Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Could it be April Fools' Day?

Do you feel you're living in a dream?  I keep hoping I will wake up and no-one will know what I am talking about.  

Or maybe this is the most sophisticated April Fools' joke anyone has ever pulled.  If only that were true.

We've all resorted to COVID-19 humor to pass the time and bring some levity to the otherwise horror-movie scenario.  Today I am doing my part to contribute distraction by pulling from my archives and linking up with my blogging buddies.  Please visit these linky parties, and maybe in the comments below, you can tell us about the best April Fools' joke you ever performed (or were subject to).  

March 30, 2020
LeeAnna at Not Afraid of Color hosts I Like Thursday, and don't we all need some positives right now?  Head on over there and you're sure to find something inspirational.  I just cried my heart out at her 3/29 post featuring the "For Good" duet by Kristin Chenoweth and Rachel Levy.  It's a perfect tribute to what many of us bloggers mean to each other.  This post covers many of my "likes", from Montana sights to critters to food.  Enjoy!

Amazing Crepes Restaurant - March 2019
I've said before I am motivated by food.  It just brings me bliss. I have no doubt that it springs from the delectable meals prepared by Head Chef every day.  Having said that, I am looking forward to dining out.  Being served.  Enjoying a cocktail I don't make at home.  Feeling the vibe of other people, as laughter and conversation ebbs and flows.  This longing came over me as I looked back at some of my restaurant meal photos - something we took for granted not so long ago.  Check out Friday Bliss, hosted by Riitta, to see what bliss means for some other blogging friends.
Spotted Bear Distillery - March 2019

Red Columbine - May 31, 2019
The advent of April prompted me to pull out my gardening journal, and my plans for spring planting that were developed six months ago.  With that came the sudden realization that I should be sowing Columbine seeds soon.  The official guidance recommends sowing on top of raked soil 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost.  We live in Hardiness Zone 5a, and its average date of last frost is April 15.  Yikes!  I need to get moving.  And wouldn't you know, the next day I woke up to an inch of snow?  So, this is a Columbine picture from last spring; you can find more current flower photos if you link to Floral Friday Fotos.

Last May, I was helping my Dear Neighbor Friend with some of her students, and I had some spare time before one of the sessions.  I recall that it was a glorious spring day; I was drawn to walk the neighborhood around the school, and I made a terrific discovery.  The East Side Historic District of Kalispell is in the National Register of Historic Places!  It features no less than 74 buildings, mostly homes, each one sporting its own plaque with a detailed description of the building and its history.  I photographed nine homes that day, which are worthy of their own post sometime.  For right now, I will show you my favorite and link up with Betty at My Corner of the World, who is making the world a smaller place one week at a time!
McIntosh House - Queen Anne style built in 1894
Animals are never far from my mind since we live in the woods.  I have only to look out the window and I will see some sort of wildlife, most commonly birds and deer.  A couple of weeks ago, I offered to collect the trail cam disks for one of my neighbors, and I am sharing just a few of the resulting pictures in this post.  To put some other "wild" into your life, pop on over to Saturday's Critters, hosted by Eileen.
Mr. Coyote out for a stroll

Father shows Son the ropes
Not sure if the turkeys think of the driveway as a runway or a red carpet, but they sure like to strut their stuff!
You might not be a flower person, or have access to wildlife, but everyone can see the sky.  Be it blue or gray, dotted with clouds or studded with stars, the sky has been a fascination for man through the millennia, so it is no surprise to me that Skywatch has a multitude of participants every week.  I have been saving this picture from our visit to Skipton Castle Woods back in October, and I think this is the time to let it fly!  Be sure to look heavenward over at Skywatch!

