Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Biathlon : I Could Do This!

Biathlon : Greek for two-test (more-or-less).

XC skiing and shooting a gun.  I could do this!  I could SOoooo do this!

First of all I would have to re-do the bottom of my right XC ski and affix fish scales (what I call it) to the bottom.  And find out which ski poles in the barn loft work for my body type (short-ish).  That spouse o' mine says XC ski poles should be longer than traditional downhill ski poles, but I beg to differ.  I think my short ones do just fine, thank you, and besides, who is aspiring to the Olympic Biathlon Team anyway, he or I?

As for the shooting, well, we own no guns to speak of, save for a USPC Pony Club tetrathlon pistol and a kid's pellet gun rifle.  Neither of which I have spent much time shooting, but if the Olympics are in my 49-year old cards in twelve short days, then by golly, I will venture out into the WAYyyy below-freezing temps this weekend and commence my Annie Oakley training.

I could do this!  I could SOoooo do this!

I wonder, whom do I call for this late-call-to-Olympian fame?  Is there a special 1-800-Olympic-Coach number that I am not privvy to?

More winter...tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Winter Games!

Today was another cold and blustery day here in Wabaunsee.  About an hour before dark I pulled on my snowmobile suit.  Having no snowmobile and, currently, no snow, this may be a misnomer.  But I donned all the requisite warm stuff and headed out to our barn.  I checked the water tanks to make sure the de-icers were doing their jobs, put fresh shavings in the horses' stalls (and one of them immediately lay down and rolled in his - he LOVES fresh shavings!), and began setting feed out in their feed pans.  I laid out new salt blocks and glanced at the round bales, and then, after all was done, I sat down in a stall doorway to watch the moonrise and enjoy the last hour of daylight.  (You Pony Clubbers do not email me about sitting in a stall doorway: the horses are fed out in the pasture, not in their stalls.) 

The horses finished their feed and one of them ambled over to where I was sitting.  I immediately stood up in the doorway and continued to silently listen to the sounds of dusk and watch the moon continue its climb.  The horses kept casting a glance out to the creek (about 1/4 mile away), and I remarked to myself that they probably saw some coyote movement or other.  Horses can see great distances, and they also have great night vision.  If one observes a horse's gaze, he can often see things he would ordinarily miss.

All of a sudden, there was movement just on the other side of the now two horses who were enjoying my company by the barn.  It was still daylight, and a beautiful red fox trotted across the barn yard, perhaps only 15 yards on the other side of the horses!  He was so beautiful.  He couldn't see me - I was blocked by a 1500-lb pony.  I watched him for some time, and when he finally looked like he might go visit our ducks near the house, I softly called out "Foxy Loxy" (because what else would I call out, I ask you?), and he looked at the horses and ran back towards the creek. 

Here is a great clip of a fox out doing his daily work:
 Fox Hunt:

More winter...tomorrow!

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Love Speed Skating!


Some 3000-4000 years ago, somebody came up with the idea of drilling holes into long animal bones and strapping said bones onto one's feet by means of leather straps laced into said holes.  And the rest is history:  the first ice skates probably allowed the sportsman (or survivor of the cold) to shuffle/glide across ice-covered areas with a little more ease than shuffling in mukluks.  Or, maybe this person was bored out of his skull with so much winter white and ice and simply had to do more with his spare time than stare at the grey skies and his next-of-kin.
More winter...tomorrow!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Citius, Altius, Fortius

Today we had an enjoyable day.  That spouse o' mine brought out a PhD student from Nigeria to spend the day with us.  Such a delight!  Sam was fun (and funny) and I learned an awful lot about his home.  For instance: even though Nigeria is now a democracy, there are 250 tribes in Nigeria.  Each tribe is made up of clans.  Each clan speaks a different language.  Sam's wife, from a different clan within his tribe, speaks a different language than Sam.  All Nigerians learn to speak English at a very early age: 5 - 6 years old.  So Sam is fluent in 3 languages - his clan language, his tribal language, and English.  Sam's English is much more eloquent than my own Okie vocabulary.  How can that be?! 
 

