Still Waiting For Snow

This winter has been extremely mild. So mild, in fact, that we’ve hardly seen any snow. Everyone is ecstatic except for me.

Ohio is bleak and ugly in the winter time. Trees are stripped of leaves. The grass is dead and things are muddy because we’ve seen lots of rain in lieu of snow. It’s depressing.

Snow makes everything look pretty, as though the world has been tucked in for a long nap under a fluffy white blanket. One of my favorite pastimes is stomping around in it with my camera, trying to find new ways to make the trees and hills of my yard look fresh and new in pictures.

I also enjoy hiking in it.

And, of course, spending a quiet weekend cozied up with a book in a chair where I can glance up at the falling snow Is nice too.

We often have snow for Martin Luther King weekend so I was hopeful. Nope. More rain.

So I continue to wait. . .

Forlorn

It’s been gloomy a lot here lately but this scene is simply forlorn.

It was early Friday and rain had settled in for the day. The fog was trying to lift but these bare trees against that fog were just too much to resist. What I wouldn’t have given to have my camera in the seat next to me but had to settle for capturing this with my phone.

One of these days, snow will blanket the landscape and it won’t look so sad. For now, all we can do is seek beauty in unexpected places.

No Spend January Is Here!

January is a No Spend Month for me. It’s a fun little game I’ve played for the last few years where I pay for what is needed but there’s no frivolous spending (unless pre-planned), no impulse buying and no shopping for entertainment. Goodbye, antique malls!

So bills are paid and groceries are purchased but I work on using some things from the freezer and pantry. Yesterday, I stopped at the store for about $10 worth of produce needed to create meals for the week using things I already have. If I stop for gas, my reusable water bottle had better be full because I’m not running inside for a drink. Not even for just a dollar.

There’s a gift to buy this month and a planned dinner and movie with a friend that was postponed from the holidays. That’s all the extracurricular spending that should happen.

This month, I will spend a lot of time at home, using what I own, looking for creative ways to entertain myself for free and simply appreciating the life that I have built and all that I already have. The Depression era mantra “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” comes to mind.

After all the excess and gluttony of the holidays, a spending fast is a welcome relief to the bank account but it’s also a welcome break from commercialism.

We spend a lot of time making money to survive and on spending money on stuff to fill our homes but we don’t always go home and just enjoy the life we have.

It’s is an exercise in gratitude as much as anything else.

I wrote a Winter Survival Guide last fall and it’s here in January that these techniques are truly put to work.

Here’s what’s happening in my world right now:

Books are a priority this year and I’m finding that the more I read, the more I want to read. The problem is that there’s a new one that I’m dying to tear into. I usually have three or four going at once but want to focus on one at a time this year. It can be next.

Cooking is more fun. I always enjoy playing in the kitchen but winter is a great time to experiment with new recipes. This year is especially fun as I’m looking for plant based recipes for my new lifestyle. This week I made a potato corn chowder that was divine and the lunch leftovers were a welcome treat! I also made a pumpkin cookie that was disgusting but we’ll just call that an experiment gone awry and move on.

Organization and purging are another priority. I have a list of areas to hit – from the pantry to the sock drawer to the nightstand and all points in between. It’s shocking how much stuff accumulates over time even when you try to be tidy. The goal is to do one thing from the list every day. The purging extends into intangible areas too. One evening was spent purging emails while watching the Closer on TV. Brenda Lee Johnson caught the bad guys and I unsubscribed and deleted thousands of old marketing emails. The above picture represents a new set of Christmas dishes that need to be put away after some rearranging in the china cabinet.

Movie time! I can’t go to the movies but that doesn’t matter because there’s a stack of movies waiting for my viewing pleasure. One day I’ll make some homemade potato chips and hit the couch for a little movie marathon.

Self care is a priority. Outdoor activity is less common because it’s dark at quitting time but I am trying to prioritize some kind of exercise every day. Rest is also important. My philosophy for most of the year is that you can sleep when you’re dead. During winter, these cold, dark nights call for a warm blanket and an earlier bedtime.