We are cat lovers in this house, so I never need an excuse to visit Brian's Home.  Dolly, Simon, Zoe, Seal and Brian are always up to something, and it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.  (It may be a wry knowing smile, like "yep, my cat does THAT too!")  In this case, we are joining Thankful Thursday, because I am particularly happy this week to be the lucky recipient of the 2020 Little Bird Calendar from Sylvia.  Thanks again, Sylvia!
I feel better the minute I look at this charming little birdie!
Optimistic we will have a baseball season!
Tom the Backroads Traveller has been a faithful participant in Mosaic Monday, often linking up twice.  Thanks, buddy!  He also hosts entertaining linky parties such as the Barn Collective, Tuesday's Treasures and Willy Nilly Friday, which I am joining this week.  Just as the title implies, you can post anything!  If you are in a willy-nilly mood, or WANT to be spontaneous, check it out! The ideal opportunity to show you some murals that were outside the American Sign Museum, which I wrote about here

Hopefully you have found some diversion with my post today.  I will leave you with a final mural.  The future is out there waiting for us.  Have faith.  Show a little kindness to someone who needs it today.  Say a prayer for the health professionals who are putting their lives on the line.  Until next time!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Mosaic Monday #73: Lockdown

March 2020 will be forever fixed in my brain as the month our world was turned upside down.  It began simply enough.  Head Chef concocted comfort foods; we enjoyed winter splendor; I waited for my Dear Neighbor Friend to return from a trip to visit family and friends in California/Mexico. 
Steak Pie with Roasted Potatoes and Mushy Peas
Frozen waterfall - a 20-minute drive from our house
March 15 dawned bright and crisp; the dash temperature gauge warned us to layer up as we headed to the mountain for a play day.  
We couldn't get enough of the views and the time together.
So it was that we stopped for lunch later than normal, only to hear the news that the resort would be closing THAT DAY.  The resigned dismay hung like a pall over our Ambassador locker room; each of us had our own reasons to regret losing three weeks of ski season.  Word spread quickly through Whitefish, and locals thronged to the mountain that afternoon to get in the last few runs of the season.  Later, you could see the shock on people's faces as they cleared out their lockers, toting skis, poles, helmets and all manner of other equipment to their cars.  Little did we know it was just the beginning. (Montana had 4 cases.)

Maggie says "What's all the fuss about?"
Spousal Unit and I made the tough decision to begin self-isolation right away.  We skipped the traditional Ambassador St. Patrick's Day party, and chose not to attend the Employee Ski Day on March 20.  This was particularly difficult for my social butterfly of a husband!  After that, most organizations began dropping events, thereby resolving any dilemma.  All Masses and church gatherings were cancelled until at least March 30, following the Governor's March 17 directive limiting gatherings to less than 50 people.  Email starting flowing in from every organization that has my address - craft stores (buy supplies to stay busy), pharmacies (free delivery), Expedia (recommendations for current and future travel), the dentist (my appointment might have to be re-scheduled), my congressmen (join a town hall).  

Social media exploded with humorous videos, memes and suggestions for coping with everything from isolation to home-schooling to cooking EVERY DAY.  Of course, cooking is not a problem in our house, and I have never been more grateful.  For all those cooks out there - thank you.  And hopefully, like my Head Chef, you are finding some escape in the kitchen.
Breakfast frittata
For my part, getting outside delivers tranquility and restores my faith.  Nature continues on her way, oblivious to the virus.  I walk the "back forty" most days, and with no time constraints, I observe small things that I might otherwise miss.
Otter tracks - bottom picture is a "slide" mark going into the creek
Far right: coyote tracks

On March 20, the Governor closed high-risk businesses such as bars, restaurants and workout facilities.  Spousal Unit and I began to talk about alternative activities to keep ourselves entertained.  Hikes.  Cooking together.  Movie nights.  Spring cleaning. (How did that get on the list?)  And some distractions continued unabated, such as adult beverages!  If we can't go to the bar, we'll bring the bar to us! (Montana had 27 cases.)
Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but that same day I spotted a new bird visiting our suet feeder.  It came three times that day, but I haven't seen it since.  And I have been engaged in lengthy bird-watching, let me tell you.  It was a male Varied Thrush.  The still picture is from the Web, and the video is mine (not super quality, but proof that it was here!)  Isn't it a handsome specimen?

