Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 8:  With forecasts of bad weather on the way, Joie came up with the ultimate way for two Florida gals to hold onto thoughts of warmer places -- a tour of the Durfee Conservatory at UMass Amherst.

Being coy...or koi
The moment we stepped inside the glass and brick building, the tropics welcomed us with warm, oxygen-rich air, jungle foliage, bonsai trees, orchids and flowering cacti. It even has a bridge across a koi fish pond.


We plan to visit often & will be anxious to see it in the summer when the grape vines are flourishing with vintage aspirations and northern flowers are showing off their colors outside of the building, but even in the rapidly dropping temperature, we found a gem - a giant pine tree, with a trunk too big for Joie & Marilyn to circle it holding hands.
This year's Christmas tree???

Friday, November 28, 2014

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, November 27:  Back in August, Joie picked out the appliances for our to-be-renovated kitchen. Marilyn would have been content to limit food preparation to a microwave, toaster oven and a mini-fridge, but Joie had much more elevated plans for our future dining events. She had to have a gas range, with a center griddle, and two ovens, one of which had to be convection, and the refrigerator/freezer had to be large enough to prepare us for the coming zombie apocalypse.

After today's spectacular feast, Marilyn now admits Joie exhibited tremendous common sense in her choices (genetics rules). The picture is the proof--every menu item turned out perfectly and all table-ready at the same time! We even pulled out the remaining pieces of our best china (the movers destroyed over half of it).

Tired of pics of other people's turkeys yet?
Meet Stan, the first turkey Joie ever prepared--yes, Joie named the bird as she was stuffing it and came to the conclusion that anything she had to get that intimate with should have a name.

The Thanksgiving celebration was enhanced by the snowy view and the company: new human friend, Natalie Sherif and new friend of Sweetie & Milkdud's, the pretty Rain. We topped off the evening with a crazy, wine-influenced game of Scattergories.

There was one more thing that made this first Thanksgiving so lovely...we had a crackling fire in the fireplace. Turn up the sound to fully enjoy this video -

November 26-27: Our first heavy snowfall.
Big, fat, white flakes started falling in mid-morning and kept on dropping all day and night. We were delighted to watch Mother Nature's display through our picture window while snug inside our warm living room.
We were also happy that we only got about half of the 12-inches predicted.

Here's what we woke up to Thanksgiving morning...

And by the time Joie was starting to prep Thanksgiving dinner, the sun was out, the snow plows had cleared the roads and superhero tenant Kyle had shoveled the snow off our walkways and cleared an area of grass for the dogs.

The temptation to forget dinner and just go sliding down the slopes was hard to resist!

But Joie and our Thanksgiving guest, Natalie Sherif (her historical partner in deeds of distraction), have started making plans for a major winter carnival on our property with their UMass cohort. So far it will include a snowball re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg and imitating the Lewis & Clark expedition by using canoes instead of sleds.

November 25 : The weather reports, and all the scurrying wildlife in and above our backyard, insist we will soon be experiencing our first heavy snowfall. It was time to address another item on our list to get ready for winter...what to do if the power goes out. Obviously a generator is the only way to deal with an outage of more than a few hours and, of course, one of those is on our Christmas wish list. But for a short term power failure, we have a genuine fireplace. We also have a lighter and quite a bit of firewood...in the back yard. So Marilyn took on the assignment of toting some of it into the garage to dry out. A half hour later, we had enough for one fire and she gave up. By the way, it was 38 degrees. Not sure how she'll dress when it drops below 0.

What we didn't have was the knowledge of how to actually MAKE a fire...or where the doohickey was to open the flue to let the smoke go up the chimney.
Soooooooo, once again, we turned to superhero tenant Ben to give us a lesson in fire-starting.

First he built a little house of sticks then, like his mighty dragon ancestors, he huffed and he puffed and the house burst into flames. It was very magical indeed. However, since we are mere mortals, he also showed us how to insert a piece of balled-up newspaper into the little house and ignite it with the lighter. As you can see below, it worked quite efficiently, but we may have to call on him to perform when we have guests from Florida or Texas visiting.

