Summer Sunsets

I can’t deny it any longer.

Last week I turned off the air conditioning and haven’t turned on the heat. I do my very best to delay turning on the heat. I am not yet sure whether that is stubbornness, denial or both. But today there is a chill in the air inside the house.

Suddenly, every Saturday morning I regret my choice to not have cable. It is that one time a year when I miss ESPN, or maybe it’s just Kirk Herbstreit.

My white shoes, linen blazer and seersucker suits are dry cleaned and packed away, sadly, for months.

As I type, it is 42 degrees in Fort Wayne. Today’s high is 46 degrees.

It is fall.

In an effort to further my stubbornness and/or denial, I want so share my best of the summer sunsets.

There is not much better than a warm/hot/sweltering walk in the glow of the setting sun in bare legs and short sleeves. I am afraid that there won’t be any more of those until spring.

Indiana Sunsets:

Alaska, Arizona and Washington Sunsets:

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part II

It seems that I’ve been fooled. My first winter in Indiana, 2011-2012, was incredibly mild. Not only was there not one single large snowfall there was not much snow at all. Additionally, the temperature, while cold, was not consistently and continuously bitter. Oh, and I lived in an apartment with a garage. So, I never had to encounter snow directly: no shoveling, no sweeping, no cleaning off the car. All I had to do outside was walk the dog.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

Everyone I’ve talked with about the weather (which is nearly everyone) told me not “get used to it.” I am afraid I did.

This winter is different. There have not been any giant snows, but we have had more snow and the temperatures have been way (at least it seems to me) colder. Days and days of temperatures under 20 degrees. Wind. Constant, cold wind with wind chills repeatedly below -10. Oh, and I now have a driveway to shovel, a walk to sweep, and neighborhood streets to try to navigate safely.

I have prided myself on the fact that I can handle cold weather and drive in the snow. I was raised in the mountains! It does snow in the mountains and it does get cold. However, it doesn’t stay this cold for this long, the snow doesn’t hang around for weeks from one storm, and it doesn’t snow this often. And, there is no wind there, at least not constant, extremely cold, and sustained winds.

This has been much more of an adjustment than I am comfortable admitting. It is not in my nature (or raising) to concede weakness or discomfort. Every time I walk out into the piercing cold wind I cringe. I long for some mountain cover. The question – why do I live here crosses my mind. Regularly. If I missed home when it was warm here, I miss home 1000x more now.

Luckily, I had the chance to escape the Midwest winter briefly. I spent part of the last week in Puerto Rico, where it was sunny, warm, and, like Fort Wayne, windy; there the wind blows warm. It was a much needed break even though I worked most of the trip. But that trip taught me a very important lesson. I now know the key to surviving a Midwestern winter. Take a break.

I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone in PR.

Seasons change and I have access to airplanes. So, my new vacation window is going to be January to March, just in time for a nice break from the Midwestern winter.

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part I

Snow is beautiful. I like it.

Indiana Snow

Sadly, though, snow does not come with sixty degree temperatures, dry roads, and warm winds. At least not in Indiana. The day I returned from my holiday break in Virginia it was eighteen degrees and felt like four degrees with twenty mile per hour winds.

These are not my ideal dog walking conditions.

Twice a day I bundle up in layers, strap on my boots, and walk The Queen. She prefers the field and brush behind the subdivision to the sidewalks. This makes for adventures wading through ankle-deep or more snow and enduring 20 mph winds in an open field. Other than the satisfaction of making the dog happy, the only thing that makes these required walks tolerable is the view. The Queen doesn’t mind regular stops for iPhone photography.

Model Dog

Eyeing some fresh deer tracks.

Walking Shoes

The proper form for mole digging.

The proper form for mole digging.

Wading Through the BrushSunset on the trees

The Queen watching the sunset.

The Queen watching the sunset.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind tall weeds.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind the tall weeds.

The view of the Indiana countryside also pretty. Pretty enough to make long commutes fun and slow. Slow? Yes, because you have to stop and take pictures. Seriously. I am that person pulled over on the shoulder, stopped in the middle of the road, and holding the camera up to the windshield or side window while in motion. I highly recommend it to everyone with a camera or smartphone.

It is pretty.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

An Indiana farmer's lovely old barn.

An Indiana farmer’s lovely old barn.