Andouille sausage - those tiles in the
background are two we are considering
for a future backsplash
On March 23, our kids (both in Ohio) became subject to that state's shelter in place mandate.  I have been so impressed (and relieved) by how they are handling the constant change and ongoing ambiguity.  Our daughter's theatre had to cease productions, and is adapting by streaming past performances.  Our son will finish his college degree from his apartment, and is highly unlikely to "walk" in the classic graduation ceremony since it has been postponed indefinitely.  That day, I was sous chef for Head Chef as we prepared Red Beans and Rice, with cornbread on the side.  I tried to add some levity by texting the recipe to the kids, complaining that we have no bay leaves!  (Click here if you need a refresher on how I named my blog!)  (Montana had 34 cases.)
March 24 saw Governor Bullock extending school and high-risk business closures to April 10, and reducing the size of gatherings from 50 to 10.  His announcement pointed out that the previous day saw a 25% increase in cases in Montana.  In our house, we took comfort in regular routines such as yoga, cooking, listening to music, and running on the treadmill.  The isolation also presented new opportunities, such as contacting old friends and starting up a genealogy project that has been on my to-do list for eons.  Spousal Unit offered to play Scrabble - you know we are in desperate times now - and I was only too tickled to accept (and win!)

Canada Geese have returned to our lake,
leaving adorable tracks in the snow
As many have pointed out, COVID-19 has affected the entire world in a way that has not been seen since the Spanish Flu of 1918.  Not even world wars or 9-11 suspended daily life to such a great extent.  Everyone has a story.  A wedding that has been postponed.  Small businesses that have been shuttered, putting their future in jeopardy.  Cancelled vacations.  People laid off from work, who are now struggling to pay their bills.  First responders and health professionals who continue to put their lives on the line for the greater good. In the moments when I get down, I try to remember that my "problems" are miniscule compared to others.  I am grateful that I have my faith.  I continue walking outdoors, reveling in little signs of spring.

The proverbial clouds of this crisis do offer some silver linings.  We were able to view our daughter's last show - Alabaster - via on demand streaming.  Otherwise, as with most of her shows, this would be a powerful performance we would have missed.  On a day that we would have normally been working on the mountain, Spousal Unit and I went on a hike in Glacier National Park.  I retrieved the trail cam disks for my neighbor, yielding innumerable fabulous wildlife photos.  (Watch for a future post for the hike and the critters.) A fellow blogger pointed us to live streaming coverage of a Barred Owl nest.  Even when Mama Owl is just sleeping, I find the background chirping and singing birds to be soothing.  A group is organizing a Virtual Catholic Women's Conference the first weekend in April, and I hope to participate in part of it with my daughter.  Ample free time has translated to more progress on my Violet Protest square.

And then, just as I sat down to begin to compose this post (March 26), the email arrived from Governor Bullock.  7.04 PM. "Today I issued a Directive requiring Montanans to stay home and temporarily closing all nonessential businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19.  The order goes into effect at 12:01 am on March 28 and will buy us time for health care workers on the frontlines to limit long-term impacts to the state's economy."  Yes, lockdown has arrived in Montana and will last until at least April 10.  Get the hot chocolate and light the fire, darling, we are here for the long haul.  (Montana had 90 cases and its first death.)
Ants emerge from winter "hibernation" - now that's a group hug!

