It WAS a tough nut to crack …

… but I did it!!

Today I reached my goal of 1,242 miles/2,000 kilometers walked in 2019! I’m excited, especially since the weather wreaked havoc with my walking regimen multiple times this year. Our Winter lingered into Spring, then Winter had the nerve to encroach on Fall, bringing a dusting of snow back on November 7th. Summer was hot and humid. And, oh yes … I tried to change my mindset about walking in the rain and even bought a pair of waterproof walking shoes and some bright red vinyl boots, though it didn’t make going out on damp days any more pleasant. I did try walking in a gentle rain, on a warm day, a few times, but many more mornings had torrential rain, so I skipped a walk altogether on those days.

I will keep on walking until year end and report on my final tally of steps/miles, but for my next goal I am going to cap my miles and will explain how I’ll do this on January 1, 2020 when I begin anew. [Nutcracker courtesy of Pinterest]

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Still walkin’ my socks off …

Today’s all-day rain gives me a brief respite from walkin’ my socks off to reach my goal. But, I managed to get 12 miles/19 kilometers done over the weekend – 8 miles/12 kilometers more to get ‘er done and reach my goal. Yesterday the wind was very blustery, and, just like one day earlier in the week, the winds were calm when I left the house, but kicked up mightily just a half-hour after I arrived. The weatherman also promised a sunny Sunday – I was outside over three hours and the sun must’ve slept in.

I’ve been thinking about Christmas stockings since deciding on this title for today’s post. Over the years, Christmas stockings have played a big part in the holiday ambiance for me …

… Like having a Christmas stocking when I was a little nipper.

On Christmas Eve, I dutifully left my stocking next to Santa’s milk and cookies so he wouldn’t forget to fill it (hint, hint). My parents loaded it up with goodies to keep me occupied so they could sleep in on Christmas morning, and, after I was sound asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, the sock would magically appear at the end of my bed. I was told (warned) that when I woke up, to just get my sock and let Mommy and Daddy sleep in since it was a holiday. I always got an orange and an apple in the toe and only on Christmas, Easter and Halloween did my parents allow hard candy, so I could always count on a candy cane and perhaps a Pez dispenser and candy for inside it. I always got some chocolate wrapped in gold foil that looked like gold coins. Chocolate was the exception as to candy – I don’t know why that was?

My parents never knew my grandmother had a stash of Laura Secord “humbugs”, those yummy brown-striped hard candies, that she always kept in a little tin in her apron pocket. Sometimes she had a crinkly cellophane bag of peppermint balls that looked like mothballs – she would tell me to go outside to eat it as it smelled so strong and you couldn’t bite it, but had to wait for the candy ball to dissolve and “we don’t want to give away our secret, right?” The stocking candy was a treat because our Christmas candy set out in dishes around the living room had no appeal to steal one or two. Those hard candies were shaped like presents and had gooey stuff inside them … now if they had been Smarties (like American M&Ms) … well they would have been worth swiping.

Since the orange and apple were boring, they would be put aside, so I’d hone in on the treats and explore my sock. There would be crayons and a coloring book, maybe a jar of bubble soap and a bubble wand, or jacks, or a Slinky, even some Silly Putty to make stretchy faces out of my favorite comic-book characters in the funny papers …

… and, when I was really young, there were always a Golden Book or two.

My favorite stocking stuffers were new Barbie clothes, either bought at the store, or outfits that my mom would knit while I was at school. Here is a photo of Mom and me posing on Christmas Day when I got my first Barbie and a case for her clothes and accessories. (Please no comments on my hairdo which looked like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket because my mom made me sleep on pincurls on Christmas Eve – ugh.) I’d say this photo was taken around 1963.

Life sure was fun back in the day. I don’t know why I still don’t have that Christmas stocking, because I’ve hung onto many treasures from my childhood. I’m a “saver” not a “thrower” so that is why when folks say “do you use a treadmill all Winter?” my answer is “I’d love one, but where would I put it?”