Boston in Pictures

I just made my first trip to Boston. It is nothing if not charming. I stayed in the theatre district and spent two days walking the city. The location was perfect and Boston was easier to navigate than I expected. It was interesting, beautiful, and fun.

The Boston Common and Public Gardens were the perfect introduction to Boston. You get the history, the pretty, and, if you are lucky, nice enough December weather to be outside.

After a tour through the Common I wandered through Beacon Hill. It is a lovely urban community. A cross between Colonial Williamsburg and Manhattan with super cool doors.

Next, I picked up The Freedom Trail at the Massachusetts State House. It was getting dark at this point and I was hustling to see as much as possible before dark caught me, especially the burial grounds at the Park Street Church. This is when I punched myself in the stomach. Seriously. I was crossing the street from the Common to Park Street Church. Rather than watch where I was going I was taking a picture AND walking (see the picture below) and walked directly into a huge green rib-cage-level pole in front of two lanes of traffic. Full speed. I have never been punched in the stomach but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I was embarrassed but could not be too concerned about the gawking bus driver and passengers since I could neither breath nor stand-up straight. So, for a time I sat at the foot of the Boston Common sign trying to decide if I was really hurt or if the pain would pass. I was not and it did. I just felt stupid. Live it, learn it.

My last day was spent wandering through Newbury and Boylston Streets doing some window shopping and taking in the view. This is where I learned that I sound Australian, at least to a sales representative at Brooks Brothers. Maybe she had talked with the taxi driver from the day before who asked me if I am British. Who knew the Appalachian twang was so hard to decipher?

The storefront used in Cheers made this leg of the tour as did the view from the Prudential Tower and the Boston Public Library.

No trip of mine would be complete without some food pictures . . . the eating is good in Boston. I planned dinners at Market by Jean-Georges and Nebo, but oysters at Neptune was an impromptu stop and by far the best eating I did the three days I was there and I just had oysters. Super good.

There is plenty more of Boston to see, but for this first trip I feel like I covered some serious territory in a day and a half. My muscles are still sore and my feet are still recovering. I will go back, if only to hear someone say “wicked smahhrt.”

Fall in Indiana, Part III

Halloween

The front walk to my house is covered with leaves and last week was also covered with little feet. The first Halloween in the new digs was a success. I had candy and kids showed up. Luckily, the bar of success is low. The kids were charming, sweet, and hilarious. I had princesses, ninjas, and unidentifiable costumes toting plastic pumpkins, grocery bags, and pillow cases (I had never seen pillow cases before). All were fun, but there was one little group that appeared that I wanted to immediately adopt.

A brother and sister presented themselves in what were very obviously homemade costumes – a bat and a kangaroo (complete with pouch). They were totally old-school-Halloween. No plastic masks for them. It was fun to see. Next was a little lady dressed as batgirl, she donned a pink tutu with a pink top with the black batman logo on it. She was precious. She was followed by what I would like to believe was me at 5 – she was so excited to tell me what she was dressed as that she was practically jumping up and down. She asked (yelled) “do you know what I am?” I said, “what are you?” And she look up at me through the little white mask that only outlined her eyes and announced I am spider-girl! She was awesome, I hope she never changes.

Frost

These days 5:30 a.m. comes pretty early and very dark. On a recent morning, after squandering the first 25 minutes of my day laying in bed on my iPhone, I traipsed out into the backyard with The Queen for her morning walk. I was surprised to find the first hard frost. It was pretty – shiny and glistening. That, of course, is easy for me to say because I have a garage. I’m guessing the folks who were warming up their cars and scraping windshields would not agree.

Fall in Indiana, Part I

It is fall in Indiana. The summer breeze has turned into a cold wind, the hot days are gone, and the fireplace is burning. But it is still pretty.

The Niagara Peninsula in Pictures

The second stop on my Canadian adventure was Niagara-on-the-Lake, about an hour and a half drive from Toronto along the Queen Elizabeth Way (the “QEW”). It is a lovely drive and worth a stop of its own. If only I had known. So, head west from the big city and be sure to veer off of the QEW and enjoy the view.

The country side of the peninsula is littered with scenic vineyards and gorgeous views. They don’t call it the Niagara Peninsula Wine Country for no reason. This is the De Sousa Wine Cellars Vineyard in Beamsville, Ontario.

