Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kingston's Chopper

One day last month, Joe and I went for a drive and, passing a neighboring farm, Joe spotted this little chopper sitting at the end of their driveway.

Of course, he had to turn around and check it out fully (with Kingston in mind, naturally).  The farmer said his college-age sons had brought it home to mess around with, but they never had it running properly.  Now, it won't run at all.  "It's free, if you want it," the farmer told us.

Joe thought it was worth tinkering with; after all, the price is right if he couldn't get it to run.

So, Joe got to work, and sure enough... he got it running! (It's an electric bike; the motor is battery operated, like a scooter.)

It cleaned up beautifully (after grandpa's hard work), and here's how it looks now that he's done with it...

He was very happy with how it turned out and couldn't wait to share it with Kingston. 

Thankfully, he didn't have to wait long, as Nic and Kingston were planning a Vermont trip.  The same day that the final touches were made (which was just yesterday - a last minute chain change), we were able to have the big reveal!

Joe gave Kingston the option to go for a "bike ride" or help him mow the lawn (which is Kingston's favorite thing to do since he gets to ride the tractor... what he's dubbed grandpa's riding mower).

When Kingston opened the garage door and saw the chopper sitting in front of grandpa's mower, he thought it looked really cool, but still wanted to mow the lawn (intrigued by the running motor).  He didn't realize his new toy had a throttle instead of pedals!

"Ohhhh!  I want to try the bike!"  That's what we thought he'd say...

Off they go.

First, daddy had to test it. 

Then Kingston got his lesson while grandpa captured it all on video.

Last minute instructions...

And he's off!

Daddy ran along side the first couple of passes, just to be sure.    

But it didn't take him long to get the hang of it...

... he was a pro in no time!

He is thrilled with his motorcycle and can't believe he has one of his own.

He couldn't get enough of it!  Grandpa is so pleased. [warm-hearted grin]

And ironically, this was taken five years ago to the day.  Where does the time go? 
Be still my heart.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Emergency Appendectomy

Who would have thought that at age 51, emergency appendectomy would become a part of my vocabulary; my been-there-done-that?  I've read the stats, and this usually happens to kids between the ages of 10-19.  Seriously. 

One Sunday evening, about three weeks ago, I went to bed feeling a bit bloated and with some discomfort in my diaphragm.  I chalked it up to indigestion - we did have fried fish for dinner, after all (granted, it was fried in tallow, which is healthy and has never bothered me before).  I woke up in the night feeling nauseated, and due to mild vomiting, called in sick to work on Monday, seemingly with the stomach bug.  I wasn't terribly uncomfortable, but couldn't hold anything down.  I took a nap that evening, and when I woke, I had the most bizarre, searing pain in my lower right abdomen.  I'd never felt anything like it.  It was debilitating.

I braved through it overnight, but woke Tuesday morning crying out to God, "WHAT IS THIS?!"  The pain rivaled that of childbirth, but the contractions of childbirth ebbs and flows, peaks and then offers a reprieve.  This did not.  I was double over and it brought tears to my eyes.  I knew I had to see someone (not my norm...).

I saw my PCP, and he was not able to diagnose me.  My symptoms were atypical.  There was a possibility I had kidney stones (but could urinate without pain), there was a possibility I had appendicitis (but my symptoms did not add up, including being feverless), so doc drew blood and told me to check back with him on Thursday. (!!) Thankfully, he also provided me with pain meds. So, thereafter, I slept for 20+ hours a day - a welcome reprieve from the discomfort.

I went back to my PCP on Thursday morning and, before providing me any details, he advised me I'd be having surgery that day. What?!  Yes, my white blood count was 20,000+ and there was little doubt I had acute appendicitis, though, he scheduled me for a CT Scan to confirm.  I headed straight over to the hospital for the scan, then back to his office for the results.  Sure enough, surgery was in my immediate future.  The problem, however, was there was not a bed to be had in the entire Upper Valley (he checked all three hospitals) so suggested that I head over to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and check into the emergency room, advising that the surgery team needed to check me (he had forewarned them).  They'd have no choice but to admit me.

So, by 6:30 that evening (72 hours after the first symptoms), I was in an emergency room bed, being prepped for an emergency appendectomy.  The kind surgeons (fabulous bedside manner from all of them, despite the reputation of surgeons), informed me that their goal was to perform the appendectomy laparoscopically, but that based on my very "angry appendix," they may find I need to have a traditional incision, and it could even be as bad as having to have a stoma.  Fortunately, angry or not, my appendix was able to be removed laparoscopically.  Phew.