The next day, Glacier National Park announced its temporary closure.  This profoundly impacted me. More dismay and more unanswered questions.  Will they continue working to process back-country camping applications?  Will the park re-open in time for our earliest application (June 15), assuming it gets approved?  When is COVID-19 likely to peak in the U.S. and in Montana in particular?  Out of a desire to maintain our sanity, we have been limiting our news consumption, but at times you just want some answers.  I think it is human nature to need "the light at the end of the tunnel".  We've pretty much accepted that we are not going to Ohio as planned on May 1 (our son's graduation was scheduled for May 3), nor to Grand Cayman on May 7 for a family vacation.  But I need a glimmer of hope that life will eventually return to normal.  (A friend texted me - on the lighter side, there will be no question what my natural hair color is!)  Perhaps it was to have an event, any event, scheduled, or maybe out of sheer defiance, I booked a hotel for August 15-16 so that we can attend the 102nd Annual Crow Fair Celebration Powwow & Rodeo.  Take that, COVID-19! (March 27 - Montana had 121 cases and 1 death)

What are you anticipating post-virus?  It seems selfish and cavalier to even think of these things when people are dying from COVID-19.  But I need to look past today and have plans.  I can't wait to see my Dear Neighbor Friend, and to exchange hugs.  To go to church again.  A sloppy burger with fries at a restaurant teeming with people.  Rescheduling our trip to Cayman and seeing our kids.  Dancing to the New Wave Time Trippers at the Great Northern Bar in Whitefish.  Hosting friends at our house for a dinner party.  In the meantime, I pray that you and your families are well.  Special thoughts to all those leaders and health professionals who are working diligently to protect us.  Keep the faith!  (At the time of publication, Montana had 154 cases and 1 death.)

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Mosaic Monday #72: Whistling in the Dark

Footpath along the River Wear, Durham, UK
Well, what a difference 10 weeks can make.  On January 11, my post expressed concerns about wildfires in Australia, tension between the US and Iran, and closer to home, the sale of 630,000 acres of Montana timber land.  On January 19, I wrote about 'troubling world events', a reference to climate change. While those issues are still important, they pale in comparison to the immediate threat and impact of the pandemic.  On March 8, I reflected upon my retirement, and resolved to give up some volunteering in favor of crafting activities and spending more time with Spousal Unit.  Hmmm … how does that saying go?  "Be careful what you wish for."

So, since you don't need anyone else to remind you to "sneeze into your elbow", I thought we'd engage in some distraction.  A little escapism.  Having already used the ostrich metaphor in several posts lately, I went looking for alternatives.  Do you know how many expressions mean sticking your head in the sand?  Sweep aside.  Gloss over.  Turn a blind eye.  Overlook.  Bunker mentality.  Kick something into the long grass.  Paper over.  Play dumb.  Play possum.  Whistling in the dark.

Pick your favorite expression and then come along with me.  As faithful readers know, Spousal Unit and I were in the UK in October 2019.  (It seems a world away now.  Imagine visiting a historic home, or wandering the main street of a quaint village!  Going to a pub crammed with other people, to watch my cousin-in-law perform!  Buying an ice cream from a street vendor!  But I digress.)  I have written about the visit here, here, here, and here.  But there's more!

