Archive | November 2020

COVID Diaries: Day 254

It’s the Thanksgiving edition; ok, so I’m a day late – whatever…

When we started this COVID lockdown thing, it was just after St. Patrick’s Day.  That’s a lot of celebrating not being done this year, and it’s just getting started…

So in light of Thanksgiving, I decided to do a post about what I’m thankful for, because it certainly isn’t all the wild and exotic travel locations I have visited this year!

  1. My family and friends, even if I don’t really see them much lately…  The holidays remind me how much I miss my dad, but I have other dear friends and family that I cherish, and I am grateful for them.
  2. I have saved so much money on gas and car maintenance this year!
  3. Mild weather.  I have said this before, but it’s rarely cold enough, hot enough or rainy enough that you can’t go outside in the Pacific Northwest.  When you are cooped up at home the way we have been for so much of this year, the opportunity to walk and hike is certainly something to be thankful for. 
  4. Kindness.  It seems that there are an awful lot of people who have not been kind this year, and that makes it stick out more when I encounter kindness.  It’s been a hard year on all of us, and the ranting, lectures and venom don’t help.  I hope people do a bit of soul searching and try to get back to that basic value.
  5. Cora.  She keeps me sane and laughing, whether it’s sticking her butt in my face while demanding dinner (at 3 in the afternoon), “helping” me with a puzzle, or snuggling at night, it’s been nice to have someone who listens to my monologues and doesn’t judge the fact that I’m talking to myself.
  6. Canned wine and hard cider.  These are so much easier to take on a mountain hike and a summit reward!  I’m no longer limited to hiking with beer!
  7. The critters in my yard.  My work from home months are more bearable when I have the deer, woodpeckers, squirrels, bunnies and other birds stopping by to keep me company.
  8. A strong real estate market.  I’m holding out hope that my appreciating home will mean I can retire earlier, when I sell and move someplace cheaper, mortgage free!
  9. My health.  I’m healthy and strong and grateful that my body sustains me through the physical activity I enjoy doing.
  10. My imagination.  It reminds me that we will get through COVID eventually, and there will be travel, camping, adventure and sightseeing to resume doing at that time.  Until then, a girl can dream…

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving, whatever it looked like, and that you are safe and healthy throughout the holiday season.


COVID Diaries: Day 247

It’s the weekend!  But really, that has limited meaning in the new lock down.  Days are really divided into, did I work today, or did I not work today?  Today I did not work, so that’s how I know it is the weekend.

The Governor’s new cliche phrase is, “It’s ok to not be ok…”  I wonder how many other people find this annoying, given that he experiences none of the hardships that others are facing.  Realistically I’m doing fine, as I have a job that I can do from home, but that makes it all the more lonely.  I feel just a little bit lost, as if there’s nothing filling the space of this big house.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I joined a virtual race that lasts throughout the winter – The Bend to Whistler Challenge.  You have six months to walk, run or bike 700 miles.  Since October 1, I’ve made it over 250 miles, all the way from Bend to Portland, Oregon, so that feels like an accomplishment!  I am lucky in the fact that the Pacific Northwest has weather you can be outside in all year long, as long as you don’t mind getting wet.

I started a new puzzle, and have made some progress, but it is a hard one! Rosie the Riveter!

I also put up the Christmas tree and decorated it with the usual eclectic mix of lights and ornaments.  No one will ever accuse me of having the Martha Stewart home.  There’s a little Mexican folk nativity in one of the boxes somewhere that I couldn’t locate, and it’s making me kind of sad.  I might just leave Christmas up until the pandemic is over, or at least until it is still light out at 8 pm.  That seems like a fair compromise.

I was lucky to find toilet paper at the grocery store before the new round of panic buying started.  And canned tomatoes, because those were sold out for months last time!  And my Cheetos addiction continues…

I treated myself to a wine advent calendar. I blogged about seeing it a couple weeks ago, and yes indeed I went back to get it.  I’ll diligently try to blog about each wine when I have them in December.  The good news is a girlfriend of mine also got one and we committed to nightly video chats to sample our wines.

I also splurged and purchased a subscription box.  At least if I have to stay home all the time again, I should have goodies to look forward to in the mail…  Supposedly it should ship within 7-10 days.  It’s my reward for all the fall leaf raking I’ve been doing…

How is it in your area?  Are you locked down again?


Circus Trip 2018: Woodstock, VT

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont is a small town that I want to visit again.  It was beautiful!  There are so many nice historic homes, and a little stream that runs through town.  It has the cutest quaint downtown shopping district, and loads of charm.

I poked around in the shops, getting some gifts for friends and family and a few postcards for myself.

I stopped in at Bentley’s restaurant, sat at the bar, and had a Citizen Cider and the most incredible burger made with locally raised beef.  It was so good, and I was so hungry!  I would absolutely go have that burger again!

Also near Woodstock is the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, Vermont, about 20 minutes away.  This is certainly on my list of places to visit once I’m back in the area!  I just ran out of time on that trip.

And look at this covered bridge!  The Taftsville covered bridge was originally built in 1836!  It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene 2011; repairs took two years and it reopened in 2013.

These photos are making me nostalgic and eager to get back on the road!

COVID Diaries: Day 242

Just like that, starting tomorrow at midnight, we are locked down again…

No more:

  • Indoor gatherings
  • Indoor dining
  • Museums
  • Bowling
  • Indoor zoos
  • And… No Thanksgiving outside of your own house…

That’s all well and good if you have a family at home, but what a draconian measure for those who live alone…  I know an awful lot of people who live alone, even if you don’t, everybody has COVID fatigue.  Let me just say, I’m thinking there are going to be an awful lot of covert Thanksgivings this year…  Happy holidays!




Circus Trip 2018: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, Vermont

Besides a section of the Appalachian Trail, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park unit within the state of Vermont.  So it makes sense that it would be an interesting one!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named for the three families that owned this property, and each impacted the farm and the nearby community of Woodstock, Vermont in important ways. 

The son of the first family who lived at the farm on Mount Tom, George Perkins Marsh, grew up seeing the environmental destruction that had been caused by deforestation in Vermont, both for sheep grazing and for industry, as wood was still a primary means of making the fires that were used to process glass, soap, and wool.  It was estimated that by the time Marsh was born in 1801, over 95% of Vermont’s forestland had been logged.  He saw the erosion and loss of fish habitat that occurred on his own property and began to understand the future impacts if people didn’t change their ways.

Frederick Billings grew up reading George Marsh’s writings, including his book, Man and Nature, and was impacted by the call to action of saving America’s forestland.  He became an attorney and purchased the farm in 1869, planted trees and set about creating a sustainable dairy farm, along with carriage paths throughout the property with scenic vistas through the forest.

One of Frederick Billings’ granddaughters married a Rockefeller, and inherited the farm in the 1950s, thus giving Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park its third name.  The Rockefeller family had long had a tradition of conservation and contributing to the idea of setting aside public land that would not be developed.  Laurance and Mary Rockefeller continued that tradition on the Billings farm.  They set about to remodel and modernize the mansion and farm, and opened the Billings Farm to the public in 1983.

The Rockefellers donated their residential property to the National Park Service in 1992, a donation that included this fabulous Victorian mansion with all its incredible furnishings, as well as 555 acres of forested land on Mount Tom, where the mansion is located.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is now a unit dedicated to conservation and operated closely with a private foundation that operates the Billings dairy farm next door.

When I visited, I did the tour of the mansion, which was truly one of the most spectacular historic mansions I’ve seen so far.  I was fascinated.  The fact that the Rockefellers donated all their furnishings made it a place that could be enjoyed for its ornate architectural beauty, its incredible artwork collected by the family, and the remaining evidence of the family’s life there.  So often we see mansions that are decorated with period pieces and we aren’t able to see that people – families – actually lived here.  They lived here with their hobbies, and collections and favorite books.  And they lived here with their letters to friends, family snapshots, their favorite comfy chair, and the hideous plaid carpet.  You can see the life lived in this mansion, and honestly, beyond the expensive art collections, it isn’t that much different than yours and mine.

I definitely want to return, and see more of the mansion and the property surrounding it.  It has several miles of hiking trails and carriage paths, and it would look spectacular during the fall colors!  Of course, I also wanted to see the village of Woodstock, Vermont, so I went there next!



Book Review: In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers

In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers: A Return to Easy Company’s Battlefields with Sergeant Forrest Guth, by Larry Alexander

I found this audio book in my perusal of the library’s collection, and it sounded interesting.  Having more than a passing interest in World War II, and having watched the Band of Brothers miniseries, I wanted to learn more.

