Monthly Archives: February 2013

Finding beauty in an dreary week of February

January and I don’t get along. Let’s just say I’m SO glad when February arrives because at least there is Valentine’s Day to celebrate and then you’re halfway through the month!

But okay. Enough is enough. It’s time for February to morph into March. It’s the time of year when we’re ready for something…anything…that suggests a possibility that spring isn’t so far away. Let’s just say the last few weeks in our part of Ohio have been — for the most part — dreary, cold and wet, with a few beautifully sunny days to whet our appetites for better weather.
A stroll through the back yard revealed some highlights…my favorite was the parsley that survived the winter underneath the snow. And then there were these beauties:

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

The green tips of spring flowers poking their heads up through the ground.

Forsythia buds -- time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!

Forsythia buds — time to cut a few to bring inside to force for early yellow color!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the midst of searching for spring, it occurred to  me that I should be able to find some beauty in the ordinary, so I began looking for unusual plants, grasses and pretty berries. The local florists will never have to worry about me horning in on their business. But channeling my late mother-in–law, who could make the most straggly stems appear beautiful, here’s what I came up with. Not bad, eh?IMG_0391[1]

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Yes! We have no bananas

There is that delicious moment when you feel yourself dropping off to sleep, knowing that in just seconds you will be oblivious to the world around you. Then there is that moment when your senses are startled awake by some unwelcome interruption.

This happened to me a few nights ago. I remember hearing a question entering my subconscious and wondering WHAT THE HECK? My pleasant drift into slumberland was jolted awake by my husband, asking…”What happened to the bananas?”

Here’s the thing: I hate bananas. My husband knows that. My mother knows that. My children know that. Even my 20-year-old niece knows it and in fact, if she reads this, she may not speak to my husband again because she claims her dislike for them far outweighs mine.

My response to him was a chilly, “You’re asking ME? I didn’t buy any.” And then thankfully, for once, I drifted back to sleep.

Toward morning, I woke up to an aching shoulder, so fetched an ice pack. When I opened the door of the freezer, guess what was hanging from the inside rack of the freezer door? Yep.

A bunch of FROZEN BANANAS.2013-02-19 06.59.18 Somehow they’d slid off the top of the fridge into the freezer. I couldn’t help myself. I had to laugh. Clearly, he’d not located them. Before removing them to the counter top, I took a photo.

When I returned to bed, I nudged the sleeping husband and said “Found your bananas.”

No response….just a slight snore.

You’ll have to ask him what he did with them.

Long silent cuckoo frees itself from its trap door and sings again

We’re having a Miss Clavel moment in our house. Or actually, it’s a Miss Clavel day. The Madeline ditty keeps playing over and over in my mind…”Something is not right. Something is quite wrong. Something is not right, and so… I sing this song.”

Here’s the thing. In 1990, my parents returned from Switzerland with five cuckoo clocks — one for each of their children. These are the typical carved clocks that are pendulum-regulated and (supposedly) strike the hours with a sound like a cuckoo’s call and has a miniature cuckoo that pops out from his little door with each note.

“Supposedly” is the key word here. Ours hasn’t worked for years and I’m pretty sure that’s true of my brothers’ clocks. In fact, one of them put it back  in the box when it stopped working. We’ve taken ours to two competent clock repair shops. The word is that cuckoo clocks are very difficult (read: expensive) to repair.

So for years, our has just hung in the living room for decorative purposes. A few years ago..one day…out of nowhere…the little bird popped out and said “cuckoo.”  I was so stunned I just stared at it for a long time before calling my husband. It did the same thing months later but until today has been silent.

Today, my husband and I were telling a friend the saga of the cuckoo clock. At the same time, I’d been dusting the clock when suddenly the little bird popped out and chirped his little tune. In stunned silence, we watched it pop right back inside its little hole, pulling the door shut.

Suddenly, we realized it was also ticking — a first in a long time despite the fact that we pull the chains regularly. But today it wasn’t finished.

Fifteen minutes later, at the top of the hour, the little guy popped out again and chirped four times to indicate the hour. Of course, it was really only 1:30 p.m., but the clock was off and how would the cuckoo know that? Later in the day, we reset it and hours later, it is still chirping away every 15 minutes.

To prove to our daughters and my brothers that the clock is working again, we videotaped it. Shortest video on record, but you get the idea. The question is…what happened? Did I actually remove a piece of dust that was in the way of the clock mechanism?

I do know this much. Miss Clavel was right.