The socks of Christmas Past.

When I decided to incorporate some memories about Christmas stockings into this “Still walkin’ my socks off …” miles-tally post, I actually went downstairs to root around in a few of the red Rubbermaid tubs with green lids where Christmas decorations we gathered through the years are stored; these festive-looking tubs have remained unopened for ten years. I knew I had saved some felt stockings and sure enough I had.

In fact, there was a treasure trove of red-felt Christmas stockings – some were brand new.

I saved stockings from work as well (pictured above and below). I always made up socks with little gifts for my bosses through the years. I filled those Christmas stockings with fun little things I’d pick up for a song and some goodies as well. I found one for both Robb and me downstairs.

My boss usually sends me pictures of how he decorates the office since he took over that chore after I stopped working on site in 2009. I packed away some of the socks with our office Christmas decorations. So, he hangs one sock outside my office door …

… and another paired up with his in the lobby.

Spreading cheer, whether chocolates or cookies, was something I did for all the holidays at work when we still worked at the Firm prior to leaving on our own on January 31, 2003. My mom and I used to make up something fun for the staff members on all the holidays and Christmas was no exception. Usually it was a big gingerbread man in a bag with curling ribbon and a Christmas message, but several times we made up these mini stockings.

I had to use initials as some names were too long to fit up top. I’d decorate all the socks over Thanksgiving, in between decorating here at home. I’d have socks laying all over the floor while the glitter dried, then we stuffed them with chocolates and a mini candy cane. I always had to have extra socks on hand in case someone quit, or got sick, and a temp came in their place. That happened a few times. Then, two days before Christmas, I would arrive earlier than usual and creep around, leaving treats or stockings at each desk before anyone arrived. One year I did a poem modeled after “The Night Before Christmas” using all the names of the staff personnel. This was before we had internet access at work, so I had to go buy the book, as I did not remember the whole poem, having not heard it since I was very young. I typed it up and xeroxed it onto Christmas paper.

Thanks to the rain I had a walking respite, so I could finish this longish post I started last night. Onward and upward for finishing up, but for now, perhaps I’ll play with this Silly Putty that beckoned me to buy it at Meijer a few weeks ago before I have to start work. 🙂

P.S. – Don’t forget to hang up your sock!!!

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Please do not leave me behind in the dust!

Since we continue creeping toward year end, and, while I was hoping to bulk up some walking miles, I headed to historical Heritage Park the weekend before last. Yep, I had my ducks in a row as I had high hopes of getting about six miles in, even though it was very cold and my fingers felt like ice within fifteen minutes. I ended up ditching the flip-top finger gloves, in favor of warmer polar fleece gloves, which kept my fingers toasty. So, I tucked the camera away for a while, but not before I visited the mallards at Coan Lake.

These beauties were gathered in a group – it looked like duck soup.

The brisk breeze was blowing across the lake and I sought relief from that wind inside the covered bridge to warm up a little, wondering how my feathered friends brave the elements day after day. All too soon I will visit this venue and find the ducks huddled together on an ice floe.

From my perch on the bridge, I had a bird’s eye view of the mallards.

I thought I was pretty smart, since I was out of the wind and the ducks didn’t scatter to the wind like they usually do. I hid behind the wooden cross-buck decor and I had the bridge to myself … heck, it appeared I had the whole village to myself, though I could see a few walkers on the track across the way.

These two mallards were content to cruise and snooze, paddling along effortlessly, but shutting their eyes. I don’t know where the sentry duck was – whenever you see ducks snoozing on shore, or on a log, there is always one of their brethren watching over them. Maybe this was just a quick catnap, er … ducknap.

Here’s a few more mallards with their mates (or best buds … they didn’t tell me).

And because there always has to be a drama queen amongst the masses, one drake was chasing the other drakes around in the water.

They were already irritated by the cold, so it didn’t take long before a lot of quacking ensued – so much for a peaceful afternoon.

Everything was settled quickly, however, and the rabble-rouser went on his merry way. But, as a parting shot to the crowd, he flapped his wings to show who was the boss (in his mind anyway).

I’m crowing a little too, as slowly I am whittling my remaining steps down and now have just 30 more miles/48 kilometers to reach my goal. Just like the female mallard in the image up at the very top, I won’t be left behind in the dust. I’ll keep my ducks in a row. Onward and upward!

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The mirror doesn’t lie.

I rushed home after walking for over four hours … no it wasn’t that second cup of coffee I had before I set out later than usual, as I awaited the thermometer to nudge higher than 27 degrees F/-2 C. Evidently that thermometer was going nowhere, but I was, so I set out anyway, in a down coat and my warmest clothes.

No, I rushed inside to peer at the mirror. I wanted to check my image to see if the words “Peanut Lady” were emblazoned on my forehead.

Yes, I know I was going to give the tales of my furry-tailed friends a little rest as the holiday season was coming up, but I feel I must share this story.

Last Saturday was gray and gloomy and the weatherman warned of rain or snow showers late in the day – I knew I had plenty of time to take the car for a long run, and myself for a long walk. I decided to split my day into two trips: three miles at Council Point Park, then three miles at Elizabeth Park in Trenton. It was still raptor migration season until the end of November, and, although I made a trip to that venue the beginning of the month, and failed to see any of the many hawks or eagles that migrate overhead, I thought I’d give it another try.

I was happy the Grosse Ile free bridge had opened after a week of mechanical issues which deemed it unsafe, leaving traffic backed up for miles on East Jefferson, (the exact location of Elizabeth Park), as they queued up to access the $5.00 round trip toll bridge, the only other means to get on/off the island. Here are a couple of shots of that free bridge taken from Elizabeth Park.

I did not take any photos at Council Point Park as I was there just to feed my furry and feathered pals and get a quick, three-mile walk done. From the looks of the sky I didn’t plan on taking many photos at Elizabeth Park either.

That was, until I stepped out of my car.

Around Elizabeth Park is a perimeter road where you drive very slowly to avoid the ducks and geese who cross without giving a second thought to vehicles.

They even have a “duck crossing” sign as a hint you must pay attention.

I saw a lot of mallards right after crossing the vehicle bridge to the park, so I quickly pulled over to just inside the park entrance.

I hopped out of the car and since I didn’t finish off the bag of peanuts at Council Point Park, I decided to tote some along in case I saw some furry or feathered friends, especially my little squirrel pal who hangs out at the big bridge which is pictured above – he fancies himself the guardian of the gates.

All of a sudden, squirrels were coming out of the woodwork.

But, before I could even reach into the car and grab the tote bag that contained the peanuts, at least a dozen squirrels surrounded the car – okay, what was going on?? They could not have smelled the peanuts that were still inside the bag, inside the car. Did I look like Elizabeth Park’s Peanut Lady? I don’t know, but there they were … Fox squirrels, black squirrels and gray squirrels, all clamoring for peanuts.

They thought “we knew she had a kindly face and was a sucker for squirrels.

I thought “well at least I don’t have to carry that bag of peanuts with me so my hands are free to take pictures – hope I don’t run into the other little guy.”

My camera came out in a flash and I got a few shots, which were not the greatest since the grass and leaves were brown and most of the squirrels were as well. Here’s five of them.

But the blah landscape and brown squirrels didn’t stop a trio of women walkers from videotaping the scene. The women are seen approaching us in the photo below.

These women saw this crowd of squirrels crowding me off the sidewalk (no, I was not complaining) and from across the road, I saw phones raised and videos being taken while they shouted across the street “well, how cute is this?!” The video went on for a minute or two and I asked if I had “Peanut Lady” on my forehead because that is what people call me at Council Point Park. They laughed and said the scene could be a Christmas card.

I wish I could have shown the entire dozen of squirrels but they did not want to do a group shot.

You’ll notice in these pictures, the Elizabeth Park squirrels are just as inquisitive (no, make that nosy) as their Council Point Park counterparts.

Hmm – it seems they are just as chubby too.

I excused myself from the walkers and my furry friends who were by then in a feeding frenzy, to walk down to the water to see the ducks.

This duck had a huge smile for me, no doubt having witnessed the goodies fed to the squirrels, it assumed I was toting duck treats … nope, I was just there for a few photos, before starting on my walk.

Well that smile was wiped right off Mr. Mallard’s face when he saw my hands were empty.

I sure can’t blame these guys for hanging out along the shore given the cold temps.

Only one brave dabbling duck here … he was having a look-see first before plunging into the water.

Even though I just meandered along, the geese were on the move, goose-stepping through the leaves and grateful to find a patch of grass that was both leaf-free and snow free, so as to graze without limitation, even though there were still a few piles of snow around Elizabeth Park and lots of mud along the way as well.

What geese weren’t grazing on grass, their brethren were hanging out at the bird feeder area, hoping to catch what the squirrels missed under the feeders. Kindly souls put out four big bird feeders and a suet feeder as soon as the temps get colder and they keep this “feeding station” stocked all Winter.

The small birds scattered to the wind as they were timid, so all I got was a woodpecker’s picture in this shot. He or she was drilling into the tree after feasting on some suet.

Here’s a close-up of the feeders.

I saw this chickadee who left in a huff when I approached the feeding station.

So the mirror never lies and neither does the pedometer … as of yesterday’s jaunt, at month end, I have just 45 miles/72 km to reach my final goal of 1,242 miles/2,000 kilometers. Today is looking nasty weather-wise, but we’ll see.

Onward and upward.

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How to tackle Turkey Day.

Here in the Detroit, Michigan area, three items are synonymous with Thanksgiving Day: America’s Thanksgiving Parade down Woodward Avenue, a Detroit Lions football game (every year since 1934) and turkey with all the trimmings … and done in that order.

In my daily travels through the ‘hood, I began to see a lot of scarecrows crowding into front gardens before the petunias even quit blooming. I always get a kick out of their smiling faces, so I’ve been collecting photos of them, knowing one day I’d have enough to do a Thanksgiving post, so here goes.

Tackling Turkey Day.

When you’re dealing with scarecrows, perhaps “tackling” is a tacky word to use – after all, they’re not football players, so a big tackle could easily take out a limb, or a head … if you’re a scarecrow that is. After all, they’re just stuffed with straw as you know from the many scarecrows impaled on a bamboo pole (ouch) that appear in homeowners’ harvest décor this time of year.

And, speaking of stuffing

Besides spending the day with family or friends, the best is yet to come at dinnertime. But, whoa – wait a minute! The Thanksgiving Day feast is more than just enjoying that turkey. There is a ton of prep work first … and it’s more than simply calculating how long to cook that big bird, because first you have to stuff it.

Gee – perhaps “stuffing” is a poor choice of words to be throwing around in this Turkey Day post. Yes, how uncouth, because, after all, our flopsy-mopsy friends are stuffed. Their innards are straw, their arms and legs are raffia – even their hair is some type of straw. So, perhaps a better choice of words for that seasoned moist bread that is inside the turkey and/or piled high in your grandma’s bone china dish, would be to use the word “dressing” so as not to slight our scarecrow pals. A fun fact is that south of the Mason-Dixon line and in Canada, they call it “dressing” not stuffing … which brings me to another topic.

Dressing up for Turkey Day.

Many jokes are made about wearing loose-fitting clothing for the Thanksgiving feast – do you do this? Our scarecrow friends don’t have such worries … heck, a flimsy dress with nothing on beneath it (oops) sure takes care of the tight-fitting clothes dilemma. No wonder she is smiling. 🙂

And, BTW, just like these two scarecrow gals, sometimes those designer dresses look similar, but it’s okay if someone shows up with your exact same outfit, but a different-colored hat and pinafore, because scarecrows don’t have angst like humans do about such things. (All scarecrows shop at Michael’s craft stores.)

The guy scarecrows really luck out – they wear pants secured with a rope belt that unties after that second piece of pie, like these two; check out the easy-peasy belts below. It’s all good … (except for being impaled on that pesky pole).

Hail, hail … the gang’s all here!

Grandma’s there waiting at the front door with sloppy kisses and open arms. She’s a hugger like most Grandmas.

As the relatives arrive for dinner, bringing appetites (but no flowers, wine or candy) …

… some of them will be seated at the kiddies’ table.

The rest are at the main table – hopefully everyone brought their best manners and left their political views at home.

Someone’s bound to tell a bad joke about how sloppily Grandpa carves the bird and it’s an OMG moment as everyone gasps and is left speechless.

And of course Grandpa cops a real attitude after that.

This guy is eyeing the sweet potato pie … (despite saying his lips are sealed to any dessert as he must watch his boyish figure). He says this same line every year … ho hum.

When dinner and dessert are over, and the last dribbles of gravy have been dabbed from their flour sack faces, Frank grabs his fiddle and bow and asks (wait for it)

… if anyone is up to dancin’ to “Turkey in the Straw”?? (Groan)

I hear those scarecrows do a mean two-step!

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

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Bountiful harvest.

Sweets for the sweets (I’m included here too)

It is a time for sharing the love and the food, or, in this case, the apples. Another Fall ritual, just like the mini pumpkins, is that I dispense apples to my furry friends. Michigan is a big apple producer (900 million pounds, give or take a million), so once Fall rolls along, apples are fairly cheap at Meijer. It is then I take advantage of the sales and get a bag for me … and a bag for my friends.

While walking around the produce section, I decided to get a second treat for myself, after reading a detailed description of a harvest dinner attended by fellow blogger Joni. One of the treats set beside each person’s plate was a huge candy apple. I have never had a candy apple, as my parents drilled into my head at an early age, that candy = cavities and I was only allowed to have the occasional hard candy. What my parents never knew is that my grandmother always buried wrapped Laura Secord candy treats in her apron pocket and they were thrust into my hand when my parents weren’t looking. So a candy apple treat, with its colorful candy that encased the apple, was a definite no-no for me. But I’ve had plenty of caramel apples, before and after having braces on my teeth. My mindset when I saw the display of caramel apples next to the healthful apples was “why not?” Then, if you are going to have caramel apples, might as well kick it up a notch and get the variety with chocolate chips and peanuts on them if you’re going to splurge on calories. Just brush your teeth afterward … old habits never die.

It was a gorgeous day for late October and I stopped to take a photo of the trees which, coincidentally, were the exact same color as those Rome apples.

Although I was wearing my “Peanut Lady” hat, I toted along the bag of apples. I was eager to offload the apples first – they were heavy. I left a few here on the picnic table for the squirrels and the birds. As an enticement, there had to be a few peanuts. I did this on a weekday morning, so I did not have time to stick around for three hours to get cute poses munching on apples. I do have some cute photos from last year of the squirrels smiling while enjoying their apples – you can click here if you’d like to view that post. Guess they liked the Jonathan apples better. 🙂

The view of the peak colors at the Park was worth a shot to show off those pretty leaves.

I supposed the squirrels and birds would have glommed onto an apple pie more readily – how thoughtless of me not to bring one! When we first moved here from Canada, I remember going to a restaurant with my parents and my mom glanced at the dessert selection. She said “apple pie à la mode … fancy that, these Americans don’t put cheese on their pie?” She was aghast. Apple pie with a slice of Black Diamond cheddar cheese was the only way I ever ate apple pie that Mom baked … and warm pie and melted cheese. Wow! I like my apples with a chunk of cheddar alongside them. (No, I did not bring along cheddar wedges for the Park furry and feathered pals.)

Hmm – if a thought bubble appeared over this sparrow’s head it would read “I hope Linda brought birdseed for us too and quits catering only to the squirrels, blue jays and cardinals.”

Well they checked the apples out … would they pass muster?

It appears there was some dissension in the ranks. Looks like somebody was about to get outta Dodge! The picture is kind of dark as it is under the pavilion roof, but you get the gist of the angry sparrow and one about to take flight – the others are nonchalant.

I continued on my good will journey, dispensing apples and taking a load off my arm, which had the tote bag with the remaining apples swinging on it … try carrying a tote bag with apples, a Ziploc bag with peanuts and the camera … I need another hand to get it all done with ease.

Aah – the special, custom-made memorial plaque, shows a tribute to a nature lover, like myself, thus a perfect spot to place these treats.

It wasn’t long before a squirrel came over to investigate and give the apple the sniff test.

Obviously he or she preferred peanuts, and though the apple may have some worth, peanuts rule in this Park.

I had a multitude of squirrel and Park photos taken so far this Fall and my picture folders were groaning with photos, separated into future posts, and I have finally reached the end of my Autumn Park photos. While I will always carry along the camera, I likely won’t be dragging it out as often on my walks, though I hope to capture more antics of my furry and feathered pals in the snow in the coming months, likely on weekends, when I have more time.

As we near our Thanksgiving holiday, I hope that your harvest is bountiful, your table will be laden with holiday fare and you’ll be surrounded by those you love.

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Tranquil Trek.

It was the proverbial calm before the storm, the day before our Veterans Day record-setting snow event. All the local meteorologists had been predicting the Arctic chill and several inches of snow for days. But, in the end, their models and predictions were way out of whack, as we would get 8.8 inches/22 cms of snow before the sun got up on Tuesday morning.

I knew I would not make it back to my favorite nature nook for many days due to the snowfall, then the brutal cold which would inevitably bring ice. Yes, I know the drill, it is the same every Winter … wait, we were nowhere close to the calendar date of Winter, but as that saying goes, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

I took a brand-new bag of peanuts with me as I had to compensate for my future absences. I doled them out along the way to squirrels, jays and cardinals, a few of which you’ll see later in this post.

It was still a little early on that Sunday morning, as I knew that later on I would have many leaves to rake and bag before the onslaught of snow that would arrive in less than twenty-four hours. Nevertheless, I spent almost three hours at the Park – it was just THEM and ME.

It was perhaps the most tranquil trek I’ve ever experienced at Council Point Park. It was so quiet, I could hear the crack as peanut shells were split open and fell away, landing on the pathway. Even the Blue Jay was not the usual town crier to announce that nuts had arrived and to get here ASAP. This is because I had spread plenty for everyone, encouraging them to “eat up, as you may not see the whites of my eyes for a little while.” Perhaps they understood, because no peanuts were carted off or buried, but simply enjoyed right on the spot.

‘Round and ‘round the pathway I went, multiple times, making sure no one was left out and I even dribbled a few peanuts along the picnic tables in the pavilion area for those squirrels who might have slept in. It was then I saw it – the new graffiti on the picnic table, which I featured up top and two more images are below:

There is lots of graffiti in the Park … it is a fact of life these days. In fact, I strategically placed the peanuts over a few words I did not want to show up in the picture above. I usually try not to capture the images in my photos, but sometimes the graffiti makes the contrast of colorful writing versus a nature setting just a little more interesting, so I allow those colorful scribbles and scrawls to be part of the picture:

While you could ooh and aah and wax poetic about the beauty in nature, sometimes the photos need no words either.

Join me on my tranquil trek – I believe you know the cast of characters already, except this little gray squirrel who stepped over to nosh on some nuts with the others:

The ducks were unusually quiet, not a quack from their corner:

The geese paddled about near the mallards or grazed silently:

They decided to take a walk but the leader was a bit conflicted which way to go:

Even Harry the Heron was subdued, as he studied the water for fish and even permitted a few photo ops without making that awful screeching noise and disappearing down the passageway:

You know I can’t help myself – I’ve included a few nut-lovin’ pals:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
Hymns for Little Children, ~Cecil F. Alexander, 1848

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