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The color before the storm

 
A lone red leaf amid the more dominant yellows and browns.

It’s been a weekend of leaves fading and falling fast — like giant snowflakes, covering the ground quicker than I can rake them away. We seem to have more leaves this year. Impossible, I know, but that’s how it feels. Perhaps it’s that they’re falling earlier than usual. Here are a few last shots of the beautiful colors.

A long shot of the mighty oaks, maples, and poplars that drop more leaves than you can imagine (especially if you don’t live in upstate New York).

Still plenty more to fall.

I loved this color combo in the late afternoon sun. Now those leaves are mostly gone.

Neighbor’s maple and our Korean dogwood.

 My favorite. I planted this Japanese maple soon after we moved here, just about 13 years ago.

Beautiful in every season.

 We don’t just have pretty leaves. We have fantastic fungi.

Hidden mushroom.
Lovely layers.

Here’s our autumn decor. It doesn’t look quite as picturesque now because the squirrels have eaten about one quarter of the pumpkin and a good chunk of the white gourd. No acorns this year. Not a one. So I guess the little critters are hungry.


Our house is a very, very, very fine house. With two cats, but not in the yard.

Summer blossoms, stuffed and fried UPDATED

When I went to Rome last September, I roamed from restaurant to restaurant, desperately asking (in my pathetic version of Italian): “Fiori di zucca fritta?” Fried zucchini blossoms? And the answer was a resounding: “No, not in season.” Argh. Read more

Why I live in – and love – the northeast


When we decided to move back to New York from Texas 10 years ago, there were a couple of reasons. First, all of the grandparents live in New York and New Jersey, but not far behind was the fact that New York has the beauty of four distinct seasons. In Texas, the seasons are pretty much hot and hotter. But here, just when you think you’re tired of a season (especially a long, cold winter), along comes a new season to fill you with joy and hope and awe.

As much as I loved Austin (and I lived there twice), I loved autumn more. Every September I would miss the crisp northeast air that would blow in one morning and let you know that summer was over and it was time to pick apples and watch the leaves turn into a kind of visual poetry. And then along would come that first snowflake and I’d fall in love all over again.

Now it’s spring, and I find myself staring out my back window every morning, watching the barren limbs turn vibrant green. I actually get a little giddy every time a new bloom appears somewhere in our yard. I know this wave of cool color will eventually give way to the hot and humid tones of summer, sometimes tinged brown by drought. But that will bring with it the big bobbing white heads of the hydrangea, the bats swooping overhead at dusk, and the anticipation that a tart and crispy McIntosh apple is just around the corner.

Here’s some of what awes me in my own backyard this week:

The bleeding heart I rescued from a high-traffic area at the edge of my yard when it was just a single branch with one bloom. Now look at it. Pretty obvious why it’s called a bleeding heart when you see it up close, no?



Lilacs. One of my favorites. This is the first year we’ve had a lot of blooms, at least on one shrub. Maybe next year one of the other three will join in.


Vinca. A groundcover really, but such a pretty one. And it can survive in the shade, which is why it grows wild in my yard, which was at one time pretty much all deep shade. Not so much now that they’ve clear cut the three lots around us.

A potted begonia and a basket of pansies, which I had to include because Chiara took these photos. Not bad, eh?



And, of course, at the top of this post is a long view of my raised bed. This is what Our Lady of Guadalupe looks like when she’s not serving as a snow-measuring device, as was the case in THIS POST. I bet she was glad to see a change of seasons this year.


Snow drops, bright stars and sore throats


A sure sign of spring in upstate New York is the arrival of the snow drops, the first tiny flowers to emerge from the cold, dark earth. I snapped that picture above more than a week ago, but — because of an illness, which we’ll get to later in this post — I never did get around to posting it. So the snow drops have been here for about nine days, and have been battered and bruised by two minor snows. And still they remain standing strong. I think that’s what I love about these little flowers. I look forward to seeing their bobbing white heads from my kitchen window every year around this time. It’s a sign of hope, a reminder of what’s to come — eventually.

And while they look so delicate, so easily broken from the outside, they are, in reality, incredibly strong and ferociously tough. How else could they push through the winter-hardened ground and withstand freezing temperatures and snow and, often, the trampling of little feet. They are deceptively resilient. And that’s why I love them. I can see them now, way out in the yard, only four inches off the ground but towering above all the other brown, withered plants.

As I mentioned, I’ve been sick for more than a week, a nasty sore throat that turned into abscesses, that turned into swollen tonsils and more. It left me unable to work, unable to move, unable to think. I just sat on the couch, like a zombie, staring forward. And so I did something I almost never do. I watched endless amounts of TV, mostly cooking channels but every so often a certifiable “chick flick.” And my favorite of the week was “Bright Star,” the story of the tragic love affair between John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

First let me say that Dennis should be thanking his lucky stars that I streamed this one from Netflix while he was at work. He would have fallen asleep in the first fifteen minutes, but I thought this film by Jane Campion was just beautiful. And it reminded me that I once spent an entire semester studying Keats and his Romantic counterparts — Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, Coleridge. Remember those days of spending an entire semester on one slice of something? No wonder I can’t remember stuff anymore. Maybe if I had an entire semester to take notes and read commentaries on every novel I read, I’d remember more about the books I read nowadays. Or I’d at least remember I read them at all.