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Nearly 34 years later, I can clearly remember my first date with the man I eventually married. Not because it was particularly romantic and not because of the exception food. No, what I remember clearly is approaching a railroad crossing as the gates lowered and lights began flashing. Here’s how I remember that conversation:

Me: Oh no, a train. I hope it’s not a long one.
Fred: Yes! A train! I hope it’s a long one.

I remember looking at him and wondering what I’d gotten myself into. This man actually got his jollies out of counting train cars. Oh, and identifying each car’s company/owner, and then specifying the type of car each was.

I’m pretty sure there were at least 100 cars. Probably more. Didn’t faze him in the least.

Some might say that’s probably where I went wrong. I could have nipped that romance in the bud that very night. But no. I fell…hook, line and cowcatcher. What I didn’t realize was that it was contagious. It was like a plague. Once you’re hooked, you’re a railfan for life. I’d never claim to know even 1/100th of what he knows about trains, the history of trains, and the proposed future of trains. But my heart does a little skip when it hears the wail of a train in the night.

Here’s the thing. I’ll bet that when a train sounds in the distance at, say, 9 p.m., no one in your house stops, cocks his head and says, “That’s the 410 going through….” Well, at least unless you’re my friend, Eric Davis, who lives just 15 miles away in another small northwestern Ohio town.

My husband took this photo with a Pony Kodak in 1970 in Montana.

My husband took this photo with a Pony Kodak in 1970 in Montana.

I once asked my husband what nickname is given to train nuts (my word). His response was “railroad employees call us ‘FRF’ and ‘$&*@+%’ Railroad Fans.'”

There is a somewhat elaborate set-up in our basement featuring HO gauge train cars, but that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are train lanterns, train schedules, items he’s collected over the years. For years now, I’ve successfully ignored much of this, but finally I got curious. How did he get interested? Who could I blame?

He claims that  “this hobby is in the

Santa Fe diesel

Santa Fe diesel

tradition of James F. West, Bluffton’s premier interurban fan; John H. Keller, Sr., Interurban and NKP steam and Lima Locomotive Works expert, Dr. B.W. Travis, O gauge model hobbyist, and my great uncle Harry Hahn, freight conductor, who was killed when a Big Four freight train backed into him in 1918 in Bucyrus.”

If you want to see just a minute amount of his collection, stop by the Bluffton (Ohio) Public Library, where some of his items are currently on display. Can’t get to the library? Not to worry…he was only too eager to offer some favorite photos.

This is now the Norfolk Southern through Bluffton. The green and white sheet of paper is from a NKP freight bill he obtained.

This is now the Norfolk Southern through Bluffton. The green and white sheet of paper is from a NKP freight bill he obtained.

Great Northern Empire Building Vista Dome.  Chicago to Seattle.

Great Northern Empire Building Vista Dome. Chicago to Seattle.

Akron, Canton and Youngstown hopper. This line is abandoned but used to go north of the old Bluffton swimming pool. In the summers, the engineer would blow the whistle and all the kids would wave.

Akron, Canton and Youngstown hopper. This line is abandoned but used to go north of the old Bluffton swimming pool. In the summers, the engineer would blow the whistle and all the kids would wave.

Fred, Lindsay and I rode this through Bluffton from Findlay to Lima. Someone else took the photo for us. This is a Norfolk and Western J Passenger locomotive. This is the last-ever steam to travel through Bluffton, circa 1987.

Fred, Lindsay and I rode this through Bluffton from Findlay to Lima. Someone else took the photo for us. This is a Norfolk and Western J Passenger locomotive. This is the last-ever steam to travel through Bluffton, circa 1987.

Facing winter head on: Increasing the endorphins with a snowy run

Here’s the problem with Ohio winters. They’re completely unpredictable. No, that’s not quite true. They’re predictably unpredictable.

On Monday, I ran in shorts and a t-shirt. Then the temps dropped to sub-freezing, the wind kicked up to 25 plus mph, and the snow followed. Back to the indoor track — for which I am ever-so-grateful. But today is Saturday, which means long-run day, and my body craved the outdoors. So I layered up, Velcro‘d on the Extreme Masque…IMG_0371[1]

…strapped on the YaktraxIMG_0372[1]

…and headed out. Toward the end of eight miles, I rounded the National Quarry on one of my favorite trails. My iTouch was on its last few minutes of battery power, so I turned on the video camera. This is for my friend, Debbie, whose heart is in ski and hiking country, but current home is in the city. This’ll probably make her even more homesick for her hometown.
Unfortunately, the battery died just before I reached my favorite rocks that overlook the water. And despite my footfalls and breathing, you get the idea of the peaceful feeling of this location.