Turning Water to Rum, A Pictorial

Our house sitter, Zach, and his Olaf.

Our house sitter, Zach, and his Olaf.

The snowpocalypse brought us a foot of snow.  It was greatly novel to open the door and see the world completely covered in white.

It looks as though we may have survived the worst of winter.  While we still dip into single digits, it is happening a little less.  And little signs of life are popping up all around us.  We have what look to be daffodil shoots popping up all around the property.  And in the melt off from the snow, we have frog eggs!  It’s been amazing to watch the little black dots turn into tadpoles.

Boy are these guys going to noisy one day...

Boy are these guys going to noisy one day…

Enjoying our warmer weather, we thought we’d wander out onto the Parkway and take advantage of one of the multitude of hiking trails to be found.  We thought that we’d do the loop around Price Lake.  We’d seen it driving by a few times.  So we parked, and headed off down the trail.

Is this the trail to . . . . .?

Is this the trail to . . . . .?

After setting off, it was a beautiful hike, but we wandered for a while without seeing the water.  We were getting a little bit worried.  We didn’t bring any warm clothing, and forgot our ‘rescue me, I’ve never heard of GPS’ whistles.

Some lit a fire for warmth that went terribly, terribly wrong. . . .

Someone lit a fire for warmth that went terribly, terribly wrong. . . .

Finally we happened across some other people (we felt like wimps, they had a stroller), and asked if we were on the right path to the lake.  They assured us we were.  Finally, two miles later, we broke into the clearing right next to Pric. . . . . wait a minute…….

That's not Price Lake!

That’s not Price Lake!

So, we didn’t make it to Price Lake.  Turns out that’s a little farther up the Parkway.  Ah, well.  So we make the circuit around Bass Lake and enjoyed the day.

At least I remembered the bright clothing in case we got lost.

At least I remembered the bright clothing in case we got lost.

We were having a grand ole time, until we realized that we could see where we parked the car.

Hey, that's where we parked! . . . . . . Oh man.

Hey, that’s where we parked! . . . . . . Oh man.

That’s right.  All the way back up  the hill to Cone Manor where we parked.  2 miles back up, and I had 15,000 steps registered on my fitbit.

2 weekends in a row of great weather seemed almost too much to hope for, but we were blessed, and so we headed off to Charlotte the following weekend to attend a *cough, cough* Arizona State *cough, cough* alumni event to tour a rum distillery.

Muddy River Barrels!

Muddy River Barrels!

Muddy River Distillery was a great experience, and a pretty inspiring story.  It’s run by a husband and wife and is slowly making inroads in North and South Carolina.  We of course had a tasting…

Robbie and Caroline pouring our rum. . . .

Robbie and Caroline pouring our rum. . . .

We also learned why moonshining is illegal.  Apparently your first few bottles out of the distiller are poisonous.  In unrelated news, we’re sending moonshine to everyone for their birthday!

Welcome to the local liquor store!

Welcome to the local liquor store!

Hope everyone got out to the Festival of Books!  Until next time . . . *hiccup*

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Fires and Carwashes

What could those two possible have to do with each other, you may be asking.  Well, I’ll tell you.

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Except for the fact that one is the bane of my existence, and the other I rather quite enjoy.

If you knew me as a child, you’ll assume that you know which is which, and I’ll be happy to confirm that you’re WRONG!  As wrong as humanly possible (and it gives me such delight to do a happy dance about that, I have no idea why).

Let me start with the fires.  As a child, I was hopeless at starting a fire.  We would go camping for a week in the AZ White Mountains (a tradition I bowed out of as soon as I could, have you ever tried to shave in a cold river????), and if I was the first one awake, I was freezing.  I couldn’t get a fire going to save my life (literally, I could have been hypothermic half of those mornings).  One particularly cold morning, my brother and I (yes, I’m outing you here Kevin) were desperate for some heat, and tried pouring some lantern oil on the logs which had a little bitty flame on it, like we’d seen my father do.  Whoops!  The fire came up the oil stream and into the can!!!!  We ran around as silently as possible, hoping not to alert our father to what we’d done, but praying for deliverance in what must have looked like the St. Clair version of Benny Hill.  Thankfully, my sister’s boyfriend (now husband) heard us and came out and so ingeniously put his hand over the opening on the can.  He saved the majority of the oil, and us from certain death when our father found out we’d managed to burn all the lantern oil while it was still in the can.

