31 January 2011

Making the Most of Winter in Maine...

Yesterday I took my daughter skiing for her birthday... the birthday that happened nearly three weeks ago. The whole family was supposed to go, but as fate would have it, we still have illnesses being passed around our household, so she and I went alone.

And we had a GREAT time. Shh - don't tell the others!

It was 15 degrees at the bottom of the mountain, and thankfully, little or no wind. A light snow fell through most of the day, and then the sun tried to break through at the very end. Let me just say right here that the sun did NOTHING to ease the chill. If anything, it probably made it more vivid. The top of the mountain had to be right around zero. But we dressed warmly and kept moving.

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.

Each time we were on the chairlift, we marveled at the beauty of those frozen trees. My daughter commented that we could go up those lifts 1000 times a day and never cease to be stunned by the beauty. I totally agree.

Here she is on her first black diamond slope ever, and my first in 25 years. I won't say we skied it, but I will say we made it down to the bottom.

Everything at the top of the mountain was so white, it felt like we were on the moon.

These signs were real. And they were quite serious about them. Apparently people jumping OFF the lifts is a real problem. Enough so that they need TWO signs. Who knew?

Gee, ya think??

Somehow, I think if I jumped off a lift, losing lift privileges would be the least of my concerns. Just sayin.

Here I am with only my nose peeking out. Did I mention that it was cold?

The trees just blew us away. Last year my husband commented that they look like something from a Dr. Seuss book. Whoville, maybe. Or anywhere the Grinch might live.

Or maybe something out of Candyland. Was there a marshmallow forest in Candyland? If so, this is totally it.

We were the 3rd to last people to take the lift up before it closed, so we practically had the mountain to ourselves at the end of the day. Looking back... wow, so pretty!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

25 January 2011

Who Needs a Gym?

Many years ago when we moved here from sunny, Southern California, one of my biggest concerns was staying fit through the winter months. I'm not a big fan of going to the gym or doing exercise videos at home. I'd rather be out walking or jogging.

I found that my fears were valid, as all four seasons here in Maine can be brutal if one is unprepared.

Springtime is loaded with black flies and mosquitoes, which will eat you alive if you try to walk so much as down the driveway without being covered head to toe wiht insect repellant. Take it from one who knows.

Summer is warm and humid, and many of the biting bugs are still quite active. Water sports are good, but walking or running can be wearying in the humidity.

Fall is actually the best time to be outdoors in Maine. It is generally cool, crisp and dry. In fact, I've often thought they ought to let kids out of school for the months of August and September, and maybe even October. Forget June and July.

Winter is, in a word, cold. Don't go out walking or running unless you've got layers and all your skin is covered. And wear boots.

Walking is my thing, so I've learned how to do it over the years, with minimal discomfort. Yet it is hard to get out and walk during the winter months, more because of the lack of light rather than the lack of warmth.

So today I had an unexpected day off. I wanted to go for a walk, but there were more pressing matters... we have another storm coming and our firewood supply is running low. So I spent just under an hour bringing stacks of wood from our outdoor woodpile into the garage.

It was lovely out there. A light snow was falling and there was no wind. The work went quickly and I was soon very warm. I realized I didn't need to go for a walk - I was walking back and forth constantly, plus lifting and stretching. Win!

As I neared the end of the job, I realized my legs felt a bit numb. I checked the thermometer and it read 4 above zero. I'd forgotten to do layers on my legs. A pair of jeans doesn't quite cut it in that temperature, exercise or not.

But it was good. Last week was the snow removal, this week the wood stacking, and it looks like more snow removal the day after tomorrow.

Who needs a gym?

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

22 January 2011

More Snow Coming

You see why this is all we talk about???


For what it's worth, I'm REALLY hoping for scenario number two. Snow, we can handle, no matter how much is sent our way. As I said before, freezing rain = profanity. It shouldn't be allowed.

