Thursday, December 31, 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig



My Beloved held up pretty well In the arctic climes of Up North. I did get a little tired of hearing about the "cold" (insensitive of me, I know!) and had to limit him to five complaints per day by the end of our stay.

Minnesotans were thrilled with the balmy temperatures. Anything above zero is a bonus at Christmas time!






I offered to get him some Minnesota winter clothes like this popular buffalo plaid wool Elmer Fudd hat with ear flaps. He decided to pass but did get the sunglasses for the glare on the snow.



We rented a sixteen foot truck to move all my worldly possessions to South Carolina. We didn't begin to fill it up, but it's still a lot of stuff.







My sweet daughters came over to help pack the boxes and load the truck. Of course, Mason was a big help, too. The job he chose was to carry a TV remote around for two days, periodically hiding it and "finding" it, and offering it to whoever was near.









On the last night we went to a Mexican restaurant with the family where Mason charmed the server into giving him candy.

Who could resist these charms, especially the green tongue?








There was a massive winter storm on the way so we rushed to leave18 hours ahead of schedule. We drove through an ice and snow storm all through Iowa with cars and trucks spinning out and landing in the ditch.

Next we drove through the floods in Missouri. Unbelievable. Twenty some people have died in the areas we went through and bridges and overpasses on the Interstate closed behind us. Fields, woods, everywhere you looked, flooded. And we endured a two and a half hour traffic jam in Georgia.

Tennessee has some interesting town names. Here is our favorite --



I wish we had had time to explore it!


Georgia gets our vote for Worst Restrooms, including a couple I refused to use at all. This one was stuck in the back of a yucky storeroom but I'm glad I persevered in finding it because I have not seen one of these since I was a kid! You put a quarter in, step on the platform, and it gives you your weight, fortune, and lucky numbers for the day!

So they can sell you a lottery card on your way out the door?

You need to win the lottery when you are driving a 16 foot truck that gets 8 miles to the gallon of gas.










Yesterday we had a young, strong helper to help us unload the truck and today we returned it to the Penske people. It will be days before all the stuff is sorted and put away.

And I will begin the new year as a South Carolinian!

A year ago I couldn't have dreamed that all these changes would occur in the life I had carefully planned out for my retirement. I wouldn't have believed anyone if they had told me!


Happy New Year, Friends!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Greetings

Our bags are packed, we're heading north very early tomorrow morning

where I won't have much access to wifi,

so I want wish all my blog friends

a very Merry Christmas.

This is my hope this Christmas --

a glorious new morn of

Peace, Friendship, and Love

for a world that seems especially inhospitable and harsh this year.

From us!


Monday, December 21, 2015

Solstice - Celebrating the Return of the Light

The winter solstice occurs in North America tonight. For many years I've celebrated with friends, usually with a bonfire, hot chocolate, and a potluck feast of Christmas cookies, sometimes with a snowshoe hike in the woods, all depending on the weather. Those friends are in Minnesota so it will be different this year.

Solstice means "when the sun stands still." The days begin to lengthen so slowly that it does seem as if the sun was standing still for awhile. From experience I know that we won't notice for a bit and then in a few weeks someone will say, "I think the days are getting longer!" I will be glad for it. I'm not much good after dark. My inner clock and my eyes tell me that day is done and nothing is else is going to be accomplished now.


In the summer we have the most dramatic sunsets here right over the water from our chairs on the porch or deck. But as the sun has moved steadily south in its autumnal path, the sunsets have disappeared behind a pine woods to the north. In exchange we get delicate sunrises that we never see in summer.


Yesterday morning the sky was the softest pink over a bank of gray fog that lingered over the water. The color, and the whole sky scene, was repeated by the motionless water.

This morning unusual cloud layers were reflected in equally tranquil water but all was gray and wintery.









My Beloved is golfIng this morning with his son and son-in-law while I'm baking. Tonight on the longest night of the year we will make the rounds of neighbors on our little road and distribute some Christmas calories and good cheer and brighten up the longest night. A new tradition.

"From out of the darkness . , .

light and hope return."


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Deck the Halls


Every Christmas is different, depending on where you are in life, and it's one of life's blessings to grow old and have so many Christmas memories.


My Christmases started out in a big Norwegian family with aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, cousins, the works. Apparently my great grandma on her death bed had made her daughters promise they would "keep Christmas Eve together" always. It was quite a promise because Grandma Sina didn't take into account basic math -- multiplication to be exact.

The number of people grew. House size did not. By the time I came along, there were a lot of us.

Christmas started at 5 pm on Christmas Eve when the whole clan, dressed in their absolute finest (always new for the children) clothes, crammed into Grandma's house for a sit down meal of turkey and all the trimmings, with three kinds of pie for dessert.

And when I say crammed, I mean when everyone got sat down to eat there was no way for anyone to move. If "someone" (ahem, not saying who it usually was!) had to get up to go to the bathroom, it involved everyone standing, shifting,and moving to make a path. Repeat on the way back to the table.

And when I say "the table" I really mean tableS, one big main table and auxiliary card tables in proximity to "the table" and TV trays for the host and hostess.)

The loon ornament was carved and painted by Connie, Far Side of Fifty blog. It's a little bit of Minnesota here in South Carolina, and I love it!

Before dinner a blessing was said in Norwegian and after three kinds of pie, the Christmas cookies were passed, Jule Kake (Christmas bread), krumkake, rosettes, and some I have no idea how to spell.

