind, which I discovered, when I returned home, had been blowing at about 20 mph.

In the second loop, I passed a copse of trees and bushes across from the inline skating rink. They have been dead as a doornail as long as I’ve been going to Council Point Park, their pale-looking trunks long stripped of bark and bleached by the hot sun or weathered by the wind and wintry conditions.  They sure don’t enhance the landscape or lend to the ambiance of the Park.  As I walked by this area, I heard a loud, creaking noise.  Timidly, I looked up and noticed two large branches were evidently rubbing together, making that eerie noise, like a door with hinges that needed oiling.  I had two thoughts as I hurried past on the perimeter path:  #1 – I hope those pieces of wood rubbing together don’t start a fire (my Brownie and Girl Guide training instincts kicking in all these decades later); and #2 – I think the noise felt like my bones when I got up this morning.  That’s because I spent the better part of yesterday stooping, kneeling and crawling around or behind furniture and under the bed in search of dust bunnies.  This morning, when the alarm rang and my feet hit the ground, albeit reluctantly, I felt pretty creaky myself, and sure felt my age.

[Image from OpenClipArt from Pixabay]

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While strolling through the park one day …

02-23-17

… in the merry month of May (er … February),

I was taken by surprise,

By a pair of roguish eyes,

In a moment my poor heart was stole away.

[Excerpt from “The Fountain in the Park” by Ed Haley]

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I remember this ditty from my childhood, as well as many Friday nights when my college newspaper cronies and I hung out at Bimbo’s in Dearborn, eating pizza and enjoying the crowd singalongs to the tunes by the Red Garter Band.

This was one such song, and, it was an earworm for me on this February 23rd, which felt more like a May morn.

Of course, those roguish eyes that would melt my heart did not belong to a tall, dark stranger, but instead, a squirrel who appeared after I was done handing out peanuts to everyone, except him. The bleeding heart that I am, soon noticed his eyes were more sorrowful than roguish, his demeanor beaten down from my slight.  Sure, we were both disappointed – me, as I had no treats for him, and, him, because he realized “you snooze – you lose” as that saying goes.

What a sensational week of weather we are having! I will be so sorry to see it come to an abrupt halt after Friday’s severe weather and Saturday’s potential snow flurries.  That is really kind of an insult after what we’ve been accustomed to this past week.

It was 60 degrees when I departed this morning, which is certainly more like May weather. This Spring-y weather is making those Groundhog Day predictions issued four weeks ago today, look a little lame … but, I still think we will get slammed with another snowstorm before Spring is here to stay.

My boss was out at meetings this morning, so I could take a long and leisurely stroll at Council Point Park.

But first things first. I took the car for a spin, and went down Southfield Road, and along River Drive by the Park and then home.  It always amazes me when I travel the route that runs parallel to Council Point Park, on four wheels, as opposed to two feet, and how long a journey that really is, not to mention the path that winds through the Park, the parking lot and getting to and from my house to there, which is 3/4s of a mile each way.  Whew!  I wore myself out just looking at it.  It never seems like that many miles when I am just hoofin’ it.

Just as soon as the car was tucked back into the garage after its four-mile run, I began my own four-mile journey down to the Park and around the perimeter path.

It was very humid, and the sidewalks were still wet, and, I half expected to see a worm or two inching across the cement, but none were to be found. But, along with the songbirds who were tweeting their sweet songs this morning, I found four robins gathered on one lawn, apparently without much success as to a food source, since they were just stalking around the property.

I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning that the weather is so warm in northern Michigan, that some of the black bears are no longer hibernating. Imagine, being out on a snowmobile trail, or snowshoeing along, and coming face-to-face with a bleary-eyed bear having just stumbled out its den.  The bears are not out for good though, just during this warmish hiatus until the expected cold returns next week, which will send them scurrying back to their cozy dens once again.

Just like the bears, after the “real Winter” returns and this “imposter Spring” departs, we will be opting to hunker down indoors, rather than cavorting around in shorts and tee-shirts and throwing open the windows on the third week of February.

As I neared the grounds, I knew there would be a lot of people at Council Point Park since there were many vehicles in the parking lot. I was correct, since there were several bikers and at least a dozen walkers besides myself.