I think back to my days at Pace University now and marvel at the fact that I could take an entire semester of Russian lit, Irish lit, Shakespeare (although I did at least two on Shakespeare) and still only scratch the surface. Remember those days? Weeks on end of Irish literature but still not enough time to handle Ulysses, which was a course unto itself. Anyway, Bright Star made me want to revisit those Romantic poets — and some of my all-time college favs, like Anna Karenina — from my more mature vantage point. What subject or book would you go back and revisit if you could return to your college days?

Finally, a little faith story to go with the sore throat nightmare. Friday night did not look good for me. After more than a week of illness, three different antibiotics, four doctor visits (including two that felt like something out of a horror movie thanks the procedures that were required), seven pounds lost in seven days due to my inability to eat, and endless amounts of pain and lost sleep, I thought I was going to the Emergency Room. My tonsil had swelled to the point that I felt as though my throat was closing up. I moved my head this way and that and found a way to avoid the ER. I slept sitting up in a recliner since laying down cut off my airway. Dennis checked on my breathing throughout the night. It was a little ridiculous.

When I woke up on Saturday, things didn’t feel much better. Dennis and Noah had to work at our parish school all day, so I was alone with the girls. I had the phone in my hand in case I needed to call 9-1-1 at a moment’s notice. It was that bad. I assumed that at some point I was going to the ER no matter how hard I tried to fight it.

Then I went upstairs, dug around my closet for a bag I brought back from Italy this fall, and pulled out a Miraculous Medal. It’s not an expensive or fancy medal, just one of a few I purchased in time for the papal audience so it could be blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. But this medal is extra special for one reason: Later in my trip, I brought that medal to the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II and asked the guard to lay it on the tomb for me.

I took the medal from the bag and pinned it to my shirt as close to the my swollen tonsil as possible, and I prayed to John Paul II. About 90 minutes later, my throat felt clear. No difficulty breathing, and, for the first time in about eight days, no difficulty swallowing. I ate lunch. Lunch! I could talk without struggling. I kept waiting for the throat problems to return, but they never did. By afternoon I made a big tray of baked ziti and a giant salad and sat down to a feast for dinner. Dennis and the kids stared in amazement as I wolfed down cheesy pasta. Every other time I’d try to eat dinner with them for more than a week I would leave the table, unable to take more than one bite. And I usually cried through that from the pain.

When I went to bed last night, I figured that was the test. I would lay down and realize that I still couldn’t breathe properly. Wrong. My head hit the pillow and I slept undisturbed for about eight hours straight. As I said on Facebook, I’m not saying all this is cause for canonization or anything, but, as far as I’m concerned, it’s my own personal miracle. I was headed to the ER one minute and whipping up dinner the next. Thank you, John Paul II.

From where I’m sitting…



Here’s the view from my “office” today. The snow may be coming down like crazy, but the temperatures are warm enough that I can get the three-season sun porch to a comfortable temp with an electric “stove” and space heater. Not a bad way to have to work. (And the kids are in the basement, apparently unaware of my temporary relocation.)

The view above is from my workspace on the couch. Below are some shots of the scenery.



Our Lady of Guadalupe did not see her shadow

Looks like Our Lady of Guadalupe will not disappear under the snow, as previously expected, due to a winter storm that turned out to be more of a dud than a monster, at least here. The kids so could have gone to school today. Snow and sleet stopped a while ago. Now it’s quite lovely out. Looks like it will be an early spring based on Our Lady’s predictions.

Here’s what Our Lady of Guadalupe looks like right now:


Here’s where she was yesterday around this time:


So there’s been some significant snow build-up but nothing to make us upstate New Yorkers slow down. Plus I think her snow totals are benefiting from some drifting, or possibly the intervention of a Higher Power.

In other news at the Poust house. Here’s the teenager getting a lesson in how to use the snow thrower:


Here are the girls making the requisite snow angels and going down the slide:




Here’s a view of our sun porch, which is heating up right now so I can enjoy the snow from the warmth of the cozy house.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s latest snow report


Okay, things are not looking good for Our Lady of Guadalupe as she stands vigil over our backyard as the snow encroaches. (That’s her out there right at the bottom of the big tree.) We are using her as a barometer of the storm.

Here’s where she was around 10 a.m.:

Here’s where she is now:

Check back tomorrow to see how she fares…

Weather not fit for squirrels nor statues

I don’t know what Our Lady of Guadalupe did to deserve such treatment. Normally she winters inside with St. Francis of Assisi. But this year, while St. Francis is snug and dry and relatively warm in our garage, Our Lady has been left to fend for herself in the backyard. And she’s not used to this kind of weather where she comes from.

It is snowing like crazy here, but the kids are at school and Dennis is on the way to work. Things promise to get worse by tomorrow. I thought we could use Our Lady of Guadalupe as a barometer of the storm here. We’ll check back in tomorrow to see if she’s up to her ears yet.

Here’s the long view of her location:


Here’s one of her backyard partners, digging out acorns from a snowbank on our deck:



Here are the pines behind our house. Let’s hope the storm doesn’t break their branches, which hang precariously over our power lines.