Christmas 2018…Just a little late!

2018_12_25__dorsey's new home_0027Christmas wasn’t our typical family gathering this year. We weren’t exchanging presents because we’re all saving up for a special family vacation in July, which will be our gift to each other. On Christmas Eve, we got together for a delicious dinner at Becky and Marty’s house before Bob and I went to the 11 pm service. Alison had announced she would host us on Christmas Day, but there would be conditions!

1) The dress would be casual and comfortable (even pjs if that was our idea of comfortable. 2)Fondue, with both cheese and chocolate for dipping, would be the main course; 3) We could sit around and nibble for hours, on into the evening; and 4) No photography allowed! We enthusiastically agreed! Who wouldn’t agree to chocolate fondue and hours of relaxed nibbling? So on Christmas afternoon we drove out to Alison and Mike’s new home in the country for the first time. It turned out to be both fun and relaxing…and delicious too.

As you would expect, I sneaked a few pictures that I forgot to download to my computer when I got home. Today, however, Gretchen who lives in Arizona and wasn’t here to celebrate with us, asked what happened to the pictures. That was when I realized they were still sitting in my camera on the memory card. I have to admit that is carrying casual a little too far. Sorry Gretchen and other far-away family members!

And, yes, Alison’s “conditions” made for a perfect day! It was definitely comfortable and relaxing, and maybe even the start of a new family tradition.

A belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!
~Trail Walker

It was a cold evening in the park…

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As I trekked down the trail, I was joined by some birds and a few other woodland critters. As usual there were some curious deer, watching from among the trees. Only one ventured close enough for me to take a clear picture. She opened her mouth, as if to ask if I had a treat to share with her.

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When I wandered down the path to the split rail fence, hoping to see the elusive red-bellied woodpecker this evening, the first critter to catch my eye was this squirrel, who paused  on top of the fence post long enough for me to capture his picture:
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Farther up the trail, I walked out onto the pedestrian bridge and saw a human critter, a fisherman, standing in the middle of the river, casting his fishing line into the darkening water. I didn’t hang around to watch because I was beginning to feel chilled by the wind whipping up the river and seeping through  my protective layers. To my eye, fly fishing is like  poetry in motion, so I snapped a few pictures before moving on. Despite the cold, the fisherman seemed to be enjoying his lonely occupation.
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Back at the fence corner, I watched as a greedy house sparrow landed on the fence post and snitched a couple of peanuts.

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Still, I waited, hoping to see the red-bellied woodpecker, and finally, my patience was rewarded when he flew in and landed on the post. With a sigh of delight, I clicked off a few pictures.

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The evening wasn’t quite over yet. As I stood there, camera ready in my frozen fingers,  I witnessed a confrontation between two sparrows and a black-capped chickadee over who was going to grab the next peanut.

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When one of the sparrows picked up the peanut, I grabbed my last photo and headed home. Cold but happy, I had enjoyed my trek along the trail this evening.

Thanks for trekking with me!
See you soon. ~Trail Walker

Evening in the park

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This little herd of deer was standing near the split rail fence, one of my favorite bird watching locations, when I went to the park with my camera on Sunday evening. They were more interested in browsing than curious about what I was doing, so I decided to take their picture before I headed out for a little bird photography.

The light was getting low, but the birds were still active, and this time I had remembered to bring a handful of peanuts to reward them. There were cardinals, both male and female, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and more. Here is the woodpecker gallery:


The male cardinals were wearing brilliant  red coats this evening. Maybe the light had something to do with making them look especially beautiful. The female cardinal, sitting by herself in the branches of a nearby tree, chose not to pose with the redcoats

Then there were two downy woodpeckers:
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And a greedy nuthatch…
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And finally one of my favorites, the red-bellied woodpecker, put in an appearance. She was being somewhat elusive this evening. She swooped past, but didn’t stay for long, and I missed my chance to get her picture. This happened several times. Every time she came close, I was too late with the camera. To say the least, I wasn’t on the top of my game, but finally I was ready, and here is the result:

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It’s a good thing too because the sun was getting low and I was getting cold. I was happy to call it a night. Thanks for coming out on this chilly evening.

I’ll see you soon.
~Trail Walker

Birding on New Year’s Day

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Not a bird!

I spotted this pretty doe standing in the meadow on the other side of the split-rail fence. When she walked in my direction, I decided she should be the featured image for my New Year’s Day post, even if she isn’t a bird. So here she is!