If you'd like to see and hear the fire, Joie offers the video...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20: Any friend of Joie's knows of her personal connection to Wonder Woman and her vast collection of all things Wonder-ful. So you can imagine her delight when she was able to attend a lecture by Harvard professor, Jill Lepore, author of  "The Secret History of Wonder Woman." To say the least, Joie has added another name to her role model list!

While we're mentioning Joie's academic life, here are a few photos  of the beautiful UMass Amherst campus.

The geese in the pond fly over our house twice a day in v-formation, as they travel to and from the pond...honking all the way.
Du Bois Library, 27 stories high
The Minuteman


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our houseguest Rain
November 16: Just for all the dog-lovers out there...

We had a houseguest this weekend at Chateau de Joie. Her name is Rain and she is an absolutely adorable companion dog of Joie's school mate Natalie. See how perfectly she posed in the "picture" window so Joie could capture a pic of her reflection.

Rain, Milkdud & Sweetie

Apparently she taught our Milkdud and Sweetie a few things about obedience, as you can see by their polite waiting for their treats.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

November 15: Enjoy other people's travel photos? "The Big Move" page of our blog is a collection of the pics we took as we were moving out of the condo on Miami Beach, the looooong drive north through moving into the house in western Massachusetts. That page is as complete as it's going to get, so we thought we'd share.

Hands-down, this snap of Joie demonstrating how NOT to move a Tempurpedic mattress is probably our favorite!

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14: We woke up to snow covering our property today, which was a great photo op, but we didn't mind at all that it melted with the rising sun. (Note, these pics are not touched up/photoshopped.)

Labyrinth is still walkable!
The residents of our wild kingdom back yard obviously knew the snow was coming because the deer
family were all out actively foraging yesterday. Papa has antlers and a heavy coat now and the baby has gotten as tall as Mama!

 Blue jays and cardinals have been very busy for the last week and, of course there were those wild turkeys, but yesterday we sited our first ring-necked pheasant and it was

a beautifully colored male! We couldn't get a close-up picture of it, so we offer the bird book photo again.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November 6:  From Joie -

Mom and I were discussing Thanksgiving dinner plans and wondering where we were going to get our turkey this year when, all of a sudden, I felt something staring at me. I turned in my office chair to find 7 pairs of eyes staring at me!!! Seriously, seven wild turkeys, gazes fixed on me, slowly approaching my office window in unison. It's like they knew. They all knew. If I didn't have such a horrific history with ridiculously large birds, I would have taken this as a convenient answer to the quest for the Thanksgiving turkey.

I momentarily considered taking them all down and letting everyone have their own turkey for dinner...kind of like my very own version of Cornish game hens.


In case anyone is curious about our latest wild creature experience, as soon as they had gone beyond picture-taking distance, Marilyn grabbed the Massachusetts Birds book to confirm that they were Wild Turkeys and not just some sort of mutant buzzards. Here's the page -

 It states that Wild Turkeys are strong fliers, are able to shoot straight up in the air & reach speeds of up to 60 mph. So, essentially, their slow approach toward my office window was deliberate.

The book also pointed out that the red-throated one was the tom and the other 6 were his "harem". Several friends have now informed me that they are just plain mean creatures. So those are 2 more good reasons to turn them into dinner entrees. 

That's my plan for Thanksgiving....eat as much turkey as possible for the good of all humanity.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 3: Remember the old Drifters song, "Up on the Roof"? Our superhero tenant Ben gave those lyrics new meaning today as he leapt in a single bound from the top of a ladder onto our roof to do the messy chore of cleaning out all the gutters. Even more amazing was that he managed to get pics of himself and our property from his rooftop perch (I'm positive magic was involved.)

Marilyn's job today involved bailing & vacuuming about 60 gallons of rain water and tons of leaves off the new winter pool cover... and it made absolutely no difference. We can only guess that the pool water was somehow opposing gravity and leaking UP at a faster rate than she could bail. We have now added a greenhouse pool enclosure to our wish list.

Milkdud & Sweetie wanted to know how they could get up there with Ben. It sure would make their squirrel hunting much more interesting.

Meanwhile, Joie spent the day doing research at nearby Smith College, tho she couldn't resist snapping some pics of the pretty campus -
In solidarity, Jo is helping
to "carry the burden"

Jo & colleague Adeline


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 27: SNOW! No it's not snowing yet, but there is a report that we might see some as early as this weekend. After repeatedly being told not to wait until the last minute to buy the necessities, we headed back to Home Depot.

As luck would have it, one of our superhero tenants, Ben, (vogue-ing by the goods at our request), was available to guide us through the whole store & make sure we had the right shovels for the driveway and shovels to keep in the car and scrapers and boot pans and door mats and fire extinguishers and smoke alarms...

Betcha didn't know Home Depot has personal shoppers! Or maybe it's just the one in Hadley. Or the inordinate amount of time we have spent in that store since we arrived in Massachusetts.

We also ran into our other superhero tenant, Rob, AND our fave carpenter guy, Ryan, who took the time to give us a lesson in generators. And then along came Joie's "bourbon guy", Eric, from the Four Seasons liquor store...another place that holds the necessities of getting through the winter months!

By the way, have we mentioned that we're living in a really, REALLY small town?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 24: ANGRY SQUIRRELS! - The plan to lure the squirrel population into de-leafing our gutters may have backfired. Seeding the gutters with acorns seemed so logical, and it was starting to work, but when the lawn mowing squadron vacuumed up the leaves on the ground, they sucked up all the fallen acorns as well. And what we have now is an all-out squirrel revolution.

They've surrounded the house, scampering constantly across the roof and railings. They've even taken to running back and forth across the porch screens, hanging on with their tiny sharp claws. They are refusing to leave until we supply more nuts.


But today they made a fatal mistake...one of them tried to recruit Milkdud and Sweetie to join their forces.

What it couldn't possibly understand was the intense loyalty of our puppies. Nor could it know that they had years of experience as squirrel hunters in Florida and Texas. A few ferocious warnings from them and the rebellious little rodent ran for the woods. The puppies have been waiting at the window ever since...preparing for its return...

Friday, October 24, 2014

October 23: PROGRESS! Just when we were getting mired down by thoughts of winter and how much reno work is going to have to be put off until next summer (for a number of reasons), our spirits were given a big boost.

First: Master Electrician Marc Bussiere sent his two lovely Russian assistants, Vitale & Serge, to the house yesterday to finish up several items. We're happy about all the work they did but the one we're showing off today involved their installing OUTLETS in the kitchen appliance nook. (Memory jogger - this was the corner section that had housed the 2 little, original, brown ovens that we got rid of & Marc was the one who suggested using the space as a nook for the small appliances taking up the little counter space we had.)

Then: The oh-so-wonderful Mr. Ryan Regan-Ladd, who enlarged the space and built the nook's walls, came by with his magical gift of SHELVES! (One cannot truly appreciate shelves unless there are none.)

Finally: Since Marilyn had never made removing the packing tape glue streaks from the microwave and toaster oven a priority, she now had to take care of that before placing them in the shiny new nook. In case you were wondering, the plan is to paint the nook when she refinishes all the cabinets to a pretty cottage white, but until the weather is warm enough to open windows again, that project has been... "shelved".

Other than that little bit of cleaning and future finishing, we admit this project wasn't our idea, nor did we do any of the hard work to make it happen, but after the past three months, progress of any kind is a beautiful thing!

And now we can turn some attention to the barista station we want to create on the other side of the kitchen where the old fridge used to sit. Anyone who knows the Campbell girls, know how important coffee is to our happiness.