Our holiday card for 2021

Well, another tough year has gone by, thanks to Covid 19 (again).

This year has been particularly eventful, as Kelly started grad school in January of 2021, we sold our house in Winthrop, and are both currently looking to change jobs so we can buy a house in southeast Vermont, preferably in Windham County and specifically in Brattleboro. We are also considering Bellows Falls, as it is nearby and also is on Amtrak. It also happens to be where Kelly’s dad was born.

We don’t own this mug, yet.

There are a lot of reasons we decided to do this, but perhaps the biggest and most important was we decided we really wanted to get away from the insanity of Boston traffic and the nightmare of a Boston commute. We got to try it out somewhat while we were working from home in Winthrop because of Covid, and we decided we really liked it.

However, we also quickly discovered that no matter what we did, we continued to have internet connectivity problems and that was especially frustrating. No matter what we tried, we could not get a reliable Internet connection. We had people from Comcast at the house multiple times trying to figure out what was wrong. We ended up replacing all of the cable on the outside of the house, going all the way to the utility pole, as well as replacing all the cable inside the house, plus getting a new modem (twice). We tried putting the modem in a more central location (located right next to Kelly’s computer in her “office”, which was the guest bedroom). It didn’t work. We still had connectivity problems of one sort or another and when you are paying almost $300 a month for cable, phone, and Internet, that gets old rather quickly.

Discussions with other people who lived in Winthrop revealed that they too had connectivity problems. It seemed to be a widespread problem there. So we began to think about moving, and eventually we became convinced that we would be better off living somewhere far from Boston traffic and Boston cost of living. We could get a bigger, maybe even a nicer, house and a larger yard for the dogs and for gardening and still come out with a smaller mortgage payment than what we were currently paying. It was a no-brainer. We could also end up in a place with a higher vaccination rate and a higher percentage of mask wearing. Winthrop, and particularly our next door neighbor, was a Covid hotspot from the jump and our next door neighbor was a maskhole.

So where to go, then? We started looking in Western Massachusetts (we are still looking there, at least somewhat) but soon expanded our search into southern Vermont. We quickly began to fall in love with the Brattleboro area, as we had a lovely time every time we went to visit. All the people we met in Brattleboro and its environs were friendly and welcoming. It really is remarkable how consistently and continuously we had positive interactions with people there. Likewise Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the nation and people are smart about masking.

So we packed up the house, and of course that in itself was quite the adventure as it involved both PODS and U-Haul and some less-than-ideal interactions with both companies that caused delays. Although we packed up in July with the hope of getting the house ready to be put on the market by Labor Day, that didn’t happen. Various delays put it off until almost the end of September. Still, we had the house on the market on a Friday and we had an offer at our full asking price by Monday. We worked with RedFin to sell the house and it was a great experience.

Another problem we had to solve was what to do with our kitties, Scratch and Violet. We couldn’t take them to the long-term hotel with us (we were already bringing Dash and Nymeria) and for a long time we could not find anyone who could board them. Finally we got lucky and some friends said they could put the kitties up for as long as we needed and at a very friendly rate. So the kitties went off to what we are calling “kitty summer camp” although by now it has already lasted into winter. Still, they seem to be doing well and we are very grateful for that. We do miss them and look forward to being reunited with them in 2022.

The hotel has turned out to be ok so far, although we have also had some problems here that needed to be solved. Still, it could be much worse, and at this point we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We hope to be in our new house, wherever it may be, in 2022 and settle in with our kitties and puppies in what will hopefully be a better space for them as well. Remarkably, living in the hotel has been a good experience for Nymeria, who has gone far in coming out of her shell and learning to trust us. She has even begun to approach other people for pets, which we think is remarkable and fills us with joy every time we see her do it. She and Dash have gotten to spend a lot of time with us and go on regular walks which does all of us some good.

So we hope that everyone else has had, if not a good year, at least not had too traumatic a year. Hopefully Covid 19 will be conquered in the new year, as long as people aren’t too stupid about everything. I know, it’s a lot to ask, frankly, but we can still hope that common sense will win out.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

~Geoff

Past holiday cards are here: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012

Winter is coming, finally

I love New England.  One of the things I love most about it is that is has four distinct seasons (five, if you count Mud Season).  So when the winter weather here starts acting like the winter weather in the South, i.e. rainy and cool with no snow, it kind of annoys me a bit.  I expect to have snow.  And we have had no snow (or bitter cold) since November.  We had a wet fall, and that seems to have extended into winter.

Well, it now looks like we will get our first winter storm of the season, some six weeks into calendar winter.  And for some of New England, it looks like it may be a real doozy.