Now on to a few birds. Because the morning was cold and overcast without even a glimmer of sunshine, some of my images came out blurry (Reminder to me to pay closer attention to my camera settings); however, a large and varied flock of little birds were flitting around near some fallen trees, probably because someone (not this someone, but possibly another photographer better prepared than I) had sprinkled a few bird seeds on the ground to celebrate the holiday!

After a while, my frozen fingers and toes (and my growling tummy) signaled that it was time for lunch, so I reconnoitered with my walking buddies, and we trekked along the trail back to the parking lot and headed home.

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Bob and Mabel

Today’s walk reminded me again that any day is a good day for a trail walk, even when the sun doesn’t shine. Thanks for walking along with us today. See you soon.

Sunshine or clouds, I’ll see you along the trail.
Trail Walker

 

Sunday evening at dusk

My neighbor and I took a short walk along the river trail in Chagrin River Park this evening, the last Sunday evening of 2018. I didn’t capture any spectacular pictures, but the light was good, the crisp air was refreshing, and we had a good “chin wag” as my photographer friends from the British Isles might call it.

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Ollie, the baby rottweiler
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Looking up the river with the sun setting behind me
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Marti, trying out her new walking sticks
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Fishermen on the river

We met many other walkers and several dogs along the trail, making this a peaceful way to end the day. If you haven’t taken an evening walk recently, why not give it a try? Just be sure to dress warmly. In my latitude, the air gets a bit brisk as the sun sinks below the horizon. (For more about today click here.)

Wishing you a Happy New Year…
with many good photo opps!
~Trail Walker

A family tradition

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On Sunday afternoon, two days before Christmas, two daughters, one granddaughter, and I got together to bake Christmas cookies, a family tradition that for me goes w-a-a-a-y back to when I was a child. Many years ago (mid-20th century), Christmas cards, cookies, caroling for neighbors, and a candlelight worship service on Christmas Eve were traditional holiday events for our family.  Special cookies…huge tins filled with them, provided enough sweet treats for all to enjoy over the holiday visit. My sisters and I, along with our families, would drive back to our parents’ home in southeastern Pennsylvania. There we celebrated Christmas together, singing, worshiping, baking, sharing stories, and more. We were very blessed, and we knew it. It was part of the glue that held our family together, despite the many miles that separated us.

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My childhood home

If that sounds like I’m getting old, I’ll claim the years, and, along with the years, I’ll claim the many warm and wonderful memories…and give thanks for them. Bob and I still exchange holiday cards, attend candlelight service on Christmas Eve, and last week I joined members and friends of our church choir as we went caroling for guests at local nursing homes, giving each guest a teddy bear as evidence of the love we want them to feel.

 

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Choir & friends
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Cathy’s mom with her teddy bears

However, cookie tins filled with special cookies, most of them baked only at Christmas time, was our mother’s tradition, a tradition we had dropped from our busy schedules when our parents passed on, and the family home was sold. Now my sisters are gone and none of our  children live in southeastern Pennsylvania. I am left with the precious memories of those Christmas trips to southeastern Pennsylvania and a few niggling questions:

Why did we ever stop our Christmas baking? Overly diet conscious? Busy lives? Too much shopping and wrapping? Mixed up priorities?  Whatever were we thinking? A revival of the tins-full-of-cookies-tradition was long overdue! Two years ago, Becky and Alison decided to revive it, and this week we all had a wonderful time during our second annual cookie baking session, and, as a bonus, we each went home with a tin of cookies! Granddaughter Emmy was the force behind this year’s baking session, and her Aunt Becky provided the kitchen, as well as the two dogs who kept their eyes (and noses) on the proceedings. I had a great time taking photos. Take a look!

Do you have a special holiday-time tradition? One that is the glue that holds you and your family and friends together? If you do, please tell us about it in the comments, but if your special tradition needs a revival, I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
~Trail Walker

There’s nothing quite like it!

 

Nothing quite like what, you ask? Well, to be honest, you may or may not agree with me, but I maintain that there’s nothing quite like a trail walk in the first real snow of the season. It isn’t even winter yet, just the downhill end of Autumn, but on this December morning we woke up to snow-covered trails, slippery slopes, and frigid fingers. And oh, how glorious to walk down the trail through a pristine white world…such a contrast to our earlier Autumn walks.