Sam & I got on the subject of the Winter Olympics.  He laughed when I asked him (in my ignorant American way) if Nigeria had athletes in Vancouver?  No Nigerians have participated in Winter Olympics, ever.  I guess, being near the equator, there's not a lot of training ground to be had.


In that I am nearing the half-century mark in age , I happened on the many sites regarding Anne Abernathy, aka: Grandma Luge.  She is a lady who just chanced upon a vacation opportunity (she lives in the Virgin Islands) to Lake Placid, NY, and tried the luge run from the Lake Placid Olympics.  She was hooked!  And from there, she entered what is now the RECORD of Olympic competitors: she broke the record as the oldest female athlete to compete in ANY sport in the Winter Olympics.  Anne Abernathy was 52 and competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics.  


Yippee!  There is still time for me!! 


And so, I bid you:
Faster...higher...stronger!!!
More winter...tomorrow!



Saturday, January 23, 2010

Skeletons

Wowee.  Have you ventured into the world of Winter Games and had a gander at Skeleton?  Sometimes people I know make mention that our three kids participate in borderline sensible activities - cycling amongst the semis, mountain climbing, cross country atop a 1500-lb pony, etc.  I am so happy that our kids never discovered the world of Skeleton.  Here's the low-down:

According to Wikipedia, Skeleton "is a fast winter sliding sport in which an individual person rides a small sled down a frozen track while lying face down, during which athletes experience forces up to 5Gs."

OK.  We Armstrongs have the "fast winter sliding sport in which an individual person rides a small sled down a frozen track" part down pat.  But.  5Gs?  Facedown?  I am SORRY.  No.  Not allowed.  The Boy is handsome and Daughters #1 &2 did not have to suffer orthodontia; why bring it all on NOW?!

Here's a link to give you more information so you (and I) can be ready for the big day(s) of Skeleton:
  http://www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-skeleton/

Here's a short synopsis of Saturday night at the Armstrongs:  Turkey/portabello burgers and a pesto salad.  Listening to Kansas Public Radio's Retro Cocktail Hour, which is very remindful of the background music to I Dream of Jeanie and Batman.  Ha! I love Retro Cocktail Hour!

More winter...tomorrow!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Vancouver: February 12, 2010

Yippee for winter!  Otherwise, how could we have the Winter Games?

Here are the sports we can watch, beginning February 12th, and wonder just how we match up to those "other" athletes:
Also, I have put a countdown clock in the next column so we can all be apprised of how many minutes until we get to enjoy the Opening Ceremonies!  

More winter...tomorrow!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Writer's Block

I got nothin'.

Someone else write today.  

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pea Soup!



This is a photo of a flock of geese flying overhead while I was out hiking:




You can't see them (neither could I), but they were there.

Here are some other pictures of a foggy day in Londontown Wabaunsee:


The fog has not lifted one inch all day.


It's very fun to walk out in the fog.
The cloud cover makes all the sky noises much louder.


I could hear the geese, the crows, and a jet.
None of which I could see.


And then I went home again.
Jiggety-jig.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Garden-ia

I am getting enthused about the Spring 2010 gardening aspects! I read a few garderners' blogs (some in the Southern Hemisphere).  This, in addition to the seed catalogues clogging my mailbox this month, (those companies have me pegged - I must have a funny asterisk or three by my name.) are causing me to mentally sit up and take attention to the coming fun.