As mentioned above, I took a Ziploc bag of peanuts along, and there were plenty of takers. Even without my salmon-colored down coat, my furry friends came right over, sniffing at my shoes first, then getting right up on their haunches begging for handouts, which I was glad to provide.  I emptied the bag by the end of the first loop at the Park, since on the second loop, there are far less trees, and it is more open, so there are rarely any squirrels around.

Until today.

I was moseying along and suddenly became aware of a presence behind me and I could see his shadow. He was at my heels, then soon walking along companionably, keeping pace with me.  Regrettably, I had nothing left to give this little cutie.  I stopped and said “no more” which fell on deaf ears, and, as soon as I resumed walking, there he was again … my little pal alongside me.

An older gentleman, approached me and said “looks like you have a tagalong there” and smiled. I told him “I always bring enough peanuts to dole out at least four or five to each squirrel, but finished them off on the first loop, so had none to give to him.”  That squirrel tagged alongside me the balance of the time at the Park, even trailing after me to the parking lot.  Guess I now have to have a reserve bag in my pocket at all times.

On the way home, I unsnapped my coat to cool off a bit and took off my gloves as well. While doing so, I stopped to admire the first crocuses of the season, a trio of bright-yellow blooms, stuck in the still-brown grass at a corner house.  They were already about two inches tall.

I was not the only one enjoying the warm and sunny day. I walked by Memorial Park, and a group of youngsters, no doubt from the nearby Head Start on Electric Avenue, were walking together, talking a mile a moment to one another and obviously happy to be outside instead of cooped up in the classroom.  I stepped aside into the street to give them plenty of room.  We chatted a bit about what the kids had seen today – robins and crocuses, all sure signs of the real Spring, even though they are part of this magical fake Spring that we enjoying so much.

On this sunny, feel-good February day … just walking, talking and taking in Mother Nature’s treasures.

[Image by alegria2014 from Pixabay]

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It’s not MY birthday, but I celebrated anyway …

02-22-17

It was another spectacular weather day. At this rate, when the real first day of Spring arrives, we will treat it as nothing special after this slew of quasi-Spring days we’ve enjoyed.

We all have Spring fever on top of it – I mean, who doesn’t want to be out in this fine weather? I’ve heard the roar of motorcycles every evening the past week and the bikers are in Hog heaven.

I hated to return from this morning’s walk, and lingered just a little longer visiting with Jenny, our mail carrier, who finally returned to work this past Tuesday, after she took a nasty slip-and-fall on an icy porch step at the beginning of the year.

Usually on George Washington’s birthday, we would be slogging through slush and snow, our faces bent toward the ground, not only to thwart the stinging winds, but, also because we are dejected about the seemingly endless Winter.

George Washington, he being of sound character and cherry tree and wooden teeth fame, also, as you know, added to his credentials, being the father of our country. And, just like that young future President who proclaimed “I cannot tell a lie” … I, too, am not lying when I tell you that I crossed that 100-miles-walked threshold today.   So, that is a cause for celebration – for me anyway.

My walk was to the tracks and back, and, on the return trip, I saw the mailman who delivers on Emmons Boulevard. We always exchange pleasantries whenever our paths cross, and, I have often kidded him about his shorts, which he wears long past the time the rest of have retired our shorts, (usually until the following Memorial Day).  He tells me “I like to have air on my legs and I can move faster when I’m wearing shorts!”  When I saw him this morning, I pointed at his legs and said “and why did I know you would be sporting shorts today?”  He laughed, and I said “as usual, I am overdressed.”   Then, when I arrived home, there was Jenny, similarly dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  I told her about my encounter and she knew right away whom I meant – “oh yeah, that’s Dave” she said.  Maybe it is a mail carrier thing with the shorts?

I have to start living dangerously too – I think I am getting too old and staid.

Back in the day, my mom always baked mini cherry pies on Washington’s birthday. We’d have them hot out of the oven for dessert, with a generous scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream plopped on top.  Oh, that was such a tasty treat.  Sometimes, we substituted B&J’s Cherry Garcia frozen yogurt, which was pretty special too, and that, by George, is no lie.