I’m reluctant to admit it, but Autumn with its blue skies, crisp air, and vibrant palette has truly come to an end, and we are faced with Winter: the season of boots with cleats to prevent slipping and sliding, gloves that challenge me as I try to press the shutter button, and lenses (the camera and mine) that constantly fog over as I exhale in the frosty air. Winter brings with it a myriad of new challenges for the trail walking photographer, but new joys come with the challenges. Here are just a few that I spotted along the trail this snowy morning:

Whitetailed deer
The does are more curious than fearful.
A female northern cardinal
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White-breasted nuthatch
Another cardinal. The red male cardinals were hiding today!
A stare down with two does!
I’m not sure of the identity of this bird, but it posed perfectly!

That’s it for today, trailwalkers. I hope you liked this preview of sights we’ll see on future  wintry walks. Be sure to wear lots of layers and get some cleats to put on your boots for our next winter walk.

Thanks for trudging down the trail with me!
Sharing the trail makes each walk extra special.
~Trail Walker

Oh the indignity!

Mabel wearing plaid hat

I’m a sheepdog…an English sheepdog. An 80 pound girl sheepdog!!! Caring for sheep is a really big responsibility! The sheep have to depend on me. Will anyone think I look dependable and responsible in this hat? Could someone please explain this to my master? I will be eternally grateful! Oh right, I almost forgot…My name is Mabel! You can read more about me in the blog post Trail Walker wrote yesterday.

Mabel, the trailwalking sheepdog

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After our much loved springer spaniel, Gulliver, died in September of last year, Bob and I realized something important was missing from our lives. Gulliver had been our best buddy for 15 years, and suddenly there was a dog-sized hole in our hearts and an empty space in our home. Then, eight months ago, something serendipitous happened. Our daughter Alison and son-in-law Mike decided to build a new house, and while it was under construction, they had to move into an apartment…a very nice apartment, but one that wouldn’t welcome more than one of their two family dogs…and definitely not a dog that weighed nearly 80 pounds. Mabel, their four-year-old English sheepdog, was over the limit. Major problem! What to do? Mabel is a BIG dog.

When we heard that they would have to live in an apartment while their house was built, we joked that they couldn’t all move into our house during the transition, but we would be glad to take in at least one of the dogs. Consequently, eight months ago, Bob and I became foster parents for Mabel. This solved their housing problem, and at the same time filled the huge dog-sized hole in our hearts. It was a solution made in Heaven.

After Mabel moved in with us, she and Bob took daily walks in Chagrin River Park. She also happily shared some of his morning toast, and curled up comfortably on the carpet while he worked in his office. If I sat down to read the paper, Mabel would sit next to me, and if she heard me open the refrigerator door, she would pad into the kitchen on her big paws because it must surely be mealtime if I was making food preparation noises in the kitchen.

Every day when the mail truck pulled up in front of our house, Mabel responded by dashing over to the front window to keep a watchful eye on the postman as he made his rounds. When he approached our house, she would go on high alert, letting out a volley of loud barks as he walked up the drive to deliver our mail. “Stranger approaching!” she announced, and kept a wary eye on the action until he slammed our mailbox shut and continued his route. Unfamiliar dogs walking past our house got the same treatment. Obviously Mabel, the ever-vigilant sheepdog, had assumed the role of our protector. Bob and I had become her sheep.

When we sat down at the supper table, Mabel would stand next to Bob’s chair, hoping for a handout. Although she is actually tall enough to rest her chin next to Bob’s plate, good table manners (ours, not hers) required that she sit quietly next to his chair to wait patiently for a tidbit from Bob’s plate. Later, when we sat on the couch to watch the evening news, Mabel maneuvered herself into the space between us, and if she had to rest her head on one of our laps, that was okay with her…and with us too. On evenings when Bob was out to meet with a client, Mabel wouldn’t settle down until he returned, and if I was out, she never failed to greet me at the door when she heard my car pull into the driveway.

In eight months, Mabel became a full-fledged member of our household. Occasionally she would go to the apartment for a weekend visit with Mike, Alison, Michael, Emmy, and Cooper, but when the visit was over, she joyfully returned and resumed the role of sheepdog for Bob and me. She had achieved dual citizenship and took her new responsibilities seriously!

As anyone who has ever moved into a new house knows, the day construction is complete, the moving truck has come and gone, and the family can settle into their new home, is both joyful and exciting. But while Bob and I were happy to see their excitement, joyful didn’t describe the way we felt when Alison came to pick up Mabel and take her to her new home. The huge dog-sized hole in our hearts has returned, and it is bigger than ever! Like forlorn sheep, Bob and I are holding on to the hope for regularly scheduled visits from our sheepdog.

Mabel’s photo gallery

Thanks for stopping by today to meet Mabel.
I hope to see you soon.
Trail Walker

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