In other news (weather news, of course - it's winter, what else is there?) it is -2 degrees outside. The weather channel is telling me it's 11 degrees, but our thermometer says otherwise. Apparently, this is the warmest morning we'll have for the next couple of days. Temps in the teens below zero are forecasted for tomorrow and Monday.

Though it will warm up again into the 20s just in time for that next storm.

For all my friends and family in warmer climates, I have a message for you: SHUT UP.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

21 January 2011

Another day, another post, another snow storm

On Tuesday of this week, we had one of those frustrating snows where nothing was closed or cancelled, but clean up was still a headache. The snow began late-morning, while everyone was already at work or school, and by the time we all were driving home, there was already 3-4 inches on the ground.

Although the plows had the whole day to deal with this sluggish storm, our little road had only been plowed once and was sketchy, at best. But the silver lining to this was that the plows hadn't left a wall of snow at the end of our driveway, so I was able to get our little VW all the way up the driveway and into the garage.

The problem was with the forecast. We were told that once the snow ended, there would be freezing rain and ice on top of that. The words "freezing rain" are equivalent to profanity coming out of the mouths of local meteorologists.

I've never quite understood the reason nor the logic for freezing rain. How can it be 22 degrees and RAINING? I don't know. But it happens. And then the rain turns to ice as soon as it hits the earth. When there is already snow on the ground, the freezing rain leaves a lovely crust on top of the snow which makes shoveling snow THAT MUCH MORE FUN.

So the weather channel website said that the snow would end at 6pm, followed by an entire night of freezing rain. As fate would have it, my husband was out of town that night, so I got the snowblower going at 5pm, to plow out the snow and let the rain do what it would.

As I finished up the plowing at just about 6pm, the snow seemed to be coming down harder than ever. I went inside, cursed the fact (once again) that we do not have a mud room, and checked the forecast again. The weather channel had changed it while I was out in the storm: 2 more hours of snow and THEN freezing rain. This meant plowing again the next morning before we could get out of the driveway.

Oh joy.

But something lovely happened. You know, when my children were small and went out to play in the snow, I always had popcorn and hot cocoa ready for them when they came inside. There's nothing lovelier than trudging back to the house through the snow, cold, tired, and wet, and finding a warm snack. On this evening when I came in from plowing, I found my youngest daughter making dinner. How cool is that?

The next morning I plowed again, sent the girls off to school and had a much needed day at home. We've been out so much lately, what with basketball games, car shopping, and just day to day life, that the state of our house is disgraceful.

As if things weren't busy enough, the guy we hired three months ago to put a new roof on our house FINALLY got started. The garage roof is done and the rest will be done in between snow storms. And yes, they do put new roofs on homes during Maine winters. I thought it impossible, as have several of my faraway friends, but it's more common than you might think.

And after catching our breath, we are getting smacked again today by another storm and the delight of another snow day - the second in two weeks' time. They're saying 9-14 inches for this latest storm. It's always at about this time of the winter when I look at the yard and at the high piles of snow next to the road and driveways and think, "where the heck are we going to put it?" But we always find a way.

Lastly, if you're tired of hearing about snow, come back in May. This is pretty much all ANYONE is talking about here in Maine.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

17 January 2011

January Settles In

Well, we ended up with 16 inches in Wednesday's storm. More than some, less than others. The good part about a storm like that is that it is COLD. When you get a ton of snow, cold is good. How could you have snow and it not be cold, you might ask? We get storms in the spring where is it barely cold enough to snow, and those dump huge amounts of slush on our streets, sidewalks and driveways. Nearly impossible to clean up. Cold snow means it can be moved.

The bad part about a storm like that is that is was mid-week and it snowed all day and into the night. By 4:00 that afternoon, we were well up to 14 1/2 inches, and it was nearly dark. It was time to do SOMETHING. So we plowed up everything. But then, over night, as we got the last couple of inches, the town snowplow scooted up and down the streets, throwing piles of snow along the ends of everyone's driveways. Not that I'm bitter or anything. It just means getting up extra early to clear away MORE snow the next morning.

I truly have a love / hate relationship with the snow plows.

Here are a few photos from the snowstorm.