Speaking of George Washington, I’m sure a passel of dollar bills were exchanged for lottery tickets by people anxious to win the big prize of $403 million in tonight’s Powerball drawing. I actually broke down and spent $2.00 for one ticket when I bought gas the other day.  That jackpot is an obscene amount of money for one person to win.  For me, I’d be content to get a four-number prize, or a mere million.  I told the gas station owner I’d stay my sweet and simple self and still come in to top off my tank every two months, like I do now.  I needn’t worry, and neither should you if you got some tickets, because the odds are 1 in 292,200,000+ chance of being the big winner.

You sure could make, buy and/or eat a lot of cherry pies with that kind of dough!

[Image by Tumisu from Pixabay]

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Tuesday Musings.

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The weather folks predicted possible rain for the morning, so I was pleased when I peered outside and discovered it was dismal and gray, but not drizzling.

I figured I’d just do my Emmons Boulevard route this morning, as I can get more mileage under my belt if I’m not chatting with other walkers on the path, or stopping to toss peanuts to the squirrels. That way I’d avoid getting soaked, just in case that rain did arrive.

And … being the glass half-full gal that I usually try to be, I didn’t take an umbrella.

Off I trekked, down to the tracks, giving me another four miles to add to my total, which is nearing the century mark …yes, if the snow-free weather holds up a little longer, I’ll get to that goal in short order.

The weather was still pleasant – not too cold, and, I noted that the chalk artists had been out since the last time I walked here. The sidewalks at several homes were covered in pastel flowers and flourishes.

A runner streaked past me – clearly we were at odds in how we had dressed before leaving our respective homes. Her head was uncovered, a long blond ponytail streaming behind her, and she had bare arms and legs.  Me, the long-time bus rider/former Girl Scout, abiding by the motto “always be prepared” had a hat, scarf, gloves and heavy coat on.  Perhaps we needed our moms to dress us?

Luckily, I made that round trip in record time … not a thimbleful, or even a single raindrop, ruined this walker’s parade.

Speaking of thimbles, I was surprised to learn that it was the lowly thimble game token that was voted out by Monopoly fans. It will be missing amongst the new fan-picked tokens that will be found in all Monopoly games created after World Monopoly Day on March 19th.

Who knew there was even a “World Monopoly Day” anyway? I didn’t.

I’ve not played Monopoly in decades, and that board game sits inside a cupboard shelf in the basement, along with another favorite, Scrabble. Growing up, Monopoly was best played on a snowy weekend afternoon, whiling away the hours, when you used your business skills, while your  favorite token piece  went ‘round and ‘round the board, picking up valuable property, passing “Go” and trying your darndest not to end up in jail.

I heard that fans decided that the thimble was just a “sew-sew” game piece, so the replacement token will be something more modern. Apparently, many people had never used a thimble, and few people do hand sewing anymore, so it was deemed obsolete.  All the young ladies in Mrs. Baldwin’s Home Ec class used thimbles, circa 1968.  She did not want us pricking our sensitive fingers while learning how to baste and hem.  In fact, I’ve got a pink wicker sewing basket sitting on a shelf alongside those board games with that first thimble used in Mrs. Baldwin’s class.

When Hasbro, the maker of the Monopoly game, bids adieu to the thimble, it will go the way of the iron, a token that bit the dust a few years ago, as it was deemed a boring and unimaginative game piece as well.  I’ll concede there is nothing glamorous, exciting or upbeat about an iron.  Ironing is drudgery, and that is why we park ourselves at the dryer to pull out the tops or pants that are tumbling inside it, before they languish too long and those dreaded wrinkles set in, making your duds/you look unkempt and uncool.  Personally,  I have enough wrinkles of my own, let alone creating them in my clothes too.  Do you  even remember when you last ironed your clothes?  Ahem – I’ll take the Fifth Amendment for my answer.  In fact, I’ve eyed the ironing board in the broom closet more than a few times in my zeal to contain clutter, my #1 New Year’s resolution for 2017.  Does that ironing board stay, or does it go?  There it is, propped up against the closet wall, with its multiple layers of metallic gray covers, taking up valuable space in the closet, never-ever used by me, and probably never will be.  Of course, my mother would be aghast to think her ironing board should be cast out in the garbage … likewise the iron and the water shaker also take up space in that cupboard.  So, should I liberate myself from this hum- drum household duty forever and simply toss those items?  Hmmmm.