Being happy with the Now is a common theme and resisting the urge to adventure plan involves daily internal negotiations. It’s much harder than it should be. However, the theme of this stage of the year is being satisfied with the abundance of everyday life. Adventure planning can wait a bit. I have started a list of day trip ideas based on suggestions from friends but that’s more about being forgetful than about planning. Being present in this moment rather than dream of the next adventure is a real challenge.

For me, a No Spend Month is an opportunity to get myself together for another year, to set new goals and intentions, to stop buying stuff I don’t need, to nourish my mind and body, and to practice gratitude for what I have.

It gets easier every year and, this will sound sound nuts, but I’ve been looking forward to January for weeks.

Want to do your own no spend challenge? You can set your own rules and make it what you want it to be! You might be surprised at how much money and time you save!

Where Will the Road Take You?

This road is somewhere outside Washington Court House, Ohio and is about an hour from home.

But today I’m dreaming of where the road might take me next that’s a little further from home.

Follow your own path, friends. Whether it’s through the neighborhood or far, far away. Follow it and be happy.

A Change Of Plans

Today’s post was supposed to be about a light display in a neighboring town. The plan was to go last night and grab a vegan burger from a mom and pop place in the neighborhood.

But the sun was shining yesterday and it was beautiful. Consequently, I made the game time decision to spend the morning hiking and stay home last night. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

That’s actually one benefit of being single – a gal can change her mind without considering anyone else’s feelings anytime she likes.

It’s dark when I leave work so hiking isn’t typically an option this time of year. It seemed smart to take advantage of the sunshine.

It was 30 degrees when I went into the woods and about 15 degrees warmer on exit. There weren’t many people out – mainly the hearty souls like me who really wanted to be in nature.

So it was a great day for a stretch of the legs and just what I needed to help clear my mind. In fact, I went in feeling a bit uptight but came out feeling great.

A quick trip through the antique mall yielded a new book. Afterward, a sandwich from a local deli resulted in an impromptu picnic. Hey! The sun was shining and it was above freezing! It was a perfect day for it!

It turned out to be a great day.

Nature was calling. I had to go. I’ve seen those Christmas lights before and they will be there later.

Fall Foliage

Fall in southern Ohio is usually quite colorful and is a time that leaf peepers look forward to every year.

This year, not so much. It seemed like the leaves turned late but mostly they just turned brown and fell when the rain moved in.

But we did have a brief period of blue skies and pockets of color like the day I took this covered bridge photo near Lancaster.

The good news is that those pockets of color did seem especially nice next to all that green and brown and we came to appreciate the color more than we normally might if everything was vibrant.

On The Road

Monday Front Royal, VA (10)_edited

On the road is probably my favorite place to be most days. The thing I like best about traveling roads I’ve never been on is encountering a place that simply forces me to pull over and have a look around.

Many times, it’s cute little towns where the residents will tell you there’s nothing to do and where they see nothing special while you’re enchanted by the narrow streets, hanging flowers and odd mix of architectural features.

The trip to Luray Caverns took longer than planned because I found Front Royal, Virginia. It was about 8:30 a.m. on Columbus Day when I rolled up to a traffic light and looked to my left. It was clear that I would always regret not going around the block.

Front Royal is now officially on my list of places to visit again some day. The street I explored that day was home to the courthouse, a train depot turned visitors’ center, and park as well as a variety of storefronts, an ornate old bank and cute little theater. All but deserted because of my poor timing, this town captured my imagination.

I read that they host events in the gazebo in that park and I have fantasies of working in this town and reading a book while enjoying lunch in the park.

Monday Front Royal, VA (37)

It reminded me of a model railroad town. You know the kind? A string of perfect little buildings on tree lined streets. The courthouse lawn had so many trees that you can hardly see the building from the street. Coming from a community where the courthouse lawn was long ago replaced by concrete and retired weapons of war, this is a delightful sight.

I also saw some gorgeous old churches in addition to the usual string of fast food joints and those stores that seem to turn up in every town  –  Dollar General, Family Dollar and Tractor Supply are here but there were several local places that looked interesting. The proximity to Skyline Caverns and Shenandoah National Park would make this a fun long weekend getaway.

We’re coming up on the end of this road trip, friends. I have a few more things to tell you but we’ll be wrapping it up this week. Here’s hoping you have enjoyed reading about the journey enough to check back tomorrow for another story!