While the dishes were being done, which took HOURS with every piece of best china called to service, all those pots and pans, the "good" silverware, we kids sat as close to the Christmas tree and present pile as we could get and looked for gift tags with our name on them. Depending on who was or wasn't watching, we shook them all.

After the present extravaganza (not because each of us had so many presents, more because there were so many OF us) and a path had been cleared through the paper mess, my parent's generation and mine all went to church while the oldest generation stayed home to "get out the midnight supper". I think they probably just wanted to sit in peace and quiet with another glass of sherry (later very sweet Mogan David grape wine) and speak Norwegian.

Not to give away any family secrets, but someone usually brought mistletoe and someone else did not want to be kissed in the doorway every time she walked from kitchen to living room. Uncle Harry or Uncle Harold usually had a bit too much sherry or Mogan David, and one year my dad gave my mom a vacuum cleaner for her Christmas present. It was not a hit. Trying to ameliorate the damage to his reputation, the next year he gave her a nightie in a box with lots of tissue paper which she promptly smashed the top of the box back on and wouldn't let anyone see it.

We returned from church, had a little supper, and put on our new Christmas flannel nightgowns (made by Mom or Grandma) and found a place to burrow among the coats piled on Grandma's bed to sleep until our parents carried us to the freezing cold car for the drive home. Usually someone's car had been sitting in the sub zero cold too long and jumper cables had to be used before everyone was finally off and homeward bound.

Wonderful memories for a kid, the warmth of the house after the cold outside, the smells of food and pine, the love. I would give most anything to be a mouse in the corner at one of those Christmas Eves just one more time!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Beaufort Boat Parade


We nearly missed the Beaufort Christmas boat parade trying to find a parking place. It seemed like everyone in town got there before we did and was already at the harbor. I was excited because I had never seen a boat parade before.

Boats were already lined up and making their way toward the park when we found a place along the water.


Many of the boats moored in the harbor were also decorated with lights and trees and Santas and their owners had ringside seats on the deck to watch the parade along with us landlubbers.


Here they come, passing just a few feet in front of us, singing and waving and encouraging us to sing along.

This sailboat is towing a Christmas tree in its dinghy.




A sea theme here with lobster, dolphin, flamingo, etc. There aren't really any lobsters or flamingos in South Carolina. We do see plenty of dolphins, though.


Frosty is on the bow. No theme music for this one.










Frosty is trailing along in this dinghy. I bet you can guess which song this group was singing.










Almost lost Santa!




When the boat parade was over everyone gathered around the Christmas tree and the Parris Island Marine Corps Jazz Band entertained us for another hour or so.



Before they started to play, they laid their white hats in a circle at the base of the tree.

We splashed out on a bag of popcorn to make it a perfect evening.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

It was such a beautiful day today we packed a picnic and headed for the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge to see some birds. We were not disappointed!

This refuge is part of the 30,000 acres of land set aside along the Savannah River, which in turn is a part of the Atlantic Flyway, traveled by 50 species of birds every spring and fall.

Birds pass through every day from Up North on the way to their winter homes. We had a loon on the water in front of the house this morning.






Most of the land in this section of the refuge used to be rice fields, part of the agricultural economy of the South tended by slaves.


Glossy Ibis feeding






Left, Snowy Egret.

Right, Great Blue Heron

There were great flocks of egrets and herons feeding everywhere, too far away for photos but we enjoyed them through my birding scope using the car as a blind.





Gates like this allowed rice growers to let water in and out of the fields as it was needed.

Now the same gate system is used to control water to benefit the wildlife that lives here and migrates through.


Blinds are available on trails for photographers and birdwatchers to observe the birds. The opening in the photo is just one of several at different heights that can be opened and closed.

I was disappointed that there was nothing to sneak up on for a spectacular view at the time we were there.






Birds weren't the only winged species flying around.

Zebra Long-Wing

I don't have a picture but the mosquitoes were taking advantage of the nice day, too!




Autumn colors have finally come to the LowCountry! The reds and yellows of the hardwoods are just gorgeous. And just in time for Christmas!

I don't know what these trees In the understory are, but the leaves are huge, eight or nine or more inches across.





The water cistern for one of the communities that worked the rice fields for the wealthy plantation owners, who lived in fine houses in Savannah.








And just when we had almost completed the trail and despaired of seeing any of these today ...



... gators in the sun!







If you are wondering why they are reddish brown instead of the usual gator gray-green, it's because these two young ones have been recently building their winter burrows in the red brown mud. They just came out to soak up some sun and warmth before getting back to work.





Monday, December 7, 2015

Christmas in a Small LowCountry Town

The sign was out on the street corner all last week announcing a Festival of Lights, hotdogs, s'mores, and SNOW coming to the park on Friday night.

Friday night's temperature was in the mid 50s and balmy, but Christmas was in the air nonetheless.

Come on in!









Even the ground under your feet was lit up.

How did they DO that?














A machine made snow to give southern kids a taste of winter. They loved pelting each other with snowballs, just like kids Up North.








There were lights glowing everywhere you looked, and yes, those are palm trees on the far side of the water!

Ridgeland is a small town with little industry and a lot of poverty. There are many immigrants and minorities who live here, and that combined with the poverty can create social problems.

Most of the lighted decorations were sponsored by a single families and this display seemed especially meaningful as kids and families of every race enjoyed the Christmas spirit together Friday night.

The lights were magical. You could see it in the faces of the children.