In the Footsteps of the Band of Brothers: A Return to Easy Company's Battlefields with Sgt. Forrest Guth

Larry Alexander confesses that he developed his fascination with World War II as a young boy, and has gone on to write three books on World War II.  After meeting some of the veterans of Easy Company, he pitched an intriguing idea to his editor.  He would accompany a member of Easy Company, the Band of Brothers, on a return to the battlefields of the company’s campaigns in Europe.

Alexander travels with Sergeant Forrest Guth, and documents Guth’s observations and reactions to the battlefields and villages they visit. They try, whenever possible, to find homes and buildings where their troops were billeted or places they fought.  Alexander also offers his own observations, from the perspective of someone who wasn’t there during the war.   He details what the battlefield looked like then versus now, along with details of each battle Easy Company fought.

Alexander even describes the warm welcome they received from the people living in the villages they visited, who 70 years later still wanted to express their gratitude to the men who saved them from tyranny.

This book is an interesting look into the war from a different perspective, although it will be easier to follow if you have some knowledge of Easy Company and the campaigns they fought in during World War II.

3 stars

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Can you enjoy a book and still find it incredibly flawed?

Kya Clark is a young woman who grows up alone in a swamp on the coast of North Carolina.  Over time in her early childhood, one by one, her mother, four siblings and father all leave until, at the age of 7, she finds herself utterly alone in a cabin without electricity or running water, fending for herself.  The truant officer makes a halfhearted attempt to bring her to school, and a few strangers become friends and teach her what’s necessary to survive in the world.  Against all odds, she finds love, and establishes a successful career as a wildlife/naturalist author.  It’s all romantic, and beautiful, with just enough tragic heartbreak to draw the reader in.

Where the Crawdads Sing

The problem is, none of it could possibly be real.  There’s just too much suspension of disbelief required to truly immerse yourself in the story.  Her mother and older siblings all walked away from their abusive husband/father, and not one of them thought to take the 5 year old with them?  The truant officer and whatever city/county government she worked for, didn’t think it was important enough to find and place a 7 year old living alone in a swamp into foster care?  A 14 year old could learn how to read using complex textbooks and almanacs with only a rudimentary amount of tutoring from another, slightly older, child?

And perhaps the biggest one…  Not one, but two men, from privileged upbringings in town, ignore the peer pressure from their family and friends and fall in love with Kya on her turf, out in the swamp.  Admittedly, she is a side dish for one of them, which is certainly the more believable, but seriously?  Life doesn’t happen that way…  Don’t even get me started on how an unknown in the publishing world happens to miraculously get Kya a multi-book deal that yields enough of an income to sustain her for the remainder of her life.

That said, the author’s descriptions of nature and Kya’s response to her surroundings are superb.  And the story moves quickly through.  In fact, perhaps the plot twist at the end move through a bit too quickly, but I won’t give it away…

3 stars. 

COVID Diaries: Day 231

Fall is certainly here in full force, and I’ve been in a pensive mood.  Day 231 of the lock down – I never would have thought…  So I thought I would bring to you another round of COVID observations.

  1. Cheetos and pineapple hard cider aren’t the best food and booze pairing I’ve ever had.  But it’s not the worst either.
  2. There is something inherently depressing about the first day after the time change when the sunset occurs before you are off work.  It’s worse when you haven’t even put on shoes that day…
  3. There is something quite odd about realizing that you are very drawn to a man’s face in the grocery store… And then you realize it is because he doesn’t have a mask on. 
  4. We are all unintentionally jerks sometimes.  That’s just human nature.  You are going to screw up and all you can do is apologize and hope they forgive you.  But when you are a jerk intentionally, then it’s time to look very deeply into your own heart and reevaluate your values…  Because something ain’t lining up.  There seems to be a lot of this going around lately…
  5. I saw a wine advent calendar at the grocery store tonight.  If I place it in a prominent location at home, does that count as decorating for Christmas?  Asking for a friend…
  6. I think the black squirrels in my yard gained a competitive advantage over the gray squirrels this year.  Maybe it has something to do with the bunnies.
  7. Raking and mowing the lawn in fall is the equivalent of bringing on the rain by washing your car.  Except with wind.
  8. At some point I reached the point where my heart has been so scarred that I wonder if I will ever trust anyone ever again.  I’m still trying…
  9. The fate of the world may one day come down to a battle between the people who put two spaces after a period and those who only put one.  I’m a two spacer…
  10. Overall, 2020 still blows… 

The red rocks of the southwest are sounding pretty good right now.  I hope you are all hanging in there! 

Me at Valley of Fire State Park…