Hat’s off to Hasbro, since the top hat and the token I always chose, the Scottie dog, have remained intact and not been axed as old-fashioned or obsolete-looking game tokens.

As to the game of Monopoly, were I to play after all these years, I sure would need to look over the instructions again. As a kid, I thought I was pretty smart, gathering up all that real estate or the big bucks, and my parents egging me on to become an enterprising entrepreneur as I gathered property and wealth, though, in retrospect, perhaps my parents let me win some of the time.

I’ll bet Dan Gilbert was an awesome Monopoly player when he was growing up – I wonder what he chose for his token?

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Noshin’ and nibblin’, and … I saw my first robin.

02-19-17

It was another beautiful day, and, we broke a longstanding weather record from 1884, after we hit 66 degrees this afternoon.

I wonder what we did to deserve all this love from Mother Nature?

I got hung up doing some domestic chores and left a little later than usual, but not before I stopped to gather some goodies for the feathered and furry critters at the Park.

There was some old bread I had defrosted, so I broke it up for the ducks and geese, and, when I reached into the cupboard to get a Ziploc bag of peanuts for the squirrels, those peanuts smelled so fresh and good, that I stopped and treated myself to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Just for kicks, I made a smaller sandwich and cut it into “fingers” to share with the squirrels.

I made my way down to Council Point Park, and there were many walkers there already. There were also a few teens chasing the elusive Pokémon characters, and, a couple of boys bumped into each other as their heads were bent, studying their phone screens.

By the time I reached the perimeter path, I had unzipped my jacket and stuffed my gloves in my pocket. I even took out the camera just in case I could get a close-up of a squirrel noshing on a PB&J sandwich, with peanut butter smeared all over his furry face.

First, a pair of squirrels scrambled down from a tree, and, I lured them over to me with some peanuts, which were quickly grabbed and positioned between their front paws. Chomp, chomp – gone in a minute, with the shells cast aside on the path.  Next, I laid out a couple of sections of  the sandwich – that got their attention, and each sniffed a piece, scooped it up with a paw, shoved it into their mouth, then took off running.  Bad manners!  No photo op either!  But, I looked over in the bushes, and, yes, they were enjoying their treat, so I left the rest of the fingers there so they could come and get them at their leisure.

So, yes – the entire world loves PB&J sandwiches, not just you and me – the squirrels love ‘em too.

At the cement precipice, I took out my bag of bread, and, once again I had my camera at the ready. I had a few takers for those yeasty tidbits, long discolored by freezer burn, and those mallards delicately nibbled that bread, then quickly moved on.

I put the camera away again, figuring I was done dispensing goodies for today, though I still had some peanuts left for any other squirrels who happened along.

Soon thereafter, a big robin, the first I’ve seen this year, flew down beside me. He looked just like the one pictured above, wearing a perpetual scowl that  most robins seem to have.  He probably saw me feeding the rest of the crowd and thought I might have a worm or grub for him, since I doubt he found any in the frozen ground in mid-February, despite these balmy temps.

That appearance of Robin Redbreast made me think … do I have to get my robin contraption in place over the coach light at home already? I need to search in my blog to find my first whine about the robins settling in to raise their family last year – they were at least a month earlier than usual, probably due to the mild Winter of 2015-2016.  Though I am a bird lover, the robin’s messy nest over my front door light, is just not acceptable to me, and, I fear this warm weather will have them looking for a mate, nesting materials, then a place to build.  Each year they favor me with their presence, and believe me, I’ve never put out the welcome mat, nor a sign that reads “Mi Casa es Su Casa!”

I heard the vroom and low rumble of motorcycles while walking home and throughout the day. I half-expected that the next sound I would hear would be a lawn mower starting up.

Too bad the President’s Day holiday was not extended to all workers – tomorrow is supposed to be another stellar weather day.

[Image by Kaz from Pixabay]

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Hello Spring!!! *

Spring pattern

This headline deserves an asterisk, because, my friends, we all know that Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th.

So, I guess I am circulating “fake news” … that’s okay, because it sure feels like Spring has arrived here in Southeast Michigan.