It went well.  And tiny laparoscopic incisions were successful.  Those tiny incisions healed swiftly and gave me no pain.  I was surprised, however, how much my insides still hurt following surgery.  Like a small war had been waged on my intestines. 

Just as my nurse was advising that I'd been discharged, my heart rate spiked to 130.  Oh, for goodness' sake.  I was merely sitting in bed discussing discharge details with my nurse.  I felt no different, yet they ordered blood work, an EKG, a CT Scan.  Everything came back normal, and while my heart rate was still elevated, all tests came back normal. I was discharged 5 hours later than expected; they wanted to keep me overnight for observation but, uh uh... I had to, wanted to, go home.  Plus, I felt fine.  Still no explanation why that happened.

There have been no episodes since (to my knowledge... really, I had no idea there was one to begin with).  And I've just been slowly healing and gaining strength.  I was provided a two-week medical leave, which I, surprisingly, needed every bit of.

While home-bound, I've realized how much I enjoy bird-watching.  I can kill hours observing the diversity of colorful birds visiting the feeders, as they strategically deal with the chipmunks and squirrels.  It's an intriguing dynamic.  Rain or shine, the birds come to feed.  I love it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Whoa, Nellie!  I'm not much of a blogger these days.  I have posted exactly TWO blog-posts since my last yearbook post! 
Oh dear. 

Well, c'est la vie. 

Here's the year in review for 2015...


January was super snowy, but offered us many gorgeous evening skies.

Serene beauty.

Chilly mornings kissed with dawn light.

Cozy neighborhoods.

And sheep shearing. (Huh?)  I went and observed shearing day at the farm where I get wool roving.  I'm still confounded why their toasty fleece is shorn when our temperature is it's bitterest.  Oh well, I'm not a sheep-keeper, what do I know.

A before picture... now doesn't that look nice and warm?

These lovely llama-ladies are their herd guardians.

It's a beautiful day at Fox Penny Farm.

Our corner bridge.

Our darling grandson turned five this month - but no pics of the birthday boy this year... He celebrated in Florida and we participated from afar.


We enjoyed more breathtakingly beautiful mornings.

Hubby visited mom and dad O'Brien in Florida, and I stayed home and shoveled miles and piles of snow! 
Wow.  A lot of snow fell in February!

Everyday was an adventure for the fur-babes.

Rowdy sisters having a ball; our precious Emma and Sara. 

Just a typical morning, headed to work.


A quote from my great grandfather, Akseli Skutnabb.

Our friend's pretty golden retriever, Gracie, had pups; a litter of twelve!

Puppies melt his heart. I love that about him.

This handsome guy is Jake, another friend's german shepherd.  He is a big boy!  All heart.


This is March's will-winter-ever-end? morning.

Winter skies truly are clear and colorful (when they're not overcast, that is... there are lots of those, too).
Oh my goodness... Blaze. He's so tired, he can't see straight. 
Yet he tenaciously waits in case I'll share just one cracker.  Please, at least one!

Oooo, hello gorgeous sunrise...

...I love the hue you cast on this barn.

Ugh... and then mud-season comes along.

And it was right at this time when we moved from the little 4-acre property to the larger 80-acre property around the corner (well, three miles around the corner).  Brilliant.
Hills and snow and mud do not make moving any more fun.


So, these are the new digs.

And this.

The house was originally built in 1790.  It still has some old charm... like our front door, for example.

Finally, the snow began to melt.

And it was stick season.

I'm digging the view from the front yard, even with no leaves. 
The barn and pasture over there is part of the property.

Oh yay; finally! It felt like this would never come.


May is my favorite color.  You'll see...

We got an unexpected visit from the kids! So, had a "bonfire" out back, of course.
(Kingston enjoys them tremendously... Aria, too.)

 We all giggled when Emma decided to rest her head on Nic's shoulder and fell asleep there.

 We did a little exploring (hello beautiful girl of ours).

 And did some picture-taking, naturally.  She loves it, too; comes by it honestly, but is way better at it than me.

We did our usual... tossed a Frisbee.

Oh, and look at it now.  The grass is getting green and those daffodil-beauties are popping up everywhere.

Ah, yes... flowers are the reward of a long winter.

Taking a grassy siesta with Zeila, our pretty, pretty Princess.

 And here come the leaves.

And the bird feeders are starting to get busy.

They make me smile.

The trees bloomed.


Mmm. And the air was sweet.

Spring green.  I love it.

It is stick season no more...

When the apple trees blossomed, they roared with buzzing bees.

And I was pleasantly intrigued by the beauty that surrounds me.

Dandelions.  I love them, truly.  They are like little drops of sunshine sprinkled all over my yard.
(And good for you, too.  Ever put tender dandelion greens in your salad?  You should.)

Oh, yes.  More Spring green, blue... and those sunshine sprinkles!

The leaves are getting fuller, but they're still tender and new.

And the trees are still in bloom all around us.

We wave to the neighbors passing by (and I smile inwardly because of my sunshine sprinkles).

Morning light breaks through the trees.

And then the lilacs (and the home front).

We have lilacs all around us... lining the front, as you see, and several huge bushes/trees on the side that reach the second story!  Mmmm, I can almost smell them now. 

Yes, May, you're my favorite.


June continued to shower us in flowers.

This is where I have lunch on nice days at work.  Lovely.

I was so delighted to find masses of irises growing in the fields out back! Aren't they beautiful?

The lupines were everywhere, too!

We had dark irises, too, and white and yellow...

Fields of flowers... right in our own backyard.  Happy!

While I was wandering the fields with my camera I encountered this little darling. What a thrill!
I was saddened at first; it was so stone-still, I thought it was dead. 
Imagine my relief when I finally saw it's little nose twitch, then it ran off. 
I later learned that mama will hide the babes in tall grass while she looks for food and the stillness is a defense mechanism.

The peonies bloomed...

The beauty of summer gave me many opportunities for thankfulness and creating scripture-pics.

I don't know that this little one was singing, so much as squawking at me for being too close. 
I suspect she had a nest nearby.

Then there was that day in June I walked 6 miles in flip flops.  Ooo, my aching feet.  I didn't mean to. I was just going to wander around our immediate area with my camera, but the beauty kept drawing me further.

The winding roads with their lush green foliage beckoned.

And broke into stunning mountain views.

I sat at the edge of this pond for a good while, resting those flip flop-clad feet of mine. (I was still a very happy camper. Don't let my pedi-problems fool ya...)

I was oddly pleased by this disarray.  It seems fitting for a country road.

Ah, in the homestretch. After that six miles, I was never so happy to come upon my neighbor's barn.

After the rain...

We had a couple of patches of rhubarb.  Rhubarb reminds me of summer days in Syracuse as a kid. I used to love eating it raw like a celery stick - it was the tartness.  Mmmm.

These days, though, I like to do things like this with it.


July had some spectacularly happy moments.

Nic had to come up for work, and he brought Kingston with him. 
Kingston was excited about the privilege of a father/son trip.

And that pasture he was throwing rocks into...
look how deep and vibrant that green is now in the heat of summer.

The first few days our darling boy was here, he was down with strep throat. Obviously, he wasn't showing signs of illness before they left, but started showing symptoms while on the road. 
He's a trooper - a good little patient. 
Fortunately, he got over it and we were able to enjoy some fun together.

We hiked, of course, because it's one of our favorite things.

Hello, handsome!

And we attended a summer concert on the lawn at Jackson Gore, because that's another one of our favorite things.

Kingston and daddy got to ride the coaster.  Wow, was that ever fun!

After that, he did the bungee on a trampoline.  With much determination, he learned to do back flips on it!
We also had bonfires out back, lit sparklers for 4th of July, and saw a parade and fireworks.

We packed a lot of fun into a short trip (despite the worst sore throat ever, at the start). 
But, it came time for them to go and get home to mommy and Aria.

I went for another walk and came upon this lovely property.  Looks like the making of a perfectly lazy summer afternoon.

They enjoy quite the view while floating in their tube.

I encountered wild flowers growing in the forest.

And a beautiful barn cat who looks too pristine to earn his keep catching field mice.

Back at home, our fields of flowers are now offering bee balm.  It's an herbalists dream around here.

July was particularly sad, too.  Our cherished Sara contracted kidney disease for reasons still unknown.  The day this was taken, I knew that she wasn't feeling well, but we had a memorable day outside. She was my sidekick for a couple of hours while I puttered (and photographed) around the yard.  Two days later we were at the vet, running tests and doing IV therapy.  And two days after that, we had to say goodbye to our beauty.  It's still a mystery why she became ill.

Our hearts are still broken.

Later, the Vermont 100 (a 100-mile race for runners and riders) came right down our road.  Some ran in pairs or groups.

And some ran alone.

These riders were having great fun. You should have heard their exuberant chatter as they rounded that corner.
The following weekend I went to Syracuse for a quick weekend trip to visit my mom, who was up for the final high school reunion her school would hold, and to see great friends that live there; ones I've known and loved since childhood. 
We had a wonderful time checking out the old stomping grounds.
This is Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse University campus.

And this is the Hall of Languages on campus.
This is Clinton Square in downtown Syracuse.  It's a quiet place to sit for a spell, perhaps enjoy lunch after a busy morning at the office.  Kids like to cool off in the wading pool in the summer, and skate on it in the winter.

After a morning of reminiscing in the old neighborhoods of my childhood, we went to Skaneateles Lake.

It was such a gorgeous day!

After meandering the shops and lakefront, we went to Anyela's Winery where we enjoyed a glass of wine, nibbled from the cheese tray and relished the fresh air and sunshine.

Jean, me and mom; we are having such a wonderful day!  (Thank you, Greg, for photographing us.)

To cap the day, Jean and Greg treated us to a fabulous meal at Sherwood Inn.

Aunt Mega and Uncle Ron also came up for the reunion and were able to have quality time with family on his side.  I'm thankful I got to see them for coffee and danish at the airport before they, with mom, headed back to Florida. 


Our kids came for a visit (this time mommy and Aria came, too)!  When you live in the country, you don't need to wear pants to mow the lawn!  Mommy was requesting he go get some shoes on, though.

We hiked again... a few times. When we got to the grassy knoll, we all rested for a while, Emma included.  These two are quite smitten with each other.

While we were out on the trails, we found lots of wild berries... black berries and raspberries.

We waded in the river and played on the bank.

And hiked some more!

Enjoying the respite and the snuggles!

Wow... daddy and Kingston enjoying the view.

You can find some pretty cool and unexpected things in the woods!

Aria piggy-backed about half of the hike, taking turns on whose back she rode.

Back at our place, the kids enjoyed picking some of the early ripening apples.

And then, just 12 days after losing Sara, we had to say another painful goodbye.  Our beloved Dexter lived long and healthy, but the years kept creeping up on him till he just became too old and frail to continue life's journey.  We had a beautiful last day with him where he laid on his bed under the tree (his favorite thing to do in recent weeks) while we sat beside him and the kids played in the yard.  We each took turns (even the little ones), petting him gently, crouched close, heads bowed, whispering love to him, making sure he knew he's cherished.  We're glad they were here to love us through it.

Oh, yes... back to hiking the paths that have the wild berries.

Picking and eating wild berries delights this little one!

Just a pretty little outbuilding and landscape nearby.

Sometimes our hiking trails intersect with horse trails.

This darling does love that thumb - and doesn't she have a precious profile?

Shortly after this, they decided to go ahead and get suits on to cool off in the little pool.

Ah... Aria's first time at the range and a golf lesson from grandpa!

Everyone got in on the fun...

We found more paths to explore and rivers to wade in.

Oh, and then made our way to the blueberry patch.

Aria loved this old doggie at the place where we pick blueberries, and Kingston took this shot of her with my camera. Good job, buddy!

Well, then the kids went home and I went back to taking pictures of horses and cows.

And pretty scenery.


September has a certain color to it.  Even though the leaves aren't turning yet, you can tell autumn is approaching.

I decided to get out into the pasture across the road and see what things look like from the other side.  This is the barn with the red doors from the back.

And sun shining through the apple trees.  Including all of the trees on both sides of the road, there are at least 10 apple trees on this property.

The horse pasture.

As the light hits the tops of the trees, you can see they want to turn golden.

I saw this turkey family every morning on my way to work.

September is the month for haying the fields.

Low lying clouds and the color of autumn beginning to whisper hello.

Apple season!

We have grapes, too.  They had to be pruned so much, though, that we didn't get any this year.

Oh, the apples I picked!  I could only reach the bottom 1/10th of the trees, though!  The rest were up for grabs by birds and other wild life.

Ah... the swing set makes me long for the kids...

Hello, again, turkeys! 

The first real blush of autumn!

I love blue skies... and birds.

Just meandering the neighborhood.

I found a new top-of-the-world to hike to.

And saw some real fall color along the way.

And Jersey friends who found something really scrumptious to munch on.

The color of that popular view is really starting to change.

Another pretty sight you'll see in all of it's autumn glory next month.


"Let me just take a moment to stretch my wings. You're not in a hurry, are you?"

Alright, it's time to set out for some purposeful foliage chasing!

I loved the way this mama spied on me, ensuring the safety of her calves.

I also loved the autumn-blooming hydrangeas. Lovely.

I visited a syrup-maker's open house and met the very handsome, Zeus.  The caldron is an example of how maple syrup used to be made before sugar houses.