Fun.  Now, in this household, gardening and fun are synonymous only the first two weeks or so of gardening season.  That spouse o' mine and I determined early on in our marriage that we are not compatible in the dirt and seeds department.  It might have a lot to do with the fact that he is a biosystems engineer (read: agriculture/horticulture), and that I am plain old lazy.  Or, that he is deaf and I am not.  Or, that he is flexible and I am stubborn.  Or, maybe this is just an arena in our lives that we do best with His and Hers.  Anyway, that's how we've tried to play it in our nearly 26 long years of wedded bliss.  His garden is nearly geometrically perfect according to whatever he intends to nurture throughout the growing season.  I have what I affectionately refer to as my ignorant garden - because I plant it, ignore it, and often am surprised to amble out one day and find food for that evening's table!  Like a miracle of nature!  I love surprises.  I tell myself and others that I am adhering to the methods of Darwinism:  whatever tomatoes and other produce survive the weeds and sometimes drought - because I might forget to water -  create a more viable plant for whatever purpose one might imagine.  Sounds lofty, at least.  But I have to say, it was really really fun to wander out one day towards Thanksgiving and discover that I still had onions and fennel bulbs ready to eat, right out of the ground.  Who knew?!  I do love surprises.  Ignorance is bliss, that's my motto.

And so I am mentally planning this spring's garden, artistically plotted according to my whim of the moment.

Because if I want the tomatoes arranged in a circle surrounding the bok choy and spinach, then that's the way we're gonna do it, by gum.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Warmer Weather

Humans and animals were active around here yesterday:
the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time in weeks and weeks!



Because.





Because I felt like it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cat TV


It's been so cold the past few weeks, we have let the 3 outdoor cats and the outdoor dog in, at least during the nights.  This particular cat, Euripides, is an outdoor cat through & through, and it takes a little extra attention to keep him occupied when he comes in to warm up.  The other cats sleep, but not Euripides.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Pride Goeth

Earlier this week, I ventured out of the warmer clime of our home and went out in the negative (F) temps in search of human interaction.  Sort of: I went to a shopping mall and then to get my haircut.  As I left our house, I turned on  my car to pull the engine out of hibernation and then dashed out to the barn to feed our horses.  (One does a lot of dashing in below-freezing temps.  That's how the song came about, you know.)

At the mall, I guess I wasn't so much interested in purchasing Christmas stuff at 90% off, and I arrived at my hair salon a little early.  I sat down to look through all the hair style books.  New year, new look, maybe?  Into page 3 of the first book, I mused to myself,... But....where are the pages with the 49-year old models?  The ones with the double chins?  And the hairstyles that DON'T frame your eyes, since who wants to highlight those bags?  My stylist came and got me in good time, though, and I resorted to my standard to-the-shoulder undercut.  Oh, well.  I walked out of the salon thinking I looked pretty good.

And so that was my frame of mind when I got back to my car, whipped off my black down coat (because I can't stand to be buckled in with that thing on, it's like driving in a straight jacket), and that is when I saw what probably everyone at the mall had laid eyes on:  the entire back of my coat was covered with horse feed slobber.  Apparently one of the horses had slimed me as I walked around and under their heads.  For those of you who do not spend much time in an equine environment, horse feed slobber looks an awful lot like vomit.

And the moral of this bit is: just when you acquire a notion that you're all that, or even a 49 year-old semi-all that with bags and sags, God WILL manage to put you in your place.    

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Long Ago

I remember driving with my then-boyfriend/now husband, the 1500 miles to my new home in Connecticut.  I knew nothing, no one.  My then-boyfriend/now husband and I found an apartment for me, and then I drove him to New York and he flew off to the west coast.  This puts the story smack-dab in the middle of our romance.  But I am not thinking about that right now.  I am thinking about my move to Connecticut, not knowing a soul and not ever having been there.  Lots of the 28-year memories are foggy, but I remember a few things.  I was upset, having moved into the apartment, to discover there was no air conditioning.  And then nearly in a panic when I couldn't find any heating, either!  I remember calling home to my parents in a dismal mood.  Well, I soon found out: in Connecticut, the autumnal temps are such that one doesn't require an air conditioner, as in Oklahoma.  And the heater?  In-floor heating coils.  They were economical way before the Go Green era came about.