It turned out to be a day to ditch the hat and gloves and unzip or unbutton your coat and breathe in deeply.

However, while it may be 68 degrees right now as I am typing this post, this morning when I left on my walk, a stiff breeze was blowing and there was a chill in the air – it was only 45 degrees then.

I headed down to Council Point Park where I joined many fellow walkers and joggers who wanted to spend their morning enjoying that venue, just like me. Though I took the camera, intending to get some current Park photos, I never took it out of the case since the landscape is still drab and dowdy looking.  Even the squirrels seemed to blend right into the scenery, except, of course, when they spied me along the trail, or, I shook a bag of peanuts in their direction.  They soon came running over.  Yes, I’m a quick study, and noticed early on that shaking the clear bag filled with peanuts had a similar effect to Hop Sing, the Ponderosa’s Chinese cook, ringing the dinner triangle to announce to the Cartwrights that the meal was ready.  (Of course, if you never watched the T.V. series “Bonanza” you might wonder about this analogy.)

The Ecorse Creek had a light skim of ice in places and its banks and shoreline were full of dried-up reeds. The ducks and geese did not seem to mind their surroundings, however, and the waterfowl were plentiful as I walked parallel to the Creek.

I stood out on the ledge, what I used to refer to as “Duck Landing”, and watched the mallards and geese gracefully paddling along. Every so often, the camaraderie would end abruptly, when one of them would rile up his brethren and a lot of quacking or honking ensued, then soon it was quiet and peaceful again.

As I walked along in silence, I was aware of the wind as it swooshed through the trees causing the brittle leaves that still remained on the bare branches to make a crackling sound. Likewise, a few dozen lightweight plastic bags were slung from bushes and branches and the wind rustled through them as I walked by.

I look forward to that first day when the Park seems to comes alive … the grass suddenly will be a brilliant green color and dotted with dandelions, and the goslings will toddle after their parents. That is when the camera will get some serious action.

In the meantime, I think that just a few more days of this mild weather will have the trees and perennials very confused. Buds will suddenly appear and green sprouts will surface in still-frozen garden beds.

We humans can simply don another layer to protect us, but they will be susceptible to the wiles of Mother Nature.

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A toe-and-finger nippin’ Friday, but mercifully snowless …

02-17-17

Even though Jack Frost was doing a little toe and finger nippin’ this early morning, it was still wonderfully snow and ice free, so I happily set out on a walk. Even the sun showed up halfway through that extra-long walk as I meandered down to, then around, Council Point Park.

Could that esteemed weather prognosticator, a/k/a Punxsutawney Phil, and/or his nemesis, Woody, have gotten their predictions about Winter all turned around?

Or, are Al Gore’s global warming rants finally coming to fruition?

If it is the latter, I say bring that global warming on – especially this weekend when we are expected to frolic around outside in temps hovering at 60 degrees.

Is it really mid-February in Michigan?

Quick, let me feel Mother Nature’s forehead!

While I am enjoying this break from Winter, my boss is up north on a Winter break, and embracing the white stuff. He loves nothing more than snowshoeing in the forest and getting his handlebar moustache caked with snow, and, in general, enjoying each minute that he is freezing his butt off.

I am happy to report that my foot mileage has now surpassed the car’s mileage by five miles, and, that fact might have happened yesterday had I not had the significant snow squall put the kibosh on Wednesday’s walk. The traffic reports and warnings for Winter driving early Wednesday morning were pretty dire .  So, I peered out the window before layering up and lacing up my walking shoes.  It was clear as a bell!  So, off I went, with nary a snowflake or icy patch in sight.

Well, nothing like the expectation of a nice walk, duly suiting up to enjoy same, when fifteen minutes later, and at least a mile away, a snow squall appeared. Well that sudden burst of snow burst my bubble bigtime.  Those snowflakes were massive and stuck everywhere they landed.  I quickly headed back and looked like the Abominable by the time I reached home.

I dealt with all the wet clothes after I came in, sipped some coffee, looked outside a short time later, and the snow had stopped, and the sun was shining.

I think Mother Nature is toying with us don’t you?

Hopefully she has flipped her hourglass in the wrong direction and we are headed toward Spring and leaving Winter far behind.

[Image by Leunert from Pixabay]

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