Continue reading “Winter is coming, finally”

A Visit to Winthrop by Saint Nicholas

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, especially not a mouse.
The children were snoring all snug in our bed,
And I killed time as sermon number two was said.

Geoff read his history book in the loft,
After the last high notes of the night, I coughed.
We stumbled on home as the clock struck three,
And were greeted by Dash who needed to pee.

After feeding each dog and both of the cats,
We took off our coats, shoes, and hats.
With dawn fast approaching we took to our bed,
With visions of sleeping late stuck in our heads.

When in the back yard there arose such a clatter,
Dash sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
A dachshund stampede that was gone in a flash,
I groaned, shook my head, and then muttered “DASH!”

The moon couldn’t shine off of non-existent snow
(No White Christmas for us this year as you know),
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a flying sleigh, and nine panting reindeer.

My first thought was that I must be sick,
“There’s no way that I could be seeing St. Nick!”
More rapid than eagles his nine reindeer came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
And RUDOLPH!  Keep that nose of yours shining with light!
There’ll be no mid-air sleigh collisions tonight!”

As a ball when it meets Teddy Ballgame would fly,
The reindeer and sleigh fiercely arced through the sky,
And up to the house-top the reindeer they flew,
And suddenly I wondered what Santa would do.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The pounding and scratching of each reindeer hoof.
I wondered whether Santa had already found,
That we have no chimney! And two small loud hounds!

I blinked to be sure of what I was seeing
When I realized that, yep, Rudolph was peeing.
Santa hopped out of the sleigh and dusted his clothes,
He strode across the yard like someone who knows.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all dirty with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had crammed in a sack,
He looked like Mall Santa, coffee break over, heading back.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
He laughed as he kicked off melting ice and slush,
“Good God,” I said, “Santa Claus is a lush.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
So naturally we started to hear a loud screech.
“The smoke alarm! Where’s the stepladder to reach?”

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
Not anything like that creepy one on the shelf;
Then I saw he had another bag, packed full of coal,
And I wondered where he’d found it at the North Pole.

He saw the look on my face, and he smiled as he said
“Don’t worry, there’s no reason for you to feel dread.
That coal’s for the White House, they’ve all been quite bad,
Ivanka, Jr., Eric, and ESPECIALLY their dad!”

“But Santa,” I said, “do you have anything more?
Robert Mueller works very hard on this terrible chore.”
He chuckled and said in his cheery slurred speech,
“Fear not, they’ve got all that they need to impeach!”

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
They flew low and away, to avoid any missiles.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL*, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!”

*Except certain people in DC.

Two Northeasters in a row

I normally don’t mind a little snow, as it is New England and we expect to get some (mostly) between November and March.  But the two storms that we have had most recently have been a bit more problematic, mostly because of strong winds and heavy coastal flooding.

Continue reading “Two Northeasters in a row”

Bitter cold in Boston this week

When I got up this morning, the temperature was 4 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill was -10 degrees Fahrenheit.  We may even get some snow tomorrow night and Thursday.  I will try to get some pictures and post them if we do.  And behind that storm will come more bitter cold, what our fave meteorologist Dave Epstein is calling “the worst of the winter”.  Predicted lows for Friday and Saturday are well below zero, not even including wind chill.

ETA: The National Weather Service is now saying that Thursday could bring a “significant winter storm” with predictions from 4 to 8 inches to as much as 12 inches of heavy wet snow (with numbers possibly changing depending on how far inland the storm tracks), plus high winds, which means downed trees and power outages are much more likely.   We may even have ourselves a blizzard.  Oh my.

~Geoff

 

It’s that time of year again, Merry, Happy, Blessed Whatever

Most of you know that we’ve been doing this for a few years now.  Partly it’s because we’re cheap broke, and partly it’s because we send this link to nearly 200 people who we’d legitimately want to send a real card to.  Also, I’m not big on the card produced by Shutterfly and never seen by the sender thing, and this method actually has a Snowflake’s chance in Cambridge of generating a conversation*.  So we do it this way.

Continue reading “It’s that time of year again, Merry, Happy, Blessed Whatever”

Not quite what I was suspecting in S7E2, but still good

So while there was a lot I liked in this episode, there was also some stuff that I didn’t like.  But first, a few things that were guessed correctly.

Continue reading “Not quite what I was suspecting in S7E2, but still good”

Winter says “April Fool’s, New England!”