I remember being invited to spend Thanksgiving with a wonderful family in Rhode Island.  3 generations, the grandmother of whom was from Portugal.  They were amazed when I told them we Okies thought nothing of driving 3 hours to visit family.  Three hours in New England could take you through 3 states, and why would anyone want to drive three hours anyway, the grandmother asked.  She also told me stories of when she was young, how the different Catholic churches were designated by nationality/ethnic groups.  When she, as Portugese, went to Mass at a church nearer her home than her family church, the priest told her to go to her "own" church.

The move to Connecticut was followed by a move to California, to be nearer my then-boyfriend/now husband.  The same exercise in excitement, frustration, making new friends, making a household of sorts (from Mid-America to the East Coast to the West Coast...).  It wasn't any easier than my move to Connecticut - in fact, I found it more difficult.  It seemed harder to make friends, MUCH harder to find a job.  The only real plus was that I had an apartment close to Morro Bay (the beach).

No sooner had I moved out there then my then-boyfriend/now husband took a job in...Cairo.  Egypt.  And no sooner than that, but I was laid off my job.  So, no job, no boyfriend...I had loved Connecticut, and that's where I returned.  But this time, to a new town.  So...same song and dance, just a variation on my peripatetic theme.  I found a job I loved (Lord & Taylor), and settled in nicely to my new life.  But then...

My then-boyfriend/now husband proposed ( from Egypt), and...cut to the chase: we were married.  And I moved again.  To Cairo.

Now I was taking a roller coaster variation on the peripatetic theme!

Why am I reminiscing about all this?

Daughter #1 is moving to Atlanta this month for an internship.  She is about to enter a wonderful and trying experience, and I tell her, she will be very much the better for it.  Yippee!  I am excited for her!!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

12th Night

I hope your holidays were gleeful and happy, and that your New Year is full of wonder and joy.





Monday, January 04, 2010

Empty Nest Stress


 All day Saturday I made mental notes about getting The Boy off to the airport the following night: Sunday night.  Graham has a friend who is flying out w/ him, so I called HIS mother to touch base about trips to the airport, etc.  After a few minuted discussing planes, trains, and automobiles, it came to light that their flight was NOT Sunday, it was tonight!  And everyone but me seemed to be aware of this.  EVEN THOUGH I WENT THROUGH THE ENTIRE WEEK SAYING THAT "GRAHAM LEAVES ON SUNDAY".  Nobody bothered correcting me.

This, in addition to the fact that Graham made his own airline reservation for the Christmas trip home, the maturity of which I was very proud, until he discovered that his flight gets him to Seattle after all the known transportation to Bellingham closes for the evening.  Cut to the chase: he would miss his first class or two of the new quarter, the following morning.  He emailed his profs, and one of them replied w/ a shuttle that Graham had not heard of, but is planning to take, he and his friend Taylor.  It will get them to the Bellingham airport at 2:30 am, and from there they will take a cab to Graham's dorm, and I am oh so sure that his roommate will be REALLY tickled to have that commotion going on, his first night back. 

OK. So where was I?

As we were driving home from the airport, I started in on my maudlin empty-nest thoughts of how all three kids are adults with lives of their own, and how quiet our holiday house will be (because it's not 12th Night until, well, THE 12th NIGHT (Wednesday) and so I still have some celebrating to get out of my system.)

Upon arriving in our drive (not even getting the gate open yet!), my phone rings.  Daughter #2: her upstairs neighbor's pipes broke and water was streaming down her neighbor's ceiling & wall (but not hers, not yet), and there was 3" of water standing in his apt.  All I said was "Set the piano on blocks and open your kitchen and bathroom sink cupboards!"

No sooner, I kid you not, than I hung up from her, but the phone rings:  The Boy.  In Denver.  He thought he forgot his keys (dorm, car, you name it.)  Yes, indeedy, he did.  They are in our kitchen.  But he called his roommate, so all was well, he says.  And could I send his keys, please?