I am now a fire goddess.  Or pyromaniac.  It’s such a fine line.  Our water stove can run on fuel oil or wood, and now that it’s been really cold, we’ve switched to wood because the fuel oil is just too expensive.  And I LOVE tending the stove!  When I don’t have to worry about getting smokey before work, I amble over to the garage, get my kindling, make my little fire tent and light her up!  First I have to see if I can meet the challenge of not using a lighter, if I can get it going just from the embers from the previous night.  I may nearly hyperventilate and faint, but I don’t quit, and can usually accomplish the task (I wonder if Lowe’s carries bellows, I really need one).

Next, to the bane of my existence.  Carwashes.  My Arizona friends, you know not dirty cars.  If you’d like to experience a truly dirty car, get a bucket of shaved ice, mix it with equal parts salt, and go out and dump it on the roof of your car. Let it melt and dry, and then take a look.  In Arizona, I always thought the back window wiper was basically useless (you never want to use that to get the dust of your window).  Now I understand the desperate need for that thing.  As well as how quickly a back-up camera is rendered useless.  Never while in Arizona did I wash my car three times in one week.  Here, I’m making a budget line item for them.  I have learned that while the cost of living is a little bit less than in Tucson but fairly close, we are considered very good tippers.  So the kids at the Autobell love to see me coming.  In fact, they may be coming out and salting my driveway, even when the weather is perfectly pleasant, just to make sure I’ll be in.

We are currently surviving Snowpacolypse.  I’ve posted an album on Facebook, and here’s a link.  You don’t need to be on Facebook to see it.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10102598163725962.1073741834.10115374&type=1&l=3718ffc50b

Hope everyone is enjoying their warm weather.  Just remember, any weather taunts will be returned tenfold in July (when we’re 75 with very little humidity)….

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Horror at the Creek

Our romantic winter tranquility was shattered most grotesquely today.

Let me back up a little.  Since arriving here at our little place next to the pond, occasionally we’ve seen deer coming down to drink in our creek or the pond.  It’s become almost a game to see if we can catch them in the headlights when we come back from town in the evenings.

We’ve been fairly cold since the polar vortex.  Of course, after -30, everything is relative.  But we’ve had probably less than 5 days where the high has been above freezing in the last month.  Combine that with about 4 inches of snow, and we’ve had a lovely white, nearly completely solid pond for about a week.  There is one small corner that has refused to give in the temptation to solidify, and as such, we’ve had the cutest deer tracks across the pond to get to that corner to get a drink.  It made me smile to see the zig zagging of tracks across the powdery snow.

It seems I wasn’t alone.

The first inkling that there was something amiss in the woods behind the house came one night last week when Alex had gone out to load more wood into the stove.  He came back in, and told me there had been something following him on the other side of the fence.  He was sure that it wasn’t the horse that sometimes hangs out on the hill, as there were none of the telltale equestrian noises.  I told him it was probably the chupacabra, but he wasn’t able to laugh it off, it had truly made him feel uneasy.

A couple nights later, while we were in the garage loading wood (you’ll notice a theme to my life now), I heard what I thought sounded like howling/yipping, but when I opened the garage door, I couldn’t hear it.  I thought maybe it had just been a sound from the stove and continued with business.  Then last night, whilst I was in the throes of an Ambien induced trance (hooray for Zolpidem!  I had been out, and suffering for it too), Alex said that he was sure there were coyotes were throwing a party outside the house (however, this was not information I learned until later).

I’m sure you can see where this is headed.

Today was the first warm day we’ve had in some time.  We got to nearly 60, and so we let Wiley out to play.  After running around the property, she wouldn’t come in from near the creek.  So I walked over to corral her back in.  As I get closer to her, I see a couple of tufts of hair on the ground.  That’s odd, I thought.  I got to her and she was standing over a small strip of deer hide (more like preparing to roll in it).  And that’s when I saw it.  The hind legs of one of our little deer laying unmoving in the rushing water of the creek.  I moved my vantage point, expecting to see the rest of the deer, and THERE WAS NO REST.  It was only the back end of the deer, up to the rib cage, which was partially exposed.  My heart just bled for that poor little deer.