This is around the corner from us. I think it's so charming.

Just an inviting porch we encountered.

The beautiful, and slightly famous, Sleepy Hollow Farm.  It's for sale... I think for 3 million, or so.

And then there's this angle, which I also love.

Just a horse grazing. :-)

Jenne Farm is another favorable, slightly famous, photography spot.

The most common angle.

There's something captivating about this to me.  When I learn to use my pastels, I'm going to paint it.

And we've come full-circle on that foliage chasing (same bridge)... till next time.

Handsome Riley, enjoying the beautiful fall day with us.

I just love this cluster of homes and barns.

One of our favorite top-of-the-world spots.

The path to it goes right through this cow pasture I love so much (as they languish under the apple trees)!

They're precious.

I tried to wait for the car to leave the frame, but then realized the poor leaf-peepers got stuck in a ditch.

I love the colors in this one.

I photograph this spot a lot.

This is our yard. Do you recognize it?  I've photographed it in every season, I think.

Our road at the end of the day as I drive home from work.  It's welcoming.

Doing the autumn chores.

Well, we got a minor snowfall mid-month.

I love the way the leaves fell like gold dust.

Here's that sight I said in September to look for this month.

Don't roads like this just beckon you to come see what lies beyond?  They do me!

Little Ada's favorite seat in the house. She alerts us to all manner of imminent dangers; joggers, bicyclists, horses, dogs and their walkers, trucks that are too loud and definitely tractors...

This is another one I'd like to paint. There's something about those hardy branches, the picket fence and that little road that runs behind it. I would probably leave the blue truck out of it.

In town - this is where I go to church, the grocery store, and the post office. :-)


Oh dear... more chores!  Hubby worked hard to get us winterized.

The job seems daunting at this point. (oh, and goodbye lovely leaves) :-/

The sunsets were incredible this month!

Fire in the sky.

If you have to work so hard, at least it's pretty. Hmmm, I wonder if that would be his take on it?!

No snow in weeks, but plenty of frosty mornings.

We have a woodstove in the main living area, but a fireplace in another one of our rooms. We're so used to maintaining the woodstove, that keeping the fireplace lit was a big pain.  We probably won't bother much. It's charming, though.

Hey... look who's making progress on the wood stack?  It was at this point that I started helping.

We didn't stack the whole thing this intricately; just the ends to make them stronger.


The gorgeous, lush, green fields have turned to straw.  Surprisingly, it's still pretty.

Our pretty, pretty princess, Zeila.

Oh, I mean... TA-DA!!! Hubby said it wasn't really done till it was covered.

We have a little pine forest at the edge of the property.

My darling Riley and I took a sunset walk together.

Yes, the skies in November were spectacular.  Indeed, God's gifts are vast and abundant... and gracious.

Precious Aria turned four this month but, again, no pics to share, as we celebrated the special event via FaceTime.


There's that popular scene, again.  December started out frosty and foggy, but still no snow.

The second weekend of December, Kristiina came to town and we went to the Wassailing Event in Woodstock.

Santa, of course, was the finale to the parade.

Woodstock, VT is a charming little town.

After the parade we gathered on the town green and sang Christmas carols around the yule log.

Then we leisurely enjoyed the shops and galleries.

She went home and we got another little sprinkle of snow.

And for the sake of nostalgia, I went to the Christmas tree farm.  It's something we did with the kids every year.

This old house is down the road from the tree farm. If not for the mountains in the background, it looks to me like it belongs on the plains out west somewhere. I was intrigued by the feel of it.

This is the residence of the tree farm owners.  Pretty nice, eh?  It's for sale... 1.5 million. 
Yeah, I'd take it if it were given to me. ;-)

And I drove home stunned that we still didn't have any snow this late in the season.

Doh... till you get to my road, and look what still lingers.  Just wisps, but still...

Emma and I enjoyed an evening walk.  Look how long-bodied she is.

She's pretty.

The winter solstice is one of my favorite, pivotal days of the year... it points to longer days. Sunlight makes me happy.

Rainy day pastime.

A stunning Christmas Eve sunset.

No Christmas tree this year, just this. <3

Exploring the hills with BooBoo and Emma (Blaze, too, but he ducked).

Pretty little Ada Janie.

And the snow finally came at the end of the month.
We closed out the year pretty much like this:
Snuggled on the couch...

 ...the chair...

...and the loveseat.
We are blessed, indeed. 
I'm thankful for grace, love and joy.
Seeking God expectantly in 2016.
May you know His wisdom and revelation, hope and grace.