Let's start with some humor.  One of the many pubs that we patronized during our visit was The Beeswing Inn.  You will certainly enjoy the food and beverages, and then you have to find the restrooms.  Be ready for a belly laugh when you do!
And what about a rainbow to brighten your day?  These pictures were taken the morning we headed to Skipton.  The clouds never materialized into precipitation; for the most part our getaway to the UK was rain-free.  As the song croons "Someday, I wish upon a star   Wake up where the clouds are far behind me  Where trouble melts like lemon drops  High above the chimney top  That's where you'll find me"
No trip to Northeast England is complete without going into Durham.  After all, Spousal Unit proposed to me there!  As many times as we have strolled its cobbled streets, we can still find something new.  Durham University continues its growth; when you only visit a town once a year, it seems as though new buildings pop up overnight.
And sometimes taking a different footpath leads to a discovery, such as this ancient gate into the city.  Baileygate was created in 1778-9 to accommodate carriage traffic using the newly built Prebend's Bridge.  Fragments of carved masonry in the arch came from the Wheel window remodeled as the present Rose window in the east end of the Cathedral.
We always take a spin through Durham Cathedral.  You never know what you might see, such as the interior of the Lego cathedral model, or the beautiful flower arrangements.
The tower in the picture at left was covered in scaffolding for about five years - how wonderful to see it once again!
We ended our visit with a delicious meal at Vennels Café, our go-to lunch spot near the city center.
The following day took us to another family favorite, Hardwick Park.  When our kids were young, every trip to Nan and Granda's house included one or more outings to the Park.  Bestowed with ample bodies of water, it is inhabited by innumerable ducks, geese and swans.  Nan always brought bread for them (now signs are everywhere prohibiting this practice) and the kids reveled in bestowing crumbs everywhere they went.
This day, we were sans kids, unless you count Spousal Unit, who invested some spare change in the approved duck food.  I felt we had rewound the clock 16 years; nothing had changed as several breeds gathered around for the handout.  And then the swans got aggressive - have I blocked out that behavior from my memory banks or have they always been this intimidating?  Check out this brief video!
In most of the park, autumn leaves were the only decoration to be found.  This shrub stood out as an exception; I suspect the orange sections of the "flowers" are actually seed pods.  Can anyone identify this plant?

American Robins are ubiquitous at home, and they are also quite a large bird when compared to the European Robin.  Perhaps that is why I find the European Robin so adorable.   As we sauntered along a final section of boardwalk in the Park, one pecked away at duck food that someone had scattered along the railing.  It chirped and trilled, as if singing for its supper.  Here's a little snippet for your entertainment.

Coincidentally, our final day with my in-laws was a Sunday, which meant Sunday dinner!  My mother-in-law excels with the eminently satisfying combination of roast beef, gravy, Yorkshire puddings, roasted potatoes, mushy peas, roasted parsnips and an assortment of vegetables.  Oof!  You can’t resist a second full serving of everything!  On a full stomach, I slept like a baby.

All too soon, the UK had fallen away below us during the short hop to Amsterdam.  We strolled the long terminals of Schiphol, stretching our legs as much as possible before boarding the flight to Calgary.  I don’t remember now the movies that I watched (is my memory going or were the movies forgettable?), but the time went quickly.  Customs and immigration were a breeze in Calgary, and the shuttle arrived promptly to whisk us to our hotel.  After a refreshing shower, we went to the hotel bar for some drinks and appetizers.  Not long after, we crashed.  After all, by our body clocks, it was 2 am!!!

Our return drive to Montana, through the plains south of Calgary, and over Crowsnest Pass, was surreal.  Snow had arrived during our absence, and it fell at varying rates as we motored along.  Yes, November in Alberta!

We stopped for a late breakfast west of the Pass, and from that point on, the snow frosted only the mountain tops.  Around every curve was another breathtaking scene, a promise of the winter to come.  We were home, once again.

I pray that I have transported you to another world, if only in your mind.  At the same time, I believe it is critical to emphasize the seriousness of the pandemic.  At the time of publishing this post, the world has 316,659 confirmed cases, 13,559 deaths and 94,176 recovered (all data from John Hopkins).  The U.S. has 27,004 cases, 344 deaths and 176 recovered.  On March 3, the U.S. had 100 cases, 9 deaths and none recovered.  A 26,904% increase in cases in 18 days.  Please consider others by limiting contact as much as possible.  And if it helps you, whistle in the dark.

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
Please include at least one photo mosaic/collage in your post.
The link will be open from 1 p.m. Sunday until 11 p.m. Monday (U.S. Mountain time).
Remember to add the link to your Mosaic Monday post and not the one to your blog.
Please link back to this post so that your readers will be able to visit and enjoy more wonderful mosaics; taking the MM blog button from my sidebar is an easy way to link back.
As host I will visit every participant and leave a comment so that you know I stopped by.
Please try and visit as many other blogs as you can, especially those that join in later, so that everyone's creativity can be appreciated fully.
Thank you for joining in today and sharing your mosaics with us.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
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