But now we have to figure out just how big a coyote problem we have.  Could just one have taken down a deer?  Are they pack hunting?  Does this mean forever that we’ll have to take the dog out on a leash at night (of course the real issue)?  How much crow do I need to eat after having dinner at Coyote Kitchen, and I, with all the western superiority I could muster, smugly wondered aloud if they’d ever even seen coyotes?

After such a trauma, what on earth could make you feel better?  Hmmmmm, maybe a trip to Mast was in order:

So after an afternoon of real American (imported from Mexico) bottled Coca-Cola, some mighty fine picking and singing, and an examination of local canned goods, I was feeling somewhat better.  Until we pulled into the driveway, and there were the two remaining deer, also looking for the rest of that poor little animal.

I’ve always avoided watching nature shows because they are always so cruel.  One thing I didn’t think about in moving to a rural area is that we would be living in one.  Ah well, I’ll do my best to tuck my heart ache away, and get on with life.  I have to, the stove needs wood.

One last thing:  GO CATS!!!!!

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Meanwhile, at Mast General Store . . .

Wait a minute. . . . .

Wait a minute. . . . .

Wait, they weren’t kidding.

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I survived Polar Vortex 2014!

Yes everyone, I stared the beast in the face, and lived to tell the tale.

My first inclination that things were bad came from work.  Normally, when it forecasts for some cold or snow, folks will gleefully appear in my doorway and ask how my Tucson blood is surviving.  They relish in sharing the fact that I park my car so that I can remote start it from my window before heading out at the end of the day.  But they weren’t like that this time.  Monday morning, they were popping into my office with real concern.  “Make sure you cover your ears, face and fingers.  It only takes minutes for frostnip to settle in.”  Hmmm.  “You can put your food outside if the electricity goes out to keep it cold.  You do have a heat source independent of power right?”  Uh oh.  And by the time the notice came out in the afternoon that campus was closed on Tuesday, I was pretty sure we were in for the big one.  They’d just cancelled life on Tuesday, things were bad.

Monday night, as the wind began to howl, we watched the temperature drop, and drop, and drop.  As we headed to bed and the temperature was at -6, with a -30 wind chill, we prayed forgiveness for the puppies we must have kicked in a previous life.

Tuesday dawned, my very first snow day ever (we almost had one when I was in third grade, the dirt roads were so bad the bus couldn’t get through. But the school was so small, they just sent a pickup truck around to pick everyone up. Foiled!), clear, calm and COLD! We waited for the sun to warm things up, and at around 11, when it hit a whopping 3 degrees, we drove into town to enjoy breakfast on my unexpected day off.

Remember our little pond?

Look ma, no skates!

Look ma, no skates!

The temperatures have slowly climbed back to sane levels. Today we are in the 50’s, with up to 2 inches of rain expected. Early this morning we were even greeted with THUNDER! For some reason I thought thunder was a mostly dry climate occurrence, so it made me irrationally happy to hear it.  I’d like to think of it as the weather’s apology for Monday.

I hope everyone is staying warm (or cool, you pesky Arizonans). We will likely venture out in the rain to the Mast General Store.  There is always something random going on. We just love it!

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Another Holiday in the Books. . . .

Another holiday season has come and gone, our first in the cold country.  While we saw some flurries on Christmas Eve, we didn’t have any snow on the ground on Christmas Day.  Here’s hoping for next year.

However, living in the middle of Christmas Tree Central, we did experience going out to hunt down our very own tree.  We set up a tree stand, and waited for the perfect tree to amble by.  Our patience (and frasier fir cover scent) paid off, as we bagged the ideal tree, and took it in for processing.

We then loaded our prize onto our vehicle and headed for home.

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Bagged a tree!

Once home, we unwrapped our trophy.  You can see the dog is greatly impressed.

However, because we didn’t want Gabriela to feel left out, we waited until she got here to decorate.  In fact, we wanted so much to make sure she felt included that we let her decorate the whole tree. I’m not sure  I’ve ever seen anyone so grateful.

Once we had a tree up, Christmas was free to arrive.  All presents arrived at their destination safely (I don’t know how Aunt Kimie mailed presents from Florida for all those years, I could barely handle one year).  The great folks at Go Postal (yes, that’s really their name) rescued my sanity.  I’ll never ever ever go back to the post office.

Alex winterized me for Christmas.  He got me snow boots and gloves, both things that I really needed.  Given that I was ready for winter, we headed again for Washington, DC (yes, you may be noticing a theme here, I’m sure Jared and Meredith are wondering if we’re slowly moving in).  It was good to see Jared and Meredith, but really we wanted to hang out with Tesla.