Well, we were almost under the illusion that Spring was here, and then Winter decided to play a little prank on us.  Not quite as spectacular as the big blizzard back in 1997, but still, very winter-like weather.  Here in Winthrop the weather has switched back and forth quite a bit between rain, sleet and snow.  Right now it is snowing, and has been since I got up this morning.  I doubt much of it will stick, though, and that seems to be David Epstein’s assessment as well.

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Still, it is nice to see a beautiful winter landscape one last time before spring really arrives.

-Geoff

The most famous boat in town

Ever since the big nor’easter we had earlier this month, there has been a new tourist attraction of sorts along the coastal road between Revere and Winthrop.  A sailboat washed ashore, dragging its mooring line with it.  The storm washed it almost all the way up onto the sea wall.  I can’t imagine that the boat was not damaged in the process.  What a shame.

I wonder when someone will finally come claim it.

Anyway, it seems as if at any given moment, someone has stopped to look at the erstwhile shipwreck and take pictures of it.  The first day after the storm, there was a whole row of cars.  And every single time I have driven along that coastal road, no matter what time of day, there was someone looking at the boat.  Seriously, every single time, including today, when I finally stopped and got a picture or two myself.

I hope it is not too badly damaged.

-Geoff

Take cover, little dachshunds – winter has come

Yesterday we had our first major snow event since we bought our house in Winthrop, and what do you know, it turned out to be a blizzard.

Dash Linus was not impressed.

Rerun had a protective blanket of fear. Dash prefers the whole bed.
Rerun had a protective blanket of fear. Dash prefers the whole bed.

Since Kelly and I were stuck at home yesterday, we had a marathon viewing of Season Six of Game of Thrones, just to watch it all again.  So it was so very appropriate when we re-watched the scene where the white ravens were sent out to announce the arrival of winter.  When I got up this morning, the temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit, with a wind chill of about -20.  When I went outside this morning, the winds had blown the snow around quite a bit, which at least made a pretty picture in the back yard.

I do love winter landscapes, even though they mean I have a lot of shoveling ahead of me.
I do love winter landscapes, even though they mean I have a lot of shoveling ahead of me.

It looked like we had gotten about a foot of snow, at least when I was out clearing the walks.

One of our neighbors kindly cleared most of the driveway and part of the walk for us with a snowblower. We love Winthrop.
One of our neighbors kindly cleared most of the driveway and part of the walk for us with a snowblower. We love Winthrop.

Officially, we got around 11 inches of snow, according to Boston.com.  As you can also see on that data table later in the article, the wind was blowing pretty hard – it got to over 50 mph here.  At one point yesterday afternoon when Kelly and I looked out the window, we could not see more than 100 yards or so.

So puppies did not go out a lot yesterday.  This morning Dash was excited that he was finally going to get to go outside, but he became much less excited when he realized that conditions were still far less than ideal for anyone really close to the ground.

Dash had gone out, turned around then went over to the generator to do his business. Note the lack of a Thumbelina in this photo.
Dash had gone out, turned around then went over to the generator to do his business. Note the lack of a Thumbelina in this photo.

Note that in the above photo, we are looking out onto our concrete patio, which is covered by our deck.  So all of that snow you see out to the support beams was blown in by the wind.  I’m just glad we didn’t have to try to crank up that generator.  That would have been truly awful.  As it was, Kelly and I were marveling over the difference in experiences between our new place and our old one.  At our old place, we would have been feeling terrible cold drafts even in our bedroom.

As it was, some members of the household decided that it was best if they stayed under blankets during the snowstorm.

Scratch doesn't get under blankets often, but when he does, you KNOW it's cold.
Scratch doesn’t get under blankets often, but when he does, you KNOW it’s cold.

Dash and Thumbelina also decided that it was best if they stayed in our bed.

Thumbelina likes to sleep like a person. I have no idea what Dash is trying to sleep like.
Thumbelina likes to sleep like a person. I have no idea what Dash is trying to sleep like.

And last but definitely not least, little Violet wanted me to come snuggle with her in “her” room (the guest bedroom) for a while.  She does this thing where she sees me, waits for me to walk up to her, then she jumps over the baby gate we have installed in the doorway of the guest room, then turns around to see if I am following her.  When I come through the gate, she will walk over to the bed and flop down on her favorite blanket, which is actually Kelly’s bathrobe.  And then it’s snuggle time.

She may just be the most adorable little baby kitteh ever.  And she probably knows it.
She may just be the most adorable little baby kitteh ever. And she probably knows it.

We may get even more snow this weekend, with predictions for “heavy” snow on Monday, although I have not yet seen any estimates of how much.

Stay warm, everyone.

-Geoff