At the Tawse Winery, 2010/2011 winery of the year, you can get a glimpse of the Toronto skyline on a clear day across the lake. It is breath-taking.

While at the Tawse Winery I met a kind gentleman named Dieter. Dieter met me at the door and gave me an interesting and enlightening tour of the winery. The picture on the left shows the gravity fed wine processing system, which is “based on the natural slope and contours of our property. The use of gravity as opposed to pumps allows the wine to move gently from pressing to bottling with minimum manipulation.” Fascinating stuff.

Dieter is also an interesting fellow. I told him that I was living in FW and he assured me that he knows all about FW. How, you say? He worked for GM, retired early, and took up the wine business with Tawse. My new friend Dieter is living the dream. I only spent little bit of time with him and it was clear that he is a happy guy. There is a lot to be said for doing what you love!

Tawse is a gorgeous place, whether you drink the wine or not.

This is the Tawse celler. One interesting fact I learned is that the red markings on the barrels that appears to be from the wine bleed-through is not. No, some poor wine intern has to go around and use the grape scraps to paint the center ring of all the barrels so that they will look neat rather than show the stains from samplings. Poor kid. Also, for the Celiacs out there that are wine drinkers – the wineries I visited make their wine in brand new barrels, not used ones. So, you do not have to worry about cross-contamination from used barrels. How is that for cheers to you!

Another lesson I learned on this trip was that grapes are fun. Fun to photograph, that is. I thought it would be boring, even though I love a farmer’s market. I am glad I tested my assumption and found I was wrong. The way the light moves through and around the grapes and leaves is really interesting and challenging to catch. And, they are pretty, especially the dark grapes – the purple on the green is lovely.

The drive from Toronto the Niagara-on-the-Lake should have taken an hour and a half. Lucky for me it took 3 hours. Three hours of peaceful driving, gorgeous views, and visiting. This area is really a must-see in Ontario. Also, it is impossible to get lost in (there are maps everywhere and great signage) and the people are super friendly and generous with recommendations for where to go next or where to have lunch. All you need is time, a car, and a camera.

The Indiana Coast

I am super lucky to have parents that love to come and visit me and The Queen. I love seeing my family and spending time with them. As my Sister once said, “we are not just family, we like each other. We are friends.” Truth.

However, my parents, Sister, and I all live very differently. My Daddy spends his free time watching TV, checking the stock market, building things, playing with the dog, and practicing his household chore skills (retirement is teaching him a lot). My mom reads, cooks, and cruises the interwebs. I, on the other hand, don’t have cable television (my Daddy doesn’t understand this concept), I don’t keep a lot of food in the house, and I spend my free time at home reading, writing, and watching random programs on Netflix (a lot of Law & Order). The rest of my time is spent at work or traipsing around the country side.

So, in an effort to avoid hanging out around the house staring at each other, and napping, we loaded up in the tricked-out minivan and headed toward the Indiana coast. Seeing the Indiana coast of Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes State Park has been on my short list of adventures for a while now.

We started the day with a drive through Northeast Indiana, including Ligonier, Napanee, and Chesterton. We arrived in Chesterton, Indiana and checked out the weekly European Market. It was lively and full of food, crafts, and friendly dog-loving folks. Next, we headed to the Indiana Dunes State Park. It was beautiful and scorching hot. We walked the dunes and The Queen got her first visit to the beach. She’s not a fan – apparently she only likes still, quiet water.

The Indiana coast is not the Atlantic or Pacific but the inland sea that is Lake Michigan is beautiful and lined with huge sparkly white dunes. The waters of Lake Michigan are clear, warm, and at least three shades of blue. We were all surprised by the quality of the water and beach. We are used to lakes that are full of opaque water that covers former valleys and farms (hello TVA) with the occasional tree, log, or car tire floating along the surface. Lake Michigan is not like a lake at all. It is very pretty.

Midwestern Spring Snaps

The spring growth in Northeast Indiana has started. Bring out the heavy equipment.

Freshly worked dirt is all over Allen, Whitley, Wabash, and Kosciosko Counties.

New babies join the world.

Dog walks are becoming greener.

The Queen is getting friskier. No squirrels or rabbits are safe. Watch out.

The kids have come out to play. The Queen loves meeting new people (translation: she is an attention hog).

It is a happy time in the Midwest these days. The only thing better will be more green and a nice warm breeze.