Our bird feeders in the back yard...

Our most paranoid of cats after he escaped into the snow and then found he actually likes it. A LOT. Rats.

Our paper was delivered right smack in the middle of the worst part of the storm (let's hear it for a dedicated paper boy!) but we had to laugh at the headline. It was one of those "ya think?" moments.

Cleaning up in the dark. Sort of takes the glamour and charm out of a New England snowfall. But yay for a hearty snow blower.

The best part of any storm... going BACK inside to make popcorn and hot cocoa.

* * * * *

In other news, we finally got another car. After two weeks of searching, shopping, emailing, and test driving, we realized we would never replace our reliable old van. It might have had nearly 200,000 miles on it, but it was still a very nice car. The insurance adjusters thought otherwise, however, and we got next to nothing on it after it was totaled.

So with the little bit insurance gave us, and a couple of wonderful gifts from our parents, we decided to go smaller. We'd always talked about going smaller after our kids all go away to college, but now we've made that move a couple of years earlier than planned. We found a lovely little VW Passat with just over 100,000 miles on it. And if I tell you nothing more about it, let me just report that it has heated seats.


Does anything else really matter? If you aren't sure, see above photos.

* * * * *

Last, but certainly not least, we celebrated our youngest daughter's 17th birthday this week (she's the one above with the cat). We planned to go skiing to celebrate, but the car shopping did us in. Soon, sweetie, very soon! :)

Stay warm, friends!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

12 January 2011

More Snow

I can't resist another photo.

It just keeps snowing out there. HARD.


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

Snow Day

Enjoying a much needed break today from work and school. Well, if you consider cleaning out closets, doing laundry, and such, a break.

Still, it feels peaceful with such sights out the windows. I'm trying not to think about the clean-up later, and the fact that I still have a cold.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

02 January 2011

Evening at Bean's

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

01 January 2011

Good-bye 2010, Hello 2011

Rarely have I been glad to see a year fading in my rearview mirror, but after this month, I'm ready to put the whole year behind us.

Just when we thought we were home free, had gotten through Christmas, and all was well, our youngest daughter was in a car accident this past Thursday afternoon. It was ice-related. She was on a road known for its dangerous hills and curves, and although she was going the speed limit, when she hit a patch of ice going around a curve, she lost control and hit a car in the on-coming lane.

It's a terrible thing to get that panicked phone call, but I thank God it was HER that called, and not the police or paramedics. She was ok. She IS ok. But our van is totaled, as is the car she hit. Thankfully, the driver of that car is ok, too.

Over the last 48 hours, the bruises and soreness have set in, and she's hobbling around quite a bit, but she was well enough to go to a New Year's Eve party last night, and to work today. Besides, getting out and moving around helps with the stiffness.

As a mom, I keep imagining the worst case scenarios. I can't help it - I'm morbid like that. Perhaps it makes me even more thankful for the outcome of the accident, but it also contributes to a major lack of sleep as I ponder all the awful possibilities that might have been.

And we are now in the market for another car, as our old pick-up truck won't cut it as the only vehicle for this busy family.

* * * * *

Looking back, I realize our year began with a loss when our old kitty died last January. Not long after that, our son had his big break up with a longtime girlfriend, whom we loved, and then he moved away to Arizona. Then we lost my grandmother in the fall. Those were the major things, but there were countless minor ones. Ongoing financial issues, illnesses, frustrations, new jobs, surgeries, etc. It wasn't a particularly terrible year, just non-stop. I often felt like I just wanted a vacation from... my life.

Today is our 19th wedding anniversary and we had plans to go away for an evening on the town (a small, Maine town, that is) and a night in a hotel. But with the accident victim and everyone suffering from colds, we've opted to stay in and celebrate another time.

Besides, every day that we're together should be celebration enough. The fact that the family is together, our daughter is ok, the house is intact, and we do have one good car - isn't that so much more than many folks have?

On that note, I wish you all a Happy New Year. And if I figure out how to take a vacation from life, I'll be sure to let you know.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes