When A Trip for Ice Cream Involves Monks and Hot Air Balloons

Saturday, June 15, 2019
I don't know where I'm going, 
but I'm on my way.

That pretty much sums up most of our road trips, and surely describes our last one....a ride to get ice cream that lasted many hours and multiple adventures. Wow....it's been a long time since my last post.   What is it they say, 'life happens while you're busy making plans'?  Life has definitely been happening around here in the past month.  Aside from the normal annual preparation for summer....gardening, yard clean up, etc....my mom who will turn 87 in a week took a fall while trying to avoid a parked car that backed up without warning.  Luckily the driver saw her fall (right behind her car) and managed to stop in time.  Also lucky that the only thing broken was mom's humerus of her right arm.  Naturally as these things go, mom is right handed and lives alone.  Suffice to say, we've been seeing a lot of each other this month.  To be clear....despite her handicap, mom is only a fraction less independent than normal because, well, because that's how she rolls.

  Anyway, it's been a busy few weeks but last Saturday we decided to take advantage of the glorious weather and headed out for our weekly ice cream cone from the Ice Cream Man in Greenwich, NY.  There's many things we love about Washington County and the custard at the Ice Cream Man is high on our list.    There are a number of routes we could take to Greenwich, but knowing me as you do, it should come as no surprise that the route we chose took us through Easton.

Already I had all I needed to make our excursions complete....Easton landscape, blue skies, farms, farm animals.  What more could I want?  While we were enjoying our cone, I remembered it was the weekend of the Cambridge Balloon Festival.  How convenient!  Each year to coincide with the Balloon Festival, the village of Cambridge has a variety of activities around town and the New Skete Monastery also welcomes visitors for tours.  It was a couple hours still before the balloons would launch, so we began our spontaneous new agenda at the monastery.

If you've been following the blog for a while, you may remember we visited the monastery a few years ago.  It's really a special place.  I didn't take too many photos this time, so I'll include the link to my previous post which will give you more information about it and many more photos.

We lingered with the quiet of nature and musical chants from within the chapel just until it was time to make our way to the school where the balloons would be preparing soon for launch.  Unlike other local balloon festivals, the Cambridge event has a little more 'hometown' feel and considerably less crowd. It's also free.  Some might be disappointed in the fact that there are also quite a few less balloons, but for us 9 or 10 was plenty.  The moderate breeze conveniently calmed around 7:00pm, which allowed every balloon to lift off the ground and ascend into the perfectly gorgeous evening sky.  

Sometimes the best of times are when we relinquish our plans to embrace a spontaneous adventure that presents itself.  We were lucky to have no other plans this day and no reason to hurry home.  We were able to just roll with the punches and soak up as much sunshine and fun as the day provided and as elusive as the sun has been lately, it's a good thing we did.  If you haven't already, you must check out the Ice Cream Man on Route 29 in Greenwich.  https://www.facebook.com/The-Ice-Cream-Man-254240431263433/   If you're a big balloon fan, the Saratoga Balloonfest is next weekend, June 21-23 in Ballston Spa, NY.  https://www.facebook.com/saratogaballoonandbbq/  For information about the New Skete Monastery, use the link provided above.  And finally to see more photos of the balloons, check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GAWelter/

Thanks for your patience during the gaps in my posts.  I promise I have a bunch of great things coming your way soon.  In the meantime....get out there and enjoy all the adventures life has to offer...even if they aren't as you planned.  Those are the best ones! 

Baltimore Orioles Provide an Explosion of Color on a Rainy May Weekend

Sunday, May 5, 2019
It's no secret that I love observing nature.  Even more than I love observing, I love sharing it, and during the explosion some refer to as spring....there's a lot to observe.  One of my favorite things to observe all year long are the birds in my backyard.  We are fortunate to have a plethora of species come and go all year round, but during these first weeks of May when birds are migrating back to their summer residences, we are able to observe some brief appearances of some less common varieties.  That was the case this weekend when we were blessed with the company of at least two pairs of Baltimore Orioles.  In all my years of bird watching, I've only caught a quick glimpse in the past, but I'll confess I spent much of my weekend observing and snapping photos of these bright and cheerful feathered guests.

Baltimore Orioles are late migraters, seldom appearing before April-late May and rarely appear before the trees have leafed out.  Females arrive first, followed by the males about a week later.  Usually pairs return to a previously held territory to begin their courtship and nesting season.  Females build a sock-like woven nest, usually beginning in late May.  The nest is usually 3-4" deep with an opening of 2"-3" wide at the top, and 3"-4" wide at the bottom.  Construction materials can include grass, strips of grapevine bark, wool,  horsehair and artificial fibers such as twine, cellophane and fishing line.  My mom always cut short pieces of string for the orioles who would carry them away as quickly as she provided them, so in hopes of convincing mine to stick around....I filled a suet basket full of bits of string and shredded twine.  Orioles only produce one brood a year, consisting of 3-7 eggs.  Incubation period is 11-14 days followed by about two weeks of gourmet regurgitated insects courtesy of mom and dad.

Baltimore Orioles favor open deciduous woodlands and edges, orchards, parks and residential areas with tall shade trees are favorite habitats.  Despite the male's bright colors, you will find him easier to hear than see.  Click here to hear an oriole calls.  Baltimores spend most of their time in the tree canopy.  As for a diet...orioles favor hairy and spiny larvae, spiders, snails, buds, flower nectar, fruits and some seeds.  They love oranges (although at the moment mine are preferring my gourmet seed cylinder).   

Each and every bird specie to visit my feeders brings its own thrill, but not since my winter blue birds arrived a couple of years ago have I been so excited as I was to enjoy my weekend with the orioles.  I'm hoping that the combination of plentiful food, tall trees, open areas and a little luck, these beauties might stick around for more than a few days.  Either way, they have been a true joy and if you aren't lucky enough to have them in your yard, I hope you will enjoy mine.

Thanks for letting me share my excitement as nature provides color and wonder to Life As I See It. Don't forget, you can share the blog with friends through email or on Facebook. You can also subscribe by submitting your email address here:Subscribe  If you enjoyed this post, you can find many more like it in my blog Directory under the category "Directory"    Information for today' s post was found in Birds Nearby by John Eastman and online from All About Birds (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/overview  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great week!

Everything in Life (Even Life) Has An Expiration Date...The Idea Is To Savor It Before It Expires

Sunday, April 28, 2019
Some people fall in love with vacation destinations, others with possessions, some with books or music.....me, well I have a soft spot for old buildings.  In the five years I've been writing this blog, I've acquired a handful of worn and tattered buildings that I've grown sentimental over.  One of them is this colorful shed-type structure in our frequented town of Easton, NY.

It's only been a couple of years since I've found this particular beloved structure, but that didn't lessen the love I've felt for it, in every season.

Blog followers know that Easton is a short drive from home for us, so it has become our 'go-to' destination when we need a roadtrip/photography 'fix'.  It was pretty obvious when we first discovered this gem that it had seen better days and its days ahead may be numbered.  So it became habit for each of our trips to Easton, that our ride would generally end with a visit to 'our barn' to check on its well being.  We knew in our hearts that at some point soon, we'd find our barn collapsed, its purpose fulfilled, it's mission complete.

Well, that dreaded day came.....on Easter afternoon.  We had enjoyed a lovely ride through Washington County soaking up the picturesque grey skies illuminated by the setting afternoon sun, the emergence of spring in the green grass and tree buds. We felt refreshed and renewed on this holy day of resurrection.  We had only one stop left before the sun set.....a check of our beautiful barn.  And that is when it hit......the lump in my throat and ache in the pit of my stomach.....the day had come and our barn was mournfully collapsed into a pile of rubble.  Somehow it seemed a more difficult pill to swallow...making this discovery on Easter Sunday.  And just as when an ailing family member passes after a long illness.....we are reminded that the loss is no less painful than when it happens suddenly.  A loss is a loss, no matter how much we are prepared.

This is the second time in recent months that we were forced to say goodbye to a beloved structure.  Another old barn in Amsterdam had been the subject of many photographs over these few years.

On our most recent ride after winter was over, we were shocked to find a pile of lumber in the place where a towering barn once stood.  In this case, the barn was dismantled for the sake of safety but the loss stung just the same.

My mind has a habit of making analogies and when I see these collapsed structures, it reminds me of our elders.  It reminded me of how vital and productive older folks remain when they are in 'use' - living with purpose, active, useful to someone, filling a 'need' for someone.  My almost 87 year old mother is a wonderful example of that.  She lives alone, looks 20 years younger than her chronological age, has a passion for so many things in life, is surrounded by friends, busy with activities of all sorts and living life with gusto.  Sometimes though....it is when folks lose their purpose, are not surrounded by loved ones...that they lose their passion, their luster, their importance and often their life.  These old structures have fulfilled their purpose, outlived their usefulness, been abandoned and are now gone.  We need to do what we can to treat people in our lives in a way that helps them remain vital and in tact.  We need to take care of each other.
And we need to live....with abandon.  These old barns, barely standing, boards missing, paint long faded testify to their usefulness, to their job well done.  Like this quote, "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow, What a ride!"  (Hunter S. Thompson).  That's how my mom lives!  And that's how these barns live....and die.

Thankfully I have photos to help remember these favorite structures of mine.  I also am blessed to have a most treasured memento, a sketch done for me by Brother Paul McCue.  No, this barn won't be forgotten, nor will the others I've captured, tattered and bulging, decayed and forlorn.  I love them now and will love them when all I have left are photos of their good 'ole days.  
 Let today's post be a reminder to live in the moment, take notice of the beauty around you, capture it for the future and hug a loved one and let them know they matter.  Share this with someone you know needs it!

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