But then he called a second time: His connection to Seattle is delayed for 2 hours, and they will miss the shuttle to Bellingham.  BUT!  He had presence of mind to call his cousin and they are taking a cab to her apt in Seattle till morning.   His words, "Well, Taylor is an adult and I am an adult, so 2 adults should be able to get along just fine.  No need to stress!"

Right.
Actually, my mother is right:

Motherhood never ends.  Ever.

Postscript, 6:45 am Tuesday:  I think I get it now.  I think the three kids put their heads together over the holidays and said something like, "Let's make sure Mom feels really really needed at the end of the holidays!"  Yes, that's what they must have done.  Daughter #1 called bright & early this morning from Chicago: she had rolled her car window down (I do not know why; it is 15ยบ in Chicago.) as she started her 9-hr. drive back to Kansas, and now it will not roll up again...


More holiday...tomorrow!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

For Your January Jocundry

If you think you are cold, consider this:  Snag, in the Yukon Territory of Canada, recorded a temperature of -81.4 F on February 3, 1947.  I wonder who was wintering in Snag that year?


Snowflakes: (And we gots 'em!):  When water freezes inside clouds, ice crystals form. The ice crystals join together, creating snow flakes.  Each snowflake is made up of from 2-200 separate crystals.  Judging from our yard this month, we must have a quadri-kabillion ice crystals of all shapes and sizes.  In December, we (rural Kansas) enjoyed 19" of snow.  And in January?  Day 3 of the pretty stuff...


Bald eagles: Migratory, and IN KANSAS NOW!  
Here are the purported 10 Largest Bald Eagle Wintering Sites in the US:
ALASKA (Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve (Chilkat River, near Haines)
3,000 eagles

CALIFORNIA (Lower Klamath River (near Dorris, CA)
1,100 eagles

WISCONSIN (Nelson Dewey State Park (Mississippi River, near Cassville, WS)
650 eagles

WASHINGTON (Skagit River, 30 miles east of Sedro Wooley, WA)
450 eagles

IOWA Mississippi River Lock and Dam 19 (near Keokuk, IA)
400 eagles

NEBRASKAKingsley Dam (Lake Ogallala, near Ogallala)
350 eagles

MONTANA  Hauser Lake (Canyon Ferry Dam on Missouri River, near Helena, MT)
300 eagles

WYOMING  Woodruff Narrows Reservoir (Bear River, near Evanston)
200 eagles

KANSAS  Perry Reservoir (East of Topeka)
200 eagles

IDAHO  South Fork of the Snake River (near Pallisades, Idaho)
200 eagles
  

Eagles do not have vocal cords. They make a high-pitched, shrill squeaking and screeching sounds via the air that passes the bones in their neck.  The sound is created where the windpipe is separated, going to the lungs.  
 

Bald eagles can fly at approximately 30 miles per hour and can dive at 100 miles per hour.


Polar bears: have black skin.
 

Recent genetic studies have shown that some clades (look it up!) of brown bear are more closely related to polar bears than to other brown bears.


Folklore/weatherlore:

Much rain in October,
Much wind in December.  (They got that one right!)

Flowers blooming in late autumn, a sure sign of bad winter coming...  (and my geraniums were still blooming past T'giving!!)  But, I wonder who qualifies what "bad winter" is?


(This will require that someone {besides me} remembers to jot this down in the spring):  The first frost in autumn will be exactly six months after the first thunderstorm of spring.


And finally:

As high as the weeds grow, 
So will the banks of snow.
 

Now, I was out in late November days, running on the Konza Prairie.  It's a tall grass prairie.  And the tall grass, I would muse to myself, was indeed over my head - which is approximately 5'2" high.  But that's grass, and not weeds, per se, so...


Time will tell!


~ Happy New Year







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