Tell me that's not a great face!

Tell me that’s not a great face!

So the new year is here.  I’ve never been much of one for resolutions, but this year I’m going to live with intention.  I’ve not taken an active role in steering my life in the past, and have gotten incredibly lucky.  So, I’m taking the reins!  Now I just need to figure out how to do that (I’m pretty sure there are lists involved). . . . . .

Happy New Year everyone!  Here’s hoping that you all have a great year ahead, and that I’ll see you before the end of 2014.

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Oh Brother!

So, it’s been almost three weeks, and I realized that I was getting lazy.  So no more procrastinating, or maybe I’ll just do that tomorrow.

Just after my last post, I headed to lovely Wilmington, NC for a conference for work.  “There’s a Wilmington in NC?” You may be wondering?  And if you are, then you obviously never watched Dawson’s Creek.  Um, well, not that I did either, I swear.  It is on the convergence of the Atlantic and the Cape Fear River.  Charming.  The conference was at the Wilmington Convention Center, which was fairly new, and quite nice, however, the area of downtown around it could use . . . . . a little revitalization.  I’m not saying it was dangerous, but to walk to dinner I had mace, a broadsword, nun-chucks, a bowie knife, a chained mace, a badger and finger cymbals in my coat (well, how do you you control a badger??).  It was a big coat (Steve would say all my coats are big).

When I got back, I had my first bout with illness here in NC.  I’m surprised that it took as long as it did, as moving usually brings that on pretty quickly.  I didn’t realize at first that it was illness, I thought it was an asthma attack (which I was diagnosed with two years ago.  Because your thirties is the perfect time to develop asthma).  I had no symptoms of a cold or flu, I just had a cough and shortness of breath.  Alex was concerned that because of the 6 hour drive to Wilmington (and if you know St. Clair’s, you know that we DO NOT STOP on the road) it might be a blood clot, and so off to urgent care we went.  And while taking blood, the nurse was having a hard time getting a vein (they usually do), and somehow triggered a vaso vagal response, and boom!  Passed out!  However I now know the secret to great service.  Anyway, they made sure there were no clots and no blood oddities, doped me up with steroids and hydrocodone (perfect time to start lifting weights!  Build muscle, no pain!) and sent me home.  Luckily it didn’t get much worse and by the end of the weekend I was starting to get back to normal.  How did I celebrate such a turn of luck, you may be wondering?  I gave it to Alex!  You’re welcome, honey!

In the midst of illness (or maybe a contributor to the illness), our heat went out.  So I had mentioned getting a fuel oil refill in an earlier post.  The fuel oil heats water, and the hot water is pushed through the baseboards.  Voila, heat.  Except not.  And not being familiar with how these things are supposed to work, we initially assumed that maybe it’s just not a very efficient system.  Or we’re desert wimps and our blood just needs to thicken up.  But on about our third day of the ground floor not getting above 55, we said, this can’t be normal.  We let the owners know, and they got in touch with someone to come over and take a look.  They said they’d be over the next morning, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Surprise!

Surprise!

Because what does everyone want when you have no heat, and are about to drive 6 hours?  Snow!  We were all packed and ready to get an early start to Washington, DC to spend it with my youngest brother, his wife and her family, and decided, weee’lllll just wait for the guy that’s going to fix the heat to get finished.  And while he may have secretly agreed that we’re desert wimps, it turns out one of the pumps had gone out.  He replaced it, and we’ve been cozy ever since.

We did finally get on the road to DC, and had a great time with Jared, Meredith, Brad, Judi, Travis and Marissa.  Cousins Wiley and Tesla were especially excited to get to spend time together (that’s our story and we’re sticking to it anyway).  We had a fantastic meal on Thursday, then Meredith cheated at Apples to Apples (had to get that in there), and then we visited Arlington Cemetery on Friday.

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It was great again to see them, and we may spend some time up there over the Christmas break while Gabriela is here with us.  We had been thinking of heading down to Florida, but our relations in Florida are heading to Arizona.  Well, fine!  We’ll just . . . go north . . . in the winter.  Like confused birds.

I hope everyone had a great holiday, and is looking forward to Christmas.  I know a couple of children who should be (good thing they don’t read, haha!).

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